Category Archives: News

PhD student Charlotte Cornell launches fundraising campaign for ‘A is for Aphra’

Medieval and Early Modern Studies PhD student, Charlotte Cornell, is the Chair of ‘A is for Aphra‘, a charity fundraising for a statue of poet, novelist, playwright and spy, Aphra Behn in Canterbury.

Prior to undertaking her PhD research at the University of Kent, Charlotte studied BA English Literature at Durham University, and went onto King’s College London / Royal Academy of Dramatic Art to study an MA in Text and Performance, and holds a MSt in Creative Writing from Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge.

We caught up with Charlotte to find out more about the legendary Aphra Behn and the charity’s fundraising campaign.

Could you please tell us a bit about ‘A is for Aphra’?

We have just launched our fundraising campaign to get Aphra Behn a statue in her home city of Canterbury. We are looking to raise £80k to get a full-life bronze of this amazing glass-ceiling-smashing, feminist / LGBTQ+ icon and serious literary talent in our amazing city – we should be celebrating her incredible life and achievements.

Aphra Behn was the first professional woman writer. She was born just outside of Canterbury in 1640 but her family soon moved to the city and she grew up here. She became a spy for Charles II before becoming the most produced playwright between 1670 and her death in 1689. Her novel ‘Oronooko’ is also claimed by some to be the world’s first novel and it certainly was a key text used by the abolitionist movement, as it exposed the horrors of slavery to a white, London public in a way that art and literature had not done before. In short, she was incredible and the project is a step in honouring and cementing her legacy.

What are the aims of the fundraising mission?

Well, we need to raise a lot of money for a statue but we are starting by asking the public for any donation, however small, to begin us on that path. Please see www.aisforaphra.org to donate.

We have also issued four free lesson plans on Behn’s life and work that can be downloaded and used by any school in the world. We want to educate the public about Aphra Behn, so that she sits firmly in the public consciousness as one of the ‘Grandmothers of English Literature’ and will be running events, fundraisers and issuing more materials that will spread the word about the amazing Aphra Behn.

Could you please tell us a bit about your PhD research?

I’m doing a PhD on the first 20 years of Aphra Behn’s life. Most biographers skim over Behn’s life before her first confirmed spying mission (on the Dutch – at the same time as the Great Plague of 1665/1666). Hopefully my research will correct the early record a little bit.

You can follow A is for Aphra on Twitter @AphraStatue and also keep up with the latest on Charlotte’s work @charlocornell.

Dr David Rundle to deliver the University of London’s annual Coffin Palaeography Lecture

Dr David Rundle will be delivering the University of London’s annual Coffin Palaeography Lecture on 15 June at 6pm (via Zoom) on ‘The Long Reach of Paleography.’

Palaeography, simply defined, is the study of old handwriting but that definition tends to hide rather than to announce the discipline’s significance. ‘To study’ is not merely ‘to read’ and the evidentiary power of the skills palaeography teaches us are foundational in so many ways: they allow us to take a manuscript and to read out from it to the human connexions which created it and the cultures it has inhabited. This lecture will address two other fundamental issues with that definition: when does ‘old’ end? And: how does writing relate to other forms of lettering? Answering these questions can take us beyond that male-dominated minority for whom, up to the nineteenth century in much of Europe, full literacy was their preserve. The materials susceptible to palaeographical analysis are not confined to medieval codices held in special collections; palaeography is everywhere.

Dr David Rundle is Lecturer in Latin and Manuscript Studies in the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the University of Kent. His research examines the role of books in late medieval and early modern culture in western Europe. He is the author of The Renaissance Reform of the Book and Britain: The English Quattrocento (Cambridge, 2019).

The lecture takes place on the 15th June at 6pm via Zoom.

For more information and registration, please visit the event webpage.

MA student Kate McCaffrey shares the story behind her historical discovery in Anne Boleyn’s prayer book

By Kate McCaffrey
MA Medieval and Early Modern Studies

Last January, I was lucky enough to be able to closely study two of Anne Boleyn’s Books of Hours, both held in the private collection at Anne’s childhood home, Hever Castle in Kent. Thanks to a note of recommendation from my wonderful supervisor, Dr David Rundle, as well as my own personal connection with the castle, having worked there on and off for six years, I was able to arrange a visit. I initially thought this privileged experience might result in an interesting essay for my palaeography module. I never expected that it would result in the uncovering of new, exciting evidence that formed the subject of my MA thesis.

Arguably the most famous of the two Hours held at Hever is the beautifully illuminated manuscript, made in Bruges around the year 1450 for an unknown English owner. It contains Anne’s recognisable inscription, le temps viendra (the time will come) as well as various other inscriptions signed by members of prominent families from the Henrician court. Surprisingly, it was not this book but the smaller, printed, less obviously magnificent of the two Hours that particularly caught my attention.

Prior to my research, all that was known about this printed Hours was that it was produced by the prolific French printer, Germain Hardouin, and contained another signed inscription written by Anne, this time reading, ‘Remember me when you do pray that hope doth led from day to day’. Bound in simple brown leather and bearing signs of woodworm damage, it has largely been overlooked in scholarship, perhaps because of its humble appearance. Certainly, there has even been confusion over some of its most basic elements. The date of its production has been doubted, but it was most likely printed in 1527, due to the inclusion at the start of the book of a calendar for the year 1528. This book is (or was!) even affectionately known at Hever as the ‘boring one’ in their collection.

It should not, however, be dismissed as a cheap printing. There are several indicators that serious care has gone into the production of this volume, which was clearly made with a well-heeled English market in mind. The parchment has been polished, the colourful decoration customised, and the woodcuts hand-painted in a workshop overseen by Hardouin himself. Significantly, the production of content for an English audience is strikingly rare in Hardouin’s output. If this was not enough evidence to prove that Hever’s printed book was made for a wealthy audience, then I present another facet to my research: Anne Boleyn was not the only leading, sixteenth-century female to own a copy of this very same printing.

In fact, the other famous name associated with this book is none other than Anne’s greatest rival in love and power, and Henry VIII’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Currently held in the Morgan Library, New York, is a copy of the very same 1527 Hardouin printing that was once owned by Catherine. At such a pivotal moment in the changing structure of the Henrician court, this newly uncovered connection between these two leading women raises hugely intriguing issues about their relationship with one another, and with their books. At the very least, Anne’s ownership of the same volume as Catherine suggests emulation, and imitation, of a royal status she would achieve herself in only seven years’ time.

The later sixteenth-century provenance of Hever’s Hours after Anne’s ownership has, up until this point, been completely unknown. It is, therefore, a particular delight to be able to share this part of my research. In the process of closely studying the book, I came across what appeared to be the remnants of four further inscriptions that had later been erased. Thanks to an ultraviolet light, photo editing software and many months of stretching my palaeography knowledge to its limit, I recovered partial transcriptions of each note. While full transcriptions remain, for the present, frustratingly elusive due to the vigour of the erasures, I was able to uncover the names of the authors of each inscription. This in turn has allowed me to reconstruct the path that this book took, and the hands through which it passed, after Anne’s ownership.

Emerging from the highly interconnected network of names is a story of gendered community, solidarity and bravery. A covert circle of predominately female owners worked together to protect Anne’s signed note within the book and thus cherish her memory, despite the widespread attempts to dishonour her in the wake of her downfall. The family names of those who wrote in the book after Anne, and so remembered her as her inscription demanded, are: Gage, Shirley and West. These names are all linked through the extended family tree of a fourth name: the Guildfords from Cranbrook in Kent.

A particularly poignant connection from within this group of trusted family members links Anne Boleyn’s printed Hours to her daughter, Elizabeth I. This connection will be explained in greater detail in forthcoming posts, as will each aspect of my research, but a brief summary is this: Mary Hill, the granddaughter of Elizabeth Shirley (an author of a newly uncovered inscription in Anne’s book), married John Cheke (the childhood tutor of Elizabeth I) and became and remained a close friend of Elizabeth’s until the queen’s death in 1603. It is an attractive, if unprovable, possibility that more than twenty years after Anne’s execution and during the reign of her daughter Elizabeth, Mary Hill was able to share Hever’s Hours with the Queen and Elizabeth could view her mother’s signed inscription. A connection to Anne that once would have encouraged the book’s destruction, later ensured its survival.

You can follow Kate’s research journey over on her blog and on Twitter @kateemccaffrey.

Photo by Hever Castle & Gardens.

MA Medieval and Early Modern Studies student awarded Pasold MA Dissertation Grant

Cecilia White originally graduated from Kent in 2012 with her undergraduate degree in Politics and Philosophy and is now a student on the MA in Medieval and Early Modern Studies. We caught up with Cecilia to find out more about more about her dissertation.

Why did you decide to come back to Kent to do your masters?

During my final year of my undergraduate degree, I joined a re-enactment group which covers England, in and around the late C10th to the C13th, give or take. This kindled quite a strong interest in the medieval period more generally, and when I started looking at postgraduate courses again about 18 months ago, the Kent MA course caught my interest a lot.

Could you please tell us a bit about your MA dissertation?

My MA dissertation is linked to re-enactment, although moves out of my core period of interest. Due to being disabled, amongst other issues, I’ve always focussed on the civilian/living history side of re-enactment rather than battle re-enactment and become reasonably accomplished at many of the skills a woman of the middle and upper classes (a status level chosen for a mix of better clothing and I’m fairly physically limited) of my core period would have, so I can display them at shows, but probably my best skills are cooking and dress-making.

It is the latter skill I am using for my dissertation, which intends to research and then as accurately as possible recreate a cotte from circa 1380 Kent. A cotte is the core dress that most women of the period wore, with or without further layers. It is one which wealthy women would often stick extra layers over such as Houplandes (the big bell sleeved robes worn by both women and men in the late/high medieval periods), or surcotte (the sideless apron/dress like garment which you often see as the stereotype of medieval women’s fashion).

There is very little known about how such garments were made or tailored during the period and one of the difficulties will be creating the garment to achieve the period ‘fashionable shape’, so making the garment should provide me a window of insight into the experience of the women who created the clothing. I also want to gather information on things like how long things took, how difficult they were, etc. to gather as much detail as possible about the work. An additional detail I will want to examine at the end of the project is to assess, considering this is a fairly new style of study, how much information is gathered and learnt and how much it adds to the study considering the material cost is quite high.

Why did you choose the cotte?

I chose 1380 as a dateline as its a major turning point in terms of historic fashion – it’s the first time you really see tailored dresses (and thus is linked to a major jump in textiles skillsets), an unusually short-lived fashion for the period, and closely linked to a lot of wider changes in society, particularly regarding the view to women.

Congratulations on the grant you have been awarded for your dissertation research! Could you tell us a little bit more about this?

I have been awarded the Pasold MA Dissertation Grant and its purpose is to help fund specifically textiles related studies. What it mostly enables me to do is afford the materials needed to recreate the dress, as I intend to try and get as accurate fabric/materials as possible which is not cheep at all especially if I can get authentically plant dyed and handwoven wool as I hope to do. It will also fund any research trips I have to take while I’m at it.

What are your plans for after your MA?

I’m not entirely sure as of yet. If there is one thing this MA has done for me, is boost my self esteem and belief in my own capabilities after a BA and intervening years which have knocked me down quite a lot. Even if I’m not entirely certain of what next, I’m certainly a lot more confident and hopeful that I will be doing something I enjoy after graduation.

Conference to commemorate Thomas Becket’s life, death and legacy (28-30 April)

A three-day virtual conference organised by the University (28-30 April) will explore the life and times of the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, just over 850 years after his murder in Canterbury Cathedral. The conference is open to all.

Each day of the conference will focus on one of three areas of scholarly and popular interest: Becket’s life story and true character; his murder and its lasting international repercussions; and the breadth of his legacy, beginning with his becoming a martyr idol, through the attempted eradication of his name from history, and ending with his saintly rebirth in the 19th Century and onward.

Organised by Dr Emily Guerry, Senior Lecturer in Medieval European History at Kent’s School of History, the conference will feature contributions from over 40 leading Becket experts from 11 countries. Keynote papers will be presented by: Rachel Koopmans, Associate Professor, York University (Canada); Paul Webster, Teaching Associate, Cardiff University; and Alec Ryrie, Professor of the History of Christianity at Durham University.

The conference’s partners are Canterbury Cathedral and Canterbury Christ Church University, with support from the British Academy and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Delegates will also be given virtual tours of Canterbury Cathedral, each with focus on a unique theme including; mosaics, architecture, stained glass, relics, and medieval graffiti. The tours will reveal the extent to which Thomas Becket is embedded in English history and in the Cathedral, including relics both attacked and preserved in the wake of Henry VIII’s reformation, including the identifiable knife marks in manuscripts from which Becket’s name was ripped.

The British Museum is holding an exhibition in parallel with the conference: ‘Thomas Becket – murder and the making of a saint’.

Dr Guerry said: ‘This conference is the greatest collaboration of the world’s leading experts on Thomas Becket to date and is a tremendous opportunity for sharing insights, research and resources on a subject that is of vital importance to history. Speakers will demonstrate that the life, death and legacy of Becket are crucial in appreciating the evolution of English literature, humour, religion, politics and its position in Europe and the world.’

Conference tickets, with a student reduction, can be purchased here.

Lucy Splarn contributes her PhD research on Thomas Becket for next week’s episode of River Hunters

Medieval and Early Modern Studies PhD student, Lucy Splarn, contributes to research behind the second series of Sky History’s River Hunters and features in the upcoming episode, ‘Canterbury Murders’ on Monday 26 April at 9pm.

The six-part series sees presenter Rick Edwards and YouTube river detectorist, Beau Ouimette, swim in search for historical artefacts across unexplored rivers throughout the UK. Each episode focuses on a significant period of history in a new river, combining underwater archaeological discoveries with a splash of humour along the way.

Keep a close eye out for the Canterbury episode which airs on Monday 26 April at 9pm, where the duo glide along the clear waters of the River Stour which runs through the city centre. The Stour is an important waterway that was crossed by thousands of pilgrims visiting the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral since the late-twelfth century.

We caught up with Lucy to find out a little bit more about her PhD and how she found herself involved in the making of the show. Prior to her PhD, Lucy obtained her MA in Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the University of Kent. Lucy shares, “I went on to work as an Archive and Library Assistant at Canterbury Cathedral, which holds an impressive collection of UNESCO historical documents dating to the 8th century, before undertaking my PhD.”

Could you tell us a little bit about your PhD research?

My research focuses on the art and iconography of medieval pilgrim souvenirs, which are tiny hand-held objects made from lead-alloy. They are usually found in rivers during archaeological excavations and  my research examines how they can provide insights into the ordinary pilgrims who once owned them.

How did your involvement in the second series of River Hunters come about?

I was invited to talk about the local collection of medieval pilgrim badges relating to Saint Thomas Becket for the upcoming Canterbury episode of River Hunters, a historical programme on Sky History where host Rick Edwards, river-searcher expert Beau Ouimette and underwater archaeologist Gary Bankhead dive into unexplored rivers to find treasures from the past. We discussed the importance of Canterbury Cathedral as a World Heritage Site, the brutal martyrdom of Saint Thomas Becket, the crowds of pilgrims that travelled to the city and the pilgrim souvenirs they collected along the way.

Do you have any future exciting plans involving your research? 

I plan to work closely with the Beaney House of Art and Knowledge in Canterbury ahead of their upcoming Thomas Becket exhibition due to open on 29 May 2021, where some of the local collection of pilgrim badges will be on display. You can also take a listen to a short discussion I had with Mitch Robertson, Programming & Collections Manager at the Beaney for a new behind-the-scenes feature on BBC Radio Kent with Dominic King. Read about Becket pilgrim souvenirs on Canterbury Cathedral’s Picture This blog series.

Tune in to River Hunters episode 4, ‘Canterbury Murder (Henry II and Thomas Becket)’ on Monday 26th April at 9pm.

If you’re interested in following Lucy’s research, you can find her on Twitter @LucySplarn.

IMAGE: Medieval pilgrim souvenirs. Image reproduced courtesy of Canterbury Museums and Galleries

Dr David Rundle to speak at Fragmentarium video conference event

Lecturer in Latin and Palaeography, Dr David Rundle, will be giving a talk titled, ‘Neil Ker and the Tradition of Studying Fragments in the UK’ on Thursday 23 April at 15.00. Dr Rundle’s talk will be part of the Fragmentarium project’s video conference series.

Dr Rundle shares, “As well as discussing Ker’s work and placing it in a longer tradition of scholarship, this will also give an opportunity to launch the online edition of Ker’s catalogue of pastedowns in Oxford bindings, as first published in 1954, augmented by David Pearson in 2000 and with further addenda from the 2004 reprint of Ker’s work.

This will appear on the Lost Manuscripts website. This project has been a long-term dream of mine, and it would not have been possible without the generous support of the Bibliographical Society of London and Oxford Bibliographical Society, or without the skilled assistance of Dr James Willoughby.”

You can register for this event here.

IMAGE: Image Reproduced Courtesy of the Chapter of Canterbury Cathedral

PhD student, Graeme Millen, contributes to BBC Radio Scotland’s ‘Scotland and the Low Countries’ programme

PhD student, Graeme Millen, has contributed to two upcoming episodes of BBC Radio Scotland’s ‘Scotland and the Low Countries’ programme: ‘Will Ye Go tae Flanders?’ and ‘The Scots Dutchmen’. During the shows, Graeme discusses the Scots-Dutch Brigade and the importance of the Netherlands as a destination for Scottish military migration.

Graeme explains, “It’s long been understood that the Low Countries were an important destination for migrating Scots for all sorts of purposes, from education to economic to religious. We discussed the Brigade not just as a destination for migrants but as an active community of Scots who could and did have impacts upon the homeland. My own research has illustrated that the military migration of Scots was not just a one way street their participation helping to change the country’s political direction in 1689 by acting as the military vanguard of William’s fledgling Government and the Scottish Revolution.”

We caught up with Graeme to find out more about his PhD research and how this opportunity came about.

What is the focus of your PhD research?

My PhD thesis is entitled ‘The Scots-Dutch Brigade and the Highland War, 1689-91’ and examines the return of said Brigade, a unit of Scots in the Dutch Army, to Scotland in 1689. In the aftermath of the Revolution of 1688, divisions over the Royal succession were split between the reigning King James II & VII and his Protestant son-in-law and daughter, Prince William of Orange and Mary Stuart. This tumultuous shift in England, where James was considered to have abdicated the throne by fleeing to France, sparked divisions in Scotland. A constitutional assembly, the Convention of Estates, was elected to decide the issue. However, when James’ supporters realised they had been politically outmanoeuvred, a small group of loyalists led by John Graham 1st Viscount Dundee, took the decision to leave and raise an army from amongst sympathetic Highland Clans. So began the Highland War, or First Jacobite Rising, – a civil war which would only last three years but the impact of which would be felt throughout Scotland for decades to come, with subsequent Jacobite Risings occurring in 1715, 1719 and, most famously, 1745.

Reinvigorating the study of the short, but crucial, war during a tumultuous period of British and European history my thesis examines the Highland War through the eyes of the Scots-Dutch officers centrally involved in combatting the Jacobites. The thesis reappraises the war chronologically examining the different stages of the conflict through the role of the Scots-Dutch Brigade, who provided a nucleus of experienced officers to William’s nascent Scottish Army. Furthermore, I tackle less travelled areas such as the martial identity of the Brigade during the conflict, via the underused memoir of the unit’s commander Major-General Hugh Mackay, and the supply and financing of the war effort.

How did your contribution to the BBC Radio Scotland programme come about?

My contribution came about when I was approached by Scottish broadcaster and cultural commentator, Billy Kay, last August. Having been plugging away at my thesis for the last 3-4 years, I’ve built a small following on Twitter by posting wee tasters of my research for a broader audience. Billy heard about my research, the Brigade having been long neglected in Scottish historiography, from various Scottish early modern historians some of whom also contributed to the programme! Coming from Glasgow, I’ve been able to base myself up here, particularly for the latter half of my PhD, and actively participate in many conferences and events over the years; I guess that’s allowed me to network, making connections and promoting my research here!

If you are interested in following Graeme’s work, you can follow him on Twitter. ‘Will Ye Go tae Flanders?’ will air on 2 April and ‘The Scots Dutchmen’ will air on 5 April.

University of Kent medievalists’ collaborative project awarded funding from Flemish Research Foundation

We’re delighted to announce that ‘Literatures Without Borders: A Historical-Comparative Study of Pre-Modern Literary Transnationalism’, a collaborative project involving medievalists at the University of Kent, has been awarded 62,500 euros by the Flemish Research Foundation.

This grant will be used to establish a new international network to examine the interactions between Latin and other cosmopolitan languages and literatures of the pre-modern world, including Jewish-Ladino-Yiddish, Arabic and Byzantine-Greek.

This new project is led by RELICS (Researchers of European Literary Identity, Cosmopolitanism and the Schools), based at Ghent University, and it will bring together researchers from sixteen partner institutions, including Kent. This project will be an exciting opportunity to expand and deepen the intellectual collaborations between medievalists at Kent and scholars elsewhere in Europe.

Dr Emily Guerry co-organising international conference on Thomas Becket: Life, Death and Legacy

The year 2020 marked the 850th anniversary of the brutal martyrdom of St Thomas Becket inside Canterbury Cathedral and, in a matter of months, Becket had become one of the most popular saints in all of medieval Europe, attracting hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and inspiring countless legends and works of art, including Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. To commemorate Becket’s legacy, Dr Emily Guerry (Co-Director of MEMS) is co-organising an international online conference 28-30 April (Thomas Becket: Life, Death, and Legacy) with papers from over 40 speakers from around the globe.

Emily is working with colleagues at Christ Church University and Canterbury Cathedral to host this conference, with generous support from the British Academy. You can reserve a ticket, please note that ALL Kent students can book for free.

Our conference coincides with the launch of an exciting exhibition on Becket at the British Museum, which will feature a 6-meter-tall 800-year-old stained glass window showing the miracles of Becket, on loan from Canterbury Cathedral. For any queries about either of these events, please get in touch with Emily Guerry.