The Welsh Fasting Girl: A Morbid Spectacle

The story of Sarah Jacob is a tragic one.1 On 17 December 1869, when she was not yet 13 years old, she died of starvation. There was no shortage of food or unwillingness to provide her with food, had she asked for it. Her family, trained nurses, and male doctors were around her when she passed away, but they all quite literally watched her die.

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  1. E.g. ‘The drama of the Welsh fasting girl […] has ended tragically’. Anon., ‘The Week. Topics of the Day’, The Medical Times and Gazette, 25 Dec. 1869, 738 (my emphases); ‘The second act of the Carmarthen Tragedy has been played out’. Anon., No Title, The Western Mail, 27 Dec. 1869, 2. []

All Along the Peace Walls – Revisiting 1960s and 1970s Belfast

I had the absolute pleasure of spending a day exploring Northern Ireland’s capital Belfast with Kevin McGlinchey in June 2022.1 Kevin replied to my letter to the editor of the Irish Independent seeking people to share their experiences of growing up on the island of Ireland in the 1960s and 1970s for my Ph.D. project. He instantly agreed to take me on a trip down memory lane, as he ‘valued the opportunity to bring to life an historical, personal, local and community experience of this particular area of Belfast and Belfast as a whole during both good and bad times.’2 Kevin was born in 1950 and grew up in Belfast, where he witnessed the beginning of the Troubles as a teenager.3

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  1. I sincerely thank Kevin and his sister Deirdre McGlinchey for their time and willingness to share their youth experiences with me, without which my research would not be possible. I am also grateful to Dr Séan Ó Duibhir for valuable comments on an earlier draft of this article. []
  2. Kevin McGlinchey, email to the author, 3 Nov. 2022. []
  3. ‘The Troubles’ is a euphemism for the Northern Ireland conflict, which lasted from the late 1960s to the 1980s. The Troubles are often considered to be a religious conflict between the Catholic and Protestant populations of Northern Ireland, but were in fact caused by Ireland’s colonial past, which was marked by political and confessional frictions. ‘[T]he Northern Irish conflict is not a religious conflict . . . Although religion has a place—and indeed an important one—in the repertoire of conflict in Northern Ireland, the majority of participants see the situation as primarily concerned with matters of politics and nationalism, not religion.’ Richard Jenkins, Rethinking Ethnicity: Arguments and Explorations (London, 1997), 120. A summary of this view can be found in Claire Mitchell, Religion, Identity and Politics in Northern Ireland: Boundaries of Belonging and Belief (Aldershot, 2006), 5: ‘The central argument is that religion is an ethnic marker, but that it is not generally politically relevant in and of itself. Instead, ethnonationalism lies at the root of the conflict.’ For more background to the conflict, see CAIN Archive: Conflict and Politics in Northern Ireland, accessed 20 Feb. 2023. []

Essays and Reviews: The ‘Greatest Religious Crisis of the Victorian Age’?

One of the best-known controversies in nineteenth-century Britain revolved around the publication of a collection of theological writings in March 1860 titled Essays and Reviews. The book, edited by John William Parker, consisted of seven essays that explored various topics, such as the evidence for Christianity, religious thought in England, and—perhaps most controversially—the interpretation of scripture. The underlying theme behind these essays was theological methodology—namely, the exploration of German-speaking Protestant theological discussions within Anglican theological thought. Essays and Reviews was a cautious, partly implicit acknowledgement of scientific findings and historical–philological methods.

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Promoting German Nazism in the Heart of the British Empire: The London Congress of the ‘Nationalist International’ in July 1935

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.1 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.2 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’.3 Blinded by a leaflet circulated prior to the conference which claimed that ‘The Nationalist International means world peace’4 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.

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  1. This blogpost is based on research conducted for my Ph.D. thesis at the Free University of Berlin entitled ‘Notions and Practices of Fascist Internationalism in the 1930s’. I would like to thank the GHIL for a two-month scholarship, which enabled fruitful research in British archives and libraries. []
  2. The Times, 11 July 1935. Cf. Hans Keller and Akademie für die Rechte der Völker, (eds.), Der Kampf um die Völkerordnung: Forschungs- und Werbebericht der Akademie für die Rechte der Völker (Nationalistische Akademie) und der Internationalen Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Nationalisten (Berlin, 1939), 97. []
  3. Daily Mirror, 11 July 1935; The Evening Telegraph, 10 July 1935. []
  4. Internationale Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Nationalisten, Organic Nationalism: What the ‘Nationalist International’ Means to the Anglo-Saxon World (Zurich, 1935). []

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.’ []

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. []

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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Manuscript News Sheets: A Neglected Medium of Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Europe

At the turn of the eighteenth century, newspapers had established themselves as the principal port of call for readers with a strong taste for current affairs. One hundred years after the first newspaper had been printed in Strasbourg in 1605, the new medium had spread to all parts of western and central Europe.

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