Category Archives: Early modern history

Books Early modern history Feminism Women's history

Notes from Women and the Pamphlet Culture of Revolutionary England 1640-1660 by Marcus Nevitt

p. 36 Katherine Chidley desired “to develop a much more finely nuanced view of the reciprocal dynamics of pamphlet controversy than Edwards and other polemicists of the period: she eschews the annihilative rhetoric and rhetorical dead ends of textualized violence. Thus her own texts do not feature as ‘gloves’ thrown scornfully in the face of an implacable opponent, but betray, as will be shown, a pacifistically dialogical perception of the pamphlet form and the agency involved in early modern pamphlet exchange. Thus in entitling her response to Antapologia as A New Yeares Gift .. To Mr Thomas Edwards; That he may breake off his old sins in the old yeare, and begin the New yeare, with new fruits of Love, she binds herself not to a masculinist rhetorical system of incisive printed assertion and its counter, but to a very different series of reciprocal obligations, as inherent in gift exchange…

p. 37 “inevitably going to be perceived as disruptive and transgressive. However, the sheer violence of the responses from the likes of Woodward and Goodwin, men who were, relatively speaking, her religious allies, requires further explanation. … some women could write controversial religious literature in this period that was met (at least initially) with praise rather than opprobrium. However, the prophetic modes of writing by women like Anna Trapnel, Elizabeth Poole or Mary Cary afford them protection which is denied Chidley because of her generic choices … Chidley writes animadversion… an extremely common form of pamphlet writing which proceeds through the absorption, reconfiguration and rebutal of other printed texts and images.”

p. 41 “her inclusive manipulation of animadversion’s and humanism’s first principles (that truth must be attained through dialogue) actually has its roots in a pro-toleration position which was daringly egalitarian and sought to uphold the fundamental democratic rights of virtually all citizens and believers irrespective of wealth and social status … While Chidley was as virulently anti-Catholic as the next 17th-century puritan, she was, nonetheless, relatively unusual in her persistent assertion that: “Jews and Anabaptists may have a toleration also”.

p. 45 “Agency for Chidley, as it was indeed for Trapnel, is thus fundamentally dependent on a willingness to stress the presence of others in the creative process. Her animadversions open up the confines of the genre by downplaying the importance of the individual, combative author-hero in favour of a complex exploration of the multiple agencies required to make pamphlet dialogue and (as importantly) religious toleration work.”

p. 59 “Women’s weeping has become a symptom of, as well as an appropriate reaction to, the current crisis… 17th-century parliamentarians and republicans were not slow to notice that women formed an integral part of the royalist symbolic economy at the time of the regicide, and they were quick to accord them a passive status in their own political world. Alongside republican masculinism, many male-authored, non-royalist pamphlets discuss the nature of the trial and execution of Charles in terms whereby anti-monarchism and antifeminism appear to be almost synonymous. Thus, according to Milton, those who mourned the death of the king were not only the ‘blockish vulger’ of ‘the Common sort’, but were also predominately female. Hence he draws parallels with the Iliad’s ‘captive women’ who ‘bewailed the death of Patroclus in outward show’ but were actually grieving for their own enslaved condition.”

p. 93 “Elizabeth Alkin, or ‘Parliament Joan’ as she was frequently labelled by male contemporaries, is one woman who significantly problematizes the prevalent notion of an all-male civil war news press. … p. 1010 “in the climactic year of 1649, at about the same time as Elizabeth Poole was making her appearances before the General Council of the Army, Alkin .. became a book trade informant, searching out unlicensed or seditious presses for the authorities. In July of that year, A Perfect Diurnall, makes reference to ‘one Jone (a clamerous woman) whose husband was hang’d at Oxford for a spire, & she sometimes employed in finding out the presses of scandalous pamphlets’.

p. 105 “between 21 June 1650 and 30 September 1651 Alkin involved herself in the publication of ten issues of different newsbooks.”

p. 121 “On the Sunday morning of 17 July 1652 at a chapel in Whitehall not far from the tavern which was the scene for Anna Trapnel’s The Cry of a Stone, Oliver Cromwell’s chaplain, Peter Sterry, ascended the pulpit to begin his weekly sermon before a congregation packed with dignitaries, soldiers and statesmen. .. I saw at one end of the Chappell a great disturbance among the people … in the midst of a crowd a Woman … continually withholds the unspeakable horror, the ‘monstrousness’ of a solitary, semi-naked ‘mad’ woman in a chapel full of armed guards. The newsbooks of the following week were quick to recycle the incident … all other newsbook accounts corroborate the woman’s nudity but flesh it out with various other details . A Perfect Account therefor informed its readers not only that a woman ‘stripped herself quite out of her cloathes in Church’ but also that she ‘cried out, Resurrection I am ready for thee’ and was accordingly ‘committed to custody’. The woman’s direct speech and the authorities ‘examination and exemplary punishment’ of her are also recorded in .. The Faithful Scout, and Mercurius Britannicus confirms the woman’s words but concludes its coverage of the event with a lamentation of the fact that the woman escaped ‘without any known Mulct [punishment]” … a London-based Scottish writing master called David Brown.. outraged at the possibility that the incident might have gone unpunished, penned a scurrilous pamphlet inveighing against the actions of the woman and any who might be inclined to sympathize or support her … the only further clues that the pamphlet provides as to the woman’s identity is the single statement that she is ‘a bold woman of about 30 years old, sober in her speech.”



Books Early modern history History

From “Religious Refugees in the Early Modern World” by Nicholas Terpstra

p. 140-142 Al-Hasan Ibn Muhammad al-Wazan al-Fasi (c. 1494-1554)
“He was born in Granada shortly after the Spanish conquest, and by some accounts his mother was a Jewish convert to Islam. The family soon joined the diaspora that saw many thousands of Granadan Muslims cross to North Africa. They relocated to Fez, where an uncle served in the sultan’s court. His uncle’s influence secured a university education and a place in court for al-Hasan al-Wazan and when barely a teenager he travelled with the uncle on diplomatic missions into the Maghreb to Timbuktu. At 21 he went on his own to the Ottoman court in Istanbul. He witnessed the Ottoman conquest of Mamluk Egypt in 1517 and travelled further into Egypt in 1517, and into Arabia before returning home in 1518. He never arrived. Catholic corsair pirates working with the crusading order of St John out of the island of Rhodes seized the ship and imprisoned the passengers. When they realised that the 24-year-old boy was a university-educated diplomat from a prominent Moorish family they bundled him off to Rome where, after a short stay in the papal prison of Castel San Angelo he was presented to Pope Leo X… In 1520 al-Hazan al-Wazan converted to Catholicism and was baptized by Pope Leo X himself with the Latin name of Joannes Leo de Medici; most people in Rome referred to him simply as Giovanni Leone… he was a potential intelligence asset at a time when the pope feared the Ottomans would attack Italy from their new territories along the North African coast … He translated the epistles of St Paul into Arabic, in 1521, although his later writings and actions make it clear that his ‘conversion’ was a strategic and not a spiritual act. …It also set the stage for his most famous work, The Description of Africa, whose popularity led many to call him ‘Leo Africanus’. … {he] wrote this after a few years travelling around Italy during which he lived with a family of Jewish Iberian exiles in Bologna and wrote some other works on Arabic medicine and grammar … Al-Hasan al-Wazan disappeared just before some of Charles V’s unpaid and restless Germany mercenaries sacked Rome in 1527 … he most likely returned to Tunis and Islam. He may have journeyed to Fez, although there is no record of him in either place, or anywhere else for that matter. He seems not to have realised his oft-stated goal of writing an account of Europe for Muslims.”

p. 147 “Elizabeth Dirks was a Frisian girl sent to a convent by her noble family. Hearing of the execution of a local Anabaptist, she began studying the Latin New Testament and was drawn to radicalism. A year in convent prison failed to shake her convictions, and she fled disguised as a milkmaid, taking shelter with an Anabaptist family. She worked and taught with Menno Smons, and may have been the first Mennonite deaconess; those who captured her in January 1549 took her to be Menno’s wife. The arrest launched months of investigation. As reported in The Bloody Theater or Martyr’s Mirror (1660) Elizabeth parried firmly and intelligently with her interrogators, and their exchanges show a woman with a sure grasp of scripture ad doctrine, calmly confident, firmly pacifist, and not in the least intimidated by their power and authority. … they turned to torture in order to get the names of her accomplices,… but she never betrayed her faith or fellow believers. After two months she was executed in the fashion that some authorities reserved for these radicals, like Elizabeth, who had been rebaptized; she was sewn alive into a sack and thrown into the river – the so-called third baptism of drowning.”

Early modern history

Playing truant with some mid-Tudor writers at the IHR

Played truant from politics last week to drop in on the Seminar in Medieval and Tudor London History at the Institute for Historical Research, to hear Mike Jones from Girton College, Cambridge speak on : ‘O London, London’: Mid-Tudor Literature and the City.”

I wasn’t sure what ‘mid-Tudor’ would be, it turned out in this case to be late 1540s and early 1550s – a dangerous time with its setbacks for reformers after Cromwell’s fall and Anne Askew’s death – the city “a fractured and contested site of spiritual movements”. And also a time of massive inflation accompanying the debasement of the coinage. This is a bit earlier than my chief personal interest here, which revolves around Isabella Whitney and the end of Elizabeth’s reign, but enjoyed the account of what came before her nonetheless.

We heard that the literature of the period had a strong focus on the urban poor, words that have a strong echo today (that’s my interpretation, not Jones’s): e.g. Latimer’s sermon “in London their brother shall die in the streets for cold”; or the reformer Thomas Lever “old fathers, poor widows, and young lie begging in the mirey streets”. And echoing today even more, there was a lot of anxiety expressed about the “able-bodied” poor hiding amid the deserving poor and thereby getting aid. Latimer: “In times past men were full of pity and compassion; but now there is no pity.”

And there was a lot of concern about the expansion of the urban marketplace and increased varieties of goods available: Henry Brinklow coined the lovely word trish-trash, which often referred to items of “Popery”, but could also mean simply a critique of greedy consumption. Lever: “be not merchants of mischief”, “silks and sables and foolish feathers”.

Also we heard that it was hard for the works to escape the metaphorical shadows of Troy or Geoffrey of Monmouth’s hugely influential description of the foundation of the city, and of course Biblical cities, particularly Babylon.

Many modern echoes…

Books Early modern history Women's history

Don’t believe the conduct books

A weekend of escape to France gave me the chance to read the entertaining and informative The Verneys: A True Story of Love, War and Madness in 17th-century England by Adrian Tinniswood. (Don’t worry about the title – that’s just the publisher going a bit OTT.)

To quote: “It wasn’t just Molly, the heiress who eloped and married for love, who broke with convention; or Pen Stewkeley, the spinster who slept with and then married her sister’s unsuitable boyfriend. There was Aunt Eure, the widow who scandalised the Verney’s entire social circle by marrying a Roman Catholic; Sir Ralph’s sister Susan, who started her married life in Fleet Prison; Peg Elmes, who decided to separate from her violent husband , and Pen Denton, who according to the family broke her heart for joy when hers died. Mall became pregnant by a servant and eventually married him. Betty ran away with a poor clergyman. Even Cary, the ultra-genteel Cary, contrived to flout orthodoxy in her own small way by insisting on retaining her first husband’s name when she married her second… It was only Sir Ralph’s wife and mother who didn’t rebel. And they didn’t need to; both women were in successful and intimate relationships with head of the family – and both were in positions of power as a result of those relationships.
…driven variously by love, passion, courage, stubbornness and a fear on spinsterhood, they simply refused to do what they were told but .. they demonstrate that no matter what commentators said about the submissive position of women in 17th-cenury England, the reality of individual experience was at once more complicated and more compelling. (p. 478)

And there’s also news that the US today isn’t quite so bad at murders as was the England of the period…
Historical homicide rates are notoriously unreliable, but recent estimates suggest that in Restoration England they stood at around six per 100,000 of the population – more than four times the current rate in the United Kingdom in the first years of the 21st century, and about 10 per cent higher than current rates in the United States.(p. 406)

And a Google search doesn’t throw up anything on her, but it sounds like there’s a great story behind this career woman:
There was only one place to stay in Florence if you were an Englishman in the 1650s- Signora Anna’s house, close by Brunelleschi’s Santa Spirito on the south bank of the Arno. Anna, who only took English travellers, was a Florentine institution: Dr Kirton recommended Sir Ralph go straight to the lodgings … when he arrived in the city; the author of Sir Ralph’s “Directions for travel” agreed, saying that she ‘entertains her countrymen like princes, both for chamber and diet’. (p. 264)

Early modern history History

Historical reading and listening

Don’t know how I haven’t found this before: People in Place – Families, households and housing in London 1550-1720 – great to see academic research being made publicly accessible.

From a similar era, the apparently largely forgotten story of Henry VIII’s very own Vulgate Bible – although typically for Henry, it seems that by the time it came out, religiously policy had already changed so much that it was an embarrassment.

Then, changing continents, I seem to have been following around the Sassanians this week: Zenobia has a discussion on the relationship between their kings and their gods, and Radio Four’s (available in podcast until next Wednesday night) In Our Time starts with Sharpur I and his unfortunate (from the Roman point of view) encounters with Philip and Valerian.

Early modern history History

1588 v 1688 – one victory, one defeat

I’ve been reading a provocative exploration of why it was that England wasn’t conquered in 1588 (The Spanish Armada), but was conquered in 1688 by the Dutch (in what is rather eupemistically known, in what may have been history’s most successful piece of spin) The Glorious Revolution.

I’m not going to explore the 1688 arguments here, but I found fascinating an exploration of why the Armada failed and William III succeeeded in Empire, War and Faith in Early Modern Europe by Geoffrey Parker.

In short, the argument runs that ship-building technology had so advanced that the Dutch were able to sweep down to Torbay (aided of course by the “Protestant wind” that kept the English ships in harbour) and unload the troops before the English navy could catch up with them – far faster than the Spanish would have managed even in same conditions. (Their slowest merchantment-transports travelled at roughly “the speed of a rowboat”.)

Also you might say that government systems had so improved in the century, or else William was just a much more effective monarch than Phillip II – William was on the spot and able to take instant decisions wih advice from his commanders, while Phillip gave his commanders rigid long distance instructions and expected them to be obeyed to the letter.

Also, the logistics of 1688 were far more advanced. Gilbert Burnet wrote: “Never was so great a design executed in so short a time … All things as soon as they were ordered were got to be so quickly ready that we were amazed at the dispatch.” The Dutch even loaded large numbers of horses, while the Spanish had almost none (luckily for the equine world, as it turned out).

Also, William understood the propoganda value of having Englishmen prominent in his forces, making this look – as it so successfully turned out – less like an invasion than an internal uprising. Phillip made no effort to do this, which in part explained the resolve and passion of Elizabeth’s forces, versus those of the hapless James a century later.

Nonetheless, Parker exonerates James and his commanders of incompetence or treachery in not anticipating William’s landing place, suggesting that not until the last possible second was William himself sure whether it would be north Yorkshire or the southwest.

Oh, you want to know why it wasn’t a Glorious Revolution? Well Parker cites the arguments of Professor Jonathan Israel that stress the huge size of the Dutch force – over 450 ships, 20,000 men and 5,000 horses, the predominance of foreign soldiers (including Danish, Duch, French Hugenot and German) and the fact that on Williams triumphant entry to London no English regiments were allowed within 20 miles of London and for the next 18 months, Dutch troops occupied all significant buildings in and around the capital.