Author Archives

The Making of “Four Fishermen, Orson Welles, and the Making of the Brazilian Northeast”

By Dr. Courtney Campbell, University of Birmingham I write this blog post five years to the day from arriving in Fortaleza, Brazil to carry out research. The research from that trip would lead to my article Four Fishermen, Orson Welles, and the Making of the Brazilian Northeast about fishermen who protested their labour conditions by travelling sixty-one days by sail-raft from the city of Fortaleza to Rio de Janeiro and the movie that Orson Welles attempted to make about them (published in Past and Present’s February 2017 issue). I was in the Northeast in 2012 to carry out research on regionalism in the Brazilian Northeast, with a particular interest in how discourse about the region formed during international events. I had lived in Recife, the capital city of the northeastern state of Pernambuco, from 2003 to 2008. My personal connection with Recife melded with the already Recife-centric regionalist movement, making it all too comfortable to repeat the same narrative that assumed that Recife represented the entire region. I aimed, with my trip to Fortaleza (as well as to Natal, João Pessoa, São Luiz, and Salvador), to find stories of northeastern regional identity on the margins of an already marginalised region. […]

The Thompson-Davis Letters

By the Past & Present editorial team We are delighted to tell (and show you a snippet) of a historiographical feature we are running in the forthcoming issue (No. 235). In the spring of 1970 Natalie Zemon Davis posted E.P. Thompson a draft of the paper that became “The Reasons of Misrule: Youth Groups and Charivaris in Sixteenth-Century France”. Enthused upon receipt of the paper, and sensing synergies with his own work on 18th Century England; Thompson wrote back and the pair continued to correspond for the next couple of years about their respective projects. Davis was recently kind enough to allow Past & Present to view and the reproduce the letters for our readers. We are sure that you will as excited to read them as we were. For now though, here’s a snippet. In addition to showing the thought processes, concerns and working practices of two of the Twentieth Century’s most eminent historical scholars, it also provides a tantalising glimpse into what our co-editor Prof. Alexandra Walsham describes as “a vanishing republic of letters”. Granting us a fascinating snapshot of scholarly work and scholarly communication in an age before personal computing and ubiquitous digital networked communication. Letter 4: […]

Ordering the margins of society: space, authority and control in early modern Britain, call for papers

by Richard Bell, Joe Harley and Charmian Mansell (conference organisers) 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 aims to address these historiographical lacunae by considering 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 social control and discipline within these spaces and how these efforts might be resisted. What were the extents and limits of negotiation, participation and defiance within the […]

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 […]