When Uppsala came to stay: #emUUShef Workshop Commentary by Apurba Chatterjee and Tom Rusbridge

Apurba Chatterjee and Tom Rusbridge are first year PhD students in the Department of History. Both attended the workshop and ate the biscuits.


On March 10th and 11th SCEMS hosted a joint workshop with the Research Node in Early Modern Cultural History, Uppsala University, Sweden at the HRI. The workshop provided the second-year M.A. Students at Uppsala University and the first-year PhD students at Sheffield with an opportunity to present their research projects across a number of themes. There were four student-led panels – ‘Power, Order and Institutions’, ‘Language, Labour and Poverty’, ‘Luxury Leisure and Consumption’ and ‘Art, Representation and Collections’– syncopated by contributions from SCEMS Faculty members from Sheffield: Caroline Pennock, Mike Braddick, Simon Middleton, Tim Shepherd and Shearer West. Students from both Universities also enjoyed a terrific tour of Bolsover Castle at the helm of Crosby Stevens and a good humoured dinner at Maveli on Glossop Road.

The first panel was ‘Power, Order and Institutions’. It was chaired and commented on by Apurba Chatterjee (Sheffield) and Jezzica Israelsson (Uppsala). The first speaker was Eleanor Bland (Sheffield). In her paper titled, ‘Policing and Identification of Offenders in Metropolitan London, 1780-1850’, Eleanor discussed her doctoral research where she focusses on policing measures and their impact on prosecution and reoffending. Highlighting the institutional changes in criminal justice in the latter half of the eighteenth and in the early nineteenth centuries, Eleanor argued that the history of criminal prosecutions was also a history of policing and therefore, it is important to take into consideration the discretion and agency of individual policing figures. The second speaker on the panel was Tobias Larsson (Uppsala). In his paper titled, ‘Ordering Street   Life: The Establishment of Sweden’s First Police’, Tobias discussed the social imaginary of early modern Sweden through policing. Focussing on the establishment of the Swedish Police Chamber in 1776, Tobias argued that the notions of order and disorder in the early modern world were closely linked to social expectations based on rank and hierarchy. The final speaker was Alexander Turchyn (Uppsala). His paper, ‘On the Edge of Empire: the Cossacks’ Military-Political Structure in the Swedish Government Debates 1654-1660’ where he questioned the very idea of viewing the Cossacks as a nation in the early modern times as anachronistic. Instead, he approaches them as a political and military structure from the perspectives of the Swedes, using the theories of military devolution. The major questions that this panel addressed were those of the interactions between individual agency and institutional frameworks, and how both came to influence each other in the historical context of early modernity.

Panel two, ‘Language, Labour and Poverty’, brought together Hannah Wallace from Sheffield with Jezzica Israelsson and Caroline Lindroth from Uppsala under the assured stewardship of Eleanor Bland and Tobias Larsson. Batting first, Jezzica in ‘In Consideration of My Meagre Circumstance: The Language of Poverty as a Strategic Tool for Ordinary People in 18th Century Sweden’ used petitions to the County Administration of Uppsala to assess the rhetoric of poverty in the early modern period. Working within a historiographical framework that has traditionally viewed poverty as become increasingly viewed less charitably, Jezzica analysed the language of petitions to demonstrate the murky position terms like ‘poverty’ and ‘poor’ occupy: neither always indicative of material need, or applied exclusively to those of a lower social standing. Charlotte’s paper, ‘The Best Foot Forward: An Analysis of Job Advertisements in The Times 1800’, similarly applied a linguistic analysis to a rich dataset. By examining how individual’s presented themselves in such advertisements, Charlotte opened a window into the nature of social relations in Britain’s nineteenth century and demonstrated how language was both a tool of deference of structure as well as a potentially exploitative strategy. Hannah’s paper, ‘Community, Conflict and Change at Chatsworth, 1700-1820’, turned the mutually consistent linguistic category of analysis on the English country estate. Exploring an era of changes to the master-servant relationship, Hannah demonstrated her method of analysing the administrative records of Chatsworth, and by closely reading through these sources the individual lives of servants how broader linguistic themes such as professionalism, work, community, family, neighbourhood and deference could be seamlessly integrated. In so doing, the often solitary and distant country estate comes to have a very significant bearing on our collective understanding of early modern relations.

‘Luxury, Leisure and Consumption’ was chaired and commented on by Hannah Wallace (Sheffield) and Charlotte Dahl (Uppsala). The first speaker was Oskar Andersson (Uppsala). In his paper, ‘Luxury and Sumptuary Laws in Swedish Academic Dissertations, 1722-1799’, Oskar suggested how the dissertations at the Swedish universities became an arena for debates on luxury and consumption. According to him, whilst the age-old prejudice against luxury held sway, the dissertations show a tendency to differentiate between immoderate and moderate luxury, considering the latter as vital to economic growth and development. The second speaker was Lucas Roux (Uppsala). In his paper, ‘‘In Cloister’d Air Tainted with Steaming Life’: Nocturnal Leisure and Early Environmental Health in England, c.1720–1820′, Lucas argued that the early modern conventions about health and well-being to a great extent shaped and in turn, came to be shaped by the ideas of ventilation in the spaces of nocturnal environment. The final speaker on the panel was Tom Rusbridge (Sheffield). In his paper titled, ‘Living Leather: Material Agency in Early Modern England’, Tom discussed his doctoral research where he considers how far the material a good was chiefly composed of influences the agency it may be considered to have. The major questions that this panel addressed included those on the agency of material objects as well as the role of language in proffering as well as limiting agency.

The final student panel, ‘Art, Representation and Collections’ was a jolly cultural affair featuring Uppsala’s Charlotte Dahl and Monika Glimskär, Sheffield’s Apurba Chatterjee and chaired by Tom Rusbridge and Oskar Andersson. Charlotte sought to uncover and expose the life and work of ‘Frederic Westin: Raphael of the North’ in her paper, combining a rich biographical analysis of this lesser-known figure with an art-historical analysis of his style and influence, understanding how the former richly informed the latter. Resultantly, Charlotte was able to make two key conclusions. First, that Westin’s life as a teacher and professor was influential in his artistic practice, and secondly that this investigation into an inspirational artist shines light onto a period of Swedish history otherwise seen as fusty and blithe. Apurba’s paper, ‘Imaging Imperialism: A study of early British India in the paintings of Thomas and William Daniell’ provided a reading of British cultural institutional politics and an analysis of ‘Oriental Scenery’. Apurba examined the genre of the picturesque, and how these pieces were able to incorporate fascination, curiosity and wonder with blunt political symbolism, fostering an understanding of British rule as legitimate and adept. Monika, considering ‘The Leufsta Collection and the Musical life of Swedish Baron Charles de Geer’ followed a similar structure to Charlotte, but instead analysed the remaining material evidence of the de Geer collection to understand the life and tastes of the Baron. By considering his instruments and musical scores, Monika was able to understand how the processes of collection and taste undertaken by the Baron were equated with representation and power.

It was an important question posed by Sheffield’s Professor Karen Harvey at the beginning of the workshop: ‘What is early modern?’ What does it mean to research early modern history? What methodologies can we share and learn from? How, indeed, does the life of Frederic Westin relate to policing in London, how can we as researchers connect these dots and why should we? After two days of rich presentations and jovial bonhomie it was clear to everyone that even if a mass and often vague abstraction, collaboration can show there is nothing intractable about ‘early modern’.

Thanks are due to all students who contributed to the workshop, Crosby for the fantastic tour of Bolsover and to Sheffield staff for sharing their research, but especially to the efficiency, energy and enthusiasm of Karen Harvey, sartorial dexterity and good wit of Mikael Alm and the generosity of both.