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Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury (1120–70) is one of the iconic figures in British history – a man who most people have not only heard of, but also have an opinion on. Yet, despite the brutality of his murder, such opinions are not always positive. In fact, this medieval archbishop is an unusually divisive figure, and always has been.
In one memorable incident related in Keith Thomas’s In Pursuit of Civility: Manners and Civilization in Early Modern England, an unfortunate diner fell victim to poor table manners.
Some 70 years after the British left India it is timely to look back at how the kings and queens of the United Kingdom came to amass one of the largest private collections of South Asian art in the world. Two conjoined exhibitions currently showing at the Queen’s Gallery do just that.
A Day at Home in Early Modern England does precisely as the title suggests – it takes its reader through the minutiae of a day in early modern England in painstaking detail using a combination of literary sources, historical documents (including court records, wills and inventories) and household objects.
Many years ago, J. H. Overton drew a fine line between Non-Jurors on the one hand and Jacobites on the other. The former, according to Overton, were ‘in no active sense of the term Jacobites’ because they were ‘content to live peacefully and quietly without a thought of disturbing the present government’.
In an age where the welfare state, the social jewel in Britain's post-war crown, seems to be at breaking point, Jacques Carré's latest book, La prison des pauvres : l'expérience des workhouses en Angleterre (The Pauper's Prison: The Experience of Workhouses in England), is a timely reminder that public welfare in Britain has a long and complicated history.
Since the turn of the millennium it has become increasingly common for general histories of magic and witchcraft to include a section on the phenomenon of magic in the contemporary western world, but the precise relationship between contemporary manifestations of magical belief and their historical antecedents is rarely explored.
This book was commissioned by the Bank of England, when Mervyn (now Lord) King was Governor. The aim was to produce a popular history of the Bank, an institution important in Britain since its inception. If it was intended to be a popular volume, the kind that flies off the shelves in bookshops, I hope that I’m right when I say it will not.
In contemporary understanding, a kitchen is a space which houses a heat source and appropriate utensils for preparing meals. How and why this kind of kitchen emerged in England between the 17th and mid-19th century is the story that Pennell set out to uncover.
Good reference books on the history of alcohol remain few and far between, despite increased interest in the area in the last 20 years.