June 2018

The eagle-eyed among you (if indeed anyone other than me ever looks at the list of what I’m reading – they probably don’t!) will have spotted that I’ve been reading some rather unusual books lately.  And a lot of them.  That’s because I was asked to be a judge for the Historical Association’s Young Quills Award for children’s historical fiction.  It has been an interesting experience, and I’m very glad to have been part of it, as obviously it means I’ve been introduced to some authors that I wouldn’t otherwise have read, and I’ve engaged with some areas of history that I knew relatively little about.  One of the criteria for the award is to excite children about history and pique their interest in aspects of our past with which they might not otherwise engage.  There was plenty among the books to do just that.  Unfortunately, a combination of circumstances meand that I was unable to be at the  HA’s Medlicott Awards Ceremony in London to see the prizes presented, but I am sure that our choices are worthy winners.



At the beginning of May, the North West Early Modern Seminar met at Lancaster University.  In the past there have been two twenty minute papers and several 5 minute presentations which briefly introduced research topics.  This session was different in having 3 twenty minute papers.

The first was given by Prof. Naomi Tadmor (Lancaster), on ‘The settlement of the poor and the fiscal military state’.  She talked about the need further to integrate the understanding of the increase in poor relief and in the burden of the fiscal military state which took place in the seventeenth century.  As part of her paper, she described the situation in England in the 1690s.  England was in the midst of a large scale war but the poor relief laws were about to lapse.  Settlement laws restricted the movement of people and the settlement of soldiers and mariners was suspended until they were discharged. These resettlements were managed by the magistrates.  The result was the their families followed their pater familias into legal limbo – they couldn’t acquire legal settled status in any other parish. Prof. Tadmor pointed out that for women, marriage to a soldier presented brutal options – she either had to live in her husband’s parish where she might never have lived before, or she could follow the camp.  When forces left England, wives and children were left behind because only 6 per regiment could follow.

Continuing the theme of the fiscal-military state, Georg Christ (Manchester) talked about ‘Venice: A Sea-Born(e) State in the Late Middle Ages (and what England could have to do with it)’.  Dr Christ sought to challenge notions of the big themes of the fiscal-military state and to take it back to the Middle Ages.  The research he presented was part of bigger project on Venice as a seaborne state in 14th century.  His work investigates how Venice coped with the imperial mega systems and consolidation of regional states. He proposed that the rise of Venice was to do with northern Italy and needs to be seen in the context of rising regional states.

The final paper was from Murray Seccombe, a PhD student at Lancaster on “Causeys and Causes: Highway Administration in the Seventeenth-Century Wakefield Court Leet”.  He gave an interesting analysis of who was responsible for the maintenance of highways in different areas of a single Yorkshire court leet.



Shortly after my book came out, I received an email inviting me to take part in a collaborative paper for a panel on news at the EDPOP conference in Utrecht in June.  Needless to say, I jumped at the chance.  (My fiend has recently pointed out that I appear incapable of saying no.  He’s probably right, but this was an opportunity that even he agreed was not to be missed.)


As part of the preparations, I was lucky enough to visit Turku in Finland to attend a workshop with the rest of the panel.  I’m working with Massimo Rospocher on news ballads; my external examiner, Joad Raymond, and Alexandra Schäfer-Griebel will be talking about types of news across Europe; while Hannu Salmi and Yann Ryan will be giving a paper on methodologies to investigate the movement of news across Europe.

davI am a nervous traveller, which didn’t really help. It’s not the flying itself that bothers me, but I get anxious over whether all the arrangements will go smoothly, and even just about being away from home.   With hindsight, I would have been better giving myself an extra day so that I could have seen more of Turku, but I hadn’t flown for about 8 years and I’d never done it by myself – in the event, I almost met myself coming back.

It was a long way to go for a long day’s work, but it was well worth it.  We had a very productive workshop, presenting our own work and discussing ideas for taking the collaborative papers forward to Utrecht.  What’s more, I’m actually really looking forward to my trip to the Netherlands!