Category Archives: Authors

British Generals in Blair’s Wars – a guest post from Hew Strachan

This is a guest post from Hew Strachan, editor (with Jonathan Bailey and Richard Iron) of British Generals in Blair’s Wars


In 2003–4 I was one of a group of five Oxford academics who set up the Changing Character of War Programme, thanks to a grant from the Leverhulme Trust. We were determined that this would be an opportunity not just to conduct academic study but also to engage with practitioners, and to that end we were extremely fortunate to engage Major General Jonathan Bailey. He had not only been the British Army’s last Director General of Development and Doctrine but also—very unusually for a British general—possessed a Ph. D. The book would not have come into being without the Programme, the Trust and the General.

British Generals in Blairs WarsNobody then could foresee how the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan would dominate the next decade. Jonathan’s original focus lay on the Army’s most recent conflicts, those of the 1990s in the Gulf, Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Sierra Leone. They form the opening chapters of the book and for somebody like me—who had been brought up in the Cold War—they carried a great deal of intrinsic interest precisely because they dealt with real wars and not with conflict understood simply as theory. But the real excitement was to follow. Soon we were in a fortnightly cycle of seminars during the Oxford terms, at which officers who had recently returned from operations gave us their thoughts and reflections.

Following the campaigns in both Iraq and Afghanistan vicariously, albeit in the comfort of All Souls College, Oxford, gave me an insight into the conduct of war which I had never imagined that I—as an academic—would ever be privileged to acquire. Of course, I was not experiencing the intensity of fighting or even of service in a theatre of war. I was safe, warm and well fed. But I gained a perspective different from those who were in the field, precisely because my involvement was not broken by the rotations into and out of theatre but continued week by week. I developed a real sense of development over time—of the ways in which the character of war does indeed change as one side adapts to the enemy, to its political masters and its allies, and to the terrain and the seasons. I learnt that ‘the changing character of war’ was not just a convenient phrase, but a reflection of a core truth.

For a historian, there was a further privilege. This was the first cut at a narrative, revealing details and depths untouched by the press. Much is now in the public domain, not least as a result of the evidence taken by the Chilcot enquiry. But the discussions by Tim Cross of the arrangements (or lack of them) for the post-war occupation of Iraq or by Andrew Stewart of coalition politics in MND South East were then both new and jaw-dropping.

Jonathan Bailey had intended that he would edit the results into a book, but his other commitments precluded that. We were lucky that Richard Iron, himself a key figure in the British Army in Iraq as well as another very thoughtful and reflective soldier, came to Oxford on a Defence Fellowship and could begin to collate and coordinate what Jonathan had accumulated. Richard rendered what had been intended for oral delivery into prose for the page, without losing immediacy or suppressing difference. I had never imagined that, for all my role as the host at the original seminars, I would find myself figuring so prominently, both as contributor and as co-editor. It has been a privilege. It is also one which I hope will benefit the British Army as it digests the lessons of its recent conflicts, waged by an unusually intelligent and articulate group of officers.


About the author: Sir Hew Strachan is Chichele Professor of the History of War, Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford and was Director of the Oxford Programme on the Changing Character of War from its inception in 2004 until 2012. He is the author of several highly acclaimed books on military history, including European Armies and the Conduct of War (1983), The Politics of the British Army (1997), and The First World War: Volume 1: To Arms (2001). He is a member of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the World War I Centenary Advisory Board. He has also written extensively on strategy, and is a member of the Chief of Defence Staff’s Strategic Advisory Panel.

Hilary Burrage on ‘Eradicating Female Genital Mutilation’ – a book which should never have been written

This is a guest post from Hilary Burrage, author of Eradicating Female Genital Mutilation: a UK perspective


Eradicating Female Genital Mutilation: a UK perspective is a book which, ideally, should never have been written.

Eradicating_Burrage PBK_TemplateLike almost everyone else– but certainly, I now know, not absolutely everyone – I entered the Millennium in the belief that FGM in Britain was a thing of the past, a footnote to a truly awful ‘practice’ which sadly had occurred occasionally in London until it was outlawed in the UK by the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985. Yes, I had written a letter or two to my MP back in the 1980s, and had asked questions where I could; the legislation, I had been assured, meant however that I need concern myself no further.

But with the Millennium came the internet; and with that came the brave decision in 2003 by members of the Inter-African Committee (IAC) – on 6 February, now the annual International Day for Zero Tolerance of FGM – to alert the world to a hard truth: the grim reality that FGM had not been stopped forever in Africa or anywhere else. Rather, the incidence of this harmful traditional practice was probably increasing, with some 130-140 million girls and women world-wide affected.

And slowly, evidential shred by evidential shred, it became apparent that, as diasporas from various parts of the world made their homes in Britain, so was FGM being practised more in the UK.

Even that however was not all. I learnt via the world-wide web too that so-called ‘female circumcision’ is not as it seems. I believe no unnecessary hurt to children should ever be inflicted, but FGM can be an act well beyond what is normally understood as ‘circumcision’. I discovered it can comprise the fully intentional removal of almost every part of the external female genitalia, usually without anaesthetic or asepsis, and often on small children.

By 2006 my mind was made up. I am a (grand)parent and a human being. I decided that my training as a Sociologist and my professional experience in areas like social care and health policy would henceforth be focussed on support for long-time lone voices opposing FGM, the then-few self-identified survivors, and people such as (the late) campaigner Efua Dorkenoo, the Paris attorney Linda Weil-Curiel, the American literary academic Tobe Levin and other stalwarts who have been resolute against FGM for many years.

The invitation to write for Ashgate which arrived a few years later from Jonathan Norman was therefore an opportunity which, after many months of research and reflection, I knew I should not pass by.

Nowhere could I find comprehensive, cohesive, up to date and easily available reportage and commentary all together on aspects of FGM in the UK and the wider Western world. Certainly there were admirable books, documents and, later on, websites concerning specific aspects of this harmful traditional practice, but little in the way of published sources for everything in one place about FGM in general, and / or specifically about FGM in Britain and first world nations. I would have to try to write a textbook, handbook, primer or whatever myself.

Eradicating Female Genital Mutilation is that book – a project which has taken more than four years to complete.

I am under no illusion that my efforts comprise more than one small start, but I hope such an approach, alongside other on-going work, will help to build a conjoined, inclusive inter-disciplinary field – not just a disparately funded multi-agency approach (essential though agencies are) – from which an articulated, shared paradigm for the eradication of FGM and other child abuse in the developed world will more clearly emerge.

I want to know that survivors will be enabled to play a part in eradicating FGM without also have so much of the burden placed on their shoulders: the safety of children is a responsibility of us all, not only of those whose trust has been breached. I want to see an approach where professions do not engage in turf wars arising from a failure at the highest level to ensure policy co-ordination and substantive support.

And most of all I want to see a world in which my book can be dispatched to the archives, a world in which children are safe and FGM no longer occurs.

The nations of Europe, North America and Australia have capacity and capability if they so choose to consign FGM to history without delay; and it must be done. If the prime role of the leaders of democratic states is not to protect the most vulnerable, those states have surely lost their way.

Eradication of FGM in the Western world would make a massive impact across the globe and, most importantly of all, it would mean that many thousands of little girls now at risk would be spared unspeakable pain, reaching adulthood instead as healthy, autonomous women.

I have no easy answers; I aim only to spark serious, open debate about how the academy can join forces in a fitting way with those on the frontline of positive, value-oriented action. To that end I’ve devised a website for the topics in my book, where readers can elaborate (and doubtless correct) information, and discuss the issues further.

The point of my book is not the rigorous, even vigorous, exchange of views, essential of course though rigour remains. The point is whatever contribution to a fundamental common good may flow from these and other’s exchanges.

Female genital mutilation is an egregious human rights abuse visiting shame on us all. It is patriarchy incarnate, a brutal abomination. It must stop.


About the Author: Hilary Burrage is a freelance sociologist and community activist. She has been a senior lecturer in health and social care and a university research associate in community health as well as a non-executive director of Merseyside NHS ambulance trust and a trustee of the Liverpool school of tropical medicine.

‘Not since Efua Dorkenoo’s Cutting the Rose (1994) has a monograph on female genital mutilation outshone Hilary Burrage’s. Outraged at ineffective child protection, Burrage provides a comprehensive, scholarly yet accessible guide – among the best ever to deal with FGM – to professionals and all people of conscience.’
Tobe Levin von Gleichen, Harvard University, USA and University of Oxford, UK



Alastair Williams reflects on writing Constructing Musicology…

9780754601340I am delighted to have been offered the opportunity to reflect on how Constructing Musicology has fared during the years. The idea for the volume came from my first book New Music and the Claims of Modernity (Ashgate 1997), in which I build on Adorno’s view of modernism in music. During the 1990s, there was a surge of interest from English-language musicology in Adorno’s writings on music, since they focus squarely on meaning and subjectivity – areas that had been neglected by the positivist musicology of previous decades. So I was able to develop this tendency and to link it to a growing awareness of the resources that a broader range of literary and critical theory could bring to musicology. My intention in writing the book was to provide a guide to how musicology was absorbing critical theory, while demonstrating the wider importance of the theories being used.

In particular, I was keen to demonstrate that these theories have significance beyond the confines of postmodernism. And this aspect of the book has certainly proved to be prescient, because the once ubiquitous postmodernism is now an historical phenomenon. This is partly because terms such as ‘intertextuality’ and ‘deconstruction’ have become so commonplace that they do not require a larger framework, and partly because postmodernism turned out to be more an expansion of previous views than their antithesis. Beyond the postmodernism debate, critical theory has remained an important resource for musicology, but with growing familiarity (which the book has facilitated) it no longer seems so different. What, however, has remained is my argument that critical theory is democratic, because it facilitates the understanding of music from more than one perspective.

Another topic that the book addresses, from a theoretical perspective, is the widening repertoire that is increasingly being considered by musicology. Notably, the volume looks at the field of popular music, showing how identity is constructed by a struggle between authenticity and mobility, and between production and reception. On the flip side of the coin, the reduced cultural prestige of classical music has taken place at a time when there are increasingly diverse ways of encountering it, through a variety of media such as film, TV, radio and internet. Debates about identity in popular music have expanded since my book was published, just as there is now increasing significance attached to the ways in which classical music can connect with modern life.

There has been consistent interest in Constructing Musicology ever since it was published, from students and professionals alike, and readers have generally fallen into two camps. The first of these is readers who are seeking some assistance with what can be the bewildering terminology of critical theory, and are grateful to receive some help. The second group of readers is one that values my argument for its willingness to use critical theory to push beyond the postmodern consensus and for its insistence on understanding music in terms of subjectivity. In addition, there are readers from both camps who use the volume as what Professor Nicholas Cook has called a ‘Rough Guide to a changing discipline’. Published in 2001 Constructing Musicology has managed both to reflect on the achievements of the 1990s and to set the tone for the following decades.



williams_alastairAlastair Williams is Reader in Music at Keele University, UK. He has research interests in modernism and modernity, Austro-German music, critical theory, and subjectivity in music. He is the author of New Music and the Claims of Modernity (Ashgate, 1997), Constructing Musicology (Ashgate, 2001), and Music in Germany since 1968 (Cambridge, 2013), and a contributor to The Cambridge History of Twentieth-Century Music (2004). He has also published articles in a wide range of music journals. He has received funding from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the British Academy and the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

British Generals in Blair’s Wars – a guest post from Jonathan Bailey

This is a guest post from Jonathan Bailey, editor (with Richard Iron and Hew Strachan) of British Generals in Blair’s Wars


As the Cold War was ending, the British Army ‘discovered’ the Operational level of war, and officers at all levels were encouraged to study, think creatively and discuss their profession in a way that had perhaps not been seen, or even encouraged, for many years. I was associated with those efforts in various posts for 9 years between 1989 and 2005. I became convinced that an Army which thought about its profession was better placed to succeed than one which did not. I remembered Richard Holmes quoting a senior French general of the late 19th Century, “Any officer who publishes anything is guilty of an act of mutiny”. Students on the Higher Command and Staff Course (HCSC) smiled, knowing that today’s British Army was a very different institution.

From 2002 to 2005, when I left the Army, I was the Director General Development and Doctrine, responsible for generating much of the British Army’s doctrine and its lessons learned system. That said, I came to understand that my ability to do this was limited by the authority of the new Joint doctrine organization and the decision to conduct lessons learned from current campaigns, elsewhere. Nevertheless, I was in a good position to follow those operations and to debrief those who had commanded on them. This generation of commanders was precisely that which had first attended the HCSC, about a decade earlier, and it was fascinating to see how the structure of their understanding of their own experiences was coloured by that education.

On leaving the British Army, I retained an interest in the subject and proposed to Professor Hew Strachan that I might run a seminar series at All Souls College, Oxford, as part of his Changing Character of War Programme. The latter took a multi-disciplinary approach, encompassing International Relations, Ethics and Law. It seemed to me that it would be appropriate to match this with a study of the changing practice of war, as it was unfolding in two campaigns, through the eyes of those I knew well and who now bore command responsibilities for those operations. When the seminar series began, there was little expectation that these campaigns would last for a decade, or that the issues arising would be so profound and anguished.

I am heavily indebted to Hew for agreeing to support these seminars, all in keeping with his college’s mission to meld academia with public service. Hew’s credentials as the country’s leading authority on strategy and his enduring support to the MOD on a wide range of military matters made him the ideal person to exercise academic oversight over the seminars.

British Generals in Blairs WarsBrigadier Richard Iron and I had worked together for many years, and I know of nobody else whose knowledge and personality is so suited to the study of conflict in dangerous regions of the world, and who is so adept at identifying key factors and producing new and pragmatic doctrine. When he left the Army, he kindly agreed to join Hew and myself to turn the seminar papers into an edited book, fit for publication. In fact, Richard did all of the heavy-lifting, as well as writing a tremendous chapter on his own experiences in Iraq.

It was gratifying that so many reviews and other comment were positive, valuing this input of diverse primary source material. Some, however, seemed wide of the mark. One reviewer detected an underlying theme, and while chapters may be linked by subject, the contributions were written individually over 6 years with no author being permitted to review their piece with hindsight. Typically an officer, just home from his six- or twelve-month tour, would be pestered by me to speak, just when his thoughts were probably about getting away with his family on well-earned leave. Despite that, a number noted that the seminars had been very worthwhile personally, committing them to analyse what they had just experienced.

While the focus of this collection (and of the HCSC seminars) was on command in theatre, one reviewer noted the omission of material about senior command back in the UK. Happily a study of senior military command in the UK, in PJHQ and the MOD has been undertaken in a brilliant and original book, High Command, by my former colleague Christopher Elliott. His sympathetic yet penetrating study is one which I wish I had written.

A difficult issue at the time of publication was the MOD’s decision not to permit serving officers to contribute to it, even though the editors and publisher were ready to launch. This caused a major delay to publication and became an interesting topic for debate in its own right. Why did the MOD object to serving officers contributing? The right of the MOD to withhold permission for serving personnel to publish is well established, and it was quietly accepted, although it came as a cultural surprise. That said, one senior author, cut from the book, did urge ‘publish and be damned’. This was, after all, the generation educated to value independent thought and the value of professional military education.

The MOD’s decision seemed inconsistent: Security concerns were cited, but the contributors would be among the last people ever to compromise UK security; and that could not really have been the issue as the contributions to the book could be published immediately on the author’s retirement. One contribution had essentially been published some years earlier in a well-known defence journal, having been cleared by the MOD. Most of the material in the book had already been cleared incrementally by the MOD as serving officers prepared for their seminars. What seemed to have changed was the political direction, and it was noted that from about the time of publication officers found far greater restrictions imposed on their participation in Defence conferences.

One of the strengths of Britain’s Defence establishment is the plethora of think-tanks, institutes, and journals, based mainly in London. It became somewhat troubling that the contributions of expert practitioners should be so diminished in the public debate about Defence. Engaging the public in a sustained study of the military profession is an important element of military–civil relations in a democracy. There is a danger that a serious attempt to pursue professional study and education in the national interest can become caught up in an entirely different dynamic, that of immediate news management by the government of the day.

This has not always been the case, and there are many examples of broad-minded Secretaries of State who have taken a more indulgent and enlightened approach, in some cases because of their own genuine interest in military affairs. Happily, as Robin Day once observed, the reign of ministers is short lived.


About the author: Jonathan Bailey’s last appointment in the British Army before he retired in 2005 was Director General Development and Doctrine. He served in Northern Ireland, commanded Assembly Place ROMEO in Rhodesia in 1979-80; was Operations Officer 4th Field Regiment RA during the Falklands War; and in 1999 was KFOR’s Chief Liaison Officer to the Yugoslav General Staff and to the Kosovo Liberation Army. He has written several books and articles on defence and strategic themes. Since 2005 he has worked in the defence industry, and led the seminar series on Campaigning and Generalship, at the University of Oxford.

Mary Natvig on Teaching Music History

This is a guest post from Mary Natvig, author of Teaching Music History


Teaching Music HistoryI am honored and delighted that Ashgate has selected my 2002 essay collection, Teaching Music History, as one of its works that has made the most significant impact on the author’s field.

Considering the long-term effects of its publication, the genesis of Teaching Music History is comparatively paradoxical. It was not the result of calculated thought or scholarly introspection. The idea came in a flash—an impulse that once voiced, was impossible to take back. Early in my career, I attended an evening session on “Diversity in the Classroom” at the 1996 annual meeting of the American Musicological Society in Baltimore, MD. As I listened to the panelists, I was suddenly inspired and motivated to do something about the lack of pedagogical writing for those who teach music history and music appreciation. Most of us who become musicologists end up teaching; and most of us spend much of, or most of, our time on that activity. The semester before, I had just received my first smattering of “bad” teaching evaluations. After several years as a TA, an instructor, and as a young professor with very good evals, I wondered what had gone wrong. So during the session’s Q&A, I stood up and announced that I was editing a collection of essays called Teaching Music History, and anyone who would be interested in contributing should see me. At that point I had been editing the collection (in my imagination) for about five minutes—fueled by a scholarly intoxication (that only a conference can produce) and hubris (that only inexperience can excuse). By the end of the meeting I had four or five contributors and sobriety set in; I was now the self-appointed editor of a collection of essays on music history teaching, a project that no one had ever attempted and one that I had no idea how to get published.

Perhaps the above anecdote explains why I’m still slightly bemused when I hear the book cited as the beginning of a “movement,” or as Ashgate has deemed it, “having made the most impact in the field.” Of course I am honored beyond belief, but I am more delighted that the collection has sparked a discourse among musicologists that teaching is a topic to be discussed out loud and in print. Although several in our field had written previously on pedagogical issues (mostly in College Music Symposium), the publication of Teaching Music History in 2002 created something like a communal “happening” that attracted others to go public with their ideas and activities concerning pedagogy. The year after the book was published Kathryn Lowerre organized the first and now annual conference called “Teaching Music History Day.” Soon after (in 2005), Jessie Fillerup, Peter Burkholder, Alice Clark, and Jim Briscoe spearheaded the formation of the American Musicological Society’s Pedagogy Study Group, leading to regular pedagogy sessions at that society’s Annual Meeting and eventually to a prize, sponsored by the AMS, for innovative teaching projects. Matthew Balensuela founded the Journal of Music History Pedagogy in 2010 and Jim Briscoe published the second collection of essays that same year (Vitalizing Music History Teaching). Two years later Jim Davis’s The Music History Classroom appeared. This is just the tip of the iceberg. So many scholars have been involved in delivering papers, publishing articles, and organizing conferences, that music history pedagogy is now “a thing.”* Who knew? And who could have predicted that in 2013 the venerable American Musicological Society would change its Object statement—for the first time in history—to include a reference to teaching alongside its traditional mission of promoting and supporting musicological research.

Many scholars, in addition to the ones named above, took part in the transformation of “music history pedagogy” from quiet, after hours discussions in conference bars to public sessions, a journal, and new publications, but the fourteen contributors to Teaching Music History, some of whom were my own marvelous mentors and all of whom entered the project with expertise and enthusiasm deserve mention here: Maria Archetto, Noël Bisson, J. Peter Burkholder, Susan C. Cook, Vincent Corrigan, Robert Fink, Carol Hess, Mary Hunter, Ralph P. Locke, Patrick Macey, Russell E. Murray, Kenneth Nott, Michael Pisani, Marjorie Roth, and Pamela Starr. Thank you all, and thank you to Ashgate Publishing for taking a chance on a new idea.

*For more on the twenty-first century music history pedagogy movement, see Scott Dirkse’s recent dissertation, Music History Pedagogy in the Twentieth-First Century:The Pedagogy Movement in American Musicology (UC Santa Barbara).


Mary Natvig is Professor of Musicology and Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Studies at the College of Musical Arts, Bowling Green State University. Her areas of research are: the sacred music of the 15th century, music and social reform, and music history pedagogy. She is the author of Teaching Music History (Ashgate, 2002) and co-author with Steven Cornelius of Music: A Social Experience (Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2011).

From Museum Critique to the Critical Museum – a round table discussion

Posted by Helen Moore, Marketing Manager

Ashgate author Katarzyna Murawska-Muthesius will be chairing a Round table discussion on 9th September 2015 at POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Warsaw on the subject of her new book From Museum Critique to the Critical Museum.

From museum critique to the critical museumSince the late nineteenth century museums have been seen as agents of imperialism and colonialism, strongholds of patriarchalism, masculinism, homophobia and xenophobia, and accused both of elitism and commercialism. What can we therefore do to transform museums into places of open, critical discussion, actively supporting social change?

These are the issues tackled in the book From Museum Critique to the Critical Museum, edited by Piotr Piotrowski and Katarzyna Murawska-Muthesius (Ashgate, 2015). The Round Table with contributors to the book and art critics at POLIN Museum will be an opportunity to reflect on how museums can get involved in public debates on the most important and controversial topics relevant to today’s society.

The meeting will be dedicated to the memory of Prof. Piotr Piotrowski, one of the editors of From Museum Critique to the Critical Museum and creator of the concept of the Critical Museum. Piotr Piotrowski was a professor at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland, visiting professor at many foreign universities, and Director of the National Museum in Warsaw.

Participants of the Round Table include:

  • Jacob Birken – writer and curator, research assistant at the Visual Arts Department, Kunsthochschule Kassel
  • Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett – Chief Curator of POLIN Museum’s core exhibition, University Professor Emerita and Professor Emerita of Performance Studies at New York University
  • John Onians – Professor Emeritus in the School of Art History and World Art Studies, University of East Anglia
  • Alpesh Patel – art critic and curator, Assistant Professor of contemporary art and theory at Florida International University in Miami
  • Jarosław Suchan – art historian and critic, curator, Director of Muzeum Sztuki w Łodzi
  • Ewa Toniak – curator, historian, and art critic, pioneer of feminist critique in Poland
  • Krzysztof Żwirblis – artist and curator, initiator of artistic projects carried out in cooperation with local communities

Admission is free and the discussion will be held in Polish and English (simultaneous translation).

More information about the round table discussion

Ashraf Salama interviewed about education and architecture

9781472422873.PPC_Layout 1Ashraf Salama is Chair Professor in Architecture and Head of Architecture at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK and the author of Spatial Design Education which we published in March 2015.

His book is already receiving excellent reviews …

‘… Salama creates the convincing argument for pedagogical change and then systematically evaluates examples of current evolving paradigms that are making that change happen. If you want to be part of that change then this book should be your guide.’

Jeffrey Haase, The Ohio State University, USA

Last month Ashraf was interviewed for The Arch.Ed.Podcast, where he reveals more about the book,  education and architecture and provides some insight into his own personal experiences. You can listen to the full interview at