Seminar Series

Seminars are held on Wednesdays at 17.00-18.30. In 2020-21, they will be held virtually. All are welcome. Please contact Katherine Ambler if you are interested in attending.             

Seminar Programme 2020/21

Term One

 

30th September

 

Building Engines for War: Comparing Labour Productivity during World War II

Edward Young

 

My dissertation is a comparative study of aircraft engine production in Britain and America during World War II when there was an unprecedented demand for aircraft engines that exceeded peace time production levels. In the dissertation, I examine how the Bristol Aeroplane Company in Britain and the Wright Aeronautical Corporation in America coped with the challenge of moving from small-scale, batch production using a small number of highly skilled machinists to large-scale production using primarily semi- and unskilled labor, including a high percentage of women, while maintaining the highest standards of quality.

 

One of the issues I wanted to address was comparative productivity between factories and between Britain and America. During the War America built more than three times the number of aircraft engines than were built in Britain; the Wright Aeronautical Corporation and its two automotive company licensees alone built nearly as many engines as the entire British aircraft engine industry. This chapter offers a possible explanation as to why the American factories were more productive.

 

Paper to be pre-circulated

14th October

 

Picking Losers: Concorde, nuclear power, and their opponents in post-war Britain

Tom Kelsey

 

Tom will share the introduction to his recently submitted thesis and discuss his research into state decision-making in postwar Britain, which is based on the case studies of the Anglo-French supersonic jet Concorde, civil nuclear power policy and defence procurement under the Thatcher governments. 

 

Paper to be pre-circulated

 

28th October

 

Technical training, education and regional development in Bombay, 1947-58

Sandip Kana

 

The aim of this chapter is to provide a bottom-up exploration of technical training and education focusing on its contribution to regional development in Bombay after independence. The primary concern is to explore the role of artisanal and craftwork which played a vital part in shaping the character of the western Indian economy. 

 

This chapter focuses on the spread of small techniques of production in workshops and the household.  It suggests that this spread of technique was concerned with gradually transforming Indians into productive citizens of national development.

 

This is explored through the activities of the Sindhi Hindu refugees that poured into the state after Partition, the role of women in expanding Bombay's home industries, how techniques were spread from the workshop to the household and how the idea of technical education evolved in the state's education system.

 

Paper to be pre-circulated

 

11th November

 

Ethnographic studies of Northeast Siberian peoples in the Russian Empire c.1890-1917: their political context and their international significance

Katya Morgunova

 

This thesis investigates political exiles' studies of Northeast Siberian ethnic groups c.1890-1917 against the backdrop of the Russian political context and the international landscape of anthropological research. It aims to shed light on the fascinating behind-the-scenes of scientific fieldwork. Using expedition diaries and correspondence alongside governmental and published sources, the project discusses how ethnography was shaped by diverse actors including researchers, governmental authorities, wealthy philanthropists, and indigenous people. 

Paper to be pre-circulated

25th November

Anthropology on the Shop Floor: The 'Manchester Factory Studies' and Postwar Industrial Research

Katherine Ambler

 

In the 1950s and 1960s, the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at the University of Manchester undertook a major ethnographic research project into factory life in Lancashire. Researchers toiled alongside workers on the shop floor to investigate social norms and values, with a particular focus on how workers understood ‘productivity’. This project, which was funded by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, drew in part upon traditional anthropological methodologies and theories, but was also influenced by US sociology and industrial relations. This paper will consider the ‘Manchester Factory Studies’ in the context of postwar social science, but also as an example of the connections between government and academic research, and as a source of insight into working-class life and labour relations in the period. 

9th December

 

The Lost Beasts: International Palaeontology and the Development of the Mammals, 1850-1914

Chris Manias

 

In this session, I'll be sharing some of the draft chapters from my current book project on the history of mammal palaeontology.   


When most people today hear of “palaeontology,” they immediately think of dinosaurs. However, for much of the history of the field, scientists and public audiences seeking dramatic demonstrations of the history of life focussed on something else – the evolution of mammals. Assumptions that “the Age of Mammals” represented the pinnacle of development made it crucial for understanding the course of evolution and formation (and possibly future) of the natural world. Yet this combined with more troubling notions, that seemingly promising creatures had been mysteriously swept aside in the “struggle for life” or that modern biodiversity was “impoverished” compared to prior eras. This project examines how scientists in Europe and North America reconstructed this problematic developmental history, and presented it to a wide public. It will show how palaeontology’s popular appeal and idiosyncratic evolutionary theories fed into public understandings of evolution, and how the processes it uncovered impinged on changing notions of nature, the environment and the animal world.

 

Paper to be pre-circulated

 

Term Two

 

20th January

Tabulation, Translation and the Circulation of Medical Experience in Late Medieval Asia

Dror Weil

The 11th century saw the rise of Arabic tabulated works on medicine and pharmaceutical, and in particular Ibn Buṭlān's Taqwīm al-Ṣiḥḥa, Ibn Jazla's Taqwīm al-abdān. These texts became prototypes of tabulated works on medicine and pharmaceutics across medieval and early modern Eurasia. Various reasons, some of which are voiced in the introductions to such tabular works, explain the appeal of the tabular layout: tables as didactic and mnemonic devices, the commercial advantages of tabulated texts in condensing wordy discourses, and the limited literacy required for reading and using such texts. An additional appeal of tables is predicated on a particular epistemic stand with regard to the way nature is investigated and written down. Focusing on a number of medieval Arabic texts, this essay seeks to examine some of the cognitive practices assigned to reading tabulated texts, and the ways tables represented and reproduced medical experience. It will explore the ways by which tables and rubrics of determining parameters constituted a subliminal space between rational reasoning and personal experience in the making of medieval medicine, and the multiplicity of framing of medical experiencethey offered to their users.

3rd February

 ‘Lost by the pain of a tooth’: Maternal perspectives on the perils of teething in Georgian Britain.

Helen Esfandiary

 

This paper seeks to understand precisely what teething meant to Georgian mothers, and what they did about it as a result. Through an analysis of contemporary professional and lay accounts of the disorder, I argue that teething was not the innocuous physiological process that it is understood to be today; it was not merely a milestone in a child’s development to be alleviated with pain relieving medications or passively ridden out. It could be mitigated. If mismanaged, it could kill, or bring about other diseases like rickets, scrofula, or consumption. A number of measures were adopted to control its effects that at first glance bear no obvious relation to teething - such as purging, cold water bathing, exercise, and diet. This was because in keeping with ancient humoral medical theory, the process of teething, like any other disease process, was entirely contingent on the individual child’s overall state of health and as such it was entirely within the mother’s power to mitigate the severity of its effects by managing her child’s constitution. By re-contextualising what teething signified in the pre-modern period, this research casts new light on a process in a child’s development which is often skimmed over in historical writing as either a timeless rite of passage or trivialised as something that was grossly mis-diagnosed. And in doing so it not only enhances the histories of parenting and medicine individually, it bridges a significant gap between the two.

Paper to be pre-circulated.

17th February


CHoSTM Research Review

During this session, members of CHoSTM will share updates on their current research projects.

3rd March 

 

Smallpox and the Social Contract: Debating inoculation in C18th Habsburg Lombardy

Alexandra Ortolja-Baird

By the 1780s, the once contentious practice of smallpox inoculation had won over its most vociferous opponents and much of Europe had embraced the medical technique as the most effective preventative measure against the insidious disease. However, some areas, like Habsburg Lombardy, remained seemingly inexplicably resistant to the practice, which provoked a renewed discussion of the efficacy and implementation of inoculation. This paper explores how this debate took shape in Milan, focusing on the arguments made by philosophers collaborating with the Habsburg administration, above all Cesare Beccaria, in support of inoculation and the initiatives proposed to encourage its uptake. It will illustrate that the Milanese saw three main impediments to inoculation’s success: poverty, ignorance and the limits of government intervention into personal life. These factors were all tied to the particular understanding of the social contract shared by the proponents of the Milanese Enlightenment, which was interpreted as requiring the government to institutionalise inoculation whilst at the same time protecting the individual’s right to life. This tension, combined with the political difficulties of centralised Habsburg rule, resulted in inoculation failing to take root in Milan before being superseded by the smallpox vaccine at the turn of the nineteenth century.  

17th March

 

Producing safe water: Water filtration techniques in late colonial Madras city

Viswanathan Venkataraman

 

This chapter focuses on an until recently understudied aspect of colonial water control- the issue of water quality control in urban settings. By examining the case of late-colonial Madras city, this chapter will revisit some of the arguments in the literature about engineering expertise, scientific knowledge and how they related to colonial environments-specifically its waterscapes. It aims to show how expert views on how to achieve water quality control in the city were malleable, experimentally rather than ideologically rooted and were prone to internal disagreements. It was these characteristics of expert pronouncements, this chapter will point out, that made concrete municipal action in this sphere difficult and halting. Much in line with the work of Chris Hamlin, this chapter makes the case for factoring in the place of uncertainty in municipal decision-making on large sanitary infrastructures in Indian cities.  

 

Paper to be pre-circulated.

31st March

Form, function and fashion: health, disease and pedigree dog breeding in the long twentieth century

Alison Skipper

 

Alison will share the introduction to her thesis on the development of pedigree dog breeding. Today, pedigree dogs are controversial. Devotees admire their appearance, preserve their lineages and participate in tight-knit breeding and showing communities; but others condemn them as unnatural, crippled by diseases linked to their exaggerated body shapes and plagued by inherited conditions exacerbated by inbreeding. How did this situation arise, and how have vets and breeders responded to it?  What factors influenced their intentions and actions, and what were the implications for the purebred dog in the long twentieth century? This research project, informed by a rich and underexplored realm of source material, aims to answer these questions. By elucidating the formational and reciprocal influences between the dog fancy and eugenics, by situating changing ideas of canine health in their social and scientific contexts, by examining the negotiations between vets and breeders over the canine body, and by exploring how these factors came together in the management of pedigree dog disease, this work will add new dimensions to, and draw important connections between, historical scholarship in medicine, veterinary medicine and animal studies. It will also elucidate and inform the current topical debate, with consequent general impact.

Paper to be pre-circulated.

 

Term Three

 

12 May 

 

Indispensable Experts: How support for invention took root in mid-16thC England 

Anton Howes 

 

This draft chapter is part of a book manuscript on the sources of Britain’s acceleration of innovation c.1540s-1850s. In it, I explore how support for invention took root in England in the space of just a few decades from the mid-1540s to the 1560s, setting the scene for a later acceleration of innovation. The period saw the emergence of the country’s first patents for invention, the founding of the very first joint-stock company in the world, and the development of an especially vibrant London market for books on applied mathematics and invention, all of which contributed to England’s later expansion of trade and industrial development. I argue that there are common origins for all three institutional innovations in the lobbying efforts of the Venetian navigator Sebastian Cabot and his acolytes, whose mixed successes and failures unintentionally led to a uniquely broad-based and long-lasting well of support for inventors in England. 

 

Paper to be pre-circulated. 

 

26 May 

 

How to write a bad thesis and fail your viva – some thoughts from an external 

David Edgerton 

 

This session – primarily aimed at PhDs in their third or fourth year, but open to all – will provide an opportunity for advice and discussion on how to approach submitting your thesis and undertaking the viva.  

 

9 June 

 

Objectively speaking: Debating the shape of Earth, 1849–1890 

Lisa Svanfeldt-Winter 

 

In my presentation, I introduce my new postdoc project on a nineteenth-century debate in which established knowledge on the sphericity of Earth was challenged. I study notions of objectivity and reliability in the debaters’ writings, and how they portrayed themselves and their claims as scientific and true. Both sides referred to common sense and empirical data as proofs for their positions, and it is interesting to ask how the same arguments and even shared experiments could be questioned. 

Seminar Programme 2019/20
Term One

2nd October

Imitation, Invasion, Innovation: and why imitation is what really matters in global history.

David Edgerton

Papers to be pre-circulated.

 

16th October

Governing Materiality: The Chinese Air Defence Shelter and the Cultural Revolution

Katrin Heilmann

Although to some historians, which tend to finish their story in 1962, civil defence never recovered from the Cuban Missile Crisis when faced with the actual threat of a nuclear war, it became apparent that existing civil defence measures were inadequate, this did not mark its end. In particular, not in large, geographically diverse countries like China, where the 1960s and 1970s saw a new waves of air defence shelter construction. Existing English language scholarship of this time period is largely overshadowed by the Cultural Revolution, which tends to overlook the role of underground construction with the notable exception of the 1969 Sino-Soviet border clashes. Based on American, Chinese, and various European archival documents, this paper looks through the lens of the Chinese air defence shelter at the militarisation of Cold War everyday life of Chinese civilians during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76).

 

'Tapping the underground reservoir': The Wells of London's Water Companies, 1850-1904". 

Viswanathan Venkataraman

 

6th November

Clinical Breeding: Cattle Reproduction and Veterinary Expertise in Sweden, 1900–1960.

Karl Bruno

I will present my ongoing postdoc project, the second half of which is based at CHoSTM (until March 2021). Titled Clinical Breeding, it investigates how human-bovine relations, veterinary expertise, and reproductive technologies (in the animal and the human) were co(w)-produced in the first half of the twentieth century. I will particularly focus on the first paper of the project, tentatively titled “Use and Users of Artificial Insemination in Swedish Dairy Farming, 1935–1955.”

 

20th November

Healthy Scepticism

Caitjan Gainty

Healthy Scepticism aims to examine and find sense in the cloud of doubt, suspicion, cynicism, and distrust that has surrounded medical practice from the mid-20th century to the present. Rather than dismiss sceptics of medicine as outliers of our cultures of expertise, the project will engage them in search of critical insight into medicine’s political, social and epistemological status past and present. Thinking through the species of medical scepticism will form the basis for a taxonomy of how and why medical scepticism functions, ranging as it does in use from the medical laboratory as a guarantor of scientific validity, the clinic as a correction for an overreliance on judgment and instinct, and the public, where its roles run the gambit from structural to personal critique and everything in between. Investigating scepticism about health is not just an exercise in knowing medicine better. It is also intended to offer critical perspective on the position – the health - of scepticism itself, as a form of critical engagement in our uniquely sceptical age.

Caitjan will talk us through the project before opening up the discussion, giving people chance to offer advice/feedback about its current shape and where/how it might go forward.

 

4th December

Model communities: artificial horses and their users

Anna Maerker

 

The session will use work in progress from my monograph project on the emergence and circulation of mass-produced anatomical models in the nineteenth century. The project investigates how models shaped the creation of new kinds of communities; the sample chapter will focus specifically on model horses used by the French army.

 

The CHoSTM Christmas Dinner will follow the seminar.

 

** Tuesday 10th December (Please note change of day, time and location)

13:00-14:00 The Dana Studio, Dana Research Centre, The Science Museum.

 

The Trinity House in Water Lane and maritime expertise in the long 18th century

Rebecca Higgitt (Kent)

 

This research is part of the Metropolitan Science project, which developed alongside the Science City gallery but explores several institutions not represented in the Museum’s collections or typically part of the history of science and technology. One such is Trinity House, well known for its 19th-century role as a lighthouse authority, in collaboration with Michael Faraday and John Tyndall, but less explored as an early modern maritime guild. Founded in Deptford, by the later 17th century it was located at the heart of London’s mercantile and naval communities, dealing with pilotage, ballast, examination of ships’ masters, maintenance of buoys and lights, and providing advice or adjudication. This paper asks what kinds of knowledge and practice were regulated, maintained and represented in Water Lane; what expertise Trinity House Brethren were understood to have; how trust was established; and how it related to other sites and change over the 18th century.

Term Two

 

15th January

PhD Session

1) Footrot research in Australia and Britain 1930-1960

Nicole Gosling

This presentation will demonstrate how the disease footrot in sheep became problematized for different reasons in the context Australia and Britain. Inquiry will be made into the responses to the disease and how scientific understandings fit in with farming practices. 

 

2) The Board of Agriculture Medal 1800-1822

Liam Fitzgerald

 

This paper will offer a synopsis of the second chapter of my thesis which focuses on the role of agricultural prize medals as both a stimulus for improvement, and a visual reflection on the popularisation, localisation, and diffusion of useful agricultural knowledge in 18th and 19th century Britain. However, this paper will offer a counter-case study, looking at an attempt by the landed gentry to stratify improvement through institutional prize giving. Emphasis will be placed on the first national agricultural prize in Britain, the Board of Agriculture medal, issued between 1800 and 1822. Through analysis of contemporary statistical reports, society minutes, public communications and prize lists, it will demonstrate how the Board used its medals and prize scheme to help reassert landed control over improvement, by providing intellectual and moral justification for the gentry to systematize estate management under guise of patriotic virtue or civic welfare. Specific focus will then be given to prize classes that specifically advanced the social and economic interests of the gentry, such as those that supported the aggregation of landownership, reinforced the occupational structure (i.e. ‘faithful’ services prizes), or facilitated class polarisation. In addition, it will demonstrate how increased specialisation and emphasis on large-scale, theoretical experimentation further restricted involvement from small tenant farmers or labourers in the Board’s prize scheme.

The stratification of improvement is also visually reflected in the iconography adopted for the new national medal. In the next section of the paper, I will look the decision to retain classical motifs for the new prize, as the Board’s landowners attempted to hold on to an earlier Georgic tradition, rather than adopting the contemporary pastoral models more commonly associated with an emerging professional class within the agricultural community. The iconographic choice was in direct opposition with the intellectual trends in medallic art as well as other forms of pastoral imagery (i.e. landscape painting and livestock portraiture) during the late 18th century, representations of rural England which placed the farmer, not the landowner, at the heart of agricultural change.

3) First Chapter to be circulated.

Scott Hunter

12th February

 

Bees in the medieval world: Economic, environmental and cultural perspectives

Alex Sapoznik

 

26th February

The Lost Beasts: International Paleontology and the Development of the Mammals, 1850-1914

Chris Manias

 

In this session, I'll be sharing some of the draft chapters from my current book project on the history of mammal palaeontology.   A summary of the overall project is here:

When most people today hear of “palaeontology,” they immediately think of dinosaurs. However, for much of the history of the field, scientists and public audiences seeking dramatic demonstrations of the history of life focussed on something else – the evolution of mammals. Assumptions that “the Age of Mammals” represented the pinnacle of development made it crucial for understanding the course of evolution and formation (and possibly future) of the natural world. Yet this combined with more troubling notions, that seemingly promising creatures had been mysteriously swept aside in the “struggle for life” or that modern biodiversity was “impoverished” compared to prior eras. This project examines how scientists in Europe and North America reconstructed this problematic developmental history, and presented it to a wide public. It will show how palaeontology’s popular appeal and idiosyncratic evolutionary theories fed into public understandings of evolution, and how the processes it uncovered impinged on changing notions of nature, the environment and the animal world.

 

11th March

PhD Session

 

1) Anthropology on the Airwaves: Presenting ‘primitive societies’ on the BBC in the 1950s

Kate Ambler

In the 1950s, the BBC regularly invited social anthropologists to contribute to its radio programming, broadcasting series including ‘The Values of Primitive Society’ and ‘Custom and Conflict: Studies in African Anthropology’. This paper considers how anthropologists challenged listeners to reflect on their assumptions about the differences – and similarities – between ‘modern’ and ‘primitive’ society.

 

2) Chaos in the camps: Refugee rehabilitation and technical training in the aftermath of Partition

Sandip Kana

 

The history of the partition of India is a subject that has been studied extensively. From the manifestation of violence on the border, to the deadly embrace of religion, politics and violence it is a history we are aware of. More recently studies have focused on how partition is remembered through personal accounts. This paper aims to study the consequences of the epic nature of the dislocation arising from partition and the process of refugee rehabilitation. In less than five months more than four million refugees poured into India. The refugees needed to be accommodated, fed, clothed and given interim relief from disease. Significantly the rehabilitation of these refugees resulted in the raising of camps, which later developed into townships. The central government considered these camps to be projects of national importance as examples of community-based work.

The central purpose of these camps was to provide technical training and employment through new industries to the refugees. To foster community cooperation, it was the intention of the central government that the refugees alone would construct the camps and develop these into townships. Every aspect of the camps was to be manufactured and built by the refugees from the water supply and drainage, electricity lines, to the construction of mud-huts and buildings to even basic items such as bricks, windows, doors etc. The idea was that through the technical training offered in new vocational training centres the displaced persons would be utilised to construct the townships. Shri Gosh, Deputy (Secretary in the Ministry of Rehabilitation), wrote the purpose of the camps was to ‘turn useless people into useful citizens.’ The official account presents the refugee camps as a vision of structure, order and beneficial development. ‘The new environment (townships) and technical training has transformed the refugee into a purposeful citizen.’ (Official accounts - Story of Rehabilitation and Millions on the Move.)

This paper will argue that far from being ordered and structured the refugee camps were sites of disorder and chaos. The lack of tools, technical expertise and amongst the refugees an awareness of physical and manual labour only served to create added disorder and chaos within the camps. Through a lack of planning and coordination between government ministries and non-government agencies, the rehabilitation of refugees through technical training was undermined. This paper will approach this subject from the bottom-up and seek to piece together the experience of these refugees within the camps. This paper seeks to counter the official narrative that emerged from the Government of India of a beneficial developmental process of refugee rehabilitation through the vocational training centres. Instead, this paper will suggest the process of rehabilitation through technical training was fraught with difficulties due to a lack of coherent planning and coordination by the central and state governments and non-government agencies. This left the long-term fate of the rehabilitation of the refugees on a precarious footing.

3) Better off without the Empire’s help? The advantages and limitations of the government’s involvement in late imperial Russian ethnography

Katya Morgunova

This paper examines the impact of the Tsarist government’s financial and practical assistance in the work of two ethnographers, Bronislaw Pilsudski (1866-1918) and Vladimir Jochelson (1855-1937). Pilsudski received funding from a committee within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for his ethnographic expeditions on Sakhalin island; whereas Jochelson was provided with practical assistance on a philanthropist-funded expedition to Kamchatka. In both cases, the government’s involvement was not always beneficial for the researchers. This paper discusses why Russian imperial patronage or assistance could end up creating substantial difficulties for ethnographers. It then considers what these case studies show about the broader relationship between government and ethnography in the last decades of the Russian Empire.

 

25th March

Department Book Party

 

Term Three

6th May

 

Becoming “NHS Staff”: Working for the National Health Service and the formation of worker identity, 1948-1976.

Jack Saunders

The founding of the National Health Service in 1948 met a mixed reception from the different groups already working in Britain’s health system. Doctors, famously, proved difficult to persuade of the new service’s merits, citing worries about earnings, medical independence and state salaries. Nurses were less forthright, but by no means universally welcoming, especially when some nursing students discovered their pay packets had been slimmed by the expansion of national insurance. Indeed, the only groups to wholeheartedly welcome the NHS Act were those health worker trade unions – COHSE, NUPE and NALGO – which mainly represented manual employees and lower-level administrators. Yet as the NHS developed a popular institution over the decades that followed, groups of employees increasingly identified with it, laying claim to “NHS staff” as a form of identity and establishing themselves as the main defender of the service’s interests. 1976 saw the first major national demonstrations in opposition to cuts to the service, with doctors, nurses and ancillary staff all mobilising, often in uniform and often rhetorically employing “NHS staff” as an identity, to reject IMF-mandated budget reductions. This chapter uses letters to newspapers and trade union periodicals to chart the development over time of these inter-occupational connections and their attendant forms of identities. It argues that far from the NHS quickly creating stable forms of corporate identity, in fact different groups of employees created distinctive forms of belonging, status and imagined solidarities around their connections to the service. These were contingent, unstable, and changed over time, with considerable ramifications for how workers understood their labour both then and later.

19th May (note this is a Tuesday. Venue S8.08 5-6:30pm).

 

Title TBC

Philippa Hellawell