Blogging Scottish History

Blogging Scottish History

Over the past few weeks I have been writing about Scottish history, in particular the lives and records of Scottish emigrants to Canada and the United States and the families they left behind in Scotland’s central belt. You can find an introduction to the Gilchrist and Shearer families here. With summer now firmly upon us, I thought I would share a few links to some online blogs and social media accounts that share their perspectives of Scottish history online.

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Edinburgh Castle — Photo credit: P. Dumas

This list is an introduction to some of the research being published and the organisations and researchers who are active on social media. It’s by no means exhaustive, ranked, or critically reviewed, but rather a fun collection of blogs to check out this summer. You’ll see that I’ve attempted to seek out a range of individual, group, and institution blogs for the list. Continue reading

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Ulster Unionist Political Propaganda Postcards

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Anti-Home Rule Postcard – Source Credit: Linen Hall Library/Postcards Ireland

The postcard above was printed during the third Home Rule Crisis ca. 1912-1914. It features the Albert Memorial Tower being pulled down and replaced by a statue of John Redmond (leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party) with crown and scepter, labeled ‘Redmond Rex Hibernia.”  The gigantic Poor House Annex is “Full Up” and droves of people are crowded at the Protestant Emigration Office where they can buy “Tickets for New York or Anywhere” (sponsored by the Irish state, with the green harp flag flying above).  One wing of the building is dedicated space for the “Office of the Molly Maguires.” The American influence over the new Irish government and “King Redmond” is further symbolized by the American flag and ship parked at the Customs Office.  Meanwhile the formerly industrial Belfast is being overtaken by pigs, chickens, and goats. Continue reading

More Maps: Ordnance Survey in Ireland

Given my love of the history of maps, I was excited to hear a segment on the creation of Ordnance Survey maps for Ireland on the RTÉ History Show a few weeks ago.

In the 1700s, when the Williamites wanted to flush out Jacobite fugitives in Scotland, they were hampered by the fact that they had no maps of Scotland, and so they started to make some. Later, in the 1800s, when the revenue people in London wanted to list all the townlands in Ireland that might generate an income for the crown, their first job was to do a major survey of the whole country.  And so, while an early generation of surveyors, the Williamites, arrived with guns, the Victorians arrived with clipboards.

You can find the full segment on the RTÉ Radio Player here:

The History Show: The Story of Ireland’s First Ordnance Survey Maps

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Cashel on the historic Ordnance Survey – Source: osi.ie

The Ordnance Survey office was established in Ireland in 1824, intended to update land valuations for tax purposes. Under the direction of Major Thomas Colby, the survey was completed in 1846, on a scale of 6 inches to 1 mile. A large portion of the historiography is devoted to debate over the impact of the Ordnance Survey on the anglicization of Ireland, the Irish language, and Irish placenames. Continue reading

Summer Book Club: Seeley’s The Expansion of England

You are asked to think over English history as a whole and consider if you cannot find some meaning, some method in it, if you cannot state some conclusion to which it leads.  Hitherto perhaps you have learned names and dates, lists of kings, lists of battles and wars.  The time comes now when you are to ask yourselves, To what end?  For what practical purpose are these facts collected and committed to memory?  If they lead to no great truths having at the same time scientific generality and momentous practical bearings, then history is but an amusement and will scarcely hold its own in the conflict of studies…. No one can long study history without being haunted by the idea of development, of progress.

J.R. Seeley wrote these words as part of a series of lectures he gave at the University of Cambridge in 1881 and 1882, published as The Expansion of England: Two Courses of Lectures in 1883.  Seeley was a professor of modern history at Cambridge from 1869 to 1895.

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John Robert Seeley – photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Seeley examined modern British history with the goal of answering the question of what direction the world was headed.  His answer? Toward liberty, democracy, and the advancement of “greater” Britain. Continue reading

More Maps: John Speed’s Depictions of Ireland

Today we’re taking a look at John Speed’s depictions of Ireland in his Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine, published in 1611/1612.  Speed (1552-1629), the best-known mapmaker of his era, included an overview of Ireland and maps of each province in his atlas.  As I described in a previous post, Speed used previously compiled sources to inform his atlas, but made the maps and other elements himself.

John Speed, Kingdome of Ireland - photo credit: British Library

John Speed, Kingdome of Ireland – photo credit: British Library

R. Dudley Edwards and Mary O’Dowd noted the importance of Speed’s maps in their Sources for Early Modern Irish History, 1534-1641, writing:

Among the most ambitious projects commissioned by a London bookseller in the early seventeenth century was John Speed’s Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain, which appeared in 1611.  Speed devoted special attention to Ireland for which he provided a general map of the country and separate provincial maps.  This gives him, in the opinion of J.H. Andrews, the claim to be, in the eyes of contemporaries, the author of the definitive map as known till the mid seventeenth century in Britain and abroad.  Speed’s work was based on some of the ‘regional surveys, especially in the north, as well as Mercator’s general map of 1595, and, less, happily, Boazio.’  His work included the first printed plans for the towns of Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick.  As Dr. Nuala Burke pointed out, Speed’s work was not necessarily up to date.  She considers, however, that Speed can be regarded as giving a ‘reasonably correct general impression of the actual early seventeenth century topography,’ though there can be errors in matters of detail.

While this was considered the definitive map of Ireland and its provinces for its time, there are biases and agendas at work in Speed’s depictions.  Continue reading

Canada’s 2016 Census: the Long-Form’s Return

Canada’s 2016 Census: the Long-Form’s Return

On May 10, 2016, the most recent Canadian census took place. Of course, Canadians had from the 2nd to complete their forms, but the information given was meant to reflect a ‘snapshot’ of life in the country on the 10th of May.

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Censuses have been conducted in one or more regions of what is now Canada since the mid-17th century. All of the Canadian territories have been surveyed via a census every 10 years since 1851 and every 5 years since 1901. Continue reading

Oscar Wilde in Leadville, Colorado

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Harper’s Bazaar 10 June 1882

I came across this Thomas Nast cartoon earlier this week.  The caption reads, “Wilde on US.  Something to “Live Up” to in America.”

“Mr. Oscar Wilde has lately delivered a lecture in New York on Art Decoration…. In all his travels, he says, the only well-dressed men he has seen have been the miners of the Rocky Mountains.  ‘Their wide-brimmed hats, which shade their faces from the sun and protect them from the rain, and the cloak, which is by far the most beautiful piece of drapery ever invented, may well be dwelt on with admiration.  Their high boots, too, were sensible and practical.  They only wore what was comfortable, and therefore beautiful.'”

At the top of the cartoon are sketches of boxers, a liquor bottle, fighting roosters, and houses with the caption “Leadville.”

You can find more about the history of the Irish in the silver mining town of Leadville, CO in my post here.  As part of his tour of the United States in 1882, Wilde traveled to Leadville, Denver, and Colorado Springs.  He gave a talk to Leadville’s miners at the Tabor Opera House on art and aesthetics, and drank a remarkable amount of whiskey.

In his Impressions of America, Wilde noted:

From Salt Lake City one travels over the great plains of Colorado and up the Rocky Mountains, on the top of which is Leadville, the richest city in the world.  It has also got the reputation of being the roughest, and every man carries a  revolver.  I was told that if I went there they would be sure to shoot me or my travelling manager.  I wrote and told them that nothing that they could do to my travelling manager would intimidate me.  They are miners – men working in metals, so I lectured to them on the Ethics of Art.  I read them passages from the autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini and they seemed much delighted.  I was reproved by my hearers for not having brought him with me.  I explained that he had been dead for some time which elicited the enquiry ‘Who shot him’?  They afterwards took me to a dancing saloon where I saw the only rational method of art criticism I have ever come across.  Over the piano was printed a notice:

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Oscar Wilde, Impressions of America

The mortality among pianists in that place is marvellous.

More Maps: John Speed’s Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine

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Photo Credit: Cambridge University Library; Creative Commons License

Back with more historic maps which may be useful for generating class discussion on how such sources illustrate perceptions and views of the British and Irish in the wider world.

Today we’re highlighting the first atlas to cover the British Isles as a whole, as well as the first work to make comprehensive plans of many English and Welsh towns available in print. English historian and geographer John Speed’s Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine was published in 1611/1612, with a print run of approximately 500 copies. Each of the English and Welsh counties and the four provinces of Ireland was separately depicted, along with a larger view of Scotland.

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Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Speed used previously compiled sources to inform his Theatre, but he made the maps and other elements himself.  The maps are rich with details of local history, fashions, and features, all of which would be useful in the classroom to provide a view of life in the Tudor and Jacobean eras.

With the publication of the Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine, Speed was well on his way to becoming the best-known mapmaker of his era.

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Photo credit: Cambridge University Library; Creative Commons License

Cambridge University Library has a remarkable digital resource utilizing one of their five proof copies of Speed’s atlas.  It can be found here.

Additional Sources:

Annie Taylor, “A Theatre of Treasures,” Cambridge University Special Collections.

Ashley Baynton-Williams, John Speed Biography Part I, Part II, and Part III.

“Mapping the Origins of a Masterpiece,” University of Cambridge.