Borders and Belonging: Subjects of Current and Historical Significance

Borders and belonging are of immense importance as borders are being (re)defined, strengthened, or weakened all around the globe. Brexit, the proposed wall between the USA and Mexico, the India–Pakistan border—the drawing of social and spatial boundaries is at the heart of many current debates, as is the question of what it means to ‘belong’ somewhere. The featured image illustrates how important the relationship between borders and belonging is and, from the point of view of those involved, how relevant to security considerations. A NASA image taken on board the International Space Station in September 2015, it shows the India-Pakistan border at night. The view is in a northerly direction across the valley of the Indus River. Illuminated by the light of security installations, it represents one of the few cases where an international border can be seen from space, at least at night.

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Anger, Astonishment, and other Reactions: A Medieval King’s Emotional Behaviour

[A]s though he [Henry III] was infected by fury, being unable to contain his anger, he raised his voice in uproar, and ran furiously away from all who were in his chamber.1

Medieval kings such as Henry III (r. 1216–72) are regularly described in chronicles as angry—especially when challenged—and they often expressed their anger in excessive gestures. This particular passage was written by Matthew Paris, a monastic chronicler famous for not holding back his opinion on either kings or popes. Presumably his accounts of these emotional gestures might be shaped by his judgement on the king and a desire for a colourful narrative. But are these the only ways of interpreting such descriptions of royal emotional behaviour? Are they merely a means to an end, removed from reality?

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  1. Matthaei Pariensis Monachi sancti albani, chronica majora, ed. Henry R. Luards, vol. 5 (London, 1880) (Rolls Series 57), 326: ‘quasi furia invectus, nec se prae ira capiens, vocem cum clamore exaltavit, et omnes qui in sua camera fuerunt, velut furiosus aufugavit.’ []

Conference Report: Workshop on Medieval Germany, 6 May 2022

After many months of online-only conferences, one of the first in-person events to take place at the GHIL saw thirteen scholars gather at the beginning of May 2022 for a densely packed day of discussion dedicated to medieval history. What united participants at this workshop—and its previous iterations—was their special interest in the German-speaking lands of the Middle Ages.

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‘Enjoy your bodies!’: Writing the History of Sexuality in Later Life through 1980s British Television

At 15:45 on 11 February 1986, Channel 4’s programme for the elderly Years Ahead turned to sex. This special Valentine’s Day edition conceded that society was oblivious to intimate desire in later life. And yet, change was on the horizon. Marjorie Proops, co-host of that episode, stated that ‘attitudes are changing’, and so Years Ahead set out to guide even more seniors towards ‘sexual freedom’.

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British Migrants in the Kingdom of Saxony and Saxons in London, c.1850–1914

It may seem counter-intuitive that, three months after the outbreak of the First World War, British people were allowed to walk completely free through the streets of Dresden.1 But a look at the history of the British community in Saxony shows that there had been a special relationship between British migrants and the Saxon locals long before this conflict. Only when reports of the arrest of Germans in Britain (and especially of the conditions of imprisonment there) reached Germany did this relationship take a turn for the worse.

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  1. SAoS, 10717 Foreign Ministry, Nr. 2278, Charles Alfred Moore [chaplain of All Saints’ Church Dresden] to police chief Paul Köttig, 24 Oct. 1914: ‘For since the outbreak of hostilities . . . British subjects have been treated with the utmost courtesy and consideration by the Officials who have done all in their power to safeguard us from unpleasantness or any undue restrictions of our liberties. In Dresden . . . men of military service age have been permitted to go about unmoles…’ []

Translating Guild Socialism: The Case of Eva Schumann (1889–1967)

In 1920, Eva Schumann wrote from her home in Dresden to the offices of the National Guilds League in London offering her services as a translator.1 Her intention was to help popularise the political program of Guild Socialism in Germany, which she believed shared parallels with other socialist ideas already popular in her homeland.2 In response, the National Guilds League accepted her request and granted her permission to translate a lecture on the subject that would serve as a useful primer for German-speaking audiences.3

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  1. The contents of this blog article are based on research included in my forthcoming Ph.D. dissertation at Humboldt University of Berlin and Free University Berlin. []
  2. Collection, Box 8, Nuffield College Library. []
  3. Eva Schumann to George D. H. Cole, June 1920–March 1921, Letter, George Douglas Howard Cole Papers, Internationaal Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis. []

Conceptual History as a Philosophical Methodology: The Case of Hans Blumenberg’s Metaphorology

In a first blog post, I suggested that the figure of Hans Blumenberg can help us to understand one of the major differences between the ‘Cambridge School’ of intellectual history and Begriffsgeschichte, or conceptual history. This difference, I argued, is a disciplinary one: whereas Cambridge School intellectual history operates mainly in the fields of the historiography of political thought and contemporary political theory, conceptual historians intervene in a wider array of discourses and make more diverse use of historical insights. Hans Blumenberg, who is known as a philosopher, and not mainly as a political theorist, exemplifies this polydisciplinary outlook. At the same time, we can learn a lot about Blumenberg’s work if we interpret his early methodological writings in the context of conceptual history debates.

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What Is, and To What End Do We Study, Intellectual History?: A Comparison of Two Approaches: The ‘Cambridge School’ and ‘Conceptual History’

From 2–4 June 2022, the German Association for British Studies will host its annual conference under the title of ‘From Cambridge to Bielefeld—and Back? British and Continental Approaches to Intellectual History’. Two specific—and local—schools of thought and their respective groups of thinkers are thus at the heart of the conference: Cambridge, where intellectual historians in the tradition of J. G. A. Pocock, Quentin Skinner, and John Dunn’s more or less shared outlook still apply linguistic and historical methods to modern political thought; and Bielefeld, where Werner Conze and Reinhart Koselleck edited the monumental lexicon on key historical terminology entitled Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe1  (GG), and where Koselleck was involved in shaping the institutional and methodological outlook of the now well-known Center for Interdisciplinary Research (ZiF).2

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  1. Otto Brunner, Reinhart Koselleck, and Werner Conze (eds.), Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe: Historisches Lexikon zur politisch-sozialen Sprache in Deutschland, 8 vols. (Stuttgart, 1972–97). []
  2. E.g. Koselleck was executive director of the centre in the years 1974–5 and played a leading role in the management of its research from 1968 until 1979. See Ipke Wachsmuth, ‘Gedenkrede des Geschäftsführenden Direktors des Zentrums für Interdisziplinäre Forschung der Universität Bielefeld’, in Neithard Bulst and Willibald Steinmetz (eds.), Reinhart Koselleck 1923–2006: Reden zur Gedenkfeier am 24. Mai 2006 (Bielefeld, 2007), 41–3, at 41–2. In various functions, Koselleck was responsible for attracting Norbert Elias to the centre and for institutionalizing the format of the so-called ‘working groups’, among other things. The centre’s research agenda often reflected the methodological impulse of the conceptual history approach, and this can also be seen in Koselleck’s own work; consider e.g. the ZiF’s role as an institutional enabler for his work on the French Revolution: Reinhart Koselleck and Rolf Reichardt, Die Französische Revolution als Bruch des gesellschaftlichen Bewusstseins: Vorlagen und Diskussionen der internationalen Arbeitstagung am Zentrum für Interdisziplinäre Forschung der Universität Bielefeld, 28. Mai–1. Juni 1985 (Munich, 1988). []

Women’s Centres and their Newsletters: Feminist Spaces and Print Cultures in Belgium, France, and the United Kingdom

In April confusion reigned due to the last issue of Sisterhood thinking that the first Wednesday in April fell on the 8th rather than the 1st (Tut tut sack the proof readers I say). In the end we had two meetings but the discussion on Sexism and Education remained on the 8th. As a result of the confusion only 7 women attended.1

Taking place at the Cleveland women’s centre in Yorkshire, this seemingly benign communication mishap among the group producing the centre’s newsletter, Sisterhood, managed to leave the centre in disarray. In the end, the programme announced in the newsletter prevailed despite the organizers’ initial plans, illustrating just how central a role local newsletters could play in the basic functioning of key structures of local feminist scenes.

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  1. Sisterhood: Cleveland Womens Centre Newsletter, 3 (May 1981). []

A Brotherhood of Soldiers? Concepts of Comradeship 1914–1938

Whether we watch movies, read novels, play video games, look at paintings, or listen to podcasts about the First World War, we encounter expressions of what we consider to be the comradeship of the trenches. The idea of the soldiers holding fast together through all hardships, living together, and loving each other like brothers, even dying for one another, has become a central part of the collective memory of the ‘Great War’.1 The social relationship we are shown in these media representations is most often that of best friends. By defining the relationship between soldiers in this way, media productions are creating relatability for non-military users as well as avoiding the rather less clearly defined term ‘comradeship’. The most recent example of this is the film 1917 directed by Sam Mendes, which tells the story of the First World War through the eyes of two soldier friends on a special mission. What it does not show is the daily lives the soldiers had to lead with those they did not consider to be their friends, for whom they did not feel sympathy, or were just not emotionally close to. Those people they called ‘comrades’ and this relationship is almost entirely absent from cultural representations of the war. Media productions therefore replace the social relationship of comradeship with the concept of friendship in our cultural memory of the Great War because they only show one kind of relationship at the front.

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  1. See Aleida Assmann, Der lange Schatten der Vergangenheit (Munich, 2006), 23–6; available in English as Shadows of Trauma: Memory and the Politics of Postwar Identity, trans. Sarah Clift (New York, 2016). []
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