Archive for July, 2012

Sport History
6 February 2012
Dr David Day (Manchester Metropolitan University)
‘A Man Cannot see his own faults’: British Professional Trainers and the 1912 Olympics

Whether you like it or hate it the London Olympics is nearly upon us.  The preparations for the games have been staggering.  A most noticeable fixture has been the massive marketing campaign alongside importance given to commercial interests.  Redevelopment and sustainability has also been considered a high priority.  Of the Games themselves 8 million tickets were made available to view the events of which there are 26 sports and a total of 39 disciplines (originally there were to be 28 sports but baseball and softball were later dropped).  It will be the first time that women’s boxing is included with 40 athletes competing in 5 different weight classes.  In total 161 countries (or 204 NOCs or National Olympic Committees) are expected to participate.  The Paralympic Games have 20 sports and 21 disciplines.  It will be the second time (the first being the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney) in which athletes with intellectual disabilities will be authorised to compete.  18 countries are expected to compete with the Solomon Islands making its debut.

Go back exactly one hundred years and the story is very different, although increasingly recognisable as the event to be held this summer.  The 1912 Olympics held in Stockholm saw the participation of just 28 nations and 2,508 competitors (of which only 48 were women).   There were almost half the games of the 2012 Olympics available (14 sports in all broken down to 102 events).  The games saw the debut of Japan and thus represented the first time all five continents participated.  This was also the first time that the modern pentathlon, women’s swimming and women’s diving became a fixture of the event.  There was, as yet, no Paralympics (that would not be introduced until 1960 although an International Wheelchair Games has been held since 1948).  Modernisation was strong in other areas too; this was the first time that automatic timing devices were used for track events as well as the photo finish and public address system.

Changes were happening on a more individual level as well as our podcast taken from the Metropolitan History seminar in February attests.  Dr David Day (Manchester Metropolitan University) has looked into the professionalization of coaches and trainers employed for the Olympics amateur athletes, especially in the US.  This was considered bad play in Britain, where Gentlemen sportsmen saw fair play, participation and volunteerism as essential attributes of what the games should all be about.  However, as Day argues, the picture in Britain was not quite that clear cut.  Although monetary gain was kept to a minimum many amateur athletes and indeed the Olympic committee for Britain sought the aid of high profile amateur and professional coaches and trainers.  Slowly the desire to focus on taking part over winning was to fade as the desire to win and advance increased with recognition that professional trainers could improve athletic ability.

To listen to this podcast click here.


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Archives & Society
Electronic records/digital preservation
Simon Wilson (Hull History Centre)
6 March 2012

Simon Wilson admits that some years ago the thought of putting together a repository of digital materials was scary for him and his colleagues.  However, with the help of a successful grant funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Hull History Centre became partnered with colleagues at the Universities of Virginia, Stanford, and Yale on a project entitled AIMS (Born Digital Collections: An Inter-Institutional Model for Stewardship).  This grant enabled the archivists at Hull to focus entirely on born-digital documents for an extended length of time. 

In today’s paper, Wilson looks back over the project, what they learnt, and what ideas they have for other archives.  As part of the project a white paper was produced which is now available online.  This was written for archivists by archivists and looks at the entire process of archiving born-digital materials.

There are a variety of difficulties with learning to archive born-digital materials.  For starters the material can often be much larger than a physical copy whilst also appearing much smaller (for instance a pdf could contain thousands of pages).  Then there is the issue of formats and changes in technology.  At Hull they updated an old computer (which they now call their forensic workstation) that contained a zip drive, floppy drive, CD-ROM drive and, in addition, USB connectivity.  This enabled them to access digital material contained in old formats, check them, and upload them via USB.  Hull also takes photographs of the physical containers (i.e. the floppy disk itself) in the hope that this might also be useful to future research.  In addition they have learnt to use various tools that enable them to rapidly check file formats and other aspects of digital files. 

The AIMS project has given Hull confidence in considering the issues surrounding the collection, storage and management of born-digital archives.  This might include documents such as pdf’s, but also e-mails, letters, reports, blogs and websites amongst much else. 

The AIMS project was awarded Archive Pace Setter status which means that it is recognised as achieving an innovative approach to new methods of management and collection care.  The project also has a blog entitled Born Digital Archives which follows their process throughout the project and is well worth a look.

To listen to this podcast click here.



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Today we present the final episode from the 2009 Anglo-American conference.  It is a timely wrapping up from that conference as tomorrow the IHR engages the topic of Ancients and Moderns at this year’s Anglo-American.  It should be fun!  We have papers looking at a wide range of classical history and later reflections and uses of that past.    There will also be a publishers fair that is free and available to everyone, so if you are not attending the actual conference but are in the Bloomsbury area of London, please do pop over to have a look.  Publishers will be offering substantial discounts on a variety of books so pick up a bargain!  Anyway, onto our final abstract from 2009!  
Anglo-American conference 2009: Cities
Women and the city: investment, banking and the spread of women’s financial activity in early eighteenth-century England
Anne Laurence (Open University)

Abstract: The tale of the financial revolution in early eighteenth-century England is usually told in terms of the development of financial institutions following the foundation of the Bank of England in 1694 and the expansion of the stock market, especially during the period of the South Sea Bubble of 1720. But much of this would have been impossible without changes – both through legislation and in the courts – that made the transfer of funds between individuals, banks and joint stock companies easier and more secure. These changes made it possible for private individuals, both men and women, to start to use banks and the stock market without being part of the commercial elite of the City of London. It is in this period that the ‘city’ ceased to be a geographical location where banking and stock market activity took place and became a virtual space in which the new financial markets operated.

In particular, this transformation affected women. For the most part they had been outside the commercial and mercantile networks that had characterised the limited financial markets that existed before 1694. Acts of Parliament of 1698 and 1704 and the development of the use of letters of attorney allowed money to be transferred more securely and stock to be bought and sold without the owner visiting the company offices in person. While newspapers during the South Sea Bubble wrote of the visibility of women in ’Change Alley, what was significant in reality was the participation in the market, often for the first time, of women living in the provinces or who visited London only occasionally.

This paper will explore the impact of the new ‘virtual City’ on women’s finances and consider the extent to which their experience differed from that of men.

To listen to this podcast click here.

To listen to the other podcasts from the Anglo-American conference 2009 on Cities click here.

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Anglo-American conference 2009: Cities
The rich becoming the poor: from riches to rags in the Georgian workhouse
Jeremy Boulton (University of Newcastle)
Abstract: Contemporary men and women, as Michael Mascuch reminded us in a pioneering article in Social History more than a decade ago, were much more likely to fear downward social mobility than expect social advancement. The principal aim of his middling autobiographers was to make ‘the family secure in an unstable physical environment’. Fears that wives and children would not be provided for adequately after death were commonplace, many writers celebrated their efforts to get adult children suitable careers and situations. Even when material prosperity was achieved ‘fear of poverty mitigated the enjoyment of attained domestic comforts’.  This ‘middle class’ sought and prized security over material acquisition or social advancement, and were always conscious of the possibility of failure and decline. To quote Mascuch ‘in the early modern view, where the abyss below was closer than the escape hatch above, a desire to avoid seeing the family’s impendent tumble into social disgrace defined the parameters of social mobility’.

Example of a workhouse – from St James’ Parish, published in Pyne, William Henry; Combe, William (1904(1904)) [1810(1810)] “The Workhouse ” in The Microcosm of London or London in Miniature (Volume III ed.),London: Methuen and Company , pp. Plate 96

This paper examines the reality of such downward social mobility as experienced by those who became paupers in St Martin in the Fields. It uncovers the life courses of paupers relieved in the parish workhouse between 1725 and 1824. It focuses on questions of inter- and intra-generational social mobility. How many of these ‘paupers’ had experience of better times, of renting substantial houses or living in fashionable streets? How many had been respectable, rate-paying ‘householders’ before age, death or sickness brought social ruin? Such questions are clearly important. Downward social mobility distorts attempts to measure the extent of material accumulation over the life-cycle (since outright losers will be omitted from calculations). Again, without such contextualisation, how can one comprehend claims for ‘pauper agency’? Paupers who had been former rate payers and householders would have been more skilled at negotiating with parish officers than those who had never risen beyond an unskilled trade and cheap lodgings.

To listen to this podcast click here.

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Anglo-American conference 2009: Cities
Poor man, sick man, beggarman, thief: plebeian lives and the making of modern London
Tim Hitchcock (University of Hertfordshire)

Abstract: Through the digitisation of some 40 million words of manuscript sources about the lives of plebeian Londoners between 1690 and 1800 and the creation of an integrated search facility to trace individuals through these and other electronic sources, the ESRC-funded Plebeian Lives project is creating biographies of hundreds of otherwise obscure individuals. These life stories document the experiences of poor Londoners as they navigated their way through the institutions which provided poor relief, medical care and justice in the metropolis. These stories demonstrate, this paper will argue, that through their use of these institutions, often playing them off against each other, plebeian Londoners shaped the development of social policy. Individual biographies will be combined with a synthetic and theoretical overview to argue that the creation of an individual, rather than institutional, centered approach to social history has the potential to transform our understanding, not only of the lives of the poor, but also the development of the modern state.

To listen to this podcast click here.

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