A Life on the Ocean Wave: This Week in Maritime History

by Dr Richard Blakemore

The Golden Hind 'when Drake set off for the Spanish Main', PW7916

The Golden Hinde, Francis Drake’s ship in his 1577 circumnavigation, depicted in a later watercolour. © National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.

Early modern maritime history has been in the news a lot this week.

On Monday, the BBC ran a story about the London, a seventeenth-century wreck in the Thames. On Tuesday, the Guardian revealed a new (and shocking) discovery from the manuscript autobiography of a sailor. On Wednesday, there was news of the possible discovery of the Endeavour, Captain Cook’s exploring ship, although this is not confirmed; and, of course, it was ‘Talk Like a Pirate Day’. Last night, a new show started on Channel 5, Great British Ships, which will feature the sixteenth-century Mary Rose and Golden Hinde, and the HMS Victory, among others.

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Writing the Noise: The Second International Conference of the Subcultures Network, 6-7 September 2018

by Prof. Lucy Robinson and Prof. Matthew Worley

The conference programme front page

Writing the Noise: the conference programme.

Last week saw the University of Reading’s History department host the Second International Conference of the Interdisciplinary Network for the Study of Subcultures, Popular Music and Social Change. Titled ‘Writing the Noise’, the event centred on a key question: ‘how do we write about sound and the cultures that form around music?’. Being cross-disciplinary, and with the Network committed to dialogues beyond academia, the conference included contributions from music writers, musicians, and fanzine producers, as well as papers by academics in History, Sociology, Musicology, Cultural Studies, Politics and English Literature. The event was truly international, with delegates from Europe and beyond. Having formed in 2011, the Network – represented here by Prof. Lucy Robinson (Sussex), Prof. John Street (UEA), and Prof. Matthew Worley (Reading) – was able to once more expand its contacts in a genuinely collaborative and congenial atmosphere.

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‘Our Friend Rommel’: How Hollywood invented the ‘Good German’

by Professor Patrick Major

Twenty years ago the Polish-American installation artist Piotr Uklański mounted an exhibition simply called ‘The Nazis’ (you can see many of the photographs from the exhibition here). It showed 164 images of Wehrmacht officers in uniform, but on closer inspection viewers saw not historical figures but Hollywood actors, almost none of them German. Marlon Brando, Richard Burton, and even Eric Idle and Michael Palin of Monty Python, were in the line-up. Uklański was making a point that post-war popular culture had fetishised – indeed glamorised – the suited-and-booted Nazi German officer.

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Posted in American History, British History, Cultural History, European History, modern history, Research | Tagged , , , , , ,

Crawling on Deaf Ears: Seven Ways to Oust an Insect from Your Ear

by Dr Hannah Newton

Each day in the UK, 6 or 7 people – mainly children – undergo a medical procedure to remove a foreign object from the ear canal, with an annual cost to the NHS of around £2.8 million. In the majority of cases, the offending items are small inanimate objects, such as buttons, beads, or parts from toys, but very occasionally, something live enters the ear – a creepy crawly! If you’re feeling brave, you can watch on youtube the very moment when a waxy spider, earwig, or cockroach emerges from an unsuspecting ear.

Figure 1

The Flea and the Louse. The diagram of the flea is after Robert Hooke; Wellcome Collection CC BY.

Four hundred years ago, these ear-invading insects were ubiquitous. Early modern medical texts and housewifery manuals are replete with tips for how to keep one’s bed free from fleas and bedbugs, along with signs of what to look – or listen – out for when an insect ‘has crept into the Head whilst you sleep’. Felix Platter (1536–1614), a Swiss physician, wrote in his chapter on the ‘hurts of the hearing’, that if a ‘quick thing’ – insect – ‘creeps into the eare’, you will hear a ‘very troublesome’ sound, ‘like the flying of a Butterfly’. He added that if the bug is a large ‘Worm with many legs’, it may ‘wholly stop up the Ear’, making the patient deaf.

Nowadays, the usual method for removing an insect is to first kill it with the anesthetic lidocaine, and then to wash it out with warm water, or extract it with small pinchers or a suction catheter. In the early modern period, a wider variety of techniques were used, some of which seem to show a surprising regard for the preferences of the insect as well as the patient! Below are 7 of my favourites.

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Posted in British History, Early Modern History, Medical History, Research | Tagged , , , ,

Hidden Voices: Enslaved Women in the South Carolina Lowcountry

by Siân David, UROP student.

I am a second-year History student who took part in the University of Reading Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (UROP) this summer. Over the last six weeks I have co-authored an online exhibition with Professor Emily West entitled ‘Hidden Voices: A Digital Exhibition of the Lives of Enslaved Women in the Lowcountry USA’. This exhibition will be published as part of the Lowcountry Digital History Initiative (LDHI), which is hosted by the Lowcountry Digital Library (LCDL) at the College of Charleston in South Carolina. The aim of the initiative is to create digital content that focuses on underrepresented race, class, gender, and labour histories of the South Carolina Lowcountry.

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Posted in American History, Cultural History, gender history, modern history, Research, Students Page, UROP | Tagged , , , , , ,