Vickie Larson, Associate Professor, Department of English
Mapping Medieval London
Wednesday, September 23, 2015, 4:00pm, 301 French Hall
Like today, medieval London was a bustling hub of citizens, visitors, and immigrants jostling to make their way in England’s richest and most populous city, the center of commerce and government. The city’s two landmarks—the Tower of London and Old St. Paul’s Cathedral—rose into the sky above narrow winding streets of shops and houses, and it was all snugly packed between the Thames River and a set of 20-foot tall ancient Roman walls. This talk will examine period maps, court records, literary descriptions, and archeological evidence to revisit medieval London, paying particular attention to how the city organized and used its spaces. There will be much to celebrate: Gothic architecture, royal processions, luxury goods, trade guilds, libraries, and literature. But if you were to have lived in London in the 14th-century, no doubt these pleasures would be eclipsed by the horrifying effects of a single bacterium, Yersinia Pestis. Half of the city died between 1348 and 1350. This talk promises a report on recent research on the skeletal remains of plague victims unearthed in 2013 during construction work under the Charterhouse, a rural monastery outside the city walls during the Middle Ages, and as it turns out, a massive burial ground.
John Ellis, Professor, Department of History
The Hell Fire Club
Thursday, October 29, 2015, 4:00pm, 355 FH
Join Dr. Ellis for a Halloween treat from merry old England. In a small bucolic town just outside of London in the 18th century, the aristocratic hedonist Sir Francis Dashwood founded a secret society that would become infamously known as the Hell Fire Club. A potent brew mixing the fraternal rituals of Freemasonry with popular English anti-Catholicism and fanciful paganism, the Hell Fire Club was a salacious aspect of the rebellious, iconoclastic and secular culture of the Enlightenment. Men of high society, including powerful politicians, participated in the club to engage in gluttony, drunkenness, sexual debauchery and blasphemy. Dressed in monks’ robes, they held mysterious rituals and hosted feasts of pleasure with prostitutes. On one memorable occasion with hilarious consequences, they even summoned the devil in the form of an ape. Benjamin Franklin was amongst Dashwood’s famous guests. Wealthy beyond avarice, Sir Francis Dashwood would transform the family estate, remodeling the gardens so as to represent the anatomy of the female body. Even more shocking, he had an elaborate system of tunnels and caves dug into a hill upon which stands the village church. Deep below the earth, the Hell Fire Club would hold its rituals and raucous parties.
Peggy Kahn, Professor, Department of Political Science
Coal Not Dole: Thatcherism and the British Miners' Strike
Wednesday, November 18, 2015, 4:00pm, 301 French Hall
Thatcherism (Thatcher was prime minister from 1979-1990) is now widely recognized as a multi-layered form of neo-liberalism that aimed to withdraw the state from the economy and public provision, strengthen forces of private business and the capitalist market, and move British culture in the direction of individualism, “traditional family values,” and “Britishness.” Unions and the coal union in particular were key targets. Coalminers were unionized, worked in an industry nationalized after World War II, controlled a strategic resource, and had historically been adversaries of Conservative governments. The coal union in 1984 was led by a militant national leadership and had a history of militancy. However, the coalfields were regionalized: different areas had different union and political traditions and pits that varied in economic viability. In all coalfields, coal jobs were the basis on which family and community life were built. This lecture will explore the confrontation between Thatcherism and the coalfields during the year-long coal strike of 1984-5.