What is History Day? And how can it help your research?
Historical research requires a rich ecosystem of libraries, archives, associations, publishers and other organisations to flourish. Part of the process of becoming a historian, or understaking research with a historical element, is attempting to come to grips with this dense, rewarding – and sometimes confusing – network. While many online resources, such as The National Archives’ Discovery system, which provides access to over 32 million record descriptions from across the UK, or Copac, which provides a way of searching over 90 specialist research libraries, help to find the sources that might be out there, there is often no better method than speaking to a librarian or archivist, and asking them, ‘this is what I am interested in. What do you have that might be useful to me?’
History Day 2016 is the annual analogue equivalent of Discovery or Copac. On 15 November 2016, The Institute for Historical Research (IHR) and Senate House Library, with the help of the Committee of London Research Libraries in History, are bringing together over thirty libraries and archives, from the Bishopsgate Institute to the Weiner Libary. All sizes of institutions are represented, from the British Library and The National Archives, to specialist archives and libraries such as the Lindley Library of the Royal Horticultural Society. Members of their staff will be on hand to discuss their collections and your research.
You can get a flavour of some of the materials that they have in their collections in the series of blog posts, based on the Being Human theme for this year, ‘hope and fear’. The selected items include Scrofula and the Royal Touch (KCL), human physonomie (Wellcome), photograph of London’s first gay pride rally (Bishopgate Institute Library).
Like last year, History Day includes a number of talks and debates on the nature of history and the process of historical research, starting with a discussion on the varieties of public history, chaired by the IHR Director, Prof. Lawrence Goldman, with contributions from Dr Alix Green and Dr Suzannah Lipscomb. Later in the day, the relative merits of libraries and archives will be debated, and there are panels on digital history and business archives. History Lab and History Lab Plus will be on hand to help put graduates and Early Career Researchers in touch with one another, and to offer a sofa and a cup of coffee. We are also pleased to welcome the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, a number of historical organisations and a selection of historical print and digital publishers.
Bishopsgate Institute Library
Black Cultural Archives
Business Archives Council
Caird Library and Archive, National Maritime Museum
Dana Research Centre and Library, Science Museum
Geological Society Library
German Historical Institute Library
Heinz Archive and Library, National Portrait Gallery
History Lab Plus
Institute of Historical Research
King’s College London Library Services
Lambeth Palace Library and the Church of England Record Centre
Library of the Society of Friends
Lindley Library, Royal Horticultural Society
London Metropolitan Archives
LSE library services and The Women’s Library @ LSE
The National Archives
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
Queen Mary University of London Archives
Royal Astronomical Society Library & Archives
The Royal Society, Collections
Royal United Services Institute, Library of Military History
Senate House Library
Society of Antiquaries Library and Collections
School of Oriental and African Studies Library
TUC Library collections at London Metropolitan University
UCL Library Services
We start this week with The Radical Right in Late Imperial Russia: Dreams of a True Fatherland? by George Gilbert, as Geoffrey Hosking and the author discuss a good general guide (no. 2004, with response here).
Next we turn to Jonathan Hogg’s British Nuclear Culture: Official and Unofficial Narratives in the Long 20th Century. Richard Brown recommends the first major contribution to what promises to be a significant sub-field of British nuclear history (no. 2003).
Then we have John Owen and English Puritanism: Experiences of Defeat by Crawford Gribben, as Elliot Vernon praises a fluent biography of a difficult historical figure (no. 2002).
Finally Ronan Fanning’s Eamon de Valera: A Will to Power is reviewed by Brian Girvin, who believes this book sets the bar high for any future assessments of de Valera (no. 2001).
You might remember that I started an internship a couple of weeks ago. I’d just like to comment on a couple of things.
Bad things that could happen on an internship:
Having to get there in rush hour
An awful boss who makes you do all their dirty work
Ending up having nothing to put on your CV
Just making tea all the time
Thankfully, absolutely none of these things happened to me while working for IHR (Institute of Historical Research). I worked hours that fitted around my commute, everybody was lovely, I did a huge range of things, and I actually got brought tea. Which was just as well as I found out that my tiny arms were too weak to lift their massive red teapot with one hand.
The work I did while I was there was varied. I proof read, put things online, wrote abstracts, and ended up doing some work for my dissertation. I also did some company tweeting, which gave me a disproportionate sense of power. So a lot of things to put on the CV then.
Also, it was just a nice place to work. Everybody was lovely, there were always biscuits, I had access to a fantastic library, and there was always somewhere interesting to wander to in my lunch hour.
I’m not saying it was all sunshine and roses. I forgot the codes to the doors a couple of times, and after having about 15 cups of tea a day brought to me I’ve started waking up craving the stuff. Damage has been done.
Genuinely, this is a great experience, which gives you a lot of skills to take home. A couple of interns are taken every year from the pool of History students at Leicester, so I’d definitely recommend applying next year. On a related note, I also wrote a post for them on using one of their online resources, Connected Histories, which was immensely helpful. Stick around if you need a hand finding sources.
October’s update includes an entry on the artist Tirzah Garwood (1908-1951), who was married to Eric Ravilious, who becomes the 60,000th person to be added to Dictionary.
The October update also adds 35 biographies of early nineteenth-century slave-owners, who were recipients of compensation from the Commissioners of Slave Compensation after the passing of the Abolition Act in 1833. These biographies have been researched and written in collaboration with the new Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slave-ownership at University College London.
New figures include John Stewart (1789-1860), a slave owner in Berbice, who was probably of African descent. As an MP, Stewart represented the concerns of the West India interest while establishing business interests in the City of London: he is thought to have been the first MP of black or mixed race.
The October update also adds 40 biographies of men and women associated with the city of Hull, which is UK City of Culture, 2017. Among those now added to the Dictionary are Ethel Leginska (1886-1970)—who was born in Hull, and became a noted composer and the first woman to conduct some of the world’s leading orchestras—and Jean Hartley (1933-2011) who published The Less Deceived—the first volume of poems by Philip Larkin, following the poet’s arrival in Hull.
October’s update also adds 2500 new links from ODNB entries to externalresources, offering additional biographical information. These include:
2000 gallery pages in Art UK, allowing readers to view art works in public collections by artists with entries in the ODNB.
Highlights from the new edition are available here. The Oxford DNB is the national record of 60,000 men and women who’ve shaped all walks of British life, worldwide, from the Roman occupation to the 21st century.
To mark our 2000th review we have a special Somme centenary piece, centred around a reappraisal of Martin Middlebrook’s classic The First Day on the Somme.
How is that that a Lincolnshire poultry farmer changed the course of Somme historiography with his first book? In the first of a two-part centenary article on the bibliography of the 1916 Battle of the Somme, Ross Davies shows how Martin Middlebrook ‘prised open a window’ upon a battle that for a century has haunted the British and their Commonwealth allies. Himself haunted by the close-packed Somme military cemeteries, Middlebrook turned to the survivors with the-then novel idea of interviewing them rather than relying solely upon the accounts of the politicians and the generals, and the Somme veterans depicted an ‘almost indecipherable chaos’ on the opening day of the vast British infantry assault. This review explains the significance of this book and its approach in terms of the evolving historiography of the battle, and will be followed by a detailed overview of Somme centenary publications.
In recent years, the study of the networks, ideas and identities that bound the ‘British world’ together has proved a rich field of enquiry in imperial history. This article seeks to apply those insights to an issue that dominated much of Britain’s relations with its settler colonies before the First World War: the controversies surrounding the exclusion of Asian migrants. Racial exclusion has garnered a great deal of scholarly attention in recent years. This article builds on that historiography, but also questions its inattention to the British connection, and hence to considerations of imperial power. It analyses how the debate on immigration served as a canvas on which advocates and detractors of exclusion could paint competing concepts of empire, and seeks to understand how policymakers attempted to manage the migration question through a range of spatial and diplomatic solutions. It will attempt, in sum, to show how a global empire dealt with the problems of a world that seemed increasingly divided along racial lines.
This article examines the last twenty years of the life of one of Ireland’s most controversial scholars, the polymath John Pentland Mahaffy. Mahaffy’s name still has wide resonance in Irish historiography owing to his interventions in Irish cultural politics in the decades before 1919. He is frequently seen as an ‘anti-Irish’ figure. This article places Mahaffy in the wider context of international scholarship of the late Victorian era, arguing that he was a cosmopolitan whose overriding concern was not Ireland, or even Britain, but the fracturing of the republic of letters.
In Renaissance Florence, the militia force created by Machiavelli in 1506, then re-established in 1527–30, involved the production of two types of records: the low-level ‘practical’ records which documented the daily running of an army in the field, such as muster rolls, notes and lists; and the upper-level administrative records, such as the correspondence between governing bodies and military officers. An analysis of published and unpublished sources provides evidence of the importance of such documentary practices, and highlights the problems connected to the loss and preservation of low-level military records relating to Renaissance ordinanze and militia.
The twelfth-century chronology of the de Mortemer (later Mortimer) family of Wigmore has proved a difficult and confusing subject. In particular, most scholars have accepted the Complete Peerage genealogy, which incorrectly posits the existence of two distinct lords called Hugh between 1104 and 1181. Here, the English sources are reconsidered alongside independent Norman evidence, resulting in a more robust genealogy and a better context for understanding how the de Mortemers shifted their position from being primarily a Norman family with English and Welsh interests (which they neglected) to being primarily an English one with Norman and Welsh responsibilities (which they did not).
An update to the Bibliography of British and Irish History was published on 30 September. There are 4,962 new records, some 633 new records relate to Irish history while 240 deal with the history of London, 324 with the history of Scotland and 262 with the history of Wales. The overall total of records available online is now 579,638.
We are pleased to welcome a new section editor to our editorial team, Dr Colin Veach Lecturer in Medieval History at the University of Hull, who will be dealing with Irish history to c. 1640. He succeeds Dr Beth Hartland, for whose expert help over the last few years we are very grateful.
We also welcome Dr Adam Chapman, Editor and Training Co-ordinator with the Victoria County History based at the IHR, who will be dealing with England 1066-1500.
We expect to release the next update in February 2017. You can always find out more about the Bibliography at http://www.history.ac.uk/projects/bbih or, if you already have access to the Bibliography, you can sign up for email alerts so as to be notified each time the Bibliography is updated with records on a subject or subjects of your choice.
We start this week with Brian Copenhaver’s Magic in Western Culture: From Antiquity to the Enlightenment, as Francis Young hails a towering achievement in the field of intellectual history (no. 1999).
Then we turn to Confederate Cities: The Urban South During the Civil War Era, edited by Andrew Slap and Frank Towers. David Silkenat believes this book provides a balanced and diverse exploration of how the Civil War era transformed urban spaces in the American South (no. 1998, with response here).
Next up is Constructing Kingship; The Capetian Monarchs of France and the Early Crusades by James Naus. Niall Ó Súilleabháin is frustrated by an over-brief book which fails to live up to its potential (no. 1997).
Finally we have Thomas Ahnert’s The Moral Culture of the Scottish Enlightenment. Tim Stuart-Buttle tackles a work which uses the Scottish Enlightenment as a case study to understand the wider intellectual history of the eighteenth century (no. 1996).
You can also search and browse all 1999 reviews here – do please let me know if you have any problem navigating the site or finding what you’re interested in.
This post has kindly been written for us by IHR Digital intern Jaipreet Deo.
In an effort to pull in works relevant to my dissertation topic, the Connected Histories site provides an easy to navigate search function which looks through many databases and archives. Helpfully, this is infinitely quicker than searching through each one in turn.
My dissertation is a comparative essay on the treatment of mixed race children in colonial India and Australia, so I typed in ‘half caste mixed race’ into the keywords box. Using the advanced search function, I set the dates from 1700-1900, and the place as ‘Australia India’. However I then realised it was searching for ‘half’, ‘caste’, ‘mixed’, and ‘race’ individually, so I went back and changed the keyword search to the phrases “half caste” “half cast” “half-caste” “mixed race” “mixed-race”, and the place search to ‘Australia OR India’.
Admittedly this is something I had to do by hand as there is no function on the advanced search to input Boolean logic, so specifying things like this may be tricky for people who do not know how to do search in this way. However, there is a video guide to aid smart searching, and nine research guides on the site.
I had a look through these guides, and as they are categorised by subject, looked at the Imperial and Colonial History page. It outlined on which sites I might find relevant papers if I was looking at the governmental aspect of the empire (such as the 46 volume Calendars of State Papers Colonial through British History Online, or the Parliamentary Papers) and what these papers contained. The page also guided me to non-governmental sources, in British Newspapers and Pamphlets, and several collections examining the stories, lives, and communities of immigrants to Britain from the colonies. There were also outlines of how to look into slavery and the slave trade, sources examining the impacts, strengths, and weaknesses of the empire itself, and helpful sections for further reading and related websites.
The results for my search were grouped into the databases they were in, which was helpful as it prevented the whole page becoming bogged down in search results. These databases included British History Online, History of Parliament, British Newspaper Archive, House of Commons Parliamentary Papers, and 19th Century British Pamphlets. I went through each at a time, and although the results were numerous they were also relevant, each one explicitly mentioned mixed race peoples in a colonial setting. I found the results very useful. I explored sources on a variety of issues, such as fears of mixed race revolution in Sri Lanka, and the appointment of British-Indian judges. Admittedly, Connected Histories does not search through every historical database available, but resources are frequently added and it is still extremely useful.
Another slight improvement would be to extend the date series. Anyone studying a topic which falls outside of the years 1500-1900 would not find this site as useful as I have. Unfortunately I cannot use it for my module on British popular culture 1945-85, and will have to revert to slightly less effective search methods for sources on this topic.
Minor issues aside, I found this search engine very user friendly. I did not need to, but it was simple to refine the search through filtering by types of source (for example journals, parliamentary papers, or local records). Additionally, being able to specify the place, source type, dates, keywords, and full, given, and surnames is extremely helpful when searching through archives. I was linked to reliable, easy to use sites, so the whole process was quick and simple. Even if I had had no subscription to the service, I could have selected only those results which were free to use. Also, the layout of the search page is easier to use and more fitting for its purpose than most that I’ve seen.
This is an intelligent search engine, engineered for its users, which really pays off when you’re looking for quick and simple results instead of searching through every database you can think of in turn. Instead, this site takes you straight to the relevant sources.
We commence this week with Goals and Means: Anarchism, Syndicalism, and Internationalism in the Origins of the Federación Anarquista Ibérica by Jason Garner. Vlad Solomon and the author debate an engagingly-written account of a neglected yet important topic in the history of the Spanish labour movement (no. 1995, with response here).
Next up is Eighty-Eight Years: The Long Death of Slavery in the United States, 1777-1865 by Patrick Rael. John Craig Hammond and the author discuss a book which goes a long way to reforging the history of slavery (no. 1994, with response here).
Then we turn to Lars Magnusson’s The Political Economy of Mercantilism, and Andrew McDiarmid reviews a book which makes a valiant attempt at clarifying a widely used but problematic term (no. 1993).
Finally we have Death and Survival in Urban Britain: Disease, Pollution and Environment 1800-1950 by Bill Luckin. Jim Clifford tackles this collection from one of the most important urban environmental historians of London (no. 1992).