Durham University History Society Journal, Vol. 5 (2012)

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Joel Butler (chief editor)

Claire Bonello

Danica Caddy

Will Clement

Bryan Gillingham

Katherine Horrocks

Lucy James

Holly Rowe

Sabine Schneider

Nicole Stirk

Joanna Vivian



Editor’s Introduction

Joel Butler 4

Foreword: Thirty-five Years of History at Durham –

Reminisces of a Grey-Beard

Professor David Rollason 6


Subject Articles

The Archaeology of Death: medieval monastic and nonmonastic


Elizabeth Wheeler 14

The Fourth Crusade: the diversion to Constantinople

Hywel Thomas 28

Post-Medieval Monuments in their Context: form,

iconography, location and meaning

Abigail Taylor 35

Circular Reasoning: understanding evkaf in early Ottoman


Joel Butler 51

London in the Creation of a British National Culture, 1500-


Bryan Gillingham 62

National Regeneration, Social Radicalism and the

Reconceptualisation of Chinese Womanhood in Late Imperial

China, 1890-1911

Sabine Schneider 69

Forests and Conflict: an analysis of Sierra Leonean forestry

Andrew Mackenzie 84


Discussion Articles

Myth and History in the Aztec Historiography: the return of


Benjamin Priest 94

‘A nation gets the heroes and rôle models it deserves’

Rachael Merrison 100

Liberating Class: identity and New Class theory

Lucy James 109


‘Presidential address’

Tom Trennery 122

‘Out of the bubble, into the past’: Hadrian’s Wall and


Caitlin Johnson 124

Lumley Castle Ball

Ryan Cullen 126

About the DUHS Exec, 2011/12 128

About the authors 130


Editor’s Introduction

By Joel Butler

This year is a landmark for the Durham University History Society

Journal: for the first time, it has been physically published! This

isn’t the only development that the journal has undergone. Building

on the good work of Matt Wright in the previous volume of two

years ago, we have continued to move in the direction of academia;

this edition contains a number of thought-provoking articles from

some highly talented students of history and society. However, the

journal also contains an overview of this year in the life of the

society. We have a presidential address from the perpetually suave

Tom Trennery, and some entertaining reports on the comings and

goings of the past 12 months from our vice-president, Caitlin

Johnson, and our secretary (and 2012/13 president-elect), Ryan


This year we also have the immense pleasure and privilege of being

able to include a foreword by Professor David Rollason. Current

first and second years have missed out on the opportunity to get to

know (and love) Prof. Rollason, due to his research commitments.

However, I can assure you that to have been part of his infamous

‘Birth of Western Society’ module was the most enthralling,

amusing, and terrifying experience that any undergraduate historian

could hope to encounter. I still have nightmares about Beowulf.

It is inevitable that any editor’s note will eventually descend into a

string of acknowledgements. I’ve decided to get the most esoteric

out of the way first.

To begin, I would like to thank Johannes Gutenburg, without

whom, printing might be impossible. In the same vein, I’d like to

thank Charles Babbage, Joseph Marie Jacquard, Alan Turing, Bill

Gates and Acer Incorporated of Taiwan, as well as my parents and


For services to my sanity – fragile as it may be – my thanks go to

James Dix for his unfaltering sense of friendship and his unique

blend of everything Bristolian with The Police, The Pixies, Cider,

Red Stripe, and vodka. Also deserving of a special mention here are

Liam Day and Andrew Pridding, who are without doubt the

kindest and most perceptive people I have ever met. I would also


like to give a shout out to my boys, Kris Hall, Mark Tarrant, Oliver

Theaker, and Richard Yu, who, along with Dix, have been a

pleasure to live with over the past two years. You have made this

house our home. I’d also like to thank all my partners in historical

crime over the past few years, particularly Becky Atkins, Stu

Drayton and Martin Rotheram, and Andy Burn, my college tutor at


For getting the DUHS Journal project off the ground, a number of

people deserve recognition. Firstly, thanks to Dr. Christine

Woodhead, who gave the original version of my article in this

volume an obscenely high grade and agreed to serve as my longsuffering

dissertation supervisor. Secondly, thanks to Dr. Julian

Wright, who has been invaluable in his support as head of the

history department, and thirdly, the department secretaries, without

whom early publicity would have been impossible.

Particular thanks go to all of the contributing authors, without

whom we would have no material to publish, and to the many

volunteers of the editing and publishing team, who have worked

extremely hard in pursuit of perfection. Special recognition must go

to Danica Caddy, who edited each article in tremendous detail, and

to Sabine Schneider, who was a great help and inspiration in setting

up an editorial board. Bryan Gillingham set admirably about the

mammoth task of compiling the articles. Either he or Sabine would

have made a worthy editor in my place. Claire Bonello and Lucy

James are also worthy of a special shout out, having balanced MA

commitments with careful editing of every article I sent out.

Finally, I would like to thank someone who was – for a time – a

very close friend of mine. She is the unfathomable – and often

infuriating – woman who geed me up, buttered me up, greased me

up, and beat me up until I agreed to run for the position of editor.

She convinced me that I was perfect for the position, proposed me

to the society, and sat beaming like a proud parent through my

election at the AGM. She’d rather remain anonymous, but I give

her my thanks regardless. She’s also the author of my second

favourite article in this volume.

With that, there’s not much else left other than to declare the

DUHS Journal open for business! Best of luck to next year’s

editors, Ivan Yuen and Madeleine Michie, who I’m sure will

maintain our high standards, and I hope you enjoy this year’s


Joel Butler, Durham, 2012


Thirty-five Years of History at Durham: Reminiscences of a


By David Rollason

The editors of this excellent journal have invited me, the longest

established member of the Durham University History

Department, to write a few words about the department and its

work. As I look over the last thirty-five years in and around 43

North Bailey, you will have to bear with me if, like the old man I

am, I reminisce.

I was appointed to a lectureship in Durham in late August of 1977

(a senior colleague would afterwards remark that you only made

rotten appointments so late in the academic year), and I came to

this little northern city fresh from a thrilling research studentship in

Paris, and with three years as a research student in the bustling

metropolis of Birmingham University behind me before that. The

university and the department had the same broad shape that they

have now, but in many ways they were very different. The

department occupied the present buildings, but it had many fewer

members of staff and dramatically fewer students. The then head of

department, a very great scholar called Hilary Seton Offler, knew

them all personally, and more or less managed the affairs of the

department from a couple of box-files in his room. There were very

few postgraduates indeed – one in medieval Irish history, a few in

Tudor history, and that was about all. Many of our lectures were

given in the small rooms on Palace Green, and all the books we

needed were in the rambling spaces of the Palace Green Library.

Most striking, however, was the difference in aspirations. Even

then, of course, Durham saw itself as an attractive and high-quality

university, but on the day after my interview I had a meeting with

Professor Reg Ward, who had taken over from Professor Offler as

head of department (there were only two professors in the

department in those days). He was a globally renowned scholar, and

continued to publish important work until his recent death, but he

nevertheless assured me that Durham was ‘not really a centre of

historical research’ and that I would need to go elsewhere if I

wanted to pursue my own work. He made no secret of the fact

that, when he received expressions of interest in postgraduate work

at Durham, he would direct the enquirers to consider other

universities, particularly Oxford and Cambridge. Durham was not


where the action was, and an ambitious young lecturer was

expected soon to want to migrate to the dreaming spires of the

older universities.

It is hard to imagine such attitudes being current today. With the

introduction of the Research Assessment Exercises and now the

Research Excellence Framework, under which the university’s

funding depends in part on the quality of research published, and

the research leadership undertaken, by its academic staff, the

university’s enthusiasm for promoting and fostering internationally

important research in arts and humanities as well as in science has

grown exponentially. With that growth in enthusiasm has come an

increase in facilities and opportunities. Research leave has been

made more frequent, and there are new opportunities for obtaining

funding for major research projects and fellowships (such as the

one I now hold) from bodies such as the Arts and Humanities

Research Council (which did not exist in 1977) and the Leverhulme

Trust (which certainly did and had just funded my studentship in

Paris). Research seminars and conferences are now commonplace,

whereas they scarcely existed in 1977. The university library, always

a serious institution because of its collections of manuscripts and

early printed books, has increasingly moved forward, partly in

terms of the books and periodicals it buys, but particularly in terms

of its commitment to electronic resources. When I came to

Durham, for example, it was scarcely possible to pursue art history

because the periodicals were not in the library; now, I can bring a

wealth of material to my desk without even having to search the

shelves. Nor have the special collections of the university library

been neglected; quite the contrary, with the re-development of the

Palace Green Library they are increasingly focal to the university’s

work. The History Department has played its part in this by

appointing staff whose research and teaching can use the library’s

holdings to the full, especially the manuscript collections there and

in the Cathedral Library which so enrich the History of the Book

programme, and the Sudan and African archives which provided

the germ for the department’s launch of African history.

This blossoming of Durham history research has been achieved in

a way which has included and not excluded students. I myself have

always seen the department as a community of people engaged in

the pursuit of history and historical research, some as

undergraduates, some as postgraduates, some as academic staff, but

all learning together and teaching each other. When the pattern of

six modules a year was introduced in place of a pattern of four

courses a year as it was in 1977, the department moved to a much

more research-led programme of undergraduate teaching. In 1977,


I was detailed to teach outline English history, and I laboured over

the Norman Conquest, and Henry II, and Magna Carta, and the

Barons’ Wars – all very interesting subjects but far from my

research. Now, I had the possibility to explore with students what

really interested me and I thought would really interest them.

Virtually all my publications since then have come out of teaching

students, enjoying the cut and thrust of seminars with them, and

understanding their reactions to the published scholarship. Just as

research should be a form of teaching, so teaching must be

informed by research and be part and parcel of it.

For students, the opportunities to pursue their own research are

much greater than they were in 1977, partly through the

enlargement of special subjects and the introduction of the

‘Conversations in History’ module as a preparation for research,

but above all in the introduction of student dissertations which did

not exist in 1977. The amazing quality of many of those

dissertations across the years is a tribute to their authors and to the

driving force of their curiosity about history. The more we have

asked of Durham students, the more they have achieved, and in

many ways their dissertations have been the climax of that process

at undergraduate level, just as the expansion of postgraduate

opportunities has developed the process beyond that. There were

no MA programmes in 1977, but they are now central to much of

the department’s work, while the importance of the community of

doctoral students, its achievements and its self-confidence, are

amply demonstrated by its seminars, conferences, and publications.

The present circumstances, however, have their risks as well as

their opportunities. Of course, we must justify the pursuit of

history in terms that the public and especially the government

understand – in terms that is of the employability of our students,

our contribution to tourism and cultural industries, our ability to

generate research income and fee-income, and so on. But none of

those are anything like the real reasons we do history. We do it, or

so I believe, because of a curiosity about the past which is part of

human nature, a fascination with ideas about how society and

culture work, a love of the evidence surviving from the past

whether it is old manuscripts, letters, diaries, government papers, or

(in my case at present) the glittering palaces of ancient kings, and

perhaps above all a driving sense of exploration which is every bit

as compelling as the sense of exploration of unknown parts of the

world. We must all of us keep these central to our vision of what

history is about, as nearly thirty-five ‘generations’ of Durham

students have helped me myself to do, with their unquestioning

commitment to the subject, their enthusiasm, their willingness to

tramp with me over Roman remains, to peer into dark early


medieval crypts, to explore the shape of medieval cities, and above

all in their willingness to work with me on even the most difficult

of historical problems in the community of scholarship which has,

as I have seen it, been the department’s mission to create.

Durham University History Society has unquestionably made a

major contribution to that. It had been founded long before 1977,

and it was inviting lecturers from outside Durham, as well as

holding social events, especially screening of films, and the annual

dinner. But the developments over the last thirty-five years have

mirrored the developments in the department and the university,

and often run ahead of them. The lecture programme is the envy of

scholars from other universities, and Durham students have hosted

and argued with the most distinguished representatives of historical

scholarship. The series of DUHS conferences, which began with

one focused on the assassination of President Kennedy and a

discussion of the then recent film devoted to it, was a major step

forward for a student society and for the department at large. The

historical dramas performed by the Pageant sub-group of DUHS

were another breakthrough, even if the then vice-chancellor was

bothered about nudity in the group’s production of Les Liaisons

Dangereuses. The annual dinner took on an historical dimension with

the Lumley Castle medieval banquets. And the series of DUHS

expeditions, beginning one desperately cold day in

Northumberland when gales prevented the planned visit to the

Farne Islands and the group huddled instead in the ruins of

Warkworth Castle to ponder the nature of late medieval courtly

living, have seen a long series of explorations of monuments across

the north of England. The membership has grown, the activities

have changed (the present journal a vivid indication of that), but

the commitment, the excitement, and the engagement have

continued unabated. Long may they do so.






Subject Articles


The Archaeology of Death: medieval monastic and nonmonastic


By Elizabeth Wheeler

It is extremely difficult to define a concrete set of criteria with

which to compare and contrast the archaeology of death in the

context of medieval monastic institutions and that in non-monastic

institutions, for a number of reasons. The first obstacle concerns

the semantics of words: one would expect a monastic institution to

be established according to the church, and to represent a strictly

religious lifestyle as followed by monks and nuns. With this in

mind, one would expect a non-monastic institution to be secular.

However, this is not so clearly the case. In medieval England, both

monastic and non-monastic institutions were governed by the same

theology: ‘spiritual profit-making’ as influenced by the formalisation

of Purgatory and the writings of the theologian, Augustine. 1 The

same messages concerning repentance, Purgatory, and the afterlife

can be found in the physical enactment: visual, literary and oral

performances that both types of institution employed.

Consequently, both types of institution constructed relationships

between the living and the dead according to the same theology,

making them difficult to separate from one another. Where they do

differ is in relation to wealth and status. Monastic institutions are

often found in towns and cities catering for the sick poor; the dead

were interred in the cemetery used by the hospital and the rituals

performed were simple and standardised due to the reliance on

charity. In non-monastic institutions, however, death and burial

were discussed and planned. The welfare of the soul was of great

importance to the individual and so wills would be used to denote

the carefully considered and specific funerary requirements, and

would be directly funded by the individual. Therefore, the main

difference that separates the monastic institution from the nonmonastic

institution is wealth and intention as opposed to function

and it is these themes that I intend to explore.

A monastic institution in the late medieval period can be broadly

defined as a hospital, infirmary or almshouse, with the majority of

these institutions founded by wealthy Christian benefactors, or


Augustine, The Confessions (trans. H. Chadwick, Oxford, 2008).

15 Archaeology of Death

monks and nuns in towns and cities. Monastic institutions served a

dual purpose: first, to care for the sick poor, with the aim of

purifying the body and soul to help transport the patient on the

road to the afterlife. Second, to shed a positive light on the

founder(s), so that this may secure a limited duration in Purgatory

as they could be seen to fulfil their side of the relationship between

themselves and the dead. 2 The majority of the evidence I have

employed has been obtained from the following monastic

institutions: St. Mary Spital, London; St. Giles’s Hospital, Norwich;

and Westminster Abbey, London.

A non-monastic institution within the same period is usually found

to be a parish church or ancestral graveyard. These institutions are

typically found in the countryside and, despite differences in

location to monastic institutions, they served many of the same

ritualistic functions in order to fulfil their obligations to the dead.

The majority of evidence I have used to underpin my argument

with concerns to the non-monastic institutions has been based

upon All Saints, Bristol; the Diocese of Salisbury; and any surviving

documentary evidence such as wills and priory records. First, I will

discuss the similarities these institutions held with regard to


The similarities that can be found in both monastic and nonmonastic

institutions are concerned with their adherence to the

same theology, which can be seen to have created and underpinned

the ideology of each institution. Late medieval burial traditions

experienced dramatic development from the early fourth and fifth

centuries AD. The early burial liturgy of these centuries was a

conglomeration of late Roman practice, traditional Pagan rites, and

early Christian ideas, before becoming a standardised body of

beliefs. 3 It is, therefore, not until the late thirteenth and early

fourteenth centuries AD that we can begin to see a more

standardised burial liturgy spreading throughout England. This

burial liturgy was defined by Christian beliefs as it promoted the

personal questioning of mortality, death and the afterlife, in order

to relate to Christ and His teachings about life and salvation. 4


W. White, ‘Excavations at St. Mary Spital: Burial of the ‘Sick Poore’ of Medieval

London, the Evidence of Illness and Hospital Treatment’ in S. Bowers (ed.), The

Medieval Hospital and Medical Practice (Aldershot, 2007), p. 59.


C. Daniell, Death and Burial in Medieval England: 1066-1550 (London, 1997), p. 30.


C. Burgess, ‘Longing to be Prayed For: Death and Commemoration in an English

Parish in the later Middle Ages’ in B. Gordon & P. Marshall (eds.), The Place of the

Dead: Death and Remembrance in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe (Cambridge,

2000), p. 44.

16 Elizabeth Wheeler

The catalyst to this cohesive body of beliefs can be found in the

formalisation of the notion of Purgatory. This Christian concept

forced the stark realisation of the consequences of mortality and

the afterlife, with the acknowledgment that it came to all and that

‘you would be next’. Purgatory was a place that all would have to

experience; one would suffer and endure the pains of Purgatory to

expiate their sins and be judged. It sounds very similar to the

Christian concept of Hell, however, there is one vital difference:

everyone wanted to escape Purgatory, and unlike Hell, this could

happen. The duration spent in Purgatory depended upon how you

had conducted your life, whether you had repented your sins, and

how the living conducted your death, through purification rituals,

Mass, and prayer. 5 This notion had the consequence of placing

death at the forefront of Christian salvation: promoting the

creation of a mutually reliant relationship between the living and

the dead. Therefore, this relationship was based on reciprocity

whereby the living and the dead would help one another to prevent

a lengthy stay in Purgatory; and this can be seen through visual,

literary and oral depictions. 6

The many visual, oral, and literary depictions found across medieval

England illustrate two prominent features of the Christian theology

concerning the beliefs surrounding death, these being the notions

that death came to everybody and the importance of repentance as

a means of salvation to avoid a lengthy duration in Purgatory. The

acknowledgement of the universality of death can be seen in the

artistic and allegorical representations of ‘The Dance of Death’. 7

These representations imply that the acknowledgement of death as

the eventual occurrence is what unites the living in spite of status,

wealth and position held by the individual. This idea is purported

by the popular oral story in which three living men come across

three dead men whilst they are out on a hunt. The three dead men

inform the living that ‘what you are, we were, and what we are, you

will be’ (Appendix One). 8 In addition, many inscriptions, tomb

imagery and documentary evidence from funeral sermons were

established to remind the populace of their mortality, sins, and

failures as humans through the Latin words memento mori, with the


P. Binski, Medieval Death: Ritual and Representation (New York, 1996), p. 24.


B. Gordon & P. Marshall, ‘Placing the Dead in Late Medieval and Early Modern

Europe’ in B. Gordon & P. Marshall (eds.), The Place of the Dead: Death and

Remembrance in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, 2000), p. 4.


Ibid., p. 15.


R. Horrox, ‘Purgatory, Prayer, and Plague: 1150-1380’ in C. Gittings & P. C. Jupp

(eds.), Death in England: an Illustrated History (Manchester, 1999), p. 93.

17 Archaeology of Death

direct translation being to be ‘mindful of death’ (Appendix Two). 9

From the many diverse mediums these messages were conveyed

through, there is the implication that they were intended for the

entire populace to acknowledge and understand since they catered

for all levels of society.

The notion that death could not be escaped went hand in hand

with the understanding that to avoid a ‘bad death’ and a lengthy

duration in Purgatory, repentance was the means of salvation and

deliverance to purity. 10 These ideas are conveyed through visual,

oral, and literary representations, but can be also found in the

physical enactment of rituals. The necessity of repentance and the

implications of the failure to do so are encapsulated in the lines ‘All

too late, all too late/when the bier is as the gate’ (Appendix Two). 11

Furthermore, ‘Angel Coins’ have been recovered with the

inscription: ‘Through your cross, save us, Christ. Redeemer’

(Appendix Three). 12 This implies the need to live every day as your

last: living a virtuous and moral life according to the teachings of

Christ because it is these teachings that will save you.

The medieval Christian theology, therefore, produced the

eschatological path for the populace to follow, but also showed the

consequences of what would happen if you did not endeavour

along this path in the corporeal realm as well as the spiritual realm.

It was this message of the failure to repent and lead a just and

moral life that affected the physical enactment of rituals to save the

souls of the dead. First, disease and physical afflictions were viewed

as punishments of God and would directly affect the journey

through the afterlife as ‘an unhealthy soul, troubled with nagging

sores, unhealed injuries and the pernicious infection of sin would

find the journey to heavenly bliss difficult, if not impossible’. 13 This

caused both monastic and non-monastic institutions to perform

rituals that were concerned with purification. As the body and the

soul were inextricably linked, the first logical step taken was to

purify the body to aid the purification of the soul. Consequently,

the treatment of the body included anointment, washing, cleansing,

and the covering in a shroud (Appendix Four). 14 This treatment of


Gordon & Marshall, ‘Placing the Dead’, p. 15.


Horrox, ‘Purgatory, Prayer and Plague’, p. 93; Binski, Medieval Death, p. 47.


Ibid., p. 92.


G. Egan, ‘Material Culture of Care for the Sick: Some Excavated Evidence from

English Medieval Hospitals and Other Sites’ in S. Bowers (ed.), The Medieval Hospital

and Medical Practice (Aldershot, 2007), p. 70.


C. Rawcliffe, Medicine and Society in Later Medieval England (Stroud, 1995), p. 5.


Binski, Medieval Death, p. 29.

18 Elizabeth Wheeler

the body separated the living and the dead, which can be also

shown by the prominence of doorway and portal motifs on

tombs. 15 After this separation, the living still had a duty to the dead

and they conducted this through Masses and prayers.

Masses and prayers were standard rites of the medieval Church,

originating as a communal responsibility to the dead. 16 These rituals

were spread through monastic institutions by their founders and

the monks and clergymen who were employed to say the Last Rites.

This is known particularly for the monastic institution St. Giles’s

Hospital, Norwich, which was founded in AD 1249 by Walter

Suffield, the Bishop of Norwich. Suffield was extremely clear about

the functions and obligations the staff at the hospital had to fulfil,

and recorded them in statutes, some of which survive today. These

highlight the importance of daily rounds of worship for those who

ran the hospitals, as well as Masses and prayers conducted by the

clergy for the souls of the dead. 17 These were so important that if a

hospital fell into financial decline they would not be ceased: instead,

the priestly and clerical workers would absorb a greater amount of

the hospital’s income to fulfil these obligations, as opposed to the

rituals being stopped so that a greater proportion could be spent on

the patients. 18 Furthermore, hospitals were established along

monastic guidelines to enable the commencement of Masses,

confessionals and burials, and the monasteries and churches had a

certain responsibility to the hospitals to inter their deceased

patients, for example, as in St. Gregory’s, Canterbury, which buried

people from St. John’s Hospital. 19

Evidently, there was a certain level of standardised burial liturgy

that everyone would receive despite social station or affiliation with

a monastic or non-monastic institution, as a ‘cult of the living in the

service of the dead’ had been created. 20 The monastic institutions

largely relied on eleemosynary to perform these simple burial rites,

and this marks the difference between monastic and non-monastic




Ibid., pp. 32-3.


B. Harvey & J. Oeppen, ‘Patterns of Morbidity in Late Medieval England: A

Sample from Westminster Abbey’, The Economic History Review, 54/2 (2001), pp. 217-



Ibid., p. 219.


R. Gilchrist, ‘Christian Bodies and Souls: the Archaeology of Life and Death in

Later Medieval Hospitals’ in S. Bassett (ed.), Death and Towns: Urban Responses to the

Dying and Dead 100-1600 (Leicester, 1992), p. 103, p. 106.


A.N. Galpern, ‘The Legacy of Late Medieval Religion in Sixteenth-Century

Champagne’ in C. Trinkaus & H. O. Oberman (eds.), The Pursuit of Holiness in Late

Medieval and Renaissance Religion (Leiden, 1974), p. 149.

19 Archaeology of Death

institution, along the lines of wealth and status. Those interred in a

monastic institution had to rely on charity and had little choice

concerning their funerals, for example: the monastic institution, St.

Mary Spital, was founded in AD 1197 by wealthy merchants to care

for the ‘sick poore’, pilgrims, migrants, the elderly and homeless.

The majority of burials in the cemetery of this hospital were simple

and standardised: they were individual burials with the interred

shrouded and placed in an east-west orientation, without a coffin

(Appendix Four). 21 Only some cases demarcate higher social status

or position with the use of lead or stone-cut coffins, or priests

having burial assemblages consisting of a Pectoral Cross, pewter

chalice and patten (wooden-soled footwear). 22 In non-monastic

institutions, this was very different, with every detail of one’s

funeral being carefully considered and planned.

It becomes clear as to why those who were members of parish

churches planned their burials so thoroughly when considering the

role they played within late medieval society. The parish was the

fundamental unit in creating a community in the face of subdivided

townships. 23 The academically trained priesthood, emerging in the

late fourteenth and early fifteenth century, and the incumbent of its

church meant that they had to teach their congregation the

meaning of reverence and simple manners through the aweinspiring

use of hope and ultimate retribution through intercession

and mercy. 24 The laity, therefore, felt a responsibility to their parish

and the parish community and this is most greatly shown through

services of the dead. First, the alteration in England of the laws

expressed in the papal codes stated that the parishioners had to

maintain the nave and other parts of their building. 25 This was done

by the living and by the dead through the endowments they left in

wills to churches in the form of the opus or opera ecclesiae, a building

fund, specific decorations, altar lights, books, or to the priest

himself. 26 By bequeathing these gifts, one would maintain the

parish they were a member of and also secure the welfare of their

soul by their parish community, for example: Philip Marmynne left

a virgate and messuage to the church of Westbury for a light to be

established before the altar of St. Thomas ‘where the divine offices


White, ‘Excavations at St. Mary Spital’, p. 60.


Ibid., p. 61.


E.F. Jacob, The Fifteenth Century: 1399-1485 (London, 1961), p. 280.




Ibid., p. 246; A.D. Brown, Popular Piety in late Medieval England: the Diocese of

Salisbury, 1250-1550 (Oxford, 1995), p. 92.


Jacob, Fifteenth Century, p. 280.

20 Elizabeth Wheeler

of the dead were celebrated’ and for a chaplain to conduct Mass. 27

These wills are consequently a good indicator of the non-monastic

medieval mind, as it is through these that we can begin to build a

picture of how concerned the laity were with the welfare of the soul

(Appendix Five). It appears that the place of burial and the

significance of Mass and prayers were two of the most significant

aspect found in wills, and in some cases there was no limit of

expense to ensure the welfare of the soul in these contexts.

Each parish had a standardised layout and set of burial rites that

were only extended when the deceased had provided specific

requests and provided a satisfactory fund to undertake them. Every

parish could be seen to have a funeral hearse, a wooden framework

supported by a bier over which a pall was draped to shroud the

corpse, and light tapers to remind the living of the dead. 28 Existing

records of wills from All Saints, Bristol have provided the majority

of information as it has an unusually detailed archive with between

twenty and thirty will surviving and it is from these and others that

place of burial gains significance. 29 It appears that place and

location held particular importance in the late medieval mind

because it conveyed power, through a personal connection and

wider social standing in society, which was seen to promote the

welfare of the soul in the afterlife. 30 This is demonstrated by the

desire to be buried in an ancestral graveyard, catacomb or family

tomb within a parish church graveyard. 31 For example: the Berkley

family held patronage in a number of institutions, however, chose

the Augustinian Abbey of St. Augustine, Bristol to house their

family mausoleum because it was the grandest. 32 This example

demonstrates that it was not just place of burial, but location that

held importance. Furthermore, there came the increasing desire to

be buried within a parish church or chapel, in the east end, Lady

Chapel, north and south choir aisles or in the high altar, because it

was important to be close to the community who were invoking

prayers for your soul as well as demonstrating social status and

wealth. 33


Brown, Popular Piety, p. 93-4.


Ibid., p. 100.


Burgess, ‘Longing to be Prayed For’, p. 47.


K. Stober, Late Medieval Monasteries and their Patrons: England and Wales c. 1300-1540

(Woodbridge, 2007), p. 112.


Gordon & Marshall, ‘Placing the Dead’, p. 11.


Stober, Late Medieval Monastaries, p. 113.


Ibid., pp. 114-5.

21 Archaeology of Death

The significance of Masses and prayers can be further supported by

the increase in chantries that emerged in the fifteenth century. A

chantry is a service endowed by one or more benefactors at an altar

of a church or chapel to commemorate the soul of their choice. 34

These requests increased to the point where parish churches were

being converted into colleges of a chantry chaplain, for example,

Cotterstock in Northamptonshire converted in 1337. 35 Examples

of chantries established in this period include Bishop Bubwith at

Wells, of Beaufort at Winchester, and Humphrey, duke of

Gloucester at St. Albans. 36 In addition, these chantries were

considered so important that even humble villagers would group

together to provide the funds or a yearly orbit or anniversary to be

maintained for their souls. 37 Therefore, it seems that in the late

medieval period what separated the archaeology of death within the

context of monastic and non-monastic institutions were wealth,

status and intention.

In conclusion, a majority of institutions in the late medieval period

centred on the teachings of the Church. 38 This is evident as those

in society who were seen to traverse its teachings were excluded

and stigmatised, particularly within the context of the archaeology

of death, for example, lepers were excluded because they presented

cases of punishment from God, as well as Jews, heretics, suicides,

and the non-baptised who were all separated from society by being

buried in a different location. 39 This demonstrates how firmly the

theology of the Church was held by society at least in the context

of the archaeology of death. This theology and the formalisation of

Purgatory pervaded every action within this context, which makes it

very difficult to entirely separate the monastic from the nonmonastic

institution. The only way which they can be really

separated is in relation to wealth and intention: whereas for those

sick poor who were buried in monastic institutions, receiving only a

simple and standardised burial liturgy, those interred in nonmonastic

institutions planned and chose the elaborate nature of

rites. This shows that in the late medieval world, the relationship

between the living and the dead created certain obligations to all

within the burial liturgy; and the proliferation of wills illustrates the


Jacob, Fifteenth Century, p. 290.


Ibid., p. 291.


Ibid., p. 290.


Ibid., p. 291.


Burgess, ‘Longing to be Prayed For’, p. 46.


Gilchrist, ‘Christian Bodies’, p. 114.

22 Elizabeth Wheeler

lengths that the wealthy would go to secure the welfare of their

souls’ favoured place in the afterlife.

23 Archaeology of Death

Editor’s Note

This piece originally included images of a number of documents

and pictures that serve as primary illustrations of attitudes towards

death. Unfortunately, due to copyright constraints, we were unable

to include them in this journal.

I have left the text of the appendices intact, and I hope that the

insights provided by the author give some impression of what the

images were like. I have also left the references, so as any interested

reader might be able to find the images for themselves.

Appendix One

An image from C. Rawcliffe, Medicine and Society in Later Medieval

England (Stroud, 1995) and references made in R. Horrox,

‘Purgatory, Prayer, and Plague: 1150-1380’ in C. Gittings & P. C.

Jupp (eds.), Death in England: an Illustrated History (Manchester,

1999), pp. 90-119.

This image conveys the popular oral story of the three living men

meeting the three dead men and being confronted by their

inescapable mortality. Both the visual and oral depiction is chilling

and demonstrates how death preoccupied the mind of the living.

Appendix Two

An image from C. Rawcliffe, Medicine and Society in Later Medieval

England (Stroud, 1995).

This visual representation [a piece of medieval artwork] conveys the

message of the importance of repentance before death, because it

can come around all too quickly and unexpectedly. This

consequently put death at the forefront of the medieval mind.

24 Elizabeth Wheeler

Appendix Three

An image from C. Rawcliffe, Medicine and Society in Later Medieval

England (Stroud, 1995).

This image is from the twelfth century AD Bible found at

Winchester, and shows ‘Two historiated letter B’s for parallel texts

from Psalm 1’. The left B illustrates David saving a lamb, by prising

it from the jaws of a lion. The second illustrates casting out

demons, and delivering souls at the Harrowing of Hell. This is

evidently a commentary on the ‘correct’ way of life. The first image

provides a moral and righteous example while the second suggests

the destruction of sinners and its implication; revealing the ultimate

doom of the afterlife. It is only by following the teachings of Christ,

repenting, and following all the correct funerary customs that He

can save your soul.

Appendix Four

An image from C. Rawcliffe, Medicine and Society in Later Medieval

England (Stroud, 1995).

Although this image is taken from a French Book of Hours, it

demonstrates the simple standardised burial liturgy that occurred in

medieval England. From the top left in a clockwise direction death

is shown, then enshrouding, placement in a wooden coffin for

transportation only (not burial), the vigil (act of observation, which

eventually fell into disuse) and procession to the churchyard. What

is clear is the care and precise nature with which death and burial is

represented and this illustration provides the model to follow.

Appendix Five

Appendices Five and Six show annotated sections of wills

This is an example of a will that provides very specific details as to

how Anne Lady Scrope of Harling would like to be buried. Note

that she would like to be buried with her late husband to denote

her status and powerful familial connection, all for the benefit of

her soul.

25 Archaeology of Death

Appendix Six

Appendices Five and Six show annotated sections of wills

This example of the will of Katherine Mountfort of Doncaster is

particularly interesting because it decrees how she will fund the

specifics of her and her husband’s burial rituals, Masses and


26 Elizabeth Wheeler


Augustine, The Confessions (trans. H. Chadwick, Oxford, 2008).

Barrow, J., ‘Urban Cemetery Location in the High Middle Ages’ in

S. Bassett (ed.), Death in Towns: Urban Responses to the Dying and Dead

100 – 1600 (Leicester, 1992), pp. 78-100.

Binski, P., Medieval Death: Ritual and Representation (New York, 1996).

Brown, A.D., Popular Piety in late Medieval England: the Diocese of

Salisbury, 1250-1550 (Oxford, 1995).

Burgess, C., ‘Longing to be Prayed For: Death and

Commemoration in an English Parish in the later Middle Ages’ in

B. Gordon & P. Marshall (eds.), The Place of the Dead: Death and

Remembrance in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe (Cambridge,

2000), pp. 44-66.

Crawford, S., ‘Votive Disposition, Religion and the Anglo-Saxon

Furnished Burial Ritual’, World Archaeology, 36/1 (2004), pp. 87-102.

Daniell, C., Death and Burial in Medieval England: 1066-1550 (London,


Egan, G., ‘Material Culture of Care for the Sick: Some Excavated

Evidence from English Medieval Hospitals and Other Sites’ in S.

Bowers (ed.), The Medieval Hospital and Medical Practice (Aldershot,

2007), pp. 65-74.

Galpern, A.N., ‘The Legacy of Late Medieval Religion in Sixteenth-

Century Champagne’ in C. Trinkaus & H. O. Oberman (ed.), The

Pursuit of Holiness in Late Medieval and Renaissance Religion (Leiden,

1974), pp. 141-177.

Gilchrist, R., ‘Christian Bodies and Souls: the Archaeology of Life

and Death in Later Medieval Hospitals’ in S. Bassett (eds.), Death

and Towns: Urban Responses to the Dying and Dead 100-1600 (Leicester,

1992), pp. 101-119.

Gordon, B. & Marshall, P., ‘Placing the Dead in Late Medieval and

Early Modern Europe’ in B. Gordon & P. Marshall (eds.), The Place

of the Dead: Death and Remembrance in Late Medieval and Early Modern

Europe (Cambridge, 2000), pp. 1-17.

27 Archaeology of Death

Harvey, B. & Oeppen, J., ‘Patterns of Morbidity in Late Medieval

England: A Sample from Westminster Abbey’, The Economic History

Review, 54/2 (2001), pp. 215-239.

Horrox, R., ‘Purgatory, Prayer, and Plague: 1150-1380’ in C.

Gittings & P. C. Jupp (eds.), Death in England: an Illustrated History

(Manchester, 1999), pp. 90-119.

Jacob, E.F., The Fifteenth Century: 1399-1485, (London, 1961).

Lucy, S., The Anglo-Saxon way of death: Burial Rites in Early England

(Stroud, 2000).

Rawcliffe, C., Medicine and Society in Later Medieval England (Stroud,


Stroud, G. & Kemp, R.L., The Cemeteries of the Church and Priory of St

Andrew, Fishergate (York, 1993).

Stober, K., Late Medieval Monasteries and their Patrons: England and

Wales c. 1300-1540 (Woodbridge, 2007).

White, W., ‘Excavations at St. Mary Spital: Burial of the “Sick

Poore” of Medieval London, the Evidence of Illness and Hospital

Treatment’ in S. Bowers (ed.), The Medieval Hospital and Medical

Practice (Aldershot, 2007), pp. 59-64.


The Fourth Crusade: the diversion to Constantinople

By Hywel Thomas

The actions of the armies of the Fourth Crusade are the subject of

great historical debate. Their siege and eventual capture of

Constantinople resulted in many great atrocities, both cultural and

physical, in the later sack of the city, and never reached its stated

destination in the Holy Land. In many cases the discussion around

the reasons for diversion have gone beyond mere historical debate,

and have taken on an almost emotional dimension, with a number

of authors seemingly viewing their role as one of judgement and

punishment for the capture of Constantinople, rather than as more

detached observers. However impassioned these particular

historians may be, it is not reasonable to blindly accept their

argument that the Fourth Crusade was diverted to Constantinople

as part of a Venetian (and in some cases German) led conspiracy

intended to hijack a holy venture for their own means. Recent

scholarship has argued, far more convincingly, for a theory

revolving around a series of events that caught up the crusaders

and led them to Constantinople. 1 Much of the blame in these

accounts is placed upon the 1201 contract negotiated with Venice,

and the subsequent financial problems that blighted the crusaders.

This is not to say that the Venetians played no role in the diversion

of the crusade, but their influence must be considered from a more

balanced perspective.

Relations between Byzantium and the west in this period were

complicated, and had been for some time, oscillating between

periods of close co-operation and periods of highly strained

relations. It is to these periods of difficulty that many historians,

especially Byzantinists, have looked to provide an explanation for

the diversion of the Fourth Crusade to Constantinople in 1204.

Longer-term relations between the Byzantine Empire and the west

are also looked upon as reasons for the crusade’s diversion.

Bradford talks of Byzantium as Venice’s ‘long-established rival’ and

‘deadly enemy’. 2 It is certainly true that long-term relations between

the east and west had been strained at times. The Crusades in


T. Madden, ‘Outside and Inside the Fourth Crusade’, The International History Review,

17 (November 1995), p. 733.


E. Bradford, The Great Betrayal (London, 1967), p. 29.

29 Fourth Crusade

particular had greatly heightened tensions at times, as conflicts

arose between Latin crusaders motivated by religious zeal, and the

more pragmatic Byzantine emperors, motivated by the needs of

self-defence and survival. The arrival of crusaders at

Constantinople, seeking aid and supplies for their campaign,

arguing the holy duty of the Christian Greeks to assist in the

recapture of the Holy Land, had occurred so frequently that the

automatic response of Alexius III, when faced with the arrival of

the crusading fleet, was to send out a message both offering

monetary assistance, and yet also boasting of his ability to crush the

crusaders should it be necessary. 3 This combination of offered

reward and threat is somewhat typical of the Byzantine’s

‘Palmerstonian’ foreign policy, whereby their own material needs

took precedent over the ideology of the crusaders. 4 This ideology

caused its own tensions as well. Frederick I Barbarossa had come

very close to invading Constantinople during the Third Crusade,

and Bohemond I of Antioch expended much effort waging war

against Byzantium. 5 However, relations between Byzantium and the

west were not universally strained. Trade between east and west

flourished, and political co-operation was common around issues

arising over Italy, the Balkans and Outremer, among other areas. 6

Indeed, it can be argued that there was no ‘western’ attitude

towards Byzantium in this period. Relations were mixed, but it

would have been highly unusual if this were not to have been the

case. To argue that the conquest of Constantinople was inevitable

because of ‘western’ relations with Byzantium is to take a very black

and white approach towards medieval international relations.

Shorter-term relations, specifically between Byzantium and Venice,

are also offered as motivating factors in the Venetian ‘conspiracy’

to capture Constantinople. It is certainly true that there were

instances of very poor relations between Venice and

Constantinople, the expulsion of 1171 and the massacre of 1182

being the two most commonly cited events. Nicol also mentions an

incident during the 1148-9 siege of Corfu, a joint operation

between Venice and Byzantium; fighting broke out between Greek

and Venetian soldiers and sailors, culminating in the capture by

Venetians of the Imperial flagship. This is used as an example of

the fact that relations between the two powers were strained even


G. Villehardouin, ‘The Conquest of Constantinople’ in M. Shaw (ed.), Chronicles of

the Crusaders (London, 1963), p. 63.


C. Tyerman, God’s War (London, 2006), p. 533.


Madden, ‘Outside and Inside the Fourth Crusade’, p. 727.


Tyerman, God’s War, p. 533.

30 Hywel Thomas

while they were allied. 7 It does seem to be stretching a point

somewhat however, to suggest that the actions of soldiers and

sailors, frustrated by a particularly long siege is in any way linked to

Venetian attempts to divert the Fourth Crusade from its main

target. The aforementioned later incidents, however, were

somewhat more major occurrences. In 1171, Byzantium turned

upon the large number of Venetian merchants living within the

walls of Constantinople, seizing their assets and imprisoning or

expelling all Venetians resident within the Byzantine Empire. 1182

was a far less discriminate act: the triumphal entry of the usurping

Andronikos I resulted in violence breaking out against Latin

inhabitants of the city, with women, children and priests being

killed. However, the latter of these two incidents could in fact be

said to have benefited the Venetians. The victims of the atrocities

were largely Genoese and Pisan, who were major commercial rivals

of Venice: the Venetians had yet to be re-admitted to the Empire

and were thus spared. Furthermore, the expulsion of 1171, whilst

undoubtedly a major diplomatic incident in itself, can hardly be

held up as a major reason for Venetian desire to conquer

Constantinople. The attempted Venetian remonstration resulted in

the destruction of their fleet and the subsequent murder of the

doge, who was replaced in 1172 by an administration willing to

negotiate. In 1182 the Venetians were re-admitted, and in 1187

their quarter within the city was expanded. 8 Even when Alexius III

increased taxation on the Venetians and suspended reparation

payments, Dandolo, so often held up as the villain of the crusade,

attempted to negotiate. Relations by 1203 were no worse than they

could have been. 9

It has also been frequently argued that the Venetians were aiming

to gain commercially from this venture as well as in terms of

revenge. Constantinople was the centre of much trade in the

Levant, and being able to place an emperor there who was

favourable to the Venetians would have been a great boon for their

trade. Indeed, it is conceivable that with a weak emperor on the

throne in the person of Alexius IV, it would have been possible for

Venice to take full advantage of the trade route through

Constantinople, and also the trade in the surrounding Aegean


D. Nicol, Byzantium and Venice: a study in diplomatic and cultural relations (Cambridge,

1988) p. 87


T. Madden, ‘Vows and Contracts in the Fourth Crusade: The Treaty of Zara and

the Attack on Constantinople’, The International History Review, 15 (August 1993), p.



Ibid., p. 445.

31 Fourth Crusade

islands and Crete. 10 Furthermore, Venice had trading links with

Egypt, especially Alexandria, which was the supposed destination

for the crusade, and it has been argued that a treaty was proposed

by the Sultan to Venice, offering rewards if they were able to divert

the crusade from Egypt. 11 However, Venice was certainly not alone

in trading with Egypt: Alexandria was a major trading port, and

conducted trade with Sicily, Genoa, Tuscany, Lombardy, and many

other Catholic states. 12 Furthermore, as much as a Latin-influenced

Constantinople would have been of benefit to Venice, so would a

Latin-influenced Alexandria, perhaps even more so than

Constantinople, given Venice’s already pre-eminent trading

position within the Byzantine Empire.

The most plausible reasons behind the diversion of the Fourth

Crusade come not from looking at external factors and attempting

to portray the capture of Constantinople as simply another event

within the continuing tradition of relations between Byzantium and

the west, but from looking at the internal factors within the

crusade. As Madden argues, the crusade was not driven by the past

three decades of relations between Byzantium and Venice, but by

the day-to-day running of the crusade, and taking what action they

saw as necessary to keep the enterprise from collapsing entirely. 13

In this context, it is not the repercussions of the 1171 expulsion of

the 1182 massacre that take centre stage, but the financial hardships

that blighted the crusade for the entirety of its course, and that

almost exclusively resulted from the 1201 agreement with Venice

over the provision of transport. The fleet was to cost the crusaders

a total of 85,000 marks, the payment of which was calculated by

each crusader paying his own way based on an army of 4,500

knights, 9,000 squires and 20,000 sergeants. 14 Nowhere near this

number arrived, and even when all money that could be raised had

been, the crusaders were still short of 33,500 marks. Villehardouin

places the blame for this shortcoming very firmly on those who

chose to take their own route to the Holy Land, rather than

gathering at Venice, but even had those forces made the

rendezvous the army would have numbered approximately 14,000,

still well short of the required total. 15 The over-estimation of the


Bradford, The Great Betrayal, pp. 110-111.


Ibid., p. 55.


D. Queller, The Fourth Crusade: The Conquest of Constantinople 1201-1204 (Leicester,

1978), p. 8.


Madden, ‘Inside and Outside the Fourth Crusade’, p. 733.


Tyerman, God’s War, p. 512.


Villehardouin, ‘The Conquest of Constantinople’, p. 42; Queller, The Fourth

Crusade, p. 43.

32 Hywel Thomas

size of the expedition crippled the crusade financially, and this

factor shows very clearly the dangers inherent within crusading

armies in this period. Far from being a large homogenous group

under a single leader, the crusading army was formed of smaller

groups of loyalties and allegiances, making it impossible to calculate

in advance the numbers that would be undertaking the expedition.

The inability of the crusaders to pay for their fleet put the

Venetians in as difficult a position as the crusaders. They had

invested a great deal into outfitting the fleet, and to abandon the

whole enterprise would be a terrible loss of both money and

prestige. To suggest, as Bradford does, that the Venetians are to

blame for constructing a fleet of an unnecessarily large size is

ridiculous, and ignores the great financial risks taken by Venice in

becoming involved with a crusade, ventures renowned for their

financial difficulties. 16 Unable to pay, the crusading army was stuck

on an island outside Venice, with little money and all supplies

controlled by the Venetians. Disease was beginning to spread

within the camp, and poor harvests led to increased food prices,

straining the crusaders’ finances further still. 17 Under these

circumstances, the diversion to Zara, and then Constantinople, can

be seen as necessities, without which the crusade would have

collapsed utterly, to the financial ruin of both the crusaders and the


The responsibility for the decision to divert to Constantinople is

somewhat unclear. Bradford claims that Dandolo was the first to

mention the idea, 18 while the writings of Villehardouin seem to

suggest that the idea was first proposed by the envoys of Phillip of

Swabia, brother in law of Alexius. 19 Regardless of who it was that

suggested the idea, however, by this point it must have seemed to

both the crusaders and the Venetians that the generous offer made

by Alexius was the best chance possible of ensuring the survival of

the crusade, and recouping their investment, respectively. In the

writings of Villehardouin, and in the many historical works on the

subject, it is quite clear that the crusaders did not go to

Constantinople with the intention of besieging the city, but merely

to put Alexius upon the throne. The reply given by the crusaders to

the envoy of Alexius III clearly shows this, stating: ‘If your lord will

consent to place himself at the mercy of his nephew and give him

back his crown and empire’. 20 Even Bradford concedes that


Bradford, The Great Betrayal, p. 58.


Queller, The Fourth Crusade, p. 48.


Bradford, The Great Betrayal, p. 65.


Villehardouin, ‘The Conquest of Constantinople’, p. 50.


Ibid., p. 63.

33 Fourth Crusade

Alexius had persuaded the barons of his support within the city. 21

The crusaders were intending to fulfil a bargain with Alexius in

order to prevent the dissolution of the campaign, not to capture a

Christian city.

The diversion of the Fourth Crusade, therefore, came about not as

a result of an anti-Byzantine conspiracy, or as part of a longer-term

pattern of relations between ‘east’ and ‘west’, but as a result of the

financial needs of maintaining the crusade. Whatever hindsight may

show, it seems unlikely that the crusaders were acting out of

anything other than what they thought of as necessity. Within this

framework, the Venetians certainly played a part in diverting the

crusade to Byzantium, but not for any selfish desire to expand their

own trading interests, or out of revenge, but merely to ensure that

they were not financially ruined by the failure of the crusade.


Bradford, The Great Betrayal, p. 48.

34 Hywel Thomas


Bradford, E., The Great Betrayal (London, 1967).

Madden, T., ‘Outside and Inside the Fourth Crusade’, The

International History Review, 17 (November 1995), pp. 727-743.

__________., ‘Vows and Contracts in the Fourth Crusade: The

Treaty of Zara and the Attack on Constantinople’, The International

History Review, 15 (August 1993), pp. 441-468.

Nicol, D., Byzantium and Venice: a study in diplomatic and cultural

relations (Cambridge, 1988).

Queller, D., The Fourth Crusade: The Conquest of Constantinople 1201-

1204 (Leicester, 1978).

Tyerman, C., God’s War (London, 2006).

Villehardouin, G., ‘The Conquest of Constantinople’ in M. Shaw

(ed.), Chronicles of the Crusaders (London, 1963), pp. 29-162.


Post-Medieval Monuments in their Context, from the point of

view of Form, Iconography, Location and Meaning : their

Social, Dynastic and Religious Significance

By Abigail Taylor

The word monument derives from ‘monere’, meaning to remind;

making monuments about memory, they act as a bridge between

the past and present. 1 During the medieval period they were

intended to remind the living congregation to pray for the

deceased’s soul, in conjunction with the doctrine of purgatory; the

belief that the living could aid the dead, helping souls post-mortem

using the power of prayer. 2 Protestant ideology in the post-

Medieval era abolished purgatory and transformed British churches:

removing chantries, intercessory prayer inscriptions and associated

items along with it. Although the focus of the monuments had

changed, the emphasis upon memory still existed: ‘the presence of

the remains of the dead still served the salutary purpose of

reminding the living of their own mortality’. 3 Burial monuments

were still intended to engage with the living: ‘monuments intended

to reshape the remembered image of the dead both sought and

made by the bereaved’, and they had an agenda to fulfil in

expressing social, dynastic and religious significance through their

form, iconography and location. The epitaph became an essential

part in post-reformation burial monuments, promoting the

deceased’s deeds, showing that their life was exemplary, therefore

indicating that they belonged to the elect. 4 Erwin Panofsky argued

that medieval monuments were ‘prospective’, encouraging an

ongoing relationship with the dead but that post-medieval

monuments shifted to ‘retrospective’, commemorating the life of

the deceased. 5


Richard Bradley, Altering the Earth: the origins of monuments in Britain and continental

Europe (Edinburgh, 1993), p. 2.


D.M. Hadley, Death in Medieval England: an archaeology (Stroud, 2001), p. 43.


Ralph Houlbrooke, Death, Religion and the Family in England, 1480-1750 (Oxford,

1998), p. 334.


Peter Vardy & Julie Arliss, The Thinker’s Guide to God (New Arlesford, 2004), p. 32.


Jonathon Finch, ‘A Reformation of Meaning: Commemoration and Remembering

the Dead in the Parish Church, 1450-1640’ in D. Gaimster & R. Gilchrist (eds.), The

Archaeology of the Reformation 1480-1580 (Leeds, 2003), p. 442.

36 Abigail Taylor

I will be examining two types of post-medieval burial monuments:

those dedicated to women who died in childbirth, and children on

monuments. The difficulty in discussing their social, dynastic and

religious significance stems from the fact that these monuments

have never really been studied from an archaeological viewpoint to

any great extent. Literature associated with these monuments tends

to consist of passing comments about church architecture and

sculpture in general, coming from a predominantly art-historical

viewpoint. There has been very little study on childbed tombs and

next to none focused upon children’s monuments individually in

their own right.

Children’s monuments arise predominantly from the sixteenth and

seventeenth centuries onwards. Beforehand children did sometimes

appear, upon altar tombs in particular, usually in the form of

‘weepers’; and on later medieval brass memorials as generic male

and female offspring, declining in size to indicate age differences

(Figure 1). 6 On post-medieval monuments we see a shift away from

these rows of emotionless offspring, used as testament to dynastic

success and fruitfulness of marriage, towards a more social

emphasis upon parental sorrow and grief. 7 Another group of

monuments arising at this time are those depicting childbed deaths.

Peter Jupp argues that monuments to women were more

experimental and open to innovation than those for males, and this

could explain why new themes occur on women and children’s

tombs first, expressing grief and commemoration in new ways. 8

Childbed Monuments and the Growth of Affective Family


N.B. Penny divides childbirth monuments into two types: the first

depicts the individual at point of death (Figures 3 & 5), the second

representing the woman ascending toward heaven (Figure 2). 9

These scenes first appear upon monumental brasses in the

sixteenth century. An example belonging to Penny’s first group:

Sylvester Lombarde’s brass shows her, propped up in bed,

surrounded by her six children, including the newborn twins who

survived her (Figure 3). Such scenes are common on these forms of

brasses, which almost appear to be reflecting upon the medieval


Hadley, Death in Medieval England, p. 154.


Eric Mercer, English Art 1553-1625 (Oxford, 1962), p. 242.


Peter Jupp & Clare Gittings (eds.), Death in England: An Illustrated History

(Manchester, 1999), p. 167.


N.B. Penny, ‘English Church Monuments to Women Who Died in Childbed

Between 1790-1835’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 38 (1978), p. 315.

37 Post-Medieval Monuments

ideal of a ‘good’ death. In the Middle Ages deathbed scenes depict

the dying surrounded by their loved ones, their worldly affairs

settled and at peace, just as Mrs Lombarde was. 10 This is significant

as the monuments are expressing lingering social ideals.

Interestingly, the fact that these childbed deaths first appear upon

brasses, which were cheaper than stone monuments, suggests that

this subject became popular in the lower social strata first and then

influenced the upper classes; an unusual occurrence, making these

types of monuments all the more interesting in the history of postmedieval

burials. 11

Some examples have come to light of childbed scenes upon

gravestones in the churchyard. This sixteenth century example to

Mary Traven (Figure 4) shows a midwife unsuccessfully attempting

to chase death away. The majority of people could not afford burial

inside the church; it was an exclusive and expensive right, so the

appearance of this theme upon gravestones could suggest that

death in childbirth was portrayed across a wider social scale than

previously believed. However, study of churchyard motifs are few,

predominantly concentrated upon monuments inside churches, and

indeed this example came from a private online photograph

collection, which is just highlighting the fact that there is still very

little literature and comprehensive study of this theme.

The family becomes much more of a focal point in post-medieval

monuments in general at this time, and by including the surviving

family it emphasises ‘the rupture of the family unit caused by the

death’. 12 A similar brass to Anne Savage (Figure 5), also portrays

her abed, her swaddled infant upon the coverlet. It could be argued

that these children were only represented in relation to their

mother’s death, rather than for their individual commemoration,

and it is true that these newborns add an emotive level to these

monuments. Indeed, Judith Hurtig does not believe there was a

huge difference in attitude towards childbed deaths in this period,

she claims they are simply expressing anxieties and concerns about

the perils of childbirth. 13

However, it can be seen that many post-medieval tombs do suggest

a shift in social convention, accentuating personal grief over


Hadley, Death in Medieval England, p. 56.


Judith Hurtig, ‘Death in Childbirth: Seventeenth Century English Tombs and

Their Place in Contemporary Thought’, The Art Bulletin, 65 (December 1983), p. 609.




Ibid., p. 603.

38 Abigail Taylor

status. 14 Expressions of grief arise around the same time as the

childbirth monuments, which could support Penny’s belief that

childbirth monuments occur at a time where marriages had more

freedom, when some of history’s greatest love matches occurred. 15

Examples can be seen in stone childbirth monuments too. These

monuments can be seen as personal expressions of grief, such as

the monument to Frederica Stanhope in 1823 (Figure 7) in which

she and her dead child are emotively carved as if sleeping. Her

husband was in fact so aggrieved by her death he committed

suicide soon after. The tomb of Princess Charlotte, who died in

1817 (Figure 6), shows her with an angel ascending to heaven with

her stillborn son. Her dead earthy body is hidden below beneath a

shroud and her passing mourned by four figures representing the

four quarters of the globe. Her death caused a great public

outpouring of grief among the population at the time; thousands of

people came to pay their respects to the Princess, demonstrating

that mourning was becoming less restricted by convention and was

becoming a more powerful and public concept. 16 It is also

important to note that these two stillborn children were buried with

their deceased mothers, showing that attitudes towards un-baptised

and stillborn children had moved on from medieval and postmedieval

views; which at their most extreme demanded postmortem

caesarean to separate mother and child so they could be

buried apart according to church scripture. 17

Family Group Monuments

With the family unit becoming a more prominent focus upon postmedieval

monuments, it has been suggested that this arose from

the promotion of ‘new men’ under the Tudors. The older more

established families took their dynastic line for granted, but the

newly promoted gentry wanted to prove themselves, and they used

burial monuments as a testament to their lineage. 18 However, I

would like to suggest that influence from childbed monuments

seems to be penetrating through to these monuments as well. The

monument to Sir Cope D’Oyley demonstrates this perfectly (Figure


Jupp & Gittings, Death in England, p. 170.


Penny, ‘English Church Monuments’, p. 314.


Cowen Tracts, ‘An Account of the Interment of her Royal Highness the Princess

Charlotte in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, on Wednesday November 19, 1817’

(1817), p. 3.


Roberta Gilchrist & Barney Sloane, Requiem: the Medieval Monastic Cemetery in Britain

(London, 2005), p. 72.


Mercer, English Art, p. 219; Margaret Whinney, Sculpture in Britain 1530-1830

(London, 1964), p. 1.

39 Post-Medieval Monuments

8). The family are presented as one group: children kneeling in pairs

behind their parents appearing as a united whole; ‘the ideal of a

loving united family was never more cogently expressed on an

English funerary monument’. 19 All their children are included, even

those who had already passed away, and there is effort here to

distinguish between children, suggesting that there was attention

paid to individuality here, value placed upon each one of their

offspring. Including those who had already passed, alongside living

siblings, shows that they were not forgotten and were still thought

of as part of the family.

The point should be made that the focus upon the family unit does

not just appear upon burial monuments at this time, it belongs to a

wider English trend evident in painting (Figure 9), literature and

poetry too (Figure 10). They all incorporate similar iconography;

for example, the engraving of James I’s family (Figure 11) includes

all his children, those who had already died are depicted holding a

skull or rose, such as the Prince of Wales who died in 1612. This

reflects the standardised ways of depicting a child’s age at death;

stillborn or dead babies were shown in swaddling (Figure 12),

young children in cradles (Figure 13), and older children hold skulls

(Figure 11), which also holds true upon monuments. It must be

highlighted that this trend is purely an English phenomenon; it

does not become popular in mainland Europe, possibly because the

experience in post-medieval England was very different to that on

the continent. 20 In Europe it was in fact more common to find

deathbed scenes depicted, which only occurs in a few examples in

England, and they seem to have more dynastic significance rather

than social ones. 21

Children’s Monuments

To analyse children upon burial monuments, it is necessary first to

understand how children were treated in the post-medieval period.

During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, around a third of

all children died before the age of five. 22 There has long been a

preconception, amongst historians and archaeologists alike, that

prior to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries children were not

much valued as individuals, as high mortality rates were assumed to


Brian Kemp, English Church Monuments (London, 1980), p. 105.


Philippe Ariès, Centuries of Childhood (Harmondsworth, 1973), p. 336.


Ann Sumner, ‘Venetia Digby on her Deathbed’, History Today, 45/10 (October,

1995), p. 20.


Steven Ozment, When Fathers Ruled: Family Life in Reformation Europe (Cambridge,

MA, 1983), p. 101.

40 Abigail Taylor

have made ‘emotional investment’ in young children undesirable. 23

Newborn children were believed to be tainted by original sin, and

religious teaching required that ‘the heir of the sin of Adam and

Eve must be cleansed of the sin of his conception and heritage

immediately after his birth’. 24 Hence baptism tended to occur as

soon as possible; religious law and practice followed that unbaptised

children could not be buried within consecrated ground.

Separate plots of land, located away from the church, became used

for the burial of un-baptised children, placed alongside other

outcasts of Christian society such as suicide victims, executed

persons, strangers, murderers, all of whom were not conventionally

permitted burial within sanctified ground. 25 These designated burial

locations, Killeens, were used sometimes even into the twentieth

century. 26 Such cemeteries have been seen in the past as places of

isolation, evidence for disregard of parents towards their offspring:

‘it was thought that the little thing which had disappeared so soon

in life was not worthy of remembrance’. 27 These cemeteries were

often located near areas of previous significance, for example,

ruined churches, prehistoric barrows, old castles, and some argue

that the marginal geographical siteing of these Killeens represented

the belief in the concept of Limbo, which despite not being official

doctrine, was a popular concept in medieval and early postmedieval

belief. 28 However, perhaps locating them in areas with

historical associations, could lend some unofficial sacred power to

the un-baptised soul, perhaps drawing upon some other

supernatural source.

In recent archaeological study, it can be seen across a wide

spectrum of post-medieval burials that what was preached was not

always practiced. In her study of Ireland, Murphy has also found

this to be the case within children’s Killeens. Contrary to previous

belief that these children were little valued or remembered, it could

be seen that the burials respected each other and there was effort

made to denote graves with small markers; some even contained


Lynne McKerr, Eileen Murphy & Colm Donnelly, ‘I Am Not Dead, But I Do

Sleep Here: The Representation of Children in Early Modern Burial Grounds in the

North of Ireland’ in Eileen Murphy (ed.), Children in the Past, Volume 2, An

International Journal, p. 110.


Julie Wileman, Hide and Seek: The Archaeology of Childhood (Stroud, 2005), p. 16.


Ibid., p. 75.


Eileen Murphy, ‘Children’s Burial Grounds in Ireland (Cillini) and Parental

Emotions Toward Infant Death’, International Journal of Historical Archaeology, 15/2

(June 2011), p. 411.


Ariès, Centuries of Childhood, p. 37.


Murphy, ‘Children’s Burial Grounds’, p. 417.

41 Post-Medieval Monuments

coffins which were an expensive commodity for the time. The fact

that the markers were relatively simple, she argues, does not suggest

lack of effort, and she reminds us that the majority of people in

Ireland at this time could not afford elaborate grave markers and

the standard at the time was for simple crosses. So even those

buried within consecrated ground would have had similar

anonymity to those buried within Killeens. Murphy concludes that

the use and variety of coffins, stone lined graves and markers

would suggest remembrance and respect for the individuality and

investment in provision for infants buried in this area. 29 This

highlights previous statements about relationships between children

and their parents needing to be re-evaluated, since there is evidence

that Catholic and Protestant law and teachings were not always

followed by relatives, and we must look to archaeological evidence

to pick out irregularities.

Such use of monumentality can be seen to continue within

consecrated ground as well, but again very little study has been

done. One project (McKerr et al, 2009) analysed monumentality

and children within three Irish graveyards. 30 Their data showed that

child gravestones generally increased between the seventeenth and

nineteenth centuries, and 36% of all stones included epitaphs for

children. They argued that the expense of erecting a monument or

adding them to the family stone required monetary and emotional

investment, and some youngsters were commemorated on parents’

memorials up to 50-60 years later; suggesting that these children

were therefore considered a part of family life and history, despite

dying young. 31 Although most children in those cemeteries

probably did not represent children of poorer stock and were

probably baptised, their findings suggest that children were not

always marginalised in death. Monuments represented children of

all ages, young children were equally commemorated with the older

and their memory ‘wasn’t just a private loss to the parents, but a

loss worthy of public record and attention’. 32

Sometimes religious and social norms were completely bypassed by

the deceased’s family. At Holy Trinity Church, Chester, some

children who were publicly stated as un-baptised were found to

have been buried within sanctified areas. Thomas Drinkwater died

in 1637 and was buried in his family chancel within the church, his


Ibid., pp. 419-23.


McKerr, Murphy, Donnelly, ‘I Am Not Dead’.


Ibid., p. 126.


Ibid., p. 129.

42 Abigail Taylor

epitaph stating that he died before being baptised. 33 This was not a

private deviation from custom; the family are publicly stating in

front of the congregation that despite their son dying before his

soul had been ‘cleansed’, he would be buried with his family,

against religious and social conventions of the time. Examples such

as this demonstrate that we cannot absolutely claim that specific

categories of society were always excluded or treated according to

the rules.

At this same church, evidence was found of babies located within

graves of individuals completely unrelated to them. The daughter

of Mr Chris Houle was buried with a Mr Rogerson who died the

same day in 1599. Some would argue that this demonstrates

previous belief in lack of attachment between parents and

newborns, selecting a cheap burial alternative, quite alike pauper

burial. 34 However, some of the adults appear to have been

respected members of the community, so if un-baptised children

were so undesirable, why would relatives allow a child to be buried

alongside their loved ones? Some have suggested instead that

interment alongside an infant acts as ‘a sure passport to heaven for

the next person buried there’, and that innocence of the newborn

would be beneficial to the newly deceased adult’s soul. 35 Building

upon this concept, it would appear that some Catholic hints are

surviving in post-medieval society here, as this seems to me to

reflect the concept of purgatory; using a newborn child as a

medium by which to aid the deceased’s soul post mortem.

It is common for archaeological investigation into burial practices

of the past to show inconsistencies from what literary sources

suggest should be occurring. This is true with these types of

monuments; they suggest that children meant more to their parents

than previously believed, evident in the treatment of youngsters in

death. Despite Christian burials being traditionally without grave

goods, many individuals have been shown to be buried with items

of ‘magical’ significance. 36 Gilchrist’s study showed that children in

particular were buried with items such as beads; protection against

forces such as the ‘evil eye’, which could inflict death and illness

upon children especially. She suggests that the over-representation

of children buried with such magically associated items could


Will Coster & Andrew Spicer, Sacred Space in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge,

2005), p. 138.


Jupp & Gittings, Death in England, p. 166.


Coster & Spicer, Sacred Space, p. 138.


Roberta Gilchrist, ‘Magic for the Dead? The Archaeology of Magic in Later

Medieval Burials’, Medieval Archaeology, 52 (2008), pp. 119-160.

43 Post-Medieval Monuments

suggest family bonds, that parents were protecting their vulnerable

youngsters even in death. 37 It would seem that children were valued

as individuals, rather than cast off as wasted effort; parents were

investing in their child’s afterlife and memory.

Evidence for children as valued individuals becomes evident in

burial monuments; many were for individual deceased youngsters

individually, and such treatment of children would seem to refute

the claim that ‘the family was a moral and social, rather than

sentimental reality’. 38 The fact that children were needed to

continue the family lineage could suggest that monuments could be

seen as dynastically significant, proving the marriage fruitful, and

honouring all who had been born into that line, even if it was cut

short. However, these groups of monuments seem to express more

than dynastic sentiments, instead indicating wider social change. As

with childbed deaths, child monuments appear to place emphasis

upon the grief of the living, rather than promoting earthy glory and

heavenly prospects of the deceased. 39

One of the most moving child monuments of the time is that to Sir

Henry Montague’s son, who died in 1625. The boy drowned in a

well and his tomb plays upon religious symbolism of water in

reference to his death. Nigel Llewellyn writes that drowning had

religious redeeming qualities associated with baptismal water. 40 In

the child’s hand is a cup with the inscription: ‘pour on me the joyes

of thy salvation’, linking life, death and rebirth within this

monument. Yet the monument is not primarily about religious

iconography and significance here, as shown by the epitaph. The

family are using this as an outlet for their grief in losing their son:

‘his unhappy father erected this out of love’. The monument

erected to this child was not solely for dynastical, political or

religious purposes, it expresses personal loss and memory for their

‘worthie and hopefull child, tender and deare in the sight of his

parents’. This shows that children could be, and often were, valued

assets in the family unit during the post-medieval period.


Ibid., p. 152.


Ariès, Centuries of Childhood, p. 356.


Penny, ‘English Church Monuments’, p. 314.


Nigel Llewellyn, Funeral Monuments in Post-Reformation England (Cambridge, 2000),

p. 359.

44 Abigail Taylor


Throughout this brief essay I have attempted to discuss these two

types of understudied post-medieval monuments. It can be seen

that their form, iconography, location and meaning might not

always be as first appears, and that they could possibly challenge

pre-conceived ideas about children and families in the past. They

represent a new social meaning embodied within mortuary

monuments, a portrayal of grief and emotion, which places new

connotations within the relationships of the family. Expression of

family bonds is more common at this time, with expression of

social ties. There is evidence for the investment, of both monetary

and emotional wealth, not only for beloved spouses, but to their

children, even the ones who never drew a breath. It shows that

historical and archaeological pre-conceptions about family and

childhood cannot be concluded from textual evidence alone, and

therefore, there is a need to recognise children within postmedieval

burial monuments and assess their archaeological as well

as artistic worth. While these monuments emphasise social,

dynastic and religious themes of the period, the old pre-conceived

ideas must be re-addressed before their significance can truly be

assessed. However, it is clear that there was a shift in values at this

time and new emotions were becoming stressed on their burial


45 Post-Medieval Monuments

Editor’s Note

This piece originally included images of a number of monuments

and pictures that serve as primary illustrations of attitudes towards

death. Unfortunately, due to copyright constraints, we were unable

to include all of them in this journal.

I have left the text of the appendices intact, and I hope that the

insights provided by the author give some impression of what the

images were like. I have also left the references, so as any interested

reader might be able to find the images for themselves.


Figure 1: The monumental brass to Nicholas Leveson, who died in

1539 and his wife, Denys who died in 1560. Their children are

shown behind in descending height to represent age.

Location: St. Andrew Undershaft, London

Source: David Gaimster & Roberta Gilchrist, The Archaeology of the

Reformation 1480-1580 (Leeds, 2003), p. 388.

Figure 2: This shows the monument to Frances Mary Corey who

died in childbirth in 1837. This monument belongs to Penny’s

second category. She and her child are shown ascending towards





Figure 3: Monumental Brass to Sylvester Lombarde, dating to 1587.

Mrs Lombarde sits up in bed, her six children surrounding her, the

twins to whom she gave birth in the cradle.

Located: Lower Haling, Kent

Source: N.B. Penny, ‘English Church Monuments to Women Who

Died in Childbed Between 1790-1835’, Journal of the Warburg and

Courtauld Institutes, 38 (1978).

46 Abigail Taylor

Figure 4: Seventeenth century gravestone to Mary Traven. The

image depicts the midwife attempting to chase death away from the

dying woman and child.

Location: All Saints Church, Great Thurlow, Suffolk.

Source: www.flickr.com/photos/mdpettitt

Figure 5: Monumental Brass dedicated to Anne Savage in 1605.

Seen sideways, lying in her bed at prayer. Her swaddled infant lies

on the bed next to her.

Location: Wormington, Gloucester

Source: Herbert W. Macklin, The Brasses of England (London, 1907),

p. 285.

Figure 6: Monument to Princess Charlotte.

Location: St. George’s chapel, Windsor.

Source: N.B. Penny, ‘English Church Monuments to Women Who

Died in Childbed Between 1790-1835’, Journal of the Warburg and

Courtauld Institutes, 38 (1978).

Figure 7: Close up of Lady Frederica Stanhope’s monument,

created by Sir Frances Chantrey.

Source: Penny, 1978, p. 46.

Figure 8: The monument to Sir Cope D’Oyley and his family, he

died 1633. The monument is believed to have been created by

William Wright.

Location: St. Mary’s, Hambleden, Buckinghamshire

Source: Nigel Llewellyn, Funeral Monuments in Post-Reformation

England (Cambridge, 2000), p. 47.

Figure 9: The painting by Mr John Souch, commemorating the

death of Mrs Thomas Aston and her child in 1635. She is depicted

as abed sleeping, but also alive at the foot of the bed looking at the

viewer, her husband and surviving son on the left. The empty,

black draped cradle topped with the skull showing that the

newborn died.

Source: http://www.manchestergalleries.org/thecollections/search-thecollection/display.php?EMUSESSID=dd7133fb0a03b53887cf84f9


47 Post-Medieval Monuments

Figure 10:

The poet John Milton composed an epitaph upon the tomb of the

Marchioness of Winchester, 1631. This extract mourns the stillborn

child who died with her.

Source: John Leonard, The Complete Poems by John Milton (London,


“the hapless babe,

Before his birth had burial, yet not laid in Earth

And the languisht mother’s womb

was not long a living tomb”

Figure 11: Engraving of James I’s family by William Passé.




Figure 12: An example of a deceased swaddled baby in tomb


Source: Nigel Llewellyn, Funeral Monuments in Post-Reformation

England (Cambridge, 2000).

48 Abigail Taylor

Figure 13: The monument to Princess Sophia in her cradle, died

1606, created by Maximilian Colt.

Location: Westminster Abbey, London

Source: Judith Hurtig, ‘Death in Childbirth: Seventeenth Century

English Tombs and Their Place in Contemporary Thought’, The

Art Bulletin, 65 (December 1983), p. 608.

Sketch of the monument of the cradle from



49 Post-Medieval Monuments


Ariès, P., Centuries of Childhood (Harmondsworth, 1973).

Bradley, R., Altering the Earth: the origins of monuments in Britain and

continental Europe (Edinburgh, 1993).

Coster, W. & Spicer, A., Sacred Space in Early Modern Europe

(Cambridge, 2005).

Esdaile, K.A., English Church Monuments 1510 to 1830 (London,


Finch, J., ‘A Reformation of Meaning: Commemoration and

Remembering the Dead in the Parish Church, 1450-1640’ in D.

Gaimster & R. Gilchrist (eds.), The Archaeology of the Reformation

1480-1580 (Leeds, 2003), pp. 437-449.

Gaimster, D. & Gilchrist R., The Archaeology of the Reformation 1480-

1580 (Leeds, 2003).

Gilchrist, R., ‘Magic for the Dead? The Archaeology of Magic in

Later Medieval Burials’, Medieval Archaeology, 52 (2008), pp. 119-160.

Gilchrist, R. & Sloane, B., Requiem: the Medieval Monastic Cemetery in

Britain (London, 2005).

Hadley, D.M., Death in Medieval England: an archaeology (Stroud,


Houlbrooke, R., Death, Religion and the Family in England, 1480-1750

(Oxford, 1998).

Hurtig, J., ‘Death in Childbirth: Seventeenth Century English

Tombs and Their Place in Contemporary Thought’, The Art Bulletin,

65 (December 1983), pp. 603-615.

Jupp, P.C. & Gittings, C. (eds.), Death in England: An Illustrated

History (Manchester, 1999).

Kemp, B., English Church Monuments (London, 1980).

Leonard, J., The Complete Poems by John Milton (London, 1998).

Llewellyn, N., Funeral Moments in Post-Reformation England

(Cambridge, 2000).

50 Abigail Taylor

Macklin, H.W., The Brasses of England (London, 1907).

Mercer, E., English Art 1553-1625 (Oxford, 1962).

McKerr, L., Murphy, E. & Donnelly, C., ‘I Am Not Dead, But I

Do Sleep Here: The Representation of Children in Early Modern

Burial Grounds in the North of Ireland’, in Eileen Murphy (ed.)

Children in the Past, Volume 2, An International Journal, pp. 109-131.

Murphy, E.M., ‘Children’s Burial Grounds in Ireland (Cillini) and

Parental Emotions Toward Infant Death’, International Journal of

Historical Archaeology, 15/2 (June 2011), pp. 409-428.

Ozment, S., When Fathers Ruled: Family Life in Reformation Europe

(Cambridge, 1983).

Penny, N.B., ‘English Church Monuments to Women Who Died in

Childbed Between 1790-1835’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld

Institutes, 38 (1978), pp. 314-332.

Sumner, A., ‘Venetia Digby on her Deathbed’, History Today, 45/10

(October, 1995), pp. 20-25.

Tracts, C., ‘An Account of the Interment of her Royal Highness the

Princess Charlotte in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, on Wednesday

November 19, 1817’ (1817).

Vardy, P. & Arliss, J., The Thinker’s Guide to God (New Arlesford,


Wileman, J., Hide and Seek: The Archaeology of Childhood (Stroud,


Whinney, M., Sculpture in Britain 1530-1830 (London, 1964).

http://www.manchestergalleries.org (viewed 15 th November 2011).

http://www.royalcollection.org.uk (viewed 1 st December 2011).

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mdpettitt (viewed 2 nd December



359370547 (viewed 29 th November 2011).


Circular Reasoning: Understanding evkaf in early Ottoman


By Joel Butler

The institution of evkaf would appear to be omnipresent in

Ottoman society. As a key facet of Islamic society, it naturally

extended into Ottoman legal and social life. It would have been

impossible for the Ottoman regime to avoid the development of

evkaf within the Empire; upon receipt of the island of Cyprus in

1878, even the all-powerful British Empire was required to uphold

respect for and the administration of seria law, including evkaf. 1 For

an Islamic empire of the fifteenth century onwards – particularly

following the conquest of Muslim heartlands and holy cities –

opposition to the evolution of evkaf in society would have been

dangerous to the extent of being potentially terminal. This article

explores the ways in which those people in positions of authority in

the Ottoman Empire harnessed vakıf foundations for political and

social gain, as well as how the notables and poor of the reaya

interacted with, and were affected by evkaf. Through this, the

function of evkaf can be shown to be an expression of the complex

relationship between the Ottoman regime and those it ruled,

principally the maintenance of the Ottoman understanding of order

through the facilitation of the ‘circle of equity’. 2

The principal function of evkaf among Ottoman rulers and

administrators was to present an image of piety and social

responsibility, ensuring a favourable political reception. Sinan Pasa,

a sixteenth century governor of Damascus, provides a good

example of this. He gained popularity through building a large

number of important buildings in Damascus, and several hostels

along the routes to Palestine and Aleppo within his province. 3

Despite the fact that his evkaf were riddled with irregularities and

marred by abuse of power, local notables fought attempts to

confiscate them. 4 Sinan Pasa clearly wished to present himself as a


‘Copy of an Imperial firman as recorded in sheri’ court of Nicosia’ in: Laws and

Regulations Affecting Waqf Property (Nicosia, 1899), p. 2.


See appendix.


Jean-Paul Pascual, Damas à la fin du XVI e siècle d’après trois actes de waqf Ottomans

(Damascus, 1983), p. 117.



52 Joel Butler

pious man, constructing a mosque in 1590, as well as showing his

social conscience in building karvansarays. 5 This explains his

popularity despite apparent corruption; the population of his

province maintained his position because he was seen to have

provided for them. It is also an expression of the symbiotic

relationship envisioned by contemporaries such as Koçu Beğ, in

which all factions of society ultimately support each other through

their actions. 6 Evkaf can therefore be seen as an expression of this

relationship. The governor supports his population through acts of

charity and piety. In return, the governed population remains loyal.

The function of evkaf in Ottoman society can therefore be

explained as a support for social cohesion and stability.

However, acts of piety cannot be underestimated, as acts of

genuine piety would have helped to support positive reputations

built up by Ottoman administrators. Sinan Pasa’s predecessor in

Damascus, Murad Pasa, constructed a mosque and provided funds

for the poor of Mecca and Medina, seemingly out of genuine piety. 7

Sultans were known to sponsor medreses, with seemingly no benefit

to themselves. This suggests they were acting largely in the name of

piety. 8 Perhaps evkaf associated with the sultan or other

administrative figures provided a tangible symbol of Ottoman rule,

further supporting the notion that evkaf was a pillar upholding the

‘circle of equity’, helping the rulers and the ruled to interact.

Ottoman administration had to interact cautiously with vakıf

foundations, however. While it was possible for administrators to

use evkaf to their own political ends, it was equally politically

sensible to manage their interactions with existing evkaf within the

Empire carefully. For example, upon the conquest of Egypt, much

of the land and buildings in Cairo had become involved in a vakıf of

some sort. 9 As a result, there was the capacity for friction between

Istanbul, the kadı and the provincial government. 10 Sultan Selim I’s

primary concern was to produce an inventory of evkaf in Egypt,

showing political sense in attempting to avoid an inadvertent clash

between secular Imperial concerns and seria local ones. 11 This is

particularly important as much of the wealth of Egypt was focused


Ibid., p. 18, p. 117.


See appendix.


Pascual, Damas XVI e siècle, p. 18, p. 117.


Benjamin Lellouch, Les Ottomans en Égypte (Paris, 2006), p. 117-8.


Doris Behrens-Abouseif, Egypt’s Adjustment to Ottoman Rule: Institutions, Waqf and

Architecture in Cairo (16 th and 17 th Centuries) (Leiden, 1994), p. 145.




Lellouch, Ottomans en Égypte, p. 64.

53 Circular Reasoning

in the Cairo evkaf, making their administrators relatively powerful

and potentially a threat to the stability of Ottoman rule in Egypt. 12

Careful management could therefore allow the Ottoman regime to

harness (to some extent) these evkaf for Imperial benefit. This was

the case when, in the early seventeenth century, the governor of

Egypt used the Cairo evkaf to sell on surplus copper. 13 In this

respect, evkaf can again be shown to have had an effect in

facilitating the ‘circle of equity’. The Ottoman government showed

its respect for the power of evkaf in Egypt, and in return, the vakıf

administrators, rather than posing a significant threat, presented

opportunity to the Ottoman administration. This is a further

example of the symbiosis evident in the relationship between the

Ottoman regime, its subjects, and evkaf.

Koçu Beğ’s ‘wheel of equity’ also provides a means of envisioning

the Ottoman use of evkaf in the foundation – or to encourage the

growth – of towns and city quarters. Ottoman governors were

aware that their actions could stimulate a response on the ground,

and, in this respect, evkaf provided a useful means of providing

stimulus for city growth. Often in newly founded or newly

conquered cities, the Sultan (or an official representative) would lay

the first cornerstone of a new mosque to commence the founding

of vakıf endowments. 14 Upon conquering Constantinople, Sultan

Mehmed II’s first concern was to repopulate and repair the city. 15

He ordered the construction of a great number of new buildings,

including baths, karvansarays and a marketplace; buildings that were

later echoed in the use of evkaf in newly conquered or newly

founded Balkan cities. 16 Mehmed Pasa’s endowments in Belgrade

while sancakbeyi of Semendire (a region that included the city of

Belgrade) are a good example of this. He ordered the construction

of a number of socially and economically beneficial buildings,

including a marketplace, mosque karvansaray, imaret and medrese. 17

Alumni of his medrese later went on to become muftis of Belgrade,

and the marketplace, mosque and imaret helped fuel significant

development of the economy and society of the city. 18 Similar

developments occurred almost simultaneously in Sarajevo, where


Behrens-Abouseif, Egypt’s Adjustment to Ottoman Rule, pp. 145-6.




Aleksandar Fotić, ‘Yahyapaşa-oğlu Mehmed Pasa’s Evkaf in Belgrade’, Acta

Orientalia Scientiarum Hungaricae, 54/4 (2001), p. 438.


Kritovoulos, History of Mehmed the Conqueror (trans. Charles T. Riggs, Westport,

1970), p. 83.


Ibid., p. 104.


Fotić, ‘Evkaf in Belgrade’, p. 442.


Ibid., p. 443-4.

54 Joel Butler

the patronage of Hüsrev Bey, combined with a growth of Balkan

land trade, saw the rise of Sarajevo from garrison town to regional

centre. 19 The deployment of marketplaces, mosques and

karvansarays brought in an Islamic merchant class, trade from the

hinterland and growth of the town into an important city. 20 This

indicates a clear understanding – and to an extent expectation – on

the part of Ottoman ruling officials that actions from above, usually

in the form of evkaf, supported a great cross-section of the

populations below, which in turn supported the empire and

therefore their position and chances of promotion. This

incentivised chain of charity and reciprocation embodies the

contemporary Ottoman conception of ‘wheels of equity’. Though

contemporary commentator Mustafa Ali did not have much

beyond a limited experience of public office, he too comments in

his ‘counsel for sultans’ on the need for equity in public charity, and

directing favours to the places from which most benefit can be

reaped. 21 The case for Ottoman understanding of this concept and

its prevalence within official evkaf policy can therefore be strongly


Wealthy Ottoman notables could use evkaf for selfish, material

reasons and yet still provide charitable assistance for the less well

off as a consequence. In this manner, evkaf can further be argued to

have promoted social cohesion through incentivising the sort of

symbiotic behaviour inherent to the contemporary conception of

the ‘circle of equity’. Richard Van Leeuwen suggests strongly that

evkaf performed this dual role, benefiting the founder in social,

religious and often material ways, but also benefiting others

equally. 22 This links to Gabriel Baer’s argument suggesting that

evkaf formed a prop for society, in which he goes some way

towards showing that slaves and masters behaved in a somewhat

symbiotic manner in the provision made for freed slaves through

the vakıf of the master. 23 Evkaf was an accepted way for those lucky


Colin Heywood, ‘Bosnia Under Ottoman Rule, 1463-1800’ in Pinson, M. (ed.), The

Muslims of Bosnia-Herzegovina: Their Historic Development from the Middle Ages to the

Dissolution of Yugoslavia (Cambridge, MA., 1994), p. 31; York Norman, ‘Imarets,

Islamization and Urban Development in Sarajevo, 1461-1604’ in N. Ergin, C.K.

Neumann and A. Singer (eds.), Feeding People, Feeding Power: Imarets in the Ottoman

Empire (Istanbul, 2007), p. 82.


Heywood, ‘Bosnia Under Ottoman Rule’, pp. 31-3.


Mustafa Ali, Mustafa Ali’s Counsel For Sultans of 1581 (Part I) (trans. Andreas Tietze,

Vienna, 1979), p. 58.


Richard van Leeuwen, Waqfs and Social Structures: The Case of Ottoman Damascus

(Leiden, 1999), p. 67.


Gabriel Baer, ‘The Waqf as a Prop for the Social System’, Islamic Law and Society,

4/3 (2007), p. 275.

55 Circular Reasoning

enough to own slaves to provide for them once they had been

freed. 24 Though not a member of the reaya, Ridwan Bey al-Faqari

provides a good seventeenth century example of a vakıf providing

for the welfare of freed slaves. 25 There are also examples of

merchants and other non-governmental individuals performing

similar acts. 26 The provision for freed slaves via evkaf was certainly

a prop for this sector of society that would otherwise have

struggled to fully reintegrate economically into Ottoman life, which

shows that evkaf certainly provided an important social function.

Furthermore, this provision transformed what would previously

have been considered to be a markedly one-sided social relationship

into a sort of ‘wheel of equity’ symbiosis: the slaves serve their

masters, and then when they are freed their masters provide some

support in return. This further goes to show that evkaf was an

expression of the cycles of support and dependence illustrated by

the concept of the ‘wheel of equity’.

On the other hand, the more well off members of Ottoman society

could attempt to use evkaf for private or familial gain above all

other concerns. Van Leeuwen argues that, although evkaf was a

form of incentivised giving, the profit for the donor was far greater

in terms of social status, material profit and appearance of piety. 27

In pre-Ottoman Egypt, the aforementioned proliferation of

foundations was symptomatic of a concerted effort on the part of

the founders to form hereditary estates safe from taxation or

confiscation, showing the way that evkaf could in fact be used as a

personal, rather than a societal prop. 28 Islamic law has since

evolved to combat this kind of debt or inheritance avoidance

through evkaf, and Ottoman law certainly placed focus on the vakıf

providing a quantifiable social function and being free from

irregularities or facing confiscation, as was nearly the case with

Sinan Pasa. 29 Despite this, a normal vakıf providing a charitable

purpose could have significant benefit to the family designated for

its administration. There are many examples of charitable evkaf –

favouring causes as diverse as orphans and water supply – which

were also administered for the profit of one family. 30 These, at




Ibid., p. 276.




Van Leeuwen, Waqfs and Social Structures, p. 67.


Behrens-Abouseif, Egypt’s Adjustment to Ottoman Rule, p. 145.


N.J. Coulson, Succession in the Muslim Family (Cambridge, 1971), p. 268,

Pascual, Damas XVI e siècle, p. 117.


Baer, ‘Waqf as a Prop’, p. 265.

56 Joel Butler

least, did perform a valid social function, and reinforce the

assertion that evkaf was an expression of the ‘wheel of equity’.

To return to Van Leeuwen’s argument, a system encouraging

personal profit and social status through charitable foundations is

ultimately of great social importance. It can therefore be argued

that even evkaf founded with the worst of possible intentions

provided at least some social benefit to the wider community, and

the profit of wealthy families therefore helped to support other

groups: a clear example of the ‘wheel of equity’ in action. This is

similar to Amy Singer’s argument that ‘family waqf’ and more

charitable evkaf should not be seen as different because both still

provided a clear social and charitable function. 31 Moreover, in

attempting to protect family property and income from taxation by

the government, wealthier families provided funds and services that

the government may otherwise have been expected to provide.

This further shows the symbiotic relationship of the ‘wheel of

equity’ as represented by evkaf.

The poorer members of the reaya, many of whom were provided

for in some way by evkaf, are a clear example of its ‘social prop’

function, but also provide further evidence of the symbiotic,

intertwined nature of society represented within the institution of

evkaf. The case of peasants who farmed lands belonging to a vakıf is

a perfect example of the role of evkaf in supporting an integrated

society. The surplus produced by such peasants was, as a result, the

profit of the vakıf that contained the lands they farmed. 32 This

surplus would then go on to be sold to fund the functions of the

vakıf, used to pay in kind wages for employment created by the

vakıf, and generally contribute to the upkeep of the foundation and

its associated services. 33 As a result, the peasants contributed

partially to the profit of the vakıf administrators, and partly to the

vakıf itself and the services that they and others like them were

ultimately the beneficiaries of. This shows how evkaf was primarily

concerned with providing a social patchwork, from both the

position of the donor and the recipient. The donor engaged in the

act of charity, forming an ‘interaction’ between the donor and the


Gottfried Hagen, ‘An Imperial Soup Kitchen Provides Food for Thought’ (2003)

at http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=7578 (viewed 10 th March 2011);

Amy Singer, Constructing Ottoman Beneficence: An Imperial Soup Kitchen in Jerusalem

(Albany, 2002), p. 31.


Suraiya Faroqhi, ‘Vakıf Administration in Sixteenth Century Konya: The Zaviye of

Sadreddin-I Konevî’, Journal of Economic and Social History of the Orient, 17/ 2 (May,

1974), p. 146.


Ibid., pp. 160-161.

57 Circular Reasoning

recipient. 34 This is the obvious societal ‘prop’, linking the fortunes

of the donor and the recipient on the most basic level, and

providing for the vulnerable groups in society from the wealth of

those who had enough. Their wealth was ultimately provided

through commerce within – or employment by – the Empire, the

wealth of which was ultimately based upon taxation of and food

production by the lowest classes. The common reaya are the people

who essentially provide the funds for and benefit most from evkaf,

as the process comes full cycle. This is the deeper level upon which

evkaf provides a form of social cohesion: it helps to uphold and

represent a philosophy of social structure and interaction, the

‘wheel of equity’, obvious to contemporaries but often lost on

modern scholars. It is, as a result, clear that the principal function

of evkaf was to provide a ‘prop’ for this integrated societal model.

It is evident that evkaf played an important role in Ottoman society,

as well as wider Islamic society in general. It provided an outlet for

piety, as well as personal and political gain. The principal function

that it served – albeit sometimes indirectly through acts of piety,

political calculation or acts intended primarily for personal gain –

was a social one. Through the institution of evkaf, the social model

of the ‘wheel of equity’ could be realised and reinforced, providing

an integrated and well-rounded society, based upon principles of

order, balance and co-operation. It is clear that this was not always

the reality, but this represents the underlying philosophy in religious

and legal terms of evkaf, which was often borne out in small vakıf

gestures, such as between masters and their freed slaves. The larger

picture should also be recognised, with evkaf potentially showing

the ‘wheel of equity’ relationship between administrators and those

they ruled over. The maintenance of an ordered and cohesive

society was ultimately the principal function of evkaf in Ottoman

culture, and Koçu Beğ’s ‘wheel of equity’ an excellent paradigm for

its understanding.


Hagen, ‘Soup Kitchen’.

58 Joel Butler


‘the power and authority of the sultanate is based on the military,

the military are supported by the treasury, the treasury by the

sultan's subjects, and the position of the people is maintained

through justice and equity. But now [c.1630] this world is in ruins,

the people are unhappy, the treasury depleted, and the military

inadequate. No steps are being taken to prevent [Ottoman]

territory being taken by the enemy, no remedy [for these ills] is

being sought, excesses are not being curbed.’

Koçu Beğ on ‘circles of equity’ in Koçu Beğ risalesi (trans. Christine

Woodhead, Durham).

‘King and subjects, especially army leaders and statesmen, all

constitute one organism, serving in various ways, at times [the

king’s] seeing eyes, his grasping hands, as his battle-ready shield, at

times his wing and pinion ready to fly, at times as his speaking

tongue or walking foot [but always] being bold enough to set aside

fear and awe and to speak out the word of truth.’

Mustafa Ali on ‘circles of equity’ in Mustafa Ali’s Counsel For Sultans

of 1581 (Part I) (trans. Tietze, A., Vienna, 1979), p. 25.

‘After that [Satan] entered Egypt, he copulated and spawned on the

bed of wish-fulfilment and even hatched his offspring. This noble

hadith reveals that most of the people of Egypt are of a devilish

nature and not fit to associate with the human species.’

‘If the public treasury has to receive several thousand florins from

one village, against a small tent each one of them embezzles the

same exorbitant sum.’

Mustafa Ali on the failure of Egyptians to uphold Ottoman values

of ‘equity’ in Mustafa Ali’s Description of Cairo of 1599 (trans. Andreas

Tietze, Vienna, 1975), pp. 39-45

59 Circular Reasoning

Glossary of Ottoman terms

Askeri –

Bey –

Beylerbeyi –

Evkaf –

Imaret –

Kadı –

Karvansaray –

Medrese –

Müfti –

Pasa –

Reaya –

Sancak –

Sancakbeyi –

Seria(t) –

Sultan –

Vakıf –

Vezir –

‘Class’ of tax-exempt Ottoman officials

Lord or commander; minor Ottoman governor

or official

‘Bey of beys’; governor of an Ottoman

administrative province

(Arabic: awquf) See vakıf

‘Soup kitchen’ providing meals to groups made

eligible by the vakıf deed

Judge of Islamic law, with responsibility for

secular law in Ottoman provinces

Coach house, providing shelter for merchants

College teaching Islamic religious sciences and


Interpreter of Islamic law

Title added to names of beylerbeyis and vezirs

Not askeri, nor slaves; can be of any religion;


Division within a belyerbeyilik

Governor of a sancak

Islamic law

Ottoman leader and head of state

(Arabic: waqf) Charitable endowment (in

perpetuity) for public benefit

High ranking administrative and military

officials; ‘minister’



Ali, M., Mustafa Ali’s Counsel For Sultans of 1581 (Part I) (trans. A.

Tietze, Vienna, 1979).

__________., Mustafa Ali’s Description of Cairo of 1599 (trans. A.

Tietze, Vienna, 1975).

Baer, G., ‘The Waqf as a Prop for the Social System’, Islamic Law

and Society, 4/3 (2007), pp. 264-297.

Beğ, K., Koçu Beğ risalesi (trans. C. Woodhead, Durham).

Behrens-Abouseif, D., Egypt’s Adjustment to Ottoman Rule: Institutions,

Waqf and Architecture in Cairo (16 th and 17 th Centuries) (Leiden, 1994).

‘Copy of an Imperial firman as recorded in sheri’ court of Nicosia’

in: Laws and Regulations Affecting Waqf Property (Nicosia, 1899).

Coulson, N.J., Succession in the Muslim Family (Cambridge, 1971).

Faroqhi, S., ‘Vakıf Administration in Sixteenth Century Konya: The

Zaviye of Sadreddin-I Konevî’, Journal of Economic and Social History

of the Orient, 17/2 (May, 1974), pp. 145-172.

Fotić, A., ‘Yahyapaşa-oğlu Mehmed Pasa’s Evkaf in Belgrade’, Acta

Orientalia Scientiarum Hungaricae, 54/4 (2001), pp. 437-452.

Hagen, G., ‘An Imperial Soup Kitchen Provides Food for Thought’

(2003) at http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=7578

(viewed 10 th March 2011).

Heywood, C., ‘Bosnia Under Ottoman Rule, 1463-1800’ in M.

Pinson (ed.), The Muslims of Bosnia-Herzegovina: Their Historic

Development from the Middle Ages to the Dissolution of Yugoslavia

(Cambridge, MA., 1994), pp. 22-53.

Kritovoulos, History of Mehmed the Conqueror (trans. Riggs, C.T.,

Westport, 1970).

Lellouch, B., Les Ottomans en Égypte: Historiens et conquérants au XVI e

siècle (Paris, 2006).

Norman, Y., ‘‘Imarets, Islamization and Urban Development in

Sarajevo, 1461-1604’ in N. Ergin, C.K. Neumann and A. Singer

61 Circular Reasoning

(eds.), Feeding People, Feeding Power: Imarets in the Ottoman Empire

(Istanbul, 2007), pp. 81-94.

Pascual, J-P., Damas à la fin du XVI e siècle d’après trois actes de waqf

ottomans (Damascus, 1983).

Singer, A., Constructing Ottoman Beneficence (Albany, 2002).

van Leeuwen, R., Waqfs and Social Structures: The Case of Ottoman

Damascus (Leiden, 1999).


London in the creation of a British national culture, 1500-1700

By Bryan Gillingham

The idea of national culture in modern Britain conjures vivid

images of the Union Jack, fish and chips, and persistent rain. To

the Victorians it meant empire and the world map turned red. Yet

applying this term to early modern Britain is problematic. Britain

was barely an entity in this period, only becoming fully united in

1707. Since then Britain has gained Ireland and subsequently lost

half of it. It has fought two world wars and pioneered the world’s

first Industrial Revolution. Furthermore, the term ‘national identity’

needs to be dissected. ‘National’ is defined in the Oxford English

Dictionary as, ‘of or relating to a nation or a country, especially as a

whole; affecting or shared by a whole nation’. 1 This statement is

necessarily vague in an attempt to encapsulate the meaning of the

word, which is essentially centred upon shared experience. The

extent to which this is true for the British nation today is debatable.

It is an even more abstract construct in the early modern period.

Peter Burke gives a detailed description of culture, naming a more

general theme of ‘attitudes and values’, before listing a series of

institutions that come under this umbrella, such as art, theatre and

literature. 2 Throughout British history exists one common thread;

the importance of London and the role it plays has been essential

from the Roman city to our current day capital. Naturally, the

status it holds in our state has made it a subject of historiography.

Whereas A.L Beier and Roger Finlay have commented on the role

London played in shaping the culture of early modern England,

Keith Wrightson has attempted to argue against the city’s

importance. 3 Despite this dispute, it is clear that London played a

key role in shaping culture across England, though whether this

represented British culture is much harder to determine.

Economic factors, with the emergence of a capitalist market

system, play a key part in spreading London ideals to the provincial

1 Oxford English Dictionary, at www.oed.com.

2 Peter Burke, ‘Popular Culture in seventeenth century London’ in Barry Reay,

Popular culture in seventeenth century England (London, 1985), p. 31.

3 A. Beier & R. Finlay (eds.), London 1500-1700: The Making of the Metropolis (London,

1986), p. 1; Keith Wrightson, Earthly Necessities: economic lives in early modern London

(New Haven, 2000), pp. 6-7.

63 British National Culture

areas. London’s population expanded quickly across the period,

from 55,000 in 1520 to around 200,000 in 1600 and 675,000 by

1750. 4 In 1520, London was already by far the largest city in

Britain, and this expansive growth could only increase the influence

of the capital more. The effect London had upon the rest of the

county is best shown through economic factors. As such a large

city, the demand and consumption was going to be inevitably high. 5

The explosive nature of demographic growth meant that London

could no longer rely on its traditional suppliers in the Home

Counties, having to purchase produce from Berwick, Durham and

Wales. 6 Consequences of this increased trade around the country

naturally included increased contact with the capital. Farmers who

would have solely concentrated on their local market, centred on

the closest county or market town, now found a new, increasingly

larger market. From this we can already see that London is

diminishing the role of regional markets, with the effect of creating

a more national economy. From a market based national economy

would come national trends and fashions. Thirsk argues this point,

suggesting that new consumer items in London soon found their

way to local village shops. 7

Wrightson is critical of this view, however. He suggests that life in

the countryside was already evolving and changing before the bulk

of London’s growth from 1520 onwards. 8 Although this may be

true, it is hard to argue against the fact that London increased

growth and encouraged prosperity in regions outside the city. 9 It

also facilitated an increase in communications between areas

previously isolated from the capital city, allowing the effect it had

on country areas to increase. However, Wrightson does

convincingly argue that London’s increasing population did not

boost Scotland’s economy; which again demonstrated the

limitations of the term ‘national culture’. 10 If this were to refer to

England and Wales, the spread of culture through economic means

would indicate the strong role of London. However, Scottish

4 Keith Wrightson, Earthly necessities, p. 37; E. A. Wrigley, ‘A simple model of

London's importance in changing English society and economy 1650-1750’, Past and

Present, 37 (1967), p. 44.

5 F. J. Fisher, ‘The London food market, 1540-1640’ in P. J. Corfield & N. B. Harte

(eds.), London and the English Economy, 1500-1700 (London, 1990), p. 61.

6 Ibid., pp. 65-66.

7 J. Thirsk, ‘England’s Provinces: did they serve or drive material London?’ in Lena

C. Orlin (ed.), Material London, ca. 1600 (Philadelphia, 2000), p. 98.

8 Wrightson, Earthly Necessities, p. 41.

9 Fisher, ‘London food market’, p. 70.

10 Wrightson, Earthly Necessities, p. 333.

64 Bryan Gillingham

markets were largely still centred on Edinburgh and Glasgow. The

fractured nature of the relationship between highland and lowland

Scotland, coupled with increasing ideas of national identity south of

the border, may have created a feeling of isolation, particularly

amongst Scottish elites, potentially encouraging their positive views

on the idea of a British state by union in 1707.

Fisher furthers the argument of the importance of economics in

shaping the role of London, by suggesting that the demands of the

city encouraged specialisation in provincial areas. 11 The idea here

was that specific food needs of London would be best grown in

certain areas, dependent on soil conditions and climate. However,

Fisher overlooks the potentially divisive factor of this on a unified

national culture. By creating specialised regions, regional culture

was boosted at the expense of national ideas. People would draw

their sense of identity from their local area and the produce that

was grown there. Thus this could increase their connections to

their local area rather than the national region. Despite this, another

important factor is the shared experience between the regions.

They were often producing for a similar cause, as part of a growing

capitalist market, with the aim of supplying their country’s largest

city. This relates best to the so-called ‘middlemen’ who formed the

bridge between traditional suppliers and the wholesalers in

London. 12 Virtually becoming employees of the firms in London,

these businessmen would have had large connections with both the

city and the countryside, allowing a degree of cultural integration

between the two.

Cultural integration between city and county is commonly linked to

the emerging middle classes in this period. It had previously been

argued by Hexter that the term ‘middle class’ is anachronistic to the

early modern period. 13 However, Barry argues a view that seems

prevalent in modern historiography, suggesting that the beginnings

of a ‘middling sort’ can be found during this period. 14 Earle

continues this argument, suggesting a series of different qualifying

factors of middle class society in the early modern period. 15 The

fact that ‘middle class’ is still a vague term today justifies Barry’s

11 Fisher, ‘London food market’, p. 71.

12 Ibid., p. 78.

13 Jonathan Barry, ‘Introduction’ in Jonathan Barry and Christopher Brooks (eds.),

The Middling Sort of People: Culture, Society and Politics in England, 1550-1800

(Basingstoke, 1994), p. 1.

14 Ibid., p. 8.

15 P. Earle, ‘The middling sort in London’ in Barry and Brooks (eds.), The Middling

Sort of People, p. 145.

65 British National Culture

argument, as many of the roles considered in that class today

existed back then, such as clerks and lawyers. The influence of this

emerging class upon British culture is evident. Many of the rising

middle classes who made their money in the city’s fledgling markets

would then attempt to mirror the upper classes by purchasing land

in the countryside. 16 Dispersing gentry from London into the

country would naturally bring the capital’s mannerisms with them.

Thirsk argues that the villagers, who often would not be

accustomed to such wealth, would often adapt by providing quality

goods for the gentry. 17 Thus, as these products were often

influenced by London fashions, the cultural spread emanating from

the capital reached rural areas. This evidently encouraged a certain

level of assimilation between the culture in the capital and the

provinces, leading towards a more distinct idea of national culture.

Political participation was starting to form in the capital city. Its

importance as a political centre is highlighted by Beier and Finlay. 18

This is furthered by Griffiths and Jenner, who state that bills and

libels addressing national affairs were posted around the capital. 19

Ideas of increased political awareness and even involvement, in the

case of Prince Charles’ proposed marriage to the daughter of the

Spanish King, become more frequent. 20 The fact that it was not just

local affairs that were pasted onto city walls and buildings, but also

national ones, suggests London’s increasing role within the country.

Today London is clearly the political centre of the United

Kingdom, and it seems that this can be traced back to the early

modern period. In terms of national culture, one implication would

have been the advancement of the idea of a national government.

Rather than looking to their local noble family or gentry as rulers,

people would be encouraged to see London as the political centre.

This would clearly encourage a more unified sense of national

culture, as political ideals from the capital would be dispersed

across the nation.

However, there are still some fundamental criticisms of this view of

national culture spreading from London. Archer states that within

London there was still a large sense of local community based upon

16 Thirsk, ‘England's Provinces’, p. 100.

17 Ibid.

18 Beir and Finlay, London 1500-1700, p. 11.

19 Mark Jenner and Paul Griffiths, ‘Introduction’ in Mark Jenner and Paul Griffiths

(eds.), Londinopolis: essays in the cultural and social history of early modern London

(Manchester, 2000), p. 10.

20 Ibid.

66 Bryan Gillingham

the parish that people belonged to. 21 This suggests that migrants

into the larger city still attempted to hold on to the ideas of local

community that they had known in their rural homes. The theory

of local culture coming to London is further advanced by Burke,

who suggests that parts of the city had very distinct, unique

characteristics. 22 Therefore, it is possible to argue that it was in fact

the provinces that shaped national culture, rather than London

itself. However, taking Archer’s and Burke’s view as true, there was

still a clear role for London to play in creating any sort of national

identity. The capital city became the meeting point of these

different cultures from the various regions that constituted Britain.

Thus, it created an amalgamation of these ideas, forming a more

unified idea of culture. For example, the major festivals, such as

May Day and Ascension Day were celebrated in London just as

they were in the countryside, but there would be many other events

in between these important days. 23 This indicates that the capital

city adopted many forms of regional entertainment, encouraging

their infiltration into other areas.

From this it is possible to see the argument that London’s role in

national culture was one of a hospitable breeding place. The figures

provided by Wrigley show an increasing number of migrants

flooding into the city from over the country, in a variety of

different roles, such as merchants, middlemen and apprentices. 24

With each migrant mixing in circles that would be alien to that of

the countryside, it is highly probable that they would find comfort

in their personally held ideals of culture. This would encourage a

mix of the culture present in the countryside, with the result being

the beginnings of the national culture we know today. There are

still problems with this theory, especially in respect to the

absenteeism of Scotland in national culture. Although the

lowlanders may have attempted to align with the converging

identity south of the border, the highlanders still lived in a very

different sphere. However, in national culture there is still room for

certain elements of regional culture. In many ways, the diversity

within a nation and the variety prevalent in this can help shape

national culture itself. London, therefore, may not have been solely

responsible for creating a national culture but despite this, it

21 I. Archer, ‘Social Networks in Restoration London’ in Alexandra Shepard & Phil

Withington (eds.), Communities in early modern England: networks, place, rhetorics

(Manchester, 2000), p. 78.

22 Burke, ‘Popular culture’, p. 33.

23 Ibid., p. 39.

24 Wrigley, ‘A simple model of London’, p. 46.

67 British National Culture

certainly played a central role in spreading a more assimilated view

on national culture and identity.

68 Bryan Gillingham


Archer, I., ‘Social networks in restoration London’ in A. Shepard

and P. Whitington, Communities in early modern England: networks, place,

rhetorics (Manchester, 2000), pp. 76-95.

Barry, J., ‘Introduction’ in J. Barry and C. Brooks (eds.), The

Middling sort of people: culture, society and politics in England, 1550-1800

(Basingstoke, 1994), pp. 1-23.

Beier, A. & Finlay, R. (eds.), London 1500-1700: the making of the

metropolis (London, 1986).

Burke, P., ‘Popular culture in seventeenth century London’ in B.

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1550-1800 (Basingstoke, 1994), pp. 141-158.

Fisher, F. J., ‘The London food market, 1540-1640’ in P.J. Corfield

and N.B. Harte (eds.), London and the English economy, 1500-1700

(London, 1990), pp. 61-81.

Jenner, M. and Griffiths, P., ‘Introduction’ in M. Jenner and P.

Griffiths (eds.), Londinopolis: essays in the cultural and social history of

early modern London (Manchester, 2000), pp. 1-14.

Oxford English Dictionary, at www.oed.com.

Thirsk, J., ‘England’s provinces: did they serve or drive material

London?’ in L.C. Orlin, (ed.), Material London, ca.1600 (Philadelphia,

2000), pp. 97-108.

Wrightson, K., Earthly necessities: economic lives in early modern London

(New Haven, 2000).

Wrigley, E. A., ‘A simple model of London’s importance in

changing English society and economy 1650-1750’, Past and Present,

37 (1967), pp. 44-70.


National Regeneration, Social Radicalism and the

Reconceptualisation of Chinese Womanhood in Late Imperial

China, 1890-1911

By Sabine Schneider

In the tumultuous decades preceding the overthrow of the Qing,

China’s last imperial dynasty, radical cultural and political

transformations, from conceptions of national sovereignty to

collective values, propelled the women’s emancipation movement

forward. 1 In this time of national crisis, the women’s question

became invested with the task of re-theorising and realigning

traditional Chinese values and social practices with modern ideas of

nationhood, individual rights and Western-style economic and

institutional modernisation. As a result, women’s maternal role in

society was equated with a strong and prosperous Chinese state. In

his recent studies of nationalism in Rescuing the Nation (1995) and

Authenticity and Sovereignty (2003) Prasenjit Duara has emphasised

how political discourse in emerging nation-states conventionally

overrides or emulates established social identities with regard to

religion, gender or class. 2 Duara’s mode of analysis, bifurcated

history, offers a gateway to exploring the multiple approaches and

strategies through which different self-conscious groups

incorporated the women’s question into the fast-changing political

discourse of late imperial China. 3 As an analytical concept,

bifurcated history seeks to discover the causes, conditions, and

agents involved in the transformation of political discourse, by

highlighting reappropriated, repressed, and dispersed meanings of

the past. 4 In this sense, the modernizing discourse of the Reform

era (1897-1898) conveys a mirror image of China’s struggle with

‘modernity’ and its search for a national identity under the


Lu Meiyi, ‘The Awakening of Chinese Women and the Women’s Movement in the

early twentieth century’ in Tao Jie, Zheng Bijun & Shirley L. Mox (eds.), Holding up

half the sky: Chinese women Past, Present and Future (New York, 2004), p. 58.


Prasenjit Duara, Rescuing History from the Nation (Chicago, 1995), pp. 10-11.


Ibid., p. 11.


Ibid., p. 234.

70 Sabine Schneider

precarious conditions of semi-colonialism. 5 This paper thus argues

that the reconceptualisation of Chinese ‘womanhood’ emerged,

from the interaction of nationalist and Social Darwinist concerns,

as the predominant metadiscourse about China’s state-building

project. 6

In the late 1890s, two of the most influential male thinkers of the

period, Liang Qichao and Kang Youwei, initiated the first steps

towards female emancipation by challenging existing gender

prescriptions. In ‘On Education for Women’ (1897), Liang

identified the root-cause of China’s perceived backwardness in the

ill-educated, weak and allegedly unproductive state of Chinese

women. 7 In spite of his disregard for the social realities of peasant

women, female factory workers and the traditional contribution of

women in the household, Liang’s reasoning greatly appealed to

many of his contemporaries. Most progressive men still understood

woman’s role exclusively in terms of her reproductive function,

which effectively excluded her from public life and thus from

sexual equality. 8 The utilitarian thrust of the reformers’ agenda

comes out most clearly in Liang’s writings about the difference

between men and women:

the equality of men and women meant not that

women could do whatever men could, but that the

different endowments of the sexes – modesty,

gentleness, tenacity and patience on the part of

women; boldness, strength, and grasp of general

principle on the part of men – were to be equally

respected, and made an equally important

contribution to society. 9

In the wake of 1898, male reformers, reform-minded Manchu

officials and local elites founded the first non-missionary girls’

schools. They advocated that by educating Chinese girls in


Joan Judge, The Precious Raft of History: the Past, the West and the Woman Question in

China (Stanford, 2008), p. 6.


Joan Judge, ‘Citizens or Mothers of Citizens? Gender and the Meaning of Chinese

Citizenship’ in Merle Goldman & Elizabeth J. Perry (eds.), Changing Meanings of

Citizenship in Modern China (Cambridge, MA, 2002), p. 42.


Nanxiu Qian, Grace S. Fong, Richard J. Smith (eds.), Different worlds of discourse:

transformations of gender and genre in late Qing and early republican China (Leiden, 2008), pp.



Fan Hong, Footbinding, Feminism and Freedom: The Liberation of Women’s Bodies in

Modern China (London, 1997), pp. 78-79.


Ibid., p. 80.

71 Chinese Womanhood

domestic science, modern knowledge in hygiene, child psychology

and accountancy, as well as incorporating physical exercise into the

curriculum, Chinese women would become healthier, and more

productive elements of society. 10

The regenerative discourse of the male reformers, which served as

a vehicle of female emancipation, was re-appropriated by some elite

women to radically challenge the traditional Confucian moral code.

From 1903, small groups of female Chinese students travelled to

Japan – often under the auspice of a male relative - to enrol in

private schools, most notably Shimoda Utako’s Practical Women’s

School (Jissen jogakkô) in Tokyo. 11 Among this privileged group of

women, many took advantage of the absence of strict gender

divides and joined radicalised student associations where they could

freely voice their opinions and learn the skills of political battle.

Heavily influenced by the hothouse atmosphere of Tokyo’s radical

student associations, they returned to China to take up the struggle

for women’s emancipation as educators, journalists and

revolutionary activists. Qui Jin, a progressive educator and ardent

nationalist, is the most prominent example; she put her life into the

service of female education and national strengthening, and died a

martyr, executed for her involvement in a revolutionary uprising in

1907. To the young female students who formed The United

Women’s Army to participate in the 1911 Revolution, Qui was

already a paragon of female heroism and self-sacrifice. 12 The year

of Qui’s death coincided with the official introduction by the Qing

court of elementary school education for girls and normal schools

for training teachers. 13 For the year 1907, 434 girls’ schools were

recorded to teach 15,324 female students; this number would rise

to 722 girls’ schools and 26,465 students by 1909 – still only

marginal compared to the number of male students in education. 14

Due to the growing radicalisation of Chinese students overseas,

Qing officials were particularly concerned about the importation of

Western feminist ideas, notions which carried the danger of

contesting and undermining conventional public morals, resulting


Paul John Bailey, Gender and Education in China (London, 2007), p. 45.


Ibid., p. 35.


Catherina Gipoulon, ‘The Emergence of Women in Politics in China, 1898 –

1927’, Chinese Studies in History, 23 (1989), p. 62.


Judge, The Precious Raft of History, p. 9.


Bailey, Gender and Education, pp. 34-35.

72 Sabine Schneider

in the destabilization of China’s established social order. 15 In the

Ministry of Education’s instructions of 1907 these concerns are

openly addressed:

All evil talk of allowing them [normal school

students] to run wild, or of liberty (such as not

heeding the distinction between male and female,

selecting one’s own spouse, holding meetings and

giving speeches on political matters) must be strictly

eliminated to maintain public morality. 16

Prior to the sanctioning of state-funded education for girls,

Empress-Dowager Cixi had issued an official ban in 1902 on the

centuries-old tradition of footbinding. During the 1890s reform era,

anti-footbinding societies were being launched by reform-minded

elites, first in the coastal regions, and spreading from there to all

parts of the Empire. Anti-footbinding campaigns had initially been

introduced by Western missionaries in the mid-nineteenth century,

in an attempt to raise awareness of its detrimental effect on

women’s health. 17 By the close of the century, reform-minded

intellectuals had successfully popularised the view that footbinding

was an arbitrary fashion and embarrassing symbol of China’s

backwardness as well as being responsible for weakening the

‘yellow race’. 18

Significantly in this period, Social Darwinist assumptions were

introduced to China by Qing reformers who had absorbed these

pseudo-scientific concepts on their travels abroad. Social Darwinist

rhetoric and language helped to rationalise the urgency of their

claims for modernizing reform. As Duara has noted, the

construction of the hybrid narrative of the ‘survival of the nation’

should be understood as an effort ‘to mobilise societal initiative and

construct a modern society’ capable of withstanding further assaults

on China’s sovereignty. 19 Its application to the Confucian


Charlotte Beahan, ‘In the Public Eye: Women in Early Twentieth-Century China’

in Richard W. Guisso & Stanly Johannesen (eds.), Women in China: Current Directions

in Historical Scholarship (Youngstown, NY, 1981), pp. 234-235; Bailey, Gender and

Education, p. 43.


Ch’en Tung-yuan, Chung-kuo fu-nü sheng-huoshih [History of the Lives of

Chinese Women], Shanghai (1928), p. 342, transl. in: Beahan. ‘In the Public Eye’, p.



Lu, ‘The Awakening of Chinese Women,’ pp. 57-58.


Cited in Patricia Buckley-Ebrey, Women and the Family in Chinese History (London,

2002), p. 219, p. 251.


Duara, Rescuing History from the Nation, p. 235.

73 Chinese Womanhood

communitarian understanding of social relations had the effect of

instrumentalising the family – classically perceived as a microcosm

of the nation – as a social machine. 20 Women’s role in the family as

moral educators of their sons and subservient consorts found its

expression in the educative formula of ‘Good wives and wise

mothers’ (xianmu liangqi). State-funded girls’ schools were instructed

to teach calisthenics, sports, history and geography alongside

courses in ethics, based on the Confucian classics with the objective

to implant patriotic ideas and preserve Confucian virtues of rolefulfilment,

obedience and self-sacrifice. 21 For the past two

thousand years, Confucian state philosophy had provided the

yardstick for Chinese conceptions of womanhood. From the mid

to late 19 th century, Confucian norms of femininity and morality –

formerly the most prominent emblem of Chinese high culture –

had come under severe scrutiny by moderate reformers and radicals

alike. 22 Sexual inequality had generally been accepted by virtue of

the prevailing patriarchal interpretations of Confucian and Mencian

doctrines, stressing that women were inferior to men as yin is

inferior to yang, and expected to observe the ‘Three Bonds’

(obeying the father, husband, and son). 23 Physiological and

psychological characteristics such as passivity, gentleness,

deference, and diligence were integral to Confucian feminine norms

and had been used to justify the inferiority of women and their

retreat to the domestic realm. Hence, the Qing’s endorsement of

female education – legitimising women’s entry into the public

sphere – created considerable doctrinal tensions.

In a recent study on the Worthy Ladies Tradition (xianyuan) in late

imperial China, however, Nanxiu Qian has argued that female

reformers of the 1890s followed a different rationale for selfcultivation

and national regeneration to their male counterparts. 24

Members of the Worthy Ladies founded a girls’ school and study

societies in Shanghai alongside a journal for women’s self-


Prasenjit Duara, Sovereignty and Authenticity: Manchukuo and the East Asian Modern

(Oxford, 2003), p. 140.


Fan Hong & J. A. Mangan, ‘Enlightenment Aspirations in an Oriental Setting:

Female Emancipation and Exercise in Early Twentieth-Century China’, International

Journal of the History of Sport, 12/3 (March 2007), p. 86; Beahan, ‘In the Public Eye,’ p.



Judge, The Precious Raft of History, pp. 7-8; Li-Hsiang & Lisa Rosenlee, Confucianism

and Women (New York, 2007), p. 146.


Xinyuan Jiang, ‘Confucianism, Women, and Social Context,’ Journal of Chinese

Philosophy: Femininity and Feminism: Chinese and Contemporary, 36/2 (2009), pp. 229-235.


Nanxiu Qian, ‘Revitalizing the Xianyuan (Worthy Ladies) Tradition; Women in

the 1898 Reforms’, Modern China, 29/4 (October 2003), pp. 399-440.

74 Sabine Schneider

strengthening, which advocated education as a means ‘for

cultivating one’s self, assisting one’s husband, educating children,

and harmonising with others’, an agenda which infused classical

traditions of Chinese learning with Western knowledge. 25 Rather

than preparing women to become independent and economically

productive elements of society, they regarded women’s education

primarily as a means ‘for cultivating one’s self, assisting one’s

husband, educating children, and harmonizing with others’.

Xue Shaohui (1866-1911), translator, poet and biographer,

contributed to the thought of the Worthy Ladies tradition by

compiling, together with her husband Chen Shoupeng, the Waiguo

Lienü Zhuan (Biographies of Foreign Women). 26 First published in

1906, the Waiguo Lienü Zhuan was devoted to cultivating new heroic

identities (nü yingxiong), by reproducing life stories of outstanding

European and American women. Radical female activists such as

Qui Jin (1877-1907) and Chen Xiefen (1883-1923) regarded

Confucianism and female emancipation as incompatible by arguing

that Confucian state philosophy created the social conditions that

restrict women’s role to the domestic sphere. 27 Xue, in contrast,

grafted an alternative discourse of female virtue – joining ci,

motherly love, with xue, learning – to replace China’s patriarchal

value system with a morally superior ideal of women as ‘nurturers

of the nation’. 28 Joan Judge and Rebecca Karl have emphasised that

the portrayal of women as ‘mothers of the nation’ is a

phenomenon, not uncommon to China and Japan, but part of a

transnational current in the history of women’s emancipation. 29 In

the case of China, educated elites emulated the gender ideology and

modernizing program of the Japanese Meiji Restoration. 30 Thus,


Ibid., p. 400; Bailey, Gender and Education, p. 66; Susan Brownell & Jeffrey N.

Wasserstrom (eds.), Chinese femininities, Chinese masculinities: a reader (Berkley, 2002), pp.



Nanxiu Qian, ‘‘Borrowing foreign mirrors and candles to illuminate Chinese

civilization’: Xue Shaohui’s moral vision in the biographies of foreign women’, Nan

Nu (Men, Women and Gender in Early and Imperial China), 6/1 (March 2004), p. 60.


Rosenlee, Confucianism and Women, p. 149.


Joan Judge, ‘Talent, Virtue and the Nation: Chinese Nationalisms and Female

Subjectivities in the Early Twentieth Century’, American Historical Review, 106/3 (June

2001), p. 767; Brownell & Wasserstrom (eds.), Chinese femininities, Chinese masculinities,

p. 100; Nanxiu, ‘Borrowing foreign mirrors,’ pp. 64-77.


Joan Judge, ‘Citizens or Mothers of Citizens? Gender and the Meaning of Chinese

Citizenship’ in Merle Goldman & Elizabeth J. Perry (eds.), Changing Meanings of

Citizenship in Modern China (Cambridge, MA, 2002), p. 25, p. 42; Grace S. Fong,

Nanxiu Qian & Harriet T. Zurndorfer (eds.), Beyond Tradition and Modernity: Gender,

Genre and Cosmopolitanism in Late Qing China (Leiden, 2004), p. 4.


Beahan, ‘In the Public Eye’, p. 232; Duara, Sovereignty and Authenticity, pp. 134-135.

75 Chinese Womanhood

between 1894 and 1911 alone, no less than 512 tracts and

textbooks were translated from Japanese into Chinese, close to 80

treating issues of modern education and specifically female

education. 31 Some of this educational literature, such as the books

of the famous Japanese educator Shimoda Utako, particularly her

‘Domestic Science’, or Naruse Jinzō’s ‘Women’s Education’, were

eagerly received by Chinese educators at the time. 32

Simultaneously, revolutionary nationalists also promoted female

emancipation but for rather different reasons: their nationalism was

directed at overthrowing the alien Qing dynasty, and the creation of

a Republic of largely Han Chinese descendants. As the end of the

dynasty drew near, links between Sun Yatsen’s Revolutionary

Alliance (Tongmenhui) and private girls’ schools, as reservoirs of

political agitation, became increasingly more important. One of the

first revolutionary girls’ schools, the Shanghai Patriotic Girls’

School, had been founded in 1902 by the future president of

Beijing University, Cai Yuanpei. 33 The school’s curriculum included

physical exercise, a philosophy course on nihilism, history lessons

on the French Revolution and chemistry courses in bombmaking.

34 Some female education facilities are recorded to have put

on military parades, engaged in charitable projects, and participated

in protest movements, most notably the anti-American boycott

(1905) and the Rights Recovery Campaign (1907). 35 Throughout

this period, anti-Manchu literature penetrated China from Japan,

the centre of radical nationalist student groups and the power base

of the Tongmenhui. Jin Songcen’s ‘Warning Bell for Women’ (Nüjie

zhong), the classic ‘The Revolutionary Army’, and ‘Alarm Bell’

(Jingshi Zhong) by Chen Tianhua explicitly advocate sexual equality

for defeating the alien Manchu rulers. 36 Emphatically embracing

Western ideals of individualism and egalitarianism, Jin envisioned a

fully emancipated future for Chinese women, where they ‘would

study, work, own property, choose their own friends and husbands,


Judge, ‘Talent, Virtue and the Nation’, p. 775.


Ibid., pp. 774-775.


Peter Zarrow, ‘He Zhen and Anarcho-Feminism in China’, Journal of Asian Studies,

47/4 (November 1988), p. 798; Fan, Footbinding, Feminism and Freedom, pp. 87-88.


Fan, Footbinding, Feminism and Freedom, pp. 87-88.


Bailey, Gender and Education, p. 72; Lu, ‘The Awakening of Chinese Women’, p. 59.


Elizabeth Croll, Feminism and Socialism in China (London, 1978), pp. 56-57;

Hershatter, Women in China’s long Twentieth Century, p. 82.

For translations of the original works see: Zou Rong, The Revolutionary Army: A

Chinese nationalist tract of 1903 (trans. John Lust, Paris, 1968). Jin Songcen used the

pseudonym Ai ziyou (Lover of Freedom); for a detailed discussion of his reformist

thought see: Louise Edwards, Gender, Politics, and Democracy: Women’s Suffrage in China

(Stanford, CA, 2008).

76 Sabine Schneider

and participate in politics’. 37 Following Kang Youwei’s and Liang

Qichao’s example, Jin, however, continued to blame women’s

moral failings, rather than social, political or cultural factors, for

China’s sorry state. 38

Advances in mass publishing facilitated the dissemination of

modernising discourses that represented widely different

approaches to women’s emancipation at the time. Between 1897

and 1912, forty women’s publications emerged as novel platforms

for reformers and radicals to urge their compatriots to propel

China out of the backwardness of feudalism and imperialist

oppression. 39 As Judge has pointed out, this new-style women’s

literature, including newspapers, journals and magazines, as well as

textbooks, and education primers, represents an attempt on the

part of elite women to combine the Confucian cultural tradition

with Western philosophy from the Enlightenment to the late 19 th

century, including conceptions of nationhood and women’s

rights. 40 In their essays and speeches, Qui Jin and Chen Xiefen

echo the ideas and rhetoric of the male reformers of 1897/1898;

particularly striking, however, is the recurrence of the theme of

‘enslavement’ throughout their writings. 41 Whereas the male

reformers had used the term to describe China’s subjugation in the

global sphere, radical female activists now extended this

phenomenon to male-female relations. 42 The inaugural issue of Qui

Jin’s Chinese Women’s Journal (Zhongguo nübao), founded in 1907,

for instance, opens with:

While our two hundred million male compatriots

have already advanced, our two hundred million

female compatriots are still mired in the utter

darkness of the 18 layers of hell … They pass their


Bailey, Gender and Education, p. 60; Gail Hershatter, Women in China’s long Twentieth

Century (Berkeley, 2007), p. 82.


Mizuyo Sudo & Michael G. Hill, ‘Concepts of Women’s Rights in Modern China’,

Gender & History, 18/3 (April 2007), p. 476.


Gipoulon, ‘The Emergence of Women in Politics in China,’ p. 58; Lu, ‘The

Awakening of Chinese Women’, p. 57; Hershatter, Women in China’s long Twentieth

Century, p.79.


Judge, The Precious Raft of History, pp. 8-12, 17-21.


Rebecca E. Karl, ‘Slavery, Citizenship, and Gender in Late Qing China’s Global

Context’ in Rebecca E. Karl & Peter Zarrow (eds.), Rethinking the 1898 Reform Period:

Political and Cultural Change in Late Qing China (Cambridge, MA, 2002), p. 242; Fong,

Nanxiu & Zurndorfer (eds.), Beyond Tradition and Modernity, p. 4; Hershatter, Women in

China’s long Twentieth Century, p. 82; Croll, Feminism and Socialism in China, pp. 16-17.


Karl, ‘Slavery, Citizenship, and Gender’, p. 242.

77 Chinese Womanhood

entire lives knowing only how to depend on men …

They are meek, subservient and fawning … They

live the life of obsequious servility. 43

In spite of apparent class separations, Chen and Qui endeavoured

to construct a common notion of collective identity, addressing

their female readers on egalitarian terms as conveyed in phrases

such as ‘we fellow sisters of China’. 44 Propagating an androcentric

vision of the ‘new woman’ as intelligent, militaristic, strong and

determined, Chen asserted that in order to win sexual equality:

Chinese women [must] join together and seize the

opportunity, develop their strength and fill their

hearts with venomous hatred, destroying and then

erecting [so that] those who shed blood … will be

equal to men. 45

Judge has explored the writings of female Chinese activists, and

maintains that such ‘paradoxes that arise when women use

nationalism as their own authorizing discourse’, are part of a

complex process of mediating between new personal identities or

subjectivities, and ‘patriotic femininity’. 46

Until 1907, any calls for female emancipation were absorbed by the

struggle for national independence, with the exception of a nascent

anarchist movement in Japan, spearheaded by the exceptional

female scholar He Zhen. 47 He Zhen organised the Nüzi Fuquan Hui

(Women’s Rights Recovery Association), after having fled into exile

to Tokyo, as well as the anarchist journal Tianyi (Heavenly

Justice). 48 Within the radical Chinese student community in Japan

the anarchist movement formed a left-wing avant-garde. He Zhen’s


Qui Jin, ‘Jing’gao jiemei men’ [An urgent announcement to my sisters], Zhongguo

nübao 1907, 1. transl. in: Bailey, Gender and Education, p. 59.


Sudo, Hill, ‘Concepts of Women’s Rights in Modern China’, pp. 478-481; Haiping

Yang, Chinese women writers and the female imagination, 1905-1948 (London, 2006), pp.

27-32; Karl, ‘Slavery, Citizenship, and Gender,’ p. 232; Judge, ‘Citizens or Mothers

of Citizens?’, p. 42; Charlotte Beahan, ‘Feminism and Nationalism in the Chinese

Women’s Press, 1902-1911’, Modern China, 1/4 (1975), p. 380.


Chen Xiefen, ‘Gong xi yao pingdeng’ [Daughters-in-law must be equal], Nuxue

bao [Journal of Women’s Education] April 1903, transl. in: Fan, Footbinding, Feminism

and Freedom, p. 90.


Judge, ‘Talent, Virtue and the Nation’, p. 765; Hershatter, Women in China’s long

Twentieth Century, p. 84.


Zarrow, ‘He Zhen and Anarcho-Feminism in China’, p. 796.


Zarrow, ‘He Zhen and Anarcho-Feminism in China’, pp. 799-800; Beahan,

‘Feminism and Nationalism in the Chinese Women’s Press’, p. 412.

78 Sabine Schneider

social revolutionary thought put China’s economic system, with its

traditional division of labour, according to Confucian doctrines, at

the core of female oppression. 49 Labour, class and sex combined to

form a patriarchal class society from which woman could only

liberate herself by actively participating in the overthrow of the

government and its replacement with a communist political system

under which gender and racial inequalities would be fully

resolved. 50 He Zhen’s contribution to the struggle for women’s

rights was de facto minimal, but her intellectual legacy is nonetheless

remarkably progressive: her original application of Marxian theories

and anarchist ideas to China’s women’s question led her to the view

that the hierarchical structure of capitalism, dominated by male

ruling elites, condemns women to the twin-role of subservient wife,

and commodified object of male desire. 51 As is commonly known,

the China of the early 20 th century still displayed a largely agrarian

economy; however, in the metropolitan centres of Shanghai and

Beijing, a consumer-oriented sub-culture was slowly emerging and

thriving on innovations in photography and print culture. 52

Prototypes of modern-day lifestyle magazines, for instance,

reported on the love lives, fashions and mannerisms of actresses

and celebrated courtesans, and therefore contributed to the

challenge of traditional perceptions of Chinese womanhood. 53

Female emancipation, then, was an intricate part of the Republican

nation-building project. The reinvention of gender visions in this

period was a reflection of the pragmatics of hierarchical rule and

the reformers’ agenda for revitalizing the nation. 54 The multidimensional

approaches of different self-conscious groups and

individuals during China’s turn of the 20 th century crisis are

paradigmatic responses to new geopolitical realities and the spread

of imported political concepts. As male reformers linked the

narrative of the ‘survival of the nation’ to the women’s question,


Arif Dirlik, ‘Vision and Revolution: Anarchism in Chinese Revolutionary Thought

on the eve of the 1911 Revolution’, Modern China, 12/2 (April 1986), pp. 127-128;

Sudo, Hill, ‘Concepts of Women’s Rights in Modern China’, pp. 484-486.


Zarrow, ‘He Zhen and Anarcho-Feminism in China,’ p. 802.


Dirlik, ‘Vision and Revolution: Anarchism in Chinese Revolutionary Thought on

the eve of the 1911 Revolution’, Modern China, 12/2 (April 1986), pp. 147-154.


Weikun Cheng, ‘The Challenge of the Actresses: Female Performers and Cultural

Alternatives in Early Twentieth Century Beijing and Tianjin’, Modern China, 22/2

(April 1996), p. 206; Nanxiu, Fong & Smith (eds.), Different worlds of discourse, pp. 4-5.


See: Weikun Cheng, ‘The Challenge of the Actresses’; Laikwan Pang,

‘Photography, Performance and the Making of Female Images in Modern China’,

Journal of Women’s History, 17/4 (2005); Catherine Vance Yeh, Shanghai love: courtesans,

intellectuals, and entertainment culture, 1850-1910 (Seattle, 2006).


Fan, Footbinding, Feminism and Freedom, p. 175.

79 Chinese Womanhood

they conveniently overlooked the realities of women’s cultural and

political repression. They did so in order to assert that educating

females would produce well-managed households, and thus

contribute to national progress and wealth - an approach that could

be described as ‘utilitarian paternalism’. Faced with a growing tide

of reformist thought among its gentry elite, conservative

monarchists and Manchu officials at court assisted women’s

education in the hope of securing popular support for its

monarchy. 55 In an attempt to minimise the challenges to China’s

traditional value system caused by the introduction of stateeducation

for girls, officials, educators, and female reformers of the

Worthy Ladies Tradition adopted the reformers’ rationale and

produced sophisticated reconfigurations of the Confucian moral

code. This strand of thinking about women’s education, which Paul

Bailey defines as ‘modernizing conservatism’, was certainly the

most influential up to the 1911 Republican Revolution. 56 By paying

lip service to women’s natural right to sexual equality, revolutionary

nationalists such as Jin Songcen supported female education as a

means of recruiting women for their cause. At the same time,

female revolutionaries, regardless of whether they followed a

nationalist agenda like Qui Jin and Chen Xiefen or were motivated

by anarchist and socialist beliefs like He Zhen, exhorted their

female compatriots to liberate themselves from man-made, and

hence socially constructed, oppression. During the next interval of

female activism in the May Fourth era, women’s demands were

again linked to nationalist or anti-imperialist concerns, thus

indicating that women’s emancipation in early twentieth century

China crystallised around intellectual developments at the political

epicentre of the nation.


Beahan, ‘In the Public Eye,’ pp. 231-232.


Bailey, Gender and Education, pp. 44-46.

80 Sabine Schneider


Bailey, P.J., Gender and Education in China: Gender discourses and

Women’s schooling in the early Twentieth Century (London, 2007).

Beahan, C., ‘In the Public Eye: Women in Early Twentieth-Century

China’ in R.W. Guisso & S. Johannesen (eds.). Women in China:

Current Directions in Historical Scholarship (Youngstown, NY, 1981),

pp. 215-238.

__________., The Women’s Movement and Nationalism in Late Qing

China (New York, 1976).

__________., ‘Feminism and Nationalism in the Chinese Women’s

Press, 1902-1911’, Modern China, 1/4 (1975).

Brownell, S. & Wasserstrom, J.N. (eds.), Chinese femininities, Chinese

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82 Sabine Schneider

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Forests and Conflict: An analysis of Sierra Leonean forestry

By Andrew Mackenzie

Forests have been crucial in the execution of warfare, whether they

have been materially advantageous or tactically disadvantageous.

The forests of Sierra Leone bear no exception; for centuries they

have influenced, and often furthered the course of warfare. Armies,

factions and civilians have used the Sierra Leonean forests for

strategic, insurgent and escapist purposes. For succour and

sanctuary, Sierra Leonean society has depended on their forestry.

There has been much scholarship concerning the role that forestry

played in Sierra Leonean military and social circles. Cole has written

that forest patches outlying the deserts, ‘a sea of grass or derived

savanna,’ served use as refuges or social and spiritual places. 1 Lane-

Poole reiterates, describing how a ‘piece of forest is preserved

around each town’ and sanctified for the usage of the Porro secret

society ‘which is used as Porro bush.’ 2 The parallel with military

usage is also evident. Indeed, Blyden noted the advantage of such

forests; the villages themselves were ‘always built on difficult and

scarcely accessible highlands and protected by the cover of high

forests.’ 3 Moreover, Migeod notes that certain patches of forest

may have originated from previous wooden fortifications:

It is no uncommon thing to see a small forest round

towns and villages, when there is none surviving

anywhere else. Chief among the trees is the

kola...The Bombaces rear themselves above all the

others covering much ground with their enormous

buttresses. The origin of thick timber growth round

a town was defensive purposes. The old stockades


N. H. A. Cole, The Vegetation of Sierra Leone (Njala, 1968), p. 81.


C. E. Lane-Poole, Report of the Forests of Sierra Leone (Freetown, 1911), p. 6. For

further information on the Porro society refer to A. R. Wright, ‘Secret societies and

fetishism in Sierra Leone’, Folklore, 18 (1907), pp. 423-427.


E. W. Blyden, ‘Report on the expedition to Falaba’, Journal of the Royal Geographical

Society, 17 (1872), p. 12.

85 Forests and conflict

have taken root, and one may trace the lines of them

in the big trees at present day. 4

The settlement of Falaba was described as having been ‘surrounded

by a natural stockade of over five hundred huge trees – one

hundred and ninety of which are very old, and enormous silk

cotton trees.’ 5 Major Laing noted further that ‘The whole

settlement was surrounded by a thick stockade of hardwood.’ 6

There have been other settlements that owe great solace to the

presence of woodland surrounding their villages. Siddle described

how ‘in the forested lowlands, every village was a ‘small fortress’

maintaining several lines of defence.’ 7 Essentially, one can infer that

forests provide not only social support; they can act further in

providing fortification and tactical superiority over potential

invaders. Forests provided more than simple timber resource

centres; they offered many Sierra Leoneans sanctuary. Forests often

played a substantial role during the exodus of civilians during the

civil war of 1991. They can be seen as refuges, offering sustenance

and fuel-wood as well as shelter and camouflage. Concerning the

context of the 1984-1992 Mozambique war, McGregor states that

‘Operating in a war-zone [the Maputo charcoal burners] were

concerned with short term gain and minimising personal risk, so

they clear-felled the areas where they were based. As trees were cut,

burners moved out during the day, withdrawing in the evening to

avoid attack.’ 8

In 1991, as many as 100,000 Sierra Leonean refugees fled to the

neighbouring Forest Region of Guinea, most were from the Kissi

and Mende groups. The majority moved to Guéckédou prefecture

during March and April 1991, with 26,000 establishing a de facto

camp at Kouloumba. Richard Black and Mohamed Sessay (1998)

relate this sudden influx of refugees to significant levels of

deforestation in the Guinea Forest Region. 9 The assessment of Van

Damme, et al. shows that Guinean forestry had a significant

influence over the population of Sierra Leone, in that it attracted


F. W. H. Migeod, A View of Sierra Leone (London, 1926), p. 334.


Blyden, ‘Report on the expedition to Falaba’, p. 12.


A. G. Laing, Travels in the Timannee, Kooranko, and Soolima Countries in Western Africa

(London, 1825), pp. 352-353.


K. Little, The Mende of Sierra Leone: A West African People in Transition (London,

1967), p. 27.


J. McGregor, ‘Violence and social change in a broader economy: war in the

Maputo hinterland, 1984-1992’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 24 (1998), p. 58.


R. Black and M. Sessay, ‘Refugees and Environmental Change in West Africa: The

Role of Institutions’, Journal of International Development, 10 (1998), p. 703.

86 Andrew Mackenzie

many thousands to flee there. Figure 1 demonstrates the increasing

numbers of refugees residing in the Guinea Forest during the years

1991-1996 compared to Guinean citizens: 10

The Sierra Leonean requirement for a ‘Porro Bush’ during the civil

war transcended, even ignored, the concept of international

boundaries. The use of forest resources for sanctuary went beyond

simple politics and international borders.

Historically speaking, West African military tactics have been

influenced principally by woodland locations. Although they had

access to muskets, West African armies preferred not to use volley

fire tactics or drill practice. Indeed, the armies of Akyem and

Asante preferred to clear woodland in preparation for a major

battle in 1741 rather than to actually engage in confined and

precarious forest. 11 More recently, tacticians preferred forest

locations to adopt the ‘indirect approach,’ choosing guerrilla

warfare over the conventional usage of cavalry and artillery, which

proved near impossible to operate in woodland locations. Basil

Liddell-Hart, architect of the ‘indirect approach’, has written that


W. Van Damme, V. De Brouwere, M. Boelaert, et al., ‘Effects of a refugeeassistance

programme on host population in Guinea as measured by obstetric

interventions’, The Lancet, 351 (1998), p. 1610.


J. R. McNeill, ‘Forests and Warfare in World History’, (2002) at

www.foresthistory.org/Events/McNeill%20Lecture.pdf (viewed 20 th August 2009),

p. 24.

87 Forests and conflict

‘Natural hazards, however formidable, are inherently less dangerous

and less uncertain than fighting hazards. All conditions are more

calculable, all obstacles more surmountable than those of human

resistance.’ 12 It was thus common practise in military circles to

engage the enemy on forest paths using small bands of infantry in

scouting missions rather than to engage directly. 13 In the civil war

of 1991 battles were being fought in the more heavily forested parts

of eastern Sierra Leone. Following the failure of its direct

campaign, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) tactically

withdrew into the forests themselves to continue their guerrilla


Frankly, we were beaten and on the run but our

pride...would not let us face the disgrace of crossing

back into Liberia as refugees...We now relied on

light weapons and on our feet, brains and

knowledge of the countryside. We moved deeper

into the comforting bosom of our mother earth –

the forest. The forest welcomed us and gave us

succour... 14

The RUF particularly prized their disconnection from conventional

society; new recruits chose to emulate those who were shunned by

the social and political machinations of Sierra Leone: ‘The forest

welcomed us...We regained our composure and engaged ourselves

in a sustained period of intensive self-examination and selfcriticism’.

15 Thus, marginalisation became a process that would

change the course of warfare, rather than a struggle for material or

vengeance. The civil war was ‘part of a larger drama of social

exclusion’. 16 In essence, these fighters were to fight on the

sidelines, unencumbered by the restraints that plague conventional

armies. One particular example involved a 500 strong Zambian

army accompanied by twenty-five armoured vehicles en route to

Makeni which were ambushed and captured by the RUF:

The road to Makeni, though made of tarmac, was

narrow with jungle on both sides. So, unable to


Military Quotes, ‘Sir Basil Henry Liddel-Hart Quotes/Quotations’, at

http://www.military-quotes.com/Liddelhart.htm (viewed 20 th August 2009).


J. Thornton, Warfare in Atlantic Africa, 1500-1800 (London, 2000), p. 71.


RUF/SL, Footpaths to democracy: toward a new Sierra Leone (The Revolutionary United

Front of Sierra Leone: no stated place of publication, 1995), p. 7.




M. Bøås, ‘Liberia and Sierra Leone – dead ringers? The Logic of Neopatrimonial

Rule’, Third World Quarterly, 22 (2001), p. 23.

88 Andrew Mackenzie

move off the road, only the front vehicle in the

column could engage targets ahead. In effect, the

firepower of twenty-five armoured cars was reduced

to one. If the rebels could physically block the road,

the column...would get stuck like a lobster caught in

a lobster pot... 17

In light of this, Kingsley Lington of the Concord Times (Freetown)

has written of the base camp of the Westside Boys, Occra Hills: ‘It

invites nausea; it is the hangover of years of carelessness,

ruthlessness and mindlessness that has swept this country since

independence.’ 18 One can thus infer from the background of

Lington’s article (i.e. the capture of 11 British soldiers by the

Westside Boys militia) that, despite the apparent backwardness of

rebel tactics, the RUF still prevailed as a formidable force:

The Westside Boys would take time to teach the

British military instructors military strategy the

jungle style. Take an ambush for example...Our boys

talk about V-shape ambushes or One-Mile-

Graveyard ambushes or Shortsleeve amputation or

Self-Beat beating or Jaja etc...Many people have

wondered why the Brits got near the Brutes. In our

kind of war, Gen Bomblast can floor Gen Powell. 19

The role of forests in the RUF military campaign proved both

tactically advantageous and ideologically grounded. Indeed, forest

resources and deforestation were used as propaganda by the RUF

who claimed that ‘Sierra Leone has been robbed of its mineral and

forest resources...No more shall the rural countryside be reduced to

hewers of wood and drawers of water for urban Freetown.’ 20

Richards explains that the RUF used such propaganda to rally

against ‘the raping of the countryside,’ an attack on the supposed

influence of western markets and the social elite within Sierra

Leone itself, namely Freetown. 21 However, Abdullah’s assertions

contend with those of Richards stating that the RUF were nothing

but armed thugs with no real ideology of their own, rallying people

through ‘the indiscriminate use of drugs, forced induction, and


P. Ashby, Unscathed: Escape from Sierra Leone (London, 2002), p. 169.


K. Lington, Concord Times, 30 August 2000, pp. 1-2.




RUF/SL, Footpaths to democracy, p. 5.



89 Forests and conflict

violence – to further their ultimate goal of capturing power.’ 22

Though it is unclear whether motives of resource stripping actually

contributed to the outbreak of war, it none the less shows how

politically orientated attitudes to the forest could be, and how

conceptions of the forest might rally popular support.

The parallel between the RUF and civilian context of forest usage is

striking, if not merely on ideological grounds. Both saw the forest

as a means of survival, and as a means of averting direct military

action. Both recognised the importance of the sanctity of

traditional forest practice, the Porro bush, for asylum, ideology and

insurrection. Essentially, the role of forestry in Sierra Leone went

beyond trees and timber, affecting all levels of Sierra Leonean

society, transcending the division between civilian and combatant.

Forests became a symbol of both ambush and exodus.


I. Abdullah, ‘Bush path to destruction: the origin and character of the

Revolutionary United Front/Sierra Leone’, Journal of Modern African Studies, 36

(1998), p. 223.

90 Andrew Mackenzie


Abdullah, I., ‘Bush path to destruction: the origin and character of

the Revolutionary United Front/Sierra Leone’,

Journal of Modern African Studies, 36 (1998), pp. 203-235.

Ashby, P., Unscathed: Escape from Sierra Leone (London, 2002).

Black, R., and Sessay, M., ‘Refugees and Environmental Change in

West Africa: The Role of Institutions’,

Journal of International Development, 10 (1998), pp. 699-713.

Blyden, E. W., ‘Report on the expedition to Falaba’, Journal of the

Royal Geographical Society, 17 (1872).

Bøås, M., ‘Liberia and Sierra Leone – dead ringers? The Logic of

Neopatrimonial Rule’, Third World Quarterly, 22 (2001), pp. 697-723.

Cole, N. H. A., The Vegetation of Sierra Leone (Njala, 1968).

Fairhead, J., and Leach, M., Reframing Deforestation: Global analyses and

local realities - studies in West Africa (London, 1998).

Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO),

‘Forests and War, Forests and Peace’, at

ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/007/y5574e/y5574e12.pdf (Viewed

20 th August 2009).

Laing, A. G., Travels in the Timannee, Kooranko, and Soolima Countries in

Western Africa (London, 1825).

Lane-Poole, C. E., Report of the Forests of Sierra Leone (Freetown,


Lington, K., Concord Times, 30 August 2000, pp. 1-2.

Little, K., The Mende of Sierra Leone: A West African People in Transition

(London, 1967).

91 Forests and conflict

McGregor, J., ‘Violence and social change in a broader economy:

war in the Maputo hinterland, 1984-1992’, Journal of Southern African

Studies, 24 (1998), pp. 37-60.

McNeill, J. R., ‘Forests and Warfare in World History’, at

www.foresthistory.org/Events/McNeill%20Lecture.pdf (Viewed

20 th August 2009).

Migeod, F. W. H., A View of Sierra Leone (London, 1926).

Military Quotes, ‘Sir Basil Henry Liddel-Hart Quotes/Quotations’,

at http://www.military-quotes.com/Liddelhart.htm (Viewed 20 th

August 2009).

Richards, P., Fighting for the Rain Forest: War, Youth & Resources in

Sierra Leone (Cambridge, 1998).

RUF/SL, Footpaths to democracy: toward a new Sierra Leone (The

Revolutionary United Front of Sierra Leone:

no stated place of publication, 1995).

Thornton, J., Warfare in Atlantic Africa, 1500-1800 (London, 2000).

Van Damme, W., De Brouwere, V., Boelaert, M., et al., ‘Effects of a

refugee-assistance programme on host population in Guinea as

measured by obstetric interventions’, The Lancet, 351 (1998), pp.




Discussion Articles


Myth and History in the Aztec Historiography: The Return of


By Benjamin Priest

Debate on why Cortés was permitted to enter Tenochtitlan has

often been centred upon an Aztec myth. According to this myth

Quetzalcoatl, a former Aztec King, was to return in 1519, the year

in which the Spanish arrived. Many historians have argued that

Moctezuma, the leader of the Mexica, permitted Cortés to enter

due to the belief that the invaders were Quetzalcoatl and his army.

However, in recent years this line of argument has been criticised

by scholars such as Gillespie and Smith. They argue that military

weakness was a more important cause of Aztec defeat, as well as

questioning the legitimacy of the myth. Therefore this essay will

assess the validity of the myth before analysing the arguments of

the revisionist historians.

According to the myth the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl was once the

ruler of the Toltec people – of whom the Aztecs believed

themselves to be descendants – until he had a disagreement with

another god, who then forced him to flee with a contingent of

followers. It was believed that Quetzalcoatl travelled towards the

Yucatan peninsula by sea and that he would return from that

direction to take his rightful place as ruler. The origins of the myth

are unknown, believed to be around the sixteenth century, but it

was argued that the Aztecs had predicted when Quetzalcoatl would

return (1519) and that he would return from the east. 1 Thus, when

Cortés arrived from this direction it is argued then that the Aztecs

mistook him for Quetzalcoatl and therefore allowed him to

approach and enter Tenochtitlan.

During the 1960s, the belief that the Mexica mistook Cortés for a

god dominated the historiography and was accepted as a probable

cause of Spanish victory. For example, in Sara E. Cohen’s article

‘How the Aztecs Appraised Montezuma’, she accepts the myth as a

major factor:


Richard F. Townsend, The Aztecs (London, 2000), p. 18.

95 Return of Quetzalcoatl

It is therefore understandable that Montezuma, who

had been brought up within this mythological and

religious tradition, was entirely convinced that

Cortez and his men were none other than the god

Quetzalcoatl and his divine retinue making their

return, as had been related and expected for so

long. 2

She argues that Cortés used this idea to his own advantage and

used the legend of Quetzalcoatl to scare Moctezuma and the

Aztecs into submission by emphasising “how strong and powerful

these newly arrived Gods were”. 3 She argues that it was

Moctezuma and his belief that Cortés was Quetzalcoatl that

ultimately caused the destruction of Tenochtitlan and his own

death, as he was a deeply spiritual figure. 4

R.C. Padden reinforces this view that Moctezuma believed that

Cortés was Quetzalcoatl in his work The Hummingbird and the Hawk.

He argues that Moctezuma’s belief in Quetzalcoatl’s return caused

the Aztecs to put up very little resistance. Furthermore, the Aztecs’

belief that history was circular certainly tended itself towards a

myth of a returning King. 5

This Belief that Cortés was Quetzalcoatl was challenged during the

1980’s. Revisionist arguments have been so successful that it is now

widely accepted that Moctezuma did not believe that Cortés was

Quetzalcoatl with the debate now centring on how and why this

myth came to be so well believed. The most influential work in this

field is Camilla Townsend’s article Burying the White Gods: New

Perspectives on the Conquest of Mexico. In this article, Townsend argues

that it was the Spaniards who created this myth and that the Mexica

did not believe Cortés to be a god. She also argues that the Spanish,

when writing their sources and codices, either misunderstood what

they were being told by the natives or the natives had lied to boost

the ego of the conquerors: ‘It is, however, apparently true that the

nahuas frequently referred to the Spanish as teotl or teutl (plural


Sara E. Cohen, ‘How the Aztecs Appraised Montezuma’, The History Teacher, 5/3

(March 1972), p. 26.


Ibid., p. 27.


Ibid., p. 29.


R.C. Padden, The Hummingbird And The Hawk: Conquest and sovereignty in the Valley of

Mexico (London, 1970), pp 118-127; Camilla Townsend, ‘Burying the White Gods:

New Perspectives on the Conquest of Mexico’, The American Historical Review, 108/3

(June 2003), pp. 659-687.

96 Benjamin Priest

teteo’ or teteu’), which the Spanish rendered in their own texts as

teul (plural teules); they translated this word as ‘god’’. 6 This

suggests that origins of the legend lie in a mistake made during


Susan Gillespie is also influential with her work The Aztec Kings, in

which she agrees with Townsend, suggesting that the Quetzalcoatl

myth was created after the conquest. According to Gillespie it was

the Aztec historians attempting to understand how their Empire

had collapsed so rapidly who created the myth: ‘the whole story of

Cortés as Quetzalcoatl was created after the conquest by native

historians, in an attempt to make sense of the Spaniard’s arrival and

victory, interpreting it as the outcome of a pattern of events

established long ago, in the remote Toltec past’. 7 This fits in with

Richard Townsend’s argument that that the Aztec saw life as a

circle of events that would eventually repeat themselves and that

their historians used this to explain what had happened: ‘Given that

the Aztecs viewed history as a cycle of repeated events, it is highly

plausible that their historians should have sought to explain the

Aztec defeat as an inevitable event, pre-ordained by the cosmic

pattern of history’. 8 However, Townsend criticises Moctezuma’s

handling of events, even if he did not believe that Cortés was a


It can therefore no longer be said with any assurance

that Motechuzoma “trembled on his throne in the

mountains” at the thought of meeting Cortés as a

supernatural being. Nevertheless there can be no

doubt that the Spanish landing sounded a note of

warning in the Aztec capital. 9

Michael E. Smith’s book The Aztecs is another monograph that

argues in favour of the belief that Moctezuma did not believe that

Cortés was Quetzalcoatl. He argues that it was the Mexica nobility

who created the myth after the conquest to explain Moctezuma’s

indecision. By creating the myth and claiming that Moctezuma had

believed it at the time, the nobility could attempt to understand

their former leaders’ mistake: ‘[Moctezuma]’s actions puzzled and

troubled the Nahua nobility that, after the conquest, they contrived


Camilla Townsend, ‘Burying the White Gods’, p. 670.


Richard F. Townsend, The Aztecs, p. 18.





97 Return of Quetzalcoatl

a story to account for them’. 10 The revisionist historians therefore

do not believe the Quetzalcoatl myth was the main cause of the

Aztec defeat. There are, however, conflicting theories as to where

and how the myth was started.

The lack of references to the myth in sources written at the time of

the conquest has become another cause of scepticism amongst

historians. One such source is Cortés’ own letters that he wrote to

the King of Spain explaining his actions in Mexico. In the second

letter Cortés only mentions they myth in a record of Moctezuma’s

speech. Cortés is hardly an impartial bystander and, thus, is likely to

have embellished his tale for the benefit of the King. Also, later in

the speech, Montezuma makes a reference to Cortés’ King or

leader: ‘So because of the place from which you claim to come,

namely, from where the sun rises, and all the things you tell us of

the great lord or king who sent you here’. 11 This indicates that

Montezuma did not believe that Cortés was Quetzalcoatl because

he knew that Cortés himself was subject to a King and therefore he

could not be the returning god who was seeking to reclaim his

throne. Even Camilla Townsend argued that Cortés never claimed

that he was a god. 12 Book Twelve of the Florentine Codex also

explains the actions of Moctezuma from when he first hears of the

Spanish until the conquest. In the book it clearly argues in favour

of Moctezuma fearing the Spanish and believing that they were

gods. However, Townsend points out that when the Florentine

codex was written Moctezuma and all his closest aides were dead.

Thus, the natives used for the work were old warriors who didn’t

have intimate knowledge of Moctezuma’s inner court. 13

There are some historians who believe that Moctezuma may have

at first believed Cortés to be a god but argue that he altered this

belief soon after the Spanish forces began to make their way to

Tenochtitlan. One such historian is Francis F Berdan who argued:

‘The Belief that Cortés may have been the god Quetzalcoatl may

have caused some initial hesitation on the part of the indigenous

rulers, but they must not have had held this view for long’’. 14 There

are also some historians who argue there were no mentions of any


Michael E. Smith, The Aztecs (Oxford, 2003), p. 278.


Hernán Cortés, ‘Second Letter’ in Pagden, A. and Elliott, J.H. (eds.), Letters from

Mexico (London, 2001), p. 86.


Camilla Townsend, Burying the White Gods, p. 664.


Ibid., p. 667.


Francis F. Berdan, The Aztecs of Central Mexico: An Imperial Society (London, 2005),

p. 180.

98 Benjamin Priest

prophecy throughout native accounts of the myth. Nigel Davies,

for example, states that: ‘in “native” versions of the myth there is

no mention of any prophesy about the return of Quetzalcoatl in the

year I reed, or any other year’. 15 This shows that even in the

natives’ accounts no such claims of a myth exist, and reinforces the

argument that the Quetzalcoatl myth was a product of the postconquest


Apart from the myth, there are many reasons as to why the Mexica

were conquered by the Spanish. The most plausible and widely

accepted explanation is the idea that the Spanish weaponry and

technology were too advanced for the Aztecs, who had not only

never seen or used a horse but also came up against a well

organised Spanish force equipped with guns, cannons and stronger

armour. Camilla Townsend argues that ‘the Mexicans themselves

immediately became aware of the technology gap and responded to

it with intelligence and savvy rather than wide-eyed talk of gods’.

She argues that the defeat of the Aztecs by a group of colonists – if

not necessarily Cortés himself – was inevitable. 16 Having looked at

all the arguments and evidence that is available, it is clear that the

conquest of Mexico cannot just be blamed on a myth that many

agree was created after the fall of Tenochtitlan. The fact that many

believe that it was created not by the Spanish – as many may have

suspected – but by the natives themselves as a way of explaining

why Tenochtitlan was able to fall to such a small group of

Spaniards, would suggest that the Quetzalcoatl myth is an

unreliable paradigm through which to view the events of 1519.

With this and the clear evidence that there were other, military

factors that led to the collapse of the Aztec Empire in mind, it

would appear that the Aztecs most likely knew that the Spaniards

were not gods and were under no illusions as to who they actually

may have been. In this respect, the historiography of the fall of the

Aztec Empire has taken great strides forward.


Richard F. Townsend, The Aztecs, p. 18.


Camilla Townsend, Burying the White Gods, p. 660, p. 673.

99 Return of Quetzalcoatl


Berdan, F.F. The Aztecs of Central Mexico: An Imperial Society

(London, 2005).

Cohen, S.E., ‘How the Aztecs Appraised Montezuma’, The History

Teacher, Vol. 5, No. 3 (March, 1972), pp. 21-30.

Cortés, H., Letters from Mexico (London, 2001).

Padden, R.C., The Hummingbird And The Hawk: Conquest and

sovereignty in the Valley of Mexico (London, 1970).

Smith, M.E. The Aztecs (Oxford, 2003).

Townsend, C., ‘Burying the White Gods: New Perspectives on the

Conquest of Mexico’, The American Historical Review, Vol. 108, No. 3

(June, 2003), pp. 659-687.

Townsend, R.F., The Aztecs (London, 2000).


‘A nation gets the heroes and rôle models it deserves’

by Rachael Merrison

Before embarking on a discussion of this statement it is essential to

define firstly what is meant by the term nation. Considering the

focus on a nation's heroes and rôle models, this essay will draw on

Anthony Smith's definition, which, among other things, highlights a

nation as ‘a named human population sharing an historic territory,

common myths and historical memories, [and] a mass, public

culture’. 1 The discussion will be limited to British heroes and rôle

models, although it is important to be aware that Britain as a nation

is often held to be synonymous with England. Krishan Kumar

highlights that not only is there confusion amongst foreigners

concerning the difference between England and Britain: England

‘has served, in a way never attained by 'Britain' or any of the British

derivatives, to focus [the] ideas and ideals’ of the English people,

particularly via literary works. 2 Another difficult challenge is

determining what heroes and rôle models are, and importantly, how to

distinguish between them. And, if there is no exact definition, then

is it possible to state that a nation deserves them? Does deserve

indicate that heroes and rôle models are meant to reflect the

nation's beliefs and aspirations, and are these characters required to

be realistic representations? In addition, ‘a nation gets’ may imply

that heroes and rôle models are there to be 'given', which does not

highlight the complexity and involvement of said nations in the

creation of these figures.

Firstly, what is a suitable definition for heroes and rôle models?

Simply looking at the types of people who tend to achieve a status

others aspire to, and attempting to find some common feature is

not as easy as it may at first seem. For instance, popular leaders,

military and religious figures, philanthropists, sports and musical

men and women, celebrities, explorers, fictional characters, authors,

those belonging to groups who are seen to suffer much hardship,

and even those performing good deeds within their local

community (away from the public gaze), can – and have – all been

termed ‘heroic’ and ‘rôle models’. If so many individuals can be


Anthony D. Smith, National Identity (Reno, 1991), p. 14.


Krishan Kumar, The Making of English National Identity (Cambridge, 2003), p. 7.

101 Heroes and Rôle Models

considered as such, perhaps it is more unusual not to be seen as

either! It is possible, however, to see differences between the

individuals seen to be heroes, and rôle models in different

generations or periods of history. For instance, those heroes of the

'Great British Empire' were often public school educated,

individualist, honourable men of character, and this strength of

character was above all seen to be indicative of the British at their

best. 3 This notion seems to have been widely accepted, or at the

very least amongst those with authority, and this is particularly

apparent when looking at a prominent figure such as Sir Ralph

Furse. During the first half of the twentieth century his role was to

select colonial administrators who were chosen ‘specifically on the

basis of character and [recruited] mainly from public schools’. 4 The

appropriate behaviour of heroes and rôle models was clearly laid

down; such figures included Sir John Nicholson, James Brooke,

and the later representations of imperial characters common

particularly in 1930s film. 5

Compare this idea of heroism with what Jeffrey Richards suggests

the modern hero has become: ‘culturally and socially there has

come to be greater interest in, and sympathy with, criminals than

victims; and the mad have come to be regarded as more sane than

the sane’. 6 To take the recent film Inception as a case in point, the

'heroes' of the narrative are effectively thieves, stealing information

from the minds – and also manipulating the thoughts – of

successful or important individuals. 7 Surely these figures have more

in common with villains than heroes; they typically emphasise

values focusing on personal and financial gain and couldn't be

further than representing 'King and country'. What correlation

could these figures possibly have with the likes of Phileas Fogg or

Sir Percy Blakeney? Perhaps then, given this difficulty in

determining what they are, the wrong questions are being asked?

Instead of specifying exactly what heroes and rôle models do, the

emphasis should be how what they stand for is perceived by the


Orrin Klapp suggested that ‘the fame of a hero is a collective

product, being largely a number of popular imputations and


Eric J. Evans, The Forging of the Modern State: Early industrial Britain, 1783-1870

(London, 1983), p. 279.


Jeffrey Richards, Films and British National Identity: From Dickens to Dad's Army

(Manchester, 1997), p. 34.




Ibid., p. 21.


Inception. Dir. Christopher Nolan. Prod. Christopher Nolan, Emma Thomas. Dist.

Warner Bros. Pictures, 2010.

102 Rachael Merrison

interpretations’ and this is further developed by Mary Pleiss & John

Feldhusen who highlight their symbolic representation of the

values and struggles of a community. 8 The hero or rôle model's

actions could be considered less important compared to the values

they are judged to represent. Pleiss & Feldhusen also point out a

way to distinguish heroes from rôle models, although, it is

important to note that heroes may still be rôle models and vice

versa; the distinction is only a rough guideline. They pick up on

Maxine Singer's work, stating that: ‘rôle model's proximal reality

encourages too close a scrutiny’, while heroes provide the broad

values society favours and learns from, ‘about courage, about noble

purpose, about how to reach within and beyond ourselves to find

greatness’. 9 In other words, a rôle model is more likely to be a

figure the perceiver knows or has contact with, whereas a hero is a

distant inspirational figure who is usually known through mediums

such as film, newspapers, books, and television. Arguably the

advantage of heroes is that they do not necessarily have to be tied

down to any one period. They are distant and the values they

represent are to a great extent determined by the perceivers; as the

values of a nation change, so too can the character of a nation's

heroes alter to mirror these changes.

Robin Hood is an excellent example of a hero who has changed as

the nation has changed, especially when considering how he is

typically portrayed in modern dramas and film. The modern

version of Robin Hood is often seen as the heroic individual,

victorious in conflict against all the odds, and seen as the problem

solver by his band of merry men. 10 However, this individual is

radically different to the Robin of old: ‘indeed he is usually beaten

in combat... he is part of a band formed for the mutual selfprotection

but also, on grounds of his mythic significance, its

leader’. 11 The rhymes and songs written in this early period appear

to have a perhaps more realistic idea of this hero's ability and the


Orrin Klapp, ‘The Creation of Popular Heroes’, The American Journal of Sociology,

54/2 (September 1948), p. 135; Mary Pleiss & John Feldhusen, ‘Mentors, Role

Models and Heroes in the lives of Gifted Children’, Educational Psychologist, 30/3

(1995), pp. 151-169.


Maxine Singer, ‘Heroines and Role Models’, Science, 253/5017 (July 1991), p. 249;

Pleiss & Feldhausen, ‘Mentors, Role Models and Heroes’, p. 164.


Stephanie Barczewski, ‘Review: Images of Robin Hood: Medieval to Modern’,

Journal of British Studies, 48/4 (October 2009), pp. 1011-2; Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

Dir. Kevin Reynolds. Prod. Pen Densham, Richard Barton Lewis, John Watson.

Dist. Warner Bros. Pictures, 1991; Robin Hood. Prod. Dominic Minghella, Foz Allan.

BBC. Tiger Aspect Productions, 2006-2009.


Stephen Knight, ‘Outlaw myths; or, was Robin Hood alone in the woods?’ in N.

Thomas & F. Le Saux (eds.), Myth and its legacy in European literature (Durham, 1996),

pp. 39-40.

103 Heroes and Rôle Models

role of his band, which suggests that our modern version may have

more akin with the great imperial heroes of the British Empire. The

actions of the individual in combating a hostile force take on a

greater importance. It is also important to highlight that Robin

Hood ‘was never [previously] nationally associated’; rather his

conflicts took place between regions, and this is not even taking

into consideration that the term nation has modern implications not

applicable to the medieval period. 12 In addition, Stephen Knight

highlights how the notion of the merry men's lifestyle being one of

getting back to nature and simple living is a Victorian development

in response to their increasingly industrialised urban environment.

A final point, which Green picks up on, is how Robin's behaviour

seems to have changed, emphasising the radically different

standards and rules between then and now. In the Gest of Robyn

Hode (see appendix) we see Robin decapitate the sheriff lying

helpless on the ground after shooting him. This sort of behaviour

stands in a stark contrast to the chivalry and honour emphasised in

more modern heroes, and couldn't be further than the brave and

resourceful Robin Hood who appears in films such as The Prince of

Thieves. 13

From this the conclusion can be reached that no hero can ever be

fully formed when an individual is marked as such, and a nation

certainly never simply gets a hero or rôle model. Instead the nation

is always involved, whether actively or passively, in the gradual

development of interpreting and imposing the dominant values of

the time upon the figure. Neither nations nor their heroes and rôle

models remain static. As this is the case, and it is accepted that

heroes and rôle models like Robin Hood have altered from the

earlier versions that were possibly closer to reality, does this result

in heroic individuals having any real significance? Paul Sant Cassia

suggests that they do, and in particular highlights that although

‘bandits are often romanticised afterwards through nationalistic

rhetoric and texts’ this has the effect of ‘giving them a permanence

and potency which transcends their localized domain and transitory

nature’. 14 In other words, the heroic figure(s) become more than

the sum of their parts and incorporate the values and aspirations of

the population perceiving them.

The issue with heroes and rôle models not being realistic

representations of the nation is that it becomes questionable as to


Ibid., p. 39.


Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.


Paul Sant Cassia, ‘Banditry, Myth, and Terror in Cyprus and Other Mediterranean

Societies’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 35/4 (October 1993), p. 774.

104 Rachael Merrison

whether the nation deserves these figures. As Richards points out, a

great hero like Clive of India can, superficially at least, be seen as

representing the best of the nation. 15 However, upon closer

inspection we see him accept bribes, forge a significant treaty, and

his suicide has been conveniently brushed over. Is this distortion of

truth justified? It is possible to argue in favour of such heroes by

suggesting that ‘the heroes chosen by society, or by groups within a

society, are reflective of the group's needs as well of its values’. 16

The nation needs individuals to act as examples or aspirational

standards, encouraging the adoption of particular values amongst

future generations so that the values they stand for become – to all

intents and purposes – reality. Therefore, a hero (as already

mentioned rôle models may have more contact with their observers

resulting in faults becoming increasingly obvious) does not need to

be a three-dimensional character. In promoting these figures film

and literature is particularly influential. For example, in the

eighteenth century there was a move against the Enlightenment in

order to propagate a national character, and this involved a ‘search

for national literary heroes... representatives of the national spirit

and embodiments of the English genius’. 17

Popular entertainment also plays a significant role in times of crisis,

when a nation becomes disillusioned with the old heroes and rôle

models. A good example of this is the reaction to the First World

War. The 1928 theatre drama, Journey's End: ‘charts the cowardice

and moral disintegration which characterized the last days of many

more ordinary members of the officer-class in the muddy squalor

of the trenches’. 18 These characters, raised through the public

school system, are seen to be put to the test, and defeated, by a war

of annihilation. 19 The play presents clearly the beginnings of a

nation's change in perception concerning its heroes and rôle

models; their flaws become increasingly apparent and new heroes

begin to come to the fore to reflect the nation's aims and

impressions of itself. Perhaps this does imply that a nation gets the

heroes and rôle models it deserves; it would certainty appear that

those figures that are retained by nations for significant periods of

time, Robin Hood being an excellent example, are those which are

most suited to continual development and changing values.


Richards, Films and British National Identity.


Pleiss & Feldhausen, ‘Mentors, Role Models and Heroes’, p. 164.


Richards, Films and British National Identity, pp. 9-10.


H. David, Heroes, Mavericks and Bounders: The English Gentleman from Lord Curzon to

James Bond (London, 1991), p. 79.


Robert Cedric Sherriff, Journey’s End (Harlow, 1993).

105 Heroes and Rôle Models

To conclude, as a nation responds to events and pressures, the

values it needs and aspires to will come to the fore resulting in new

and developed heroes and rôle models. As Klapp asserts: ‘An age

of mass hero worship is an age of instability. The contemporary

heroes who are emerging... are a focus of social reorientation in a

time of rapid change’. 20 To an extent it can be said that these a

nation deserves these heroes, as these have arisen through popular

consensus as necessary and thereby best present the attitudes of the

nation. However, the idea that a nation gets its heroes and rôle

models implies that they exist as fully formed entities to be given,

and ignores the role of a nation in interpreting and manipulating

the character of such figures, particularly via media such as film and

television. This is very apparent when looking at a hero like Robin

Hood, who, after centuries of popularity in a constantly developing

nation, now stands for values radically different from those

espoused by older audiences.


Klapp, ‘The Creation of Popular Heroes’, p. 135.

106 Rachael Merrison


Robyn bent a full good bowe,

An arrowe he drove at wyll;

He hit so the proude sherife,

Upon the grounde he lay full still.

And or he myght up aryse,

On his fete to stonde,

He smote of the sherifs hede,

With his bright bronde. (sword)

Gest of Robyn Hode, stanzas 347 – 348, quoted in R.F. Green,

‘Violence in the early Robin Hood poems’ in M.D. Meyerson, D.

Thiery & O. Falk (eds.) 'A great effusion of blood'?: interpreting medieval

violence (Toronto, 2004), p. 268.

107 Heroes and Rôle Models


Barczewski, S., ‘Review: Images of Robin Hood: Medieval to

Modern’, Journal of British Studies, 48/4 (October 2009), pp. 1011-2.

Cassia, P.S., ‘Banditry, Myth, and Terror in Cyprus and Other

Mediterranean Societies’, Comparative Studies in Society and History,

35/4 (October 1993), pp. 773-795.

David, H., Heroes, Mavericks and Bounders: The English Gentleman from

Lord Curzon to James Bond (London, 1991).

Evans, E.J., The Forging of the Modern State: Early industrial Britain,

1783-1870 (London, 1983).

Green, R.F., ‘Violence in the early Robin Hood poems’ in M.D.

Meyerson, D. Thiery & O. Falk (eds.), 'A great effusion of blood'?:

interpreting medieval violence (Toronto, 2004), pp. 268-286.

Inception. Dir. Nolan, C. Prod. Nolan, C., Thomas, E. Dist. Warner

Bros. Pictures, 2010.

Klapp, O., ‘The Creation of Popular Heroes’, The American Journal of

Sociology, 54/2 (September 1948), pp. 135-141.

Knight, S., ‘Outlaw myths; or, was Robin Hood alone in the

woods?’ in N. Thomas & F. Le Saux (eds.), Myth and its legacy in

European literature (Durham, 1996), pp. 37-48.

Kumar, K., The Making of English National Identity (Cambridge,


Pleiss, M.K. & Feldhusen, J.F., ‘Mentors, Role Models and Heroes

in the lives of Gifted Children’, Educational Psychologist, 30/3 (1995),

pp. 151-169.

Richards, J., Films and British National Identity: From Dickens to Dad's

Army (Manchester, 1997).

Robin Hood. Prod. Minghella, D., Allan, F. BBC. Tiger Aspect

Productions, 2006-2009.

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Dir. Reynolds, K. Prod. Densham, P.,

Lewis, R.B., Watson, J. Dist. Warner Bros. Pictures, 1991.

108 Rachael Merrison

Sherriff, R.C., Journey’s End (Harlow, 1993).

Singer, M., ‘Heroines and Role Models’, Science, 253/5017 (July

1991), p. 249.

Smith, A.D., National Identity (Reno, 1991).


Liberating class identity and New Class Theory

By Lucy James

Since Karl Marx first articulated his theory of historical materialism,

societies have been discussed in terms of class structures. However,

in the past half Century, historians have questioned the relevance of

class interpretations to socio-historical analysis. Such challenges

assume either that social classes no longer exist, or no longer

influence behaviour. Conversely, this paper will argue that class

remains central to understanding social dynamics. To appreciate

this, we must address the underlying motivation for repositioning

class discourse and better define the term itself. In so doing, the

importance of class as a social force and a marker of identity can be

restated. The focus will be on Britain, where the case for class

analysis is most compelling. Considering identity creates distance

from class theories tied too closely to either historical materialism,

or ill-formed notions of modernity. Instead, in this brief space, a

repositioning of class analysis will be attempted, that is both

historically relevant and capable of enduring the current postmodern


Before this can be achieved, the underlying motivation for the

attempt must be addressed. In Britain, class is often a divisive social

element — at best empty semantics and at worst a barrier to the

paradisal meritocracy. However, before we cast class analysis onto

the pyre, there are two important issues to consider. Firstly, class

represents a useful category of long-term analysis. Hobsbawm

stated: writing history is about ‘discovering the patterns and

mechanism of change’. 1 Class is one such mechanism and can be

used to examine — if crudely — most historical societies. This is

important when we consider the magnitude of the historian’s task

and the wealth of information to decipher. Without general

frameworks from which to construct more sophisticated

arguments, academia would grind to a halt. Class interpretations are

riddled with generalisations and oversights. However — like the

Marxist theory from which they spring — they offer a ‘coherent,

well-articulated pattern’, which may be the best option yet available.


Eric Hobsbawm, On History (London, 1997), p. 8

110 Lucy James

Secondly, we must acknowledge the fissiparous nature of the

society we are examining. As Marshall states: ‘class represents a

specific way of investigating interconnections between historically

formed macro-social structures… and the everyday experience of

individuals within their particular social milieux’. 2 Historians are not

authors of utopian fiction but — as objectively as is possible within

their temporal confines — reconstructors of past realities. Class

may be a social embarrassment or taboo, but the concept cannot be

purged from reality by sheer willpower. Moreover, class remains an

English preoccupation. 3 In 1845, Benjamin Disraeli declared Britain

to be two nations — one rich, one poor. 4 In 1990, John Major

announced that Britain would soon be ‘classless’. 5 Critics of class

theory attempt to persuade us that the numerous cultural

revolutions of those 145 years purged class from public

consciousness. However, social inequality and barriers to social

mobility remain part of our social reality. Yet we cannot continue

employing class discourse because it is convenient or resonant. Its

endurance relies on our ability to create a historically accurate and

socially relevant framework within which different theories of class

can rationally co-exist.

The greatest obstacle to this task is lack of a single, coherent

definition of class itself. Stedman-Jones identifies four approaches

to class: a description of social circumstances; a term for discourse

about production; a ‘cluster of culturally significant practices’ and a

term of political and ideological self-definition. 6 While strands of

similarity entwine them, these definitions essentially prioritise

competing aspects of class. The first lacks analytical substance; the

second is irrelevant to our current predicament. The third is

interesting – highlighting unity through common behaviour and

practices. However, identifying individuals based on making

decisions fails to grapple with why they make them. The general

ambiguity over the concept in social consciousness is therefore

unsurprising. 7 If any semblance of class analysis is to survive then


Gordon Marshall, Repositioning Class: social inequality in industrial societies (London,

1997), p. 50.


David Cannadine, Class in Britain (London, 2000), p. 28.


Linda Colley, ‘Whose Nation? Class and National Consciousness in Britain 1750-

1830’, Past and Present, 113 (1986), p. 99.


Klaus Eder, The New Politics of Class, (London, 1993), p. 27.


Gareth Stedman-Jones, Languages of Class: Studies in English Working Class History

(Cambridge, 1983), p. 26.


Erik Wright (ed.), Approaches to Class Analysis (Cambridge, 2005), p. 3.

111 Class Identity

we must be confident in our definition, and the fourth option has

the greatest potential for endurance.

This is because the precepts of class membership have changed.

Eley and Nield correctly label Marx’s link between economic

conditions and political behaviour ‘reductionist’, not because

economic conditions no longer impact political allegiance, but

because — to borrow from the Weberian concept of life-chances

— education, communication and legislative equality have

encouraged a uniformity of lifestyle that weakens class restrictions. 8

Jan Pakulski condemns attempts to relocate class analysis as

‘grandchildren of Marx… seeking conflict generating economic

cleavages’ 9 , instead of accepting social inequality, as delineated by

class, as no longer an ‘empirically useful category’. 10 Such criticisms

cannot be disregarded, because Thompson’s seminal work held its

place in the academic milieu by describing a time in history when

class was a salient force and class-consciousness directed social

behaviour. However, today we are far less contained by birth,

wealth or upbringing and so are able to construct identities that

draw on our families’ values, but also global and personal ones as

we see fit. The nexus of these choices with class analysis lies in

word ‘self-definition’. Class membership has come to be defined by

personal preference and unconscious conditioning, so it is an

identitarian approach to class analysis that is required.

Moreover, current challenges to class interpretations fail to account

for the persistence of class as a social force. ‘Old Class theory’ —

to borrow a convenient term — explains social relationships in an

industrial age, when economic upheaval informed social change.

However, with modernisation have come technological

advancement, communicative revolution and legislative change,

which have diluted the power of economic conditions to determine

social values and opportunities. Gordon Marshall, in Repositioning

Class, valiantly defends class as an analytical category, stressing its

importance in explaining relationships among social structures;

mobility; inequality and action. However, he immediately defines

these structures based on ‘employment relations’ and ‘labour

markets’. 11 Class as defined wholly in economic terms loses its


Geoff Eley and Keith Nield, ‘Why does social history ignore politics?’, Social

History, 5 (1980), 249-71, p. 261; Richard Breens, in Wright (ed.), Approaches to Class

Analysis, p. 84.


Jan Pakulski, ‘Foundations of a post-class analysis’ in Wright (ed.), Approaches to

Class Analysis, p. 152.


Ibid., p. 153.


Marshall, Repositioning Class, p. 49.

112 Lucy James

salience when applied to the last half decade, in which most

challenges have emerged. Critics of class analysis brand class as a

mere phantasm of the rhetorical sphere, yet such claims fail to deal

with the ubiquity of class discourse. As Klaus Eder explains,

modern society is fixated with social inclusion, yet ‘antagonisms

persist over who should be included.’ 12 We grumble that 97 of our

current MPs are ex-Etonians and condemn Free Schools on the

grounds they benefit middle-class families at the expense of

working-class ones. Thus, we require a ‘New Class theory’ that

deals with the tension of a society as convinced of the irrelevance

of class as it is obsessed with its existence.

Eder clarifies this apparent contradiction by examining the

changing role of class-consciousness. He suggests that in industrial

Europe, class-consciousness mediated between class structure and

collective action — thus economics directly influenced social

direction. However, today we must look to the richer, more

complex ‘texture’ of ‘culture’ as this mediator. 13 Craig Martin

coined the term ‘cultural omnivorousness’ to describe the erosion

of social boundaries through broader participation in cultural

activities, such as sport or school attendance. 14 Yet Eder’s insight

went further than this. By stressing the role of culture, he

conveniently contends with the most persistent criticism of class

interpretation — why class membership no longer determines

social action. He defines ‘culture’ as a series of ‘dynamic social

processes’ involving social ideologies; attitudes; beliefs; laws; norms

and goals. 15 As such, ‘culture’ is a cloud within which social

dissatisfaction is diffracted and absorbed, so that sometimes its

point of emergence hides or confuses the motivations of its

entrance, and sometimes it never reappears at all. This analogy

seems simplistic, but it is actually a more refined explanation than

historical materialism offers — when social revolution failed to

materialise as predicted, Marx blamed the ‘false consciousness’ of

the leadership, rather than questioning the premise of his

argument. 16 Thus, the idea of ‘class-consciousness’ has become

problematic, not because it is inherently incorrect, but because the

existence of class-consciousness presupposes a level of social


Eder, Politics of Class, p. 158.


Ibid., p.170.


Martin, Craig, ‘Class still matters: a report from three studies’, Sociology, 44 (2010),

pp. 1019-1037, p. 1223.


Nira Yuval-Davis, Gender and Nation (London, 1997), p. 41.


Karl Marx, Philosophical underpinning of class analysis, The German Ideology,

(1845), at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/german-ideology/

(viewed 15.10.11).

113 Class Identity

cohesion difficult to find in twenty-first century Britain. These

shortcomings are manna from heaven for historians professing the

fall of class theory, but need not mark the death of class analysis.

By following Eder’s line of argument, we can acknowledge the

chinks in class loyalty without diminishing the impact of economic

disparity on social structures.

However, Eder’s emphasis on ‘culture’ is problematic. Firstly, we

risk replacing one imprecise notion — that of class-consciousness

— with another and restarting the cycle. Secondly, it situates the

notion of class within the context of modernity. While this offers a

temporary reprieve for class analysis, it creates new inconsistencies.

‘Modernity’ connotes a teleological social progression in which

challenges to class analysis become part of social evolution — part

of ‘understanding the dynamics of the ‘modern world’, which is

itself the subject of intense debate. 17 Thus, employing ‘culture’ to

study class helps us understand the dissolution of classconsciousness,

but used alone it makes class relevant only to a static

temporal phase. In this context, ‘New Class theory’ still relies on a

specific set of social circumstances to derive analytical relevance. As

the acceleration of social time is likely to persist, a perpetual

restructuring of the concept of social class would be necessary and

the utility of class theory would continue to wane. To liberate class

analysis from the current post-modernist, anti-Marxist, social

equalitarian quagmire in to which it has sunk, class discourse must

be rooted in the concept of identity.

There are two interrelated forces at work when we discuss class in

terms of identity. Firstly, class as a means of self-identification, and

second, as an identity imposed on us by external social structures. It

is imperative to note that class is simply one word on a very long

list. Race, gender, religion, ethnicity, age — to name but a few —

impact the identity of individuals and social groups. Today, we can

draw a personal identity or have one prescribed to us on the

shallowest grounds. Moreover, we must accept that certain social

forces — for example Nationalism — cut definitively across class

boundaries and dilute the potency of class membership. 18 Yet

regardless of the politico-economic context or ethnic makeup of

communities historically, social divisions are a perpetual part of

human self-definition. As David Cannadine explains, throughout

history we have fashioned the same three basic models for


John Scott, ‘Social class and stratification in late modernity’, Acta Sociological, 45

(2002), p. 24.


Anthony Smith, National Identity (London, 1991), p. 5.

114 Lucy James

describing society — a hierarchical web based on prestige; a triadic

view with collective groups based on wealth and a dichotomous,

adversarial view of ‘us’ and ‘them’. 19 Such urges, however

unpalatable their extreme manifestations might be, must be

acknowledged. Recognising class as an element of identity allows

the constructive incorporation of social hierarchy into

historiography. Here, we can return to Marshall’s assessment of

class discourse in terms of social structures; mobility; inequality and


First, we must deal with class as part of self-identification and its

impact on social action and equality. Social action can be discussed

in terms of class interest when we perceive it as an extension of

self-interest — a logical assumption that improving the position of

those similar to you improves your own. However, for individuals

to align themselves, whether on a local or international scale, they

must first identify themselves as like each other. Social action relies

predominantly on enough individuals aligning themselves together

and choosing the same course of action. 20 This decision is of course

impacted by the culture they live in, the rhetoric espoused around

them and compatibility with competing loyalties — to gender, race,

religion, family, nationality or any number of other things.

However, it is also affected by a person’s desire to belong and to

surround themselves with people they understand and empathise

with — hence even when material circumstances change, personal

perception of class membership is not necessarily affected.

Similarly, social inequality, in a material sense, is still based on

economic distribution and educational disparity. However, the

perceived ‘classlessness’ of the modernised age is testament to the

disentanglement of wealth and employment from class

membership. 21 Social equality — or lack therefore — is just as

tightly bound to a perceived social order that is challenged or

confirmed by social identity. David Weakliem highlights the

unifying force of hardship, but we must also consider the unifying

effect of prosperity and the role of class solidarity as a defensive

strategy over finite resources. 22 We must accept individuals as

products of their environments; cultural norms; attitudes; national

laws and ambitions. We must also recognise that social perceptions


Cannadine, Class in Britain, p. 19.


Jon Elster, ‘Three Challenges to Class’ in J. Roemer (ed.), Analytical Marxism,

(1986), p. 53.


Pakulski, in Wright, p. 154.


David Weakliem and Anthony Heath, ‘The Secret Life of Class Voting: Britain,

France and the United States since the 1930s’ in Geoffrey Evans (ed.), The End of

Class Politics? Class voting in comparative context (Oxford, 2002), p. 100.

115 Class Identity

vary across time and decisions are made within the confines of a

particular temporal space. However, we must comprehend the

power of agency. Some historians shy away from agency, but as

Christopher Bayly argues: an essential part of being something is

thinking you are something. 23 Class awareness fluctuates not as a

result of political rhetoric, but because individuals act ‘within the

terms of class hierarchy or without regard for it’, depending on selfperception.

24 Thus, the place we ascribe ourselves within our own

social reality directly impacts the ‘transformation and reproduction’

of social inequalities. 25

Yet self-perception is but one side of the coin. Class discourse

rooted in historical materialism will always prioritise economic

conditions in social explanation. The erosion of this economic basis

is assumed inimical to class interpretations, when it can actually

liberate the concept of class from its Marxist shackles, if we

understand how class identities are imposed on us by external social

structures and shaped by issues of social mobility. As Tony Bennet

explains: ‘classes are force fields, from within which the individuals

vary greatly’, but the boundaries of those force fields impact the

perspective of those inside them. 26 These boundaries are created,

maintained and altered by culture, which exerts inclusive and

exclusive pressures on society’s members. 27 Individuals can choose

to step outside of these boundaries, but the legitimacy of their

choice depends on wider social norms. The rigidity of social

hierarchies and degree of overlap between them determine the ease

within which individuals can alter external perceptions. Similarly,

social mobility relies on the flexibility of these structures and

attainability of their entrance requirements. 28 An individual can

identify themselves with the upper class, but their choice means

little if birthright, wealth or prestige predetermine acceptance.

Conversely, an individual can think of themselves as middle class or

having no class, but this does not preclude their peers from

mentally positioning them as working class based on their

employment, values or life-style. Such judgments depend on

‘internalised structures’ encompassed in Bourdieu’s idea of ‘habitus’

— or socialisation in early life — but are also influenced by


Christopher Bayly, in F. Gluck (ed.), ‘Introduction to Roundtable Discussion on

Modernity’, American Historical Review, 116 (2011), p. 635.


Ibid., p. 669.


Andrew Sayer, The Moral Significance of class (Cambridge, 2005), p. 6.


Martin, ‘Class Still Matters’, p. 1201.


Yuval-Davis, Gender and Nation, p. 67.


Marshall, Repositioning Class, p. 75.

116 Lucy James

chimerical concepts of our society. 29 Thus, forces detached from

economic determinants directly impact life-chances. By

understanding the role of externally imposed identities, we can

account for the rise and fall of class in social discourse, without

presuming its departure from social reality. By coupling these

identitarian frameworks we can consider multiple approaches to

class analysis — whether broadly conceptual like the one attempted

here, or narrowly empirical — without sacrificing rigour.

Once class interpretation has been salvaged, it can again become a

functional method of social analysis. Historical materialism is about

exploitation and resistance — giving class a negative connotation

from which historians have tried to distance themselves. 30 Class

discourse is fundamentally concerned with hierarchy, so such

associations will likely never disappear. However, they need not be

a staple of any ‘New Class theory’. Arif Dirlik argues that the future

of global development relies on transnational co-operation of elites

— that global class interests can ‘bridge ethnic, national, religiouscivilisational

and other cultural differences’. 31 This is strengthened

by Yuval-Davis, who argues in Gender and Nation that the future of

global politics will be defined by ‘boundaries of coalition set not in

terms of ‘who’ we are, but in terms of what we want to achieve’. 32

Here, she is not concerned with social class, but her argument

offers a pertinent framework within which class can become a

source of positive social distinction. Thus, by understanding class

membership as one dimension of identity, class interpretations of

the past, the present and the future can operate constructively

without becoming reductionist or prescriptive.

The onslaught of postmodernism has left historical class

interpretations lost in an epistemological daze, from which few

elements have emerged unscathed. Consequently, it is not

surprising that many deem class analysis irrelevant to contemporary

historiography. However, class remains central to understanding

life-chances and social values — indeed, the existence of social

inequality is the foundation of our egalitarian sentiment. 33 Wright

suggests the future of class analysis depends on the questions we


Sayer, Moral Significance, p. 24.


Patrick Joyce, Visions of the people (Cambridge, 1991), p. 16.


Arif Dirlik, ‘Specters of the Third World: Global Modernity and the end of the

three worlds’, Third World Quarterly, 25 (2004), p. 146.


Yural-Davis, Gender and Nation, p. 126.


Sayer, Moral Significance, p. 171.

117 Class Identity

ask. 34 He is correct. If we continue to ask how society can be

dissected along economic fault lines; how social movements can be

measured by material inequalities; or how class-consciousness

creates homogenous political allegiances, the saliency of class

analysis will continue to weaken. If this is permitted, historians will

lose a potent category of social analysis. The efficacy of class

analysis relies on asking how class acts as a prism through which we

arrange ourselves within a structure of social inequality, and

through which others arrange us. By understanding class as an

element of social identity we can deal with the flaws in class

discourse without irreverently rejecting its insights into our sociopolitical



Wright, Class Analysis, p. 180.



Primary Sources

Marx, K., Philosophical underpinning of class analysis, The German Ideology,

(1845), at


(Viewed 15 October 2011).

Marx, K. and Engels, F., The Communist Manifesto, (1848), at


(Viewed 15 October 2011).

Secondary Sources

Journal Articles

Colley, L., ‘Whose Nation? Class and National Consciousness in

Britain 1750-

1830’, Past and Present, 113 (1986), pp. 97-117.

Dirlik, A., ‘Specters of the Third World: Global Modernity and the

end of the three worlds’, Third World Quarterly, 25 (2004), pp. 131-


Eley, G. and Nield, K., ‘Why does social history ignore politics?’,

Social History, 5 (1980), pp. 249-71.

Gluck, F. (ed.), ‘Introduction to Roundtable Discussion on

Modernity’, American Historical Review, 116 (2011), pp. 577-928.

Martin, C., ‘Class still matters: a report from three studies’, Sociology,

44 (2010), pp. 1019-1037.

McKibbin, R., ‘Why was there no Marxism in Britain?’, English

Historical Review, 99 (1984), pp. 287-331.

Scott, J., ‘Social class and stratification in late modernity’, Acta

Sociological, 45 (2002), pp. 23-35.


Cannadine, D., Class in Britain (London, 2000).

Eder, K., The New Politics of Class, (London, 1993).

Evans, G., The End of Class Politics: Class Voting in Comparative Context

(Oxford, 2003).

119 Class Identity

Hobsbawm, E., On History (London, 1997).

Joyce, P., Visions of the people (Cambridge, 1991).

Marshall, G., Repositioning Class: social inequality in industrial societies

(London, 1997).

Roemer, J., (ed.), Analytical Marxism, (1986).

Sayer, A., The Moral Significance of Class (Cambridge, 2005).

Smith, A., National Identity (London, 1991).

Stedman-Jones, G., Languages of Class: Studies in English Working Class

History, 1832-1932 (Cambridge, 1983).

Thompson, E., The Making of the English working class, (London,


Wright, E. (ed.), Approaches to Class Analysis, (Cambridge, 2005).

Yuval-Davis, N., Gender and Nation (London, 1997).





‘Presidential address’

By Tom Trennery

My fellow historians,

As I write this, the world is witnessing a belated epochal shift

worthy of the turn of the millennium over a decade ago. The

semantics of democracy are being increasingly challenged across

the world by governments wishing to extend the long-past expiry

date on their sprawling regimes or justify glaring inequalities in their

societies with empty talk of legitimacy; economic power is moving

steadily from the North Atlantic to the South Pacific signifying an

impending cultural transformation worldwide; and, even after the

world’s sole superpower has washed its hands of two costly and

inconclusive conflicts, increasing hostility between two strategically

significant nations threatens to drag the country into yet another


On a slightly smaller scale, there are grounds to argue that this year

the Durham University History Society has upheld a model of

consistency and stability that has admirably bucked the global trend

for tumultuous upheaval. We have continued to offer our excellent

and informative series of talks as coordinated this year by our

fantastically organised Secretary Ryan Cullen. Alongside this, the

lovely summer trip to Alnwick Castle, the reassuringly traditional

Michaelmas trip to Hadrian’s Wall, and the notorious History

Society Ball at Lumley Castle went off without a hitch thanks to our

wonderful Social Secretaries Loren Meek and Jade Bestley and

tremendous Vice President Caitlin Johnson. Publicity for these

talks was handled expertly by Catherine Hodgson, and

underpinning all of our activities was the financial stability of the

society, secured against all odds by our remarkable Treasurer

Madeleine Leaf. The society has not stagnated, however - of course

you’ll be reading this in our journal, somewhat elusive in previous

years but now, for the first time ever, present in all its glory in print

form, thanks to our outstanding Journal Editor Joel Butler.

As an academic society with a concrete raison d’être, DUHS does not

need to come up with new and tenuous attempts at student

participation in order to stay relevant. Instead, I would argue that

our society thrives by making sure that it does a fantastic job in

those spaces that it exists to fill: the showcasing of historical

excellence through its year-round series of talks and making sure

that historians at Durham are provided with opportunities to come

together as a peer group.


It has been a pleasure to serve as President of the society this year.

I have to give my utmost thanks to my excellent Executive, and to

the faculty and students who help to provide the society with the

resources it needs to carry on in its important role. In a culture

where the keywords are innovation and change, there is still a lot to

be said for stability and consistency.

Tom Trennery

DUHS President 2011/12


Out of the bubble, into the past: Hadrian’s Wall and


By Caitlin Johnson

On a grey October morning, around forty DUHS members

ventured with anticipation into the Northumberland countryside.

Joined by Classics and Archaeology students, we shook off the

Friday night hangovers and braved the wind and rain for our

annual Hadrian’s Wall trip. Despite the inclement weather, we were

full of enthusiasm and ready for a day out.

Vindolanda – Treasure of the North-East

We spent the morning exploring one of the North-East’s most

prized tourist attractions, Roman Vindolanda. A Roman fort and

settlement, Vindolanda is the home to Britain's 'Top Treasures' -

the Vindolanda Writing Tablets - and is considered to be one of

Europe's most important Roman

archaeological sites, with live

excavations taking place annually.

We took the exciting opportunity

to visualise life in a Roman

settlement. With the power of

imagination, a casual saunter about

the ruins of the fort brought the

ancient history back to life. It was

here that we were able to find out

about what life was like at Roman

Vindolanda. Although the

conditions were extremely difficult, community life in the forts was

supported by the basic provision of hospitals, granaries and latrines.

The wealth and range of artefacts found at Vindolanda was

incredible. Take, for example, the many pairs of footwear displayed

in the museum cabinets: it really did have the bizarre effect of

bringing a Clarks shoe shop to mind. Along with endless shoes, the

cabinets were filled with coins, weapons, fractured skulls, pots, and

cutlery and more. Images of these artefacts can be found on the

Vindolanda website – have a look if you didn’t make it on the trip!

For the historian, archaeologist and the generally curious,

Vindolanda is a fascinating site. This is reflected in the many

enthusiastic comments made on the day. Exploration of the fort

had a particularly important impact on second-year Chad’s

archaeologist, Martha Bateman, who later said "I really enjoyed the

trip to Hadrian's Wall. It was nice to see part of Northumbria. The

trip also helped me to decide I wanted to do a Roman topic for my


dissertation. It was a good trip for archaeologists like myself as well

as the historians."

Walking the Talk along the Wall

A few hours later it was time to move on. Pictures taken, gift shop

raided and sandwiches eaten, we made our way back to the coach

and set off for Part Two of the trip: the Wall! Jazzing up the annual

trip, we branched out with a new route, this time strolling along

one of the best preserved areas of the Wall, at Walltown Craggs.

For future reference, it’s located nearby the highly recommended

‘Twice Brewed Inn’ pub: perhaps the next trip should include a

brief diversion… This year, the tour of the Wall was delivered

superbly by Durham’s Dr. John Clay. By this point, we were lucky

enough to enjoy a modest amount of sunshine. The rain held off as

Dr. Clay filled us in on the strategic importance of the Wall’s


Another dimension to Roman History

For the final part of the trip, we visited the

Roman Army Museum. Within walking distance

of the Wall, the museum provides further insight

on the life of a Roman soldier. This is perhaps an

understatement. The physical proximity to the

ancient history is astonishing. The museum is

home to many more Vindolanda artefacts,

including the only Roman helmet crest ever

discovered. In addition to viewing the artefacts,

we had the chance to view the Wall from an

eagle-eye perspective in a twenty-minute, awardwinning

3D film, ‘Edge of Empire’. Fear not if

you missed out on this: the museum’s website

includes a sneak-preview and ‘Making Of’ video for the film!

Well worth the visit

As the day drew to a close, we made our way back to the coach and

headed home. It had been a fun day out, with much seen and

learned. Many thanks go to Dr John Clay, the museum staff,

Durham City Coaches and DUHS members for making this

happen! Yet there is so much more to see. The museums and the

Wall really are the tip of the iceberg with local tourist attractions.

As the North-East is rich in history, who knows where future trips

may take us…perhaps a visit to Holy Island? DUHS look forward

to stepping back in time once more - watch this space!

Caitlin Johnson

DUHS Vice-President 2011/2012


Lumley Castle Ball

By Ryan Cullen

First built in the late fourteenth century, Lumley Castle once played

host to lavish medieval banquets and its usage continued into the

Tudor period and beyond. Now a hotel, the castle nonetheless

retains its late medieval associations. Each year, history students

from Durham are granted the opportunity to witness what life

might have been like in the castle during Elizabethan times. After

extensive preparations, the evening of November 23 marked the

date of this annual Lumley Castle Ball, one of the most prestigious

highlights of the Durham University History Society calendar. This

fantastic event is now firmly rooted in the memories of first,

second and third year historians alike, along with many history


In keeping with the location, the evening took the form of a fivecourse

Elizabethan banquet. Beginning with their arrival to this

picturesque site, the ball guests proceeded from the ornate grounds

into the castle itself, where they found a champagne reception, the

opportunity to be photographed in the dungeon and were greeted

by the boisterous castle chamberlain. He proceeded to announce

the names of all the guests from his scroll and they made their way

into the great hall for the banquet. Finally, it was time for the exec

committee to enter and take their place on the high table, led by the

newly-appointed castle ‘Baron’, History Society President Tom


The meal began shortly afterwards, but not before the guests were

all encouraged to follow the example of their Baron, join arms and


Heigh ho

A feasting we go

Bring on the next flowing bowl


This chant was repeated with ever more vigour in between each of

the meals, along with music and other theatrical entertainments to

recreate the atmosphere of a Tudor great hall. Each of the removes

allowed the guests to experience a taste of Elizabethan cuisine, all

without the aid of conventional cutlery. These ranged from a

simple ‘baron’s brose’ to ‘fyshe with potato’ served inside a scallop

shell, all washed down with wine and plenty of mead.


Once the meal was over, most people moved into the dungeon.

Here, they were transported from the Tudor environment back into

an atmosphere much more familiar for the ‘disco in the dungeon’.

This marked the guests’ return to the twenty-first century, and as

the night progressed and the music requests from the 1990s

became more frequent, it increasingly marked a return to the end of

the twentieth century in particular.

The night ended with the coach journey back to Durham, ending

this evening in an historic castle by returning to a city even more

steeped in history.

Ryan Cullen

DUHS Secretary 2011/2012


About the DUHS Exec, 2011/12

Tom Trennery, President

Tom graduated from Grey College in June 2012 with a degree in

English and History. Before becoming DUHS President, he also

served as publicity officer and sponsorship secretary under Matt

Wright on the 2010/11 exec. His highlight of his tenure as

president was being promoted to 'Baron Tom Tyranny' at the

Lumley Castle Ball. He plans to pursue a career of some sort.

Caitlin Johnson, Vice President

Caitlin is about to start the final year of her degree in History.

Having loved being on the exec for DUHS, she is excited about

becoming the next Secretary for the St. Chad’s College Charity

Committee. Dancing to S Club’s ‘Reach’ under the ‘fairy lights

ceiling’ of the Lumley Castle dungeon, following the extravagant

Elizabethan banquet, is one among many good memories so far.

An evening of chatting to a ‘Clifford Chance’ rep at their annual

DUHS dinner and presentation sparked her interest in a career in


Ryan Cullen, Secretary

Ryan is a second year about to go into his final year of studying

History. He has thoroughly enjoyed being on the DUHS exec this

year, particularly the opportunity to participate in a five-course

Elizabethan banquet at the annual Lumley Castle ball. He also

found arranging the programme of guest speakers very rewarding

and is looking forward to becoming DUHS President next term.

Madeleine Leaf, Treasurer

Madeleine is about to enter the final year of her History degree. She

has enjoyed her time on the DUHS exec, meeting new people and

getting the chance to enjoy the Summer trip to Alnwick, where she

dressed up as a princess and fought some knights, and the

wonderful Lumley Castle Ball, which presented an evening of good

food, fine clothes and hilarious dancing. She is looking forward to

pursuing new opportunities, enjoying her final year of degree and

no longer having to chase people for money!


Catherine Hodgson, Publicity Officer and Sponsorship


Catherine is currently in her second year at Durham studying Joint

Honours English and History. She has thoroughly enjoyed being

on the DUHS exec over the course of the last year, meeting new

people, making lots of posters to advertise events and sending

countless e-mails! She especially enjoyed the DUHS 'I love history'

T-shirt social and the Lumley Castle Ball... eating a five course meal

without cutlery was definitely an interesting experience! After

leaving University, Catherine hopes to pursue a career in marketing.

Jade Bestley, co-Social Secretary

Jade is graduating from Josephine Butler College in June 2012 with

a degree History (hopefully...). Having been motivated, with Loren

Meek, to run for the position of Social Sec with the ambition of

sitting on high table at the annual ball, she has thoroughly enjoyed

being on the exec, with Lumley Castle (and its mead) being an

obvious highlight! Another memorable moment was running

around the gardens of Alnwick Castle... She plans to pursue a

career in advertising or marketing, or failing that, cupcakes.

Loren Meek, co-Social Secretary

Loren is a History finalist at Durham (graduated from Trevelyan

College, 2012) and has thoroughly enjoyed her year being part of

the DUHS. With intentions of studying the GDL next year, Loren

hopes to pursue a career as a solicitor, specialising in family law.

Having attended the annual Lumley Castle Ball for three years,

Loren had great fun organising the ball last winter (and being

presented with the most amazing mead!!) Other highlights of the

year include organising the 'We Love History' social and

participating in broomstick lessons at Alnwick Castle during the

trip last summer.

Joel Butler, Journal Editor

Joel graduated from Hatfield College in June 2012 with a degree in

History. He ran for editor at the behest of an enthusiastic friend

who he often accompanied to talks, having not previously been

active within the society. Though he eventually failed in his attempt

at attending every pre-talk meal, his shaggy dog stories adorned a

good number of dinner conversations. He hopes that the efforts

that he and his capable volunteers have put into this year’s journal

have set the highest standard for future editions to be judged



About the authors

Joel Butler

Joel graduated from Hatfield College, Durham University in June

2012, with a degree in History. His undergraduate dissertation is

titled 'From Piety to Politics: The role of evkaf in early Ottoman

governance' and considers the position of Ottoman beneficence in

administration. His interests include early Ottoman social and

political history and the modern history of Palestine and Zionism.

He will be studying for an MLitt in Middle Eastern History and

Culture at the University of St Andrews from September 2012.

Bryan Gillingham

Bryan is set to begin his third year as an undergraduate at St. John’s

College, Durham University, with a dissertation focused on

nineteenth century Armenian nationalism. Other interests include

socialism in the USSR and slavery in the Ottoman Empire.

Lucy James

Lucy graduated from the University of St Andrews in 2011 with a

degree in History, after having completed a dissertation focused on

early interactions between the Powhatan Native Americans and the

Jamestown settlers. She went on to study an MA in Modern

History at Durham University and maintains an interest in early

colonial history.

Andrew Mackenzie

Andrew graduated from Hatfield College, University of Durham in

January 2012 with a postgraduate degree in Modern History.

Following the long and exhaustive process of writing a dissertation

focused on the Sierra Leone Forestry Department, he went on to

join the Lloyd's of London Claims Management Graduate Scheme.

He still maintains a strong interest in African history as well as the

beautiful continent itself.

Rachael Merrison

Rachael graduated with a degree in Education Studies and History

from Hatfield College, Durham University in June 2012. Research

interests include the modern history of citizenship and national

identity (particularly concerning Israeli-Arab citizenship), and postmodernist

philosophy in popular culture. She is working at Palace

Green Library (Archives and Special Collections) in Durham, with

the aim of applying for an MA in Archives and Records



Ben Priest

Ben is currently studying History at Nottingham Trent University,

and will graduate in July 2012. He is currently working on a

dissertation that explores the use of idols within Aztec society and

their persecution, after the Spanish Conquest of Mexico in 1521

and throughout the colonial period. His interests include the

ancient Mesoamerican empires, with particular interest in the Aztec

and Mayan empires, and Mexico after the conquest. He is also

interested in modern European history from 1848 to 1945.

Sabine Schneider

Sabine is set to begin her third year as an undergraduate at St.

John’s College, studying History alongside Politics and

International Relations. Her interests include comparatives between

the social, economic, and political contexts of consumption and

commercialization in Britain and Germany from 1850-1950.

Sabine’s essay ‘Towards a Modern Consumer Society: The British

Retailing Trade, 1850-1914’ was selected for publication in Symeon,

an academic journal published for the alumni and friends of the

Durham University History Department. On obtaining her BA,

Sabine hopes to begin postgraduate study in Economic and Social

History, with a view to pursuing a career in academia.

Abigail Taylor

Abigail graduated from St. Aidan’s College, Durham University in

June 2012, with a degree in Archaeology and Ancient Civilisations.

Her research interests include society and sex within Ancient Egypt

and the European High Medieval period. She will be studying for

an MA in Museum Studies from October 2012.

Hywel Thomas

Hywel graduated from Trevelyan College, Durham in the summer

of 2012 with a degree in history. After spending two and a half

years hiding from work inside a theatre, he focussed on medieval

history, with a particular interest in the history of Byzantium. He

will be putting this historical knowledge to good use by converting

to law next year.

Elizabeth Wheeler

Elizabeth graduated from St. Aidan's College, Durham University

in June 2012, with a degree in Ancient History and Archaeology.

Her research interests include ancient philosophy, classical

literature, and religious studies. She will be studying for an MA in

Classics at the University of Durham from September 2012.

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