Yesterday began with a great keynote by Philip Morgan (no relation) on battlefields. He wanted to know how they got named (the Battle of Hastings took place at Battle, not at Hastings), whether a memorial was built on the site, and if so whether that was contemporary or long after the event. These are not simple questions, and hence they make for a great research project.
There were lots of good talks, including some that I missed due to being in the wrong stream. One of my favorites was by Greek historian, Ioulia Kolovou, on the subject of Anna Komnene. She was a Byzantine princess and a historian. If you would like to get a sense of the paper, Ioulia has a blog post about Anna up on the Dangerous Women Project blog.
My paper went well, which is a relief because I am giving that talk twice more this week. The first will be at the Diversity Trust event in Bristol tomorrow. The second, which will be an extended version, is at Bath Spa University on Wednesday.
Also in my session was new pal, Lucie Cook, who gave a magnificent paper on how the Victorians wrote about Anne Boleyn. My favorite bit was when a historian produced a new book critical of Anne and a clairvoyant claimed that she had been visited by the ghost of the angry queen who wanted the record put straight. For some reason the historian declined the opportunity to interview the ghostly Queen to find out what he had got wrong. Lucie noted that most historians of the era were men, that this book was deeply misogynist, and that the clairvoyant, as was typical for the era, was a woman.
The third paper in my session was by a long time friend, Tanya Brown, whom many of you will know from SF conventions. She did a paper on Christopher Marlowe in fiction, including coverage of Elizabeth Bear’s Promethean Age novels. This was every bit as entertaining as you would expect.
The wrap up session for the event was a panel discussion on how we remember history. This was inspired by things like the Rhodes Must Fall campaign and the removal of Confederate statues in the USA. I chaired it. Tony Keen, who when not at SF conventions is a Classicist, talked about how the Romans would sometimes erase mention of past emperors who had not been popular. Catherine Padmore from Australia talked about the Australia Day controversy. My friend Will Pooley from Bristol talked about the controversy surrounding Edward Colston, a local philanthropist who made much of his money from the slave trade. And finally Yasmen (whose last name I didn’t catch) from Turkey talked about a soap opera about the Ottoman Empire which gives a very positive view of the ancient Turks. Oh, and there was me. I talked about the World Fantasy Award trophy controversy.
Getting home proved a lot more difficult and expected. A bunch of us arrived at Stoke station just in time to see the line closed because of a “person hit by a train” incident. Understandably there was much chaos. It took almost two hours to get Lucie, Will and myself to Stafford where we could pick up the mainline trains from Manchester. Fortunately there is an alternative route south that avoids Stoke. I was greatly relieved to get to Bristol in time to catch the 10:15pm train home. I hope Lucie made it to Portsmouth.