The History of a Banner

Have you ever wondered about the images which appear in the banner at the top of this blog? Just a random series of ‘historical’ images would seem a logical conclusion. So, here is what they are.

The group on the left are a group of students looking at medieval manuscripts on the Keele Latin and Palaeography Summer School in the library of Lichfield cathedral in the early 1990s. The woman in blue pointing is Barbara Clapham, a regular at the school, and one of a group of women of a similar age at the school who had ‘done interesting things in the war,’ in her case at the Ministry of Information in Cambridge. Next are a few images of sculpture taken at the Ospedale degli Innocenti in Florence, but taken during a workshop for architectural conservation students – historic conservation is one of those vocational careers for which historians are often well-qualified. The black and white image of a mother and children on the doorstep comes from Keele’s archives, one of the families in Chester studied by Le Play house in the 1920s, a remarkable collection of data and images which has yet to be properly studied. And finally is a reliquary case containing a fragment of the bones of St Celsus, a fourth-century martyr whose cult, and this relic, was popular in the diocese of Metz. The reliquary was purchased on a popular web trading space; the relic, of course, was free, a case of the pardoner, Chuacer’s seller of relics going online.


Henry VII, Henry VIII and Petitions at Keele

The Ranulf Higden Society holds one of its annual lectures at Keele. This year the lecture will take place on Saturday 14 April, 10.30am for 11.00am, and includes the following lectures:

Dr Samantha Harper (University of Winchester) ‘Kingship, Court and Society: The Chamber Books of Henry VII and Henry VIII’.

 Dr Helen Killick (University of Reading) ‘The Writing of Petitions in Late Medieval England’.

Claus Moser Research Centre, Keele University, ST5 5BGlogo

Charge: £10 for members, £12 for non-members

Buffet Lunch for a Small Charge

Please email the secretary to confirm attendance:

Attendance is free to Keele students.

Dr Tony Phillips Memorial Seminar and Tree Dedication Ceremony

One of History’s very great friends and collaborators was Dr Tony Phillips, an eminent historical geographer, who sadly died a few months ago. The School of Geography, Geology and the Environment at Keele University are holding a memorial seminar and tree dedication in his honour on Friday 18th May 2018 when Dr Colin Phillips of Manchester University will speak on one of Tony’s great interests:  ‘The map that almost

Tony in his usual serious mood

was. Collecting information for Gregory King’s projected map of Staffordshire, circa 1680.’

12.30-14.00 Buffet Lunch: WS0.16 (Cope Lab), William Smith Building. Hosted by the School of Geography, Geology and the Environment, Keele University.

14.00-16.00 Memorial Seminar. WS0.06, William Smith Building. Welcome: Professor Clare Holdsworth, Keele University. Remembering Tony. Contributions are welcome from anyone who worked with Tony in any capacity. Please contact Clare Holdsworth if you would like to contribute. Dr Colin Phillips, ‘The map that almost was. Collecting Information for Gregory King’s projected map of Staffordshire, c.1680.’

16.00-16.30 Tree dedication in the grounds of Keele University. Guests of honour Mrs A Davies and Ms Penny Davies.

17.00 onwards Drinks and evening meal at the KPA, Keele University. Please contact Clare Holdsworth if you would like to join us for the evening meal. Menu and price to be confirmed. Further Information please contact Clare Holdsworth:

New Book on Staffordshire in the First World War


Professor emerita, Karen Hunt, has just published a new book on Staffordshire in the First World War, fulfilling the ironic boast in her retirement speech in which she said she was retiring to become a historian. Ian Bailey of the North Staffordshire Historians’ Guild reviewed it for their newsletter, and here it is minus his lament about the ungenerous font size.

Karen Hunt, Staffordshire’s War (Amberley Publishing, 2017, £14.99159 pages)

This is a descriptive book about life on the home front during the First World War.
None of that navel-gazing that historians and the occasional sociologist like to
indulge in – what is Staffordshire, is it a proper unit for study? – that sort of thing.
A promising start then. And it is a good book. Despite its apparently shortish length it is surprisingly difficult to summarise as so many aspectsof life are mentioned: work, domestic hardship, food, volunteering (both for the services and to contribute to solving local needs) and so on. Troublesome groups such as conscientious objectors and
refugees are discussed and extensive use is made of the tribunal papers that have
come to light to reveal something of dailylife. Finally, peace was made: how was it
celebrated and what came after? The usual subjects, you might say. Other
books have been describing the home frontfor some time. However, this does have
the advantage of being more immediate: it is Staffordshire’s war. Reading what
happened in other nearby places made me wonder about the potential for other even
more local studies. Some have already been written – Paul Anderton’s work onBelgian refugees is familiar to some or all of us. Maybe it is time for more twentieth-century
studies in local history. The inter-war years maybe?Nurse Dyson

One last point. On page 75 Annie Allen of Eccleshall is mentioned as the only woman
on a Staffordshire war memorial. Ethel Dyson is named on the memorial in Talke church. Are there any others?


Nurse Ethel Dyson’s name on the war memorial in Talke church.

Anthony Kauders discusses the reception of ‘Der Freud Komplex’

Freud Komplex book coverUsually it is literary theorists who concern themselves with the reception of texts: how they are constructed, reconstructed and deconstructed, how there is no stable meaning, how readers ignore, question, and undermine the author’s intentions (whatever these may be). “Is there a text in this class?”, Stanley Fish famously asked, and I myself had to ask a similar question in the course of three book presentations in Frankfurt, Vienna and Berlin this summer. The text in question was The Freud Complex. A History of Psychoanalysis in Germany, which I had recently published. As a historian, I used the encounter with Freud in the 20th century as a backdrop to examine the way in which Germans (psychiatrists, anarchists, expressionists, students, philosophers, pedagogues, lawyers, politicians) wrote about sexuality, the unconscious, childhood and history, amongst other things. But during my talks, I noticed that “my” Freud Complex was not “their” Freud Complex. They (by and large psychoanalysts) were primarily interested in the present—not the past: Would psychoanalysis survive in Germany? How did our current economic system create psychic problems? Was I going to offer a new “critical theory”? Why did so many people persist in their hatred of Freud? I came to realize (not for the first time, really) that many psychologists have an altogether different approach to the “psyche” than most historians. Whereas the former tend to search for laws and regularities, the latter tend to call these into question in an attempt to historicize the past. In Frankfurt, Vienna and Berlin I learned to appreciate once more how what we as historians consider to be obvious—context, being in time, relativity—is an interpretation others are likely to deny.

Medical Misadventure in New Zealand – Alannah Tomkins on her new research.

I have spent most of my career trying to wedge the disciplines of History and English closer together, and recently I’ve had some success in integrating the two more decisively in my teaching.  My third-year History modules are partly assessed by creative writing.  Now, though, I’m investigating the scope for integrating creative writing into historical research, and this will underpin a big grant application I make this year.

The Leverhulme Trust pays for international fellowships, whereby academics can spend between three months and one year in a partner institution abroad to foster new lines of research through overseas collaboration or to encourage ‘discipline-hopping’.  I’ll be applying in late autumn 2014 for a grant to spend three months in New Zealand attached to the University of Waikato.  If I’m successful I’ll be working with historian Catharine Coleborne and creative writer Sarah Shieff to look at the history of middle-class and professional migrants from Britain to New Zealand in the period 1840 to 1907.


I will be hoping to look at the experiences of migrant professionals in two ways.  First, I’ll be analysing familiar historical records to uncover stories of turbulent careers.  I’m confident that information like this exists, because I undertook a preliminary research trip to New Zealand in 2012 and found a number of professional men who were, for example, admitted to Auckland’s first insane asylum as patients in the second half of the nineteenth century.  Second, I’ll be using some of the mini-biographies I uncover to complete some creative writing about the experience and challenges of such long-distance migration.  My first idea is that I’ll use the outline details of real men and their families to imagine a series of letters, either by the men themselves or by the people nearest to them, about their disappointments and struggles.  I’m particularly interested in the way that, even in an era well before air travel, some men regarded the world as their oyster and undertook a series of global moves; some men’s careers saw them working in Canada, Australia and elsewhere, in addition to Britain and New Zealand.  In some ways this initial confidence makes later professional struggles all the more poignant.Victorian men who were solicitors, doctors, clergymen and holding other professional positions (and they were almost always men) travelled to New Zealand in some numbers in search of lucrative opportunities to practice their skills.  All of New Zealand’s doctors, for example, had to come from somewhere else before 1887 because there was no medical school on site that was graduating students until that year.  But not all of them were entirely successful, or suffered the same sorts of fate as unsuccessful men in Britain and elsewhere.  The Reverend Mr Hodgkinson, for example, sailed for New Zealand on the Steadfast in 1851 but sadly suffered mental ill health and died shortly after the ship’s safe arrival.

This work will sit alongside my current historical research, on British doctors whose careers were either temporarily or permanently derailed by misfortune or error.  My forthcoming book Medical Misadventure in an age of Professionalisation will consider British medical men who either went bankrupt, were accused of neglect or violent crime, who were ill and admitted to hospital or who committed suicide.

If the grant application is successful, it will almost certainly mean that in future New Zealand will become a new regular among the topics covered by my undergraduate modules, and my attempts to bring history and creative writing together will be significantly enhanced: wish me luck!

Commemorating Napoleon’s Hundred Days in 2015

napoleon100daysEveryone knows that Napoleon was decisively defeated at the battle of Waterloo in July 1815 and next year will witness a number of commemorations to mark the bicentenary of this landmark event, not least on this side of the Channel. The Waterloo 200 website lists all activities, including a major exhibition at the British Museum, ‘Bonaparte and the British’.

Historians, among them Keele’s emeritus professor Malcolm Crook,  will be contributing to the commemorations by highlighting Napoleon’s return to power in the spring of 1815 (following his abdication just a year earlier), an amazing adventure that culminated in Waterloo and became known as the Hundred Days. Exiled to the small Mediterranean island of Elba, Napoleon still hoped to regain his throne in France and, on 1 March 1815, he landed in Provence. He was taking a massive risk, but opposition melted away and on 20 March he entered Paris in triumph. On a website hosted by the University of Warwick, a series of items relating to the Hundred Days will be posted each day, from March to July 2015. Documents, cartoons, pottery, poems, and songs will be displayed to illustrate and illuminate contemporary reactions to this astonishing episode.

Napoleon duly re-established his Empire but, whatever his popularity among the French people, he needed to defeat the allied armies of the major European states if he was to remain in power. Though Waterloo was, in the words of Wellington, ‘a close-run thing’, Napoleon lost and this time he was exiled to St Helena in the South Atlantic, from which there was no return. Nonetheless, the Hundred Days fostered a legend of Napoleon that fascinated the nineteenth-century imagination.