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Author Archives: dannymillum


New reviews: US human rights, women and pre-modern law, strategy and latest VCH

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lgbtq_protest_480We start this week with Reclaiming American Virtue: The Human Rights Revolution of the 1970s by Barbara Keys. Umberto Tulli and the author discuss a book which offers a new interpretation and will pave the way for future historical scholarship (no. 1757, with response here).

Next up is Women, Agency and the Law, 1300-1700, edited by Bronach Kane and Fiona Williamson, and Sparky Booker finds these essays break new ground in the history of women, law and agency in the pre-modern period (no. 1756).

Then we turn to Lawrence Freedman’s Strategy: a History, which Marcel Berni believes belongs with the classics in the field of strategic studies (no. 1755).

Finally James Bowen reviews Victoria County History: Shropshire VI Shrewsbury, edited by William A. Champion and Alan Thacker, a beautifully presented addition to the VCH series, of interest to both local and national historians as well as urban historians (no. 1754).

New reviews – Emotions, the end of the Iron Curtain, and Turkish heroin

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Darwin-expressionThis week we have a real treat for you, as we focus on Jan Plamper’s exciting new work The History of Emotions: An Introduction. There’s a lengthy review by Rob Boddice (no. 1752, with response here) and then a fascinating interview between Professor Plamper and our very own Jordan Landes (no. 1753).

Then we turn to another German work, and Eliten und Zivile Gesellschaft: Legitimitätskonflikte in Ostmitteleuropa by Helmut Fehr. Steven Jefferson believes this to be an impressive volume of detailed empirical research and careful analysis (no. 1751).

Finally, we have Ryan Gingeras’s Heroin, Organized Crime, and the Making of Modern Turkey, and Egemen Bezci reviews a remarkable contribution that paves the path for further studies on the topic (no. 1750).

Spiritual Soldiers: Masculinity and the Body in the British Indian Army, 1900-1940

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 Indian troops during a physical training. Copyright IWM (Q52701)


Indian troops during a physical training. Copyright IWM (Q52701)

This post has kindly been written for us by Kate Imy, Mellon Dissertation Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research.

Contemporary debates about “religion” often emphasize that which is supposedly “irrational,” metaphysical or anciently doctrinal, ignoring the intimate, ever-shifting, disciplined and resolutely global ways in which beliefs develop in certain places at certain times. In order to investigate these complexities, I examine the meanings and uses of the word “religion” within the British Indian Army—a resolutely cosmopolitan, multi-linguistic, interracial, multicultural and overwhelmingly “religious” force. This massive military establishment—which played a decisive role in most of the major armed conflicts of the first half of the twentieth century—is perhaps one of the most potent symbols of faded European empires. Despite being a paragon of disciplined, secular, and imperial rationality, the army used “religion” for everything from recruiting soldiers, to encouraging men to fight and die, to occupying “holy” lands. My project therefore attempts to see how the army used the concept of “religion” to assign value to certain bodily performances of masculinity at a definitive moment in late-colonial British and South Asian history. By focusing on the intimate encounters between British and South Asian men, and the ways in which soldiers and civilians made meaning of, represented and interpreted soldiers’ bodies, this project hopes to better understand the processes through which soldiers’ bodies—as both “religious” and “martial” beings—helped give birth to contemporary notions of masculinity and violence in the late and postcolonial world.

Memories and popular perceptions of the British Indian Army are often defined by imperial nostalgia or post-colonial regret. Both narratives hinge upon shifting concepts of masculinity and perceptions of British and South Asian bodies. For the former, the proud and glistening British and Indian men in impeccable dress, and the paternalistic relationship between British officers and Indian soldiers, was at once intimate and familial, while also laying important groundwork for India’s postcolonial army. The latter interpretation, however, focuses on the imbalances of colonial power and the restrictive theory of “Martial Races” which deemed some men worthy of becoming warriors, at the expense of those “emasculated” men who were not. This perspective locates service to the empire somewhere between slave-like servitude, necessitated by limited job prospects, or a mercenary labor force that begrudgingly sold its martial prowess to the highest bidder. My study falls within the purview of more recent interpretations which have moved beyond these powerful yet restrictive interpretations by focusing on the complex networks of ideas guiding attitudes toward spiritual beliefs, bodies and “selfhood” that made the British Indian Army a powerful international force until the Second World War.

During war and peace, “religious” concerns were central to the efficient functioning of the colonial army in India. British army officials recruited South Asian soldiers based on a matrix of region, caste, and religion, for instance praising Sikhism as having “martial value” because it discouraged so-called “caste prejudices” while celebrating martial strength and disciplined living. Meanwhile, British soldiers marched into church armed every Sunday to receive the divine wisdom from chaplains who encouraged them to live their lives free from sin—especially the debilitating and fiscally costly conditions of venereal disease and alcoholism. Fears of anti-colonial “sedition” among South Asian soldiers meant cultivating allies among “religious” leaders and appointing religious teachers to exert an educational, social and ceremonial influence among the men to prevent them from seeking wisdom and guidance from the outside world. During wartime, army officials played an active role in regulating soldiers’ bodies, shaping the performance of even pillars of Islam such as the fast of Ramzan (Ramadan) and the pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj). Each of these bodily interventions played a crucial role in demarcating which types of bodies and beliefs were most conducive to military order and discipline, limiting financial and social opportunities to certain subjects of the British Empire.

One of the most widely debated aspects of daily life in the British Indian Army was the relationship between food and “religion.” While military officials hoped to build strong bodies and encouraged recruitment through the promise of stable rations, many officials condemned “the contagion of Hinduism” for impeding military discipline by making group messing more difficult. In the twentieth century, this was largely dictated by the limited and faulty memories and stories of the 1857 Uprising, which was widely regarded as stemming from improperly adhering to “Hindu” and Muslim dietary practices. However, arrangements for a diverse range of British and South Asian soldiers required considerable attention. Military officials strongly discouraged British soldiers from consuming numerous goods, including bazaar fruits and non-packaged drinking water, and often condemned and ridiculed them for contracting “preventable” maladies such as enteric fever and diarrhea. Similarly, many Muslim soldiers worried about finding food that was prepared “halal,” or carrying out the fast of Ramzan, while Gurkha soldiers’ food was often subject to considerable scrutiny including inspection of water tanks on ships and the use of exclusively Brahmin cooks. While military officials were willing and able to cater to such dietary needs of the “Martial Races,” they condemned the so-called “prejudices” of Indian Hindus. These dietary debates revealed the unstable boundaries between science, health, “religion,” custom and personal preference. They solidified the importance food in defining martial masculinity and the unequal application of what was “religious” and what was merely “rational.”

By placing British and South Asian bodies and beliefs in conversation with one another, my project hopes to create a more varied portrait of the relationship between belief, martial prowess, masculinity and violence in the making of the modern world. By looking at a disciplined and highly centralized military force and the ways in which “religion” shaped and was shaped by a diverse range of British and South Asian actors, my dissertation suggests that concepts of masculinity and the body were both global and local—spiritual and secular—and forever influenced by the uncertainties, opportunities, inequalities and instabilities of the imperial world.

New reviews: Magna Carta, Lady Antonia, memory and French Army

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The slippers of Archbishop Walter on loan from Canterbury Cathedral on display in Magna Carta Law Liberty Legacy, British LibraryWe’re delighted to be able to present to you a review of the new BL exhibition on Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy. John Sabapathy reviews a wonderful exhibition which is as much about Magna Carta’s 800 year reception as its immediate 13th-century matrix (no. 1749).

A further treat is a new Daniel Snowman interview, in which he talks to Lady Antonia Fraser about her work as a historian and biographer (no. 1748).

Next we turn to The Memory of the People: Custom and Popular Senses of the Past in Early Modern England by Andy Wood. Brodie Waddell believes that the author has produced a study that proves the centrality of custom and popular memory across more than three centuries (no. 1747).

Finally, Mario Draper recommends The French Army and the First World War by Elizabeth Greenhalgh, on the grounds of the quality of the extensive research, the clarity with which it is delivered and the insightfulness on offer (no. 1746).

New reviews: Roy Foster interview, early modern pamphlets, C19 women professionals and Nat Turner

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foster2We start off this week with another in our occasional interview series, with Daniel Snowman talking to Professor Roy Foster about his recent work on the human dimension behind the Easter Rising, Vivid Faces (no. 1745).

Next we have Thomas Dekker and the Culture of Pamphleteering in Early Modern London by Anna Bayman. Kirsty Rolfe and the author discuss a highly readable study, with important implications for critical understanding of ‘popular print’ and the cultures with which it interacted (no. 1744, with response here).

Then we turn to Crafting the Woman Professional in the Long Nineteenth Century, edited by Kryriaki Hadjiafxendi and Patricia Zakreski, which Zoe Thomas believes will positively contribute to a number of academic fields (no. 1743).

Finally there is David F. Allmendinger Jr.’s Nat Turner and the Rising in Southampton County, as Vanessa Holden reviews an account of the most famous slave rebellion in American history (no. 1742).

 

New reviews: Roy Jenkins and his biographer, Abraham Lincoln and early modern alehouses

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jenkins2More fruits of that pressure now, anyway, as we have a special feature on biographer John Campbell. Adam Timmins looks back over his previous work (no. 1740) as a prelude to Robert Saunder’s examination of his latest effort, Roy Jenkins: A Well-Rounded Life (no. 1741).

Then we cross the Atlantic, turning to Founders’ Son: A Life of Abraham Lincoln by Richard Brookhiser. Sean Ledwith and the author discuss an innovative biography of the 16th President (no. 1739, with response here).

Finally we have Mark Hailwood’s Alehouses and Good Fellowship in Early Modern England. Jennifer Bishop believes that this book makes a very strong case for the alehouse as one of the key institutions in early modern society (no. 1738).

 

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).

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).

 

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 reviews: John Wyclif, Medieval space, Cypriot communists and labour and liberalism

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1280px-Wycliffecollege_toronto_chapel1We start this week with John Wyclif on War and Peace by Rory Cox. Christopher Allmand and the reviewer discuss a work which places Wyclif in a long historical context (no. 1725, with response here).

Then we turn to Space in the Medieval West: Places, Territories, and Imagined Geographies, edited by Meredith Cohen and Fanny Madeline. Sarah Ann Milne recommends a book which serves to substantiate and complement existing studies whilst offering a number of fascinating new explorations (no. 1724).

Next up is Yiannakis Kolokasidis’s History of the Communist Party in Cyprus: Colonialism, Class and the Cypriot Left, which Alexios Alecou finds to be an original contribution, rich with theoretical insights and practical implications (no. 1723).

Finally we turn to Labour and the Caucus: Working-Class Radicalism and Organised Liberalism in England, 1868-1888 by James Owen. Jules Gehrke believes this book is sure to become a valued part of the scholarly conversation (no. 1722).