Student Trip to the Historic Dockyard, Chatham

On Friday 22nd September, Rob Brown, our Student Experience Manager and Eloise Bates, Student Support Officer took some of our new undergraduate students to the Historic Dockyard, Chatham. The students got the opportunity to visit the Bridge of HMS Cavalier, and they also enjoyed a Submarine tour on HMS Ocelot.

Students on the Bridge of HMS Cavalier

Students on the Bridge of HMS Cavalier

On board HMS Gannet

Submarine tour on HMS Ocelot

 

 

Autumn 2017 School of History Research Seminar series

This year, our research seminars will take place on alternating Wednesdays (weeks 1,3,5,7,9, & 11) in term time at 4PM in Eliot Lecture Theatre 2 (ELT2). We also have an excellent line-up of post-graduate seminars that will take place at 5:15PM in Rutherford Seminar Room 7 (RS7) on the other Wednesdays (weeks 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, & 12). Please see the attached schedule for a full list of speakers.

In week 1 (at 4PM on Wednesday 27 September), we are delighted to welcome Dr Suzanna Ivanič, a new lecturer in Early Modern History here at the University of Kent.

The title of her paper is Locating Religion in the Homes of Seventeenth-Century Prague Burghers.

A recent focus on religion in the home has provided fertile new evidence about lived religion – the beliefs, practices and identities of the faithful in an everyday context – but, what if we interrogate the relationship between the home and religion more thoroughly? How does religion change as it crosses the threshold? Is ‘domestic devotion’ really more unorthodox and individualistic? What do we mean by ‘domesticating’ religion? It is now well-established that not only Protestants, but also Catholics, practised religion in their homes in early modern Europe. By analysing inventories and objects from the multiconfessional setting of Prague across the seventeenth century, this paper explores the differences in domestic religious practice between confessions, how domestic space enabled unique aspects of devotion (‘private’ forms or particular rituals focusing on doors and beds, for example), and how objects that came into the home could either subvert or reinforce orthodoxy and orthopraxy within this extra-ecclesiastical space.

As ever, a drinks reception will follow this seminar. Please see the attached poster for more information.

School of History Away Day

Such a lovely and productive day on Wednesday! The School of History Away Day was held on Wednesday 13 September at Brogdale, Faversham, with thirty-seven members of staff in attendance. The event focused on key aspects such as recruitment and education, as well as offering attendees the opportunity to raise issues and share their own views. The event was very well received, with a great of positive feedback highlighting areas of improvement and future development. The day concluded with a tour of Brogdale – The home of the National Fruit Collection, and some members of staff went on a tour of the Gothic paintings in St Mary’s Church, Faversham.

Spanish Summer School focuses on First World War

Coinciding with the Spanish state visit to Britain but commemorating the increased Spanish role in the First World War by its undertaking of the global supervision of arrangements for prisoners of war in 1917, Professor Ian Beckett (Centre for the Study of War, Propaganda and Society, University of Kent) is teaching by invitation a course on the war at the summer school of the Universidad Internacional Menéndez Pelayo at Santander.

The course is being delivered at the Magdalena Palace, the former summer residence of the Spanish monarchy, and is one of only a handful this year being taught to Spanish students entirely in the English language.

The German U-boat U-35 running into the Spanish port of Cartagena, April 1917 (C)IWM Q46498

Reflections on the Thomas Becket Study Day

by Sophie Kelly (History PhD student) for the Thomas Becket Study Day

There could scarcely be a more appropriate setting for a study day on the theme of Thomas Becket than Canterbury Cathedral, the location of the archbishop’s martyrdom nearly 850 years ago on the 29th December 1170. In the Cathedral Library and Archives, just metres from the site of Becket’s murder in the North West Transept, experts from universities, museums and Canterbury heritage organisations gathered to discuss the saint’s life and cult.

The day began with a series of ‘quick fire’ presentations, each focusing on one theme or object related to Thomas Becket. The range of material gave an immediate sense of the scale and popularity of Becket’s cult in the Middle Ages and beyond. Some objects discussed have likely existed in the vicinity of Canterbury since they were produced, including a fragmentary sandstone ampulla mould discovered in the garden of 16 Watling Street (Dr Paul Bennett, Canterbury Archaeological Trust), a thirteenth-century cartulary made for Christ Church containing charters for the shrine of Thomas Becket (Professor Louise Wilkinson, Canterbury Christ Church University), the seal of Archbishop Simon Sudbury showing Becket’s martyrdom (Dr Sheila Sweetinburgh, University of Kent), and the spectacular miracle windows in the Trinity Chapel of the Cathedral itself (Professor Michael A. Michael, Christie’s Education).

Chasuble in Sens Cathedral treasury thought to have been worn by Thomas Becket and venerated as a contact relic

Other delegates discussed geographically dispersed objects which originated or were believed to have originated in Canterbury. For instance, pilgrim souvenirs depicting Becket were bought by visitors to Canterbury and, it would seem, lost on the way home. These badges, with their intricate and compelling imagery, would have been worn on the bags, hats and garments of pilgrims as signs of their visit to Becket’s shrine and are now excavated from sites across Britain and Europe (Amy Jeffs and Dr Gabriel Byng, University of Cambridge and convenors of The Digital Pilgrim Project). Likewise, Dr Emily Guerry (University of Kent) discussed a series of vestments owned by Sens Cathedral that were reputedly worn by Becket and possibly used at Sens as contact relics.

A number of  significant objects pertaining to Becket originated from further afield, both geographically and chronologically. Dr Tom Nickson (Courtauld Institute of Art), for example, presented on a c. 1200 altar frontal depicting Becket’s martyrdom found in the church of San Miguel in Almazán, which bears early witness to the popularity of Becket’s cult in Spain.

Altar frontal from the church of San Miguel in Almazán, showing Becket’s martyrdom

Becket’s later legacy was then examined. Lloyd De Beer (British Museum) assessed the sixteenth-century political and religious connotations of the saint’s martyrdom through the lens of Alberti’s The Martyr’s Picture (1581), displayed in the Venerable English College in Rome, and Naomi Speakman (British Museum) discussed Becket’s memory in post-Reformation England and his representation as an anti-martyr.

These evocative objects and themes provoked a lively concluding discussion that centred on the international nature of Becket’s cult and the extent to which the art associated with it imitated and/or innovated in order promote the saint and potency of his cult as a political tool.

Examining the Professions of Obedience in the Canterbury Cathedral Archives

This discussion was followed by an opportunity to see first-hand some of the extraordinary items associated with Becket. Cressida Williams, head of the Cathedral Archives and Library, had organised for an array of Becket-themed documents and objects from the Cathedral collections and various heritage organisations in Canterbury to be displayed together in the reading room of the Cathedral Archives. Among this impressive collection were two fragments of pink Tournai marble, discovered during excavations in the Cathedral grounds, which are thought to have come from the shrine of St Thomas himself. Also on display were a number of medieval seals from the Cathedral’s collections, including those of Archbishops Hubert Walter and Stephen Langton, which both depict Becket’s martyrdom. Dr Helen Gittos from the University of Kent discussed a particular treasure of the Cathedral Archive, the Professions of Obedience, a series of 170 documents now bound into a single volume that record the vows made by bishops during their consecration. These small vellum statements, which would have originally been sewn together in a continuous roll, contain the dates of bishops’ consecrations, and are thus immensely helpful in dating other contemporary documents based on a comparison of their palaeography. Becket’s entry is especially marked in the Professions by a statement in red noting his archiepiscopal status.

 

The later half of the afternoon saw the group move to the Cathedral stained glass studio, where Leonie Seliger, Head of the Stained Glass Conservation Department, led us in a discussion of the representation of Becket in the Cathedral glass. Notably, only three original thirteenth-century panels depicting Becket’s head survive, which Leonie encouraged us to find among her printed reproductions – a task that proved surprisingly difficult. We also had the opportunity to see some of medieval stained glass currently under restoration in the studio, and to hear from Leonie about the techniques that would have gone in to making these panels. A particular highlight was seeing how the colour of nine hundred year old stained glass was still bright and vivid when held up to the light.

Kneeling at the resonant prayer niches in Archbishop Sudbury’s tomb, Canterbury Cathedral

A subsequent tour of the Cathedral offered a chance to see the miracle windows we had discussed in the glass studio in situ, along with the site of Becket’s shrine and several archiepiscopal and royal tombs. The tombs of Archbishops Sudbury and Mepham in the south aisle of the Choir afforded a particularly interactive experience; kneeling down at one of the vaulted prayer niches carved into the tombs’ exterior, penitents (or indeed academics) can experience an amplification not only of the music performed in the nearby Choir, but also their own whispered prayers and thoughts.

Professor Paul Binski (University of Cambridge) brought the study day to a close with a public lecture entitled ‘Thomas Becket and the Medieval Cult of Personality’. Drawing on many of the objects seen and discussed throughout the day, Professor Binski reflected on the idea of Becket’s ‘persona’ (as opposed to the modern notion of ‘personality’) and its importance in the formation and development of his cult. Much like a mask that can be put on or taken off, the medieval concept of an individual’s persona was related to their outer countenance, and formed by certain archetypal characteristics – both good and bad – often rooted in character types in biblical stories or saint’s lives. Becket’s persona and outer image, Professor Binski argued, was imitated in the art and architecture produced in response to his martyrdom, an aspect that was vital to the rapid dissemination and spread of the cult. Due in part to the accessibility of this image through objects made both for the elite and for the ordinary person, Becket’s persona transcended social as well as geographical boundaries, transforming his cult into a widespread, international phenomenon. Professor Binski’s concluding remarks on the appeal of the Becket’s cult in the Middle Ages had a particular resonance amidst of the full lecture theatre where the lasting legacy of Thomas Becket’s life and death was still very much felt.

 

Ditchfield Room Opening Ceremony

On Monday 12 June, we celebrated the launch of the new “Ditchfield Room” in Honour of Professor Grayson Ditchfield. Professor Ditchfield gained his doctorate from Cambridge and joined the University of Kent in 1970. Accordingly he is the longest serving member of the School and was asked to speak at the School’s alumni day in 2014 as part of the 50th Anniversary celebrations.

Professor Ditchfield was highly popular with students (‘the best seminar leader I’ve had so far’) and staff (‘Quite simply a star!’).

We are delighted that Professor Ditchfield accepted the invitation to name the room after him and we anticipate for the postgraduates who will use it for many productive working days ahead!

 

Professor Grayson Ditchfield and Head of School Juliette Pattinson

From left to right: Rob Brown, Dr Julie Anderson, Professor Ditchfield, Eloise Bates and Tim Keward

Professor Grayson Ditchfield and Head of School Juliette Pattinson

Americanist Symposium

We invite you to the Americanist Symposium hosted on 12 June 2017. The event will explore the methods and methodologies utilized by Americanists of various disciplinary backgrounds. Keynote lectures will be delivered by Monica Manolescu (University of Strasbourg) and Emma Long (University of East Anglia).

Lunch will be provided (compliments of the University of Kent’s School of English and School of History). The event will be free, but we kindly request that you RSVP prior to the event here

We invite faculty and students with research interests broadly concerning the history and cultures of the United States to join us.

The ‘British’ churches 1603-1707: from dynastic union to Anglo-Scottish union

On 22 June 2017 the University of Kent’s School of History and Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies will be hosting an international conference ‘The ‘British’ churches 1603-1707: from dynastic union to Anglo-Scottish union‘.

The two-day conference, timed to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the launching of the Five Articles of Perth by James VI & I in Scotland in 1617, is held in collaboration with Canterbury Christ Church University and its Centre for Kent History and Heritage.

All conference sessions will take place in Keynes College on the University of Kent’s Canterbury campus and aim to bring together scholars with an interest in religion across the British Isles during the 17th century.

The Conference will also include the official launch party for Dr Leonie James’s new book – ‘This Great Firebrand’: William Laud and Scotland 1617-45 (Boydell Press, 2017).

Further information about the Conference including a programme and registration details can be found on its dedicated webpage.