Welcome to the Forum newsletter for our latest round-up of news and cultural events from the Early Modern period.
The Early Modern Letters Online (EMLO) project of the Bodleian Library in Oxford, has recently announced that a complete inventory of the correspondence of Joseph Scaliger (1540-1609) is now part of their growing number of online catalogues of early modern correspondences. There is a full list of what is available here .
In a slightly related news item, applications for Brill Fellowships are open with a deadline of April 1. They are sponsored by publishing house Brill with the Scaliger Institute, and fellows carry out research in the Special Collections of Leiden University Library within one of the publishing areas of Brill in the Humanities. Details here .
Both the University of Warwick and Warwickshire Local History Society are celebrating 50 year anniversaries this year, and are co-hosting the Thirteenth Warwick Symposium on Parish Research on Saturday, May 16, at the university with the theme of Warwickshire Parishes: History and Legacy. There is more information and a registration form here .
The Department of History of Art at the University of York are holding an International Symposium, Naples at Compton Verney, in South Warwickshire, on June 17. The programme can be read here , and there is more information and contact details on the poster .
The School of Modern Languages and Culture at the University of Warwick has curated an online exhibition to provide a new angle on the Battle of Waterloo, the bicentennial anniversary of which is being commemorated this year. The exhibition looks at Napolean’s return from exile on Elba, raising of an army and march on Paris, before facing the Allies at Waterloo in June. It was launched on February 23, and will be releasing one object for each day of the ‘100 days’. It can be seen here .
In related news, Maev Kennedy in the Guardian revealed how a painting of Wellington by Sir Thomas Lawrence will go on show at the National Portrait Gallery, its first time on public display in the UK. It was commissioned by Lady Jersey in 1829 and unfinished at the artist’s death, and is now owned by a collector in the US. Wellington: Triumphs, Politics and Passions, opens on March 12, and will include other images, plus souvenirs sold across Europe after his victory at Waterloo.
Westminster Abbey is going to be transformed with its first new tower in nearly 300 years. The Abbey has got permissionto create public access to a museum in the triforium, the attic gallery. It will be the first new tower since Hawksmoor gave it the twin west towers in 1745, and will include a lift. The new space will exhibit items including the crimson velvet cope worn by the dean at the coronation of Charles II in 1661, when they had to be remade on the restoration of the monarchy.
It was also revealed that Strawberry Hill , Horace Walpole’s fantasy castle in London, is now open to the public. The house, with its spires, gargoyles, stairs copied from the tombs of medieval kings, and stained glass, is believed to have inspired Walpole to write The Castle of Otranto, the first Gothic novel. The house was on the 2004 World monument Fund’s list of endangered historical buildings, but it is now leased and run by the Strawberry Hill trust and has been restored with Heritage Lottery Fund, charity and public donations.
As the funeral for the discovered remains of Richard III approaches on March 25, in the Telegraph Dominic Selwood wrote a feature asking how bad was the king, and going over the story of the princes in the tower.
The Independent wrote about how scientists think they have identified a portrait of Anne Boleyn using facial recognition software that has compared the only confirmed image of Anne on a medal in the British Museum with a painting known as the Nidd Hall portrait. But the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in California was told a similar attempt to confirm the authenticity of portraits of William Shakespeare proved unsuccessful.
Back in December, former University of Warwick history Professor Gwynne Lewis, author of several books on the French Revolution, died. The Guardian has now printed an obituary .
Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Early American Republic, 1783-1812: A Political, Social, and Military History edited by Spencer C. Tucker was reviewed by Jonathan Chandler, who said it was the latest in an impressive series on military history published by ABC-CLIO, written in a popular style with plenty of black and white illustrations and maps, and should appeal to students of all levels. However it could have been improved by one or more critical essays giving the student some guidance on “grappling with the material and analysing the major themes within”.
The Struggle for the Eurasian Borderlands : From the Rise of Early Modern Empires to the End of the First World War by Alfred Rieber was reviewed by Simone Pelizza of the University of Leeds who says it was an ambitious attempt to answer such questions as the role of the Russian Empire in the exchange between Atlantic Europe and Pacific Asia in the modern era, how did it impact on the process of globalisation and what legacy it left in the internal regions of Eurasia. The reviewer said the book provides is impressive for its scholarship and breadth of analysis.
John Wyclif on War and Peace by Rory Cox was reviewed by Professor Christopher Allmand who said a focus on the study of war and peace in the Middle Ages, and the morality of war and violence, had made a systematic study of Wyclif’s views desirable, and this book provides that. However he said it tells little of the influence of his writing on Lollards and Huissites, but enables the reader to see where in his teachings on war he came from.
Space in the Medieval West: Places, Territories, and Imagined Geographies edited by Meredith Cohen and Fanny Madeline was reviewed by Sarah Ann Milne of the University of Westminster. The book is made up of 11 papers presented at a three-day international symposium in 2009, with the majority concentrated on France, though the reviewer said this turns out to be a strength of the collection. The authors come from departments of history, art history, architectural history, geography and archaeology. Ms Milne said she would have liked to see more of a dialogue between the papers, but it is an intriguing collection.
Reformation Unbound: Protestant Visions of Reform in England, 1525–1590 by Karl Gunther was reviewed by Donald McKim, who called it a detailed and persuasive study tracing the development of radical Protestant thought in England through the mid and late sixteenth century. He argues that tensions between those with more radical views of the church, and the established church, had been part of the English Reformation from the start. The reviewer said this helps us see how radical ideas about the “further reformation” of the church and nature of godly life during Elizabeth’s reign should not be seen as new departures within Protestantism, but as a continuation of ideas and tensions there from the start.
The Emergence of British Power in India, 1600-1784 : A Grand Strategic Interpretation by G. J. Bryant was reviewed by Dr James Lees of the Institute of Historical Research, who said in many ways it “sits apart from current historiographical trends in its concern with the military-political grand strategy of the fledgling Company state, rather than with the intellectual history of that state’s development and the manner in which its governance was conceptualised by Company servants”. Dr Lees said ultimately Bryan shows a huge amount of knowledge about the Company’s military operations in the eighteenth century, and asks important questions about the creation of the early colonial state.
Robert Love's Warnings: Searching for Strangers in Colonial Boston by Cornelia Hughes Dayton and Sharon Salinger was reviewed by Kristin O’Brassill-Kulfan at the University of Leicester. The book looks at the work of Robert Love who between 1765-74 was given the job of finding hundreds of non-residents in Boston and warning them that if they did not have legal residency they must go within 14 days, usually seen as a way of cities avoiding paying poor relief, and of controlling those of the lower classes. These authors though believe the process was an essentially bureaucratic requirement to determine which account should pay poor relief. The reviewer said the book fills an important gap in the history of pre-industrial poverty in the United States.
Mediatrix: Women, Politics and Literary Production in Early Modern England by Julie Crawford was reviewed by Alice Ferron of University College London, who said the author aims to look beyond the idea of the woman writer to the “startling range of women’s literary practices” and the “collaborative nature of literary production” , and in the process raises questions about the nature of pre-modern female intercession and of women’s involvement in the creation of texts. The book is divided into four chapters focusing on different female mediatrixes. The reviewer concludes that in some of the case studies it is difficult to fully conclude that the women she examines were involved in textual mediation.
A People's History of the French Revolution by Eric Hazan was reviewed by Michiel Rys of KU Leuven, who said it is David Fernbach’s translation of Hazan’s 2012 book Une histoire de la Révolution française, with the change of title showing the author’s original stance in this account, in which he does not try to deliver an objective historiographical account of the revolution, but tries to “kindle revolutionary enthusiasm as well and sees the world-changing potential of the French Revolution in contrast with our own neoliberal epoch, which is paralysed by a deep sentiment of political resignation and relativism”. The reviewer said he succeeds in staging the people as a powerful actor in the course of the revolution.
Banishment in the Early Atlantic World: Convicts, Rebels and Slaves by Gwenda Morgan and Peter Rushton was reviewed Professor Aaron Fogleman of Northern Illinois University, who said it was a “study of the exercise of imperial power in the early modern era and th way authorities at all levels moved, expelled, and transported people within the British Empire”. Prof Fogleman said the authors find two themes, that the views of the authorities on banishment changed from just banishment, to using people for labour, and that they sometimes went beyond the law to do that. The reviewer said the book was useful in also raising questions.
The Rape of Europa by Charles Fitzroy was reviewed in the Telegraph by Thomas Marks. The book tells the story of the Titian painting before its arrival at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston 120 years ago, when it had been the centrepiece of a number of collections, and survived near-catastrophes since being painted for Philip II of Spain the 1550s. The reviewer finds the book full of nuggets, with “rather dutiful passages of historical exposition”, and he regrets there is not a single colour plate of the painting.
Collecting Shakespeare: The story of Henry and Emily Folger by Stephen H Grant was the subject of a feature by HR Woudhuysen in the TLS. He tells the story of the Folgers’ collecting of Shakespeare-related items in the early twentieth century, which led to around 80 First Folios and 92,000 books overall being left to the Folger Library in Washington. The reviewer says Grant tells the story of the joint obsession clearly and efficiently, with “particularly engaging” illustrations.
Between Two Worlds: How the English Became Americans by Malcolm Gaskill was reviewed in the Independent by Colin Kidd who said it was an absorbing account which explodes the myth of America’s founding to place the colony back in the context of the old world. Gaskill notes that the colonists had a defensive mission, to recreate the world they felt was vanishing at home, and nostalgia predominated. However there were conflicts like those at home, such as over the building of an 80ft maypole at the pilgrimfathers’ colony at Plymouth.
Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London, from Chaucer to Dickens by Matthew Beaumont was reviewed by James Attlee in the Independent. He said it is a magisterial survey in which the author goes through layers of literary sources to find the vision of the city from the thirteenth century, when there was a prison to house “night-walkers and other suspicious persons”, through partying aristocrats accompanied by servants with torches, to those with nowhere else to go.
Shakespeare’s Princes of Wales by Marisa R Cull was the subject of an article by David Hawkes, Professor of English at Arizona State University, in the TLS, who wrote about the Welsh cultural influence on England in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, with the Tudors, Cecils and Cromwells having Welsh roots. He said this “absorbing and innovative study” looks at the profound significance of Wales in general and Glyn Dwr in particular on the life and work of Shakespeare.
Art and architecture
In the Guardian, Jonathan Jones reviewed Goya: The Witches and Old Women Album at the Courtauld Gallery in London until May 25. He said this exhibition lays bare where Goya’s terrifying scenes come from, through a sketchbook with drawings of witchcraft, old age and other obsessions. Jones concludes that the album was Goya recording his nightmares, and that the images are of Goya facing illness, age and death. In the Telegraph , Alastair Smart found the exhibition of “wickedly brilliant” drawings brought visitors closer to the Master, and said it was remarkable for the organisers bringing works together from around the world.
In the Guardian, Adrian Searle described the new Tate Britain exhibition, Sculpture Victorious , as an “epic fail” and insufferable, with no getting away from busts of Queen Victoria. He also found images of slavery troubling. The exhibition is on until May 25. MP Tristram Hunt writing in the same paper found it compelling, and “painstakingly curated in remarkable scholarly detail”.
In the Guardian, Oliver Wainwright wrote about an exhibition at Sir John Soane’s Museum in London, which looks at the factious world of architects and clients, and how the former have always used alluring, or deceiving, drawings to get their way. The exhibition uses drawings and models from the museum’s collection to tell the story of their role in “convincing clients, massaging reputations, propagating new styles – and even providing evidence in court”. Building a Dialogue: The Architect and the Client is on until May 9.
Bonaparte and the British at the British Museum in London until August 16 was reviewed by Jonathan Jones in the Guardian, who found it a “bizarre delve into patriotism from another age”, and said the hoard of cheap and sometimes cruel satirical prints about the Napoleonic wars was hard work, but worth the effort. Alastair Smart in the Telegraph said the exhibition was not just propaganda, but a reminder of Britain’s complex relationship with Napolean.
In the Independent , Zoe Pilger reviewed Rubens and His Legacy: Van Dyck to Cézanne at the Royal Academy, London. She found a problem with the curation, feeling that in each section the Rubens painting which influenced all others should be prominently displayed, or the show collapsed into a montage of paintings from different eras showing similar subject matter. Some of the original Rubens are not displayed at all, leaving it lacking a centre. The show is on until April 10.
The Independent reviewed Game of Crowns: The 1714 Jacobite Rising , which is on show at the National Library of Scotland until May 10, which uses devices such as boards and telephones where visitors can put their ears to hear the story of William of Orange, James VII and his baby son, and Anne and Mary. The reviewer found the title of the exhibition’s comparisons with Game of Thrones were not contrived in terms of the power plays going on.
The Life and Times of Fanny Hill is on at Bristol Old Vic. The play is the adaptation of John Cleland’s 1748 novel, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, which was banned for more than two centuries. Dominic Cavendish in the Telegraph was surprised the play was aimed at those aged 14 and over, but said the director retained chunks of the “engorged purple prose”, but made sure “modern-minded mockery is aimed at male peccadillos and the assumption that the ‘whores’ did it for the sexual kicks”. TV’s Caroline Quentin takes the starring role, and Cavendish said she convinces as a Haonverian moll who has seen better days, mixing impishness and melancholy. The play is on until March 7. In the Independent , Alice Hancock finds Caroline Quentin a delight, but the excellent production almost pornographic in its language and content, though she says what was designed as a book of titillation for educated men has been reclaimed for women.