Friday, 30 August 2013

E. P. Thompson and a sense of place

I've just come back from a morning at the annual conference of the Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers. I was an interloping guest, as a historian, on a panel commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Making of the English Working Class. Chaired by Neil Gray, and speaking alongside Carl Griffin who spoke about Thompson's interpretation of Gramsci and its influence (or not) on historical geographers, and David Featherstone and Paul Griffin, who considered agency and the international influences of Thompson's work.

I append the long version of my paper below, but first I must remark on some of the things that struck me as a relative 'outsider' and newbie to a geography conference.
  • how vibrant and exciting many aspects of new geography seem;
  • that many of the papers are essentially history or sociology, but are informed by a much greater knowledge and framework of theory and/or practical applications than equivalent history papers
  • how more consciously interdisciplinary geographers are;
  • geographies of resistance seem to be a big thing at the moment, as does, to a lesser extent represented at this conference, emotional geographies. 
It's refreshing to come into a different but related field and come away seeing lots of elements of use to me and to the study of history. Historians should be more consciously interdisciplinary (there were loads of historical papers in the programme, that perhaps many historians do not come across because they'll end up published in geography journals or in geography monograph series). They should also revisit the importance of theoretical reflections (there was more integration of Marx and Gramsci for example than I'd ever heard in about 7 years of the Social History Society conference...).  They should also relate their work much more closely to its relevance for today's society and politics.

Read a long version of my paper on 'Thompson and a sense of place in The Making, and the making of place'.

LCS locations, data from Ian Newbould

Skircoat Green and Salter Hebble on Jeffrey's map of Yorkshire, 1775

Skircoat Green, Halifax

Friday, 16 August 2013

London Corresponding Society pubs mapped

Ian Newman of UCLA runs a great blog on the pubs used by the London Corresponding Society in the 1790s.

He's mapped the pubs on a google map, and so I took the kml file and mapped it on an 18th century map of London (unfortunately only from 1736 - I would love this to be mapped on or on a more contemporary map of London, but none were available on

Here's what it looks like.
LCS pubs mapped on 18thc map of London
John Barrell, in his book The Spirit of Despotism,  has also mapped the spaces of the LCS. But I think the best description of the LCS's reach is still by E. P. Thompson, in the opening section of The Making of the English Working Class:

At one end, the London Corresponding Society reached out to the coffee-houses, taverns and dissenting churches off Piccadilly, Fleet Street and the Strand where the self-educated journeyman might rub shoulders with the printer, the shopkeeper and the engraver or the young attorney. At the other end, to the east and south of the river, it touched those older working-class communities – the waterside workers of Wapping, the silk-weavers of Spitalfields, the old dissenting stronghold of Southwark. 

For Thompson, the LCS was not simply a political society: it was a point of connection for different groups across London defined by their socio-economic identities – their place – in a way that hadn’t been achieved before:

‘New theories, new arguments, have generally first effected a junction with the popular movement in London, and travelled outwards from London to the provincial centres. The LCS was a junction point of this sort... And we must remember that its first organizer lived in Piccadilly, not in Wapping or Southwark’.
(the Making, 1968 ed., p. 23)

The LCS was a process, a constantly evolving meeting point, a channel and a place.  

Just as a rough point of contrast, here are the places mentioned in the trials for the Gordon Riots, using Locating London's Past:

Locating London's Past, keyword search for 'riot', 1780-1, mapped on 1746 map