I know and deeply deplore the sufferings which the workingmen at Manchester and in all Europe are called to endure in this crisis. It has been often and studiously represented that the attempt to overthrow this government, which was built upon the foundation of human rights, and to substitute for it one which should rest exclusively on the basis of human slavery, was likely to obtain the favor of Europe. Through the actions of our disloyal citizens the workingmen of Europe have been subjected to a severe trial, for the purpose of forcing their sanction to that attempt.
With these words, among others, the American President Lincoln addressed a famous letter to the workers of Manchester in January 1863. What had happened? Manchester and Lancashire suffered from the Cotton Famine from 1862 onwards, which made many workers unemployed and drove them into poverty. Supporting the Confederate States in the American Civil War, as many merchants and members of the upper classes did, could therefore have been an obvious way for the workers to get back to work and earn a crust. Yet under difficult conditions, workers continued to support the northern states and the struggle to end slavery. In Manchester city centre today, a large statue commemorates this contact between sections of the British working class and the American president.
Continue reading Socialism and Slavery within the British and German Socialist Labour Movements, 1830–1890
On 10 January 1547, Thomas Thirlby, first and last bishop of Westminster and Henry VIII’s envoy to Emperor Charles V, informed his master ‘that th[e] Emperour gothe to Ulmes [Ulm], thear to take the diet for the cure of his gowt, and as some hathe said, He well have a Diet there for the cure of Germany.’ In this witty wordplay on the homonymy of the word ‘diet’, Thirlby relayed news about the emperor’s health problems and his issues with the Schmalkaldic League, an association of Protestant Imperial Estates. The solution was represented by the same word ‘diet’ in both cases, albeit with different meanings. What was proof of eloquence and humanist rhetoric in this primary source, however, today presents certain heuristic challenges for historians who encounter the word ‘diet’ in edited sources.
Continue reading The Emperor’s Diet or the Empire’s Reichstag? Sixteenth-Century English Wordplay on the ‘Diet’ and its Heuristic Use
When I sent a fellow doctoral candidate in the history of botany some pictures from the Chelsea Physic Garden, she asked me if I had encountered any ghosts of the much-admired botanists that shaped this famous institution and its networks. While I had to answer in the negative, I noticed that the paths of many natural historians and horticultural practitioners, whose footsteps I traced during my stay at the German Historical Institute London, had crossed on that patch of land—either physically or at least in writing and through the exchange of plant material. Here, during a journey following his medical studies under Herman Boerhaave (1668–1738) in Leiden, Johann Philipp Breyne (1680–1764), an aspiring botanist from Gdańsk, visited and admired the Lebanese cedars at the entrance of the garden which remained its most significant attractions until the nineteenth century. Crucially for the history of botany, Breyne also met with botanists who would define the history of the garden.
Continue reading Botany in Time and Space: The Chelsea Physic Garden
In July 1935, an unexpected assortment of mostly male European self-proclaimed patriots met for three days at a congress of the Nationalist International in London. Alongside ‘conservative’ delegates, including two British Tory MPs and Louis Bertrand, who was a French historian and member of the prestigious Académie française, the guest list also featured more radical and even outright fascist figures, such as Frits Clausen, the leader of a small Danish Nazi party, and Friedrich Grimm, an NSDAP attorney and member of the German Reichstag. According to The Times, most of the delegates were ‘notable European professors’, united not by politics, but by ‘devotion’ to their country. Other British newspapers such as the Daily Mirror and the London Evening Telegraph likewise commented on the event in a neutral or even benevolent tone, suggesting that delegates from forty countries met under the auspices of the ‘expert on international law’ Dr Hans Keller (1908–70). Keller was a young and ambitious German jurist who had founded the Nationalist International in Zurich in 1934 with the aim of securing peace and stability by transforming the League of Nations into a ‘parliament of peoples’ corresponding with the ‘racial divisions of Europe’. Blinded by a leaflet circulated prior to the conference which claimed that ‘The Nationalist International means world peace’ and stressed the supposedly neutral and scientific nature of the organization, the British press seemed not to realize the real mission of the congress: to promote German Nazism internationally.
Continue reading Promoting German Nazism in the Heart of the British Empire: The London Congress of the ‘Nationalist International’ in July 1935
Among the many records of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) held in the Cadbury Research Library at the University of Birmingham are minutes of a meeting of the CMS committee in London. At this meeting on 9 August 1819 the committee learned from a letter sent by the missionary Thomas Kendall that several whaling captains who had anchored in the Bay of Islands in Aotearoa/New Zealand ‘had been very kind to him and his colleagues’. The ‘Officers of the above ships’, Kendall continued, ‘conducted themselves towards them and the Natives in a most friendly manner; and parties of Sailors attended Divine Service, on the Sunday, when the weather would permit’, including one ‘Captain Swaine of the INDIAN’, a whaling ship.
Continue reading Māori Iwi, Quaker Whalers, and Missionaries at the Bay of Islands in Aotearoa/New Zealand (1790–1840)
Confessional migrations, especially Protestant ones, are a defining characteristic of the early modern period. Well-known examples include the Huguenots and the Vaudois in the 1690s, the Palatines in 1708, and the Salzburgers in the 1730s. Most of these migrations were structured by networks involving migrants, diplomats, agents, states, and institutions; and just as importantly, money flows, publications, and escape routes. Overall, these migration networks can be seen as power constellations in which diplomats, agents, institutions and state actors were interconnected and influenced each other. But in spite of the plethora of research on early modern confessional migration, the diplomats and agents who acted as intermediaries in these contexts have not yet been thoroughly analysed. These intermediaries could be not only diplomats and agents, but also pastors or even migrants themselves. My Ph.D. project therefore aims to fill this void. It focuses on intermediaries and how they were incorporated into migration networks. In addition I analyse what agency intermediaries gained through their involvement in these networks, and probe how they used it for their own advantage and the advancement of their career. The analysis can also show how institutions, migrants, and governmental actors influence and make use of these intermediaries.
Continue reading Pastors, Commissaries, Diplomats: Agency and Migration Networks in the Early Modern Period
[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.
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?
Continue reading Anger, Astonishment, and other Reactions: A Medieval King’s Emotional Behaviour
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’.
Continue reading ‘Enjoy your bodies!’: Writing the History of Sexuality in Later Life through 1980s British Television
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. 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.
Continue reading British Migrants in the Kingdom of Saxony and Saxons in London, c.1850–1914
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. 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. 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.
Continue reading Translating Guild Socialism: The Case of Eva Schumann (1889–1967)