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2013 Donald Murphy Prize awarded to IHR Fellow


benbankhurstWe 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.

You can find more details of the ACIS prizes here, and full details of Ben’s book are available here.

Introducing the new Postdoctoral Fellow in North American History


Welcome to the inaugural blog post in a series promoting the American history resources available at the IHR. In this post I would like to take the opportunity to introduce myself. My name is Benjamin Bankhurst and I have recently joined the School of Advanced Study as the Postdoctoral Fellow of North American History. 183712_10151164433194859_333601655_n

Before taking up this position I held teaching appointments at the LSE, King’s College London and Canterbury Christ Church University. In 2009 I was the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Fellow in Early American Religion at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. My research interests include the history of religion and ethnicity in the 18th-century Atlantic World. My Ph.D. thesis, completed in 2011, examined Irish migration to the Appalachian frontier during the era of the Seven Years’ War (1754-1763). Specifically, it focused on how news from the war-ravaged colonial backcountry and the arrival of American Presbyterian relief missions in Ireland collapsed emotional and spatial distance and produced a sense of transatlantic empathy among Ulster Presbyterians for their beleaguered kin across the ocean. This research forms the basis of my first book, Ulster Presbyterians and Scots Irish Diaspora, 1750-1763 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).

I am also interested in library and book history and look forward to applying my past expertise in these fields to promote the rich colonial and American collections in the IHR and Senate House libraries. As a member of the research team on the AHRC-funded project ‘Private Books for Educational Use – the Formation of the Northern Congregational College Library’ (February 2012 and March 2013), I examined the provenance and individual object histories of 2,500 books once owned by various dissenting academies in the north of England during the 18th and 19th centuries. This results of our research (including a searchable list of former owners and examples of user annotation) are now integrated into the Virtual Library System on the Dissenting Academies Online. In my first few weeks at the IHR I have uncovered interesting provenance in the colonial collections relating to the early benefactors of the library. I look forward to sharing my findings on this subject on this blog in the months to come. Watch this space!

I am very excited to join the teams at the IHR and Senate House libraries and look forward to promoting American studies across the School of Advanced Study over the next two years. I am currently preparing several North American collection guides for the IHR and will be blogging about the highlights from our holdings throughout the year. I will begin later in the week with a few posts highlighting our Canadian resources.

The Art of Ritual: Object, Image and Space in Medieval and Early Modern Europe


Coronation_of_Louis_VIII_and_Blanche_of_Castille_1223Three of this year’s Junior Research Fellows at the IHR – Dhwani Patel (KCL, Thornley Fellow), Wendy Sepponen (University of Michigan, Mellon Fellow) and Jo Edge (RHUL, Scouloudi Fellow) – have come together to organise a conference on the links between art and ritual in the medieval and early modern periods. After meeting at the introductory party for JRFs at the start of the year, we realised that while we all work on diverse topics – Wendy works on Renaissance sculpture, Dhwani late medieval ceremonial in Rome, and Jo medieval divinatory diagrams – that there was a real opportunity to organise a conference on this little-explored area. The IHR, Royal Holloway and King’s College London have all generously pledged financial support for what promises to be a most engaging day.

We’re aiming to bring focus to how material culture and art (broadly defined) negotiates with and shapes ritual. We have identified three principal thematic strands. The first is art that influenced ritual, for example space and site specificity, or the importance and history of a particular place, site or space in connection with ritual. The second is art that reflected ritual, for example representations of processions. The final strand concerns objects and images that functioned as an integral part of ritual, for example relics and magical diagrams.

This conference will have a broad chronological, disciplinary and geographic scope, drawing from art historians, historians, and archaeologists from the late antique to early modern periods. Speakers including Achim Timmermann (University of Michigan), Sophie Page (UCL), Zoe Opacic (Birkbeck), Tom Nickson (The Courtauld Institute), Natalia Petrovskaia (University of Cambridge), Marianne Gilly-Argoud (Universite Pierre-Mendes-France) and Andy Murray (UCL) are already confirmed to speak.

The conference will take place on Saturday 17 May, in the Senate Room, Senate House, London

Registration is now open. The cost for attendance on the day, including lunch and refreshments, is £10 (£5 students/unwaged/retired/disabled). Please email to reserve your space.

Networking and academia



This post has been kindly written for us by George Gilbert, currently one of the Scouloudi Fellows at the Institute of Historical Research.

For the beginner, the idea of networking can be a confusing one, and historically hasn’t always been helped by attitudes found in our discipline. Elements of academia have in the past perhaps been slow to catch on to this technique, slower at least than many professions in the city and politics. However, the profession has largely turned round to the idea, and it’s now apparent that developing fruitful links with other researchers, not only outside your home institution, but across countries and continents, is recognized as a central part of the doctoral experience. It is particularly vital for the aspiring researcher who wants to make the most of their abilities and interests in pursuing an academic career. Getting to know senior colleagues can at times seems a daunting experience, and the idea of ‘selling yourself’ might even sound a touch undignified!

However, it’s a good strategy to pursue. Firstly, networking is vital from a career perspective. At an early stage in your doctoral research, continuous and effective networking alerts you to conference opportunities, colloquiums and seminars that allow you to take in new ideas, engage with the latest and most cutting-edge research and, most of all, meet a wide range of characters and come across interesting viewpoints that will help you in your chosen field. Later, you will find out fellowship and job opportunities from helpful and well connected colleagues and friends.

As well as this, it can be very enjoyable. Networking might seem like a sly word to describe the cunning enhancement of an academic CV, but in reality, it’s usually very fun. It rarely goes wrong, and usually promotes rather than damages career development. Possibly one of the main issues for a young researcher is considering who to share your ideas with. If you have what you think might be a new and path breaking idea, a good rule of thumb is that it is best to share it only with those you know best, at least in the earliest stages of development: you don’t want to see your ideas in print before you’ve published them yourself! But most opportunities end positively. For example, I have had much entertainment from seeing different generations of Russianists, with very different questions on the scholarly agenda, productively engaging (and less productively, arguing) with each other over what direction the discipline is (and should be) heading in at various conferences and seminars! It helps develop people skills that are vital when teaching, giving papers, and discussing ideas: basically, anything that involves any level of face to face engagement. No one is out to ‘get you’ and several will probably end up becoming good friends.

Another aspect of engagement worth discussing in this brief post is another side to networking: sharing writing. Once you have got to the stage where you are able to produce significant chunks of written work based on your primary research, it’s a very good idea to share it with experienced professionals and helpful graduate students outside your supervisory team. For me, the feedback I have received from the peer review process, and also academics working in other institutions interested in my research, has been of immense value in helping me hone my ideas and develop my arguments. You must expect some criticisms, but in my own experience, the majority of those who have commented on my work have been very helpful and constructive in letting me know when the work isn’t good enough, as well as praising elements that they particularly liked.

Finally, networking has gone digital. For most sub-disciplines, there are forums, newsletters, websites and discussion blogs all online, many of which are worth reading to familiarize yourself with the latest academic research and where the discipline is going, as well as using those invaluable 40-year old monographs written by pillars of the field. It’s worth getting in touch with colleagues to find out where the best new material is being posted online, and to find out in what direction the field is heading, and perhaps even what your role in that development might be. Even if you aren’t into social networking, finding out where the thought pieces from those actively involved in the discipline are appearing is good practice.

The following digital networking websites, for instance, have proved useful for me:

H-Russia, an online network encouraging scholarly discussion of all matters Russian, featuring a discussion log, forum, and reviews of recent scholarship. The discussion log is good for pulling together panels for conferences., a useful forum and not just for scholars, though especially helpful before that first research visit, on a variety of matters.

Finally, twitter offers more than the opportunity to berate minor celebrities. It also contains many targets for the Russianist to follow, for instance: Crossing the Baltic, Russian Universe, and the UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies’ research blog, which presents links to the some of the latest papers and talks by those engaged in the field.

British pharmaceutical trade during the long eighteenth century


Dorner_Image 1This post has been kindly written for us by Zack Dorner, a Junior Research Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research.

I’m Zack Dorner, a fourth year PhD candidate in the History Department at Brown University in the United States. Through the IHR’s Junior Fellowship Program I am living in London for the 2013-14 academic year to pursue my dissertation project.

My dissertation examines the British pharmaceutical trade during the long eighteenth century across Asia, Europe, and North America. Motivating this project are unresolved historical questions about the co-evolution of capitalism, global empire, and science in the eighteenth century. Through examining the business transactions of individuals and firms scattered around the British empire, I am trying to reconstruct the infrastructure through which capital, goods, information, and people traveled across long distances. In particular, my work focuses on the pharmaceutical trade, which allows me to discuss how the intersection of scientific and commercial practices contributed to a larger story of British economic and imperial expansion in an incipient age of global capitalism.

In tracing a global trade, my research thus far has taken me to a range of archives in search of documents such as correspondence, insurance policies, ledgers, shipping receipts, and wills that reveal both the economics of business transactions and the interpersonal negotiations that facilitated them. My research began in New England at a series of historical societies in Massachusetts, Maine, and Rhode Island. From these local repositories I shifted to research at the giant British Library and Wellcome Library in London. I have also been spending time at the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries, a building in a narrow street off Blackfriars rebuilt in 1672 after the Great Fire of London. For a short respite from the London rain, I travelled to Barbados in January to visit the Barbados Department of Archives and follow some leads of individuals purchasing pharmaceutical products from the firms I examined in London archives. Finally, in contrast to the state and private records I have read thus far, I am currently exploring the corporate archives of GlaxoSmithKline, whose eighteenth-century predecessors were active in the British imperial trade.

A closer look at the career of Robert Wigram (1744-1830) hints at some of the larger themes my dissertation engages. Wigram’s first career was as a surgeon, in which he regularly sailed to India and China as a ship’s surgeon for the East India Company in the 1760s. These voyages exposed Wigram to the growing drug trade as many of the products that travelled between Asia and London did so through the private dealings of EIC employees. In 1772 Wigram retired from surgery and reinvented himself as a successful merchant and broker, likely applying what he learned aboard ship. Wigram became a major importer of drugs into England and owned majority shares of several vessels trading to Bengal, Madras, and Bombay. And in 1800 he wrote to an EIC official to argue that high British duties on Asian drugs encouraged competition from Danish, Swedish, and Dutch merchants, limited British merchant stocks, and stunted the British economy. Of course Wigram was hardly the first to consider the political-economic impact of the drug trade; other cases abound in the archives.

Even from this single case it is clear that the pharmaceutical trade was both a public and a private project. State-imposed economic policy influenced the shape of the trade carried out by publicly funded joint-stock companies and private traders. And British political-economic calculations, as evidenced by Wigram’s accusation, often altered the balance of the pharmaceutical trade. Already in 1769 a group of London druggists and drug merchants petitioned to reduce the duty, rate, and drawback on drugs imported into England. The drug and pharmaceutical trade and its participants linked the Indian and Atlantic Ocean trading circuits as London firms exported pharmaceuticals to plantations in Antigua, Barbados, and Jamaica; and provided an influx of capital into provisioning, cotton, and sugar voyages. As I continue to follow the capital, goods, and merchants around the British imperial world of the eighteenth century I increasingly see the informal interactions that made possible the institutional expansion of trade in this period.

Jacobitism and anti-Jacobitism at the Institute of Historical Research


David Parrish

This post has been kindly written for us by Dr. David Parrish, a Junior Research Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research.

After three years of research and writing, I submitted a PhD thesis and passed my viva in September 2013 (probably the most nerve-racking experience of my life).  I absolutely loved working on my thesis and (as crazy as this might sound) I found the independent, flexible atmosphere to be fairly low-stress.

Imagine, then, my excitement at having been awarded a Jacobite Studies Trust Junior Research Fellowship at the IHR.  Six more months of research!  The only problem: I was not entirely sure what my next project would be.  That’s not to say I didn’t have ideas.  I had too many ideas.  Ideas were literally falling out of my books (I had copious amounts of post-it notes with half-baked, hastily-scribbled ideas representing potential future projects strewn about the inside of my books and notebooks), but nothing remotely concrete.  While digging through sources for the thesis I had thought about what my next article/book project was going to be, but having been consumed by the need to finish the thesis, the idea of a fully conceptualizing a second project seem laughable.

However, as I made the required revisions to the thesis and read over many of my notes, one idea struck me as particularly interesting.  I stumbled across a very short article reprinted from a London print in the Boston newspaper, the New England Courant, stating that debates about small-pox inoculation in 1722 had become a party controversy in Britain.  This short article raised two significant questions.  Were the inoculation debates a party controversy in Britain and, if so, why was this deemed newsworthy in colonial Boston?  My project undertaken during my time as a junior fellow, therefore, began as attempt to explain the background and significance of this short article.  This examination, in turn, raises larger questions about the extent of a transatlantic public sphere and the significance of the ‘rage of party’, Jacobitism, and anti-Jacobitism within the British Atlantic World.

The IHR fellowship program has provided me the means to pursue this article-length research project from conception, to research, to writing.  Moreover, the time to research provided by the fellowship has provided me both the opportunity to begin revising my thesis for publication and also the means to begin research for a second monograph project.  Perhaps more importantly, it provided a platform from which to pursue a career in academia.  It has sustained me, financially and mentally, through what academics in the US know is a grueling job market, and helped me secure a full-time position at a small liberal arts college in Missouri, USA.

Fellowships and Awards at the Institute


With some 600 new History doctoral students graduating from British universities each year, together with strong competition from international students and from previous years’ History PhDs who are still are the hunt for academic employment, a Fellowships Officer’s work is never done.

With some 600 new History doctoral students graduating from British universities each year, together with strong competition from international students and previous years’ History PhDs, a Fellowships Officer’s work is never done.

The IHR hosts several competitions for one-year and six-month Junior Research Fellowships, intended as writing-up awards for doctoral students or as first postdoctoral positions for recent graduates, as well as several smaller prizes and bursaries in a variety of historical areas.

Currently underway are the Mellon Fellowships in the Humanities, which fund doctoral students at universities in the US and Canada to undertake archival research in the UK.  Applications will be sent out to our panel of experts shortly, and applicants will be informed of the outcome by early May.

The end of January sees the opening of all our other doctoral and postdoctoral Fellowships competitions. Applications for Jacobite Studies Trust Fellowships must be in by 28 February, with interviews likely to take place in mid/late April. The deadline for receipt of IHR doctoral Fellowship applications (Scouloudi, Thornley, RHS) is 7 March; interviews will be held at the IHR in early/mid June. The EHS, Past & Present, and Pearsall Fellowship competitions all close on 4 April, with interviews held in late June/July.

In terms of other funding, applications for the Scouloudi Historical Awards in aid of academic publication must be in by 17 March, with decisions made and applicants informed before the end of June. Details of the remaining small awards may be found here, and I would draw special attention to the IHR Bursaries, funded by the IHR Friends, the Alwyn Ruddock Bequest, and by former IHR Director Professor David Bates. These provide £500 for doctoral students not registered at institutions in London to undertake short research trips to the IHR and other archives in the capital. As well as enabling students to access a wider range of resources for their research, these awards very much strengthen early career CVs, by demonstrating to prospective employers and postdoctoral funders that others have deemed their research worthy of financial support.

Anyone interested in applying can find more information here.