New Postal Returns Service

If you’re not in Oxford and are unable to return your loans to our Returns hubs, you can now send your books back to us via the Bodleian’s new free Postal Returns service!

1. Click on this link for the Royal Mail’s Tracked Service.

2. Follow the instructions to either print off a package label at home, or to use a QR code, sent to you by email, to print the label at a Post Office.

3. Package the books following Royal Mail’s guidance as best you can. Take the package with label or QR code to your nearest Post Office. As this is a prepaid service, you won’t be asked to pay any postage on your parcel.

If you have books from multiple Bodleian Libraries, you can send them all back in the same package and once they reach Oxford they will be distributed to their owning libraries. Please don’t be concerned if you see that posted items remain on your SOLO account over the summer, as it will take staff some time to process them all. You will not be charged any fines while books are awaiting check-in; only fines accrued before the library’s closure in March will be payable.

If you are currently outside the UK, if you are unable to get to a Post Office to drop off your books, or if you have a large number of books on loan, you can get in touch with the Bodleian’s Returns team at borrow@bodleian.ox.ac.uk and they will find another option for you.

NB. Please note that the free postal service is for those readers who are unable to return books in person. If you are currently in Oxford, or planning to visit over the summer, and you are able to bring your books back in person, we would be grateful if you could do so via our Returns hubs (details here: https://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/using/loanreturns).

Bodleian New History eBooks: May 2020 – Masculinities

Bodleian New History eBooks: May 2020 – Masculinities

The question of what makes a man a man, or what exactly is meant by “masculinity”, is one which has been asked innumerable times in recorded history in sources as different as ancient theatre and medieval chronicles, early modern letters and nineteenth-century pedagogic tracts, or 20th-century movies and self-help books. Humans, both men and women, have tried to answer it in a similarly wide range of media, not only explicitly in academic papers and studies, but both explicitly and implicitly in self-help manuals, popular culture, feminist ideas, psychoanalytic theory, or simply in the daily interactions between boys and their fathers, husbands and wives, or children and their teachers.

Ideas of masculinity are inextricably intertwined with history – in their volume on What Is Masculinity? Arnold and Brady explain that the habit of masculine domination is bound so closely both to social power and to the idea of “how things are” that it is a prime example of “history turned into nature” (p. 1). There is, then, a question of whether there is a need for a “men’s history”, or a “history of masculinity” at all – as highlighted in the March edition of this New Books blog, the aim of the feminist movement and women’s history often is to re-balance history and redress the exclusion of women from it. But since men, their lives, and their activities in the public sphere are already the substance of traditional historiography, is there really a need to re-examine historic masculinities today?

Sussman in his Masculine Identities argues that it is specifically the conflict between the historical (or even pre-historical) male image with the realities of male life today that accounts for much of the questions about and discontent with their identity in contemporary men. There is no doubt that the question is very much part of our contemporary culture – while originating in the 1990s, the term “toxic masculinity” came to prominence in media use only in the 2010s; the coinage, only half a decade ago, of such emotionally and culturally charged portmanteaus as “mansplaining” and “manspreading” points to a very current discussion of masculinity and male stereotypes; and the #MeToo movement just over two years ago highlighted a widespread hegemonic masculinity even in countries which are considered frontrunners of gender parity.

One argument for a history of masculinities is that the flip side of privilege is disadvantage, and while undoubtedly men as a group are privileged, there is much insight to be gained from considering the costs of such privileges and the ways in which not all men are granted equal access to them, whether on account of their race, class, or sexuality – similar to women’s history, gay history is a historiography which charts repression, resistance and self-discovery. The main argument for a history of masculinities, however, is that masculinity really only has meaning in relation to other identities, whether of gender, sexuality, class, age, religion, or culture – contextualisation and interconnectedness are the crucial factors. Any historical approaches to masculinity thus never stands alone – rather than a free-standing strand, the history of masculinities today can be understood as an enrichment of a large variety of other emphases, from the history of the family to women’s history, post-colonial history, workers’ history, political or cultural history. As John Tosh explains it in his chapter on “The History of Masculinity: An Outdated concept?“, a historical perspective and experience within our lifetimes shows manliness as constructed by culture and also changed by it, so that masculinity “takes its place as one lens, among several, through which the texture of society and culture may be more fully understood” (p.20). This is also the reason that we speak of masculinities in the plural, rather than masculinity in the singular – to account for the many variations of the concept in different historic era and cultures, but also in the self-perception of the individual. The new eBooks on the topic of masculinities which have been added to the Bodleian over the past weeks, and which I would like to highlight in this blog, take full advantage of the potential widths and depths of this field, and study masculinities in historic eras from Antiquity to the present, in connection with issues from class to politics, religion and magic, and in relationships from homosocial to homosexual.

Macrohistorical Masculinities

In a fascinating piece of macrohistory spanning historical eras from Antiquity until late Modernity, Aleardo Zanghellini’s The Sexual Constitution of Political Authority looks at the issues of sex and power, specifically related to homosexuality. He examines the relationship between ideas of political authority and male same-sex desire in a series of case studies of statesmen whose (sometimes only alleged) homosexuality was seen to problematize the good exercise of public powers. Studying the sometimes literal, sometimes metaphorical “trials” of same-sex desire, the book begins with the Roman emperor Hadrian and moves on to the Middle Ages and early modern period with chapters on the English kings Edward II and James I, through the Victorian Age with the Dublin Castle and the Cleveland Street scandals of the 1880s, and finally to the 20th century with the McCarthy-era and the 1950s Montagu-trials which led to the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Britain.

Greek and Roman Masculinities

Situated at the early end of these historic eras, in ancient Rome, Maud W. Gleason’s Making Men on the other hand is a fascinating piece of microhistory which compares the careers of two popular 2nd-century public speakers. Celebrities in their day, the differences of self-presentation in features such as gait, gesture, facial expression, and voice between the orator Favorinus, a eunuch, and Polemo, a man who met conventional gender expectations, offers many insights into the ways ancient Romans constructed masculinity during a time marked by anxiety over manly deportment. Halperin’s One Hundred Years of Homosexuality is another study which focuses on the question of masculinity and more broadly sexuality in Antiquity, with a look at the original “Greek love” and the erotics of male culture in ancient Greece. Contrary to his title, however, Halperin argues that the modern concept of “homosexuality” is actually inadequate for understanding this facet of sexual life in this period, and instead urges us to look at the native Greek terms which contenporaries used to construct sexuality and sexual experiences in the ancient Mediterranean world.

Early Modern Masculinities

For the early modern era, Frances Timbers singles out one particular facet of cultural history to examine gender in her Magic and Masculinity, with a study of how in early modern England, the practice of ritual or ceremonial magic both reinforced and subverted existing concepts of gender. Drawing on  records of well-known magicians such as John Dee as well as unpublished diaries and journals, contemporary literature and legal records, her examples include a wide range of practitioners from male magicians in their customary patriarchal positions of control to those who used the notion of magic to subvert gender roles, and to females who employed magic to undermine the patriarchal culture. A wider view of early modern English gender is taken by the contributors to English Masculinities, 1660-1800, a collection of specially commissioned essays which draws on diaries, court records and prescriptive literature to provide a social view of the masculine identities of late Stuart and Georgian men – from fops to gentlemen, blackguards to men of religion, and heterosexuals to homosexuals. In their efforts to explore the complex and disparate masculinities enacted by the men of this period, the different contributions touch on such a variety of topics as the correlations between masculinity and Protestantism, the connection of masculinity with taciturnity, the impact of changing representations of homosexual desire, misogyny, the literary and metaphorical representation of the body, and the roles of gossip and violence in men’s lives.

Modern Masculinities

Starting in the Victorian era, but moving into the later 20th century, Masculinities and the Nation in the Modern World provides some fresh perspectives on the role of masculinities in various processes of nation-building in the modern world between the early nineteenth century and the 1960s. The contributions concern the production and perpetuation of nationalized hegemonic masculinities in Western societies, highlighting their ambiguities in transnational contexts created by colonialism and imperialism, where transnational processes of exchange, translation, and adaptation allowed Western nations to subdue and marginalize non-Western and non-white masculinities. The individual papers collected in this volume discuss these issues with respect to the Confederate States in the 1860s, Mormon polygamy, the American family of the early 20th century, the masculine ideal in fascist Italy, competing notions of masculinity in the United States and Nicaragua, the emasculation of the Mexican community in the second half of the 19th century, or martial masculinities in late Meiji Japan. Taking up the thread at the turn of the 20th century is Helen Smith’s Masculinity, Class and Same-Sex Desire in Industrial England, 1895-1957, which explicitly focuses on the experiences of working-class men in areas outside of London, and in this offers not only a new chapter in the history of homosexuality, but also widens our more general understanding of masculinity, working-class culture, regionality and work in the period. Drawing on a wide range of primary sources on the lives of men who have been forgotten, Smith shows how, contrary to perceived ideas, same-sex desire could be a part of everyday life in the industrial towns of early 20th century England.

Finally, Anthony W. Clare’s On Men: Masculinity in Crisis offers an exploration of the challenged state of masculinity in a post-feminist society of gender equality at the turn of the 21st century. With shifting gender roles many men have lost their traditional position of  provider for their families, and modern law, family constellations and medical advances mean that men are also getting pushed out of similarly traditional roles as protectors, parents, and even procreators. Male violence is no more a source of honour and pride, but a threat to our culture and civilisation, and the dying-out of the assertive, authoritative, dominant man is mirrored by a rise in male suicides. Practising psychiatrist Clare brings his knowledge of science and medicine as well as his understanding of the human mind to this readable, fair-handed and sympathetic examination of the male in today’s society.

You can find all new eBooks on our LibraryThing shelf here, and more books on this topic tagged with “masculinity” here.

Trial until 18 May 2020: Droz ebooks: Humanisme et Renaissance – Calvin

Colleagues in the Taylor Institution Library have set up trials to some online Droz French resources. Two of these will be of interest to early modern history, history of the book, intellectual history, religious history, and European history. You will need SSO for remote access. Please send feedback to isabel.holowaty@bodleian.ox.ac.uk.

Humanisme et Renaissance

The Droz Humanisme et Renaissance collection offers a collection of sources and studies on Humanism (Politien, Ficin, Erasmus, Budé…), the French Reformation (Lefèvre d’Etaples, Calvin, Farel, Beza…) and the Renaissance (literary and artistic, Hieronymus Bosch or Rabelais, Ronsard or Primaticcio), as well as the medicine, science, philosophy, book history, and all forms of knowledge and human activity from the long sixteenth century, roughly from 1450 to the death of Henry IV in 1610, the threshold of the classical age.

Calvin

This portal presents all the texts by or about John Calvin which have been published by the Librairie Droz from 1960 to 2012, with an initial focus on Geneva, Calvin, and the beginnings of the French evangelical movement with Lefèvre d’Etaples and Marguerite de Navarre.

Related resources already available in Oxford:

Anti-Calvin

This database comprises the writings of French Catholics against the doctrines of John Calvin (1509-1564) and other protestant leaders. France was a major centre in the clash between Catholics and Protestants during the sixteenth century. Much of the Protestant literature was in French in the hopes of converting the French people. In response, the Catholic Church preserved its position in France with these documents. This archive includes both sixteenth-century attacks on Calvinism and Protestantism as well as defences of the Catholic doctrine.

Huguenots

This collection offers a comprehensive survey of the original writings of the French Huguenot authors, from the first stirrings of radical dissent in the 1530s through to the end of the century. The selection privileges first and foremost original writings of authors writing within France and for an exclusively French audience. Thus whereas Calvin’s Genevan writings are not included, the tracts penned by Theodore de Bèze as part of the polemic exchange during the Colloquy of Poissy (1561) do appear here.

All told the writings collected here reveal an intellectually vibrant movement, meeting unprecedented challenges and later hardship with that mixture of confidence, aggression, and resolution in the face of adversity that characterises Calvinist churches of this era throughout Europe.

National Emergency Library – temporary free access to 1.5m ebooks

[Since posting this blog post, concerns regarding the copyright relating to the National Emergency Library have been expressed. The Internet Archive has published their response at https://blog.archive.org/2020/03/30/internet-archive-responds-why-we-released-the-national-emergency-library/. Copyright laws vary across countries. Readers using the US-based Internet Archive and its National Emergency Library are therefore reminded that some digital ebooks may not comply with UK law and that they should use care and judgement when selecting books from NEL.]
I am delighted to share the news that the Internet Archive has created the
National Emergency Library stop support research and learning during the COVID-19 crisis.

In short, just under 1.5m books (but growing) are being made available, drawing on collections from selected US libraries. They are US-heavy (publishers and subjects) but tens of thousand of digitised books from the 20th century can be accessed. Many subjects are covered, including history.

NEL will be made available until 30 June or the end of the US national emergence, whichever is later.

 

For more background, see

Enormous thanks must go to US librarians and the Internet Archive for making this possible so quickly.

How to use it?
We are working on ways of making NEL titles easily discoverable in SOLO. Watch this space.
The digitised book can be viewed online or downloaded as pdfs to Adobe-compliant software.
Any questions? Check their FAQ.

March’s Book Display for International Women’s Day

This Sunday, March 8th, is International Women’s Day. To mark the occasion, this month we have book display of works which explore the history of women’s suffrage. The display is located in the Upper Gladstone Link so do take a look the next time you visit the library.

As well as physical books, we have lots of e-resources on the topic of women’s suffrage across the world (see previous blog post for information about Bodleian’s trials on Women’s studies e-resources). Below you’ll find books covering women’s movements in Asia, Europe, America, New Zealand, the Netherlands, as well as Britain. These are available online to University members, outside the library- just make sure you’re signed on with your single sign-on. Click on the book cover below to access the SOLO record:

 

There’s lots going on across Oxford, to mark International Women’s day. Musicians from across the university will perform this evening at Somerville College, performing choral and instrumental works by female composers.  St Hugh’s College has a series of talks and exhibits to celebrate their alumni who worked at Bletchley Park during the Second World War. Christ Church College will host a wikipedia edit-a-thon aimed at increasing the visibility of women in academia.

LGBT+ History Month

February is LGBT+ History Month, so we’ve put together a display a range of books from our collection which explore LGBT+ history.

The theme for LGBT+ History Month 2020 is Poetry, Prose, and Plays. Included in our display, you’ll find books covering the topic of homosexuality and literature, focusing on different periods in history. Among them, we have Passions between women : British lesbian culture 1668-1801 by Emma Donoghue which looks at representations of lesbian culture in British print, from classic works of literature to legal and medical publications. Also included is Naomi Wolf’s most recent book, Outrages, which studies the Obscene Publications Act and the censorship of books. In addition, we have 1956 and all that : the making of modern British drama by Dan Reballato in which the author studies the influence of homosexuality on 1940s and 50s British theatre.

LGBT History Month in the UK have highlighted the following four writers in particular: Dawn Langley Simmons, E.M. Forster, Lorraine Hansberry, William Shakespeare. Of course, you’ll find plenty more books on poetry, prose and plays at the English Faculty Library.  However, the following e-books are available online to University members, wherever you happen to be- just make sure you’re signed on with your single sign-on. Click on the book cover below to access the SOLO record.

Further to this, the Bodleian are trialling the following 3 e-resources during February:

Archives of Sexuality and Gender: Gale Cengage. Primary source materials from the 16th- 20th century. This is the biggest digital collection of primary source materials on sexuality and gender history.

LGBT Magazine Archive: Proquest LLC. Contains the archives of 26 leading LGBT magazines, including The Advocate which has not been available digitally before.  Also included are Gay News and its successor Gay Times.

LGBT Life Full Text from EBSCO LGBT studies database, providing historically significant primary sources, including books, newspapers and magazines. A subject-specific thesaurus, containing thousands of terms, is also included.

LGBT+ Events happening in Oxford

On Sunday afternoon, the History Faculty has a number of talks on LGBT+ history, more on which you can find out here.

Later on in the month, you can hear about the latest research in LGBT+ history with a keynote lecture from Dr Jill Liddington on ‘Writing Anne Lister. More information can be found here.

Disability History Month 2019 #UKDHM

The medical treatment of disability has a long history. Yet the history of disability itself, and of disabled people, has only been acknowledged as a legitimate area of scholarship relatively recently. Disability studies began to grow towards the end of the twentieth century at a time when human rights movements were fiercely resisting the endemic societal oppression and exclusion caused by discrimination. Since then, disability studies has blossomed into a multi-disciplinary field that seeks to challenge the very notion of ‘disability’ by exploring its socio-cultural construction.

From November 22nd to December 22nd, the History Faculty Library is celebrating the diversity of its collections, authors, and readers with a book display for Disability History Month, specially curated for this year’s theme, ‘Leadership, Resistance, and Culture’. UK Disability History Month focuses on the history of the continuing struggle for equality and civil rights, and advocates the investigation of undocumented histories of those with disabilities. Our display showcases some of the most recent historical scholarship within disabilities studies, including The Oxford Handbook of Disability History (2018), which is a first port of call for anyone interested in the field. This blog post offers a quick guide to our disability history collections divided into the following themes: disabled leaders, the history of mental health and learning disabilities, attitudes to disability across British history, and finally, disability in times of war. But first, it is important to define the models that formed the foundations for disability studies.

The ‘Medical Model’ of disability focuses on what disabled people can or cannot do. The result often casts people with disabilities as a passive receivers of care or as ‘the problem’. The ‘Social Model’ directs the blame away from individuals with impairments to conclude that discrimination and the idea of ‘disability’ is constructed by the context, whether that is social, medical, economic, or cultural. Though the division between these models has been challenged in recent years, it is the Social Model that formed the basis for the academic discipline of disability studies. More information on the social and medical definitions of disability can be found here, but read on to find out what’s available in our collections.

Leaders

Though disability is often assumed to exist at the fringes of society, prominent historical figures like Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt had disabilities that impacted their daily lives. Lincoln is thought to have suffered with clinical depression, while Roosevelt became paralysed in both legs as a result of polio. Visit our display in the Upper Gladstone Link to find out more about the lives of these two political leaders and read their biographies.

Histories of Mental Health and Learning Disabilities

The essays collected in Mental Illness and Learning Disability Since 1850, edited by Pamela Dale and Joseph Melling (2006), explore the historical place of mental illness in Britain, whether that is in Devon’s social policy, the education system in Scotland, or in early twentieth-century hostels. Academic laywer, Phil Fennel, likewise focuses on disability history since the mid-nineteenth century in his Treatment without Consent: Law, Psychiatry and the Treatment of Mentally Disordered People Since 1845 (2015). Fennel analyses the attitudes of legislators and lawyers towards psychiatry to consider the development of mental health legislation as well as issues concerning patient consent for physical psychiatric treatments.

Sociologist Andrew Scull takes a Marxist approach to the history of care and treatment of the mentally ill in his study, The Most Solitary of Afflictions: Madness and Society in Britain, 1700-1900 (1993). Focusing on a significant shift in attitudes towards madness, Scull examines parliamentary records, books, pamphlets and other primary sources to show that at the point when the Capitalist market economy matured, there was also a significant shift in the attitude towards madness. The insane were no longer perceived to be ‘beasts’ or ‘deviants’ and were instead viewed as people with an illness that could be treated. Scull argues that the ideology of English asylum reforms nevertheless concealed the unpleasant truth that asylums, like workhouses, operated to segregate ‘disruptive’ people from society. Scull has received criticism for his depiction of the power dynamics between the mentally ill – whom he depicts as totally without agency – and the psychiatrists that treated them, who he claims merely serve the interests of market capitalism.

Wendy J. Turner aims to present an accurate picture of the social understanding and treatment of the ‘mentally ill, incompetent, and disabled’ in Medieval England in Care and Custody, (2013). Through a thorough engagement with archival sources, her research reveals that the stereotyped depictions of ‘the mad’ in medieval stories were not always reflections of the societal treatment of mentally impaired people. The book thereby eschews totalizing assumptions about those that exist within society, and those on its margins.

In Framing the Moron: The Social Construction of Feeble-Mindedness in the American Eugenic Era (2013), Gerald V. O’Brien uncovers the horrifying mistreatment of those considered to be ‘morons’ during the eugenic movement in the United States (1900-30). Drawing on original sources, O’Brien examines the fear-inducing rhetoric and pejorative metaphors that supported the involuntary sterilization and institutionalization of tens of thousands of people.Disability in Medieval and Early Modern Britain

For his Disability in Eighteenth-Century England: Imagining Physical Impairment (2012), David M. Turner won the Disability History Association Outstanding Publication Prize. Turner analyses descriptions of disability and depictions of disabled people in popular culture, art, and the media to understand the relationship between religious and medical discourse. By examining neglected letters, autobiographies, and other archival documents, he also uncovers the individual histories of disabled people in this period.

Irina Metzler’s Fools and Idiots?: Intellectual Disability in the Middle Ages (2016) uses interdisciplinary approaches to examine the texts written by physicians, lawyers, and scholars that shaped medieval definitions of intellectual ability on the one hand, and disability, on the other. Metzler’s other offering on our DHM display, A Social History of Disability in the Middle Ages (2013), delves into the lived experiences of disability and aging through records of work-related injuries, compensation, and other documents across four chapters focussing on law, work, ageing, and charity.

The diverse scope of the essays in Recovering Disability in Early Modern England (2013), edited by David H. Wood, addresses the overlooked understandings of disability in sixteenth- and seventeen-century England by examining texts across a range of forms and genres, including poetry, Jonsonian drama, and Renaissance jest books.

Disability in Nineteenth and Twentieth-Century Britain

Disability in the Industrial Revolution: Physical Impairment in British Coalmining, 1780-1880 (2018) by David M. Turner and Daniel Blackie documents the history of workers injured while working in British coal mines. Though they were not included in histories of the Industrial Revolution until recently, they nevertheless contributed to Britain’s industrial development.

Jameel Hampton’s Disability and the Welfare State in Britain (2017) contextualizes disability within the welfare state under each British government from 1948 to 1975. Using documents that have only recently been made public, Hampton also analyses the 1972 Thalidomide crisis.

Written in 1963, D. G. Pritchard’s Education and the Handicapped, 1760-1960 is one of the earliest pieces of writing in the field of disability history. Though it is outdated in several respects, it is itself a historical source that can be used to understand some of the contemporary attitudes towards teaching children with disabilities in the early 1960s.

Disability and War

The History Faculty Library also has a variety of scholarly texts on the history of disability during wartime. Published this summer, Sarah Handley-Cousins expands the current understanding of wartime disability in Bodies in Blue: Disability in the Civil War North (2019). Several studies focus on perceptions of war injuries. These include Disabled Veterans in History (2000), edited by David A. Gerber, an expansive volume of essays on the representation, public policy for, and experience of disabled veterans in Ancient Greece to the present, and The War Come Home (2001) by Deborah Cohen, a comparison of the post-war situations in which physically disabled war veterans found themselves in Britain and Germany. In War, Disability and Rehabilitation in Britain: ‘Soul of a Nation (2011), Julie Anderson traces the attempts to heal the war-injured in British society after World War II, focusing her research on rehabilitation, which included medical treatment, social programmes and even sporting activities. Sue Wheatcroft’s Worth Saving (2013) documents the unrecorded history of children with developmental disorders that were evacuated from areas of England during World War II through an examination of school reports and interviews with evacuees.

All the books mentioned in this blog post can be found on the History Faculty Library’s Disability History Month book display in the Upper Gladstone Link (until 22nd December 2019) and many of them are available online via SOLO.

Further Resources:

Find out how to get involved this UK Disability History Month and about the themes from previous year at the UKDHM website.

Watch Historic England’s History of Disability (with British Sign Language).

Learn about the history of learning disabilities with the Open University’s timeline.

 

 

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“.

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:

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.