Rosemary O’Day’s An Elite Family in Early Modern England

Emeritus Professor Rosemary O’Day has published An Elite Family in Early Modern England, a full, detailed picture of the life of an aristocratic family in early modern England.

The Temples of Stowe were a leading Midland landed family, owning land in, and with strong connections to, Buckinghamshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire and Warwickshire. In the seventeenth century they were one of the wealthiest and most prominent local families, building in the eighteenth century a large and beautiful country house, now Stowe School. The family also left voluminous records, housed mainly in the Huntington and the Folger Shakespeare libraries. Based on very extensive research in these records, this book provides a detailed picture of the family life of the early Temples. It examines household, financial and estate management, discusses social networking and the promotion of family interests, and considers the legal disputes the family were engaged in. It focuses in particular on the happy and effective marriage of Sir Thomas and Lady Hester Temple, exploring their relationship with each other, with their children, and with their siblings. Lady Hester, who outlived her husband by twenty years, is a good example of a formidable matriarch, who took a strong lead in managing the family and its resources. Overall, the book provides a full and detailed picture of the family life of an aristocratic family in early modern England.

The Tropenmuseum Amsterdam – An Honest Reflection of the Dutch Colonial Past

PhD student Samuel Aylett has written a piece for the Mainly Museums websites on the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam.

The Tropenmuseum began life as the Koloniaal Museum (Colonial Museum) in Haarlem founded in 1864. Like many nineteenth-century European museums, its collections grew out of Dutch colonial expansion and scientific research. The majority of its collections were brought back from the Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia. In 1910, the Vereniging Koloniaal Institut was founded, which was incorporated into the museums in Haarlem, and began to exhibit much of the museum’s collections to the Dutch people. However, it was not until 1926, when the collections were re-housed in the new Colonial Institute and Museum in Amsterdam, that the Colonial Museum proper opened its doors to visitors. It was officially opened on 9 October 1926 by Queen Wilhelmina. Like many European museums, it was closed during the Second World War. In 1945 the Museum changed its name to the Indisch Museum (Indian Museum), and subsequently the Tropenmuseum (Tropical Museum), not least because of the political implications of decolonisation. In the 1970s the Museum was extensively renovated. An extension as wadded to house the Tropenmuseum Junior (children’s museum), a theatre and additional exhibition space (other structural changes were made).

The Tropenmuseum, even today, is a stark reminder, with its impressive neo-classical architecture, of the Dutch colonial enterprise. Like its other European counterparts, the Tropenmuseum would have served to remind and inculcate within the Dutch people a sense of the grandeur and moral obligation of the Dutch ‘civilising mission’. Like the Natural History Museum in London, its façade is decorated with colonial imagery, and images of formerly colonised peoples working in the rubber industry can be seen inside. However, today, the Tropenmuseum is one of but a few museums in Europe that engages seriously in challenging and questioning its colonial past and institutional legacies.

In 2003, the museum staged a new exhibition ‘Oostwarts’, which historian Professor Robert Aldrich felt was the ‘most thorough and thoughtful display on colonialism’. The exhibition, which has now been integrated into the Museum’s permanent galleries, combined both material items and mannequins to interrogate thoughtfully the lives and experiences of peoples living in the Dutch East-Indies. This exhibition marked a post-colonial shift at the Museum, and the beginning of a new period of serious self-reflection about the Dutch colonial past and the Museums own institutional complicity in it.

The Museum’s own colonial legacies are made explicit throughout the Museum’s permanent galleries. During my visit in December, I was struck by a text panel that called into question how the Museum came into possession of its collections from New Guinea.

Where contemporary debates around former colonial museums and acquisitions of their collections tend to be polarised, the Tropenmuseum is nuanced; injecting honesty and self-reflection into an otherwise febrile debate. Other text panels scattered throughout the permanent galleries provide, for example, explanations of Dutch and European colonialism; ‘Colonialism refers to the practice whereby one country conquers and occupies another using force, deception and betrayal.’ Perhaps a little provocative and emotive, but which represents a willingness to take stock of the darker elements of Dutch colonialism.

The cardinal reason for my visit in December last year was to see their new permanent exhibition, Afterlives of Slavery. The exhibition focuses on the enslaved and their descendant, using personal stories both past and present to interrogate the history of slavery and its current-day legacies. Personal accounts and memory have become hallmarks of the post-colonial exhibition. The exhibition was designed and created by curators, artists and activities, providing a more democratic and multi-vectored interpretation. Often, public discourse around European colonialism fails to recognize the historical continuity of its legacies and their effect on contemporary society. It was therefore refreshing to see that the exhibition tackled subjects such as ‘Power and Race’, and ‘Protest Against Racism’, explaining the ways in which European colonialism played a significant role in creating racial power structures based on white supremacy which continue to disadvantage and oppress minority groups today.

The Tropenmuseum is a refreshing example of how a country can, with pride, tackle its difficult past at a time when other European Museums are entrenchment in their refusal to engage seriously with their institutional legacies. The Museum is unashamedly self-critical in its reassessment of Dutch colonialism. At a time when the British Museum refuses to entertain repatriation of artefacts taken from former colonies, the Tropenmuseum stands-out in their sincere approach.


19 years and older: € 16,00
4 – 18 years * and students: € 8,00
Children up to 3 years: Free
CJP card holder: € 9,00
Groups of 10 (full paying) persons or more: 10% discount (per person)


Tropenmuseum, Linnaeusstraat 2, 1092 CK, Amsterdam


Samuel Aylett is a PhD researcher at the Open University. His PhD analyses shifting representations of empire and British colonialism at the Museum of London from 1976-2007. Broadly speaking, his research interests are concerned with the Museum as a locus for examining the cultural impact of empire and decolonisation in Britain throughout the twentieth century, and how the legacies of empire continue to shape Britain’s past, present and future

Terence McBride’s article on Scottishness and ‘Foreigners’

Associate Lecturer in History Dr. Terence McBride has published ‘Scottishness and “Foreigners”: the role of a developing Scottish  “machinery of government”  before 1939‘ , in the journal Historical Research. Before 1939 continental Europeans were settling in Scotland, in a part of the United Kingdom  that had been shaped by distinct religious and legal traditions.  Government bodies in Scotland that had emerged in the nineteenth century  also gained significant powers over welfare, public health and local government before that date. This article, as the foundation for a wider study on migrants in Scotland, uses government records to examine attempts by these bodies to engage with migrants and also to develop ideas on managing  ‘foreignness’. It concludes that although officials largely engaged on the basis of increasingly restrictive UK-wide immigration legislation from 1905, this was also a period in which migrants could benefit from the efforts of both ministers and mandarins to act in line with what they saw as the particular traditions, practices  and priorities of Scotland.

Catherine Lee’s article on the war babies panic of 1914-1915

Associate Lecturer in History Dr. Catherine Lee has published ‘Giddy Girls’, ‘Scandalous Statements’ and a ‘Burst Bubble’: the war babies panic of 1914–1915 in the Women’s History Review journal. During a few short months following the outbreak of war in 1914, Britain’s press was rife with reports of what was heralded as a new ‘social problem’. The alleged impending birth of thousands of ‘war babies’ to unmarried young women and girls, said to have been fathered by men recently departed for the Western Front, was widely discussed but ultimately proved to be largely fallacious. This article examines the extraordinary ‘war babies’ episode through the lens of the moral panic, focusing on the impact of exceptional wartime circumstances upon the shifting and conflicting sets of gendered, moral values and attitudes of the period.

Neil Younger’s article asks how Protestant was the Elizabethan regime?

Lecturer in History Dr. Neil Younger has published How Protestant was the Elizabethan regime? in the English Historical Review. Recent historiography on the Elizabethan regime has argued that it was strongly dominated by convinced Protestants, most prominently Lord Burghley, the earl of Leicester and Sir Francis Walsingham. This article argues that this consensus glosses over many important political figures whose religion was much more conservative, who were often sympathetic to Catholics and in several cases were probably essentially Catholic themselves. These individuals, although prominent at the time, have been seriously neglected by historians, often because of the nature of the archival record. The article surveys the prominence of such men throughout the reign, examining their religious inclinations. It goes on to assess the extent of their influence on the politics of the period, arguing that they were capable of mounting major political initiatives, and indeed scored several important successes against more strongly Protestant policies. Likewise, it argues that very often forward Protestant policies met with failure, in which the conservatives’ influence can often be detected. Finally, it discusses some of the consequences of these findings, proposing a more complex picture of Elizabethan politics, in which religious division and indeed conflict was a significant factor, and arguing that the Elizabethan regime should therefore be seen as a much less united and univocal entity than is often assumed.

Rosalind Crone’s book on the Criminal Prisons of Nineteenth Century England

Senior Lecturer in History Dr. Rosalind Crone has published a Guide to the Criminal Prisons of Nineteenth Century England.

The penal system in nineteenth-century England was incredibly complicated. It comprised two types of prison: convict prisons and local prisons. While convict prisons were under the direct control of the Home Office, local prisons were, until the 1877 Prison Act, managed by a whole host of different local authorities, from counties and boroughs to liberties and even cathedrals. Moreover, included among convict prisons were penitentiaries, public works prisons and prison hulks (also known as floating prisons), while local prisons included gaols, bridewells and lock-ups. This complexity has led to a raft of studies of individual institutions. Nevertheless, big gaps in our knowledge remain. Simply put, we don’t even know how many prisons existed in nineteenth-century England. This Guide to the Criminal Prisons of Nineteenth-Century England recovers much of that lost landscape. It contains critical information about operational dates, locations, jurisdictions, population statistics, appearances in primary and secondary sources and lists of surviving archives for 844 English prisons-including local prisons (419), convict prisons (17), prison hulks (30) and lock-ups (378)-used to confine those accused and convicted of crime in the period 1800-1899. Furthermore, through analysis of the accumulated data, the book challenges several important assumptions on the emergence of the modern prison in Britain. It also draws attention to previously unexplored patterns in the preservation and management of penal records.

Paul Lawrence’s article in Criminology and Criminal Justice

Professor Paul Lawrence has published Historical criminology and the explanatory power of the past in Criminology and Criminal Justice. To what extent can the past ‘explain’ the present? This deceptively simple question lies at the heart of historical criminology (research which incorporates historical primary sources while addressing present-day debates and practices in the criminal justice field). This article seeks first to categorize the ways in which criminologists have used historical data thus far, arguing that they are most commonly deployed to ‘problematize’ the contemporary rather than to ‘explain’ it. The article then interrogates the reticence of criminologists to attribute explicative power in relation to the present to historical data. Finally, it proposes the adoption of long time-frame historical research methods, outlining three advantages which would accrue from this: the identification and analysis of historical continuities; a more nuanced, shared understanding of micro/macro change over time in relation to criminal justice; and a method for identifying and analysing instances of historical recurrence, particularly in perceptions and discourses around crime and justice.