Graduate Workshop 2017/2018: Call for Papers

19th Century Swedish Immigration to the US

We have now come to the end of our 2016/2017 programmme of Diaspora Studies Graduate Workshops. Many  thanks to all our speakers who have made such a valuable contribution to this year’s series.

The Graduate Workshop will recommence in October 2017.  If you would like to contribute a paper on a diaspora related topic to the 2017/2018 programme, please contact Alastair Learmont or Devin Grier ( see Contact)  by 14 August 2017.  You can find further details at Call for Papers

Advertisements

Scottish Born Soldiers in the New Zealand Tunnelling Company 1916-1919

Miners

New Zealand Miners, Paporoa Range, late 19th Century:  About a third of the sample of 62 Scots born miners worked in the Paporoa Range

On 4 April, the Graduate Workshop was joined by Grant Collie who is currently in the final stages of a Masters Degree by research at Massey University, New Zealand. An emigrant Scot – and a former student of the University of Edinburgh – Grant is undertaking research into 62 Scots born members (comprising 15%) of the 400 strong New Zealand Tunnelling Company which served as part of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force during the First World War.  Many were former coal miners from Central Scotland and Fife who emigrated to New Zealand towards the end of the nineteenth century, a period which coincided with the first major wave of Scottish migration to New Zealand.  Grant’s social historical  approach charted the background and motives of this significant sub group:  what were the reasons for their emigration from Scotland?  Why did they enlist?  Grant’s presentation provided an overview of work in progress.

Grant argued that poor social conditions provided the immediate backdrop to emigration.  In late 19th century Scotland, mining was a poorly paid and hazardous occupation.  Between 1885 and 1904, wages for the average miner, with a family to support, were only slightly above subsistence level, increasing from 4 shillings a day to 6 shillings a day over a twenty-year period.  Accidents were commonplace and discontent rife. Emigration provided an alternative life. Grant cited the case of Stephen Peggie, a miner from Lochore in Fife who was injured in a mining accident and by way of compensation was offered the sum of £ 300 to assist with payment of his passage to New Zealand. Emigration to New Zealand offered the hope of a new life and appealed to an underlying sense of adventure.  In their new surroudings, many emigrant Scots were able to draw on their previous technical experience to mine for black gold.

tunn_farewell

At the outbreak of war, a call was sent out throughout the British Empire for tunnelling companies; the New Zealanders were the first to respond. Their tunnelling company arrived in France in 1916 with no experience of mining in wartime conditions.  But as Grant observed, whilst the Scots born miners may not have been ideal soldiers, they were expert miners and were trained to obey orders.  In France, they began by working alongside the Highland 51st Division with whom they established good relations.   Work typically involved constructing labyrinthine tunnels , known as Catacombs, which the sappers named after New Zealand towns and cities. At Arras, in particular, the work of the New Zealand tunnellers made a significant contribution to the overall conduct of the battle.

Grant’s recent work has examined the impact of war on the 62.  Evidence suggests that a significant number were traumatised by their experience of warfare.  Suicide was not uncommon, nor were the effects of what  might now be regarded as Post Traumatic Place NamesStress Disorder.  Grant is currently researching the reasons for five of the 62 returning to Scotland, rather than their adopted country, at the end of the war. His visit to Europe coinciding, as it does, with centenary events to commemorate the Battle of Arras, has enabled him to carry out further primary research at the Scottish Mining Museum and the National Library of Scotland.

During the course of the presentation interesting issues arose as to the nature of national identity, and the availability of primary source material.  Whilst surprisingly little contemporary correspondence survives, the collective aural memory of family members provides a valuable contextual source.

This was a fascinating talk and a fitting end to our 2016/2017 programme. We wish Grant well with his continuing research.

 

Toys and the Movement of Peoples: What The Museum of Childhood’s Collections Tell Us About Material Culture and Childhood?

On 14 March 2017, the Graduate Workshop was pleased to welcome Dr  Catriona Ellis of the University of Edinburgh whose recent research has examined how childhood was constructed or imagined in colonial South India in the 1920s and 1930. Since submitting her PhD in September 2016, Catriona has volunteered at Edinburgh’s Museum of Childhood. A departure from the more traditional primary sources of her thesis, the experience has provided a fascinating opportunity to engage with a completely different – and contested – form of material culture.

In her paper, Catriona looked principally at the Museum’s Indian collection.  She considered what toys might reveal about Indian children and how toys might also reflect the experiences of children visiting India.  What do they tell us about universal values of childhood? She illustrated her presentation with images of dolls, transparencies and an authentically Indian tak taki.  But in many ways, it was the physical presence of a more contemporary Indian Barbie doll which she had bought for her own daughter, which allowed  Catriona to illustrate just how contested a “toy” might be.  Do we see “Jasmine” through the eyes of the child or the adult?  Is the Barbie simply a reflection of what society dictates, or something which appeals directly to the child’s imagination?  Perhaps she  might become a vehicle for diverse kinds of nostalgia, connecting one generation with another, or providing a link with Empire? In a museum context, does the approach of a collector, or curator (a point picked up in the Question and Answer session), affect its representation and our perceptions?

The Museum, which was opened in 1955 by Councillor Patrick Murray (1908-1981), was one of the first of its kind.  There are a number of non-British toys referred to in the Catalogues, but, frustratingly, provenances are often not recorded. Unfortunately, Murray’s passion for toys was not matched with an assiduous eye for their classification. Toys of Empire, however, clearly provide an identifiable grouping within the Museum’s collection.  In 1987, Diana unnamed (4)Horne donated a pull along buffalo which her father had bought for her in India in the twilight days of Empire.  Forty years on, she described it as “a lovely souvenir of our colonial days”, the buffalo evoking a palpable sense of imperial nostalgia.    But a toy might have had a more didactic purpose.  Catriona showed us examples of transparencies dating back to the late 19th century which appear to represent Indians in stereotypical terms.  Arguably, they were produced to convey a certain cultural message to British children whether or not they lived in India.  The Tak taki ,on the other hand, was an example of a toy which Indian children would have enjoyed.  As it was pulled along, its wheel drove a beating drum, giving the toy its distinctive name.  Catriona showed us an image of an example, probably dating to the 1880s, which had been brought back to Scotland, and known in the donor family as Polly’s Indian or Chinese Toy:  a distinctly Indian toy, traditionally used by Indian children, but in this context a vehicle (literally perhaps) for a sense of imperial nostalgia.

unnamed (3)By virtue of its size and the evident zeal of its collector, the Lovett collection represents a significant part of of the Museum’s overall collection.  In the late 19th/early 20th century Edward Lovett (1852-1933), a London toy collector, amassed 670 dolls from all over the world.  Originally, they were sold to the Museum of Cardiff but in 1961 they were given on permanent loan to the Museum of Childhood.  Lovett’s interest lay principally in Japanese and Chinese dolls but his collection also contains several Indian, mostly, rag dolls.  Catriona argued that the Lovett dolls represent “a material representation of (Lovett’s) understanding of racial and cultural hierarchies in the late 19th and early 20th centuries”.  As a collector, Lovett openly played down the artistic significance of the dolls, and implicitly suggested that they revealed gradations of cultural sophistication.  But, in his later writings, he appeared to be alive to the enduring commonality of the toy, and the universality of play.  Catriona considered the seventeen dolls in the Lovett collection.  With one exception, they are relatively simple rag dolls but, as Catriona suggested, their simplicity might have provided greater scope for a child’s imagination.

Catriona finished with Pachisi, a 16th Century Indian Board game, which is said to haunnamed (2)ve originated in the Mughal Court of Fatepur Sikri.  This complex adult board game, played exclusively by the upper castes, was later appropriated and simplified by the British.  It was the forerunner of Ludo.  Catriona showed us an example of the original, acquired in the 1920s and used by the donor’s family until the 1970s.  The evolution and packaging of the game may well tell us more about the attitudes of adults than the play of children.

Toys occupy contested territory but provide a further dimension to our understanding of childhood. Collecting strategies add an extra later of complexity, delineating, even directing our perceptions of childhood.  This well attended presentation stimulated animated discussion.  We wish Catriona well with her continuing research at the Museum of Childhood and look forward to seeing her again at the Graduate Workshop.

___________________

Our next Graduate Workshop will take place on Tuesday 4 April when Grant Collie of Massey University, New Zealand will be speaking on  “Emigrant Scottish Miners in the NZ Tunnelling Company: 1916-1919”

Grant tells the story  of 62 Scottish members of the New Zealand Tunnelling Company who emigrated to New Zealand in  1880-1914.  Previously, many had worked as miners in the central belt of Scotland. But who were they?  And what were the reasons for their emigration?

The Workshop will take place at 1 pm in G 16 of the William Robertson Wing of the School of History, Classics and Archaeology (Doorway 4).

Everyone is most welcome to attend.