Tuesday 16 July 2019

History Taster Day on Europe in the Age of the World Wars

Leah Mclaine (Gosforth Academy, Year 13) has spent a week undertaking work experience in our Department of Humanities and reports back from a Taster Day that the History team organised for A-level students.

I attended a taster workshop organised by the Department of Humanities at Northumbria University, dealing with conflicts in Ireland, Russia and Germany after the First World War. A group of eager History students from Monkseaton Sixth Form engaged in three seminar-like sessions delivered by Professor Charlotte Alston, Dr James McConnel and Head of History, Dr Daniel Laqua.

With Professor Charlotte Alston, the students explored Russia after the October Revolution, focusing on ‘the Civil War beyond Reds and Whites’. They were first provided with some geographical information and the overall context as to how the war panned out, and they then explored the subject further with some picture sources. Although the students had been studying Revolutionary Russia in their A-Level course and thereby had considerable contextual knowledge, it was impressive how they stretched this context, allowing them to make plausible inferences such as affiliating the new figures introduced to them with the political ideologies of the Social Revolutionaries or the Bolsheviks. Professor Alston gave the seminar a personal touch by allocating a Russian identity to each group – for instance a Russian textiles worker from a southern region or a teacher from a more northern region. The students were given a list of their identity’s specific demands and were then left to deliberate among themselves as to which political ideology they would most support.

Professor Alston succeeded in providing a session on both the nature of the civil war that followed the October Revolution but also reminding the students that amidst the war, there were normal citizens with normal lives. Too often we seem to gaze superficially across political landscapes and stereotype groups, which then results in a loss of individuality and humanity in the way we view the population engaged in conflict. This session took a different stance, capturing these groups through individual persons with unique desires, not merely as masses under political labels; it was a refreshing outlook on the unfolding of a civil war and the parties it affected.

The students then engaged in a session provided by Dr James McConnel who explored ‘Ireland after the Easter Rising: The Violent Road to Independence’. The presentation was based on a series of images of Irish propaganda, calling all able Irishmen to join the British war effort, but on behalf of Ireland. As each picture came up, the students would be asked to expand upon the symbolism and literary influences used in the posters; how the art played on the subconscious expectations of its audience; how the allegory of Ireland poked at the insecurities surrounding masculinity, duty, and patriotism; and how the use of a sunrise behind the soldier and his hunting dog insinuated promises of a new dawn with new opportunities. Again, there was a personal aspect to McConnel’s presentation through the following of the case of a specific young boy, Tom Barry and his diary to understand why young men enlisted.

The day drew to a close with the seminar held by Dr Daniel Laqua who focused on ‘Germany after the Great War: The Struggle for a Democratic Republic’. Seated around a seminar table, the students analysed extracts from the diary of Harry Kessler; a count, diplomat, sponsor of the arts and politician. Kessler was highly connected in the Weimar Republic, both in its political and its cultural life. Laqua’s session was one filled with stories of scandal, espionage, and political murder which was thoroughly engaging to both interact with and read into. From this, the students were prompted to draw conclusions about the corruptions of the Weimar Republic – but also to deliberate as how we might regard the Weimar Republic more than a failure. 

Overall, throughout the day, the students experienced the academic world of history; they were exposed to different takes on the histories presented to them, encouraged to question their assumptions and broaden the way in which they saw history by engaging with historiographical debates. I believe I am not exaggerating when I say both students and professors expressed genuine interest in the historical debate and reflection and greatly benefitted from all the contributions shared at the table.

Friday 5 July 2019

Research Project on Irish Soldiers in the First World War

Dr James McConnel has been awarded a prestigious Leverhulme Trust Fellowship for his project  "'The Fighting Race'? Contested Images of Irish Soldiers in the First World War". During the 2019/2020 academic year, he will research issues that shed light on both the history of the First World War and on Anglo-Irish relations. In August 1914, moderate Irish nationalists set aside their ambivalence towards the British Army and supported the Allies. While pro-war nationalists were depicted by republicans as "recruiting sergeants for John Bull", hoodwinking Irishmen into taking the "King's Shilling", modern scholars and politicians characterise their case as prefiguring the Good Friday Agreement's inclusivity. Dr McConnel's project challenges both interpretations. By using the concept of "strategic narratives" and newly available digital sources, it reconstructs the pro-war nationalist case as it was originally made to test the hypothesis that the culturally constructed figure of the heroic Irish soldier was central to this propaganda effort.

Monday 26 February 2018

Third Undergraduate History Dissertation Conference, 7 March 2018

Co-organiser Michaela Crawley offers a preview of an event that showcases History students’ research.

On Wednesday 7 March, Northumbria University’s Department of Humanities will be hosting their third undergraduate dissertation conference for History students, following the success of the previous events in 2016 and 2017. The conference will feature presentations from current third-year students who have been completing their own research in order to produce their dissertations on topics ranging from the idea of chivalry in ‘Game of Thrones,’ to the co-operative movement and consumer culture in the 1960s. Open to students, staff and members of the public, the conference is sure to provide fascinating afternoon of historical research, as well as a keynote lecture delivered by Dr Ian Scott from Manchester University. Dr Scott is a Senior Lecturer in American Studies and will be delivering a lecture entitled ‘Democracy’s Last Hurrah: Donald Trump, Election Movies, and the Warning from History,’ a topic capturing the minds of young and old on both sides of the pond!

Coordinated by Daniel Laqua, Head of History and Senior Lecturer in European History, as well as a committee panel of second year students (Adam Curry, Rebecca Turner, Daniel Freear, CaolĂ„n Rowley and Michaela Crawley), the conference is an excellent example of tutor/student collaboration, essential for student success in any university course. The programme of the day can be viewed at the bottom of the page! Following the programme of the day, a panel of academic judges will decide upon their favourite speaker, presenting them with a prize at the wine reception concluding the event. 

If you wold like to register to attend the conference, sign up today at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/history-dissertation-conference-2018-tickets-42691681970

Wednesday 18 October 2017

American Studies Research Seminar, Patrick Andelic

The first American Studies Research Seminar of the year will be on Wednesday 8 November: Patrick Andelic (Northumbria University), "'We Came Here to Take the Bastille': The Watergate Babies, the U.S. Congress, and the Democratic Party, 1974-1992."

The talk will be at 4.30pm in Lipman 332.

Monday 16 October 2017

History Seminar Series, 2017-2018


History Seminar Series – 2017-18

27 Sept
Connie Schulz (University of South Carolina)
Pouring Old [Editorial] Wine into New [Digital] Bottles: Modern Scholarly Editing and the Pinckney Papers Projects

18 Oct
Annie Tindley (Newcastle)
‘I prefer to establish myself in my own colony’: The Translation of Aristocratic Ideologies – Land and Governance in Highland Scotland and Canada, c. 1867-1914

1 Nov
David Moon (York)
The Amerikan Steppes: The Unexpected Russian Roots of Great Plains Farming, 1870s-1930s

29 Nov
Humanities Graduate Research - Mixed Double
Brian Langley (History)
Eret Talviste (English)

6 Dec
Andrew Tompkins (Sheffield)
‘Radioactivity Doesn’t Stop At The Border’: Transnational Protest in 1970s France and West Germany

Unless stated otherwise, all sessions take place on Wednesdays at 4:30pm in Lipman room 121.