Posts Tagged ‘Historical Research’

Studies of Home
3 October 2012
Anthony Buxton (University of Oxford)
The discourse of practice: continuity and change in early modern domestic cultures


The town of Thame in Oxfordshire can be found about 7 miles southwest from Aylesbury.  It was originally founded in the Anglo-Saxon era as part of Wessex and has since seen the rise and dissolution of a monastic Abbey (once belonging to the Cistercian order) and more recently was home to the Bee Gee Robin Gibb.  For the most part, though, Thame is an ordinary market town, close enough to London to benefit from trade but in the past also very much reliant on its local agriculture.  It also has a very good set of probate inventories which Anthony Buxton from the University of Oxford has used as his primary source for investigating Thames’ early modern domestic culture.

Buxton notes that the domestic domain is a complex area of research for historians.  There are many conflicting layers and elements and often it is by far easier and more practical to focus on just one or two elements.  However, Buxton believes he has a way to study it as a whole – not just from its material aspect, or social context, but from its conceptual aspect as well.  That is, the ideas which govern relationships which are then ordered and enacted in a domestic space.

Practice theory is the method Buxton has chosen to achieve this aim and he explains it through the example of Thame and the probate inventory.  In general the talk is broken up into three main sections.

  1. Discussion of the nature of effective theoretical and interpretative framework for domestic life, with an emphasis on practice theory.
  2. Description of the English early modern household (using the example of Thame)
  3. Variations in practice as discourse and debate in relation to the domestic domain.

Using probate inventories as the basis of his study, Buxton also noted the essential importance of relational databases to his research.  Indeed, such a study would have been much more difficult if he hadn’t learnt the proper way to structure his database to make sure that it could return the results he wished to discover.  As a side note, then, our Designing Databases for Historical Research handbook is also available on History SPOT and contains the same reasoning and discussion of the theoretical underpinnings necessary to consider when building a database for this purpose.

 To listen to this podcast click here.


To directly view our Designing Databases for Historical Research handbook click here (you will need to login to History SPOT to view the actual course).


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For the UK, 2012 is turning into one of those years where celebrations mingle with fears of recession and global economic catastrophe.  It’s an odd mix.  The hosting of the Olympics and Paralympics Games this summer alongside the recent celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee are historic events worth taking a moment to think about. 

The IHR and Wiley have therefore published a special issue of the Historical Research journal on the subject of Sports and Celebrations.  This special issue combines a selection of previously published papers and History SPOT podcasts on that very theme.   Have a look at it through the link below: 

Historical Research Special Issue: Sports and Celebrations

History SPOT itself is also home to a range of podcasts on the topic of sports via our Sports and Leisure History seminar group (click on the link to look at those podcasts).

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With the launch of History SPOT the Institute of Historical Research have also launched a brand new handbook written by our own Dr Mark Merry on the subject of designing databases for historical research. Mark is the primary tutor on our various Databases course and has an encyclopaedic knowledge of database structure and function. As such this handbook provides both tuition and guidance for historians on what purpose a database should have and, once built, what can be done with it.

The handbook basically provides an introduction to designing databases for use in historical research; providing an overview of important concepts – both historical in nature and in terms of databases – that the historian will need to consider before embarking upon designing a database. It also provides a number of starting points for overcoming certain design problems that specifically affect historians when they come to wrestle their sources into a database.

So for anyone out there who wishes to make better use of databases, needs a refresher, or would simply like to gain a glimpse at the type of training we can offer on a face to face basis please check out History SPOT and Mark’s Databases handbook.

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I have been waiting to write that title for well over a year now.  After a delay of over 5 months History SPOT is finally ready to launch!   

Research Seminars, Lectures and Conferences

History SPOT is brimming full of podcasts from IHR seminars, conferences and lectures from 2009 to the present.  In addition to our extensive archives you will have access to all new podcasts from the IHR in the coming months and have the opportunity to discuss, comment upon and debate their content online.   


In addition to the podcasts themselves History SPOT contains an archive of SPOT Newsletter reviews and abstracts which have thus far appeared on this blog along with various other additional resources.  The SPOT Newsletter will be growing over the coming months adding opinions, additional facts and information, and mini bibliographies.

Historical Research Training

History SPOT presents to you for free and for the first time material from our research training courses and from our expertises as a research institute.  Initially we have provided two research handbooks: one on the subject of Databases for Historians and another on podcasting.  More will follow soon.


History SPOT is not just a place to search for content it is also designed so that you can interact with the subject matter.  When you listen to one of our podcasts let us and other users know what you think.  Is there something that you disagree with or do you have something to add to what our speakers discuss? 

In addition you can create your own profiles, take part in social networking through Groups and Friends and create basic web pages.  You can also write your own blog posts and discuss our activities with each other in various group forums. 

Click below to access the site



History SPOT will be in Beta Mode for approximately one month while we iron out the final glitches and errors, however we would very much appreciate your feedback.  Do you like the new site?  Is there anything that you don’t like?  What could we do better?  Is there anything missing?  Please do let us know at History.spot@sas.ac.uk or through the Contact UsLINK option on History SPOT.

At some point soon I will write up another blog post here about the road to launch but in the meantime please do register for History SPOT, have a look around, and let us know what you think.

I hope you enjoy the site!


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