Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Postgraduate Training Workshop 'Tracing Lives Beyond Borders'

On Friday 13 May 2016 the Histories of Activism PGR Workshop ‘Tracing Lives Beyond Borders’ took place at Northumbria University. The diverse programme was curated and organised by PhD researchers Jasmine Calver, Lara Green, and Sophie Roberts, kindly assisted by Dr Daniel Laqua. This workshop was the latest in a series of postgraduate-led events hosted by the Histories of Activism group and brought together postgraduate and academics from around the region and beyond to hear examples of exciting new research in the field and reflect on their own research practice. 33 participants and speakers attended (22 postgraduates from four institutions and 11 academic staff from five institutions) and the day offered the opportunity for postgraduates to expand their scholarly networks and to broaden their perspective.

The day began with ‘spotlights’ from Histories of Activism postgraduates Lara Green, Jasmine Calver, and Sophie Roberts based on their own research. The subjects of their short talks were Sergei Stepniak, Gabrielle Duchênne, and Peggy Duff, and the speakers gave interesting insights into how these individuals led lives that crossed borders but their work also had great transnational impact on political, social, and cultural movements.

Next, participants heard from Charlotte Alston (Northumbria University) and Matt Perry (Newcastle University) in conversation on the process of writing and framing a transnational biography for publication. Postgraduates enjoyed the chance to ask questions, particularly about designing a book and pitching it to publishers, using archival material to write biography and responding to gaps in the archive, and

After the first break, participants heard from Niall Whelehan (Edinburgh University) and Brian Ward (Northumbria University) who spoke on their own research showing two fantastic examples of how they combine transnational historical research with new approaches to the study of intellectual history and interdisciplinary research.

Participants then took part in breakout sessions led by André Keil, James Koranyi, and Tom Stammers (all Durham University) who each brought along sources from their own research to prompt discussion in small groups about the process of doing transnational history. Participants discussed a variety of issues, including understanding how archives come to exist in their current form, why they chose a transnational perspective for their own research, and whether or not ‘transnational’ has been overused as a term of reference.

To close the day, keynote speaker Christophe Verbruggen (Universiteit Gent) spoke about the use of digital toools to visualise data and to explore nineteenth century cultural and intellectual connections. One of the most important points Verbruggen made was the importance of transnational collaboration in order to create successful research, challenging postgraduates to think about the wider applications for the findings of their individual research projects.

In all, the day was a great success and the Histories of Activism group looks forward to hosting future postgraduate-led events. Thank you to all of the speakers and participants for their papers and contributions to discussions.

On 7 and 8 June 2016, you are invited to attend the conference ‘Two Centuries of Peacemaking’, to be held at Newcastle University and organised by scholars from Newcastle and Northumbria Universities, including Histories of Activism’s own Sarah Hellawell, Jon Coburn and Daniel Laqua. For more information please see and to sign up please visit:

Monday, 16 May 2016

Funding Success for History PhD Student Jasmine Calver

We have some more good news about PhD research funding success. The Society for the Study of French History has awarded Jasmine Calver £800 for an archival trip to Paris, for her project on the Women's World Committee Against War and Fascism. She is working with Dr. Charlotte Alston. 

A big congrats to Jasmine!

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

HOTCUS Annual Postgraduate Conference: ‘Winning minds and hearts: constructing national identity in US history'

Historians of the Twentieth Century US, Friday 9th September 2016, Northumbria University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Keynote speaker: Dr Simon Hall (Senior Lecturer in American History, Leeds University)

On 1 February 1943, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt asserted that ‘Americanism is a matter of the mind and the heart.’ Just a year after he approved the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans, FDR’s statement about the inclusivity of American identity highlights one of the key questions scholars face when writing the history of the United States: what do we actually mean when we talk about US national identity?

The distinction between what is and isn’t American has dominated the history of the twentieth century United States, from the Hollywood Blacklists of the 1950s and protests in the streets of Selma, Alabama in 1965, to clashes between construction workers and anti- Vietnam War protesters in New York City and debates over U.S. military strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan. In these instances and many others, the process of defining national identity remains central to our understanding of U.S. history.

This conference will explore the constructions and limitations of American national identity in the twentieth century. Panels and twenty-minute paper proposals are invited from postgraduate students and early career researchers on the constructions and manifestations of Americanism in the last century.
Topics for papers or panels might include:

Political and policy history
Citizenship, identity and immigration
Domesticity, home and national identity
The cultural and intellectual history of Americanism
‘Un- Americanism’ in the 20th Century
Protest history
Gender and Sexuality
Memorialization, commemoration and national identity
Border Cultures in the U.S.
Labour history, workers’ rights in U.S.
Presidential history
National identity in film, media, and journalism
Local and regional history
Foreign, military and diplomatic history

The conference will primarily be formed of traditional academic panels, with a keynote lecture from Dr Simon Hall. An interactive workshop on postgraduate and early career issues and concerns will also feature, with discussions of grant applications, teaching, and publishing.

Abstracts for papers or panels (300 words per paper) and a brief bio (100 words) should be submitted to by Friday July 15th 2016. For more information/queries please contact the HOTCUS postgraduate secretary, Megan Hunt (
Supported by the British Association for American Studies.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Professor Brian McAllister Linn on Elvis's Army, 11 May 2016

Next Wednesday (11 May) we will host Professor Brian McAllister Linn (Texas A&M University) for a paper titled ‘Elvis and the atomic battlefield: military change in the Cold War army’. This paper is based on Professor Linn’s forthcoming book, Elvis’s Army: Cold War GIs and the Atomic Battlefield, which is due to appear this autumn.

Here's how publisher Harvard University Press describes the project:

When the U.S. Army drafted Elvis Presley in 1958, it quickly set about transforming the King of Rock and Roll from a rebellious teen idol into a clean-cut GI. Trading in his gold-trimmed jacket for standard-issue fatigues, Elvis became a model soldier in an army facing the unprecedented challenge of building a fighting force for the Atomic Age.

In an era that threatened Soviet-American thermonuclear annihilation, the army declared it could limit atomic warfare to the battlefield. It not only adopted a radically new way of fighting but also revamped its equipment, organization, concepts, and training practices. From massive garrisons in Germany and Korea to nuclear tests to portable atomic weapons, the army reinvented itself. Its revolution in warfare required an equal revolution in personnel: the new army needed young officers and soldiers who were highly motivated, well trained, and technologically adept. Drafting Elvis demonstrated that even this icon of youth culture was not too cool to wear the army’s uniform.

The army of the 1950s was America’s most racially and economically egalitarian institution, providing millions with education, technical skills, athletics, and other opportunities. With the cooperation of both the army and the media, military service became a common theme in television, music, and movies, and part of this generation’s identity. Brian Linn traces the origins, evolution, and ultimate failure of the army’s attempt to transform itself for atomic warfare, revealing not only the army’s vital role in creating Cold War America but also the experiences of its forgotten soldiers.

Professor Linn is a specialist of US military history since 1898, with interests in counterinsurgency and occupation, Pacific strategy, military intellectuals, and the US Army in the atomic era. He is currently a Fulbright Distinguished Chair at the University of Birmingham, where he is working on the impact of postwar recovery on the British and US Armies from 1900 to the end of the Cold War.

The lecture will be held at 4.30pm in Ellison Building A, Lecture Theatre 001 (on the ground floor).

Thursday, 28 April 2016

“In BAAS I found an intellectual home”: Meet the new Chair of BAAS, Professor Brian Ward

The following is excerpted from the British Association for American Studies website.

As the new Chair of BAAS I want to ensure that the Association continues to provide for all its members the sort of nurturing and intellectually generous environment that has meant so much to me over the past three decades, writes Professor Brian Ward. It was at BAAS that I first found an intellectual home among people who saw the virtues of multiple, sometimes genuinely integrated approaches to the study of the American experience.

The first BAAS conference I ever attended was in the mid-1980s at King Alfred’s College, the forerunner of the University of Winchester. At the time I was a postgraduate in history at Cambridge University, working on a thesis that explored the links among African American popular music, black consciousness and race relations during the civil rights and black power eras. That thesis bore all the hallmarks of my BA in American Studies from the University of East Anglia at a time when there really wasn’t much inter-disciplinarity in traditional history departments. More than a few eyebrows were raised as I gamely tried to argue that Motown songs were as revealing as Malcolm’s speeches and that James Brown meant a good deal more to most African Americans in the 1960s than H. Rap Brown. Still, I did manage to secure college funds to build a discography of esoteric rhythm and blues and soul records from a postgraduate tutor who was more used to disbursing money for additional palaeography instruction. I mention this only to note that it was at BAAS, amid the panels and pints of the annual conference, that I first found an intellectual home among people who saw the virtues of multiple, sometimes genuinely integrated approaches to the study of the American experience. >>>read more

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Histories of Activism: Tracing Lives Beyond Borders Workshop, May 13

The ‘Histories of Activism’ research group at Northumbria University is delighted to host a half-day training workshop on ‘Tracing Lives Beyond Borders’, taking place on Friday 13 May. Please take a look at the attached programme.

·         The event is organised by three PhD students from the Histories of Activism research group – Jasmine Calver, Lara Green and Sophie Roberts. They will start off the workshop with brief case studies drawn from their own doctoral projects.

·         Matt Perry (Newcastle University) and Charlotte Alston (Northumbria University) will discuss the ‘challenges of biography’ with regard to monographs that they’ve written.

·         There will be research papers from Niall Whelehan (Edinburgh University) and Brian Ward (Northumbria University).

·         Three colleagues from Durham University (James Koranyi, Tom Stammers and André Keil) will facilitate break-out sessions for the participants.

·         Christophe Verbruggen – a historian from Ghent University – will give a keynote lecture on the way in which digital resources can be used to uncover and map transnational trajectories. He’s the director of the Ghent Institute of Digital Humanities and the chair of Flemish contribution to the European DARIAH initiative (Digital Research Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities).

The event is free, but participants should register via by 6 May at the latest. For further information on the activities of the research group, feel free to visit

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Two Centuries of Peacemaking Conference, 7 and 8 June 2016

From the Histories of Activism blog:

 We are delighted to announce details of the ‘Two Centuries of Peacemaking’ conference, which will be held at Newcastle University and Northumbria University on 7 and 8 June. This event asks big questions about the direction and vitality of the peace movement over 200 years. It is a forum where scholars and activists will reflect on the past, present and future of the peace movement. Participants will consider the shifts that occurred in the peace movement, addressing issues such as conscientious objection and the importance of feminist/women’s activist roles, the geographical and historical coordinates and influence of the civil rights movement, King’s distinctive nonviolence, global peace movements, and much more.

We are organising this conference as 2016 is an anniversary year that encourages us to contemplate our understanding of peace and the paths towards it. Firstly, it is the centenary of Britain’s enactment of conscription during World War One, reminding us of those who rejected military service and became conscientious objectors. Secondly, June 2016 is the bicentenary of the establishment of the (London) Peace Society. Alongside the formation of the New York Peace Society, its appearance is commonly seen as the beginning of the modern peace movement. Thirdly, 2016 is the start of a year of activities that commemorate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s visit to Newcastle, where he accepted an honorary doctorate in November 1967. His impromptu address, which fused together the issues of poverty, war and racism, has inspired research at the city’s two universities and informs the work of the Martin Luther King Peace Committee which seeks to honour King’s legacy by ‘building cultures of peace’.  >>> read more on the Histories of Activism blog