Anger, Astonishment, and other Reactions: A Medieval King’s Emotional Behaviour

[A]s though he [Henry III] was infected by fury, being unable to contain his anger, he raised his voice in uproar, and ran furiously away from all who were in his chamber.1

Medieval kings such as Henry III (r. 1216–72) are regularly described in chronicles as angry—especially when challenged—and they often expressed their anger in excessive gestures. This particular passage was written by Matthew Paris, a monastic chronicler famous for not holding back his opinion on either kings or popes. Presumably his accounts of these emotional gestures might be shaped by his judgement on the king and a desire for a colourful narrative. But are these the only ways of interpreting such descriptions of royal emotional behaviour? Are they merely a means to an end, removed from reality?

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  1. Matthaei Pariensis Monachi sancti albani, chronica majora, ed. Henry R. Luards, vol. 5 (London, 1880) (Rolls Series 57), 326: ‘quasi furia invectus, nec se prae ira capiens, vocem cum clamore exaltavit, et omnes qui in sua camera fuerunt, velut furiosus aufugavit.’ []

‘Enjoy your bodies!’: Writing the History of Sexuality in Later Life through 1980s British Television

At 15:45 on 11 February 1986, Channel 4’s programme for the elderly Years Ahead turned to sex. This special Valentine’s Day edition conceded that society was oblivious to intimate desire in later life. And yet, change was on the horizon. Marjorie Proops, co-host of that episode, stated that ‘attitudes are changing’, and so Years Ahead set out to guide even more seniors towards ‘sexual freedom’.

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British Migrants in the Kingdom of Saxony and Saxons in London, c.1850–1914

It may seem counter-intuitive that, three months after the outbreak of the First World War, British people were allowed to walk completely free through the streets of Dresden.1 But a look at the history of the British community in Saxony shows that there had been a special relationship between British migrants and the Saxon locals long before this conflict. Only when reports of the arrest of Germans in Britain (and especially of the conditions of imprisonment there) reached Germany did this relationship take a turn for the worse.

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  1. SAoS, 10717 Foreign Ministry, Nr. 2278, Charles Alfred Moore [chaplain of All Saints’ Church Dresden] to police chief Paul Köttig, 24 Oct. 1914: ‘For since the outbreak of hostilities . . . British subjects have been treated with the utmost courtesy and consideration by the Officials who have done all in their power to safeguard us from unpleasantness or any undue restrictions of our liberties. In Dresden . . . men of military service age have been permitted to go about unmoles…’ []

Translating Guild Socialism: The Case of Eva Schumann (1889–1967)

In 1920, Eva Schumann wrote from her home in Dresden to the offices of the National Guilds League in London offering her services as a translator.1 Her intention was to help popularise the political program of Guild Socialism in Germany, which she believed shared parallels with other socialist ideas already popular in her homeland.2 In response, the National Guilds League accepted her request and granted her permission to translate a lecture on the subject that would serve as a useful primer for German-speaking audiences.3

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  1. The contents of this blog article are based on research included in my forthcoming Ph.D. dissertation at Humboldt University of Berlin and Free University Berlin. []
  2. Collection, Box 8, Nuffield College Library. []
  3. Eva Schumann to George D. H. Cole, June 1920–March 1921, Letter, George Douglas Howard Cole Papers, Internationaal Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis. []

A Brotherhood of Soldiers? Concepts of Comradeship 1914–1938

Whether we watch movies, read novels, play video games, look at paintings, or listen to podcasts about the First World War, we encounter expressions of what we consider to be the comradeship of the trenches. The idea of the soldiers holding fast together through all hardships, living together, and loving each other like brothers, even dying for one another, has become a central part of the collective memory of the ‘Great War’.1 The social relationship we are shown in these media representations is most often that of best friends. By defining the relationship between soldiers in this way, media productions are creating relatability for non-military users as well as avoiding the rather less clearly defined term ‘comradeship’. The most recent example of this is the film 1917 directed by Sam Mendes, which tells the story of the First World War through the eyes of two soldier friends on a special mission. What it does not show is the daily lives the soldiers had to lead with those they did not consider to be their friends, for whom they did not feel sympathy, or were just not emotionally close to. Those people they called ‘comrades’ and this relationship is almost entirely absent from cultural representations of the war. Media productions therefore replace the social relationship of comradeship with the concept of friendship in our cultural memory of the Great War because they only show one kind of relationship at the front.

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  1. See Aleida Assmann, Der lange Schatten der Vergangenheit (Munich, 2006), 23–6; available in English as Shadows of Trauma: Memory and the Politics of Postwar Identity, trans. Sarah Clift (New York, 2016). []

Recording the Dead in Early Modern London and Munich

Recording the names of the dead has a long tradition in human societies.1 Lists of the dead come in many different forms: as a call to remember the dead, as a reminder of some kind of sacrifice or traumatic event, or as a means to keep track of mortality patterns. In antiquity, we find early examples of lists of those who died in battle, while in the Middle Ages monastic necrologues recorded when a monk or nun died. In both of these cases, however, only the deaths of a select number of individuals were recorded. It is not until the sixteenth century that, at least in Western contexts, more detailed records allow us to gain a better understanding of who died when, and sometimes also where their bodies were buried.2

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  1. The third part (363–488) of Thomas W. Laqueur, The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains (Princeton, 2015) is devoted to the ‘Names of the Dead’. []
  2. On these longer-term developments, see Philip Booth und Elizabeth Tingle (eds.), A Companion to Death, Burial, and Remembrance in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe, c.1300–1700 (Leiden, 2021); Thea Tomaini (ed.), Dealing with The Dead: Mortality and Community in Medieval and Early Modern Europe (Leiden, 2018). []

Perspectives on Political Parties in Nineteenth-Century Britain

Since the emergence of the first nation states in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, political parties have become one of the most important and influential actors in Western political systems. It is hard to imagine a functioning Western democracy without the presence of political parties, yet they have always been accompanied by criticism and rejection. As parties developed into elementary components of constitutional states and their tasks and responsibilities expanded, an intense theoretical preoccupation with the potential dangers they posed took place, especially in Britain.1 This debate about parties was marked by conflicting views, but the repetition and recurrence of similar lines of argument by authors at different times throughout the nineteenth century is striking.

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  1. See, for example, Arthur Aspinall, ‘English Party Organization in the Early Nineteenth Century’, English Historical Review, 41 (1926), 389–411; J. A. W. Gunn, ‘Party before Burke: Shute Barrington’, Government and Opposition, 3/2 (1968), 223–40; id., Factions No More: Attitudes to Party in Government and Opposition in Eighteenth-Century England. Extracts from Contemporary Sources (London, 1972); Paul Webb, ‘Political Partiesand Democracy:The Ambiguous Crisis’, Democratization, 12/5 (2005), 633–50, at 633–4. []

Prophecies and (Hi)Stories: Telling the Conquest of Constantinople in 1453

From a Euro-Mediterranean perspective, the conquest of Constantinople led by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II in 1453 not only marked the end of the Byzantine empire that had lasted more than a millennium, but also the end of the European Middle Ages. Rightly considered a ‘moment of great historical significance’1 by both contemporaries and modern researchers, the conquest of Constantinople ‘had repercussions that went far beyond its walls’2 not only politically and economically, but also culturally and socially.

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  1. The Siege of Constantinople 1453: Seven Contemporary Accounts, ed. by John Melville-Jones (Amsterdam, 1972), vii. []
  2. Michael Angold, ‘Turning Points in History: The Fall of Constantinople’, Byzantinoslavica, 71 (2013), 11–30, at 12. []

Britten’s Virtual Mystery

In 1964 the first of composer Benjamin Britten and writer William Plomer’s ‘Church Parables’—Curlew River—was premiered at the Aldeburgh Festival in St. Bartholomew’s Church in Orford. Britten had been working on the project off and on with his librettist Plomer following Britten’s encounter with Noh theatre during a visit to Japan in 1955. Though the initial intention was simply to set the famous Noh play Sumidagawa to music, it was decided in 1959 that, given that the work was to be premiered in St. Bartholomew’s, it should be ‘a Christian work’ and set in medieval England in the form of a mystery play.1

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  1. Letter to Plomer, 15 April 1959, quoted in: Mervyn Cooke, Britten and the Far East: Asian Influences in the Music of Benjamin Britten (Woodbridge, 1998), 142–143. ‘Christian’ underline in original. []

Vicarious Observation: Conveying Pleasure and Sensory Experience in Eighteenth-Century British Periodicals

The time I spent perusing the British Library’s early modern treasures—thanks to a scholarship from the German Historical Institute London—left me with much to think about for my current research project on the body and pleasure in eighteenth and early nineteenth-century periodicals. First and foremost, my time in London gave me a heightened sense of how newspapers and magazines functioned as a medium for conveying pleasure, not least as a sensory experience.

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