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Bibliography of British and Irish History


Searching for Jewish resources on the Bibliography of British and Irish History

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Codex Manesse, fol. 355r

This blog post aims to address some of the potential problems that may be experienced by users new to the bibliography.

We wanted to do this using an example, and so we thought we’d pick a popular topic of research, Jewish history, in which area recent publications include Sharks and Shylocks : Englishness and otherness in popular discourse on ‘the City’ 1870–1914, The Irish Free State’s first diplomats : jealousy, anti-Semitism and revengePerformance anxiety and the Passion in the Croxton Play of the Sacrament and Isaac and Antichrist in the archives. With such broad examples of subject matter, the following steps are designed to help you maximise the search features of the BBIH, and to tailor the search results to your specific interest.

For a simple search, covering all periods, the BBIH has 2692 entries:

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While this is informative for statistics and general coverage, the resources are too broad for those undertaking more specific research. Therefore narrowing down the period covered would filter the results further. For example, Jewish people in the medieval period:

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Which produces the following 486 results:

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Click to enlarge

This has narrowed the results down considerably. However, if your research interest is in a particular field, for example medieval Jewish women, you can locate exactly the right resources by going into ‘Advanced Search’. Choose ‘Jews’ from the Subject tree or type ‘Jews’ in the search box, then type ‘women’ in the Subject tree, making sure to select ‘and‘ rather than ‘or‘ from the Boolean functions:

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Insert the search terms (using the insert/close button) and once again apply the same date range. It is clear that the search results have narrowed considerably (to 28):

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Clicking on the search button then displays the details of the resources.

The SEE ALSO options on the main search for ‘All index terms’ can also provide prompts for other areas of exploration:

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Another useful tip for general browsing is to go into the record to see how the subject hierarchy has searched through the subject index to arrive at the result:

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To receive notifications of new resources, please sign up to our email alert option. The bibliography is updated three times a year, and you will be alerted to any new material in your chosen subject field. For additional medieval Jewish resources and reviews, see Dean Irwin’s Towards a Bibliography of Medieval Anglo-Jewry.

Initial image – full citation: Süßkind, der Jude von Trimberg (Süsskind, the Jew of Trimberg), portrait from the Codex Manesse.

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Henry III, better than his father, worse than his son?

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Henry’s reign began inauspiciously. He was crowned on 28 October 1216 in some haste at Gloucester Abbey. The coronation was overseen by the papal legate and Henry was anointed by the bishops of Worcester, Winchester and Exeter; the archbishops of Canterbury and York being unavailable. The royal crown had gone missing and he was crowned with his mother’s circlet. All this in the midst of the Barons’ War caused by his father the “bad” king John. To reinforce his royal authority he had a second coronation in 1220.

 

Henry III's coronation (Cotton Vitellius A. XIII) Wikipedia

Henry III’s coronation (Cotton Vitellius A. XIII) Wikipedia

 

 

“Henry’s capacity to play for very high stakes, and yet lose, was truly remarkable”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

His reign was to end just as inauspiciously. His claims to the lost Angevin empire were renounced by the treaty of Paris (1259), factional court fighting and another baronial revolt led to yet another civil war. Though the war was won by Henry the last years of his reign were marred by fears of further rebellion.

The online publication of the Henry III Fine Rolls has opened a new episode in research on Henry as well as the politics, government, local-central relations, law, relations with Wales and Ireland and society in general – an episode well documented in The Growth of Royal Government under Henry III which uses the Rolls to offer new interpretations of the reign.

As well as documenting the above volume, BBIH has a range of references on Henry III. There are specific references on Henry’s minority; his more than conventional piety; his relations with the Jews (his son, Edward I, was to expel all Jews in 1290); and his expensive and overambitious foreign policy including his crusading endeavours.

 

Henry III (Click to enlarge)

Henry III (Click to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quote from S. D. Lloyd The Oxford Companion to British History p. 452

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bibliography of British and Irish History updated (September 2016)

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9780719089374

An update to the Bibliography of British and Irish History was published on 30 September. There are 4,962 new records, some 633 new records relate to Irish history while 240 deal with the history of London, 324 with the history of Scotland and 262 with the history of Wales.  The overall total of records available online is now 579,638.

We are pleased to welcome a new section editor to our editorial teamDr Colin Veach  Lecturer in Medieval History at the University of Hull, who will be dealing with Irish history to c. 1640. He succeeds Dr Beth Hartland, for whose expert help over the last few years we are very grateful.

We also welcome Dr Adam Chapman, Editor and Training Co-ordinator with the Victoria County History based at the IHR, who will be dealing with England 1066-1500.

9781783270316

We expect to release the next update in February 2017.  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.

 

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The Battle of the Somme: “Have you seen the Big Push films?”

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“Have you seen the Big Push films?” wrote Roland Mountford to his father in August 1916. Mountford was referring to The Battle of the Somme film. We are not certain that his father did see the film as we don’t have the reply, however it is more than likely that he did it as it’s estimated over 20 million viewed it.  Reaction to the film was often divided.
Somme-film-ad

“Crowds of Londoners feels no scruple at feasting their eyes on pictures which present the passion and death of British soldiers in the Battle of the Somme … a “film” of war’s hideous tragedy is welcomed. I beg leave respectfully to enter a protest against an entertainment which wounds the hearts and violates the very sanctities of bereavement.” (The Dean of Durham letter to The Times).

“We went on Wednesday night to a private view of the ‘Somme films’ i.e. the pictures taken during the recent fighting. To say that one enjoyed them would be untrue; but I am glad I went. I am glad I have seen the sort of thing our men have to go through, even to the sortie from the trench, and the falling in the barbed wire. There were pictures too of the battlefield after the fight, & of our gallant men lying all crumpled up & helpless. There were pictures of men mortally wounded being carried out of the communication trenches, with the look of agony on their faces.” (Frances Stevenson – David Lloyd George’s secretary).

 

Just as historians have debated the strategy and tactics of Haig et al, the representation of the battle and its effects on a nation, so too have they discussed the authenticity of the film. A discussion well covered in the Roger Smither article “A wonderful idea of the fighting” : the question of fakes in The Battle of the Somme.  A search on the subject tree BBIH brings up the following references.

 

Brepolis  somme film

To expand the search to Film and all World War I click on the Refine search button…

Brepolis  BBIH(10)

Brepolis  BBIH(13)

…and replace “Battles, Somme 1916” with “Wars, World War I” for an overview of references to the war and film which includes cinema going, propaganda, representation of the war, and moral panics. Alternatively, delete the term “Film” and see the results for “Battles, Somme 1916”.

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Film and World War I (Click to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Battle of the Somme (Click to enlarge)

Battle of the Somme (Click to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll leave the final comments to Lt. Cyril Catford and his letter of 25 September 1916 held by the Durham County Record Office.

Surely truth is stranger than fiction!! Last night I had a most excellent sleep in No Mans Land, during a fairly heavy bombardment such as is practically continuous in this the greatest battle of the War!! … There is very little to say about this big show except the Artillery is awful and the flies are worse, whilst conditions of living are worse still. All the same we are exceptionally cheerful. We bear everything I hope like good soldiers proud to have beaten thoroughly the reputed “Invincible German Army”. The men are absolutely wonderful. My Company are in the best of spirit. I think you might send out 1000 Woodbines [cigarettes] for them.

Lt. Catford was to die 10 days later, he was 26 years old.

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More than just drama – Shakespeare and BBIH

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You can’t help avoiding Shakespeare and the celebrations for the 400th anniversary of his death, especially when entering Senate House and its ceremonial staircase. Each morning I am greeted by the playwright’s staring eyes and, each morning, I think I ought to write a post. So here goes.

Knowing I loved my books, he furnished me / From mine own library with volumes that / I prize above my dukedom.

Senate House Shakespeare celebration

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shakespeare has 1860 references on BBIH, surpassing Elizabeth I (1158 references), Winston Churchill (1273) and Geoffrey Chaucer (650). But, as I alluded to in my title, there is more to Shakespeare than drama.

A Person as subject search for “Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616” brings up the aforementioned 1860 references.  However if I add in Subject tree “Representations of politics” there are over 200 references.

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Picking out some titles, we can further narrow the search down. So Silences of Elizabeth I and Shakespeare’s Isabella discusses royal marriages or lack thereof; while  Shakespeare’s curse : the aporias of ritual exclusion in early modern royal drama  explores royal ceremonial; and  Hamlet and Succession discusses royal succession.

 

Shakespeare and rp

 

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Shakespeare and Royal succession (click to enlarge)

 

 

So by narrowing the search in the subject tree for “Succession, royal” we get 15 hits.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shakespeare Roman catholic

Shakespeare and Roman Catholicism (click to enlarge)

 

 

Shakespeare’s reputed Roman Catholic sympathies can be examined and the research further extended by looking for biographies of the writer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shakespeare biography

Shakespeare biographies (click to enlarge)

 

 

After a quick straw poll of the office, and in no particular order, here are our top three references to Shakespeare.

From Jew to Puritan: The emblematic owl in early English culture by Brett Hirsch, which discusses the image of the owl to portray Jews, Puritans and Catholics in pamphlets, prints and drama.

Coverture and its discontents: legal fictions on and off the early modern English stage by Natasha Korda, which outlines the law as represented in plays by Thomas Dekker, Ben Jonson and Shakespeare.

And, finally, The Shakespeare circle : an alternative biography by Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells,  covering in detail his family (including his parents and siblings) as well as his friends and collaborators.

 

 

 

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The global reach of the Bibliography of British and Irish History

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Click here for interactive version

Click here for interactive version

 

Place name tree search details here

Place name tree search details here

For this blog post, we wanted to present the global scope of the Bibliography. Despite being called the Bibliography of British and Irish History, material covering the rest of the world makes up a significant proportion of our resources. Using data visualization tools, we mapped the number of resources available onto a global frame using the figures from the latest update in June 2016 and the place names listed.

 

 

 

Click here for interactive version

Click here for interactive version

The expansion of the British Empire explains the large amount of resources concerning North America, the Indian Subcontinent, Australia, South Africa, but other less obvious areas also feature prominently. Russia has 2,257 resources, China has 1,674, and Japan 876.

As expected, European relations account for a large chunk of material, with France being the highest European candidate with 9,337 resources, followed by Germany (5,222), Italy (2,808), and Spain (2,384). Interestingly, these figures highlight the close links that Britain and Ireland have had with the continent, and shows that our political and cultural relationship with Europe has continuously shaped our nation, as part of a wider historical legacy.

The resources are as diverse thematically as they are geographically; a brief search on ‘Crete’ reveals not just a selection of resources on the World War II campaign such as The Ariadne objective : the underground war to rescue Crete from the Nazis, but The man who deciphered linear B : the story of Michael Ventrisand Did Greek wine became Port? Or why institutional interventions matter (c. 1350-1780), an article exploring Cretan wine in medieval England. 

Even more intriguing are the countries who have merely one resource to their name, Belarus has scraped in with the cosily titled Prince Potemkin and the Benthams, Mali has one resource called Barrow’s Boysa book about exploration in the early nineteenth century, and Christmas Island gets some recognition in British imperialism and Australian mini-imperialism in the 1950s

The visual representations of our resources really highlights the global reach of the BBIH, please click on the interactive links above to explore the full range of material.

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Æthelthryth of Ely, perpetual virgin

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Full page miniature of Æthelthryth, London, British Library, Add MS 49598

Full page miniature of Æthelthryth. London, British Library, Add MS 49598, fol. 90v

The 23rd June is the feast day of Æthelthryth, an Anglo-Saxon queen and founder of a double monastery at Ely, who took a vow of celibacy despite being married twice. She was born c. 636 near Newmarket, Suffolk, and died at her monastery in 679 where she had been abbess for seven years, and is sometimes known as Etheldreda, or Audrey. She lived at a time when Christianity was really taking a foothold in England, and the story of her fiercely-protected virginity made her an ideal icon for spreading the message of the new church. According to Bede, her body remained uncorrupted after death, a sure sign she had not been defiled. In Signs of devotion : the cult of St. Aethelthryth in medieval England, 695-1615, the long-standing popularity of Æthelthryth is explored from its origins in the seventh century through to the early modern period. The story of the Northumbrian queen preserving her chastity as a sign of her devotion to God, fleeing from her second husband Ecgfrith when he tried to rape her and travelling back to her homeland to found the monastery at Ely in 679 obviously struck a deep chord in the medieval psyche, and her royal lineage propelled her to cult status. She also had a sister who succeeded her as abbess at Ely, and The Kentish Queen as Omnium Mater : Goscelin of Saint-Bertin’s Lections and the Emergence of the Cult of Saint Seaxburh explores the importance of themes such as maternity and sanctity in medieval hagiography.

 

Ely Cathedral

Ely Cathedral

 

Æthelthryth’s life has been well-documented in medieval sources such as Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica, Ælfric’s Lives of Saints and Goscelin’s Lives of Female Saints, and her elevated status is also apparent in the tenth-century manuscript, London, British Library, Add MS 49598. The manuscript contains the Benedictional of St Æthelwold, written in a beautiful caroline minuscule and sumptuously decorated with gold initials. The article The Structure of English Pre-Conquest Benedictionals discusses the possibility that Æthelwold himself wrote the blessing for the feast of Æthelthryth. As Æthelwold was a pioneer of the tenth-century monastic reform, it is easy to see how the promotion of the cult of Æthelthryth would have suited his agenda. Ely had been destroyed by Viking raids and was refounded in 970 by Edgar and Æthelwold as part of their rebuilding programme.

 

Benedictional for Æthelthryth

Benedictional for Æthelthryth, from The Benedictional of St Æthelwold, London, British Library, Add MS 49598

 

The writing on the leaf pictured above (fol. 90r, using the Latinised version of her name yet retaining the Anglo-Saxon letter forms), highlights her sanctity, declaring the blessing for the feast day of saint Æthelthryth the perpetual virgin: Benedictio in natale s[an]c[t]e Aethelðryþae perpetue virg[inis].

Æthelthryth died from a tumour on her neck (probably plague), which she interpreted as a punishment for her former love of fine dresses and jewels, and Anglo-Saxon Woman : Fame, Anonymity, Identity and Clothing and The Adornment of Virgins : Æthelthryth and Her Necklaces explore the theme further. Unlike the miracles of St Brigid, Æthelthryth does not seem to have performed anything remarkable during her lifetime (apart from evading Ecgfrith and choosing a site for the monastery), but saved her powers for use posthumously. The Liber Eliensis (book of Ely), written some 500 years after her death, embellishes the miracles recorded by Bede, and The Changing Hagiography of St. Æthelthryth discusses her healing abilities, apparently curing people’s eye-diseases when they touched her coffin. She also inflicted death on those who disturbed her tomb, including a Viking, and a group of priests sceptical about her uncorrupted body. Sixteen years after her death, Seaxburh wanted her body interred inside the cathedral, and miraculously chanced up a white marble sarcophagus for the purpose, which happened to be an exact fit for Æthelthryth’s corpse. The symbolism of her virgin body and connection to Ely is explored in Ely’s St. Æthelthryth : The shrine’s enclosure of the female body as symbol for the inviolability of Monastic space.

Shrine and relics of Æthelthryth. Image from Wikipedia

Shrine and relics of Æthelthryth. Image from Wikipedia

Æthelthryth’s popularity has continued to the present day. She is often depicted with a crown of flowers or a book, and is the patron saint of throat ailments. Her church in Holborn, known as St Etheldreda’s church, is the oldest Roman Catholic church still surviving in England, and she continues to be worshipped in her hometown of Ely at St Etheldreda’s church, where her shrine and relics are contained. Lace and silk necklaces are associated with her cult, and were sold on her feast day in Ely at St Audrey’s Fair. The work ‘tawdry’ derives from this, referring to the inferior quality of these tokens.

To explore the cult of Æthelthryth further, please visit the Bibliography of British and Irish History:

Screenshot for advanced search for 'Æthelthryth'

Figure 1. Screenshot for advanced search for ‘Æthelthryth’

 

Screenshot for search results for 'Æthelthryth'

Figure 2. Screenshot for search results for ‘Æthelthryth’

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Bibliography of British and Irish History updated (June 2016)

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An update to the Bibliography of British and Irish History was published on 9 June 2016. There are 3,762 new records, some 486 new records relate to Irish history while 147 deal with the history of London, 237 with the history of Scotland and 112 with the history of Wales. The overall total of records available online is now 574,494.

We usually list the number of new records for each update and we thought it would be interesting to plot the number of publications over the course of the history of the Bibliography (1909-present). This is the resultant graph. Note the small dip for the First World War and the more significant dip during the Second World War. There is a post-war peak and then the seemingly inexorable rise in publishing.

BBIH graph 2016

Click on the graph for a more detailed view.

The data was compiled by simply searching on the Advanced Search and the Year of publication field.

We expect the next update to be released in October 2016.

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John Dee, Tudor Polymath

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M0010334 Portrait of John Dee Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org Portrait of John Dee Stipple Engraving Published:  -  Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Portrait of John Dee
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images

To complement the popular exhibition of Scholar, courtier, magician: the lost library of John Dee at the Royal College of Physicians, it seems an opportune moment to showcase the resources listed in the BBIH. John Dee was a man of many interests, and his expertise in subjects such as navigation, astronomy and mathematics is demonstrated in the wide variety of resources available.

Dee’s early interest in mathematics is established in the article On the Origins of Dee’s Mathematical Programme: The John Dee–Pedro Nunes Connection, which explores the connections between Dee and Pedro Nunes, a Portuguese cosmographer and mathematician. Although little is known of their relationship, Nunes had a great influence on Dee, who become interested in his work in the early 1550s, and may have inspired Dee to pursue his interest in the nautical sciences of navigation and cartography.

Monas hieroglyphica Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images

Monas hieroglyphica
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images

Dee is renowned for his spiritual interests and they had clearly developed by 1564, when he published a work titled Monas hieroglyphica, a treatise on a glyph he invented made up of esoteric and astrological symbols, incorporating the sun, moon, Aries and the cross. This work is widely regarded as perplexing and obscure, yet The Reception of John Dee’s Monas Hieroglyphica in Early Modern Italy: The Case of Paolo Antonio Foscarini (c. 1562-1616) demonstrates the influence that Dee’s work had on Italian scholars in 1592. Foscarini’s Scientiarum et artium omnium ferme anacephalaeosis theoretica is a booklet comprising 344 theses, some heavily drawn from the Monas hieroglyphica and placing extreme importance on Dee’s monad, citing it as a symbol of the ‘word of God’, although he does not elaborate on the extensive allusions to alchemy present in the original work.

However, the following chapter in Supernatural and Secular Power in Early Modern England titled John Dee, Alchemy and Authority in Elizabethan England provides an in-depth account of the alchemic interests of prominent Tudors, including William Cecil, Thomas Smith and even Elizabeth I. The machinations of courtly life are outlined, with Dee’s fall from grace after the reception of the Monas hieroglyphica; as a Catholic priest he was a prime target for the evangelic Protestants who surrounded Elizabeth and they orchestrated rumours that Dee consorted with the Devil. Elizabeth’s interest in alchemy inhibited Protestant reformers such as John Whitgift and Christopher Hatton from outright denunciation, but they certainly discredited Dee by using whispering campaigns to sabotage his royal patronage.

John Dee performing an experiment before Queen Elizabeth I. Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org

John Dee performing an experiment before Queen Elizabeth I
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images

Fortunately, Dee was a man of many talents and in Cartography as a Tool of Colonization:Sir Humphrey Gilbert’s 1583 Voyage to North America, he plays an important role in the burgeoning discipline of cartography during Elizabeth’s reign. Maps began to move from objects of symbolism to objects of function, providing important visual details to guide colonists’ ships across to North America. Dee created two nautical charts for the expedition in the early 1580s, drawing on the wide resources he had amassed in his personal library, and from gathering information from European travellers, and even pirates. It is clear from this article that Dee strongly supported the idea of colonization, as he listed over twelve British claims to the territory of North America on the back of the map, ranging from King Arthur to Frobisher’s recent voyage in 1577. The political intentions of the maps are clear, ‘fantasy’ islands were omitted and meticulous detail paid to the coastline, yet the interior of North America is left blank, to signify to Elizabeth the potential for colonization. The academic merit of Dee is certainly something to be admired; he produced these resources purely from his own research, as he was not a seaman, and never travelled to the Americas. Interestingly, Dee signed one of these charts with his personal glyph mentioned above.

Münster's map of America 1561

Münster’s map of America 1561 (Image from Wikipedia)

 

Magic in the Cloister: Pious Motives, Illicit Interests, and Occult Approaches to the Medieval Universe is a fascinating account of magical texts that were owned by the monks at St Augustine’s of Canterbury during the thirteenth and fourteenth century, that came into Dee’s possession after its dissolution. It explores the use of these manuscripts, and the monks attitudes towards them; they were not hidden away as dangerous objects, but shelved in the main collection of the library. The monks had a positive attitude towards magic, combining it with other intellectual interests, although perhaps the somewhat sheltered environment of monastic life allowed a more liberal approach to these texts. It is apparent from Dee’s annotations in the margins that he made use of these texts after he acquired them, and even practiced some of the rituals to seek spiritual advancement, although it is emphasized that he did this for philosophical reasons. For a more thorough review, see Reviews in History.

The final article John Dee’s Ideas and Plans for a National Research Institute provides another aspect to Dee’s life. Concerning his desire to established academic institutions at his home in Mortlake and St Cross, the plans are analyzed and explore Dee’s ideas on shaping the social and intellectual role of natural philosophers. The article surmises that Dee’s plans differed from other projects of the time, and compares his proposal to Francis Bacon’s.

The exhibition Scholar, courtier, magician: the lost library of John Dee portrays Dee as a man of many talents, with a wide-ranging intellect and interests in many fields. From examining the recent resources featured in the Bibliography, John Dee’s far-reaching accomplishments are represented and provide yet more fascinating aspects to a much misunderstood man. Visit the Bibliography of British and Irish History to explore more:

Advanced search screen shot for John Dee

Figure 1: Advanced search screen shot for John Dee

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Figure 2: Screen shot of resources for John Dee

For a review of the exhibition, see Reviews in History 1925

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Changing perceptions of motherhood: maternal concepts and realities

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As spring is traditionally the season associated with new life and fertility after the long winter months, now seems a timely moment to explore the latest academic publications on the subject of Motherhood featured in the Bibliography of British and Irish History. The vast majority of material produced recently on this topic covers the Tudor and early modern period, but the first resource presented here, Performative Rituals for Conception and Childbirth in England, 900–1500 concerns the medieval period.

Birth and death took central stage in medieval life and thought, and the practice of rituals for conception and safe pregnancy highlight a maternal (and paternal) concern that is easily understood today. The rituals range from verbal charms and religious benedictions (a popular charm was the peperit charm, that invoked the Holy Mothers of Mary and Elizabeth), to ingesting words written in cheese or butter, or placing physical objects upon the body. There is evidence that manuscripts were used as ‘birthing girdles’, wrapped around a woman’s midriff during pregnancy and possibly even labour, as can be seen in the manuscript Wellcome MS. 632. Most of these practices were largely in the female domain, but the article also includes medical charms advised by medieval surgeons and mendicant friars. The rituals highlight a medieval belief in the power of the spoken word, through incantations and charms; and the written word, through the haptic relationship between manuscripts and the body.

Moving away from the medieval period, there are two resources covering Tudor queens: Regarding Catherine of Aragon and Unanswered Prayers : A Cistercian Missal At York Minster Library. The first examines the life of Catherine, a women with a complex cultural heritage whose legacy as queen of England has rarely been scrutinised, yet strongly influenced the reign of both Mary and Elizabeth. The relationships between her mother, Isabella I of Spain, mother-in-law Elizabeth of York, and great mother-in-law Margaret Beaufort are also discussed, in terms of how their roles as ‘queen-as-mother’ impacted on Catherine’s public and private persona. The second resource discusses a manuscript containing handwritten Latin prayers for the safe pregnancy of Mary I, divided into three sections, oratio, secreta and postcommunio. The prayers were almost certainly disseminated from a printed book now held at Lambeth Palace Library. This dates the prayers from late 1554, when Mary was assumed to be pregnant with Philip of Spain’s child, and stands as a sad reminder of Mary’s (and catholic England’s) anticipation of a child that never came.  

A special issue of Women’s History Review features an article titled Social Negotiations in Correspondence between Mothers and Daughters in Tudor and Early Stuart England, examining mother-daughter relationships within the strict social confines of epistolary etiquette. These letters offer an intriguing glimpse into the social realities of the sixteenth and seventeenth century, with many offering maternal advice on specific situations regarding childbirth, marriage and inheritance. Interestingly, more letters from daughters than mothers survive, which may indicate that a mother’s advice is always much sought after! However, this article demonstrates that letters could also convey anger, and daughters could make their opinions perfectly clear, managing to defend their honour whilst still portraying the appropriate respect, through the templates provided in letter-writing manuals. The same journal issue also features From ‘Dearest Mama’ to ‘Dear Mother’ : changing styles in early twentieth-century letters from daughters to mothers, examining how letter writing changed in one generation, by looking at the correspondence between two members of the Strachey family, Philippa Strachey and her niece Elinor Rendel, written home to their mothers whilst travelling. Both articles reflect the social etiquette of their time, whilst underlining the importance of the mother-daughter bond.   

As migration to America increased during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the article From Birthing Chamber to Court Room: The Medical and Legal Communities of the Colonial Essex County Midwife draws attention to the issue of children born out of wedlock. Debunking the view that early modern midwives were regarded with suspicion and open to accusations of witchcraft, evidence from court records show that they held a respected position in the community. When attending the birth of an unmarried woman, it was their duty to repeatedly pressure the labouring woman to reveal the name of the father of the child. If successful, the midwife would then provide evidence in court against the accused father, with the authority of her statement seemingly being revered above all else. The calling to account of these men seems to stem from a worry that an economically fragile community would have to support these children born out of wedlock, rather than a sense of morality; although harsh punishments were meted out to both mother and father, in the form of fines or whippings. To bookend this article, Maternal Mortality in Six East Anglian Parishes, 1539-1619 examines the outcomes of a cross-section of women who gave birth in Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk and subsequently died, focussing on their community and social status, as well as the implications of multiple births, stillbirths and illegitimacy. Again, the role of midwives as respected and vital members of the community is highlighted, and the unwillingness of a parish to support an illegitimate child chimes with the previous article.

Nativity of the Virgin, London, British Library, Harley 629, f. 1v

Nativity of the Virgin, London, British Library, Harley 629, f. 1v

On a more spiritual theme, Literal and Spiritual Births : Mary as Mother in Seventeenth-Century Women’s Writing discusses how two Reformation women, Aemilia Lanyer and Dorothy Leigh, elevated Mary as not only the mother of God, but the deliverer of God’s plan for salvation, and therefore created a new metaphysical construction for maternity. A chapter in British Women and the Intellectual World in the Long Eighteenth Century titled Anxiety, Authorship, Authority : the Maternal Feminine and the Divine in Hannah More’s Sacred Dramas again challenges the notion of the feminine, albeit at times as an outright rejection of the maternal image. Hannah More, an eighteenth century writer and philanthropist, wrote her Sacred Dramas in 1782, and they can be interpreted as a revisioning of women in an era of patriarchal tradition. The dramatically titled Next week!! — : Desire, Domestic Melodrama, and the Extravagant Proliferations of East Lynne examines the Victorian novel East Lynne by Ellen Wood, and discusses the didactic message in the narrative that nineteenth-century wives and mothers should be satisfied with their domestic situation, however dull and stifling that may be.

"Invitation to attend antenatal classes" Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org

“Invitation to attend antenatal classes”
Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

Returning to more practical themes, Risky or Relaxing? Exercise during Pregnancy in Britain, c.1930–1960 investigates how physical activity gained popularity in the mid-twentieth century, and helped to overthrow the previous generation’s idea that pregnant women should be passive in their antenatal months. Love Beyond the Frame : Stories of Maternal Love Outside Marriage in the 1950s and 1960s gives an account of twenty women who raised children single-handed in the postwar decades, focusing on real issues such as housing and employment. The women who provided the oral testimonies were predominantly working class, and reflect the material hardships of the era, despite changing social values.

From the broad spectrum of resources above, the term ‘Motherhood’ embraces the themes of fertility, queenship, spirituality and economic realities. Search on the Bibliography of British and Irish History to discover more – try a simple subject search for ‘Motherhood’ (fig. 1), or use the subject tree on the advanced search to really drill down (fig. 2):

Screen shot of simple search for 'Motherhood'

Fig. 1. Screen shot of simple search for ‘Motherhood’

Screen shot of subject tree for advanced search

Fig. 2. Screen shot of subject tree for advanced search

Screen shot of latest resources for 'Motherhood'

Fig. 3. Screen shot of latest resources for ‘Motherhood’

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There is also a helpful video tutorial on using the Subject tree.

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