School of History, Classics & Archaeology

History Research in Progress seminars

A new seminar series for 2013.

This seminar series is designed to provide an environment for postdoctoral researchers and PhD students within the School to present their research to members of the History community, and to receive feedback from their colleagues.

All seminars will take place at 6pm in Room 1M.19, William Robertson Wing, Teviot Place.

Papers are pre-circulated (summaries, where available, are given below).

Please contact Georgina Rannard to receive a copy of the paper. Georgina's email address appears immediately after the table of events.

Semester 1, autumn 2013
Date Topic Speaker
9 Oct 2013 The land of tomorrow: Scottish ex-service personnel and the free passage scheme, 1946 - 1955 Dr Bernard Kelly (Career Development Post-Doctoral Research Fellow)
16 Oct 2013 The Spectre of Anti-Semitism: Polish-Jewish relations at the Polish School of Medicine in Edinburgh, 1941-1949 Michal Palacz (PhD History)
30 Oct 2013 In search of a city ‘prosperous and proud’: How John Hume tried to Live his History as Minister of Commerce Thomas Dolan (PhD History)
6 Nov 2013 George Sinclair, Scoto-Dutch networks and the reception of Cartesian thought in Scotland, c. 1650-1700 Dr Alasdair Raffe (Chancellor’s Fellow in History)
13 Nov 2013 Charles Beard in England, 1898-1902 Victor Cazares-Lira (PhD History)
20 Nov 2013 Managing the postcolony: minority politics in Montpellier, c.1960-c.2010 Dr Emile Chabal (Chancellor’s Fellow in History)
27 Nov 2013 Trade and useful knowledge: Privateers mapping the South Seas 1660-1720 Georgina Rannard (PhD History)
4 Dec 2013 Photography, Truth, and the Northern Irish Troubles Dr Erika Hanna (Chancellor’s Fellow in History)

Georgina Rannard

Contact details


Spectre of Anti-Semitism

  • When: Wednesday 16 October 2013
  • Speaker: Michal Palacz (PhD History)
  • Full title of paper: The Spectre of Anti-Semitism: Polish-Jewish relations at the Polish School of Medicine in Edinburgh, 1941-1949

Anti-Semitism was a conspicuous element of university life in interwar Poland. In the 1920s and 1930s, under the pressure from extreme nationalists, the five faculties of medicine in Warsaw, Cracow, Lwów, Wilno and Pozna? introduced a range of discriminatory measures that led to a decrease in the percentage of Jewish medical students in Poland from 35% in 1921 to just 10% in 1938. The remaining Jewish students were forced to sit in humiliating ‘ghetto benches’ and were frequently assaulted on university premises by extreme nationalist gangs.

During the Second World War, an autonomous Polish School of Medicine was established at the University of Edinburgh. The teaching staff and the student body of the School, comprised of refugees who were displaced by the German and Soviet invasions of Poland in September 1939, included both a significant number of Polish Jews as well as some prominent pre-war anti-Semites.

Reliable evidence suggests, however, that anti-Jewish discrimination and violence did not resurface at this unique wartime institution.

This research-in-progress paper therefore analyses a combination of different factors that might have played a role in preventing the rise of anti-Semitism at the Polish School of Medicine in Edinburgh.

The following factors are so far identified: a growing sense of national unity among Polish medical refugees, concerns over negative reactions from the British hosts, stricter control over student life and organisations, relative weakness of Polish extreme nationalists and a deliberately low profile adopted by Polish Jews. This paper also discusses some methodological and ethical problems surrounding the study of Polish-Jewish relations before and during the Second World War.

John Hume

  • When: Wednesday 30 October 2013
  • Speaker: Thomas Dolan (PhD History)
  • Full title of paper: In search of a city ‘prosperous and proud’: How John Hume tried to Live his History as Minister of Commerce

The basic aim of this paper is to paint a portrait of John Hume as Minister of Commerce during the operation of the ill-fated Sunningdale Executive between January and May 1974, Northern Ireland’s first ‘power-sharing’ administration.

The paper surveys Hume’s social and economic ideas and policies by utilising documentary material which remains largely untapped. Yet the paper’s central argument relates to Hume’s vision of and quest for a ‘new Derry, prosperous and proud’ during the spring of 1974. It argues that in seeking to make this vision a future reality, as Minister of Commerce Hume repeatedly drew upon and sought to apply his knowledge of Derry’s history when formulating official policy.

To substantiate this claim the paper examines Hume’s policies against the backdrop of the history MA thesis which he completed in 1964, entitled 'Social and Economic Aspects of the Growth of Derry, 1825-1850'. The paper thus attempts to demonstrate how Hume strove to recreate social and economic circumstances which he believed had once brought prosperity to his native Derry, as a means of reinvigorating the contemporary economies of both Derry and Northern Ireland.

As such this paper insists that during the era of Sunningdale Hume’s political biography is littered with examples him attempting to act out and live a historical narrative which, crucially, he himself had produced.

George Sinclair

  • Date: Wednesday 6 November 2013
  • Speaker: Dr Alasdair Raffe (Chancellor’s Fellow in History)
  • Full title of paper: George Sinclair, Scoto-Dutch networks and the reception of Cartesian thought in Scotland, c. 1650-1700

This paper will examine philosophical change in 17th-century Scotland, focusing on debates prompted by the adoption of Descartes' thought. It will include a case-study of George Sinclair, Professor of Philosophy and Maths at Glasgow University and a virulent anti-Cartesian.

Dr Raffe will argue that Sinclair's attitudes, and those of others on various sides of the debate, should be understood in the context of Scotland's links with the Netherlands.

Charles Beard in England

  • Date: Wednesday 13 November 2013
  • Speaker: Victor Cazares-Lira (PhD History)
  • Full title of paper: Charles Beard in England, 1898-1902

My dissertation revolves around Charles Beard’s life and work as a way of exploring how the grand narrative of American history changed in the light of the great socio-economic changes (industrialization, urbanization, and massive immigration) occurring at the turn of the century.

The chapter I am presenting for the seminar series touches upon Beard’s stint at England (1898-1902) aiming to account for how this experience shaped Beard’s historical thinking, namely his vision of law and the role of industrialization in bringing about democracy. The chapter will be divided in two sections: one covering Beard’s formal studies at Oxford; and the second part dealing with his role in founding a college for working class people at Oxford (Ruskin Hall).

Most previous research has focused on the later enterprise without dwelling closely upon for Beard’s studies. This emphasis is reasonable because Beard spent much more time working on Ruskin College than studying at Oxford traveling as well throughout England giving lectures within the network of the British labour movement. However, almost nothing is known regarding Beard’s readings on English and constitutional history (the main purpose of his academic journey). This is a shortcoming because for Beard, English legal history (especially the industrial phase) provided Beard with insights about American contemporary problems and more importantly as an indicator of how democracy evolves. Thus I’ll try to retrieve the relevance of both Beard’s academic experience and activism for his vision of American history and politics.

Managing the postcolony

  • Date: Wednesday 20 November 2013
  • Speaker: Dr Emile Chabal (Chancellor’s Fellow in History)
  • Full title of paper: Managing the postcolony: minority politics in Montpellier, c.1960-c.2010

Using the case study of Montpellier, this paper explores the relationship between local political actors and postcolonial minorities since the end of the Algerian War - specifically, the city’s rapatrié, Muslim and Jewish populations.

It examines the discourses used to secure the electoral allegiances of these groups and the myriad ways in which they laid claim to certain civic and political spaces. It employs diverse oral, archival and audiovisual sources to demonstrate how postcolonial minorities have gained important concessions from local authorities and how identity politics has developed under the Fifth Republic, despite France’s strong republican tradition.

Mapping the South Seas

  • Date: Wednesday 27 November 2013
  • Speaker: Georgina Rannard (PhD History)
  • Full title of paper: Trade and useful knowledge: Privateers mapping the South Seas 1660-1720

This paper considers the relationship between English trade and mapping in the South Seas and Spanish Caribbean 1660-1720. Specifically it looks at the role of privateers in the generation of geographical and mapping information, and how this related to English trading ambitions in Spanish America.

Recently, historians have recognised the role played by privateers in generating knowledge at sea, but they have rarely put this into the political and economic context of empire. The semi-permanent state of conflict in the Caribbean combined with the often unofficial roles that bucaneers took in political and economic life, and placed privateers in a unique position to collect and produce valuable information about Spanish American coastlines, harbours, forts and trade routes. This knowledge was of great value to English colonial elites and merchants, who were keen to exploit the wealth offered by Spanish American trade in goods and slaves.

The paper will examine mapping and geographical information produced in atlases and maps by Captain Bartholomew Sharp and William Hack, and navigation information recorded by William Dampier and Woodes Rogers. It will also discuss information provided to the South Sea Company by English privateers about the conditions for trading in Spanish America. Finally it will contrast the collection and dissemination of this information with official policies of secrecy by the Casa de Contratación in Seville.

Overall, the paper will comment on the relationship between commercial ambitions and the generation of ‘useful knowledge’ across the borders of early Atlantic empires.

Photography, Truth and the Troubles

  • Date: Wednesday 4 December 2013
  • Speaker: Dr Erika Hanna (Chancellor’s Fellow in History)
  • Full title: Photography, Truth, and the Northern Irish Troubles

This paper compares how photographs were used as evidence to discern the 'truth' of the Battle of the Bogside and Bloody Sunday.

Using the extensive collections of photographs--taken by amateurs, RUC officers, and journalists--alongside the minutes of the Scarman and Widgery tribunals, I examine how conventions of social realist photography, photographic theory, and journalistic constructions of Ireland intertwined with judicial processes in the creation of state sponsored 'truth' of these events.