Representing Disability in Shakespeare’s World

Image: Charity table painting from St Nicholas Church, Alcester, Warwickshire.

On Monday, 9th November 2020, 2:00pm – 4:00pm, there will be a FREE online event exploring social representations and attitudes toward disability in the 17th century and today.

Book for this event via EVENTBRITE

Using insights from history and disability studies, this event will draw from Shakespearean England to explore social representations and attitudes toward disability across historical eras and in the context of military life. It will feature a pre-recorded mini lecture to introduce an online screening of videos, followed up by recorded online discussion.

The videos will include a production by actors from the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), along with two freelance actors with disabilities. A series of video monologues of extracts from Shakespeare’s plays which portray people with disabilities caused by war will feature. Alongside this, the actors will recite, dramatize and perform short petitions that survive from wounded soldiers applying for the first state military pensions during Shakespeare’s day and the years immediately afterwards. These will be drawn from the Leicester-led project.

The video outputs and recited petitions will be accompanied by filmed commentaries and discussion from experts including an academic from the Shakespeare Institute, early modern historians, disability studies scholars, representatives from arts and military organisations, and the actors themselves. In doing so insights and critical reflection on contemporary representation and attitudes toward disability, as well as equality and social support for those with disability, will be provided.

Seminar Programme 2020-21

Centre for English Local History

Seminars will be delivered live and remotely on the following dates and times. You can join these sessions from your home computer via Blackboard Collaborate. You do not need to download any special software to join these sessions. Simply click on the links below which act as an entry key into the virtual seminar room. Sessions will open 15 minutes before the scheduled start of the paper. Please ensure that your video and microphones are off during the paper. There will be opportunities to ask questions directly after the paper.

8 October, 2.15pm Matt Bristow, ‘The pre-industrial Lowestoft Fish Office: another red herring?

22 October, 2.15pm Dr Bill Shannon, ‘New light on the medieval Gough map of Britain

5 November, 2.15pm Dr Adam Chapman, ‘Where next for the Victoria County History?’

19 November, 2.15pm Dr Melodee Beals, ‘The Provincial-Provincial Public Sphere: Scotland, New Zealand and the Newspaper Press in the Age of Telegraph and Steam.

3 December, 2.15pm Prof. Martin Johnes, ‘Humbug and a Welsh Hindu: a small history of race, language and begging in nineteenth-century Liverpool.’

21 January, 2.15pm Dr Xuesheng You, ‘Women’s labour force participation in nineteenth-century England and Wales.’

4 February, 2.15pm Dr Carry van Lieshout, ‘Female entrepreneurship: business, marriage and motherhood in England and Wales, 1851-1911.’

18 February, 7pm Dr Bethany Marsh, ‘”Overfrighted and feared”: feelings, attitudes and responses to fear during the 1641 Irish rebellion.’

4 March, 2.15pm Prof. Phil Batman, ‘Migration from Swaledale during the collapse of the nineteenth-century lead mines.’

18 March, 2.15pm Dr Chris Zembe, ‘From Slave Trade to Scramble for Africa: the making of the Black population in Britain.’

In Support of Marc Fitch House

As you know the closure and sale of Marc Fitch House by the university has been postponed as a result of the current coronavirus pandemic. However, it is still the intention of the university to continue with the closure and the relocation of the Centre to the main campus when possible.

This gives the Friends the opportunity to progress with the campaign to protect both the building and the Centre. Our aim is to try and work with Centre staff and the university to achieve a feasible and sustainable future for the study of English Local History at Leicester. The next step is to develop a case demonstrating the unique value of the site and how it has been used to help positively promote study and research. The purpose being to show how the loss of the building will have a damaging impact on the university outweighing any short-term financial benefits.

To that end, I would be grateful if Friends could send in any evidence and examples of where Marc Fitch House has been particularly suitable and important in the promotion of the aims of the Centre. This could include for example conferences, seminars and working with external groups to share knowledge and learning. This will be used to provide valuable information to support the case for retaining the Centre at the site.

Thank you for your help and assistance.

Dr Michael Gilbert

Responses please to John Parker

Friends Update May 2020

These are challenging times and we hope everybody is keeping safe and well during the current lockdown. It is particularly difficult for the academic world and we can see the impacts of the crisis on teaching activities at the Centre for English Local History and the University of Leicester. As you know the Friends have sadly had to cancel all our planned events for this year including the Spotlight Conference and Hoskins’ Day. However, subject to government guidance, we plan to launch a full programme in the New Year to include day visits and a study weekend as well as the conference and seminars. We will aim to send out more details of how to be involved later in the year. 

The current crisis has shown that despite the restrictions there is much that groups can do to keep in contact and to stay active. Some of these initiatives are already underway for the Friends such as the new website and our presence on Facebook and Twitter. This year we are also planning a new style Newsletter as a showcase of the work and interests of the Friends. An email has gone out to all members asking for articles, if you would like to contribute please let us know. We are also investigating running ‘virtual’ talks and seminars in conjunction with the Centre hopefully starting this summer, details will follow shortly. Please let use know if you have any ideas for online activities that the Friends could be involved in, we will follow-up any suggestions. 

Although the threat of closure of Marc Fitch House has temporarily receded it has not gone away and we continue to work with and to support the Centre in its efforts to find suitable accommodation and to secure its future. More information on how members can help with this will be published soon.

Friends Committee 

Invitation for contributions for Friends Newsletter 2020

Dear Friend, I am writing to you to request your contributions to the annual Friends Newsletter, please.  

The Newsletter will have a different format and flavour this year, since we have so few communal activities to report.  However, we will publish it as usual in the autumn and it will be distributed predominantly online.  

I would be delighted if as many Friends as possible could send me articles on any historical subject which you think might be of interest to our membership.  We would like to extend this invitation to all Friends, Staff and Students associated with the Centre.  We could include a letters page, book and other reviews, recent publications, work in progress, thoughts on the future and the history of the Centre, etc, and photographs are always welcome.  We would like to consider any contribution you care to offer.  

The deadline for receipt of any contributions will be the end of September, and please send them to my email address at: 

I look forward to hearing from you.  

All the best.  

Phil Batman~Newsletter Editor

Update on No:5 Salisbury Road

The University of Leicester has confirmed that the sale of properties on Salisbury Road has been postponed during the current pandemic crisis and this includes Marc Fitch House the current home of the Centre for English Local History. The relocation of the Centre to the main campus during the summer has also been postponed. The Friends welcome this pragmatic decision and look forward to working with the University and the Centre to develop a viable and long term solution for the Centre and its valuable collections. We will provide more information as it becomes available. Hoping that all Friends as well as the staff and students at the Centre are keeping safe and well during these difficult times.

Dr Michael Gilbert
15 April 2020

Hoskins’ Day 2020 – CANCELLED

The Friends of the Centre for English Local History normally hold the Hoskins’ Day lecture to celebrate the work of Professor W G Hoskins in June. Given the current pandemic emergency it has been decided to cancel this year’s event and to rearrange it in 2021. We apologise for any disappointment this may cause but as always the safety of our members must always come first. Thank you for your understanding and we look forward to seeing you next year.

Restless Souls Pilgrim Roots

New book explores the turbulent history of the Christian
faith in Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire

Miracles * Tragedy * Heroism * Betrayal * Revelation * Corruption

In a story running from the early 7th Century until 1660, Adrian Gray places great and intriguing figures in the context of their times and in an unfolding story of spiritual change, rebellion and sometimes death. You will meet again some well-known figures such as Saint Hugh of Lincoln, Thomas Cranmer the architect of the Church of England, and the mercurial George Fox from Mansfield who formed the Quakers; you will learn more about the first leaders of the Baptist Church and those who became the ‘Mayflower’ Pilgrims, but the text also restores to our attention many more fascinating and often radical figures who have been forgotten over time.

The range of characters stretches from Guthlac, whose supernatural experiences in the Fens became the first English biography, to Elizabeth Hooton, the Nottinghamshire Quaker who travelled the world and escaped death many times. Often, these people were motivated by a quest for a better Faith and Church, leading them from the ‘heresy’ of Lollardism to be champions of the Reformation and ultimately leaders of the Civil War against King Charles I. Many died for their beliefs.

The story also has its fair share of ‘villains’ including corrupt and venal bishops, despotic leaders who sent those who disagreed with them to the stake or the gallows, on both sides of the Atlantic, and one of Elizabethan England’s most sinister torturers.

Hardback, 405pps. RRP £28.00, discounts may apply.

ADRIAN GRAY has an MA in History from Cambridge University and is the author of over twenty books. He is well-known as the historical adviser to Pilgrims & Prophets Christian Heritage Tours and Bassetlaw Christian Heritage, which promote interest in the Christian history of the two counties.

Order from bookshops or usual suppliers, or direct from the publisher:

Closure of Marc Fitch House

Centre for English Local HistoryMarc Fitch House

In my first update to the Friends I have sadly to give some bad news. Marc Fitch House at 5 Salisbury Road, Leicester has long been the home of the Centre and many of us will know it well having studied there as well as attending lectures and seminars over the years. Unfortunately, the university has decided to sell the building and to relocate the Centre to the Attenborough Tower on the main campus. The Centre is scheduled to leave Marc Fitch House by the start of July 2020.

This has come as a shock to staff and students as well as the Friends and there was no consultation or discussion prior to the announcement on 5th February. Inevitably this sudden move will be very disruptive to teaching and to the research carried out in the building. We have asked to see the rationale behind the decision and the analysis to show how any benefits from the move will outweigh the potential damage to the academic reputation of the university.

In his reply to our letter the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Nishan Canagarajah, has made several important commitments to the Centre and to providing appropriate facilities on the main campus.

First, I would like to reassure you that the sale of Marc Fitch House should not be seen as a threat to the future of the Centre for English Local History. It is our intention to create a coherent new space for the Centre within the Attenborough Building, which will include a resource centre to house the Marc Fitch Collection and maps. The activities that currently take place on Salisbury Road will be able to continue – and staff and students will also be able to benefit from being on our central campus and being part of the wider academic community.

We look forward to seeing how these can be delivered by the university and the future of the Centre assured. Please share your thoughts, feelings and any ideas with us on our new social media sites.

Meanwhile, the work of the Centre and the Friends continues – on Saturday 21st March 2020 we will be holding the Spotlight Conference in the Museum Studies building on University Road. It is an opportunity to see some of the research carried out by academics and graduates from the Centre as well as hear our guest speaker, Dr Ian West. I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at the event. Hopefully, you will have received an email with booking details otherwise they are available on the website and on social media.

Dr Michael Gilbert  (Chair of the Friends of the Centre for English Local History)

Norwich Study Weekend 26 – 28 April 2019

The study weekend was held in the Maids Head Hotel in the heart of the medieval quarter of Norwich and directly opposite the cathedral. The event covered a number of themes including Kett’s Rebellion, Norwich in the Civil War, Protestantism and the medieval architecture of the city.

On the Friday evening we had a talk by Professor Andy Wood of Durham University on Kett’s Rebellion. Andy is an expert on early modern social history and has studied extensively the causes, course and consequences of the Rebellion in the reign of Edward VI. His talk emphasised the political, social and religious tensions that underpinned the Rebellion. Andy returned to the study weekend on Saturday afternoon and gave a guided tour of the main sites in Kett’s Rebellion, starting with the centre of Royalist resistance in the Castle. We then returned to the hotel by way of the medieval quarter and Tombland, scene of bitter fighting during the uprising.

On Saturday morning we visited the Old Meeting House Congregational Church that was built in 1643 in the middle of the Civil War. The pastor, Dr John Clements (in the full costume of a seventeenth century preacher), gave a talk on the origins of the church and the early history of the independent movement in the city. The Separatist Free Church opposed the rule of bishops and naturally sided with the Parliamentarians during the course of the Civil War. William Bridge, from Norwich, took part in the 1643 Westminster Assembly that advised on the Puritan reform of the Church. We then had a tour of the chapel which was one of the first such purpose-built independent churches still functioning as a place of worship today.

In the afternoon we had a talk by Dr Joel Halcomb from the University of East Anglia on St George Tombland, a radical parish in the English Revolution. He explored how the church prospered during the Civil War despite being without a parish priest for much of the period. This was followed by a talk in the evening by our own Professor Andy Hopper on ‘The Great Blow’, when, following riots, a store of gunpowder exploded in the city causing extensive damage and loss of life. This event was used as background for exploring the shifting politics of the city during the Revolution and the conflicting tensions within this important Parliamentarian centre.

Finally, on Sunday morning Professor Sandy Heslop of Cambridge University give a talk on the medieval architecture of Norwich. Sandy is an expert on the art and architecture of the medieval period and has studied in detail the surviving churches of the city. He highlighted the changing architectural styles reflecting the different periods and the masons involved in their design and construction. This was followed by a tour of the churches in the medieval quarter surrounding the Maids Head Hotel, contrasting smaller churches such as St James the Less (now the home of the Norwich Puppet Theatre) and St Edmund’s on Fishergate with grander churches such as St George Tombland.

It was a full weekend that guided the attendees through a particularly interesting period in the evolution of Norwich. The hundred years from the mid-16th century to the mid-17th century was a period of great political, social, economic and religious change, reflected in the history and fabric of the city.

Skippon – Ismini Pell’s dog
Guided walk
Outside the Maid’s Head – our base