Sunday, November 25, 2012

Early Modern Blogosphere: Update

A second batch of references to "Crowdsourcing the early modern blogosphere" features considered analyses and considerations. "The echoes of cyberspace," by tympanandfrisket (22 November 2012) references my open review draft article on the early modern blogosphere, and finds affirmation of my argument in Leah Marcus’s "The Silence of the Archive and the Noise of Cyberspace" (in The Renaissance Computer: Knowledge Technology in the First Age of Print, ed. Neil Rhodes and Jonathan Sawday, London: Routledge, 2000). Tympan and Frisket also refers to an extended post on the early modern blogosphere at Mercurius Politicus ("Crowdsourcing the early modern blogosphere," 19 November 2012), which prompted me to comment on anonymity and the role of recycling at Mercurius. Here, I will only underscore his comments on the impermanency of blogging: "bloggers stop blogging, sites get closed down or pulled." Indeed, one blog that I planned to include in my network analysis retreated behind an invitation wall on the very day I devoted to analyzing it. Matthew Simmermon-Gomes over at the Molinist also limns both my blogosphere piece and the Mercurius post ("Crowdsourcing," 20 November 2012). Fashioning the Early Modern: Creativity and Innovation in Europe, 1500-1800 references "Crowdsourcing" on its FB page and quotes from my historiographical section on the usage of the term early modern on its blog ("Blogs on the early modern – Newton Key: Crowdsourcing the Early Modern Blogosphere," Fashioning the Early Modern," November 23, 2012, by Jasmina Bolfek-Radovani). [Update: "What’s This 'Early Modern' of Which You Speak?," in the SMH (Society for Military History) Blog, November 9, 2012, by Jamel Ostwald, delves into the periodization question (referencing my discussion of the usage of "early modern," but also considering the various usages of other terms).]

Friday, October 26, 2012

Black Early Modern London: Why It Matters

from Malcolm Balen, The Secret
History of the South Sea Bubble

(London, 2003), 199
My early modern England class Thursday began with a discussion about whether or not a textbook should mention Black Africans in Elizabethan or Stuart London if the total number is a very small percentage of the city's population (see previous post). Students were not sure. Then we discussed documents in Key and Bucholz, ed., Sources and Debates, ch. 5 - about apprentices, petitions of the poor over grain prices, women seizing grain, and JPs responding by punishing at least a token number of engrossers/regrators. I asked whether or not the editors should have included in the sourcebook such an ephemeral piece as the anonymous note encouraging apprentices to rise (doc. 5.1, 1598). One student argued against including it noting that these apprentices did not affect events and laws (indeed, they probably did not follow up on their threat). But each document discussed indicated a dialog or at least a dance between rulers and ruled. The agency of women grain rioters and poor petitioners sometimes provoked a change in the actions of the lawmakers and law enforcers, at least in the short run.

So we come back to Blacks in early modern England. Before the 18th century, how did they impact the narrative? For starters, we can note that they were there, and writers and engravers noticed that they were there. And, to the extent that is true, we need to rethink English identity, and how what they thought about themselves affects the narrative.

To give one example, Jacobite-fancier, Eveline Cruickshanks makes the following comment about the appearance of 200 Black Surinamese marching with William of Orange along with Finlandiers in bearskins up to Exeter afer landing in November 1688: "[w]e can merely guess the feelings of various sectors of the population." (The Glorious Revolution, Basingstoke, Hampshire, Macmillan, 2000, 26). By which she means (and she must mean something, as the book is too short for meaningless statements to survive), that such exotics were completely outside the ken of simple, traditional-minded Anglo-Saxons. Thus, is there any further proof needed that this was a foreign invasion, an outside force of occupation from "the Other"?  Perhaps. But, if the English were used to the occasional Black boy servant, Black hair dressers, even Black sailors throughout the cities and, indeed, in smaller coastal ports, then her observation falls flat. The idea that the English would have no idea what to make of foreigners, and Black foreigners at that, would certainly be ludicrous in the late-18th century, and probably doesn't apply to the late-17th century either, and might not apply to the late-16th century.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Black Early Modern London: "Concrete Slaveship" or "Freedom Street"?

John Blanke, black trumpeter at Henry VIII's court
Royal Trumpeters, including
black trumpeter John Blanke (1511)
A bit unusual to bring in Aswad or the incomparable Ken Boothe to the rarefied world of early modern historians (instead of Freedom Street, the London reference should probably be Eddy Grant's "Electric Avenue," but never mind). But the excuse is an announcement regarding an episode of Michael Woods' "The Great British Story," which focuses on race (“Britain’s First Black Community,” BBC News Magazine, July 20, 2012). The video itself is not available in my area, but the piece has some interesting detail about the presence of Black Londoners, especially in the Elizabethan period, some 25 in St Botolph Aldgate alone (Wood draws from Guildhall Library's set of parish register entries "Black and Asian people discovered in records held by the Manuscripts Section"). The story provided for the entire early modern period is sketchy, at least it includes little detail for the 17th century. But, by the end of the period, "[b]y the 18th Century, it is thought as many as 20,000 black servants lived in London."

May Fair, London (1716, detail)
So where is this story of Black Londoners in our own textbook, Robert Bucholz and Newton Key, Early Modern England 1485-1714: A Narrative History, 2nd ed. (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), or in any major textbooks of the period? We discuss the African slave trade, but the only mention that I recall of anything to do with Blacks within the British Isles is mention of Ferdinando Gorges, known as "King of the Blacks," who retired back to Herefordshire with profits from Caribbean plantations in the late 17th century. As we have been contracted for third editions of the textbook and sourcebook, let me assure you that conversations about this will be had, betwixt Bob and Newton.

But, returning to Aswad and Boothe, the meta-narrative of this story is not clear. Did Blacks in early modern London experience Freedom Street, or a new subaltern situation in the Concrete (sic) Slaveship of the London streets? Note, again, two sentences from the Wood article/announcement:
Bacchus and Venus: or, a select
collection of near 200... songs and catches
in love and gallantry
courtesy of Angela McShane)
  • "Employed especially as domestic servants, but also as musicians, dancers and entertainers, their numbers ran to many hundreds, maybe even more.
    And let's be clear - they were not slaves. In English law, it was not possible to be a slave in England (although that principle had to be re-stated in slave trade court cases in the late 18th Century, like the "Somersett" case of 1772)."
Was the entire period some sort of incipient Somersett case, where setting foot on English soil made one free? Or, were they free at best to be servants or some sort of exotic entertainer?
Perhaps the numbers are too small to make a final judgement. But, then, all the more reason to be sure that the meta-narrative of "it was not possible to be a slave in England," meets the reality of the baptism of "Thomas Sambo, Mr Heywood’s black boy," 29 October 1710.

[Update: followup here.]

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Announcing the early modern blogosphere

Colleagues on my floor find the term early modern blogosphere somewhat humorous - was there a blogosphere in the early modern period? But, of course, the term early modern itself didn't exist during the period, nor was it applied to the era more than sporadically before the 1960s (and Tudor historians think they have problem because of recent claims that their term is anachronistic). Moreover, at least two famous early modern Englishmen, Samuel Pepys and now Daniel Defoe have been blogging away over the last decade. Pepys, alas, has finished, but Defoe appears to be hard at work blogging, or is it re-blogging his Review.

Anyway, a draft of Newton Key, “Crowdsourcing the Early Modern Blogosphere,” which is scheduled to be published in historyblogosphere: Bloggen in den Geschichtswissenschaften, ed. Peter Haber and Eva Pfanzelter (Munich: Oldenbourg Verlag, forthcoming, 2013), has been posted in an open source peer review version. It is available at for review and comments (the site will ask you to register before you can enter comments, but you can do so quickly with minimal detail) through mid-December 2012.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Scots as Spivs?

In the 1950s, Hugh Trevor-Roper reviewed the then new work by G.R. Elton, Tudor Revolution in Government (Cambridge, 1954), in the columns of The New Statesman, a review that was later published in his Historical Essays (1957). He concluded by tracing what Trevor-Roper and Elton regarded as the solid, lasting achievements of Thomas Cromwell after his death and well into Elizabeth's reign and beyond. The last paragraph of the review reads:

Robert Carr, Earl
of Somerset

Arthur English, in
Spiv character
  • Twelve years later [1612] 'Mr. Secretary' [Robert Cecil], now first Earl of Salisbury was dead; and in that year Cromwell's political system, already rotted from within, crumbled at the heart. How could it be otherwise when a system requiring constant vigilance by efficient, conscientious officials, had been handed over to the gilded spivs of our Scottish kings? The citadel had been converted into a playhouse, and when the attack came, within a generation, the archaic ecclesiastical battlements, desperately built on by Archbishop Laud, were powerless to save it. The Council and its Prerogative Courts, the State Church and the feudal taxes all that was left of Cromwell's political work foundered in that great rebellion. So did his credit. He was the founder of 'Tudor despotism', and the Whigs, unwilling to defend him, jettisoned his body to the papists, hungry for posthumous revenge upon the Hammer of the Monks. In the 1830's they probably did not even know that it was his more durable administrative work whose now obsolete relics they were at last sweeping away. But now that the Whig era is over and bureaucrats, with their virtues and their faults, have become more obvious, we may perhaps allow a little belated praise to the first and greatest, if the most formidable, of our modern bureaucrats: Thomas Cromwell. (Historical Essays, 78)
Never mind the idea of Cromwell as Richard Crossman: coming soon, Yes, Minister Cromwell. Instead, note Trevor-Roper's phrase emphasized above in bold-face.

I am intrigued by the "gilded spivs." Unless one is a British film noir aficionado of the 1490s, anyone born after 1960 could be excused for not following Trevor-Roper's metaphor. Ditto if one lived any time before mid-20th century. Google Ngram Viewer points to John Worby's Spiv’s Progress (1939) as one of the earliest usages, but its reference to small-time criminals of the "fell off the back of a lorry" type rose and fell with rationing in the 1940s and 1950s.

So, spivs at the court of James VI and I? This is a debate with roots in the work of Joel Hurstfield and Linda Levy Peck. More recent work like that of Alastair Bellany might have us examine the language and images that drove the critique of court corruption in the early Stuart period. Thus, it is perhaps in the realm of rhetoric rather than reality that Trevor-Roper's claim can best be analyzed. But those of the older view might be steeled to hold their position by the peculation and worse in naval procurement found in The Jacobean commissions of enquiry, 1608 and 1618, ed. A.P. McGowan (Publications of the Navy Records Society, 116, 1971). In any case, spivs in the 1940s found room to maneuver in the inequalities and inefficiencies found in the rapid expansion and resulting profits to be made in the military-industrial complex.

Which then takes us away from Trevor-Roper's fun at the expense of Scots, and to a useful research question: what is the spiv-equivalent haunting London's back streets in ages of massive military expansion (the 1640s, the 1690s, etc.)? Has anyone done a comparison of the early-modern spiv (procurer/fixer) over time? Answers on the back of a postcard please.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Tudors? Part Deux: Periodizing the Early Modern

In my previous noted the discussion generated by Cliff Davies' press release regarding the Tudor myth. ("Is ‘Tudor England’ a Myth?," University of Oxford, 28 May 2012). He had made this claim several years earlier, in Clifford S. L. Davies, “The Tudor Delusion,” The Times Literary Supplement, June 11, 2008. ("The Tudor Delusion: We Are Wrong to Talk About ‘the Tudors’ – After All, Tudor England Hardly Knew the Name Itself," Medieval Material Culture Blog, 11 June 2008). To quote Dr. Davies at length from the latter:
  • As far as the monarchs are concerned, it is salutary to remind ourselves that their own image of themselves was as the undoubted representatives of the traditional English royal house, rather than as a family of Welsh adventurers. Or, in the case of Queens Mary and Elizabeth, that their reference point in their assertion of their royal right was to their father, rather than to their grandfather as “founder of the dynasty”....
  • As for their subjects, the “Tudor” term again implies a degree of self-consciousness, of self-identification, which is excessive. It elevates 1485 as a fundamental break.... [C]oncepts of time, of historical periodicity, were far more fluid than the phrase “Tudor era” would suggest. There was little sense of a break with what we, again anachronistically, call the “Middle Ages”....
  • [In a] fairly typical almanac, for instance, published in 1628..., there is no mention of either 1485 or of 1603.... 
  • We must learn to do without the Tudors.
Should we jettison the concept of establishing "the Tudor dynasty" with which we begin chapter one of our textbook Early Modern England? Moreover, did no one think of a dynasty beginning in 1485? How did the English or even the British periodize their own past? One cannot just look at the years immediately following 1485 of course. Periodization is a way of thinking about and ordering the past; it formulates slowly. Instead, it might be useful to look at how the seventeenth century periodizes the sixteenth.

I recently began my upper division survey with A Brief Cronology of Great Britain, From the first discoveries of this Isle, through the severall Conquests of the Romans, Saxons, Danes, and Normans (1656), a broadside that not only covers all of English history, but a brief history of the Roman Empire and the untimely ends of its rulers. (Ultimately, it is a product of  republican/Commonwealth thought; recall that this is published during the Cromwellian Protectorate. That need not concern us here, except the author is interested in showing how dynasties begin and, especially, end.) Here is the part at length about what we might call the Tudor dynasty:
  • But Henry Plantagenet placed on the Throne. 331 years taken up in the Reigns of 14 Kings of his line; but these branches were torn down by home-bred broyls, till Tender of Lancaster with Plantagenet of Yorke, gave them sap by Marriage, whereby the long dead stem began to bud forth, and five renowned Princes of that name succeeded.
  • The first of them, the richest and wisest King of this Western world; viz. Henry 7.
  • The second, the wonder of the Papal Authority; Henry 8.
  • The third, the hopefullest in pious actions; Edward 6
  • The fourth, servent (sic) for Romes Religion; Queen Mary.
  • The fifth renowned, Queen Elizabeth; under whose Reigns one hundred and sixteen years did compleatly run.
  • And from her in the person of one Soveraign, Britain returned again to the old Britains, and to her old name, viz. King James.
So what do we have? Henry II to Richard III = "14 Kings"; 1154-1485 = "331 years." Henry VII to Elizabeth = "five renowned Princes of that name"; 1485-1603 = 118, what is referred to here as "one hundred and sixteen years." But what was "that name"? It is never mentioned - ending the "home-bred broyls" (the Wars of the Roses), was a grammatically-challenged process by which "Tender of Lancaster with Plantagenet of Yorke, gave them sap by Marriage." The "long dead stem" which "began to bud" reminds one of the frontispiece of The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Famelies of Lancastre & Yorke (in Sources and Debates in English History, see previous posting). In fact, Davies would seem to be correct that "Tudor" was little used, even in the succeeding century, but incorrect to claim that the house was not viewed as a dynasty "Princes of that name," and incorrect to note that 1485 was rarely used to periodize the period.

Except the numbers that don't add up hint at a problem - why 116 not 118 years? Henry VII was crowned, 30 October 1485; and he married Elizabeth on 18 January 1486. Only on 25 November 1487 was Elizabeth crowned queen consort. Did the Protectorate author of the broadside have too tender a conscience to claim this line for the Welsh bastard Twdr line? Did the marriage of 1486 and the crowning of Elizabeth of York in 1487 (which would then be 116 years to 1603), trump triumph on Bosworth Field in 1485? In any case, while Tudor-Stuart periodization might be anachronistic, it dates from well before the era of modern historiography.  (Incidentally, the 1656 image of the Briton, owes a lot to the title page of John Speed's The History of Great Britaine, 1611, left, and that owes its image to John White's images. See Sam Smiles, "John White and British Antiquity: Savage Origins in the Context of Tudor Historiography," in European Visions, American Voices, ed. Kim Sloan, British Museum.)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tudor: A Rose By Any Other Name?

Was there a Tudor Age?  Historian C.S.L. Davies (somewhat ironically the author of, among many other works, "a Study in the Effectivenness of Early Tudor Government,” Economic History Review 17, 2, 1964: 234–48) says no, or at least not until the mid-18th century.
  • "He says that in Welsh documents the name of Tudor is 'celebrated' but it was 'considered an embarrassment in England.'
  • "Henry VIII preferred to represent himself as the embodiment of the 'union of the families of Lancaster and York," says Dr Davies.  
  • "Dr Davies suggests that the idea of a distinct Tudor period of history was first established in the 18th Century by the historian and philosopher, David Hume." ("'Tudor era' is misleading myth, says Oxford historian," by Sean Coughlan, BBC, 29 May 2012)
So we were all duped (although Sources and Debates, ch. 2 and earlymodernengland can be grateful that we emphasize the frontispiece of The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Famelies of Lancastre & Yorke, above). But did Mary or Elizabeth ever emphasize their relation to their grandfather, Henry VII? That would restore the claim somewhat. Certainly Henry VIII emphasized his descent from his father in the portrait to the left (although his mother is there too, so we still have simply the union of the two noble families). From the Royal Collections, they note that this is a copy "by the Flemish artist Remigius van Leemput for Charles II from the life-size mural on the wall of the Privy Chamber in Whitehall which was painted by Holbein for Henry VIII in 1537..., destroyed by the fire at Whitehall Palace on 4 January 1698."

In any case, Davies suggests that, in effect, Twdr was too Plaid Cymru for 16th-century Westminster.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Invention of Early Modern England?

The blog "A Trumpet of Sedition" has published one of the lectures on "The Invention of the Modern World," given by Alan Macfarlane in March-April 2011 at Tsinghua University in China. The themes of the lecture posted (the absence of an English peasantry, the primacy of individual not familial property, the general "peculiarities of the English," to borrow a phrase from E.P. Thompson)  should be familiar to those who have or read Professor Macfarlane's works since his Origins of English Individualism (1978), or who have studied under him (as I have), or have perused his massive website on his published and unpublished work, his databases, and image archives.
Alan Macfarlane explains how the English used
the organization of public schools - Headmaster, House
masters, Prefects - as a model to run the empire.
Professor Macfarlane is also publishing chapters based on these The Wang Gouwei lectures in The Fortnightly Review, and each is available freely for about a month.  The first two chapters (What is the Question? and War, Trade, and Empire) are to be archived (only available for subscribers) from tomorrow, 15 May.  So get reading.

Professor Macfarlane "suggests that there is a great deal of continuity in England from the eleventh or twelfth century and that there is no break in the ‘long arch’ of modernity over the last thousand years." Such a long arch of modernity might make one wonder about any book titled, like ours, Early Modern England. If the conditions for modernity exist from the Normans or Angevins onwards, why point to the Tudor-Stuart period? The answer, I think, begins by noting that there is a lot of difference in English political economy under, say, Henry IV, and under Anne. Another part of the answer, drawing from Macfarlane himself, lies in the global nature of Englishness by the late 17th century.  That is, the warlike English impose their sense of modernity on many parts of the world from the mid-17th century onwards.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Speaking of Wales...

Lloyd Bowen of Cardiff University has filmed a couple of nice introductions to early modern Wales (here and below) speaking before a (massive) map of Wales (in his department office?). (Dr. Bowen is involved in the new BBC series The Story of Wales, unfortunately not available in North America.) He points out the trans-formative nature of the English Civil War: the Cromwellians (he says Cromwell, but I think that others cared more) had to invent a revolutionary ruling group in heavily Royalist Wales, and they did so at least in part through the Society of the Propagation of the Gospel in Wales.

Lloyd Bowen on Wales and the English Civil War from Bruce Etherington on Vimeo.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

High feeding and smart drinking among Lords and Commoners

Simonds D'Ewes, Journals of All the Parliaments
during the Reign of Queen Elizabeth

(1682), frontispiece
Kudos to The History of Parliament (HoP) Trust for making available online all the constituency and member biographies existing in print (for the early modern period, that includes material on the members of the House of Commons for the years 1386-1421, 1509-1629, and 1660-1820): The History of Parliament: British Political, Social & Local History.  The massive HoP project is now quickly, simply, and freely usable.  I have incorporated it into an assignment on Mapping Unreformed England, 1660-1832 (at least I did so after one of my students discovered it as I was explaining how to use the print volumes!).

The History of Parliament Trust has published a delightful teaser of sorts for the forthcoming multi-volume prosopographical study on the House of Lords, 1660-1715: Ruth Paley and Paul Seaward, eds., Honour, Interest and Power: An Illustrated History of the House of Lords, 1660-1715 (Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell Press, 2010), with an illustrated section on "'High feeding and smart drinking': clubs, dinners and party politics," 232-4, with a couple of quotes from Newton Key, “‘High feeding and Smart drinking’: Associating Hedge-Lane Lords in Exclusion Crisis London,” in Exclusion and Revolution: the worlds of Roger Morrice, 1675-1700, ed. Jason McElligott (Aldershot, Hants.: Ashgate, 2006), 154-73, for which citation I am most grateful.  I do wonder, however, the extent to which Lords eschewed their own townhouses for meeting in coffeehouses.  How would one measure public vs. private feasting and drinking?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Giants and Pygmies: The Politics of Body Types in Restoration England?

A new work published, John Spurr, ed., Anthony Ashley Cooper, first Earl of Shaftesbury, 1621-1683 (Ashgate, 2011) returns a long overdue spotlight onto the great leader among the CABAL, the country party, and the Whigs.  (I say long overdue, but we cover his political career at least extensively in ch. 9 of Robert Bucholz and Newton Key, Early Modern England 1485-1714: A Narrative History, 2nd ed., Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.)  The new Ashgate catalog includes the following quote from Mark Kishlansky: "A collection of essays that befits the stature of the Earl of Shaftesbury."  That quote sent me on a quest to recall the exact words of John Dryden's hatchet job on Shaftesbury in Absalom and Achitophel: "A fiery Soul, which working out its way / Fretted the Pigmy Body to decay."  Even Tim Harris, a contributor to the volume notes in his ODNB biography: "He inherited the short stature of his grandfather and as an adult was markedly below average height." Harris, ‘Cooper, Anthony Ashley, first earl of Shaftesbury (1621–1683)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008)

All of which might make us ask what Prof. Kishlansky was suggesting.  A wider question is the politics of physical description.  The revamping of the Yorkist Richard III as hunched and crippled by Tudor apologists such as William Shakespeare has long been commented upon (Bucholz and Key, ch. 1).  Have we been influenced to do the same to Shaftesbury, the Count Tapski of Tory propaganda?  [This thought is influenced by some of the current work of my co-author, Robert Bucholz, on political images of fatness.  While that issue doesn't apply in Shaftesbury's case, as Prof. Harris notes "the Habeas Corpus Amendment Act, sometimes known as the Shaftesbury Act..., passed...only because Lord Grey of Warke...decided to count one particularly fat peer as ten, and no one spotted the error."]

Friday, January 13, 2012

Rebels and Rulers, Collect Them All!

 From a series of 1923 Cigarette Cards entitled Celebrities and their Autographs.  Oliver Cromwell (d. 1658) and James, Duke of Monmouth (d. 1685). I think the autographs might look more convincing than the portraits.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Pour encourager les autres

A note for a new semester:
  • "It is not the want of our Abilities, that makes us use our Notes, but it 's a Regard unto our Work, and the good of our Hearers.  I use Notes as much as any Man, when I am lazy, or busie, and have not leisure to prepare." Cotton Mather, Magnalia Christi Americana (1702)

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