Philip Baker, former Research Fellow of the History of Parliament and Lecturer at Oxford Brookes University, explains the background to and completion of a History of Parliament project for which he was Editor. This new online resource provides access to primary source material relating to the House of Commons during the Parliament of 1624.
394 years ago today, what was to be the final Parliament of King James I opened at Westminster. Unfortunately, bad weather meant that around half of the members hadn’t yet arrived and so the assembly was adjourned the same day. The 1624 Parliament eventually sat for some 80 days, however, and the History of Parliament is proud to announce today, on the anniversary of its opening, the completion of its project to provide free online access to the Commons’ debates of the entire Parliament. Hosted by British History Online, Proceedings in Parliament 1624: The House of Commons consists of around 800,000 words of political debate, religious argument, legal wrangling and legislative action from the so-called ‘Happy Parliament’.
Palace of Westminster in the 16th century. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Set against the European backdrop of the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), and situated between the earlier, often rumbustious assemblies of James and the even more turbulent ones of Charles I that followed it, the Parliament is perhaps most notable for two things. The first is the unsuccessful attempt by Charles (as Prince of Wales) and the Duke of Buckingham to promote a war against Spain following Charles’ humiliation by the Spanish in his attempts to woo the Spanish Infanta. The second is that the Parliament saw an incredible seventy-three acts reach the statute book, the most in a single session since the reign of Henry VIII and almost the first notable legislation passed since 1610.
The proceedings themselves bring together for the first time some twenty manuscript sources that are scattered throughout England and America, the vast majority of which have never before been published. While some are fair hand copies of notes, others are certainly more difficult to read in their original form. Both Edward Nicholas and Sir Nathaniel Rich employed ‘speed writing’ techniques – a combination of shorthand symbols, abbreviations and longhand – the Star Chamber lawyer John Hawarde wrote in the Law French of the court system, while the appalling handwriting of John Lowther is a challenge for even experts of the period. Although the diary of the Staffordshire barrister Richard Dyott is in an extremely clear hand, large parts of it are now illegible even under UV light. It was placed in a safe in London during World War II, which did an excellent job of protecting it from the bombs of the Luftwaffe, but was rather less successful in preventing it from becoming seriously water-damaged.
Work on an edition of the proceedings of the 1624 Parliament actually began in America almost a century ago, under the guidance of the great parliamentary historian Wallace Notestein. Further research was undertaken in the US by Robert Ruigh and Mark Kennedy, and the project was subsequently taken over by the Yale Center for Parliamentary History. The 1624 materials were eventually transferred to the History of Parliament, which began working on them in 2012, generously funded by the Leverhulme Trust, the Friends of the Yale Center for Parliamentary History and the Mercers’ Company of the City of London. On this day in 2015, the first in a progressive release of the proceedings appeared online, which culminates today in the release of the proceedings for the final month of the Parliament.
The publication of Proceedings in Parliament 1624: The House of Commons fills a considerable hole in early modern parliamentary history, as it means that a composite edition of materials on all of the Tudor and early Stuart Parliaments is available for the first time. But used in tandem with the articles already published online from the History’s volumes on The House of Commons, 1604-29 and those forthcoming on The House of Lords, 1604-29, it also offers the prospect of a connected set of electronic resources which will enable scholars to dig more deeply and more easily than ever before into the vexed political world of the early modern Stuarts.
There is much on Roman villas and their mosaics as well as articles on their interior decoration and layout such as Classical reception rooms in Romano-British houses which argues that by the late antique period the reception facilities and associated social life and conduct were as those found in other parts of the Roman Empire.
Moving to Anglo-Saxon and Viking Britain there is coverage of household goods including toys, combs, doors and furniture. A similar pattern is followed in the medieval period with highlights including Beds and chambers in late medieval England : readings, representations and realities which claims to be the first interdisciplinary study of the cultural meanings of beds and chambers. The book uses a range of literary and visual sources, including manuscript illumination, household goods, romances, saints’ lives, plays, wills, probate inventories as well as church and civil court documents. The article Space and gender in the later medieval English house uses “The Ballad of the Tyrannical Husband,” a late fifteenth-century text, that associates men with the outdoors and women with the home and the domestic. The article also draws upon probate inventories as well as archaeological evidence and contrasts peasant and bourgeois society as shown in the physical fabric and furnishings of homes.
The work of Robert Adam is discussed in Fashion and function : the decoration of the library at Kenwood in context (contained in The country house : material culture and consumption; edited by Jon Stobart and Andrew Hann). The Stobart and Hann book leads us nicely into the Victorian/Edwardian country house era made popular by the Downton Abbey effect.
The ruins of Moore Hall, County Mayo, abandoned after being burnt down by the IRA in 1923 (Wikipedia)
Of course not everyone lived in country houses. The growth in philanthropy and social reform led to a concern for the living conditions of the rural and urban poor in slums. Attempts to rectify the situation included the gardens city movement, new towns, local and central government involvement, private charity including the establishment of almshouses, and the work of town planners and architects.
We start this week with Collecting and Displaying China’s “Summer Palace” in the West, edited by Louise Tythacott. Andrew Hillier believes that though its essays are stimulating, this book represents a missed opportunity to explore the wider issues implicit within them and to have brought Chinese scholars into the debate (no. 2223).
Then we turn to Edward Stourton’s Auntie’s War: The BBC during the Second World War by Edward Stourton. Ross Davies finds this paean to ‘Auntie’ as even-handed as can be expected from a BBC veteran (no. 2222).
Next up is Memory in Early Modern Europe, 1500-1800 by Judith Pollmann. Sarah Ward praises a book which refutes a number of fairly entrenched historiographical views, and in doing so carves out a thesis of continuity as well as change (no. 2221).
Finally we have Joshua Howe’s Making Climate Change History: Documents from Global Warming’s Past. Katrin Kleemann enjoys a book which aims to be ‘a series of starting points, wormholes into historical worlds both familiar and strange’ (no. 2220)
For the IHR Winter Conference on Home: New Histories of Living we are highlighting some relevant sources in the IHR library. Inventories of furniture and possessions are especially well represented in our large collection of primary printed material, a fascinating way into the domestic arrangements of particular houses and the day-to-day lives of the people who lived there.
The focus here, though, is on the inventories of middling families in the towns and villages of pre-industrial England, typically probate inventories drawn up in connection with the legal validation of wills. Many are published in local and regional record series, either as general collections from a local probate court or as specialist compilations on particular subjects. For comparative research, the IHR library is a good place to access many editions in one place.
Inventories often give an idea of the sequence of rooms in a house, using phrases such as ‘the street parlour’ or ‘the chamber over the hall’. It is interesting to see the changes between early and later inventories. The will of William Robinson, linen weaver of Northallerton (1705), details the rooms and layout of his house as he divided it between existing occupants and allowed rights of access through other parts of the house. (Northallerton wills and inventories, 1666-1719, Surtees Society 220, 2016, p.xxxi and pp.146-8).
The probate inventory of Sarah De Morais, widow (1691), a French immigrant in London, lists the contents of ‘the Daughters Roome’ and ‘the widdows Roome’, both with multiple beds. Artisans usually worked from home, and the inventory of Thomas Grafforte, merchant tailor in St Giles Cripplegate, noted ‘4 weavers loomes, one warpe . . . 2 paire of Vices & a few Bobbins with other lumber’ in his ‘workeing roome’. (Probate inventories of French Immigrants in Early Modern London, 2014, pp.97-9 and 37-9)
Turning from towns to the countryside, Farm and Cottage Inventories of Mid-Essex brings together probate inventories from two rural parishes, accompanied by a useful introduction which discusses the sorts of furniture and other goods mentioned in the inventories.
The inventory of Theophilus Lingard of Writtle in 1744 has a detailed description of the furniture and items in his house, as well as his livestock, farm equipment (including cucumber frames), produce and crops. The total value was £247. Five rooms contained beds: the best room, the little room, the striped bed room, the garrett and the maid’s room.
The best room included
‘a sacking bottom bedstead with blue mohair curtains lined with India Persian, a feather bed, bolster, and two pillows, three blankets, one quilt, a chest of draws, a dressing table and glass, six cane chairs, one elbow ditto, a stove grate, shovel, tongs, poker and holders, a hearth brush, a pair of window curtains and rod, a looking glass, the paper hangings’.
The maid’s room had
‘a corded bedstead with old curtains, a set of yellow ditto not put up, a feather bed, bolster, one pillow, two blankets, one rug, two old hutches (cupboards), four old chairs, an old trunk, a brass kettle, one small ditto, two old water potts, a pair of garden sheers, a pair of cobirons’.
His house also had a best parlour, pantry (with sixteen pewter plates, fifty-five pieces of Delph and earthenware), hall, cellar, buttery and out cellar. (Farm and Cottage Inventories of Mid-Essex, 1635-1749, pp.269-70).
By contrast John Day the elder of Highwood in Writtle, carpenter (1726), lived in a much humbler dwelling, with goods worth only £15. His hall was simply furnished, though he owned a clock. Although he had four beds, one was ‘indeferant’, one ‘sorry’ and two ‘very mean’. (Farm and Cottage Inventories of Mid-Essex, 1635-1749, p.260).
We start this week with Magic as a Political Crime in Medieval and Early Modern England: A History of Sorcery and Treason by Francis Young. Coral Casey-Stoakes thinks this book makes an important contribution to both the historiography of political culture in medieval and early modern England and that of magic (no. 2219).
Then we turn to Kate Retford’s The Conversation Piece: Making Modern Art in 18th-Century Britain. Alexandra MacDonald praises a valuable resource that promises to shift scholarship on the conversation piece by inviting a new generation of scholars to ask innovative questions (no. 2218).
Next up is Out of Oakland: Black Panther Party Internationalism During the Cold War by Sean L. Malloy. Kerry Pimblott enjoys a well-researched and engaging study that successfully conveys the significance of internationalism to the BPP’s evolution (no. 2217).
Finally we have Julianne Nyhan and Andrew Flynn’s Computation and the Humanities: towards an Oral History of Digital Humanities. Christina Kamposiori believes that this book will help us understand not only the history of the field but also aspects of the early era of computing (no. 2216).
The IHR library collections support a range of study on the subject of architecture, and the new collection guide highlights some of the areas to explore. As well as the obvious parts of the collection, it draws attention to some more hidden sources of information.
We have many secondary works on individual buildings, building types and localities. There is much on studying and understanding buildings as well as their conservation, public interpretation and display, for example in works on using material culture and digital technologies. An 1897 piece in the journal The Antiquary outlines a lecture given at the Society of Antiquaries on legislation in different countries for the preservation of ancient buildings. The Foreign Office had collated the information following the ‘disastrous’ rebuilding of the west front of Peterborough cathedral. (The Antiquary Vol. 33, 1897)
The library has strong holdings of primary sources across the subject. Travel writing and antiquarian histories include contemporary descriptions and impressions of the built environment. Celia Fiennes, for example, wrote about Ambleside in 1698:
“villages of sad little huts made up of drye walls, only stones piled together and the roofs of same slatt; there seemed to be little or noe tunnells for their chimneys and have no morter or plaister within or without; for the most part I tooke them at first sight for a sort of houses or barns to fodder cattle in. not thinking them to be dwelling houses” (Morris, C., The Journeys of Celia Fiennes, 1949, p.196)
Landowners, tenants, architects, policy makers and commentators are all represented in biographies, prosopographies and personal narratives.
Household and trade records give insights into the building trade. For example in the Household Books of John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, we learn of the steps taken to dismantle his Colchester house in 1481, store the timbers in a barn and move it to Stoke by Nayland where Richard Tornour, carpenter, “schal rere it and sett yt up there” (Crawford, A., The household books of John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, 1462-1471, 1481-1483, 1992, Household Book II, p.121).
Records of government highlight social concerns and the resulting legislation. In an appendix to a parliamentary paper of 1864 we find a description of the history and current state of rural housing in a Report by Dr. Henry Julian Hunter on the House-Accommodation had by Rural Laborers in the different parts of England. He wrote:
“One house, called Richardson’s, could hardly be matched in England for original meanness and present badness of condition. Its plaster walls leaned and bulged very like a lady’s dress in a curtsey. One gable end was convex, the other concave, and on this last unfortunately stood the chimney, which was a curved tube of clay and wood resembling an elephant’s trunk. A long stick served as a prop to prevent the chimney from falling. The doorway and window were rhomboidal.”
(Seventh Report of the Medical Officer of the Privy Council, with Appendix, 1864, 19th Century House of Lords Sessional Papers, 1865: section on Bedfordshire, p.148. From Proquest’s UK Parliamentary Papers).
Alongside the written material there is much accompanying visual material in the form of illustrations and plans. As well as illustrations in mainly textual sources such as government reports and antiquarian histories there are editions of illustrations ranging from monastic plans in The Plan of St Gall, various editions of plans and illustrations of individual architects and places, to The photography of Bedford Lemere & Co.
We start this week with Survivor Café: The Legacy of Trauma and the Labyrinth of Memory, an innovative book by Elizabeth Rosner. Ellis Spicer believes this book’s contribution to the field lies in its raw emotionality, personal stories and thematic strengths (no. 2215).
Then we turn to Katherine Paugh’s The Politics of Reproduction: Race, Medicine and Fertility in the Age of Abolition. Trevor Burnard believes this book to be a valuable addition to a venerable literature on slave reproduction in the Caribbean (no. 2214).
Finally we have Irish Nationalists in America: The Politics of Exile, 1798-1998 by David Brundage. David Sim appreciates a sharp and well-written book which forces us to appreciate the ways in which nationalism was perceived as a liberating force by many in the 19th century (no. 2213).
Happy New Year to all Reviews in History readers! We start 2018 with the latest in our occasional podcast series, a fascinating interview with Joanna Cohen discussing among other things her new book, Luxurious Citizens: The Politics of Consumption in Nineteenth-Century America, and her future research plans (no. 2212).
Then we return to The Reformation of the Decalogue: Religious Identity and the Ten Commandments in England, c. 1485-1625 by Jonathan Willis, with a response by the author to last month’s review (response to no. 2208).
Next up is Medieval Religion and its Anxieties: History and Mystery in the Other Middle Ages by Thomas A. Fudgé. Kieran Creedon praises a fascinating study from a writer that engages, energises and uses sources to put the very idea of the historical Middle Ages on trial (no. 2211).
Finally Francis Young reviews a valuable contribution to the interdisciplinary study of magic, Edward Bever and Randall Styers’ edited collection Magic in the Modern World: Strategies of Repression and Legitimization (no. 2210).