Happy Blogiversary! The Monster is Two

Apparently a ‘blogiversary’ is a thing. It is, no doubt, another one of those neologisms that will make many of you cringe. But its also an excuse for a bit of fun, so we are going to take the chance to celebrate the fact that the many-headed monster is now two-years old! And what better way to celebrate than with a virtual cake and some statistics?!

Let them eat cake!

Let them eat cake!

It all started back on 18th July 2012, with Brodie’s first post in his ‘Norwich Entertainments‘ series, about the providential messages inherent in the parading of a hairy child and a boneless girl around the city. Over the first two weeks we averaged a modest but respectable 10 hits a day.

Since then we have received over 53,500 hits on the blog, spread across 122 posts, complete with 685 comments, at closer to an average of 100 hits per day. These hits have come, somewhat unbelievably, from 140 countries! Less surprisingly most of our readers come from the UK, the US, Canada and Australia – though Germany and France are also well represented in our viewing statistics. India also makes the top ten.

More low-calorie virtual cake, anyone?

More low-calorie virtual cake, anyone?

Our top five most popular posts are all from our ‘History from Below’ online symposium held last summer. Laura’s post on John Dee’s Conversations with Angels is the most popular outside of that event. We summarised some of the other most popular posts in our 100th post recently if you want to know more.

One of the more curious things about our blog statistics are some of the unusual search terms that have led readers to the site. ‘Okapi’ has introduced no less than 11 unsuspecting stripy-animal enthusiasts into the world of early modern history (courtesy of Laura’s posts on the use of analogy in history writing). A search for ‘dirty mind of young sally’ has sent 9 browsers into our midst – and I think we would rather not know how or why.

Much more innocently the search ‘be nice to archivists’ has produced 8 visitors: certainly a sentiment we are happy to be logarithmically associated with. ‘Male hunk zodiac signs’ rather less so. Although, if this search produced a link to the John Dee post we’d like to think he would have been flattered…

So there you go: two-years of the ‘unruly sort of clowns’ and other early modern peculiarities. Some people out there seem to think the age of the blog is coming to an end. Others that they are an increasingly important component of being a historian in the 21st century. Whichever way the wind may be blowing we’re hoping to have many more blogiversaries if you, our beloved readers, keep coming back. Thanks for all the views, comments and tweets: we hope you’re enjoying the blog half as much as we are.

The Many-Headed Monster

Memorial and History, appendix i; in which Jonathan jumps on Laura’s bandwagon…

Jonathan Willis

This short post is inspired by Laura’s brilliant mini-series on ‘Memorial and History’, which took its own inspiration from her discovery of Exeter’s 1909 memorial to the Marian martyrs Thomas Benet and Agnes Prest.

Hearing Laura talk about Exeter made me curious about the city where I was born and raised, and which bears the somewhat ignominious dual-honour of being the location of the first documented case of medieval blood-libel (a false accusation of ritual murder against the Jewish community), and also of witnessing the execution of one of the first evangelical martyrs of the reformation.

Have you got it yet?  Yes, the answer is Norwich!  It’s a beautiful place, with more surviving medieval churches than any other city in western-Europe north of the Alps, and the people are much friendlier now, so if you haven’t you should really visit it some time.

Norwich - a fine city!

Norwich – a fine city!

Anyway, so on 19 August, 1531, Thomas Bilney was burned to death in Norwich at the traditional site for such judicial executions, the so-called ‘Lollards’ pit’, within the menacing gaze of the ancient Norman cathedral.  The audience was ‘sympathetic’ to Bilney, and amongst them stood the future archbishop of Canterbury, Matthew Parker.[1]  The only other Henrician martyr to die in Norwich was the Benedictine monk William Leyton, but during the reign of Mary eight more martyrs met their end in the city, including two women, one minister, and five lay men.

Surely then, Norwich had to have an elegant memorial to the memory of these ten true believers, martyred in the city for the Protestant faith?  Well, yes and no.  The city has nothing to compete with the Henry Hemms monument in Exeter.  But there is a memorial, and in its simplicity it is perhaps a fitting testament to ‘Little’ Bilney, a man whose death inspired a wave of iconoclasm across the region.

Norwich's martyrs memorial

Norwich’s martyrs memorial

This striking slab is dedicated ‘to the glory of God and in grateful memory’ of Bilney, ‘for spreading the gospel of free salvation by faith in the atoning blood of Christ once offered on the cross’.  Bilney is described as ‘”blessed martyr of God” – spiritual father of the reformation’, and there follows a list of names of other martyrs (interestingly the list is not comprehensive).  There is a biblical quote (Revelation 12:11), and the following statement: ‘these all died in the cause of biblical Evangelical Christianity and in denial of the unscriptural doctrines of the Church of Rome’.

Laura’s discussion of other monuments touched upon the Oxford martyrs’ memorial (1843), and monuments in Amersham (1931), Dartford (1850 and 1888) and Smithfield (1870).  The Smithfield and Amersham memorials, she noted, were erected by the Protestant Alliance, an anti-Tractarian group founded in 1845 and which describes itself (on its website) as ‘a non-demoninational organisation which exists to educate concerning the history of Biblical Protestantism and to spread the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ’.

What is interesting about the Norwich memorial is not only its very different form and style, and its rousing inscription, but also its date.  This was not a Victorian or inter-war construction.  See if you can guess from the photograph of the unveiling:

Unveiling the Norwich memorial

Unveiling the Norwich memorial

Don’t let the monochrome photography throw you off: this memorial was unveiled on … 29 September 1985!  Wreaths were laid; the crowd was addressed by the pastor of a local independent evangelical chapel; and the Alliance was still organising commemorations at the site of the memorials in Norwich and elsewhere as recently as 2012.

In terms of a conclusion, I defer to Laura’s eloquent discussion of history, memory and emotion.  All I would add is a note of surprise that the reformation was still being employed so polemically against ‘the unscriptural doctrines of the Church of Rome’ as recently as thirty years ago.  This only goes to underscore the powerful hold which early modern history can continue to exert upon our sense of community and identity, and that the ways in which we appropriate the past often say just as much about us as they can ever reveal about the past itself.

[1] P. R. N. Carter, ‘Bilney, Thomas (c.1495–1531)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/2400, accessed 19 June 2014]

Marooned On An Island Monographs: An Early Modern Economic History Reading List

Brodie Waddell

Inspired by Mark and Jonathan’s posts, I started thinking about what classic books I would take with me if I was marooned on a pleasant beach somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. My true list would have a fair bit of overlap with theirs, so I thought I’d better make it unique by focusing on a different subtopic, namely economic history.

As you’ll see, I’m not really a proper number-crunching economic historian, but I do spend a fair bit of my time thinking about economic life in this period, and these are the books that have proved particularly invaluable or inspiring. It’s a bit more difficult to pick monographs for this particular sub-discipline as it tends to be oriented towards articles. In fact, if you’re looking for the latest research that’s probably the place to go. To get a sense of the sort of excellent work going on right now, take a look at recent articles by people like Amy Erickson, Jane Humphries or Marjorie McIntosh. If, on the other hand, you’d just like to lay on the sand with some classics, try these… Continue reading

Marooned on an Island Monographs: an English Reformation Summer Reading List

Jonathan Willis

Well, term has ended, and having been really struck by Mark’s idea of an early modern social history desert-island-style summer reading list, it got me to thinking: what are the five must-read books I would pick for my own specialism, the English Reformation?  This is also the time of year when I start to get emails from students who are taking my modules in the autumn and keen to make an early start preparing for the new academic year.  This post is therefore dedicated to them, and I might well direct a few of them this way! Continue reading

Marooned On An Island Monographs: An Early Modern Social History Summer Reading List

Mark Hailwood

It is the last day of term here in Oxford, and my thoughts have started to drift to what I might find time to read over the upcoming summer months. This is a purely fictional premise of course, for my summer is already booked up with conferences to attend, writing deadlines to meet, book indexes to compile: casual reading is unlikely to get much of a look in. Still, I thought I would indulge myself by thinking about some of the history books I would take with me if I was going to be marooned on an island between now and the resumption of term in the autumn (a nice idea huh? Someone should make a radio show along these lines…)

Marooned ReadingTo stop myself getting carried away I’ve imposed some fairly strict conditions: I have chosen only 5, and I’ve decided to stick to books in my specialist subject area. It’s a bit of a niche collection, I admit, but even narrowing down this list was hard enough! So, for anyone looking for a summer crash course in early modern English social history…. Continue reading

Monster Mini-Series

The ‘monster now has a number of long running ‘mini-series’ – collections of posts that are grouped around a particular theme, topic, or source collection. For your delectation we now bring you a list of the said mini-series, with a brief description of the contents of each. For future reference the link is just up there, on the right end of the menu bar. Happy browsing!

A mini-series on ‘The Tudor South West’ at Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum

Laura Sangha

In November I had the pleasure of visiting a wonderful new exhibition at Exeter’s recently refurbished Royal Albert Memorial Museum. Titled ‘West Country to World’s End: the South West in the Tudor Age’, the publicity describes it as ‘celebrating the spirit of adventure and enterprise of south west people’ during the Elizabethan ‘Golden Age’.

In this mini-series of blogs I take monster readers through a virtual tour of some of the exhibition’s objects and images, exploring what they tell us about the history of the early modern South West.

  1. A City Map: a 1587 map of Exeter, full of delightful and telling details.
  2. Domestic Decoration: what are two images of Moses and Job doing in post-Reformation, Protestant England?
  3. Goldsmiths and Urban Redevelopment: including some lesser known consequences of reform, and why iconoclasm is like town planning.
  4. The Spanish Armadas: the South West in the front line of Catholic-Protestant hostilities, some more maps and some Houses of Parliament tapestries.
  5. Parting Thoughts: a round up of what the exhibition has taught me about the South West.

‘West Country to World’s End: the South West in the Tudor Age’ runs until 2 March 2014 at Exeter’s RoyalAlbertMemorialMuseum. You can find all the details about the museum, it’s opening times, it’s wonderful café and more on their website.