Repost: George’s choice: an 18th-century convict and a medical experiment

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Originally posted here (February 2008)

Last November, I dashed off a quick post about someone I’d encountered in an Ordinary’s Account: It’s Your Neck or Your Arm

On the evening before execution, a respite of 14 days was brought for George Chippendale, and to be continued, if within that time he shall submit to suffer the amputation of a limb, in order to try the efficacy of a new-invented styptic for stopping the blood-vessels, instead of the present more painful practice in such cases. For this indulgence, he, together with his brother and his uncle, had joined in a petition to his Majesty, and thankfully accepted it, appearing in good health and spirits, ready and chearful to undergo the experiment. (Ordinary’s Account, May 1763.)

Well, I got at least one important thing wrong, anyway. It wasn’t George’s arm that was, er, on the block. It was his leg.

How do I know this? Well, by sheer chance, a few weeks after I posted that, I got an email query at work, from a family historian who was searching for a George Clippingdale in the Old Bailey Proceedings. The problem was that the OBP reporters (unlike most other sources the researcher had consulted) spelt his surname Chippendale. (Spelling variations are not an uncommon problem in 18th-century sources, as I’ve mentioned here before.)

So, we got that sorted out, and that would normally have been the end of it. But then the researcher happened to mention that his George was reprieved from a death sentence because a surgeon wanted to use him in an experiment.

At which point, I thought ‘Hang on a minute… that sounds familiar’, and came over here and checked my earlier post. And it’s the same man!

Naturally, of course, I had to write back with a barrage of questions. And the researcher was kind and generous enough to send me his write-up of everything he’d found out about George – and to agree to let me tell you lot about it.

(But I warn you, there’s a sad ending.)

Continue reading

Repost: Learning Welsh in the sixteenth century

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Originally posted here (June 2004).

I got round to reading some of William Salesbury’s A briefe and a playne introduction, teaching how to pronounce the letters in the British tong… today. Rather different to Welsh pronunciation guides (this one has audio files with examples) for all us suffering Welsh learners today. I’m not at all sure that ‘playne’ is the right word.

The introductory note ‘to the reader’ was a fascinating read. Here the author, William Salesbury, sets out the reasons he wrote the book. (I’ve changed ‘u’ to ‘v’ where appropriate and silently expanded some contractions, but otherwise the spelling is unchanged, barring any typos I might have missed.) After he had compiled ‘a little Dictionarye [1547] for the use and behove of my contry men’, he says,

there came came certayne persons unto me, whereof some where Englysh marchers bordering upon Wales: and some not skilled in the Walshe tonge, nevertheles havyng good and honeste occasions, eyther for their promotions and lyvynges, eyther els for trade of marchaudice and other their affayres to be conversante in the sayd contrye of Wales…

And some other were such Walshmen that had been brought up from their yoth and tender age, oute of the precincte of their native contrye, who thoughte it reproch to be utterly ignoraunt in their mother tong, having a mind also to come to some knowledge therin, wherby they myght ye rather (semyng lesse straung) renewe frendshyp and familiaritie with their contrye folke and frendes…

Nowe the other some, were such Englishe men as had not so urgente a cause, nor so earnest an occasion to travell in thys behalfe, but yet were they so fervent… as they (whom I spake of before) whom the Grekes with one propre terme cal Philoglottous, whose gentle herted disposition is alwaies addicte, bente, & geven to be sene in al languages, but speciallye of their owne felow subiectes and contrey menne, thoughe they purchase thereby but small gaynes, lucre, or wynnyng, which thynges be the honied swete baytes of the avaricious beastly misers, and contrarywyse the defiaunce of all liberal and noble stomakes. …

They asked Salesbury ‘whether the pronounciation of the letters in Walshe, dyd dyffer from the Englyshe soundynge of them? And I sayde verye muche.’ (I’ll say.) And so they asked if he would write a short guide setting out ‘a fewe englishe rules’ for Welsh pronunciation. To which he agreed, for ‘the encrease of mutuall amitie and brotherly love, and continuall frendshyppe, and some commoditie at the leaste wise, to suche as be desierous to be occupied thereaboutes.’

In practical terms, particularly relevant in considering the first group, it’s worth commenting that this follows shortly after the ‘Acts of Union’ (1536-43). That legislation (among other things) uniformly replaced most of the final vestiges of Welsh native law with English law, established the Courts of Great Sessions and boosted the influence and business of the Council in the Marches of Wales, based at Ludlow – which between them would have meant many new opportunities for clerks, administrators and lawyers, who might well want some way of communicating with the largely Welsh-speaking population without always having to rely on interpreters. Businessmen, too, might have seen new opportunities across the Welsh border if the legislation was successful in one of its primary aims, reducing Welsh lawlessness and disorder.

But there’s clearly more to it for Salesbury, a true Renaissance man, than that. I’m intrigued about those Welsh exiles, for a start. Were they perhaps the children of Welsh emigrants to London and other English cities (and it’s interesting that they remained attached to their ‘roots’)? The ‘London Welsh’ certainly already existed. Or could they even have been from Protestant families who went into exile to avoid persecution under Henry VIII, now returning following the succession of the far more enthusiastically Protestant Edward VI?

And then there’s Salesbury’s final group: Englishmen (any women, one wonders?) who were eager to learn for the love of learning and to increase ‘mutuall amitie and brotherly love’ with their Welsh neighbours; clearly, a truly noble enterprise. Salesbury was far from being the only highly educated and intelligent, polyglot Welshman in mid-Tudor England (another well known case is John Dee). The Cecils remained interested in their Welsh origins; even the Tudors did on occasion (usually when it suited them politically, it has to be said). Did men like Salesbury help to stimulate English interest in Welsh literary culture and the language? Shakespeare was certainly interested in the ancient ‘British’ (ie, Welsh) past. It would be fascinating to know whether any of Salesbury’s would-be Welsh learners were successful in their quest… and whether anyone ever used his little

book effectively (it does seem to depend on knowing several classical languages before you even begin, which might further suggest that it was his third, already deeply learned, group for whom it was primarily intended. His translation of the New Testament was also aimed at a scholarly audience).

William Salesbury is primarily celebrated in Wales for his part in the Tudor ‘Welsh Renaissance’ and his contribution to Welsh language and literary culture: for his dictionary, for his pioneering Welsh translation of the New Testament (1567) and Prayer Book (1567). Quite right, too. All of these are indeed major achievements. But I’m beginning to wonder if he should also be celebrated as a pioneer in Welsh language teaching for adults, who did not merely champion his language amongst his own people, but also strove to give it wider currency (not least by harnessing the power of print) and to aid those who wished (even for ‘lucre’!) to learn it.

Repost: Women’s history and gender history: what and why?

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Originally posted here (March 2005).

Some women have never lacked historians: usually unusual women of high social status (who had some influence on the ‘male’ political world): queens, mistresses of kings, that kind of thing: what Gerda Lerner called ‘compensatory history’. The goal of women’s history as practised today, however, is to attend to and assert the validity of the experiences and roles of many kinds of women; to challenge perceptions that these were somehow a) ahistorical (biologically determined, therefore unchanging) and b) unimportant, not Real History.

Still, it should be remembered that women’s history is not something invented in the 1970s. (At Oxford University around 1960, a young early modernist, Keith Thomas, offered a series of undergraduate lectures on the history of women. His colleagues found the idea bizarre; the students stayed away in droves. Yet it must have seemed practicable to him – and he was prepared to try.)

To stick with research since the 19th-century emergence of the academic discipline of history, the ‘first wave’ of western feminism was accompanied by important work on the history of women in the early 20th century: in Britain alone, for example, work by Eileen Power (medieval history), Alice Clark and Ivy Pinchbeck (women’s work), Ray Strachey and Sylvia Pankhurst (the women’s suffrage movement). Yet much of this was neglected for decades until the take-off of women’s history associated with the ‘second wave’ of feminism and, more broadly, with the expanding horizons of history writing from the 1960s. That brought research on an unprecedented scale, and with larger ambitions to achieve a fundamental rewriting of all History.

There have been a wide variety of approaches to the history of women, and nearly all have had to grapple with particularly acute problems of evidence and interpretation: discovering new or neglected sources, approaching old ones in new ways, often borrowing methods and techniques from other disciplines. The growth of social history, another challenge to the primacy of political history narrowly defined (states, rulers, governments) cannot be disentangled from this; it offered new methods and perspectives, and often emphasised subjects of key importance to women’s history. (This was true in the early 20th century as well as the 1960s and 70s, although what we’d now think of as social history was then usually called economic history; this was long before the statisticians got in on the act.)

Some key ‘second wave’ pioneers of women’s history, like Sheila Rowbotham, were socialists as much as feminists. But the relationship was not always an easy one; social history could all too easily continue to marginalise women. Labour history, for example, could be overwhelmingly masculine, narrowly focused on institutions; defining ‘work’ and ‘labour’ in particular ways, this kind of labour history tended to overlook the vital contributions of female labour, the variety and significance of the paid work that women have always done, and to entirely exclude any consideration of their unpaid work. And the relationship between Marxism and feminism was strikingly summed up as an unhappy marriage.

An important strand in women’s history has documented their struggles to win admittance to the ‘public sphere’ and to be placed on equal terms with men when it came to legal status, work opportunities, voting rights. This is a key constituent of what was dubbed ‘herstory’: retelling history from women’s perspectives, aiming to recover women’s experiences, ‘women’s cultures’, to document a distinctive female past. Women had been, in Rowbotham’s words, Hidden from History, and it was time to put that right. It’s still going strong too! And it was, and still is, also often about personal reclamations of history far beyond the academy.

Still, while it went far beyond the biographical ‘women worthies‘ or ‘compensatory history’ type of approach, herstory still tended to focus on histories of exceptional women, forms of rebellion against patriarchal norms, whether ‘public’ political activism or ‘private’ feminine desires and friendships. And how were ‘women’s worlds’ to be related to the world of mainstream history? It was not so clear how this approach could (on its own) ever be more than a supplement to Real History, all too easily ignored or, at best, accorded a token presence around the margins.

There was another problem. Who were these ‘women’ in ‘women’s history’? White, middle-class women? Women are not all alike (and no woman is only a woman). What of the influence of class, race, religion, nationality, sexuality, other social/cultural group identities, on women’s historical experiences?

The identification of these issues fostered the rise of ‘gender history’. Gender, it needs to be noted, is a concept that can be used in more than one way. Sometimes, it can simply refer to studying the relationships between women and men, and the ways in which ‘gender roles’ are socially conditioned. But there is a more theoretical/intellectual history approach, associated with ‘poststructuralism’, and perhaps most famously formulated by Joan W Scott, who argued that gender was a key ‘category of historical analysis’, and that it was vital to study how ‘femininity’ and ‘masculinity’ were culturally constructed in relation to each other in different societies. The category ‘women’ itself had to be deconstructed (as did that of ‘experience‘).

The enquiry was no longer so much ‘What did women experience, and what did women, do in xth century in y culture?’ but rather ‘How (and by what processes) in xth century in y culture did gender help construct distinct masculine and feminine meanings and identities?’ [link may be dead: try archive version if it doesn’t work]

This was both stimulating and controversial, for much the same reasons that poststructuralist or postmodernist theories applied to history have been stimulating/controversial more generally. But it was, perhaps, felt to be particularly threatening to a field of history that was relatively new and politically engaged:

The deconstruction of the term ‘women’ and the emphasis on the differences between women at the expense of what they have in common, denies the existence of women as a political category and as a subordinate class.

Other concerns about gender history focused on the decentering of women as its subject. The history of masculinities is a fast-rising field; some (like Joan Hoff) worried that this lets men take over centre-stage again and that women’s history will get lost in the process. (I personally think that Hoff did not help her cause by calling male feminists ‘Tootsie men’.) Others disagree with those fears (I agree with them). The new histories of men are not like the old history of men; histories of women continue to be written; the boundary between ‘women’s history’ and ‘gender history’ is not a clearly-defined one, and nor (as this blogger would attest) do these varying approaches exclude each other.

It is impossible to summarise what’s going on in women’s history or gender history right now; it’s just too vast and diverse. Just take a look at the TOCs of some main journals and you’ll soon see what I mean. I think that in my area, early modern social history, there is currently a particular interest in ‘agency’ – exploring the ways in which ordinary women lived their lives within the constraints placed upon them, survived, negotiated with the system for a better deal without rebelling against it – and how ‘practice’ related to ‘prescriptions’. We ask about both ‘experiences’ and ‘meanings’. There have been some marvellous recent studies of early modern English masculinities; of crime and gender; splendid surveys unashamedly about women; and textbooks that make no mention of women or gender in the title at all – but they’re in there.

I’ll leave you some links to explore, anyway.

And feel free to contribute in comments (or indeed to blog about this yourself?)…

… What’s the current state of affairs in your own subject areas? (Period, place etc)
… Thoughts on your own research/teaching practice
… What are your favourite books? Which do you think are the most important, must-read works for people interested in learning more about women in the past and/or about the development of women’s history? I may well put together a bibliography of some kind.
… Favourite online resources and blog posts

………

[See also this post on Alice Clark, working women’s historian]

[NB: none of the following links have been checked; many are likely to have moved or been taken down]

Gateways and general stuff

BBC Women’s history
SOSIG: Women’s history
History in Focus: Gender
About Women’s history
Women’s history teaching resources

Essays, debates, etc

Myth and memory: old passions, new visions
History, she wrote
The challenge of opinionative assurance
Raising Clio’s consciousness: the writing of women’s history in the US
Integrating men’s history into women’s history: a proposition
Leeds gender studies e-papers
A group of one’s own: filling the gaps in women’s history
To feel a part of history: rethinking the US history survey
Women’s History Review (all issues more than 2 years old are free to access)
Gender as a postmodern category of paralysis (by Joan Hoff)
Unravelling postmodern paralysis
Mistrials and diatribulations: a reply to Joan Hoff
A reply to my critics (Joan Hoff)
Women’s history and poststructuralism
Women’s history: continuity, change or standing still?
History, feminism and gender studies [try archive version if that link doesn’t work]
How did Women’s History Month come about?

Intersections: gender, history and culture in the Asian context
Recovery and revision: women’s history and west Virginia
Gendering modern German history: rewritings of the mainstream
Feminist knowledge (African women’s history)
Feminist history in Japan

Bibliographies, reading lists

Short bibliography
ViVa bibliography of women’s history
Feminist history bibliography
Annotated bibliography of feminist historical theory
Women’s history bibliography

Book reviews

Writing women’s history since the Renaissance
Gender in history
Worlds between: historical perspectives on gender and class

Courses, syllabi

MA in women’s history (Liverpool)
MA in Women’s history (Royal Holloway)
Women’s history, feminist history and gender history (course unit)

… And bloggers!

Women’s History of Philosophy (Siris)
The search for agency (East Asian history) (Muninn)
This one’s for Dr Crazy (student whines spark great discussion), (New Kid on the Hallway)
Women, studying of (The Little Professor)

Repost: Wallography

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Originally posted here, January 2005.

In 1682, a satirical little book about the Welsh was published: Wallography, or the Britton described, by “WR”, an English clergyman named William Richards.* It purported to describe, first, a journey from London to the Welsh borders and then the “State and Condition, the Nature, Humours, Manners, customs, and mighty Actions” of Wales and its inhabitants. It’s not an altogether popular book in Wales; laughing at Wallography is a slightly guilty pleasure… though some might say that that’s the best kind. (Although it doesn’t just take aim at the Welsh and ‘Taphydome’. Much of the book, in fact, is an equally gleeful send-up of English country-dwelling caricatures.)

As for the Inhabitants [of Wales], they are a pretty Sort of Creatures, which, when we saw, we were so far from stroaking them with the Palms of Love, that we were almost ready to buffet them with the Fist of Indignation. They are a rude People, and want much Instruction…

We were much surprized at the Thoughts of their Rank, and did not suspect so much Gentility among such a Peopl; when we saw so many Coats without Arms, we could not imaging they had any with them, but fancy’d they had more Need of a Taylor than of Clarentius, and of a Prick-louse to stitch up and compose their Breeches, rather than an Herald to blazen their Families.

Ahem. (That mockery of the combined poverty and ‘pretensions’ to gentility of the early modern Welsh is a common theme amongst the English, who did not quite comprehend that for the Welsh status had long been rather more about lineage than wealth and display.)

Richards also had great fun with another stereotype of the Welsh, that of their hot temper and inclination towards both quarrelling and litigation. (Combined with comments on the behaviour of ‘pettifogging’ lawyers that was by no means exclusive to the Welsh. Or, of course, the early modern period.)

They do not always observe the Rules of Justice in their Punishments; oftentimes chastising one Body for another, and so misplace their rigour on the undeserving; as will be very evident from this following Instance: A certain Taylor ferrying over a River in their Country with a diminutive Nag; the Steed never using to travel by Water, and wondering that he stood still and mov’d, was possess’d with Fear, and made some Disturbance on the Boat, to the great endangering of the Passengers; The Welshman, being in Jeopardy, was fir’d with Anger, and without any Wings he flew on the Taylor, and revenged the Injury of the Palfry on poor Prick-Louse. The Stitcher swaddled the Scrupling Horse, and Taphy beat the Stitcher, to the great Diversion and Grief of the Spectators. …

Most of their Indictments are generally the tragical Effects of some dismal Counterscuffle, where a bloody Nose and a broken Shin is ample Matter for the Commencement of a Suit; for, they being of a fiery Temper, sometimes Choler is kindled by an Antiperistasis with a Pot of Ale; and then they fall to biting and scratching as hard as they can drive, and the Wounds of this Caterwauling and Bickering afford Stuff for an Action the next Day; which, being once got into the Pounces of a Welsh Attorney, is dandled into a Business of no small Aggravation. Oh! how these Pettifoggers will hug a Buffeting, and improve a Squobble! They are the very Bellows of Contention, and will soon blow a Spark into a great Combustion. They are a Kind of Tinkers in the Law, who usually make Holes on Purpose that they may mend them; nay, sometimes they will play at Loggerhead themselves to set others together by the Ears, and so (as if Fighting was contagious) will infect the Taphies into Quarrels and Blows. …

Yet it is tremendously funny, sometimes perceptive and frequently “deliciously ambiguous”.** You can easily find nastier and cruder examples of this sort of Welsh-baiting from the late 17th and early 18th centuries; indeed the book draws on a well-established tradition of abuse of the Welsh by the English (this is long before Wales became a Romantic holiday destination). And it’s regularly quoted by early modern Welsh historians. Who could deny the truth of this?

The Country is mountainous, and yields pretty handsome Clambering for Goats, and hath Variety of Precipice to break one’s Neck; which a Man may sooner do than fill his Belly, the Soil being barren, and an excellent Place to breed a Famine in.

The most regularly quoted passage from the book is about the fate of the Welsh language (that it was “being English’d out of Wales”). But the quote is usually wrenched out of its fuller context, which is much more subtle and ironic in tone. (English learners of Welsh everywhere will appreciate the problems you experience when you get some of those Welsh polysyllables stuck in your throat.) And what are we supposed to make of the author’s attitude to the language? On the one hand, to be much admired as a language of ‘sincerity’ and ‘purity’, with English a ‘barbarous’ intruder; on the other, ‘native gibberish’; yet again, those in the towns who ‘despise it’ are ‘puffed up’ snobs. Does the author approve of the ‘glimmering hopes’ that it may become extinct, or is that to be taken as the view of those puffed up townsfolk and gentry who are turning their backs on it? (This is probably exaggerating for effect the extent to which Welsh was being ejected from gentry households at that time, but it is true that English was the language of high status, politics, law, learning, necessary in order to ‘get on’.)

That, which we admir’d most of all amongst them, was the Virginity of their Language, not deflower’d by the Mixture of any other Dialect: The Purity of Latin was debauch’d by the Vandals, and was Hun’d into Corruption by that barbarous People; but the Sincerity of the British remains inviolable. ‘Tis a Tongue (it seems) not made for every Mouth; as appears by an Instance of one in our Company, who, having got a Welsh Polysyllable into his Throat, was almost choak’d with Consonants, had we not, by clapping him on the Back, made him dis-gorge a Guttural or two, and so sav’d him. They usually liquefy the most rugged Mutes, and soften ’em by Pronunciation… Whether the Welsh tongue be a Splinter of that universal one that was shatter’d at Babel, we have some reason to doubt, in regard ‘tis unlike the Dialects that were crumbled there; however, whether it be kin or no to other country Speeches, it matters not; but this we are assured of, it is near and dear to the Folk that utter it, who are so passionately fond of it, that they will scarce admit another into the Embraces of their Lips, which sputter forth a Kind of loathing of our English Language; wherein, if a Question be ask’d them, they will, with somewhat of Disdain and Choler, make Answer, Dim Aiffonick, i.e. no English. Their native Gibberish is usually prattled throughout the whole Taphydome, except in their Market-Towns, whose Inhabitants being a little rais’d and (as it were) puffed up into Bubbles above the ordinary Scum, do begin to despise it. Some of these being elevated above the common Level, and perhaps refin’d into the Quality of having two Suits, are apt to fancy themselves above their Tongue, and when in their t’other Cloaths, are quite asham’d on’t. ‘Tis usually cashier’d out of Gentlemen’s Houses, there being scarcely to be heard even one single Welsh Tone in many Families; their Children are instructed in the Anglican Idiom, and their Schools are paedagogu’d with Professors of the same; so that (if the Stars prove lucky) there may be some glimmering Hopes that the British Lingua may be quite extinct, and may be English’d out of Wales, as Latin was barbarously Goth’d out of Italy.

…………….

* If you’re looking it up in a library’s rare books collection (there’s no modern edition), it was republished in subsequent decades under a variety of titles, often in compiled collections, eg John Torbuck, A collection of Welsh travels, and memoirs of Wales (1738 and later editions); Dean Swift’s ghost (1753). For those with access, it’s available at EEBO.

** I’m borrowing that phrase, and some the arguments, from Michael Roberts, ‘ “A Witty Book, but mostly Feigned”: William Richards’ Wallography and perceptions of Wales in later seventeenth-century England’, in Archipelagic identities (eds. Philip Schwyzer and Simon Mealor). Declaration of interest: Michael was my PhD supervisor.

Ten Years of Blogging

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… and I never did manage to come up with a more imaginative name for the blog.

So, what did blogging do for me? It brought me a lot of new friends and acquaintances who taught me many new things; gave me a new outlet for less formal writing than academic publishing, with a wider audience; got me started on the road to being a digital historian. I may not post so often these days, but it’s still here for me whenever I want it.

It’s been a helluva lot of fun.

To mark the occasion, I’ll repost some old favourites over the next few days.

Data And The Digital Panopticon

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Originally posted on Criminal Historian:

The view from my seat at the DP data visualisation workshop The view from my seat at the DP data visualisation workshop

Yesterday, I went to All Souls College, Oxford, for a data visualisation workshop organised by the Digital Panopticon project.

The project – a collaboration between the Universities of Liverpool, Sheffield, Oxford, Sussex and Tasmania – is studying the lives of over 60,000 people sentenced at the Old Bailey between 1780 and 1875, to look at the impact of different penal punishments on their lives.

It aims to draw together genealogical, biometric and criminal justice datasets held by a variety of different organisations in Britain and Australia to create a searchable website that is aimed at anyone interested in criminal history – from genealogists to students and teachers, to academics.

This is a huge undertaking, and it is no wonder that the project aims to harness digital technologies in making the material accessible to a wide audience. But how could…

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Carnivalesque 100: the World We Have Lost/Gained edition

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Snowball fight (detail), c. 1500, from the Walters Art Museum

Snowball fight (detail), c. 1500, from the Walters Art Museum


I started blogging in about May 2004, near the end of the early phase of the history of blogging, although the history blogosphere and academic blogging was very much in its infancy. The very first blog carnival (begun 2002, I think) was the Carnival of the Vanities, a weekly US-oriented political blogs roundup. It spawned various imitators; I found none of them very interesting. But by summer 2004 carnivals for scholarly subjects were beginning to emerge, and these did grab my attention.

My primary inspiration was the Philosophers’ Carnival (which is still going strong too, I’m pleased to say). Carnivalesque began as an early modernists’ carnival, and widened out to take in the medieval and ancient worlds a bit later. Some of the blogs of the first edition in September 2004 are long gone now, although nearly all of the posts mentioned there can still be located. Even where the blogs no longer exist or are inactive, many of those bloggers are still to be found blogging away, somewhere.

Digital and Physical Media, Medieval+Modern

Dorothy Kim wrote at the group blog In the Middle about being a medievalist on Twitter and live-tweeting conferences

As a manuscript specialist, I spend a lot of time looking, reading, transcribing, and thinking about the physical manuscript medium. I am obsessed with the marginal and interlinear glosses and commentary as I am with the main text in a manuscript. If the medieval manuscript is a recording medium that allows scholar now to see the conversations and connected marginal glosses of individual readers, then twitter is the digital medium that replicates this practice the most but with comments all the time and in real time for individual thinkers.

At the Folger’s group blog The Collation, Goran Proot traced the mysteries of a 17th-century pamphlet.

The text is a response to another pamphlet and it indicates neither a place of publication nor a printer. But the flyleaves used by the binder of this little book tell a nice little story about the bookseller’s scene in Mechelen in the beginning of the 19th century.

Erik Kwakkel asks: What is the Oldest Book in the World? But first, what is a “book”?

Zachary Fisher of Shaping Sense chronicles his developing experiments in making woodcuts.

Laura Sangha has a mini-series of posts at The Many-headed Monster on an Exeter exhibition of ‘the spirit of adventure and enterprise of south west people’ during the Elizabethan period.

New and Old Worlds

I think my favourite new discovery for this edition was Medieval POC (Tumblr) and its slightly more sedate companion Medieval POC.

The focus of this blog is to showcase works of art from European history that feature People of Color… to address common misconceptions that People of Color did not exist in Europe before the Enlightenment

It’s almost impossible to choose one post from the tumbling cornucopeia, but I loved this late-16th-century Italian Portrait of a Young Black Man.

The consistently brilliant British Library’s Digitised Manuscripts blog brought us an Old World View of the New World. This 16th-century Spanish manuscript includes among its vividly detailed miniature an illustration of a Spanish expedition to America in 1530, with the unsettling text, referring to Indian cannibalism (trans.): ‘The Indians, who until now had gorged themselves on human flesh like wild and untamed beings, by the virtue and sovereign power of Charles have been domesticated’. A follow-up post took an even older view of the new world in images of the edges of the known world and unknown world in earlier medieval manuscripts.

Samir S. Patel explores the archaeology of the Stone Towns of the Swahili Coast .

S.J. Pearce strikingly juxtaposes Convivencia, the Medieval Mediterranean and the San Francisco Unified School District at Notes from the Life of a Medievalist.

And an old early modern blogging friend, the Historianess, brought us up to date with her shiny new Atlantic World syllabus.

Science and Technology

A much loved old online friend, the Renaissance Mathematicus, also reached a milestone this month with 500 posts, including this Christmas post about Kepler’s thoughts on snowflakes.

The Corning Museum of Glass’s blog Behind The Glass had a post on Antonio Neri, the 17th-century Alchemist, glassmaker and priest by Paul Engle, who also blogs about Neri’s life and times at Conciatore.

Neri is famously known as the author of the first book devoted to the subject of making glass—L’Arte Vetraria, 1612.2 He has often been considered a mysterious figure, steeped in the intrigues of alchemy and transmutation.

Rohit Gupta of Kali & The Kaleidoscope posts about The Age Of Re:discovery and an upcoming online workshop in the history of science, exploring ancient and pre-modern navigational techniques.

Sex, Sexuality and Marriage

Notches is a new group blog on the history of sexuality. A cracking inaugural post is from Katherine Harvey on Bedsharing and Sexuality in Medieval Europe:

One of the biggest challenges facing medieval historians, and perhaps especially historians of medieval sexuality, is interpreting the actions of individuals at a remove of several centuries… For many modern readers, the fact that the two men shared a bed can mean only one thing: they were having a sexual relationship.

At Irish History Podcast blog there is a guest post by Finbar Dwyer, using a 1306 court case as a starting point for a discussion of prostitution in medieval Ireland.

Judith Weingarten of Zenobia: Empress of the East explores a remarkable series of sensuous golden pendants in Sex Play in Ancient Canaan (part 2, part 3).

Perfume and gold … and the image of a woman (left) reduced to her simplest female essences: face, breasts, navel, and a decidedly hairy pubic triangle.

The Scribe Unbound has a look at Marriage in the Margins of manuscripts from the wonderful collections of the Walters Art Museum.

Classical Wisdom Weekly delves into The Dirty World of Ancient Graffiti.

what sort of thing lined the walls of the shops, houses, brothels and public buildings of these ancient towns before they were paradoxically destroyed – and preserved – from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD?

Pain, Life and Death

At Early Modern Medicine Sara Read discusses Lady Elizabeth Hervey’s experiences of Rheumatism and Joint Pain, while Jennifer Evans has a post at the Perceptions of Pregnancy blog on the pain relief options for a woman in labour in the early modern period.

Sam Thomas guest posts at Susanna Calkins’ blog on death and the seventeenth-century midwife.

While we (rightly) associate midwives with bringing life in to the world, for several centuries midwives also sent people out. Most obviously, thanks to comparatively high infant and maternal mortality rates, midwives saw their share of death in the delivery room. But this is just the start, for midwives were key players in England’s legal and judicial system, and when a woman came into contact with the law, whether as a victim or a suspect, a midwife often was on the scene.

Samantha Sandassie at the newish blog Panacea explores the importance of networking and patronage to early modern medical practitioners.

At the beginning of the 17th century, the College was faced with a troublesome surgeon who proved that even frequent and flagrant flouting of College strictures could be attenuated by patron power.

David Meadows, the Rogue Classicist, looks at a recent story on Head-Hunting Romans.

Food (and Festive Gluttony)

At Research Fragments, Jonathan Green discusses prophecies discovered inside herring caught by fishermen in the Baltic or North Sea in 1587, which also inspired an anonymous parody a year later.

Ask The Past has advice from 1687 on How to Make Fake Bacon, while 18thC. Cuisine has a recipe for Royal Saucissons.

For those waking up after the Christmas and New Year festivities, Dr Alun had a post on the early modern history of “detoxing”.

Postscript: Then and Now

Another Damned Medievalist (Cesque #1 post) has been blogcrastinating. (Hang on, wasn’t she doing that in 2004 as well?)

Brandon Watson (Cesque #1) is still posting regularly at Siris and recently started a series on Prayers written by early modern philosophers, starting with the French Cartesian philosopher Nicolas Malebranche (1638-1715).

Konrad Lawson (Cesque #1) and George Williams (Cesque #1) can both be found at the group blog ProfHacker (for ‘Teaching, tech, and productivity’) these days. Konrad recently posted on Open Access publishing; George has some tips for 2014.

Henry Farrell (Cesque #1) is still an active member of Crooked Timber.

Miriam Jones (Cesque #1) occasionally surfaces at scribblingwoman2 and blogs more often in her role as President of the Association of University of New Brunswick Teachers (AUNBT) .

Natalie Bennett (Cesque #1) still blogs at Philobiblon from time to time, including posts about early modern women, when she isn’t too busy being the leader of the Green Party.

* * *

Many thanks to the people who sent nominations, and to all the bloggers who make it possible!

The next Carnivalesque will be at Anchora on or about 8 March.

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This could have been a much, much longer carnival. Blogging isn’t dead yet, whatever you might have read somewhere recently (though commenting on blogs might, sadly, be on its last legs…). Just like the people who do it, it continues to grow and evolve. So here’s to the next 100 Carnivalesques, whatever they may look like…

New project, new people: the Digital Panopticon

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Starting a new project is exciting and intensely busy (which is also my excuse for taking a month to blog about it). And the Digital Panopticon is the biggest one we’ve done yet.

‘The Digital Panopticon: The Global Impact of London Punishments, 1780-1925’ is a four-year international project that will use digital technologies to bring together existing and new genealogical, biometric and criminal justice datasets held by different organisations in the UK and Australia in order to explore the impact of the different types of penal punishments on the lives of 66,000 people sentenced at The Old Bailey between 1780 and 1925 and create a searchable website.

The Panopticon, for anyone who doesn’t know, was a model prison proposed by the philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832): “a round-the-clock surveillance machine” in which prisoners could never know when they were being watched. In Bentham’s own words: “a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example”. Although Bentham’s plan was rejected by the British government at the time, there were later prisons built along those lines (Wikipedia), and the panopticon has become a modern symbol of oppressive state surveillance and social control.

Bentham criticised the penal policy of transportation and argued that confinement under surveillance would prove a more effective system of preventing future offending. One of DP’s basic themes is to test his argument empirically by comparing re-offending patterns of those transported and imprisoned at the Old Bailey. But it will go further, to compare the wider social, health, generational impacts of the two penal regimes into the 20th century.

Technically, DP brings together a number of different methods/techniques we’ve worked on in various projects over the years: digitisation, record linkage, data mining and visualisation, impact, connecting and enhancing resources, with the goal of developing “new and transferable methodologies for understanding and exploiting complex bodies of genealogical, biometric, and criminal justice data”.

However, it’s a much more research-intensive project than the ones we’ve done recently, and that’s reflected in the depth and breadth of the seven research themes. These are based on three central research questions/areas:

  • How can new digital methodologies enhance understandings of existing electronic datasets and the construction of knowledge?
  • What were the long and short term impacts of incarceration or convict transportation on the lives of offenders, and their families, and offspring?
  • What are the implications of online digital research on ethics, public history, and ‘impact’?

What’s also exciting (and new for us) is that we’ll have PhD students as well as postdoc researchers (adverts coming soon). Lots of PhD students! Two are part of the AHRC funding package – one at Liverpool and one at Sheffield – and the partner universities have put up funding for several more (two each at Liverpool and Sheffield and one at Tasmania, I think).

The first at Sheffield has just been advertised and the deadline is 2 December (to start work in February 2014):

The Social and Spatial Worlds of Old Bailey Convicts 1785-1875

The studentship will investigate the social and geographical origins and destinations of men and women convicted at the Old Bailey between 1785 and 1875, in order to shed light on patterns of mobility and understandings of identity in early industrial Britain. Using evidence of origins from convict registers and social/occupational and place labels in the Proceedings, the project will trace convicts from their places of origin through residence and work in London before their arrests, to places of imprisonment and subsequent life histories. Analysis of the language they used in trial testimonies will provide an indication of how identities were shaped by complex backgrounds.

Spread the word – and watch this space (and the project website) for more announcements soon!

PS: the project is on Twitter: follow at @digipanoptic