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Day two of the 82nd Anglo-American conference of Historians continued the wide-ranging discussion of food throughout history.  From the second day we recorded two plenary talks and a lunch time policy forum.  These are now available as podcasts on History SPOT.

Policy Forum: The politics of food: past, present and future
Chair: Frank Trentmann (Birkbeck/Institute of Sustainable consumption, University of Manchester)
David Barling (Centre for Food Policy, City University)
Annabel Allott (Soil Association)
Keir Waddington (University of Cardiff)
Craig Sams (Green & Blacks)
 
Susanne Friedberg (Dartmouth College): Moral economies and the cold chain
 
Cormac O’Grada (University College Dublin): Famine is not the problem: an historical perspective
 

All podcasts from the plenary sessions of the Anglo-American conference are available on History SPOT under the Anglo-American Food in History section.  For more information about the conference see our Anglo-American conference website.

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AACH13-blog-banner-v21Day one of the 82nd Anglo-American conference of Historians is now over and has already produced a lot of debate and discussion.  The topic this year is food in history and we have two plenary sessions for you as podcasts.  These are fascinating talks by two scholars uniquely qualified to talk on the subject.

First up was Ken Albala (University of the Pacific).  His talk was a proposal for a unified theory of culinary evolution for the past 2,500 years.   At the beginning of his talk he noted that he would be attempting to explain why there appears to be a recurring osculation between two fundamentally opposed aesthetics to food; periods focused on elite cooking verses periods focused on simple rustic fair.

The second plenary produced today as a podcast was by Steven Shapin (Harvard).  Shapin talks about the saying ‘you are what you eat’ and how understanding of what this means has not only existed throughout time, but has radically changed as well.  As someone in the audience said at the end, today it’s not always what you eat that shapes who you are, but what you don’t eat.  Never in the past has this been the case.

To listen to these podcasts click on the link below:

Ken Albala (University of the Pacific), Toward a historical dialectic of culinary styles

Steven Shapin (Harvard), You Are What You Eat: Historical Changes in Ideas about Food and Identity

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In addition, I attended Steven Shapin’s talk yesterday afternoon.  Below is a link to the Tweets that I and others in the audience put up during the session.  It gives a good bullet point list of Shapin’s arguments.

[View the story “Food in History – Steven Shapin (Harvard), You Are What You Eat: Historical Changes in Ideas about Food and Identity” on Storify]

Also check out the Anglo-American conference website.

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AACH13-blog-banner-v21The 82nd Anglo-American conference of historians starts today.  This is a busy time for the IHR, the culmination of all of this year’s events rolled into a three day conference.  This year the topic is food and I therefore feel that it right that I should be writing this blog post with a bag of crisps by my side.  There are a few constants in human history and eating is one of them.  This conference looks at food in terms of famine and feast, riots, cookery books and programmes, diets, religion, politics, and much more besides.

If you are unable to attend this conference but are interested in it, then the IHR can offer you various online resources, which are listed below.

Food in History website and blog here you will find the conference programme and blog entries about food in history. 

Reviews in History as per usual the IHR will be providing book reviews on the theme of the conference.

Podcasts – From tomorrow (Friday 12 July 2013) History SPOT will be host to podcasts from the plenary talks of the conference.

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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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In two earlier posts I discussed the History in Education conference (see History in Education Conference 2011 (12 January 2012) and History in Education – History Today article now out! (27 January 2012) that was held in the IHR last year.  The conference proved a success but the real importance lies in the accompanying book written by David Cannadine, Jenny Keating, and Nicola Sheldon: The Right Kind of History: Teaching the Past in Twentieth-Century England (2011). 

That book has now been reviewed by Dr Peter Mandler in our Reviews in History site.  Mandler argues that the books is both ‘timely’ and ‘long overdue’ and will have a role in future policy debates concerning History in education.  What role exactly the book will have is still to be determined but at the very least Mandler believes that ‘the authors can be proud of the fact that their book will certainly serve not only as a starting-point for future historians of history teaching, but also as a model for future historians of all the other parts of the school curriculum’. 

To read this review click here.

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Franco-British History
8 December 2011
Steven Pincus (Yale University)
Gulliver’s Travels, Political Economy, and Empire: The Reconfiguration of the British Empire in the Age of Walpole

Abstract (taken from the Franco-British History progamme): Why did Jonathan Swift have Lemuel Gulliver condemn modern colonies at the end of Book IV of Gulliver’s travels? Literary critics have affirmed, by and large, that Gulliver’s statements reflect Swift’s profound anti-colonial sentiments. Historians (Wilson, Armitage et. al) by contrast imply that Swift’s utterances could have little to do with empire because there was no debate about empire before the late 1730s. I, argue, by contrast that there was a broad pan-imperial crisis ca. 1715-1725 that involved a profound tripartite debate over imperial political economy among Dissident Whigs, Walpoleian Whigs, and Tories. Swift scholars have misunderstood Swift’s contribution because they have positioned Swift within a narrow Anglo-Irish dispute that could only involve religion and the constitution. Swift, I maintain, disliked modern commercial colonies of the sort advocated by Dissident Whigs. He thought proper, as opposed to modern colonies, should provide precious metals or valuable commodities (sugar, tobacco) to fuel the metropolitan economy. Swift’s disagreement with the Walpoleian Whigs was that they failed to appreciate that Ireland was properly a separate kingdom rather than a colony.

To listen to the podcast click here.

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Just a quick follow on post about the History in Education conference that I talked about on 12 January 2012 (click here for that blog post).  The History Today magazine has now posted an article by David Cannadine (the project manager of the History in Education Project) talking about the project discoveries, what they set out to do, and what the book and website is all about.

David Cannadine, ‘History in the Classroom’, History Today, 62:2 (2012)

In addition, if you haven’t already please do have a look at the podcasts recorded during the one day conference in November 2011 at the Institute of Historical Research.  Click here for the History SPOT podcast page.

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Beyond the interviews the virtual exhibition (which is well worth a look) includes various statistics (largely gathered from the 1990s London PhD project that looked into the history of History doctorates between 1921 and 1990 at the University of London and the more continuous History Theses publications currently hosted on History Online.  There is some valuable and interesting data here.  One chart in particular caught my attention on the changes in thesis topics over the course of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries (up until 2009).  The most significant changes has occurred in studies of Britain in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries which sharply increased over most of the twentieth century but has been significantly dropping since the 1980s.  In reverse the study of medieval history seems to have declined until the 1970s, found a brief steady period of just under 10% of theses before again rising at the end of the century.  Study of Modern Europe has steadily risen whilst the study of early modern history has slowly decreased over the century.  Ancient history, historiography, historical geography and world history have all remained steady at the bottom end of the table suggesting continued but low-intensity interest.

 

This graph was drawn from the IHR’s History Theses publications, and chart trends in the number and type of history theses completed between 1901 and 2009 as it was republished on the web for the PhD Virtual Exhibition.

Also check out the podcasts available on History SPOT: The History PhD: Past, Present and Future

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Last year I was interviewed about my experiences of the PhD as part of the IHR’s celebration of the 90th anniversary of the PhD in Britain.  I don’t claim to be an expert or necessarily to have anything particularly interesting to say on the subject as every experience of the PhD is very much individual and varies considerably.  After giving the interview I must admit that I largely forgot about it and the subject.  However, recently (as my previous blog post highlights) the subject of History in a Higher Education context has been on my mind.  I therefore decided to revisit my interview and those others that were conducted.  I found myself very much interested by the similarities and differences between experiences but also by the opinion of the PhD expressed once on the other side of the Viva.

Funding and ‘staying-power’ kept cropping up as important.  Those without funding noted the added difficulty of carrying out a PhD whilst also working.  Those with funding not only had money matters alleviated but felt ‘endorsed’ as doing something worthwhile.  The ability to undertake a PhD lies in-part in a person’s ability to stay on course and to really want to do the subject.   A PhD is a marathon not a race!

When asked about why each person choose their topic it became immediately clear that in many cases the topic finds the student either through the special subject many take in their third year of undergraduate study or by random luck of circumstance, potential supervisor or university expertise.  As for why they studied history in the first place many state quite openly that they simply fell into it and never really escaped!    There were variations in these experiences.  Julie Spraggon, for instance, mentions how it is important to find a niche – something that has not been explored too much, while Kathrin Pieren talked about ‘collaborative PhD’s, in her case between the Centre for Metropolitan History at the IHR and the Museum of London.

In addition, Professor Caroline Barron noted the rising necessity of the PhD in the provision of academics.  When she did her PhD in the 1960s she was able to get a lectureship (as did many of her colleagues) before completion – something unheard of today.

Perhaps the most interesting question was what each person felt they got out of their PhD’s.  The straight forward answer was a stronger sense of how to carry out research, to meet deadlines, organise time, editing skills and how to write clearly and concisely.  Also highlighted was skills in perseverance and learning to go with your gut instinct.  One thing that doing a PhD seems to also give each person is a new appreciation of the world and perhaps a new perspective.  A PhD does not just give specific historical knowledge but also a wider viewpoint of the world and of ways of thinking about it.

Resources:

The History PhD virtual exhibition Interviews

The History PhD: Past, Present and Future conference podcasts

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Podcasts now available (click here):
The History PhD: Past, Present and Future conference
28 January 2011
 

Last year marked the 90th anniversary of the PhD in Britain.  I must admit I was initially surprised at the modernity of the PhD.  Having worked my way through the system from undergraduate to Masters to Doctorate it never really felt as if this qualification was a new innovation to a very old system.  I could almost imagine scholars in the sixteenth-century receiving their PhD certificate at a ceremony not all that dissimilar to the one that I took part in over two years ago.  Of course such imaginings were simply that: as an historian I can see quite clearly how wrong that belief is.  Nevertheless, I had never given it that much thought before and so my mind simply imagined that the PhD was unduly ancient. 

Of course the doctorate itself is not such a new idea although it was a lot less common in past centuries.  As a term it was first used in the early Christian church as a qualification to teach (Doctorate deriving from the Latin doceo – i.e. I teach).  Many centuries later (around the early thirteenth to be more precise) the training for a doctorate became entangled with the rise of universities across much of Europe.    

I feel much the same surprise about the modern concept of an historical seminar.  This was a German innovation borrowed from philology by Leopold von Ranke in the nineteenth century.  The spread of historical seminars as a key aspect of the profession was accompanied by a greater emphasis on archival research and of course scientific methodology.  Indeed, much of what we consider to be essential to the History profession today only stems back to the nineteenth-century. 

Coincidentally 2011 also marked the 90th anniversary of the Institute of Historical Research.  The IHR presently works under the umbrella organisation of the School of Advanced Study, which is itself part of the University of London.   The fact that the IHR is over 90 years old is less of a surprise of course.  From the Common room (a space provided for relaxed scholarly discussion) to the layout of the library, it has a feel of early twentieth century ideals to it.  At least it did until last year when we temporarily moved out for a 2 year refit.  The new IHR, I’m sure, will be an agreeable mix of the old ideals and the new.

For those of you who do not know much about the history of the IHR here’s a brief summary: The IHR was founded in 1921 by A. F. Pollard as a meeting place for researchers from across the world.  Initially based in pre-fabricated huts along Malet Street, the IHR was set up to promote the study of history and provide support and leadership to the historical community.  From its early days it was home to both research seminars and research training (for postgraduates and academics) both of which remain core activities of the institute. 

Original IHR huts (click on the image for more details)

I think what interests me most about these ramblings above is how little thought I had previously put into the history of my own education.  In my studies of scholars in sixteenth century England I was of course very aware of the differences in approach and methodology.  This was a period when scholastic training was beginning to decline (although it was still taught in Oxford and Cambridge long after its rejection by various scholars of the period) and it was a time of renewal and re-interpretation of long held beliefs and knowledge systems through the methodology of humanism.    But it was there that my knowledge and interest had stopped.  I had thought very little about the actual education that these scholars had received or the processes and qualifications that formed the basis for their world. 

Last year’s The History PhD: Past, Present, and Future conference provided an opportunity to pause for a moment and recall the heritage of one element of higher education.  The availability of the conference talks now one year on in the form of podcasts certainly provides food for thought!

To view the podcasts please visit History SPOT: The History PhD: Past, Present and Future

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