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Archive for August, 2013

Going Underground: Travel Beneath the Metropolis 1863-2013
Lucy Maulsby
The Underground Above Ground
17 January 2013 
Air cooling on trial at Victoria station (Wikipedia)

Air cooling on trial at Victoria station (Wikipedia)

Abstract: Architectural historians interested in underground transportation systems have largely focused on the representational character of the passenger stations, such as those designed by Otto Wagner in Vienna and Hector Guimard in Paris, and positioned these works within standard are historical narratives, particularly the emergence of the avant-garde in the twentieth century. In contrast, my paper analyzes and discusses the ways in which architects, engineers, and others gave visual form to the more mundane but no less important functional elements of these transportation systems. Though the primary example of the Southwest Corridor Transit Project (Stull & Lee, 1987) in Boston – which made ventilation shafts a visible part of a new public park that laced through an established residential community – I trace changing attitudes toward subway infrastructure from the late eighteenth into the twentieth century. How and to what extent have architects participated in shaping the form and character of the mechanical equipment that is now an inevitable part of the urban landscape? To what extent have changing technologies (the switch from steam to electrically powered lines) changed the character of these projects? How do the different strategies employed by designers and engineers – from the masking of these systems behind false fronts as in Victorian London to their guarded acknowledgment in the Boston example – offer different models for understanding the extent to which infrastructure participates in the representation of civic life.

Biography: Lucy Maulsby received her M.Phil. in the History and Theory of Architecture from Cambridge University in England, before earning her PhD at Columbia University in New York in 2007. Her scholarship focuses on the relationships between architecture, urbanism, and politics, with a particular emphasis on architecture in modern Italy. Maulsby is currently completing her book manuscript Fascism, Architecture and the Claiming of Modern Milan to be published by Toronto University Press in 2013. She has presented her research in journal articles, book chapters and at numerous national and international conferences. She is currently an Assistant Professor at Northeastern University in Boston where she teaches courses in nineteenth and twentieth century architectural and urban history.

To listen to this podcast click here.

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Global History seminar
Frank Trentmann (Birkbeck)
17 March 2010
The Consumption of Culture – A Global History

This is a guest post by Bianca Harrisskitt, one of IHR Digital’s interns from the University of Leicester.

1347810149The growth of consumerism is a topic that seems to be receiving ever increasing academic attention, as historians, sociologists, economists and many others seek to study and explain the rise of the consumer culture. Professor Frank Trentmann of Birkbeck College delivered a lecture in March 2010 called ‘The Consumption of Culture’, as part of a larger project entitled ‘the Consuming Passion’, which sought to chart the history of consumption from 1600 to the present day.

The speaker identifies the two main problems which plague the historical understanding of the place of global developments and empire within the history of consumption. These include, firstly, the lack of research by historians on the period 1700 to 1900 and secondly, the ‘power vacuum’ in most consumer theories. Thus, in this lecture, the speaker strives to cover the 1700 to 1900 period, whilst paying attention to the role that power plays in the pattern of consumption.

In order to do this, Professor Trentmann aims to address four thematic areas of the history of consumption: the expansion of ‘drug foods’ (including chocolate, tea, coffee and sugar), slavery, the role of the consumer within imperial relations and the value of objects in relation to place. Through exploring these tropes Professor Trentmann aims to pinpoint how ‘empire’ impacted on consumers, and furthermore if and how consumers impacted on ‘empire’.

Additionally, the importance of time and the differences that occur over different time periods are considered throughout the speech. For example, Trentmann points out that tea is a typical example of the way in which exotic products embedded colonial meanings as well as colonial trade in ordinary lives in the eighteenth century, highlighting the impact of empire on consumers. However, the speaker states that whilst this is right for the eighteenth century, it does not necessarily apply to subsequent centuries. Patterns change over time, and Professor Trentmann goes to great lengths to demonstrate this.

On a concluding note, although the podcast is incomplete and we therefore do not get to hear Professor Trentmann elaborate on his final two thematic areas, his main argument is clear; it is absolutely crucial to engage with the entire time period, from 1600 up until the present day in addition to paying close attention to the role of power in order to understand the topic as a whole. Professor Trentmann therefore provides an informative and stimulating overview of the historical development of consumption and the approach needed in order to study.

To listen to this podcast click here.

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Going Underground: Travel Beneath the Metropolis 1863-2013
Christoph Lueder
The London Tube Map as Shared Public Diagram
18 January 2013
Map of the London Underground (wikipedia) - not the Harry Beck version

Map of the London Underground (wikipedia) – not the Harry Beck version

Abstract: Harry Beck’s seminal London Tube Map, in over 80 years of use and alteration since its inception in 1931, has provided an indispensible tool for navigation to tourists and locals. It may have become one of the most widely recognized diagrammatic representation of any city. As a diagram, it not only is a tool for navigation, but also, paraphrasing Anthony Vidler, an instrument of thought about the city as well as a mirror of thought. Comments and early sketches of Beck, such as the ‘spoof diagram’ suggesting analogy to electrical circuit boards, evoke what Paul Elliman has termed ‘the modernist vision of the city as an efficient machine’. However, in its various incarnations and re-inventions, the London Tube Map has been invested with memory, meaning and poetics by its users. It has been re-labelled, re-configured, and re-conceptualized by advertisers, artists, designers and theorists, while remaining recognizable and retaining graphic coherence. Unlike aboveground London, which too has been a subject of seminal maps, but has resisted conceptualization as a single, shared public image, the London Underground is embedded in public imagination as a network diagram.

This paper will examine processes of appropriation of the Tube Map against alternate attempts at diagramming urban networks such as Situationist maps of Paris. A series of semi-structured interviews incorporating sketched diagrams of above and below ground London will be evaluated in order to situate the London Tube Map in the context of urban theory and the practice of urban life.

Biography: Christoph Lueder is a graduate of the University of Stuttgart in architecture and urbanism where he has also taught. He practiced with Behnisch & Partners as well as Auer + Weber in Stuttgart before setting up his own office in Zurich whil teaching and researching at ETH. In the UK he has taught at Canterbury School of Architecture and currently researches on the roles of diagrams in architecture and culture and teaches at Kingston University.

To listen to this podcast click here.

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Joaquim Nabuco, Abolitionism and the End of Slavery in Brazil
Leslie Bethell (KCL)
Latin American History seminar
19 February 2013

This is a guest post by Angie Goodwin, one of IHR Digital’s interns from the University of West Virginia.

Joaquim Nabuco

Joaquim Nabuco

How did the abolition movement in Brazil unfold?  Who were the key players? And why did it take an incredible amount of time to rid Brazil of slavery?  These questions are at the forefront of Dr. Bethell’s presentation.  The core of the abolitionist movement encircled one man, Joaquim Nabuco.  Bethell addresses the comparisons of Nabuco to Lincoln.  Both men extremely beneficial to the cause of freeing enslaved persons, but their paths were much different.  Dr.  Bethell’s examination of Nabuco’s life offers insight about slavery in Brazil and the long road to freedom.

In the mid 19th century slavery was still in full swing in the United States, Brazil, Cuba and Puerto Rico.  There were an estimated six million slaves within these areas.  It was difficult to get a precise number due to the amount of illegal methods being used to smuggle slaves.  Two issues come into play of why slavery lasted longer in the west, economics and racism.  The main cash crops (cotton, coffee, and sugar) grown in these areas were labour intensive.  Slave owners were willing to turn a profit by whatever means necessary.  Brazil was unique in the fact that unlike the United States the economic factors were the driving force.  Racism was a mute point as an overwhelming percentage of the population were those of colour or mixed identity.  Several attempts were made by the Emperor Dom Pedro to take steps toward freeing the slaves.  Each time the legislation was met with bitter resistance with no moral or social defence.  Money was the only agreement made by the conservatives pointing out that without the manpower the economy would collapse.

Slavery in Brazil (wikipedia)

Slavery in Brazil (wikipedia)

In an attempt to over ride parliament Dom Pedro created a new opening in government for a liberal candidate.  In 1879 Nabuco was elected on the platform of religious freedom; he would soon shift his attention to abolitionist movements.  He himself had been an enslaved person until the age of eight.  He had always had a soft heart for those in the same condition, but did not pursue the abolitionist cause until much later in life.  During his first term in office he submitted a modest bill (1880) that would allow for freedom with compensation to slave owners.  It fell through.  Nabuco had very little public support and felt it would be better to gain global opinion before trying to submit a new bill.  His travels abroad helped to cement his passion to crusade those affected by slavery.  He spent a significant amount of time in Europe especially in Great Britain.  Nabuco worked with the political elite using their insight and experience to devise a new plan of attack.   Nabuco’s intense expedition would come full circle only after several more attempts were made to move towards an agreement.  Finality on the matter came in May 1888, the Lei Aurea (Golden Law) was signed and the slaves in Brazil were free.  Nabuco continued working to secure rights for the newly freed people.  He would find more resistance as most of the abolitionist groups had given up the cause once the slaves were free.

To listen to this podcast click here.

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Disability History Seminar
Ross MacFarlane (Wellcome Trust)
Herr Winkelmeier, Tom Thumb and the Hilton Sisters: Uncovering the ‘freaks’ of the Wellcome Library

This is a guest post by Charlotte De Val, one of IHR Digital’s interns from the University of Leicester.

Items belonging to General Tom Thumb from the V&A collection (wikipedia)

Items belonging to General Tom Thumb from the V&A collection (wikipedia)

The Wellcome Library, situated London, is one of the world’s major resources for the study of medical history. In this seminar Ross MacFarlane (Wellcome Trust) explores the nineteenth-century posters and hand bills advertising ‘freak shows’ in the ephemera collection. These advertisements are used to explore the representation of performers, the relationship they had with their ‘masters’, performer agency and disability terminology. The Wellcome Library has a particularly interesting context for these ‘freak shows’; while many collections, such as the V&A theatre archive, contextualise them under performance theatre, the Wellcome Library provides a fascinating medical approach.

Under this medical context, MacFarlane discusses nineteenth-century terminology (‘freak of nature’ etc.) and the modern descriptor ‘disabled’. In the 1980s, scholars re-assessed the phrase ‘freak of nature’; the social construction of the word ‘freak’ inherently considers the performers un-natural and therefore, they concluded, they are in fact ‘freak(s) of culture’.  As for the term ‘disabled’ (first used in reference to war victims), MacFarlane urges consideration in its application to ‘freak show’ performers, since some traits are not necessarily considered to be a disability and it has some problematic modern connotations. Such an approach to terminology came with the revision of the assumed victim/agent binary; while MacFarlane stresses that we must not wholly accept the ‘rosier’ picture revisionist history paints, he does provide evidence to complicate the assumed exploitation. Within the wider historiography, MacFarlane picks up his discussion with Richard Altick’s study, The Shows of London (1978), which identified the nineteenth-century shift in ‘freak shows’ from open-air shows in seasonal fairs to permanent urban establishments.

Phineas Taylor Barnum & Charles Sherwood Stratton (General Tom Thumb) c. 1850 (wikipedia)

Phineas Taylor Barnum & Charles Sherwood Stratton (General Tom Thumb) c. 1850 (wikipedia)

MacFarlane deliberately uses lesser-known performers and materials that have not yet been digitised to avoid familiarity. Amongst many small examples from the collection, the first performer discussed in depth is General Tom Thumb (born Charles Sherwood Stratton), who, having not grown since he was six months old, was signed by P.T. Barnum at the age of four. Analysing their performer/master relationship, MacFarlane addresses the problematic narrative presented in Barnum’s autobiography. Tom Thumb’s courtship and wedding with fellow performer Lavinia Warren is also given significant attention, as is the role of photography in the industry which juxtaposed normative images with extraordinary bodies.

Herr Winkelmeier, an Austrian ‘giant’, is MacFarlane’s second example. Giants were considered particularly exotic, which is evident in the use of foreign national dress, flags etc in advertisements. MacFarlane also discusses the contrasting careers of giants and midgets; while a giant’s height was the main attraction, midgets were taught to sing, dance and display other talents. Herr Winkelmeier advertisements also display the equal standing with other forms of entertainment, having appeared on a poster with comedian Harry Randall.

Finally, MacFarlane discusses conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton. The Hilton Sisters, famed as the first surviving UK-born conjoined twins, gained considerable medical interest and therefore particularly appropriate within the context of the Wellcome Library. Furthermore, MacFarlane highlights the public interest in the sexuality and domesticity of conjoined twins; popular accounts of the Hilton Sisters (and other conjoined twins) often contained commentary on their sex lives.

In conclusion, MacFarlane returns to the transformation of ‘freak shows’ from outdoor entertainment to a respectable, permanent industry even appearing in films. By exploring advertisement methods, the proximity to other forms of entertainment and medical interest in the industry, MacFarlane aims to widen the discussion of issues that apply to ‘freak shows’ generally.

To listen to this podcast click here.

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“Floundering in the Slough of Despond” – singleness, unfitness, and the British woman missionary in India, c.1920-1950
Andrea Pass (University of Oxford)
Christian Missions in Global History
5 December 2012

This is a guest post by Charlotte De Val, one of IHR Digital’s interns from the University of Leicester.

By the early twentieth-century, single women dominated the British missionary enterprise in India. In a seminar from December 2012, Andrea Pass discusses her paper on the pressures, physical hardship and mental difficulties experienced by single women of the two leading Anglican missionary societies – the evangelical Church Mission Society (CMS) and the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG) – in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. Pass focuses on three key issues: the impact of pressure from work on the health of single women missionaries; the difficulties with relationships with colleagues and others; and the difficulties experienced due to challenges to their vocation. The reality of their educational, medical and evangelical service is at the heart of the seminar as Pass emphasises the extreme conditions and expectations of self-sacrifice in the missionary field.

The paper is based on the archives of the SPG in Oxford, the archives of the CMS at the University of Birmingham and the archives of St. Steven’s community in Delhi. A key problem with these sources is accessing women’s opinions on personal issues such as health and happiness. Though the most controversial content was either censored or never collected in official society reports, some controversial issues were recorded but not publicised, and some personal letters are also found in the archives. These personal letters are the most prominent material in the paper, and Pass uses them in conjunction with the official society papers to compare experiences and expectations.

Firstly, Pass explores the impact of illness on missionary work, and the frequency with which female missionaries suffered from nervous breakdown and exhaustion. At the centre of this discussion are the intertwined notions of physical and spiritual fitness. The title quote for this seminar is given as an example; the ‘slough’ in the pilgrim’s progress is reference to the ‘deep bog in which Christians sink due to the weight of sin and guilt’. Pass provides examples to show how physical illness could lead to feelings of spiritual inadequacy and, in reverse, feelings of spiritual inadequacy could lead to physical illness.

Miss Sigoruney Trask Woman's Foreign Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church, 1869-1895 (wikipedia)

Miss Sigoruney Trask one of the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church, 1869-1895 (wikipedia)

The subject of relationship difficulties is divided between disputes and friendships. The vast majority of disputes on missions occurred between female colleagues and often were the result of generational tensions. The difficulties caused by friendships, however, are more complex. Pass discusses the exclusivity of friendships and the problems for newcomers as well as the more controversial friendships between missionaries and ‘outsiders’. Pass includes a detailed example of a missionary’s friendship with a Roman Catholic, Lady Alexandra Haley, to explore the issues these friendships could cause. Aside from the belief that it removed women from their missionary work, Pass introduces the medical and psychological discussion of ‘sexual starvation’ and ‘obsessive’ friendships; by the 1920s, she identifies, contemporary psychological vocabulary on ‘sexual starvation’ had percolated into missionary debate.

Finally, Pass discusses the challenges to the vocation of single women missionaries. Most prominent is the conflict of the missionary ‘calling’ with some other better fulfilment of their professional capabilities and familial responsibility – for example, marriage. Pass identifies the problems with conflicting ‘callings’ in the administrative defects of SPG and CMS and contemporary criticisms of the society for failing to address personal crisis. Personal conflicts between members of the societies’ staff are also discussed, as are the theological differences between SPG and CMS and the impact this had on the physical and mental wellbeing of single-women missionaries.

In conclusion, Pass emphasises the gruelling reality of the field which tested the missionaries’ declaration of purpose. In her final remarks, however, Pass is adamant that the negatives of women missionaries’ experiences should not be over-stressed; the majority of women chose to ‘soldier on’ in the faith that ‘out of despair came hope, out of darkness came light.’

To listen to this podcast click here.

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