|Title:||Lager, or The Doublet of History: Ten Centuries of Asian Influence in Europe|
|Speaker:||Dr. Jenny L. Smith (Associate Professor of History, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology)|
|Date/Time:||November 26, 2020, 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm (HK time)|
What is the relationship between beer, specifically the modern lager-style beer that emerged in Germany in the late 19th Century, and prison concentration camps, also known in German as ‘lager’? The words are identical although the nouns seem almost unrelated. In fact, in a common English language quirk, they share a Germanic root: the word ‘legra’ which means to lay down or to set aside. Prison lagers were so named because their inmates lay down to sleep within them, and lager beers were stored in cellars or warehouses, fermenting more slowly than the older traditional ales and stouts.
What if that is not the only relationship between these two words? What if historians can use linguistic oddities like the lager homonym as inspired starting points from which to tell better and richer stories about the past?
In 1877 Lewis Carroll invented a word game he called “doublets” that became an overnight sensation. Players transform a given word into another by changing only one letter at a time, with each letter change forming a genuine new word. A more challenging version of the game was the double doublet where players restored the word to its original form by devising a completely new set of letter changes. In this talk, Dr. Smith will attempt an historic doublet: to trace a real and meaningful relationship between the public house and the carceral state. This global story of connection, common roots, permeable borders, evolution and corruption focuses on Asia and its material influence on Europe over the past thousand years.
About the Speaker
Dr. Jenny Leigh Smith is Associate Professor of History at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. She is also interested in the recent history of agriculture, famines, food security, refugees and international development.
CRF Project “Making Modernity in East Asia: Technologies of Everyday Life, 19th – 21st Centuries” (RGC CRF HKU C7011-16G), Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences, The University of Hong Kong