Manuscript Pamphleteering in Early Stuart England

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: History and Cultures

Abstract

This project will map a little-known literature of major importance. Before the outbreak of Civil War in 1642, England developed a large, influential and often radical pamphlet literature. Speeches, learned briefs, and scaffold apologies joined character assassinations, secret histories and conspiracy theories in a jumbled literary underground. Pamphlets were produced commercially and informally and circulated across the kingdom; they fascinated readers and influenced events. Large numbers of copies survive - probably in the tens of thousands - suggesting a significant readership. Nevertheless, this pamphlet literature is rarely mentioned and even more rarely analyzed by historians or literary critics, not least because it was written by hand rather than printed with movable type.
This project aims to survey the vast hidden archive of early Stuart England's manuscript pamphlets. In collaboration with the British Library, this project will construct a database of manuscript pamphlet texts, bibliographic information, and digital images. This will allow users to search transcriptions of the pamphlets; analyze the distribution of copies through time and space; and see how such materials were presented: large and small, elaborate and plain, professional and amateur. The project will conduct additional research in the private papers of Francis Russell, fourth earl of Bedford, who was a major political figure of the early Stuart era as well as a reader and collector of manuscript pamphlets.
The research has three main purposes. First, the project team and associated researchers will use the database to ask and answer fundamental questions about the content of early Stuart political ideas, the genres in which they were expressed, and the circulation of those ideas through the kingdom. Second, the studies produced by the project and the underlying dataset will be useful to historians, literary critics and scholars of political thought, providing a major new set of sources and a useful new set of research tools. Third, the project will prove useful to non-academic beneficiaries. Events at local archives, undertaken with the advice of the British Library, will raise the profile of the resource, and assist such archives and their users in capitalizing on manuscript pamphlets within their own collection; further, working in partnership with the Historical Association, the project will convene a Bristol-based group of secondary school teachers to help build a teaching resource for use in A-Level teaching, which will be available on the website and promoted by the Historical Association.
The PI, Noah Millstone, a historian, has published widely on early Stuart manuscript pamphleteering, including a 2016 monograph. The CI, Sebastiaan Verweij, is a literary critic who has written extensively on manuscript culture in the early seventeenth century and has significant experience as a research associate in digital humanities projects such the Oxford Edition of the Sermons of John Donne and Scriptorium, both funded by the AHRC. The project team will include a Research Assistant (RA) appointed by open recruitment. The PI and CI will also recruit senior scholars to act as an advisory board.
The project outputs will include the database itself (combining transcriptions of c.500 short texts, 1500 photographs, and associated bibliographic information), embedded in an information-rich website, which will include the teaching resource and a 5,000 word introduction; three 10,000-word peer-reviewed articles by the PI, CI and RA; the one-day symposium at the British Library; and three outreach events at local archives. The project will also serve as a foundation for future work, partly by providing a digital infrastructure that will allow for easy expansion of the dataset and database alongside other partners, and partly through further publications, notably a monograph by the CI on the manuscript collections of Woburn Abbey.

Planned Impact

Who will benefit from this research?
We believe this project will particularly benefit two different sorts of institutions. First, early modern copies of the manuscript pamphlets studied by this project are widely distributed in libraries and archives across the UK. Thanks to the project's activities and outputs, the archivists and librarians working in such collections will be able better to catalogue the materials they hold, to understand their connections to other materials held elsewhere, and to host additional researchers who will come to use the material. The British Library itself will be a major beneficiary of this kind; similar benefits will accrue to other archives whose collections are noted in the bibliographic portion of the database, and even to those with collections whose information is not included, as the database will assist them in cataloguing their collections and linking them to material elsewhere. Archive users will also benefit. Thanks to the project's activities, local history societies and local historians will become aware of the materials available nearby.
Second, the project's activities and outputs will be useful to secondary schools, where they will benefit both A-Level history teachers and students. All four exam boards have A-level modules that treat early Stuart history, but most provide very little resources to secondary school teachers beyond a list of textbooks. The recently launched AHRC-funded Stuarts Online has begun to address this problem; in emphasizing illicit pamphlets and the materiality of textual sources, this project offers a somewhat different perspective into Stuart political life. By producing a teaching resource, the project will help secondary school teachers provide students with a more primary source-rich, up-to-date approach to the early Stuart era.

How will they benefit from this research?
Libraries, archives, local historians: First, the project's database will help librarians and archivists catalogue their holdings. For those archives whose holdings are listed in the bibliographical data, the database will help draw attention to those holdings and draw in users working on early Stuart topics. We will maximize the extent of this impact by publicizing the database through the British Library's communication channels, by the BL colloquium, and by events at local archives across the UK directed at both archivists and local history societies.
Teachers and Students: The project website will have a teaching resource, formed around 2-3 example texts from the database along with accompanying photographs and ideas about how to use the resource in the classroom. The teaching resource will be produced in consultation with Bristol-area secondary school teachers, contacted with the help of the Historical Association. The teachers involved will benefit through an opportunity for professional development. The resource itself, once completed, will be available through the website and will be advertised through the Historical Association, who are willing to act as a long term host for the teaching resource. Used in the classroom, the teaching resource will enrich and deepen A-level teaching of the early Stuart era, benefiting both teachers and students.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description 1. Through our research, we identified many dozens of texts that circulated relatively in widely in manuscript in England during the early seventeenth century but which are more or less unknown to scholars - speeches, legal handbooks, conspiracy theories, narratives of duels, and so on. This has raised huge numbers of questions about their authorship, readership, purpose and importance.
2. Our research activities also raised questions about the afterlives of those texts: how many were recycled and repurposed during the midcentury Civil War, and assembled into important collections by later seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century collectors.
3. Although it was not part of our original plan, our project developed relations with a large and dispersed group of volunteer research assistants, who were critical in producing transcriptions for analysis and inclusion in the database. This sort of guided crowdsourcing, and the trained and motivated volunteers who participated, made it possible to include materials beyond our original scope, and will prove useful in future.
Exploitation Route By publishing our data, both through our web app and on github, we hope that the materials we have found will be useful to scholars and students working in related fields.
Sectors Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

 
Description The project has had non-academic impacts in four ways. First, our work with archives, particularly the Norfolk Record Office and the Surrey History Centre, have supplied data to archivists and built their links with their user groups. A collaboration between the Norfolk Record Office and the University of East Anglia's MA program in history grew out of an event run by the project. Second, our non-academic volunteer researchers across the UK have built their skills in early modern research, with some saying that they now hoped to return to education. Third, the teaching resources the project created for A-Level teachers of history have been viewed over a hundred times in the last few months, and have hopefully found their way into the classroom, influencing how the Stuart era is being taught. Finally, we are in the final stages of planning a small exhibition on political communication on the eve of the English Revolution, due to open in the Royal Gallery in the Houses of Parliament on 1 April 2020.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural

 
Description Archivist focus group
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact Through working wih representatives from county archive services, we have worked out modes of collaboration between digital humanities projects and record repositories in ways that benefit the latter: enriching catalogue data, building skills in the user communities, and outreach to new users.
 
Description Norfolk transcribathon
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact In collaboration with the Norfolk Record Office, we trained twelve volunteers in paeleography and transcription techniques.
URL https://www.evensi.uk/early-modern-transcribathon-green-room-norfolk-record-office/258680947
 
Description Surrey transcribathon
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact In collaboration with the Surrey History Centre, project researchers trained volunteers in paeleography and transcription techniques, building their skills, the Surrey History Centre's links to their community of users and supplying valuable resources for the project.
URL https://interests.me/org/surreyheritage/story/76554
 
Description Teaching resources
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact The project collaborated with A-Level teachers to build and publish teaching resources to assist secondary school history teachers delivering modules on seventeenth-century England. The resources were published on the project website and advertised by the Historical Association. Since publication late in 2018, the resources have been viewed nearly 150 times.
URL https://mpese.ac.uk/teaching.html
 
Description Training and capacity building of local historians in Leicestershire
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description Conference Funding Scheme
Amount £2,728 (GBP)
Organisation Past & Present 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2018 
End 07/2018
 
Title TEI/XML from the Manuscript Pamphleteering in Early Stuart England project (10-2018) 
Description Drawing upon the collections of more than 50 archives in the UK and USA, Manuscript Pamphleteering in Early Stuart England details the circulation of over 500 distinct texts which collectively survive in around 4,000 unique witnesses. Furthermore, it makes available transcriptions of over 200 exemplars, the majority of which are accompanied by high-resolution images. These have primarily been drawn from the collections of the British Library, a project partner, alongside others in local record offices such as Norfolk Record Office and Surrey History Centre. In some cases, we have provided multiple exemplars of a single text in order to demonstrate not only the range of material that circulated as manuscript pamphlets, but also the variety of forms this took and the range of scribal practices involved. For each text, the database lists basic bibliographic information, all known manuscript witnesses, and details of known print exemplars (both seventeenth-century and modern). 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? Yes  
 
Title database 
Description A public-facing database allowing students, scholars and users to browse and search through hundreds of texts, bibliographic data and photographs gathered for project research. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The MPESE database is listed among resources for the study of early modern culture by the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Institute of Historical Research, the Warburg Institute, and the Bodleian Library. It has been visited by over 1600 unique users since publication late in 2018. 
URL http://mpese.ac.uk
 
Description NRO 
Organisation Norfolk Record Office
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Project staff conducted research at the record office, hosted a focus group attended by staff from the record office, and were principally responsible for running a transcribathon at the record office during the summer.
Collaborator Contribution The Norfolk Record Office provided extensive advice; provided photographs for publication at reduced rates, waiving usual publication fees; provided staff for the transcribathon; and advertised the event to their users.
Impact The archive focus group, the Norfolk transcribathon and elements in the research database are all outcomes of this collaboration.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Parliament Exhibition 
Organisation Government of the UK
Department Parliamentary Archives
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution I have spent the last year guest-curating an exhibition in partnership with the Parliamentary Archives. It is due to open in the Royal Gallery in the Houses of Parliament on 1 April 2020.
Collaborator Contribution The partners have devoted significant staff time, including curators, designers and outreach staff. In addition, they have paid for relevant facsimiles to be made, and are arranging for all costs for installation in the Royal Gallery.
Impact A small exhibition due to open in the Royal Gallery, Houses of Parliament, on 1 April 2020.
Start Year 2019
 
Description SHC 
Organisation CSH Surrey
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Project staff conducted research at the Surrey History Centre, supplied information to the archive staff, hosted an archive focus group and managed a transcribathon held at the Surrey History Centre at Woking for the SHC's user community.
Collaborator Contribution The Surrey History Centre provided staff to help manage the transcribathon, participated in our focus group, and waived publication fees for the photographs that contributed to our public database.
Impact The archive focus group, the Surrey transcribathon, and parts of the research database.
Start Year 2018
 
Title Puppet-eXistDB 
Description Software developer Jon Hallet created a module which allows users to use Puppet to easily configure and deploy eXist-db to one (or more servers) with just a few commands. Puppet will also maintain the installation state, ensuring that any accidental changes by administrators are rolled-back to the configured state. 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2018 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact The Puppet-eXist module has made it significantly easier to use eXist databases as the basis of stable online resources (I think, I really don't understand it properly...). 
URL https://exist-db.org/exist/apps/wiki/blogs/eXist/puppet-existdb
 
Description HistAsc 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact The project's public-facing database was promoted on the website and newsletter of our partner, the Historical Association, which is primarily directed towards teachers of history in secondary schools.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.history.org.uk/historian/news/3668/transcribed-pamphlets-shed-new-light-on-pre-civil
 
Description arts and ideas 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact The project PI, Dr Millstone, was a guest on BBC Radio 3 'Arts and Ideas' podcast about the Digital Humanities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06w9hw8