Newspapers, Gossip, and Coffeehouse Culture in Early Modern England

How the coffeehouse came to occupy a central place in 17th and 18th-century English culture and commerce. The drinking of coffee is a familiar feature of modern life, little-remarked on as part of our busy morning routines. The coffee-house though, traces its history back over more than 300 years, and offers a fascinating insight into[…]

Warren Hastings: A British Model for Impeachment, 1787-1795

The house sat for 148 days over a period of seven years during the investigation after his ten years of service. Introduction Warren Hastings FRS (6 December 1732 – 22 August 1818), an English statesman, was the first Governor of the Presidency of Fort William (Bengal), the head of the Supreme Council of Bengal, and[…]

Readers of the Local Press in Victorian England

Starting from the reader rather than the text allows a new picture of nineteenth-century reading to emerge. Overview If we want to read periodicals because they were what the Victorians read, the work that must be done to bring them to life suggests they are not quite what they were.[1] James Mussell As Mussell’s epigram[…]

English Coffeehouses in the 17th and 18th Centuries

Topics discussed included politics and political scandals, daily gossip, fashion, current events, philosophy, science, and more. Introduction English coffeehouses in the 17th and 18th centuries were public social places where men would meet for conversation and commerce. For the price of a penny, customers purchased a cup of coffee and admission. Travellers introduced coffee as a beverage to England during[…]

England’s Glorious Revolution: Cavendish and the Dukes

Of interest was the war threatening between England (and its allies) and France, and the dynastic quarrels that were giving rise to it. By Dr. Christa JungnickelHistorian of Science By Dr. Russell McCormmachHistorian of Physics Introduction Repeated rejections by the aristocracy of attempts by the crown to increase its power culminated in the Revolution of[…]

Crime and Punishment in Medieval England

Surreal legal concepts ran amuck throughout the epoch. By Lloyd Duhaime, J.D.Duhaime Law The origins of English law, aka common law, are decidedly murky as they were based on unwritten customs, passed down from generation to generation. William the Conqueror (1028-87), Henry I, King Arthur and King Alfred, Canute (995-1035), Ethelbert and Edward the Confessor – all tried[…]

Dominating Castles in the Medieval English Landscape

Castles are best seen as an architectural expression of the social status of their owners. Introduction The traditional view of a medieval English castle is that it was designed for warfare, suggesting that medieval lords were perpetually either at war or preparing for it. Until recently castles were mostly studied by military men or at[…]

A History of Peerage in the United Kingdom

Certain personal privileges are afforded to all peers and peeresses, but the main distinction of a peerage is the title and style thereby accorded. Introduction The peerage in the United Kingdom is a legal system comprising both hereditary and lifetime titles, composed of various noble ranks, and forming a constituent part of the British honours system. The term peerage can be used both[…]

The Penal Treadmill in Victorian England

Penal treadmills were used in prisons in the early Victorian period in Britain as a method of exerting hard labor. A penal treadmill was a treadmill with interior steps set into two cast iron wheels. These drove a shaft that could be used to mill corn, pump water or connect to a large fan for resistance.[1] Penal[…]

Punishment Sentences at the Old Bailey from Early Modern to Victorian England

Types of punishments imposed on convicts at London’s central criminal court from the late 17th century to the early 20th century. Introduction Judges could choose from a wide range of punishment sentences in this period, though their options were often limited by choices made at an earlier stage in the judicial process. Felonies defined by[…]

The Life and Execution of King Charles I

Seven years of fighting between Charles and Cromwell claimed the lives of thousands, and ultimately, of the King himself. Introduction As a King, Charles I was disastrous; as a man, he faced his death with courage and dignity. His trial and execution were the first of their kind. Charles I only became heir when his brother Henry died[…]

A History of the Coronation Ceremony of the British Monarchy

The earliest English coronation that is recorded in detail was the crowning of the Anglo-Saxon King Edgar (ruled 959-975 CE) in 953 CE. Introduction The coronation ceremony of the British monarchy as we know it today involves many elements that have been a part of the pageantry ever since the 11th century CE. Such features[…]

England in Chaos during the Norman Invasion of 1066

The Normans originated as early settlers of northern France. The most valued skill was knowing one’s way around a blade. Introduction The fate of English literature was largely influenced by Frenchmen from the North, invading the rainy, wet piece of land that was England. Without this forced influence, English literature as it is known today[…]

Æthelstan: First Medieval Ruler of a United English Kingdom

Æthelstan was the first ruler of the whole kingdom of England. Æthelstan was the grandson of King Alfred of Wessex  (reigned 871–899) and the son of King Edward the Elder (reigned 899–924). Nothing is certain about his mother, but Continental and later writers suggest she was of lower social status. At some point, Æthelstan was[…]

Drawing a Blank: An Attempt to Save the Life of Charles I?

Was this an effort by Prince Charles (the future King Charles II) a last-ditch effort in exchange for his father’s life? Leafing through Harley MS 6988, it would be easy to flick past an unobtrusive empty page towards the end of the manuscript. Upon closer inspection, however, this ‘blank’ may be one of the central[…]

Pride’s Purge, 1648-1649: English History’s Only Coup d’état

The Purge cleared the way for the execution of Charles in January 1649 and the establishment of the Protectorate. Introduction Pride’s Purge is the name commonly used for an event that took place on 6 December 1648, when soldiers prevented MPs considered hostile to the New Model Army from entering the House of Commons. Despite[…]

Militia in Great Britain from the 17th to 19th Centuries

The Militia of Great Britain were the principal military reserve forces of the Kingdom of Great Britain. England Following the restoration of Charles II in 1660, parliament passed several acts empowering the Lord Lieutenant of each county to appoint officers and raise men for a militia force. Although the king commanded the forces, they were[…]

Fyrd: Militia in Early Medieval England

The fyrd consisted of a nucleus of experienced soldiers that would be supplemented by ordinary villagers and farmers from the shires. A fyrd was a type of early Anglo-Saxon army that was mobilized from freemen to defend their shire, or from selected representatives to join a royal expedition. Service in the fyrd was usually of[…]

Religion in Medieval England

The Church had a close relationship with the English state throughout the Middle Ages. Introduction Medieval Religion Unlike religion in the modern world, medieval religion had deep significance and central importance in the lives of most individuals and nations. There was hardly any concept of a secular nation where religion did not play any role[…]

Dial ‘S’ for Sex: A History of a Phone-Booth Subculture in the United Kingdom

Sex worker card collection, Thomas SG Farnetti / Wellcome Collection, Creative Commons In the 1980s a change in the law meant UK phone boxes became noticeboards for business cards selling sexual services. As well as accumulating a cult following, these miniature advertisements tell us a lot about fluctuations and fashions in what was on offer.[…]

South Asian Activism in 19th- and 20th-Century British and Indian Politics

From the suffragette Sophia Duleep Singh to the Communist MP Shapurji Saklatvala: explore the lives of notable South Asians in 19th and 20th century British and Indian politics.      By (left-to-right) Dr. Susheila Nasta, Dr. Florian Stadtler, and Dr. Rozina Visram Nasta: Chair in Modern Literature, The Open University Stadtler: Senior Lecturer in Postcolonial Literatures, University[…]

Modern America and Magna Carta

Exploring the role of Magna Carta in the politics and popular culture of modern America. From The Simpsons and Jay-Z to the American law courts and the ‘War on Terror’, discover the significance of Magna Carta in the USA today. By Dr. Matthew Shaw / 03.12.2015 Librarian Institute of Historical Research School of Advanced Study University of London[…]

Early America and the Magna Carta

The Magna Carta (originally known as the Charter of Liberties) of 1215, written in iron gall ink on parchment in medieval Latin, using standard abbreviations of the period, authenticated with the Great Seal of King John. / British Library, Wikimedia Commons From the early colony of Pennsylvania, to the American Revolution, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill[…]

Empire and Slavery in the Caribbean through the 19th Century

Print depicting enslaved people producing sugar in Antigua, 1823 / British Library, Public Domain After the Caribbean was first colonised by Spain in the 15th century, a system of sugar planting and enslavement evolved. David Lambert explores how this system changed the region, and how enslaved people continued to resist colonial rule. By Dr. David[…]

Culture and Intellectual Life in British Colonial South Asia

The contributions and influence of South Asian artists, poets, intellectuals and sportspeople within British arts, sciences, law, and sport during the colonial period in the 19th and 20th centuries.      By (left-to-right) Dr. Susheila Nasta, Dr. Florian Stadtler, and Dr. Rozina Visram Nasta: Chair in Modern Literature, The Open University Stadtler: Senior Lecturer in Postcolonial Literatures, University of Exeter Visram: Author and[…]

Britain under King George I, 1714-1727

On August 1, 1714, Queen Anne died, and the orderly succession of Hanover’s Elector Georg Ludwig proclaimed him King George I of Britain and Ireland as the closest Protestant relative of Anne. By Dr. Sanderson Beck Author and Historian Henry St John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke. Attributed to Alexis Simon Belle, c.1712. / National Portrait Gallery, London, Wikimedia Commons In[…]

A Tradesman Forced to Confront the Pestilence in 17th-Century London

A combination of poverty and “plague orders” in 1665 trapped many in situations that meant almost certain infection and death. Weaver John New, like many confined with dying relatives, was denied the escape routes open to the rich. By Anna Faherty / 06.22.2017 Associate Lecturer University of the Arts London The City of London, 1665. As the[…]

Divining the Witch of York: Propaganda and Prophecy – ‘Mother Shipton’ in Medieval England

Frontispiece, most likely by Robert Cruikshank, to The Life and Prophecies of Mother Shipton (1823) / Internet Archive Said to be spawn of the devil himself and possessed with great powers of prophetic insight, Mother Shipton was Yorkshire’s answer to Nostradamus. Ed Simon looks into how, regardless of whether this prophetess witch actually existed or not, the[…]