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Illness, Metaphor, and Bells

Campanology under COVID-19

Remi Chiu

Throughout 2020 and 2021, bells have rung in a variety of COVID-related rituals in the West, ranging from large-scale religious and civic rites, to ad hoc neighborhood and hospital initiatives, to anti-racist memorials that simultaneously spoke to the health crisis at hand. Taking stock of how these COVID bell-ringing rituals were formalized, their structures and actions, and the historical precedents from which they drew their meanings, this article investigates what the sounds of bells and the rituals of bell-ringing communicated about COVID, how they shaped our personal and collective experiences of the crisis, and what functions they were expected to serve during this liminal period. It reveals how, owing to the historical polysemy of bells on the one hand and the social uncertainties of living with COVID on the other, those rituals generated vivid symbolisms and mobilized powerful emotions that sometimes brought about unintended consequences.

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Bad Custom

The Meanings and Uses of a Legal Concept in Premodern Europe

Anthony Perron

The place and function of custom as a species of law—distinguished from custom as simply polite manners or cherished cultural traditions—has long been a source of research and debate among legal theorists and historians. One school of thought, reflecting the authority of written statute in modern jurisprudence, has relegated custom in a juridical sense to “primitive” societies, whereas proper law belongs to a world of state sovereignty. Other scholars have revisited the continuing validity of custom, including a trenchant body of work on the use (and manipulation) of custom in modern colonial regimes. At the same time, some have seen benefits in the acknowledgment of custom as a source of norms. A 2006 collection of articles, for instance, explored ways in which customary law might serve as a better foundation for the sustainable development of natural resources. As David Bederman has written, “Custom can be a signal strength for any legal system—preliterate or literate, primitive or modern.”

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Introduction

When Was Brexit? Reading Backward to the Present

Antoinette Burton

Abstract

This introductory article lays out the stakes of thinking through the temporalities of Brexit history across multiple fields of vision. It makes the case for books as one archive of Brexit subjects and feelings, and it glosses all the articles in the special issue.

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Marc Matera

Abstract

The lead-up to and the aftermath of the 2016 referendum on the United Kingdom's membership in the European Union have been characterized by particular psychic reactions and affective states: shock, perplexity, anxiety, guilt, paranoia, anger, depression, delusion, and manic elation. The debate over Brexit has played out largely in an affective register. Scholars and journalists in search of explanations have reached for psychological concepts such as amnesia and have cited feelings, specifically nostalgia and anger, as major factors. Paul Gilroy's Postcolonial Melancholia provides a more useful analytical framework for constructing histories of Brexit beyond the usual narratives of reversal, unexpected rupture, or liberation, and for unearthing the psychic attachments and affective dynamics underlying such narratives. Gilroy's conception of postimperial melancholia allows us to see the links between Brexit, anti-immigrant racism, and the obsession with national identity, and the unacknowledged and ongoing legacies of empire and decolonization in contemporary Britain.

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“To Tell It as We Know It”

Black Women's History and the Archive of Brexit Britain

Kennetta Hammond Perry

Abstract

This article takes Beverley Bryan, Stella Dadzie, and Suzanne Scafe's The Heart of the Race (1985) as an invitation to consider the conditions that routinely mark formulations of Brexit Britain as they operated in the lives of Black women in Britain during the early 1980s. It explores how the text engages Black women's lives as an index of how the welfare state was both structured and experienced in such a way that demarcated racialized internal borders of Britishness, citizenship, and belonging. It also argues for the importance of embedding Black women's narratives into histories of Brexit's unfolding.

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When Cosmopolitans Get Ahead

W. T. Eady's I.D.B. or The Adventures of Solomon Davis (1887)

Danielle Kinsey

Abstract

The anticosmopolitanism that Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May endorsed as a guiding ideology of Brexit has a long history in British discourse. This article links the anticosmopolitanism alive in Brexit to late-nineteenth-century antisemitism, racism, and antiglobalization by examining the content, context, and reception of W. T. Eady's I.D.B. or The Adventures of Solomon Davis (1887). As an effort to lampoon diamond magnate Barney Barnato's rise in society, the novel throws up warnings about how deserving English will be impoverished when Jewish immigrants and other so-called “cosmopolitans” take advantage of the mobilities enabled by British entanglements with the larger world. The novel shows how fears of globalization and European immigration comingled with a racialized sense of Englishness, all intimations of Brexit discourse.

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Introduction

Cultural Heritages and Their Transmission

Elizabeth C. Macknight

This Spring 2021 issue of Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques is about cultural heritages and their transmission, focusing on the period from the middle of the eighteenth century to the present. An important stimulus for the creation of the issue was the European Year of Cultural Heritage (EYCH) in 2018. There were four main themes for the EYCH: protection, engagement, sustainability, and innovation. National coordinators and local organizers of events and initiatives across the continent adopted the unifying slogan “Our Heritage. Where the past meets the future.” The articles brought together here serve as an invitation to readers to continue reflecting on subjects and questions that were at the heart of planning for and supporting public participation in EYCH 2018. The European Year of Cultural Heritage provided myriad opportunities to discover the roles played by individuals and groups in the preservation and valorization of natural sites and landscapes, public monuments, cultural institutions, artifacts, digital resources, and intangible cultural heritage. It highlighted educational initiatives to raise awareness of multiple, diverse cultural heritages within communities and to promote intercultural dialogue. It pushed governments and nongovernmental organizations to address matters of financial investment, legal accountability, partnership management, and the shaping of policies on conservation and ownership rights. It challenged professional historians as well as archivists, librarians, archeologists, conservators, and curators to think hard about widening access and about ways of integrating local, national, and international perspectives when communicating with audiences about surviving traces of the past.

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Voices that Matter?

Methods for Historians Attending to the Voices of the Past

Josephine Hoegaerts

Abstract

How do we thoroughly historicize the voice, or integrate it into our historical research, and how do we account for the mundane daily practices of voice … the constant talking, humming, murmuring, whispering, and mumbling that went on offstage, in living rooms, debating clubs, business meetings, and on the streets? Work across the humanities has provided us with approaches to deal with aspects of voices, vocality, and their sounds. This article considers how we can mobilize and adapt such interdisciplinary methods for the study of history. It charts out a practical approach to attend to the history of voices—including unmusical ones—before recording, drawing on insights from the fields of sound studies, musicology, and performativity. It suggests ways to “listen anew” to familiar sources as well as less conventional source material. And it insists on a combination of analytical approaches focusing on vocabulary, bodily practice, and the questionable particularity of sound.

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The Battle of El Herri in Morocco

Narratives of Colonial Conquest during World War I

Caroline Campbell

Abstract

What does the French massacre of Amazigh people at El Herri in November 1914 reveal about broader patterns of colonial conquest? How do such patterns demonstrate the beliefs of French officers about the best way to conduct war at the beginning of World War I? Using extensive archival research, published primary sources, and Amazigh oral tradition, this article provides a narrative of the Battle of El Herri that analyzes the physical, sexual, and gendered violence that French troops exacted against Amazigh tribes. It argues that leading French military figures spun the “battle” to create a narrative that was racially inflected and self-serving. Led by Resident-General Lyautey, these leaders claimed that their philosophy of conquest was the only one that could result in successful war in Morocco, and by extension, Europe itself.

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Introduction

France’s Great War from the Edge

Susan B. Whitney

World War I has been studied extensively by historians of France and for good reason. Waging the first industrial war required mobilizing all of France's resources, whether military, political, economic, cultural, or imperial. Politicians from the left and the right joined forces to govern the country, priests and seminarians were drafted into the army, factories were retooled to produce armaments and other war material, and women and children were enlisted to do their part. So too were colonial subjects. More than 500,000 men from France's empire fought in Europe for the French Army, while another 200,000 colonial subjects labored in France's wartime workplaces. The human losses were staggering and the political, economic, and cultural reverberations long-lasting, both in the metropole and in the colonies. More than 1.3 million French soldiers and an estimated 71,000 colonial soldiers lost their lives, leaving behind approximately 1.1 million war orphans and 600,000 war widows.