Latest post

Current research in the Georgian papers: a symposium to take stock, Windsor, 4 September 2017

By Arthur Burns, Academic Director of the Georgian Papers Programme, King’s College London


Photo: © Castulo Hernandez Robles

As we launch the second tranche of digitized documents for the Georgian Papers project, this is a good moment to reflect on the progress of academic research related to the project. On 4 September 2017 the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle hosted a one-day symposium for the Georgian Papers Programme, organised by the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture. It provided an opportunity for those associated with the programme — whether as members of the core project team at King’s, the Royal Archives and the Omohundro, representatives of participating institutions such as the Library at George Washington’s Mount Vernon and the Library of Congress, or as fellows of the project — to hear extended reports from a significant proportion of the now more than thirty scholars whose research into the Georgian papers has been supported by fellowships from the Omohundro, King’s, Mount Vernon and the Sons of the American Revolution.

To all of those present it felt as if a significant and exciting milestone had been reached. The event not only demonstrated the extent and the range of the research already undertaken, but also made clear that this research has indeed begun to realize the Programme’s ambition of unlocking the potential of this unique archive to support new interpretations of important themes in eighteenth-century history across the globe. It also embodied a further ambition: to forge a community of scholars meeting on the common ground of a single archive to discuss the intersections and insights of their research in ways that highlight aspects of their projects which might not otherwise appear significant.

An attentive audience at the GPP Fellows Symposium at Windsor, 4 Sept 2017, including on the front row from l. to r. Andrew O’Shaughnessy, Bruce Ragsdale, Anya Zilberstein, Arthur Burns and Karin Wulf. Photo: © Castulo Hernandez Robles

There is not enough space here to describe each of the papers presented in what was a very successful symposium. However, we anticipate that many of the fellows will soon themselves discuss their findings either in their own blogs here or in other venues. But this is a good opportunity to reflect on what the symposium reveals about the research taking place in association with the project, and to note some emerging themes.

 

 

Daniel Reed speaking at the GPP Fellows Symposium at Windsor, 4 Sept 2017. Photo: © Castulo Hernandez Robles

The symposium made apparent what those already familiar with the archives suspected, but which, in the absence of full indexes and catalogues (which the project will produce), has hitherto been hidden from those who have not physically visited the Round Tower: the sheer range of research projects for which the archives contain significant materials. We explored the full chronological scope of the archive collection, which is still in the public mind largely associated with George III. Daniel Reed‘s (Oxford Brookes University) presentation of his research into royal chaplains concentrated on the period between 1714 and 1760, whereas Jane Levi‘s (King’s College London) discussion of the provisioning of royal banquets focused on the coronation festivities of George IV.

Jim Ambuske at the GPP Fellows Symposium at Windsor, 4 Sept 2017. Photo: © Castulo Hernandez Robles

As these two examples also suggest, the range of themes discussed was also exceptionally wide. Those parts of the archive which have previously been published focus in particular on the political and military history traceable in royal correspondence, or the life of the court and the royal family. These topics were duly represented in the presentations with Rachel Banke‘s (University of Notre Dame) reconsideration of Lord Bute and George III’s respective contributions to imperial reform in the 1760s, Jim Ambuske‘s (University of Virginia) reflections on George’s reaction to the loss of America, and Andrew O’Shaughnessy‘s (Monticello and University of Virginia) discussion of the evidence the archive provides on the conduct of the war in America. These presentations demonstrated that — even on subjects of long-standing academic interest where we might think we know the sources — revisiting the archive can still bring fresh insights, not least as our sense of what might be ‘relevant’ material expands, and the selective nature of earlier editions becomes more apparent.

Anya Zilberstein speaking at the GPP Fellows Symposium at Windsor, 4 Sept 2017. Photo: © Castulo Hernandez Robles

It was striking, nevertheless, how many presentations used the archive to illuminate quite different topics and approaches to history: thus as well as food history, we heard from Bruce Ragsdale (Mount Vernon GPP fellow) on estate management as evidenced in George III’s agricultural activities, Felicity Myrone (British Library) on George as collector of topographical prints and drawings, Miranda Reading (King’s College London) on a key early nineteenth-century pressure group, the Society for the Suppression of Vice, Cynthia Kierner (George Mason University) on disaster relief in Georgian England, Flora Fraser (Mount Vernon GPP fellow) on the lives of Flora MacDonald and Horatio Nelson, and Anya Zilberstein (Concordia University) on animals in the Royal Archives.

Suzanne Schwarz speaking at the GPP Fellows Symposium at Windsor, 4 Sept 2017. Photo: © Castulo Hernandez Robles

The range was equally impressive in geographical terms, underlining that the Georgian Papers are not just an archive for British and North American history, but for all regions touched by the global Georgian: thus Suzanne Schwarz (University of Worcester) took us to Sierra Leone for reflections on the African Institution and its royal patrons and Vincent Carretta (University of Maryland) explored his search for evidence of Africans present in Britain in the eighteenth century. It was also striking how many of the papers adopted at least a transatlantic and, in several cases, a more far-reaching geographical frame, even when their focus was firmly on Britain. This reminded all present that we can no longer think of Britain in isolation during this period, and indicates that the nature of the Georgian royal archives, reflecting the global responsibilities and interests of the monarchs, of itself enforces a recognition of this.

Felicity Myrone speaking at the GPP Fellows Symposium at Windsor, 4 Sept 2017.Photo: © Castulo Hernandez Robles

The colloquium also prompted some general reflections. First, several papers made clear how important an understanding of the nature of the archive — of its origins, arrangement (and re-arrangement), selective publication and weeding — will be in allowing new insights into key issues (a theme explored further in Karin Wulf’s blog being published alongside this one). Thus it was clear from Felicity Myrone’s work just how significant decisions about arrangement and cataloguing of archives in the nineteenth century may have been in cementing views about the significance of George III as an eighteenth-century collector which may now need to be revised. This underlines the importance of the approach to the digitization and interpretation of the archival papers that this Programme has adopted, in which archivists, conservationists and academics work alongside each other rather than in sequence, sharing insights the significance of which only becomes fully apparent when discussed with those with a quite different expertise.

Secondly, it was clear that in exploiting the archives as evidence of the development of approaches to kingship and policy-making they are best understood when read alongside other key royal collections of books, art and material culture, with the interconnections offering the possibility of unlocking key questions of chronology and causation.

Flora Fraser speaking at the GPP Fellows Symposium at Windsor, 4 Sept 2017. Photo: © Castulo Hernandez Robles

Thirdly, it became apparent that silences in the archive are often of equal significance as direct evidence. Over the course of the day there was at least as much interesting discussion of what researchers had not found as of what they had discovered. Several papers highlighted the absence — at least in those parts of the archive where we might most readily anticipate encountering it — of evidence relating to activities which from other sources we know were of significance to the royal family, one notable case being philanthropy. How should we explain this? Is it that these things were in fact less significant than we have hitherto believed? Is it that the evidence was disposed of by others who regarded it as too sensitive, personal or insignificant to merit or allow preservation? If so what does that say about our own understanding of these themes?  Or is it that the evidence indeed survives, but in a different and unexpected part of the archive, to emerge as the cataloguing and digitization process continues? If the last, this may have important implications for our understanding of how contemporaries understood these themes themselves.

Two final reflections: the first regards the importance of serendipity in the archive. All archival scholars experience this, of course, but the fact that the Georgian papers still await definitive cataloguing and have been exploited for only a limited range of projects in the past increases its significance for researchers. Several of the papers reflected serendipitous discoveries and the resultant change of direction and approach to a theme prompted by encounters with unexpected documents in the archive. It will be part of the challenge of the digitization project to preserve this opportunity for chance encounters for remote users.

Rachel Banke and Andrew Morse at the GPP Fellows Symposium, Windsor , 4 Sept 2017. Photo © Castulo Hernandez Robles

Finally, I want to return to the importance of building a research community around the papers, one united not by a shared approach or a geographical proximity, but by having worked in a particular archive. The symposium demonstrated the opportunities this presents for interdisciplinary exchange, revelations of significance not apparent from a focused project perspective and for fresh inspiration to pursue new insights that such a community affords. We hope to perpetuate that opportunity as our community of fellows grows, but will also seek to expand the community around the project over the next few months in a new initiative – The King’s Friends – which we are launching alongside the second release of papers. In the meantime, it remains only to thank Karin Wulf and her team at the Omohundro for organizing such a rewarding event.

Arthur Burns

All photographs from the symposium are © Castulo Hernandez Robles,  photographer

International Symposium on Enlightened Princesses in Europe 1700-1820

Followers of the Georgian Papers Programme will probably be interested in the Symposium on Enlightened Princesses to be held at Kensington Palace, Hampton Court and the Tower of London between 29 and 31 October. This conference accompanies the splendid exhibition currently taking place at Kensington Palace (highly recommended if you have not seen it – it runs until 12 November). There are still a few places left at the symposium; anyone who would like to secure a place should visit the symposium website. The Georgian Papers Programme will be making a short presentation at the symposium on 30 October.

Here is the outline for the symposium:

Caroline of Ansbach (1683-1737) , and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744-1818), three Protestant German princesses, became variously Princess of Wales, Queen Consort, and Princess Dowager of Great Britain. Recent research has explored how in fulfilling these roles they made major contributions to the arts; the development of new models of philanthropy and social welfare; the promotion and support of advances in science and medicine; as well as trade and industry; and the furthering of imperial ambition. While local contexts may have conditioned the forms such initiatives took, their objectives were rooted in a European tradition of elite female empowerment.

This symposium, Enlightened Princesses: Britain and Europe, 1700-1820, will bring together eminent academicians and museum scholars to investigate the role played by royal women – electresses, princesses, queens consort, reigning queens, and empresses – in the shaping of court culture and politics in Europe of the long eighteenth century.

Papers will explore the following themes:

  • Royal women as political agents
  • Royal women: networks and conversations
  • Royal women as patrons of art and architecture
  • Royal women and the crafting of image
  • Royal women: engaging with technology and nature

The programme:

Enlightened Princesses Programme

 

 

 

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.