Archive for December, 2010

‘A world of repositioning and dispersal’ is how Professor David McKitterick describes libraries in the UK in his discussion on present day difficulties that are facing libraries and in particular their rare book collections.  This is our first podcasted session from the History of Libraries Seminar and it is one of concern for historians today.  In a world increasingly preoccupied with electronic access (e-books; online periodical access; catalogues and databases) why do we need to keep spending money on maintaining ‘old paper and parchment’?  The example of Cardiff Public Library who sought to sell off its rare books in order to purchase computer equipment is a case in point.  Eventually the University of Cardiff purchased the books, but initially there was no idea of what they had, how valuable the collection might be, and what state the books might be in.  No catalogue had been maintained, and limited in-house expertises were available.  Through this and similar examples McKitterick asks what role the library historian should have in a changing world of print and electronic data.  

Meanwhile, for the Metropolitan History seminar Kyle Roberts takes us on a journey back to nineteenth-century New York and in particular gives us a spatial study of religion and religious buildings.  Roberts points out that most spatial studies of American cities focus on urban commerce, but that there is much to learn from a study of the ‘spiritual marketplace’.  Nineteenth-century America saw an opening up of religious freedoms and the cities saw a massive increase in population through urban migration and as a centre for immigration from Ireland and elsewhere.  Often churches and places of worship were temporary buildings and each new generation created its own church and identity.  The rise of immigration to New York brought with it a segmentation of the urban landscape, but at the same time New York itself was undergoing a shift which saw new locations rise up as important ‘spiritual’ areas whilst others fell into decline.  As an additional bonus we have also included the post-paper discussion.

Dr Caitriona Beaumont discusses for the Voluntary Action History seminar the variance between the ‘ideal’ housewife of the 1950s as depicted in literature from the period and the reality of life for middle class women.  There can be no doubt that post-war British society was very much different than what had come before.  Although the image of the 1950s housewife working in the kitchen endures, the reality saw many women combining household chores with part-time work and increased pressure.  As Beaumont states ‘the real 1950s housewife was not the idealised women depicted in the pages of women’s magazines but instead a complex construction of wife, mother, employee, consumer, active citizen, and campaigner for women’s rights’.  To discuss this topic Beaumont focuses on three women’s voluntary organisations: the Mother’s Union; the Women’s Institute; and the Townswomen’s Guild.  


Finally, a slightly late podcast presented early in November to the Franco-British History seminar, is now ready.  James Thompson discusses visual evidence for the development of political culture in nineteenth century Britain.  The use of a case study on the London county council election of 1907 gives Thompson the opportunity to discuss the role of newspapers and posters in the propaganda campaign that saw the Conservatives ‘rebrand’ themselves as municipal reformers, and Labour/Liberals promote their ‘progressive’ policies.  The complex interaction of images and propaganda by newspapers (The Daily Mail for the Municipals and The Daily Chronicle for the progressives) is often ignored in discussions of political culture in favour of one party studies. 


This is the final SPOT Newsletter before Christmas, but the New Year promises even more.  In January we will be releasing podcasts from the Blocked Arteries Conference that was held at the IHR in November.  Ironically the Conference was held during the recent fees protests which disrupted London’s transport network, and was therefore timely in its subject matter.  This conference examined the way that congestion has been, and continues to be a problem.  In addition, the new History SPOT platform will be launched in March 2011 and numerous more podcasts created.

In the meantime, I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas or holiday break.
See you in the New Year!


History of Libraries Seminar
30 November 2010
Professor David McKitterick (Trinity College, Cambridge)
Libraries at risk
Voluntary Action History Seminar
6 December 2010
Dr Caitriona Beaumont (London South Bank University)
The Myth of the 1950s Housewife: Voluntary women’s organisations and the challenge to idealised domesticity in post war Britain
Metropolitan History
8 December 2010
Kyle Roberts (QMUL)
Faith in the antebellum urban order: religion and the making of early nineteenth-century New York City
Franco-British History
4 November 2010
James Thompson (University of Bristol)
‘That hideous head’: Politics and Visual Culture in Edwardian London

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With all of this snow and wintery weather affecting the majority of the UK you might be looking forward to your next summer beach holiday more than ever.  To help pass the time towards next summer this week’s SPOT newsletter begins with two short papers from the Sports and Leisure History Seminar on the topic of Post-war British Holidaymaking.  The first speaker, Dr Martin Cohen painted a picture of post-war British holidaymaking both in the UK and abroad.  Cohen describes how nostalgia for 1930s seaside holidays drove families back to the British beaches despite tough austerity measures, inadequate facilities and overcrowding.  Even those who were able to afford foreign holidays still came up against similar difficulties including rationing limitations.  However, the overwhelming desire to return to pre-war lifestyles overcame these problems and helped form the basis for a new consumerism of holidays and leisure activities. 

The second paper, presented by Dr Susan Barton is a study of the development of package holidays during the 1950s to 1970s and in particular the rise of Spanish holidaying.   Barton discusses the development of cheap flights and foreign holidays made cheaper through the inclusion of hotel accommodation in the price.  Tour operators not only gained concessions from hoteliers but also arranged for new hotels to be built under special agreements.  Not everything about the situation was ideal however.  Aircraft and airports lacked efficient procedures and safety and comfort remained an issue.  Tour operators also worked under strict regulations.  Cheep costs of package trips were restricted through the Board of Fair Trade and holidaymakers faced a cap of £50 spending money in foreign countries (which also included the cost of the hotel).  These rules were relaxed in the 1970s with the creation of British Airways and the Civil Aviation Authority, leading to the full development of cheap flights and package holidays that we continue to enjoy today.

Moving away from summer holidays, the Voluntary Action History Seminar provides us with a paper discussing fundraising activities.  “The history of the world can produce no parallel to the extraordinary record of this poem”, this was the assessment by the Daily Mail newspaper on Christmas Day, 1899.  Of course this was a blatant self-promotion for their paper, but, as Dr John Lee argues, it was also a genuine reflection on the success that Kipling’s poem The Absent-Minded Beggar had produced on the British nation.  The use of Kipling’s poem at the heart of the Daily Mail’s fundraising campaign to provide support for soldiers and their families was not only innovative at the time but also highly successful.  For John Lee, the poem’s unique popularity represents an opportunity to glimpse the national mood between 1880 and 1920, when, for a brief period of time, men of letters rose to popularity and were able to exert a significant cultural authority over the country.  From the perspective of English Literature, Lee delves into two inter-related issues; first that of capturing the cultural significance and popularity that the poem invoked at the turn of the century; second the role of Kipling himself.  Today Kipling is best remembered for his discovery of India as a subject for English Literature, but at the time he was equally praised for his pursuit of the private soldier.  The ‘celebrity’ status of Kipling meant that only he could get away with a poem like this, whilst only the Daily Mail could conceive of a campaign which utilised Kipling’s status to great effect. 

This week the SPOT newsletter also introduces our first podcasts in French.  The IHR have entered into collaboration with University of Paris IV-Sorbonne and the Intellectual History Group (University of Paris VIII-Vincennes-Saint-Denis) to produce podcasts of the Franco-British History seminar.  Our first two papers deal with very different themes.  The first paper is by Arnaud Page from Paris IV, who discusses the institutionalism of social sciences particularly at the London School of Economics (1895-1914).  The second paper is by Charles-Edouard Levillain from IEP de Lille, who presents on the ideological origins of the Anglo-Dutch Alliance and in particular on Francois-Paul de Lisola in the seventeenth century. 

Sport and Leisure History
22 November 2010
Post-war British Holidaymaking
Dr Martin Cohen (Queen Mary University)
Full Up for the Coming Season: Post-War Holidaymaking in Britain, 1945-1948
Dr Susan Barton (De Montfort University)
Brits Abroad: British Government Policy and the Development of Popular Tourism in Spain, 1950-1970
Voluntary Action History
22 November 2010
Dr John Lee (University of Bristol)
Following ‘The Absent-minded Beggar’: a case-history of a fund-raising campaign of the South African War
Franco-British History Seminar/Séminaire franco-britannique d’histoire
Université Paris IV-Sorbonne
18 November 2010
Arnaud Page (Paris IV)
Institutionnalisation des sciences socials au tournant du vingtième siècle: le cas de la London School of Economics (1895-1914)
Translation: Institutionalisation of Social Sciences at the turn of the twentieth century: the case of the London School of Economics, 1895-1914
Franco-British History Seminar/Séminaire franco-britannique d’histoire
Université Paris IV-Sorbonne
25 November 2010
Charles-Edouard Levillain (IEP de Lille)
Francois-Paul de Lisola et les origines idéologiques de l’alliance anglo-néerlandaise (1667-1677) 
Translation: Francois-Paul de Lisola and ideological origins of the Anglo-Dutch Alliance (1667-1677)

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