On Friday 24th October 2014, the eighth volume of the Victoria County History of Shropshire series was launched in Shrewsbury. Shropshire Volume VI, part 1, is the first of a two part treatment of the town and Liberties of Shrewsbury and is the first volume published in the Shropshire series for 16 years.
The launch took place in the parish church of St Mary the Virgin. The largest of Shrewsbury’s medieval parish churches, designated as redundant in 1987 and currently in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust, St Mary’s provided a dramatic setting for the launch of the volume and the second of 2014′s Marc Fitch Lectures.
Trevor Rowley (Kellogg College, Oxford) delivered this autumn’s Marc Fitch lecture which comprised reflections on his seminal work, ‘The Making of the Shropshire Landscape‘ forty years on from its original publication.
The lecture was preceded by an address from the incoming VCH Director, Professor Richard Hoyle whose introduction to both the Shrewsbury volume and the Shropshire series detailed his plans and aspirations for work in the county to begin again in earnest and included a call for pledges of financial support and assistance in forming a County Committee to move the project forward.
Professor Hoyle presents the Mayor with a copy of the volume.
Upon the conclusion of the lecture and following a short break for wine and refreshments, attention turned to the formal business of launching the volume. Speaking on behalf of the numerous contributors to Volume VI, part 1, Dr Bill Champion gave a lighthearted account of the long and, at times, turbulent gestation of the Shrewsbury volume. We were thrilled the Mayor of Shrewsbury, Beverley Baker was able to join us and Professor Hoyle presented a copy of the volume to her.
The event was excellently attended, with more than 100 people present to see the volume launched; a number no doubt inflated by Professor Hoyle’s interview on BBC Radio Shropshire the previous day. In addition to the Mayor, County Archivist and numerous members of the Shropshire local history community, it was especially pleasing to see so many who have been associated with the VCH Shropshire project to date, including Shrewsbury volume contributors Bob Cromarty, Barbara Coulton and Nigel Baker, former County Editor George Baugh and Reverend Canon D.T.W. Price, who was Assistant to Shropshire’s first County Editor, A.T. Gaydon in the late 1960s. After this successful event we now must turn our attention to the completion and publication of Volume VI, part 2. Keep checking our website for news and updates on this volume.
Copies of this volume are available directly from our publisher, Boydell & Brewer.
We start with Emotional Lexicons: Continuity and Change in the Vocabulary of Feeling 1700-2000 by Ute Frevert. Anna Jordanous believes this book’s strengths lie in its contextual diversity and in the thoroughness of the compilation and usage of reference sources (no. 1682, with response here).
Next up is Elizabeth Vandiver’s Stand in the Trench, Achilles: Classical Receptions in British Poetry of the Great War, which Marguerite Johnson recommends as a truly successful interdisciplinary achievement (no. 1681).
Then we turn to Murder Most Russian: True Crime and Punishment in Late Imperial Russia by Louise McReynolds. James Ryan and the author discuss a very significant contribution to the study of modern Russian history (no. 1680).
Finally we have Joanna Cannon’s Religious Poverty, Visual Riches: Art in the Dominican Churches of Central Italy in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries, which Michael Morris finds to be delightfully inquisitive while maintaining a respectful attitude toward religious Orders (no. 1679).
History Lab Plus would like to introduce Lunchbox Tuesdays, a weekly lunchtime group for late PhD and early career historians. This group is not intended as a seminar or forum for historical debate, but an informal way for individuals at similar academic levels to socialise over lunch.
Lunchbox Tuesdays will be held every Tuesday, 1-2pm in the common room of the Institute of Historical Research in the North Block of Senate House. Members and non-members of the IHR are welcome to attend the group. If you are a non-member, ask the reception staff to admit you into the Institute. The first meeting will be held on Tuesday, 4 November.
Anyway, it will take more than my lack of nutrition to get in the way of our reviews! First up this week is The Rise of Western Power: a Comparative History of Western Civilization by Jonathan Daly. John R. McNeill and the author discuss the latest attempt to address the question of the rise of the modern West (no. 1678, with response here).
Then we have Britta Schilling’s Postcolonial Germany: Memories of Empire in a Decolonized Nation, which Monika Albrecht believes to be a most valuable contribution to the field of the memory of German colonialism (no. 1677).
Next is Queenship in the Mediterranean: Negotiating the Role of the Queen in the Medieval and Early Modern Eras by Elena Woodacre. Estelle Paranque believes this collection of essays manages to highlight the importance of female rulers in the Mediterranean (no. 1676).
Finally we turn to Melissa Score’s review of Martin Hewitt’s The Dawn of the Cheap Press in Victorian Britain: the End of the ‘Taxes on Knowledge’, 1849-1869, which recommends the book as a meticulously researched account of the mid-Victorian phase of the campaigns against press taxes (no. 1675).
This post was kindly written for us by Alex Porter – Head of History, Parmiter’s School
The paradox of teaching A Level history is that you know very well your students’ education would be better served by studying topics in greater depth but unfortunately this has the potential to hamper their achievements in examination. Nowhere is this more apparent than in textbooks.
An A Level textbook can be a comfort but the range of sources provided in textbooks is very limited. This limitation is for two reasons, the first being the examiners need to hold onto some sources to base examination questions on, but also because the textbook is supposed to be just enough for the average student to get by on. In theory you could use it all on its own and get the top grade. Yet this doesn’t necessarily help make the best historians, and the best students know this. The high achievers need to be stretched and this means more sources.
As a result, many history teachers will punch phrases into Google on a regular basis in the forlorn hope that there will be some magical archive of sensibly arranged contemporary information that could be mined for use in lessons. Those that teach courses on Henry VIII will likely have found solace in the comforting embrace of British History Online. I am one of them.
I was initially searching for contemporary accounts of Henry VII in order to put together a lesson investigating the circumstances of Henry VIII’s accession. What I ended up finding was Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 1: 1509-1514, an extremely rich seam of court papers and accounts from the reign of Henry VIII. It included a missive apparently from the Venetian ambassador dated 8th May 1509, in which Henry VII was described as ‘a most miserly (miserissimo) man but of great genius, who has accumulated more gold than that possessed by all the other Christian kings’.
This was perfect material. The provenance was such that it afforded the students an opportunity to consider how Henry VII might have been considered outside his realm, but also gave real meat to the idea of his wealth in comparison with others around Europe. It wasn’t long before I was reading details of the condolence note to Henry VIII from Ferdinand of Aragon.
Such information is invaluable to me in the delivery of this course. It provides me with a deeper understanding of the affairs at court in the period and allows me to drop anecdotes into lessons that pique the interest of my students. It also gives me the material needed in the delivery of lessons that go beyond the narrow confines of the set text.
Since this happy find, I have been back on British History Online more than once and not alone. My school has developed a “Bring Your Own Device” policy allowing students to safely use their phones and tablets in lessons, so I was able to encourage my students to undertake their own research in a subsequent lesson. It wasn’t long before a number of them were trawling through these records, attempting to establish the use of the term Alter Rex for themselves to see if it only ever applied to Wolsey.
With the use of websites such as British History Online and the assistance of a progressive ICT policy it has become possible not only to find extremely useful resources for myself but to encourage students to develop their learning independently. In ordinary circumstances I would be harvesting their finds as Wolsey gathered tithes but we have to change our A Level for next year and no doubt there’ll be a new set of narrowly focused textbooks to use. At least this time I’ll know where to look for some sources.
The Institute of Historical Research was officially reopened by Her Royal Highness Princess Anne, on Tuesday 14 October. The Princess Royal, who is Chancellor of the University of London, was given a tour of the Institute’s new facilities including the library, seminar rooms and the conference suite.
More than 80 people assembled in the remodelled IHR Common Room for the rededication, where the Chancellor met students and junior research fellows as well as members of staff and representatives of the Friends of the IHR. After unveiling a plaque, she gave a short speech about the Institute’s ongoing work.
The refurbishment, made possible by a University of London investment of more than £10 million, took place over a three-year period, during which time the Institute was temporarily housed in Senate House. Charitable foundations, individual benefactors and the many historians who use the IHR’s library and attend its research seminars, made further contributions.
The Institute has been the focus of a rich historical culture in London since its foundation in 1921 and now the many improvements to its premises, equipment and facilities can only enhance its national and international roles as a centre for historical studies.‘The Institute of Historical Research has always had a special place in the affections of academic historians in Britain and around the world. There is nothing quite like it anywhere else’, explained Professor Lawrence Goldman, IHR Director.
‘Historians have come here for decades to work in our library with its unique resources, attend the many seminars which convene in the Institute, and meet and chat in the IHR’s common room. We can now accommodate them in purpose-built facilities for research and exchange. We look forward to an exciting new phase in the IHR’s history.’
Dr Simon Trafford, head of research training at the IHR, in his natural environment
Training in research skills for young and aspiring researchers has been central to the IHR’s remit since its foundation in 1921. In recent years, the training programme has expanded and diversified, reflecting both a great broadening in the scope of historical enquiry and also the increasing prevalence of highly specialised approaches that require of their practitioners detailed technical knowledge or computing skills. In the 2014-15 programme, which has just been announced, we have courses covering every aspect of current historical practice, ranging from the very traditional skills of archival use and analysis of written sources through to the currently burgeoning area of historical GIS.
Taught by University of London historians and other expert practitioners from national institutions, the programme has been designed to help students to acquire all the techniques necessary to their research quickly and inexpensively. The Institute’s training will also be of interest to those already established in an academic career but wishing to acquire or renew skills in particular types of specialist analysis. New courses will be announced throughout the year, but please see here for a complete listing of the current programme.
We start this week with Michele M. Strong’s Education, Travel and the ‘Civilisation’ of the Victorian Working Classes. Susan Barton recommends an interesting and significant work covering the under-researched topic of educational tourism (no. 1674).
Then we turn to Craft, Community and the Material Culture of Place and Politics, 19th-20th Century, edited by Janice Helland, Beverly Lemire and Alena Buis. Heidi Egginton praises a worthy addition to the global history of material culture (no. 1673).
Next up is Penelope Buckley’s The Alexiad of Anna Komnene: Artistic Strategy in the Making of a Myth. Elisabeth Mincin and the author discuss an immensely valuable addition to the scholarship on this 12th-century epic (no. 1672, with response here).
Finally we have Travellers, Merchants and Settlers in the Eastern Mediterranean, 11th-14th Centuries by David Jacoby. Wei-sheng Lin believes that this book helps to open up room for more nuanced understandings of the Eastern Mediterranean between the 11th century and the 14th century (no. 1671).
This article examines three vernacular chronicles written from contrasting view-points: the Scalacronica of Sir Thomas Gray, whose father was linked with Edward II’s court, and the ‘Long’ and ‘Short’ continuations of the prose Brut, both markedly sympathetic towards Thomas of Lancaster, leader of the opposition to the king. This is a period which saw a sea change in the crown’s attitude towards rebellion, but the accounts of these chronicles suggest that a significant part of the political community did not accept the crown’s new definition of treason.
John Knox’s First Blast and Christopher Goodman’s Superior Powers arguably represent two of the most radical pamphlets produced during the reign of Mary Tudor. Both texts were published in Geneva in early 1558 and attracted the displeasure not only of their authors’ fellow exiles, but also of Queen Elizabeth herself when she heard of their publication. Ever since, these pamphlets have been closely associated with the climate of radicalism which supposedly prevailed in Geneva under the aegis of Calvin. Yet, it is also clear from his writings that Calvin never went so far as to endorse any of the Marian exiles’ most controversial ideas. Rather, archival and bibliographical evidence suggests that it was the lively and highly competitive Genevan book trade, combined with inconsistent mechanisms of censorship and a system of monopolies favouring the wealthiest printing firms, which provided ideal conditions for the publication of these pamphlets.