Postgraduate Spotlight: Daniel Leaver

Daniel Leaver is a second year PhD student. His research focuses on the politics of North Sea oil in post-war Britain.

Originally from the great city of Newcastle upon Tyne just south of the border, I first came to St Andrews as an undergraduate in 2010, graduating in Modern History in 2014. A two-year venture into the real world convinced me it was not a place I wanted to spend much time, and I therefore returned to St Andrews for an MLitt in Scottish Historical Studies in 2016. Following this I began a PhD in 2018, working under the supervision of Dr Malcolm Petrie and generously funded by the Strathmartine Trust for Scottish History.

My doctoral studies examine the politics of North Sea oil in Britain during the sixties and seventies. As my PhD has progressed, I have increasingly realised that there are many important debates about this generally unloved period of post-war history where the topic can act as a fascinating case study.  For example, interest in the potential riches of the North Sea during Harold Wilson’s 1964-70 government is, I believe, an under-appreciated element in that government’s interest in new technologies and the modernisation of British industry. I am currently researching the extent to which Edward Heath’s government realised that North Sea oil offered a potential solution to the ‘energy crisis’ of the early seventies, particularly within the context of prolonged industrial disputes with the National Union of Mineworkers. And while the familiar issue of oil invigorating the cause of Scottish nationalism during the 1970s is an important element of the subject, my thesis is an opportunity to consider the extent to which the arrival of oil played a role in the other great constitutional change of the decade, namely Britain’s entry into the European Community. The ultimate aim is to try and provide a new perspective on a period of political, constitutional, and industrial change which puts the arrival of a new, indigenous source of energy at its centre.

Something I have relished about the St Andrews PhD experience is the opportunity to build a rounded academic CV and to engage in collaborative work. I am a PG Teaching Assistant on the MO2008: Scotland, Britain and Empire module offered by the School, something I thoroughly enjoy and would encourage all new PhD students to involve themselves in if they can. I am also a Research Assistant on the Bibliography for British and Irish History project with fellow PhD student Chelsea Reutcke, and last August co-organised a successful one-day conference on the theme of ‘Ideology and Identity in Post-War Scotland’ with Sarah Leith. This year I am the intern for the Institute of Scottish Historical Research, the main duty of which is organising our ever-popular annual Reading Weekend at the Burn, Edzell.

Away from my work I play for the University Pool and Cue Sports club and have served as Men’s Captain this year. My ‘career’ highlight thus far has been representing Scotland at last year’s Student Home Internationals in Dublin. The trip, of course, included an historical morning before the flight home visiting the General Post Office museum! In the summer months I can regularly be found (much to my supervisor’s disapproval) enjoying a round of golf on the Links. Sadly, sharing a flat with a scratch handicapper has not led to any magical improvements in my game. When not working, or on the table or the golf course, I can usually be found at home cooking or in one of St Andrews’ many pubs, following the highs and (mostly) lows of Newcastle United.

Publication Spotlight: Marriage in the Tribe of Muhammad: A Statistical Study of Early Arabic Genealogical Literature

Blog written by Dr Majied Robinson

The first problem you face when studying the life of Muhammad is the lack of contemporary evidence. There is the Qur’an, and possibly a political agreement he made with the tribes of Medina, but aside from that no written sources whatsoever. What we do have however are thousands and thousands of stories about his life written centuries later.

The discipline of early Islamic history has (thankfully) moved on from either believing or disbelieving this material in its entirety. These days, academic historians sift through these stories looking for oddities, connections, and patterns, some of which may tell us something about the period in which they were composed.

One such process is undertaken in my book Marriage in the Tribe of Muhammad. The focus here is the Nasab Quraysh (tr: The Genealogy of the Quraysh), a book that stabilised into a written format at some point in the 830s CE. It purports to record the child-bearing marriages of Muhammad’s tribe of the Quraysh, and over the course of some 400 pages details hundreds of these relationships, linking together nearly 3,000 named men, women, and children.

I began my research with the idea that some sort of statistical analysis of these relationships would be useful. At this early stage, my assumption was that the book was of late composition and the pattern of relationships recorded would reveal the author’s context of 9th century Medina. What I found, however, was something startlingly different: the patterns I was uncovering were clearly correlated to events occurring during the life of Muhammad and the first Muslims, and in some instances went against later orthodoxies of Islamic origins. I eventually concluded that these records were not a later imagining of the past – they were the actual marriage records of people living at the time of Muhammad.

Key to this study was the concubine, the nameless, non-Arab slave woman who is referred to only as umm walad (tr: mother of a child) in the text. By structuring the data generationally and tracking the occurrences of slave mothers over time, I was able to show that the concubine was completely absent before the time of Muhammad yet when with the arrival of Islam we find that more and more children are being born of these slave women. This gets to the point in the middle of the 8th century that they eventually account for the majority of children born amongst members of this tribe, and they remained the predominant form of elite marriage right into the 20th century.

On one level this is understandable: the time of Muhammad coincided with the Islamic conquests which brought with them enormous numbers of slaves as booty. We would expect this to change marriage behaviour. But this finding is based on a source that is of late composition using novel statistical methodologies. By proving the early provenance of the data and the efficacy of the methodology we are now able to read not just this source in a new fashion but apply our findings to other Islamic historical sources that use genealogical literary forms. It also allows us to look within the Nasab Quraysh at marriages between men and free Arab women. I discuss some of the directions that this could take us in the later chapters of the book.

Postgraduate Spotlight: Lauren Holmes

Lauren Holmes is a first year doctoral student of Modern History and Art History. Her research focuses on modernism and the cultural history of migrant artists in twentieth century Britain.

Growing up in London, Lauren spent her teenage years lurking in art galleries and reading about the lives of others through her never-ending book collection. She became increasingly intrigued by the history of the spaces around us as result of volunteer work at William Morris’ Red House in South East London and a summer spent in employment at Buckingham Palace. Her desire to pursue these interests in more depth gradually became clear. She made the decision to move to St Andrews for her undergraduate degree in Modern History and quickly returned for her Masters having fallen in love with our little seaside town.

During her time as an undergraduate, she grew steadily more interested in both German and British social and cultural history. She sees spatial history as a means of interpreting this. Her masters studies led to a dissertation on the artistic culture of ‘alien’ internment camps in Britain. This project was the catalyst for a newfound curiosity about these lost figures of British art and the place they found within their new environment following their release.

Lauren is currently approaching the end of the first year of her doctoral research after her two-year break from studying. Her return to academia sees her undertaking an interdisciplinary project, working between the Schools of History and Art History under the supervision of Professor Riccardo Bavaj and Dr Sam Rose, to study the impact of German-speaking émigré artists on the British art scene from the 1930s onwards. Despite many of these individuals enjoying success in their careers in continental Europe, relatively little is known about their time in Britain. She hopes to find any forms of influence they may have had on the British art scene- both nationally in terms of artistic content and style and more locally through teaching, interaction, exhibition, and collaboration. Already, this topic is provoking questions relating to the entanglement between modernism, identity, and the experience of migration.

Before pursuing her PhD, Lauren trained as a tattoo artist and continues to work in this field alongside her research, which allows her to indulge her two passions simultaneously. She hopes to use her work to help bridge the gulf between tattoo art and conventional art history, as she believes that each has much to offer the other. She also enjoys painting, podcasts, and pets of any kind. She plans to spend the next 18 months travelling to archives across Britain, Germany, and Switzerland in search of clues about the lives of émigrés in Britain.

SaintsLGBT+ Exhibitions to Mark LGBT+ History Month 2020

We’re delighted to publish this guest blog post written by Lauren Reeves on behalf of SaintsLGBT+, detailing the two fantastic exhibitions they are staging in collaboration with the University Library as part of QueerFest and LGBT+ History Month:

February is LGBT+ History Month here in the UK. Since 2005, when Schools OUT organized the first ever LGBT+ History Month in Britain, we have celebrated the abolition of Section 28 by promoting the visibility of Queer identities both in the past and in the present. In collaboration with QueerFest, the University of St Andrews Main Library will be hosting two exhibitions of local LGBT+ history: Read You, Wrote You (sponsored by the Glasgow Women’s Library) & The Memories Project.

Read You, Wrote You is a selection of LGBT+ zines and magazines on loan from the “Lesbian Archives” of the Glasgow Women’s Library. The purpose of this display is to enable the students and faculty of St. Andrews to discover and celebrate the recent history of pride in the UK. This collection will address: trans rights & issues, queer visibility, intersectionality, queer black history, putting the femme in feminism, and much more.  

The Memories Project takes a more intimate look at queer stories from within our St Andrews community. According to Natalie Pereira, the brave and ambitious curator of this event, the ‘project aim is to tell the stories of everyday queer people in St Andrews through a selection of portraits, accompanied by personal anecdotes’. Students & faculty have kindly volunteered to discuss their individual experiences of being LGBT+, queer life in St Andrews, and their political understandings. 

In addition to these two displays, the university library will be gathering a number of its LGBT+ books and films into a central book rack for visitors to check out & take home to show support for queer writing and publishing. 

Read You, Wrote You will be on display on the 2nd floor of the Main Library from 7 February to 16 February.  Memories will also be found there (immediately to the left as you enter the Main Library) for the duration of the month. 

LGBT+ History Month 2020

This year, once again, the School is marking LGBT+ History Month in a number of ways.

We’ve teamed up with the University Library, which will display the seven rainbow posters celebrating important historical figures, objects, and moments in LGBTIQ+ histories and the history of sexuality that we put together last year. You can catch these displays on screens throughout the library for the whole month of February.

In addition, we’ve handed over the list of recommended texts on LGBTIQ+ histories and the history of sexuality, which colleagues have been compiling and adding to for the past three years. These books will be showcased on dedicated shelving on the ground floor of the library and are available for anyone to take out and read.  The idea is that as books are picked up and checked out, the library will continually replenish the shelves with more books from the list throughout the month.  Please do look out for this selection of reading, curated by staff and PhD students in the School – it would be great to see as many of these texts as possible taken out and read during LGBT History Month!

We’re also hoping to stage a student-led activity towards the end of the month, currently being planned with the School of History President and the History Society – watch this space and the usual communication channels for more information!

In addition, SaintsLGBT+ are staging two exhibitions as part of Queerfest which will be hosted by the library.  The first, Read You, Wrote You, displays a fascinating selection of LGBT+ zines and magazines on loan from the fabulous Glasgow Women’s Library. The second, The Memories Project, is an intimate exhibition of portraits and anecdotes in which St Andrews staff and student discuss their everyday experiences of queer life and being LGBT+ in St Andrews. Both can be found on the 2nd floor of the Main Library (near the entrance). Read You, Wrote You will be exhibited from 7th – 16th February; The Memories Project will be there for the whole month.

Postgraduate Spotlight: James Fortuna

James Fortuna is entering the second year of his PhD. His research focuses on the cultural, social, and spatial history of twentieth-century Europe and the United States.

James (Jimmy) was raised in the Litchfield Hills of Southern New England. After spending his undergraduate years double-majoring in History and English across Appalachia and Andalusia, he continued to see double throughout the British Isles, first studying Classics in Dublin, then Modern History in Cambridge.

Jimmy has spent time as a mountain guide in the Jungfrau Region of Switzerland, an American football coach, an on-air radio disc jockey, a ski instructor in Vermont, and has led scuba diving courses in every ocean but the Arctic – yet the semesters he spent teaching as a member of the Faculty of Humanities and Foreign Languages at public colleges in Florida and Connecticut remain his favorite professional experiences to date. He took a good deal of time trying to identify a PhD course that would provide him the necessary training and resources to someday make a larger, more lasting impact on the academy and he remains convinced that moving to St Andrews to work directly with Professor Riccardo Bavaj was the right choice.

At its broadest, Jimmy’s research is concerned with the relationship between state-commissioned art or architectural design and national identity. He is also interested in various instances of cultural diplomacy throughout the interwar period and pays particular attention to the material culture of Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, and the New Deal United States. Three fundamental questions drive the majority of his work: First, how did these three powers engage with one another in socio-cultural terms? Secondly, how did these powers view the world, and how did the world view them? Finally, though perhaps most importantly, how did the cultural programs of each come to affect regular, everyday people both at home and abroad?

Entitled ‘Architectural Diplomacy, Cultural Heritage, and Popular Reception of the Fascist Involvement at the International Expositions of 1933-42’, Jimmy’s project will look to make sense of the way Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany represented themselves at six of the major world’s fairs held during the late interwar period. At the end of Martinmas term 2019, he was fortunate enough to expand his supervisory team and the dissertation will now benefit from the expertise of Dr. Kate Ferris and Dr. Sam Rose.

Jimmy prefers the music scene of Glasgow, the ales of Dundee, and the buildings of Edinburgh. As for his favorite St Andrews libraries, he prefers Martyrs Kirk on rainy days and the far end of the King James when the sun shines. He is a member of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, the John Muir Trust, and both the St Andrews Sub Aqua and Surf clubs. He regularly contributes mixtapes to Ancora Radio, a DJ collective born of the scuba training and expedition group he helped found in 2015, and is excited to launch the Blue Belfry Project soon, an online database of overlooked or abandoned architecture.

He is currently based at the European University Institute in Florence through the Eramsus+ Doctoral Exchange Programme and looks forward to spending the next twenty-four months writing a dissertation his supervisors (and grandmother) can be proud of. Until then, he is happy to experience whatever comes in between.

Publication Spotlight: Anarchists, Terrorists and Republicans

Blog written by Professor Richard Whatmore

Many years ago I discovered Etienne Clavière, a man notorious in his time and even in his death – he was reputed to have stabbed an ivory dagger into his own heart without uttering a sound in order to avoid being dragged to the guillotine. At the time Clavière was imprisoned in Paris in the early years of the French Revolution. He had served as Louis XVI’s last finance minister and the first of the new French Republic. As a Girondin victim of the ruling Jacobins, however, he was arrested, imprisoned, and prepared for execution. Clavière was accused of being an English agent when he was arrested. Although this was nonsense, it was the case that he was an Irish subject of the British crown, having taken an oath of fealty to George III at Dublin in February 1783. Very few people are aware of Clavière’s back-story, which led him from the independent republic of Geneva to friendships with British ministers during and after the American Revolution, and then involvement in the revolution at Paris, which ultimately killed him.

My book Terrorists, Anarchists and Republicans tells the story of Clavière and his associates, who were involved in a remarkable political experiment before the French Revolution. They aspired to move the republic of Geneva – the centre of European Calvinism – to just outside the city of Waterford in Ireland. They wanted to do this because they felt that Geneva was no longer an independent state. Its manners had been corrupted by French luxury, its people were no longer frugal, and Calvinism itself was deemed to be being destroyed. One of the main figures Genevans like Clavière believed was poisoning Geneva was Voltaire, who lived on the edge of the city and whose mission of spreading enlightenment entailed the abolition of Calvinism. Voltaire thought that the Genevans who had expelled the bishop and gained liberty at the time of the Reformation then placed themselves in a prison erected by Calvin.

After Clavière came to power through a popular rebellion at Geneva in April 1782 he knew that he was risking the wrath of Louis XVI and his chief minister Vergennes – the latter hated republicanism and worried about popular government on France’s borders. Although Clavière and his fellow republicans tried to get the support of other states, the French were determined to crush them. Twelve thousand troops invaded Geneva from France, Bern, and Savoy. When the invaders mounted canons on mounds of earth outside the gates of the city, the people inside were ready for martyrdom. Men, women, and children had worked to repair the city walls and had placed gunpowder in the cathedral of Saint Pierre and in the houses of their enemies in the city, whom they branded aristocrats. Clavière and his fellow leaders at the very last moment took the decision not to die to teach the world how endangered republics were – rather they fled and ended up in Britain. They persuaded the Prime Minister Lord Shelburne to give them £50,000 to build a new city in Ireland. A hundred families travelled and like Clavière became Irish subjects. The French launched a campaign against the exiles, attacking them as terrorists and anarchists, wild fanatics who followed the dangerous philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. For a variety of reasons the city failed. It was turned into a barracks. Then, in a remarkable irony, the place that had started life as a possible utopia for republicans was turned into a prison for Irish republicans, the United Irishmen who rebelled in 1798. So atrocious were the conditions in the prison, called New Geneva Barracks, that it passed into folklore. James Joyce mentions it in Ulysses but the story of the place has not been told until now.