Archive for February, 2011

We start off this SPOT Newsletter by going back to the early modern period with an interesting paper from Natalie Deibel on the role that recreation took in the founding of early American colonies.  The Sports and Leisure History seminar heard how recreation and entertainment (especially dance and music) became a way for colonists to build a friendly relationship with Native Americans (although it did not always succeed leading to several deaths).  After a century of experiences in the Americas Europeans still struggled to identify with the natives but dance, music, and entertainment was one method that they were increasingly using to overcome these problems.  Deibel also discusses entertainment internal to the colonies themselves using first Virginia as an example where gambling became a serious issue and then Newfoundland, where alcoholism and drunkenness was very much a problem that even began to spread out to the natives. 

Staying on the theme of Imperial history, the Franco-British History seminar presents a paper this week by Amanda Behm.  Few of the IHR’s podcasted seminars have yet focused on historiography as its subject matter, but Behm gives us a wide reaching and interesting paper on just that: the rise of Imperial history as a sub-discipline.  In this paper Behm presents two case studies that demonstrate the initial development of the sub-discipline and its institutionalisation.  The first case study looks at the publication of The Expansion of England (1883) by Cambridge professor, John Robert Seeley.  Behm examines the influence of this work but also its limitations and how that work continues to influence the historiography today.  The second case study focuses on Oxford’s foundation of the Beit chair of Colonial History in 1905, which can be argued as the first step towards institutionalisation of Imperial History.  Behm concludes that the discipline first developed to combat external threats to the empire in the nineteenth century and as a justification of Imperial attitudes (a means to understanding the past to inform the present and future), but that modern scholars often ignore this fact and therefore run the risk of ‘flattening the conflicted career of Imperial history to a tale of shifting moods’.  Behm also uncovers the fragile beginnings of the discipline as just one amongst many rival ideologies and methodologies for the study of Britain’s position in the world.  Behm notes that neither the Cambridge nor Oxford examples started out with much success but that nevertheless Imperial history slowly took root. 

Moving away from British colonialism for our last seminar of the week, Joanna Marchant presents to the Metropolitan History seminar a fascinating paper about the impact of museums on the city environment.  Using a comparative case study of the National Gallery at Charing Cross/Trafalgar Square and the Victoria & Albert museum at South Kensington, Marchant shows how museums educational role permeates its local environment.  The geo-political location of London meant that these museums were set up in specific times and for specific purposes as a means for education and learning of the masses.  The V&A was set up in a location already known for its educational institutions but the National Gallery was set up next to a barracks.  Yet Trafalgar Square offered much easier transport links than South Kensington.  Both museums therefore had to contend with difficulties in reaching their audiences and in identifying who those audiences might be.  Marchant argues that the development of each area was intricately linked with the educational mandate of their local museum.   

Franco-British History seminar
27 January 2011
Amanda Behm (Yale University)
Institutionalising Imperial History in Modern Britain: Pasts, Politics and the making of a field
Sports and Leisure History seminar
14 February 2011
Natalie Deibel (George Washington University)
‘For Profit, Pleasure and Sport’: Recreation, Culture and Society in the Atlantic World, 1600-1700
Metropolitan History seminar
16 February 2011
Joanna Marchant (CMH/IHR)
Sites of knowledge and instruction: London’s museum environments and civic identity 1851-1914

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This week we have two papers focused on eighteenth-century Britain. 

In the first Carry van Lieshout discusses the commercialisation of water management in eighteenth-century London for the Metropolitan History seminar.  The focus of the paper is on the supply side of water provision and how it was drawn into the new burgeoning British economy.  Lieshout deals with the eighteenth-century debate and controversy over the ‘locking away’ of water supplies in this way but largely focuses on how the water companies changed from a co-existent model to a competitive market.    

On the same day the British History in the Long 18th Century seminar listened to a paper by Jennine Hurl-Eamon who dispelled the popular claim that married men enlisted in the army and navy in the eighteenth-century to dissert from marriages and family responsibility.  Hurl-Eamon disagrees with David Kent’s interpretation that more-or-less all married soldiers were escaping their family responsibilities.  Hurl-Eamon also notes that she has unearthed a potential discrepancy in the quantity of archival evidence between her studies and that of Kent’s.  In fact, Hurl-Eamon argues that there is plenty of evidence to show that many wives supported their husband’s enlistment as a means to lift the family out of poverty.  Many soldiers took extra work to augment their soldier’s pay.  Charities looked more kindly on soldier’s wives and widows than on ordinary widows.  Some wives and children might even be allowed to travel with the soldiers, although this was not generally guaranteed.  Hurl-Eamon, therefore, presents an opposing argument to the established narrative that stresses family commitment rather than desertion.      

Metropolitan History seminar
2 February 2011
Carry van Lieshout (KCL)
Water management in eighteenth-century London
British History in the Long 18th Century
2 February 2011
Jennine Hurl-Eamon (Trent University)
‘The Girl I left Behind Me’: Military Wives in Eighteenth-Century London

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Welcome to this week’s edition of SPOT Newsletter.  Before we begin with our summary reviews I would just like to apologise for the late posting of this entry.  It’s been a busy couple of weeks for the History SPOT project.  Hopefully we will be back on track next week with several more podcasts to discuss.

Best wishes,
IHR Project Officer, History SPOT

Duncan Stone talks about cricket in this week’s Sports and Leisure History seminar.  Many studies have been carried out about the differences (both real and imagined) between the north and south of England.  Stone takes these regional studies to look at the difference between perceptions and characteristics of regional cricket clubs and in particular their supporters.  He uses the case studies of Yorkshire and Sturry cricket clubs to demonstrate the differences.  Using, in part, results from a questionnaire to the supporters of both clubs, Stone shows that whilst Yorkshire’s stereotype is accepted both internally and externally, Sturry supporters find it more difficult to identify themselves with a particular characteristic. 

Meanwhile, Dhan Singh presents to the Metropolitan History seminar the findings from his PhD thesis.  Between the 1880s and 1940s Buenos Aires transformed into a modern metropolis through a process called ‘metropolisation’.  With immigration from Europe and emigration from the countryside, the city grew massively over a generation.  In parallel to the population growth was the increase in urban amenities including communication networks.  Buenos Aires underground railway became a symbol for the city’s vitality and growth.  Singh’s study highlights, above all, that a history of the underground railway is more than a study of its technical achievement but a study of the urban society itself.  The railway is an important element in the daily movement of people from the periphery to the centre of the city and at the same time its’ study allows us a glimpse of working class life, mobility and perception of itself. 

Another paper given this week this time to the British History in the Long 18th Century seminar, compliments Singh’s discussion of Buenos Aires very well.  Whilst Singh focused on working class movements, Joanna Innes reflects on the early attempts to improve workers rights in 18th century Britain.  In November 1795 Samuel Whitbread (the future owner of Whitbread brewery) petitioned Parliament to pass a bill for a minimum working wage.  The bill was later rejected in large part because the Prime Minister of the time, William Pitt, proposed his own alternative bill designed to extend ‘the blessings of progress’ to the poor of Britain.  This bill also failed but, as Innes tells us it acted like a ‘straw in the wind’ eventually leading to actual reforms that benefitted the poor.  Innes argues that Pitt’s abortive proposal was an unusual initiative in politics of the eighteenth century, but that by looking at the wider context of charity work and local community activities it reflects a growing attempt to reform the manners of individual lives.  These attempts to improve society and provide the conditions for cultural change help to explain why Whitbread and Pitt’s abortive bills are important landmarks in British cultural history. 

In addition this week we have two papers from the joint University of Paris IV and IHR Franco-British seminar series.  The first by David Crouch summarises the historiography of English medieval society stretching from William Stubbs, Frederick Maitland and Frank Stenton to present thoughts and in particular the debates concerning feudalism and bastard feudalism.  Crouch argues that English historians all too often still view the English situation as exceptional when anything but was the case.  Indeed, Crouch takes a still uncommon approach of comparative studies between English and French medieval society.  The second session was given by Géraldine Vaughan who reflects on Irish immigration into Scotland from a local perspective.  This paper, given in French, focuses on the period 1851-1918. 

Franco-British History Seminar
13 January 2011
David Crouch (University of Hull)
New research in the English medieval aristocracy
Sports and Leisure History Seminar
17 January 2011
Duncan Stone (University of Huddersfield)
Regional Cricket Identities: The Construction of Class Narratives and Their Relationship to Contemporary Supporters
British History in the Long 18th Century
19 January 2011
Joanna Innes (Somerville College, Oxford)
Pitt and the poor laws: government and the politics of social policy in the 1790s
Metropolitan History Seminar
19 January 2011
Dhan Singh (CMH/IHR)
Under Metropolis: exploring the cultural history of Buenos Aires underground railways (c.1886-1945)
Franco-British History Seminar
20 January 2011
Géraldine Vaughan (Université de Rouen)
Penser l’immigration irlandaise en Ecosse á partir de l’échelle locale, 1851-1918
Reflection on Irish immigration into Scotland from a local perspective, 1851-1918

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