The History Woman's Blog

On Misogyny, ancient and modern

Posted in Academia, Comment, Eighteenth Century, higher education, Journalism, Reviews by thehistorywoman on November 24, 2017

IMG_1673Mary Beard’s Women and Power is one of those books that will make you shout: “Yes, she’s so right!” – “Very well put!” – “So glad someone is saying this!” For those of you who haven’t read it yet, the book consists of two essays on ‘The public voice of women’ and ‘Women in power’ from ancient times to the present, first presented as talks for the London Review of Books Winter lecture series in 2014 and 2017. In them, the Cambridge classicist takes a historical look at the misogyny deeply ingrained in Western culture that still makes it so difficult for women to get their voices heard and rise into positions of authority.

The first recorded example in Western literature of a woman being publicly silenced by a man, Beard argues, was probably Penelope in the Odyssey being told by her son Telemachus to retire to her rooms and attend to her weaving.

For women, if they were allowed to speak publicly at all, were traditionally only allowed to speak on behalf of their families and children. Hence, Beard concludes, female ministers today are still most likely to be in charge of the Department for Education or Families, but not the Treasury.

Getting the ‘Miss Triggs treatment’

Those with an interest in the classics will enjoy the examples from ancient myth and history, while all women will most definitely relate to what Beard calls the ‘Miss Triggs treatment’. This shorthand for a moment in which a woman is wilfully ignored and belittled is based on an old Punch cartoon picturing a meeting in which the only woman has just made a point, only for the chair to say: ‘That’s an excellent suggestion, Miss Triggs. Perhaps one of the men here would like to make it.’

I’m sure solidarity with Miss Triggs could lead to a similar public outpouring as the Harvey Weinstein abuse affair that made thousands of women (as well as a few men) share their experiences on social media under the #metoo hashtag. Most women have probably stopped counting the number of times they’ve been talked over or shut up in meetings, they’ve been subjected to mansplainers or never been invited to the important briefing in the first place. (more…)

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Grumpy George and his family: The First Georgians at the Queen’s Gallery

Posted in Art, Early Modern, Eighteenth Century, History, Reviews by thehistorywoman on May 25, 2014
David Garrick with his Wife Eva-Maria Veigel. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

David Garrick with his Wife Eva-Maria Veigel. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

The first Georgians must have been a grumpy lot. At least this is the impression visitors of the exhibition The First Georgians: Art & Monarchy 1714-1760 get. For all the publicity materials show a smiling David Garrick with his Wife Eva-Maria Veigel painted by William Hogarth, while none of the pictures of George I (1660-1727) currently displayed at the Queen’s Gallery were apparently friendly enough to make it onto the posters.

The oil painting of the king of Great Britain and Ireland, and elector of Hanover by Sir Godfrey Kneller, which greets viewers at the entrance of the gallery, looks rather stern and serious as if George was weighed down by his newly acquired role. The Act of Settlement (1701) had transferred the succession to the English throne to his mother, Sophia of Hanover as the next protestant in line. As she died shortly before Queen Anne, George had to uproot from his native Germany to take up his new responsibilities. Indeed he did not seem to have much to smile about.

Speaking little English and not exactly welcomed with open arms by his new subjects, he had arrived in Britain without his wife Sophia Dorothea, who had abandoned him and, as a punishment for her adultery with a Swedish count, was imprisoned in her native Celle. George I was also alienated from his eldest son, the future George II; and, of course, there was the Jacobite threat to consider.

King George I, from the studio of Sir Godfrey Kneller. / Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

King George I, from the studio of Sir Godfrey Kneller. / Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

The exhibition shows a deceptively harmonious-looking oil painting by Pierre Mignard of the alternative royal family of the Catholic James II around 1694, by now safely exiled to France. Yet, the Jacobite threat would persist, and uprisings, such as those of 1715 and 1745 would make the new Hanoverian dynasty feel uneasy on their throne. This is also documented through the many military maps displayed in the exhibition, some of them used by George II’s younger son William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland (1721-65) on his campaign in the Scottish Highlands. Nevertheless, 300 years ago this Hanoverian dynasty began an unbroken line of succession to the present monarch Queen Elizabeth II.

There are more playful elements to the exhibition that reveal happier times and interesting personalities within the royal family. For instance, there is Queen Caroline’s Wunderkammer of small treasures, containing little hardstone carvings of the Tudors, or wax and ivory carvings of various family members alongside miniature paintings and enamels by the Dresden-born artist Christian Friedrich Zincke. In fact, there are many items in the exhibition that remind the viewer of the royal family’s German origins.

Apparently, the family had a particular liking for the work of Hans Holbein the Younger, and Queen Caroline discovered a complete set of his drawings, while one of the more famous items displayed in the exhibition is the oil portrait of Sir Henry Guildford (1489-1532), one of Henry VIII’s companions of his younger years.

There are also ornate items of furniture, gilded chairs and marble-topped side tables, as well as a silver dinner service, from which the family would eat English, German and French dishes. Alongside Meissen porcelain the viewer can also admire Chelsea plates with garden motives and a rather absurd-looking asparagus-shaped needle case.

Royal hobbies are reflected in the beautiful harpsichord next to a marble bust of Georg Friedrich Händel, while a number of sporting guns for game shooting reveal a taste for rather more bloody pursuits.

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The First Georgians: Art & Monarchy 1714-1760, The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, open until 12 October 2014.

 

Selling French books in Enlightenment Germany*

Posted in Early Modern, Eighteenth Century, History, Reviews by thehistorywoman on July 21, 2013

Books_without_bordersJeffrey Freedman’s engaging Books without borders in Enlightenment Europe (2012) looks at the French book trade in the German-speaking territories during a pivotal period in the European history of ideas. This French book trade did not just cater for a small elite of princes and courtiers, it was absorbed by a variety of well-educated German speakers from scholars to doctors and lawyers and a variety of other professionals and thus played an important role in spreading and popularising the Enlightenment. By the 1770s, the French segment accounted for some ten per cent of all books sold on the German market.

Among the works sold by the German agents of French-language printers and booksellers were also many unlicensed and prohibited books. But thanks to the political fragmentation and the many administrative quirks of the German lands, censorship laws were virtually unenforceable, so that heterodox and libertine works could reach their readers relatively easily. The ban of a work often only served to make it more popular and more desirable to ‘procure the forbidden pleasure’ (118) as no one less than the German author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe remarked recalling the burning of a French book in his native Frankfurt.

Following in Darnton’s footsteps

Books without borders feels in many ways like a sequel to Robert Darnton’s seminal Business of Enlightenment (1979), not just because Freedman draws on the same depository of sources of the Swiss Société Typographique de Neuchâtel (STN), which here represents ‘a slice of the French book trade in Germany’ (11) but also because he, like Darnton (who was his PhD supervisor at Princeton), offers the reader a carefully researched and well-informed book history intermixed with numerous little personal stories of the STN’s correspondents in the German lands, zooming in and out of the bigger picture.

Some of these personal stories are quite detailed, and readers might be inclined to skim read them. But this would mean to miss the colourful picture Freedman paints of the lives, successes and struggles of eighteenth-century printers and their agents. Occasionally, we even get a rare glimpse of their political inclinations and the convictions that might have driven the latter to get involved in the business of books.

Censorship and self-censorship

There is, for instance, the ‘native Parisian and Freemason’ François Mettra, who had his shop in Münz, near Cologne, and moonlighted as a ‘radical journalist’ (63); or Charles Fontaine in Mannheim, the semi-educated ‘son of a fisherman’ who is unlikely to ‘have read many of the books in his own bookshop’ (75); and finally Johann Conrad Deinet in Frankfurt, who ended up as the Empire’s book commissioner (or chief censor) despite having had various run-ins with the authorities himself for dealing in prohibited books. But as Freedman points out, ‘it would be a mistake to assume that in the eighteenth century, censors and booksellers were always on opposite sides of the ideological barricades and that if booksellers obeyed the law, it was only because they feared the consequences of transgressing it.’ (110) Many exercised a certain amount of self-censorship too, selling prohibited material, but drawing the line, say, at ‘atheism and pornography’. (110) (more…)

Creating and Preserving the Digital Republic of Letters

Earlier this week I attended the excellent Durham conference on ‘Intellectual Networks in the Long Seventeenth Century’. With a theme like this it seemed inevitable for participants to talk about the early modern Republic of Letters and to draw parallels between early modern and modern networks around the (known) world. So I had the honour of chairing an exciting panel themed ‘Electrifying Intellectual Networks’ featuring ‘Three Case Studies in the Digital Republic of Letters’.

Professor Antony McKenna presented the critical electronic edition of the correspondence of the French philosopher Pierre Bayle (1647-1706) he is working on with colleagues at the University Jean Monnet at St Etienne in France. With this online database ‘we can accomplish the traditional tasks of a critical edition more quickly and efficiently’, including ‘indexing, annotation, and so on’, says McKenna.

Correspondance de Pierre Bayle

Correspondance de Pierre Bayle

Researchers can simply click on a highlighted name in any given letter to be taken directly to an entry with more information about the individual mentioned and a list of further links to letters authored by or featuring the person in question. There is also an extensive critical apparatus on the correspondence as well as plenty of visual material and more.

More than a gadget

But McKenna is eager to point out that the electronic Correspondance de Pierre Bayle ‘is not simply a fashionable gadget or another free-standing online edition, but in combination with other tools could be a key resource for the study of the social history of ideas.’

One of these ‘other tools’ is the brand new ePistolarium launched by Dr Charles van den Heuvel and his team at the Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands in The Hague only three weeks ago. This resource helps ‘to analyse the circulation and appropriation of knowledge produced by Dutch scholars’, explains van den Heuvel. (more…)

Continental Connections: Anglo-European Intellectual Networks, c1500-1800

Posted in Conferences, Early Modern, Eighteenth Century, History, Seventeenth Century, Sixteenth Century by thehistorywoman on February 9, 2013

A Day Workshop at Northumbria University

2 May 2013

Lipman Building, Room 121

Early modern England was more European in outlook than much of the (anglocentric) historiography suggests, and nowhere was this more obvious than in the Republic of Letters, which crossed both territorial and linguistic boundaries. However, this community of scholars and literary figures was not the only network available. Grand tourists, political exiles, printers and publishers, and even religious orders contributed to a variety of continental connections that shaped the way early modern men and women interpreted their environment and saw themselves as part of a wider European context. This one-day workshop looks at a range of different, though sometimes overlapping, Anglo-European intellectual networks in the early modern period in an attempt to understand the many ways in which the English connected and shared their ideas with men and women on the Continent.

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Provisional Programme

10.00                               Arrival & Coffee

10.15                                Welcome (Gaby Mahlberg)

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10.30-12.00                  Panel 1, chair: Monika Smialkowska (Northumbria University)

Glyn Parry (Northumbria University): ‘The Magical Republic of Letters and Its Opponents’

Fred Schurink (Northumbria University): ‘How the classical tradition came to renaissance England: The continental source editions of Tudor translations of Plutarch’

Andrea Knox (Northumbria University): ‘Her Book-Lined Cell’: Irish Nuns and the Development of Texts, Translation and Literacy in late medieval Spain’

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12.00-13.00                  Lunch

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13.00-14.30                  Panel 2, chair: Claudine van Hensbergen (Northumbria University)

Jane Everson (RHUL): ‘England and the English in the Italian Academies (16th and 17th centuries).’

Alasdair Raffe (Northumbria University): ‘George Sinclair, Petrus van Mastricht and Anti-Cartesianism in late seventeenth-century Scotland’

Thomas Biskup (Hull University): ‘A special relationship? Situating scholarly links between the University of Göttingen and England in the Republic of Letters, 1737-1806’

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14.30-15.00                  Coffee

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15.00-16.30                  Panel 3, chair: Neil Murphy (Northumbria University)

Rachel Hammersley (Newcastle University), ‘The Huguenot Network, the Enlightenment Republic of Letters and the Transmission of English Republican Ideas’

Delphine Doucet (Sunderland University), ‘Translating republicanism and clandestine circulation: Toland’s Pantheisticon’

Gaby Mahlberg (Northumbria University), ‘Les Juges Jugez ses Justifians: Republicanism meets the Republic of Letters’

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16.30-17.00                  Concluding Discussion (chaired by Gaby Mahlberg & Alasdair Raffe)

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If you would like to attend, please contact gaby.mahlberg@northumbria.ac.uk .

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The Archive Closes for Lunch

Posted in Early Modern, Eighteenth Century, History, literature, Seventeenth Century by thehistorywoman on April 5, 2012

If you want to do research in Switzerland, you better learn to get up early. I always thought I was an early riser, but compared to the average Swiss person I’m clearly a sleepy head. Arriving at the Berne State Archive just after 8am on a Tuesday morning, I found that most of the other readers were already there. Like me, they probably wanted to make the most of their working day as the archive closes again at 5pm, and of course for lunch. Between 11.45 and 11.50am a bell announces that you should leave the reading room, which feels a bit like an emergency evacuation every time, not least because you are always in the middle of something or other. You’re not allowed back in before 1pm. Healthy meal times and breaks for weary academics are enforced with Swiss precision.

Apart from that, the Swiss are pretty relaxed, it seems. At the Berne State Archive, most readers seem to know each other. You can leave your laptop and digital camera in the reading room over lunch, and nobody is going to take them. The archivists bring the material you order to your desk. They know who you are, and if not, it’s easy to work out. On most days I’m the only female in the reading room, I’m one of their younger readers too, and one of the few interested in Anglo-Swiss links in the seventeenth century. (more…)

The First Actresses and some of Charles II’s mistresses

Posted in Art, Early Modern, Eighteenth Century, Reviews, Seventeenth Century by thehistorywoman on December 13, 2011

I finally managed to see the First Actresses exhibition on a late Friday evening trip to the National Portrait Gallery after a hard day’s work at the British Library. It was entirely worth it.

The NPG has a number of beautiful pictures of Nell Gwyn, Moll Davis, Hester Booth, Lavinia Fenton, Sarah Siddons, Mary Robinson and others together with the women’s intriguing stories.

Eleanor Gwyn (1650-87) and Mary Davis (1648-1708) of course were actresses as well as mistresses to Charles II. Nell, who was probably the most famous Restoration actress and a great celebrity on and off the stage, gave the King two sons, Charles and James Beauclerk. Ironically, they were given the first names that should have been given to the legitimate sons and heirs to the throne the barren marriage of Charles II and Catherine of Braganza never produced. (Who knows, the Glorious Revolution of 1688-9 might never have happened!) The actress, singer and comedian Moll bore the King a daughter, Lady Mary Tudor, whose two sons (another James and Charles) both became Jacobites and were later executed for treason.

Up until the Restoration period, boys had played all female parts in the theatre, as acting was not seen as a respectable occupation for a woman. Any young girl associated with the theatre would immediately come under suspicion of being a prostitute or as easily available to much wealthier and much older men. They often were. Yet, despite their libertine lifestyles, the women were never exclusively defined by the men they were associated with.

Mary Robinson as Perdita by John Hopper

Mary Robinson as Perdita by John Hopper

Mary Robinson (1757-1800), who became mistress of the Prince of Wales (later George IV) after enchanting him with her role as Perdita in Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale, would later become a successful poet, novelist and playwright, while also defending female intellectual capacities in A Letter to the Women of England (1799). The Welsh actress Sarah Siddons (1755-1831), née Kemble, was the wife of fellow actor William Siddons. But their marriage ended soon in an informal separation, while Sarah became celebrated in her own right as a Shakespearean actress, most notably for her role as Lady Macbeth. It was women like her who made the profession respectable.

The actresses’ portraits by leading artists of the period, including Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, John Hopper and James Gillray, are impressive and beautiful. More importantly, however, the women depicted ooze elegance, talent, and self-confidence.

In the end I was a bit disappointed that the exhibition was so small. I managed to get through all the pictures (while also conscientiously reading all the labels) in less than an hour. But maybe back then there weren’t quite as many independent women – widely known in their own right – as one might have wished.

The exhibition is still on until 8 January 2012.

The First Actresses: Nell Gwyn to Sarah Siddons at the National Portrait Gallery, Wolfson Gallery, Tickets £11/£10/£9

Transnational Subjects: Calls for Papers

Posted in CFP, Eighteenth Century, History, literature by thehistorywoman on September 20, 2011

I am on the editorial board of a new journal, Transnational Subjects: History, Society and Culture. Our first issue will be appearing in October 2011. The journal is print and online, and fully peer-reviewed.

Currently we have two open calls for papers. For our second issue, which will be published in May 2012, we invite essays on all aspects of  transnational and cultural history (4,000–7,000 words) and shorter report-type articles (less than 3,000 words) demonstrating transnational history work.

We also particularly welcome digital submissions, including audio/visual work that would not be suitable for a traditional journal. Digital content will also be peer-reviewed and published on our website. Send proposals to transnational@gylphi.co.uk. The deadline for issue 2 is 31 October 2011.

Issue 3 will be a themed issue: Gender, Sexuality, and the Transnational Subject, to be guest edited by Gregory Smithers.

For well over a generation, historians have enriched our understanding of the history of gender and sexuality in a variety of historical contexts. Insightful works by Anne McClintock, Ann Stoler, Philippa Levine, Robert Aldridge, and many others, have presented a vivid picture of how the “state” endeavoured to control, channel, and at times manipulate gendered behaviour and sexual activity. Despite an impressive body of scholarship, we still know relatively little about the individuals who were the objects of the state’s policies, laws, and policing. Transnational Subjects calls for essays that will shed historical, anthropological, and/or sociological light on the experiences of individuals as they navigated the socially and legally constructed concepts of gender and sexuality from the eighteenth century to the present. We welcome submissions that include, but are not limited to, small case studies, methodologically and theoretically innovative essays, digital work, and personal reflections on gender and sexuality in a transnational context. Essays should not exceed 7,000 words, and reflective pieces should not be more than 3,000 words.

Submissions will be peer reviewed and should be sent electronically to transnational@gylphi.co.uk. Deadline for submissions is 15 January, 2012. Selected papers will appear in the October 2012 edition of Transnational Subjects.

Direct inquiries about the special edition to Dr. Gregory Smithers Department of History, Virginia Commonwealth University.

Horace Walpole and Strawberry Hill at the V&A

Posted in Art, Eighteenth Century, Reviews by thehistorywoman on March 9, 2010

The little blue-enamelled toothpick case left quite an impression. Not because it was so remarkably beautiful, but because it seemed so random, useless even – in a good way. Many of the items currently on display in the V&A’s exhibition on Horace Walpole and Strawberry Hill are of that quality, and that’s their attraction. There are little boxes and caskets, finely painted china, vases, a C16th cardinal’s hat, a rosewood cabinet full of miniatures, and a wooden cravat Walpole apparently wore for a party at his home.

Strawberry Hill, Walpole’s summer villa by the Thames at Twickenham where all these items come from, was in itself more than a little bid odd. Designed as ‘a little gothic castle’ it revived the style of the Middle Ages and allegedly inspired the first Gothic novel, Walpole’s very dark and improbable Castle of Otranto. A number of items in the collection either directly or indirectly relate to that novel, such as John Carter’s painting of ‘The Entry of Frederick into the Castle of Otranto’, displaying a scene from the end of the book, or the Gothic lantern that was intended to contribute to the general mood of “gloomth” Walpole was so fond of. (more…)

The fun of deceiving your readers – and being found out

Posted in Early Modern, Eighteenth Century, literature, Reviews, Seventeenth Century by thehistorywoman on January 30, 2010

It must have been so much fun being a C17th wit hanging around your favourite tavern or coffee-house thinking up tall stories, scribbling them down and waiting to see how your readers reacted. Would they really believe that shepherds had found the remains of Moses his Tombe (1657) on Mount Nebo, or that Dutch sailors had discovered a new island in the Pacific Ocean – shortly after the Anglo-Dutch war – that was populated by various tribes of savage English people? Some would, others would not. The questioning, the incredulity, the surprise and the discovery of the hoax was all part of the fun of ‘shamming’. In particular for opposition authors after the Restoration, it was also a way of expressing political and religious dissent without falling foul of the government censors.

However, it would be naïve to believe that the public just took these stories at face value. Early modern readers were ‘sceptical readers’, who knew well how to question the texts they were being offered and who had as much fun discovering hoaxes as their authors had writing them. ‘(T)he complexity of readers’ responses should not be underestimated’ (p. 197) is the key message of Kate Loveman‘s exciting ‘investigation into deception and reading habits’ (p. 175) in early modern England. Reading Fictions, 1660-1740 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008) offers a number of case studies of literary and political deceptions in roughly chronological order, from the Interregnum, via the Popish Plot Crisis to the mid-C18th. Looking at a range of authors from the lesser known republicans Thomas Challoner and Henry Neville to celebrated satirists and canonical authors such as Daniel Defoe and Jonathan Swift, Samuel Richardson and Henry Fielding, Loveman analyses shams and readers’ responses, explores strategies and motives for hoaxing, grappling with the  unstable category of ‘truth’ and the relationship between political lying and the rise of the novel. (more…)