Author Archives: ezuvo

Marc Fitch House library relocation – volunteers wanted !

The relocation of the Centre’s libraries, maps, slides and photograph collections to the main campus is due to take place at the end of February. Two resource rooms, one in the Attenborough Tower and one in the Seminar Block, are to be fitted out for the use of the Centre and will house the libraries, maps and images collections and provide working space for the Centre’s staff and students. Members of the Friends will be able to access these resource rooms.

In preparation for the forthcoming move, members of the Friends are working with the Centre staff to review and select material to be made available in the new resource rooms. Material which will not fit into the allocated space will initially be held in storage.

To improve access to and promote the use of the Centre’s resources, we have identified two projects for Spring 2022 – to provide a digital library catalogue and to commence the digitisation of the slide/photographic collections. We are seeking volunteers from the Friends to assist on these projects as follows:

Library catalogue project– We need help to deliver the first stage of this project which is to capture cataloguing records (currently on hand-written cards) into an Excel spreadsheet to be provided by the project team. We would like each volunteer to take responsibility for keying one or two catalogue drawers-worth of cards. We will deliver the catalogue cards to you in person or by courier depending on where you live.
If you would like to volunteer or have any questions, please contact Karen Donegani treasurer@englishlocalhistory.org

Digitisation of slides – We need help in preparing slides and photographs to be sent to an external service to be digitised and indexed.
If you would like to volunteer or have any questions, please contact Richard Jones rlcj1@leicester.ac.uk

A Presentation by the new Head of the School of History, Politics and International Relations.

Thursday, 27 January 2022, at 7:00 pm, by ZOOM.

The new Head of School, Professor Krista Cowman, has agreed to give a talk to the Friends via ZOOM, the link is https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81612556991 and the passcode is 775092 (if required).

The talk will take place online between 7pm and 8pm (the session will be open from 6.45pm). She will be talking about the teaching of history at Leicester as well as her plans for the future of the School and the Centre for English Local History. This is a unique opportunity to hear and discuss the views of the person at the heart of developing history teaching in the university and we look forward to seeing as many people as possible at this event.

Professor Cowman joined the University of Leicester as the new Head of School in 2021 from the University of Lincoln. After studying English and History at the University of Keele she taught in a secondary school in East London while studying for an MA in the History of the European Labour Movement at the Institute of Historical Research, funded by Newham Council. Her D.Phil at the Centre for Women’s Studies, University of York, was funded by the ESRC. Following this she taught in the Department of History, University of York and for the Open University, then the School of Cultural Studies at Leeds Metropolitan University from 1998. In 2006 she moved to the University of Lincoln as its first Professor of History.Her research has concentrated on modern British history and on women’s and gender history, her teaching focuses on Modern History from the late nineteenth century to the 1980s, particularly in Britain, with a strong emphasis on women’s history, gender history and histories of women’s political activism. She has also taught histories of European feminism, historiography and the cultural history of the First World War.

The Human Costs of the British Civil Wars.

On 9th December 2021 the inaugural David Dymond Memorial Winter Lecture was given by Andrew Hopper. The following report is taken from the BALH e-newsletter (Winter 2021)

Andrew is Professor of Local and Social History in the Department for Continuing Education at Rewley House, University of Oxford and was formerly Director of the Centre for English Local History at the University of Leicester. He is chair of the editorial board of Midland History, a patron of the Naseby Battlefield Project, and Academic Director of the National Civil War Centre where he was co-curator of the ‘Battle-Scarred’ exhibition of 2016-19. He is currently working on his third monograph, Widowhood and Bereavement in the English Civil Wars which is based on the excellent AHRC-funded Civil War Petitions Project (2017-2022) [www.civilwarpetitions.ac.uk]. We were very lucky to have Andrew with us to discuss this fantastic project, the resources being created from it and the new understandings of the impact of the wars emerging as a result.

Estimates by Ian Gentles in his book The English Revolution and the Wars in the Three Kingdoms 1638-1652 propose that 3% of the total population of England and Wales were killed during the wars with 15-20% in Ireland and 6% in Scotland. This compares to 1.6% of the British population lost during the First World War. The impact on those who were left would have been significant especially for widows and the wounded. While there is a suspicion that focus on the dead, wounded and bereaved is somehow tangential to real military history the Civil War Petitions project has been combatting this assumption.

The project has been assessing how the system of military welfare operated, how claimants fashioned themselves as deserving recipients of relief and how the victims of the war looked back on their experiences. In addition, they have been transcribing and publishing these documents online. The team were partly inspired by the 1641 Depositions project of Protestants in Ireland following the Catholic Irish rebellion of that year. https://1641.tcd.ie/. With Andrew as Principal Investigator the team consists of Project Manager Ismini Pells, Co-Investigators David Appleby, Lloyd Bowen and Mark Stoyle and Research Assistants Charlotte Young and Trixie Gadd.

The project set out with a series of research questions:

  • How did ordinary men and women look back on the Civil Wars?
  • What sort of medical care was available to the soldiers injured?
  • How did those who had been wounded or bereaved negotiate with the authorities for charitable relief?
  • How did those who operated welfare systems attempt to cope with the enormous strains of supporting thousands of wounded soldiers, war widows and orphans – and with what success?
  • What were women’s experiences of widowhood during the conflict?
  • How far did experiences of the Welsh differ from the English?
  • How did political considerations and contested memories of conflict interact with provision of relief to war victims?
  • What might the mapping of recipients of military relief tell us about population, poverty or allegiance?

Andrew took us through these documents in detail. We heard that many petitioners were illiterate so scribes such as clergymen, schoolmasters, or minor legal officials often wrote them. Scribes could advise on the ‘spin’ to put into a claim to maximise chances of success, shaping the start and end of petitions especially. Petitions were therefore not unmediated testimonies, although they had to be credible when read out in court with the petitioner in attendance. We see in them a balance between deference to the authority being petitioned while also reminding them of their lawful duty. Petitions and medical certificates can also be useful sources as case studies of how wounds were treated.

In a rich and detailed lecture we heard how these petitions provide evidence about the recruitment of rank-and-file soldiers. A map of the North Riding of Yorkshire, one of several county maps on the website, was used to illustrate this. Andrew discussed that many of the wounded returned to active service and how this suggests treatment was better than has previously been imagined. Wounded soldiers and war widows were relevant to both sides’ war efforts. Treatment of war victims sparked pamphlet wars and shaped future military strategy as sometimes assaults were made with the specific aim to capture prisoners for exchange. The propaganda value of being seen to take care of well-to-do widows was particularly felt. Huge efforts were made to relieve the wounded and widowed and this in turn increased tax burdens on civilians considerably. Many courts sought to thin out claimants to reduce this burden. Widows had to prove their husbands were in fact dead. This was particularly difficult if they had died in Scotland or Ireland. Men often had to strip and present their wounds or be certified to be unfit for work by a medical practitioner. Parliamentarian pensions tended to be slightly more generous and were a landmark moment for war widows of the rank and file. Commanders, especially Fairfax and Cromwell, personally interceded in cases. With the Restoration a Tory perception that it was not the job of the State to provide for the wounded can be identified. The dispensing and withholding of welfare depended on the changing political situation, keeping wartime memories and allegiances in view, making healing and settling more difficult. Altogether Andrew stressed how the consequences of civil war went on for generations afterwards both physically and socially. So far, the last petition found is from 1718.

Lastly, Andrew asked what the experiences of Britain’s seventeenth-century civil wars can teach us about the origins of military welfare and its provision to our armed services personnel and their families today. The project has explored this with the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2020 in a 30-minute film: https://www.civilwarpetitions.ac.uk/representing-disability-in-shakespeares-world/

Our warmest thanks are offered to Professor Hopper for sharing this research with us. We have surely all been inspired to look into the system of military welfare, claimants of relief and victims of the wars in our own places of interest. Everyone is strongly encouraged to visit the project’s website to explore the sources themselves along with the blogs and teaching resources there. www.civilwarpetitions.ac.uk. The website currently holds over 2000 petitions with tens of thousands of named recipients, uploaded by county with eventual completion expected for October 2022. You can search by: People, Places, Payments, Events, Injuries & ailments, Petitions & certificates. The website has a regular blog, Twitter link and learning section for schools with teachers’ workshops. The book from the project’s conference was published this year, L. Bowen and M. Stoyle (eds), Remembering the English Civil Wars (Routledge, 2021) and we look forward to the publication of a five-volume series of transcriptions of petitions arranged by region which is forthcoming in a few years.

Call for Papers: Poor Relief and Poverty in Britain and Beyond 1600-1900

Canterbury Christ Church University (in-person and online), 11 and 12 April 2022. Supported by the Royal Historical Society and the Social History Society.


Co-organised by

Dr Samantha A. Shave, Senior Lecturer in Social Policy, University of Lincoln
Dr David Hitchcock, Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History, Canterbury Christ Church University

Due to a number of impoverishing calamities in the first decades of the 21st century, including the financial crisis, accelerated climate breakdown, and the COVID-19 pandemic, ideas about how to eliminate poverty, provide support and transform welfare policies, have become pressing once again. At the same time, there has been a resurgence in interest in understanding poverty and poor relief during the first three centuries of organised social welfare in Britain. Literature has examined the development of ideas about poverty and poor relief, and how the policies and practices these ideas inspired were developed, adopted, revised, and abandoned. We have developed more nuanced understandings of the roles of individuals working within the spheres of poverty and poor relief, including key thinkers, MPs, local administrators and the poor themselves, and wider understandings of the ‘mixed economy of welfare’ of the past. In addition, through intense research of ‘narratives of the poor’, and the excavation of sources including pauper letters, we have uncovered how those in poverty understood their own situations, and had a thorough knowledge of entitlements and policies which enabled them to secure help for themselves as well as friends, family members and neighbours. The aim of this two-day conference is to bring together academics from disciplines across the humanities and social sciences in order to generate new discussions and directions in understanding poverty and poor relief. We hope for a diverse range of approaches and perspectives to consider.

Potential topics of research may include, but are not limited to these themes:

  • Creation, adaption, implementation, development, or dissolution of poor relief policies
  • Impacts of poor relief policies on people, poverty, or on welfare systems
  • Case studies of the operation of poor relief, or of how individuals navigated systems and policies
  • Connections between poverty and British colonialism
  • Poor relief policy networks and transfers, between people/across places
  • Understandings, perspectives and uses of poor relief policies
  • Cultural representations of poverty, poor relief, or punishment of the undeserving poor
  • Arguments and ideas for or against different poor relief policies
  • Bureaucracy of policy and poor relief, including absences or silences in bureaucratic records
  • Dynamics between policies and the built environment or landscape
  • Methods of resistance to poor relief policies or their applications/interpretations
  • Work, lives and relationships of those involved in policymaking, implementation or dissolution
  • The significance of past poor relief policies to welfare in 20th and 21st centuriesAll Paper Proposals: Please email Sam (sshave@lincoln.ac.uk) or Dave (david.hitchcock@canterbury.ac.uk) with titles and abstracts of up to 300 words by the end of Monday 7 February 2022.This will be a hybrid event, so please indicate whether you would like to attend in person or online. We understand the need for flexibility near the date of the conference due to the ongoing pandemic.

ECR Bursaries & ECR Panel: Applications from precarious and early career researchers are specifically invited and several bursaries (based on location and need) are available thanks to the generous support of the Royal Historical Society and the Social History Society. ECR researchers are invited to pre-circulate a short paper of up to 3000 words and speak about their work in progress as a part of an ECR Panel at this event.

A History of English Places

VCH Smartphone App

Do you want to explore England’s Past? Are you interested in maps? Then the Victoria County History’s App for mobile devices, ‘A History of English Places’ brings both these things together.

The app allows you to see this history and the layered archaeology of the landscape in front of you with fresh eyes and the convenience of the modern world. Why not try it today?  

Download the app here A History of English Places

A History of English Places is a map-based smartphone app for discovering the rich history of places in England. Information is drawn from the Topographical Dictionary of England (compiled by Samuel Lewis, 1848) and the place-by-place histories of the Victoria County History (VCH), published between 1901 and the present day.

The app is navigated by a map interface or a search option and also tracks your location to present the 10 nearest entries, making it an excellent historical guide when travelling. 

New Director of The Centre for English Local History

We are pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Angela Muir as the new Director of the Centre for English Local History.

Originally from Canada, she completed her BA (hons) in History at Simon Fraser University followed by 5 years in postsecondary arts events management before she moved to the UK to undertake an MA in Early Modern History at Swansea University where she developed an interest in Welsh history. She pursued doctoral studies at the University of Exeter between 2014 and 2017 with doctoral studentships from the Welcome Trust and the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada. She was awarded the Economic History Power Postdoctoral Fellowship for 2017-2018, which she held at Cardiff University where she also lectured. She joined the Centre for English Local History at the University of Leicester as a Lecturer in 2018.

Her research interests are focused on the experience and broader social, cultural and medical context of illegitimacy and childbirth outside of wedlock in eighteenth-century Wales, including infant and maternal mortality, and the provision of care to unmarried mothers. More broadly, she is interested in the social and cultural history of sex, gender, poverty, medicine and the body in early modern, eighteenth and nineteenth-century England and Wales.

The End of the Road for Marc Fitch House

The University of Leicester announced  the closure and sale of Marc Fitch House some time ago but the process had to be postponed as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. However, the University recently confirmed its intention to go ahead with the sale and relocate the Centre for English Local History back onto the main campus with the move planned for completion during August 2021. 

On Friday 30th July Michael Gilbert, Robert Mee  and Mary Bryceland visited the Centre to retrieve some of the Friends’ items, and Mary took the opportunity to take some photos.

A New Appointment for Professor Andrew Hopper

We would like to offer our congratulations to Andrew Hopper who has given up his role as Professor of English Local History and Director of The Centre for English Local History at the University of Leicester. Andrew will be taking up an appointment as Professor of Local and Social History at the Department for Continuing Education at the University of Oxford with effect from 1st September 2021.

After obtaining his doctorate on the extent of support for Parliament in Civil-War Yorkshire at the University of York, Andrew completed two postdoctoral research fellowships: ‘Virtual Norfolk’ at the University of East Anglia (2000-2003), and ‘The High Court of Chivalry 1634-40’ at the University of Birmingham (2003-2006). He came to the University of Leicester as a ‘New Blood’ Lecturer in 2006. Since then he has served as Admissions Tutor for History, and Director of the Centre for English Local History. He has enjoyed an active role in curriculum development, delivering teaching to undergraduates and postgraduates within the School of History, Politics and International Relations. He has also sat on the Executive Committee of the Victoria County History of Leicestershire and was Principal Investigator for its successful Heritage Lottery-funded Charnwood Roots Project (2013-2017).

Andrew is best known for his two monographs ‘Black Tom’: Sir Thomas Fairfax and the English Revolution (Manchester University Press, 2007) and Turncoats and Renegadoes: Changing Sides in the English Civil Wars (Oxford University Press, 2012). He is the author or editor of 10 books, the author of 14 academic journal articles, and 8 chapters in edited collections. He is currently working on his third monograph Widowhood and Bereavement in the English Civil Wars, under contract with Oxford University Press.

Andrew was the Principal Investigator of the ‘Conflict, Welfare and Memory During and After the English Civil Wars, 1642-1710’ project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (2017-2021). He also acted as a patron of the Naseby Battlefield Project, and Academic Director of the National Civil War Centre, where he was co-curator of the ‘Battle-Scarred’ exhibition from 2016 to 2018.

The Committee of The Friends of The Centre for English Local History would like to extend our sincere thanks to Andrew for his hard work and dedication to The Centre. His efforts have been much appreciated and we wish him every success in his new role.

Access to the Digitised Historical Censuses 1861-1911

Richard Rodger, FRHS, FAcSS Professor Emeritus, University of Edinburgh

Name’ and ‘Address’ are critical to tracking people, to linkages with property and legal documents, to understanding household structures, and to spatial analysis in times past, as now. For historians, nominal data linkage is impaired when access to Census data is restricted and this in turn weakens the utility of archival sources more generally where names and addresses are common elements. Social and economic history, family and cultural history, genealogy and local history are undermined as a result. The central theme here is that under present arrangements Scottish historians and the Scottish public are denied access a crucial publicly-funded historical source, and that a ‘pay-as-you go’ approach is inappropriate for access to archival materials. No other European country applies such a policy. Examples based on Edinburgh data illustrate how access to the Census can enhance historical analysis and enrich the productivity of other archival sources linked through names and addresses.

I believe local history societies deserve better access to the historical census ie those of 1861-1911, and of course 1921 in due course. There is a digitised resource, funded by The National Archives out of taxation, that has been limited in its utility by the paywall which is operated by Ancestry and others. 

 I have written an article explaining why this arrangement impairs local historical studies, and why it should be amended. The location of the data I have used to illustrate this argument has little to do with your area, but the principle is the same: making the public pay twice to see public records is no longer acceptable. 

Here is the link to the paper.

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/345503693_Making_the_Census_Count_Revealing_Edinburgh_1760-1900