ISHR Visiting Fellows – A Look Back

Mikki Brock

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

In fall 2016, I had the pleasure of spending a semester as a joint visiting fellow with the Institute of Scottish Historical Research and Reformation Studies Institute at the University of St Andrews. This was an amazing opportunity and experience, both professionally and personally. To state the obvious, S. Andrews is a beautiful historic town with a vibrant intellectual community centered around the university. Here, I was able to pursue my work on a project on sermon-going in early modern Scotland with a huge array of resources at my disposal. The special collections reading room at the Martyr’s Kirk provided a lovely space to dig through manuscripts related to Scotland during the Reformation. The main library at St. Andrews gave me access to many printed and electronic secondary sources. St. Katherine’s Lodge was a warm and scenic place for my office, where I passed many hours working and socializing with staff in the School of History. Living in Fife, I was also only an hour’s journey away from Edinburgh, where I travelled a few times a month for research in the archives or professional meetings.

The most important resources, however, were the wonderful staff and students of the Institute of Scottish Historical Research and the Reformation Studies Institute. During my time as an ISHR fellow, I benefited from invaluable conversations with a wide range of scholars, all of whom were incredibly welcoming to me and encouraging of my work. From my seminar presentation on a mass confession in Ayr in 1647 to the informal weekly gatherings over coffee and cake in St. Kat’s, the members of the ISHR helped shape my thinking about my new research. Coming from a small liberal arts college where I am the only historian of Scotland, early modern Britain, or the Protestant Reformation, being surrounded by colleagues working on similar topics was a revelation that pushed me to reframe my research questions in very helpful ways. Equally important, I made not only new scholarly connections, but also wonderful friends while in St Andrews.

Both professionally and personally, my time as a joint ISHR-RSI fellow was thus invaluable. I look forward to seeing everyone again on future trips to Fife!

Valerie Wallace

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

I was based at the Institute of Scottish Historical Research as a visiting fellow in the second half of 2016. It was a tremendously enriching experience. Ensconced in Professor Michael Brown’s office (thank you to him!) on The Scores with a view out over the sea, I was able to complete a book manuscript (provisionally) entitled Empire of Dissent: Scottish Presbyterianism and Reform Politics in the British World, c. 1820-c.1850. I presented a chapter on Samuel McDonald Martin, a politician in New Zealand, to the Scottish History seminar and a chapter on Thomas Pringle, a poet in South Africa, to a symposium on Presbyterianism and Scottish Literature. It was rewarding to receive feedback on each of these chapters from an audience so informed about Scotland’s political, religious and literary history.

My visit had many highlights: utilising the university’s special collections in the beautiful Martyrs Kirk on North Street; tea and cake with the School’s congenial academic staff on Tuesday mornings; procrastinating with my fellow fellows Mikki Brock and Steve Boardman; and chatting to and learning from ISHR’s wonderfully engaged postgraduate students. Most of all I think I’ll miss the hospitality of the Strathmartine Centre for Scottish History on Kinburn Place, whose library and kitchen kept me well-nourished throughout my stay.

The Early Mendicants: Francis, Clare and Dominic Class Trip


Blog written by Meg Hyland

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Photo attrib. Frances Andrews, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

Just as a cold snap descended upon St Andrews, our Special Subject class left the auld grey toon behind for five incredible days on a tour of mendicant Italy with Professor Frances Andrews. In her module The Early Mendicants: Francis, Clare and Dominic, we have been studying these three thirteenth century saints through close reading of the texts that flowered around each of them in the wake of lives, characterized by intense religious fervour. After a great deal of planning, we were able to take our research out of the classroom and into the medieval cities where these individuals lived, preached, prayed and died.

Where else to begin our journey through medieval Italy than the city to which all roads lead? Rome was not built in a day, but we certainly tried to walk it in one. Although our feet ached by the end of the day, the payoff was a whirlwind tour of the city’s medieval mendicant landscape (and an impressive Fitbit step count). Visiting the city’s medieval churches brought fresh clarity to many of the issues we encounter in the sources. The chandelier-decked nave of the Franciscan church Santa Maria in Aracoeli and the glittering cosmatesque pillars of the Lateran cloister, for example, served as architecturally didactic emblems of the eternal tension between the ideals of apostolic poverty and the “beauty of holiness” that plagued the medieval church.

The texts we labour over in the library came to life nowhere more vibrantly than in Assisi. The translation of Clare’s body up the mountainside from her monastery to San Giorgio in the hot Italian summer takes on a new physicality when you have scaled the steep path yourself. The delight in the natural world that inspired Francis to compose The Canticle of Creatures is easily shared by anyone watching the sunset over the olive groves beside San Damiano. Perhaps the most incredible match of experience to text was in the Upper Basilica of San Francesco. Medieval history has never been so tangible as when we gazed upon the phenomenal frescoes on the walls while Frances Andrews read us the passages of Bonaventure’s Life of Francis that inspired each image in a whisper (so as not to arouse the ire of the policeman patrolling the pews).

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Photo attrib. Juan Salmoral, CC-BY-ND-ND 2.0

Of course, the landscape has changed since the time of the mendicant saints, sometimes dramatically – there were probably not so many gelaterias in Innocent III’s Rome, nor such affordable pizza places in Dominic’s Bologna. The museums of Perugia and Bologna house a concentration of valuable religious art so dense that it would have overwhelmed the medieval mind. But other things remain the same. A kitten scurries around the monastery where Clare once told a cat to bring her a towel. The Pantheon still lets the rain in through the roof. Beneath the layers of modern industry and ornament, a more ancient bedrock remains, from the Etruscan stones of Perugia to the tiny church of the Porziuncola huddled beneath the dome of the vast later basilica.

To study medieval history is often an exercise in the imagination, building up in the mind an image of people and places remote in space and time. On this trip, however, we had the incredible opportunity to see for ourselves the incredible art and architecture that these charismatic figures inspired their followers to commission. We are grateful to Frances Andrews and the School of History (not to mention anyone who patronized our library bake sale) for giving us this opportunity. Our thanks are also due to the people in archives and museums who helped us access the primary sources and those who showed us great hospitality: the Dominican archivist in Rome, the director of the museum of the Porziuncola, Professor Giovanna Casagrande and Amilcare Conti. All of these people enabled us to experience first-hand the rich physical world that the early mendicants inhabited, adapted and created.

Sharing 1780s ‘Fishy Fashion’: a 4th Year Case Study in Public History by Peryn Westerhof Nyman and Adam Hodges-LeClaire

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Photo attrib. Noël Heaney, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

 

Blog written by Adam Hodges-LeClaire

While most students will simply go to archives to conduct their research, others go further in their pursuits to understand the past. Adam Hodges-LeClaire, a fourth-year History Student, used his Honours courses to delve deeper into the eighteenth century, specifically the culture of sailors and fisherfolk in 1780s Fife. After engaging in the historical re-enactment community for many years, beginning summer museum work during university, and then sailing aboard the reconstructed frigate Hermione for seven months, he returned to St Andrews to build on these experiences. Currently, he is finishing his degree with a focus towards public history, and connecting wider audiences to ‘fishy fashion’ and the maritime past of the 1780s.

This course recently culminated in the performance of, “Are You a Pirate?!” (My Adventures as an 18th Century Sailor), an on-stage dissertation performed on 2 and 3 December at the Barron Theatre as part of the HI4997 course led by Professor De Groot. Adam, together with PhD student Peryn Westerhof Nyman led the audience through a whirlwind two hour tour of the materiality of eighteenth-century sailor fashion  and maritime material culture, using this focus to address larger questions in social history. To begin, scattered over the theatre seats were a range of accessories, from colourful cotton handkerchiefs to clay pipes, from London brothel guides to tarred pieces of hemp rope. All of these tidbits were cues to enter and explore the lives of sailors, as founded in Adam and Peryn’s dissertation research which combined archival, textual, visual, and material evidence. After the members of the audience had a chance to examine the various objects, the hosts then talked the audience through the many layers of their clothing as they dressed in a replica maritime wardrobe, explaining the different rationales of function and fashion behind each garment, and what they can tell us about fashion today as well as its centrality over 250 years ago.

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Photo attrib. Amy Chubb, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

Rather than subscribing to the idea that daily life in the past was drab, filthy, and unimportant for ‘serious’ history, Adam and Peryn clearly showed the garments’ practicality, as well as the scholarly connections of Georgian fishing attire to the present. For instance, changing linen body layers kept contemporary bodies clean without modern plumbing, and an incredible range of materials was sold and produced within a global pre-industrial marketplace. Leather breeches would protect the sailors from the hard labour of work on ships, and a woman’s stays would help her carry a heavy willow creel of fish on her back to market. But like today, clothes were not just practical: they were also evidence of an individual’s social position, their personality and the wider mores of the time.

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Photo attrib. Amy Chubb, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

The performance ended with a discussion on how historical empathy and expanding the range of available evidence historians use, can teach both researchers about the past and non-historians about their experience of popular history. A sailor’s life was not just about sailing, and far less about swashbuckling: it was about acting with agency, in making a living, and underpinning many of the economic, military, and political systems of the era. It was also about the remarkable communities left behind onshore, and the larger systems and forces which defined the lives of both, from the state regulation of fisheries, to the wider professional identity of an international subculture at sea. For the understanding of gender in particular, women’s centrality in this traditionally male focused area was also highlighted, particularly in relation to pre-industrial fishwives and to the controversy surrounding British naval impressment. As the title of the performance indicated, pirates may be the focus in current popular culture, but the reality is far more incredible – and historians can use new techniques and research methods to effectively share these stories with wider audiences.

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Photo attrib. Nöel Heaney, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

Monthly Round Up: December and January

colinkidd.jpgNews

The Heirs to the Throne project has launched a podcast series: a selection of the finest ‘Heir of the Month’ essays will be made available as mini-lectures.

A Companion to Intellectual History, edited by Professor Richard Whatmore and Dr Brian Young, has been selected as an ‘Outstanding Academic Title’ by Choice Magazine and has been included in the magazine’s annual list in its  January 2017 issue. Dr John Clark also contributed a chapter to this volume.

Dr James Nott has been awarded a Royal Society of Edinburgh grant for a series of research workshops on how historians can best collaborate with artists, museums and others working in Scottish cultural institutions. The workshops will be held in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Dundee.

Arthur der Weduwen has won the Elsevier/Johan de Witt Thesis Prize for his master thesis, titled ‘The development of the Dutch press in the seventeenth century, 1618 – 1700’. A two volume bibliography, Dutch and Flemish Newspapers of the Seventeenth Century, based on this same thesis will be published in May.

Anne Rutten was awarded the 2016 Dorothy Dunnett Academic History Prize for her essay ‘And There Was Proof: James II, the Black Douglases and the Fifteenth-Century Power of Documents’.

Staff Activity. 

On 2nd December Dr Nina Lamal gave a talk at the IHR Low Countries Seminar in London. The talk was entitled ‘The Low Countries in the news: Italian information networks on the Dutch Revolt’.

On 5th and 6th December Dr Shanti Graheli gave two guest lectures at the University of Udine, entitled, ‘Il mondo del libro antico in un guscio di noce: introduzione all’USTC’ and ‘Dove i libri sono tutti monadi. Benvenuti a The World’s Rarest Books.’

On 9th January, Dr Tomasz Kamusella talked on ‘The Normative Isomorphism of Language, Nation and State’ in the Institut für Osteuropäische Geschichte at the Universität Wien, Vienna, Austria. On 10th January, Dr Kamusella spoke on ‘The National Silesian Movement in Postcommunist Poland: Between Democracy and Nationalism’ in the Institut für Slawistik at the Universität Wien, Vienna, Austria. He also spoke on the same topic onn 13th January for the Ústav politických vied SAV (Institute of Political Sciences) and the Ústav etnológie SAV (Institute of Ethnography) in the Slovak Academy of Sciences, Bratislava, Slovakia.

Dr James Palmer contributed to the Radio 3 Sunday Feature ‘Apocalypse How’ on 15th January.

Dr Nathan Alexander gave a talk, entitled ‘Debating Nonreligious Identity: A Historical Perspective’ to the Dundee branch of the Humanist Society of Scotland on 16th January.

On 16h January, Dr James Nott delivered a talk on ‘The Dance Hall and Women’s Emancipation in Britain 1918-60’ at Shoreditch House, London.
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From 18 to 20 January Professor Elena Marushiakova and Professor Veselin Popov took part in the MigRom Final Conference as invited key note speakers with an opening presentation entitled “Migration vs. Inclusion: Roma Mobility from East to West”.

On 22nd January, Dr Emily Michelson published an article in the Times Higher Education blog, entitled ‘Historians make the best healthcare workers.’

On 27 January Sarah Easterby-Smith gave a paper entitled ‘Picturing Banks’s networks: patrons, scholars and botanical merchants’ at an AHRC workshop at the National Portrait Gallery, London, on ‘Science, Self-fashioning and Representation in Joseph Banks’s Circles’.

On 28th January Dr Konrad Lawson gave the talk “From the Regional to the Global: Pan-Asianism to World Federalism in the Aftermath of Japanese Empire” at a Leiden University symposium on Global Regionalism as part of the Contemporary History and International Relations Research Seminar.

Recent Publications

David Allan, ‘“Winged Horses, Fiery Dragons and Monstrous Giants”: Historiography and Imaginative Literature in the Scottish Enlightenment’ in R. McLean, R. Young and K. Simpson (eds.), The Scottish Enlightenment and Literary Culture (Bucknell University Press, 2016).

Colin Kidd, The World of Mr Casaubon: Britain’s Wars of Mythography, 1700-1870 (Cambridge University Press, 2016).

Julia Prest and Guy Rowlands (eds.), The Third Reign of Louis XIV, c. 1682-1715 (Routledge, 2016).

Publication Spotlight: The Politics of Counsel in England and Scotland, 1286–1707

Blog written by Dr Jacqueline Rose

politicsofcounselIs it true that behind every successful ruler there is an exhausted adviser? It has certainly often been the case that ‘evil counsellors’ have been blamed for bad government. But if grumbling about special advisers looks like a distinctly modern phenomenon, think again.  Such figures have often operated in the shadowy world of political manoeuvring, whether characterised as benign mentors or cunning manipulators—or both.

For much of history, the role of the adviser was idealised. This was the case in much of the period covered by the contributors to the recent volume on The Politics of Counsel in England and Scotland, 1286–1707. This was an era in which good counsel was seen as the way to foster good rule; that is, where a monarch governed for the common interest and common good, and not tyrannically, for their own private benefit or wilful pleasure. Counsel evolved to meet the needs of this age of Anglo-Scottish warfare and unions, dynastic and religious upheavals, and developments in local, national, and colonial government—not forgetting the adaptations in advisory practices required to fit each new monarch’s personality.

Using the poetry, drama, government records, and political treatises of the period, contributors to the volume examine ideas about advice and the role it played. Some instances of political failure come up—James III of Scotland, killed during a rebellion in 1488, and Charles I, executed in 1649—are the most prominent. But there are also signs that rulers could be open to advice, at least on some points, some of the time.

Appropriately, contributors to this volume benefited from each other’s counsel through a workshop held in St Andrews in May 2014, which was made possible by the British Academy’s award of a grant from the Browning Fund and a British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant; and by support from the School of History and the Institutes of Scottish Historical Research, Intellectual History, and Reformation Studies. Alongside the editor, the volume features chapters by St Andrews-based authors Michael Brown and Roger Mason, and one by Claire Hawes, at the time a PhD student here and now based in Aberdeen. This reflects how suitable a base St Andrews is for the larger Politics of Counsel research project from which the workshop and volume derived.

While substantial in its own right, the volume aims to create a framework for future research on political advice—past, present, and future. It provocatively suggests ways in which even ‘failed’ advice might actually contribute to political life. So the next time you hear on the news that the power and influence of ‘spads’ has been criticised, don’t assume it’s a symptom of the decline of modern politics. Bad advice may just be an age-old excuse: easy to make, but deserving of sharper analysis.

Ronald Cant and St Andrews

 

Blog post written by Sarah Leith, former Mlitt student and starting her PhD at St Andrews in September

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Photo reproduced with the kind permission of the Strathmartine Trust, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

As you wander along North Street, pause for a moment beneath the looming tower of St Salvator’s chapel and if you look down at the ground, you will find the Protestant martyr Patrick Hamilton’s initials visible amongst the cobble stones. The dreaded ‘P.H.’ pinpoints the position where the sixteenth-century martyr was burnt at the stake and it now marks the area where students fear to tread, lest they fail their degrees. Continue eastwards and your eyes will meet with the imposing grey ruins of a mediaeval cathedral, which used to welcome monarchs and pilgrims but now attracts coaches full of tourists from all over the world. Take a left along North Castle Street and cast your eyes upwards to the window of the Castle from which Cardinal Beaton’s body was hung in 1546. A sense of Scotland’s past is unavoidable as you traverse St Andrews’ mediaeval streets today. Ronald Cant, the University of St Andrews’ first lecturer in Scottish history was dedicated to the preservation of this historic townscape as well as the promotion of St Andrews University’s history.

From his appointment in 1936 until his retirement in 1974, Cant was devoted to securing the teaching of Scottish history at St Andrews University but he also held a passion for the history of the university itself. He penned works regarding the university’s past and as Keeper of Muniments, he was undeniably the ultimate authority on this topic. The historian is best known in the university today for his The University of St Andrews: A Short History. It is a must read for anyone intrigued by any aspect of the University’s past, from its fifteenth-century founder Bishop Wardlaw to the building of the 1970s University Library in which, incidentally, can be found many copies of the work. However, although his articles concerning the Scottish universities’ influence upon Scotland’s Enlightenment continue to be authoritative Cant’s academic output was on the whole, limited. (1)

Rather than extensively publishing articles in scholarly journals, as did his contemporaries, Cant preferred to produce small booklets for the benefit of heritage societies. His Festschrift is dominated by these small publications and a perusal of this list hints at his dedication to the preservation of historic towns across Scotland. (2) Cant was also a key figure in the founding of the St Andrews Preservation Trust in 1938 and he played an invaluable role in saving St Andrews’ historical domestic buildings from demolition. (3)

Clearly devoted both to the University of St Andrews and to the Auld Grey Toon, Cant was also eager to promote Scottish history outwith St Salvator’s ivory tower. Strolling through the cobbled streets and wynds of St Andrews or venturing out from his home on Kinburn Place and along the viaduct, Cant stopped to speak with this person and with that person, whether an academic or a local. He would engage those passing by with interesting facts, such as his belief that Cardinal Beaton’s tomb lies under the grass in front of South Street’s Madras College. With ease he straddled that grey area between town and gown as day and night he frequently filled lecture halls with both students and locals, the latter waiting with anticipation for his enthralling talks held on Friday evenings.

Ronald Cant must be remembered and praised for his role in the establishment of the permanent study of Scottish history at the University of St Andrews and for his extensive work concerning this university’s own history. He should also be lauded both for his protection of St Andrews’ tangible history and for his outreach to the local community. Indeed, without his vision and preservation work, the historical centre of St Andrews, which we all enjoy wandering around and exploring today, would very likely look quite different.

(1) R.G. Cant, ‘The Scottish universities and Scottish society in the eighteenth century’, Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century 58 (1967), pp.1953-1966; Ronald G. Cant, ‘Origins of the Enlightenment in Scotland: the universities’ in R.H. Campbell and Andrew S. Skinner (eds), The Origins and Nature of the Scottish Enlightenment (Glasgow, 1982), pp.42-64.

(2) Dugald MacArthur, ‘Bibliography of the Works of Ronald Gordon Cant’, in G.W.S. Barrow (ed.), The Scottish Tradition: Essays in honour of Ronald Gordon Cant (Edinburgh, 1974), pp.259-263.

(3) Elizabeth Williams and John Lindsey, Saving St. Andrews: A Short History of the St. Andrews Preservation Trust (Fife, 2003).

Ronald Cant and the Establishment of Scottish History Teaching at the University of St Andrews

Blog post written by Sarah Leith, former Mlitt student and starting her PhD at St Andrews in September

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Photo reproduced with the kind permission of the Strathmartine Trust, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

Today, Scottish history enjoys its rightful place as part of the history curriculum at the University of St Andrews: first and second year modules delve into Scotland’s past; there are honours courses devoted to the nation’s history; a Scottish Historical Studies MLitt is offered, and there are numerous PhD students researching a wide variety of Scottish topics. However, it was not until around the mid-twentieth century that Scotland’s first university offered the serious and permanent study of this subject to its students. Flying the flag for Scottish history at St Andrews University during this time was the historian Ronald Cant. Having been appointed mediaeval history lecturer in 1936, the historian almost immediately began his mission to single-handedly secure the study of Scotland’s past at this university. Although characteristically modest and unambitious, Cant was a pioneer who fought a long and lonely battle to gain recognition for his subject, with a Scottish history chair finally being created in 1974, the year of the historian’s retirement. Read more of this post