This article explores Margaret Mead's application of her anthropological notions of cultural relativism to international relations in the Cold War. It offers a critique of an historiographical orthodoxy that suggests Mead and others like her moved easily from service of the Allies in the Second World War to service of United States interests in the Cold War. Mead did attempt to make this move, but not easily. Two episodes in particular - the 'swaddling controversy' over Mead's and Geoffrey Gorer's arguments about the 'national character' of the Russians, and Mead's involvement with technical assistance programmes in the developing world - are used to illustrate the poor fit between Mead's cultural relativism and American aspirations in the early years of the Cold War, which ultimately led to a parting of the ways.
The early modern male body has traditionally been seen as a fixed, stable and dominant norm against which the imperfect female body was measured. By contrast, this paper examines the equivocal male body through a close reading of four cases of alleged hermaphroditism spanning the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It argues that the embodiment of masculinity was as ambiguous and culturally resonant as its female counterpart. The early modern male body was replete with uncertainties that were deeply connected to anxieties about paternity, legitimacy and patriarchal society. Measuring and defining the male body was a difficult task and the male body could prove to be as opaque and secretive as the female.
Men Only was among the earliestmen's lifestyle magazines published in Britain. From its first issue, in December 1935, the magazine cultivated a mainstream audience of middle-class, presumably heterosexual male consumers. But at the same time, I argue, it addressed and courted another audience long associated with urban leisure and fashionable consumption. References to homosexuality in Men Only went beyond mockery and insults directed at effeminate men. Instead, both textual and visual references to subcultural codes, practices, and homoerotically charged situations all reinforced potential readings of the magazine that would be understood by a queer audience. Other readers sometimes decoded the magazine's references and doublespeak too. Some even expressed concern that particularmagazine elements were 'a trifle pansy'. But by printing such concerns the magazine producers further highlighted Men Only's complicated dual address. By 1939, however, as the magazine's references to homosexuality and urban queer subcultures became increasingly dated and less lucrative, it began to direct its attention to a new military and home front audience. This article argues that through the deft use of humour, imagery,and coded doublespeak, Men Only courted a homosexual market segment a full half century before advertisers and marketers would openly acknowledge and seek the Pink Pound.
Within a decade after Independence, some of the finest historians in India got involved in writing new history textbooks for school children. As a new India began to dust off its colonial legacy, many historians felt the need to critique colonial perceptions of the past, rethink existing narratives of history, and develop a secular national imagination. Horrified by the violence of Partition, when thousands of Hindus and Muslims killed each other and many more left their homes in search of new places to live, historians turned to the past to build the premises of a humane and secular society. They questioned communal assumptions, critiqued sectarian stereotypes, and wrote secular histories for the children of the new independent nation. The secular-nationalist textbooks that were produced in the 1960s and 1970s were immediately attacked by the Hindu right, and for the subsequent three decades history textbooks became the site for a larger battle between secularism and communalism in India. The defence of these textbooks was seen as synonymous with the fight against anti-secular forces, and suggestions for any form of change inevitably provoked suspicion. Yet over these years, historians in India, as elsewhere, were opening their minds to new ideas, and posing issues in new ways. Gender histories made historians aware that all narratives need to be gendered; ecological histories made them see that that social lives are shaped by environment just as much as nature is transformed through human activity; cultural histories emphasized the importance of cultures in shaping people's beliefs, perceptions and visions, even as people sought to make their own world of meanings. Histories from below and subaltern studies urged everyone to relocate the subjects of their enquiry, and see how subordinate groups make sense of their experience and constitute their lives. Critical theories stressed the need to rethink the words and terms through which the past was grasped and the tropes within which historical narratives were cast. Yet, till recently, none of these shifts in thinking about history was reflected in the textbooks that children read. This essay emphasizes that school textbooks need not be insulated from the critical traditions of our times. When conceptions of history change, when the past is looked at in new ways, should these ideas remain the preserve of academics alone? Focusing on the new set of history textbooks recently produced in India, the essay discusses what these new books seek to do, what pedagogic ideas underline their production, and how they differ from earlier textbooks.
History plays many roles in British culture. One role, which is insufficiently developed, is of informing public discourse and public policy about urgent contemporary issues. It is important that we try to develop this contribution because the historical dimension is essential to understanding how important issues, such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the current financial crisis or patterns of crime, have come about and to developing possible options for resolving them. Arguably, this is less recognized by policymakers than in the past. History and Policy ( www.historyandpolicy.org) has been established as a network of historians dedicated to making our work accessible to politicians, the media and any interested people. The article explores some areas of domestic policy as examples of the value of history in contemporary politics.
This essay looks at the history of the quintessential East German automobile, the Trabant, from a unique point of view. Rather than focusing on the Trabant as an object unto itself, this essay argues that the Trabant must be understood as integrated into a larger system of socialism, and the contradictions that this system produced. In particular, the notion of Eigen-Sinn helps illuminate the paradox of the Trabant as an embedded or interwoven object. The Trabant was, from the point of view of the East German leadership and its bureaucracy, part of a larger, overarching "system of movement" (Bewegungssystem). In of itself, it was useful only as a means of moving people from origin to destination, and was only as important as its function allowed. The history of the massive housing projects built in the 1960s, 70s and 80s in East Germany as part of a utopian urban planning campaign illustrates the way in which the Trabant was folded into a broader vision of complete, holistic system integration in the ideal socialist urban space. In so doing, however, the Trabant became like many other pieces of the socialist puzzle, in that it, and its constituent parts, had to be simple, interchangeable, and easily understandable and fixable, even for its consumers in order to ensure the overall smooth functioning of the socialist system of movement, meaning that many Trabant owners could understand and repair their automobiles with a degree of expertise that few western car owners possessed or possess, and thus had a more individual relationship with their cars than many in the more individualized West.
The article is a brief overview of a project initiated by the Government of India in the early 1960s to draw on the expertise of professional historians and involve them in writing textbooks for Middle and High School, in an effort to improve the quality of textbooks. The attempt to distance the books from religious and nationalist biases did not however protect the project from interference by political parties and the governments these formed. Historiographical approaches came under discussion as also the questioning of the kind of historical interpretation that went into the making of national identities. The enterprise has come up against two problems, one relating to the teaching of history and the other to the control over the contents of history textbooks by successive governments supporting variant political ideologies. Textbooks have to reflect the changes in historical interpretation which means in turn that those teaching history in schools have to be made familiar with these changes and why they have occurred. Textbooks used in state schools and published and subsidized by the state, even if they form a small fraction of the pedagogy involved, will inevitably be mauled each time that drastic changes in political ideology result from a change of government. Institutions established for the preparation of textbooks have to be autonomous and free from governmental interference.
Whereas social science surveyors in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries concentrated on gathering records of the material aspects of culture and society (tools, ritual objects, rites of passage, decorative items), mid-century moderns turned their efforts to the fleeting and insubstantial: people's dreams, hopes, fears, evanescent desires, states of madness, and inchoate beliefs. Researchers aimed to collect the stuff of subjectivity, as manifested or materialized in psychological test results, life histories, and records of jokes, invective, and strong sentiments. Techniques proliferated, from the Thematic Apperception Test to the Rorschach to the Draw-A-Person. Taken around the world to provide 'X-ray pictures' of the inner life, such tests were said to render subjective materials in usable form. Collectors gathered the resulting sets of 'human data' on a scale and scope never before encountered. Among various efforts in the 1940s and 1950s to collect, catalogue and store - in short, to file - these new masses of data on the most human parts of being human, none was more ambitious than the 'Database of Dreams' assembled in 1956. Funded by the National Research Council, run by a cadre of psychologists and anthropologists and accessing decades of ethnographic and documentary research, 'Primary Records in Culture and Personality' attempted to map the scope of all such collections and to write a strategy for preserving and circulating them. This pre-digital, Microform-based encyclopaedic device - a database of databases - played a part in the movement to found a post-war. American science of subjectivity, pursued through objectivist methods. The aim of this paper is to reassess the early Cold War targeting of 'innerness' within a larger quest to assemble the complete range of possible knowledge.
The idea of 'illegibility' is familiar in literary theory through terms such as erasure, undecidability and the resistance of language or writing to interpretation, and in historical studies as a metaphor explicitly or implicitly shadowing the state's attempts to render its citizens 'legible'. But these are not the only ways to use its explanatory capacity. In this article I explore how we might return these insights to the more concrete and quotidian case of illegible writing: writing that literally cannot be read, and undecidable forms of handwriting that elude secure fixation and interpretation. 'Writing' has certainly not lacked its theorists and historians, and such fields as paleography, the history of alphabets, the graphic arts and literacy all treat of the subject. But the history of handwriting as a specific cultural and official practice has received surprisingly little attention in itself. Yet as the volume of handwritten communication expanded from the seventeenth century onwards handwriting became an object of considerable cultural and legal significance, whether in terms of penmanship, forgery or interpretable meaning. This essay considers exemplary cases of handwriting's illegibility or resistance to reading, in a bid to work through its legal status and test some of its cultural implications.
In the 1980s an unprecedented politicization of school history occurred in both England and France. For the two preceding decades 'new' history, which encouraged children's active use of historical sources to study the past from a variety of perspectives, had gained popularity at the expense of more traditional methods which favoured pupils' memorization of a national chronology heavily oriented towards key political and military events and personalities. The reaction against 'new' history in the 1980s was prompted by fears that its methods deprived children of the strong sense of national identity and pride which traditional school history had sought to instil. Both the Thatcherite 'new right' and Mitterrand's Socialists therefore sought to restore traditional history in schools, but where the British 'traditionalists' were faced by opposition from teachers, the Department for Education and Science, the Inspectorate, numerous historians and the Labour Party, a political consensus on the need to restore chronological national history to its dominant place in the curriculum was quickly reached in France. This article proposes an explanation for this respective opposition and consensus, focusing in particular on traditions of governance in education and curriculum control, and on the impact of dominant British and French discourses on the relationship between schooling and citizenship, ethnic diversity and national identity.
The Marshalsea Prison in Southwark was London's most important prison for poor debtors in the eighteenth century. In 1729 it came under parliamentary scrutiny by James Oglethorpe's Gaols Committee which revealed a scandalous abuse of power involving the deliberate starvation of prisoners, torture, even murder. The prison's deputy keeper, William Acton, stood trial on four charges of murder but was acquitted on each; there seems to have been political manipulation at the highest level to ensure that no charge was proven against Acton or any of the other gaolers prosecuted as a result of the Gaols Committee's endeavours. We are afforded an intimate glimpse of life in Acton's Marshalsea through the diary of John Baptist Grano, a musician imprisoned there for debt at the time of Oglethorpe's inquiry. Grano shows us the reality of two prisons subsisting in one establishment: the 'master's side' for those who could pay Acton for their keep and the dreadful 'common side' where prisoners were deprived of all charitable assistance until they were helped by their friends or until they starved to death. In an era of increasing gentility and politeness, the Marshalsea reminds us of the structures of injustice, oppression and rapacious profiteering that underpinned daily life in the eighteenth-century metropolis.
Academic approaches to history have been subject to change as a result of current social challenges such as immigration and multiethnic societies. This article asks whether such developments have also influenced concepts and portrayals within German history textbooks. How are recent trends in historical scholarship transposed into the condensed and highly politicized space of school textbooks? This question is examined through an analysis of a sample of recent history textbooks and curricula from different German federal states, focusing on topics such as transnational perspectives, gender history, postcolonial studies, and the representation of minorities.
This essay provides an analysis of the Andaman Islands exhibit at the Colonial and Indian Exhibition of 1886 in London. It explores the ways in which a display of near-life-size clay models, complete with indigenous-made manufactures, presented a specific vision of the region to a popular British audience. Using visual evidence, archival material and contemporary commentary on the exhibition, the essay investigates the mechanics of the exhibition paradigm, documenting its impact upon audiences' perceptions of the Andamanese peoples. It argues that the models were intended and were successfully received as tools with which to popularize scholarly judgements of the region's peoples at the lowest point of a perceived sociocultural-evolutionary hierarchy, and demonstrates how this specific exhibit was employed as dynamic, decorative visual entertainment for a metropolitan audience. The implications of the substitution of clay figures for real human bodies are examined: it is argued that this medium functioned as an absorbent surface upon which British audiences could safely posit perceived 'truths' about their distant subjects. Whereas 'living exhibits' might challenge the terms of their representation, the static models were seen to verify colonial concerns regarding the violent depravity, overt sexuality and corporeal availability of the non-Western 'other'.
Could there be laughter and amusement in the city while there was death and suffering at the front? What aspects of humour were legitimate in times of war? What should be the meaning of laughter in 'serious times'? The essay approaches these questions through the intriguing case of Carl Braun, otherwise known as Carl Höbner, who in October 1914 ran into trouble with the Berlin police for mimicking German generals and dignitaries. Braun's case leads, in the second part of the essay, to an investigation of the wider debate about laughter and seriousness that unfolded during the war. While the Kaiser and the military pronounced a taboo on urban laughter, radical conservatives propagated what they called 'German humour'. Yet much of the city's entertainment industry argued for precisely the kind of laughter that the Wilhelmine elite found so unappealing. The third part of the essay asks what the outcome of this debate meant politically, suggesting that the way in which laughter and war were negotiated reflected wider questions about power and sovereignty in Imperial Germany. Yet reconstructing the politics of wartime laughter not only prompts us to question well-established assumptions about the cultural history of war, it also sheds new light on wider issues concerning the relationship between laughter and power.
Drawing on company and legal records as well as the West German press, this article employs the Volkswagen Beetle for a study of how West Germans made sense of their country and its place in the world after 1945. First, it examines how the public adopted the car as a prominent symbol of dynamic reconstruction during the Fifties and Sixties. Despite wide knowledge about its Third-Reich origins, the Volkswagen soon emerged as an icon of the new domestic order because, by advancing mass motorization, it satisfied previously unattainable consumer dreams. Moreover, its attractiveness hinged on its technical dependability, which contemporaries read as an indicator of the solidity of a postwar order built on affluence. Second, West Germans took the car's success abroad as a signal of their country's acceptance within an international, American-led order that assigned the Federal a secondary role. That the Volkswagen concern developed into a multinational company wielding considerable power in Latin American countries like Mexico left no imprint on the Beetle's iconography in Germany. Interpretations of Beetle thus supported conceptions of West Germany as a small, affluent country with limited international economic power that continued to inform German debates on globalization in the new millennium.
Eton Manor Boys' Club was a sports and social club based in east London between 1909 and 1967. Its motto was Up the Manor! In 2007, the 'Up the Manor!' (UTM) oral history project set out to record its story from men who had been Eton Manor Boys in the mid twentieth century. The project was paid for by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. UTM was an inter-generational project. A group of mixed-ability Year Ten students from a typical community school in inner east London were involved in its every aspect. They helped draw up an interview questionnaire and they carried out and filmed some of the interviews. They were aged fourteen and fifteen - the exact age their interviewees had been when they joined Eton Manor - and appreciated the opportunity to find out first-hand or face-to-face what it was like to be a young person growing up in their part of London during the mid-twentieth century. Taking part in the project encouraged the students to develop as historians; it also helped many of them learn how to socialize with older people. This report provides a short history of the Eton Manor Boys' Club; describes the progress, activities and outcomes of UTM; and argues the value of this type of oral history project, both for the participants directly involved and for the wider historical community.
What is the legacy of the national conversation that took place during 2007, the bicentennial anniversary of the abolition of the British slave trade? New approaches, as seen in eight British museum exhibitions, demonstrate an intensified interest in the plurality of African experiences, and they express new views on the historical relationship of the developed to the developing world.
For three decades, dating back to 1886, the gold mining industry at the heart of South Africa's industrial revolution underwrote a social structure in which men outnumbered women to an alarming degree. This imbalance spawned a trade in commercial sex which for many years was dominated by Russo-Polish gangsters. The prevalence of 'organized vice' posed a dilemma for successive governments, which sought to retain the appeal of prostitutes in labour markets characterized by shortages of male workers while simultaneously seeking to eliminate the worst excesses of organized crime. This already delicate balance was upset after the South African War (1899-1902) when London Irish and Cockney Jews arrived to contest the hegemony of East European underworld elements. As part of an effort to infiltrate 'foreign' Russo-Polish gangs, the Milner administration resorted to the use of informers, thereby further inflaming conflict between East European and 'English' gangsters. The economic downturn of 1906-8 set the stage for a tragedy culminating in the death of an informer, Meyer Hasenfus. But amidst all the complexities it became exceedingly difficult to determine culpability and several independent-minded prostitutes, led by a woman centrally involved in the Hasenfus case, used the moment to stage a revolt and cast off the yokes of their pimps. The death of Hasenfus marked a turning point in the history of local crime.
Numerous commentators have referred to the process which brought newly elected indigenous president Evo Morales to power as a revolution. This social revolution's primary referent is the Bolivian Revolution of 1952 which freed indians from their serf-like status and overthrew the creole oligarchy. The paper explores the memories and stories of the Aymara-speaking people of Pocobaya and neighbouring communities about the mid twentieth-century events. In these accounts extreme violence plays a major role in marking the exceptionality of the events and accounting for the rupture of communities, elevating what occurred to the level of mythic history. In their accounts, Pocobayeños make scant reference to the Revolution but accord themselves a major role in overthrowing the landlords: they become major protagonists in history and not simply bystanders, transforming themselves from victims to heroic agents. As twenty-first century Pocobayeños contemplate their present and future in the days of the latest Bolivian revolution, they do so through the lens of history: for them the events of the mid twentieth century are indeed a major point of reference; but it is not a history that will be easily recognized by historians and politicians.