Women’s History Month 2013: early modern women & gender

Happy International Women’s Day!

Digital Resources

You can of course, visit the Gender section of Early Modern Resources any month of the year, but I’ll highlight a few relatively new resources that wouldn’t have appeared in previous roundups here.

ABO: Interactive Journal for Women in the Arts, 1640-1830: “an online annual publication that serves as a forum for interactive scholarly discussion on all aspects of women in arts between 1640 and 1830, especially literature, visual arts, music, performance art, film criticism, and production arts”.

Who Were The Nuns?: “A Prosopographical study of the English Convents in exile 1600-1800″.

The Poetess Archive: “a resource for studying the literary history of popular British and American poetry… late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century popular poetry was often written in what came to be designated an “effeminate” style”.

Women’s Studies Group 1558 – 1837: “a small, informal multi-disciplinary group formed to promote women’s studies in the early modern period and the long eighteenth century”.


A few highlights from blogs tagged Gender at Early Modern Commons:

Good Gentlewoman: “the St John ladies and the people whose lives they touched”

his story, her story: “Medieval, Tudor and early modern women”

Jen Burke’s Blog: a lovely renaissance art history/culture blog

Women Writers, 1660-1800: “Exploring Authorial Adventures in the Long Eighteenth Century”, a very good students’ group blog.

Recent blogging

All the women we’ve never heard of: Women’s History Month (his story, her story)

Women’s History Month (In the Words of Women)

Beauty and the Pox (Early Modern Medicine)

Gender and the Newest Political History (The Junto)

Feminism and the Wives of Henry VIII? (Conor Byrne)

A few (good|bad) women

Frances Tradescant
Grizzell Apthorp: Widow, Employer, Property Owner
Agnes Bulmer: Poet of Methodist Experience
Elizabeth Bennet, shirt stealer? (1796)
Lady Mary Wroth – paving the way for women writers

Questions for the #twitterstorians

The Open Humanities Awards were announced a few days ago.

We are challenging humanities researchers, designers and developers to create innovative projects that use open content, open data or open source to further teaching or research in the humanities. [deadline 13 March]

I’d like to enter an application involving the use of the Twitter hashtag archives that I’ve been creating at The Broadside for well over a year now. The data, drawn from the Twitter API, is stored in MySQL, so all sorts of datamining analyses, visualisations, etc, are possible, and would be presented at The Broadside website itself. (This could include topic modelling, network analysis, sentiment analysis, impact analysis, etc.)

And there is a lot of data (including some that isn’t publicly displayed at present) there for the ways in which historians are using Twitter:

  • The biggest single hashtag archive is the original one for #twitterstorians which currently contains around 28,000 tweets dating back to August 2011.
  • There are also smaller ongoing archives like #histsci, #earlymodern and #dhist.
  • Added to that are the events archives, including the AHA conferences for 2012 and 2013.

I see three main facets to the project:

  1. research questions: analysis (with offline or online tools) for presentation and publication.
  2. resources and tools on the website, to go beyond the fairly basic search facilities currently available. This will also include resources on building and working with your own archives. I’d also like to make the data itself more openly available for re-use/research but bear in mind this is restricted by the Twitter API terms of service.
  3. open code: project software code wherever possible will be made openly available, probably at Github (including the original scripts to collect and archive tweets).

So, it seems only right to ask the #twitterstorians for their ideas about what to do with the data they themselves have created!

  • What would you most like to know about this stuff?
  • What sort of visualisations would you be interested in seeing?
  • What would you like to be able to do with the archives for yourself at the website?

It’s also important for the terms of the award (and the principle of the thing!) to use open source tools and software as much as possible. I have a few in mind, but am on the lookout for more. So if you have favourite tools that are not horrendously difficult to learn to use (the project would run for a maximum 6 months), please post links. I’m also looking for the most interesting recent research on Twitter use.

And finally, if you’d like to collaborate actively on the project – especially those with relevant programming expertise, but also researchers who’d be interested in doing analysis on the data to write up for presentations and publications of their own – please let me know as soon as possible.

Carnivalesque: Transitions and Meetings

Welcome to the 92nd edition of Carnivalesque!

A New Year brings a new look to Carnivalesque: from now on carnival editions will cover everything from ancient history to early modernity. This change was brought about by practical considerations; we simply couldn’t recruit enough hosts to keep running six ancient/medieval editions a year. But, as it turns out, this edition contains plenty of rather more interesting reasons to abandon our old dividing line between medieval and early modern.

So it seems appropriate to kick off with the medievalist JJ Cohen’s provocative discussion of the use of “early modern” at In The Middle.

Medievalists learned long ago that when you carve your scholarly habitation out of time’s wilderness of flux and declare this secure home exclusively yours, you may as well have retreated to the monastery… Because they work in the “Middle Ages” (a plural and imprecise designation for the times left behind so that our Now could arrive), medievalists are not responsible for explaining modernity… What if the medieval were not middle to anything?

Steve Mentz agreed with much of Cohen’s argument in Messy Transitions, but noted

I don’t want history without transitions. I like plurality, multiplicity, radical difference, but I also want narratives of change, transformation, discontinuity… But how to have both at once?

We’ll be returning to this topic before we’re done…

Where the Old meets the New

Erik Kwakkel at medievalfragments reflected on his first year on Twitter

The ten medieval doodles showed me a way to combine three important things: what I love as a researcher (medieval books); the means to reach a broad audience (images); and something that is dear to me personally, which is to bring a light touch, humor if appropriate, to all things I do.

The bloggers at Enfilade are Trying to Think Seriously about using Pinterest to study art and architectural history

If art historians are well placed to say what’s wrong with most of what happens on Pinterest, it seems to me we might also start contributing models for making a tool like this work better… How and to what extent might Pinterest be used in the production of knowledge, particularly in terms of collecting information (visual and textual information) and presenting that information together?

The blog Burnable Books has begun a series of guest-authored posts on Medieval Studies in the Age of Big Data (I have some current professional reasons to be interested in this topic). First, Martin Foys on learning To Stop Worrying and Love Big Data.

technologies of information and the ecological dynamic we have with it are not alien, but organic, and derived from our own informational needs. Historically, they are of our own making, and continue to be so. In medieval studies and elsewhere, big data will be as good or as bad as we allow.

Timothy Stinson follows up with An Unrevolutionary Revolution: The Other 99%

Yes, we can and should ask new questions and invent new forms for disseminating our research… But if we really want to do big data, and if we really want to see the full potential of these tools, we need the other 99% of manuscripts digitized.

Although we always need to bear in mind the particular practical problems of digitising very old texts, as detailed here by The British Library Medieval and Earlier Manuscripts Blog.

Manuscript, Print, Image: the Material meets the Cultural

At medievalfragments, Irene O’Daly compared a famous fictional library with the real medieval thing in Library or Labyrinth?

The monastery depicted in The Name of the Rose has no historical parallel. The library building, modeled by Eco on the thirteenth-century Castel Monte in Apulia, Italy, accordingly, does not reflect any medieval library that we have knowledge of… On a more profound level, Eco’s depiction of the library as a labyrinth symbolises an important aspect of the medieval quest for knowledge.

Niki Gamm at Hürriyet Daily News explored the development of books and libraries in the ancient and medieval Middle East.

Erin Blake wrote at The Collation on scientific research dispelling the myth that copper plates wore out because of intense pressure from the rolling press, which is less well known among historians than it ought to be, and called for more communication between scholars who are working on the same subjects but divided by the split between humanities and sciences.

Also at The Collation, Heather Wolfe looks at 17th-century letters locked with silk embroidery floss, an unusual and personal technique that would have carried meaning for recipients even before they opened the letters.

Mark Hailwood at The Many-Headed Monster, in a series on representations of workers, discusses images of miners:

On the one hand, mining is often closely associated with modernity… But if the development of mining in early modern England was a precursor to modernity, miners themselves were more likely to be labelled as ‘backward’, even by many of their contemporaries, and a number of their beliefs certainly do not look modern to our eyes.

The Manchester Museum’s blog for its Egyptian collections looks at royal portraits in ancient Egypt.

Pharaonic scenes are functional rather than purely aesthetic. Many focus on the king: he is recognisable by his scale, insignia, and position in a scene. Viewers are left in no doubt about who he is. Royal family members are identifiable for the same reasons. But was any attempt made to make these individuals look like themselves?

Passages and Intercourses: Food, Sex, Death

In Life and Afterlife: Dealing with the dead in the Viking age J Hellden at Academia considers “the fundamental role that narrative, storytelling and dramatisation played in the mindset of the Viking Age (8th-11th centuries), occupying a crucial place not only in the cycles of life but particularly in the ritual responses to dying and the dead”.

At Early Modern John, John Gallagher discussed the tradition of baking spiced ‘soul cakes’ for All Souls’ Day, and had a go at baking some for himself.

Elizabethan contrarian and polemicist Philip Stubbs took aim at the old traditions, attacking ‘Friers, Nunns, and Ankresses’… not just for their Latin prayers and rosary beads, or for their impressive church vestments, but also for the way in which they would ‘give soule-cakes (for so they shame not to cal them) or rather foole-cakes agaynst all soules daie, for the redemption of all christen soules, as they blasphemously speak’.

And if you don’t fancy soul-cakes, what about Chocolate in Seventeenth-Century England, from the Recipes Project?

Recently, a news story broke that some cheap beefburgers on sale in British supermarkets had been found to contain horse DNA (also causing an outbreak of magnificently bad jokes on Twitter). The Old Foodie reminds us that worries about adulterated food have been around for a long time, with a set of 14th-century Rules for Pie-bakers, introduced (apparently) because “the Pastelers of the City of London have heretofore baked in pasties rabbits, geese, and garbage, not befitting, and sometimes stinking, in deceit of the people”.

For those of you who ate and drank too much over the Christmas holidays, the Ancient Worlds blog has a look at Overindulgence at Saturnalia in Ancient Rome.

OK: if there’s one thing I love even more than blogging about sex and blogging about food, it’s blogging about sex and food. Jonathan Jarrett at A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe brings us a case that is More cheese than adultery.

Nonetheless, she was not actually required to compensate for the adultery, which was presumably not considered worth punishing; it would have been hard to argue, perhaps, that it had cost Hermenegildo anything except a few hours of his slave’s labour (ahem) but for the, well, inconspicuous consumption of four head of cattle and sixty cheeses. I mean, how long was this going on?

Jill Burke asks: Did renaissance women remove their body hair? It seems the answer is: yes.

there is indeed advice on how to remove hair from every part of the body in all of these books I have consulted. The renewed interest in facial cosmetics was, then, matched by an explosion in treatments for body hair removal. The Renaissance could, indeed be called a golden age of depilation.

Alexandra Sofroniew at The Iris explores ancient curse tablets

The tablet could be rolled around magic herbs, or even animal or human hair (from the intended victim!) for extra potency. Or the folded lead could be pierced with nails (to pin down the target, giving the Latin name defixio). The curse tablet was then thrown into a sacred pit at a sanctuary, a watery chasm at a spring or pool, or a newly dug grave (preferably of someone who had just died young or violently), ensuring its delivery to the Gods of the Underworld who would carry out the punishment.

Executed Today discusses “the Sow of Falaise”, a sow hanged in Falaise in 1386 for causing the death of a 3 month old baby.

an impressive legend has grown up around the “Sow of Falaise”. It’s been alleged by subsequent interlocuters that the condemned sow was dressed up as a person for execution, that other pigs were made to attend in order to take warning by their swinish sister’s fate, and even that the incident became so famous as to merit depiction in a church fresco.

Also on animal deaths, Gavin Robinson has been investigating Horse Casualties in the English Civil War; the sources suggests that there were not as many fatalities in battle as we might tend to think.

The Interswerve (or, Battering Greenblatt)

And so… back to where we started: periodizations and transitions. The MLA’s decision to award a major prize to Stephen Greenblatt’s The Swerve: How The World Became Modern – a book “filled with factual inaccuracies and founded upon a view of history not shared by serious scholars of the periods Greenblatt studies” – attracted considerable criticism, but also generated some important discussion and reflection.

JJ Cohen was eloquent as always:

When Greenblatt was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for the book I thought: OK, it’s a general audience, and maybe any attention on the past is good attention. But now that the MLA has given a work so devoid of nuance in its account of a long span of human history — a book that in its relentless reductiveness and lack of complexity (or even humane impulses towards those who find themselves locked in 1000 years of unremitting and untextured darkness) offers a negative example of how to form an ethical relation to history — well, I just wonder about what the prize really means. Is it OK to compose caricatured history that reaffirms common prejudice and conveys factual errors rather than work that might make the past more unstable, variegated, intricate, alive?

Medieval Meets World argued that “Few eras in history suffer as badly from this obsession with naming as do the Middle Ages, betwixt and between, neither old nor new, never full here or fully there. And yet, despite attempts to relegate them to the infinitely liminal, the Middle Ages remain an object of fascination and inquiry.”

Steve Mentz emphasised that Modernity is not History

The heart of this swervin’ exchange lays bare the conflict between two things: an objectively false feel-good story of “how the world became modern,” and a better-informed sense of what went on before Poggio found that copy of De rerum natura… I wonder what happens if we disentangle these threads? What if we rethink “modernity” as something other than a historical phenomenon? … Whatever heroic story of “the modern” you want to tell — bold explorers, brilliant textual scholars, brave Lutherans, lethal viruses, high-caloric American food crops feeding China or Ireland — will exclude and misrepresent aspects of the historical record. That’s a reason to tell more complex and less triumphant stories.

Elaine Treharne condemned the “grand narrative that trumpets the Renaissance partly through its insistent derogation and misrepresentation of the Medieval”:

Greenblatt shows a total disregard for textual production, transmission and reception in the period between the Fall of Rome and the finding of classical nuggets in the monastic libraries of the late Medieval period. He forgets that the real Middle Ages provided the world with universities and the full flourishing of scholasticism; with the twelfth-century Renaissance, which like its later iteration, re-discovered classical texts protected by the cultural bastions of organised religion.

Leila K. Norako suggested that Greenblatt’s book “seems to have far more to to say about very contemporary anxieties over the state of education than it does about the Middle Ages”.

Rick Godden of Modern Medieval criticised “the privileging of one time period over another, the creation of an abject other out of a segment of the past”. But, he thought,

there is a sense, for me at least, that although the older dogmas of heroic conceptions of periodization will never fully die out in various conversations, books like The Swerve are already seeming like the last gasp of a dying species.

Well… maybe. But we can at least celebrate the end of division and separation here at Carnivalesque. Here’s to the future!


The next edition of Carnivalesque will be at Renaissance Mathematicus on or about 9 March, and the nomination form as usual will be here.

History Blogging Awards 2013

Older citizens of the history blogosphere will remember the Cliopatria Blogging Awards, which ran from 2005-2011. Some of us are looking to launch a new set of history blog awards, and I offered to host them over at The Broadside.

A discussion thread has been opened over there to enable interested parties to offer feedback and suggestions. The history blogosphere has changed massively since the original launch of the Cliopatria awards, and it seems right to take stock and consider what could – and should – be done differently now. Please do go over and contribute to the discussion (by 20 January).

Early modernists: would you be interested in an award for Best Early Modern Blog, and if so would you be willing to actively take part in organising and judging it?

Also noted

Edublog Awards
Digital Humanities Awards
The Other Academy Awards

Early Modern Commons: Post Categories searching

Early Modern Commons has now been aggregating blog posts for several months. I recently added pages for book reviews and job adverts. Today I’ve gone a step further and added a search page for blog post categories.

This will search the categories, tags, labels, etc,* assigned to blog posts by their authors (for posts since the beginning of August 2012). So, for example, you can search for categories mentioning London, or the category Gunpowder Plot.

This is very much a work in progress. The most obvious limitation is that you can only search for posts in blogs that are included in Early Modern Commons. (I’ve been pondering for a while more generally how it might be possible to include relevant posts from blogs that only occasionally have early modern content…)

Alos, at the moment it’s a very simple word/phrase search; the only choices are between searching anywhere within categories and searching for an exact category. I’ll be adding some more sophisticated options later (it would obviously be useful to be able to find, say, ’17th century’ or ‘seventeenth century’ in the same search!).

I hope this addition to the site will be useful! Firstly, it will allow site users more flexible access to the content EMC has been aggregating.

Secondly, moreover, I hope to facilitate the pro-active use of tags and categories by bloggers to create useful resources by grouping together blogging about specific news, topics, conferences, etc, in a similar fashion to Twitter hashtags. All searches can be bookmarked for reference (and I hope to provide RSS feeds before too long); see the notes below on search URL construction.

Bloggers simply need to use a shared tag/category to make it accessible through this search – they could agree on one together for an event, or an organiser could announce one in advance.

So, for example, if a number of EMC bloggers individually blog about early modern panels at the upcoming American Historical Association 2013 meeting and tag/categorise their posts with AHA2013, their posts would all be accessible shortly afterwards through http://commons.earlymodernweb.org/searchcat?s=aha2013

Feedback will be very welcome.

Tag away!
Notes on Search URLs

With URL encoding as appropriate for spaces etc, it should be possible to work out in advance what the URL to search for any given category will be. This is the basic formula:

http://commons.earlymodernweb.org/searchcat?s={search phrase}

For example, the simple London URL looks like this:

http://commons.earlymodernweb.org/searchcat?s=london (The searches are all case-insensitive.)

Meanwhie, the Gunpowder Plot search URL looks like this:


In this more complex search URL %20 is the URL encoding for a space between words and &exact=on adds the exact category requirement. (When more search options are added in the future they will similarly be preceded by &.)

I will do my best to ensure that the basic URL construction (searchcat?s=…) is stable and persistent as long as the site is around.

*The terminology varies with different blog platforms (and some, like WordPress, use more than one type), but this shouldn’t matter. Certainly, WordPress tags and categories, Blogspot labels, and Tumblr tags are all being captured and saved in the database. Movable Type/Typepad categories should also be fine though I haven’t checked this yet. NB that the search does not include the content of posts.

Carnivalesque 2013

Early in 2012, Carnivalesque recruited a new Co-ordinator to help with the Ancient/Medieval editions. Hannah has done a wonderful job and it’s been really great to have her on board.

However, despite her efforts, it’s continued to be extremely difficult to recruit hosts (and get nominations) for the Ancient/Medieval editions of the carnival. With this in mind, we are making some important changes for 2013.

We will no longer hold separate ancient/medieval and early modern editions: each edition will cover the full range from ancient history to the late 18th century.

We’ll aim to have at least two hosts per year whose main interests are ancient/medieval, but this won’t be to a fixed schedule.

For 2013, we plan to have 8 editions at roughly 6-7 week intervals. Provisional dates (all Saturdays; but please note this is all quite flexible):

  • 19 January
  • 9 March
  • 27 April
  • 8 June 
  • 27 July 
  • 7 September
  • 26 October
  • 7 December

If you’d like to host an edition, get in touch! Contact info is available at the website, leave a comment below, or just send a tweet @CesqueHC

CFP: Sensing the Sacred: Religion and the Senses, 1300 – 1800

Interdisciplinary conference, University of York, 21-22 June 2013

The burgeoning field of sensory history offers a fertile ground for reconsideration of religious studies across disciplinary boundaries. We welcome papers from anthropologists, archaeologists, art historians, historians, literary scholars, musicologists, philosophers, theologians, and any other interested parties. …

Proposals (max. 300 words) for papers of 20 minutes are welcomed both from established scholars, and from postgraduate students. Applications from panels of three speakers are encouraged, as well as individual proposals.

Early Modern Commons Update

My early modern blogs project, Early Modern Commons, is now more than a year old. Today I’ve posted a major overhaul of the backend (let’s call it v2.0), moving away from WordPress into a purpose-built database.

Hopefully it’ll be lighter and faster loading. A few URLs will be broken, unfortunately, as I’ve had to change some blog IDs, but mostly everything should work.

I’ve also added about 25 blogs (and have a few more to come), taking the count over 200 – probably about 220 by the time I’ve completed the additions.

The most important change is that I’ve added aggregation for blog posts as well as blogs. EMC began with an idea for an enhanced blogroll (growing out of my long-standing dissatisfaction with the standard list-of-names blogroll), and at its core will continue to provide that service. But I’ve been keen to do more with it, and that’s now possible with the backend changes.

The new Recent Posts feature is quite basic at the moment but it will be possible to expand it and to make it more sophisticated, especially with a little help from the bloggers themselves. For example, it could be possible to have a ‘Research Blogging’ feed if bloggers are willing to tag their posts with a distinctive category/keyword to denote research-heavy posts (discussion welcome on what the keyword should be) – a simplified version of Research Blogging. I’ll also be experimenting with the use of keyword filters to create more feeds like the one for CFPs and conferences (and to improve that one; it’s not quite right at the moment).

Feedback welcome, and if you have any ideas for future developments let me know.

early modern crime, women, digital history…