news and updates on the Past & Present Blog


Registration and Programme for Sound to Access Heritage event

By Josh Allen - October 30, 2023 (0 comments)

Received from Suzanne Cloves (Manchester Metropolitan University)

How can we best use sound to support access to heritage?

A public discussion with panellists, presented by Manchester Centre for Public History and Heritage, in collaboration with Leverhulme Unit for the Design of Cities of the Future.

Join our speakers to help generate ideas that will encourage thoughtful use of sound to support access to heritage:

  • Luke Beesley (Researcher at University of Liverpool, Archive Lead at Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People)
  • David Govier (Sound Archivist at Manchester Archives+)
  • Steve Graby (Access and Inclusion Worker at Disabled People’s Archive, Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People)
  • Olivia Hewkin (Museum, Galleries and Heritage Programme Manager at VocalEyes)
  • Mariana López (Professor in Sound Production and Post Production, University of York)

Then sit back and soak up a DJ set by Artilect, who will showcase sampling as a form of music heritage. We’ll finish with refreshments and time to chat.

The event will be at 3-6pm on Wednesday 6th December 2023 in the Manchester Poetry Library, which is in the Grosvenor East Building, Manchester Metropolitan University, M15 6BG.

Entry is free but please book (here) to avoid disappointment. You’re welcome to turn up without booking, but we can’t guarantee you’ll get in.

Detailed visitor info is here:

The Poetry Library is wheelchair accessible and situated on the ground floor.

BSL interpretation is available on request by emailing

A podcast and transcript sharing the outcomes of the discussion will be made available after the event on

The organisers would like to thank Cultures of Disability, the Leverhulme Trust, the Manchester Centre for Public Histories & Heritage, Manchester Metropolitan University, and the Past & Present Society for making this event possible through funding and other support.

Past & Present is pleased to support this event and supports other events like it. Applications for event funding are welcomed from scholars working in the field of historical studies at all stages in their careers.

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Introducing "Firearms and the State in Sixteenth-Century Italy: Gun Proliferation and Gun Control"

By Josh Allen - October 10, 2023 (0 comments)

by Prof. Catherine Fletcher (Manchester Metropolitan University)

Asked to draw up a list of important early modern technologies, few historians would ignore guns and gunpowder. Yet the detail of firearms’ impact on sixteenth-century Europe is less well-known than it might be. This is all the more surprising given the parallels between the debates of the sixteenth century about how to handle this problematic new technology, and those of today. Writers of the period knew that while handguns might be in demand for self-defence, in reality they were a poor defensive weapon. Local authorities realised that concealed carry was a challenge to social order. Political thinkers argued that gun proliferation required an international solution. Aspects of which I explore in my article “Firearms and the State in Sixteenth-Century Italy: Gun Proliferation and Gun Control” in Past & Present No. 260 (August 2023).

Photograph of an arquebus circa 1500 in the collection of Skokloster Castle in Sweden. Via Wikimedia: Commons (shared under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License).

From the earliest days of gunpowder technology there was deep ambivalence in Europe about its use. Firearms were the devil’s work (one manuscript illumination of the Resurrection shows demons firing at the risen Christ); they were unmanly and ungallant, and in more lethal ways than previous technologies. On the other hand, they were becoming a vital military technology, and given the importance of conquest to sixteenth-century rulers, this was hardly something that could be ignored. During the Italian Wars of 1494 to 1559, handguns proved decisive to Spanish victory in battles like Cerignola (1503) and Bicocca (1522).

The wars also prompted new measures for civic defence and multiple Italian states established local militias on models borrowed from Spain and the German states. They incentivised the acquisition of shooting skills through competitions, encouraging practice in the interest of securing civic liberty. The accompanying proliferation of firearms, however, posed questions. Who should have permission to use guns and in what context? Were there cases for exemptions?

The tension was in part addressed by strict regulation of the type of gun perceived as a more serious threat to social order. This was the wheellock, which did not require a lighted match to fire, and could therefore be primed and concealed beneath clothing: ideal for the assassin or bandit. As the century wore on, however, and guns became more widely used, exemptions to the wheellock ban were increasingly accorded, especially to men of high social rank and their bodyguards, and to travellers at risk of robbery. Matchlocks, the common military handgun, also used for hunting, were similarly subject to regulation, with particular limits on their use within cities.

Indeed, many of the modern systems designed to regulate firearms can be identified almost five hundred years ago. In Bologna individuals could apply for firearms licences; in Brescia exports of guns were similarly subject to an export licensing regime. On the other hand, there are also plenty examples of loopholes, corruption and smuggling that undermined initiatives to check the spread of firearm use.

Royal Historical Society awards six part Past & Present funded Masters’ Scholarships to early career historians for 2023-24

By Josh Allen - October 6, 2023 (0 comments)

from the Royal Historical Society

The Royal Historical Society is delighted to award Masters’ Scholarships to the following six students. Each student is now beginning a Masters’ degree in History for the academic year 2023-24:

  • Roqibat Adebimpe, to study at the University of Sheffield
  • Matthew Dickinson, to study at the University of Manchester
  • Baryana Ivanova, to study of the University of Cambridge
  • Nawajesh Khan, to study at Cardiff University
  • Marielle Masolo, to study at the University of Oxford
  • Charlotte Willis, to study at Cardiff University

The Masters’ Scholarship programme provides financial support to students from groups currently underrepresented in academic History. Each Scholarship is worth £5000.

The scheme, established in 2022, seeks to actively address underrepresentation and encourage Black and Asian students to consider academic research in History. By supporting Masters’ students the programme focuses on a key early stage in the academic training of future researchers. With these Scholarships, the Society seeks to support students who are without the financial means to study for a Masters’ in History. By doing so, we hope to improve the educational experience of early career historians engaged in a further degree.

The Society is very grateful to the Thriplow Charitable Trust and the Past & Present Society who each provided funding for one Scholarship in 2023-24. We will be keeping in touch with this year’s recipients and wish them well for their studies.

Supporting Masters’ Scholarships: future rounds

The Society seeks to offer as many Scholarships as we can to talented eligible early career historians.

If you or your organisation would like to help us support additional Masters’ Scholarships in future rounds, please email to discuss options with the Society’s President, Professor Emma Griffin.

View the original post about the scholarships on the Royal Historical Society website.

New Virtual Issue: "Languages of History, Histories of Language"

By Josh Allen - September 21, 2023 (0 comments)

by the Past & Present editorial team

Past & Present’s latest virtual issue “Languages of History, Histories of Language” edited by Dr. John Gallagher (University of Leeds) and Dr. Purba Hossain (Christ’s College, Cambridge) has been published.

It stems from an online Past and Present Society sponsored round table on ‘New Histories of Language’ – held in the summer of 2021 – which was convened by Dr. Gallagher and Dr. Hossain.

The virtual issue comprises ten articles published in Past & Present over the decades which focus on language as a means of exploring and understanding the past, as well as an introductory historiographical essay “Languages of History, Histories of Language” by Dr. Gallagher and Dr. Hossain which contextualises and comments upon the articles they have selected.

All of the articles from the journal’s back issues are currently free to read.

“Languages of History, Histories of Language” may be read here.

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Joshua Ehrlich Wins An Urban History Association Article Prize

By Josh Allen - September 15, 2023 (0 comments)

by the Past & Present editorial team

Past & Present was pleased to learn that Dr. Joshua Ehrlich (Unversity of Macau) has been awarded the 2023 Urban History Association Arnold Hirsch Award for Best Article in a Scholarly Journal. The prize (also awarded this year to Dr. Todd M. Michney) was awarded for Dr. Ehrlich’s article in Past & Present No. 257 (November 2022) “The Meanings of a Port City Boundary: Calcutta’s Maratha Ditch, c.1700–1950

The prize committee’s citation reads:

“Ehrlich’s article provides a rich and nuanced examination of the history of Calcutta’s Maratha Ditch and paints a vivid picture of how physical boundaries play a profound role in shaping socio-political landscapes by encapsulating a city’s historical, political, and social evolution. Ehrlich shows how the ditch’s history directly relates to shifts in British colonial ambitions, negotiations with regional powers, and the emergence of Calcutta as a global metropolis. The ditch’s physical form, from a defensive structure to a boulevard, represents not only changing urban planning but also local political and societal dynamics. Through meticulous research, Ehrlich demonstrates that the history of the ditch represents a complex interplay between sovereignty, territorial expansion, and symbolic meaning-making, dispelling the notion of port cities as purely open and connected hubs. It not only delineated physical space, but also contributed to the creation of distinct social, cultural, and economic zones within the city. By weaving Calcutta’s story into the broader narrative of global port cities, it presents a compelling argument for the Maratha Ditch’s dual role as a barrier and bridge.”

To enable more people to read Dr. Ehrlich’s prize winning scholarship our publisher Oxford University Press Academic has kindly agreed to make “The Meanings of a Port City Boundary: Calcutta’s Maratha Ditch, c.1700–1950” free to read for a three month period.

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