We begin with a discussion between Ben White and Isa Blumi of the latter’s new study of late Ottoman population displacements, Ottoman refugees, 1878-1939: migration in a post-imperial world (no. 1690, with response here).
We then turn to The Testimonies of Indian Soldiers and the Two World Wars:Between Self and Sepoy by Gajendra Singh. Gagan Preet Singh finds this book to be a breakthrough in the historiography of Indian armed forces (no. 1689).
Next up is Simone Laqua-O’Donell’s Women and the Counter-Reformation in Early Modern Munster. Jennifer Hillman welcomes a refreshing approach and a welcome contribution to the existing literature on the Counter Reformation (no. 1688).
Finally we have Civil War as Global Conflict: Transnational Meaning of the American Civil War edited by David T. Gleeson and Simon Lewis. William Coleman believes that this book stands as testament to the fact that the American Civil War had global dimensions (no. 1687).
Hanna Sheehy Skeffington with Mrs Pearse c.1921. Skeffington was a co-founder of the Irish Women’s Franchise League in 1908. (NLI, INDH 100)
So, onto the reviews, and we start with Irish Nationalist Women 1900-1918 by Senia Paseta. Mo Moulton and the author discuss a book which has opened a rich field of inquiry, and one worth pursuing into the less celebrated terrain of post-independence Ireland (no. 1686, with response here).
Then we turn to Anthony Ossa-Richardson’s The Devil’s Tabernacle: The Pagan Oracles in Early Modern Thought. Justin Champion believes this book should become a foundational work for exploring the changing shape of the relationship between erudition and cultural change (no. 1685).
Next up is Popular Muslim Reactions to the Franks in the Levant, 1097–1291 by Alex Mallett. Megan Cassidy-Welch reviews a book which shifts our view of the actions of the Counter-Crusade quite profoundly (no. 1684).
Finally we have James G. Morgan’s Into New Territory: American Historians and the Concept of US Imperialism. Alex Goodall recommends a book which does a great job of showing both how and why the legacy of the Wisconsinite scholars has been so substantial (no. 1683).
We start with Emotional Lexicons: Continuity and Change in the Vocabulary of Feeling 1700-2000 by Ute Frevert. Anna Jordanous believes this book’s strengths lie in its contextual diversity and in the thoroughness of the compilation and usage of reference sources (no. 1682, with response here).
Next up is Elizabeth Vandiver’s Stand in the Trench, Achilles: Classical Receptions in British Poetry of the Great War, which Marguerite Johnson recommends as a truly successful interdisciplinary achievement (no. 1681).
Then we turn to Murder Most Russian: True Crime and Punishment in Late Imperial Russia by Louise McReynolds. James Ryan and the author discuss a very significant contribution to the study of modern Russian history (no. 1680).
Finally we have Joanna Cannon’s Religious Poverty, Visual Riches: Art in the Dominican Churches of Central Italy in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries, which Michael Morris finds to be delightfully inquisitive while maintaining a respectful attitude toward religious Orders (no. 1679).
Anyway, it will take more than my lack of nutrition to get in the way of our reviews! First up this week is The Rise of Western Power: a Comparative History of Western Civilization by Jonathan Daly. John R. McNeill and the author discuss the latest attempt to address the question of the rise of the modern West (no. 1678, with response here).
Then we have Britta Schilling’s Postcolonial Germany: Memories of Empire in a Decolonized Nation, which Monika Albrecht believes to be a most valuable contribution to the field of the memory of German colonialism (no. 1677).
Next is Queenship in the Mediterranean: Negotiating the Role of the Queen in the Medieval and Early Modern Eras by Elena Woodacre. Estelle Paranque believes this collection of essays manages to highlight the importance of female rulers in the Mediterranean (no. 1676).
Finally we turn to Melissa Score’s review of Martin Hewitt’s The Dawn of the Cheap Press in Victorian Britain: the End of the ‘Taxes on Knowledge’, 1849-1869, which recommends the book as a meticulously researched account of the mid-Victorian phase of the campaigns against press taxes (no. 1675).
This post was kindly written for us by Alex Porter – Head of History, Parmiter’s School
The paradox of teaching A Level history is that you know very well your students’ education would be better served by studying topics in greater depth but unfortunately this has the potential to hamper their achievements in examination. Nowhere is this more apparent than in textbooks.
An A Level textbook can be a comfort but the range of sources provided in textbooks is very limited. This limitation is for two reasons, the first being the examiners need to hold onto some sources to base examination questions on, but also because the textbook is supposed to be just enough for the average student to get by on. In theory you could use it all on its own and get the top grade. Yet this doesn’t necessarily help make the best historians, and the best students know this. The high achievers need to be stretched and this means more sources.
As a result, many history teachers will punch phrases into Google on a regular basis in the forlorn hope that there will be some magical archive of sensibly arranged contemporary information that could be mined for use in lessons. Those that teach courses on Henry VIII will likely have found solace in the comforting embrace of British History Online. I am one of them.
I was initially searching for contemporary accounts of Henry VII in order to put together a lesson investigating the circumstances of Henry VIII’s accession. What I ended up finding was Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 1: 1509-1514, an extremely rich seam of court papers and accounts from the reign of Henry VIII. It included a missive apparently from the Venetian ambassador dated 8th May 1509, in which Henry VII was described as ‘a most miserly (miserissimo) man but of great genius, who has accumulated more gold than that possessed by all the other Christian kings’.
This was perfect material. The provenance was such that it afforded the students an opportunity to consider how Henry VII might have been considered outside his realm, but also gave real meat to the idea of his wealth in comparison with others around Europe. It wasn’t long before I was reading details of the condolence note to Henry VIII from Ferdinand of Aragon.
Such information is invaluable to me in the delivery of this course. It provides me with a deeper understanding of the affairs at court in the period and allows me to drop anecdotes into lessons that pique the interest of my students. It also gives me the material needed in the delivery of lessons that go beyond the narrow confines of the set text.
Since this happy find, I have been back on British History Online more than once and not alone. My school has developed a “Bring Your Own Device” policy allowing students to safely use their phones and tablets in lessons, so I was able to encourage my students to undertake their own research in a subsequent lesson. It wasn’t long before a number of them were trawling through these records, attempting to establish the use of the term Alter Rex for themselves to see if it only ever applied to Wolsey.
With the use of websites such as British History Online and the assistance of a progressive ICT policy it has become possible not only to find extremely useful resources for myself but to encourage students to develop their learning independently. In ordinary circumstances I would be harvesting their finds as Wolsey gathered tithes but we have to change our A Level for next year and no doubt there’ll be a new set of narrowly focused textbooks to use. At least this time I’ll know where to look for some sources.
We start this week with Michele M. Strong’s Education, Travel and the ‘Civilisation’ of the Victorian Working Classes. Susan Barton recommends an interesting and significant work covering the under-researched topic of educational tourism (no. 1674).
Then we turn to Craft, Community and the Material Culture of Place and Politics, 19th-20th Century, edited by Janice Helland, Beverly Lemire and Alena Buis. Heidi Egginton praises a worthy addition to the global history of material culture (no. 1673).
Next up is Penelope Buckley’s The Alexiad of Anna Komnene: Artistic Strategy in the Making of a Myth. Elisabeth Mincin and the author discuss an immensely valuable addition to the scholarship on this 12th-century epic (no. 1672, with response here).
Finally we have Travellers, Merchants and Settlers in the Eastern Mediterranean, 11th-14th Centuries by David Jacoby. Wei-sheng Lin believes that this book helps to open up room for more nuanced understandings of the Eastern Mediterranean between the 11th century and the 14th century (no. 1671).
This week we start with Francisco Bethencourt’s Racisms: From the Crusades to the Twentieth Century. Panikos Panayi and the author discuss a book which moves the genesis of modern racial biologically determined ideology away from the ‘modern’ period (no. 1670, with response here).
Next up is Homicide in Pre-Famine and Famine Ireland by Richard McMahon. Conor Reidy reviews a book which activates a much-needed and more inclusive discussion in a clear and confident manner (no. 1669).
Then we turn to Hannah Greig’s The Beau Monde: Fashionable Society in Georgian London, which Susie Steinbach enjoys as a masterful integration of gender, politics, space, and material culture (no. 1668).
Finally we have Marco Polo Was in China: New Evidence from Currencies, Salts and Revenues by Hans Ulrich Vogel. Na Chang believes this excellent book offers a wonderful resource for anyone wishing to study Marco Polo and Chinese economic history (no. 1667).
It’s all change at the moment at the IHR, with a new Director, Professor Lawrence Goldman, starting yesterday, our Events Officer Manjeet leaving (she’s only going across the corridor to the Institute of English Studies – as our receptionist Beresford brilliantly described it, she’s ‘leaving for pastures new. Well, pastures, anyway’), and a new venue being selected last night for departmental drinks.
On with the reviews, anyway, and we begin with Police Control Systems in Britain, 1775–1975: From Parish Constable to National Computer by Chris A. Williams. Kevin Rigg and the author discuss a book which helps fill a clear gap in the historiography of policing (no. 1666, with response here).
Then we turn to Tom Williamson’s An Environmental History of Wildlife in England 1650-1950. Terry O’Connor praises an engaging read, written with clarity and care, and with only the minimum use of specialized vocabulary (no. 1665).
Next up is The Oxford Handbook of the History of Communism, edited by S. A. Smith. Jennifer Cowe believes this excellent book gives the reader the opportunity to see the global nuances of Communism (no. 1664).
Finally Christopher Bischof reviews Empire’s Children Child Emigration, Welfare, and the Decline of the British World, 1869–1967 by Ellen Boucher, an ambitious book of wide-ranging research and powerful analysis, which firmly establishes the importance of child emigration to modern British history (no. 1663).
This review was kindly written for us by our intern Grace Karrach Wood.
My original intention was to use Connected Histories in order to research lunatic asylums during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as this is my dissertation topic and therefore I already hold some knowledge about it. In order to go about this I input the keyword ‘asylum’ and the dates 1700-01-01 – 1900-12-31, using the ‘simple search’ function and reviewed the 5 matching resources from which the 7,908 matches came. However, it came to my attention that of these 5 resources, the authorisation failed for British Newspapers, the House of Commons Parliamentary Papers required a login and 19th Century British Pamphlets directed to JSTOR which displayed a preview of the front cover only. These set backs were impractical in terms of completing my research imminently, though still highlighted places which would be useful if I were accessing the sources from my university, which holds a subscription, or if I were in a position to subscribe to these resources as an individual. Nonetheless as a result I decided to change my topic to one which would have more accessible resources.
In order to choose a new research topic which was likely to have hits from large amounts of easily accessible resources I went back onto the Connected Histories homepage and scrolled along the ‘other resources’ bar until I found one specific enough to inspire me and have sufficient, relevant results. It was this method which helped me find the Witches in Early Modern England resource, which is free to use and covers the time period 1540 to 1700. Selecting this resource allowed me to read a description of the records, strengths and weaknesses of the content and the technical method by which the sources had been accessed and uploaded. This was particularly helpful as it allowed me to get a better idea of the records I would find when using this resource. As a result of this promising source suggesting a large amount of relevant content on witches I returned to the home page and searched ‘witch’ within the dates ‘1600-01-01 to 1800-12-31’. This search returned 44,586 matches across 16 resources, with Witches in Early Modern England appearing at the top, due to Connected Histories displaying the sources in order of relevance.
Searching through these 16 sources was particularly easy due to the layout of the site enabling you to preview 3 records from the source in addition to the option to ‘view more’, which shows additional hits without leaving the page. This allowed me to quickly decide whether the sources looked relevant without too much difficulty and saved time.
The sources which I found most useful were from John Foxe’s Acts and Monuments Online, Witches in Early Modern England, British History Online and Transcribe Bentham. Witches in Early Modern England was particularly useful due to the large number of first-hand accounts of witches it held from different perspectives, while Transcribe Bentham was advantageous because it showed the original document alongside the typed up text, allowing you to zoom and check for errors in the transcription yourself.
Overall I found that the Connected Histories page was useful in terms of identifying relevant sources in order to work from and discovering topics and details which you might not have been aware of before, however, the use of so many sources which needed subscriptions meant that it is only useful if you have a subscription. Furthermore, the fact that some of the resources had been published using inaccurate scanning processes meant that they were inaccurate and difficult to read.
Your deputy editor is working at home today, while builders, tasked as far as I can see with knocking an ever-bigger hole in the wall of our flat, toil around me. In the office, tapping away with other desk-based types, it’s possible to think that we’re actually doing real work. Next to someone with a sledgehammer, I just feel a bit silly…
Anyway, back to the pretence. First up this week is Paula A. Michaels’ Lamaze: An International History, and Salim Al-Gailani and the author debate a book which deserves a wide readership (no. 1662, with response here).
Then we have Young People and the Shaping of Public Space in Melbourne, 1870–1914 by Simon Sleight. Andrew May believes this book is important because it reminds us to constantly ask who and what the city is for (no. 1661).
Next we turn to Peter Bell’s Social Conflict in the Age of Justinian: Its Nature, Management, and Mediation. Douglas Whalin and the author discuss a study which self-consciously embraces a unique paradigm for the understanding of the age of Justinian (no. 1660, with response here).
Finally, James Mawdesley hopes that Earls Colne’s Early Modern Landscapes by Dolly MacKinnon will encourage other scholars to visit the rich treasure trove of evidence of early modern England’s rural landscapes (no. 1659).