Conscription and Conscience

Conscientious_Objector_memorial,_Tavistock_Sq_Gardens

One of our MA in Public History students, Catharine Williams, has been doing a work placement at the National Archives. As part of her work there she produced this  blog entry about conscription and conscience in the First World War using the records of the Middlesex Military Tribunal. It’s a great piece on the process of applying for military exemption and the reasons given by the men for not going ‘to murder and butcher people’. There are also a couple of interesting comments including one by someone who staged a play based on the experiences of a conscientious objector. See here for the post.

The photograph above is of the Conscientious Objectors Commemorative Stone in Tavistock Square, Bloomsbury, London. It is designed to commemorate the struggle of  conscientious objectors past and present and was coordinated by the Peace Pledge Union. It was unveiled on May 15th 1994 – International Conscientious Objectors Day.

 

 

Pasts Without History: Politics and the Practical Past

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The Centre for the Philosophy of History will host a two-day symposium in June.

Pasts without History: politics and the practical past

21-22nd June 2016

The symposium will explore how past narratives are used outside of a strictly academic context: in museums, community archives, on Facebook, by artists, novelists and activists. The aim is to decenter elite or sedimented forms of historicisation, to consider alternative narrations of our pasts and how these can and are used to interrogate our presents and imagine better futures. What is at stake is not just a matter of sharing authority over the past, but in some circumstances wresting it back from dominant interests who exclude voices, perspectives and narratives from the field of historical knowledge. Our aim is to show that non-institutional, vernacular ways of producing ‘truths’ about the past can be a good starting point for discussions of what to do in the present – and one that is based on more inclusive understandings of whose voices count in the debate. Participants include artists, activists, curators, novelists and archivists.

For more information, details on speakers please see here.

Everyone is welcome

Berlin’s Invisible Omelettes: Human Nature and the Before Now

depositphotos_54006485-Walking-Carefully-Through-Broken-Egg-ShellsNext Thursday (12th March) at 2pm the Centre for the Philosophy of History at St Mary’s University will host a paper by Stephen Rainey in our Future of History Seminar Series. 

The title of Stephen Rainey’s paper is “Berlin’s Invisible Omelettes: Human Nature and the Before Now”

Abstract: Isaiah Berlin champions a sort of humanism inspired by Tolstoy to replace a C17th view of human nature. This comes through in his analysis of Giambattista Vico and Johann Gottfried von Herder. This analysis presents us with a way of looking at history in an unsettled, value-laden and contestable way. Whilst Berlin might be right about this view of history, it isn’t clear that his argument supports his conclusion. Specifically, it looks like Berlin remakes the mistakes of C17th thinkers like Descartes and posits a sort of human nature to underwrite his interpretive, postmodern history.

Dr. Stephen Rainey is a Research Fellow in Philosophy at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, having previously worked in European research projects in Belgium. He obtained his PhD in 2008 from Queen’s University, Belfast. Dr. Rainey has published articles on topics related to the philosophy of language, artificial intelligence, ethics, governance and rationality. He continues research in these areas and others. He also acts as an ethics expert for the ethics sector of the European Commission.

Everyone is welcome to the seminar. It will be held in the Senior Common Room at St Mary’s University, Twickenham and will start at 2pm. There will be a discussion and home made cake afterwards.

To see a list of our future seminars please click here

For details of past papers click here

For further details please contact Claire.norton@smuc.ac.uk or Mark.Donnelly@smuc.ac.uk

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Student Conference – Philosophy of History: Truths, Power, Ethics

Today is our Fifth Annual Undergraduate  Philosophy of History Conference and we have come interesting papers – I am looking forward to it. Below is the programme:

Philosophy of History: Truths, Power, Ethics

Fifth Annual Undergraduate Conference

Friday 5 December 2014

Senior Common Room

 

10.00  Refreshments

10.10  Welcome: Mark Donnelly & Claire Norton

 

10.15  Panel One: Whose truths?

  • Joe Hooper, Paul Antick’sBhopal to Bridgehampton. Does the use of fictive devices make an account any less valid?
  • Joanne Rolling, Zlata’s Diary: An Exposition of Truth from the Siege of Sarajevo.
  • Alexandra Melham, Fact and fiction: can we learn from historical novels?
  • Jack Cooke, State controlled history: Memory and the manipulation of the masses.

 

11.00 Refreshment Break

 

11.15  Panel Two: Museums, remains and representations

  • Lorna McGrath, Museums: how are they presenting history?
  • Ciaran Clint, ‘The Burden of History:’ Activism, Museums and Disobedient Objects.
  • Georgina Woolfe, When will the dead be able to Rest in Peace? Human Remains and their place in museums.
  • Caitlin Jennings, To what extent do Interpretive Communities influence how history is written?
  • Nadia Townsend, What makes Truman Capote’s bookIn Cold Blood an historical account?

 

12.15 Break for lunch

 

12.45  Panel Three: Memory, memorials, Mau Mau

  • Ashleigh Weaver, Death and Memory as Tools of Activism: The Anarchist Subculture in America, 1890-1939.
  • Emily Lundie Authority in a historicised world: exploiting the past and the politics of collective memory and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial​.
  • Fatima Ullah,The rightful remembrance for the Mau Mau?
  • Maria Alempic, Mau Mau and the function of history
  • Amy Mawson, Why memorials can be problematic.

 

1.45    Panel Four: Fact, fiction and naming

  • Sebastian Reynolds, Blurring the Boundaries of History: Art Spiegelman’s ‘Maus’.
  • Rhianna Doran, ‘Maus: a challenge to Power, historical methodology and the fact/fiction divide.’
  • Harry Batory, Does historical fiction and literature produce similar or dissimilar narratives?
  • Cate Blackmore, No Longer a Terrorist Movement: A discussion on interpretive naming and the change in theoretical discourse in relation to Apartheid South Africa.

 

2.30    Refreshment Break

 

2.45 Panel Five: Pedagogy and authority over the past

  • Cas Hance, History, authority and teaching the national curriculum
  • Aimee Garraghan, The Second World War and Key stage 3 History curriculum
  • James Dodd, The use of a textbook as a symbol of authority
  • Maria Bourke Are historical films representative of historical truth?
  • Anthony O’Reilly, Should we eradicate the authority of history?

 

3.45 Panel Six: Making histories

  • Siobhan Trainor, Are historical accounts written using innovative or experimental forms a less reliable source?
  • Plum Bou-Assouf, Title unconfirmed
  • Lydia Birch, Title unconfirmed
  • Anthony Wareham, Title unconfirmed

 

4.30    Closing remarks

Conference ends

Ken Breen Scholarship in History

Cherelle and Glenn

The Ken Breen scholarship prize for best performance in history at level 3 was awarded to Cherelle Nightingill on the 7th October 2014 by Glenn Richardson. Cherelle was an outstanding undergraduate student who wrote a first class dissertation on Tudor History.

The prize, worth £500, was founded in 2009 by Mr Stephen Gilham in memory of Ken Breen who was previously head of History at St Mary’s. Previous winners have included Graeme Ancient, Sam Spranger and Danielle Kemsley.

Well done Cherelle and good luck for the future

History, Ethics and Justice

history and Justice

The next Futures of History: Cake and theory seminar will take place on Tuesday 7th October at St Mary’s University. The seminar will start at 2.30pm in the Senior Common Room – for more details about the series see here

The seminar will consist of two papers by Berber Bevernage and Anton Froeyman both from the University of Ghent followed by a discussion

Berber Bevernage

History courted by law: Some reflections on the judicialization of
history, historicization of jurisdiction

Anton Froeyman

Ethics for historians: an overview

There will of course be cake and everyone is welcome.

The image is of Justice and History a sculpture by Thomas Crawford located above the Senate bronze doors on the Capitol’s East Front – see here for more details.

Review of Aesthetics, Postmodernism and the ‘Before Now’ symposium

On Tuesday 1st July the Centre for the Philosophy of History at St Mary’s University hosted a symposium on Aesthetics, Postmodernism and the ‘Before Now’ in conjunction with colleagues from the Philosophies of History network based at Leeds University. The event was well attended by students and academics from different disciplines, and the seven speakers presented papers on an interesting range of topics. Alun Munslow (Prof. Research Fellow at St Mary’s University) started the day off with a paper on Irreality and the Aesthetics of Historying in which he applied Goodman’s five ways of ‘worldmaking’ to the subject of irreality and the fictive in the context of historical narratives. aesthetics-postmodernism-symposium-26

Following Alun was Jouni-Matti Kuukkannen from the University of Oulu, Finland. His paper focused on the objectivity-subjectivity dichotomy. He provided a brief overview of the history of objectivity and main literature in the field before arguing that he preferred to think of objectivity and subjectivity in terms of a sliding scale or axis between the two positions. Narratives occupy different places on the scale and for Jouni-Matti, more creative texts (including innovative histories) are found towards the subjective end of the scale. Following the two panels there was a lively discussion. Lance Pettitt suggested that it might be helpful to think of a third concept, that of collectivity or the authorized perspective in addition to that of subjectivity and objectivity. Keith responded to the idea that objectivity might be equated with neutrality by asking why anyone would ever write a history that was not in their interests, that did not reflect their perspective? Mike Phelan commented that he was persuaded by the arguments of Keith Jenkins and Alun Munslow and then asked, this being the case, why he should continue with his PhD and how he could incorporate their critiques of the traditional epistemologies employed by historians, into his thesis?aesthetics-postmodernism-symposium-17

The next speaker was Paul Antick (Photographer, Artist and Senior Lecturer at the University of Roehampton). After providing some background information on the British massacre of 24 Chinese-Malay rubber plantation workers near Batang Kali in 1848 he read a section of a draft from his new project on the massacre. His very innovative documentary-fiction or ‘historying’ project centres on the activities of a fictional amateur anthropologist named Willing and a photographer called Smith who go to Malaysia to visit Batang Kali, and record narratives of the event. His work addressed questions of the authority of eyewitnesses, the status of story tellers, the way narratives are structured and how we deal with plural stories. It also challenged the conventions and expectations surrounding academic history papers and provided an example of an alternative type of theoretically aware, self-reflexive history. The final paper before lunch was by Helena Hammond (Senior Lecturer in Dance at the University of Roehampton). Her paper began with an extract from Alexander Sokurov’s film Russian Ark and then explored how the power of the film as a politicized vehicle for the performance of history rests on the aesthetics of its ‘total art work’ vectors fusing visual art, music, dance and dialogue.

Javier López Alós (Lecturer at the University of Leeds) began the afternoon session with a paper on Goya’s ‘Disaster of War’ series of paintings that illustrates aspects of the Peninsular War (1808-1814). He argued that in some ways these paintings act as a forerunner of photojournalism, and that their power derives not from their documentary character, but from the moral message they convey. Adi Efal (Researcher at the University of Cologne) then gave a paper exploring how the concept of ‘habitude’ could be employed with regard to the past. The questions after this session centered on whether historians should take risks with their narrations of the past or whether prudence and a conservative attitude is more useful. Alun Munslow asked why anyone would want to write a history without taking a risk and also asked whether we should worry about getting things wrong. Keith raised the problem of other minds in the context of historical knowledge and suggested that this is why historians’ representations always fail.aesthetics-postmodernism-symposium-05

Kalle Pihlainen (Academy of Finland Research Fellow at Åbo Akademi University and Adjunct Professor of Historical Theory at the University of Turku) ended the day with a paper that brought Hayden White’s narrative constructivist ideas into dialogue with Kenneth Goldsmith’s notion of uncreative writing. Specifically he thought that uncreative writing could help historians break free from the logic of re-creation/recreation – historical narratives as a means representing people or events; and historical representations as a form of entertainment, just another part of consumer culture. For example, if historians simply listed items and presented materials without consciously seeking a narrative or meaning then the responsibility for creating meaning would be placed on the readers who would therefore become aware that there are always significant stories that require acknowledgement outside of their own subjective readings.aesthetics-postmodernism-symposium-21

The day was very enjoyable and provided a good opportunity for affiliates of the centre to meet with some of the organizer of the Philosophies of History network. There was lots of animated discussion and cake. For the record the cakes were: coffee and walnut, a chocolate-digestive refrigerator cake; and ginger and sultana oat cookies. We hope to organize future events in collaboration with our colleagues from Philosophies of History in the near future.