Māori Iwi, Quaker Whalers, and Missionaries at the Bay of Islands in Aotearoa/New Zealand (1790–1840)

Among the many records of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) held in the Cadbury Research Library at the University of Birmingham are minutes of a meeting of the CMS committee in London. At this meeting on 9 August 1819 the committee learned from a letter sent by the missionary Thomas Kendall that several whaling captains who had anchored in the Bay of Islands in Aotearoa/New Zealand ‘had been very kind to him and his colleagues’. The ‘Officers of the above ships’, Kendall continued, ‘conducted themselves towards them and the Natives in a most friendly manner; and parties of Sailors attended Divine Service, on the Sunday, when the weather would permit’, including one ‘Captain Swaine of the INDIAN’, a whaling ship.1

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  1. Cadbury Research Library, University of Birmingham, CMS/G/C/4/155, CMS Committee Minutes, 9 Aug. 1819. []

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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‘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…’ []

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). []

Talking about Political Violence in Interwar Britain and Germany

I was grateful and honoured to be jointly awarded the GHIL’s 2021 Ph.D. prize with Jonathan Triffitt this November. As with all such honours, picking the recipients was no doubt a subjective decision. Therefore, I am all the more grateful to the Institute for choosing my thesis ‘Negotiating Violence: Public Discourses about Political Violence in Interwar Britain and Germany’, as it is a piece of historical research in which I chose to acknowledge head-on how it was informed and influenced by present-day concerns along the way.

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Perspectives on Political Parties in Nineteenth-Century Britain

Since the emergence of the first nation states in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, political parties have become one of the most important and influential actors in Western political systems. It is hard to imagine a functioning Western democracy without the presence of political parties, yet they have always been accompanied by criticism and rejection. As parties developed into elementary components of constitutional states and their tasks and responsibilities expanded, an intense theoretical preoccupation with the potential dangers they posed took place, especially in Britain.1 This debate about parties was marked by conflicting views, but the repetition and recurrence of similar lines of argument by authors at different times throughout the nineteenth century is striking.

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  1. See, for example, Arthur Aspinall, ‘English Party Organization in the Early Nineteenth Century’, English Historical Review, 41 (1926), 389–411; J. A. W. Gunn, ‘Party before Burke: Shute Barrington’, Government and Opposition, 3/2 (1968), 223–40; id., Factions No More: Attitudes to Party in Government and Opposition in Eighteenth-Century England. Extracts from Contemporary Sources (London, 1972); Paul Webb, ‘Political Partiesand Democracy:The Ambiguous Crisis’, Democratization, 12/5 (2005), 633–50, at 633–4. []

The Future of Holocaust Studies in Light of the ‘Catechism Debate’: Reflections from an Observer

This post has been adapted from a talk by Joseph Cronin, a former Researcher at the GHIL and now a lecturer at Queen Mary University of London, delivered at the Holocaust Research Institute’s New Directions in Holocaust Studies workshop, which was held at Senate House London on 4 November 2021. He would like to thank Sandra Lipner and Kate Ferry-Swainson for giving him the opportunity to speak at this event. The talk was prompted by and reflected on Joseph’s perceptions of the ‘German Catechism’ debate that took place in the summer of 2021.

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Sustaining ‘Information for Women’: The Informationsdienst für Frauenfragen, the American Military Occupation, and Women’s Politics in West Germany, 1951–1990

‘The Women’s Affairs unit…is based on the recognition of the fact that German women are in a decisive position either to promote or retard the development of Germany as a democratic state.’1 This statement appeared as part of a 1949 report by the Women’s Affairs branch of the Office of Military Government, United States (OMGUS). The post-war ‘surplus’ of women meant that there were an estimated 7 million more women than men across occupied Germany. As such, the Western authorities (in this case, American) invested time and resources in the late 1940s and early 1950s in ‘retraining’ programs for women.

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  1. National Archives, College Park, Maryland, Reports Women’s Affairs, box 51, file 5, Women’s Affairs Branch, Semi-Annual Report, 1 July-31 December 1949 (accessed July 2008). []
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