Mapping the Georgian world: Panel Discussion, 9 Oct

The Georgian Papers Programme is pleased to invite you to:

Mapping the Georgian world: global power & maps in the reign of George III
Monday 9th October at 6:30-8:00pm
Edmund J Safra Lecture Theatre, Strand Campus, King’s College London

Free admission to all, but registration required via Eventbrite 

The Hanoverian British monarchy presided over a vast array of dominions spread across the globe, each presenting its own challenges to those who needed either to understand or to govern and exploit the different regions. Maps came to play a crucial role in confronting those challenges, transferring knowledge and opportunities across considerable distances, not least to those who never traversed them themselves. One such person was King George III – a monarch who, though in many respects defined in his reign by his relations with both North America and Europe, was unusual amongst his contemporary rulers in never leaving his own kingdom (and even England) at any point in his reign. Yet George had a keen interest in his dominions, and this found expression not least in his interest in maps, of which he became an avid collector and a patron to mapmakers.

This panel brings together Peter Barber, the leading authority on George III’s map collection and former head of the Map Collection at the British Library, and Dr Max Edelson, a leading authority on the mapping of colonial America and a pioneer of its digital interpretation, to discuss the place of maps in the exercise of rule and authority in the eighteenth century.

These richly illustrated talks will provide a fascinating opportunity to reflect on the significance of these often beautiful and intricate objects in shrinking distance and creating understanding in the age of Enlightenment.

The session will be chaired Professor Arthur Burns, Academic Director of the Georgian Papers Programme at King’s, with Max Edling as commentator.

Please register at: https://mappingtheworld.eventbrite.co.uk

Download the poster and flyer.

Speakers:

Peter Barber: After studying at Sussex University and the London School of Economics in 1975 Peter Barber became a curator in the Department of Manuscripts at the British Library where, between 2001 and 2015, he was Head of Map Collections. He has written extensively on a wide range of aspects of the history of pre- modern maps, particularly on medieval mappae mundi, the map collections of the British Library, English maps in the sixteenth century, and maps at European courts between 1500 and 1800, especially at the courts of King Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth I, and King George III. He has curated or acted as consultant to numerous exhibitions both in the UK and abroad and has acted as consultant to and appeared in several radio and television documentaries. Since 2015 he has been a visiting professor in the Department of History, King’s College London, and is a member of the academic steering committee of the Georgian Papers Programme. In 2012 he was appointed an OBE for services to cartography and topography.

Max Edelson is Associate Professor of History at the University of Virginia, where he teaches the history of cartography, early America, and the Atlantic world. His prize-winning first book, Plantation Enterprise in Colonial South Carolina (Harvard University Press, 2006), examined the relationship between planters and environment in the Carolina Lowcountry as the key to understanding this repressive, prosperous society and its distinctive economic culture. His new book, The New Map of Empire: How Britain Imagined America before Independence (Harvard University Press, 2017), describes how Great Britain attempted to take command of North America and the West Indies in the generation before the American Revolution. He is co-director of the UVA-ICJS Early American Seminar at Monticello and creator of MapScholar, a digital visualization platform purpose-built for map history research and display

Commentator: Max Edling. A native of Sweden, he did his undergraduate studies at Lund University before taking an MPhil at the University of Dublin, and PhDs in history and political science from Cambridge and Stockholm Universities. He was awarded the Docent degree by Uppsala University in 2012 before joining King’s College London in 2012. His research focuses on the American founding and the creation of the American state. His most recent project was an investigation of the fiscal system and public finances in the United States from the American Revolution to the aftermath of the Civil War, with a focus on the funding of war and territorial expansion. Dr Edling is currently working both on the origins of the US Constitution and the composite or imperial structure of the early American polity.

The “Hit-and-Miss” of Research at the Royal Archives

By Tom Murray, King’s Undergraduate Research Fellow, King’s College London


I undertook my King’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship (KURF) in the summer after my final year at KCL. Indeed, my first trip to the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle for KURF took place just days after receiving my degree results, including my dissertation grade. As such, it was at Waterloo Station, awaiting the 8:58 to Windsor & Eton Riverside, that I confessed to Dr Angel O’Donnell – with whom I was working for KURF and who had also supervised my dissertation – that I hadn’t actually visited any archives whilst researching my dissertation. Thus my first archival experience was in fact to be at the Royal Archives, as part of the Georgian Papers Programme (GPP), over the course of six days in July 2017.

Round Tower at Windsor Castle

This had evidently been taken into account upon my arrival in Windsor. Before I was allowed document access, I was given a brief induction by archivist Oliver Walton, which was both helpful and humorous – “Sometimes you just have to plough through a large pile of documents… sometimes there are better things to do than plough through a large pile of documents”. It is thanks to Oliver that I’ll forever – and no doubt invaluably – remember what a fonds is. I was also required to sign a series of Royal Archive regulations; ensuring that I did not intend to damage the documents. Initially, the Archives’ usually stringent security measures seemed somewhat excessive – a security pass was required to enter the Castle complex itself, which had to be shown twice to then gain access to the Archive, around which it was necessary to be escorted by a member of staff. However, it soon became clear that this was one of the prices to be paid for access to documents from the Royal Collection, and inside a working royal residence at that. The process of requesting documents itself was smooth and efficient, while the intimate reading room lent itself to a proper sense of consequence, given the owner – ‘The Queen’! – and contents of the documents in the Archive.

Dr O’Donnell had requested an eclectic selection of documents for me to read through and summarise, all of which had relevance to various strands of his own research. The first collection was ‘Secret Service accounts, 1779-1782’ (GEO/MAIN/17355-17367), detailing the quarterly expenses of the secret service during the latter half of the American Revolutionary War. Somewhat dauntingly, I was informed that I was the first person ever to examine these documents for research purposes. Dr O’Donnell had mentioned certain things to look out for; some of which, like British covert support for Corsican separatists like Pasquale Paoli (1725–1807) – ironically also emulated by American Patriots – were plainly listed as being in receipt of generous pensions. Other names needed little introduction: a ‘Dr Johnson’ (of dictionary fame) was likewise in receipt of a pension for his pro-government writings, while George III’s long-suffering and often reluctant Prime Minister, Lord North, was due an enormous sum from the Secret Service. Perhaps most excitingly for Dr O’Donnell, whose current research is on the ‘politics of paper’ in early America, was an indication that the New York-based newspaper printer James Rivington had received compensation for his Loyalist activities during the American Revolution. This opportunity to be the first to examine the Secret Service accounts was surely a highlight of my time at the Royal Archives, and will hopefully contribute to Dr O’Donnell’s future work.

I next changed location from the Archive reading room to the beautiful Royal Library, where I was presented with a book from the mid-nineteenth century made up of the selected correspondence of John Jay – Founding Father and first Chief Justice of the United States – from 1776–94 (Royal Library, 1047551). As an Americanist myself, this was a real treat for me, and while Dr O’Donnell had singled out the correspondence regarding Jay’s 1795 Treaty between the U.S. and Britain for my examination, I indulged my historical interest by looking over every document in the collection. Especially given my archival inexperience, this was exceptionally exciting: reading over the handwritten letters of Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton and Lafayette, among others, is certainly not the worst way I’ve spent a Friday afternoon. A number of the letters related to the Jay Treaty, including a fascinating letter from Washington outlining his frustrations with British interference on the American frontier, and correspondence between Jay and British Foreign Secretary Lord Grenville, which indicated a genuine warmth between the two negotiators, and demonstrated the workings of the relationship between the nascent United States and Georgian Britain. As with the Secret Service accounts, this should hopefully contribute to the GPP efforts to aid understanding of the ‘Global Georgians’, as well as a forthcoming ‘The Two Georges’ exhibition about the relationship between Washington and George III.

I lastly examined the papers of Nathaniel Kent (GEO/ADD/15/356-429), an agriculturalist involved in the organisation and improvement of George III’s gardens at Windsor between 1791–1810. Again, Dr O’Donnell had highlighted some things to look out for, which he hoped would be relevant to his research: the use of mills and papermaking, building repairs, animal/wheat breeds, and the use of machinery. Unfortunately, it was the Kent Papers that proved one of Oliver’s aforementioned ‘Facts of Life for Archival Research’ – “Sometimes a file has nothing relevant in it at all, despite all outward appearances. This is normal.” Indeed, try as I might, the Kent Papers contained very little of what Dr O’Donnell and I had anticipated, largely outlining the accounts and expenses of the royal farms at Windsor with little detail. Beyond an insight into an intriguing episode in which certain workmen seem to have been accused of stealing beans from the royal farm, the Kent Papers bore little fruit, either in terms of research or historical interest. Still, such seemingly unproductive work is useful in reducing Dr O’Donnell’s workload, as well as clarifying the exact contents of the Kent Papers for the GPP.

Visiting the Royal Archives was a highlight of my KURF experience and an introduction into archival research that was both fascinating and unique. The ‘hit-and-miss’ nature of archival research was immediately clear to me, as was the potential for exciting discoveries, especially within unexamined documents such as the Secret Service accounts. It was also a pleasure to work within and contribute to the Georgian Papers Programme and its effort to examine and digitise the Archive’s 350,000 pages of documents. I hope to return to the Royal Archives soon for my own research.

Reflections on Transcribing the Georgian Papers

By Tom Murray, King’s Undergraduate Research Fellow, King’s College London


I was introduced to transcription as part of the Georgian Papers Programme (GPP), and as such my transcribing experience is decidedly Georgian. Having transcribed a number of documents for the GPP, however, the value of transcription for historians has become manifest. Admittedly, there remains nothing quite like engaging first-hand with primary sources – which for the vast majority of history, and certainly for the Georgian period, means written or printed documents. Having said this, however, there is definite value, both practical and otherwise, in transcription and transcribed sources. The process itself is relatively simple, though collectively represents a heroic effort on the part of the GPP with the eventual aim of digitising the Royal Archives’ extensive collections from the reigns of the Hanoverian monarchs. My transcription contributions were a number of essays written by George III, including ‘Some short notes concerning the Education of a Prince’ – intended for his son, the future George IV – and ‘Lectures on Modern History’, musing on the benefits that come of studying history; something I can certainly get behind.

Essay on the German Empire’s governance by George III (RA GEO/ADD/32/481). Royal Archives/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

Never having known a world in which the Internet was not integrated into every aspect of modern life, I initially found the practice of reading handwritten documents bemusing. This was reflected in some preliminary difficulty in reading handwriting itself – once I became familiar with George’s style of writing, however, this became less of a problem. More disconcerting was his habit of making complex additions to and deletions from his essays, often in erratic handwriting reminiscent of exam answers I’ve written myself. Thankfully, it was clear that the GPP had foreseen this – I had been provided with an extensive transcription manual with guidelines for how best to transcribe the many quirks thrown up within Georgian writings, from aforementioned deletions and additions to marginalia and doodles. These guidelines were especially useful, providing an invaluable manual for transcribers as well as ensuring that GPP transcriptions and all their complexities are recorded in a uniform way, much to the relief of future researchers.

A secondary challenge I encountered in transcription was another product of my own twenty-first century, digital upbringing. Much to my initial dismay, George III lacked the benefit of spell-check when writing his essays, and thus his spelling, grammar and punctuation were often not as I – or anyone else writing in 2017 – might anticipate. Given that the very first instruction within the GPP transcription manual reads “Type What You See: Transcribe the document exactly as written”, I was therefore required to hold my syntactic nose and accept that when George wrote about the “pedantick applications of Colleges and Schools” or apologised for “how odly soever it may sound”, this was exactly what he meant. This took some adjustment: even in transcribing those quotes onto this blog post my own instinct – and spell-check function – attempted to alter George’s original spelling. However, once these initial challenges had been overcome, the transcription process proved rewarding and enjoyable – as well as surprisingly accessible. As a recent graduate, I was pleased to discover that, aided by the GPP manual, I was able to contribute to the programme’s transcription efforts with just my laptop, Microsoft Word, and a few hours of work. The ease and relative brevity with which the transcription project can be added to – depending, naturally, on the length and complexity of the documents themselves – surely bodes well for the project as a whole, as well as the prospect of encouraging individual contributions to the GPP like mine.

There is clearly real value in transcribing the Royal Archives’ Georgian documents that makes any challenges to the transcriber worthwhile. Following the success of a similar project to transcribe and digitise the papers of Queen Victoria, the process of transcribing the Georgian papers with a view to their digitisation seems a natural step. This would of course provide some relief to future historians, who will be able to benefit from digital access to the Royal Archive collection via the internet, not unlike my own use of the venerable Founders Online digital archive in researching for my undergraduate dissertation. Likewise, the capacity to search within a digital database, as opposed to trawling through original documents, will aid researchers in their specific pursuits. Democratising access to the Georgian papers in this way will allow historians across the world to employ them in their research, facilitating new and exciting contributions to the field of eighteenth-century and Georgian studies without requiring a visit to the Royal Archives at Windsor, as impressive an experience as I know that to be. This, surely, is the long-term objective of the Georgian Papers Programme, of which transcription forms a crucial, fruitful cornerstone.