Journals, Uncategorized

Town Planning Review 90.2 Featured Article

The editors of Town Planning Review have selected ‘Can Self-Build Housing improve Social Sustainability within Low-Income Groups?’ by Helena Obremski and Claudia Carter as the Featured Article for TPR 90.2.

The paper will be free to access for a limited time here.

When asked to describe the paper and highlight its importance, the authors stated the following:

This paper came about because relatively little research exists on self-build housing projects in the UK and the percentage of new homes provided this way is one of the lowest in Europe, Northern America and Australia. At the same time, prominent topics of debate are how to provide more affordable housing, especially for low-income citizens and socially marginalised individuals, and how to create more sustainable communities and cohesion in urban neighbourhoods. We therefore decided to focus our paper on the current knowledge gap regarding low-income communities, assessing five self-build affordable-housing initiatives in England and Wales, to further investigate and clarify connections between factors influencing social sustainability.

Research on affordable self-build housing has so far mainly focused on environmental sustainability and improving the quality of settlements. A lack of clarity regarding the social sustainability aspects emerged during the assessment of existing international self-build literature. Three past Town Planning Review papers (Crawford et al., 2008; Dempsey, 2009; Hamiduddin, 2015) provided some steer and influenced our research focus and analysis around three core concepts: social capital, social cohesion and participation.

Our research identified ‘feedback loops’ between social cohesion, social capital and participation. In particular, participation was affected by factors such as the communal spaces, the interests of self-build residents and the presence of a management framework from the start of the projects and beyond. Our analysis of interviews with participants and project managers elicited the importance of (continued) engagement in activities within self-build communities and how an effective management framework and a sustained collective shared vision facilitate increased levels of participation and social cohesion, and maintain social capital. However, we also found that the intensive and sometimes prolonged organisational and construction phases of the projects can in some cases negatively affect social cohesion due to clashes in character and priorities, and erode social capital and social cohesion.

Therefore, we concluded that given ‘the right’ physical and social dimensions, self-build housing projects can provide more socially sustainable communities.

The authors also commented:

Helena: “The social dynamics of planning have always interested me, and although social sustainability has gained momentum in recent years, this concept remained somewhat vague. The research provided some unexpected findings and an insightful understanding into the way in which self-build development influences some social aspects of the communities we studied. I hope to see more self-build developments coming forward as I see this as a genuine way to provide more socially sustainable communities, given the right set of factors are in place.”

Claudia: “Having grown up in Germany and seen friends participate in self-build projects of various kinds I always have found it slightly puzzling why it is quite rare in the UK. There are so many different kinds of self-build projects and associated goals and the research for this paper, while very focused and bound in scope, opened my eyes to the range of factors and connections that play a part. With social isolation, continued austerity and a host of environmental and social challenges I believe we will see many more self-build projects and research in the future.”

Irish Studies, Uncategorized

Women of the Country House in Ireland – Five minutes with Maeve O’Riordan

Ahead of the launch of Women of the Country House in Ireland, 1860-1914, author Maeve O’Riordan discusses the various experiences of women among the Irish Ascendancy, from financial freedom to their own observations of motherhood.

Women of the Country House in Ireland 1860-1914 reveals the lives of the women among the Irish Ascendancy. How did you go about conducting your research for this project?

The book examines the lives of women from twelve landed families in Ireland, all of whom had a house in Munster. It explores their experiences from girlhood to old age, whether they married or not. I wanted to give space to these women’s own voices, so most of my research time was spent with the letters, diaries, scrapbooks, novels, memoirs, sketchbooks and other items written by women who either were born or married into the Irish landed class. Luckily, their descendants have shared their papers with a library – mostly the National Library of Ireland but also the Boole Library in University College Cork and other places.

With literally thousands of pages of letters written by these women preserved in these libraries, it was possible to become totally immersed in the material. The structure of the book evolved over time as the themes emerged from the surviving letters.

I hope that readers will gain a clear insight into the female experience among the class through the book. By examining women’s own voices it is possible to see how they viewed their own roles within the house. The female role was an important one to the success of the family, even though, legally, women had few rights at the time.

‘a youth and a matron suspiciously placed…with his arm encircling the motherly waist.’‘A Floggy Flirtation, 1889 –Lady Castletown’s scrapbook. Image Credit: NLI

 

What was the female experience among the privileged landed classes like in the mid-nineteenth century? Did it vary a lot between families?

The women in this study were all members of some of the wealthiest families in Ireland, however, even within this group, there were differences in wealth between families. For example, the estate of the Earl of Bantry stretched over 60,000 acres while the Ryan family in Tipperary only owned around 1,000 acres. Olive, the daughter of the 3rd Earl of Bantry married Lord Ardilaun – one of the richest men in Ireland or Britain – who owned the Guinness brewing empire. She had every possible comfort and a number of properties to call home, including Ashford Castle in County Mayo and Macroom Castle in County Cork.  The wives of the Ryan landlords had no such comparable wealth.

The most pronounced difference in experience, however, was within families between married and unmarried women, and women at different life stages. For example, Ethel, Lady Inchiquin, brought a dowry of £100,000 to her marriage in 1896. Throughout her married life, she acted with financial and personal freedom while remaining close to her husband. Ethel’s niece by marriage, Maud, was not as independent. After quarrelling with her mother, Ellen, in 1905, the unmarried woman was thrown out of the house and had no option to live with another sister on an allowance of £15 per month. To provide some context; in 1886, Ellen had hired a governess for Maud and her siblings on a salary of £80 per annum. Maud was completely reliant on the goodwill of her family for her financial security.

Ethel Foster, and extremely wealthy English heiress married the heir of Dromoland Castle in 1896. Their wedding was a statement of wealth and power. Read more about them in Women of the Country House in Ireland, 1860-1914 Image credit: NLI

When working on this project did you come across anything that you found particularly surprising?

There are a number of findings which surprise others when I talk about the book, particularly the fact that so many of these women were involved mothers who breastfed their babies and only relied on wet nurses in instances where they were too sick to nurse their own babies. For example, Mabel, who is depicted on the cover of the book with her son Brendan joked that he was turning her into a pagan as she could not attend church as he wanted to be constantly fed. When he was three months old she wrote that Brendan was ‘still practically a two-hours baby’ which meant ‘that the time for doing regular everyday things never seems to come’.

However, what has surprised me the most was the amount of movement across the Irish Sea on marriage. It has long been understood that many Irish landlords found English wives, but it was not known the extent to which women who grew up in Ireland ended up marrying into the English gentry and aristocracy. Of the peers’ daughters in this study, twice as many married English rather than Irish husbands. I want to examine this experience further in my future research.

How do you think Women of the Country House in Ireland 1860-1914 paves the way for further research into the history of women?

There has been a huge increase in the level of interest on women in the country house over the past few years. This book examines the female experience in a number of aspects of their lives. However, this book is only a starting point. Each one of the chapters could be expanded into longer studies of marriage, experiences of unmarried women, girlhood, political involvement, travel, social networks etc. I hope to complete some of this work, but many studies are needed before we can build a complete picture of the class at the time.

Maeve O’Riordan is Lecturer in Women’s and Cultural History at the School of History, University College Cork.

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Jewish Studies, Uncategorized

Jewish Education in Eastern Europe – 5 minutes with Eliyana Adler

Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry Volume 30, Jewish Education in Eastern Europe edited by Eliyana R. Adler and Antony Polonsky is the most recent addition to the esteemed Polin series. As part of Jewish Book Week, Eliyana Adler discusses the importance of the study of education and what we can expect from this groundbreaking new volume.  

Over the years, Polin has provided a forum for exploring a host of aspects of East European Jewish history. I am gratified to be able to add education to that list. It never ceases to surprise me that there is not more curiosity about education in the past and present. It is, after all, so fundamental to our lives and our society. This collection of essays helps us to think about the diversity of educational options available to Jewish children, as well as what that education meant to them and to the societies in which they lived.

The volume is organized chronologically and geographically, with contributions about Jews in schools in the Russian empire, in Hungary, and in Poland. By far the greatest concentration focuses on interwar Poland. The scholars in this section examine Yiddish schools, Orthodox schools, youth groups, and the experiences of Jews in Polish schools. Most of them make use of the remarkable collection of autobiographies young Polish Jews submitted to a series of contests sponsored by the YIVO in the 1930s.

Until the recent publication of selected anthologies of these autobiographies in Polish, Hebrew, and English, this was a relatively unknown source. Authors in the volume, making use of the anthologies as well as the complete archived collection, demonstrate the results of creative and sustained engagement with the youthful writings.

Although their topics and sources are related, this does not lead to overlap or repetition. On the contrary, the authors’ varied research approaches yield complimentary results that inspire further questions. For example, Ido Bassok notes the ways in which political youth groups took the place of religious affiliations while Naomi Seidman suggests that Orthodox youth groups incorporated many organizational techniques from their political counterparts. Sean Martin’s study of the development of Jewish religion classes in Polish schools provides a fascinating counterpart to Kamil Kijel’s exploration of the effects of exclusive and nationalist rhetoric on Jewish children in Polish schools.

The questions of pedagogy, school choice, educational ambitions, identity proliferation, financial constraints, and integration that animate these autobiographies, as well as the essays about them, should sound familiar to contemporary readers. Although interwar Poland was very different from the world in which we live, the intensity of aspirations makes it compelling and accessible.

In addition to the more obvious ties of period and place, a number of themes crisscross the volume as a whole. Several of the authors, for example, explore textbooks as historical sources. Daniel Viragh’s essay about modern Hungarian children’s books covers very different material from Vassili Schedrin’s study of Jewish history texts in Russia, but both showcase the benefits of probing this unique source base.

Others look at the way that wars impact upon educational institutions. While some of the essays look at political influences on Jewish education, others pay attention to religious trends. Two of the essays also contain rare photographs from late imperial Russia.

Some readers will pick up this volume out of a general interest in the history of Jewish education. Others may open it initially in order to read one particular essay related to their own research interests. We hope that they will all find themselves drawn to leaf through other essays on topics they had not even considered previously. It is also our hope that the volume will inspire further research and writing about aspects of Jewish education in the past.

 

Eliyana R. Adler is an associate professor in history and Jewish studies at Pennsylvania State University. She is the author of In Her Hands: The Education of Jewish Girls in Tsarist Russia (2011) and articles on the history of Jewish education. Her co-editor, Antony Polonsky, is professor emeritus of Holocaust studies at Brandeis University

 

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History, Uncategorized

Classical sculpture and the modern world – an interview with Elizabeth Bartman

Author of the newly released catalogue The Ince Blundell Collection of Classical Sculpture, Elizabeth Bartman, discusses the history of the collection, sculptural restoration and how the qualities of the collection transcend into modern life with Chrissy Partheni of the World Museum, Liverpool.

You have described yourself as an archaeologist of the storeroom, can you explain what that means?

Unlike most archaeologists who literally dig beneath the ground to find the remains of now-dead people, I explore museum basements and galleries, studying works of art for previously overlooked evidence of the past.

When and how did you become interested in Henry Blundell’s collections?

Almost 20 years ago I met Jane Fejfer, a wonderful Danish archaeologist who had been working on Blundell’s ancient statues; there were quite a lot of them and she suggested that I might also want to study them.  One trip to Liverpool convinced me that the collection was a treasure, largely forgotten by scholars.

What three words sum up Henry Blundell’s collections of classical sculpture?

Under-appreciated, immense, encyclopaedic

How do Blundell’s collections relate to other 18th century collectors of antiquities and practices of restoration?

Blundell’s ancient statues represent a cross-section of what was being excavated and collected in the 18th century by English gentlemen making a “Grand Tour” to Italy: they are Roman works made to decorate houses, villas, and public spaces in the first centuries CE and so represent mainly gods, goddesses, and mythical heroes.  Many of them would have been found in a damaged state, but because Blundell and contemporaries wanted them as works of art to ennoble their own houses, they were restored into complete figures by skilled Italian sculptors before being sent home to England. Blundell was not as wealthy as some of the collectors with whom he competed for works, so he may not have been able to afford some of the most famous finds of the period.  But he does seem to have had a passion for the antique that not all of his peers shared—he returned to Italy multiple times and continued to add to the collection over 30 years.  Ultimately he ended up with some pieces that today we would consider rare masterpieces.

In your book the descriptions and personal appreciation of different busts or statues reflect the process of your research. Can you talk about the stages and processes involved with researching the collections? Where has the research taken you, were there any particular highlights?

When I began this project nearly 20 years ago, I thought it would be a straightforward catalogue of about 100 ancient Roman statues that examined their date, style, and meaning.  Some other scholars, mainly Italian, had recently made great strides in discovering where statues like Blundell’s had been found in the 18th century, and the possibility of contextualizing these works was very exciting.  However, at the same time, I realized that although these statues had started life as Roman works, the restoration they had undergone had given them a second life and that they were as much artworks of the 18th century as of antiquity.  So then I wondered what meanings they had had for Blundell and his contemporaries: how did these statues relate to what was then known about antiquity from reading ancient Latin and Greek texts or modern books like Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire?  Seen from this perspective, “Grand Tour” marbles such as Blundell’s document the way that people of the period thought about the past, something which in turn has affected how we today think about the past.

How do you think your book will help further research into classical sculpture and the particular collections?

By publicizing Blundell’s marbles with new photographs, my book will make accessible works that have been largely forgotten; it will be exciting to see others incorporate them into their own research. I hope also that my book will encourage the recognition that most statues belonging to what we might call the “old European collections” have been restored—here I mean not just the English country house collections like Blundell’s but also those of the Louvre, Vatican, and other museums formed prior to the 19th century.  Sometimes the restoration is so subtle as to be barely detectible, but failing to recognize it leads us to a false interpretation of the antiquity we naively believe it represents.

How do you think general visitors can engage with Henry Blundell’s collections?

Those who know something of classical mythology will recognize familiar subjects like Jupiter and Diana.  Those who don’t may appreciate the skill of the ancient sculptor who has carved figures who seem alive and poised to move out of still, “dead” marble.  Not all of the statues depict serious subjects; in fact some like the satyr wrestling with a beautiful hermaphrodite are quite playful and help bridge the centuries that separate us from the ancients.

Your work and previous role with the Archaeological Institute of America supports and encourages young researchers. What do your think are the challenges classical studies and archaeology face today?

Training to become a professional archaeologist typically requires years of education that can be long and expensive.   Although the general public has an enormous interest in archaeology, funding can be problematic, especially for those at the initial stages of their careers.  And of course the future for foreign archaeologists to work abroad in war-torn areas such as Libya or Syria is very uncertain.  As in all fields of the humanities, archaeologists need to fight increasing specialization to focus on the big issues.

Is there a particular contribution classical studies and training can make to society today?

I firmly believe that the great works of classical literature and art tackle issues that transcend the society that created them and remain as relevant today as they were centuries ago.  We may need a bit of guidance in studying them, but understanding where we as human beings come from is critical to understanding where we are today.

What is the next project/publication you are working on?

I am now working on a book about the sculptural restoration of ancient statuary.  I intend this to be a wide-ranging study that looks at the history, philosophy, and techniques of restoration from the Renaissance through the early 19th century.  It will focus on Rome, which naturally excelled in giving new life to the thousands of statues found in its soil, and will make use of some exciting new technologies such as 3-D digital modelling.

For more on the Ince Blundell Sculpture Collection visit the Liverpool World Museum website or read the blog post by Chrissy Partheni Curator of Classical Antiquities at National Museums Liverpool online.

Find The Ince Blundell Collection of Classical Sculpture on our website

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