Over the next couple of days our MA students in Contemporary History, Global History and Modern British Studies are work-shopping their nascent dissertation projects. Please see the programme below for a flavour of what they are studying.
Tuesday 20 March
Room G 26: Mechanical Engineering Building
2.15: Assemble & Introductions (Simon Jackson)
2.30-3.15: Gender, Masculinity & Clothing
Joe Combs – Masculinity, Femininity and Homosexuality in Small Northern Industrial Towns, 1960-2000’
Katelyn Elder, ‘Boys to men: the role of public schools and the Boy Scouts in shaping masculinity in the late Victorian and early Edwardian period.’
Eleanor Holmes, ‘Dressing for the War: Utility Clothing and Rationing in World War Two Britain’
3.30-4.00: Labour, Nation & Community
Haowen (Sylvie) Liu, ‘The role of Chinese Labor in the Second World War and the subsequent labor movement’
Curt Trudgeon, ‘Immigrant and Ethnic Minority Communities in North- Western Port Cities During Interwar Britain: Racism, Urban Topography and Cultural Impacts’
Sarah Middlemass, How did print media generate and propagate ideas of ‘Britishness’: 1993-2001″.
4.30-5.15: Culture, conformity and contestation
Rachel Littler, ‘The Rational Dress Movement and Women’s Mobility’
Uzmah Mohammed, ‘Material culture, cultural appropriation and colourblindness’ (Only 3-6 Tuesday)
Seb Read, ‘Exploring the social roles and impacts of musical subcultures in 1980s England’.
Wednesday 21 March
10.00 – Assemble and Welcome (Chris Moores)
10.05-11.50 – Bodies and History
Grace France, “The Rigid Right and the Strait-Laced Left? An Exploration of the Response to Page Three from 1970 to 1990”
Beth Parkes, ‘Suntanning in 1960s and 1970s Britain’
Rose Parkinson: Colonial medical care, gender, and urbanism in Bombay, c. 1913-1930
11.10 -11.55: Empires
Ioannis Tzianis, ‘To what extent did the Vietnam war affect the UK-US relations?’ (Wednesday)
Vicky Basra, An Investigation of the Expansionary efforts of Maharajah Ranjit Singh: Accepted hero?
Charlotte McKnight, ‘Our national beverage’: The British School of Malting and Brewing’.
12.00: LUNCH BREAK
1.00-2.30: Activist Selly Oak (Muirhead Tower, 109): This is an optional session with the opportunity to find out about the Activist Selly Oak Event a Heritage Lottery Funded Project being run by Chris Moores with BRIHC – the session will take place in Muirhead Tower, 109 (it is not likely to last until 2.30 for those presenting in the final session)
Emma McMullen, ‘Women’s autonomy and social class in British mass media, 1950-1970’.
Imogen Anderson, ‘The role of news broadcasts and black British cultural production in portraying Handsworth, Birmingham’
The seminar intends to be a discussion on the new lines of historical investigation and new methodologies that are opening with the advent of mass digital technology. Marta Musso from Archives Portal Europe and King’s College London, Jane Stevenson from Archives Hub, and Courtney Campbell from the University of Birmingham will discuss the impact of digitisation and digital-born sources on historical research.
Marta Musso will present Archives Portal Europe, the largest online portal for archival research in European archives, as a tool that introduces new possibilities for historical research on modern and contemporary European history, as well as the challenges for historians to preserve digital-born sources.
Jane Stevenson will present The Archives Hub, an aggregator for descriptions of archives held in over 320 institutions throughout the UK. The talk will introduce attendees to the work of the Archives Hub, summarise some of the benefits that it offers, and discuss the changes brought about by digital content.
Courtney Campbell will present on “Creating a Digital Archive of Brazil’s Most Endangered Historical Documents” on her experience on leading a major digitization projects in the state of Paraíba in Brazil, to ensure that historical study on Afro-Brazilian and indigenous subjects continue in this region by creating digital copies of damaged or neglected documents, and preserving them on multiple servers. In the talk she will present the many challenges we faced along the way and how we either overcame them or adapted to them.
The outcome of the seminar will be a draft of possible guidelines for historical research in the digital era. The seminar is open to graduate students and staff from any field of social sciences and humanities that utilises archival sources.
Marta Musso is a historian and researcher in digital humanities, with a specialisation in energy policies, international trade agreements, and the relations between large companies and governments. She holds a PhD in History from the University of Cambridge, with a thesis on the development of the Algerian and European oil industry. She is currently working on the history of European energy policies and on the usage of digital-born sources for historical research. In 2016/2017 she was Max Weber Fellow at the European University Institute, and she is currently Teaching Fellow at King’s College London, Department of Digital Humanities. She is also Chair of EOGAN, the European Oil and Gas Archives Network.
Jane Stevenson is responsible for leading the maintenance and development of the Archives Hub. A trained archivist with over 20 years experience, Jane has expertise in archival discovery, technical interoperability standards for archival descriptions and the use of EAD. Jane has worked as a tutor in Archives and Information Studies at the University of Dundee, and has delivered many training courses for archivists and Hub contributors who wish to learn more about online archival description as well as broader technical issues such as interoperability and 2.0 technologies.
Courtney Campbell is a historian of Latin America. Her research focuses on nineteenth- and twentieth-century Brazilian cultural and social history. Courtney’s current research interests are regional identity, race and representation, gender and representation, transnational consumer culture, popular culture movements, movement and migration, language-based movements, and spatial understandings of regional culture.
Our first event of the term at the Centre for Modern & Contemporary History is upon us! All welcome and details are below.
The Confidence Game of the Chicago School
Prof Matt Houlbrook
It is easy to find the confidence trickster anywhere, if you are looking closely enough. The global networks of trade and empire along which people and goods moved from the sixteenth century, the expanding cities of the modern United States, and the turmoil of revolution and civil war in the new Soviet Union: in each of these contexts the trickster was identified as characteristic or archetypal. Mobility and anonymity provided opportunities for personal reinvention and social advancement. They also allowed fakes and frauds to flourish, created intense anxieties about the difficulties of trusting those one met, and ensured social interactions and commercial exchange were haunted by the possibility of deceit. Britain’s bogus honorable and Weimar Germany’s hochstapler; Herman Melville’s Confidence-Man; Al-Hasan al-Wazzan and Martin Guerre; Felix Krull and Ostap Bender; Netley Lucas. The paradox of the trickster was that they seemed both universal and exemplary of their time and place. What, then, should we do with these elusive figures as historians?
Of Spongers, Sharpers, and Cannibal Eunuchs: Swindle Story Collections around the World
Prof. Christopher Rea
(University of British Columbia)
Why do collections of swindle stories appear at certain times and places? In China, for example, the swindle story has experienced bursts of popularity during the late Ming, the early Republican era, the early Mao era, and during the last 20 years. And comparable works exist around the world. What, for example, do Zhang Yingyu’s Book of Swindles (Ming China, 1617), Richard King’s The New Cheats of London Exposed (Georgian England, 1792), and P.T. Barnum’s The Humbugs of the World (Reconstruction-era United States, 1867) have in common—and how do they differ? Swindle stories, clearly, serve a double purpose: they teach techniques for navigating perilous social environments, and they entertain. But their authors tend to frame these narratives within a questionable claim: that ours is an age of unprecedented peril. Focusing on the example of China, this talk will highlight one thread running through literary history: connoisseurship of the swindler’s ingenuity.
‘All That Is Solid Melts into Air’: Modernity and the proliferation of liminality.
Dr. Lucie Ryzova
Tricksters are creatures of liminality. I will first broaden our discussion by looking at the nexus of modernity and liminality. Modernity is a historical condition in which transition becomes permanentized. The acceleration of time, shrinking of space, mass-mediated popular culture and unprecedented social mobility all worked to normalize fluidity and bring about new configurations of personhood. ‘Becoming another’ became a reality for many, and a fantasy for many more. Novel cultural practices and forms emerged that allowed for a ritualised consumption of this permanent flux and where liminality and enchantment could be safely indulged. I will use as example the photographer’s studio, a place of modern magic where anyone could momentarily transform the self into another. Secondly, I will present some thoughts on whether late modernity, specifically the current crisis of capitalism, creates the conditions in which trickster figures proliferate. Here I will propose to understand late capitalism through another archetypal figure of liminality, notably that of a vampire.
Abstract: Anastasia Egorova was a one-legged Russian tramp whose wanderings took her all over the Soviet Union in the 1920s-1940s. At the end of the Second World War, she decided to see the world, and successfully crossed the Western border in 1945, claiming to be Polish. Travelling on to Italy, she found refuge in a psychiatric hospital and stayed there for four years, until Soviet officials looking for repatriation prospects came by and offered her free passage home. She accepted, and was duly repatriated and returned to her native village in 1950. The paper examines this microhistory from the Soviet archives.
Bio: Sheila Fitzpatrick is primarily a historian of modern Russia, especially the Stalin period, but has recently added a transnational dimension with her research on displaced persons (DPs) after the Second World War. She received a Mellon Foundation Distinguished Achievement Award in 2002 and the American Historical Association’s Award for Scholarly Distinction in 2012. She is past President of the Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies (formerly AAASS) and a member of the Australian Academy of the Humanities and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Having worked for most of her career in the United States, she moved back to Australia in 2012.
As a historian of twentieth-century Russia, her earlier work focused mainly on Soviet social and cultural history in the Stalin period, particularly social mobility, social identity and everyday practice. Using some of the techniques of her “everyday” work, she recently published her first major study in political history: On Stalin’s Team: The Years of Living Dangerously in Soviet Politics, which came out with Princeton University Press in 2015. My Father’s Daughter, her memoir of her father, the radical historian Brian Fitzpatrick, and her childhood in Melbourne came out in 2010, and she published a memoir of life as a student in Cold War Moscow in the 1960s, A Spy in the Archives in 2012. She is currently co-CI (with Mark Edele) of an ARC-funded project entitled “War, Displacement and Resettlement” as well as working on a more personal DP study based on the correspondence of her late husband, the physicist Michael Danos, and his mother Olga when they were displaced persons in postwar Germany.
Between 1846 and 1940, more than 50 million Europeans moved to the Americas, irrevocably changing both their new lands and the ones they left behind. As villages emptied, some blamed traffickers in human labour, targeting Jewish emigration agents. Others saw opportunity: to expand their empires, gain economic advantage from an inflow of foreign currency, or reshape their populations by encouraging the emigration of minorities.
These debates about and experiences of emigration shaped competing ideals of freedom in Eastern Europe and “the West” over more than one hundred years. After the Second World War, the “captivity” of East Europeans behind the Iron Curtain came to be seen as a quintessential symbol of Communist oppression. The Iron Curtain was not, however, built overnight in 1948 or 1961. Its foundation was arguably laid before the First World War, when Austrian Imperial officials began a century-long campaign to curtail emigration in the name of demographic power and humanitarian values.
Professor Tara Zahra works on transnational and comparative approaches to the history of modern Europe. The focus of her research and teaching is Central and Eastern Europe (including the Habsburg Empire and successor states and Germany), but her work integrates Central Europe into broader histories of Europe and the world. Her most recent book is The Great Departure: Mass Migration from Eastern Europe and the Making of the Free World (Norton, 2016). The book explores how debates about and experiences of emigration shaped competing ideals of freedom in Eastern Europe and “the West” over the course of one hundred years.
Her previous books include The Lost Children: Reconstructing Europe’s Families after World War II (Harvard, 2011), which tells the story of Europe’s displaced and refugee children in Eastern and Western Europe from 1918 to 1951, and won the George Louis Beer Prize from the American Historical Association for European International History. Her first book, Kidnapped Souls: National Indifference and the Battle for Children in the Bohemian Lands, 1900–1948 (Cornell, 2008), is a study of Czech and German nationalist mobilization around children from the Habsburg Empire to the Nazi occupation. It was awarded five prizes, including the Laura Shannon Prize in Contemporary European History, the Hans Rosenberg Prize of the Conference Group for Central European History, and the Barbara Jelavich Prizes of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies.
She is currently working on a co-authored book with Pieter Judson on the Habsburg Empire during the First World War (to be published by Oxford University Press) and beginning projects on Roma and statelessness in the Habsburg Empire and on the history of gender, sexuality, and migration in twentieth-century Europe. Professor Zahra is Professor of East European History at the University of Chicago and in 2014 was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship.
In week 8, we’re delighted to welcome Dr. Mo Moulton, who will be speaking on an aspect of her current research. All welcome, and there will be drinks afterwards.
We’re delighted to be hosting a round-table on Wednesday 22 February 2017, in Muirhead Tower Room 112, from 4-6pm. Around the theme ‘Reconstructing the Historical Subject’ Dr. Adam Dighton, Dr. Marta Filipová, Dr. Ben Mechen and Dr. Zoë Thomas will discuss their current research. Prof. Matt Houlbrook will chair.
All welcome! Contact: Dr. Simon Jackson, S.Jackson.firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Adam Dighton: Military History at the British Army’s Staff College, 1885-1914.
The study of military history formed an important part of the syllabus used to train high ranking officers at the army’s Staff College during the latter half of the ‘long nineteenth century’. During the period between 1885 and 1914 the justification for teaching this subject underwent a fundamental transformation. This was caused by a change in the perceived didactic function of history during this time. It is the aim of this paper to examine why this change took place and how it affected the way in which history was taught at this institution.
Dr. Marta Filipova: The people or the proletariat? Class appropriation in interwar Czechoslovak culture.
The paper examines the attention to the working classes in the visual arts and literature in Czechoslovakia after 1918. I look at the different interpretations of proletarian art on the background of the emergence of the new political entity, negotiations of modernity by artists and art critics, and their attempts for renewal of art. I therefore address the questions of identity, belonging and construction of artistic narratives.
Dr. Ben Mechen: ‘A positive advance of our standard of civilisation’ – consuming and defending pornography in postwar Britain.
This paper will outline my postdoctoral project exploring the cultural politics of pornography in postwar Britain. In particular, I will seek to locate the pornographic consumer within this history, a problematic figure – like those who laboured to produce explicit imagery – usually absent from existing work. Drawing upon letters sent by buyers of pornography – men and women, straight and gay -to a late 1970s inquiry into obscenity, I will ask: how were sexual subjectivities formed in the age of pornographic reproduction?
Dr. Zoë Thomas: Historical pageants, citizenship, and the performance of women’s history before second-wave feminism.
This paper argues that the early twentieth-century craze for historical pageants provided an opportunity for women’s groups to bring a nascent, popular form of women’s history into the lives of local communities across Britain. Prior to second-wave feminism, when scholars advanced the study of women within the academy, thousands of people had been invested in re-enacting women’s history since the inter-war years. Emphasizing the bravery and public duties of women in the past, pageants also provided a non-controversial format through which women’s groups could effectively project their beliefs about the role they felt women should play as newly enfranchised citizens.
*Image Credits, from top-left, clockwise: Officers reading military history in the Prince Consort’s Library in the army camp at Aldershot; Pravoslav Kotík, Accordion player, 1923; Women’s Institute outdoor pageant in 1927; Walker’s Court in Soho. All images courtesy the speakers.