I'm currently working on various seminar papers, and the mood among many historians is that we need theory back in history. James Vernon made an impassioned plea for a return to theory in his plenary lecture for the 2011 Social History Society conference. Basically his message was 'what are we afraid of?' A focus on empiricism has meant we have lost sight of the big ideas, and the big frameworks that shape history. The SHS used to have a theory strand for its conference, but we dropped it a few years ago because the number of papers offered was in decline. In response to Joyce, however, the SHS has reintroduced the 'theory and methods' strand for the next conference. Perhaps this is a sign that theory is back on the agenda.
I too have neglected theory for the past few years. I went on a cultural geography bender in the last year of my DPhil research, and also immersed myself in social movement studies. My first article, 'The Search for General Ludd' was imb…
Last week I was writing up my research on the use of effigies in popular protest.
This proved serendipitous timing given the events of the past week. Here is the Yorkshire Post's report on the burning of effigies of Margaret Thatcher in the former mining town of Goldthorpe.
According to Charles Tilly's typology of the development of protest, effigy burning was an 18th century form of local customary and rural protest that should have died out by the 19th century, with its more 'modern', bureaucratic, less violent collective action directed at parliament. Yet effigy burning was very much a part of 19th century urban popular protest, and as we have seen this week, continues today.
Effigy burning was of course part of the regular customary calendar on 5 November, but it also featured regularly during elections and increasingly in the early nineteenth century, in a wide range of protests and campaigns.
Why do people make and burn effigies in protest?
There are, I think,…