By Carys Brown (@HistoryCarys)
This seemingly innocuous teapot has a seditious past. Painted with an image of Charles Edward Stuart (known to his supporters as “Bonnie Prince Charlie”), this was a Jacobite object. The Jacobites were those who, following the “Revolution” of 1688-9, when James II fled Britain and was replaced as monarch by William and Mary, supported the return of the exiled Stuart monarchy to the British throne. This support made them treasonous criminals in the eyes of the Hanoverian Protestant state. As a result, they had to keep their written communication to a minimum, and destroy much of what they received. Jacobite objects were often used as an alternative means of communicating politically and demonstrating loyalty to the Stuarts.
Caution was necessary, however, and an explicitly Jacobite object such as this would have needed to be kept hidden. Drinking tea was an important social activity in the eighteenth century, but this object would not have been everyone’s cup of tea. The owners would certainly have had to have been sure about the political loyalties of their company before they used it. This teapot was not just a tool for a pleasant social occasion, but a highly risky means of reinforcing group political loyalties.
Image: Jacobite teapot, Staffordshire, c. 1750-65. White salt-glazed stoneware painted in enamels, width c. 22cm (spout to handle). Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge – Object number Object Number: C.112 & A-1950. Given by Mrs W. B. Dickson, 1950. Picture – Fitzwilliam Museum Online Collection – http://data.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/id/object/71372. Available under Creative Commons.
By Philippa Carter
‘Uroscopy’ (the examination of urine) was a standard diagnostic tool for most early modern physicians. Having just come from inside the patient’s body, urine was understood to contain vital information about what was happening in there.
According to early modern medical theory, every human body contained a mixture of four liquids known as the humours: blood, black bile, yellow bile, and phlegm. Health was preserved by keeping these humours in proportion to one another; humoral imbalance led to disease. So if you had too much black bile in your body (a cold, dry, heavy humour), you might be consumed by dark, heavy thoughts, or suffer from constipation.
A healthy body prevented imbalance by getting rid of excess humours via all of its exit routes (the nostrils, the mouth, the bladder, and so on). Urine was understood to contain excreted humours, so its colour and quality showed what kind of state they were in. Physicians looked at, smelled (and reportedly sometimes tasted) their patients’ urine, and consulted colour-coded uroscopy wheels to help them to interpret its contents. So if you have to give a urine sample this Christmas, remember it could be worse!
Featured image: (C) Museum of London. Reproduced with Museum’s permission. https://collections.museumoflondon.org.uk/online/object/119061.html
By Walker Schneider (@WalkerSchneider)
Today crime-fighting relies on massive criminal databases. In the United States, this practice can be traced back to Gilded Age New York City and the Rogues’ Gallery, the great-grandfather of modern criminal databases. Deep within the New York City Police Department’s headquarters on Mulberry Street, the Rogues’ Gallery was a hulking mass of dark polished wood that stood five feet tall and four feet wide. Its two doors opened to reveal large wooden panels that could be flipped through like pages in a book. Each panel held a hundred photographic portraits of known criminals from around the world.
By 1895, the Rogues’ Gallery was home to over fifteen hundred such portraits, with additional empty panels for future entries. Every photograph in the Rogues’ Gallery had a card attached to its back with information about the criminal ranging from their name to identifying features to their most recent movements. In 1886, the head of New York City’s Detective Bureau bragged that the Rogues’ Gallery was “probably the most complete criminal directory in the country.”
As American policing evolved from local efforts to inter-regional (and even international) collaborations, these photographic portraits and their accompanying information were shared with other police departments within the United States and in Europe. By the mid-twentieth century, the practices popularised by the Rogues’ Gallery had become standardised throughout the United States and Europe. You might know them as mugshots and “Most Wanted” lists. So, the next time the face of a known criminal flashes across the news, think back to Gilded Age New York City and its giant criminal encyclopaedia, the Rogues’ Gallery.
 Byrnes, T., Professional Criminals of America (New York: Cassell & Company, 1886), p.54.
Image: ‘Police Headquarters, The “Rogue’s Gallery”. The mug shot collection at the New York City Police Headquarters.’ Taken by Richard Hoe Lawrence (1858-1936) for Jacob A. Riis (1849-1914). Used under Museum of the City of New York Collections‘ Fair Use Guide.
Link to Image: https://collections.mcny.org/CS.aspx?VP3=SearchResult&VBID=24UP1G4RLS7K&SMLS=1&RW=1500&RH=666
by Lucy Inskip (@lucyskippin)
Rather than finding the most outlandish historical object from a heritage site or online collection, I looked to my own bookshelf for an interesting piece of history. I bought this vintage Oxford coloured postcard print from Antiques on High whilst reading History at Oriel College, University of Oxford (2016-2019). It is from an original watercolour drawing of Oriel, by Alfred Robert Quinton (1853-1934).
The postcard reads: ‘Dear Freda, This is a lovely old town with most beautiful buildings & the weather is good. Daddy’. Sent with a One Penny King George V 1912-1922 Royal Cypher Watermark Stamp in the 6.30pm post on 7 April 1920, this charming postcard’s final destination was a certain Miss Freda Shepherd at an address in Upper Tooting, South West London. Though little is known about these correspondents, aside from their relationship and her address.
The postcard itself was printed and published by J. Salmon founded in 1880, in Sevenoaks, Kent. Joseph Salmon (the son and namesake of the founder) published postcards featuring the work of Alfred Robert Quinton from around 1912 until the artist’s death in 1934.
Image: Author’s own photograph.
By Luisa Hulsrøj
“The national state . . . must set race in the center of all life,” Hitler declared in Mein Kampf, exemplifying his movement’s exaltation not only of the nation but also of its ostensible basis in race. This pernicious ideology encountered challenges, recent scholarship has found, when it met with populations in East-Central Europe that had difficult-to-distinguish ethnic backgrounds and no, or at least no stable, national identities. Such so-called national indifference is difficult to imagine, for today we take nationality for granted as universal and timeless. Yet nations did not emerge in their modern form as the model for state organization until the 19th century. Even then they had to be actively constructed. Compulsory public schooling, for example, was widely introduced to teach standardized national languages and national history in an attempt to make citizens into members of nations. The course of nationalization did not, however, run smooth. Well into the 20th century national indifference persisted, not just in backwaters like the early Soviet Union’s rural Western frontier but also in some of Europe’s industrialized heartlands, such as Bohemia and Upper Silesia. During the Second World War, Nazi occupation authorities in such areas adopted racist rhetoric. However, acknowledging ethnic ambiguity internally, they also instituted policies designed to recruit the nationally indifferent for the German nation.
By Marina Iní (@MarinaIni_)
During part of the last academic year, I travelled to several archives and libraries collection in the Italian peninsula for my PhD fieldwork. It has been an extremely rewarding experience on the research side, but it was also thought-provoking. I saw with my own eyes the disheartening situation of different Archivi di Stato (Italian National Archives, usually one per provincial capital), Archivi Storici Comunali (City Archives) and other public archival collections and libraries.
By Georgia Oman (@Georgia_Oman)
When Parliament was suspended this September, several bills making their way through the Commons and Lords were dropped. Although three pieces of legislation were carried over to the next session, the remainder fell into a legal limbo, with their only hope of resurrection being that the government would choose to re-introduce them upon the return of Parliament. One such bill lost in the Brexit shuffle is a reform of the divorce laws of England and Wales, which at the moment demand that couples provide evidence of ‘unreasonable behaviour’ or years of separation before a divorce can be granted, even if both parties have amicably agreed to end their marriage. Put simply, the proposed legislation aims to establish ‘no-fault divorce’, in which neither partner need be apportioned blame for the failure of the marriage. Under the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1973 currently in force, those seeking a divorce must prove their partner was at fault through adultery, desertion, or unreasonable behaviour. If there is no evidence of fault, consenting couples still must live apart for two years before they can file for divorce, while cases in which both sides cannot reach agreement must endure five years of separation.
By Daniel Adamson (@DEAdamson9)
The Pyrrhic Wars; the crossing of the Rubicon; the witch hunts; the sinking of the Titanic. Modern parlance is littered with examples of historical events that have accrued a metaphorical value superior to the weight of their historical realities. In public spheres, there is more interest in deploying historical events for what they symbolise, rather than what they actually were. The Dreyfus Affair is one such case in point. In 1894, the French artillery officer Alfred Dreyfus was convicted of treason, having been accused of passing classified documents to the German military. Protracted division and debate subsequently embroiled French society, as competing parties contested the validity of Dreyfus’ conviction. Eventually, in 1906, Dreyfus was exonerated upon retrial and the identification of the true culprit (Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy).
by Christopher Day (@ChrisDay96)
Since the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union in June 2016, the country’s future relationship with the Republic of Ireland has been a key issue. The question of what to do about the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland has been crucial in negotiations between the UK and the EU, but (at the time of writing) no answer has been found agreeable by all parties. Given the legacy of British involvement in Ireland, and the continuing desire of Northern Ireland to remain in the UK, this issue is especially pertinent and potentially fractious. But that has not stopped several commentators from positing the troubling suggestion that the Republic could simply leave the EU too, thus avoiding the need to create a hard border on the island of Ireland. This idea is a non-starter; a poll in March 2019 showed that just eight percent of Irish people favoured leaving the EU. Rightly, those who have suggested this ‘solution’ to the issue have been widely castigated. Read more
By Evelyn Strope (@develyn_16)
Location: 3rd & Chestnut Streets, Philadelphia, PA, USA, Independence National Historical Park
Ticket Prices: $18 Student, $21 Adult
Opening Hours: Mon–Sun, 10am–5pm
While undertaking archival research in Philadelphia this summer, I finally had the chance to visit the Museum of the American Revolution (MAR), situated at the heart of the United States’ Independence National Historical Park. The Museum is still relatively new; it opened in 2017 on the anniversary of the Battle of Lexington & Concord – 19 April 1775. Both its modern architecture and its attention to visual experience and to cutting-edge digital history reflect its age. More importantly, those technologies, woven into eye-catching text panels and amongst many extant artefacts, help the MAR to tell a cohesive story within its main exhibit, divided chronologically into four sections: Becoming Revolutionaries (1760–1775), The Darkest Hour (1776–1778), A Revolutionary War (1778–1783), and A New Nation (1783–Present).
By Helen Sunderland (@hl_sunderland)
We are halfway through the week-long Global Climate Strike. Last Friday, millions of school students and workers around the world took to the streets demanding that governments act now to address the climate and ecological crisis. Back in March 2018, in the wake of the Parkland school shooting, I blogged about the history of children’s strikes for Doing History in Public. Since then, youth strikes have exploded onto the global political arena. In less than a year, Greta Thunberg has gone from protesting alone outside the Swedish parliament to being the figurehead of a global ‘School Strike for Climate’ movement.
By Albert Kohn
In a certain sense, sleeping is the great unifying experience across time and place. Regardless of time period, almost every person spends one-third to one-half of their life asleep thus a good portion of our modern lives are identical to those of medieval people!
Yet, sleeping is not just the experience of unconsciousness. Recent scholarly work—particularly on the early modern period in Europe—has highlighted numerous differences in how people have structured their sleeping. While modern people have come to almost sacralize the ideal of one person per bed, the norm for most of history was to share beds; while we generally (attempt to) sleep continuously through the night, many in preindustrial Europe segmented their sleeping patterns so to be awake for a few hours in the middle of the night. These variations, though, pale in significance to the differences in how premodern people reflected upon their sleep.
By Max Long
My first encounter with moving image archives took place in a windowless room in the basement of a building in London. I was there to view a selection of natural history films. I had watched similar films online, but here I could load, spool, and wind up the films myself. Films are the principal source in my research, but prior to my PhD, I had little experience with the medium. Here I was left alone with two towering piles of 35mm and 16mm films, and an unexpected lesson in the materiality of film technology.
By Jennifer W. Reiss
The history of American medicine often follows a declension/ascension narrative: it’s a teleology of medical progress dominated by professionalised and scientifically-minded male physicians of the nineteenth century bringing the light of modernity to backward-looking, female-dominated folk practice of earlier periods. Even comparable British scholarship on early modern medical history follows a top-down story of professionalising medics ineffectively controlling a diverse ‘medical marketplace’ – a position which appreciates the place of vernacular practice generally, but underplays non-commercial, domestic medicine. Lay, and especially female practitioners were an essential alternative source of medical knowledge, particularly for poor and rural populations with limited access to other forms of health care, as well as a complement to the professional medicine available to urban and elite populations.
By Spike Lister
The utilisation of history in political discourse has itself a long history. For as long as there has been a public space and a shared experience, communities have looked to the past as a lens through which to understand their issues. History offers us a guiding light by which to move forwards or a source from which to draw blood-curdling parallels to our present circumstances. Consequently, it should not surprise us in such complex and disruptive times that historical parallels abound as a means of garnering political support. In periods of political intricacy and seemingly tectonic historic change, it is inevitable that politicians draw from the past to assert the continuity of their policies within a nation’s historical experience, or to draw ominous parallels between history and the present day.
By Tamara Fernando (@TamaraFernando3)
One rainy winter day in 2016, I was navigating the cavernous halls and corridors of the British Museum, looking for the Department of Prints and Drawings. I had arrived to examine two seventeenth-century engraved frontispieces depicting Saint Augustine, the early Church Father, for an MPhil project on the reception of Augustine’s works. When I finally located the correct floor, I was hailed down by a museum guard at the entrance: ‘Madam, this is not the tourist section’ they volunteered. I mumbled an explanation about an appointment with the Curator of Prints—which presumably got muffled, because the staff repeated (this time louder and slower): ‘Maadamm, NO touurissts here’, making a wide crossing-arm gestures to clarify. Something about my age, gender or the colour of my skin and hair, signalled tourist, not researcher.