Monthly Archives: May 2020

Necessity, Then and Now

by Dr. John M. Collins (Eastern Washington University) My article, appearing in the May 2020 issue of Past & Present (#247), explores the “law of necessity” in seventeenth century England and is a complementary piece to my book on martial law in the early modern period.1 In this article, I show that narratives of necessity structured many aspects of English law and were vital for state building, both during the Personal Rule of Charles I, the English Civil War, and after. The Long Parliament, for example, invoked it to tax, impress, violate due process rights, break contracts, and to seize and destroy property. Many of these powers, in spite of the wars ending, remained. The modern state was built from emergencies. The article, alas, is more relevant than I (or probably you) would like. Then, like now, the fear of societal calamity, even collapse, allowed the government to take extraordinary powers to save the polity. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the main threats were war and rebellion, with politicians analogizing them to natural disasters like fires. Now, it is the reverse. Politicians have frequently analogized the response to the pandemic to fighting a war. Like now, claims to necessity […]

Former Past & Present Fellow Shortlisted for the 2020 Gladstone Prize

by the Past & Present editorial team Past & Present is delighted to hear that Dr. Stephen Spencer who was a Past & Present Society funded Research Fellow at the Institute of History Research (London) between 2017 and 2019 has been shortlisted for the Royal History Society’s (RHS) 2020 Gladstone Prize. He has been shortlisted for his book Emotions in a Crusading Context 1095-1291 which developed from his PhD work and was completed whilst he was a Past & Present Fellow. The book has been published by Oxford University Press as part of their “Emotions in History” series. In the book Spencer provides: The first book-length study of the emotional rhetoric of crusading Explores the ways in which two emotions (fear and anger) and one affective display (weeping) were represented in Latin and Old French narratives of the crusades Identifies the various influences which shaped western chroniclers’ approaches to, and representations of, emotions in a crusading context Calls for greater sensitivity in using historical narratives to reconstruct crusaders’ lived emotions, beliefs, and ideologies Makes use of a broad range of comparative material to gauge the distinctiveness of these narratives: crusader letters, papal encyclicals, model sermons, chansons de geste, lyrics, and […]

Introducing the Desert at the End of Empire

Dr. Samuel Dolbee (Yale University) Few archives I have worked in are more idyllic than the Archives of the League of Nations and United Nations Organization in Geneva (ALON-UNOG), nestled in a corner of the imposing edifice of white stone that now houses the United Nations. The squawks of peacocks wafted into windows and intermingled with the clicking of keyboards. In the distance, the silvery waves of Lake Geneva stretched toward the snow-capped peaks of the Alps, a majestic view of nature that, when it was built in the interwar period, was intended to signify the international institution’s transcendence of the parochial concerns of nationalism. This period of my research formed the basis for my article “The Desert at the End of Empire: An Environmental History of the Armenian Genocide” in Past & Present #247 (May 2020). On the desk in front of me there in the summer of 2014 were images decidedly different than what I saw through the window: the 1920s-era intake forms of Aleppo’s League of Nations-affiliated orphanage. Known as the Armenian Rescue Home, it was operated by the Danish missionary and humanitarian worker Karen Jeppe (written about by Keith Watenpaugh, among others). Jeppe’s organization, along with […]