Monthly Archives: May 2017

Rough Music and Charivari: Letters Between Natalie Zemon Davis and Edward Thompson, 1970–1972

by Prof. Alexandra Walsham, University of Cambridge (Past & Present Co-Editor) The post that follows below is the first two paragraphs of  Prof. Walsham’s introduction to the correspondence. It appears in Issue 235, pp. 243-262   In 1971 Natalie Zemon Davis published a seminal article in the pages of Past & Present, entitled “The Reasons of Misrule: Youth Groups and Charivaris in Sixteenth-Century France”. A study of the carnivalesque rituals of mockery through which communities displayed disapproval of moral and social infractions, the essay opened a revealing window onto the festive customs through which unmarried young men publicly humiliated and regulated the sexual and marital behaviour of their neighbours. It also demonstrated the transmutation of these ludic rites into vehicles for social and political protest in urban environments. A year later, a piece on the English counterpart of charivari, commonly known as rough music or the skimmington ride, appeared in the pages of Annales. Written by Edward Thompson, the leading left-wing historian and founding member of this journal, this too examined the social function of the practice of parading offenders accompanied by cacophonous banging of pots and pans. It illuminated the role of this form of plebeian street theatre in […]

Watch: “The donkey and the boat: rethinking Mediterranean economic expansion in the eleventh century”

by the Past & Present editorial team Past & Present’s Chair Chris Wickham, emeritus Oxford Chichele Professor of Medieval History, delivered the Birmingham Research Institute for History and Cultures Annual Lecture earlier this year. The University of Birmingham is where Chris researched and taught for much of his career and a video was produced of the lecture: Social media highlights from the event have been collated by Past & Present here.

Refugees in Syria, Syrian Refugees: Then and Now

by Dr. Benjamin Thomas White, University of Glasgow This post originally appeared on the Refuge History blog and is reposted here with permission  Six years ago, popular demonstrations began against the Assad regime in Syria. Their brutal repression by the regime plunged the country into civil war, and since then Syria has become the world’s largest producer of refugees—almost five million at the latest count. But for most of its modern history, Syria didn’t produce refugees: it hosted them, in large numbers. There has barely been a decade in the last hundred and fifty years without a significant flow of refugees into what is now Syria, from the Balkan Muslim refugees of the late nineteenth century to the Iraqis who crowded into Damascus after the 2003 US invasion. In a recently published article, I explore what this meant for the country in the 1920s and 30s: the period when the modern state of Syria emerged, nominally independent but dominated by France under a mandate from the League of Nations. In these years, the arrival and settlement of refugees helped to define modern Syria: its territory, its responsibilities as a state, and its national identity. The area that became ‘Syria’ had been […]

A Map for Imperialism? Henry VIII’s Conquest of France and the Emergence of the English Empire

by Dr. Neil Murphy, Northumbria University In my article “Violence, Colonization and Henry VIII’s conquest of France, 1544-46” (open access), published in the November 2016 issue (233) of Past & Present, I examined the character of English warfare in France in the 1540s. Whereas many historians see the harsh military strategy the English used in sixteenth-century Ireland as being unique (even in European terms), this article sought to show that Henry VIII’s armies pursued a policy of mass violence in France which was designed to inflict the maximum amount of damage on the native population of the Boulonnais, which was the region the Tudor monarch targeted for conquest. While historians have explained the apparently distinctive use of severe military methods in Ireland by drawing on the traditional narrative of the emergence of English (later British) Empire, which is widely believed to have started with the establishment of colonies in the midlands of Ireland during the mid-sixteenth century, it became clear while researching this article that many of the hallmarks of imperial rule had already been implemented in northern France in the 1540s. The research I began while working on the Past & Present article raised a number of important themes, which I […]

Everyday Empries: Trans-Imperial Circulations in a Multi-Disciplinary Perspective – Origins, Inspirations, Ways Forward

By Dr. Nathan Cardon and Dr. Simon Jackson, University of Birmingham The genesis for Everyday Empires can be found, as is often case, in the quotidian interstices of academic life – in its linoleum-floored, poster-bedraggled corridors, as much as in the formal arenas of conference panel, seminar room or library carrel. As historians of French colonial empire, and U.S. empire respectively, we were co-teaching an MA course in Contemporary History at the University of Birmingham. Working through a syllabus that juxtaposed the work of Susan Pedersen and Joel Dinerstein with that of April Merleaux or Keith Watenpaugh, we lingered after class sessions, digesting our students’ comments and trying to parse the overlaps, gaps and tensions between the fields in play. It was clear that we were both interested in the ways empires elaborated their hierarchical “rule of difference” and in how that imperial rule was experienced on the ground level through everyday things – such as racing bicycles, or the spare parts for Fordson tractors – and through the global circuits (ideological, commodity, and military) that supported them. At the same time, it was also clear that while we were concerned with “trans-imperial” perspectives our work was very much rooted […]