Mapping the Persian Gulf: Spatial perceptions and practices of the British agents in the region 1820-1930

Hatem Alshaikh-Mubarak | [email protected]

The Persian Gulf is a sea that is surrounded now by a number of countries: Iran on its Eastern side, Iraq from the North, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf Arab states in the East. Those are Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, and Oman. Those states along the west coast with Saudi constituted, since 1982, a political association, namely the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). This political affinity, along with other shared characteristics and social ties have  inspired observers to refer to them as a distinct unit. 

Hatem Alshaikh-Mubarak and Jordan Girardin, workshop Spatial History and Its Sources, September 2016
Hatem Alshaikh-Mubarak and Jordan Girardin, workshop Spatial History and Its Sources, September 2016

However, this region’s map remains problematic in many respects. One prevalent issue today is the Persian/Arab contest over the identity of the Gulf and over certain territories on its coasts and to where they belong, but it is not the only problem. Boundaries, almost between all the countries, have been subjects of dispute in the past decades, where some cases have not been settled yet. Moreover, the states’ efforts in consolidating national identities over other sub-identities is a process that has not been settled yet. This situation may still allow for a verity of spatial imaginations of this space, which do not necessarily correlate with the boundaries of nation states.

Indeed, these issues and others are still subject of political dispute, but they have also stimulated scholars, journalist, and activists to question and debate the origin of the current map. What is the original shape? How was this map formed? Are these boundaries artificial? What is the identity of this region in general, and of particular places within it? What does this region include and exclude? These are some questions addressed in this project. 


Nordicism and Racial Hygiene: Germany, Scandinavia, and Transnational Eugenics, ca. 1905-1940.

Olivier Feis | [email protected]

While the passing of the Nuremberg Race Laws by the Nazi government in September of 1935 has long been considered the infamous climax of the institutionalization of European Eugenics principles, the focus on Nuremberg has deflected attention away from analyses of Oslo, Stockholm, and Copenhagen. Indeed, laws aimed at strengthening the nation’s “racial hygiene” became public policy in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark before they reached their macabre epitome in Hitler’s Germany. Both Norway and Sweden passed laws allowing for the sterilization of “genetic undesirables” in 1934, while Denmark did so in 1929, a full 6 years before Nuremberg. These chronological similarities, together with the documented adherence of numerous prominent Scandinavian eugenicists to the internationalist Nordicism movement, suggest that far from having occurred in isolation from one another, the eugenic impulses that manifested themselves in Scandinavia and Germany during the inter-war period were the result of a shared philosophy of, and socio-scientific approach to, Eugenics.

The purpose of this project is to investigate the ways in which transnational exchanges amongst the scientific communities of the Nordic countries and Germany contributed to the formulation, evolution, and public implementation of Eugenics principles. Theoretically grounded in Pierre-Yves Saunier’s concept of “circulation” of ideas and knowledge, the study seeks to establish clear links between and amongst German and Scandinavian eugenicists, identify the ways in which they cooperated, and evaluate the impact of these collaborative efforts on their respective scientific fields as well as on public policies in their respective countries. Additionally, it will evaluate the extent to which distinct national characters affected the implementation of eugenics principles. The study takes as its working hypothesis that while the pursuits of eugenics on a scientific level resulted from transnational exchanges, its ultimate implementation in terms of public policy resulted from the prioritization of national considerations.


Between Exile and Integration: German-Speaking Émigré artists and British Modernism in the Twentieth Century

Lauren Holmes | [email protected]

In the 1930s, thousands of creatives were forced by the Nazi attack on ‘racial degeneracy’ and ‘alien culture’ to find new homes across the world. Through them, German modernism lived on beyond Germany’s borders. The arrival of these artists, curators, dealer, and art historians on British shores meant that the art scene in Britain suddenly found a whole range of different approaches in its midst. The history of modernist styles in Britain in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries is complex and widely contested, and at this point, British art was still trying to navigate a unique route between international modernism, more specifically British types of modernism, and vernacular styles. Nonetheless, the aesthetic heritage of central European artists generally diverged in many ways from that of their British counterparts. This raises the question of what role they played, if any, in the negotiation of what British modernism could mean.

There were a great many artists among the thousands of émigrés who arrived in the 1930s who were part of this conversation. I use three case studies the ceramicist Lucie Rie, multimedia fine artist Kurt Schwitters, and the religious muralist Hans Feibusch and explore their careers through the ways in which they produced and exhibited their work, and interacted with other members of the artistic communities. Their experiences and artwork will form the basis of this project, but this study builds upon these individual narratives to search for broader patterns in artistic production, exhibition, and community-building. Significantly, this thesis highlights the roles of long-overlooked names in the history of British modernism. It will address the question of why some émigré artists achieved more success and became more influential than others. I also examine the place that émigré artists found for themselves within the British art establishment and beyond, as well as spaces outside of this that they created for themselves to facilitate and encourage their growth as artists, and how this changed and developed as the decades passed.


Reconstructing Nationality: The Russophone Minority’s Relation with the Estonian State, 1991-2004

Samuel Kramer | [email protected]

This project seeks to explain how the Russian-speaking community in Estonia dealt with the socioeconomic and political changes that occurred after independence from the USSR. The Russophones enjoyed a privileged status as the Soviet “vanguard nationality” from 1940 to 1990. While some ethnic Russians lived in Estonia before Soviet rule began, most contemporary Russian-speakers trace their roots to Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians, and others who migrated to the Estonian SSR between the 1950s and 1980s for a better standard of living. The Russophones were central to the development of local industries such as shale mining. Moscow ensured the establishment of separate Russian-language schools and prioritised Russophones in local Communist Party leadership. After the Soviet Union’s end, the Russian-speakers found themselves a minority in a country focused on nurturing its Estonian identity.

The first decade of independence is the critical period for understanding Estonian-Russophone relations. Since the reconstituted Estonian state declared itself the 1920-1940 republic’s successor, it reintroduced or reformed interwar-era citizenship and education legislation. This meant that the Soviet-era migrants would not be considered for automatic residency, among other status changes. Those not automatically granted citizenship had to take an Estonian language proficiency test and pass a civics exam. Similarly, schooling increasingly consolidated around emphasis on the Estonian language.  At the same time, market reforms meant that Eastern Estonia’s Russophone-heavy industries had to reorganise, leading to massive layoffs. Citizenship, economy, and education became focal points in the debate over Estonia’s future. The Centre Party in particular gained support from Russophones by promising to defend their language and autonomous education as well as forging a path to citizenship.

The disputes reached a head in 1993, when the eastern city of Narva organised a referendum on its autonomy within Estonia – a decision rejected by the Constitutional Court. While tensions have since subsided, debate continues around the Russian-language schools’ future and other community organisations’ status. The country’s policy differences have roots in the Second Republic’s turbulent foundation period.

To create a complete picture of public opinion, I intend to use personal recollections, print media, and government documents. Personal recollections through survey responses will be contextualised though newspaper editorials and official publications. Text and statistics bolsters recorded memories. The decade’s changes and influence on modern Estonian politics are thereby covered from an individual as well as a sociopolitical perspective.


Mourning with the ‘force of history’ – National Days of Remembrance in the UK and Germany

James Krull | [email protected]

National days of remembrance connect selected versions of the remembered past with current ideas and goals for the future. They bridge the gap between the layers of time and connect different levels of publicity: Grief as an essential, first and foremost individual, intimate emotion, is being more or less successfully scaled up and thus transferred publicly onto the collective. On a macrosocial scale or when the identity of the dead, the scale or the political context of the suffered loss is of national importance, this is mostly happening with the state itself involved. Thus, national days of remembrance can be a means of visualizing the powers at play in the politics of history on a national level.

This project examines the political, cultural and emotional mechanisms, languages and customs behind national acts of commemoration by looking at national days of remembrance since the end of the Second World War. Conducting an asymmetrical transnational comparison between Germany and the UK, it aims to provide an updated, theoretically based and transnational perspective on national days of remembrance. The period of investigation stretches from the end of the Second World War up to the present. The threshold of 1990 is explicitly crossed, because the increasing temporal distance of the commemorating collective to the object of remembrance – i.e. those, who are being commemorated – alters the working mechanisms of commemorative acts and should thus be taken into account.

There are various ways in which a commemorative event can be ‘national’ – the focus of remembrance, the nationally charged commemorative narrative, the organizational framework and scope, the organizer’s claim, the involvement of state, the outreach, the symbolism, the accessibility, the critical reception as well as the emotional connection with the wider public. All these points give rise to the fact that national days of remembrance are an essential part of the cultural memory of a society and a point of crystallization for a state’s relationship with its past and therefore with itself. Due to their annual repetition, they are an ideal tool for highlighting political, cultural, and social change.


Holocaust Education and Remembrance Culture in Scotland, 1970 to the Present

Ryan Phillips | [email protected]

On the outskirts of the Kirkcaldy War Memorial Gardens, facing out onto the busy Bennochy Road, stands a small, weather-worn monument. At a glance, it is unassuming, and its meaning unclear. Only by reading the small plaque adorning it can we begin to understand its meaning and significance: it is a memorial dedicated to the millions of victims of the Holocaust, and a testament of ‘a local determination to challenge racism and intolerance’. It was unveiled in January 2007, by Gordon Brown in a ceremony which marked the beginning of a three-week long Anne Frank + You Festival, organized by twenty high school students from three high schools in Fife. The festival sought to raise awareness about the Holocaust (particularly among young people) by offering a range of exhibits and activities. It was a remarkable success, receiving £245,176 in funding and attracting over 8,000 people from across Scotland.

The festival concluded with a candlelight procession for peace on Holocaust Memorial Day. Today, only the monument remains. The four circular symbols carved into the wood allegedly tells viewers that ‘[t]his is a safe place’ in a symbolic language created by refugee communities across Europe and America. Yet, it is unclear if this language even existed. Regardless, brief observations show that the monument fails to draw attention. I was only informed of its existence in 2023, despite having visited Kirkcaldy hundreds of times, passing the monument at least twice on each visit! Even when it does attract attention, it can only serve as a reminder of the victims and values it represents if one pays attention long enough to read the plaque (which busy commuters rarely have the time to do). It thus remains largely forgotten on the periphery of a garden dedicated to the memory of those who fought and died in the world wars; as perhaps the Holocaust could be said to stand on the periphery of Scotland’s memory of the Second World War today.

This monument is only one example of how the Holocaust is remembered and commemorated in Scotland. The topic of Scottish Holocaust memory has, until very recently, been severely neglected within the broader field of British Holocaust memory studies, which has focused almost exclusively on developments and contemporary challenges in England. The overwhelming focus on English Holocaust memory is somewhat understandable. The majority of Holocaust memorials, museum exhibits, and learning centres are based in England and English Holocaust education predates its Scottish equivalent by a decade.

But, my project will contribute to remedying the lack of understanding about Scottish Holocaust by analysing the evolution of Holocaust memory in Scotland since 1970. Some of the questions I seek to address in the project are: why did the Holocaust return to prominence in Scottish (and British) historical memory in the late 1970s after being marginalised in the aftermath of the Second World War? How has Holocaust memory evolved since the 1970s? How is the Holocaust discussed and represented in popular culture, education, monuments, and museums? Why did the introduction of Holocaust Memorial Day herald the introduction of Holocaust education into Scottish schools in 2001? How is Scotland’s relationship with the Holocaust explored? How is this relationship incorporated into Scotland’s broader history (particularly its imperial legacy)? I anticipate that throughout the project I will be drawing similarities and overlaps between the developments and challenges in England and Scotland – for example the impact of Steven Spielberg’s widely acclaimed film Schindler’s List. However, I will focus on highlighting the unique features of Scottish Holocaust memory and how a distinct Scottish Holocaust memory narrative has developed and been impacted by Scotland’s political and cultural environment.


More than just Hitlerism: National Socialisms and Perceptions of Italian Fascism, 1919-33

Teresa van der Kraan | [email protected]

In the interwar period, Italian Fascism exercised a potent influence upon the imaginations of ultranationalists in the German-speaking world. Recent historiographical inroads have shifted focus away from the relatively static nature of comparative studies of Germany and Italy, to foreground the importance of process and transfer. This has allowed historians to hone in on the ‘travelling potential’ of fascism, exploring the appeal of fascist elements in international contexts. Building on this trend, my thesis explores the intellectual reception and use of the Italian Fascist ‘image’ in five German-speaking groups which inhabited the ‘fascist sphere’: the Gesellschaft zum Studium des Faschismus (GSF), the Stahlhelm: Bund der Frontsoldaten, the National Bolsheviks, the Strasser circle, and the Spann circle.

Each of these groups is notable in that it also came into conflict with Hitlerism, being ultimately exiled or banned by the Nazi regime. Conceptions of and reactions to the ‘fascist benchmark’, Italian Fascism, provide a lucrative starting point from which to explore the spread of fascism in the interwar period. This includes fascism’s capacity to ‘bleed into’ other ideologies, blurring traditionally compartmentalised ideological demarcation lines, hybridizing with ideologies ranging from Marxism (National Bolshevism) to conservatism (the Stahlhelm and Spann circle).

In addition to foregrounding the transformative capacity of fascism, my thesis also contributes to a shift in focus away from the traditional historiographical dominance of Nazism. The ways in which Italian Fascism was interpreted by contemporaries —a discursive, subjective exercise by nature— highlights processual entanglements which resulted in each of the groups internalising features of Italian Fascist ideology, whether actively or passively. In short, through the vehicle of Fascism, the Germanic nationalist movements in question became more fascist over time. This manifested in the adoption of such ideological features as soldierly nationalism as a harbinger of a soldiers’ state, the use of violent rhetoric or ‘fighting language’, concepts of total war and mobilisation, and the embracing of corporatism as a desirable ‘third way’ in state organisation.


Panagiotis Kondylis: In Search of the View from Nowhere

Sokratis Vekris | [email protected]

Panagiotis Kondylis (1943-1998) was a Greek philosopher and historian of ideas who produced an original, thought-provoking, and multidimensional body of work. After completing his doctoral thesis at the University of Heidelberg in 1977 under the supervision of the renowned German philosopher Dieter Henrich, Kondylis split his time between Athens and Heidelberg, making a living as a translator and columnist. His work spans three distinct fields: history of ideas, social and political philosophy, and international relations. The common thread running throughout his oeuvre is the notion that human affairs are governed by the anthropological constants of power and decision. Adopting what he termed a “consistent theoretical nihilism”, Kondylis sought to describe and explain the variety of historical activity through a disengaged, purportedly value-neutral prism.
The purpose of this dissertation is to provide an intellectual biography of Panagiotis Kondylis. It will critically examine both the content and evolution of Kondylis’s philosophy and the intellectual and social contexts from which it emerged. Special emphasis will be placed on Kondylis’ doubly liminal position, both as a figure operating at the border of German-Greek intellectual life, and as a private scholar working outside the boundaries of the academic community. While Kondylis was in search of the ‘view from nowhere’, my thesis seeks to lay bare the ways in which his thought very much emerged from somewhere.


Surgeons at Sea: Naval Surgeons and the Construction of Medical Bias in the British and French Worlds, 1785-1815

Manon C Williams | [email protected]

Manon WilliamsUsing naval medical records from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, my project examines how medical knowledge was constructed at sea among surgeons in the British and French navies. I will explore how naval surgeons’ institutional, professional, and personal experiences informed patient care and shaped medical practice. I am especially interested in the role of medical bias, including how patients were categorized based on preconceived or constructed notions of disease susceptibility. I will use a comparative approach to examine a collection of personal and professional medical journals written while journeying to and from various geographic locations around the world to compare the medical experience on board for different patient populations (e.g. convicts, seamen, officers, immigrants). This work is in conversation with scholarship on the professionalization and bureaucratization of military medicine and the influences of the military on modern, clinical medicine.


The Formation of the episcopalis audientia, from the Case of Paul of Samosata to the Theodosian Code, c. 260-438

Chao Xiao | [email protected]

I received my first PhD (Historical Theories and History of Historical Science) in the Fudan University and then I have been an associate professor at Guangxi Normal University in China. Now I am on the journey to seek my second PhD guided by Prof. Caroline Humfress and Dr. Konrad Lawson at the University of St. Andrews. The episcopalis audientia, which is also called the ‘bishop’s hearing’, originated from long-standing practices within Christian communities. The first documented practice is the case of Paul of Samosata, and thus is the starting point for this research. In this case, as is recorded in Eusebius’s Church History, the controversy provoked by Paul’s heretical thoughts gave rise to the presence of ad hoc councils of bishops attended by many bishops and church followers. A final Synod later decided Paul’s excommunication; however, the Church had to seek for the Roman emperor’s official recognition when the Synod’s decision concerning Paul could not be enforced.

A case study could exemplify part of the formation but was not sufficient to present a comprehensive and dynamic historical development. Thus, this research extends across the early formation of episcopalis audientia from 260 to 438, i.e., the period from the case till the Theodosian Code, and covers different aspects such as law, politics, religion, economy, and society. Most contemporary inquiries into episcopalis audientia focus on legal texts, but few have tried to dig into the historical contexts behind these legal texts. For example, in Antioch at the time of Paul of Samosata, there were three main influences, the Church, the Roman Empire, and the Kingdom of Palmyra. The extent of Palmyra’s involvement in the case of Paul deserves to be investigated, but related investigation has been insufficient.

The early formation of episcopalis audientia can be better understood by dint of comparison and contrast. There was a similar legal phenomenon called ChunQiu Adjudication in the Han Dynasty in ancient China (202 BC – 200 AD). This research also intends to exhibit the particularities of episcopalis audientia as well as its formation in the occident by comparing it with ChunQiu Adjudication in ancient China. For example, what are the similarities and differences between the Roman bishops who worked as judges and the Han Confucian judicial officers? Are the social functions of both similar to each other? What were the intentions of the Han emperors and the Roman emperors, respectively, when they employed ChunQiu Adjudication and episcopalis audientia? To what extent did they materialize their ambitions?