Emma Griffin, ‘Empire and the Origins of Global Capitalism’ (16 mai)

Jeudi 16 mai à 17h : Emma Griffin (Queen Mary University of London), ‘Empire and the Origins of Global Capitalism’

The British industrial revolution has long, and rightly, been regarded as a turning point in world history, and the question of why it all began in Britain has produced a large and lively literature.

In the past twenty years, our understanding has been considerably enhanced by the repositioning of events in eighteenth-century Britain within global history frameworks. Yet this has resulted in some unwieldy comparisons between Britain, a small island, on the one hand; and very large, continental land masses – India, China, and North America – on the other. Not only do these comparisons involve a significant switch in scale, there is the added complication that some of these regions were themselves bound in complex colonial relationships with Britain.  By looking at European nations, similar in size, existing outside Britain’s empire, and indeed in some instances with imperial holdings and ambitions of their own, it is possible to shed new light on the complex and contested relationship between empire and industrialisation, and offer new answers as to why Britain industrialised first.

Emma Griffin  est professor of Modern British History à Queen Mary University of London et présidente de la Royal Historical Society. Elle a publié cinq ouvrages, dont Bread Winner: An Intimate History of the Victorian Economy (Yale University Press, 2020) et elle prépare une histoire globale de l’industrialisation.

Béatrice Robic, « Le travail des enfants en Angleterre et au pays de Galles (1870-1914) » (29 fév.)

Jeudi 29 février 2024 à 17h

Béatrice Robic (Paris Nanterre), « Le travail des enfants en Angleterre et au pays de Galles (1870-1914) »

Cette communication apporte un éclairage sur le travail des enfants en Grande-Bretagne au moment où celui-ci, bien qu’il touche à sa fin, est loin d’être devenu un phénomène marginal.

L’abolition du travail des enfants outre-Manche fut le fruit d’une longue marche : entamée en 1788 avec, pour premier pas, l’interdiction de l’emploi d’enfants ramoneurs de moins de huit ans, celle-ci ne s’acheva que 130 ans plus tard, en 1918. Il fallut en effet attendre la fin de la Première Guerre mondiale pour que furent levées les dernières dérogations autorisant les écoliers des classes populaires à quitter l’école deux ans avant d’avoir atteint les quatorze ans réglementaires. De fait, tout au long du dix-neuvième siècle, l’action des réformateurs sociaux se heurta à de vives résistances, alimentées par une offre et une demande de main-d’œuvre enfantine soutenues.

Si le sevrage de l’économie britannique au travail des enfants s’avéra difficile, il semble toutefois que ce processus connut une nette accélération entre 1870 et 1914. Entre ces deux dates, le pourcentage d’enfants (âgés de dix à treize ans inclus) déclarés actifs dans les recensements de l’Angleterre et du pays de Galles fut divisé par quatre, passant de près de 20% à 5%. Or cette période fut aussi celle de l’introduction, puis de l’extension progressive, de l’obligation de scolarité élémentaire. Dès lors, on peut se demander dans quelle mesure le retrait des enfants du marché du travail est allé de pair avec la démocratisation de l’accès à l’école. Autrement dit, peut-on mettre l’élimination du travail des enfants en Grande-Bretagne au crédit de l’État ?

Béatrice Robic est maitresse de conférences en civilisation britannique à l’université Paris-Nanterre.

Luxe Blaxill,’Text Mining and Political History: challenges and opportunities in the age of Big Data’ (8 fév.)

Jeudi 8er février 2024 à 17h : Luke Blaxill (Oxford) – ‘Text Mining and Political History: challenges and opportunities in the age of Big Data”
 
This paper is about the challenges and opportunities afforded by the computational analysis of unreadably large textual datasets. I argue that historians have broadly failed to grasp these profound opportunities. Despite the abundance of machine-readable data liberated by digitisation, there has been no widespread embrace of text mining or more general revival of cliometrics. This ambivalence has arisen mainly through apathy and side-lining computational analysis to a specialist methodological niche. The absence of justification is damaging to the intellectual vitality of the discipline and its capacity to face the dawning age of data science and associated developments in artificial intelligence, seen recently with Chat GPT 4.

This paper will showcase examples of text mining in action in modern British political history. Case studies will include election speeches in the period 1880-1910, the contributions of women MPs in Parliament since 1945, and nineteenth century election violence.

I argue for a reopening of the wider debate about the historian and the computer. This requires informed sceptics to come forward to meet the advocates to discuss how we face the future. British political history has a proud tradition of methodological innovation and is a subfield which could begin a debate that has fundamental implications for the whole discipline

Luke Blaxill is college lecturer in Modern British History at Hertford College University of Oxford. He has published widely on text mining in History, especially British politics. His first book, The War of Words: the language of British Elections 1880-1914 was published in 2020 with the Royal Historical Society.

William J. Ashworth  : ‘The Legacy of the Chemical Industry in Northwest England, 1824-1863’ (23 nov.)

Jeudi 23 novembre 2023 à 17h

William J. Ashworth (U. of Liverpool) : ‘The Legacy of the Chemical Industry in Northwest England, 1824-1863’

Abstract : My institution, the University of Liverpool, is based in an area associated with the heart of the country’s chemical industry. It is also one of the most polluted and deprived regions of the country. My talk is based on a project I am hoping to put together looking at the history and legacy of this industry within this region. The aim is to document the impact of the industry on the landscape, health, and economy of the north-west of England: Merseyside, Widnes, Runcorn, St Helens and Newton-in-the-Willows. Why did the industry commence here on such a large scale during the early nineteenth century and what industries did it serve? The focus here will be on textiles in Lancashire, soap in Liverpool, Runcorn and Warrington, and glass in St Helens.

William J. Ashworth est Reader en histoire contemporaine à l’université de Liverpool. Ses travaux portent sur l’histoire de l’industrialisation, des sciences, des technologies et des finances en Angleterre entre 1640 et 1850. On lui doit notamment The Trinity Circle Anxiety, Intelligence, and Knowledge Creation in Nineteenth-Century England (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2021); The Industrial Revolution: The State, Knowledge and Global Trade (Bloomsbury, 2017), et Customs and Excise: Trade, Production and Consumption in England, 1640-1845 (Oxford UP, 2003).

Ophélie Siméon : « Anna Doyle Wheeler (1785-1848): itinéraire politique et militant d’une pionnière du féminisme » (9 nov).

Jeudi 9 novembre à 17 h: attention, la communication de John Tolan est reportée à une date ultérieure.  Elle est remplacée par : Ophélie Siméon (Sorbonne Nouvelle), « Anna Doyle Wheeler (1785-1848): itinéraire politique et militant d’une pionnière du féminisme »

Résumé : Cette communication examine l’oeuvre et le parcours d’une pionnière oubliée du féminisme, l’Irlandaise Anna Doyle Wheeler (v. 1785-1848). Si son rôle d’intermédiaire au sein des premiers mouvements socialistes européens est relativement bien documenté, sa contribution à l’histoire des femmes et des idées demeure peu connue. Elle est pourtant l’inspiratrice et la co-auteure de l’un des ouvrages fondateurs de la cause féministe, Appeal of One Half the Human Race (1825), rédigé avec son compatriote William Thompson (1775-1833) mais paru sous le seul nom de ce dernier. Si Thompson préface l’ouvrage en reconnaissant publiquement l’apport de Wheeler à The Appeal, l’historiographie a le plus souvent réduit sa collaboratrice à un rôle de simple muse.

Il s’agira donc, à travers une étude croisée de la formation intellectuelle de Wheeler et de son oeuvre politique, de lui redonner sa place aux côtés des travaux de Thompson (conformément aux revendications de The Appeal), mais aussi des écrits de Mary Wollstonecraft et du couple Mill. En effet, The Appeal se distingue des écrits proto-féministes de son temps par sa radicalité. S’ils ne sont pas les premiers à revendiquer publiquement le vote des femmes, Wheeler et Thompson identifient cependant l’exploitation des femmes à celle des travailleurs au sein du système capitaliste. Par conséquent, ils s’insurgent contre un féminisme purement libéral pour revendiquer une réforme totale des structures sociales, économiques et politiques sur un mode coopératif, seul à même, selon eux, de garantir l’égalité des sexes. En outre, la section finale de The Appeal, rédigée de la seule main de Wheeler, constitue le premier appel connu à la formation d’un mouvement de femmes à l’échelle internationale. L’étude de cette pensée radicale, entre féminisme et socialisme, permettra d’évaluer la postérité de Wheeler et d’en rappeler l’actualité.

Programme 2023-2024

Les séances ont lieu, sauf indication contraire, le jeudi de 17h à 18h30 à la Maison de la Recherche de Sorbonne Université (28 rue Serpente, Paris 6e), salle D421

Jeudi 5 octobre 2023 : Séance pédagogique sur les ressources en ligne en histoire britannique (Fabrice Bensimon, Stéphane Jettot et Frédérique Lachaud)

Jeudi 19 octobre : Louise Jackson (Edimbourg), ‘Gender equalities at work: writing an interdisciplinary history of feminist campaigning in the UK c. 1970-2020’

Jeudi 9 novembre : Ophélie Siméon (Sorbonne Nouvelle), « Anna Doyle Wheeler (1785-1848): itinéraire politique et militant d’une pionnière du féminisme » (cette séance remplace celle avec John Tolan, initialement prévue).

Jeudi 23 novembre : William Ashworth (Liverpool) : ‘The Early Chemical Industry in North West England and Its Legacy’

Jeudi 7 décembre : Emily Ward (Edimbourg), ‘”I witness this myself”: adolescent rulers and political “belonging” in Britain and France, c. 1150 –c. 1260’

Jeudi 21 décembre : Myriam-Isabelle Ducrocq (Nanterre), sur son livre La République de Harrington dans la France des Lumières et de la Révolution (Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment, 2023)

Jeudi 1er février 2024 : Alison Cathcart (Stirling) : ‘James VI & I and his empire of islands’

Jeudi 8 février : Luke Blaxill (Oxford), ‘Text Mining and Political History: challenges and opportunities in the age of Big Data’

Jeudi 15 février : Thomas Stammers (Durham): ‘Philippe, comte de Paris and the Orleans family in Exile after 1848: Liberalism, Collecting and Empire’  (la séance est annulée)

Jeudi 29 février: Béatrice Robic (Nanterre) : « Le travail des enfants en Angleterre et au pays de Galles entre 1870 et 1914 »

Jeudi 14 mars : Perry Gauci (Oxford) : ‘Friends and Countrymen: The London Private Banker in Eighteenth-Century Society’

Jeudi 28 mars : Lauriane Simony (Cergy) : « Diplomatie culturelle, stratégies d’influence et propagande : le British Council en Birmanie après l’indépendance »

Jeudi 4 avril : Sophie Scott-Brown (East Anglia), ‘The Impolitics of Internationalism: Claude Bourdet, G. D. H. Cole, and the International Society for Socialist Studies’

Jeudi 25 avril : James Fisher (Exeter), autour de son ouvrage The Enclosure of Knowledge. Books, Power and Agrarian Capitalism in Britain, 1660–1800 (Cambridge, 2022)

Jeudi 16 maiEmma Griffin (Queen Mary University of London), ‘Empire and the Origins of Global Capitalism’

 

Le séminaire est ouvert aux étudiants de master et doctorat, ainsi qu’à toutes les personnes intéressées. Les enregistrements de la plupart des communications sont ensuite disponibles sur la chaine YouTube du séminaire :  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCveumFeGDtmJP8GTG3S8DOQ

Sally Holloway, ‘Food, Family & Feeling: Edible Gifts and the Making of Marriage in Georgian England’ (11 mai)

Jeudi 11 mai à 17h (Serpente, salle D421)

Sally Holloway, ‘Food, Family & Feeling: Edible Gifts and the Making of Marriage in Georgian England’

It is well established that the navigation of courtship in Georgian England was shaped by a range of romantic gifts including ribbons, rings, garters, gloves, and portrait miniatures, which helped to generate feelings of love and shepherd courting couples toward the altar. Yet these were not the only items which couples had at their disposal: in Jane Austen’s Emma (1815), it is the humble walnut which enables the farmer Robert Martin to express his admiration for the heroine’s protégée Harriet Smith, while in Pride & Prejudice (1813) it is the beautiful pyramids of hothouse fruits and hospitality at Pemberley which first lead Elizabeth Bennet to realise her love for Mr Darcy. Such edible offerings are largely absent from scholarship on courtship in Georgian England, though they were likely among the most common material objects routinely exchanged by and shared between couples.

This paper sets out how courting couples orchestrated their relationships using a breath of edible gifts from cakes and sweetmeats to apricots, peaches, pineapples, melons, duck, pork, venison, turbot, oysters, and sturgeon. These sweet treats, fruits, meats, and fish could variously be deployed as a means of flirtation, to gauge early romantic interest, underscore the status and generosity of the giver, show investment in the bodily health of the recipient as a future spouse, and bind two families together before matrimony. Together, they add a crucial dimension to our understanding of the widely recognised ‘gift mode’ during courtship, illuminate the mechanics of courtship as rooted in family homes and gardens, and the new spaces of the metropolitan public sphere, and demonstrate how natural or perishable items such as food could operate as powerful vehicles for emotional meaning.

Dr Sally Holloway is a Vice Chancellor’s Research Fellow in History and History of Art at Oxford Brookes University. She specialises in histories of emotions, gender, and visual and material culture in Britain over the long eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. She is the co-editor of Feeling Things: Objects and Emotions through History (Oxford, 2018), and the author of The Game of Love in Georgian England: Courtship, Emotions and Material Culture (Oxford, 2019) which has recently been released in paperback (2022). 

Gregory Claeys : ‘Utopianism for a Dying Planet: Life After Consumerism’ (20 avril)

Jeudi 20 avril à 17h (Serpente, salle D421)

Gregory Claeys (Royal Holloway, University of London) – Utopianism for a Dying Planet: Life After Consumerism

 

Few can have missed the fact that humanity is facing the greatest crisis in the earth’s history. With global warming currently at 1.25°C, but headed towards 3C or more, the threat of cataclysm is more real than ever. This talk argues that notional targets of 1.5C-2C are inadequate, and that warming must be kept below 1C. In order to achieve this, a variety of measures, commencing with the immediate renunciation of carbon fuels, but extending to a severe dampening of consumer demand and consumerism as such, must be implemented. The utopian tradition fruitfully provides a range of suggestions as to how to achieve this goal.

 

Gregory Claeys is Professor Emeritus at the University of London. His eleven books, which have been translated into nine languages, include Machinery, Money and the Millennium: From Moral Economy to Socialism (Princeton University Press, 1987); Citizens and Saints: Politics and Anti-Politics in Early British Socialism (Cambridge University Press, 1989); Thomas Paine: Social and Political Thought (Unwin Hyman, 1989), Searching for Utopia: the History of an Idea (Thames & Hudson, 2011), Mill and Paternalism (Cambridge University Press, 2013); Dystopia: A Natural History (Oxford University Press, 2016); Marx and Marxism (Penguin Books, 2018), Utopianism for a Dying Planet: Life After Consumerism (Princeton University Press, 2022); and John Stuart Mill: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2022). He has edited The Cambridge Companion to Utopian Literature (Cambridge University Press, 2010; Turkish edn., 2017) and over forty volumes of primary sources, including Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man (Hackett, 1992). He is editor-in-chief of a new collection of Paine’s collected writings in six volumes (2026, forthcoming), and Chair of the Utopian Studies Society (Europe

Rémy Duthille, «  Les Britanniques au miroir des révolutions de 1830 »  (16 mars)

Jeudi 16 mars  à 17h : Rémy Duthille (Bordeaux Montaigne), «  Les Britanniques au miroir des révolutions de 1830 » 


Résumé: Des Britanniques, on le sait peu, ont célébré les révolutions européennes de 1830, dans un contexte de troubles sociaux et politiques, et de crise constitutionnelle à la veille de la réforme parlementaire de 1832. L’examen de ces célébrations s’inscrit dans l’historiographie récente dégage le caractère transnational des mouvements révolutionnaires de 1830-1834. Les multiples modalités de célébrer la révolution à l’étranger éclairent la diversité des conceptions de la révolution et de la réforme, suggèrent l’étendue de la participation politique et illustre les perceptions britanniques de la France.

Rémy Duthille est Maître de Conférences HDR à l’Université de Bordeaux-Montaigne et membre du laboratoire CLIMAS. Il a publié Le discours radical en Grande-Bretagne, 1768-1789 (Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment 2017) et récemment coordonné un numéro de Leaves, “Sociability and democratic practices in Britain and Ireland, 1789-1832″  avec Magalie Fleurot et Laurence Machet. 

Muriel Pécastaing-Boissière, « Les biographies de Giordano Bruno par Annie Besant (publiées entre 1876 et 1911) : entre stratégie de justification et autobiographie occulte » (9 mars)

Jeudi 9 mars à 17h: Muriel Pécastaing-Boissière (Sorbonne Université), « Les biographies de Giordano Bruno par Annie Besant (publiées entre 1876 et 1911) : entre stratégie de justification et autobiographie occulte »

Le long parcours d’Annie Besant (1847-1933), libre-penseuse puis théosophe, socialiste, féministe, et anti-impérialiste en Inde, a longtemps décontenancé ses biographes, prompts à y voir fractures et inconsistance (cf. Arthur Nethercot, The First Five Lives of Annie Besant et The Last Four Lives of Annie Besant, 1960-3). Pourtant, si la quête intellectuelle et spirituelle de Besant connut plusieurs étapes, son développement n’en fut pas moins sous-tendu par une continuité de pensée, qu’un travail sur l’ensemble de ses écrits permet de retracer. Ainsi, parmi les textes de Besant négligés jusqu’ici par la recherche, se trouvent quatre biographies du philosophe de la Renaissance Giordano Bruno, mort au bûcher, à Rome, en 1600, publiées par Besant entre 1876 et 1911. Leur étude montre que la fascination de Besant pour Bruno forme une passerelle entre sa libre-pensée et sa théosophie. De plus, ces textes révèlent un fort processus d’identification, au point de pouvoir être lus comme des autobiographies occultes, qui permettent à Besant de prolonger les stratégies de justification de ses choix et de ses luttes, entamées dans ses Autobiographical Sketches (1885), et dans Annie Besant: An Autobiography (1893).

Muriel Pécastaing-Boissière est maîtresse de conférences en civilisation britannique (époque victorienne) à Sorbonne-Université. Son domaine de recherche actuel porte sur les liens entre le féminisme, le socialisme et le renouveau spirituel de la fin de l’époque victorienne. Sa biographie Annie Besant (1847-1933): Struggles and Quest a été publiée chez TPH, à Londres, en 2017.

Frank Rynne, ‘The Queen v. Parnell: A state trial and the  Irish Land War, 1879-82’ (26 jan. 2023)

The Queen v. Parnell: A state trial and the  Irish Land War, 1879-82

In nineteenth century Ireland, the end result of state trials was generally a foregone conclusion with conviction inevitable. State trials were political trials aimed at thwarting sedition or  political movements. Examples include the trial of Daniel O’Connell and others in 1844 and the Fenian Special Commission in 1866.  However, during the Irish Land War 1879-82 much had changed in Ireland. The case, The Queen v. Parnell and others was a more nuanced and complicated affair. From the outset the government had little confidence that they would secure convictions. The Irish Land War, 1879-82, resulted from a compact between the transnational Fenian movement and radical politicians in Ireland led by Charles Stuart Parnell. Central to the agitation, which ostensibly sought to gain peasant proprietorship for tenant farmers, was a national organisation, The Irish National Land League. Through the summer and autumn of 1880 Land League branches were founded throughout Ireland with mass meetings being held even in the remotest districts.

By autumn 1880 government appointees in Ireland were at loggerheads with Gladstone over his refusal to continence a coercion act for Ireland. While Gladstone resisted draconian measures, the Irish administration sought to appease  potentates who demanded habeas corpus suspension. It was clear to the Dublin Castle administration that should the trial fail to result in convictions Gladstone’s hand would be forced and he would have to introduce a coercion in Ireland. Thus, the state invested a vast amount of human and financial capital in pursuing the case.  

The documentation associated with the preparation for the trial and the evidence presented offers unique insights into the Irish National Land League’s rapid growth and also the nature of government in Ireland in the 1880s. The trial itself and its aftermath, which included the introduction of habeas corpus suspension in Ireland, illustrates the complexity of the Irish political situation during the Land War. It is also clear that the  leaders of the Irish Nationalist movement revelled in the prospect of a state trial for conspiracy; confident in acquittal and relishing such a platform for promoting their agenda. This paper will also examine the preparation for the trial and the remarkable throve of evidence the government compiled. It is clear that rather than being a further example of what nationalists might have concluded was the judicial suppression of a political movement, The Queen v. Parnell illustrates a symbiotic propaganda exercise by both the government in Ireland and the Land League.

Frank Rynne is a Senior Lecturer in British Studies and Irish history at CY Cergy Paris Université and a Visiting Research Fellow at The School of Modern History, Trinity College Dublin. He is a member of Agora (EA 7392) CY Cergy Paris Université and an associate member of Prismes (EA 4398) Université Sorbonne Nouvelle.

Jane Humphries, ‘“The best job in the world”: breadwinning and the capture of household labour in 19th and early 20th-century British coal mining’ (8/12)

Jeudi 8 décembre 2022 à 17h (salle D421 à Serpente) :

Jane Humphries (Oxford / LSE ), ‘“The best job in the world”: breadwinning and the capture of household labour in 19th and early 20th-century British coal mining’

This paper, written with Ryah Thomas, explores the effects of gender inequality and women’s disempowerment in the context of historical coalmining. Across the US and Europe, ex-coalmining regions are characterized by significant deprivation. While there are many reasons for persistent problems, this study focuses on the restrictions imposed on women’s involvement in economic life. Families in mining communities exemplified the male breadwinner structure, in which men’s earnings supported wives and children who provided domestic services in return. This article, however, exposes a different reality of household economics and relations of dominance and subordination: All family members were integrated into the coalmining production process and the creation of profit. Women’s unpaid work did not simply provide domestic comfort; it transferred well-being from women and children to men and simultaneously contributed to the colliery companies’ profits. These findings revise accounts of mining families while providing insight into the intransigence of deprivation in ex-coalmining areas.

Frédérique Lachaud, Stéphane Jettot et Fabrice Bensimon : « Les ressources numériques en histoire britannique » 

Jeudi 24 novembre 2022 à 17h (salle D421 à Serpente) :

Frédérique Lachaud, Stéphane Jettot et Fabrice Bensimon (Sorbonne Université) : « Les ressources numériques en histoire britannique » 

Cette séance, à l’intention des étudiants de master et de doctorat, évoquera les principales ressources numériques en ligne en histoire britannique. Après une présentation générale, certaines collections en histoire médiévale, moderne et contemporaine seront plus particulièrement présentées.

Emma Griffin, autour de son livre “Bread Winner. An Intimate History of the Victorian Economy” (21/04)

Séminaire franco-britannique d’histoire

https://sfbh.hypotheses.org/

Maison de la Recherche, 28 rue Serpente, Paris 6e, Salle D421, de 17h à 18h30

(La séance aura lieu en présentiel uniquement. Un enregistrement sera diffusé ultérieurement sur la chaine youtube du séminaire ).

 Jeudi 21 avril 2022 à 17h: Emma Griffin (East Anglia), autour de son livre Bread Winner. An Intimate History of the Victorian Economy (Yale University Press, 2020)

Abstract

Nineteenth century Britain saw remarkable economic growth and a rise in real wages. But not everyone shared in the nation’s wealth. Unable to earn a sufficient income themselves, working-class women were reliant on the ‘breadwinner wage’ of their husbands. When income failed, or was denied or squandered by errant men, families could be plunged into desperate poverty from which there was no escape.
Emma Griffin unlocks the homes of Victorian England to examine the lives – and finances – of the people who lived there. Drawing on over 600 working-class autobiographies, including more than 200 written by women, Bread Winner changes our understanding of daily life in Victorian Britain.

Emma Griffin is a Professor of Modern British History at the University of East Anglia. She is the author of several books, the editor of the Historical Journal, and the President of the Royal Historical Society.

Chris Manias, ‘The Age of Mammals: Nature, Development and Palaeontology in the long nineteenth century’ (14 avril)

Séminaire franco-britannique d’histoire

https://sfbh.hypotheses.org/

Maison de la Recherche, 28 rue Serpente, Paris 6e, Salle D421, de 17h à 18h30

(La séance aura lieu en présentiel uniquement. Un enregistrement sera diffusé ultérieurement sur la chaine youtube du séminaire ).

 

Jeudi 14 avril 2022 à 17h: Chris Manias (King’s College), ‘The Age of Mammals: Nature, Development and Palaeontology in the long nineteenth century

 

Abstract

When people today hear ‘paleontology,’ they immediately think of dinosaurs. However, for much of the history of the discipline, scientists and public audiences seeking dramatic demonstrations of the history of life focused on something else: the developmental history of the mammals. Assumptions that ‘the Age of Mammals’ represented the pinnacle of animal life made mammals crucial for understanding the formation (and possibly the future) of the natural world. Yet this combined with more troubling notions, that seemingly promising creatures had been swept aside in the ‘struggle for life’ or that modern biodiversity was ‘impoverished’ compared to previous eras. Why some prehistoric creatures, such as the sabre-tooth cat and ground sloth, had become extinct, while others seemed to have been the ancestors of familiar animals like elephants and horses, were questions loaded with cultural assumptions, ambiguity and trepidation. And how humans related to deep developmental processes, and whether the ‘Age of Man’ was qualitatively different from the ‘Age of Mammals,’ led to reflections on humanity’s place within the natural world.

 

This paper will outline Chris Manias’ current book project, which examines how nineteenth-century scholars, writers, artists and publics understood the developmental history of the mammals ­- the animals they regarded as being at the summit of life. Using mammal paleontology as its central focus, the project examines how paleontological theories of development and reconstructions of fossil beasts led to new understandings of the environment and animal world. Taking in examples from Europe, North and South America, and colonial contexts, the project argues that nineteenth-century engagement with animals and the environment were preconditioned on ideas drawn from the deep-time sciences, which promoted a world-wide vision of nature and modern life as inscribed by a deep natural history.

 

 

Biography

Chris Manias is Senior Lecturer in the History of Science & Technology at King’s College London.  He is a specialist in the history of science in modern Europe and North America, with special interests in the history and wider cultural impacts of the human, evolutionary and deep-time sciences.  His first book, Race, Science and the Nation: Reconstructing the Ancient Past in Britain, France and Germany, 1800-1914, examined the transnational development of understandings of national origins in the nineteenth-century, and interchanges between anthropology, archaeology and comparative linguistics.  He is currently working on a book project entitled The Age of Mammals: Nature, Development and Palaeontology in the Long Nineteenth Century (forthcoming with University of Pittsburgh Press, 2023), which examines how the deep past of the mammals was reconstructed in the nineteenth century, and used to define the present of the natural world.