Wednesday, 23 June 2010

The Best of English Football: Can England make it to the World Cup final?

by Kathryn Hadley,

If the English team is eliminated after this afternoon’s match, it will be the first time that England has been eliminated in the first round of the World Cup since 1958. But Fabio Capello still believes that England can make it through to the final. He said yesterday: ‘I'm not crazy when I said my target was reaching the final of the World Cup.’

But even if England does not qualify, the weight and influence of football throughout history is such that English football will live on, no matter what the outcome of this afternoon’s game.

As John Williams, Eric Dunning and Patrick Murphy explain in Football's Fighting Traditions the history of British football hooliganism, if nothing else, dates back over a century to before the First World War. In 1988, in the lead-up to the European Football Championships in West Germany, the authors voiced their concern that English fans would ‘disgrace themselves once again’.

Issues of crowd safety at football matches are also not new. In Football, Fainting and Fatalities John Walton charts problems of crowd safety off the pitch in England in the first half of the twentieth century.

Football has also often been closely linked to politics. In the interwar period, for example, realising the large scale appeal of football as a participant and spectator sport, governments turned to football as a propaganda tool. The game was invested with considerable political significance. In England v Germany 1938: Football as Propaganda, Peter Beck considers how the British government notably used football to project a favourable image of Britain abroad.

In Politics and Football: Arms raised in shame in our June issue, Trevor Fisher charts a notorious example of political interference in the game. In May 1938, with football overshadowed by the spectre of armed conflict, diplomatic protocol resulted in the English team giving a Nazi salute during their visit to Germany.

But there is also a more light-hearted and amusing side to the history of football and there is still hope that the English team will qualify, and maybe even win the World Cup, as it did in 1966. In 1966, however, a few months before England won the World Cup, the FA lost it. Martin Atherton tells the story of the theft and recovery of the Jules Rimet Trophy in England Loses the World Cup.

To read a selection of our best articles about football visit our ‘Football’ Focus Page.

Postcard c.1910 (National Football Museum)

Friday, 18 June 2010

70 years ago de Gaulle said 'Non'

The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, celebrated with British Prime Minister David Cameron today, June 18th, the 70th anniversary of de Gaulle’s broadcast appeal rallying the French to pursue the fight against Nazi Germany. It is the first time that a French president has travelled to London to mark de Gaulle’s historic ‘appel du 18 juin’.

The full text of de Gaulle's speech:

‘To be sure, we have been submerged, we are submerged, by the enemy’s mechanised forces, on land and in the air.

It is the Germans’ tanks, planes and tactics that have made us fall back, infinitely more than their numbers. It is the Germans’ tanks, planes and tactics that have so taken our leaders by surprise as to bring them tot he point that they have reached today.

But has the last word been said? Must hope vanish? Is the defeat final? No!
Believe me, for I know what I am talking about and I tell you that nothing is lost for France. The same means that beat us may one day bring us victory.

For France is not alone. She is not alone! She is not alone! She has an immense Empire behind her. She can unite with the British Empire, which commands the sea and which is carrying on with the struggle. Like England, she can make an unlimited use of the vast industries of the United States.

This war is not confined to the unhappy territory of our country. This war has not been decided by the Battle of France. This war is a worldwide war. All the faults, all the delays, all the sufferings do not do away with the fact that in the world there are all the means for one day crushing our enemies. Today we are struck down by the mechanised force; in the future we can conquer by greater mechanised force. The fate of the world lies there.

I, General de Gaulle, now in London, call upon the French officers and soldiers who are on British soil or who may be on it, with their arms or without them, I call upon the engineers and the specialised workers in the armaments industry who are or who may be on British soil, to get in contact with me.

Whatever happens, the flame of French resistance must not and shall not go out.’

In our June 2010 issue, Jonathan Fenby goes in-depth to explore the historical background and impact of de Gaulle’s historic speech.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Painting the Armada at the House of Lords

by Kathryn Hadley,

A press reception was organised this morning at the House of Lords to mark the completion of a project begun in January 2008 to recreate six paintings of the Armada tapestries, which were destroyed in the fire at the Palace of Westminster almost 200 years ago. The tapestries were originally commissioned to record one of the greatest episodes of British history; but the story of the tapestries themselves is equally great, and fascinating.

It begins 418 years ago, in 1592, when Lord Howard of Effingham, who had served as Lord High Admiral at the time of the Spanish Armada, commissioned the Dutch naval artist and first seascape painter, Hendrick Cornelisz Vroom (1566-1640) to create a series of ten tapestries to commemorate the British victory. The tapestries were woven in Brussels by Francis Spieringx. They cost £1,582, the equivalent of 87 years wages for a workman in 1590. They are believed to have measured 14 feet in height and between 17 and 28 feet in width and were interwoven with gold and silver thread. When they were completed, in 1595, they initially hung in Lord Howard’s Chelsea manor. They were then moved, in 1616, to his new London residence, Arundel House, before being sold to King James I for £1,628.

In the early 1650s, the tapestries were transferred to the Royal Palace of Westminster, where they hung in the then House of Lords Chamber, known as the Parliament Chamber. In 1801, when the Peers moved to the Court of Requests, a larger chamber which suited the need for increased seating after the Act of Union with Ireland, the tapestries followed suit. They hung in the Court of Requests until the fire on October 16th, 1834, in which all ten tapestries perished.

The significance and influence of the tapestries had been considerable. They were mentioned in debate on several occasions and were used as propaganda. In 1798, for example, when concern over a possible French invasion was being debated, they were used to arouse patriotic popular support against the French forces. The artist James Gillray was commissioned to produce images that ‘might rouse all the People to an active Union against that invasion’. In a series of satirical prints entitled Consequences of a successful French Invasion, he depicted a French Admiral ordering his men to destroy the tapestries in the Lords Debating Chamber.

House of Lords Researcher, Julian Dee, whose research formed the basis of the proposal for the recreation of the tapestries, underlined the changing historical significance of the tapestries:

‘These recreated images will tell us something about every generation that has
risen since Elizabethan times. James I displayed them in the Banqueting
Hall to receive the Spanish Ambassador. It has been suggested that in so doing
perhaps he could pursue dialogue with Spain without the appearance of
weakness. By contrast, his son Charles I folded these martial images away
for much of his reign. Cromwell's men had "The Story of '88" displayed in
Parliament so that generations of peers - most notably the Earl of Chatham -
would evoke the memory of the heroes commemorated in the tapestry
borders. When it was said that Napoleon wanted to put the Bayeux Tapestries
on a pre-invasion tour of France, it was suggested the same be done in Britain
for the Armada ones.’

Seven years after the fire, in 1841, during the construction of the New Palace of Westminster, a Fine Arts Commission chaired by Prince Albert was established in order to oversee the production of artwork for the interior of the palace. It was decided that the Prince’s Chamber would be illustrated with subjects from Tudor history and a space was designed to hang six paintings of the original Armada tapestries. The paintings were to be based on a series of engravings of the tapestries created in the 1730s by the artist John Pine. Pine’s engravings were the only surviving record of the tapestries.

However, when Prince Albert died, in 1861, only one of the paintings had been completed. It was not until 1907, that it was proposed, once again, to recreate the Armada tapestries. But once again, the Armada Tapestry proposal failed to be realised. One hundred years later, in 2007, it was proposed, for the third time, that a generous donation by Mark Pigott OBE should be used to recreate in painted format the 16th-century Armada tapestries. Anthony Oakshett, the lead artist on the project, began his work to recreate the tapestries the following year, using Pine’s 18th-century engravings and the only completed painting in the series The English Fleet pursuing the Spanish Fleet against Fowey as his key historical sources.

The result is spectacular. On Monday, June 21st, members of the public will be able to see the paintings on a tour of parliament for the first time. In the autumn, they will be permanently moved to the Prince’s Chamber where they were originally designed to be hung. Try to spot Anthony Oakshett’s depiction of Mark Pigott as a 16th-century nobleman on horseback in the right-hand corner of the last painting in the series!

Images (Palace of Westminster Collection):
- Richard Burchett, The English fleet pursuing the Spanish fleet against Fowey
- James Gillray, Consequences of a successful French Invasion
- Anthony Oakshett, Drake takes De Valdes's galleon; the Lord Admiral pursues the enemy

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

The Duel for Europe, 1800-1830

FCO historian Dr Isabelle Tombs introduces the FCO's first online exhibition, 'The Duel for Europe, 1800-1830'.

by Isabelle Tombs,

This online exhibition, mounted by FCO Historians, charts both the personal duel fought between two of Britain’s top politicians and the national duel between Britain and France for supremacy in Europe in the years 1800-1830. Eventually, Britain won a historic victory over Napoleon’s empire. It covers the efforts of the Foreign Secretary and his staff to keep Britain and her Allies together and bring lasting peace to Europe, after a century of war across four continents and Napoleon’s universal threat. Britain was simultaneously seeking to stamp out the transatlantic slave trade.

The exhibition also highlights the personal rivalry between War Secretary Lord Castlereagh and Foreign Secretary George Canning who, in the midst of war, fought a duel on Putney Heath. The two men embodied differing approaches to foreign affairs but both went on to become great Foreign Secretaries - Castlereagh played a key role in ending the Napoleonic Wars and establishing peace for a century, whilst Canning put his imprint on the liberation of Latin America.

Period artefacts, pictures and manuscripts are on show, including a silver-mounted pistol and the major treaties that sealed Britain’s victory.

William Heath, Wellington entering Toulouse (National Army Museum, London).

Views of Bloody Sunday then and now

by Kathryn Hadley

‘Will unsullied evidence ever be obtained on which definitive judgements can be made? Will not the emotiveness of the events preclude such definition? And would the truth be believed by all parties if it was obtained?’

Those were the questions asked by Dr Anthony Seldon about the events of Bloody Sunday in an article published in History Today almost twenty years ago, in November 1991.

Seldon’s article examined the dividing line between history and current affairs and was part of a special supplement entitled ‘Secret History’, which explored the issues raised by a series of ‘secret history’ documentaries being screened at the time on Channel 4. The Channel 4 series aimed to use new evidence and re-interpretation to uncover the ‘historical truth’ about a wide range of controversial historical events in the 20th century. In his introduction to the series, Channel 4’s then controller of factual programmes, John Willis, described the aim of the series: ‘to establish the firm truths underlying the welter of hearsay, propaganda and partial recollection that obscures so much of our knowledge of the past’.

Twenty years later, have Anthony Seldon’s questions not been answered with yesterday’s publication of the long-awaited Saville report? Has the ‘truth’ about the events of Bloody Sunday not been established at last?

There certainly appeared to be no doubt in David Cameron’s mind about the conclusions of Lord Saville’s report as he delivered his speech, yesterday, to the House of Commons: ‘The conclusions of this report are absolutely clear. There is no doubt. There is nothing equivocal. There are no ambiguities. What happened on Bloody Sunday was both unjustified and unjustifiable. It was wrong’.

Footage of Cameron’s speech is available on the website of the BBC.


Bernard McGuigan lying dead on Bloody Sunday (Channel 4), published in Secret History (November 1991).

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

The Saville report at a glance…

by Kathryn Hadley

A brief background to the report
On Sunday January 30th, 1972, 14 people died when British soldiers opened fire on civil rights protesters in the Bogside district of Derry. The shootings sparked international condemnation. In Dublin a crowd of protesters burnt down the British Embassy. The day after the incident, the then Prime Minister Edward Heath set up a public inquiry under the then Lord Chief Justice Lord Widgery. A report was published within 11 weeks of the shootings.
The report largely absolved the British soldiers, however, and was rejected by the families of victims and criticised for excluding key evidence. It concluded that shots had been fired at the soldiers before they started the firing that led to the casualties; that the soldiers acted as they did because they believed their standing orders justified it; and that although there was no proof that any of the victims had been shot while handling a firearm or bomb, there was a strong suspicion that some had been firing weapons or handling bombs in the course of the afternoon.
Twenty-five years after the event, in January 1998, the then Prime Minister Tony Blair eventually established a full enquiry under the auspices of former High Court judge, Lord Saville of Newdigate. Blair’s statement to the House of Commons on January 29th, 1998, and Lord Saville’s opening statement, delivered on April 3rd, 1998, can be found on The Bloody Sunday Inquiry website.
The inquiry began on March 27th, 2000, taking oral statements from the first hundreds of witnesses. A timeline of the key moments in the inquiry is available on the website of The Guardian.

Facts and stats about the Bloody Sunday inquiry
The Bloody Sunday inquiry is the longest and most expensive in British history. It cost almost £195 million and took 12 years to complete.
The inquiry closed in 2004.
It took over four years for the Saville report to be written.
The completed report is 5,000 pages long with a 60 page summary.
In November 2008, it was announced that the publication of the report would be delayed for at least another year.
At the beginning of April 2009, it was announced that the publication of the report would be delayed until after the general election.
It was due to be handed over to Shaun Woodward, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, at the end of March this year and was expected to be made public shortly after.

What is happening today?
The Saville report was delivered to the Guildhall in Derry at 2 o’clock this morning and was made available to the families’ legal teams.
Cameron is expected to announce the official publication of the report later this afternoon in the House of Commons.
Full coverage and regular updates are available on the website of The Guardian.

The website of the Bloody Sunday Trust, a history project based in Derry to commemorate the events of Bloody Sunday and to preserve the memory of its victims, provides useful background information to the report and features a gallery of photographs from the collections of the Museum of Free Derry.

Our Picture Editor, Sheila Corr, was a student at Trinity College, Dublin, at the time. She remembers the shock and outrage across the border.

On February 2nd 1972, three days after the event, and while many of the
funerals took place, a day of national mourning was held throughout the Irish
Republic, and, as a mark of respect for the dead, businesses were closed and
services held. In Dublin, so far largely untouched by ‘The Troubles’,
thousands marched in solemn protest behind symbolic coffins, and later, as night
fell, an angry crowd descended on the British Embassy and burnt it
I watched the procession pass slowly and in silence before
the old Irish Parliament building and Trinity College where I was then a
student, and in Merrion Square, usually an oasis of Georgian tranquility, saw
the embassy blaze unchecked against the dark sky. It was an extraordinary
moment when hatred of Britain raged furiously about me, and for the first and
only time in all the years I’d visited Ireland with my Irish parents, I felt an
uncomfortable need to conceal an English accent.

Friday, 11 June 2010

The Mystery of York’s Headless Romans

by Kathryn Hadley,

Has the mystery of York’s headless Romans, which has puzzled archaeologists for over six years, finally been solved? In 2004, York Archaeological Trust excavated 80 burials in York in advance of housing developments. The burials are believed to be part of a large Roman cemetery on the outskirts of the town, dated to between the early 2nd century and late 3rd century.

However, the burials do not fit in with the usual demographics for a Roman cemetery. They are mostly male and the majority are adults. The people also seem to have suffered harsh lifestyles and met violent deaths; nevertheless, they appear to have been carefully buried. There is evidence, for example, that funerary feasting took place at the cemetery. Were these people soldiers, criminals or gladiators? Were they from a group that had unusual religious beliefs or burial practices?

On Monday, June 7th, archaeologists announced the results of the latest forensic tests carried out on more than 80 skeletons. They believe that the individuals may be gladiators and that the site may be the best preserved gladiator graveyard in the world. Scientists discovered a large carnivore bite mark, believed to have been inflicted by a lion, tiger or bear in the context of an arena. They also found some healed and unhealed weapon injuries, possible hammer blows to the head and a high incidence of substantial arm asymmetry. The development of much stronger muscles in the right arm is a feature that is notably mentioned in several works of ancient Roman literature in connection with gladiators.

Kurt Hunter Mann, who is leading the research at York Archaeological Trust, explained the different possible theories:

‘There are numerous pieces of evidence that point towards or are consistent with
the interpretation that the skeletons are Roman gladiators, but there is also
other evidence that suggest the individuals could have been soldiers, criminals,
or members of a religious cult […].
‘An alternative interpretation – that
the individuals are soldiers – is potentially undermined by the fact that most
of them have been violently decapitated and that one of them has a large
carnivore bite mark, almost certainly sustained in an arena context […].
‘Another potential interpretation – that they are all criminals – appears to
be undermined by the substantial respect (and grave goods) with which many of
them were buried.’

On Monday, a documentary entitled Gladiators: Back From The Dead, exploring the origins of the skeletons and following the lead theory that they were Roman gladiators will be shown on Channel 4 (9pm). York Archaeological Trust will also launch a website next week presenting all the various theories and asking members of the public to give their own opinions.


Skeleton with displaced skull - York Archaeological Trust

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Praise for Pinochet

by Kathryn Hadley,

Chile’s ambassador to Argentina, Miguel Otero, resigned on Tuesday evening, just 48 hours after the Argentine newspaper Clarín published an interview in which he spoke in favour of the military rule of Augusto Pinochet (1915-2006). Otero is a member of Chile’s ruling centre-right National Renewal Party (Renovación Nacional) founded in 1988.

The interview was published in Clarín on Sunday, June 6th. Otero claimed that the majority of the Chilean population was not affected by the dictatorship, did not ‘feel’ the dictatorship, and that, on the contrary, the economic situation and hardship at the time meant that many were relieved when the military took power. He also claimed that human rights abuses were not official policies, but rather the result of excesses committed by some members of the military junta.

‘Le explico una cosa. La mayor parte de Chile no sintió la dictadura. Al
contrario, se sintió aliviada. Porque antes usted no podía comprar nada
importado, tenía que pagar lo que se producía en Chile, caro y malo.’

It is estimated, however, that approximately 3,000 political opponents were killed during the dictatorship and that over 30,000 people were imprisoned or tortured.

Otero’s comments sparked immediate protest and demands that he step down in both Argentina and Chile. On Tuesday, the foreign relations committee of the Chilean Chamber of Deputies voted by six votes to five to ask President Sebastian Pinera to sack him. Pinera, who took office in March, is Chile's first conservative elected president since Pinochet’s resignation 20 years ago.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

First Impressions: Rude Britannia

Charlotte Crow and Sheila Corr, deputy and picture editors at History Today, give their first impressions of Tate Britain's latest exhibition.

Charlotte Crow:

Is there such thing as a British sense of humour? The TV show Britain’s Got Talent has addressed that question in more ways than one. If you have giggled at the contradiction between that programme’s title and anything you might have seen of its content, you will be both amused and impressed by 'Rude Britannia'. Tate Britain’s dynamic celebration of British comic art spans the 17th-century to the present and explores the serious interface between humour and issues of identity (and much else besides) with a fitting lightness of touch.

An inspired move is the involvement of guest curators Gerald Scarfe, Harry Hill, Steve Bell and Viz Magazine who bring celebrity to proceedings (in a good way), as well as their own distinct artistic contributions. For example, in a room devoted to social satire, dominated by an enormous three-dimensional Viz Magazine, that comic’s love-to-hate character Roger Mellie ‘The Man on the Telly’ appears in a parallel storyboard offering facetious commentary to each scene in Hogarth’s Rake’s Progress. To enter a Sitting Room, where visitors can sit comfortably to peruse cartoon and comic books at close quarters, you must go through the bandy legs of a giant William Pitt, Gerald Scarfe’s take on James Gillray’s The Giant Factotum Amusing Himself (1797).

What this exhibition achieves most successfully, in galleries which explore themes ranging from politics, to social satire, the grotesque, the bawdy and the absurd, is the juxtaposition of historic works with contemporary material so that both can be viewed in fresh ways. Hopefully this imaginative presentation will awaken a new generation to the roots of one of Britain’s genuine talents: the art of irreverence.

Sheila Corr:

Vibrant, witty, colourful and often, as it claims, extraordinarily rude, this exhibition celebrates the role of humour in British visual culture from the 17th century to the present day. What a joy to see a major gallery devote space to this subject which allows for the use of plenty of three-dimensional objects and other large pieces such as Cruikshank’s Worship of Bacchus.
Tate curators have been ably assisted by guest contributors who offer their own unique insights into the exhibits. While this is undoubtedly a refreshing view, explanatory captions could provide some helpful historical background, especially in the 'Politics' section where a person’s ‘tab of identity’ (as Low apparently called it) has to carry the whole story behind some of Gillray’s most vitriolic outbursts.
Most of the historical threads are familiar to me, from broadsides of Cromwell through the work of Hogarth and Patch, and the technological advances in printing which took caricature from the popular Macaronis to the mass market in Punch and comic publications of today. But I was also delighted to discover unknown work such as John Collier’s painting The Hypocrite and the mid-19th-century publication The Penny Satirist.

Self evidently though, the loud and vulgar will draw in the greatest crowds and, while surprised yet again with the explicit nature of the earliest examples in 'The Bawdy' section, I was most amused by the time-warp caption labels for McGill’s saucy seaside postcards of the 1950s stating ‘Original postcard attached to Director of Public Prosecution’s index card’.

- James Gillray, The Giant Factotum Amusing Himself (1797)
- Shaun Doyle, and Mally Mallinson, Death to the Fascist Fruit Boys (2010)
- Anonymous, Napoleon chamber pot, early 19th century

Tintoretto on display in Dorset

Our editor Paul Lay comments on a hidden Tintoretto painting, which goes on public dispaly for the first time, today, at the National Trust's Kingston Lacy in Dorset.

by Paul Lay,

If I was forced to choose the ‘greatest painting of all time’ I would plump for Tintoretto’s Crucifixion, which hangs in the Scuola di San Rocco, Venice, a multitudinous vision of Christ’s death. It is therefore very exciting when a new Tintoretto goes on public display, especially in Britain. Today sees the unveiling of Tintoretto’s Apollo (or Hymen) Crowning a Poet and Giving Him a Spouse at Kingston Lacy, the National Trust property in Dorset. The painting has spent most of the last 30 years in storage but has undergone a major programme of cleaning and restoration. Art historians at the National Trust believe that the painting depicts Apollo, or possibly the god of marriage, Hymen, placing a crown on an unknown figure, probably a poet who is holding a book. Mythical figures surrounding them include the god Hercules and a woman believed to be the intended spouse. However, the identification of other figures is still open to question along with the significance of various objects which would have had a clear meaning to those who saw it when it was painted. These include a die depicting five dots and the presence of a gold box and dish with coins in it.

Alastair Laing, the National Trust’s Curator of Pictures and Sculpture said:

‘This is undoubtedly a work of great significance – Titian, Veronese and
Tintoretto are the three great masters of the mid- to late-16th century in
Venice and to have a painting by Tintoretto in an English house, rather than
still in its original location in Venice, or in an Italian museum, is
‘It is all the more fascinating that we do not yet know who or
where it was painted for, or what the actual subject is.’

The painting was given to the Trust as part of the contents of Kingston Lacy in 1981 but it was in poor condition. Layers of darkened varnish and discoloured paint had caused difficulty in identifying the subject matter of the painting, even whether it was by Tintoretto himself. The cleaning and restoration, undertaken by the Hamilton Kerr Institute near Cambridge, included x-rays and infrared analysis that helped to identify the unquestionable style and brush strokes of Tintoretto. They also revealed original underdrawings that show changes he made to faces, clothing and positioning of subjects in the final version.

The painting probably dates from the 1560s or 1570s from a palazzo in Venice where it was acquired in 1849 by William John Bankes, then owner of Kingston Lacy. It was last known to have been displayed in the dining-room at Kingston Lacy. It is here that it will be reinstated.


National Trust, Tintoretto's Apollo (or Hymen) Crowning a Poet and Giving Him a Spouse after cleaning and restoration (NT/Hamilton Kerr Institute)

Monday, 7 June 2010

Historypin: Patchwork History

Our deputy editor, Charlotte Crow, reviews a new digital picture archive, Historypin, launched last week.

by Charlotte Crow,

What aims to be ‘the greatest picture story book on Earth’, Historypin, launched in London at the end of last week. The project was created by the social ideas group We Are What We Do in collaboration with Google, the technical and financial facilitator behind a venture that promises to add a new dimension to digital history.

We Are What We Do is an off-shoot of Community Links, a non-profit organisation founded in East London in 2004 to tackle the causes and consequences of social exclusion in fresh and imaginative ways. The aim of this latest project is to stimulate interaction between different generations by seeking positive ways to bring them together: older people by communicating their experiences and stories and younger people by sharing their digital skills.

Historypin is about creating a reason to uncover from attics and garages forgotten old pre-digital photographs of outdoor locations, peopled or not. These can then be scanned and uploaded onto the Historypin website and ‘pinned’ onto Street View via Google Maps along with a date, caption and personal story. Pictures are layered onto modern Street View scenes (the Museum of London launched an App with a similar function for historic stills of the capital on June 2nd) so that users can ‘walk’ down a virtual memory lane exploring how a neighbourhood once looked and gleaning anecdotal details via contributor’s written reminiscences. The idea is to build a vast, random archive of images and human recollections with an interactive dimension. Ideally a young and an old person will have participated jointly in this process and Historypin plans plenty of outreach projects with schools and old people’s homes to get the necessary dialogues going.

Thanks to Google, the capacity for holding material is not an issue. Photographic and local history archives are encouraged to get on board and this may well prove a positive, cost-free way for them to showcase their images (copyright of all material remaining with the owners). Currently the focus is on photographs as the memory pins, though other material such as paintings and drawings can also be tagged. Historypin will develop links with oral history projects with the view to enable audio material to be tagged as well.

With its emphasis on dating and captioning, supervised by a team of moderators, Historypin hopes to increase a broader sense of historical awareness. In airing what commercial archives would consider in many cases to be worthless, mundane pictures, it will help to develop an appreciation for a non-commercial, non-dramatic version of the past that nevertheless can still tell us much.

Yet whatever the potential this endeavour might hold for social and local historians and those wishing to connect with the past, the greater motive of Historypin is to connect people with each other by cultivating curiosity and mutual interest. With a widening divide between young and old in the fast moving digital age and the isolation experienced by many older people in an aging population, this is a positive and worthwhile ambition.

(Trinity Mirror Archive):
- Street party for Queen Elizabeth's Silver Jubilee, Children from Methley Street and Radcot Street, London, June 7th, 1977
- Family on holiday in New York City, Peter and Joan Udell with their children Christopher and Jennifer, January 12th, 1969

Friday, 4 June 2010

Henry VIII's conservative religious beliefs

by Kathryn Hadley,

A rare medieval prayer roll that once belonged to Henry VIII goes on display, today, in the British Library’s Sir John Ritblat Gallery as part of its ‘Treasures of the British Library’ collection. Whilst there still exist numerous medieval obituary rolls, very few prayer rolls survived the Reformation. The prayer roll also features an inscription written by Prince Henry, which is one of only three surviving examples of his handwriting from before his accession to the throne on April 21st, 1509.

The roll was not discovered until 1858 and many questions about its origin, place of production and illumination remain unanswered. The British Library recently purchased the prayer roll from Sotheby’s for £485,000.

It is believed to have been produced in England in the late 15th century and consists of four parchment strips sewn end to end, measuring four metres when it is fully unrolled. It is illustrated with thirteen illuminations depicting Christ and various saints and their martyrdoms and also contains a two-column text with rubrics in English and prayers in Latin to the Five Holy Wounds of Christ and other related devotions.

The inscription at the top of the second membrane under the central image of Christ’s Passion, believed to have been written by Prince Henry some time prior to 1509 when he presented the roll to William Thomas a Gentleman of his Privy Chamber, reads: ‘Wylliam thomas I pray yow pray for me your lovyng master Prynce Henry’.

Henry’s royal badges consisting of the two Tudor roses, the Prince of Wales crowned ostrich feather as well as Katherine of Aragon’s emblem of a sheaf of arrows at the head of the roll are evidence that the roll was once owned and used by Prince Henry. The prayer roll provides fascinating and surprising insights into Henry’s traditional and conservative early religious practices that he would later destroy when he broke with Rome and established himself as head of the Church of England.

Images (British Library):
- Christ crucified, Angels bearing Christ's side wound
Christ is depicted hanging on a Tau-shaped cross and flanked by two angels each holding a small scroll. The vernacular instructions on the left-hand scroll promise general protection, material prosperity and safe childbirth to those who wear the roll on their bodies: “This cros, 15 times moten is the length of our Lord Jhesu Criste, and that day that ye bere it upon you ther shal no evyl spirit have power of yow on londe ne on water, ne with thonder ne litenyng be hurt, ne dye in dedely synne withowte confession, ne fyre be brent, ne water be drowned; and it shal breke your enemys power and encres your worldly goodes, and if a woman be in travell off childe, ley this on her body and she shal be delyverd withowte parel, the childe chrystendom, and the moder purificacyon.”

- The Archangel Michael and the Devil
The first of a series of images of saints, St Michael is depicted here conquering the devil, personified by a dragon-like monster with six heads and a tail ending in another head. The archangel is clothed in a red, feathered garment, relieved with gold. Beneath is a hymn to the saint: “Gaude princeps pietatis. Miles mire probatis ...”
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