‘More than forty miles of shelves’

The handwriting on this fascinating image taken inside the British Museum Library, ca. 1906, reads, “More than forty miles of shelves, two millions of books, and ‘of the making … is no end.’” The accompanying summary at the Library of Congress appears to get something wrong, however: “Photograph shows the book stacks in the reading room of the British Museum library, London, England.” This scene shows an important aspect of this library’s support for reading and research, but it should not be mistaken for part of a reading room. Continue reading “‘More than forty miles of shelves’”

CfP: Chronologics: Periodisation in a Global Context

Via George Khalil (Transregionale Studien) and Harald Rosenbach (Max Weber Stiftung) comes a call for papers for a conference on periodization.

Epochal divisions and terminologies such as “antiquity,” “baroque,” the “classical age,” the “renaissance,” or “postmodernity,” the “long 19th,” or “short 20th” centuries are more than mere tools used pragmatically to arrange school curricula or museum collections. Terminologies like these carry particular imaginations and meanings for the discursive construction of nations and communities. The aim of this conference is to uncover some of the dynamics behind particular cultural and historical uses of periodization schemes as concepts for ordering the past.

Conference: Berlin, December 7–9, 2017
Application deadline: April 30, 2017
Call for papers


Call link updated June 22, 2017

Some Useful Categories of Knowledge for Understanding Migration

A good decision is based on knowledge . . .
—Plato
 

I never thought Plato and I shared a common scholarly interest. My research on the millions of eastern Europeans who emigrated to the United States (ancestors of the subjects of Bruce Springsteen songs) at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries seemed far removed from what I had once thought were the lofty realms of the the history of knowledge. Even so, armed with two thinkers, Max Weber and Michel Foucault, as well as reams of bureaucratic sources, I started to think about my research in terms of state knowledge in the surveillance and control of migration.[1] But what about the everyday experiences of people in transit, experiences as banal as changing trains, which didn’t exactly gel with ideas from the great minds of civilization? Inspectors at Ellis Island didn’t scribble down treatises on free will, yet knowledge must have played a role in everyday experiences . . .

Continue reading “Some Useful Categories of Knowledge for Understanding Migration”

Knowledge and Citizenship

Caryn McTighe Musil at the Association of American Colleges and Universities has written a short programatic article on what the humanities can offer in current disputes over immigration in the United States. Her recommendation that curricula “include a focus on citizenship” suggests one way in which education and knowledge can figure into social, cultural, and political developments in societies with significant levels of immigration.[1] Many of us take citizenship for granted, having, for example, the good fortune to know precious little about statelessness.[2] Musil’s present-oriented intervention is interesting for the history of knowledge because her recommendations for curricular and other forms of public engagement with these issues suggest a possible historical research agenda too, one that extends well beyond the United States.[3]

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Poster from 1919 encouraging immigrants to naturalize.
Source: Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/95507947/

  1. Caryn McTighe Musil, “Clashes Over Citizenship: Lady Liberty, Under Construction or On the Run?,” Diversity and Democracy 20, no. 1 (Winter 2017),
  2. On statelessness in twentieth century, see Miriam Rürup, “Lives in Limbo: Statelessness after Two World Wars,” Bulletin of the GHI 49 (Fall 2011): 113–34,
  3. An example from Germany: Simone Lässig, “History, Memory, and Symbolic Boundaries in the Federal Republic of Germany: Migrants and Migration in School History Textbooks,” in Migration, Memory, and Diversity: Germany from 1945 to the Present, edited by Cornelia Wilhelm (New York: Berghahn Books, 2016), chap. 5.
Suggested Citation: Mark R. Stoneman, “Knowledge and Citizenship,” History of Knowledge, March 10, 2017, https://historyofknowledge.net/2017/03/10/knowledge-and-citizenship/.

Towards a History of Missionary Knowledge? Impressions from the Conference ‘Mapping Entanglements’

On February 10 and 11, we held a conference entitled “Mapping Entanglements: Missionary Knowledge and ‘Materialities’ across Space and Time (16th–20th centuries).” Broadly speaking, the conference posited that what we know about missionaries is not the same as what we know from missionaries, and it aimed to examine the history of the latter under the rubric of “missionary knowledge.” Accordingly, conference participants explored how missionaries produced knowledge as well as how this knowledge traveled and transformed from generation to generation and location to location. Continue reading “Towards a History of Missionary Knowledge? Impressions from the Conference ‘Mapping Entanglements’”