British History Online might not be the first place you’d think to look when researching Shakespeare, but London and the early modern period are two of the great strengths in BHO’s collection. We have an abundance of materials that provide excellent context for Shakespeare’s life and his writing. What was London like when Shakespeare lived there? How has Shakespeare shaped the London of today? What about Shakespeare and places across the rest of the country?
Senate House Library recently hosted a Shakespeare and place Wikipedia workshop, which prompted me to compile the following list of relevant BHO resources. It’s by no means an exhaustive list, but hopefully a useful starting point.
John Stow’s Survey of London: Although John Stow famously does not mention any theatres or playwrights in his Survey of London, the Survey is a contemporary account of London, which makes it an invaluable resource for understanding the city where Shakespeare lived. The first edition of the Survey was published in 1598, with a second and much-modified edition published in 1603. The version of the text that is on BHO is a 1908 edition of this 1603 text, edited by C L Kingsford. In his Survey, Stow ‘walks’ through the City of London, parish by parish.
Survey of London: Not to be confused with its early modern namesake above, this project began in the late nineteenth century and continues today. It provides detailed architectural and topographical studies of the capital’s built environment. Volume 22 covers Bankside, including the playhouses.
Victoria County History: This project also began in the nineteenth century and continues to this day. It is an encyclopaedic record of England’s places and people from earliest times to the present day. Particular series that contain useful information about Shakespeare are the History of Middlesex and the History of Warwickshire.
Agas Map of London: The woodcut map of London, usually called the Agas map, represents London in the 1560s—slightly earlier than Shakespeare was in London, but it is a wonderful resource to get a sense of what the city was like in the 16th century.
Old and New London: This nineteenth-century account of the history of London is chock-full of useful—and sometimes imaginative—descriptions of famous Shakespearean sites. Volume 6 covers Southwark and the Globe.
Feet of Fines, London and Middlesex: Feet of fines are court copies of agreements following disputes over property. The disputes were mostly fictitious and were simply a way of having the transfer of ownership of land recorded officially by the king’s court. The records in this series relate to London and Middlesex for the period 1189-1570.
May’s update provides a special focus on eighteenth and nineteenth-century women entrepreneurs and industrialists. New additions include the Bristol inventor, Sarah Guppy (1770-1852), whose many patents include a suspension bridge crossing the River Avon—years before Telford and Brunel; the Derbyshire colliery owner Ellen Morewood (1741-1824), and the domestic servant and autobiographer, Mary Ann Ashford (1787-1870).
Early modern religious biographies include Anne Hooper (d. 1555), one of the earliest wives of a bishop in the post-Reformation period. Hooper’s letters chart a period of intense religious and personal uncertainty.
The earliest new addition is Racton Man (fl. c.2200 BP), the skeleton of a Bronze Age warrior at The Novium Museum, Chichester, whose ‘biography’—based on forensic science—can now be written. May’s update also includes two pioneers of tattooing: George Burchett (1872-1953) and Sutherland Macdonald (1860-1942). Macdonald coined the term ‘tattooist’ (‘tattoo’ + ‘artist’) to better convey the artistry of his work, and both men numbered members of the aristocracy and royalty among their clients.
The new edition also extends the ODNB’s coverage of historical groups and networks. Essays include the members, works, and legacy of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood; the Erasmus Circle of scholars who championed the great Dutch humanist from the early 1500s; and participants in the Northern Rising (1559-70). Essays on more than 320 historical groups—early medieval to late modern—are now available in the ‘Themes’ area of the Oxford DNB online.
Finally, 4000 new links have been added from ODNB entries to online resources providing alternative perspectives on an individual. These include links to 850 English Heritage Blue Plaques, 650 monuments in Westminster Abbey, 200 person records in Queen Victoria’s Journals, 200 Poetry Archive and BBC recordings, and 2500 correspondence records created by the Oxford history project, ‘Early Modern Letters Online’.
Entries are invited for this year’s Pollard Prize (sponsored by Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.) awarded for the best paper presented at an IHR seminar 2015-16 by a postgraduate student or by a researcher within one year of completing the PhD.
Fast track publication in the prestigious IHR journal, Historical Research, and £200 of Blackwell books.
Runner up prizes
Publication in Historical Research, and a selection of Blackwell books.
Applicants are required to have delivered a paper during the academic year in which the award is made. Submissions should be supported by a reference from a convenor of the appropriate seminar. Papers should be fully footnoted, although it is not necessary at this stage to follow Historical Research house style. All papers submitted must be eligible for publication.
This post has kindly been written for us by Dr Philip Carter of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
For 135 years the Dictionary of National Biography has been the national record of noteworthy men and women who’ve shaped the British past. Today’s Dictionary retains many attributes of its Victorian predecessor, not least a focus on concise and balanced accounts of individuals from all walks of national history. But there have also been changes in how these life stories are encapsulated and conveyed.
In its Victorian incarnation the Dictionary presented each life as a double-column printed text. 2004 saw the publication of the online Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB) with the addition of portrait images. Today the Dictionary includes portraits of 11,500 of its 60,000 subjects. Every image is a depiction of the sitter from life, so as to convey an aspect of his or her personality.
Now the Oxford DNB is moving on—this time with the inclusion of sound—in a project to link biographies to voice recordings made by an initial selection of 750 historical individuals. The earliest clips—including the suffrage campaigner Christabel Pankhurst and the Liberal prime minister, Herbert Asquith – are held in the ‘Early Spoken Word’ archive at the British Library.
As the crackling on these wax cylinders makes clear, this was a pioneering form of communication reserved for periods of political drama. Speaking in December 1908, Christabel Pankhurst issued a rallying call to every ‘patriotic and public spirited woman’ to take up ‘militant’ tactics in the hope that ‘1909 must, and shall, see the political enfranchisement of women.’ In his speech on the 1909 ‘people’s budget’ Herbert Asquith acknowledged the intersection of technological novelty and looming political crisis: ‘I have gladly accepted this invitation to speak to you in this unusual manner to reach as many of my fellow countrymen as possible’.
Two decades later the availability of ‘wireless’ instilled a new pioneering spirit. It’s captured in George V’s opening words to the first Christmas message of 1932: ‘Through one of the marvels of modern science, I am enabled … to speak to all my people throughout the Empire’.
Other British Library clips reveal how voice recordings took on new formats in the 1930s: the personal travel documentary by Amy Johnson; chef Marcel Boulestin’s guide to perfect omelettes (‘practice, quickness, a thick iron pan and a good fire’); and the celebrity interview with Arthur Conan Doyle (‘how I came to write Sherlock Holmes’).
This ability to catch a person’s accent, and indeed to hear a person speak, is the principal attraction of linking ODNB biographies to sound recordings. Hearing the voice reminds us that a distant historical figure was a living person as well as the subject of a biographical text. Listening to voices recorded more than a century ago conjures up something of the ‘marvels’ and delight alluded to by George V.
The effect is particularly striking in the Oxford DNB’s earliest link to the British Library sound archive—that for Florence Nightingale who spoke in support of the Light Brigade Relief Fund in July 1890. Barely audible over the hiss, she concludes her short, carefully enunciated message: ‘When I am no longer even a memory, just a name, I hope my voice may perpetuate the great work of my life. God bless my dear old comrades of Balaclava and bring them safe to shore. Florence Nightingale’.
Philip Carter is the Oxford DNB’s Senior Research and Publication Editor and a member of the History Faculty at Oxford University.
Find more on the ODNB’s Sounds project, together with a list of all 750 archive recordings. Coming updates will link ODNB biographies to digitized collections of manuscripts, creative works by artists, funeral memorials, and further voice recordings—in partnerships with the British Library, Poetry Archive, Royal Collection, and Westminster Abbey among others.
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.
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.
The update includes the historian and political commentator, Eric Hobsbawm (1917-2012), whose entry is written by Martin Jacques. The update is accompanied by a short film in which Martin discusses Hobsbawm’s life and work with the Oxford DNB’s editor, David Cannadine.
This post was kindly written for us by IHR intern Alex Thompson.
Connected Histories is a website made for online research of a variety of different topics ranging between 1500 and 1900. When typing in and searching for a particular topic, the search will include results from many different sources, which means that it’s easy to get a wide range of information. It is also possible to narrow your search to select resources, a particular time period or different source types, making searching for something particular a lot faster and easier.
To try out this website for myself, I searched ‘Essex’ as that is where I live and I was interested to find out some of the history of the county. I managed to get 407,990 matches across 22 resources, which proves how much information is available.
Scrolling through the results, I was interested to find many witch cases from Essex, using the resource Witches in Early Modern England, which contains witchcraft narratives from Early Modern England. This included a woman found guilty of bewitching her own son. It was fascinating to read that this happened in Colchester, a place that I know fairly well.
Results from the History of Parliament Online, which contains detailed biographical entries for members of parliament, also popped up and I discovered that Sir Richard Rich was elected to parliament for Essex twice around the time of 1640.
Furthermore, I discovered from the Old Bailey Online, a website that has accounts of trials held at the Old Bailey in London that a man from Essex was found guilty of stealing a coat and a waistcoat. This surprised me as I would not expect to find that kind of detail, though it could easily be very useful in some research projects.
When typing in Essex, I had to bear in mind that it is a name as well as a place, an obvious one being the Earl of Essex. However, this made the whole experience even more interesting as a result from Queen Victoria’s Journals came up, a website that makes available vast volumes of Queen Victoria’s journals, telling me that Essex lunched with her in October 1832, and so from there I clicked on the Journals and read a few more entries that gave me an in depth and really interesting look into the Queen’s life and what she did with her family and her friends.
I was very impressed how just a simple search with no filters brought up so many fascinating results that I could have spent hours looking at and reading. When using Connected Histories, its great how it can start off with a particular search term but then in a few clicks, you can be looking at something completely different that is still just as interesting. As I am only in my second year of university, I have not yet decided what I would like to do for my dissertation, so with nothing in particular in mind, it was thought-provoking to use Connected Histories to just build up my knowledge of topics that I have a general interest in.
The new update includes a special focus on men and women active during the First World War—in combat and on the home front—with a particular focus on events in 1915. New additions include the physicians Louisa Garrett Anderson and Flora Murray who opened the Endell Street Military Hospital, London, in May 1915; it remains the only British army hospital staffed and run by women. Military inventions from 1915 include the bowl-shaped Brodie helmet (named after its designer John Brodie) which went into production in autumn 1915. Seven million of these helmets were produced by the end of the war. Other war-time lives include the boy soldier Horace Iles (1900-1916) who was killed at the Somme; his biography is now part of school education programmes run by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
September’s update also concludes a three-year research project to extend the ODNB’s coverage of the medieval religious—the abbots, abbesses, priors, and prioresses who ran England’s religious houses until the Reformation. The project has added 56 first-time biographies. To mark the projects’ completion Professor Claire Cross considers the Lives of the Religious for an understanding of medieval monasticism, and how those in office in the 1520s and 1530s responded to the Reformation.