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This Autumn: The Modern Invention of "Dynasty"

By Josh Allen - July 20, 2017 (0 comments)

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 and that medieval evidence on dynasty was ambiguous, to say the least. From our two distinct research genealogies, we had both stumbled into a rather irritating itch. We were both very unsure whether dynasties had really existed globally in the past as ontological or even discursive category. We both intuited that this concept may well be a retrospective construction that had been put into social pasts to straitjacket them. The big question was: why? What exactly was at stake here?

Jagiellon Family
Lucas Cranach the Younger [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

One of us (Milinda Banerjee) felt in the course of his research on colonial India that British elites had in fact, with alarming frequency, imposed ideas of dynasty (and associated norms such as male primogeniture, etc.) on territories which they sought to hegemonically rule over in South Asia. He tracked this through his doctoral dissertation (Heidelberg 2014), even as he supplemented the Heidelberg University research group ‘Nationising the Dynasty’, led by Thomas Maissen, of which he was part, with its logical obverse, ‘Dynastising the Nation’. The coupled terms featured as the theme of a conference the research group organized at UCLA in 2012, the results of which can be seen in the just-published volume Transnational Histories of the ‘Royal Nation’. The focus on transculturality in relation to asymmetries of power, as emphasized by the Heidelberg research group, and the broader Cluster of Excellence ‘Asia and Europe’ of which it formed a part, stimulated his thoughts. In his dissertation, now forthcoming as a book, Milinda saw dynasticization, and more broadly monarchization – of existing political systems (such as Indian princely and big landlord regimes) as well as of historiographic narratives and political thinking – as a colonial process: one mediated through deep-rooted political, economic, military, juridical, and discursive interventions. Dynasticization was a tool, in imperial hands, for subjugating vast populations, in India but also often beyond. Milinda further discovered that there were mind-boggling transregional transplantations at work here: the deliberate imposition of Salic Law in colonial north-east India, to take just one quirky example. Indian elites, for their own reasons, had a stake in appropriating these dynasticization strategies, to harness them into their own programmes of building nationalist sovereignties and identities. Further, these Indian nationalists drew upon not only European, but also various Asian, such as Japanese and Iranian, regimes to construct their dynastic models. However, Milinda soon realized that there were also obstructions to this reification of dynasty. Alternate precolonial-origin conceptions of lineage power and political polycentricity often remained obdurately resilient into the 19th and 20th centuries in South Asia, fuelling peasant (and other subaltern) conceptions and insurgencies which challenged, even dismantled, colonial and elite-nationalist projects of state-making. Such challenges were nourished by various democratic-socialist models of governance.

By John Bartholomew and Co., Edinburgh ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Due to his participation in the work of the Jagiellonians project, Ilya Afanasyev had meanwhile come to parallel conclusions. As a project team, we quickly noticed that the very word ‘dynasty’ was rarely used in medieval Europe, and the earliest uses of the word were deployed to refer to Egypt and China. The same was true for various familiar dynastic names that, as Cliff Davies brilliantly showed for ‘the Tudors’, were barely (if at all) used in sources and, instead, often were retrospective historiographical projections. For Ilya, the clearest moment of realisation how confused historians tended to be about dynasty came when he was proof-reading his own article on some twelfth-century hagiographical and historiographical ideas about early Norman dukes and realised how thoughtlessly and uncritically he had been using the words ‘dynasty’ and ‘dynastic’ in his analysis (too bad it was too late to correct that in the article published in Historical Research). For the project team as a whole, the main question originating in the collective realisation that dynasty both as a concept and as an alleged institution was much more problematic than historians had previously assumed seemed to be as follows: if we should not take dynasty for granted, how then to think about the complexity of medieval genealogical notions and discourses, as well as familial practices, in a simultaneously critical but non-reductive way? An attempted answer to this question, focusing on the case of ‘the Jagiellonians’, will be presented in the collective monograph of the project, provisionally titled Dynasty in the Making and due to be finished in autumn 2017. However, Ilya also became increasingly interested in another question arising from the same critique of dynasty: if we realise that medieval dynasty is problematic, should not we then ask how we came to associate the concept so strongly with the Middle Ages? What is the modern history of the word as a historiographical and political concept? How is it related to the historic transformations of modern monarchies in the Revolutionary era, to modern nationalist narratives and the rise of history as an academic discipline, to the history of capitalism and bourgeois family? Independently of the arguments about medieval genealogies and familial politics and how to conceptualise them, is not there a fascinating history of ‘dynasty’ as a modern concept projected onto medieval pasts? A history not yet written. Another aspect that has become increasingly clear is that this modern history of ‘dynasty’ can only be global. Ilya therefore was delighted to meet Milinda who was already working within the framework of global intellectual history.

King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table
By Evrard d’Espinques (Original at Bibliothèque nationale de France) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

From these two parallel realizations, we converged – a Eureka moment here, from two armchairs face to face on that pleasant spring afternoon – into a provocative ‘realization’, or at least an itchy hypothesis. Could it be that the model of ‘dynasty’ – as a global way of understanding past and present political systems – was an early modern and modern invention? If this were so, what could be the political stake for the globalization of this concept? Admittedly, we were both somewhat suspicious about the elitist focus of many (certainly, not all) dynasty-centric narratives. If we could challenge the (often, borderline-obsessive) focus on dynasties as the motor of political history, could we perhaps contribute to dismantling broader elitist mindsets of narrating our past and present? The responses to our call for papers proved our hunch. From Siam to the Arab world, from China to Mexico, there were many regions in the early modern and modern world where dynasties were deliberately constructed – as political forms and political concepts – from the sixteenth century until now. Dynasty was not a mere background – an obvious ‘presence’ – against which ‘modernity’ emerged. The abstracts of our contributors emboldened our conviction that dynasty – as a globalized model – was in fact a modern conceptual invention. As the date for our conference approaches in September, we see ourselves as vindicated, if still rookie, detectives.

A full programme for The Invention of “Dynasty” can be viewed here. 

If you are interested in attending please register by e-mailing Ilya Afanasyev here.

The organisers are grateful to Past & Present, the Royal Historical Society and the Birmingham Research Institute for History and Cultures for their support in organising the conference.

Past & Present is pleased to support this event and others like it. We welcome funding applications from historians of all fields and time periods at any stage in their career. More information can be found here.

Everyday Empires: Descriptive or Analytical Category?

By Josh Allen - July 17, 2017 (0 comments)

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 and everydayness allowed us to learn from each other across historiographical barriers that often separate, for example, students of the Ottoman and US empires. At the same time, many of the conversations and presentations appraised the strengths and weaknesses of the everyday as an analytical lens, or wondered whether its prime virtue was perhaps historiographically connective rather than heuristic – a term, in other words, best adapted to collating historical perspectives across historiographies and methods. As James McDougall (Oxford) put it in the discussion after Daniel Bender’s (Toronto) provocative keynote: if empire is analysed in terms of the everyday, and thus potentially discernible in every practice and artefact found anywhere in a world of empires, does this saturating empirical omnipresence foreclose our analytical sense of empire’s coercive violence, its obsessively hierarchical subjectification and its chronic spatial uneven-ness? The accusations of trivialisation levelled in the 1990s at Alltagsgeschichte’s engagement with the history of Nazism were echoed here.1

But if the participants in the conference highlighted this risk from the outset, they also flagged the concomitant capacity of a focus on the everyday to recover the nuanced politics of seemingly transparent everyday practices. They also noted the unusual capacity of historical-ethnographic interpretation of the everyday to anatomise the operation of agency. In other words, a focus on the everyday, mundane practices of empire illuminated people and events, objects and subjectivities that can often otherwise be obscured.

“Girls working on a British cocoa plantation”, Trinidad, British West Indies, c. 1900

The effectiveness of everyday resistance to the infrastructure projects of empire was well demonstrated in Samiksha Sehrawat’s (University of Newcastle) discussion of medical practice in colonial India. Sehrawat noted the effective resistance of patients to the ideas and practices of colonial medicine’s authoritarian governmentality, and she discussed the gendered construction of colonized women as an index of colonial development, while also probing the importance of rumour as a source. John Hennessey (Linnaeus University), meanwhile, documented the Ainu people of late nineteenth century Hokkaidō, and their efforts to protect their traditions in the face of a Japanese settler colonialism that drew powerfully on the paradigm of the US West to present itself as a modern and central exponent of the new imperialism. Hennessey also underlined the legacies of colonisation in Hokkaidō’s contemporary infrastructure, for instance at hydroelectric dam sites. Catriona Ellis (University of Edinburgh) further developed the theme of the contemporary persistence of colonial everyday infrastructures by discussing the nostalgic perpetuation in museums and collections of the artefacts of children’s play in colonial South Asia. She showed how the naturalisation of new narratives of childhood playfulness relied on gendered distinctions, classed access to commodified playthings, and on the colonial infantilising and racialisation of Indian culture. But Ellis also demonstrated how Indian experts participated in the new international expertise of the 1920s to resist these dynamics and assert equality.

The circulations of international experts across imperial spaces and frontiers evoked by Ellis were taken up and expanded by James McDougall, who in a study of deportation and migration in French Africa and across the Atlantic contrasted the fantasised geographies of colonial space with the specific, everyday movements of the colonized, and the understandings of space discernible in such movements. In a challenge to a model of empire popularised by Frederick Cooper, for McDougall, emphasising the everyday allowed an analysis of the space of empire as a practised culture and as constitutive of an archipelago of locations, rather than as a unified imperial territory characterised by simultaneous integration and differentiation. Jasmin Daam (Kassel) too, in a paper on postcard communication and spaces of belonging in the Middle East mandates, argued for empire as a practice dependent on everyday networks that stretched across the formal boundaries of imperial space. She also anatomised the polyvalence of postcards as a primary source of information about everydayness – collected as well as sent, postcards were a form of mass media through their photography of landscape and their dissemination of genres of representation, even as they formatted the expression of emotions of longing, loss and homesickness. Manjeet Barua (Jawaharlal Nehru University), meanwhile, focused on one frontier space in colonial Assam, exploring the relationship of a British tea plantation owner to his Indian servant in order to examine the arbitrage of an imperial frontier by capitalist colonial enterprise, but also by indigenous people. Barua pointed up the unequal power relations of empire, but argued that such relations are interdependent not binary, and were reliant on the frontier space as simultaneously imperial but also very distant from the colonial centre.

“Jerusalem panorama early twentieth century”, This work is from the Matson (G. Eric and Edith) Photograph collection at the Library of Congress. According to the library, there are no known copyright restrictions on the use of this work.

The focus on the discrepancies between formal imperial models and the varied realities of local everyday practice facilitated by movement across and between imperial space was further developed by Artemy Kalinovsky (Amsterdam). Kalinovsky traced the career of the “dual sector model”, often associated with the development economist W.A. Lewis’s work on industrialisation in the British colonial empire of the 1940s and 1950s, in Soviet Central Asia. Bringing into analytical contact two regions rarely considered together, Kalinovsky noted how Lewis, in his work on British colonies, drew inspiration from Soviet industrialisation of the 1930s, but also from direct observation of everyday urban labour markets. Kalinovsky contrasted the grand official Soviet plans for industrialisation and liberation of the peasantry from the perceived backwardness of farming, with the reality of uneven success and an eventual switch to cottage industry by the 1980s, despite the emotional investment in industrialisation of the development economists and officials whose oral testimony provided important sources for the everyday history of development. Justin Jackson (NYU), likewise contrasted formal imperial politics with the irreducibly everyday reality of the politics of class, nation and social belonging. Focusing on the US empire and on the construction of sovereignty, he tracked sex work, road building and interpreting as the US military transferred labour practices between Cuba and the Philippines, playing on colonial subjects’ liminality and on spatial unevenness between urban and rural areas. Finally, Mo Moulton (Birmingham), followed the material phenomenon of Irish dairy cooperatives to anatomise the everyday catalysing of new visions of Irish social and national life across the political chronology of the Irish nation’s emergence from the space of British empire into a world market.

Moulton’s paper nicely illustrated a point made forcefully by Daniel Bender (Toronto) in his bravura keynote, which tracked the global circumnavigation of US zoo directors as they collected animals and sampled the mores of the 1930s-colonial everyday by steamship. Bender argued that the everyday as a category of analysis forces the material and the subjective to the forefront of historical interpretation, allowing historians to practice their craft in new ways and infusing their own work with an improved sense of the realities of, for example, labour in colonial situations of the past.


“The elephant munition ‘war-worker’ at Sheffield”, By uploaded by user:Mattes [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Indeed, a focus on the everyday made clear that the history of empire is intimately wound up in the history of labour.2 Labour sustained, contested, and brought down empires. A focus on the everyday practices of labour rendered empire visible in many of the papers. For instance, Vernadette Vicuña Gonzalez (Hawai’i, Mānoa) made clear in her paper, “Hospitality and Imperial Welcome,” how the work of tourism became an invitation for empire in Hawai’i and the Philippines. Examining Lei ceremonies, quilting, and sexual performance/work, Gonzalez made clear how the affective and intimate labour performed by brown women challenged and repurposed the violence of U.S. empire. In a similar fashion, Carmen Gitre (Virginia Tech) demonstrated how a new social group of property-less labourers working in Cairo’s burgeoning urban factories used the space of performance within coffeehouses to create a complex narrative of what it meant to be Egyptian and what the nation could be, in a way that problematised the analytical binary of colonizer-colonized. Stephen Tuffnell (Oxford) and Charles Fawell (Chicago) both made clear how the practices of everyday labour regimes reveal trans-imperial networks, whether it is US engineers and convict labour in British Africa or the in-between spaces of empire found on colonial steamships. The steamship, with subaltern workers from a wide variety of colonial contexts, noted Fawell, was reliant on a colonized subject’s labour that reinforced the ‘weapons of the weak’ despite the enduring reality of coercive imperial power. Lastly, both Sarah Ann Frank (Free State) and Michael Talbot (Greenwich) revealed the ways that labour in the metropole raised questions of colonial control at home, whether it was colonial prisoners of war in Vichy France, or the problem of sewage in turn-of-the-century Istanbul. That this labour was often explicitly gendered and raced makes it all the more important for continued study.

Another key theme to emerge from the conference was the tension between mobility and locality. Steve Tuffnell noted that the concept of the “trans-imperial” has already achieved buzzword status even before it’s defined. He argued that the trans-imperial allows us to dissect the local and find the layers of global imperial forces shaping colonizer and colonized lives. In many ways, the conference reaffirmed the local as the place in which global networks are crystalised. Shahmima Akhtar (Birmingham) used the Irish exhibits at the 1893 Columbian World’s Fair in Chicago to explore the tensions between localities: for instance, between the nostalgia that informed the exhibit space itself and the mobilities of the Irish diaspora in the United States. Put in the context of British imperial control of Ireland, Akhtar pushed beyond these tensions to bring attention to the rhythms and speed of movement within the turn-of-the-century’s trans-imperial world. Likewise, both Chao Ren (Michigan) and Ruth Morgan (Monash) explored the imperial travels of the rickshaw and hydrologists to both demonstrate global circuits of imperial knowledge but also place these circuits in local contexts in which their meaning was often transformed by everyday people. The benefit of taking a trans-imperial perspective—whether it be in examining a locality or tracing the movement of people and ideas—is that it brings to the forefront unequal and contested power relations that transnational or global history can often obscure.

“The Columbian Exposition”, Chicago, Illinois, 1893, (from Library of Congress)

Perhaps like all good workshops Everyday Empires left us with more questions than answers. It was clear that the focus on the everyday allowed an exceptionally diverse set of scholars to talk to each other and to think together, across standard historiographical boundaries, about how empire worked. It revealed the ways in which empire was woven into the fabric of the most mundane aspects of life in both the colony and metropole, raising questions about which spaces and practices are privileged for analysis and which are neglected. It also showed that these spaces and practices were far from separated by imperial frontiers, but were instead interconnected in specific ways, across a trans-imperial world. At the same time, the emphasis on the everyday, somewhat paradoxically, seemed to mitigate the focus on the power of empire to coerce and dominate. The violence inherent to the racialised structures of exclusion and subjugation that sustained the imperial worlds of the past and of today were often muted in many of the papers. With this in mind, the future of everydayness as a category for studies of empire will require reflexivity about the ways it can illuminate and obscure. We must consciously write coercive and violent power relations back into the history of the everyday, while making the most of the category’s capacity to emphasize connections as opposed to the false dichotomies of imperial structures, and while deploying its capacity to identify spaces and practices of empire that have been neglected in the extant historiography.

A conference Storify can be viewed here.

Past & Present was pleased to support this event and others like it. We welcome funding applications from historians of all fields and time periods at any stage in their career. More information can be found here.


[1] Paul Steege et al., “Review Article: The History of Everyday Life: A Second Chapter,” Journal of Modern History 80 (2008): 358–78.

[2] Something German historians working in the field of alltagsgeschichte have long understood. See for instance Andrei Sokolv’s chapter “The Drama of the Russian Working Class and New Perspective for Labour History in Russia” in Jan Lucassen, ed. Global Labour History: A State of the Art (Bern: Peter Lang, 2006).

This blog was initially posted on the Everyday Empires website and is reposted here with kind permission

Reflections on "Living Well and Dying Well in the Early Modern World"

By Josh Allen - July 13, 2017 (0 comments)

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 stumbled across several perfect candidates for our conference logo three weeks after the event, and so with total disregard for the ‘48-hour rule’, what better moment to reflect on the proceedings of the conference?

Image courtesy of

The ‘Living Well and Dying Well in the Early Modern World’ conference gave PGR students the opportunity to exchange ideas and establish networks and contacts with fellow postgraduates and academic staff from universities across the UK. In line with the aims of the interdisciplinary CEMS research group at Exeter, the conference drew together speakers from a range of humanities disciplines, in particular History, English, and Drama. This was reflected in the broad range of sources and methodologies on show. Court records proved popular, as did plays, novels, poems, and ballads. Records of land transactions, household accounts, diaries, and wills also made an appearance. Moving beyond textual sources, some papers considered paintings while one used practical acting workshops to reconsider assumptions about the staging of Shakespeare’s plays.

The interdisciplinary nature of the conference afforded us the luxury of two keynotes: Dr Lucy Munro (King’s College London) and Dr Amy Erickson (University of Cambridge), representing drama and history respectively. As the opening keynote of the conference, Dr Munro kicked us off in style as she traced death’s paper trail in the lives and works of Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher. Dr Erickson’s keynote was enjoyed by all and detailed the profitable fan-making business of Esther Sleepe, mother of the author Fanny Burney. Erickson demonstrated her skill and perseverance in reconstructing the working lives of the Sleepe and Burney women (albeit sparked by a chance finding while looking for female apprentices!) in the face of traditional approaches that privilege male economic activity over women’s.

Many of the conference papers directly addressed questions about what it meant to ‘live well’. Some considered spiritual and moral well-being while others focused on the social and economic lives of early modern individuals. And so, we heard about how early modern English astrological diagnosis was linked to conceptualisations of life expectancy. We learned that the language of satirical poetry can be used to recover concepts of patronage and grandeur and help us understand what it meant to live well as a courtier in early modern India. One paper revisited assumptions about the gender wage gap using seventeenth-century household accounts, while another demonstrated the broad socio-economic base of subtenants, a group of people previously considered poor and marginal.

Other papers were more concerned with the question of how ‘living well’ was represented, such as how the lives of eighteenth-century English public figures were used as positive and negative examples of how to lead a good life. Others paid more attention to when things didn’t go so well: one paper considered the mental and physical health of bankrupt tradesmen in eighteenth-century England. Moving from bad to worse, there was also consideration of murder from a range of standpoints. One paper used the last dying words of murder victims to shed light on early modern concepts of friendship and forgiveness. Another uncovered the often-neglected violent acts perpetrated against single pregnant women in eighteenth-century Wales.

Several papers considered the lead up to, and immediate aftermath of, death. Deathbed rituals practised by London Catholics were shown to be key moments at which prescription and practice diverged. Other papers considered aspects of post-death ritual, such as the development of coffin furniture in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century London. Responses to public death in the English Ars moriendi tradition were considered in one paper, while another considered how a woman might attain a ‘good death’.

Naturally, the works of Shakespeare appeared in several papers. We saw a reappraisal of early modern female agency on the stage through the theoretical framework of disability studies. The role played by announcements of death in plays was the focus of one speaker, while another considered practical staging questions and the implications for the safety of boy actors.

This conference was organised by PGRS for PGRS. It was attended by academic staff from several universities, and benefitted immeasurably from the virtual engagement of many postgraduates and academic staff via Twitter. The conference organising committee consisted of three University of Exeter postgraduates: Sarah-Jayne Ainsworth, Harry McCarthy, and myself (Josh Rhodes). Sarah-Jayne is a PhD candidate in the Department of English, whose research looks at women’s voices and identity in women’s writings and wills. Harry is a SWW DTP candidate in the Department of English at the University of Exeter, and the Department of Theatre at the University of Bristol. His research considers the training and performances of boy actors in the dramaturgy of Shakespeare and his contemporaries through a combination of theatre history and practical performance work. I’m an ESRC-funded History PhD candidate and my research re-evaluates the ways historians have defined and measured English capitalist agrarian development, with an emphasis on reconstructing patterns of subtenancy.

And, in case you were wondering, I found Joseph Croad on the pages of the Puddletown burial register for 1715/6. He was buried on 15th January, leaving behind a widow, Agnes, who soon remarried a blacksmith called John Gillet.1 The brilliantly detailed Puddletown census tells us that in 1725 John and Agnes lived in the second house on Chine Hill, about a mile west of Puddletown.2 They lived there with their three children and made a living from John’s blacksmith work and their 20-acre farm. But the spectre of death, depicted so vividly in the mortuary doodles of Puddletown’s burial registers, was never far away. Only three years later, Agnes lost her second husband.3 She continued the family’s business and paid poor rates for their farm for the next 33 years.4 Our final encounter with Agnes is in death, her name appearing in the burial register on 24th August 1762.5

Past & Present is pleased to support this event and others like it. We welcome funding applications from historians of all fields and time periods at any stage in their career. More information can be found here.


1Dorset History Centre (DHC), PE-PUD/RE/4/1, Ad/D/I/1728/23, Probate Inventory of John Gillet (1728)
2DHC, PE-PUD/IN/7/1, Account of the Population of Puddletown (1724-1821)
3DHC, PE-PUD/RE/1/5.
4DHC, PE-PUD/OV/1/2-3.
5DHC, PE-PUD/RE/1/5.

Beyond the Home: New Histories of Domestic Service

By Josh Allen - July 11, 2017 (0 comments)

by Dr. Sacha Hepburn (IHR) and Olivia Robinson (Oxford), Conference Organisers

Past & Present is pleased to be supporting “Beyond the Home: New Histories of Domestic Service” at the University of Oxford this autumn. 

Our conference in Oxford on the 7th and 8th September 2017 will explore the lives and experiences of servants beyond their domestic workplaces. Domestic service, in its various forms, has long provided one of the most significant sources of employment for men, women and children around the world. Existing studies have successfully explored the servant experience in their place of work, yet contributions made by servants outside the home – to social, cultural, economic and political life – have been little explored. Beyond the Home will be an opportunity to explore fresh perspectives on both the history of domestic service and its impact on society at a local and global level.

The conference’s 20-minute papers reflect diverse chronologies and geographies. Topics will include, though are not limited to:

•    Social lives and sociability
•    Writing, painting and creative practices
•    Religious affiliations
•    Community organisations
•    Servants’ own homes and families
•    Political activism
•    Participation in civil society and worker organisations

An aim of the workshop is to focus upon developing our ideas around these themes with a view to publishing an edited collection of papers.

A full conference programme is now available here, the keynote address will be given by Prof. Carolyn Steedman of the University of Warwick.

Registration for the conference is now open. Waged registration costs £20, unwaged registration costs £10, this covers both days and refreshments.

Past & Present logo, 2017 all rights reserved

Past & Present is pleased to support this event and others like it. We welcome funding applications from historians of all fields and time periods at any stage in their career. More information can be found here.