It’s been one month since I started my new job at the University of Essex. Settling in has been a busy and fun process. The moving company now tells me that my boxes should be in England by the weekend. One month and a new start in life has simply become life… Being in a reflective state of mind, I’ve chosen to focus this month’s History Carnival on the theme of beginnings and endings.
Let us begin, then, with a voyage. Over at Halley’s Log, Kate Morant has started blogging Edmond Halley’s third voyage on the Paramour (1701), this time to observe the tides in the English Channel–and maybe do some spying.
The ultimate traveller just might be Morrissey… or Richard III… who appears to have been doing some time travel. This is possibly my favourite tweet of the month. (Well, it’s technically from October rather than September, but it arrived just as I was writing this post.)
— Angela Muir (@PhD_Angela) October 1, 2015
And there is a great introduction to the artist Sonia Delaunay over at Art and Architecture, mainly where we learn about how she began a new life in a new city and took up new ways of doing art.
A big welcome to Sheilagh O’Brien who has just started blogging at Enchanted History! Her first post on marriage to the Devil couldn’t be timed more perfectly, being on the Essex witch trials and mentioning–of course–Colchester. There is more witchy history over at The Witch, the Weird and the Wonderful, where HJ Blenkinsop considers how the black cat became the witch’s familiar.
A cracking criminal tale from Catherine Curzon at A Covent Gardern Gilfurt’s Guide to Life. In 1807, Strasbourg residents were being subjected to a new and elaborate con in which a gang of thieves played the roles of exorcist, devil and prophetess to dupe their victims.
Where there are thieves, there must be those who pursue them. Margaret Makepeace at Untold Lives tells us the story of the Metropolitan Police’s first-ever day on the job… that came complete with a review of their performance in the Morning Post the day after!
There are some great posts from historians reflecting on the profession and practice of doing history. Brodie Waddell at The Many-Headed Monster has a series of posts considering what problems exist in the history profession–specifically about training doctoral students and the casualisation of labour. In this post, he has “Seven Practical Steps” for what we can do to improve it.
It’s not all doom and gloom, of course. Sometimes it’s a bit fuzzy. Congratulations to Alun Withey who has just launched his new project on beards in history, which he introduces over here.
From Victorians’ facial hair, it is but a short hop to Jacob Steere-Williams’ post at Renaissance Mathematicus, in which he critiques the “privileged hipsters living the solipsist dream of a phantasmagorical Victorian world in the twenty-first century.”
Steere-Williams argues that simply wearing nineteenth-century clothes and using nineteenth-century technology is an insufficient–even dangerous–start to understanding Victorian experience. This is “far from an inocuous appropriation of powerless objects from the past. There is a very real danger in a cherry-picked, tunnel-vision of history, one that ignores power, inequality, racism and privilege.”
Along the same lines, Matt Champion’s evocative post at the Norfolk Medieval Graffiti Survey points out that
it isn’t enough to simply record what we find on the walls. It is a start. No more than that. The key though has to be understanding what we are seeing. To try and find our way into the mindset and motivations of the long-dead who left these tantalising messages for the future.
Silences as a way into a field of study, or a block to that study, is the theme of “The Truth about Child Sexual Assault” (1900-1950) by Mark Finnane and Yorrick Smaal at The Prosecution Project. What might be a tantalising start when studying graffiti is the frustrating (possible) end here. As Finnane and Smaal note: “The consequences of this silence continue to frustrate scholarly research.”
It is Welcome Week here at the University of Essex and my mind is filled with thoughts of the teaching to come next week. The Recipes Project has been running a great series on teaching historical recipes throughout the month of September, but let me draw your attention to Carla Cevasco’s post on “Teaching High School American History with Cookbooks“. It’s a fascinating post about introducing students to recipes for the first time, as well as the intersection of (for example) immigration policy, food cultures and anxiety.
But who needs university anyway? (Shhh. Let’s not tell the government, who is already in the process of dismantling UK academia.) Thony Christie looks at “The Penny Universities”, or how the first coffee houses in Britain became places where one could attend lectures by paying a penny–the price of a cup of coffee. While I like coffee (occasionally), I’m not sure that this would put bread on my table.
As every teacher knows, term time has its ups and downs. At some point, stimulants and tonics will be needed. D. Brooks at Friends of Schoharie Crossing takes a look at Hostetter’s Stomach Bitters, good
For the cure of Dyspepsia, Indigestion, Nausea, Flatulency, Loss of Appetite, or any Bilious Complaints, arising from a morbid inaction of the Stomach or Bowels, producing Cramps, Dysentery, Colic, Cholera, Morbus, &c., these Bitters have no equal.
And with some 47% alcohol. A better bet than (at least the initial runs of) “The Cereal Beverage” offered by the Chemung Beverage Company in 1927. Kelli Huggins (Chemung County Historical Society blog) discusses how the cereal beverage rapidly became a bit more high-powered, despite it being illegal. The “near beer” of Schenectady, as described at the Grems-Doolittle Library Collections blog, would also be a bit disappointing… Coffee it is, then. And maybe some bitters, too.
While thinking about the rhythms of the academic year, it’s worth reading this post on the traditional calendar in West Virginia by Danna Bell at the Library of Congress on “Finding Traditions: Exploring the Seasonal Round“. What is beginning now will end in only ten weeks, followed by grading, research and Christmas holidays, only to begin again in January…
And next month, there will be yet another History Carnival, this time hosted by Sharon Howard over at Early Modern Notes… so start saving up your posts, just as the West Virginians will be preserving foodstuffs. See you there!