Archive for November, 2011

Tomorrow around 4.30pm you’ll find me running around setting up audio equipment in preparation for the first part of the IHR’s Novel Approaches: from academic history to historical fiction conference.  The conference seeks to look at the intersection and relationship between the professions of academic history and historical fiction.  It should be a lot of fun!

I’ll also be there for the entire event taking notes.  Not because I think I could be a budding novelist in the waiting nor just because I find the topic fascinating.  No, this time I’ll be there because we are planning on doing something rather different with our podcasts. 

This coming Monday (21 November) we’ll open up our first ever virtual conference as a continuation of the two-day Novel Approaches event.  What is a virtual conference you might ask?  Well in this case at least it is an online site that continues our face-to-face conference well after it is finished.  At scheduled times each day we will publish podcasts from the conference, articles, book reviews, and opinion pieces.  We’re also planning on running a competition with some nice prizes on offer and will provide our ‘ultimate’ bibliography and list of relevant online resources.  All of this is free although I would encourage you to register so that you can enter the competition amongst other things.  

What do we hope to achieve through this virtual conference?  Well, for starters it’s not intended as a replacement for the actual conference.  How could it be?  However, we do want to continue and open up a discussion around the conference papers alongside various other resources.  We very much hope those going to the conference will take part and that those unable to join us in person will find our virtual conference almost as much fun and of just as much interest. 

The podcasts will of course still appear on History SPOT in due course (in fact we hope to also be able to provide some video content although that is very much an experiment and might not happen).       

So please do join us on Monday as we start with a conversation between novelist and historian (Hilary Mantel and David Loades) followed by a plenary talk by Alison Weir (plus of course much more!). 

Before then please also visit our IHR Digital blog where I have been (and will continue to do so throughout the next week and a bit) posting on the topic of A History of historical fiction.  I can’t (and won’t) say I’m an expert in this topic but I had fun researching the literature and learnt a lot along the way.  Hope you enjoy the results!


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Hello and welcome to this week’s SPOT Newsletter.  Today we’ll be looking at two seminars from our collaboration with seminar groups outside of the IHR taken from the previous academic year.  We have been very fortunate to build ties with the Franco-British History seminar group at the University of Paris IV (Sorbonne) and with the Global History seminar group based at the London site of Notre Dame University.  Each have their specific interests; one obviously focused on international or ‘global’ history whilst the other more narrowly focused (in geographical terms) to Britain (although in today’s example the Franco-British seminar group move their focus to Italy). 

The Franco-British group hear papers both in French and English so I’m only able to reliably review about half of their output but what I have listened to has been diverse and interesting.  The first paper presented about this time last year was by James Thompson.  Thompson gave a detailed glimpse of political life in late nineteenth and early twentieth century London through evidence in newspapers and posters.  The ‘rebranding’ exercise by the Conservatives for the 1907 London County Council election perhaps echoes the need for governments in a media age to consider themselves as a type of consumable ‘brand’.  In February this year Amanda Behm looked at the rise of Imperial history as a sub-discipline.  I could easily see this podcast being useful for teaching historiography and as a starting point for those entering the world of Imperial history.  A paper from the Franco-British history seminar that I particularly enjoyed was presented by Stephen Mosley.  The Industrial Revolution is often hailed as the height of British power, but it came at a price – the pollution of Britain’s capital.  This study of industrial pollution is described by Mosley as a ‘disaster in slow-motion’. 

Click here for our complete list of podcasts from the Franco-British History seminar group

The first podcasts from the Global History seminar group were created before I began the SPOT Newsletter so there are still some which I have not yet listened to.  The first of these was presented by Patrick O’Brien with the title Myths of Eurocentrism and Material Progress.  If anyone would like to write their own reviews please feel free to in the comment section below the podcast page.  I’d be interested to hear what people think. 

The first paper that I reviewed from the Global History seminar came with the wonderful title: What might a global history of the 20th century look like?  Angus Lockyer sees the history of the twentieth century as needing a stronger narrative and structure as far as the writings of historians are concerned.  He sees the century as a period of tensions between multiple actors, separate logics and differentiated systems which can be dated back to the second half of the previous century.  Will anyone take up Lockyer’s gauntlet to write such a history?  I guess only time will tell. 

A paper of particular interest for me was Peter Barber’s discussion of the Image of the Globe in the Renaissance.  Maps are always interesting pieces especially from a time when the Earth was still a largely alien and unknown place.  So Barber’s discussion of globes in the 15th and 16th centuries provides a welcome study not only in past societies attempts to map their world but also in the culture that surrounded those attempts.

Click here for our complete list of podcasts from the Global History seminar group

Franco-British History
3 March 2011
James Shaw (University of Sheffield)
Equity, Law and the Economy of Obligation: A Comparative Analysis of Early Modern England and Italy

Palio Square medieval market, Siena

In a presentation to the Franco-British History seminar held back in March this year, James Shaw compared the role of equity in medieval and early modern financial transactions.  In Tuscany, Italy Princely Equity emerged as an element of absolutist government.  The Prince was given the power to correct the law through equity and kingly justice.  Over time therefore equity in Italy shifted from the realm of legal scholars to that of the king (especially from the fourteenth century).  Equity in Italy was not so much about the form of law but the intention behind market exchanges.  Contracts could, for instance, be invalidated if the intention on either side was seen to be false or made without free will.  Shaw therefore demonstrates that equity fitted between law and conscious, between legal order and moral order.   In England around the same time a different form of equity emerged – one based around what historians call the Economy of Obligation.  In England, Courts of Equity (i.e. the Chancery and Courts of Requests) worked in parallel to common and civil law.  Equity courts were able to bring in a much broader range of evidence to consider but over time its flexibility was lost as the Equity Courts became more structured and controlled. 

For more on this subject see also: James E. Shaw, “Writing to the Prince: Supplications, Equity, and Absolutism in Sixteenth-Century Tuscany” Past & Present, forthcoming May 2012.

Global History seminar
14 March 2011
William Clarence-Smith
The ‘Syrian’ global diaspora: migrants from Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan since the 1880s

Syrian Children in New York

Also back in March, William Clarence-Smith presented to the Global History seminar a paper about migrants from ‘Greater’ Syria to the USA, South America and other parts of the world.  The paper is as much about why groups of people migrated to other countries as it is about what is meant for them to be Syrian.  In the nineteenth and early twentieth century Syria was a region that had many interpretations and meanings for its populace and indeed for migrants who left the area.  The Diaspora may have been caused for many reasons, but Clarence-Smith places some doubt on the established theory that it was entirely down to politics and civil unrest and suggests various pull factors as not only important but vital.

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Last night was the IHR’s eighth live streamed event, the fourth for our Digital History seminar, and the second since the launch of History SPOT.  Unfortunately on this occasion things did not go as planned. 

This blog post is, therefore, part apology to all of you who tried to tune in last night, part explanation, and part a look towards the future of this service.  First of all then – an apology. 

Last night the stream failed to connect for the first 10 minutes of the presentation and when we were eventually able to stream live the quality of the audio was particularly bad. 

On behalf of the IHR I apologise to all of you who tried to tune in and found your time wasted on this occasion. 

It is difficult to pinpoint exactly what went wrong.  After the workshop that we live streamed a few weeks ago we were trying the downloaded application from livestream (rather than the web based interface) to stream our seminar.  The hope was that this would improve video and audio quality as we were not happy with the resolution from the workshop.  In theory that is still the case but it seems we still need to fine tune and test the new interface.

The second reason for the failure appears to have been an untimely update from Adobe to the flash application.  Although declined the update appears to have caused the streaming application to crash early on in the seminar.  The laptop that we were using had been updated earlier in the day so I can only presume that this update only came through around 5pm.       

I have hinted many times on this blog that we have plans to improve the service.  We have looked into alternative streaming applications as a way to primarily avoid the advert at the beginning of the stream.  Although there are a few other possibilities we have not yet pinned down a viable alternative.  However, this is still a work in progress.  In the meantime we wish to experiment with a higher resolution camcorder.  Although the nature of live streaming would mean that the camcorder was reduced in quality anyway it would hopefully be clearer and more manoeuvrable than the current webcam that we are using. 

Our next live stream will be the second Digital History seminar in two weeks’ time (Tuesday 15 November).  We will do all we can to make sure that this stream goes well and I very much hope you will give us a second try. 

For those of you still interested in Matt Thompson’s paper from yesterday we hope to be able to provide you with audio and video coverage sometime in the next week or two.      

Matt Phillpott
History SPOT Project Officer

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Digital History seminar

Matt Thompson (York)

Time: 5.15pm – 6.15pm – 1 November 2011

Please join us for this semesters first Digital History live seminar.

click here for the live stream on Tuesday!

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