After a short absence the SPOT Newsletter is back!  Over the last few weeks we have been uploading to the IHR website some of our back catalogue from the last few months as our new platform, History SPOT, is still not quite ready.  I’ll report more on that soon. 

In the meantime here are summaries from the remaining February sessions.  Due to a technical hitch with the recorder Charles Smith’s presentation to the Voluntary Action History seminar did not record.  Therefore, I would like to say a big thank you to Charles for kindly agreeing to re-record his paper for us at a later date.  It was certainly worth the effort as Charles provides an interesting insight into a part of British political/social history that is often ignored in accounts of the twentieth century. 

Also presented today is a paper by Tony Claydon which was given at the University of Paris towards the end of February.  As an early modernist myself, it is always pleasing to be able to include a podcast about this era – in this case a fascinating paper about early modern celebrity culture and early seventeenth-century politics.  I’m sure the Duke of Marlborough got off relatively lightly considering what magazines would have surely published if he had been around today!   

Watch out for further updates soon and in the meantime I hope you enjoy the podcasts!


Voluntary Action history
14 February 2011
Charles Smith (Loughborough University)
Gay NGOs and the formation of a ‘gay community’ in England, 1967-1985

Non-governmental organisations (NGO’s) have a key role in the social development of gay rights which is not always recognised in accounts.  Often evidence drawn from official political bodies is used to show development and often the more radical elements are focused upon.  However, Charles Smith described to the Voluntary Action History seminar how NGO’s actually had an essential role in the social development of gay rights and how a refocus away from their stated aims and objectives and onto the actual impact on people’s lives can help us to gain a broader understanding.  The foundation of the North Western Homosexual Law Reform Committee in Manchester in 1964 was made up of gay men for gay men and worked outside the official political groups.  This committee eventually turned into the committee for Homosexual equality (1969) and then Campaign for Homosexual Equality (1971).  It was the earliest attempt for a large group of people to get together and change society’s beliefs about homosexuals and to provide a place for same-sex meetings away from the ‘meat-market’ of the nightclubs. 

Franco-British History
24 February 2011
Tony Claydon (Bangor University)
The politics of personality: whigs, tories and the print image of the Duke of Marlborough, 1702-1713

We tend to think of Celebrities as a twentieth century invention but ever since newspapers have existed there has also existed those persons that the press found irresistible to report on.   Tony Claydon presented to the Franco-British History seminar a talk about one of the earliest celebrity characters in British history: John Churchill, First Duke of Marlborough (1702-1713).  Marlborough was a leading statesman and leader in Britain’s involvement in international warfare and politics.  As such the Dukes every ‘virtue’ and ‘vice’ was put in print and eventually became part of a political tug-of-war between the Whigs and Tories.  Claydon tells us that before 1710 Marlborough was the touchstone of politics and was glorified in the press as Queen Anne’s Great General.  In these early years the excitement around Marlborough was seen as a potential problem by the government as they wished to make sure that the Duke did not overshadow or sideline the Queen.  The press also had an additional problem: how could they link Marlborough’s battles with the English Nation?  Marlborough was involved in multi-national armies which was not fighting to gain land for England but to limit France’s power.  After 1710 these issues became more prominent as the war itself was increasingly viewed as controversial.  The Tories believed that the ruling Whigs were making money out of the war’s continuance and that France was now too weak, whilst Austria (their ally) was becoming too powerful in their stead.  Marlborough’s association with the Whigs became a ‘political’ issue and his character in the press began to decline.  When the Tories were elected to government the problem for Marlborough expanded especially when the Duke’s own dubious money laundering operations became public knowledge.  Claydon therefore tells us a typical story about celebrity status.  Of how Marlborough began his press career as a hero to the Nation but ended it with disgrace.