The study of material culture has grown hugely in recent years. For the historian, focusing on objects instead of (or, rather, alongside) more familiar source types such as texts, images or numerical data involves a very different way of working, both practically and intellectually. As someone who is relatively new to this field, I am acutely aware of this at the moment.
My article in the current issue of Social History entitled ‘Boots, material culture and Georgian masculinities’ is the culmination of a project that I have been working on for a few years now. Although I had written about material culture before, in my book Embodying the Militia in Georgian England, this was the first time that objects had been at the forefront of my approach and had really driven my conclusions. Continue reading
To commemorate the bicentenary of the Pentrich rising, the University of Derby organised a one-day conference which brought together academics and interested members of the public. This included representatives from the Pentrich and South Wingfield Revolution group who have co-ordinated a series of events marking two hundred years since the rising. A number of the papers touched on Pentrich to varying degrees, but the brief of speakers was to situate the rising in the context of the febrile underworld of radicalism and protest in the run-up to the tragic events of the night of 9-10 June 1817. Continue reading
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
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. 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
Additions to the Western lexicon
Hipster (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.’ 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
On 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
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
Disability Allowances & the Irish State
In September 2015, disability activists held a protest outside the Irish Parliament (Dáil Éireann). They 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.
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
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
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