Dead white men

Brodie Waddell

There has been rather a lot discussion on this blog of two pioneering historians: E.P. Thompson and Eric Hobsbawm.

For those of you who are keen to hear more about these two, I’d like to mention a couple of events that will be of interest. For those of you who are tired of me blathering on about dead white men, I can promise that both of these events are actually focused on the impact of Thompson and Hobsbawm’s ideas – rather than on the men themselves – and that after this post I’ll shut up about them for a while.

The first event was a panel on the legacy of Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class (1963). The talks and discussion were recorded, and the podcasts are now freely available here. I believe the slides will also be available for download at some point soon.

There were three panellists. Professor Sander Gilman (Emory) focused on the ‘Englishness’ of The Making and the problematic place of Jews in this story. Professor Jane Humphries (Oxford) presented a wonderfully incisive look at the how the ‘sentimentalist’ and ‘pessimistic’ interpretation of the Industrial Revolution has been recently reinvigorated by rigorous quantitative research, including her own book on Childhood and Child Labour British Industrial Revolution (2011). Last, and definitely least, I expanded on some of the ideas that I had presented in my earlier piece on the future of ‘history from below’, drawing on the wider discussion in our online symposium, particularly the contributions from Mark Hailwood and Samantha Shave.

Hobsbawm image_previewThe second event I’d like to mention is the huge conference on ‘History after Hobsbawm’ that will be held at Birkbeck at the end of April. It’s going to be quite an occasion – I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many big-name ‘Munros’ from the world of history on a single programme. Although the event will partly be a celebration of Hobsbawm’s legacy, it also promises to be a forum for leading historians to tackle big issues such as nationalism, protest, class, environment, and so on. I won’t attempt to list all the speakers except to say that I’m particularly looking forward to the panels on ‘the crisis of the 17th century’ (Sanjay Subrahmanyam, Geoffrey Parker, John Elliott), on ‘Marxist and post-Marxist social history’ (Andy Wood, Jane Whittle, Lucy Robinson), and on ‘Frameworks of historical explanation’ (Peter Burke, Joanna Innes, Renaud Morieux). I hope to see some of you there.

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