Volume 36 (Spring 2003)
Issue 3

Article Abstracts

Abstract: Clifton C. Crais, "Past the Pax"

Recent writing on the cultural history of nineteenth-century British imperialism has tended to concentrate on questions of difference and identity. Cannadine's Ornamentalism, however, focuses less on difference than on commonality. Both his critique of the literature and his methodology are flawed. Ornamentalism also suggests the limitations of cultural history. Late Victorian Holocausts, by Mike Davis, offers new possibilities for the study of imperialism, by combining a history of ideas with an analysis of famine and global environmental change. His romanticization of the state detracts from what is otherwise a provocative work. Both books point to the urgent need to revitalize the social history of empire.

Abstract: Elaine G. Breslaw, "Marriage, Money, and Sex: Dr. Hamilton Finds a Wife"

This essay evaluates the relative strength of sexual urges, the quest for wealth, and the importance of social prestige in the American side of the transatlantic marriage market through the adventures of a Scots émigré, Dr. Alexander Hamilton. Restrained by ambiguous Scottish sexual mores, a difficult financial situation, and the intent of colonial women to find mates among the wealthy, Dr. Hamilton was forced to delay marriage for years. His success in finding a wealthy wife from the elite Dulany family was due to his ability to use his social and cultural talents as a unique currency to substitute for actual wealth or kin contacts. In the American environment, on the periphery of the British empire, where the elite were most conscious of their social inferiority, Hamilton demonstrated that cultural assets could stand in place of the traditional financial capital that powered the marriage market at the upper levels of society.

Abstract: Jeffrey S. Adler, "'On the Border of Snakeland": Evolutionary Psychology and Plebeian Violence in Industrial Chicago, 1875-1920"

Historians of crime have often borrowed theoretical perspectives from sociology, criminology, and anthropology. An influential body of scholarship produced by psychologists, however, offers a new and unusually intriguing interdisciplinary perspective for historians of violence. Emphasizing the ways in evolutionary adaptations condition human behavior, "evolutionary psychologists" have developed a complex model for understanding certain kinds of violent social interactions. Aggressiveness, risk taking, and related forms of violent behavior, these scholars argue, have biological and evolutionary roots. Analyzing patterns of male-on-male homicide from Chicago between 1875 and 1920, this essay tests the applicability of evolutionary psychology theory to historical data on violence. If the model helps to account for both patterns of lethal violence and shifts in such patterns, then perhaps historians of crime should expand their use of interdisciplinary theory to include models from evolutionary psychology.

Abstract: Jessica Gienow-Hecht, "Trumpeting Down the Walls of Jericho: The Politics of Art, Music and Emotion in German-American Relations, 1870-1920"

This essay highlights the political context of the influence of German "serious" music in the United States, notably the German Reich's interest in American music life: the preponderance of German music on American symphony stages went hand in hand with the Kaiser's agenda of Germany's global expansion. After Germany's unification, in 1871, German cultural diplomacy aimed increasingly to convince Anglo-American elites of the superiority of Kultur to win political allies in the United States. A steady influx of German-born conductors such as Arthur Nikisch and Karl Muck spurred the reception of German music in the United States. In their efforts to spread the tunes of Wagner, Bach, Beethoven and Brahms German musicians seized on Victorian Americans' growing concern with "emotion." The performance of pieces like Beethoven's Ninth Symphony established German serious music as the superior language of feeling, and it conveyed an emotion filling audiences with awe for the superiority not just of German art but of Germany in general (a process I describe as "emotional elective affinity"). In retreating to a preference for classical and romantic music, American audiences fulfilled the objectives of the Imperial government's cultural diplomacy. For the art of the German masters inspired precisely the respect for German greatness, Heimat, and emotionalism that William II wanted to convey, and their legacy lasted much longer than the Kaiser's Reich.

Abstract: Jessica Warner, Robin Griller, "'My Pappa is out, and my Mamma is asleep." Minors, their Routine Activities and Interpersonal Violence in an Early Modern Town, 1653-1781"

Routine activities theory predicts that crimes are likeliest to occur when three conditions are present: a motivated offender, a suitable target, be it property or a person, and the absence of a capable guardian. But the theory can also be turned on its head, which is to say that the incidence of crime can tell us something about what people routinely do, and who, if anyone, is there to look after them. This is especially true of children, whose status in early modern Europe has occasioned a very lively debate among historians, pitting psychologists against social constructionists. The current study examines 144 assaults involving children, dating from 1653 to 1781 and occurring in Portsmouth, England, and finds that two very different moralities managed to exist side by side: some adults felt free to assault other people's children, while other adults objected when they did so. But even adults who assaulted children acted with comparative constraint—and on their own—suggesting that they, too, had assimilated bits and pieces of a morality that protected children from the full rigors of the adult world. What makes the results especially significant is that they look at relations between working-class adults and children. As such, they descend considerably farther down the social ladder than earlier studies of the history of childhood in early modern England.

Abstract: Philip Hans Franses, Henk Gras, Marius Ooms, "Did Men of Taste and Civilization Save the Stage?"

This essay deals with Dutch theater history of the second half of the 19th century (1860—1916). It statistically tests, whether the dominant opinion in Dutch theater writing, that after 1870 the stage recovered from a half century of decline, due to a renewed interest in it by the city elite, occupying the first ranks with a taste for civilized modern drama, and that, hence, a sharp cleft became visible between lower-rank tastes and upper-rank tastes. We test the tenability of this position on the basis of the Rotterdam Grand Theater archives, which contain ticket sales per rank per performance from 1776 till 1916, and the play bills of the performances. We analyze aggregated behavior of an anonymous theater consumers subdivided into price classes, hypothesizing that differences in attendance to high and low quality plays (as the critics judged them) over the different ranks, might reveal class-based divisions of taste. A long-memory time series analysis confirms that there is a significant gradual change of quality in the theater during the period 1860—1881, but this change is hardly rank- (and by implication likely class-) based. A second time series analysis, analyzing the impact of the repertoire and companies controlled for season and dynamics of the time series over the years 1860—1887 and 1887—1916, hardly sustains the narrative of recovery for most products as related to ranks. Only in a few telling instances, there was a clear opposition between low-rank tastes and upper-rank tastes. Hence, the recovery thesis must on the whole be rejected. This research will be followed-up by a prosopographical analysis of season-ticket and coupon holders in the Rotterdam theaters from 1773—1916, in which more detailed information on the social backgrounds and particularly on social class division of not anonymous theater audiences in `the long 19th century' is central.

Abstract: Robert Darby, "The Masturbation Taboo and the Rise of Routine Male Circumcision: A Review of the Historiography"

There is increasing scholarly interest in the history of routine male circumcision in Anglophone countries, but much disagreement as to whether prevention of masturbation was an important part of this development. A review of the historiography of both the masturbation phobia and the rise of routine circumcision shows that it has been widely accepted since the 1950s that discouraging masturbation was a major reason why doctors, educationists and childcare experts sought to introduce circumcision of both boys and girls in the later nineteenth century, a campaign which was successful in the former case, unsuccessful in the latter—an outcome which still colours popular concepts about what constitutes genital mutilation. Mainstream pediatric and child care manuals continued to assert the value of circumcision as a disincentive to masturbation right up until the 1950s. The importance of the original link between masturbation and circumcision was rediscovered at the same time, when belief in the harmful effects of the former was declining, and as medical historians began to investigate the origin, course and effects of the onanism scare during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Abstract: Sigurdur Gylfi Magnússon, "The Singularization of History: Social History and Microhistory within the Postmodern State of Knowledge"

This article established its theoretical framework by criticizing the way in which social historians have practiced their scholarship in the last two decades and how and why they have not respondent to the challenges of "the cultural turn" and postmodernism. The main focus of this essay is on the rise in interest in microhistory across the globe in the last decade and on the topics of recent microhistorical research. The essay pays particular attention to one element common to the theoretical orientations of all microhistorians, viz. the connections between micro and macro. Microhistorians of all persuasions emphasize the importance of placing small units of research within larger contexts. In this article, the author seeks to refute this principle and show its inherent contradictoriness. The article explores the implications of this move for the epistemological grounding of microhistory. The author encourages historians to cut the umbilical cord that ties them to grand historical narratives, but he is aware that this is not an easy task, as the grand narratives inform the conventional codes of scientific research.

As an alternative to accepting the guidance of grand narratives, the author advances an approach that he proposes to call the "singularization of history". Taking this approach involves scrutinizing the details and nuances of the events and objects of research and looking for meaning within them, rather than in larger contexts. The article severely critiques the conventional theoretical framework of microhistorical research and attempts to redefine the aims and parameters of microhistory in order for it to achieve its full potential. The "singularization of history" shows the way.

Abstract: Stephen Garton, "Managing Mercy: African Americans, Parole and Paternalism in the Georgia Prison System 1919-1945"

Contrary to prevailing images of the Georgia prison system as a hell from which there were few means of escape, parole offered prisoners an avenue for early release. Although such schemes favoured whites, African Americans were also the beneficiaries of this system. By the 1930s, over a thousand African Georgians were released each year. This article explores the complex social and cultural dynamics that framed the exercise of mercy for African American prisoners Parole represented a major technique for the regulation of justice but also a crucial mechanism for the ethic and practice of paternalism. It supported older forms of economic organisation and social relations in the `New South'.