Being ‘Mad’: Mental Illness in Early Modern England

The treatment of mental disorders in England during the Elizabethan and Jacobian periods. By Dr. Aleksandar DimitrijevicProfessor of PsychologyUniversity of Belgrade It has become almost a rule that the birth of scientific psychiatry and what we today term clinical psychology took place in the short period between the last decade of the XVIII century and[…]

Political Accountability in the U.S. and Its Early Modern Roots in England

The British – who invented impeachment – decided it no longer served its purpose and found more effective methods to deal with bad leaders. Introduction Impeachment was developed in medieval England as a way to discipline the king’s ministers and other high officials. The framers of the U.S. Constitution took that idea and applied it[…]

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[…]

Reading Times for Newspapers and Periodicals in Victorian England

Time, like place, is socially constructed rather than ‘natural’, and so one might expect ideas of time to be influenced by cultural change. Introduction Time is part of the very name of ‘newspaper’, with its promise of something new, and of ‘periodical’, suggesting something published at regular intervals. Time is also part of their nature,[…]

Reading Places for Newspapers and Periodicals in Victorian England

These reading places confirmed the centrality of periodical print to Victorian culture. Introduction We need to know where the local newspaper was read to understand how it was read, because the same texts take on different meanings in different places.[1] The same report of a Preston football victory over Blackburn has opposite meanings, of success[…]

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[…]

Londinium, the Proud City: A History of Rebuilding London since Late Antiquity

The resulting texture of the metropolis has a diversity of buildings unlike any other. In 1942, at the height of the Second World War, the British government published a plan for the destruction and rebuilding of whatever of London was left standing after German bombing. The ambition compared with Albert Speer’s ‘Germania’ proposal for a new[…]

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[…]

The English Reformation: Fighting the Oppressors to Become Them

Henry VIII and his heirs became equally as oppressive as the Catholic Church whose chains they threw off. Introduction The English Reformation began with Henry VIII of England (r. 1509-1547 CE) and continued in stages over the rest of the 16th century CE. The process witnessed the break away from the Catholic Church headed by[…]

The Long Parliament: England’s 17th-Century New Model Army and the Rump

The notion of the state as a commonwealth in which the ruled as well as the ruler had rights eventually resulted in the modern nation state. Introduction The Long Parliament is the name of the English Parliament called by Charles I, on November 3, 1640, following the Bishops’ Wars. It receives its name from the[…]

‘Arena Three’: Britain’s First Lesbian Magazine

Looking at at how Britain’s first lesbian magazine came about and its impact on society. Introduction In 1958 the Homosexual Law Reform Society (HLRS) was founded in the wake of the Wolfenden Report, published on 4 September 1957. The society launched with a series of high profile advertisements in national newspapers and became a beacon[…]

The Post-Plague English Peasant Revolt of 1381

With the plague decimating the ranks of laborers, surviving workers rebelled against the crown’s higher taxes and restrictive labor laws. Introduction As a professor of medieval Europe, I’ve taught the bubonic plague, and how it contributed to the English Peasant Revolt of 1381. When a deadly disease started to spread, the most vulnerable and powerless[…]

On the Trail of King John before (and after) the Signing of the Magna Carta

Plotting John’s route for all 17 years of his reign to produce digital maps of his progress as he struggled to maintain his grip. John was the most peripatetic of all English monarchs. His 17 years on the throne are often described as a reign of crisis.  In 1214 John lost his lands in France,[…]