Josephine Butler and spaces of reform in Winchester

There ought to be a word for the mixture of thrill and dread that comes with hearing someone talk about your home town on the radio or TV. Coming from Winchester, it's usually dread that someone in red cords is suggesting feeding the poor to their rare-breed pheasants or something. In fact (of course) the town is, …

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Distance and Strangeness: the murder of Anne Spencer

I sometimes feel like I've spent the last three years trying to figure out my place within history. I still feel like there's probably a huge mountain of scholarship that I've completely missed, but in general I'm starting to work out what historiography is (I'm not a historian by background - everyone else just calls it 'the literature' …

That particular articulation of social relations which we are at the moment naming as… Doulton Brook

A break from the Irish this week. I've been mostly reading Doreen Massey this week - if you're not familiar with her she's an urban geographer of major importance, who died earlier in the year (2016 striking again). She was a radical, a feminist, an unorthodox Marxist, and one of the best at problematising what …

Birmingham’s furthest outpost: Michel de Certeau and the tactics of Elan Village’s navvies

The Welsh countryside It's often presumed that times moves slowly in the countryside. Seasons come and go, and the work changes little. The 1901 census for the rural Welsh parish of Llansantffraid Cwmdeuddwr reveals a mixed picture of rural labour. Farmers, agricultural labourers and their families, born and raised in this parish or the neighbouring Rhayader are in …

Birmingham’s furthest outpost: Michel de Certeau and the strategies of Elan Village’s builders

 I was very fortunate recently to get to camp in one of the most beautiful spots in the country, in the Elan Valley, Powys. It's among the most sparsely-populated parts of the UK, falling within what John Henry Cliffe described as 'that great desert of Wales' as far back as 1860. Despite that descriptor, it's far from …

Foucault in Northfield: Birmingham’s reformed pubs

As I mentioned recently, apparently historians love pubs more than anything. I was particularly intrigued by a discussion with Nathan Booth at the Urban History conference in Cambridge about the internal layout of pubs in his recently-completed thesis on Stalybridge - I hadn't given this a lot of thought, focusing mainly on the streetscape. So …

The Other immigrants of Carribee Island: Wolverhampton’s Jewish community 2

This post follows my first on the early Jewish community in mid-19th century Wolverhampton, last week. We explored the Bernsteins who lived at 64 Canal Street, and the opening of the Fryer Street Synagogue, Wolverhampton's first permanent such building. By 1871, I can't find the Bernsteins in the Canal Street area, but I can find others I …

The Other immigrants of Carribee Island: Wolverhampton’s Jewish community 1

My PhD research focuses on a small section of Wolverhampton town centre in the nineteenth century that was well-known - perhaps notorious, even - for it's substantial Irish immigrant population. "Carribee Island" and the "Stafford Street district" became by-words when any sort of unrest occurred amongst Wolverhampton's Irish. My cursory go at statistics so far …