The IHR Blog |

New reviews: Robert the Bruce, Wellington, pain and the Niger

by

penman2As I’m sure you all know, it’s referendum day, and as well as marking the occasion with a relevant review (see below) I hoped to bring you breaking news from the polls, have texted my BBC correspondent pal earlier to ask how it was going. Just got his reply a few minutes ago – ‘Been up Arthur’s Seat. Sweaty’. I don’t think that really counts as a scoop…

Anyway, thanks to a super-quick turnaround from reviewer Fiona Watson and the author, we’ve got a discussion for you of Michael Penman’s new book Robert the Bruce: King of the Scots, an excellent work that shines a light on some extremely murky corners of history (no. 1658, with response here).

To a quintessentially British figure now, with Rory Muir’s Wellington: The Path to Victory, 1769-1814. Kevin Linch and the author discuss an outstanding achievement – the definitive biography of Wellington (no. 1657, with response here).

Then we turn to The Story of Pain: From Prayer to Painkillers by Joanna Bourke. Jennifer Crane enjoys a detailed, thought-provoking and fascinating piece of historical scholarship (no. 1656).

Finally we have David Lambert’s Mastering the Niger: James MacQueen’s African Geography & the Struggle over Atlantic Slavery, and James Poskett hails an accomplished and creative account of the troubling connections between Atlantic slavery and geographical knowledge in the 19th century (no. 1655).

New Historical Research articles

by

Scouting-Book

 

Courting public favour: the Boy Scout movement and the accident of internationalism, 1907−29 by Scott Johnston

This article explores how the Boy Scout movement moved from an inward looking and decidedly militaristic programme to one which embraced liberal internationalism following the First World War. It argues that the Boy Scouts’ wholehearted embrace of internationalism was not inevitable; in fact it was a complex and inconsistent transition, and the result of unintentional circumstances. Furthermore, internationalism did not replace but merely supplemented the movement’s older aims of organizational autonomy and the promotion of empire. During the inter-war period, these competing motives informed and strained the Boy Scouts’ interactions with the public and with other internationalist organizations such as the League of Nations and the League of Nations Union

Famine is not the problem: a historical perspective by Cormac Ó Gráda

Thanks to the globalization of relief and increasing global food output, the famines of the twenty-first century (so far), Somalia (civil war) and North Korea (autarky) apart, have been small. Today malnutrition is a much more intractable and pressing problem than famine, even though the proportion of the world’s poor that is malnourished has been declining. Moreover, although the prospects for avoiding famines in peacetime in the short run are good, global warming looms in the medium term. These contrasting signals are not lost on international non-governmental organizations.

Albert Gallatin, US – Canadian relations, and the rebel mayor of Toronto

by

Continuing our series on the Albert Gallatin Collection in the IHR library, this post explores a few interesting items relating to the often fraught relationship between the US and Canada in the early nineteenth century. Throughout his later political career, Gallatin worked towards the peaceable resolution of the Northeastern Boundary Dispute (1783-1842) between the US and the British Canadian colonies. The first set of sources discussed here, a series of fourteen pamphlets and five maps collected by Gallatin, bear interesting provenance indicating that Gallatin relied upon a large international network of correspondents in order to flesh out his own position on the border question.  The second source examined is interesting primarily for its provenance. It is a pamphlet on Canadian currency and the Bank of Upper Canada sent to Gallatin by the future first Mayor of Toronto and rebel leader William Lyon Mackenzie. All of these sources came to the IHR as the result of bequest in the 1930s by Sir Martin Conway. They likely passed into Conway’s possession through his father-in-law, the New York newspaper magnate Manton Marble.  For a short time, a few of Gallatin’s books will be on display in the exhibition case in the newly refurbished Foyle Special Collections Room at the IHR.

Map-MainePamphs

Map in the Gallatin Collection depicting the proposed boundary between the US and Canada.

Albert Gallatin and the Northeastern Boundary Dispute

Gallatin first became interested in the dispute between the United States and British Canada over the Maine border shortly after his arrival in Boston during the closing years of the War for American Independence.  Over the winter of 1780/81 he served in the garrison guarding the coastal Maine frontier town of Machias against a possible British Invasion from Nova Scotia. He later became directly involved in the negotiations over the boundary when he took office as the US Minister to Great Britain in 1826. He continued to conduct research on the subject when he returned to America in 1827. This research culminated in the publication of ‘A memoir of the north-eastern boundary’ (New York, 1843), a work commemorating the final establishment of a permanent border under the terms of the Webster-Ashburton Treaty.

Signature of Charles Stewart Daveis found in the Gallatin Collection of pamphlets on the Northeastern Boundary Dispute. .

Signature of Charles Stewart Daveis in the Gallatin Collection.

Two pamphlets in the collection bear provenance that suggest they once belonged to Gallatin. The inscription found on both of these works reads ‘[To the] Hon. Albert Gallatin with the respects of C. S. Daveis’.  The man who presented these pamphlets to Gallatin, Charles Stewart Daveis (1788-1865), was a Bowdoin trained lawyer and a central figure in the development of the legal position of the United States during the boundary negotiations. Daveis served as an agent (1825-1827) for the proprietors of disputed lands in northern Maine before becoming a United States agent to the Netherlands in 1829. From the 1820s through the 1840s the state legislature published reports derived from Daveis’s research on northern land grants and settlement claims extending back to the reign of William and Mary in order to bolster American claims to land ownership. Daveis arrived in the Netherlands at a crucial moment in the on-going dispute over the international border. On the eve of the 5th federal census in 1830 the Maine Legislature sent representatives to the contested lands along the Saint John River in order to gauge popular support for Maine’s case and, perhaps more importantly, the size of the American communities in the north. The legislature hoped that residents in the disputed area might be counted in the census and that the state might therefore see increased representation in Congress. The authorities in Halifax responded by sending the New Brunswick militia to the region in order to disrupt public meetings organized by the Maine representatives. As a result of the ‘Crisis of 1830’ the US activated the clause of the treaty of Ghent (1815) that stipulated that a ‘neutral third party’ should arbitrate future border disputes between the US and the UK. Both countries agreed that King William I of the Netherlands would serve as the chosen arbitrator. Daveis, who had been sent to the Netherlands perhaps in anticipation of this development, was therefore well placed at the heart of the negotiations over the future of the border. William did not arbitrate in favour of either side’s position, instead suggesting in January 1831 that a line be drawn approximately halfway between the two proposed borders. Britain accepted the Dutch position while the US rejected it. The dispute therefore rumbled on for a further decade until the Webster-Ashburton Treaty (1842) finally established a permanent border.

Odell One of the pamphlets in the collection reflects the Canadian perspective on the issue and indicates that Gallatin had access to a wide array of sources and viewpoints on the issue. The pamphlet, written by Ward Chipman (1787-1851), a prominent New Brunswick judge, and entitled Letters on the Boundary Line, first published in the City Gazette (Saint John [New Brunswick], 1828), bears the inscription ‘from Wm. F. Odell Esqr’ on its titlepage. William Franklin Odell (1774-1844) was a member of a prominent New Jersey loyalist family that had settled in New Brunswick following the War of American Independence. His father Jonathan Odell was a Church of England clergyman and poet who became a leading propagandist for the Crown in New York during the Revolution. William was named after his father’s patron, William Franklin, the last Royal governor of New Jersey and son of famed American intellectual and statesman Benjamin Franklin. Odell held a number of important offices in New Brunswick over the course of the forty-year dispute. In 1815 he was sworn in as a member of the colonial legislature and in 1833 became a member of the powerful five-man Executive Council.  From 1818 until 1820 Odell led annual survey missions to the banks of the Saint John in the expectation that their findings would refute American claims to the region. His final report on the topography of the borderlands was dismissed by Washington because it ignored a hilly region (the Notre Dame Mountains) near the St. Lawrence that the Americans contended was the natural boundary between Canada and the United States. The existence of these highlands mattered as the American claim to the contested region was based upon the assertion that all land encompassing the headwaters of the St. John and its tributaries flowing into the Atlantic Ocean, rather than the St. Lawrence, constituted US territory.

Other sources on the Northeastern Boundary Dispute in the IHR Library

  • The IHR holds another pamphlet about the Northeastern Boundary dispute written from the British/Canadian perspective. The essay, written by Sir George Head and entitled ‘Remarks on the north-eastern boundary question’, was published in 1838 alongside a travel narrative recalling the author’s journey through the Canadas during the late 1820s.
  • In 1839 the British government sent George William Featherstonhaugh (1780-1866) to the Maine frontier in order to finally settle the border dispute. Both sides approved of Featherstonhaugh’s appointment to the post of commissioner. He had previously worked for the US government on a number of surveying missions. Indeed, Featherstonhaugh had spent the previous thirty years in the United States, during which time he had served as the US geologist tasked with exploring the Louisiana Purchase. The IHR holds a copy of Featherstonhaugh’s journals composed during his mission on the Maine/Canadian border.
  • We also own a copy of Featherstonhaugh’s  published thoughts on the final draft of the Webster-Ashburton Treaty, Observations upon the Treaty of Washington, signed August 9, 1842.

Gallatin and William Lyon Mackenzie

William Lyon Mackenzie (1795-1861) was one of the most colourful figures in nineteenth-century Canadian history. Over the course of his heavily mythologized career he was a firebrand journalist, radical politician, rebel and exile. Throughout the mid-1820s he edited several reformist newspapers, including The Colonial Advocate, which became conduits for criticism of the Canadian Tory establishment. Mackenzie directed his most scathing printed attacks towards the small group of office holders derisively labelled the ‘Family Compact’.  His publishing activities earned him the ire of the Compact’s supporters who in 1826, in what is known as the ‘Types Riot’, attacked the offices of the Advocate, destroyed Mackenzie’s presses and threw his type into Lake Ontario. Mackenzie was able to capitalise upon this event through the publicity generated by the trial that followed and in 1827 he was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada. He served in the legislature until 1834 before becoming the first mayor of the newly incorporated city of Toronto.

William Lyon Mackenzie, image courtesy of Wikimedia.

William Lyon Mackenzie, image courtesy of Wikimedia.

Mackenzie is perhaps best remembered for leading the failed Upper Canada Rebellion (1837-38), in which a hastily organized group of American settlers and reform supporters attempted to establish an independent Canadian Republic. Mackenzie and his supporters hope to take advantage of the fact that the British Army regiments stationed locally had been called away to supress another rising in Quebec – the Lower Canada Rebellion led by Louis-Joseph Papineau. In December 1837, the rebel force was repulsed on the outskirts of Toronto during the battle of Montogmery’s Tavern. Afterwards, Mackenzie and other prominent rebels fled to Navy Island on the Niagara River. There Mackenzie declared himself the head of the provisional government of the Republic of Canada. The Republic was short lived and the arrival of the Royal Navy on 14 of January 1838 scattered the remaining rebels and forced Mackenzie into exile in the United States. Mackenzie landed on his feet in the US where he worked as newspaper correspondent for the next eleven years. In 1849 he was invited back to his home country as part of an amnesty agreement that followed the electoral victory of the Reformers in the 1848 legislative election. Remarkably, Mackenzie successfully transitioned back into a political career shortly after his homecoming. Between 1851 and 1858 he served as a member of the provincial parliament where he continued to pursue his quest for constitutional reform. In the last years of his life he advocated the annexation of Canada by the United States. Mackenzie died in Toronto on 26 August 1861 at the age of 66. It would seem, however, that neither sedition nor death could keep Mackenzie out of Canadian politics. He was resurrected in a popular satirical twitter feed during the 2010 Toronto mayoral election in which he bemoaned the rise of the controversial current mayor of Toronto.

The IHR Library has recently uncovered an item in our collections that bears provenance linking it to both William Lyon Mackenzie and Albert Gallatin. The item in question is a select committee report on the currency of Upper Canada published by the legislature in 1830. Mackenzie was then serving his first term in the legislature and had chaired the committee that produced this pamphlet. Mackenzie distrusted the Bank of Upper Canada, viewing it as a monopoly overseen by British office holders. Mackenzie favoured introducing hard specie in the colony and had organized the committee to investigate the feasibility of doing so. Albert Gallatin had by 1830 reversed his opposition to a national bank in the US and was instrumental in the founding of the Second Bank of the United States. It is perhaps not surprising, then, that Mackenzie would have established contact with Gallatin in order to discuss the reform position on the bank and currency in Canada. The inscription on this pamphlet in the IHR library reads, ‘To the Honourable Albert Gallatin, New York. York, Upper Canada, June 26, 1830. With W.L. Mackenzie’s Compliments.’.

Next week we will move our discussion over to the SHL library blog for the final post in the series. We will take a look at a few of Gallatin’s pamphlets held in Senate House Library’s special collections. These pamphlets touch upon many subjects including the debate over Jeffersonian political economy, ante-bellum finance and popular politics in the early American republic.

Library collections in the new IHR

by

We’ve now been open for two weeks, and the library staff are getting used to the new layout just as much as readers are.  The book move took months of planning, and it’s pleasing to see how well the new arrangement works in practice and that most readers have been happy with it.  A few books ended up being shelved in the wrong order, inevitable in such a big move. The library staff have been finding time to tidy these sections at times when there are few readers about. Much of the shelf signage is complete. The folio sections were especially disrupted while in store, and we are pleased that they are now back on open access and upright.

We’ve moved as much of the collection as possible to the open shelves, and regret that many periodicals have had to remain in closed access. Exceptions include the four most frequently requested periodicals (see below) and many record society and similar source-based series. The Current Periodicals room on the ground floor houses the last three or four years of most titles.

As most people will already have discovered, the 1st floor houses British (including local), Irish, Crusades, Byzantine and Church history. On the 2nd floor are the other European collections. The Military and International Relations collections are in the basement. Still under construction is a further room on the 2nd floor which will contain substantial parts of the American and Colonial collections. Watch this blog later in the year for news of its completion and opening.

Please note that three collections – Scottish, Spanish local and German – are shelved in rooms which double up as meeting rooms. Please check the IHR diary if you are planning to use these collections. Items can be reserved in advance of your visit if necessary. The rooms are:

  • Scottish History: Professor Olga Crisp room (room N102)
  • Spanish Regional: John S Cohen room (N203)
  • German History: Peter Marshall room (N204)
  • German local: Past and Present room (N202)

Some of the older (pre-1750) and rarer material has been classmarked S and is being kept in closed access for reasons of security. These books can be requested as usual, and will be stored in the library office when not in use.

The main changes to where items are shelved are as follows:

Collections moved from closed access to open access

  • Four heavily-used periodicals – Historical Research, English Historical Review, Past and Present and History
  • Most folios (BB and other double letters)
  • A new sequence of oversized folios (BBB and other triple letters)
  • Most International Relations and Military History
  • Spanish Regional
  • Most German and Low Countries
  • Selections from the general collection (all of E.1 Historiography, E.4 Holy Roman Empire, E.6 Medieval European history, selections from E.2 Reference works, E.3 General European history and E.7 Modern European history)

Collections moved from offsite to onsite store

  • Austria
  • European Universities (E.8)
  • Other selections from the general collection (the parts of E.2, E.3, E.7 not on open access)

Signage, catalogue and website updates are still ongoing, but do pop in and see staff in the library enquiry office if you have any questions.

New Reviews: Edinburgh sanitation, Conservative Party, London Zoo, medieval revolution and reform

by

Henry-Littlejohn

Henry Littlejohn, a great man to have at any party

This week, along with the rest of the country’s media, Reviews is focussing on Edinburgh – but rather than referenda, it’s the sewers we’re interested in, as Tom Crook and authors Paul Laxton and Richard Rodger discuss Insanitary City: Henry Littlejohn and the Condition of Edinburgh (no. 1654, with response here).

David Cameron was up there too, and one wonders what his predecessors in the Conservative and Unionist Party would have made of the prospect of a break-up of the union. Many of these feature in Stuart Ball’s Portrait of a Party: The Conservative Party in Britain 1918-1945. Andrew Thorpe finds this to be as much a major contribution to historical method as it is to the history of 20th-century Britain (no. 1652).

Then we turn to London Zoo and the Victorians, 1828-1859 by Takashi Ito, which Andrew Flack believes sets the agenda for future research in this area (no. 1653, with response here).

Finally Shami Ghosh reviews two works of medieval history which will stimulate many questions for future scholars and students, as he compares and contrasts Reframing the Feudal Revolution: Political and Social Transformation Between Marne and Moselle, c.800-c.1100 by Charles West and Episcopal Power and Ecclesiastical Reform in the German Empire Tithes, Lordship, and Community, 950-1150 by John Eldevik (no. 1651).

Update on availability of facilities in the new IHR library

by

We’re still waiting for the photocopying/printing equipment to arrive, and for the Wifi to be connected. We apologise for the inconvenience the delay has caused. We will provide updates when we have further information. You are welcome to use your own photographic equipment to make copies.

Reader desks are provided around the library. We expect the first floor reading room to be the most heavily used. If you find it fully occupied, remember that there are plenty of desks on the same floor in the Foyle reading room and upstairs on the 2nd and 3rd floors.

The Foyle reading room has book supports and a large table making it ideal for consulting large and fragile material as well as maps.

We have eight PCs currently available and three more will be added once some network faults are fixed. Two of these PCs have our new microfilm scanners attached, but are also available for general use when not required for this purpose.

Thanks for your patience during this time. We will put updates on the blog but please contact us if you’d like any further information on ihr.library@sas.ac.uk or 020 7862 8760.

New Historical Research article online

by

220px-A_Chronicle_of_England_-_Page_251_-_Death_of_de_MontfortTwo oaths of the community in 1258 by Joshua Hey

This article looks at two ‘oaths of the community’ of 1258. First, it shows that the oath of the community at Oxford has been widely misinterpreted by historians: it was an oath of mutual aid, not an oath binding the community to reform. Second, it looks at the order for all in the realm to take an oath in October 1258, which has never been fully examined before. This order aimed to bind the entire realm to the reform movement – it was proclaimed in Latin, French and English – yet no chroniclers mentioned it and no mechanism was provided for its enactment.

Filling the Gaps: Livery Company Archives and the ROLLCO Project

by

The 'FM' plate. Image courtesy of the Salters’ collection

Image courtesy of the Salters’ collection

This post was kindly written for us by Katie George, archivist of The Salters’ Company, with the help of the CMH’s very own Mark Merry.

September sees another new update to the Records of London’s Livery Companies Online (ROLLCO) project, with the publication of the membership records of two new Livery Companies and the expansion of the records of two already participating Companies. We welcome the apprentices and Freemen of the Musicians’ and Tallow Chandlers’ to the ROLLCO database across the period 1620 to 1900, as well as those which expand the Goldsmiths’ (from 1700 to 1708) and Salters’ (to cover the period 1636-1656) Companies’ records.

The records in this update form a good example of both the vagaries of archival survival amongst the Livery Companies (and indeed more generally), and of the way in which the ROLLCO project has obtained information about membership of the Companies across their long history. The apprenticeship and freedom records of the Musicians’ Company show a number of significant gaps during the 17th century, at least until the 1690s from which point they seem to have survived in a more complete form. This is by no means uncommon amongst the Livery Company archives. What this archive lacks in quantity, however, it more than makes up for in quality, especially later in the 18th and 19th centuries when the records are laden with consistently rich detail about the individuals making up the membership of the Company. The Musicians’ were clearly one of the Livery Companies where the members did not pursue their ‘craft’ as their principal means of making a living, as a glance at the occupations recorded in the registers indicate. Most numerous amongst the Musicians’ membership  were individuals – men and plenty of women too – identifying themselves as victuallers (142), but almost every other occupation can be found too, from haberdashers to farmers, from butchers to apothecaries, and from perukemakers to tripe dressers. Only 56 out of the 6829 named individuals in the records are listed as musicians by occupation, although there are 12 musical instrument makers, 6 music sellers, 2 music masters and a Professor of Music. Another pattern that emerges from the Musicians’ records, and one that would perhaps bear closer inspection, is that a surprising number of their members gave as their address the name of an inn or tavern. Whether this was their place of abode or place of employment is unclear, but the pattern might suggest the broad involvement of the Musicians’ members in what we might now call the ‘service industries’ of the late 18th and 19th centuries.

The 9,650 apprenticeship and freedom records of the Tallow Chandlers’ Company begin in the 1620s, and do not appear to have been materially affected by the vicissitudes of the mid-17th century, despite the Company losing its Hall to the Great Fire. The information contained on the 22,162 individuals mentioned in these records benefits greatly from a vast and ongoing research effort undertaken by members of the modern-day Company, and the ROLLCO project is very grateful to Liveryman Lorraine Green in particular for making her work available. As with the Musicians’ records, the Tallow Chandlers’ are full of the kind of biographical detail that researchers crave – places, occupations, and career information are available for a high proportion of individuals mentioned in the registers. Many inter-generational and family connections can be traced in the records of the Tallow Chandlers’ membership. One such ‘dynasty’ can be seen in the Turner family, which included Benjamin Brecknell Turner (apprenticed to his father in 1830 and made free of the Company seven years later), one of Britain’s first photographers, a specialist in rural compositions whose work can be found in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum. The Hale family is another example, which includes the twice Master of the Company and Lord Mayor of London Warren Stormes Hale, made free in 1814.

The new Salter’s records for 1636 to 1656 have been drawn from a manuscript volume catalogued under the title Index to Freedom Register No Longer Existing, 1636-1656, a calendar of now lost volumes offering a tantalising glimpse of the life of the Company and its members. Historical researchers are used to working with incomplete archives, and hints and clues and theories – indeed the detective work is one of the attractions for many – and often indexes which survive in place of their parent volumes can form vital sources for crucial periods. As Katie George, archivist of the Salters’ Company, suggests, slender volumes such as this Index are vital components of reconstructing ‘history in the gaps’:

‘When I needed to identify some mysterious initials, ’FM’, on a very beautiful 17th century delftware plate belonging to the Salters’ Company, the equally mysterious ‘Index to Freedom Register No Longer Existing, 1636-1656’, held in the Company’s archives, gave me the lead I sought, and thus enabled me, with the help of external source material and the invaluable assistance of others, to gradually reconstruct the life of a hitherto unknown Salters’ freeman.  Francis Mercer, (made free in 1638), lived in Southwark.  He was a mealman and soldier by trade, serving as an officer in the civil wars.  From 1654-56 he served in Barbados and Jamaica as part of Cromwell’s Western Design expedition, in 1658 married widow Elizabeth Townsend in Southwark and in 1660 was arrested under suspicion of involvement in an anti-restoration plot.  In the 1660s he and his wife finally settled for a quieter (but no doubt quite lucrative) life of delftware production in Southwark.  He died in 1669, survived by his widow and three children, including a married daughter from an earlier, mystery relationship.  A colourful life indeed!’

For many Livery Companies the middle decades of the 17th century comprised the period of the greatest expansion in their membership, trade activities and influence within London and further afield. For some Companies, this is also the period when sporadic gaps appear in their archives, for reasons of administrative, political and actual physical crisis. The Salters’ archive has fallen victim to the destruction of their new Hall in the Great Fire of 1666 for example, but as Katie has commented, it is interesting to note that the Index was one of the records saved, when others were not. One can almost visualise the Clerk and colleagues dashing into the Hall by the church of St Swithin as the fire approached, rapidly determining which records were important to save and which could be sacrificed…

You can explore the records on the ROLLCO website.

New Reviews: Middle Ages, Mexican conservatism, smell and prohibition

by

wood2

Our featured piece this week is on The Modern Origins of the Early Middle Ages by Ian Wood. Paul Fouracre and the author discuss a thoroughly researched and written tour de force (no. 1650, with response here).

Next up is Benjamin Smith’s The Roots of Conservatism in Mexico: Catholicism, Society, and Politics in the Mixteca Baja, 1750–1962 , and Thomas Rath recommends a book which is necessary reading for historians of modern Mexico, and makes a lasting contribution to Latin America’s agrarian, political, and religious history (no. 1649).

Then we have Past Scents: Historical Perspectives on Smell by Jonathan Reinarz. William Tullett finds this book neatly summarizes many current historical perspectives on smell (no. 1648).

Finally William Haydock reviews two very different approaches to the history of alcohol consumption and control, Pubs and Patriots: The Drink Crisis During World War One by Robert Duncan and Try to Control Yourself: The Regulation of Public Drinking in Post-Prohibition Ontario, 1927-44 by Dan Malleck (no. 1647).

Researching the Crimean War using Connected Histories

by

greatfireThis post was kindly written for us by Caitlin Brown, one of our interns via the Leicester University / IHR Digital programme.

I decided to use Connected Histories to research an area that I knew something about, but that I would like to investigate more. I picked the Crimean War as I had studied it from a Russian perspective but not from a British point of view, and I knew Connected Histories provided links to British Newspapers, 1600-1900. I used keywords such as ‘Crimea’ and narrowed down the date to between the 1850s and 1860s, as I wanted perspectives of the situation from both before and after the conflict. A problem I noticed straight away was that while many of the results were from British Newspapers, this was a resource that was restricted. This meant that these results were impossible to access from the IHR. However, if I had been researching from my own University Campus which has a subscription to British Newspapers, I would have been able to look at these resources. Apart from the newspapers and a picture from the British Museum, there were a limited number of resources available to investigate this topic further. I wondered if this was because I had selected a topic towards the end of the time period covered. Therefore, I decided to use the same methods as before, but instead investigate a topic firmly within the time period covered by Connected Histories.

I changed my topic to the Great Fire of London, and, using the date filters and the use of keywords, I searched ‘1666’ and ‘fire of London’. These results were more useful, as they were not all from restricted resources which required a separate login. Lots of results were thrown up, particularly when I narrowed the dates down to a few years around the actual date of the Fire of London (1666). A particularly useful resource I found was John Strype’s ‘A Survey of London and Westminster’, which not only accounts for the state of London, but also talks about the damage that the fire created, as well as Parliamentary acts that were put into place to deal with the damage created by the fire. It also gives specific numbers about what was damaged in the fire; for instance, 12,000 houses were burned down. Not only was this useful for learning more about the fire, it was a source I had not heard of before but was one that would be extremely useful in investigating London as a whole in this period. Similarly, I found a Dutch etching which portrayed the fire itself and its permeation throughout the city. Another resource I discovered through Connected Histories was a link to British History Online, which has several Journals of the House of Commons. This provided purely parliamentary perspectives on the handling of the impact of the Fire of London, for instance compensating people whose houses had to be blown up to prevent a further spread of the fire.

A problem I noted during both searches was that due to the process involved in putting some documents online, they were often unreadable and therefore not very useful. Also, sometimes the search engine can be slow, as it has a lot of information to process. Overall, using Connected Histories as a starting point for researching a particular subject is very useful, as it provides a wide range of sources. Some areas are more difficult to look into when you cannot access the restricted content, however this would not always be an issue, depending on location. There is some limitation in the amount of sources, but even these provide a stepping point by which to continue research.

< Older Posts