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The John Rylands Research Institute

Public events

Professor Tracy C. Davis, Barber Professor of Performing Arts, Northwestern University, USA.

Public Lecture - A Victorian Woman Ventures Securely into Men’s Realms: Journalism, Politics, and Radical Advocacy

Of the 241 Victorian theatre critics known to have written for the popular press, only one is known to be a woman; she, Pearl Craigie (1867-1906), daughter of an American millionaire and a well-connected socialite, concentrated her efforts on writing fiction and plays.  In stark contrast, new research makes a claim for a significantly earlier exponent of dramatic criticism.  Amelia Chesson (1833-1902) was the lower-middle-class daughter of an anti-slavery lecturer, George Thompson, well-connected in the sense of knowing the leading Radical activists of her day but never coming to prominence in her own right despite a lifetime of reviewing live art, starting with the Liberal daily The Morning Star and concluding with a long stint as book reviewer for the Athenaeum. Focusing on the onset of Chesson’s career, this research asks how a middle-class woman could undertake such work in the 1850s.  Evidence from Chesson’s diary (and that of her husband) demonstrates the kinds of spectatorial activities and social networks that first brought her this work, then sustained her ability to perform it on a semi-regular basis.  What is particularly interesting about this case is not just that she represents a “female first” but rather how she garnered the expertise to make the work possible, when her fertility made it impossible, how she managed it in conjunction with domestic responsibilities, the assignments considered appropriate for or by her, and the practicalities of evening work and early-hours deadlines that she met.

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Professor Alan Bowman, Vice President (Humanities) British Academy.

Public Lecture - Memory, Vision and Cognition: Deciphering Ancient Documents in the Digital Age

23 March 2017

Exciting major developments in imaging technology and computer vision in the past twenty years have provided documentary historians with an unprecedented and very sophisticated tool-kit for accessing and understanding historical and linguistic information in ancient documents, which are often damaged and apparently illegible.  Such technologies cannot be regarded as providing a process of ‘automated reading’.  The role of the human ‘expert reader’ remains - and will always remain - critical for deciphering and interpreting texts and other material objects in a combination of visual perception and cognition, applied in conjunction with acquired knowledge of the subject-matter and the historical context.  Drawing on a variety of ancient documents written on stone and wood and ranging in origin from Egypt and the Middle East to Hadrian’s Wall, Professor Bowman will illustrate the complex interplay between these processes and offer some broader thoughts about the ways in which new technologies are now crucial in helping to improve our understanding of the past.

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Professor Graham Mooney, Department of the History of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, USA.

Public Lecture - Casualty! A Twentieth Century History 

Thanks to the long-running TV show Casualty and the more recent Casualty 1900s, the British viewing public is familiar with the very different look and feel of hospital casualty departments at the beginning and end of the twentieth century. This talk explores how and why the casualty department was transformed over the course of the twentieth century, from being something of a under-sourced backwater space in the hospital to a high-tech space, with its own specialty doctors and nurses, and acting as a crucial portal of entry to the rest of the hospital.

Further details on how to book for this public lecture will be available nearer the time.