This article examines the comparatively neglected history and historiography of blasphemy relating this to wider histories of sin, crime and criminality. It charts the history of the subject and identifies significant epochs of change altering the crime’s character in Europe and America over the last four hundred years. This history is then related to the chief paradigms associated with crime and violence, those proposed by Michel Foucault and Norbert Elias, noting the comparative strength and weaknesses of these two approaches. . The article suggests that blasphemy occurred as either a 'passive' or 'active' entity. The former was characteristic of late medieval and early modern states where the harm caused by blasphemy was visited upon the whole community and this entity was responsible for seeking restitution and redress. After the enlightenment and the rise of liberal regimes of rights this was replaced by ‘active’ blasphemy which henceforth required individuals to demonstrate the actual harm they had experienced. The article concludes that the dangerous fissures in multiculturalism and the vanishing confidence of liberal states is arguably rejuvenating the model of "passive" blasphemy.
Recent historical scholarship has exposed the role of violence within the multiple dynamics of family life, providing important insights into gender relations and the abuse of power within domestic, conjugal relationships. With good reason, the analysis has privileged the experiences of women as victims of such violence in the past. Without denying this important characteristic of domestic violence, it may be helpful to expand the range of actions and actors to be considered when exploring its history. By scrutinizing the leading role played by women who used violence in the home, and by interrogating untapped sources such as newspaper accounts, the records of magistrates' courts or administrative records from charitable institutions, for example, for evidence of how other subordinate persons such as servants, apprentices and, of course, children, were also subjected to harsh physical correction and, in some terrible cases, systematic abuse, a clearer understanding of the eighteenth century thresholds of tolerance for such violence emerges. By expanding the compass of domestic violence, the subjective and discretionary application of the law in specific cases becomes better contextualized as the wide continuum for the role of violence in everyday life in eighteenth-century England comes more fully into focus.
This article contributes to the histories of slavery and of African-descended families in the Americas by examining the recognition of nineteenth-century Afro-Cuban hijos naturales (or children born outside of wedlock) as a means of family formation in late colonial Cuba. With legal "recognition," men from a variety of races and classes claimed responsibility for these children. In doing so, they created a creole family form that developed to suit a very local context and that did not conform to Anglo-American standards of legitimacy or illegitimacy. This article first outlines general Afro-Cuban reproductive patterns and then reveals the social experiences of the families that include hijos naturales. Such families were valuable social agents that sought the advancement of their members and that often provided a framework through which individuals endured slavery and advanced into freedom.
The late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Caribbean was the setting for significant and far-reaching changes in long-established European political, social and economic ideals. One of the major events that resulted from the precarious times and in turn produced further transformations was the Haitian revolution. The established studies of early nineteenth-century Haiti have emphasized the significant division separating a perceived mixed-race ancient libres caste from a black nouveau libres caste. However, systematic study of Haiti's first constitutions reveals that, while this division played a significant role in political and everyday life, the articulation of a single "imagined community" also characterized official descriptions of the newly independent nation. Between 1801 and 1807 four constitutions defined Haiti in different ways, but all represented Haiti as a cohesive state. The importance of gaining a better understanding of the changing constitutional constructions of Haiti extends to research on nationbuilding efforts in both colonizing and colonized societies around the nineteenth-century world.
The achievements accomplished by the civil rights movement are well documented. Less familiar to historians, however, is the protracted struggle for racial equality black firefighters experienced in urban America and especially in Philadelphia. In 1818, when several citizens tried to organize their own African Fire Association or to integrate an all-white fire department, their efforts were met with fierce white resistance. In 1886 Philadelphia did hire its first black firefighter, but it was not until 1974, when Club Valiants, an organization for Philadelphia's black firefighters, sued the city in federal court for more proportional representation that black firefighters gained access to what historically had been a white-dominated organization. This essay examines the social dynamics of race relations within the firefighting community in a historical context.
In a span of 50 years, sportswear in South Florida evolved from the idiosyncratic daywear of elite Northerners vacationing in Palm Beach to a nationally visible industry. This paper presents three stages in the evolution of the sportswear industry in South Florida in general and in the Miami area in particular. The first stage (c.1900-1920) relates to the founding of Palm Beach and the growth of an American market for a blossoming French industry. The second stage (c. 1920-1945) explores how a confluence of economic, social and cultural trends following World War One spurred rapid growth in Miami and gave rise to a completely new genre of clothing—one designed by Americans for Americans. The third stage (c. 1945-1960) explores how South Florida became a major producer of the very clothing it was instrumental in popularizing. Ironically, this crucial third stage was propelled by the same groups the original founders of the area sought to exclude—Jews and minorities. The interplay between South Florida and sportswear is not simply a nuanced study of a specific place and time. Rather, the evolution of the industry drastically redefined the American wardrobe. This analysis demonstrates how the study of clothing can inform our understanding of social change by adding texture and tangibility to American history.
In Bridgeport, Ct., a medium-sized city known as the "Industrial Capital of Connecticut," public vocational education enjoyed increased popularity among young workers during the 1930s. At the State Trade School, the largest of eleven trade schools in the state, the children of the "New Immigrants" dominated attendance. This rising generation of young workers faced changing industrial demands, which often led them to forsake immigrant family advice and spurn the artisan world of their parents in favor of organized school instruction. According to interviews conducted by the Federal Writers' Project, students did not associate particular trades with an ethnic enclave. While the school taught such business values as individual success and careers, and local firms helped to shape the curriculum, the student's own working-class culture was a synthesis of many influences. Unions and Left politics played a significant role in local life, with skilled workers running as Socialists dominating elected Bridgeport government after 1933 led by Mayor Jasper McLevy.
The present text is a revised chapter of my book, entitled The Birth of the Modern Man—published in Hungarian in 2003 by Helikon Press. Concentrating on gymnastic exercises, an emerging umbrella sport in the 1830s—1840s, the aim of the article is to highlight how masculine dispositions have changed in the course of the civilizing process, and how a major drive for change—modern man—was born in the 18-19th century. On the basis of Hungarian data it is intended to point to some universal traits of this process. It is argued that the scene of dispositional competition shifts from the (racing) field into the gymnasium and from adults to children. When for the middle-class citizen the health of his offspring becomes a goal in itself, a social group employs the ever more widely used body-techniques and incorporates self-control in the service of envisioned long-term social mobility. In sum, gymnastic exercises generate revolutionary changes in everyday life, by creating the corporeal foundations of modernity.