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Research Update: Remembering the Reformation

Chris Langley gives us an update on some of his research plans for the summer. 


In April 2007, John Bon Jovi released one of his less-than-stellar singles entitled ‘You want to make a memory’. To cut a long story short, while performing adequately in the US singles’ chart, it was never going to reach the lofty heights of his earlier, one-haircut-for-twenty-years, approach to feel-good anthems. The thing is, and I don’t say this often, I don’t think Bon Jovi got the full picture. Memories aren’t just made: they’re developed, remade, recycled and viewed from different angles by different stakeholders. Mr Bon Jovi, to quote an earlier, more triumphant record of his, was only half way there.

This summer, among other things, I’m pushing on with a project about how contemporaries remembered the religious Reformation of the sixteenth and early seventeenth century. While this will eventually take the form of an article, I think there’s something bigger in it.

Historians have spent a lot of time trying to establish how early-Modern Protestants answered the perennial, and annoying, question posed to them by their Catholic adversaries: ‘where was your religion before Luther?’ Or, to quote Bruce Gordon (not quite John Bon Jovi) ‘where had their Church been for a thousand years?’ Much of the writing on this has revealed how Protestant reformers were particularly adept at searching through archives, dredging up old nationalistic myths and looking for exemplars of their type of piety. Sola fide and based on scripture, naturally. The thing is, once you get into the seventeenth century, we know remarkably little about what contemporaries thought about their immediate predecessors. From a Scottish context, this is particularly frustrating: in the one corner we have figures like John Knox and in the other we have the Covenanters. Never the twain shall meet.

A copy of the National Covenant, 1638
After 1638, Covenanter leaders moved quickly to write histories of the Scottish Church that legitimised their actions in protesting against the Crown. In this process, Covenanters struggled to agree over the true significance of their actions. Were events of their own time a second reformation, a restoration of the glories of the first or a rescue of the Scottish Church from the tyrannies of an episcopal settlement? More radical thinkers like Archibald Johnston of Wariston positioned themselves as potential martyrs for a new cause, while others struggled to evaluate the role of the Stuart family in the process of reform. By the middle of the 1640s a loose unity emerged: one that identified the mid-seventeenth century as part of a process of renewal whereby protest was legitimised by the courageous actions of early reformers like Knox.

This loose historiographical coherence shattered in the 1650s. Faced with the threat of schism and uncertain over how to proceed with Charles II, Scottish preachers diverged on their understanding of the historical significance of the sixteenth century. While all sides agreed that the sixteenth century was of great importance, they diverged on the extent to which the human element of the Church could err and, therefore, the legality of further protest. They could not agree on the extent to which ministers could dissent in a truly reformed Church. The examples of reformers in the past became a point of contention. In response, theologians like James Wood at St Andrews University distinguished between ‘protest against, or dissent from some particular acts and constitutions of a general Assembly’ on the one hand and cases when ‘a generall Assembly it self is protested against, and declined as unlawfull and having no authority at all’. Wood concluded that the latter – and the schism that would inevitably result – was something that ‘godly orthodox Christians in all ages of the Kirk detested and abhorred’. This was a battle royale for the memory of the Reformation. Or, as one pamphlet from 1652 put it, a search for Reformation in the ‘literall and genuine sense and meaning thereof’. What that meant in practice had become increasingly contested.

“A Vindication of the Freedom & Lawfulnes of the Late Generall Assembly” (London, 1652)
This sort of thing gives us food for thought. As the recent events across the globe have shown us, one’s initial thought on a subject can rapidly change. Shifts in the political landscape can have profound changes on how one reflects on previous acts. Memories and reflections are context-specific constructions: we should beware of thinking that such things, even in the past, were rigid and unchanging.

Research Update: Religion & the War on Poverty

Emma Folwell gives us an update on her research so far and what she plans to do over the summer. Vacation? What vacation?!

This year I’ve been exploring the relationship between religion and the War on Poverty. Building on my work on the white resistance to the War on Poverty in Mississippi, I’ve been looking to understand the Catholic Church’s response to the arrival of federal anti-poverty funds in the state. The Catholic Church in Mississippi was (and still is) a small minority of the state’s heavily church-going population, and in the early 1960s black Catholics were a minority within this minority. But I’ve found that many black Catholics and some white Catholics were active in civil rights struggles and even more involved in the state’s War on Poverty. The Church and a number of individual activists played a significant role in shaping one of the biggest anti-poverty programs in the state, a job training and adult education program called Strategic Training and Redevelopment.

In April, I attended the annual conference of the British Association for American Studies at Canterbury Christ Church University in order to share my research. It was a great conference in a beautiful location, made even better by the glorious sunshine. Unfortunately the end of semester delayed my arrival, but I was able to hear Prof. Marjorie Spruill give an incredible keynote address about her work on women’s rights in the 1970s. I was also able to hear some fascinating papers from colleagues on the latest research into civil rights activism – from the airport desegregation campaigns of the early 1960s to police brutality and sexual violence against African American women.

 Looking forward, this summer I’ll be working on final edits to my monograph, Fighting the War on Poverty and preparing for some very exciting conferences I’ll be attending in Dallas in November and Washington DC in January. More details to follow!

For more on Emma Folwell ‘s work, check out her profile page on the Newman website.

Call for Papers: Humanities Research Seminar Series, 2017/18

Newman Humanities Research Centre Seminar Series, 2017-18

CALL FOR PAPERS 

 

Many thanks to everyone who presented in 2016-17. We’d like to invite submissions from colleagues for research papers for the Humanities Seminar Series, 2017-18. 

Do you have a project you would like to enter into REF 2020? Is it a more than a year since you shared work with colleagues, and could you use some feedback on your ideas? If so we’d love to hear from you! Please email Kate Katafiasz or Juliette Harrisson with your title, abstract, and a brief bio, letting us know if you’d rather present earlier or later in the academic year.

Is there an external speaker you would like to invite to give a paper? Please send us their name and details so that we can contact them. 

We aim to publish the dates of the 12 seminars in the series early in September, so the deadline for suggested speakers and proposed papers is August 1st. 
We look forward to hearing from you soon!​

Dissertation of the Year: Ellie Carter

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Rosie Doody & Ellie Carter

Ellie Carter, runner-up for Dissertation of the Year 2017, tells us more about her work and her advice for dissertation students in the future.

My dissertation traced the development of the anti-Vietnam war protest movement between 1965 and 1968 in America. It analysed the links that had developed with the civil rights movement and the influence this had on the politics of President’s Johnson and Nixon. 

Throughout the dissertation, I considered the role student activism, the media, and patriotism had on the development of the movement. Chapter One explored the growth of the movement between 1965-1967. By assessing the impact the movement had on Johnson’s policies, this chapter argued that the movement had not yet gained mass support, but was slowly growing. In Chapter Two I considered the growth of the movement in early 1968, arguing the Tet offensive in January provided the opportunity to mobilise mass support which the movement failed to do. Chapter Three focused on the demise of the movement under the Nixon era. It highlighted the violence used by the protestors caused a conservative backlash and resulted in the election of Richard Nixon. The dissertation concluded by arguing FBI infiltration under Nixon took the momentum out of the anti-war movement.

The main advice I would give to future dissertation students is to set yourself realistic deadlines and stick to them. This ensures you do not get too stressed out in the weeks leading to the deadline and leaves room to complete your other assignments. I would also advise starting your bibliography straight away so that you can just add to it, rather than having to do the whole thing at the end. Finally don’t ignore the lecturers- they provide a lot of support. Even if you are struggling to write the dissertation, talk to them as they offer great advice but only if you ask for it. ​

Finalists’ Lunch, 2 June 2017

To celebrate all of their hard work over the last three years, we held the annual finalists’ lunch today. Have a look at some of the pictures from the event below. 

 

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Dissertation Prize Winners and Supervisors, 2017: (Left to right) Ellie Carter, Dr Emma Folwell, Dr Charlotte Lewandowski, Aimee Thompson, Dr Ian Cawood, Dale Clayton, Dr Chris Langley

We were delighted to announce the winners of our annual dissertation prizes. After some serious consideration – and following a wide range of outstanding submissions – we awarded the prizes to:

 

Dissertation of the Year (Winner): Dale Clayton

Dissertation of the Year (Proxime Accessit): Ellie Carter

Chris Upton Dissertation Prize: Aimee Thompson

 

 

 

We congratulate these students – and their peers – for their fantastic work. Their work, as is custom, will be deposited in the Newman University library for consultation.

 

 

 

 

Conference Report: The Clergy in Early Modern Scotland

Sponsored by Newman University, Birmingham, the University of Edinburgh, the Society for Renaissance Studies and the Royal Historical Society, the Clergy in Early Modern Scotland conference took place at New College, University of Edinburgh, in May 2017. Here’s an update.

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Catherine E. McMillan opening the conference

The Clergy in Early Modern Scotland conference took place at New College, University of Edinburgh, in May 2017. Bringing together postgraduate, ECR and more established scholars, the conference explored the changing, sometime divisive, nature of clergy, their families and beliefs in early modern Scotland.

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Russell Newton introducing the work of Claire McNulty

 

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From left to right: Jamie Reid Baxter, Paul Goatman and Steven Reid take questions from the audience

 

Divided into three roughly chronological strands, speakers explored sixteenth century parish politics, the unsettling period of the post-Restoration period, and a more thematic look at types of clerical exchange in the final session. A closing roundtable, led by John McCallum (Nottingham Trent) and Steven Reid (Glasgow) completed the conference with a more open discussion.

 

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Ex-president of the Scottish Church History Society, Andrew Muirhead

 

The conference built on recent interest in grassroots religious change to explore the lived experiences of the clergy in the parish context. Delegates were struck by the interconnected nature of ministers in their parish setting. As one delegate expressed, this context ‘gets through the stereotypes and through to the human complexity’ of the clergy. The clergy were intimately plugged into their communities – part of wider socio-economic networks with neighbours, patrons and members of the nobility. Ministers were not simply conduits of homogeneous theological ideas. Their individual beliefs were forced to interact with a whole host of parish contexts so, despite their vaunted status, clerics remained wedded to the peculiar circumstances of their parishes.

 

 

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A blurry shot of Jamie McDougall

 

Clerical relationships could criss-cross regions – opening clerics up to a raft of different influences and friendships. For example, Jamie Reid-Baxter (Glasgow) showed how manuscript poetry, penned by Andrew Melville and others, passed between ‘godly’ circles in Fife. Relationships between these networks were complex, full of gossip and efforts to cultivate the right image of godliness as Felicity Maxwell (NUI, Galway) showed in her fascinating paper on John Durie and Dorothy Moore. These connections were critical in shaping religious observance and the shape of local ministries. For example, as Paul Goatman (Glasgow) showed in his paper, some patrons (heritors, in the Scottish context) had long-standing links with particular universities that influenced the types of preacher they sought for their parishes.

 

This approach has important consequences for how Reformation scholars understand factionalism, anticlericalism and religious change. In a Scottish context, appreciating the lived complexity of the ministry raises questions about the labels we so often deploy: from the start of the ‘inchoate’ and ‘chaotic nature of the initial Reformed settlement discussed by Steven Reid (Glasgow) to the upheavals of the mid- to -late-seventeenth century. Panels at the conference explored the near futility of defining a ‘Covenanted’ minister in the mid-seventeenth century and the range of opinions ministers could develop when faced with a political or theological challenge. Jamie McDougall (Glasgow) implored listeners to develop ways of assessing ‘degrees of conformity’ rather than binary distinctions between ‘conformist’ and ‘nonconformist’. Ben Rogers (Edinburgh) and Andrew Muirhead (ex-President of the Scottish Church History Society) underlined how ministers developed coping mechanisms to deal with potentially thorny issues arising from the religious settlement after 1692.

 

There is one note of caution, though. The ministry was not the only agent of religious change in this complex system of relationships. As Claire McNulty (Queen’s, Belfast) showed, parishioners could also serve to police key aspects of discipline – like access to the annual communion celebration. Moreover, as discussion in the closing roundtable suggested, church courts (staffed by lay elders and deacons) could also interact in complex ways with both the presiding minister and other members of the laity. While kirk sessions were meant to augment and extend clerical influence, a minister’s agency could be subtly changed by interactions with prominent elders. This layer of interaction is ripe for further discussion.

 

Overall, The Clergy in Early Modern Scotland conference enmeshed the minister into his parish. It served to weaken some of the unfortunate stereotypes that have haunted studies of Scottish religiosity while emphasising lesser-appreciated influences: clerical wives, families, neighbours and friends. Ministers were not conduits of change or reformers who came read-made to implement change. They interacted with, and were moved by, their parish contexts. The papers and panels at The Clergy in Early Modern Scotland underlined how we have far more to do to outline the processes of persuasion and negotiation proposed so eloquently by the likes of Margo Todd and Andrew Pettegree.

 

Chris R. Langley (Newman University, Birmingham), Catherine E. McMillan (Edinburgh), Russell Newton (Edinburgh)

Jackie Robinson

Seventy years ago today, Jackie Robinson broke the ‘color bar,’ becoming the first African American in the modern era to play major league baseball.

It was a monumental feat. Jim Crow – the legal separation of the races – ruled life in the South. African Americans who violated the legal and social codes of Jim Crow faced lynching, oppression and terror. In the north, while this legal framework was lacking, life for African Americans was still segregated – through de facto segregation of housing and education and lack of economic opportunity.

When Robinson began playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers on 15 April 1947, he knowingly accepted the prospect years of racial abuse and discrimination. During his first season – and beyond – insults were hurled at him by baseball players and fans and the wider public. Not only his role in desegregating the sport, but his grace in facing that torrent of abuse has secured Robinson’s legacy – as a baseball, sports and civil rights hero.

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Jackie Robinson, 1950. NARA Archives, ARC identifier: 6802718

The decision to integrate baseball was taken by Happy Chandler, who became the Commissioner of Baseball in 1945. Chandler was a former Senator and Governor of Kentucky who believed that “if [African-Americans] can fight and die on Okinawa, Guadalcanal (and) in the South Pacific, they can play ball in America” (Elias, 2010, p.164). Chandler was also under pressure to act: from the black press and black activists who were increasingly active during the war. Branch Rickey – the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers agreed with Chandler, and set out to find an African American baseball player who had the talent and the ability to withstand the inevitable attacks he would face. Jackie Robinson was called to a meeting with Rickey in August 1945 – when Rickey famously grilled Robinson on his ability to withstand racial abuse. Pressed repeatedly, Robinson asked Rickey “do you want a ballplayer who’s afraid to fight back?” Rickey responded “I want a ballplayer with guts enough not to fight back!” (Finkelman, 2009, p.236).

Robinson was that player. His commitment to non-violence in the face of countless racist epithets thrown at him by opponents and spectators was incredible. His courage and example was of monumental importance to later civil rights activists. Paying tribute to Robinson upon his induction into the Baseball hall of fame in 1962, Martin Luther King said: ‘‘back in the days when integration wasn’t fashionable [Robinson] underwent the trauma and the humiliation and the loneliness which comes with being a pilgrim walking the lonesome byways toward the high road of Freedom. He was a sit-inner before the sit-ins, a freedom rider before the Freedom Rides’’ (King, 1962).

To find out more, listen to this special edition of the podcast ‘It’s Not Rounders’ in which I talk about Jackie Robinson and his contribution to baseball and the civil rights movement.

-Emma Folwell

 

References:

Elias, R., (2010) The Empire Strikes Out: How Baseball Sold U.S. Foreign Policy and Promoted the American Way Abroad, New York: The New Press

Finkelman, P, (ed.) (2009), Encyclopedia of African American History: From the Age of Segregation to the Twenty-first Century: 1896 to the Present, Vol.1, Oxford: Oxford University Press

King, M. L., (1962), ‘Hall of Famer,’ New York Amsterdam News, 4 August. Available here: http://www.thekingcenter.org/archive/document/mlks-column-jackie-robinsons-induction-hall-fame

Cawood on Keble III

The final part of Ian Cawood’s report on life on sabbatical at Keble College, Oxford.


In Hilary Term 2017 I was fortunate enough to enjoy a Visiting Research Associateship at the Centre for Victorian Political Culture, based at Keble College, Oxford. Coming from Newman University in Birmingham, one of the newest and smallest universities in the UK (having achieved full university status in 2013) to the oldest university in the English speaking world, it was comforting to walk through Newman quad at Keble and to find busts and portraits of John Henry watching over me. Thanks to the sponsorship of Professor Angus Hawkins and the support of Dr Ian Archer and Dr Alisdair Rogers, I was able to enjoy the facilities of the Senior Common Room, which nourished me on the cold January and February days and where I was able to consider whether or not Nikolas Pevsner was right to call the wallpaper ‘a decidedly ladies’ paper’. I also spent much time in Butterfield’s library, opened by William Gladstone in April 1878, exploring the political, cultural and social history collection, before venturing out to the less inviting setting of the Gladstone Link beneath the Radcliffe Camera.

 Writing of Gladstone leads me onto the work I have been pursuing this Term. Gladstone famously pronounced himself an enemy of privilege and in favour of greater equality of opportunity. In his recent magisterial volume on Victorian Political Culture Angus Hawkins notes that the traditional view of a ‘liberal advance’ in mid- nineteenth century Britain includes ‘the replacement of patronage by a more meritocratic public ethos’, such as Gladstone espoused, in the administrative bodies of Victorian Britain. Recently, much work has been done on the growth of ethical values and professional self-denial in the higher civil service, particularly by Rodney Lowe and Barry O’Toole, but much of the process whereby this ethos became embedded throughout the civic realm remains largely uninvestigated. 

My research project looks more specifically at the ways in which a culture of patronage, ‘jobbery’, peculation and the misuse of public office was replaced by what Frank Carr terms ‘an intangible set of values’ and John Girling calls ‘the pursuit of virtue’; a collective, institutional sense of altruism and personal self-denial that has proved remarkably tenacious in the character of British civic culture, at least until the 1980s. This was already well established in 19th century Prussia, where the bureaucracy had developed a reputation for honest, efficient government, before it became somewhat distorted by the ambitious national and personal ambitions of Bismarck. The adoption of the ‘public service ethos’ sought to expunge the plague of corruption. In British public discourse, the word corruption originally had a religious significance, referring to the effects of sin upon the body, but increasingly in post- Enlightenment Europe it came to mean misuse of the political system or of individuals within it, arising from moral failure.

For the rest of Ian Cawood’s post, visit the pages of Keble’s Research Centre in Victorian Political Culture.

What makes Newman different?

Newman Florence Selfie

 

Last month, we asked our undergraduate students to tell us what they thought made their time at Newman most valuable. Here are just a few of the comments submitted by our current second-year students…

 

‘I would say that you all as lecturers make History at Newman special because of how approachable and generous of time you are to us. This is not always the case at other universities, but is something that I personally value a lot.’

 

Ben Whitehouse (Year 2, BA (Hons) History)

 

‘Assessment feedback; most of my friends [at other universities] envy the detailed feedback we get on our assignments.  I have shown a few friends my essays and feedback….we’re lucky!’

 

Solomon Lewis (Year 2, BA (Hons) History)

 

‘At Newman every member of the faculty knows you by name which allows you to feel at home and valued.’

 

Victoria Hingley (Year 2, BA (Hons) History)

 

 

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