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
This post was written by Philip Carter, Head of IHR Digital. To see the 3D printer in action visit the IHR stand at History Day. Free registration is here.
Lewis Chess Set on Sketchfab (The British Museum)
On History Day, on 31 October, IHR Digital will demonstrate its new 3D printer and 3D imaging equipment. This will be the first public outing of our new kit which we’ve purchased in conjunction with the School’s Institute of Classical Studies. Together we’re setting up a ‘3D Centre for History and Classics’. From 2018 the Centre will run courses on how and why to use 3D technologies in historical research. At History Day you’ll be able to register you interest for one of these courses at the IHR stand.
The IHR has recently taken possession of a high performance computer on which staff and researchers can practise high quality photogrammetry; that is, the creation of three-dimensional representations derived from digital photographs of 2D images or physical objects.
Today’s photogrammetry software will run well enough on a regular desktop computer, and is able to convert images taken on a standard digital camera. However, the IHR’s hi-spec workstation allows us to create exceptionally high-quality images, as well as complex visualisations that can be experienced through the ‘immersive technology’ of virtual reality (VR). Our purchase of a 3D printer means we can also create physical models from these images, using an additive process by which—layer-by-layer—the printer builds up an exact scale representation.
Photogrammetry, virtual reality and three-dimensional printing may at first seem far removed from historical study as practised at the IHR. But 3D is now an important way to undertake and present research, especially in areas such as architectural, urban and topographical history, or histories of material culture. It similarly creates opportunities for new forms of archival and object-based teaching, which permit otherwise rare artefacts to be viewed closely and remotely ‘in the round’, or handled and used as three-dimensional models.
A queen from the Lewis chessmen from Sketchfab (The British Museum)
3D technology also helps us to assemble and explore what was hitherto lost. Examples include the recreation of historical built environments, as depicted in the Virtual St Paul’s website or the recently completed St Stephen’s Chapel project. There’s also the opportunity to reconstruct severely damaged documents, of which a prime example is the Great Parchment Book of the Honourable the Irish Society: compiled in 1639, destroyed by fire in 1786, and now readable again as a flattened 3D representation.
It’s no surprise that museums and galleries make good use of three-dimensional technology to promote their collections. Notable here are the 3D Petrie Museum, at University College London, and the British Museum, while artefacts from many other institutions appear on digital platforms such as Sketchfab. Within universities, three-dimensional technology (while increasingly compact and affordable) is often reserved for those studying engineering, the medical and physical sciences architecture and archaeology.
Critical engagement with 3D images or printed objects is much less common for undergraduate and graduate historians, often because the equipment remains the preserve of other departments. Now that we’ve acquired this technology for the IHR, we’re looking to establish the Institute as a centre for historical applications of imaging, modelling and virtual reality; one where historians can gain new skills and to which they’ll bring research data to model and share in new ways.
We hope these options will be on display at the IHR’s forthcoming Winter Conference—Home: New Histories of Living—on 8-9 February 2018. In keeping with its focus on new research practices, the conference will include papers from historians using 3D technologies to recreate and experience, for example, the early modern home from data gathered in probate records.
Following the Winter Conference, we’ll invite historians to try out the IHR’s imaging and printing equipment for themselves. In doing so, we hope that a technology of the late 2010s and 2020s will help rekindle a Pollardian ambition fostered in the 1920s: of the Institute as a national ‘historical laboratory’—a place for experimentation and training in new approaches to the past.
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We begin this week with Into the Heart of Tasmania: A Search for Human Antiquity by Rebe Taylor. Tom Lawson and the author discuss a book which is much more than a straightforward history (no. 2181, with response here).
Next up is Sara Pennell’s The Birth of the English Kitchen, 1600-1850. Rachel Laudan believes this research opens up the possibility of investigating the relationship between changes in the kitchen and the industrial revolution in 18th-century England (no. 2180).
Then we turn to Paying Freedom’s Price: A History of African Americans in the Civil War by Paul D. Escott. Carin Peller-Semmens finds this book fails to paint a historically accurate and suitably complex narrative (no. 2179).
Finally we have Martin Ingram’s Carnal Knowledge: Regulating Sex in England, 1470–1600. Charmian Mansell reviews a book that the reader will find him or herself returning to time and again (no. 2178).
This post has kindly been written for us by Jennifer Kain, Alan Pearsall Fellow in Naval and Maritime History 2016-17, and now a Research Associate of the IHR
Alan Pearsall receiving the Imperial Service Order medal for staff of the Civil Service – at Buckingham Palace in 1985, Alan Pearsall Estate
As I enter the final stage of my year-long junior fellowship at the IHR I wanted to acknowledge my benefactor Alan Pearsall. Alan’s bequest, and the efforts of Roger Knight in establishing the Pearsall fellowship, have given invaluable academic breathing space to early career researchers like myself since 2008. This extremely generous gesture is made even more impressive due to the fact that Alan himself did not finish his PhD. Indeed, compared to the pressure on scholars to publish today, he wrote comparatively little. Neither did he seek out the limelight or the formal recognition which seem so essential in this competitive profession now.
Alan used his expertise in a less grandiose manner, befitting his personality. Born in Yorkshire, but brought up in Lancashire, he became interested in railways and then all forms of transport at sea. Although shy and not always in good health, his immense knowledge led to a 30-year career at the National Maritime Museum, where he became Historian of the Museum in the early 1970s. Alan was a member of over 30 societies covering rail and maritime transport, naval and maritime interests. He conveyed his expertise across such a wide range of topics through writing articles, reviews, and Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entries. At conferences, if a question could not be answered, the call would often go up to ‘Ask Alan’. His name can be found in the written acknowledgements of those who benefitted from his knowledge, and Alan is remembered by a global network of close friends.
One such mentee at the National Maritime Museum was Roger Knight, now Senior Research Fellow at the IHR. After a number of email conversations through which Roger very kindly provided me with a copy of this photograph, we met to discuss Alan’s life and legacy.
Reading Alan’s obituaries I was struck by the description of a kind, humorous and unassuming man. I wanted to know more about his life, and his motivations for assisting a future generation of historians whom he would never get to meet.
It turns out that funding a post-doctoral role on any aspect of naval and maritime history had long been a plan of Alan’s. In the early 1990s he started to discuss the idea with Roger, who was able to assist in creating such a position at the IHR two years after Alan’s death. Dealing with Alan’s estate was no mean feat. Those closest to him recall how, as an essentially impracticable and private man, Alan’s professional and personal papers remained uncatalogued. He also suffered from long term health problems, although these did not prevent him from doing National Service in the Navy out in India after the end of the Second World War. The upshot of Roger’s efforts and Alan’s generosity was the Pearsall Fellowship, which they designed to have a broad remit, in terms of both timeframe and topic. He apparently would have been delighted with the breadth of post-doc projects undertaken thus far.
Alan recognised how the period immediately after the PhD award was a crucial time, especially due to the pressure to begin publishing. As such, I was curious whether Alan received the credit he deserved for his own more understated efforts. While he did see his Imperial Service Order medal as recognition for the efforts of his working life, Roger believes Alan’s legacy is more to do with his inestimable ‘personal worth’. When I asked how he would like to have been remembered, Roger replied that it would have been enough for us to be having a conversation about him, 11 years after his death. I hope that future Alan Pearsall Fellows will continue to have similar discussions as a way of recognising his life and legacy. On a more personal note, I aim to uphold some of Alan’s characteristics: a sense of humour, academic kindness, and a northern accent.
Roger Knight, Obituary: Alan Pearsall (1925-2006), The Mariner’s Mirror, Vol. 92 (August 2006) pp. 260-261.
Roger Knight, Eulogy: Alan Pearsall 27 April 2006, Journal of the Greenwich Historical Society, Vol. 3 (2006) pp. 97-102
Pieter van der Merwe, Obituary: Alan Pearsall: Naval and railway historian, The Independent, 5 June 2006.
The Institute of Historical Research and the Furniture History Society are delighted to announce that the BIFMO database is now freely available to view online at https://bifmo.data.history.ac.uk.
The initial phase of the project has seen the construction of the BIFMO database comprising information on English furniture makers drawn from the 1986 guide to the trade, the Dictionary of English Furniture Makers, 1660 – 1840, as well as from the London Joiners’ Company apprenticeship and freedom records, 1640-1720.
The database will contain detailed biographies of British and Irish furniture makers from the sixteenth century to the present day, providing a rich resource for historians of social, economic, political, art, furniture and material culture, as well as to collectors, connoisseurs and the art market. In addition to extending the chronological dates of the database’s biographical data, our aim is to broaden the contents of BIFMO to visual materials, as well as the reproduction of a wide range of primary sources.
The second phase of the project is undertaking new research to explore key historical questions surrounding the furniture making industry, including a case study on the role of British and Irish women in the nineteenth century: where they lived, their occupational roles, how they sold their wares, and their clientele. In addition, ongoing development to the BIFMO website will introduce new ways of engaging with the data as we enhance the information in the Dictionary with new scholarship published since 1986.
BIFMO is an ongoing project, with separate but integrated research, resource-creation, public engagement and training strands. If you would like more information about the project, or the database, or getting involved, please do get in touch: http://bifmo.data.history.ac.uk/contact
The title reflects the event’s two main aims: to bring together those working on past domesticities (and above all on the experiences of home life); and to focus especially on new and innovative research which explores how the home has been thought about, utilized and lived in. This focus on research and methodological enquiry will, we hope, become an important strand in future IHR events and conferences—in line with the Institute’s standing as a national centre for training in established and emerging forms of historical research.
Over two days in February 2018, ‘New Histories of Living’ will address four interrelated subject areas currently of particular interest to historians of domestic life. Each panel will comprise three papers relating to the principal theme, interconnected and set in context by a specialist convenor. Panels will bring together scholars whose work provides insights both into historical domestic experiences and historians’ approaches to these pasts.
Day One will offer two sessions, beginning with ‘Reconstructions: imagining domestic experience’—a survey of new ways to recreate medieval and early modern interiors, convened by Professor Catherine Richardson from the University of Kent. This will be followed by ‘Rooms’, which—under the guidance of Sonia Solicari, director The Geffrye Museum, London—considers how historians tackle the changing forms and uses of spaces to accommodate family life, from birth to death, and for cooking, cleaning, resting and entertaining. Given our interest in recreating the uses and experience of household artefacts and furnishings, museum designers and curators are an important constituency—as speakers and delegates—at this Winter Conference.
Day Two will begin with the ‘Home-work: reimagining gendered domesticity’ panel (Dr Lynne Walker, IHR), a survey of male and female domestic environments. The fourth panel, ‘Dream homes: alternative futures for residential experience’, is convened by Dr Elizabeth Darling of Oxford Brookes University. This session will consider the history of lives lived in the ‘homes of tomorrow’.
Alongside the themed sessions we have four plenary lectures. These will be delivered by Professor Jane Hamlett of Royal Holloway, University of London, a specialist in nineteenth-century domestic and institutional living; the art historian and BBC presenter Dan Cruickshank; the historian of early modern London, Professor Vanessa Harding (Birkbeck); and the architectural historian Owen Hatherley, whose latest book, Landscapes of Communism, is a history of a political ideal told through its buildings.
In addition to lectures and panels, the Winter Conference will offer ancillary events on the subject of research practice and methods. We also expect to make available new technologies for visualizing the historical home. Digital research tools are an interest shared by several of our panellists, and by IHR staff who’ll demonstrate how to make, and use, 3D images and printed models of household artefacts—as well as virtual reality (VR) recreations of complete interior spaces or structures.
Tickets for ‘Home: New Histories of Living’, the 2018 IHR Winter Conference, are now on sale. A small number of bursaries are available for Masters Students, PhD researchers and ECRs to help with conference fees and travel expenses. For more information on how to apply for this please visit the conference website.
Life writing in the US collection. Women writing during the American Civil War.
Inspired by my recent reading of Sebastian Barry’s Days without End (borrowed from my local public library) I wanted to check out our holdings for the American Civil War 1861-1865 especially from the point of view of the women that stayed at home. I knew we had some diaries and collection of letters -I should know – being the librarian in charge of that collection but still – I was quite surprised to find out we had that many. I have got about 15 works of diaries and letters on my desk right now and that is not all of them.
They are normally located in the North American room on the second floor. It is a great feeling to just go to the room and browse the shelves to be able do a bit of shelf-cruising as Simon Schama calls it ( check out the Libraries week: Monday Blog ) I did just browse the shelves and found what I wanted but as it turns out all the items have same the class mark – as they should. Thank you to my colleague Michael Townsend for our in-house classification scheme. The class mark is UF.5175 Non-combatant Individual narratives.
And it is surely the individual speaking through these printed sources making them some of my favourite items in the library. Obviously the writers here the women are not all brilliant at conveying their experiences onto paper so if you are looking to be entertained it might not be the case. But the sheer amount of different kind of information these works can provide is staggering. Hidden within the details of for example meals, family illnesses, social gatherings and money worries there is a load of information. For a researcher patience and time are required depending on which issues are being studied. However all the works include indexes and in studying this material something might pop up which turns out to be quite essential for the research and to be exactly what was being looked for.
Not all of them stayed at home we have got memoirs of women working as spies, doctors, nurses and teachers. Women from the north living in the south for example “A Northern woman in Plantation south”, women from the south living in the north. Women travelling. Women writing a diary for themselves, for their children, writing letters to friends, lovers, mothers, brothers and fathers. Come and look for yourself.
Interested in other sources for US history check out the collection guide here.
Finally have a very lovely Library weekend and hope you enjoyed Libraries week!
We begin this week with Robert Stein’s Magnanimous Dukes and Rising States: the Unification of the Burgundian Netherlands 1380-1480. Katherine Wilson and the author discuss a huge contribution to the scholarship of the Burgundian Dominions (no. 2177, with response here).
Next up is The Holocaust: A New History by Laurence Rees. Joseph Cronin praises a gripping narrative interspersed with compelling, moving and relatable testimony (no. 2176).
Then we turn to Kathryn Rix’s Parties, Agents and Electoral Culture in England, 1880-1910. Iain Sharpe enjoys a book which manages to break new ground and make a significant contribution to current historiographical debates (no. 2175).
Finally we have Pauper Policies: Poor Law Practice in England 1780-1850 by Samantha Shave. Joseph Harley finds this book largely convincing and well-researched, and believes it to be a strong platform for further research on pauper policies (no. 2174).