Research Highlights

Places for Making, Places for Taking: Metals in the Global Eighteenth Century
USW historian Chris Evans is working in partnership with Professor Göran Rydén of Uppsala University in Sweden on a project that has been awarded a £330,000 grant by the Swedish funder Riksbankens Jubileumsfond.

Places for Making, Places for Taking returns to a classic problem of social science”, Evans explains, “which is how to account for the transition from the early modern to modern. We do so because recent historiographical debates have exposed serious deficiencies in some tried-and-tested explanations of the rise of western modernity. To be blunt, was it really that 'western’? We use metals like iron and steel, copper and brass, which were traded globally in the eighteenth century, to explore some of the interpretive difficulties that new global scholarship has highlighted.”

Journeys to the East: the Hippy Trail c.1957-1979
Sharif Gemie and Brian Ireland are investigating one of great expressions of alternative tourism in the twentieth century, the hippie trail to Morocco, Afghanistan, Nepal, India and other points east, which flourished between 1957 (when Jack Kerouac published his influential novel On the Road) and 1979 (when the Iranian Revolution closed the land route from Europe to India). North American and European travellers used VW vans, motorbikes and Land Rovers to travel East and their exploits quickly became a media cliché. In popular consciousness, knowledge of the hippy trail is still based mainly on stereotypical stories and images. But who were these travellers? Why did they travel? And what is the enduring legacy of these alternative forms of tourism? You can follow the project blog here.

A World of Copper: Globalizing the Industrial Revolution, 1830-1870
Between 1830 and 1870 the Swansea district in South Wales became the hub of the world’s first globally integrated heavy industry. Swansea’s copper smelters, who often accounted for 50% of world output in these decades, drew ore from Australia, Chile, Cuba and elsewhere. 'Swansea copper’ was a truly global phenomenon, involving mining complexes on different continents and the mobilisation of capital, labour and technology across immense distances. As such, Swansea copper was a strikingly early example of transnationalism at work. Thanks to funding from the Leverhulme Trust, Chris Evans is investigating how this global phenomenon functioned. Find out more at the project website.

Barry Island: the playground of South Wales
Andy Croll is writing a book about the seaside resort of Barry Island. At the end of the nineteenth century Barry suddenly became a major tourist centre. Why was that and how can the study of people’s leisure activities help us understand society more widely in the twentieth century? Andy talks about the project in this podcast

‘Losing Face’: trauma and maxillofacial injury in the First World War (Fiona Reid)
The Western Front of the First World War was an industrial battlefield. The extensive fire-power of modern weaponary resulted in horrific head wounds and in men suffering serious injuries to the jaw and the soft tissues of the face (maxillofacial injury). In previous wars these men would have died but the medical advances of the early twentieth century ensured that more and more of these men were able to live, albeit with painful, enduring and unsightly wounds. There is no ready, colloquial term for these men in English but they were known as les gueules cassées (men with smashed faces) in France. Read more.