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More in this section Research Projects

Past Projects


The Manorial Documents Register: Surrey and Middlesex 

Investigator(s): Mark Forrest
Affiliated Students: --
Funding Source(s): Marc Fitch Fund
Funding Amount: £50,000
Start Date: 2002
End Date: 2004

The Manorial Documents Register was set up as a consequence of the 1922 Law of Property Act which, by abolishing the form of land tenure known as "copyhold", brought to an end the last meaningful function of manorial courts. However, since proof of title to former copyhold land was in many cases contained within the books and rolls of manorial courts, it was essential that these records be preserved. To ensure that manorial documents were properly preserved, the Law of Property Amendment Act 1924 placed manorial documents under the charge and superintendence of the Master of the Rolls. The records to be protected were later defined in the Manorial Documents Rules as: "court rolls, surveys, maps, terriers, documents and books of every description relating to the boundaries, wastes, customs or courts of a manor". Deeds and other evidences of title therefore lie outside the scope of the Manorial Documents Register.

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The Health of the Cecils

Investigator(s): Professor Pauline Croft, Professor Peregrine Horden, Dr. Caroline Bowden (research fellow)
Affiliated Students: ---
Funding Source(s): Wellcome Trust
Funding Amount: £112, 516
Start Date: September 2003
End Date: June 2007

The project, funded by the Wellcome Trust for four years and based at Royal Holloway, University of London is studying the experience of health care in one of the great aristocratic households of early modern England. The study extends to the wider family and the household where possible as well as their wider political and social contacts. The family has been chosen for a number of reasons: extensive collections of archives remain particularly for the first three generations in the study; members of the family suffered significantly from several medical conditions including gout, scoliosis, and agues on which they sought and were offered advice on many occasions. They were in a position to spend large amounts of money on health care, and at the same time received advice and offers of remedies from family and friends. Other health experiences relating specifically to age or gender such as childbirth, ageing and death appear in the collections often with extended documentation attached. The manuscripts offer a significant opportunity to study the experience of health care over an extended period of time when attitudes to medicine and medical knowledge were changing substantially.

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Jewish philanthropy and social development in Europe, 1800-1940: The case of the Rothschilds

Investigator(s): David Cesarani with Melanie Aspey (The Rothschild Archive)
Affiliated Students: ---
Funding Source(s): AHRC
Funding Amount: £196,000
Start Date: October 2005
End Date: June 2008

This research, a collaboration between Royal Holloway History Department and The Rothschild Archive London, looks into the relationship between ethnic-faith groups and the practice of charity and philanthropy in modern Europe. It explores the ways in which ethnic-faith groups, usually of immigrant origin, behave and how they interact with the wider society. Through an examination of the philanthropic endeavours of the Rothschild family the project asks what role charity or philanthropy played in the construction of ethnic-faith group identity, its role in the internal management of communal affairs, and its significance for coping with social exclusion, racism, and discrimination. The research seeks to explain how the ethos and practice of 'giving' evolved against a background of specific ethnic-faith issues, notably mass immigration, as well as the development of modern industrial societies, and the effect of statutory welfare provision on eleemosynary habits. The project will also shed light on the conflict between the 'liberal' principle of individual voluntary philanthropy and the principle of distributive statutory welfare. It will ask how charity has functioned as an instrument of social control, how philanthropy has contributed to the construction of 'public image' by ethnic-faith groups, and its role in the acculturation of immigrants.

The nature of the subject and the sources make this project interdisciplinary, trans-national and comparative in nature. Jews have made a far-reaching contribution to charity and philanthropy across Europe. The Rothschild family self-consciously adopted a progressive and scientific approach, with one branch of the family often drawing on the latest philanthropic theory and practices in other countries where the family was active. This makes the family's endeavours a locus classicus for asking key questions about the evolution of charity and philanthropy between the 1800s and the 1940s and the trans-European transfer of skills and know-how on organisation and management of philanthropic institutions. The family is also a prism for exploring the role of charity and philanthropy in the evolution of the Jewish community and elite from the era of 'the ghetto', through the struggle for emancipation, into the period when Jews were full citizens of incipient welfare states. It will answer questions about the reaction to their charitable activities among the wider public, and how this was regarded by the Jewish elite.


The work of ORT with Holocaust survivors in DP camps in Europe after the Second World War

Investigator(s): Dr. Sarah Kavanaugh
Affiliated Students: ---
Funding Source(s): World ORT; Conference for Jewish Material Claims Against Germany
Funding Amount: two grants of £25,000 (£50,000)
Start Date: 2005
End Date: 2007

While the history of the Second World War, the Holocaust and even the liberation of the Concentration Camps have been almost exhaustively covered by historians, there is a dearth of material on the history of the Displaced Persons (DP) camps and in particular the work of OR, the vocational training agency which made a huge contribution to the rehabilitation of Holocaust survivors in the camps. This study hopes to partially readdress this situation. It explores the role played by ORT in the rehabilitation of Holocaust survivors using the untapped resources of the ORT archive in London enhanced by survivor memoirs, letters, diaries and oral history. DP diaries, memoirs and oral histories are vital to this study because they reveal the conditions inside the DP camps and the experiences of the DPs.

Forum for the Comparative Study of Jews and Muslims in Britain, Europe, and North America

Investigator(s): Professor K. Humayun Ansari, Professor David Cesarani
Affiliated Students: ---
Funding Source(s): Stone-Ashdown Charitable Trust; AHRC
Funding Amount: Stone-Ashdown Trust: £2,000; AHRC: £9,950
Start Date: 01/01/2006
End Date: 31/12/2006

The Forum for the Comparative Study of Jews and Muslims facilitates improved understanding about the experiences of Muslims and Jews living as members of minority faith groups in western societies, often as part of migrant or diasporic communities. It aims to make long overdue connections between academics and students working in the field, and practitioners involved in community affairs, whether specifically religious or otherwise. Activities in the programme to date have included a series of academic seminars in 2005/06, supported by the Stone-Ashdown Charitable Trust, an international academic workshop and a practitioner workshop in 2006, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council's Diasporas, Migration and Identities Programme. The main objective of this initiative is to achieve a better understanding of contemporary Muslim-Jewish relations, and create a solid basis or framework of interaction on which future dialogue can take place.

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Richard II and the English Royal Treasure

Investigator(s): Dr. J. Stratford
Affiliated Students: --
Funding Source(s): AHRB
Funding Amount: £170,000
Start Date: 2004
End Date: 2007

The treasure roll of Richard II, compiled in 1398/9, offers a rare insight into the magnificence of a late medieval English king. The roll, unknown until it was rediscovered in the 1990s, describes in exceptional detail the crowns, jewels, and other precious objects belonging to the king and to his two queens, Anne of Bohemia and Isabelle of France.


After Slavery: Race, Labor and Politics in the Post-Emancipation Carolinas

Investigator(s): Bruce E. Baker, Brian Kelly (Queen's University Belfast), Susan O'Donovan (Harvard)
Affiliated Students: ---
Funding Source(s): AHRC
Funding Amount: £289,725
Start Date: August 2006
End Date: April 2010

This project will undertake a series of close studies of labour and African-American history in the post-emancipation Carolinas in order to address questions that have as much to do with the changing nature of work and the effects of class-based alliances and tensions as they do with issues of race. In taking such an approach, we are to some extent revisiting and refining an analysis of the period pioneered by W. E. B. Du Bois in the 1930s in his work Black Reconstruction, a book that broke with the conventions of its period both by placing African Americans at the centre of the narrative and by considering them first and foremost in their capacity as workers. Building on several innovative labour-centred histories of Reconstruction written in the last decade, this project will also use its original research to advance a broad historiographical argument that the time has come for a new synthesis of the post-emancipation American South.

After Slavery project website


Byzantine Medical Manuals: Construction and Use

Investigator(s): Professor Peregrine Horden, Dr. Barbara Zipser
Affiliated Students: ---
Funding Source(s): Wellcome Trust
Funding Amount: £129,203
Start Date: May 2007
End Date: April 2010

The project is a study in Byzantine medical texts. The Byzantine empire had a vigorous and long-lived medical culture that deserves study in its own right, not just because it was the conduit of ancient medicine to medieval Islam and Europe. Yet very little is known about it. Just a fraction of the over 2,000 Greek medical manuscripts that survive have been properly catalogued and analysed, and this is partly because of their chaotic appearance. However, since they were mostly texts intended to be used, there must have been some principles of construction that would enable the reader to find what he required. The project will seek to uncover those patterns of organisation and show how the texts could have been deployed in a variety of historical settings, educational and therapeutic.

On Saturday, 19th September a number of international scholars gathered at 2 Gower Street to discuss "Byzantine Medical Manuals in Context", at a conference sponsored by the Wellcome Trust and the History Department of Royal Holloway University of London.

The eight presentations focused on topics such as the cultural exchange between Byzantium and the Arabic world in 12th and 13th century, the reception of Byzantine medicine in the early modern period and the centres of medical book production in the Greek middle ages. A full programme can be found here. One of the papers was presented by a scientist.

We also visited the Wellcome Library to view four medical manuscripts; three of the manuscripts contained a Latin, Greek or Arabic version of the Capsula Eburnea, the fourth a Syriac-Greek dictionary with Turkish roots.

The conference was hosted by the History Department and jointly organized by Peregrine Horden and Barbara Zipser. It was part of a Wellcome Trust funded research project on Byzantine medical manuals.

It was a very stimulating meeting, bringing together delegates from the major research centers working in the field, such as the Teuchos Institute, in Hamburg, and the MIET in Athens. A total of 31 scholars from six countries and 22 institutions attended the conference.


From Subjects to Citizens: society and the everyday state in North India and Pakistan,1947-1964

Investigator(s): Dr Sarah Ansari and Dr William Gould (University of Leeds)
Post-doctoral Researcher: Dr Taylor Sherman
Affiliated Students: Daniel Haynes (Royal Holloway) and Catherine Coombs (Leeds)
Funding Source(s): AHRC
Funding Amount: £390,522
Start Date: October 2007
End Date: September 2010

This research, a three-year collaboration between the History departments at Royal Holloway and the University of Leed, explores the shift from colonial rule to independence in two former provinces of British India - Uttar Pradesh (formerly the United Provinces) and Sindh - with the aim of unravelling the explicit meanings and relevance of 'independence' for the new citizens of India and Pakistan in the two decades immediately following 1947. The history of this transition has been very much neglected, with both 'imperial' and 'nationalist' scholars preferring to conceive of 1947 as a fundamental watershed: little work has hitherto looked at the development of popular, public cultures surrounding the state in South Asia at this time, and none has been comparative. However, and obviously, there were powerful continuities as well as short-term and unanticipated developments operating at this time, which together set the terms for the foundation of both major states in their first generation after independence. While the histories of India and Pakistan have come to be conceived separately and assumed to develop along divergent paths, they in fact both developed out of much the same set of historical experiences. In addition, the focus on the 'high' levels of politics and government in much historical writing on both countries both has arguably distracted attention away from the functioning of the state in 'everyday' life where it is actually experiences by ordinary people. This project thus sets out to correct these imbalances by contributing a (timely) empirical analysis of political developments in a part of the world in relation to which considerable debate is currently taking place both on the nature of the state in general, and on that of so-called 'failed states' in particular.

A key focus of the research will be citizen experiences of the 'everyday state' during the crucial formative period from the mid-1940s to the mid-1969s, the gap between the rhetorical, ideological platform set out in New Delhi and Karachi (Pakistan's capital for most of this period), and the interpretations of these agendas in the locality. Its principal argument will be that the South Asian state was, during this period, re-moulded in local political arenas, through social strategies for influencing, controlling or approaching state agencies. These were, in turn, linked into changing discourses about the nature of Indian and Pakistani governance. The project will research, specifically, the forms of cultural capital used by ordinary Indians and Pakistanis in their attempts to make sense of the state, and how this in turn shaped the new states' operation. In particular, the project seeks to explore three critical themes: 'Religion and the state'; 'Governance, "corruption" and the state'; and 'Class/caste dominance and the state'.

The AHRC award includes the appointment of a Post-doctoral Researcher, Dr Taylor Sherman, whose related research project entitled 'The making of post-colonial India: democracy, development and nation-building in Hyderabad, 1948-1958' explores the ways in which the 'everyday' practices of the state evolved during the first decade after independence. There are also two research postgraduate studentships. Daniel Haynes, based at Royal Holloway, is studying the relationship between the 'everyday' state and ordinary Sindhis from the 1930s to the 1970s, through the prism of major irrigation projects that dominated the province's economic, political and even socio-cultural landscape over this period. Catherine Coombs at Leeds is exploring dimensions of the scramble for government recruitment among particular socio-economic interest groups in North India, again during the decades that straddled independence.

A workshop of this research, which took place on 12 August 2009 at Royal Holloway, with Ornit Shani,Vazira Zaminda,William Gould,Ravinder Kaur, Sarah Ansari and others, has been recorded and is now available to listen to (and download) as a series of podcasts.



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