Archive for September, 2013

Going Underground: Travel Beneath the Metropolis 1863-2013
David Pike
Hitchcock’s Underground
18 January 2013
Alfred Hitchcock (wikipedia)

Alfred Hitchcock (wikipedia)

Abstract: “Hitchcock’s Underground” studies the fascinating intersection between one of cinema’s foremost directors and perhaps London’s most frequently filmed settings. Unlike a number of his contemporaries—Fritz Lang, to name a prominent example—Alfred Hitchcock used underground settings sparingly in his career. He generally preferred to create suspense from the paradox of entrapment in an open space than the more conventional spatial dynamic of confinement below the ground. The primary exception to this pattern is the cellar setting in the Hollywood films Notorious and Psycho; however, this paper will examine the other use Hitchcock made of subterranean—the London Underground as setting in his London films of the 1920s. The Underground figures physically or as a plot element in Downhill (1927), Blackmail (1929), Rich and Strange (1931), and Sabotage (1936), making it a significant setting among his London films, and making his engagement with the setting one of the most sustained of the period. This paper will present the films in the context of cinematic representations of the Underground during the interwar years—key years in its development as a spatial icon of city—and in the context of Hitchcock’s extensive meditation on the cityscape of London from the first film he directed (Number 13, 1922) until he left for Hollywood during the war. For Hitchcock, the Underground was a photogenic space of urban modernity, but it was not, as it had been for the 19th century and would continue to be in many cinematic cityscapes, a space distinct from the world above.

Biography: David L. Pike is Professor in the Department of Literature, American University, Washington DC.  He is the author of Metropolis on the Styx: The Underworlds of Modern Urban Culture, 1800–2001 (2007) and Subterranean Cities: The World beneath Paris and London 1800–1945 (2005), shortlisted for the 2006 Modernist Studies Association book prize, and of articles on medieval literature, modernism, film, and Paris and London. From 1993 to 1995, Professor Pike was Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Society of Fellows in the Humanities at Columbia University.

To listen to this podcast click here.

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Digital History seminar
23 October 2012
Luke Blaxill (King’s College London)
Quantifying the Language of British Politics, 1880-1914

shutterstock_9709540[1]Abstract: 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.

To listen to this podcast or video click here.

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Picture_0274Places are still available for this one day free workshop on the topic of Material Culture.  The workshop takes place at Senate House (London) this coming Monday, so if you would like to join us please sign up fast!

This is the second in a series of AHRC Collaborative Skills Development workshops intended to start a conversation about the analysis of pre-modern material culture across different disciplines and categories of evidence – from pots to pamphlets and jewellery to armour. This second workshop will consider ways of analysing the lifecycle of the book, exploring peoples’ relationships to textual artefacts through an understanding of manufacture and evidence of ownership, readership and collection. There is no need to have attended the first session to understand the second, so please do feel free to sign up and join us.

Date: 23 September 2013
Time:10.00 – 17.00
Location: Senate House Library, Senate House, Bloomsbury (London)
Course tutor: Dr Karen Attar, Senate House Library
For full details and the opportunity to register please check out the IHR events pages here.

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Going Underground: Travel Beneath the Metropolis 1863-2013
Jacob Paskins
‘Stand Clear of the Doors, Please’: An Aural Journey on the London Underground
17 January 2013
Busy at the Tube station (wikipedia)

Busy at the Tube station (wikipedia)

Abstract: The Underground is one of the noisiest places in London. The sounds of machines, crowds and the music of buskers accompany travellers on each journey through the Tube. Public address (PA) systems have become a central feature in the design of trains and stations. PA announcements inform passengers with a constant stream of information and warn us to ‘mind the gap’. Warning signals beep to tell us to ‘stand clear of the closing doors’. Experienced commuters tune in to these aural markers of the Underground and use all their bodily senses to alter their journey, to alight a train swiftly, or to leap through closing train doors. The act of listening plays a special role in the efficient navigation through the spaces of the Underground and the city.

This paper takes an aural journey to show how PA systems contribute to travellers’ successful negotiation of the Underground. Examining the period from the 1960s to the present day, I explore how the development of PA systems has affected the behaviour and mood of passengers. Drawing on a rich archive of accounts gleaned from social media, I trace people’s responses to the live and recorded messages on the Underground. My paper considers the choice of words and the voices used in PA announcements in order to analyse the Underground’s institutional attitudes to gender and ethnicity. Exploring how sound is a socially and historically produced part of the experience of Tube travel, my aural journey contributes to the cultural meaning of the Underground.

Biography: Dr Jacob Paskins is an Architectural Historian and Research Fellow at Girton College, Cambridge. His PhD thesis (UCL, 2011) was an historical study of construction sites in France during the 1960s. He teaches at the Bartlett School of Architecture and runs a seminar about the relationship between the body’s senses and architecture for the MArch Architecture programme. He is a founding member of the Autopsies Research Group, which examines the obsolescence of everyday objects and places. Developing his research into the social experience of architecture, infrastructure and travel, Jacob is currently working on a history of the hoverport in Britain and France.

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shutterstock_34528765[1]Nick Guyatt’s and Luke Clossey’s recently piece, ‘It’s a Small World After All?  Geographical diversity and history teaching in the UK’, in the American Historical Association’s Perpectives on History (May 2013) has started a lively debate about the breadth and quality of teaching and research in our universities.  Have universities got the right balance between European/North American history, and wider world history?  If not, why not?  How can we account for disparities in the way this balance seems to operate in US/Canadian universities versus British ones?  Is the UK falling behind?  Does that matter?  Is the challenge simply to persuade departments to hire more wider-world historians or do we need to tweak the culture of university research and teaching to ensure that early career historians in wider world topics realise their potential?  What are the connections between this debate in the university setting and the arguments about ‘the history of us’, the National Curriculum and school teaching.  And in any case, why should students/pupils be interested in wider world history in the first place?  Should we emphasise the value of wider world curiosity by embracing instrumental arguments about the (international) career opportunities and the global economy that await school-leavers and university graduates?

Panellists on this Question Time-style event will include Machel Bogues, Professor Sir Richard Evans, Nick Guyatt, Su Lin Lewis, Nicola Sheldon, Jason Todd and Peter D’Sena (chair).

Date: Wednesday 11 September 2013

Time: 17.30-20.00

For more information about this event click on the IHR events page.  To access the live stream go to the History SPOT podcast page and click on the video option.

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Sport and Leisure History
28 January 2013
Dr Michelle Johansen (Bishopsgate Institute)
Good Feeling and Brotherliness: Leisure, the Suburbs and the Society of Public Librarians in London, 1895-1930

800px-SteacieLibraryOn 3 May 1895 the Society of Public Libraries in London was founded with Robert Reid (recently elected chairman of the Free Library Board) acting as its first chair. The members met after hours to discuss library related matters, but largely to promote professional relationships between them. The society lasted 35 years promoting librarian activities but also revealing much about the social and recreational habits of their members.

Michelle Johansen has been using the society’s letters, minutes and ephemera combined with journals, administration records and other sources to get a clear image of the leisure pursuits of librarians at the turn of the century. In this talk she looks at the socio-cultural context – the rise of the free library in the nineteenth-century – before moving on to the shared leisure lives of the chief and deputy librarians.

This is an interesting talk, which connects into the socio-cultural events of the time, as well as leisure activities in general. The librarians are described as curious about the world, eager to learn and to better themselves. They are active in their leisure pursuits which tend to be self-directed and London-focused.

To listen to this podcast click here.

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Global History seminar
Francisco Bethancourt (King’s College London)
10 March 2010
Racism – A Global History

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



"The White (?) Man's Burden". Satire of Kipling's phrase shows the "white" colonial powers being carried as the burden of their "colored" subjects. First printed in Life, March 16, 1899. (wikipedia)

“The White (?) Man’s Burden”. Satire of Kipling’s phrase shows the “white” colonial powers being carried as the burden of their “colored” subjects. First printed in Life, March 16, 1899.

In March 2010, Professor Francisco Bethencourt delivered an enlightening lecture on the development of racism, part of a larger project aiming to chart the development of racism from the Crusades to the mid-nineteenth century. As Professor Bethencourt points out, race does not exist from a biological point of view, rather it exists in the views of people and the way that they choose to classify and rank humankind. Focussing mainly on the nineteenth century, but with reference to earlier time periods, the speaker outlines the development of theories which aimed to classify human beings along the lines of ‘race’, exhibiting a phenomenon we now call racism.

Professor Bethencourt firstly explains that racism and race theory existed before the nineteenth century, citing Benjamin Isaac’s book ‘The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity’, which analyses racism in the Greek and Roman worlds. Furthermore, he goes on to explain that the first definitions of the hierarchy of the human race were based on the allegorical personification of the continents in the 16th century. Whilst the Crusades had placed Jerusalem at the centre of world, rapid European expansion was starting to place Europe at the epicentre, giving rise to Eurocentricism and theories of white supremacy.

However, whilst theories of race may have existed before the nineteenth century, there was a vast expansion of the field during this time period and Professor Bethencourt aims to summarise its main sources of inspiration, looking at the work produced by scholars such as Blumenbach, Camper, James Prichard and Robert Knox. The speaker stresses that the scholarship begins to express more inherently racist themes and ideals from the 1840s onwards, pointing to Robert Knox as a representation of the mainstream naturalists who became prominent in the mid nineteenth century.

Professor Bethencourt accepts that his material is still raw, and he does not cover the work of Rousseau, Darwin, De Gobineau and a number of other prominent scholars in his lecture. Nevertheless, his conclusions thus far are clear: theories of race developed in the 16th century but intensified and expanded in the nineteenth century. The complex definition of race by early nineteenth century scholars such as Blumenbach and Prichard resulted from the increasing complexity of ethnographic research worldwide and whilst the supremacy of white standards was never disputed, these scholars stressed the perfectibility of all races. However, a profoundly racist trend emerged in the 1840s which denied the perfectibility of non-European people and confirmed prejudices against mixed race people, which Professor Bethencourt concludes inspired and facilitated the Holocaust, one of the most notable and horrific displays of racism in living memory.

To listen to this podcast click here.

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