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Preview: History Workshop Journal - current issue

History Workshop Journal Current Issue

Published: Thu, 15 Mar 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Last Build Date: Wed, 28 Mar 2018 08:54:08 GMT


Delia Davin (1944–2016)

Thu, 15 Mar 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Delia Davin will be remembered by scholars above all for the book she wrote in the 1970s on the changes wrought by the Communist Party on women’s lives in the early years of People’s Republic of China. Like many of the best scholarly works, this book was the expression of things that Davin cared about at a very deep level, in this case the position of women in society and the impact of socialism in China. Davin’s appreciation of the tension between these two concerns grew out of a remarkable life story, which gave her work its great impact on subsequent scholarship and shaped her career as a scholar of Chinese society.

Beyond Utopia: New Villages and Living Politics in Modern Japan and across Frontiers

Thu, 15 Mar 2018 00:00:00 GMT

This article takes the story of the New Village, a Japanese intentional community founded in 1918 by novelist Mushanokōji Saneatsu, as a starting point for exploring non-state visions of politics in twentieth-century East Asia. Modern East Asian political thought is often seen as highly state-centred, but the history of the New Village (which still exists today), and of similar experiments in community living, highlights the diversity and influence of alternative political ideas in the region. Placing this history in context of recent debates about spaces of autonomy and everyday utopias, the article examines the influence of the New Village idea and its resonances with similar movements in other parts of the world. These resonances complicate the distinction between ‘indigenous’ and ‘foreign’ and subvert the chronological dichotomy between ‘modernizers’ and ‘traditionalists’, since the dreams of a better world explored in the article drew elements of past and future together in ways that challenged both tradition and modernity. Placing these dreams in their cross-border context, I argue that they contain ideas that are worth re-examining in the context of the contemporary crisis of democracy, not just in Asia but worldwide.


Tue, 13 Mar 2018 00:00:00 GMT

We didn’t set out to have a theme; this is a pick-and-mix volume, filled with a wide array of subjects, regions and approaches, from the intricacies of a local fray between assailants in sixteenth-century Weymouth to a utopian experiment in communal living in early twentieth-century Japan: a History Workshop smorgasbord of different regions and historical characters. Yet as we set ourselves to editing, one theme clearly emerged in a number of the articles. The things – particularly personal and household possessions – which people have kept close to them in the past, and the ways in which such possessions can help us to reconstruct histories and meanings in the present.

Writing History from Below: Chronicling and Record-Keeping in Early Modern England

Fri, 09 Mar 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Over the course of the early modern period, a remarkable number of people below the ranks of the gentry and clergy produced manuscript chronicles, registers and historical miscellanies. This article examines several of these ‘lay’ historians, particularly Joseph Bufton (1651–1718), a tradesman from Coggeshall in Essex who filled more than twenty volumes of notebooks. It shows that these relatively lowly writers created a ‘usable past’ by anchoring their texts in the social and economic realities of their own local communities. They recorded both the ‘merry England’ of seasonal festivity and the perennial struggle to earn a living in often difficult circumstances. Alongside this, some drew on the widening circulation of printed and oral news to chronicle national political and religious events, usually from a distinctly local perspective. The histories and archives that they preserved for posterity often served a practical purpose by providing evidence of parochial affairs, extraordinary weather or local customs. Yet they also helped to reinforce the social bonds that tied together their communities – whether based on neighbourhood, denomination or occupation – by recording a shared past for their members.

Remaking the World of Music

Wed, 28 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

DenningMichael, Noise Uprising: the Audiopolitics of a World Musical Revolution, Verso, London and New York, 2015; pp. 306; $24.99/£17.99.

Pearl Fishers

Sat, 24 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

MartinezJulia and VickersAdrian, The Pearl Frontier: Indonesian Labour and Indigenous Encounters in Australia’s Northern Trading Network, University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 2015; 227 pages, US$50.00 (hbk); ISBN 978-0-8248-4002-0.

The Makers and Shakers of India

Sat, 24 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

KhilnaniSunil, Incarnations: India in 50 Lives, Allen Lane, London, 2016.

Foucault’s Clay Feet: Ancient Greek Vases in Modern Theories of Sex

Fri, 09 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Although Michel Foucault never mentions the objects explicitly, his work on ancient Greek sexuality depends in critical aspects on evidence from sex scenes on ancient Greek pottery. The significance of the images comes to the fore in his argument concerning the radical difference of the gender-blind ethics of desire in Greek antiquity from the gender-based norms of modernity. In the overarching narrative of his multi-volume genealogy of modern sexuality, the alterity of Greece underlines his broader contention about the discursive basis of sexual experience. This article confronts the historiographical biases that led Foucault to disregard the material nature of his sources and explores the implications this silence spelled for his successors. Its argument evolves around the disciplinary instruments which scholars employ to contain three-dimensional objects within the bounds of verbal explanation. Two-dimensional copies, in particular, enable historians to isolate vase images from their contexts of consumption and redeploy them strategically to support unrelated arguments. The discussion first takes a critical look at the archives of vase images that made possible, or responded to, Foucault’s synthesis, and then turns to the possibilities of interpretation which the sex scenes hold out when reunited with their ceramic bodies. Of special interest are the manual operations involved in experiencing the artefacts in convivial settings and the interdependencies of painted and potted forms that mark the objects as intentionally subversive and open-ended. Despite its criticism, this essay is itself Foucauldian in its effort to cultivate critical historiography. Its goal is to perform a ‘genealogy’ of Foucault’s genealogy, with a focus on the objects and practices which sustained the debate on Greek homosexuality as one of scholarship’s foremost contributions to the liberationist projects of the twentieth century.

Waste People and Deplorables

Wed, 07 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

IsenbergNancy, White Trash: the 400-year Untold History of Class in America, Viking, New York, 2016 and Atlantic Books, London, 2017; 460 pp.

The Concealed Revealed: the ‘Afterlives’ of Hidden Objects in the Home

Wed, 07 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

The shoe lives in a Fox’s biscuit tin in the pantry. Its custodian is Laura, a media-relations manager at the University of East Anglia, from the United States but currently living in a Norfolk village with her husband and two young sons. She wants to keep the shoe safe from pets, children and the elements, but has plans to display it in the future: perhaps in a glass case with pride of place on the mantelpiece. When Laura does take the shoe out of the tin, she does so gingerly, tentatively, and while she enjoys showing it to visitors, who are often eager to see it, she worries about its preservation. ‘I thought it’s probably quite delicate so it needs somewhere quite safe and tucked away’, she told me. ‘That said, my children are absolutely enthralled with it as well, they love it… They’re very good, they won’t go and play with it, but they do like to bring it out and tell people about it.’ Laura smiles as she admits, ‘It is my best party trick so far and I have just gone to town with the shoe story. It’s going to be my living legacy’.

Loveable Philologies: Texts, Bodies and Early Modern Queer Desire

Tue, 06 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

MastenJeffrey, Queer Philologies: Sex, Language, and Affect in Shakespeare’s Time, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 2016; pp. xii + 353.

The Narrative of Ann Pratt: Life-Writing, Genre and Bureaucracy in a Postemancipation Scandal

Fri, 02 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

The pamphlet Seven Months in the Kingston Lunatic Asylum, and What I Saw There detailed the experiences of Ann Pratt, a mixed-race Jamaican woman, during her months-long commitment to the facility. Seven Months portrayed the asylum as an institution failing its mission to care for some of the island’s most vulnerable inhabitants. A text produced in colonial Jamaica by a woman most likely born in enslavement, the pamphlet had an unusual career, moving from local island circuits to limited circulation within London’s political and philanthropic elite. There, in the metropole, it transformed Colonial Office bureaucrats’ understanding of a local scandal that had been brewing in Jamaica for two years over conditions in the asylum and adjoining hospital. Once they had read it, metropolitan officials demanded investigations into asylum conditions in Jamaica and, more broadly, across the empire. That Seven Months transformed imperial opinion to this degree was testament both to its fusion of life-writing genres and to the bureaucratic practices that elevated a specific version of this text to the attention of the Colonial Office. Seven Months was thus a bureaucratic artifact as much as a literary text. Drawing on historical and anthropological studies of paperwork, especially ‘the file’, and on literary analyses of nineteenth-century life-writing, this essay argues that the bureaucratic practices of collating and filing that colonial governors used produced a more powerful edition of the pamphlet, one that primed the Colonial Office for a positive reception of Ann Pratt’s claims.

Letters from London in Black and Red: Claude McKay, Marcus Garvey and the Negro World

Fri, 02 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

These two rare documents – one previously unpublished, the other published almost a century ago, never republished and still almost completely unknown – capture some key dimensions of the revolutionary thought of Claude McKay in the pregnant years after the Russian Revolution and the Great War. A committed revolutionary socialist and early advocate of Bolshevism, McKay urged Marcus Garvey, the founder and leader of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, the largest black organization the world has ever seen, to forge alliances with progressive whites in the common struggle against capitalism and imperialism while maintaining the autonomy and independence of the black movement. The second document, written for Garvey’s newspaper, Negro World, tells the poignant story of black (Caribbean, African and African American) and other non-white colonial veterans of the war living in London. McKay, residing in London at the time (he lived there for more than a year – 1919–21) highlighted the transformation in their political consciousness as a consequence of the racism they experienced while serving in the war and while living in London. The radicalization of these soldiers portended an upsurge in the anti-colonial struggle, McKay reckoned. And he was right. The import of these documents extends beyond the person of Claude McKay. They capture the pain as well as the yearning and optimism of millions around the world in the global turmoil that emerged out of the blood-soaked debris of the Great War and the aftermath of the October Revolution a century ago.

‘Pommy Town’: Remembering the Lysaght Workers’ Estate in Australia

Fri, 02 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

In 1921 the English iron and steel manufacturer, John Lysaght Ltd, opened mills in East Mayfield, Newcastle, Australia. The company built a housing estate adjacent to the works to accommodate the seventy-five men (and their families) brought from Bristol and Newport to operate the new works. The focus of this essay is on the myths, memories and lived experiences of the residents of the former estate, who were poorly received, not least because they arrived at a time of acute job and housing shortage. Thus, the estate was dubbed ‘Pommy Town’, a negative label denoting it as English despite the fact that more than half the residents were Welsh, and the speech and habits of the newcomers were regarded as suspiciously ‘foreign’. The essay offers a portrait of the social dynamics of an Australian industrial city in the first half of the twentieth century. It seeks to recall the lives of industrial workers and their families, figures increasingly not given their due in a post-industrial age.

Marilyn B. Young 1937–2017

Wed, 24 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Marilyn B. Young, an influential historian of U.S. foreign policy, a feminist and a prominent public critic of America’s endless wars in the twentieth and twenty-first century, died in New York City on 19 February Brilliant, charismatic and witty, Marilyn was a beloved colleague and friend, a devoted teacher, and an inspiring model of a politically engaged intellectual.

Negotiating Ireland’s ‘Decade of Centenaries’ in the New Age of Brexit

Wed, 24 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Ireland is halfway through a ‘decade of centenaries’ commemorating the series of events that culminated in partition. Contested memories may be further aggravated by Brexit.

Accounting for Men’s Work: Multiple Employments and Occupational Identities in Early Modern England

Wed, 24 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

This article addresses the social, cultural and gendered meanings of men’s work in early modern Britain. As has long been accepted for women, men’s work should be seen as multiple rather than single-occupational focused. Drawing on the diaries of three middle-rank tradesmen from the eighteenth century, the article considers the different forms that work took, and how words denoting labour such as ‘employment’, ‘work’ and ‘business’ were actually understood. Men had a broad definition of work that challenges distinctions between labour and leisure. These various forms of work had diverse benefits, challenging narrower economic understandings of ‘value’. Work was about more than making a living: it was a source of fulfilment, status and social identity. Work’s value and contribution to identity and status changed over the course of the lifecycle. It was carried out and understood in relation to others, especially men’s wives, rather than merely supporting notions of power and independence. By applying the insights drawn from studies of female work to men’s productive activities, the article reformulates historians’ understandings of the place of work in early modern men’s lives.

Forging a Politics of Care: Theorizing Household Work in the British Women’s Liberation Movement

Wed, 24 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Over the course of the 1970s, feminists in Britain and elsewhere in the West came together to expose the hidden labour involved in caring for men, for the home, and for dependents. This paper explores how the activists of the Women’s Liberation Movement in Britain forged a multifaceted politics of care. While highlighting the drudgery of and exploitation underlying women’s caring work, activists also appealed to a positive notion of caring as the basis for a new feminist sisterhood. By the late 1970s, the reconfiguration of the labour market and state services in Britain had lent questions of women’s work a new resonance. Tracing how feminists sought to capture and communicate the conditions of women’s caring work sheds light on both the transformation of Britain’s political economy in this period and a neglected area of second-wave feminism.

Queer British Art, 1861–1967

Mon, 22 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Exhibition curated by Clare Barlow, Tate Britain, 5 April–1 October 2017.

Good Citizens? Ugandan Asians, Volunteers and ‘Race’ Relations in 1970s Britain

Fri, 19 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

This articles uses the reception and resettlement programme of Ugandan Asians in 1972–3 as a lens through which to explore the intersection of post-colonialism and ideas of good citizenship, individual political engagement and voluntarism. Specifically, using a detailed exploration of the dynamics within Greenham Common Resettlement Camp, the article shows how relationships between (ex-colonial) government officials and the WRVS who ran the official side of the resettlement programme came into conflict with younger, more left-wing volunteers and expellees. As well as revealing the significance of (post) colonial attitudes and background among camp administrators and the associated attitudes to hierarchy and race, it also shows how a newer generation of anti-racist activists were beginning to challenge such attitudes. Through integrating its discussion of generational conflict among the expellees themselves alongside conflicts between the official camp administration, volunteers and wider voluntary services this article seeks to reveal some of the key social changes in early 1970s Britain.

Family Matters

Thu, 18 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

My father called it ‘turning a deaf ear’ and it was an essential life skill if you wanted to read a book in our crowded family home. My deaf ear was turned to the squabbles and squeals of much younger siblings. It also tuned out my mother’s peremptory, ‘You’re not doing anything, come and do the drying-up’, if I thought I’d already done my bit on the domestic front – cleared the dishes, put down the drop-leaves of the table and restored it to the window bay, swept the crumbs from the carpet – and was entitled to pick up where I’d left off in my latest library volume of Enid Blyton, Agatha Christie or Noel Streatfeild.

Objects, Emotions and an Early Modern Bed-sheet

Wed, 17 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

This article offers a methodological framework for a purposeful interrogation of ‘emotional objects’ – material objects that fostered, shaped and sustained an assortment of emotional practices that, in turn, had dramatic historical consequences. It examines the production, use and meanings of an ordinary household object: a single English bed-sheet dating to the early eighteenth century. The locations, hands and regimes of value through which the sheet travelled are a core focus, alongside the practical and emotional dimensions of the sheet’s creation in the early eighteenth century; its perception and use as a politicized holy relic; its commercialization among nineteenth-century antiquarians; and its adoption as a commemorative political object in a twenty-first-century museum collection. The bed-sheet’s history uncovers a hidden chapter of Jacobite resistance and reveals the vital activism of women and household objects in sustaining the political and religious sensibilities of early modern English Catholicism.

“Did That Play of Mine …?”: Theatre, Commemoration and 1916

Tue, 16 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

W.B. Yeats’s question ‘Did that play of mine send out/Certain men the English shot?’ from ‘The Man and the Echo’ (1938), speculatitively postions his play, Cathleen ni Houlihan (1902), as the driving force behind the Easter Rising of 1916. While theatre was a powerful factor in creating the cultural-politial climate which gave birth to the Rising, Yeats’s question disingenously gives his play an exclusive influence on events when other playwrights, specifically Patrick Pearse and Thomas MacDonagh, who actually led the Rising, had a far better claim to being its dramatic inspiration. This article considers the theatrical influences on the Rising, examining Cathleen ni Houlihan and other plays of the period, and outlines the production history of Yeats’s play as an indication of its post-Rising status, comparing it to that of Sean O’Casey’s play about the Rising, The Plough and the Stars (1926).

Savage Warfare: Violence and the Rule of Colonial Difference in Early British Counterinsurgency

Wed, 03 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Even as a growing body of literature has in recent years revealed the ubiquity of racialized violence within Western colonies in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, another historical narrative remains insistent that the British Empire constituted a notable exception to the rule. This nostalgic narrative of a uniquely British ‘soft approach’ rests in part on the belief that colonial officers possessed a deep cultural understanding of the people and societies they dealt with, which allowed them to manoeuvre skilfully throughout the Empire without having to resort to the sort of atrocities that characterized German and Belgian colonies in Africa. The result is an implicitly sanitized account of the British Empire and of British military practice as exemplary and even humane. This article critically examines those assumptions, focusing in particular on the cultural knowledge that was weaponized during colonial conflicts in the decades preceding the First World War. The forms and functions of what became known as ‘savage warfare’ were not simply shaped by the tactical necessities of asymmetric fighting in the peripheries of Empire. Colonial military violence and the development of new technologies, such as the expanding Dum-Dum bullet, were based on deeply encoded assumptions concerning the inherent difference of local opponents and as such were underwritten by both imperial ideologies and a specific body of colonial expertise. The rule of colonial difference dictated and justified techniques of violence that were by the same token considered unacceptable in conflicts between so-called ‘civilized’ nations and, in many instances, slaughter was in fact the ‘British Way’ – in theory and in practice.

The Fray on the Meadow: Violence and a Moment of Government in Early Tudor England

Fri, 29 Dec 2017 00:00:00 GMT

On 14 September 1534, two men fought on a meadow outside the town of Weymouth, Dorset, watched by a crowd of their neighbours. Learning of the fight, one of the town constables charged between the men, and killed one of them, leading to his prosecution and subsequent appeal to the court of Star Chamber. The investigation by that court left several thousand words of testimony, making it one of the best documented fights in the sixteenth century. This article offers a microhistory of the fight. In particular, it asks what such an event can tell us about the nature of government in the early Tudor period. It suggests that at this time such flashpoints were crucial moments where the state was expected to play a dramatic role. But this in turn depended on participants performing their role as state actors. That could be very dangerous, but detailed reconstructions can also show how state actors, though lacking the visual symbolic apparatus we expect of the modern state, might deploy oral performances to signify their official role.