Castles, Carvings and Cetaceans

Setting the tone

On our second trip of the term, we spent a day in Carlisle! During our visit, we discovered lots of fun things there. After taking the train to Carlisle, we began our trip by walking through the town to our first destination, the castle. In fact, the first building we saw after stepping out of the station was the citadel. It was a very impressive building — originally built for Henry VIII — and set the tone for our visit, although we didn’t go inside.

Besieging the castle

At the castle we learnt lots of exciting facts, such as the fact that not only is it the most besieged castle in England but, fittingly, it was also the last castle to have a proper siege. We also learnt that Mary, Queen of Scots, was imprisoned here at one point (imprisoned but still living fairly comfortably, considering —

Queen Elizabeth I was here

she used to watch her attendants playing football!) The thing I liked most about the castle however were the animal carvings in the prison which are thought to have been done by the guards! Clearly nothing has changed, then, since bored students still doodle all over their lecture notes today. Many of the carvings are of animals or shields associated with the families the guards were affiliated with, my personal favourite was one of a super cute boar!


Carlisle carvings 1
Doodles or carvings? (photo by Dr S Phillippo)

Following our visit to the castle, we headed to Tullie House museum. First, we had lunch in the café, involving (as normal on our trips) some delicious cake. Afterwards, we began exploring. The Museum had lots of different exhibitions, all focussed on the history of the area. Many of the exhibits concerned the Romans and included a model of a street that we could walk along! However, I particularly liked the one focussing DSC_0184on a whale that was washed up on a beach nearby. I found it fascinating to learn how they cleaned and preserved the skeleton since the details of the process were new to me.

Pleasingly pink

Finally, we finished our trip by visiting the cathedral. Like many of the buildings, it’s made from red sandstone, making it an attractive pink colour. Although it’s definitely not the largest cathedral, it is still a lovely building. We were able to explore both the grounds of the cathedral and to look at the fratry although we unfortunately weren’t able to go in. My favourite part of the cathedral however, was the amazing ceiling, originally 14th–15th century but restored in the 19th, painted blue and covered with stars.

Seeing stars

Finally, we returned to Newcastle, after a long and informative day, led by Dr Phillippo.

DSC_0203Find out more:

Carlisle Citadel

Carlisle Castle

Tullie House

Carlisle Cathedral


Servi Publici in Rome: Regular or Privileged Slaves?

Three important occasions for disseminating the preliminary outcomes of the Servi Publici: Everybody’s Slaves’ (SPES) research project took place over the last few months.

Dr Franco Luciani, the SPES project Fellow, attended the International Conference ‘Romains ordinaires / Regular Romans /Romani ordinari. La fragmentation socio-économique de la plèbe romaine’, which was held in Rome at the École Française de Rome and the Academia Belgica on October, 17th-18th 2016.

His paper was entitled Les esclaves publics chez les Romains, 120 anni dopo Halkin’.


Continue reading “Servi Publici in Rome: Regular or Privileged Slaves?”

The ‘Servi Publici: Everybody’s Slaves’ (SPES) Project: the Six-Month Secondment at the Institute of Classical Studies (ICS), University of London

A six-month secondment for the Servi Publici: Everybody’s Slaves’ (SPES) project is scheduled from April, 1st to September, 30th 2017 at the Institute of Classical Studies (ICS), which is part of the School of Advanced Study (SAS) of the University of London.


As a Visiting Fellow at the ICS, Dr Franco Luciani will conduct a crucial part of the SPES project, i.e. the creation of a freely accessible online database. He will work under the mentorship of Dr Gabriel Bodard.

Every relevant piece of information for the study of public slaves and freedmen in Rome and in the municipalities of the Empire will be gathered and organised in the database: textual (literary, legal, and epigraphic), iconographic and archaeological sources.

Following the model of Roman Inscriptions of Britain (RIB) and Inscriptions of Roman Tripolitania (IRT) online, each textual source on public slaves will conform to the EpiDoc guidelines.

At the end of the project, the database will be available online for public use, hosted by the Newcastle University website, and will be linked to other existing epigraphic databases, such as EDCS, EDH, and EDR.


A Jazzy Vacation Scholarship in the eastern USA

Me enjoying a boat ride in Charleston, South Carolina this summer, where my research is based
Me enjoying a boat ride in Charleston, South Carolina this summer, where my research is based

Hi! I’m Emily Needle, an undergraduate student reading History at Newcastle University going into my third year in September 2015. I found my love for American History at GCSE when studying a course on the American West, and no other area of History has ever been as exciting to me since.

I’m really fortunate to have been awarded a vacation scholarship from Newcastle University which gives me a grant of money to carry out some research on a project I have designed myself. To anyone reading who is a student at Newcastle University (but not a final year student), I highly recommend that you look into the vacation scholarships and apply. It is a really incredible opportunity and one you won’t regret but will always have as fantastic research experience, whether you stay in the UK or use the money to travel to carry out your research like I did. You decide what you are going to study and plan the project yourself, so you can do it on anything related to history that interests you; and then go on to focus more on the topic in your dissertation as I am doing now.

My research project utilizes the Jenkins Orphanage Band from Charleston (South Carolina) as a case study to explore some of the bigger questions surrounding the development and dissemination of Jazz in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century United States. I am examining the ethnic and economic profile of Jazz audiences in an attempt to assess the reception of Jazz, and the extent to which Jazz, developed in the segregated environment of the ‘Jim Crow’ South, was able to cross class and racial divisions among national audiences.
The title of my project is ‘From Rags Through Race to Ragtime: The Jenkins Orphanage Band and American Audience Response to Jazz in Turn of the Century Charleston’.

With the scholarship money I travelled down the east coast of America for 5 weeks (9th July – 15th August 2015) and made a blog documenting my research which can be found here –

Picture 2The whole project was an absolutely amazing experience and enabled me to see lots of America alongside spending some time in archives. I drove up the Shenandoah valley, went down the biggest caverns in Virginia, viewed New York City from the top of the Rockefeller centre, rode the big wheel in Maryland’s National Harbour, sat in the room in Philadelphia where the constitution of America and the Declaration of Independence were signed, walked part of the Appalachian trail, paddled in the James River which America was founded upon, met ‘Thomas Jefferson’ in Williamsburg and saw a musket and cannon-fire demonstration, travelled on a water taxi in Charleston, experienced New Orleans’ famous nightlife, and went on a swamp tour down the Louisiana bayou where I fed marshmallows to alligators. Some of the other amazing animals I saw in the wild on my trip include beavers, deer, turtles, dolphins, pelicans, hawks, eagles, chipmunks, herons and hummingbirds.

My research this summer aimed to try and answer some of the questions I have about the connections between Jazz and race, and hopefully to enlighten other people too. My findings will form the basis of my dissertation as I start my third and final year of my undergraduate degree in September. For the vacation scholarship you are required to produce an academic poster from your findings, and a 1,000 word report, which I am currently working on before I start my third year.

New York City from the top of the Rockerfeller center
New York City from the top of the Rockerfeller center

 Archives I visited include the Library of Congress, and in Charleston the College of Charleston collections, and the Avery Research Center which holds the original documents from the Jenkins Institute and the archives of the Charleston Jazz Initiative. I met some incredible lecturers, archivists and scholars whilst in the US who are very high in their respective fields.
The band itself was formed in the 1890s and came out of an orphanage founded in Charleston in 1891 by Reverend Daniel Joseph Jenkins. He discovered some young black boys sleeping on the street who said they had no parents, and he took them home and gave them some food. This continued, with more and more boys from around the city coming for food, until he managed to purchase a warehouse and turned it into Jenkins Institute, a building I was fortunate enough to be able to visit this summer.

Me outside the Jenkins orphanage building at 20 Franklin Street, Charleston, which is now a housing authority building.
Me outside the Jenkins orphanage building at 20 Franklin Street, Charleston, which is now a housing authority building.

To raise funds for the orphanage Jenkins asked for people to donate old instruments, and the boys began to play on the streets of Charleston. At first they played traditional American tunes that the people would know, but the influence of their ancestors and the African Gullah rhythms they had been taught naturally infused in the music as they played. This new sound was something the American people had not heard before, and they loved it. The popular dance ‘The Charleston’ originated in this city and came from a series of steps known to African-Americans as they danced to this new type of music which eventually became known as ‘Jazz’. The band soon became so popular that they toured all round the US, and visited London and Paris. Famous musicians such as Jazz trumpeters William ‘Cat’ Anderson and Jabbo Smith were Jenkins orphanage alumni. The band disbanded in the 1980s.

Picture 5It is this band that forms the core of my research. So little is known or has been written about them and I feel it is so important for their story to be heard. As a musician myself and a lover of Jazz music, it seemed natural for me to combine my love of American history and music to discover the history of these orphan boys who captured so many hearts. The backdrop of the US South during this period is one of extreme racial tension and violence. The civil war ended in 1865 and slavery was deemed unconstitutional, and yet black people’s lives were scarcely much better than their ancestors’ had been. Laws against their freedom and citizenship were introduced and the increasingly segregated South became known as ‘Jim Crow’. It fascinates me how the American public could love this band so much, and yet at the same time a few streets away white mobs were murdering black people for crimes such as simply living in the same area as them. Finding a newspaper from 1911 advertising a concert the Jenkins band were doing in New York, underneath an article about the first lynching in Pennsylvania the previous day, really put everything in perspective for me.
Of course only a few weeks ago nine people were shot in one of Charleston’s oldest black churches, by a white man associated with beliefs about white supremacy. This hate and racial prejudice still continues. It is bizarre and wrong that in 2015 the subject I am researching as ‘history’ has been brought alive again in such a raw and painful way.

The view from the Lincoln memorial in Washington D.C, where Martin Luther King delivered his very moving ‘I Have a Dream’ speech in 1963.
The view from the Lincoln memorial in Washington D.C, where Martin Luther King delivered his very moving ‘I Have a Dream’ speech in 1963.

 I do have some answers from my research, but I also have even more questions. I applied for my scholarship stating that I was looking into audience reactions to Jazz music, and the hundreds of newspaper articles I’ve read have given me just that.

The research I undertook was situated in the social context of race relations and the development of musical styles in South Carolina. I found that Reverend Daniel Jenkins used the fear of black crime throughout his lifetime to persuade the town of Charleston to provide money for the orphanage to educate young black children and keep them under control, which illustrates the fear white people had, and the tense racial climate of the time period. The Jenkins orphanage band played a very significant and under-appreciated role in the expansion of jazz music throughout the United States. This was mainly through the infusion, not hybridization as many people thought, of African culture with European styles (African retentions in American music include syncopation, blues notes, call and response patterns, and improvisation.) The originality and unique syncopation of the orphanage musicians was highly praised and recognised by accomplished Jazz performers before anything of the form was even recorded, and though it is not definite that the band’s specific musical style can be called ‘jazz’ in the first decade of the twentieth century, the players were already using the swing rhythms that came to define American music in the so called ‘Jazz age’. I think my research highlights how much there is to uncover on the influences upon Jazz music from areas other than New Orleans which is credited as the birthplace of Jazz.

Without looking through all my research, off the top of my head, I think it was the music and the Jazz that saved these people and brought them away from the negative connotations of slavery. I’ve found the musical heritage of America absolutely fascinating, how black people were able to be seen as more than just their skin colour; in a way, music allowed them to be seen as people. They were not just ‘negros’ to be looked down upon and pushed out of their homes. They had skills that impressed, and made white people want to emulate them. Perhaps this is why music is featured so heavily in the civil rights era of the 1960s; because music gives people a voice that otherwise might not be heard. I’ve often heard similar phrases to that, but to really understand you have to experience it yourself, and now I really understand what music can do. In a way I started my musical journey through American history by volunteering with the organization Journey to Justice ( and being involved in their events and the exhibition at Newcastle’s Discovery museum earlier in 2015 that showcased the power of music in the 1960s American civil rights movement. And my personal journey of course has only just begun, I have the rest of my life to keep on learning, and to keep on singing and playing and delivering the joy of music to others. I am excited now to start my third year and turn my research into a dissertation. Please have a look at my blog for much more information on my travels, the many famous history sites we saw, and my findings!

A quote from Sarah Finley Dowling who was the orphanage matron for over 50 years, perhaps sums up best these children I have never met but now mean so much to me. Though I wasn’t there, I can close my eyes and hear their music:

Holding Elvis, a baby alligator, on a swamp tour in New Orleans
Holding Elvis, a baby alligator, on a swamp tour in New Orleans

”The music lessons, the practice sessions, the beat of the drums, the shining horns, the colorful uniforms, the flash and dash, the excitement of those marching bands exist only in the reminiscences of those in whose lives they played such a memorable part.”









Salty Caramel and Bloody Archaeology on Holy Island

The traditional and final excursion of our Stage 3 Archaeology module Early Medieval Britain this year headed for Lindisfarne or ‘Holy Island’ and anybody in the School can join. So I, Dr Sophie Hueglin, did on this very windy day…

Dr Sophie Hueglin

I am German, but have been working in Switzerland for the last twelve years. Currently, I am a Marie Curie Fellow at Newcastle University and look in my research project RESTOMO on the “Reintroduction of Stone and Mortar in the Early Middle Ages”.


Dr Sophie Moore: Emergency Bus Tutorials…

The excursion was led by Prof Sam Turner, Dr Caron Newman and Dr Sophie Moore who jointly teach the module. There were “emergency tutorials” held on the bus for students who were still looking for a suitable topic. For this last essay, studentsare free to pick a topic of their choice which is not as easy as it seems. The bus dropped us off and we made sure everybody knew from where and when it would leave again.


Of the early monastic complex on Lindisfarne which is said to have been founded by the Irish monk Aidan before the end of AD 634, we know very little; the place where it might have stood is now dominated by the later ruins of Lindisfarne Priory. The museum run by English Heritage hosts among its well-presented small collection the so called “OSGYTH” stone that dates back to the late 7th or 8th century AD. The students remembered to have read the famous runic inscription in one of the seminars that accompanied the module’s lectures. It probably marked the grave of a high ranking woman with this popular old English name. As far as we know there were only monks in Lindisfarne, but Osgyth could possibly have been one of the founders who was allowed to be buried here. The replica of the slab on display is brightly set in Red, White and Green, in the respective colours the conservator had found traces on when studying the original under the microscope.

At the Priory: Prof Sam Turner and students



There is a lot of stone sculpture in the museum at Lindisfarne that attests to quite a lot of activity going on after the Vikings raided the island in AD 793 and even after the monks allegedly are said to have fled the island in 874. The ruins of the Priory we see today are from 1093 and later, when a Benedictine house was founded here. The monastery continued there until its dissolution in 1536 under Henry VIII.


A 19th century industrial zone?

Our original plan to pay St. Cuthbert’s island a visit, which lies very close to the Priory, was hindered by tidal waters that had not withdrawn far enough to allow us to cross the short stretch. We then climbed long-stretched Heugh Hill – pronounced something like “hoff”; it lies between the Priory and Sea to the South. From there we had a brilliant view of Bamburgh Castle on the mainland and the Farne Islands. Here the storm was exceptionally strong and Sam Turner had to shout against it explaining about St. Cuthbert who retreated at one point from the monastic community at Lindisfarne to live alone in his hermitage on Outer Farne. Funny enough this place was even closer to the king, who then used to reside at Bamburgh. St. Cuthbert is said to have had otters licking his feet and birds bringing him food. A brilliant idea that should be taken up by pizza services – so far birds have only be stealing food from me.


Back in the village we divided up to have lunch each where he (or she) wanted (or could afford) to go. Sophie Moore and I went to the Post office – a bit off the well beaten track – and I had my first ever crab sandwich and ginger beer with it. We decided to sit outside in the sun, but the leaves of salad were instantly booty of the wind and then there were also sparrows wanting their share! Never mind, the gustatory sensation of the day was still to come and it was Caron, who tempted me into it: self-made salted caramel ice cream!

Well-fed we set out on foot to reach the Northern End of the Island in an half an hour’s walk. We took a straighIMG_2066_St_Cuthberts_Islandt path through the grass towards the dunes and were amazed to hear that around us were the remains of a 19th century industrial zone: we were walking on the dismantled Holy Island Waggonway that had served to transport coal from the harbor in the North to the lime kilns around here, the remains of which we could make out easily in front of us.


But this was not where we were heading; we wanted to find Green Shiel, a settlement from the Anglo-Saxon period. It lies still further amongst the always shifting dunes. There are foundations of five long rectangular stone buildings left which at first glance seem not very impressive. But in the 9th century AD when only some of the churches and king’s halls started to be built in stone it is quite sensational to have an ordinary farmstead with stone walls with almost 1 m thickness. The excavators O’Sullivan and Young from Leicester University then also have a very special explanation: they think – also because of the large amount of cattle bone they found – that this was an almost commercial slaughtering place for cattle. Remember that at monasteries large codices like the Lindisfarne Gospels were produced for which thousands of calf skins were needed.

OSGYTH grave stone, replica


Picturing the site’s possible bloody history – well away yet near enough to the monks’ scriptorium – we made our way back to the village. We were rewarded with a two castle view: Lindisfarne Castle in the fore- and Bamburgh in the background. After once more refreshing our thirsty throats we entered the bus and were not half as talkative after this full day of search for Anglo-Saxon and Viking remains…

Nationalism & Internationalism in Labour History: a Newcastle Conference

NationalisSarah1m and Internationalism in Labour History  was a one-day conference held at the Great North Museum in Newcastle upon Tyne on Saturday, 25 April 2015. This interdisciplinary conference was organised by the Labour and Society Research Group at Newcastle University and brought academics, postgraduates, and those interested in Labour history together to explore the entangled relationship between nationalism and internationalism – both in the pasts of workers and in the political formations that addressed working-class concerns.

Dr Emmet O’Connor (University of Ulster) delivered the keynote address at the conference. Dr O’Connor is one of Ireland’s most renowned Labour historians and has published extensively on Irish labour history, including A Labour History of Ireland, 1824-2000 (Dublin: University College Dublin Press, 2011), which was described as ‘courageously innovative and welcome’. He is currently working on a biography of James Larkin.

In his address, entitled ‘Making the links, or forging the chains? Labour, nationalism and colonialism in Britain and Ireland’, Dr O’Connor welcomed the conference for addressing the oft-neglected aspect of internationalism in labour history and argued that there is an inordinate emphasis on the contradictions between nationalism and socialism. He suggested that trade unions could be agents of colonialism and used examples from the British-Irish relationship to illustrate his points. He proposed that further study needed to be carried out on mental colonialization in Ireland. He finished by advising that we give the same rigorous treatment to internationalism in labour history, as we have to nationalism.

 Joan_Conf %282%29

There were a variety of papers spanning a huge geographical range including Britain, China, Zambia, and rural Nicaragua, as well as papers from various methodological viewpoints. Many of the papers investigated the complex ways various people, such as Rosa Luxemburg, James Larkin, press baron and Irish nationalist, Charles Diamond and Welsh socialist, Robert Jones Derfel, interrelated stands of their activism with their connections with imperial rule, globalising processes and/or nation-building. What emerged from these investigations was the idea that individuals sometimes occupy one or other of these different spheres at various points in their lives and their careers, but these ideas or spheres don’t necessarily have to be contradictory. By examining various movements, such as anarchism, socialism, communism, as well as university movements at the turn of the twentieth century, and how they circulated ideas beyond borders, the conference contributed to key debates on transnationalism and its methodological role in understanding the intellectual history of labour and social contestations.

   Joan_Conf %281%29

The conference organisers, Matt Perry and Sarah Campbell, would like to thank the Royal Historical Society and the Society for the Study of Labour History for their sponsorship of the event. Their funds enabled us to provide some travel bursaries for postgraduate students to present their research. The conference ended with a wine reception and book launch, and we are grateful to the School of History, Classics and Archaeology for their financial support for that.

Sarah Campbell’s book: Gerry Fitt and the SDLP: ‘In a minority of one’ 

Matt Perry’s book: ‘Red Ellen’ Wilkinson: Her ideas, movements and world

Dreams! Divination of the month

 Chris Mowatt, PhD Candidate in Ancient History

My PhD project is about identity construction within ancient divinatory practice. As any student of the ancient world will know, divination was common, and varied! The following is a narrative piece in the style of a number of ancient “magical” texts, which use the letter form to create an element of authenticity to their practice. Each month I shall write a new letter to Caesar Augustus, telling him (and, of course, yourselves!) of a different divinatory practice. Although this narrative piece is, of course, a fiction, the practice was actually exceedingly common in the ancient world and, in this case, in this case the story of the dream of Decius Mus and Manlius Torquatus can be found in Livy and Cicero. For oneiric dreams, Artemidorus’ book of dream interpretation is the only surviving work from antiquity. It also gives a full account of the meaning of a dream concerning an owl or bat at 3.65.

Crepuscular. Source: Wiki Commons

To Caesar Augustus, greetings.

I hope that the New Year brings you great joy. In fact, I am sure it shall, for a dream recently visited me to confirm it.

There are many types of dreams that can be seen. But the first thing to do, of course, is to distinguish whether a dream is genuine – visiting you from the gate of horn – or false – visiting from the gate of ivory. The easiest way of doing this is through extispical sacrifice. The gods will confirm the validity. The return of an ignored dream, or the sharing of a dream by many people, can also suggest that it speaks truly. In the glory days of our republic, during the Second Latin War, the two consuls shared a dream that told them that, in order to win the war, one of them must die in battle. They followed the dream, and Publius Decius Mus sacrificed himself through battle. The golden republic won.

Once you have identified the validity of a dream, it must then be examined in its proper context. Some dreams are visitations, by a god or daimon, who will have a request for you. It is imperative that you listen to the request and follow it as closely as you can – the gods do not appreciate impiety.

Some dreams are termed Oneiroi, and must be interpreted. Within this type of dream, we find two different types: allegorical or theorematic. Theorematic dreams, we can lay aside for now, for their outcomes happen exactly as they show and, aside from exceptional circumstances, happen within one day’s passing. Allegorical dreams will be a message, though not necessarily understood at first glance. To dream of an owl, a bat or some other kind of night bird, for example, signifies business failure, since they do not hunt during the day and do not eat flesh. These will not, except for within extreme circumstances, happen immediately, but an amount of time will pass before they come to be. Oneiroi can be positive or negative. Listening to them, and following advice, can help to alleviate risks and anxiety for any venture you are undertaking. It is best to ask the advice of an interpreter, who can help you understand their meanings. But beware of fraudsters and altar-lurkers, who care more for your money than your wellbeing.

Many honours upon your family, and all of your descendants.

Christopher, son of Alexander greets you.