Coming to the IHR feels like coming home. I was once a postgraduate working on collections in London who needed a base in the city and a warming cup of coffee in the IHR Common Room. And on those forays for doctoral research I would occasionally attend a seminar in the Institute and marvel at the cosmopolitan nature of the audience, more varied by age and background than anything I was then used to. More to the point, I grew up in London and, as an undergraduate, would use the Senate House Library next door in university vacations. I have known these university buildings for as long as I’ve been a student and a historian.
At Cambridge as an undergraduate I was drawn to the nineteenth century (though, if I had my time again, it might be the seventeenth century). I thought I would be a straight Victorianist, and I have certainly published on Victorian political and intellectual history. But, in the best historical traditions, I had an epiphany while taking a term of American History – something I knew little about before then. The history of slavery and the Civil War grabbed me (I was hardly the first). Reading about the life of the slaves, the historical debates concerning their experience of slavery, and the relation of slavery to the origins of the Civil War made me want to learn more, and on graduating I was fortunate enough to spend a year in Yale as a Harkness Fellow taking courses with some of the leading American historians of that era: Ed Morgan, David Montgomery and David Brion Davis (who is still reviewing and publishing).
Cambridge reclaimed me, however, and to a project in intellectual history: the relationship in the mid-Victorian decades of social thought and social policy as evidenced in the work of a neglected Victorian organisation, the Social Science Association (1857-1886) which hoped to do for social science what the British Association, founded in the 1830s, had done for Victorian natural science – to popularise it, raise its profile, and bring its authority and expertise to bear on government. Occasionally patronised by some of the most notable Victorians – intellectuals including John Stuart Mill, John Ruskin and F. D. Maurice, and politicians including Brougham, Russell and Gladstone – the SSA gave plenty of scope for analysing the relations between intellectual and political life in this period. It led to a book, Science, Reform and Politics in Nineteenth-Century Britain. The Social Science Association (CUP 2002).
On the back of this work, and after a Junior Research Fellowship in Cambridge at Trinity College, I went to a first job in Oxford – an interesting and unconventional position as History and Politics tutor in Oxford’s Department of Continuing Education, teaching adult students. For five years I was an extra-mural tutor in the old manner, teaching classes, often co-organised with the Workers’ Educational Association, in Oxford but also going out to teach courses to groups all over the region in places like Maidenhead, Windsor and Great Missenden in the Chilterns. It was the greatest fun and I met some remarkable people who took a broad interest in History and current affairs. What I taught, and how I taught it, was often my choice or was negotiated with class members. I developed a deep interest in the life and work of the designer, poet, businessmen and socialist, William Morris, for example, finding him a fascinating subject in himself and a brilliant vehicle for the discussion of wider Victorian themes in politics, culture and the arts. These five years also led, later, to a book on the history of workers’ education – Dons and Workers. Oxford and Adult Education Since 1850 (OUP, 1995) – and to a biography of perhaps the most influential and charismatic tutor in this educational movement, the political thinker and historian, R. H. Tawney (Bloomsbury, 2013; paperback edn. 2014).
Moving after five years to a more conventional university lectureship and college fellowship at St. Peter’s College, Oxford, allowed me greater scope still to teach American History, in particular the popular undergraduate Special Subject at Oxford on ‘Slavery and the Crisis of the Union 1854-75’. Building American History from the bottom up – by generating student interest and demand for this and other courses on the United States – has been one of the most satisfying (if arduous) aspects of my career. I enjoyed the breadth of tutorial work as well: to teach British, American and sometimes even modern European History was a challenge few young historians now face. But it led to some enjoyable research and learned articles on comparative and transatlantic history, and I have continued to favour breadth in the undergraduate curriculum and also in the training of future academic historians. During this time I supervised a range of doctoral theses as well and in my case the range was indeed broad: from studies of Ruskin’s posthumous influence to British diplomacy in Texas between 1836 and 1845 (when Texas was a republic in its own right) and from American financial diplomacy during the Civil War to the ‘Southern Lumber Industry 1870-1920’, an early exercise in multi-disciplinary environmental history.
Ten years ago, on its publication in 2004, I became the editor (alongside the role of college tutor) of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. It had been designed by the late Colin Matthew, Gladstone’s biographer, brought to publication by Sir Brian Harrison, and it combined the work of more than ten thousand contributors in the longest single work ever published in English. The Oxford DNB is a compilation, online and in print, of more than fifty thousand biographical essays on more than sixty thousand people who have contributed to British history over two millennia. The scope of the work, and its variety, once more demanded breadth – but I needed help! Colleagues could tell me of medieval bishops, early modern poets, and twentieth century scientists: my three children were required to keep me up to scratch on figures from popular culture, for they are also included in the Oxford DNB. It was stimulating work in which I especially enjoyed ‘taking the Dictionary on the road’ and demonstrating its remarkable potential to unlock the past to local historical societies and civic groups.
After 29 years in Oxford the move to the IHR feels like a natural next step, combining breadth and depth, and giving me the opportunity to use the experience of teaching, supervising and writing academic History in encouraging and stimulating others. The IHR has more than 20 Junior Research Fellows at any one time; it is the home of many different historical projects covering all periods, medieval, early modern and modern; it hosts the most ambitious (and still very cosmopolitan) historical research seminars; and it puts on cutting-edge conferences. It is the natural focus for History and historians in London and has a national and international role to play in presenting British research to the world. There could be no better preparation for this than to have taught all those stimulating and demanding evening classes in the home counties before the most discerning (and best read) students I’ve ever encountered. As I have come to understand, if you can cut it in Great Missenden, you can cut it anywhere.
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).
In a major collaboration with the Victoria and Albert Museum, the IHR is taking Fashion as the theme for its annual conference in summer 2015. Fashion in history is a topic which has come of age in recent years, as scholars have turned to addressing what is chic and what is style over the ages and across different cultures. The history of fashion, and the role of fashion in history, is not just confined to the study of dress and costume, but encompasses design and innovation, taste and zeitgeist, treats as its subjects both people and objects, and crosses over into related disciplines such as the history of art and architecture, consumption, retailing and technology. And across the world, fashion brings together museums, graduate teaching programmes, learned societies and the fashion profession around a common set of interests and concerns. The IHR conference next year we hope will be a perfect showcase and a meeting-point for the wide spectrum of specialists in this exciting field.
Our plenary speakers include Christopher Breward (Edinburgh), Beverly Lemire (Alberta), Ulinka Rublack (Cambridge) and Valerie Steele (Fashion Institute of Technology, New York). Proposals for panels on the themes of dress, imitation and emulation, taste and style, body-art, the fashion-industry and its media, fashionability and trend-setting, catwalks, fairs and exhibitions, innovation in interior design, architecture and public space, fashion education and technology will be accepted down to the middle of December. Individual paper proposals will also be accepted. Panels should comprise three papers and a chair, and proposals must include the name and affiliation of the speakers, the title of the panel and the titles of the individual papers. Please send proposals by 15th December to IHR.Events@sas.ac.uk Decisions will be made known once the Programme Committee has met in early January 2015.
One of the joys, and tribulations, of working on BBIH is the amount of material that comes across my desk (or indeed desktop). Joy in that there is such a range of material, and tribulation in the amount! As an indication of the range of material, I’ll highlight a snapshot of articles that I have come across recently.
The title, Crying in the colonies: The bellmen of early Australia, did not cover the emotional sensibility of the colonists but was a discussion on the use of the town crier, who made announcements, advertised sales, rallied people to political meetings, encouraged locals to attend events and performances as well as announcing the news of the day.
Oxford University Press has launched a monograph series Emotions in History, one of the books is entitled, Learning how to feel: Children’s Literature and Emotional Socialization, 1870-1970, which covers such feelings as trust, compassion, empathy, fear and piety, all charted through a particular literary character.
Expanding further on emotions, and combining it with piety, there is a special issue of German History entitled Feeling and Faith—Religious Emotions in German History, covering early German pietism, the expected behaviour of evangelists in Wilhelmine Germany, as well as the feminization of piety in interwar Germany.
According to John Johnston in Lost in time and space: Unrolling Egypt’s ancient dead (Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall, 2013, p. 7-22) the first unrolling of a mummy took place in 1698. Gabriel Moshenska charts the unrolling of mummies in nineteenth-century Britain, a popular spectacle which is also covered by Beverley Rogers in her chapter, Unwrapping the Past: Egyptian Mummies on Show from Popular exhibitions, science and showmanship, 1840-1910. Tomb raiders for mummies or other relics was not confined to the modern period, as Sean Lafferty outlines in Ad sanctitatem mortuorum: tomb raiders, body snatchers and relic hunters in late antiquity. This article charts the actions of tomb raiders despite punishment for such crimes. The increasing popularity of the cult of saints created a demand for such relics as objects of veneration, which in turn led to elaborate strategies of acquisition, including the exhumation, transporting, smuggling and dismembering of the dead. Taking us up to the modern scientific approach to mummies is an article, Augustus Bozzi Granville (1783-1872): Pioneer obstetrician and gynaecological surgeon. Granville performed the first scientific autopsy of an Egyptian mummy discovering, in the process, the oldest known ovarian tumour.
Best title must surely go to, The Sludge Question: The Regulation of Mine Tailings in Nineteenth-Century Victoria, by Susan Lawrence and Peter Davies. The “sludge” in question is the industrial waste from gold mining in Australia. The pollution was a significant environmental problem to an area dependent on gold mining for its economic prosperity. The article discusses the realisation of the environmental problem and the passage of legislation to resolve the issue over a fifty-year period.
This article presents documents from the archive of the central committee of the Romanian Communist party, recording the January 1949 Moscow conference that established the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (C.M.E.A.). It argues that the creation of the C.M.E.A. began as a Romanian initiative and presents the process by which the document constituting the C.M.E.A. was elaborated in early 1949. There is generally very little information on the creation of the C.M.E.A., so while it was not possible to use evidence from the Moscow archives, these findings, corroborated by studies involving sources from other communist archives, will help to create a better understanding of this event.
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).
Discounted subscriptions to the online Bibliography of British and Irish History are available to Friends of the IHR who may not have access to the Bibliography through a university or other institution. The Bibliography is a joint project of the IHR, the Royal Historical Society and Brepols Publishers, and is the most extensive guide available to what has been published on British and Irish history. It covers the history of British and Irish relations with the rest of the world, including the British empire and the Commonwealth, as well as British and Irish domestic history. It includes not only books, but also articles in journals and articles within collective volumes. It is updated three times a year and currently includes nearly 550,000 records, with a further update expected during October; subscribers can sign up for email alerts notifying them when new records are added on subjects in which they are interested.
Friends of the IHR (including American Friends) can subscribe to the Bibliography for one third of the normal cost of an individual subscription. The sign-up period for the Friends’ discounts starts on 1 October and runs until 15 December 2014 for the 2015 subscription year. New subscribers will have access to the Bibliography as soon as their subscription has been processed but all subscriptions will run until 31 December 2015, so you can enjoy nearly fifteen months’ access for the price of twelve. To apply please contact the Development Office by email or by telephoning (0)20 7862 8791. For more information about the Friends, and the other benefits of joining, please visit the Friends’ web pages. Similar discounts are available to Fellows and Members of the Royal Historical Society who will receive information in their autumn mailing, as usual.
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.
Danny asked me to introduce myself to IHR blog readers so I figured I would tell you a little bit about myself and my position as Publishing Manager for British History Online (BHO). My name is Sarah Milligan and I joined BHO four weeks ago. Before that, I was a research assistant for two digital projects, the Map of Early Modern London and the Internet Shakespeare Editions, both of which are based at the University of Victoria, in British Columbia, Canada. My background is in English literature (I did my MA degree on Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese) but English and History tend to intersect quite a bit and I was a long-time user of BHO before I ever came to work here.
I only recently moved to London so I have been settling into the city just as I have been settling into the IHR. Luckily, everyone has been very welcoming and I think things are off to a good start. Here are some of my favourite things about working for BHO:
Receiving emails from readers telling me about the myriad of unique ways that they use BHO. On the one hand, having such a wide variety of readers makes it challenging to create a resource that meets all of their needs, but it is also wonderful to see BHO’s texts being searched and consulted in ways that we may have never anticipated.
The IHR encourages collaboration, both formally and informally. Whenever I have a question, I can usually pop into the office of whomever specialises in that topic and receive a quick answer. I love the sense of teamwork here.
Working in Senate House, in the heart of Bloomsbury, is pretty fantastic. I can’t help but thinking about all the great minds that have lived and worked on the streets surrounding our BHO office.
I am joining BHO at a really exciting time. We are in the middle of redeveloping our website and we are thinking about how to make BHO easier to search and more intuitive to use. We also want to develop a stronger sense of community amongst our BHO readers.
I am looking forward to letting you know about all the new developments we are working on. If you want to stay up to date on what we are up to, please follow us on Twitter @bho_history.