BSJ

The Butler Scholarly Journal

Category: History

  1. Talk with a Holocaust Survivor: Janine Webber

    During Epiphany term, Polish-born holocaust survivor Janine Webber, 84, shared her incredible testimony with Durham University staff and students, as well as members of the local community, at Josephine Butler College. The event will go down as one of the best attended and most successful talks in the college’s history. Around 140 people were in attendance for the talk which was held in the college’s Howlands Building. Now, ‘unforgettable’ is a term that is used all too frequently and in a number of contexts, yet there is little chance that those in attendance will have forgotten what they saw, heard…

  2. The Plague: Is it still a threat in 2017?

    Nuclear warfare, climate change and…another bout of Black Death? Although listing the plague alongside other present-day threats to humanity sounds ridiculous, the threat of this medieval disease is still very real. In fact, it has recently been reported that fleas in Arizona have tested positive to plague bacteria and that a public health warning has been issued to residents.[1] Thousands of people still contract the plague every year, with outbreaks primarily concentrated in Africa. Although underreported and largely ignored by the western media, Madagascar, the most adversely affected country, has been the nucleus of twentieth-century plague cases since 2014. But…

  3. ‘Popular Imperialism’ in the USA: A Necessary Debate

    In 1898, with victory in the Spanish-American War and the official annexation of Hawaii, the United States suddenly found in its possession a significant overseas empire stretching from the Caribbean, across the Pacific to the South China Sea. The acquisition of these territories was a process of many years, and intervention in the Cuban War of Independence, as well as the annexation of Hawaii, was debated in the press and by politicians in the preceding decades. As Americans came to terms with their new colonial possessions and came face-to-face with often hostile colonial subjects, imperialist and racist sentiments were expressed…

  4. Sport: A Tool of Colonial Control for the British Empire

    Sport, as we know it, found its roots in the British Empire. Many of today’s most popular sports including cricket, football and tennis, were organised and codified by the British in the nineteenth century.[1] However, assessing the motivations behind this vast programme of sporting dissemination still remains relatively under-explored. This is puzzling considering that the spread of sports was a key branch of cultural imperialism, much like the spread of Christianity across the colonies. Sport, like religion, provided an opportunity for Britain to take cultural control of her Empire, whilst also encouraging British attitudes towards class and race to spread….

  5. The use of portraits as political tools in the courts of early modern Europe

    The infamous painting of Henry VIII by Hans Holbein is one of the best-known images in English history. Instantly recognisable in the modern era, the portrait successfully exemplifies the authority and power of the Tudor king. It still springs to mind at the mention of his name, five hundred years on from the painting’s completion. However, in the early modern period, portraits had political dimensions beyond that of mere representation. The Florentine humanist Leon Battista Alberti contended in the fifteenth-century that ‘painting possesses a truly divine power which…makes the absent present’. (1) Early modern portraits of sovereigns were employed precisely…

  6. Sex in Governmental Legislation from the Victorian to the Edwardian Period

    Most Britons are aware that once upon a time Britain possessed the largest empire in history. At its zenith, a fifth of the world’s total population came under rule or administration of the United Kingdom, and the Empire encompassed almost a quarter of the globe’s land mass (1). Queen Victoria’s reign spanned an extraordinary sixty-five years of Britain’s imperial century and she was internationally associated with this period of British superiority. However, accompanying the awareness of their once great Empire, most Britons are also aware that this is no longer the case. It is undeniable that there was structural change…

  7. Kelvin’s Aethereal Knots – The Origins of the Periodic Table and Knot Theory

    c. 1867, University of Glasgow: William Thomson, or Lord Kelvin (namesake of the temperature scale and the man who coined the term ‘kinetic energy’) as he is today more frequently known, turns his considerable intellectual ability towards the daunting question of how all material in the universe might exist. At this time in scientific history, the idea that matter was composed of individual atoms of varying type was becoming increasingly accepted by academics. However, what remained a complete mystery to all was how these atoms could themselves exist. The person who could suggest a working theory to answer such a…

  8. Invention and Imperialism in the Nineteenth Century: How Science Strengthened the British Empire

    The nineteenth century is widely known to have witnessed revolutionary developments in science and technology, in areas ranging from healthcare to transportation. Naturally, it follows that these innovations provided Europeans, particularly the British, with effective tools for the expansion and consolidation of their empires. Not only was this the case, but a new rationale for imperialism developed as a result of the scientific developments of the Victorian era. This is a theme which can be explored through two examples; firstly, the use of quinine prophylaxis as a more successful medicine to combat malaria, and secondly, the invention and introduction of…

  9. The Irresistible Illusion of Success: Has Britain Learnt Anything From Afghanistan?

    On 16 January 2015, the last Victorian died. It is an incredible idea that at the start of 2015, Ethel Lang, who was born a subject of Queen Victoria, was even alive. During the course of Ethel’s life there have been many game-changing historical events: the founding of the British Labour party, two World Wars, the production of atomic weapons, and the invention of the Internet, Facebook, and the iPad, to name but a few. Thus, it is no wonder that crinoline-clad Victorianism in the present day feels alien. This feeling, however, is illusory. The Victorian era should not be…

  10. Who was Josephine Butler? A social reformer? A pioneer? A forgotten saint?

    As students, staff and friends of Josephine Butler College, I wonder how many times we have heard the words ‘our claim, is a claim for the rights of all’ at the end of every formal, and not fully considered the depth of meaning behind their use. When the opportunity to attend the lecture delivered by Dr. Helen Mathers arose at the beginning of the year, it appeared to be an invitation not to be missed. As members of the Butler community, it is important to consider the work, beliefs and values of the person our college is named after, and…