Author: historyatnorthampton

URB@N History and Personal Tutoring

This week, I was very pleased to support Emma Tyler present her second URB@N project for the History department at the University of Northampton. For those who have not heard of it, URB@N stands for Undergraduate Research Bursaries at Northampton, and is a scheme the university has been running since 2008. Basically URB@N gives students the chance to carry out research into the ways undergraduate teaching works, to help lectures and other staff improve the teaching experience at the university. Students are expected to put in a significant amount of work for this research, but are rewarded for their time with a £500 bursary.

 

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Emma Tyler presenting her URB@N project at the annual Teaching and Learning conference at the University of Northampton on 18 June 2019

I have been involved in four URB@N projects so far, and each one has led to some interesting discoveries. In the past these projects have helped me develop teaching materials for my modules on the history of fascism, and enhance the department’s online and social media presence. Our online spaces now include this blog site, which features content from staff and students, and also our Twitter account, @HistoriansUON, among other things.

 

For the most recent project, Emma looked into the department’s personal tutoring system. She was trying to find out both ways it worked well and ways it could be improved, to make sure the History team is being as supportive as it can be. She conducted a questionnaire survey of all the History students, and also ran a focus group of first years. Carrying out this type of research is fairly unusual for History students, as it involves finding out things about people who are very much alive, and involves getting ethical approval for all the data collection. It has also helped develop Emma’s experience in developing practical recommendations from original research, another key skill.

 

Emma’s research was able to show that the vast majority of our students are happy with our personal tutoring system, and they seem to view the History team as helpful and supportive. For example, her data shows that the department makes clear the role of the personal tutor very early on, and uses the system to offer students a wide range of academic and pastoral support. She was also able to highlight some areas for enhancing the way the History department delivers personal tutoring, such as rethinking our choice of meeting spaces for tutorial sessions, and adding in more scheduled personal tutor meetings throughout the year.

 

While Emma is now finalising a report that she will present to the History team over the summer, on 18 June she presented her research project at the university’s annual Teaching and Learning conference. Over lunch, along with other students from across the university who were granted URB@N bursaries, she talked about her research at a poster exhibition. She chatted with a wide range of lectures and others involved in delivering teaching, and was even able to get some further ideas to help refine her recommendations. Emma was a great advocate for the History department, and was able to explain in detail how the History team approached personal tutoring.

 

The URB@N scheme is a very important element of how the University of Northampton empowers the student voice, and is responsive to problems and issues that students face. It empowers students, and helps them engage in research that not only enhances their own skills, but also hopefully improves things for fellow students. I am look forward to being involved in more URB@N projects in the future, and hope that other History students can find it as beneficial as Emma has.

 

Paul Jackson, Senior Lecturer in History

Exhibition Launch: James Parkes and the Age of Intolerance

Starting on Wednesday 13 March 2019, the University of Northampton will be hosting an exhibition about the life of Reverend Dr James Parkes (1896 – 1981). Parkes was one of the most remarkable figures within twentieth-century Christianity. Yet since his death in 1981, he has largely been forgotten by the church, by Jews, and by British society as a whole.

James PArkes blog

The exhibition on display at Southampton city’s Holocaust and Genocide Memorial Day event in January 2019

James Parkes was a tireless fighter against antisemitism in all forms. He was one of the first Christians to accept both the Christian roots of antisemitism and the integrity and validity of Judaism. Throughout his career, Parkes worked tirelessly to promote religious tolerance and mutual respect among those of all faiths and none.

In the 1930s, he helped to rescue Jewish refugees from Europe, including Alexander Teich – the grandfather of the actress Rachel Weisz. Parkes campaigned for the Jews of Europe during the Holocaust. He was a key figure in the creation of the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ). The CCJ was galvanised in 1942 as evidence of the Nazi extermination programme received widespread exposure in Britain. This was the most murderous year yet faced by European Jewry and the year when Polish Jewry was essentially destroyed.

Parkes authored more than 400 texts during his lifetime and was a prolific letter writer. He donated his library and personal papers to the University of Southampton in 1964. These materials formed the foundation for what later became the Parkes Institute, the world’s oldest and most wide-ranging centre for the study of Jewish/non-Jewish relations across the ages. The exhibition draws on documents and photographs from the University’s Special Collections to examine the life of James Parkes and reflect on his legacy for us today.

Since his death, James Parkes has been increasingly forgotten. He has become a ‘nobody’, whilst others are celebrated for the work that he pioneered. He ought to be remembered. Remembering activists such as Parkes is partly about honouring their humanity. But it also helps to illustrate the failure of their contemporaries to act during an age in which intolerance was all too common.

The exhibition has been curated by Chad McDonald, who is an alumnus of the University of Northampton. He is now a researcher based at the universities of Bristol and Southampton, where he is examining British post-war responses to the Holocaust. He is a member of the editorial team for the highly respected academic journal Patterns of Prejudice. The exhibition has been generously funded by the South, West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership (Arts and Humanities Research Council).

The exhibition will be opened with a keynote talk by the curator at 4pm on Wednesday 13 March. It will be on show in the Owl’s Nest on the Ground Floor of the Learning Hub on the Waterside Campus until 27 March. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

 

Click here for more details on the launch event on the 13 March

Remembering a war after ‘The War’

Jim Beach of the University of Northampton reflects on a visit to the Czech Republic.

Jim blog

 

Speaking neither Czech nor Polish, it was with some trepidation that I accepted an invitation to speak at a workshop on the Seven Days’ War between the Czechs and Poles in 1919.  

The initial invite came from Tomáš Rusek, a Czech historian I had met at the Voices of the Home Fronts event organised by the National Archives and Everyday Lives in War in 2016.  Along with Ondřej Kolář, who had presented alongside Tomáš, a coincidence of historical interest emerged during that conference and the three of us have remained in contact since.

The workshop took place in Ostrava in the Czech Republic on Friday 25 January and was organised by Martin Lokaj of the city’s university in collaboration with the Association of Czechoslovak Legionnaires. My paper discussed the British military officers sent in early 1919 to the Duchy of Teschen; now the borderlands of Poland and the Czech Republic.  

Like my fellow Britons a hundred years ago, I was unsure what to expect but found the experience fascinating.  Particularly as my only personal point of comparison was First World War centenary events in Britain.

The visit was made all the more interesting because I travelled with Ian Dalziel, the great-nephew of one of the British officers sent to Teschen. Like me, Ian had never visited the Czech Republic and we were made to feel most welcome by our hosts.

Another aspect that impressed us was the format and content of the workshop.  It took place in Centrum Pant, a coffee and bookshop which is used as a cultural venue in Ostrava.  This made the occasion less formal than a standard academic conference and seems to have helped the interchange of perspectives.

The audience was a mix of scholars and the wider public, with representation from both sides of the modern border. It is also worth noting that the programme did not shy away from confronting difficult subject areas.  For example, one talk addressed the highly controversial issue of war crimes committed during the fighting.

Although handicapped by our linguistic ignorance, Ian and I witnessed vigorous debates in the Q&A sessions. Catching up on the gist, which was kindly translated retrospectively for us during the breaks, I was struck by a similarity with British First World War-related events between 2014 and 2018.

As in Britain, there was an obvious collision between recent scholarship and ingrained perceptions of the conflict.  And although there was no obvious emergence of consensus, it struck me that it was important for old and new views to be expressed, challenged, and argued in a public historical forum like this one.

In this regard, it must be understood that a broader significance hangs over the Seven Days’ War.  It tainted the early relationship between a re-established Poland and the new state of Czechoslovakia.  As the interwar period played forward this had consequences when the Second World War loomed in Central Europe.

On the Saturday Ian and I joined the Legionnaires association on their visit to the battlefields of the Seven Days’ War in Poland. With temperatures well below zero and an accompanying snow fall, we certainly got a feel for the meteorological challenges facing the two sides a hundred years ago.

The key events of the day’s tour were the laying of wreaths at graves of the fallen.  In simple ceremonies very similar to their British equivalents, a guard was formed by personnel from today’s Czech military and younger legion members wearing reproduction uniforms of 1919.

These uniforms were in themselves an intriguing insight into the conflict. Czech forces of the time wore a variety of dress depending on which army they had served with in 1918.  Czech legion units formerly with the French and Italian armies wore uniforms of those countries, while locally-recruited troops had Austro-Hungarian outfits. The addition of insignia in the then Czech national colours of red and white did not really help with battlefield recognition because Polish colours were the same!

Ian and I were also impressed by the Czechs concluding their day with a double wreath laying at the graves of Polish soldiers in Skoczów.  Reflecting the human complexity of Teschen in 1919, these men had been laid to rest in adjacent Catholic and Protestant cemeteries.  And in the early evening darkness the lighting of candles next to their memorial stones added poignancy to the ceremony.

Reflecting upon the two days, I am struck by the willingness of my Czech colleagues to engage with what might termed the ‘difficult history’ of the Seven Days’ War. It would have been all too easy to let the centenary pass by without historical engagement. 

It was a privilege to witness events over the two days.  I am therefore most grateful to have been able to participate as a representative of the Everyday Lives in War First World War engagement centre.

 

This blog first appeared on the Everyday Lives in War First World War Engagement Centre website

Holocaust Memorial Day 2019 at the University of Northampton

Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) was remembered at the University of Northampton on Wednesday 23 January. Traditionally it is on 27 January, which was a Sunday this year. The afternoon began with the ceremonial laying of the stones outside of the Bird of Transformation monument in front of the Senate Building at the new Waterside Campus. The congregation then moved to the Morley Room, to listen to the guest speakers, and this year I was included among them.

The theme for this year was ‘Torn from Home’, and the presentations reflected this aspect. John Josephs from the Northampton Hebrew Congregation spoke about the importance of keeping the Holocaust, and other genocides, in the memory of the current and future generations.

Julie Gottlieb (Professor of Modern History at the University of Sheffield) presented the keynote speech on ‘Gender and the ‘Jews’ War: Women, Anti-Semitism and Anti-War Campaigns in Britain, 1938-1940’. The talk was very informative as the focus around women’s involvement in the far-right is a relatively unexplored topic. Through the lens of gender, it provided an alternative perspective. Dan Jones stepped in at the last minute and gave a speech about the far right with a geographical zoning in on the local area. All presentations were expertly delivered, insightful and were received with gratuitous applause.

The presentation that I gave was on the ‘Kindertransport’. The reason why this topic was chosen was to bring awareness to other aspects of the Holocaust that people don’t immediately think of. Most think about concentration or death camps, or single events such as Kristallnacht that targeted Jewry and left mass destruction over a very short period of time. As children and adolescents were taken away from their family, they too were torn from home.

HIMD 2019 2

It was a British driven operation that began in 1938 and lasted until 1939, and saw ten thousand children rescued from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia and transported to Britain using the train and boat system. Upon arrival in Britain, the system that the earlier kinders experienced was very different to those who arrived in 1939.

The children were picked by their host families. This was then altered to children being assigned. New identities were assimilated, which included having to adapt to a new religion. The Telegraph wrote an article about this on 26 May 2013, which included stories such as that of Mrs Jacobs, who tells of trips to the cinema that was specifically put on for the refugees. This reminds us of how much the small acts made a difference to these refugees, and the positive impact that taking up permanent residence in Britain had on these children. In a contemporary context, it would be hard for those to comprehend what the Kindertransport went through, as society and politics in 2019 are to an extent, very different.

More research is needed about the operation, especially the impact that it had upon the families and children, but it is apparent that the effects are individualistic. Historians such as Rebekka Gopfret commented that the individuals do not assimilate themselves with the victims of the Holocaust because society, and by extension their own consciousness, have deemed that only those liberated from the extermination camps, are the ‘real survivors’.

However, the children were separated from their parents immediately and although some maintained contact through letters, by 1939 any hope of reunion was quashed by the onset of the Second World War. By 1942, the cessation of letters left many questions unanswered for the senders. This was bound to have a substantial effect on the children and many had to come to terms after the war had ended, that they may not see their parents or their native homes again. They had to adapt to a new way of life that for most, became permanent. This feeds into the emotional factor.

As Edith Milton wrote in her biography, she does not remember the journey, only that it was full of children and weeping adults; she does not remember her mother being there, but she presumes she was. This highlights that possibly, due to the traumatic events and separation from their parents, the children have blocked out parts of the event.

Various manifestations arose out the children’s experiences. Poetry was an outlet, which forms a larger collection of literature from Holocaust survivors and makes their story more accessible to the general public. They can express their emotions and try to understand the psychological trauma they experienced.

Samuels Kindertransport

There have also been plays written, such as Kindertransport. Diane Samuels in the prelude to this play includes five personal accounts from Kindertransport children. This reiterated that the play was based on true accounts, but that the format of the play means that once again, the topic becomes accessible to the wider public. It makes a difficult subject easier to digest. It can promote discussion and it can also be in a less emotionally charged environment, unlike a face-to-face interview.

Oral testimonies are useful ways for both the interviewee to tell their story and validate their feelings, and the interviewer to gain insight and knowledge into the experiences. Some caution is needed when using these as historical sources, as there can be periods of no memory and every person’s experience is unique, but they can be useful tools nevertheless.

In essence, Holocaust Memorial Day serves to ensure that atrocities that have happened in the past do not get repeated. Survivors of that generation are declining in numbers, and by discussing these events it puts the issue in the forefront of later generation’s minds.

By creating awareness, the signs can be recognized and action taken to stop genocides or persecution from being widespread to a national level. Never again.

 

By Kay Montero, a second year History student

UK premature baby care 1947-1965. The Doctor Isaac ‘Harry’ Gosset Collection

This blog is based on the presentation given on 8 November 2018, as part of the History at Northampton Research Seminars series at the University of Northampton. It explores the origins of perinatal (premature baby) care in the UK from 1947 to 1965, using recently available archival material for Northampton, made possible through the generosity of the family of Dr Isaac Henry Gosset (1907-1965).

 

Isaac Gosset (known as Harry) was the son of the noted statistician William Sealy Gosset who wrote under the pseudonym ‘Student’ who developed the ‘t-Test’. Isaac received his education at the Dragon School in Oxford and Rugby School, then on to Magdalen College at Oxford before gaining his medical degree at St Thomas’s Hospital in London.

He held various medical posts in London and around the Home Counties including a period in the RAF during the Second World War. By the time of his demobilisation he was working as Senior Medical Specialist at RAF Cosford, one of the largest RAF general hospitals, and had attained the rank of Wing Commander.

Dr Gosset was appointed the first consultant paediatrician for Northampton General Hospital in 1947. He had extensive clinical responsibilities for Northampton and the southern part of the county, together with part of north Oxfordshire, and following the creation of the National Health Service in 1948 also Kettering General Hospital and the northern part of Northamptonshire.

He was a pioneer in the development of exchange transfusions ‘undertaking exchange transfusions for sick neonates with hydrops only one year after the first published description of this technique by Diamond in 1947’. This was a decisive, life-saving intervention by the paediatrician in the delivery room, an area previously felt to be the sole realm of the of the obstetrician and midwife.

The first premature baby unit in the UK was opened at the Sorrento Maternity Hospital in Birmingham by Dr Mary Crosse in 1931, the second unit opened at the Southmead Hospital in Bristol by Dr Beryl Corner in 1946. During the 1950s several hospital teaching centres set up premature baby units. The General Hospital in Northampton was an early adopter of premature baby units as the first one here predated 1950. This unit was deemed to be too small so in 1950 Dr Gosset helped in planning and setting up the new premature baby unit at Northampton by the conversion of the old labour ward in the hospital’s maternity home.

In neonatal practice he designed the ‘Gosset icterometer’.

Andrew Willaims 2

 

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It was made of Perspex, and manufactured initially by Modern Fittings, a local Northampton firm, and subsequently by Ingram’s of the Santos Works at Birmingham, it allowed accurate estimation of serum bilirubin without a blood test. The icterometer was trialled in both Northampton and Birmingham and both studies were published in the Lancet in 1960.

These are amongst the very earliest neonatal care research papers in such a prestigious journal and reflect that at the time icterometers were an important advance. Dr Mary Crosse and her team at the Sorrento Maternity Hospital, also in Birmingham, were using Gosset’s Icterometer too, so successfully that they were wearing the paint off their device.

Professor Peter Dunn, Emeritus Professor of Perinatal Medicine and Child Health, at the University of Bristol, and Southmead Hospital, Bristol, said of the icterometer ‘…[he] used the icterometer all the time when he was paediatric registrar at the Birmingham Maternity Hospital 1959-1962 and onwards’. He said further that ‘Not only was the icterometer an effective clinical tool, equally importantly it saved valuable time when paediatric staffing was minimal. I rate this instrument as the most valuable I had at that time and still is useful today especially for those working outside hospital’.

Icterometers were used for many years afterwards, but having been superseded by transcutaneous electronic bilirubin meters and microsampling of blood samples enabling blood tests to be undertaken more quickly and requiring less volume, they are no longer supported by current NICE guidelines for use in the UK. However Icterometers are still in use today in many countries around the world with recently published (2017) studies validating their use in China and Nigeria.

In April 1965 the new premature baby unit which Dr Gosset helped to design was opened. In this he was a generation ahead of his time, which even in the 1970s saw such units as being restricted to teaching centres.

Sadly in March 1965, Dr Gosset died of a coronary thrombosis aged only 57 on his way home from his usual Thursday afternoon clinic at Kettering General Hospital. The Premature Baby Unit was immediately renamed the ‘Gosset Premature Baby Unit’ a name which it still proudly bears to this day.

‘The Gosset Collection’ is unique in the UK in having extensive archival material covering premature baby care in the pre-ventilation era. Using ‘The Gosset Collection’ the full premature baby care pathway of the 1950s and 60s can be reconstructed, the history of the development of the icterometer can be explored and both can be placed in the context of a rapidly evolving area of paediatric medical care.

 

Fred O’Dell and Andrew N Williams, Northampton General Hospital, United Kingdom.

 

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https://www.northamptongeneral.nhs.uk/About/OurHistory/Dr-Gosset/The-Dr-Isaac-Harry-Gosset-Collection.aspx

The photographs are taken from the Dr Isaac ‘Harry’ Gosset Collection and were originally provided by Dr Gosset’s family.

Needy knights and rich old ladies: Sir John Sandys and social mobility in late Medieval England

In 1980, Terry Jones, actor, presenter, writer and Monty Python member, published what has become something of a literary event. Chaucer’s Knight: Portrait of a Medieval Mercenary is a book that had medieval historians foaming at the mouth for many a year afterwards. It generated much debate and forever altered the landscape of the knightly class and ‘chivalry’ in academic circles.

Jones proposed that Chaucer’s knight, far from being the chivalric gentleman, was in fact a ruthless careerist in pursuit of titles, land and wealth via the conventional trade of war. Ransom, kidnapping, extortion, profit and abduction was the new stock in trade, rather than saving the honour of the defenceless or fighting evil. Chaucer’s General Prologue and Canterbury Tales (c.1380s) are packed with similitudes and, like the best fiction, tell more of real life than non-fiction can.

One of the chief tasks of the medieval knight in literature was to rescue or at the very least, preserve the honour of the damsel, but in reality it was the often the knight himself who placed the damsel in distress.

One such real person I encountered during my research is Chaucer’s Knight to the life, an exact contemporary with the Canterbury Tales. In November 1375, orders were sent to William Upton to keep safely all the goods of John Sandys, a ‘fugitive’ from Cheshire, which were in his keeping; the king’s sergeant-at-arms were then commissioned to arrest all goods of John Sandys in William Upton’s keeping and bring them to London to the king for disposal.

John Sandys was charged with the abduction of the recently widowed Joan Bridges from Romsey Abbey (Hampshire), where she had been staying. It was found that he had on his person possessions worth over £120 (£100,000 today), which belonged to the lady’s previous husband. One of the Black Prince’s esquires was sent to Chester to bring the lady back to London for examination by the King’s Council. It was then discovered, however, that Sandys had already married her.

On 8th April 1376, Sandys secured a royal pardon for all homicides, rapes and felonies of which he stood indicted. He subsequently acknowledged that he owed the King a fine of £1,000 (around £900,000 today) but this sum was never paid, for it was assigned to the Black Prince, who before his death expressed a wish for it to be pardoned in full. (Sandys was fortunate; the Black Prince died in June 1376.)

It was his service with the Black Prince that was Sandys’ salvation. Sandys is first recorded in the service of the Black Prince, who was earl of Chester (Sandys’ place of origin), as well as Prince of Wales and heir to the throne of England. On 27 January 1367, before Prince Edward sailed from Gascony to Spain, he granted him a substantial annuity of £50 (£50,000 today) for life from the issues of the earldom. Sandys probably fought in the battle of Najera, thereafter remaining for some time in the prince’s company in Spain and France.

 

“A knight there was, a worthy man…he loved chivalry, truth and honour….”

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Sir Geoffrey Luttrell (Luttrell Psalter f202v) c.1350

 

The later fourteenth century abounded with ‘proto-professionals’ – free-booters and mercenary leaders such as Sir John Hawkwood in Italy, Sir Robert Knolles in France or Nicholas Sabraham whose campaigning life took him from Brittany to the Black Sea. Included in these groups were opportunists and criminals, deserters, mutineers. It was a diverse, volatile world in a shifting culture and it was from this world that John Sandys emerges, his military career typical of many who served during this time.

However much Sandys military careerism may prove to be part of a developing trend in late 14th century warrior society, his abduction of a wealthy widow is the key to his stake in local society, politics and dynastic security. Without land, he was nothing, and the widow he apparently snatched from Romsey Abbey gave him that anchor.

Joan Bridges was the widow of both Peter Bridges and of Giles Norman and brought to Sandys four Hampshire manors with the marriage. Joan, however, was worth much more. She was the cousin and eventual heir of Sir William Fifhide, on whose death she stood to inherit three manors in Sussex and five in Hampshire, something Sandys would have been aware of in 1375.

John Sandys’ marriage to Joan and his previous military career positioned him well for a busy political career in Hampshire; he was commissioner of array between 1377 and 1392 (with involvement in putting down the rebellions of the summer of 1381); coroner from 1378, sheriff 1382-3 and 1394-5, JP 1384-95 (and JP in neighbouring Wiltshire 1391-4), MP eight times between 1381 and 1393 and deputy constable of Southampton castle in 1386.

During a military campaign in Aquitaine in 1380 Sandys was knighted, and his rise in society sealed. Sandys was now a made man; he dined with Bishop Wykeham’s household. (We have the only surviving household account roll, for six months in 1393 and he is specifically mentioned as a guest on Monday 16 June. He was in good company. On 25 July, King Richard II and his wife, Queen Anne of Bohemia lunched with the bishop and 234 others.) One imagines the fugitive-soldier of fortune turned landowner, MP and sheriff silently toasting his good fortune with the son of a stonemason turned Bishop over the wine and capons supplied to the kitchen that day. Sandys obtained a preacher’s licence from the Bishop for his own chaplain in 1385.

He may not have been born with a silver spoon, but he quickly learnt how to use one. Whatever his background as soldier of fortune from Cheshire, alleged rapist and murderer, by the 1380s, we would surmise that Sandys was very the epitome of Hampshire county society, an upstanding pillar of the community – one might even say, poacher turned gamekeeper.

Would any, or all this political activity have been possible without the widow Joan and her inheritance?

Joan was a prize worth having. Her life was lived out in the unequal patriarchal society, as heiress, wife and widow. If Sandys was Chaucer’s Knight, with all the ambiguities of the ‘chivalric’ career, then Joan was Chaucer’s Wife of Bath (like her, thrice married). Joan was the person with property, not John; Joan had the gentility that Sandys needed to enter into Hampshire society, once Sandys had washed himself of the blood and sweat from his numerous campaigns.

It was the heirs of their union (and her property) who would maintain the social status in the county community. Joan retained her rights over her freehold property from before the Sandys marriage, the land that had come to her during the marriage (from the Fifhide estate) and she would recover them if she became a widow, which indeed she did. Medieval land was ‘held’, not owned; what was at stake was the ‘right’ to their land and it was this that defined their possession. Sandys was seised in of Joan’s lands in right of her. Whilst married to John, she could not dispose of the land herself without his agreement; he couldn’t sell her land without her consent, or else the conveyance could be void at a later date.

As a widow, Joan was vulnerable because she was a woman of property in her own right and heiress. As an independent widow, Joan would have to take her own legal action in court (and women did) rather than her relatives take the action on her behalf.

 

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The Wife of Bath, from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

 Literature includes stories of knights dressed as friars assaulting women. See Chaucer’s Miller’s Tale – “And prively he caughte hire by the queynte”, a phrase which has a modern echo in a notorious comment by Donald Trump!

 

There is no record of Joan taking any such action. Perhaps it was a consensual match. Sandys was clearly a powerful man with a reputation, who would protect her. Perhaps not. When Sandys died, Joan married a fourth time, to the well-known lawyer, Sir Thomas Skelton, who had no connections with Hampshire and made no intention of making any. Does this mean Joan suffered silently with Sandys or just that once again she needed protection as a widow of means whose property was at risk?

Sandys not only wanted Joan’s property, which would be his during her lifetime, but his heirs by her would have the rights over her first two husbands’ property and inherit the Fifhide manors, which they did. Clearly Joan was either childless when Sandys carried her off, or with infant children who died because it was Sir John’s son by her – Walter – who inherited the properties and during the 15th century the family prospered (it was always harder for ‘new’ men to get established – older families often had a male heir, however distant, to take on the estate).

In 1501, at the dawn of the Tudor age, Sir Walter Sandys was 26 when he inherited eleven Hampshire manors, the bulk of them Joan Bridges’ inheritances. His younger brother Sir William went on to become Lord Sandys, 1st Baron of the Vyne in 1523, who built a new house at Sherborne which was visited by Henry VIII in 1510 and 1531.

The Sandys dynasty was firmly established, begun by an advantageous (forced) marriage by a career soldier with powerful backing and continued by good fortunes of fertility and survival (the average survival rate of the male line was 21% amongst peerage and gentry).

But what made Sandys unusual in Hampshire at least, was that he was one of very few, if perhaps the only, man to have married into the local gentry from a background without social parity in the period c1300-c1500, whose family became a leading local family. Widows and heiresses were key to the transmission of landed estates throughout later medieval England, but most marriages were conducted between families of equal status and from the local, or regional area. Sandys was neither.

Sandys was an exception to the rule. He not only broke out of the murky world of career soldiering but managed to build a local dynasty thanks to his marriage to Joan. In a man’s world of derring-do, high politics, and foreign adventures, the most important feature of later medieval landowning – and therefore local power –  was the women – often nameless, mostly unknown – but they were crucial to the family fortunes. Real power lay with them.

 

Dr Toby Purser, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Education and Humanities

Elizabeth Greenhalgh. Military Historian.

Jim Beach of UoN History reflects on the passing of a remarkable historian.

 

This is not an obituary. Nor is it a eulogy. It’s probably ‘an appreciation’. But Elizabeth, who died this month, would perhaps have pulled a face at that description. So let’s call it a paean; a song of praise that the Ancient Greeks offered up for their dead heroes.

Having come to the subject late in life, Elizabeth quickly established herself as a world-class military historian of the First World War. Within a decade she had published three landmark works with Cambridge University Press; Victory through Coalition (2005), Foch in Command (2011), and The French Army in the First World War (2014). In addition to this impressive output, Elizabeth also engaged in lively debate, through a series of articles, about Anglo-French relations during the conflict.

 

Greenhalgh books

 

My first encounter with Elizabeth was a dozen years ago at a conference on the Battle of the Somme. We ended up sitting next to one another during dinner and, having asked me some polite but tough questions about my recently-completed thesis, she immediately suggested avenues I could pursue as well as offering me snippets from her own work.

After that I saw her mainly during research trips to Europe from her home in Australia.  Elizabeth’s historical generosity continued, and I will be forever grateful for various titbits taken from dark archival corners on both sides of the Channel. And as her books came off the presses, like the rest of the historical community, I was consistently impressed by the depth of her research and their lively writing. Her work is also now embedded into my undergraduate teaching.

Visiting Canberra a few years back, Elizabeth and her husband Michael provided me with a lovely home-cooked dinner, some great wine, and a lift back to my hotel. But perhaps most delightful of all was the fact that she had, without me asking, raided her institution’s library shelves for every ageing text related to my research. Best short-term loan system I’ve ever encountered!

Elizabeth’s tenacity and thoroughness in pursuing historical targets was both remarkable and inspirational. Like a great detective in crime fiction, for her there seemed to be no such thing as a cold case. As secretary of the Army Records Society, I was lucky enough to have a ringside seat for one of these pursuits.

Having proposed a book of documents and diary entries written by the French liaison officer to British GHQ, over many years various obstacles blocked Elizabeth’s path. A lesser historian might have retired with honour from what seemed an impossible task.  Instead she doggedly chased down strange French copyright regulations, obscure bibliographic references, and elusive retired academics. The resulting volume, Liaison: General Pierre des Vallières at British General Headquarters, January 1916 to May 1917, is one of the society’s best.

For any military historian starting out, I think Elizabeth’s scholarly life tells you this:  Don’t let age or gender hold you back from joining the fray, follow your passion and seek out fresh evidence, then challenge any consensus you might collide into. Back yourself.  However, always take the time to find out properly what others are researching so you can lend a helping hand when paths intersect.

I will miss her. Military history will too. But from what I knew of her, Elizabeth would not want a fuss. Instead she’d probably want us to just get on with some decent archival research and then get it written up.

Wolverhampton First World War Conference Report

One symptom of a good conference is that you find yourself struggling to decide which parallel session to attend.  It’s a good problem to have and it plagued me throughout the recent conference entitled 1918-2018: The End of the War & The Reshaping of a Century.

At one point I had to decide between the demilitarisation of the Belgian capital in 1918 or a British Army vegetable show in the same year.  Was it to be Brussels or Brussels Sprouts?

Hosted by the University of Wolverhampton, the conference included six keynote lectures, sixty shorter papers, an after-dinner address, a round-table discussion, and the launch of digital exhibition.  The latter, entitled ‘Aftermath’, was focused on the social, economic, health and political issues affecting veterans. 

 The conference sponsors included the Royal Historical Society, the Western Front Association (WFA), the First World War Network, and the five AHRC-funded engagement centres.

Unsurprisingly given this support base, attendees came from a broad spectrum; WFA members, a variety of students, plus academics at all career stages and from around the world.  Probably because of this mixture, the event was noticeably informal in tone and the Q&A sessions were some of the best I’ve witnessed.

On the second day I was joined by Nick Mansfield, also from Everyday Lives in War.  He made copious notes on Panel 11 and, as you can see, I captured them for posterity.

 

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And Panel 11 itself was a good example of the diversity of the conference content.  Tammy Proctor unpacked the uneasy transition from war to peace in Belgium; Peter Stanley offered the hitherto untold story of the Territorials who served in India; while Ian Isherwood showed how the publishing industry shaped the stories told in the immediate aftermath of war.

Of the keynotes, Laura Ugolini’s exploration of masculinity was especially interesting.  I also found Alison Fell’s examination of women veterans very thought-provoking and it has certainly prompted me to reconsider the canon of interwar intelligence memoirs.

The conference was bookended by lectures from two world-renowned scholars of the conflict.  John Horne began by challenging the American/Western European notion that the war ended on 11 November 1918.  Then, at the end of proceedings, Jay Winter suggested that there were, in fact, two overlapping wars; the well-known one that ran from 1914 to 1918 plus another, far more brutal, conflict that began in 1917 and ended in 1923.

This should perhaps give us pause for thought.  In Britain we have just come to the end of a conflict commemoration process that has, generally, been disconnected from the rough and tumble of contemporary politics.  Across East/Central Europe and the wider world, the centenaries between 2019 and 2023 will almost certainly be more contested.  And yet, in many instances, the British were deeply involved in those events.  How might we mark them?

 

Dr Jim Beach, Senior Lecturer in Twentieth Century History

 

This blog first appeared on the Everyday Lives in War First World War Engagement Centre website: https://everydaylivesinwar.herts.ac.uk/2018/09/wolverhampton-first-world-war-conference-report/  

Ten Tips for a Successful Seminar

Starting university can be a bit overwhelming, and the last thing you want to do is worry that you are not getting the most out of the seminars, or that you are completing the prep in the wrong manner.

Seminars can be a wonderful environment for debates that are enlightening, and the preparatory work is very rewarding. So, to help you out – and maybe even a gentle reminder for those commencing their subsequent years – here are the ten tips that will enable you to get the most out of your education this year.

 

1. Spend time on the readings. This will enable you to get the most out of the seminars as this is where the learning really occurs; you can’t have a debate if you don’t know the facts! Seminars are there to reinforce your understanding and to invoke debates about themes within the reading, or simply to ask for clarification on a point. So, spend as much time as possible reading, understanding and even exploring different formats such as e-books or short journal articles to expand your knowledge. Which leads me nicely onto my next point…

2. Take detailed notes. Tip: if it might be useful for an essay jot down the bibliographical information otherwise you’ll be trawling through those books all over again… Also, a summary after each question for quick reference might be useful (especially if the lecturer puts you on the spot!).

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3. Do not fret if you end up starting the seminar prep the night before. Once you chat with your fellow students, you will find that a lot of them do this. It is not a reflection of your organisational skills as even the most organised will succumb to this. I wish someone had told me this in my first year, it would have saved a lot of stress and worry. But seminar prep usually is 2-3 hours per module, so make sure you factor in enough time to fully complete it!

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4. Bring notes to class. This might seem like an obvious one, but you’ll be surprised as to how many don’t. You cannot deepen your understanding, or even really know what is going on, if you do not have them with you. You can colour-code the information, italicise or put keywords in bold, whatever works best for you. Only you will see your notes, so you can organise them however you like. Just make sure that they flow.

5. Attendance is key. Statistics show that the higher your attendance is, the higher the chances are that you will achieve a higher grade. If you are taking ‘Blood and Iron: Europe, 1815-1914’ taught by Dr Jim Beach, you will see this chart.

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6. If you have time after completing the required preparations, do move on to other formats of learning. Documentaries, lectures and podcasts are a great way to learn whilst on the go. But, make sure you check out the credentials before listening to any of them. You want to be learning from a reputable source, to ensure the facts and theories are correct. If you commute into university, it is also a great way to get in extra studying without much effort and to make use of your time. Create mind-maps and flash cards along the way to help condense the information and to cut down on revision prep.

7. BUT, if you don’t have time to do wider research, don’t feel bad. Some of us have more commitments than others such as families or playing for a county sports team or in an orchestra. Whatever your circumstances are, if you can meet the required 24 hours of independent study a week, then you’ll be fine. Plus, there is always the long summer holiday break to follow your nose. Likewise, if you do end up fitting in some wider research and its always on the early modern period for example, don’t worry about it. That’s just your interest coming through and at least you’re learning. Who knows, it might even be a hint as to a good dissertation topic for you to pick for your third year.

8. Engage in both prep and the seminars. Talk to your fellow students and lecturers in the seminars. I really cannot stress how important this is. You will learn so much more and be exposed to such a diverse range of ideas and perceptions. If you’re stuck on a prep question, talk to your friends and try to decipher the readings that way. You might be able to reciprocate when they are unclear. Plus, it can highlight your strengths and weaknesses which you can work on before the next essay. Also, really look closely at the artwork each week and try to come up with concepts that the paintings might relate too. You’ll be surprised by how much a portrait can reveal about the social and cultural ideals and gender relations of that period. If you engage with the material, you will learn and subsequently remember a lot more of the information.

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9. Respect each other. It is hard enough to talk to a room full of people anyway, without someone cutting you off mid-sentence because they interpret a source differently to you. The beauty of university is that there are no right or wrong interpretations – if you can back up your point with evidence. So, everyone in the room can interpret the same source very differently. Don’t be afraid to say your opinion. Give each other time to fully develop their argument and allow the lecturer to explain concepts. If you extend the courtesy to others, they will do the same to you, and a healthy debate will be created, which is a lot more productive.

10. Inform the lecturer if you have not completed the prep. Some will ask you to go to the library and complete the work there, but do not fumble your way through the seminar. It won’t be productive for you or anyone else, and if you get chosen to answer a question, it will become apparent very quickly. It’s better to just be honest, whatever the reason is.

 

The first year will go by in a blur, and it will be an incredible year with hindsight. Enjoy it and be excited for the next two years ahead of you, no matter how exhausted you are after the exam period. You will be surrounded by some incredible minds and your own will be expanded.

 

Kay Montero, a BA History student at the University of Northampton who is just starting her second year

“If You’re Happy and You Know It Clap for Stalin!”

Preparing teaching materials for a new term can lead to some surprising discoveries. My highlight this year, while getting things together for my history of Communism module, was coming across the Revolting Russians episode of Horrible Histories on Box of Broadcasts, the video streaming service for schools and universities.

The show takes a typically light-hearted, sketch comedy approach to exploring the rise and fall of the Soviet Union, but also leaves some room to focus on some of the serious ideas behind this momentous history. I think it gets a nice balance, for a children’s show, but others may disagree.

Highlights, for me, included a weather report by a very camp Karl Marx, forecasting revolution across Europe in the late nineteenth century. Meanwhile, Lenin’s formation of the Bolshevik faction in London in 1903 descended into an argument over how to share ice creams equallyat London Zoo.

Stalin’s propaganda of the 1930s was reflected on too, through the rewriting children’s rhymes: if you are happy and you know it, and you really want to show it, clap for Stalin – otherwise you might get ten years in a forced labour camp!

The Second World War itself was examined via a parody on gamer videos, featuring Gamer Dave TDS, taking on the ‘End of Level Boss, Stalin’ in the ‘Operation Barbarossa’ level:

Also, for kids (of all ages) who like poo jokes, a sketch about Stalin ordering the collection of Chairman Mao’s excrement in 1949 arguably offers a way in to thinking about the paranoia and deep tensions that tended to develop between (male) Communist leaders in the years after 1945.

Revolting Russians featured two excellent songs, one a reworking of Back in the USSR by the Beatles, called Yes We’re the USSR: “Revolution here has been a great success, reds no longer under the bed”, sings Lenin, with Stalin (as Ringo) on drums. “Yes, we’re the USSR!”

The other song features Stalin, Lenin and Trotsky doing a version of Coldplay’s When I Ruled the World, and here they lament the collapse of the one mighty USSR. “The people gave the Berlin Wall some welly” sings Stalin, and adds “first revolution to be watched on telly”.

This is also an important point, as by this time TV was a new way for the spreading of news. The collapse of Communist states in Central and Eastern Europe helped to inspire further nationalist revolts in the Soviet republics in 1990 and 1991. Also, notoriously, people started crossing the Berlin Wall itself following a botched televised press conference briefing by Günter Schabowski, a spokesman for the German Politburo.

Horrible Histories is not the only one to mock the USSR though jokes. Ronald Reagan was famously a fan of using humour to undermine the Soviet Union in the era of Gorbachev. Here is a YouTube clip collating some of his ‘classics’:

Whatever else you say about Reagan, he was certainly wittier than Donald Trump – though admittedly this is quite a low bar.

Comedy was also a feature of life in Communist countries, and humour in the Soviet era could be a way to subvert the system. As one Soviet era joke went: (Q) What would happen if five year plans were introduced in the Sahara Desert. (A) It would be all right for a while, but soon there would be a shortage of sand.

Another from East Germany mocked the Trabant car: (Q) What’s the best feature of a Trabant? (A) It has a heater in the back to keep your hands warm when you are pushing it.

The BBC TV series The Lost World of Communism, also available on Box of Broadcasts, features a number of satirists, including Jaroslav Dolecek in Czechoslovakia. His films poked fun at the idolisation of Communist leaders, the black market and collective farms. He revelled in the ‘we pretend to work, they pretend to pay us’ way of life of late Communism.

Hammer and Tickle, another documentary available on Box of Broadcasts, has attempted a survey of the entire history of Communism through jokes. Though sometimes descending into Eurotrash-esque voice-overs, the programme examines many ways satire allowed people to sustain a sense of perspective on life under Communist rule, and later also revolt against the system, and is well worth a watch.

Jokes also formed part of the memory of Communism. For example, one joke that circulated in East Germany after the regime fell highlighted the ways the Stasi monitored people’s lives. Supposedly, after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, many Stasi agents became taxi drivers. This was very useful because, at the end of a heavy night out, you just had to remember your name and the taxi driver could take you straight home.

More recently, the excellent film by Armando Iannucci, The Death of Stalin, combined In The Thick of It humour with the end of Stalinism. It poked fun at the absurdities of the leadership crisis that gripped the USSR in 1953, while also revealing the ways personal one-upmanship and fear, rather than Marxist ideology, dominated the motives of leading protagonists such as Lavrentiy Beria and Nikita Khrushchev.

Not everyone likes this type of humour though. Notably, Peter Hitchens criticised the Death of Stalin as he felt the film made a joke of the leaders, which also made light of those who died under Communism. As he put it, ‘If you trivialize the death of a mass-murderer, you trivialise the deaths of his victims’.

Richard Overy meanwhile highlighted the film was inaccurate – which it was. The film was also very controversial in Russia, and was banned.

While I certainly disagree with the point that the Death of Stalin was tasteless, people like Overy do make a good case for the problems found in the blurring of accuracy as a result of comedy. It is important to remember humour can inadvertently gloss over true horrors.

For example, the ways North Korean leaders have been repeatedly the butt of jokes, and are portrayed as ridiculous, can inadvertently turn our attention away from the extremes of life under the regime.

While dark humour can certainly help us deal with some real horrors, it should not make us forget the true nature of the past either.

Dr Paul Jackson, Senior Lecturer in History