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August 18, 2010

History Division News
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» Easy Writing?

Stevie Davies: Into Suez: Parthian Press, Cardigan 2010

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Usually, historians are unwilling to recommend historical novels: we tend to see them as ‘easy writing’, and we’re quick to point out their anachronisms and errors. However, occasionally, an exceptional novelist writes a work which not only seems to get the historical detail accurate, but also adds a dimension of its own.

Into Suez concerns the quest by a daughter (living in Church Stretton in 2003) to understand more about her recently deceased mother. This leads to her to investigate events in Ismailia (in Egypt), on the Suez Canal, in 1949. Her mother followed her father here, as he was working for British army. Much of the novel is a vivid re-creation of the lives of ordinary soldiers and their families in ‘Wogland’, as they term it. The relationships between mother, husband and daughter pulse and rock together: at times there are strong, loving feelings, drawing them together into a sense of shared human community, despite their differences. But the strange context in which they live throws up new tensions. Davies is extremely observant about the micro-processes: the tiny unwritten laws, the daily manoeuvres, the small decisions which make up the texture of daily life. We anticipate from the start of the novel that there will be a tragedy: as the chapters go by, each of the characters faces decisions and chooses options and, gradually, we realize that often despite their essential decency, they choose badly. Within this spectrum of decisions, attitudes to the ‘Gyppos’ (Egyptians) and to the rising tide of Egyptian nationalism become more and more important.

Into Suez is a rich, subtle, intricate novel, writing with a type of imaginative power that is capable of transporting the reader into a world that is at once very far away and yet still very close.

Reviewed by Sharif Gemie, whose research and teaching interests include Israel and Palestine and nationalism

July 15, 2009

History Division News
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» Dangerous Times?

Norry LaPorte speaks to BBC History Magazine

The Great Depression of the late 1920s and 1930s has been back in the news this year. Commentators have been pondering the link between economic crises and political extremism, dwelling on the collapse of the Weimar Republic, which fell to Nazism a few years after the crash of 1929. Glamorgan Historian Norry LaPorte has been studying protest and violence in the interwar period, looking at divergent experiences in Britain and Germany. In an interview published in the BBC History Magazine in association with the History and Policy network, he considers the possible consequences of the current downturn. Here are five reasons not to expect the worst:

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1. Historical Background – We've entered this crisis from a situation of stability, whereas Germany in 1929 was already struggling with the consequences of military defeat, civil war and hyperinflation.

2. Political Violence - Most of Germany's political parties already had paramilitary wings by 1929 – democracy was a new and shaky system and political violence was systemic.

3. Mass Protest – Governments were terrified of mass protest in the 1920s and 1930s – what we've seen recently in Britain have been protests from marginalised groups like the antiglobalisation protesters at the G20 summit.

4. Political Alternatives – We're seeing challenges to the governing party, not to the system. Britain reacted to the crash of 1929 by electing a Conservative government, and looks set to respond the same way again.

5. Learning from the Past – Today's world leaders have learned from the Great Depression and aren't opposed to any kind of fiscal stimulus – their attempts to stop the slump from becoming a crash may or may not succeed, but they have more options then their predecessors.

To read Norry's thoughts on the current crisis in full, buy a copy of July's BBC History Magazine.

June 26, 2009

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

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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)

April 5, 2009

History Division News
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» Schools Event - AS-Level History Conference

Succeeding at History AS-Level, 2nd April 2009

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Over forty students and teachers from schools in South Wales attended Glamorgan's AS-Level History Conference on 2nd April. The conference was designed to support school pupils in their exam preparation while offering them a taste of university life.

The event opened with a presentation on the AS History exam from Caryl James, WJEC Principal Examiner in History. Glamorgan historians then delivered lectures on popular elements of the AS-Level curriculum. Norry Laporte discussed with pupils how they might construct an argument to explain the Nazi party's rise to power. Gareth Williams spoke about the development of liberalism and its place in Welsh culture in the early twentieth century, challenging students to consider why certain attributes came to be considered particularly Welsh.

Moving beyond the AS-Level curriculum, Brian Ireland explained to pupils and teachers how he has used film in teaching and studying history. Chris Evans spoke about the breadth of university history, and the opportunities for students taking a history degree to choose and investigate subjects for themselves.

Teachers and pupils reported that the day had been extremely enjoyable and had helped significantly with their exam work. We wish all of our visitors the best of luck in the exams.

Glamorgan's History Division organises a number of free schools events yearly. We expect to hold our next schools conference in summer 2009. To sign up for regular updates on our school events and resources, please e-mail Jane Finucane (jfinucan@glam.ac.uk)

March 18, 2009

History Division News
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» Schools Conference: AS History

AS History Conference, 2nd April 2009

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The History Division is offering teachers and students working on AS-Level History the opportunity to spend a day at our Trefforest campus on Thursday 2nd April.

Our AS History Conference will feature seminars from Glamorgan's historians on popular aspects of the curriculum, including twentieth-century Wales (Professor Gareth Williams), the rise of the Nazis (Dr Norry Laporte) and the Great Rebellion (Dr Jonathan Durrant). Dr Brian Ireland will discuss how historians can use film, and students will be introduced to historical research methods and options for studying history at university.

Attendance is free but places are limited and must be booked by schools in advance through our Schools and Colleges Liaison Department. For more information about the Conference and to request a copy of the timetable for the event please contact Sarah Watkins on 01443 483375 , e-mail Sarah Watkins.