To those of you who have experienced any difficulties this week accessing Reviews, many apologies – the whole of the University was affected by a network outage caused by a software bug. As you can tell, I haven’t a clue what was going on, but it certainly demonstrated how little can be done in these days in the absence of the internet. People we hadn’t seen in the flesh for years gathered pensively in our office, sipping tea and attempting to answer trivia questions without the benefit of Google…
Anyway, thank the masters of the web, we are back in action in time for our reviews, which this week start with The Aftermath of Suffrage: Women, Gender, and Politics in Britain, 1918-1945, edited by Julie Gottlieb and Richard Toye. Tehmina Goskar and the editors discuss a painstaking work which the reviewer believes shows the need to return to women’s rather than gender history (no. 1594, with response here).
Next up is Rasid Khalidi’s Brokers of Deceit: How the US has undermined peace in the Middle East, which Daniel Strieff finds a cogently argued, timely and highly readable book (no. 1593).
Then we turn to English Catholics and the Supernatural, 1553-1829 by Francis Young. Emilie Murphy recommends this book to anyone interested in the history of Catholicism, the intellectual and religious history of post-Reformation England, and early modern engagement with the supernatural (no. 1592).
Finally we have Eyal Poleg’s Approaching the Bible in Medieval England, whichRichard Marsden praises as an ambitious book which tackles a massive range of material with great assurance (no. 1591).
Just occasionally the monastic silence that prevails in the IHR Digital office is broken by the gentle chiming of hushed conversation (work-related of course). In one such interlude this morning I mentioned today’s reviews, and expressed my concern that perhaps a history of guano might be a bit specialist. Not a bit of it! My colleagues were gushing in their excitement and interest, and could ‘barely wait’ for this afternoon’s email to come out. You think you know people…
Anyway, first of all this week we have Beth Tompkins Bates’ The Making of Black Detroit in the Age of Henry. Oliver Ayers and the author discuss a deeply thought-provoking book that covers a topic of clear importance to the story of black civil rights and 20th-century American history more broadly (no. 1590, with response here).
Next up is the aforementioned Guano and the Opening of the Pacific World: A Global Ecological History by Gregory T. Cushman. Jim Clifford has been talking about this book and recommending it to others since he started reading it, and believes it to be a model for future research in global environmental history (no. 1589).
Then we turn to Leif Dixon’s Practical Predestinarians in England, c. 1590–1640. James Mawdesley thinks the author has produced a book of worth, and has clearly spent much time thinking about printed works which (to be blunt) are sometimes not the easiest for the modern mind to comprehend (no. 1588).
Finally, Practicing Stalinism: Bolsheviks, Boyars, and the Persistence of Tradition by J. Arch Getty, which Andy Willimott believes offers a fascinating and highly readable account that will challenge scholars to complicate their understanding of the Russian and Soviet political world (no. 1587).
Oh, and as an extra treat we have also received a response form the author to our recent review of Ignacio de Loyola by Enrique García Hernán, which you can find here.
The IHR is one of the partners on an international project, Digging into Linked Parliamentary Data, to research parliamentary language on an unprecedented scale. We are leading the UK arm of a collaboration with the Netherlands and Canada which will enrich and analyse the parliamentary records of all three countries. The two-year project is funded by the Digging into Data Challenge, which encourages transatlantic teams to use large-scale data analysis to develop new insights into the arts and humanities. We will be working with King’s College, London, the universities of Amsterdam and Toronto, and the History of Parliament Trust.
The nature of the data itself will provide many dimensions for comparison. We will be using Hansard for the UK and Canada, with the data available from 1803 and 1867 respectively; the Dutch data goes back to 1814. This provides three different languages, different types of legislatures, and the very different historical circumstances of the three nations; thematic approches, such as changing attitudes to immigration and left-right political affiliation, should bring out differences and also common threads in three sets of data.
One of the challenges of the project will be to enrich the existing UK and Canadian data to bring it up to the excellent standards already achieved with the Dutch parliamentary record. Once this is done it will allow the project, and future researchers, to interrogate the material in ways previously not possible. For example, because we are adding gender labels to each speaker, it should be possible to ask a simple question like: are women members more likely to be interrupted than their male coutnerparts?
Broadly speaking, types of work on the work on the project are divided between the countries. The linguistics work will be done at Toronto and the technical tools will be developed at Amsterdam. However the project will be using Parliamentary Markup Language, developed at King’s College London for an earlier project in which the IHR was also a partner, and work will be done at King’s and the IHR to enrich the Hansard material that is currently available. Historical case studies will be produced by colleagues at King’s and the History of Parliament but also at Toronto. The project truly is an international collaboration. Read more about Dilipad, and follow our progress, on our project website.
With the impending European polls looming, and issues of migration topical, we have an accidentally topical featured review for you this week, of Camilla Schofield’s Enoch Powell and the Making of Postcolonial Britain. Amy Whipple believes that this is an engaging, thought-provoking book – but also a dense one (no. 1586).
Then we have a review article on slavery in the British Atlantic World by Benjamin Sacks, who enjoys two extraordinarily detailed and exacting studies will undoubtedly prove to be essential reading to any scholar seeking to delve into the dark world of colonial slavery and capitalism: The Price of Emancipation: Slave-Ownership, Compensation and British Society at the End of Slavery by Nicholas Draper, and Slavery and the Enlightenment in the British Atlantic, 1750-1807 by Justin Roberts (no. 1584, with response here).
Next up is Artisans and Travel in the Ottoman Empire by Suraiya Faroqhi, which Gemma Norman thinks should and will become essential reading for students and scholars of Ottoman history (no. 1585).
Finally Catherine O’Donnell believes An Age of Infidels: The Politics of Religious Controversy in the Early United States by Eric R. Schlereth is an insightful and worthy book which makes a useful contribution to our understanding of the early republic (no. 1583).
Apologies for the absence of reviews last week – your deputy editor was indulging his spiritual side, tramping part of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. Mind you, given that I was staying in hotels and having my luggage ferried by the travel company every day, I did feel a little spiritually inferior when I got to Santiago and came across this fellow.
Anyway, on with the reviews, and we begin with Anti-Semitism and the American Far Left by Stephen H. Norwood. Stan Nadel and the author discuss a book which makes an important contribution to the history of the American left and to debates over anti-Zionism and Antisemitism (no. 1582 , with response here).
Then we have Katarzyna Cwiertka’s edited collection Food and War in Mid-Twentieth-Century East Asia. Mark Swislocki enjoys this compelling set of essays, which exemplifies the promise of food studies (no. 1581).
Next up is Disunited Kingdoms: Peoples and Politics in the British Isles: 1280-1460 by Michael Brown, which Katherine Basanti hails as a significant addition to the promising historiography encompassing late medieval and early modern European, British and Irish socio-political affairs (no. 1580).
Finally we turn to Adam Kosto’s Hostages in the Middle Ages, and Shavana Musa believes the versatility of this book means that it will be of interest to both well-established historians and those new to the field (no. 1579).
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.