Monthly Archives: September 2017

Beyond the home: new histories of domestic servants

by Dr. Sacha Hepburn (IHR, London) and Olivia Robinson (University of Oxford), conference organisers Two weeks ago, the conference we had been planning for the last 10 months finally came into being. When we first drafted the Call for Papers, we wondered just how many people we could get around a table for a day of discussions about servants’ lives ‘beyond the home’. We were not prepared for how popular this call turned out to be: by the deadline in March, we’d received more than 40 abstracts from researchers on 6 continents. By 7th September, as conference delegates took their seats and we began our opening address, the event had grown to a two-day conference of papers and special sessions, including a keynote address from Carolyn Steedman. We now know that the subject is of interest to a wide audience, including those within and outside of the academy. We share here our thoughts on what we’ve learned, and what comes next. Aims & ethos of the conference The conference aims were twofold: to place servants’ lives centre-stage and push beyond the boundaries of existing research on domestic service, and to gauge the appetite for developing a network of researchers to continue working […]

Everyday Empire’s Tools

by Dr. Ruth Morgan (LMU Munich) The combined forces of engineering and imperialism still often conjure images of heroic enterprise on a vast scale and across long time periods, resulting in the enormous transformation of places and peoples for empire’s ends. Collectively, the papers of “Engineering Imperialism, Building Empire”, sought to redress this grand narrative through the exploration of engineering and engineering works as sites for everyday encounter.1 Drawing on David Edgerton’s case for “technology-in-use” and David Arnold’s concept of “everyday technology”, we each focused on a tool or infrastructure that advanced and sustained colonial mobilities within and across European and North American empires in Africa, Asia, and Australia.2 Typically understood as machines of modernity that revolutionised time and space, in our panel, ships, rickshaws, canals, and railroads became spaces for excavating colonial power relations of labour, race and gender. Late nineteenth century Australian settlers’ admiration for the feats of British engineers in “irrigated India” was the focus of my paper. Seeking measures to overcome the agrarian limits of aridity, pastoralists and politicians from the colonies of South Australia and Victoria undertook their own “observatory tours” of British India.3 Although they marvelled at the scale of the waterworks they encountered, […]