Author Archives

Introducing “Suffering and Happiness in England 1550-1850: Narratives and Representations”

by the Past & Present editorial team In honour of the career of Prof. Paul Slack (Oxford), distinguished early modern British social historian and long serving Past & Present stalwart. Current Past & Present editorial board members Prof. Michael Braddick (Sheffield) and Prof. Joanna Innes (Oxford) were recently pleased to publish the edited collection Suffering and Happiness in England 1550-1850: Narratives and Representations. The festschrift was published in the second half of last year by Oxford University press and forms part of the wide ranging and ever expanding Past & Present book series.

Reflections Upon Sovereignty, Economy, and the Global History of Natural Resources

By Natasha Pesaran (Columbia) On 18 and 19 December 2017, Magdalene College at the University of Cambridge hosted a conference on “Sovereignty, Economy, and the Global Histories of Natural Resources.” Organized by Tehila Sasson of Emory University, winner of the 2017 International Research Awards in Global History, the conference brought together scholars from diverse fields to discuss the global history of natural resources from multiple vantage points. Rather than focusing on a single natural resource or geographic region, the conference aimed to take a holistic approach and the papers as a whole transcended the global north and south divide and drew upon a number of different methods, archives, and theoretical frameworks. A central aim of the conference was to explore the ways in which a concern with natural resources might offer new ways of writing histories of empire and decolonization. This theme was taken up directly in Angelo Matteo Caglioti’s paper, which demonstrated how a focus on natural resources could lead to re-interpretation of the history of Italian colonialism. In particular, Caglioti argued that imperial competition between Britain and Italy over water resources, specifically the Lake Tana dam project, shed explanatory light on Italy’s decision to invade Ethiopia in 1935. […]

Atrocity on Film: Movie-making and Genocide

by Michelle Tusan (University of Nevada at Las Vegas) Filmmaking always has had a politics. Nowhere have the stakes been higher than in representing acts of atrocity, terror and genocide. It started with the dawn of film in the early twentieth century when the first atrocity film ever made and was released to transatlantic audiences in 1918. Ravished Armenia or Auction of Souls as it was known outside of the US told the story of the massacre of 1.5 million Armenian civilians during World War I (1914- 1918) by the Ottoman imperial government. It was followed by a host of other attempts to represent the massacres on film. This included MGM’s failure to turn Franz Werfel’s book The Forty Days of Musa Dagh (1933) into a movie because of lobbying and interference from Turkey. More recently, director Atom Egoyan’s critically acclaimed film Ararat (2002) depicted the genocide through stories of remembrance and denial. The Promise (2017), the $100 million dollar MGM epic gave the movie studio another chance to tell the story. Intent to Destroy (2017), a documentary about the making of The Promise and its historical context, is the latest in a series of attempts to get the popular […]

Past & Present Article Wins Syrian Studies Association Prize

by the Past & Present editorial team Dr. Benjamin Thomas White has won the 2017 Syrian Studies Association “Prize for the Most Outstanding Article or Book Chapter” for “Refugees and the Definition of Syria, 1920-1939” which appeared in Past & Present No. 235 (May 2017). Deeming the piece “remarkable”, the prize committee summarised the article’s contribution to scholarship in the most glowing terms: “Examining the influx of refugees into the Syrian Mandate during the interwar period, Benjamin Thomas White convincingly argues that modern state formation in Syria was largely shaped by its response to the presence of these refugees and the attendant controversies over their place in the nascent Syria.  Combining Arabic newspapers with French colonial archival documents, White demonstrates that the flow of refugees brought state authority into many rural areas for the first time, while intensifying it in the cities.  Refugee flows also brought geographical borders into sharper definition and profoundly influenced the crafting of nationality laws.  White’s innovative and informative article sheds light on the complex interactions among various Syrian and foreign actors in shaping a national and territorial Syria.  This article greatly contributes not only to our knowledge of Syrian history but also to the present crisis in Syria and its repercussions in Europe and the Mediterranean.” In addition to the prize itself White has been invited, as is the Syrian Studies […]

Benjamin Thomas White Wins the Khayrallah Prize

by the Past & Present editorial team We were recently pleased to hear that the University of Glasgow’s Dr. Benjamin Thomas White has been awarded this year’s Khayrallah Prize in Migration Studies. He received the prize-which recognises outstanding work in the field of Middle Eastern migration and diasporas regardless of discipline-for his article “Refugees and the definition of Syria, 1920-1939” which appeared in the May 2017 issue of Past & Present  (No. 235). Our congratulations to Benjamin. To enable even more people to read this award winning piece of work, our publishers Oxford University Press Academic have made it free to read online until 14th December 2017.

Chris Bischof Wins the Walter Love Prize

by the Past & Present editorial team We were delighted to hear yesterday that Chris Bischof was awarded the annual Walter D. Love Prize at this year’s North American Conference on British Studies Conference. He received the award for his Past & Present article “Chinese Labourers, Free Blacks, and Social Engineering in the Post-Emancipation British West Indies” which appeared in our May 2016 issue (No. 231, pp. 129-168). Our congratulations to him that the calibre of his work has been recognised in this way. The North American Conference on British Studies describes the award in the following terms: “the Walter D. Love Prize in History, is a $150 award given annually by the North American Conference on British Studies for the best article or paper of similar length or scope by a North American scholar in the field of British history.  The prize journal article or paper, which may be published anywhere in the world, should exhibit a humane and compassionate understanding of the subject, imagination, literary grace, and scrupulous scholarship.  It should also make a significant contribution to its field of study.”

A “Timeless” Depiction of the Craft?

by Dr. Sam Wetherell (University of York) Every historian, regardless of field or rank, should stop what they are doing and watch a mediocre NBC Sci-Fi drama released last year called Timeless. The hero of this show is Lucy, a young assistant professor of history at Stanford who has just been denied tenure. The same day she gets the news, government officials turn up at her house and whisk her away to a secret compound where she is told that a hubristic Elon Musk style billionaire has invented a time machine which has been stolen by “terrorists”. As an expert in the past, she is recruited to use a reserve time machine to chase them through history, catching them before they alter the past. Accompanying her is a wide-chinned military strongman (Wyatt) and a pilot-cum-scientific prodigy (Rufus). Each episode they go back to a different canonical moment in American (or occasionally European) history from the Alamo to the Moon Landing to (bizarrely) Houdini’s first performance. The show is sometimes forced into performing feats of counterfactual gymnastics to justify the historical significance of some of these heavily mythologised events (the moon landing must be completed, for example, so the Russians don’t […]

Hard Working Bankers Helped Create the Tyranny of the Clock

by Dr. Anne L. Murphy (University of Hertfordshire)  Are you working against the clock? Struggling to make that next deadline? Operating in an environment of presenteeism where time at your desk counts for more than your actual productivity? In a recent Radio 4 programme, Emma Griffin blamed industrialisation for the tyranny of the clock in our working lives. Eighteenth-century factory owners like Samuel Greg of Quarry Bank Mill made their fortunes by regulating the working day and extracting long hours from their workers. In doing so they transformed the lives of their employees and created a seemingly unbreakable link between time spent at work and perceived productivity. Yet we can’t blame industrialists for this change. By 1783, the year Samuel Greg founded his mill, the City was already working to a rhythm that depended on strict adherence to clock time. In that year, the Bank of England appointed a Committee of Inspection to report on the way the institution worked. In the report we find constant references to the clock and to the timely delivery of the services the Bank provided. The report tells us that the official working day started at 9 and, when the more than 300 clerks employed by the Bank arrived, they […]