We start this week with Emily West’s Enslaved Women in America: From Colonial Times to Emancipation. Kristen Brill recommends a book which masterfully presents the narrative of women’s lived experiences in slavery through the prism of gender (no. 2155, with response here).
Next up is The Ethnographic State: France and the Invention of Moroccan Islam by Edmund Burke. July Blalack believes this story of the French colonial archive reveals many disturbing aspects of knowledge production (no. 2154).
Then we turn to Matthew Brian Gillis’s Heresy and Dissent in the Carolingian Empire: the Case of Gottschalk of Orbais. Scott Ashley gives thanks for an important study for scholars of the Carolingian world and of early-medieval religious culture (no. 2153).
Finally we have Wars of the Roosevelts: The Ruthless Rise of America’s Greatest Political Family by William J. Mann. Dario Fazzi praises an impressive 600-page volume scoping out the secrets, antagonisms, and feuds of the Roosevelts (no. 2152).
This post has kindly been written for us by IHR Digital intern Tom Keidan.
I’m an undergraduate currently interning with the IHR Digital department, and as part of this I have been working on the online journal Reviews in History. This is a resource that I’ve used in the past, and the editor suggested that it might be interesting for other A-level and university students to hear how I’ve found it useful in my studies.
This was certainly the case during my A-Level studies, when Reviews in History proved to be an invaluable research tool, effectively and concisely summarising secondary material for a wider non-specialist audience.
When studying historiographical debates surrounding the Holocaust during both my A-Level and university studies, in-depth reviews of monographs such as Tom Lawson’s Debates on the Holocaust (http://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/review/1160) and Dan Stone’s Histories of the Holocaust (http://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/review/1068) proved invaluable in summarising wider concepts and debates which I was initially unable to fully grasp. Furthermore, the comprehensive bibliography provided at the end of each review enabled me to further research alternative studies which helped to develop my specialist knowledge of such a vast topic.
During my university studies, the reviews on Reviews in History have continuously proved to be highly useful in providing me with wider background material; in addition, being able to filter searches according to geographical area and period has allowed me to effectively and quickly gather reviews for material relevant to modules which cover a specific period and place.
Furthermore, Reviews in History includes reviews of various primary archival material which have been extremely useful when embarking on my dissertation research; by filtering by categories such as films, exhibitions and digital resources, the reader is able to easily and effectively look through relevant primary material reviews in order to supplement previous secondary reading. In particular, a review of the British Library’s Propaganda: Power and Persuasion (http://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/review/1489) exhibition provided insight into the nature of state propaganda which proved highly useful in supplementing my existing university knowledge.
Ultimately, Reviews in History seems to me to be a highly useful tool for both general audiences as well as more specialist historians. I highly recommend this website whether you are looking for help with A-Level history studies or more complex university level material!
We start this week with Stefanie Linden’s They Called it Shell Shock. Combat Stress in the First World War. Michael Robinson and the author discuss a book of great interest to shell shock historians, specialists in trauma studies, and those interested in the social and cultural effects of the First World War (no. 2151, with response here).
Next up is Adam Matthew’s World’s Fairs: A Global History of Exhibitions. Anthony Swift profiles a valuable digital resource for those interested in the history of design, technology, architecture, imperialism, nationalism, gender, anthropology, consumer culture and more (no. 2150).
Then we turn to Amelia Bonea’s The News of Empire: Telegraphy, Journalism and the Politics of Reporting in Colonial India. Anindita Ghosh praises a rich and informative book that opens out the way for further and interesting research into telegraphy and journalism (no. 2149).
Finally we have Europe’s India – Words, People, Empires, 1500-1800 by Sanjay Subrahmanyam. Tiraana Bains believes this book weaves together engaging narratives of early modern itinerancy and encounter with incisive criticism of existing historiographical grand narratives (no. 2148).
The past decade has seen the rise of a vast property development in the King’s Cross district of central London. As its residential zone nears completion, Dr Philip Carter considers the life of Henry Croft – founder of the Pearly Kings, and a late-Victorian resident of King’s Cross – who features in the development’s marketing campaign. Recreating Henry’s life story owes much to a growing range of digitised resources now shaping microhistorical and prosopographical approaches to the past.
Step out of Senate House in Bloomsbury and you quickly encounter some exclusive real estate. Bedford, Russell, Gordon and Tavistock squares were among the most prestigious property developments of the late-18th and early 19th centuries, and their elegant terraces remain highly desirable. Keep walking from Tavistock Square and you come across their 21st-century equivalent, just north of King’s Cross station.
We start this week with Alice Rio’s Slavery After Rome, 500-1100. Shami Ghosh and the author discuss one of the central questions in the historiography of early medieval Western Europe: how did the transition from slavery to serfdom take place? (no. 2147, with response here)
Next up is Divided Sovereignties: Race, Nationhood, and Citizenship in Nineteenth-Century America by Rochelle Zuck. Nathan Cardon enjoys a book which puts politics and nation-making back into the conversation on 19th-century race and identity (no. 2146).
Then we turn to Johana Hannink’s The Classical Debt: Greek Antiquity in an Era of Austerity. Helen Roche praises a triumph of popularisation which should provide a fruitful starting-point for more detailed surveys (no. 2145).
Finally we have See You In The Streets: Art, Action, and Remembering the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire by Ruth Sergel. Chloe Ward reviews a book which recounts the author’s attempts to commemorate the fire through a series of interlinked art projects-cum-social interventions (no. 2144).
This editorial originally appeared in the Burlington Magazine.
NEXT YEAR IS the three hundredth anniversary of the birth of Thomas Chippendale, an event that will be marked in his native county by an exhibition at Leeds City Museum.1 The story of the study of Chippendale, perhaps the only furniture designer and maker whose name is instantly recognisable to a majority of the public, would be an interesting topic to research as it would shed light on the development of furniture history as a scholarly discipline in Britain. A turning-point was the foundation in 1964 of the Furniture History Society (FHS), and the publication from 1965 of its journal, Furniture History. Its 1968 volume was devoted to Chippendale (as its 2018 volume will be also). This included an article by Nicholas Goodison on archival material at Nostell Priory, Yorkshire, relating to the designer, which was linked to a catalogue of the Chippendale furniture in the house, published as two articles in this Magazine by the same author, with Lindsay Boynton.2 The collaboration between the FHS and this Magazine was reinforced by the November 1969 issue, devoted entirely to articles by members of the Society. This was intended to demonstrate that furniture studies should be part of professional art history, and that the work of a leading furniture designer and craftsman deserved all the academic rigour that was taken for granted in the study of painters and sculptors. With the publication in 1978 of Christopher Gilbert’s two-volume monograph on Chippendale, that ambition was amply fulfilled.3
The study of British furniture could have proceeded entirely on such traditional monographic lines, but in fact that approach became subsidiary to a broader study of the furniture trade in all its aspects. This new direction owed a great deal to the publication by the FHS in 1986 of The Dictionary of English Furniture Makers 1660–1840, edited by Geoffrey Beard and Christopher Gilbert. Its fifty thousand entries, assembled largely on the basis of information from the Society’s members, supply a brief history of each maker, with notes on documentary and other sources. This is an invaluable resource, but it has always been acknowledged that it represents only a fraction of the information that could be drawn out of the documentary record. To take just one example, the Dictionary contains the names of about five hundred London furniture makers at work between 1660 and 1725, but in a recent Ph.D. thesis Laurie Lindey was able to list twelve thousand names for the period 1640–1720.4
For some years it has been clear that the way forward was the establishment of a digital database to replace the Dictionary. This is now being undertaken by the British and Irish Furniture Makers Online Project (BIFMO). Announced last October, this is a collaboration between the FHS and the Centre for Metropolitan History (CMH) at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London. The first phase, due to go online on 30th September, is an open-access searchable database of all the entries from the Dictionary, together with the names from Lindey’s thesis. The project, which is being overseen at the IHR by Lindey as a post-doctoral research fellow, working with Mark Merry, acting director of the CMS, is highly ambitious. As well as extending the coverage to Ireland, Scotland and Wales, it aims to include other parts of the world from which British craftsmen originated or where local makers were influenced by British practices or immigrants. It also plans to extend the chronological range, initially to 1900 and eventually to the present day. The cost of the project’s first five years of operation is estimated to be £365,000, which will fund the post-doctoral research fellowship, additional junior research scholars, technical costs and related events, such as study days and conferences. Of this, £55,000 has already been pledged and the first year of operation has been temporarily underwritten by the FHS. It is to be hoped that funds can readily be found for a project that promises to reshape the future of British furniture studies.5
At present, none of the twelve thousand names in Lindey’s thesis can be associated with a known work. One of the many exciting possibilities raised by BIFMO, which will be illustrated, is that it will allow the names of makers to be linked to surviving furniture. For this to be achieved, catalogues of furniture must themselves be digitised. In England, a lead has been set by the National Trust, which in 2015 undertook a three-year Furniture Research Project. Funded by the Royal Oak Foundation and the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, this is paying for additional staff to research and catalogue the Trust’s collection of furniture – which, with some 55,000 items, is the largest in the world in single ownership. Here again, funding will be sought, as it would be deeply regrettable if the project were allowed to lapse in 2018. Some eleven thousand furniture entries in the Trust’s online catalogue have already been fully revised.6 Among them will be the entries on Chippendale, in time for his three hundredth anniversary – an event that will, thanks to digital technology, coincide with advances in furniture history that may one day seem as significant as the launch of the FHS.
1 Thomas Chippendale: A Celebration of Craftsmanship and Design 1718–2018, Leeds City Museum, 9th February–10th June 2018. For details of the exhibition, and of other anniversary events, go to www.chippendale300.co.uk.
2 L. Boynton and N. Goodison: ‘The furniture of Thomas Chippendale at Nostell Priory – I and II’, THE BURLINGTON MAGAZINE 111 (1969), pp.281–85 and pp.351–60.
3 Reviewed by Geoffrey de Bellaigue in this Magazine, 122 (1980), pp.440–42. Another significant event was the foundation in 1965 of the Chippendale Society.
4 L. Lindey: ‘The London Furniture Trade 1640–1720’, unpublished Ph.D. diss. (Institute of Historical Research, University of London, 2015).
5 Potential donors are asked to contact Keith Nicholls at the FHS: finance@furniturehistorysociety.
We start this week with Facing the Revocation: Huguenot Families, Faith and the King’s Will by Carolyn Chapelle Lougee. Raymond Mentzer enjoys a highly original set of insights into the uncertainties and burdens that French Protestants encountered as they confronted the royal proscription of their ancestral religion (no. 2143).
Next up is David Armitage’s Civil Wars: A History in Ideas. John Collins speculates that this new book might cause a revolution within the discipline, possibly preceded by civil war…(no. 2142).
Then we turn to Living the Revolution: Urban Communes and Soviet Socialism 1917-1932 by Andy Willimott. James Ryan believes this to be an excellent book that deserves to be read widely by all those interested in early Soviet history (no. 2141).
Finally Georg Christ reviews two resources which make precious sets of data accessible in a durable, easy and useful way – CIVES: citizenship privileges in Venice, 1180-1500 and ESTIMO: the Venetian fiscal roster of 1379 (no. 2140)
Who would be an archivist, especially one working in a county record office? Always a profession under stress, often in inadequate buildings and seen as an easy thing to cut, trim or salami slice, running an archive under the aegis of county hall is hard graft for poor financial reward.
Archival research is the backbone of the historical discipline and a key component in the work of archaeologists, historic buildings and landscape consultants, planners and developers as well as countless others pursuing research into their families, communities the close and far, far distant past. Authors and editors for the Victoria County History are among their number and would not have achieved what they have – the histories of nearly 7,000 communities – over the last century or so without the resources these archives contain.
In fact, the Victoria County History has been an integral part of the development of England’s network of local archives. Many of the early contributors to the VCH edited and catalogued the records they worked on. One such was the suffragist Mary Bateson (1865–1906) who researched and wrote the account of the borough of Peterborough in volume II of the Northamptonshire series published in 1906 and earlier edited the medieval records of the borough of Leicester among a rich and a varied career.
There are numerous issues here: does this actually constitute public access? This is something enshrined in law and many depositors of material to archives did so on that condition. Have they or their estates been consulted?
How straightforward is it to do archival work in half days? If you live any distance from Northampton, getting there for 9 am is likely to require a fairly early start, be stressful (archives are seldom well sign-posted from the town centre, never mind the nearest bypass) or expensive. An overnight stay or a peak hour train fare doesn’t come cheap, particularly for multiple trips. Professional historians talk of a ‘day at the archives’: reckoned as the amount of time it takes to actually get anything meaningful done in terms of research even now in the days of cheap digital cameras and advanced ordering of documents. No matter how well you know your sources or how good the catalogue you will inevitably order up a likely-looking source that is not what you thought it was. The archivist may suggest that what you actually want is something you hadn’t thought of. There is no substitute for actually visiting the archive.
Of course you can offset these problems with money. Ok, but to get that extra half day (4 hours) will cost you £126 – in advance – so a couple of weeks archival work will end up costing around £1,000, not including accommodation and travel. No student, BA, MA/MRes or PhD could afford such sums, early career researchers scratching an existence from hourly paid teaching would probably choose to work elsewhere and those lucky enough to have salaried jobs would think twice. The VCH project in Northamptonshire which needs extensive access over a prolonged period with limited resources could not function. If in receipt of public funding, with the incumbent Open Access expectation, the irony is that the documents such research is based on were themselves all but inaccessible.
Now it’s probably unfair to single out Northamptonshire. Local government has borne the brunt of cuts to public services since 2010 while taking on more and more burdens along the way. Plenty of archives are open only for three days a week – Shropshire, for example (Weds–Fri, 9–4) – and many have reduced their hours or, like those in Somerset, Devon and Hampshire, been transferred to quasi-independent trusts. In an extreme example, Carmarthenshire Archives were summarily closed and their contents dispersed owing to a serious outbreak of mould such were the appalling conditions of the building. A replacement is planned but how soon will it be ready?
None of this is really the point. By reducing the hours to this level, serious research into the history of Northamptonshire is impossible. ‘Popping in’ will be limited to school groups or the retired and a public archive mandated by law and protected by it is effectively made into a private one.
We start this week with Understanding the Imaginary War: Culture, Thought and Nuclear Conflict, 1945-90, edited by Matthew Grant and Benjamin Ziemann.Mattias Eken and the editors discuss a detailed and thorough presentation of the cultural history of the Cold War (no. 2139, with response here).
Next up is Fearghal McGarry’s The Rising: Ireland: Easter 1916. John Borgonovo and the author debate a work which offers a a wealth of thought-provoking material (no. 2138).
Then we turn to Ottonian Queenship by Simon MacLean. Levi Roach praises a thoughtful and original work, a bold and erudite contribution in a field in which conservatism often predominates (no. 2137).
Finally we have a response from editors Simon Avery and Katherine Graham to Harry Cocks’ review of Sex, Time and Place: Queer Histories of London c.1850 to the Present (read response here).
We start this week with Becoming Atheist: Humanism and the Secular West by Callum Brown. Russell Blackford and the author discuss a book which raws on the methods of oral history to examine how Western nations became markedly more secular in the long 1960s (no. 2136, with response here).
Next up is Nigel Saul’s Lordship and Faith: the English Gentry and the Parish Church in the Middle Ages. Robert Swanson and the author reflect on a truly ambitious and challenging project, significant for both both ‘gentry studies’ and ‘parish studies’ (no. 2135, with response here).
Then we turn to Mecca of Revolution: Algeria, Decolonization and the Third World Order by Jeffrey James Byrne. Natalya Vince tackles a book which sees the processes of decolonization and the Cold War as enmeshed and mutually dependent (no. 2134).
Finally we have William Rosen’s Miracle Cure: The Creation of Antibiotics and the Birth of Modern Medicine. J. N. Campbell praises an important and highly-readable contribution to the disciplines of medical history and the history of chemistry (no. 2133).