Author Archives

Roundtable: Empire, Race, Humanitarianism as Contexts, Chronologies and Categories

Dr. Simon Jackson (University of Birmingham) The following blog post is part of “Humanitarianism: continuing the conversation” an occasional series Past & Present is running on its blog, developing and jumping off from the points raised during Past & Present’s recent humanitarianism conversation published online alongside (Past & Present #241). A round-table debate was held at the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Modern and Contemporary History and co-organised by the Institute of Historical Research’s Rethinking Modern Europe seminar, as part of its regular series of ‘roving seminars’ that seek to move the seminar’s activities away from London and into other institutional and intellectual contexts through a variety of partnerships. The theme in Birmingham was ‘Empire, Race, Humanitarianism,’ responding in part to a recent Past & Present conversation on the theme of history and humanitarianism. This short post presents a synthesis of the debate and some of the key avenues along which the historiographies in question might progress . Opening comments by Simon Jackson (Birmingham) set out some initial leads, drawing on the experience of archival research in a family archive in Beirut and on the conceptually challenging role of brokers in the humanitarian relief politics in the Eastern Mediterranean in […]

Looking Back to the Future: Nationalist Visions of India in the Twentieth Century

 Dr. Aashish Velkar (University of Manchester) When Abanindranath Tagore (1871-1951) made his iconic painting of Bharat Mata, or Mother India, in 1905, he gave form to a vision of a united nation. The image of a saffron clad woman, holding a manuscript, sheaves of paddy, a piece of cloth and a garland visualised India (or Bharat) as a nation united by its industry, spirituality, knowledge, wisdom and ecology (see Image 1). This process of visualising – giving form to an imagination – would be repeated in many different ways throughout the independence movement of the 1920s and the 1930s (see Image 2).1 The images gave material form to the nationalist aspirations for a politically united nation, which India was not before 1950, as well as an economically developed nation, which it certainly was not. Historiography notes how vivid and diverse these visions were. Tagore’s student, Nandalal Bose (1882-1966), captured Gandhi’s vision of an Indian society built upon localism and traditional arts and crafts. Bose’s murals, painted for the 1938 Congress session at Haripura celebrated village daily lives and rural traditions, tying them to the nationalist project of swarajya, or self-rule: the murals decorated the pandals, or the temporary platforms, erected […]

Lighting the Enlightenment

by Prof. Darrin M. McMahon (Dartmouth College) Try googling ‘light and enlightenment’ and see what you find. Buddhism, new age religion, mindfulness, and spirituality top the list. Scroll down and you may come across a few fleeting references to 18th-century theology. But if you are hoping to find discussions of the Enlightenment in the context of lanterns, illumination, and light, you’ll need to search a little harder, or be prepared to be left in the dark. Was there really no relationship at all between that great movement of 18th-century culture and actual illumination? Between the Enlightenment and light itself? To be sure, scholars have long probed the question in metaphorical terms, showing how a master Christian metaphor was wrested from the hands of those who had once proclaimed Jesus as the exclusive light and way. But to search for some connection between the material practice of lighting and the Enlightenment of the mind appears to have struck many as too basic, or too banal, to spark reflection. And yet it is clear that light in the age of Enlightenment was more than just a metaphor. We know from the pioneering work of social and urban historians of the night such as Wolfgang […]

Development and education: the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation and postwar development discourse

Dr. Michele Alacevich (University of Bologna) At the end of World War II, Italian anti-fascist Carlo Levi published his memoir of one year of internal exile in Southern Italy. In it, Levi describes “that other world, hedged in by custom and sorrow, cut off from History and the State . . . where the peasant lives out his motionless civilization on barren ground in remote poverty”.1 Translated into English in 1947, Levi’s Christ Stopped at Eboli quickly became a classic—not only for readers interested in narrative and memoirs, but also for anthropologists and social scientists. “Christ stopped short of here, at Eboli” was the way Levi’s peasants signified they excluded from human civilization, part of a world of immutable backwardness.2 As I have shown in my article “Planning Peace: The European Roots of the Post-War Global Development Challenge” (Past & Present, Volume 239, Issue 1, 1 May 2018, pp. 219–264), Levi’s book was only one—though an important one—of the many channels through which the concepts of backwardness and development emerged from the specific context of eastern and south-eastern Europe via southern Italy to global discourse. (As an addendum to my article: I recently stumbled upon a World Bank internal correspondence […]

Looking Back at “The Anglo-German Doctoral Seminar in Early Modern Religious History”

by the Past & Present editorial team   Programme in Full Monday 3rd September 12.30 -1.15: Lunch 1.15 Welcome and Introduction 1.30 – 3.15 Chair: Matthias Pohlig 1. Sarah Rindlisbacher, ‘Ambassadors of Protestantism: Swiss Reformed Clergymen and their Influence on Foreign Relations with England in the 1650s’ 2. Thomas Grunewald, ‘Pietism and nobility – the reinterpretation of the representative architecture of Wernigerode’ Comment: Sam Fornecker & Sarah Stefanic 3.15 – 3.45: Tea and Coffee 3.45 – 5.30 Chair: Markus Wriedt 1. Nora Epstein, ‘Illustrating Authority: The Creation and Reception of an English Protestant Iconography’ 2. Christina Faraday, “[T]he livelier the counterfeit is, the greater error is engendered’?: Re-assessing ‘liveliness’ in Post-Reformation English visual culture’ Comment: Esther Counsell & Eleanor Barnet Tuesday 4th September 9.15 – 11.00 Chair: Bridget Heal 1. Abdulaziz Al-Salem, Martin Luther (1483-1546) and Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhāb (1703-1792): A Comparative Study through Cultural Materialism 2. Wiebke Voigt, ‘The ‘New Papacy’ vs. the ‘Heavenly Prophets’: Invectivity in the Controversial Pamphlets of Martin Luther and Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt’ Comment: Martin Christ & Thomas Grunewald 11.00 – 11.30: Tea and Coffee 11.30 – 1.15 Chair: Alex Walsham Howard Barlow, ‘Bunbury was not Banbury: Catholic-Protestant relations in pre-Civil War Cheshire, […]

Negotiating Networks: Thoughts and Reflections.

by Esther Lewis (University of Nottingham) At the end of June, a one day conference was held at the Institute of Historical Research which aimed to bring together researchers using the relatively new methodology of Social Network Analysis (SNA) in historical studies. SNA allows the researcher to investigate social structures through the use of networks and graphs and is proving to be a useful tool for social and economic historians. Its use for history is relatively new, but it has been widely used in other humanities and social sciences. The day was organised by two PhD students, Charlie Berry and Esther Lewis, who both felt there was a need for a discussion space regarding SNA within History. Therefore, the day aimed to provide a platform for discussion of the challenges posed by the methodology for historians. There were three panels. The first discussed women and marginal groups. Claire Richardson discussed nineteenth-century prostitutes’ networks in Stamford and Peterborough. Jonathan Blaney and Philip Carter presented preliminary findings on friendship networks between female undergraduates at Royal Holloway in the early twentieth century. Agata Bloch demonstrated that groups who have been traditionally seen as ‘marginal’ within the Portuguese empire had a voice within the […]

Introducing Global Yugoslavia

Received from Prof. Dejan Djokić (Goldsmiths, London) New research on Yugoslavia in transnational, comparative and global perspectives, 1918-2018 Taking place at Goldsmiths, University of London on the afternoon of 28th November (programme available here), this conference brings together nine academics at different career stages working on the history of Yugoslavia and the post-Yugoslav region. All the papers have been written specially for the event and will benefit from, and contribute to, a range of methodological and disciplinary approaches: transnational, global, social, intellectual, political and oral history, as well as related disciplines such as memory studies and transitional justice. More specifically, the conference aims to contribute to the scholarship in four main ways: first, each paper is based on latest, original and methodologically innovative research which goes beyond national narratives and frameworks; second, the conference situates the Yugoslav region in a wider context, sensitive to transnational, comparative and global dynamics; third, and following on from this, the papers point out some directions in which scholars of Yugoslavia can contribute to broader discussions within the fields of modern and contemporary history and related disciplines; and fourth, the event should facilitate a dialogue and closer collaboration between early career researchers and established scholars. […]