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Archive for April, 2013

Jubilee Line - just before the rush hour (wikipedia)

Jubilee Line – just before the rush hour (wikipedia)

Going Underground: Travel Beneath the Metropolis, 1863-2013

Simon Abernethy (University of Cambridge)
Class and commuting on the Underground, 1863 – 1939

 

Abstract

In the 21st Century London’s Underground is effectively “classless”. Builders and clerks, managers and secretaries, all travel in the same coaches and share the same free newspapers. But a century ago this mixing of classes was almost revolutionary, and an occurrence that incurred the wrath of the management of the early companies, fearful of the impact of working class passengers. In 1905 the Chairman of the Metropolitan District Railway decried the presence of ‘dusty’ and ‘filthy’ workmen sat alongside his middle class travellers. The Underground Group tried to abolish workmen’s fares, early morning concessions for the working classes, in the early 1920s. At each stage the companies faced the opposition of the London County Council (LCC), a champion of cheap travel for the working classes, and fierce political battles were often the result. This paper examines the relationship between the underground companies and the class of their passengers between the 1860s and the Second World War. It shows how before 1914 class was a key issue that the companies engaged with, how they often acted to restrict working class travellers, and how the LCC fought them on this. But it also shows how the Great War represents a watershed. The inter-war period saw class issues largely fade away due to the Underground Group’s drive for efficiency and expansion. In fact, one might consider the period as laying the foundation for the classless Underground we know today. This paper examines how and why this happened.

Biography

Simon Abernethy is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Cambridge, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. He has a BA in history and an M.Phil. in Economic and Social History from Cambridge. His Ph.D. examines the relationship between London’s transport providers and the impact this had on class development in the capital between 1881 and 1939. Simon is currently digitising the New Survey of London Life and Labour in the London School of Economics, which gives fare data on thousands of Londoners between 1928 and 1932. He intends to match this data with workmen’s fare data collected by the Underground Group between 1914 and 1933.

 

To listen to this podcast click here.

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British History in the Long 18th Century
7 November 2012
Kate Retford (Birkbeck, University of London)
What’s in a Name?: The ‘Conversation’ Piece in Eighteenth-Century Britain

 

A Conversation piece (wikipedia)

A Conversation piece (wikipedia)

For the uninitiated (that would include me, I’m afraid!) ‘conversation’ pieces is a term used to describe an informal array of portraits, mainly from Britain, and popular in the eighteenth century.  As a group they tend to be small in size and portray some activity either indoors or outdoors relating to ordinary life.  As Kate Retford explains they were generally more focused on the details of the setting rather than the people themselves.

In this paper Kate Retford focuses on two inter-related questions.  First, the difficult question of establishing exactly what was meant and is now meant as ‘conversation’ pieces.  Were they one and the same or has the category evolved over time (especially in the historiography).  The second question is more general.  What is the meaning and significance of the term ‘conversation’ within the confines of this category of art work?  Neither question has straight forward answers.

The standard checklist for ‘conversation’ pieces is that they are to be set on a small-scale canvas, are to be intimate and informal portraits, and will focus on the setting and context more than the people themselves.  However, Retford’s investigations show that many genre pictures were also called ‘conversation’ pieces and that the hard and fast rules don’t always apply.  In many cases the ‘conversation’ piece was described as an examination of behaviour, tastes and possessions accurate to a given time and place.  This was, indeed, one of their uses – the ability to capture a moment in time.  But it is nonetheless far from a simple picture.

 

To listen to this podcast click here.

 

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Public History seminar
Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick
3 April 2013
The Untold History of the United States
Oliver Stone (wikipedia)

Oliver Stone (wikipedia)

Film director Oliver Stone and historian Peter Kuznick discuss their book and forthcoming television series.

The Untold History of the United States re-examines America’s financial, diplomatic and military influence on the long twentieth century to produce a polemical account of the rise and fall of the American Empire.

Oliver Stone begins by talking about how he and Peter Kuznick got together in the 1990s and which has now resulted in this current collaboration on this project to look at the Atomic bomb, the cold war, and United States history to the present day.  A massive hurdle that they had to overcome was to convince the government that the American people were ready to deal with the history of the Atomic bomb seriously and critically.  This book and television series is the result, offering an alternative and controversial look at the United States, and its role in history.

Questions asked and answered:

  1. How have peers in academia have responded to this project?
  2. Is this project a step into a new field for you, away from what you had done before?
  3. How do you balance in these popular formats the need to entertain with the complexity of the past?
  4. Does the panel ascribe to the belief of the new world order?
  5. How did you decide on what would be contained in each segment of the series?
  6. Are you really suggesting that Stalin had no interest in occupying Eastern Europe and Western Europe, and it was only because of the Atomic bomb that he did that?
  7. What evidence do you have the Harry Truman knew the evidence rather than having to make a hard political judgement?
  8. How do you think we should take this awareness of other versions of History to the youth of America?
  9. Were Wallace and Truman both searching for legitimisation of American capitalism?
  10. Production of a rewritten history – is this a new way of bringing the war home?
  11. The Atomic bomb was originally built with the Germans in mind, rather than the Japanese.  What affect does this have on the opinions you have put forward?
  12. What about the Latin American and the eastern aspects of the story.
  13. Is Obama a pivot of history?

To listen to this podcast click here.

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British History in the Long Eighteenth Century
30 January 2013
Giorgio Riello (University of Warwick)
The World is not Enough: Global History, Cotton Textiles and the Industrial Revolution

 

(Wikipedia)

(Wikipedia)

Although the title of this paper might remind you of a James Bond film, this paper is not about the media or large conglomerates  but about the industrial revolution, and in particular the trade and use of cotton textiles. The Cotton industry formed a major component of the British Industrial Revolution but because of that the story is often formed around the rapid transformation of cotton and textiles in the nineteenth century, and generally focused around the British story.  This is not the approach that Giorgio Riello outlines in today’s paper.  Riello believes that the story of the cotton industry is made more interesting and accurate by looking at a wider picture over a longer period of time and across the world.  Cotton has a long history well before it arrived in Europe and so Riello looks at its use from 1000 AD up until the sixteenth-century as well as mechanisation in later centuries.  Through this prism it is possible to see that the changes evoked in Britain were part of a wider story that crossed from India, to China and the Americas, even a little into Africa.  Riello’s primary questions are why this major industry moved from predominantly India and China to Europe and why and how this because mechanised.  The arguments form the backbone for a forthcoming book on Cotton and the Early Modern World.

To listen to this podcast click here.

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Metropolitan History
30 January 2013
Francis Boorman (IHR)
The stormy latitude of the law: Chancery Lane and spatial politics in late eighteenth-century London

 

(wikipedia)

(wikipedia)

Francis Boorman has discussed Chancery Lane before in a previous podcast on History SPOT called Chancery Lane: politics, space and the built environment, c.1760-1815.  That paper was delivered in 2011 so this gives us an opportunity to catch up on his work.

This paper investigates Chancery Lane as the intersection between the City and Westminster.  It is a local investigation into what Jerry White calls the dynamics of urban renewal in London in terms of a public collective.  For parts of that argument see the podcast City Rivalries and the making of Modern London, 1720-1770 by Jerry White also in 2011.  The paper investigates this model in opposition to that offered by Eric Hobsbawm about the negotiations of individual citizens in the public sphere, but with influence from Peter Clark’s argument concerning the dissociation of parish administrators with the local elite.

The public space of Chancery Lane took a long time to progress and change because of politics between rival local interests, none of which could easily agree on their individual responsibility or ownership.  Francis Boorman examines the models presented by other historians and considers what this might mean for his study of Chancery Lane, which intersected both the City and Westminster.

To listen to this podcast click here.

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Voluntary Action History
14 January 2013
Dr Marcella Sutcliffe (University of Cambridge)
A Liberal Education for ‘Citizens’: The Case of the Working Men’s College (1854-1914 ca.)

‘Making them men with the culture to work together in fellowship as men’

This was one of the reasons claimed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century’s for educating working men.  It was to be a liberal education, set to provide male workers with knowledge of the classics and of their role in society.  They were to understand the context in which they lived, so that they would appreciate their role as a citizen.

 The Working Men's College, Great Ormond Street, London. Ca 1850s. (wikipedia)

The Working Men’s College, Great Ormond Street, London. Ca 1850s. (wikipedia)

Marcella Sutcliffe examines the case of the working men’s college between 1854 and 1914.  There were various debates about what the education should include.  Should it be founded on religious values, especially now that religion was not seen as a requirement of citizenship any longer?  Should the sciences be included, and if so, why?  What was the use of teaching classics and humanities?  Did such studies provide anything useful to enlarge feelings of pride about being English?

In this paper we get a discussion regarding these various educational activities and the reasoning behind the choices made.  The central question was over the purpose the education should provide for the betterment not only of individual lives, but for society as a whole.

To listen to this podcast click here.

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Gender and the History of Americas
7 January 2013
Althea Legal-Miller (Independent scholar)
‘Mistreated and Molested’: Jailhouse Violence and the Civil Rights Movement

 

Fire-hosing civil rights protestors in the 1960s

Fire-hosing civil rights protesters in the 1960s

January 21 1962 in Clarksdale, Mississippi two white police officers arrested Betsy Turner, an African-Black teenager.  They charged her with theft and took her to the county jail for questioning.  Soon, however, the interrogation turned violent.   Turner was made to lie down on the flour and was whipped on her back, buttocks, and genitals.  She was told to remain silent about what had occurred, but she refused to be silenced.  Betsy Turner’s story then became part of the ongoing struggle over anti-black state terrorism.

It was painful to listen to Althea Legal-Miller’s talk about how often young black girls were mistreated and abused when sent to prison after taking action in the civil rights movement.  Girls were often treated in similar ways to Betsy Turner – some even worse.  Turner came to believe that her sexual assault had been a reprisal against her attempts to register for the vote.

The 1960s proved to be pivotal moment where jails and prisons became a battleground where black women fought over their rights against violence and sexual attack.  In this paper Legal-Miller takes us through some of the horrendous stories that came out from these jails and what role all of this eventually played in the civil rights movement.

To listen to the podcast or watch the video click here.

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