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Doctors’ labour and medical certification at the birth of the National Health Service
Gareth Millward

In 1949 there were 390 types of medical certificate covering legislation in England and Scotland. With the additional lingering burden of providing medical reports for wartime rationing, it was no surprise that general practitioners regularly complained that sick notes were a burden. Some went so far as to call them ‘a waste of time’. And yet they would be crucial to the operation of the welfare state set out in the Beveridge Report. This chapter discusses how these complaints represented a tension between the state and the medical profession over doctors’ professional autonomy and prestige. Time was viewed not only as a resource necessary to perform their jobs. It also represented the relative power doctors had over their own practice and their relationships with their patients. The chapter uses documents from the National Archives and medical journals in the years immediately preceding and following the formation of the NHS. Analyses of these have typically focused on remuneration and Bevan’s attempts to ‘stuff their mouths with gold’. Sick notes and time allow historians to move beyond explanations of economic self-interest and show the importance of professional autonomy to doctors. Further, the chapter provides an understanding of the role expertise was envisioned to have in the wider post-war welfare state by citizens, politicians, civil servants, and the experts themselves.

in Posters, protests, and prescriptions
Ethan H. Shagan

Perhaps the most prevalent new crime in early modern England was bible theft. There are literally hundreds of extant examples from the middle of the sixteenth to the middle of the eighteenth century, in the records of the Bridewell, the Old Bailey, the Middlesex Quarter Sessions, and other London-based archives, as well as significant evidence from other parts of England and in printed accounts. No historian has ever studied this phenomenon, or to the best of my knowledge even noticed it, because stealing bibles fits into no existing historiography: historians of crime do not care about bibles, and historians of religion do not care about theft. This chapter suggests, however, that bible theft was an important outcome of the English Reformation, a subset of a wave of profanation that washed over England in tandem with the new wave of piety associated with Protestant Biblicism. The records allow us to reconstruct not only the circumstances of bible theft but also the infrastructure for fencing hot bibles in early modern London, making it clear that pious Londoners depended upon this criminality to get cheap bibles, while thieves enacted the very category of sacrilege that had been invented discursively by the Protestant regime in its commitment to scriptural piety. By putting so much new emphasis on the Bible, Protestant authorities inadvertently created a new kind of profanity: more Bible-reading led to more theft, and more theft led to more Bible-reading, in a new symbiosis between profanation and devotion. This chapter thus argues that bible-stealing was the cutting edge of a profound new experience in modernity: profanation rather than secularization. People alienated by Reformation piety who had not yet imagined themselves to have a ‘secular’ existence violated Christian symbols and assimilated them to novel cultural forms rather than creating ‘secular’ spaces outside of Christianity.

in Political and religious practice in the early modern British world
Abstract only
Angela Stienne

This chapter explores the popular nineteenth-century theory that ancient Egyptians were in fact white people. It begins with the story of Saartjie Baartman, also known as the ‘Hottentot Venus’, an African woman who was taken to Europe in the early nineteenth century and used to promote the development of ‘scientific racism’.

Scientific racism drew on the work of Georges Cuvier, who pioneered the field of comparative anatomy. He used Baartman’s body to argue for his theory that White people and Black people are different species. Cuvier’s theory fed into another question that was being heatedly discussed at the time: whether the ancient Egyptians were Black or White. Many Europeans refused to accept that such an advanced civilisation could be related to the modern-day inhabitants of Africa, and sought any means they could find to prove their belief, including craniology and other pseudo-sciences.

The rest of the chapter recounts several incidents where mummies were dissected to prove that they possessed distinctive White features, by Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, Augustus Bozzi Granville and others, before returning to Saartjie Baartman, whose remains were restored to South Africa for burial in 2002.

in Mummified
Angela Stienne

This chapter opens with a recent story concerning the mummy Takabuti. In 2020, researchers discovered that Takabuti’s DNA was closer to that of Europeans than of modern Egyptians, a finding that harks back to earlier studies of the so-called ‘White mummy’.

Travelling back to the late nineteenth century, the chapter introduces Flinders Petrie. Petrie was a highly successful archaeologist in his day, whose legacy is now being questioned because of his pseudo-scientific racial theories. Examining skulls from the earliest period of Egyptian civilisation, Petrie posited the existence of a ‘new race’, distinct from the local populations, that was responsible for the achievements of Egyptian culture.

Another form of the quest for the ‘White mummy’ can be found in the present day. The documentary series Ancient Aliens, which attracts as many as 2 million viewers per episode, advances the theory that ancient civilisations were in fact created by aliens. While this is an even more outlandish theory than Petrie’s, it shares the racist assumption that Africans could not be responsible for creating a great civilisation.

The chapter ends with a trip to the Musée de l’Homme in Paris, which has an extensive collection of human remains, including thirty-three Egyptian mummies. It reflects on recent efforts to address the presence of African heritage in European museums.

in Mummified
Matthew Roberts

The chapter explores the origins of one of the central goals of the radical journalist William Cobbett’s radicalism: positioning himself and subsequently soldiers and labourers as men of feeling as part of his campaign to further their enfranchisement. It takes as its point of departure Hazlitt’s notion that Cobbett was a bodily thinker by showing how he politicised the senses in ways that celebrated, like Paine, ‘the socially levelling implications of the bonds of feeling’. But he went further than Paine in asserting that it was the hard-hearted, senseless elite who were unfeeling, not the people. Focusing on the ways in which Cobbett was vilified by his enemies – which, frequently turned on accusations that he was brutish and suffered from disordered passions and hardened senses – helps to explain the centrality of this goal. Attention is also paid to the ways in which he developed a radical version of patriotic feeling to challenge political corruption and the desiccated, unfeeling patriotism espoused by the elite in the final stages of the Napoleonic Wars. Cobbett had to walk an affective tightrope on behalf of the poor – a man of feeling, but not a creature of his passions. For all his invective and apparent instinctive outrage, Cobbett too preached a version of ascetic radicalism, as the third section argues. His ascetic radicalism was, however, a Georgian incarnation, which had its violent and crude manifestations (at least as far as the subsequent Victorian variant was concerned). Ascetic radicalism for Cobbett was about displaying appropriate feeling in the right contexts.

in Democratic Passions
Matthew Roberts

This chapter returns to the theme of ascetic radicalism through a case-study of the London radical artisan William Lovett. By using Lovett as a case study, this chapter explores how Chartists politicised feeling, focusing mainly on the early years of the movement in the 1830s, an under-explored aspect of the Chartist experience. In Lovett’s case, his politicisation of the passions was not just an important part of Chartism’s battle with its external enemies; debates about the nature and place of feelings were also central to the internal politics of the movement. Building on recent work on space and place in popular politics, this chapter shows how the affective politics of Chartism, and specific feeling rules, were associated with particular spaces, notably the pub, coffee shops and the mass platform. Moral force Chartism was a worldview grounded in a particular understanding of feeling. The third section of the chapter returns to the seminal work of William Reddy on emotional regimes and refuges, and uses these concepts to re-examine the fortunes of the first Chartist Convention (1839), a key organisation in early Chartism in which Lovett served as secretary. The chapter concludes by showing, briefly, how the intense affective experience of 1839 repeated itself in the second and third peaks of Chartist mobilisation in 1842 and 1848, despite the best efforts of those like Lovett to prevent ‘emotional overheating’ and build cross-class alliances.

in Democratic Passions
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From Francis Bacon To Oz Magazine
David Hopkins

This article discusses how we might formulate an account of William Blake’s avant-garde reception. Having dealt with Peter Bürger’s theorisation of the notion of ‘avant-garde’, it concentrates on a series of portraits, made from Blake’s life mask, by Francis Bacon in 1955. This ‘high art’ response to the Romantic poet is then contrasted with a series of ‘subcultural’ responses made from within the British counterculture of the 1960s. Case studies are presented from the alternative magazine production of the period (notably an illustration from Oz magazine in which Blake’s imagery is conflated with that of Max Ernst). An article by David Widgery in Oz on Adrian Mitchell’s play Tyger (1971) is also discussed to show how the scholarly literature on Blake of the period (mainly David Erdman) was called on by the counterculture to comment on political issues (e.g. Enoch Powell’s 1968 ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech). The final section of the article shows how the ‘avant-gardism’ of Oz’s utilisation of Blake might be counterposed to the more activist left-wing approach to the poet in small magazines such as King Mob with their links to French situationism. In terms of the classic avant-garde call for a reintegration of art and life-praxis, such gestures testify to a moment in the 1960s when Blake may be considered fully ‘avant-garde’.

Bulletin of the John Rylands Library
Michael Horovitz

This article, originally published in 1958, was written to commemorate William Blake’s bicentenary. In it, the author observes that Blake has been claimed or dismissed by successive generations since his death in 1827: for the Romantics, he was a ‘weird crank’, while the Victorians enveloped him in ‘their own damp sentimentalism’. The author argues that Blake ‘evades appraisal because he was always working for a synthesis of creation far beyond outward forms and genres’, which meant ‘he had to invent his own methods to express himself adequately’. He notes that the recent bicentenary was marked by ‘floods of exhibitions, magazine supplements, radio features, new books from all sides devoted to him’. This clearly anticipates the Blakean explosion of the 1960s, in which the author himself would play a major role. This article can therefore be seen as marking the beginning of Sixties Blake in Britain.

Bulletin of the John Rylands Library
Countercultural Blake in the Therapoetic Practice of maelstrÖm reEvolution
Franca Bellarsi

This article explores the reception and transformation of William Blake’s countercultural legacy by focusing on the neo-Romantic resurgences within maelstrÖm reEvolution, an experimental performance and arts collective based in Brussels but with heavy transnational affiliations. In relation to the company’s neo-shamanic and therapeutic conception of poiesis, Blake is an inspirational figure amongst a broader family of mentors ranging from Beat Generation writers to Arthur Rimbaud and Alexandro Jodorowsky. The Blake–maelstrÖm connection is here examined for the first time. Blending classical reception studies with a broader interest in the intersections between poiesis and the ‘sacred’, this article approaches countercultural Blake as the archetypal embodiment of the shamanic poet. More specifically, it reflects on how, as the poet of ‘double-edged madness’ and ‘Spiritual Strife’, Blake’s subversion of alienation into ecstasy feeds maelstrÖm’s own ‘therapoetic’ experimentalism and psycho-aesthetic endeavours to restore the lines of communication between the ‘visible’ and the ‘invisible’.

Bulletin of the John Rylands Library
James Riley

This article considers the use made of William Blake by a range of writers associated with the ‘countercultural’ milieu of the 1960s, particularly those linked to its London-based literary context. Iain Sinclair is offered as a writer who, in his appreciation of Blake, stands apart from the poets linked to the anthology, Children of Albion (1969). The article unpacks this distinction, analysing Sinclair’s ‘topographic’ take in comparison to the ‘visionary’ mode of his contemporaries. Having established this dualism, the argument then questions the nature of the visionary poetics assumed to apply to the likes of key poets from the era. The work of Michael Horovitz is brought into view, as is that of Harry Fainlight. In essence, these multiple discourses point to the plurality of Blake as a figure of influence and the variation underpinning his literary utility in post-1960s poetry.

Bulletin of the John Rylands Library