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					Oxford Historian
A magazine of the Faculty of History for Oxford Historians
                                    October 2008. Issue 6

                                                             K T Bruce
Keep in touch
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                                    Oxford Historian: A magazine of the Faculty of History for Oxford Historians

                      Vicky Brown

Keep in touch                                                                                                 2
How it looks from the chair                                                                                   4
New Ways of Working: the Modern European History Research Centre                                              6
Rethinking the nineteenth century (three stages)                                                             10
‘IdentiNet’ – Answering the Question ‘Who Are You?’                                                          14
Body mass, and the strange case of the shrinking women                                                       18
Invitation to the Fourth Oxford Historians’ Lecture and Dinner                                               21
Editing Holinshed                                                                                            28
Oxford (Art) Historian                                                                                       32
A er Tamerlane: The Rise and Fall of Global Empires 1400–2000                                                36
Parties, People and the State: Politics in England c. 1914–51                                                38
For your bookshelf … A selection of new books by Faculty members                                             42
Staff Changes at the Faculty                                                                                  43
Oxford Thinking                                                                                              44

            Oxford Historian: A magazine of the Faculty of History for Oxford Historians

            How it looks from the chair

                                                                                  Well, from where I’m
                                                                                  si ing things look pret-
                                                                                  ty good. The academic
                                                                                  year 2007–8 was a test-
                                                                                  ing one for the Faculty,
                                                                                  but we’ve come through
                                                                                  very well. We had to
                                                                                  work at balancing our
                                                                                  budget and prepare for
                                                                                  the implementation of
                                                                                  the University’s new
                                                                                  resource allocation for-
                                                                                  mula. We had to finalise
                                                                                  our submission for the
                                                                                  Research Assessment
                                                                                  Exercise that grades
K T Bruce

                                                                                  our research achieve-
                                                                                  ment and determines
                                                                                  part of our income for
                                                                                  the next five years. We
            had to make the best use of our new home at the Old Boys’ High School, and ensure we
            justified the additional expenditure. We had to reform our Masters’ programme in modern
            history, and bid for awards in the Research Council’s new scholarships scheme. We had to
            face intensive scrutiny in the University’s regular review of the Faculty’s work. And we had
            to do the day-jobs too, teaching and research.
            The review was conducted by the Humanities Division and the University’s Educational
            Policy and Standards Commi ee, with History professors from Edinburgh and Leiden as ex-
            ternal members of the panel. The proceedings were rigorous, with mountains of paperwork
            processed, evidence taken from students and from colleges, and Faculty officers hauled in
            for interrogation. We were judged by the highest national and international standards. The
            outcome was particularly satisfactory, with general praise for the Faculty’s work and spe-
            cial commendation of our governance arrangements, our financial management, our skills
            training, and our research organisation and productivity. On several of our activities, we
            were said to be a model that other faculties should follow. We thought we were doing well,
            and we now have official confirmation.
            A er years of financial struggle, we have finally managed to increase our income enough
            to eliminate what had been a substantial annual deficit, mainly by expanding our gradu-
            ate recruitment and gaining more external research grants – without compromising our
            undergraduate teaching. We can bid for research grants because we now have space for
            project teams in the Research Hall of our Boys’ School building, where we also house the
            administration of The English Historical Review and the medieval journal Medium Aevum.
            Our financial health is crucial, for less favourably placed faculties have had to cut or freeze
            academic posts while we have been able to create new positions in history of art and history
            of medicine.

                              Oxford Historian: A magazine of the Faculty of History for Oxford Historians

It was a good year for prizes, awards, and results, too. John Darwin won the 2008 Wolfson
History Prize for A er Tamerlane: the Rise and Fall of Global Empires, 1400–2000, following Chris
Wickham (who won it in 2006) and Robert Gildea (2002). George Garne , Avner Offer and
Hew Strachan were awarded Leverhulme Major Research Fellowships, and Patricia Clavin
won a British Academy Fellowship. The rest of the Humanities Division looked on while the
historians swept the board for these awards. Two of our younger colleagues, George South-
combe and Hugh Doherty, won British Academy Post-Doctoral Fellowships, and Emma
Cavell got a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship. John Blair was elected a Fellow of the
British Academy. Sixty-one of our graduate students successfully completed their doctoral
theses, and 24.5% of our undergraduate finalists gained Firsts. And we gained very high
scores in two surveys of student satisfaction. That’s a record of which we can be proud.
This is the sixth edition of Oxford Historian. The first five were edited by Christopher Tyer-
man, and we’re grateful to him for ge ing us started and se ing a high standard. Christo-
pher feels that five years is enough, and we’re thinking about future editorial arrangements.
One decision we have already made is to switch publication from spring to autumn. This
is to make it possible to report on the previous academic year (as I’m now doing), and to
advertise in the autumn our January Faculty lecture and dinner (see page 21). In previous
years we have sent individual invitations to 15,000 History graduates, but that is just too
This issue of the magazine deliberately emphasises new ways of working on the past –
through research centres, international partnerships, funded projects, interdisciplinary col-
laborations, and the sophisticated use of computerised data, for example. Oxford historians
are at the forefront of these new (or newly fashionable) approaches, and we are pleased with
what we are achieving. But big projects are not to everyone’s taste, and they are expensive
to run. Many of us still work in the old ways, just by ourselves. Ours is a large and varied
Faculty, and that is one of its great strengths.
In September 2009 I hand over the chairmanship to Chris Wickham, Chichele Professor of
Medieval History, and at the end of that month I’ll retire a er 30 years in Oxford. There
have been huge changes in the Faculty in that period. We now have strong teaching and
research capacities in areas of history we barely touched 30 years ago. The undergraduate
syllabus now gives a much wider choice and different methods of study and assessment.
We have new Masters’ programmes and many more research students. College-based tutors
now find it helpful to cooperate together at Faculty level, while preserving the individuality
of their colleges. The Faculty itself now plays a much larger role – overseeing college ad-
missions, helping to organise teaching, running 70 seminar series, promoting research and
running projects, organising collaborations, workshops, and conferences, and managing its
own finances. We now have to ensure that we generate enough income to pay academic and
administrative salary costs and fund our activities. This enhanced role helps Oxford histori-
ans to excel in all we do – outstanding undergraduate teaching, rigorous graduate training,
and exciting research and publication.
                                                                                     Christopher Haigh
                                                                                          Christ Church
                                                                          Chairman of the Faculty Board

Oxford Historian: A magazine of the Faculty of History for Oxford Historians

New Ways of Working:
the Modern European History Research
Patricia Clavin is a History                               The study of trans-national networks has
                                                           become a key theme of historical enquiry
Tutor at Jesus College,                                    in our age of resurgent globalisation. His-
and Research Director                                      torians write of ‘sites of knowledge’ and
                                                           ‘hubs’ where intelligence, expertise and ex-
of MEHRC. Her own                                          perience are collected, examined and dis-
work is on international                                   seminated. This trend mirrors the life and
                                                           approach of the Faculty’s Modern Europe-
organisations and                                          an History Research Centre (MEHRC). Es-
cooperation between the                                    tablished in 1999, the Centre advances and
                                                           coordinates collaborative research in all
two World Wars, and here                                   aspects of modern European history, both
she describes some of the                                  Continental and British, from the Renais-
                                                           sance to the present day. The jargon of his-
projects supported by the                                  torical networks may be inelegant, but it
Centre.                                                    reflects the intricate social and institution-
                                                           al spider’s-web that is the MEHRC.
                                                           The MEHRC does not have an exclusive
                                                           membership but rather relies on the com-
                                                           mitment of around forty historians in the
                                                           Faculty who support its work. In the last
                                                           two years alone, they have helped to or-
                                                           ganise and host twenty-four distinct work-
                                                           shops and conferences. March 2007 was a
                                                           particularly busy month, with a workshop
                                                           co-hosted with the Maison Française Ox-
                                                           ford exploring ‘European History as World
                                                           History’; an international conference on
                                                           ‘1968’; a workshop on ‘Making Order in
                                                           the Post-War World: A Comparative Study
                                                           of Europe and East Asia in the 1940s and
                                                           1950s’ with our research partners at the
                                                           University of Princeton; and an interna-
                                                           tional conference on the ‘Claims of Rights:
                                                           Imagining Democracy’. These brought to-
                                                           gether speakers from universities in Paris,
                                                           Florence, Copenhagen, Thessaly, Berlin,
                                                           Amsterdam, Warsaw, Prague, Madrid,
                                                           Roskilde, New York, Cornell, Princeton,
                                                           with scholars in the UK based at Oxford,
                                                           Newcastle, Sussex, Lancaster, Bristol, Lon-
                                                           don, Edinburgh. The list is by no means

                               Oxford Historian: A magazine of the Faculty of History for Oxford Historians

       Ollie Douglas

                        Participants at the first Workshop funded by the OUP John Fell Fund

exhaustive. Participants came from an                        tional conference on ‘The Intellectual Con-
even wider range of institutions.                            sequences of Religious Heterodoxy, 1650 to
Some of our workshops and conferences                        1750’. Led by the indefatigable John Rob-
are free-standing events dedicated to ex-                    ertson and with financial support from the
ploring a particular topic at an especially                  British Academy, the University’s John Fell
apposite time. A good example of this was                    Fund for research, the Royal Historical So-
the workshop on ‘Constitutions, Civility                     ciety, the MEHRC and the History Faculty,
and Violence; Europe from the mid-eight-                     the conference brought together leading
eenth century to the present’, co-sponsored                  scholars from Finland, The Netherlands,
by the British Academy and the Journal of                    Italy, the USA, Ireland and the UK from
Modern European History, held in May 2007,                   the disciplines of History, Philosophy, The-
which demonstrated the renewed interest                      ology and Modern Languages. Here, too,
in constitutions in the wake of European                     the conference led to a new publication
Union efforts to construct one. The papers                    and to plans for a new long-term research
presented at the meeting resulted in a spe-                  network between scholars in the UK and
cial issue of the Journal of Modern European                 Italy to further develop their discussion.
History in March this year.                  The plans for future collaboration which
Alternatively, opportunities may arise by    grew out of this conference form part of
the arrival of a new historian in Oxford.    a pa ern. Many of the workshops and
This year it came in the form                              conferences co-sponsored
of the Isaiah Berlin Visiting The plans for future and hosted by the MEHRC
Professor in Intellectual His- collaboration which comprise programmes of
tory for 2007–8, Professor                                 research sustained between
Jonathan Israel from the In-     grew out of this          groups of researchers and
stitute for Advanced Study conference form part particular institutions over
in Princeton, who was the                                  many years. The MEHRC
inspiration for an interna-         of a pattern.          currently helps to run 15

Oxford Historian: A magazine of the Faculty of History for Oxford Historians

externally-funded research programmes.                     al graduate workshop organised by the
Long-established partner institutions in-                  graduate students themselves. In March
clude the Netherlands Institute for War                    2008 graduate students from Oxford met
Documentation (Nederlands Instituut                        with their counterparts from the Ecole
voor Oorlogsdocumentatie, or NIOD) in                      normale supérieure de Cachan in France,
Amsterdam, the Centre for Historical Re-                   the Université Libre de Bruxelles and the
search (Zentrum für Zeithistorische For-                   Université de Genève to discuss research
schung or ZZF) in Potsdam, the European                    on ‘Making War, Suffering War, Finishing
University Institute (EUI) in Florence, and                War’.
history departments in the universities of                 We are especially proud of the way the
Edinburgh, Princeton, Oslo, Uppsala and                    MEHRC has been able to provide seed-
Roskilde. We also work closely with other                  corn funding and administrative support
research organisations such as the Euro-                   to international collaborations that invari-
pean Science Foundation (ESF), the Euro-                   ably face complex logistical obstacles. Here
paeum consortium of European universi-                     two projects deserve particular mention.
ties, and the Maison Française, which is a                 The first, a pan-European comparative oral
branch of the Conseil National de Recher-                  history project ‘Around 1968: Activism,
che Scientifique or CNRS) in Oxford.                        Networks and Trajectories’ led by Robert
The character and contribution made by                     Gildea has funding from the Leverhulme
these partnerships to our work varies. Our                 Trust for a series of annual workshops,
co-operation with the Forum of Contem-                     and research funding from the Arts and
porary History in Oslo, which is now into                  Humanities Research Council (AHRC) for
its sixth year, is an example of ongoing                   the fieldwork of the UK-based research-
success. Framed around the theme of ‘Civ-                  ers. But it is the MEHRC and the Histo-
il Society in Twentieth-century Europe’,                   ry Faculty which has provided financial
and with generous sponsorship from the                     support essential to sustain the research
University of Oslo, it has brought together                team in eastern Europe who do not have
scholars from across Scandinavia and the                   access to research council support. The
UK to Oxford to explore the themes of                      second project to which the MEHRC pro-
‘gender and citizenship’, ‘intellectuals and               vided early contingency funding to allow
the public sphere’, the ‘history of inter-                 plans for future workshops and funding
national organisations’ and the ‘return to                 applications in the UK, the Czech Repub-
market liberalism in the 1970s and 1980s’.                 lic, Hungary and Poland is the strikingly
The MEHRC is joined each year by a visit-                  titled ‘Universal Reformation’. Led by
ing professor from Oslo who works with                     Howard Hotson and Vladimir Urbanek in
colleagues in the MEHRC, the History                       Prague, the project intends to nurture the
Faculty and other cognate departments.                     work of the younger generation of central
Indeed, each year the MEHRC is home to                     and eastern European scholars working
a number of visiting scholars from around                  on a set of interrelated topics and figures
the world, housed in the capacious Re-                     in seventeenth-century intellectual history.
search Hall of the new Faculty building,                   A series of workshops in Prague, Cracow
whose research interests are related to our                and Budapest will enable participants to
own.                                                       hone their work and will culminate in a
The Oslo programme also has been dis-                      conference in Oxford in the summer 2010.
tinguished by the degree of enthusias-                     This is timed to contribute to the 350th an-
tic postgraduate involvement from both                     niversary of the foundation of the Royal
sides of the North Sea. The success of this                Society of London in 1660, and intended
encouraged us to support an internation-                   to bring the product of these workshops

                                 Oxford Historian: A magazine of the Faculty of History for Oxford Historians

into contact with established international                    be published shortly. It was particularly
scholars in the field.                                          apposite that this project on Europeanisa-
The history of MEHRC’s collaborative                           tion should itself contribute to Europeani-
projects have not just re-shaped our un-                       sation. The project made history as the first
derstanding of the topics under scrutiny                       ever Anglo-German research collaboration
and forged research networks that span                         in a single, simultaneous application to the
the globe. They have even built new con-                       AHRC and the German research council,
nections between research councils. This                       the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinscha .
was most apparent in the research collabo-                     This successful experience paved the way
ration ‘(De)Europeanisation and History:                       for a permanent arrangement in Decem-
Concepts, Conflicts and Cohesion since                          ber 2007 between the AHRC and the DFG
1890’ that began in 2005 under the leader-                     which aims to broaden and deepen exist-
ship of our own Martin Conway and Kiran                        ing links between research communities
Klaus Patel of the Humboldt University in                      in Germany and Great Britain. The sub-
Berlin. The project’s overall ambition was                     ject of the MEHRC’s study had become
to cast a critical historian’s perspective on                  the object of a diplomatic agreement. It is
the concept of ‘Europeanisation’ popular                       proof, too, of the predictably unpredict-
in political science. Participants explored                    able character of transnational networks.
the ways in which ‘Europe’ has been im-
agined, constructed and fragmented in the                                                           Patricia Clavin
history of the twentieth century in a series                                                        Jesus College
of lively and productive workshops in Ber-
lin, Oxford and the European University
Institute, Florence and the findings are to

                     Posters for a series of workshops funded by the OUP John Fell Fund 2007-2009

Oxford Historian: A magazine of the Faculty of History for Oxford Historians

Rethinking the nineteenth century
(three stages)

David Hopkin is a History                                  There is an air of stale Victorian solid-
                                                           ity around the two dominant narratives
Tutor at Hertford College,                                 through which nineteenth-century history
and works on the cultural                                  is still taught. These are the post-Napo-
                                                           leonic triumph of the nation-state on the
and social history of 18th–                                one hand, and industrialization on the
and 19th– century France.                                  other. It is not that either is wrong – who
                                                           can argue with the chronology of new
He describes a group                                       state formations or exponential growth of
project in which several of                                coal and steel production? – but precisely
                                                           because in retrospect the outcomes of both
our European historians are                                these narratives appear inevitable they
involved.                                                  can also seem dull. Nationalism’s caste
                                                           of heroic warriors and far-sighted states-
                                                           men, depicted in melodramatic poses in
                                                           schoolroom lithographs and municipal
                                                           statuary, are simply too familiar and, to be
                                                           frank, too male, for twenty–first–century
                                                           tastes. The nation-state is too monolithic:
                                                           united politically under a single constitu-
                                                           tion, united economically through an in-
                                                           tegrated railway system, united culturally
                                                           through compulsory primary schooling, it
                                                           does not appeal to the post-modern em-
                                                           phasis on fluidity, hybridity and the con-
                                                           tingent. The history of industrialization
                                                           and its consequences has likewise become
                                                           unfashionable, in this case in part due to
                                                           the tyranny of large numbers. Historians
                                                           of early modern Europe sought out new
                                                           sources in ritual, gesture, clothing and ma-
                                                           terial culture, perhaps because they had so
                                                           li le else to work on. It is hard for histori-
                                                           ans of the nineteenth century to similarly
                                                           renew themselves through micro-history
                                                           and historical anthropology, because it
                                                           would seem wilful not to use the mass of
                                                           good, national statistics, such as the cen-
                                                           sus. Urbanization, bureaucratization, the
                                                           institutions of a class society such as trade
                                                           unions and mass political parties, all create
                                                           a wealth of numerical data that has made

                                  Oxford Historian: A magazine of the Faculty of History for Oxford Historians

it easy to ignore the local,                                                    The history of the Euro-
the atypical, the counter-                                                      pean metropoles cannot
current.                                                                        be divorced from that of
The recent(ish) arrival in                                                      their imperial territories
Oxford of a new cohort of                                                       in what is now seen as
modern European histo-                                                          the first phase of globali-
rians, including Michael                                                        zation.     The influence
Broers (Lady Margaret                                                           worked in both direc-
Hall), Christina de Bel-                                                        tions: European powers
laigue (Merton), Abigail                                                        brought new technolo-
Green (Brasenose), David                                                        gies and political institu-
Hopkin (Hertford), Julia                                                        tions to the non-European
Mannherz (Oriel), and Ol-                                                       world, but they were just
iver Zimmer (University                                                         as affected by an influx of
College), has provided an                                                       people, knowledge and
opportunity to think again                                                      products.
about some of the estab-                                                              In 2008 the Modern Eu-
lished categories of nine-                                                            ropean History Research
teenth-century historiog-                                                             Centre launched a se-
raphy. Different though                                                                ries of three, interlinked
we are in our specialisms                                                             workshops under the
and approaches, we share                                                              general title ‘Towards a
an interest in the political                                                          New Understanding of
culture of the nineteenth                                                             Community, Nation and
century. So while not dis-                                                            Empire in the Nineteenth
carding railways and rev-       Making the local national: the idea of national dress Century’ and funded by
                            begins to take shape in this watercolour by A. Cadwaladr
olutions, we can draw on    (commissioned by Augusta Hall, Lady Llanover), ‘Welch
                                                                                      the University’s John Fell
a wider range of cultural      Peasant Girl in the Costume of a large part of Gwent’, Fund. The aim of these
sources in creating our      from Hall’s manuscript Cambrian costumes dedicated to workshops is to take top-
                                     the nobility and gentry of Wales c.1830.
portraits of the past.                       National Library of Wales.               ics that allow historians
Nationalism has not been                                                              to create sha s through
sidelined, but the nation-state is seen as                                            different levels of politi-
only one of several political formations                       cal and social organization, and thus re-ex-
competing for allegiance in the post-revo-                     amine the relationship between them. At
lutionary world, and for that to be success-                   the same time, historians will be brought
ful it had to learn to coexist with equally                    together with colleagues in other arts and
vibrant civic, regional, imperial and reli-                    social science subjects who are either in-
gious trans-national identities. National-                     volved in cultural approaches to the nine-
ism, rather than something that simply                         teenth century or who have worked to
gave precise shape to existing entities, was                   break down the monolithic categories of
elaborated from the ground up, in singing                      social thought.
clubs and shop-windows as much as on                       The first workshop, entitled ‘From Folk
the ba lefield or in constitutional assem-                  Culture to National Culture’, was held in
blies. The boundaries of 1918 were not the                 April in the Faculty’s new home in George
inevitable expressions of national will but                Street, and was a ended by historians,
the fortuitous outcomes of unpredictable                   art historians, anthropologists, literary
events, and the empires they succeeded                     scholars and folklorists from a dozen Eu-
were flourishing for much of the period.                    ropean countries and North America. Its
Oxford Historian: A magazine of the Faculty of History for Oxford Historians

                                                                           the authentic national type was o en local
                                                                           and historically contingent. The process is
                                                                           most obvious in the creation of ‘national’
                                                                           costumes which, though drawn from only
                                                                           one region, became nationalized through
                                                                           their presentation on, for example,
                                                                           banknotes. So the new, mass and largely
                                                                           urban publics of the nineteenth century
                                                                           had to be convinced that cultural forms
                                                                           with which they had no familiarity were,
                                                                           nonetheless, somehow theirs.
                                                                           A further paradox is that this process of
                                                                           nationalizing culture grew out of an in-
                                                                           ternational movement that can be traced
                                                                           for example, through the correspondence
                                                                           networks of the Grimms, and, later in
                                                                           the century, through the folklore exhib-
                                                                           its at World Fairs. Just as striking is that
                                                                           among the most enthusiastic cultivators of
                                                                           cultural difference were imperialists such
                                                                           as Crown Prince Rudolph of Habsburg
                                                                           who organized an ethnographic encyclo-
                                                                           paedia of the Austro-Hungarian empire.
                                                                           Even more paradoxical is that, very ear-
 The national cultivation of culture: A.W. Linsen’s caricature (1847) of
Elias Lönnrot setting out in 1827 to collect the songs that would become   ly in the process of collecting folklore as
                the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala.                   ‘national’ culture, it became clear that the
                                                                           material was poorly adapted to the proc-
purpose was to investigate some glaring                                    ess. Elements of traditional culture, such
paradoxes. For example, the peasantry is                                   as folktales, either transcended national
o en presented as the inert mass on which                                  boundaries, or they were bound to much
the transformations of the nineteenth cen-                                 smaller geographic entities. How were
tury were performed, while historical at-                                  these different understandings of culture
tention has been lavished on the ‘dynamic’                                 that would be very influential on the new
elements of nineteenth-century society,                                    social sciences emerging towards the end
the growing urban bourgeoisie and the la-                                  of the nineteenth century such as anthro-
bour movement. Yet it was the traditional                                  pology, linguistics and psychology, made
culture of the peasantry that became the                                   to fit within the national framework?
source for radical forms of modernism, in                                  It would not be true to say that the work-
music most obviously, but also in litera-                                  shop solved these paradoxes, but there
ture, painting and even architecture, such                                 was general agreement that we were deal-
as the Swedish and Hungarian schools of                                    ing with a cultural phenomenon whose
architecture. These new national aesthet-                                  dynamics, for all they were influenced by
ics were based on the Romantic ‘cultiva-                                   the economic and political grand narra-
tion of culture’, in the words of Professor                                tives of the nineteenth century, were not
Joep Leerssen, exemplified by the creation                                  dependent on them. Emphasizing cultural
of dictionaries, literary reviews, musical                                 change as an independent variable enables
societies, museums and pantheons, but in                                   historians to escape monolithic categories
the process what became the expression of                                  and the tyranny of large numbers as what
                                         Oxford Historian: A magazine of the Faculty of History for Oxford Historians

starts with one scholar, one collector, one                              urban contexts. The third workshop, en-
peasant storyteller, may turn out to be as                               titled ‘Empires and Communities’, will
influential as mass movements. Partici-                                   be held in spring 2009 and will examine
pants agreed to carry forward their dia-                                 the relationship between dynastic loyalty
logue both in an edited collection of the pa-                            and imperial governance on the one hand
pers (to be published by Brill in 2009) and                              and local communities and constituencies
in future projects. By the time you read                                 on the other in multi-ethnic and multi-re-
this the second workshop, in September                                   ligious empires both in Europe and over-
2008, on ‘Nationalism and the Reshaping                                  seas. We expect these encounters to be as
of Urban Communities’ will have explored                                 productive as the first.
how nation-centred ideas and institutions
                                                                                                                       David Hopkin
were accommodated and re-imagined in                                                                                 Hertford College

    Reifying the vernacular: Stjoerdal railway station (1902), designed by architect Paul Due in Norwegian ‘national romantic’ style.

Oxford Historian: A magazine of the Faculty of History for Oxford Historians

‘IdentiNet’ –
Answering the Question ‘Who Are You?’

Jane Caplan is Professor                                   On 25 September 2008 the UK government
                                                           unveiled its new ID card, an individual
of Modern European                                         ‘residence permit’ to be issued initially to
History at St Antony’s                                     50,000 non-EU residents in the UK. If all
                                                           goes according to plan, the National Iden-
College. Jane’s most recent                                tity Service will roll out a card like this by
work has been on Nazi                                      stages to every adult resident in the UK,
                                                           citizen and foreigner alike. The design
concentration camps,                                       we saw last week resembles the familiar
and on the recording of                                    formula of the ‘smart’ credit card – except
                                                           that the chip encodes biometric data and
individual identity in 19th–                               the printed data includes stipulations on
century Europe (including                                  the holder’s residence status, their right to
                                                           work, and their benefit entitlements.
                                                           By coincidence, 26 September saw the first
                                                           gathering in Oxford of a new Research
                                                           Network devoted to studying the compar-
                                                           ative and trans-national history of individ-
                                                           ual identification. Under the name ‘Iden-
                                                           tiNet’, the network has been convened by
                                                           Jane Caplan (Oxford) and Edward Higgs
                                                           (Essex), with James Brown (Warwick) act-
                                                           ing as facilitator and workshop organizer.
                                                           It is funded by a grant from the Lever-
                                                           hulme Trust, with additional support from
                                                           the Oxford History Faculty, St Antony’s
                                                           College and the University of Essex. Our
                                                           first workshop brought to Oxford twenty
                                                           international scholars from disciplines in-
                                                           cluding history, sociology, political science,
                                                           computer science, anthropology, bioethics
                                                           and criminology. We were joined by five
                                                           graduate students and postdocs working
                                                           in the field who had been awarded bursa-
                                                           ries to a end the workshop.
                                                           The aim of IdentiNet is to explore the histo-
                                                           ry of the objectives and methods of individ-
                                                           ual identification on a comparative global
                                                           and longitudinal scale since 1500. How we
 Sarah Simon

                                                           are officially identified as individuals has
                                                           become a ma er of intense public interest
                                                           and scrutiny since the events of ‘9/11’ and

                                      Oxford Historian: A magazine of the Faculty of History for Oxford Historians

‘7/7’. The UK government’s commitment                         emergence out of crisis and controversy –
to its new ID card would be unthinkable                       the National Registry (Volkskartei) in Ger-
without these events – the last time the UK                   many in January 1939, for example, or the
                                                              French ID card in Vichy in October 1940.
                                                              Today’s methods of identification – track-
                                                              ing and control, including DNA databases,
                                                              routine fingerprinting of people crossing
                                                              national boundaries and the use of bio-
                                                              metric identifiers in passports and other
                                                              documents – provoke strong feelings al-
                                                              most everywhere. The political and ethical
                                                              questions raised by such systems present

              British Identity Card, 1943

issued a universal ID card was in anoth-
er momentous September, in 1939, and it
was withdrawn in 1952 following the col-
lapse of the National Registration system
on which it was based. To the many other
European countries which maintain an ID
card system, its recent absence in the UK
looks ‘exceptional’. But European registra-
tion and ID systems themselves only ap-
pear ‘normal’ if one ignores their historical

                                                                   Fingerprint form, Hamburg Police Department, 1884

                                                              complex challenges to our sense of self
                                                              and the relationship between individual
                                                              rights, involuntary surveillance, and the
                                                              maintenance of social order.
                                                              Such specialist practices to identify indi-
                                                              viduals and maintain group databases are
                                                              obviously proliferating rapidly, and for
                                                              purposes that enable and support public
                                                              rights and transactions as well as control-
                                                              ling them. However, there has been sur-
          German Registration/ID Card, 1943                   prisingly li le debate that acknowledges

Oxford Historian: A magazine of the Faculty of History for Oxford Historians

the historical sources and conceptual bases                            of French scholars in IdentiNet, but it is
of individual identification and registra-                              really only in the past ten years that we
tion. Experts and practitioners in contem-                             have seen systematic research elsewhere
                                                                       on topics including the passport and the
                                                                       fingerprint in the modern world or iden-
                                                                       tification systems in early modern Europe
                                                                       – see, for example, Edward Higgs’s The In-
                                                                       formation State in England (2004) and two
                                                                       volumes edited by Jane Caplan, Document-
                                                                       ing Individual Identity (with John Torpey;
                                                                       2001) and Wri en on the Body. The Ta oo in
                                                                       European and American History (2000).
                                                                       By now historians have developed con-
                                                                       ceptual and interpretive tools for our own
                                                                       research and we have devised hypotheses
                                                                       that now call for exploration in a broader
                                                                       framework: for example, that identity doc-
                                                                       uments may tell us more about the history
                                                                       of the issuing institution than about the
                                                                       bearer; or that the symbolic uses of identi-
                                                                       ty documents may be as important as their
                                                                       regulatory functions. But we have lacked
                                                                       opportunities for collective assessment of
                                                                       this research, and there has been virtually
                                                                       no systematic comparative or longitudinal

 Bertillon standarised description and German translation, 1895

porary identification and surveillance of-
ten appear unaware of the historical depth
of their policies – and this despite the fact
that recognizably ‘modern’ strategies of
official individual identification, based on
badges, paper and parchment, can be dat-
ed back to medieval times, while the fact
that provable identification is integral to a
range of political and civil rights is too eas-
ily forgo en in the face of apprehensions
about the disciplinary character of ID.
Compared with historical scholarship on
topics like the census, surveillance, crime
and the control of mobility and migration,
research into individual identification as
such has developed relatively recently.
The most extensive work has been carried
out in France, as is reflected by the number                             Nose and ear forms for anthropometrical measurement, c1912

                                      Oxford Historian: A magazine of the Faculty of History for Oxford Historians

                                                              ation of identity at/a er death; cases and
                                                              moments of encounter – e.g. of anonymity,
                                                              imposture, the failure or success of iden-
                                                              tification; ID documents as material ob-
                                                              jects; collective opposition and resistance
                                                              to ID. Sub-groups of members have com-
                                                              mi ed themselves to collective work on
                                                              one or more of these projects over the next
                                                              year, and we expect our second workshop,
                                                              planned for September 2009, to reflect our
                                                              In the meantime, the IdentiNet website
                                                              and web presence will be further devel-
                                                              oped to include expanded bibliographi-
                                                              cal and public pages, a members’ blog or
                                                              message-board and members-only pages
                                                              for research postings.

        Visas from British passport issued 1856
                                                              Full details of IdentiNet, its participants
                                                              and the first workshop can be found at our
work. The primary objective of IdentiNet                      website,
is to enable this kind of work, and to focus                                                          Jane Caplan
specifically on ‘ID’ rather than the broader                                                    St Antony’s College
field of collective registration, policing and
Our first workshop was based on pre-cir-
culated position papers by each member
of the Network, addressing one of our four
initial research categories: The Longue
Durée; Discipline and Rights; Objects and
Methods in the History of Identification;
International, Transnational and Impe-
rial Dimensions. Our four panels explored
the common ground of our individual re-
search projects, pooled expertise from our
different disciplines, and worked to devel-
op a robust concept of our shared project
and its distinctiveness from related work
in surveillance, policing and registration.
By the final session, we were ready to
agree that the concept of ‘inscription’ cap-
tures our core concern and offers the best                                      New UK Identity card
denomination of our collective projects.
We also agreed on seven issues or fields
of significance and shared interest, viz.
civil status; mobilities; professional cadres
and communities of practice in the field of
identification; the extinction or perpetu-

Oxford Historian: A magazine of the Faculty of History for Oxford Historians

Body mass, and the strange case of the
shrinking women

Deborah Oxley is University                                BMI. Three li le le ers that inhabit the
                                                           popular imagination. There can be few
Lecturer in Social History                                 people in Britain today who are not fa-
at All Souls College.                                      miliar with the concept of Body Mass In-
                                                           dex. Most of us know it as that measure
Deb’s work has been on                                     that tells us if we are too fat or thin for our
transportation and penal                                   height – or in some happy cases, just right.
                                                           It can be a source of obsession. Currently,
colonies in Australia,                                     it rings alarm bells, as it heralds an ‘obes-
and on health and living                                   ity epidemic’ in many advanced countries.
                                                           So widespread is our interest in body size
standards in 19th-century                                  that today, as I write this, there is talk of
Britain. Here she shows                                    schools issuing ‘Fat Reports’ on their stu-
how the Body Mass Index
                                                           Why all the a ention? For many, it is part
can be used by historians.                                 of a broader fascination with bodies, ap-
                                                           pearance and desirability, of ideal figures
                                                           for which to strive, and of clever market-
                                                           ing ploys that sell using everything from
                                                           the alluring charms of size zero models to
                                                           the equally captivating li le labels proudly
                                                           declaring ‘low fat’. Development agencies
                                                           study body mass because it reveals levels
                                                           of under-nutrition and food inadequacy,
                                                           helping to pinpoint the groups most in
                                                           need of assistance, as well as measuring
                                                           how well a given economy is functioning
                                                           to meet the basic needs of its people. There
                                                           is one other key motivation for studying
                                                           body mass as medical professionals, pol-
                                                           icy makers, and many individuals know:
                                                           body mass relates to health.
                                                           It was the Belgian statistician and gen-
                                                           eral polymath Adolphe Quetelet (born
                                                           1796) who came up with the idea of relat-
                                                           ing weight to height. The Quetelet Index
                                                           is today known as BMI, and it measures
                                                           weight in kilograms divided by the square
                                                           of height in metres (kg/m2). The measure
                                                           is unable to distinguish between good
                                                           weight (caused by muscle mass) and what
                                                           might be regarded as bad weight (caused
                              Oxford Historian: A magazine of the Faculty of History for Oxford Historians

by adipose tissue, commonly known as                  lion Norwegians over 16 years from 1963
body fat), but – with the exception of lean           to 1979. These bathtubs have been drawn
body builders and pregnant women – for                repeatedly ever since. Today we are well
most of us an increase in our body mass               familiar with the right-hand end of the
index indicates we’ve stored a bit more fat,          bathtub: obesity is implicated in increased
in case we need it later.                             risk of cardiovascular disease, Type II dia-
As many readers will be aware, we inter-              betes, musculoskeletal problems, and now
pret the BMI in terms of ranges, which                there is the suggestion that certain cancers
change from time to time. Currently, the              might also be more prevalent among this
World Health Organization uses the fol-               group.
lowing scale for adults (different measures            It is also dangerous to be underweight:
apply to children and adolescents):                   an important issue for developing coun-
                                                      tries, and for many historical populations.
Underweight            <18.49 kg/m2                   People who are underweight are more
Normal                 18.5-24.99 kg/m2               susceptible to infection, especially respira-
Overweight             25.00-29.99 kg/m2              tory infections, obstructive lung disease,
Obese                  >= 30 kg/m2                    tuberculosis, gastrointestinal disorders,
                                                      cardiovascular disease, some neoplasms
Underweight used to be defined as below
                                                      (growths, cancers), and for women, under-
20 kg/m2 but has been reclassified as con-
                                                      nourishment can disrupt the menstrual cy-
cerns have shi ed towards the health ill-
                                                      cle, contribute to osteoporosis, reduce ba-
effects at the other end of the spectrum.
                                                      bies’ birth weights and compromise their
At that end, above 40 kg/m2 is typically
                                                      survivorship prospects.
regarded as ‘morbidly obese’ – and therein
lies an important clue about the signifi-              Waaler found that risks started to rise for
cance of BMI: its relationship to death and           those below 21 kg/m2 – from 22 and 23
ill-health.                                                           kg/m2 if you were short
                              BMI matters because                     – and that was for a mod-
BMI ma ers because it tells
                               it tells us about the                  ern well-nourished popu-
us about the risk of mor-
                                                                      lation with access to an-
bidity and mortality. In
1984 the economist-come-
                              risk of morbidity and                   tibiotics and health care.
                                                                      For populations without
epidemiologist Hans Th.               mortality.                      such resources, weight
Waaler put pen to paper
                                                                      could be the difference be-
and drew some rather important graphs.
                                                      tween life and death. Quite simply, you
He placed body mass along the horizon-
                                                      needed to outlast the illness in order to
tal axis, and risk of disease and death on
                                                      survive, and that meant having enough
the vertical axis. What he traced out was a
                                                      body mass in reserve to get you through
series of ‘bath-tub’ shaped curves for men
                                                      the fever or diarrhoea. Recent research on
and women of different ages: at either end
                                                      the health status of American Union Army
of the body mass spectrum there were el-
                                                      veterans in 1891-1905 found optimal body
evated health risks (either end of the bath),
                                                      mass (that BMI associated with the mini-
but in the middle bit risk was constant and
                                                      mum number of adverse health outcomes)
minimised (the bath’s base). It is this mid-
                                                      ranged between 24-29 kg/m2. For histori-
dle ground which gives us the ‘normal’ or
                                                      cal populations – o en stunted, lacking in
‘healthy’ range.
                                                      pharmaceuticals, exposed to poor living
These pictures were not just some whim:               and working conditions – Waaler’s 21 kg/
they were the results of following and                m2 seems a conservative measure of what
documenting what happened to 1.7 mil-                 constituted underweight.
Oxford Historian: A magazine of the Faculty of History for Oxford Historians

So, what can BMI tell the historian? If we                 ter – records much more detail, including
know the distribution of BMI for a popula-                 his weight on entry to prison, and when he
tion, we can make some educated guesses                    le two months later.
about overall levels of health and wellbeing               Where else be er to look for people do-
in that society. Perhaps more importantly                  ing it tough, for families making difficult
and reliably, we can examine the distribu-                 decisions, than in a mid-Victorian Lon-
tion of welfare within that society, ge ing                don prison? I have recently been working
a handle on health inequality. If we know                  on the Wandsworth Registers with David
the body mass of individuals, or groups of                 Meredith (Visiting Academic in History at
individuals, we can identify where they fit                 the University of Oxford) and Sara Horrell
on the scale, and see just who it was that                 (Senior University Lecturer in Economics
was most vulnerable to disease, illness and                at the University of Cambridge). We have
death. BMI also provides a direct meas-                    collected data on more than 32,000 prison-
ure of nutritional adequacy, which affects                  ers held there between 1858 and 1878. Their
labour productivity (it is hard to work, or                sentences were short, measured in months
learn, or carry babies when you are con-                   not years, o -times in days and weeks, but
stantly hungry), and sheds light on deci-                  everyone who came in was measured and
sions made within the family about who                     weighed.
got what. It is a promising tool. There is,
of course, a hitch. Where do you find in-                   Among these prisoners were men and
formation on the heights and weights of                    women, boys and girls – the youngest
people in the past?                                        seven and the oldest 89. They were not
                                                           a cross-section of London’s population –
There is not a lot of it about. However,                   more men were locked up than women (as
there was an institution, born in the middle               today), and more were in their 20s and 30s
of the nineteenth century, which sucked in
people of both sexes, and nearly all ages,
and recorded them in some considerable
detail. That institution was the modern
prison. Incarceration was becoming the
way to punish offenders of most persua-
sions. Put people in prison, and there is
opportunity to observe and measure them.
Indeed, making prisoners strip, bath, sit
on scales and stand by rulers on admission
was one aspect of the intimidation process
intended to instil fear and respect for the
punishing authorities.
You can see one example of a prison record
at Figure 1. Made in 1873, this record is the
first of several pages which comprise Form
X. Prisoner 3795, William Jones, a 64-year
old bricklayer from Rotherhithe, was sum-
marily sentenced to two calendar months
hard labour in Wandsworth House of Cor-
rection in London following conviction
for simple larceny (stealing a waistcoat,
etc.). Mr Jones stood 5 6½ inches tall. A                           Figure 1. Prison record of William Jones
companion document – the Prison Regis-

                     Fourth Oxford Historians’
                        Lecture and Dinner

                     Saturday 31 January 2009,
                             5 – 10 pm
                     St Hilda’s College, Oxford

         Lecturer: Professor Hew Strachan,
       Chichele Professor of the History of War
                       who will lecture on
                 From Total War to War on Terror:
                     ways of war since 1914

Professor Strachan has written widely on the history and politics of warfare since 1815. He was
the major advisor on the 10-part Channel 4 series on the First World War, and his accompany-
ing book has been translated into Dutch, French, German, Italian and Spanish. He is currently
engaged on a magisterial 3-volume study of that war, and is Director of Oxford’s “Changing
Character of War” research programme.
THE OFFICIAL INVITATION to former students of History at Oxford to purchase tickets to
attend the fourth Oxford Historians’ Lecture and Dinner. The event is also open to spouses and
       Date:              Saturday 31 January 2009
       Time:              Lecture: 5–6 pm
       Reception:         6.30 pm
       Dinner:            7.00 for 7.15 pm
       Venue:             St Hilda’s College, Oxford
       Cost:              £55 per person
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                             Oxford Historian: A magazine of the Faculty of History for Oxford Historians

than any other age group – but nor were              late seventies when BMI trended slightly
prisoners all that different. Wandsworth              downwards. The average man in Wands-
housed small-time criminals: occasional              worth Prison reached a plateau in his lat-
thieves, vagrants, drunks, some in work,             er twenties through until his later sixties,
some without, many caught in the vagar-              weighing in at nearly 23 kg/m2, smack in
ies of piecework and seasonal demand,                today’s normal range but below the low-
as were so many Londoners at this time.              er fringe of healthy masses found for the
There were more labourers among the men              Union Army in late nineteenth-century
in prison than among the wider London                America. From their mid-60s, male prison-
population; among the women, there were              ers lost around one kilo of mass per square
marginally more domestic servants, deal-             metre.
ers and manufacturers, but the difference             For women, the trend over their lifetimes
was small. Their levels of literacy and age-         was different. No plateau for them, more
heaping (a proxy for innumeracy) suggest             a consistent decline. The golden days of
prisoners were a bit below the education-            their teenage growth spurt was drawn to
al average, confirming the suspicion that             an abrupt close. The average Wandsworth
these were people from the poorer (but               woman was at her heaviest in her late teens
perhaps rowdier) quarters of the working             and the start of her twenties, when she
class.                                               managed a body mass of 22 kg/m2 (making
What is revealed through a study of the              her much lighter than the average English
bodies of London prisoners? It is a story            women in 2006 with a BMI of 26.8 kg/m2).
of tough times for all, of gender and health         But in their thirties, forties, fi ies, sixties
inequality, and of gaps that widened                 and beyond, women’s bodies shrank with
dangerously as people aged.                          each successive decade. Even the average
                                                     middle-aged woman was below the 21 kg/
Compared with modern growth stand-
                                                     m2 identified by Waaler as the danger zone
ards, these nineteenth-century children
                                                     for modern populations. The average 60
were stunted at every age. In their pho-
                                                     year old was lighter still at 20 kg/m2.
tographs, children looked young for their
age, while the opposite held true for the            These are the average figures. More
adults. Both adolescent boys and girls did           alarming is the spread around those aver-
make some gains in stature from their mid-           ages. For any given age, 12-20% of males
to-late teens, coinciding with improve-              – the highest rates being amongst boys
ments in their own earning capacities.               and older men – were under this conserva-
This may have enabled them to buy more               tive 21 kg/m2 threshold. One quarter of
food, or to negotiate a be er share of what          women in their 20s were likewise facing
was going at home. These were li le im-              elevated risks of morbidity and mortal-
provements that could not compensate for             ity because of their low weights, but this
a lifetime of deprivation, hard work, poor           percentage kept on rising as women aged:
health, and inadequate housing, sanitation           30% of women in their thirties, nearly 40%
and warmth. Such children made short                 of women in their forties, until more than
adults. The average man was five foot five             half of women in their fi ies and older
inches, the average woman just five foot.             were dangerously underweight. What
Today, the average Brit stands more than             accounted for this? Was this the result of
four inches taller than this.                        unending childbearing and rearing? Was
                                                     it the early onset of the menopause and
What of body mass? In 2006 English men
                                                     some sort of physical deterioration? Was
averaged a body mass of 27.2 kg/m2, creep-
                                                     it because women workers earned half the
ing upwards with age until around their
                                                     wages of men? Was it that women, trying
Oxford Historian: A magazine of the Faculty of History for Oxford Historians

to manage households with inadequate re-                   in prison. What is unexpected is that more
sources, fed their husbands and children                   than half the women gained weight. So,
first, and themselves and their own moth-                   too, did a small proportion of older men
ers last with the li le that was le over?                  and younger boys.
                                                           Weight change in prison is an index of the
                                                           severity of life outside. There were three
                                                           scenarios. (1) The individual who was com-
                                                           paratively well fed at home was exposed to
                                                           much greater opportunity for weight loss
                                                           in prison. (2) For weight to remain stable
                                                           under such a regime suggests that life out-
                                                           side the prison walls approximated to that
                                                           inside. (3) Weight gain in prison suggests
                                                           that life outside was even more miserable
                                                           than life within, where food might be mea-
                                                           gre, but was at least regular. Bodies that
                                                           had forgo en how to synthesise nutrients,
                                                           amnesia induced by what must have been
                                                           near starvation, had a chance to relearn the
                                                           task – and they took it.
                                                           That 57% of women in prison for at least
                                                           14 days gained weight militates against
                                                           any biological explanation of female un-
                    George Page
                                                           derweightedness. Women in this mid-
The prison data holds a further clue. We                   Victorian London community were thin
know that prisoners were nearly all on a                   because they had inadequate food, not
regime of hard labour, and we know that                    because their bodies rejected the food put
their diet was part of the punishment. It
was graded by the length of time detained,
and started with a meagre allowance for
those incarcerated up to three weeks: for
breakfast there was a pint of gruel served
up with six ounces of bread (gruel was
made from two ounces of oatmeal per
pint of water, seasoned with a li le salt or
sugar on alternate days), dinner was 12
ounces of bread for men or six for women,
and supper was a repeat of breakfast. Af-
ter 21 days, prisoners could look forward
to the occasional pint of soup, potatoes, or
(on Tuesdays and Saturdays) three ounces
of cooked meat. The diet was not meant
to be pleasant, but it was meant to be life-
sustaining (earlier efforts at reduced diets
had resulted in too many deaths).
It is hardly surprising, then, that the vast
majority of men lost considerable weight                                   Emily Elizabeth Green

                             Oxford Historian: A magazine of the Faculty of History for Oxford Historians

into them. Why were they hungry? This                appear bleak. Ageing was a gendered ex-
might be because women’s wages were                  perience.
low, opportunities for self-provisioning             Body mass points up a history that is oth-
few in the city, or because families priori-         erwise hard to uncover: the distribution of
tised the needs of others first. Perhaps all          nutrition and health risk was uneven, gen-
three. Whatever the cause, the effect was             dered, and literally embodied intergenera-
to expose older women to avoidable health            tional transfers at a cost borne by the eld-
risks.                                               erly. It was an era in which women shrank.
Health scientists extending Waaler’s study           Over their lives, a small gap that opened
have now analysed life cycle trends and              up between young men and women grew
found that optimal body mass increases               wider and wider. It was not that men did
with age, and more so for women than for             particularly well in this mid-Victorian
men. That for modern Norwegian women                 London community; it was that women
rises steeply, from just over 22 kg/m2 for           – especially older women – did particu-
women in their 20s, to 23 kg/m2 for women            larly poorly. London might have been the
in their 30s, to 24 kg/m2 for those in their         gli ering centre of a global empire, but it
40s, to 24.5 kg/m2 in their 50s, and so on.          failed to place sufficient food on the plates
These modern findings make the results                of all its citizens.
from Wandsworth House of Correction                                                      Deborah Oxley
                                                                                       All Souls College
Oxford Historian: A magazine of the Faculty of History for Oxford Historians

Editing Holinshed

Felicity Heal is History Tutor                             Gabriel Harvey, leading intellectual and
                                                           gossip-columnist of Elizabethan England,
at Jesus College. Her work                                 complained of the ‘many asses’ among his
is primarily on the social                                 contemporaries ‘who dare to compile his-
                                                           tories, chronicles, annals, commentaries’.
and religious history of                                   Such men were not cognisant ‘of law or
16th– and 17th–century                                     politics, nor of the art of depicting char-
                                                           acter’, these being the key features of the
Britain. Here she describes                                new Renaissance learning applied in ‘poli-
a project arising from a                                   tic’ histories. One of Harvey’s targets was
                                                           Raphael Holinshed, or rather the Chroni-
second area of interest,                                   cles of England, Scotland and Ireland, which
the uses of history in Tudor                               were compiled by a group of authors
                                                           initially led by him. In two editions, pub-
England.                                                   lished ten years apart in 1577 and 1587,
                                                           Holinshed’s team of six main contributors
                                                           produced more than five million words of
                                                           histories, chronicles and annals. They cov-
                                                           ered the story of the three kingdoms from
                                                           the mythic foundations to the moment,
                                                           during the crisis leading to Mary Queen of
                                                           Scots’ execution, before they sent the print-
                                                           ers their copy. The writers followed a pat-
                                                           tern of history writing that was tradition-
                                                           al, or old-fashioned, depending on your
                                                           point of view, but they were thorough to a
                                                           degree not seen in previous compilations.
Clive Holmes

                                                                  Holinshed’s image of Tudor historians at work

                                          Oxford Historian: A magazine of the Faculty of History for Oxford Historians

They included a wide range of primary                                second edition of the Chronicles was sub-
texts, quoted verbatim, and they added                               ject to quite savage censorship by the Privy
descriptions of England, Ireland and Scot-                           Council. Elizabethan statesmen clearly be-
land that conformed to the fashionable                               lieved that the sort of history chroniclers
enthusiasm for topography. It is amazing                             wrote was important – and dangerous.
to think that all this effort was originally                          Texts of this kind furnished examples for
intended to contribute to an even greater                            those who wished to discuss the most sen-
project: the publisher Reyner Wolfe, who                             sitive issues of the day: the role of counsel
was the bege er of the work and employed                             in government; the dangers of tyranny; the
Holinshed, saw his chronicle as a part of a                          nature of religious control by the state; the
universal history, complete with maps and                            succession to Elizabeth. The chroniclers
supporting apparatus.                                                may have told a story, rather than osten-
                                                                     tatiously analysing forms of political or
Later historians have o en agreed with
                                                                     religious authority, but embedded in their
Harvey, and passed over the chroniclers,
                                                                     writing was much that helped to shape the
valuing them, if at all, as quarries for
                                                                     thinking of the Tudor elite.
evidence. It has been le largely to the
literary specialists to do justice to Holin-                         It is one thing to recognise the potential
shed and his colleagues, and this because                            of a great chronicle as a source for under-
Shakespeare’s English history plays are                              standing sixteenth-century culture. How-
dependent on them for source material.                               ever, exploiting the full value of the texts
The stories of Macbeth and King Lear also                            depends on proper editing. At present Ho-
                                                                     linshed’s Chronicles can only be accessed
                                                                     through a sound, but not critically edited,
                                                                     nineteenth-century reprinting of the 1587
                                                                     text, or through the massive, and un-
                                                                     wieldy, images mounted on Early English
                                                                     Books on Line. Ian Archer and I (from His-
                                                                     tory) and our English literature colleague
                                                                     Paulina Kewes have agreed with Oxford
                                                                     University Press that a properly annotat-
                                                                     ed edition of Holinshed is long overdue.
                                                                     The Press have agreed to publish this in
                                                                     sixteen volumes, though we await the out-
                                                                     come of financial bids to support the re-
                                                                     search aspect of the venture. We intend to
  Cordelia, from the early English section of the Chronicles,        have an edition that is prepared in a fully
        Shakespeare’s principal source for King Lear
                                                                     interdisciplinary manner, with historians
derived principally from Holinshed. But                              and literary specialists collaborating in the
the great chronicles are now increasingly                            preparation of each volume. While waiting
appreciated for what they can reveal about                           to raise research funding we have begun
a itudes to national history, about politi-                          a very significant pilot project with gen-
cal identities and cultural representations.                         erous support from the University’s Fell
Both historians and literary specialists now                         Fund. An urgent need for anyone under-
value Holinshed’s text for what it can tell                          taking editorial work is information on the
us about the intellectual a itudes of its au-                        differences in texts, and so the pilot project
thors, about their ideological purposes in                           is mounting parallel texts, electronically
writing, and about the political language of                         tagged to identify the variations. There
the period. We know, for example, that the                           are major textual differences between 1577

Oxford Historian: A magazine of the Faculty of History for Oxford Historians

                          Macbeth meets the Weird Sisters, in the ‘Description of Scotland’ section

and 1587, not merely the addition of cur-                          this period and topic. The Handbook en-
rent material. For example, the 1587 text is                       tries will analyse how the texts were pro-
enriched by a greatly extended version of                          duced, what approach the editors adopted
William Harrison’s social history of Eng-                          to topography and national history, and the
land, and by John Hooker’s study of the                            influence of the Chronicles on other writers
significance of Parliament. The Universi-                           including Shakespeare and Spenser. At the
ty’s funding supports an outstanding re-                           time of writing we are only nine months
search assistant, Dr Henry Summerson,                              into the Holinshed project, but it is already
who is undertaking the electronic tagging                          yielding invaluable results for students of
and who has also identified the range of                            the later sixteenth century. Much more to
sources used by the sixteenth-century edi-                         come!
tors. Holinshed claimed to have looked                             Our web site can be found                       at
at 185 authorities: Henry has worked out                           h p://
who they were and has shown that a sig-
nificantly greater number of authorities
were actually used by one or other of the                                                                Felicity Heal
editors. The outcome of his work is already                                                            Jesus College
mounted on our web site, along with much
other information about the project. Even-
tually the parallel texts will be placed in
the public domain through the site, to be-
come a tool for any researchers interested
in the topic, as well, we hope, as the basis                       The images from the Chronicles of England, Scotland
for work for our own editors. We are also                          and Ireland are reproduced by permission of the
engaged in the production of a Holinshed                           Bodleian Library.
Handbook for OUP. This brings together a
large group of scholars who are expert on
                           Oxford Historian: A magazine of the Faculty of History for Oxford Historians

This page, from the early English chronicles shows “Voadicia” rallying her troops. A marginal note points out
            that the ancient Britons allowed women to assume public office - just like Elizabeth I

Oxford Historian: A magazine of the Faculty of History for Oxford Historians

Oxford (Art) Historian

Craig Clunas is Professor                                  When in 2007 I was appointed to succeed
                                                           Martin Kemp as Professor of the History
of the History of Art, and                                 of Art, I found myself to be a member of
a Fellow of Trinity College.                               the Oxford History Faculty. It was in some
                                                           ways just the latest of a series of slightly
Craig is Britain’s leading                                 unplanned turns that my career has taken.
expert on the visual and                                   It came in the year that marked a personal
                                                           tipping point, when the number of years
material culture of Ming                                   spent teaching history of art (first at the
China. Here he tells how                                   University of Sussex, then at School of Ori-
                                                           ental and African Studies, London) for the
his career led him to                                      first time outnumbered those I spent as a
Oxford, and what he found                                  curator of Chinese art at the Victoria and
                                                           Albert Museum, from 1979 to 1994. That
when he got here.                                          first job might have been thought an un-
                                                           likely turn in itself, given that my doctoral
                                                           work (again at SOAS) was not on art his-
                                                           tory at all but on literature, in fact on the
                                                           relationship between Chinese fiction of
                                                           the 18th–19th centuries and the first prose
                                                           fiction to be wri en in Mongolian. A PhD
                                                           on the Mongolian romantic novel usually
                                                           enables me to silence students in any com-
                                                           petition on the lines of ‘my topic is more
                                                           obscure than yours’, but it also enables me
                                                           to insist to them that it’s a good idea to be
                                                           open to a range of possibilities, and not
                                                           plan too much, or at least too rigidly. To
                                                           have essentially two careers, as curator
                                                           and teacher, and now to be one of such a
                                                           distinguished body of currently active his-
                                                           torians (never mind the Great Names of
                                                           the past) is an enormous privilege, as it is
                                                           to have a part in shaping a practice of art
                                                           history which has, at Oxford, a distinctive
                                                           place as part of the larger historical enter-
                                                           History at school (which was in Scotland,
                                                           so that meant Highers and not A-levels) for
                                                           me meant above all Early Modern Europe,
                                                           and I don’t think it is coincidental that my
                                                           own research has concentrated on China

                            Oxford Historian: A magazine of the Faculty of History for Oxford Historians

in the Ming period, from 1368–1644 in the                later Director of the National Gallery),
western calendar, as well as on more re-                 and it was a reaction against what I saw
cent periods, like the early twentieth cen-              as an unfounded European exceptional-
tury. This has come about even though I                  ism which led to my 1991 book Superfluous
distinctly remember being told by a distin-              Things: Material Culture and Social Status in
guished member of the Cambridge Orien-                   Early Modern China. Here I drew a ention
tal Studies Faculty, where I read Chinese                (in a way which I now think a bit naïve, if
from 1972, with a year in late
Maoist Beijing in 1974–5, that,
‘Everything a er 1644 is not
history, it is journalism’. An
epiphanic moment for me as
an undergraduate came when
a more imaginative supervisor,
sensing me chafing a bit at the
constant diet of unseen transla-
tions and set texts, told me to
read a book called The Medi-
terranean and the Mediterranean
World in the Age of Phillip II, by
someone I had never heard of
called Fernand Braudel. That
dazzling density of description
was what I aspired to, long be-
fore I understood the strengths
and weaknesses of the Braude-
lian method, and even if I went
on to be somewhat disappoint-
ed by what I perceived as the
Eurocentricity of Braudel’s
Capitalism and Material Life. A
lot of my writing, if I look back
on it, turns out to have been in
dialogue with social and cul-
tural historians of Europe, in
particular at one crucial point
with the notion of ‘the birth of a
consumer society’ in 18th-cen-
tury Britain, as embodied in the
landmark book of that name by
Neil McKendrick, John Brewer
and J.H. Plumb.
During the 1980s I was very in-
volved in teaching a new MA
in the History of Design organ-
ised jointly by the V&A and
the Royal College of Art (run       A Chinese painting of the Ming period, ‘Visiting a Friend in the Mountains’, with a
by Charles Saumarez Smith,                        spurious signature of Li Zhaodao (active c. 670–730),
                                                         Victoria and Albert Museum E.22-1953.

Oxford Historian: A magazine of the Faculty of History for Oxford Historians

still essentially right) to a range of textual   less evident before the ‘new art history’
and material evidence that the kind of con-      of the 1980s arguably became a dominant
sumer behaviour being adduced as new in          discourse within the field. For me, work-
18th–century Britain was already observ-         ing on China, the turn towards post-colo-
able in 16th–century China. I was encour-        nial theory has been inescapable; I was a
aged greatly in the writing of it, indeed it     postgraduate student when Edward Said’s
was supported for publication, by Peter          Orientalism first came out, and it is a work
Burke, a historian I have consistently ad-       which continues to cast a long and, I hope,
mired for his unwillingness to take Europe       thought-provoking shadow over my own
as an unexamined norm of historical de-          work. These theoretical and methodologi-
velopment. He is up there with Geoffrey           cal issues are now an essential part of the
Parker, Sir John Ellio , R. J. W. Evans and      intellectual training of art history students
Michael Roberts as a historian I continue to     at both undergraduate and postgraduate
re-read for pleasure, along with the Scot-       levels.
tish and early medieval his-                                  Is there a distinctively Oxford
tory – at which I would count             Is there a
                                                              tradition in the History of Art?
myself as an enthusiastic but distinctively Oxford My three distinguished pred-
still an entry-level hobbyist.                                ecessors in the Chair have all
                                         tradition in the
Peter Burke it is who has                                               had arguably richly differ-
shown how it was arguably               History   of Art?               ing approaches to the subject.
the history of art, in the work                                         Edgar Wind (1955–67) spoke
of such as Jacob Burckhardt, which was the                 with great authority from within the War-
first real ‘cultural’ history, and it is certain-           burg tradition of iconology (not to mention
ly true that I feel very comfortable with the              embodying also the émigré experience of
distinctive positioning of Oxford History                  German-speaking art history), while Fran-
of Art within the larger History Faculty,                  cis Haskell (1967–95) raised to a new level
even as we move into a new phase with                      the sophistication of our understanding of
the very successful establishment of an in-                European art’s institutions and structures,
dependent BA degree in the subject. It is                  as well as the way in which images of vari-
surely significant (and in the present con-                 ous kinds constructed as well as reflected
text very helpful to us at Oxford, if vexing               history. Most recently Martin Kemp (1995–
to colleagues elsewhere), that the Guardian                2007) took the discipline into new areas of
league tables choose to fold History and                   the study of the full range of visual imag-
History of Art together as one category.                   es, with important work on the interface
But there is no doubt that the wider world,                between ‘artistic’ and ‘scientific’ forms of
whether in the form of funding agencies                    picturing. This richness of approach has, I
or the scrutiny of the Research Assessment                 think, ma ered much more than the seem-
Exercise, takes the view that history of art               ing homogeneity in the fact that all three
is not simply one variety of history among                 could be described in one light as schol-
many, but a distinct field of intellectual en-              ars of the art of Italy between about 1400
quiry with its own distinct objects and tech-              and 1700. In any case, many distinguished
niques of examining them. And indeed it                    figures such as Howard Colvin and
is. As more and more historians become                     O o Pacht in the past, or Jaś Elsner and
interested in ‘the visual turn’ – note how                 Jessica Rawson in the present, have taught
much be er illustrated the average his-                    at Oxford and enjoyed major international
tory book is now than it was thirty years                  reputations as art historians without nec-
ago – so many historians of art engage                     essarily being part of the departmental
more and more with the critical theory                     core. Similarly, what ma ers to me is not
and the philosophical debates that were                    principally the spread of objects of study

                                          Oxford Historian: A magazine of the Faculty of History for Oxford Historians

among the members of staff of the present                                  rich intellectual environment for all his-
department – Hanneke Grootenboer (our                                     torians of visual and material culture, of
newest appointment) working on the                                        whatever stamp and whatever range of in-
Dutch 17th century and critical theory,                                   terests. The gaps between major develop-
Geraldine Johnston on Italian Renaissance                                 ments are now much shorter than the fi y
art and on sculpture, Gervase Rosser on                                   years between the appointment of Edgar
medieval and Renaissance European art                                     Wind and the establishment of the under-
and architecture, Alastair Wright on art in                               graduate degree, and the prospects are
the late 19th– to early 20th–century era of                               good for the deepening and intensifica-
Modernism, myself on Ming China. Apart                                    tion of an intellectual tradition which has
from anything else, this is only a fraction                               a distinctive history. I may never get over
of the art historical talent which Oxford                                 my ‘Wind anxiety’, caused by the many
houses, with well over seventy colleagues                                 well-wishers who remind me how Edgar
in Anthropology, Classics, English, His-                                  Wind’s legendary lectures filled the Play-
tory, Modern Languages, Oriental Studies,                                 house Theatre, and had to be repeated to
the Ruskin School of Drawing and other                                    meet the demand of those excluded from
Faculties and Departments, as well as in                                  the first si ing. But I am still immensely
the University’s incomparably strong col-                                 glad I came.
lections and museums. Mobilising this                                                                       Craig Clunas
diversity and range of expertise (which is                                                     History of Art Department
not the same thing as ge ing it all in one
place, impossible as well as undesirable)
generates the possibility of an extremely

   First-year History of Art undergraduates look closely at a work of Chinese art during a
                      museum–based class in the Ashmolean Museum

Oxford Historian: A magazine of the Faculty of History for Oxford Historians

“After Tamerlane: The Rise and Fall of Global
Empires 1400–2000”

John Darwin is Beit                                        Before I wrote A er Tamerlane, I had spent
                                                           most of my time thinking about, and try-
University Lecturer in                                     ing to write about the ‘end of empire’,
the History of the British                                 and about the British Empire in particular.
                                                           At some stage it dawned on me that one
Commonwealth at Nuffield                                   could make very li le sense of either with-
College. John has mainly                                   out paying much more a ention to their
                                                           global context – the broader geopolitical
written about the history                                  conditions in which it had been possible
of the British Empire in the                               to construct an imperial system which, as
                                                           one anxious British diplomat complained
20th century, but his latest                               at the time of the Boer War, ‘sprawled
book has a much broader                                    across the globe like a gouty giant’. The
                                                           next thing to notice was that among the
sweep. “After Tamerlane”                                   conditions that had allowed the giant to
has just been awarded the                                  sprawl in the first place had been the inter-
                                                           nal turmoil of China, the self-seclusion of
Wolfson Prize for History.                                 Japan, the subjection of the once powerful
                                                           Mughal empire in India and the near-dis-
                                                           integration of O oman rule in Southeast
                                                           Europe and the Middle East. How had all
                                                           this come about? And what had the world
                                                           looked like before c. 1750 when the British
                                                           ‘empire’ had been largely confined (as had
                                                           the European empires in general) to the
                                                           Americas, with a few sca ered outposts
                                                           for trade in Asia and Africa.
                                                           The conventional way of looking at the
                                                           history of the modern world is to trace the
                                                           expansion of Europe – usually from 1492
                                                           – as the great agent of modernity, trans-
                                                           forming the rest of the world and creating
                                                           a global economy. But in 1750, even per-
                                                           haps in 1800, the chances of Europe doing
                                                           this would have struck a contemporary
                                                           observer as highly unlikely. To Europeans
                                                           before 1700, hemmed in on their own con-
                                                           tinent by the O omans, awestruck by the
                                                           magnificence of Mughal culture and rule,
                                                           admi ed on sufferance – if at all – into
                                                           the vast empire of China, and perched for
                                                           the most part on the edge of the Ameri-

                            Oxford Historian: A magazine of the Faculty of History for Oxford Historians

cas (except for Mexico and Peru), the no-           balisation’ – social and cultural as well as
tion of world mastery would have seemed             economic – which makes their earlier his-
absurd. European history plays up the               tory, and their age of decline, so fascinat-
achievements of the Renaissance and ‘Dis-           ing and mysterious. I was also extremely
coveries’. But the early modern era was             lucky that there has been an astonishing
also a time when other empires in Eurasia           florescence in the writing of Chinese histo-
were becoming stronger and richer: the Ot-          ry in English since the mid-1980s (as China
tomans, Safavids, Mughals and Qing. It is           opened up) and that many gi ed histori-
sometimes forgo en (though surely not by            ans have turned their a ention to the ear-
Tibetans) that the conquest of Inner Asia           ly modern history of India, the O oman
– more than half of modern China – was              Empire and other parts of Asia. The key
carried through by the Qing in the 1750s            problem of why a ‘great divergence’ oc-
and 1760s.                                                       curred between the economic
But how to write a book about                                    performance of the West and
such a (sprawling) subject                                       Asia from the late eighteenth
that would be even minimally                                     century has been the focus of
coherent? My plan was to de-                                     a brilliant group of economic
scribe how in various periods                                    historians in Patrick O’Brien’s
– 1480s–1620s, 1620s–1750s,                                      Global Economic History Net-
1750s–1830s and so on – power,                                   work. Without this, and much
wealth and cultural resources                                    more, my idea for a book
were distributed across Eura-                                    would have remained at the
sia – the hammer and anvil of                                    level of idle curiosity.
modern world history. This                                       The book ends, as it’s bound
was a way of seeing Europe in                                    to, rather enigmatically. If
perspective, and showing that                                    there is one impression to be
in China, India, Iran and the                                    gleaned from a long look at
O oman world there was also                                      world history over six hun-
a sense of imperial purpose,                                     dred years, it is the mutability
a mood of cultural self-confi-                                    of fortune, the sudden shi s of
dence and scope for economic advance: in            power, and the unpredictable consequenc-
the eighteenth century it was co on cloth           es of unexpected victories – like Clive’s at
made in India (not Britain) that was ex-            Plassey, that of Japan over Russia in 1905,
changed by British merchants for slaves             and (even more consequential) that of Ger-
on the west coast of Africa. That le me             many over France in 1940. When I wrote
with the task of explaining why a ‘Eura-            the book, ‘globalisation’ was in full con-
sian revolution’ (in which the balance of           fident swing. But there was enough ‘on
wealth and power was transformed) oc-               the record’ to suggest that this was only a
curred a er 1750, how its momentum was              phase. But how it will change, how soon
sustained in the long nineteenth century,           it will change, is as shrouded from us as
and how and why a relatively brief peri-            the great shi s of earlier centuries were
od of European ‘mastery’ fell apart in the          from contemporaries then. But when the
twentieth.                                          change comes, our view of the past will
Of course, without the changes we all see           change with it. Another version of history
around us, writing such a book would have           will need to be wri en.
felt like composing an antiquarian tract.                                                 John Darwin
It is the contemporary ‘rise’ of China and                                             Nuffield College
India, amid the re-balancing of Asia and
the West, and all the phenomena of ‘glo-
Oxford Historian: A magazine of the Faculty of History for Oxford Historians

Parties, People and the State:
Politics in England c.1914–51

Ross McKibbin was a History                                My 2008 Ford Lectures had their origin in
                                                           a book never wri en. I had – all too many
Tutor at St John’s College                                 years ago – been asked to write a volume
until he retired in 2006. His                              in the New Oxford History of England on
                                                           the years 1918-1951. In time the chapters I
publications have mainly                                   wrote on social history outgrew the project-
been about the political,                                  ed volume. I asked the Oxford University
                                                           Press whether I might write two volumes:
cultural and social history of                             one political and one social. They under-
20th–century Britain. Here                                 standably said no; but with great generos-
                                                           ity published the social history as Classes
he gives an account of his                                 and Cultures (1998) – a book predominant-
Ford Lecturers, delivered to                               ly social-historical but with a good deal of
                                                           ‘social’ politics as well. But it did leave out
packed audiences in Hilary                                 the ‘formal’ politics. It was always in my
Term 2008.                                                 mind, therefore, to write that companion
                                                           volume at some point. I got sidetracked,
                                                           however, and the volume was not wri en.
                                                           When I was asked to give the Ford Lec-
                                                           tures this seemed a good opportunity to
                                                           write it. The Lectures are, therefore, about
                                                           England, not Britain: a recognition that
                                                           in many respects the other nations of the
                                                           United Kingdom have a different history.
                                                           Nonetheless, much of what is said about
                                                           England in the Lectures is true of Great
                                                           Britain as a whole.
                                                           I decided that the Lectures should start at
                                                           1914 – unlike Classes and Cultures which
                                                           starts in 1918 – since it seemed to me the
                                                           First World war was an important part
                                                           of the story. The Lectures thus cover al-
                                                           most forty of perhaps the most climacteric
                                                           years in English history: two world wars,
                                                           an international depression, and one year,
                                                           1940–41, when it seemed possible that
                                                           Britain and its dominions, fighting with-
                                                           out allies, would succumb. If the Japanese,
                                                           indeed, had played their cards differently,
                                                           had not a acked the United States in De-
                                                           cember 1941 but a acked the British em-
                                                           pire in 1940, Britain might well have done.

                              Oxford Historian: A magazine of the Faculty of History for Oxford Historians

It is easy to see why     To what extent did the                          questions. To what
Churchill      thought                                                    extent did the world
that year, 1940–1941,    world wars shape popular                         wars shape popular
was the culmination                                                       political allegiances?
of all English history.    political allegiances?                         How did the politi-
These years also trans-                                                   cal parties cope with
formed England’s position in the world. In            the pressures of war and economic crisis?
1914 it was probably first among equals in             And what was the relationship between
a world where there were five or six great             the state and the changing structure and
powers. In 1951 it was a distant third and            ideology of English politics?
descending. But the same years were also              The Lectures are broadly chronological,
responsible for profound changes in the               except for the last which is largely the-
structure of English politics. On the eve             matic and designed to bring the argument
of the First World War the Liberal Party              together. The first is on the ‘Great War’ of
was in office and under Asquith produced                1914–18, and asks what were its effects on
one of the most powerful governments in               the party system and the political pref-
modern British history. But in 1915 the Lib-          erences of the population of England. It
eral Party was forced into coalition with             argues that the war began the marginali-
the Conservatives and never again formed              sation of the Liberal Party because it de-
a government on its own. In the general               tached the Party from the state and the
election of 1951 it won less than 3% of the           hugely expanded electorate which wartime
votes. This was something no one could                legislation brought into being. It also sug-
have predicted in 1914. Nor would they                gests that the ‘Progressive Alliance’ – the
have predicted that the small and strug-              loose agreement between the Liberal and
gling Labour Party, in 1914 a rather restive          Labour Parties – which provided the dy-
ally of the Liberals, a party whose future            namic of Edwardian politics could survive
seemed so problematic, would win 49% of               only if politics continued to be dominated
the votes in that same election a er com-             by issues on which the Liberal and Labour
pleting a legislative programme that re-              Parties could agree, and (second) that La-
shaped many of the functions of the Brit-             bour remained subordinate to the Liberals
ish state. Nor would they have predicted              in this ‘Alliance’. The war ended both these
the Conservative Party’s extraordinary po-            conditions and by doing so immensely
litical domination of England in the inter-           weakened the Liberals, in the immediate
war years; nor that in 1939 this domination           term greatly strengthened the Conserva-
would be overthrown so abruptly.                      tives and in the longer term, Labour.
It is these domestic transformations that I           The second lecture, on ‘unstable equilib-
was concerned with in the Ford Lectures.              rium’, considers the years 1918-1929. I ar-
Although the ‘external’ history of England            gue here that although the main supports
(and Britain), the history of its empire and          of the Edwardian political system had col-
of its relations with the rest of the world,          lapsed in the war, what was restored af-
plays its part, there is only so much one             ter 1918, nevertheless, was a form of Ed-
can say in six lectures. In any case I doubt-         wardian politics which no longer fi ed the
ed that I could add much to the existing lit-         realities of British society and economy.
erature. I wished rather to explain why the           However, people continued to think in
political-social changes I have summarised            quasi-Edwardian terms and for this and
took place. They are an a empt to write a             other reasons what we might call more
history of the English electorate; and are in         ‘logical’ outcomes of the war – a fusion of
this sense an exercise in historical sociol-          the non-Labour parties, the emergence of
ogy. In particular I wished to answer three           the Labour Party as more than just a work-
Oxford Historian: A magazine of the Faculty of History for Oxford Historians

ing-class party, or the abandonment of free                to why this occurred. It has been suggest-
trade in favour of protection – all failed to              ed that the experience of war changed the
materialise. This failure, the a empt to re-               way which people judged their own posi-
store the Edwardian system in inappropri-                  tion. Something which in the 1930s might
ate circumstances, was in part a result of                 have seemed merely ill-fortune was now
marked tensions both between and within                    seen as the result of bad politics and open
different social classes and the emergence                  to repair. The huge expansion of the state’s
of ‘anti-socialism’ as the driving force of                activity undermined the ideological basis
English politics. The effect was to restore                 of the National Government and the posi-
the standing of the ‘middle classes’ at the                tion taken by the Conservative Party that
expense of the ‘working classes’ but with-                 there was only so much the state could
in a highly fragile political order that was               do. A new status quo was established and
swept away in 1931.                                        its representative was the Labour Party.
I suggest in the third lecture, ‘The Crisis of             It was also once common to suggest that
Labour and the Conservative Hegemony,                      events like the evacuation or the blitz had
1929–1940’, that the political and financial                a democratising effect. It is now, however,
crisis of 1931, which destroyed the 1929                   frequently argued that, in fact, not much
Labour Government and created the ‘Na-                     happened in the war: there was no great
tional Government’ (really a Conservative                  democratisation. Since, therefore, there
government but under a co-opted former                     was li le radicalisation of opinion, what
Labour prime minister, Ramsay MacDon-                      happened in 1945 stands for li le. I dispute
ald) restored coherence to English politics.               this in the fourth Lecture. I think there was
It, in effect, achieved the fusion of the Con-              a marked radicalisation, even if it was of-
servative and Liberal Parties and created                  ten difficult to pin down. In many cases it
the anti-Labour majority which in fact ex-                 was the expression of ‘grievances’ long-
isted in the 1920s but had no agreed po-                   held but before the war rarely u ered.
litical home; it meant the abandonment of                  People o en found these grievances diffi-
free trade (which was almost indefensible                  cult to express precisely but were usually
in the circumstances of the 1930s) and, via                more than happy to try. I also argue that
the social coalition which the Conservative                radicalisation did not take place gradually
Party (with some luck) as-
sembled, a stable party
system. Although the La-
bour Party now emerged
as the clear alternative to
the Conservatives, there
was no sign at the out-
break of the Second World
War that Labour would
win the next or indeed
succeeding elections.
Yet in 1945 Labour did
win. The war overthrew
the Conservative hegem-
ony – something as un-
predictable as anything
that happened in the First
World War. There has
been no agreed answer as
                              Oxford Historian: A magazine of the Faculty of History for Oxford Historians

over the course of the war, but very rap-             cussion of the relationship of England with
idly: that it was the collapse of the Con-            the other ‘nations’ of the United Kingdom.
servative government in May 1940 and the              I suggest that the remarkable aspect of this
formation of Churchill’s coalition – basi-            relationship is how weak ‘nationality’ was:
cally a Conservative-Labour government                that the forces which shaped England’s
in which Labour was over-represented                  political system also shaped those of Scot-
– that was responsible. I think it was likely         land and Wales. (Northern Ireland was al-
Labour would have won any election held               ways an exception.) In the sense of politi-
a er the formation of Churchill’s govern-             cal commonality, the Union worked be er,
ment – whenever it was held. The Labour               or at least more uniformly, in these years
victory in 1945 was the consequence not of            than at any other time before or since. In
structural changes to British society but of          the formation of political allegiances I ask
a sudden shi in the way people thought                what was the role of specific policies – like
about the world and the degree to which               protectionism or the NHS. On the whole,
its inequities were justifiable.                       I argue, specific policies in isolation prob-
The fi h Lecture, which I have called ‘The             ably did not ma er much, and in the in-
English Road to Socialism’, looks at the              terwar years, anyway, social class was only
A lee government (1945–51), its achieve-              a comparatively weak influence. People’s
ments and the political reactions to it. His-         political preferences were as much deter-
torians recently have been critical of the old        mined by the way they interpreted their
received view of that government – that it            life experiences as by the reality of these
was the successful creator of the modern              experiences. Finally, I consider how far,
welfare state – either on the ground that             and with what success, England’s political
it didn’t do much, or what it did it prob-            system was balanced between democracy
ably should not have. It seems to me that,            and stability. I conclude that the desire for
on the contrary, what it did, it was right to         social stability was responsible for a rather
do, and what it was elected to do, it did. I          conservative definition of democracy, held
also think that it is easy to exaggerate the          as much by Labour as the Conservatives.
hostility to the programme of ‘austerity’ to          To this extent the decline of the old Lib-
which it was obliged to subject the country.          eral Party was probably a loss, since its re-
Yet it had clearly run out of steam by 1950           lationship to the English state was always
and was uncertain where to go. This was, I            more angular and sceptical than that of the
argue here, due to the fact that it had a very        other two political parties.
narrow definition of ‘socialism’. There was            So that is the lectures. I am now going to
an overdependence on nationalisation as               write them up to be the book they were
the mark of socialism and too li le regard            supposed to be, and I hope they will soon
to what should be the institutions of a so-           appear moderately-priced at your nearest
cial-democratic society. The result was the           book store.
major programmatic disagreements in the                                                    Ross McKibbin
Party a er 1950. Whatever Labour’s diffi-                                                 St John’s College
culties, however, the Conservative Party
was obliged to make it clear it would not
seriously modify any of the A lee govern-
ment’s legislation; especially as the Con-
servatives won office in 1951 as much by
the quirks of the electoral system as any-
thing else.
The sixth Lecture is an a empt to summa-
rise the whole argument as well as a dis-
Oxford Historian: A magazine of the Faculty of History for Oxford Historians

For your bookshelf …
A selection of new books by Faculty
Toby Barnard, Improving Ireland?                           Robert Gildea and Anne Simonin (eds.),
Projectors, prophets and profiteers, 1641–                  Writing Contemporary History (2008)
1786 (2008)                                                Lawrence Goldman (ed.), The Federalist
John Blair (ed.), Waterways and Canal-                     Papers (2008)
Building in Medieval England (2007)                        Adrian Gregory, The Last Great War:
Robin Briggs, The Witches of Lorraine                      British Society and the First World War
(2007)                                                     (2008)
Judith M. Brown (ed.), Mahatma Gandhi.                     Hanneke Grootenboer, The Rhetoric of
The Essential Writings (2008)                              Perspective: Realism and Illusionism in
Jane Caplan (ed.), Nazi Germany (2008)                     Seventeenth-Century Dutch Still-Life
                                                           Painting (2006)
Martin Conway and Peter Romijn (eds.),
The War for Legitimacy in Politics and                     Bob Harris, The Sco ish People and the
Culture 1936–1946 (2008)                                   French Revolution (2008)

Pietro Corsi, Fossils and Reputations. A                   Howard Hotson, Commonplace
scientific correspondence, Pisa, Paris, London,             Learning: Ramism and its German
1853–1857 (2008)                                           Ramifications, 1543–1630 (2007)

Wendy Davies, Acts of Giving. Individual,                  Rob Johnson, Pulverfass im Hindukusch
Community, and Church in Tenth-Century                     (2008)
Christian Spain (2007)                                     Rob Johnson, Lessons in Imperial Rule:
Christina de Bellaigue, Educating Women:                   Instructions for Infantrymen on the Indian
Schooling and Identity in England and                      Frontier (2008)
France, 1800–1867 (2007)                                   Rana Mi er, Modern China: A Very Short
R.J.W. Evans (ed., with Mark Cornwall),                    Introduction (2008)
Czechoslovakia in a Nationalist and Fascist                Natalia Nowakowska, Church, State and
Europe, 1918–48 (2007)                                     Dynasty in Renaissance Poland: the Career
Roy Foster, Luck and the Irish: a brief history            of Cardinal Fryderyk Jagiellon, 1468–1503
of change from 1970 (2007)                                 (2007)

Jane Garne , Ma hew Grimley, Alana                         Jane Shaw, Miracles in Enlightenment
Harris, William Whyte, Sarah Williams                      England (2006)
(eds.), Redefining Christian Britain: Post–                 Hew Strachan, Clausewitz’s On War: a
1945 Perspectives (2007)                                   biography (2007)
Maria Rita Cifarelli and Jane Garne                        Hew Strachan and Andreas Herberg-
(eds.), Nation(s) and Cultural Heritage                    Rothe (eds.), Clausewitz in the 21st Century
(2007)                                                     (2007)
Peter Ghosh, A Historian Reads Max Weber:                  H. Pryce and John Wa s (eds.), Power and
Essays on the Protestant Ethic (2008)                      Identity in the Middle Ages: Essays in
Robert Gildea, Children of the Revolution.                 Memory of Rees Davies (2007)
The French, 1799–1914 (2008)

                                    Oxford Historian: A magazine of the Faculty of History for Oxford Historians

Staff Changes at the Faculty

During the last Academic year the following staff retired or moved to new positions in other
Dr Peter Carey, Trinity College                             Dr Marius Kwint, History of Art
Dr Peter Heather, Worcester College                         Department

Professor Jose Harris, St Catherine’s                       Dr Marlia Mango, St John’s College
College                                                     Mr Philip Waller, Merton College
Professor Martin Kemp, History of Art                       Dr David Washbrook, St Antony’s College

This term we have welcomed the following staff:

Dr Jeevan Deol, St Antony’s College                         Mr Ma hew Johnson, History Faculty
Dr Ma hew Grimley, Merton College                           Dr Robert Johnson, History Faculty
Dr Hanneke Grootenboer, History of Art                      Ms Nikola Koepke, All Souls College
Department                                                  Dr Conrad Leyser, Worcester College
Dr Ma hew Houlbrook, Magdalen                               Dr Georgi Parpulov, Classics Centre

Oxford Historian
Contact Details                                             Acknowledgements
Editorial Team:
Christopher Haigh
Richard Sykes                                               The History Faculty would like to thank:
Sue Henderson
                                                            Members of staff of the History Faculty;
History Faculty,
Old Boys High School
                                                            Development Office for their advice and
George Street                                               assistance;
Oxford, OX1 2RL
                                                            Holywell Press for the printing of Oxford
                                                            Able Types for the distribution of
Alumni website:                                             Oxford Historian.
h p://

                    Oxford Historian: A magazine of the Faculty of History for Oxford Historians

                    In May 2008 the collegiate university launched its ‘Oxford Thinking’ campaign, which aims
                    to raise £1.25 billion. The campaign seeks funding for student bursaries and scholarships,
                    academic posts and programmes, and infrastructure and buildings. The la er includes the
                    planned development of a new Humanities campus within the Radcliffe Observatory Quar-
                    ter, which will offer the History Faculty, along with other faculties in the Humanities Divi-
                    sion, a new purpose-built home, providing exciting opportunities for interdisciplinary and
                    collaborative work.
                    £620 million has already been raised, but there is a long, long way to go. Alumni have some-
                    times complained that they have had conflicting requests for donations from both colleges
                    and faculties (not to mention libraries and museums) – ‘Can’t you get your act together?’
                    they asked. Well, it isn’t easy in a complex and ancient institution, but we’re trying hard.
                    ‘Oxford Thinking’ is an integrated campaign by both colleges and the University, to pursue
                    agreed strategic goals.
                    The particular interests of the History Faculty are to secure new posts in international and
                    extra-European history, to support our eight research centres, to provide scholarships for
                    graduate students, and to expand our Joint Appointments Fund so that, with colleges, we
                    can plug gaps in tutorial teaching. We hope our alumni recognise the worth of what we do,
                    and will want to support the Faculty and the colleges in delivering first-rate undergraduate
                    teaching, graduate training, and historical research and writing.
                    For further information please contact:
                    Luke Purser, Head of Development – Humanities Division, University of Oxford
                    Development Office, University Offices, Wellington Square, Oxford OX1 2JD
                    Tel: +44 (0) 1865 611543. Email:
Stephanie Jenkins

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