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Historical Research


International Women’s Day

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Historical Research celebrates International Women’s Day with free access to the following articles on women’s health:

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Female barrenness, bodily access and aromatic treatments in seventeenth-century England by Jennifer Evans

Across the seventeenth century medical self-help manuals noted that aromatic substances were a suitable remedy for female barrenness. It has often been suggested that in the early modern period physicians did not touch their patients but instead relied upon patient narrative to diagnose and treat the sick body. This article problematizes this issue by investigating the multi-sensory approach to treating infertility, a disorder invested with concerns of gendered bodily access. It will be demonstrated that the recommendation of aromatic treatments for infertility allowed male physicians a means to negotiate the complex gender boundaries that restricted their access to women’s bodies

This article examines associations between fat bodies and reproductive dysfunction that were prevalent in medical, midwifery and other literature in early modern England. In a period when fertility and successful reproduction were regarded as hugely important for social, economic and political stability such associations further contributed to negative attitudes towards fat bodies that were fuelled by connection with the vices of sloth and gluttony. Fat bodies were categorized as inherently, constitutionally, less sexual and reproductively successful. Consequently they were perceived as unhealthy and unfit for their primary purpose once they had reached sexual maturity: marriage and the production of children.

Medicalizing the female reproductive cycle in rural Ireland, 1926–56 by Ciara Breathnach

This article highlights the parameters of a lifecycles project that was funded by the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences, entitled ‘From the cradle to the grave: lifecycles in modern Ireland (pilot study: maternity)’. The project used individual hospital records to bring the regional effects of ‘medicalization’ outside metropolitan areas into a sharper focus. With an emphasis on rural Ireland from 1926 to 1956, this ‘pilot’ study used longitudinal data modelling to explore the medicalization of the female reproductive cycle in a general hospital and again in a psychiatric hospital setting. The project team chose disparate clinical settings to test how people understood their functions, to see, for example, if medical cases were presenting to the psychiatric setting. This article describes the digitization and data modelling processes and the parameters of the research agenda. It locates the broader medical and statistical findings of the project in their socio-economic context to highlight whether such matters conditioned when and how women resorted to medical care. It discusses the analytical challenges that the project posed and points to avenues of further research and future publications. It concludes that for historical reasons, in the rural Irish context, people engaged more freely with the asylum than the general hospital setting.

 

Our authors are also blogging on our publisher’s Gender Equality Blog

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New Historical Research articles

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INF3-219_Salvage_Up_Housewives_and_at_em_-_put_out_your_paper,_metal,_bones_Artist_Yates-Wilson

This article builds upon recent scholarship on the recycling – or ‘salvage’ – schemes organized by the British government during the Second World War. Viewing the act of recycling as part of an interactive ‘communications circuit’, it uses records produced by the Ministry of Information to analyse the development of publicity produced for the national salvage campaign. Particular attention is paid to the public’s role in shaping the course of the campaign. By demonstrating that a disjuncture between publicity and perceptions of inaction led to a sense of frustration, the article suggests that this example complicates the notion of a ‘people’s war’.

Combined operations in Britain’s pre-1914 strategy have been portrayed as fantastical, envisioning troop landings on Germany’s Baltic coast. These plans were apparently much in vogue during Admiral Sir John Fisher’s first term as first sea lord. Recent interpretations have also argued that Fisher never seriously considered amphibious projects over an economic strategy. This article will demonstrate that amphibious plans were central to the royal navy’s strategy against Germany but were limited to supporting a North Sea/Baltic observational blockade. Significantly, in 1905 and 1908, it was the army that proposed landings in northern Germany and Denmark, not the admiralty.

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New Historical Research article

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National Service: the University of London Library during the Second World War by Karen Attar

During the Second World War, the Ministry of Information occupied London’s Senate House. The University of London Library continued to function in the building, primarily to serve the Ministry. A wartime diary, memoirs and general correspondence supplement library committee reports and minutes to record this period of the library’s history unusually richly, and this article uses archival sources to describe the library’s operations during the war. It thereby not only opens up a hitherto unexplored area of the library’s history, but sheds light on daily institutional life in central London, and on the human side of the Ministry of Information.

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New Historical Research articles

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Recent literature has explored the substantial autonomy Hong Kong enjoyed under British imperial rule in the post-war period. We are, however, left without an understanding of the precise parameters in which colonial authority could be exercised autonomously, and how and why it could be compromised. An investigation of the imprisonment in Beijing of British Reuters journalist Anthony Grey from 1967 to 1969, in retaliation for the arrest in Hong Kong of journalists for their part in the 1967 disturbances, demonstrates that the extensive autonomy of the Hong Kong authorities could be compromised if colonial policy contravened British foreign policy objectives towards China.

This article examines how political, theological and cultural factors formed confessional identity in Elizabethan England. It explores the rite of ‘reconciliation’ – usually the means by which Protestants converted to Catholicism – and its peculiar significance to English Catholics. The author argues that due to its illegal status in England, as well as the wider context of post-Reformation Catholicism, reconciliation became blurred with auricular confession and was adapted into a rite of passage for lifelong Catholics as well as converts. Reconciliation illustrates how political conflicts shaped the religious culture of English Catholics; it is also a striking example of how religious groups respond to minority status, modifying their traditions in order to create and preserve collective identity.

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New Historical Research article

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This article analyses rare surviving adulterous love letters alongside published epistles and trial reports to reveal the practical and emotional importance of letter-writing in conducting an affair in England c.1740–1830. While attitudes to adultery have received widespread scholarly attention, illicit letters remain largely overlooked. The article is the first to outline distinguishing features of adulterous letters, and the language of infidelity. It distinguishes missives from courtship letters as a secretive genre carefully shielded by writers. By scrutinizing the letters which sustained affairs, the article rediscovers the happiness, jealousy and desire of illicit love in the words of lovers themselves. [Open Access]

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Latest issue of Historical Research, vol. 89, no. 243 (February 2016)

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diamond-mining

Articles

Neither Byzantine nor Islamic? The duke of the Thebaid and the formation of the Umayyad state. Marie Legendre

 The land market and Anglo-Saxon societ. Rory Naismith

The Engagement controversy: a victory for the English republic. Amos TubbThe ‘stormy latitude of the law’: Chancery Lane and street improvement in late Georgian London. Francis Calvert Boorman

Of crofters, Celts and claymores: the Celtic Magazine and the Highland cultural nationalist movement, 1875–88. Ian B. Stewart

Humanitarian assistance during the Rif War (Morocco, 1921–6): the International Committee of the Red Cross and ‘an unfortunate affair’. Pablo La Porte

The art of governing contingency: rethinking the colonial history of diamond mining in Sierra Leone. Lorenzo D’Angelo

Royal death and living memorials: the funerals and commemoration of George V and George VI, 1936–52. Ina Zweiniger-Bargielowska

Notes and Documents

 The Guildhall Library, Robert Bale and the writing of London history. Mary C. Erler

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New Historical Research articles

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prison hand crank

Reformative rhetoric and the exercise of corporal power: Alexander Maconochie’s regime at Birmingham prison, 1849–51 by J. M. Moore

In March 1849 Alexander Maconochie, the former superintendent of the Norfolk Island penal settlement in colonial Australia and inventor of the ‘mark system’ of reformative penal discipline, was appointed by the Birmingham magistrates as the governor of the borough’s newly constructed prison. This article tells the story of the two years Maconochie spent at Birmingham prison, highlighting the illegal and abusive practices that he introduced there. It argues that, despite the reformative rhetoric portraying his approach to penal discipline as benevolent and humanitarian, Maconochie’s regime relied heavily on coercion and corporal punishment.

 

A matter of trust: the royal regulation of England’s French residents during wartime, 1294–1377 by Bart Lambert and W. Mark Ormrod

This study focuses on how the English crown identified and categorized French-born people in the kingdom during the preliminaries and first stage of the Hundred Years War. Unlike the treatment of alien priories and nobles holding lands on both sides of the Channel, the attitude to laypeople became more positive as the period progressed. In particular, the crown was prepared to grant wartime protections to French-born residents based on evidence of local integration. Analysis of the process reveals the flexibility with which the government considered national status before the emergence of denization at the end of the fourteenth century. [Open Access article]

 

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The representation and experience of English urban fire disasters, c.1580–1640 by John E. Morgan

Fire disasters were a perennial threat to urban life in early modern England, but are yet to receive sustained attention from historians. By analysing popular literature, charitable collections and relief distribution this article reveals how urban fires were interpreted and what effect they had on individuals and specific communities in England between 1580 and 1640. Some aspects of the experience of fire disasters in early modern England are illuminated through detailed contextual readings of contemporary news reports, quantitative analyses of the collection and distribution of charitable funds, and attention to the fortunes of individual survivors of fires.

 

The parliamentary mind and the mutable constitution by Catherine Chou

Utilizing a handful of succession treatises from the first decade of Elizabeth I’s reign, this article analyses the multiplicity of ways in which early modern Englishmen and Scotsmen conceived of parliament’s fundamental characteristics and decision-making processes, as well as the relationship between the changeability of the law and parliamentary authority. It argues that Elizabeth’s refusal to allow her parliaments to discuss the succession opened up a discursive space in which resurrected and potential future parliaments served as logical, forward-thinking arbiters of this sensitive issue, and both pro- and anti-Stuart tract writers could identify at least one version of the Lords, Commons and crown that either had endorsed or supposedly would endorse their respective positions.

 

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New Historical Research articles

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liberalsThe decline of the Liberal party in the heart of England: the Liberals in Leicestershire, 1914–24 by Gavin J. Freeman

This article uses the county of Leicestershire to examine the decline of the Liberal party from the outbreak of the First World War to the debacle of 1924, when they were reduced to forty M.P.s. It argues that while the crisis of December 1916 was the beginning of the split within the party, this was not inevitably permanent. It was the ‘Coupon’ election of 1918 that widened the division and brought about a political realignment which changed the electoral landscape. The article shows that at the crucial formative period of the greatly enlarged electorate, Liberalism was divided at the grass-roots, enabling the success of the Conservative and Labour parties.

 

The end of the ‘dual possession’ of Sakhalin as multilateral diplomacy, 1867–73 by Takahiro Yamamoto

This article revisits the history of Russo-Japanese ‘dual possession’ of Sakhalin in the late nineteenth century from a multilateral perspective. Using unpublished sources from Japanese and British archives, and benefiting from recent research on Russian materials, it argues that Russia’s attempt at the exclusive control of Sakhalin was aimed primarily at keeping out the Americans and the British, not the Japanese. It also reveals that Japanese and British officers in the region falsely believed that Russia was preparing the occupation of Hokkaido. The findings challenge the existing historiography, which has treated the island’s history solely in the context of Russo-Japanese relations.

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New Historical Research article

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Front view of Guildhall, looking north and Guildhall Yard c1814

Treason, felony and Lollardy: a common petition in the hand of Richard Osbarn, clerk of the chamber of the Guildhall, 1400–c.143 by Helen Killick

This article examines a common petition presented in the English parliament of 1425 requesting that those imprisoned for long periods for the crimes of treason, felony and Lollardy might be brought to trial. On the basis of palaeographical and orthographical evidence, this petition is demonstrated to be written by Richard Osbarn, clerk of the chamber of the London Guildhall between 1400 and 1437. The implications of this discovery throw new light on the way petitions were formulated, suggesting that the scribes of petitions played a greater role than previously thought, and in some cases identified with the complaint itself.

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New Historical Research article

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Using newspapers, plans, London guides and parish records, this article describes the arguments concerning improvement of the street environment in Chancery Lane, from around 1760 to 1815. This area of London was marginal to the great centres of Westminster and the City and, therefore, analysing its development challenges the standard binary model of the metropolis, generally used by historians of the late eighteenth century. The importance of local political conditions to the success of street improvement is examined, including the fragmented jurisdictions of local parishes and the popular association of Chancery Lane with the legal profession.

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