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The proceedings of the ‘Happy Parliament’: 1624 records of House of Commons now online

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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 OnlineProceedings 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.

This post was first published at the History of Parliament blog.

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Ernö Goldfinger and a visit to 2 Willow Road, Hampstead

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As a survey of domestic experience, the IHR’s 2018 Winter Conference—‘Home: new histories of living’ (8-9 February)—ranges widely in its locations and forms of historical dwellings. At the same time, individual properties stand out. These include No. 2 Willow Road, Hampstead, now one of London’s best-known modernist houses, which makes two appearances at the Conference and its follow-on events.

Interior, 2 Willow Road, Hampstead

Interior, 2 Willow Road, Hampstead

Goldfinger in Hampstead

The work of the Budapest-born architect Ernö Goldfinger (1902-1987), Willow Road was from the outset a controversial design. Goldfinger’s critics—mindful of his training with Le Corbusier—feared the imposition of an angular concrete block in a part of London celebrated more for its fine Georgian architecture and, with the Heath, proximity to largely untamed countryside.

Goldfinger had initially sought to erect a modernist block of flats on the site, but reverted to three residential properties when permission for his larger scheme was refused. Leading critics of his revised project included the conservationist and future MP for Hampstead, Henry Brooke; and the author Ian Fleming whose opposition to Ernö’s architectural tastes resulted, it’s said, in his use of ‘Goldfinger’ as the name for one of 007’s most megalomaniacal villains.

In response, the architect justified his design for Willow Road in terms of its dominant use of brick, relative unobtrusiveness, and a profile no more angular than the much-loved surrounding terraces. In championing modernism Goldfinger was also supported by Hampstead’s avant-garde for whom structures such as Wells Coates’ Isokon Building demonstrated the potential of new residential forms.

Completed in 1939, Nos 1-3 Willow Road are now as much a feature of Hampstead domestic architecture as the neighbouring Georgian cottages. No. 2 Willow Road, the largest of the three properties, was taken by Goldfinger and remained a family home until the architect’s death there in September 1987. Acquired by the National Trust in 1993, the house been open for public viewings since 1996.

Though relatively modest in scale, Nos. 1-3 Willow Road established Goldfinger’s reputation as a coming, and controversial, architect. Denied the opportunity to build at scale and in concrete in pre-war Hampstead, Goldfinger’s Corbusian training was evident in his later expeditions in Brutalism—Balfron Tower, in Poplar, and Trellick Tower in Kensal Town. Today both towers and Nos. 1-3 Willow Road are Grade II* listed.

Trellick Tower

Trellick Tower

Willow Road and the IHR Winter Conference

Willow Road’s first appearance at the IHR’s Winter Conference comes on Thursday 8 February in the first of two ‘brown bag’ lunchtime slots. Thursday’s session sees short talks from three curators and archivists who’ll each tell the ‘biography’ or life story of a notable domestic object drawn from his or her collection.

From 2 Willow Road, the house steward Leigh Sneade will bring and speak about an artefact in Goldfinger’s collection, in part to highlight broader themes of mid-century modernism. Leigh will also introduce us to the interior spaces in which Ernö and Ursula Goldfinger lived and entertained, and which also became home to a significant art collection by the likes of Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Max Ernst and Marcel Duchamp.

1-3 Willow Road, Hampstead

Our second Goldfinger event of the Winter Conference takes place on Saturday 10 March, and gives delegates the chance to explore 2 Willow Road in greater detail. This takes the form of a guided tour of the house, provided by its National Trust curators, and coming soon after the Willow Road’s reopening following renovation work for the 2018 season. Further details of how to enroll for the 10 March house tour will be made available at the Winter Conference in early February, and then on the IHR website.

For more information on the conference—including details on registration, bursaries for Early Career Researchers, and other extra curriculum activities—please visit the IHR Winter Conference blog.

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