Author Archives

South Asia in 1947: Broadening Perspectives Workshop, Call for Papers

By Aashique Iqbal and Radha Kapuria (conference organisers) 2017 marks the 70th anniversary of perhaps the most important year of South Asia’s 20th century. The year saw the end of the British rule in India and the creation of the independent dominions of India and Pakistan. As was pointed out for another equally turbulent time, 1947 was a year in which “decades happened.” The passing of nearly two centuries of colonial rule was accompanied by mass violence, the movement of populations, the establishment of new institutions and the reconfiguration of South Asian polities oriented towards new centralising nationalisms. The Partition of British India between India and Pakistan has come to mark a watershed in histories of the period due to its immense scale, and its often tragic consequences for millions of people in both the newly independent states. 1947 was also significant for a bevy of other reasons such as the transformation of colonial subjects into citizens, the integration of the princely states, the consolidation of constituent assemblies, the militarisation of South Asia, and the entry onto the world stage of two states representing nearly a fourth of humanity, to name a few. Seven decades give us sufficient distance to […]

“Living Well and Dying Well in the Early Modern World” a call for papers

by Sarah-Jayne Ainsworth, Harry McCarthy, Josh Rhodes (conference organisers) Following the success of our inaugural conference last year, the Centre for Early Modern Studies at the University of Exeter is pleased to announce our second annual postgraduate conference. This two-day conference will explore the varied aspects of life and death and their representations in art, literature, and culture between 1500 and 1800, and we welcome proposals for twenty-minute papers from postgraduate students in any humanities discipline. The conference will take place between 15-16th June at the University of Exeter’s Streatham campus. Suggested topics for papers include, but are not limited to: *Ideas of a good life in the early modern period *The economic lives of early modern families *Concepts of happiness, satisfaction, or enjoyment *Advice on how to ensure a good life or death *Class and society *Celebrations and memorials (in society, art, music, and drama) *Medical, scientific, and other advances which contributed to the quality of life *Work and labour *Valued relationships, beliefs, or objects *Gendered virtue, sociability, or affection *Stage representations of living, the life cycle, death, and dying Proposals should comprise a 200-word abstract and a brief biography. Please email proposals to with the heading 2017 conference […]

Publishing, “Refugees and the definition of Syria 1920-1939”

By Dr. Benjamin Thomas White The blog below is a cross-post from Benjamin’s personal blog Singular Things. In it he provides a personal reflection upon the processes that culminated in our publication of his article (currently available on advanced access, “out in print” in May) “Refugees and the definition of Syria, 1920-1939”. The wheels of academic writing turn slowly. It’s seven years since I first gave a talk at a workshop in Princeton outlining some ideas about how the arrival and settlement of refugees in Syria helped to define the modern state’s territory, institutions, and national identity. It’s six years since I developed them more fully in a seminar at the Refugee Studies Centre in Oxford, which I entitled “Refugees and the definition of Syria, 1920-1939“. (The name stuck.) Over the next year or two I did some further archival research to test the ideas out, and was pleased to find that rather than contradicting my argument, this extra work allowed me to nuance and extend it. Meanwhile, just as I was learning more about Syria’s history as a destination for refugees in earlier generations, the civil war there broke out, and turned the country into the world’s largest producer of refugees. […]

New Year, New Look II

by Dr. Anna Bayman and Josh Allen, Past & Present Spring is coming and we are excited to have launched our new cover this month. The results of our revamp can be judged below: The new cover comes about after a very long time debating, and working through a great many different ideas. We wanted something which felt more up-to-date, but retained the P&P red and grey; and it was also designed to coordinate with our gorgeous supplement covers. Huge thanks to the OUP design team (who were immensely patient…!) they have come up with something we can be proud of. Past & Present has, after all, long been known for its distinctive and consistent visual design. As far back as 1983, shortly after we celebrated our thirtieth birthday, the eminent medievalist and Annales Director Jacques le Goff wrote that Past & Present was distinguished by: “…[having] kept the same, very pleasant, small format… the same presentation and the same typography.” So it was with all the best elements of this proud, formidable and distinctive tradition firmly in mind; that we approached refreshing the cover. We hope you like it. Pixels not quite enough for you? Print subscriptions, (UK price […]

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 […]

“Everyday Empires” a call for papers

by Dr. Nathan Cardon and Dr. Simon Jackson, University of Birmingham The Modern and Contemporary History Centre and the Birmingham Research Institute for History and Cultures at the University of Birmingham invites postgraduate researchers and early-career (PhD awarded in the last eight years) academics to submit papers for a two-day conference sponsored by Past & Present on the theme of “everyday empires.” “Everyday Empires: Trans-Imperial Circulations in a Multi-Disciplinary Perspective” aims to bring together scholars working across geographical, chronological, and methodological lines to reinterpret the ways in which empire was lived through commonplace things, spaces, and decisions in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. A key focus of the conference is to develop a greater discussion of inter-imperial and trans-imperial dynamics. Historians of the United States, British, French, Habsburg, Qing, and Ottoman empires are all encouraged to submit papers to foster a dialogue that can all too often be cantonized by the archival legacies of imperial political structures or by the constraints of their respective research languages. “Everyday Empires” shall take place at the University of Birmingham on the 25th and 26th of May 2017. Our approach will advance understandings of trans-imperial circulations related to race, gender, class, sexuality, commodities, diaspora […]