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Past & Present
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  Hybrid Journal Hybrid journal (It can contain Open Access articles)
ISSN (Print) 0031-2746 - ISSN (Online) 1477-464X
Published by Oxford University Press Homepage  [406 journals]
  • Rejecting Catastrophe: The Case of the Justinianic Plague*
    • Authors: Mordechai L; Eisenberg M.
      Pages: 3 - 50
      Abstract: AbstractRecent research has increasingly argued that the Justinianic Plague was an unparallelled demographic catastrophe which killed half the population of the Mediterranean world and led to the end of Antiquity. This article re-examines the evidence and reconsiders whether this interpretation is justified. It builds upon an array of interdisciplinary research that includes literary and non-literary primary sources, archaeological excavations, DNA research, disaster studies and resilience frameworks. Each type of primary source material is critically reassessed and contextualized in light of current research. By drawing upon this interdisciplinary foundation, the article demonstrates that the evidence for the catastrophic maximalist interpretation of plague is weak, ambiguous and should be rejected. The article also makes use of the Third Pandemic as a comparative case study, and considers how the metanarratives of plague in contemporary society influence research on the subject. It concludes that the Justinianic Plague had an overall limited effect on late antique society. Although on some occasions the plague might have caused high mortality in specific places, leaving strong impressions on contemporaries, it neither caused widespread demographic decline nor kept Mediterranean populations low. Any direct mid- or long-term effects of plague were minor at most.
      PubDate: Sat, 13 Jul 2019 00:00:00 GMT
      DOI: 10.1093/pastj/gtz009
      Issue No: Vol. 244, No. 1 (2019)
  • Speaking for the People in Early Modern England*
    • Authors: Coast D.
      Pages: 51 - 88
      Abstract: AbstractThe voice of the people is assumed to have carried little authority in early modern England. Elites often caricatured the common people as an ignorant multitude and demanded their obedience, deference and silence. Hostility to the popular voice was an important element of contemporary political thought. However, evidence for a very different set of views can be found in numerous polemical tracts written between the Reformation and the English Civil War. These tracts claimed to speak for the people, and sought to represent their alleged grievances to the monarch or parliament. They subverted the rules of petitioning by speaking for ‘the people’ as a whole and appealing to a wide audience, making demands for the redress of grievances that left little room for the royal prerogative. In doing so, they contradicted stereotypes about the multitude, arguing that the people were rational, patriotic and potentially better informed about the threats to the kingdom than the monarch themselves. ‘Public opinion’ was used to confer legitimacy on political and religious demands long before the mass subscription petitioning campaigns of the 1640s.
      PubDate: Wed, 31 Jul 2019 00:00:00 GMT
      DOI: 10.1093/pastj/gtz024
      Issue No: Vol. 244, No. 1 (2019)
  • The Politics of A Modest Proposal: Swift and the Irish Crisis of the Late
    • Authors: McBride I.
      Pages: 89 - 122
      Abstract: AbstractSwift’s Modest Proposal (1729) is widely regarded as the most brilliant satire in the English language, but its political context has never been properly explored. Some literary scholars have presented the tract as a parody of political economy; others have concentrated on the imputation of cannibalism, the distinguishing mark of the savage, which Swift redirects away from the natives towards the English settlers and their descendants. But nobody has convincingly related A Modest Proposal to the Irish parliamentary debates and pamphlet discussions of the late 1720s, when three successive harvest failures led to food riots in southern ports, large-scale emigration from the north, and thousands of deaths. Nor has anyone seriously investigated Swift’s hatred of the Irish landlord class, which provides A Modest Proposal with its most powerful, animating grievance.During the 1720s disputes over estate management, leasing practices and the relative merits of tillage and pastoral agriculture reflected the spiralling sense that the colonial mission of Ireland’s Protestant elite was on the point of collapse. Swift joined other patriotic commentators in deploring the conversion of arable land to pasture and the resultant expulsion of communities of villagers. Political economists marshalled statistics to demonstrate that human tenants could be as profitable as livestock. A dramatic deterioration in relations between Ireland’s clerical intelligentsia and the landed elite encouraged a distinct strain of social criticism among Anglican clergymen, who blamed landowners for depopulating the countryside ‐ something that Swift repeatedly associated with those barbarous man-eaters of ancient times, the Scythians. For a century and a half the cultivation of Irish soil had been a barometer of the civilising process; consequently the figure of the grazier had become for Swift the epitome of Irish perversity and self-destruction.
      PubDate: Wed, 05 Jun 2019 00:00:00 GMT
      DOI: 10.1093/pastj/gtz015
      Issue No: Vol. 244, No. 1 (2019)
  • The Swedish Sonderweg in Question: Democratization and Inequality in
           Comparative Perspective, c.1750–1920*
    • Authors: Bengtsson E.
      Pages: 123 - 161
      Abstract: AbstractDuring the twentieth century, Sweden became known as a country with an unusually egalitarian distribution of income and wealth, an encompassing welfare state, and an exceptionally strong social democracy. It is commonplace among historians and social scientists to consider these equal outcomes of the twentieth century as the logical end result of a much longer historical trajectory of egalitarianism, from early modern free peasant farmers or from a peculiar Swedish political culture that was egalitarian and consensus-oriented. This article questions the Swedish interpretation of Sonderweg. In 1900, Sweden had some of the most unequal voting laws in western Europe, and more severe economic inequality than the United States. This throws the purported continuity from early modern equality to social democratic equality into question. The roots of twentieth-century Swedish egalitarianism lie in exceptionally well-organized popular movements after 1870, with a strong egalitarian counter-hegemonic culture and unusually broad popular participation in politics.
      PubDate: Mon, 27 May 2019 00:00:00 GMT
      DOI: 10.1093/pastj/gtz010
      Issue No: Vol. 244, No. 1 (2019)
  • A Microhistory of the Global Empire of Cotton: Ivanovo, The ‘Russian
    • Authors: Smith A.
      Pages: 163 - 193
      Abstract: AbstractThe serf village of Ivanovo became one of the major centres of cotton production in tsarist Russia. This unexpected juxtaposition of serfdom and the beginnings of capitalist industry has made Ivanovo into an object of curiosity within histories of the Russian economy and of Russian serfdom. Thinking about Ivanovo as both a site of microhistory–the study of the ‘typical exception’–and as part of the global world of cotton both helps to explain Ivanovo’s development and helps to disrupt the notion of distinct phases of economic development that necessarily go along with distinct phases of political development. This article focuses on one period of Ivanovo’s history: a period beginning in the late 1820s, when Ivanovo’s owner, Count Sheremetev, began to manumit some of his wealthy serf industrialists. Many of them remained in the village and continued to produce the cotton calico that had already brought them their wealth and the village its fame. Although a feeling of a village society divided into separate classes had already begun to develop, this process gave new form to that development. In particular, the very institutional form of serfdom helped to create a stronger vision of a separate working class and industrial class.
      PubDate: Sat, 13 Jul 2019 00:00:00 GMT
      DOI: 10.1093/pastj/gtz017
      Issue No: Vol. 244, No. 1 (2019)
  • Sounds of Loss: Church Bells, Place, and Time in the Habsburg Empire
           During the First World War*
    • Authors: Morelon C.
      Pages: 195 - 234
      Abstract: AbstractThis article examines the rupture created by the First World War in towns and villages of the Habsburg Empire by focusing on the requisition of church bells, which were melted for the production of munitions. Bells performed an important social function for both rural and urban populations in the early twentieth century. They gathered communities at important times, stood as symbols of local identity, and gave a structure to the days and lives of rural inhabitants. Their removal generated an intense emotional response among parishioners, which is documented in newspapers, parish newsletters or chronicles, and petitions to the Ministry of Religion. These various reactions shed light on the difficult conciliation between local identity, religiosity, and imperial patriotism during the war. The requisitions contributed to the de-legitimization process experienced by the Habsburg Empire at the end of the war, as well as in the disruption of soundscapes in the region. The sense of time was also disturbed as daily rhythms, religious celebrations, and death rituals changed. This exploration of material culture draws on insights from the history of emotions and sensory history to study the changes in the sense of place that the war provoked in local communities.
      PubDate: Thu, 16 May 2019 00:00:00 GMT
      DOI: 10.1093/pastj/gtz006
      Issue No: Vol. 244, No. 1 (2019)
  • Good Reading for the Million: The ‘Paperback Revolution’ And the
           Co-Production of Academic Knowledge in Mid Twentieth-Century Britain and
    • Authors: Mandler P.
      Pages: 235 - 269
      Abstract: AbstractThe serious non-fiction paperback was one of the principal vehicles for the distribution of expert knowledge in the mid 20th century. This paper examines the market for serious non-fiction in both the US and the UK between the 1930s and the 1960s, by looking at the market leaders in the two countries, Pelican and Mentor Books, published by Penguin and New American Library respectively. It argues that novel modes of distribution and acts of selection by authors, publishers and readers constituted a process of the co-production of knowledge that problematizes views of mid-century expertise as expressions of governmentality. Different patterns of distribution and market demand in the two countries shed further light on who read, what they read and for what purpose.
      PubDate: Sat, 11 May 2019 00:00:00 GMT
      DOI: 10.1093/pastj/gtz005
      Issue No: Vol. 244, No. 1 (2019)
  • 1989 At Thirty: A Recast Legacy*
    • Authors: Betts P.
      Pages: 271 - 305
      Abstract: AbstractThese days 1989 isn't what it used to be. Not so long ago the wildfire revolutions that swept across Eastern Europe during that momentous year were routinely celebrated as the grand victory of liberal democracy over Soviet-style communism. However, recent developments in Poland, Hungary and elsewhere on the continent which in various ways all invoked 1989, either as inspiration or negative foil, behove us to reconsider the effects of that fateful year in Central Europe from a different perspective. The rise of xenophobia, resurgent populist politics on both the Radical Right and the Left, as well as the spread of ‘illiberal democracy’ across Europe, the US and elsewhere have predictably generated great alarm. Plenty of commentary on the comeback of authoritarian anti-liberalism in Central Europe has claimed that we are witnessing a kind of ‘return of the repressed,’ a dangerous repudiation of the golden principles of 1989 three decades after the uprisings. But construing recent developments in Central Europe as simply an anti-1989 backlash does not get us very far, not least because the unrest of 1989 carried within it the seeds of illiberalism as well. With distance, the inheritance of the ‘revolutionary autumn’ appears more mixed and precarious, and much harder to classify than it once was. Like all revolutions, 1989 brought in its train a mixed bag of dreams and disappointments, stark ruptures and stubborn continuities, and this article revisits some of the grey and even darker tones of the inheritance.
      PubDate: Sat, 13 Jul 2019 00:00:00 GMT
      DOI: 10.1093/pastj/gtz016
      Issue No: Vol. 244, No. 1 (2019)
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