History seminars at the IHR


This seminar will address issues relating to the life-cycle such as age, intergenerational relationships, parenthood, ageing, childhood and youth, from long-chronological and interdisciplinary perspectives.

Convenors: Dr Mary Clare Martin (University of Greenwich); m.c.h.martin@greenwich.ac.uk,  Dr Ofra Koffman (King's College London); ofra.koffman@kcl.ac.uk, Dr Tim Reinke-Williams (Northampton), Dr Simon Sleight (King’s College, London)

Venue: Holden Room 103, Senate House, South Block, 1st floor

Time: Tuesdays, 5.15 pm

We usually go for a drink and a meal afterwards.  ALL WELCOME.

Summer Term 2014
DateSeminar details
13 May The Red Tempts Me: Folk Songs and Sexual Choices in the Landes de Gascogne, 1820-1914

William Pooley (Oxford)

The history of sexuality has tended to neglect the sexual culture of rural people in the recent past, even though in a country such as France the majority of the population still earned their living from agriculture in 1900. In many historical accounts, city-dwellers participate in sexual revolutions. Their rustic cousins, on the other hand, don't have sex, but fertility. Demographers and economic historians have discussed the strategies that rural people employ to manage children, as if offspring in the countryside were only ever an economic good, or financial burden. Rural people too often seem to live in a frozen time of pre-modern sexuality, which only responds to the pressures of subsistence. This paper turns to a more qualitative source: orally-transmitted songs about making love. These songs reflect the cultural, emotional choices of rural people, rather than just their Malthusian calculations.
    The large folk-song collection of Félix Arnaudin (1844-1921) contains 3,620 texts recorded from 517 different singers. The oldest was born in 1803, and the youngest did not die until the 1980s, and between these generations, the songs they sang were changing. The general trends in singing suggest both a tightening of control over marital sexuality during the nineteenth century, and a rebellion against this repression of sexuality. Women wore modest, black clothing, but they sung of their desire to wear the much more provocative red. The songs reveal the ways that the demographic transition of the nineteenth century was not the result of simple economic calculations, but of a struggle between men and women over the place of sexuality in everyday life. Folk songs quite literally spoke the local language of rural love, and they are the best source for understanding sexuality in the countryside as it was made and resisted by the men and women who lived there.

27 May The history of being middle aged: the life-course in sociological perspective

Professor Judith Burnett (University of Greenwich)

When does childhood begin and end? And youth? When did the concept of middle age emerge? Why do modern manners mean that birthdays may be marked at each decennial?  The concepts of social life specifically concerned with a concept of time and space hold a special fascination for humanity. We have generated a wide range of social clocks, maps and calendars by which the sea of the temporary allocation of our personal time, lived out in the context of the endlessness of social time, may be navigated in a manner which generally either maintains social order, or allows for recognisable disorder (war, famine, disaster etc). Death as a concept has therefore waxed and waned in its popularity.  With ingenuity this has for some cultures and civilisations prompted thoughtful efforts which have extended and worked on the meaning of personal time in the symbolic order, for example by the provision of an afterlife or strategies for the recycling of mind and matter.

Sometimes based on solar and planetary systems or perhaps translated more practically into popular culture, by for example the metaphors of day or night or the seasons, the symbolic understanding of the passage of time may be marked by practices and rituals such as those bound up with the accountancy of the body, for example celebration, wailing, feasting, and revelling in randomly plucked objects from stores transformed into gifts.  A longstanding approach has emerged and survived, that being a system of ordering of human time, where time is deemed to be personal, and its living is divided by period or stage. Often marked by rituals and pastimes, sometimes accompanied with particular kinds of behaviour, masks and scripts, these periods or literally 'times of life' have become somewhat popularised in more recent times. Prone to commercialisation and useful for maintaining kith and kin relations, these have been extensively developed within our symbolic system.  This paper examines the emergence of the idea of the phases of life, and the rise of the idea of being middle aged in particular

3 June TBC

Phyllis Mack (Rutgers University, USA)

Please note: this session has been cancelled

24 June
History of Childhood and Youth in Ireland: state of the art and the field

Dr Sarah-Anne Buckley (National University of Ireland at Galway)

The history of childhood and youth in Ireland is a burgeoning field. Driven in part by revelations of abuse perpetrated in Ireland’s industrial schools and reformatories, memoirs of survivors have filled a gulf in the historiography and captured the public imagination. Prior to this, a great deal of work was completed by sociologists, journalists and those studying childhood across a range of disciplines.  In 2009, a special edition of Éire-Ireland focused specifically on childhood and aimed to bridge what it recognised as an historiographical void. Since then, studies on child welfare, infanticide, adoption and parental rights have emerged and are very welcome, as are interdisciplinary links across institutions and disciplines. 2014 will see the first conference on the history of childhood in Ireland, and previous to this, workshops on youth culture and adolescence have offered new avenues for research. This paper will present an overview of the state of the art in the field – assessing previous work and the current state of history of childhood studies, while also offering new insights into potential avenues and sources for future investigations.

Please note:  this session has been cancelled.  It is hoped that it may be held in the next academic year.