2015 seems to be a year marking many notable anniversaries: 50 years since the death of Sir Winston Churchill; 750 years since the first elected Parliament representing all of England; 200 years since the Battle of Waterloo; and the First World War centenary remembrances continue. This year also represents another momentous anniversary—600 years since the Battle of Agincourt. To commemorate this milestone of the Hundred Years’ War, the Friends of the IHR are hosting a film evening on 16 March, showing Laurence Olivier’s acclaimed film, Henry V. The evening will feature a guest lecture from Professor Anne Curry, an expert on medieval history and a prolific author on the Hundred Years’ War.
Henry V Film Poster (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Henry_V_%E2%80% 93_1944_UK_film_poster.jpg)
Crafted in 1944, The Chronicle History of King Henry the Fift with His Battell Fought at Agincourt in France, directed by and starring Olivier, is widely regarded as the first motion picture to successfully adapt Shakespeare from the stage to the screen. In homage to the Bard, the movie opens with a production of Henry V at the Globe Theatre, and slowly transforms into a cinematic spectacle. The viewer is then treated to a masterful mix of action—following the King’s campaign to Agincourt—and romance—as Henry attempts to court the French princess. The action returns to the Globe as this Academy Award-winning film draws to a close.
The Friends of the IHR have been very loyal supporters of the Institute. The funding they provide is integral to increasing the capacity of the IHR to promote and enhance the study of history in Britain. As part of the mission to extend the reach of the IHR’s resources, charitable donations from the Friends have funded bursaries for many PhD students who are based outside London to access the Institute and undertake excellent research. In addition, the Friends have subsidised numerous outstanding speakers to present insightful seminars, provided vital capital for the recently completed redevelopment, and delivered cornerstone funding for the IHR Library’s new Conservation Fund. All of these help ensure that the IHR is able to offer the highest quality scholarship and resources.
Battle of Agincourt (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Schlacht_von _Azincourt.jpg)
Much more than just financial supporters, however, the Friends form a social community of academics and all with a shared interest in history. As such, the film evenings are a highlight of the Friends’ calendar. These events offer a chance to engage with history through a medium other than books, to hear from experts in the field, and to partake in a critical discussion of the subject and an exchange of ideas. Perhaps just as importantly, these events provide an opportunity to have a good time with like-minded people, enjoy some food and drink, and perhaps make some friends among the Friends. For information on how to join the Friends, please follow this link.
The event is open to all, but you are encouraged to book soon, as spaces are limited and going fast. In addition to the film and lecture, there will be wine throughout and light supper to follow.
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 2014-15 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.
The closing date for submissions is 30 May 2015
Enquiries and submissions should be directed to the Executive Editor, Historical Research (Jane.Winters@sas.ac.uk).
Will Pooley is a Past & Present Junior Research Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research. He blogs at https://williamgpooley.wordpress.com and you can follow him on Twitter @willpooley.
I’m not the first person to point out that witchcraft exerted a fascination over doctors and physicians. Historians of early-modern Europe have long argued that separating the science from the supernatural in medical writings is impossible.
But France makes a bit of an odd case. The medical fascination with witchcraft had largely dissipated in other European countries by the nineteenth century, yet in France this period saw a boom in serious medical writings about possession, sorcery, and alternative healing practices. The interest may have waned as the twentieth century progressed, but French doctors have continued to occasionally publish investigations of magical practices and epidemics of ‘demonopathy’ up until very recently.
(One of the many medical theses written about ‘superstitions’ and witchcraft. See http://gallica.bnf.fr)
This raises two questions:
why this continuing interest?
why should historians care?
At this stage in my research, it is easier for me to answer the second question than the first, although I do have some working hypotheses for why not only doctors, but also psychologists and veterinary professionals in France took such a pronounced interest in sorcery.
For a start, there was a lot of it.
My research uses newspaper reports to trace criminal cases involving witchcraft from the 1790s to the 1930s, and even at this early stage it is apparent that crimes related to witchcraft were prosecuted with depressing regularity across this period. In the secondary literature alone I have identified 15 cases of people who were murdered for being witches in this period. There were many more cases of attempted murder or assault which were not reported so widely in the newspapers, not to mention a multitude of prosecutions for fraud and illegal medical practice. Sometimes, men and women sued their neighbours for defaming them as witches. What all of this suggests is that witchcraft beliefs, fears, and fantasies were surprisingly widespread in France during this period.
And perhaps this is partly related to the other key explanation for why doctors and scientists took such an interest in sorcery: the tumultuous religious history of France during this period. The struggle between the Catholic Church and secularists inspired by Voltaire and the French Revolution had two contradictory effects on French culture.
On the one hand, there was an apparent hardening of boundaries, especially during periods when regime changes abruptly shifted the balance of power between the scientific establishment and the Church. The struggle over Bernadette Soubirous’ visions at Lourdes would be just the most obvious example of a case where Church and Doctor faced off over an issue of national importance and supernatural significance.
(Bernadette Soubirous, the visionary of Lourdes. See: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c6/Bernadette_Soubirous_en_1861_photo_Bernadou_4.jpg)
Yet on the other hand, I think a strong case could be made for seeing this as a period when a cultural vacuum opened up. The very intensity of the public conflict between scientific secularists and defenders of the Church led to a willingness, at least among some elements, to court public opinion, to take seriously the feelings and beliefs of ordinary people such as the visionary Bernadette, or the many people who flocked to witness the miracles of Lourdes.
Many within the Church might have felt that condemning the ‘superstitions’ of the population was a slippery slope. Priests, too, read Voltaire and they were only too aware that condemning a belief in the supernatural powers of black masses and ringing church bells could seem inconsistent with the claims the Church made for the supernatural efficacy of its key rites.
And scientists also had to court public opinion. What use were immunization or pasteurization if the people could not be persuaded that they worked? Promoting professional midwifery, or psychology, or veterinary medicine partly depended on proving to a population that was predominantly rural that these new methods and theories were more than simply a way to interfere, charge higher fees, and defraud the paysans.
(Léon-Augustin Lhermitte, ‘La paye des moissoneurs’. The rural population were not always known for their approachability… See: http://www.histoire-image.org/site/oeuvre/analyse.php?i=43)
This brings me on to my second question: why historians should care about all of this? It might be weird that French doctors were so interested in sorcery, and it is equally odd that witchcraft seems to have been so important to so many people among the general population, but why does it matter?
The answer, I argue, has to do with what a remarkable case study this odd convergence makes for ‘history from below’. I have been strongly influenced by historians such as Andy Wood, Guy Beiner, Katrina Navickas, David Hopkin, and by the Many-Headed-Monster blog symposium from last year on revisiting ‘history from below’ (see: http://bit.ly/17h9jmV).
These historians, I think, have developed incredibly subtle understandings of concepts such as ‘popular culture’, ‘social class’, and ‘resistance’. We recognize that such terms are always problematic, and we recognize how hard it can be to recover the ‘voices’ of the people history too often forgets, but we maintain that there is still value in trying (http://wp.me/p3QdQ9-2E).
And it seems to me that the point where medicine and witchcraft met in France is a particularly rich example for pursuing the kinds of complicated questions of cultural repression, resistance, and agency that the new history from below addresses. Yes, doctors and other scientific ‘experts’ attempted to impose their understandings of causality, the human body, and illness onto the general population. But ordinary people took these ideas and refashioned them to fit what was important to their lives, forcing the ‘experts’ to deal in the languages of possession and malevolence.
Far from being a simple case of ‘superstition’ swept away by reason, witchcraft and medicine in France during this period is a much more interesting story of accommodation and cultural negotiation, and one that puts working men and women into the spotlight as often as middle-class doctors and scientists.
What is more, this was not unique to medicine. As I have mentioned, the related disciplines of psychology, psychiatry, and veterinary science were also caught up in witchcraft debates. But sorcery also touched even wider domains. Victims and suspected witches related their experiences to new technologies and the ‘modern wonders’ that Bernard Rieger has studied, and addressed new theories of radiation, ions, and the laws of physics. They also argued about the law, challenging the basis for criminal and civil prosecutions, and provoking a series of legal theorists to address the problem of witchcraft in the same period.
This is why I have found that the more I study the witches and their accusers, the less drawn I am to the early-modern parallels that at first appear so obvious. Witchcraft was modern, and has a lot to tell historians about the agency and constraints of ordinary people grappling with new authorities in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
We start this week with Slavery, Race and Conquest in the Tropics : Lincoln, Douglas, and the Future of Latin America by Robert E. May. Phillip Magness and the author debate a book which gives us a Civil War that was both the product of international affairs, and a shaping force on their subsequent course (no. 1717, with response here).
Then we turn to Hugh M. Thomas’s The Secular Clergy in England, 1066-1216, and Katherine Harvey and the author discuss a book which is surely destined to become one of the definitive works in the field for many years to come (no. 1716, with response here).
Next up is Status Interaction During the Reign of Louis XIV by Giora Sternberg. Linda Kiernan believes this book presents historians of the court with a vigorous model to test (no. 1715).
Finally we have George Morton-Jack’s The Indian Army on the Western Front: India’s Expeditionary Force to France and Belgium in the First World War. Adam Prime finds this to be an extremely stimulating book, which should appeal to academics and enthusiasts alike (no. 1714).
Dr Simon Trafford, head of research training at the IHR, in his natural environment
Training in research skills for young and aspiring researchers has been central to the IHR’s remit since its foundation in 1921. In recent years, the training programme has expanded and diversified, reflecting both a great broadening in the scope of historical enquiry and also the increasing prevalence of highly specialised approaches that require of their practitioners detailed technical knowledge or computing skills. In the 2014-15 programme, which has just been announced, we have courses covering every aspect of current historical practice, ranging from the very traditional skills of archival use and analysis of written sources through to the currently burgeoning area of historical GIS.
Taught by University of London historians and other expert practitioners from national institutions, the programme has been designed to help students to acquire all the techniques necessary to their research quickly and inexpensively. The Institute’s training will also be of interest to those already established in an academic career but wishing to acquire or renew skills in particular types of specialist analysis. New courses will be announced throughout the year, but please see here for a complete listing of the current programme.
This article presents documents from the archive of the central committee of the Romanian Communist party, recording the January 1949 Moscow conference that established the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (C.M.E.A.). It argues that the creation of the C.M.E.A. began as a Romanian initiative and presents the process by which the document constituting the C.M.E.A. was elaborated in early 1949. There is generally very little information on the creation of the C.M.E.A., so while it was not possible to use evidence from the Moscow archives, these findings, corroborated by studies involving sources from other communist archives, will help to create a better understanding of this event.
The publication in 1999 of Patrick Wormald’s first volume of The Making of English Law changed unalterably the ways in which scholars approached the evidence of English law codes. When Patrick died five years later, the second volume of Making, which was intended to consider the real life meaning and practices of English laws, was left unpublished. Fortunately, Stephen Baxter and John Hudson have reconstructed as much of volume 2 as is possible and have offered it to Early English Laws for publication online, where it will serve as a reference work of tremendous importance for all who are interested in the legal world of the English up to the time of Magna Carta. In their introduction to Papers Preparatory to the Making of English Law, Baxter and Hudson explain the genesis of the book and the nature of its parts.
We are especially grateful for the privilege of publishing Papers Preparatory to the Making of English Law on the Early English Laws site because of a piece of the project’s own history. Our project started as an idea that arose at the memorial conference for Patrick held at St. Hilda’s College Oxford in 2006. All recognized because of Patrick’s work how much could now be done with the texts of English law. By the end of the conference, most of the literary board had been recruited, and soon thereafter the collaboration between the Institute of Historical Research at the University of London and the (then) Centre for Computing in the Humanities at King’s College London (now the Department of Digital Humanities) had been agreed. Funding from the AHRC made this pious gesture intended to honour Patrick, and to extend his work, a reality. It seems, then, particularly appropriate that we are also able to bring Patrick’s final work to those of you who are fascinated by the intricate and challenging world of early English law.
One final point. Although Papers Preparatory is a conglomeration of papers, chapters, outlines and proposals Patrick had drafted at various stages of the second volume’s development, it should be cited as a whole with the following elements (according, of course, to the dictates of individual style guides): Patrick Wormald, Papers Preparatory to the Making of English Law: King Alfred to the Twelfth Century, vol. II: From God’s Law to Common Law, edited by Stephen Baxter and John Hudson (University of London: Early English Laws, 2014) <http://www.earlyenglishlaws.ac.uk/reference/wormald/>
This article looks at two ‘oaths of the community’ of 1258. First, it shows that the oath of the community at Oxford has been widely misinterpreted by historians: it was an oath of mutual aid, not an oath binding the community to reform. Second, it looks at the order for all in the realm to take an oath in October 1258, which has never been fully examined before. This order aimed to bind the entire realm to the reform movement – it was proclaimed in Latin, French and English – yet no chroniclers mentioned it and no mechanism was provided for its enactment.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the spread of what we now know as the cold chain sparked controversy in both Europe and North America. This article examines popular distrust of early refrigerated transport and storage in light of larger debates about how best to procure good food at a fair price. Expanding on E. P. Thompson’s concept of moral economy, the article shows that refrigeration proved controversial not simply because it helped de-localize and industrialize food supply. It also challenged norms that had previously governed trade in perishables, especially those concerning transparency, naturalness and freshness.