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Upcoming events

The Impact of the Florentine Republican Tradition on Nineteenth-Century Italian Republican Conceptions of Sovereignty

21 March 2024, 1-2pm, The Diamond, Workroom 1, and online via Google Meet (register here for online participation)

This event is co-hosted by CoMo and the Sheffield Centre for Early Modern Studies (SCEMS). We will be joined by Samantha Wilson, PhD candidate in History, University of Cambridge


In this presentation, I consider how nineteenth-century Italian republicans (c. 1830–1882) such as Carlo Cattaneo, Francesco De Sanctis, Giuseppe Mazzini, Cristina Trivulzio di Belgiojoso, and Pasquale Villari spoke about the hierarchy of power within the state and the influence they gained in this respect from the Florentine republican tradition (c. 1494–1532) of those such as Guicciardini, Machiavelli, and Savonarola. Despite their many differences, most of these nineteenth-century republicans agreed on the need for national unification and the importance of promoting a form of citizenship as its fundamental component. However, they disagreed about which would be the most effective way for power to be directed in such a civic and unified state. Some were aware that the various peoples of Italy lived in regions with distinct identities and traditions that could not be ignored and suggested that regional administrative bodies that respected geo-political boundaries were the best solution. Moreover, some were aware that unification could not necessarily be achieved under a typically “republican” structure, given the historically entrenched position of the monarchy, which could offer stability and ensure a smooth transition to the “new age”. My analysis thus concerns the different (and sometimes fluctuating) arguments advanced concerning the advantages of federalism compared to centralism and the role of the (constitutional) monarchy. It is crucial to place such a study within an intertemporal framework, as the unprecedented changes occurring in Italy at this time caused the nineteenth-century Italian republicans to look back with indebtedness to the Florentine Republic for guidance on how to proceed. The nineteenth-century republicans recognised that the Florentine republican tradition offered some of the first discussions of the possibility of unification and the intricate problems concerning Italy’s regional structure and the sometimes-overzealous influence of the monarchy and wanted to reflect on the messages presented to shape their policies. This is not to say that they agreed with everything Guicciardini, Machiavelli, and Savonarola wrote; instead, they reflected on the tradition as a whole and picked and chose aspects that best matched their contemporary priorities. As I present this section of my doctoral thesis, my goal is to demonstrate that the nineteenth-century Italian republican conceptions of sovereignty were not simple – rather, they were based on a significant amount of debate (displaying hybridity) and were part of a lengthy conversation within the republican tradition.

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Recent events

Transnational feminism and the anti-nuclear peace movement in 1980s Italy: The example of Comiso

24 May 2022 

An event hosted by Professor Benjamin Ziemann where we were joined by Professor Laura Branciforte who gave a talk on transnational feminism and its intersection with anti-nuclear protest communities in Comiso in the 1980s. 

This talk analysed connections between two women’s anti-nuclear peace camps, La Ragnatela in Italy and Greenham Common in the UK, as an example of transnationalism. NATO’s decision to deploy cruise missiles in the small Sicilian town of Comiso, Italy, triggered mass protests against nuclear weapons between 1981 and 1983.

In Sicily, feminists who supported nuclear disarmament founded the women’s peace camp La Ragnatela in March 1983. The talk specifically charts how these women developed female ways to speak out about war and peace, how they focused political attention on the issues surrounding nuclear armaments and how they addressed the transnational implications of the anti-nuclear feminist movement.

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Transcultural memory: A study into the narratives of the Indian Legion in Germany (1941 to 1945)

11 May 2022

The Modern International History Group, a postgraduate-led forum in the University of Sheffield's History Department, and CoMo were delighted to welcome Ishudhi Rawat for a hybrid (in person and online) talk. Ishudhi presented findings from her PhD research in a paper entitled Transcultural memory: A study into the narratives of the Indian Legion in Germany (1941 to 1945). A Q&A session followed.

About the paper

Developments in memory studies show that memory can no longer be confined to the national paradigm, but instead should be explored in a range of other ways, eg through religion, ideology, politics, language, and culture. Through the prism of transcultural memory, this project explores the case of the Indian Legion (Azad Hind Fauj) in Germany. The Legion volunteers were unique, as they first fought with the Allies against the Germans and later with the Axis powers against the British.

What were the emotional responses of these soldiers in fighting first for the British and then for the Germans? When these soldiers travelled from one place to another, had social interactions with Europeans, and exchanged their memories with those living back home, they facilitated what Astrid Erll calls the ‘“travels” of memory’ (Erll, 2011). 

This research looks at the mnemonic artefacts (diaries, letters, newspapers, journals, radio broadcast recordings, videos, and pictures) of the Indian Legion’s soldiers to understand how (cultural) memory exceeds national, geographical, and socio-cultural boundaries to express the complex experiences of migration, transculturality, and war.

Ishudhi Rawat is a first-year PhD student at the Department of German, University of Bristol. She received her BA and MA degrees from the University of Delhi and an MPhil in European, Latin American and Comparative Literatures and Cultures from the University of Cambridge.

She is interested in modern German literature and culture and is familiar with 19th and 20th century German-speaking fiction and philosophy. Her areas of specialisation are critical theory, memory studies, postcolonial studies, and post-migrant theatre in Germany.

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Putin's abuse of history: Explaining the Ukraine invasion

23 March 2022

Dr Miriam Dobson hosted a lecture discussing the historical foundations of Russia and Ukraines geopolitical relations, and endeavoured to explain the rationale behind Putin's invasion and his own justification for war. Her history spanned from the 10th century to the declaration of Ukraine’s independence in 1991, comparing Putin's recent claims against the historic realities. 

Dr Dobson began by discussing how Putin frames the invasion in terms of ‘denazification. She also discussed how Putin criticised the Bolsheviks for giving too great autonomy to Soviet republics which, in his view, paved the way for their independence movements in the 1980s. Dr Dobson underlined also noted Putin's use of pandemic-related jargon like the ‘virus of nationalism.

Dr Dobson ended with some image sources which referenced the Ukrainian famine and peoples memories of Russian involvement in Ukraine. An example of these images is the painting below ‘No one wanted to die by Chervotkin.

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Chervotkin's painting entitled 'Nobody wanted to die', which commemorates the Ukrainian famine of 1932-33.

‘No one wanted to die painting by Chervotkin

Past events

Pandemics series

Hosted by Dr Saurabh Mishra

Politics and science: The case of China and the coronavirus

21 October 2021
Kerry Brown (Kings College)

Kerry Brown is Professor of Chinese Studies and Director of the Lau China Institute at King’s College, London. He has analysed the political implications of the coronavirus outbreak in China for The New York Times. From his perspective, the outbreak of coronavirus was a test for public trust in the Chinese Communist Party, and Xi Jinping as China’s leader. In a headline on a media channel, Professor Brown was quoted as saying that he called on the West to stop 'moralizing against China'.

Caring for the past: Histories of loneliness in the COVID-19 pandemic

2 November 2021
Frederick Cooper (University of Exeter)

Frederick Cooper is a research fellow in evidence-based policy, and is also the lead academic on the Centre’s Beacon project on loneliness. He is a historian of medicine with interests in loneliness, solitude, alienation, exclusion, and culture.

Read Frederick’s blog on ‘COVID-19 and the loneliness crisis’

How epidemics end

7 December 2021
Erica Charters (Oxford) 

Erica Charters is an Associate Professor in History of Medicine at University of Oxford and is an expert in the history of war, disease, and bodies, particularly in the British and French empires. Erica has recently written several articles recently on COVID-19 from a historical context, and also put together a special edition of the journal Centaurus, where she also wrote an article titled ‘How pandemics end’.

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Everyday politics, ordinary lives: Democratic engagement in Britain since 1918

24 May 2018

Supported by the AHRC, the Crick Centre and CoMo

This workshop emerged from an AHRC-funded project led by Professor Adrian Bingham (Department of History) entitled ‘Everyday politics, ordinary lives: Democratic engagement in Britain from 1918 to 1992’. The project investigates how British citizens understood politics and how they viewed its relationship to their lives, from the establishment of a near democracy in 1918 until the transformation of British political culture with the emergence of 24-hour news channels and the internet in the early 1990s.

It focused on the everyday political opinions, discussions and interactions of ordinary British people in the period, paying particular attention to the ways in which women and young people related to a political system dominated by middle-aged men.

This interdisciplinary workshop brought together scholars of different disciplines to discuss approaches to the contemporary and historical study of ‘everyday politics’ and democratic engagement.

How does politics intersect with ‘everyday life’? How can we conceptualise and measure different forms of everyday political engagement? How do changing patterns of political engagement relate to social change? How is political engagement shaped by different social identities, especially those of age and gender?

The workshop featured presentations from Professor Bingham and his colleague on the project, Dr Tom Dowling. Professor Will Jennings (University of Southampton) spoke about the findings of his project on the rise of anti-politics in Britain.

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A disillusioned democracy? Popular attitudes to politics in Britain since 1918

24 May 2018

Britain is widely perceived to face serious problems of political disengagement and disaffection, evident in a lack of confidence in governing institutions, low trust ratings for politicians and public officials, and the rejection of the European Union in the Brexit vote. Much of the discussion of our contemporary situation is based on the assumptions that in the past citizens were more politically engaged, had clearer ideological positions, had greater respect for, and trust in, politicians, and received more reliable political information. Yet how much has really changed?

In this event, Professor Adrian Bingham (University of Sheffield) and Professor Will Jennings (University of Southampton) discussed the historical evidence about what ordinary people thought about politicians and politics in the past, and how this has altered since 1918. Drawing on social survey responses, polling data and life-writing they contextualised contemporary developments by identifying longer-term patterns of political change.

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CoMo presents Catalonia

23 April 2018

This event featured short presentations and a round-table discussion with Professor Mary Vincent (University of Sheffield), Chris Bambery of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Catalonia, Dr Rhiannon McGlade (Research Associate, University of Cambridge MEITS Project and Sheffield graduate). Also with Dr Helena Buffery (University College Cork).

It was followed by a poetry reading by Mr James Roberts (MA Creative Writing student, School of English, University of Sheffield).

The event was organised and chaired by Dr Louise Johnson (School of Languages and Cultures, University of Sheffield).

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Partition in the modern world

23 May 2017

This roundtable event was the formal launch of CoMo. The event was a conference of the following academics

Hosted by Professor Mary Vincent, the theme of partition was discussed in relation to case studies across the globe, including India, Pakistan, Korea, and Ireland.

Watch recordings of each speaker's presentation below.

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Q&A session from the event.

What will the Trump presidency mean for Asia?

24 April 2017

Professor Odd Arne Westad (Yale University), chaired by Dr Eirini Karamouzi (University of Sheffield).

The election of Donald Trump as president signals a profound change in US foreign relations. Basic US approaches to the world, in place since at least 1945, seem to be shifting, as are traditional concepts of friends and enemies.

In this lecture, Professor Odd Arne Westad asked what the reactions to the Trump presidency are likely to be in eastern Asia and whether we are facing a fundamental power shift in the region. He also discussed how the current situation compares with earlier cases of dramatic global change.

 Professor Odd Arne Westad