Monthly Archives: February 2017

Reinventing Stray Dogs?

by Dr. Chris Pearson, University of Liverpool In my recent Past & Present article “Stray Dogs and the Making of Modern Paris” I sought to show how public hygienists, veterinarians, policemen and municipal authorities tried to banish stray dogs from nineteenth-century Paris. Fearing their propensity to spread rabies and linking them to dirt, disorder and degeneration, the city’s authorities deployed police orders, poison and pounds to remove strays from the streets. Their depiction of stray dogs as mobile and unruly beasts on the streets positioned them alongside the city’s human “dangerous classes,” while anti-stray regulations and texts legitimated lethal violence against them. The slaughter of strays relied on the differentiation of dogs into safe/useful and dangerous/worthless. They became the antithesis of the pampered and clean pet dog who received care from their owners and the burgeoning veterinary profession. The varied campaigns against strays were one of the ways in which Parisians debated and asserted the modernity of their city. However, the condemnation of strays was never total as some animal protectionists sought to ameliorate conditions in the municipal pound and introduce more efficient and humane means of slaughter, whilst others established refuges to shelter strays from slaughter. Certain themes that […]

Swapping Viewpoints: Past & Presentism

by the Editorial team Last year Past & Present revived the journal’s “Viewpoint” feature, after it had fallen into abeyance for a few years, with a crackling debate about “human rights history”. Following on from that burst of intellectual fission, the journal is now pleased to present a new series of Viewpoint’s exploring the concept of “presentism”. In a series of short articles seven eminent scholars-whose work spans the breadth of human geographical and temporal experience-address the following points introduced by Professor Alexandra Walsham one of our co-editors: “What place does ‘presentism’ have in modern historical scholarship? Can students of the past avoid seeing it through the prism of the present? Should our research be undertaken with an eye to its current relevance and with the aim of transforming the future?” Collectively, the viewpoints expressed in “Presentism” are best viewed as roundtable contributions. The Introduction and seven pieces together form a cumulative dialogue akin to a conversation. The full set of articles can be accessed in sequence below and are also grouped together on the website of our publisher Oxford University Press: *Prof. Alexandra Walsham (Cambridge), “Introduction: Past and… Presentism” *Prof. Robin Osborne (Cambridge), “Classical Presentism” *Prof. Peter Coss (Cardiff), […]

Researching “the Fear of Crime”

by Prof. Bob Shoemaker, University of Sheffield Despite the recent long-term decline in crime levels in most Western countries, crime is still an emotive issue. It seems that fears of crime are disconnected from the threats people actually experience. This disjunction has a long history, but it is a subject that proved challenging to examine in the research which led to my article, ‘Worrying about crime: Experience, moral panics, and public opinion in London, 1660-1800’. Owing to the explosion of printed literature which followed the expiration of press licensing in England in 1695, the eighteenth century witnessed major changes in the way people learned about crime, with potentially important repercussions. A significant portion of printed literature was about crime, and historians have argued that negative representations of the threats posed by violence and crime shaped public attitudes by promoting fear, which forced the government to adopt significant new measures such as improvements to the night watch, the expansion of capital statutes (the so-called ‘Bloody Code’), and the introduction of new punishments including transportation and a greater use of imprisonment. In particular, it is thought that waves of fear about crime occurred at specific times, such as the conclusions of wars […]