It’s been great to see so much interest and enthusiasm generated around the subject of ‘history from below’ this summer. The online symposium on it’s future that we have been running here on the many-headed monster – which grew out of a physical version held between a group of early career historians at Birkbeck in April – has been a real success. So we thought we would bring you more.
In July we held a second event, in Cambridge, on ‘History from Below in the 21st Century’. This grew out of conversations I’d been having with Jon Lawrence, a historian of modern Britain, who helped to organise the workshop – and who used his pull to secure the participation of some of the leading historians in this field. In particular, we were keen to get a group together who worked on diverse time periods, to get a sense of the different ways medieval, early modern, and modern historians viewed the current state of ‘history from below’. Needless to say, the resulting conversations were fascinating, for although Brodie has rightly pointed out that ‘many of the most interesting discussions about history aren’t happening in wood-panelled seminars rooms’, some do.
But, in the spirit of democratising history that has been a key theme in the online symposium so far, we thought we would bring the discussions we had that day out of the seminar room and into this wider conversation taking place here on the blog. So each day this week we will be posting a paper from the Cambridge workshop. Here is the programme:
- Tuesday (20th) John Arnold (Birkbeck) ‘History from below – some medievalist perspectives’
- Wednesday (21st) Andy Wood (Durham) ‘History from below and early modern social history’
- Thursday (22nd) Emma Griffin (UEA) ‘Working class autobiography in the industrial revolution’
- Friday (23rd) Selina Todd (Oxford) ‘History from below: modern British scholarship’
- Saturday (24th) Chris Briggs (Cambridge) ‘Household possessions of the 14th and 15th century peasantry’
- Sunday (25th) Julie-Marie Strange (Manchester) ‘Historicising the comfort of “things” in late-Victorian and Edwardian working-class culture’
These posts will differ a little from those we have seen so far in the online symposium: they are full versions of the papers that were presented at the workshop, rather than custom-made blog-posts, so they are a bit longer, more heavily footnoted, and were composed for an audience of academic historians. They are, of course, packed with really interesting insights, and are well worth taking that bit of extra time to read.
Feel free, as ever, to leave your comments – we will encourage the authors to respond to direct questions, but we can’t make any promises that they will. Either way, that shouldn’t stop your own conversations developing in the comments section, so keep posting your thoughts, and let’s keep the discussion going…