This post was kindly written for us by Caitlin Brown, one of our interns via the Leicester University / IHR Digital programme.
I decided to use Connected Histories to research an area that I knew something about, but that I would like to investigate more. I picked the Crimean War as I had studied it from a Russian perspective but not from a British point of view, and I knew Connected Histories provided links to British Newspapers, 1600-1900. I used keywords such as ‘Crimea’ and narrowed down the date to between the 1850s and 1860s, as I wanted perspectives of the situation from both before and after the conflict. A problem I noticed straight away was that while many of the results were from British Newspapers, this was a resource that was restricted. This meant that these results were impossible to access from the IHR. However, if I had been researching from my own University Campus which has a subscription to British Newspapers, I would have been able to look at these resources. Apart from the newspapers and a picture from the British Museum, there were a limited number of resources available to investigate this topic further. I wondered if this was because I had selected a topic towards the end of the time period covered. Therefore, I decided to use the same methods as before, but instead investigate a topic firmly within the time period covered by Connected Histories.
I changed my topic to the Great Fire of London, and, using the date filters and the use of keywords, I searched ‘1666’ and ‘fire of London’. These results were more useful, as they were not all from restricted resources which required a separate login. Lots of results were thrown up, particularly when I narrowed the dates down to a few years around the actual date of the Fire of London (1666). A particularly useful resource I found was John Strype’s ‘A Survey of London and Westminster’, which not only accounts for the state of London, but also talks about the damage that the fire created, as well as Parliamentary acts that were put into place to deal with the damage created by the fire. It also gives specific numbers about what was damaged in the fire; for instance, 12,000 houses were burned down. Not only was this useful for learning more about the fire, it was a source I had not heard of before but was one that would be extremely useful in investigating London as a whole in this period. Similarly, I found a Dutch etching which portrayed the fire itself and its permeation throughout the city. Another resource I discovered through Connected Histories was a link to British History Online, which has several Journals of the House of Commons. This provided purely parliamentary perspectives on the handling of the impact of the Fire of London, for instance compensating people whose houses had to be blown up to prevent a further spread of the fire.
A problem I noted during both searches was that due to the process involved in putting some documents online, they were often unreadable and therefore not very useful. Also, sometimes the search engine can be slow, as it has a lot of information to process. Overall, using Connected Histories as a starting point for researching a particular subject is very useful, as it provides a wide range of sources. Some areas are more difficult to look into when you cannot access the restricted content, however this would not always be an issue, depending on location. There is some limitation in the amount of sources, but even these provide a stepping point by which to continue research.
Just back from the other side – no, not a near death experience, but a quick visit to the almost finished new look IHR! There’s a smell of fresh paint, the books are in place, and the librarians have the thousand-yard stares that come with weeks of twelve-hour days spent calculating shelf yardage. For more on the move see David’s blog post here: http://blog.history.ac.uk/2014/08/library-move-under-way/ – and we’re due to reopen on Monday…
Anyway, life continues all the same for us on the mezzanine floor, and we start our reviews this week with Mark Glancy’s Hollywood and the Americanization of Britain: From the 1920s to the Present. Jonathan Stubbs and the author discuss a book which is likely to be enjoyed and admired by a wide readership (no. 1646, with response here).
We then have a nice cluster of early modern reviews for you to enjoy, starting with The Ashgate Research Companion to Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe, edited by Allyson M. Poska, Jane Couchman and Katherine A. McIver. Alice Ferron finds this book provides a truly inter-disciplinary review of historiography pertaining to the study of early modern women in Western Europe (no. 1645).
Next we turn to David Loewenstein’s Treacherous Faith: The Spector of Heresy in Early Modern English Literature and Culture. David Manning believes this book highlights some of the perils of both cultural history and interdisciplinary scholarship between literary and historical studies (no. 1644).
Finally Sara Wolfson reviews Reading Authority and Representing Rule in Early Modern England by Kevin Sharpe, a volume which is an essential read for scholars working on the history of political culture, and a fitting representation of a distinguished career (no. 1643).
First up this week we have Archbishop Pole by John Edwards, as Francis Young and the author discuss a magnificent example of first-rate historical scholarship (no. 1642, with response here).
Next we turn to Lost Freedom: The Landscape of the Child and the British Post-War Settlement by Mathew Thomson. Laura King praises a fascinating, well-researched and insightful contribution to the literature (no. 1641).
Malin Dahlstrom then covers two works on Darwin by distinguished historians of biology, as she reviews Was Hitler a Darwinian? Disputed Questions in the History of Evolutionary Theory by Robert J. Richards and Darwin Deleted: Imagining a World Without Darwin byPeter J. Bowler (no. 1640).
Finally Emily Corran reviews Le désir dicté: Histoire du vœu religieux dans l’Occident médiéval by Alain Boureau, which she finds a learned and significant contribution to the history of scholastic thought and medieval institutions (no. 1639).
Off to Edinburgh this weekend, just as things are hotting up in the independence campaign. However, as all those who know him will vouch, your deputy editor shies away from political controversy at all times, and my visit is solely a cultural one to take in a little bit of the Festival. Any tips on what to see and what to avoid would be much appreciated…
Anyhow. First up this week we have Nobility and Kingship in Medieval England: The Earls and Edward I, 1272-1307 by Andrew Spencer. James Bothwell and the author discuss a well-crafted and thoughtful book offering a balanced new interpretation (no. 1638, with response here).
Then we turn to A Problem of Great Importance: Population, Race, and Power by Karl Ittmann, as Scott Spencer reviews a fine book on the ins and outs of policy formation (no. 1637).
Next up is Anthony McElligott’s Rethinking the Weimar Republic: Authority and Authoritarianism, 1916-1936, which Colin Storer recommends as being an excellent and insightful book that challenges the reader to look anew at a familiar subject (no. 1636).
Lastly there is Paralysed with Fear: the Story of Polio by Gareth Williams, which Wendy Gagen praises as a book which gives an insight into the reality of medical research (no. 1635).
Oh, and we also have the bonus of an additional response, from Matthew Hendley to the review of his book Organized Patriotism and the Crucible of War: Popular Imperialism in Britain, 1914-1932 (no. 1623, with response here).
Back working from home this week, as the elongated summer occupation of my flat by relatives and their children has been temporarily lifted. There’s nothing like the prospect of returning to a house full of sugar-fuelled nine-year olds to make the IHR suddenly seem more attractive. Sadly the respite is brief, even now my phone buzzes with news of this afternoon’s arrivals. Perhaps moving to the seaside may have been an error…
Right, enough moaning about people being nice enough to visit, and on with this week’s offerings. We start with Steven Jones’ The Emergence of the Digital Humanities – James Baker and the author discuss a volume which has plenty to offer every historian (no. 1634, with response here).
Next up is Women in Eighteenth-Century Scotland: Intimate Intellectual and Public Lives, edited by Katie Barclay and Deborah Simonton. Catriona Macleod reckons this to be a rich and engaging work with some excellent contributions that will reward all with an interest in gender history in Scotland and beyond (no. 1633).
Then we turn to John Appleby’s Women and English Piracy, 1540-1720: Partners and Victims of Crime, which Daniel Lange judges to be a well written, insightful, and long-overdue study of the various roles women played as supporters and accessories of pirates (no. 1632).
Finally we have The Favor of Friends: Intercession and Aristocratic Politics in Carolingian and Ottonian Europe by Sean Gilsdorf. Levi Roach finds this to be an example of charter scholarship at its finest, combining diplomatic precision and rigour with a strong sense of the broader socio-political significance of the practices examined (no. 1631).
Summer has arrived with a vengeance at the IHR this week, and as ever in England the rarity of hot weather leads us to be unsure of how to handle it properly. For instance, some considerable time elapsed before we realised that what we thought was an air-conditioner was actually blowing out hot air….
Somehow, despite the conditions, we’ve still managed to produce this week’s helping of reviews, and we begin with a great interview between our own Jordan Landes and Amanda Herbert, author of Female Alliances: Gender, Identity, and Friendship in Early Modern Britain (no. 1630).
Then we have three more First World War reviews, beginning with Ross Davies’ review article on art from the First World War, in which he deals with a plethora of different books on the subject (no. 1629).
Next up is The Long Shadow: The Great War and the Twentieth Century by David Reynolds. Jay Winter praises a masterly history, written by one of our finest historians (no. 1628).
Finally there is Ryan Floyd’s Abandoning American Neutrality: Woodrow Wilson and the Beginning of the Great War, August 1914-December 1915. Moritz Pöllath advises historians and interested readers alike to read this book, an insightful study on America’s entry into the First World War (no. 1627).
Apologies for the slightly tardy reviews today – I’ve had a busy week watching my flat fall apart around me, with the gushing out of the roof now being replaced by an ominous hole, and an equally ominous silence from those ostensibly responsible for fixing it. Perfect time for a long weekend visit from your deputy editor’s father – he may find his plumbing skills being tested to their limits….
Anyway, we continue with our WW1 special, and begin with a great introduction from Chris Phillips to the proliferation of digital resources stimulated by this year’s centenary (no. 1626).
Next up is The Children’s War: Britain, 1914-1918 by Rosie Kennedy. Rebecca Gill reviews the first full-length study of ‘the experience of children and the ways in which they responded to their mobilisation for war’ (no. 1625).
Then we turn to Gerhard Schneider’s In eiserner Zeit: Kriegswahrzeichen im Ersten Weltkrieg, which Stefan Goebel finds to be to be a landmark of historical research (no. 1624).
Finally we turn to Organized Patriotism and the Crucible of War: Popular Imperialism in Britain, 1914-1932 by Matthew Hendley, which reviewer David Monger believes to be a valuable book, providing considerable detailed discussion of three ‘patriotic and imperialist’ organizations (no. 1623).
A sad and momentous day at the IHR, as we bid farewell to one of our longest-standing colleagues, James ‘He’ll never leave’ Lees, who , after years of dogged and loyal service, was finally unable to resist the promise of untold riches and the lure of the bright lights, and is moving to Swindon…
Anyway, life must go on – and following the IHR’s successful conference last week, we’re continuing with our special issue of Great War at Home reviews. First up is Disturbing Practices: History, Sexuality and Women’s Experience of Modern War, 1914-18 by Laura Doan. Kevin Guyan and Laura Doan discuss the latter’s book, which offers a clear and confident direction for how histories of sexuality could develop (no. 1622, with response here).
Next we turn to Robert Tombs and Emile Chabal’s Britain and France in Two World Wars: Truth, Myth and Memory, with Vincent Trott reviewing a broad and ambitious collection (no. 1621).
Then we have Civvies: Middle-class men on the English Home Front, 1914–18 by Laura Ugolini. Jessica Meyer believes the author has done a service to historians of gender of this period in providing a thoughtful introduction to a collection of important voices (no. 1620).
Finally, there is Beth Linker’s War’s Waste: Rehabilitation in World War I America. Jessica Adler thinks that this deeply researched, beautifully written, and tightly argued book should be required reading (no. 1619).
Apologies for the delay in the weekly Reviews in History post – our Anglo-American Conference of Historians on ‘The Great War at Home’ started yesterday (check out the programme at http://anglo-american.history.ac.uk/files/2013/03/Anglo-American-conference-programme.pdf, or follow developments at #aach2014), and I was out all afternoon chairing a packed session on conscientious objectors and war resisters. Or ‘cranks’, if you’re Jeremy Paxman.
Anyway, to coincide with the conference, we’ll be publishing a series of reviews on related books, and our first batch are up today.
We begin with the Cambridge History of the First World War, edited by Jay Winter. Richard Grayson and the editor discuss a comprehensive, insightful and challenging collection, which can be considered an astonishing achievement (no. 1618, with response here)
Next up is Ross Davies’ ‘A Student in Arms': Donald Hankey and Edwardian Society at War. Stuart Bell and the author discuss a new book on one of the most enigmatic personalities to feature in the narrative of the Great War (no. 1617, with response here).
Then we turn to The Soldiers’ Press: Trench Journals in the First World War by Graham Seal, which Adrian Bingham believes provides the most comprehensive and detailed overview thus far of a fascinating genre (no. 1616).
Finally we have The Aesthetics of Loss: German Women’s Art during the First World War by Claudia Siebrecht. Ann Murray finds this book identifies and underscores the vital importance of women’s art to our greater understanding of the First World War (no. 1615).
I was all set to try and tie things in with the World Cup this week, but what with England already having disembarked at Luton there really doesn’t seem much point. Oh, and none of the books are football-related in any way…
So away from the ignominies of our sub-standard national team, and let us turn for reassurance instead to high-standard historical scholarship, beginning with Print and Public Politics in the English Revolution by Jason Peacey. David Magliocco and the author discuss an outstanding work combining archival mastery, theoretical sophistication, methodological innovation and lucid exposition (no. 1614, with response here).
Then we have Peter Watson’s The Age of Nothing: How We Have Sought to Live Since The Death of God. Beverley Southgate praises an extraordinarily successful wide-angled personal snapshot of the story of our efforts to live without God (no. 1613).
Next up is Canada and the End of the Imperial Dream by Neville Thompson, and Simon Potter believes this book offers a lively and readable illustration of how the British world perspective can enrich both British and Canadian histories (no. 1612).
Finally there is The Great Game, 1856-1907: Russo-British Relations in Central and East Asia by Evgeny Sergeev, which R. Charles Weller uses as the starting point for a lengthy review of Great Game historiography (no. 1611).