The Death of Edmund S. Morgan

imagesmkQM2s3Gi_qVHj0cVdWXWXgEdmund S. Morgan, the man whose works featured upon nearly every student of early modern America’s reading lists, has died.

More on the man, his contribution to historical research and his death here.


Pomegranate meets the Rose, 11th June 1509

Catherine_of_Aragon_PicJust a quick post to mark the 504th anniversary of the wedding of the twenty-three year old Catharine of Aragon and the then seventeen-year-old Henry VIII (eleven days off of his eighteenth birthday.)

Of course we all know what ensued, but what we often forget is that before the arrival of ‘La Boleyn’ in the late 1520s Henry and Catharine had been married nearly twenty four years and had been (in those early years) happy. As Henry her ‘Sir Loyal Heart’ would write to his father-in-law shortly after their marriage, if he were still free he would chose her again before all others, so strong was his bond with her.

Catharine of course in her own right gained some remarkable achievements throughout her life; as Spanish Ambassador to the English Court in her years preceding marriage to Henry she became the first woman to hold such a post in sixteenth-century Europe. She also experienced military success. Whilst Henry captured Therouanne and Tournai upon his French campaign in 1513, Catharine as Queen Regent oversaw the defeat of the English ‘Auld Enemy’ the Scots at Flodden Field and sent the dead King James IV’s bloodied and tattered coat to her hubby as a gift.

In my youth I always preferred the dark-haired glamour and wit of Anne Boleyn but as I have matured it seems by far Catharine who deserves attention and admiration, to say she went through a lot in her life is an understatement. I’m looking forward to reading more about the former Spanish Infanta and daughter of the warrior Queen, Isabella of Castille in the future.

Henry and Catharine's Coronation.

Henry and Catharine’s Coronation.

‘Mainstreaming Interethnic Inclusiveness’ or Martin Luther King 2.0


Okay so I am a little bit tardy with this titbit (3 years in fact) but considering that the 28th August this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of MLK’s I Have a Dream’ speech it is understandable that this 2010 Huffpost piece is doing the rounds again across the Social Networks. So here it is Martin Luther King’s speech updated for the PowerPoint generation, chock full of twentieth-century jargon.

You can also head here to see the Gettysburg Address in a similar format. Lincoln’s famous address too sees it’s one hundred and fiftieth anniversary this year. Hold onto your tin-foil caps, it’s a landmark American speech conspiracy!

‘Branded a Witch’, BBC3, Kindoki and African Witchcraft Belief

What I’ve been watching:

‘Branded a Witch’, BBC3 Monday 20th May 2013 (still available on iplayer here.)

Kevani Kanda, our host.

Kevani Kanda, our host.

‘Ignorance’ and a ‘culture of secrecy’ that should not be allowed in any ‘civilised society’, is how former Children’s Minister Tim Loughton summarily ended BBC3’s documentary upon the rise of kindoki (witchcraft) amongst  African communities across the world. Hosted by former abuse victim Kevandi Kanda we follow her as she returns to her native Republic of Congo to find her cousin Florence pregnant, homeless and recently accused.

This documentary covers dangerous, heartbreaking issues (a child less than five is shown beaten and burnt at a ‘deliverance’) that deserve a much bigger platform than BBC3 and a far more serious production and execution. With harrowing images of abuse and death backed by dodgy drum and bass music and final conclusions rounded off to a bed of the Temper Trap’s  ‘Sweet Disposition’ (you’ll know it when you hear it, it’s underpinned a bajillion adverts) I spent more time wondering who on Earth thought this score was appropriate than how on Earth can I donate money to these poor kids? The show was in my opinion a funny kettle of fish. In my opinion these children deserve a prime-time BBC2 slot, end it with links to charities use it as a platform to raise some major money.

Yet I digress, what I really wished to strike upon is that quote with which I began this piece with. That this should not be allowed in a civilised society. As a history undergraduate I focused my final year upon the witch-hunts in Europe, America and England yet even before that I was taught to treat (past) societies as a different world, an entity that should be free of the ‘enormous condescension’ that EP Thompson wrote of. These societies justify these actions with faith. Kevani Kanda put it well ‘this is like Medieval…’ It is I would argue, but most of all it is similar in that the early modern witch-hunts too were rooted in religious faith worsened by the incitement of Pastors, famine, poverty and warfare.  How do we then tackle Kindoki? Do we wait for a new Reginald Scott for a twenty-first century version of the Discoverie of Witchcraft? Wait for it to run it’s course (I hope not) or intervene?

I don’t have any answers but I do find this rise fascinating and terrifying, as have a variety of historians. Keith Thomas’ classic Religion and the Decline Magic featured a large number of anthropological studies of African cases. Yet to conclude. If you can handle dodgy music and quite disturbing images of abuse this documentary is both fascinating and chilling all at once. I know I’ll be reading more and once I can find a way to contribute to the charities in the Congo that aid the victims I’ll be re-routing some Starschmucks money.

It has also inspired me to dig out my dissertation & I will be posting the stories of the seventeenth-century accused men I studied over the coming weeks.

– Kerry

@thehistorygrad on twitter.

The last words of Anne Boleyn, Friday May 19th 1536.

Good Christen people, I am come hether to dye, for according to the lawe, and by the lawe I am judged to dye, and therefore I wyll speake nothynge agaynst it. I am come hether to accuse no man, nor to speke anything of that, whereof I am accused and condempned to dye, but I pray God save the king and send him long to reygne over you, for a gentler nor a more mercifull prince was there never: and to me he was ever a good, a gentle and soveraygne lorde. And yf anye persone wyll medle of my cause, I require of them to judge the best. And thus I take my leve of the worlde and of you all, and I hertely desyre you all to praye for me. O Lorde have mercy on me, to God I commende my soule.

The Hever Portrait.

The Hever Portrait.

The final words of Anne Boleyn upon the scaffold, May 19th 1536 as recorded by the chronicler Edward Hall.

Edward Hall, The Triumphant Reign of Henry VIII ed., T.C. & E.C Jack (London, 1904) pp. 268 – 269

You can view a screen cap of the text here.