This year’s Pollard Prize for the best paper given at an IHR seminar by a postgraduate student or researcher within one year of completing the PhD has been won by Cornelis Heere with ‘That racial chasm that yawns eternally in our midst’: the imperial politics of Asian immigration, 1900–14.
Nominated by the International History seminar. Cornelis is currently enrolled as a third-year PhD student in the Department of International History at LSE where he is working under the supervision of Dr Antony Best. His thesis concerns the influence of the Russo-Japanese War on the British Empire in the late 1900s and is entitled ‘The British Empire and the Challenge of Japan, 1904-1911’.
The panel said:
An excellent, wide-ranging and well-contextualised piece.
A relevant and compelling study.
Challenging the metropole/colony binary, considers immigration and exclusion and provides fresh insights into competing definitions and implications of empire, race and national identity as they played out across “imperial politics”.
The runner up was Martin Spychal with ‘One of the best men of business we had ever met': Thomas Drummond, the boundary commission and the 1832 Reform Act.
Nominated by the Parliament, Politics and People seminar. Martin Spychal is a PhD student at the IHR under the supervision of Professor Miles Taylor. His thesis is on ‘Parliamentary boundaries and reform in England, 1830–1868’.
The panel said:
A real find in the well-trod realm of the first Reform Act.
Very well-researched and well-argued with the case for the importance and influence of Drummond’s work firmly made.
Fascinating account of a most impressive man and his achievement.
Both papers will be published in Historical Research next year.
From John Britton’s The original picture of London, 26th ed. (1826)
Two years before Burlington Arcade opened, the Gentleman’s Magazine published an article describing some of the reasons for its construction:
It is said that after numerous deliberations, Lord George Cavendish [1st Earl of Burlington] has determined to appropriate a proportion of the grounds connected with Burlington House for the gratification of the publick, and to give employment to industrious females…What first gave birth to the idea was the great annoyance to which the garden is subject from the inhabitants of a neighbouring street throwing oyster-shells, &c., over the wall. The intended erections will prevent these nuisances in future and also block out their view of so delightful a place. (Gentleman’s Magazine, Sept. 1817, p. 272)
Going beyond the fact that Burlington Arcade served Lord Cavendish as a garden fence – a very ornate one, mind you – later visitors understandably commented on its merits as a fashionable, commercial space. In the 1822 edition of Samuel Leigh’s New Picture of London, the author states how Burlington Arcade, ‘is a handsome covered avenue…containing 72 genteel shops’ while during a trip to London, the Polish philosopher, Krystyn Lach-Szyrma (1790–1866) noted how:
High society only frequent places dedicated to fashion…a similar sight can be seen in Burlington Arcade in Bond Street, which is built in the shape of a long gallery lined on both sides with shops…
Both works, however, comment emphatically how the arcade is flanked by two doormen, ‘to keep out improper visitors.’
Turning away from these descriptive sources, the library’s collection of London directories allows a glimpse into who was trading in the arcade. Looking at Robson’s London Commercial Directory…for 1830, for example, we can see most of the shops specialised in the luxury clothing trade: listed were nine hosiers, two ladies shoe makers, eight milliners, two boot makers and one haberdasher. Moreover, although the directory only provides us with a list of names and their trade, one can make cautious, but educated guesses about some of the traders: at No. 15 Burlington Arcade was the hosier David Peden who also had another outlet on 228 Regent St. – presumably quite a successful retailer, while at No. 40 was the milliner Eliza Rainger, whose shop was next door to the jeweller, Frederick Raigner – possibly a late Georgian husband and wife business team?
From a facsimile of the 1812 Langley & Belch New Map of London.
Looking beyond Burlington Arcade to the streets to the north, the library’s directories reveal something of the early history of tailoring in Mayfair. Although Savile Row is now synonymous with luxury, bespoke tailoring, this was not always the case. According to Johnstone’s London Commercial Guide for 1817 Savile Row (or Street as it was still known) was the haunt mainly of medical professionals. It was nearby Cork Street where many tailors decided to trade. This trend is confirmed in Pigot’s Directory, 1826-7 and Robson’s London Directory, 1830 and 1835. However one does start to see a rise from 1830 (in 1830 four tailors were based in Savile Row, in 1835 this had risen to seven). Interestingly one of those listed, trading at No. 32 Savile Row was James Poole, whose son, Henry Poole (1814–1876) would go on to mark Savile Row as the destination for luxury tailoring in Victorian Britain and also invent the dinner jacket in 1865 for his friend, Bertie, the Prince of Wales.
Today is the first day of Fashion, the 84th Anglo-American Conference of Historians, and as usual, this means we’ll be publishing a series of fashion-related reviews over the next few weeks. We start this week with a book by one of the session chairs from the conference, Vivienne Richmond, Clothing the Poor in Nineteenth-Century England. Sally Tuckett recommends a volume which ensures that the dress of the historical majority is seen as being just as worthy of attention and analysis as that of the fashionable elite (no. 1790).
Next up is From Main Street to Mall: The Rise and Fall of the American Department Store by Vicki Howard, as Jan Whitaker looks at a new history of an American retail institution (no. 1789).
Then we turn to Tansy Hoskins’ Stitched Up: The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion. Esther Leslie reviews a book which suggests that the fashion industry is deadly, and that its seductions are lethal (no. 1788).
Finally we have Kimono: A Modern History by Terry Satsuki Milhaupt. Elizabeth Kramer believes this book persuasively challenges the myth of the kimono as a traditional, static garment (no. 1787).
An update to the Bibliography of British and Irish History was published on 29 June. 3,460 new records have been added; over 2,000 of these are for publications of 2014-15. Some 400 new records relate to Irish history while 135 deal with the history of London and 251 with the history of Scotland. We continue to be grateful to the Scottish Historical Review Trust which supports a team based at St Andrews University, led by Dr Christine McGladdery, which assists in the collection of material relating to Scotland. The overall total of records available online is 561,976.
We expect to release the next update in October. You can always find out more about the Bibliography at http://www.history.ac.uk/projects/bbih or, if you already have access to the Bibliography, you can sign up for email alerts so as to be notified each time the Bibliography is updated with records on a subject or subjects of your choice.
In the 1923 Handbook to the Gold Coast, editor John Maxwell advises British crown agents and merchants moving to West Africa on what fashions were appropriate in those far-flung colonies. Some of his recommendations fit seamlessly into our Lawrence of Arabia stereotype of the empire’s explorers, like his worshipful praise of khaki, styled either as “shorts or long trousers.” “There’s nothing better,” Maxwell declares, though he warns that because “clothes deteriorate quicker in the tropics…it is therefore advisable to be on the safe side and take a small surplus rather than too little.”
However, his advice to bring “a housewife with a good supply of darning wool, thread, needles, buttons, etc.,” may be jarring for the modern reader unacquainted with the “housewife” sewing kits popular in the British army in the 19th and 20th centuries. Those young colonists who did pack up their human housewives were “advised to get in touch, through the Colonial Office, with the wife of some member of the department who has been to West Africa.”
The 1928 edition of the Handbook to the Gold Coast advertises the perfect underwear & shoes for the tropics.
Travel writing is full of the familiar and the strange, both for the author and the reader trying to piece together the history of fashion through letters and journals where clothes are described either meticulously or barely at all. If only those gentlemen on their Grand Tours had given us an archive of selfies, a repository of vanity that would have saved hours scrounging through cramped handwritten letters for the smallest detail.
While no such archive exists, we are lucky to have a prodigious supply of travel writing that illustrates a remarkable amount of fashion over the past few centuries. Though lacking the cultural nuance of someone speaking for their own country, these outsider perspectives offer a physical, and often blunt, description of how the people they met presented themselves.
Horror drove many of the writers to describe the fashions they saw, like the trauma of Baron Broughton during his travels through Constantinople. “Nothing can be more dissimilar than the appearance of a Turkish lady at home and abroad,” he says. “Her envelope is thrown off within doors, and…her under are then her upper garments, which, although covered with gold and other heavy ornaments, are certainly not contrived for the concealment of her charms.” Joseph Pitton de Tournefort was similarly baffled, though perhaps less scandalized, by the women of Turkey during his voyage through the Levant. “Though the Women in Turkey do not shew themselves in publick, they are yet very magnificent in their Habits,” he describes. “They wear Breeches like Men, which reach as low as the Heel in the manner of a Pantaloon, at the end of which is a very neat Sock of Spanish Leather.”
An illustration from Baron Broughton’s “A journey through Albania, and other provinces of Turkey in Europe and Asia, to Constantinople, during the years 1809-1810″.
Though much of our travel writing comes from Europeans leaving the continent, their home countries are not spared from criticism. Muslim scholar Mirza Abu Taleb Khan was appalled by the women he saw in Paris during his 18th century travels, remarking that “the waists of their gowns were so short and full-bodied, that the women appeared humpbacked; that whilst the drapery in the front was so scanty as barely to conceal half their bosom.”
Not all comments were negative, of course, like the observations of Englishwoman Helen Maria Williams who marvelled at the ballroom fashions in Switzerland in 1748. “For a short time during the winter, in defiance of frost and snow, the costume of a few reigning balls was not à la Grec, but à la Sauvage. The bodice, under which no linen was worn (shifts being an article of dress long since rejected at Paris, both by the Greeks and the Savages)…was made of knitted silk, clinging exactly to the shape, which it perfectly displayed…and the feet, which were either bare, or covered with a silk stocking of flesh colour, were decorated with diamonds.”
Travel writing offers an invaluable resource for the history of fashion. To learn more, please see the IHR Library Collection Guide on Fashion History and check out our temporary exhibition located on the first and third floors of the library.
This post has kindly been written for us by Róisín Watson, a Scouloudi Fellow at the IHR.
Theological assumptions about the material nature of the divine were central to the debates of the Reformation. The accessories of late medieval Catholic piety, in the form of multiple altarpieces, relics and reliquaries, and tabernacles, to name but a few, fed reformers’ attacks on Catholic worship and its associated beliefs. They argued that the sacred could not be accessed through these material trappings. The materiality of the divine also divided Protestants. Zwingli and Luther disagreed on whether a spiritual reality could be represented physically. For Luther, there was no clear separation between the material and the spiritual. God had revealed himself through the flesh of Christ. For Zwingli, the spirit and the material were irreconcilable – ‘what you give the senses’, he wrote, ‘you take away from the spirit’.
While such debates of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries framed the experiences of a theological elite, the everyday experience of the Reformation was far removed from these discussions. However, the materiality of religion is no less important for understanding how individuals interacted with the divine and defined their confessional identities. How were confessional cultures differentiated by the relationships they fostered with their material world? How did objects communicate the new theology? How can non-verbal expressions of confessional identities challenge the historical paradigms we currently use to understand this period?
As Scouloudi fellow, in early June I ran a one-day workshop at the V&A, funded by the IHR, RHS and GHS. It was designed to tackle these questions. The workshop brought together museum curators, historians, art historians, and archaeologists for an inter-disciplinary discussion on current research. It also provided the opportunity to integrate the V&A’s collections into our discussion. We were very grateful that curator Kirstin Kennedy was able to bring a smorgasbord of objects for participants to inspect up-close.
Many of the day’s papers revealed the ambiguity of objects, which stemmed from their malleability. The functions and significance of religious objects were defined by their owners or by the spaces that they inhabited. This was particularly true in the case of Allison Stielau’s study of the afterlife of the shrine for the bones of Saint Liborious in Paderborn. When the Catholic city was captured in 1622 by Protestant Christian the Younger, Duke of Braunschweig and Lüneburg, the shrine was melted down and turned into coins known as ‘Pfaffenfeindtaler’. For Protestants, the coins represented their iconoclastic triumph, as well as proof of the impotence of Catholic relics. However, Catholics used these coins too. They believed that touching them was analogous to touching the saintly relics the metal had previously protected. Stielau argued that despite the re-casting of the silver, the material retained the memory of its previous form.
The malleability of the meaning of objects has meant that they defy the neat labels placed upon them by scholars. In her paper, Suzanna Ivanič challenged the distinction historians have drawn between magic/superstition and religion in the early modern world. The inventories of citizens in Prague contain objects that resist this simple binary opposition. Catholic rosaries might contain non-traditional materials such as coconut shells, snake’s tongues and wolves’ teeth. Ivanič argued that these items demonstrate the co-existence of magical and religious beliefs, which in the mind of their owners were not discrete categories.
Lutherhaus in Wittenberg
Lutherans, too, actively engaged with their material surroundings. Distinguishing what was a ‘Lutheran’ object as opposed to a ‘Catholic’ one was not straightforward, as Mirko Gutjahr demonstrated. Gutjahr is currently curating an exhibition on what he refers to as ‘Luther’s rubbish’, that is the archaeological finds from Luther’s house in Wittenberg from the 1530s and 1540s. Gutjahr argued that there was, in fact, very little to distinguish the site as Lutheran. Catholic objects and motifs remained, indicating that a ‘Lutheran material culture’ did not exist at this early stage. Lutherans did occupy a middle ground, neither embracing the spiritual power of the object nor rejecting the utility of material religion indiscriminately. In her paper, Margit Thøfner demonstrated how Lutherans in Denmark consciously edited their catholic past by re-framing medieval altarpieces to suit the new theological standards.
Another theme that many of the speakers touched on was the agency of objects and how this could make them dangerous and subversive. This was most clear in Lloyd de Beer’s paper on the destruction of English alabasters in the Reformation, where these objects had been consciously disfigured. Irene Galandra Cooper also addressed the subversive qualities of religious materiality. In 1582 Francisco de Cordoba was brought to trial for wearing a pouch containing a variety of suspicious items, such as flesh that looked like a beating heart. Francisco insisted he was simply carrying an Agnus Dei, a wax disc blessed by the pope during the first Sunday after Easter. The object was traditionally hung within homes above the bed, but this case reveals the concerns the church had about their sanctioned sacramentals being used in ways that deviated from their stipulations. Edmund Wareham demonstrated how stone tablets decorated with text in the convent of Villingen allowed the nuns there not to be subversive, but to transcend the restrictions of enclosure. They used these tablets to aid their mental pilgrimages to the Holy Land. The women placed them around the convent to signal different locations on their pilgrimage, which established a sacred topography within the enclosed convent.
Object handling session at V&A.
The material culture of early modern religion had multiple meanings, but also multiple uses. It defined relationships between and within confessions, between local and official religions, and between different spaces. The workshop demonstrated how difficult it is to speak of a single Lutheran or Catholic identity and to characterise its relationship with the material world. Such relationships were negotiated and in constant dialogue with local customs, the availability of materials, contemporary understandings of the nature of materials, as well as the character of religious reform.
We are pleased to announce the publication of our latest volume from the Somerset VCH series. Queen Camel and the Cadburys is the 11th volume of the Victoria County History of Somerset and is edited by Mary Siraut.
The volume is a comprehensive account of the ten parishes comprising the southern half of the Catsash hundred, an area rich in its archaeology and history. To the north, the Barrows, of which Queen Camel, North Cadbury and Sparkford (home of the Haynes Motor Museum) are the largest and most populous, lying in an area rich in archaeology and history. To the south, prominent hills include Cadbury Hill, crowned by Cadbury Castle, an Iron Age hill fort dating from 600–400 BC. In South Cadbury and the surrounding parishes there is much evidence of prehistoric activity such as Bronze-Age finds. From a later period, the manor at Queen Camel is recorded in 1066, though decimated by fire in 1639 and subsequently rebuilt in local Blue Lias stone; and the sites of abandoned medieval homesteads are visible at Sparkford, Weston Bampfylde, Sutton Montis and Maperton. Later still, Compton Castle in Compton Pauncefoot was constructed in 1821 while North Cadbury’s medieval manor house still survives today.
Dr Patricia Croot with Matthew Bristow at the launch in North Cadbury.
The book was officially launched in North Cadbury on 2 June and guests included VCH Director and General Editor Richard Hoyle with Adam Chapman and Matt Bristow also representing VCH central office. A presentation on the archaeological discoveries and the early exploitation of the landscape in the area – from the Bronze Age to the Romano-British period – was given by Dr Clare Randall.
We start with Michael R. Evans’ Inventing Eleanor: the Medieval and Post-Medieval Image of Eleanor of Aquitaine, which Elena Woodacre thinks has much to offer both the historian and the interested public (no. 1786).
Then we turn to Transnational Traditions: New Perspectives on American Jewish History, edited by Ava F. Kahn, Adam D. Mendelsohn. Toni Pitock believes this book will reorient our thinking about American Jewish history in particular, and Jewish history in general (no. 1785).
Next up is Huw Dylan’s Defence Intelligence and the Cold War: Britain’s Joint Intelligence Bureau 1945-1964. Rory Cormac recommends an impeccably researched and well-written work (no. 1784).
Finally we have a review article by Dave Andress covering Stuff and Money in the Time of the French Revolution by Rebecca Spang and The Coming of the Terror in the French Revolution by Timothy Tackett, which includes responses from both authors (no. 1783, with response here).
The IHR library’s focus on primary sources means that often we don’t hold material ‘about’ a particular subject such as fashion history. Instead, rich material for the history of a topic can commonly be found scattered across editions of documents that were never intended to be used by historians of that subject. An inclusive, wide-ranging, and laterally-thinking approach to identifying relevant works pays off. So when looking through the collections for material on fashion history to coincide with the forthcoming Anglo-American Conference we were not too surprised to discover a wealth of material in both obvious and unexpected places.
from The New York Mercury, 1758 in The arts and crafts in New York 1726-1776, p. 344
Here’s a couple of examples. A compilation of advertisements from New York newspapers contains an unusual source for fashion history, with details of the attire worn by runaway slaves and servants. Handbooks for British businessmen and officials travelling to the Gold Coast advised on suitable clothing. Fashion appears in the many editions that we hold of letters, diaries, and travel writing. Household accounts can include lists of clothing and information about costs and acquisition. Legal and parliamentary sources detail sumptuary laws regulating people’s attire, regulations for the textile industry, and trade agreements. Parliamentary reports and petitions cover the lives of workers in the industry. Lists and advertisements in trade directories are a rich source of information about businesses.
from A journey through Albania, and other provinces of Turkey in Europe and Asia, to Constantinople, facing p. 855
A lot of digging is needed as the material isn’t all found in one place. Subject and keyword searching on the catalogue helps to find some specific material, but won’t track down things buried within other sources. Online resources such as the House of Commons Parliamentary Papers, newspaper databases, British History Online and the wonderful Connected Histories – which cross-searches multiple resources – are all valuable for in-depth searching and complement the serendipitous pleasures of browsing the library shelves.
See our Guide to fashion history in the IHR library for more examples from our collections. Exhibitions showing works from the IHR and Senate House Library will be held on the 1st and 3rd floors of the IHR over the next month and there is also an online exhibition with beautiful illustrations of department store catalogues from the First World War.
The Institute of Historical Research, in collaboration with Senate House Library, is delighted to announce the launch of a new online exhibition of digitised fashion catalogues from the First World War. These select catalogues of women’s clothing from 1916 and 1917 illustrate the war’s impact on materials, the roles of women and fashion itself.
The exhibition is freely available at http://www.history.ac.uk/exhibitions/fashion/index.html, and includes eight fully digitised catalogues from five different department stores (Bradleys, Dickins and Jones, Peter Robinson, John Barnes and Stewart and Macdonald), potted histories of each of these, and further articles on the provenance of the catalogues, their preservation and the process involved in scanning them.
This online exhibition is the result of a collaboration between the Institute of Historical Research’s IHR Digital Department and Senate House Library, and has been produced thanks to contributions from Angela Craft, Dr Richard Espley, Dave Jackson, Dr Jordan Landes, Danny Millum and Professor Jane Winters. Please do get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or feedback.