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Alumni Celebration

Alumni Celebration

To celebrate the success of the recently graduated PhD cohort, the History Department will be welcoming former students back to the Department to host a new Alumni Celebration event.

The Alumni Celebration will form the last session of the History PhD conference, and will be followed by a drinks reception in the Faculty of Arts Building, FAB3.57 from 16:30.

Please see the archive for details of previous Alumni celebrations.


14:00 - Introduction

14:05 - Dr Nicolás Gómez Baeza

Title: Managers from the British World: Imperial Trajectories and Labour Regimes in the Sheep Farming Industry of Southern Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego (1858–1964)

Abstract: My thesis is about the shaping of capitalist labour relationships in a commodity regime which socially and spatially transformed the southernmost of the Americas. Particularly, it is about how British men imported, due to their imperial-framed trajectories and connections, and developed labour regimes and disciplines in the sheep farming industry of Southern Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego (Argentina and Chile), mainly from the late-nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century. The thesis found elements of the British colonial structures of labour management, and also local features formed by experiences, actions, networks and relationships of the British managers who commanded the estancias (ranches) and frigoríficos (slaughterhouses and cold storages), for the creation of specific settler-capitalist labour regimes in the region. To do this, five representative and different case studies were taken using a biographical approach, in addition to analysing their broad contexts and the actions of others, from their family occupations to the working-class resistances in the Patagonian region. This permitted challenging 'pioneer' narratives focused mainly on the British contribution to economic expansion and civilisation, which included ideas of exceptionality or expertise that similar narratives gave to some managerial roles. Consequently, this thesis contributes to highlighting the colonial position of the British managers from which they developed the labour control and regimes in the Patagonian regional sheep farming industry, and therefore how they and their practices were part, with their particularities, of a broad context of forms of everyday actions in the expansion of imperial capitalism to different corners worldwide.

14:20 - Niels Boender (post-viva)

Title: Coercive Reconciliation, Decolonisation, and the Local Politics of Central Kenya, 1956-69

Abstract: This thesis speaks to the aftermath of the Mau Mau insurgency in late- and post-colonial Kenya. It takes the latter stages of Britain’s brutal counterinsurgency forward to a revitalised understanding of Kenya’s independence, thereby presenting the general thesis that post-colonial state-making relies on transitional dynamics. The focus is post-war reconciliation and the simultaneous creation of Kenya’s post-colonial social contract. Grassroots activism and local politics are foregrounded, whereby radicalised ex-insurgents continued articulating alternative visions of independence. To achieve this, the thesis critiques and employs political science methodologies and takes full advantage of recently released archival documentation and primary testimony of the survivors of Kenya’s abortive anti-colonial struggle.

14:35 - Dr David Fletcher

Title: Religion and Restoration drama: the new plays of 1660-1720

Abstract: One of the most distinctive features of the changing religious and cultural landscape in England between 1660 and 1720 was the reopening of the public theatres, after their closure in 1642. This reawakening generated a rich repertoire of new plays. My thesis examines how these plays treated religion, broadly conceived, and what they tell us about both drama and attitudes to religious institutions and faith. Religion was one of the most ubiquitous issues of the period and the stage was one of its most striking cultural representations. My thesis brings together for the first time these two fundamental elements of life in England over the whole of the long Restoration period.

The main underlying themes of my thesis are hypocrisy, deception, immorality, anticlericalism, and intolerance. Many new plays of the period engaged with these themes and included in their cast lists a wide range of religious characters, both clerical and lay. My thesis shows that most of these characters are portrayed in a negative light, with few positive portrayals to provide a counterbalance. The central argument of my thesis is that, in a society where religion was so deep-rooted and contested, one of its most prominent cultural representations – the stage – projected a negative attitude to religion in general. The thesis ends with a suggestion that further research will be needed to test whether, perhaps, this view went deeper in late Stuart society, and whether one of the characters was right when he describes it as ‘a damn'd Atheistical Age’.

14:50 - Dr Hannah Straw

Title: 'A Good Deal That’s Bad and Very Little Good’: The Court Wits and Performance of Scandal

Abstract: Amid the scandalous court of King Charles II, there was one group of courtiers who managed to attract more attention than almost any other. The Court Wits, a group of noblemen, playwrights, poets, and cultural arbitrators, found themselves at the centre of a seemingly endless parade of public scandals from the early 1660s, through to the 1680s. Significantly, their notoriety did not end with their eventual (often premature) deaths. For well over two centuries, the Court Wits retained their status as the ultimate figures of scandal and transgression at the Restoration court, and their identities became synonymous with the moral, political, and religious failings of the landscape that produced them. This paper will examine the rise and fall of the Wits as figures of immense cultural fascination, and how the echoes of their scandalous behaviour would influence narratives around elite male identity, and the place of morality in public life well into the 19th century.

15:05 – An Introduction to the History Post-Doc Club from Dave Steel and David Fletcher

15:15 - Dr Adam Challoner

Title: A Reading People: The Sectional Crisis and the Common Reader in the Antebellum South

Abstract: It is widely acknowledged by historians of the antebellum period that print was an important factor contributing to the elevation of sectional hostilities. A ferocious exchange of words and ideas preluded the bloodiest conflict in American history as North and South alike battled for the soul of the nation. Despite this, we know very little about how individual readers operated within this incendiary cultural environment. In the Southern states especially, specious notions of an endemic intellectual apathy sustained by decades of historiographical oversight continue to obscure our understanding of the region and its people. As a result, the Southern common reader has long eluded critical attention.

My thesis set out to remedy this oversight. It examined the reading lives of twelve ordinary Southerners during the sectional crisis, exploring the books they read and the meanings they ascribed to them. I argued that a sense of ontological insecurity pervaded the antebellum public sphere, creating a hostile hermeneutical environment in which many readers were conditioned to view their books as potential instruments of political violence. On this basis, I identified two key interpretive frameworks that were utilised by Southern common readers as they attempted to navigate the sectional conflict: the psychology of alienation, and the sociology of community. Southern common readers isolated themselves from those who sought to dismantle their treasured social system, and this sense of alienation, in turn, compelled them to seek a sense of fellowship and fraternity from their reading lives. My thesis therefore provided a new framework within which to view the cultural turmoil of the antebellum period, as well as the first book-length investigation into Southern reading culture during the sectional crisis.

15:30 - Dr Liz Egan

Title: Creole Whiteness in Jamaica After Morant Bay

Abstract: What did it mean to be white in Jamaica during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries? Starting with the racialised unrest of the 1865 Morant Bay uprising, this research situates Jamaica within wider imperial and global geographies to demonstrate the peculiarities of creole whiteness as a product of Jamaica’s particular history of colonialism and enslavement. Through the shifting narratives surrounding Morant Bay, I argue that the subsequent colonial relationship produced creolised articulations of whiteness that both laid claim to Britishness while simultaneously seeking to assert autonomy and authority. These renegotiations of whiteness were articulated in and through the spaces of the home, hotel, club, church, and courtroom. Approached both literally and figuratively using print, visual, and archival sources, these spaces capture how whiteness shaped, and was shaped by, everyday features of Jamaican society. From the intimacy of the family and gendered character of domestic labour management, to the spectacles of Jamaica’s police courts, these spaces move between personal and public to explore how scripts of respectability, modernity, taste, paternalism, and maternalism were seemingly naturalised as the properties of creole whiteness even as they were persistently disrupted and subverted.

15:45 - Dr Dave Steele

Title: The Reputational Power of English Reform Crowds 1816 – 1848

Abstract: The historiography of reform crowds is dominated by references to excessive attendance numbers. Through three case-studies across the period, my research interrogates such claims and asks why historians have seldom looked at the evidence, leading them rarely to question crowd size. By combining theories of crowd densities with evidence of on-the-ground area at these meeting sites, my work scrutinises the feasibility of crowds reaching massive numbers and considers whether the political power of reform crowds was dependent on magnitude.

Drawing on sources as diverse as Home Office papers, digital maps and early photographic evidence, the research indicates that, while discrete crowds were often significantly smaller than previously thought, the combined effect of the so called ‘mass platform’ was to project an impression of ‘reputational power’ disproportionate to numerical magnitude. This power was manifested and multiplied via newspapers to such an extent that the crowd was simultaneously féted by the people and feared by the state; the people emboldened to make increasingly robust demands; the state repeatedly provoked into misguided and disproportionate shows of force and punitive legislation.

I argue that the linking of magnitude to political power was a two-way process, leading people to exaggerate crowd numbers post-event on the basis of perceived power. I seek to decouple magnitude from power. Invoking methodology from the emotional turn, crowd theory, haptics and proxemics, along with a consideration of the physicality of the crowd experience, my research is an interdisciplinary undertaking. By examining the power dialectics both within the reform movement and with the state, my work indicates that, rather than discrete crowd events, it was the reputational power of the wider and long term ‘metaphorical’ crowd which was so feared by the state and which was ultimately (albeit retrospectively) successful in widening the franchise.

16:00 - 16:30 The PhD Journey Panel Discussion