Reviews of University of Chester Press Books

A selection of extracts from reviews of University of Chester Press publications.

Edges of Identity: The Production of Neoliberal Subjectivities  (edited by Jonathon Louth and Martin Potter)

Dr Stuart Shields, Senior Lecturer in Politics, University of Manchester, UK: Edited volumes can be highly uneven in their quality and focus. This collection is an exception. Louth and Potter have done readers a great service in collating a diverse but focused group of scholars who successfully capture the manifold dimensions of neoliberalism/neoliberalisation across competing times, spaces, and scales. Readers with an interest in the far too all pervasive construction of neoliberal subjectivities should direct their attention to this collection.

Professor Timothy Doyle, Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Adelaide, Australia: Louth and Potter have curated a remarkably diverse, yet coherent collection of contributions that investigate how markets shape us and the societies we live in. This is a volume for students and scholars alike who want to better understand how neoliberalism is imbricated into our everyday.

Dr Sophia Price, Head of Politics and International Relations, Leeds Beckett University, UK: Edges of Identity is an interesting compilation of differing accounts of the production of neoliberal subjectivities and subjectivity formation. What is particularly pleasing is the variety of contexts through which this is viewed, and the detailed empirical focus, which makes the theoretical discussion accessible and will help readers to understand and explore the complexity of the subject matter.


Theorising Normalcy and the Mundane (edited by Rebecca Mallett, Cassandra A. Ogden and Jenny Slater) by David Jackson-Perry, Disability and Society, 32(7), 1111-1113.

... this collection never promised us a rose garden; it is an edgy and at times uneven rollick through ab/normalcy, and as the chapters unfold they play in increasingly uncomfortable corners, interrogating the tools of the norm while quietly jostling and queering the codes of ‘abnormalcy’. Boxall’s chapter, coming where it does, signifies the complexity, the fabulous folly of trying to locate all this varied and ‘brilliant imperfection’(Clare 2017) on common ground.

Theorising Normalcy and the Mundane sketches out fragmentary maps of that ground, bringing into relief bridges and points of encounter, but also pitfalls, locations where meetings may be fraught with dissent. The tools of normal are well oiled, colluding efficiently through diagnosis, classification, class averages, bureaucratic process, and other less visible techniques. These chapters argue in turn for collaboration. They call on academics and teachers, disability theories and drug user studies, the transabled, the transgendered, and the dis/abled, all those who fall outside the protective umbrella of ‘normal’, to use these sometimes inconvenient and unsought intersections as gaps through which to insert the less well-honed tools that challenge normalcy. The contradictions and complexities of such a project do not make for a comfortable read. Rather, these postcards from the conference extend an invitation to readers to have their cages well and truly rattled: an invitation I would encourage them to accept.

 

Landsapes Past and Present: Cheshire and Beyond (edited by Sharon M. Varey and Graeme J. White) by Nick Higham, The Local Historian, 2017, July p. 254.

Cheshire was traditionally rather overlooked by landscape historians and it is much to the credit of the Chester Society for Landscape History, whose thirtieth anniversary this volume marks, that the balance is being redressed. The book offers a well-edited and well-illustrated collection of eight papers covering diverse aspects of the historic county and beyond. ...  While genuinely interesting at the individual level, these papers share little beyond their geographical focus and their desire of the authors to mark the anniversary.

 

Landsapes Past and Present: Cheshire and Beyond (edited by Sharon M. Varey and Graeme J. White) by Alex Cowan, Cheshire History, 2016-17, 56, pp. 187-188.

This excellent book was published to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Chester Society for Landscape History, founded in 1986. It contains detailed accounts of seven differing landscapes, based in most cases on topography. Features past and present are explored in their wider context and their development in relation to one another.

 

Cycling Cultures (edited by Peter Cox), by Katrine Hartmann-Petersen, Applied Mobilities, 1(1), 129-133, 2016.

It presents what the contributors characterize as a kaleidoscopic view of cycling conversations across national settings and experiences. Cox et al. provide new insights into the understanding of the priorities, perceptions of freedom and interdependences of cycling in everyday life. This book adds to the growing field of cycling literature (i.e. Aldred 2013; Freudendal-Pedersen 2015a; Larsen 2015; Rosen, Cox, and Horton 2007; Spinney 2010) and verifies cycling as an inspiring research field within social sciences.

The key message of book is that cultures of cycling need to be a further object of scientific investigation, because understanding the diversities of cycling makes a better starting point for a region, a city or a nation’s mobility policies. But the book also presents a series of conversations across social and political contexts that bridge between perspectives from academia, activism and public policy (Cox 2015, 2) … Cycling Cultures shows how a cultural understanding of mobilities is crucial in order to discover interdependencies within urban mobilities in general (Cox 2015, 213).

Cycling Cultures (edited by Peter Cox), by Jeremy Torr, Gaia Discovery, June 2016

Academic editions are often as exciting as watching paint dry. They come with mountains of references to obscure previous research conducted decades ago, and grip on present-day reality akin to that of Donald Trump’s election manifesto. But the Cycling Cultures edited collection is a refreshing surprise. It gives insights that surprise, intrigue and inform. … Cycling Cultures offers an in depth look at how, and potentially why, cyclists are so keen to tell everybody that cycling is A Good Thing. But they cast a broad net.

Cycling Cultures edited by Peter Cox is a must read for sociologists, city planners and transportation executives. Across eight learned dispositions on the state of cycling as it relates to modern culture, the book investigates such forgotten corners as the role of the Cargo Bicycle, how Immigrant Women Cyclists learn to ride in Holland, and why some cyclists think it sensible to ride 1600km non-stop in 90 hours in a Randonee. … If the examples cited of female emancipation and cultural blending through the use of bicycles are anything to go by, the humble bicycle can still bring plenty of new culture to our increasingly crowded yet environmentally aware societies.

 

War Torn: Manchester, its Newspapers and the Luftwaffe's Blitz of 1940 (by Guy Hodgson), by Tom O'Malley, Media History, 22(1), 137-139, 2016.

The subject of the press in Britain during World War II is relatively neglected in historical writing. Much has been written which refers to it, but as yet there is no detailed account of how the national and provincial press and periodical industry functioned during this period of intense political, military, economic and social strain. Guy Hodgson's study contributes to the redressing of that deficiency in an account of the way the Manchester press covered the Blitz in Manchester during December 1940. ... for anyone wishing to think about the complexities of the role of the newspaper press in the UK during the Second World War, this book is essential reading and points to the need for far more work on this important subject.

War Torn: Manchester, its Newspapers and the Luftwaffe's Blitz of 1940 (by Guy Hodgson), by Alexandre F. Caillot, H-War, H-Net Reviews, October, 2015: full text

Newspapers provide the historian with a plenteous bounty of information. They offer a window into popular opinion as well as the overarching influence of the media in shaping those views. Despite their value, scholars of the Second World War have traditionally been hesitant to rely on such material, something that Guy Hodgson seeks to address in War Torn: Manchester, its Newspapers and the Luftwaffe’s Blitz of 1940. Its focus on newspapers allows for a detailed look at the portrayal of a British city exposed to aerial bombardment. A fresh angle on a familiar topic, the author’s work illustrates how the costliest war in human history remains a rich area for scholarship. ...

Hodgson’s concentrated approach and regional emphasis on Manchester do not hinder the broad relevance of the volume. Its conclusions are pertinent to readers around the world: the importance of factual reporting, the dangers of propaganda justified by military exigencies, and the challenges of discovering the voices of the population. Anyone engaged in the study of history or journalism will find this discussion of great interest. Furthermore, the resulting contribution to the historiography will challenge scholars to carefully evaluate the agendas of their sources.

Over the past several decades, historians have sought to expand the discussion of military history to encompass war and society. Guy Hodgson’s War Torn: Manchester, its Newspapers and the Luftwaffe’s Blitz of 1940 ably demonstrates the potential for wide-ranging scholarship of considerable appeal to academics and the public alike. To appreciate the transformative effect of conflict on a population, probative research into civilian-military relations can go far towards drawing together what are sometimes (and unfortunately) considered separate topics. This book accomplishes that goal, revealing the vast metaphorical gulf between a people’s wartime experience and the stance taken by the government in such a time of crisis.

 

Listening to Less-Heard Voices: Developing Counsellors' Awareness (edited by Peter Madsen Gubi), by Charlie Jackson in Therapy Today, September 2015, p. 42.

If you are looking for a book on counselling and psychotherapy research written by practitioners for practitioners, then this is the book for you. Dr Gubi contextualises the rationale behind the publication in the opening sentence: ‘Whilst research is designed to inform best practice and increase understanding, there is less in-depth research published about human experiencing that relates to issues that are “on the edge” of the professions of counselling, psychotherapy and psychology, yet which are nevertheless “central” for those people who experience such issues’ (p1).

As a predominantly self-confessed (and proud) qualitative researcher, I felt compelled to continue reading. It is so refreshing to discover research ‘that comes from a place of passion within the researchers, which is aimed at informing counsellors about aspects of human experiencing that are not written about much (if at all) in the counselling-related literature’ (p2).


Paired Book Review of On Chester On: A History of Chester College and the University of Chester  with Oriel College: A History by Michael Shattock, UCL Institute of Education, in History of Education: Journal of the History of Education Society, 2016, DOI: 10.1080/0046760X.2016.1189602.

Chester's history offers a self-published, but well-written and scholarly, narrative of the transformation of a college of education through the various stages of two-year and three-year diplomas to BEds and BAs and BA Honours under the aegis of Liverpool, and then to full university status ... It is a story of institutional evolution running in a parallel with the national and international transformation from elite to mass higher education and is rooted in a local and regional context.

On Chester On: A History of Chester College and the University of Chester (by Graeme J. White) by Rod Hunt MBE (children's author and alumnus of Chester College, now the University of Chester).

The hallmark of Graeme White's book is its honesty and clarity. His meticulous research of the historical records results in a story both compelling and enticing. Dr White also reads between the lines of his sources, giving us a delicious and fascinating insight into the minds and motives of the key players in the institution's history. Further gems of information are to be mined in the chapter end notes.

Review of On Chester On: A History of Chester College and the University of Chester (by Graeme J. White) by Marion McClintock, University of Lancaster, for the British Association for Local History.

The history of British tertiary and higher education is important and incomplete. Volumes such as On Chester On are valuable for all those associated with individual institutions, while contributing through the story of one particular trajectory to a fuller understanding of how and why higher education in the UK has reached its present position and how it might evolve in the future.

Review of On Chester On: A History of Chester College and the University of Chester (by Graeme J. White) by Peter Carrington, for the Journal of the Chester Archaeological Society, new series, 85, 2015, pp. 15-18.

'... we are offered a very detailed and well informed, sympathetic but by no means uncritical work of institutional history. This work can be read from a number of viewpoints - local, national, ecclesiastical, secular, educational, administrative and social - and it deserves to be taken into account by all the appropriate scholars.

 

Review of Shades of Expression: Online Political Journalism in the Post-Colour Revolution Nations (by Simon Gwyn Roberts), in European Journal of Communication, 2013, 28:727-728:

While the role of the evolving media technologies in the events of the Arab Spring has attracted significant attention among media scholars, research on the impact of the media in the Colour Revolutions remains scarce. As Simon Gwyn Roberts rightly points out, this is an unfortunate omission and a manifestation of a rather selective geopolitical focus of media and communications research – but also, we could add, a symptom of the field’s relentless emphasis on the newest technological developments at the expense of longitudinal analysis and informed historical comparisons. Roberts’ book is a welcome corrective to these trends, and shows that many of the trends noted in the Arab Spring – above all the ideal of media freedom, but also the ‘networked’ nature of political protest and its dependence on online media – have clear counterparts in the Colour Revolutions, even though the digital media environment at the time was centred primarily on online news platforms rather than social media such as Facebook or Twitter.

 

Review of Landscape History Discoveries in the North West (edited by Sharon M. Varey and Graeme J. White), by Andy Gritt (University of Central Lancashire) in Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, Vol. 162, 2013, pp. 247-251:

This is a thoroughly enjoyable book which caused me to reflect on some of my own research and teaching, being extremely useful to both. It is a fine example of the sources and methods of landscape history with several of the contributors being graduates of Chester's MA in Landscape History. The work of these former students sits comfortably and naturally alongside those of the more established academic historians and archaeologists in this volume. Indeed, it is a great credit both to the Masters course and the Chester Society for Landscape History that work of this quality is being carried out and that knowledge and skills are so enthusiastically shared.

Review of Landscape History Discoveries in the North West (edited by Sharon M. Varey and Graeme J. White), by Gary Duckers in the Journal of the Chester Archaeological Society, Vol. 83, pp. 5-6:

Taken as a whole, this attractively presented volume will prove valuable to scholars and students with research interests centred upon the North West and landscape history. The volume not only provides a stimulating insight into the range of investigative techniques that can be employed to understand complex landscapes, but also is an enlightening text emphasising the vital contribution of local societies and organisations to landscape studies.

Review of Landscape History Discoveries in the North West (edited by Sharon M. Varey and Graeme J. White), by Polly Bird inThe Local Historian, Vol.43, 2:

Anyone wanting to understand the diversity of approaches to landscape history should read this well-produced volume from the Chester Society for Landscape History (CSLH). The papers which form the content of the book were presented at the CSLH’s successful 25th anniversary conference in 2011. An illuminating introduction by Dai Morgan Evans (who co-chaired the conference with Graeme White) is followed by eight papers. A ninth chapter, ‘In brief’, contains four short contributions based on conference poster presentations. The book is well-illustrated in black and white and 12 colour plates ... As Dai Morgan Evans suggests in his introduction, all the papers demonstrate what he feels encapsulates the CSLH ‘knowledge seasoned with enthusiasm’. It is this fascination for the subject matter coupled with disciplined research that shines through and makes this volume so readable. We must hope that the CSLH will publish further volumes.

Review of Landscape History Discoveries in the North West (edited by Sharon M. Varey and Graeme J. White), by William Price in Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society, forthcoming.

The writers have given us much food for thought from their studies of the county to our north (and adjacent parts of North Wales), and the editors are to be congratulated on providing such an attractive volume so speedily after the Conference. Ad multos annos to the Chester Society for Landscape History. 


Review of Corporeality: The Body and Society (edited by Cassandra A. Ogden and Steve Wakeman), by Steven Robertson (Leeds Metropolitan University) in Sociology of Health & Illness, 2013, Vol. 35, No. 6, pp. 972-973.

The stated aim of the editors is to bring together work that helps reassert the centrality of the body in ‘late-modern social thought’ and they certainly make a useful contribution in this regard. The book helps make ‘embodiment’ contemporary, as the majority of the chapters are embedded in recent empirical work or built on discussions of current events. The eclectic nature of the book demonstrates the range of issues that careful attention to embodiment can help elucidate. However, I suspect that few people would find it useful in its entirety – though, for those willing to make the effort, it offers some interesting and possibly unexpected gems. For sociology academics and students—particularly those who are teaching or studying modules on ‘the sociology of the body’ at undergraduate or postgraduate level —this work will certainly be a useful addition to the bookshelf. For many others, specific sections and chapters relating to particular areas of interest will be worth reading.

  

Review of The Prime Minister's Son. Stephen Gladstone: Rector of Hawarden (written by Ros Aitken), by Professor Michael Wheeler (University of Southampton) in the Church Times, 21-28 December 2012, p. 51

The Prime Minister’s Son is written in an informal style, and tells an engaging story with a special appeal to the hard-pressed parish priest, or long-suffering clergy spouse. More valuable for its biographical insights and discoveries about life in a Victorian parish than for its forays into wider ecclesiastical history, the book is the work of a former teacher whose father attended the training college that is now the University of Chester, in the 1930s. Today, Aitken revels in the glories of Gladstone’s Library, and often contributes to the annual seminar known as the Gladstone Umbrella.

Review of The Prime Minister's Son. Stephen Gladstone: Rector of Hawarden (written by Ros Aitken), by Ian Cawood (Newman University) in Journal of Liberal History, 80, Autumn 2013, pp. 49-50.

Ultimately, this is a very well-written and insightful portrait of a minor figure in the orbit of one of the most remarkable men of the Victorian age. Stephen emerges as something of an irritating milequetoast, nagging at his father, yet unable to act independently, and his treatment of his wife Annie reflects poorly on his character, idolishing her in his courtship, yet failing to defend her against the monumental busybody that was his mother, Catherine, once they were married. Remarkably, considering the unabated flow of scholarship on the four-time prime minister, Aitken's biography provides Liberal scholars with a completely original perspective on Gladstone; one which, in this reviewer's eyes at least, seems substantially to confirm Clement Attlee's judgement of William Gladstone as a 'frightful old prig', but which ameliorates it by revealing that Gladstone had, after all, spent his life in the company of prigs.

Review of The Prime Minister's Son. Stephen Gladstone: Rector of Hawarden (written by Ros Aitken), by Paul Ward (University of Huddersfield) in North American Journal of Welsh Studies, 8, 2013, pp. 131-132. 

This is a detailed and well written biography, exploring [Stephen] Gladstone's long life across the mid and late nineteenth century and into the twentieth century ... It is useful reading both for the view 'from below' of William Gladstone but also as an account of anguish in an aristocratic family in the long nineteenth century.

 

Review of Biodiversity in the North West: The Slime Moulds of Cheshire (written by Bruce Ing), by Charles Aron in Natur Cymru (Summer 2012)

As shown by Bruce Ing's wonderfully illustrated article in Natur Cymru (No. 41), slime moulds are fascinating and beautiful organisms. Those reading the article will surely have been enthused to go out and search for them and the inclusion of this new book will only enthuse them even more ... This book, which is light enough to take into the field, is a must-have for those studying or embarking on the study of slime moulds in the North Wales area and will also be useful to anyone with an interest in biodiversity.

 

Review of Politics, Publishing and Personalities: Wrexham Newspapers, 1848-1914 (written by Lisa Peters), by Andrew Hobbs (University of Central Lancashire) in Victorian Periodicals Review, Volume 45, Number 2, 2012.

This accessible volume is based on the author's University of Wales, Aberystwyth, PhD dissertation, which comprised a micro-history of newspaper publishing in Wrexham, a small town in northeast Wales, across the border from Chester, where Lisa Peters is a university law librarian. It is the first publication from the revitalised University of Chester Press. All PhD students should be made to condense their dissertations into a similarly readable, well-illustrated seventy-two-page general-interest book ... This is chiefly a local-interest book, but its academic pedigree makes it a useful addition to the long list of single-place and single-title histories of the provincial press from which a national synthesis can eventually be written.