October 2018

davDuring the summer, we went to the Isle of Wight on holiday.  This time, we visited Carisbrooke Castle, where Charles I was imprisoned after the Civil War.  It was, perhaps, the perfect time for me to visit, since I spent several days earlier in the summer running a summer school for Edge Hill University on Charles I and because in the new year I will be helping to teach on the Civil War module at Lancaster University.

It was also particularly interesting because we went on a day when there was a jousting event: The Battle for Good.  There were three jousting displays: the first was the Parade of Helms, to introduce the knights; the second a melee; and the final one a jousting tournament.  Even though it was a re-enactment, it helped to bring the place to life.  The outcome of each joust was not set – they were not acting but doing it ‘for real’.  One thing I noticed was the squires, who were among the horses during the melee to replace broken clubs.

digThere were all sorts of other activities on site, including music from Blast from the Past, Tudor games, stalls and hobby-horse ‘jousting’ for children, which made it much more interesting than it normally would be!  There was also a man talking about medieval crime and punishment – presumably someone who does this regularly for schools since it’s part of one of the GCSE curricula.  The music was excellent – I was highly amused to hear one of the musicians remark ‘selling’ their performance by crying “Come and hear why the Renaissance happened!”  Actually, we thoroughly enjoyed the instrumental pieces, but although I’ve got a couple of videos of the group in action, I don’t seem to have taken any photographs!

But of course, I had to visit the hall range, where Charles I was imprisoned from 22 November 1647 to 6 September 1648.  Although he was imprisoned, he was kept in some comfort and allowed significant freedoms, as was normal for noble prisoners during the period.  He was even allowed to keep many of his household with him. All this changed following the failure of his negotiations with both the Scots and the English Parliament.  His household attendants were sent away, but through secret messages, arrangements were made for Charles to escape captivity and flee the island by boat.  On the night of 20 March 1648, he attempted to climb out of his bedroom window, but he got stuck in the bars and the escape plot was foiled. He was then moved to a more secure bedroom, where another escape plan failed on 28 May when it was betrayed.  He left the castle in September, when he was moved to Newport to facilitate negotiations with Parliament.


By the time you read this, I’ll be part-way through teaching my very own course for the first time (Edge Hill summer school excepted).  It’s exciting, but also a bit nerve-wracking, especially since I didn’t have very long to pull it together.

It’s an 8 week module on The Making of Modern Britain for an undergraduate foundation year, and as well as introducing students to the period in question, it’s designed to give them a thorough grounding in the skills needed to study history at university.  I’ve included lots of different types of source material, including various types of secondary sources (books, journal articles, popular history magazines and radio/television programmes) as well as primary evidence from newspapers, censuses, official documents and and cartoons.

I’m really looking forward to teaching it, as it’s something so different to what I normally do, and I’ll keep you posted as to how it goes.

I have spent much of the summer wrestling with a conundrum, which I still haven’t solved.  As regular readers will know, I have been working on the Pilgrimage of Grace.  I submitted my article to a peer-reviewed journal and at the beginning of summer, I got word back that they had decided not to publish it.  Of course, this was disappointing news and I read the feedback from the peer-reviewers with interest.  Thankfully, it was by turns enthusiastic and constructive in its criticism.

But therein lay something of a problem.  Both reviewers identified different aspects which they thought would benefit from further expansion.  Now, not only does that mean more work (which of course goes with the territory and is, to some extent, expected) but also, it will take the article well over any journal’s word limit.  It was already long.  If I do what the reveiwers suggest, it will get even longer. Unpublishably long.

I mentioned this to my fiend, whose response was along the lines of ‘well, it’s not worth worrying about until you’ve done the revisions’.  But I honestly don’t think I can just prune 3000 words without it having a serious impact on the overall piece.  And in fact, it would mean more pruning than that, because it would have to go much shorter in order to accommodate all the new aspects too.

I’m left with a dilemma.  Do I do lots of extra work, and then try to shoehorn it in, taking a pair of shears to the article in order to make the new stuff fit? (It will take several months more work to get through all this.)  Do I leave it as it is and try to find a home for it elsewhere – and even then it will require quite a bit of editing?  Or is this trying to tell me that it wants to be something longer?

The problem with the last option is that there is little, if anything, between the journal article (c8-10 thousand words, depended on where you go) and the full length book…  I’m not really into book territory with it at the moment – it would need widening well beyond the Pilgrimage of Grace – and a book would take years.  Which, frankly, I don’t have if I want to get a job.  I need more publications on my CV, and I need them sooner rather than later.

A couple of weeks ago I went down to London for a few days, killing several birds with one stone.  The main purpose of the visit was to go to a meeting of the Historical Association Branches and Members Committee, but I went down two days early so that I could get some work done too.

I spent the first afternoon of my trip at King’s College Library, where I read Fiona Kisby’s MA thesis.  The second day I spent in the British Library, looking at sixteenth and seventeenth-century manuscripts.  It was really interesting, and good to get back in the archive, since I don’t do much research from anywhere but home.

By happy serendipity, my visit coincided with the Royal Historical Society lecture at which my name was announced as a new Fellow.  The lecture itself wasn’t related to anything that I work on – in fact, it wasn’t even on a subject I knew anything much about – but it was certainly thought-provoking. Prof Naomi Standen spoke on global history in “Colouring outside the Lines: Eastern Eurasia without Borders”.