Global History seminar
7 March 2011
Peter Barber
The Image of the globe in the Renaissance

Pete Barber discusses the depiction of Earth in the Renaissance stressing that the Renaissance man took his knowledge from studying manuscripts and objects from ancient Greece and Rome.  There were various conflicting models and images of the world to choose from which would depict the world in relation to politics, religion, scholarship, and power relations.  Although maps had been created for centuries it was in the Renaissance that they first became prized possessions.  Barber takes his listeners through various types of maps including the adaptations of medieval Mappa Mundi that often not only presented the world in the present day but illustrated the history of the world as well.  But it is the increased survival of globes from this period that most interests Barber.  We have classical examples but relatively little from the Middle Ages.  Does this suggest a revival of interest in globes from the 15th century?  Perhaps!  At the very least the existence of globes at this time reminds us that people in this period did not generally believe the world was flat (as often believed) but that this was a myth established in the nineteenth century by historians such as John William Draper and Washington Irving.  Not mentioned by Barber (but interesting nevertheless) the flat Earth myth seems to have first surfaced as an anti-Catholic polemic by protestants in the seventeenth-century.    

Voluntary Action History
14 March 2011
Raluca Muşat (UCL)
Transforming the Peasant: Mind, Body and Soul.  Student Volunteers in Rural Romania, 1934-1938

Raluca Muşat told the Voluntary Action History seminar about Romanian Royal voluntary action schemes in the countryside between 1934 and 1938.  Muşat explained how student volunteers visited various rural areas with the goal to modernise the countryside and develop ideas for improvements.  They went on 3 month stints often before they graduated to become professional or intellectual citizens in the cities.  This state intervention to ‘civilise’ the rural communities ran in parallel and often in opposition to the Iron Guard (the far-right fascist political party and movement with strong Orthodox Christian credentials) and represented the King’s attempt to reform the countryside as a political tool.   Muşat talks about these events from a sociological point of view and offers a fascinating alternative to the usually British-centric discussions of voluntary action history. 

Sports and Leisure History
14 March 2011
Urban Green Spaces in Britain
Dr Carole O’Reilly (University of Salford)
‘Vigorous, Young Bodies’: Sport, Leisure and Gender in Manchester’s Public Parks in the Interwar Years
Matti Hannikainen (University of Helsinki)
Centres of Amateur Sports?  Roles and Uses of Green Spaces in London, 1930-1990

The Sports and Leisure History seminar held a special seminar on Urban Green Spaces in Britain.  In the first paper, presented by Carole O’Reilly, we travel to Manchester in the interwar period.  In the nineteenth century and early twentieth century, Manchester had one of the most active city councils who wished to establish open spaces for the health needs and better living standards of its population.  O’Reilly tells us about how these recreation spaces were intended to promote health and civic pride as well as alleviate public disorder problems such as extensive drinking and gambling.  Parks were used for various sports including bowling, tennis, archery, golf, and greyhound racing.  There were also many other activities centred around the parks such as playgrounds for children, exercise groups, day trips for deprived children, horticulture, open air bathing, pony rides, sunbathing and open air plays.  The second paper, presented by Matti Hannikainen refocuses our attention to London City Council in the 1930s to 1990s.  Many green spaces were developed in the 1930s and, after the war, developed further.  Hannikainen stresses the financial issues related to these parks and to the conceptual change from active recreation (such as tennis, bowls etc) to more passive forms of recreation.  In particular there was a difference between Royal Parks and Council owned parks.  The Royal Parks, for instance, were banned from having enclosed areas, effectively ending the possibility for formal sports.   As a pair these two papers show us how urban green spaces developed during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and what uses they were put too.  Most importantly the two papers compliment each other well showing that in reality there was very little difference between cities when it came to the need for parks and recreation spaces.