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September 2014 Newsletter

I. 2014 Conference Retrospective from Director of Outreach, Martin Farr

The British Scholar Society’s Director of Outreach, Martin Farr, has written a retrospective on our 2014 annual conference in Newcastle, which was regarded by all involved as a great success and perhaps the best conference we have thus far had. Especially satisfying to all of us at the Society were the numerous plaudits from conference participants that Dr Farr received in the weeks following the conference. Dr Farr’s thoughts on the conference (reproduced below) and the notes of praise and thanks he received testify to the continued growth of the Society and of the connections we continue to make, across the British World and beyond.

A note from Director of Outreach, Martin Farr:

2014 was the second time conference had been held in the UK.  Unlike Edinburgh 2012, however, Newcastle 2014 had someone on the ground (me).  This meant that conference dominated my life to an unhealthy extent for the best part of six months, but it did mean that we had none of the problems that made Edinburgh such a challenging experience.  The weather was much better, for instance.  The greatest challenge to my composure was the number of speakers who withdrew in the weeks, and indeed days, beforehand.  Never having submitted a paper to a conference unless I knew I could deliver it, I was surprised how many people don’t.   We still had 38 panels, 124 papers, and six plenaries which include Lunchtime Lectures on each day. The conference was held in the School of History at Newcastle University, with all plenaries in our nice new teaching rooms, and lunch and refreshments upstairs.  Having all delegates in the same place all the time was the greatest improvement on Edinburgh.  The social events – at the Baltic, Alnwick Castle, and the Town Wall – went very well.  It was all an enormous relief.  There’s nothing I can add to the unsolicited feedback received from delegates, here presented anonymised and complete:

*“Just a note to say thanks and congratulations for such a fantastic conference last week. As a latecomer to the BSS party it was great to meet so many people working on such interesting topics and to spend some time in Newcastle. The sessions were really first class and I have to say it was one of the most enjoyable conferences I’ve been to. I have had lunch with Wm Roger Louis since and passed on how well it all went.  I hope you can both now enjoy a bit of a break. Congrats again and all best wishes.”

*“Just to record my thanks for your inspiration and efforts in putting together such a fine event. The David Reynolds lecture was a truly outstanding finale.”

*“Well done for the excellent organisation of the conference. I really liked Newcastle, though I did not have much time to look around. It was also very nice to see British Scholar team and team members”

*“I would like to thank you for organising, once again, a great conference with stimulating papers and entertaining moments in a friendly atmosphere. Please pass on my thanks to all the other colleagues involved in the organising of such an event which, as I know, requires a lot of hard work!”

*“Just wanted to send you both a message of thanks for all of your hard work in organizing the conference in Newcastle.  It was a big task, I’m sure, but you both betrayed so little sign of it that I might have believed it all came together organically without so much as an email being sent around.  I know better though, and so I thought you’d like to hear how universally positive all of the conversations about the conference proved to be.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself, made some new friends, very much enjoyed seeing both of you, and that seemed to be the case for everyone I spoke to as well.   Hopefully you have the chance to get some well earned rest!”

*“Just a quick note to say how much I enjoyed the conference. You and your colleagues in the British Scholar and Newcastle University did a top notch job – you have obviously done it before! The panels were good and the questions raised were engaging. I look forward to Austin next year, if I can get the funding! Keep in touch.”

*“Brilliant conference Martin, and the dinner at Hogwarts was inspired.”

*“Just wanted to drop you an email to say thanks for a great conference this weekend and for putting me on to the Britain and the World Series at Palgrave. It sounds like they may be interested which is brilliant.  Hope you’re having a well-earned rest!”

*“Congratulations on a successful conference. For me, the lunchtime lectures were the highlight. John and Reba belong to very different traditions, but they complemented one another very well.”

*“I just wanted to take the time to thank you both for putting on such an excellent conference.  It was certainly the best ‘big’ conference I’ve ever been to, and – dare I say – perhaps even better than one I ran here in Aberdeen that previously held my all-time top spot!  Anyway, I know for certain that I wasn’t the only one to really enjoy it, and I think that bears testament to all of the hard work that both of you put in.  I’m not sure if I can make it to Austin, but if I’m lucky enough to still be in academia the year after I’ll definitely try and make it to the next UK-based one.  So, thanks once again to both of you!”

*“I just wanted to drop you a quick note to tell you how much I enjoyed the British Scholar conference. I hope the rest of the event and the wrap party went well. I’ll definitely aim to submit an abstract for next year’s event. As I mentioned last weekend, it was a very welcoming and stimulating atmosphere and it was very well organised.”

*“I didn’t get chance to see you before I left but I thought it was a great conference – lots of interesting papers, very relaxed atmosphere and great venues.”

*“I did not get the chance to say this in person on Saturday: many thanks for putting together a great conference!”

*“It was a great conference – I really enjoyed getting a different perspective (from the top of the world down rather than looking up!) and meeting different people. I hope I can make it to another Britain and the World conference again – possibly in 2016.”

*“Well done on a great conference…it all seemed to go very smoothly and well. I really enjoyed it”

*“Congratulations on a very successful conference. You must be exhausted now.”

*“Thank you so much for organizing such a wonderful conference, and for inviting me to present a paper. I had such a lovely time, and got some excellent feedback. I will be sure to encourage my fellow KCL history PhD students to submit abstracts in the future!”

*“Excellent conference, at every level that I had the privilege to be part of.  The Town Wall pub was great and getting very busy, so we headed out for dinner on Grey Street.  I’ll send more later, but very well done!”

*“Thank you for organizing such a great conference. Our session yesterday went very well.”

*“I hope you are at last able to get some relaxation.  I was going to say to you ‘Just think of the lovely Sunday you will have’ when [I was told] that you would be having a meeting on Sunday!  Anyway, I send you my warmest congratulations on a superb conference, marked not only by its intellectual meat, but also by terrific organisation – all thanks to you and Mikki. So this is just to let you know how warmly appreciated it all was. And do please pass on my congratulations to Mikki. And a special thanks for all your care and concern for my welfare. Also greatly appreciated.”

*“I couldn’t resist sending a quick note to thank you both for everything over the past few days. I had a truly wonderful time at the conference — indeed, I am really struggling to find the proper words to express how much I enjoyed and appreciated all that you did, from the panels, to the keynotes and lectures, to the overall organization and atmosphere of the conference. I felt both comfortable and energized, on both intellectual and personal levels, and Newcastle was just great. You really have something special here in this group and I am honored and privileged to be a part of it now. It all sounds horribly trite as I type it out now, so I will stop here and leave it at a simple, additional thank you!! It’s a long time until March, but I eagerly await next year’s conference.”

II. Call for Papers for 2015 Annual Conference of The British Scholar Society

With the 2014 annual conference still fresh in our minds, we are pleased to announce the Call for Papers for the next annual meeting of the Society, which will be held 2-4 April 2015 in Austin, TX. As always, we are accepting both individual paper and complete panel submissions.  The deadline to submit abstracts is Monday, 17 November 2014.  Please refer to the following link for more information on the conference and instructions for the submission of abstracts:

http://britishscholar.org/publications/2014/09/18/call-for-papers-britain-and-the-world-conference-2015/

III. Some Thoughts on Scottish Independence and The British Scholar Society

A note on the Scottish independence referendum from Associate Editor, Leslie Rogne Schumacher:

Our annual conference in Newcastle coincided with the lead-up to what will, with little doubt, be regarded in the future as one of the key political and cultural events in modern British history, namely the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. Although the union was ultimately confirmed by a margin of 55% to 45%, we have now learned both the strength and the limits of the bonds that tie together the United Kingdom—and, indeed, the British World as whole, given the coverage, concern, and debate that was in evidence throughout Britain’s former colonies, the United States, and beyond. We have also learned of the high degree of political involvement that exists in Scotland, with an astonishing 85% turnout of eligible voters—a number that, even more astonishingly, includes newly enfranchised 16 and 17 year-olds voting for the first time. As an example of the spirit of democracy, there can be no doubt of how heartening this last statistic is.

In the last few months, The British Scholar Society suddenly found itself at the heart of modern politics, which is not surprising given the Society’s role in providing a corrective to the exclusion of the Scottish space in British Studies (not to mention the Society’s strong representation of Scottish scholars among its members). General Editor, Bryan S. Glass, has been very active, providing his insights on the referendum and Scottish history more broadly both in public appearances and to the press. Last week, the Chairman of the Society’s Advisory Board, Sir Tom Devine, was interviewed on Newsnight, engaging in a fascinating, must-watch debate with Harvard professor Niall Ferguson (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SN1YDgqBjXk) on the issue of Scottish independence. As a testament to the powerful dynamic that is emerging between social media and scholarship, other Society members—such as Karly Kehoe, Martin Farr, Mikki Brock, Robert Whitaker, and myself—found themselves in a rolling, near-constant debate on Facebook—a too-often-belittled forum that, for scholars, never fails to expose the narrow gap between one’s work and one’s life.

Looking back on the mixture of emotions I have seen in the last few months—of fascination, anxiety, pride, resentment, and (more than anything) that rare and sought-after sense of being present during an auspicious event—I can only say that I am glad to be a part of this organization and to have so many thoughtful, concerned colleagues and friends. Although what we do may often appear to be just a small, routine contribution to the task of organizing the vagaries of history, we should feel lucky to have had a chance to take part in the present and, more importantly, be of use to it. There is no greater gift a scholar receives than the opportunity to have an impact.

IV. Additions to “Britain and the World” Book Series

Two new books the Society’s “Britain and the Worldbook series from Palgrave Macmillan are now available. Barry Gough’s Pax Britannica: Ruling the Waves and Keeping the Peace before Armageddon provides an analysis of the global role of Britain’s navy between the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the First World War. More information on Dr Gough’s book can be found at http://www.palgrave.com/page/detail/pax-britannica-barry-gough/?isb=9780230354302. Erik Nielsen’s Sport and the British World, 1900-1930: Amateurism and National Identity in Australasia and Beyond looks at transnational themes in the history of amateur sports in Australia and New Zealand. One can find out more at http://www.palgrave.com/page/detail/sport-and-the-british-world,-1900-1930-erik-nielsen/?isb=9781137398505.

V. New Issue of Journal Now Available

The new issue of Britain and the World: Historical Journal of The British Scholar Society is now available both in print and online. Members can access it at the following link:

http://www.euppublishing.com/toc/brw/7/2

VI. Associate Editor on the British Royal Family

Associate Editor of the Society Helene von Bismarck has written a piece on the centrality of the family to the popularity of the British monarchy overseas. Please go to the following link to read Dr von Bismarck’s fascinating article, titled “The Cambridges in Australia: Balmorality 2.0?”:

http://britishscholar.org/publications/2014/06/23/the-cambridges-in-australia-balmorality-2-0/

VII. Call for Review Article Submissions to Britain and the World

Britain and the World is seeking submissions for review articles that trace the historiographical direction and current state of the field of any topic that fits the mission of the journal.  Britain and the World publishes review and archival-based articles that present new knowledge on any geographical region or theme that evidence meaningful interaction with Britain.  Please inquire with Professor Gregory A. Barton, Editor-in-Chief, at gabartonatbritishscholardotorg  (gabartonatbritishscholardotorg)  .

VIII. Needed: Book Reviews Editor for Britain and the World

The British Scholar Society is issuing a call for a new Book Reviews Editor for its journal, Britain and the World. Those interested in taking on this responsibility should email editoratbritishscholardotorg  (editoratbritishscholardotorg)   with inquiries or to submit your name for consideration. Please include a current CV and a brief note explaining your background, your experience, and the resources you would offer if you took on the position.

IX. Book of the Month

Graeme Morton, Ourselves and Others: Scotland, 1832-1914

Reviewed by Christopher A Whatley (University of Dundee)

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September 2014: Ourselves and Others: Scotland, 1832-1914

41WkJB6IGIL._SY300_Reviewed by: Christopher A. Whatley (University of Dundee)

Graeme Morton. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2012. 312 pp. £19.99 (paperback)

Nineteenth century Scottish history is a crowded field. A vast range of topics have been investigated by specialist researchers who have published their findings in monographs, essay collections, and academic journals. Distinguished historians have written survey accounts of the era as a discreet period or included much on the Victorian and Edwardian decades in books with longer chronological frames (e.g. T. C. Smout, W. W. Knox and T. M. Devine). Graeme Morton’s challenge then has been to write a book that incorporates the best of what is a formidable body of research, but which also distinguishes itself from an impressive pack, and offers something fresh, in terms of his approach, arguments, themes, and material. In Ourselves and Others he certainly tries on each of these fronts.

Morton’s proposition is that the period c.1832 to 1914 was a singular age, when Scotland experienced more intense movements of people, ideas and information than ever before. Information is key, in that news became an industry (in which if publishing as a whole is included, Scottish firms played a major part), which meant that knowledge about the Scots themselves, and of others including Scots abroad, cascaded from the printing presses. Scots in the nineteenth century therefore came to know themselves not simply as not English or other than Catholic (if indeed it were ever as simple as this), but on the basis of how much more could now be known and understood. History and identity were therefore joined in dialogue. The principal device which Morton utilises to explore this dialogue is ‘objectification theory’, a concept he borrows from gender studies. Put simply, it is where the observer’s perspective is internalised and adopted by the subject. By ‘believing in how others have objectified our history’, argues Morton, we (the Scots) become subjects as opposed to historical agents (p. 5). Conscious of the drawbacks of applying such a model to the exclusion of all else, Morton prudently sets his theorising alongside a socio-economic narrative of Scotland’s history over the near century his book covers. Morton’s central concern however is with Scottish identity which, in his period, he concludes was much more than a response to the ‘other’ but rather, ‘a relentless eddy of historical developments from home and away, some engaged with completely, most only elliptically’ (p.16).  Global Scots are very much part of his story.

So does Morton’s book add to our understanding of Scotland in the century or so after the Great Reform Act? Where Ourselves and Others certainly succeeds is in the themes selected, and the fresh material Morton uses to illustrate these. Chapter 2, ‘Weather Scotland Will’ is a case in point. Notwithstanding the influence climate and weather have in determining how human beings in different regions live, they are forces largely overlooked by generalist Scottish historians – although this is clearly not so with environmental historians. If Morton’s conclusions are hardly profound (‘Scotland’s weather did what it always did: the rain fell, the wind blew, the frost came…the sun, on occasion, shone.’ (p. 54)), he does well to remind us that climate and weather are not aligned with national boundaries. But what his chapter does contain are fascinating examples of the Scots’ interest in the weather, from the long-preferred dependence upon folklore for weather prognostics (which was not infrequently confirmed by scientific analysis), to the fact that the Scottish Meteorological Society was evidently the larest and best-organised in Europe, with a reach far beyond Scotland’s shores. Morton’s encyclopaedic reading of secondary and primary sources has allowed him to write a book that is kaleidoscopic in its capacity to throw up unexpected insights. In this sense it compares well with some of the more familiar accounts of the period which (rightly) emphasise industrialisation, urbanisation and their consequent deleterious social consequences.  All this is to be found in Ourselves and Others, but in new guises.

For good reason Morton places great emphasis on the ways in which Sir Walter Scott’s influence and created Victorian ‘Scott-land’ (although others too played their part).  This is what many visitors sought, and those who found too little of it and were instead exposed to Scotland’s grim industrial landscape or even to parts of Edinburgh that resembled England’s suburbs, left disappointed. Scots too revelled in this romantic, mock historical objectification of their homeland. But one wonders if Morton doesn’t over-egg his argument. Robert Burns features in Ourselves and Others, sometimes in the same sentence as Scott, but has sufficient allowance has been made for differences there were in the ways the legacies of Scott and Burns were exploited by Victorian Scots? If Scott’s Scotland was in the past, Burns’s was only partly so. For the tens of thousands of artisan Scots who found succour in Burns’s works, the example of his life and his emphasis on the dignity of man and above all the democratic ideal, Burns was very much of the present and indeed the future, and an active historical agent. This is evident less in the empire-wide celebration and periodic commemoration of Burns which Morton reports, but in the energy, passion and sheer scale of many of these events in Scotland which contrasts with their more passive character in, for example, Australia and New Zealand.

Perhaps it is Morton’s breathless pace that causes him on this and with other issues to rely on brief description and the creation of a fleeting impression before moving on, when what is called for is reflection and deeper analysis. If class and class consciousness have become unfashionable as the main tools of historical analysis, to interpret nineteenth-century Scottish society without even a reference to them, seems (to this reviewer) to be a step too far. To be fair however, from start to finish Morton sticks with his ‘objectification’ thesis. For this boldness – his preparedness to dispense with former ways of understanding Victorian and Edwardian Scotland – Morton is to be commended.

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Call for Papers: Britain and the World Conference 2015

2-4 April

Austin, Texas

Call for Papers:  The British Scholar Society’s Britain and the World Conference 2015

Dates:  2-4 April 2015

Deadline for Submissions:  Monday, 17 November 2014

Decisions on Inclusion:  Friday, 5 December 2014

Following our incredibly successful 2014 conference in Newcastle, England, Britain and the World returns to Austin for 2015.  This serves as a call for papers for the eighth annual Britain and the World Conference. The conference will be held in Austin, Texas at the Doubletree University Area, which is a five minute walk from the campus of the University of Texas at Austin, between Thursday, 2 April and Saturday, 4 April 2015. Papers will focus on British interactions with the world from the beginning of the seventeenth century to the present and will highlight the importance of British history from a global perspective.  Established scholars, scholars at the beginning of their careers, and graduate students are welcome to apply and present at the conference.

Confirmed lectures for the 2015 conference include the fifth annual Frank Turner Memorial Lecture on Thursday, 2 April, the Keynote Address on Friday, 3 April, and the fourth annual Britain and the World Lecture on Saturday, 4 April.  More information about these lectures will appear in our Newsletter in the months ahead.  To receive our free monthly newsletter please sign up by visiting www.britishscholar.org, enter your e-mail address at the top, and click Subscribe.

The Britain and the World Conference will include our Conference Icebreaker on Thursday night, 2 April, our Dinner Party on Friday night, 3 April, as well as a pub crawl through downtown Austin on Saturday night, 4 April.  These events will provide numerous opportunities for networking and merrymaking in and around the live music capital of the world.

The conference accepts both individual paper and complete panel submissions. Submissions of individual papers should include an abstract of 150-300 words as well as a few descriptive keywords. Panels are expected to consist of three to four papers and should be submitted by one person who is willing to serve as the point of contact.  Complete panels must also include a chair.  In addition to abstracts for each individual paper, panel submissions should also include a brief 100-150 word introduction describing the panel’s main theme. The conference does not discriminate between panels and individual paper submissions.

All submissions for inclusion in the Britain and the World Conference must be received by Monday, 17 November 2014. Decisions on inclusion will be made by Friday, 5 December 2014. Submissions should be made electronically to editoratbritishscholardotorg  (editoratbritishscholardotorg)  . Updates regarding the conference will be periodically posted to the Society website. It is hoped that participants will be able to call upon their departments for hotel and transportation expenses.

Information on hotel accommodation and conference registration will be forthcoming. It should be noted that becoming a member of The British Scholar Society entitles you to a discounted registration rate. We also offer a discounted registration rate for students.  Membership in The British Scholar Society for 2015 will be available on the British Scholar website by visiting our membership page at www.britishscholar.org/british-scholar/membership/ beginning on 1 October.  If you have any questions about the forthcoming conference, please contact the Conference Organizing Committee directly at conferenceatbritishscholardotorg  (conferenceatbritishscholardotorg)  .

Best wishes,
Michelle Brock
Bryan Glass
Robert Whitaker
Conference Organizing Committee 2015
The British Scholar Society

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The Cambridges in Australia: Balmorality 2.0?

Helene von BismarckDr. Helene von Bismarck, Associate Editor

Students of the British Empire and students of the British monarchy are faced with a similar dilemma: the lack of a clear set of rules that makes either system intelligible. The Empire, with its wide variety of complicated constitutional arrangements, its formal, semi-formal and informal parts, may be largely gone today, but its successor organization, the Commonwealth of Nations, can only be understood if it is put into the context of the gradualism and pragmatism that characterized British imperialism for centuries and that left its legacy for substantial parts of the globe. A historic approach is also essential for those seeking to grasp the political and cultural relevance of the British monarchy, an institution whose role has continuously evolved and changed over time in a country with no written constitution. The recently concluded visit to New Zealand and Australia by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their little son, Prince George, has been a good opportunity to look back on the historic relationship of monarchy and Empire-Commonwealth, and to discuss the consequences of the past for the present. In many ways, this royal tour can be interpreted as an attempt to breathe new life into two interrelated concepts that have defined the role of the British monarchy and its connection with the Empire, and later the Commonwealth, for at least a century: family and visibility.

When Victorian writer Walter Bagehot famously remarked in his 1867 study of The English Constitution that ‘a family on the throne is an interesting idea’, he probably was not thinking of a baby prince on a play date in New Zealand.[1] However, little Prince George’s recent encounter in Wellington with a group of fellow toddlers selected carefully – and with due political correctness – from among his future subjects, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s informal meeting with their parents, could have easily been used by Bagehot as an example to illustrate his argument that the advantage of a family monarchy laid in turning the otherwise abstract concept of sovereignty into something ordinary people could understand and relate to.[2] The pictures of the happy young family on their trip Down Under fit neatly into a tradition which began with Victoria and Albert and their numerous children, was continued and reinforced by George V and Queen Mary, George VI and his wife, Queen Elizabeth, and, of course, Queen Elizabeth II, but was drastically interrupted during the 1990s, when one widely publicized family drama after the other struck the House of Windsor. The whole idea of family monarchy has been based on the condition that the royal family would live and behave in a certain manner, conveying a set of values, ‘Balmorality’, as Sir David Cannadine calls it, that do not include scandal, adultery or divorce.[3] At least until now, the Cambridges have met that set standard, and in an age when any photograph of them travels the globe in an instant, everyone can see it.

The fact that the Duke and Duchess have chosen this trip to Australia and New Zealand, rather than public engagements in Britain, to finally give the world more than a glimpse of Prince George, and to introduce themselves as a small family jointly working for the monarchy, is also meaningful, and not only because of the continuity demonstrated by a visit of two future kings to their subjects on the other end of the globe. Since the later years of Queen Victoria’s reign coincided with the high age of imperialism, the British monarch has been portrayed and staged as the head of two different families, one real, one metaphorical: the royal family, and the ‘great imperial family’.[4] This was part of a process in the course of which the Empire gave the British monarchy a new role after it had been deprived of most of its political power at home: to act as a symbol of the connection between Britain and its colonial dependencies. Splendid ceremonial events, such as the Dehli Durbars of 1877, 1903 and 1911, when Victoria, Edward VII. and George V., were proclaimed Empress and Emperors of India, were used to reinforce that image.[5] The strategy of being seen and, following the invention of the wireless, being heard, both in Britain and across the Empire, was taken to a new level by King George V. and his wife, Queen Mary, after the First World War. Shaken by the series of revolutions that had swept away the monarchy in so many countries on the European continent and cost the King’s cousin, Tsar Nicholas II., his life, George V. and his consort added new elements to their roles by making themselves visible to the people, putting a greater emphasis on royal charity, cooperating with the press, broadcasting royal speeches and dispatching their grown-up children to tour the Empire. Their legacy for the British monarchy could be felt throughout the twentieth century and continues to do so.[6]

The Empire no longer exists, but the metaphor of family ties that have bound its former components together has survived and continues to resonate to the present day.[7] Interestingly, the use of this rhetoric is not one-sidedly British or restricted to the royal family. In his speech on ANZAC day 2014, delivered during a war memorial service attended by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott underlined the ‘family’ ties that in his opinion continue to bind his country to Great Britain, even if the latter could no longer be called Australia’s ‘mother country’.[8] New opinion polls show that support for the monarchy in Australia is much stronger now than it was during the 1990s, and especially pronounced among the young generation. This contradicts earlier expectations that the role of the monarchy in the Commonwealth realms would automatically phase out in the post-imperial age.[9] The question remains, of course, whether the revived popularity of the monarchy in Australia can be regarded as a sign of a continued link with Britain, or whether it results from the fact that, in the age of digital media, the Duke and Duchess, and now also their little son, have turned into global icons that are likely to attract great interest anywhere, not just the Commonwealth. In any case, the masterfully staged royal tour to Australia and New Zealand has shown that the next generation of the British royal family is ready to embrace the strategy of public Balmorality. The most important prerequisite for its use is in place: people are watching.

 


[1] Walter Bagehot, The English Constitution (London 1963), p. 117.

[2] On Bagehot’s line of argument see Philip Murphy’s enlightening new book, Monarchy and the End of Empire. The House of Windsor, the British Government, and the Postwar Commonwealth (Oxford 2013), pp. 1-2.

[3]David Cannadine, History in our Time (London 1997), pp. 3-4.

[4] Cannadine, Ornamentalism (London 2001), p. 119; History in Our Time, p. 4.

[5] Cannadine, Ornamentalism, p. 101-107.

[6] Miranda Carter, George, Nicholas and Wilhelm. Three Royal Counsins and the Road to World War I (New York 2009), p. 422.

[7] Murphy, Monarchy and the End of Empire, p. 3.

[9] On the prominence of this perception during the age of decolonization see Murphy, Monarchy and the End of Empire, p. 8.

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Professor Tom Devine Knighted

DevinepicThe Chair of The British Scholar Society’s Advisory Board, Professor Tom Devine, has been granted a knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.  This marks the first time that a professional historian of Scotland has been granted a knighthood.  We at the Society congratulate Sir Tom on this terrific achievement.

If you would like to read an interview with Sir Tom appearing in The Herald you may find it here: http://www.heraldscotland.com/books-poetry/interviews/sir-tom-devine-on-past-highs-present-lows-and-future-plans.24448673

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June 2014: Faces of Perfect Ebony: Encountering Atlantic Slavery in Imperial Britain

9780674050082Reviewed by: Susan D. Amussen (University of California, Merced)

Catherine Molineux.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011.  Xvi+341 pp.  US$49.95 (hardback).

In this important book, Catherine Molineux examines the “cultural intelligibility” of images of Black people in eighteenth century Britain, as well as the “popular racial and imperial consciousness it presupposed”(1), demonstrating that the relatively small Black population of eighteenth century Britain (and especially London) was rendered considerably more visible than mere numbers would suggest.  In a chronologically and archivally wide-ranging study, Molineux moves from elite portraits to popular magazines, trade cards, Hogarth’s prints, and dramatic and satirical representations of slavery.     While the principal contact zone between the British and imperial others was across the Atlantic, Molineux argues that visual, literary and dramatic representations moved the contact zone into the metropole.

Molineux begins with the tradition of elite portraits including Black attendants; she places these in a longer iconographic tradition.  Later images of people of African descent echo, revise, and challenge the models set by the portraits.   The second chapter examines the way seventeenth century Britons understood the purposes of empire, and especially its growing reliance on African slavery, through an analysis of texts, including Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko and Thomas Southerne’s theatrical adaptation of it: she reads these as ways the British harmonized their commitment to liberty and the nature of empire.   The debates on the nature and origins of human variety in the Athenian Mercury  in the 1690s  move between accepting variety as divinely established, and assuming that racial others become white in heaven.  As she demonstrates more clearly in the fourth chapter, the success of the plantation project is connected to the veracity of Protestantism, so the English empire is connected to both imperial and religious rivalry; the greater care and kindness of British treatment of both Indians and slaves was central to that.   A chapter on tobacco trade cards and papers shows how plantation slavery is visually erased from the story of tobacco, while some sellers offer a vision of universal fraternity linking Black and white smokers.  Hogarth’s prints use Black figures – often  based on real people – to point out the hypocrisies and deceptions central to his work.   Finally, the “rebel slaves” starting with Mungo from Isaac Bickerstaff’s opera The padlock and moving to abolitionist tracts show the gradual incorporation of ideas of slave resistance into English thinking.

While a growing body of research has illuminated aspects of these issues, Molineux’s work is notable for its equal engagement with visual and textual representations of people of African descent.   As she argues convincingly, each of these traditions of representation is in some way or other unstable, often saying two things at once, simultaneously suggesting complete difference and radical similarity.   Particularly in visual culture, Black bodies could be used to tell radically different stories, so both anti-slavery and pro-slavery advocates drew on the same visual traditions.   Her theoretically sophisticated and nuanced readings of texts and images work against simplistic understandings of the place of Black people in the imaginary of Empire.  This is an impressive and important, if sometimes dense book.   It definitively demonstrates the pervasive visibility of people of African descent in the media of eighteenth century Britain.   Furthermore, its chronological range allows Molineux to show that abolitionist imagery and rhetoric does not just emerge in the late eighteenth century, but draws on a set of ideas and depictions which have developed over the course of a century.

This is an exemplary work of cultural history, but it also shares a common weakness of cultural history.  In pointing to the wide visibility of people of African descent in British culture, Molyneux never addresses the impact of these representations on the very real Black people whose presence is reflected and magnified in the cultural record she explores.  Ignacio Sancho makes a few appearances, as do several others. The focus remains, however, on representation.  The reader cannot help wondering: what is the significance of these representations outside the field of representation?  How do they shape relationships between the embodied citizens of London?  What does the debate on the nature of skin color mean for what people do when they meet people of different races?  Do the images on tobacco cards make a difference in encounters between white and Black Britons?   To put it another way, what is the life of these depictions outside the world of cultural representation?   None of these questions are theoretically or methodologically unproblematic, but they are vital.

To ask such questions is to ask for another book, and these are questions that can be asked because this one is so rich.   This is a book that every student of the early British Empire, and indeed of eighteenth century culture and society, will find illuminating and stimulating.  Britons encountered their empire in a multitude of ways, and that the non-white inhabitants of that empire were both visible and legible.  Britain has been in some ways a multi-racial society for far longer than most people recognize.

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June 2014 Newsletter

 

I. New Way to Sign Up for Annual Conference Dinner Party

To stimulate the greatest possible participation in the activities associated with the Society’s annual conference, we have arranged for a separate way to purchase a ticket to the dinner party. This is intended for those who are interested in attending the dinner party but are otherwise unable to attend the conference. This will hopefully make our dinner party truly an historic event—in both senses of the term!

For those who want to attend the dinner but cannot come to the rest of the conference (or if you did not sign up for the dinner party when you first registered and would now like to attend), go to the following link and follow the instructions to sign up:

http://webstore.ncl.ac.uk/browse/extra_info.asp?compid=1&modid=1&deptid=6&catid=25&prodid=1047

II. Final Newsletter Reminder: Register for Annual Conference

We are less than two weeks away from the start of the Society’s annual conference, so we would like to issue a final newsletter reminder to register for the conference using the following link:

http://webstore.ncl.ac.uk/browse/extra_info.asp?compid=1&modid=2&deptid=9&catid=53&prodid=297

Registration Rates are as follows:

Faculty Member: £55

Student Member: £45

Faculty Non-Member: £115

Student Non-Member: £105

If you are not yet a Member of the Society but would like to join before Registering for the Conference please visit http://britishscholar.org/british-scholar/membership/.

III. Updates to Conference Programme

A number of updates and additions have been made to the programme for the Society’s annual conference. Please visit the following link to peruse the more than one hundred panels and presentations that will be featured:

http://britishscholar.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Britain-and-the-World-2014-Draft-Programme-2-1.pdf

IV. David Reynolds’ Keynote Address at Annual Conference

We are very excited that Professor David Reynolds, Chair of the Faculty of History and Fellow of Christ’s College Cambridge, will be delivering the keynote address at this year’s conference. Quite germane given that this year marks the centennial of the opening of the First World War, the title of his lecture is “Britain and the Long Shadow of the Great War.”

V. Final Newsletter Reminder: Accommodation Information for the Annual Conference

Rooms can fill up fast when there are conferences in town, and thus we would like to issue a final reminder via newsletter to conference participants who have not yet booked their accommodations in Newcastle to visit the special website we have set up to facilitate this process. We have made agreements for special pricing for conference participants at the following hotels, all of which are conveniently located in relation to conference meeting areas as well as local sites and attractions.

County Hotel

Holiday Inn Express

Sleeperz Newcastle

Euro Hostel

Albatross Backpackers

The conference website offers more detailed information on the nature of these lodgings, including their level of affordability and proximity to Newcastle University.

VI. Society General Editor in Debate on Scottish Independence

On 29 June the Society’s General Editor, Dr Bryan S. Glass, will take part in a debate on whether Scotland should be an independent kingdom, sponsored by Intelligence Squared and hosted at the Chalke Valley History Festival in Wiltshire, UK. Alongside Sir Menzies Campbell, Michael Gove, and Sir Simon Jenkins, Dr Glass will be debating the following motion under the moderation of Bronwen Maddox:

“History shows that Scotland and England would be better off as separate kingdoms.”

More information on the Chalke Valley History Festival, which will run from 23 to 29 June, can be found at the following link:

http://www.cvhf.org.uk/

Those interested in learning more about Intelligence Squared and its sponsored debates should go to their website:

http://www.intelligencesquared.com/

VII. Book of the Month

Catherine Molineux, Faces of Perfect Ebony: Encountering Atlantic Slavery in Imperial Britain

Reviewed by Susan D. Amussen

 

 

 

 

 

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May 2014: J. C. Beaglehole: Public Intellectual, Critical Conscience

9781877577802Reviewed by: James Watson, Massey University

Doug Munro. Wellington: Steel Roberts, 2012 106pp. £14.99 (paperback).

A significant feature of the countries of major British settlement has been the extent to which so many of their best university students have travelled, and continue to travel, to the United Kingdom itself to further their educations and their careers.  During the twentieth century a growing number of such students returned to their native countries as the latter developed academic and research facilities of their own.  John Cawte Beaglehole (1901-71) must rank as the most successful such New Zealand returnee of his generation, despite the fact that he came back without a job to go to.  His work, particularly that on the journals of the Cook voyages, led to his being appointed to the Order of Merit, only the second New Zealander (after Ernest Rutherford) to receive that honour.

Beaglehole has not been neglected in the historiography.  One of his sons, also an historian, has published a biography,  based in large part on his father’s personal correspondence.  The latter is clearly a treasure trove of material on much of New Zealand’s intelligentsia during the mid-twentieth century, but it sadly appears to be not yet publicly accessible.  A greatly condensed version of the biography is in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography.    John Beaglehole was one of two Victoria University of Wellington history professors examined by Bill Oliver in that institution’s centenary publication and the author of this work, Doug Munro, devoted a chapter to him in a work on Pacific historians.

Munro describes this small book as ‘a revision and expansion’ of that chapter, designed to be considerably more affordable for a New Zealand audience than his British publication.  He might have added that readers could also find it less daunting to tackle than the almost five hundred pages of text in the biography, despite how absorbing they would find it if they did make the effort.

As indicated by the subtitle to his book, Munro has chosen to concentrate on Beaglehole’s role in public life in New Zealand rather than his academic career and publications.  Nevertheless, this provides massive scope, as Beaglehole, although not a good public speaker and by nature a private person, felt driven to fight for causes that attracted great controversy locally.   Denouncing political censorship and espousing left-wing ideas even when he lacked permanent employment showed unusual courage and cost him at least two sorely needed academic appointments at the outset of his career.

It is clear from this book and from the biography that Beaglehole’s public interests revolved around two related concerns – furthering the development of European high culture in New Zealand and defending freedom of expression.  Initially devastated by the prospect of returning to what he saw as a cultural wasteland, the fact that the Labour Government (1935-49) was prepared to invest in high culture and to some extent involve Beaglehole himself in that process reconciled him to life here.  Munro quotes (p.36) from a very revealing 1946 letter in which Beaglehole wrote of his ‘becoming a New Zealander’.  By this Beaglehole meant not that he was himself undergoing a fundamental transformation – such as embracing a life of rugby, racing and beer – but rather acknowledging that New Zealand was beginning to acquire enough of the attributes of European high culture to make him feel comfortable and to make it worthy of being regarded as a nation.  Beaglehole worked incessantly to encourage not only state sponsorship of music, art and literature, but also private initiatives, such as the Wellington Chamber Music Society.  He pressed for the establishment of proper archive facilities and the preservation of historic buildings.

Beaglehole’s championing of freedom of expression was not unrelated to this vision of New Zealand establishing itself as a worthy modern European nation in which radicals in art and politics were unconstrained by dull ‘provincial’ conformists.  He took a prominent role in opposing the extension of state power to limit freedom of expression during wartime, during the 1951 waterfront dispute and in the form of a Police Offences Bill following that dispute.  He contributed much to the subsequent formation of the New Zealand Council of Civil Liberties, which was instrumental in persuading the Government to introduce a less arbitrary form of censorship of publications in the 1960s.

This is a very accessible account of Beaglehole’s contribution to public life in New Zealand and is to be recommended.  I was particularly impressed by the way Munro brought his personal knowledge of orchestral music to bear in assessing the fairness of Beaglehole’s controversial review of the first concert of the National Orchestra by listening to a recording of the performance.  However, the author seems rather too generous to his subject when he maintains that Beaglehole was publicly less confrontational than another New Zealand intellectual, Bruce Mason, who also despised local ‘provincialism’.  Beaglehole’s brilliant writing all too often betrayed his contempt for those he needed to win over.  It is likely that this reduced the effectiveness of his arguments for state support for projects during a time when the National Party dominated government.

 

 

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May 2014 Newsletter

 

I. Reminder to Register for Annual Britain and the World Conference

The 2014 Britain and the World Conference is drawing closer, and thus we would like to remind conference participants to register for this exciting event by using the following link:

http://webstore.ncl.ac.uk/browse/extra_info.asp?compid=1&modid=2&deptid=9&catid=53&prodid=297

Registration Rates are as follows:

Faculty Member: £55

Student Member: £45

Faculty Non-Member: £115

Student Non-Member: £105

If you are not yet a Member of the Society but would like to join before Registering for the Conference please visit http://britishscholar.org/british-scholar/membership/.

Please visit the following link to preview the more than one hundred panels and presentations that will be featured at this year’s Britain and the World Conference:

http://britishscholar.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Britain-and-the-World-2014-Draft-Programme.pdf

II. Online Registration for the Dinner Party at Alnwick Castle Available

We are very excited to be able to offer our conference participants the opportunity to enjoy dinner and conversation in the Great Hall of Alnwick Castle, well-known as the set of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films. An additional, but very reasonable, fee of £50 per person is required to enjoy this unique event. To facilitate participants’ registration for the dinner party, we are using an online system that allows you to register for the dinner as part of your overall conference registration (which, as listed above, can found at the following link: http://webstore.ncl.ac.uk/browse/extra_info.asp?compid=1&modid=2&catid=53&prodid=297).

Once you have navigated to this site, click on “Book Event” and follow the instructions to create a new user account (if you do not already have one). The dinner party fee can be chosen as an additional option to add to your conference registration fee.

III. Reminder: Accommodation Information for the Annual Conference

The Society would like to remind participants in this year’s conference that we have set up a webpage to facilitate the booking of accommodations.  You can make your own arrangements, but we have arranged deals with the following establishments for 19-21 June 2014 which vary in price, although all are within a few minutes’ walk of each other:

County Hotel

Holiday Inn Express

Sleeperz Newcastle

Euro Hostel

Albatross Backpackers

The conference website offers more detailed information on the nature of these lodgings, including their level of affordability and proximity to Newcastle University.

IV. Addition to Britain and the World Book Series by Society Editor

John Griffiths (Massey University), who serves as Book Reviews Editor for Britain and the World: Historical Journal of the British Scholar Society, has published a book in the British Scholar Society’s book series from Palgrave Macmillan. Griffith’s monograph, Imperial Culture in Antipodean Cities, 1880-1939, provides a much-needed investigation of urban history of the Britain’s Antipodean colonies. Visit the following link to read a more detailed description of Dr Griffiths’ important work, as well as learn about options for purchase:

http://www.palgrave.com/products/title.aspx?pid=715407

V. Book of the Month

Doug Munro, J. C. Beaglehole: Public Intellectual, Critical Conscience

Reviewed by James Watson

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April 2014 Newsletter

In this issue:
I.        Draft Programme for 2014 Britain and the World Conference Now Available
II.      Social Events Announced for 2014 Britain and the World Conference
III.    Registration for the 2014 Britain and the World Conference Now Open
IV.    Accommodation Information for the 2014 Britain and the World Conference
V.      Position of Society Minutes Secretary Open
VI.    General Editor Bryan Glass to participate in an Intelligence Squared Debate on Scottish Independence
VII.   Society Editors on History in Video Games
VIII. International Conference on Commerce in the “Indian Ocean World”

I. Draft Programme for 2014 Britain and the World Conference Now Available

The draft programme for The British Scholar Society’s annual Britain and the World Conference in Newcastle, UK is now available. It features over a hundred presenters from more than a dozen countries and nearly forty panels on a range of topics related to the British world. In addition, several exciting plenary talks have been announced:

*The lunchtime lecture on Thursday 19 June will be delivered by Reba Soffer (California State University, Northridge) on the topic of “Fiction and Realities in the Interwar Decades: The Newer Men and the Newer Women.”

*The annual Frank Turner Memorial Lecture will be given on the evening of Thursday 19 June by Jenny Wormald (University of Edinburgh), whose presentation is titled “‘The Curse of Meroz’: Britain and the World in the Seventeenth Century.”

*A special “brunchtime” lecture on Friday 20 June will feature Professor John MacKenzie, who will speak on ‘Sniping from the Periphery: The Historical Awkward Squad’..

*Andrew Thompson (University of Exeter) will deliver this year’s Britain and the World Lecture on the afternoon of Friday 20 June, on the subject of “Humanitarianism on Trial: How a Global System of Aid and Development was Forged through the End of Empire.”

*General Editor of The British Scholar Society Bryan S. Glass (Texas State University) will speak on “The Scottish Nation at Empire’s End” for the lunchtime lecture on Saturday 21 June.

*This conference’s Keynote Address will be given by David Reynolds (Christ’s College, Cambridge), on a topic to be announced.

Please visit the following link to preview the other fascinating panels and presentations that will be featured at this year’s Britain and the World Conference:

http://britishscholar.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Britain-and-the-World-2014-Draft-Programme.pdf

II. Social Events Announced for 2014 Britain and the World Conference

 This year’s Britain and the World Conference in Newcastle, UK will feature several conference-wide events, continuing the Society’s tradition of using its conference to help foster intercontinental intellectual connections and promote stimulating conversation over good food and drink. This year’s conference participants can look forward to:

*An Icebreaker gathering on the evening of Thursday 19 June will take place on the Riverside Terrace at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art (BALTIC), a world-class art museum housed in a renovated mill situated on the River Tyne and overlooking the Gateshead Millenium Bridge, which will be lit in The British Scholar Society’s primary colour of red for the evening. More information on BALTIC’s building and collections can be found at the following link:

https://www.balticmill.com/

*The night of Friday 20 June will feature the annual Conference Dinner Party, which will be held this year at Alnwick Castle, famous for being the set of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films. Conference participants will be transported via private coaches, to dine in Alnwick’s Great Hall. More information, including pictures, on Alnwick Castle can be found at the following link:

http://www.alnwickcastle.com/

The State of the Society address will be given before dinner at Alnwick Castle where the Wm. Roger Louis Prize will be awarded.

*A final gathering will be held in the evening on Saturday 21 June at the Town Wall Pub, located in the historic Bewick House, providing conference participants with an opportunity to reflect on the conference’s proceedings, enjoy the company of old friends, and hopefully cement new, international relationships in a symbol of The British Scholar Society’s mission. Visit the following link to learn more about the Town Wall Pub and its rich history:

http://www.thetownwall.com/

*Conference participants and other interested parties can go to the following link for more information on conference events, as well as view a virtual tour of conference facilities, an interactive map of Newcastle University, and information on special collections housed at the university for those who may decide to do some research whilst in the area:

http://britishscholar.org/2014-conference/

III. Registration for the 2014 Britain and the World Conference Now Open

Participants can now register online for the annual Britain and the World Conference at the following link:

http://webstore.ncl.ac.uk/browse/extra_info.asp?compid=1&modid=2&deptid=9&catid=53&prodid=297

Registration Rates are as follows:

Faculty Member: £55

Student Member: £45

Faculty Non-Member: £115

Student Non-Member: £105

If you are not yet a Member of the Society but would like to join before Registering for the Conference please visit http://britishscholar.org/british-scholar/membership/ and purchase your Membership today!

This year’s Conference Dinner Party at Alnwick Castle—a truly unique event—requires an additional, but very reasonable, fee of £50 per person. Participants can manage both their registration and dinner fee by visiting the link listed at the top of this item.

IV. Accommodation Information for the 2014 Britain and the World Conference

The Society has set up a webpage to facilitate the booking of accommodation. You can make your own arrangements, but we have arranged deals with the following establishments for 19-21 June 2014 which vary in price, although all are within a few minutes’ walk of each other:

County Hotel

Holiday Inn Express

Sleeperz Newcastle

Euro Hostel

Albatross Backpackers

The conference website offers more detailed information on the nature of these lodgings, including their level of affordability and proximity to Newcastle University.

V. Position of Society Minutes Secretary Open

The Society would like to announce the opening of a position as the Minutes Secretary for meetings of the Administrative Board, which take place each year at the annual conference. Requirements for the position include a proficiency with note-taking (both typed and written), efficient organizational ability, and good communications skills. Interested parties can contact General Editor Bryan S. Glass at editoratbritishscholardotorg.

VI. General Editor Bryan Glass to participate in an Intelligence Squared Debate on Scottish Independence

The General Editor of The British Scholar Society, Bryan Glass, will participate in an Intelligence Squared debate on whether Scotland should be an independent kingdom at the forthcoming Chalke Valley History Festival (Date: Sunday, 29 June). Along with Jeremy Black, Sir Menzies Campbell, and Sir Simon Jenkins he will be debating the motion: HISTORY SHOWS SCOTLAND AND ENGLAND WOULD BE BETTER OFF AS SEPARATE KINGDOMS. The debate will be moderated by Bronwen Maddox. For more information on this debate and to book your tickets, visit http://www.cvhf.org.uk/speaker/bryan-glass/ and click on the event link to the right.

VII. Society Editors on History in Video Games

Assistant General Editor Robert Whitaker has embarked on a fascinating and much-needed investigation into the way history is presented, created, and often fictionalized in the medium of video games. History in literature, films, live drama, and music has long been considered an essential part of understanding the cultural underpinnings of the historical narrative. However, to this point investigations of video games with historical textures have largely been the province of game studies/theory or journalism on popular culture. Mr. Whitaker has written several articles on the subject of history in video games, as well as conducted a range of interviews with fellow historians for his YouTube series History Respawned. A number of Mr. Whitaker’s important contributions should be of great interest to Society members and Newsletter recipients:

*“History Respawned: Assassin’s Creed IV” features an interview with General Editor Bryan S. Glass, who discusses the Golden Age of Piracy as depicted in the game Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. You can watch the full forty-five minute interview here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9C9h3p5Efa4.

*Mr. Whitaker and Dr. Glass have also contributed a fascinating guest post to the early Americanist blog The Junto, titled “‘X’ Marks the History: Plundering the Past in Assassin’s Creed IV.” Those interested can read it here: http://earlyamericanists.com/2014/02/05/guest-post-x-marks-the-history-plundering-the-past-in-assassins-creed-iv/

VIII. International Conference on Commerce in the “Indian Ocean World”

Newsletter recipients whose area of study falls in the region of the Indian Ocean may be interested in a conference hosted by McGill University’s Indian Ocean World Centre on the topic of “Currencies of Commerce in the Great Indian Ocean World,” to be held 22-24 April 2015 in Montreal, Canada. An abstract of no more than 500 words should be sent to iowcatmcgilldotca by 1 October 2014. More information on the conference can be found here, and interested parties are encouraged to visit the IOWC’s website in the coming months as information is added.

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