Fathers, imprisoned mothers and ‘babies behind bars’ by Elaine Farrell

David Cameron spoke earlier this year of his desire for the ‘wholesale reform’ of the UK prison system. He explained: A sad but true fact is that last year there were 100 babies in our country living in a prison. Yes, actually inside the prison. In the prison’s mother and baby unit, to be precise. Prison staff do their best to make these environments pleasant. Some units even have special sensory rooms, so that babies can see colours, sights and sound – even nature – that they wouldn’t otherwise see inside the grey walls of a jail. I understand why this happens. But we should ask ourselves: is it right? When we know the importance of the early years for child development, how can we possibly justify having babies behind bars? The presence of babies in the prison system is not a new phenomenon and neither is Cameron’s concern particularly novel. Continue reading

Disability and Coal in 20th-century Britain by Mike Mantin

To rethink the history of disability and employment, we can turn to one of Britain’s most dangerous industries. Introduction Coal was one of the most notoriously dangerous British industries. Many of its most deadly incidents are well known: the Hartley Colliery disaster of 1862 that trapped and killed 204 miners in Northumberland and the 1913 explosion at Universal Colliery in Senghenydd, South Wales, that took 439 lives, to name just two. Yet everyday accidents were equally commonplace. Unlike major disasters, the common accidents, injuries and diseases faced by coalminers are near-impossible to collate and quantify. Continue reading

Resisting Rust: Campaigns Against Plant Closings & the Call for Economic Democracy in the U.S. during the 1970s and 1980s by Austin McCoy

 Between 1976 and 1992, scores of workers, progressive labour activists and citizens, and communities rose to oppose what progressive economists Barry Bluestone and Bennett Harrison called ‘the deindustrialization of America.’[1] Coalitions of workers, union organizers, religious and civil rights leaders, and progressive activists resisted plant shutdowns in cities across the country such as Cleveland, Youngstown, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Continue reading

Exhibition Review – Burden of Proof: The Construction of Visual Evidence by Benjamin Tree

Photographs fortify evidence. They record, reveal, reproduce and validate information that can be shaped into persuasive inventories for prosecution. As a pervasive visual media, photographs have long corroborated evidence, from Eadweard Muybridge’s demonstrations of motion (1872), to their implementation in practices of criminal identification and surveillance. The Burden of Proof: The Construction of Visual Evidence exhibition, currently on display at the Photographers’ Gallery, presents eleven such inventories of criminality and violence, tracing the application of photographic evidence from the early twentieth century to the current era of virtual, multi-medial and multitudinal photographic use. Continue reading

Faces of children: transgression and education by Alan Ross

Recently, I had the chance to see Jacques Feyder’s 1923 masterpiece Visages d’enfants at a genuine 1920’s palace of film, the Louxor cinema in the Parisian district of Barbès. The film had been freshly restored due to the inimitable Serge Bromberg (more on his efforts to preserve and publicise forgotten classics of the black and white era can be found at Lobster Films) who also accompanied the screening on piano. I was amazed to see how seriously the director Feyder and his screenwriters Françoise Rosay and Dimitri De Zoubaloff had taken the concerns and preoccupations of their child protagonists. Continue reading

Meet the Social History Editorial Board: Associate Professor Vinayak Chaturvedi on Tennis in an Imperial World

Vinayak Chaturvedi is Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author of Peasant Pasts: History and Memory in Western India (2007) and the editor of Mapping Subaltern Studies and the Postcolonial (2013).  His book on the intellectual history of Hindu nationalism is forthcoming. Here he discusses his latest research project on tennis and its imperial connections. Continue reading

Andrew Scull’s Madness in Civilization: A Cultural History of Madness, Part II

In the second part of Social History’s interview with Andrew Scull, the author of Madness in Civilization: A Cultural History of Madness (London, Thames & Hudson) discusses the treatment and care of the mentally ill in the 19th and 20th century and the impact of that history on attitudes towards mental health today. Continue reading