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Reviews in History – 20th anniversary special! (part 1)

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balkanismWe have a treat for you today – the first part of a special issue to mark the 20th anniversary (and bear in mind that in digital resource years that makes us at least 200) of Reviews, for which we have asked our Editorial Board to recommend some of the most influential / significant history books of the last 20 years.

Some suggested themselves, some commented that the task itself was impossible (‘Ha ha sure that’s straightforward Danny, name the best history book out of what – only a million or so contenders!’), but I think we came up in the end with a good spread of books, and nice spread of approaches to revisiting a ‘classic’.

Anyway, here are the first four (I don’t know what it says that we didn’t review any of them when they first came out! I wasn’t in charge then of course…).

We start off with Imagining the Balkans by Maria Todorova, as Hannes Grandits goes back to a book which became an instant must read on its publication in 1997 (no. 2035).

Then we turn to Randall Packard’s The Making of a Tropical Disease A Short History of Malaria. Maureen Malowany looks back over a timely overview of the history of one of the most complex and ancient of all diseases (no. 2034).

Next up is Which People’s War?: National Identity and Citizenship in Wartime Britain 1939-1945 by Sonya O. Rose. Laura Beers tackles a book which, more than a decade after its publication, remains a model for students interested in contemporary cultural history (no. 2033).

Finally, we have Christopher Bayly’s Empire and Information: Intelligence Gathering and Social Communication in India, 1780-1870, and Ricardo Roque revisits a book which made him travel to places and explore ideas that he would not otherwise had considered (no. 2032).

Charles Booth’s London

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This post has been reposted from the LSE website to highlight this exciting new resource.

booth1898websiteexhCharles Booth’s Inquiry Into the Life and Labour of the People in London was a path-breaking investigation into the social conditions faced by Londoners living in the late-Victorian era. To mark the 2016 centenary of Booth’s death, LSE has relaunched the website dedicated to Booth’s life and work as Charles Booth’s London (https://booth.lse.ac.uk/).

Booth’s famous poverty maps were pioneering in the use of colour to detail the street-by-street disparities of wealth and poverty in London. The maps were drawn from a series of “police notebooks” that Booth and his team produced by walking the streets of the Victorian metropolis. The newly redeveloped website makes available both the police notebooks and the poverty maps.

The poverty maps are available as a single interactive version using modern online mapping techniques, and are also available individually for download. The interactive version of the map allows users to search by location, and offers the ability to geo-locate individual notebooks according to the streets Booth and his team walked when doing their research. The police notebooks are available to browse and search, can be read using state-of-the-art manuscript viewer technology, and are available for download.

In addition to making available the maps and notebooks, the site has been thoroughly redesigned to reflect modern web design and accessibility standards, and features responsive design allowing it to be accessed on desktop computers, on tablets and on mobile devices. The site also includes contextual information about Booth’s life and times and about the Inquiry, and provides a series of highlights offering a “way in” to the rich archival material.

Nicola Wright, Director of LSE Library commented: “This was a pioneering study and I am thrilled to see this important archive reinvented again and made even more engaging and accessible. The innovative work of the LSE Library team and our partners is a fitting tribute to Booth’s great endeavour.”

In July 2016 the Booth archive was inscribed on UNESCO’s UK Memory of the World Register, which recognises culturally significant heritage material from across the UK, joining other material such as the Bill of Rights and the Magna Carta. The redeveloped website reflects LSE’s ongoing commitment to make available LSE Library’s collections as widely as possible and via new and innovative means.

Find out more on the About and Learn More sections of the Charles Booth’s London site.

 

New reviews: unbelief, Charleston Syllabus, Wessex Danes and ancient wisdom (again)

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Martin Luther, as ever the life and soul of the party…

First up this week we have Dominic Erdozain’s The Soul of Doubt: the Religious Roots of Unbelief from Luther to Marx, as Charlotte Methuen and Dominic Erdozain discuss a fascinating study of the ways in which religious faith could open the door to doubt (no. 2031, with response here).

Then we turn to the Charleston Syllabus: Readings on Race, Racism, and Racial Violence, edited by Chad Williams, Kidada E. Williams and Keisha N. Blain. Lydia Plath praises an innovative crowdsourced response to the tragic events of Charleston (no. 2030).

Next up is Danes in Wessex : the Scandinavian impact on southern England, c.800-c.1100, edited by Ryan Lavelle and Simon Roffey. Jeremy Haslam reviews an edited collection which should provide all students of the period with material to ponder and enjoy (no. 2029).

Finally, we also have a lengthy response by Dmitri Levitin to our earlier review of Ancient Wisdom in the Age of the New Science: Histories of Philosophy in England, c1640-1700, which you can read here.

User Experience in the IHR Library

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Following the IHR Library’s user survey conducted in April 2016, the library team have been undertaking further, more in-depth user experience (UX) research to establish the multitude of ways in which our readers use the library space. This research is intended to identify areas in which the library can be improved and to gain insight into user requirements of the library.

Library staff have therefore been researching methodologies and current trends in user experience research.  A range of interactive and creative tasks were then selected to best establish a snapshot of our users, their research behaviours and the ways in which they use the library. These research activities included conducting focused one-to-one interviews with a range of researchers, asking users to take staff on tours of the library, and to participate in a cognitive mapping exercise.

In total eight cognitive maps were collected, with each varying greatly both in style and content. This has provided staff with a varied dataset to help facilitate better understanding of library users’ perceptions of the building, physical space of the library and of the Institute more broadly. Further information about this exercise and examples of some of the maps collected are detailed below.

Cognitive Mapping Exercise:

In recent years, cognitive mapping has become a popular tool amongst library practitioners to gain insight into user behaviour and experience. As Ned Potter has outlined, ‘cognitive mapping is in essence asking your subject to draw a map of the library – or, ideally, of their wider learning landscape – in order to understand how they perceive the space, what they actually use, what they value and see as most important and so on.’ (Ned Potter, ‘UXLIBS 4: Ethnography You Can Try at Home‘, UX Adventure, 2015)

Consequently, IHR library staff recently asked eight researchers  to draw the IHR library, or the IHR more generally. Participants were asked to alternate the colour of pens every two minutes for a total of three colours over six minutes. This technique is used to place items in the order in which they were drawn, indicating areas of importance. Participants began with a red pen, then changed to blue, before concluding in black pen.

Figure 1

Figure 1

One participant chose to depict the ‘journey’ to get to the Institute, drawing the hectic and chaotic world of central London outside the IHR (Figure 1). In their map, the library was described as representing something of a haven for quiet, contemplative research and work. The participant therefore drew streets, cars and surrounding buildings, however the only people included on the map were within the IHR itself, highlighting the participant’s view of the IHR as a social and inviting space.

Figure 2

Figure 2

Similarly, another participant opted to fill their map with people and key sites of interaction (Figure 2). They spoke of depicting the IHR as a ‘community’ in their map. In drawing the Institute as a whole, the common room and the reception area were common factors across all eight maps, suggesting these as significant sites in the make-up of the Institute. This also indicated that so-called ‘break-out’ areas within the library were key considerations for participants.

Figure 3

Figure 3

In addition, during discussions explaining their maps three participants highlighted the location of sites within the current library in relation to where they had been prior to renovation of the building and the IHR’s time in the South Block of Senate House. In this regard, one participant drew ‘sites of memory’ on their map – these represented both areas of particularly fond memories and recollections, but also previous locations of the library’s collections (Figure 3).

As noted previously, all eight maps were drawn in very differing styles and in varied formats. While some were formulated in a logical manner and floors were depicted in a rigid structure, others missed out areas and one participant was unsure of how many floors in total the IHR has – writing on their map ‘Missing Floor?’ between the second and third floor landings. The relative lack of detail attributed to the North American room on the second floor and to the third floor across all eight maps suggests a need to review the physical environments of these areas of the library.

Further analysis of the cognitive maps and in-depth participant interviews will take place in the coming weeks. The IHR library team are immensely grateful to all participants and for allowing the reproduction of a selection of the cognitive maps collected here.

Library staff would welcome any feedback on any aspect of the library and on the user experience research they are conducting. If you would like to provide feedback, please contact library staff via the library enquiry office, email ihr.library@sas.ac.uk or phone 020 7862 8760.

For further information on the methodology of utilising cognitive mapping in library user experience research see:

Andrew Asher, ‘Coding Library Cognitive Maps‘, BiblioEthnoHistorioGraphy: A Critical History of Library Ethnography (2013)

Donna Lanclos, ‘Post-Digital Learning Landscapes‘, The Anthropologist in the Stacks (2014)

Ned Potter, ‘UX in Libraries Resource List: a structured introduction to UX and ethnography‘, UX Adventure (2016)

Andy Priestner and Matt Borg, User Experience in Libraries: Applying Ethnography and Human-Centred Design (Routledge, 2016)

Searching for Jewish resources on the Bibliography of British and Irish History

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Codex Manesse, fol. 355r

This blog post aims to address some of the potential problems that may be experienced by users new to the bibliography.

We wanted to do this using an example, and so we thought we’d pick a popular topic of research, Jewish history, in which area recent publications include Sharks and Shylocks : Englishness and otherness in popular discourse on ‘the City’ 1870–1914, The Irish Free State’s first diplomats : jealousy, anti-Semitism and revengePerformance anxiety and the Passion in the Croxton Play of the Sacrament and Isaac and Antichrist in the archives. With such broad examples of subject matter, the following steps are designed to help you maximise the search features of the BBIH, and to tailor the search results to your specific interest.

For a simple search, covering all periods, the BBIH has 2692 entries:

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While this is informative for statistics and general coverage, the resources are too broad for those undertaking more specific research. Therefore narrowing down the period covered would filter the results further. For example, Jewish people in the medieval period:

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Which produces the following 486 results:

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Click to enlarge

This has narrowed the results down considerably. However, if your research interest is in a particular field, for example medieval Jewish women, you can locate exactly the right resources by going into ‘Advanced Search’. Choose ‘Jews’ from the Subject tree or type ‘Jews’ in the search box, then type ‘women’ in the Subject tree, making sure to select ‘and‘ rather than ‘or‘ from the Boolean functions:

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Insert the search terms (using the insert/close button) and once again apply the same date range. It is clear that the search results have narrowed considerably (to 28):

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Clicking on the search button then displays the details of the resources.

The SEE ALSO options on the main search for ‘All index terms’ can also provide prompts for other areas of exploration:

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Another useful tip for general browsing is to go into the record to see how the subject hierarchy has searched through the subject index to arrive at the result:

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To receive notifications of new resources, please sign up to our email alert option. The bibliography is updated three times a year, and you will be alerted to any new material in your chosen subject field. For additional medieval Jewish resources and reviews, see Dean Irwin’s Towards a Bibliography of Medieval Anglo-Jewry.

Initial image – full citation: Süßkind, der Jude von Trimberg (Süsskind, the Jew of Trimberg), portrait from the Codex Manesse.

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By the seaside – event and exhibit at the IHR

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dsc_0218The IHR enjoys an associate fellowship connection with Historic England and this year we invited some of the Fellows from Historic England to deliver a lecture. The event was part of the Being Human Festival and a coincident exhibit was arranged in the IHR’s exhibit space in the Wolfson corridor.

The lecture took place on Monday, 21 November, and it was a wonderful and well-attended evening. John Cattell spoke first, providing an overview of the work of Historic England. Allan Brodie then provided a visually stimulating talk on change to various aspects of seaside communities, their beaches, and waterfronts, accented with beautiful photographs, old and new. Brodie has already published books on English seaside resorts and on Blackpool and his new book on seasides and seafronts in England is well underway.

The lecture was followed by a seaside-themed reception, complete with fish and chips, cornish pasties, and samples of Caspyn Cornish gin. We were able to screen some lovely footage from the Wellcome Collection in the background, as well as tourism films from the mid-20th century, which aimed to entice visitors to seaside towns. Punch and Judy man, Professor Robert Styles, entertained and informed the guests at the reception. We watched as Robert set up his traditional Punch and Judy theatre and he then gave “backstage” tours, displaying a collection of puppets, including some antiques, and answered questions about the history of Punch and Judy.

The event also provided a launch of sorts for the associated exhibit, also titled By the Seaside. The exhibit covers fashion and morality at the beach; seaside cures; art, music and literature inspired by the seaside; the close connection of ice cream with the English beach; and beach photography and tourism materials. The central case displays a fantastic Edwardian bathing costume, on loan from IHR Wohl Librarian, Matthew Shaw. Kelly A Spring curated the excellent display on the history of ice cream, tracing the introduction of ice cream by Italian immigrants, and the early migration of that ice cream to the seaside.

The South East Archive of Seaside Photography (SEAS) kindly loaned us about 20 incredible framed tintypes and ambrotypes, portraits of couples and groups at the beach. The early beach photographer was itinerant and was perceived at the time as more vulgar salesman than photographer, regarded with at best indifference and frequently with contempt. The work produced by these practitioners has been readily dismissed as inartistic disposable wares – cheap seaside ephemera. These photographers provided while-you-wait ambrotypes (photographs on glass) or ferrotypes (photographs on enameled iron, commonly called tintypes) and these curated items provide an opportunity to reconsider the previous aesthetic, technical and cultural disregard with which they were treated. These also provide images of late 19th and early 20th English couples, friends, and families who might not have been able to afford studio portrait photography and who, therefore, are less often captured in photos.

I had a fascinating time assembling the other cases of the exhibit and was particularly intrigued to learn more about some of the habits and practices common to early beach tourism in England and about how these have changed. I had never been aware that the drinking of large glasses of seawater was a standard part of the seaside cure in the late 18th century. Some doctors felt it was acceptable to add milk to the salt water in order to make it – allegedly – more palatable. Seawater was even bottled and sold inland, much as spa water was then and still is. Measures of modesty and the measures used to enforce modest behaviour shifted dramatically over time. Some what surprisingly, it was entirely acceptable at some resorts for men to bathe naked up into the Victorian period, and regulations about gender segregated bathing fluctuated with time and geography. There is, of course, an element of the marketplace in all of these matters. Local governments and business-people used the need for modesty as an excuse for forcing bathers into rented bathing machines, tents, huts, and changing rooms.

Joe Acheson of Hidden Orchestra, and his publisher, Full Thought Publishing, kindly allowed us to set up a listening station at the exhibit, featuring Acheson’s Marconi and the Lizard EP. As Acheson explains: “Lizard Point is the most southerly point of the UK mainland. Radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi built a hut there in 1901, to experiment with sending radio signals over longer distances – it was in that hut that the first ever ship-to-shore SOS signal was received. I spent a week there in August 2016, in the National Trust’s first ever sound artist residency. The “Marconi and the Lizard” EP is the result of that residency.”

We hope this will be the first in a series of annual events of this kind, in collaboration with Historic England and hope, as well, that you have a chance to visit the exhibit, which will be on in the lower ground floor of the IHR until early December.

IHR Winter Conference 2017: Civil Wars

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IHR Winter Conference 2017: Civil Wars

The Syrian Civil War is now in its 6th year. It prompts a consideration of the nature of civil wars in general and the term ‘civil war’ itself. Is it a helpful label when considering events as different as the English and French Revolutions (both of which have been called civil wars), the American Civil War of the 1860s, the Russian Civil War after the 1917 Revolution, and the events in Spain in the 1930s? Do Civil Wars share certain features or is this a term of art that obscures the uniqueness of each separate historical situation? This conference will question the conceptualisation and language of civil discord.

Speakers include:

  • Professor Salwa Ismail (SOAS)
  • Professor David Parrott (University of Oxford)
  • Professor Alan Forrest (University of York)
  • Dr. Adam Smith (UCL)
  • Professor Orlando Figes (Birkbeck College)
  • Professor Paul Preston (LSE)

Registration: £35/£20 (concessions) and includes all refreshment breaks and lunches)

For a provisional programme and information on how to register, please visit the conference website


 IHR Wiley Lecture 2017: The English Revolution as a Civil War
19 January 2017 (18:00-19:30)

Professor John Morrill (University of Cambridge)

Register here

 Tweet #IHRWIN17 @ihr_events

New reviews: Benjamin Franklin, medieval popes, Arthur Balfour and race and the American Revolution

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Benjamin Franklin in London

Our reviews this week kick off with George Goodwin’s Benjamin Franklin in London: The British Life of America’s Founding Father. Angel-Luke O’Donnell and the author discuss an immersive biography, useful for anyone interested in 18th-century sociability (no. 2028, with response here).

Next up Benedict Wiedemann reviews two different but equally valuable approaches to the medieval papacy, Popes and Jews 1095-1291 by Rebecca Rist and Pope Innocent II (1130-1143): The World vs the City, edited by John Doran and Damien J. Smith (no. 2027).

Then we turn to Balfour’s World: Aristocracy and Political Culture at the Fin de Siècle by Nancy W. Ellenberger. Andrew Hillier praises a fresh and illuminating perspective of what would otherwise be familiar territory (no. 2026).

Finally we have Robert G. Parkinson’s Common Cause: Creating Race and Nation in the American Revolution. Jonathan Wilson recommends an account that deserves attention from any historian studying early American national identity, racism, western expansion, or print culture (no. 2025).

New reviews: smallpox, history of philosophy, wonder and the Somme

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Dr. Donald A. Henderson (right), who led the World Health Organization effort to eradicate smallpox, examines a child's vaccination scar in Ethiopia.

Dr. Donald A. Henderson (right), who led the World Health Organization effort to eradicate smallpox, examines a child’s vaccination scar in Ethiopia.

We start this week with The End of a Global Pox by Bob H. Reinhardt, as Susan Heydon and the author discuss a valuable contribution to the literature on smallpox eradication (no. 2024, with response here).

Next up is Dmitri Levitin’s Ancient Wisdom in the Age of the New Science: Histories of Philosophy in England, c1640-1700. William Bulman enjoys a book full of subtly analyzed, elaborately contextualized, extensively detailed, and often interrelated examples (no. 2023).

Then we turn to Keagan Brewer’s Wonder and Skepticism in the Middle Ages, as Stephen Spencer praises a thought-provoking discussion of wonder, skepticism and marvels (no. 2022).

Finally Ross Davies marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the Battle of the Somme with the second part of his bibliography (no. 2021). Don’t forget to check out this Somme-related blog post by my BBIH colleague Simon Baker as well – http://blog.history.ac.uk/2016/09/the-battle-of-the-somme-have-you-seen-the-big-push-films/.

Discounted subscriptions to the online Bibliography of British and Irish History

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Discounted subscriptions to the online Bibliography of British and Irish History are available to Friends of the IHR who may not have access to the Bibliography through a university or other institution.

 

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The Bibliography is a joint project of the IHR, the Royal Historical Society and Brepols Publishers, and is the most extensive guide available to what has been published on British and Irish history. It covers the history of British and Irish relations with the rest of the world, including the British empire and the Commonwealth, as well as British and Irish domestic history. It includes not only books, but also articles in journals (over 770 journals are searched) and articles within collective volumes. It is updated three times a year and currently includes over 579,000 records, with a further update expected in February 2017; subscribers can sign up for email alerts notifying them when new records are added on subjects, people, or places in which they are interested.

Friends of the IHR (including American Friends) can subscribe to the Bibliography for one third of the normal cost of an individual subscription. The sign-up period for the Friends’ discounts starts on 1 October and runs until 15 December 2016 for the 2017 subscription year. New subscribers will have access to the Bibliography from 31 December 2016 and subscriptions will run until 31 December 2017. To apply please contact the Development Office or by telephoning (0)20 7862 8791.

For more information about the Friends, and the other benefits of joining, please visit the Friends’ web pages. Similar discounts are available to Fellows and Members of the Royal Historical Society who will receive information in their autumn mailing, as usual.

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