I research, therefore I am

Sepoy at Chapati Mystery is holding Dissertation Week

I will post various bits and pieces of my dissertation. I urge my readers who are in the academy, writing, researching their dissertations or major papers to have at least one post on their material next week. If possible, show us the nitty-gritty; some source selection or some analysis of the secondary literature. If you do participate, please share your link with me.

(If you have any lingering fears about people ‘stealing’ your ideas if you blog your research, make sure you read this from Culture Cat, OK?)

By pure coincidence, I’d just posted the latest document when I read sepoy’s call to action. But this is a great excuse to let you into more of what I’m doing at the moment (as other bloggers have commented, blogging on it seems to be helping to get some ideas flowing, thankfully). This (accepted) proposal for a conference paper seems as good an introduction as any (following George’s example, in fact) …

‘Common quarrellers’ and disputing neighbours: everyday violence in its local contexts in seventeenth-century southern Britain

The emphasis of much scholarship on violence in the early modern period has been on the extreme and rare crime of homicide. This paper uses the exceptionally rich legal sources of seventeenth-century Cheshire and north-east Wales to explore more common, ‘mundane’ violence (though occasionally with fatal consequences) in southern Britain and place it in its local, social and legal contexts. Thus, the concern is to explore both ‘practice’ and ‘representation’, behaviour and attitudes, and the ways in which they met in the law courts. Firstly, I examine the frequently intertwined use of law and violence, by both men and women, in disputes that often revolved around household livelihoods and reputations, from urban workshops to upland commons. However, the language of accusations against ‘bad neighbours’ of violent and disruptive behaviour is scrutinised; delving deeper into the archives often provides evidence that these should not be taken at face value. I therefore explore the range of legal strategies available (to both victims and aggressors) under these circumstances and their aims in turning to law courts, including the possible extent to which such use of the law might have been ‘vexatious’. I also examine violent and abusive responses to interventions by authorities, and the not-so-clear lines between ‘plebeian legalism’ and resistance to the authority of the law. Finally, some comparisons with the more heavily-studied counties of south-eastern England will be considered, to address the question of whether this border region could justly be regarded as a ‘dark corner’ of the land (or one that was growing less ‘dark’ as the century wore on) in terms of the use of and attitudes to violent behaviour and ‘the law’.

For ‘Assaulting the Past: Placing Violence in Historical Context’, Oxford, July 2005. This was the CFP:

Recent scholarship has expanded our knowledge and understanding of the rate at which interpersonal violence (particularly homicide) occurred in early modern Western Europe, showing that its incidence and classification are inextricably linked to the wider social forces operating in any given period or region. This conference seeks to build on such work by approaching the theme from a variety of historical perspectives centred on the notion of place. It will consider the factors evident at other times and in other geographical areas, examine the spaces in which quotidian acts of violence (as opposed to political or military violence) might flourish, and show how these change with time, location, education, modernization, etc., to create an international, comparative and qualitative assessment of violent behaviour and the experience of violence in the post medieval period.

By drawing together the various strands of thought explored by historians (of crime and gender, law and society, science and medicine) and social scientists (criminologists, geographers, psychologists and sociologists), and expanding upon them, it is hoped that a body of findings relevant to the study of violence and its place in modern society will emerge. Papers of an interdisciplinary nature are particularly encouraged.

I’ll try to explain a bit more later. Mind you, I’m already thinking this is one of those over-optimistic proposals sent off in a moment of crazy enthusiasm; am I really likely to fit all that in 30 minutes?

By the way, I’ve decided that I need a side-project that isn’t about people beating the hell out of each other (or claiming that they did, even). Just article-sized; something that doesn’t need vast amounts of new research (so we’re still talking 16th-18th century England and/or Wales). Maybe going back to my interests in women’s autobiographies. Maybe something literary or on religion. Any bright ideas?

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2 Responses to I research, therefore I am

  1. sepoy says:

    Thanks for the link to the academic blogging “concerns” at Culture Cat. Not that it crossed my mind (hey, if someone wants to go read 14th c. persian texts, more the merrier). Your proposal looks quite intriguing. A friend recently finished her anthro diss. that dealt with ‘everyday” violence in Karachi during the 80s. Though she used interviews instead of legal documents (those hip anthropologists).
    30min!! We get 20 if we are real lucky. I am presenting in a few weeks and will put my proposal up.
    See, blogging which I did for FUN can ALSO become WORK. sigh.

  2. Sharon says:

    20 is more usual; but this one definitely says 30. Which is nice, but I still think I’d be lucky to get in everything in the proposal. Sometimes you hear of 15 minute papers – now that really is getting silly.

    Yeah, I think one’s attitude to ‘thieves’ does depend on the likelihood of it actually happening… I’m with you: if anyone wanted to come and slog their way through these court records, they’d be more than welcome. Just about everything I work with is classed as ‘public records’ anyway and has at some point been looked at by somebody (if only the archivist cataloguing it) – there are no big secrets here.

    I’ve been nicking ideas from anthropologists for years (worshipping at the shrine of Bourdieu); they are pretty much the coolest people in academia who aren’t historians.

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