The History Society Undergraduate Conference 2019

Blog written by Ruth McKechnie

This year, the History Society’s Annual Undergraduate Conference returned for its fifth year. Once again, talented and inquisitive undergraduate historians showcased their research and presented their own unique take on the theme of ‘History and the People’. This year’s participants considered a wide range of topics and interpretations, from Soviet warfare to the commemoration of anniversaries today. Speakers Jacob Baxter, Fiona Banham and Benjamin Claremont are all currently in their fourth year, while Grant Wong is only in the second year of his studies. These students were joined by Professor Ali Ansari of the Middle Eastern History department and Dr Sarah Frank of Modern History.

Professor Ansari presented a thought-provoking exploration of how history relates to the formation of public policy, and he outlined some of the challenges he himself has faced within the public sphere. Dr Frank gave a paper on the experiences and popular images of prisoners of war, with particular emphasis on colonial German captives during the Second World War. However, the true highlight of the day were the undergraduate speakers. Each student gave an insight into an area of history that resonated with them.

Jacob Baxter, presenting ‘The Anniversary Today; Possibilities, Pitfalls and the People’, provided a striking consideration of the impacts that anniversaries can have upon historical engagement with the public. He skilfully brought St Andrews and the commemoration of the University’s 400th year to the forefront of this paper. Following this, Grant Wong gave a truly educational foray into the lives of re-enactors, and the length to which they will go to prefect their craft in his paper ‘A Search for Purpose: The Power of Performance in Civil War Re-enactment.’ Special attention was devoted to the role of women and minority groups within this practice.  ‘Children of the Holocaust in Popular and Collective Memory’, delivered by Fiona Banham, was a poignant and thoroughly considered insight into how the images and insights of children impact the public perception of the Holocaust. This paper received much praise and prompted more than a few tears from the audience. Benjamin Claremont’s presentation of ‘Losing the Forest for the Trees: Military Myopia in the Western Popular Understanding of Soviet Warfare’  focused on the impact of misinformation surrounding historical phenomena. Using exceptional example, he explored how myths can seep into common consciousness through platforms such as YouTube and popular media.

After the papers were delivered, the Deans Prize was won by  Jacob Baxter and his thoroughly delightful presentation. The conference was closed by a roundtable discussion, in which presenters, committee members and members of the audience participated in a lively debate. This final event marked the end of a day jam-packed with truly excellent work and thought-provoking ideas, which will hopefully facilitate further discussion. The History Society wishes to say a big thank you to all who made such a great day possible, with a special thanks to keynote speakers, student presenters and the School of History. Each of the papers presented will soon be available in History Society Undergraduate Conference Journal, and I would thoroughly recommend reading these spectacular examples of student research.

The History Society’s 2019 Interdepartmental Quiz

Blog written by Glenn Mills

The winning team!

January 30 saw the eagerly awaited return of the History Society’s Interdepartmental Quiz. The evening was a paradoxical mixture of light-hearted fun and ferocious competition as we pitted representatives from the Modern, Mediaeval and Classics departments against one another in a war of the wits for the prestigious IDQ Trophy. This year, Dr Bess Rhodes, Dr Sarah Frank and Dr Emma Hart represented the Modern History department; Dr Robert Cimino, Dr Alex Woolf, and Professor John Hudson defended the currently reigning mediaevalists; Dr Dawn Hollis, Dr Andrea Brock and Dr Jon Coulston formed the Classics team. Alex and Jon are veterans (having routinely competed to defend or retrieve their departments’ glory!) but it was equally pleasing to see so many new faces in the quizzing arena and we hope they will be keen to return next year.

The evening’s events took off with a general knowledge round in which the mediaevalists gained an early lead, correctly identifying cynophobia as the fear of dogs and Quagadougou as the capital of Burkina Fasco. The St Andrews round showed a balanced performance, with Alex Woolf naming St Peter as St Andrew’s brother, Bess Rhodes exhibiting a comprehensive knowledge of Andrew Melville Hall, and Jon Coulston demonstrating an impressive familiarity with the artefacts in the MUSA. The ancient and middle eastern rounds proved surprisingly perplexing for all of the teams. The precise date for the eruption of Vesuvius descended into loose guesswork, while the dissolution of the Knights Templar remains an area in need of some revision.

The three teams stumbled their way through an agonising pop culture round, in which only one of Ariana Grande’s ex-boyfriends in her song ‘thank u, next’ was identified by all nine contestants. However, Meghan Markle’s television career and the 2019 Oscars saw much wider success. The medieval round proved equally troublesome, although Alex Woolf and John Hudson’s knowledge of Sweyn Forkbeard of Denmark and the Hereford mappamundi earned the mediaeval team a few points on their home turf. The music round witnessed a passable group performance of ABBA’s Super Trouper and Andrea Brock demonstrated the Floss dance with consummate skill. The final two rounds on modern history and science brought the evening to a tidy conclusion.

By the end of the night, the Mediaeval team achieved a decisive victory and the IDQ trophy has thus been returned to St John’s House, where it will stay under the guardianship of the school administrators, Dorothy Christie and Audrey Wishart. The IDQ continues to be a highlight for many students and we are pleased to say that this year saw a record turnout. Many thanks are due to the History Society Committee, who have offered invaluable help with the planning and logistics of the event. In particular Academic Officer Sophie Rees showed her diligent commitment, communicating regularly with staff, organising the venue and compiling questions, and President Harris LaTeef bravely took up the gauntlet of quizmaster. A final word of thanks must be extended to the academics who participated in the quiz, despite the administrative chaos of week one, and to all of the students in attendance. We hope next year’s quiz will be received with equal enthusiasm.

MO4806 Britain and the Thirty Years’ War Class Trip

received_10159932845395136.jpegBlog written by Rachel Beattie

During Spring break, the class of MO4806 ‘Britain and the Thirty Years’ War’ ventured to Stockholm to visit a wide array of historical museums and archives. Over three days we visited five contrasting archives and museums, each giving a slightly different perspective on the Thirty Years’ War.

We began by visiting the old town of Riddarhomkyrkan and Riddarhuset (The House of Nobility) where we were lucky enough to be given a tour. In addition, we heard about how the House functions, as well as being shown the specific plaque for each person ennobled, a great many of which were Scots. In the afternoon, a few of us went to the National Archives of Sweden and under the guidance of several PhD students, we learnt how to engage with archival sources and how to beneficially use them within our studies.

received_10159932845440136The following day we ventured out to the Armemuseum (The Army Museum) which brought the class into contact with a wide array of artifacts. The group went around the different rooms, such as the one on camp life, the trophy exhibition, as well as the presentation of several flags and banners. Each exhibit brought the war to life in different ways, but it was only a taste of what was to come in the afternoon. The class ventured out to the museum vaults, where we had the incredible opportunity to see and interact with artifacts from the period. Ranging from flags, to war drums, and from muskets to swords, we were able to see first-hand see these objects which undoubtedly brought the war into our hands and history to life. It was an unforgettable and beneficial experience for understanding the Thirty Years’ War.

received_1653608204674447.jpeg

We began our last day by visiting the Krigsarkivet (the Military Archives). During our visit the archivists brought out different documents, from Swedish Muster Rolls full of British regiments, to maps and orders of battles. Following this, we headed to the spectacular Vasa museum, which houses a ship from the Thirty Years’ War. The Vasa had sunk on its first voyage, and subsequently it has been reconstructed and a museum built around it. To walk around a ship of its stature and grandeur was an incredible way to finish off the trip, leaving us speechless.

The opportunity to engage with historical artifacts and interact with documents within archives brought the history of the Thirty Years’ War to life. The ability to walk round Stockholm and see the history in the buildings, as well as Brits intertwined within the museums was an unforgettable experience, and a great way to further study and understand the period of the Thirty Years War. In total contrast, a few of us even took the time to further enhance our museum experience in Stockholm by visiting the Abba Museum.

The Undergraduate History Conference

Blog written by Sophie Rees

ugc

Ruth McKechnie, winner of the Dean’s Prize

On Saturday 10 February, the University History Society hosted its fifth annual (and most-well attended to date) Undergraduate History Conference, held in the Medieval Old Class Library. The Conference is one of the Society’s flagship events, and one that we as a committee are immensely proud of. The first of its kind in the UK, the conference aims to enable undergraduate historians to engage independently and critically with historical topics that interest them. Year upon year, it provides a challenging but supportive environment in which to explore those interests, test ideas and develop professional and academic skills. It does not constrain students to a mark scheme, or award them points from 1-20. Instead, the conference nurtures independent academic thought, integral for the development of skills vital for dissertations and beyond.

This year’s theme, History and Memory, was well received by applicants and the wider community, and nurtured this sense of personal engagement. The tension between scholarly accounts of the past and collective memory in shaping a personal, political and national historical consciousness has often been perceived as obscuring ‘the facts’ from view. However, it is from the struggle between personal recollections and the official narrative that the patchwork of history slowly begins to be stitched together. Memory as a historical method can appear both useful and useless. It gives flavour to bland official narratives yet is hampered by its brevity and fractures. Yet, the comprehension of memory as a valuable historiographical tool is the key to ensuring that history is never forgotten.

ugc1.jpg

Attendees at the Undergraduate History Conference Dinner

The day started with a fascinating key note speech by Professor DeGroot, who gave an address entitled ‘The Burden of Memory and the Need to Forget’. Ranging from personal recollections to a national perception of Blackadder, DeGroot’s address neatly interlinked private and public understandings of memory, before contemplating on the triviality of both what we remember and what we choose to forget. This was followed by our five undergraduate speakers, who spoke on topics as varied as Stolpersteine to Polynesian sexuality. There was a great sense of audience engagement and a reciprocity of ideas, as spectator and speaker alike were drawn into interesting debate. This was accompanied by copious amounts of biscuits and cups of university branded tea (a particular favourite among students and staff alike), as we all mulled over the curious construction of historical memory. After the final speech, the committee adjourned to decide which participant would be voted best speaker, whilst Professor Colin Kidd led an open discussion on the central themes with students in the Undercroft.

This year’s recipient of the £100 Deans’ Prize is Ruth McKechnie, for her fascinating discussion of sectarian tension in ‘The Glasgow Conundrum: A discussion of how socio-cultural prejudices affect the perception of history’. We are so grateful to everyone who attended the event, with particular thanks to our five fabulous speakers: Ruth, Victoria, Philip, Zoe and Hayley. The History Society looks forward to our next undergraduate conference, where we hope to relocate to a larger venue and host even more insightful speakers.

September Round Up

explorathon.png

Image attrib. Explorathon, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

News

Congratulations to ISHR and SAIMS who are both celebrating their tenth anniversary this year!

Congratulations also to recent School of History graduate Nishant Raj, who is the 2017 “Europe Regional Winner” for the History category in the Undergraduate Awards for his essay, ‘Pork, Power and Protest: Control and Resistance in the Pork Trade in Occupied Shanghai’

Staff Activity

Dr Rory Cox gave a public talk at the L.A. Louver art gallery on the ethics of war. The talk accompanied the exhibition ‘Reign of Fire’ by artist Ben Jackel.

Professor Elena Marushiakova and Professor Veselin Popov took part in the 2017 Annual Meeting of the Gypsy Lore Society and Conference on Romani Studies in University of Cyprus, Nicosia, Cyprus with the presentation “Commencement of the Organized Roma Civil Movement”. Elena Marushiakova was also involved in the Academic committee preparing the Conference and presented the Opening Presentation.

Professor Elena Marushiakova, Professor Veselin Popov, and Dr Aleksandar Marinov have presented their ERC advanced grant project Nr. 694656 “Roma Civic Emancipation Between The Two World Wars” at European Researchers’ Night, Explorathon St Andrews

Professor Richard Whatmore presented the plenary lecture ‘Adam Smith and the end of Enlightenment’ at the  University of Palermo conference ‘The Thought of Adam Smith through Europe and Beyond’

On September 6, Konrad M. Lawson gave a workshop tutorial introducing database design for historians together with Roberto Sala entitled ‘Do you need a “base” for your “data”’ at the 5th GRAINES Summer School – ‘History and its Sources After the Digital Turn’ at University of Basel

Professor Aileen Fyfe presented the closing presentation ‘The Social Dynamics and Structural Biases of Peer Review, 1865 to 1965’ at the 8th International Congress on Peer Review and Scientific Publication, which took place on September 10

From 23 to 26  September Professor Elena Marushiakova and Professor Veselin Popov have participated as academic advisers and commentators in the Second Summer School for PhD students of the Network of Academic Institutions in Romani Studies in Prague, Czech Republic

Recent Publications

Rory Cox, ‘Expanding the History of the Just War: The Ethics of War in Ancient Egypt’International Studies Quarterly 61 (2) (2017): 371-384.

Royal Historical Society Prizes for St Andrews

ashley.jpgThe Royal Historical Society awards a number of prizes every year to scholars of all levels in order to encourage further research. This year, a great number of (former) St Andrews scholars received prizes – congratulations to all the winners!

MLitt student Ashley Atkins was awarded the Rees Davies Prize for his dissertation ‘The Authorship, Function and Ideological Origins of the Claim of Right of 1989’. The thesis was supervised by Professors Colin Kidd and Roger Mason, and the judges described Ashley’s argument as “thoroughly convincing, superbly demonstrated on the basis of a range of primary and secondary sources, and written with remarkable lucidity, elegance and panache.”

The David Berry Prize was awarded to Dr Malcolm Petrie for his essay ‘Fear of a “Slave State”: Individualism, Libertarianism, and the rise of Scottish Nationalism c.1945-c.1979’. The judges commented that “it is a profound work of scholarship with real historical significance on a subject that has received little scholarly attention. […] The author does a wonderful job in providing a clear narrative in a style which both the academic and the lay reader can appreciate.”

Three former St Andrews students also received prizes. Dr Claire Eldridge, who completed both a Master’s degree and a PhD here, won the Gladstone Prize for her new book From Empire to Exile: History and memory within the pied-noir and harki communities, 1962-2012. Dr Andrew Smith, who also attended St Andrews for a Master’s degree, was shortlisted for the same prize with his book Terror and Terroir: The Winegrowers of the Languedoc and modern FranceDr Richard Sowerby, now at Edinburgh, was shortlisted for the Whitfield Prize for Angels in Early Medieval England.

Class Trip ‘The German Hercules’: Martin Luther and Germany

Luther 2017 1.jpgBlog written by Ffion Bailey

Our intrepid historical adventurers set off from St Andrews bright and early on a fine Thursday morning for a few days of Lutheran fun, neither ‘celebrating’ the ‘jubilee’ of the beginning of the Reformation in 1517, nor embarking on a pilgrimage to buy Lutheran relics (or Playmobil figurines), but commencing an exploration of the places that were key to Luther’s Reformation.

Our journey began with a walking tour of the Wartburg, where Luther hid under the protection of Frederick the Wise after the Diet of Worms. Although disappointed by the lack of donkeys at the castle, which welcomed Luther in his day, buses were an adequate substitute for our enthusiastic bunch to reach their destination. Despite feeling rather worse for wear after tasting some German beer(s) the previous night, the brightly reconstructed nineteenth-century rooms, castle views and interesting gift shop souvenirs rallied the group. Johann Sebastian Bach’s Eisenach house offered further entertainment later in the day, where highlights included the hanging pods designed for listening to some of the composer’s greatest hits, and one class members’ debut as a pedal pusher in a musical demonstration.

Our study and research continued after hours, as the Leipzig crew sampled the local nightlife with traditional German beers and food, as well as finding a Scottish bar to remind us of home, thus successfully emulating Luther’s alcohol-laden table talks.

Luther 2017 2.jpgOur adventures brought us next to Wittenberg, a town at the heart of the Lutheran Reformation, although seriously lacking in much hustle or bustle today. Must-see sights included the brand new and well-equipped train station which welcomed us and set high hopes for our day in Luther’s university town. We also visited the famous doors of Castle Church, redesigned in the nineteenth century, where Luther allegedly nailed his 95 Theses, the beautiful Cranach the Elder Wittenberg Altarpiece, and of course Luther’s house. From receiving a stern and disapproving look from a member of staff when we held a Luther’s works story time in the Luther Room, to learning all about the animals the family kept at their home, and reading the many interesting pamphlets from Luther’s day in the printing room – hours of fun were had at the Luther House. This was undoubtedly the best part of everyone’s trip, with two members of the class particularly taking their time to soak up all the facts and learn about each display in minute detail, to everyone else’s delight…

The fun continued in Berlin, where some of us attended a number of church services to truly immerse ourselves in Lutheran theology, and others explored art galleries, set off sightseeing and getting lost around the Brandenburg Gate, and found the best place for breakfast. However, our planned itinerary later that day was cruelly cancelled due to the distraction and disruption of striking staff at all Berlin airports, which left everyone extremely disappointed to miss another museum visit. The solution of course was clear and we found a quaint bar to help drown our travel-dispute-related sorrows. Online comments stated that the barman was Mephistopheles himself, and that the basement bar was a parallel universe, although these claims can be neither confirmed nor denied.

Luther 2017 4.jpgGetting back to the UK became our next class mission. Collectively, we missed seven flights, had a further six cancelled, caught trains from Berlin to Hamburg, Vienna and Amsterdam, and even booked non-refundable hotel rooms mistakenly for seven months in advance in the Dutch capital – if anyone would like to buy these rooms from us please get in touch. With our numbers dwindling and seemingly re-enacting ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’, or perhaps Agatha Christie’s ‘And Then There Were None’ (minus the murder element and basically unlike the plot at all) the three remaining adventurers still stuck in Berlin desperately tried to return to St Andrews. Punished with flight delays and the Forth Road Bridge closure, we finally returned to The Bubble after twenty-eight hours of travel, where we will continue to study Luther from a safe distance. Dispersed across Europe, all members of the infamous 2017 Luther field trip could now truly understand Luther’s difficulties traveling through Germany.

Our thanks go to Dr Heal for organising the trip, showing us the sights, and most importantly getting us home. Half the class having converted to Catholicism, and all being very reluctant to leave Scotland for the foreseeable future, this was all in all a very successful trip.