You might remember that I started an internship a couple of weeks ago. I’d just like to comment on a couple of things.
Bad things that could happen on an internship:
Having to get there in rush hour
An awful boss who makes you do all their dirty work
Ending up having nothing to put on your CV
Just making tea all the time
Thankfully, absolutely none of these things happened to me while working for IHR (Institute of Historical Research). I worked hours that fitted around my commute, everybody was lovely, I did a huge range of things, and I actually got brought tea. Which was just as well as I found out that my tiny arms were too weak to lift their massive red teapot with one hand.
The work I did while I was there was varied. I proof read, put things online, wrote abstracts, and ended up doing some work for my dissertation. I also did some company tweeting, which gave me a disproportionate sense of power. So a lot of things to put on the CV then.
Also, it was just a nice place to work. Everybody was lovely, there were always biscuits, I had access to a fantastic library, and there was always somewhere interesting to wander to in my lunch hour.
I’m not saying it was all sunshine and roses. I forgot the codes to the doors a couple of times, and after having about 15 cups of tea a day brought to me I’ve started waking up craving the stuff. Damage has been done.
Genuinely, this is a great experience, which gives you a lot of skills to take home. A couple of interns are taken every year from the pool of History students at Leicester, so I’d definitely recommend applying next year. On a related note, I also wrote a post for them on using one of their online resources, Connected Histories, which was immensely helpful. Stick around if you need a hand finding sources.
To mark our 2000th review we have a special Somme centenary piece, centred around a reappraisal of Martin Middlebrook’s classic The First Day on the Somme.
How is that that a Lincolnshire poultry farmer changed the course of Somme historiography with his first book? In the first of a two-part centenary article on the bibliography of the 1916 Battle of the Somme, Ross Davies shows how Martin Middlebrook ‘prised open a window’ upon a battle that for a century has haunted the British and their Commonwealth allies. Himself haunted by the close-packed Somme military cemeteries, Middlebrook turned to the survivors with the-then novel idea of interviewing them rather than relying solely upon the accounts of the politicians and the generals, and the Somme veterans depicted an ‘almost indecipherable chaos’ on the opening day of the vast British infantry assault. This review explains the significance of this book and its approach in terms of the evolving historiography of the battle, and will be followed by a detailed overview of Somme centenary publications.
We start this week with Brian Copenhaver’s Magic in Western Culture: From Antiquity to the Enlightenment, as Francis Young hails a towering achievement in the field of intellectual history (no. 1999).
Then we turn to Confederate Cities: The Urban South During the Civil War Era, edited by Andrew Slap and Frank Towers. David Silkenat believes this book provides a balanced and diverse exploration of how the Civil War era transformed urban spaces in the American South (no. 1998, with response here).
Next up is Constructing Kingship; The Capetian Monarchs of France and the Early Crusades by James Naus. Niall Ó Súilleabháin is frustrated by an over-brief book which fails to live up to its potential (no. 1997).
Finally we have Thomas Ahnert’s The Moral Culture of the Scottish Enlightenment. Tim Stuart-Buttle tackles a work which uses the Scottish Enlightenment as a case study to understand the wider intellectual history of the eighteenth century (no. 1996).
You can also search and browse all 1999 reviews here – do please let me know if you have any problem navigating the site or finding what you’re interested in.
This post has kindly been written for us by IHR Digital intern Jaipreet Deo.
In an effort to pull in works relevant to my dissertation topic, the Connected Histories site provides an easy to navigate search function which looks through many databases and archives. Helpfully, this is infinitely quicker than searching through each one in turn.
My dissertation is a comparative essay on the treatment of mixed race children in colonial India and Australia, so I typed in ‘half caste mixed race’ into the keywords box. Using the advanced search function, I set the dates from 1700-1900, and the place as ‘Australia India’. However I then realised it was searching for ‘half’, ‘caste’, ‘mixed’, and ‘race’ individually, so I went back and changed the keyword search to the phrases “half caste” “half cast” “half-caste” “mixed race” “mixed-race”, and the place search to ‘Australia OR India’.
Admittedly this is something I had to do by hand as there is no function on the advanced search to input Boolean logic, so specifying things like this may be tricky for people who do not know how to do search in this way. However, there is a video guide to aid smart searching, and nine research guides on the site.
I had a look through these guides, and as they are categorised by subject, looked at the Imperial and Colonial History page. It outlined on which sites I might find relevant papers if I was looking at the governmental aspect of the empire (such as the 46 volume Calendars of State Papers Colonial through British History Online, or the Parliamentary Papers) and what these papers contained. The page also guided me to non-governmental sources, in British Newspapers and Pamphlets, and several collections examining the stories, lives, and communities of immigrants to Britain from the colonies. There were also outlines of how to look into slavery and the slave trade, sources examining the impacts, strengths, and weaknesses of the empire itself, and helpful sections for further reading and related websites.
The results for my search were grouped into the databases they were in, which was helpful as it prevented the whole page becoming bogged down in search results. These databases included British History Online, History of Parliament, British Newspaper Archive, House of Commons Parliamentary Papers, and 19th Century British Pamphlets. I went through each at a time, and although the results were numerous they were also relevant, each one explicitly mentioned mixed race peoples in a colonial setting. I found the results very useful. I explored sources on a variety of issues, such as fears of mixed race revolution in Sri Lanka, and the appointment of British-Indian judges. Admittedly, Connected Histories does not search through every historical database available, but resources are frequently added and it is still extremely useful.
Another slight improvement would be to extend the date series. Anyone studying a topic which falls outside of the years 1500-1900 would not find this site as useful as I have. Unfortunately I cannot use it for my module on British popular culture 1945-85, and will have to revert to slightly less effective search methods for sources on this topic.
Minor issues aside, I found this search engine very user friendly. I did not need to, but it was simple to refine the search through filtering by types of source (for example journals, parliamentary papers, or local records). Additionally, being able to specify the place, source type, dates, keywords, and full, given, and surnames is extremely helpful when searching through archives. I was linked to reliable, easy to use sites, so the whole process was quick and simple. Even if I had had no subscription to the service, I could have selected only those results which were free to use. Also, the layout of the search page is easier to use and more fitting for its purpose than most that I’ve seen.
This is an intelligent search engine, engineered for its users, which really pays off when you’re looking for quick and simple results instead of searching through every database you can think of in turn. Instead, this site takes you straight to the relevant sources.
We commence this week with Goals and Means: Anarchism, Syndicalism, and Internationalism in the Origins of the Federación Anarquista Ibérica by Jason Garner. Vlad Solomon and the author debate an engagingly-written account of a neglected yet important topic in the history of the Spanish labour movement (no. 1995, with response here).
Next up is Eighty-Eight Years: The Long Death of Slavery in the United States, 1777-1865 by Patrick Rael. John Craig Hammond and the author discuss a book which goes a long way to reforging the history of slavery (no. 1994, with response here).
Then we turn to Lars Magnusson’s The Political Economy of Mercantilism, and Andrew McDiarmid reviews a book which makes a valiant attempt at clarifying a widely used but problematic term (no. 1993).
Finally we have Death and Survival in Urban Britain: Disease, Pollution and Environment 1800-1950 by Bill Luckin. Jim Clifford tackles this collection from one of the most important urban environmental historians of London (no. 1992).
We start this week with Manisha Sinha’s The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition. Beverly Tomek and the author discuss a book which will be a valuable go-to reference work for years to come (no. 1991, with response here).
Next, we turn to Nationalism, Myth, and the State in Russia and Serbia: Russian and East European Government Politics and Policy by Veljko Vujačić, which Jasna Dragovic-Soso praises as a book whose arguments are nuanced, compelling and well-supported throughout (no. 1990).
We also have two new podcast reviews. In the first, Jordan Landes talks to Arthur Burns and Paul Readman about their new edited collection, Walking Histories, 1800-1914 (no. 1989).
Then, in the second, we have an interview conducted just after the Brexit vote, with Daniel Snowman talking to Lord Peter Hennessy about (very) contemporary history (no. 1988).
We start this week with Katrina Navickas’s Protest and the Politics of Space and Place, 1789-1848, as Mike Sanders and the author discuss a pioneering response to the ‘spatial turn’ in History (no. 1987, with response here).
We then turn to Damn Yankees: Demonization & Defiance in the Confederate South by George C. Rable. Patrick Doyle enjoys an insightful analysis of the way Southerners reacted and related to the American Civil War (no. 1986).
Next up is Sabyasachi Bhattacharya’s The Defining Moments in Bengal: 1920–1947, and Dharitri Bhattacharjee reviews a comprehensive book on the provincial history of one of colonial India’s most significant regions (no. 1985).
Finally we turn to Religious Refugees in the Early Modern World: An Alternative History of the Reformation by Nicholas Terpstra. Jameson Tucker tackles a thought-provoking introduction to the field, raising new debates about the early modern period and our own (no. 1984).
This post has kindly been written for us by IHR Digital intern Rebecca Gillard.
Since starting my studies as a History BA student I have become increasingly interested in the topic of crime and punishment. The site Connected Histories proved extremely useful due to its fruitful content. Connected Histories is a collection of twenty five digital resources which contain sources dating from 1500 to 1900 on numerous of different topics. The search can be tweaked to suit your needs, specifying whether you’re looking for a particular person or place.
I searched the keywords crime and punishment in order to test out Connected Histories, and see what resources it would bring up. This search brought up over 300,000 matches across twenty two different resources.
The most useful and interesting sources came from The Proceedings of the Old Bailey Online, which provides trial proceedings from one of London’s criminal courts during the late seventeenth century, up until the early twentieth century. When searching through numerous of trials you can see how punishments varied and how certain crimes were viewed differently. One interesting case I found was of a fourteen year old boy found guilty of stealing a milk pot and was sentenced to death in 1806. Another case, in 1678, was a man found guilty of manslaughter and whose punishment was a burn on the hand. This punishment seems a lot less severe than death, especially considering that manslaughter is often seen as a much more vicious crime than theft. The Proceedings of the Old Bailey Online provide an interesting insight into the criminal court and how over time the justice system was ever changing.
Witches in Early Modern England also provided numerous results. This resource contained case studies of individuals being trialled for witchcraft, detailing their crimes, victims and verdicts. This would prove extremely resourceful for someone who was interested in the topic of witchcraft, and would present a great starting point. As well as the short description of the event, it also contains the original text from the trail so you are able to read it in more detail, and get a sense of what type of language they used.
The Museum Image Collection Database and the Database of Mid-Victorian Illustration are two other resources which came up when doing when my search, showing how the sources are not just text documents. These resources show how crime and punishment was represented and viewed from 1500 to 1900. There is a wide variety of images ranging from political satire to pictures on the back of playing cards.
Due to the key words the search also pulled up Queen Victoria’s Journals, something which I did not expect to find. Looking through the diary entries I found it fascinating to read about a monarch’s life from their own perspective. The entries are so detailed and outline Queen Victoria’s feelings and thoughts during her most pivotal and also private moments. Even though I did not intend to find this upon my search it still proved a really interesting resource, despite not being entirely connected to my original topic.
Connected Histories is a valuable and useful tool for searching for a specific topic, area, person, or location. It provides numerous different avenues for you to explore, whether you’re searching for pictures or text documents, and allows you to make your own connections as well as look at ones which are already made. Connected Histories is a great resource to use for anyone wanting a wide variety of sources on an area in British History.
We start this week with Jennifer Young’s review of the almost finished Shakespeare in Ten Acts exhibition, and its associated online resource Discovering Literature: Shakespeare, discussed here with the British Library’s lead curator Zoe Wilcox (no. 1983, with response here).
Then we turn to Women’s Voices in Ireland: Women’s Magazines in the 1950s and 60s by Catríona Clear. Catriona Beaumont praises a rich and detailed account of popular women’s magazines in Ireland in the 1950s and 1960s (no. 1982).
Next up is Joseph Chamberlain: International Statesman, National Leader, Local Icon, edited by Ian Cawood and Chris Upton. Iain Sharpe praises an excellent and most welcome addition to the study of Joseph Chamberlain and of British politics (no. 1981).
Finally we have Antoinette Burton’s The Trouble With Empire. Denise Gonyo believes this book opens up fascinating potential new areas for scholarship to further explore colonial subjects’ perspectives (no. 1980).
We start this week with The Virgin Vote: How Young Americans Made Democracy Social, Politics Personal, and Voting Popular in the Nineteenth Century by Jon Grinspan, as Mark Power Smith and the author discuss a gripping, fascinating and provocative book (no. 1979, with response here).
Then we turn to Isabella Lazzarini’s Communication and Conflict: Italian Diplomacy in the Early Renaissance, 1350-1520. Catherine Fletcher believes this book makes a substantial contribution to the lively new history of communication, archives and letters (no. 1978).
Next Stan Nadel reviews two major contributions to the historiography of Europe in the first half of the 20th century, as he takes on Ian Kershaw’s To Hell and Back: Europe, 1914-1949 and Enzo Traverso’s Fire and Blood: the European Civil War 1914-1945 (no. 1977).
Finally we have Going to the Palais: A Social and Cultural History of Dancing and Dance Halls in Britain, 1918-1960 by James Nott. Claire Langhamer enjoys a book which beautifully explains why dancing was so loved across this mid-century moment (no. 1976).