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Collecting, Politics and Exile: the Fate of Royal Heritage in Nineteenth-Century France

On Wednesday 1st February we are delighted that Dr Tom Stammers will be giving a paper for the Modern and Contemporary History seminar series.Stammers M&C.jpgThe revolutionary history of France took a particular toll on the palaces and the possessions of the French monarchy. Whilst historians of heritage have analysed the process by which the treasures of the crown became redefined as the property of the nation within France, far less attention has been directed to the fate of objects that circulated outside national borders. Yet France’s royal families- Bourbon, Orléans and Bonaparte- each spent large periods of their lives in exile, and seized on material culture as a way of affirming their patriotism and dynastic identity.

This paper will be focused on the Orléans dynasty, who lived from the 1848 Revolution to the Franco-Prussian War in the suburbs of London. Deprived of the throne, Louis-Philippe and his sons struggled to uphold their dignity and credentials as a ruling house. In this time of limbo, cultural pursuits- whether art collecting, exhibitions, literature- were a crucial means of integration into the elite tiers of British society.  The enormous correspondence of the duc d’Aumale and the comte de Paris with Lady Frances Waldegrave offers an unrivalled glimpse of the family’s evolving cultural and political ambitions, torn between trying to build a home in Britain and harbouring dreams of a restoration. This paper will analyse what collecting can reveal about the family’s affinity for British political culture in the 1850s and 1860s- and also what it discloses about the failure of liberal monarchy in France after 1871.

Tom Stammers is lecturer in Modern Cultural History at the University of Durham. He has researched and published widely on the history of collecting in post-revolutionary France. He is currently completing a book manuscript entitled Collection, Recollection, Revolution: Scavenging the Paris in Nineteenth-Century Paris. Tom has published in leading journals in European cultural history and has been awarded fellowships at the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme in Paris and the Maison Française in Oxford; in 2015 he organized a major conference with St John’s College, Oxford and the Ashmolean Museum on collecting and cultural history entitled A Revolution in Taste: Francis Haskell’s Nineteenth Century which will become a volume published by Oxford University Press. He is starting new research on the formation, exile and dispersal of French royal collections in Britain and Europe in the nineteenth century, as well as on the evolution of the Louvre. He is a frequent contributor to the arts magazine Apollo.

Winter Round table: Critical Histories of Energy & Extraction

We round off the term on Thursday 8 December, 2-5 pm, with a round-table in association with the Birmingham Seminar for Environmental Humanities: all are welcome and our speakers are Dr. Marta Musso, Prof. Tait Keller & Dr. Frank Uekotter.



Dr. Marta Musso:

Taking Control: Sonatrach and the Algerian Decolonization Process

e role that hydrocarbons played in decolonisation processes has so far been overlooked by historians. However, the oil industry played a pivotal role in the history of decolonisation, both on an economic level, as basis for self-directed industrial development, and an ideological level, as “the weapon against the West” that Gamal Nasser theorised in 1952 in his pamphlet “Philosophy of the Revolution”.

This paper aims to analyse the specific case of Algeria. The Saharan hydrocarbon reserves were discovered in 1956, two years after the outbreak of the hostilities with France; for the French government, it was the occasion to cover its energy deficit and to become a producer country. For the Algerian nationalists, the struggle to gain control over the Sahara became the symbol of future wealth and economic independence. Foreign oil companies, on their part, immediately saw the war as an occasion to penetrate a new market and to seize promising resources.

After the independence, building a national oil industry that would directly manage the Saharan hydrocarbons became one of the main goals pursued by both Ahmed Ben Bella first and Houari Boumediénè later. This paper will reconstruct the establishment of the Algerian National Oil company Sonatrach and the entrepeneurs that founded, focusing on the relations between the people running the company and the Algerian establishment, on the one hand, and the relations with the foreign oil industry, namely French and American companies, on the other hand. In particular, the paper will focus on the problem of technological transfer and nationalization in the context of globalized enterprises such as oil companies in producer countries.

Prof. Tait Keller:

The Energy History of World War One

My paper focuses on how energy geopolitics linked the battle lines and home fronts with industry and agriculture in ways that fundamentally shaped the twentieth century. Few human endeavors have altered the natural world in the modern era as agriculture, industry, and warfare. In 1914, the three formed a violent triad geared for the production of destruction. While battlegrounds seemingly suffered devastation, the resulting damage to nature was normally short-lived. Paradoxically, major environmental change occurred behind the lines, away from the killing fields. Scholars have typically studied armies in the First World War as social entities, but I classify fighting forces as biological systems, which depended on a “military ecology” of energy extraction, production, and supply to function. To maintain the “biological welfare” of soldiers and power engines of war, belligerent countries commandeered energy resources throughout the biosphere. The duration and scale of the conflict altered military ecologies around the world and led to new “material flows” of foodstuffs and fossil fuels. Militarized material flows of energy transformed relationships from global geopolitics down to individual consumption patterns.

Dr. Frank Uekotter

‘The Men of Energy’

The presentation discusses the biographical dimension of large infrastructure projects. What are our historical experiences with the men leading these projects? How has the role of the “infrastructure czar” changed since the late nineteenth century? Can we identify distinct national styles of leadership? And what kind of leadership should we expect in the twenty-first century? The presentation provides some insights into a work-in-progress about a collective biography of what Tom Hughes called “system builders”.


Misconduct in Japan: who writes the rules of knowing?

Ahead of this week’s Modern & Contemporary research seminar on Wednesday afternoon, our speaker, Dr. Tamson Pietsch, writes on what counts as success in education…


What is the warrant for knowledge?  If the Floating University was an educational experiment, who wrote the rules of knowing that determined what counted as its success or failure? This is a questi…

Source: Misconduct in Japan: who writes the rules of knowing?

Visibly Hidden: Power and Historical Practice in Modern Britain

Modern British Studies Birmingham


Modern and Contemporary History Research Seminar

(3-5 o’clock, 30 November 2016)

In this session four postgraduate researchers from the centre for Modern British Studies explore ways in which their doctoral research makes broader historical interventions in modern and contemporary history. The papers, woven together by a single introduction and conclusion, are interested in the relationship between power and historical practice. Exploring broader themes in their individual projects such as race, religion, citizenship, and ordinary life, they interrogate how historical practice has perpetuated power structures in the past. While on the surface very different, by tentatively exploring connections across their work, they argue against historical methodologies that have perpetuated hierarchies of exclusion and have kept their subjects visibly hidden.

Shahmima Akhtar,‘Whiteness’ as an invisible category of analysis?’
This paper uses intersecting categories of race, gender and nation to consider the process of constructing Irish whiteness in World’s Fairs’. A prism of…

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Forests, Fields, and Peasant Revolution: The “Green Cadres” and the Collapse of the Habsburg Empire

Our guest blog-post this week is by our research seminar speaker next week, Dr. Jakub Beneš, who is speaking within the Brihc Materiality series. Thanks Jakub!


This Green Cadre of ours

Like stags they hunt us

But when we come from the wood into the fray

The red banner will wave

– a song heard in summer and autumn 1918 in the hills of Czech southwest Moravia


Although the Green Cadre was talked about quite a lot, nothing has been preserved in writing, unfortunately

– Marcel Bimka, a Moravian villager and former Green Cadre, 1931


On 16 November, I will present on a lost chapter in the history of war and revolution in east central Europe. In 1918, armed and organized groups of ‘Green Cadres’ formed across the empire’s hinterland from Austro-Hungarian army deserters and rebellious peasants. They violently resisted their reenlistment for the war effort and staged attacks on the authorities as the multinational state collapsed in October and November of that year. In some places, particularly Croatia-Slavonia, they offered inchoate programs for societal renewal based on land reform and peasant democracy. Their numbers reached into the low hundreds of thousands and the threat they posed helps to explain how power was consolidated in the wake of the Great War by the new ‘successor states’.


Version 3

Josef Pavel, Zeleny kadr (The Green Cadre) (Prague, 1927), frontispiece. Courtesy the author.

Though apparently short-lived, this movement reshaped rural culture and politics in (post-) Habsburg central Europe during the ‘age of catastrophe’. It combined old scripts—that is, meaningful roles or patterns of behavior understood to be appropriate to certain situations—of peasant recalcitrance with new scripts of national and social revolution, which emerged in the apocalyptic end phase of the war. In this paper, I also consider the materiality of these newer roles that the Green Cadres assumed and how that amplified their impact. For their legacy stretched not only into the immediate postwar years, but also into the period of the Second World War when they were resurrected, usually as forest-based anti-Nazi partisans.

I suggest that the scripts of social revolution and national emancipation that the Green Cadres embodied were particularly forceful because of the uniforms they wore. These were Austro-Hungarian infantry uniforms that they re-used and repurposed, which made these everyday things of empire into potent symbols of subversion. The uniforms signified a modern, forward-looking movement, far more so than the traditionally extravagant bandit garb that the Green Cadres in some places also donned.

With the national revolutions that swept east central Europe as the empire collapsed, the uniformed deserters had to be brought into line. Their continued defiance again problematized their uniforms, which, outside of the new national armies, were increasingly associated with criminality. The radical potential of the Green Cadres was thus marginalized. On the other hand, their undeniable contribution to the national revolutions had to be normalized and consigned to history. The landscape of memory that took shape in the 1920s to commemorate the war and its victims partially succeeded in doing this.


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