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Author Archives: saracharles

Women’s suffrage at home and away


Although the women’s suffrage movement (and particularly the Suffragettes) often focusses on London, there was huge amount of activity throughout the U.K. and further afield in the latter part of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. An indispensable guide to the nationwide groups can be found in Elizabeth Crawford’s The Women’s Suffrage movement in Britain and Ireland: a regional survey, a book which highlights how women were engaged in the movement throughout the regions.


Manchester in particular was a centre of radical and liberal thinking in the mid nineteenth century, and in 1867 they established the Women’s Suffrage Committee. In the same year, Lily Maxwell, a Manchester shopowner whose name was accidentally added to the electoral roll was allowed to vote at Chorlton Town Hall. Although she probably was not the first female voter in England, her example prompted other female property owners to apply for the vote, who were subsequently denied the vote the following year after the case was heard at the Court of Common Pleas. More about this can be found in the book chapter ‘Who was Lily Maxwell? Women’s suffrage and Manchester politics, 1866–1867’ by Jane Rendall, in Votes for Women.


The protest movement was also strong even in the remoter areas of Britain, as is demonstrated in the works by Katherine Bradley Friends and visitors: History of the Women’s Suffrage Movement in Cornwall, 1870-1914 and Marsali Taylor Women’s Suffrage in Shetland. The latter demonstrates how the small group of islands willingly adapted to the changes brought by the suffrage movement, founding its own society in 1873 and having women on its education boards at least as early as London. A book by Barbara Lawson-Reay titled Votes for women: North Wales suffragists’ campaign 1907–1914 documents the seven year period before the First World War, when the campaign started as a small cell in Llandudno and subsequently gathered pace across North Wales, despite class and language barriers. Other geographical aspects are explored in an article by J. G. Macdonald in Hawick Archaeological Society Transactions called ‘Women’s suffrage: A Border perspective’. A song of their own : the fight for votes for women in Ipswich is a fascinating book by Joy Bounds, who shows how the women of Ipswich were just as brave as their London contemporaries, standing up to opposition and even violence to attend meetings, fairs and suffrage plays.



Even more interesting is the spread of networks and interaction throughout the wider political world. ‘Woman Suffrage and Irish Nationalism: ethnic appeals and alliances in America’ is an article by Tara McCarthy in Women’s History Review that explores how suffragists sympathised with the Home Rule movement, which led to a group of Irish nationalists and suffragists working together. Also from the same journal, Helen Dampier’s ‘Going on with our little movement in the hum drum-way which alone is possible in a land like this’: Olive Schreiner and suffrage networks in Britain and South Africa, 1905–1913 looks at the letters of South African feminist Olive Schreiner. The article considers the differences between British and colonial suffrage movements, with Schreiner fighting for better education for women so that they wanted the vote. It also highlights Schreiner’s quest for universal suffrage, which brought her into conflict with those who were willing to accept a racially-segregated system.


Girls of liberty: the struggle for suffrage in Mandatory Palestine is a book by Margalit Shilo that looks at a group of feminist Zionist activists who created a political party under the British Mandate, resulting in equal rights for women in 1918. Sophia: princess, suffragette, revolutionary by Anita Anand is about the extraordinary life of Sophia Duleep Singh, daughter of a maharajah and god-daughter to Queen Victoria, who was raised in England after her father’s Indian lands were plundered by the British. After travelling back to India, she became a pioneer against social injustice and returned to Britain to fight for Indian rights and women’s suffrage. By all accounts, Singh was a fearless champion for the cause, and the book offers an important perspective on British and colonial ties.


To finish with, The role of petitions in the mobilization of women for the right to vote: The case of Queensland, Australia, 1894, 1897 by Deborah Jordan in Journal of Women’s History concentrates on the tactics of suffrage groups, including the Women’s Equal Franchise Association (WEFA) in Brisbane. The article examines the use of petitions, and underlines the success of various groups in gaining support and legitimacy for their cause against a backdrop of harsh media representation.


This selection of resources from the Bibliography demonstrates how widespread women’s suffrage was, from the Shetland Islands to India to Australia, and shows how the movement found common ground with other political campaigns fighting for civil justice.

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February issue of Historical Research


Historical Research, vol. xci, no. 251


Simon de Montfort. Image: Wikipedia

Simon de Montfort’s sheriffs, 1264–5. Richard Cassidy

Counties without borders? Religious politics, kinship networks and the formation of Catholic communities. James E. Kelly

‘Round-head Knaves’: the Ballad of Wrexham and the subversive political culture of Interregnum north-east Wales. Sarah Ward Clavier

Venality at court: some preliminary thoughts on the sale of household office, 1660–1800. R. O. Bucholz

War, public debt and Richard Price’s Rational Dissenting radicalism. Anthony Page

Troubling agency: agency and charity in early nineteenth-century London. Megan Clare Webber

The American Association for the Advancement of Science committee on evolution and the Scopes trial: race, eugenics and public science in the U.S.A. Alexander Pavuk

The Socialist International and Italian social democracy (1948–50): cultural differences and the ‘internationalisation of domestic quarrels’ Ettore Costa

Notes and documents:

The Cheshire Magna Carta: distinctive or derivative? Graeme J. White


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New Historical Research articles


Troubling agency: agency and charity in early nineteenth-century London. Megan Clare Webber

(This article is a revised version of a paper given at the British History in the Long Eighteenth Century seminar at the Institute of Historical Research on 16 March 2016. It was subsequently jointly awarded the 2016 Pollard Prize.)

Agency is a fashionable concept, particularly among historians of poverty, welfare and charity in Britain in the long eighteenth century, and yet the concept is seldom scrutinized. This article troubles agency, subjecting it to the critical examination that it has largely eluded thus far. The first section outlines the manifold, and occasionally contradictory, ways in which historians characterize human agency. The second examines agency through the lens of charity in early nineteenth-century London (c.1800–c.1837), dissecting how the poor exercised agency in their interactions with charitable organizations and illustrating how philanthropists represented and sought to define the limits of plebeian agency. Case studies from individual charities test the boundaries of agency, proposing new ways of approaching the concept. The article concludes by reflecting on the usefulness of agency as a tool for historical analysis.


The Socialist International and Italian social democracy (1948–50): cultural differences and the ‘internationalisation of domestic quarrels’. Ettore Costa

Between 1948 and 1950 Comisco, the provisional Socialist International, and the British foreign office intervened in Italian politics to help the social democrats form a united party. The British Labour party came into conflict with the foreign office and the Dutch Labour party, as they disagreed over which Italian faction to support. The episode revealed the difference between the two parties’ political cultures and strategic choices, particularly on the issue of coalition government with centrist parties. The narrative of the intervention is followed by an appraisal of its success, the obstacles which limited it, and its short- and long-term effects.


The American Association for the Advancement of Science committee on evolution and the Scopes trial: race, eugenics and public science in the U.S.A. Alexander Pavuk

Instead of viewing racial eugenics, modernist religion and prescriptions for social engineering as discourses tangential to the evolution constructs propounded by top scientists in the build-up to the Scopes trial, this article considers how the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s committee on evolution intertwined all of these threads by the early nineteen-twenties. Committee members aimed their evolution models at broad public audiences even as they tried to fulfill the American Civil Liberties Union’s request to provide a scientifically-sound view of evolution to help combat Protestant fundamentalism in the build-up to the trial. Racialist eugenics was essential to their multi-layered evolution constructs, as were key religious ideas particular to Protestant modernism.


Notes and Documents

The Cheshire Magna Carta: distinctive or derivative? Graeme J. White

Seal of Ranulf de Blondeville. Image: Wikipedia

The so-called Cheshire Magna Carta was granted by Ranulf III earl of Chester to his Cheshire barons, probably in summer 1215. This article offers an accessible text and translation and, drawing largely on the evidence of other comital charters, sets the document in the context of the county’s thirteenth-century administration. It discusses the date of issue, argues that the charter was seen in Cheshire as a substitute for, rather than a supplement to, the king’s Magna Carta, and concludes that most of the concessions were reaffirmations of existing distinctive custom and practice, with safeguards against abuses by comital officials.

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Top ten articles from the Bibliography of British and Irish History (Christmas reading)


As Christmas approaches, we thought we’d provide you with some yuletide reading as you sit by the fireside with a mince pie or two. Once again we have collated a top ten of our favourite, most interesting, most surprising articles that we index at the BBIH.

Example of miniature in a Book of Hours (Walters Art Gallery, W.269.76R)

1. Chronologically, our first entry is ‘A Gift, a Mirror, a Memorial : The Psalter-Hours of Mary de Bohun’, a book chapter by Jill Havens in Medieval women and their objects. The Psalter-Hours (Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Auct. D. 4. 4) is a beautiful fourteenth-century manuscript commissioned for Mary de Bohen (c. 1368-1394) by her mother Joan Fitzalan for her marriage to Henry IV (then Bolingbroke). This manuscript was intended for personal devotion, and is small enough to be easily portable. This book chapter analyses a full-page miniature of the Virgin Mary with Christ on her lap (fol. 181), which also features a young aristocratic woman in the bottom left-hand corner, representing Mary de Bohun. Although donor portraits were not unusual, there is an intimacy between the figures in this miniature that is rare, as they all inhabit the same sacred space. Havens explores the relationship between Mary de Bohun and her mother Joan Fitzalan, and what this manuscript would have represented to them individually. It is a fascinating glimpse into female book ownership and familial bonds in the fourteenth century.

Splendor Solis 1532-35; women washing clothes

2. Moving on to the early modern period, we have the book chapter ‘In praise of clean linen: laundering humours on the early modern stage’ by Natasha Korda and Eleanor Lowe in The Routledge handbook of material culture in early modern Europe. This addresses the issue of changing attitudes towards hygiene, moving away from the sixteenth century trend from immersing the whole body in water, to an emphasis on clean clothes to achieve cleanliness. Drawing on the shifts in cultural norms, when use of communal bathhouses declined due to fears of contagion, this chapter looks at clean linens on the Shakespearean stage, considering the use of ruffs, handkerchiefs, smocks and tablecloths.

3. Going further afield, we have ‘Slavery and inter-imperial leprosy discourse in the Atlantic World‘ an article by Kristen Block in the journal, Atlantic Studies. This article draws attention to the reappearance of leprosy in the colonial world, despite its decline during the early modern period. Following the European discourse in the seventeenth and eighteenth century, Block unpicks the anxiety about the links between leprosy and sin, slavery and colonialism, and charts the consensus of racialized medical opinions, aided by the growth of printed publications. Unfounded scientific theories, together with colonial reports from English, Dutch and French plantations, meant that the cause of leprosy remained unclear until well into the nineteenth century.

4. Staying in the same region, ‘The dairymaid and the prince: race, memory, and the story of Benjamin Banneker’s Grandmother’ is an article by Sandra W. Perot in Slavery and Abolition. This tells the story of Molly Welsh Banneker, a dairymaid who was transported to Maryland c. 1683 after allegedly stealing a bucket of milk. After being indentured for seven years to a tobacco farmer, she gained her freedom and went on to became a successful tobacco farmer herself, as well as a property owner. Despite interracial marriage being outlawed, she married an African man called Bannka and they had four daughters. This article considers all the difficulties she would have faced, not only from her relationship with Bannka, but also raising her daughters alone after his death, in a complicated society that forbade interracial relations. The narrative of Molly Welsh has been handed down through oral tradition, and paints a picture of a women determined to live life her own way.

Gasparo Tagliacozzi (1545-1599) illustration of rhinoplasty

5. Next up is ‘“Off dropped the sympathetic snout”: shame, sympathy, and plastic surgery at the beginning of the long eighteenth century’, a book chapter by Emily Cock in Passions, sympathy and print culture: Public opinion and emotional authenticity in eighteenth-century Britain. This looks at the relationship between medical sympathy and moral sentiment, as the medical procedure for grafting skin onto noses damaged by syphilis came under fire, as the transgressor, looking healthy, could then escape the moral judgement from the public. The significance of the nose is explored, and how medical rhinoplasty came to be satirised in poetry, resulting in a shaming of the procedure which ultimately silenced skin graft technology in the early modern period.

6. ‘From the Andes to the Outback: Acclimatising alpacas in the British Empire’ is an article by Helen Cowie in The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, charting the introduction of the first alpaca in Britain in 1811 and subsequent attempts to naturalise the animal to reap the benefits for textile manufacture. They were often smuggled out of Peru, and introduced to areas such as the Scottish Highlands and Australia. This article explores the implications of this unsuccessful attempt on naturalisation as an imperialistic act, and brings to the fore the internal politics of Britain, Australia, Peru and Bolivia within the textile and agricultural industry.

Image from Wikipedia

7. Onto more supernatural things now, with ‘“Freaks of furniture”: The useless energy of haunted things’ by Aviva Briefel in the journal Victorian Studies. The craze for séances had reached England from America in the 1850s, and table-turning and rapping had become a standard feature of communicating with the dead. The animation of manufactured objects caused concern among Victorian households, raising anxieties over the production of these items, made by anonymous craftsmen or factory workers. Reports of animated objects also led to discussions on productive labour and ‘the line between efficient and wasted energy’.

8. Back to reality for this next article – ‘Criminal careers of female prisoners in Australia, 1860–1920’ by Alana Jayne Piper and Victoria Nagy in the Journal of Interdisciplinary History. Examining the criminal records of over six thousand women, the authors have identified flaws in using specific offense categories. In the Victorian system, criminal offenses committed by women generally fell into three groups – property, personal and public-order, and historians have largely examined these categories in isolation to each other, overlooking how some women were involved in multiple forms of offending. By looking at the overlap, greater insight can be shed into the complex criminal sub-cultures that women were involved in.

9. Into the twentieth century now, with ‘An “Insult to soldiers’ wives and mothers”: The Woman’s Dreadnought‘s campaign against surveillance on the home front, 1914–1915’ by Stephanie J. Brown in The Journal of Modern Periodical Studies. The Woman’s Dreadnought was an East London newspaper led by Sylvia Pankhurst, and in 1914-15 it exposed a surveillance operation by the Metropolitan Police that targeted the wives of soldiers and sailors on active duty. By finding evidence of ‘bad behaviour’ while their husbands were absent, the operation aimed to allow the government to suspend the women’s separation allowance. This article highlights Pankhurst’s campaign to uncover these covert tactics and to raise greater awareness of how surveillance made women more vulnerable, particularly to blackmail.

10. And finally, as a contrast to the dark, miserable winter days, we have ‘Beside the seaside. The archaeology of the twentieth-century English seaside holiday experience: A phenomenological context’ by Niall Finneran in the International Journal of Historical Archaeology. Tapping into the affectionate regard that English people hold for seaside resorts, this article examines the experience of the resort holiday in terms of place, space and materiality. Finneran considers the rise of the holiday resort from the Victorian period until its decline in the 1960s, due to the popularity of the package holiday. Looking particularly at Teignmouth in Devon, he discusses the whole holiday experience, from the journey there, to the accommodation and the activities available.

And on that note, the BBIH would like to wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year!

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New Historical Research articles


William III. Image: Wikipedia

Telling a tale with the names changed: contemporary comparisons of the Rye House Plot to the 1696 Assassination Plot. Beth Branscome

When a Jacobite plot to assassinate William III was discovered in 1696, supporters of William and his whig-dominated ministry pointed out similarities between this Assassination Plot and the 1683 Rye House Plot against Charles II. Embodying the links between the plots in these accounts was Robert Ferguson, a notorious radical whig who had become a Jacobite active in writing and plotting against King William. Representing the 1683 and 1696 plots as equivalent allowed establishment whigs to distance themselves from pre-revoutionary whig plotting, while portraying the Jacobites as representing a radicalism willing to use rebellion and regicide to achieve its goals.

William Petre, 2nd Baron Petre. Image: Wikipedia

Counties without borders? Religious politics, kinship networks and the formation of Catholic communities. James E. Kelly

This article examines the formation of Catholic communities and the roles played by religious politics and kinship networks within that process. It contributes to historiographical debates about early modern English Catholics’ self-identification in religio-political terms, suggesting that intra-Catholic feuds were not the sole preserve of the Catholic missionary clergy. It uses the Petre family, barons of Writtle in Essex, as a case study by which to argue that these seemingly inward-looking debates were actually about how the community understood itself in relation to the state and, as such, were fundamental in the process of English Catholic community construction.


‘Round-head Knaves’: the Ballad of Wrexham and the subversive political culture of Interregnum north-east Wales. Sarah Ward Clavier

This article broadens ballad studies to encompass a regional perspective and significantly adds to the literature on Welsh royalism. It argues that the ballad author sought to destabilize the newly established parliamentarian government by attacking its members’ honour, religion and personal morality. The article provides a contextualized and detailed textual analysis of a versified manuscript libel, a vitriolic and specific attack on the Wrexham committee of 1647. It considers it in the context of ballad and libel scholarship, Welsh political culture, and contemporary events, using a range of manuscript and printed sources to explain and analyse the ballad in depth.

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November issue of Historical Research


Historical Research, vol. xc, no. 250


Image: British Library, Sloane 278, f. 48v

Miscellanies, Christian reform and early medieval encyclopaedism: a reconsideration of the pre-bestiary Latin Physiologus manuscripts. Anna Dorofeeva

Wales in late medieval and early modern English histories: neglect, rediscovery, and their implications. Tim Thornton

‘Reformation’ or ‘ruin’? The impeachment of the duke of Buckingham and early Stuart politics. David Coast

The English Revolution as a civil war. John Morrill

Royal office and private ventures: the fortunes of a Maltese nobleman in Sicily, 1725–50. Anton Caruana Galizia

Eugenics, socialists and the labour movement in Britain, 1865–1940. David Redvaldsen

Peering into the future: British Conservative leaders and the problem of national renewal, 1942–5. Robert Crowcroft

Negotiating public history in the Republic of Ireland: collaborative, applied and usable practices for the profession. Thomas Cauvin and Ciaran O’Neill

Notes and Documents

Seven rediscovered letters of Princess Elizabeth Tudor. Alan Bryson and Mel Evans

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New Historical Research articles


Wales in late medieval and early modern English histories: neglect, rediscovery, and their implications. Tim Thornton

Those who read English history in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries encountered significant coverage of Wales. English readers of late fifteenth-century chronicles, however, found little sense of the situation of Wales, even regarding its role in the invasion through Wales of Henry VII, a king with Welsh ancestry. This change suggests there were limits to English fifteenth-century preoccupations with Welsh threats. It also accentuates the significance of the rediscovery of Welsh pasts that took place from the fifteen-thirties, due to the monarchy’s Welsh identity and the importance in English historical writing of men with marcher connections like Richard Grafton and Edward Hall.

The English Revolution as a civil war. John Morrill

The 2017 Historical Research/Wiley lecture was designed to raise some general issues about the nature of ‘civil wars’ as a prelude to a conference that looked at many examples across time and space. It takes the events of the sixteen-forties across Britain and Ireland and notes that very few participants accepted (at least publicly) that they were engaged in one or more civil wars. There was widespread seventeenth-century understanding that the term ‘civil war’ (bellum civile) had been developed in late republican and early imperial Rome but as just one of several terms used to analyse and describe internal wars and conflicts. This article explores the implications of this for our understanding of the first great crisis of the Stuart kingdoms.

Royal office and private ventures: the fortunes of a Maltese nobleman in Sicily, 1725–50. Anton Caruana Galizia

This article investigates office-holding and private enterprise in eighteenth-century Sicily through a case study of the activities of Baron de Piro, a native of Malta. Based on documents held in Maltese and Sicilian archives, the article demonstrates how political developments in the kingdom both opened up and circumscribed the opportunities within which an upwardly-mobile household sought its fortune by identifying the social, political and economic contexts in which they operated. In doing so, it delivers insights into the impact of successive regime changes on the socio-economic landscape in Sicily as it passed from the Austrian Habsburgs to the Bourbons of Naples.

Notes and Documents:

Seven rediscovered letters of Princess Elizabeth Tudor. Alan Bryson and Mel Evans

Princess Elizabeth Tudor’s holograph letters have long been prized, but often reveal more about her education than about her life before she became queen in 1558. Her scribal letters, by comparison, can offer more matter-of-fact insights into these years, showing how Elizabeth negotiated with the governments of her brother Edward VI and sister Mary I, how she managed her household and estate, and how she sued for property for herself and patronage for her servants. The article presents diplomatic transcriptions of seven scribal letters, written between 1547 and 1556, adding significantly to our understanding of her life during these years.

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New Historical Research articles


Miscellanies, Christian reform and early medieval encyclopaedism: a reconsideration of the pre-bestiary Latin Physiologus manuscripts. Anna Dorofeeva

Image: British Library, Sloane 278, f. 48v

This article examines the evidence of the early medieval Latin Physiologus manuscripts for compilatory practices within the context of Carolingian ecclesiastical and educational reform in the period c.700–1000. It argues that miscellany manuscripts, in which the Physiologus is exclusively found in this period, represent a conscious and highly organized encyclopaedic drive that created multi-purpose manuals as part of the response to programmatic social change at a local level. Miscellanies are therefore a key and overlooked source for the use of knowledge in monastic writing centres, and for early medieval intellectual history more generally.

Simon de Montfort’s sheriffs, 1264–5. Richard Cassidy

Image: Wikipedia

When Simon de Montfort took control of the government of England in 1264, he replaced the sheriffs appointed by Henry III. The new sheriffs were relatively obscure and have been little studied. The baronial reform movement raised expectations that sheriffs should be honest, and natives of the counties they governed. De Montfort’s sheriffs largely met these requirements, as their backgrounds and careers demonstrate. Unpublished exchequer records show that they were sometimes surprisingly successful as administrators in a time of disorder. They were men of the knightly class, serving their counties, rather than being ideologically attached to the reform movement.


Peering into the future: British Conservative leaders and the problem of national renewal, 1942–5. Robert Crowcroft

This article examines how some key Conservative leaders conceptualized the problem of ‘the future’ in the final stages of the Second World War. It contends that the mental map employed by senior Conservatives for navigating the challenges of post-war national renewal has remained significantly misunderstood. The article conducts a close reading of Conservative positions on a range of issues – from economic modernization and constitutional propriety to geopolitical tensions – and highlights some previously neglected dimensions to domestic political debate. It concludes that the arguments developed by Conservative leaders were more sophisticated and coherent than has often been recognized.

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Summer top ten – Roman tankards to tube trains


Following on from the success of our top ten favourite articles from 2016, we thought we would bring you a round-up of the most interesting and unusual articles that we have indexed on the Bibliography so far this year. From anger to laughter, beer to bank managers, we hope you enjoy this small sample of the many resources available.

Once again, the list has been compiled chronologically.

The Langstone Tankard, National Museum of Wales

1. Starting with alcohol (not that we ever would, of course) we have Bring Me Three Large Beers: Wooden Tankards at Roman Vindolanda, an article by Rob Sands and Jonathan A. Horn in the Oxford Journal of Archaeology. It discusses three drinking vessels found at Vindolanda, skillfully carved from yew, and each holding up to four pints. Perhaps unsurprisingly, tankards of this sort seem to a British trend, rather than a Roman import. The article explores the significance of yew as a material from the late Iron-Age in Britain, and the significance of feasting, drinking and comradeship that carried on with the establishment of Roman forts such as Vindolanda.

2. On a more sobering note, The Devil’s Daughter of Hell Fire: Anger’s Role in Medieval English Felony Cases by Elizabeth Papp Kamali in Law and History Review looks at cases of murder and manslaughter from the thirteenth and fourteenth century, and discusses how emotions such as anger could inform the decisions made by the jurors. Although on the one hand anger in medieval times was seen as the result of an ill-formed conscience, and therefore the accused was guilty of moral failings, but on the other hand it could also partially excuse the accused, as anger in its extreme form could be seen to prevent rational reasoning. These nuanced readings of the legal texts create a broader understanding of the medieval psyche and adds further scope to the history of emotions.

Portrait of George Talbot, 1580. Image: Wikipedia

3. Next is an article by Graham Williams titled “My evil favoured writing”: Uglyography, Disease, and the Epistolary Networks of George Talbot, Sixth Earl of Shrewsbury in the Huntington Library Quarterly. George Talbot, a powerful Elizabethan magnate, was noted by himself and future palaeographers alike for his appalling handwriting, and was blamed on his gout. This article explores the Elizabethan relationship between bad handwriting and ill-health, and how George Talbot’s condition affected his epistolary networks.

4. Soundings of Laughter in Early Modern England: Women, Men, and Everyday Uses of Humor by Joy Wiltenburg in Early Modern Women reflects on laughter as a way to explore gendered social dynamics. Although a difficult subject to comprehensively analyse, she looks at two different angles ‘troublesome laughter’, when laughter was not appropriate (at least to those in authority), and private humour, such as that expressed through letters and diaries. She explores attitudes towards laughter, how it links into social structure, religion and politics, and how rowdy laughter was seen by some as uncivilized.

St James Workhouse. Image: Wikipedia

5. Jeremy Boulton’s article The Painter’s Daughter and the Poor Law: Elizabeth Laroon (b. 1689 –fl.1736) in The London Journal relates the sad life of Elizabeth Laroon, daughter of the artist Marcellus Laroon the elder (c.1648/9–1702). Elizabeth was relatively comfortable financially when her father died, but this article charts the progress of her life, ending up as a pauper. She also experienced the parish workhouse and two visits to the venereal hospital. This article highlights the vulnerability of single women in society in the seventeenth and eighteenth century, and how the parish poor law reached out to the community.

6. One for all you cataloguers and list-makers out there: ‘Orderly made’: re-appraising household inventories in seventeenth-century England by Donald Spaeth in Social History reveals how probate inventories were compiled by amateur appraisers and can now be used to assess the growth of material culture and consumption in early modern England. Through skillfully assessing the value of household goods and ordering lists to reflect the value, some appraisers gained enhanced social standing, such as Andrew Parslow from Thame in Oxfordshire. The article looks at the different ways that lists could be ordered, according to the individual assessor; room by room, or by groups of similar objects, such as bedding. However, after the Restoration, the ‘summary’ format was popularized by Andrew Parslow, and used for wealthier households, which reflects the amount of material goods being accrued in the seventeenth century.

Image: Wikipedia

7. Smelling salts at the ready for ‘Under Cross-Examination She Fainted’: Sexual Crime and Swooning in the Victorian Courtroom by Victoria Bates in the Journal of Victorian Culture. This article looks at accounts of rape in court, and how women losing consciousness in court had social, medical and legal ramifications. Using legal texts as cultural records, the use of ‘fainting’, ‘insensibility’, ‘swooning’, or ‘syncope’ all had slightly different meanings, and highlights the complex issue of unconsciousness. Victorian attitudes towards the fragility of women are also explored, as are the witness accounts in the courtroom, and how they interpreted the act of fainting.

8. From the edges of the empire, Business Fashion: Masculinity, Class and Dress in 1870s Australia by Melissa Bellanta in Australian Historical Studies looks at the emergence of business dress among men in late nineteenth century in Australia. The rise of bankers and stock-brokers in the gold-mining towns such as New South Wales sparked a male interest in smart and professional fashion, which offers new insights into masculinity in colonial Australia, as well as social structure and material wealth.

London Underground, 1960 tube stock trailer No. 4904. Image: Wikipedia

9. How We Came to Mind the Gap: Time, Tactility, and the Tube by Simeon Koole in Twentieth Century British History is an article that many urbanites will relate to. Charting the growth of the London Underground and our attitudes towards it, this article looks at how commuters cope with their personal space being encroached, and how the desire to get somewhere quicker has driven the design of tube trains, such as automatic doors and more standing room. These innovations have led to closer contact with strangers, requiring a constant need to adapt to shifting personal boundaries and tacit unspoken agreements about space-sharing.

10. Last, but by no means least, we have ‘The computer says no’: the demise of the traditional bank manager and the depersonalisation of British banking, 1960–2010 by Pål Vik in Business History. Looking at the demise of the high street bank, this article discusses how the changes in banking since the 1980s, such as the centralization of authority and heavy emphasis on targets, has depersonalized the banking experience. Based on interviews with retired bank managers, who regarded their roles as skilled and autonomous, this article argues that having to defer to a higher authority led to loss of personal relationships with their customers, and disempowered their profession.

We hope you enjoyed our selection of articles. If that has whetted your appetite, here’s a few more we found just as interesting:

The Bitter and Biting Humor of Sarcasm in Medieval and Early Modern Literature

The Clerk’s Tale: Civic Writing in Sixteenth-Century London

When “Comoners Were Made Slaves by the Magistrates”: The 1627 Election and Political Culture in Norwich

Hobby and Craft: Distilling Household Medicine in Eighteenth-Century England

‘Female Husbands’, Community and Courts in the Eighteenth Century

Droughts and Dragons: Geography, Rainfall, and Eighteenth-Century London’s Water Systems

Fine Gottenburgh Teas: the import and distribution of smuggled tea in Scotland and the north of England c. 1750–1780

The Manly Art’: The Burlesque Boxing Match in Nineteenth-Century Knockabout Comedy

BLITZWEED: the rise and fall of Buddleia davidii in England (1896–2008)

“Dressed in an Angel’s Nightshirt”: Jesus and the BBC

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The Anglo-Saxon era and the wider world


There has been much interest lately on the diversity of cultures in the Roman and Anglo-Saxon world, with many academics keen to promote research that highlights the positive interaction between communities, rather than existing as single homogenized societies. The Bibliography of British and Irish History can provide a useful platform for publication analysis, and give a general overview of trends and patterns on hot topics such as this. Taking the Anglo-Saxon period as a starting point, a search on the Bibliography of the period 450-1066 and the search term ‘other countries’ returns 1467 results, and by drilling down into publishing figures from 1970 to the present, it is clear that much more attention is currently being paid to Anglo-Saxon links with the rest of the world. There are only 250 resources published pre-1970, but statistical analysis after that time reveals the following results:



As the graph shows, there has been a steady increase in research, and an sharp rise in the mid 1990s, until the turn of the millenium when it plateaus at about the 235 mark. This may be due to the Bibliography becoming much more efficient in its indexing from 1992 onwards, and however encouraging these results, they do need to be assessed against the general rise in publications, which gives a more balanced view:



However, the percentage of resources published does show a steady increase, with figures doubling from the 1970s (at five per cent) to over ten per cent since 2000, showing that it is an area growing in interest. A map of the spread of resources further highlights how far-reaching the interactions were in the Insular world.


Click on images for more detail

These data visualizations show publication information, but looking at individual titles on the Bibliography is also vital to establishing the body of research out there.

Although physical geography may separate Britain and Ireland from other countries, it has never been left to develop in splendid isolation. All-important trade-routes and the growth of Christianity ensured that the Insular world had plenty of interaction with the Continent, and much further afield. Bede was keen to align the British Isles with the Roman Church (as opposed to the Insular Church), believing in a universal Catholicism, uniting all four corners of the known world. Despite never leaving Monkwearmouth-Jarrow, a constant stream of religious texts from the continent informed his global view, as Conor O’Brien’s book Bede’s Temple discusses. Never are these influences more apparent than in the Lindisfarne Gospels, the pinnacle of Anglo-Saxon culture. In her book chapter ‘The Cross and the book: the cross-carpet pages of the Lindisfarne Gospels as sacred figurae’, in Cross and Cruciform in the Anglo-Saxon World, Michelle Brown discusses the many influences that fed into the manuscript images, including the resemblance the carpet pages bear to eastern Mediterranean prayer mats, which may have been used in Britain in the early eighth century to pray towards the east, highlighting the blending of eastern and western cultures. She analyses the crosses embedded in the carpet pages, and suggests that each cross represents the concept of a universal church – St Matthew a Latin cross, St Mark a Celtic cross, St Luke a Greek cross, and St John a Greek-style cross that was popular in Coptic Egypt, Nubia and Ethiopia.

Carpet page for St John (London, British Library, Cotton MS Nero D IV, fol. 210v)

Carpet page for St Matthew (London, British Library, Cotton MS Nero D IV, fol. 26v)














The Codex Amiatinus, a magnificent copy of the Vulgate bible produced at Monkwearmouth-Jarrow that went missing on its journey to Rome, also indicates just how closely Christian England had aligned itself with Rome – the reason it remained undiscovered for so long was because it was assumed to be Italian, so completely had it emulated the Roman style. In his book chapter ‘Amiatinus in Italy: the afterlife of an Anglo-Saxon book’, in Anglo-Saxon England and the Continent, Marsden explores the extraordinary journey of this manuscript. ‘Who introduced charters into England? The case for Theodore and Hadrian’ in Textus Roffensis: Law, Language, and Libraries in Early Medieval England is also a reminder that Theodore of Tarsus (Archbishop of Canterbury) and his companion Hadrian (Abbot of St Augustine’s, Canterbury) from north Africa were received very favourably as church leaders in England in the seventh century.

Leoba, correspondent of Boniface, was spiritual advisor to Hildegard, Charlemagne’s wife and following Boniface’s example, set up a monastery in Tauberbischofsheim, leading to further intellectual links between England and the Continent, as Lifschitz has discussed in Religious Women in Early Carolingian Francia: a Study of Manuscript Transmission and Monastic Culture. ‘Alcuin, Rome, and Charlemagne’s imperial coronation’, a chapter in England and Rome in the Early Middle Ages: Pilgrimage, Art, and Politics further explores the blending of cultural relations. Pilgrimage was popular among Anglo-Saxon Christians, with both men and women travelling to Rome and Jerusalem, as can be witnessed from names carved into the catacombs at Rome (see previous blog post), or from Willibald’s spiritual journey to Jerusalem, written down by his sister Hugeberg in Vita Willibaldi and analysed in ‘Images of Jerusalem: the religious imagination of Willibald of Eichstatt’, also in Anglo-Saxon England and the Continent.

Byzantine solidus coin with bust of Leo I (457-474 AD)                   Image: Wikipedia

Trade was another major source for cultural interaction, and although the tin reserves in the south-west of England were much more heavily mined in the Roman era, there is evidence to suggest that it retained its trade links with the Mediterranean, as discussed in the book chapter ‘Early tin extraction in the south-west of England: a resource for Mediterranean metalworkers of late antiquity’ in Byzantine Trade, 4-12th Centuries. Another book chapter ‘Byzantine coins in early medieval Britain: a Byzantine’s assessment’ in Early Medieval Monetary History provides further links between the two worlds, as does ‘Britain and China at opposite ends of the world?: archaeological methodology and long-distance contacts in the sixth century’ from Incipient Globalization?: Long-Distance Contacts in the Sixth Century, which highlights the coinage found in eastern England in Anglo-Saxon burial mounds, and indicates the range of trade links from Byzantium. ‘Evidence of early medieval trade and migration between Wales and the Mediterranean Sea region’ in the Journal of Archaeological Science also highlights the fact that it wasn’t just material objects, but people, who were relocating to the British Isles. See also the blog posts of Dr Caitlin Green, for excellent visualisations on early medieval trade routes.

Although the close connections between the Vikings and Britain and Ireland have been well-documented, a fascinating book chapter titled ‘Viking-age queens and the formation of identity’ in The Viking Age: Ireland and the West discusses the portrayals of Eadgyth, Gormlaith and Auðr and their regal roles. The ‘marrying-in’ to different cultures may suggest a keenness (or an unwillingness) to be politically allied, and the subsequent portrayals of these women symbolized the links being forged between English, Irish and Scandinavian cultures. Aquitaine and Ireland in the Middle Ages also offers interesting evidence of cultural and commercial links between Ireland and the south-west of France, who could use the Atlantic Ocean to bypass mainland Britain. ‘Innse Gall: culture and environment on a Norse frontier in the Scottish Western Isles’ in The Norwegian Domination and the Norse World, c.1100-c.1400 also highlights the blurred boundaries between the British and Scandinavian world, and how those links persisted well after the Anglo-Saxon era.


Anglo-Saxon map of the world (London, British Library, Cotton MS Tiberius B V/1, fol. 56v)


For resources covering areas beyond Europe and Byzantium, a book chapter called ‘Architecture and epigraphic evidence for Christian Celts in Connecticut, c. 500-700 A.D.’ in Atlantic Visions presents archaeological evidence for a drainage system that may signify occupation by settlers from Ireland or the Hebrides, strengthened by the presence of preserved inscriptions of the Chi-Rho symbol and Ogham script. An article titled ‘The figure of the Ethiopian in Old English texts’ in the Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, which although it offers both positive and negative aspects, highlights how places as far as eastern Africa were present in the Anglo-Saxon mind.

The Bibliography of the British and Irish History is an extremely useful tool for exploring both qualitive and quantitive results in history publications, in this case to explore the wider boundaries of the Anglo-Saxon period in Britain and Ireland.


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