France and its Global Histories – Workshop Report

Dr Joanna Warson (Portsmouth) presenting her topic on France in Anglophone Africa, chaired by Dr Simon Jackson (Birmingham).

Dr Joanna Warson (Portsmouth) presenting her topic on France in Anglophone Africa, chaired by Dr Simon Jackson (Birmingham).

On 27th and 28th August 2014, the Centre for French History and Culture of the School of History hosted a conference entitled “France and its Global Histories: State of the Field”. The workshop was generously supported by the Institut français du Royaume-Uni, represented by Dr Catherine Robert during the event.

The purpose of the conference was to offer new perspectives on French history, and on the role global history could play in tackling new historiographical issues relating to France’s past. Panels were diverse and discussed themes such as “Race, Gender, and Class” or the problem of scale in French history, attempting to redefine the themes of Empire, Postcolonialism or Circulation. In total, five panels were held throughout the two days and were chaired by Dr Stephen TyreDr Akhila YechuryMr Jordan GirardinDr Sarah Easterby-Smith (all from St Andrews) and Dr Simon Jackson from Birmingham.

It is safe to say that a particular strength of this conference was the diversity of its speakers. A few came from afar (the award for longest journey going to Pr Tyler Stovall flying all the way from Berkeley), with others coming from a number of different British universities, while the Centre’s former Visiting Fellow Dr Junko Takeda joined the conversation via Skype from Syracuse. The question of nationality and language was also raised: with a very small minority of attendees being born and raised in France, how did this conference still manage to lead a convincing discussion on how the history of France should be written? A long roundtable discussion was held at the very end of the second day, establishing that French history could indeed find its future through pluridisciplinary studies.

This conference provided an opportunity to remind attendees of the School’s research potential in terms of multidisciplinary approaches. Although the event was fully organised and run by the Centre for French History and Culture, the Centre for Transnational History (as of the start of this month, the Institute for Transnational History) was mentioned multiple times as one of the potential collaborators in order to offer new ways to write French history. Overall, the conference was an excellent start to this new academic year and we can expect more projects to emerge from the Centre for French History.

Report kindly provided by Jordan Girardin.

Dr Emma Hart wins AHRC International Research Network Grant

EmmaHartThe School of History is delighted to announce that Dr Emma Hart has won an AHRC International Research Network Grant for a project on ‘The Global City: Past and Present’.

The project will consider the rise of the contemporary global city in its historical context. The global city – which both enables and embodies today’s inter-connected and globalized world – has become the focus of significant research and policy-making. However, the historical processes that produced many of the foundational practices of the global city have hitherto been overlooked. Whilst the immediate historical context of such spaces is commonly addressed, what is missing is a solid understanding of the historical precedents of the global city. This omission has grown out of a lack of interaction between global studies scholars and urban historians, as well as among urban historians working in different regions, who rarely have the opportunity to share their research or collaborate with one another. ‘The Global City: Past and Present’ will seek to address this lack by creating new opportunities for international and interdisciplinary networking.

The modern global city. Photo by Daniel Scwen (By Daniel Schwen (CC-BY-SA-2.5) via Wikimedia Commons.

New York – the modern global city. Photo by Daniel Scwen (By Daniel Schwen (CC-BY-SA-2.5) via Wikimedia Commons.

The project will be centred around four workshops, each discussing different aspects of ‘The Global City’. These events will bring together an international network of scholars to explore the connections between today’s global cities and their early modern colonial precursors from three angles; space, political economy and populations. The workshops will include geographers, urban planners, anthropologists, art historians, sociologists, and policy makers and will take place in St Andrews, Rio de Janeiro, and London at the Centre for Metropolitan History (part of the Institute of Historical Research).  There will also be a public lecture at the IHR. It is hoped that these events will both serve to improve our understanding of the global city as a historical phenomenon and provide the means by which this knowledge can be exchanged with academics and policy-makers at work in today’s global cities.

The AHRC Research Network Scheme is designed to promote wide-ranging discussion and intellectual exchange upon specific thematic areas, issues, or questions. As such, the ‘Global City’ project spans multiple continents and encompasses multiple research groups; Dr Hart’s Co-Investigator, Professor Mariana Dantas (a historian of colonial Brazil) is based at  Ohio University, and the St Andrews Centre for Transnational History will be involved with the project. Dr Jaap Jacobs, an Honorary Lecturer at the St Andrews School of History, was also a founding member of the network.

Postgraduate Spotlight: Jordan Girardin

jgirardinJordan Girardin grew up in the French region of Franche-Comté, only eight miles away from the Swiss border. He undertook his first degree at Sciences Po in Lyon, where he focused on both Communication and Political Studies. This included a year-long programme at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia where he was able to specialise in 18th and 19th century history. In 2012 Jordan decided to leave France’s gastronomic capital to move to St Andrews and to join the MLitt in Modern History, which he completed twelve months later. He has remained loyal to the School of History, by starting his PhD at St Andrews in September 2013 under the supervision of Dr Bernhard Struck.

Geneva: network hub and Alpine gateway? © Bibliothèque de Genève / VIATICALPES

Geneva: network hub and Alpine gateway? © Bibliothèque de Genève / VIATICALPES

Jordan’s main research interest is the study of networks, particularly in border regions, which explains his general enthusiasm for transnational history. Logically, his PhD thesis examines the development of travel networks and intellectual flows in the Alpine region (1750-1830). His MLitt dissertation consisted of a spatial analysis of transnational interactions in the County of Montbéliard, before and after its annexation by Revolutionary France (1770-1820). Jordan is also a keen historian of the Napoleonic era: his work (in French) on Napoleon’s decisive journey between Grenoble and Lyon during the Hundred Days is available in the Napoleon Foundation’s digital library.

Outside of his doctoral research, Jordan is involved in the Centre for Transnational History as a Communications Intern, hoping to develop the Centre’s visibility in St Andrews as well as abroad as part of the GRAINES Network. This year, Jordan is organising a workshop entitled “Mapping Flows & Visualising Data in the Era of Digital Humanities“. He has also helped to co-convene the Early Modern and Modern History Postgraduate Forum, including running the forum website, and teaches his mother tongue in the University’s evening language programme. In his spare time, besides repeatedly playing The Killers on his ukulele, Jordan likes to keep his Lyonnais and Philadelphian habits alive, always looking for a new restaurant or pub to try among the streets of Edinburgh. Jordan is passionate about travelling and particularly enthusiastic about railways, which is a topic that it’s best not to mention when he is around. You can reach Jordan online on his personal website or on Twitter.

Transnational History Retreat, 22-24 January 2014

The Centre for Transnational History recently hosted an inter-semester retreat by Loch Tay in the Scottish Highlands. One of the PGs researching in the centre, Dawn Jackson Williams, reports on a trip that combined enlivening intellectual discussion with taste bud-challenging whisky tastings…

Members of the retreat on Kenmore Hill (photograph: Alexander van Wickeren).

Members of the retreat on Kenmore Hill (photograph: Alexander van Wickeren).

The Transnational History retreat began, appropriately enough, with its 24 participants travelling from various points around the globe to reach Loch Tay, with scholars arriving from Vienna, Basel, and the United States. The group included PhD students attached to the Centre for Transnational History, staff members teaching the Crossing Borders Masters module and a number of their MLitt students, and representatives of the cross-European GRAINES network and steering committee. The retreat was also attended by members of the Heirs to the Thrones project.

The base for activities was Morenish House, once a laird’s dwelling near the shores of Loch Tay. Once the fire was burning well its cosy living room made the ideal setting for the first organised discussion of the weekend, on global history and the circulation of knowledge. This was followed by a stubbornly un-transnational, but very delicious roast dinner. Such fortifying fare was very much necessary, as the group was then treated to a whisky-tasting session under the tutelage of the Director of the Centre, Dr Bernhard Struck. The transnational nature of the modern whisky trade was discussed (Scotch whisky is, apparently, aged in casks previously used for Bourbon in the States) and various attendees were mildly chastised for their lack of their appreciation of an especially peaty Islay whisky.

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The view from Morenish House (photograph: Alexander van Wickeren).

The following morning it was agreed that such a rarely fine Scottish day as could be spied through the windows could not be wasted indoors. The majority of the group made for the easterly lip of the loch, from where they launched a brief venture up Kenmore Hill. Breathtaking views of snow-covered Ben Lawers were had from the high point, and as there so happened to be a distillery in the area the group descended to enjoy a tour at Dewar’s World of Whisky in Aberfeldy. The tour guides responded admirably to a barrage of questions regarding the embeddedness of their production within a wider global trade in spirits…

Upon returning to Morenish House the retreat split up into two groups, to discuss, respectively, cities and urban spaces, and questions of spatial and temporal scale in history. In the latter group a reading from the American Historical Review inspired an intense debate regarding the place and potential role of ‘deep time’ within historical narratives. After the session members of the GRAINES network discussed plans for forthcoming summer schools. The closing dinner, appropriately enough considering the proximity of Burns’ Night, took the form of haggis, neeps, and tatties.

After the dispersal of part of the group the following morning, a smaller cohort with neither flights nor other pressing business to hasten towards took a leisurely route back to St Andrews, with a visit to the partially ruined cathedral of Dunkeld, rounding off the retreat in aptly historic style. All in all, the two days provided valuable formal discussions but also, perhaps more importantly, they also provided the time and opportunity for participants to share their thoughts and ideas in a variety of contexts. The retreat also looked forward, as plans were set into motion for a GRAINES summer school in Vienna this summer, and another in St Andrews in 2015.