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Statue of John Wilkes in Fetter LaneAmong the panoply of 18th-century ‘characters’, John Wilkes stands out as one of the most memorable. His twisted visage, which was such a gift to the caricaturists of the day, his libertine lifestyle and championing of radical causes are by themselves more than enough to warrant interest in him. To these may be added his mercurial character, at the one time a friend of the mob, at another an aspiring gentleman and patron of the arts. It is unsurprising, then, that he has attracted so much interest from a variety of angles. But there is another aspect of John Wilkes, for which he is perhaps less well known: Wilkes the tourist.

Wilkes the traveller in France and Italy is well documented, most notably in his own unfinished autobiography, his voluminous correspondence and two recent book-length studies.[1] Wilkes had fled to the continent in the winter of 1763 to avoid imprisonment over the North Briton number 45 affair and his publication of the pornographic Essay on Woman. He remained there, on and off, until 1768. The majority of his time was passed in Paris but there was also an extended tour of Italy, taking in Bologna, Rome and Naples, as well as a visit to Geneva and time spent with Voltaire.

On Wilkes’s return from exile he was sentenced to 22 months imprisonment in King’s Bench prison. It is to the period after this that his significance as a source for the history of travel in England is most obvious. At first his tireless journeyings were closely connected with his political campaigning, but latterly they were more dominated by leisure pursuits. He visited notable country houses and watering holes, as well as friends and acquaintances, mostly in the south of the country. Besides his correspondence, documentation for these peregrinations comes from his diaries, which he kept (with the odd interruption) between 1770 and 1797.[2] At first sight they are a little disappointing. They lack the repartee of his letters but they do reveal a good deal about the logistics of travel in the period. There were certain favoured destinations: Bath and Tunbridge Wells for his health, the Isle of Wight for relaxation. In December 1776, for example, Wilkes left his London residence in Prince’s Court for a sojourn at Bath. He left at 10 in the morning on the 7th and by 1.30pm had arrived at his first port of call, the Castle Inn at Salt Hill. The next day he left Salt Hill at 9am and by 11.30am was at Reading, 18 miles away, where he paused to change horses. He then proceeded for a further 17 miles to Speenhill, before continuing on the next 19-mile stage to Marlborough, where he passed the night. The next day two more stages of 14 and 19 miles respectively at last brought him to his lodgings in Bath. For Wilkes, this was a relatively leisurely journey. In August 1792 he journeyed back and forth from the Isle of Wight to Portsmouth to dine with friends and acquaintances, enjoying swift crossings of just an hour each way.

The value of Wilkes’s diaries for the history of travel and tourism lies in the careful detail he provides of his trips. He notes his regular stopping places – some he liked, others were visited by accident, a few condemned as poor hostelries. Timings too are instructive. He could make it from Portsmouth to the Isle of Wight in as little as 40 minutes on a good day and he names the captains who commanded the vessels on which he tended to rely. Wilkes’s later career may often be dismissed as one of relative mediocrity (the final 15 years of his life are dealt with summarily in Arthur Cash’s otherwise supremely detailed study in just 17 pages) but there is much about the history of travel in England that can still be mined from a study of Wilkes’s activities in his respectable twilight years.

 

Robin Eagles

Robin Eagles is a senior research fellow at the History of Parliament. His edition The Diaries of John Wilkes 1770-1797 (London Record Society, 2014) has recently been published through Boydell and he is now embarking on a study of Frederick, Prince of Wales.

 

 


 

[1] Arthur Cash, John Wilkes: the scandalous father of civil liberty (New Haven: Yale, 2006), ch.8; John Sainsbury, John Wilkes: the lives of a libertine (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006), 120-3, 179-81, 215-17.

[2] British Library, Add. MSS 30866; Robin Eagles, ed., The Diaries of John Wilkes 1770-1797 (Woodbridge: London Record Society, 2014).

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November
24
2014

CFP: PCCBS, Deadline Dec. 1

Posted by jaskelly under CFP, Regionals | Tags: pccbs |

PCCBS Annual Meeting

Deadline approaching!

  • Both individual papers and full or partial panel proposals accepted
  • DEADLINE: December 1
  • GRAD STUDENTS: Some funding available for those presenting papers to defray travel costs

The Pacific Coast Conference on British Studies (PCCBS) invites paper and panel proposals for its 42nd annual meeting, to be held at the M Resort Spa Casino, Las Vegas, NV, March 6-8, 2015.

Our program features keynotes by Tom Laqueur and Kathleen Wilson and a panel discussion with Peter Mandler on his new book, Return from the Natives. There also will be a panel discussion especially for graduate students on fellowships, publishing and the profession.

Proposals, individual or panel, should include a 200-word abstract for each paper plus a one-page cv for each participant. Proposals and cvs should be submitted via e-mail attachment in one single file by December 1, 2014 to: pccbsproposals@gmail.com

For more information please go to: www.pccbs.org


PCCBS Graduate Student Prize

The PCCBS invites entries from PhD students for the annual graduate student prize. The prize will be awarded at the upcoming PCCBS conference this March in Las Vegas, Nevada. The student and the advisor, or instructor must be current members of PCCBS. The submitted entry will have been presented at the PCCBS meeting in March 2014 at UC Riverside, or, in the case of a graduate student studying at a university within the PCCBS region, at any other conference during 2014, as long as the paper concerns a topic within the scope of British Studies. The submission should be the paper as delivered with the addition of necessary notes and citations, the total to not exceed 18 pages double spaced. The winner(s) will receive a monetary prize and be recognized at the annual PCCBS meetings.

Graduate Prize Submission: November 15, 2014

Please send electronic or hard copies with cover letter from advisor or instructor to each member of the prize committee:

Prof. Peter H. Hoffenberg, Chair peterh@hawaii.edu
History Department, Sakamaki Hall, University of Hawai'i at Manoa, Honolulu, HI 96822

Ethan Shagan shagan@berkeley.edu

Rob McClain rmclain@fullerton.edu

 



October
2
2014

PCCBS Article Prize

Posted by jaskelly under Award, Prize | Tags: Pacific Coast Conference on British Studies, pccbs |

PCCBS Article Prize

The biennial prize for the best article published between 2012-14 by a member of the Pacific Coast Conference on British Studies will be awarded at the Spring 2015 meeting in Las Vegas along with a cash award.

Article Prize Submission Deadline: November 15, 2014

Copies of the article in PDF form should be sent to all three committee members:


Stephen_H_Gregg.jpgOver the past couple of years I’ve been guiding some final year undergraduate students to create online digital editions of literary texts from the eighteenth century (see here, here, and here). To me, getting students to work with digital technology alongside eighteenth-century British Literature is now an exciting, but also essential, facet of my teaching. So I thought I would share how I got here with a brief overview of some developments, exercises and courses I’ve picked up in my own browsing over the past few years that teach eighteenth-century literature and are inspired by digital humanities.[1]

Digitisation

The huge acceleration of the digitisation of historical texts in the past decade and a half has been the catalyst for a trickle-down effect from research to teaching practices. Released in 2003, and as the biggest database of eighteenth-century material, Eighteenth-century Collections Online (ECCO) arguably generated some the first reflections on using digital resources to teach eighteenth-century literature at undergraduate level: see my own 2007 paper and the many posts on teaching with ECCO on Anna Batigelli’s Early Modern Online Bibliography blog. The issue of cost and accessibility aside, the exponential rise of such resources – such as the Burney Newpapers database, English Broadside Ballads, and Old Bailey Online – has enabled students to enrich their knowledge of eighteenth-century literary culture: they were able to see unusual and non-canonical texts, to examine literary works in the light of historical or cultural ideas specific to the period or even decade, and to pose invigorating questions about literary value. 

Blogging and Wikis

This initial phase crossed over with tutors and professors experimenting with writing assignments and the different engagement with literary texts that might be enabled by digital platforms such as the wiki or the blog post. See for example, the work of Tonya Howe (Marymount University); the course run by Emily M. N. Kugler (Colby College) Histories and Theories of the 18thC British Novel; and Prison Voices 1700-1900, which has for example, this piece on Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders (this via Helen Rogers, Liverpool John Moores University). Adrianne Wadewitz (now sadly deceased) was also a leading experimenter using Wikipedia as a teaching tool.

Beyond the Blog

Sharon Alker (Whitman College) and Benjamin Pauley (Eastern Connecticut SU) reflected on using a variety of tools to teach Defoe including Second Life and Google maps. Laura Linker (High Point University) asks her Gothic novel students to use Google Earth to map narrative journeys, and even Second Life as a way of entering into characterization. In a course entitled ‘Remediating Samuel Johnson’, John O'Brien (University of Virginia) set up a collaborative digital anthology of Samuel Johnsons’ works using texts accessed via 18thConnect (significantly, a platform that begins to deal with the problem of access). John’s aim was explicitly student-centred: “m]y hunch is that students will have a good idea of what students like themselves need to know to make sense of challenging eighteenth-century texts.” Students of Rachel Sagner Buurma (Swarthmore College) experience hands-on work with a wonderful digital resource the Early Novels Database — see the students’ own blogs here. In a different course Rachel asks students to create experimental and imaginative bibliographical descriptions of unusual and non-canonical eighteenth-century novels, see here. 

Media shifts

Most fascinating are those courses and projects that use the very medium of digital technology to enable student to grasp the eighteenth-century’s own preoccupation with changing forms and media. As Rachael Scarborough King (New York University) suggests: “[d]rawing such connections between the experimentation and advances of eighteenth-century print culture and our own period of media transformation can offer a crucial foothold for students encountering eighteenth-century texts for the first time.” Rachel asks students to write blog posts incorporating different adaptations of English literature as a way of getting a sense of these texts’ original meaning, form and transmission. In a course devised by Mark Vareschi (Wisconsin-Madison) he sets an “experimental assignment in digital composition and adaptation” tasking students to tweet, 140 characters at a time Samuel Richardson’s Pamela as they were reading the novel. The course designed by Evan C. Davis (Hampden-Sydney College), Gutenberg to Google: Authorship and the Literature of Technology, also pays close attention to the form of literature in this period. In “Friday assignments” there are intriguing tasks such as comparing how we read via print and via e-readers, and using online resources about typography and the Letter M Press app to enable students to re-create and reflect upon the physicality of print in the hand-press era.

I’m about to run my own digital literary studies course focusing on the eighteenth century this coming academic year, and I’ve found the work of others in this field fascinating and tremendously inspiring.[2] My thanks to everyone for letting me link to their courses and students’ projects.


About Dr. Stephen H. Gregg

Dr Stephen H. Gregg is a senior lecturer in English Literature at Bath Spa University. He has published widely on Daniel Defoe and various aspects of eigteenth-century literature and is currently pursuing research on early eighteenth-century print culture and digital pedagogy.  Dr. Gregg’s blog is Manicule.  He can be reached via Twitter at @gregg_sh

 


 

[1] See Rachel Schneider’s blog post Eighteenth-Century Literature meets Twenty-First Century Tech, which reviewed the SHARP roundtable at ASECS 2014, organised by Katherine M. Quinsey, 'Wormius in the Land of Tweets: Archival Studies, Textual Editing, and the Wiki-trained Undergraduate.’ Quotations in this post are from the authors’ proposals for the Digital Humanities Caucus panel ‘Digital Pedagogies’, organised by Benjamin Pauley and Stephen H. Gregg.  The phrase ‘inspired by digital humanities’ is my deliberately broad definition that covers the wide variety of uses of digital technology and digital resources across the courses I’ve found. Since my particular interest is in eighteenth-century literature, if you are interested in syllabi that are focused on digital humanities beyond literature, or beyond the eighteenth century, then there are superb bibliographies here. Because I’m most interested in how these tools have been brought into the undergraduate classroom, I’ve not discussed here the (impressive and exemplary) graduate work in courses run by Lisa Maruca (see Mechanick Exercises), or Allison Muri’s Grub Street Project.  For an excellent set of tips and examples see Adeline Koh’s essay ‘Introducing Digital Humanities Work to Undergraduates.’

 

[2] In this context I should acknowledge my debt to George Williams (University of South Carolina Upstate). George’s own course – despite being an eighteenth-centuryist – is focused on an earlier media shift, and is organized around Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.


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Wilfred Owen from Poems (1920)Wilfred Owen was in France 1914, though not near the battlefields that his war poems would memorialise. He had been teaching English at the Berlitz School in Bordeaux since the autumn of 1913 and took up the post of tutor to Madame Léger and her daughter Nénette in July 1914. The Legers owned the Villa Lorenzo, near Bagnères-de-Bigorre in the La Gailleste valley at the foot of the Pyrenees, an idyllic location that impressed Owen from the time he stepped off the train on the 31st of July. “What luck!”, he wrote to his closest confidante, his mother Susan. His hosts were also enchanting. M Léger was a former engineer who had given up the profession for a career in the arts. Nénette was “perfectly a child” with “more than her fair share of intellect”. and she made her tutor “immensely happy”, declaring “Monsieur Owen est trés-joli garçon, n’est-ce-pas?” (Owen 1998, 116) Madame, he tells Susan, is “elegant rather than belle [...] with shapely features luxuriant coiffure, but is much too thin to be pretty” (Owen 1998, 116). But he has to reassure his mother that although Madame “has a considerable liking for me, both in a physical and intellectual sense”, he does not reciprocate “the former liking” (Owen 1998, 116).

After 4 August, war began to rage in Europe. By the time Owen was fully ensconced at Villa Lorenzo, Bagnères was overcome by the news: “Women were weeping all about; work was suspended. Nearly all the men have already departed.” He had “to declare” himself to the authorities and “get a permit to remain” (Owen 1998, 109). Yet he continued “to be immensely happy and famously well” (Owen 1998, 110), immersing himself in French literature and making the acquaintance of the poet Laurent Tailhade, who guided him to the work of Paul Verlaine, Gustav Flaubert and others. As the war carried on around him, Owen found that it “affects me less than it ought”, and argued that he could “ do no service to anybody by agitating for news or making dole over the slaughter.” He felt his “own life all the more precious and more dear in the presence of this deflowering of Europe” and commented that “the guns will effect a little useful weeding” (Owen 1998, 119). There is no poet of pity here. While he was not entirely oblivious to press rhetoric about shirking young Englishmen, he told his mother that the real reason he would go to fight — “what would hold me together on the battlefield” — was “the sense that I was perpetuating the language in which Keats and the rest of them wrote!” (Owen 1998, 130) It was only after his horrendous experiences on the Western Front in 1917 and his recovery from shellshock, that the Owen with whom we, in the early 21st century, are most familiar would emerge: “I came out here to help these boys — directly by leading them as well as an officer can; indirectly by watching their suffering that I may speak of them as well as a pleader can. I have done the first.” (Owen 1998, 351)

Thus Owen’s letters of this early period of the war, and through most of 1915, reveal him weighing many options (including joining the French or the Italian army), as he continued to tutor in Bordeaux and attend courses at the University. It had been mooted that he accompany Madame Léger on a business trip to Canada, but instead, in December, he took up the post of tutor to two English boys, Johnny and Bobbie de la Touche at Mérignac. The boys were meant to return to their public school, Downside near Bath, but the threat of submarines in the Channel continually delayed their leaving until September 1915. After accompanying them back to England, Owen, in mid-October, enlisted in the Artists’ Rifles at its headquarters in London: “I don’t want the bore of training, I don’t want to wear khaki; nor yet save my honour before inquisitive grand-children fifty years hence. But I now do most intensely want to fight” (Owen 1998, 153).

Owen, Wilfred. 1998. Selected Letters. Edited by John Bell. Oxford: OUP.

 

About Dr. Jane Potter

Dr. Jane Potter is Senior Lecturer in Publishing at Oxford Brookes University. Her monograph Boys in Khaki, Girls in Print: Women's Literary Responses to the Great War 1914-1918 (OUP 2005; paperback 2007) was joint winner of the 2006 Women’s History Network Book Prize and she has published widely on many aspects of war literature, book history, and women's writing. Her current research is a collaborative project with Dr Carol Acton (St. Jerome's, University of Waterloo, Canada) entitled Working in a World of Hurt: Trauma and Resilience in the Narratives of Medical Personnel in Warzones (forthcoming, Manchester University Press, 2015). A Trustee of the Wilfred Owen Literary Estate, she is the author of Wilfred Owen: An Illustrated Life (Bodleian Library Publishing, 2014) and is currently working on a new edition of Owen's Selected Letters for Oxford University Press, due to be published in 2015.  

 

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WWI_Propaganda_-_Royal_Navy.jpgAs we mark the centenary of the Great War this August it reveals just how much this episode of our history continues to interest and influence our understanding of the past. However, the Great War continues to be studied primarily as a land-based conflict despite the Royal Navy’s crucial role. Ask someone about Jutland and they will probably look perplexed. Much remains to be done to put the navy back into the public memory of the war, and my own research is working towards this. It considers the personal experience of British sailors during the war as expressed in their diaries, particularly the collection held by the National Museum of the Royal Navy at Portsmouth.[1] This blog will give a brief insight into my findings so far.

The poignant image of the Great War is of young men rushing to the colours full of patriotic fervour. Surprisingly, little research has been done on sailors’ displays of war enthusiasm. This is especially interesting as many sailors were not volunteers: the navy was a career in those days, and men joined at a young age.[2] Yet sailors’ diaries reveal excitement and celebrations amongst seamen when war was declared. Ships left port cheered by other vessels, and men proudly recorded their first encounters with German ships.[3] Further, diaries repeatedly refer to the “long awaited scrap” with the enemy.[4] When they did meet, British sailors boasted of the Germans’ poor gunnery in comparison with their own, and clearly there was a distinct belief in the Royal Navy’s superiority, which reflects the latent imperialistic sentiment in British society at the time.[5] Yet, not all were caught up with war fever; Walter Dennis recorded that he knew of a number of sailors who were relieved to get posted overseas away from any real action.[6]
However, prolonged warfare, understandably, had a noticeable effect upon sailors. Despite the distancing effect of technology, sailors remained part of the killing machine which some enthusiastically embraced, becoming numb to the brutalities of war.[7] Interestingly few historians have considered this. One sailor - known as Wood - recorded shelling Turkish forts at Gallipoli as “amusing”.[8] This is further demonstrated by the practice of collecting war souvenirs. Seamen often served in support of the army which allowed them ready access to items such as helmets, rifles and bullets.[9] The impact of curios has been widely considered amongst soldiers but, again, sailors have so far been overlooked.[10] Their obvious engagement in this practice suggests a desire for immediacy. It would be interesting to compare the diaries of artillerymen serving at the front, and see whether they encountered similar experiences.[11]

Yet, despite sailors’ interaction with killing, not all became numb to the brutalities. Witnessing the sinking of ships or even hearing about losses was traumatic. For example Walter Dennis recorded being ‘rather concerned’ as to the fate of one of his friends lost at sea.[12] Sailors were acutely aware that if their ships were sunk then death was likely, which made moments such as these particularly sobering. It is not surprising that some succumbed to psychological stresses, or in their words had ‘a tile loose’.[13] Sailors had to develop their own coping mechanisms to deal with the stress of everyday life; these were similar to those developed by soldiers, such as humour. Reflecting on battles many became flippant about the dangers they experienced. One diarist, Henry Welch, recalled: ‘One shell burst on the water’s edge… Ye gods! it was lovely – only a trifle further and there would have been a few gaps among us.’[14] Coping with pressure was essential.

It is clear that personal histories of the Great War continue to find a receptive audience as more people become interested in their own history. The opportunity is there for the navy to make up lost ground. The NMRNP’s on-going project, Hear My Story, is a step in the right direction and forms a new twentieth century exhibition collating personal memories and public interaction.[15] Another interesting project is the AHRC funded Gateways project which provides centres to encourage public interest through organized lectures and study days.[16] These projects show that there was much more to the Great War than mud, blood and the trenches. It is time to put the navy back in the picture and, as the diaries of Dennis, Fletcher, Welch and Wood show, each diary tells its own unique story, and there are many more to be uncovered.

Simon Smith read History at the University of Portsmouth followed by an MA in The History of War, Culture and Society. He is currently doing a PhD on Sailors and the Royal Navy c.1870-1939 as part of the University of Portsmouth's Port Towns and Urban Cultures project.


[1] The NMRNP holds approximately 200 diaries in its collection. Other comprehensive diary collections include the Imperial War Museum which has just re-opened with a new WW1 exhibition.
[2] For more information see Christopher McKee, Sober Men and True: Sailor Lives in the Royal Navy, 1900-1945, (London: Harvard University Press, 2002) and Brian Lavery, Able Seamen: the lower deck of the Royal Navy, 1850-1939, (London: Conway, 2011).
[3] RNM 1984/467: Diary of Wood.
[4] RNM 1980/115: Diary of Edwin Fletcher; RNM 1984/467: Diary of Wood; RNM 1980/82: Diary of W Dawson; Diary of Walter Dennis.
[5] RNM 1984/467: Diary of Wood.
[6] Diary of Walter Dennis. Diary digitalized by McMaster University, Ontario Canada and available at http://pw20c.mcmaster.ca.
[7] See Edgar Jones, “The Psychology of Killing: The Combat Experience of British Soldiers during the First World War”, Journal of Contemporary History, 41, 2, (2006), 233; Joanna Bourke, An intimate history of killing: face to face killing in twentieth-century warfare, (London: Granta Books, 1999), 7.
[8] RNM 1984/467: Diary of Wood.
[9] Diary of Walter Dennis; RNM 1984/467: Diary of Wood.
[10] See Jones, “Psychology”, and Bourke, An intimate history, for further information of the study of soldiers.
[11] The Imperial War Museum does hold artillerymen’s diaries but these have not yet been considered.
[12] Diary of Walter Dennis.
[13] Diary of Walter Dennis.
[14] DOC: Diary of Henry Welch.
[15] See http://www.nmrn.org.uk/explore/hms-hear-my-story for further information on this project.
[16] The Arts and Humanities Research Council – see www.kent.ac.uk/ww1 for further information on this project.

 


Caroline Boswell

LOFFWhome.png

The Imperial War Museum was founded in 1917— during the darkest days of World War I. Its creators envisioned crowded,glass-covered exhibits filled with the memorialized objects of a haunted generation — “even if they be of trifling character.” The founders crafted plans for a “Hall of Memories” that would commemorate every individual’s contribution. Their request for memorabilia flooded the IWM with mementos — the bedrock of the current collection — but no physical space could hold all the memories and artifacts of total war, and their vision had to be abandoned.

Just as the Museum’s founders desired to build a structure that honored those who fought, the directors of “The Lives of the First World War” aim to create a permanent digital memorial that archives the experiences of everyone in Britain and the British Commonwealth who participated in the war effort.  According to Luke Smith, the IWM’s Digital Lead, the site’s reliance on user-generated data continues the laborious process the Museum began in 1918. The “Lives of the First World War” allows the IWM to realize its founding vision a century later.

LOFFWLifeStory.png

Participating in “Lives of the First World War” is relatively easy for anyone familiar with digital archives. You simply sign up and identify those whom you wish to “Remember.” The site directs you on a hunt for evidence of your individual in its numerous digital records. A word of caution, readers: many of the records on the site cannot be accessed without subscribing, which costs either £6 a month or £50 a year. This practical decision limits what otherwise has the promise to be a truly remarkable attempt to crowd-source history. The fee, however, also allows you to create or join a “Community” designed to “Remember” a group of soldiers and/or civilians.  Possible organizations of “Communities” appear limitless: active users have created “Communities” of regiments, former schoolmates and hometowns, such as Smith’s own “Community,” “Ballydehob at War.”LOFFW_External_Reference.png

While the site does limit non-subscribers’ access to records, it encourages all users to provide “external evidence” of an
individual’s “Life Story.” Several “Lives” are already dotted with pictures, diaries and images of war memorials that users contributed from personal, local or Internet resources. Smith is quick to emphasize how much the project relies on user-generated “evidence” to document the lives of those who rarely appear in official records.  Female workers in munitions factories and soldiers from the Indian subcontinent seldom surface in accessible sources; thus, it is up to their families, communities and historians to ensure that their experiences are not forgotten.

While the primary mission of the project is to create a permanent digital memorial, the IWM also designed the site to serve as a resource for academic scholars. The project has an academic advisory group of roughly thirty scholars from the UK and Ireland, which includes archivists and digital humanists as well as leading historians. Professor Richard Grayson — whose pioneering study of the impact of war on West Belfast covers the experience of roughly 12,000 individuals — chairs the group. As Grayson noted in a blog post, the IWM’s digital program offers “an opportunity for academic historians to learn from the vast amount of expertise to be found among those working on First World War projects inspired by local or family interests.”

Keenly aware of the potential pitfalls of user-generated information, Smith and his team have “slacker-proofed” the site. With every entry — whether “Fact” or “Story” — the site prompts a user to note the origin of her information. All “Facts” must be tied to “evidence,” and users who wish to enter personal memories or anecdotes must do so through the “Stories” function. Though use of the terms “Fact” and “Story” may make historians cringe, the project directors believe the division helps users grasp basic standards of historical evidence. “We are trying to aim for something like academic standards of reference,” explains Smith, “without it feeling too academic.”

While the current infrastructure may be slightly burdensome, it holds great potential for history instructors. Introductory-level students could use the site to become familiar with the issues and practicalities of researching, recording and using historical evidence, while upper-division students could set their critical eyes on the site to examine its strengths and weaknesses. Students in the UK, Ireland, Canada, and, soon, Australia, can easily research individuals in external records and make important contributions to “Life Stories” without paying any fees. Over the next several years the site will incorporate additional records from across Britain and its former empire, and Smith sees the potential to include records from Britain’s allies — particularly the U.S. — but this would be several years down the road.

OperationWarDiary.pngPeople from all over the globe can freely participate in the IWM’s other crowd-sourced digital archive — “Operation War Diary” — which it launched in partnership with the National Archives and Zooniverse.  Collectively they have digitized 1.5 million pages of unit war diaries, and they are asking “Citizen Historians” to assist by tagging pages and their contents. The long process of tagging these diaries makes them ripe for use in courses. Deglamorizing historical research for students has its own benefits and student participation in the project also allows them to contribute to scholarship outside of the confines of the classroom. By its very nature, crowd-sourced digital history blurs the distinctions between “Citizen Historian,” student and academic, and it empowers students to approach the discipline as active participants versus passive learners.

The enthusiasm Smith expresses for these projects is contagious, and his vision of “The Lives of the First World War” is admirable. By emphasizing the inherent connections between public, digital and social history, these user-generated archives suggest a bright future for a field of British history that many have presumed to be on a sharp decline for decades. It will be interesting to see which scholars find the growing number of crowd-sourced projects valuable, and who will smile, nod and slip back into the dusty caverns (or sign into the exclusive online databases) of archives whose vastness and biases pose problems for the academic trying to capture the toil and triumph of everyday experience. For, even with the digitization of more and more archives (often at a steep price), who is there to enter the searchable metadata that makes them truly usable?

We would like to hear from you:  what is your opinion of crowd-sourced digitization projects? Would you use them in your own research and/or teaching?  

 

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Adam_Hochschild.jpgRenowned author Adam Hochschild’s most recent work To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914–1918 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011) presented a heartbreaking tale of the mass slaughter of the First World War and a sympathetic portrayal of those who opposed the conflict. In this Q&A, he gives his thoughts on the book and offers his perspective on the role of the publicly engaged historian. 
 

Stephen Jackson: What was it about the subject that inspired you to write it, and what would you argue was your most important contribution to the historical discussion on the First World War?

Adam Hochschild: I’ve always been deeply fascinated by those who resisted the First World War, ever since I read a biography of Bertrand Russell as a teenager, and then later Sheila Rowbotham’s work on Alice Wheeldon. To have had the courage to speak out so boldly when there was such jingoism in the air deeply impressed me. I also found a very strong echo in those times of something I had been deeply involved in: the movement against the Vietnam War here in the United States. Then, too, a war divided members of families from each other; hence I was intrigued to see the divided families of Britain in 19141918, and used that as a narrative structure for my book. In the Vietnam era, too, we had an epidemic of government spying on citizens—when much later, using the Freedom of Information Act, I was able to get the records of surveillance on me by the FBI, CIA and military intelligence, they amounted to more than 100 pages and I was a very small fish in that movement. Hence it fascinated me to read the government surveillance records from Scotland Yard and military intelligence on the UK dissenters of 19141918. I felt I was seeing at work the same mindset as that of the FBI agents who reported on me.

I’m by no means the first person to write about those brave British dissenters. I certainly hope my book, and those of others, helps put them in the foreground as we remember the war. Paradoxically, most people today would agree that the First World War remade the world for the worse in almost every conceivable way, yet all our traditional ways of remembering it parades, monuments, museums, military cemeteries celebrate those who fought and not those who refused to fight.

Stephen Jackson: In the years since the publication of the work, what sort of feedback from the scholarly community and the general public did you receive? How do you think that contemporary events, especially a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, shaped the response to your work?

Adam Hochschild: I’ve always believed that you can write for a general audience and at the same time meet the highest scholarly standards for accuracy and the documenting of sources. This book got good reviews and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; at the same time many university history departments have been kind to me. I was writer-in-residence at the history department of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst this past spring and will be doing a speaking tour of some half dozen campuses in the US and Europe this fall, talking about the war.

I’ve also heard from several descendants of people mentioned in the book one of the great pleasures of writing history, I’ve found. And sometimes, unexpectedly, I’ve heard from other people as well who are connected to this patch of history. After the book came out, an American mining company official whom I’d met a few years before in a godforsaken village in eastern Congo, wrote me that in 1917 his grandfather, a conscientious objector, had been hanged in effigy in his home town in Iowa.

And yes, I think the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan show what tragic mistakes one can make by not studying history more closely. How similar the illusion of President George W. Bush when he landed on that aircraft carrier in 2003 in front of the sign “Mission Accomplished” to the illusion of Kaiser Wilhelm II when he told his troops in August, 1914: “You will be home before the leaves fall from the trees.” 

Stephen Jackson: This year marks the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. What do you think is or should be the place of conscientious objectors and leftist anti-war activists in the public memory of World War I?

Adam Hochschild: None of these people were perfect, but on the central issue of their time, they were essentially right, and should be honored. Harry Patch, the last British veteran of the war to die 5 years ago, at 111 said it best: the war “was not worth it. It was not worth one life, let alone all the millions.” 

Stephen Jackson: How can scholars teaching undergraduate or graduate courses in British History or Modern European History incorporate non-traditional themes such as anti-war activism into lessons on the Great War?

Adam Hochschild: There are rich primary sources: the writings and speeches of outspoken war opponents, like Bertrand Russell and E.D. Morel in Britain, or Jane Addams and Eugene V. Debs in the United States. Periodicals that these anti-war movements published. Letters and memoirs by war resisters who went to prison, not just in the U.S. and Britain, but in other countries as well. I hope someone is thinking of pulling a collection of material like this together into a reader! And there are fine secondary sources as well. That list could be a long one, but I’ll just mention Jo Vellacott’s Bertrand Russell and the Pacifists in the First World War, a careful, well-written book I learned a lot from. 

Stephen Jackson: The 19th century German historian Leopold von Ranke famously said historians can “merely tell how it really was,” and should not judge the past nor attempt to give moral guidance for the present.  To End All Wars, and your work more generally, compellingly does just that. How would you describe your underlying philosophy for writing history? What role do you think that the historian — as an historian — should play in engaging in contemporary political and ethical discussions?

Adam Hochschild: Well, I’m certain in favor of telling it how it was and with the highest possible standards of accuracy. In real life, seldom are one’s heroes totally heroic or one’s villains totally villainous. In To End All Wars, for instance, the fiery pacifist Charlotte Despard had a kind of knee-jerk far-left reaction to everything that would have made her difficult to talk to, although I agree with her about the war. But her brother, Field Marshal Sir John French, though he exemplified the worst type of unthinking generalship in the field, seems to have been a warm-hearted person of great charm whom it would have been delightful to spend an evening with. One should enjoy such paradoxes and not try to deny them.

But beyond that, I think sometimes an historian can provide something that’s relevant to contemporary political discussions without having to hit people over the head with it. In my book, for example, I don’t talk about the Iraq or Afghanistan wars. But whenever I give a talk about the First World War, the first question anybody asks is: do you see an analogy? 

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August
12
2014

World War I and the British and Irish Studies Intelligencer

Posted by jaskelly under Announcement, BISI | Tags: blog, WWI | 0 Comments

BISI-Logo.pngThis week, the North American Conference on British Studies will begin publishing the British and Irish Studies Intelligencer (BISI).  BISI, with H-Albion, will become a central forum for discussions about the state of the field, methodological approaches, teaching, reports on conferences and symposia, videos, podcasts, and editorials focused on British Studies across the disciplines.   

Our inaugural series of posts focus on the history and historiography of World War I.  Upcoming posts include

--an interview with Adam Hochschild about history, memory, and activism
--an examination the Imperial War Museum’s crowdsourced project, “The Lives of the First World War”
--a story about Wilfred Owen and the early months of WWI
--a history of Canada’s First Nations and the course of WWI

Our blogging team and editorial board are looking forward to hearing from you, and we encourage you to engage with the blog posts using the comments boxes at the bottom of the pages.

 

About BISI

As a blog, BISI will include discussions about the state of the field, methodological approaches, teaching, reports on conferences and symposia, videos, podcasts, and editorials focused on British Studies across the disciplines.  BISI will host discussion forums, and it will provide a space for scholars to share their current research in a format that is accessible to the non-specialist.  

BISI has its origins in the British Studies Intelligencer, first published by the society in 1962 (a searchable digital archive is available through IUPUI).  The new platform marks a divergence from the Intelligencer's earlier newsletter formats, and it will allow NACBS members to engage with each other more regularly.

The BISI team encourages the British Studies community to submit blog posts (and re-posts) as well as offer suggestions for special projects or themes.

If you would like to contact BISI to discuss a potential blog post, make a submission, or offer to organize an online forum, please contact us at nacbsblog@gmail.com

 

The BISI Editorial Board and Bloggers

The BISI editorial board consists of

Elaine Chalus, Bath Spa University
Craig Hanson, Calvin College
Jason M. Kelly, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
Isaac Land, Indiana State University

The BISI bloggers are

Caroline Boswell, University of Wisconsin, Green Bay
Stephen Jackson, University of Sioux Falls


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