The IHR Blog |

Ernö Goldfinger and a visit to 2 Willow Road, Hampstead


As a survey of domestic experience, the IHR’s 2018 Winter Conference—‘Home: new histories of living’ (8-9 February)—ranges widely in its locations and forms of historical dwellings. At the same time, individual properties stand out. These include No. 2 Willow Road, Hampstead, now one of London’s best-known modernist houses, which makes two appearances at the Conference and its follow-on events.

Interior, 2 Willow Road, Hampstead

Interior, 2 Willow Road, Hampstead

Goldfinger in Hampstead

The work of the Budapest-born architect Ernö Goldfinger (1902-1987), Willow Road was from the outset a controversial design. Goldfinger’s critics—mindful of his training with Le Corbusier—feared the imposition of an angular concrete block in a part of London celebrated more for its fine Georgian architecture and, with the Heath, proximity to largely untamed countryside.

Goldfinger had initially sought to erect a modernist block of flats on the site, but reverted to three residential properties when permission for his larger scheme was refused. Leading critics of his revised project included the conservationist and future MP for Hampstead, Henry Brooke; and the author Ian Fleming whose opposition to Ernö’s architectural tastes resulted, it’s said, in his use of ‘Goldfinger’ as the name for one of 007’s most megalomaniacal villains.

In response, the architect justified his design for Willow Road in terms of its dominant use of brick, relative unobtrusiveness, and a profile no more angular than the much-loved surrounding terraces. In championing modernism Goldfinger was also supported by Hampstead’s avant-garde for whom structures such as Wells Coates’ Isokon Building demonstrated the potential of new residential forms.

Completed in 1939, Nos 1-3 Willow Road are now as much a feature of Hampstead domestic architecture as the neighbouring Georgian cottages. No. 2 Willow Road, the largest of the three properties, was taken by Goldfinger and remained a family home until the architect’s death there in September 1987. Acquired by the National Trust in 1993, the house been open for public viewings since 1996.

Though relatively modest in scale, Nos. 1-3 Willow Road established Goldfinger’s reputation as a coming, and controversial, architect. Denied the opportunity to build at scale and in concrete in pre-war Hampstead, Goldfinger’s Corbusian training was evident in his later expeditions in Brutalism—Balfron Tower, in Poplar, and Trellick Tower in Kensal Town. Today both towers and Nos. 1-3 Willow Road are Grade II* listed.

Trellick Tower

Trellick Tower

Willow Road and the IHR Winter Conference

Willow Road’s first appearance at the IHR’s Winter Conference comes on Thursday 8 February in the first of two ‘brown bag’ lunchtime slots. Thursday’s session sees short talks from three curators and archivists who’ll each tell the ‘biography’ or life story of a notable domestic object drawn from his or her collection.

From 2 Willow Road, the house steward Leigh Sneade will bring and speak about an artefact in Goldfinger’s collection, in part to highlight broader themes of mid-century modernism. Leigh will also introduce us to the interior spaces in which Ernö and Ursula Goldfinger lived and entertained, and which also became home to a significant art collection by the likes of Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Max Ernst and Marcel Duchamp.

1-3 Willow Road, Hampstead

Our second Goldfinger event of the Winter Conference takes place on Saturday 10 March, and gives delegates the chance to explore 2 Willow Road in greater detail. This takes the form of a guided tour of the house, provided by its National Trust curators, and coming soon after the Willow Road’s reopening following renovation work for the 2018 season. Further details of how to enroll for the 10 March house tour will be made available at the Winter Conference in early February, and then on the IHR website.

For more information on the conference—including details on registration, bursaries for Early Career Researchers, and other extra curriculum activities—please visit the IHR Winter Conference blog.

New Historical Research articles


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

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

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


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

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


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

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


Notes and Documents

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

Seal of Ranulf de Blondeville. Image: Wikipedia

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

Latest reviews – secret files, Decalogue, Anschluss and more WW1 trauma


We start this week with Secret Files from World War to Cold War: British Government and Secret Intelligence and Foreign Policy files. Dan Lomas believes the sheer size and usability of the digital records makes this a worthwhile aid for anyone interested in early 20th-century international, political, military and intelligence history (no. 2209).

Then we turn to The Reformation of the Decalogue: Religious Identity and the Ten Commandments in England, c. 1485-1625  by Jonathan Willis. John Reeks praises a book which puts The Ten Commandments firmly at the centre of post-Reformation scholarship (no. 2208).

Next up is Imagining a Greater Germany: Republican Nationalism and the Idea of Anschluss by Erin R. Hochman. Timothy Schmalz enjoys a book which provides new template for examining Austria and Germany during the inter-war period (no. 2207).

Finally we have a response by editors Jason Crouthamel and Peter Leese to Ryan Ross’s review last week of Psychological Trauma and the Legacies of the First World War and Traumatic Memories of the Second World War and After (response to no. 2205).


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!

Latest Reviews – War, psychological trauma and early modern social history


We start this week with A. C. Grayling’s War: An Enquiry. In his review of this penetrating and provocative book, James Cronin focuses on its assertion that war is synonymous with the ascent of civilisation (no. 2206).

Next up is a review of two new collections on the history of trauma, Psychological Trauma and the Legacies of the First World War and Traumatic Memories of the Second World War and After, both edited by Jason Crouthamel and Peter Leese. Ryan Ross believes these reflect the extent and speed of the growth of the trauma industry (no. 2205).

Then we turn to Narratives and Representations: a Collection to Honour Paul Slack, edited by Michael Braddick and Joanna Innes. Naomi Pullin praises a fine scholarly collection that represents the rich and vibrant discussions taking place within early modern history (no. 2204).

Historical Research – top 5 most cited articles


Discover and Share Top Research From Historical Research
Enjoy FREE access to the top 5 most cited articles over the past two years. These key articles are generating conversation and influencing your community.
Top 5 Most Cited Articles:


The rise of the promeneur: walking the city in eighteenth-century Paris. Laurent Turcot


Notable protests: respectable resistance in occupied northern France, 1914-18. James E. Connolly


Sterilization and the British Conservative party: rethinking the failure of the Eugenics Society’s political strategy in the nineteen-thirties. Bradley W. Hart and Richard Carr


The representation and experience of English urban fire disasters. John E. Morgan


False traitors or worthy knights? Treason and rebellion against Edward II in the Scalacronica and the Anglo-Norman prose Brut chronicles. Andy King


New Historical Research articles


William III. Image: Wikipedia

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

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

William Petre, 2nd Baron Petre. Image: Wikipedia

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

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


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

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

Report of IHR’s Long Eighteenth-Century Seminar book launch in the Speaker’s House



The print (1730) shows the ‘Great Speaker’ Onslow in the chair (centre), calling prime minister Walpole at his elbow (left) to speak, before a packed House of Commons.  [National Trust number = 1441463]

This post was kindly written for us by P. J. Corfield (Royal Holloway, London University) on behalf of the IHR’s Long Eighteenth-Century Seminar.  

Mary Clayton, who has just published A Portrait of Influence: Life and Letters of Arthur Onslow, the Great Speaker (Parliamentary History Trust, 2017), once declared that the only possible place to launch such a volume would be the Speaker’s House at the Palace of Westminster. But, she said, that was obviously out of the question. On the contrary, replied the organisers of London University’s seminar in British History in the Long Eighteenth-Century. Contact the Speaker; and tell him that we have to celebrate the most hegemonic of all Speakers in appropriate style. And, all credit to John Bercow, he not only lent us the Speaker’s House free of charge  but came himself to give a witty speech.

The seminar-cum-launch-party took place on Wednesday 1 November. It was a glittering ‘outreach’ evening. Over 70 people attended, including seminar regulars, MPs, members of the House of Lords, curators, librarians, local history researchers, and the current Earl Onslow. (Arthur Onslow (1691-1768) wanted no other title than that of Speaker – a post he held for over thirty years – but his son was ennobled as a family tribute). The Long Eighteenth-Century seminar warmly thanks all its sponsors, including the Parliamentary History Trust which co-hosted. And the moral: academics can but ask for the use of famous outreach venues at special discounts. Often that tactic doesn’t work. Yet sometimes it does, as it did for Mary Clayton – and the ‘Great Speaker’ Arthur Onslow, whose behind-the-scenes influence obviously lingers ….

Latest Reviews – Ukrainian famine, Louis VIII and Archbishop Randall Davidson


We start this week with Anne Applebaum’s Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine. Christopher Gilley finds the treatment of the famine here to be largely convincing – the book’s weakness is its historical framework (no. 2203).

Next up is Louis: The French Prince Who Invaded England by Catherine Hanley. Tom Horler-Underwood enjoys a book highlighting the exploits in this country of this most fascinating of French princes (no. 2202).

Then we turn to Michael Hughes’s Archbishop Randall Davidson. Peter Webster believes this fresh and convincing rendering of an important figure deserves a wide readership (no. 2201).

Pollard the 3D Penguin in the IHR Library


To tie in with this year’s Being Human Festival theme of ‘Lost and Found’, the IHR Library recently installed a new exhibition focused on the four points of the compass and the library’s resources for each geographical area. I was tasked with ‘south’ – creating a display around the library’s resources on Antarctica.

The library’s resources and works on the history of Antarctica relate mainly to the expeditions to the continent and the race for the South Pole. Notable works include Sir Clements Markham’s narrative on the British National Antarctic Expedition of 1901-1904, the expedition diaries of Scott and Amundsen, and the journals of Sir Ernest Shackleton during his last expedition to Antarctica from 1914 to 1917. Whilst reading through the library’s volumes, I discovered in The Antarctic Journals of Reginald Skelton, that Skelton’s journal records the first colony of emperor penguins ever to be seen by humans in October 1902.

As a result, to add something a little different to the display I recruited the help of the IHR’s Digital team to create a 3D model of an emperor penguin using the IHR/ICS Digital 3D Printing Lab. As Jonathan Blaney, IHR Digital Projects Manager and Editor of British History Online, explains, “When the IHR Library asked us to 3D-print a penguin for them we were delighted. The idea of the SAS 3D Centre is not that we think of what should be printed, but that we understand what could be printed and then advise (and train) people who come to us with their ideas. We’re not quite at that stage yet, because we are still learning ourselves, but the penguin was an easy request and the Library even sent a link to the file on Thingiverse.

‘Pollard’ being printed in the IHR/ICS Digital 3D Printing Lab

All we had to do was download the file and convert it to the format (called gcode) that our printer uses. We decided to print the penguin using white filament, so that it could more easily be painted later. We set our Ultimaker 3 printing and 30 minutes later … some feet had appeared. It’s a slow process. Although the penguin is only a few inches tall it took about six hours to print the whole thing. While it was printing we put some photos of the lower half on Twitter and asked people to guess what we were printing. A Moomin, a hobbit and Paddington Bear were some of the suggestions.

By the end of the day we handed the white penguin to Siobhan in the IHR Library for painting.”

The painting begins…

The finished model

And so I began the job of painting the model using a combination of acrylic paint, a fine liner paint pen and a highlighter pen. The finished article was then christened ‘Pollard’ by the IHR’s Librarian in homage to the Institute’s founder A. F. Pollard and subsequently installed in the display case situated in the third floor reading room.

More information on resources documenting the discovery and exploration of Antarctica can be found in the library’s Travel Writing collection guide. There are also multiple holdings at the classmark CLE.92.

The exhibition is on display in the third floor reading room until the New Year and is open to all.

< Older Posts

Newer Posts >