Dedication Is What You Need

Dedicated: portrait of a lady identified as Catherine Howard, Holbein the YoungerIt is not often that actual history and Showtime’s TV series The Tudors are in agreement. Yet one scene depicts a very small event that may have actually happened, as part of a much larger 16th-century tradition of patronage and gift giving. In it, Thomas Culpepper presents Catherine Howard with a folio-sized book as part of the New Year’s celebrations. The book – the first book on midwifery to be written in English – was the work of Richard Jonas, a man who came to England in the train of Anne of Cleves. Jonas meant to dedicate the book to Anne, but would now like to dedicate it to Catherine instead.

More articles by Valerie Schutte
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Volume 68 Issue 2 February 2018

Sanitising the Suffragettes

Not to be ignored: Kitty Marion, Criminal Record Office, c.1913.
Not to be ignored: Kitty Marion, Criminal Record Office, c.1913.

Historians have a unique opportunity in 2018 – the centenary of British women gaining the right to vote – to re-examine a pervasive silence at the heart of the story: that of the nationwide bombing and arson campaign carried out by the Pankhursts’ Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU).

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While best known as the author of The Prince, Niccolò Machiavelli played an important if unlikely role in the history of music. 

Renaissance romantic: Machiavelli, from a drawing by Antonio Viviani, 1828.

On 13 January 1525, Jacopo di Filippo Falconetti threw a sumptuous party at his villa just outside Florence to celebrate his return from exile. Everyone who was anyone was there. As the playwright Donato Giannotti recorded, all the city’s leading men were present. Even Florence’s de facto ruler, Ippolito de’ Medici, put in an appearance.

Despite the myth of a lone genius toiling away into the night, history is a collective endeavour.

Formed by the scholarship of others: Portrait of a Librarian by Giuseppe Arcimboldo, c.1566.

Every so often, a familiar type of story goes around the press about a new ‘discovery’ in the humanities. Novelty is the aspect of academic research that the media finds newsworthy. The framing of such stories often describes ‘lost documents in the archives, brought to light for the very first time’ or ‘new data which no one had thought to collect before’.

On closer examination it frequently turns out that what is supposedly new about the research is not quite as novel as the headlines make it sound; sometimes the trumpeted discovery turns out to have a rather hazy relationship to the research which inspired the story.

Published in Miscellanies

An English translation of the essay De esu carnium, written by the first-century Greek philosopher Plutarch, was published in 1603. Translated by Philemon Holland, the text was given the title ‘Whether it be lawfull to eate flesh or no’ and opens with a bang:

But you demand of mee, for what cause Pythagoras abstained from eating flesh? And I againe doe marvell ... what motive and reason had that man, who first approached with his mouth unto a slaine creature … How could his eies endure to behold such murder and slaughter, whiles the poore beasts were either sticked or had the throats cut, were slaied and dismembered? How could his nose abide the smell and sent that came from them? How came it that his taste was not cleane marred and overthrowen with horrour, when he came to handle those uncouth sores and ulcers; or receive the bloud and humours, issuing out of the deadly wounds.

In his introduction, Holland was careful to deny that Plutarch’s work was a polemic in favour of animal rights. It was rather, he argued, an exercise in rhetoric by the young philosopher, intended as a display of his debating skill. If there is a moral intent, Holland wrote, the ‘principall scope that he shooteth at, seemeth to be a cutting off and abridging of the great excesse and superfluitie in purveying, buying, and spending of viands [foods], which in his time began to grow out of all measure’. Plutarch, Holland says, argues not for a meat-free diet, but against over-indulgence. 

Tourist Trinkets: The Medieval Pilgrim Badge

What do holiday souvenirs have in common with pilgrim badges? The former are affordable to make and sell; they are eye-catching and showcase the unique characteristics of their destination through shape, text, colour and images; importantly, holiday souvenirs are nearly always portable. T-shirts, miniature models of buildings or statues, snow-globes, tea-towels, mugs, fabric patches, magnets or metal badges are the kinds of objects we like to bring home. Even if we all went to the same place and bought matching mementos – and the mass produced nature of such ‘tourist tat’ means that inevitably such items are far from unique – the feelings we project onto souvenirs are uniquely shaped by personal memories. In our possession, these objects take on new meanings that transcend their low material quality, or the fact that thousands of other people have got one just like it.

More articles by Amy Jeffs
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