Sunday, December 30, 2007

Whither social history?

In updating the "Historians' Debates" sections of the social and cultural history chapters for the 2nd ed. of Sources and Debates in English History, 1485-1714, we discovered a wealth of new studies. We list those at the end of chs. 1, 5, and 9. There appear, however, to be two general critiques of the directions taken by current soc/cult history.
  • First, it is increasingly common to reject any binary like elite/popular (or perhaps a multiplicity of those binaries). Ultimately, however, this comes down very much to insisting that there is also a middling sorts.
  • Second, new cultural history often means a search a la James Scott for hidden transcripts--how the non-elite worked secretly or obliquely to modify the public transcripts. The latter is what is in most records (e.g. State Papers, Quarter Session records) and is how the elite wants the relationship to be seen (there is irony in the attempt to denigrate elite/popular, while letting it reappear as a way to talk about these things). So the public transcript is always in contestation, is always being challenged, and the only way to get at this challenge, the hidden transcript is to read the pubic transcript obliquely. Years ago, USA Republican VP Spiro Agnew attacked effete, impudent snobs (those who didn't like the government's approach) because the silent majority was really on his/Nixon's side. Hidden transcripts, like the silent majority's intention, is essentially in the eye of the beholder.
  • The new social/cultural history is probably correct in its general assessments. And it can be very exciting for students (like approaching history through borderlands, or margins, or transgressions). But isn't it also in some sense constructed, instead of flowing from the record?
  • A corollary of the weapons of the weak/hidden transcripts argument: is that the people were decidedly political (pretty much in a timeless fashion) but were too bright to confront power directly (oh and to look at crowds and incipient political belief is wrong because they are already political--this one confuses me a bit)--and earlier historians are wrong for insisting that village rioters could ever have been pre-political.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Tilbury speechless?

This painting on wood in a church is of Elizabeth at Tilbury. Underneath the painting is printed a version of the following speech that another person recorded in a sermon of 1612:

  • Come on now my companions at armes, and fellow Souldiers, in the field, now for the Lord, for your Queene, and for the kingdome[.] [Flor what are these proud Philistines, that they should revile the Hoast of the living God? I have been your Prince in peace, so will I be in warre[;] neither will I bid you goe and fight, but come and let us fight the battell of the Lord[.] [Tlhe enemie perhaps may challenge my sexe for that I am a woman, so may I likewise charge their mould for that they are but men, whose breath is in their nostrels, and if God doe not charge England with the sinnes of England, little doe I feare their force.... Si deus nobiscum quis contra nos?
Compare this version of the speech she gave with that in Early Modern England and in Sources and Debates. The one in the text, dates from 1623 and is first printed in 1654.

See also: S. Frye, “The myth of Elizabeth at Tilbury,” Sixteenth Century Journal, 23, 1 (1992) [use of Tilbury Speech by the English (in word and image) ever since it “appeared” in 1623]; J.M. Green, “‘I my self’: Queen Elizabeth I's oration at Tilbury Camp,” Sixteenth Century Journal 28 (1997) [re-asserts that the traditionally accepted text is genuine]

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Thomas Cromwell Portrayed: Not

Patrick Collinson, Short Oxford History of The British Isles: The Sixteenth Century (Oxford, 2002), xiv, gives a good reading of a portrait of Thomas Cromwell (see left). Unfortunately, I find the identical portrait accompanying the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article of George Neville, third Baron Bergavenny (c.1469-1535). Which is correct?  Inquiring minds want to know? Is the Oxford History or the Oxford DNB correct?

Dr. Philip Carter, Publication Editor, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, was kind enough to respond to my query:
  •  "it appears that the image we use is correctly identified as Holbein's pencil sketch of Neville, despite the addition of 'Lord Cromwell' in the bottom left of the image.  Roy Strong, Artists of the Tudor Court (183), p. 21 identifies the portrait as Neville and notes that the reference to 'Lord Cromwell' and 'Holbein' was added later; J.Rowlands Holbein: Portraits of Hans Holbein the Younger, complete edition (1985) also identifies the portrait as of Neville."

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Reformation England: the bibliography

Bibliographies covering the 16th-century Reformations (Dickens, Scarisbrick, Haigh, Duffy, MacCullough, etc.)

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