History Talking: Series 1

History Talking: Series 1

Presented by Dr Ruth Salter, produced by Dr Richard Blakemore.

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Amsterdam Conference

by Dr Richard Blakemore

At the end of June, I attended a conference in Amsterdam to mark the 350th anniversary of the Dutch navy’s raid on Chatham dockyard in 1667. The raid is most famous for the Dutch capture of the English flagship, the Royal Charles, the decorated stern of which is still on display at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

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Posted in Early Modern History, European History | Tagged , , , ,

Socialism and the Vampire: Comrades, Capitalists and Bloodsuckers

by Dr Dan Renshaw

In May 1897 Constable and Co published a limited print run of a new novel by a London-based Irish theatre manager and occasional author named Bram Stoker.  Stoker had enjoyed moderate critical recognition with a series of overly-sentimental pot-boilers and ghoulish short stories over the course of the 1890s; there was nothing initially to indicate that this new effort would be any more successful.  This new title was odd, and exotic, Dracula, with an equally unusual subtitle – The Undead.

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You are invited to the launch of the Monroe Group

The newly established Monroe Group is an interdisciplinary research network for the study of politics in the Americas.

The network is designed to encourage dialogue between scholars in the arts, humanities, social sciences and sciences working on all aspects of politics in the American continent. It has been developed in response to recent expansion of staff and student recruitment working in the field of US and Latin American politics at the University of Reading.

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Posted in American History, Events, International History, US Election 2016 (blog posts) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Co-living: Utopia 2.0?

by Dr Andy Willimott [1]

Utopia 2.0, 1

Eight months on from its opening, in May 2016, the London-based co-living enterprise known as The Collective Old Oak is still going strong. The residential concept, situated between North Acton and Wilesden Junction, now boasts 546 residents. The project has piqued the interest of locals and the media alike. Aimed predominantly at a generation of millennials locked into the notoriously prohibitive and uninspiring rental market, The Collective seeks to change the way people live in urban centres. Residents pay rent on small private bedrooms, but gain access to a range of spaces and facilities, including kitchens, dining rooms, and lounges. There is also a communal library, cinema, sports bar, restaurant, games room, laundrette, gym, spa, and rooftop terrace, as well as regular community events. As much as anything, residents are offered a “fulfilling lifestyle” and a sense of community.

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So that was International Women’s Day…

by Dr Jacqui Turner

So yesterday was International Women’s Day and women were everywhere – literally we were all over the place, in the media, online, on TV and crowded around both front benches in the House of Commons as, in yesterday’s budget, the Chancellor announced a further £5 million for projects to celebrate the centenary of the partial franchise in 1918:

It is important that we not only celebrate next year’s Centenary but also that we educate young people about its significance. It was the decisive step in the political emancipation of women in this country and this money will go to projects to mark its significance and remind us all just how important it was.

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Posted in British History, Cultural History, In the Media, Intellectual History, International History, News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

International Womens’ Day: An Interview with Rebecca Rist

International Womens Day - Interview with R Rist 1

This month is Womens’ History Month and today, 8th March, is International Womens’ Day.

So we’ve taken the opportunity to talk to Dr Rebecca Rist, one of the few young female academics working on the medieval papacy, and find out more about her research.

 

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‘Hidden Figures’ Film Review

by Philippa Sale [1]

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There was some confusion at the Academy Awards this weekend when ‘La La Land’ was incorrectly announced as the winner of the Best Picture Oscar, the real winner being ‘Moonlight’.  Away from this embarrassing mix-up another Best Picture nomination has been released into UK cinemas and that film is the absolutely phenomenal ‘Hidden Figures’. It is directed by Theodore Melfi and is based upon the book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly. The tale of ‘Hidden Figures’ focuses on three African-American women who helped to win the space race for America. The three women’s incredible stories are intertwined with each other in this true story. Each of the three women in question broke countless social boundaries in order to pursue their dreams. These women’s names were Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson and Katherine Goble Johnson, played by Octavia Spencer (who absolutely deserves the Best Supporting Actress nomination that she got for this film, by the way), Janelle Monáe and Taraji P. Henson respectively. Continue reading

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Visiting Berlin: Our Part 2 Study Trip

by Ellie Chaston and Georgia Allistone

The study trip abroad module was a new module this year, offered to Part 2 History and European Studies students. We were lucky enough to spend week 6 of the autumn term in Berlin, where we explored Germany’s urban and national identity through its remaining historical material and visual culture. We got to see Berlin’s main tourist attractions like the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie and the National Art Gallery as well as many significant memorials commemorating events that took place within and in relation to Germany from the Romantic era (c.1800-1850) up to the Cold War (1947-1991).

This trip was not just a valuable educational experience, and a great way to meet people on our course, but a chance to delve deep into Berlin’s history. Having Paul Davies, Donna Yamani and Patrick Major teaching us meant that we could really understand Berlin and its physical history through their expert knowledge of the points of interest we were shown. The depth of research and knowledge the lecturers had on the city and its museums led to small crowds outside our trip clan gathering to hear what they had to say – it really was a unique learning experience!

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Group photo in front of the Victory Column

Georgia’s highlights

I truly loved every aspect of the trip, even the short nights’ sleeps and long days of walking. Visiting Berlin in this way meant we could understand how it has evolved into its being in the present day. For example, all the current parliamentary buildings are glass-paned all the way through, to represent a new age of transparency and democracy within Germany after its controversial and testing past.

My favourite part of the trip was visiting the Jewish museum and memorial, mainly because its impact on the viewer is very subjective, depending on how much one knows and can contextualise it. It is known as the Eisenmann memorial, named after the architect who designed it called Peter Eisenmann; an American man with Jewish parents. The memorial is comprised of 2711 columns that vary in height, but are all 2.8 metres long and 0.5 metres wide. The memorial opened in 2005 and was initially unlabelled. The space around the monument was also not clearly defined as Eisenmann wanted people to connect with the monument in whatever way they felt was right. He was more interested in the embodied experience the monument caused within the individual. Instead of creating a monument that directly represented the Jews like some of the Soviet memorials around the city, Eisenmann created something personal and subjective to its spectator, making it an untraditional memorial. I was personally very moved by my experience at the Eisenmann memorial. I felt very confined and trapped, weak and insignificant compared to the towering concrete blocks. Within the memorial, you had to walk in single file and the unlevelled flooring and varying height of the blocks was enough to make you feel unsteady. It was nice afterwards to walk back onto the street, and once again become part of the German public. The memorial attempts to materialise and in turn begin to make an individual understand how Jewish people would have felt in concentration and death camps. Walking back onto a level pavement, without boundaries is meant to represent that Germans can connect with their nation’s past without the burden of guilt. The vast scope of the memorial and the amount left to one’s subjective experience of it is what made it the most valuable and memorable part of the trip for me.

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The Eisenmann Memorial

Ellie’s highlights

One particularly moving place we visited was the Jewish Museum. It was designed in 2001 by a Jewish architect, Daniel Libeskind, as both a memorial and a museum dedicated to the experiences of Jewish people during and after the Holocaust. The building was designed to attempt to emulate some of the experiences Jewish people would have had during this time. Perhaps the most emotive part was the room at the end of the ‘axis of holocaust’. It is impossible to adequately describe the experience, except to say that in that room you are as close as possible to understanding the realities of the Jewish experiences of the Holocaust. The architect designed the whole building to be an experience, an attempt to make people understand the horrific realities of the Jewish experience, and to set it into German culture and identity. Needless to say, we certainly felt its impact!

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Outside view of the Jewish Museum

One part of the trip I personally enjoyed was the day trip I took to Potsdam. Our group was rather small on that day, as many others had chosen to visit Sachsenhausen, but it was thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless. After a brief stop at another extremely moving Jewish memorial, Track 17, we made our way to Sanssouci, a ‘lusthaus’ built by Frederick the Great. The building itself was absolutely stunning, both inside and out, as were the surrounding gardens, filled with beautiful statues, a fountain, and even a tea house. Everything about it was extremely lavish and eccentric, and we felt that summed up its patron perfectly! Wandering around the gardens also provided many excellent photograph opportunities, as you can see!

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Molly and Charlotte in a water feature in the Sanssouci grounds

Overall experience

Overall, it is safe to say that we all had a brilliant time. The trip provided us with the ability to immerse ourselves deeply into German culture. We visited a number of galleries, museums, and memorials in Berlin, and these were all made even more interesting with our professors there to give us a detailed understanding of what we were looking at, something we wouldn’t have had if we were visiting simply as tourists. Our days were well structured, allowing us to visit a number of notable sites, while our evenings were left free, giving us the freedom to explore Berlin for ourselves. By the end of the trip, we found ourselves with a far greater appreciation of Berlin, and a deeper understanding of the complex layers of history it contains. I have no doubt that many of us will go back there in the future – a week is simply not enough time to explore such a wonderful city as Berlin!

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History: handle with care

by Dr Richard Blakemore

One of the first assignments given to Reading history undergraduates is to write a précis, or summary, of one chapter from a selection of well-known books by eminent historians on the theory and purpose of the discipline.  Marking this exercise last term led me back to writings and arguments that were familiar, but which I had not read for some time.  It made me think about some of the underlying principles that ‘jobbing’ historians don’t reflect on all that often while occupied with the brass tacks of teaching and research. I have just started lecturing at Reading this year, and a similar assignment is also the first thing I can remember doing from my own undergraduate days, so it seemed like a good moment to pause and reflect. Here are some things from three of the texts that caught my eye.1

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LBGT History Month 2017: Oscar Wilde Vlog

by Jodie Larkin and Nikki Rai

In accordance with LGBT+ history month, this vlog explores Oscar Wilde’s infamous stay in Reading Gaol (later HM Reading Prison). During the late nineteenth century, Wilde was at the height of success: hit wit, style and sharp writings propelled him into the heights of both Dublin and London society. However his infamous affair with Lord Alfred Douglas, also known as Boise, would ultimately lead Wilde to imprisonment. The brutal Victorian system, isolation and Reading Gaol itself changed Wilde. This video explores inside the prison in which Wilde spent part of his bleak sentence and the prisons relationship to the town that marked the latter half of Wilde’s life. Through a variety of artist exhibitions, including contributions from Nan Goldin, Steve McQueen and many others, the prison’s history is brought alive with an open and defiant honesty.

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The Long Read. Impressions of a Modern Pilgrim: Walking the Camino to Santiago de Compostela

by Dr Rebecca Rist

Whan that Averylle with his shoures soote
The droughte of March hath perced to the roote, …
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrymages
When in April the sweet showers fall,
And pierce the drought of March to the root, and all…
Then people long to go on pilgrimages
Chaucer, ‘The Prologue’, The Canterbury Tales

It was not an April, but a September early morning, when the good pilgrims of Reading assembled at the shrine of St James in St. James Catholic Church near the abbey ruins where we are still looking for the body of Henry I which one day will make our town as famous as Leicester.  Unlike Chaucer’s pilgrims we were not off to Canterbury, but Santiago de Compostela.  Also, unlike our medieval predecessors, a coach stood ready outside the Church to take us to Stanstead airport.  Yet, doubtless as for many a pilgrim before us, the parish priest led us in prayer as we lit a candle before a modern shrine to a medieval saint. Continue reading

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Toads mean Trouble: Amphibious Assassins in Gerald of Wales’ The Journey through Wales

by Dr Ruth Salter

If you were asked to think of an unassuming British animal, I would hazard a guess that the first creature to come to mind would be something – small, brown, possibly squeaky – like a mouse or hedgehog.  So unassuming is the toad that I bet you’d not have even given it a second thought (if it wasn’t for the title of this post).  Yet whilst we might think of toads as little more than ‘dry frogs’ (a phrase I once heard a five year old use to describe them with some accuracy) our medieval counterparts were much more wary of these pesky polliwogs.[1] Continue reading

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Call For Papers: ‘Complaints and Grievances, 1500-1750’, 10th-11th July 2017

We are delighted to issue a call for papers for Reading University’s biennial Early Modern Studies Conference, ‘Complaints and Grievances, 1500-1750’ (10th-11th July 2017).

There will be three strands running through the conference:

  • medical grievances
  • literary complaints
  • political/religious grievances

 

The keynote speaker is Jan Frans van Dijkhuizen (Leiden), talking about affliction and consolation in early modern England.

See below for further information on submitting paper proposals for the conference, and particularly the strand for medical grievances:

 

 

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Posted in Early Modern History, Events, Hannah Newton. Sensing Sickness in Early Modern England, 1580-1720. | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Republican Convention

by Dafydd Townley

It’s Convention season! This is the time of year when national delegates get together at their respective party’s convention to officially nominate their candidate for the US Presidential election. First up is the Republican Party National Convention in Cleveland where Donald Trump will be nominated as a contentious candidate. The Ohio city has spent $50 million according to sources on security, mindful of the violence that has followed rallies supporting Donald Trump. The preparations have increased significantly following the deaths caused by policeman in Louisiana and Minnesota, and the sniper attack on policemen in Dallas. Usually the Conventions are incidents that are full of energy and celebration as delegates pledge their support for the Party’s candidate. But concerns have increased significantly that the Republican Convention could turn violent. It would have to go a long way to rival the aggression and protests that took place at the most violent convention in living memory – the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

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Illinois National Guardsmen outside the Conrad Hotel.

 

The 1968 Democratic Convention is famous for the battle of Michigan Avenue, when Chicago city police and Illinois National Guardsmen clashed with protestors. The scenes at the Convention were yet another indication of the violent nationwide schism that had manifested itself during the 1960s over the US involvement in the Vietnam War. The anti-war groups had lost their apparent leaders in Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy. Both men were assassinated in the months leading up to the Convention, and the peace movement had lost its rudder. By the time of the Convention the New Left and the political Left favoured peace candidate Eugene McCarthy. The incumbent President, Lyndon Johnson, had decided not to stand for re-election as the support of his party and the public turned against him. Instead, the establishment looked to Vice President Hubert Humphrey to be their candidate. By the time of the Convention neither candidate had a majority of delegates, which led to frantic behind the scenes dealing by Lyndon Johnson the Mayor of Chicago, Richard Daley.

When the Convention opened on August 26, 1968, the protestors had been in the city for several days and had already clashed with the heavy-handed city police. Daley had bragged that Chicago was ‘The City That Works’ and was adamant that no protests were going to ruin the Convention. However the fragmentation of the Democratic Party was unravelling before the nation. Over the four days of the Convention the supporters of Humphrey, McCarthy and Senator George McGovern of Dakota worked against each other to secure the nomination. In truth, there was little to challenge Humphrey who was Johnson’s preferred candidate, but the party was split on the issue of the future role of the US in the Vietnam War. But if it was organised chaos inside the Convention hall at the International Amphitheatre, it was pandemonium outside on the streets of municipal Chicago.

Chicago Democratic National Convention Protests
Chicago city policemen block the marching protestors on Michigan Avenue.

The protestors consisted mostly of the Yippies, the Youth International Party, and MOBE, National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam. The Yippies, radical left wing students, had already held their own convention and voted a real pig, Pigasus, as their candidate. When he was paraded in the city centre, Pigasus and several Yippies were arrested by the police. This had set the tone for the relationship between the police and the protestors throughout the convention. The police, aided by helicopters with searchlights and loudspeakers, drove out approximately 3000 protestors from Lincoln Park on the night of August 27, injuring about 60 and arresting 140. Meanwhile close to the Conrad Hotel in Grant Park, protestors displeased with prospect of a continuance of the war shouted ‘Dump the Hump!’ As they marched towards the Convention they found that the hotel had been surrounded by National Guardsmen, armed with bayonets. Urged by Democrats to not engage the troops, the students dispersed peacefully.

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Chicago policemen engaging the protestors.

 

The following day was a different matter. 15000 protestors convened for a MOBE event in Grant Park and were charged by police when a protestor lowered the American flag.  The rally continued after police left and the protestors marched again towards the Conrad Hotel and the Convention. This time the Chicago police were there to meet them. As the marchers chanted ‘The whole world is watching!’ the police fired tear gas into the crowd and charged, swinging their billy-clubs with alarming precision. The brutal and horrific police violence was broadcast all over the world indicating a total breakdown in law and order. Over 175 were arrested and more than 100 were injured. The tear gas was so dense that it wafted inside the hotel reaching the thirteenth floor apartment of Humphrey. Near midnight, amid the delegates’ condemnation of the police brutality outside, Humphrey was elected as the Democratic candidate. Unfortunately for the Democratic Party in the forthcoming election it was associated with the violence and chaos of the Chicago convention. In a decade where there had been social upheaval, assassinations and street protests, the Democrats failed to portray itself as a party of law and order. As a consequence Republican candidate and former Vice President Richard Nixon, who had promised to end the war in Vietnam, won the law and order debate that surrounded the 1968 presidential election.

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Yippies with their presidential Pigasus.

 

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Chicago police arrest Pigasus.

 

 

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Marriage, Motherhood and being an MP: the Long View

by Dr Jacqui Turner

The famous Harold Wilson misquote that a week is a long time in politics was an understatement last week, half an hour was a long time in politics. On Wednesday afternoon I had a coffee with a friend and returned to a new prime minister and the frenzy that surrounded Theresa May first as a woman and second as a politician about to take up the highest office in the land.  Sadly, the political debate on the short campaign for leader of the Conservative Party and PM remained thoroughly gendered with Andrea Leadsom falling on her sword after a torrid weekend of questions about motherhood. According to Leadsom, press questioning on the matter was persistent until she gave them the sound bite that they ran with.  We know that a male politician would never have been pressed so consistently over parenting and it is unlikely that his response would necessitate his resignation from any political contest. Leadsom’s forced resignation after an alleged ‘back ops’ smear campaign highlights yet again the media obsession with gender issues when women are involved. So is this anything new?  Ask Theresa May, Andrea Leadsom, Angela Eagle or other female MPs if they have faced discrimination in the House and the answer is invariably no.  Is this then just a media issue, feeding a society still often riven with different expectations of women in power?  Is it ever enough to be a good MP or are women consistently required to be a good female MP too and therefore more liable to be tripped up over questions of marriage, motherhood and kitten heels?  Is it enough to represent your constituency and your party or are you invariably seen as a representative for all women? It is interesting how little the questions have changed or how the media have reacted since the first women took their seats in parliament almost a century ago when Nancy Astor entered Parliament as the MP for all women.

The first woman took her seat in Parliament against a maelstrom of press comment that more than equalled the media attention given to Theresa May.  Press comment was intrusive, invariably hostile and focused on her marital status and dress.  Nancy Astor was elected to parliament for Plymouth Sutton at a by-election in November 1919 replacing her husband who had previously been MP (Waldorf Astor had been parliamentary private secretary to Lloyd George and was a progressive Conservative).  She stood as a Unionist candidate though many in the party had reservations, including the Unionist Party Chairman, Sir George Younger, who felt that ‘the worst of it is, the woman is sure to get in’. She did get in and on 1 December 1919 when she stood at the bar in the House of Commons, Astor’s words as she took the oath was the first time a female voice had been heard in the Chamber. The Chamber was not full but the Manchester Guardian reported that the proceedings generated a ‘flutter of altogether pleasant excitement’ though the Times reported a ‘tremendous breach in Parliamentary tradition.’

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Astor found her position lonely with many men openly hostile and refusing to acknowledge her presence.  She avoided arousing press comment on her clothing by adopting a uniform of a dark coat and skirt, white blouse and tudor or tricorn hat. Her obituary in the Times listed one of her achievements as she ‘set the style for her feminine colleagues in years to come’.  Astor faced a culture of insidious sexism and outright resentment as she spent almost 2 years as the only woman in the House of Commons.

Women trickled into the House despite a predominantly male press and political environment. But the earliest female MP’s faced questions about their marital status, political experience and suitability to sit in the House of Commons.  Nancy Astor replaced her husband when he was elevated to the House of Lords following his father’s death.  Astor’s tenure in parliament was only ever intended to be temporary while Waldorf Astor found a means of returning to the Commons.  The second MP, elected almost 2 years later, Margaret Wintringham, was a Liberal, a widow and had also been elected to her husband’s seat. A great deal was made of Wintringham’s arrival as a ‘mother’, much to Astor’s chagrin as she announced that she was the mother of five! Did Wintringham look more motherly?  It was certainly considered a virtue.

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The women developed a strong, supportive bond. Both had been active in public life, Astor as a society hostesses and both as supporters of their husband’s political careers and as a constant presence in their husband’s campaigns. Many of the women that followed had a similar experience and came from similar family backgrounds, often representing their spouse. For much of her early career Nancy did find herself directed by Waldorf. Archival evidence shows that Waldorf drafted and heavily edited her early speeches, annotating them with speaking notes on where and when to moderate her voice.  Brian Harrison has argued that these women candidates who came from families active in public life adjusted more easily to public life as it was assumed that they were representing a man.

For early female politicians the Astor partnership appeared successful and accessible, although Astor’s entrance did not facilitate a tidal wave of Conservative female MPs.  The third female MP, Conservative Mabel Philipson (Berwick-upon-Tweed in 1923), had no experience of the political sphere. She also took her husband’s seat while he faced fraud charges; she was a music hall and comedy actress but Philipson appealed to a Conservative electorate and directly campaigned on her marital status:

“If you vote for me you will get tuppence for a penny, because you will be getting me and my husband as your representative. No other candidate can offer you as much. I belong to the tried old firm of Astor and Company.”

Her reassurances were to a wider society that did not consider women in public life the norm and she used circumstantial similarities to Astor. Sykes argued that her agenda was to epitomise, by association, the immense popularity Nancy had generated, implying that her popularity was derived from a political husband and a wealthy background. However, early female MP’s despite their conservatism (with a small c) challenged the notion of public women and signified seed change in British democracy.

By comparison Socialist and Labour women who entered Parliament in the later 1920s were married to their cause. Most were from working class backgrounds, unmarried and ideologically motivated.  At first glance, there is a vast gap between the classes, backgrounds and motivations of the MPs as all battled with society’s expectation that women should not be present in public life.

Wealthy, married women could afford staff to manage a family during their political careers; working class women had no such affordable luxury. Labour female MPs tended to be unmarried at the time of their election; the role of wife and mother would have proved a hindrance to their political careers and the cause.

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 Jennie Lee stated that ‘marriage would never be allowed to get in the way of her ambition’ as she understood that ‘careers and marriage… could not run in tandem without some change in the understanding of what being a wife meant.’  Lee was elected in 1929 and served for 41 years until 1970 when she moved up to the Lords in her own right. Despite her anti-marriage assertions and determination to not become a wife, her initial reservations were overcome when she married Aneurin Bevan, her Labour Party colleague in 1934. They agreed to remain childless in the knowledge that her career would not be compromised. Later, she allowed her career to take a back seat to that of Nye’s later in their marriage as she believed firmly that Nye’s furtherance of his career and his work was of greater importance to the cause of socialism than her own.

Of other early female MP’s Margaret Bondfield remained unmarried; Ellen Wilkinson claimed to be ‘more interested in politics that in love affairs’ as ‘mere boys’ seemed very uninteresting creatures to the solemn priestess of politics. Eleanor Rathbone focused on bringing a feminist equality to mothers and working women.  Bondfield, Wilkinson and Rathbone’s single, childless status may have been necessary in maintaining a political career but they encountered a barrage of anti-feminist public opinion due to their indecorous single status. They lacked the respectability that a husband’s presence would bring, a popular opinion upheld by some in the House and by a majority of the public who conformed to images played out in increasingly popular women’s magazines.

The debate over married women and the vote had been rife in the suffrage movement for decades before Astor took her seat in parliament.  The depiction of public female figures from early suffrage onwards was masculine When I googled Theresa May this morning the first option presented to me, sadly, was ‘Theresa May husband’.  I was also sad at the outrageous representation of Theresa May as Cruella Deville by the Scottish nationalist newspaper, The National, freely shared on social media by male and female political figures alike.

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What is The National really trying to say here? The media continues to question women’s ‘special’ feminine qualities as wives and mothers, women who do not openly exhibit these are questioned and pilloried; women who do utilise them often meet Leadsom’s fate: damned if you, damned if you don’t.

With special thanks to Shira Kilgallon

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** Jacqui Turner can be heard on The Long View, BBC Radio 4 which will be broadcast on Monday discussing the Astors and the Clintons with Professor Gary Gerslte. **

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Before we were the University of Reading

by Dr Ruth Salter

As many of you are probably aware, this year marks the 90th anniversary of Reading receiving its University Charter.  Reading, which was given the charter by George V in 1926, was the only institution to be awarded university status between the two world wars.  However, before there was a University of Reading there was another higher education institution, a predecessor, Reading College.

Female students make notes and sketches in the Cole Museum, 1945

Two students make notes and sketches in the Faculty of Science Museum, London Road campus, 1945

Reading College began life in the 1860s as Schools of Arts and Sciences which was based in one of the surviving buildings of Reading Abbey, the hospitium on Valpy Street.  These schools were incorporated into an extension college of Christ Church college, Oxford, in 1892.  The college remained a satellite college of Oxford University until it was granted its charter.

Victorian woman at Early Gate in 1899, Whiteknights became university property in 1947

 

A Victorian woman at Early Gate in 1899, Whiteknights only became university property in 1947 (courtesy of Dr Jacqui Turner’s Twitter feed!)

 

Even before the charter, the college had begun a process of development.  In 1904 the Palmer family, of the famous Reading-based Huntley & Palmers biscuits, had given the college and extension site on London Road.  In 1908 the Palmers also supported opened Wantage Hall, Upper Redlands Road, the oldest hall of residence in use at the University today, and a Grade II listed building.  In 1947 the University purchased Whiteknights Park, which then became the primary campus, and remains so today.

Wantage Hall, built 1908

 

Wantage Hall, Upper Redlands Road, opened 1908

 

This might sound interesting, after all, as historians, it peaks our collective interests to learn more about long-established institutions such as the University of Reading, nee Reading College. But you might be wondering what the purpose of this post is, especially as its being written by a medievalist…

Well, a few years ago while clearing through some old papers in Whiteknights House a member of the administrative staff happened to come across a very interesting item – the Reading College Student Handbook for 1907-08.  This member of staff just so happens to be my mum and so I now have in my possession some lovely photographs of selected pages of this handbook.  Not only do these images give a fascinating insight into the College that was to become our University, but also there are some wonderful adverts for local businesses from this first decade of the twentieth century.  As we come to the end of this momentous, ninetieth year as a university and prepare to celebrate this year’s graduation it seems timely to me to look back on our past.  Enjoy!

1. cover

 

 

L:  The old college, Valpy Street, was once part of Reading Abbey
R: A hand-drawn map shows the location of (the then new) London Road campus

 

L:  The Buttery, London Road campus
R: The Long Cloister, London Road campus

 

9. plan of London Road campus

 

The plan of Reading College’s London Road campus in 1907-08

 

L: One of the glasshouses, London Road campus
R: One of the college’s farms (the institution has always had strong links with agriculture and in 1912 the Research Institute of Dairying was established, it still owns a number of farms including one at Sonning)

 

16. first page of the college song - the song of the shield

 

The first page of Reading College’s ‘The Song of the Shield’

 

 

A number of advertisements for Reading-based buisnesses were also printed in the pages of the 1907-08 Student Handbook:

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The Language of the Migration ‘Crisis’ – Past and Present

by Dr Daniel Renshaw

On mainland Europe a status quo that has preserved peace on the continent for the last half century is beginning to fall apart.  Meanwhile, back in the United Kingdom, attitudes and policy towards long-established relationships with the outside world are undergoing a seismic shift, with demands for legislation to prevent free entry of economic migrants and political refugees into the country, fuelled by the rhetoric of a right-wing press and pressure groups.  Sound familiar?  Welcome to the Britain of 1905, where, for the first time in modern British history, legislation – the Aliens Act – is about to be passed, restricting free entry into the United Kingdom during peacetime.

Britannia refuses immigrants, 1905

 

Britannia refuses entrance to immigrants, 1905

 

Now, as then, the ways in which language is used and the loaded (and coded) terms employed are crucial in determining how the parameters for the debate surrounding the migrant ‘crisis’ are set.  A correspondent in a popular daily tabloid newspaper recently described migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean as ‘cockroaches’.[1]  In some headlines, migrants are simply referred to as ‘illegals’; the complex motivations for migration and displacement reduced to a single word. ‘Migrant’ itself is a loaded term. The language of dehumanisation has durable roots.  In the 1990s, the term ‘asylum seeker’ – a term of great antiquity and originally referring to the protection of fugitives or the oppressed by the Church – was re-fashioned by the press into one loaded with overwhelmingly negative connotations.[2] Nor is the coded racism in the speeches of politicians a new phenomenon  – see for example Margaret Thatcher’s infamous January 1978 television interview which the term ‘swamp’ was used to describe the changing ethnic makeup of Britain.[3]

To return to the late-Victorian and Edwardian periods, the parallels between the depiction of ‘illegals’ in the early twenty-first century and those of Irish, Jewish, Chinese, Italian and other minorities are often striking.  Both Irish Catholic migrants and Jewish refugees were depicted in the popular press as not only an economic threat to the well-being of British society, but also a political one. Jewish and Irish immigrants were linked in reports with political violence and subversive tendencies: the Irish were associated with Fenianism on both sides of the Irish Sea, and Jewish migrants with Marxism, anarchism and syndicalism.[4]  In the build-up to the Aliens Act of 1905, the pro-restriction press stressed the need to keep out the ‘refuse of Europe’, invariably presented as dirty, syphilitic, criminal and also as budding revolutionaries.[5]  In this narrative, migrants were men and women who had ‘failed’ in Europe, and were detritus now making its way to British shores.  As ‘illegals’ are compared in the contemporary press to ‘cockroaches’, so in 1902 did Cosmo Gordon Lang, Bishop of Stepney, label the Jewish incomers from Eastern Europe as ‘locusts’.[6]

Living above the (sweat) shop in London's Covent Garden, 1871

 

Living above the (sweat)shop,in London’s Covent Garden, 1871

 

Both Irish and Jewish groups were perceived as being prepared to live in worse conditions and work longer hours for less pay then ‘native’ competitors.  In the popular literature of the mid-Victorian era, ‘Irish’ and ‘slum’ were used almost interchangeably.[7]  Italian migrants were in particular associated with organised crime, secret societies and ‘vendettas’.  Meanwhile, the small Edwardian Chinese community had a whole plethora of contemporary social ills laid at their door; this was collectively brought together in the inflammatory designation ‘the Yellow Peril’, and promoted in the sensationalist literature of Sax Rohmer and others.[8]

Over the course of the great wave of Irish migration to Britain during the nineteenth century, and then with the arrival of the Jewish diaspora following renewed pogroms from 1881 onwards, it was frequently asserted that neither group was capable of contributing to British society, that they would remain permanent outsiders excluded by virtue of ethnicity and religion from the British body politic.  Sometimes the language used to attack these new arrivals was explicitly racist or sectarian, but coded terms also had their place in the discourse.  The British Brothers’ League, for example, a far-right pressure group established in the early twentieth century to demand immigration restrictions, rarely referred to ‘Jews’ in its official literature, but always to ‘aliens’.  No-one, however, was in any doubt which section of the population was being focused on in their polemic.[9]

Retrospective nostalgia on the part of the press, and politicians, also plays a role in the way anti-migrant discourse is framed, comparing the current migrant group(s) unfavourably with previous waves of settlement.  Early nineteenth-century immigration into Britain from Catholic Ireland was positioned against the successful integration of Protestant refugees from France and Flanders in the seventeenth century. In turn, Jewish arrivals in the 1880s and 1890s were unfavourably compared with the Irish of a generation before, and by the 1960s the Jewish experience was held up as a model of successful integration when contrasted with the new arrivals from the Caribbean and South Asia.[10]

Previous waves of migration are celebrated as part of a halcyon former age, the problems accompanying them forgotten or downplayed, and the minority groups in question co-opted retrospectively into a national narrative.  At the same time the contemporary situation is framed as unprecedented, condemned as exceptional, and positioned as a ‘new’ phenomenon, shorn of its historical context.  This is not to underplay the very real problems surrounding the present ‘crisis’ and how Britain responds to the greatest movement of peoples across the world since the Second World War.  However, it is worth recognising, as we have seen, that the ways in which the British press and the government have shaped the language in which the debate is being held are not new and are not exclusive to the present situation, but that they have been recycled and repeated on numerous occasions since the 1840s if not before.

 ________________

[1]  The Sun, 17 April 2016
[2] See Edward Mortimer, Treatment of Refugees and Asylum Seekers (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997)
[3] Television interview with Granada World In Action, January 27th 1978.
[4] John Newsinger, Fenianism in Mid-Victorian Britain (London: Pluto Press, 1994) and  W.J Fishman, East End Jewish Radicals, 1875-1914 (London: Gerald Duckworth and Co., 1975)
[5] William Evans Gordon, The Alien Immigrant (London, William Heinemann, 1903)
[6] Evans Gordon, The Alien Immigrant, p.12
[7] See Henry Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor (London: Penguin Books, 1862 (republished 1985) pp.56-57
[8] See Christopher Frayling, The Yellow Peril: Fu Manchu and the Rise of Chinaphobia (London: Thames and Hudson, 2014)
[9] Bernard Gainer, The Alien Invasion: The Origins of the Aliens Act of 1905 (London: Heniemann Educational Books, 1972)
[10] See Tony Kushner, Remembering Refugees: Then and Now (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2006) for popular memories of different periods of migration, and retrospective ‘-re-writing’ of migrant narratives.
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A Bluffers Guide to the Medieval Papacy

30.05.16 Bluffers Guide to the Papacy - Emblem_of_the_Papacy

By Dr Rebecca Rist, Associate Professor in Medieval History

For some reason my students often find it difficult to remember their medieval popes. I can’t think why. So in the spirit of 1066 and All That here, in chronological order, is an aide-mémoire to my top ten medieval popes – a sort of papal Premier League.  Somehow by hook – or should I say by crook? – these luminaries managed to steer the barque of St Peter through the stormy political and religious issues of their day. All you need to do is memorise the following facts about your favourite pontiff and then be sure to drop his name into the conversation at your next dinner party. No-one else will know who he was or what he did so your erudition will be assured. Just make sure the wine you serve is Châteauneuf-du-Pape (what else?) and remember the old adage, ‘God writes straight with crooked pens’ (eventually…).

 30.05.16 Bluffers Guide to the Papacy - Emblem_of_the_Papacy

(1) Leo IX (1049-1054) (Bruno of Egisheim-Dagsburg)

Highlights: led a papal army against the Normans

Lowlights: defeated by the Normans

Likes: morality; purity in the Church

Dislikes: corruption; the Normans

Hobbies: touring Europe and ranting about Reform

Be sure to mention:  Simony; Nicolaism

Take a position on (it doesn’t matter what position):  the East-West Schism

Famous for: reforming synods

30.05.16 Bluffers Guide to the Papacy - Emblem_of_the_Papacy

(2) Gregory VII (1073-1085) (Hildebrand of Sovana)

Highlights: Canossa

Lowlights: died in exile at Salerno hated by just about everyone

Likes: Mathilda of Tuscany; political theatre

Dislikes:  Henry IV of Germany

Hobbies: excommunicating Henry IV; promoting papal power

Be sure to mention: the Dictatus papae; the Investiture Contest

Take a position on: papal election by acclamation; the pope as ‘Vicarius Sancti Petri’

Famous for: ‘I have loved justice and hated iniquity; therefore I die in exile’ (epitaph on sarcophagus)

 30.05.16 Bluffers Guide to the Papacy - Emblem_of_the_Papacy

(3) Alexander III (1159-1181) (Roland of Siena)

Highlights: length of pontificate

Lowlights:  getting chased out of Rome (continually)

Likes: bureaucracy; law

Dislikes: Frederick I Barbarossa; the Roman Republic

Hobbies: canonising saints: Edward the Confessor; Thomas Becket

Be sure to mention: anti-popes: Victor IV (Ottaviano of Monticelli); Paschal III (Guido of Crema); Calixtus III (Giovanni of Struma); Innocent III (Lando of Sezze)

Take a position on:  the authorship of the Summa Rolandi

Famous for: legal brain

 30.05.16 Bluffers Guide to the Papacy - Emblem_of_the_Papacy

(4) Innocent III (1198-1216) (Lotario dei Conti di Segni)

Highlights: Lateran IV – the medieval equivalent of Vatican II

Lowlights: the Fourth Crusade; the Albigensian Crusade

Likes: asceticism; St Francis (eventually)

Dislikes: Cathars

Hobbies: interfering in royal elections; crusades

Be sure to mention: De miseria humanae conditionis

Take a position on: the pope as ‘Vicarius Christi’; the Sun and Moon allegory; the papal states

Famous for: telling St Francis to go and wallow with the pigs; declaring Magna Carta ‘null and void’;   ‘Lesser than God, Higher than Man’ (attributed quote about the pope’s position)

 30.05.16 Bluffers Guide to the Papacy - Emblem_of_the_Papacy

(5) John XXI (1276-1277) (Peter Juliani)

Highlights: the Summulae Logicales  

Lowlights: killed when his papal apartment (where he studied science) collapsed

Likes: Aristotle; logic

Dislikes: Cardinal Orsini (later Pope Nicholas III)

Hobbies: science; medicine; pharmacology

Be sure to mention: the rumour he was a necromancer

Take a position on: the Holy Land

Famous for: bagging a place in Dante’s Paradiso

 30.05.16 Bluffers Guide to the Papacy - Emblem_of_the_Papacy

(6) Boniface VIII (1294-1303) (Benedetto Caetani)

Highlights: the Jubilee Year (1300); founding La Sapienza University (Rome)

Lowlights: the ‘Agnani Slap’

Likes: papal monarchy; Giotto

Dislikes: Philip IV of France; the Colonna

Hobbies: promoting cardinals; climbing the career ladder

Be sure to mention: the Liber Sextus; ‘Unam Sanctam’

Take a position on: his predecessor the hermit-pope Celestine V

Famous for: being confined to the Eighth Circle of Hell in Dante’s Inferno

 30.05.16 Bluffers Guide to the Papacy - Emblem_of_the_Papacy

(7) Clement V (1305-1314) (Raymond Bertrand de Got)

Highlights: moved the papacy to Avignon for some peace and quiet

Lowlights: bullied by Philip IV of France to shut down the Templars

Likes: Mongols

Dislikes: Venetians; Dulcinians

Hobbies: keeping in with Philip IV

Be sure to mention: the Clementine Constitutions

Take a position on: the Avignon Exile; the Templars

Famous for: the ‘Babylonian Captivity’ (Petrarch)

 30.05.16 Bluffers Guide to the Papacy - Emblem_of_the_Papacy

(8) John XXII (1316-1334) (Jacques Duèze)

Highlights: bureaucratic genius

Lowlights: the Beatific Vision controversy

Likes: Thomas Aquinas

Dislikes: Spirituals

Hobbies: attacking the Franciscan understanding of the poverty of Christ

Be sure to mention: his pontificate forms the backdrop to Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose

Take a position on: William of Ockham; Master Eckhart; Marsilius of Padua

Famous for:  the prayer ‘Anima Christi’ (modern hymn ‘Soul of my Saviour’)

 30.05.16 Bluffers Guide to the Papacy - Emblem_of_the_Papacy

(9) Gregory XI (1370-1378) (Pierre Roger de Beaufort)

Highlights: moved the papacy back to Rome for more bread and circuses

Lowlights: the Great Schism

Likes: St Catherine of Siena

Dislikes: corrupt monastic orders; false relics; Lollards; Florence

Hobbies: condemning John Wycliffe

Be sure to mention:  the ‘War of the Eight Saints’

Take a position on: the papal succession crisis

Famous for: being the most recent French pope

 30.05.16 Bluffers Guide to the Papacy - Emblem_of_the_Papacy

(10) Martin V (1417-1431) (Otto Colonna)

Highlights: elected by the Council of Constance; ended the Great Schism

Lowlights: died of apoplexy

Likes: Florence

Dislikes: Hussites; Ottomans

Hobbies: reconstructing Rome

Be sure to mention: the ‘Roman Renaissance’

Take a position on:  slavery and the New World

Famous for: ending the Conciliar Movement

 30.05.16 Bluffers Guide to the Papacy - Emblem_of_the_Papacy

(*Dinner Party Bonus Point) Alexander VI (1492-1503) (Roderigo Borgias)  

Highlights: the Jubilee (1500); founding the Universities of Aberdeen and Valencia

Lowlights: mysterious death of son Giovanni (duke of Gandia)

Likes: mistresses: Vanozza (Giovanna dei Cattanei); Julia Farnese; daughter: Lucretia Borgia

Dislikes: the Orsini; the Colonna

Hobbies: producing ‘nephews’; bullfighting

Be sure to mention: Girolamo Savonarola; Jeremy Irons in The Borgias (2011-2013)

Take a position on: nepotism; poison; the Banquet of Chestnuts

Famous for: ‘Who are we to trust if not our family?’ (attributed quote)

30.05.16 Bluffers Guide to the Papacy - Emblem_of_the_Papacy

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The Sex Pistols at Reading, 30 May 1976

by Prof Matthew Worley

As Sex Pistols gigs go, it was not one of the more notorious. By the late spring of 1976, the band’s reputation was just beginning to grow. Having made their debut in November 1975 at St Martin’s School of Art, performances in and around London had begun to serve notice that something was happening. ‘Punk’, at this time, remained more adjective than noun, used in Neil Spencer’s NME review of February 1976 to describe the Pistols’ stripped down rock ‘n’ roll and to make tentative alignments with the New York bands that had already made claim to the term. The Clash had yet to perform live; the infamous ‘Grundy incident’ –  when Johnny Rotten and Steve Jones swore live on Thames Television’s Today programme hosted by Bill Grundy – was months away. The only stirrings of a future ‘moral panic’ came with a fracas at the Nashville on 23 April, in which band and audience fought as the music press cameras snapped. A day later, the Sex Pistols received their first major feature (in Sounds).

Nevertheless, threads were coming together. The Sex Pistols’ appearance, mixing Johnny Rotten’s urchin attire with the provocations designed by Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren for their shop – Sex – on the King’s Road, ensured they stood out from the denim-clad long-hairs or be-suited pub rockers doing the rounds. Their sound was rough and raw, rubbing against the prevailing musical grain. More importantly, their attitude – antagonistic, irreverent – gave signal of generational change. Here was a band not playing to please the audience but to incite them.

By May 1976, therefore, what would soon become universally recognised as ‘punk rock’ was in the process of becoming. At each gig the Sex Pistols played, one or two new recruits were made, inspired to form their own bands or adopt their own style. The so-called ‘Bromley Contingent’ that later spawned Siouxsie and the Banshees was in place by early 1976, codifying what became punk’s ‘look’ and forming the core of the Pistols’ early audience. Also in February, two friends excited by Spencer’s NME review resolved to travel down from Manchester to London to see what all the fuss was about. Their names were Howard Trafford and Peter McNeish, later rechristened as Howard Devoto and Pete Shelley of Buzzcocks, organisers of the Sex Pistols’ seminal gigs in Manchester (June and July 1976) and producers of one of punk’s most significant DIY moments, the Spiral Scratch EP (1977).

So where does Reading come in? On deciding to come to London, Trafford and McNeish called a friend who had previously moved down south. Richard Boon, soon-to-be Buzzcocks’ manager and custodian of the New Hormones label that released Spiral Scratch, was studying Fine Art at the University of Reading. It was he who put Trafford and McNeish up on their foray to see the Sex Pistols play in High Wycombe and Welwyn Garden City on 20 and 21 February 1976. He joined them, too, on their venture down the King’s Road to Sex. It was in Boon’s Reading digs that excited post-Pistols conversations led to Buzzcocks becoming a reality rather than a vague idea of making music for fun. It was Boon, moreover, who a week before the Sex Pistols played Manchester to stimulate punk’s spread to the North West, booked the band to play in the Reading fine art department.

27.05.16, Worley, The Sex Pistols at Reading (Richard Boon)

A ticket stub from the Sex Pistols performance at Reading, 30th May 1976

‘Back in the day’, Boon recalled, ‘the Art Department had a thing – Art Exchange – as one of the many Students Union groups that had a bit of funding. I persuaded the then AE chair, that putting on the Pistols for £50 (I think) in a painting studio as part of that year’s AE events would be memorable. It may well have been, for the 20 or so who attended. Support was one of The Kipper Kids, a performance art duo who used to work their way through a bottle of whiskey while bantering, cracking jokes, occasionally punching one another (or themselves) in the face.’

At the time, Boon was writing a dissertation on the function of art. As a result, he was aware of the Situ-references that peppered McLaren’s and Westwood’s designs (and later Jamie Reid’s graphics). The ideas that fed through the Pistols were as important – if not more important – than the music. ‘[I] first encountered the Situs’ work at Dylan’s Isle of Wight gig – a book/pamphlet stall run by a wild-eyed hippy (as tabloids may have had it). [I] bought a badly roneo’d bootleg copy of Dylan’s (then unpublished) Tarantula. Him: “Hey kid, if you dig that you might dig this” … reaches under the counter to proffer an equally badly repro’d copy of Debord’s Society of the Spectacle. Which I dug. Back in Leeds, producing a proto-fanzine (I guess), Bullsheet, out of the back of the Leeds Anarchist Bookshop, meant free access to another bad roneo (or Gestetner), where I found Leaving the 20th Century. I was more Vaneigemist than Debordian; my Art History dissertation was titled after his ‘The Transformation of Everyday Life’ (French title: ‘Treatise on Living in the Manner of Young People,’ I believe) and was liberally sprinkled with Situ shit, a bit of Mao, Ivan Illich, Ernst Fischer and other nonsense I was informed by at the time. My Art History tutor, Caroline Tisdall, was heavily promoting Beuys at the time and called me later: “Joseph was very taken with Vaneigem’s statement: ‘When people realise they are imprisoned, it’s not enough to change the wallpaper’.”

Not much has been revealed about the gig itself. Boon recalls cajoling the Pistols from the bar to take the stage, only for Rotten to offer a suitably acerbic greeting: ‘Art students? We’ve seen your “paintings” – is this what we pay our taxes for?’. The band’s set was yet to feature such soon-to-be-standards as ‘Anarchy in the UK’ or ‘No Future’ (‘God Save the Queen’). But those in attendance would have heard ‘Pretty Vacant’, ‘No Feelings’, ‘Submission’ and ‘No Fun’. What mattered to Boon was that he had contributed – he had helped spread the virus. Less than a week later, in Manchester, the Sex Pistols played the Lesser Free Trade Hall and the wheel turned. More bands formed, the virus moved beyond London’s surround. As for his Finals exhibition, Boon’s tutor, Tom Barrett, mentioned the gig to his external examiners and the job was done: Pass: 2.1.

27.05.16, Worley, The Sex Pistols at Reading (Richard Boon) - Sex Pistols playing Pretty Vacant, June 7th 1977

A year later: the Sex Pistols performing ‘Pretty Vacant’ on the  June 7th 1977

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Mothering Slaves

By Dr Emily West

DSC_4391

In 2013 I was looking for a new research project and found myself increasingly interested in exploring the lives of enslaved women beyond the geographical confines of the United States. Moreover, I also wanted to bring together some of the amazing historians interested in gender and slavery more broadly. After many long discussions, a group of us ended up making a successful bid for a network grant from the AHRC-FAPESP scheme (designed to bring together researchers in the UK and Brazil) led by Professor Diana Paton (Newcastle University, and University of Edinburgh from July 2016), Professor Maria Helena Machado (University of São Paulo), and me.

We titled our network ‘Mothering Slaves’ in order to encapsulate the multiple forms of mothering by enslaved women in Atlantic slave regimes. Women acted as mothers to their own children, but also – with varying frequency – undertook mothering work of their owners’ children. These issues are important because slavery was transmitted by inheritance from the mother.  Motherhood was hence central to the institution’s development and was both a place of joy and a site of trauma for enslaved women.

 

The network brought together researchers working on the United States, Brazil, and the Caribbean to address to issues related to motherhood under slavery, a system where women held value as both workers and reproducers. We explored themes around the intersecting forms of oppression for enslaved women, including the care of children and childlessness, attempts to control fertility, how enslaved motherhood worked similarly and differently across Atlantic slave societies which had a variety of different systems of power and authority. We also compared representations of enslaved motherhood in the arts and the best methodologies for investigating all of these issues. Our network aimed to encourage new ways of thinking about the lives of enslaved women in the Atlantic world and their central role in slavery’s development through the benefit of comparative perspectives. Importantly, too, we all wanted to bring together PhD students with more experienced researchers, so the network built in funding to allow a number of PhD students to attend all events and to pay them for organising the conferences.

Mothering Slaves 3

Mothering Slaves 4

We held three conferences as a part of our network, the first (April 2015) at Newcastle University, the second at the University of University of São Paulo in September 2015, and the final event, organised by me and R. J. Knight, at the University of Reading in April 2016.

Mothering Slaves 5

We were particularly pleased to engage at this event with the work of literary and visual artists who focused on motherhood in order to convey the horrors of slavery, in large part thanks to Professor Alison Donnell, Head of the School literature and Languages. So our conference poster used the striking artwork of Joscelyn Gardner which depicts the tropical plants enslaved women used as abortifacients  while we also heard from Andrea Stuart, author of Sugar in the Blood: A Family’s Story of Slavery and Empire (2012)  in conversation with Alison Donnell. Andrea’s best-belling and poignant book traces her family’s history from slavery in Barbados through to modern times. This important outreach event was attended by many members of local community groups in Reading, many of whom are part of the Barbadian diaspora. We were especially grateful to Staff at MERL and the University’s archives and collections for hosting this event and for hosting a display of slavery –related items we hold at the University.

Mothering Slaves 6
Dr Nicole King, English Literature, University of Reading introduces a panel on the images and representation of enslaved mothers
Mothering Slaves 7
Kimberley Wallace-Sanders on portraits of ‘mammy’ in US
Mothering Slaves 8
Emily West opens the concluding roundtable to April 2016’s Mothering Slaves conference

Our future plans for mothering slaves are twofold. First, we will to publish the best papers from the three conferences in two journal special editions   (Slavery and Abolition, and the Women’s History Review) in 2017-18. Thereafter we are all keeping our fingers crossed that a new, larger grant bid we submitted is successful and that we can continue to develop the important conversations that mothering slaves enabled us to begin and to put the lives of these women at the heart of the history of Atlantic slavery.

More information about our network can be accessed on the Mothering Slaves pages.

The conference was also live-tweeted with ‘#motheringslaves’, here are few of the top tweets:

Mothering Slaves 11

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Prof. Matthew Worely in ‘Kurt’s Lighter by Paul Kelly ft. Scott King’

Prof. Matthew Worley features in a new film with Scott King.

With regards to the film, Prof. Worely comments:

The film came about because I have long worked with the artist Scott King. Back in 1997, we began working under the banner Crash!, issuing magazines and putting on events in London. The idea was to rub against all that dreadful Cool Britannia stuff and say everything that is being celebrated is actually a load of rubbish. We were Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 21.59.24probably best-known for the Prada Meinhof  issue that critiqued how radical language and imagery was appropriated. I then busied myself with History work and Scott has become a great and well-known artist. But we still do things together when we can. This film was directed by Paul Kelly and based on an idea of Scott’s. It obviously sends up our own fascination with pop culture – but also the way in which pop, art and culture gets reduced to the level of a thing and the commercial value that is inevitably applied to it.

The film (below) can also be found on our YouTube pages, along with other videos by members of the department.

‘Kurt’s Lighter by Paul Kelly ft. Scott King’ was first published by Pop-Kultur and is also available through their website and YouTube accounts.

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Hillary’s campaign? Cranking up, but so far it’s… ‘meh’

by Mark Shanahan, Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Reading.

“The race for the Democratic nomination is in the home stretch, and victory is in sight!”

With those words, Hillary Rodham Clinton addressed the adoring loyalists gathered to hear her victory speech at the end of a bruising New York primary. On the other side of the political fence, Donald Trump was winning all but one New York county. In a normal election year, the two front runners would be switching focus by now, putting the primaries behind them and getting set for November’s presidential election. But heck, this year has been about as far from the ‘norms’ of campaign politics as you can possibly imagine. The cleavage between the traditional Kingmakers of the GOP and the disaffected grassroots has let through the ideologue Cruz and the demagogue Trump to do battle for the hearts of conservatives, while in the liberal corner Hillary’s expected stroll to Philadelphia in July to be placed at the head of the Democrat ticket with all due pomp and ceremony has become a jagged, ragged marathon, with a grizzled Brooklynite at her heels, and sinking favourability ratings stacking up around her.

The Clinton who launched Hard Choices, a policy manifesto dressed up as a reflection on her time as Secretary of State, released in 2014, could never have thought her path to Philadelphia could ever be quite so rocky[1].  In 2014, as well as providing a masterclass in International Relations, her memoir hit all the electoral sweet spots necessary for her to connect with the Democratic voting audiences she needed to secure the nomination. Women, youth, LGBT+, economic equality, climate change. In her non-manifesto, Hillary addressed them all and sounded, well, presidential.

But with Democrats feeling the Bern all along the Primary trail from Iowa right through to this week’s bun fight in his birth city and her adopted state, Hillary hasn’t sounded quite so poised – or quite as energised as the Vermont Senator who sat in Congress as an independent. On my personal scale of one to 10, Hillary’s campaign has so far been… ‘meh’.

Bernie has exposed her Wall Street leanings, Gen Y (and even Gen X) don’t see her as sufficiently liberal. There’s the problem of Bill, and the GOP has been relentless, though so far unsuccessful, in its pursuit of her over role when US consular staff were killed in Benghazi and the ongoing issues over her use of a private email server. She’s a more than a little tainted as a candidate, and it’s showing in her polling. According to Gallup last week, Clinton’s net favourability among Democrats is +36. The poll was taken as she ramped up in New York, and shows a slip from +63 early last November[2].

Here’s a candidate who needs women to vote for her if she’s to win. She needs minorities and she needs the purple middle-grounders who will vote based on personal preference rather than party allegiance. So far, she hasn’t done as well as expected.

Hilary Clinton

Will Clinton ‘step it up’ in the comng weeks?

But maybe the tide’s turning. Looking forward to the Maryland Primary on April 26, Hillary’s polling well. Overall, she’s ahead of Bernie 58-33%. She’s polling 75% of the African American vote, leads with both male and female voters and, crucially for her, is ahead 48-43 with voters under 45 alongside her 66-27 advantage with older voters[3].

If Maryland was projected nationally, Clinton would trounce any of the GOP candidates who could be ranged against her. But of course Maryland isn’t quite the national touchstone, despite sending Democrat senators to Congress, while electing a Republican Governor at home.  But next week’s Primaries should be good for Hillary and the Bern may finally burn out. As well as a substantial lead in Maryland, Clinton leads in Pennsylvania – the week’s big prize – and Connecticut. There has been no public polling in Delaware or Rhode Island, but she’s expected to prevail there[4].

After that, it’s time for Hillary to really start looking Presidential again, to start tackling the issues rather than negative campaigning against a party rival. Getting dragged into a negative, dirty campaign plays straight into the hands of her opponent. From July to November she’ll have to look, sound and think like a President. She hasn’t quite cracked that yet.

________

[1] H R Clinton, Hard Choices: A Memoir, Simon & Schuster (London, 2014)
[2] F Newport, ‘Clinton’s Image among Democrats at New Low‘, Gallup, April 14, 2016, accessed April 22, 2016
[3] Public Policy Polling, April 19, 2016, accessed April 22, 2016
[4]State of the Race’, ABC News, accessed April 22, 2016
Posted in American History, US Election 2016 (blog posts) | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Elephant in the Room: the Republican Party in 2016

by Dafydd Townley

The race to be the party candidates for the 2016 election has been fascinating. It has confused poll analysts, political scientists, and broken from historical trends. All of this and it is only April. As onlookers we are still in doubt as to who will finally represent the Republican and Democrat parties in the general election after the national conventions in July. The prospective election leaves many questions unanswered, not least of which is ‘What is the future of the Republican Party?’

Meltdown. Civil War. Chaos. All have applied to the Republican Party over the last three months in particular, and continue to do so. The current state of the Grand Old Party (GOP) is of a party fighting to find its identity. The leadership of the GOP is currently swallowing its pride and pledging its support to Ted Cruz, a senator who has called members of his own party liars on the senate floor. This is in opposition to a man who has managed to attract more voters to the Republican caucuses and primaries than before, and is causing panic attacks among the leadership as his possible victory in the race for the party candidacy looks likely.

What will happen if Donald Trump wins the candidacy? Will there be a realignment of the GOP similar to that after the 1976 election? After the defeat of Gerald Ford in that year’s presidential election the Republicans turned right under the leadership of Ronald Reagan, leaving the political centre ground to the Democrats. Trump has managed to garner support across the ideological spectrum despite being accused of not being conservative. While his proposed policies seem to vary from extremism to centre ground he is in opposition to the conservative, evangelical-backed Cruz. Does this suggest a move to the middle for the Republicans, a move that will reject the Barry Goldwater conservatism that the party has adopted for the last forty years?

In fairness such a reformation of the Republican Party has been on the cards since the 20110 midterm elections. The rise – and success – of the Tea Party has threatened to challenge the establishment-led Republican Party. The Tea Party’s regionalised grassroots activism worked extremely well against small-majority Democrats who supported the Affordable care Act. It worked again in the 2014 midterms as Republicans adopted the methods that Democrats had until recently made so successful. The Republican Party holds an advantage in the House, in Congress, and at state level legislatures that it has not enjoyed since 1928. Why did it fail to get Mitt Romney elected in 2012? Why does it look as though Hillary Clinton will win the 2016 election? How will it go about changing things?

Elephant broken

As ever with American politics there is no simple answer. One significant factor is the gerrymandering of district boundaries by the Republicans at state level so that they win more seats than the Democrats even with fewer votes. It’s an entirely legal move that the Democrats have been oblivious to. Just as important is that Goldwater conservatism is out of date. It seems ironic that conservatism is anachronistic but there is no real desire for the welfare state in the United States to be rolled back, even by Republicans. And that is the problem with the Republican Party – it fails to identify what it is for. It is perfectly fine to target individual politicians on policies it stands against such as the Tea Party locally did in 2010 and 2014, but it has continuously wasted opportunities to showcase what policies it supports on a national level. Compare that with the programs such as Obamacare that the Democrat presidential candidates have been able to promote.

The multiple strands of conservative need uniting behind one ideology to be truly effective in winning the race for the White House, and effective while in office. And that is where Trump stands out. Yes his idea of a wall along the Mexican border is ridiculous as is his assertion that he will make the Mexican government pay for it. Yes – again – his proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States is not only unconstitutional but also impossible to administer. His appeal to the conservative electorate (and beyond) is that he is proposing something. A recognisable policy that has is almost tangible and measurable. Cruz? Low taxes. Free trade. It offers nothing that the electorate don’t already enjoy under the current administration.

While Trump’s politics may not be that of the traditional GOP it is something considerably more positive than that of Cruz, and that should be revelatory to the Republican elite. The party leadership has the opportunity to implement a top-down reformation that would give the party an identity that is both positive and unifying. A national message that is both negative in tone and ethereal in nature would end with further party fragmentation and the prospect of a bottom-up reformation led by Tea Party members. Will the Party be brave enough to attempt to regain the centre from the Democrats? Only Trump and time will tell.

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The emergence of Trump and Sanders: not just a phenomenon confined to the United States?

by Darius Wainwright

President Dwight D Eisenhower once threatened to leave the Republican Party unless it reflected the progressive, centrist principles that he advocated.[i] Were he alive today, it is fair to say that current developments within the GOP would have forced the former president to act on his threat. The race to secure the Republican candidacy for the 2016 US Presidential Election has seen the populist, radical Donald Trump appear as the frontrunner. The multimillionaire New York property mogul has courted controversy throughout his campaign, notably pledging to build a wall across the US-Mexico border to stem the flow of immigrants from Central and Southern America.[ii] Despite the incendiary nature of these comments – Pope Francis used a tour of the Americas to chastise Trump for his remarks – support for the star of the US version of The Apprentice has burgeoned.[iii]

Donald Trump

Trump, now a forerunner for the Republicans

Equally, the race to secure the Democrat Party candidacy has been just as contentious. Hilary Clinton, regarded by the media as the frontrunner since announcing that she would like to run for the presidency, is facing considerable opposition to her bid to be the Democrat nominee from the leftist Bernie Sanders, the 74-year-old Senator for Vermont. Tapping in to the American public’s anger over particular issues, the tactics of both politicians appear to be moderately successful. As of the 29th of March, Sanders is polling at 42.3 points compared with Clinton’s 51.3. Trump, on the other hand, is now the frontrunner to secure the GOP presidential candidacy, amassing an 11-point lead over his nearest rival, the Texan Ted Cruz.

Bernie Sanders
Sanders, considerable opposition to Clinton for the Democrats

It is important however to not look at political proceedings in the United States in isolation. Exploration of current developments in European politics suggests that progressive, centrist and mainstream parties on both sides of the Atlantic are facing similar challenges. As illustrated by a recent report from The Guardian, electoral support for parties occupying the centre of European politics has fragmented, with growing backing for movements on the left and the right of the political spectrum. In the December 2015 Spanish General Election, the populist leftist Podemos (‘We Can’) Party gain 21% of the vote, with the liberal Ciudadanos (‘Citizens’) Party polling at 14%.[iv] The electoral gains made by these two newcomers deprived the mainstream parties of the Spanish centre, the PSOE and the People’s Party, of an electoral majority.[v] The recent Slovakian parliamentary elections, similarly, saw no one party achieve an overall majority. Instead eight parties from across the political spectrum were returned to the National Council, each with more than 10 seats.[vi]

Seemingly, the reasons behind the electoral success of these radical movements are similar to the factors being attributed to Sanders and Trump’s victories in the US state primaries. Recent years have seen an exponential increase in the number of immigrants arriving in Europe, combined with a steady influx of refugees from the Middle East and Africa seeking asylum.[vii] Far right parties, such as the German AfD, have exploited the significant anger amongst sections of the public towards these developments, adopting an anti-foreigner rhetoric. Such an approach saw the AfD make significant gains in the German regional elections in March this year.[viii] Left leaning parties, simultaneously, have sought to question the significant welfare and spending cuts advocated by many mainstream, centrist politicians across Europe. Utilising the Greek public’s resentment towards these austerity policies, the leftist Syriza Party won a landslide election in Greece in September 2015.[ix]

Mainstream politicians on both sides of the Atlantic must therefore find an effective means by which to either tackle or circumnavigate these radical, populist challenges to their electoral dominance. To ward off the threat of Sanders and Trump – for only divine intervention would now prevent the latter from securing the Republican nomination – it is imperative for Clinton to soothe popular resentment towards issues such as immigration and unemployment. Already she has sought to heighten her social media presence in a bid to win back youth voters and has pledged to reform the immigration system should she be elected.[x] Failure to secure the presidency – or even failing to persuade the Democrat Party to support her bid – may compel Clinton to do what President Eisenhower threatened to do all those years ago and leave politics.

Hilary Clinton
Clinton, stepping up her campaign in the face of Trump and Sanders’ success

_____________________

Notes:

[i] ‘Five liberal quotes from Republican politicians that will freak you out’ <http://bluenationreview.com/six-liberal-quotes-republican-presidents-will-freak&gt; 23 February 2015.
[ii] All poll data from RealClear Politics.
[iii] ‘Pope Francis questions Donald Trump’s Christianity’ <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-us-2016-35607597&gt; 18 February 2016.
[iv] ‘Why is support for Europe’s mainstream political parties on the wane?’ <http://www.theguardian.com/worl d/2016/mar/29/support-europes-mainstream-political-parties-parliaments> 29 March 2016.
[v] http://www.theguardian.com/worl d/2016/mar/29/support-europes-mainstream-political-parties-parliaments
[vi] http://www.theguardian.com/worl d/2016/mar/29/support-europes-mainstream-political-parties-parliaments
[vii] ‘The march of Europe’s little Trumps’ <http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21679855-xenophobic-parties-have-long-been-ostracised-mainstream-politicians-may-no-longer-be&gt; 12 December 2015.
[viii] ‘German elections: setbacks for Merkel’s CDU as anti-refugee AfD makes big gains’ <http://ww w.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/13/anti-refugee-party-makes-big-gains-in-german-state-elections> 14 March 2016.
[ix] ‘Greece election: Tsipras triumphant as Syriza returns to power’ <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015 /sep/20/syriza-set-to-return-to-power-in-greek-general-election> 14 March 2016.
[x] ‘Clinton tries to get the millennials on board’ <http://edition.cnn.com/2015/12/18/politics/hillary-clinton-young-voters-millennials&gt; 18 December 2015; ‘America needs comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship’ <https://www.hillarycli nton.com/issues/immigration-reform> 30 March 2016.

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Happy Easter from the Department of History!

We hope everyone has a good Easter break whether your relaxing, revising or researching, and remember:

  • the University of Reading will be closed from Good Friday until Thursday 31st March
  • Summer term begins Monday 18th April
Paul Kauffman, 1902. La quete des oeufs de Paques - collecting the Easter eggs. Bibliotheque national et universitaire de Straboug NIM22686

‘La quête des œufs de Pâques’ (‘Collecting the Easter Eggs’), Paul Kauffman, 1902, postcard. Bibliotheque national et universitaire de Strasbourg NIM 22686. (with a little editing, in the form of the seasonal wishes, from us!)

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Popes & Jews, and Otherworlds: Two new Medieval Monographs

Yesterday, Thursday 17th March 2016, the Department of History and the Graduate Centre for Medieval Studies (GCMS) held a book launch for two new medieval monographs from Oxford University Press (OUP).  Thanks to their authors, Dr Rebecca Rist and Dr Aisling Byrne, there is a chance to buy these new publications with a 30% discount.

 

Rebecca Rist, Popes & Jews, 1095-1291

Popes and Jews, 1095-1291, explores the nature and scope of the relationship between the medieval papacy and the Jewish communities of western Europe in a pivotal period of Jewish history.  In her book Dr Rist engages with recent scholarship in the field of Christian-Jewish relations and, using a wide range of Latin and Hebrew material, examines not only the papacy’s perspective but also that of European Jewish communities.  Further information about Popes and Jews can be found at OUP.
Dr Rebecca Rist is an Associate Professor in Medieval History, and a member of the GCMS.  Her research interests include the papacy, the medieval Church, the history of crusading, Jewish-Christian relations and heresy.

Popes&amp;Jews

 

Aisling Byrne, Otherworlds: Fantasy and History in Medieval Literature

Dr Byrne offers a new perspective on the otherworlds of medieval literature. These fantastical realms are among the most memorable places in medieval writing, by turns beautiful and monstrous, alluring and terrifying.  Otherworlds focuses on texts from England but places this material in the broader context of literary production in medieval Britain and Ireland, and takes a fresh look at how medieval writers understood these places, and why they found them so compelling.  Further information can be found at OUP.
Dr Aisling Byrne is a Lecturer in Medieval English Literature in the Department of English Literature, and a member of the GCMS.  She has published on the transmission and translation of romance, on writers such as Gerald of Wales and Thomas Malory, and on themes such as marvels, feasting, chivalry, and territorial politics.

Otherworlds

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Why My Research Matters – A GCMS Workshop

getting together is always good

Friday 22nd April 2016, University of Reading

The Graduate Centre of Medieval Studies (GCMS) is an interdisciplinary centre that is predominantly based in the History department.  ‘Why My Research Matters’, or to give it its full title Why My Research Matters: New Methods. New Audience. New Questions. The Importance of Medieval and Early Modern Studies in the Twenty-First Century‘, is a one-day workshop organised by postgraduate and early career researchers from the GCMS.

The conference encourages postgraduates and early career researchers working across medieval and early modern history to present their research and highlight its relevance in the 21st century.  Historic studies, but particularly those focused on pre-modern history, often have their relevance, and thus the reason for their study, challenged and this workshop offers a chance to open discussion about the importance of these studies. The day will conclude with a round-table discussion open to all speakers and attendees, and it will cover issues encountered when researching pre-modern history, and explore ways in which we can engage others outside of our research areas.  The organisers welcome any who are interested in this conference and would like to encourage wide postgraduate attendance.  Interested undergraduates are also welcome to attend.

Further details, and the initial programme for ‘Why My Research Matters’ can be found below.

GCMS representatives will also be live-tweeting via @UniRdg_GCMS and live-blogging via the GCMS Facebook page throughout the event.

Why My Research Matters Poster.jpg

 

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Rome 1600

Robertson, Rome 1600, 3

Professor Clare Robertson’s new book, Rome 1600. The City and the visual Arts under Clement VIII (Yale University Press 2015) produces a snapshot of the city at one of the most significant moments in its post-classical history. Rome was at this time the centre of the artistic world. The book examines the beginnings of the great Baroque city at a moment of major artistic innovation, especially in painting. This was largely due to the presence of two artists, Annibale Carracci (1560-1609) and Caravaggio (1571-1610). In their different ways, both were hugely influential on the development of seventeenth-century painting throughout Europe: Annibale founded a school of artists whose work combined a fascination with the study of nature, with intense interest in the art of classical antiquity, and the work of High Renaissance artists, such as Michelangelo and Raphael. Caravaggio, who was notorious for his propensity for violence, offered a different vision, distinguished above all by his tenebrism. But Rome was a very cosmopolitan society, and attracted large numbers of artists from all over Italy, and from northern Europe, including Rubens (1577-1640). In 1593, Rome’s first artistic academy was founded, the Accademia di San Luca, under the initial direction of Federico Zuccaro (1539/40-1609), which was intended to provide an artistic education for young artists who were drawn to Rome by the opportunities for patronage that the city could offer. Zuccaro was a highly successful artist, who had worked all over Europe (He even painted a portrait of Queen Elizabeth I), and built himself a palace, which he frescoed with several erudite, allegorical subjects.

Madonna and Child with a Serpent, 1605 (oil on canvas)
Madonna and Child with a Serpent, 1605 (oil on canvas) by Caravaggio, Michelangelo Merisi da (1571-1610), Galleria Borghese, Rome

1600 was a Jubilee Year, which meant that thousands of pilgrims came to Rome, in the hope of indulgences (Indeed, according to some reports, Rome’s population doubled during that year). This led to immense numbers of new artistic commissions, led by Pope Clement VIII, who completed major projects at Rome’s cathedral, San Giovanni in Laterano, and also at the Basilica of St Peter’s. Clement encouraged his cardinals to restore their titular churches, and to commission new works of art. The Roman church was in 1600 at a turning point in the Counter-Reformation, the movement to restore the institution after its serious losses to Protestantism in northern Europe during the sixteenth century, and art was a powerful weapon. New religious orders, including the Jesuits and the Oratorians, were well aware of the ways in which art could be used to restore faith. At the same time, there was a new archaeological interest in the palaeo-Christian church, since that was believed to be purer in its practices.

There were also a significant number of patrons of secular art, and this period saw the beginnings of galleries lined wall to ceiling with paintings. These included the Giustiniani and Mattei families, who had huge appetites for paintings by a variety of artists. The book draws upon all these issues, based closely on contemporary written and visual sources. It is extensively illustrated.

Robertson, Rome 1600, 1
Annibale Carracci, River Landscape, c. 1593, Berlin Gemäldegalerie
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Dr Mara Oliva – a member of the newly established TEL Practitioners Forum

Dr Mara Oliva, Lecturer in Modern American History (20th century), Department of History

Congratulations to Dr Mara Oliva who has been appointed as a member of the newly established TEL Practitioners Forum (TELPF).  The Forum has been created to represent the wider community of staff within the University of Reading who are actively engaged with or leading in technology enhanced learning (TEL).  The TEL Practitioners Forum is a closed group and membership is by invite only so we are very pleased that Dr Oliva has been requested to join.

This is an important step forward in the further development of the Department of History’s Technology Enhanced Learning Strategy. In the past year, under Dr Oliva’s leadership, the Department has already pioneered e-assessment and e-marking for its Part 1 modules. Dr Oliva looks forward to working with TELPF in developing and expanding the role of technology in the Humanities.

“Technology-Enhanced Learning (TEL) is learning which is supported, mediated or assessed by the use of electronic media and it has a fundamental role to play in the delivery of the University’s strategic objectives. TEL concerns the use of new or established technology and/or the creation of new learning materials; it can be utilised both locally and at a distance and it can cover a wide range of activities, from the use of technology to support learning as part of a blended approach, to learning that is delivered wholly online.”
(University’s Vision for Technology Enhanced Learning, 2013)
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An Audience with Lucy Worsley

Sunday 22 May, 7.30pm

One of the UK’s most respected historians, Lucy Worsley is best known for a series of programmes for BBC2 and BBC4 covering everything from the Georgians and British homes to the history of dance and the WI. Most recently she was seen on BBC4 in January looking at Romanov Russia.

Lucy, who is also the Chief Curator at the Historic Royal Palaces, was born in Reading’s Royal Berkshire Hospital, grew up in Northcourt Avenue and attended the Abbey Junior School.

The chance to watch Lucy Worsley in action in front of a live audience in Reading would be a great opportunity for all those keen to make a career in the public history / heritage sector.

 Lucy Worsley

She comes to the Town Hall to mark Reading 2016’s history month in May to talk about the history of murder, in real life, including a look at Reading’s notorious murderess Amelia Dyer, and in fiction, from Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie. Ever since the Ratcliffe Highway Murders caused a nation-wide panic in Regency England, the British have taken an almost ghoulish pleasure in ‘a good murder’. This fascination helped create a whole new world of entertainment, inspiring novels, plays and films, puppet shows, paintings and true-crime journalism – as well as an army of fictional detectives who still enthral us today. Her BBC4 series A Very British Murder inspired a best-selling book, which she will be signing after the talk.

Tickets £10, Concessions £8 (all tickets are inclusive of booking fee)

Tickets can be booked via Reading Arts.

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Nancy Astor: Art in Parliament

We are very pleased to announce that Dr Jacqui Turner’s work for Parliament on the installation of the Nancy Astor bust, in association with Vote100, is completed.

Nancy Astor, Viscountess Astor, was elected to Parliament on 15 November 1919. She took her seat following her introduction to the House of Commons by Prime Minister David Lloyd George and former Prime Minister Arthur Balfour on 1 December 1919.  Jacqui is responsible for a new leaflet which has been produced in partnership with Vote100, and can be accessed via Parliament’s webpages.  Additionally, Jacqui has appeared in a newly released short film, made at the Universtiy of Reading’s Special Collections, about Astor.  This film has also been published on Parliament’s webpages (should it not play below).

Look out for a full blog from Jacqui about the Nancy Astor project in the coming weeks!

In our ‘British History‘ section you can catch up with previous blog posts on women’s suffarage, and particularly Nancy Astor, which have been written by Jacqui, and her students.

 

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Romance the Medieval Way: St Valentine’s Day Special

by Dr Ruth Salter

St Valentine at Terni

Saint Valentine of Terni oversees the construction of the basilica at Terni. This image comes from a fourteenth-century French manuscript, now Bibliothèque nationale de France, ms. 185, f.210r

St Valentine and the (possible) origins of Valentine’s Day

Two St Valentines are listed in the Roman Martyrology for February 14th: one was a martyred Roman priest who had supposedly been killed on the Flaminian Way during Claudius’ reign (AD 41-54); the other was the Bishop of Terni, who had been martyred in Rome but whose relics had been translated (returned) to Terni. It is possible, however, that these two Valentines were the same person.

What is strange though is that, when we look at the little known about Valentine, there is nothing to connect this early Christian priest to lovers and romance. This is because the connection is made not through people but through animals. February 14th came to be thought of as the day that birds paired for the Spring. The first documentation of this being Geoffrey Chaucer’s (d.1400) Parlement of Foules, which was written to celebrate the first anniversary of Richard II of England’s engagement to Anne of Bohemia (1382):

For this was on seynt Volentynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.
For this was on St. Valentine’s Day
When every bird cometh there to choose his mate.

Elements of Valentine’s Day might also indicate the survival of older, pagan customs of the Roman Lupercalia festivals which took place in the middle of February. Lupercalia was one of the oldest Roman festivals; in fact its roots are possibly pre-Roman. The festival was one of purification – evil spirits were cleansed from the city, and this released health and fertility. Plutarch (d. c. AD 127) commented that:

many write that it [Lupercalia] was anciently celebrated by shepherds… At this time many of the noble youths and of the magistrates run up and down through the city naked, for sport and laughter striking those they meet with shaggy thongs. And many women of rank also purposely get in their way, and like children at school present their hands to be struck, believing that the pregnant will thus be helped in delivery, and the barren to pregnancy.
Lupercalia

The Lupercalian Festival in Rome, drawing by the circle of Adam Elsheimer (c.1578–1610). Here the luperci (the men involved in the procession) are dressed as dogs and goats, with Cupid and personifications of fertility

That Valentine’s Day, and mid-February, should have become symbolic of romance, and more specifically fertility and mating, is not surprising. This is, after all, traditionally the period when the signs of the winter are starting to be replaced by those of spring – this year being a bit of an exception to that. Changes in flora and fauna, and the noticeable lengthening of day-light hours, are all indicative of this shift.

However, romance – and attempts to encourage romantic behaviour – was not solely the preserve of St Valentine’s Day alone. In fact during the Middle Ages there were a number of unusual methods to encourage both love and lust.

 

To encourage romance:

Blood: As early as the eight-century women were seen to be interested in encouraging and increasing love. In fact Archbishop Theodore of Canterbury’s (d.690) Penitential assigns penance to those women who drink men’s blood as a way to improve their relationships.

Abarquid: Abarquid is the name of a stone in the ‘lapidario’ produced in thirteenth-century Castille for the future King Alfonso X of Seville and Leon. This lapidarial text offers a potentially useful tip for any desperate men:

On the stone called Abarquid… It is found in Africa, in the sulphur mines. It is light and hard to break. And on the outside its colour is green with some yellow. It is flat in shape, and when men observe it carefully, it appears to have the form of a scorpion. If it is broken, the same scorpion shape is found inside… If a woman carries it, its power will make her so lust for a man that she will restrain herself only by a great effort of will, and it has the same effect on any female animal.

Wolves: A number of bestiaries, including the Aberdeen Bestiary (image below), provide a useful hint when it comes to romance that: ‘on the tail of this animal [the wolf] there is a tiny patch of hair which is a love-charm’. Wolves were said to be aware of this and so, when faced with capture, they would tear out this piece of fur (which would then lose its potency).

Wolf, Aberdeen Bestiary

Miniature to accompany ‘The Wolf’ in the Aberdeen Bestiary, Aberdeen University Library ms.24 f.16v

Mandrake: The most powerful of all ‘love charms’ were those made from the mandrake owing to the fact that the roots were shaped like the human body. The power of the mandrake was noted as early as the Book of Genesis and the Song of Solomon in the Old Testament, and in medical works that form the Ancient Greek Hippocratic Corpus. This was enforced in Dioscorides’ Herbal in which he noted the relationship between these plants and love and sexual activity. Theophratus was the first, however, to suggest that using the root in a special ritual would lead to acquiring its power. This ritual involved using a sword of ‘virgin iron’ to draw circles around the plant, then using an ivory rod to loosen it, before finally using the sword to cut the mandrake whilst reciting special incantations about love. In later versions of this charm it was stated that all of this was to be practised at night – but the mandrake would be visible owing to the fact it would glow with an eerie light.

Mandrake, Apuleius Herbarium

Mandrakes being picked in an edition of Apuleius’ Herbarium, Lombardy c.1400, now Yale Medical Library ms.18, f.49v

To cure lust:

But what if the problem is actually too much lust? Well Hildegard of Bingen, the German abbess and mystic, suggests a number of ‘cures’ in her Physica including:

Dill… in order for a man to extinguish the pleasure and lust of the flesh which is in him, he should, in summer, take dill, and twice as much water mint, and a little more tithymal, and the root of Illyrian iris. He should put these in vinegar, and make a condiment from them, and frequently eat it with all his foods. In winter he should pulverise these and chew the powder with his foods, since at that time he cannot obtain the fresh herbs with their vital energy.

and

Sparrow hawk… A man or a woman who burns with lust should take a sparrow hawk and, when it is dead, remove the feathers and throw away the head and viscera. He should place the rest of its body, without water, in a new clay pot perforated with a small hole, and heat it over the fire. Under this pot he should place another new clay pot, and catch the fat that flows off. He should then crush calandria and less camphor and mix them with the fat. He should heat this again, moderately, on the fire, and make an unguent. The man should anoint his privy member and loins with it for five days. In a month the ardour of his lust will cease, with no danger to his body. The woman should anoint herself around the umbilicus, and in the opening of the belly button. Her ardour will cease within a month. When the month is finished, the person, man or woman, should oil himself – or herself, and thus have relief from lust.

 Of course, it goes without says *don’t try any of these at home* but I think it’s safe to say that either of Hildegard’s above cures would certainly dampen romance and lust!

__________

Bibliography

Cited in order of appearance:
Farmer, D. H., ‘Valentine’ in The Oxford Dictionary of Saints (Oxford University Press, 2011), via <http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780199596607.001.0001/acref-9780199596607-e-1573&gt;.
Geoffrey Chaucer, The Parlement of Foulys, ed. Brewer, D. S. (Manchester University Press, 1972), at ll.309-10
Plutarch, The Life of Julius Caesar in Fall of the Roman Republic. Six lives: Marius, Sulla, Crassus, Pompey, Caesar, Cicero, trans. Warner, R. (Penguin. 1972), at The Life of Julius Caesar chp.16.
Theodore of Tarsus, Pœnitentiale Theodori in eds. Haddan, A. and Stubbs, W., Councils and Ecclesiastical Documents relating to Great Britain and Ireland, vol.3. (Clarendon Press, 1869) pp.173-213, at p.188
Lawrence-Mathers, A. and Escobar-Vargas, C., Magic and Medieval Society (Routledge, 2014) at p.114
Aberdeen University Library ms.24 [https://www.abdn.ac.uk/bestiary]
Hildegard of Bingen, Physica in trans. Throop, P., Hildegard von Bingen’s Physica: The Complete English Translation of Her Classic Work on Health and Healing (Healing Arts Press, 1998), at pp.41-2, pp.187-8
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US Election Special: There may be trouble ahead… (3/3)

US Election main

By Dafydd Townley

When Hillary Clinton officially announced her intention to run for the White House on April 12th last year, she was immediately proclaimed as the favourite to be the 45th President of the United States. Through a YouTube video she stated ‘Everyday Americans need a champion. And I want to be that champion.’ The New York Times stated that her announcement ‘began what could be one of the least contested races, without an incumbent, for the Democratic presidential nomination in recent history.’[1] Such was the confidence in Clinton winning not only the candidacy but also the presidency. Such confidence though is being undermined by the rise of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.

Clinton 2

In July of last year Clinton stood at 58% in the polls for the Democratic candidacy with a lead of 42% over her rivals. In the race for the White House she polled an average of 49% compared to Mark Rubio’s 37.5%. The latest data suggests that despite still polling at 51.2% her lead has been whittled down to a mere 13% over Bernie Sanders. In addition her lead over Rubio has flip-flopped and he now leads by 2.2%. Furthermore her lead over Donald Trump – who was not amongst the polls at the time of announcement – has diminished from 19.6% in July last year to just 2.5%.[2] Where has it all gone wrong for Hillary? There are a number of factors that affected public opinion.

Both Sanders and Trump are seen as being something different to the status quo. Despite Biden’s recent swipe on Twitter at Sanders by declaring that the United States does not need socialism, public opinion is low when concerned with both the Executive and Legislative branches of government. In a recent Gallup poll 47% of US citizens disapprove of Obama’s performance as president, and 80% feel that Congress is not effective.[3] Clinton’s declaration in the latest Democratic debate that she wanted to protect and build on Obama’s Affordable Healthcare legacy should be seen as an attempt to win over the coalition that Obama built to gain office. However, in doing so Clinton has aligned herself with an administration that is believed to be underperforming. Sanders, further left in the political spectrum than Clinton, is seen by non-Democrats as independent of Obama. Furthermore, to left wing Democrats Sanders’ egalitarian policies are seen as closer to Obama’s promises on the 2008 election trail than those of Clinton’s.

Clinton 3

The same consequences are caused by the ascension of Trump. His firebrand tactics have alienated candidacy rivals and depicted himself as an outsider to Washington circles. His criticism of Obama and Clinton, Congress, and the inability of a Republican Congress to get things done with a Democratic president, has been favourably met with the US electorate. He has managed to portray Clinton’s policies as a continuation of Obama’s, and therefore firmly associated Clinton with the Obama administration. Crucially then, Clinton’s support has deteriorated because she has failed to identify with the public as being unconnected to Obama.

It also appears that where there’s a Clinton there’s some form of political controversy. Bill Clinton’s second term was dogged by the Lewinsky scandal and impeachment proceedings. The combination of scandal and a Republican dominated Congress led to his final term being ultimately a confrontational lame-duck presidency. Hillary is threatening to be no different. Since before her announcement she has been plagued by issues regarding security breaches through personal emails while Secretary of State. At her time of her announcement to run for the White House campaign manager John D Podesta assured potential donors that the issue would fade away.[4] Such optimism has been misplaced. At the time of writing – nine months after Podesta’s reassurance – the issue has still yet to be settled causing Clinton embarrassment. This, combined with the House investigation into the Benghazi attack, has meant that Clinton has unwittingly provided ammunition for her rivals.

Clinton 1

What next for Hillary? In all likelihood she will claim the first victory in the race for the Democratic candidacy at the Iowa Caucus on February 1st. However the winning margin will not be in the region of the 30% lead that she had in November. In stark contrast to that advantage the latest poll by CNN suggests that Sanders has an 8% lead among Iowan Democrats.[5] A small victory for Clinton will not be enough to give her campaign momentum, but may be enough to burst the Sanders bubble. She is unlikely to win the New Hampshire primary eight days later where Sanders has a strong advantage. By then the additional emails from the State Department should also have been released for scrutiny which could further harm her campaign; until the legality of her actions is finalised it is impossible to tell.

What the Clinton campaign can take some comfort from is that her endorsements by Democrats in office are at a record high compared to other non-incumbent Democrat candidates from the last thirty years. Studies have shown that endorsements have been the greatest influence on state primaries and caucuses.[6] Hillary’s lead is extremely large and Sanders will not be able to convince the part elites to change their support. Consequentially the next month ahead may be rocky for Clinton, but by the road to the White House will be considerably smoother by Super Tuesday on March 1st.

[1] Amy Chozick, ‘Hillary Clinton Announces 2016 Presidential Bid’, The New York Times, April 12, 2015

[2] All poll data from RealClear Politics

[3] Poll data from www.gallup.com (Obama rating is from Jan 11-17 2016, Congress data is dated as Jan 610 2016)

[4] Amy Chozick, ‘Hillary Clinton Announces 2016 Presidential Bid’,

[5] CNN/ORC Poll, January 15-20th, 2016

[6] Aaron Bycoffe, ‘The Endorsement Primary’, FiveThirtyEight

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This was originally published on Dafydd’s own blog and has been republished here with his permission .
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Reminder: Seminar in Global History, 10th February 2016

This is a reminder of the up-coming Seminar in Global History which will take place on Wednesday, 10th February 2016.

Dr Miles Larmer (University of Oxford) will be speaking on ‘Localising Africa’s Cold War: The Katangese Gendarmes and Conflict in Central Africa, 1960-1978’.

Miles’ research focuses on political and social change in southern-central Africa in the second half of the twentieth century, and the interaction between local social movements, nationalist parties and global forces in shaping post-colonial Africa.  His current research project is a study of the Katangese gendarmes as a way of understanding the social and political history of Central-Southern Africa’s ‘forty-years war’ from 1961 to 1999. This encompasses research on a series of intertwined local, national and transnational conflicts in Zambia, Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Full event detials can be found on the poster below:

Seminar in Global History 10.02.16 Flyer

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Sensing Sickness in Early Modern England, 1580-1720: About the Research Project

We are very pleased to announce that Dr Hannah Newton has been awarded Wellcome Trust funding for her new research project ‘Sensing Sickness in Early Modern England, 1580-1720’.  Below Hannah tells us more about this exciting project and what it entails:

 

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Sensing Sickness in Early Modern England, 1580-1720

by Hannah Newton

The Wellcome project is an investigation of what it was like to be ill, or to witness the illness of others, in early modern England. To do this, I’m taking a new, sensory approach, asking how were the five were senses affected by disease and treatment, and what were the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile sensations of the sick chamber?

The importance of the senses during illness began to emerge in my first book, The Sick Child in Early Modern England: I noticed that for parents, the greatest source of grief was not so much the death of the child, but rather, seeing and hearing the child suffer. The example that sticks in my mind is the clergyman Isaac Archer, who wrote during the illness of his baby daughter Mary, ‘Oh what griefe was it to mee to heare it groane, to see it’s sprightly eyes turne to mee for helpe in vain!’ It gradually dawned on me that for family members, the five senses were the only way that they can experience the illness of another person – they couldn’t share with it physically, but they can witness it with their eyes, ears, and other sensory organs.

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‘The Sense of Smell’, 1651; by P. Boone; Wellcome Library, London. A man vomits, while those around him hold their noses.

 

The senses were also a major part of the patient’s experience of illness, as I started to notice in my second project, Misery to Mirth: Recovery from Illness in Early Modern England. One of the major signs of recovery was the joyful restoration of the patient’s sensory powers. The Yorkshire gentlewoman Alice Thornton recorded in her diary that on the 17 January 1667 her five-year-old son Robin, sick of smallpox, ‘began to see againe’, and by the next day ‘his sight clearly recovered’. Illness affected the patient’s senses in numerous ways – it could dull them, heighten them, or produce what early modern doctors called ‘depraved’ sensations, such as tinnitus, flashing lights, and itching. Besides these individual sensory symptoms, I think it’s possible that the more general, indefinable feeling of illness – which today might be called ‘malaise’ – may have been a combination of all the slightly peculiar sensations that occur during illness.

 

Intro pic 2

 

‘The Bitter Potion’, 1640; by Adriaen Brouwer; Städel Museum, Germany. The man’s face is contorted in an expression of deep revulsion after tasting the bitter medicine.

 

By exploring these various sensory experiences, the overall aim of the project is to reach a closer understanding and empathy for the sick and their families, both in the past and present.

** Hannah’s book  The Sick Child in Early Modern England (OUP, 2012) is out now and can be purchased via OUP or Amazon.**

 

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US Election Special: The Trump Phenomenon (2/3)

US Election main

By Dafydd Townley

The founders of the US Constitution at the end of the 19th century instilled a checks and balances system to ensure that each branch was subject to the approval of the other two. The separation of powers was designed to limit each branch’s power. The president, as part of the executive branch can veto the legislative branch’s bills. However, with a two-thirds majority the legislative branch can override that veto. The Supreme Court can in turn declare laws unconstitutional. And to round the circle, the Supreme Court members are appointed by the president but have to be approved by Congress. There are other checks and balances in place. The US intelligence community for example has the oversight committees of both the House and the Senate to ensure that they work within the confines of the law. And it’s just as well: according to former CIA director Robert M Gates, ‘some awfully crazy schemes might well have been approved’ had that oversight not been in place.[1] The presidential elections are no different. It is usual that two major requirements restrain those running for the presidential candidacies: the appeasement of the candidate’s financial backers, and the support of a targeted subsection of the electorate to reach the White House.

The increase in the cost of running for office in the United States has meant that there is a greater need for financial backing, which in turn makes the financiers more influential on the proposed policies of their supported candidates. Indeed such is the need for finance to gain office that many politicians are complaining that holding office is less about politics and more about fund-raising for the next term. Candidates who have an immense personal fortune, such as Trump and previously Ross Perot, can afford to buck the trend. They are almost solely committed to their own policies because they do not have the normal financial restrictions that candidates face. This allows Trump to announce policies and make public observations and accusations that have been previously regarded as extreme.

Trump 1

Trump’s ability to say what he likes gives the appearance of a shotgun approach to policy, but actually this is just an illustration of the second freedom he enjoys. Most party-led candidates are targeting a specific audience with their policy declarations. Not only the financiers determine the nature of their policies but also the policy’s target demographic. Republican supporters are generally pro-life, pro-business, small government, and candidates’ political statements are usually framed to keep within these boundaries. Furthermore, candidates tend to avoid making statements or suggesting policies that are not within the confines of their part’s political spectrum. Trump has moved away from modus operandi in an attempt to appeal to every voter that stands right of centre. His business acumen is attractive to the working class, his stance on immigration attractive to the far right, and he has some appeal to libertarians and Tea Party members with his opposition to big government.

Political analyst Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight.com fame suggests that Trump’s support in the polls may not last, and nobody analyses the poll data better than Silver. Trump’s rise, according to Silver is based on one of three theories – his attraction to the populist vote, the lack of Republican leadership, or that there is a media bubble around Trump. All of these theories suggest that Trump’s popularity is not particularly strong and could dissipate in a short space of time. The reasons that Silver suggests are relatively simple ones: that the populist vote is incorrect, that the Republican elite will manage to successfully campaign against him, and that an early loss in Iowa or New Hampshire primaries will affect his standing.[2]

There is a danger though in underestimating the momentum of the Trump campaign. That Trump would be even considered a leading contender at this stage twelve months ago was unthinkable. The Trump campaign is becoming expert at picking up popular discontent with the federal government. The latest Gallup poll into satisfaction with the federal government showed a drop of 14% to just 18%, the lowest figure since Gallup first conducted the poll in 1971.[3] Trump has constantly criticised Obama’s use of executive actions, especially those allowing undocumented mothers and children to remain in the United States.While Trump is seen by many of his supporters as the anti-government candidate the results of that poll should give the Trump campaign further hope. What may damage Trump’s standing as the libertarian candidate is his suggestion that he will also use executive orders to repeal those of Obama. Despite Trump’s assertion that he is ‘going to use them much better and they’re going to serve a much better purpose than he’s done.’[4] It may cost him supporters who wish to see a move away from the imperial presidency of this century.

The issue for the Republican elites however is the lack of a clear alternative to Trump. His ability to manage the press has not given his rivals an opportunity to regain the ground that they have lost. Trump while still not a certainty of winning the Republican candidacy could most certainly do so with a couple of early victories in the primaries. Trump’s rival for the Iowa caucus on 1st February is Canadian-born Texan Senator Ted Cruz, currently polling 27.3% to Trump’s 26.8%.[5] However if Trump has few friends among the Republican leadership, then Cruz has even fewer, and would be a disastrous choice for the GOP. If the other candidates, principally Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, fail to act swiftly, then the unfettered Trump could have an unassailable lead long before Super Tuesday on March 1st.

[1] Robert M Gates, From the Shadows, (New York: 1996) p559

[2] Nate Silver, Three Theories of Donald Trump’s Rise [accessed 11th January 2016]

[3] Joy Wilke, Americans’ Satisfaction With US Gov’t Drops To New Low  [accessed 11th January 2016])

[4] Quote from Bradford Richardson, Trump: Obama ‘led the way’ on executive orders, The Hill, January 10th 2016 [accessed 11th January 2016]

[5] Data from Real Clear Politics [accessed 12th January 2016]

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This was originally published on Dafydd’s own blog and has been republished here with his permission .
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History’s Student Newsletter: vol.4, January 2016

History’s student newsletter is now online!

We will be putting up our back issues shortly, but for now here is our current issue.

4th Jan 2016 p.1

4th Jan 2016 p.2

4th Jan 2016 p.3

 

 

 

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CFP: ‘Social Listening’ in the past, present and future. 22nd November 2017.

‘Social Listening_ in the past, present and future - Call for Papers

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A Message for our Graduating Students

Congratulations to all of our students who will be graudating this year.  We are very proud of you and are sure that you will continue to succeed in your future careers.

With careers in mind … Kevin Thompson from the Careers Centre, Carrington Building, has this message he has asked us to relay to you:

The University Careers Centre provides significant support to you for twelve months after graduation. Whether you are looking to identify job and further study options, want to know where to find relevant job vacancies or would like some coaching to get through the recruitment process Careers are there to help. If you are staying around Reading or returning at any point you can arrange a face to face meeting in the Carrington Building. If you aren’t able to visit we can arrange a discussion via email, phone or skype. To see a Careers Consultant  to get things going just ring Careers on 0118 3788359 or email careerscentre@reading.ac.uk.

graduation-celebration-silhouette

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