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New reviews: Early modern women x 2, French Revolution, colonial Seoul

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ferron

Mary Sidney Herbert (1561-1621), one of the stars of Mediatrix

We start with Mediatrix: Women, Politics and Literary Production in Early Modern England by Julie Crawford. Alice Ferron and the author discuss a book which provides innovative close readings of the lives and writings of some of early modern England’s most famous and controversial aristocratic women (no. 1737, with response here).

Then we have Female Alliances: Gender, Identity and Friendship in Early Modern Britain by Amanda Herbert. Leonie Hannan praises a beautifully written and insightfully argued work, based on meticulous primary research (no. 1735).

Next up is Eric Hazan’s A People’s History of the French Revolution, and Michiel Rys believes this book succeeds in delivering a vivid, lucid, informative, detailed account of the French Revolution (no. 1736).

Finally we turn to Todd Henry’s Assimilating Seoul: Japanese Rule and the Politics of Public Space in Colonial Korea, 1910–1945. Mark Caprio finds this book brings an impressive depth to our understanding of the Japanese articulation of their colonial goals (no. 1734).

Why we should all think about data preservation

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IHR-Data-Preservation-300x201This post originally appeared on the School of Advanced Study Blog.

By Stephanie Taylor

Although the SHARD project ended some time ago, in July 2012. The project identified  four basic principles of digital preservation for researchers – start early, explain it, store it safely and share it. The only thing I would change is a little re-arrangement, putting ‘Share It’ as the first step. As someone working in digital preservation, I see many things lost or threatened mainly because nobody really saw a good reason to preserve them until it was almost too late. For researchers, engrossed in research, finding, creating and using data, writing research outputs, managing projects and keeping funders happy, it’s easy to forget digital preservation, or just not think about it at all. Having a positive reason to preserve moves digital preservation up the agenda. And sharing gives us that reason.

Sharing your research material and data is beneficial.  In one way or another, the main reason to carry out preservation at all, on any level, is to be able to share your work with others, now and in the future. Sharing can help you gain more impact, enhance your reputation and increase your chances of being funded as more and more research funders are asking for plans for digital preservation in their calls. It makes your work not only accessible, but usable. Investigate making use of repositories and data centres as places to both safely archive and also share your work. Remember to be sensible with sharing, and use redaction or embargo when required.

Start early is key to any successful approach to digital preservation, and one that we also teach to digital archivists. It’s simple really. The sooner you start thinking about what you want to preserve and how and when that is going to be done, the more chance you have of not hitting problems ahead. Early planning also means you can include everyone who is involved in a research project in the discussion, which can also help to identify and issues you might not have thought about.

Explain it is the next step in sending your research materials into the future. Context is vital in digital preservation. Material and data without any context has no meaning. If it has not meaning, there is little point in preserving it. Provide context through explaining any subject-specific terms, learning about and applying suitable metadata to describe our content and describing your research process. Then future researchers will be able to make sense of your work.

Store it safely is the step that many people think is covered by backing up your work. Quite simply – backup is not preservation and it’s not enough to make sure your content. You need to store multiple copies in different locations, use open source file formats to help your files stay readable into the future and be careful how you and others handle and access files. You also need to be selective. There’s no need to keep everything, and it’s costly to do so. Seek advice from a library or preservation service about how best to store content for preservation.

The Data Preservation Online Training resource is available on PORT and guides students through the reasons to preserve and share data and challenges that they might face. Stephanie Taylor is a senior consultant on research technologies in the Arts Research Technologies division of the University of London Computer Centre (ULCC). For more details about the work done on SHARD see the ULCC da Blog

Witchcraft and Medicine in Modern France

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Will Pooley is a Past & Present Junior Research Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research. He blogs at https://williamgpooley.wordpress.com and you can follow him on Twitter @willpooley.

I’m not the first person to point out that witchcraft exerted a fascination over doctors and physicians. Historians of early-modern Europe have long argued that separating the science from the supernatural in medical writings is impossible.

But France makes a bit of an odd case. The medical fascination with witchcraft had largely dissipated in other European countries by the nineteenth century, yet in France this period saw a boom in serious medical writings about possession, sorcery, and alternative healing practices. The interest may have waned as the twentieth century progressed, but French doctors have continued to occasionally publish investigations of magical practices and epidemics of ‘demonopathy’ up until very recently.

(One of the many medical theses written about ‘superstitions’ and witchcraft. See http://gallica.bnf.fr)

(One of the many medical theses written about ‘superstitions’ and witchcraft. See http://gallica.bnf.fr)

This raises two questions:

  • why this continuing interest?
  • why should historians care?

At this stage in my research, it is easier for me to answer the second question than the first, although I do have some working hypotheses for why not only doctors, but also psychologists and veterinary professionals in France took such a pronounced interest in sorcery.

For a start, there was a lot of it.

My research uses newspaper reports to trace criminal cases involving witchcraft from the 1790s to the 1930s, and even at this early stage it is apparent that crimes related to witchcraft were prosecuted with depressing regularity across this period. In the secondary literature alone I have identified 15 cases of people who were murdered for being witches in this period. There were many more cases of attempted murder or assault which were not reported so widely in the newspapers, not to mention a multitude of prosecutions for fraud and illegal medical practice. Sometimes, men and women sued their neighbours for defaming them as witches. What all of this suggests is that witchcraft beliefs, fears, and fantasies were surprisingly widespread in France during this period.

And perhaps this is partly related to the other key explanation for why doctors and scientists took such an interest in sorcery: the tumultuous religious history of France during this period. The struggle between the Catholic Church and secularists inspired by Voltaire and the French Revolution had two contradictory effects on French culture.

On the one hand, there was an apparent hardening of boundaries, especially during periods when regime changes abruptly shifted the balance of power between the scientific establishment and the Church. The struggle over Bernadette Soubirous’ visions at Lourdes would be just the most obvious example of a case where Church and Doctor faced off over an issue of national importance and supernatural significance.

will2

(Bernadette Soubirous, the visionary of Lourdes. See: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c6/Bernadette_Soubirous_en_1861_photo_Bernadou_4.jpg)

Yet on the other hand, I think a strong case could be made for seeing this as a period when a cultural vacuum opened up. The very intensity of the public conflict between scientific secularists and defenders of the Church led to a willingness, at least among some elements, to court public opinion, to take seriously the feelings and beliefs of ordinary people such as the visionary Bernadette, or the many people who flocked to witness the miracles of Lourdes.

Many within the Church might have felt that condemning the ‘superstitions’ of the population was a slippery slope. Priests, too, read Voltaire and they were only too aware that condemning a belief in the supernatural powers of black masses and ringing church bells could seem inconsistent with the claims the Church made for the supernatural efficacy of its key rites.

And scientists also had to court public opinion. What use were immunization or pasteurization if the people could not be persuaded that they worked? Promoting professional midwifery, or psychology, or veterinary medicine partly depended on proving to a population that was predominantly rural that these new methods and theories were more than simply a way to interfere, charge higher fees, and defraud the paysans.

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(Léon-Augustin Lhermitte, ‘La paye des moissoneurs’. The rural population were not always known for their approachability… See: http://www.histoire-image.org/site/oeuvre/analyse.php?i=43)

This brings me on to my second question: why historians should care about all of this? It might be weird that French doctors were so interested in sorcery, and it is equally odd that witchcraft seems to have been so important to so many people among the general population, but why does it matter?

The answer, I argue, has to do with what a remarkable case study this odd convergence makes for ‘history from below’. I have been strongly influenced by historians such as Andy Wood, Guy Beiner, Katrina Navickas, David Hopkin, and by the Many-Headed-Monster blog symposium from last year on revisiting ‘history from below’ (see: http://bit.ly/17h9jmV).

These historians, I think, have developed incredibly subtle understandings of concepts such as ‘popular culture’, ‘social class’, and ‘resistance’. We recognize that such terms are always problematic, and we recognize how hard it can be to recover the ‘voices’ of the people history too often forgets, but we maintain that there is still value in trying (http://wp.me/p3QdQ9-2E).

And it seems to me that the point where medicine and witchcraft met in France is a particularly rich example for pursuing the kinds of complicated questions of cultural repression, resistance, and agency that the new history from below addresses. Yes, doctors and other scientific ‘experts’ attempted to impose their understandings of causality, the human body, and illness onto the general population. But ordinary people took these ideas and refashioned them to fit what was important to their lives, forcing the ‘experts’ to deal in the languages of possession and malevolence.

Far from being a simple case of ‘superstition’ swept away by reason, witchcraft and medicine in France during this period is a much more interesting story of accommodation and cultural negotiation, and one that puts working men and women into the spotlight as often as middle-class doctors and scientists.

What is more, this was not unique to medicine. As I have mentioned, the related disciplines of psychology, psychiatry, and veterinary science were also caught up in witchcraft debates. But sorcery also touched even wider domains. Victims and suspected witches related their experiences to new technologies and the ‘modern wonders’ that Bernard Rieger has studied, and addressed new theories of radiation, ions, and the laws of physics. They also argued about the law, challenging the basis for criminal and civil prosecutions, and provoking a series of legal theorists to address the problem of witchcraft in the same period.

This is why I have found that the more I study the witches and their accusers, the less drawn I am to the early-modern parallels that at first appear so obvious. Witchcraft was modern, and has a lot to tell historians about the agency and constraints of ordinary people grappling with new authorities in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

New reviews: Inter-war health, global history, Parisian smiles and US anti-communism

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kchFirst up is The Politics of Hospital Provision in Early Twentieth-Century Britain by Barry Doyle], as Martin Gorsky and the author discuss a new study of Britain’s inter-war health services (no. 1733, with response here).

Then we turn to Lynn Hunt’s Writing History in the Global Era. Julia McClure believes this book’s identification of globalization as a paradigm establishes the foundations for analysing the meanings and implications of globalization narratives (no. 1732).

Next up is The Smile Revolution In Eighteenth Century Paris by Colin Jones, and Jennifer Wallis finds this book beautifully complicates the notion that the smile is a static and timeless form of emotional expression (no. 1731).

Finally we have Little “Red Scares”: Anti-Communism and Political Repression in the United States, 1921-1946, edited by Robert Justin Goldstein. Jennifer Luff welcomes a new edited collection on inter-war anti-communism (no. 1730).

 

Junior Research Fellows’ Colloquia 2015

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Empty Spaces - camelThe 2014-15 cohort of Junior Research Fellows at the IHR will be holding a number of excellent colloquia and workshops in the coming months. These colloquia are a key element of the IHR Fellowships programme, and the institute provides Fellows with administrative and financial support in running them. The idea is that early career researchers get valuable experience in planning and hosting academic events, while the institute benefits from participating in engaging, diverse academic activity. Events held at the institute itself will be open to public registration.

This blog will feature details on upcoming colloquia over subsequent posts.

Empty Spaces

A one-day conference at the Institute of Historical Research
Friday 10 April 2015

Plenary Speaker: Dr Matt Houlebrook (Birmingham)

If nature abhors a vacuum, cultural attitudes to emptiness are more complex. Vacant places have been constructed and sustained by a variety of actors, from colonial powers to cartographers, city planners to scientists. This one day colloquium asks how and why empty spaces have been important to travelers, empires, anthropologists, artists, archivists, photographers, and the historians who study them. How is emptiness made? What tools, materials, and agents does it involve, and what cultural, physical, and natural work goes into maintaining nothingness? Have empty spaces been particularly important at specific points in history? What cross-cultural continuities are there in how they have been made and understood? How have historians perceived and created ‘gaps in the literature’? What ideological functions does emptiness serve?
The conference will explore ‘empty space’ in history.

Website: https://www.academia.edu/9809969/CFP_Empty_Spaces_A_One-Day_Conference_at_the_Institute_of_Historical_Research_London_10th_April_2015

Twitter: https://twitter.com/emptyspacesihr

Organized by: Courtney J. Campbell, Allegra Giovine, Jennifer Keating, and Will Pooley (IHR Junior Research Fellows)

UPCOMING JUNIOR RESEARCH FELLOWS’ COLLOQUIA

Read more about these in subsequent blog posts.

IWM_ART_001179Gender in War Captivity: Interdisciplinary Perspectives

A one-day symposium at the Institute of Historical Research
Friday 8 May 2015

Organised by Elodie Duché (IHR Junior Research Fellow) and Grace Huxford (Warwick) of the Prisoner of War Network in conjunction with Warwick Institute of Advanced Study and the Institute of Historical Research.

Image:  Randolph Schwabe, The Women’s Land Army and German Prisoners, 1918, available at the Imperial War Museum.

History of the BodyThe History of the Body: Approaches and Directions

A one-day colloquium at the Institute of Historical Research
Saturday 16 May 2015
Organized by: Kate Imy and Will Pooley (IHR Junior Research Fellows)

Religious IdentitiesReligious Identities and Material Landscapes in Early Modern Europe

A one-day workshop at the Victoria and Albert Museum
Friday, 5 June 2015

Organized by: Roisin Watson (IHR Junior Research Fellow)

Image: Prayer Book, c. 1623, V&A Images Image reference 2006BJ4433

Add. 49598, f.25Water in Anglo-Saxon England

A one-day colloquium at the Institute of Historical Research
October 2015 [date TBC]

Organized by: Carolyn Twomey (IHR Junior Research Fellow)

Image: Benedictional Aethewoldi c. 963-984 (c13101-49) ©British Library Board, Add MS 49598 f.25r

Crime, Identity and Economics: New Research and Approaches

A one-day colloquium at the Institute of Historical Research
Saturday 12 September 2015

Organized by: Caroline Nielsen and Ben Taylor (IHR Junior Research Fellows)

Ententes Cordiales? Methodology in French History from France, Britain, and Beyond

A one-day colloquium at the Institute of Historical Research
Date to be determined

Organized by: Will Pooley (IHR Junior Research Fellow)

Bibliography of British and Irish History updated

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Dublin in May 1916

Abbey Street and Sackville Street (O’Connell Street), Dublin, in May 1916. Photo from the National Library of Ireland on the Commons on Flickr

The first 2015 update to the Bibliography of British and Irish History was released on 11 February. It contains just over 5,000 new records, bringing the overall total to 558,575.

Over 500 of the new records cover books and articles relating to Irish history and the database now contains nearly 84,000 Irish history records overall. We are pleased to welcome a new section editor to our editorial team, Dr Colin Reid, Senior Lecturer in History at Northumbria University, who will be dealing with Irish history since 1801. He succeeds Dr Marie Coleman, for whose expert help over the last few years we are very grateful.

We plan to release our next update in June.

An Introduction to Visual Sources

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Visual Sources-albert-memorial-att2This post has kindly been written for us by the course tutor, Dr Lynne Walker

Historical researchers are often drawn to material and visual culture but can feel out of their comfort zone when confronted with archives which include images and ‘things’ rather than written and printed texts alone. This course was designed to overcome these difficulties and provide tools for the location, selection and interpretation of visual sources. Central to the course is the consideration of visual sources as evidence in historical practice, featuring diverse media from cartoons to political portraits, in still and moving images, in print and online. It suggests ways in which understanding visual sources can enhance the study of modern history by posing new questions and suggesting new answers to thorny research issues with material unavailable elsewhere. Staff and students consider together issues such as the importance of not using images merely as illustrations of previously concluded arguments, and the necessity of placing images in context and in relation to documentary sources and other images. This critical, comparative approach to visual sources offers insights and in Burke’s phrase, ‘helps historians think creatively about the past’. Representation is presented as a key concept for understanding visual sources and moves the discussion from the image itself to its reception and the position of the viewer in the making of meaning, its analysis and interpretation.

The course is built around lectures, seminar discussion and visits to archives, museums and libraries. Students have the opportunity to talk in detail to archivists, librarians and curators about their own research needs and find out more about how particular libraries, museums and other archives may be useful to them. These visits also help familiarise students with institutions where research material is deposited and we have found over the years that this has a positive, demystifying effect, which builds confidence and promotes productivity.

An Introduction to Visual Sources for Historians takes the form of full-day sessions held over the course of five weeks (the first three sessions are on Tuesdays; the final two on Mondays). The sessions will normally start with a lecture, followed by a seminar discussion. After lunch each week, the group will visit a gallery or institution of relevance to the week’s topic. Individual attention is a hall mark of the course.

See here for full details, including how to register.

History Day 2015: After the event

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History-day-1The IHR and Senate House Library ran a second History Libraries and Research Open Day in January 2015. This brought researchers together with professional staff from a wide range of library and archive collections. It was a fantastic day and it was great to see so many libraries, archives and researchers there. We had very positive feedback from attenders and participating organisations alike.

History-day-2 Speakers gave a range of fascinating talks about how to get the most out of libraries, archives and digital resources. You can read about the day in tweets on the Storify page. An associated website continues to be updated with information about library and archive collections along with podcasts and blog posts from speakers: http://historycollections.blogs.sas.ac.uk.

 

 

New reviews: Trust, Italian Army, British India and Colonial Boston

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hoskingWe kick off this week with Geoffrey Hosking’s Trust: A History, with Eric M. Uslaner and the author disagreeing over this key issue (no. 1729, with response here).

Next up is The Italian Army and the First World War by John Gooch. Mario Draper reviews a book which will almost certainly remain a seminal text for scholars of the period and anyone else interested in European military history (no. 1728).

Then we turn to G. J. Bryant’s The Emergence of British Power in India, 1600-1784: A Grand Strategic Interpretation, and James Lees finds this book to be a refreshing addition to the historiography (no. 1727).

Finally we have Robert Love’s Warnings: Searching for Strangers in Colonial Boston by Cornelia Hughes Dayton and Sharon Salinger. Kristin O’Brassill-Kulfan believes this research fills an important gap in the on-the-ground history of pre-industrial poverty in the United States (no. 1726).

New Historical Research articles

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red cross

Humanitarian assistance during the Rif War (Morocco, 1921–6): the International Committee of the Red Cross and ‘an unfortunate affair by Pablo La Porte

This article focuses on the role of the International Committee of the Red Cross (I.C.R.C.) in the Rif War (Morocco, 1921–6) and places humanitarian action in three inter-related contexts: the complexity of the international scenario after the First World War, the institutional architecture of the Red Cross and the developments in international humanitarian law. Challenging simplistic approaches to an otherwise historically overlooked affair, the article argues that the rather undignified role of the I.C.R.C. during the conflict was a result both of Eurocentric assumptions and international manipulation.

Liberal Unionism and political representation in Wales, c.1886–1893 by Naomi Lloyd-Jones

This article reassesses the history of Liberal Unionism in Wales and the impact the Irish Home Rule crisis had on constituency politics. Liberal associations played a crucial role in the revolt against ‘dissentient’ M.P.s, whom they charged with ‘misrepresenting’ constituency opinion (as articulated by the ‘caucus’). This damaged Liberal Unionism irreparably, and the party failed to build a viable organizational machinery that could beat the Liberals at their own game. Yet this study of failure tells us much about attitudes toward representation and illustrates the importance of a grass-roots approach to a vital period in Welsh and British political history

 

 

 

 

 

 

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