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Libraries and archives working together for researchers


Librarians and archivists are great at collaborating. Library collections are often built up with a specific remit so as not to overlap too much with other local or specialist libraries. The Institute of Historical Research library collections, for example, have always focused on Western European and American history, leaving other regions to the nearby libraries of the School of Oriental and African Studies and the School of Slavonic and East European Studies. Similarly the Senate House Library and IHR history collections have been built up to be complementary, with the IHR focusing on primary source material and Senate House Library collecting monographs and other secondary material. We continue to work closely together when selecting material.

Libraries and archives also complement each other. The IHR library includes a range of guides, bibliographies and calendars which can be a useful starting point for research. Michael Little from theNational Archives library has written more about this in a recent blog post. As he says, ‘it’s helpful to see archives and libraries as working in conjunction with each rather than as being separate entities’.

On January 20th 2015, we will be hosting the second History Libraries and Research open Day in the MacMillan Hall on the ground floor of Senate House. The idea for an open day originated with the Committee for London Research Libraries in History which was itself founded out of a desire to have a forum for libraries to share ideas and collaborate. The event will bring together libraries and archives from across London to provide information about library collections and workshops and presentations about research methods and skills. Researchers will have the opportunity to talk to staff and find out more about relevant collections.

Librarians also work collaboratively in enquiry work – helping readers to find material in our own institutions, but also pointing out where other organisations have related or more specialist collections. The fair is a great opportunity for students – and for library/archive staff – to meet each other and discover the sometimes hidden gems available in libraries and archives in London and beyond.

New reviews: Anglo-Saxon theology, Scottish Enlightenment towns, early modern faith and WW1 diaries


Wulfstan Archbishop of York 1002-1023

Wulfstan Archbishop of York 1002-1023

We start this week with Heaven and Earth in Anglo-Saxon England: Theology and Society in an Age of Faith by Helen Foxhall Forbes. Máirín Mac Carron and the author discuss a book which breaks new ground in considering the widespread Anglo-Saxon population’s engagement with Christian beliefs (no. 1698, with response here).

Then we turn to Bob Harris and Charles McKean’s The Scottish Town in the Age of the Enlightenment 1740-1820, which Ian Donnachie finds to be a formidable and scholarly volume, and a major contribution to urban, social and cultural history (no. 1697).

Next up is The Soteriology of James Ussher The Act and Object of Saving Faith by Richard Snoddy, which Susan Royal welcomes as a major contribution to the field of historical theology (no. 1696).

Finally we have the acerbic Margot Asquith’s Great War Diary 1914-1916: The View from Downing Street, edited by Michael and Eleanor Brock. Iain Sharpe reviews a labour of love carried out with great care and professionalism (no. 1695).


New reviews: Scottish gender, Paris 1944, medieval magic and Poland


carrAnyway, we begin with Gender and Enlightenment Culture in Eighteenth-Century Scotland by Rosalind Carr, as Stana Nenadic and the author discuss a useful and brave attempt to embrace a complex, ephemeral and hard to define phenomenon (no. 1694, with response here).

Next up is Matthew Cobb’s Eleven Days in August: The Liberation of Paris in 1944. Karine Varley praises a book which is meticulously researched, engaging with a range of French, British and American archival sources, as well as numerous first-hand accounts and secondary works (no. 1693).

Then we turn to Magic in the Cloister: Pious Motives, Illicit Interests, and Occult Approaches to the Medieval Universe by Sophie Page. Helen Nicholson believes this study provides a context for the widespread accusations of sorcery and diabolism against political opponents in the 14th century (no. 1692).

Finally we have Brian Porter-Szűcs’ Poland in the Modern World: Beyond Martyrdom. Anita Prazmowska is not convinced that this book fills a gap in the market (no. 1691).

New Historical Research article






Now the mask is taken off’: Jacobitism and colonial New England, 1702–27 by David Parrish

Jacobitism has been shown to be an integral and enduring element of British culture, especially during the twenty-six years following the Revolution of 1688. Yet few attempts have been made to explore the impact or existence of Jacobitism in the British Atlantic world. This article locates and examines the presence of Jacobitism in the religious controversies and transatlantic print culture of colonial New England from 1702 to 1727 and draws tentative conclusions about the existence and significance of Jacobitism in the British Atlantic.

The Brazilian Northeast, Inside Out


This post has kindly been written for us by Courtney J. Campbell, Past & Present Postdoctoral Fellow, @CJCampbell123,


Saturnino de Brito Filho, Regiões Secas do Nordeste, 1936.

This year, Brazilians faced a difficult presidential election. Through a preliminary election in October, voters narrowed their choice to two candidates: sitting president Dilma Rousseff of the Workers’ Party or Aécio Neves of the Social Democrat Party of Brazil. While both candidates were born in the city of Belo Horizonte in Brazil’s Southeast, the election was widely discussed in terms of a different region: the Brazilian Northeast. After the preliminary vote, newspapers ran strongly worded editorials critical of the Northeast and its loyalty to the Workers’ Party. Tweeters and Facebookers followed suit, publishing disparaging comments about Northeasterners that referred to them as too ignorant and illiterate to understand who they should vote for or as lazy and simply wanting to remain on the welfare check supported by the Workers’ Party. In some cases, the insults even came in the form of racist comments, referring to the majority mixed-race population of the Northeast. In response, many Northeasterners defended their region on social media, highlighting its contributions to Brazilian literature and culture. A new hashtag gained fame on Twitter – #essesnordestinos – reflecting disparaging and even violent comments that began with the phrase ‘those northeasterners …’ and  a Tumblr account was set up to gather negative comments found on social media about the Northeast. In the runoff election, Rousseff did carry the Northeast easily, with nearly 80% of the vote in several states, while Neves was more popular in the Southern and most Southeastern states (though this map is careful to show that in reality, all states are some shade of purple). This social media storm emphasizes the roles that the Brazilian Northeast plays within the nation. The Northeast serves as root of national culture, as scapegoat for the nation’s problems, and as foil to the ideal socially equal and developed Brazil that so many Brazilians hope to achieve.

What is surprising about this Northeastern regional identity is that it formed so quickly. In 1919, the term ‘Northeast’ came into use within governmental reports referring to the drought region. Before that, there were ‘North’ and ‘South’, but no ‘Northeast’. I study how this area originally defined by rainfall morphed into a cultural and social identity. I focus on how Brazilians discussed what it meant to belong to the Northeastern region in the mid-twentieth century and how this cultural identity was both influenced by and influenced the region’s relations with the world around it. I write about moments of intense international action that took place in the Northeast or that involved Northeasterners, including romantic relationships between Brazilian women and U.S. soldiers stationed in the Northeast during World War II, a campaign to bring a World Cup soccer match to the Northeast in 1950, and Miss Universe pageants in which Northeastern women competed in the 1950s and 1960s. My work emphasizes that for ideas about Northeastern culture and the definition of its borders to become popular ideas (popular enough to be readily presented and understood on Twitter and Tumblr) they had to be relevant to a variety of social groups. For this reason, I analyze popular art, including popular music, pamphlet poetry (called cordel), hand-made ceramics, and even liquor labels. I study these popular sources alongside more traditional historical sources, like intellectual manuscripts, film, letters, political agreements, and the press. By analyzing such a wide variety of sources, I explore how ideas about the region and its meaning circulated among social groups and across international lines. In this way, my work emphasizes that what being Northeastern meant was discussed across social classes, depended to a surprising degree on international attention and activity in the region, and came about as much through debate as through agreement.

Robert Kennedy in Brazil (Bob Kennedy in Brazil)", image housed at the Museu da Imagem e do Som in São Paulo.

‘Robert Kennedy in Brazil (Bob Kennedy no Brasil)’, image housed at the Museu da Imagem e do Som in São Paulo.

I currently hold a Past & Present Postdoctoral Fellowship at the IHR, allowing me to spend this academic year converting my doctoral thesis into a book manuscript. As part of this project, I am writing a section that shows that the discussion of Northeastern regional identity was not just words. This section examines President John F. Kennedy’s international aid project, The Alliance for Progress, in the Brazilian Northeast as well as Senator Robert Kennedy’s visit to the region in 1965. This section will establish that how the Northeast was discussed within the region also influenced how it was understood from without. On one hand, discussions about the Brazilian Northeast that circulated among social groups in previous decades influenced how U.S. policymakers viewed the region and imagined it at once as a staging ground for projects aimed at development and as a hotbed of communist agitation before and after the Cuban Revolution. On the other, how the Kennedy administration and later Robert Kennedy discussed the Northeast consolidated certain existing stereotypes on an international scale while excluding others.

I became interested in the Brazilian Northeast, its place within the nation, and its international interactions when I lived, worked, and studied there. I moved to Recife, Pernambuco in 2003 after serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Paraguayan Chaco.  I left Recife in 2008 to begin my Ph.D. studies at Vanderbilt University, but I have returned to Brazil every year since for research and for the Endangered Archives Programme project in Paraíba that I direct. With the support of an IIE Graduate Fellowship for International Study, I researched in archives throughout the Northeast, as well as in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo as part of my doctoral research in 2012. I have also researched in archives in the United States and now, as a postdoctoral fellow, I study sources housed in British institutions. In this way, my research also reflects my own, ongoing relationship with the Brazilian Northeast as an international researcher investigating the region at times from within, at others from without. I hope, in this way, that my experience living, studying, and researching in Brazil serves as a contribution to the study of Brazilian history.

Courtney invites IHR blog readers to her Latin American History Seminar talk on 10 February 2014 about a 1941 labor protest by Northeastern fishermen and a movie that Orson Welles tried to make about it.

New reviews: Ottoman refugees, Indian soldiers, Counter-Reformation women and US Civil War


Armenian_refugees_camps_Aleppo_1918_main_Ottoman_barracks_(2)We begin with a discussion between Ben White and Isa Blumi of the latter’s new study of late Ottoman population displacements, Ottoman refugees, 1878-1939: migration in a post-imperial world (no. 1690, with response here).

We then turn to The Testimonies of Indian Soldiers and the Two World Wars:Between Self and Sepoy by Gajendra Singh. Gagan Preet Singh finds this book to be a breakthrough in the historiography of Indian armed forces (no. 1689).

Next up is Simone Laqua-O’Donell’s Women and the Counter-Reformation in Early Modern Munster. Jennifer Hillman welcomes a refreshing approach and a welcome contribution to the existing literature on the Counter Reformation (no. 1688).

Finally we have Civil War as Global Conflict: Transnational Meaning of the American Civil War edited by David T. Gleeson and Simon Lewis. William Coleman believes that this book stands as testament to the fact that the American Civil War had global dimensions (no. 1687).

New virtual issue of Historical Research



The Great War 1914-18

A new virtual issue commemorating the 100th anniversary of the First World War, including articles on Kitchener and that famous poster, war poetry and soldiers’ experiences and emotions.

Herbert Read and the fluid memory of the First World War: poetry, prose and polemic
Matthew S. Adams

The emotions in war: fear and the British and American military, 1914–45
Joanna Bourke


Conservative veteran M.P.s and the ‘lost generation’ narrative after the First World War
Richard Carr

Local heroes: war news and the construction of ‘community’ in Britain, 1914–18
Michael Finn

The Union of Democratic Control during the First World War
H. Hanak

The Vienna Diary of Berta de Bunsen, 28 June-17 August 1914
Christopher H. D. Howard

‘No mere silent commander’? Sir Henry Horne and the mentality of command during the First World War
David Monger

Germans in Britain During the First World War
Panikos Panayi

More than a great poster: Lord Kitchener and the image of the military hero
Keith Surridge

Imperialism first, the war second: the British, an Armenian legion, and deliberations on where to attack the Ottoman empire, November 1914–April 1915
Andrekos Varnava

Bereaved and aggrieved: combat motivation and the ideology of sacrifice in the First World War
Alexander Watson and Patrick Porter

Strange hells: a new approach on the Western Front
Ross Wilson


New reviews: Irish Nationalist women, pagan oracles, Muslims and the Crusades and Wisconsinite scholars


Hanna Sheehy Skeffington with Mrs Pearse c.1921. Skeffington was a co-founder of the Irish Women's Franchise League in 1908. (NLI, INDH 100)

Hanna Sheehy Skeffington with Mrs Pearse c.1921. Skeffington was a co-founder of the Irish Women’s Franchise League in 1908. (NLI, INDH 100)

So, onto the reviews, and we start with Irish Nationalist Women 1900-1918 by Senia Paseta. Mo Moulton and the author discuss a book which has opened a rich field of inquiry, and one worth pursuing into the less celebrated terrain of post-independence Ireland (no. 1686, with response here).

Then we turn to Anthony Ossa-Richardson’s The Devil’s Tabernacle: The Pagan Oracles in Early Modern Thought. Justin Champion believes this book should become a foundational work for exploring the changing shape of the relationship between erudition and cultural change (no. 1685).

Next up is Popular Muslim Reactions to the Franks in the Levant, 1097–1291 by Alex Mallett. Megan Cassidy-Welch reviews a book which shifts our view of the actions of the Counter-Crusade quite profoundly (no. 1684).

Finally we have James G. Morgan’s Into New Territory: American Historians and the Concept of US Imperialism. Alex Goodall recommends a book which does a great job of showing both how and why the legacy of the Wisconsinite scholars has been so substantial (no. 1683).

Medieval Materiality


 Primrose Hill_cropThis post has kindly been written for us by Carolyn Twomey, who is currently a Mellon Dissertation Fellow at the IHR (Follow her on Twitter @Carolyngian)

Objects speak to us. The evocative WWI poppy memorial at the Tower of London and the Disobedient Objects exhibition at the V&A are excellent examples of the fascination we have with material objects and the power that ‘things’ bear on our modern constructions of past and present. Objects can overwhelm, soothe, and jar. From the flashing lights of a Leicester Square Saturday night, to the familiar feel of keys in a pocket; from the swipe of an iPhone, to the click of prayer beads; these things—this stuff—are expressions of our everyday lives and cultural consciousness. Part of the postmodern turn in the discipline, studies of materiality and physical spaces in history have the potential to reveal new aspects and attitudes of the lives of historical men and women, some of whom are absent from the usual texts of the historian.

My Ph.D. dissertation at Boston College focuses on the history and material culture of the sacrament of baptism in early medieval Britain. On my year-long Mellon Dissertation Fellowship at the IHR, I am interested in exploring how the ritual of baptism did and did not define a Christian in the post-Roman world: a world typified by diverse localized Christianities seen in both texts and objects. This autumn, I begin by exploring early medieval baptismal texts as objects in London, Oxford, and Cambridge. These eleventh-century pastoral handbooks saw a variety of hands-on use; for example, the Red Book of Darley (CCCC 422) is a particularly messy manuscript. Most likely used by a parish priest, the pages that contain the liturgical ordines for the blessing of the holy water of baptism are folded, torn, stitched, water-stained, and dark with oil from the hands of countless local baptizers. The text is not only an Anglo-Saxon copy of the baptismal ceremony in Latin and Old English, but also a portable object of the ritual that would have been carried, dropped, seen, and splashed during the public religious performance.

Medieval men and women also inscribed themselves onto their landscape. As historians, we can read these physical architectures and spaces left behind to draw conclusions about their political and cultural attitudes. The placement of churches near prehistoric barrows, reuse of Roman ruins, and adoption of new artistic motifs, are examples of early medieval acts of (re)negotiation through which historians explore how communities understood themselves and their place in the world. To that end, I will be driving—perilously on the wrong side of the road for this American—to sites of Anglo-Saxon and Norman stone baptismal fonts. I will continue research begun this past summer and examine them for their iconography, monumentality, and for what they can tell us about baptismal administration and local stone production at the close of the early medieval period.

One of the most unexpected and enjoyable aspects of my research so far has been my interaction with local parishioners and staff during my visits to baptismal sites. In the process of photographing and sketching East Yorkshire fonts with figural carvings, I’ve chatted with the local ladies of the parish over a mandatory cuppa before receiving the massive Victorian keys to the church doors. One vicar even provided me with a comprehensive tour of every stone in his medieval church as well as a cardboard box full of what local people had written about the font since the nineteenth century. Having these conversations not only gave me the chance to talk with wonderful people, but also reminded me that the history I am pursuing is profoundly rooted in the local community. These men and women are not just custodians of a museum, but active participants in the life of their church—people who had been baptized and had their children baptized in the very fonts I am studying. Their lives and names have been figuratively—and, at times, literally—carved into the church building. Many layers of identity have been mapped onto these objects and spaces during and after the Middle Ages; part of my job is to navigate these fascinating layers and uncover what they can tells us about medieval religious practice.

In the meantime, you’ll find me in the British Library, British Museum, and the IHR library, investigating the diverse medieval materialities of baptism while negotiating my own new academic environment through the modern objects and physical spaces of London.

Shropshire volume launched


On Friday 24th October 2014, the eighth volume of the Victoria County History of Shropshire series was launched in Shrewsbury. Shropshire Volume VI, part 1, is the first of a two part treatment of the town and Liberties of Shrewsbury and is the first volume published in the Shropshire series for 16 years.

The launch took place in the parish church of St Mary the Virgin. The largest of Shrewsbury’s medieval parish churches, designated as redundant in 1987 and currently in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust, St Mary’s provided a dramatic setting for the launch of the volume and the second of 2014’s Marc Fitch Lectures.

Trevor Rowley (Kellogg College, Oxford) delivered this autumn’s Marc Fitch lecture which comprised reflections on his seminal work, ‘The Making of the Shropshire Landscape‘ forty years on from its original publication.

The lecture was preceded by an address from the incoming VCH Director, Professor Richard Hoyle whose introduction to both the Shrewsbury volume and the Shropshire series detailed his plans and aspirations for work in the county to begin again in earnest and included a call for pledges of financial support and assistance in forming a County Committee to move the project forward.

Professor Hoyle presents the Mayor with a copy of the volume.

Professor Hoyle presents the Mayor with a copy of the volume.

Upon the conclusion of the lecture and following a short break for wine and refreshments, attention turned to the formal business of launching the volume. Speaking on behalf of the numerous contributors to Volume VI, part 1, Dr Bill Champion gave a lighthearted account of the long and, at times, turbulent gestation of the Shrewsbury volume. We were thrilled the Mayor of Shrewsbury, Beverley Baker was able to join us and Professor Hoyle presented a copy of the volume to her.

The event was excellently attended, with more than 100 people present to see the volume launched; a number no doubt inflated by Professor Hoyle’s interview on BBC Radio Shropshire the previous day. In addition to the Mayor, County Archivist and numerous members of the Shropshire local history community, it was especially pleasing to see so many who have been associated with the VCH Shropshire project to date, including Shrewsbury volume contributors Bob Cromarty, Barbara Coulton and Nigel Baker, former County Editor George Baugh and Reverend Canon D.T.W. Price, who was Assistant to Shropshire’s first County Editor, A.T. Gaydon in the late 1960s. After this successful event we now must turn our attention to the completion and publication of Volume VI, part 2. Keep checking our website for news and updates on this volume.

Copies of this volume are available directly from our publisher, Boydell & Brewer.


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