The History Woman's Blog

Tracking down the regicides

Posted in Early Modern, History, literature, Republicanism, Reviews, Seventeenth Century by thehistorywoman on June 1, 2014

Kings_Revenge_ImageI don’t read much popular history, and that is probably a mistake. By ignoring countless works written for a mass audience I miss what attracts most people to my subject area: a good story that is actually true, or at least could be true, reconstructed from sources scattered all over the archives and joined by creative ingenuity.

With historical writing, the lines between fiction and non-fiction are frequently blurred. Academic historians tend to lay claim to objectivity by comparing countless sources and weighing up possibilities and arguments, while novelists might have invested a similar amount of time to research but openly admit that they made up the missing bits and, most importantly, the majority of the action and dialogue.

There is some consolation in the fact that for any number of bodice rippers there is probably one Wolf Hall or, an old favourite of mine, An Instance of the Fingerpost, while for any number of bad popular history books, there is one like The King’s Revenge: Charles II and the Greatest Manhunt in British History. Its authors Don Jordan and Michael Walsh, writers, filmmakers and journalists, have done an excellent job researching the fate of the regicides of Charles I, many of whom had to escape from the British Isles at the Restoration of the Stuarts. Some went to the colonies and others to Europe, while those who remained in the country had to keep their heads down or arrange themselves with the new authorities.

I’m not sure whether ‘manhunt’ really adequately describes the actions of the new Stuart government against the regicides, as Charles II did not in all cases explicitly sent out the bloodhounds. After all, he had promised to forgive and forget in his Declaration of Breda (1660). Most of his ‘agents’ were shady ‘volunteers’ who aimed for reward or attempted to prove their doubtful loyalty to the new regime, while orders to find and assassinate the exiles more often than not were given indirectly by those close to the King, such as his sister, the Duchess of Anjou, in France, or driven by a vengeful Parliament of angry Cavaliers.

Nevertheless, the book describes in much detail the actions of the regicides, the precariousness of their situation after the Restoration, the martyrdom of some and the constant fear of those who survived at home and abroad, knowing that an assassin might come for them any time. (more…)

‘The World is Our House’: A Midsummer’s Symposium of Jesuit Culture and Music, 1540-1700

Posted in Conferences, Early Modern, History, literature, Religion, Seventeenth Century, Sixteenth Century by thehistorywoman on May 12, 2013

Swansea University and Hereford Cathedral are holding a Midsummer symposium on international Jesuit culture, 1540–1700. The event on 21 June celebrates the re-evaluation of the Cwm Jesuit Library, housed at Hereford Cathedral since 1679.

The library is the largest surviving seventeenth-century Jesuit missionary library in Britain. Scholars are currently analysing the library as part of a joint project between Swansea University and Hereford Cathedral, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). The study day aims to place the library in its larger international context by exploring the rich and fascinating world of seventeenth-century Jesuit culture.

The symposium is to feature six speakers and an exhibition of early Jesuit books and music as well as other rare material, including the Hereford Mappa Mundi. There will also be an evening concert of early Jesuit music.

An agenda for the day as well as a booking form can be downloaded from the conference web page worldisourhouse.blogspot.com.

For queries, please contact the organisers, either via the conference web page, emailing library@herefordcathedral.org, or by calling 01432 374225/6.

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 Fascination of The Isle of Pines (1668)

Posted in Early Modern, History, literature, Political Thought, Seventeenth Century by thehistorywoman on November 28, 2011

Henry Neville’s utopian travel narrative The Isle of Pines (1668) is one of my favourite pieces of literature. It tells the story of the shipwreck of an English trading vessel during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and  of the subsequent survival of one man and four women on a lonely island near terra Australis incognita. The five survivors settle together on the island and create a new society from scratch like Adam and Eve after God’s creation of the earth, or Noah and his family after the Flood, except they keep some of their English ways and make a few new laws to maintain order in their ever-growing society. Several generations later, in 1667, the English Pines are discovered by the crew of a Dutch ship, whose captain publishes an account of the savaged English society he found stranded on a tiny island in the middle of nowhere.

There is no reason why The Isle of Pines should stand out as a literary work. The prose is basic, the story is simple, and the description of the relations of George Pines and the four women worthy of the Bad Sex in Fiction Award. But there are most of all two things that make The Isle of Pines such a fascinating work. First, it has so many layers that generations of scholars have not been able to agree whether the work is a utopia, a hoax, a work on polygamy, a coded political pamphlet, Restoration satire, or all of the above. And secondly, The Isle has a complex and highly successful publishing history, including numerous re-issues and translations in several European languages to make it truly one of the international bestsellers of the seventeenth century.

With large parts of the world still unmapped and the story appearing in the news sheets and gazettes, many contemporaries might have believed Neville’s account of the mysterious island was true, while his friends in the coffeehouses of London and Oxford soon smelt a rat and recognised it as the work of a disgruntled republican, who blamed Charles II and his corrupted court for the decline of English fortunes after the defeat in the second Anglo-Dutch war (1665-67). The story had a mixed reception in the seventeenth century, both at home and abroad, as contemporaries tried to work out what they were dealing with. The number of modern editions as well as scholarly works on the piece published in recent years shows that the mystery of The Isle remains unresolved.

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.

Shakespeare, Chaucer and Joyce: A Conference on Medieval and Early Modern Authorship

Posted in Conferences, Early Modern, literature by thehistorywoman on July 3, 2010

If it has never occurred to you that Chaucer might have influenced Joyce as much as Homer then you should read more medieval literature – or listen to Helen Cooper (Cambridge). Even though Joyce decided to name his Ulysses after Homer’s classical Odyssey, Cooper argues, his true ‘poetic father’ in the English language was Chaucer, and the Canterbury Tales served as a model for the chapters in Ulysses, each of which is based on a different character or location, using different language and style.

I must say I have learnt quite a few new things over the past few days in Geneva, where the Second Biennial Conference of the Swiss Association of Medieval and Early Modern English Studies (Samemes) shed new light on aspects of ‘Medieval and Early Modern Authorship’. Colin Burrow (Oxford), for instance, called into question the notion of an emergent ‘individual authorship’ in the early modern period and emphasised the collaborative nature of early modern textual production. In particular, authors worked closely with the editors and printers of their works and thus were close collaborators with the press rather than detached artists.

(more…)

Conference: Medieval and Early Modern Authorship, 30 June-2 July

Posted in Conferences, Early Modern, literature by thehistorywoman on May 2, 2010

Swiss Association of Medieval and Early Modern English Studies

Medieval and Early Modern Authorship

30 June – 2 July 2010, University of Geneva

Authorship has come to the forefront of medieval and early modern English studies in recent years, as is shown by the wealth of important publications in this area. The objective of this conference is to take stock of a duly socialized form of  authorship, which recognizes that while authors have agency, that agency is circumscribed by the multi-faceted social, legal, institutional, and intertextual pressures within which authorship takes place.

Plenary Speakers

Colin Burrow (University of Oxford)

‘Fictions of Collaboration: Authors and Editors in the Sixteenth Century’

Patrick Cheney (Pennsylvania State University)

‘English Authorship and the Early Modern Sublime’

Helen Cooper (Cambridge University)

‘Choosing Poetic Fathers: the English Problem’

Rita Copeland (University of Pennsylvania)

‘Producing the lector

Katherine Duncan-Jones (University of Oxford)

‘Authorial Impersonation: Three Faces of Henry Chettle’

Robert Edwards (Pennsylvania State University)

‘Authorship, Imitation, and Refusal in Late-Medieval England’

Neil Forsyth (University of Lausanne)

‘Authorship from Homer to Wordsworth via Milton’

Alastair Minnis (Yale University)

‘Ethical Poetry, Poetic Theology: A Crisis of Medieval Authority’

Brian Vickers (School of Advanced Study, University of London)

‘Collocation Matching: A Breakthrough in Authorship Attribution Studies’

For more information go to:  http://home.adm.unige.ch/~erne/authorship2010/

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…)