Postgraduate Spotlight: Jack Abernethy

Blog written by Jack Abernethy

16681587_1267182066650398_6844218243846179756_n

Me on a recent trip to the far north of Scotland. It was in Thurso, near John O’Groats, that several skippers signed an oath of allegiance to the Marquis of Montrose in support of Charles II

My name is Jack, and I am currently a student at St Andrews, studying Scottish History. I was recently awarded the British Commission for Maritime History’s prize for Undergraduate Achievement (a prize given to only six students across Great Britain) for my Honours dissertation, entitled “The Specter at the Feast: The Royalists at Sea in the First Anglo-Dutch War, 1652-1654.” The dissertation aims to correct the long-held notion that Prince Rupert and his privateering fleet of the late 1640s and early 1650s was the only royalist maritime threat to the English Commonwealth after the conclusion of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms.

To give some background: after the execution of Charles I in 1649, many royalists fled to the continent, especially to the Dutch Republic. At the same time, Prince Rupert, Charles’ nephew and a royalist commander on land and at sea, was leading a privateering fleet from Ireland to Africa and beyond. In Britain, royalist maritime bases supporting Charles were being dismantled by the Commonwealth. Between 1652 and1654, England went to war with the Dutch over religious, political, and economic issues, and the subsequent war heralded in a new era of naval warfare. Despite the attack on the Netherlands, the royalist threat was not yet finished.

Before I began my deeper exploration of the era, I had found it particularly appealing: I have always had an interest in maritime history and after having done some previous work on the First Dutch War, I wanted to continue to pursue this interest. While I was considering ideas for my thesis, I found words such as “royalists,” “privateers,” and “pirates” arising constantly in scattered sources, such as calendars of state papers and personal papers. However, I found no work that connected them within a coherent narrative. As a result, I began to wonder (with governments in the Netherlands and France hostile to the Commonwealth) whether seaborne royalist endeavors had increased during this time, and sought to answer this question for myself.

IMG_8370.jpg

SRA, Anglica IV, 521. SE/RA/2102/IV/521. The Answer of the CoS, 28 May 1652

Two names in particular began to arise in reference to royalist privateers or pirates: William Balthazar and Richard Beach. The classification of these men has caused confusion. For instance, if they were receiving privateering commissions from a deposed government, were they still valid belligerents, or, as many sources suggest, were they just pirates? Through the collection of sources from both the Commonwealth and royalist exiles, I sought to create a more unbiased and holistic understanding than previously offered. Balthazar and Beach, along with other anonymous privateers, did a shocking amount of damage during the Dutch War. For example, the port of Barnstaple, in Devon was subject to near economic ruin, while captured mariners between England and Brittany were often pressed by royalists or marooned on the French coast. I found this research the most interesting, as it gave me an opportunity to tell the stories of people often ignored, and it was also vastly entertaining because of the swashbuckling characters and sea-battles that were described.

I also began to look for sources farther afield  in both digital and physical archives. My last chapter dealt with British maritime immigration. It was said that during the Dutch War between 5000 and 6000 British sailors were in the Dutch marine. An investigation into Dutch sources became necessary, as well as learning some Dutch language along the way! I did not try to address the contention directly, so instead, I gave several examples of men who definitely served in the Dutch navy. A good example was Robert Callwine, a mariner from Stirling, who along with several Scottish shipmates nearly drowned when he was attacked by the English fleet. Another sailor I encountered was one John Scott, a sailor of local interest, having hailed from our very own St Andrews! I also used my research as an excuse to travel to Edinburgh and to collect as many sources in the NRS as possible, including several I had to transcribe from original Scots language manuscripts. Among other documents of interest I found was one letter I discovered while on a class trip to Sweden: a 1652 letter from the English Commonwealth to Queen Christina in Sweden seeking reassurance that their ships would be mutually entertained in each other’s harbors and protect each other from becoming “infested” by their enemies.

In the future, I hope to publish my dissertation. In the meantime, I will return as a student to St Andrews in January to begin my MRes, continuing my research into Anglo/Scottish-Dutch history, and writing a dissertation on Scottish soldiers in the Dutch Republic between 1600 and 1655. In my free time, I enjoy playing the fiddle, running, and I have also been entering biographies of Scottish immigrants on the Scotland, Scandinavia, and Northern Europe (SSNE) database for Professor Murdoch.

Publication Spotlight: Early Medieval Hagiography

medhagiography.pngBlog written by Dr James Palmer

“How is your book… your novel going?” Angus inquired politely as he sipped at his coffee. “The one about the Scottish saints?” Antonia sighed. “Not very well, I’m afraid. My saints, I regret to say, are misbehaving”. Love over Scotland, Alexander McCall Smith

And indeed, for Antonia, they are. They get grumpy and might not even really like each other. Saints are, after all, people, and not always particularly pure. They also have to live in the same societies as everyone else, full of petty jealousies, alcohol, greed, and people with bad ideas. Or, Antonia fears, maybe she is projecting her ideas on them.

I wrote Early Medieval Hagiography with these issues firmly in mind. Saints, or at least writings about them, have long been seen as both reflections of the societies that produced them and efforts to shape those societies. Hagiographies can supply wonderful, rich data for studying the early Middle Ages, from Ireland to Byzantium and sometimes beyond. But they can also present minefields for those dealing with them, both because they were not written to tell us about the past in a straightforward manner, and because of the baggage of how we have tried to study them ourselves.

Initially, I was approached by Arc Humanities Press (an imprint of Amsterdam University Press) to write an introduction to these saintly biographies that was, apart from being introductory, provocative, different, and grounded in enough hard research to say things to a hardcore audience. And preferably with a global angle. In short: it was going to be a challenge. We needed a twenty-first century guide to the subject that captured the field and at least attempted to tilt it to an awkward angle. It also need to bring scholarship on different regions – actually, in the end, stretching from Ireland to Japan – into sight to help future comparative studies.

Columba.jpg

Schaffhausen, Stadtbibliothek, MS Gen. 1, f. 1 – a copy of the Life of Columba, made on Iona before 713, image attrib. e-codices, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

My plan was simple: I wanted to write a study that took the reader through the process of writing about saints, from their creation to our efforts to use saints’ Lives. It needed to start with people reading old saints’ Lives, hearing oral legends, remembering and misremembering things, and then trying to make their friends look like saints. There was no process of canonisation in the early Middle Ages, no rules about ‘how to make a saint’. Of course, some saints, like the Englishman St Boniface of Mainz (d. 754), looked like a saint in life because he had read all about them. His enemies were capable of doing so too, which was inconvenient for him and his followers, but which was good (for me) for showing how people negotiate status when there are not really any rules to follow. It also allowed plenty of scope for unusual saints: married-with-children saints, bishop-murdering saints, holy fools hanging out with prostitutes, saints who had performed no miracles whatsoever but who were a bit angsty. Every time one subverts our modern expectations about what a saint should look like, we should be jolted to consider what that says about shifting social norms, then and now.

Once somebody had written an account of their favoured saint, what they did with it was important. Hagiography did not just exist as stories: they were parts of books, of libraries, of sermons and debates, with real institutional contexts and with people engaging with them. Turning to the early manuscript evidence as I did, you can see people attempting to recontextualise saints by juxtaposing the new and the old, women and men, martyrs and confessors – all to give them new meaning. People composed calendars and martyrologies as guidebooks that linked into liturgical cycles (or often, more likely, just to help to decide what stories to read out at dinner time for entertainment). Order controls meaning.

Book Calendar.jpg

St Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek, MS 566 – a calendar of saints that tells you in which book you could find the story about them, image attrib. e-codices, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

Having built up a sense of how people wrote hagiographies, and then one of how people used them, the third angle was no less important: how do we use them? The modern classic on the subject, Hippolyte Delehaye’s Les légendes hagiographiques (1905), came directly out of efforts to remove dubious saints by applying rigorous source criticism (much of which boils down to entirely reasonable variations on ‘don’t trust anything too much without good reason’). The development of hagiography studies in the century that followed, unsurprisingly, very much mirrored historiographical trends more generally. Ideas from philology, gender studies, anthropology, postmodernism and comparative religious studies came into play, combined, and fell out of fashion again, leaving a varied toolkit for future analysis. But always, it seems, scholars sought ways to get lost pasts to speak to present concerns, however objective and neutral they claimed to be. There is a long history of being polemical about who is right and who is wrong about how, at the end of the day, historians ought to read hagiographies. What we need to do is to be methodologically promiscuous and find questions – not answers! – from different fields. In particular, we need to get away from the surprisingly dogged insistence that we don’t need to think about method or theory if we ‘read with care’.

The final part of Early Medieval Hagiography seeks to apply lessons from the other themes of the book, and to reassess what difference studying hagiographies has made to early medieval studies. Here, I turned to the big issues: How ‘dark’ were the Middle Ages? How important were ethnic and religious identities? Did people really not have any sense of the world beyond the horizon? And, of course, for every example that confirms our worst prejudices about the period, there is at least one saint whose story has unsettled them. In fact, more often than not, hagiography forces us to see the early Middle Ages as a much more complex time than even many working on them like to admit, and forces us to see more of society in action than just a few rich white men at the top. The challenge the book ends with, then, is how we can take these kinds of observations to build new histories that are both methodologically rigorous and which speak to our needs. Antonia could rest easy: we have been projecting our concerns onto saints for two millennia and we are not going to stop now.

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.

gdfamily_versaillesprotest.png

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.

Postgraduate Spotlight: Arthur der Weduwen

00A07_Andrew_and_Arthur_AR.jpgIt is not every day that you hear about a PhD student publishing a seminal bibliography and unlocking thousands of primary sources for a wider audience. However, in St Andrews, it just may happen! Arthur der Weduwen, a team member of the Universal Short Title Catalogue project at St Andrews supervised by Professor Andrew Pettegree, will publish a two-volume bibliography of seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish newspapers this May.

Published by Brill as Dutch and Flemish Newspapers of the Seventeenth Century, 1618-1700, the bibliography contains detailed descriptions of 49 newspapers and more than 16,000 surviving issues. Each newspaper is prefaced with an introduction highlighting the publishers, printers, characteristics and lifespan of the paper. The bibliographical sections are preceded by a lengthy essay, ‘The rise of the newspaper’, which presents a chronological analysis of the development of the periodical press and an overview of the production and consumption of newspapers in seventeenth-century society. A major portion of this essay is based on Arthur’s M.Litt dissertation written for the Book History degree at St Andrews in 2015. In November 2016 Arthur received the prestigious Elsevier/Johan de Witt thesis prize for this dissertation at a ceremony in Utrecht.

Arthur started work on his bibliography during his M.Litt studies in Book History at St Andrews. Interested in the history of media, information and news, Arthur was inspired to start the bibliography after coming across an article by the English scholar G.C. Gibbs, who urged the completion of exactly such a task back in 1971. Some of the first printed newspapers appeared in Amsterdam and Antwerp, and the region would develop into one of the most competitive centres of the newspaper trade in Europe. Netherlandish publishers were true pioneers, responsible for some of the most notable features of newspaper publication, including the adoption of newspaper advertising.
While these papers played a fundamental role in the intellectual and political culture of the early modern Netherlands, no study has ever presented a comprehensive overview of the publication of these early newspapers.

Cover vol 1

Publisher Abraham Casteleyn and his wife Margaretha van Bancken, painting by Jan de Bray, Photo attrib. Rijksmusesum, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

The bibliography took Arthur across dozens of libraries and archives in Europe and the United States. Early newspapers have suffered a high rate of loss: close to two-thirds of all documented issues in Arthur’s bibliography survive only in a single copy. Many of these copies are often to be found outside the Low Countries, in Sweden, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom, where they were collected and read by diplomats poring over the papers to assess public opinion in the Low Countries. Thanks to the development of digital resources and the goodwill of many librarians and friends, Arthur was able to access scans of thousands of issues in foreign institutions; altogether he personally inspected 98% of all surviving issues. While digital initiatives greatly assisted the compilation of the bibliography, Arthur most enjoyed searching through undocumented collections in libraries himself: such quests were particularly rewarding as they turned up four previously unknown titles, including the oldest newspapers published in Utrecht (1623) and Brussels (1621).

Overall, Arthur hopes that his bibliography will encourage other researchers to make as much use as possible of these fascinating documents, and that the study of news and newspapers will continue to evolve and inspire other scholars. He is especially grateful for the continuous support and generosity of the School of History at St Andrews and the Universal Short Title Catalogue project.

On Thursday 11 May, Arthur’s bibliography will be festively presented at the Amsterdam University Library. The presentation will be followed on 12 May by a symposium on the development of the newspaper in the Dutch Golden Age. For details about the event contact Arthur at adw7@st-andrews.ac.uk or Dr Helmer Helmers at h.j.helmers@uva.nl

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.

Publication Spotlight: Royal Heirs and the Uses of Soft Power in Nineteenth-Century Europe

coverBlog written by Professor Frank Lorenz Müller

In 1877 Archduke Rudolf, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, reached his majority. To mark this happy day, Field Marshall Archduke Albrecht, the stern Éminence grise of the Habsburg family, sent the young man a set of “aphorisms”, which contained a whole list of strict injunctions and dire warnings. Above all, Rudolf should make sure to eschew the “softening” (Verweichlichung) Albrecht was observing at other courts. For that way lay dishonour and loss of prestige. For the old field marshal, the princely profession was all about the splendour of majesty, about sticking rigidly to court and dynastic rules and about distance from the banal normality of human life.

For Albrecht, our new volume Royal Heirs and the Uses of Soft Power in Nineteenth-Century Europe would probably have been as unedifying a choice of bedtime reading as his austere aphorisms were for the wayward Rudolf. For the historians contributing first to our conference in 2015 and then to the volume which grew out of it, however, the phenomenon of royal power “going soft” – or at least adding a “soft” string to the bow of monarchical power – in the nineteenth century is not a cause for despair.

Rather than seeing the increasing attempts made by Europe’s dynasties to win over politically relevant audiences, to attract, cajole and persuade instead of forcing or coercing them, was a central component of monarchical survival. That these old dynastic dogs learned a whole bag of new tricks as they journeyed from commanding hard power to exercising influence is a sign of their resourcefulness and astuteness and not, as Archduke Albrecht would have argued, a symptom of a flaccid loss or moral fibre.

Organising our case studies round the famous concept of “soft power” – as coined by the American political scientist Joseph S. Nye – we invited historians specialising in many different European monarchies to explore how their dynasties sought to acquire this new skills set, to consider the different means they used and to assess the success of these efforts. Both our conference and now the volume have ranged from Spain to Norway, from Greece to the UK by way of Austria, the Netherlands, Prussia and Sweden. Our authors have analysed sports and public diplomacy, good looks and sartorial style, news management and the political market – while not neglecting love and marriage, dynastic virtues and the power of the visual in imperial settings.

HeirstothethroneMarking, as it did, the high-point of the AHRC-funded project Heirs to the Throne, the volume showcases the work of three St Andrews PhD students: Maria-Christina Marchi, Richard Meyer-Forsting and Miriam Schneider. It also adds to the list of volumes already published within the “Palgrave Studies in Modern Monarchy”, a series founded alongside the project and co-edited by Heidi Mehrkens and Frank Lorenz Müller in co-operation with Axel Körner (UCL) and Heather Jones (LSE), who both contributed to last year’s conference volume “Sons and Heirs”.

As the project is drawing to its official end, we look forward to more published research and to continuing our co-operation with Palgrave Macmillan. Meanwhile, we invite everyone to get hold of a copy of “Royal Heirs and the Uses of Soft Power” – which, by the way, makes a terrific Christmas present – and to find out for themselves why Archduke Albrecht was wrong and “soft power” was not a bad thing for 19th-century heirs.

Postdoc Spotlight: Sarah Greer

 

Sarah Greer joined the School of History at St Andrews in September 2013 as a Marie Skłowdowska-Curie Research Fellow while she completed her PhD on ninth- and tenth-century Saxon female monasteries under the supervision of Professor Simon MacLean. This was not what she expected when she started her tertiary education. After graduating from a high-school history curriculum which focused almost exclusively on twentieth-century history, Sarah was determined to take as wide a range of modules as possible when she arrived at the University of Auckland. Three years followed of courses ranging from Ancient Egyptian religion to modern Australian history, but when she enrolled in a paper on the Later Roman Empire and the ‘barbarian’ kingdoms of Western Europe in her final semester she was hooked. Her Honours dissertation was on the origins of female monasticism in sixth-century Gaul; this was followed by a research masters on the function of double monasteries under the Merovingians and Carolingians in the sixth to eighth centuries and she was lured even closer to the High Middle Ages during her doctoral research. She is now peeking over at the Salian and Capetian dynasties with interest, but still likes to describe herself as an early medieval historian.

img_1079

Hrotsvitha presenting her Gesta Ottonis to Otto I, photo attrib. Sarah Greer

Sarah was fortunate enough to be able to come to St Andrews on a fellowship through a research network called Power and Institutions in Medieval Islam and Christendom (PIMIC), which also included Professor John Hudson, Professor Caroline Humfress and Cory Hitt. As PIMIC was an EU-funded Innovative Training Network, this meant that in addition to working on her thesis, Sarah has spent the past three years also taking part in a variety of training workshops across Europe. She was also seconded to work at Brill Publishers in Leiden for three months in 2014; at the Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne for three months in 2015; and at the Centro de Ciencias Humanas y Sociales in Madrid for two months in 2016. She also took part in a month-long documentary film school as part of PIMIC, and remains grateful to the PhD students from the Mediaeval department who stood in as various members of the Ottonian imperial family for her documentary on Mathilda of Quedlinburg.

img_1094

The city of Quedlinburg, photo attrib. Sarah Greer

Having submitted her doctoral thesis in September 2016, Sarah is delighted to be continuing her connection with both the School of History at St Andrews and the EU. She has been selected as the postdoctoral research fellow under the supervision of Professor MacLean as part of the new HERA-funded research network: ‘After Empire: Using and Not Using the Past in the Tenth Century’, which joins together historians from St Andrews, Exeter, Berlin, Vienna and Barcelona. Sarah will work on how tenth-century people interacted with earlier royal mausolea and used the memories of the past embedded in these sites in the post-Carolingian world. She is very happy to remain in Scotland for another three years on this fellowship, although she does at times miss New Zealand’s summers.