The Rugby World Cup and the Born Free Dancing Victory

By Dr Heike Schmidt


Team captain Siya Kolisi arrives in South Africa carrying the Ellis Webb Trophy, from Wikimedia Commons.

On Saturday 2 November the ‘Springboks’, South Africa’s national rugby team, won the world cup in the final game against England. There has been a much-reported twitter storm in response to one of the Springbok players, Faf de Klerk, celebrating in the changing room, wearing only his briefs (bearing the colours of the national flag) and a baseball cap covering his golden locks. A broad British response has been that, especially with Prince Harry present, this was a gesture of unnecessary humiliation directed against England.

A more significant moment that has escaped international public came when, after the cup was presented to team captain Siya Kolisi, another team-member, Mboneni Mbonambi, danced up to him and they shared a few steps. What may have appeared to be a spontaneous outburst of energetic joy for just a few seconds actually signified a sense of identity for the South African nation, and resonates with their previous world cup win in 1995, a year after the country finally overcame apartheid and white minority rule.

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Posted in African History, modern history, News | Tagged , , , ,

Learning to Listen: Diversity and History

by Prof. David Stack

One of the skills required of any good historian is the ability to listen. For those working on oral history projects that means quite literally hearing their subjects speak. For the rest of us it is a case of ‘listening’ figuratively to the ‘voices’ that echo through the texts and objects that constitute our primary source materials. In recent years, the profession has made great strides towards learning to listen in new ways, both by hearing once neglected voices from the past, such as those of transgender individuals, and by listening to contemporary concerns like the #MeToo movement.

These are welcome developments, but there remain other voices to which the historical profession as a whole can still seem a little deaf. One reason for that is the very limited diversity of our profession.

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Material Histories: History MA projects with the Museum of English Rural Life

As part of our MA in History, our postgraduate students work with the curators and collections of the Museum of English Rural Life to learn about the history of material culture, and the various ways in which historians can use objects and artefacts to understand the past.

The students then choose an object from the collection and produce a short blog, video, or podcast explaining what it can tell us about the period it was made. Here are three of those videos made by students on the 2018-19 MA course.

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Posted in British History, Early Modern History, Medical History, modern history, News, Our Videos, Research, Rural History, Students Page | Tagged , , , , , ,

Women’s Voices: From Slavery to the #MeToo Movement – Fairbrother Lecture 2019

The end of the American Civil War offered emancipated African American women the right to bring rape charges against white men for the first time, leading to an escalation in disclosures of sexual violence. In this lecture, History Ph.D. student Elizabeth Barnes considers lessons from this wave of revelations for the modern day #MeToo movement and explores how the pattern of progress followed by sustained backlash continues to be felt today.

The prestigious Fairbrother Lecture is an annual Graduate School event at which a Reading doctoral researcher presents their research to a wider audience.

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

Royal Death and Burial: Reading Abbey in Context

by Prof. Lindy Grant

Pic 1

Paul Sandby, Abbey Gateway, painted in 1808, from Wikimedia Commons. The original is in Reading Museum.

It takes a real effort of the imagination to see the past glory of Reading Abbey, founded in 1121 by King Henry I of England as his intended burial house, in the battered remains surviving today. But Reading Abbey was one of the great monastic institutions of Europe in the middle ages, an intellectual and cultural powerhouse, with a magnificent church and richly decorated monastic buildings, a great library (King John kept his books there), and international connections.

Reading’s monks were drawn from the order of Cluny, linking the abbey into the wider Cluniac network, to which so many great churchmen belonged, among them several popes. Its most prized relic, given by the Empress Matilda, the daughter of the founder, was the hand of St James of Compostela, the Apostle to Spain, so that Reading joined an elite group of medieval religious institutions possessing remains of the Apostles of Christ.

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