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.

Disability History Month Poster 6: Helen Keller, writer and activist

Born into a confederate family in northern Alabama in 1880, Helen Keller lost her sight and hearing as a result of childhood illness at the age of nineteen months. In March 1887 when she was six years old, Helen met Anne Mansfield Sullivan, fourteen years her senior and with impaired vision herself, who would become her teacher and life-long companion. Anne Sullivan taught Helen manual sign language and oversaw her schooling.  Keller described in her childhood autobiography, The Story of My Life, a breakthrough moment when the “living word awakened my soul” and showed her that “barriers […] could in time be swept away”, as she connected the manual signs for w-a-t-e-r that Sullivan traced on one of her hands as she poured cold water on the other.  Keller became the first deaf-blind person to attain a BA degree, when she graduated cum laude from Radcliffe College, Harvard in 1904.

What is notable is how Keller’s career-long campaigning and advocacy work for the rights of people with disabilities formed part of a suite of causes and beliefs that she championed.  Keller was also a suffragist and a socialist, a pacifist and a supporter of contraceptive rights (and eugenics). She became an early member of the American Civil Liberties Union in 1920. In the sphere of disability rights, she helped to build the American Foundation for the Blind in 1924, and wrote and campaigned extensively, travelling to 35 countries across 5 continents in the period 1946-1957 alone. Keller herself recognised the inextricability of the causes she espoused: “For the first time [when appointed to a commission to investigate the conditions of blind people] I, who had thought blindness a misfortune beyond human control, found that too much of it was traceable to wrong industrial conditions, often caused by the selfishness and greed of employers. And the social evil contributed its share. I found that poverty drove women to a life of shame that ended in blindness [an allusion to syphilis contracted through sex work]. […] It seemed as if I had been asleep and waked to a new world.”

Keller was an international celebrity figure; she met all the US presidents of her lifetime from Grover Cleveland on and counted international politicians, world-famous actors, and public figures as friends, from Albert Einstein and Alexander Graham Bell to Mark Twain and Charlie Chaplin. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 and died four years later.

Disability History Month runs from 22nd November to 22nd December.  

Disability History Month Poster 5: Childbirth and Mental Illness, Past and Present

Mental illness following childbirth has a long history, and our understanding has changed according to social circumstances and dominant medical frameworks, as has the way in which postpartum mental illness has fitted into our lives.

In the nineteenth-century, the term ‘puerperal insanity’ dominated descriptions of mental illness associated with childbirth in medical literature, but a lay understanding and accepted discourse also existed within families and communities. A body of ideas about postpartum mental illness was built on a collaboration of medical knowledge, acquired through interactions with doctors, and ‘homespun’ ideas and understandings. Women were supported by their families, who interacted with doctors and were consulted in the treatments given, making them active consumers of healthcare.  Families were often able to maintain an effective level of patient care, but sought help when women’s behaviour became unmanageable, dangerous or public.  Once admitted to an asylum, postpartum patients often responded well to a regime of rest and nourishment – Isabella, pictured on the poster, a blacksmith’s wife who lived in St Andrews, was admitted to Dundee Royal Lunatic Asylum in March 1903 but was discharged, recovered, after only two months.  In criminal cases, there was often considerable sympathy for women who were seen as suffering from ‘puerperal insanity’ and not responsible for their actions.

Today it is estimated that postpartum depression affects around ten to fifteen women to every hundred births and postpartum psychosis occurs in about one in one thousand women who have a baby in the United Kingdom, while some estimates suggest that one in five childbearing women are affected by some form of postpartum mental disorder worldwide.  These figures are likely to be underestimates. The last few years have seen a growing interest in these conditions, but postpartum mental disorders remain underrepresented, misunderstood and shrouded in stigma.  Examining the experiences of women and their families in the past contributes to the ongoing conversation about mental illness and parenthood in the present.

This poster is based on the research of, and was written by, Morag Allan Campbell, a PhD student in the School of History.

Disability History Month runs from 22nd November to 22nd December.

Further reading: 

Brockington, Ian. The Psychoses of Menstruation and Childbearing. Cambridge University Press, 2017

Campbell, Morag Allan. ‘‘Noisy, Restless and Incoherent’: Puerperal Insanity at Dundee Lunatic Asylum.’ History of Psychiatry 28, no. 1 (2017/03/01 2016): 44- 57.

Cossins, Annie. Female Criminality: Infanticide, Moral Panics and the Female Body. Palgrave Macmillan, 2015 

Kilday, Anne-Marie. A History of Infanticide in Britain, C. 1600 to the Present. Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. 

Marland, Hilary. Dangerous Motherhood: Insanity and Childbirth in Victorian Britain. Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.

Showalter, Elaine. The Female Malady: Women, Madness, and English Culture, 1830- 1980. Penguin Books, 1987.

Disability History Month Poster 4: ‘Prisoner-patients’: criminalising intellectual disorders in Victorian Scotland

Prisons have a much higher proportion of men and women with mental disorders than the general population. This was also true in Victorian times, when ‘the liability of the criminal classes to an excess of insanity is very great, and much beyond that of the free population of the country’. The Prisons (Scotland) Act (1844) defined ‘criminal lunatics’ as ‘insane persons charged with serious offences’. From 1846 Perth Prison provided specialist housing for those deemed not responsible on account of their insanity and in 1865 established a separate Criminal Lunatic Department (CLD). The then resident surgeon J. Bruce Thomson called inmates ‘prisoner-patients’ or ‘state lunatics’. The Perth CLD predated both Broadmoor in England (1863) and Dundrum in Ireland (1850) and remained the only such facility in Scotland until 1948.

Offenders were admitted to the CLD not for the crime committed, but for the threat presented by their insanity. One such ‘prisoner-patient’ was John McFadyen. McFadyen was convicted of the murder of a two-year-old boy named Alexander Shields in Glasgow in 1861, whom he had killed in order to steal his clothes, and was transferred to Perth from Broadmoor in 1872.  Aged 20 at the time he committed the murder, doctors judged John to have a mental age of six.  At the reformatory institution where he spent the years prior to the murder, the chaplain-superintendent described McFadyen as “mentally, morally and physically stunted or underdeveloped”: he could not write and could scarcely read and do arithmetic. He was barely 4 feet 9 inches (1.5m) tall and weighed seven stone (45kg). A cell mate described him as “a very childish companion. Very mischievious, taking away anything that was left, singing all day, constant talking, jumping on the bed occasionally, singing snatches of songs. […] I do not think he understood his position.”

Victorians classed intellectual disabilities such as that exhibited by McFadyen as either ‘imbecility’ or ‘idiocy’. These terms had both legal and medical meanings: ‘imbecility’, the diagnosis given to John McFadyen, was used to indicate less extensive incapacity than ‘idiocy’. John McFadyen was unconditionally discharged from Perth in 1891, aged 50.

The case of John McFadyen, and other ‘prisoner-patients’, demonstrate how societal understandings of intellectual disorders, and mental health more broadly, have been – and continue to be – conditioned and shaped by contemporary medical science, laws and the penal system, welfare structures and ideals, and philosophical and political conceptions of individual rights.

This poster is based on the research of Professor Rab Houston in the School of History.  For more information, including podcasts on mental health in historical perspective, please visit: