All posts by Historical Perspectives

Historical Perspectives is an established history society run by and for postgraduates studying at universities throughout Scotland. Our main activities throughout the academic year are hosting monthly seminars on a range of history topics, including economic, social, cultural, medieval, modern, and medical history. We also organise an annual two day conference at the end of the year (May or June), using a broad theme in order to incorporate a wide range of postgraduate students from across the UK. Although we are primarily a history society, we are also interdisciplinary as our seminars and conference papers feature work from postgraduate students in other disciplines who approach their research through a historical lens.

CFP Deadline

The deadline for proposal submission for this year’s conference is 5pm on February 28 – so don’t forget to get your abstract to us ahead of then!

We’ve had some great submissions so far, and things are starting to get exciting!

Proposals should be sent to the Local Communities: Global World conference convener, William Burns at

Further information is available here.



February Seminar

We wil be teaming up with Glasgow University History Society for this month’s seminar, which will take place on February 21st at 17:00 at the Gilchrist Postgraduate Club Seminar Room, in the Gilbert Scott building.

The speakers for this seminar will be:

Erini Katsikea:
‘Consider the skull and the lemon peel: the world of 17th century Golden Age Dutch ‘vanitas’ Still Lives’

‘Since the emancipation of Still Life painting in the 17th century Dutch Republic, the evolution of the genre incorporates a distinct, so­called,vanitastradition that can be understood in the wider context of the moralizing impulse evident across the breadth and depth of Dutch Golden Age culture. Thevanitasstill life paintings of the 17th century, functioning as “visual tracts on worldly vanity and the transience of earthly pleasures”, as eloquently observed by Simon Schama, constitute a cultural topos.With a Durkheimian emphasis accorded to the socio­economic and cultural context of the Golden Age reality of Protestant Calvinism, national politics, global economic competition, and scientific advancement, this dissertation strives to illuminate how Dutch visual culture moralized affluence and wealth. Tracing its correspondences with the tradition of Emblematic literature and Baconian and Cartesian scientific inquiry, thevanitasstill life tradition is understood as part of a wider iconographic conservatism of realistic form and moralizing content. The paintings discussed in thisstudy by Jacques de Gheyn II , Pieter Claesz., Jan Davidsz. De Heem, Aelbert Jansz. van der Schoor and Willem Claesz. Heda, belong to the secularized religious idiom ofvanitas, and are representative of Dutch art of this period as navigating to and fro between moral and matter; the durable and the ephemeral, the exterior and interior; the illusion of life and the reality of inertia.Challenging Svetlana Alper’s position that Dutch painting is devoid of narrative, it is argued, that it rather contains the narrative of the Dutch Golden Age in its idiosyncratic attempt to reconcile its audience with their own shifting reality.’


Ingrid Bols:
‘Debussy, Bernstein, Finland: musical celebrations of the year 2018 by symphony orchestras in France and the United Kingdom’

‘There is no musical season without celebrations of anniversaries. Symphony orchestras commemorate composers, for example Jean Sibelius in 1965 and Dutilleux in 2016 for the centenary of their birth and Jean-Philippe Rameau in 2014 for his 250th birthday. Orchestras also celebrate their own history such as the 150 years of the Strasbourg Philharmonic in 2006, the 100 years of the first recording of the London Symphony Orchestra in 2013, the 125 years of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra in 2016 and the 50 years of the Paris Orchestra in 2017. This study is a discussion on the musical celebrations of the year 2018 in France and in the United Kingdom. The year 2018 is the centenary of the birth of the conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein, the centenary of the death of Claude Debussy and the centenary of the independence of Finland. These celebrations are chosen highlights on specific heritages. Commemorative concerts and festivals preserve memory of famous figures and events that are considered as part of the ongoing elaboration and definition of the Western musical canon. Symphony orchestras could appear as standardised institutions around the world. However, the events they choose to commemorate and the way they organise these celebrations tell about their identities and national culture.’

All welcome to join us for drinks afterwards and further discussion.

Historical Perspectives/GUHS February Seminar


January Seminar

The next Historical Perspectives seminar takes place on Wednesday January 17th at 5pm in the Seminar Room at Lilybank House, University of Glasgow.

The speakers for the January Historical Perspectives Seminar will be:

Saskia Millmann, University of Glasgow:
‘Racial persecuted researchers at the LMU Munich: Migration, remigration and rehabilitation post-1945’

‘This dissertation, which was handed in at the Department of Jewish History at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich in July 2017, examined for the first time how the persecution of Jews affected professors and researchers at the University of Munich. The dissertation analysed four main aspects: The period and effects of national socialist persecution from 1933 until 1936, the period of migration between 1933-1939, the motives for remigrating back to Germany and the rehabilitation efforts of the LMU post 1945.

The main sources used were personal files, senate files, other university documents as well as lists produced by the Bavarian Ministry for Education in 1933 and 1935. All archival resources used in this dissertation were from the University Archive Munich, as well as the Bavarian Main State Archive and the City Archive Munich.

My research was able to identify 34 “non-aryan” researcher at the LMU Munich, which included eight Jewish researchers and 21 researchers with Jewish heritage. I would therefore like to present how those researchers were affected on an individual basis. The main research questions for this aspect were: “When were those researchers expelled from the University”; “Were there any abnormalities regarding their dismissals”; “What were the target countries for the emigrants” or “Which provisions were made by the LMU after the war to rehabilitate the racially persecuted researchers?”’


Farheen Hasan, University of Glasgow:
‘Past Captive of the Present: The Polarised Historiography of Aurangzeb’

‘In both British and post-colonial India religious identities have frequently been invoked for political ends, thereby creating tensions between Hindus and Muslims. Several scholars contend that the religious conflicts have their origin in the reign of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb (1658-1707), and that they resulted from his persecution of Hindus. This account of Aurangzeb’s reign has been subject to challenges and the historiography on Aurangzeb’s reign is highly polarized. Some historians characterize Aurangzeb as a zealot, while others argue that his policies have been misrepresented. This paper presents a historiographical analysis of the contradictory interpretations of Aurangzeb’s rule and situates the same in the changing political contexts of his posterity. The paper seeks to explain the causes of disagreement amongst scholars on the basis of an analysis of Aurangzeb’s three most controversial initiatives: (i) the re-imposition of Jizya, (ii) the destruction of (some) Hindu temples, and (iii) alleged preferential hiring of Muslims. One case of disagreement is visible in Aurangzeb’s hiring policies: Stanley Poole (1901) claimed that Aurangzeb employed an “inferior, ill-educated” class of Muslims, while Athar Ali (1966) argued that Aurangzeb’s administration comprised a higher number of non-Muslim nobles than any prior Mughal ruler. Examining and explaining the political contexts that have influenced the conflicting accounts of Aurangzeb’s reign, the paper concludes with a discussion that ascertains if Aurangzeb’s agency was so great that it could continue to influence religious divisions in contemporary India, or if Aurangzeb has become an eternal captive of the present.’

Refreshments will be provided, and you’re invited to join us for a drink afterwards to socialise and for further discussion.

Historical Perspectives January 2018

Call for Papers: 15th Annual HP Conference

Local Communities: Global World



We will be holding the 15th annual Historical Perspectives conference in Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall on the 8th and 9th of June 2018, and the theme for next year’s conference is ‘Local Communities: Global World’.

Download Call for Papers

2018 is the European Year of Cultural Heritage, offering a unique opportunity for researchers across the continent to engage with the past, its impact on the present, and possible futures. The conference organisers wish to give a platform to speakers who would like to present their research on a number of themes, and welcome other creative proposals on local and global histories.

The deadline for proposal submission is 28th February 2018. Each submission must include a title, a 250 word abstract, your name, your institution and any special requirements you may have. Proposals must be tied in with the stated theme or sub-themes of the conference. Interdisciplinary papers are encouraged.

Proposals should be sent to the Local Communities: Global World conference convener, William Burns at

Proposals will be assessed by the Historical Perspectives committee, and successful candidates will be contacted in March and April 2018.

We look forward to hearing from you!

December Seminar – Abstracts

Our next seminar will take place on December 13th at 17:00, Lilybank House Seminar Room, University of Glasgow, when we will be welcoming Veni Kojouharova and Shushu Li, both of the University of Glasgow.

Veni’s paper is entitled ‘Elite manipulation and ethnic nationalism: Yugoslavia between communism and democracy’.


This paper argues that the collapse of Yugoslavia occurred when it did not just because of elite manipulation and/or ethnic nationalism; what should also be considered is the relevance of both in the debate in the context of democratisation – the historical period of transitioning between communism and democracy. Firstly, the political situation that the federation was in and its weakened state was crucial for the eruption of ethnic hatred and political opportunists. The transition from a socialist state to a democratic one led to the ambition of the communist elites to do anything to preserve their power. With that motivation, they were exploiting the frames of nationalism in order to overcome the threat of other elites and the changing system; they were playing on ‘what people wanted’ but it stemmed from their own interests. Secondly, the democratisation process for the first time in decades gave people the opportunity to more openly display their ideologies and beliefs related to ethnicity and nationalism. The socialist one-party system had imposed a doctrine which aimed to homogenise the society as a whole and ethnic communities and to provide one Yugoslav identity. Thus, rather than eliminating the nationalist sentiments and trends, it just suppressed them and denied people the ability to express their own ethnic beliefs. With the instability brought during the transitional process of democratisation, those latent nationalistic sentiments and hatreds arose and were given an opportunity to be utilised.

Shushu’s paper is entitled ‘Remote Nationalism and the Chinatown: Root Culture is Chinese Diaspora Parents’ Spirit in ‘Shaman’ and The Joy Luck Club’


One immigrates to another country, the old days in the homeland will haunt him, and he becomes ‘an alienated and troubled soul’ (Kong 2003: 547) which is shocked by unfamiliar cultures. It is a ‘spiritual exile’ (Pai 1976: 208) for a Chinese immigrant in America as a ‘perpetual wanderer’ (208) who is ‘burdened with a memory which carries the weight of 5000 years’ (209). When ‘the linear history is broken’ (Clifford 1994: 318), the diaspora cultures emerge and mediate the past and the present, and the root culture and the target culture. Aside from the tension of the ‘historical rift’ (Gilroy 1994: 293-294) between ‘there’ and ‘here’, this diasporic experience forms a positive diasporic consciousness, which is termed ‘contrapuntal’ by Edward Said (1984: 171-172; 1990: 48-50), meaning a tolerance towards cultural diversity for ‘the best of a bad situation’ (Clifford 1994: 312). This paper contrasts how the root culture is narrated in two Contemporary Chinese-American Diaspora Literature The Woman Warrior and The Luck Club regarding the first generation’s confused connection to China and America, and the ultimate ‘contrapuntal’ in the third space in terms of in terms of how they managed the distance, the memory and the remote nationalism, how they rebuilt their community, namely, Chinatown, a ‘city within a city’ in America, and how they settled in the ‘hybridity’ in the everyday use as material culture.

Refreshments will be provided, and you’re invited to join us for a drink afterwards to socialise and for further discussion.