Wednesday, 2 January 2019

The Reformation: how Bath Abbey survived it (Thursday 24 January)

Bath Abbey as we know it is the third church to stand on its current site. Begun by Bishop Oliver King in 1499, it was not complete when King Henry VIII ordered the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539.

The monks were forced to leave, and the building was offered to the city authorities at a very low price. So far had the abbey's prestige declined that the offer was refused. The church's valuables, including stained glass windows and lead from the roof, were removed. In 1542 the empty shell and the monastery were sold to Humphrey Colles. Colles then sold them to Matthew Colthurst.

In 1572 Colthurst's son Edmund gave what remained of the church to the mayor and citizens of Bath for use as a parish church. Restoration work began, supported by Queen Elizabeth I. Thomas Bellot, one of the wealthy citizens who contributed to the work, had been steward to Lord Burghley (William Cecil). Bellot used his bequest from Burghley as well as his own money to give generous support to the restoration. The appointment of James Montagu as Bishop of Bath and Wells in 1608 added further impetus. By 1616 Bath Abbey was repaired and in use.

Jeremy Key-Pugh describes himself on social media as 'retired teacher, grandfather to Sam and Leo, keen historian and churchwarden'. His association with Bath Abbey is longstanding. In his lecture The Reformation: how Bath Abbey survived it Jeremy will take us through the turbulent events of the sixteenth century and explain how Oliver King's great church came through the tumult to begin the path that would lead to today's splendour.

Mike Short   

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Joan of Arc and the end of the Hundred Years' War (Thursday 22 November)

The Hundred Years' War began in 1337 when the English Plantagenet king Edward III asserted his right to the throne of France. It continued as an intermittent series of conflicts between the Plantagenets and the Valois for 116 years, ending with the French victory at Castillon in 1453.

During these years of conflict the armies of five English kings (Edward III, Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V and Henry VI) faced those of five kings of France (Philip VI, John II, Charles V, Charles VI and Charles VII). Celebrated English victories took place at Crecy (1346), Poitiers (1356) and Agincourt (1415). Henry V sought to unite the two kingdoms in the Treaty of Troyes (1420). By the end of the war the English had lost all their territories in France, except Calais, and were forced to accept that their cause was lost.

In the autumn of 1428 the English under John of Lancaster, uncle of the child king Henry VI, laid siege to the strategically important city of Orleans. The French were in poor spirits and faced defeat in the war. The following spring a seventeen-year-old peasant girl gained access to the crown prince Charles of Valois (later Charles VII) and convinced him to allow her to lead a French army to Orleans. She was Jeanne d'Arc, Joan of Arc. The siege was lifted. It was the turning point of the war.

After Orleans the Hundred Years' War continued for a further 24 years, but the tide had turned and the advantage lay with the French.

Many people would consider the personalities and events of the Hundred Years' War among the most fascinating and exciting in the history of the Late Middle Ages. The Bath branch of the Historical Association is fortunate indeed to welcome as our guide and interpreter on Joan of Arc and the end of the Hundred Years' War Anne Curry, Professor of Medieval History at the University of Southampton and Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, President of the Historical Association from 2008 to 2011, and a leading expert on the Hundred Years' War.

Mike Short  

Sunday, 14 October 2018

English-speaking Radicals and the French Revolution (Thursday 25 October)

The French Revolution is one of history's cataclysmic events. Its actions and consequences were observed, celebrated and feared widely beyond the realm of France. This month's Historical Association Bath Branch lecture, to be given by Peter Jones, Emeritus Professor of French History at the University of Birmingham, focuses on the responses of English-speaking radicals to the Revolution and its aftermath.

Reporting news of the French Revolution in July 1789 the London Chronicle proclaimed 'In every province of this great kingdom the flame of liberty has burst forth' but it warned that 'before they have accomplished their end, France will be deluged with blood'.

For some Britons the Revolution was seen, at least at first, as a belated attempt by the French to establish a constitutional monarchy as England itself had done a century before.

The English Chronicle or Universal Evening Post asserted that 'the hand of JUSTICE has been brought upon France'.

Recollecting the events of 1789 in The Prelude (1805) William Wordsworth wrote 'Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive'.

Both Thomas Paine in The Rights of Man (1791-2) and Mary Wollstonecraft in A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792) took inspiration from the upheaval in France to advocate republicanism and equal rights.

In the United States, in April 1789, George Washington was inaugurated as the first president. It seemed to many Americans that the events in France three months later validated the American Revolution itself.

What do the events of 230 years ago and the intellectual responses to them teach us about the ways in which we think about the radical movements and turning points of our own times? Please come to Professor Peter Jones's lecture on Thursday 25 October to stimulate your own thoughts.

Mike Short          

Sunday, 23 September 2018

The 2016 Election and Donald Trump in Historical Perspective (Thursday 27 September)

Welcome to HA Bath's new series of lectures for the 2018-19 season.

The fifty-odd members who listened to Professor Tony Badger's lecture The Lessons of the New Deal: Did President Obama Learn the Right Ones? in January 2016 may remember with pleasure a well-crafted and persuasive comparison of the US presidencies of Franklin D Roosevelt and Barack Obama. We could not have known then that Tony would return to Bath less than three years later as national President of the Historical Association.

Tony Badger has chosen as his title this time The 2016 Election and Donald Trump in Historical Perspective. Few would deny that the presidential election of 2016 produced an extraordinary president. One of the election's more bizarre features was that the losing candidate, Hillary Clinton, gained 2.87 million more votes than the winner.

Has there ever been such an election - such issues, such candidates, such a campaign, such a result? Tony Badger, whose own education includes Cotham Grammar School in Bristol, was Paul Mellon Professor of American History at the University of Cambridge from 1992 until 2014 and also Master of Clare College. He chairs the Kennedy Memorial Trust, which enables British postgraduate students to study at either Harvard University or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In this month's HA Bath lecture Tony Badger will seek to explain whether the 2016 US presidential election was as much of a deviation from the norm as many might think.

Mike Short 

Monday, 2 July 2018

The lecture programme for 2018-19 and the Christmas visit

Following the completion of last season's lecture programme on 26 April groups of HA Bath members have visited Bowood House and Gardens in Wiltshire on 16 May and the contrasting Gatcombe Court to the southwest of Bristol on 14 June.

For members there is now a summer break, and for the HA Bath committee an opportunity to reflect on what has passed and to make plans for the future. The committee will meet on 10 July with Howard Jacobs as its chairman for the first time. Boyd Schlenther, whose five-year term ended at the AGM, will continue to be a member of the committee. Everyone will welcome Howard and wish him well as he leads us through the next phase of our own long history.

I and two other members of our committee spent two days in May at the Historical Association Conference in Stratford-upon-Avon. One of the consequences is that we have secured the agreement of renowned author and broadcaster Tracy Borman to be our guest speaker on 28 November 2019.

First, however, there is the 2018-19 season, details of which were circulated at the Annual General Meeting in April. The seven lectures begin with Professor Tony Badger, current President of the Historical Association, who visited us in 2016 to speak about Presidents Obama and F D Roosevelt. This time he will endeavour to place the election of President Trump in a historical perspective. We have speakers from the universities of Birmingham, Cambridge, Manchester and London, a Lay Reader from Bath Abbey, and my fellow HA trustee and friend Jenni Hyde who will, during the course of her lecture, sing to us. Our Christmas visit and buffet this year will take place in the evening of Thursday 13 December at the American Museum in Britain. Members will receive details and application forms for this event during August.

This is the programme ...

27 September 2018
The 2016 Election and Donald Trump in Historical Perspective
Professor Tony Badger (former Master of Clare College, Cambridge),
President of the Historical Association

25 October 2018
English-speaking Radicals and the French Revolution
Professor Peter Jones (University of Birmingham)

22 November 2018
Rivers, Rains and Resilience: Indus urban and rural communities in the third millennium BCE
Alessandro Ceccarelli (Magdalene College, Cambridge)

13 December 2018
Members' Christmas Visit and Buffet
at the American Museum in Britain, Bath

24 January 2019
The Reformation: how Bath Abbey survived it
Jeremy Key-Pugh (Lay Reader, Bath Abbey)

28 February 2019
Modernising Calcutta: Technology, the Spectacular and the Unexpected
Dr Anindita Ghosh (University of Manchester)

28 March 2019
New ways of 'reading' and contextualising the Lindisfarne Gospels
Professor Michelle Brown (School of Advanced Study, University of London)

25 April 2019
Singing the News: Ballads in Mid-Tudor England
Dr Jenni Hyde (Universities of Lancaster, Liverpool Hope and Southampton)

All lectures will take place on Thursday evenings at 7.30 in the Friends Meeting House, York Street. I plan to introduce each one in this diary.

Mike Short  

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

'Clothes for the people': dressing slaves in eighteenth-century Virginia (Thursday 26 April)

Time is the relentless linear dimension through which we move. Everything has a historical context. We discover the past constantly, sometimes in unanticipated ways.

The final lecture of the current season is about cloth and clothing, particularly in the experience of slaves in eighteenth-century Virginia.

Most of what we know about the lives of slaves comes from the perspective of observers such as plantation owners and abolitionists rather than the slaves themselves. The history of dress, however, is a useful way of understanding the lives and cultures of people who have left little direct historical record. Knowledge of slave clothing can offer direct insight into the daily lives of slaves in eighteenth-century Virginia.

Our speaker this month, Dr Sally Tuckett of the University of Glasgow, will examine how slaves got their clothing, what the clothes actually were, and how clothing was used to acquiesce in or to resist the control of their owners.

Sally's lecture will be followed by the Annual General Meeting of the Bath Branch, which should be brief. A printed report of the branch's activities will be circulated and the lecture programme for the 2018-19 season will be published.

I look forward to our members' visits to Bowood House and Gardens (16 May) and Gatcombe Court (14 June) and to writing about next season's programme, soon, in this diary.

Mike Short   

Friday, 9 March 2018

The Secret Diaries of William Wilberforce (Thursday 22 March)

The name of William Wilberforce (1759-1833) is one of the best-known in English history. And what people with only a little knowledge of history tend to know about William Wilberforce is that he had something to do with the abolition of slavery.

A Yorkshire man by birth, Wilberforce entered Parliament in his twenties and soon afterwards became an evangelical Christian. His active Christianity was a key element in driving his participation in many campaigns for reform. He supported the Society for the Suppression of Vice, missionary work in India, the creation of Sierra Leone as a free colony, the Church Mission Society and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. What Wilberforce is most remembered for is his involvement in and parliamentary leadership of the campaign to abolish the British slave trade. After the passing of the Slave Trade Act in 1807 he worked with others in the subsequent campaign that led to the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833, which completed its passage through Parliament just three days before he died.

William Wilberforce's burial in Westminster Abbey was an indication of the respect in which he was held by many.

The public man was also a private man. I don't know what Professor John Coffey is going to reveal in his lecture on The Secret Diaries of William Wilberforce, but perhaps it will give us an insight into the mind and conscience of a man who challenged powerful interests and sought to do good. I hope there might also be a glimpse into his happy marriage to Barbara Spooner, whom he met in Bath and married at St Swithun's Church, Walcot, on 30 May 1797.

Two summer visits now confirmed

As well as the members' visit to Bowood House and Gardens on Wednesday 16 May, which I referred to last month, I am now able to confirm that there will be a second visit, to Gatcombe Court, on Thursday 14 June. Details of both visits, including how to book, will be emailed or posted to members before the end of March.

Mike Short