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Bibliography of British and Irish History

From Roman villa to brutalist architecture – homes, housing and households in BBIH



Cotterstock (2) Roman villa, mosaic pavements (from E. T. Artis, The Durobrivae of Antoninus (1828)) from British History Online

To celebrate the IHR Winter Conference 2018 entitled, Home: new histories of living it seems sensible to explore the theme in the Bibliography of British and Irish History.

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.

Probate records and inventories are a useful source for not only furnishing but also the arrangement and interior decoration of the household. The book Women’s voices in Tudor wills, 1485-1603 : authority, influence and material culture  has a chapter The dispersal of assets: undressing the house, undressing the body that looks specifically at the household arrangements including the use of the parlour as a dining room and, as women aged, a bedchamber.

Christopher Dyer’s article, Living in peasant houses in late medieval England also uses probate inventories (mainly of fifteenth-century Yorkshire) revealing the use of furniture in halls, chambers and kitchens. The use of probate records and regional history is carried over in two further works: The material culture of the tradesmen of Newcastle upon Tyne, 1545-1642 : the Durham probate record evidence and From flock to feather and harden to holland : an investigation of the beds of Nottingham through the use of probate inventories 1688-1757 (East Midland Historian, 11, 2001 p. 47-57).

Looking at influences on taste and interior decoration, the long eighteenth-century covers both oriental influence (chinoiserie) and classical influences. The oriental influences include wallpapers, tapestries and, of course, porcelain and highlights include Fashioning bluestocking conversation : Elizabeth Montagu’s Chinese room (contained in Architectural space in eighteenth-century Europe: Constructing identities and interiors) and “Luscious Colors and Glossy Paint” : The taste for China and the consumption of color in eighteenth-century England (in The materiality of color : The production, circulation, and application of dyes and pigments, 1400–1800).

There is much more on classical influences on interior decoration and design. Ranging from articles on Inigo Jones in Representations of Inigo Jones’s Banqueting House : Development of sketches and architectural symbolism and From timber to plaster : Inigo Jones’s ceiling designs and London artisans in the 1630s (London Topographical Record, 31, 2015, p. 50-62) to monographs such as,  James ‘Athenian’ Stuart 1713-1788 : the rediscovery of antiquity. 

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.

Taking a slightly different tack, let’s explore the demise of the country house in Lost mansions : essays on the destruction of the country house which covers Ireland, Scotland and the Marks Hall estate in Essex. The effects of World War One are explored in The country house and the Great War : Irish and British experiences. In Ireland the demise of the “big house” was hastened by the continuing wars (the subject even warrants a page on Wikipedia). Examples of articles on the subject include, The burning of country houses in Co. Offaly during the revolutionary period, 1920-3 (in The Irish country house). Big house burnings in County Cork during the Irish Revolution, 1920–21; and The destruction of the country house in Ireland, 1879-1973 (in Lost mansions).

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.

The title of this piece opened with Roman villas and ended with Brutalist architecture – for which we have “Group-cum-Brutalism”? Highgate Spinney, London, 1964–66, discussion of a five-story block of 30 flats designed by John Howard and Bruce Rotherham. Ben Highmore’s The art of Brutalism : rescuing hope from catastrophe in 1950s Britain not only explores the style adopted by painters, sculptors and other artists but also examines the styles influence on consumer culture and the domestic settings including the impact on the Ideal Home Exhibition.

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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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British History Online and the Bibliography of British and Irish History – not just British


From the titles of some of the IHR’s digital resources, you might think that they have limited geographical reach: British History Online…the Bibliography of British and Irish History. But the real world overspills geographical boundaries and the digital world even more so.

1655 engravure of the islands Amboyna (top) and Nera (bottom). National Maritime Museum, London

British History Online has much more to offer than British history, even though that is naturally the focus. Series like the Journals of the Board of Trade and Plantations and the Calendar of State Papers, Colonial (which, despite the title, includes relations with China and Japan!) have an explicitly global reach. There is also the Calendar of State Papers, Colonial, America and West Indies. For example, after the 1624 Amboyna Massacre, the bloody outcome of a power struggle over the spice trade between Great Britain and the Netherlands, we can read that the East Indian company agreed to distribute 1,000 copies of its account of the massacre in Dutch “to be sent over”, i.e. to what is now Indonesia, and that “there shall be set upon the front of each book the arms of this Company, in token that they avow them to be true”. Faith in the word of international corporations was clearly greater then than now.

Stamp commemorating Irish monks arriving in Iceland

The Bibliography of British and Irish History (BBIH) also offers more internationally than its title suggests. It covers the history of British and Irish relations with the rest of the world, including the British Empire and the Commonwealth and the American Colonies. As an example, searching on Iceland brings up early medieval Irish missions there; a range of cultural relations – for instance the influence of the sagas on British and Irish literary tradition; British visitors such as the naturalist Sir Joseph Banks to Iceland; trade relations including the voyage of the “Marigold” in 1654; foreign relations during World War II and the American and British occupation of the island; and the so-called cod wars over fishing rights of the 1970s. The image below shows hotspots for BBIH’s world coverage:

Of course IHR resources are not just global in scope, they are global in audience. This opens up scholarship to the world. Those who cannot attend IHR lectures can enjoy them as videos and podcasts from anywhere in the world. Since 2009 the IHR has produced over 800 podcasts, encompassing not only its acclaimed and unique seminar series, but also one-off talks and conferences. Those who cannot attend training courses can access training online training.

British History Online has received thanks from researchers across the world for providing free access to volumes that are hard to obtain where they live and work. BBIH has subscribers all over the world including the USA, most European countries, Australia, Japan and Taiwan. The reach of IHR is truly global.

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BBIH and the occult (for History Day 2017)


As 31 October looms we all know what that means, no not Halloween, but History Day. And of course the theme this year is the occult and all things that go bump in the night. BBIH is a big supporter of History Day –  it’s well organised with lots of participants and interesting panel sessions. It also gives BBIH the opportunity to showcase research on this year’s theme – the occult and its many facets. So grab your broomstick, cauldron, and crystal ball and we’ll delve into the world of the dark arts.

Naturally BBIH has lots of material on the occult. The snapshot from the subject tree shows the range of search terms that can be used.


A search on the broader term Occult beliefs and practices brings up over 1500 entries including witchcraft trails, the devil in post-Reformation Scotland and British Intelligence and the occult in the Second World War.

The term Magic (occult), as opposed to entertainment, has nearly 300 entries covering the subject from the Roman period to imperial history with the article amulets from Roman London, the Sophie Page book, Magic in the cloister: pious motives, illicit interests, and occult approaches to the medieval universe,  a Tudor necromancer’s manual, and the West Indian obeah belief.

Of course there is much on witches and witchcraft trails, and specific places can be searched for, such as the witches of Pendle Forest as well as the clerk of the court who recorded the proceedings, Thomas Potts.

Witchcraft also features in dramas (and not only by Shakespeare), as in the case of The Witch of Edmonton by William Rowley, Thomas Dekker and John Ford.  Of course, witches are often associated with the early modern period, but there are medieval examples, as in the trail of Eleanor Duchess of Gloucester in 1441, as well as more modern examples such as Helen Duncan, the last witch to be prosecuted in Britain and the “wickedest man in the world”, Aleister Crowley.

Other areas of witchcraft to be considered (apart from the usual trials) are the influence of emotions, as explored in Emotions in the history of witchcraft by Laura Kouine and Michael Ostling, which includes the chapter, Tyrannical beasts: Male witchcraft in early modern English culture. Other fruitful subjects of research may be the witches’ familiar discussed in Guardian spirits or demonic pets : the concept of the witch’s familiar in early modern England, 1530-1712 (a chapter in The animal/human boundary: historical perspectives).

Additional related topics are alchemy, as well as its associated personalities such as the mathematician, astrologer, and antiquarian John Dee, and of course spiritualism. Searching on Spiritualism and Photography (prompted by the IHR exhibition Accusations of Witchcraft featuring a photograph of the aforementioned Helen Duncan) brings up a list of useful articles.

The term “Prophecy and prediction” (which includes astrology) naturally covers religious elements, such as mysticism, but also includes dreams, politics, the influence of history, and printed media as well as personalities such as Joanna Southcott and Lady Eleanor Davies.

Whatever your research topic you’re bound to find something of interest in BBIH and at History Day 2017.

Detail of a miniature of a phoenix burning, Harley 4751 f. 45 British Library

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Bibliography of British and Irish History updated – October 2017 – Sleep, dreams and colours


An update to the Bibliography of British and Irish History was published on 4th October. 5,233 new records have been added. Some 513 new records relate to Irish history while 267 deal with the history of London, 451 with the history of Scotland and 189 with the history of Wales.  The overall total of records available online is 594,068.

We are always looking to improve our subject indexing and coverage and have added a number of new terms to the thesaurus reflecting recent developments in history. “Colours”, “Dreams”, and “Sleep” have all been added and are now searchable by “Subject tree” search in BBIH.

Sasha Handley’s book Sleep in early modern England prompted the addition of “Sleep” as an index term. While most of the references refer to literary representations (“Watching the sleeper in Macbeth) or religious aspects (“The Nyghtes Watchys”: Sleep deprivation in medieval devotional culture) there are also insights into the social aspects of sleep (Norms, forms and beds: Spatializing sleep in Victorian Britain and Sociable sleeping in early modern England, 1660–1760).

Naturally with sleep there are dreams (and nightmares). The book Dreams in early modern England: “Visions of the night” by Janine Rivière led to the addition of “Dreams” to the list of subjects. As with sleep there are literary or cultural references (Prophecies, dreams, and the plays of John Lyly, a chapter in Staging the superstitions of early modern Europe ), and religious aspects (Dreaming and emotion in early evangelical religion, a chapter in Heart religion: evangelical piety in England & Ireland, 1690-1850).

There are also medical viewpoints to dreams as in Forgotten dreams: Recalling the patient in British psychotherapy, 1945–60 and Demons of desire or symptoms of disease? Medical theories and popular experiences of the “nightmare” in premodern England (a chapter in Dreams, dreamers, and visions: the early modern Atlantic world). Intellectual views are explored in Visions, dreams, and the discernment of prophetic passion: Sense and reason in the writings of the Cambridge Platonists and John Beale, 1640–60 (a chapter in Angels of light?: sanctity and the discernment of spirits in the early modern period).

As for “Colour”, references naturally point to the aesthetics of colour in the arts including illuminated manuscripts but also to technological developments in film (Colour films in Britain: the negotiation of innovation 1900-55), television (The techno-politics of colour: Britain and the European struggle for a colour television standard) and the dyeing industry (Johann Peter Griess FRS (1829–88): Victorian brewer and synthetic dye chemist).

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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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Baseball…it’s just not cricket: baseball and British and Irish history


Baseball and British history – not, you think, a natural pairing. It’s then surprising to learn that there are enough references to baseball in BBIH to warrant a blog.

A woodcut from “A Little Pretty Pocket-Book” (1744) England, showing a reference to baseball

There is little on the development of the sport, unlike the lengthy discussions available on the development of football (the association not the American kind).

Highlights from the collection include the nationalistic and sneering response to the game, such as “That’s your way of playing rounders, isn’t it”? The response of the English press to American baseball tours to England, 1874-1924”. The sporting coverage is also explored in Embracing sporting news in England and America: nineteenth-century cricket and baseball news (a chapter in Anglo-American media interactions, 1850-2000).

There is some material on London including Baseball in East London before the war, British baseball and the West Ham club: history of a 1930s professional team in East London and A very peculiar practice: the London Baseball League, 1906-1911.

Picking up on imperial themes, there’s Why baseball, why cricket? Differing nationalisms, differing challenges which asks why India and Pakistan play cricket and the USA does not. A night at Delmonico’s: the Spalding baseball tour and the imagination of Empire looks at parts of the tour by Albert Spalding, particularly the contrasting results of the visits to Australia and Britain, while Similar economic histories, different industrial structures: transatlantic contrasts in the evolution of professional sports leagues contrasts the histories of the English Football League and the National Baseball League.

The issue of class is raised in “Poor man’s cricket”: baseball, class and community in south Wales c.1880-1950 which documents the origins of the sport in south Wales and its development that was said to be ‘slowly ingratiating itself into the favour of the masses’ and became part of the local popular culture.

Even more unexpected is the history of Irish involvement with baseball. As Jerrold Casway notes in his biography, Ed Delahanty in the emerald age of baseball  – “Baseball for Irish kids was a shortcut to the American dream and to self-indulgent glory and fortune”. The Irish in baseball: an early history surveys the contribution of the Irish to the American pastime and the ways in which Irish immigrants and baseball came of age together. It looks at the role of the Irish in Boston, Chicago and Baltimore. Anti-Irish job discrimination circa 1880 : evidence from major league baseball shows that Irish players outperformed non-Irish players both on average and at the margin and were generally relegated to less central positions in the field but were less likely to be hired as managers. Finally there is the chapter, “Slide, Kelly, slide” : the Irish in American baseball in New perspectives on the Irish diaspora and Glimpses of the Irish contribution to early baseball by John P. Rossi in the journal Éire-Ireland (1988).

However, it was not entirely a one-way road as the chapter by Sara Brady, Playing ‘Irish’ sport on baseball’s hallowed ground: the 1947 All-Ireland Gaelic Football Final makes clear (in After the flood: Irish America 1945-1960).

Recent additions (both due to appear in the October update) include Nine innings for the King: the day wartime London stopped for baseball, July 4, 1918 by Jim Leeke and his article Royal match: the Army-Navy service game, July 4, 1918, based on the same event, in NINE: A Journal of Baseball History and Culture. For historians and baseball fans this journal covers a wide range of topics from racism in the sport (including the Ku Klux Klan), media representation (radio and film) the various baseball tours including Japan and Taiwan and, of course, Babe Ruth.


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Jane Austen 200th anniversary


This year marks the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen, one of Britain’s most well-known literary figures. She died on 18 July 1817, and this year celebrates a variety of different events to commemorate her life (see Jane Austen 200). To tie in with this, we looked at the resources available on the Bibliography of British and Irish History, and have selected some material which highlights the less-explored themes surrounding Austen’s life and her work.

A newly published book titled Jane Austen and the Reformation: Remembering the sacred landscape by Roger E. Moore explores the medieval religious houses that feature in Austen’s novels, noting the nostalgia that people in the Georgian era felt for the England that existed before the Reformation. He pays particular attention to the first-hand experience that Austen had with pre-Reformation buildings, such as being taught at the gatehouse at Reading Abbey and visiting relatives at Stoneleigh Abbey.

Abbey gateway Reading, by Paul Sandby, 1808 (image: Wikipedia)


Jane Austen, Dominic Serres, Princess Olive of Cumberland, Graf von Moltke: Unexpected encounters of an interesting kind is an article by Chris Birch in Geneologists’ Magazine (32:4), which charts a surprising family history that traces the author’s heritage from sugar plantations in St Kitts back to James Austen, Jane’s eldest brother. It is thought that the character General Tilney in Northanger Abbey was based on James’ father-in-law, General Edward Mathew.

‘The “Fanny Price Wars”: Jane Austen’s Enlightenment feminist and Mary Wollstonecraft’ is an article in Women’s Studies. Fanny Price from Mansfield Park is generally regarded as Austen’s most unlikeable heroine, and this article discusses how Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Women may have shaped the development of Austen’s character.

Jane Austen and the state of the nation by Sheryl Craig takes a political view of Austen’s novels, discussing in each chapter a specific novel and relating it to the political and economic climate, such as Poor Law reform, the Speenhamland System and the Restriction Act of 1797. The monograph concludes that Austen maintained a liberal tory outlook throughout her writing life.

Other resources encompassing wider themes in Austen’s work include ‘Jane Austen’s Plots of Prevention’ in Reading for health : Medical narratives and the nineteenth-century novel by Erika Wright and ‘Novel Appetites: Jane Austen and the “Nothing” of Food’ in The food plot in the nineteenth-century British novel by Michael Parrish Lee.

The Bibliography currently has 219 listed resources for Jane Austen, visit the BBIH to explore more:


(Click on image to enlarge)

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After 1967: homosexuality in the Bibliography of British and Irish History


It seems more than timely to write something about the LGBT community. Pride has just taken place in London; Tate Britain has an exhibition – Queer British art 1861-1967; the British Museum has Desire, love, identity exploring LGBT histories from its collection; and the Walker Art Gallery has Coming out: Art and culture 1967-2017. Even Radio 4 has produced as series on Queer Icons. And of course it’s the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act which led to the partial decriminalization of male homosexuality in England, as well as the 60th anniversary of the Wolfenden Report (1957), which itself led to the 1967 Act.

Needless to say much has been written on homosexuality in British, Irish and British imperial history (BBIH has over 800 references). It seems invidious to pick out particular books or articles so I’ve gone for the easy option and picked the first 25 references from BBIH (as of July 2017).

Fortunately the list offers a wide range of topics. Different localities are represented by Mandate Palestine, the Indian North West Frontier, London (of course) and south Wales (For our common cause: Sexuality and left politics in South Wales, 1967–1985). Date coverage is equally wide-ranging from early modern England to a 1609 sea voyage to the near present. As for subjects, there are representations of gay people in literature, film and caricature, cross-dressing, AIDS, religious thought, church reactions, legal implications, psychology and disability (Libertine Sexuality and Queer-Crip Embodiment in Eighteenth-Century Britain).

As for the authors, it’s encouraging to see a number of the leading historians of gender and sexuality in the list. Harry Cocks is represented by his article Conspiracy to corrupt public morals and the ‘unlawful’ status of homosexuality in Britain after 1967 which explains the ‘partial decriminalization’ with the continued prosecution of homosexuality. Indeed his latest book, Visions of Sodom: religion, homoerotic desire, and the end of the world in England, c. 1550-1850, is just out (and just added to BBIH). There is also cultural historian Matt Cook and his discussion of AIDS in London, AIDS and the 1980s, a chapter in Sex, time and place: queer histories of London, c.1850 to the present. Also present is Lesley A. Hall and her article ‘Sentimental Follies’ or ‘Instruments of Tremendous Uplift’? Reconsidering women’s same-sex relationships in interwar Britain.

People (as subjects) to pick out from the list are (inevitably) Wilde in Oscar Wilde prefigured: queer fashioning and British caricature, 1750-1900, Francis Bacon in ‘Famous for the paint she put on her face’: London’s painted poofs and the self-fashioning of Francis Bacon (another chapter from Sex, time and place), Constance Maynard in Religion, Same-Sex Desire, and the Imagined Geographies of Empire: the case of Constance Maynard (1849–1935), and Wolfenden himself in Wolfenden’s witnesses: homosexuality in postwar Britain, as well as references to the contemporary author Alan Hollinghurst and Victorian painter Simeon Solomon.

Of course the Sexual Offences Act only applied to England and Wales. Charting the slower change in Scotland you can do no better than look at the works of  Roger Davidson and Gayle Davis.


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