The Importance of Using Primary Sources

Posted on March 07, 2017 by Heather Gallagher

Using Primary Sources, is a new and wide-ranging open access e-textbook from Liverpool University Press, the University of Liverpool Library and the Department of History. We asked Dr Graeme Milne, Senior Lecturer in Modern History and contributor to Using Primary Sources to explain how this revolutionary resource can aid students and academics.


Using Primary Sources


Could you please give a brief outline of your chapter in Using Primary Sources?

Business History touches on a wide range of social, cultural, economic and political issues, and also has a huge base of primary sources for us to explore. The Business History chapter introduces a selection of those sources, from the letters written by merchants in the nineteenth century to the graphic advertising posters of the 1950s. People have been creating and working in companies for centuries, and their lives tell us a great deal about human experiences, all the way from the everyday work of small firms to high finance, globalisation, and multinational enterprises.


Why did you get involved with the resource?

I saw this as a great opportunity to help produce a unique resource. Students embarking on research projects for the first time have a huge range of different sources available to them, but sometimes not enough help in getting started. This is an excellent way to make sources more accessible.


How do you see students and teachers using your chapter and archive material?

There are two main ways to approach the material in the chapter. Students interested in Business History will find a discussion of the field and its sources that will help them focus their research questions. Alternatively, students looking at a particular type of source—advertising posters, government documents or personal correspondence—will see how this can be used to address historical issues more generally.


Do you have any further thoughts on the project?

It will be great to see the project growing to encompass more historical fields, so that the sheer variety of historical research can be revealed through original evidence.


For more information on Using Primary Sources please visit our website


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What's Next for The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization and LUP?

Posted on March 06, 2017 by Heather Gallagher

Liverpool University Press is delighted to announce an exciting new partnership with The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization. We asked Connie Webber, Managing Editor at the Library, to tell us more about the Library and its plans for the future.


The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization was founded in 1965 by Louis Littman, in memory of his father, how has the press grown and developed since its establishment?

Louis Littman founded the Library as a charitable endeavour and a true act of love. He had no knowledge of publishing but was strongly committed to the task he set himself, and he worked tirelessly to achieve his aim. For some twenty-two years, until his untimely death in 1987, he personally approached authors to write for him on the subjects he considered important, and took an interest in how the research and writing progressed. He was very much a gentleman publisher, and in many ways he was a pioneer-before he established his Library there was very little publishing of academic books in Jewish studies; indeed there was very little academic Jewish studies! It was partly due to him that the field grew as it did. In the thirty years since Louis Littman’s death, the Library has developed beyond his wildest dreams: now publishing up to ten books a year for a readership spread around the world, it has come to be recognized as a leader in the publication of academic books in Jewish studies, even though the field itself has grown very considerably in the meantime.  Its prestige is due not only to the reputation of its authors but also to the professionalism of its editorial, design, and production team, who are unstinting in their efforts to produce first-class books. Through a charitable foundation, the Littman family continues to make it possible to invest significant resources into all stages of the publishing process, including the translation of important works of scholarship from other languages. Littman’s success has been due to a combination of vision and a dedication to quality, coupled with the availability of funding to make it all possible.


What do you look for in a new book project?

Following the guidelines laid down by Louis Littman, we aim to publish works that will stand the test of time and be considered definitive in their area. We seek solidly based research that offers new insights while being accessible to the educated non-specialist as well as to scholars, and to non-Jews as well as to Jews. All proposals are carefully peer-reviewed to ensure that each book makes a real contribution to the field. Positive reviews, awards, and professional accolades all attest to the success of the endeavour.


Do you have any particular favourites from the Littman series? Are there any books on the list that you would recommend to someone encountering the series for the first time?

It’s very difficult for me to choose favourites from the list. It’s a list that has built up over fifty years, covering a very wide range of subjects. Similarly it’s not easy to recommend where one should start. The Littman Library is a veritable treasure trove: it’s a question of what one is interested in. There are books on liturgy, history, philosophy, mysticism, and theology; on women’s studies, cultural studies, and art history; on the Sephardi world and the Ashkenazi world (including the annual Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry, with 29 volumes published to date); there are biographies and works of literature, including translations of classic works.


Finally, The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization was founded with the mission to explore, explain, and perpetuate the Jewish heritage, how can the partnership with Liverpool University Press help to further the success of this mission?

Our decision to partner with Liverpool University Press stemmed from the conviction that this partnership would give us access to a much wider market, thanks to their experienced sales and marketing team, and particularly to the various electronic marketing platforms on offer for print editions. Another major factor is sure to be the new Littman E-Library, making our books available for the first time in digital form. That was a long-cherished hope of ours, but something that was beyond our ability to achieve on our own. We were impressed by LUP’s dedicated, experienced, and enthusiastic team, and by the accolades they have received from the industry. We feel confident that we will work well together towards a long, fruitful, and mutually beneficial partnership.


To welcome the arrival of Littman at Liverpool University Press, we are offering 40% off all available titles from 6th-10th March. Use code WELCOMELITTMAN on our website.



For further information and updates on the Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, sign up to our mailing list, follow our twitter, or drop us an email. 
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Littman Library of Jewish Civilization now available

Posted on March 03, 2017 by Heather Gallagher




LUP is now the proud partner of the Littman Library of Jewish Civilization. 

Founded in 1965 by Louis Littman, the Littman Library of Jewish Civilization has grown to become a leader in the publication of Jewish studies. We are also delighted to welcome the arrival of the Library's  prominent series: Polin, Ars Judaica and Jewish Cultural Studies which are now available on our website.

Polin- established in 1986 by the Institute for Polish-Jewish Studies, has acquired a well-deserved reputation for publishing authoritative material on all aspects of Polish Jewry. Contributions are drawn from many disciplines- history, politics, religious studies, literature, linguistics, sociology, art, and architecture-and from a wide variety of viewpoints.

Ars Judaica - an annual publication of the Department of Jewish Art at Bar-Ilan University. It showcases the Jewish contribution to the visual arts and architecture from antiquity to the present from a variety of perspectives, including history, iconography, semiotics, psychology, sociology, and folklore.

Jewish Cultural Studies - contributes to a greater understanding of the dimensions of Jewish identity as perceived by Jews and non-Jews. It explores the cultural dimensions of homeland and diaspora, assimilation and separation, in Jewish experience and belief along with considering the range of institutions that represent and respond to Jewishness, including museums, the media, agencies, synagogues, and schools.


Littman E-Library of Jewish Civilization 

The new E-Library (LEJC), commences with the online availability of 90 titles as the first step towards digitizing the entire series. The LEJC will include works from leading scholars such as Anthony Polonsky, Rachel Elior, Menachem Kellner, and Ada Rapoport-Albert.

Providing a comprehensive overview of a variety of subject areas including: history, cultural studies, literature, the Holocaust, biography, religious studies, philosophy and women's studies, LEJC includes international perspectives on Jewish civilization from the USA, Israel, Germany, Poland and the UK, amongst others.


Read our interview with Connie Webber, Managing Editor for Littman here.  


For further information and updates on the Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, sign up to our mailing list, follow our twitter, or drop us an email. 

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Town Planning Review 88.1: Featured Article

Posted on February 27, 2017 by Megan Ainsworth

The editors of TPR have selected ‘Legalising urban agriculture in Detroit: a contested way of planning for decline’ by Flaminia Paddeu  as the Featured Article for the latest issue. It will be free to access for three months. You can access the article here.

When asked to describe the paper, and highlight its importance, the author stated the following:

Detroit is living a challenging time, where decline has brought dramatic outcomes as well as tremendous opportunities for change. Community-based movements have been fighting for decades to foster urban agriculture, leading the City of Detroit to legalize urban agriculture practices. Declining cities offer tangible opportunities for original and radical urban agriculture experiments, (i.e.) reconnecting cities with production ecosystems and building local food systems that integrate social justice and ecological relationships. Yet investigation during my doctoral research in urban geography yielded evidence that beyond the benefits narrative, urban agriculture is not a just and beneficial practice per se: on the contrary it is a revealing indicator of troubled social, racial and spatial dynamics in declining cities’ current struggle towards recovery. A better understanding of the changes that are underway involves identifying the underlying processes that shape different models of urban agriculture, such as urban policy regimes or contradictory social collectives commitments. Ultimately, we advocate for remaining sensitive to the social justice issues generated by urban agriculture as well as to the paths of resiliency it creates.

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The Relevance of Biopunk Science Fiction by Lars Schmeink

Posted on February 27, 2017 by Heather Gallagher

Author of Biopunk Dystopias, Lars Schmeink, discusses the importance of biopunk in the context of modern literature and society. 



When Margaret Atwood wrote Oryx and Crake, the first novel n her MaddAddam trilogy, some thirteen years ago, she noticed certain trends in scientific research and—as a writer of speculative fiction—started thinking about the consequences, if specific lines of inquiry would be brought to their (somewhat logical) conclusion. This extrapolation of research, especially within the field of genetics, led her to write a book (and later two more) about the end of the world-as-we-know-it due to genetic engineering—a problem (for the most part) not of malign intent but incalculable risks and uncontrollable effects. In interviews, Atwood commented upon this devil-may-care attitude and prophesied: "We've just opened the great big gene-splicing toy box and people are going to be playing with that for years" (cit. in Halliwell 260).

In her book, stem cell research is used to create genetic hybrids (so-called chimeras) of animals from the DNA of two or more different species, chief among which is the Pigoon, a pig spliced with human cells for medical purposes. Pigoons, in Atwood’s future world, are used to grow body parts for transplantation into humans; the pigs become biological storage of spare parts for failing organs. One side effect of the research, as it progresses, is the enhancement of the pigs’ brains, making them smarter and allowing them to develop a non-human animal society that later comes into conflict with human society. What is scary about this prospect is not so much the need for humans to communicate and cooperate with intelligent Pigoons, but the fact that real life research is speedily catching up to the dystopian vision of Oryx and Crake.

In a recent issue of Cell, an academic journal of experimental biology, researchers announced a first and “significant step toward the development of animal embryos with functioning human organs” (Kaplan, n.pag.)—just as the novels suggested. Most frighteningly, Atwood anticipated that human cells could be used to give pigs an enhanced cognitive ability, allowing them to become self-aware—a development reflected in the results of the experiment, which produced a variety of cells in the chimeras: “A few developed into the precursors of neurons, a fear of bioethicists who worry about creating an animal with human or even humanlike consciousness” (Kaplan). Of course, researchers are quick to point out that the experiment was trying to establish the basic premises of a viability of any form of human-animal chimera, that strict protocols are in place, and that a real self-aware new hybrid species is years in the future, but the implications of such research are very real and even have been reported on—in fiction, by authors such as Atwood.

Indeed, the MaddAddam trilogy can be argued to be part of a larger cultural formation—meaning not merely a literary genre, but a general tendency in many aspects of contemporary culture to negotiate a specific discourse—regarding the impact of biological sciences, especially genetics. Discussions of topics and themes such as cloning, genetic engineering, virology, tissue-culture research, nano-technology and many more have been on the rise not just in literature, but in film, television, video gaming, and art, as well as other fields of social and cultural interaction: journalistic reporting, activism, advertising, and general cultural practices. Since the Human Genome Project (HGP) embarked on that "monumental effort […] to map the human genome and spell out for the world the entire message hidden in its chemical code" (Jaroff), the idea of biology as a revolutionary scientific force challenging and changing what it means to be human has been on the mind of many (creative) people all over the globe.

Biopunk, as that cultural formation is most widely known, started out in the 1980s as “a subgenre of science fiction which explores the societal effects of biotechnology and genetic engineering” (Prucher 16), but has since evolved far beyond the scope of a literary genre, instead becoming an integral part of how we converse about the posthuman. As Rosi Braidotti has so aptly pointed out, "there is a posthuman agreement that contemporary science and biotechnologies affect the very fibre and structure of the living and have altered dramatically our understanding of what counts as the basic frame of reference for the human today" (40). Biopunk refers to the cultural practices that negotiate this posthuman agreement – from literary fictions about ecological disaster due to GMOs, such as Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl (2009) to mainstream depictions of humans as lab rats for powerful companies in the hypercapitalist dystopia of the Resident Evil film series (Paul W.S. Anderson, 2002-16), from artistic work on transgenic species such as Eduard Kac’s glow-in-the-dark bunny Alba to the Do-it-Yourself-biology proclaimed by Meredith Patterson’s “Biopunk Manifesto”.

Biopunk has no unified concept, as Annalee Newitz points out regarding the activist movement: “the biopunk revolution has yet to be codified or legitimized” and is “as ill-defined as the genome itself.” Looking specifically towards the products, the novels, films and games that become part of mainstream culture, biopunk seems to take much of its signification from its precursor cyberpunk. Acknowledging this generic debt, its political and poetic traditions, biopunk often declares itself anti-capitalist, anti-corporate, and/or anti-government, drawing on revolutionary sentiments and dire dystopian warnings about the consequences of scientific developments. In this, it proves relevant to our current situation, as it addresses the changes wrought by ruthless capitalist intervention into the biological and geological processes of this world.

Biopunk addresses a critical posthuman subjectivity. Bringing into sharp relief a crisis in humanism that challenges the conception of “human exceptionalism and bounded individualism,” as Donna Haraway argues, biopunk claims a voice for a connection of all life on earth, in fiction exploring that “rich wallow in multispecies muddles” (1). Turning away from the transhumanist notions of disembodied humanist grandeur, biopunk for example embraces life in its subnatural form, in viral contagion, in bacterial infection, in kinship with earth, machine, and other animals (cf. Braidotti 66). In biopunk, humans are “co-evolving, sharing ecosystems, life processes, genetic material, with animals and other life forms” (Nayar 8), and subjectivity is understood as complex, evolving and interrelated to all life (zoe) on earth.

And because of this interconnected zoe-centric view, biopunk texts emphasize the human as a global force, pointing towards the earth’s entry into a new geological era, sometimes called the anthropocene. Geologists argue that considering the effect human activity has had on the planet—from climate change to fresh water collection to the spread of domestic animals—“humankind, our own species, has become so large and active that it now rivals some of the great forces of Nature in its impact on the functioning of the Earth system” (Steffen et al. 843). Biopunk enters critically into this discourse of human interaction with our planet, projecting culture and technology as global, turning it against itself, extrapolating the environmental and social costs and consequences of such a global society.

In Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy, human activity causes cataclysmic changes of the earth’s environment—draughts, rising sea levels, mass extinctions—forcing human life to adapt and change, becoming posthuman. In combination with the creation of new life forms, such as pigs with human brain tissue, Atwood’s biopunk stories thus unfold how variable definitions of what constitutes distinct ontological categories have become—how they might not have been stable in the first place. Biopunk, then, is a stark reminder that we need to find new ways of thinking, being, feeling what we are, and a call to action to redefine our relations with everything else that we share this life with. 


Works Cited

Braidotti, Rosi. The Posthuman. London: Polity, 2013. Print.


Halliwell, Martin. "Awaiting the Perfect Storm." Waltzing Again: New and Selected Conversations with Margaret Atwood. Ed. Earl G. Ingersoll. Princeton: Ontario Review, 2006. 253-64. Print.


Haraway, Donna. “Tentacular Thinking: Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene.” e-flux journal 75 (2016): 1-17. Web. Feb 16, 2017. <>.


Jaroff, Leon. "The Gene Hunt." Time. Mar 20, 1989. Web. Oct 10, 2013. <,9171,957263,00.html>.


Kaplan, Sarah. “Scientists create a part-human, part-pig embryo — raising the possibility of interspecies organ transplants.” Washington Post. 26 Jan. 2017. Web. 07 Feb. 2017. <>.


Nayar, Pramod K. Posthumanism. Cambridge: Polity, 2014.


Newitz, Annalee. “Genome Liberation.” 26 Jan 2002. Web. 15 Jan 2010. <>.


Patterson, Meredith. “A Biopunk Manifesto.” 30 Jan 2010. Web. 08 Feb 2012. <>.


Prucher, Jeff, ed. Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007. Print.


Steffen, Will, et al. “The Anthropocene: Conceptual and Historical Perspectives.” Philosophical Transactions: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences 369.1938 (2011): 842-67. Print.



You can find Biopunk Dystopias and other texts in our Liverpool Science Fiction Texts and Studies series on our website

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