Symposium: Printers on the Move

Printers on the Move: Migration, Identity and Printing Skills Transfer Across the English Speaking World, 1840-1914

Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh: 1-2 October 2010

Migration was a key tool for building the social, cultural and economic infrastructures of the "British Dominions" throughout the nineteenth and twentieth century. Between 1840 and 1940, an estimated 15 million people left the British Isles for overseas destinations; with 2.33 million people emigrating from Scotland alone. Such displacement of people contributed both to what scholars term the "imperial diaspora" and the "labour diaspora" driven by economic necessity between 1840 and 1914. Print culture was crucial to these diasporas, and members of a highly skilled, mobile "printing diaspora" who could help construct and promote political and cultural identities through the agency of print were, from the outset, high on the preferred occupation list.

Only recently, though, has migration studies begun making an impact on book history research : the time is right to convene a symposium specifically to debate the issues and so help define and develop this aspect of print culture study.

This collaborative, two day interdisciplinary symposium, funded by the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundataion, will explore the subject of trans-national "printing diaspora" migration, identity and skills transfer between 1840 and 1914. The convenors are Prof. David Finkelstein, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh (lead organiser); Dr Mary Hammond, University of Southampton; and Dr. Sydney Shep, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.

The aim of the symposium will be to bring together experts in related fields of colonial/post-colonial studies, economic and social history, literary studies, history, geographical information systems and print culture studies to explore how their disciplines can contribute to cross-disciplinary understandings of the links between nineteenth-century transnational printing expertise and technology, skills transfer, and international labour mobility.

Key symposium objectives will be:

  1. to stimulate high quality research on print culture diasporas, identity and labour migration, drawing on a wide range of disciplinary resources and skills, and encouraging interdisciplinary collaboration;
  2. to map out current literature and primary and secondary resources on the subject , and develop theoretical frameworks, methods and case study examples enabling the undertaking of comparative analyses of printing diasporas, migration and identity;
  3. to build international networks necessary to undertake substantive, trans-national projects in this area ; and
  4. to generate and disseminate research findings and outcomes of international significance and quality.


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