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.
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 Monashieroglyphica 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 Englandtitled 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
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 (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 Instituteprovides 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.
First 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).
– New research guide for the Library’s Memory and Commemoration collections –
Mike Weston (own work via Wikimedia Commons)
With the emergence within historical research of the study of memory and commemoration practices, the Institute of Historical Research Library has seen a substantial growth over recent years in its collections documenting the history of memory. In addition, with significant centenaries of historical events and an exponential rise in public commemoration and heritage events, the library has also endeavoured to collect works on memorialisation practices, heritage studies and the influence history has in societies as a whole. The Library team have therefore recently compiled a guide to the library’s memory and commemoration collections.
The guide provides an overview of the Library’s holdings, gives details of relevant classmark locations and highlights works concerning the commemoration of the First World War, Spanish Civil War and the Holocaust.
The Library’s collections contain significant holdings concerning the theoretical approaches of conducting memory, heritage and commemoration research. In addition, the Library also holds a swathe of works examining public commemoration and remembrance practices of specific historical events and periods. Examples from both of these areas are detailed within the collection guide, alongside relevant holdings within the Library’s electronic resources, journals, and periodicals.
The guide brings together works dispersed across the Library’s collections with relevant resources for memory and commemoration research, most notably from within the General collections. Alongside this, the guide also provides information of other relevant libraries and institutions with extensive resources on the study of memory.
While processing the latest new volumes to be acquired by the IHR Library, we came across an especially unusual assortment of works. Listed below is an interactive image gallery of some of our personal highlights from these latest acquisitions.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Several things have inspired this move to QGIS: the fact that the software is rapidly maturing in terms of functionality and stability; the fact that it is available across all platforms including MacOS X, and the growth of a community of users in historical GIS. The digital history tutorial site TheProgramming Historian now has a set of guides to QGIS which cover basic use of layers and geo-referencing scanned historical maps. QGIS has certainly come of age, and it now seems like a strong choice of mapping software for many historians.
QGIS also offers several distinct advantages over its competitors, at least for many of the tasks that historians seek to carry out with GIS. Many advanced ways of depicting data within maps, such as the popular ‘heatmap’ effect, and automatic displacement of overlapping points, which are complicated to achieve in other packages, are available in a single step. While QGIS cannot match ArcGIS for the sheer number and power of statistical and analytical tools, it does have a mature and comprehensive range of plugins which include easy ways to import mapping from open-source resources such as OpenStreetMap, and perhaps most usefully creating ready to use interactive maps to embed into websites.
Like the existing IHR Historical Maps and GIS training course, the QGIS course will first discuss the key geographical concepts and terminology required to understand cartography and GIS. Being aimed at historians, these concepts are explained through a potted history of maps. The first day also includes a chance to evaluate existing uses of GIS and web mapping in historical projects, and the use of Google’s free online custom mapping tools. Day two runs through all of the key processes required to work with historical material in QGIS including georeferencing historical maps, preparing historical data to be mapped, and two approaches to geocoding and displaying quantitative data. No prior geographical knowledge is required, but confidence with spreadsheets such as Excel is essential, and knowledge of relational databases such as Access is recommended.
We 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).
Welcome to the inaugural blog post in a series promoting the Low Countries collection in the IHR Library. My name is Stijn van Rossem and I took up a one-year post-doctoral fellowship in March. In the months to come, I will explore and promote the remarkable holdings on the Low Countries, one of the largest collections outside of the Netherlands and Belgium, and will help to show the collection’s relevance not just for Low Countries studies but also for scholars of British, European and World History.
Before joining the IHR, I held teaching positions at the University of Antwerp (Literature of Modernity) and the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Art History). I am a visiting professor at the School of Arts in Ghent, where I teach courses on the history and theory of graphic design. In 2013, I was director of the Museum of Letters and Manuscripts in Brussels. My primary areas of expertise are book history, graphic design, and curatorship; my Ph.D. focussed on the publishing strategies of the Verdussen family, printers in Antwerp from 1589 to 1689.
As well as producing a general guide, I will focus on the extensive collection of rare books from the Low Countries held by the IHR, and which includes the arguably understudied collection of about 1,000 Dutch pamphlets (dating from 1602–1814), an important source on the political, religious, commercial and social history of the Dutch Republic and the Southern Netherlands.
Pieter Geijl in London 1922 (Source Wikipedia)
This collection of Dutch Historical pamphlets is but a small part of the books on the Low Countries entering the IHR Library on the instigation of Professor Pieter Geyl, the first chair of Dutch Studies in the United Kingdom. Geyl was involved in the creation of a seminar on Dutch History in the IHR and was able to negotiate the transfer of the history books from Bedford College to the IHR, which were to be used as the reference library for his seminar ‘Reading of Dutch Historical Texts’ (from 1925 to 1926). Although often a very controversial figure with the capacity to generate a series of academic and political feuds, Geyl is still considered one of the most important historians from the Low Countries, who started his academic career in London. Together with the Dutch Department of UCL, I plan to organise a conference on the influence of Pieter Geyl in the United Kingdom.
But also other libraries of the School of Advanced Study have important collections. Senate House Library holds more than 1,000 rare books from the Low Countries, with over 700 of those printed by the famous Elzevier family. Next year will be the anniversary of the death of the founding father of the dynasty Lowijs Elsevier (ca 1540–1617). Together with Leiden University, Museum Meermanno (House of the Book, The Hague) and the Elsevier Heritage Collection we are currently discussing how to organise a suiting commemoration and what role we could play in it.
First 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).