Tuesday, 6 December 2016

The Ladies' Grand Tour (Thursday 26 January)

The concept of the 'Grand Tour' is generally associated with aristocratic young men sowing their wild oats and picking up collections of art and antiquities with which to furnish the great houses of eighteenth-century Britain. In fact, the profile of the travellers who made the tour of Italy was considerably more varied than the caricature suggests and the purchase of artworks on a large scale was relatively uncommon. Many male travellers were accompanied by wives, daughters, sisters, or (escaping scandal at home) their mistresses and some intrepid women even travelled on their own. This lecture, given by Professor Roey Sweet, Director of the Centre for Urban History at the University of Leicester, will explore the experience of the Grand Tour from the perspective of these women and offer a rather different view of a cultural institution often seen as quintessentially masculine.

Roey Sweet has worked mainly in eighteenth-century British urban and cultural history. In 2012 she published Cities and the Grand Tour: The British in Italy 1690-1820.

Mike Short    

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Under the Satirist's Eye: Christopher Anstey's Poetical Portrayal of Eighteenth-Century Bath (Thursday 24 November)

A change to our previously published programme brings eighteenth-century Bath into focus for our November lecture.

The New Bath Guide, 'a series of Poetical Epistles', was first published in 1766. Its gently satirical account of the adventures of the three naive children of a Northern squire in the fashionable city of Bath brought fame to the poet Christopher Anstey.

Anstey was born into a prosperous Cambridgeshire family in 1724. After Eton College and the University of Cambridge, where his talent as a Latin poet was recognised, he settled into the life of a country squire. In the 1760s he suffered depression and ill health and was advised to take the waters at Bath. In 1770 he settled with his family at No 4 Royal Crescent, where he lived for 35 years until his death in 1805.

Of the New Bath Guide Anstey himself wrote that it included 'particular and topical Bath references to give the flavour of the place and time' but that he intended it to be a 'critique of manners and morals' with wider application. He also published An Election Ball, in Poetical Letters from Mr Inkle at Bath to his Wife at Gloucester (1776) and various other works.

Our guide to the New Bath Guide and Christopher Anstey's amused and amusing observations of life in eighteenth-century Bath will be local historian Gavin Turner.

Civic Reception and Members' Christmas Buffet

2016 marks the ninetieth anniversary of the foundation of the Bath Branch of the Historical Association. Appropriately, our members' Christmas event, on Thursday 8 December, will begin in the Mayor's Parlour in the Guildhall, where we will be welcomed by the Mayor of Bath. Following this Civic Reception a festive buffet will take place in the Brunswick Room. The cost of reception and buffet is £20 per person. Members should seek further information from mikeshort20@btinternet.com or 01225 812945.

Mike Short

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Oliver Cromwell: Hero or Villain? (Thursday 27 October)

Oliver Cromwell's is one of the most recognised names in history. But what is known of him? Was he a regicidal dictator, as David Sharp has claimed? Was he the military dictator described by Winston Churchill? The great poet John Milton, Cromwell's contemporary who called him 'our chief of men', and the writers Thomas Carlyle and Samuel Rawson Gardiner saw him as a hero of liberty. Leon Trotsky believed he was a class revolutionary. Crude popularity polls (eg BBC in 2002) rank him one of the 'greatest Britons of all time'. My friend Georgina Murphy, who grew up in County Cork, regards him as a genocidal monster.

A man of the middle gentry living in obscurity for most of his life, then MP for Huntingdon and Cambridge, a 'liberal' Puritan, a signatory of the death warrant of King Charles I, an able military and political leader, Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England [and Wales], Scotland and Ireland ... He was all of those things. So, 'hero' or 'villain'?

Professor John Morrill was educated at Altrincham Grammar School for Boys and at Trinity College, Oxford. He has taught at the universities of Stirling and Cambridge and is a fellow of Selwyn College, Cambridge, and of the British Academy. He is now a deacon of the Roman Catholic Church and holds several senior positions in the Diocese of East Anglia. For ten years Professor Morrill was president of the Cromwell Association, 'a body that seeks to promote public knowledge about and interest in Cromwell and his age'. Who better to guide us through an assessment of one of the giants - or monsters - of history?

A change to the programme

Our lecture on 24 November will not now be as stated previously. The new title will be Under the Satirist's Eye: Christopher Anstey's Poetical Portrayal of Eighteenth-Century Bath. Our guest speaker will be Gavin Turner.

Mike Short  

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Introducing the new season, 2016-17

It is some months since my last diary entry, but this does not indicate a quiet summer away from Historical Association business. In May and June I was pleased to accompany large groups of Bath Branch members to Mells Manor, the home of the Earl and Countess of Oxford and Asquith (Lord Oxford is the great-grandson of Herbert Henry Asquith), and Rodmarton Manor, a house and contents built in the Cotswolds Arts and Crafts style. I attended the Historical Association Conference in Harrogate in May. The Bath Branch committee has met to plan the 2017-18 season of lectures. I have discussed the promotion of our branch with members of the editorial team of Bath Life, the first outcome of which will be our first magazine advertisement in the forthcoming (2-16 September) edition. And, in our ninetieth anniversary year, I have been able to accept on the Bath Branch's behalf an invitation for members to attend a Civic Reception with the Mayor of Bath before our pre-Christmas buffet in the Guildhall.

Our speakers for the new season come from Cambridge, Bristol, Leicester and London. We begin with our local friend Jennifer Scott, Director of Bath's wonderful Holburne Museum. The title of Jennifer's lecture is William Holburne and George IV: the Art of Collecting. It will set in their eighteenth- and nineteenth-century contexts the interests and enthusiasms of some of our great collectors of decorative and fine art.

This is the programme in full ...

22 September 2016
William Holburne and George IV: the Art of Collecting
Jennifer Scott (Director of the Holburne Museum, Bath)

13 October
Members' visit to Bath Record Office

27 October 2016
Oliver Cromwell: Hero or Villain?
Professor John Morrill (Selwyn College, University of Cambridge)

24 November 2016
Historical Legacy Problems and Democratic Regime Change in Europe
Professor Geoffrey Pridham (University of Bristol)

8 December 2016
Civic Reception and members' Christmas buffet at the Guildhall, Bath

16 January 2017
The Ladies' Grand Tour
Professor Roey Sweet (University of Leicester)

23 February 2017
Democracy and Despotism in British India
Dr Sean Lang (Anglia Ruskin University)

23 March 2017
Dissenting, Methodist and Evangelical Literary Culture in England, 1720-1800
Professor Isabel Rivers (Queen Mary University of London)

27 April 2017
Hogarth, Handel and the Foundling Hospital: a Story of Creative Philanthropy
Caro Howell (Director of the Foundling Museum, London)

Each lecture will take place on a Thursday evening at 7.30 at the Friends Meeting House, York Street. In the weeks preceding each one I will endeavour to introduce the lecturer and her or his subject in this diary.

Mike Short 

Sunday, 3 April 2016

James, Duke of Monmouth (Thursday 28 April) and the AGM

James, Duke of Monmouth, was Charles II's first and favourite son. He blazed like a comet through the skies of Stuart England. He was a rake, a rebel and a revolutionary. After invading England in 1685 in an attempt to replace his Catholic uncle, James II, as king and being defeated at the Battle of Sedgemoor - the last to be fought on English soil - he was executed for high treason on Tower Hill aged 36.

This season's final lecture will be given by Dr Anna Keay, Director of the Landmark Trust. You may have seen Anna last autumn in the fascinating Channel 4 series Restoring Britain's Landmarks which showed the work Anna and her colleagues undertake at the Landmark Trust. Other television series in which Anna has appeared include The Buildings that Shaped Britain (Channel 5, 2006) and The Tower (Channel 4, 2001). She also contributed to BBC television programmes on the Golden Jubilee (2002) and the State Opening of Parliament (2003-2006).

Anna's books include The Magnificent Monarch: Charles II and the Ceremonies of Power (Hambledon Continuum, 2008) and The Crown Jewels (Thames & Hudson, 2011). Anna's latest book, The Last Royal Rebel: The life and death of James, Duke of Monmouth, will be published by Bloomsbury next month.


Anna Keay's lecture will be followed by a brief Annual General Meeting, during which the HA Bath Branch programme for 2016-17 will be announced.

Mike Short

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Charlemagne and Rome: Alcuin's epitaph for Pope Hadrian I in St Peter's Old and New (Thursday 24 March)

When the Roman Pope Hadrian I died on Christmas Day 795 Charlemagne, then King of the Franks and King of Italy, commissioned a monumental stone epitaph to adorn the pope's tomb. The epitaph was composed by Alcuin of York, English scholar, ecclesiastic, poet and teacher, a respected member of the Carolingian court. The monument was made in Francia and taken to the fourth-century St Peter's Basilica in Rome.

In 1505 Pope Julius II decided that the ancient basilica should be demolished and replaced with the grandest building in Christendom. The first designs for the new St Peter's were those of Donato Bramante. Progress was very slow. Other architects became involved. In the mid sixteenth century Pope Paul III coerced Michelangelo to become the superintendent of the building programme. The St Peter's we see today is largely his design. Very little survives of the first St Peter's, but on the west wall of the Portico, to the left of the central door, a visitor may see Charlemagne's epitaph for Pope Hadrian.

Our lecture on 24 March will be given by Joanna Story, Professor of Early Medieval History at the University of Leicester. Professor Story's main research interests focus on Anglo-Saxon England, Carolingian Francia and Italy, especially Rome, in the period from roughly AD 600 to 900. Her well-illustrated lecture will tell the story of Charlemagne and Alcuin's epitaph for Pope Hadrian, why it was made and why it survived. It will reveal much about the cultural politics of Renaissance Rome in the grip of Reformation and Counter-Reformation and about the network of connections that had bound Anglo-Saxon England and Carolingian Francia to Rome and the Cult of St Peter eight centuries earlier.

Mike Short

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

The Admiral's Wife: Family, Navy and Nation in the Life of Elizabeth Wynne Fremantle (Thursday 25 February) and three new visits

Our February lecture is to be given by Elaine Chalus, Professor in British History at Bath Spa University. Professor Chalus's primary research interests are in English political and social history in the long eighteenth century. Her current research project focuses on the diaries of Elizabeth Wynne Fremantle (1778-1857) and the correspondence of the larger Fremantle family.

Elizabeth Wynne Fremantle, known to her family as Betsey, was the main author of the extensive Wynne Diaries and the wife of the Royal Navy officer Thomas Fremantle, a close associate of Nelson.

Betsey Wynne's rakish father became a friend of Casanova. He got into financial difficulties, sold his Lincolnshire estate and took his family abroad. When Betsey was 18 the Wynne family had to be rescued from Livorno during the French invasion of Italy. Soon afterwards Betsey married the family's rescuer Thomas Fremantle in the home in Naples of the British envoy Sir William Hamilton and his wife Emma.

Thomas became Vice Admiral Sir Thomas Fremantle, first Baron Fremantle, and a close personal friend of Lord Nelson. Betsey and Thomas's children included the politician the first Baron Cottesloe, a Royal Navy officer after whom the city of Fremantle in Western Australia is named, and an Anglican Dean of Ripon.

The Wynne Diaries provide a vivid account of a well-connected English family abroad, mainly in Germany and Italy, in the last years of the eighteenth century and the early years of the nineteenth. Thomas was frequently absent at sea. Betsey's letters detail the challenges of raising their growing family without him as well as her thoughts on the Nelson-Hamilton scandal and other matters.

Three visits

There will be a members' visit to Bath Record Office on Thursday 17 March (a change of date from that given earlier) in the evening. Details are available from me (mikeshort20@btinternet.com or 01225 812945).

Two afternoon visits for members have been organised to Mells Manor (home of the Asquith family) and St Andrew's Church, Mells, on Thursday 26 May and to Rodmarton Manor, near Cirencester, on Thursday 23 June. Details of the visits and application forms will be sent to members in March.

Mike Short