Author Archives

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 […]

New Year, New Look

by Josh Allen, Social Media and Online Engagement Editorial Assistant When 2017 dawns, Past & Present’s online look will be transformed. Our publishers, Oxford University Press (OUP), are in the process of rolling out a new platform for all content. This means that the rather dated-looking interface that currently enables access to the digital versions of our publications is about to go offline and be replaced by this: The new hosting platform is now very much live and you are very welcome (nay encouraged) to browse at your leisure. In introducing the new platform OUPAcademic are reflecting major ongoing changes in the way that journals are utilised and consumed. Much like the revolutions that have occurred over the last 15-20 years in how people consume music, film and television, academic publications are now primarily accessed electronically, in a digital format, and on the move. It seems likely that for today’s undergraduates, and indeed most graduate students and ECRs, journals are first and foremost repositories of articles that are accessed electronically, not a print publication that can be read like a magazine. The Google Analytics report for our own website attests to this: most weeks no more than thirty percent of […]

Call for Papers: “Mothering’s many labours”

by the Editorial Team Papers are sought for a workshop in June 2018 which will lead to a field-defining essay collection on the history of mothering. This project builds on feminist approaches to mothering as an embodied and material practice. It seeks to highlight the practicalities of care, the exchange of affect, and the nature of care relations, as much as questions of ideology or identity. Dispersed or delegated mothering (by siblings and grandmothers, or by wet nurses, domestic servants, or enslaved women, for example) is placed at the centre rather than at the margins of analysis.  The organisers seek papers with a wide range of chronological and geographical coverage. Our aim is to pluralise and specify mothering and care-giving in and beyond the ‘mother-baby dyad’. Topics might include: *Labour relations and care chains *Delegated mothering *Surrogacy, fostering and adoption *‘Othermothering’ and alloparenting *Emotion work/love labouring *Body work *Carrying, birthing, lactating, providing *Material culture and maternal objects. Please submit paper proposals of 800-1,000 words and a 1-2pp CV as a Word document to either or by 17th January 2017. Notification of accepted proposals will be by 30th May 2017. A workshop for the intensive discussion of pre-circulated papers […]

Isaac and Antichrist Then and Now

by Sara Lipton My recent article, “Isaac and Antichrist in the Archives,” offers a new reading of an image widely regarded as the earliest known anti-Jewish caricature. This image, a sketch or doodle atop an English tax receipt roll from 1233, has almost exclusively been discussed as a chapter in Jewish history, a vivid instantiation of the intensifying anti-Semitism of later medieval Europe. Focusing, instead, on its origins in the Bureau of the Exchequer, I argue that the sketch is, in essence, political satire. Though the three Jews caricatured in the center of the image are undoubtedly depicted in a negative light, they serve primarily to convey a (masked) indictment of a powerful court faction. In order to safely lampoon that faction, which had recently taken over the Exchequer and implemented unpopular policies, the cartoonist – most likely an Exchequer clerk — gave concrete visual form to abstract anti-Jewish tropes, tied these signs to specific individual Jews, and then linked these Jews to the royal court. My goals for the piece were three-fold: 1) to illuminate the original meaning and function of the image; 2) to consider how and why anti-Jewish caricature developed in this particular time and place; 3) […]

In Memorandum Zvi Razi

By the Editorial Team Past & Present was sorry to learn of the recent death of the esteemed medievalist Professor Zvi Razi. Zvi, whose field was the English peasantry in the later medieval period, worked at Tel-Aviv University for over four decades. He rose to especial prominence with the publication of his monograph Life, Marriage and Death in a Medieval Parish : Economy, Society and Demography in Halesowen 1270-1400 in 1980. Life, Marriage and Death in a Medieval Parish was described by Paul Slack, who singled out his “exhaustive” scholarship and “novel and sophisticated methodology”, as making “a large and fundamental contribution to our knowledge of medieval English demography”. Zvi’s involvement in the debates surrounding the nature of medieval peasant society extended from time-to-time to the pages of Past & Present. In his memory, and in honour of the contribution that he made to our understanding of past societies, we have made the three substantive articles that he published with us between 1979 and 1993 free to access between now and the 31st December 2016: “The Toronto School’s Reconstitution of Medieval Peasant Society: A Critical View”, Past & Present (1979) 85 (1): 141-157 (Review Article) “Family, Land and the Village […]

Introducing “The Social History of the Archive”

By Liesbeth Corens (Supplement co-editor) A new supplement has been published: a collection of essays called The Social History of the Archive: Record-Keeping in Early Modern Europe. It is one of two volumes arising from a conference held at the British Academy in April 2014. This painting by Pieter Brueghel the Younger adorns the cover of the volume. We did not just choose it because it is pretty, but also because it captures so much of what we are trying to achieve in this volume. For instance, the confusion about the title of the piece is very telling. Most commonly known as The Village Lawyer, it also goes under the name of The Payment of the Tithe, The Tax Collector’s Office, The Notary’s Office, and The Lawyer of Bad Cases: five names for one painting. The confusion over the title is symptomatic of the diverse nature of records and paperwork. In the centuries that separate us from the time of Brueghel’s painting, the various administrative and legal occupations may have diversified, crystallised, and professionalised, but we should not lose sight of the broader interconnecting thread of information management. This entangled set of meanings and broad remit of record-keeping is what we seek […]

Writing “Gender, Ungodly Parents and a Witch Family in Seventeenth-Century Germany”

By Alison Rowlands “Gender, Ungodly Parents and a Witch Family in Seventeenth-Century Germany”, my article in the August 2016 issue of Past & Present, centres on a case of witchcraft from the Germany city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. The case began when an 11-year-old epileptic boy called Hans Adam Knöspel claimed that his mother, Anna Maria, had taken him to a witches’ dance. Hans Adam’s allegations triggered a witch-trial in 1689, which ended with the boy being separated from his family and sent to live in the city hospital, his mother being banished, and his father (cartwright Georg Adam Knöspel) having to give up his citizenship and leave the city with the rest of the family. In the hospital Hans Adam was subjected to an intense pastoral effort by the city’s clerics to save his soul and to teach him to be a good Christian; this involved the boy in a formal ceremony of renouncing the devil in the city’s main church of St James in 1690. The article was fascinating and challenging for me to write, not least because of the voluminous documentation relating to the case. The post-1500 legal records held in the Rothenburg town archive are […]