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October 11, 2010

History Division News
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» Slaves, Speed Demons, Snake Stones: New Welsh History?

<image src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2010/10/8/snapshot.jpg" alt="Welsh History Logo" />

Why a 'New History of Wales'?

The Western Mail claims to be 'ripping up the stereotypes' for Welsh History Month. Three members of Glamorgan's history division have contributed to the newpaper's 'New History of Wales' series. Drawing on their recent research, they've tackled questions with contemporary resonance.

Did Wales nurture its own brand of science, independent of its neighbours? Alun Withey looks at the case of early modern medicine).

Have the Welsh always been politically engaged, fighting for the downtrodden? Chris Evans examines the Welsh contribution to anti-slavery.

Did Wales ever experience a golden age of morality - and have we now slipped from former high standards to become a 'loutish generation'? (<http: />Andy Croll on manners and morals in South Wales)

This initiative by the Western Mail reflects the huge public appetite for history - but is new academic research, challenging existing impressions, really what's wanted? Is this 'new history' knee-jerk iconoclasm? Is the emphasis on shattering stereotypes just media-friendly rhetoric?

As well as meeting popular demand, the 'New History of Wales' is one of the first public endeavours of History Research Wales, a collaboration between researchers at Welsh universities aiming to maximise results in the sector. These articles show the researcher at work - building on results from earlier historians but also finding ways to probe under-valued sources, to capture new voices from the past. It's this broader and more representative account of historic Wales which makes it possible to speak of a 'New Welsh History'.

March 9, 2010

History Division News
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» Recipes, Remedies, Receipts: seventeenth-century medicine revealed!

<image title="remedy manuscript" src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2010/3/9/remedies.jpg" alt="remedy image">

New Website: Early Modern Remedies

Three hundred years ago, ‘snail water’ and ‘oil of swallows’ were just two out of thousands of everyday remedies that people routinely used to cure their variety of ailments. But where did this knowledge come from?

In the early modern period, every household was a potential storehouse of medical knowledge, with its own tried and trusted remedies. Medical remedies were shared freely from person to person and, in literate households, were often compiled into single volumes. These were valuable and enduring documents, often being handed down, and added to, over generations. For historians, they can provide a unique glimpse into the types of remedies and ingredients used, early modern illnesses and disease names, as well as a wealth of other information about compilers and the world they inhabited.

To coincide with the Wellcome Trust’s digitization of its important collection of these sources, a new website has been developed in conjunction with Warwick University to act as both an introduction to those wishing to find out more about these fascinating documents, and to forge links between groups of historians working on similar themes. The site includes a number of short contextual articles about the seventeenth-century medical world, links to online resources, including digitized collections, and also news and upcoming events. Much is already available, with more to come soon, and you may even spot an entry or two by a familiar Glamorgan historian!

Alun Withey

October 28, 2009

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» Story of Wales and Slavery

<image title="J.H. Stobwasser, Gracebay Plantation, Antigua, British West Indies, c. 1830" src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2009/10/28/crop.jpg" alt="plantation illustration" />

Bittersweet: Sugar, Tea and Slavery at the National Assembly

<image title="Sugar Curing House, from Diderot, Encyclopedie, i. 1762" class="left" src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2009/10/28/crop2_1.jpg" alt="illustration" />

How are our lives connected to the world of Atlantic slavery? One clue may lie in the things we eat and drink. For example, the well-sugared cup of tea first become part of the British way of life in the eighteenth century and the ‘cuppa’ has never gone away. Therein lies a story...

Find out more by visiting a new exhibition at the National Assembly of Wales in Cardiff that traces the connections between Wales and slavery. Bittersweet: Sugar, Tea and Slavery – A Story of Wales & Slavery looks at the problem through the history of food and gardens, by tracing the connections between Caribbean slavery and our diet, especially the institution of afternoon tea.

The exhibition, which marks Black History Month, is the work of the charity Gateway Gardens Trust, which has organised a Heritage Lottery Funded series of visits to gardens in Wales established by slave traders, plantation owners or abolitionists. The exhibition at the Senedd marks the culmination of the project.

I should declare an interest. I was the historical consultant to the Bittersweet project and a book I’ve written that explores some of the issues raised by the project – and much else besides – will be published next year by the University of Wales Press: Slave Wales: the Welsh and Atlantic slavery.

Chris Evans

June 15, 2009

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» Age of Magnificence

<image src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2009/6/15/baroquebanner735.jpg" alt="Pallacio" width="745" />

What was Baroque?

If you’re in London this summer don’t miss Baroque 1620-1800: Style in the Age of Magnificence. This exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum showcases the dominant European artistic style of the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries

What was baroque? Most of all, it was exuberant. As the exhibition catalogue explains, baroque art ‘did not stand shyly by, hoping to be noticed. Paintings, sculpture and decorative arts swirled with vigorous action and strong feelings.’

The baroque - whether expressed in architecture, painting or sculpture – had a flamboyance that would have even Graham Norton pursing his lips. Why so? Part of the explanation lies with artistic patrons. The commanding baroque style expressed the growing power of princely courts and the aims of the Catholic Church in the Counter-Reformation.

<image class="right" src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2009/6/15/Baroque_crop.jpg400.jpg" />

Monarchs, following the lead of Louis XIV of France, wanted an art and architecture that trumpeted their power. It’s no accident that the most grandiose projects of the age were the work of ambitious and powerful princes. Republics (like Holland) and weak, crisis-ridden monarchies (like England) were not major centres of the baroque.

Baroque style was also taken up with enthusiasm by the Roman Catholic Church as it sought to roll back the Protestant Reformation, the great doctrinal revolt of the sixteenth century. Protestantism was deliberately sober in form. The reformers looked down upon visual showiness. Scripture was the key to salvation. The Catholic Church retaliated by taking the opposite tack: lavish display was one of the best ways in which the untutored masses could be brought to understand the majesty of God.

Like the Church, baroque was international. It was, the exhibition organisers claim, the first global style. It coincided with the earliest overseas European empires, so some of the finest examples can be found in South America, in India, and in the Far East.

A sample of what’s on offer can be found at the exhibition’s website. You’ll be stunned by the opulence on show. You may also, like me, be repelled by the selfishness of Europe’s ruling elite.

Baroque 1620-1800: Style in the Age of Magnificence runs at the V&A; until 19 July 2009.

Chris Evans