History seminars at the IHR


This thematic seminar series addresses issues relating to the life-cycle including age and ageing, intergenerational relationships, parenthood, rites of passage, childhood and youth. We are captive neither to chronology nor particular country, welcoming instead topics pertaining to any historical era or setting, and interdisciplinary perspectives.  Our seminars offer a friendly and welcoming space for discussion for all, including postgraduates and early career scholars.

Convenors: Dr Mary Clare Martin (University of Greenwich); m.c.h.martin@greenwich.ac.uk,  Dr Tim Reinke-Williams (Northampton), Dr Simon Sleight (King’s College, London), Dr Zubin Mistry (Queen Mary, University of London)

Venue:  John S Cohen Room 203, IHR, 2nd floor

Time: Tuesdays, 17.15

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

Spring Term 2015
DateSeminar details
20 January Old Age and Disability in Medieval Europe

Dr Irina Metzler (Wellcome Trust/MEMO Centre, University of Swansea)

The third chapter of my book, A Social History of Disability in Medieval Europe: Cultural Considerations of Physical Impairment (Routledge, London, 2013) entitled 'Ageing' describes how previously able bodies become disabled, through pathological physical and mental changes in old age. Contextualised case-studies of disabled old people across a range of social groups (peasants, urban populations, men and women of the church, with a few nobles and rulers) are used in conjunction with normative texts (medical, philosophical, scientific, religious) to investigate notions of disability in old age and to provide a picture of medieval mentalities and attitudes concerning what it meant socially to be old and disabled. The particular abhorrence of the old female body is highlighted, while less gendered themes include the practical aspects of care provisions for the elderly in the form of pensions and corrodies, concluding with an overview of the hitherto neglected topic of senile dementia and depression.

3 February Infancy Rites of Passage in Mamluk Society (Egypt & Syria, 1250-1517)

Catherine Rose (Queen Mary, University of London)

The Seminar has been cancelled.

17 February After the Accident: Disability and Work in British Coalmines, 1880-1948

Dr Mike Mantin (University of Swansea)

When a worker in one of Britain’s notoriously dangerous coalmines met with an accident causing permanent injury, a common sympathetic trope stated that they would never work again. However, many continued with their working lives. This paper explores the situations facing those disabled miners who chose to continue in the places which defined their lives and communities, or were forced to out of economic necessity. Although some returned underground, most disabled workers took part in ‘light work’ on the surface such as picking coal or staffing equipment rooms. These jobs were often lower in pay and status, and subject to uncertainty in times of economic difficulty for the industry. By looking at examples of the post-accident lives of disabled people and the social attitudes and economic boundaries they faced, this paper aims to ask new questions about the history of disability and work.

3 March Faith, family and healing in post-war England: The career and marriage of Trevor Dearing, 'the exorcist vicar'

Dr Neil Armstrong (University of Teeside)

In the mid-1970s the Anglican priest Trevor Dearing (b. 1933) became something of a minor celebrity due to the sensational ministry of faith healing he forged in an East London housing estate parish.  His ministry included the rite of exorcism, which Dearing utilised to effect the cure of a range of psychological and somatic ailments.  In order to justify and promote his controversial services, Dearing fashioned a life story which was framed by cycles of ill-health, career failure and spiritual dearth, and made miraculous by dramatic conversions.  It was also underpinned by the happiness afforded him by his wife Anne and their four children.  Theologically Dearing undertook an eclectic adventure including involvement in Methodism, Anglo-Catholicism, the Charismatic Movement and a reported late conversion to the Roman Catholic Church.  Yet whilst his marriage could be understood in terms of an evangelical model of gendered ‘complementarity’, Anne Dearing’s own narrative of their life together suggests tensions as she struggled to adapt to Trevor’s growing notoriety and move towards an increasingly global itinerant ministry in the second half of the 1970s.  This paper uses the Dearings as case study to explore the concepts of personal authenticity and clerical masculinity in life histories of career and marriage in the permissive age.

17 March 'We were very sociable together': Sociability and Meaning in the Life of Elizabeth Wynne Fremantle (1778-1857)

Professor Elaine Chalus (Bath Spa University)

This paper considers the place and meaning of sociability across the life of a highly sociable woman, Elizabeth Wynne Fremantle (wife/widow of Admiral Sir Thomas Francis Fremantle, one of the Trafalgar heroes and later Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean). It considers sociability as an important female accomplishment, one that was carefully developed in childhood and practiced in adulthood for a variety purposes, including as a tool of social and familial advancement. It was also, in old age, a provider of simple personal pleasure.

Summer Term 2015
DateSeminar details
28 April Infancy Rites of Passage in Mamluk Society (Egypt & Syria, 1250-1517)

Catherine Rose (Queen Mary, University of London)

5 May Subjectivities in the aftermath: children of disabled soldiers in Britain between the wars

Professor Michael Roper (University of Essex)

19 May Decline through survival: the lives of the younger sons of the English landed gentry 1700-1900

Dr Mark Rothery (University of Northampton)

2 June The moral economy of the Victorian 'folk' funeral

Dr Helen Frisby (University of the West of England)

From ‘bidding’ the neighbours to a funeral with specially baked funeral biscuits and the practice of waking (which is in fact an indigenous English custom that both predates and extended well beyond immigrant Irish communities), to assorted hospitality and gifting customs, I will highlight and discuss some of the funerary customs which made up the Victorian/early-C20th working-class ‘moral economy.’ Far from merely being fragmented, discreditable survivals from the imagined pre-industrial past, a waste of economic resources or a threat to public order - as they were often portrayed by contemporary commentators – I will contend that vernacular funerary customs functioned as a means of (re)constructing, consolidating and sometimes also contesting social relations within the bereaved community. In so doing I will show how contemporary folklore collections can afford us insight into otherwise poorly documented areas of historical lived experience.

16 June 'Abandoned', 'Impudent', 'Poor': Female Offending and Desistance from Crime in the Early Nineteenth Century

Dr Helen Rogers (Liverpool John Moores University)

This paper explores how girls and women responded to imprisonment and Christian rehabilitation in an early Victorian gaol where, unusually, inmates were taught by a working woman, the dressmaker Sarah Martin (1791-1843). It focuses on Great Yarmouth Gaol and House of Correction where about 15% of inmates were female. The paper considers the benefits and challenges of using life-course analysis to examine the circumstances that led to offending and desistance from crime and how these were shaped by the dynamics of gender, family, poverty and work.

30 June 'Where were you when we were getting high?': Britpop nostalgia and technological, social, cultural and generational change in 21st-century Britain

Dion Georgiou (Queen Mary, University of London)

Co-hosted with the Sport and Leisure History Seminar