Weekly update from the Head of Department
Newletters by Date
22nd May 2020
The observant among you will have realised that I am not Dr Anna Whitelock. For one thing I have far less hair. Although having said that, with barbers now closed for 9 weeks and counting, my quiff is taking on hitherto unknown proportions. Anna is still recovering and resting and so a few of us have decided to form a guest editorial team and hijack the newsletter in her place. In the thick of the exam period, and in testing times, it seemed that a light-hearted newsletter was in order, so read on for a bumper ‘Bank Holiday supplement’ edition.
First up, a few words from Dr David Gwynn, our Deputy Head of Department, who is ably steering our ship while Anna is recovering:
"My deepest thanks to everyone for all your ongoing hard work. We are now very close to the halfway stage in the exam period, so do please keep looking after yourselves and remember that we are still allowed to have some fun under the lockdown! Best wishes to all, especially of course Anna for her recovery. And I would just like to add that it is very heartening indeed to see the quality of some of the material our students have been able to produce even under such difficult circumstances. They make us proud".
I also wanted to give a quick update on how Anna is getting on, and I’m sure many of you will be keen to hear. Our Head of School, Professor Juliet John has sent this note:
“To all the staff and students in History, I’m pleased to say that Anna is showing signs of recovery and has begun to eat. However, she has had a ‘nasty dose‘ and full recovery may take some time. The most promising sign is that she is not listening to common sense and sending the odd quick fire email - in other words, she is showing signs of impatient eagerness to get back to work. Although she has been reprimanded by her line manager (me) for this, it is a sign that Whitelock-style normality should return down the line. But let’s not hurry her - it is only a few days ago that she was in a very bad way and recovery takes time. Thanks from her to all the History community for the messages of support, Juliet.”
Well, I think many of us will recognise that Whitelockian style that Juliet mentions. Rest up Anna. We look forward to having you back, but not before you’re ready!
Roving reporter Professor Andrew Joticshky sent this despatch from the latest departmental research seminar, led by Dr Paris Chronakis:
“On Tuesday 19th Dr Paris Chronakis, who joined the Department in September 2019, gave a brilliant talk to the School of Humanities Research seminar on his ongoing research on nationalism and antisemitism in the eastern Mediterranean in the 19th century. In ‘Navigating Dark Waters: Diaspora Greeks, Port-City Jews and a Mediterranean History of Modern Antisemitism, 1830-1912,’ Paris explored the spread of antisemitictropes such as the blood libel through a developing print culture in the newly independent state of Greece, showing how poisonous ideas gathered force and momentum by transmission through transnational communities of Greek speakers from the Black Sea to Alexandria. The talk was ‘attended’ by about 25 colleagues from across the School, and led to a lively and engaged online discussion. This was the first of the School of Humanities Research Seminars to be held remotely, and we are grateful to Paris for fronting up what looks as though it will be the normative means of delivery for the foreseeable future.
Paris’ talk was a reminder that research by staff and PG students is continuing in the Department even in difficult times. PhD students in History are used to working alone, but the circumstances are especially challenging for them, and for MA students the closure of libraries and archives has come at the worst possible moment, just as they are embarking on their dissertation research. We are all trying to negotiate the obstacles presented by lack of access to the resources we take for granted in normal times. But whether academic staff or PG students, we are continuing to research, write and develop grant proposals in the realisation that high-quality teaching and learning feeds off and in turn stimulates live research. It is more important than ever that we make a renewed commitment to learning and scholarship in the Humanities at a time when the foundations of normal life are changing in such drastic ways. As always, it is the Humanities that reminds us of enduring human and social values and anchors us in an understanding of why we are where, and who, we are.”
Dr Amy Tooth Murphy has been working with colleagues at University of Plymouth on a Covid-19 response that uses oral history to facilitate school pupils’ engagement with history during school closures, while also providing much-needed social interaction for shielded elderly people. The project, entitled ‘Oral History During Lockdown: Homeschooling History for KS2/KS3/KS4 and Well-Being for the Elderly in Isolation’ will provide a toolkit to enable pupils to conduct oral history interviews with their grandparents or isolated elderly people over the phone. The toolkit will be complemented with webinars that train teachers to run this as a lesson plan delivered remotely.
An exciting glimpse into new possibilities of global cooperation was offered by a webinar delivered by Dr Markus Daechsel at the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE). 'A few weeks ago I got an online e-mail out of then blue from the Vice Chancellor of the Institute who had read my book Islamabad and the politics of International Development. Very flatteringly, he said he liked it and wanted to put me on as one of their lecture schedule at short notice', Markus recalls. PIDE is Pakistan's oldest and most prestigious research institution in this field, with close links to the world of policy making, and their webinars attract an audience that includes senior members of the Planning Commission and Government. Under the banner of introducing new thinking into development policy making, PIDE was particularly interested in what development history can teach economists and other social scientists, and how it can help to develop critical approaches that challenge standard assumptions about consultancy and aid. 'It was amazing to see how well such international link-ins now work', Markus observes further, 'it was a large virtual audience with lots of thought provoking questions that gave me the feeling that Pakistani readers really got what I was trying to argue in the book. And they all joked around about the virtual backgrounds one can display on zoom!' An exciting post-COVID 19 and climate sensitive future of virtual collaborations beckons.
Dr Charalambos Dendrinos was invited to give an online paper (in Greek) on “Greek Palaeography and Editing of Texts in the Digital Age” to students and staff of the Department of Byzantine Philology, University of Patras, Greece on 8 May 2020. The paper included a presentation of the online electronic edition of an Encomium on Henry VIII addressed to Elizabeth I composed in Homeric and Attic Greek by George Etheridge, former Regius Professor Greek at Oxford University, on the occasion of Elizabeth’s Royal visit to Oxford in 1566. This interactive edition was prepared by a team of postgraduate students, academic and research staff and technical advisors of The Hellenic Institute, History Department, and was presented to Queen Elizabeth II in remembrance of her Royal Visit to the College in March 2014 . The edition provides a new source for the history of Greek Studies in Tudor England in particular and for the cultural policies of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I in general. The Greek text of the encomium is accompanied by images of the manuscript, an English translation and supplementary material that places the author, the manuscript, and the text in context. This innovative project has been designed to provide a useful tool not only for students and scholars but also for the general public. It is accessible free of charge!
Dr Stefan Bauer’s latest book, The Invention of Papal History: Onofrio Panvino between Renaissance and Catholic Reform (Oxford UP, 2019) was reviewed in History Today, Professor Peter Marshall commenting, ‘This thoughtful and judicious monograph is to be welcomed for the considerable light it sheds on confessionalisation of historiography and the cultural politics of papal Rome.’ For more info on Stefan’s book, see here.
Many of you will find your thoughts turning to life after university (there is such a thing!) and your future careers, and so you may be interested in the next History Lab, organised in collaboration with Careers on Friday 29th May, 10am - 10:30am and will run through MS Teams. Please Book Online.
Your 2020 Career Toolkit
This year has brought some unexpected challenges for anyone looking for work, or work experience. In this 30-minute online session we'll cover some key tools to support your success in 2020, including:
· An overview of the jobs market and what employers are telling us
· The basics of CVs and applications
· How to practise video interviews, which have become much more important this year
· Things you can learn or do right now from home to boost your employability
This session will be delivered online using Microsoft Teams via this link. A version of this session will also be recorded for those who can't make it on the day.
Alright, now on with the really important stuff. What do academics get up to when they’re not working? As we’re learning, there’s more to some of our academic colleagues than meets the eye. This week, gardening, brewing, furry friends, and more!
Exam Time Playlists
Avid readers of the ‘Why do you do what you do?’ section of the newsletter will know that Dr Edward Madigan had a former life as a DJ. This week he’s gone back to his record collection to bring us a couple of summer playlists. First up, for some perfect summer vibes, an old-school reggae playlist to soothe jangled exam nerves and set the tone for a sunny evening. And for those of you getting through lockdown by pounding the pavement, here’s a high octane running playlist, The Man Machine (true to form, I’m going to advocate for the gender neutral ‘The Person Machine’, although I appreciate the alliteration is lacking). Thanks Edward!
Being famously fond of four-legged friends, Professor Jane Hamlett and Dr Emily Manktelow have curated a ‘Pets Corner’ of the newsletter. They say that owners grow to look like their pets. I pass no further comment.
“In these dark and unpredictable times one thing has become certain. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a lecturer with a pet will have to show it to you on MS Teams. Here in History we have more pets than you can shake a stick at – and you’re pretty likely to lose the stick in the process. Dogs, cats, bunnies, guinea pigs, a horse and even a peacock – we have it all! So welcome to pets’ corner. Draw up a chair and prepare to immediately lose it to a furry friend (or a peacock?)
A perennial department favourite (according to the twitter likes back in February) is of course Dr. Andrew Jotischky’s Wanda. Known for her ability to stand on hind legs, and her joy of long walks in the Lancashire country side, Wanda is known to wander with Dr. Jotischky around sights of historical heritage. Take a peak at the departmental twitter feed for pictorial evidence. Of course, when it comes to grande-dames of the department, we can’t forget Dr. Alex Windscheffel’s beautiful matriarch Lady Bella, and her companion Monty. Monty, a now ageing (nearly 15) West Highland terrier may be remembered by some colleagues as a puppy when he used to venture into the department, and enjoy chasing cricket balls thrown by Justin Champion up and down the corridor of McCrea - now as you can see he has to suffer the indignities of being dressed up. And [Lady] Bella, a very rare Sealyham terrier, who is more reclusive and enjoys nothing better than sleeping. Or chasing - and occasionally catching - rats and squirrels in the garden.
Slightly ironic that our colleague Dr. Cat Cooper is a fan of dogs, but who can blame her when her clever pooch Pickle can even brew his own ale? Pickle’s Pride looks to have gone down a treat…
Speaking of pickles, many of you may be familiar with Dr. Hannah Platts’ beautiful mini-piggies, Pickle and Willow. According to Hannah, Pickle lives up to his name and is gorgeously naughty! He loves to play a game of tipping up his house or food bowl whenever possible and then running around squeaking - very proud of himself! Willow, meanwhile, is a rather more timid lady, except for when she thinks there is a prospect of food or treats (of any sort!!), then she will stick her nose in the air and shout for attention for all she is worth.
We couldn’t have pets corner without any cats! Here are Kim and Kelley who have consented to share a home with Professor Jane Hamlett. Kelley likes sleeping the sun, snuggles and squaring up to other cats on the road. Kim likes sleeping in other people’s beds, licking water from taps and bombing zoom meetings. The cats are named after a famous pair of twins… Prof Hamlett also researches the history of pets – find out more on the project blog.
While this is not of course a competition, honourable mention must be made of Dr. Akil Awan’s peacock Captain. Apparently he likes nothing more than to strut around courting the chickens (who pretty much ignore him). He is incredibly vain, and his second favourite pastime is to display in front of any reflective surface and just stand there for hours revelling in his own glory! Honestly, who can blame him? In terms of unusual pets, we must also glory in the beauty of Dr. Nicola Philips’ horse Mel. What a beauty, and quite the jumper as well I’m told!