Posts Tagged 'Imposture'

The Identity Project

The Identity Project, a nine-month season of activity from the Wellcome Trust, is currently underway in London and elsewhere. The Trust supports a large amount of research into genetics (including the Human Genome Project), and the season is intended to explore ‘scientific and social perspectives of identity – historic and contemporary – to encourage debate and discussion and to ask how well we will ever be able to know ourselves’. The season includes an exhibition entitled Identity: Eight Rooms, Nine Lives, as well as several other events throughout the UK, including a workshop on 23 January 2010 on Secret Lives, which will feature a contribution from IdentiNet lead investigator Professor Edward Higgs (University of Essex). For further details, see The Identity Project website.

CFP: 1st International Conference on Villains and Villainy

tichborneclaimant1The ‘1st International Conference on Villains and Villainy’ will be held at Mansfield College, Oxford on 19-21 September 2009. Papers are requested on ‘all aspects of villains and villainy’, and the proposed theme on ‘incarnations of the villainous’ would surely be incomplete without a liberal sprinkling of tricksters, impostors and identity thieves, in particular new readings of cause célébres such as the affair of the Tichborne Claimant (pictured). The deadline for 300-word abstracts is 17 April 2009; for full details and submission instructions see H-Net or the conference website. Picture: Public Domain

Protocols of Identification in the Early Modern Metropolis

lostlondonsPaul Griffiths’ eagerly anticipated study of petty crime in early modern London – Lost Londons: Change, Crime and Control in the Capital City, 1550-1660 – has recently been published by Cambridge University Press, and is teeming with identification angles. It discloses a metropolis ‘flooded… with false papers’, in particular the counterfeit vagrant travel permits and forged beggars’ licenses around which a booming cottage industry developed. It also discusses the compulsory badging of fishwives, the false identities created by suspects and the use of bodily branding to signal dubious pasts (‘Like paper, bodies had spaces to put data that might come back to haunt a recidivist’), and devotes an innovative concluding chapter to the systematic recording of suspects’ names and offences in the Bridewell courtbooks. These ‘active archives’, carefully alphabeticised and often equipped with additional finding aids such as calendars, tables and indexes, were used by magistrates to piece together criminal biographies, and participated in a larger project of ‘numbering Londoners’ manifested elsewhere in parish registers, tax lists and censuses of vagrants, aliens, alehouse-keepers and street-sellers.

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