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, 900–1500concerns 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 Aragonand 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 Midwifedraws 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, 1539-1619examines 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.
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):
Fig. 1. Screen shot of simple search for ‘Motherhood’
Fig. 2. Screen shot of subject tree for advanced search
Fig. 3. Screen shot of latest resources for ‘Motherhood’
A library enquiry recently sparked an intriguing trip to the archive, revealing a very different image of Bloomsbury to that of today.
The Institute of Historical Research Library team recently received an enquiry regarding the history of the Institute and in particular the varied buildings which the IHR has occupied during its history. As a result, following some research in the Institute’s archive, we have been researching the history of Bloomsbury, in particular Malet Street and Gower Street due to their proximity to the site that the IHR occupies today.
Interest in this project was further spiked following the discovery of photographs held by the Imperial War Museum in London documenting the area during the First World War. The photographs clearly highlight the greatly changed surroundings from 1918 to the present day.
The photographs show the corner of Store Street and Gower Street at the intersection where the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is housed now. Also shown is a Y.M.C.A building that was used as accommodation for troops during the First World War. The area looks almost unrecognisable from today with significantly less traffic!
The Institute of Historical Research was first housed in similar accommodation to that pictured in the photographs above, with the Institute only moving to a newly built Senate House when ‘Senate House lost its veil of scaffolding and University staff moved in’ during 1937. (Simpson, The University of London’s Senate House:Charles Holden, Classicism & Modernity, University of London, 2005, p37) Prior to this, the IHR building was frequently referred to as ‘the army huts’ because of its external resemblance to those provided for troops. The building was a single-storey structure and rested on the basements and cellars of houses that had been cleared before the war. Additionally, it should also be noted that at this time Malet Street was significantly narrower than it is presently, only being widened in the 1930s.
The secretary and librarian of the IHR from 1946-1971 recalled how the streets of Malet Street and Gower Street were made up of single-storey buildings. Mr A. Taylor-Milne remarked that, ‘In the academic year 1924-5 some of us undergraduates at University College used to walk down Malet Street to the headquarters of the University of London Union, temporarily housed at the corner of Montague Place, in what had been a large Y.M.C.A hut for the troops during the First World War. On the way we passed the first home of the Institute of Historical Research, a neat row of single-storied structures.’ (Birch and Horn, The History Laboratory: The Institute of Historical Research 1921-96, University of London, 1996, p 24).
The archives of the Y.M.C.A, housed within the collections of the University of Birmingham, contain many striking examples recording the cottage-style buildings that were located right along Malet Street. An example of these ‘huts’ is that of the ‘Shakespeare Hut’, a Y.M.C.A recreation hut built for the rest and recuperation of serving forces during the First World War with a remit to entertain the troops with dramatic performances of Shakespeare productions. The building was situated on the corner of Malet Street and Keppel Street, the site now occupied by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
The history of the British Museum site occupying Montague Place also sheds light on the history of Bloomsbury, with the scope of the site mostly unchanged from its conception to the present. The north entrance (situated on Montague Place and facing Senate House today) was opened in 1914. Interestingly, however, the north entrance was never intended to be a public entrance. Instead the entrance and galleries on this side of the building were originally meant to face a long avenue which would be part of a victory parade route. The saluting gallery, a reminder of this grand scheme, can still be seen above the north entrance.
Following the end of the First World War, building work commenced across the Bloomsbury area. The IHR’s Secretary and Librarian from 1927-1943 recalled watching the works begin along Malet Street. He commented that, ‘the southern end of the Institute’s building faced to the west another vacant site, soon to be covered by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. I watched its building from my office next to the Institute’s entrance and used to say that the names Frank, Pettenkofer and Briggs would be found graven on my heart!’ (Birch and Horn, p 40)
Similarly, in 1921 further along Malet Street, a new theatre was built by the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art [RADA]. This building occupied land which backed onto the Academy’s existing buildings on Gower Street.
It is clear therefore, that the area underwent enormous transformation during this time. Indeed, the vast urban development projects that were taking place within the area can be evidenced through London County Council’s legislative directive to widen both Malet Street and Montague Place in 1928 (London County Council (General Powers) Act 1928 sections 48-53 (50.9) in Simpson, p19).
In many of the images Bloomsbury is unrecognisable in relation to its present-day form. The archival photographs in this way allow for a window onto an often forgotten past. However, whilst the architecture may have changed, the institutions lining Malet Street have remained and the work and research carried out within them provides a continuum to the present day.
This short introduction is only intended as an overview of the visual history of the area. However, several archives contain significant holdings on the changing architectural face of Bloomsbury and each respective institution’s history. Therefore, for more information please see:
– LSHTM’s project ‘Resurrecting the Shakespeare Hut‘ will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the opening of the YMCA Shakespeare Hut on the School’s Keppel Street site on 11th August 1916. The project, made possible by a joint-award from the Heritage Lottery Fund, will include an audio-visual exhibition, performances and local First World War oral history testimonies.
Beveridge Hall| Senate House | Malet Street | WC1E 7HU
David Cesarani’s death in 2015 deprived the historical profession of a noted and highly respected public historian. Focusing throughout his enormously productive career on the history of modern Europe and of the Jewish experience within that history, Cesarani was not only a scholar in his own right but a notable interpreter of history for a broader audience whose career as a broadcaster and journalist linked past and present in ways that made history relevant and important to non-specialists. Two of his many books have been published posthumously. Final Solution: The Fate of the Jews 1933-49 was acclaimed on its publication in January of this year. It has been followed by Cesarani’s biographical study, Disraeli: The Novel Politician, published in April. This event will launch and assess Cesarani’s last book on Anglo-Jewish history, a biography of the most famous of Anglo-Jews, and offers an opportunity to discuss his overall contribution to public debate and historical studies in Britain.
Our panel will consist of two historians of modern Europe, Professor Sir Richard Evans, Regius Professor of History Emeritus in the University of Cambridge, and Professor Jonathan Steinberg, also of Cambridge and the University of Pennsylvania. They will be joined by the scholar and critic of Anglo-Jewish literature, Professor Bryan Cheyette of the University of Reading, and by Suzanne Bardgett, Head of Research and Academic Partnerships at the Imperial War Museum where David Cesarani was a consultant for the museum’s Holocaust gallery.
Entry to this lecture is free but registration is required. To register for this event please click here.
Using the 1830 divorce of Lord and Lady Ellenborough as a case study, this article sheds more light on the mechanisms of sexual scandal in early nineteenth-century Europe. It contrasts the publicity and political meaning given to the adultery of Lady Ellenborough and the Austrian envoy Felix zu Schwarzenberg in London and Vienna. Whereas radical and moderate reformers exploited the divorce to contest aristocratic leadership and to propagate a contrasting model of domesticity in the British press, the Austrian government went to great lengths to cover up the affair. Both Austrian diplomatic correspondence and British high-society letters and diaries from before and during the scandal show an awareness of the damage that disclosures about the private affairs of the elite could cause.
The deadline for this year’s prize is Friday 27 May.
The Pollard Prize (sponsored by Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.) is 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.
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).
Even 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.
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).
This collection of political ephemera, built up by Heisler over the last 50 years and still being added to by regular deposits of pamphlet-stuffed plastic bags, currently consists of approximately 25,000 books, 20,000 pamphlets, 3,000 journal and newspaper titles and a quantity of ephemera, published by or relating to labour and radical political movements, and to political expression in art, drama and literature.
The collection is particularly strong for Britain and Ireland, and includes items published by radical groups, friendly societies and the Chartists from the late-18th to the 20th centuries, and many publications of Trotskyist groups, the Independent Labour Party and the Communist Party from the early to mid-20th century. From the 1960s and 1970s, the holdings of New Left material are very extensive, and there are some uncommon publications from the women’s movement. The collection further covers Africa, particularly South Africa; Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States and the West Indies; France, Germany, Italy and Spain (notably the Spanish Civil War); and the former Soviet Union. A substantial proportion of material in the collection was published in very small quantities, and some is scarce.
In order to promote the collection, the cataloguing of which is still ongoing, a selection of the most striking pamphlet covers have been digitised, and made available on a new web resource produced by the IHR Digital team (http://www.history.ac.uk/exhibitions/heislercollection/). Where possible contextual information about the pamphlets, and the issues they cover, has been provided.
The resource aims to give an example of the treasure trove of material that lies within the collection, to illustrate how ephemera can perform as unique type of historical source material, and to act as an introduction to the wider Senate House Library Radical Voices project. Over the next year, under the Radical Voices umbrella, SHL plans to produce a series of events and resources centring around its various collections in this area – including the Grote library, the books and papers of pacifist Caroline Playne, the archive of Afro-Trinidadian journalist, activist and historian C. L. R. James, the Booth library, and many more – as well as drawing in other similar collections from across London.
Anyone interested in finding out more about this resource, or the Heisler collection, can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.