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April 3, 2011

History Division News
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» History in the Media: Coal Dust and Choral Song

There had been singing in Wales for centuries, formally in monasteries and cathedrals, informally in taverns and ale-houses, but it is with the industrial history of Wales that the popular mind associates the Welsh male voice choir and the popular mind is right.

Find out why from Professor Gareth Williams of Glamorgan’s History Division, writing for the Western Mail

Pendyrus Choir c. 1924 (Photograph)

Pendyrus Choir c. 1924

July 29, 2010

History Division News
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» Symbols of Oppression?

Graduate Prizewinners in History, 2010

Hijabs and headscarves have made headlines all over Europe recently. Is the Islamic veil a security threat, a symbol of oppression, a rejection of modernity? What can a historian add to this debate? In her prize-winning BA dissertation, Kara Hynes describes how French colonists stigmatised the wearing of the veil in Algeria long before twentieth-century feminism or fears of Islamist terrorism introduced new controversy. In revolutionary Iran, women wore the veil as a symbol of rebellion, even gender equality. More recently, it has been described as a "gateway to education"; adopted as a fashion item by young 'Muhajababes'; and used in performance art to challenge stereotypes concerning Muslim women.

Kara argues that veil has become the main symbol of differences between Islam and the rest of the world - and that its symbolic importance may distract us from its complex history. Catrin Isaac, the other recipient of this year's Ursula Masson Memorial Prize, confronted another powerful symbol in her BA dissertation: the nineteenth-century workhouse.

<image class="left" title="Kara Hynes, Helen Molyneux, Catrin Isaac" src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2010/7/29/prize2.jpg" alt="Photograph - award of Ursula Masson Prize" />

Until now, historians had barely touched upon the treatment of pauper children in nineteenth-century Wales. Catrin discovered that records preserved in the archives challenge the Dickensian image of the workshouse as a place where children were subject to unabated cruelty. Wales lagged behind England in funding alternative, family-style accommodation for destitute children, yet there is evidence that trustees were anxious to provide their charges with a 'sense of home'.

A third History BA graduate, Daniel Robinson, received the Alison Waite Memorial Prize (shared with Tiffany Oben, BA graduate in Art Practice). This prize rewards the students who achieve the highest average grade for third-year work in Humanities and Languages. Dissertations by history's three prizewinners will feature in a collection of outstanding undergraduate work to be published by the history division later this year.

June 23, 2010

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» Panzers in Pembrokeshire?

<image class="left" src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2010/6/23/michael_foot.jpg" />

Cold War Wales and the Labour Party

Why did a Labour government send British soldiers to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan?

According to Glamorgan's Norry LaPorte, the Labour Party's development since the 1980s has brought supporters of 'realpolitik' to the fore. Foreign affairs and military strategy shaped Labour's development in the UK - and in Wales. From the spectre of German tanks in Pembrokeshire, through the founding of the Greenham Common Peace Camp, to Michael Foot's disarmament campaign, Wales and Welsh Labour engaged vigorously with Cold War politics. But the British public's response to unilateralist policies finally convinced the party that a pro-American stance was the route to electoral success.

Experts will gather to discuss Cold War Wales: Peace, Politics and Culture at the University of Glamorgan on June 26th 2010. This is a Centre for Modern and Contemporary Wales event, organised by Dr Norry LaPorte, Dr Fiona Reid, and Professor Gareth Williams of Glamorgan's History Division. Download the programme and registration form here, and read more of Dr LaPorte's analysis at the Western Mail.

March 25, 2010

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» Re-reading the Past

<image src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2010/3/25/Screenshot.png" height="425px" alt="screenshot" width="712px" />

Saving Cardiff's Rare Books Collection

For decades, Cardiff Council Library hid a treasure – a collection of 18,000 rare books purchased and donated in the nineteenth century for the benefit of the people of the city. During the twentieth century, the books were almost forgotten – the catalogue which had recorded their existence destroyed; the hoard presumed to be an insignificant, lesser copy of greater collections elsewhere.

In fact, like any rare books, the Cardiff Council holdings were truly distinctive. Industrialised printing, developed in the nineteenth century, produces identical copies. Print with moveable type, used in European book production from the mid-fifteenth century, created books as part of a slower and more flexible process. Binding and colouring vary from one exemplar to the next , and even the text itself can vary within one print run, as the manufacturers modified text in response to political events and censors' reactions. Readers frequently added their own notes in ink, even to lavish and costly books: this was seen as a way of adding value to the material. Every item in a rare books collection is a unique artefact, offering new information about the past.

There's more still to the Cardiff collection. After it was announced in 2007 that the books were to be auctioned off, scholars protested and began a long overdue investigation of the collection. Among recorded holdings, they found 175 incunabula – the most treasured of rare books, printed before 1500: estimates for the number of incunabula editions worldwide are only 28,000. They found rare seventeenth-century editions of Shakespeare's works, with copious handwritten notes from early readers. Other highlights include scarce civil war tracts, atlases and herbariums, Welsh-language material and art-house prints. We have much more to learn about this collection: statistically, it's highly probable that it contains titles unknown anywhere else in the world. There's no doubt that its contents can help to update and revise our grasp of past events. But its mere existence is significant for Cardiff's history: the donors and purchasers of these books firmly believed that the city needed a truly world-class library, and that the books they collected would be appreciated first and foremost by the general public.

For this reason, the Cardiff Heritage Friends group campaigned for the books to be kept in Cardiff and made available to its people as the donors intended. We were delighted to learn, earlier this month, that the collection will now be preserved for the city thanks to a shared initiative between Cardiff Council, Cardiff University, the Welsh Assembly Government, and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW). For more on the books and the campaign, see the Cardiff Heritage Friends website.

March 13, 2010

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» Married to the Party?

Labour Women MPs - the 2010 Ursula Masson Memorial Lecture

<image class="left" src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2010/3/13/wilkinson.jpg" alt="Photo of Ellen Wilkinson">

In this year’s Ursula Masson Memorial Lecture, Professor June Hannam, associate dean at the University of the West of England, spoke on ‘Writing To History: Autobiographies of The First Labour Women MPs’. Ursula’s introduction to Elizabeth Andrews, A Woman’s Work is Never Done (Honno Press, 2006) placed women’s struggles at the centre of Labour politics. Yet the Labour movement itself frequently marginalised women, and Labour women MPs often described themselves as being in ‘the men’s house’ in the inter-war years.

Feminist historians have noted how nineteenth century women tended to write their life histories as novels rather than as autobiographies. This tradition still endures but the political women of the Labour party adopted a different approach: they were consciously ‘writing to history’, using their autobiographies to highlight both political and personal struggles. The relationship of these Labour MPs to women as a whole was not straightforward. Edith Summerskill entitled her memoirs A Woman’s World but no other memoir has an explicitly feminist or even woman-centred title. This is because women Labour MPs were part of a mixed-sex group, and one which privileged class over gender: their primary loyalty was to the Labour party and the common struggle not to a collective sisterhood. It was therefore difficult for them to portray women as a special category.

<image class="right" src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2010/3/13/lee.jpg" alt="Jennie Lee Photograph">

There were also class-based and generational differences within the small group of women Labour MPs, and this diversity is reflected in the range of reasons they gave for becoming politically active in the first place. The rhetoric of the party stressed modernity: the Labour party was going to create a modern, egalitarian Britain. Yet domesticity was still highly valued and Labour women were often inspired by what we think of as traditionally female motivating factors. For many, it was their direct experience of poverty, ill-health, religious commitment or war which had made them turn to the Labour party. For both middle and working class women, the emotional connection to their political work was paramount, often to the extent that there was a strain of anti-intellectualism within the female section of the party.

Were Labour women married to the party as has been often claimed? These autobiographies suggest otherwise as they detail the friendships and the love affairs of these women. Many politically active women did remain unmarried but that did not mean that their emotional lives were barren. Nor did politically-active women have to conform to the stereotype of the dry, mannish spinster. The ‘stiff-collared’ Susan Lawrence cut a rather masculine figure but both Jennie Lee and Ellen Wilkinson were glamorous attractive women. Then, as now, much more attention was paid to the appearance of women than to the appearance of men.

Fiona Reid

Autobiographies of Labour women MPs - Select List

Edith Picton Turbervill (1872-1960): Life is Good, An Autobiography (1939)
Jennie Lee (1904-1988): Tomorrow is a New Day, (1939); This Great Journey, (1963); My Life with Nye, (1980)
Ellen Wilkinson (1891-1947): Myself When Young, ed. Margot Asquith (1938); Clash (1929)
Mary Agnes Hamilton (1882-1966): Remembering My Good Friends, (1944); Uphill All the Way, (1953)
Margaret Bondfield (1873-1953) : A Life’s Work (1948)
Edith Summerskill (1901-1980) : A Women’s World, Her Memoirs (1967)
Leah Manning (1886-1977) : A Life for Education: An Autobiography (1970)

March 9, 2010

History Division News
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» Recipes, Remedies, Receipts: seventeenth-century medicine revealed!

<image title="remedy manuscript" src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2010/3/9/remedies.jpg" alt="remedy image">

New Website: Early Modern Remedies

Three hundred years ago, ‘snail water’ and ‘oil of swallows’ were just two out of thousands of everyday remedies that people routinely used to cure their variety of ailments. But where did this knowledge come from?

In the early modern period, every household was a potential storehouse of medical knowledge, with its own tried and trusted remedies. Medical remedies were shared freely from person to person and, in literate households, were often compiled into single volumes. These were valuable and enduring documents, often being handed down, and added to, over generations. For historians, they can provide a unique glimpse into the types of remedies and ingredients used, early modern illnesses and disease names, as well as a wealth of other information about compilers and the world they inhabited.

To coincide with the Wellcome Trust’s digitization of its important collection of these sources, a new website has been developed in conjunction with Warwick University to act as both an introduction to those wishing to find out more about these fascinating documents, and to forge links between groups of historians working on similar themes. The site includes a number of short contextual articles about the seventeenth-century medical world, links to online resources, including digitized collections, and also news and upcoming events. Much is already available, with more to come soon, and you may even spot an entry or two by a familiar Glamorgan historian!

Alun Withey

March 2, 2010

History Division News
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» Crucifixion in Cilfynydd


<image class="left" src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2010/2/24/version-1_SMALL_1.jpg" alt="Poster by Kris Carter" />

THE HISTORY SOCIETY PRESENTS ... GARETH WILLIAMS

The image of Wales as ‘the land of song’ is based on the renown and immense popularity of its choral singing, particularly among the coalfield communities of the valleys. This period was also a period of great sporting success, for in this economically buoyant Wales its rugby and boxing champions were as internationally known as its widely-travelled choirs. But they seem to represent two quite different kinds of cultural activity.

The disorder, gambling, throwing missiles and spectator violence that were the order of the day on the rugby grounds of Wales seem a world away from the well mannered and restrained behaviour of respectable eisteddfod and chapel choristers. Or was it?

John Stainer’s ‘Crucifixion’ was a popular choral work of this period and there were crucifixions in Cilfynydd and throughout the valleys in this golden age of collective popular culture, as this musically-illustrated lecture will show.

The Glamorgan University History Society presents Professor Gareth Williams as guest lecturer on Tuesday, 2nd March, 5pm, D112. All welcome / Croeso i bawb.

Please contact 03020002@glam.ac.uk for more details.
Image: Kris Carter

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

June 18, 2009

History Division News
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» Glamorgan Historians work with Welsh Museums

<image class="left" src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2009/6/18/museums.jpg" alt="Photographs, Museum Storehouse and Cardiff City Centre">

Two of Glamorgan's historians, Dr Jonathan Durrant and Dr Andy Croll, are working with Welsh museums as part of the Strategic Insight Programme (SIP). The programme enables staff in universities to build relationships with external partners.

Jonathan Durrant has been working with The National Museum of Wales at St Fagan's on the interpretation of space in its early modern buildings, particularly Hendre'r-ywydd Uchaf and the merchants' house from Haverfordwest which is currently being re-erected there. This secondment will lead to a workshop drawing together the expertise of historians, museum professionals, archaeologists, re-enactors and architects.

Andy Croll is working with museum experts who are setting up the 'Cardiff Story', a new museum dedicated to presenting the city's history. The museum is to be based in the Old Library in the Hayes - the former home of Cardiff Municipal Museum which closed its doors in 1922. Since that time, Cardiff has been without a civic museum dealing with the city's own history. The 'Cardiff Story' will fill that gap when it opens in the summer of 2010. Dr Croll has been joined on the museum's Academic Panel by two other Glamorgan historians - Professors Chris Evans and Gareth Williams.

History students will also benefit from the experience gained by Jonathan and Andy. Second-year students already visit St Fagan's while learning about different approaches to history. With these new collaboration, there are opportunities for student placements with the two museums and exciting courses in Public History can be developed that build on the insights gleaned in both Cardiff and St. Fagan's.

May 11, 2009

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» Llancaiach Fawr Living History Museum

<image title="Llancaiach Fawr website" src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2009/5/11/llancaiachfawr.jpg" alt="Llancaiach Fawr screenshot" />

Glamorgan's History Students are invited to apply for summer placements at Llancaiach Fawr Manor. Llancaiach Fawr is a seventeenth century living history museum offering first person historical interpretation. The work is very varied and staff are currently looking for history students to work on historical projects during the summer months. This is a great opportunity, offering real work experience. It will look good on a CV and could provide you with an extra useful reference. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Louise Griffith, Learning Officer, at GRIFFL9@CAERPHILLY.gov.uk

This new section of the history blog will advertise work opportunities for history students and will feature students' reports on their experience of history at the university and further afield.