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.

Postgraduate Spotlight: Chelsea Reutcke

Chelsea is a final year PhD student in Reformation Studies. In this blog she shares what draws her to studying ‘overlooked figures in history’.

Raised in Cincinnati and Chicago on a steady diet of Agatha Christie and history documentaries, Chelsea dreamed of someday living in the UK. Her love for mysteries extended beyond the realm of fiction, and from age twelve she became fixated on figuring out and understanding the past. After deciding that forensic anthropology required too many biology classes, she fixed her sights on history. 

During her undergraduate degree at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, she was drawn to overlooked figures in history as well as those whose stories had been overwritten by a popular narrative. She wrote her undergraduate thesis on the ‘afterlives’ of Anne Boleyn in Protestant and Catholic polemics. This in turn led to a fascination with the under-recognized Catholic priest and vitriolic writer, Nicholas Sander, and his scandalous history of the English Reformation. This became the subject of her 2014 MLitt dissertation, undertaken at St Andrews under the supervision of Dr Jacqueline Rose. When Chelsea returned to St Andrews for her PhD in 2016, she found the perfect continuation of this work in a thesis on the production and circulation of Catholic books in England. 

Chelsea is now in the final year of her doctoral studies on Catholic texts in Restoration England, again under the supervision of Dr Rose. As in her earlier studies, the themes of hidden figures and mysterious queens (in this case, Catherine of Braganza) feature heavily in her work. She continues to focus on historical networks and lived experiences, particularly of the obscure printers and booksellers in London who produced Catholic books. Her favourite is a Catholic bookseller by the name of Matthew Turner. Despite selling over a hundred different titles and being described by contemporaries as ‘that notorious popish bookseller’, little is known about Turner compared to many of his Protestant counterparts, making every detail about him an exciting discovery.

Chelsea loves bringing new life to a topic deemed uninfluential in the wider historiography and giving agency to a group usually discussed in terms of outside fear through her research. Even in the final stretch, her love for her topic has not wavered, and the many avenues for further investigation it yields has already resulted in two upcoming publications: one on the private interests of the enforcers of the 1662 Licensing Act, and the other on the patronage networks surrounding Catherine of Braganza. 

Meanwhile, she’s exploring new approaches to history and public outreach through her participation in the Bibliography for British and Irish History and the ongoing ‘St Andrews 1559’ project by Open Virtual Worlds, supervised by Dr Bess Rhodes. This year, the project produced a digital reconstruction of Holy Trinity parish church, of which Chelsea’s favourite detail is the little set up steps on the side of the main entrance.

Now living her childhood dream, Chelsea tries to take advantage of all the amazing opportunities offered by life in Scotland. She has danced in a Regency ball, shot arrows in a medieval castle, and even travelled to Stockholm on a cheap flight to see a live podcast about murder. Her bookshelves continue to be filled with history texts and murder mysteries, and she looks forward to the day those books will feature her name. 

Staff Spotlight: Dr Montserrat Lopez Jerez

Blog written by Dr Montserrat Lopez Jerez. Dr Lopez Jerez is a new addition to the School of History this year. Her research focuses on the economic history of developing regions, particularly colonial and post-colonial economic development in East and Southeast Asia. 

Montse in Luang Prabang

I am not sure if my academic career qualifies as conventional–it has definitely not been straightforward. Before my current work, I spent years studying natural sciences and almost applied to medical school. Instead, I opted for a quicker entry into the labour market and went for Business Administration, majoring in international economics in Icade, Madrid. I took advantage of the extra academic opportunities offered by the university while I was there, which eventually resulted in combining my studies with work in, among others, investment banking (ING Barings) and strategic consultancy (Arthur D. Little), as well as volunteer work.

By the time I graduated I was ready to move from Spain, and I was lucky enough to get a paid internship sponsored by the Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade (ICEX) to work for one year at the Commercial Section of the Spanish Embassy in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, followed by two years in Vientiane, Laos as a trade consultant. Witnessing the remarkably quick transformations taking place in the region and being part of the striking inequalities, I was bitten by an academic curiosity which led me to a Masters in Asian Studies at Lund University, Sweden. I specialised on Southeast Asia and carried out my fieldwork in Thailand under the supervision of Professor Christer Gunnarsson. Under his and Associate Professor Martin Andersson’s supervision, I wrote my doctoral dissertation on the effects of factor endowments in influencing the developing paths of the two rice deltas of Vietnam from colonial times. I obtained my PhD in Economic History in 2015 and stayed in Lund as a lecturer at the Department of Economic History and the Centre for Asian Studies. I was again very fortunate as my dissertation won the Wallander scholarship granting me three years of research fellowship.

A map of French Indochina taken by Montse at the French Archives (ANOM) in Aix-en-Provence

Lund, especially the Department of Economic History, was home for fourteen years. During this time I worked mainly on my dissertation which is now a monograph titled Deltas Apart – Factor Endowments, Colonial Extraction and Pathways of Agricultural Development in Vietnam. As Swedish dissertations have an ISBN, its conversion into a book has not been forthright but it is one of my upcoming projects. Emanating from the dissertation, I have published four research pieces, of which the latest are on the modern transformation of Vietnam examining the linkages between rural transformation and inclusiveness (in Innovation and Development 2019) and one shortly forthcoming in an edited volume by CUP on the fiscal capacity of the colonial state in Africa and Asia (edited by Ewout Frankema and Anne Booth). Here I explore the formation and evolution of the French fiscal state in Indochina in relation to the paradox of being portrayed as one of the most extractive states (when it comes to taxation) while its revenues per capita are amongst the lowest in colonial East and Southeast Asia.

Since August 2019, I have been participating in a recently granted Lund-based project which aims at understanding what makes developing countries resilient to economic shrinking. This will run for three years. Simultaneously I am expanding my work on understanding and quantifying inequalities in rural economies and their effect in economic development in East and Southeast Asia.

My teaching in St Andrews reflects my academic interests, diverse and broad training, and experience of working in European environments while specialising in Asia. My honour modules are: MO3388 (the East Asian Economic Miracle), MO3355 (on colonialism in East and Southeast Asia), and MO4854 (Equality, Institutions and the Development of the Modern State).  I look forward to engaging in MO1008, HI2001, and the MSc in Economic and Social History next year.

When I’m not at work, I spend my time with my kids and other loved ones spread across the globe.

Postgraduate Spotlight: Lasse Andersen

Lasse Andersen is a second year PhD student of Modern History. In this post he shares about his unlikely journey to his love of history and more about his current research.

The fact that Lasse Andersen is now a PhD candidate at the University of St Andrews would have seemed very unlikely had you met him little over a decade ago when he was practicing his bread baking skills in a small-town family bakery in rural Jutland. His father had been a great baker, so it seemed like a natural career choice to simply stay in town and do the same. But things were not to be so simple. The state intervened on behalf of the Queen, and Lasse was conscripted to the Royal Danish Navy where he was to aide in the defence of her Realm against all enemies and trespassers, especially in that vast arctic appendage to it that is Greenland. In reality, however, this mostly just involved him baking more bread, but with the added challenge of being at sea.

It was while he was at sea watching out for those trespassers (and waiting for the bread to prove) that he acquired an obsessive interest in reading. At first, he read histories of naval warfare and seafaring peoples, but one day during a particularly bad storm in the North Sea he suddenly developed an acute interest in land and all things attached to it. Upon his return, he enrolled at the University of Aarhus, where he was taught Foucault and Marx, but mostly just read about the Scottish Enlightenment. After writing his BA dissertation on Montesquieu and Adam Smith (and land), he briefly boarded yet another ship and eventually acquired the means to settle in St Andrews. He finished an MLitt in Intellectual History in 2018 with a dissertation on the changing idea of an Agrarian Law in seventeenth and eighteenth century Scotland.

His current research takes the question of land distribution into the nineteenth century, being a project about the movement for land reform in Britain in the period 1865-1875. It focuses on radical ideas about the tenure, transfer, and taxation of land within political economy and jurisprudence, especially as these came to prominence with the formation of the Land Tenure Reform Association, a pressure group headed by John Stuart Mill from 1869 to 1873. By 1873, the year of Mill’s death, more than 30 prominent radicals had signed up as members of this association, and the ideas that informed its programme reflected their anti-aristocratic liberalism and their collective experience with different systems of land tenure in places such as Ireland, India, France and North America. The essential idea behind their desire to ‘emancipate the soil’ from the confines of feudalism – from the dead hand of primogeniture and entails – was that the free and easy transfer of land would enable a much wider distribution of land, generating a numerous class of peasant proprietors whose direct interest in the produce of the soil would make agriculture more productive and give previously landless labourers an interest in the prosperity of society and the preservation of property.

Aside from John Stuart Mill, Lasse’s research focuses on many lesser-known individuals such as John Eliot Cairnes, James E. Thorold Rogers, and Thomas E. Cliffe Leslie, all of whom were members of the Land Tenure Reform Association, as well as on Louis Mallet and the 8th Duke of Argyll, the association’s primary and most vocal detractors.

One question that Lasse is particularly interested in researching is the relation between these radical land reformers and laissez-faire liberalism, a question that is intimately connected to the advent of marginalism in British political economy as well as to the debate about Richard Cobden’s legacy in the decade after his death in 1865.

Postgraduate Spotlight: Konstantin Wertelecki

Konstantin is a final year PhD student in Modern History. In this post he writes on the research of ‘Others’ and why history is so important.

If I had to summarise in a word why I chose to research history, it would be the word ‘human’. In political science, people are dehumanised to calculations, flow charts and digits of mechanical proportions. In the arts, people are pedestalised and crafted beyond authentic recognition to a fantastical scale. But in history we comb through both the ugly and the elegant, the bewildering and the bewitching. As historians we seek to discover the genuine patterns of ‘human-ness’.

My research looks into the lives of the expatriate British community in Florence between the First and Second World Wars. While upon first glance this seems a rather unextraordinary subject compared to the study of spies, humanitarian heroes and other grand figures, this topic overflows with a hidden complexity that forces us to face our ‘human-ness’, not only as historical observers, but also as historical participants. 

Old-fashioned historians love to ‘tidy’: countries are categorised by print-friendly borders, people are sorted into easily distinguishable labels of ‘ethnicity’, ‘nationality’ and ‘race’ and sweeping generalisations of ‘us’ and ‘others’ allow for a quick-and-easy history that politicians can parade as a ‘national story’. Rarely, however, is history so precise.

When I first began my research, I, too, very much fell into the trap of arranging my historical subjects tidily into ‘British’ and ‘Italian’ camps. I sought to sculpt a narrative of a ‘transplanted’ Little Britain to the idyllic Tuscan hills. My naïve perceptions were soon challenged, however, as I came across ‘unusual’ cases of ‘Britishers’ who were also Italian, ‘Britishers’ who had been born and lived their whole lives in Florence, ‘Britishers’ who took Italian spouses and had Italian children and ‘Britishers’ who unabashedly declared their distaste for all that the United Kingdom represented. It was at this moment that I realised what great responsibility (but also what great privilege) historians, as historical participants, have in highlighting this ‘human’ element for future historical observers.

In addition, my own personal perspective as an expatriate in Scotland aided me in learning more about the British in Florence from the questions that philosophically challenged me, and no doubt challenged them as well: What is it to be ‘x’ nationality? What is to be ‘patriotic’? Is one no longer an ‘x’ national if the ‘purity’ of one’s patriotism has been diluted by experiences abroad?

If there is one message I would deliver of my experiences on the practise of history to the historian and non-historian alike, it is this: our discipline is the most enriching for the very ‘weaknesses’ by which it is criticised. It is not (nor should it try to be) a science that artificially contours people, places and ideas of the past to a painfully corseted fit. Nor is it of the arts that embellishes, romanticises or spectacularises the ordinary to grotesque or wondrous dimensions. It is an honesty-seeking discipline that braves the messily splashed remnants of past fortunes, failures and forged attempts. It is a discipline which is underutilised in its strong potential of pointing to the paradigms of the future from the patterns of the past. It is the discipline that teaches us what it is to be ‘human’.

Publication Spotlight: Sixteenth-Century Readers, Fifteenth-Century Books

Blog written by Dr Margaret Connolly

Most of my research has been firmly based in the fifteenth century, and a lot of it has been concerned with Middle English texts and their manuscript contexts. The study of English medieval manuscripts has been dominated in recent years by issues related to book production and by the quest to identify individual scribes, and I have gradually come to realise that considerably less attention has been paid to the readers of manuscripts, and to what happened to books once they passed into general circulation. So, when I came across two fifteenth-century manuscripts that were owned in the sixteenth century by the same family, I was intrigued by the possibility of tracing the story of those readers and their books. The family was the Roberts family of Middlesex, and a total of eight surviving manuscripts can be connected with them. That might not sound like a large number, but to be able to link several medieval manuscripts to the same owners is quite rare, especially if those owners were not royal or noble. It’s the very ordinariness of this English gentry family that makes them interesting, and I’ve enjoyed living with them over the past decade, charting their careers in the public record; working out the details of their family history, marriages, and children; and uncovering their networks of professional and personal associations.

The two men who are at the heart of my study lived through exceptionally turbulent times: Thomas Roberts died in 1542, just a few years after the dissolution of the monasteries, and his son, Edmund, lived through several changes in official religion under Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Mary Tudor, dying in Elizabeth I’s reign in 1585. I was struck by the fact that these sixteenth-century men chose at least some of their reading not from material that was newly produced but from books that were much older than they were. The texts that those books offered were ones that had been written in an age that was wholly and unproblematically Catholic, which prompted the question: Why did my newly reformed readers favour these old medieval books?

A manuscript owned by Edmund Roberts.
Cambridge University Library MS Ii.6.2 f. 109r.
Photo by Dr Margaret Connolly.

One manuscript in particular stood out to me. It’s not the flashiest, because it isn’t one of the illuminated ones. Instead it’s a small and fairly shabby volume that contains a series of devotional prose texts written in English. Edmund Roberts annotated some of these texts by underlining points and phrases, and by repeating key words in the margins; at one point he adds the comment ‘A vere good praier’. The text that prompted that approving remark offers advice on how to pray and then a meditation on Christ’s death on the cross and is drawn from a longer fifteenth-century work, Contemplations of the Dread and Love of God. In his book of hours Edmund signed his name beneath another prayer, adding a comment in which he claimed to use it every day. That prayer is one that promises tangible rewards if the speaker repeats it a certain number of times whilst also performing a particular set of actions. Between them these two short texts cover a spectrum of devotional practice ranging from an unremarkable orthodox engagement with core aspects of the Christian faith to a more superstitious style of worship verging on magical ritual, and this in turn offers some insights into Edmund’s spirituality.

Edmund also wrote the date ‘1553’ in both these manuscripts showing that he was using them in the year that Mary Tudor came to the throne, a point at which the official religion again became Catholicism. Edmund’s splendidly illustrated book of hours was a volume that he had inherited from his father, Thomas, and both men added extra texts to it, including prayers to the Virgin and charms and incantations that offered protection against ill-fortune. Were these men Catholic or Protestant? I spent a good deal of time trying to find an answer to this question, considering not just the evidence of the manuscripts, but also the clues offered by the men’s lives – their occupations, professional networks, and social circles. The Roberts family were not prominent recusants, but they certainly had recusant friends. One of Thomas Roberts’s closest affiliates was John Newdigate, whose son Sebastian was one of the Carthusian martyrs. Edmund did not prosper as much in public life as his father had done and fades out of the public record in Elizabeth’s reign. Amongst the godparents that he chose for his children was Susan Clarence, one of Mary Tudor’s closest attendants, and this and other clues eventually led me to believe that he may have been reformed in name only, preferring the ways of the old religion. But I also realised that in uncertain times discretion was probably the order of the day, and that the reason I couldn’t pin down clear evidence of these Tudor men’s religious affiliations might be because they didn’t want to nail their colours to the mast. This resonated with behaviour that I observed during the modern political events that unfolded whilst I was writing this book (the referendums in 2014 and 2016 on Scottish independence and membership of the European Union), and the way that some people are happy to articulate their voting intentions whilst others prefer to keep their beliefs to themselves.