Another year, another failure by the IHR’s Team Certain Victory to live up to its billing in the University of London annual quiz, though we did at least secure full marks in the history round, so some honour was maintained. I’m not sure the loud declamations from our table that the only reason we were losing is that the questions were ‘insufficiently academic’ won us any friends across the rest of the University mind…
These questions are beneath us…
Anyway, on with our reviews, and we start with another in our occasional series covering historical exhibitions. Simon Trafford finds the British Museum’s Vikings: Life and Legend to be a spectacular and unmissable exposition of Scandinavian early medieval culture, but one constantly troubled by an uncertainty about its audience and purpose (no. 1578).
Next up is Sacred Scripture, Sacred War: The Bible and the American Revolution by James P. Byrd, which Benjamin Guyer believes will be foundational for all future studies of the Bible and the American Revolution (no. 1577).
Then we turn to Anne C. Nagel’s Hitlers Bildungsreformer: Das Reichsministerium für Wissenschaft, Erziehung und Volksbildung 1934-1945. Helen Roche recommends an enlightening and extremely well-written book, as well as a ground-breaking study of one of the Third Reich’s key institutions (no. 1576).
Finally, we have The Politics of Wine in Britain by Charles Ludington, and David Gutzke reviews an interesting, thought-provoking book, with a thesis that often goes beyond its quite thin evidence (no. 1575).
I’m always receptive to feedback (this is the sort of foolish statement that unleashes a barrage of abuse and ends with me weeping in a corner), and as a sharp-eyed reader had pointed out a couple of weeks ago that all the reviews we’d published that week had (co-incidentally) been on British history, I just wondered whether anyone else had suggestions for areas we don’t cover as much as we ought? Don’t think I won’t notice if it turns out that the gaps in our coverage can only really be filled by reviews of your own forthcoming masterpieces…
Then we turn to Jean-Christian Vinel’s The Employee: A Political History, which Jefferson Cowie believes invigorates the stale paradigms of labor history and brings new perspectives and intellectual energy to the subject (no. 1573).
We’re a little bit rushed in the IHR Digital office today, as me and my esteemed colleague Jonathan Blaney of BHO fame are giving talks this afternoon to visiting students from Northwestern University. It’s always an intimidating experience being on the same bill as Jonathan, but more than ever this week, as after a triumphant appearance at the Research Libraries and Research Open Day his twitter-stream was deluged with ‘Agree with Blaney’ comments. He’s now had this inscribed on a sign above his desk, and the rest of us are starting to worry…
‘I agree with Blaney’
Anyway, on to the reviews, and we begin with The Anglo-American Paper War: Debates about the New Republic, 1800–1825 by Joseph Eaton. Thomas Rodgers and the author discuss a study which firmly locates the development of the United States in its international context (no. 1570, with response here).
Then we turn to Top Down: the Ford Foundation, Black Power and the Reinvention of Racial Liberalism by Karen Ferguson. Fabio Rojas recommends an account that clearly situates the Ford Foundation’s position in mid 20th-century social politics (no. 1569).
Next up is Jack P. Greene’s Evaluating Empire and Confronting Colonialism in Eighteenth-Century Britain, as Daniel Clinkman assesses a book that probes an important question about the relationship between the imperial centre and peripheries (no. 1568).
Finally Megan Armstrong believes that Ignacio de Loyola by Enrique García Hernán proves that Loyola is one of those historic figures that bears repeated examination (no. 1567).
‘Never been to Oxford?! Where have you been living your life?’
Safely back from my trip to the dreaming spires, where I had a very receptive / indulgent audience at the Oxford e-Research Centre. Maybe I’ve already bored regular readers with this before, but wandering round the colleges afterwards I was reminded of my first visit there, a few years back, to interview a very eminent historian. When we met, I told him I’d arrived early to have a look round, as I’d never been before. His astonished response was: ‘Never been to Oxford?! Where have you been living your life?’
Anyway, enough of such reminiscences, and on with serious matters. Our featured review this week is of The Battle of Britishness: Migrant Journeys, 1685 to the Present by Tony Kushner. Laurence Brown and the author discuss a book which poses a profound challenge to not only historians, but also contemporary policy-makers and museum practitioners (no. 1566, with response here).
Then we turn to Chaplains in Early Modern England: Patronage, Literature and Religion, edited by Hugh Adlington, Tom Lockwood and Gillian Wright. Nicholas Cranfield enjoys ten thought-provoking essays, which suggest the need to further research the ministry of the Church of England (no. 1565).
Next up is Paul Kleber Monod’s Solomon’s Secret Arts: the Occult in the Age of Enlightenment, which Peter Elmer believes lays impressive foundations for anyone wishing to engage with the broad appeal of occult thinking in England between 1650 and 1800 (no. 1564).
Finally, Jamie Stoops reviews a dense and well-researched investigation of the ‘moral economy’ of Britain’s wartime and post-war white, grey, and black markets, Black Market: Britain 1939-1955 by Mark Roodhouse (no. 1563).
In a previous post I mentioned an article which analysed the newspaper reporting of the beginning of the First World War. By happenstance I had begun to read the autobiography of the prolific writer Ursula Bloom – Youth at the Gate – which documents the beginning of the war. The author lived in genteel poverty in St Albans (her mother having left her clergyman father) with her mother and younger brother.
The family were Daily Mail readers and her opening chapters are smattered with references to that newspaper and the developing international crisis. The first sign of the war, “… was recorded in the Daily Mail of June 29th, 1914, when it gave details of the assassination … we received the news fairly calmly … a passing shock was overcome by the comforting reassuring, ‘Thank God that sort of thing couldn’t happen here.’” Her family continued their plans for a holiday: the Isle of Wight or Great Yarmouth? The latter was chosen as they were Norfolk people, and it was far cheaper. She charts the rising international tensions through her observations and the Daily Mail. Reading her observations there seems to be a generational split: the older people are concerned and shocked, the younger excited, “If something happened, then it happened, and it would be fun to get us all out of our rut”.
Holiday preparations continued with the packing of trunks. The British fleet left Portland and her mother blamed that, “… awful Mr. Winston Churchill … Somebody ought to stop that silly young man …” Bloom notes the invasion of Luxemburg but is more interested in the advertisements in the Daily Mail for 1st and 2nd August (hotels in Brighton, and the Papier Poudré beauty item).
She worked as a cinema pianist in Harpenden for 30/- a week (3d off for the insurance stamp). Her working hours were 5.30 to 10.30 and 2.30 to 10.30 on matinees. On bank holidays she began work at 11am. And so it was, in the last few days of peace, she found herself working on the August bank holiday playing any patriotic tune to applause and whistling. Her work in the cinema shows another developing medium, the use of the newsfilm and the use of slides to convey war news. To keep the patrons of the cinema informed about the latest developments and retain the audience, “On the lamp blacked slides latest news was scratched with one of my hairpins, and it was increasingly exciting”. She also relates the newsfilm Pathe Gazette being shown – with pictures of the reserves being called up and a destroyer putting out to see from Harwich – all accompanied by “violent applause from the twopennies”. Later another slide was scratched and displayed saying that Germany still had not replied to the British ultimatum to which the twopennies booed. Goodness knows what the censors would have said if Bloom had continued imparting war news in this manner.
Bloom also recounts how she scratched slides for the siege and fall of Liege (just like the breaking and rolling news of today). Although the cinema owner did not allow the playing of hymns, considering it sacrilege, she played “Through the night of doubt and sorrow” when the slide announcing the city’s fall was shown. Her decision to play the hymn was right as she earned herself a big box of chocolates.
“We were thrilled with the news that HMS Amphion had sunk the German minelayer Königen Luise in British waters. In wild elation I scratched it on the slide, and rushed to the piano, grabbing the keyboard from Mother waiting to greet the announcement with ‘Rule Britannia’. This was the way to win a war! The scanty house rose and cheered to a man!”
The other action that Bloom recorded on the slides was the naval engagement between HMS Amphion and the Königen Luise. The initial slide recorded the sinking of the German ship and then the next day she had to record the loss of Amphion on “my beastly little slides”, as the ship had struck a mine.
Within days of war being declared her fiancé and brother had joined up. Her fiancé then broke off the engagement. The cinema projectionist also enlisted and the commissioner was called up as he was a reservist. Prices shot up and food was hoarded. Her work at the cinema became harder as she had to manage the venue as well as play the piano, all this within the first few weeks of the war. For the rest of the war Bloom fared just as badly. She was accused of being a spy, her mother died of cancer, she witnessed airship raids, and the arrival of casualties. She did marry and had a son. Her army husband survived the war but not the influenza and so, as the war ended, she was left a widow.
Recent articles mirror some of Bloom’s observations about the war. In History Today there is a piece, The Daily Mail and the First World War, by Adrian Bingham. As well as avid readers of the newspapers, the Bloom family bought the Daily Mail war map for 6d. and pinned it on their wall, though her mother, “… was in a continual dither not knowing where to put the next flag.” Catriona Pennell has also written an article, Believing the Unbelievable: The Myth of the Russians with ‘Snow on Their Boots’ in the United Kingdom, 1914. Bloom narrates, “Lots of talk going around”, including the rumour of the Cossacks passing though Harpenden station on darkened trains that had been recognized by, “their fur caps and some had the snow of Siberia still on them!”
And finally, the IHR’s Anglo-American conference for 2014 is entitled The Great War at Home which also covers some of the issues raised by Bloom.
On a much more trivial note, I have been invited to take part in the Future of Editing seminar, and will be in Oxford tomorrow at lunchtime talking about Reviews if anyone of you are free and interested. Full details are here (http://bdlssblog.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/), but please don’t look at the poster too closely, except as a warning against taking selfies in the dark…
Ok, finally, back to what you actually signed up for, and this week we’ve got a nice varied crop for you. First up is James Corbett David’s Dunmore’s New World: The Extraordinary Life of a Royal Governor in Revolutionary America, as Stephen Conway reviews a book which seeks to introduce us to a Dunmore who was more than a controversial governor of Virginia (no. 1562, with response here).
Then Erika Dyck hails a welcome addition to the growing field of literature on the history of eugenics, as she takes on Framing the Moron: the Social Construction of Feeble-Mindedness in the American Eugenic Era by Gerald V. O’Brien (no. 1561, with response here).
Next up is God, Duty and Community in English Economic Life, 1660-1720 by Brodie Waddell. Jennifer Bishop believes that by eloquently challenging older assumptions, and arguing for a more nuanced approach, this book stands as a useful introduction to the vibrancy of economic life in early modern England (no. 1560).
Finally we have Leonie Hicks and Elma Brenner’s edited collection Society and Culture in Medieval Rouen, 911-1300 which Benjamin Pohl praises as being a well-structured volume which is both informative and innovative in its approach (no. 1559).
All manner of excitement last week at the IHR, with the prestigious Gerald Aylmer Seminar receiving a number of uninvited guests, as student protestors were diverted from their occupation of the Vice-Chancellor’s offices by the lure of the post-seminar sandwiches. The stern intervention of our events officer saw them off, but I think there’s a lesson here for any university seeking to deal with unwelcome demonstrations – no matter how righteous the cause, students will always prioritise free food…
Back to more serious matters, and this week’s reviews. We begin with Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition by David Nirenberg, which Christopher Smith believes represents a scholarly feat few writers could hope to match, engagingly tracking the history of how influential thinkers negatively interpreted Judaism to better understand their own religions and society (no. 1558).
Then we turn to Annette Aubert’s The German Roots of Nineteenth-Century American Theology. Daniel Ritchie and the author discuss a work which should be eagerly read by all modern religious historians with an interest in the development of Reformed theology in the United States (no. 1557, with response here).
Next up is Sovereignty Transformed: U.S.-Habsburg Relations from 1815 to the Paris Peace Conference by Nicole M. Phelps, found by Stephen Tuffnell to be a highly calibrated examination worthy of a place on the shelves of European and American historians alike (no. 1556).
Finally Peter Gurney reviews Hard Sell: Advertising, Affluence and Transatlantic Relations, c1951-69 by Sean Nixon. His view is that despite its valuable insights in the end this book, like many of the commodities it considers, promises more than it delivers (no. 1555).
Over the past year we have been running a monthly British History Online photo competition. All those photos added to our Flickr group in the previous month have been entered into a pool and scrutinised by my judicious and sharp-eyed colleagues in IHR Digital. I then aggregated all the votes to produce a shortlist, which was then further voted upon by British History Online’s academic advisory group.
This month we had two runners-up, in no particular order. One was Fountains Abbey by a veteran of the photo competition, Bill Tennent, the frantic-photographer:
This kind of geometrical, receding composition is a tricky one for any photographer and Bill has done a great job of giving us a sense of depth and space while keeping everything in balance. I also like the somewhat eerie bright green walls and column bases.
Almost everything we can see in this photograph is, or appears to be, stone – except that out-of-place window, with the light streaming through. Particularly evocative are the empty coffins, perhaps brought from elsewhere, their contents presumably scattered or reburied.
who knows the fate of his bones, or how often he is to be buried? Who hath the oracle of his ashes, or whither they are to be scattered?
Thomas Browne, Hydrotaphia, Urn Burial
The prize is that the winning photo has the glory of appearing on our British History Online homepage for a month. Our last winner, now in that prestigious position, is The Paris House at Woburn, by Jason Ballard:
The Paris House, although clearly in the English style, was built in Paris for an international exhibition on architecture held in 1878. It was designed by Gilbert Redgrave and was actually prefabricated and constructed on the site – although it is a bit more elegant than the prefabricated classrooms of my school days. It now stands in Woburn Park, and Jason has caught the character of the house and its surroundings beautifully, including the quintessentially English greens of a country that receives a healthy amount of rainfall.
It is appropriate (although entirely coincidental) that the house stands on the Duke of Bedford’s estate, because he liked it so much he had it shipped to England. The Institute of Historical Research (and the entire central University of London) also stands on estates owned by the dukes of Bedford. Most of the roads around our offices are named after members of the family: Russell Square, Woburn Place, Malet Street, Bedford Square…
We’ve very much enjoyed judging the photo competition over the past year, and we’d like to thank everyone who contributed photos to the group. Anyone is welcome to continue adding to the Flickr group, if they’d like to.
With each week seeing a new series of claims and counter-claims about the viability of an independent Scotland, now seems an appropriate time for us to review a new book by Michael Fry, a self-declared former Scottish Conservative now supporting the nationalist position. Ian Donnachie believes A New Race of Men: Scotland 1815-1914 is in the tradition of scholarly, thoughtful, popular history and seems likely to command a wide audience (no. 1552).
Elsewhere, Eloise Moss and Lucy Bland discuss Modern Women on Trial: Sexual Transgression in the Age of the Flapper which shows how the historiography on women’s sexuality in inter-war Britain has progressed during the last two decades (no. 1554, with response here).
Then we turn to Crossings: Africa, the Americas and the Atlantic Slave Trade by James Walvin, which Matthew Mitchell finds a highly coherent account that nevertheless manages to convey a satisfyingly complex view of its subject (no. 1553).
Finally Estelle Paranque thinks that the strength of The Name of a Queen: William Fleetwood’s Itinerarium ad Windsor by Charles Beem and Dennis Moore is that it highlights and encapsulates the concerns and hopes that represented the power of a queen during the early modern period (no. 1551).
The library, Trinity College Dublin. Eighteenth-century watercolour by James Malton
An update to the Bibliography of British and Irish History was published on 26 February. Over 4,000 new records have been added; over half of these are for publications of 2013-14. Some 700 new records relate to Irish history while 186 deal with the history of London.
We are pleased to welcome a new section editor to our team, Dr Elaine Murphy of Plymouth University, who will handle material on Irish history, 1640-1800. We now have three editors helping us to deal with Irish history; Dr Beth Hartland (Ireland before 1640) and Dr Marie Coleman (Ireland since 1800) complete our Irish history team.
There have also been some improvements to the metrics; we continue to welcome your feedback on these.
We expect to release the next update in June. You can always find out more about the Bibliography at http://www.history.ac.uk/projects/bbih or, if you already have access to the Bibliography, you can sign up for email alerts so as to be notified each time the Bibliography is updated with records on a subject or subjects of your choice.