The Pan-Historical Methods Seminar

University of Cambridge

Organized by John van Wyhe

 The Pan-Historical Methods Seminar is an experiment. It is an experiment in bringing together researchers, especially graduate students, from any and all departments and faculties in the university involved with historical materials or subjects. The aim is to encourage the development of a clear language or style for the presentation of specific research to an audience outside ones own area of history.


Forthcoming papers:

25 January 2000, James Moore (Open University) 'Science and religion'

9 Feb. Lucy Delap (Cambridge History) 1PM at Kings Gibbs G1

'A Historical Perspective on Feminism and Individualism: The Freewoman, 1911-12'

23 Feb. Kristel Rabier

'Lithotomy books in France and England (1720-1830)'

8 March Jim Endersby

'A Garden Enclosed: Botanical Barter in Sydney, 1818-1839'

Further details:

 This seminar is about exploring the applicability or translatability of subject specific historical research to an audience of non-subject specific historians. Presenters must carefully translate their findings into general language to make them accessible and also explicitly describe their methodology.

To present a paper send an abstract of any length which must include a plan to fulfil "the catch" of this seminar. Papers prepared for other purposes with a paragraph tacked on the end to suit this seminar will not be acceptable. The PHM seminar is not intended to be just another opportunity to give a paper. The point is to force us all to think out what we are actually doing and to communicate this to an intelligent and historically informed audience that is nevertheless outside of one's own sub-discipline. This exercise should prove almost as rewarding for those who attend and take part in discussion as for those who present their work. Any historical period or subject is acceptable. The seminar will be informal and I hope as conducive as possible to constructive dialogue about the nature of historical work. Otherwise it will be left open-ended without the limitations of any school or theory whatever.

Papers should be of about 30-40 minutes duration (but no more) to allow for plenty of discussion and at least a fourth of the paper (if dealt with separately as a conclusion and not worked into the entire paper) should engage thoughtfully with these conditions:

In general terms:

1. what material have you examined (rather than writing- 18th century representations of XYZ, you should write something like: 18th century correspondence or written representations in printed books, etc.)

2. what are you saying about this material or what are you using this material to argue? Again- be more explicit than you might be accustomed to.

3. Avoid the jargon or trendy terms which might be used to describe what you are doing. Re-think what your work is actually about and state this clearly in language any historian who does not know your period or subject will understand.

4. what relevance or interest might there be (in these general terms) in what you have done with your material for other historians.

Ideas and suggestions are welcome!

If you are interested in attending or giving a paper either this term or in the future, then email John van Wyhe.