Britain and the World Conference 2018

PUNCS members and other members of the History department and School of Law at the University of Plymouth attended the fantastic international conference hosted by the University of Exeter, 21 – 23 June 2018, on ‘Britain and the World’, offering insights into their research in progress on military empires and the empire of knowledge (Harry Bennett); mercy and empire in the long nineteenth century (James Gregory); the ‘White Mutiny’ of East India Company’s European troops 1857-61 (Ann Lyon); and the Three Towns’ curious history in relation to the Irish diaspora (Judith Rowbotham).

A panel of members of the School of Law and PUNCS: Kim Stevenson, Craig Newbery-Jones, and Rob Giles, presented research on Plymouth as point of departure, with discussion varying from mapping the circles of Plymouth-based innovators in science and exploration; creating virtual reality simulations inside a transportation ship to Australia; to journeys of criminality through a micro-history, or ‘life-course analysis’ of one Plymouth-born lawbreaker who made a new life after transportation in Australia.

With 190 delegates and 55 panels, the conference ranged chronologically from the early modern to the present day, and thematically offered a rich and very varied fare from eighteenth-century theatre, to The Kinks and superheroes, from Restoration-era Jamaica to the British social world in Hong Kong in the era of decolonization. Imperial and international themes in nineteenth-century history were well represented.

It was a great conference! The twitter-sphere records the lively interventions of the seagulls.

Plymouth departures


empire of mercy

New edited collection from PUNCS members !

We’re delighted to announced the publication of the edited collection Libraries, Books, and Collectors of Texts, 1600 —1900 (Routledge Studies in Cultural History), edited by two PUNCS members, Annika Bautz and James Gregory, and featuring a chapter from Susan Leedham, whose AHRC-funded PhD at the University of Plymouth studied the Cottonian Collection at Plymouth. The chapters study collectors’ roles as well as the collections of books and texts which they assembled: studying British, continental and transcontinental European public and private collections from the Renaissance through to the modern eras.

Bautz and Gregory book (2)


For those interested in the nineteenth century, there are chapters on the Cottonian Collection as a gentleman’s library c.1791—1816 (Susan Leedham); John Couch Adams’s academic collecting (Sophie Defrance), catalogues and readers in the Luso-Brazilian world (Luciane Scarato), Plymouth Public Library’s catalogues (Annika Bautz), ‘bibliomania’ and satire (Shayne Husbands), the golden Magna Carta of Whittaker (James Gregory) and an overview of domestic libraries in the age of T.F. Dibdin, by Keith Manley.

‘the beard was both foxy and fiery’: Another glimpse of James Elmslie Duncan, the ‘Divinearian’


Duncan image


James Gregory, 9 July 2018

Having completed my study of the Chartist poet James Elmslie Duncan, The Poetry and the Politics. Radical Reform in Victorian England in 2014, I imagined that there might still be material out there in the newspapers of the 1840s and early 1850s that I had failed to find: and so it has turned out with ongoing digitisation through the British Newspaper Archives which revealed to me this gem of reportage on the London poet and serial disturber of radical and reform meetings.

Here, through the letter of a ‘constant reader’ to the Lincolnshire Chronicle (published 29 August 1851, p.6) there is not only a description of Duncan’s intervention at a metropolitan meeting of the National Charter Association at the London Tavern (14 January 1850) from his own perspective rather than from a hostile press (such as The Times, 15 January 1850), but also one of his otherwise missing poems. In this case it is to one of his British political heroes, the Chartist Thomas Cooper. Not only that, the material is reproduced seemingly accurately, from Duncan’s own reformed spelling text, from a missing issue of The Divinearian, the only copy (for December 1849) which exists now, being in the Seligman Library, Columbia University.

I have transcribed it below, as it appeared in the ‘Letters to the Editor’ section of the Lincolnshire paper. It seems to clarify one important point too, the actual colour of Duncan’s beard.

Sadly for the poet, the reference to Bedlam was already realized through his admission to Colney Hatch lunatic asylum (in July 1851).


* * * * * *


SIR, — Seeing the name of Thomas Cooper in your last week’s paper, reminded me of the scum which floats on the surface of London literature: during a recent visit to London I became possessed of a specimen in the following manner: — Passing up City-road one Sunday after service, I noticed a man selling printed papers at a chapel door, the congregation were leaving: this man had a sandy beard, a dirty face, repulsive countenance, and was dressed in a dirty blouse. I paid a penny, and obtained a number of his paper; it contained four pages of letter-press; the spelling was phonography outdone — a Pitman run mad: the contents your readers shall judge. This dirty fellow, whose appearance in that disgusting garb on the Sabbath, was a proof of his fitness either for the lock-up or Bedlam, was, I found, the author and editor of the pamphlet, which bore the blasphemous title of “The Divinearian;” and the author styled himself as “the man with the red beard.” The god of his idolatry is Thomas Cooper, a person I believe not unknown in Lincoln — he was once a patten-maker there. Amongst the contents is sonnet to this person (which will require but little trouble in correcting the proofs; your compositor cannot make the spelling worse than in the original); here it is—



“O wuod that I had powr to sing ov thee,

To chant in strainz wurthy ov thy briht mind!

How briliant iz thine eloquens — how rich

Thy stream ov glo-ing wurdz, soel tonez combined

In such fair order and rare harmuny.

Thy stately form! — how meet fill a nich

Ov sum quaint Gothic or old Norman fane.

No scofer corse art thou; — the sanctity,

The venerashun deep, the Hevenly goel,

The faith in Gospel, Crist, and Power Divine,

Al thirst sneer at these thou wuodst restrain,

Hwile stil emansipate from the control

Ov superstishun darc for rezunz shrine:

O Bard and Oratur this sacred mishun thine.’’


I find Cooper again alluded to in an article headed, “The Tempel ov Free Thought.” This is to be, it seems, a Chartist and Infidel lecture hall, which is to “exersize a must holesom influens in checing the baneful sway ov preachingz.”

“Thare will be for the oratur a robe ov linen and velvet, grasefully floing around his persun, sihtly and clasic, a contrast bibz and blacnes, or peticoats ov priests. The idea orijinated with Tomas Cuoper, famus for hiz briliant eloquens and ultra democrasy (!!). It been tacen up with enthuziazm by numerus free-thincerz, chiefly Mr. Saul ov the Sity, wine merchant and jeolojitst, hoo imediately that the project woz propounded proferd 500l to help its realizashun. Anuther like practical pursite promist 20l , utherz 10l. several 5l., and scores 1l., the prise of a share.”


But there is still more of “Tomas Cuoper:” another article tells that —

“Tomas Cuoper, at present, is delivering, alternate Sunday cvenings, too corses ov orashuns in the metropolis, wun on the history ov Rome at the Hal ov Siens Sity Road, and the uther on the histury ov Grese. at the Soshal Institushun Jon Street Totenham Cort Road.”


One would have thought that other subjects might have been chosen for Sunday evening lectures, or at least that other evenings might have been selected for these subjects. It appears that Cooper has a new plan of describing the extent of an empire, which beats maps and atlases hollow. The “man with a red beard” states —


“Mr. Cuoper described the extent ov the Roman Teritvry, streching his arm in the diferent direcshuns; he likewise related, most ably, the growth ov the imperial power; and delineated vividly and graficaly, the caracters and conduct of Rome’s divers rulers. The Lecturer now retired; thare wos an interval of music; and he returned to discus, as is invariably his custum, present politics after having discorst ov past events: lisnd to with lively interest and worm sympathy — evident as the admirashun inspired by his previous oratury.”


A fitting finale, truly, to a Sunday evening lecture is a discussion on “present politics.”

The only endurable part of the “Divinearian” is the adventures of the author, and these are amusing for their absurdity. He is describing his visit to Chartist meeting at the London Tavern, and his account is ludicrous enough: —

“I, Editor ov the Divinearian, attended this meeting, rejoist to witness so ecstraordinary an ocurens in the proseedings ov Chartism. I bore with me the Chartist Baner — a desine in water culurs representing a star with six radiashuns, each embelisht with an emblem ov a point ov the Charter, —  a desine so injenius and briliant that Fergus O’Conur himself has acnolejd it as most hapily apropo : hwilst I carid thither too, in a flowerd green bag, democratic balads ov mine, tens ov thousands hwareov hav been distributed by me; and likewise provided with my fonografic reporting aparetus. Accouterd thus, I sat me down at the tabel and likewise provided for the public scribes (i. e. the jents ov the pres), harcend (in English hearkened) to the oraturs, and in an interval ov the proseedings, oferd a brother reporter a set ov my prints. He refused them — wuod give no resun, but bade me hold my tung! This rousd my rath, and resolvd me to denouns the rufian rudenes ov this scoundrel hireling ov sum wun ov the pres-gang — probably the Conservative Post, or Tory Herald; and almost beside my self at the insult, I sprang from beside the base blagard, mounted the tabel, stept on the platform, and roard out a loud shout, and this with a beard, a ful beard be it borne in mind ! ‘I hav been told to hold my tung! Chartists will you permit it? Deth or Liberty ! Here is the Flag ov the Charter, the Day Star ov Freedom ! The Pepel’s Charter, and No Surender!’ Fergus O’Conur president ov the proseedings egsorted me not to disturb thair concord. I proferd him my riht hand, and he graspt it with a harty shace. I next sat myself on the platform — percht as it ware upon a pedestal.”

A rich scene must this have been : we can imagine this friend of Cooper’s pestering reporter with his Chartist prints and in imagination can see the man mounting the table and roaring out (“with a full beard”) “The Charter and no surrender and all for why ? just because a reporter (i. e. a ‘base blagard’ ) had told him to “hold his tung!!”

“ This was just hwot the scribsters wanted — an ocurens calculated to mace the mater luoc ridiculus in respectab’l iis; accordingly the reporter for the Times availd himself ov my beard to give espeshal effect to his account; and not content with the veritab’l hue thareov — brown — he made not a hwite but a red lie ov it, choosing that culur for its raw glare and firy fersenes; thus wos my beard set forth to the public vishunals, sumwhot as is the ree [sic, for red]  rag before those ov the bul hwen his rage is to rousd — myself the apendaje thareto, being ‘a man with a red beard !’ ”

It appears that this friend of Thomas Cooper” and the Times reporter are at issue on the colour of the beard. Truth compels me to state, from what I saw on the Sunday morning, that the beard was both foxy and fiery.

By this time, I suppose you and your readers have had enough of the Divinearian. I will merely add that, on going up the City-road, I saw large placards announcing that Cooper would deliver a lecture on Christian Socialism in some Hall of Science or other that evening.

And these, Mr. Editor, are the lights of the age! These are the men who go lecturing about the country, making dupes and tools of the poorer classes — first exciting them to sedition, and then, coward like, leaving them in the lurch. Oh, yes! lectures on “Greece and Home” — on “Socialism” — and discussions on “Modern Politics,” “Tempels of Free Thought” — delivered by Cooper, are to “exersize a most holesom influens in checing the baneful sway of preaching!!” — So much for one of the miscalled spirits of the age.


Your’s [sic],           A CONSTANT READER.

Devonshire in the Long Nineteenth century: the Shadow of Sherlock Holmes?


Sidney Paget’s illustration, ‘The Shadow of Sherlock Holmes’, illustrating chapter X,
The Strand Magazine, January 1902. PUNCS collection.

PUNCS members Dr Judith Rowbotham and Dr James Gregory spoke on 11 March 2017 at the ‘Moor than meets the Eye’ Heritage Lottery Fund-funded symposium on Dartmoor in the nineteenth century.

Judith Rowbotham’s paper, ‘By the Hand of Nature Marked? The Lure of Dartmoor as a Site for Crime and Criminals in Victorian Fiction,’ looked at the violent and criminal associations of Dartmoor, contrasting the meagre record of actual crimes with that looming large in popular culture in this period, most famously associated with Arthur Conan Doyle’s tale,’The Hound of the Baskervilles’, from which our two blog images are taken (Sidney Paget’s illustrations from the Strand Magazine originals), and which drew upon the area’s indelible association with the prison at Princetown.



Black’s guide to Devonshire: with maps and illustrations (1874; image from copy in University of Plymouth collection)


James Gregory offered an overview, at the start of the symposium, on the representation of Devon in texts such as mid-Victorian gazetteers; guidebooks such as those produced by the publishers Adam and Charles Black, and John Murray; geography textbooks for school; and lavishly illustrated works of topography from earlier in the century; to answer the question: what might people from outside the second (or third) largest county in England know about Devonshire and its inhabitants, in the ‘long nineteenth century’? The notoriously drizzly weather, clotted cream and cider, the terra incognita of Dartmoor, figured heavily in this ‘knowledge’. The revised copy of Dr Gregory’s paper is available to download from his site.

Fascinating papers from local historians and academics from the University of Exeter were presented on the representation of Dartmoor in the fine arts (Peter Mason), capitalism and its related industrial history and archaeology on Dartmoor (Dr Phil Newman); the agricultural history of the county (Dr Paul Brassley);  and the surprisingly early (and occasionally, surprisingly playful) commercial imagery of Dartmoor available to the wealthy, in stereoscopic photographs (Dr Tom Greeves).


For more details on the event, see:







‘for the preservation of our rights and liberties …’ The Judiciary in the Long Nineteenth-Century and Now



Lord Chief Justice Lord Tenterden (Charles Abbott, 1762 – 1832) by William Owen. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

This year PUNCS hosted a conference on Judgment in the nineteenth-century which happened to coincide with the Brexit vote: five months on from that momentous event and we return to one of the conference’s themes on British judges and judgment, with a blog written by Ann Lyon, Lecturer in Law at Plymouth University especially for the PUNCS site.

The political history of the British ‘long nineteenth-century’ is characterised by debates about the constitution in which parliamentary reform – the extension of the parliamentary franchise, the redrawing of constituencies, the power of the House of Lords, prominently figure. The judicial bench were recognised to have a political role too. The judiciary, for instance, had a role in passing judgments that had political consequences – whether in relation to trade unions, or in matters of controversy relating to the established Church in England (where the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council passed various judgments, for instance on high church ritualism).

Critics have waited for a more fulsome defence of the judiciary from Liz Truss, the first female Lord Chancellor. But if we go back over one hundred and eighty years, we have the figure of Lord Chancellor Henry Brougham heralded alongside Lord Grey as defenders of the Reform Bill in popular prints such as the broadside printed by Kiernan of Manchester in 1831, in the British Museum print collection. And two decades later, from the perspective of Scotland – with its different legal system – we have the defence of judges in the Glasgow Gazette, in an editorial comment critical of the Whig-Liberal government’s proposed cuts:

We are for reduction and economy in every department of the State that can afford it but can never seek to prostrate the dignity and independence of our Supreme Judges — far less to rob them of their fixed salaries, on the faith of which they consented to wear the judicial ermine. It is to them: it is, we say, to these Judges, in eminent degree, more than to a base and servile Parliament, that we are indebted for the preservation of our rights and liberties …

Glasgow Gazette, 17 August 1850

Of course, judges had been unpopular in the recent past: viewed as a hostile body and part of ‘Old Corruption’, by late eighteenth-century radicals who contrasted the bench unfavourably with the jury as palladium of English liberty (on which see James Epstein’s essay ‘“Our real constitution”: trial defences and radical memory in the Age of Revolution’, in James Vernon, ed., Re-reading the constitution. New narrative in the political history of England’s long nineteenth century (Cambridge University Press, 1996).

Some of the more violent responses to judges can be seen in the print collection of the British Museum, for instance George Cruikshank’s ‘The Portable Purificator of our Courts of Law & Equity being the Way our Great & Glorious Alfred cured the Winkings & Squintings of his Judges’ (1813), which shows a judge being hanged …

And consider the following comment, from Thomas Wooler, at a public meeting after the trial of the radical printer William Hone,

They all knew as a matter of history, that a measure was passed early in his present Majesty’s reign, which, as the name went, had for its object, making the Judges independent of the Crown. But it was a strange independence for these high characters, that the Crown should appoint them in the first instance; and that they should afterwards for life retain the same high salaries. From the Crown then they got everything—from the people nothing—and did not the regular march of judicial, like any other official patronage, shew the independent qualities for which Judges were selected by the Crown? Did the people not see it in the opinions invariably pronounced by Learned Judges in every case of libel which came under their cognizance?

Trial By Jury and Liberty of The Press. The Proceedings at The Public Meeting, December 29, 1817, at the City of London Tavern (London: Hone, 1818), pp.16-17

The role of the jury in defending even foreigners from tyranny is presented in the case of Dr Simon Bernard the republican, tried before a jury of twelve Englishmen in April 1858 in the aftermath of the Orsini plot, and discussed in Margot Finn’s After Chartism: Class and Nation in English Radical Politics 1848-1874 (Cambridge University Press, 2003).

Chartists of the early-Victorian era, faced with trials for rebellion and other acts of sedition, were as critical of the judicial bench as their radical forebears. The Northern Star published a poem, ‘The Judges are Going to Jail’ in February 1840, a response to the trial of Frost and the Newport Chartists. For ‘Publicola,’ in the Glasgow-published Chartist Circular, in  January 1842:

Of all the corrupt servants of the public our Judges have been the worst, except the Bishops; but the Judges lay claim to purity, and the Bishops make no such pretensions. This is a vast difference. Our Judges have created as individuals all that is called Common Law, and much of this relates to the most important subjects, and is entirely subversive of the liberties of the people. In England it is almost impossible to remove a Judge, however tyrannical, stupid, ignorant, or even corrupt. Our slavish and dull Jurymen look upon a Judge as a demi-god, and, instead of checking their impudence, or resenting their want of honesty, or reproving their arbitrary conduct, and interference with the Jury-panel, our Jurymen succumb to the Bench as the veriest of slaves.

‘The Third President of America. Part II’, Chartist Circular, 1 January 1842, p.495.

Victorian judges came from the upper classes, their prejudices as expressd on the bench, in social and economic matters reflecting this background. In the sphere of labour relations, the trade unions were critical of judicial bias at the end of our period, thus one delegate at the Trade Union Congress in 1900 declared, ‘he could not trust the judges of this country to give a fair and impartial verdict on any question as to the conditions of labour which might be remitted to them’ (as quoted in Henry Pelling, Popular Politics & Society in Late Victorian Britain)

There is much to explore about the discourse around nineteenth-century judges in popular culture. Moments of tension around controversial judicial decisions (or reported comments) might stimulate, as now, debates about attacks on the ‘dignity and independence’ of the judiciary; and involve discussion within Parliament. These were not even merely constitutional matters. For instance, there is the case of Baron George Bramwell on the North Wales circuit, impugning the Welsh in general, after the acquittal for embezzlement of David Williams, in Bala in 1859 – which understandably generated hostile comments in the Welsh press (see Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian, 16 April 1859 and The Examiner, 16 April 1859 for the report of the exchange in the House of Commons between Enoch Salisbury, the MP for Chester and the Home Secretary, Thomas Sotheron Estcourt).

James Gregory



John Coleridge, 1st Baron Coleridge (1820 – 1894) engraved by Eden Upton Eddis.
Source: Wikemedia Commons
“ Despite claims by some commentators that the judiciary are acting beyond their constitutional role, and seeking to frustrate democracy, in examining and ruling on the extent of executive power, the judges were here fulfilling a long-established role, in which they are frequently called upon to check the power of an executive which very largely controls Parliament. ”

Ann Lyon comments on the judiciary’s constitutional role from the perspective of legal history

The decision of the Queen’s Bench Divisional Court in the case of R (on the application of Miller) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union has attracted saturation coverage, and not a little ill-informed comment, since it was published on Thursday 3 November 2016. No doubt it will continue to do so, at any rate until the result of the Government’s appeal to the Supreme Court is known (some time in December). Despite claims by some commentators that the judiciary are acting beyond their constitutional role, and seeking to frustrate democracy, in examining and ruling on the extent of executive power, the judges were here fulfilling a long-established role, in which they are frequently called upon to check the power of an executive which very largely controls Parliament.

The decision in Entick v Carrington in 1765 establishes that the British Government has no special powers merely because it is the Government, and that it must show positive legal authority for any acts which interfere with the existing rights of citizens. Mr Entick, a printer and associate of the radical MP John Wilkes, argued that a search of his house and the seizure of his papers, in the absence of such authority, amounted to trespass to his property, and the court agreed with him. Entick v Carrington may be regarded as the beginning of judicial review, in which the High Court considers whether an executive body has acted within it powers and used those powers in a proper manner. In Miller, the applicants sought a declaration in judicial review as to whether, following the referendum majority in favour of leaving the European Union, the Government could lawfully begin the Article 50 process for withdrawal by exercise of the Royal Prerogative alone or whether authorisation by Parliament is necessary.

That is the legal issue in the case, but the waters are very much muddied by suspicion that hard-line Remainers are seeking to prevent withdrawal by reliance on legal technicalities.

Ann Lyon

Lecturer in Law, School of Law, Criminology and Government, Plymouth University.

Union and Disunion in the Nineteenth Century

‘In him all union and disunion shine’

‘Prologue’, Thomas Holcroft, The Deserted Daughter (1806)

Among the rare phenomena of the day in which we live, are the strange unions that are formed in our country. We have political unions, trades’ unions, Protestant unions, and, last and not least, the voluntary unions.

‘Union of Papists and Dissenters to Achieve the Disunion of Church and State’, Fraser’s Magazine, May 1836

A few years more and we trust human governments will be forced to lay down all their usurped spiritual weapons, and confine themselves to the affairs of this life; affairs which though temporal, they have certainly not managed so well that they deserve the higher and more responsible trust of the things of another life. It is from the division of opinion that union in heart and in purpose will eventually result. Our separate sanctuaries – our ministries educated and hired to proclaim only certain particulars of fractional theology – our confessions of faith – our sectarian war-cries – our endowed opinions – our state altars and priests. These, all these are the mournful evidences of limited intelligence and feeble faith, and most contracted sympathy: enlarged intelligence will at once enlarge the scope of vision and the bond of sympathy, and while it will doubtless lead for some time to come, to yet more numerous divisions and clanships of sentiment, in which some little, trivial, insignificant ism will be exalted to a rallying banner and central point of faith; yet these divisions will doubtless eventually result in amalgamation and union.

Edwin Paxton Hood, The Age and its Architects (1850).

Union pledges peace at home, and its invulnerable front frowns off war from without. L’ Union c’est la force says the motto of Belgium – Union is strength; Union is peace, may America add. It is our very life. It means civilization, progress – all future hope for the continent.

R.C. Pell, Forward or Backward? (1863)

So that out of the union and fusion of psychical states, themselves caused by sensations, all the intellectual powers might have been produced, and, in tracing the growth from stage to stage, the presumption grows very strong that they have been so produced. One law, then, will account for all the intellectual operations; that law is, that if two psychical states unite, there is always a tendency for them to unite again, which tendency is strengthened by each act of union.

W.D. Ground, An examination of the structural principles of Mr. Herbert Spencer’s philosophy (1885)

* * * * *

PUNCS (Plymouth Nineteenth Century Studies) invites proposals for 20-minute papers for the international, interdisciplinary conference taking place 22 – 23 June 2017 on the general theme of union and disunion.

The first international conference hosted by PUNCS (Plymouth Nineteenth Century Studies) began on the day of the Brexit vote, and commentators have seen this event in the context of other signs of anti-globalisation, and in a landscape of violent disintegrations or forcible integrations in the Twenty-first century.

Our new conference takes place on the first anniversary of this momentous decision.
Our Keynote Speakers are:

Professor Lucy Riall (European University Institute, Florence and Birbkeck College and author of works including Under the Volcano: Revolution in a Sicilian Town and Garibaldi. Invention of a Hero) speaking about union and imperialism from continental European perspectives in the late-nineteenth century;

Dr Gordon Pentland (University of Edinburgh, and author / editor of The Spirit of the Union: Popular Politics in Scotland, 1815-1820 and Radicalism, Reform and National Identity in Scotland, 1820-1833) speaking on Union, Scotland and the British Isles;

Dr Laura Schwartz (University of Warwick), speaking on women’s trade unions in late-nineteenth-century and Edwardian Britain, drawing on her recent work on the Domestic Workers’ Union of Great Britain and Ireland.

Themes already represented in the conference schedule include:
American and British responses to the American Civil War; unions of enslaved couples at the end of slavery in the USA; cultural tourism, after the Irish Act of Union, in the early nineteenth century; cartels in the typographic industry; Scottish governance and the Conservative Party in the mid-nineteenth century.
* * * * *
We are interested in papers by scholars working in British, continental European, American and world history in the Nineteenth century, in literary studies, history, legal history, art history, economic history, geography and other disciplines.

We are interested in papers by scholars working in British, continental European, American and world history in the Nineteenth century, in literary studies, history, legal history, art history, economic history, geography and other disciplines.

Possible themes for exploring union in individual papers or panels include:

  • Union as a concept in the natural or human sciences
  • Acts of union (legal incorporation into nation states through treaties and legislation, or forcible unification; or municipal level unification, as in the union of the Three Towns in Plymouth in the early-twentieth century)
  • Economic unions (e.g., Zollverein and imperial unions)
  • Trade unions
  • Political unions (e.g., the political unions of the reform era in Britain in the 1820s), or women’s suffragist organisations
  • Organisations for social policy and welfare such as Poor Law Unions
  • Unions and disunions in religion, e.g., the creation or breakup of denominational unity, the forging of ecumenical bodies.
  • Unions in terms of family, personal and sexual relationships in works of literary fiction or dramatic representation
  • Union as a topic in artistic, architectural and other aesthetic discourses
  • Fear of disunion and acts of civil war

Please send your 300 word abstract and a brief c.v. to one of the organisers listed below. The deadline is 28 November 2016.

We hope to edit a selection of papers for publication after the conference.

Dr Annika Bautz

Dr James Gregory

Dr Daniel Grey

Professor Kim Stevenson

Conference Report: Judgment


Keynote speaker: Professor Leslie Moran
‘The Judicial Image, Photography and celebrity Culture in the Nineteenth Century’

Conference Report:

A Time of Judgment: The Operation and Representation of Judgment in Nineteenth-Century Cultures

Judgment everywhere. Implacable judgment in scarlet up in the Central Criminal Court or delivered in measured tones in the High Court of Chancery. Beside the Embankment in the imperial senate, judgment confidently uttered before the witnesses in committee chambers or mumbled amid the gilded crockets of a stifling House of Lords. Judgment by the bearded and caped men of the hanging committee, sat before the stacked canvasses at Burlington House. Judgment dropping glibly from the pen nib of the nameless gentleman of the press. Judgment in the eyes of the pedestrian, taught to read character in the faces and costume of his fellow foot passengers. Thundering judgment, delivered from a wrathful pulpit. Judgment in the small halls and lecture rooms of gas-lit institutes. Judgment accumulating, sweeping, failing.


So Charles Dickens did not begin Bleak House (1852-1853) in that way …  but the international conference ‘A Time of Judgment’ held at Plymouth 23 – 24 June 2016 examined the ways in which judgment was everywhere in the nineteenth century: with all sorts of judgment operating and being represented in Britain, the British empire, across the Atlantic, and in continental Europe.

Organized by Kim Stevenson (Law); Annika Bautz (English), James Gregory and Daniel Grey (History), the conference brought together literary scholars, legal historians, cultural historians and others. It drew upon poetry, photography, painting, performance, prose and printing technology itself, to examine judgment.

The event began, suitably enough, on that momentous ‘day of judgment’ on Britain’s relationship with the European Union … And while the conference papers presented, did not study the realm of judgment in electoral politics, delegates otherwise studied a very broad range of judgments and judgements.

For the figure of the judge and the acts of judging – whether explicitly worded in discourse to evoke ideas of the ‘men of the law’ or not – have not been studied sufficiently by historians of the nineteenth century, outside the specialisms of legal history or histories of literary and art criticism. This conference brought these aspects together – the legal and the non-legal, and examined the ways in which divine, legal, aesthetic and scholarly judgments were represented or operated from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth century. The geographical coverage ranged from the local (South West) to the Antipodean, in papers by established scholars and doctoral researchers.


Parallel session 1: Marissa Bolin (University of York) and Alice Richardson (Australian National University),
chaired by Kate Gleason.

Judgement (with its additional ‘e’) was particularly important, with papers on the portrayal of judges in photography (by Professor Leslie Moran, the second keynote speaker, using the mass- produced small photographs or cartes de visites of judicial celebrities), in the popular British illustrated press, and Australian painting. There were judges in divorce courts, in affiliation trials and in trials for child murder. Public justice was studied through the perspective of the ‘court’ of public opinion in Britain and the United States, and in early nineteenth-century police courts in London. A panel explored Plymouth as a case study in provincial legal judgements, taking in police discipline, provincial press verdicts, and other voices of authority in the Three Towns.

There was judgment on sexuality and mental state. There was judgment in the aftermath of vengeful violence or intemperate behaviour due to alcohol. There was judgment in relation to aesthetics: with work presented on the relationship between taste and judgment in British stage adaptations of Walter Scott, in the field of British art criticism, and in gentlemen’s collecting practices. Judgment in theology was approached through the figures of William Blake’s Urizen in his unpublished Four Zoas and through the place of judgement in the moral universe of Victorian secularists.


Keynote Speaker 1: Professor David Amigoni, ‘In Judgement, he is still a child’: varieties of judgement, scientific authority and sources of inheritance in the Samuel Butler – Charles Darwin dispute.

That all-important sphere for judgment, in scientific cultures, was reflected in the keynote paper by Professor David Amigoni, on the dispute between Charles Darwin and Samuel Butler (remember now as the author of Erewhon and The Way of All Flesh). The international and national institutes for passing judgment in science, the organs and procedures for judging scientific truths, is an important aspect of the nineteenth-century ‘time of judgement’. The ‘pseudo sciences’ might also have been considered – since phrenologists developed their own theories about the faculties of judgment, but delegates also heard one paper exploring that commonplace mode of judging character – handwriting  – through graphology.

The judgment of mass readerships, the exercise of moral judgment by the masses and the inculcation in an exercise of judgment by working-class men and women through the agency of mechanics’ institutes, the judgment exercised via popular prize competitions, were topics presented. But there is also the judgment of ‘the market’, and judgment related to business misconduct and economic failings – also themes highlighted in the conference through the figure of debtors (in novels by Frances Burney of the late eighteenth-century), the social reportage of Henry Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor.

Judgment is a universal practice: we are all expected to exercise our moral judgment and, regretfully, we all make quotidian judgments about people on the basis of such externalities as physical appearance. It’s easy to be critical of the harsh legal or social judgments of the past – to lambast the Victorians, for instance, for their ‘judgmentalism’. Rather than passing judgment on the nineteenth-century, this conference presented and interrogated the varieties of judgment in action and representation.