The Musée d’Orsay in Paris has just opened an exhibition entitled ‘Le modèle noir De Géricault à Matisse,’ which attempts to restore the identities and perspectives of black figures depicted on canvas but largely written out of history. This article from the Washington Post focuses on one artwork in the exhibition. The painting by Marie-Guillemine Benoist has hung in the Louvre for decades under the title ‘Portrait of a black woman.’ In the new exhibition, the subject of the painting is named – it is entitled ‘Portrait of Madeleine’ because it is a portrait of an emancipated, formerly enslaved woman from Guadeloupe who worked in the home of the artist’s brother-in-law. The exhibition addresses France’s role in the slave trade and the manifestation of the debate over slavery in the arts of the period.
Marie-Guillemine Benoist, ‘Portrait d’une femme noire’ (1800), © Musée du Louvre
For more – click here for the Washington post article and here for the exhibition website.
In December 2018, the British Library completed the digitisation of The Barbados Mercury Gazette, funded through the endangered archives project. The digitisation team have previously written about different stages of the project; in this post the team divulge some more about the process of digitising this vital piece of Barbadian history.
The Mercury is a fantastic resource for exploring everyday life in eighteenth and nineteenth century Barbados – each issue is about 4 pages long and is replete with advertisements for consumer goods and real estate; runaway slave advertisements; shipping news; reports of community meetings and social events, and news cut-and-pasted from around the Atlantic world. To access the database, follow this link: Link to the Barbados Mercury online
Randy M. Browne is a historian of slavery and colonialism in the Atlantic world, especially the Caribbean. He is an Associate Professor of History at Xaverian University (Cincinnati). Surviving Slavery in the British Caribbean is his first book and he discusses it here with Jessica Parr.
via Q&A with Randy M. Browne, author of Surviving Slavery in the British Caribbean — The Junto
Fierce Girls is a podcast aimed at primary school girls, produced by ABC Radio in Australia. Each episode narrates the story of an Australian girl or woman—some historical figures, some in the recent past—who has somehow pushed beyond boundaries and achieved more than was expected of her.
The episodes are narrated by well-known Australian women, and include sound effects and some voice actors playing the role of the protagonist. This is at times a bit grating to the adult ear, but the variety of voices seems to keep children interested and propels the narrative along.
The standout episodes for me have been the historical ones—about World War II spy Nancy Wake, pilot Nancy Bird-Walton and ground-breaking Olympic swimmers Fanny Durack and Mina Wylie. Episodes about more recent events include Jessica Watson’s solo sailing voyage around the world and Cathy Freeman’s (brilliant!) run at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. I’ve mentioned a number of sportswomen and girls here, but Series 1 also covered social activists, indigenous women and women in education and the arts.
I recommend the podcast for children and adults—and I would say it is certainly not just for girls. The themes and issues raised (subtly) are universal. Children can spot a ‘moral of the story’ a mile away. For the most part, this podcast manages to tell great stories in an engaging way, raise some questions, and provide good fodder for discussion afterwards. Australian boys deserve to know about the exploits of these fierce girls just as much as Australian girls do.* We’re all in this together!
Series 2 is currently in production.
*Also no reason why this podcast wouldn’t translate internationally.
The Irish Passport, hosted by historian Tim McInerney and journalist Naomi O’Leary, is now into its second series. The aim of the podcast is to tie current events in Ireland to the history and culture that explain them. As a result, there is an underlying thread of politics to the series—think Brexit (primarily!) and more recently the referendum to repeal the 8th amendment of the Irish Constitution.
McInerney and O’Leary do a brilliant job, however, of unravelling the misconceptions which often swirl around Irish history and culture. In Series 1, the podcast investigated Britain’s ‘knowledge gap’ about Ireland, and in so doing provided a potted history of British/Irish relations going back hundreds of years. They also delved into the 1916 Easter Rising, the Great Hunger, the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and the recently uncovered scandal at the Tuam Mother and Baby Home. Other episodes focused on cultural issues such as the Irish language and folklore.
A word of warning about The Irish Passport—the episodes are long! Most episodes are about an hour long, although recently McInerney and O’Leary have begun publishing shorter Halfpint episodes, available only to subscribers.
I highly recommend the podcast for anyone interested in understanding the deeply complicated history of the island of Ireland, and its relationship with Britain, Europe and the Atlantic world. As well as providing a solid grounding in Irish history and culture, the podcast will entertain you. The hosts may be rigorous in their research, but they are charming in their delivery. After a while, I suspect most listeners don’t mind the hour+ running time!
Ben Franklin’s World is a weekly podcast hosted by Dr Liz Covart which focuses on the early American colonial period, broadly conceived. The topics covered over the 3+ years of the podcast are varied, and are only rarely connected with the subject of Benjamin Franklin himself.
Most episodes take the form of a detailed interview with an academic historian, usually centred around a book the historian has published. Covart’s skill as a podcaster is in keeping the conversation accessible to a generalist audience, but also in delving deep into the historical issues at play. The breadth of historical approaches (eg. social history, cultural history, history of ideas) covered by the podcast is impressive, exposing listeners to a variety of historical methodologies as well as some downright fascinating stories. There have been occasional interviews with public historians – one of which was the very first episode in which Covart went behind the stacks at the Library Company of Philadelphia, which was founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1731.
In conjunction with the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture Covart has released two Doing History series within the podcast. Season 1 (2016) was entitled How Historians Work and focused on how scholars frame historical problems; research in different kinds of archives; analyse primary materials including text, objects, and images; synthesize and critically engage secondary literature; present their work for collaborative feedback; and work with editors and publishers. Series 2 (2017), To The Revolution, built on Season 1’s discussions and demonstrated how differently scholars approach, understand, and portray the events comprising the American Revolution. I highly recommend the Doing History Series to undergraduate and postgraduate students, but also to those pursuing their own non-academic research and writing.
The show notes accompanying each episode summarise the interview and include links to the interviewee’s work and other resources discussed during the episode. The show notes also helpfully link to complementary episodes of Ben Franklin’s World, allowing listeners to delve into other discussions around the topic.
Ben Franklin’s World has won many awards. It currently stands as the reigning best history podcast and performs in the top 7 percent of all podcasts. A key to the show’s success is its accessibility. The podcast can be enjoyed by those inside and outside of academia. Covart’s goal with Ben Franklin’s World has always been to make great scholarly history available to people outside the profession—she has certainly achieved that goal, and the show goes from strength to strength.
The University of Glasgow’s Runaway Slaves in Eighteenth-Century Britain project has created a searchable database of over 800 newspaper advertisements placed by masters and owners seeking the capture and return of enslaved people who had escaped. Most of the runaways were of African descent, although some were from the Indian sub-continent and some were Indigenous Americans.
The database, which was launched this week, is fully searchable according to a wide range of criteria and includes full transcriptions and (where possible) reproductions of the advertisements. The Runaway Slaves project website also contains a wealth of background and interpretative material which will be helpful to anyone making use of the database.
As the project team note, the purpose of the database is not to replicate the objectification of enslaved people who were brought to eighteenth-century Britain as the enslaved property of white British men and women. Rather, the project team hopes that the advertisements will allow readers to explore and understand the people identified in the advertisements as historical subjects in their own right – as individuals who challenged their status and condition. The project team’s aim is that readers can use the database to uncover the individual stories of runaways, whose lives are “hidden within a few lines of faded newspaper print.” For a brilliant example of just how such lives can be unfurled from runaway advertisements, see Marisa Fuentes’ book, Dispossessed Lives (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016).
Click here to go to the Runaway Slaves in Eighteenth-Century Britain Database.
In February this year, Irish President Michael D. Higgins opened an exhibition in Havana, Cuba celebrating the role of Irish immigrants in Latin America and highlighting shared aspects of Ireland and Latin America’s histories. The exhibition is curated by historian Margaret Brehony. Follow this link to the website for the Society for Irish Latin American Studies. The page includes the exhibition guide, and a further link to President Higgins’ speech in Havana.
The Irish in Latin America Exhibition