Trials until 30 November 2019: World War I and Revolution in Russia, 1914-1918: Records of the British Foreign Office / Alexander III and the Policy of “Russification,” 1883-1886

Our colleague Angelina Gibson, Slavonic and Eurasian Subject Consultant, has arranged trials to two Russian history resources which are now accessible via SOLO and Databases A-Z.

World War I and Revolution in Russia, 1914-1918: Records of the British Foreign Office

This resource provides access to a collection of documents from the British Foreign Office reporting on Russia’s entry into the First World War and the Russian Revolution events in 1917-1918. The documents consist primarily of correspondence between the British Foreign Office, various British missions and consulates in the Russian Empire and the Tsarist government and later the Provisional Government.

Alexander III and the Policy of “Russification,” 1883-1886

This collection, as seen through the eyes of the British diplomatic corps in Russia, provides a unique analysis of this “retro-reform” policy, including the increase of revolutionary agitation, deepening of conservatism and changes from agrarian to industrial society, and spread of pan-Slavism, both in the Russian Empire and Eastern Europe. The British Foreign Office Records of General Correspondence for Russia, in record class F.O. 65, is the basic collection of documents for studying Anglo-Russian relations during this period of fundamental change.

The trials end on 30 November. Please send comments to angelina.gibson@bodleian.ox.ac.uk and alexander.morrison@new.ox.ac.uk.

New Bodleian History Books: October 2019 – Historiography

New Bodleian History Books: October 2919 – Historiography

The early modern understanding of the term “historiography”, attested in the OED from 1565, is simply as “the writing of history” or “written history”, and the title or role of “historiographer” simply as “historian” – or even as “official historian”, in evidence for example in the title of “Historiographer Royal of Scotland” which is still in existence today.

The modern sense of “historiography” as we understand it today, attested in the OED with quotations from 1889, is, of course, more specifically as “the study of history-writing…as an academic discipline” – in the broadest sense of the term historiography deals with the writing of history. It is “meta-history”, the study of the history of history, as well as of the historians who wrote this history, and of the principles and techniques of the writing (and studying) of history – historiography does not study so much the events of the past as the different interpretations of those events as presented by earlier historians, or the different methods used by these historians to present their version of historical events.

With this definition in mind, a number of different types of studies can be subsumed under the heading of “historiography”, from editions and translations of historical accounts to collections of critical essays on a specific topic or time period or country; from studies of a historian’s methods to biographies of influential historians; and last but not least the classic “histories of history” which try to offer a condensed yet comprehensive account of a historical discipline (e.g. social or economic history) or of the history of a country or region – or even of the history of the world. This month’s blog introduces some of the newly arrived Bodleian books which can be classified as “historiography” in this wider sense.

Historiographical sources

In the study of how historians write history, editions and translations of historical accounts have a definite place. Whether these are records of contemporary history or biographies of their great contemporaries by past historians, or maybe personal diaries and letters which comment on current affairs and how these are presented in contemporary records, or collections or translations of modern historical studies on a given topic – all of these can be looked at as different forms of historiographical sources.

Some contemporary biographical writing from the Italian 15th century is newly edited and translated in Lives of the Milanese Tyrants, which contains two biographies by the Milanese humanist Pier Candido Decembrio (1399–1477), secretary and envoy to the bizarre and powerful Filippo Maria Visconti, Duke of Milan. Pier Candido’s masterpiece of Renaissance biography, based on decades of direct experience at the Duke’s court, is here followed by his fascinating account of the deeds of Visconti’s successor Francesco Sforza, the most successful mercenary captain of the Renaissance. Similar eyewitness accounts of a historian close to royalty can be found in an edition of the Mémoires de l’abbé de Foncemagne – Étienne Lauréault de Foncemagne (1694- 1779) frequented the Parisian salons of the 18th century and was a member of both the Académie française and the Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres. Friend of Edward Gibbon and author of essays on topics ranging from French royal history and the Salic Law to a Dissertation préliminaire sur la Cuisine moderne, he was a tutor to the future Duke of Orléans (one of the wealthiest men in France, the Louis Philippe later known as Philippe Égalité) and thus in a prime position to give a detailed portrait of the man.

The disparity between personal, recorded memories of historic events, and their official representation (including their distortion, censoring, or omission) are the subject of two further volumes arrived newly at the Bodleian. The proceedings of a 2013-15 research seminar in Brest published as Mémoires de la Révolution française advertise themselves as dealing with “epistemological issues, historiographical milestones and unpublished examples” on the topic of the French Revolution. The contributions focus on the difference between memory of the past (“the activity of more or less faithfully encoding and restituting data”) and history (which they define as offering “a verifiable account of the past”), thematize of the production, maintenance, or occlusion of such memories and how they might present “history”, and explore the diversity of international historiographies of the period. Differences between personal memory or records, and official versions of historical events, here in the contemporary press, are also a focus in the third volume of the collected diaries of Hélène Hoppenot, Journal 1940-1944 (with the previous two volumes containing the diaries of the years 1918-1933 and 1936-1940 respectively). As the wife of the French diplomat Henri Hoppenot, stationed variously in Uruguay, Brussels, and the US, Hélène Hoppenot was in an excellent position to record firsthand experiences of the Vichy government, the rise of Charles de  Gaulle, the events of D-Day, and the Liberation of Paris, and she stresses her efforts in trying to faithfully record words heard and things seen behind the scenes before finding them misrepresented or even repressed by journalists with a specific political agenda.

Finally, a true collection of historiographical sources can be found in Florin Curta’s 2-volume Eastern Europe in the Middle Ages (500-1300), which sets out to remedy the fact that only around 11% of the historiographical literature published on the medieval history of Eastern Europe is in English – in its translations of seminal historiographical writings from 10 different languages into English it provides a comprehensive summary on the existing literature that would be otherwise inaccessible due to linguistic barriers, presenting an overview of the current state of research as well as an introductory bibliography in English.

Historians as Authors

Two of the new books arrived over the last couple of months at the Bodleian deal with the historian as an author, and with the issue of authorial self-consciousness, or self-affirmation, in the work of recording events of the past or present.

To shed new light on the authorial figures of ancient and medieval historians “Je, auteur de ce livre” by Cristian Bratu discusses authorial self-representations and self-promotion strategies in the works of historians from Antiquity to the later Middle Ages, from the emergence of the author in the Greek and Roman histories to the not exactly self-effacing vernacular French medieval historians of the 12th to 15th centuries. Following on where Bratu leaves off, the collection on La construction de la personne dans le fait historique focuses on the authorial figure in historical writings from the 16th to the 18th century. The studies collected here thematize once more the tension between memory and historical record, but also the awareness that as a political actor as well as a historian one’s historical narratives shape the image of the self which one leaves to posterity – whether in the historian’s conscious inscription of the self in history or, on the other hand, their attempts to erase or distance themselves from events.

Histories of Historians

As it is the study not only of the history of history, but of the historians who wrote this history, we can include a number of biographies of eminent historians as belonging among the new historiography books at the Bodleian.

The first of four new studies features the influential 19th century French historian and founder of modern historical practice Jules Michelet (1798-1874). Michèle Hannoosh examines the role of art writing in Michelet’s work and shows how the visual arts, at the very centre of Michelet’s conception of historiography, decisively influenced his theory of history and his view of the practice of the historian. The historian who is subject of the second study is situated at the tail-end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century: Thomas Frederick Tout (1855–1929), one of the most prolific English medieval historians of his time. This book presents biographical studies dealing with Tout’s early career and his work at Manchester University, examine his wide-ranging influence on the study of history, and discuss Tout’s life and writings, his political and academical influence, and his lasting legacy on our understanding of the Middle Ages.

Moving into the later 20th century, Raul Hilberg und die Holocaust-Historiographie is dedicated to one of the first and foremost historians on the Holocaust and the genocide of the Jews of Europe. The volume collects papers from the 2017 conference in Berlin held on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of Hilberg’s death, and the contributions range from a critical appraisal of Hilberg’s pioneering 1961 study The Destruction of the European Jews to biographical sketches, discussions of ethical questions raised in his work, and the impact of Hilberg’s work on the study of the Holocaust in our century. Historians of the post-World War II era are also the subject of No Straight Path, which presents first-person accounts of the careers of ten successful female historians in a predominantly male-dominated professional world. Starting from college and public-school teaching, or marriage and motherhood, and making the unusual decision (at the time) to move beyond high-school teaching and attend graduate school, the experiences of these historians from the southern United States are varied and distinctive in their respective paths to become a member or even chair of the History Department at the University of Memphis, or Professor for History at Tulane University. The authors discuss the issues they faced including gender inequality and problems with their work/home balance, but also their role models on the path of becoming professional female historians.

Meta-History

Somewhat shorter than John Burrow’s comprehensive 2007 study A History of Histories, and also than his own 2012 A Global History of History, Daniel Woolf’s new 2019 publication A Concise History of History is meant as an introduction for those studying or teaching historical theory and method, or historiography. Keeping to the promise of its subtitle to be a “global historiography from antiquity to the present” despite its conciseness, it contains a number of helpful features designed to assist in making sense of the vastness of human history such as timelines listing major dynasties or regimes throughout the world, outlines of historiographical developments, or guides to key thinkers and seminal historical works. Its chapters cover topic such as the earliest historical writings, the history of Eurasia to the 15th century, the sense of the past in early modern and Renaissance history, the impact of imperialism and sciences on historiography in the 18th and 19th centuries, historical writing in the 20th century, and a look at new, future directions of historiography.

This final topic is also discussed for a more specialist section of historical studies in New Directions in Social and Cultural History. Leading historians in the field here reflect on what it means to be a social or cultural historian today; muse on what challenges and opportunities await historians in the early 21st century in this age of digital and public history; discuss key developments and important shifts and interventions in the theory and methodology in their fields; and suggest future developments and emerging areas of historical research, providing a comprehensive overview of the field for any student or scholar of social and cultural history and historiography.

You can find more books on the subject on our online LibraryThing shelf tagged with”historiography“.

Trial until 27 Nov: Paris Peace Conference and Beyond, 1919-1939

Oxford historians are now invited to trial Paris Peace Conference and Beyond, 1919-1939 (British Online Archives) which is available via SOLO and Databases A-Z.

The Paris Peace Conference was a meeting of Allied diplomats that took place in the aftermath of the First World War. Its purpose was to impose peace terms on the vanquished Central Powers and establish a new international order.

This online resource draws on material chiefly from The National Archives: FO 373 (Foreign Office: Peace Conference; Handbooks): FO 608 (Foreign Office: Peace Conference; British Delegation, Correspondence and Papers); FO 893 (Foreign Office: Ambassadors to the Peace Conference, 1919; Minutes of Proceedings); CAB 29/139 (Cabinet Office: International Conferences; Minutes and Papers; Lausanne Conference, 1932).

These Foreign Office records for the first time offer an emphatic and comprehensive coverage of the various peace treaties signed at the end of the First World War. The Treaties of Versailles, Saint-Germain, Sèvres, Trianon, Neuilly and Lausanne are all covered in great depth. They collectively saw to the redrawing of boundaries, the stripping back of German military might and the effective end of the Ottoman Empire.

These records are supplemented by the personal papers of Robert Cecil and Arthur Balfour – held at the British Library – both of whom played prominent roles during the course of the Conference.

Explore how the Allied Powers scrambled to create a diplomatic epilogue to ‘the war to end all wars’. This resource will interest those researching: The First World War, The Second World War, Inter-War International Governance, International Relations, Peace-making, Colonialism, 20th Century, War, Diplomacy, and Politics.

Please send feedback to isabel.holowaty@bodleian.ox.ac.uk.

Useful subject searches in SOLO: Paris Peace Conference (1919-1920) or World War, 1914-1918 — Reparations.

While you are here…

… did you know that the Bodleian has The Papers of Richard Meinerzhagen (1878-1967)? He was on Balfour’s staff at the Paris Peace Conference.

Humanities Research Fair for Postgraduates 29 November 3-5pm – bookings now open

Humanities postgraduates, come and join us the Humanities Research Fair on Friday 29 November 2019, 3-5pm, Exam Schools.

The Fair is an excellent opportunity for you to gain a wider perspective on the wealth and riches of research sources available for your field of study.

At the Fair you can learn about resources you may not yet have yet considered and meet the curators of collections who can guide you towards relevant material or useful finding tools. Over 40 stalls will cover many areas:

  • Special collections (archives & early printed books, maps, museums)
  • Topical stalls (e.g. resources for English literature, Theology, History, Modern Languages, Biography)
  • Geographical stalls (e.g. US studies, Latin American, Far & Near Eastern, European)
  • General resources (e.g. Information skills, Open Access, Digital Humanities, Top 10 Tips from a Graduate)

The format of the Fair encourages you to explore and discover new materials at your own pace, to be curious, to network and to make connections to experts and their peers while also learning about creative use of sources in Digital Humanities.

More details of contributors will be publicised in due course.

Talks

A series of 15 minutes talks will accompany the Fair. They will cover topics such as

  • TORCH: an introduction to interdiscplinary reseach in the Humanities
  • Gale Cengage’s Digital Scholar Lab
  • Text Encoding Initiatives (TEI) the Humanities
  • Top 10 Tips from Graduates

Portable DVD drives available for loan!

In response to reader feedback, we’re pleased to announce that we now have two portable DVD drives available for loan. History students may be particularly interested in using these to consult items from the HFL DVD collection. The devices are quick and easy to use, compatible with most operating systems, and can be issued for two days (plus one online renewal). Please let us know if you have any feedback – we’re always looking to improve access to our collections.

New sit-stand desks in the Upper Gladstone Link

We are currently trialling two ergonomic desk devices in the Upper Gladstone Link that allow readers to adjust their position to either sit or stand at their work space. The WorkFit-Z mini is adapted to hold one of our Reader PCs, whilst the Opløft facilitates materials, such as books, notepads and laptops, to be raised to varying heights.

We’re interested in hearing any reader feedback on the benefits or disadvantages of these devices in helping you study. Please let a member of staff know your views!

The location of the devices is indicated on the map below:

Trial until 29 Nov 2019: Bloomsbury Medieval Studies

Oxford medievalists are invited to trial Bloomsbury Medieval Studies.

This is a new interdisciplinary digital resource with a global perspective covering the medieval period. It brings together high-quality secondary content with visual primary sources, a new reference work and pedagogical resources into one cross-searchable platform, to support students and researchers across this rich field of study.

Specifically, the resource contains over 150 scholarly works (incl. primary texts, research monographs, companions) which have been published by Bloomsbury and other publishers such as IB Tauris, Arc Humanities Press, Amsterdam University Press.

It also contains a newly published reference work (The Encyclopedia of the Global Middle Age) and over a 1000 images sourced from collections in the British Library, Metropolitan Museum of Art and Senate House Library (London).

The trial ends on 29 November 2019. Feedback should be sent to isabel.holowaty@bodleian.ox.ac.uk.

Dyslexia, Visual Stress, and Accessibility Equipment

#DyslexiaAwarenessWeek2019

At the History Faculty Library, we’re very keen to create the best possible environment for learning and research.

So, to celebrate #DyslexiaAwarenessWeek2019 and the neurodiversity of our readers, here is a guide to our accessibility equipment and how it could help if you are dyslexic, experience visual stress, or have any other barriers to learning.

WHAT IS DYSLEXIA?

Dyslexia is diagnosed differently across the world and there are many different hypothesized causes. As it is currently understood in the UK, however, dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty that exists on a continuum and frequently overlaps with other types of learning difficulties or disabilities.[1] Professor Margaret J. Snowling, author of the newly published Dyslexia: A Very Short Introduction and president of St John’s College, defines dyslexia as ‘a problem with learning which primarily affects the development of reading accuracy and fluency and spelling skills’, though it can also cause problems with speech. It affects phonological awareness, verbal memory, and verbal processing speed.[2]

Poor spelling, slow reading and writing speeds, confusing similar letters (like ‘b’ and ‘d’) or your left and right, along with visual stress (discussed below), are all well-known signs of dyslexia. Some of the lesser-known difficulties that affect students at university-level, however, involve more systemic differences in structural thinking. These can make organization and time management, writing and structuring essays, note taking, remembering the right words in tutorial discussions, and finding your way around Oxford University’s many libraries a challenge.

Yet dyslexic ways of thinking can equally result in brilliant insights, creativity, and excellent pattern recognition. Though dyslexia is a neurodevelopmental disorder, it has little to do with education or general intelligence, and affects people of all ages and abilities in diverse ways. A holistic approach and a fair amount of experimentation are therefore required to find out what helps to overcome these difficulties and for dyslexic students to reach their potential.

HOW CAN WE HELP?

Friendly librarians and library assistants are always on hand in the History Faculty Library and Bodleian Libraries to show you how things work, help with shelf-marks, retrieve books and find resources. There is no such thing as a silly question!

We also have a variety of accessibility equipment so you can access the resources you need to learn.

Who can use accessibility equipment?

Anyone! If you think you’ll find it helpful, you may use any of the equipment, no questions asked.

What’s available and where can I find it?

Here’s a list of what we have available and where to find it. The equipment can be used anywhere in the Radcliffe Camera or Gladstone Link as long as it’s returned to its original location when you’ve finished using it.

WHAT IS VISUAL STRESS?

Visual stress’, also known as Meares/Irens Syndrome, is a common symptom of dyslexia. Yet not everyone with dyslexia experiences visual stress, and many who do not have dyslexia, do. It’s also a symptom of a whole host of other associated learning difficulties, disabilities, and illnesses that include attention deficit disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorders (ASD), headaches and migraines, and traumatic brain injuries. Visual stress is a perceptual processing disorder thought to be caused by the way some brains process certain frequencies of light.

What is it like?

Those of us with visual stress interpret regular black lines of text on a white page a bit differently, resulting in perceptual distortions. Serif fonts like Times New Roman make it worse, as do particular colours. When I look at a page of text, for example, it can seem like things are moving in the corners of my vision and white ‘rivers’ constantly emerge from the patterns between the words and lines. I know that these distortions ‘aren’t real’, but my brain interprets the neural data from my eyes in this peculiar way regardless. The same phenomenon occurs with other regular high-contrast patterns like narrow stripes. It reminds me of the way TV screens sometimes appear on film with flickering lines rolling across them. In all, the blurring, double vision, and glare from the white page caused by visual stress present an extra barrier to absorbing and understanding a text and can lead to poor comprehension, eye strain, fatigue, headaches and migraines. It can be particularly unbearable if you are already tired.

What helps? Colour!

Though visual stress does not cause the cognitive problems that you might face if you are dyslexic, relieving this symptom can help with fatigue and aid focus.

Coloured acetate sheets can dampen perceptual distortions by reducing the sharp contrast between the white of the page and black of the text. These transparent plastic sheets can be simply laid over the page you are reading. It is a myth that these ‘cure’ dyslexia, but lots of people report that they do alleviate visual stress.[3] A range of colours are available upon request at the staff desk in the Lower Camera, so if you think these might help, don’t hesitate to ask.

The History Faculty Library also has a variety of coloured paper to use in the printers for the same reasons, as well as coloured reading rulers that help stop your eyes wandering from the line that you want to read. Both are available on request. If you are reading from a screen, try changing the background colour of the document or reducing the brightness and enlarging the size of the text.

Other Assistive Equipment

Brain ‘fog’, procrastination, poor focus, and fatigue are also common challenges for dyslexic readers, so it is important to minimise distractions, support good posture, and make studying as comfortable as possible. Ergonomic equipment is available in the Lower Camera and Upper Gladstone Link to focus your attention and keep you comfortable. The History Faculty Library has ergonomic chairs, foot stools, book stands, and height adjustable desks for standing or sitting.

Daylight lamps at these desks can help prevent eyestrain, and a magnifier is available on request for texts with tiny fonts or help if you are visually impaired.

Ear plugs are available to muffle distracting sounds and if you find these uncomfortable, try listening to white noise tracks on a loop. There are also quiet laptop-free areas on the Gallery in the Upper Camera.

Height Adjustable Desks in the Lower Camera

How do I get further support?

More information about the History Faculty Library’s Services for Disabled readers can be found here. There are many more ways that the University can give support if you are dyslexic that are not discussed here, so if you haven’t already, head to the University’s Disability Advisory Service to find out more.

We would love to hear any thoughts or suggestions about how the History Faculty Library can support you, so come and talk to us in person or email us at radcam-enquiries@bodleian.ox.ac.uk.

HFL Disability Contact: rachel.darcy-brown@bodleian.ox.ac.uk

Radcliffe Camera Gladstone Link Disability Contact: lyn.jones@bodleian.ox.ac.uk

LINKS AND RESOURCES 

Margaret J. Snowling, Dyslexia: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019).

Jim Rose, Identifying and Teaching Children and Young People with Dyslexia and Literacy Difficulties (An independent report from Sir Jim Rose to the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, June 2009).

British Dyslexia Association’s website.

University of Oxford’s History of Dyslexia Project.

Watch Professor Maggie Snowling’s British Academy lecture on ‘Dyslexia: An Impairment of Language Learning’.

Notes

[1] Sir Jim Rose’s independent review for the UK government in 2009 defined dyslexia using the best evidence and remediation practises. It is still widely accepted today. It is worth noting that a discrepancy between ‘IQ-reading skill and actual reading level’ is no longer accepted as a diagnostic-criteria for dyslexia. See Jim Rose, Identifying and Teaching Children and Young People with Dyslexia and Literacy Difficulties (2009) <https://dera.ioe.ac.uk/14790/7/00659-2009DOM-EN_Redacted.pdf>.

[2] Margaret J. Snowling, Dyslexia: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2019), 1.

[3] Despite the widespread acceptance of coloured lenses as a treatment for dyslexia, there is little evidence that specifically tailored colours for each person are required to gain the calming benefit of coloured overlays. Nevertheless, Professor John Stein’s research suggests that blue and yellow overlays may be most helpful. Read about his research here.

 

New discovery tool to search Bodleian Archives & Manuscripts

[Re-blogged from the Bodleian Libraries’ announcement]

The Bodleian Libraries have today released Bodleian Archives & Manuscripts https://archives.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/, providing access to the Bodleian’s world-renowned collection of archives and manuscripts on a new, user-friendly site.

The resource is in beta and researchers are encouraged to give feedback.

Bodleian Archives & Manuscripts is a new interface which revolutionizes the discoverability of archives. Whereas previously descriptions of archives and manuscripts were available in separate online catalogues, they’ve now been brought together into one site.

https://archives.bodleian.ox.ac.uk

Bodleian Archives & Manuscripts currently includes descriptions for approximately 100,000 boxes of archival material collected by the Bodleian Libraries, dating from c. 1500 to the 21st century. Material described is predominantly in manuscript form, but the collections also contain large amounts of photographic material, audiovisual items, and born-digital content. Over the next 12 months Bodleian Libraries staff will continue to add to Bodleian Archives & Manuscripts, incorporating some of the Bodleian’s most important published catalogues – the Summary and New Summary Catalogues.

The predecessor to Bodleian Archives & Manuscripts, the Online Catalogue for Archives and Manuscripts, will remain available until early January 2020 at which point we will switch over to Bodleian Archives & Manuscripts fully, and decommission the Libraries’ old Online Catalogues platform.

For more information and an FAQ about Bodleian Archives & Manuscripts visit the public FAQ document.

While you are here…

The online catalogue for Medieval archives and manuscripts held in the Bodleian Libraries is available at https://medieval.bodleian.ox.ac.uk.

A guide to finding aids for Bodleian Libraries’ oriental archival collections is in the LibGuide for Oriental Manuscripts.

Administrative records of the University of Oxford are part of the Oxford University Archives.

New Bodleian History Books: September 2019 – Economic History

New Bodleian History Books: Economic History

Adam Smith’s 1776 Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations is generally considered to be the first modern work of economics, and economic history as a discipline is even younger, tracing its origins only to the late 19th and early 20th century. As a discipline, economic history can be variously defined as the study of the economic aspects of societies and individuals in the past, or the history of the economic use of resources such as a land, labour and capital, or the examination of the past performance of individual economies. It thus includes a number of different sub-disciplines such as financial and business history, or demographic and labour history, and asks questions about such diverse issues as the demand and supply of goods and services, production and costs of production, trade and trade routes, levels of income, distribution of wealth, or volume and direction of investment. But since historical economic phenomena have no existence independent of the social, political, cultural, religious and physical environment in which they occurred, economic historians will also draw on the areas of political science, sociology, psychology, anthropology, and might consider a wide variety of  factors including crime, education, the family, law, politics, religion, social institutions, war, science, and the environment.

This blog entry is not the place to get involved in the great debate of the exact relationship between economics, history and economic history (does any study of economics involve a component of economic history so that the two are inseparable? Or does economic history constitute its own field separate from mainstream economics? Does economic history belong into the History Department or into the Economics Department?) – without taking any sides, the History books newly arrived at the Bodleian I have chosen to highlight in this month’s blog are simply studies on any aspect of economics from a historical perspective, from discussions of a single historical person’s individual wealth or influence on economics, to the trade and industries of towns and cities, the economic situations and influences of larger regions, and finally global economic issues.

Individual economics

Economic history asks questions about some of the fundamental aspects of people’s lives in the past – how and where they lived, how they were born and died, how they worked and earned and spent their money. The factors that influence these include anything from climate and geography to political instability and form of government, the availability or discovery of natural resources, the size and health of population and availability of labour, the existence of natural or artificial infrastructure, and the development or invention of technology. Forces like these are usually understood to be outside the control of single, individual actors – but on the other hand an influential individual, be it a king or queen, politician or economic theorist, businessman or inventor, can certainly singlehandedly change the shape and direction of their society’s economy.

Bernard Allorent’s La fortune de la Grande Mademoiselle examines the personal fortune and property of Anne Marie Louise d’Orléans, Duchess of Montpensier (1627-1693), which most certainly qualified as “un enjeu politique”, “a political issue” of 17th century France.  One of the greatest heiresses in history, she died unmarried and childless, leaving her vast fortune to her cousin, Philippe of France, the younger brother of Louis XIV. The documentary evidence examined throws light not only on her fortune (and varying fortunes!) and its management, but also on the debt market of 17th century France, the general economic situation of her times, and the influence of the king in the management of her affairs which resulted in the ultimate transmission of her vast fortune to the royal family. An even greater influence by one individual on the economic affairs of two countries if not a whole continent, this time towards the end of the 20th century, is documented by Mathias Haeussler in his study Helmut Schmidt and British-German Relations. In his office as West German chancellor from  1974 to 1982, Schmidt clashed heavily and repeatedly with his British counterparts Harold Wilson, James Callaghan, and Margaret Thatcher – Schmidt’s competing vision of and incompatible strategy for post-war Europe and the issue of European integration not only influenced contemporary market forces, but had long-reaching repercussions on the shape of the European economy as it is today.

Urban economics

The influence of a place’s geography on its economy can be clearly seen in coastal towns and cities whose harbours ensured their development into and situation as major trading centres, often for centuries or even millennia. Venice is one of the great examples of these (see more on this in the next section), but Cyprus has a claim to a similarly long history in the city of Famagusta, the deepest harbour of the island, which dates back to the 3rd century BC, and developed from the early Middle Ages into one of the major trading ports of the Mediterranean in the possessions of Genoa, Venice, the Ottoman Empire, and finally the British Empire. The collection Famagusta maritima offers essays on a wide range of various economic aspects of the port’s history, from its relationship with both the Papal court and the Islamic world to the trade of such diverse merchandise as soap, olive oil, and slaves, to the modern economic boom brought by tourism in the British colonial and postcolonial era. Rather more northern coastal cities are the subject of a second collection of conference proceedings, “Hansisch” oder “nicht-hansisch”, which examines the smaller cities of Livland in the eastern Baltic. Hanseatic traders established trading posts in larger cities there already in early days of the League in the 12th century, but the present collection examines questions of membership and economic and political influence of Livland’s smaller towns, as well as the relationship of the entire region to the great organisation of the Hanseatic League.

Regional economics

Widening the focus from the individual and the urban space of the city, four of the newly arrived books deal with the economic situation of larger regions. Kaufhäuser an Mittel- und Oberrhein im Spätmittelalter presents the proceedings of a conference on the subject of late medieval trade emporia, “Kaufhäuser”, the forerunners of the modern shopping centre, in the Middle and Upper Rhine valley – rather than dealing with individual establishments, the focus of the contributions is on the overall regional impact and operations,  including the influence of trade centres located in smaller towns. Medieval and early modern economics of Western Europe are the subject of Cultures fiscales en Occident du Xe au XVIIe siècle – Denis Menjot has a long distinguished career in the area of the financial, economic, social and political history of Castile and the towns and regions of medieval Spain, and the 28 contributions collected here in his honour touch on issues of taxes, fraud, the redistribution of resources, and financial government and its social effects in medieval and early modern Europe, with a focus on both the idea of the common good in the Middle Ages and that of fiscal citizenship today.

Renaissance economic history, more specifically the economic influence of Venice and it surrounding region on Old Regime Europe, with a special focus on the issue of economic inequalities, is then the subject of Guido Alfani’s and Matteo di Tullio’s The Lion’s Share. Comparing data from the Venetian Terraferma and the rest of early modern Europe, the two authors argue for the rise of the fiscal-military state (with its disparities in wealth increasing through taxation destined to fund war and defence rather than social welfare) as the root cause of modern inequality and social stratification. A second Festschrift, this one in honour of Philippe Mioche whose areas of interest include industrial history and the history of the European Union, moves us into the modern age: the studies in Industrie entre Méditerranée et Europe, XIXe-XXIe siècle explore contemporary industrial history of Europe and the Mediterranean region through the analysis of its main actors, from the human managers and workers to factories and companies, from family businesses to large international groups, and from mines to furnaces. They trace the influences of international and European policies on these industries, as well as their evolution and their heritage, from the 19th century to the present day.

Global economics

Finally, the last newly arrived book I would like to highlight this month moves us onto the stage of global or world economics: in The Anxious Triumph: A Global History of Capitalism, 1880-1914 Donald Sassoon looks at the establishment of the modern political frameworks all over the world which enabled the globalisation and dominance of capitalism as a system, from the unifications of Italy and Germany to the establishment of a republic in France, the elimination of slavery in the American south, the Meiji Restoration in Japan, and the emancipation of the serfs in Tsarist Russia. Sassoon’s study analyses the impact of capitalism on the histories of many different states as well as its chronic instability, the “anxious triumph” of his title, focusing on the role of the state as an “overseer” of the capitalist “war of all against all” – necessary to develop a welfare state, to intervene in the market economy, and also to protect it from foreign competition.

You can find more books on the subject on our online LibraryThing shelf tagged with economic history or economic conditions.