Latest post

Professor Andrew J. O’Shaughnessy appointed first SAR Visiting Professor at King’s College London

Historian and award-winning author Andrew O’ Shaughnessy has been appointed as the first Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) Visiting Professor at King’s College London to contribute to the Georgian Papers Programme.

Andrew O’Shaughnessy is the Vice President of Monticello, the Saunders Director of the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at the Thomas Jefferson Foundation and Professor of History at the University of Virginia.

He is the author of An Empire Divided: The American Revolution and the British Caribbean (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000). His most recent book, The Men Who Lost America. British Leadership, the American Revolution and the Fate of the Empire (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013) received eight national awards. A Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, he is an editor of the Jeffersonian American Series of the University of Virginia Press and of The Journal of American History.

AJO-JenFariello-0027

In the inaugural role, Professor O’ Shaughnessy will have early access to the extensive archive of King George III’s private papers as part of a major joint project with King’s and the Royal Archive.

Professor O’Shaughnessy said he was delighted to have been chosen and was keen to start work interpreting the papers held in the archive at the royal residence, Windsor Castle, England.

I am thrilled to be the SAR Visiting Professor at King’s College.  This will afford me the opportunity to review the papers in the royal archives at Windsor that relate to the American Revolution.  It was previously difficult for researchers to gain access to the collection or to obtain detailed information about the contents.  It contains not only the papers of George III but also Admiral Lord Samuel Hood who was the second-in-command at the Battle of the Chesapeake Capes (1781) in which the British defeat precluded the rescue of Lord Cornwallis and his army at Yorktown on the coast of Virginia.   It is also an honor to be associate with King’s which has a long and impressive tradition of scholarship in imperial history, war studies and American history.”

The three-year visiting professorship has been funded by the National Society of the Sons of the Revolution and it is hoped the papers will reveal insights and give an increased understanding of the decades surrounding the American Revolution.

SAR President General Tom Lawrence said he is very pleased that the SAR is teaming with King’s and the Royal Archives in this important project.  We anticipate that many significant discoveries will result from this research that will further the scholarship of this historical period.  We are also delighted that one of our most distinguished and well respected scholars, Professor Andrew O’Shaughnessy, will be our inaugural SAR Visiting Professor.  He has been a frequent speaker at SAR events for years, has a well deserved reputation as one of our finest scholars, and he is the perfect choice.

The SAR is an historical, educational, and patriotic, non-profit corporation whose members are direct descendants of the men and women who supported the cause of American Independence during the years 1774-1783.

Visiting Professors will work on their own research and will be invited to lead an academic seminar or series of seminars on the interpretation of the archive in relation to their own work. They will also be available to staff of the Georgian Papers Programme for consultation about interpretation and dissemination.

Vice Principal (International) of King’s College London, Professor Joanna Newman said: ‘We are so pleased to have Professor O’ Shaughnessy join us on this fantastic project. We hope that his expertise and insight will be able to throw some light upon what is currently somewhat of of a gap in our understanding of a truly momentous historical period.

In the post, Professor O’Shaughnessy will have also access to King’s College London libraries and those of the University of London as well as the British Library and The National Archives at Kew.

 

First glances of digital images of George III’s papers

The Royal Archives have commenced their large scale digitisation of the Georgian papers. The initial phase of digitisation will cover the full chronological span, and comprise a range of types of documents, from the political to the financial and the domestic, and they include the important collection of essays by George III and some items from the Royal Library.

The gallery below displays some of the earlier digitisation work undertaken as part of the 2014 exhibition, ‘Treasures of the Royal Archives’, held in Windsor Castle in May 2014-January 2015. The Royal Archives have generously granted us permission to showcase some of the papers in the collection. They include images of essays and memorandum from George III (1738-1820), King of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland; dairy extracts from his consort, Charlotte (1744-1818), Queen of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and business papers from the Warden of Windsor Castle, dating from 1689.  

As the project progresses the site will include regular updates on the digitisation and further galleries and samples of the papers from the Royal household. 

Memorandum on the improvements to Windsor Great Park, c. 1791

Memorandum on the improvements to Windsor Great Park, c. 1791
The landscape of Windsor Great Park as it is seen today was largely created between 1746 and 1765, under the Rangership of William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland. The Duke’s nephew, King George III, employed Nathaniel Kent (1737-1810) to improve the conditions and running of the Great Park in 1791. Nathaniel Kent had studied Flemish husbandry during his early career as a diplomat in Brussels, and on his return to England in 1766 he was persuaded to abandon his career as a diplomat to become an agricultural adviser. His book, Hints to Gentlemen of Landed Property, published in 1775, which recommended the enclosure and drainage of land, and the rotation of crops, made Kent famous, and contributed to the agricultural revolution of the period. This document lists recommendations for improving the ‘picteresque beauty’ of the Park by the removal of certain trees in the valley between Cooks Hills and at Snow Hill, to improve the views, with sketches illustrating Kent’s points. Although undated, it must have been written in 1791, for in November that year Kent wrote in his Journal that, having obtained the King’s approval, he had issued orders for the removal of the trees he had identified near Cooks Hills, ‘that the full effect of these Alterations may be at once seen, and afford a fair sample of an Hundred other similar improvements’. (File Reference: RA GEO ADD15 373 Copyright: Royal Archives/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016)

« 1 of 9 »

 

The Political Day in Georgian London

St James’s Square in 1753 Coloured engraving by T Bowles (Mayson Beaton Collection, English Heritage)
St James’s Square in 1753. Coloured engraving by T Bowles
(Mayson Beaton Collection, English Heritage)

The Political Day in Georgian London: reflections on a lecture by Professor Amanda Vickery (QMUL),

co-hosted by the Centre for Enlightenment Studies and the Georgian Papers Programme

                              by Angela Lee (MA 18th Century Studies)

Speaking to a packed auditorium on the 23rd of March, Professor Amanda Vickery started her lecture with a gripping account of a group of ladies who stood their ground in an attempt to enter the House of Lords in 1739. They were finally admitted after standing outside for most of the day. For Vickery, this episode was symbolic of female exclusion from politics; the first woman in the House of Lords was only admitted in 1958.

The lecture of the evening was the culmination of ten years of research by herself and Dr. Hannah Greig (University of York). They sought to plot out the schedule of a normal day for the political elite using everyday sources. She peppered her lecture with visual material and anecdotes, which gave the academic lecture a more personal and engaging tone—there were multiple times when everyone erupted into laughter. Her main argument was that women, though excluded from Parliament, were still involved in politics in other ways, since politics in the Georgian era often spilled over into social activities as well.

However, Vickery points out that her project was not simply to write women into politics, but to dispute the idea that aristocratic women were frivolous. She and Greig illustrate that rather than having to split history into high politics and women’s history, the two topics were actually deeply intertwined.

Aristocratic women had the opportunity to own and manage large estates during the eighteenth century, and through these roles, they had power over “rotten boroughs” and appointments. In London, the Parliamentary season took place in the spring and coincided with the social season. Geographically, the day was centered around Westminster and Covent Garden. Often, the day began in a house around the fashionable St. James’s Square, then Parliament, followed by entertainment at the opera or one of the gardens in the evening.

A typical day began at 9 in the morning, which was a normal rising time for both sexes. While Parliament officially opened at 9 (10 in the 1770s), most members arrived around noon and conducted public business around 2 to 3 in the afternoon.

Daily sittings of 6 to 8 hours were common. The morning was reserved for personal matters—letter-writing, shopping, social visits. Men attended levées of the monarch and political ministers, which were used to show patronage and favor. Vickery even noted that during important debates, Parliamentary sittings could go on for days. Members would eat and even sleep in Parliament.

Since Parliament was cramped, urban townhouses, such as the Earl of Shelburne’s Lansdowne House, were also used as political venues. Coffeehouses and chophouses were affiliated with political parties and regularly held political discussions.

The main divide in the day came at dinnertime, sometimes occurring as late as 4 or 5 in the afternoon, and required a change of clothes.

In the evening, social life really took off. London during the eighteenth century offered a multitude of entertainments. Women acted as hostesses for political dinners and parties at their London homes—carefully deciding whom to invite and which parties to attend. Outside of private parties, London offered the opera, theatre, and pleasure gardens (the two most famous being Vauxhall and Ranelagh). Not only entertaining, these were places to see and be seen.

 Politically, it was important to observe who mingled with whom. With all these social activities, a bedtime of 4 in the morning was not unusual. As Vickery pointed out, late nights were fashionable because burning candles so many hours after dark was an expensive habit.

The political day of the Georgian era was a largely social affair, spread between across civilian settings and Westminster. London felt like a political “campus”. Illustrating this point, Vickery told the audience that it took 19 minutes for Greig and her to walk at a leisurely pace from St. James’s Square to Parliament. The coffeehouses, chophouses, and shops would have lined the streets in between them. With the mix of activities, husbands and wives could meet during the day, planning routes through the thoroughfares to maximize their socio-political benefits.

Women were able to influence politics through the myriad social activities that were integral to a successful political career. After all, the political day did not end with the dispersal of Parliament.

Vickery’s lecture led to many questions from the audience, particularly on the topic of female sociability. Many commented on how tiring a political day would have been during the eighteenth century. She noted that indeed, a lack of social stamina would have been detrimental for social and political success.

It sounds peculiar, but eighteenth century politicians had to mix both public and private aspects of their lives just in order to be politicians. Political prestige went hand-in-hand with social prestige. Aristocratic women­­––leaders in high taste and high fashion––had a much larger role high politics than historians had previously given them credit for.

 


Angela completed her first degree at the University of Chicago in the department of History. This year she is studying at King’s on the MA in Eighteenth Century Studies, an interdisciplinary programme taught in partnership with the British Museum and convened by Dr Elizabeth Eger in the English department. The MA aims to bring together the study of material and intellectual, cultural and political history and draws upon the extraordinary wealth of eighteenth-century resources in London’s museums and archives. The intellectual energy generated through teaching the MA formed a significant factor in founding the AHRI-funded Centre for Enlightenment Studies at King’s.

This blog post was originally posted on the King’s College London English Department blog, on 1 June 2016: https://blogs.kcl.ac.uk/english/2016/06/01/the-political-day-in-georgian-london/