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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

Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 16.30.04

Figure 2: Screen shot of resources for John Dee

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New reviews: Roosevelt and China, witchcraft, Irish sport and medieval paradise

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rooseveltFirst up this week is Gregory Moore’s Defining and Defending the Open Door Policy: Theodore Roosevelt and China, 1901-1909. Michael Cullinane and the author disagree over an analysis of Theodore Roosevelt’s influence within the longue durée of US-Sino relations (no. 1939, with response here).

Next up is Witchcraft, Witch-hunting and Politics in Early Modern England by Peter Elmer, as Imogen Peck recommends an essential read for all scholars of early modern witchcraft (no. 1938).

Then we turn to Paul Rouse’s Sport and Ireland: a History, which Brian Griffin finds to be a treat for both specialists and non-specialists alike (no. 1937, with response here).

Finally we have From Eden to Eternity: Creations of Paradise in the Later Middle Ages by Alastair Minnis. Brian Murdoch reviews a fascinating, original and impressive contribution to the field of paradise studies (no. 1936, with response here).

The Origin of the Student Species

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Modern students study their early modern predecessors

This post has been kindly written for us by Dr Adam Crymble. Adam is a Lecturer of Digital History at the University of Hertfordshire and an Editor of the Programming Historian. He was also the Project Manager of British History Online in 2014.

Where did Oxford University’s 60,149 students from 1500-1714 come from in the first place? Thanks to British History Online and a talented group of students, we’re beginning to understand for the first time.

For many people, the extremely carefully digitized volumes in British History Online are a fantastic way to read about the past. The project calls itself a ‘digital library’, and I think that’s apt. For my undergraduate digital history students at the University of Hertfordshire, it’s also much more. It proved to be a source of digital data that we could map and experiment with.

This past year, a group of 18 students studying history were challenged with mapping the point of origin of all 60,000 students who studied at Oxford in the Tudor and Stuart eras. The task would be impossible if the records weren’t already available. We have two groups to thank for that. Firstly, mini-biographies of each of these students were compiled in the nineteenth century by Joseph Foster, and published in hardcopy, known as the Alumni Oxonienses. Secondly, and much more recently, and with the great care that we’ve come to expect from British History Online, those mini-biographies have been digitized and are fully-text searchable on the site.

For anyone related to one of these individuals, this proves to be a great resource to get some specifics on a life lived. But because British History Online’s texts are easy to download with a bit of cutting and pasting, I was able to convert the volume into a spreadsheet for my students to work with. They then extracted the place of origin from each entry using a step-by-step tutorial at The Programming Historian before mapping them using a free tool called Google Fusion Tables.

Alumni Oxonienses Dataset

Figure 1: The Alumni Oxonienses Dataset

All steps used free tools and free texts, so if you’re curious about the resultant map, I’d challenge you to have a go and find out for yourself using the steps above. You can see a teaser in Figure 2, which shows the origins of a subset of individuals who were knighted later in life.

Heatmap

Figure 2: Heatmap of place of origin of knighted Oxford Students, 1500-1714. Dataset compiled by Corey Albone, Jack Dunne, Namiluko Indie, Bethany Reid, ‘Oxford Knights’, The Oxford Knights Archive (2014-15).

These students were not like our university students today. Many were men of the gentry and upper classes, and probably include a large number of second sons, who would not have inherited the family fortune as would their older brother. University in the early modern era was largely a place for would-be clerics, but also lawyers, scientists, and a growing number of merchants. It’s where you got your religious or legal training before heading off for a life in the monasteries, or preaching the word of God, or as a lawyer in the Inns of Court.

In order to understand what the maps showed us, the class learned about the origins of the English gentry, clergy, and legal professions (among others of a similar sort), and were able to see first-hand what the digital nature of the records makes possible. Digital mapping, like graphing, provides us with a heads-up way to understand patterns in our historical records. It’s a way to see the forest for the trees, in a way that’s just not possible with Foster’s original printed volumes. Thanks to British History Online for making this resource available in a format that we could easily reuse. It’s been a great learning experience for us all.

Digitising the Calendars of Inquisitions post mortem

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This post originally appeared on the Mapping the Medieval Countryside blog and is reposted here with permission from Michael Hicks

Work has continued on making the published inquisitions post mortem freely accessible in the sixteen months since funding ceased, and we are pleased to announce that another major target of the Mapping the Medieval Countryside has now been achieved. Volumes 1-20 of theCalendars of Inquisitions post mortem and 2nd series volumes 1-3 for Henry VII are now freely available on British History Online at
www.british-history.ac.uk/search/series/inquis-post-mortem
(Volumes 21-26 are of course already available on the [Mapping the Medieval Countryside] website).

This means that the whole of this massive series of records, covering the periods 1236-1447 and 1485-1509, are now accessible free of charge to anyone in the world with access to the internet. Not only academic historians, archaeologists and geographers, but local and family historians will find them a key source for their own researches.

This is the product of the collaborations between the University of Winchester and the Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College London, of British History Online based at the Institute of Historical Research, and of course the funder the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Especial credit for the final preparation of the digitised text is due to Dr Matthew Holford of the project and Sarah Milligan and Jonathan Blaney at BHO.

New reviews: enemy intelligence, slave narratives, Georgian militia and Clementine Churchill

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intelligenceWe start this week with The Image of the Enemy: Intelligence Analysis of Adversaries since 1945, edited by Paul Maddrell. Charlie Hall and the author debate an excellent collection of meticulously researched and lucidly presented studies (no. 1935, with response here).

Then we have review article by David Anderson on two books of slave narratives, Slave Culture: A Documentary Collection of the Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project (edited by Spencer Crew, Lonnie Bunch and Clement Price) and Chained to the Land: Voices from Cotton & Cane Plantations: From Interviews of Former Slaves (edited by Lynette Ater Tanner). The reviewer believes both these books will prove to be useful research tools and references for historians and students of slavery (no. 1934).

Next up is Matthew McCormack’s Embodying the Militia in Georgian England. Kevin Linch praises a work which champions an interdisciplinary approach to the study of the military in this period (no. 1933).

Finally Bradley Hart and Sonia Purcell discuss the latter’s First Lady: The Life and Wars of Clementine Churchill, a well-researched book of Churchill scholarship (no. 1932, with response here).

New reviews: London crime, American government, the Medici and the NHS

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shore2First up this week is London’s Criminal Underworlds, c. 1720 – c. 1930 by Heather Shore, as Robert Shoemaker and the author debate a fascinating study of the discursive power of ‘the underworld’ (no. 1931, with response here).

Then we turn to Gary Gerstle’s Liberty and Coercion: The Paradox of American Government from the Founding to the Present. Thomas Rodgers praises a fine and satisfying work on the paradox of liberty and coercion in the American state (no. 1930).

Next up is The Medici: Citizens and Masters, edited by John Law and Robert Black. Nicholas Scott Baker and the editors discuss a multi-faceted, kaleidoscopic view of the 15th-century Medici regime in Florence (no. 1929, with response here).

Finally Julian Simpson recommends Contagious Communities: Medicine, Migration, and the NHS in Post War Britain by Roberta Bivins, an intriguing exploration of the ways in which particular aspects of policy and practice were shaped by a range of evolving factors (no. 1928).

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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New reviews: Anglican COs, working class fathers, John Dee and post-Civil War black politics

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Gay, Arthur Wilson; The Conchie; Peace Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-conchie-21680

Gay, Arthur Wilson; The Conchie; Peace Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-conchie-21680

We begin this week with Clive Barrett’s Subversive Peacemakers, War Resistance 1914–1918: An Anglican Perspective. James Cronin and the author discuss a valuable scholarly contribution to the war’s hidden history documenting its half-forgotten subversive peacemakers (no. 1927, with response here).

Next up is Fatherhood and the British Working Class, 1865–1914 by Julie-Marie Strange, as Emily Bowles praises a study which is important for understanding contemporary readings of fatherhood and parenting (no. 1926).

Then Sara Charles recommends an exhibition which does an excellent job of portraying Dee as a much-accomplished scholar as opposed to an eccentric occultist, as she reviews Scholar, courtier, magician: the lost library of John Dee (no. 1925).

Finally we have Reconstructing Democracy: Grassroots Black Politics in the Deep South after the Civil War by Justin Behrend. Erik Mathisen believes this work is the perfect place for scholars to begin the work of re-imagining the history of America’s most tortured historical moment (no. 1924).

BIGOT! Senate House Library seeks author of anonymous student pamphlet

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p4443Even amongst the extraordinary contents of the Ron Heisler collections, this strident little pamphlet rather stands out. It is the first and perhaps only issue of an underground magazine called, with arch provocativeness, Bigot. It is a remarkable mixture of sexual politics, suspicion of the establishment, vegetarian recipes and anti-nuclear propaganda. Something of its spirit and attitude can be discerned from the fact that the editorial has, by way of testimonial, an image of Karl Marx with a speech bubble containing the words, ‘Moist and fruity. A real corker’.

The content betrays a suspicion of authorities, the state and police in many different forms, with a cartoon depicting undercover police offers selling ‘dope’ to students in the hope of postponing the revolution; satisfied with their work, they walk away saying ‘Keep ‘em stoned, keep ‘em tame’. Even Winnie-the-Pooh is drawn into this position; with scant regard for the copyright of either A.A. Milne or E.H. Shepard, he is shown discussing how he would deal ‘with an angry police-person’, namely, ‘I would first bounce on him on my front, then turn over and bounce a little more.’

In other places, Bigot betrays a very powerful impatience with fellow students, for example haranguing a Saturday night crowd oblivious to the world situation and an international militaristic conspiracy: ‘They’re building a war. They’ve planned it. They’re ready, waiting, prepared. And all you do is DANCE.’

While arguably naïve, it is an intriguing document that illustrates with great immediacy the last generation of such publications, which would today be far more likely to be produced as blogs and online content. It is also, to the best of our knowledge, the only example of this or any other issue of Bigot to find its way to the security of a library shelf anywhere in the UK.

Moreover, reading it, one cannot help but warm to, and wonder about, the typist of these now fragile pages. The whole production is anonymous, and the author even remarks wryly that ‘due to anticipated C.I.D. investigations, I am a little less than enthusiastic to give my home address’. This statement does, however, give the best clue to the creator in that the postal address given is ‘Box D, Mandela House, Swansea University,’ a building that still functions as the Swansea University Students’ Union. The best hint of the date of its production is that the first article is an anti-capitalist exploration of the cause of the sinking of the Herald of Free Enterprise passenger ferry in 1987. From an angry passage where a P.E. teacher is recalled using ‘girls’ as an insult, and from the ensuing discussion, it is also clear that the writer is a man.

So, the staff of Senate House Library and IHR Digital would like to appeal to anyone who suspects they may know or remember the identity of a student who attended Swansea University in the late 1980s, was a socialist-minded vegetarian, and who may have written Bigot. We would love to unite the writer with a new crop of readers, and to hear whether this foray into alternative journalism had an influence on his later life.

Please email danny.millum@sas.ac.uk with any leads…

New reviews: C19 caricature, medieval marriage, fascist training and English Revolution

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Canine at the Westminster Pit - Lord Palmerston and Lord Derby

Canine at the Westminster Pit – Lord Palmerston and Lord Derby

We start this week with Henry Miller’s Politics Personified: Portraiture, Caricature and Visual Culture in Britain, c.1830-80. Tessa Kilgariff and the author discuss a book whose conclusions have implications not only for political historians but also art historians and scholars of social and cultural history (no. 1923, with response here).

Next up is Papacy, Monarchy and Marriage, 860-1600 by David d’Avray, as Sara Butler and the author robustly debate a comprehensive analysis of royal marriages and their dissolution (no. 1922, with response here).

Then we turn to Alessio Ponzio’s Shaping the New Man: Youth Training Regimes in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. Philip Morgan has some reservations about a new history of fascism (no. 1921).

Finally we have the Oxford Handbook of the English Revolution, edited by Michael Braddick, which Elliot Vernon believes to be a useful starting point for those seeking to expand their knowledge of an increasingly complicated field of study (no. 1920).

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