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New reviews: Victorian literary cities, US Civil War propaganda in Britain, Christian monitors and WW1 sexuality


gatrell25We begin with By Accident or Design: Writing the Victorian Metropolis by Paul Fyfe. Anna Feintuck and the author discuss a stimulating work of urban and intellectual history, literary criticism, archival theory, and more (no. 1815, with response here).

Then we turn to Tom Sebrell’s Persuading John Bull: Union and Confederate Propaganda in Britain, 1860-1865. Skye Montgomery believes historians of Anglo-American relations will find this book a welcome addition to the burgeoning literature on British public opinion (no. 1814).

Next up is The Christian Monitors: The Church of England and the Age of Benevolence, 1680-1730 by  Brent Sirota, which David Manning finds stimulating and readable, but not necessarily deserving of the initial hype (no. 1813).

Finally, there is An Intimate History of the Front – Masculinity, Sexuality and German Soldiers in the First World War by Jason Crouthamel. Helen Roche hopes this work will open up further studies of this fascinating and under-researched body of evidence (no. 1812).

Queen Elizabeth I and Connected Histories


Elizabeth_I_in_coronation_robesThis post has kindly been written for us by Abigail Lane, who interned for IHR Digital in July 2015.

Connected Histories series is an online search directory consisting of a wide variety documents from 1500-1900 and containing nine research guides. The variety of topics that this resource covers, and the depth that these documents go into, is incredibly useful for anyone looking for information about a particular topic.

For example the words “Queen Elizabeth I” will bring up 2,007,131 different results. Connected Histories also allows the user to find relevant documents by narrowing the search criteria. This can be done by selecting a specific date, document type and specifying the availability of a document. I had a look through some of the various results that it gave me for Queen Elizabeth I, and soon I had found Calendar of State Papers detailing references to her suitors. In the Volume 7 of the Calendar of State Papers Foreign, Elizabeth, Eric XIV of Sweden assures the Queen of his intent to marry her. This provided an interesting insight into the interaction between Elizabeth I and her suitors, from the comfort of my own desk. The information gathered from this online resource was complemented by the extensive libraries of the Institute of Historical Research. The Bibliographical Dictionary of British Feminists, Elizabeth I collected Essays and Essays in Elizabethan History were books I found in the library which, combined with the information-rich Connected Histories series, helped create my own interpretation of the monarch. One source in particular helped with this, as it contained speeches made by the Queen during her reign. One such speech was the one she made on the morning of the Spanish Armada. On the morning of the attack Elizabeth offered strength and encouragement to her troops. As the men assembled at Tilbury on 9th August 9, 1588 she delivered perhaps her most famous speech, telling troops: “I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a King.”

The resources of the IHR library and Connected Histories in particular are incredibly useful for anyone researching an individual or topic. It was especially interesting for me to use, as I have just finished my first year of University and so I do not have the defined, specific research interests of a third year student completing their dissertation, for example. Whilst this meant that I didn’t really know where to start my research, it also had the added benefit of having an extensive variety of documents at my fingertips, and that I was free to read anything I fancied. The journals of Queen Victoria were particularly interesting and I found myself reading accounts of her birth and how she felt towards her babies when they were born, to details of her coronation in her own words. The diverse nature of Connected Histories meant that after reading Queen Victoria’s journals I soon found myself reading about the origins of my hometown in Victoria County History before using the Proceedings of the Old Bailey Online to read about court cases from the 1600s. Connected Histories is a really useful resource for anyone looking for detailed information about an event or person and offers a rich array of different types of documents, from newspaper extracts to national government records.

Friends of the IHR Summer Outing: Sutton House and St Augustine’s Tower


This post was kindly written by Kelly Spring, a Committee Member of the Friends of the IHR and a PhD Candidate at the University of Manchester.


Sutton House

Sutton House © House_1.jpg?uselang=en-gb

During the long, warm days of July, our thoughts at the IHR turn to the annual Friends’ outing.  In years past, the Friends of the Institute have ventured to William Morris’s house in Walthamstow and Kenwood House in Hampstead Heath.  This year, on Monday, 6 July, we travelled to Hackney to explore Sutton House and St Augustine’s Tower.

Sir Ralph Sadleir, a courtier to Henry VIII and man whom our guide described as “the servant of the servant of the King,” built the house in 1535, and it stands as a visible reminder of Tudor architecture, albeit with some modifications and additions from later owners.  Occupants of the house have ranged from merchants to, in the 1980s, squatters, all of whom have left an indelible mark on the house, inside and out.

Great Hall

Great Hall

Outing participants were treated to a tour of the house by medieval historian and archaeologist Dr Nick Holder, of Regent’s University of London.  Nick began the tour outside the house to give everyone an overview of the history and architecture of the building.  He then led us through the four floors, including the basement.  The house boasts an impressive array of rooms, including the oak-panelled parlour and great hall.  Throughout the tour of the house, Nick provided Friends with in-depth information about each room’s original use and its architectural attributes.  He even pulled up floorboards and allowed us to peak behind panels to see sixteenth century building materials and design.

After viewing the house, Friends were invited to take lunch at Sutton House’s garden café, where we ate some excellent homemade soup followed by tea and Victoria sponge.  While the first tour group had their meal, Nick took a second group of Friends around the house, and repeated his extensive tour of the premises.  Following a quick cup of tea and slice of cake, Nick took the groups for an inside view of St Augustine’s Tower in the St John’s Church Gardens, just a short stroll from Sutton House.

St Augustine’s Tower

St Augustine’s Tower

St Augustine’s Tower was erected in the early sixteenth century as part of the building of the Hackney parish church, St Augustine’s, which replaced an earlier thirteenth century church on the same spot.  Today, the tower is all that remains of the church.  Boasting a Grade I listing, it is the oldest building in Hackney.  The clock in the tower was installed around the early 1600s and remains in working order to this day.  Normally closed, except on the last Sunday of each month, Friends were treated to a private tour of the tower’s floors, allowing visitors to view the clock works, ring the bell, and get a bird’s-eye view of London from atop the building.

Turkish café

Turkish café

While many returned home after the tour of the tower, others continued socialising over coffee and pastries at the Turkish café in the gardens adjacent to the tower.  Everyone agreed that it was a fantastic day out.

Professor Nigel Saul

Professor Nigel Saul ©

Other excellent Friend’s events are planned for this autumn, including the Annual General Meeting which will be held on Monday, 19 October.  This year, we are fortunate to have Professor Nigel Saul of Royal Holloway University of London, who will deliver the Annual Friends’ Lecture following the AGM.  He will be speaking on Magna Carta.  For further details about upcoming Friends’ events, or on how to become a Friend of the IHR, please visit the Institute’s website ( or speak to Mark Lawmon in the Development Office by phone (020 7862 8791) or by email (


All photos © James Dixon, unless otherwise noted.

New reviews: notebooks, Franco, Armenians and medieval geographies


yeo2We start this week with Notebooks, English Virtuosi, and Early Modern Science by Richard Yeo, as Philippa Hellawell and the author discuss an intelligent, well-researched, and informative account of the practice of note-taking in early modern science (no. 1811, with response here).

Next up is Stanley G. Payne and Jesús Palacios Tapias’s controversial Franco: A Personal and Political Biography. Antonio Cazorla-Sanchez reviews a book which presents the dictator in a better light than his critics have typically done (no. 1810).

Then we turn to Denial of Violence: Ottoman Past, Turkish Present and Collective Violence against the Armenians, 1789-2009 by Fatma Müge Göçek, which Jo Laycock welcomes as a highly detailed account of the history and the aftermaths of the Armenian genocide (no. 1809).

Finally we have Keith Lilley’s Mapping Medieval Geographies: Geographical Encounters in the Latin West and Beyond, 300–1600. Justin Colson praises a valuable collection of cutting edge interpretations of geographies in the Middle Ages (no. 1808).

Behind the scenes at British History Online


Image1A few months ago, I posted an image of seventeen volumes to the BHO Twitter account. These volumes were from several different series: London Record Society, Victoria County History Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire and Calendar of Scottish papers.

That day, we were sending this entire batch of volumes off to the scanners to begin the process of digitising them in order to add them to BHO.

Since that day, we have published several volumes on BHO, including three from that initial photograph (VCH Gloucestershire volume 7 and VCH Oxfordshire volumes 16 and 17. I thought I would explain what the process of getting one of those texts from that printed volume stage to this one:


The process is a collaborative one, and can be long and expensive. Depending on the size of the volume, the density of the text and the number of images, a single volume can cost between £900 and £1500 to digitise. However, we think that the final outcome of a reliable digitised text, accessible and searchable from anywhere in the world, is completely worth it.

The first step is sending a book to the scanners. The scanning process usually takes a few weeks and the books are returned to us along with files of high-resolution TIFF scans. We have occasionally considered doing the scanning ourselves, but the scanning company’s machines, with their automatic page turners and unrivalled speed, surpass any machines that we would ever be able to afford. The scanning company is able to produce high-quality scans without damaging the books, which is another important factor to consider. We pull most of our source volumes off of the IHR Library’s shelves so we want to make sure that we return them in the same state that we took them.

Once we have received the scans, we must create the publications and components (that is, the sections that books are split into on BHO) in our database. Each publication and component has a unique ID, which allows us to keep our 100, 000+ text files organised. At this stage, we prepare all the metadata associated with the text, including the tags that are used in our faceted search interface.

Once we have publication and component IDs, we prepare rekeying instructions. Our texts are transcribed through a process called double rekeying. This transcription method involves two typists inputting text independently from page scans. The two transcriptions are then compared and any differences are manually resolved. This process ensures a very high level of accuracy as both typists are highly unlikely to make the same mistakes. All of our texts are transcribed in extensible mark-up language (XML). Our instructions have to explain how to mark up a table or an index, for instance, in XML. We send the instructions, the list of IDs and the page scans to a rekeying company. Again, relying on experts for this kind of work is much more efficient and cost-effective than doing it ourselves. The particular company that we have partnered with for many years has reliably produced hundreds of accurately transcribed volumes. BHO and its users place enormous value on the quality of the transcriptions on the site (which are 99.995% accurate) and it is crucial for us to work with companies that we can count on. The rekeyers also extract any images from the text.

They return the XML and image files to us and it is time for the next step. Although very few people enjoy sorting out copyright permissions, we love being able to show as many images from the text as possible so we bite the bullet. Some of our volumes were published fairly recently and so sorting out what images we can reuse on the web is pretty straightforward. Other times, we find ourselves contacting mostly retired editors asking if they remember the wording of their image licences from thirty years ago! Once we have collected image permissions, we edit the XML texts to make sure that we only show images for which we have received permission. Next, the images are processed further so that they don’t take up too much space on our servers. Conserving server space without sacrificing image quality can be a delicate balancing act, sometimes requiring several iterations before we find the perfect size and resolution for each image.

Next, we upload the XML files to the database and the images to our servers so that we can begin our quality assurances. We visually check each file to make sure that all the formatting has been done correctly and every page looks the way that it should. We verify the URLs and the page numbers. We double-check that the image quality meets our standards and that only licensed images are visible on the site. Finally, we check the quality of the transcriptions themselves in order to ensure that they meet our 99.995% accuracy rate.

After some double and triple-checking, it’s time for the most exciting part: publishing the volume on BHO! Once it has gone live, we do a final check to make sure everything was published correctly, celebrate with a nice cuppa, and then move on to the next volume.

New reviews: Chinese aristocracy, royal marriages, US and WW1 and Irish Times


Departure_Herald-Ming_DynastyWe 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).

PASSAGE: A symposium on writing about walking in London, 1500-1900


H1170010The 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 (, 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.

The symposium is free but places are strictly limited. If you would like to attend please register in advance via Eventbrite at:

IHR research guides give hands-on support to students and researchers


Griffith-EscapeEditedThis 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.

Jonathan Blaney is a project editor for IHR Digital and one of the series editors for the IHR Research Guides series.

Update on IHR Fellows – new jobs, grants and publications!


Collection_de_la_revue_PlanèteNews from our 2014-15 Junior Research Fellows

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.

Reviews in History fashion special IV


fashion2We 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).

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