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Showing posts from 2014

Street Name Equality

I was contacted by a resident back in autumn 2013 about putting a motion to council for gender equality in street naming. The idea came from an Italian movement ( Toponomastica Femminile ), and I duly brought the motion to Labour group for discussion and then to full council. Anyway, it got picked up by the press as the puff piece of the week and I got to go on BBC Radio Wales to talk about it, in addition to doing a few newspaper pieces. Normally, I think I would have loved it but it coincided right with my 'mini' nervous breakdown. I was signed off work for a couple of months with depression and anxiety, and basically slept or stared into space for weeks. It wasn't good, and the 'lol mad feminazi' reporting didn't help any. So, yeah, it doesn't hold nice memories for me at all but, for his (the resident's) sake, I am pleased it got so much coverage. I might have been told I was an idiot for wasting time and money on frivolity (roughly 5 minutes a


Webcasting - i.e. transmitting over the internet - is a relatively inexpensive way of broadening access to local government. People who can't (or won't) attend public meetings can watch the relevant bits, whenever and wherever is convenient for them. I put forward a motion to council that Torfaen webcast its meetings back in autumn 2012, with the webcasting actually beginning in the following year. It had a bit of media coverage: ☆  10/07/2013 - Argus . ☆  10/11/2013 - South Wales Argus . You can now watch most Torfaen council meetings HERE . For more like this, please click the image below:

Five Minutes With (South Wales Argus)

I was interviewed for the South Wales Argus' 'Five Minutes With' piece back in December 2012. You can read it on their website HERE . FIVE MINUTES WITH: One of Torfaen's youngest councillors Jessica Powell  Friday 21 December 2012 / Gwent news  IF YOU HAD TO BE STUCK IN A LIFT WITH SOMEONE, WHO WOULD IT BE AND WHY?  Nick Grimshaw. He'd be entertaining and easy on the eyes. WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST FEAR? A roomful of spiders. Like that scene in Something Wicked This Way Comes. DO YOU HAVE ANY SUPERSTITIONS? Not really; life is what you make it. IF YOU COULD HAVE ONLY ONE SONG ON YOUR IPOD, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY? Such a cruel question. Probably Silver Moon by Donkeyboy because I still love it no matter how many times I hear it. WHAT'S THE MOST EXPENSIVE THING YOU'VE BOUGHT, NOT INCLUDING PROPERTY?  My computer or, judging by my SLC statements, my education. WHAT'S THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU'VE BEEN GIVEN? Do your ow

Guardian Debate: Attracting Young Councillors

Back in July 2014 I took part in a live online debate for the Guardian about whether or not enough is done to attract young councillors. You can read the full piece on their website HERE . This was their round up of my contribution: Jessica Powell was elected in May, to Pontnewydd ward in Torfaen  Age 18 is a suitable time to become a councillor:  That's not saying all 18-year-olds would or should want to do it, but I don't see why an 18-year-old is any less suitable that an 81-year-old. A good diverse range of opinions and characters is what you want in any organisation. Given public opinion, people are afraid to claim the expenses that they are entitled to:  Nobody wants to be criticised on local messageboards and in the local paper – particularly the latter as people like my grandparents read it every evening. Limiting terms would attract more young people:  Before I stood for election I was dating a politician and it was pretty intolerable. They never have any

Working to Live vs Living to Work

Letter I had printed in the Metro (29/03/2012). I feel sorry for Joanne from London. By her own admission, she doesn't 'enjoy' her six-figure salary, yet she has chosen to sacrifice her quality of life in pursuit of it. Britain's work ethic isn't the problem; it's the idea that money is everything. You need enough to live but is it really worth living only to earn? (Joanne from London wrote: Having read lots of comments regarding negativity towards the 50p tax rate being cut to 45p, I feel compelled to share my views on the topic. As a young woman from a modest background, I have risen through the ranks of various companies thanks to sheer hard graft. After ten years of working 14-hour days and many weekends (with no overtime), I now 'enjoy' a six-figure salary in what little spare time I have. I live in a two-bedroom flat in London, hardly a glamorous lifestyle, and see more than half my salary disappearing straight from my account each month.

...and three turn up at once

The Western Mail printed the first - and only - letter I'd ever written them (04/02/2012). It was about public transport, of course. For more like this, please click the image below:

Revision Notes: C18th Law and Order

Paper 10: Past Paper Questions:  ‘Whether or not law in Britain was biased by class, there is no doubt that it was biased by gender.’ Discuss with reference to either the eighteenth or the nineteenth century.  ‘Illogical and Uncivilised.’ How accurate was this characterization by early nineteenth-century reformers of the eighteenth-century criminal code and its implementation?  Why was there such a discrepancy between the fierceness of criminal legislation in the eighteenth century and the actualities of its implementation?  Assess the changes in the nature and extent of interpersonal violence in any period of at least one hundred years.  What was the role of discretion in the eighteenth-century legal system?  ‘The criminal justice system in eighteenth-century England was designed for a pre-industrial society, a largely rural country dotted with villages and market towns.’ Discuss.  ‘Laws grind the poor, and rich men rule the law.’ (Oliver Goldsmith) Does modern histor

Revision: Class

Paper 10 Revision: Past Paper Questions:  ‘The notion of class consciousness in the period 1750-1850 is fanciful.’ Discuss.  ‘Any attempt to assert the three-class model of social organisation before 1870 is undermined by diversities within each supposed class.’ Discuss with reference to either the ‘working class’ or the ‘middle class’ or the ‘upper class’.  Was ‘class’ just another ‘imagined community’ of the nineteenth century? Discuss with reference to either middle-class or working-class consciousness.  ‘Historians have abandoned the working class and embraced the middle class.’ Is this a fair evaluation of recent trends in the historiography of class? Discuss with reference to any period of one hundred years.  To what extent and why has ‘class’ lost its explanatory power? Discuss with reference to any period of at least one hundred years between 1700 and 1914.  Britons in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries resorted to a variety of models for thinking about the

Medieval Landlords

Main terms:  Direct Management – Central management of estates. Turned to if inflation puts economic pressure on lords or if they are confident they can make profit from continued inflation. When?  Early C12th = farming out. 1240 -> 1315 = direct exploitation says Britnell. From 1180s -> says Harvey. Pipe rolls 1155 – 1216: last estate wholly at farm in 1169, the first wholly under direct management in 1194. By 1214 nearly all 42 estates in the sample still had some manors at farm. Contraction of the demesne. Postan says it happened c13th, Mate argues for the 1380s. Lomas says the process was more gradual. Tavistock abbey still held large parts of the estate in hand as late as c16th. And at Durham only 8 of 22 manors were continuously in hand from 1290 to 1325. Why? Monetary Inflation: (Harvey) eg. Winchester estates, price of corn, livestock, etc almost trebled 1180-1220. Land prices rose. Inflation was expected to continue, meaning that it made financial sens

Literacy in the Middle Ages

England was not a completely illiterate nation before the Norman Conquest; the Anglo-Saxon chronicle making a good case in point, however, literacy was mostly restricted to high churchmen and monks. 1066 would appear to be nothing more than a further barrier to English literacy – at least Old English (ie. Language used for the written word) had something nominally in common with the spoken tongue. The Normans spoke French and wrote in Latin; learning to read suddenly got a lot more complicated! Despite these setbacks literacy did increase significantly. Some historians argue that as much as 60% of the English population were literate by 1530. That’s all well and good, I hear you cry, that some stuffy academic with elbow patches tells us that but how do we know it really increased at all? The number of schools increased substantially, suggesting that a higher number of people were receiving education. And not for the sole purpose of becoming a priest! Eg. Moran found that in

Medieval Population

Why might you be asked a question on it? (ie. Historiography)  Traditionally people believed that the medieval population grew steadily until it was checked by the Black Death in 1348. Then in the 1930s Postan used Malthusian theory to argue that the population was already in decline by that point. [Malthus? The idea that over population leads to “land hunger”; there isn’t enough land to support the population. So there must a positive mortality check or a preventive fertility check as a result of the declining standards of living.] This view has since been challenged; Russell and Harvey argue that the population *was* sustainable and continued to grow until the exogenous check of the plague.  How can we tell what the population was doing anyway?  There are no accurate figures. Lack of records renders all absolute numbers estimates at best. Using the 1086 Domesday survey – which didn’t cover all of England and listed only tenants not subtenants – and the 1377 poll tax retur

Social Banditry

Marxism HAP Session:   Who is Hobsbawm?  The Spectator has described him as “arguably our greatest living historian” and is certainly one of Britain’s most prominent historians. Eric J. Hobsbawm was born in Alexandria, Egypt to Jewish parents, June 9th 1917. He grew up in Vienna and Berlin, although English was spoken in the home. His father died in 1929 and his mother in 1931. He and his younger sister Nancy were adopted by a maternal aunt and moved to London in 1933. Got a PhD in history from King’s College, Cambridge. Served in the Royal Engineers and the Royal Army Educational Corps during WW2; then worked as a lecturer at various universities (inc. Stanford University). Made a fellow of the British Academy in 1978. Is currently President of Birkbeck College, University of London. His political leanings were obvious from a young age: he joined the Socialist Schoolboys in 1931 and the Communist Party in 1936. He was a member of the Communist Party Historians group from 19


Namier HAP session:  Who was Butterfield?  Herbert Butterfield was born in Yorkshire in 1900; and studied at Cambridge, in later life becoming master of Peterhouse college and vice-chancellor of the university. His most famous work is “The Whig Interpretation of History” (1931) in which he lay down and defined the characteristics of “Whig history.”  What is the book about?   Butterfield tells us he sets out to explain how historiography (Whig and the Namier school in particular) have resulted in the history of the reign of George III coming into “a state of considerable confusion.” The book is then split into three sections…  Book One: The Historian and his Evidence.  Butterfield explains a good knowledge and understanding of the period is essential to interpreting primary sources. Also warns the historian to beware of first hand narratives – they were being written for a reason after all. Complains that some historians (ie. The Namier school) focus too much

Separate Spheres

‘Separate spheres’, the idea that the public and the private (ie. the home) are segregated along gender lines, with men in the public and women imprisoned in the private has become entrenched as a historical concept. The idea resonated with those involved in the women’s history movement that emerged from the second wave feminism of the 1960s and 1970s; women who were themselves rallying against what was believed to have been the enforced female domesticity of the 1950s for the most part accepted this division along gender lines as simple fact. This began to change in the 1980s with the emergence of serious research into gender history; it quickly became apparent that earlier assumptions had been, in many cases, too generalised and simplistic. Vickery argued that class, age and religion amongst other factors impacted upon the position and freedom of individual women. Others have questioned the extent to which the ideals of woman as the ‘angel’ of the home had ever permeated the rea

The Dead Body in the 18th Century

Themes and Sources presentation:  The study of anatomy grew in the C17th and C18th; surgeons and scientists wanted to study the body and figure out how it worked. People like William Hunter (Anatomy of the Gravid Uterus, 1774) and W. Cheselden (Anatomy of the Human body, 1713) wrote tracts about the body accompanied w/ realistic drawings. These could resemble butchery and shocked those w/ a delicate constitution. Artists and sculptors wanted to view dissections to better understand the structure of the human body. All this meant that bodies were needed for dissection. Situation in Europe: In France cadavers were obtained from civil hospitals, prisons and alms houses after the bodies remained unclaimed for twenty-four hours. Germany allowed the anatomists to use the bodies of those who had died in prison, executed criminals, those who committed suicide as well as paupers whose bodies nobody claimed. If the body was claimed the friend or family paid a sum to the schools in or