Archive for March, 2011

Just a quick thank you to all those who took part in yesterday’s live stream of the Archives & Society seminar.  Although there was some trouble with getting the videos working that the speaker, Leon Robinson, brought with him, the event was another success. 

Leon was, as promised, lively and entertaining and showed real passion for archives and his primary sources.  He brought with him numerous photographs, letters and images and some short video clips.  All of which were very interesting and brought that something extra to the session. 

Leon talked about black performers largely from Victorian and twentieth century Britain and lamented how easily source materials can disappear over time.    

This time we used Livestream’s procaster (www.livestream.com) to stream our seminar and a chat widget from Zoho (www.zoho.com).  Both systems worked better than our previous systems. 

With the seminar season winding down for Easter we will probably have a bit of a gap before we can announce our third live stream but when we do we will hopefully have improved the system even more. 

Indeed, we are hoping that History SPOT (our new platform for podcasts and research training) will have launched before the next live stream, and will from that moment on become the primary host for all of the IHR’s live streams.

Till next time!

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The IHR would like to remind you that our second live streamed seminar event will take place today (Tuesday 29 March), starting about 5.30pm.  We are excited to welcome Leon Robinson from the Positive Steps Organisation to speak about: ‘Unveiling the unknown: archiving the Black contribution to the performing arts over three centuries’

If you would like to join us please visit the page linked below at about 5.30pm


Best wishes,


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I started work on History SPOT on the 15th March 2010 so for me it felt quite appropriate that one year almost to the day we presented to the world the IHR’s first Research Seminar ‘live’ online. The Metropolitan History seminar and British History in the 18th Century seminar was very kind to agree to the live streamed event for their joint seminar presented by Professor Jerry White (Birkbeck) on the topic of City Rivalries and the making of Modern London, 1720-1770.

The session seemed to go well, even with the unexpected additional visitor – a tiny mouse – who decided to attack Jerry White’s feet half way through the paper! There were at least 40 people in the room and an additional 30-40 watching online. From what was said on the ‘chat’ facility we had representatives from Switzerland, Germany and the US (as well as Britain of course).

The session was opened by the Director of the IHR, Miles Taylor at which point the streaming started. We then moved on to Jerry White’s interesting paper and to the post-paper questions. We had three questions from our online audience all of which were good. Dr Matthew Davies kindly took on the role of advocate for the online audience – reading out the questions for the speaker to respond.

For the most part the technology worked well. After a few adjustments the volume of the microphone was clear enough for people to hear Jerry White speaking. The webcam synced pretty well with the audio and gave a fairly clear image of the speaker and chair. There was a problem, however, when we came to the audience asking questions. The microphone was just not powerful enough to pick up their voices (something to learn for the future!). So we improvised by asking the chair to repeat the questions and by adding summaries of the questions to the chat in text form. The advertisements on screen were also a bit of a nuisance and now that we know that there is indeed an audience for these live sessions we will be looking into alternative means to stream the session across the web (minus adverts).

The only other technical problem that became apparent was the chat feature. Although the sign-in was fairly straight forward one misstep could find a person unable to gain access as only one account can be created per email address (and no obvious way to reset passwords and usernames). Secondly, once registered all the previous messages on the chat would vanish from the viewer’s screen. Again, something to take home for next time!

Which brings me to the announcement for our second live streamed event. On Tuesday 29 March Leon Robinson (Positive Steps Organisation) will be speaking to the Archives and Society seminar group on ‘Unveiling the unknown: archiving the Black contribution to the performing arts over three centuries’. Leon is promising that this will be an exciting and dynamic session with images, videos and entertainment mixed in with an important discussion about a largely forgotten impact of Black performances in the arts that goes back to the Victorian era.

Please check the IHR webpage and stay tuned for further updates!

Thanks, Matt

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Live Stream page is now active and will begin around 5.10pm.  Please click here to go to the live stream page. 

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Metropolitan History and Britain in the Long 18th Century
16 March 2011, 5.15pm
Wolfson Room, IHR
Jerry White (Birkbeck)
City Rivalries and the making of Modern London, 1720-1770

As advertised last week the IHR will be presenting this seminar ‘live’ via webcam and microphone.  We hope that you will be able to join us for the event and perhaps cotribute to the post-paper chat through the ‘chat’ feature (which will also be displayed on the page).

Please visit this page tomorrow where we will be adding the link to the live stream: http://www.history.ac.uk/podcasts/metropolitan-history-seminars/live-stream-2011-03-16

I am hoping that live events will become a semi-regular event at the IHR once History SPOT is launched (see more on that over the coming weeks).  In the first instance we are making use of ustream (www.ustream.com) to stream our video and audio across the web.  This is, however, not an entirely perfect solution.  For example each viewer will have to watch an advert selected by ustream (not controlled by ourselves) at the beginning of the session.  Thankfully ustream pauses the live stream so that you won’t miss any of the talk, but it is nevertheless a bit of a limitation. 

For this live session we will be using a Samson C01U USB microphone and a Logitech Webcam Pro 9000 both plugged into a laptop. 

I’m very much aware that since I began the SPOT Newsletter my Project Updates have largely stopped.  However, History SPOT will be launching soon and over the next few weeks I will begin to show case some of our new content and functionality along with glimpses of the site, our new logo, and a few other teasers of what is to come. 

Please check back later this week for further updates.


History SPOT Project Officer

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This week we present various papers from the IHR and from external sources, all summarised here.  In addition we have finally uploaded the final segment from last year’s Blocked Arteries Conference.  The roundtable involving all of the plenary speakers is now ready for you to listen. 

On 17 February the Franco-British History seminar was told about a place that saw little sunlight, where buildings were enveloped in soot and thousands of people died from rickets and bronchitis.  This place was London (and indeed many cities in Britain) during the Industrial Revolution.  Stephen Mosley casts an image of late nineteenth and early-twentieth century Britain through the lens of industrial pollution.  He describes it as a ‘disaster in slow-motion’, in other words a catastrophe nurtured over many decades that resulted in a stunted and degenerated population.  Mosley begins by looking at the effect of pollution on the public health and environment and then discusses how these issues were communicated to the people.  Finally Mosley suggests reasons why smoke abatement did not capture the public imagination.  Although, by the middle of the twentieth century, industry had begun to move towards gas and electricity, house owners were much more reluctant to part with their coal fired hearths.  Parliament too was reluctant to force the issue as they recognised that urban households placed a great deal of value to their hearths, which formed the focus for home life.  The catastrophic ‘great smog’ of 1952 in London, that killed thousands ended up as the catalyst for change but it was nevertheless a slow process. 

Continuing on the subject of the environment, Henrik Schoenefeldt has investigated the environmental problems that the Great Exhibition faced due to their decision to construct a glass building.  The Crystal Palace, as discussed in the Sports and Leisure History seminar, was by its nature hot, humid and prone to glare from sunlight.  The designers and architects went to great feats to limit these problems.  Light into the building was controlled and made more uniform; around forty thermometers were used to monitor the environment both within and outside the building to try to keep the temperature at an acceptable level.  However, visitors continued to complain of hot and humid conditions that made their visits uncomfortable (and even unbearable).  There were various instances where visitors fainted from the heat and poor quality of the air.  Although the Great Exhibition was a massive success and the visitors largely managed to cope with the environmental difficulties, the conditions within the building had a massive impact on the future sustainability of the Palace in Hyde Park.  Schoenefeldt argues that the cost and difficulties involved in maintaining an acceptable environment was one of the largest factors that lead to the failure to secure the Palace for use after the exhibition had ended.    

Staying with London, Philip Davies provided the Metropolitan History seminar a journey through the streets of lost London.  By ‘lost’ Davies is referring to the buildings and locations that have irrevocably changed over the last few centuries through cultural change, expansion, warfare, economic and political policies.  Using photographs of pre-war London, Davies looks into this past through four central themes: work; poverty; wealth; and change.  In so doing Davies notes that as things changed, many things stayed the same.  Although each generation has their own image of London it generally remains recognisable. 

The final two papers summarised this week refocuses our attention onto historiographical issues.  First, using the diocese of York and Bath as his primary focus, Daniel Cummins addresses a gap in our historiography on property landholding in the eighteenth century.  The British History in the Long 18th Century seminar group heard how tithes could equally be a force for unity as much as dispute.  Cummins believes that the focus on court records has over-exaggerated the belligerent and uncompromising role of landowners to their tenants.  Through tithes and estate correspondence related to ecclesiastical property Cummins believes he has found a way to address this exaggeration.  Through these records a picture emerges that shows how pervasive ecclesiastical property relationships were in the daily lives of communities and how it was often the driving force and unifying factor that helped shape peoples lives and inter-relationships.  

Meanwhile, Dr Lockyer, a lecturer on the history of Japan at SOAS has written many important and provocative pieces on modern Japanese representations of art, technology and nature.  In this session of the Global History seminar, however Lockyer asks a wider question that affects all historians studying the 20th century – what might a global history of the 20th century look like?  Lockyer believes that the framework for world history up to 1914 is pretty well established but for the century as a whole it remains fragmented, euro-centric, and too focused around the end of the Second World War in 1945.  A stronger narrative and a clearer logic and structure to the period is still required.  In Lockyer’s view the twentieth century is a period of tensions between multiple actors, separate logics and differentiated systems which can be dated back to the second half of the nineteenth century.  This proves to be an interesting paper and one that compliments the paper given earlier this year by Amanda Behm on the topic of Institutionalising Imperial History.  

Blocked Arteries Roundtable  – addition to Blocked Arteries conference
Franco-British History
17 February 2011
Stephen  Mosley (Leeds Metropolitan University)
A disaster in slow motion: The case of smoke pollution in industrial Britain
Global History seminar (External)
28 February 2011
Angus Lockyer
What might a global history of the 20th century look like?
British History in the Long 18th Century
2 March 2011
Daniel Cummins (University of Reading)
Ecclesiastical Property: Social, Economic and Religious history?  The Church and English social history, 1730-1800
Metropolitan History
2 March 2011
Philip Davies (English Heritage)
Lost London: managing change in a World City
Sports and Leisure History
28 February 2011
Henrik Schoenefeldt (University of Cambridge)
The Significance of Thermal Comfort, Physical Health and Recreation in the Design of the Crystal Palaces at Hyde Park and Sydenham

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Metropolitan History and Britain in the Long 18th Century
16 March 2011, 5.15pm
Wolfson Room, IHR
Jerry White (Birkbeck)
City Rivalries and the making of Modern London, 1720-1770

The Institute of Historical Research is pleased to announce that our first live streamed Research Seminar will take place on Wednesday 16 March 2011 at 5.15pm. 

The live event will offer you the chance to see and hear one of our Research Seminars from the comfort of your own home or office.  In addition, we will have facilities for you to participate in the post-paper discussion, offering you the opportunity to ask Jerry White any question about his paper that you may have. 

More details will be posted on the IHR website soon: http://bit.ly/h6WvbS

If you would like to be kept informed about this upcoming event please email us at history.spot@sas.ac.uk.  Please write as the email title ‘IHR Live Event’.

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