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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.


Mexico-United States relations: The Mexican-American War (1846-1848)


The IHR Library holds a wealth of resources for the history of Mexico-United States relations, covering the period succeeding the Mexican-American War up until the twentieth century. A range of sources, such as, treaties, diaries, autobiographies and letters, are included in English, Spanish, Portuguese and other languages. 

Following the ongoing reclassification project for the Latin American collection and the upcoming Mexico-U.S exhibition, some interesting volumes have been discovered within the library’s holdings. This blog post marks the first in a series that will focus on the IHR Library’s holdings of material concerning the history of Mexico-U.S relations, beginning with the Mexican-American War.

The Mexican–American War, also known as the Mexican War, or Intervención estadounidense en México (American Intervention in Mexico), was an armed conflict between the United States of America and the United Mexican States from 1846 to 1848. It followed in the wake of the 1845 U.S. annexation of Texas, which Mexico considered part of its territory in spite of its de facto secession in the 1836 Texas Revolution.

The first work being highlighted in this blog post is the Memoirs of José Francisco Palomares by José Francisco Palomares. 

These memoirs date from 1846 to 1848 and the library’s copy is translated from the manuscript in the Bancroft Library by Thomas Workman Temple II. In this first-person narrative, Palomares recounts one of the many military campaigns he launched in California during the 1800s against indigenous people.

Correspondence between the Secretary of War and General Scottmessage of the President of the United States, transmitting the correspondence between the Secretary of War and Major General Scott, with the accompanying documents, in compliance with the resolution of the House of Representatives of the 17th instant.

This 63-page document dates from the outset of the War in April 1848 to November 1846, and details the correspondence between the Secretary of War, W.L. Marcy, and Major General Scott.

The Websters : letters of an American army family in peace and war, 1836-1853 by Van R. Baker.

This work offers information on life in the Army and the practices of the War Department, and focuses on the correspondence between Lucien Webster, a career army officer, and his wife Frances Smith. It contains a series of letters and memoirs that provide firsthand accounts of the Mexican-American War.

Chronicles of the gringos : the U.S. Army in the Mexican War, 1846-1848; accounts of eyewitnesses & combatants, edited, with introd., commentaries, and notes, by George Winston Smith & Charles Judah.

This work assembles the eyewitness accounts and letters written by the Gringo (American) soldiers and those close to them. It delves into what happened behind the scenes during the Mexican-American War, such as the daily life of the soldiers, their view of Mexico and its people and how they viewed each other.

For more information on the IHR Library’s holdings on Latin American and United States history more generally, please refer to the following guides:

United States History in the Institute of Historical Research Library

Latin American History in the Institute of Historical Research Library

Notice of closure of areas within IHR library: 8-10 August


There will be some disruption and short-term closure of parts of the IHR library during the period 8th – 10th August while we have some extra shelving installed. A more precise timetable will be available nearer the time. Library staff will assist with access to collections within the affected areas. There will be unaffected areas for readers to work at all times.

The areas affected are:

  • Lower ground reading room: this room will be completely closed for the whole period.
  • Foyle room Floor 1: some noise and short-term closure.
  • Wohl Library Floor 1: this room won’t be closed but there will be some disruption.
  • North American room Floor 2: some noise and short-term closure.
  • 3rd floor reading room: short term closure.

Sorry for any inconvenienced caused. We will try to ensure that disturbance is kept to a minimum.

New Historical Research articles


Image: Wikipedia

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

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.

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

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

Latest from Reviews in History – Huguenots, civil wars, communes and medieval Venice


We start this week with Facing the Revocation: Huguenot Families, Faith and the King’s Will by Carolyn Chapelle Lougee. Raymond Mentzer enjoys a highly original set of insights into the uncertainties and burdens that French Protestants encountered as they confronted the royal proscription of their ancestral religion (no. 2143).

Next up is David Armitage’s Civil Wars: A History in Ideas. John Collins speculates that this new book might cause a revolution within the discipline, possibly preceded by civil war…(no. 2142).

Then we turn to Living the Revolution: Urban Communes and Soviet Socialism 1917-1932 by Andy Willimott. James Ryan believes this to be an excellent book that deserves to be read widely by all those interested in early Soviet history (no. 2141).

Finally Georg Christ reviews two resources which make precious sets of data accessible in a durable, easy and useful way – CIVES: citizenship privileges in Venice, 1180-1500 and ESTIMO: the Venetian fiscal roster of 1379 (no. 2140)

See our full list of reviews here

Access to Archives: plans to introduce charges threaten serious research


writes Adam Chapman of the VCH.

Who would be an archivist, especially one working in a county record office? Always a profession under stress, often in inadequate buildings and seen as an easy thing to cut, trim or salami slice, running an archive under the aegis of county hall is hard graft for poor financial reward.

Archival research is the backbone of the historical discipline and a key component in the work of archaeologists, historic buildings and landscape consultants, planners and developers as well as countless others pursuing research into their families, communities the close and far, far distant past. Authors and editors for the Victoria County History are among their number and would not have achieved what they have – the histories of nearly 7,000 communities – over the last century or so without the resources these archives contain.

In fact, the Victoria County History has been an integral part of the development of England’s network of local archives. Many of the early contributors to the VCH edited and catalogued the records they worked on. One such was the suffragist Mary Bateson (1865–1906) who researched and wrote the account of the borough of Peterborough in volume II of the Northamptonshire series published in 1906 and earlier edited the medieval records of the borough of Leicester among a rich and a varied career.

I mention Bateson’s contribution to the VCH History of Northamptonshire because, on 24 July, Northamptonshire Archives and Heritage Service announced – via Facebook, but also on their website:


There are numerous issues here: does this actually constitute public access? This is something enshrined in law and many depositors of material to archives did so on that condition. Have they or their estates been consulted?

How straightforward is it to do archival work in half days? If you live any distance from Northampton, getting there for 9 am is likely to require a fairly early start, be stressful (archives are seldom well sign-posted from the town centre, never mind the nearest bypass) or expensive. An overnight stay or a peak hour train fare doesn’t come cheap, particularly for multiple trips. Professional historians talk of a ‘day at the archives’: reckoned as the amount of time it takes to actually get anything meaningful done in terms of research even now in the days of cheap digital cameras and advanced ordering of documents. No matter how well you know your sources or how good the catalogue you will inevitably order up a likely-looking source that is not what you thought it was. The archivist may suggest that what you actually want is something you hadn’t thought of. There is no substitute for actually visiting the archive.

Of course you can offset these problems with money. Ok, but to get that extra half day (4 hours) will cost you £126 – in advance – so a couple of weeks archival work will end up costing around £1,000, not including accommodation and travel. No student, BA, MA/MRes or PhD could afford such sums, early career researchers scratching an existence from hourly paid teaching would probably choose to work elsewhere and those lucky enough to have salaried jobs would think twice. The VCH project in Northamptonshire which needs extensive access over a prolonged period with limited resources could not function. If in receipt of public funding, with the incumbent Open Access expectation, the irony is that the documents such research is based on were themselves all but inaccessible.

Now it’s probably unfair to single out Northamptonshire. Local government has borne the brunt of cuts to public services since 2010 while taking on more and more burdens along the way. Plenty of archives are open only for three days a week – Shropshire, for example (Weds–Fri, 9–4) – and many have reduced their hours or, like those in Somerset, Devon and Hampshire, been transferred to quasi-independent trusts. In an extreme example, Carmarthenshire Archives were summarily closed and their contents dispersed owing to a serious outbreak of mould such were the appalling conditions of the building. A replacement is planned but how soon will it be ready?

None of this is really the point. By reducing the hours to this level, serious research into the history of Northamptonshire is impossible. ‘Popping in’ will be limited to school groups or the retired and a public archive mandated by law and protected by it is effectively made into a private one.

Archives are important.

Ghanaian History Resources in the Institute’s Library


If you are passing by the Foyle Room on the first floor there is a new display there show-casing some of the library’s items on Ghanaian history covering the last five hundred years.

Included are works taken from our Portuguese and Low Countries collections which highlight the early European presence in West Africa from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries. Among this selection is a reproduction of a chapter from the Crónica de D. João II by Garcia de Resende (1470–c. 1536) which describes how John II commissioned Diogo d’Azambuja to construct Elmina Castle (first of many constructed by the Europeans)

Also displayed are a number of works taken from the library’s Colonial Africa collection which document the British presence in and occupation of the area. Included here a two accounts – one Ghanaian, the other British – of the Ashanti Wars which were waged intermittently from 1823 to 1900 between the Ashanti Empire and the invading British.

2017 also marks sixty years since Ghana declared its independence from the British Empire. Negotiations were on-going for many year prior to 1957 as shown by another item in the display detailing a speech made by Kwame Nkrumah in 1953 describing the talks with the British government and what still needed to be achieved.

August issue of Historical Research



Historical Research, vol. xc, no. 249

Two men in prison MS Ludwig XIV 6 (Getty open content)


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]

New reviews: Cold War, Easter 1916, Ottonian Queenship


We start this week with Understanding the Imaginary War: Culture, Thought and Nuclear Conflict, 1945-90, edited by Matthew Grant and Benjamin Ziemann.Mattias Eken and the editors discuss a detailed and thorough presentation of the cultural history of the Cold War (no. 2139, with response here).

Next up is Fearghal McGarry’s The Rising: Ireland: Easter 1916. John Borgonovo and the author debate a work which offers a a wealth of thought-provoking material (no. 2138).

Then we turn to Ottonian Queenship by Simon MacLean. Levi Roach praises a thoughtful and original work, a bold and erudite contribution in a field in which conservatism often predominates (no. 2137).

Finally we have a response from editors Simon Avery and Katherine Graham to Harry Cocks’ review of Sex, Time and Place: Queer Histories of London c.1850 to the Present (read response here).

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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