On 28 October 2023, the British Library was subject to a major cyberattack, entailing a near complete shutdown of the Library’s web-based services. Staff at the British Library are continuing to work extremely hard to restore services. As this continues, a number of organisations are offering guidance on short-term alternatives and workarounds while BL databases remain unavailable for research or teaching across the UK and overseas. This post provides a summary of these alternatives and a selection of guides now available, with a special focus on those working historically. We also invite further proposals for alternative resources to add to this listing.
RHS Workshop Grants support meetings of historians to undertake a wide range of projects, from research, to debate, programme planning and networking. The first round of RHS Workshops took place in 2023. They include a day event recently hosted by the Early Modern Migration Reading Group on the subject of ‘Beyond the “Good”/”Bad” Migrant Dichotomy: Ways Forward for Early Modern and Contemporary History’. In this post, the organisers of this Workshop — Kathleen Commons, Dan Rafiqi, Juliet Atkinson, and Samantha Sint Nicolaas — reflect on their project.
What was daily life like for old people in Russian villages at the turn of the twentieth century? In this post, Sarah Badcock (University of Nottingham) considers the lives of non-able elderly people in late Imperial Russia; drawing on accounts of real lives and representations of old age in art and literature. This post introduces and accompanies Sarah’s research article, ‘Waiting to Die? Old Age in the Late Imperial Russian Village’, which was recently published Open Access on FirstView for ‘Transactions of the Royal Historical Society’.
The purpose of statues in public spaces has recently become a matter of controversy. In this post, Pippa Catterall considers how and when a statue may be read as appropriately situated in public space, and when and how it is not. Appropriateness is primarily determined by the ways in which public authorities authorise the use of public space. Yet understanding of the fit between a statue and public space varies over time, and may be deliberately subverted. This placing of statues in ‘a state of surrealism’ also goes beyond relocation.
The 2023 A-Level results, for students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, were released on 17 August 2023. They follow the 2023 results for Scottish Highers, published on 8 August. Both sets of data allow for observations on the uptake and relative popularity of History, and of arts and humanities subjects more generally, in 2022-23. This post draws on figures published in August by the Joint Council for Qualifications (for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, JCQ) and the Scottish Qualifications Authority SQA).
In her new article, now published in ‘Transactions of the Royal Historical Society’, Dr Victoria Leonard analyses the letters of St Augustine of Hippo, and demonstrates how their ‘silences’ convey the erasure of gendered violence and queer sexuality in antiquity. Here, Victoria draws on her research to demonstrate how an absence of primary source evidence can be just as informative as an abundance; and how historians can use these silences to gain deeper insight into the past. Victoria’s Open Access article, ‘Gendered Violence, Victim Credibility and Adjudicating Justice in Augustine’s Letters’, is now available – Open Access – via the FirstView section of the journal’s website.
In this third and final post in our ‘History and Human Flourishing’ series, David Armitage considers longstanding debates, and new writing, on the value of presentist thinking for historical debate. For many – past and present – presentism serves to deflect and distort from the historian’s true purpose and the distinctiveness of the discipline. Here David draws on recent work by historians of science, as well as by psychologists and philosophers, to advocate for the advantages of presentist thinking. Far from distortion or deflection, history informed by presentism offers greater possibilities for dialogue with multiple publics and greater humility on the part of practitioners and readers.
In this second post of the ‘History and Human Flourishing’ series, Suzanne Marchand explores the contemporary value and relevance of Herodotus in historical teaching and methodology. Though often overlooked in favour of a ‘scientific’ approach advocated by nineteenth-century acolytes of Thucydides, Herodotus and his Histories remain a rich — and much needed — guide to history as the story and study of human behaviours. In this post, Suzanne considers Herodotus’ appeal and lessons for historians today. This post is the second essay in the Society’s 3-part ‘History & Human Flourishing’ blog series. The first, by Darrin M. McMahon, explores the often-neglected study of the history of human happiness.
How might history and historians enhance human flourishing, if at all? In this post – the first of three considering ‘History and Human Flourishing’ – Darrin McMahon considers the historical study of happiness as an approach to the past. Histories of happiness are more than the pursuit of perpetual good feelings and they exist alongside the ubiquitous suffering of the world, in the past and the present alike. As editor of a new volume, ‘History and Human Flourishing’ (2023), Darrin proposes important questions for a discipline about which some are sceptical: to consider how the study of history can promote happiness and wellbeing in the present, and the value of history for life, that is, for human flourishing.
In her new article, published in ‘Transactions of the Royal Historical Society’, Subhadipa Dutta offers a historiographical review of the history of Western sport in colonial India. In this post, Subhadipa explains how she came to her subject as a PhD researcher, and how her research broadens understanding of sport in colonial India beyond the establish focus on adult male participants. Her article is one of the first essays in the journal’s new ‘Common Room’ section: a space for topical commentary on all aspects of historical research, to which submissions are warmly welcome.
The latest volume in the Royal Historical Society’s Camden Series is published in June: ‘La Prinse et Mort du Roy Richart d’Angleterre, and Other Works by Jehan Creton’, translated and edited by Lorna A. Finlay. Jehan Creton accompanied Richard II on his expedition to Ireland in 1399 and witnessed the king’s capture by Henry Lancaster, who usurped the throne to reign as Henry IV. Lorna Finlay’s new translation and edition is the first since that of John Webb, published in 1824. This new Camden edition also includes Creton’s other known writings: the two epistles and four ballades.
22 June 2023 marks the 75th anniversary of the arrival of HMT Empire Windrush at Tilbury Docks in Essex. The ship brought to Britain just over 800 passengers who had left the West Indies, the great majority of whom sought to settle and begin new lives in the UK. The Windrush 75 anniversary is being marked in 2023 with events, exhibitions and broadcasts. This post offers a selection of history-related events. They include academic conferences, lectures and seminars, alongside exhibitions, community history events and performances, from organisations large and small. They are a small selection of what’s available.