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Bernard Semmel (1928-2008)

Posted by jaskelly under Obituaries | 0 Comments

Bernard Semmel, a distinguished historian of modern Britain and longtime member of the North American Conference of British Studies, died on August 18, 2008. He published eleven books as well as dozens of articles and reviews in major journals in the United States, Britain, and Canada. He had few equals in the breath and depth of his knowledge of the Victorian and Edwardian intellectual milieu. His books ranged from his first, Imperialism and Social Reform: English Social-Imperial Thought, 1895-1914 (1960), which remains a classic in its field, to his last, George Eliot and the Politics of National Inheritance (1994).

During his long career, he received grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, American Council of Learned Societies, the Guggenheim foundation, and the National Humanities Center. He was the editor of the Journal of British Studies from 1969-1974 and a member of the Royal Historical Society.

Professor Semmel received his BA from the College of the City of New York and his MA. And Ph.D from Columbia University. He began his teaching career in 1956 at Park College, Parkville, Missouri. In 1960 he joined the faculty of the Long Island Center of the State University of New York at Oyster Bay, which moved to its permanent home at Stony Brook in 1962. He chaired the department from 1966-1969. After he retired, he became a Distinguished Professor of History at the Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York. Throughout his career, he was a dedicated and inspiring teacher and mentor. His student, Mrinalini Sinha, praised him for his intellectual integrity, his demonstration through his own work that disciplinary boundaries are historically contingent, and his success in linking his principled traditionalism to a radically liberating view of the historian.

Semmel is survived by his wife Maxine, his son Stuart and daughter-in-law Tina, and four grandchildren. His family, friends, colleagues, and students will remember him as a tough-minded, but always generous and compassionate teacher, intellectual, and human being.

Barbara Harris with help from Mrinilini Sinha.

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NACBS Accommodations

Posted by jaskelly under Announcement, Conferences, NACBS | 0 Comments

Due to the high demand for NACBS Rooms at the Hyatt Regency Louisville, we may run out of accommodation there at the Conference rate.   We advise those who are unable to secure rooms at the Hyatt to book at the adjacent Marriott Louisville Downtown, which is the headquarters hotel for the concurrent Southern Historical Association Meeting.  At present, rooms are available there for $115 per night.  To book at the Marriott, please call (800) 533-0127 or access the online portal at  When booking, please ask for the Southern Historical Association rate.  We advise you to book by our deadline of October 14.  In the event that rooms become unavailable at the Marriott, please contact the conference organizers, who will make what efforts we can to secure more rooms at this late date.

Additionally, The Southern Historical Association has compiled an excellent Louisville Restaurant Guide, which can be found at  During the Conference, those who are interested can also visit the Local Arrangements Table of the Southern Historical Association in the Marriott, where they can find more information and some discount opportunities for downtown restaurants.

Finally, for further information on Louisville visit the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau web site at <> .

Sincerely yours,

Lara Kriegel, NACBS Program Chair
Mark Lester, SCBS President and Local Arrangements Chair

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New Reviews for September on Reviews in History

Posted by dannymillum under Announcement | Tags: book review | 0 Comments

The following reviews of interest to followers of The British and Irish Studies Intelligencer were published in August on the Institute of Historical Research’s e-journal Reviews in History.

First, Lynne Walker finds much of interest (no. 786) in Judith Neiswander’s new study of the popular literature of Victorian interior decoration, The Cosmopolitan Interior: Liberalism and the British Home 1870-1914.

Frank Turner then assesses (no. 787) Ruth Windscheffel’s attempt to find a new perspective on Gladstone through an examination of his reading habits, in Reading Gladstone.

We also have Hilda Kean’s critical take (no. 789) on A History of Attitudes and Behaviours toward Animals in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Britain. Anthropocentrism and the Emergence of Animals by Rob Boddice, whose reply can be found here.

Next Ariel Hessayon (no. 798) deals with a work which examines the period of gradual and informal Jewish readmission to England, Eliane Glaser’s Judaism without Jews: Philosemitism and Christian Polemic in Early Modern England. Her response can be read here.

Finally there is an amicable exchange (no. 799 and response) between Gareth Atkins and Richard Blake over the latter’s exploration of the increasing concern for spiritual and moral wellbeing in the British Navy in his Evangelicals in the Royal Navy, 1775–1815: Blue Lights and Psalm-Singers.

As ever, please feel free to send all comments, including suggestions for books you would like to see on Reviews in History to the deputy editor Danny Millum.

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Posted by jaskelly under Announcement, Grants and Awards | 0 Comments


The NACBS, in collaboration with the Huntington Library, offers annually the NACBS-HUNTINGTON LIBRARY FELLOWSHIP to aid in dissertation research in British Studies using the collections of the library.  The amount of the fellowship is $2000.  A requirement for holding the fellowship is that the time of tenure be spent in residence at the Huntington Library.  The time of residence varies, but may be as brief as one month. Applicants must be U. S. or Canadian citizens or permanent residents and enrolled in a Ph.D. program in a U. S. or Canadian institution.

Nominations and applications for the 2010 award are invited. Please note that the timing of the competition has been moved forward to the fall, with applications due on November 30, 2009.  Applications should consist of a curriculum vitae, two supporting letters (one from the applicant's dissertation advisor), and a description of the dissertation research project. The letter should include a description of the materials to be consulted at the Huntington and the reason that these are essential sources for the dissertation.

A copy of the application package should be sent to each member of the Huntington Library Fellowship Committee listed below. Letters should be placed in sealed envelopes, signed across the flap and given to the applicant for inclusion in the application package. Applications must be postmarked by November 30, 2009. Awards will be announced by January 30, 2010. Send materials to: Professor Gary De Krey, Department of History, St Olaf College, 1520 St. Olaf Avenue, Northfield, MN 55057 (email: [email protected]), Professor Johann Sommerville, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of History, 3211 Mosse Humanities Bldg, 455 N. Park St., Madison, WI 53706 (email: [email protected]), and Professor Melissa Harkrider, Department of History, Wheaton College, 501 College Avenue, Wheaton, IL 60187 (email: [email protected]).

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David Underdown (August 19, 1925 - September 26, 2009)

Posted by jaskelly under Obituaries | Tags: david underdown, kishlansky, underdown | 0 Comments

Dear Colleagues,

As many of you already know, David Underdown passed away on 26 September.  The following is a remembrance from Mark Kishlansky.

Best wishes,
Jason M. Kelly

David Underdown, the eminent historian of early modern England died peacefully at his home in Merced California on September 26th.  He was 84 years of age.

Educated at Wells Grammar School and Exeter College, Oxford, Underdown served in the RAF during World War II after which he completed his B.A. and B. Litt.  He began a doctoral thesis under the direction of Christopher Hill but left Oxford before completing it to enroll in the Graduate School of Yale University where he received an M.A. in American history.

Underdown taught at the University of the South (1953-62) where an endowed history chair in his name commemorates his service; at the University of Virginia (1962-68); at Brown University (1968-8 6) where he was the Monro-Goodwin Wilkinson Professor of European History; and at Yale University (1986-94) from which he retired as the George Burton Adams Professor Emeritus in 1996. Among his many honors he was chosen to receive the AHA's award for scholarly distinction in 1995, was a corresponding fellow of the British Academy, delivered the Prothero Lecture to the Royal Historical Society in 1980 and gave the Ford Lectures at the University of Oxford in 1992. He was twice a Guggenheim Fellow.

Underdown's lifelong scholarly interests centered upon early modern Britain and were especially focused on the English Revolution, its causes and consequences.  He worked on this from a variety of perspectives from the politics of royalism (Royalist Conspiracies in England (1960) to those of the parliamentarians (Pride's Purge, 1971; A Freeborn People (1996)); from localism (Somerset in the Civil War and Interregnum (1973) and Fire from Heaven (1992); to cultural beliefs and practices (Revel, Riot, and Rebellion (1985).  His work displayed two abiding qualities: a mastery of archival sources faithfully reported, and a compelling prose style that carried both story and argument.  He was a craftsman's craftsman, a master of sources, of historiography, and of method who had few equals even among a flashy generation of generalists whose big theses dominated discussion but faded over time while his solid conclusions persevered.

He was a dedicated and attentive teacher who inspired numerous students to follow in his professional footsteps. In lecture hall and tutorial he communicated his passion for the past with quiet certitude and a wry sense of humor.  He was generous with his time and his advice and he wrote more than one doctoral dissertation in a supervisory capacity.

Though personally shy and reticent, he could be transformed by any mention of cricket, one of his life-long passions. He was a member of the Somerset cricket club and rarely missed a match when in England.  His students were instructed never to interrupt him when the BBC world service was reporting scores.  His final book, Start of Play (2000) was a scholarly account of the origins of the modern game.  Though based on solid archival study it most clearly enunciated his own passions and preferences for the amateur, the independent backbencher "agin the government", and the free rural small holder who loved the land he lived on.

He is survived by his wife, Susan Amussen, and three sons from a previous marriage.

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Natalie Ceeney
Chief Executive
The National Archives
Ruskin Avenue
Kew, Richmond
Surrey, TW9 4DU

10 September 2009

Dear Ms. Ceeney,

We write as the principal officers of the North American Conference on
British Studies to express our concern regarding the proposed changes to
TNA service prompted by budgetary cuts. While we realise that changes
are necessary given current economic conditions, and that TNA is
answerable to the British government and must implement costs-savings,
we join a considerable number of other interested groups and individuals
in questioning whether the cuts proposed are the wisest measures TNA
could take to reduce its expenditures.

We represent a large group of scholars, based mainly albeit not
exclusively in Canada and the United States, many of whom use the
archives on a regular basis and for whom it is a vital resource for
their scholarship and career advancement. We include in our numbers not
only those who hold academic positions but also independent scholars and
students working towards higher degrees. For all of these
constituencies, reduced access to TNA will, without question, be a
significant blow. Ours is a membership that, for the most part, can
visit London only for limited periods, and the reduction of hours that a
full day closing each week represents will hit them severely.

Likewise, the vagueness in TNA’s proposed staffing reductions is
worrying. Many of our younger members in particular benefit considerably
from the expertise of your specialist research staff. Reduction in their
numbers or availability will have a direct and powerful impact on
scholars unfamiliar with your holdings, and even on those already
experienced in using your collections.

All of us count TNA amongst the most valuable of the resources we use to
further our studies and researches in a variety of British studies
disciplines, and we are wholly supportive of the organisation. We write,
as so many others both in and beyond British shores have done, to urge a
wholesale reconsideration of the proposed cuts.

Yours sincerely,

Barbara Harris, President, North American Conference on British Studies;
Professor Emerita, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Philippa Levine, Vice-President and President-Elect, Professor,
University of Southern California

William Lubenow, Immediate Past President, Professor, Richard Stockton
College of New Jersey

Andrew August, Executive Secretary, Professor, Pennsylvania State University

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New Reviews for August on Reviews in History

Posted by dannymillum under Announcement | 0 Comments

The following reviews of interest to followers of The British and Irish Studies Intelligencer were published in August on the Institute of Historical Research’s e-journal Reviews in History.

Two of these are concerned with Ireland. The first (no. 777) consists of a fascinating exchange between Micheál Ó Siochrú (see his response here) and Jason Peacey regarding the former’s recent publication God’s Executioner: Oliver Cromwell and the Conquest of Ireland. Emmett O’Connor then reviews (no. 784) the recent biography of Jack Lynch (Jack Lynch: a Biography) by Dermot Keogh, challenging what he sees as the book’s attempts to rehabilitate the former Irish Taoiseach’s reputation.

In addition, Kevin Jefferys takes on (no. 780) Parties at War. Political Organisation in Second World War Britain, written by Andrew Thorpe, while Justin Champion reviews (no. 781) The Blasphemies of Thomas Aikenhead. Boundaries of Belief on the Eve of the Enlightenment, with the author Michael Graham responding here.

As ever, please feel free to send all comments, including suggestions for books you would like to see on Reviews in History to the deputy editor Danny Millum.

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PCCBS will hold its 2010 conference at Pomona College in Claremont, CA, March 19-21, 2010. More information will be forthcoming. Rooms will be reserved for registrants at the Doubletree Hotel.

For more information, visit the PCCBS website:

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2009 NACBS Election

Posted by jaskelly under Announcement, NACBS | 0 Comments

The 2009 NACBS election will be held through 6 October 2009. An email with a link to cast your vote was sent to all members with valid email addresses on 25 August 2009. If you prefer to cast your vote manually or the automated link in the email does not work, please contact Darrick Clayton via email at [email protected] or by calling 415.643.3423.

For those members who do not have email addresses on file, paper ballots will be mailed in the first week of September. The deadline for receipt of paper ballots in the Executive Secretary's office is 6 October 2009.

For more information about the 2009 candidates for NACBS offices, click here.

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New Reviews for July on Reviews in History

Posted by dannymillum under Announcement | 0 Comments

This month Reviews in History focusses on urban history and cities, co-inciding with the IHR's Anglo-American Conference on the same theme.

Three of these reviews are of London-centred studies. There is an assessment by Justin Colson (no. 766, with response) of an attempt to bring together archaeological, documentary and architectural evidence relating to the London Guildhall, namely The London Guildhall: an Archaeological History of a Neighbourhood from Early Medieval to Modern Times by David Bowsher et al.

Then Jacob Field reviews (no. 767) Lost Londons: Change, Crime and Control in the Capital City 1550–1660, Paul Griffiths’ analysis of crime and migrant workers in London during this period. The author’s response can be found here.

Lastly James Gregory (no. 771) takes on Guilty Money: The City of London in Victorian and Edwardian Culture by Ranald Michie (see here for his response), which looks at the way the Square Mile was portrayed in the fiction of this period.

There is also a review (no. 769) by Kate Bradley of Andrew Davies’ book The Gangs of Manchester, the inspiration for the play Angels With Manky Faces which opened last week.

As ever, please feel free to send all comments, including suggestions for books you would like to see on Reviews in History to the deputy editor Danny Millum at [email protected].

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