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.
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.
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!
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.
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 antiquarianJohn 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 CodexAmiatinus, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
My interest was piqued in embroidery by the book Stiching the world: embroidered maps and women’s geographical education in which Judith Tyner describes schoolgirls in Britain and the United States creating embroidered map samplers and even silk globes designed to teach the girls, not only needlework, but geography. I’ve been meaning to write something on needlework/embroidery for some time now and have been spurred on by two new references that I’ve just documented for BBIH.
The first is a chapter in the marvellous book Hardwick Hall: a great old castle of romance, entitled The embroidery and needlework of Bess of Hardwick by Emma Slocombe which charts Bess’s acquisition and creation of embroidery and needlework for the hall. The chapter is of particular importance as this period witnessed the transition of embroidery from ecclesiastic requirements to a more secular form in the interior decoration of elite houses. The book also features tapestries as well as bed coverings and drapery.
Of course many such outstanding examples of embroidery are found in ecclesiastical vestments. Frank and Peter Rhodes discuss such examples looking especially at the flowers on English copes and chasubles in their article, Medieval embroidered “water flowers”.
Terry Moore-Scott discusses the Minsterworth embroidery (an embroidered panel made up from a pre-Reformation liturgical vestment) and gives a better understanding of its intriguing history and survival since the Reformation. (Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, 132, 2014).
Meanwhile, Catherine Walden takes the research further and details the episcopal vestments on funerary effigies, corroborated by existing textile fragments and descriptions of garments in the inventories of churches in her chapter, ‘So lyvely in cullers and gilting’: vestments on episcopal tomb effigies in England (in Dressing the part: textiles as propaganda in the Middle Ages).
A more categorical move from ecclesiastical to secular is demonstrated in the chapter, Polite war: Material culture of the Jacobite era, 1688-1760 (in Living with Jacobitism, 1690-1788: the three kingdoms and beyond). Here, Jennifer L. Novotny discusses the household goods and material culture, including wall hangings and samplers, of Jacobitism.
A more recent article in some ways continues the theme of Judith Tyner. Performing curiosity: re-viewing women’s domestic embroidery in seventeenth-century England, by Mary M. Brooks, describes a specific type of pictorial, decorative embroidery, usually learnt in school and practiced in the home. While an indicator of status and wealth, these “curious works” are placed within the changing concept and practice of curiosity (and education) in early modern England.
The relationship between needlework and writing (and women’s education) is explored further in Dress culture in late Victorian women’s fiction: literacy, textiles, and activism by Christine Bayles Kortsch. While examining the inextricable relationship between the material culture of dress and sewing, Kortsch documents how stitching samplers continued to be a way of acculturating girls in print literacy. She explores nineteenth-century women’s education, sewing and needlework, mainstream fashion, alternative dress movements, and female labour in the textile industry.
The role and representation of the seamstress is provided by Lyn Mae Alexander’s Women, work, and representation: needlewomen in Victorian art and literature. Using literary examples from Dickens and Gaskell, visual representations by Millais and others, as well as illustrations from the periodical press, she outlines the working conditions of the professional seamstress – the long hours, very small wages, isolation and helplessness, creating powerful image of working-class suffering that appealed to the sensibilities of the social reformers and helped stimulate public opinion in the need for reform.
The Seamstress; or, the White Slave of England (George W. M. Reynolds)
The rise of “art embroidery” during the nineteenth century and the developing commercial ventures as well as the significance of the embroidery business to female employment is revealed in Linda Cluckie’s The rise and fall of art needlework: its socio-economic and cultural aspects.The commercial side of embroidery mobilized activity through numerous agencies such as department stores, depots and charitable institutions. However the working conditions of the female labour is explored in such chapters entitled, Suitable employment for women; Sweated labour and the need for radical change; and Beyond the sweated trades,all indicative of those conditions.
Not all women were subjected to “sweated labour”. One such example, Matilda Pullan, made a career of needlework instructor and periodical contributor. Forced by personal circumstance, she became one of the most prolific contributors of needlework patterns, generating her own income that allowed her to become financially independent through her widowhood and spousal separation. Her life is charted in Threads of life: Matilda Marian Pullan (1819-1862), needlework instruction, and the periodical pressby Marianne Van Remoortel.