Skip to content

The NACBS Blog


CFP: British Literature and Sociology, 1838-1910

Posted by rdaily under CFP | Tags: sociology | 0 Comments

Though Émile Durkheim, Max Weber, and Georg Simmel are generally regarded as the “founders” of sociology as a discipline, sociological theory was actually rooted in nineteenth-century culture as intellectuals and scientists attempted to make sense of the political, economic, and social dislocations brought about by the Industrial and French Revolutions. Auguste Comte (who coined the term “la sociologie” in 1838), John Stuart Mill, Harriet Martineau, George Henry Lewes, Karl Marx, Henry Mayhew, Herbert Spencer, and Charles Booth were among the primary exponents of “the scientific study of society” during the Victorian era; significantly, their work often responded to or was informed by myriad literary authors and forms.

This volume represents the first collection of essays to illuminate the historically and intellectually complex relationship between literary studies and sociology in nineteenth and early twentieth-century Britain. As Samuel Kerkham Ratcliffe noted in a December 1909 paper read before London’s Sociological Society, “Sociology and the English Novel,” the “difficulty is not to discover sociology in fiction, but to find anything therein that is without sociological value and meaning.” This point has been more recently amplified by Wolf Lepenies, in Between Literature and Science: The Rise of Sociology, and Krishna Kumar, in “Sociology and the Englishness of English Social Theory,” who both have sought to account for Britain’s relatively slow professionalization of sociology before 1950 by citing the fact that “for the English their poets, novelists, and literary critics seemed to be doing a more than adequate job of analysis and criticism of the novel problems of nineteenth-century industrial society” (Kumar 55). With these observations in mind, we invite essays that will help to address some key questions.  How, precisely, did Victorian and Edwardian literary texts did help to develop and formalize the discipline of sociology? How did emergent sociological discourses and practices shape the literature of the nineteenth- and early-twentieth century?  To what degree were literature and sociology offering competing systems for analyzing the society they purported to represent?

We welcome papers that consider the sociological provenance of specific Victorian and Edwardian cultural objects and practices or papers that explore how various social theories and theorists were inherently tethered to or inspired by the literary. We especially encourage submissions that explore problems in and of the social through the “contact zones”  of literary studies and sociology. Essays might examine one or more specific examples of “the scientific study of society” and consider the degree to which these proto-sociological texts are themselves amenable to rhetorical, ideological, formal, historical or other permutations of “literary” analysis.  Contributors might discuss how specific literary works represent persons, institutions, or methods of thought associated with sociological theory and practice, and/or whether such literary works contributed to an emergent sociological discourse (or discourses). We also invite papers that explore how nineteenth- and early-twentieth century literary texts contributed to the expansion of sociology as a discipline and/or anticipated the later theoretical interventions of Erving Goffman, Pierre Bourdieu, Anthony Giddens, etc.  In addition, sociological accounts of the role of literature in the formation of national identities, classes, or class fractions in Victorian or Edwardian England would be welcome.  This list is meant to be suggestive rather than exhaustive.

We are currently soliciting proposals (300-500 words, plus one-page CV) for essays of roughly 6000-8000 words. Proposals should be sent to [email protected] by or before December 15, 2017.

Maria K. Bachman, Professor and Chair                                    
Department of English
Middle Tennessee State University                                             
Albert D. Pionke, Professor
Department of English
University of Alabama

0 Comments Read full post »


Call for Contributors: New Blog on Teaching Britain and the World

Posted by rdaily under CFP | Tags: teaching | 0 Comments


The British Scholar Society is pleased to announce a new venture, a blog on Teaching Britain and the World. This serves as a call for authors who would like to contribute to this blog with a post that is no longer than 1000 words. As historians, most of us are not only researchers, but also academic teachers, and we are keen to foster the dialogue about your different experiences, plans and projects in the university classroom. The (by no means exclusive) list of possible subjects includes teaching methods, the challenge of balancing research and teaching obligations, the construction of syllabi, the use of primary sources, the impact of current affairs and public debates on classroom discussions, language barriers, and much more. In order to make this as broad a discussion as possible, we are keen to include colleagues at every level of their career, who study any period from the seventeenth century to the present, teach at a variety of academic institutions, and come from both Anglophone and non-Anglophone backgrounds. We are also keen to include student perspectives. The only requirement is that the blog entry has to focus on the specific challenges of teaching the history of Britain and the World. The North American Conference on British Studies will be collaborating and cross-posting these entries on their blog, the British and Irish Studies Intelligencer. If you have an idea for a blog entry, please get in touch with Dr. Helene von Bismarck at [email protected]





0 Comments Read full post »


Q&A with Thomas W. Laqueur

Posted by rdaily under Interview | Tags: cultural history, death, Laqueur , stansky | 0 Comments

Q&A with Thomas W. Laqueur

Helen Fawcett Professor of History, University of California Berkeley

Winner of the 2016 Stansky Book Prize for

The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains (Princeton University Press, 2015)


How did you become interested in this topic?

 I have always been interested in death but my academic engagement began when I was a graduate student almost fifty years ago and read about the deaths and funerals of students in the Stockport Sunday School Memorial Book from the early nineteenth century. I used evidence from this source in the book in 2016.

Did any specific elements of your training as an historian prove to be useful to this project?

The Princeton of my graduate student days encouraged thinking big and eclectically.  My teachers—Lawrence Stone and Tom Kuhn in particular—had big theoretical and empirical  stakes in their work. At Oxford I had the privilege of working different sorts with historians who had a deep and intimate knowledge of local particularities. I think I had the best two worlds. 

Which archives and/or collections did you find most helpful?

When I began to work on what became my book I wrote to every local history archive and local record office in England. I must have picked up magpie like something from scores of them. As the project progressed new libraries and archives suggested themselves; archaeological reports at the Museum of London and the archives of the Imperial War Graves Commission and the Imperial War Museum for example.  I must in the end of visited nearly a hundred archives and libraries and picked up something useful in most of them.

Did you make any particularly important archival findings? Was there a moment when you felt like you had achieved a breakthrough in your research?

The breakthrough in this project as in all of work came when I was able to recognize and articulate clearly the historical problem that had been motivating me without my being able to say precisely how and why. There were of course moments when an archive opened up a new avenue of thought and research but the really important moment came when I recognized that the question I had been pursuing was at once foundational—why do we care for the dead—and locally specific—why do we care for the dead in particular places and ways at particular moments.

Does your project engage other disciplines? If so, which ones, and how?

My work has always engaged other disciplines. Historical anthropology dominates my most recent book; my college major in philosophy and continued engagement with certain figures—Hume most importantly but also others—informs all my work; medicine and biology were essential to the two before my latest. (I spent eighteen months in medical school to gear up for them.)  And two of my closest intellectual soul mates—Catherine Gallagher and Steve Greenblatt—are  English.

Do you have any advice for graduate students and early career professionals as they begin research projects or embark upon the writing process?

Three things:

 1. Think concretely. What do you really want to know and how might you find out? Begin there and not with some claim you want to “prove.”

2) Also think broadly. A great German historian who had been a student in Meinecke’s famous Berlin seminar before the Great War and had retired from Berkeley took me aside my first week here as a twenty seven year old assistant professor and told me that “the task of the historian is to connect the particular with the cosmic.’ I tell that to my students.

3) Heed the pleasure principle. Your work should be fun.

What did you find to be the most challenging part of the project?

 Figuring out what it was about.

 What was your most surprising revelation or important conclusion?

That while there are all sorts of religious and metaphysical reasons to care for the dead and that people in many instances act on these they are neither sufficient or necessary to explain the role of the dead in human affairs. The dead matter whatever one actually believes about them.

 Does your project have any particular relevance to the contemporary—political, social, cultural, etc.?

 Not a week seems to go by when there is not some news story about the destruction of graves, the naming of the dead, the building of memorials or some related topic.

What are you working on next? Will you be pursuing related research questions or turning to something completely different?

I am working on a book about why dogs matter to humans. I begin with art.  This is a wholly new project. I am also starting to work with Seth Koven on a book about the history of humanitarianism that builds on some earlier articles. 

0 Comments Read full post »

MVSA Seminars: Call for Papers


Participants in MVSA seminars will write 5-7 page papers that will be pre-circulated to the other participants prior to the conference. During the seminars, the seminar leader and participants will identify important points of intersection and divergence among the papers and identify future areas of inquiry and collaboration. The seminar format allows a larger number of scholars to participate in MVSA and to seek financial support from their respective institutions to attend the conference and discuss a shared area of scholarly interest. Seminars are limited to 12 participants. All seminar proposals should be submitted via e-mail by October 31, 2017. (See descriptions below for details.)

Alternative Approaches to Health and Wellness Seminar Leader: Anne Stiles, Department of English, Saint Louis University
The Victorian era witnessed watershed medical discoveries such as the advent of surgical anesthesia in the 1840s, the gradual acceptance of the germ theory of disease from the 1850s-1880s, and the widespread use of experimental research in medicine during the latter half of the nineteenth century. Despite these medical advances, however, nineteenth-century Britons and Americans turned in great numbers to alternative health care and faith-healing practices such as mesmerism, spiritualism, homeopathy, Christian Science, and New Thought. This seminar will explore alternative, occult, and faith-healing practices such as these in Victorian literature and life. We will discuss why these alternative health-care practices appealed to large numbers of people and how they catered to followers who felt dissatisfied with mainstream medicine. We will also interrogate these alternative healing movements' fraught relationships with the science of their day. Movements such as Christian Science and spiritualism, for instance, frequently co-opted the language of science while undermining the materialist orientation of mainstream medical research. They also provided faith-based treatment alternatives for those who felt that medicine, particularly experimental physiology, challenged the role of God, the soul, or the individual will in modern life. Finally, we will discuss intersections between gender and alternative health care – for instance, why so many of the movements mentioned above appealed largely to women. We welcome papers on any aspect of alternative health care in the Victorian era, and on literary works or genres that explore such alternative treatments. Send a 300-word abstract and 1-page CV (both as MWord documents) by October 31, 2017, to Anne Stiles at [email protected]

Health and Environment in the Nineteenth-Century British World Seminar Leader: Christopher Ferguson, Department of History, Auburn University
The nineteenth century represented a pioneering moment in the history of environmental regulation, and the British occupied a central place in this history. Industrialization and imperial expansion subjected Britons to a range of new types of physical milieus while simultaneously generating an unprecedented assault upon the natural world. This context of environmental upheaval produced some of the earliest public health, anti-pollution, and conservationist policies, and concerns about "health" – whether that of the individual, society, the nation, or the empire – were foundational both to the conceptualization and the implementation of these local, national, and imperial government programs. This seminar seeks to explore the relationship between the Victorians' ideas about health and the environment, and the types of environmental policies and practices these ideas generated. Questions to be examined might include: How did nineteenth-century Britons conceptualize the relationship between health and environment? How were these ideas shaped by contemporary doctrines of religion, medicine, science, or political economy? What was the place of ethics in Victorian thinking about health and environment? Whose health was worthy of protection and preservation? Was the environment something to be conquered or to be lived with harmoniously? Did the Victorians postulate universal laws about the relationship between humans and the environment, or were these responsive to movements between built milieus or climates? Finally, did the Victorians' ideas about these questions remain static for most of the century or did they evolve over time (and if so, what facilitated this evolution)? Send a 300-word abstract and 1-page vita (both as MWord documents) by October 31, 2017, to Christopher Ferguson at c[email protected]

In Sickness and in Health: Representing Victorian Illness Seminar Leader: Carolyn Day, Department of History, Furman University
In 1844, Friedrich Engels provided the following description of consumption in the working class, calling its victims "pale, lank, narrow-chested, hollow-eyed ghosts" with "languid, flabby faces, incapable of the slightest energetic expression." Yet just a few years later, in 1849, Charlotte Brontë provided a very different portrayal stating, "Consumption, I am aware, is a flattering malady." How is it possible for beautiful consumptives and hollow-eyed ghosts co-exist? This seminar seeks participants for an interdisciplinary discussion of the various representations of health and disease in the Victorian period. This seminar welcomes scholars interested in examining topics such as the role of gender, class, morality, and the environment in the understandings and representations of health and illness during the nineteenth century. Send a 300-word abstract and 1-page vita (both as MWord documents) by October 31, 2017, to Carolyn Day at [email protected] .

The Midwest Victorian Studies Association is an interdisciplinary organization welcoming scholars from all disciplines who share an interest in nineteenth-century British history, literature, and culture.
For more information, please visit

0 Comments Read full post »

Finding a Dissertation Topic with Edward Perry Warren

When I applied for the NACBS Pre-Dissertation Grant last year, I wrote that I hoped the research I would undertake would help me to settle on a coherent topic for my dissertation. Indeed it did—though it wasn't until I returned home, stepped back, and took stock of my research, that a clear line of inquiry emerged. I realized I'd been working on this project all along, though I hadn't known it at the time.

Five years ago, I started a master's thesis about a classics teacher at Oxford in the late nineteenth century, and since then I've been grubbing about in the personal papers of British academics, trying to figure out what story might tie together these people and the world they inhabited. I tried intellectual developments, politics, professionalization. But as I extended my network of actors, pushed my chronology into the first couple decades of the twentieth century, turned my master's thesis into an article, and read new sources, a clearer way to make sense of these people's lives emerged.

My dissertation is a new history of coeducation in British universities between 1860 and 1930. It seeks to understand how coeducation happened and what logics spurred it at different institutions, and how individuals within universities negotiated, impelled, or resisted the professional and personal shifts it demanded. As I investigate further, I hope to find out more about the ideas and the professional and personal lives of the students, teachers, administrators, donors, and politicians who were invested both in maintaining and in challenging the norm of gender segregation, how they did this, and what happened to homosocial cultures as this change was taking place.

Through the research I did last year, I became interested in both men and women who maintained an investment in single-sex higher education even after the First World War (relatively late in the game), and the extent to which homoeroticism was a part of how they conceived of their commitment to single-sex educational communities. Take, for example, E.P. Warren, a wealthy American art collector respected for his knowledge of sexually explicit ancient art, some of which depicted sex between men. His collecting, and the efforts (spurred partly by his own sexuality) that he made to understand the objects he was collecting, gave visual evidence a role alongside the literary evidence scholars used to understand sex between men in antiquity.

When Warren's relationship with his long-term romantic and business partner John Marshall ended in 1907, he folded up his collecting business and sought another outlet for his expenditure. He lighted upon Oxford: a place where he had been happy as an undergraduate, and whose colleges offered a ready-made intimate all-male community. He got in touch with an old friend—Thomas Case, the president of Corpus Christi College, Oxford—to offer Case's college a major bequest. Negotiations about this went on for some time, but in a draft will codicil of 1927, one year before his death, Warren left £30,000 (about a quarter of a million US dollars today) to endow a "praelectorship" at Corpus, "[b]ecause the Founder of Corpus Christi College desired that Greek should be studied therein and the College has distinguished itself in the study of Greek and in the defense thereof…." The Praelector was to teach Greek and Latin, with a preference for Greek; he was only to teach students from Corpus, and never to do so "in the presence of any woman"; he was only to teach within the physical walls of the college, and must live within them as well, "it being my special desire that the Praelector… and the members of the college receiving his instruction shall as far as possible be in close contact and associate together." Needless to say, "No woman shall at any time be eligible for the Praelectorship" (Corpus Christi College Archives, B/12/4/1).

The college were thrilled by Warren's generosity, and no one seems to have been concerned about women's exclusion from the bequest. But Case's successor as president, P.S. Allen, was concerned about another aspect. Warren had proposed an additional fund for the construction of an underground passage, linking the original sixteenth-century quad to buildings that the college had recently built on the opposite side of the street. This would have been costly and complicated, and Allen struggled to understand why it was important to Warren that students should be able to access the Praelector even in the middle of the night when the college gates were shut. But Warren made clear that his goodwill—and perhaps the future of the entire bequest—rested on the college beginning construction of the passage.

Knowing that Warren believed sex between older and younger men to be a key part of the high culture of the classical world, it is difficult not to impute insalubrious motives to his efforts to see the passage built—and indeed to his bequest altogether, and its insistence on the exclusion of women from the increasingly outmoded form of classical learning it attempted to enshrine. Allen accepted the fund, assuring Warren that he would pursue the building project. But Warren was the ultimate loser in this story. The tunnel was never built—a river runs under the road in question, and the council refused planning permission. When it decided to admit women in the 1970s, Corpus went to court to have the gender-exclusionary terms of the bequest invalidated, and today the Praelectorship is held by its first woman occupant.

I'm still working out what I think of Warren's story, and how it will fit into my dissertation. But it's partly what led me to my dissertation topic: Corpus's records about the donation are rich with detail about why and how someone might have been a reactionary against the tide of coeducation, the ways that a discourse about classical antiquity shaped the terms of the coeducation debate, and the ways that conflicts over gender relations occurred in physical space (within buildings and on campuses) and were shaped by the vagaries of institutional politics. These are the sorts of issues which my project will continue to explore. They tell us a great deal about gender and universities at the turn of the twentieth century, and continue to resonate today. 

Emily Rutherford is a Ph.D. candidate in History at Columbia University

0 Comments Read full post »


Interview with Susan Kingsley Kent

Posted by rdaily under Interview | Tags: Susan Kingsley Kent, textbook | 0 Comments

An Interview with Susan Kingsley Kent, author of A New History of Britain Since 1688: Four Nations and an Empire. 

1) What prompted you to write this textbook? How does the process of writing a textbook differ from other forms of scholarly work?

There is nothing like writing a textbook for learning things. The process of building an outline alone compels one to think anew about familiar material and that can be exhilarating. Textbook writing is not like other scholarly writing.  Rather than presenting an overarching argument based on primary sources and original research, as one would in a monograph for example, the textbook writer offers an overarching perspective that enables her or him to organize vast amounts of information that other people have already produced.  Certainly the textbook writer is creating new knowledge, but is doing so by recasting material rather than discovering it anew.

2) The subject matter in a book like this, especially a text that incorporates both a “four nations” approach and the empire, is huge! What was your strategy for boiling down such a massive amount of history into one discrete volume?

As a wise friend once told me, the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.  The key is to focus on one chapter at a time. It’s not always possible, however, and when it isn’t things get gnarly. Then it’s time to go back to your outline, to recover your sense of the book as a whole in order to figure out how a particular chapter fits.

3) How did you decide on the basic organization and themes of the book?   

It didn’t start out this way, but very early on in the process the campaign for Scottish independence kicked into high gear, and that set the stage for how I saw the book.  I wanted to complicate the story of “Britishness” as set out by such scholars as Linda Colley, to present the relationship of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England as contested and challenging and then to bring in empire to complicate the narratives even further. 

4) What role do you envision your textbook serving in a Modern British History survey course? How can instructors best utilize a text like this in the classroom?

I hope Four Nations and an Empire will become a standard text for British survey and British empire courses. In order to include the empire and nations beyond England I had to leave out detailed coverage of many conventional topics. That leaves room for teachers to focus more tightly on topics, if they wish to do so. But those omissions, I think, also speak pointedly to the English-centric nature of most “British” history texts, and that is well worth exploring in classes.

5) How does this textbook set itself apart from other histories of Britain? 

The most obvious difference is the integration of Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and empire into what has conventionally been English history masquerading as British history.  By taking those other nations and colonial territories seriously as important players, the history we thought we knew changes considerably.  I find it far more interesting, frankly.

6) This book was published relatively recently (February of 2016), but it feels like so much has happened since then! Do you intend to make a second edition and, if so, will Brexit affect your narrative in any way? On a more general level: how responsive should our textbooks be to recent events?

 I think it vital to produce a second edition that will take Brexit into account.  Everything will be different for Britons now, and all kinds of questions will arise—will Scotland become independent in the aftermath of Brexit?  What will happen to the Northern Ireland peace accord?  Is there any possibility that a united Ireland might emerge from the debacle of Brexit?  How will young people in all the four nations respond to what looks to me to be a shrinking of opportunities for them and for Britain in the world at large. 

On the more general question, I believe textbooks have to be attuned to recent events.  On the most practical level, they are what students know; they provide the backdrop to the way they view the world.  More philosophically, I don’t think it’s possible for any of us to produce scholarship that doesn’t reflect in some manner—perhaps in some deep dark recess of our minds—the world in which we walk around. 

7) What advice would you give to other scholars who are thinking about writing a textbook in their area of expertise?

Do it: you will learn a ton. Get a good editor: I had one of the best in Charles Cavaliere at OUP.  Be kind to yourself:  there will be moments when you tear your hair out.

0 Comments Read full post »

“The firm” is the source base par excellence in the new history of capitalism. Prolific recordkeeping and influence in the political economy of cities, regions, nations, and empires mean that these bodies cast a long shadow in the historical archive. My research enters this conversation from a different angle. I see the local retail market—a collection of firms working under the very watchful eye of the state—as a nexus of informal, sometimes desperate, economy. The flexible structure and low-overhead costs of market trading attracted fledgling entrepreneurs, either women who straddled the divide between family and business, or recent immigrants seeking non-manual work. While working at the West Yorkshire Archive Service in Bradford this February, I came across an entry in the local market committee records that sheds some light on this particular socio-economic configuration: 

Application for stalls, 25 Oct 1951. H. Sharp. Trading as Sharp & Aldred.

Stall 69. Mrs. Aldred was looking after the stall but owing to domestic issues she had to finish with the business. Mr. Sharp has now arranged a partnership with an Indian, Sohal Singh. The Indian supplies the goods (or as he says acts as buyer) and Mr. Sharp’s mother looks after the stall. All profits are shared 50/50. 

Subsequent meeting: Sohal Singh gets 25% for buying and supplying the goods for the stall. This is not an actual partnership. I informed Mr. Sharp that if he gave up the stall at any time, Sohal Singh must not expect the stall to pass to him. Mr. Sharp accepted this.[1]

However brief and elliptical this entry may seem, it actually gives us a rich picture of a market firm in Bradford in the early 1950s. First off, we’re introduced to the various people involved with the stall. Behind the official façade of Sharp & Aldred are Sohal Singh and Mrs. Sharp; however, they are hardly equal partners in the firm. Despite doing the legwork of securing supplies during post-war rationing and price regulation conditions, Singh gets neither the full share of the stall’s profits, nor the benefits of stallholder rights (which usually meant the ability to inherit the business). Singh is literally spoken for in this exchange, as Sharp “accepts” that his Indian partner cannot expect the stall to pass on to him.

Just as Singh’s participation is circumscribed by race, Mrs. Aldred and Mr. Sharp’s mother are affected by traditional gender roles. It seems that Mrs. Aldred was the face of the business, currying customer favor during a period of shortage. However, an unknown upheaval in Mrs. Aldred’s personal life forces her to choose, presumably, between family and business. Her retirement clears the way for another woman to enter the stall, Mr. Sharp’s mother. While Mr. Sharp is the official side of the business, the one side we hear in dealings with the markets committee and Bradford local government, more informal economic relationships form the foundation of the Sharp & Aldred stall. The raced and gendered inequities of this system are inscribed in this source document.

While this brief record affords us a fairly complex picture of one market stall’s power dynamics, the source ultimately raises more questions than it provides answers. We don’t know how Singh became involved with Sharp & Aldred in the first place, or how long their relationship lasted. I have found evidence of other Anglo-Indian market trader partnerships in the archives, some of which arose from marriages or other domestic relationships that spilled over into business. It appears, however, that there was no domestic connection between Singh and the Sharp or Aldred families.

The goods on sale at this stall are also left unspecified. From my related research, I know that the specific goods on offer at open-air markets like John Street in Bradford could change quite quickly. This was especially true in the 1940s and early 1950s, when rationing meant that itinerant traders moved quickly between goods depending on supply and demand.

That said, Singh’s identity as “an Indian” provides some useful information on this front. In the mid-1940s, Indians trading in combs garnered interest from the Board of Trade. In periodicals and Board of Trade documents, demobilized South Asian workers or deserters were caricatured as mobile “spivs” who supplied such goods to gullible provincial women.[2] In 1950-51—the period when Sharp, Aldred, and Singh were active—the nylon trade caught the nation’s attention. In late 1950, there was a high profile case at the Old Bailey in which Framrose Patel, an Indian trader who came to London via East Africa, was found guilty of supplying nylons to itinerant Indian traders working the markets in Birmingham and Bradford.[3] While we can speculate that Sharp & Aldred was a women’s clothing and accessories stall based on the Indian supplier profile, it is impossible to be certain.

Finally, we can’t speculate about the duration of this business. Most of the archival information surrounding market trading in the immediate post-war period is found in the records of local Price Regulation Committees. Open-air market stalls like Sharp & Aldred did not appear in trade directories and only entered the public record when they broke the law or made changes to their ownership or goods structure. In this case, a firm personnel change brought Singh into the archive, but we can only imagine how many other “unofficial” suppliers were left unrecorded. In the ladder of informal trading, suppliers like Singh occupied a very low rung, more often than not below the level of official documentation.

My project, in many respects, suffers from an embarrassment of archival richness. Local government bureaucracy—compounded by the particular attention that retailers attracted in the 1940s and 1950s—provides multiple entry points into the retail market. This stall application entry, however, underscores the tenuous nature of this coverage. Archival records largely replicate the power structure of businesses themselves, privileging the identity of the white, male entrepreneur. To meet this challenge in my research, therefore, I integrate the methodologies of cultural history, namely reading against the grain for hidden subjectivities, to bear on who “counts” as an economic agent. 

-Sarah Mass, Ph.D. candidate at the University of Michigan and winner of the 2016 NACBS Dissertation Travel Grant.

[1] West Yorkshire Archive Service (WYAS), Bradford, Bradford Borough District Council, Market and Fairs Department, John Street Market, application for stalls, 1950-1952, BBD12/1/3. Thanks to the WYAS for permission to quote this archival material.

[2] “‘Black Market’ in Combs” Birmingham Post, 13 July 1944.

[3] “Nylons Diverted for Export,” Drapers’ Record, 23 December 1950. 

0 Comments Read full post »


Minutes of the NACBS Business Meeting

Posted by rdaily under 2016 annual meeting, meeting minutes | 0 Comments

Minutes of the NACBS Business Meeting

Fri, Nov 11, 2016

Washington, DC

Present: Susan Pennybacker, Anna Clark, Paul Deslandes, Andrew Muldoon, Elizabeth Prevost, Keith Wrightson, Martin Weiner, Sandra den Otter, Krista Kesselring, Dane Kennedy, Philippa Levine, Reba Soffer.

The meeting came to order at 6:08 pm.

President’s remarks

Susan Pennybacker expressed her gratitude to the National Museum of African American History and Culture for hosting the NACBS plenary and reception.

Pennybacker reported that the Executive and Council had held productive meetings, with discussion focused on finance, vis two isssues: 1) the JBS editorship’s unexpected personnel change, and 2) staffing.  Holger Hoock’s shortened term as editor will bring with it the end of substantial resources provided by the University of Pittsburgh. The NACBS will not announce any funding up front before a new editor is named, but it needs to be prepared to subvent that person’s resources.  Pennybacker announced the formation of a search committee for the new editor, chaired by Anna Clark, and urged members to help with recruitment efforts.  Following a Council resolution, a financial committee will be formed to help advise the Treasurer on these financial questions and to set the budget. 

Pennybacker announced the formation of a rights task force, which has been charged with looking at race, LGTB, and international membership and conference inclusion relative to changing politics and locale. Pennybacker named the task force members and urged the membership to work with them.

There was a question from the floor about this year’s unusually high registration fees.  Executive members emphasized the cost of holding the annual meeting in large, attractive, expensive cities and noted that the NACBS does now offer financial assistance for graduate students and un/deremployed members to attend.  Moreover, the number of delegates for this meeting – 465 – hit a record high.  Pennybacker qualified that the NACBS had also gained 100 new members through registration for this meeting.  Discussion ensued about the costs and benefits of the high fee for the organization’s income.

Marty Weiner moved to adopt a policy that all surplus income from the conference be put toward the cost of the next year’s meeting.  The motion failed for lack of a second, but Andrew Muldoon will take the point under advisement with the new advisory committee.

Treasurer’s report

Andrew Muldoon reported that the NACBS’s finances were sound, and that its endowment was healthy.  His recommendation is to leave intact the endowment and current dividends that have been reinvested.  All told, the endoment’s current $650K generates $14-18K per year. At this point, the NACBS could reduce or halt new investments into the endowment if it wanted to direct that money to an expanded operating budget. If so, it could do so by freeing up vanguard funds.

There was a question from the floor about why it’s necessary to continue building the endowment if it’s already been grown. Muldoon responded that the endowment needs further cultivating to get to the point where it can fund more initiatives and release the NACBS from its sole dependency on CUP, membership, and conferences.  The new financial committee will poll and advise on these questions going forward, but for the present time, the Executive and Council has determined that they support using NACBS resources to fund mission-driven expenses.  Discussion ensued about the extent to which the endowment should be deployed to expand the organization’s initiatives. 

New business

Reba Soffer expressed thanks to the program committee, Executive Committee, and local arrangements workers for mounting an excellent conference.

The meeting adjourned at 6:39 pm.

Respectfully submitted,

Elizabeth Prevost (Associate Executive Secretary)

0 Comments Read full post »

Getting to Know Lady Maria Nugent at the Huntington Library

 Thanks to the generosity of the NACBS-Huntington Library Fellowship, I spent October 2016 in the Huntington Library’s Ahmanson Reading Room, huddled over a cache of Lady Maria Nugent’s letters, which are essential sources for my dissertation. It was the first time I would see in person and touch a manuscript that Nugent – the fascinating, well-written, and well-traveled wife of Sir George Nugent, Commander-in-Chief of India from 1811-1815 – herself had touched. To view the hand-written pages of a woman I had spent so much time reading about on impersonal, published pages was thrilling. Getting up close and personal with Nugent’s letters and reading her sincere words gave me new perspectives on her imperial experience.

It was then, while bent over Nugent’s brisk, hurried letters, that it occurred to me how these seemingly simple pages had gone through quite the journey. Nugent was sitting in India when she scratched words to the page, regaling her adventures and misadventures on the subcontinent to Anna Eliza Grenville, the Duchess of Buckingham and Chandos, her friend back in England. From Nugent’s hand, the letters had traveled overland and then undertaken a multi-month sea voyage before they arrived at the palatial Stowe House in Buckinghamshire, where they remained for a century. In the 1920s, the yellowed parchment ended up in sunny southern California, where a young woman from graduate school in New York was perusing them in 2016.

The global journey of Lady Maria Nugent’s letters mirrors the trans-regional scope of my dissertation. My research focuses on the British wives who accompanied their husbands on high-ranking posts across the empire during the Age of Revolutions. These women – like Lady Maria Nugent – left behind friends and family to do their wifely duty by supporting their husbands and traveling to faraway colonies in the Atlantic and Indian worlds. I am primarily interested in what my subjects actually did in their time abroad and what significance and meaning can be interpreted from their actions. My source base consists of the texts and documents that my subjects themselves produced, including their journals, letters, and artwork.

Lady Maria Nugent was my gateway into this project and she remains at the center of it. Born in New Jersey just before the American Revolution, Nugent would spend much of her life colony-hopping. From North America, her loyalist family would travel to Ireland before finally settling in England. After marrying George Nugent in 1797, she would undergo further journeys: to Jamaica from 1801-1805 as the Governor’s wife and, finally, to India. In both these locations, Nugent wrote incredibly rich and detailed journals to share with friends and family back in England.

Though her Jamaican and Indian journals have been published in various forms, her private letters have not - and many of them happen to be at the Huntington Library in the Stowe Collection. When the Nugents embarked for India, they left behind their four young children – including an infant who was only a few weeks old - in the care of their friends and relations. Over the course of her four-year absence, Nugent wrote frequent, long, and remarkably revealing letters to the Duchess of Buckingham and Chandos, who eventually took over the care of Nugent’s children.

While reading Nugent’s candid letters to her friend, I was struck by how emotional they are. More often than not, the pages are filled with the trauma of familial separation and longings of maternal reunion. While her journals make clear that the separation was difficult for Nugent, her letters to the Duchess of Buckingham and Chandos are much more emotionally candid. She wrote more specifically and deeply about her emotional state and the anguish of separation. She also gave elaborate instructions regarding childcare to the Duchess, demonstrating that though she was thousands of miles from her children, her maternal role was still important to her. Discussions about her longing for home and family sometimes outnumbered her descriptions of Indian life. Indeed, Nugent seemed to write of her experiences in India almost as a distraction from her heartache, and because she knew it was her duty as a good correspondent to keep Anna Eliza up-to-date on the goings-on in India. The letters were not, as I had expected, merely a record of life in India. They were also a moving, emotional testimony of a woman who felt as if her life had been split in two.

Accessing the manuscript letters at the Huntington Library has enabled me to think more holistically about Lady Maria Nugent and her experiences abroad. Though my research focuses on her social activities and practices in Jamaica and India, her letters to the Duchess of Buckingham and Chandos also challenged me to think about the private and personal costs of imperial service. She was not just a body moving from one site to the next; she was also a human being whose mind and heart existed in multiple locations at once: though she was physically in India, England and the family life it represented for her were always at the forefront of her thoughts. The affective dimensions of her experience are just as important as the social, cultural, and political ones, and no less deserving of my scholarly attention. Without the generous support of the NACBS-Huntington Library Fellowship that allowed me to excavate this collection, I may have overlooked this very human component of Lady Maria Nugent’s complicated imperial story.

Parissa Djangi is a PhD student in the Department of History at Stony Brook University. 

0 Comments Read full post »


2016 NACBS Grad Student Prize Winners’ Blog Post--Kevin Luginbill 

I think that I can say with some confidence that when I began my graduate work, I did not expect to end up with the dissertation project I now have. While I had always intended to study British imperial history, Joseph Chamberlain's 1903 tariff reform movement was probably not the first idea to come to mind. I first "discovered" tariff reform while reading the political memoir of the Tory politician Leopold Amery, a strident imperialist and an acolyte of Joseph Chamberlain. He described a speech Chamberlain had made in Birmingham, and spoke ecstatically about the speech's profound, world-shaking power and magnitude. At that point I knew I had to discover what was so gripping about a revision in British trade policy that it could be labeled “a challenge to free thought as direct and provocative as the theses which Luther nailed to the church door at Wittenberg.”

My work most closely related to the debates about the nature of British imperialism so central to the "new imperial history" of the last generation, so I was intrigued at how the rhetoric of empire was deployed by both tariff reform's advocates and its opponents. To Chamberlain and his ilk, it would be the first step in the creation of a cohesive imperial economic bloc, and the foundation of a grand project of the federation of the empire. To the tariff reform movement's detractors, it threatened to strike a blow at the central pillar of British greatness, the liberal principles of freedom, even in the guise of imperial rule. I was also surprised at how little attention Chamberlain's imperial reform movement has been given in recent years. In particular, I discovered a wealth of imperial rhetoric was deployed within these political debates, reflecting an impressive diversity of opinion about how Britons conceptualized and valued their empire. My dissertation project, tentatively titled "Building an Imperial World: Ideologies of Imperialism and the Tariff Reform Movement in Britain, 1900-1914," examines the intellectual and ideological underpinnings of British imperialism as articulated in the debates surrounding Joseph Chamberlain's tariff reform movement and the broader advocacy of imperial federation. Empire was quite clearly a central element of British society at the turn of the century, the "height" of European imperialism, but what the British Empire meant, what it should mean, and what it could become in the future, was always contested and reflected diverse and often contradictory ideologies of imperialism at work in the life of British society.

I had received funding from my university, Northern Illinois University, to conduct preliminary archival research in the summer of 2015, so I was able to build on that groundwork for my research in July-August 2016 that the NACBS's Pre-Dissertation Grant was funding. My first destination was the papers of Joseph Chamberlain, housed at the University of Birmingham's Cadbury Research Library. My experience there was nothing short of excellent. Every single one of their policies seemed designed to facilitate an easier and more productive research experience. Perhaps the most productive moments of my research were the result of the archive's staff retrieving folios and documents on their own initiative after having heard my description of project. It certainly resulted in the most unusual find, an illustrated anti-tariff reform-themed children's ABC book buried amongst a box of unsorted documents from the Chamberlain estate. Whether its sarcastic descriptions and disparaging renderings of Tory politicians and the tariff reform agenda resonated with an upcoming generation of future British voters remains uncertain, however.

More certain than that is the amount of research that I was able to complete because of the grant. Following my time in Birmingham, I proceeded to the University of Warwick, which holds the few surviving papers of the Tariff Reform League, and from there on to London. While there, I explored the papers of many British politicians in the Parliamentary Archives and the British Library, including its ever-expanding digital collection of newspapers. And finally, at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London, I was able to access the papers of Richard Jebb, an imperialist thinker and reform advocate. One quite striking feature of this time in the archive was the extent to which the digital age has opened up possibilities for research. Whether ordering items ahead of time through an archive's computer system, browsing their online catalogs before arrival, or simply entering the archive armed with a digital camera, battery charger, and enough space on a memory card, the amount of research that can be carried out in a set amount of time seems to have grown exponentially. And in an era of diminishing funding opportunities, it makes grants such as those provided by the NACBS all the more important when it makes access to the archives for dissertation research possible.

Kevin Luginbill is a PhD Student in the department of history at Northern Illinois University.  

0 Comments Read full post »


2016 annual meeting
adam matthew
annual conference
annual meeting
blog post
British and Irish Studies Intelligencer
Call for Editors
conference, NACBS 2014
conference, NACBS 2019
conference, NACBS 2020
conference, NACBS 2021
deadline extension
Digital Humanities
Diversity and Inclusion Fellowships
Emergency Funding Grants
emergency grant
executive committee endorsement
executive director
extended deadline
Folger Fellowship
Graduate & Early Career Caucus
Graduate & Early Career Caucus
Graduate and Early Career Caucus
Grants and Awards
international students
Journal of British Studies
MA essay prize
meeting minutes
member news
mentorship program
NACBS 2022
NACBS Graduate & Early Career Caucus
NACBS Graduate & Early Career Caucus
NACBS Graduate & Early Career Caucus
NACBS Graduate & Early Career Caucus
NACBS Membership Offers
new book
new officers
Pre-dissertation award
pre-dissertation grant
Priya Satia
Rights Task Force
speaker series
test category
walter d love prize
Zoom Session
“White House Conference on American History”


Affiliated Organisations