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Durham University

The Centre for Nineteenth Century Studies

Previous Events

Friday 12 June 2020

Saturday 30 May 2020

Wednesday 18 March 2020

Tuesday 17 March 2020

  • Music Theology Durham: Study Day - CANCELLED 9:00am to 5:00pm, Bishops Dining Room, University College, Durham Castle, Prof Tom McLeish (Professor of Natural Philosophy, University of York) & Prof Steve Guthrie (Professor, Theology & Religion and the Arts, Belmont University, USA).

Wednesday 4 March 2020

Wednesday 26 February 2020

Monday 9 December 2019

Monday 18 November 2019

Tuesday 12 November 2019

Tuesday 5 November 2019

Wednesday 9 October 2019

Tuesday 17 September 2019

Monday 16 September 2019

Friday 1 February 2019

Thursday 31 January 2019

Thursday 29 November 2018

Friday 16 November 2018

Saturday 27 May 2017

Saturday 18 February 2017

Wednesday 19 October 2016

Thursday 7 July 2016

Wednesday 6 July 2016

Saturday 18 June 2016

Tuesday 17 May 2016

Monday 16 May 2016

Saturday 7 May 2016

Thursday 28 April 2016

Saturday 12 March 2016

Wednesday 24 February 2016

Tuesday 16 February 2016

Tuesday 9 February 2016

Thursday 28 January 2016

Tuesday 26 January 2016

Wednesday 16 December 2015

Wednesday 9 December 2015

Wednesday 11 November 2015

Friday 3 July 2015

Thursday 2 July 2015

Friday 19 June 2015

Thursday 4 June 2015

Saturday 9 May 2015

Thursday 7 May 2015

Saturday 14 March 2015

Thursday 12 February 2015

Tuesday 10 February 2015

Thursday 29 January 2015

Monday 10 November 2014

Thursday 23 October 2014

Wednesday 15 October 2014

Saturday 27 September 2014

Tuesday 15 July 2014

Thursday 15 May 2014

Saturday 10 May 2014

Thursday 20 March 2014

Thursday 20 February 2014

Wednesday 29 January 2014

Thursday 28 November 2013

'Packaging the Past for Children c.1750 - 1914' Workshop

6-7 July 2016

CNCS hosted a workshop on Packaging the Past for Children. There has been much recent interest in the history of childhood but scholarly attention is only just turning to history in childhood, or the ways in which different pasts were repackaged for, and understood by, children. The uses of the past are widely accepted as one of the most important areas for study of adult culture with a burgeoning interest in public history in Britain. However the focus on children’s consumption of the past in the period between 1750 and 1914 has received less attention despite the fact that recalling and understanding the past was perceived to be critical to shaping identity and forming good citizens. Scholarly explorations of children’s uses of the past have tended to focus on literature or education in the Victorian period. While these two avenues have been useful, we propose that only through exploring the variety of media and different pasts marketed to children can we fully understand the scope of children’s interactions with the past.

This workshop sought to offer new approaches to children as consumers of the past through its exploration of the long nineteenth century, its emphasis on material and visual culture and its comparative approach engaging with scholars across disciplines and periods. Rather than portraying children as passive recipients of history education, this interdisciplinary workshop presented original research from a wide range of specialisms to show how children were actively involved in packaging the past, from playing with historically themed toys and games to performing in plays and pageants. Over the two days, new perspectives were offered on visual and material culture which are vital to understanding children’s uses of the past. Papers investigated the materials and texts produced for and by children, as well as representations of real or imagined childhoods, and how children are actively involved in producing their own interpretations of the past today.

An archive of the workshop is available below:


Previous Research Conversations

Research Conversation | Epiphany Term 2016

Criticism in late nineteenth-century England: Towards the regulation and reform of a profession in crisis

Paul Watt, Monash University, Australia. COFUND/CNCS Senior Research Fellow.

Provincial’, ‘parochial’ and ‘unprincipled.’ These were just three of the many pejorative terms used by writers of all persuasions to describe the parlous state into which criticism of all kinds—literary, theatrical and musical—had fallen during the nineteenth century. As English critics opined that the local product was in such poor shape they looked, often vaguely, to Europe for inspiration. By the 1880s, however, concrete plans were hatched by English newspaper editors, intellectuals and critics—as well as assertive newspaper readers—to lift the standard of criticism in England. The highest priorities were the establishment of training programs for aspiring critics and the formulation of principles and methods to guide them. This paper traces some of the key moments in the history of attempts to reform and regulate criticism in late nineteenth-century taking music criticism as a starting point and case study. It argues that the reform of criticism was borne of a conscious attempt to instill intellectual rigour into critical writing drawing on French, German and English literary models in conjunction with the emergence of professional associations that demanded writers and critics increase the quality of their work.

Simon Grimble, Department of English Studies, Durham University
Katherine Hambridge, Department of Music, Durham University
Bennett Zon, CNCS Director

'A Horrid and Perilous Lecture': the Politics of Style in Matthew Arnold's 'Equality'.

Simon Grimble, Department of English Studies, Durham University

In this inaugural research forum, Simon Grimble from the Department of English Studies at Durham University will discuss Matthew Arnold's lecture on 'Equality' at the Royal Institution on February 8, 1878, subsequently published in the Fortnightly Review in March of that year. His paper will consider the relationship between the content of the lecture / essay - with its recommendation that we should 'choose equality' - and the style in which it was written and delivered, where Arnold wants to embody his ideas and yet does not want to - too greatly - offend or alienate his elite audience. The paper will conclude by relating Arnold's mode here to Susan Sontag's claim that an interest in style emerges ‘as a front behind which other issues, ultimately ethical and political, are being debated,’ and will connect these issues to current debates about equality. Arnold’s essay is available to download below. Those attending are encouraged to read it in advance of the paper, but it is certainly not essential that they should do so.

'Research Grants Round the Table'

The event was designed for those who want advice on how to prepare a grant opportunity as a team from PI to Postgraduate; those who are thinking about, or developing projects that lead towards applying for network grants; or those who were interested in pursuing a specific themed call. Speakers included: Professor Philip Williamson | Deputy Head of Faculty (Research), Faculty of Arts & Humanities, Durham University, Professor Matthew Grenby | Director, Newcastle University Humanities Research Institute (NUHRI), and Eleanor Glenton | Research Officer, Faulty of Arts & Humanities, Durham University

'Statues and Monuments'


Dr Joan Allen (School of History, Newcastle University)
‘God’s alchemy’ : Interrogating national identity in the life and writings of John Boyle O’Reilly (1844-1890)
Respondent:Dr Martin Dubois (School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics, Newcastle University)

Professor Nigel Harkness (School of Modern Languages, Newcastle University)
Sculpting Flaubert’s 'Salammbô'
Respondent: Professor Frances Spalding (School of Arts and Cultures, Newcastle University)



Professor Máire Cross (School of Modern Languages, Newcastle University)
‘Historical Legacy of Flora Tristan, Feminist and Socialist.'
Respondent: Dr Laura O’Brien (Faculty of Education and Society, University of Sunderland)

Dr Julian Wright (Department of History, Durham University)
‘Making the French Revolution Real in the Post-revolutionary world’
Respondent: Dr Helen Stark (School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics, Newcastle University)

Dr Beatrice Turner (School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics, Newcastle University)
‘“[We] had not the ties of blood to unite us”: family genius and family blood in William Godwin Jr’s Transfusion’
Respondent: Dr Claudia Nitschke (School of Modern Languages and Cultures, Durham University)

'Cultures of Science and the Intellect in the Nineteenth Century'


Dr Mark Sandy, Department of English Studies, Durham University
'Reimagined Selves: Domestic Structures and the Environment in Toni Morrison, Thoreau, and Wordsworth.'

Professor Andrew Ballantyne, School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, Newcastle University
'Ruskin, Geology and Industry'

Dr Matthew Eddy, Department of Philosophy, Durham University
'Savage Minds: John Lubbock and the Politics of Cognition'

Professor Veronica Strang, Institute of Advanced Study, Durham University
Dr Julia Stapleton, School of Government and International Affairs, Durham University
Dr James Koranyi, Department of History, Durham University

'Legacies: The Place of the Nineteenth-Century in Time, History & Culture'

‘The sense that the old world will lose its worn skin a fortnight hence…’ George Steiner, In Bluebeard’s Castle (1971)

Inaugural Research Conversation

Dr Tom Stammers - Department of History, Durham University
'Anatomizing the Sale of the Century: Paris, Spitzer, 1893'

Dr Edmund Richardson - Department of Classics, Durham University
'The Emperor's Caesar'

Professor Malcolm Smith - Department of Anthropology, Durham University
'Nineteenth Century Big Data - well, biggish data, and growing all the time'

Professor Simon James - Department of English, Durham University
Dr Kirsten MacLeod - School of English, Newcastle University
Dr Julian Wright - Department of History, Durham University

'Nineteenth Century Art and Science Today'

Saturday 7 May 2016

Nineteenth-Century Art and Science today brought together researchers working in academic and museum sectors. Speakers explored the close relationship of art and science in the nineteenth century, and how we study, represent and display that relationship today. The conference included the CNCS inaugural guest lecture given by both Professor Bill Sherman (Victoria & Albert Museum) and Tim Boon (Science Museum), as well as papers from representatives from the museum and heritage sector and the academy.

An archive of the event is available below:


'Victorian Culture and the Origin of Disciplines'

Saturday 12 March 2016

This one-day interdisciplinary conference aimed to address questions on Victorian culture and its creation, maintenance and promulgation of disciplines, covering the period of the long nineteenth century. The conference addressed Victorian disciplinarity from as many perspectives as possible from the arts, humanities, social sciences and sciences; for example: architecture, musicology and art history; classics, history, religion and theology; anthropology, law and psychology; and biology, mathematics and physics. Speakers exploreed the relationship between Victorian culture and all disciplines of the time.

An archive of the conference is available below:


'Interdisciplinarity in Nineteenth-Century Studies: Theory & Practice'

16 February 2016

According to Joe Moran ‘‘interdisciplinarity’ provides a democratic, dynamic and co-operative alternative to the old-fashioned, inward-looking and cliquish nature of disciplines. And yet this straightforward interpretation begs a number of questions: how exactly does interdisciplinary research aspire to be warm, mutually developing, consultative? Can disciplinary divisions be so easily broken down or transcended? Is it not inevitable that there should be some means of ordering and structuring knowledge?’ (Interdisciplinarity, 2011)

This one-day workshop for academic staff and postgraduate students aimed to answer these questions through a series of lectures, workshops and panel discussions focussing on the theory and practice of interdisciplinarity in nineteenth-century studies today. Drawing upon the expertise of key interdisciplinary practitioners, historian William Weber (California State University, Long Beach) and anthropologist Joe Moran (Liverpool John Moores University) the workshop looked at the implications of interdisciplinarity on research methodologies, teaching, publishing and project funding.

The archive for this event is available below:


'Romantic Orients'

Friday 3 July 2015

On 3 July 2015, CNCS hosted a one-day conference exploring 'Romantic Orients' in the nineteenth century. The increased global prominence of Asian economies has entailed greater scholarly attention to historic interactions with the East. Recent scholarship has disseminated neglected materials relevant to British engagements with Asia in the early nineteenth century – such as travel narratives, diplomacy, and trade records – and how these inform culture of the period. Yet there remains a need to interpret the significance of such material: how do Romantic-period interactions with Asia contribute to perceptions of the continent that have lasted into present times? Is it misleading to evaluate Romantic attitudes to China and Japan using modern Orientalist scholarship, a theoretical framework derived from studies of the Islamic world, and with emphasis on the legacies of Victorian imperialism? This one-day conference will explore perceptions of Asia during the Romantic period, with focus on literature and its interdisciplinary dialogues, and the possibility of theorising Orientalist modes of the time.

An archive of the programme for the conference is available below:


'Music, Death and Grief in the Long Nineteenth Century'

Thursday 4 June 2015

CNCS welcomed scholars to Collingwood College for a one-day conference on 'Music, Death and Grief in the Long Nineteenth Century'. Responses to death in the nineteenth century were often musical. Whether it was the massed choir singing for the funeral of the Duke of Wellington in 1852, or a pious evangelical woman reciting the text of a favourite hymn on her bed as she died a ‘good death’, music was employed to comfort the dying and the bereaved. The elegiac lieder of Schumann and the cathartic singing at death rituals in rural Greece offer two disparate examples of how the ‘work of mourning’ could be achieved through musical composition and performance. Death could also be represented and understood in musical terms, such as after the outbreak of cholera during a Paris carnival in 1832 which inspired the portrayal of Death playing the fiddle in Alfred Rethel’s ‘Death as a Cutthroat’. This one-day interdisciplinary conference seeks to explore the role of music in response to death and grief in any part of the world between 1780 and 1918. It is a subject that may be addressed from many perspectives, from history to psychology and from literature to philosophy. Musicological and historical studies are welcomed, as well as papers exploring the theology of death, the psychology of grief, and literary and artistic representations of music, death and grief during this period.

Please find an archive of the conference below:


'Progress and Duration in the Long Nineteenth Century'

Saturday 9 May 2015

CNCS welcomed scholars to Prior's Hall, Durham Cathedral to a workshop on 'Progress and Duration in the Long Nineteenth Century'. Enquiry about human progress was central to nineteenth century thought; it shaped many of the academic disciplines we now take for granted and created new sources of intellectual authority which have maintained their supremacy since. However, we are in danger of losing the interdisciplinary perspectives that are needed to understand fully the beliefs, ideals and controversies that the term engendered in its nineteenth-century heyday.

The workshop sought to recover some of those perspectives in focusing on the debate between leading thinkers, artists and publicists concerning the meaning and existence of progress. It is hoped, too, that the discussion leading from the workshop will extend to issues of duration born of new conceptions of evolutionary, historical, and geological time from the late-eighteenth century; these created new opportunities for speculating on the nature and process of human advancement that were not available previously.

Through this multidisciplinary gathering we sought to shed new light on the way in which progress both unified and divided moral, political, aesthetic, and scientific opinion from the French Revolution to the First World War. We also reflect on the legacy of nineteenth-century conceptions of progress, not least in privileging some disciplines and cultures over others.

Please see below for an archive of the conference.


'Abnormality and the Abnormal in the Nineteenth Century' Postgraduate Conference

Thursday 7 May 2015

CNCS hosted a one-day postgraduate conference on ‘Abnormality and the Abnormal in the Nineteenth Century’. The words ‘abnormal’ and ‘abnormality’ first emerged in the nineteenth century; contemporary usage reflects their pejorative connotations. The first recorded use, in 1817, contrasts ‘abnormal’ with ‘healthy,’ suggesting that ‘abnormality’ was initially a medical term. However, the term eventually came to mean an aberration from any kind of ‘normal’ concept, behaviour, expectation, or way of being: indeed, the construction of ‘normal,’ and the values associated with normality, is itself implicated in nineteenth century constructions of the abnormal. This conference explored categorisations, explanations, and implications of abnormality in the long nineteenth century, asking what the abnormal can tell us about long nineteenth century constructions of aberration, deviancy, and normality.

The covenors welcomed Professor Martin Willis (Chair in Science, Literature and Communication, University of Westminster) to deliver the keynote address. Professor Willis is a leading scholar in the field of literature and science, with research interests in the medical humanities in the nineteenth century and, in particular, the nature of illness.

The conference involved postgraduates and early-career researchers from a wide range of disciplines, and from universities across and beyond the UK. Through this diverse program of talks, the conference identified new continuities in, and methods for, interdisciplinary research into nineteenth-century conceptions of abnormality.

The day also saw the launch of the 'Abnormality Research Network' which will disseminate the material from the conference and host research seminars for postgraduates on the theme of 'abnormality' in the future.

'Abnormality and the Abnormal in the Nineteenth Century' was kindly supported by:

  • The British Society for Literature and Science | The British Society for the History of Science | The Society for the Social History of Medicine
  • Northumbria University Graduate School | Durham University Institute of Advanced Study | Newcastle University.

The archive of the conference is available below and on the 'Abnormality Research Network' blog. Videos of the the keynote address and some of the short paper sessions are available to view here.


'Irish History and Culture' Study Day

Saturday 14 March 2015

CNCS hosted their inaugural outreach event 'Irish History and Culture' study day at St. Mary's Hertiage Centre, Gateshead. Various aspects of Irish history and culture were discussed in four talks focussing on migration, food, music and the Irish in Gateshead. Speakers included CNCS Head of Outreach - Dr Malcolm Smith, Department of Anthropology, Durham University; Dr Helen O'Connell, Department of English Studies, Durham University; local historian Anthea Lang, and Claire Mann - one of the leading exponents of traditional Irish flute, fiddle and tin whistle in the country. There were performances of Irish music and some delicious baking of Irish recipes from the St Mary's Heritage Centre baking group.

Please find below the presentation by Dr Malcolm Smith on 'Irish Ancestors: Monikers and Molecules'.


'Resources for Researchers: Writing, Researching and Publishing in Nineteenth-Century Studies' 

Wednesday 15 October 2014 

'Resources for Researchers' was an introductory postgraduate workshop aimed at providing postgraduate researchers with an overview of what it is like to work, research and publish in the area of nineteenth-century studies. The workshop attracted postgraduate students from multiple HEIs including: Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria, Hull and Sunderland.

The day saw academics from Newcastle and Durham Universities speak about working in nineteenth-century studies. This was followed by presentations from librarians and archivists from Palace Green Library, Durham University Library, Newcastle University Special Collections, Durham Records Office, Northumberland Archives and Tyne and Wear Museums Archive. Following this, postgraduates received advice on book and journal publishing from staff from Cambridge University Press and Ashgate Press. Finally, current CNCS postgraduates and staff gave their advice and experiences of working in this field.

The archive of the conference is available below:


'Female Voice/s in the Long Nineteenth Century' 

Thursday 15th May, 2014 

A Postgraduate Conference

Keynote Speaker: Dr Helen Davies, University of Teeside. 'Femininity for Dummies? Gender and Ventriloquism in Victorian fiction'

The archive of the conference is available below:


'Connecting Disciplines in the Nineteenth-Century'

CNCS hosted its inaugural one-day research event to formally establish the foundation of the
Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies at Durham University on Saturday 10 May 2014. 

An archive of the conference material can be found in the booklet below: