The feast day of St Brigid is celebrated on the 1st February, and in honour of this, we have delved into our resources to give a taste of the material available on the Bibliography of British and Irish History.
St Brigid of Kildare is one of the main patron saints of Ireland, along with St Patrick and St Columbus. Brigid was born into slavery in the mid-5th century but became a nun and abbess, founding several monasteries. Her vitae was written by Cogitosus in the 7th century, and is translated in Cogitosus’s Life of St Brigid : content and value. As our range of resources show, the myth of Brigid has associations with an earlier pagan deity of the same name, explored in Brigid : goddess, druidess and saintand Brigit : from goddess to saint. Brigid was also strongly connected with the symbol of fire, as Gerald of Wales recounts in his Topographia Hibernica how the sacred fire of St Brigid burned continually around the monastery at Kildare even after her death, yet never accumulated any ashes. It was tended by the nuns of Kildare for nineteen nights in turn, and on the twentieth night left for Brigid to tend herself. According to Gerald, the scriptorium at Kildare produced an illuminated manuscript so sumptuous it was thought to be the work of angels. Unfortunately this manuscript is now lost, but it would probably have been of a similar quality to the Book of Kells.
The image on the right is from London, British Library, Royal MS 13 B VIII, and shows the scribe creating the heavenly manuscript. This copy of the Topographia Hibernica was produced in Lincoln in c. 1196-1208, and most probably was overseen by Gerald himself. The image shows the tools of a scribe, a feather quill (probably goose), and a knife. The knife was used to sharpen the quill and also to correct mistakes, by scraping the ink off the parchment. In this image, it also seems to be used to hold the quill-hand steady and secure the parchment. According to Gerald, the book was composed with the angel presenting the designs, while Brigid prayed, and the scribe copied – ‘sic igitur angelo praesentante, brigida orante, scriptore imitante.’ (fol. 22v).
In previous posts I have alluded to the range of material gathered for BBIH, a range that sometimes creates a sense of déjà vu with similar or complementary articles. The following are recent examples.
I start with three articles all about clerks and shop workers; two of which feature H. G. Wells, himself once a draper’s assistant. Nicholas Bishop uses the works of Wells, Arnold Bennett and Shan Bullock to discuss “clerical literature” in Ruralism, Masculinity, and National Identity: The Rambling Clerk in Fiction, 1900–1940. This article argues that urban-dwelling clerks were pioneers in developing an interest in getting “back to the land” and the rural “idyll.”
Deborah Wynne continues the draper’s assistant theme, and the use of Wells, with The ‘Despised Trade’ in Textiles: H. G. Wells, William Paine, Charles Cavers and the Male Draper’s Life, 1870–1914 which examines the situation of the male draper in terms of his relationships to textiles and the female customers. Using the aforementioned accounts, the ridicule levelled against men is highlighted. The accounts used are, H. G. Wells’s discussion of his years as a draper’s apprentice in his Experiment in Autobiography (1934); William Paine’s emotionally charged title Shop Slavery and Emancipation (1912); and the diary of a Bond Street draper, Charles Cavers, posthumously published, and wonderfully entitled, Hades! The Ladies! Being Extracts from the Diary of a Draper (1933). Cavers, a draper’s assistant from the 1870s and then a successful owner of a Bond Street emporium, paints a more positive picture than Wells or Paine, although he used the exclamation ‘Hades! The ladies!’ when his wealthy female customers were being difficult to please.
And speaking of “ladies”…. although these first two articles refer to male workers and focus on masculinity, Ella Ophir presents the journal of Evelyn Wilson, an impoverished employment registry clerk in London. Wilson kept her diary for over 20 years and, after her death, it was published in 1935 under the melancholy title of The Note Books of a Woman Alone. The article The Diary and the Commonplace Book: Self-Inscription in The Note Books of a Woman Aloneuses the diary extensively.
Continuing the police theme, David Taylor in his Cass, Coverdale and consent the Metropolitan Police and working-class women in late-Victorian London focusses on the treatment of two working-class women by the Metropolitan Police in 1887. Elizabeth Cass was arrested for soliciting in Regent’s Street while Annie Coverdale was arrested for being drunk and disorderly. Both were working class: Cass a dressmaker in Holborn and Coverdale a domestic servant in Canning Town. The two arresting constables were dishonest in their evidence but both remained policemen despite newspaper agitation and parliamentary condemnation. As Taylor points out the mistreatment of these two women was not unique at the time.
Two articles on the Foundling Hospital established by Thomas Coram examine the use of tokens at the orphanage. The tokens ranged from bits of cloth to coins and jewellery, as well as actual copper or pewter tokens detailing the name and admission of the child. In Gillian Clark and Janette Bright’s article The Foundling Hospital and its Token System the authors look at the array of objects used as tokens in case the family wished to reclaim their abandoned child. while Maria Zytaruk in her article, Artifacts of Elegy: The Foundling Hospital Tokens, explores similar territory, and makes the depressing point that the token could also be used to guard against a charge of infanticide.
The Foundling Hospital (Wellcome Library http://wellcomeimages.org/indexplus/image/V0013443.html)
The Foundling Hospital is well served by the Bibliography, there are nearly 60 references ranging from histories of the hospital to Handel’s connection to the charity, as well as an autobiography of a foundling – The Last Foundling : The Memoir of an Underdog (see listing below).
I usually get my ideas for posts about BBIH and its contents from external sources and recently received two such prompts. The Guardian ran an article on the teaching of black history where the questions, Did black immigrants come through Ellis Island? Were there black cowboys? Where did the free black men in New Amsterdam live? were asked and the author felt that black history (in an American context) was confined to slavery, the American Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement. This article was followed by another, from a British perspective which argued for a different approach to black history.
Quite by chance a number of articles and books came to my attention, hopefully offering examples of these different approaches.
While not covering black cowboys, and certainly straying into slavery territory, the biography, The Road to Black Ned’s Forge: A Story of Race, Sex, and Trade on the Colonial American Frontier, introduces Ned Tarr, a blacksmith and landowner in Virginia. Tarr purchased his freedom and moved to Virginia setting up a blacksmith business and became the first black landowner west of the Blue Ridge. He married a Scottish woman, an interracial relationship that seems to have been accepted by his neighbours, and went on to found a Presbyterian congregation. However his late master’s son attempted to re-enslave him and Tarr had to defend his freedom in court.
Moving to the middle of the eighteenth century, a shift in the artistic representation of black people became perceptible in England: a theme explored in Bridging the Gap between Self and Other? Pictorial Representation of Blacks in England. The examples used are, Thomas Gainsborough’s portrait of Ignatius Sancho (1768), Joseph Wright of Derby’s Two Girls with a Black Servant or A Conversation of Girls (1769), Sir Joshua Reynolds’s Omai (1776), and John Singleton Copley’s Watson and the Shark (1778). Gainsborough’s portrait of Ignatius Sancho shows a gentleman as well as a man of feeling, while Wright of Derby’s Two Girls with a Black Servant hints at a possible equality between the children.
While demonstrating Connected Histories to some students I happened upon the Old Bailey online entry for JOHN MARTIN “(a negro) was indicted for stealing two cloth coats…” and other clothes from “…the property of John Turnbull, in his dwelling-house, May the 18th .” 
What intrigued me was his punishment – “Transported for 7 Years to the Coast of Africa, 1. John Martin”, while others, presumably white criminals, were “-Transported for 7 years to America, 6. John Burgess, Joseph Barnsley, Ann Thomas, Thomas Winton , John White , and William Bradbury”. The intrigue is that Martin was sent to Africa and the others to America, itself in the throes of the War of Independence. How I wonder did Martin fare in Africa, a continent he may never have seen, and what would his life have been if he had been sent to the American Colonies, soon to be the USA – would he have escaped and been free or enslaved?
Taking us up to the present are a number of books and an article. “Black Migrants, White Queers and the Archive of Inclusion in Postwar London” examines the historical concurrence of West Indian migration to Britain and the increase in discourses around British homosexuality in the 1950s and 60s, using, amongst other sources, an oral history by a gay Jamaican dancer who migrated to London in 1948.
Much of our cultural heritage owes a large debt of thanks to private collectors of manuscripts, incunabula and printed material; to those individuals who were interested in the accumulation of knowledge and the preservation of our literary history, and who saw fit to pass on their acquisitions for the foundation of libraries. One of the most well-known book collectors is Robert Cotton (1571-1631), whose vast collection of manuscripts include the Lindisfarne Gospels, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Beowulf and Bede’s Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, which now form a vital core of the British Library collection and are listed in the Catalogue of the manuscripts in the Cottonian Library. Although his habit of disbanding precious manuscripts and rebinding them as he saw fit may seem an act of vandalism to us today, there is no doubt that without his legacy our book history would be far less impressive (even if the odd fire did somewhat deplete stock!).
Another famous private collector of the early modern period was Thomas Bodley (1545-1613). In the collected volume Books and and Collectors 1200-1700we can learn more about the process of acquiring precious books in the chapter Sir ThomasBodley‘s library and its acquisitions : an edition of the Nottingham benefaction of 1604, with letters from Bodley to his librarian providing clear evidence of his desperation to gain possession of new stock. Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury (1559-75) was also a voracious collector of manuscripts, and MatthewParker‘s manuscripts : an Elizabethan library and its usegives a fascinating account of how he developed and interacted with his private collection.
However, while it is undeniable that the libraries of Cotton, Bodley and Archbishop Parker are invaluable, they all derive from the elite classes, born into privileged positions with disposable incomes that allowed them to amass vast collections in huge private houses. But what of those from more humbler origins? In Common Libraries in Fifteenth-Century England: An Episcopal Benediction, we learn of the earliest book collections being made freely available to the wider public. The very first civic library was Guildhall Library in London and was founded between 1423-1425, largely due to capital from the estate of Richard Whittington, (who, as we remember from childhood stories was four-times Lord Mayor of London), and was founded partly from the private collection of John Carpenter. There were also accessible libraries founded at Worcester, Bristol and possibly Norwich during the fifteenth-century. However, these libraries were all developed with a strong ecclesiastical bent, designed to inform and reform, and often run by members of the clergy. While these book collections were freely available for everyone, it is likely that it would only be the more educated citizens that made use of them, and even then the texts were carefully selected by religious authorities.
So what did ordinary people read? Was book ownership something strictly reserved for the wealthy classes and the ecclesiastical community in early modern times, or were the common people encouraged to foster reading habits? In the medieval period, manuscripts were laboriously made from parchment and painstakingly handwritten, which could take months to complete, and therefore were unlikely to be found in ordinary homes. Yet even after the birth of the printing press in the mid-15th century, books continued to be a valuable commodity, although as we can see in the article“Ovid with a Littleton” : the cost of English books in the early seventeenth century,the real cost of printed material is a complicated business, and even by the 1630s, only a handful of people owned more than a hundred books. (Although, despite literacy levels being an area difficult to judge, it is clear from A historyofBritishpublishingthat reading standards improved dramatically in this period, largely due to the growth of the book trade.)
However, we get a tantalising glimpse into how ordinary people assimilated books into their everyday lives in a fascinating article called Libraries of the “common sort”. Despite a woeful inadequacy in evidence, largely due to the ephemeral nature of cheaply printed items, through probate records we learn of certain individuals who clearly spent part of their limited income on the collection of books. Most pleasing is the forest labourer William Bane, who died in 1614, leaving in his single room his tools, a few items of furniture, writing implements and a small library of books worth 10s. Unfortunately we do not know the titles of the books, but we also learn of John Tayer, a shoemaker, whose account book from 1627 list a wide variety of titles in his ownership, including travel books, almanacs and tomes on spirituality. Accounts such as these provide a vital window into the reading habits of everyday people, who may be too often dismissed as illiterate labourers. Book ownership revealed in Norfolk probate inventoriesprovides further evidence of book ownership across the classes, with more information on the types of books held and, interestingly, where they were kept in the house.
Another area less documented is that of women’s private collections. The Library of Mrs Elizabeth Vesey 1715-91, the woman who part-founded the Bluestocking movement, provides a comprehensive list of the tracts that were integral to herself and her circle. ‘I can’t resist sending you the book’: Private Libraries, Elite Women, and Shared Reading Practices in Georgian Britainis about the library of Elizabeth Rose and her female friends, who actively sought out copies of books and formed an informal network of lending from their private libraries. Through the enthusiasm of these female readers, new ideas on female education and child rearing were able to disseminate to a wider audience. It also highlights how loaning from private libraries could strengthen relations between the privileged and less privileged.
Which brings me neatly onto the next resource,Servants’ reading : an examination of the Servants’ Library at Cragside,a rare example of a nineteenth-century library provided in a country home for the use of the servants. The surviving collection is made up of an eclectic mix of novels, periodicals and non-fiction; some, such as Charles Loudon Bloxham’s ‘Laboratory teaching, or, progressive exercises in practical chemistry’, suggesting that the servants library may have been a receptacle for books not required anywhere else. Although the library indicates no particular learning towards self-improvement, the fact that it exists at all is heartening, and though rare, was not unique. Further research on book ownership in the nineteenth-century is presented in Beyond Bibliophilia: Contextualizing Private Libraries in the Nineteenth Century, a recently published article exploring the complex relationship that develops between owners and their books.
From the resources mentioned, it seems that whether rich or poor, private collections of books have been an important part of people’s lives since the late medieval times, and although the generous legacies of wealthy gentlemen are more relevant than ever to our libraries, it is the image of the humble labourer William Bain, sitting in his sparsely furnished room and reading by candlelight after a hard day’s work, that is all the more pleasing.
As usual, all relevant material can be found in the Bibliography of British and Irish History. To find our most up-to-date resources on the subject, use the index term ‘Private libraries’ to explore further:
An update to the Bibliography of British and Irish History was published on 26 October. 3,868 new records have been added. Some 326 new records relate to Irish history while 174 deal with the history of London, 312 with the history of Scotland and 186 with the history of Wales. Titles on Welsh history include, for example, Welsh soldiers in the later Middle Ages, 1282-1422 by Adam Chapman and an article on Lloyd George’s diary for 1887 in the Transactions of the Caernarvonshire Historical Society. The overall total of records available online is 565,806.
We would like to thank people who have used the Feedback link on BBIH to provide us with additional information or new material. We are very grateful to our users for keeping us alert!
We expect the next update to be released in February 2016.
Bulldog soldiers’ and sailor’s club (from Wikipedia)
Naturally the anniversary of the start of the war to end all wars has created a plethora of special issues on the subject. What I have found engaging about these is the coverage of the not so obvious material. A prime example is Comparative Legal History, and its issue entitled The Great War and Private Law, which examines changes that occurred in law as a result of the legal and contractual demands necessitated by the conflict. Articles includes, ‘English Contract Law and the Great War: The Development of a Doctrine of Frustration’, and ‘The Great War and Dutch Contract Law: Resistance, Responsiveness and Neutrality’. The legal effects on Austria, Germany and Italy are also examined.
Another not so noticeable effect was in accounting, a subject discussed in Accounting History Review’s issue Accounting and the First World War. Changes in company and government accounting practices are discussed, as well as an increase in taxation on profits in Britain as the war economy developed. The impact of the Great War on the Blackpool Tower Company, in particular on profits and taxation, is also covered. Most intriguing are the accounting changes at the St. James’s Gate Brewery of Arthur Guinness, specifically revealing how additional war risk costs were accounted for internally.
Interestingly the British empire is well represented. The Canadian Historical Review and its issue Canada and the Great War: 100 years on, encompasses the historiography, commemoration and the effects on women and children. Another Canadian journal, Histoire Social/Social history (issue Canada’s First World War, 19140-2014 ) has sections on “Coping with Conflict” which includes the consequences on Canadian society at home and in the trenches; “Beyond Colony and Nation” looks at the USA-Canada border, and the influence of the war on race and gender are also examined.
YMCA Canadian Beaver Hut in London (from Wikipedia)
Naturally The Round Table has a special imperial issue entitled, The First World War and the Empire-Commonwealth. It too has an article on Cyprus’s non-military contribution to the war effort, while also examining Dominion soldiers’ cartoon satire in the trenches, the repatriation of Indian prisoners of war, and the emotional responses to the war by West Indian soldiers.
Imperialism and sport are combined in Anzac Centennial – Sport, War and Society in Australia and New Zealand, issued by The International Journal of the History of Sport. The poignant article, ‘Australasia’s 1912 Olympians and the Great War’, charts the stories of the Olympians who volunteered, four of whom did not return. Other areas covered are the rise of women’s football, and the role of sport for Australian prisoners of war in Turkey.
Moving from the imperial angle to the local angle, Midland History in its issue, The Midlands and the Great War covers the outbreak of war in the provincial press. Other articles include, ‘Patriotism in Nottinghamshire: Challenging the Unconvinced, 1914–1917′, ‘Burslem and Its Roll of Honour 1914–1918′, and ‘The Midlands’ First Blitz’.
Shifting to the cultural impact of the Great War, New Perspectives on the Cultural History of Britain and the Great War, from 20th Century British History covers the role of Irish and Indian soldiers and their self sacrifice, and the letters of the Sepoys and details of their emotions. The distribution of gas masks to civilians and the relationship between the understanding of the gas mask and British culture in general is also discussed.
An unlikely contender in the rundown of special issues includes the journal Shakespeare and its issue Shakespeare and the Great War. The debate surrounding the “cultural mobilization” of Shakespeare is explored, ranging from the reading by soldiers, the reception of the dramatist, the tercentary celebrations, and the “Shakespeare hut” set up in Bloomsbury for the entertainment of New Zealand soldiers.
An equally unlikely contender, and perhaps the most moving issue, given what was to happen twenty years later, is Rabbis and the Great War from European Judaism. The support, comfort and opposition to the war by various Rabbis in various countries is investigated. Sermons about the war by British Rabbi Morris Joseph at his west London Synagogue show his dismay at the war and his attempts not to glorify it.
The after effects of the end of hostilities on service personnel are studied in Journal of Contemporary History’s – The Limits of Demobilization: Global Perspectives on the Aftermath of the Great War. The demobilization of around 65 million was bound to create problems for all nations engaged in the struggle and how society dealt with these problems, their effects on national politics, and the “brutalization” factor are discussed with reference to Russia, central Europe, the USA and white settler colonies.
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.
My previous post on the range of history material being published opened with the early modern view of masculinity and men crying. Go back a couple of hundred years and it seems men were allowed to cry, and at least if you were a bishop, the act was deemed appropriate, usually in a religious sense, and of course if the crying was not seen as too ostentatious. As observed in Episcopal emotions: tears in the life of the medieval bishop, by Katherine Harvey, the significance of weeping in the life of the late medieval English bishop was key to perceptions of his masculinity, his sexuality as well as his physical body. Furthermore, the act had significant implications for his reputation both as a cleric and as a potential saint.
Returning to the weeping theme, Stephen Spencer, in The emotional rhetoric of crusader spirituality in the narratives of the First Crusade, analyses representations of fear and weeping in the Latin narratives and argues that emotional displays functioned as markers of crusader spirituality (rather like the weeping bishops above). He then explores depictions of weeping as an expression of piety, focusing specifically on tears shed over Jerusalem.
If you are interested in further tear duct activity, I’d recommend Crying in the middle ages: tears of history, which looks at the role of tears in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic cultural discourses covering the arts, preaching, literature (including Piers Plowman), and in the emotion of pilgrimage.
On a completely different theme, I was intrigued by two war-related articles. The first discusses Quaker peace activities prior to the World War I – “Edwardian peace testimony: British Quakers against militarism and conscription c. 1902-1914″, in Journal of the Friends Historical Society, 2010, vol. 61:1 p. 49-66. The second, Human Computing Practices and Patronage: Antiaircraft Ballistics and Tidal Calculations in First World War Britain, outlines the importance of mathematics and the work of Arthur Thomas Doodson, an intriguing scientific aspect of the conflict. As one can imagine a great deal has been written on the Great War largely in special issues of journals, indeed so much has been written I plan a blog covering those issues.
Over 500 of the new records cover books and articles relating to Irish history and the database now contains nearly 84,000 Irish history records overall. We are pleased to welcome a new section editor to our editorial team, Dr Colin Reid, Senior Lecturer in History at Northumbria University, who will be dealing with Irish history since 1801. He succeeds Dr Marie Coleman, for whose expert help over the last few years we are very grateful.