Ballot Box 0

African Democracy – Writing history as it unfolds

At the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, forty-two out of forty-seven Sub-Saharan African countries had authoritarian regimes without seriously competitive elections. By 1994, not one had a one-party state, and thirty-eight had held competitive elections. Historians of post-colonial Africa have inevitably been preoccupied with attempting to explain how...

Shirley Summerskill 0

A spotlight on Dr Shirley Summerskill

Dr Shirley Catherine Wynne Summerskill, Labour politician for Halifax (1964–1983), was born on the 9th September 1931 to Edith Summerskill MP and Dr E Jeffrey Samuel. Before her entrance into Westminster in October 1964 (succeeding Conservative Maurice Macmillan MP in Halifax) Summerskill worked as a General Practitioner, which was reflected...

The Murderous Midwife 0

Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know: English Midwives in the late 17th Century

Midwives posed a serious problem in seventeenth-century England. Excluded from formal medical training, these women were largely lower-class and self-taught, working from experience rather than theory. According to the elite doctors of the 1690s, this made them a threat: their ignorance and negligence endangered the women they delivered, and their...

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Art as a tool of historic preservation

Since the Renaissance, art has been an important tool for recording the physical and built environment for posterity. In fact, historian Rosemary Sweet claims that the act of taking ‘notes and drawings of any and all antiquities before they were lost’ was understood to be an act of preservation in...

Edith Summerskill Pathe Video Screenshot 0

Mrs, Dr, MP: Pathé Close-Up of Dr Edith Summerskill

  British Pathé has a wealth of videos which provide a window into the history of modern Britain. For the Research Challenge, as part of the MPhil in Modern British History MPhil here at Cambridge, our course directors invited us to select a video from this archive and historicise it....

Professor Tux in the library 0

Professor Penguin? Linux for Academic Historians

The Linux operating system has long been a favourite of computer scientists, security professionals, hackers and server administrators, but those working in the humanities have mostly remained oblivious to its advantages. The system has a great deal to offer the historian, however: philosophically, practically and (crucially) financially. It is in...

National_Theatre,_London 0

History as theatre

Last term, I co-directed a play entitled ‘The Cambridge Companion to the History of Lesbianism’. Working from a discarded dissertation idea, I led a team of researchers in uncovering a wealth of historical material about the lives of lesbians and same-sex desire between women in British history. Working on this...