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Posts from the ‘Jess Hope’ Category

Putting down the books: when is research ‘complete’?

By Jess Hope

When I was an undergraduate, I wrote a history essay where my main primary source was an ‘eyewitness account’ of the events I was describing. It was detailed and colourful, full of vivid descriptions, quotes and recollections. It was great fun both to read and to write about.

It was only later that I discovered that this particular ‘eyewitness’ may not have actually, exactly….well, been there. Read more

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

On the ‘right to be bigots’: the dehistoricisation of racism

By Jess Hope

What happens when policy ignores history? This week, Australia’s conservative government announced proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act (1975) and its amendment the Racial Hatred Act (1995), which was established in response to an increase in verbal and physical racial violence in Australia. The changes would see the repeal of Section 18C, which presently makes it unlawful to ‘offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people’ on the basis of their ‘race, colour or national or ethnic origin’.[1] Instead, in the opinion of Attorney-General George Brandis, the Australian people ‘have a right to be bigots.’[2] As currently stated, the implications appear to be as follows:

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World Factory: fabricating a digital quilt

by Katy BondJess Hope and Anne Alexander

Cambridge historians were recently invited to contribute research to World Factory, an interdisciplinary performance project exploring the global textile industry through the lenses of nineteenth-century Manchester and present-day China. A collaboration between Zoë Svendsen and Simon Daw of performing arts company Metis and Shanghai-based theatre director Zhao Chuan, it works by ‘stitching’ together research in a ‘Digital Quilt‘, placing nineteenth century sanitation reports and photographs of old Manchester cotton mills alongside twenty-first century labour laws and strike reports from industrial China. Read more

History and United States prison policy: An interview with Dr Heather Ann Thompson (Part II)

by Jess Hope

Last week we published the first of a two-part interview with Dr Heather Ann Thompson, whose research on the history of mass incarceration has frequently contributed to debates about prison policy in the United States. Addressing post-war urban crisis, the decline of the labour movement and the rightward shift in political power over the last few decades, her work illustrates the damaging impact of a punitive prison policy on a purportedly democratic political system. Its appearance in publications such as The Atlantic also demonstrates how popular media can give voice to historical research in a way that broadens its purposes beyond the academic.

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History and United States prison policy: an interview with Dr Heather Ann Thompson (Part I)

By Jess Hope

As a glance at the profiles of this blog team will show, ‘doing history in public’ reflects a goal of making our practices as historians more transparent, collaborative and accessible. Many historians I’ve spoken with also hope to demonstrate that their research matters to the public, and that it has important political, economic or social implications for the way the world works today. Still others—and I would count myself in this category—feel that there has occasionally been a breakdown in communication between historians and those whose work might be informed by historical knowledge, including journalists, activists and policy-makers.

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