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Archive newsletter, 22 August 2014

Welcome to the Forum newsletter for our latest round-up of news and cultural events from the Early Modern period.

There are a couple of conferences coming up in the UK which may be of interest. This is the last week to register for the New Directions in Early Modern British History Conference at Hull, which is being held on 5-6 September. The line up of speakers includes Mark Knights (Warwick), Jacqueline Rose (St Andrews), Charles Prior (Hull), Alexandra Walsham (Cambridge) and Phil Withington (Sheffield). More information here .

There is also a conference entitled Women Writing Across Cultures: Past, Present and Future, taking place at St Hilda’s College, Oxford, from September 26-28, with details here .

In other news this month, the Guardian reported that one of the most historically interesting swimming pools in Britain, a crumbling Georgian lido in Bath next to the River Avon, is to be restored and reopened. The Cleveland Pools Trust has been awarded a multimillion pound grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The baths opened in 1815 following an Act which banned nude bathing in the Avon, and it is laid out in the shape of a crescent, with bathing pools, changing rooms and a cottage where the supervisor used to live. It is thought to be the oldest baths of its type in western Europe, and closed in 1978.


On there is a review of Women and English Piracy, 1540-1720: Partners and Victims of Crime by John C Appleby. It was reviewed by Daniel Lange of the University of Kent who said it sets out to fill the gaps and explore how the lives of early modern women intersected with maritime plundering. There are examples of female agency, and also victimisation, partly as a result of the changing characteristic of piracy in the later seventeenth and early eighteenth century. The reviewer says the book demonstrates “a complex pattern of multi-faceted and ambiguous relations between women and piracy”, but said it would have benefited for a mention of women in the first 42-page chapter introducing the context. Despite this, he says it is well written and insightful.

Women in Eighteenth-Century Scotland: Intimate Intellectual and Public Lives edited by Katie Barclay and Deborah Simonton was reviewed by Professor Catriona Macleod of the University of Pennsylvania, who said it is in three sections, on intimate, intellectual and public lives. Prof McLeod said the variety of subjects covered “underlines Barclay and Simonton’s point that the diversity of new work emerging on 18th-century Scottish women is to be celebrated and encouraged”. She said one of the intentions of the book was to bring the history of women to bear on the story of the transformation of Scotland to a modern state, and it was successful in its focus on understanding the creation of an urban commercial world, but the early phases of industrial development received less coverage. It was though still an important work.

Queen Anne: Patroness of The Arts by James Anderson Winn was reviewed in the Independent by Susan Elkin who said the author’s angle on Anne’s life is unusual, in that he said she was more than a sad, ill woman who did not give the country an heir, but was a skilled administrator, competent politician, significant patron of the arts and a musician who commissioned works from composers including Purcell and Handell. The author has found 28 examples of music written and performed for Anne, has reproduced and analysed the stave music and had them recorded on a companion website. Ms Elkin said it is an interesting book and convinces the reader that the arts were central to Anne’s life and rule, but it might have been better structured chronologically rather than in discursive chapters loosely themed on events.

A Strange Business: Making Art and Money in Nineteenth-Century Britain by James Hamilton was reviewed in the Observer by Christopher Bray, who said it looks at the growth of the art market from the early 1800s onwards. However he said the title comes from a quote about painting by Turner, but Hamilton takes all the strangeness out of painting, and turns it into business, more interested in financiers and businessmen then in the artists and their work. In the Telegraph , Martin Gayford found the book “entertaining and original”, and said that the author wrote that the art trade went to early nineteenth century London as that was where the money was “made, held, spent and enjoyed”. He said Hamilton has an eye for good quote and anecdotes , and his text is richly studded with them, and it sometimes lures him away from the point.

Archbishop Pole by John Edwards was reviewed by Dr Francis Young. It is part of Ashgate’s Archbishops of Canterbury Series, and Dr Young said it was an example of first-rate historical scholarship. He said Pole can seem like a man who had lived several lives, including early years as a nobleman of royal blood serving Henry VIII, a controversial Catholic reformer who was nearly elected Pope, and the last Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury. Pope’s career as Archbishop takes up half the book, and allows the author to place him in the context of the latest scholarship on Marian England.

On the website, there is a Reviews in History podcast , in which Jordan Landes talks to Amanda Herbert about her new book, Female Alliances: Gender, Identity, and Friendship in Early Modern Britain. Amanda Herbert is assistant professor of history at Christopher Newport University, and Jordan Landes is history subject librarian at Senate House Library, University of London.


The White Devil at the Swan, Stratford, was reviewed by Michael Billington in the Guardian who said the director Maria Aberg approached Webster’s Jacobean tragedy with a strong stated agenda, to “explore and explode ideas of misogyny, power and female identity". He said the result is arresting and unusual, but “also smacks of high-concept, director-driven theatre”, and loses as much as it gains. The play, set in a decadent, modern Roman world, is on until November 29.

In the Guardian, Jessica Keath reviewed Tartuffe at the Sydney Opera House, and said it is a bawdy play about power, hypocrisy and gullibility, but Bell Shakespeare’s resurrection of the 1664 play features Australian phrases such as “crikey”, but “just because it has been Australianised does not mean it’s been brutalised”. She found Justin Fleming’s adaptation sophisticated and bracing, and the cast excellent, but the “Facebook-flavoured setting is overly brash”. It is on until August 23.

In the Guardian, Michael Billington reviewed The Two Gentlemen of Verona at the Royal Shakespeare theatre, Stratford, and said director Simon Godwin “eagerly explored the light and dark sides of romance in a striking RSC debut”. The comedy has not been performed on the RSC’s main stage for 45 years, and he said the audience falls upon it like an unknown play, and it is a delightful evening, helped by swift-moving designs by Paul Wills. The play is on until September 4.

In the Telegraph , Charles Spencer found the play superb, and with a “lovely bloom of youth about it”. He said it was a delightful early work and worked well in this production set in modern Italy, with good comedy, but also doing justice to the play’s more complex and dark side.