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IHR Digital

Opening the book: reading and the evolving technology(ies) of the book


academicbookwhiteonblack-eps1In celebration of the diversity, innovation and influence of academic books, the first ever Academic Book Week is being held from 9 to 16 November 2015. A range of activities and events are being organised throughout October and November, tackling subjects such as ‘Curious books’, the trustworthiness of Wikipedia, the future of the English PhD, and the role and history of the university press (see, for more information).

On Tuesday 10 November, the School of Advanced Study, University of London is hosting a debate focusing on how the evolving technology(ies) of the book have affected the ways that we read. A panel of six speakers – Professor Sarah Churchwell (School of Advanced Study, University of London), Professor Justin Champion (Royal Holloway, University of London), Dr Martin Eve (Birkbeck, University of London), Dr Stephen Gregg (Bath Spa University), Professor Lyndsey Stonebridge (University of East Anglia) and Pip Willcox (Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford) – will consider the many different kinds of books which are read in an academic context, from text books to edited collections, from monographs to scholarly editions, from novels to handbooks. There will also be plenty of time for audience discussion, beginning with formal responses from early career researchers for whom these questions will be of enormous importance in years to come.

Registration for the event is free, but places are limited so do book online now ( If you’re not able to attend in person, key elements of the debate will be published subsequently on the Academic Book Week website. You can also follow this and other events on Twitter throughout the week, using the hashtag #AcBookWeek.

This event is being organised as part of Opening the Book: the Future of the Academic Monograph, an international multi-centred debate. Academic Book Week itself is the centrepiece of this year’s activity on the two-year AHRC/British Library Academic Future of the Academic Book project (

New reviews: Unemployment, Christian missions, Latin law and Galileo


homeless_1625213cWe start this week with Unemployment, Welfare, and Masculine Citizenship: ‘So Much Honest Poverty’ in Britain, 1870-1930 by Marjorie Levine-Clark. Nicole Longpré and the author discuss a book which will appeal to those working in fields across the history of modern Britain (no. 1839, with response here).

Next up is Karen Vallgårda’s Imperial Childhoods and Christian Mission: Education and Emotions in South India and Denmark. John Stuart recommends an impressive book, distinguished by wide and close reading and by innovative methodology (no. 1838).

Then we turn to Law and History in the Latin East by Peter Edbury, which Stephen Donnachie extols as an erudite collection, of vast benefit to any who wish to investigate further the law and history of the Latin East (no. 1837).

Finally we have Thomas F. Mayer’s The Roman Inquisition: Trying Galileo. Maurice Finocchiaro cautions against accepting the thesis of a flawed and provocative book (no. 1836).

New reviews: Renaissance, TV multiculturalism, Book of Common Prayer and Cold War diplomacy


ruggiero2We begin this week with The Renaissance in Italy: a Social and Cultural History of the Rinascimento by Guido Ruggiero. Stephen Bowd and the author discuss a new social and cultural history of Italy between 1250 and 1575 (no. 1835, with response here).

Next up is The Vision of a Nation: Making Multiculturalism on British Television by Gavin Schaffer. Stephen Brooke praises a superb book which scholars of race in Britain and culture in Britain will find indispensable (no. 1834).

Then we turn to Richard Baxter’s Reformed Liturgy: A Puritan Alternative to the Book of Common Prayer by Glen J. Segger. Benjamin Guyer believes this book makes an important contribution to both the study of early modern liturgy and the history of English religious controversy (no. 1833)

Finally, we have Martin Folly’s Historical Dictionary of U.S. Diplomacy During the Cold War. Thomas Tunstall Allcock recommends, with caveats, a hugely useful work and a remarkable achievement for a single-authored volume (no. 1832).

New reviews: US political history, Huguenots, money and Istanbul


critchlow2This week  we begin with Donald Critchlow’s American Political History: A Very Short Introduction, as Mark Power Smith and the author debate a concise, readable narrative of American political history (no. 1831, with response here).

Then we turn to Experiencing Exile: Huguenot Refugees in the Dutch Republic, 1680–1700 by David van der Linden. Dave Papendorf praises a valuable contribution to Huguenot history and early modern history in general (no. 1830).

Next up is Christine Desan’s Making Money: Coin, Currency, and the Coming of Capitalism, with Katie Ball and the author discussing an important contribution to monetary history (no. 1829, with response here).

Finally we have Midnight at the Pera Palace: The Birth of Modern Istanbul by Charles King, which Pheroze Unwalla applauds as an enthralling read; a popular history that will be appreciated by scholarly audiences (no. 1828).


New reviews: Legal history, slavery, tabloids and consorts



The rather serious-looking Edward Coke…

We start this week with David Chan Smith’s Sir Edward Coke and the Reformation of the Laws: Religion, Politics and Jurisprudence, 1578–1616, as Daniel Gosling and the author discuss an impressive and readable legal history drawing on a huge range of legal cases and reports (no. 1827, with response here).

Next up is American Slavery: A Very Short Introduction by Heather Andrea Williams. Thomas Strange reviews a book which provides a concise overview, but which has some significant omissions (no. 1826).

Then we turn to Adrian Bingham and Martin Conboy’s Tabloid Century: The Popular Press in Britain, 1896 to the Present. Susanne Stoddart believes this book is vital reading for scholars interested in how the popular press shaped, and was shaped by, the 20th-century (no. 1825).

Finally we have the aforementioned The Man behind the Queen: Male Consorts in History, edited by Miles Taylor and Charles Beem. Estelle Paranque recommends a valuable contribution to the field that should be read by anyone interested in royal studies (no. 1824).


Digital development: a commitment to OA


When I joined the IHR in early August, I did so with the challenging assignment of helping to further the Institute’s mission to embrace the opportunities of digital content delivery and enable greater access to knowledge, in line with the School’s Statement on Open Access. As a graduate of the humanities and a professional academic publisher with experience in delivering online products and a preoccupation with open access, it is a task that I am really keen to get my teeth into.

Mandated deposit into institutional repositories, developments in publishing strategies and technology, and the growth of freely accessible content across many disciplines, have been credited as heralding the return of the institutional press. Yet from the perspective of the IHR, when you look at the continued output of this Institute and of SAS, we were certainly never dormant!

IHR books and digital publicationsThe key focus for us as an institutional publisher, but also as champions for the humanities and social sciences, is how we embrace and develop a modern and sustainable approach to digital publication. The humanities retains a strong interest in the long form monograph as a scholarly necessity – but this is somewhat at odds with a growing demand for the rapidly produced, short form, and increasingly ‘born-digital’ research outputs which already hold significant sway across science, technology, engineering and mathematics. In a climate where the monograph is valued, yet the demand upon researchers is tightening, reader habits are shifting and budgets remain acutely stretched, how can publication in this format be encouraged, cost effective and remain impactful?

Led by investigators based in the Department of Information Studies at UCL with funding from the AHRC, the Academic Book of the Future project seeks to explore opinion and provide insights and possible recommendations which could help to answer this question by engaging with a broad range of stakeholders. Indeed, it is a challenge for which researchers, communities, organisations and institutions as the originators of content and curators of humanities resources are keenly placed to take the lead.

Our ambition is to continue to build upon the fantastic academic and educational resources of the IHR, Senate House and the School, to ensure the continued growth in academic research output, digital archiving, preservation, accessibility and the wider dissemination of text, literature, imagery, public and private records, special collections and even datasets. We are firmly committed to enabling the Green route to open access for all authors and originators of research material associated with the School (through SAS-Space) and exploring ethically sound, sustainable methods for delivering valuable content, publications and online platforms (such as British History Online and our other digital resources) which can operate without reliance upon the significant article processing charges which drive the Gold route.

This can only be achieved by our ongoing investment in digital infrastructure, the development of agile processes and publication strategies, and by seeking greater collaborative partnerships with the communities we are comprised of, serve and represent and who share our ideals for open and sustainable access for students, scholars, libraries, societies, institutions and the general public.

I am thrilled to be a part of the IHR and wider School in working towards this continued goal of digital development. I look forward to sharing the occasional slice of information, opinion piece, and updating you on our work towards further engagement with open access and the future of our humanities publications.

New IHR Digital project to be funded by AHRC


IHR Digital is very pleased to announce that we have been awarded funding by the Arts and Humanities Research Council for a new project called the Thesaurus of British and Irish History as SKOS (TOBIAS).

The IHR will publish as a web ontology the Bibliography of British and Irish History’s subject classification of 8,800 terms for British and Irish history. This will provide a comprehensive, standard resource for all British and Irish history projects wishing to expose their data and link it to other projects using the Resource Description Framework. The benefit of linked data is that it is possible to find data in that format which could not be found using conventional search. Web ontologies are linked together to form the framework of the ‘semantic web’, and the TOBIAS project aims to embed a rigorous vocabulary of British and Irish history into that framework.

New reviews: African-American history, Civil War Scotland and Ireland, healthcare and medieval databases


mlk1We start this week with Interpreting African American History and Culture at Museum and Historic Sites by Max A. van Balgooy, as Hannah Rose-Murray and the author discuss an engaging account of how African-American history is interpreted today (no. 1823, with response here).

Next up is Barry Robertson’s Royalists at War in Scotland and Ireland, 1638-1650,  as Chris Langley finds this book to be an important milestone in our appreciation of the differences of British and Irish experience (no. 1822).

Then we turn to Healthcare in Ireland and Britain from 1850: Voluntary, Regional and Comparative Perspectives, edited by Donnacha Seán Lucey and Virginia Crossman. Laura Kelly believes this impressive volume will appeal to all those interested in the history of healthcare and welfare (no. 1821).

Finally Justin Colson reviews two websites offering exceptional new insights into the social and economic history of the late medieval period, in Web Databases for Late Medieval Social and Economic History: England’s Immigrants and the Overland Trade Project (no. 1820, with response here).

Connected Histories: Victoria and Denmark



This post has kindly been written for us by our IHR Digital intern Brandon Fathy

One of the less well known (and more underrated) online resources for historians is Connected Histories. Connected Histories is a comprehensive search engine comprising a variety of digitised documents and images dating from 1500 to 1900, drawing from 25 different resources ranging from British History Online to the Victoria County History. The site also allows you to create ‘connections’, which are essentially topics that you or anyone else can then add and save items to.

To demonstrate how useful Connected Histories is as a resource, I made a general search for ‘Denmark’ which found 189,007 matches across 22 resources. From here I grazed the results and discovered a variety of interesting items, including correspondence from 16th-century Scotland visiting the king of Denmark on BHO, a plan of attack by the British Navy of Copenhagen from the British Museum, and even a timetable of regular steamboats travelling from London to Copenhagen in 1889 from 19th Century British Pamphlets.

My particular personal historic interest in Denmark lies before the date range of the search engine, but I am also generally interested in the relationships between Northern European countries, so I decided to look at the relationship between Denmark and Queen Victoria. I made an advanced search for ‘Queen Victoria’ in the people index, ‘Denmark’ in the place index, and narrowed the search to 1830 – 1900. By doing so I arrived at a mere 4,154 matches across 6 sources. Many of the newspaper and pamphlet results displayed dated from 1864 concerning a “Schleswig-Holstein Crisis”. I had previously heard of a German invasion of Schleswig sometime in the 19th century, but before coming to Connected Histories I knew very little about it, and had not even considered that Britain may have been indirectly involved.

First I found a newspaper from 1864 that referred to King Christian of Denmark as “Pretender to the crown of Schleswig-Holstein”. I then found a 19th Century British Pamphlet that was concerned with “certain anonymous articles designed to render Queen Victoria unpopular” that referenced an article that had accused Victoria of being unwilling to intervene on Denmark’s behalf because she was a German sympathiser who was feeling especially sentimental because her German husband had recently died. These sources gave me a better understanding not only of a corner Anglo-European relations, but also of popular British attitudes towards both Denmark and Victoria. Furthermore, I was able to read ‘Official documents’ from 1864 stating that there were diplomatic reasons that the queen preferred to marry the “lamented late Prince-Consort” than the Danish king, which was a surprise to me. Shortly afterwards, I read an 1862 newspaper article announcing that Victoria had just sent a formal letter to Princess Alexandra of Denmark soliciting marriage to the Queen’s son Prince Edward, which complicated my perception of the relationship between Britain and Denmark.

This was just preliminary research, but it is clear to me that Connected Histories gave me access to historical materials that a Google search simply could not have, while also providing a richer and overall more complex picture of the Schleswig-Holstein Crisis than I would have been able to see using any one resource like 19th Century British Pamphlets or British Newspapers, on their own.

New reviews: English Americans, Hiroshima, French Freemasons and Stalin’s citizens


gaskill2We start off with Between Two Worlds: How the English Became Americans by Malcolm Gaskill. Joan Redmond and the author discuss a work of impressive scope and great depth (no. 1819, with response here).

Next we turn to Ran Zwigenberg’s Hiroshima: The Origins of Global Memory Culture, and Danae Karydaki believes that the greatest strength of this book is an exceptional combination of meticulous and multi-level archival research with a strong critical voice (no. 1818).

Then we turn to Brotherly Love: Freemasonry and Male Friendship in Enlightenment France by Kenneth Loiselle. Pierre-Yves Beaurepaire finds this book to be elegantly written, and steeped in archival research and interdisciplinary reflection (no. 1817).

Finally we have Serhy Yekelchyk’s  Stalin’s Citizens: Everyday Politics in the Wake of Total War, with Kees Boterbloem enjoying a book which provides a sound argument embedded in a solid investigation of the evidence (no. 1816).

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