A real treat for medievalists this week, as eminent academics Pete Biller and R. I. Moore engage in a full and frank discussion of the latter’s The War on Heresy: Faith and Power in Medieval Europe – a must-read! (no. 1546, with response here).
Next up, we have Revisionist Histories by Marnie Hughes-Warrington, which Jamie Melrose believes contains a wealth of examples of history’s plasticity, without outlining any means to establish the rules of these morphing games (no. 1545, with response here).
Then we turn to David Kynaston’s Modernity Britain: Opening the Box, 1957-1959. Malin Dahlstrom thinks that while readable, this volume fails to justify the author’s claim that the period in question marked a turning point in post-war British history (no. 1544).
Finally Ian Miller praises a meticulously researched, well-written and thoughtfully crafted account of infanticide in late 19th-century Ireland, as he reviews ‘A most diabolical deed’: Infanticide and Irish society, 1850–1900 by Elaine Farrell (no. 1543).
Much discussion today of the trustworthiness, of lack thereof, of different names. In the interest of not alienating sections of our readership, I will have to redact our conclusions, but I would be interested to find out if readers share our irrational prejudices…
Anyway, enough of these witterings, and on with some reviews written by people with very sensible names.
First up, The Roar of the Lion: The Untold Story of Churchill’s World War II Speeches by Richard Toye. Kevin Matthews and the author discuss a valuable addition to the study of Churchill’s wartime premiership (no. 1542).
Then we have Tamson Pietsch’s Empire of Scholars: Universities, Networks and the British Academic World, 1850-1939. Barbara Bush finds this book succeeds in its aim of writing settler universities into the history of British academia (no. 1541).
Next up is Baal’s Priests: The Loyalist Clergy and the English Revolution, by Fiona McCall, and James Mawdesley believes that while the author has done a great service to historians of the 17th century in highlighting the treasures of the Walker archive, this book is not the final word (no. 1540).
Finally, we have Claire Langhamer’s The English in Love: The Intimate Story of an Emotional Revolution. Sally Holloway reviews a hotly anticipated new book, part of a new wave of scholarship on romantic love (no. 1539).
Thanks to everyone who got back to me about the podcast last week – we’ve already got plans to do more of these, and, as I said, it would be great to have suggestions for suitable interviewees. Do also feel free to get in touch if you fancy yourself, Paxman-like, on the other side of the mike…
Anyway, on with this week’s reviews, and we start with Armin Wolf’s Verwandtschaft – Erbrecht – Königswahlen. Donald Jackman appraises an attempt to solve the enigma of the origin of the imperial college of electors (no. 1538).
Then we have Ambiguous Republic: Ireland in the 1970s, Diarmaid Ferriter, which Shane Nagle praises as a monumental piece of scholarship that will be a – if not the – standard work on Ireland in the 1970s for many years to come, written by one of Ireland’s premier historians working today (no. 1537).
Next Emily Baughan believes Securing the World Economy. The Reinvention of the League of Nations, 1920-1946 by Patricia Clavin deserves an audience beyond the academy (no. 1536).
Finally we have David B. Dennis’s Inhumanities. Nazi Interpretations of Western Culture, which Helen Roche reviews as a work which demands serious attention (no. 1535).
We have all manner of treats in store for you this week, but before that, a rather London-centric question. The editor of the wonderful Bibliography of British and Irish History, who is a longstanding and long-suffering colleague of mine, claims to be able to walk from Senate House to Waterloo in 12 minutes. A glorious prize awaits for anyone who can beat this and prove it…
Don’t be distracted by this challenge, though, from checking out our FIRST EVER Reviews in History podcast. Daniel Snowman talks to Miranda Seymour (no. 1534) about her new book and her career as a historian, historical novelist and biographer.
Listen to an extract here, and please let me know if you would like to hear more of this sort of thing.
Then we have Hugh Brogan’s review article, Fifty years since Dallas, in which he wades through (no. 1533) a pile of 50th anniversary Kennedy conspiracy theories, contrasting them with the latest piece of genuine scholarship on JFK. To judge from 2013’s newspapers, publishers’ lists, and television, the reading public is still, 50 years after, mesmerised by the assassination and its possible perpetrators.
We move to the period of the second-most celebrated US president of the twentieth century next, as Jonathan Bell and Ira Katznelson discuss (no. 1532, with response here) the latter’s Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time, a rich and enviably learned study of a formative period in the creation of the modern United States.
Finally, we turn to Culture, Faith and Philanthropy: Londoners and Provincial Reform in Early Modern England by Joseph P. Ward. Brodie Waddell believes (no. 1531) this book provides us with a thorough and well-crafted study that demonstrates the importance of metropolitan charity in the social and cultural changes of the early modern period.
Happy new year everyone – I hope you all had a good festive period, and that 2014 is panning out well so far. I’m always quite pleased to be back to sobriety / normality (or what passes for it at the University of London) at this time of year – when there’s no expectation of fun, you can’t be disappointed.
Not that there isn’t fun aplenty lurking in this week’s batch of reviews, starting with Peter H. Hansen’s The Summits of Modern Man: Mountaineering after the Enlightenment. Dawn Jackson Williams enjoys (no. 1530) a significant contribution to the field, which should be praised for placing the history of mountaineering ‘on belay’.
Next we turn to Indigo Plantations and Science in Colonial India by Prakash Kumar, as J. N. Sinha and the author discuss (no. 1529, with response here) a well written, and impressively readable book, meticulously researched and based on a wide variety of sources skilfully used in the narrative. This is the first full- fledged independent work on the subject concerning India, and is sure to stimulate interest in the subject and prove a reference work for future research on indigo in India.
Then we have Richard Cust’s Charles I and the Aristocracy, 1625-1642, which Christopher Thompson finds (no. 1528) to be a study of major importance, which asks new questions, poses novel challenges and suggests positive answers of a challenging and comprehensive nature. By any standards, it is a study of major importance.
Finally Imaobong Umoren believes (no. 1527) Eslanda: The Large and Unconventional Life of Mrs Robeson (by Barbara Ransby) should appeal to the general and specialist reader and is an excellent example of the benefits and beauty of biography at its best. In her second biography Ransby’s stylish skills chronicling the life, times and ideas of Robeson are again revealed.
The week before last I was in Munich, at the Rezensieren – Kommentieren – Bloggen conference organised to celebrate the second anniversary of recensio.net, the online review platform for European History.
The IHR’s Reviews in History is a partner in this venture, and it was as deputy editor of this journal that I was invited to take place in a panel session to discuss the current state of online reviewing and commenting, and to speculate as to its future.
The panel (like the conference itself) was conducted solely in German, bar my own translated (and possibly therefore slightly random) intervention, and it was interesting that not just the language but the concerns of the participants and audience differed in some ways from those of British academics.
The keynote speaker on this topic, Dr Gudrun Gersmann, of Cologne University, predicted the demise of the traditional review. It was growing harder to find historians prepared to review, given other demands on their time, and in any case the new and preferable approach would be a crowdsourcing model, which would come to replace peer-reviewing by a couple of experts.
Other issues that were raised included those engendered by the sometimes more heirarchical German academic system, where a junior historian might feel loathe to be critical of a Professor’s work, or where to be seen as one of those ‘blogging types’ might be deleterious to one’s career. More familiar to British ears were the in-depth discussions as to how to secure funding to develop and maintain digital platforms such as recensio.
The debate was a deeply-engaged and at times heated one, and my schoolboy-German as a result might well have led to to some arguments escaping me! Fortunately full details can be in this round-up on the conference blog, and there are more comments here. A twitter round-up can be found by searching for #rkb13.
I’ve just come across The Journal of Digital Humanities a comprehensive, peer-reviewed, open access journal that features scholarship, tools, and conversations produced by the digital humanities community. It has published three volumes (beginning in 2011) and is produced by the Center for History and New Media (CHNM) at George Mason University.
On the homepage it states, “The Journal of Digital Humanities offers expanded coverage of the digital humanities in three ways. First, by publishing scholarly work beyond the traditional research article. Second, by selecting content from open and public discussions in the field. Third, by encouraging continued discussion through peer-to-peer review.”
Coincidentally Reviews in History has also published a review of this important resource which includes a detailed and considered author’s response.
Furthermore, the journal Historical Social Research has a special issue entitled Digital Humanities which presents the proceedings of a workshop that took place in Cologne,on 23-24 April 2012, celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the first conference on the use of computer technology in the Humanities. Topics covered include mark up, digital preservation and curation.
Perceptions of Scandinavia at the moment are governed by its seemingly endless production line of quality crime fiction and drama – the likes of Wallander, The Killing and the ubiquitious Girl With the Dragon Tattoo franchise, not to mention the terrifying work of Tove Jansson…
Previously these countries, particularly Norway and Sweden, were probably best known for their espousal of social democracy, a political approach which during the Cold War came to be seen as a middle way between capitalism and communism, and which is explored in Professor Francis Sejersted’s The Age of Social Democracy. Norway and Sweden in the Twentieth Century(reviewed in detail here).
On the surface, these may appear to be contrasting phenomena, but in fact leftist politics and Scandi-crime have long been interrelated. The Martin Beck novels of the 1960s and 1970s were written by Marxist husband-and-wife team Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, social issues in the Swedish welfare state feature in many Wallander tales, and Stieg Larsson himself was a noted left-winger.
By the 1990s, even historians were finding it difficult to ignore the potential implications of what was variously described as postmodernism, post-structuralism, or the linguistic or cultural turn. Theory, so often seen as dangerously continental, even succeeded in penetrating the walls of the IHR in 1999, as it staged an online discourse (note the up-to-date vernacular) on postmodernism and history.
However, according to Reviews in History this week, there’s life in the old dog yet – while Doing History by Claire Nolan and Mark Donnelly is more of an introduction to the delights of theory in history, Elizabeth Deeds Ermarth not only issues a direct challenge to modernist historians to finally move on, but (always key in this area) manages to coin a new term in doing so, in her History in the Discursive Condition: Reconsidering the Tools of Thought.