This week we have two papers focused on eighteenth-century Britain. 

In the first Carry van Lieshout discusses the commercialisation of water management in eighteenth-century London for the Metropolitan History seminar.  The focus of the paper is on the supply side of water provision and how it was drawn into the new burgeoning British economy.  Lieshout deals with the eighteenth-century debate and controversy over the ‘locking away’ of water supplies in this way but largely focuses on how the water companies changed from a co-existent model to a competitive market.    

On the same day the British History in the Long 18th Century seminar listened to a paper by Jennine Hurl-Eamon who dispelled the popular claim that married men enlisted in the army and navy in the eighteenth-century to dissert from marriages and family responsibility.  Hurl-Eamon disagrees with David Kent’s interpretation that more-or-less all married soldiers were escaping their family responsibilities.  Hurl-Eamon also notes that she has unearthed a potential discrepancy in the quantity of archival evidence between her studies and that of Kent’s.  In fact, Hurl-Eamon argues that there is plenty of evidence to show that many wives supported their husband’s enlistment as a means to lift the family out of poverty.  Many soldiers took extra work to augment their soldier’s pay.  Charities looked more kindly on soldier’s wives and widows than on ordinary widows.  Some wives and children might even be allowed to travel with the soldiers, although this was not generally guaranteed.  Hurl-Eamon, therefore, presents an opposing argument to the established narrative that stresses family commitment rather than desertion.      

Metropolitan History seminar
2 February 2011
Carry van Lieshout (KCL)
Water management in eighteenth-century London
British History in the Long 18th Century
2 February 2011
Jennine Hurl-Eamon (Trent University)
‘The Girl I left Behind Me’: Military Wives in Eighteenth-Century London