Regular monster readers may have noticed that my productivity as a blogger has dipped in recent months. I’m not trying to claim extenuating circumstances, but I attribute this (at least in part) to the fact that I’m currently involved in the production of three edited volumes of essays (two as co-editor, and one as sole editor). Editing other people’s work is a great privilege, and most of the time it’s immensely rewarding and enjoyable. Editing a volume of essays, though, is also extremely time consuming, and trying to coordinate your own hectic work patterns with the schedules of ten other academics, perhaps a dozen or maybe more, is often easier said than done. In this post, I’d therefore like to spend some time reflecting on my experience of ‘the editing game’, and the rewards it can bring, as well as some of the potential pitfalls to avoid. If you’re short of time, why not scroll straight to the bottom to see my top 10 dos and don’ts for editors! Continue reading
This is the fourth post in a series to mark the publication of my new book, Alehouses and Good Fellowship in Early Modern England. Each post focuses on a character that features in the book, and uses them to highlight some of my key themes and arguments.
The seventeenth-century English alehouse was undoubtedly a male-dominated space. It was certainly not, however, an exclusively male space. For a start, it was common for alehouses to be run by widows, or by the wives of men whose name was actually the one on the license, and many young women would have worked as serving maids in these institutions. But women also represented a significant component of alehouse customers. Indeed, one historian has estimated that as many as 30% of the customers in Essex alehouses in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were women.
Women were a sizeable minority of the alehouse crowd
Women often drank in alehouses with their husbands, and young women frequented them as part of mixed-gender groups of friends. Of course, the alehouse was an important centre of courtship for the young in the villages and small towns of seventeenth-century England, in an age when a trip to the cinema or the bowling alley—or whatever it is young folk do for courtship these days—were not available options. (Although some alehouses did have bowling alleys attached to them even then, so the link between bowling and courtship may be older than we think). Continue reading
How, in the 21st century, can the word ‘pleb’ lead to a prominent MP resigning his government post and to a £2 million libel lawsuit? The recent conclusion of this ridiculous saga has reminded us that this seemingly obsolete term of social description still has bite, but why?
The BBC has offered its own little history lesson on ‘pleb’, focusing on its classical origins. However, they leap straight from the Latin source to its use in 19th century public schools. What the BBC misses, perhaps justifiably, is the re-emergence of this Latinate language in the early modern period and the fraught use of the term by historians studying that period. Yet for those of us interested the history of social relations and social conflict, the terminology is more than an anachronistic oddity.
Rugby School, beloved by the plebs
The abbreviated version – ‘pleb’ – used by Andrew Mitchell seems to have been an invention of the late 18th century. I haven’t found it in any of the thousands of transcribed texts on Early English Books Online except in Latin passages, and the Oxford English Dictionary records its first example in 1795. It is, by this time, derogatory Westminster School slang for ‘the son of a tradesman’. Mitchell, who attended the equally exclusive Rugby School, probably picked it up through this route though he might have learned a bit more about it when studying history at Cambridge. This explains why, in a moment of angry condescension, he spat out a term that most of us would regard as obscure and a bit silly. Nonetheless many other versions of the term have been circulating for at least a couple thousand years. Continue reading
This is the third in a series of posts to mark the publication of my new book, Alehouses and Good Fellowship in Early Modern England. Each post focuses on a character that features in the book, and uses them to highlight some of my key themes and arguments.
As we saw in the previous post, the rising popularity of alehouses and good fellowship in seventeenth-century England met with considerable opposition from Church and State. But concerns over developments in England’s drinking culture did not just emanate from hostile ruling elites—from the ‘top down’—they were also voiced within popular culture. This can be seen most clearly in contemporary anxieties that ‘good fellowship’ spawned ‘wastrel husbands’. One such example is the central character of this post: John Jarret.
Jarret, like Roaring Dick of Dover, is the central character of a broadside ballad, and whilst both men are keen partakers of alehouse good fellowship, John Jarret’s drinking is portrayed in rather more problematic terms than Roaring Dick’s. Rather than being a celebration of good fellowship, the ballad featuring Jarret—narrated by his long suffering wife—is a warning about its dire consequences. Continue reading
This is the second in a series of posts to mark the publication of my new book, Alehouses and Good Fellowship in Early Modern England. Each post focuses on a character that features in the book, and uses them to highlight some of my key themes and arguments.
On an October evening, in the year 1604, a weary traveller by the name of John Oultings entered Turner’s alehouse in the Essex parish of Layer Marney. It was around 6 o’clock, and Oultings ordered himself some beer and cheese, and requested a room in which to rest overnight. It was the kind of routine stopover that was a common occurrence in England’s seventeenth-century alehouses, as the institution represented an important component of the country’s hospitality infrastructure.
So far, then, nothing particularly remarkable. But what Oultings was to witness during his stay was a sequence of rather more intriguing events. On his arrival he found John Lufkin – the central character of this post – drinking with one Thomas Marsh and several other men. Whether Oultings joined these men is not clear, but at around 9 o’clock he saw John Lufkin call to the alehousekeeper to bring forth ‘a huge great stone pot’, which contained ‘very near two gallons’ (that’s 16 pints) of beer, a vessel that the drinkers referred to as ‘Fowler’—a rather odd nickname for a drinking vessel, but its provenance will become clear. Oultings was not interested in participating in whatever drinking ritual was about to ensue, and retired to his bed chamber.
Bring forth ‘The Fowler’!
This is the first in a series of posts to mark the publication of my new book, Alehouses and Good Fellowship in Early Modern England. Each post focuses on a character that features in the book, and uses them to highlight some of my key themes and arguments.
Meet our first alehouse character: Roaring Dick of Dover, the Jovial Good Fellow of Kent.
Roaring Dick of Dover
Roaring Dick is the narrator of an eponymous 1630s drinking ballad of the sort that would have been performed in, and perhaps even pasted onto the walls of, England’s seventeenth-century alehouses. Continue reading
This is the third of three posts surveying the London Catholic community at the time of the Gunpowder Plot. View the first here and the second here.
Yesterday we discovered that records of fluctuating levels of persecution might in fact provide us with more information about shifting international relations and official anxieties than changing levels of commitment to Catholicism. In this final post I use more qualitative data in an attempt to flesh out our understanding of the Catholic community in London through an exploration of some of the most prominent sites of Catholic activity in the capital. Continue reading