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Book Launch for 'Pasts at Play', edited by Rachel Bryant Davies (QMUL) and Barbara Gribling (Newcastle)

When: Monday, November 9, 2020, 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM
Where: Online

Registration is now open for the Virtual Book Launch of Pasts at play: childhood encounters with history in British culture, 1750-1914 (Manchester University Press, 2020), chaired by Professor Bennett Zon (Durham), with response by Professor Kiera Vaclavik (QMUL).


This collection brings together scholars from disciplines including Children's Literature, Classics, and History to develop fresh approaches to children's culture and the uses of the past. It charts the significance of historical episodes and characters during the long nineteenth-century (1750-1914), a critical period in children's culture. Boys and girls across social classes often experienced different pasts simultaneously, for purposes of amusement and instruction. The book highlights an active and shifting market in history for children, and reveals how children were actively involved in consuming and repackaging the past: from playing with historically themed toys and games to performing in plays and pageants. Each chapter reconstructs encounters across different media, uncovering the cultural work done by particular pasts and exposing the key role of playfulness in the British historical imagination.


Bennett Zon is Professor of Music and founder and Director of the Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies at Durham University
Kiera Vaclavik is Professor of Children’s Literature and Childhood Culture and Co-founder and Co-Director of the Centre for the Study of Childhood Culture at Queen Mary University of London


Rachel Bryant Davies is Lecturer in Comparative Literature at Queen Mary
University of London. She previously held an Addison Wheeler Research
Fellowship in Classics with the Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies at
Durham University. Her first monograph, Troy, Carthage and the Victorians
and anthology Victorian Epic Burlesques analysed contests over the popularisation
of the Trojan War epics, especially in circus and burlesque performances. Her
forthcoming monograph, Greco-Roman Antiquity in British Children’s Culture,
c. 1750–1914 investigates how children’s earliest encounters with idealised
classical role models embedded Greco-Roman antiquity in private and public

Barbara Gribling is a Research Associate in Children’s Literature and Culture
at Newcastle University, having previously been a Junior Research Fellow in
the Department of History at Durham University. Her book on The Image of
Edward the Black Prince in Georgian and Victorian England (2017) and essay
on ‘The Dark Side of Chivalry’ (2016) explored the contested nature of the
medieval past in Victorian Britain. Her new work investigates children’s everyday
experiences with British history and heritage from 1750 to 1945 in two separate
book projects: the first focusing on children’s encounters with built heritage and
the second on children’s encounters with the medieval past.


Stephen Basdeo is a Lecturer at Richmond: The American International
University. He is interested in all aspects of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century
social and cultural history, although his research has led to a few areas of
focus: he has recently written a book on post-medieval portrayals of Wat
Tyler, and another on representations of Robin Hood from the early modern
period onwards. He is currently writing Heroes of the British Empire, due for
release in 2020.

M. O. Grenby is Professor of Eighteenth-Century Studies and Dean of
Research and Innovation for the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
at Newcastle University. He is the author of books on children’s literature,
child readers, and eighteenth-century fiction, and is author or editor of many
essays, scholarly editions and edited collections, as well as co-producer of
innovative digital tools designed to engage children and young people with

Melanie Keene is a Fellow of Homerton College, Cambridge in History and
Philosophy of Science. She is the author of Science in Wonderland: The Scientific
Fairy Tales of Victorian Britain (2015). Her work has explored children’s
engagement with science from astronomy-themed board games to scientific
instruments to the Crystal Palace dinosaurs. Her new research investigates
science in juvenile periodicals and medical education in schools.

Helen Lovatt is Professor of Classics at the University of Nottingham. She
has worked on the epic tradition in both Latin and Greek literature, publishing
Statius and Epic Games: Sport, Politics and Poetics in the Thebaid (2005), The
Epic Gaze: Vision, Gender and Narrative in Ancient Epic (2013) and a co-edited
work Epic Visions (2013) with Caroline Vout. She currently works on classical
reception, resulting in her co-edited volume Classical Reception and Children’s
Literature: Greece, Rome and Childhood Transformation (2018) with Owen

Rosemary Mitchell is Professor of Victorian Studies and Deputy Director
of the Leeds Centre for Victorian Studies at Leeds Trinity University. She is
also associate editor for the Journal of Victorian Culture. She is the author of
Picturing the Past: English History in Text and Image, 1830–1870 (2000), journal
articles in Nineteenth-Century Contexts, Clio, Women’s History Review and the
Journal of Victorian Culture, as well as ten book chapters and over 150 biographical
entries for The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Ellie Reid is a Local Studies Librarian at Oxfordshire History Centre. She
has been a contributor to the Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded
project ‘The Redress of the Past: Historical Pageants in Britain 1905–2016’
and has published on historical pageants and their material culture.

Virginia Zimmerman is Professor of English at Bucknell University. Her
publications include Excavating Victorians (2008) and essays in Configurations,
Journal of Literature and Science, Victorian Periodicals Review, BRANCH, Children’s
Literature and The Lion and the Unicorn. She has also published a novel for
children, The Rosemary Spell (2015).

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