Archive for October, 2012

Metropolitan History Seminar
10 October 2012
Stuart Minson (Oxford)
A history of urban space: changing concepts of space in the study of the early modern metropolis


Space and place has become a popular study in recent years.  It can be found in many titles of seminar papers, monographs, articles, and museum/library exhibitions.  However, as an analytical category ‘space’ is a recent innovation for the History discipline, falling behind many other social sciences who took the category up much earlier.

In this paper Stuart Minson surveys the changing concepts and variety of thoughts about ‘space’ with particular mention of the early modern urban space.  Even the meaning of the word varies considerably.  China and the West have very different views of what space constitutes.

Minson looks at the meanings given to space, whether these are practical, spiritual or invisible.  He asks what relationships humans have to spaces and how these influence and control actions.  Certain spaces, for example encourage certain actions over others (you would act differently in a work place than a home or a café for example).  These spaces are always open to reinterpretation, although there are always some – either official or unofficial – who attempt to retain the status quo when this happens.  Space therefore can be a place where a variety of social interests are played out.

In the second half of the paper, Minson turns to the question of where this concept of space came from.  This is a look at Max Weber, Carl Friedrich Gauss and others as well as an examination of the term in regards specifically to urban landscape studies which itself is routed in cultural geography.  Most historical work, Minson argues, still continues to follow traditional and in some cases outdated models from geography and anthropology, when it should be increasingly focusing on synthesising the two way relationship between people and space.  Thus, for Minson, the study of space and place in the History discipline still needs much work.

To listen to this podcast click here

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Metropolitan History
The prevention of crime in late eighteenth-century Bristol: policing, the public, and the city
Matthew Neale (IHR)
29 February 2012


This is a guest post by James Wilkinson, one of IHR Digital’s summer interns from the University of Leicester.

The focus of this talk by Mathew Neale is on the prevention of crime, and policing in the late eighteenth century city, using Bristol as an example case study.

He begins by addressing the semantic issues of using such a broad term as policing, when there was no unified, government supported force in this time period. There was at the time a more broad range of officers and lawmen which had varying roles and areas of operation, some example being the night-watchmen, private watchmen and the Major’s marshal.

Neale explains that of these, possibly the most important prevention force was the night watch in Bristol. There scale of operation covered the whole city in different zones of operation, and focussed on the prevention of unlawful activity in the night, when it was most common. There was a varying distribution of watchmen across the city with greater concentrations in the centre of the city as opposed to the outskirts.

Neale points to the significance of the night watch by displaying how the behaviour of thieves changed when they were around. For example thieves were concealing items that were stolen overnight because they saw the night watch as a significant threat and one that should be avoided.

Neale also explains the techniques of law enforcement when attempting to find criminals or prevent crime. He asserts that appearance and timing could be the sole reason for arrest.

 To listen to this podcast click here.


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Luke Blaxill (King’s College, London), Quantifying the language of British Politics 1880-1914  
on 23 October 2012 (Digital History Seminar).

Time: 5.15pm BST

Just a quick reminder of tonight’s live streamed seminar from the Digital History seminar.  Tonight we will be hearing from Luke Blaxill from King’s College London on the topic of ‘Quantifying the Language of British Politics, 1880-1914’.  As usual this talk will focus on the digital side of the research.

If you wish to follow on the live stream you will also have the opportunity to take part in the post-paper discussion to ask questions of the speaker either through Twitter (hashtag #dhist) or through History SPOT’s chat function.

Click here to watch the seminar (starting c. 5.15pm BST)

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Sport and Leisure History
Sport’s Role in 1951’s Festival of Britain
Iain Wilton (Queen Mary, University of London)
19 March 2012


England vs Argentina 1951

The Festival of Britain held in 1951 is generally described as a rather insular affair focused on Britain without much consideration beyond the borders.  Most of the landmarks created for the festival were soon afterwards destroyed (apparently for ideological reasons by Churchill’s government), although the Royal Festival Hall survived, as did the Miss World competition (then properly entitled the Festival Bikini-girl competition).  It is not to these aspects, however, that Iain Wilton looks.  Instead he examines the generally unmentioned role of sport during the festival and how such a study suggests that the festival was not so inward looking as is generally claimed.

Although there is barely any mention of sport in the official festival report (written soon after the end of the festival) there was nevertheless a variety of matches and events played across the country as part of the festival.  Some of these, such as cricket and woman’s netball were indeed insular affairs, focusing only upon England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, perhaps with some input from Australia.  Other games, however, were more international.  Women’s Hockey included several European nations outside of the Empire, while cycling events included seven other nations.  Football included the local derby’s’ but also held English club matches against foreign clubs, as well as truly international matches.  In the late 1940s England had time and again shown to be a lacklustre force in international football, largely because of its focus on playing European teams.  However, the festival offered them an opportunity to put themselves against teams further afield.  For example, 1951 saw the very first encounter between England and Argentina (Wilton doesn’t mention the final score, although I’m sure many football fans will already know that England won 2-1).  Scotland too played various matches and performed well.

The Argentina game might also have been arranged in-part for political relations.  1950s Britain was still a rationed nation whilst the Argentine market promised cheap meat exports.  Iain Wilton suggests that the match was therefore partially organised to build relations.  In all, Wilton argues that sport is the missing piece of the 1951 Festival of Britain that truly makes it a national event and suggests that not all elements of the festival were as inward looking as is often suggested.

To listen to this podcast click here. 

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British History in the Long-eighteenth Century
 ‘Rusty old Queen Anne’s many suitors’: Firearms and inter-communal violence in Armagh, 1783-1790
Stephen Duane Dean Jr (King’s College London)
8 February 2012

This is a guest post by James Wilkinson, one of IHR Digital’s summer interns from the University of Leicester.

The focus of this seminar by Stephen Duane Dean jr is to address the impact of firearms, such as the Queen Anne musket on inter-communal violence in Armagh and the rest of Ireland, and factors which catalysed their growing ownership.

The Queen Anne Musket (1702-1714)

Some of these factors that Stephen explores are:

  • The fear factor of the rival religious community being armed,
  • a lack of respect for the biased courts and law,
  • occupying foreign garrison troops from England who couldn’t pacify the Catholics,
  • a quickly expanding population and little peaceful interaction between the Catholic and Protestant communities.

Firearms were a catalyst for violence in Irish communities, despite laws preventing Catholics from owning them. The law was not being enforced from the top except sporadic ineffective clampdowns, and as a result was attempted to be done locally which fractured communities. Furthermore checks for firearms by locals were mainly used as a cover for looting Catholic houses, which led to Catholics attempting to defend themselves and their property.

Was Armagh special? Stephen uses this case study to analyse the impact of firearms on an area with a pre-existing tradition of faction fighting between religious groups. Industry and employment led to increased expansion of populations of rival religious groups with overlapping religious days. Prosperity added to conflict as when the poor had money leftover they spent more time and money on alcohol and weaponry.

To listen to this podcast click here.

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Digital History seminar
Luke Blaxill (King’s College, London)
‘Quantifying the Language of British Politics, 1880-1914’
Tuesday 23 October 2012 
Live from 5.15pm (BST) on History SPOT: https://historyspot.org.uk/podcasts

Please join us on the 23rd October for the second seminar from the Digital History seminar.  As per usual the live stream will include options to Tweet (using the #dhist tag) and chat on the chat feature.  Both options allow you to ask questions of the speaker.  The History SPOT live stream is now only available as pop outs from the podcasts page.  Please let us know what you think of this change and if there are any ways we can improve things for you.


This paper explores the power, potential, and challenges of studying historical political speeches using a specially constructed multi-million word corpus via quantitative computer software. The techniques used – inspired particularly by Corpus Linguists – are almost entirely novel in the field of political history, an area where research into language is conducted nearly exclusively qualitatively. The paper argues that a corpus gives us the crucial ability to investigate matters of historical interest (e.g. the political rhetoric of imperialism, Ireland, and class) in a more empirical and systematic manner, giving us the capacity to measure scope, typicality, and power in a massive text like a national general election campaign which it would be impossible to read in entirety.

The paper also discusses some of the main arguments against this approach which are commonly presented by critics, and reflects on the challenges faced by quantitative language analysis in gaining more widespread acceptance and recognition within the field.

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Histories of Home (now renamed Studies of Home)
Practices of inhabitance in large houses: Comfort, privacy and status in Sydney, Australia
Robyn Dowling (Macquarie University)
12 October 2011

Since the 1980s house size has increased by around 50% in Sydney, Australia.  This is a large increase and brings with it a rapid change of lifestyle.  Robyn Dowling examines what happens in these enlarged spaces and what makes them a home.  She also investigates materiality and the impact on the family unit that greater space provokes.

The study is based around interviews carried out in the early 2000s and focuses on a study of 26 Sydney mass-produced houses.  These mass-produced houses are increasingly popular in Australia and in most cases are designed with the nuclear family in mind.  The interviewees were found to be largely in their thirties with children under the age of twelve.  Most were middle class and natural born Australians.

So what did Dowling discover?  Well the most significant change is in the fracturing of the household.  With increased room to create individual spaces the needs of each family member is given greater focus over that of the whole.  The expectation has shifted from a family-focused unit to individual privacy, with specific areas designated for quality family time.

This transformation of the family unit brings Dowling to look into methods of parenting in these enlarged spaces and the perception surrounding homeliness (such as notions of comfort and relaxation).  A home is made up from a mixture of standard possessions and personal touches including family heirlooms.  Identification of status and class (including demonstrating wealth through material accumulation and display) is also still highly sought in the design of rooms.  As a final point, Dowling notes that despite modern lifestyle, women still remain the centre of the home.

To listen to this podcast click here. 


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Just a brief word today, to keep you informed about the changes occurring to the History SPOT platform.  These won’t affect your ability to visit the site, either for the podcasts or our research training material, but you will find some changes to the way you navigate the site.

One of the main things that we are trying to do in making these changes is to link it more closely to our parent site, the IHR website (www.history.ac.uk).  You can now access History SPOT either through its home page or through the relevant sections of the IHR website.  For example to access the podcasts you can come in via the seminar pages on the IHR website or from the History SPOT front page.  Detailed information about each training course will now be held on the IHR website where you can then log in to History SPOT to reach those materials.

So, to the changes we have made today.  Firstly you will notice some changes to the History SPOT front page.  We’re now using this space as a place to read about the latest news regarding the IHR’s online seminars and training provision.  Thus we have a latest podcasts feed, latest blog posts, and links to all of our research training online.

The main toolbar has also been simplified to grant easier access to the contents of the site.  The side navigation bar still remains in a reduced form but will be replaced shortly.  You will notice that the Collaborative portion of the site has vanished.  We haven’t gotten rid of this, but we are in the process of changing how we use this portion of the site – more on that at a later date.

The other element of History SPOT that has been improved is the podcast index page.  We have worked hard to provide an index that underlies all of the podcasts on History SPOT.  You can still access these podcasts via a list of the seminar groups but now you can also search via period, geographical location, and type of history.  The search engine at the top of the page also allows you to search by keyword.  In addition we’ve moved our live stream system directly on to the seminar page, so you can now pop-out all of the live stream elements whenever you want to watch a variety of past events (or live events when they are on).

Finally, just a quick note that podcasts from this year’s seminars will begin to appear from next Monday (15 October 2012), so please do watch this space!

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Sport and Leisure History
Khaki Fever at the Finsbury Park Rink Cinema: Gender, Sexuality and Modernity, 1913-19
Alex Rock (De Montfort University)
5 March 2012

This is a guest post by Alison Gilbey, one of IHR Digital’s summer interns from the University of Leicester.

During the years of the First World War, the decline in moral behaviour among young women, particularly those of the working class, was a cause of concern for many. This spread of looser behaviour, termed khaki fever after the way it seemingly followed men in uniform, merited much investigation. In this seminar, Alex Rock, drawing on ideas from Angela Woollacott, discusses an example of such investigation in one cinema in particular; the Finsbury Park Rink cinema. By considering the methods used to carry out this investigation we can gain an idea of what this indicated towards society as a whole. The focus on the cinema was between the years of 1913-19.

The main issues behind the investigation are regarding society as a whole, rather than this one particular place. Issues highlighted include the introduction of women patrols; middle class women who were taken on to “police” areas where loose behaviour may take place, arguably seen as a way of imposing middle class values on the working class women. These can be seen to be linked into the wider issues in society at the time, notably with the push towards women’s suffrage, the traditional image of women as passive creatures was being shaken off during this period. As well as this, the impact of modern culture on British morality was called into question. The focus on the cinema here highlights this, showing distrust in British society with the new “immoral” public spaces being introduced. Finally, this seminar discusses the corruption in the police force at the time and the blind eye that could be turned towards behaviour for a price.

By considering this period of time and the events and concerns of this cinema, we are shown that there was a lot more to this topic than concern over the behaviour of a few “immoral” young ladies.

To listen to this podcast click here.

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The IHR Seminar in Digital History would like to welcome you to its first seminar of the academic year.

Presenter:  Camille Desenclos (École nationale des chartes, Sorbonne)

Title: ‘Rethinking historical research in the digital age: a TEI approach’

Date: October 9, 2012

Time:  5:15 PM (BST=GMT+1)

Venue: Bedford Room G37, Senate house, South block, Ground floor

Historical research cannot be conceived without a close relation to physical text:  paper is still the main source. However the emergence and subsequent multiplication of digital technologies within the historical field have tended to modify the examination of sources. This change is particularly apparent for text editions: how is one to manage the transfer from the manuscript age to a digital one? Can sources be understood and analysed without physical support?

This paper will be based on experiences of using electronic editions of early modern texts, specifically diplomatic correspondences such as L’ambassade extraordinaire du duc d’Angoulême, comte de Béthune et abbé de Préaux vers les princes et potentats de l’Empire. TEI, a XML-based language, has been chosen for those editions. Using such a structured language – a far cry from the plain text created by classical text editors – implies changing the conception of what an edition is. We need not just think about texts anymore but only about the historical information contained within the text and which has to be highlighted in terms of the research. This requires researchers to think more about what they want and what they want to show in their studies. Above all, it allows researchers to track specific features such as diplomatic formulas and then to facilitate their analysis.

The aim of this talk is to ask if and how digital technologies have changed how historians view sources and even if they have changed the historical studies themselves; how TEI can be used to create new kind of editions. This paper will try to show how, if well used, TEI and digital technologies highlight and add to the results of historical studies.



Camille Desenclos is currently completing her PhD at the École nationale des Chartes where she is also engaged in leading several projects to create electronic editions of medieval and early modern texts including an edition of the correspondance of Antoine du Bourg. Her PhD is entitled ‘The Communication Policy of France in the Holy Roman Empire at the beginning of the Thirty Years War (1617-1624)’. A fundamental part of her PhD research includes creating electronic editions and the encoding and ciphering of diplomatic correspondence and structures in related medieval charters. Camille has given numerous conference papers largely concentrating on the Text Encoding Initiative and its application to her research. She was also a Visiting Researcher at the Department of Digital Humanities (DDH) at King’s last year. An electronic edition of the ‘Ambassade extraordinaire des duc d’Angoulême, comte de Béthune et abbé de Préaux’ which she has written will be available online shortly.


Seminars are streamed live online at HistorySpot. To keep in touch, follow us on Twitter (@IHRDigHist) or at the hashtag #dhist.


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