Author Archives

*Updated* Gender Bias Past & Present?

Web Editor’s Note: this post was updated on 30.11.16 to include a series of bar charts illustrating publication and submission statistics, between 2004 and 2016; by gender. by Anna Bayman, Past & Present Associate Editor In part as a response to the Royal Historical Society (RHS) report on gender equality and historians in higher education, Past & Present recently commissioned an analysis of submissions to the journal according to the author’s gender. We are pleased to report that this showed no discernible bias in the decisions made, with acceptance and rejection rates similar and steady over the last twelve years for men and women. The recent move to double-blind reviewing appears not to have affected these rates. We do, however, note that we systematically receive fewer submissions from women, which we find regrettable. To some extent this might reflect an overall imbalance in the profession, but (using the RHS statistics on the number of female academic staff and students) that does not account for the degree of the disparity. We would welcome a conversation with the wider community about how this could be redressed. We remain mindful of our responsibility to eliminate unconscious bias from peer review and would be […]

Advice for authors on journal publishing

On 20th April, our Editor Alex Walsham spoke on a panel with Gail Kern Paster and Jessica Frazier from Shakespeare Quarterly at the Folger Institute, offering advice on publishing in journals. OUP’s Alex Beaumont put together this excellent storify of the event – with thanks to everyone who tweeted from it! We’ve also blogged on getting published in journals ourselves here and also about the process of publication from peer review to proof reading here.   [View the story “Journals publishing advice for authors – Past & Present” on Storify]      

Confidence Men on a World Stage

guest post by Andrew MacDonald read Andrew’s article ‘The Thieves of the Cross’ in the journal Over the last two years, a now familiar story has begun to emerge on the fringes of Europe and the eastern Mediterranean. Once more, it has drawn together migrants, border police and humanitarians, the history of which forms the subject of my ongoing work. War in Syria has seen militias collide and armies jostle for regional influence in spasms of offense and retreat, leaving the livelihoods, and life itself, in the towns and villages of Syria and Northern Iraq imperilled.  With the old order collapsing, and a new one hardly born, violence – often gruesome, and widely replayed in the press – has become endemic. To escape, migrants have used any form of transport available. Their journeys outward have been epic in ambition and fortitude, but the gates have not always been open. As ever in the history of migration, for a migrant to succeed it has required a bundle of resources. Ghaith Adbul-Ahad’s ‘Some Tips for the Long-Distance Traveller’ (October’s London Review of Books) Nicholas Schmidle’s ‘Ten Borders’ (October’s New Yorker) attest that keenly guarded intelligence has been key, as much as the […]

Guide Dogs, State Socialism, and Disability Studies

guest post by Monika Baár  read Monika’s article in the May 2015 issue of the journal No one would question today that the concepts of class, race and gender are indispensable for historical analysis, but for quite some time mainstream scholarship was reluctant to embrace the work of historians who had made innovative use of those notions. Over the last few decades, the burgeoning interdisciplinary field of disability studies has added another useful concept to the scholarly toolbox which has opened up new vistas for uncovering the underlying values of society. Nevertheless, the study of disability has not yet fully found its way into the disciplinary confines of history. Many a historian would consider such research ‘grim’, ‘obscure’ and ‘not exactly prestigious’. Not so long ago perhaps I was myself not immune to these prejudices and my interest in this topic did not develop organically, but was sparked by serendipity. In fact, the article which appeared in the May 2015 issue of Past and Present ‘Disability and Civil Courage under State Socialism: the Scandal over the Hungarian Guide-Dog School’ was my first excursion into the subject. It evolved from my interest in the history of guide dogs for the blind (a […]


guest post by Ellen Muehlberger read Ellen’s article in the journal here My article on ‘Imagination, Space, and Filth in Late Ancient Historiography’, in the May 2015 issue of P&P, traces the development over time of the infamous story about the death the fourth-century Christian intellectual Arius and considers its political impact. As a piece of writing, the article did not start and end at my desk. Instead, it too developed over a period of time, prodded along by the opportunities I had to present my work and the conversations I had with audiences who heard me. In 2009, when I was starting a new job and thinking about how to revise my dissertation into a book, I did what many writers do: I workcrastinated, at times, by daydreaming about a future project. I wanted to investigate in more detail a change that other historians of ancient Christianity had noted: that after the fourth century, there was a dramatic increase in graphic, gruesome depictions of death in Christian writing. Many of the nasty deaths narrated in late ancient Christian literature came with a lesson. Often the enemies of Christians, or those who were declared heretics, were the ones who died in […]


In May 2013 Rana Mitter and I published the Past & Present Supplement, Transnationalism and Contemporary Global History. We were aware of a growing interest in the subject and wished to bring together some of the most exciting new research being undertaken around the world. Through a series of essays ranging from wartime China to decolonising Africa we wanted to explore the global spread of ideas, institutions and peoples, especially those that travelled along unexpected paths: hence articles on Indian influences on Kenya or on black Americans in China. Our period was confined to the middle decades of the twentieth century, though we were aware of much other work being conducted on modern history where scholars were exploring the notion of transnationalism. Certainly, if the download statistics are anything to go by, there is clearly a growing demand for these types of histories. To mark the two years since the supplement was published, we have decided to make the entire volume freely available for a further three months. In addition, we have also made available in this virtual issue a number of other pieces on modern history that have been published in Past & Present over the last few years […]

Chris Bayly, 1945-2015

We were deeply saddened by news of the death of our Board member Chris Bayly.   In his memory, Cambridge University Press have released a special collection of his articles across their journals which will be free to read and download throughout 2015.

The Meanings of Heritage

guest post by Paul Betts and Corey Ross, editors of our latest supplement Heritage in the Modern World read the supplement online Heritage is back in the news.  Islamic State’s grisly bulldozing of the ancient Assyrian archaeological site of Nimrud in Iraq a few weeks ago has elicited worldwide shock and revulsion, punctuated by UNESCO’s designation of the act as a war crime.  Habib Afram, the president of the Syriac League of Lebanon, remarked in an interview with The Guardian (6 March 2015) that ISIS is seeking nothing less than to “erase our culture, past and civilization,” and likened their impact to the Mongol invasion of the Middle East in the 13th century. A CNN article of the same day reported that Iraqi state television condemned the act as an attack on “humanity’s civilization, the Mesopotamian civilization.”  For its part, UNESCO has strongly condemned this cultural vandalism as an affront against all peoples, claiming that these artifacts belong to all of humanity.  Such international outcry about the terrorist destruction of sacred pasts is reminiscent of the Taliban’s detonation of the Bamiyan Buddhas back in 2001, as the neologism “cultural terrorism” came to international prominence to describe this flagrant act of […]

Connecting the Segments (of Sleep)

guest post by A. Roger Ekirch read Roger’s article in the journal here   I at first dreaded the prospect of writing about sleep from an historical perspective. Sleep, to me, was not only a universal necessity but also a biological constant that did not deviate over time or space. But having embarked upon writing a book about nighttime in the early modern world, there was no ignoring it, hard as it might prove to find enough material of sufficient interest to sustain an entire chapter.  To my surprise, I shortly discovered that preindustrial households on both sides of the North Atlantic attached enormous importance to their slumber, going to great lengths in an attempt to ensure not only its quality but also their personal safety while abed from perils real and imagined. More, I began discovering references in legal depositions, then housed at the Public Record Office on Chancery Lane, to a “first sleep” followed by a second sleep after an interval of wakefulness during which persons left their beds and, less often, their dwellings. At that point, I knew that I was on to something very strange, which subsequent explorations of plays, poems, novels, and other texts confirmed. […]

Does it make you radical to own a radical book?

guest post by Kat Hill read Kat’s article in the journal here Think about a controversial book you own. Even something which just takes a very pointed stance on an issue. It might be political literature, or a piece of polemical historiography or literary criticism. Just because you own the work does it mean that you agree with it? Does it make you a Christian to own the Bible? Or a Nazi to own Mein Kampf? In a similar vein, does reading Anne Widdecomb’s forays into fiction mean you agree with her politics? It might, but not necessarily. We are aware that the connections between objects and belief are rarely so clear cut, or at least we know this when we think about our own book and media collections. Does it make you radical to own a radical book? This and related questions stimulated my research into Anabaptism in the sixteenth century. Anabaptists, those who rejected infant baptism and embraced adult baptism, have come to epitomise what has been termed the radical Reformation. Movements which fall under this umbrella supposedly went further than mainstream Protestants dared, more radical and more extreme, rejecting more social and cultural conventions. But what were the markers […]