Archive of OCMCH stories

The Centre for Medical Humanities welcome their first research fellow

Dr Emmanuel Betta

Dr Emmanuel Betta

The Department of History, Philosophy and Religion are pleased to welcome Dr Emmanuel Betta to the research community at Brookes. He will be a Visiting Research Fellow for both the Centre for Medical Humanities and the Oxford Centre for Methodism and Church History.

Dr Emmanuel Betta is a researcher of contemporary history and an associate professor at the University of Rome, Sapienza. His current area of research, Catholic biopolitics, spans the research interests of both centres.

Expanding upon his research interests Dr Emmanuel said:

“From the mid nineteenth century to 1930, the Congregation of the Roman Inquisition, which had a decisive role in the definition of orthodoxy of Catholic discourse, started to create rules on topics concerning the control of life and body. From the forties onwards it focused on magnetism and hypnosis, birth control methods, surgical-obstetrical therapies for high-risk pregnancies, cremation of the bodies of dead people, human artificial procreation, whereas from the first years of the twentieth century it started to deal with sterilization and eugenics. These topics all had in common the body, and above all the fact that they were the product of a secularized view of the body itself, of life and death. These elements were no longer conceived and governed starting from a religious and Catholic semantics, but they were increasingly interpreted as starting from biomedical knowledge and perspectives.”

“The aim of my research is to develop the history of Catholic biopolitics, meaning the creation of a doctrine of the Catholic Church concerning the ways in which the different aspects of life are governed.”

Dr Emmanuel Betta

“I’m particularly interested in this change and in the way in which the Catholic Church reacted to the loss of control over the production of the semantics for the government of the body and the health. This interest has pushed me in the last ten years to examine specific aspects of this articulated disciplinary process, from the therapeutic interruption of pregnancy and the artificial insemination, to which I dedicated my first two books, to my last article focused on the discourse concerning birth control, in which emerged a relevant role of the English case for the inquisitorial disciplinary decisions. During my Visiting Fellowship I will work on the interplay between national case, in particular the English one, and this disciplinary process, with particular attention to the reception of the Inquisitorial documents in the medical and religious journals and to the analysis of the role of English Catholics in the eugenics discussions.”

For more information about the Centre for Medical Humanities please see here .

For more information about the Oxford Centre for Methodism and Church History please see here.

Chiara Beccalossi awarded Visiting Fellowship to Dartmouth College to contribute an international collaborative project

Chiara BeccalossiChiara Beccalossi was awarded a residential Visiting Fellowship  (July–August 2013) at Dartmouth College in the US to contribute to the international collaborative project Towards a Global History of Sexual Science, 1880–1950 led by led by Professor  Douglas Haynes and Dr Veronika Fuechtner.

The project examines the transnational history of sexological ideas and practices as they circulated between Europe/North America and Asia, Africa and Latin America. Over the seven weeks of the seminar, participants addressed such issues as the efforts by Western sexologists to disseminate their views in non-European regions; the emergence of local advocacy of sexual science; the role of sexual science in constituting “modern” sexualities; the encounter between indigenous conceptions of sexuality and sexological ideas; the transformation of sexology in Asian/African/Latin American contexts; the connection between sexology and birth control outside of Europe/North America; Orientalism and sexology; the connection between sexology and eugenics in Asian/African/Latin American contexts; sexology, nationalism and anti-colonialism; Orientalism and sexology; as well as other relevant topics.

As part of this project, Dr Beccalossi has been actively involved in a number seminars and gave a talk entitled ‘Latin Eugenics and sexual knowledge: international networks and sexual norms across the Atlantic’.

Oxford Brookes Historian, Professor William Gibson, discovers the existence of hitherto unknown Bletchley Park codebreaker

zznewte-5141283A chance discovery by Professor William Gibson of the Department of History, Philosophy and Religion, led to the discovery of a hitherto unknown Bletchley Park codebreaker.

Professor Gibson read in Asa Briggs’s memoirs of codebreaking that Frank Newte had been one of Briggs’s friends and colleagues at Bletchley Park. Professor Gibson realised that Newte had been lecturer in Classics at St David’s College, Lampeter until 1977, but had died without his contribution being acknowledged. Newte returned from the War in 1946 and maintained his cover story that he had served in the Royal Artillery. Professor Gibson revealed that the truth was very different.

Using the Bletchley Park records, Gibson uncovered that Newte had been in the Army Intelligence Corps attached to SIXTA, the number 6 traffic analysis school. In 1942 the work of SIXTA was so vital to the codebreaking at Bletchley Park that the unit moved there, and it became crucial to cracking the Enigma codes. Newte clearly took the Official Secrets Act seriously, so that he died thirty one years later without anyone knowing how central he had been to the war effort. As he had no family, and he left few papers, his secret died with him. As a result of Professor Gibson’s discovery a plaque has been erected at Lampeter acknowledging his work.

Publication of the Oxford Handbook of the British Sermon 1689 – 1901 (Oxford University Press)

Sermons once occupied more of people’s attention than sex or crime. This suggestion, by two scholars from Oxford Brookes University, is presented in the Oxford Handbook of the British Sermon 1689-1901 (Oxford University Press, 2012) published this month. ‘Sermons played a central role in public life that they have lost today’, claims William Gibson, Professor of Ecclesiastical History of the Department of History, Philosophy and Religion at Oxford Brookes University. ‘About a quarter of a billion preaching opportunities produced 25 million unique sermons and 80,000 printed sermons.’ The popularity of sermons, both as performances and as literature, meant that, as Gibson claims in the book: ‘in comparison with politics, economics, warfare, crime, and perhaps even sex, sermons probably occupied more of the attention of people.’ The new Oxford Handbook of the British Sermon 1689-1901 is edited by Professor Gibson and Dr Keith Francis, who was a visiting research fellow in the Oxford Centre for Methodism and Church History in 2011 and is an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland University College in the USA. Sermons created the printing industry in the eighteenth century since half its output was published sermons. They were also the model for popular serial literature. But it was sermon performances which attracted people in huge quantities. By the end of the eighteenth century speculative builders planned chapels in London which were funded by ticket sales for sermons. Some celebrity preachers had large followings, Charles Spurgeon in the 1850s found that he needed 10,000-seater theatres to accommodate his congregations. He even preached at Epsom race track. Sermons were also a way in which national identity was formed. Great national events, victories in war, the unions with Scotland and Ireland, royal funerals and even elections were occasions for preaching. Despite this, the sermon remains one of the least studied literary and historical aspects of the past. The Oxford Handbook of the British Sermon 1689-1901 corrects this for the first time. The 700-page Handbook contains 37 chapters by distinguished historians, theologians and literary scholars and makes the case for restoring the study of the sermon to scholarship.

Professor William Gibson to write the introduction to the reigns of George I and II (1714-1760)

Professor William Gibson of the Department of History, Philosophy and Religion has been commissioned to write the introduction to the reigns of George I and II (1714-1760) for the new British State Papers project. The project will make all of the State Papers of British monarchs available online. The State Papers, housed at The National Archives, are the principal source for British history. The State Papers for the reigns of George I and II include accounts of the 1715 and 1745 risings as well as evidence of the emergence of cabinet government and of Walpole as perhaps Britain’s first prime minister. The overall editor for the eighteenth century section of the State Papers Online project is Professor Jeremy Black of Exeter University. Professor Gibson said of the project ‘the State Papers from this period are an invaluable source for how the British state and political systems were developed in a period of dynastic crisis and alarms. My earlier research on the work of the King’s Decypherer under George I and George II drew on the State Papers and considered one key aspect of the development of the State: secret intelligence which emerged during this period to keep abreast of Jacobite threats.’

The State Papers Online Project is a collaboration between The National Archives and Gale Cengage.