Tuesday, 12 August 2014

My Trip to Bath University

 This summer I was offered a very unique opportunity to visit a university for five days to talk about further education. As a grammar school student, the idea of A-levels and even university wasn’t ever really a question and I was certain ever since I was in year one that I was going to be a teacher when I grew up. Despite the fact that I had pretty much planned my age at the age of four, those 5 days opened my eyes to the possibilities of university, the skills I could learn and the friends I could make.
So I arrived at the campus on the 1st of August in high spirits. I thought I looked quite casual but neat with my Harry Potter t-shirt and turn ups in my jeans- I was pretty sure I would look normal and fit right in.
Everyone was dressed like they were being sponsored by Jack Wills, well, if you looked closely you could notice a few cheeky Hollister Jeans but that was the only variation.
However within five minutes I was chatting to some other girls who were also interested in history, they all had very different reasons. For example, some wanted to study history because they would like to research into things like slavery, genocide and the holocaust and find out where humanity went wrong so we won’t repeat the same mistakes again. Others were simply interested in the subject, they enjoyed it.
So, we spent the first day being shown around the campus. One thing I really liked about it was that there were a lot of options and things to do. One of the things that scare me about the future is regret- will I regret my choices in further education? Will it be too late to go back and change it? At university they look after you really well, there are many clubs and mini courses you can take as well as your main course. For example, I want to be a history teacher when I’m older and hopefully educate children in poorer countries. However, I also want to help in other ways. I have an interest in film making and animation but I have always worried if I will be good enough for it. For that reason I never pursued it but at university I could easily learn about it and start developing my skill alongside my education in history.
We did a long of things in the space of 5 days. We began working on projects on a period of history we were most interested in. I chose ancient history because I’ve always had a fervent attitude to myths and legends. Another factor that drew me to that decision was the fact I was in Bath, what better place to do research?
So it began, the research and presentation of our projects for the next 3 days. I really enjoyed making my project because it was really independent and we all helped each other. At the same time I felt I could go to the teachers for help and I felt really comfortable.
At the end we all talked about what we had learnt. I learnt a lot from my peers as well as my own work and I was really proud of the work I had produced and happy with the friends I had made.

It was honestly an experience I will never forget. :)  

Sunday, 27 July 2014

'My Lord Katie'

I was scrolling back through previous articles on this blog (as you do) and, as someone who’s recently been getting really into all this Reformation stuff, E.C’s post from April on Martin Luther caught my eye. I thought I’d throw in my twopence too.
I could sit here and type out the key elements of Lutheranism (original Lutheranism, I mean – it’s changed a bit since Luther’s day) but something else caught my eye, and that was a short post I found on the women of the Reformation, featuring none other than Luther’s wife, Katharina von Bora.

(Before I start, if anyone needs a quick introduction to Luther, this song by the History Teachers does the trick.)

Katharina (or Katherine) von Bora was sent by her father to a Benedictine abbey, aged just five, to receive an education, but was transferred four years later to a Cistercian chapter near Grimma, where she took her vows and became a nun in 1515.
However, Katharina’s religious life was about to be shaken up a whole lot more than merely by a change in chapter. Luther had nailed his theses to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral, and before long, religious reform in Germany was underway. This young Cistercian nun got wind of these evangelical ideas and became dissatisfied with life in the abbey. She and eleven other nuns, having sought help from Luther and his fellow reformers beforehand, managed to escape in secrecy, hiding in a fish-filled wagon. (Also, it’s worth noting that smuggling nuns was a capital offence, so hats off to the wagon driver, Leonhard Koppe.)

Because it was against canon law for their families to take these nuns back, Luther had to find jobs or husbands for all of them. He managed that for everyone except Katharina. Determined to set an example of clerical marriage, he married the last runaway nun left.
Luther and Katharina were married at some point in 1525, which definitely raised eyebrows. He hadn’t told his friends that he had planned to marry her.

Luther being Luther, by marrying, had broken the Roman Catholic rule of clerical celebacy. Some priests had – and continued to - marry in secret (perhaps one of the most obvious examples being Thomas Cranmer in 1532) but Luther didn’t. Their original, private wedding ceremony was followed by a much more public one. This was a pretty big deal: one of Luther’s contemporaries, Philipp Melanchthon, saw it as an ‘unlucky deed’ which would bring about the downfall of the Reformation (though he might have just been miffed because he wasn’t invited to the wedding).

Katharina von Bora, painted by Lucas
Cranach the Elder, 1526

Also, as clerical marriage was almost unprecedented, Katharina effectively had to answer one big question: What were clerics’ wives supposed to do?
The answer, it turns out, was an awful lot.
It was said that Martin Luther knew next to nothing about how to run a household - presumably monks didn’t need these skills – so the task fell to his new wife. Katharina was, in essence, the perfect housewife. As well as supporting her husband in the Reformation, she managed to:
  • Raise ten children (six of her own, one of her nephews and three others)
  • Run the household, including looking after all those theologians and students Luther kept bringing into the house.
  • Look after the gardens and livestock.
  • Run the brewery. (Monasteries were allowed to brew beer, and Luther House was an old Augustinian cloister. Katharina used this to her advantage.)
Following Luther’s death in 1546, his widow fought tooth and nail for her lands, property and her family. They were a tight unit, and when Chancellor Brück was adamant that her sons should be properly educated away from home, Katharina was having none of it. Brück was eventually forced to give up, and the boys stayed where they were.

What was worse, the remaining Luthers no longer had the money to maintain their house. They were allowed to keep it, and were given money and a farm by the Elector, but with the outbreak of the Schmalkaldic War, the family had to flee. They later returned to find that their farm had been used by the two armies: the buildings had been burnt down and the animals had gone. They wound up in debt, and Katharina had to take in students from Wittenberg University to make more money.
Perhaps, in light of what other women have done, Katharina Luther doesn’t stand out as the perfect role model, or someone who deserves extra praise, but what she did was nevertheless admirable, and her influence in the Reformation regarding the argument against clerical celibacy was very significant. The Luthers were a high profile couple, and Katharina was held in high esteem by her husband, who called her ‘my lord Katie’ and ‘the boss of Zulsdorf’ (Zulsdorf being the name of their farm). Sexual freedom for the clergy was an important aspect of the Reformation, and it was Martin and Katharina Luther who led the way.


(Oh, and a final piece of trivia for you: Martin and Katharina’s line still continues today through their daughter, Margarete. One of their descendants was the German president, Paul von Hindenburg.)

Monday, 21 July 2014

Summer Reading 2014

The Summer Holidays are nearly here so there may be a little time over the next few weeks for some summer reading. We have created some specific reading lists on Historical Fiction which you may find of interest. They are not complete, and need your input! If you have read any great books on any period of history, please let us know, and we will include them. Here are the current pages...

Historical Fiction: Key Stage 3
20th Century Historical Fiction: Years 9-11
Sixth Form Historical Fiction: Wars of the Roses and the Tudors

If you are in the Sixth Form and considering History at University, here are a few ideas...

David Aaronovitch of The Times has helpfully made some recommendations, which include "The Ascent of Money" by Niall Ferguson, which looks at the global history of finance and "The Birth of the Modern World 1788-1800" by Jay Winik, which considers the connections between the momentous political events of the late 18th Century. Both books would obviously provide helpful parallels with our current political and economic problems.

Tudor Historians may find "Mary Tudor:England's First Queen" of interest as it takes quite a sympathetic view of her and David Starkey's "Henry-The Virtuous Prince" looks closely at the often neglected early years of Henry VIII's life. Here is a further selection of Tudor History books and here is a guide from tudorhistory.org to useful authors.

EH Carr's "What is History" is the classic introduction to the nature of the subject and some ideas of historiography. Although it was published 48 years ago, it still contains many stimulating ideas to get the historian thinking. Other books that follow similar ideas, often written in response to Carr, include Geoffrey Elton's "The Practice of History, Richard Evans' "In Defence of History" and John Tosh's "The Pursuit of History". More information about these ideas can be seen at the Institute of History's special section on "What is History" here and in the Open University's website here.

If you are looking for further inspiration on what to read, check the "History Reviews" sections of the newspapers. Here are links to the The Guardian'sand The Telegraph's history books sections. The Institute of Historical Research also has an extensive Reviews Section

The Amazon.com history section of course has a vast range of books and is worth checking for the latest to be published.

Please pass on any recommendations for books you have enjoyed, and happy reading!

PS: Here is a list of books and articles recommended for old AEA course (for A Level Students who wanted to stretch themselves further) which are worth considering.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Football Through Time

In honour of the World Cup Semi Finals this Tuesday, I thought I would give you all a quick lesson on the history of organised football!

There is evidence that ball games have been played since 300 BC, with FIFA (the Federation Internationale de Football Association) claiming the ancient game of “cuju” to be the first official football-type sport.
“Cuju” was a militaristic game played in 2nd Century BC China, with very different rules to modern football but a similar player formation and crescent-shaped goals creating a pitch.
This game has since evolved worldwide, and today has many different variations across the globe.
The UK variation became popular in the Middle Ages. This new “football” game may be familiar with some of you already – called “mob football” and played between villages, a pig’s bladder was inflated and used as a ball. Played to celebrate occasions such as Christmas, it was very popular with communities.

Historians are not sure whether or not the ball was kicked at this stage, as although the game was known as “foot” ball, accounts describe players hitting and throwing the ball rather than just kicking it.
Over time, the “mob” element of British football was eliminated and through the English Private School system, football became an organised team sport.
Modern football was established around 1519, with more defined rules than previous variations, although still constantly changing, with the first offside rule introduced in the late 1700’s.
Schoolchildren were still at the forefront of developing modern football, as 1780 marked the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the UK, and with most adults working full time, only children at school could play lengthy sports. However, the Industrial Revolution brought benefits for children in other ways too, inter-school competitions occurred more often as rail travel had improved making it easier for matches between schools to occur.

The first official organised Football Association was formed in 1888, the Football League. Teams in England were officially documented and football became a more professional sport.
In 1922, the top 22 clubs in the Football League split to form the Premier League, the most renowned football competition in the UK. It is currently the most watched league in the world, and broadcast in 212 countries.

FIFA was founded in 1904 to bring the world together to play football in one “World Cup”. This idea was well received and in 1930, the first world cup was held in Uruguay.
As the organiser of the world championships, FIFA reserves the right to change or pass judgement on the modern football rules and regulations. When world football was suggested, all the different variations of the sport had to be taken into account to create one ultimate football game. The current game is based quite heavily on the old English football rules, established at Cambridge University in 1862, which in turn evolved from medieval football, however there are still elements of the game from other world cultures.

I hope you enjoyed this (slightly longer than I intended) history of football, so now go and enjoy the World Cup!  

K. Z. 

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Lathom and Leave 'Em

The Siege of Lathom House (or, to be more precise, the First Siege of Lathom House) in 1644 is one of those events that, though full of drama and rather significant, never quite makes it into the list of things that come to mind when one mentions the English Civil War. It’s like a bi-election that only makes page eight news.

It’s understandable, I suppose, particularly when compared to events at Nottingham, Edgehill and Marston Moor, but the story of Lathom is a rather exciting one, especially if put into terms of female power, and overcoming the 17th century patriarchy to achieve great things in daring fashion. (Honestly, historical fiction writers would have a field day with this.) The powerful female in question is Lady Charlotte Stanley, wife of James Stanley, 7th Earl of Derby (and for the Wars of the Roses enthusiasts, yes, it’s those Stanleys).

I think I’d better set the scene:

Lathom in Lancashire had been part of the Stanley family estates since the turn of the 15th century, when Sir John Stanley married Isabel Lathom. The wooden castle at Lathom then became the main seat of the family until Thomas, 1st Earl of Derby, rebuilt it, so that it became a whopping great palatial mansion, with thick stone walls, a deep moat and nine interestingly named towers. (Imagine staying in the Tower of Madness, for example.) By the time the 7th Earl rocked up over 150 years later, the castle was still standing, and Charlotte - a French lady from Queen Henrietta Maria’s retinue – had now been married into the powerful Stanley family. Charlotte herself came from an even more powerful family, being the daughter of the duc de Thouars, so, politically, it was a dynamite match. The marriage itself was a happy and loving one (again, historical fiction writers, take note) and it was also successful, producing six surviving children.

That said, things weren’t quite as blissful for the couple in the royal court. James Stanley wasn’t on best terms with Charles I, being a rival claimant to the throne, and his Queen disliked the Huguenots (of which Charlotte was one). To avoid being swamped with gossip and criticism, Charlotte spent much of her life away from court, at Lathom and Knowsley.

When civil war broke out, James initially sat on the fence (in true Stanley fashion) but eventually became an enthusiastic royalist, and when he was ordered by King Charles to go the Isle of Man and cut off the Scottish army, he did so, leaving Charlotte and their children behind at Lathom.

Enthusiastic though he was, James wasn’t a great military leader. (There were roundhead jokes going round saying that his wife had nicked his breeches; she was obviously the more capable of the two.) With the royalist grasp on Lancashire and the Isle of Man slipping away, the main focus for Thomas Fairfax’s parliamentarian forces by early 1644 was Lathom House.
The Earl and Countess of Derby with one of their children, painted
by Anthony Van Dyck before the civil war broke out.

Anyway, enough background. Time for some action!

On the 27th February 1644, Fairfax decided that Lathom House had to fall. His troops surrounded it, and Fairfax tried to negotiate with Lady Charlotte for the castle’s surrender. Much like the Queen she served, Charlotte was quite haughty and imperious, and said that it was Fairfax who should be submitting to her, and not the other way around. The negotiations were strung out until mid-March, when Charlotte flatly refused all offers and Lathom was put under siege.

The Lathom garrison was small – somewhere between two and three hundred men – and Fairfax had about ten times as many men waiting outside. The captain of her garrison – Colonel Farmer – carried out raids on the besieging force, while Charlotte herself acted as commander, supervising every detail and raising the morale of her troops.
As I've already implied, to call Lathom a house is a bit misleading. In truth, it was a heavily fortified castle, and Charlotte used this to the best of her advantage. The Eagle Tower provided excellent views of the 1500 infantry and 500 cavalry below, and the six foot thick outer walls coped well with the battering from outside. Meanwhile, the parliamentarians were under threat from Charlotte's snipers, who were good shots, it seems. They had their guns trained on enemy officers, waiting for them to emerge from their trenches. Each of the nine towers also had six cannons.
Lathom House, drawn at some point before the siege.

It's understandable, therefore, that the parliamentarians were willing to negotiate. Charlotte, however, had no such ideas. When Fairfax managed to get a letter from James Stanley asking for his wife to abandon Lathom, she stayed where she was, and when she received a letter from the besiegers asking her to surrender, she apparently tore it up saying:
Tell that insolent rebel, he shall have neither persons, goods, nor house. When our strength and provisions are spent, we shall find a [merciful fire]; and then, if the providence of God prevent it not, my goods and house shall burn in his sight; and myself, children, and soldiers, rather than fall into his hands will seal our religion and loyalty in the same flames.
It’s easy to romanticise the story of this military miracle-working matriarch (for example in this fantastic song about the siege by Steeleye Span) but despite their overwhelming size, Fairfax’s forces weren’t exactly stiff competition, especially when Fairfax was recalled to Yorkshire halfway through the siege. His replacement, Colonel Rigby, obviously did not want to be there, and morale was low. They failed to launch any major offensive, partly because of Lathom's position in the local landscape. Furthermore, it was news that Prince Rupert was on his way to relieve Lathom’s garrison that ultimately caused the parliamentarians to lift the siege and retreat, rather than the strength of the Countess' forces.
Even so, Charlotte and that tiny garrison managed to hold out for eleven weeks with only minimal damage, so hats off to them, I say.
The Parliamentarians seizing the mortar, one of the few
successes of the besiegers in 1644.

(It is worth mentioning, however, that within two years, James had been beheaded, Lathom had been destroyed and most of the Stanley estates were in the control of parliament. Such is war.)


Thursday, 1 May 2014

'Oh do shut up dear' - Mary Beard on the public voice of women

A fantastic lecture about women's role in speaking out over the course of history.  The well-known classicist felt compelled to take on the issue of the public voice of women after her recent treatment on social media - and she does so with gusto!!
See clips from her lecture here and her article in the Guardian about women in the public sphere here.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

'That Martin Luther guy's pretty funky'

          Hello dear readers, it is I, back again for your regular dose of extremely odd and nonsensical ramblings with just a dashing of actual Historical information. Now, please do excuse me, because it's almost half ten in the evening and, unlike actual 'normal' teenagers, I tend to stop functioning all together after around 8pm. Before 12 am doesn't look good either. But nonetheless, here I am, ready to impart the very little knowledge that I have on to you, who probably knows it anyway and is only reading this blog for a good laugh at somebody who attempts to seem knowledgeable.
   Anyway. On to the History bit. You see, the title of this article is, I believe, a brilliant representation of my mental state at the moment. It is, however, my poor, failing brains first response to reading a few articles on line about Luther and Lutherism (I wonder where they got the name from?).
    Now, Luther isn't really 'my type'. Although not a Catholic, he was a bit of a religious fanatic and didn't, in fact, really want to start a revolution at all, it seems. He targeted academics, it seems, at the 95 theses (a document in which he basically ripped the Catholic Church to shreds) was written in Latin, and was so inaccessible for the lay person. He said that it was impossible for all men to become equal and was, in general, concerned with keeping the status quo in all aspects of life apart from religion.
   In fact, from a Lutherist point of view, the Catholic Church could be seen as the revolutionary party, as it had moved drastically away from the teachings of Christ, and Luther could have been seen as a reactionary, trying to 'turn the clock back', and focus on Christians having a personal faith, rather than one controlled entirely by the Church. Luthers main problem with the Catholic Church was that it seemed to lie to the people, telling them that they could effectively 'buy' their way into heaven, as well as placing a lot less store by personal repentance and faith, and instead focusing on the power of the Church itself.
    No, the reason that I like him is that he wasn't afraid to stick up for what he thought was right. He nailed his 95 Theses onto the door of Wittenburg cathedral, and refused to stand down for what he believed, even when facing the prospect of execution at his trial in the city of Worms. That bravery and courage - to fight for what he believed, is something that I think should be admired.
     He has also won a place as one of my favorite History Boys because he did not agree with the idea that it was only through the Catholic Church that you could find freedom and redemption. He thought that a lot of faith should be a personal thing, and although I have my own views on religion, I thoroughly agree with the idea that people should be able to discover it themselves. Because if your ticket to heaven lies in the hands of one body of people, then that body has a supreme control over your every move. And one thing I can't stand is anybody having supreme control over anybody else.
   I think that's why I fell in  love with his story. One document, nailed to the door of a cathedral, sparked a revolution that gave people just a little bit more freedom.
   Anyway, sleep really does call me, so I think I'll have to love you and leave you!

Saturday, 22 March 2014

GCSE Hitler's Germany
I was trying to find a way to relax, but still convince myself I was revising when I came across this gem. Most of it is within 'How did Hitler change Germany from a democracy to a Nazi dictatorship, 1933-34?' part of the syllabus and the programme really captures how scarily well the Nazis managed to indoctrinate so many young Germans- enjoy!

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Yet another reason for me to get on my moral high horse...

         Alright guys. I'm back. Tired, snotty, and with ears that feel as if they're clogged up with enough wax to supply a candle-making factory, but back all the same. And haven't you missed me. Now, as much as I'd love to give you the idea that I came back because my emotion towards you all was simply too strong, that is not quite the truth. You see, my friends get a little bit annoyed when I go on and on about politics, and you are a captive audience. I hope. I mean, you could technically stop reading this article but you don't want my broken heart on your conscience, do you? I thought not.
  So anyways, what is it this time that has annoyed me? Well, to be honest, I think I’m justified this time. Because, as some of you may know, Uganda has just passed a bill that angers me when i even think about it. You see, anyone who LGBT could face a lengthy stay in prison, and homosexual sex and same-sex marriage can now mean that the couple live the rest of their lives in prison. It also means that those who help members of the LGBT community can face up to 7 years in prison.
  Now, I don't think I even have to spell out for you why this is a problem. LGBT rights, quite simply, are Human rights, and any violation of these, to me, is just ridiculous. It is simply nonsensical to put people in prison for simply being themselves, and I see absolutely no excuse for making love illegal. Because, quite simply, that's what it is - Love. And whether its between two men, a man and a woman, or two women, it should be accepted.
Anyway, only a short one today I’m afraid but I am extremely tired!
P.S: Here is a petition against the bill

Sunday, 2 March 2014

The Musketeers

I’ve been meaning to write this blog for a while and I’ve finally gotten round to it! You lucky, lucky people. 

Now, for the past few weeks, I’ve been watching The Musketeers (which is excellent and on at 9pm tonight on BBC 1) and I have decided to let you all know who they are because I’ve been watching this for ages and I barely know myself. 

I’m back from google-ing.

The Musketeers come from the French historical novel ‘The Three Musketeers’ by Alexandre Dumas in 1844. It is set in the 1600s where D’Artagnan (my favourite from the TV series) meets the three musketeers: Athos, Porthos and Aramis (who I always get confused, but who cares when D’Artagnan’s there). But, anyway even if you didn’t know their names (like me up until five minutes ago), I think everyone knows their motto “all for one and one for all” which was first put forward by D’Artagnan.

And don’t think that Dumas just made these people up, oh no, Dumas did very good research because these ‘musketeers’ were real. They were an “early modern type of infantry soldier equipped with a musket” as stated in my favourite, oh-so-reliable source; Wikipedia. However, there are some differences between what the TV show depicts and what actually happened. For example, in episode four, it shows them acting as body guards/ welcoming the Duke of Savoy, when really the musketeers were one of the lower units of the Royal Guard and would therefore have had little to do with the royal family. On the other hand, they did actually have those blue capes that you see occasionally in some of the episodes, but they had to wear them all the time as part of their uniform which they are obviously lacking in the photo above. 

Overall, even though I am glad I now know all of their names, the only thing I have really achieved is 310 words and an hour of procrastination and counting... So I’m afraid that I’m going to have to leave all of you Musketeer fans here while I go and ‘do homework’ (i.e. even more procrastination).