Author Archives

The Afghan queen, the Sheffield steelworker’s daughter, and a more ‘sanguine’ approach to migration history

by David Holland, University of Sheffield I recently presented the research associated with my Past & Present article at my History department’s weekly seminar. Like the article, the paper outlined my investigation of South Asian immigration and settlement in the Sheffield area between the First World War and 1948. During questions, one of the academic staff asked me that, considering the race riots which struck a number of major British ports in 1919-1920, might I be a little too sanguine in my assessment of race relations during the period? My immediate response was that although those destructive events rightly inform my research and analysis, without a ‘sanguine’ approach which focused on marriage and belonging, a previously un-researched settlement would have been much less likely to have come to light. The violent events referred to – so vividly described by Peter Fryer and given substance by Jacqueline Jenkinson’s research and analysis – are indeed, as my questioner suggested, regarded as key indicators of the working-class population’s outlook toward perceived racial difference. Before undertaking my research I also subscribed somewhat to this generally pessimistic view of early encounters between white working-class natives and non-white newcomers. However, my investigation of smaller-scale, but far more frequent, […]

Ordering the margins of society: Space, authority and control in early modern Britain

by Dr. Richard Bell, Dr. Joseph Harley and Dr. Charmian Mansell (workshop organisers) Past & Present is pleased to be supporting “Ordering the Margins of Society” at the IHR on 5th September 2017, between 9:00 and 18:00. You can read the provisional programme here.  Since the spatial turn, historians have conceptualised space not as a passive backdrop against which social interactions and everyday life took place, but as a social construct that shaped identity, societal development, human behaviour and experience.  Historians of early modern Britain have long been concerned with questions of social order and control. Debates continue about the relationship between the coercive and participatory facets of governance and the capacity for social discipline. Yet while these subjects remain fertile areas of research, relatively little work has examined the interaction between space, authority and social control of the people on the margins of society. This one-day workshop considers the attempts of those in charge to order society within particular places, spaces and locales. It asks how marginal populations (i.e. the economic or socially vulnerable) were organised in spaces such as workhouses, taverns, households, prisons, asylums, hospitals, streets, marketplaces and churches. It seeks to explore how authorities attempted to exert […]

Congratulations to Stephanie Mawson

by the editorial team Past & Present was delighted to hear that Stephanie Mawson (Cambridge) has been awarded the Royal Historical Society’s (RHS) Alexander Prize for her recent article with us “Convicts or Conquistadores?: Spanish Soldiers in the Seventeenth-Century Pacific” (Past & Present, 232 [2016], pp. 87-125). Named for L.C. Alexander, the founding secretary of the RHS who endowed the original award, the Alexander Prize “…is awarded for an essay or article based on original historical research, by a doctoral candidate or those recently awarded their doctorate, published in a journal or an edited collection of essays.” Prize winners receive a silver medal, two hundred and fifty pounds and an invitation to submit a further article for consideration by the editors of the RHS’ in house journal Transactions. In awarding Stephanie the prize the judges remarked: “This ambitious and important article examines the ragtag army which colonized the Spanish East Indies during the seventeenth century. Its deep archival research reveals ordinary soldiers to have been quite unlike their stereotypical depiction as conquistadores. They were a motley collection of criminals, vagrants and fugitives, many conscripted and mostly from New Spain, who seldom shared the spoils of conquest with their commanding officers. […]

A Radical (Feminist) Writing of the First Crusade?

by Dr. Carol Symes, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Like many scholars who have turned their attention to medieval crusading movements in recent years, I am not a “crusade historian.” I’m trying to write a book on medieval texts as artifacts created by the mediation of multiple historical actors – many of them technically illiterate. My goal is to change the way we understand the evidentiary nature of texts, which we (modern, and even postmodern) historians tend to strip-mine for the meaning(s) of their written words. Everything we have learned about medieval documentary processes in the past few decades has revealed that these texts were shaped and conveyed by the specific circumstances of their negotiation and inscription; their fungible physical formats; and the embodied, performative contexts in which they were enacted, witnessed, displayed, declaimed, contested. Reading the writing is not enough. Pace Jacques Derrida, “il y’a toujours d’hors-texte.” Knowing what happened outside a medieval text is materially important because the conditions of its making and reception influenced what it said and how it worked – or didn’t. It was strangely ironic, then, to find myself compelled to advance this argument by tackling the multiple near-contemporaneous histories of the First Crusade […]

The Pig[er] Picture?

by Dr. Jamie Kreiner (University of Georgia) “Who knew,” Lawrence Wright recently reported in The New Yorker, “that it was ever against the law to shoot pigs from balloons?” Well, it isn’t anymore, at least not in the state of Texas. “Texans already could legally shoot pigs from helicopters — even with machine guns” (as Wright pointed out), and now, as of this April, they are also allowed to hunt them from hot-air balloons. Could you ask for a more bewitching pastoral? Millions of wild pigs, bulky and ferocious as they sweep darkly across the state and mow down its grain; a flotilla of bright balloons; the snipers; the slaughter. Pigs can be hazardous, and they have been for a long time: farmers and lawmakers have been devising new ways to manage them since antiquity. In my article for Past & Present, I zoom in on this pig-person dynamic as it played out in early medieval Gaul (what’s now France, western Germany and Switzerland), because I was surprised to find pigs making a dent in that kingdom’s laws, which are now nearly 1500 years old. These Gallic pigs, unlike their Texan kin, were more like invited guests than invaders: they were […]

“Engineering Imperialism, Building Empire”

by Charles Fawell, University of Chicago This post comprises part of our ongoing reflective blogging collaboration with the organisers of the Everyday Empire’s conference.  Our panel examined trans-imperial currents of expertise, technologies, and people. Within this theme, my presentation explored the social worlds of French steamships sailing to and from East Asia. The complexity of these ships, I argued, has been obscured by a whitewashed history of the Age of Steam, in which the lore of globetrotters and the publicity of major navigation companies portrayed ships as spaces of luxury consumption, their rigid hierarchies and logics of segregation seemingly untroubled by life on-board. Resisting the temptation to reify such mythmaking in contemporary historiography and patrimonialisation, I used a single voyage from Marseille to Yokohama in the 1910s, during which ship workers vigorously challenged on-board authorities. Co-opting shipboard rituals and exploiting the vagaries of inter-imperial jurisdiction, the ship’s workers, on whom onward progress depended, threatened to tear down the façade separating the elite world of the passengers from their own. Trans-imperial circulation, I argued, was literally carried on (and within) such steamships, yet, again, mobile colonial elites tended to memorialize only a glossy image of modern steam travel and tranquil journeys. […]

Missing the Target: The UK Scholarly Communications License

This post was co-authored by Karin Wulf and Simon Newman, Sir Denis Brogan Professor of American History at the University of Glasgow; Vice President of the Royal Historical Society (RHS) for Publications; co-editor of the RHS’s New Historical Perspectives Open Access monograph series. It originally appeared on the Scholarly Kitchen blog. “One of the most important lessons of the debates and policy shifts around Open Access (OA) has been the hard-won recognition that no one size fits all.  In particular, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and HSS (Humanities and Social Sciences) not only have very different requirements and practices, but individual disciplines and fields within disciplines have distinctive research and publication needs. An obvious case was made by art historians who noted that rigid OA requirements would be disastrous for their publication of images that often require specific permissions and licensing. In the arts and humanities we do not own much of the data utilized in our articles, and we can’t license OA to our publications without the consent of multiple rights-owners. The point is valid for any number of scholarly fields in favor of different paths to openness and accessibility…” [read the full post on Scholarly Kitchen here] Our thanks to Scholarly […]

This Autumn: The Modern Invention of “Dynasty”

by Ilya Afanasyev (Birmingham) and Dr. Milinda Banerjee (LMU Munich), Conference Organisers The Modern Invention of Dynasty will be taking place at the University of Birmingham from the 21st-23rd September 2017. The idea for our conference ‘The Modern Invention of Dynasty: A Global Intellectual History, 1500–2000’ germinated in a room of Somerville College, Oxford, through the convergence of two rather dissatisfied minds on a balmy spring afternoon. We were resting after the long and intense conference ‘Dynasty and Dynasticism, 1400–1700’, organised by the Jagiellonians Project in March 2016. While we enjoyed the many rich and diverse papers at the conference, we were both somewhat at our wit’s end about one basic issue. In writing histories of dynasties, were we not putting the cart before the horse: assuming that something existed as a given (‘dynasty’, and the even more abstract ‘dynasticism’), whose history invited constant attention, rather than questioning what this ‘thing’ was in the first place and whether it needed to be a little de-reified. A crucial critical intuition came from the Jagiellonians project itself: already in 2014, the team led by Natalia Nowakowska had realised that while historians tended to take dynasty for granted they almost never defined it […]

Everyday Empires: Descriptive or Analytical Category?

by Dr. Nathan Cardon and Dr. Simon Jackson, University of Birmingham (Conference organisers) On May 25 and 26 2017 the Department of History at the University of Birmingham hosted Everyday Empires: Trans-Imperial Circulations in a Multi-Disciplinary Perspective. Sponsored by Past & Present, the Birmingham Research Institute for History and Cultures, and the Centre for Modern and Contemporary History, the purpose of the conference was three-fold. First, it set out to improve intellectual engagements between scholars working within particular historiographies of empire, with the goal of promoting greater cross-fertilization of methods and ideas. The second goal was to encourage perspectives that spanned career stages. Accordingly, each panel consisted of a Ph.D. student, an Early Career Researcher, and an established academic, with a view to generating an inclusive conversation that gave equal time to scholars’ research, no matter where they were on their career path. A series of blog posts for Past & Present, co-written by each of the panels, will therefore follow this one, blending the perspectives of more senior and junior researchers. Lastly, and our focus with this post, the conference tested whether an everyday approach to empire worked as an analytical category. Given the range of intellectually stimulating discussion that occurred, it became clear that a focus on the everyday […]

Reflections on “Living Well and Dying Well in the Early Modern World”

by Josh Rhodes (Conference Co-organiser) It’s now three weeks ago that the second annual Centre for Early Modern Studies (CEMS) PGR conference at the University of Exeter welcomed scholars from across the UK and beyond to discuss the varied aspects of life and death in the early modern world. I recently found out (having Googled ‘advice for writing a conference report’) that to achieve maximum impact the standard advice is to publish conference reports within 48 hours of the event. But it was a serendipitous find yesterday, as I was searching for a man named Joseph Croad in the burial registers of Puddletown parish in Dorset (scroll down to find out how I got on), that prompted me to write this report. Perhaps you’re thinking, surely burial registers are suitably morbid to be enough of a reminder of all things #EMLifeDeath? Not so. I was so engrossed in looking through the lists of names for any mention of the surname ‘Croad’, that I didn’t notice the striking mortuary doodles on the page until a colleague pointed them out. The doodles contain classic death symbolism: there are scythes, skulls, skeletons, an hourglass, and a coffin. It so happens then that I’d […]