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Archive for August, 2012

***PLEASE NOTE THIS WORKSHOP IS NOW ON TUESDAY 4 SEPTEMBER 2012 NOT 5TH AS ORIGINALLY ADVERTISED**

 

The IHR Seminar in Digital History would like to confirm a special event. We are sponsoring a workshop to kick-off the Autumn 2012 seminar series that will be hosted by William J. Turkel, one of the most interesting and innovative digital historians working today. This event will allow digital humanists, historians, and anyone with an interest in the changing meanings of historical analysis and discourse in the twenty-first century an opportunity to approach these issues through both demonstrations and discussions.

Title: ‘Doing History in Real Time’

Host: Professor William J. Turkel (University of Western Ontario)

A workshop sponsored by the IHR Seminar in Digital History

Tuesday September 4, 2012

5:15 PM (BST=GMT+1)

Venue: G35 Bloomsbury Room, Senate House

The workshop is open to all and there is no need to book ahead.

Workshop Description: In A New Culture of Learning (2011), Thomas and Seely Brown argue that the traditional view of teaching and learning ‘presumes the existence of knowledge that is both worth communicating and doesn’t tend to change very much over time’. In this workshop we explore the degree to which either assumption is valid now. We also discuss some of the new kinds of computational tools or instruments which historians may want to construct and use. These have the potential to make us better navigators of our contemporary (digital) world, and will allow us to continue to assert that a nuanced knowledge of the past is the best guide to present conduct.

Bill Turkel is Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University of Western Ontario and Project Director, Digital Infrastructure for the SSHRC Strategic Knowledge Cluster NiCHE: Network in Canadian History & Environment. He does computational history, Big History, STS, physical computing, desktop fabrication and electronics. He programs whenever he gets the chance, and is experimenting regularly with analog electronics. There is more information about his work on his personal website.

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Archives & Society
Private Minds, Public Collections: Exploring the Public use of Mental Health Records
Julian Pooley (Surrey History Centre)
7 February 2012

 

What happens when an archive receives a freedom of information request from the BBC concerning a sensitive subject such as institutional records dealing with mental health patients?  Julian Pooley discusses this and other stories concerning the Surrey History Centre’s mental health records and documents.  The archives contain a wealth of documentation from before institutions were closed down in preference to care in the community.  Pooley looks at the reactions to mental health both then and now, and to stories of the patients themselves from the early eighteenth century right through to the present day.  In conclusion, Pooley looks at ways to improve communication with the public and to promote an archival collection for better public understanding.

To listen to this podcast click here.

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 Histories of Home
Home-making in pre-modern England
Sara Pennell (Roehampton University)
7 March 2012

 

The house or home as a person’s castle is a common way to looking at a property that belongs to a family or individual.  The image conjures up thoughts of wealth and status both of which are common themes in histories of the home.  Another aspect of this allusion that is less considered by historians is the castle as a fortification – thus the home as a secure place to live and to protect property.  This is the subject that Sara Pennell looks at for the Histories of Home seminar.  Pennell considers the role of chattel distress (meaning movable private property rather than real estate that is seized for the satisfaction of a demand such as debt) as a way into the subject of home security.

Beginning with a general background on theories concerning the meanings of home, largely built upon the work of Karen Harvey (who wrote conceptually on the subject in 2009) Pennell examines the often-ignored area of security via the evidence in various legal collections including the Old Bailey and through legal codes in the American 4th Amendment.  Where property has been examined it is often focused around the elite and ignores the fact that for most people property came down to their furniture and objects within the home.  Pennell wishes to even out the examination of this topic therefore, by tackling property owned by those of lower status.

To listen to this podcast click here.

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British History in the Long-eighteenth Century
 ‘Love, bitter wrong, freedom, sad pity, and lust of power’: Politics and Performance in 1820
Malcolm Chase (University of Leeds)
21 March 2012 

 

When historians talk about 1820 it is often to discuss the attempts by the new monarch, George IV to divorce his queen, Caroline of Brunswick.  George IV became king on 29 January 1820 after the death of his father George III.  However, due to his father’s lapses into mental illness, he acted as Prince Regent for almost a decade before then.  George IV was not a popular king; leading an extravagant lifestyle; accused of wasteful spending during times of war; and losing public confidence over his divorce attempts.  The Pains and Penalties Bill of 1820 was George’s attempt to dissolve his marriage through claiming Caroline to have committed adultery.  The subsequent trial of the queen was heavily followed in the press with a negative response.  Although the bill narrowly passed the House of Lords it was dropped by government before reaching the Commons.

The politics surrounding this royal scandal were, however, far from the only concern in that year, and it is to a wider appraisal of 1820 that Malcolm Chase looks to in his paper.  1820 was also a year of revolutions and assassinations elsewhere in Europe.  Also, in Britain, a plot to assassinate all of the British cabinet was foiled just in time and the revolutionaries executed later in the year.  In the north, various risings in the textile industry, beginning in the West Riding but spilling over into Scotland and the Barnsley/Huddersfield region, caused much disruption and fuelled fears of a revolution in Britain.

Coronation portrait of George IV (1821) by Thomas Lawrence

One of the outlets for political enactment, as is often the case, was through theatre both official and unofficially conceived.  Take, for instance, an example told by Chase from Stockton-On-Tees where a green bag was hung around the neck of an effigy of the devil and ridden around the town on a donkey.   A mock proclamation was made that the devil was guilty of conspiracy against the Queen and was subsequently burnt on a bonfire.  The green bag was a popular symbol in 1820 for the evidence piled up against Queen Caroline and appeared in many anti-establishment performances across the country.

Theatre plays too performed political satire about the events going on in that year.  Take for example performances of Shakespeare’s play Coriolanus which was used to discuss issues of tyranny and just resistance.  In particular the play allowed actors to highlight issues of liberty; something which people felt was being corroded by government acts against the press.

With the focus on just one year, Chase provides an interesting insight into the use of theatre production for political satire and issues surrounding the politics of Britain and censorship in the early nineteenth century.

To listen to this podcast click here.

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Conversations and Disputations: Discussions among Historians
17 June 2011
Kate Chedgzoy (Newcastle), Andrew Hiscock (Bangor), Alexandra Walsham (Cambridge), Andy Wood (East Anglia)
Cultures of Memory in Early Modern England: Round Table and Discussion
Chair: Kate Hodgkin (UEL)
 

One place of enacting memory – Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, London

What do we mean when talking about ‘memory’ in an historical context?  How can we provide evidence that represents an accurate understanding of memory without losing the historical context?  Can using ‘memory’ become too broad to serve a useful purpose as a concept?  This ‘discussion among historians’, focuses on England in the early modern period, asking and attempting to answer some of the questions posed above.  Chaired by Kate Hodgkin from UEL each speaker is given approximately 25 minutes to present their thoughts before the session moved on to a lengthy discussion around the topic.

Andrew Hiscock uses Shakespeare’s Tempest as his starting point emphasising the symbolic practice of memory that it enacts.  The conversation is between Prospero and Miranda and recalls both selective remembrance and the drawing out of alternative scenarios:

PROSPERO

The hour’s now come;

The very minute bids thee ope thine ear;

Obey and be attentive. Canst thou remember

A time before we came unto this cell?

I do not think thou canst, for then thou wast not

Out three years old.

MIRANDA

Certainly, sir, I can.

PROSPERO

By what? by any other house or person?

Of any thing the image tell me that

Hath kept with thy remembrance.

MIRANDA

‘Tis far off

And rather like a dream than an assurance

That my remembrance warrants. Had I not

Four or five women once that tended me?

PROSPERO

Thou hadst, and more, Miranda. But how is it

That this lives in thy mind? What seest thou else

In the dark backward and abysm of time?

If thou remember’st aught ere thou camest here,

How thou camest here thou mayst.

Hiscock argues that the early modern reader was encouraged to consider the past in terms of memorial and as symbolism for the present.  What should be remembered?  This is the key question that early modern writers grappled with.  John Foxe, for instance, sought out a revised knowledge of the past; one where the Roman Catholic religion was repositioned as a foreign enemy and heretical groups – such as the Lollards – recast as true followers.  Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene emphasised the training of memory for the pursuit of memorial.

Alexandra Walsham next reflected on an emerging historiography looking into the relationship of memory with landscape and the upheaval in memory caused by the reformation.  Walsham argues that the process of remembering was intricately linked to the physical environment and it is for that reason that the reformation was also a period of iconoclasm and erasure of physical monuments that had previously been imbued with a sense of a past that Protestants now wanted forgotten.  Religious change acted as a critical juncture in the sixteenth century for memory.  The Protestant regimes were trying to obliterate one version of the past with another.

In the seventeenth century, Walsham tells us, memory became fragmented between the rival Protestant and Catholic camps and, in addition, an embarrassment concerning early-reformation iconoclasm began to emerge.  Writers began to express regret about their lost heritage and realised that much that had been good had also been lost.  The struggle to deal with poor relief during the seventeenth century was seen as a direct repercussion from the loss of older forms of relief provided by the church that had been swept away in religious fervour.

Andy Wood moved the discussion towards archaeology and anthropology as a method for examining early modern memory.  Wood is concerned that the focus is too heavily concerned with the memory of ‘elites’ and does not try to rediscover popular memory and its connection to the local region.  Citing authors such as Daniel Woolf, Keith Thomas, and Adam Fox (and now in addition Walsham), Wood retells the history of historical study into memory from its conception as collective memory in the inter-war period, the focus on politics of memory in the 1970s, and finally onto memory as identity as expressed in the 1990s.  Using an anthropological comparison to Latin America, Wood suggests that memory often views the past as an aspect of the present.  Rather than modern perceptive of time evolving and constantly changing, early modern men and women, as also identified in areas of Latin America, experience time as static and largely unchanging but with moments of rupture and change (such as the reformation).

Finally Kate Chedgzoy focused on the archive and how memory could be drawn out from documents where it is not obviously there.  For Chedgzoy’s own studies – women history and the history of children – the archives rarely give the limelight to such evidence.  However, if one looks closely and from alternative perspectives evidence can nonetheless be amassed.  Children’s history is a case in point and one where Chedgzoy has identified a problem with current studies.  Historians tend to look at children as the subject of their study rather than ask the question of what children thought or what they saw as their own memories.  Of course, the main reason for this is that the archives do not easily give up such information.  However, stray references to what parents of children write can help to give a partial picture as can adults memories of their childhood.  One particularly striking example is a 1670s manuscript by Nathanial Friend who wrote a memorial to his boy who had recently died.

To listen to these podcasts click here

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***PLEASE NOTE THIS SEMINAR IS NOW ON TUESDAY 4 SEPTEMBER 2012 NOT 5TH AS ORIGINALLY ADVERTISED**

Today I would like to announce an upcoming workshop about digital history, hosted by Bill Turkel at the Institute of Historical Research.  Please read the information below for more details.

The IHR Seminar in Digital History would like to announce a special event. We are sponsoring a workshop to kick-off the Autumn 2012 seminar series that will be hosted by William J. Turkel, one of the most interesting and innovative digital historians working today. This event will allow digital humanists, historians, and anyone with an interest in the changing meanings of historical analysis and discourse in the twenty-first century an opportunity to approach these issues through both demonstrations and discussions.

Title: ‘Doing History in Real Time’

Host: Professor William J. Turkel (University of Western Ontario)

A workshop sponsored by the IHR Seminar in Digital History

September 4, 2012

5:15 PM (BST=GMT+1)

Venue: G35 Bloomsbury Room, Senate House

Workshop Description: In A New Culture of Learning (2011), Thomas and Seely Brown argue that the traditional view of teaching and learning ‘presumes the existence of knowledge that is both worth communicating and doesn’t tend to change very much over time’. In this workshop we explore the degree to which either assumption is valid now. We also discuss some of the new kinds of computational tools or instruments which historians may want to construct and use. These have the potential to make us better navigators of our contemporary (digital) world, and will allow us to continue to assert that a nuanced knowledge of the past is the best guide to present conduct.

Bill Turkel is Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University of Western Ontario and Project Director, Digital Infrastructure for the SSHRC Strategic Knowledge Cluster NiCHE: Network in Canadian History & Environment. He does computational history, Big History, STS, physical computing, desktop fabrication and electronics. He programs whenever he gets the chance, and is experimenting regularly with analog electronics. There is more information about his work on his personal website.

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Archives & Society
Advocacy for the archive sector
Marie Owens (Archives and Records Association)
8 May 2012

Marie Owens has a long standing knowledge of publicity, communications and PR related to libraries and archives.  Owens strongly believes that the archive sector needs to speak out and explain more strongly what it is that it does.  In this talk Owens discusses the changes over the last few decades in communications emphasis and the tools that are now available to do so.  Owens talks about strategy but also advocacy.  Advocacy, Owens argues, sits on top of good communication and is a call to action.  Often made to influential people, advocacy allows institutions and professions to rehabilitate themselves or promote themselves in a particular light through ‘champions’ who will discuss and further their call.  Owens notes the case of the new British Library off Euston road.  In 1992 the work was behind schedule and popular opinion saw the venture as a failure.  However, by its opening some five years later advocacy and a clear communication strategy had turn this opinion around and it is now a successful hub of scholarly work.  Owens makes a case for the use of advocacy in the archives sector; what that might look like; and what they might want to say.

To listen to this podcast click here.

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