Dr Kate Ferris wins AHRC Early Career Fellowship

A medal from 1934 commemorating the 'festa dell'uva' in Merano, Italy.  The annual festivals held to celebrate the grape harvest were co-opted under fascism in order to promote viticulture and help the Italian wine industry without, they hoped, being seen to promote wine consumption too obviously.

A medal from 1934 commemorating the ‘festa dell’uva’ in Merano, Italy. The annual festivals held to celebrate the grape harvest were co-opted under fascism in order to promote viticulture and help the Italian wine industry without, they hoped, being seen to promote wine consumption too obviously.

The School of History is delighted to announce that Dr Kate Ferris has been awarded an AHRC Early Career Fellowship to work on her project In vino veritas? Alcohol and its Spaces in Fascist Italy

 This AHRC fellowship will allow Dr Ferris to spend the best part of two years (starting in September 2015) researching in Italian archives (in Rome, Florence, Vicenza and Venice, among others) and writing up that research in order to provide the first systematic examination of the place of alcohol in fascist life.

 Italian fascism had a somewhat ambivalent relationship with alcohol. On the one hand, in line with the projected image of Mussolini as a model of health and virile masculinity, it was asserted that he ‘never [drank] wine’. Repeated emphasis was made to Mussolini’s abstemiousness, austere diet and almost ascetic lifestyle.  Drinking alcohol was seen as a barrier to becoming an ideal fascist man. On the other hand, wine and the places in which it was consumed publicly – bars,osterietrattorie and so on – appear repeatedly in source material as important features and spaces of fascist life. Wine production was a key facet of regional economies in Italy.

Crucially, the places associated with alcohol often became sites of confrontation between fascism and anti-fascism (or non-fascism). Bars were places where people met to discuss politics (among other things); the mix of politics and alcohol was often convivial but could also turn to conflict. The research project will seek to get to the bottom of these apparent ambivalences and contradictions and in particular will explore: a) the regime’s attitudes and pronouncements on alcohol, and b) the role of alcohol as a mediating actor between individuals and the fascist state.

 In addition to writing two major research articles, Dr Ferris will also produce an exhibition on ‘wine and wine production in fascist Italy’, two podcasts for use by school children and will set up a research network of early-career academics with interests in different aspects of the political, social and cultural history of food history in modern Europe, a field of research which is fast developing, perhaps not surprisingly given the crucial place of food, and especially access to food, in governing the relationships between states and their citizens.

Spotlight on Kate Ferris

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADr Kate Ferris researches and teaches modern European history, with a particular focus on Italy and Spain from the late nineteenth century to the mid twentieth century.  She came to the University of St Andrews in 2009, following a lectureship at the University of Durham and seven years of doctoral and postdoctoral work at University College London.  She also spent a year as a Marie Curie doctoral fellow at the Università Ca’Foscari in Venice where she spent most of her time holed up in the library on St Mark’s square, emerging periodically to enjoy the delights of Venice’s art and architecture, cicchetti and spritz.

Kate is principally a social and cultural historian whose research and publications to date fit into two main strands of interest.  The first stems from her interest in the sometimes gap between the intended intrusions of dictatorships into the everyday worlds of the people they ruled over and the realities of the ‘lived experience’ of these regimes.  Her recently-published book Everyday Life in Fascist Venice (Palgrave, 2012) explores  the Italian fascist regime’s efforts to infiltrate and dictate Venetians’ lives  from what they ate and wore to how they spent their free time, from how they celebrated personal and city-wide festivities to how they moved about the city (gondola or motorboat – not a question most present-day visitors to Venice have the financial means to worry about…).  It then examines how these corresponded with the ‘lived experience’ or realities of fascism on the ground (or water), highlighting along the way some of the opportunities that Venetians were able to take to eke out some limited autonomy of action and choice in their everyday lives, despite the all-encompassing intentions of dictatorship.

Kate Ferris book coverThe second strand picks up the theme of the gap between intentions and realities but this time transplanted to nineteenth-century Spain and the process of ‘becoming modern’.  Here, she is interested in the processes by which latenineteenth-century Spaniards thought transnationally about modernity.  She has published journal articles and chapters in edited collections on this theme and spent summer 2013 writing a book which looks at how a group of ‘self-consciously modern’ Spaniards in the late nineteenth century imagined the USA as the epitome (and sometimes anti-model) of modernity and in turn tried to imagine themselves as citizens of a modern Spain.


Kate is happy that her research requires her to spend extended amounts of time in places like Venice, Rome, Madrid, Barcelona and Seville but wholeheartedly refutes the suggestion – made by some colleagues and friends – that her research choices have been guided principally by the offerings of the local culture and climate.  She has not made things easier for herself in this respect by opting to focus her next research project on the production and consumption of alcohol in fascist Italy.  She also has plans to write a comparative history of everyday life under dictatorship in Mussolini’s Italy and Franco’s Spain and a transnational history of anti-fascism in mid-20th century Europe.  She’s looking forward to dragging her young daughter around the cultural and archival capitals of Western Europe as she carries out the research for these projects.Kate Ferris venice

Kate teaches on modules at all levels of undergraduate and postgraduate study.  She offers honours modules which relate closely to her research interests, including MO3423 Everyday Life in Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, the Stalinist Soviet Union and Franco’s Spain, MO3328 Making Italians: region, nation and empire in Italy from unification to fascism, a special subject (MO4939) on Civil War and Dictatorship in Spain and, a new offering for next year, MO3336 Mediterranean Colonialism (co-taught with Dr Stephen Tyre).  For more on Kate, please see her staff page on the School of History website.

The Early Mendicants Special Subject visit Italy

ME4807 in Italy

Special Subject ME4807 The Early Mendicants: Francis, Clare and Dominic, c.1180-1270 recently visited Italy with their module tutor, Prof. Frances Andrews.  Lucy Donnelly, Abi Leonard, Scarlett Cookson, Jamie Marshall and Charlie Broughton reflect on their five days away from St Andrews:

“This year we studied the Mendicants (Francis, Clare and Dominic) and we wanted to see where they lived so we went to Italy!”

Day 1

“After a quick airport croissant we found our way into Rome and went straight to the Porte Maggiore to see the ancient entrance to the city complete with a baker’s tomb shaped like an oven and cart tracks. Then we walked down to St John Lateran (the old papal palace) where Francis of Assisi met Innocent III. There we saw Innocent III’s tomb and outside Leo III’s amazing triclinium mosaic showcasing the Donation of Constantine. From there, we went on a route march through ancient and medieval Rome seeing the Trinitarian Order’s house; the home of the hermit John of Matha (he lived in an old aqueduct!!); SS. Giovanni e Paulo with the big tower built on old Roman foundations; the Palatine and Coliseum; and then we walked through the Circus Maximus. Finally we arrived at Santa Sabina, the Dominican church. There we had a lovely time meeting a real Dominican nun, Sister Josiphé. She gave us a special VIP tour of the Dominican archives. We saw lots of papal bulls (we touched them!) with wax and lead seals; Catherine of Siena’s dialogue and Vita which unexpectedly included Thomas Aquinas’ Process of Canonisation; and also chapter acts of the Dominican Order. It was wonderful and inspiring to be so close to our subject. We also saw the 5th-century wooden door panels of the basilica with biblical scenes as well as the alleged room of Saint Dominic. From Santa Sabina we had a lovely view over the Tiber where we could see St Bartholomew’s Island, the site of an early medieval hospital. We ended the day with a brisk stroll to San Clemente and the Baptistry at the Lateran where we saw some beautiful mosaics and some musical doors.

Day 2

Frances Andrews San SilvestroWe woke up  early because we were desperate to see the unmissable frescoes at SS Quattro Coronati. The San Silvestro Chapel was beautiful, covered in frescoes depicting the life cycle of Saint Sylvester and the donation of Constantine to stress papal power. We were timed and watched in this chapel which was fitting as we were following tradition with the hidden medieval listening tubes still there used to spy on guests! Then from the Coliseum, we went on a tour of Mussolini’s Rome. We walked down the via dei fori imperiale where we saw the surviving towers of the Innocentian tower wars as well as the 9th-century houses built into the Roman ruins of the forum. We visited Trajan’s market and then walked to San Marco (opposite the Wedding Cake). Then we went to the 13th-century gothic Dominican Church Santa Maria Sopra Minerva which houses the tombs of Catherine of Siena and several Medici Popes. Afterwards we went to see the Pantheon with the tomb of Raphael. Then we set off to visit the Franciscan church, Santa Maria dei Aracoeli, walking past the Crypta Balbi on the way. Once there, 4 of us hiked up the front steps to the top and were rewarded with beautiful cosmatesque floors and more tombs (those of the humanist Biondi and notaries). We then spent the afternoon in the Capitoline Museum where we saw lots of amazing things! We relived the Grand Tour seeing the Capitoline Venus, and also saw the statue of Marcus Aurelius, the thorn picker, the statue of Charles of Anjou, the globe where it was thought that Caesar’s ashes were kept, as well as the gigantic head and hand of Constantine. Three of us then continued to Santa Maria Maggiore which had a 9th century beautiful gold mosaic and a relic of the supposed Crib of Jesus! Then we went to Santa Prassede which also had a beautiful 9th-century mosaic of Pope Pascal (who had a square halo!) and his mother Theodora. Finally, we departed for Assisi – the home of Francis and Clare.

Day 3

Jamie and Lucy got up  early to go to Mass at the Basilica of St. Francis, where the rest of the group headed shortly. First we explored the Lower Basilica where we saw examples of frescos by both Giotto and Cimabue including the portrait of Francis next to the virgin and child. We also looked at how the frescos on the vaults were used to pass on specific messages on obedience and other virtues to the friars. From there we went below to see the tomb of Francis; next came the Upper Basilica. Here we explored the chapel of St Martin and looked at the famous life-cycle of Francis often attributed to Giotto. We saw how this collection of 28 episodes from the life of Francis developed over time with potential artist changes and how it tied in with the Old Testament scenes above. We visited the museum where we saw a good quality example of an altar crucifix by the Master of the Blue crucifix and Byzantine styled dossal of Francis surrounded by healing miracles. We walked up a hill through the streets of Assisi to Santa Chiara, built in the 1260s, after Clare’s death. We saw the dossal of Clare, a blue crucifix with St. Francis and Abbess Benedicta at the bottom kissing Christ’s feet, frescoes of Clare’s life, including Clare’s corpse being carried that featured very expressive singing Friars, twisting columns and people climbing up, Clare’s tomb, and the reliquary of her hair. We also saw the Cross of San Damiano that spoke to Francis (Celano 2) and the nuns’ grille. We then visited three possible locations for Francis’ house. We also scared a Nun by hugging the columns of the Temple of Minerva! We had a lovely walk down to San Damiano. We learned that the building was originally a rural building of some form but had been rebuilt in part by Francis and now had a rose window, a refectory, and the dormitory where Clare died. We also saw the window where Celano tells us Francis threw his money, and later plague frescos showing Saints Sebastian and Roch. After a leisurely, endless hike back to Assisi we caught the bus to St Maria degli Angeli which houses the Portiuncula, one of the first churches rebuilt by Francis along with the cell in which he died. At the Portiuncula we saw later Frescos advertising the portiuncula indulgence and also the tombstone of Peter Catanii. At the neighbouring museum we saw the bed panel painted to become a relic and a Cimabue panel. Upstairs we saw the cell of Bernadino of Siena. We ended our time in Assisi by exploring Roman remains beneath Santa Maria Maggiore.

 Day 4

Frances Andrews PerugiaToday we arrived into the city of Perugia and saw the Benedictine fountain commissioned by fratre Bevignate and carved by Nicola Pisano as well as the cathedral and the town hall opposite. Then we met Giovanna Casagrande and were treated to a special tour of the Roman, Etruscan, and Byzantine ruins under the Cathedral. The museum there was amazing: we TOUCHED a thirteenth-century PAPAL THRONE and saw lots of plague banners and beautiful manuscripts! Then Prof. Andrews took us on a tour of the city to see the important mendicant houses which dominate the different sectors of the city. We saw the church of San Francesco with the confraternity’s oratory next door. Then we walked down the hill and saw a Roman mosaic, the Augustinian’s church as well as the houses and hospitals of the female monastic orders. Then we walked through the Etruscan gate back towards the centre of the city. We then went round the National Gallery of Art for Umbria where we saw lots of gigantic crosses and learnt to identify the different saints in the paintings. We saw lots of delicate secular ivory objects turned into reliquaries and altar pieces. Finally we went to the Dominican church, San Domenico. Here we saw the tomb of Benedict IX, the first Dominican Pope.

Day 5

BologneWe woke up in Bologna and had a lovely walking tour through the streets. We went to San Martino, the Carmelite Church and then to San Petronio which is the church built by the city which rivalled the Cathedral. Then we went to Santo Stefano. We then raced up one of the  medieval towers in the centre and saw the breathtaking view of Bologna. We went to San Domenico where we saw the tomb of Saint Dominic (including his skull in a reliquary case), decorated by artists including Nicola Pisano and Michelangelo, as well as the cloister and choir stalls. Finally we went to a the Bologna city art gallery where we saw lots of beautiful crosses and more paintings with saints including an amazing work by, the medieval master, Giotto!”

 ME4807 The Early Mendicants is one of several honours-level modules offered at St Andrews on Italian history. Prof. Andrews also offers ME3103 Mediaeval Rome. Dr Emily Michelson offers MO3036 The Italian Renaissance, MO3044 Topics in Renaissance Venice and MO3043 Early Modern Rome. Dr Kate Ferris offers MO3328 Making Italians: Region, Nation and Empire in Italy from Unification to Fascism, and MO3423 Everyday Life in Fascist Italy.

Spotlight on Stephen Tyre

Stephen Tyre Dr Stephen Tyre came to St Andrews in 2002. He did his undergraduate degree at the University of Edinburgh and a Masters degree at the LSE, before returning to Edinburgh for his PhD after a spell in France teaching at the universities of Rouen and Paris. His research interests focus on modern imperial and French history: since completing his PhD his research has mainly examined the crises that accompanied French decolonisation in Algeria, as well as the lasting effects of the Algerian conflict and debates about the colonial past in France.


French AlgeriaStephen is now working on a project entitled French Imperial Futures 1945-1962, which will examine the attempts to revive, promote, and ensure the permanence of overseas imperialism in an era that is more commonly thought of as one of European retreat from empire. Research for this project takes Stephen to the French colonial archives in Aix-en-Provence as well as several tropical sites in former colonies. He finds that these arduous trips elicit little sympathy from friends and colleagues. He’s also active in the school’s Centre for French History and Culture, of which he will be Director from this summer.

1931 colonial exhibitionStephen teaches at all levels in the school. He offers honours modules on The French Civil Wars of the Twentieth Century, French Algeria, Postcolonial Europe and, with Kate Ferris, Mediterranean Colonialism, and a special subject entitled France and its Empire in the Twentieth Century. Last year, he enjoyed spending some time in Paris with his special subject students on a tour which offered an insight into colonial and post-colonial Paris, visiting the site of the 1931 colonial exhibition, the new and somewhat controversial museums of immigration and of non-western arts, and of course a couple of establishments in off-the-beaten-track neighbourhoods serving cuisine from the former colonies. He also coordinates the ID4002 module which offers students the chance to gain experience teaching History in a local school during the first semester of their final year. Beyond St Andrews, he has recently been appointed as representative of the Scottish universities on the Higher Education Academy’s History Forum which aims to support the teaching of history in universities and influence policy and practice in relation to history in higher education.

The History Society’s Annual Interdepartmental Quiz 2013

Each year a handful of only the bravest tutors make their way to the History Society’s Interdepartmental Quiz (IDQ). The quiz pits the brains of Ancient, Mediaeval, Modern and Scottish tutors against each other in a battle to be crowned IDQ champions.


The teams this year were: Dr Jon Coulston, Mr Risto-Matti Sarilo  & Mr Emerson Stevens for Ancient History; Professor Chris Given-Wilson, Dr Justine Firnhaber-Baker and Dr Katie Stevenson for Mediaeval History; Professor Conan Fischer, Dr Kate Ferris and Mr Nick Blackbourn for Modern History (defending champions) and for Scottish History, Professor Colin Kidd, Dr Christine McGladdery and Dr Jacqueline Rose.

There were five rounds; four based on the respective historical periods of the teams and a general knowledge round. Each team was given the chance to answer questions relating to their own historical period. If a team could not answer the question the other teams could use their buzzers (in this case a tambourine, a horn, a bell and a frying pan) to grab double points.IDQ_Nessie

After a hard fought battle, and some dodgy historical re-enactments by the History Society committee, Scottish History took the lead with an impressive 24 points, beating Medieval (19pts), Ancient (18pts) and Modern (5pts) and claiming IDQ victory for 2013.IDQ_ScottishWinners

Can Scottish hold on to their victory or will someone else claim supremacy in 2014? We’ll have to wait and see.