The Holbein Stare and Other Works of Art

Be prepared for the Holbein stare. His sitters will look right at you, or through you – like Derich Born. Serious beyond his years, wealthy and confident, the 23-year-old merchant of Cologne was the youngest member of the London Hanseatic League and seems remarkably lifelike as his dark brown eyes look out from underneath his… Continue reading The Holbein Stare and Other Works of Art

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Men and Women in the English Revolution

Over the summer I agreed to review two books on the English civil wars. One Blair Worden’s God’s Instruments (2012), the other Ann Hughes’s Gender and the English Revolution (2012). The first, aside from a few fleeting references to Lucy Hutchinson, deals almost exclusively with Oliver Cromwell and other men who fought in the Civil War… Continue reading Men and Women in the English Revolution

The First Actresses and some of Charles II’s mistresses

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… Continue reading The First Actresses and some of Charles II’s mistresses

Eric Nelson’s Hebrew Republic and the Importance of Jewish Sources

In his book on The Hebrew Republic, Eric Nelson sets out to refute the commonly held assumption in early modern historiography that political science came to be separated from religion over the course of the seventeenth century. Instead, he argues that the concept of the respublica Hebraeica was seen as authoritative by many political thinkers,… Continue reading Eric Nelson’s Hebrew Republic and the Importance of Jewish Sources

Raphael: Cartoons and Tapestries for the Sistine Chapel at the V&A

The Raphael Cartoons at the V&A are quite impressive works of art in their own right. Roughly four metres wide and three metres high they show scenes from the lives of the Apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul, such as  The Miraculous Draught of Fishes or The Sacrifice at Lystra. They are powerful reminders of… Continue reading Raphael: Cartoons and Tapestries for the Sistine Chapel at the V&A

Charitable Hatred, or the Trouble with Tolerance in Early Modern England

In her book on ‘tolerance and intolerance’ in early modern England Alex Walsham takes a swipe at the Whiggish notion of the ‘rise of toleration’ (7) and the domination of the field by the history of ideas. Emphasisng the point that it was the moral duty of every good Christian at the time to correct… Continue reading Charitable Hatred, or the Trouble with Tolerance in Early Modern England

The ‘Monarchical Republic’ and its Critics

Patrick Collinson first set out his idea of ‘The Monarchical Republic of Queen Elizabeth I’ in a journal article in 1987. In this article he emphasised in particular two ways in which Elizabethan subjects conceived themselves as ‘citizens’ and displayed considerable self-governing capacities. First, there were Elizabeth’s Privy Councillors at the centre, who were hatching… Continue reading The ‘Monarchical Republic’ and its Critics

Horace Walpole and Strawberry Hill at the V&A

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… Continue reading Horace Walpole and Strawberry Hill at the V&A

The fun of deceiving your readers – and being found out

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… Continue reading The fun of deceiving your readers – and being found out

‘The Paradox of Prosperity’ – Selling books in early modern Leiden

The booksellers of early modern Leiden prospered despite being regulated by a guild. In fact, they petitioned for and received permission to set up a guild as late as 1652 when other trades tried to get rid of the tight constraints such an institution imposed (p. 14). For, contrary to a widespread belief among economic… Continue reading ‘The Paradox of Prosperity’ – Selling books in early modern Leiden