Historical Association

John Rylands Library, Manchester, England.

John Rylands Library, Manchester, England. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Almost.  Not quite.  Well, perhaps sometimes.  It comes over me in waves, usually on a Saturday or Sunday.  This weekend it was Sunday, today, that the enormity of trying to perfect my chapter before my panel meeting.  Now, if I only had to perfect my chapter in time for my panel meeting, things might be a bit more manageable but I have several Historical Association deadlines too, an article to finish and several other bits and bobs, as well as things going on at the children’s school that will cause interruptions…  I’m looking forward to getting it all over with and heading off to London for the Psalm Culture conference in July.

The panic set in because, after doing a 12 hour day yesterday, I realised that all my musical examples need re-writing.  Every single one of them.  This is incredibly tedious, because they are created in Sibelius on a different laptop and have to be exported as graphics files and then moved across to my work laptop to be inserted into the the chapter itself as images.  Any mistake means the whole sequence has to start again.  There is also quite a lot of work that needs doing on the text itself, to improve the clarity of the writing and to explain some of the more complex ideas about memory and music.

On Friday I went to the ‘Printing Cities‘ symposium at the John Rylands Library in Manchester, organised by my co-supervisor Sasha Handley.  There were six very interesting talks, but the one that stood out for me was given by Massimo Rospocher on Venetian ballad singers and politcal ballads, as it connected closely with what I’ve been saying myself.   The John Rylands is a beautiful building, so  it was very atmospheric.

Historical Association Bolton Branch

Historical Association Fellows 2013, with Medlicott Medal winner Professor Sir David Cannadine, H.A.President Professor Jackie Eales and H.A. Chief Executive Rebecca Sullivan.

Bolton Branch Vice President Dr Glyn Redworth receives his Honorary Fellowship from Association President Prof. Jackie Eales.



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A short post, because I probably won’t have time to write one later.  This week I have worked mainly on one particular ballad, writing a short article about it that I hope to submit for publication fairly soon.  It turned out to be something of a double-edged sword, as there is more to it than initially met the eye, which was great for writing an interesting piece and for what it had to say about religious change and death beliefs during the early modern period, but not so good for getting the article finished off quickly as I’d hoped to!  There have been several things that got in the way of work this week, so I would have liked to have spent more time on it than I’ve actually been able to.

I’ve written my paper for Histfest, although of course it continues to be re-drafted as I keep reading it through.  It includes a couple of ballad extracts that I can sing…  I’ve put together half a powerpoint presentation for it, so that will need finishing as a priority.  I’ve also submitted a pair of short paper proposals for the HistoryLab seminar series next academic year, which my friend and I prepared.

In other news, I’ve had my first singing lesson since before I was taken ill, which was very good fun.  I’ve also nearly finished my Historical Association  Programme for next season.

This is blatant recycling of material I’ve written for my Bolton Historical Association blog, but I’m very glad my supervisor’s work for the H.A. has been recognised.  Although I have to admit that the size of the photograph on this blog is more than a little bit scary!

Historical Association Bolton Branch

The Bolton Branch is pleased to announce that our Vice President, Dr Glyn Redworth, has been made an Honorary Fellow of the Historical Association.  Dr Redworth provided some of the first Historical Association podcasts on Golden Age Spain and is a regular speaker to branches across the country.  He also wrote the  classic HA pamphlet on Government and Society in Late Medieval Spain.

A Reader in History at the University of Manchester, Dr Redworth’s research interests are in the history of gender in the early modern period, reformation history, and Britain’s relations with the continent. His study of Luisa de Carvajal, a female missionary to England during the reing of James I, was published in paperback by Oxford University Press in 2011 under the title ‘The She-Apostle’.  In 2012 he edited and published a two volume translation of Luisa’s letters.

Dr Redworth will be speaking…

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Publication date: Tuesday 14th May 2013
Thank you from the President of the HA

In response to a speech by Michael Gove on 9th May 2013, the following letter from 54 historians was published in The Times on 14th May 2013. As President of the Historical Association, I would like to thank the signatories for their support’.

Professor Jackie Eales

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

In defence of The Historical Association

This letter was published in The Times today:

As historians from the Higher Education sector, we deplore Michael Gove’s extraordinary and misleading attack on the Historical Association in his recent speech at Brighton College. Mr. Gove suggested that the HA favours a dumbed-down or infantilised version of history teaching in schools. Citing a single sentence in an article by an experienced teacher in the Association’s journal Primary History, he claims that ‘the Historical Association suggest students learn about the early Middle Ages by studying the depiction of King John as a cowardly lion in Disney’s “Robin Hood”.’ In fact, the journal piece is a very thoughtful one which explains how
students can be helped to realise that they should not take film depictions of history at face value. Mr. Gove at any rate ignores the important statement that ‘Publication of a contribution in Primary History does not necessarily imply the Historical Association’s approval of the opinions expressed in it.’

Mr. Gove would have us believe that the HA is an ideologically motivated organisation dedicated to the erosion of academic standards. In fact, its 6000 plus members have widely divergent political views but are united by their love of history and their devotion to bringing high quality scholarship to schools and the wider public. The key skill that the study of history teaches is the ability to evaluate evidence. Regrettably, what Mr. Gove has demonstrated in his speech is a remarkable capacity for manipulating and distorting it.

Dr Sophie T. Ambler, King’s College London

Dr Sara Barker, University of Exeter

Professor Jonathan Barry, University of Exeter

Professor Eugenio F. Biagini, University of Cambridge

Dr Adrian Bingham, University of Sheffield

Dr Helen Birkett, University of Exeter

Professor Lawrence Black, University of York

Dr Elizabeth Boyle, University of Cambridge

Professor Kathleen Burk, Professor Emerita of Modern and Contemporary History,
University College London

Dr John-Henry Clay, Durham University

Dr Timothy Cooper, University of Exeter

Dr Pat Cullum, , University of Huddersfield

Professor Martin Daunton, University of Cambridge

Dr Simon Ditchfield, University of York,

Kenneth F. Duggan, Doctoral Student, King’s College London

Dr Ann-Marie Einhaus, Northumbria University

Dr Steven Gunn, Merton College, Oxford

Professor Sarah Hamilton, University of Exeter

Dr Freyja Cox Jensen, University of Exeter

Dr Helen Foxhall Forbes, University of Exeter

Dr Felicity Heal, Emeritus Fellow, Jesus College, Oxford.

Professor David Hendy, University of Sussex.

Dr Clive Holmes, Emeritus Fellow and Lecturer in History at Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford

Dr Matt Houlbrook, Magdalen College, Oxford

Dr Bronach Kane, Bath Spa University

Professor Evan Mawdsley, Senior Professorial Research Fellow, University of Glasgow

Dr Helen McCarthy, Queen Mary University of London

Dr George Molyneaux, All Souls College, Oxford

Dr Staffan Müller-Wille, University of Exeter

Jamie Page, PhD student, St Andrews Institute of Mediaeval Studies

Dr Hugh Pemberton

Senior Lecturer in Modern British History

University of Bristol

Dr Catriona Pennell, University of Exeter

Dr Tim Rees, University of Exeter

Dr Matthias Reiss, University of Exeter

Dr Catherine Rider, University of Exeter

Dr Laura Sangha, University of Exeter

Dr Levi Roach, University of Exeter

Dr Mark Roodhouse, University of York.

Professor John Shepherd, University of Huddersfield

Dr Nicholas Terry, University of Exeter

Dr. David Thackeray, University of Exeter

Professor Patricia M. Thane, Institute for Contemporary British History, Kings College, London

Professor Andrew Thorpe, University of Exeter

Dr. Hereward Tilton, University of Exeter

Dr Daniel Todman, Queen Mary University of London

Laura Tompkins, PhD Candidate, University of St Andrews

Professor Richard Toye, University of Exeter

Professor Paul Ward, University of Huddersfield

Dr Cordelia Warr, University of Manchester

Tosh Warwick, PhD candidate, University of Huddersfield

Professor Jane Whittle, University of Exeter

Dr Alun Withey, University of Exeter

Professor Matthew Worley, University of Reading

Professor Chris Wrigley, Professor Emeritus, Nottingham University

The following also wish to be associated with the letter:

Dr KH Adler, Department of History, University of Nottingham

Dr. Sascha Auerbach, Department of History, University of Nottingham

Ann Garfield, PhD Student, University of Nottingham

Dr Robert Alexander Hearn, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Universita degli Studi di Genova, and formerly University of Nottingham

Professor Michael Jones, Correspondant de l’Institut, Emeritus Professor of Medieval French History, University of Nottingham

Dr Conor Kostick, Advanced Research Fellow, University of Nottingham.

Dr Joe Merton, Teaching Associate, University of Nottingham

Matt Phillips, PhD student, University of Nottingham

Laura Sumner, PhD student, University of Nottingham

Dr. Claire Taylor, Associate Professor in History, University of Nottingham.

Professor John W. Young, Professor of International History, University of Nottingham

Publication date: Friday 10th May 2013

Cartoons and Mr Men

On the morning of Thursday 9th May the Secretary of State for Education delivered a speech at Brighton College entitled “What does it mean to be an educated person?” The focus of the speech is a criticism of those who have opposed his department’s proposals for the new National Curriculum – it made the usual inferences that those who opposed the changes were opposed to young people learning.

As Mr Gove responded to his critics subject by subject he launched an ill-researched attack on the Historical Association. Founded in 1906 and granted a Royal Charter in 2006 the HA has more than 50 branches across the UK and supports and represents thousands of children, teachers, academics and enthusiastic amateurs, that all want to ensure that history is discussed, debated and promoted – ensuring historical knowledge and research are recognised as important for all ages and abilities.

The attack accused the HA of promoting cartoon history suggesting that it recommended in its resources that young people could learn history through watching Disney cartoons – in fact he is referring to an article in the HA publication ‘Primary History’ from December 2012 by Jane Card which is a critical piece on using film in the classroom to teach history. The article reminds teachers at primary level (those very teachers who are not experts) that film is not truth and that young people need to be guided through film when it is used to portray the past and factual events. The whole article has been misrepresented by Mr Gove – why, who is he undermining the HA or teachers across the board?

He then cites another ‘resource’ on the Third Reich that uses Mr Men to explore the traits of the Nazi leadership. The inference in his speech is that this is another HA resource that promotes cartoon teaching. Fortunately for Mr Gove the officials of the DfE credited the correct organisation for the Mr Men lesson and we will leave  Active History to explain how their work has been misinterpreted.

But why the attack on the HA? Is it because we:

  • Have criticised the proposed new curriculum but with evidence;
  • Because we met with over 500 teachers face to face in less than 6 weeks to collect our response evidence;
  • Because we presented Mr Gove face to face with the evidence collected by an annual survey that 96.2% of secondary teachers felt that insufficient attention had been given to teachers in the new NC;
  • That through an online poll with over 1700 responses only 4% thought the new history NC was a positive change;
  • Because we represent teachers, who have been trained to have a breadth of historical knowledge, who have opinions and can think both critically and with expertise and come from all sides of the political spectrum?

Whatever Mr Gove’s reasons are for wanting to diminish the Historical Association we will continue to produce respected and credible resources, to listen to teachers, academics and all those who think history is something that young people are entitled to learn about without the political messaging of governments. Our core mission for over 100 years has been to help raise the standard of history teaching and learning in schools and we will continue to do so irrespective of political agendas.

Perhaps Mr Gove should read Professor Sir David Cannadine’s book ‘The Right Kind of History’ that reports that there was no golden age of history teaching in schools and that in the past politicians of all parties avoided prescribing history content because only totalitarian regimes want to control what young people think about their past.

The Staircase Hall (1884–7), designed by Sir J...

The Staircase Hall (1884–7), designed by Sir John Taylor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I write this (a day late – yes, I know), I have just passed through Stafford on the Pendolino, on my way back from London, where I attended the Historical Association’s Branches and Members Committee Meeting.  It’s going dark outside the windows, and in the last quarter of an hour I’ve been watching lights go on all over the dusky countryside. At the meeting I seem to have volunteered to help re-organise the branches and branch officers’ area of the H.A. website, and to be a mentor for H.A. branch officers in the north of England.  I do sometimes think that what with looking after the children and doing my PhD, I’m not giving the H.A. the attention it requires.  Oh well, time for a bit of planning to get everything in, I guess!  The meeting finished early, and I spent an hour in the National Gallery before heading back to Euston to catch my train home to Preston, which was jolly nice.  I like travelling by train, I must admit, and the fact that I can now get to London in just over two hours makes it do-able, in my experience.  I’m not a happy driver, and I’d much rather let the train do the work.

It’s been a somewhat frustrating week, work-wise.  It was the children’s half term, and for once their father was not on holiday the same week, so I’ve not got a lot done.  My parents looked after the children on Tuesday so that I could go into Manchester to take back to the library a book that had been recalled, but what little time I had not looking after my children this week was mainly spent trying to get my new laptop to work (it runs on Windows 8, but what I think of that operating system is best left unsaid – suffice it to say that a lot of swearing took place under my breath) and trying to set up a new wifi router that could cope with the number of machines that now need it in my house.  All very time consuming and irritating.  Which is why I didn’t get my blog written last night – yesterday evening was the first chance I’d had all week to do some research!

I’ve created a huge working document analysing the ballad tunes musicologically.  The next step, which I am desperate to get on with, is looking at the links between the ballads, their backgrounds and their publication history.  I’m itching to get on with it, much as I enjoyed taking my children to the park, the ice-cream cafe and the cheese factory this week!  However, there will be quite a lot to get in my way over the next couple of weeks as, even though the children are back at school, I have a lot of appointments to keep.  I’m looking forward to getting started again, though.

Anthonis Mor - Queen Mary Tudor of England - W...

Anthonis Mor – Queen Mary Tudor of England – WGA16178 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Yesterday it was my great pleasure to give my first talk to a branch of the Historical Association in Manchester.  Called ‘No Lion Wilde, a Lion Tame – Popular Depictions of Mary I’, it was based the research I did for my first chapter on the ballads of the reign of Mary Tudor.  The audience seemed to enjoy it, and I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion it provoled at the end of the lecture.  What surprised me really was how much my ideas about Mary have developed since I wrote the chapter – there are a few things that I’d now like to change a bit, but we’ll have to see!

I must think about doing some more talks, perhaps for the H.A. but also for conferences.

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