Apologies for the slightly tardy reviews today – I’ve had a busy week watching my flat fall apart around me, with the gushing out of the roof now being replaced by an ominous hole, and an equally ominous silence from those ostensibly responsible for fixing it. Perfect time for a long weekend visit from your deputy editor’s father – he may find his plumbing skills being tested to their limits….
Anyway, we continue with our WW1 special, and begin with a great introduction from Chris Phillips to the proliferation of digital resources stimulated by this year’s centenary (no. 1626).
Next up is The Children’s War: Britain, 1914-1918 by Rosie Kennedy. Rebecca Gill reviews the first full-length study of ‘the experience of children and the ways in which they responded to their mobilisation for war’ (no. 1625).
Then we turn to Gerhard Schneider’s In eiserner Zeit: Kriegswahrzeichen im Ersten Weltkrieg, which Stefan Goebel finds to be to be a landmark of historical research (no. 1624).
Finally we turn to Organized Patriotism and the Crucible of War: Popular Imperialism in Britain, 1914-1932 by Matthew Hendley, which reviewer David Monger believes to be a valuable book, providing considerable detailed discussion of three ‘patriotic and imperialist’ organizations (no. 1623).
A sad and momentous day at the IHR, as we bid farewell to one of our longest-standing colleagues, James ‘He’ll never leave’ Lees, who , after years of dogged and loyal service, was finally unable to resist the promise of untold riches and the lure of the bright lights, and is moving to Swindon…
Anyway, life must go on – and following the IHR’s successful conference last week, we’re continuing with our special issue of Great War at Home reviews. First up is Disturbing Practices: History, Sexuality and Women’s Experience of Modern War, 1914-18 by Laura Doan. Kevin Guyan and Laura Doan discuss the latter’s book, which offers a clear and confident direction for how histories of sexuality could develop (no. 1622, with response here).
Next we turn to Robert Tombs and Emile Chabal’s Britain and France in Two World Wars: Truth, Myth and Memory, with Vincent Trott reviewing a broad and ambitious collection (no. 1621).
Then we have Civvies: Middle-class men on the English Home Front, 1914–18 by Laura Ugolini. Jessica Meyer believes the author has done a service to historians of gender of this period in providing a thoughtful introduction to a collection of important voices (no. 1620).
Finally, there is Beth Linker’s War’s Waste: Rehabilitation in World War I America. Jessica Adler thinks that this deeply researched, beautifully written, and tightly argued book should be required reading (no. 1619).
Apologies for the delay in the weekly Reviews in History post – our Anglo-American Conference of Historians on ‘The Great War at Home’ started yesterday (check out the programme at http://anglo-american.history.ac.uk/files/2013/03/Anglo-American-conference-programme.pdf, or follow developments at #aach2014), and I was out all afternoon chairing a packed session on conscientious objectors and war resisters. Or ‘cranks’, if you’re Jeremy Paxman.
Anyway, to coincide with the conference, we’ll be publishing a series of reviews on related books, and our first batch are up today.
We begin with the Cambridge History of the First World War, edited by Jay Winter. Richard Grayson and the editor discuss a comprehensive, insightful and challenging collection, which can be considered an astonishing achievement (no. 1618, with response here)
Next up is Ross Davies’ ‘A Student in Arms’: Donald Hankey and Edwardian Society at War. Stuart Bell and the author discuss a new book on one of the most enigmatic personalities to feature in the narrative of the Great War (no. 1617, with response here).
Then we turn to The Soldiers’ Press: Trench Journals in the First World War by Graham Seal, which Adrian Bingham believes provides the most comprehensive and detailed overview thus far of a fascinating genre (no. 1616).
Finally we have The Aesthetics of Loss: German Women’s Art during the First World War by Claudia Siebrecht. Ann Murray finds this book identifies and underscores the vital importance of women’s art to our greater understanding of the First World War (no. 1615).
Illustration: F.S. Brereton, With our Russian Allies (1916)
This post was written for us by Karen Attar from Senate House Library Special Collections.
The conference “The Great War at Home” supplied an excellent opportunity for Senate House Library to provide a small complementary display. The only problem was how best to use a limited space. To the extent that we had a focus, that focus was publishing, and within the theme of publishing, Oxford University Press – especially timely in so far as a new History of Oxford University Press was published last year. In August 1914 seven members of the Modern History Faculty of the University of Oxford promptly set to and wrote Why We Are At War: Great Britain’s Case, in order to set forth the causes of war and the principles they believed to be at stake. This was the first of 87 OUP “pamphlets” about the War, although with 206 pages there was little of the pamphlet about it.
The Delegates of Oxford University Press approved the book’s publication on 16 October 1914, at their first meeting of the new academic year – by which time it was already in its third edition, the one displayed. The copy shown is from a collection of about 530 books and pamphlets pertaining to the War brought together by the pacifist historian Caroline Elizabeth Playne (1857-1948) in connection with the books she wrote about the conflict. The other OUP book shown is homage to Shakespeare for the tercentenary celebration of his birth: evidence of the continuation, albeit in severely limited form, of academic publishing during the war.
Children’s adventure stories set against the backdrop of the Great War and stereotypically full of valiant English youths and cowardly, underhand Germans, some of them spies, give insight into how in an unrealistic form the war pervaded children’s consciousness. An example of such literature was also displayed, With our Russian Allies by the extremely popular Frederick Sadleir Brereton.
All of these are examples of “The Great War in England”. We interpreted “home” more narrowly with Roll of War Service, 1914-1919, commemorating the losses in war of members of the University of London Officers Training Corps: seven officers and some 670 cadets.
In previous years Senate House Library’s contribution to the Anglo-American Conference of Historians has been purely to curate a display. This year the topic enabled the Library to give a conference paper, again seeing “home” as the host institution of the conference. Karen Attar, who had previously delved into the history of the Library during the Second World War, extended her researches backwards to the period 1914-1918 to talk about the University of London Library then. Documentary evidence is sparse compared with that for the Second World War, so that an initial fear was of not finding enough to say. There was no need to worry, and a twenty-minute talk expanded to fit forty minutes. Several interesting points emerged in the course of preliminary reading, such as better air raid precautions for the First World War than for the Second, and a suggestion that books would be safer on the central University’s premises in London than in Cambridge.
I was all set to try and tie things in with the World Cup this week, but what with England already having disembarked at Luton there really doesn’t seem much point. Oh, and none of the books are football-related in any way…
So away from the ignominies of our sub-standard national team, and let us turn for reassurance instead to high-standard historical scholarship, beginning with Print and Public Politics in the English Revolution by Jason Peacey. David Magliocco and the author discuss an outstanding work combining archival mastery, theoretical sophistication, methodological innovation and lucid exposition (no. 1614, with response here).
Then we have Peter Watson’s The Age of Nothing: How We Have Sought to Live Since The Death of God. Beverley Southgate praises an extraordinarily successful wide-angled personal snapshot of the story of our efforts to live without God (no. 1613).
Next up is Canada and the End of the Imperial Dream by Neville Thompson, and Simon Potter believes this book offers a lively and readable illustration of how the British world perspective can enrich both British and Canadian histories (no. 1612).
Finally there is The Great Game, 1856-1907: Russo-British Relations in Central and East Asia by Evgeny Sergeev, which R. Charles Weller uses as the starting point for a lengthy review of Great Game historiography (no. 1611).
Mrs Thatcher and the Queen pretending to get on at the 1979 Commonwealth Heads of Government summit.
Welcome back to Reviews in History, your weekly digest of reviews of books and digital resources from across the subject.
Thanks for all your birthday present suggestions last week! As many of you pointed out, there are few tight domestic situations that high-quality chocolates can’t improve, and any potential crisis was averted. I also learnt a new acronym via a Twitter response – TMI … so I’ll get straight on with the reviews…
We begin with Philip Murphy’s Monarchy and the End of Empire: The House of Windsor, the British Government, and the Postwar Commonwealth. Ruth Craggs and the author discuss a carefully researched and beautifully presented book that chronicles the relationship between the monarchy, the UK government, and the decolonisation of the British Empire (no. 1610, with response here).
Then we turn to Elizabeth’s Bedfellows: An Intimate History of Elizabeth’s Court by Anna Whitelock. Nadia van Pelt believes this captivating book will appeal to a wide range of readers, from specialist academics, to a non-specialist public interested in Tudor history (no. 1609).
Next up is Steven M. Schroeder’s To Forget It All and Begin Anew: Reconciliation in Occupied Germany, 1944-1954. Camilo Erlichman thinks this book successfully introduces into the historiography the work of a number of hitherto neglected post-war institutions (no. 1608).
Finally, we have Gender, Nation and Conquest in the High Middle Ages: Nest of Deheubarth by Susan M. Johns, which Hanna Kilpi finds to be a useful addition to the scholarship, with its strengths outweighing its weaknesses (no. 1607).
The Victoria County History (VCH) project, which publishes historical reference works on English counties and is coordinated by the School of Advanced Study’s Institute of Historical Research, is to get an internationally respected new Director and General Editor.
Part of the University of London, the VCH welcomes the appointment of Richard Hoyle, currently Professor of Rural History at the University of Reading. He takes up his position on 1 October as Professor of English Local and Regional History.
With its scholarly volumes based on original research, the VCH is an important resource not only for county and local historians but also for anyone researching genealogy and family history. As a leading economic and social historian of early modern England, Professor Hoyle brings a wealth of erudition and experience to an initiative that has been built into a national treasure over 115 years and is without parallel.
‘I have long been an admirer of the Victoria County History, which in many respects is the English national history,’ said Professor Hoyle. ‘I look forwards to maintaining both the principles of the founding fathers and the standards achieved by their successors. Under my direction I hope that VCH will continue to offer its readers the very best of the old whilst accepting new challenges. I am very much looking forwards to getting to know the VCH family over the next few months.’
Professor Hoyle has written extensively on the political history of the 16th century but is probably best known as a historian of the economic and social history of many aspects of the English countryside, with publications on subjects as varied as the history of tenure and popular politics in the 16th and early 17th centuries, early modern famine and 19th and 20th century field sports.
He retains a strong interest in the history of northern England, especially the history and landscape of his native Yorkshire.
He is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences and is the long-serving senior editor of Agricultural History Review, the leading English language journal in the field. He is also President of the European Rural History Organization (EURHO).
Professor Miles Taylor, Director of the Institute of Historical Research, said: ‘I am delighted that Richard Hoyle is coming to lead the Victoria County History. He has few rivals as a prolific and original scholar of the social and economic history of rural Britain. He will bring distinction and leadership to the VCH and ensure its remarkable work develops and expands.’
Notes for editors:
1. For further information please contact Dee Burn at the School of Advanced Study, University of London at firstname.lastname@example.org / 020 7862 8670 / 07900 401 240. Images available on request.
2. Founded in 1899, the Victoria County History (VCH) was originally dedicated to Queen Victoria. It is an encyclopedic record of England’s places and people from earliest times to the present day. Based at the Institute of Historical Research in the University of London since 1933, the VCH is written by historians working in counties across England and is without doubt the greatest publishing project in English history. www.victoriacountyhistory.ac.uk
3. The Institute of Historical Research (IHR), founded in 1921, is one of 10 member institutes of the School of Advanced Study, University of London. It is home to two important research centres and a major open access library, hosts over 60 seminar series and offers doctoral supervision in a wide range of historical subjects. It has a substantial publishing programme, hosts a number of innovative digital research projects, administers fellowships, runs specialist research training programmes and organises a variety of conferences and workshops each year. www.history.ac.uk
4. The School of Advanced Study (SAS) at the University of London is the UK’s national centre for the promotion and support of research in the humanities. The School brings together 10 prestigious research institutes to offer unparalleled academic opportunities, facilities and stimulation across a wide range of subject areas for the benefit of the national and international scholarly community. The member institutes of the School are the Institutes of Advanced Legal Studies, Classical Studies, Commonwealth Studies, English Studies, Historical Research, Latin American Studies, Modern Languages Research, Musical Research, Philosophy, and the Warburg Institute. The School also hosts a cross-disciplinary centre, the Human Rights Consortium, dedicated to the facilitation, promotion and dissemination of academic and policy work on human rights. www.sas.ac.uk
5. Professor Hoyle is a leading economic and social historian of early modern England, notably of rural society. He was previously a Research Fellow of Magdalen College Oxford, taught for a period at the University of Bristol and has held chairs at the Universities of Central Lancashire and Reading. In 2004-6 he was a British Academy Research Fellow. He is also respected for the contribution he has made to Tudor political history, in particular to the history of the 1520s and 1530s, for his work on popular politics, on taxation and public finance, and the history of the North of England. In the first months of 2014 he was a visiting research fellow at the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington DC, where he took the opportunity to write about one of rural England’s mythical inhabitants, Robin Hood.
We are delighted to announce that Benjamin Bankhurst has been awarded the Donald Murphy Prize for Distinguished First Books for his recent work Ulster Presbyterians and the Scots Irish Diaspora, 1750-1764. Ben is the Postdoctoral Fellow in North American History at the IHR, and his book examines how news regarding the violent struggle to control the borderlands of British North America between 1750 and 1764 resonated among communities in Ireland with familial links to the colonies.
The prize was awarded by the American Conference for Irish Studies (ACIS), which annually recognizes five books and one graduate dissertation for their contribution to the field of Irish Studies in the disciplines of social sciences, history, literature, and the Irish language.
Apologies for the absence of reviews last week – I was back up north on business (he said mysteriously) – and for the late arrival of this email today, for which my excuse is my sudden recollection that tomorrow is your deputy editor’s partner’s birthday, for which I am woefully unprepared. Given that her mum usually turns up with presents clearly bought from the 24-hour garage (mars bars, milk, petrol…) the bar is set mercifully low. And I’m confident that she’s not a subscriber to Reviews in History either…
To which we say – more fool her! She’s missing out this week on another great interview, as Anthony McFarlane talks to Felipe Fernandez-Armesto about his new book, Our America: A Hispanic History of the United States (no. 1606).
Then we turn to The Cooke Sisters: Education, Piety and Politics in Early Modern England by Gemma Allen, as Nicola Clark reviews a book which not only adds to our knowledge of early modern women’s experience, but brings together the adjacent historiographies of female education, piety, and political roles (no. 1605).
Next up is Camilo José Vergara’s Harlem: the Unmaking of a Ghetto. Daniel Matlin and photographer discuss a monumental, invaluable achievement, the product of an intensely felt and passionately described relationship with a neighbourhood and its people (no. 1604, with response here).
Finally, we have a review article by Nick Hubble encompassing James Hinton’s The Mass Observers: A History, 1937-1949 as well as Mass Observation III, the resource produced by Adam Matthew Digital (no. 1603, with authors’ responses here).
The MA in Renaissance Studies which I started in 2005 was the first serious study I’d done since leaving university in 1995. I didn’t have any preconceived ideas about it, yet neither did I want to do anything related to ‘literature’ or traditional ‘art’. The reason I didn’t want to do literature was because my first degree was a joint honours in English and Librarianship. This ruled out Shakespeare and other literary modules. The reason I didn’t want to do ‘art’ was pure contrariness.
I’d made a conscious decision to choose courses in which I had no grounding at all. I wanted nothing conventional. Thankfully, The University of London promotes interdisciplinary study and allows you to connect diverse subjects.
I saw that Italian Renaissance Gardens was offered as the summer term module and immediately signed up. I knew nothing about English gardens or any kind of garden, apart from the fact they are pleasant to sit in when it’s sunny and best to avoid on wet visits to Versailles. So my starting point was open minded ignorance.
Comparing Renaissance Italy and Enlightenment England served to remind me that England was a cultural backwater for most of the early modern period, until travel became wide spread. Everything began in Italy and wealthy English land owners took these fashionable ideas and made them suit the English countryside. Hence the interdisciplinary nature of the study of Garden History: to get a sense of its origins, you have to look to Italian literature, culture, botany. It was in doing this that I came upon the Medici gardens and met the man of my dreams.
The man of my dreams was Francesco I de Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany. He was a hopeless statesman and worse ruler, but as a science-obsessed melancholic dreamer, he was perfect. After an introduction to him in one of the course lectures, I was hooked. I also had my essay topic. My module course work focused on the Grotto Grande in the Boboli gardens. This necessitated a midweek dash to see it in the flesh, and was the first of many Italian garden visits where I’ve skipped the churches, galleries and academies in favour of curious outdoor mannerist fancies.
I brought together alchemy and natural philosophy as a way of understanding the grotto, which led to my dissertation topic. My title was ‘Pratolino and the transforming influence of natural philosophy’. The topic is PhD worthy in my view so ultimately, I probably didn’t do it justice, but I achieved something to be proud of, and it has informed much of my later work and interest and opened up a fresh way of thinking about places I’ve visited.