Part 2 continues my review of the International Society for 18thC Studies Congress in Edinburgh in July.
Radical and Loyalist Politics
There were panels dealing with economic and political issues, such as Relative Liberties, Political Trails in Britain and France in the 1790s, The French Revolution from Afar (inc. London anti-reflationary press), Providing for the Poor, Scotland and the American Revolution, Jacobite Material Culture, Popular Politics and Radicalism, Queen Charlotte in British Caraciactture 1785-1798, and the identity problem of British Radical Expatriates in France. The one on The Force of the State 1789-1819 had Joe Cozens talk about the Dragoon State and riot control in Britain, Amanda Goodrich on Henry Redhead Yorke, the mixed race revolutionary in Sheffield, and Robert Poole on military intervention at Peterloo. In the discussion I drew attention to the need for local studies of the reaction to and impact of the Massacre and the repressive laws that followed. (Note 5)
The John Thelwall Society organised two panels. There was one on Scottish Clubs and Societies which included a paper on friendly societies. More general panels had papers on forging a transnational radical identify, Mary Wollstonecraft, the limits of Scottish Protestant unity, Presbyterian politics, political songs in 18thC Netherlands, reason and the claim for equal political liberty, the French revolution’s politics of time, the Society for The Suppression of Vice in Lodon 1800-1825, Burke’s use of history after The Reflections juvenile patriotism and identity in Revolutionary France, revolutionary education in Milan, and Professor Penelope Corfield on the urban/commercial/radical handshake.
I was unable to go to the panel on political participation in 18thC England at which Matthew Grenby (Newcastle) spoke on election ballads in Newcastle, and Edmund Green ((independent scholar) on electoral participation across Metropolitan London 1700-1832. (Note 6)
This was another cross cutting theme. A panel on assembly, association and sociability had a paper on the Masonic Stage, In the Slavery and Identity panel Susan Snell (the English Grand Lodge’s archivist) spoke on black freemasons, and I talked about Loveless Overton, a Bajan soldier and freemason, the non-foot noted text of which is now on the North East Popular Politics Project database which I edit: ppp.nelh.net.
There was a fascinating panel on song, with papers on William Shield, the Tyneside and Court composer, who turns out to have been a radical and a freemason. The annual William Shield Festival on Tyneside takes place later this year. Amelie Addison (Leeds Uni) who gave the talk will be speaking at it. Joseph Darby (Keen State College, USA) spoke about subscription based Scottish music publishing. Kirsteen McCue (Glasgow) spoke about the Romantic National Song Network project on national songs published across the British Isles during the period 1750-1850: https://rnsn.glasgow.ac.uk. The site includes a posting by Amelie about Shield: https://rnsn.glasgow.ac.uk/?s=Newcastle
Reference was made to Durham’s musician and music teacher Simon Fleming’s project on subscribers to music. So far he has been able to publish Gender of Subscribers to Eighteenth-Century Music Publications, which can be seen at https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/Qm6rMAJunEQ43hgDiHuQ/full?target=10.1080/14723808.2019.1570752. He writes: ‘One of the most important and valuable resources available to researchers of eighteenth-century social history are the lists of subscribers that were attached to a wide variety of publications. Yet, the study of this type of resource remains one of the areas most neglected by academics. These lists shed considerable light on the nature of those who subscribed to music, including their social status, place of employment, residence, and musical interests. They naturally also provide details as to the gender of individual subscribers.’
For some time I have been drawing attention to the use of subscribers’ lists in other forms of publishing and in a range of organisations lists of paid up members and donors, examples of which are on the North East Popular Politics database. This links back to Joe’s talk on the Dragoon State with the List of Subscribers to the Fund, for the Relief of the Widows, Wives, and Children of Killed and Wounded British Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines in the Expedition to Holland in 1799 ... Together with an abstract of the regulations ... for the management of that fund (1808) (on Google Books), which I have come across since the Congress, the subscribers including the Ayrshire Fencibles when Loveless Overton was with them.
There were panels on Aphra Behn, Mary Wollstonecraft, Jane Austen and Women’s Artists as well as on a wide range of women’s literature, artists, and writers, and other panels inc. papers on women in business, cross dressing, and Ann Lister (in panels on The Cries of Queen Identities and Homo- and Heterosexual Identities). (Note 7)
Issues relating to digital humanities have been a growing topic of discussion at the Annual British Conference. They were an important feature of the ISCECS Congress. There were sessions on the issues, one on getting started and some on specific projects such as the Sterne Digital Library, Scottish case law, and the Georgian papers in the Royal Archives at Windsor. Although Andrew Prescott (Prof of DH, Glasgow), was at the Congress, he gave a talk on freemasonry having previously been the Director of the Centre for Research into Freemasonry at Sheffield University. (Note 8)
The Scale of the Congress
The 1,600 delegates included large contingents from North America and across Europe but also many from China, India (where a Society has recently been set up), Japan and Korea. The organisation of the Congress was highly complex with 477 panels and roundtable discussions spread across several University buildings, plus plenary sessions and evening events including receptions, a concert, a quiz and a Ceilidh. The organisation committee did a fantastic job, supported throughout the week by a group of student volunteers and the University’s Edinburgh First team.
The Congress was expensive, so a lot of students were able to be there thanks to a large bursary fund, plus some academics without alternative funding. The Congress and the BSECS Annual Conference remain costly for independent historians who have no funding support mechanisms they can apply to. It is to be hoped that a bursary could be set up, especially for those who want to give a paper. (Note 9)
It is to be hoped that many of the issues discussed will continue to be debated between participants, especially the dialogue started at the BAME round-table. One method will be through essays based on talks in a proposed special issue of journal of the British Society. The January annual conference of the British Society will enable further discussion, particularly in relation to issues relating to nature and the change of environments as a result of industrialisation, the re-shaping of country estates, new forms of transport and enclosures, but particularly the exhaustion of soils on the West Indian islands as a result of sugar mono-culture. The next Congress in 2023 will be in Rome.
(5) See for example John Charlton’s The Wind from Peterloo. 1819 - Newcastle’s great reform demonstration, which I published last year under my History & Social Action Publications imprint. I have also published The Importance of the Peterloo Massacre of 1819: A personal discussion triggered by Mike Leigh’s film and a Long 18thC Seminar. I will be giving a talk on Croydon’s Peterloo links for the Croydon Natural History & Scientific Society in November. Joe and Katrina are reaching a wider public audience through their articles on Peterloo in the August issue of History Today.
(6) The North East Labour History Society’s North East Popular Politics Project database which I edit contains a great deal of information about electoral politics in the long 18thC in the North East: ppp.nelh.net. The electoral politics project to be co-ordinated by Matthew Grenby received its funding approval two weeks before the Conference. The detailed brief about it is awaited.
(7) Since the Congress I have come across the report from Bath about a colleague of Loveless Overton, Sarah Penelope Stanley, who was discharged from the Ayreshire Fecibles following her sex being discovered after being kicked by her horse. The Bath Mayor funded her return back to the City. (The Lady’s Magazine. September 1799. p. 428)
(8) What happened to the digital archive Andrew set up is a cautionary tale. Years after he left the English Grand Lodge ceased funding the Centre. This was particularly galling for me as a graduate member of the Sheffield University Court of Governors I had successfully lobbied for Chinese walls between the Centre and the Grand Lodge. Some time after the Centre was closed the University took the digital resource off the internet. Interestingly the joint paper that Andrew and I wrote as an introduction to black freemasonry was put up on a Lodge website in the United States at:
A collection of Andrew’s papers have been posted on http://www.themasonictrowel.com/ebooks/freemasonry/eb0067.pdf. Following a workshop on DH issues Andrew organised last year I discussed some of the issues in two blog postings at:
(9) Another cost facing students is that of the books they should be reading on the 18thC. A good source is Postscript Books of remainder books at knockdown prices. Its August catalogue includes books on the British Museum in the Enlightenment, the Castlereagh/Canning duel, Carline of Ansbach, Jane Austen's notebooks, Whatley on gardening, Gainsborough, Canaletto and Hogarth, Krystyn Lach-Szyrma, Sir John Pringle, Arago’s voyage round the world, William Buchan and medical advice, Regency women, and British ceramics, as well as military books on the French Wars. www.psbooks.co.uk