History Carnival #136
The first of each month sees a new History Carnival – a post to celebrate and showcase history blogging from the past month. I’m delighted to be hosting August’s History Carnival, with thanks to all who nominated and wrote posts this month. Even though the summer seems to be one of the quietest times for academic blogging, as George Gosling discussed a few months ago, there have been some brilliant blog posts this July.
I think my favourite recent post comes courtesy of The Social Historian, with A Cynic’s Guide to the History Profession. Jonathon Healey has brilliantly summarised aspects of what it is to be a historian in wonderful satire noting that a historian is a “professional inspector of finished works, who makes a living criticizing the actions of people who are too dead to answer back.” Sadly, my own disciplines of public history and the histories of gender and sexuality are not included in the piece, which may be a blessing in disguise.
While the histories of gender and sexuality are not included in the Cynic’s Guide, there has been a wealth of great blogging on these subjects in recent weeks. On NOTCHES: (re)marks on the history of sexuality, Jana Funke discusses the ‘born this way’ argument of sexuality, placing the origins of Lady Gaga’s song lyrics with the sexologists of the late nineteenth century. Also on NOTCHES, Marc Stein reflects on the 50th anniversary of Life Magazine’s ‘Homosexuality in America’ cover and the response of Drum magazine, the “gay Playboy”. Part of this blog discussed the GLBT Museum in San Francisco, and one of their current displays, ‘1964: The Year San Francisco Came Out’. I also recently visited the GLBT Museum, and mention the visit in a blog on Emotional Objects. In Queer Objects of Affection, I discuss the wedding dresses on display as part of the ‘BiConic’ exhibition and the types of narratives displayed in exhibitions on the history of same-sex love.
Simon Jenkins discusses the links between sexuality and national identity on the Four Nations History blog, explaining why his research on prostitution in interwar Cardiff doesn’t benefit from a “‘Welsh’ frame”. Staying within the ‘four nations’, Jeff Meek discusses Masculine Women/Feminine Men: Gender Transgressions in Scotland, 1850-1939 and examines the role that men and women who explicitly crossed gender boundaries in Scotland had during this period. Further down south, Archives+ explores the impact of policing reform on Manchester in the early nineteenth century, finding the early Bobby corrupt, and disjointed anywhere outside of London. Although London may have had more successful law enforcement in the nineteenth-century, Simon Abernethy highlights on The Pirate Omnibus that it had a major problem with the rush hour. In How to Solve a Problem like the Rush Hour, it becomes clear that a long an uncomfortable commute for Londoners is far from new. Also on London transport, Michelle Higgs discusses the Victorian cabbie and their cabriolets, which don’t sound much more comfortable than the tube at rush hour.
Past & Present launched a fantastic new blog this month, with one of the opening pieces on Cultures of Intoxication, a new collection edited by Phil Withington and Angela McShane. Withington’s blog highlights some of the great thinkers and drinkers of the past, including Marx, Engels, Hobbes and Harvey. Max Weber, too, is included in this list of names, and Withington notes that he “suffered from obsessional thoughts and, especially after nights of drinking, sometimes imagined for the whole day that he was Jumbo the elephant and lived in a zoo”. From drink to food, Janet Clarkson on The Old Foodie discusses the merging of French and English cuisine, with nineteenth-century recipes for Anglo-French pies and fritters.
Nick Sacco raises important questions for public historians at Exploring the Past, with a blog post on Interpretive Challenges with Portraying Slavery in Film. Sacco discusses the challenges in the possibility of adding a short film at Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site (ULSG), “to tell a story about slavery from the perspective of the slaves themselves.” The US National Park Service (NPS), which ULSG is part of, has been doing fantastic work in representing and interpreting marginalised histories in recent years, but the questions raised by Sacco highlight major challenges that remain. Raising similar questions on interpretation to Sacco, Susan Ferentinos has blogged about interpreting LGBT histories at historic sites in the United States at Public History Commons. More questions for public historians were raised over at Stumbling Past, where Yvonne Perkins reflected on the ‘Big Questions in History’ panel at the Australian Historical Association conference. The topic this year was ‘How Can Historians Influence Public Policy?’, and in the summary of the speakers, Perkins highlights that the answer lies in connections and collaborations, concluding that, “it is by historians working in collaboration with Australians of all backgrounds that change will occur in our public and private lives.”
On to a huge practical problem for public and academic history alike at The National Archives blog – dust! In Gathering Dust, Amy Sampson discusses the Dust Project and the impact that dust can have on the collections of TNA. The problem of finding sources in the archives is discussed by Tiia Sahrakorpi at Doing History in Public. In Issues of Studying Nineteenth-Century Women in Foreign Affairs, Sahrakorpi highlights a distinct lack of sources for historians of women’s involvement in diplomatic history. On a rather more positive note about archives, Anna Maria Barry highlights a different (and brilliant) kind of archive for the historian on In Art and Song, discussing the kind of sources that can be found on Ebay: The Forgotten Archive.
The British Library blog, Untold Lives, provokes questions too, asking “can an Englishman ever become truly Indian?” The post discusses Verrier Elwin, one of the few anthropologists of Europe who successfully assimilated into non-European society “in order to have a thorough understanding of other peoples.” Elwin’s story is fascinating, but does not reveal just how much it was possible for the English to integrate into Indian society. Finally, staying in India, Jayakrishnan Nair discusses the myths behind Cheraman Perumal Juma Masjid in Kerala, said to be the first mosque built in India.
Thanks again to all who nominated and wrote blogs this month. Next month’s History Carnival will be hosted at Early Modern Medicine so please do send nominations of great history blogs before 1st September.