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Dr. Chris  Bischof
Dr. Chris Bischof
Assistant Professor of History
Profile

I am a social and cultural historian of modern Britain and the world. My first book, Teaching Britain: Elementary Teachers and the State of the Everyday, 1846-1902 (Oxford University Press, forthcoming in 2019), examines teachers as key agents in the production of social knowledge. Teachers claimed intimate knowledge of everyday life among the poor and working class at home and non-white subjects abroad. They mobilized their knowledge in a wide range of mediums, from accounts of local happenings in their schools’ official log books to travel narratives based on summer trips around Britain and the wider world. Teachers also obsessively narrated and reflected on their own careers. Through these stories and the work they did every day, teachers imagined and helped to enact new models of professionalism, attitudes towards poverty and social mobility, ways of thinking about race and empire, and roles for the state. 

My next book project, Easy Fixes: Race, Capitalism, and Social Engineering Schemes in the British West Indies, c. 1830-1865 explores a series of light-handed, low-cost interventions undertaken in the aftermath of emancipation. A surprising coalition of missionaries, imperial policymakers, and plantation owners – three groups often at odds with one another – came together to support these interventions, which they believed could overcome otherwise intractable problems. The hope was that these easy fixes would improve race relations, make free labor both more profitable and humane than slavery, and ultimately serve as a model for other slave-owning societies to follow. However, within two decades these hopes gave way to a sense of failure and despair which led to a scramble to assign blame and the resurgence of a virulent racism.  Easy Fixes examines the implications of this short-lived utopianism both for free blacks and for the way that Britons thought about the nature of race and capitalism, how to govern their empire, and the politics of the Victorian Atlantic world.

Articles relating to these projects have appeared in journals such as Past & Present, the English Historical Review, the Journal of Social History, and History of Education Quarterly. “Chinese Labourers, Free Blacks, and Social Engineering Schemes in the Post-Emancipation British West Indies,” which appeared in Past & Present in 2016, won the Walter D. Love article prize from the North American Conference on British Studies. This work has been supported by several grants and fellowships, including a Spencer Foundation/National Academy of Education Postdoctoral Fellowship for the 2018 calendar year.

Grants and Fellowships

2017-2018: Spencer Foundation/National Academy of Education Postdoctoral Fellowship

2014: Summer Research Grant, Franklin & Marshall College

2013-2014: Mellon Dissertation Fellowship, Rutgers University

2011-2012: Spencer Foundation/National Academy of Education Dissertation
Fellowship

2010, 2011: Mellon Summer Research Grants, Rutgers University

2009-2010: Graduate Associate, Rutgers Center for European Studies

2009: Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences Research Grant

Awards

2014: Honorable Mention for History of Education Society Biannual Article Prize, for “Masculinity, Social Mobility, and the Plan to End Pauperism in Mid-Victorian England”

Presentations

2014: “Seeing the World: Proto-Ethnography and Cultural Play in British Elementary Teachers’ Imperial and European Travel Narratives,” at the UK History of Education Society Annual Conference, Dublin, Ireland

2014: “Making the Malleable Child: Emancipation, Elementary Education, and the Missionary Articulation of Childhood in Jamaica, 1838-1865,” American Historical Association Annual Conference, Washington D.C.

2013: “Narrating Value: Elementary Teachers’ Work and the Use of Logbooks, 1862-1902,” at the Princeton-Rutgers Graduate Student Interdisciplinary Conference on Use/Value, Princeton, NJ

2013: “Elementary Teachers’ Narration of Work in Victorian London and Glasgow,” Mid-Atlantic Conference on British Studies Conference, New York, NY

2013: “’Fine specimens of English peasantry’: Pastoralism in Victorian Teachers’ Travel Narratives,” at the Interdisciplinary Nineteenth-Century Studies Conference, Charlottesville, VA

2012: “Elementary Education and the Limits of Slums and Slumming in Victorian London and Glasgow,” at the University of Warwick “Unplanned Wildernesses: Narrating the British Slum, 1844-1951,” Conference, Coventry, England

2012: “The Harvest Must Go On: Laissez-Faire Capitalism, Liberal Humanitarianism, and the Problem of Labor in the Post- Emancipation British West Indies,” at the NYU Atlantic History Seminar’s “Legends of Empire” Conference, New York, NY

2012: “Chinese Laborers and the Remaking of Creole Blackness in the Post- Emancipation British West Indies,” at the Mid-Atlantic World History Association Conference, New Brunswick, NJ

2011 “Pay, Prestige, and Lifestyle: The Hiring of Elementary Teachers in Glasgow and the Highlands and Islands, 1846-1902,” at the “Historical Perspectives on Scottish Education” Conference of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland

2011: “The Case for ‘Scholarly Activism’: Communication and Community Empowerment,” opening remarks at the Activism and Scholarship Graduate Student Roundtable, New Brunswick, NJ

2011: “Teachers Behaving Badly: Narrative, Scandal, and the Paradigmatic Pedagogue in Victorian Britain,” at the “Victorian Voices and Visions” Graduate Conference, Princeton, NJ

2011: “The Nation in a College: Britishness and Cosmopolitanism in Victorian Teachers’ Training Colleges,” at the Mid-Atlantic Conference on British Studies, Abington, PA

2011: “Resisting the 'Peculiar Seductions' of Urban Environments: Sexuality, Criminality, and the Culture of Space in Victorian Britain,” at Yale’s “Healthy Environments in Historical Perspective”
Conference, New Haven, CT

2010: "Corporal Punishment as an Incitement to Discourse: Teachers, Caning, and Community in Nineteenth-Century England," at the Susman Graduate Conference, New Brunswick, NJ

2010: "Farming as Education in Modern Britain," at the “City and the Country Across Disciplines” Interdisciplinary Roundtable of the Rutgers British Studies Center, New Brunswick, NJ

2010: "Cultivating the Country: Pastoralism and Juvenile Reclamation in Britain, 1848-1870," at the Childhood Studies Graduate Conference, Camden, NJ

2010: "Demands of the Present, Hopes for the Future: Representing Truancy in England's Elementary Schools, 1870-1914," at the Rutgers British Studies Project Graduate Student Conference, New Brunswick, NJ

2010: “Negotiating Discipline: A Comparative Study of Corporal Punishment in Victorian London and Shropshire’s Elementary Schools," at the “Poetics of Pain” CUNY Graduate Conference, New York, NY

2009: "The Nature of Class: Education, Class Mobility, and Charity at Kneller Hall Training College, 1848-1854," at the Mid-Atlantic Conference on British Studies, Richmond, VA

2009 "Matronly Men and Breadwinning Boys: Class, Gender, and Domesticity in English Pauper Education, 1838-1860," at the Susman Graduate Conference, New Brunswick, NJ

Publications
Articles

“A ‘Rich Crop of Nervousness’: Childhood, Expertise, and Elementary Education in the 1884 British Over-Pressure Controversy,” The English Historical Review 131, 553 (2016), 1415-1444.

Chinese Laborers, Free Blacks, and Social Engineering in the Post-Emancipation British West Indies, Past & Present 231 (2016), 129-168.

Awarded the 2017 Walter D. Love Prize for the best article in British history by the North American Conference on British Studies.

“‘A Home For Poets’: The Emergence of a Liberal Curriculum for Elementary Teachers in Victorian Britain,” History of Education Quarterly, 54, 1 (Spring, 2014), 42-69

“Masculinity, Social Mobility, and the Plan to End Pauperism in Mid-Victorian England: Kneller Hall Teachers’ Training College,” The Journal of Social History 46, 4 (Summer, 2013), 1039-1059.

Chapters

Schoolteachers and Professionalism, 1696-1906,” in Robert Anderson, Mark Freeman and Lindsey Patterson eds., The Edinburgh History of Education in Scotland (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015), 208-225

Education
Ph.D., Rutgers University 2014
History
B.A., University of Arizona 2008
History
Contact Information
219 Ryland Hall
(804) 289-8335
Areas of Expertise
Modern Britain and the World
History of Education
British Emancipation