Category Archives: Uncategorised

Museum review – The National Army Museum, London by Michael Reeve

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A national museum dedicated to the British Army has existed in some form since 1960. The current site of the museum, in London’s resplendent Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, has been standing since the early 1970s. After closing in May 2014 for a revamp, on 30 March 2017 the National Army Museum opened its doors again to the visiting public. A visitor, like myself, who may not have visited the museum before its renovation might feel both hampered and liberated by a lack of comparison with its pre-2014 incarnation: hampered by possessing less points of comparison in light of its £23.75m renovation, and benefited in that visitors can view the newly opened site unprejudiced by past experiences. Indeed, this seems to be the intention of the museum’s designers and directors, with a potted history of the museum’s development conspicuously missing from its website. But from what can be gleaned from a cursory online search, it is apparent that the revamp is a great improvement. This review will focus on the permanent exhibitions in particular, taking into account their particular renderings of historical narrative in relation to a national history of the British Army. Continue reading

Venereal diseases and societal responsibility in the early Soviet Union by Siobhan Hearne

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After the October revolution of 1917, venereal diseases formed part of a long list of social phenomena that Soviet leaders deemed completely incompatible with socialist society. Not only were these diseases remnants of the decadence and corruption of the bourgeois capitalist past, their debilitating effects endangered the construction of the new state and way of life (byt’). Venereal diseases were diagnosed and treated as part of the field of ‘social hygiene’, driven by the idea that they were both biological and social phenomena, best understood within their social context.[1] In light of this, Soviet officials emphasised the need for an urgent ‘struggle’ (bor’ba) against what they perceived to be the main causes of infection: prostitution, promiscuity, and poor hygiene. Official responses to the problem of venereal diseases swung between repression and welfare, advocating patient confidentiality on the one hand, and justifying interventions into the private sphere on the other. Continue reading

The Counterculture of 1967: Reflections on the ‘Summer of Love’ by John Griffiths

British Hippies 1967

Additions to the Western lexicon

British Hippies 1967Hipster (1941): someone who is ‘Hip’ or in touch with the fashion.

Hippy (1953): originally Hipster (1941) was used  but then ‘Hippy’ became the term to use in the 1960s to denote West Coast American youth rejecting conventional society.

Flower Children/Flower People (1967): alternative name for Hippies. see above.

Freak (1967): Someone who freaks out on drugs

Generation Gap (1967): Difference in outlook between older and younger people.

Groupie (1967): a young female fan of rock group.

‘Love In’/‘Be-In’ (1967) : communal acts usually by students.

‘Straight’ (1967):  Someone who conforms to conventions of society.

Vibes (1967): instinctive feelings.

Source: John Ayto 20th Century Words (Oxford, 1999).

This year, 2017, will witness the fiftieth anniversary of what subsequently became known as the ‘Summer of Love.’[1] One of its legacies as can be seen above, was to add to the Western lexicon. Indeed, 1967 was the year in which the counterculture became ‘visible’ in Western society and the underground came up for air. This was to be the year of the ‘hippies,’ or the ‘flower children’ as they were also known. Continue reading

Final Conference of the ERC Einite Project on European inequalities from the Black Death to the Nineteenth Century by Samuel Cohn

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EINITE+Logo+-+ArtigianaleOn 25 November, 2016 Bocconi University hosted the final conference on Guido Alfani’s five-year European Research Council grant on pre-industrial inequalities in Europe. The idea for the project was born well before anyone beyond the banlieue of Paris had heard of Thomas Piketty. Moreover, it has asked different questions from Piketty and has investigated the longue durée before Piketty’s research begins in the nineteenth century. Continue reading

From an ‘Infant Hercules’ to the death of Teesside Steelmaking: History and heritage along the ‘Steel River’ by Tosh Warwick

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Front Page, The Gazette, 29th September 2015

Front Page, The Gazette, 29th September 2015, courtesy of the The Gazette.

The closure of Teesside steelworks on the north-east coast of England in late 2015 has been heralded as ‘The End’ for steel in the district, bringing the loss of over 2,000 jobs in the industry and with it major knock-on effects ranging from the folding of supply chain firms dependent on the local industry, to cafes, pubs and shops struggling as belts were tightened. Continue reading

‘A magnificent contribution’: disability allowances and the intellectually disabled in Ireland, 1954-61 by David Kilgannon

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Disability Allowances & the Irish State

In September 2015, disability activists held a protest outside the Irish Parliament (Dáil Éireann). img_4467-bestThey argued that the Government’s plan to invest an additional €450 million in institutional care was a backward step, ‘a kick in the teeth’ for a group that had ‘escaped’ similar care in the past. In contrast, protesters emphasised the need to increase the allowances paid to people with disabilities, as these allowances facilitated them to ‘live with dignity and respect’ within the wider community.[1]

The provision of disability allowances has a relatively long history in Ireland, beginning in 1954 with the introduction of the Disabled Person’s Maintenance Allowance (DPMA). Continue reading

Getting the Needle by Martin Cloonan

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Campaign flyer for the Musicians Union

Campaign flyer for the Musicians’ Union

Between the mid 1930s and the late 1980s, radio in the UK was subject to a set of restrictions covering the amount of recorded music which could be played. Known as “needletime”, the system evolved following a legal ruling in 1933 which held that those whose performances were captured in recordings had the  right to receive compensation for the use of those recordings in public places such as shops, theatres, dance halls and – vitally – across the airwaves. Continue reading

The history of planning and the politics of history by Lucy Hewitt

A still from ‘The Proud City – A Plan for London,’ produced for the Ministry of Information in 1946.  Available to view in full at https://archive.org/details/ProudCity
A still from ‘The Proud City – A Plan for London,’ produced for the Ministry of Information in 1946. Available to view in full at https://archive.org/details/ProudCity

A still from ‘The Proud City – A Plan for London,’ produced for the Ministry of Information in 1946. Available to view in full at https://archive.org/details/ProudCity

There are few fields of study in the humanities or social sciences that remain untouched by the challenges which developed out of philosophy and social theory in the second half of the twentieth century, but British planning history is arguably one such area.  To suggest that this is the case is not meant to be read as an attempt to damn the work that currently constitutes the field, but it is intended to underline that there remains scope for further work that would expand and multiply histories of British planning, perhaps unsettling but also enriching what is currently a rather singular field. Continue reading

The ‘Unlawful’ Status of Homosexuality in Britain After Decriminalization by Harry Cocks

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Even though male homosexuality was decriminalised in Britain in 1967, it still occupied a legal grey area in which it could be classified as an ‘unlawful’ act contrary to the public good. This was because of the revival of a common law offence known as ‘conspiracy to corrupt public morals’ which was applied to those gay men who were advertising in the new gay press for friends and lovers. Continue reading

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

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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