Dr Julie Anderson wins teaching award.

The School of History’s Dr Julie Anderson, has won the Royal Historical Society’s inaugural Jinty Nelson Award for Inspirational Teaching and Supervision in History.

Judges said the prize was awarded in recognition of Dr Anderson’s ‘outstanding’ teaching of history at undergraduate level and ‘creative and highly effective’ supervision of postgraduate historians in her field.

More information about this story is available on the University’s Kent Life news centre.

Research Prize awarded to PhD student Daniel Belteki

Congratulations to PhD student Daniel Belteki, who has been awarded the Humanities Postgraduate Research Prize 2018.

The prize is based on his track record of achievements while at Kent, which includes completing a student internship at the Royal Museums Greenwich, providing assistance with research projects such as Dr Rebekah Higgitt’s Transit of Venus 1874 digitization project, organising the School’s Postgraduate Research Seminar Series this year, and his role as assistant to the Book Reviews Editor for The British Journal for the History of Science, amongst other achievements.

Daniel studies as part of The Centre for the History of the Science (CHOTS). His research focuses on the history of the Airy Transit Circle of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich – the astronomical instrument that defined the Greenwich Prime Meridian. Congratulations Daniel!

Read all about the prizes here: https://www.kent.ac.uk/graduateschool/graduateschoolprizes.html

School of History Newsletter: June 2018

The latest edition of our School newsletter, History Today, is now available to download here: History Today June 2018.

Released monthly, the newsletter features the latest news and updates from the School, as well as upcoming events and recent student and staff achievements.

In this issue:

  • The School’s Athena SWAN success
  • Highlights of the academic year 2017/18
  • History academic exhibits work in the British Academy Summer Showcase
  • Report from the MEMS Festival 2018
  • The Gateways Project investigates the Zeebrugge Raid of 1918
  • Get to know our new PA to the Head of School

Athena SWAN Bronze Award

The School of History is delighted to announce that we have received an Athena SWAN Bronze Award in the April 2018 round!

The logo of the ECU Gender Charter Athena SWAN Bronze Award

Received in recognition of the School of History’s commitment to gender equality, the award represents a significant success for the School as only about half of all UK institutions, departments and research institutes who apply for the Bronze Award are successful.

What is Athena SWAN?

Advance HE’s Athena SWAN Charter was established in 2005 to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) employment in higher education and research.

The School of History at the University of Kent is just one of eight History departments to have received the Bronze Award since the charter was expanded in May 2015 to recognise work undertaken in arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law (AHSSBL), and in professional and support roles, and for trans staff and students.

The charter now recognises work undertaken to address gender equality more broadly, and not just barriers to progression that affect women.

Please visit our dedicated webpage for more information about the Athena SWAN award and the School of History’s commitment to equality, diversity and inclusivity.

AHRC CDP Studentship with the National Maritime Museum

The standard tuition fees and stipend (maintenance grant) will be paid by the AHRC to the award holder subject to the eligibility criteria outlined by them. The AHRC stipend for 2018/19 is £14,777 (full-time, pro-rata for part-time) plus an additional stipend of £500 for Collaborative Doctoral Students.

Project Title: The Royal Observatory, Greenwich, and its networks of support and influence, 1675-1742

We seek applications from outstanding postgraduate students for this collaborative doctoral award, starting in September 2018. This project aims to develop a new approach to the institutional history of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. Using the Observatory as a central hub, it proposes to explore the local, national and international networks of astronomy, practical mathematics, navigation, education, print and instrument making that supported its work and developing reputation. It will focus on the period of the first two Astronomers Royal, John Flamsteed and Edmond Halley, aiming to better understand the role, milieu and development of this key institution in its foundational years.

This research will draw on work on geographies of knowledge, material culture and book history in order to gain a fuller picture of contexts in which mathematical and instrumental knowledge was developed and used. The project will make use of a range of archival sources and object, book and image collections, especially those of the NMM.

The student will have the opportunity to enhance the Museum’s cataloguing and interpretation within public programming and displays, and to feed into the development of plans for the 350th anniversary of the Royal Observatory (2025-26), which forms part of the NMM (collectively, with The Queen’s House and Cutty Sark, known as Royal Museums Greenwich). They will also be able to contribute to Dr Higgitt’s research project, Metropolitan Science: Places, Objects and Cultures of Knowledge and Practice in London, 1600-1800, in partnership with the Science Museum.

Criteria

Applicants should have: a First Class or Upper Second Class Honours degree in an appropriate discipline; a masters degree in an appropriate discipline, although applicants who do not hold a masters degree will be considered if they can demonstrate sustained and relevant experience and meet the criteria outlined in the AHRC guidelines.

Candidates must meet the AHRC’s academic criteria and eligibility criteria:  https://www.ukri.org/funding/information-for-award-holders/grant-terms-and-conditions

For further details, please contact Dr Rebekah Higgitt: R.Higgitt@kent.ac.uk

To apply for the scholarship please see the Scholarships website here: https://www.kent.ac.uk/scholarships/search/FN05AHRCNM02

Deadline

21 May 2018

Women, Work and Health: The Match-Girls Strike of 1888

On 5th July 1888, approximately 1400 female workers walked out of Bryant and May’s match making factory in Bow, East London, in protest over low pay and poor working conditions. Each woman and girl worked 12- to 14-hour days in hot and unventilated rooms to make and pack match boxes in order to earn an average piece rate wage of around 8 shillings per week; skilled male labourers could expect around 40 shillings. Prompted by the perceived unfair dismissal of one of the workers, one woman reported that the strike ‘just went like tinder, one girl began, and the rest said ‘yes’ so out we all went’. Match production stopped for 16 days. The strike finally ended after the workers accepted a number of concessions offered by the company. These concessions included the abolition of the system of fining workers for being late, deductions from wages to cover cost of paste and brushes and the recognition of the Union of Women Match Makers by management.A sepia picture of Bryant and May 'match girls'.

The match girls’ strike, as the 16 day walk out of women workers famously became known, shaped the future of Britain’s labour movement. As the first strike by unskilled women workers in Britain, this moment was hugely significant in the rise of New Unionism of the late 1880s and 1890s. It was the prelude to a wave of strikes that swept the country, the most famous of which was the Great Dock Strike of 1889. Workers across Britain were no longer willing to accept their poor working conditions and began to demand more from their employers. This wave of strike action resulted in the unionization of tens of thousands of unskilled and semi-skilled workers and sowed the seeds of the Independent Labour Party (ILP). Moreover, the Union of Women Match Makers had a long legacy; it was one of only a few unions that survived the turbulent years after the peak of New Unionism and was still going strong into the 1930s.

Yet, the strike was also important for highlighting and ultimately improving the dangerous working conditions that Bryant and May’s management concessions did not address. Match making was considered part of the ‘dangerous trades’ under the Factory and Workshops Acts due to the fact that highly toxic white phosphorous paste was used to make the hugely popular Lucifer ‘strike anywhere’ matches. Renewed media attention on Bryant and May following the strike highlighted cases of necrosis of the jaw – ‘phossy jaw’ – among both male and female match workers resulting from exposure to the white phosphorous. The resulting government inquiry revealed the horrors of the disease. One testimony stated:

A drawing depicting a woman suffering from necrosis of the jaw (colloquially known as 'phossy jaw'.‘In a certain town I dug out cases of men and women, hidden away in the slums – piteous cases they were. One woman had completely lost her lower jaw, a young girl at earlier stages was constantly in great pain while her suppurating jaw bone was gradually decaying.’

This spectre of an identifiable industrial disease was a powerful weapon not only in the political struggles around working conditions, but also in debates over the degree to which the state should regulate the twenty five match making companies across Britain. State regulations of the late 1890s enhanced worker hygiene through the provision of soap, water and free toothbrushes and toothpaste; improved factory ventilation to prevent phosphorous fumes spreading all over the factory, as well as the separation of dangerous manufacturing processes; and provided medical examinations of anyone with reported toothache. It was a legal requirement for all match factories to employ a resident dentist by 1900 and Bryant and May employed one from 1898. Yet, some match making firms pushed back against new regulation. The underreporting of cases of workers with phossy jaw was rife in the Bryant and May factory. There was also a strong suspicion of collusion between medical practitioners and employers to conceal phossy jaw cases and evidence of at least one case of company intimidation by threats of lost income. Mrs Lean, whose son had died of phosphorous necrosis, was told ‘if I called another doctor in, the pay (ie the sick pay from the firm of 29 shillings a week) would be stopped.’ Prohibiting the use phosphorous in match making production would have decisively ended phossy jaw outbreaks, but such action was quickly dismissed because ‘strike anywhere’ matches were so popular and formed a vital part of Britain national and global trade. Phossy jaw only disappeared as an industrial disease once phosphorous was outlawed in 1910, but the effects of the discussions and events of the preceding decades, and indeed those who took part in them, should not be underestimated.

Boxes of Bryant and May matches.Historical debate has centred on the role of the female workers of Bryant and May in initiating and sustaining strike action and in shaping the fight for better working conditions. Early historiography portrayed women as passive victims, who were only led to action by the campaigns of Annie Besant and other leading middle-class Fabians of the period. Such work largely relied on Besant’s autobiography and documents from the firm, which of course present a rather narrow view of the story. More recent historical work, however, has argued that the workers themselves were central to securing better rights and conditions and has attempted to reconstruct their own experiences from scant evidence. Securing the historical legacy of these women is ongoing, not least by their ancestors. More on Sarah Chapman, one of the match girls, can be found on the blog of the East End Women’s Museum: https://eastendwomensmuseum.org/blog/2018/3/13/sarah-chapman-matchgirl-strike-leader-and-tuc-delegate

Dr Claire Jones

References:

Barbara Harrison, ‘Not Only the Dangerous Trades:’ Women’s Works and Health in Britain, 1880-1914, (Taylor Francis, 1996).

Louise Raw, Striking a Light: The Bryant and May Matchwomen and their Place in History (Bloombury, 2011)