Union and Disunion in the Nineteenth Century

‘In him all union and disunion shine’

‘Prologue’, Thomas Holcroft, The Deserted Daughter (1806)

Among the rare phenomena of the day in which we live, are the strange unions that are formed in our country. We have political unions, trades’ unions, Protestant unions, and, last and not least, the voluntary unions.

‘Union of Papists and Dissenters to Achieve the Disunion of Church and State’, Fraser’s Magazine, May 1836

A few years more and we trust human governments will be forced to lay down all their usurped spiritual weapons, and confine themselves to the affairs of this life; affairs which though temporal, they have certainly not managed so well that they deserve the higher and more responsible trust of the things of another life. It is from the division of opinion that union in heart and in purpose will eventually result. Our separate sanctuaries – our ministries educated and hired to proclaim only certain particulars of fractional theology – our confessions of faith – our sectarian war-cries – our endowed opinions – our state altars and priests. These, all these are the mournful evidences of limited intelligence and feeble faith, and most contracted sympathy: enlarged intelligence will at once enlarge the scope of vision and the bond of sympathy, and while it will doubtless lead for some time to come, to yet more numerous divisions and clanships of sentiment, in which some little, trivial, insignificant ism will be exalted to a rallying banner and central point of faith; yet these divisions will doubtless eventually result in amalgamation and union.

Edwin Paxton Hood, The Age and its Architects (1850).

Union pledges peace at home, and its invulnerable front frowns off war from without. L’ Union c’est la force says the motto of Belgium – Union is strength; Union is peace, may America add. It is our very life. It means civilization, progress – all future hope for the continent.

R.C. Pell, Forward or Backward? (1863)

So that out of the union and fusion of psychical states, themselves caused by sensations, all the intellectual powers might have been produced, and, in tracing the growth from stage to stage, the presumption grows very strong that they have been so produced. One law, then, will account for all the intellectual operations; that law is, that if two psychical states unite, there is always a tendency for them to unite again, which tendency is strengthened by each act of union.

W.D. Ground, An examination of the structural principles of Mr. Herbert Spencer’s philosophy (1885)

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PUNCS (Plymouth Nineteenth Century Studies) invites proposals for 20-minute papers for the international, interdisciplinary conference taking place 22 – 23 June 2017 on the general theme of union and disunion.

The first international conference hosted by PUNCS (Plymouth Nineteenth Century Studies) began on the day of the Brexit vote, and commentators have seen this event in the context of other signs of anti-globalisation, and in a landscape of violent disintegrations or forcible integrations in the Twenty-first century.

Our new conference takes place on the first anniversary of this momentous decision.
Our Keynote Speakers are:

Professor Lucy Riall (European University Institute, Florence and Birbkeck College and author of works including Under the Volcano: Revolution in a Sicilian Town and Garibaldi. Invention of a Hero) speaking about union and imperialism from continental European perspectives in the late-nineteenth century;

Dr Gordon Pentland (University of Edinburgh, and author / editor of The Spirit of the Union: Popular Politics in Scotland, 1815-1820 and Radicalism, Reform and National Identity in Scotland, 1820-1833) speaking on Union, Scotland and the British Isles;

Dr Laura Schwartz (University of Warwick), speaking on women’s trade unions in late-nineteenth-century and Edwardian Britain, drawing on her recent work on the Domestic Workers’ Union of Great Britain and Ireland.

Themes already represented in the conference schedule include:
American and British responses to the American Civil War; unions of enslaved couples at the end of slavery in the USA; cultural tourism, after the Irish Act of Union, in the early nineteenth century; cartels in the typographic industry; Scottish governance and the Conservative Party in the mid-nineteenth century.
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We are interested in papers by scholars working in British, continental European, American and world history in the Nineteenth century, in literary studies, history, legal history, art history, economic history, geography and other disciplines.

We are interested in papers by scholars working in British, continental European, American and world history in the Nineteenth century, in literary studies, history, legal history, art history, economic history, geography and other disciplines.

Possible themes for exploring union in individual papers or panels include:

  • Union as a concept in the natural or human sciences
  • Acts of union (legal incorporation into nation states through treaties and legislation, or forcible unification; or municipal level unification, as in the union of the Three Towns in Plymouth in the early-twentieth century)
  • Economic unions (e.g., Zollverein and imperial unions)
  • Trade unions
  • Political unions (e.g., the political unions of the reform era in Britain in the 1820s), or women’s suffragist organisations
  • Organisations for social policy and welfare such as Poor Law Unions
  • Unions and disunions in religion, e.g., the creation or breakup of denominational unity, the forging of ecumenical bodies.
  • Unions in terms of family, personal and sexual relationships in works of literary fiction or dramatic representation
  • Union as a topic in artistic, architectural and other aesthetic discourses
  • Fear of disunion and acts of civil war

Please send your 300 word abstract and a brief c.v. to one of the organisers listed below. The deadline is 28 November 2016.

We hope to edit a selection of papers for publication after the conference.

Dr Annika Bautz annika.bautz@plymouth.ac.uk

Dr James Gregory james.r.gregory@plymouth.ac.uk

Dr Daniel Grey daniel.grey@plymouth.ac.uk

Professor Kim Stevenson kim.stevenson@plymouth.ac.uk