Showing posts from 2014

Robin Pedley, 'The Comprehensive School', Pelican book, 1963

Bought this from a stall selling old penguin and pelican paperbacks in Soho. Robin Pedley, The Comprehensive School, 1963.

The Times, 13 July 1961, 'A New Society':
In spite of the virtual abolition of poverty, in spite of the rise there has been in the rewards of labour, in spite of the fact that ... the great bulk of the nation now regards itself as middle-class, Britain is still a jealous and divided nation.

The Sphere, 14 March 1953, 'How Manchester Looks Today'

'How Manchester Looks Today: a survey of the great Northern city, a birthplace of atomic research, a home of the arts, a city which has played and still plays a might part in the world of affairs'.
The Sphere, 14 March 1953

Look at the 'Manchester Airways Terminal in the city centre'. Manchester 'now has airports at Ringway and Barton. Ringway is at present being extended'.

BBC2 series: Exploring the Past: Protest with me talking about Peterloo

I'm down in the vaults of the National Archives for this BBC2 schools' series:

The first ten minutes is on the Peterloo Massacre. Matthew, a bright and politically passionate school student from Radcliffe, investigates the causes of the massacre. I'm showing him extracts from the Home Office disturbance papers.

It's available to watch on iplayer for the next three weeks.

what is public space? the freedom to protest

This week controversy has re-arisen over the purpose and design of the proposed 'Garden Bridge' over the Thames in London.

According to Oliver Wainwright's report in the Guardian,

“All groups of eight or more visitors would be required to contact the Garden Bridge Trust to request a formal visit to the bridge,” states Lambeth council’s planning report to its committee, which recommends conditional planning. “This policy would not only assist visitor management but also would discourage protest groups from trying to access the bridge.”  Whether or not this gets enacted in practice is one matter, but the bigger issue is that planners think this way about what on the surface was marketed as a 'public' space open to all. And that their main reasons for limiting numbers was less 'assisting visitor management' and more about 'discouraging protest groups'.

How many people form a 'tumultuous' crowd?
The restriction on groups of eight visiting…

British Universities by Ernest Barker (1946)

I bought this pamphlet in an idiosyncratic secondhand bookshop in Caterham yesterday. It's called British Universities, by Sir Ernest Barker, published by the British Council in 1946.

It's a fascinating insight into thoughts about what universities were for, and should be, just after the War, and also how they were promoted to the rest of the Commonwealth. The list of other titles available in the series is also intriguing, and I would love to find more of these pamphlets, especially to compare their language and ideas with the current guide to British life given to people taking the citizenship test:

Baker was Professor of political science at Cambridge, and the pamphlet describes him as 'the son of a working-class home in Northern England,' who 'combines a knowledge of University life with an understanding of the common people, who in our modern democracy, as in the Middle Ages, send many of their best sons to the Universities'. The pamphlet doesn't appea…

I've finished the difficult second album!

I haven't posted on this blog since the Tour de Yorkshire earlier in the summer because I was busy finishing my second book. And now it's done, and I sent it off to Manchester University Press yesterday.

It's been an interesting and difficult process writing the second book. Whereas an academic historian's first book is generally 'the book of the PhD thesis', the second book is a different beast.

In many ways it's very liberating: you don't need to rewrite a dense piece written for two examiners, but rather just start from the point you want to end at: a more expansive book that you hope people will want to read. But on the other hand, there are more difficulties than doing the PhD ms:

there's no supervisor to give you deadlines or regular advice. You therefore:have to rely on colleagues and acquaintances to read drafts. They're obviously not paid to give you advice, so it's a huge ask of their kindness and especially their time. there are th…

Blackstone Edge, the Tour de Yorkshire, and Chartist meetings

In 2009, I published an article about radical and Chartist meetings on moors. It's in Northern History, and you can read the pre-print here:

The Chartists in particular were keen on holding mass meetings on moorland. In part this was because the radical movements were increasingly restricted in when and where they could hold large public meetings in the towns. But meeting on moors was also part of working-class culture, drawing from the Methodist camp meetings held on the same sites, a love of rambling, fell-racing and naturalism, and what Malcolm Chase terms 'radical agrarianism', an attachment to the land as representing freedom and self-sufficiency.

Blackstone Edge was one of the most famous sites of Chartist monster meetings. Large processions from either side of the Pennines would trek up to sit in the declivity of the land near the White Hous…

Euston station, 1842

Is this picture from the Illustrated London News from August 1842 showing:
a) people attacking troops by Euston arch as they were on their way to board a train up North to suppress the general strike?
b) the usual mad rush down the ramp on platform 14 to catch the 17.40 Virgin Pendolino to Manchester on a Friday evening?

Quick guide to digital history - digitisation, searching, xml, data-mining, big data, OCR, and more

I've finished teaching Tim Hitchcock's 3rd year undergraduate module on digital history. I did a crib sheet of the main areas for the postgraduate research seminar. Some of it is a bit idiosyncratic (and probably wrong) and requires me to explain it, but here it is:

Read the worksheet and notes for the slides here:

teaching trade union history in a post-labour age

It's week 11 of my 2nd year undergraduate history module, 'Peace, Power & Prosperity: British Society, 1789-1914'.(1) This week's lecture and seminar were on 19th century trade unions and labour history.

What made this week's session interesting, and perhaps important, because the UCU have called a marking boycott. This has completely riled the students. There has been an awful campaign on twitter #markmywork. and it appears that the student union from my university seems to be leading the campaign. For a good summary of the campaign and a justification of the strike, read this academic's response:

But the history of trade unions can be very hard to teach today.

Teaching labour history to undergraduates, most of whom are aged 19-20, is made difficult because most students have no frame of reference regarding trade unions.

Trade unions just don't figure in their lives or family histories. Many…

militant particularisms, music and the nature of genius-place

This weekend I did two seemingly unrelated things, which I will attempt to relate here!
Helped with a public history workshop on the 1817 March of the Blanketeers at the Manchester Histories Festival;Went to see 'Breadcrumb Trail', a documentary about Slint by Lance Bangs (who took a Q & A session afterwards), at the ICA. 
How do I connect them strangely in my head?

Well, I've been thinking a lot recently about Raymond Williams's notion of 'militant particularisms'.  (Bear with me!)

Williams, studying 20th century class politics in Cowley motor works, identified a ‘place-bound politics arising out of the experience of class solidarities and gender relations’ formed in particular places.

David Harvey understood this to mean a dichotomy between the local-particular-specific place and the national/international-general-abstract space. That is, place-bound political groups cannot achieve their goals (and indeed class consciousness) until they shift from focusing…

Digital History cartoon

Here's a silly video I've made for the digital history students: digital history cartoon by knavickas

Like it? Create your own at

Trying to find historical data using family history databases

This is just a quick post on some current digging-down deep research I'm doing at the moment.

I'm trying to find out more radicals and men arrested in 1798 and 1817. The Home Office papers contain lists of their names and addresses, so I want to cross-check whether they lived where they said they lived.

As this period is before the detailed 1841 and 1851 censuses, I'm reliant on other family history databases to cross check the names and addresses. I'm mainly using which has the censuses but also many parish records, muster lists, prison lists, and other sources that the most well-known family history site, does not.

The family history boom and the digitisation of useful resources has been a great help to historians. There are some disadvantages however:
cost - part of the purpose of these sites is to make money. Of course it costs to keep these sites running, but most of the sources have always been available in local libraries…

Fully funded AHRC collaborative PhD studentship with the National Archives