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How people saw: looking at photographs in history

By Jess Hope

“To the complaint, ‘There are no people in these photographs,’ I respond, ‘There are always two people: the photographer and the viewer.” – Ansel Adams

How do historians approach photographs as sources? Those of us who study the mid-19th century to the present can access a wealth of moments ‘captured’ on film, ranging from portraits and images of domestic life to war photography and documentary photojournalism. Historical photographs provide fascinating contextual information: who was present at a certain event, what they wore, the kinds of wallpaper designs that were fashionable at the time. But can we rely on what we see? And how should we interpret it? Read more

Being A Student of Atheism

By Patrick Seamus McGhee

Patrick is an MPhil student in Early Modern History at the University of Cambridge. He is currently researching atheism and unbelief in post-Reformation England.

Cambridge’s Corpus Christi College is home to a rich and impressive collection of Reformation-era documents, named after the theologian and alumnus Matthew Parker (1504–1575). The Parker Library attests to the renewed establishment of the Protestant religion in Elizabethan England and symbolises the inextricable link between religion and education during the early modern period. However, an engraved panel in the Old Court of the College records the name of a very different student, the playwright and accused atheist Christopher Marlowe. Read more

How do historians write?

By Tom Goodwin, @tgooders

Thomas is an MPhil student in Early Modern History. He is currently researching sixteenth-century Italian heretics and their use of the printing press.

I spent the morning putting in a comma; I spent the afternoon taking it out – Oscar Wilde

Writing history remains something of a dark art. From the beginning of your degree in history, there is a great deal of focus on how to do research: that is, how one should approach sources and analyse historical arguments, covering a wide range of different methods and theoretical approaches. Read more

Cheating for Love. Notes on “Notes on camp”

by Federica Tammarazio
Università degli Studi di Genova, Italy

Pentesilea.org

For LGBT History month, we are happy to host art historian Federica Tammarazio to celebrate the anniversary of “Notes on camp” by Susan Sontag.

Fifty years ago (fifty-one actually) art critic Susan Sontag published “Notes on camp“, a series of reflections on Camp culture. According to her own definition, “Notes on camp” was not meant to be a manifesto, but rather a tool to define and understand ‘camp’ sensitivity, which she thought “more appropriate for getting down something of this particular fugitive sensibility. It’s embarrassing to be solemn and treatise-like about Camp”[1]

What was camp back then? And what is it now?

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Love Story or Western? Ducal marriage in Normandy

By Fraser McNair

Fraser is a PhD candidate in the Faculty of History. His thesis is entitled ‘The development of territorial principalities between the Loire and the Scheldt, 893-99′.

Ah, Valentine’s Day. You know, while the day has some bad press, I personally appreciate the opportunity to indulge in some soppiness and sentimentality. And what could be more soppy and sentimental than medieval property grants? Read more

Some reflections on Charlie Hebdo

By Hira Amin

9/11 is often cited as a watershed moment in contemporary history. The pervasive narrative was that these extremists hated Western freedom and democracy and Islam is an inherently violent and dangerous religion. In the wake of the brutal Charlie Hebdo attacks, one of the most striking features of the coverage was simply the lack of depth, historical analysis and contextualisation.  Read more

Homosexuality in the ‘Enlightenment’?

By Nailya Shamgunova

Nailya is working on European conceptualisations of sexual diversity in South East Asia and Japan in the 17th century.

France was the first European state to repeal its sodomy laws as far back as 1791. The event, which is now hailed by LGBTQ+ groups as a landmark, at first glance seems like a culmination of a century of Enlightenment and reason in the midst of a Revolution proclaiming liberty. Read more

And the rest as they say… (a manifesto for Techno-enviro-cultural-socioeconomic-politics)

By Kayt Button

When we think about historical research, it is easy to picture someone trapped behind piles of dusty literature and papers, getting lost in the minutiae of their chosen subject. After all, years of study of history have preceded their final, chosen, specialised subject of “The Pig War of 1859”!

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