Who or what am I?

That wasn’t mean to sound like an opener for one of those online quizzes…

I’ve said that I don’t want this to be a very personal blog. But perhaps I should give a bit of academic background for passing readers. I’m currently the extremely lucky holder of a British Academy post-doctoral fellowship, which means that I have 3 years to do research on the pet project that I’d been formulating since the early days of my PhD (it’s like being a student but with a salary; how cool is that?). It’s on disorder and (violent) crime in the English/Welsh border counties of Cheshire, Flintshire and Denbighshire during the seventeenth century. (The PhD was on crime in Denbighshire 1660-1730.) Dunno quite what it’ll end up looking like yet.

I got into researching crime largely because of the source materials available for the early modern period, if you were interested in researching ‘ordinary’ people. If it also had anything to do with the fact that I’ve been reading crime fiction since I was about ten, it was entirely subconscious. In fact, I think they don’t have much in common. Crime novels: devious, clever plot with comforting resolution (even if it’s a disturbing one, the comfort lies in the fact that there is a resolution, an ending). Crime in the archives: messy, mundane, much left frustratingly unexplained and unfinished. But the Welsh records (which I discovered as an undergrad) did share something with the fiction, in that they were full of stories told by frequently unreliable and sometimes conflicting participants. (You can see a few samples at Wales and the Law on Early Modern Resources.) And those are the kind of court records that get me excited.

The upshot is that I’m spending much time over the coming months away from home in Aberystwyth in west Wales (home of the National Library of Wales, which is where my beloved Welsh Great Sessions records are housed), working with the Cheshire records – and planning to take a look at Star Chamber – at the Public Record Office in Kew, London. I have a ridiculously expensive studio flat (paid for by the BA, not me) in what, for London, is a fairly quiet, pleasant suburban area of Twickenham. But it’s still a culture shock. I’ve always lived in small provincial towns or large villages in England or Wales. Downsides: filthy, noisy, expensive, plays havoc with my sinuses. Upsides: real public transport, loads of free museums, shops open late… So I run away home to Aber for the weekend every few weeks to get some fresh sea air and friendliness.

I woke up this morning to some real west Wales rain. Now the sun is out and shining through the seagull crap on the window. The place really knows how to welcome you home.

The joys of secondhand bookshops

Secondhand early modern books very recently picked up in London bookshops:

M Dorothy George, London life in the eighteenth century. One of those classics I’ve never got round to reading. I make the excuse that I’m not a London historian. (One of many, varied excuses for not reading what I ought to be reading.)

Alexandra Shepard, Meanings of manhood in early modern England. Looks a promising addition to the growing corpus of research on early modern masculinities. A whole section on disorder and violence, huzzah.

C V Wedgwood, The king’s peace.

Also a nice varied haul of crime and other fiction: Val McDermid, Sarah Dunant, Alison Lurie, Margaret Atwood, Henning Mankell. Yum. (Although these books are one of the real reasons why I don’t get round to reading things I’m supposed to.) And some cookery books.

I’m back in Aberystwyth for the weekend. Not so many secondhand bookshops as London (!), but there are some small treasure houses (Ystwyth Books being an old favourite). OK, I like new books too, and I buy far too many of them as well. But the pleasures of secondhand book shelves never cease. Partly the lure of bargain-hunting, partly the appeal of the unpredictable and unexpected.

Early Modern Resources Update

New additions have been made to the following pages at Early Modern Resources:

Reference Section

Politics, Rebellions, Revolutions

Women, Gender, Sexuality

New Links

Early Modernity on Film Bibliography and Resources

The main page has a new hit counter, courtesy of Statcounter. They say that it will never bring adverts. That’d better be true. I might at some point get around to putting it on all the pages, I suppose.

British Toung

Via Language Hat, an online version of A briefe and playne introduction, teachyng how to pronounce the letters in the British Toung (now commonly called Walsh) (pdf file) by William Salesbury in 1550, over 400 years ahead of the Welsh for Adults movement… Salesbury also published the first known printed book in Welsh, and the first Welsh translation of the New Testament.

Corrections Corner: Salesbury didn’t publish the first book in Welsh. That was John Prys’s Yny lhyvyr hwnn… (‘In this book…’, 1546).

Update: More thoughts on ‘A briefe and playne introduction’

Some useful resources

Claire George has recently set up a blog for the seventeenth century community. She hopes to create a sort of virtual ‘coffee house’ for those of us interested in the period.

British History Online from the Institute of Historical Research contains digitised versions of a growing number of important sources for early modern British historians – often those bulky multi-volume projects that are hidden away in university libraries (eg, Calendar of State Papers Domestic; Victoria County Histories; House of Lords and House of Commons Journals); and much more, including maps of London. It has both browse and search facilities. This is going to be an extremely useful research resource!

Teachers looking for ways of making effective use of the web for teaching may be interested in a new H-Net discussion network, H-OEH for Online Education in the Humanities.


This blog is an experiment. I’ve been wanting somewhere to log potential new links for the site for a while (not simply my bookmarks file in which they just get lost). A blog seems an ideal way of doing that, with the advantage that any readers (well, there might be some) can add their own comments. Links posted here will generally not have been checked out in anything more than the most cursory fashion (unless I really liked them). Some may turn out to be utter rubbish, or only to last a few weeks.

It’ll also be used to post news about the site: when I’ve made additions and updates, that kind of thing.

Will it become anything more than that? I think I can safely say that it won’t turn into a personal diary (I’ve never kept one of those in my life, and I don’t want to start now). But there might be space – and time – for early modernist musings, professional monologues, rants or discussions. And some of my other interests – British history and identity, Wales and learning Welsh, feminism, ska music, crime fiction, etc – might get a look in. We’ll just have to see…