Dr Michael Reeve, Lecturer in History at BGU, has won the 2020 Gordon Forster Essay Prize, awarded by the Northern History journal, for his article exploring Hull’s historic docks and civic ceremonial culture.

The piece, entitled ‘'An Empire Dock’: Place Promotion and the Local Acculturation of Imperial Discourse in ‘Britain’s Third Port’', looks in detail at civic ceremonial culture in Hull in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with a specific focus on new dock openings.

This includes the grand opening of the 'Joint Dock' in east Hull in June 1914. This state-of-the-art dock was later known as King George Dock in honour of George V, who opened it with his wife, Mary, the Queen-consort. The article is concerned, in particular, with the way the British empire figured as a symbol and motif in dock openings and the promotional materials that surrounded them.

Speaking following the article’s publication, Dr Reeve discussed what drew him to the subject:

“This area of history has long interested me as a native of the port city of Hull, where I grew up just a stone's throw from the King George Dock. I kind of stumbled upon the topic when trying to develop a blog post about urban culture and civic ceremony during the First World War about three years ago (most of my work to date has focused on this conflict)! I ended up developing it into something much broader, related to the mid-nineteenth and early-twentieth century history of the British empire and its impact on urban culture in culture in coastal places. I found the opening ceremony for the dock fascinating and thought that it had clear connections to historical accounts I had read about imperial citizenship, as well as a wider research concern I have with 'coastal-urban' experience and identities in history. When I got into the archives (mainly the Hull History Centre and the British Newspaper Archive), I found a wealth of material to go on, from colourful brochures and ticket stubs, to richly-detailed newspaper accounts and planning documents.

The article should be of interest to students enrolled on modules related to the British empire and identity (such as the third-year module, The Sun Never Set and the Blood Never Dried: The British Empire in the Long Nineteenth Century and the first-year module, History of Identity) and those researching local historical topics and methods. It will also relate to the MA Social and Cultural History module, City and Countryside in Transition 1870-1914, given its focus on urban historical change.”

The article is currently available to download for free (for a limited time) by clicking here.

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