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Explorations in Cultural History

Explorations in Cultural History

T.G. Ashplant
Gerry Smyth
Copyright Date: 2001
Published by: Pluto Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Explorations in Cultural History
    Book Description:

    History is an invention in the present, as much as a representation and interpretation of the past. This has opened up innovative approaches to the research and writing of history, and it is the two ideas central to this theme - that culture is historically conditioned and history culturally conditioned – that this book explores. Both theoretical and practical in its approach, this volume explains the development of cultural history, and its impact on current teaching. Part One examines the ways in which conceptions of historical meaning have been challenged via developments in a range of disciplines (including literary and linguistic theory, history, sociology, anthropology, media and cultural studies). Part Two looks at four case studies drawn from America and Britain: the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial, the music of the Beatles, the social documentary of George Orwell, and the political polemics of nineteenth-century British radical women.

    eISBN: 978-1-84964-521-8
    Subjects: Anthropology
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. v-vii)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. viii-viii)
  3. Preface and Acknowledgements (pp. ix-xi)
    • 1 Schools, Methods, Disciplines, Influences (pp. 3-62)
      T.G. Ashplant and Gerry Smyth

      In the nineteenth century, the main focus of historical writing was the nation-state and its activities. Hence the core of the emerging historical discipline lay in the connected areas of political and constitutional history, with their necessary adjuncts of diplomatic and military history. The twentieth century has seen a massive diversification of the discipline. Starting with economic history, which became strongly established between the wars, this process has since 1945 seen the development of an ever-growing number of specialist subdisciplines – such as social history, labour history, family history, women’s history, black history – between them tackling the history of...

    • 2 ‘What right have women to interfere with politics?’: The Address of the Female Political Union of Birmingham to the Women of England (1838) (pp. 65-100)
      Helen Rogers

      The role of language and culture in the formation of individual and collective identities has been one of the major preoccupations of historians of society and politics since the 1960s. At the heart of this enquiry lie the questions: are political and social discourses shaped by the relations of power which structure society; or, conversely, are power relations themselves the effects of those discourses? In British historiography, nowhere have these questions been the subject of more debate and controversy than in the study of nineteenth-century popular culture and politics and especially the language and meanings of radicalism. Historians have contended...

    • 3 ‘A secret conviction that nothing can be changed’, or ‘Abolishing a part of yourself’?: George Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier (1937) (pp. 101-138)
      T.G. Ashplant

      George Orwell’sThe Road to Wigan Pier(1937), continuously in print since its first publication, has attained something akin to iconic status with regard to both its author and its society. IfAnimal FarmandNineteen Eighty-Fourrepresent Orwell the political novelist, thenWigan Pierrepresents Orwell the social critic and political polemicist. Similarly,Wigan Pieracts as a shorthand for representations of Britain during the Depression of the 1930s.¹ Yet, like much of Orwell’s work, its meaning and value have been fiercely debated by both contemporaries and later critics (as recently by Pearce, 1997). This chapter will sketch different...

    • 4 ‘A black gash of shame’, or ‘The wings of an abstract bird’?: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial (1982) (pp. 139-168)
      Joanna Price

      On 13 November 1982 the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC (hereafter the VVM) was formally dedicated, seven years after American ‘advisers’ were finally withdrawn from Saigon. The idea of the memorial had been conceived as a private initiative by a Vietnam veteran, and although it was eventually built on a site of national prominence, its construction was privately funded. The design of the memorial generated an intense controversy, which resonated with still unresolved feelings surrounding America’s involvement in the Vietnam War.

      A public memorial is traditionally required to justify, through its symbolism, the losses that a nation has sustained...

    • 5 ‘I’d Love to Turn You On’: The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) (pp. 169-198)
      Gerry Smyth

      The purpose of this chapter is to offer a cultural historical analysis ofSgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band(hereafterPepper), a long-playing record released by the Beatles on 1 June 1967. (I follow most accounts in citing the official release date, although Lewisohn (1987, p. 90) – the nearest there is to an ‘official’ Beatles historian – writes that it was ‘rush-released’ five days earlier.) Musically, the album has been enormously influential and is widely cited as the most important, if not the ‘best’, collection of songs produced in the pop/rock idiom (Frith, 1992, p. 62; Joynson, 1996, p....

  6. Index (pp. 199-207)