The Monster @ 5

Well, well. It was five years ago today that the many-headed monster first reared it’s head in the blogosphere. It all started with a pithy welcome post advising our readers that this blog was unlikely to feature Henry VIII’s wives, swiftly followed by Brodie’s first ever post – about a monstrous hairy child who was put on show for the entertainment of the citizens of 17thC Norwich – and by Mark’s first foray into blogging – a short think-piece on the 17thC hangover.

Pepys_1_0434-0435_iBaseIn the following half-decade ‘the monster’ grew two new heads – Laura and Jonathan – and between us (and a few guests…) we published 260 posts on various aspects of early modern society and culture: an average of one per week. Collectively they have been viewed over 236,000 times, by over 123,000 visitors, and been subject to thousands of comments. We would like to say a big thank you to everyone who lurks somewhere in those statistics for their interest in, and support of, this blog. We drink your health, dear readers!

One of the great things about having been around for a while is that we can now lay claim to having our very own ‘archive’. Every post we have published is still openly available for all and sundry to peruse, and we would like to take this opportunity to encourage our readers to do what many of you love to do best – delve into the archive!

If you’re looking for bite-size chunks of early modern history to fill your lunch hour – or perhaps to set as introductory reading for your students – then there are a number of ways to search through our past posts. First, you can use our ‘Browse by Theme‘ option to browse our archive by – you guessed it – specific themes. Second, you can visit our ‘Monster Mini-Series’ page to find some collections of some our most popular posts, which include things like useful introductory reading lists (‘Marooned Monographs‘) and posts relating to ongoing debates about issues like periodisation. Third, you can simply stick a keyword in the ‘Search’ box on our homepage to see if we have any posts touching on whatever it is you are interested in (‘drink’ brings up quite a few hits…).

And of course we will continue to add many more posts to the archive over the next 5 years…

Merry Christmas from the Monster!

slide_8Well folks, let us not pretend that 2016 has been a year of peace and unity, but that’s all the more reason to wish each and every one of our readers a restorative and merry midwinter holiday. We also want to say a huge thank you to everyone who supports the blog, whether that’s simply by taking the time to read it or by sharing our posts on social media or indeed in your classrooms. We were delighted to recently pass a couple of statistical landmarks – 100,000 visitors and 200,000 views of the blog since its inception – and we hope to have many, many more in the years to come.

If you’re not feeling in the festive spirit yet then perhaps a quick trawl through the many-headed monster’s archive of ‘Christmas Specials’ will help: you can read about the history of early modern Christmas dinners; find out how our old pal Ralph Thoresby spent his Christmases; delve into the political conflicts that engulfed seventeenth-century Christmas; discover the impact of the Reformation on Christmas carols; relive an epic Boxing Day pub crawl from 1647; and be warned of the perils of refusing to give seasonal charity in the age of witchcraft.

See you in 2017.

The 200th Post!

200Welcome to the many-headed monster’s 200th blog post! We started the blog back in July of 2012, so it’s taken us about three-and-a-half years to get here. In that time we have managed to produce a post (on average) about once a week, so there has been plenty of content for our readers to get their teeth into over the past few years.

We thought we would take this milestone as an opportunity to revisit some of that content, and pluck out a few highlights from our archive (we are historians, after all). So, if you missed any of these the first time round, or indeed fancy reading them again, here are some of our other milestone posts:

The 1st Post: Norwich entertainments–Part I: A monstrous hairy child and a boneless girl

Prides Fall (1684-6)The blog kicked off with Brodie’s first installment of his ‘Norwich entertainments’ series – also launching the mini-series format that has proved a popular one on the ‘monster – in which he reflects on what 17th century Norvicians’ penchant for viewing ‘monstrous’ deformities might reveal about the culture of our early modern forebears. You can revisit the rest of this series here.

 

The 50th Post: Eating Animals: A Bit of History

In this milestone post Mark examined the relationship early moderns had with eating meat – finding evidence that whilst meat eating was more widespread in the 17th century than we might expect, so too were notions of vegetarianism. Plenty of fodder here for those dinner table discussions! For more on the history of food and drink see Mark’s ‘Food for Thought’ series.

 

The 100th Post: Elizabethan ‘madmen’ Part I: Not such a Virgin Queen

west-country-to-worlds-end-tyrwhitt-drake-collection-43Our century of posts came up with the first part of Jonathan’s Elizabethan ‘madmen’ series, which looks at a selection of unusual letters written directly to the Queen by some of her more marginal – and eccentric – subjects. In this instance the writer makes an extraordinary paternity claim. Jonathan reflects further on the signficance of these letters in his contribution to our Voices of the People symposium.

The 150th Post: Memorial and History: appendix ii, further discoveries

DSCN5322In this post Laura adds a postscript to her Memorial and History series. This examined a whole range of monuments and memorials – often found in rather unexpected places – which reveal how battles over how we remember the Reformation have raged down the centuries. It also includes some lovely holiday snaps. Stay tuned to the ‘monster, for next week’s post revisits the issue of how history and memory are embedded in our landscape.

Just a few highlights then from our archive, and here’s to many more to come! Thanks to all of our followers, readers, commenters, guest bloggers and re-tweeters – your interest and support for the blog are what make it tick, so keep on coming back…

Addressing Authority: Petitions and Supplications in Early Modern Europe

Brodie Waddell

How can we study the sort of people who – according to William Harrison’s oft-quoted phrase – had ‘neither voice nor authority in the commonwealth’? This is a question we have returned to repeatedly on this blog. In our ‘Voices of the People’ and ‘History from Below’ symposiums, we discussed the many ways in which historians might attempt to get at the experiences and opinions of those who did not hold the reins of power in early modern Europe.

The Humble Petition of Jock of Bread (1648)

The Humble Petition of Jock of Bread (1648)

One type of source that some of contributors to the events found particularly promising was the ‘petition’ or ‘supplication’. Such documents have received attention on this blog from Mark Hailwood, Jonathan Healey, Michael Ohajuru, Laura Stewart, Jonathan Willis and myself. However, this failed to satisfy my own fascination with such documents, so I’ve joined with three colleagues from Birkbeck – Rebecca Tomlin, Laura Stewart and Sue Wiseman – to organise an event focusing specifically on these sources. Here are the details…

Addressing Authority: Petitions and Supplications in Early Modern Europe

One-day workshop

Friday, 18 March 2016

Birkbeck, University of London

Invitation for Participants

This event will have space for 10-15 participants in addition to the 12 speakers. The workshop will be informal and conversational with substantial time for discussion between the panel presentations, so there will be an opportunity for all attendees to participate.

If you would like to attend, please send a brief statement of your research interests in this topic (100-300 words) to Brodie Waddell (b.waddell@bbk.ac.uk) by Friday, 12 February 2016. Postgraduates and early career scholars are especially welcome.

Continue reading

The many-headed monster devours its 100,000th victim

The monster heads

We are delighted to report that we recently received our 100,000th view on the many-headed monster! We would like to thank everyone who reads the blog, as well as all those who share posts with others, or who take the time to comment. It is safe to say we wouldn’t be here without you.

The monster celebrates like it is 1566.

The monster celebrates like it is 1566.

We usually mark milestones with some reflection, so here goes:

The monster’s first post appeared 18 July 2012 (so we will soon be 3 years old as well). Mark Hailwood and Brodie Waddell were the founding members, soon joined by Laura Sangha and Jonathan Willis. Since then we’ve:

  • Posted 167 blogs
  • Had 48,500 visitors
  • Featured 11 mini-series
  • Received 766 comments

Our most successful post is now Brodie’s ‘A missing child and a suspicious meat pie in 1645’, relating the strange case of human flesh allegedly being sold as food. After being featured on the suspiciously named Hacker News, this post received an astonishing 4,857 views (4,246 visitors) on 2 June 2015. Continue reading

Women’s Work in Rural England, 1500-1700

Mark Hailwood

bruegel hay makersMany ‘monster readers will have already deduced that I recently started a new job. So I thought it would be a nice idea to write a very short post introducing the project that I’m now working on. It is based at the University of Exeter, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, and will run until the summer of 2018. The leader of the project is Professor Jane Whittle and I will be the main researcher. Our aim is to gather an unprecedented level of information about the everyday working lives of early modern English women by extracting incidental information about work activities from witness statements given in court cases (and a few other types of record too). We hope that this innovative methodology will help us to capture aspects of women’s work – for instance domestic and other types of unpaid work – that more conventional history of work sources – such as wage data – do not.

If you want to know more about the aims, methods and sources we will be using I have set up a website for the project here, that contains a lot more detail about what we will be doing. I’ll also be blogging over there about our progress from time to time, so if you are interested please do follow the project.

In fact, we already have a couple of blog posts up:

  • ‘What is Work?’ – project leader Jane Whittle challenges some of the more conventional definitions of work that historians use, and offers a more suitable alternative that we will be adopting for the project.
  • ‘Did Women Work in Agriculture?’ – in this post I examine some of our first archival gleanings, and use them to raise some questions about the gendered division of agricultural work in rural England.

Finally, I should mention that we are looking for a third person to complete our project team, and as such are offering a fully-funded PhD studentship at Exeter. So, if you like the sound of the project or know of someone who you think might like to apply, then all the relevant details can be found here. The deadline for applications is 1st June.

A large part of my job will be working through thousands of witness testimonies from quarter sessions and church courts, with their rich and fascinating vignettes of everyday life. In addition to the information I am after for the project this will turn up plenty of stories about the lives of ordinary men and women in early modern England for me to regale ‘monster readers with, so keep watching this space!

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