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October 10, 2012

History Division News
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» Universities in the Big Society

Where’s the best place to research the American Revolution? Boston, the urban crucible of resistance to British rule? Or Virginia, home to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson? Both have much to offer, but there’s also a wealth of material in … Continue reading

July 31, 2011

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» Helsinki, Sweden

If you are invited to join a gathering of Swedish historians you expect to find yourself in Sweden. So why does my plane land in Helsinki? It’s not quite as strange as it seems. Two hundred and fifty years ago … Continue reading

June 8, 2011

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» Copper Theft: a Crime Wave from History

Chris Evans Here’s the good news. Crime on Welsh railways is shrinking. The bad news is that there’s one conspicuous area of growth: cable theft, which has bounded up by 168% in the last year. Wales is not alone in … Continue reading

November 8, 2010

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» Speech of the Century - Vote Here

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Speeches in History


Last week saw the death, at the age of 82, of Ted Sorensen, one of John F. Kennedy’s key associates. It was Sorensen who drafted Kennedy’s landmark ‘Ask not what your country can do for you’ speech, delivered at the new President’s inauguration in Washington, January 1961. Tom Griffin, the University of Glamorgan’s media spokesperson, reflects here on Sorensen and his achievement.

Kennedy’s ‘Ask not’ speech was certainly memorable, but how does it rank alongside other great speeches of the modern era? Have a look at (or listen to) some of the other contenders at the Guardian's 'Great Speeches' mini-site and vote for your favourite. Comments - and alternative suggestions - can be entered below. Our poll closes at midnight on November 18th

Chris Evans

October 11, 2010

History Division News
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» Slaves, Speed Demons, Snake Stones: New Welsh History?

<image src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2010/10/8/snapshot.jpg" alt="Welsh History Logo" />

Why a 'New History of Wales'?

The Western Mail claims to be 'ripping up the stereotypes' for Welsh History Month. Three members of Glamorgan's history division have contributed to the newpaper's 'New History of Wales' series. Drawing on their recent research, they've tackled questions with contemporary resonance.

Did Wales nurture its own brand of science, independent of its neighbours? Alun Withey looks at the case of early modern medicine).

Have the Welsh always been politically engaged, fighting for the downtrodden? Chris Evans examines the Welsh contribution to anti-slavery.

Did Wales ever experience a golden age of morality - and have we now slipped from former high standards to become a 'loutish generation'? (<http: />Andy Croll on manners and morals in South Wales)

This initiative by the Western Mail reflects the huge public appetite for history - but is new academic research, challenging existing impressions, really what's wanted? Is this 'new history' knee-jerk iconoclasm? Is the emphasis on shattering stereotypes just media-friendly rhetoric?

As well as meeting popular demand, the 'New History of Wales' is one of the first public endeavours of History Research Wales, a collaboration between researchers at Welsh universities aiming to maximise results in the sector. These articles show the researcher at work - building on results from earlier historians but also finding ways to probe under-valued sources, to capture new voices from the past. It's this broader and more representative account of historic Wales which makes it possible to speak of a 'New Welsh History'.

August 14, 2010

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» The End of Slavery

Chris Evans on Nicholas Draper's Price of Emancipation

<image class="left" src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2010/8/14/price_1.jpeg" height="340px" width="240px" />

When Parliament abolished slavery in the British Empire in 1833 it set up a £20 million compensation fund. The compensation was not intended for the ex-slaves, however; it was awarded to their masters.

This was a huge sum of money, for which the British state had to raise the largest single loan in its history. But who did the money go to? This is the question that Nicholas Draper sets out to answer in The Price of Emancipation. He’s able to do so because the records of the Slave Compensation Commission, set up to administer the fund, are preserved at the National Archives in London.

By wading through a lot of material, Draper has been able to establish how many people in the British Empire actually owned slaves. He’s also been able to plot where slave owners lived. (Were they based in the West Indies or were they absentees living in Britain? And if living in Britain, where did they reside?)

The results reveal a lot about the importance of slave-generated wealth in British society at the start of the Victorian age. The research is on-going with the Legacies of British Slave-Ownership project at University College London .

The Price of Emancipation is only available in hardback at the moment but a cheaper paperback edition is likely. Meanwhile, read an extract here.

Chris Evans is the author of Slave Wales (forthcoming 2010) and teaches modules on Atlantic History and the Abolition of Slavery.

March 23, 2010

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» Science, Race and Slavery

What we're reading: Chris Evans on Darwin's Sacred Cause

<image title="A table from Types of Mankind, by Josiah Clark Nott and George Robert Gliddon, 1854" src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2010/3/23/one_race.jpg" alt="image for c19 racial theory">

Adrian Desmond and James Moore, Darwin's Sacred Cause: Race, Slavery and the Quest for Human Origins (Penguin, 2010).

The popular image of Charles Darwin is of a reclusive sage, wholly driven by his scientific interests. A rather different picture emerges in a new book by professors Desmond and Moore, whose 1991 biography of the great naturalist was highly acclaimed. In Darwin’s Sacred Cause they give us Charles Darwin as the enemy of slavery. Anti-slavery, they claim, was an abiding passion and one that influenced Darwin’s science.

His grandfathers, Erasmus Darwin and Josiah Wedgwood, were both active opponents of the slave trade, and the young Charles grew up in a militantly abolitionist household. His epic voyage on HMS Beagle not only took him to places that influenced his evolutionary theory – like the Galapagos Islands – it took him to Brazil, where slavery was flourishing as never before in the 1830s. Darwin was haunted by the experience.

Desmond and Moore interpret Darwin’s views on evolution in this light. His insistence on the common ancestry of all human beings was a challenge to the new schools of anthropology, which were predictably popular in the slave states of the American South, that saw different races as having entirely separate ancestries.

Some of the scientific debates get a little involved but Desmond and Moore write in a lively fashion. Recommended to anyone interested in racism and anti-racism in the history of science. Darwin's Sacred Cause: Race, Slavery and the Quest for Human Origins (Penguin, 2010) is available from via this link.

Chris Evans researches slavery and its abolition and teaches a second-year module on The Ending of Atlantic Slavery: 1776-1888

Image source and notes

October 28, 2009

History Division News
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» Story of Wales and Slavery

<image title="J.H. Stobwasser, Gracebay Plantation, Antigua, British West Indies, c. 1830" src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2009/10/28/crop.jpg" alt="plantation illustration" />

Bittersweet: Sugar, Tea and Slavery at the National Assembly

<image title="Sugar Curing House, from Diderot, Encyclopedie, i. 1762" class="left" src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2009/10/28/crop2_1.jpg" alt="illustration" />

How are our lives connected to the world of Atlantic slavery? One clue may lie in the things we eat and drink. For example, the well-sugared cup of tea first become part of the British way of life in the eighteenth century and the ‘cuppa’ has never gone away. Therein lies a story...

Find out more by visiting a new exhibition at the National Assembly of Wales in Cardiff that traces the connections between Wales and slavery. Bittersweet: Sugar, Tea and Slavery – A Story of Wales & Slavery looks at the problem through the history of food and gardens, by tracing the connections between Caribbean slavery and our diet, especially the institution of afternoon tea.

The exhibition, which marks Black History Month, is the work of the charity Gateway Gardens Trust, which has organised a Heritage Lottery Funded series of visits to gardens in Wales established by slave traders, plantation owners or abolitionists. The exhibition at the Senedd marks the culmination of the project.

I should declare an interest. I was the historical consultant to the Bittersweet project and a book I’ve written that explores some of the issues raised by the project – and much else besides – will be published next year by the University of Wales Press: Slave Wales: the Welsh and Atlantic slavery.

Chris Evans

October 2, 2009

History Division News
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» The beginnings of a new society

<image class="left" title="Moctezuma Exhibition - British Museum" src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2009/10/2/moctezumalink.jpg" alt="Moctezuma - British Museum" />

The History Society has been resurrected this year by a group of students who call themselves ‘The History Boys’; enthusiasts who enjoy any subject with historical significance. The society has taken off with an excellent response from the student body with applicants ranging across nearly all subjects that Glamorgan teaches.

The aim of the society is to go to the places where history is alive. Lectures and class work are all well and good, and in nearly all cases, very enjoyable. But we feel that history is something that should be ‘lived’ and experienced rather than just taught. It is this reason that has become the driving force behind our main goal… Field trips.

The first field trip of this year was organized almost immediately after the society’s inception with a trip to London scheduled on the 21st November 2009. Participants are free to do whatever they like in London, although the History Society has outlined a few places of special interest that directly relate to taught courses. An example of this is the Moctezuma exhibition in the British Museum, the Aztecs being an important subject in the first year Atlantic and the Making of the Modern World module.

Other places included the tower of London, Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament to name a few. Needless to say that interest has been high. We have also made links and contacts within the Western Front Association and hope join them on a field trip to the First World War battlefields in Belgium and Northern France next year. One of the main mandates of the society is that the members choose what they would like to see, so it will not be long before more field trips are planned both for this year and for next.

The society is open to all students at Glamorgan with an interest in the past. Being a History student is not a prerequisite of membership, nor will it ever be. Anybody is free to join, participate and attend meetings, field trips and guest lectures. Anybody who is interested in joining can contact myself (Pete Driscoll – Society Secretary) on 08037582@glam.ac.uk or by joining our group page on Facebook.

Pete Driscoll

June 26, 2009

History Division News
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» Invitation to A-Level History Conference, 16th September

<image class="left" src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2009/6/24/schoolsdocs300.jpg" alt="images of documents" />

Glamorgan's History Division will host its annual A-Level Conference on 16th September 2009. This event is open to A2 level teachers and students. Entry is free, but schools must book places. The conference offers a taste of university life and a selection of workshops relevant to students' work on the WJEC History syllabus.

The event consists of a morning programme, free lunch, and optional afternoon session, and runs from 9.45 to 2.30. Speakers will include Caryl James, a WJEC principal examiner, Professor Chris Evans, head of the History Division, Dr Norry LaPorte, an expert in twentieth-century German History and Dr Jane Finucane, who specialises in early modern Europe.

Caryl James will open the event by explaining how students should approach the A2-level exams and assessments to maximise their chances of success. Speakers from the history division will offer workshops on finding and using sources to solve historical problems, designed to support students' independent historical investigation. Teachers are encouraged to contact us to find out how these sessions can be customised to meet their students' requirements.

In the afternoon, students may choose to attend lectures on Nazi Germany or on the German Reformation. These lectures will be delivered by subject experts and will be relevant to the A-Level in-depth studies on these areas.

Glamorgan's History division is rated first in Wales for research quality and student satisfaction. We're expanding our schools programme to share our expertise with teachers and students preparing for exams. To find out more about this and future events, or to book a place for your school on this conference, e-mail Jane Finucane (jfinucan@glam.ac.uk)