We start this week with The Destruction of the Medieval Chinese Aristocracy by Nicolas Tackett, as Michael Hoeckelmann and the author discuss a work that will revolutionise our understanding of medieval China (no. 1807, with response here).
Next up is David D’Avray’s Dissolving Royal Marriages: A Documentary History, 860-1600. Danna Messer recommends an invaluable and truly impressive collection of documentary source material (no. 1806).
Then we turn to The Deluge: The Great War, America, and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931 by Adam Tooze. Kevin Matthews finds this a compelling story, but one shot through with misstatements, contradictions, inconsistencies and other errors (no. 1805).
Finally we have Terence Brown’s The Irish Times: 150 Years of Influence, and Carole O’Reilly believes this book represents a valuable contribution to our understanding of the role of a newspaper in national public life (no. 1804).
The Dr Seng Tee Lee Centre, Senate House Library
October 27th 2015
The University of London’s Senate House Library will be hosting a symposium in connection with a new project to begin later this year being jointly run by the Centre for Metropolitan History at the Institute of Historical Research, Senate House Library and the School of Advanced Study. The Passage project hopes to address a number of research questions arising from historical texts that describe or are structured around walking around London. It’s intended to be very broad in its disciplinary approaches, as well as its period of coverage (from Stow to the early 20th century), and its research themes will be wide ranging, including:
The topographical development of London at various periods
The associations of place with specific types of activity
The associations of place with types of morality
The development of consumer services
Reasons for and different types of walking around London (‘strolling, striding, marching’)
Changes in the literary genre of ‘travel writing’, broadly defined
The body of texts to be examined by the project include tour guides, travel journals of visitors, literary/polemical discourses ‘attached’ to walks, topographical surveys, administrative records (e.g. perambulation accounts), criminal records (e.g. trespass depositions) and governmental (control of walking routes/rights of way, enclosure, management of protest etc.).
The project is still very much in its infancy at the moment – even the project website is yet to be launched! – but the symposium will provide an excellent opportunity for scholars and students from various backgrounds and disciplines to define the landscape. The symposium will fall into two halves: the first half of the day will focus on papers from invited speaks who will be discussing very different approaches to historical writing about walking in London. Speakers include Nick Barratt (SHL) will be talking about walking as recorded in official records, focusing on Medieval London; Sarah Dustagheer (Kent) will be talking about Shakespeare, walking and London; Richard Dennis (UCL) who will be talking about George Gissing, Charles Booth and 19th century walking in London; and Matthew Beaumont (UCL) who will be discussing nightwalking in London.
The second half of the day will include a round-table discussion of the themes that arise from the papers, and will also provide an opportunity to view interesting and rare examples of London walking literature. In the afternoon, Senate House Library’s Rare Books Library, Dr Karen Attar, will be displaying and talking about the Bromhead Library (http://senatehouselibrary.ac.uk/our-collections/special-collections/printed-special-collections/bromhead-library/), a collection from which many of works on walking come, as well as items from other collections that will be providing evidence throughout the Passage project.
This post was originally published on the Talking Humanities blog of the School of Advanced Study
The Institute of Historical Research (IHR) has just published Using Film as a Source, the first in a new series of research guides designed to equip students and new researchers with the information they need to tackle a particular field.
Written by Sian Barber a lecturer in film studies at Queen’s University, Belfast, the guide’s 192 pages explore how film and moving image can be used as historical sources. It will be a model for future publications in this planned series that is expected to cover a diverse range of topics including space, transport history, material culture and objects and Tudor government.
Naturally each author will approach writing the guides in different ways, according to the demands of their subjects. In Dr Barber’s case, she treats using film as historical evidence as if it has its own conventions and practice. Detailed case studies are employed as an aid to beginning researchers in the field. The guide includes sections on working with different kinds of moving images, how to explore visual sources, how to undertake film-related research and how to use film theory, as well as providing a full bibliography, glossary and resource list. And Dr Barber also addresses a subject that is perhaps little considered by non-specialists: how exactly do you cite a film in academic work?
Our plan is that the main content of each guide will follow roughly the same structure: Understanding the historiographical context; Formulating your research questions; Choosing your methodology; Locating your sources; Getting the best from your library (negotiating archives, digital resources); Using your sources (handling and reading sources, reproducing images); Writing up your findings; What next?
Therefore, although the IHR Research Guides will place the subject in historiographical context, they will be largely practical in focus. And as increasingly necessary, there will also be good coverage of digital resources for a particular topic.
As such, they will be particularly useful for final-year undergraduates and beginning postgraduates, as well as independent researchers. Printed only in paperbacks, they should be affordable by individuals and not just by libraries.
Mellon Fellow Kate Imy recently published an article in Gender and History that was based in part on a conference paper that she gave at an IHR-funded conference during her time as a Fellow at the IHR. ‘Queering the Martial Races: Masculinity, Sex and Circumcision in the Twentieth-Century British Indian Army’ can be found in the Wiley Online Library.
Past & Present Fellow Courtney Campbell has accepted a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship to teach and research at Tougaloo College in Mississippi. Tougaloo is a historically black college- it was an active base during the Civil Rights Movement and now maintains the Medgar Evers museum and archive. She is very excited about this opportunity to teach, research, and serve in new ways.
Courtney has an article forthcoming in Slavery and Abolition, another under review at Past & Present; has an IHR conference series volume under review (with Allegra Giovine and Jennifer Keating, other Junior Research Fellows from 2014-15) and she is working on a virtual issue of Past & Present on the theme of “Space and Place”.
An Endangered Archives Programme project grant that Courtney is co-director of was also approved through the British Library. It is for just over £39,000 and will digitize 18th and 19th century notarial and criminal documents in the state of Paraiba in Brazil over the next two years.
Past & Present Fellow Will Pooley was very pleased to be offered a lectureship in modern European history at the University of Bristol starting in September. He is also looking forward to submitting his book manuscript to the Past & Present series at OUP.
Kevin Lewis, a Past & Present Fellow earlier in the academic year, is one of the co-editors for a Festschrift to be published by the University of Wales Press in honour of Professor Denys Pringle (Cardiff) in 2016. This has received financial support from the IHR’s Scouloudi Trust, in addition to a number of other funding bodies.
We end our monthly fashion special with Bethan Bide’s assessment of the Fashion on the Ration exhibition at the Imperial War Museum, and she reports on a thoughtful exhibition which could be bolder in using material culture evidence to signpost the counter narratives contained within the objects on display (no. 1803).
Next up is Textiles, Fashion and Design Reform in Austria-Hungary Before the First World War by Rebecca Houze. Shona Kallestrup believes this book provokes a welcome reconsideration of how we understand the complex cultural tapestry of Vienna (no. 1802).
Finally for fashion, we turn to Fashionable Queens: Body – Power – Gender, edited by Eva Flicker and Monika Seidl, with Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell warning against a muddled mixed bag of an essay collection (no. 1801).
We also have a great review of the newly enhanced Welsh Newspapers Online website, as Paul O’Leary reviews a formidable resource with enormous potential for the study of the 19th and early 20th centuries (no. 1800).
If you are currently looking to enrol on a Masters course in History which begins this autumn, 2015, whether full or part-time, then the IHR has just the course for you: our Masters in Historical Research.
Taught by acknowledged specialists, taken successfully by recent students, this is an ideal course for learning essential skills required by historians today. These are also skills in the manipulation and analysis of data which are transferable to business and the professions.
Whether you have graduated this summer in History and want to stay on for more, or took a degree some years ago, whether in History or a related subject, the IHR’s Masters in Historical Research may be right for you.
Our fashion special continues this week, beginning with Writing Fashion in Early Modern Italy: From Sprezzatura to Satire by Eugenia Paulicelli. Cordelia Warr tackles a book which is part of an ongoing endeavour to bring together different disciplines to investigate dress and fashion (no. 1799).
Next up is Denise Rall’s edited collection Fashion and War in Popular Culture, which Rebecca Arnold finds to be an ambitious book, but one whose scope could have been defined with more clarity (no. 1798).
Then we have Dress Casual: How College Students Redefined American Style by Deidre Clemente. John Potvin recommends a serious and genuine contribution to the history of American fashion and cultural life (no. 1797).
Finally we turn to Kate Haulman’s The Politics of Fashion in Eighteenth-Century America, which Gaye Wilson believes offers a fresh and thought-provoking encounter with early American history (no. 1796).
The article examines the significance of martyrdom in a context beyond that of the Roman world. The sources employed are the published works of French missionaries active between 1836 and 1866 in Korea. The findings illuminate the mentalité of the missionaries who held that the association claimed for martyrdom and successful Christian evangelization was self-evidently true – the martyrs would ensure the mission’s ultimate success. They also demonstrate the means by which martyrdom may have assisted the spread of Christianity within a context of limited persecution and a well-organized and properly funded mission structure supported by a dedicated cadre of catechists.
Over 500 references survive to payment in return for control over land in Anglo-Saxon England. This article considers these documents as a source for social developments. Issues which are explored include the identities of buyers and sellers, changes in the roles of these groups over the period, and the likely aims and concerns of different individuals and institutions who paid for land. A chronology is developed for the participation of various groups in land payments. Payments emerge as a significant component in definitions of status and strategies of land management, albeit closely interwoven with other forms of transaction.
The execution of Jan Hus, as depicted in Ulrich Richental’s chronicle.
This post has kindly been written for us by Duncan Hardy, a Scouloudi Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research
Six hundred years ago on Monday a former priest, preacher, and university master known to posterity as Jan Hus was burned at the stake in Constance (Konstanz in modern-day Germany), a city in the Holy Roman Empire. For more than a decade Hus had been fulminating against what he perceived as the abuses and errors of the Church in his native kingdom of Bohemia, inspired by a unique Czech brand of vernacular piety, his own understanding of the Scriptures, and the writings of the English heretic John Wyclif. After eight years of disputations and trials before ecclesiastical officials in Prague, Rome, and Bologna, Hus had travelled to Constance in 1414 to defend his views before the enormous assembly of prelates that had gathered there for a General Council of the Church. Despite a safe-conduct from Sigismund, the king of Hungary and the Holy Roman Empire, Hus was put on trial by the finest canon lawyers of the day. On the morning of 6 July 1415 he was condemned as a heretic and sentenced to death before the entire Council of Constance, then handed over to the secular authorities for execution. What followed was recorded in detail by a chronicler, Ulrich Richental, a citizen of Constance who witnessed the events of 6 July:
‘Then Duke Ludwig [a prince-elector of the Empire and Sigismund’s marshal] ordered the city guard and the hangman to take him [Hus] out to be burned, and to remove his clothes and possessions… And he had a white mitre made of paper placed on his head, on which were painted two devils, and in between them was written “Heresiarcha”, which is to say an archbishop of all heretics. And more than a thousand armed men led him out of Constance, as well as the princes and lords, who were also armed. And he was not bound because they surrounded him completely, and they called me, Ulrich, over to them. And the city council’s guards went before and behind him. And they led him to the Geltinger gate, and thence out of the city… And during this outward journey he said nothing other than “Jhesu Christe, fili dei vivi, misere mei”. And when he came to the field outside the city and saw the torches, timber, and straw, he fell three times to his knees and said in a loud voice “Jhesu Christe, fili dei vivi, qui passus es pro nobis, misere mei”. Then he was asked if he wished to make confession. He replied: “Gladly, but it is too crowded here”. People were making a ring around him. Then I asked him if he wanted to make confession. There was a priest there called Sir Ulrich Schorand, who had the authority of the General Council and the diocese. I called over the same Sir Ulrich. He came to Hus and said to him: “Dear sir and master, if you will turn away from your unbelief and heresy, for which you must now suffer, I will gladly hear your confession. If you do not want to do that, you yourself know well that according to canon law one cannot administer any sacrament to a heretic.” And Hus replied thus: “It is not necessary, I have committed no mortal sins.” After that he tried to start preaching in German. Duke Ludwig did not want this, and ordered him to be burned. So the hangman took him and bound him with rope to an upright plank. And he placed a small stool under his feet, and light wood and straw around him, and then he poured some pitch over it and set it alight. Then Hus began to emit horrifying shrieks, and was soon burned. […] Thereafter all of Hus’s ashes that were lying there were thrown into the Rhine.’ (My translation from the frühneuhochdeutsch original in Chronik des Konstanzer Konzils 1414-1418 von Ulrich Richental, ed. Thomas Martin Buck (Stuttgart, 2010), pp. 64-6).
What was the significance of Jan Hus’s execution, and why should we care about it? For centuries scholars and polemicists of every political and religious persuasion have examined and written about the striking life and death of this cleric from Bohemia. The story of Jan Hus as an individual certainly has some allure, in that it involved the dramatic actions of a hero of the faith or an infamous heretic (depending on one’s perspective) on an international stage at a time of profound crisis but also of political and intellectual ferment in Europe. Furthermore, accounts of Hus’s last days and moments, such as the narrative of Ulrich Richental, are simultaneously fascinating, moving, and horrifying to modern readers. The punishment of burning at the stake is emblematic for what are perceived today as the worst excesses of late medieval and early modern cruelty, and Hus was one of the most iconic victims of this method of execution. Because of his fate – suffering a gruesome death for standing by his convictions – we tend to look upon Hus with an instinctive sympathy, or at least to assume that his judges and executioners were inherently unjust and vindictive.
Some scholars, including Paul de Vooght, Jiří Kejř, and Thomas A. Fudge, have sought in recent years to establish whether Hus was indeed a heretic by the standards of contemporary canon law, and therefore legitimately sentenced by the Council of Constance, in an attempt to move beyond these emotive and moralistic interpretations of his trial and execution, and to analyse and reconstruct them in their late medieval context. Other historians, armed with the critical apparatus furnished by the various recent ‘turns’ in the humanities, are not convinced that the contemporary category of ‘heresy’ can be accessed and defined objectively, and conceptualise cases like Hus’s in terms of a power dynamic between ecclesiastical authorities and the increasingly complex societies in which they operated.
Yet the importance imputed to Jan Hus far exceeds the questions raised by his own life, trial, and death. At a broader level, historians have considered the events of 6 July 1415 to be an important manifestation of a range of developments that shaped European history in the early fifteenth century. The Council of Constance (1414-18) that condemned Hus had been convened in order to resolve a decades-long schism in the Church. By the 1410s there were three competing popes jostling for the allegiance of Catholic princes and subjects. In much late medieval historiography, Hus represents a widespread anxiety about ecclesiastical corruption and division, while his trial has become a famous example of the measures taken to try to restore clerical authority. Hus’s name also became linked to a religious and political movement within Bohemia that emerged around the time of his death. The ‘Hussen’ (or ‘Hussites’ in English) – so called by their German enemies – emerged in the 1410s as a heterogeneous group united loosely by a shared commitment to some of the principles defended by Hus himself, notably the taking of the Eucharist in both kinds and the transfer of ecclesiastical properties and jurisdictions into secular hands. Many Hussites also opposed the succession of Sigismund (the Hungarian and Roman monarch) as king of Bohemia in 1420. These conjunctures led to a series of extremely violent wars in Bohemia and in the regions surrounding it in the 1420s-30s, including five failed Crusades launched from within the Holy Roman Empire.
These broader developments associated with Jan Hus have been fitted into two main interpretive and narrative schemes. The first sees Hus as a hero of the Czech nation, who – in a nineteenth-century idiom – galvanised the people of Bohemia into following their ideals and fighting against their German oppressors, and – from a post-Soviet perspective – inspired the humanistic and tolerant values that are now held to be the hallmarks of contemporary Europe. The second situates Hus within the teleology of the Reformation, often including him within a triad of Great Men – John Wyclif, Jan Hus himself, and Martin Luther – who are thought to have spearheaded the call for reform in an age of ecclesiastical corruption, leading to what is typically characterised as an epoch-making rupture circa 1517 and, ultimately, to the birth of the modern world.
Both of these narratives are much in evidence in the various commemorations marking the 600th anniversary of Hus’s death. In the Czech Republic, for instance, a national festival entitled ‘Jan Hus – European of Modern Times’ is being held this year with the patronage of the president, Miloš Zeman, and the Charles University of Prague. In the documentation associated with this festival, Hus is described not only as a prominent reformer but as ‘a personality of pan-European significance… thanks to [whom] we can celebrate essential human qualities that are nowadays so important: personal responsibility, perceptive consciousness, insusceptibility, veracity, thoughtfulness, diligence, and heroism.’ On 1 July a four-hour biographical film of Hus’s life – the product of collaboration between the Czech broadcaster Česká Televize and the Franco-German channel Arte – was shown on television in several European countries. According to its producers, the film depicts Hus as ‘one of the most significant figures of the Reformation movement… [who] still has much to teach us today’.
As somebody who studies the later middle ages, I am pleased that Jan Hus and his era are currently receiving so much attention. Although the rhetoric of many of these commemorative events appears, from the perspective of academic history, anachronistic and transparently presentist, they are understandably seeking to convey some well-established narratives accessibly to broader audiences. However, I think that there is a key element in the Jan Hus affair that has been missed in all of the narratives and interpretations, scholarly and ‘popular’, discussed so far: the Holy Roman Empire. The Empire was the overarching political context within which the lives and actions of Hus and his opponents unfolded. Certainly, the proto-national dimensions of Hus’s vernacular preaching is significant, so politics within the kingdom of Bohemia needs to be taken into account; and there is no doubt that clear links can be made between Hus and the Hussites and the sixteenth-century reform movements (Martin Luther, for instance, explicitly identified with Jan Hus). However, this was not just a ‘Czech’ event, nor was it confined to the ecclesiastical sphere.
The first page of a mid-fifteenth-century copy of the Reformatio Sigismundi (München, Staatsbibliothek, Cgm 702). The title, ‘Kaysers Sigmunds Reformacion’, is written in the top-right corner.
Indeed, if we are to make sense of the meaning of the concepts of ‘reform’ and ‘Reformation’ as people living in the fourteenth, fifteenth, and early sixteenth centuries understood them, we will need to pay more attention to the Holy Roman Empire as the political framework within which many reformist impulses emerged and played out. Jan Hus’s career and his trial at Constance were two instances amongst many of the inhabitants of Central Europe attempting to address the perceived problems of the Church and the Empire – two interrelated bodies in contemporary understanding. While the Council of Constance condemned Hus – a self-proclaimed reformer – the professed aim of its members was also ‘the alleviation and reformation of the Roman and Universal Church’ (Romane ac universalis ecclesie relevationi ac reformationi). Polemicists at both the Council of Constance and its successor, the Council of Basel (1431-49), called for the simultaneous reform of the Church and the Empire. Especially notable in this respect was the Reformatio Sigismundi, a vernacular tract written in the name of King/Emperor Sigismund which called for the radical centralisation of religion and politics in the Holy Roman Empire. It met with enormous success, and was printed in multiple editions in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Bohemia, Hus’s homeland, was not cut off from these Empire-centred calls for reform, but inextricably bound up within them, despite the rhetorical enmity between Czech-speaking Hussites and their German-speaking neighbours. The kingdom of Bohemia was a part of the Empire, and its kings were prince-electors. Under the Luxemburg dynasty of Charles IV, Wenceslas, and Sigismund, the Empire, Bohemia, and Hungary came to be ruled by the same family, and similar dynastic links – this time generated by the house of Habsburg – would hold these regions together in the sixteenth century.
The Holy Roman Empire, then, was not simply the backdrop for the dramatic deeds of ‘Great Reformers’ like Jan Hus and Martin Luther. ‘Reformation’ was a multi-faceted and widely employed concept, and discussion of reform addressed a series of intertwined religious and political issues which were anchored in the specific structures, practices, and discourses of the Holy Roman Empire in the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries. For instance, the Empire had an unusually acute degree of crossover and friction between ecclesiastical and secular jurisdictions, owing to the high number of its bishops and abbots who were also temporal princes. In this context, debates about reforming the Church – and, in particular, of curtailing its powers and possessions – were especially highly charged. Equally, I have found in my research into the core lands of the Empire that elites across the political spectrum, from princes to guild masters, articulated their concerns about violence, conflict, and corruption, both religious and secular, in terms of what might be called ‘reformist’ concepts such as peace (Friede), necessity (Notdurft), and the common good (gemeiner Nutz). Long before Luther famously faced the emperor and the papal legate at the Diet of Worms in 1521, the means of implementing these pressing reformist goals had been discussed at many imperial diets (gemeine Tage, Reichstage) and myriad conferences organised by regional leagues of princes, nobles, and cities throughout the Holy Roman Empire. Often these meetings resulted in manifestoes and legislation which explicitly appealed to reformist ideals, such as the königliche Reformation issued by King Frederick III and the imperial estates at Frankfurt in 1442, an edict which sought to curtail feuding, protect priests, and regulate coinage throughout the Empire.
As we move from the 600th anniversary of Hus’s death to the 500th anniversaries of Luther’s deeds in 2017 and beyond, we should bear in mind the long and diverse history of religious and political reform in the Holy Roman Empire, much of which remains to be explored in relatively untapped archival collections throughout Europe.