Fife Coastal Walk 2017

2017 Masters Cohort near Elie

2017 Masters Cohort near Elie

In October, our masters students studying transnational and spatial history in our MLitt programme took a break from their research and seminars for a day long walk along the southern coast of Fife from Elie to Crail. A new tradition in formation, this was the second cohort of masters students to make the journey along with programme coordinator Konrad, which this year added new elements, including a picnic and student-supplied whisky in St Monans harbour, a stop for hot chocolate and historical discussion in the village of PIttenweem, and fish and chips in the final village Crail, which a recent blind taste test by postgraduate students give winning scores to, despite the greater fame of its rivals in Anstruther.

Whisky fortification for the last leg of the walk between Cellardyke and Crail. The Isle of May is in the background.

St Andrews is located on the northern side of Fife, but is a convenient bus ride from all the coastal villages further south that can all be reached by following the Fife Coastal Path. The stretch from Elie to Crail is especially stunning, and a walk beginning in Elie at 10:30am can end in Crail by dinner time, with plenty of time for breaks in the villages along the way. Walks like these are perfect ways for postgraduate students to get to know each other better and explore what Fife has to offer.

Dropbox, Dinner, and Debate: Or, How to Produce an Edited Volume

Prof. Despina Stratigakos

Following on from the successful and highly-engaging exploratory workshop held in September 2016, this August saw the second meeting towards the production of a new ‘Routledge Guide to Using Historical Sources’ aiming to offer an accessible introduction to the sources and methodologies of spatial history. This report will explore the different ways in which this proactive workshop helped to bring the volume closer to becoming a reality.

Dinner, the evening before work truly began, partly offered a social welcome to participants, some who had merely walked across town from the School of History in St Katharine’s Lodge, but several of whom had travelled to St Andrews via Edinburgh Airport from locations as far afield as Buffalo, USA. However, conversation turned almost immediately to the volume. Draft chapters had been circulated in advance via Dropbox, and many a greeting could be heard along the lines of “ah, so you’re so-and-so, I very much enjoyed your paper on such-and-such, and it made me think of…” This cross-dinner table discussion typified the collaborative, conversational tone of the following two days.

The initial workshop last September focussed on the sharing of preliminary ideas between a relatively small group of spatial scholars. The workshop this August saw not only the addition of new potential contributors to the volume – of whom more shortly – but also the welcome input of several external commentators. These scholars, all experts in their field, not only provided feedback on individual papers, but also offered their own perspectives on what space is, and what a historical introduction to spatial history as a subject should try to do.

Prof. Susanne Rau

SUSANNE RAU (Universität Erfurt), having quite literally written the book on space (Räume: Konzepte, Wahrehmungen, Nutzungen, 2013), helped to ground the conference in just these challenging questions. Whilst she challenged whether it is possible – or even useful – to attempt to define space, she emphasised that historians have the potential to ‘add value’ to discussions of the past through a consideration of how space is ‘produced’ (a process which can also be destructive), how our social relations are transformed and institutionalised through space, and the ways in which we can analyse the power relations behind the claims made to spaces through documents such as maps.

CHRISTOPH NÜBEL (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin) picked up this latter theme, pointing out that several papers shared the common theme of the appropriation of space, whether through economic activities or even in the construction of historical narratives. DIARMID FINNEGAN (Queen’s University Belfast) provided an interdisciplinary insight, suggesting that the fields of geography and spatial history have more in common than might be assumed at first glance in terms of the problems posed and the answers provided. He acknowledged, however, the value of ‘spatial history’ as a designator which brings together the figures of both space and time as categories for analysis.

As noted above, the number of participants grew significantly between the September and the August workshops. DESPINA STRATIGAKOS (University of Buffalo) provided a fascinating exploration of Hitler’s domestic spaces, utilising the floorplans (both ‘real’ and unrealised) for the Berghof, the dictator’s home in the Bavarian Alps. She brought the eyes of an architectural historian to bear on the question of how Hitler constructed and displayed this home space in the service of developing his image as a refined, educated world-leader.

Prof. Benjamin Schenk

Moving from the small scale of the floorplan to the national or even transnational scale of railway networks, FRITHJOF BENJAMIN SCHENK (Universität Basel) offered a consideration of – and indeed a proposed revision to – the history of infrastructure. He emphasised that traditional narratives suggest that, by enabling people to cross vast distances in relatively little time, developments such as trains served to integrate large territories such as Tsarist Russia. Schenck suggested that, by contrast, trains stratified society further, for example in physically separating socio-economic classes into different carriages, and by enabling greater population movement and correspondingly less national stability.

ANTONIS HADJIKYRIACOU (Boğaziçi University) explored both the promise and the pitfalls in utilising GIS to visualise historic economic data, focusing on the example of the 1572 fiscal survey of Cyprus. In common with TIM COLE (University of Bristol), who had attended the September workshop, and his new co-author ALBERTO GIORDANO (Texas State University), Hadjikyriacou emphasised the need to carefully interpret and curate data before inputting it into GIS, and the nature of visualisations as important analytical tools for the historian to build their work upon, rather than as straightforward ‘illustrations’ of results.

STÉPHANE VAN DAMME (European University Institute) and KATE FERRIS both brought questions of space to distinctive historical sub-disciplines: the urban history of science and the history of everyday spaces, respectively. Van Damme set out a historiographical narrative of the impact of the spatial turn upon the history of science and the metropolis, before considering the roles of ‘space’ and ‘place’ within the Scientific Revolution. Ferris took the discussion from telescopes to pint glasses with a case-study of bars in Fascist Italy, highlighting the ways in which they served as complex political spaces in which individuals might both express divergent views, and also suffer the regulation or observation of the regime.

The final new contribution, from ADAM CATHCART (University of Leeds), discussed the similarly ambivalent space of borderlands, with a focus on the Sino-Korean borderlands from 1931-1954. Cathcart emphasised the disjuncture between the reality of borders as sites which limit movement, and the focus – in both scholarship and popular fantasy – on movement across them.

In terms of attendees of the original workshop, BERNHARD STRUCK offered a more detailed analysis of German maps as ‘spatial text’, whilst JAMES KORANYI (Durham University) re-analysed travel guides as constructing mental, national space, and JORDAN GIRARDIN reminded us – in absentia, and via an excellent Youtube video – that travel accounts should be read ‘from a to z’, with attention to the traveller as an ever-moving space. MICHAEL TALBOT (University of Greenwich) returned to the ‘big blue wet’ problem of maritoriality, MARK HARRIS took the workshop back down the Amazon, and DAWN HOLLIS once more forced the spatial theorist Henri Lefebvre up a mountain. Finally, SARAH EASTERBY-SMITH and MATT YLITALO brought Michel Foucault’s concept of ‘heterotopia’ to bear on nineteenth-century whaling vessels as particularly complex and fluid spaces. (For more details on the initial ideas underlying all of these contributions, please see the previous workshop report).

Of course, from the perspective of participants at the two-day workshop, much of the above ‘discussion’ occurred between the pages of pre-circulated papers, with the bulk of the time together given over to in-depth discussion both of individual papers and of the volume as a whole. One participant lauded the ‘extraordinary process’ which this enabled, with the group returning again and again to questions of volume structure and how each chapter might meet the needs of our intended student reader until a general consensus was reached.

A particularly important discussion centred upon the question of inviting further contributions to the volume, with the communal wish-list for further areas of spatial history that could be covered reaching lengths that would exceed the page count of two or three volumes, let alone one. Several participants advocated passionately for a chapter focussing particularly on space and gender, whilst others argued that questions of gender and diversity more generally ought to be represented in as many papers as possible. The editors ultimately decided to follow both courses of action, and went away with a list of suggested authors to add further thematic range to an already broad volume.

The phrase ‘the editors decided’ is not, however, the note to end this report on, for what should really be emphasised about the workshop was its interactive, collaborative nature, with editors and contributors alike working to bring the intended volume another few steps closer to fruition. Pre-circulated papers, open discussion and debate, and above all a good meal all served to make the workshop an invigorating process for all involved and, most importantly, an effective stage in the long journey of producing an edited volume.

Workshop: Spatial History and Its Sources

On 2 September, the Institute for Transnational and Spatial History will hold a workshop on “Spatial History and Its Sources.” You can find out more about the workshop and its schedule here.

The workshop will bring together historians with a selection of sources that can help us explore the new field of Spatial History. Spatial History can be understood in multiple ways: First, there is the historical exploration of physical-geographical realities, including cities, mountains, rivers, and oceans. Second, there is the historical exploration of spaces that are constituted by social relations and human interaction, including traveling, letter writing and any other form of social communication (acts of violence included). Third, there is the historical exploration of spaces that are imagined and discursively constructed, including mental maps and infrastructure plans. Needless to say, of course, that these three modes of historical exploration may all be employed in regard to a given subject: A mountain range, a landscape, or architectural site are as much a physical reality as they are an imagined space. The Alps are a physical reality – one that can be measured and gauged; as a lived and appropriated space, however, they can mean different things to different people: to local dwellers, travelers, painters, or mountaineers. Likewise, a ship is as much a physical space as it is a social space: a microcosm of social norms and codes of conduct, with a specific language attached to it as a vehicle of knowledge and means of communication. Considering these issues through the materials we work with, this workshop is the first step towards a new critical and engaging volume around “Spatial History and Its Sources.”

Writing Global History and Its Challenges

There is an exciting graduate student workshop coming up at our neighbour, the University of Dundee: 

Writing Global History and Its Challenges
Saturday, 4 June 2016, 9.30 AM-4.30 PM

The workshop will include Jürgen Osterhammel (University of Konstanz) and Geoffrey Parker (The Ohio State University).

Graduate students at Scottish universities are invited to participate in a one-day workshop on Saturday, 4 June 2016, organized by the Scottish Centre for Global History at the University of Dundee.  The workshop theme is “Writing Global History and Its Challenges.” Professors Jürgen Osterhammel (University of Konstanz) and Geoffrey Parker (The Ohio State University) will assign readings in advance of the workshop, and lead the discussion.  The workshop is free of charge for graduate students at Scottish universities.  However, places are limited.

In order to reserve your spot, you need to send an e-mail to Dr. Martine J. van Ittersum (m.j. vanittersum [at] by Monday, 9 May 2016, at the latest.  The e-mail should include a one-page CV and a one-page summary of your research interests (500 words maximum).  Please do not wait with submitting your materials until the last possible moment.  You may be disappointed.


Between Federalism, Autonomy and Centralism

From Quebec in the west to Crimea in the east, from Scotland in the north to the Balkans in the south, peoples of the Western World have recently sought to redefine their relationships with their states. The international conference “Between Federalism, Autonomy and Centralism”, organised by Tomasz Kamusella and Frances Nethercott from the University of St Andrews, treats modern Central and Eastern Europe as a point of departure to discuss the concepts of federalism, autonomy, and centralism in Europe and beyond.

Between Federalism, Autonomy and Centralism, May 2015 (Round Table)

Between Federalism, Autonomy and Centralism, May 2015 (Round Table)

On Friday, May 29, the Byre Theatre in St Andrews will house nine speakers from universities and research centres across Europe. Their papers, which vary in scope and regional focus, will deal with connections between the official state model on the one hand, and issues of ethnicity, religion or identity on the other.

The event will also feature Neil Ascherson and Colin Kidd, who will comment on the talks and lead a round table discussion on the topics raised.

The organizers of the event, together with the Centre for Russian, Soviet, Central and Eastern European Studies and Institute for Transnational and Spatial History at the University of St Andrews, invite all students, academics, and members of the general public to participate in this event. Admission is free for students and staff of the University. Other attendees can register and pay the conference fee at:

Between Federalism, Autonomy and Centralism, May 2015 (Participants)

Between Federalism, Autonomy and Centralism, May 2015 (Participants)



Conference Registration

The conference’s detailed programme can be found at:

Between Federalism, Autonomy and Centralism:  Central and Eastern Europe in the 20th and 21st Centuries


Tadek Wojtych
University of St Andrews

Call for Proposals: Mapping and Visualising Transnational (Hi)Stories. Connecting History, Space and Digital Tools

We are delighted to announce a workshop to be held here at St Andrews in June, 2014. It will combine short presentations on papers,  collaborative writing groups to further develop submitted papers as well as a morning of sessions that introduce specific skills and approaches to spatial history. Please find more details below.

Centre for Transnational History in collaboration with GRAINES
Mapping and Visualising Transnational (Hi)Stories. Connecting History, Space and Digital Tools 

Venue: 8-10 June 2014, School of History, St Andrews
Convenors: Bernhard Struck, Konrad Lawson
Submission date for papers and workshop proposals: 10 January 2014

Download Call for Proposals

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Reading Group First Meeting

Last week the first session of our Where is Transnational History? reading group was held. Exploring the variety of historical approaches that attempt to conceptualise space, especially in a transnational context, our reading also introduced us to the world of network visualisation with an essay by Lothar Krempel, and the exciting work being done at the Spatial History Project at Stanford University through an article by Richard White.

Our discussion focused on understanding the different ways space is defined, and employed in historical scholarship, ranging from the analysis of historical maps, the study of evolving trade and flows of all kind, the deconstruction of spatial categories and representations throughout history, and the symbolic importance of representational space. As we shared our own interests in the study of spatial history it quickly became clear that our varying topics and questions call for differing tools and forms of analysis, whether they depend primarily on close readings and interpretation or have a greater need for historical data and geographic analysis. Our reading will continue and we also agreed to plan for a more skills-based session on map-making and basic GIS for interested members in a future meeting.