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Jeanette Edwards

Local family historians in the north of England are not only intent on "finding" their ancestors but in adding "flesh" to the bones of genealogy. Many are as interested in the social life of their ancestors as they are in their family tree or pedigree and, through their research, they excavate particular social and classed histories which combine discourses of land, labor, love, and loss. As well as deepening a sense of the workings of class in England, their research renders class identity more contingent than other contemporary public and media-driven versions. This article argues that family history and genealogical research destabilizes readings of English class identities as fixed, bounded and inescapable by revealing the vagaries of fate and chance and by making explicit other relevant and overlapping social distinctions in the provenance of one's ancestors.

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Reading in Early Modern England

Contexts and Problems

Sasha Roberts

The history of reading in early modern England is elusive and teasing – offering glimpses of readers but rarely a detailed view of how they read; posing more questions than answers. In part this is because the history of reading is still a relatively new field of enquiry, and our knowledge of reading practices in the period is slowly accruing piece by piece. In the last two decades especially, the history of books and reading has undergone a transformation: reading practices have increasingly been located in terms of their cultural specificity; particular readers, reading acts, and libraries in early modern England have been brought to light; the material histories of books and the ‘sociology of texts’ have inspired new directions in bibliography, while research into manuscript culture has revealed specific readers and annotators at work.1 As Robert Darnton suggests, the history of books and reading is not so much a field of study as ‘a tropical rain forest. The explorer can hardly make his way across it’, criss-crossing tracks between academic disciplines and different caches of evidence.2 Sources relating to readers, reading acts, and reading practices in early modern England are vast and disparate, scattered across a myriad of genres, fields, and disciplines – from fiction to the documents of social history; from written texts to physical artefacts; from the literary to the non-literary; from print to manuscript. The sheer range and inconclusivity of much of this material demands that we make careful distinctions between sources for a history of reading, and confront the methodological challenges they pose. This special issue on Reading in Early Modern England stems out of a Shakespeare Association of America seminar in 1999 on the topic.3 In this short essay I do not attempt to provide an introduction to the history of reading in early modern England, but instead to voice issues raised by the seminar in relation to three key areas: women’s reading, social differentiation, and textual transmission.

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The Way a Language Changes

How Historical Semantics Helps Us to Understand the Emergence of the English Exchequer

Ulla Kypta

The article argues that it is not only useful to study the changing meanings of concepts, but also to analyze the way these concepts changed their meaning over time. As a case study, I analyze the transformation of the language of the earliest surviving accounts of the yearly auditing process in England, the pipe rolls from the twelfth century. The language changed gradually and continually, without guidance or a plan. It is highly likely that the language was learned while the pipe rolls were written. Thus, the clerks could easily close their circle. This led to a strong sense of belonging and self-consciousness, which can be affirmed by other contemporary sources, and which laid the foundation for the accounting procedures that became a long-lasting organization.

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Problematic Portrayals and Contentious Content

Representations of the Holocaust in English History Textbooks

Stuart Foster and Adrian Burgess

This article reports on a study about the ways in which the Holocaust is portrayed in four school history textbooks in England. It offers detailed analysis and critical insights into the content of these textbooks, which are commonly used to support the teaching of this compulsory aspect of the history National Curriculum to pupils aged eleven to fourteen. The study draws on a recent national report based on the responses of more than 2,000 teachers and explicitly uses the education guidelines of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) as a benchmark against which to evaluate the textbook content. It identifies a number of potentially alarming findings of which two themes predominate: a common tendency for textbooks to present an “Auschwitz-centric,” “perpetrator narrative” and a widespread failure to sensitively present Jewish life and agency before, during, and after the war. Ultimately, the article calls for the improvement of textbook content, but equally recognizes the need for teachers to be knowledgeable, judicious, and critical when using textbooks in their classrooms.

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Constructing Europe and the European Union via Education

Contrasts and Congruence within and between Germany and England

Eleanor Brown, Beatrice Szczepek Reed, Alistair Ross, Ian Davies and Géraldine Bengsch

This article is based on an analysis of the treatment of the European Union in a sample of textbooks from Germany and England. Following contextual remarks about civic education (politische Bildung) in Germany and citizenship education in England and a review of young people’s views, we demonstrate that textbooks in Germany and in England largely mirror the prevailing political climate in each country regarding Europe. At the same time, the analysis reveals a disparity between the perspectives presented by the textbooks and young people’s views. The textbooks in Germany provide more detail and take a more open approach to Europe than those in England. Finally, we argue that the textbooks may be seen as contributing to a process of socialization rather than one of education when it comes to characterizations of Europe.

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Getting Medieval on Steven Pinker

Violence and Medieval England

Sara M. Butler

Steven Pinker’s view of the Middle Ages as an era of hyperviolence, in which governments engaged in democide and civilians lived in terror, is not supported by the evidence. By analyzing Pinker’s sources for the medieval period and providing a clearer understanding of the difficulties involved in extracting statistical data from medieval England’s criminal justice system, this article hopes to demonstrate that Pinker’s thesis about the civilizing process is not tenable. While the medieval world was violent, we cannot definitively say just how violent it actually was, and whether it was any more or less violent than we are today.

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Inaudito exemplo

The Abduction of Romsey’s Abbess

Linda D. Brown

The abduction in 1160 of Romsey’s abbess Marie, daughter of King Stephen and Queen Matilda of England, attracted considerable attention in England and Northern Europe. Medieval chroniclers theorized about those who had arranged the raptus, emphasizing that they had targeted a holy bride of Christ. At the scandal’s crux was the altered status of the abbess who had unexpectedly become sole heir to her family’s lands, wealth, and titles. This transformation occurred for Marie when the last of her family died in the waning months of 1159. With astonishing speed, Marie transitioned from her role as a high-status abbess to one of heiress-countess. This article examines the evidence concerning the abduction’s backstory, the resulting marriage, and the aftermath of Marie’s nine years as a married countess. It presents Marie in light of her ability to adapt to and exploit the changing political, social, and cultural landscapes that she inhabited.

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Private Politics in the Garden of England

An Atypical Case of Anti–Wind Farm Contention

Matthew Ogilvie

This article analyzes an atypical case of anti–wind farm contention at Marden in southeast England. Anti–wind farm campaigns have typically sought to resist developments through planning institutions. Although it focused on planning, the Marden campaign successfully pursued a “private politics” strategy, pressuring businesses (e.g., developer, investors, landowner) to withdraw their support and commitment. Drawing on ten semistructured interviews with stakeholders and extensive documentary analysis, this article describes and explains this atypical case. Marden’s private politics involved strategic framing that aligned with businesses’ claims to corporate social and environmental responsibility. Although direct attempts to persuade companies on these terms failed, when the campaign “went public” economic actors withdrew support. Marden’s trajectory and outcome are explained via resources and context particular to the case, and the potential reputational damage associated with its framing strategy. The article ends by noting interesting relationships and parallels between private politics and state-focused local contention.

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Tweens as Technofeminists

Exploring Girlhood Identity in Technology Camp

Jen England and Robert Cannella

In this article we discuss how the Girlhood Remixed Technology Camp (GRTC) empowers tween girls to challenge sexist and misogynistic media portrayals of girlhood by constructing their own digital identities. Drawing from campers’ projects and blogs, we foreground two important outcomes of the camp: the development of technological, critical, and rhetorical literacies as girls pursued their own technology-related goals; and the crafting of powerful, positive articulations of girlhood through girls’ production of new media and technologies. We conclude with further considerations for the development of girls’ technology camps.

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Place of Birth and Concepts of Wellbeing

An Analysis from Two Ethnographic Studies of Midwifery Units in England

Christine McCourt, Juliet Rayment, Susanna Rance and Jane Sandall

This article is based on analysis of a series of ethnographic case studies of midwifery units in England. Midwifery units1 are spaces that were developed to provide more home-like and less medically oriented care for birth that would support physiological processes of labour, women’s comfort and a positive experience of birth for women and their families. They are run by midwives, either on a hospital site alongside an obstetric unit (Alongside Midwifery Unit – AMU) or a freestanding unit away from an obstetric unit (Freestanding Midwifery Unit – FMU). Midwifery units have been designed and intended specifically as locations of wellbeing and although the meaning of the term is used very loosely in public discourse, this claim is supported by a large epidemiological study, which found that they provide safe care for babies while reducing use of medical interventions and with better health outcomes for the women. Our research indicated that midwifery units function as a protected space, one which uses domestic features as metaphors of home in order to promote a sense of wellbeing and to re-normalise concepts of birth, which had become inhabited by medical models and a preoccupation with risk. However, we argue that this protected space has a function for midwives as well as for birthing women. Midwifery units are intended to support midwives’ wellbeing following decades of professional struggles to maintain autonomy, midwife-led care and a professional identity founded on supporting normal, healthy birth. This development, which is focused on place of birth rather than other aspects of maternity care such as continuity, shows potential for restoring wellbeing on individual, professional and community levels, through improving rates of normal physiological birth and improving experiences of providing and receiving care. Nevertheless, this very focus also poses challenges for health service providers attempting to provide a ‘social model of care’ within an institutional context.