(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The judges commented: “This article impressed the judges by offering a fresh perspective on a much studied subject: Magna Carta. The author does this by connecting two aspects of thirteenth-century history that have usually been treated separately: efforts to promulgate the definitive 1225 text of the Charter, and the Church’s concern to improve pastoral care. In particular, she argues that the inclusion of a sanction of general excommunication on breakers of Magna Carta and the Forest Charter, especially after this sanction was given written form in 1253, meant that the clergy were obliged to publicize the sentence, together with the charters, so that parishioners would avoid incurring the resulting spiritual penalties. Thus the Church’s duty of pastoral care contributed to the dissemination of political awareness. Clearly and cogently argued, firmly grounded in the primary sources, especially canon law, and engaging critically with a wide range of secondary literature in several languages, the article makes an original and significant contribution to scholarship, and the judges warmly recommend that it be selected as proxime accessit.”
This article challenges the influential revisionist interpretation of the impeachment of the duke of Buckingham in the parliament of 1626. It argues that Buckingham’s enemies sought to remove him from power rather than ‘reform’ his errors or reach a compromise settlement whereby he would give up some offices. It explores the relationship between M.P.s and their patrons in the house of lords, the ideological and religious significance of the impeachment and the reasons for the dissolution, arguing that the attack on Buckingham was much more radical, polarizing and uncompromising than has previously been acknowledged.
Since the nineteen-seventies public history has emerged as an increasingly coherent discipline in North America, Australia, New Zealand, the U.K. and, latterly, in a wider European context. In all of these places it has had a connected but distinctly different gestation, and the nature of how history is applied, constructed, proffered or sold for public consumption is unique to each society. In Ireland, and within the history profession connected to it, its meaning is yet to be fully explored. Recent talks, symposia and conferences have established the term in the public imagination. As it is presently conceived public history in Ireland either relates specifically to commemorative events and the effect historians might have on official discourse relating to them, or to a series of controversial and contested historiographical debates. This article, by contrast, seeks a wider, more inclusive definition that includes the ‘public’ as an actor in it.
Viking re-enactors at the Battle of Clontarf millennium commemoration, Saint Anne’s Park, Dublin, April 19th 2014
Getting out of jail: suicide, escape and release in late medieval and Renaissance Bologna. Trevor Dean
The 1553 succession crisis reconsidered. Paulina Kewes
Whose city? Civic government and episcopal power in early modern Salisbury, c.1590–1640. Catherine Patterson
‘I was no “master of this work” but a servant to it’? William Laud, Charles I and the making of Scottish ecclesiastical policy, 1634–6. Leonie James [open access]
Between tension and rapprochement: Sunni-Shi‘ite relations in the pre-modern Ottoman period, with a focus on the eighteenth century. M. Sait Özervarlı
One of the best men of business we had ever met’: Thomas Drummond, the boundary commission and the 1832 Reform Act. Martin Spychal [open access]
Charles Mason, the ‘king of China’: British imperial adventuring in the late nineteenth century. Catherine Ladds
‘That racial chasm that yawns eternally in our midst’: the British empire and the politics of Asian migration, 1900–14. Cornelis Heere
Invasion, raids and army reform: the political context of ‘flotilla defence’, 1903–5. Richard Dunley
‘And those who live, how shall I tell their fame?’ Historical pageants, collective remembrance and the First World War, 1919–39. Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Paul Readman and Charlotte Tupman [open access]