Carnivalesque #10

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Welcome to the 10th edition of Carnivalesque – with extra fireworks!

Telling tales

Natalie Bennett thinks there’s nothing like a good anecdote about the thieves, tipplers, foreigners, dodgy developers and troublemakers of 17th-century London. Ben Brumfield, a self-described sucker for diaries, shares some stories from the journal of Phillip Vickers Fithian, a teacher employed by a Virginia planter in 1773-4. Miss Wynn’s Diaries of a Lady of Quality offered an account of a visit to a Russian princess.

Consuming culture

Bix introduces the the history of consumerism, in which the 18th century plays a key role.

Wyrrd Kona read Leviathan for the first time and was pleasantly surprised; Jon Mandle recently read Locke’s first treatise and thoroughly enjoyed the merciless destruction of Robert Filmer.

Meanwhile, Nathanael Robinson was not impressed by the film version of Girl with a Pearl Earring.

Rene discovers the 18th-century fascination with the paranormal. Brandon has some thoughts on 18th-century literary forgeries, while Jonathan Edelstein encounters a medical fraud in trial records.

Peacay takes a look at the making of chocolate.

The problems caused by travelling across centuries and cultures: Miriam Jones’s students don’t know how to read 18th-century texts. Meanwhile, Sepoy comments on a beautiful but controversial postage stamp.

Plots and Politics

Treason never prospers – What’s the reason?
For if it does, there’s none dare call it treason.

Gunpowder Plot: Huw retells the story, and Chris Brooke has some worthy links, to get you started. (Kristine also rounds up some reading).

A number of bloggers reflected on modern parallels and the meanings of Gunpowder Plot today. Alan Allport’s thoughts on exploding popes, I, II and III discuss the (in)famous annual celebrations at Lewes in Sussex. Mark Brady remembers. And a late bonus entry: Rebecca has some more pope burning, in Boston this time.

I have to confess that I failed to lead by example after announcing the idea of this theme section, but back in July, I did look at the immediate consequences in one locality of the fear and paranoia generated by the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot. Other bloggers did much better than me and explored larger themes of English anti-catholicism in the seventeenth century. Kristine Steenburgh maps out how early modern English culture connected Catholicism, women and treachery, while Brandon examines Hobbes’s anti-catholicism.

And just a couple of non-Gunpowder Plot snippets. Miss Wynn recounted the last moments of Louis XVI. And from medieval Japan, unkleneal tells of a plot foiled.

Myths, old and new

Some blogging comment followed a recent article in the NY Times (now behind a paywall, but reproduced here and elsewhere) about the recent historiography of early modern witchcraft and witchtrials, which has demolished many previous myths and conspiracy theories concerning medieval and early modern witch persecution. Some people were still surprised to learn this; some saw an opportunity to do some feminist bashing; pagans discussed it too. However, there was little reaction from historians. But if you need an introduction to the current ideas in the field, just go and read Suzie Lipscomb’s very good post.

Kissing Nelson

Another British anniversary that attracted some attention in recent weeks was the bicentenary of the Battle of Trafalgar. Not everyone agreed that it was such a cause for celebration, however. Adventures in Historical Materialism was highly critical. Mark Rayner took a more light-hearted approach, wondering what would have happened if Nelson had missed the Battle of Trafalgar.

Religion and Science

Michael Haykin remembers Gustavus Adolphus, while C Ryan Jenkins reviews a book on Catholicism and the Reformation. A Mennonite asks What is an Anabaptist?

Philip Harland continues a series of informative posts on late medieval Christianity and the Reformations.

At Giornale Nuovo, misteraitch Nuovo went in search of the Jesuit scholar Athanasius Kircher.

For those of you who can read Portuguese (not me, sadly), Rua di Judiaria examines the responses of Portuguese Jews to the Lisbon Earthquake, reading it as divine retribution. (Particular thanks to Nathanael Robinson for the nomination.)

Miriam Jones writes on negotiating early modern religious texts in the classroom. From the perspective of philosophy of science, Greg Frost-Arnold reconsiders the question of change and continuity in the scientific revolution

Blog conversations: the policing and detection of crime

It’s great when a real conversation – within and between blogs – develops about a subject. Especially when that conversation leads to some new (and potentially significant) research. It sort of started when I wrote a post about ghosts, murders and providence, which got a great response from Kristine. Then I followed up with the story of a seventeenth-century detective, which brought a great question from Chris in a comment: “Do you have records of anything approaching forensic awareness?”

That got several of us thinking. Kristine uncovered some forensics in early modern drama. I belatedly remembered reading about a sixteenth-century trial in Wales. Meanwhile, Jonathan Edelstein explored the Old Bailey Proceedings Online for what light they might shed on 18th-century court practice and began to discover some remarkable material, starting with an early expert witness and a detective story from 1717.

Following on from all this, Jonathan has come up with the great idea of holding an OBP blog symposium, if enough people show an interest in writing posts.

Contributions don’t have to be long and involved – they just need to use the online OBP for source material. You don’t have to be interested in the history of crime as such, either – the trial proceedings are a very rich source that throws light on many aspects of long-18th-century society (and the database is keyword searchable): a conference focusing on the OBP last year included papers on waste disposal, soldiers and sailors, gay history and immigrants. You don’t even have to have your own blog: both Jonathan and I will be happy to provide guest slots.

If you think you might like to participate, get in touch with Jonathan: jonathan9[at] (or me:


Well, that’s it for this time. Many thanks to those of you who sent nominations! I have no idea yet who will be hosting the next edition (ancient/medieval) in early December, but you can send nominations (or offers to host) to or

TTLB ubercarnival

18 thoughts on “Carnivalesque #10”

  1. Pingback: scribblingwoman
  2. Pingback: The Elfin Ethicist
  3. If it is “deceptively quiet” at my blog in the coming days, it is because I’ll be over here, enjoying this cabinet of wonders! Many thanks!

  4. “Feminist-bashing”? Please. Cathy Young is one of the most reasonable questioners of feminist orthodoxy out there, and she’s absolutely right to call Mary Daly’s veracity into question, given Daly’s extremism.

  5. It wasn’t the characterisation of Mary Daly that I was referring to. You can beat up on Daly any time you like. (Although in relation specifically to the ‘9 million’ claim in Gyn/Ecology, Daly was far from being the first to put forward such numbers, and at the time she wrote it nearly all of the scholarly research that has demolished those figures had yet to be done. But, let’s face it, that’s not a book I want to defend.)

    The feminist-bashing came in the sweeping generalisations and misrepresentations about feminists and Women’s Studies courses – not least the notion that they are all uncritically in thrall to Daly. There is no feminist orthodoxy: that is the ‘new’ myth that I was referring to. Daly represents only one particular branch of feminism, which many other feminists always saw as both extreme and narrow. In fact, feminists have been among Daly’s sharpest critics (look up Audre Lorde, ‘An open letter to Mary Daly’).

    But yes, it’s quite true that Young’s was one of the more moderate antifeminist blog posts I read in response to the NYT article.

    (Please note, right now, that I will not hesitate to delete/edit any comments on this subject that I think are offensive. My blog, my rules.)

  6. Sharon is quite right; Mary Daly has long been seen as a fairly marginal figure, even back in the day when I did women’s studies at the University of Toronto (and I won’t say how far back that was. But, it was back.) We read her, of course — something which is not nearly so likely now in a women’s studies course — but critically, and as part of a wide range of approaches. I teach in our Gender Studies programme at UNB and it wouldn’t cross my mind to teach her.

  7. Thanks, ADM!

    I know I read the book while I was taking an intro to WS course 10 years ago, but I think that was because I encountered the criticisms and decided to read it for myself (being another glutton for punishment), not because it was on the reading lists. I don’t remember for sure. (It certainly doesn’t tend to get into women’s history course reading lists.)

  8. This is a bit late, since I’ve been busy (or rather, not busy; I defended my thesis Friday, and so have been taking a break since), but this is a great edition, Sharon.

    I don’t know how it is in Women’s Studies (although Miriam Jones’s characterization sounds very plausible from what little I’ve seen), but from what I’ve read of feminist theology, Miriam’s characterization would apply to the field of feminist theology as well — she occasionally gets read, but is mostly a marginal figure, and is largely read very, very critically. Largely I think she just managed to find an interesting formulation of a position almost everyone else was trying to avoid; and that’s mostly why she was read. Or so it seems. I certainly have never come across anyone using the 9 million figure on the authority of Mary Daly. It’s a weak basis for such a sweeping claim about women’s studies.

  9. It was accepted with minor corrections; i.e., I have to fix a few references and typos and I’m done. Hence my taking a few days to enjoy the feeling of doing nothing!

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