Postgraduate Class Trip: Aberdeen

 

Blog written by Dr Margaret Connolly

 

IMG_2899Students taking palaeography as part of the MLitt programmes in Medieval History and Medieval Studies headed up to Aberdeen last week to see manuscripts at the University Library and to visit the Aberdeen Burgh Records Project.

The St Andrews group led by Dr Margaret Connolly and Mrs Rachel Hart were welcomed to the Special Collections at the Sir Duncan Rice Library by Andrew Macgregor, Deputy Archivist. We spent about an hour browsing a selection of fifteenth-century manuscripts chosen to reflect the wide range of reading material available in the British Isles at the end of the Middle Ages.

These included the first volume of the unique devotional text The Myrrour of Oure Lady which belonged to a nun at Syon Abbey in London (volume two is in Oxford), and a volume of Latin sermons that belonged to Hinton Charterhouse in Somerset; also the popular collection of saints’ lives, Legenda Aurea, and three books of hours – one so tiny it fits into the palm of the hand. By contrast, the copy of John Trevisa’s vernacular translation of Higden’s Polychronicon was a huge volume. Some of the texts, such as the De Cosmographia of Pomponius Mela, and a medical textbook were the type of books that would have been read in universities – the commentary on Aristotle’s Physica that we saw, which was written at Louvain in 1467, was owned in the next century by a member of St Andrews University. Other books, such as the collection of medical recipes, and the miscellany of practical and other texts, were probably used in individual medieval households.

Here are some reactions to what we saw:

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The ‘twirly thing’: the MS123 volvelle – a rare example with all of its fragile paper pointers intact

‘The manuscripts we looked at in the first half were so amazing, I completely lost track of time when we were looking at them. My favourite was the collection of miscellaneous works, with the clairvoyant dice, the zodiac man, and the twirly thing.’

Before leaving Special Collections we got to see behind the scenes with a tour of the stores where we enjoyed rummaging amongst the early printed books – and of their state-of-the-art conservation suite.

Then in the afternoon we visited Humanity Manse to see the Aberdeen Burgh Records Project, where we were hosted by St Andrews graduate Dr Claire Hawes and Dr William Hepburn. William is a graduate of Glasgow, and had tutored two of our current MLitt students whilst they were undergraduates there – a nice connection. Claire and William explained the work of the project, and demonstrated how joint work with computer scientists had created a programme that supports the transcription of this massive series of records.

They also provided insight into the practical uses of palaeography, and showed what a job that involved palaeography was like, which was arguably the most useful part of the day. It was also great to get to see some of the original records – these have World Heritage Status – thanks to Phil Astley of Aberdeen City Council who brought them along specially for our visit.

Some final thoughts:

‘The trip was so much fun, I really enjoyed how laid back it was. After the busiest two weeks of the whole degree, I found it so relaxing to spend time with some fantastic material just for interest’s sake.’

‘Getting to see all this, without having to worry about how this would relate to your next deadline, was refreshing and has got me thinking about the opportunities for working in this area in the future.’IMG_2912.JPG

Face to Face: Stories from the Asylum

 

Blog written by PhD student Morag Allan Campbell

 

Morag and exhibition

Morag Allan Campbell, photo reproduced by permission of DC Thomson & Co

The Face to Face: Stories from the Asylum exhibition, currently on display in the Tower Foyer Gallery, University of Dundee, explores the lives of a group of patients admitted to Dundee Royal Lunatic Asylum at the turn of the twentieth century.  It has been researched and curated by St Andrews student Morag Allan Campbell, who is in the third year of her PhD in Modern History.  In this blog post, Morag outlines the origins of Face to Face, and her experience of preparing an exhibition for public display.

My research is pretty much based on lunatic asylum records, and I’ve spent a long time reading case notes from the early to mid-nineteenth century, patient histories laid out in page after page of scratchy, florid handwriting.  Reading through those files, I can only guess at what those patients might have looked like, piecing together an idea from physicians’ explanations of their mental disorder. When I turned to notes from later in the century, I began to find small faded photographs stuck into many of the patients’ notes, and I felt as if I had suddenly come face to face with my subjects. I wanted to know more about the lives behind those faces, and to share some of their stories.  And an exhibition seemed to be the best way to do that.

Curating the Face to Face exhibition has had the added benefit of allowing me to research the stories of patients not directly connected with my own research topic, which focusses on women suffering from postnatal mental illness, and has thoroughly immersed me in the experience of putting material together for public display.  I started with the patient histories, selecting and researching a number of cases to gather a range of diagnoses and backgrounds.  I then edited their stories into short texts, and paired them with information on various diagnoses supplied by my supervisor, Prof Rab Houston, who is an expert on the history of psychiatry – many of the diagnoses would be unfamiliar to modern ears, or they had a different meaning from how we use them today.

The next step was to design and layout all the boards – I tried to create a good balance of text and visual material, to attract and engage the reader without overloading them with too much information.  The archivists at Dundee University supplied me with some images to add local context to the patients’ stories, though I did use images from other sources.  In one case, an image from one external source was going to be too costly, and so I ended up grabbing my camera and heading off to take a picture myself – which I used, slightly sepia tinted to match the tone of the other images.

It was nerve-wracking when the time came to send the designs off to the printers, as I was dreading that mistakes might jump out at me when I unwrapped the finished product.  I am indebted to Caroline Brown, Dundee University Archivist, and Matthew Jarron, Curator of Museum Services at the University of Dundee, for their help and advice while I was putting together the exhibition, and not least for their invaluable assistance in proofreading the boards!  Caroline, Jan, Sharon and the rest of the team at the archives offered me plenty of support, and also selected some actual archive material and records for display as part of the exhibition.

Dundee Press Coverage 2.JPGWhen the time came for Matthew and me to put up the boards in the Tower Foyer Gallery, people were already showing an interest and we had a small crowd reading the boards before they had even been fully fixed to the wall.  It has been really amazing to see the interest in the exhibition. Since the launch, I have been working in the archives regularly which, as the department is located in the basement of the Tower Building, has taken me past the exhibition almost every day.  There has scarcely been a time when I have gone past and not found someone intently reading the exhibition boards, and I have also been able to chat with many of the visitors. What has really struck me is how actively people have engaged with the material – each viewer brings their own history and their own views to the experience, and I feel that the exhibition at Dundee has been really successful in opening up a dialogue on the subject of mental health issues past and present.

Putting the exhibition together was not without its difficulties, and it has been many months in the making. We also had ethical and data protection issues to consider before I could even start doing any research. The excitement of actually seeing the boards in place, not to mention the positive feedback which very quickly started to roll in, has more than made up for all the hours spent working away in the archives researching patient histories, and all those further hours spent carefully editing copy and making minute but crucial adjustments to display boards.

Edith.jpgThe exhibition is part of a St Andrews project, ‘Promoting Mental Health through the Lessons of History’ led by Rab Houston, and is a collaboration with University of Dundee Archive Services.   When the exhibition is finished at Dundee, Rab will take over the reins and has plans to tour the exhibition.  He has already arranged for a smaller version to be displayed in two Scottish prisons in association with Fife College and the Scottish Prison Service Learning and Skills initiative.  The university has been working in partnership with Fife College as part of the ground-breaking public engagement programme Cell Block Science.

If you would like to host the exhibition, or know of someone else who would, Rab would be happy to hear from you!  Further information is available on the project website. The main exhibition is on display at the University of Dundee until June 9, and is open Monday – Friday 09:30 – 19:00 and on Saturdays from 13:00 – 17:00.

 

 

 

 

 

Postgraduate Spotlight: Jonathan Triffit

JonathanTriffitt_SpotlightPhotoJonathan grew up in rural Leicestershire and later in the mediaeval market town of Skipton, nestled on the border of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Skipton is dominated by a Norman castle, famous as northern England’s last Royalist citadel in the Civil War, but Jonathan’s first introduction to history came while exploring other such structures: Edward I’s Welsh fortresses and the fairy-tale palaces of Ludwig II in Bavaria. Looking at his doctoral project, it would seem that a preference for castles with roofs and windows has won out.

Having taken a peculiar mix of science and arts subjects at A-Level, Jonathan chose to read German and history at university. As another small mediaeval town, St Andrews was referred to at school as ‘Skipton-on-Sea’ and seemed like the perfect place to pursue a degree. After sub-honours, Jonathan spent an ERASMUS year at the University of Bonn in Germany. As part of a course on ‘Intellectual Debates in the Weimar Republic,’ he was asked to prepare a presentation on the Nobel Prize-winning author Thomas Mann and his conversion from a monarchist into a staunch defender of the German Republic. Noticing that very little had been written on monarchism in this period or on Thomas Mann’s monarchist peers, Jonathan decided to devote his honours dissertation to addressing this lacuna. Under the supervision of Professor Frank Lorenz Müller, his investigation argued that restorationism in Germany foundered because a return of the monarchy would have been impractical, unpopular and, for many, unnecessary.

Taken in by the allure of academic research, Jonathan knew that he wished to delve more deeply into the consequences of the German Revolution at PhD-level. He therefore decided to use his master’s year to try new things, moving down the coast to the University of Edinburgh. There he studied diplomatic history, intellectual history, and the history of science, completing a thesis on plans to unify the British Empire at the turn of the twentieth century.

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Hesse’s former royal family attends a protest against the Treaty of Versailles in Darmstadt (May 1919). Photo attrib. HStA Darmstadt Fonds D 27 A No 65/546.

On his return to St Andrews in September 2017, Jonathan began a PhD project under the supervision of Professor Müller and Professor Riccardo Bavaj. As before, his research examines monarchy and the Weimar Republic, but does so from a new perspective. Concentrating on three of the former royal states – Hesse, Bavaria and Württemberg – it will examine princely, popular and political responses to the German Revolution of November 1918, which swept away centuries of monarchical rule within a matter of days. Uniquely, however, the various German monarchs did not flee abroad, but continued to reside amongst the people, often in their ancestral castles. The upheaval of the Revolution naturally introduced a great deal of novelty, but popular attachment to (and awareness of) the monarchical structures and traditions left behind have been largely ignored. Put simply, what consequences did ‘de-monarchification’ entail for Germany and the Germans? An investigation of this nature relies heavily on ego-sources and other contemporary documents. Armed with a somewhat intimidating map of scattered archives, Jonathan is looking forward to returning to Germany and visiting regions he has yet to see. The fact that dynastic archives are often housed in splendid palaces may have something to do with it…

Outside of academia, Jonathan is a stalwart of the university’s Concert Wind Band and the St Andrews and Fife Community Orchestra, where he regularly does battle with twelve feet of brass tubing and obscure Italian instructions. When not playing the horn, Jonathan is a recent, if still confused convert to the Bundesliga and a keen follower of cricket. Once convinced that, as a future captain of England, he need not attend university, his attitude quickly changed on been informed that his predecessor-to-be did so – and read history no less! Jonathan’s exploits on the cricket field are on something of an extended hiatus, but when not wandering along West Sands or seeking sanctuary in a bookshop, he can be found working to commentary on the latest test match or county game.

ISHR Reading Weekend 2018

2018-04-07 15.12.32Blog written by PhD student Anne Rutten

On April 6, the annual Reading Weekend of the Institute of Scottish Historical Research took place, celebrating ten years of Scottish studies at St Andrews. The Burn in Edzell was as usual kind enough to host the staff, postgraduate students and visiting scholars over the weekend.

Arriving late on Friday afternoon, everybody settled in and caught up with each other’s work. In the evening, Professor Roger Mason officially opened the weekend by reflecting on ten eventful years in the life of ISHR. This talk of the past was contrasted by the following talk on the St Andrews project of Smart History, given by Dr Bess Rhodes. Showing and explaining the reconstruction of St Salvators Quad, we were introduced to the future of historical studies. As the evening wound down, those present tested their skills at the pool table and/or debated the merits of the Geddy Map.

IMG_20180408_094320616The following morning, first-year PhD student Sarah Leith and incoming PhD student Daniel Leaver kicked off the first set of panels. Sarah’s paper ‘Whose history is it anyway?: Shaping identities in mid-twentieth-century Scotland’ discussed the different people who participated in the remembering and making of history, from lecturers in academia to Fife citizens starting their own folk museums. Daniel Leaver’s paper ‘Visions of Scotland, Visions of Empire: Scottish Nationalists, Britain and the World, 1928-42’ focused on interbellum Scottish political history, assessing the ideas and propositions by the SNP, especially related to the development of Home Rule in Ireland.

The second panel moved further back in time, with Christin Simons and Nora Epstein. Taking us across the world in disputes between the East Indian companies of England and Sweden, Christin’s paper’ RIP? Reputation, image and perception of the Swedish East India Company during the Porto Novo affair’ explored questions of legitimacy and reputation in eighteenth-century naval matters. Nora’s presentation ‘Visual Commonplacing:  The Transmission and Reception of Printed Religious Images in Reformed England and Scotland’ took us from the seas to the household, introducing her database and methodology to understand how certain illustrations traveled through time and found their way from religious books to fireplaces and ballads.

IMG_20180407_150925965For the customary outing, ISHR intern Chelsea arranged for a visit to Kinnaird Castle, the ancestral home of the Duke of Fife. Although the current building dates from the twentieth century, early parts of the castle were built in the fourteenth century. As the Duke showed us the hunting trophies of ancestors, paintings of family members and other curiosities, nearly every guest found something that interacted with their research! Upon returning to tea and coffee at the Burn, cake and champagne were brought out to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of ISHR. In addition, to thank Roger for his tireless efforts, a surprise panel of former PhD students took place. Bess Rhodes, Esther Meijers and Steven Reid took us on a whistle-stop tour of the Reformation, Scoto-Dutch relations and Neo-Latin writing.

The Saturday evening was devoted to the ISHR Pub Quiz, a staple of Reading Weekends. As usual, the Scottish history round yielded the least points, while the riddle of four kings was solved by the youngest attendee. (Nobody else managed to untangle the names, causes of death and monikers!) The Sunday morning opened with a medieval panel. First-year PhD student Dana Weaver‘s talk ‘Memorial Identity: Inventing the Anglo-Saxon in the Medieval and the Modern’ analysed how post-colonial theory proves useful for early medieval historians, while Anne Rutten’s paper ‘Reading and Bleeding Revisited: Creating Highland Culture in Fourteenth-Century Scotland’ investigated the beginnings of Highland and Lowland identities.

readingweekend.jpgThe final talk was delivered by William Hepburn, whose paper ‘Common books: burgh registers and documentary culture in fifteenth-century Scotland’ discussed how societies in burghs made use of the written word. The weekend was a great success, as students and staff made connections between their research, tested their skills at various games and enjoyed the sunny surroundings of Edzell. After a hearty lunch and leaving their wishes in the Burn guest book, everyone piled back into cars for their return home.

 

March Round Up

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Photo attrib. Sarah, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

News

Congratulations to Dr John Condren, who has received a Rome Award from the British School at Rome, to conduct research for an article on diplomatic ceremonial at the papal court in the late 17th century

Congratulations to Professor Aileen Fyfe, Professor Knud Haakonssen, Professor Colin Kidd and Professor Richard Whatmore. They have received a Leverhulme Trust Large Grant for their project After Enlightenment: Intellectual Life in Scotland, 1790-1843

Staff Activity

On March 19, the Editing Early Modern Texts and Sources: Problems and Possibilities conference took place

Professor Guy Rowlands presented the papers ‘The Last Argument of the King? Arms, Artillery and Absolutism under Louis XIV’to the Medieval and Renaissance Group, and ‘The Sinews of War, the Sun King, and the Financial Burdens and Perils of Being a Superpower’ at the history department of the College of William and Mary

On March 27th, Dr Gillian Mitchell delivered a paper entitled ‘Popular Music and Family Life, 1955-1975: Questioning Notions of Generation Gap’ at the ‘Recording Leisure Lives’ conference at the University of Bolton

On March 27th, Professor Richard Whatmore gave a talk entitled ‘Rights after the Revolutions’ for the Johns Hopkins Political and Moral Thought Seminar series

Publications

Aileen Fyfe and Camilla Mørk Røstvik, ‘How female fellows fared at the Royal Society,’ Nature (6 March 2018)

Tomasz Kamusella and Fenix Ndhlovu, ‘Kamusella and Ndhlovu on Linguistic Imperialism,’ Social Science Matters (March 2018)

Mara van der Lugt, ‘The left hand of the Englightenment: truth, error, and integrity in Bayle and Kant,’ History of European Ideas (26 Feb 2018)

Richard Whatmore, Béla Kapossy, Isaac Nakhimovsky and Sophus Reinert (eds.),  Markets, Morals and Politics. Jealousy of Trade and the History of Political Thought (Harvard University Press, 2018)

Conference ‘Dress and Décor: Domestic Textiles and Personal Adornment in Scotland up to 1700’

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From left to right: Professor Roger Mason, Peryn Westerhof Nyman and Dr Morvern French, photo attrib. Chelsea Reutcke

Blog written by Dr Morvern French

On 23 and 24 March 2018 the Institute of Scottish Historical Research held a conference on Dress and Décor: Domestic Textiles and Personal Adornment in Scotland up to 1700. With a diverse range of speakers and topics, the event focussed on clothing, accessories, jewellery, tapestry, and embroidery from the medieval to early modern period in Scotland.

Dr Sally Rush opened with a study of the chafferon at the court of James V. A gold wire headdress worn by men and women, it represented the Renaissance ideals of beauty and majesty, and can be traced through written accounts, portraiture, and sculpture. This was complemented by a panel on ‘Royal Ceremony and Display in the Sixteenth Century’. Dr Lucy Dean outlined the use of dress at the marriages of James IV, James V, and James VI, arguing for its international significance. Rosalind Mearns examined a portrait of James V and Mary of Guise, comparing the fashion and accessories depicted with those in a contemporary portrait of Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon. Peryn Westerhof Nyman considered the wearing of dule – mourning cloth – by members of the Scottish court on the deaths of Madeleine of Valois, Margaret Tudor, and James V.

Helen Wyld gave an in-depth paper on the reconstruction of James V’s tapestry collection, none of which is known to survive. Documentary and visual evidence, and the identification of contemporary pieces, show that James’s taste was at the cutting edge of European design and cultural sophistication.

In the Collections Session Claire Robinson presented a pair of gauntlet gloves held by the Museum of the University of St Andrews. These were given by Charles I to Sir Henry Wardlaw, who also owned the Wardlaw Bible presented by Dr Briony Harding of Special Collections, University of St Andrews. This and a dos-à-dos devotional text on display are covered with embroidered bindings bearing heraldic and floral designs.

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Photo attrib. Chelsea Reutcke

Afterwards, we heard a panel on ‘The Production and Circulation of Textiles’. Nora Epstein considered how the adoption of Protestantism in Scotland caused religious imagery to move from the church to the home, appearing in embroidery. Professor Christopher Smout then discussed the varied types of fabric produced in seventeenth century Scotland, and the spinners, weavers, tailors, and merchants involved in its manufacture and distribution within Scotland and abroad.

Caroline Paterson then opened a dialogue on Viking graves in Scotland with a consideration of brooches, belt fittings, beads, and other accessories. The dating, metal content, and design provide a picture of cultural complexity in Viking era Scotland, with material influences from Scandinavia. Following this paper, we heard Dr Susan Freeman’s study of the textile remains found in these graves, with a focus on the skill and time investment needed to produce these items.

The next morning, Dr Mark Hall discussed the spiritual and social values attached to dress accessories in and around medieval Perth. These included coins, pilgrimage tokens, reliquary pendants, horse mounts, and seal matrices, which held religious and/or apotropaic properties. Such objects were sometimes recycled or reshaped to change in use and meaning, beyond the strictly aesthetic.

The final panel on ‘Dress, Accessories, and Jewellery: Their Role in Cultural Identity’ was opened by Lyndsay McGill. She reconsidered the accepted definition of fede rings as relating to love and marriage, when they may have also had religious or apotropaic properties. Rhona Ramsay followed with a look at ‘naken’ or itinerant metalworkers in Argyll, showing that such craftspeople were capable of producing sophisticated silver pieces for elite clients. Finally Dr David Caldwell re-examined the traditional Scottish dress of plaid, which had antecedents in the classical world but was increasingly associated with the Highlands of Scotland.

At the concluding roundtable discussion ideas for future research and collaboration were put forward. These included a publication of the conference proceedings and the holding of further conferences. In the meantime we have created an online network for anyone interested in the topic of dress and décor in Scotland. To access this please email morvern.french@hes.scot or pwn2@st-andrews.ac.uk.

 

St Andrews Institute of Mediaeval Studies Postgraduate Reading Weekend

Blog written by Dr Sarah Greer

sarah greerphoto.pngOn a chilly Saturday morning in February, an assortment of MLitt and PhD students, postdoctoral fellows and staff arrived at Dalgairn House in Cupar for the 2018 SAIMS Postgraduate Reading Weekend. We received a very warm welcome to Dalgairn House by our hosts Hugh and Hilary Kennedy, along with a very appreciated cup of tea or coffee to warm up, before cracking on with the sessions. Over Saturday and Sunday, the postgraduate students and postdocs presented brief outlines of the current questions they’re tackling in their research projects, each followed by questions and discussion.

Our first session began with Ingrid Ivarsen speaking about her research into the transmission of law in Anglo-Saxon England and the interplay between Latin and Old English language in lawcodes. Following her, one of our taught MLitt students, Callum Jamieson, discussed his work on the invention of stories about papal legates in 12thC English chronicles and the use of these stories to comment on the disputes between the English church and king and the pope in this period. Sarah Greer then introduced her postdoctoral project on Carolingian and Merovingian burial sites in tenth- and eleventh-century Germany and France and how these dynasties were remembered – or forgotten – in the post-Carolingian world.

After quite a lengthy discussion and a caffeine break, we pushed on with the next session. Hailey Ogle spoke on her work on the Chansons de Geste in the High Middle Ages, and how the emotional and behavioural topoi of these very secular pieces of literature would be interpreted by monastic audiences. Guy Fassler then introduced his research on lordship in public spaces in Italian cities, and the release of tension through violent revolts that could still considered to be within the boundaries of acceptable political behaviour.

Lunch was accompanied by a chance to stretch our legs and explore the gardens around Dalgairn House in the sunshine. In the afternoon, we returned with Maria Merino Jaso outlining how she came to work on the exchanges of poetic riddles in Charlemagne’s court, and the problems of interpreting chains of texts where not all of the texts survive. Holger Kaasik then discussed his research on ideas of time in medieval calendars, and how and why various memories of different ways of calculating and measuring time became embedded in calendars over the Middle Ages. Eleonora Rava spoke on her postdoctoral project on female religious recluses and the fascinating case of a recluse who fled her enclosure and whose testimony was then presented as a character witness against a male cleric. Sophia Silverman, one of our MLitt students, introduced her dissertation on Eleanor of Aquitaine and Constance of Brittany and the ways in which female authority and rule were constructed in succession disputes. Finally, Mark Thakkar rounded the day off with a presentation of the problems he has faced in creating a new Latin edition of John Wycliffe’s De Logica.

After a full day of presentations, questions and stimulating discussion, we broke off for a much needed rest before our hosts provided us with an excellent – and very convivial – dinner. Everyone returned the following morning for the last few sessions of papers. Dana Weaver introduced her doctoral project, which uses post-colonial theory as a way to look at the incorporation of Anglo-Saxon imagery in Norman art in northern England. Gert-Jan van de Voorde then discussed his involvement in a collaborative project on studying lordship in late medieval Europe and the possibilities and problems posed in creating a quantitative database of material.

Our next session was slightly different: Eilidh Harris from CAPOD, who completed her doctorate in Mediaeval History at St Andrews, joined us to discuss her own experiences as a PhD student. She offered some practical advice and perspective on being a postgraduate student, which sparked a lively discussion about work practices and reflections from students and staff on their approaches to research.

Our final presentation was from our very generous host, Hugh Kennedy, who gave a summary of his work on the formation of the early Islamic empire, their use of taxation and their creation of a society in which intellectual culture was able to flourish. It was an ideal way to finish up our weekend, and after lunch and another wander around the grounds of Dalgairn House, we all made our way back home. The various presentations from students and staff made clear the diversity in approaches to studying the Middle Ages within SAIMS. The weekend offered a chance for us all to become more familiar with each other’s work and interests, building on the close-knit sense of community and collegiality that defines Mediaeval Studies in St Andrews.