Defending the Faith Conference, Salisbury, 16-17 September 2014

This conference was held to commemorate the 450th anniversary of the publication of John Jewel’s An apologie or answere in defence of the Churche of Englande, an English translation of Jewel’s Apologia ecclesiae anglicanae of 1562. The Apology was the first major defence of the Elizabethan settlement of religion and the Protestant Church of England, and became a standard text used by Protestants against Roman Catholics until the civil wars in the mid seventeenth century.

John JewelJohn Jewel (1522-71), an Oxford scholar, had enthusiastically supported Protestantism during the reign of Edward VI and had fled abroad to the Protestant havens of Strasbourg and then Zürich when Mary re-imposed Catholicism on England, returning home in 1559 after the accession of the Protestant Elizabeth.

Anon., Bishop John Jewel, Wikimedia Commons


In the autumn of 1559 Jewel issued his famous ‘challenge sermon’, provocatively calling on the Roman Catholics to bring forward evidence out of Scripture, the primitive church, or the church fathers before 600 AD in support of various Roman doctrines, particularly the theology of the eucharist. Jewel had chosen his ground very carefully to show both divisions within the Roman church and the lack of early support for its teachings. The ensuing debate grew into the ‘great controversy’ of the 1560s, spawning around 50 books in which both the Church of England and the Roman Catholics were forced not only to defend but also to define their positions. Although the controversy made two churches methodically set out their rival claims over thousands of pages, it was also conducted within narrow confines. Most of the contributors on both sides were former Oxford academics who knew one another; most of the Roman apologists were English recusants who had fled to Louvain (then in the Spanish Netherlands); both Jewel and his chief opponent, Thomas Harding, were born in Devon, attended Barnstaple Grammar School, went to Oxford University, and were for a time senior clergymen associated with Salisbury Cathedral.

Queen Elizabeth appointed Jewel as bishop of Salisbury in 1559, and his defence of the Protestant church made him both the champion of, and the most famous bishop in, the Church of England. His Apology was regularly placed in parish churches for the laity to read.

The conference explored several aspects of Jewel’s writings, including the internal workings of the genres of challenge sermons and religious polemic, and points of controversy between Protestants and Roman Catholics about the excommunication by the pope of princes, and the validity of monasticism. My own paper, ‘Defending England’s Cathedral’s, looked at the arguments used by some English Protestants to defend the place of cathedrals in the English church, in response to bitter Puritan attacks on cathedrals as ‘popish’ institutions filled with lazy, greedy and immoral clergy, ‘Dennes of Lazie Loytering Lubberds, the verie harboroures of all disceitfull and Tymeserving hippocrites’. The paper explored reasons for why, in the face of such an onslaught, cathedrals remained a feature of the English church while other Protestant churches (such as the Scottish Kirk) abolished them. It was fitting, therefore, that the conference was held in the Close at Salisbury where Jewel, as bishop of Salisbury, had lived, overlooking the cathedral where Jewel had preached and where he was buried. The conference included a tour of the former bishop’s palace in Salisbury (now Salisbury Cathedral School) and the option of attending Evensong in the Cathedral, including an anthem by Jewel’s contemporary William Byrd

Papers at the conference also explored various legacies, reputations and images, including the Protestant view of Pope Gregory VII as the archetypal tyrannical and sexually immoral pontiff, and the ways in which Jewel’s role as defender of the church was assumed a generation after his death by Richard Hooker. Nonetheless, Jewel was not forgotten, and one paper explored how, in the mid twentieth century, he was adopted by an Oxford undergraduate society designed to preserve and promote the Reformed heritage of the Anglican Church – the Bishop Jewel Society.


Second World Congress of Environmental History, Guimarães, Portugal, 8-12 July 2014

GuimaraesIt is one of the real benefits of this line of employment that we can discover astonishing places that we would never otherwise have dreamed of visiting. My recent visit to the Second World Congress in Environmental History in Guimarães in Portugal definitely fits into that category. Recent urban redevelopment has transformed the city over the last few years, making it greener in both aesthetic and environmental senses, and turning the ‘birthplace’ of Portugal into a tourist hub, replete with the wonderful Santuário da Penha in a boulder-field overlooking the town. Appropriately enough, the conference itself was held in an old tannery reclaimed from pollution by the University of Minho.

Environmental history can be an eclectic topic, and panels ranged from retrospectives on George Perkins Marsh (his book, Man and Nature, celebrated its 150th anniversary this year), to economic analyses of the role of small countries in colonial resource extraction, and visitor flows in Alpine tourist ‘hubs’. Three papers on urban environments and environmentalism caught my attention on Thursday. Anastasia Day’s analysis of American ‘Victory Gardens’ during and after the Second World War revealed a refreshingly optimistic aspect of often-reviled US environmental culture. Christopher Miller demonstrated the environmental impact of abandoned plans, by examining the role of unintentional landlords in slow environmental despoliation, and Alexandro Solorzano examined the forest ‘islands’ of Rio de Janeiro as a ‘novel ecosystem’ – an ecosystem that develops when once-exploited land is simply left to its own devices. While the mystery disappearance of a fourth paper on Berlin was a little disappointing, it was a great panel that spoke of new forms of complexity in urban culture/nature relations.

Later the same day came my own panel. Paul Readman kicked off with a close analysis of the well-known mountaineer and mountain access campaigner James Bryce. He pointed to the intrinsic importance of Bryce’s mountaineering both to his politics and to his public persona. While Bryce might appear as a classic example of the sort of imperial manliness highlighted by Hansen so long ago, Paul argued that Bryce’s enthusiasm for mountain environments derived instead from close inspection and contemplation. Combined with a classically liberal sense that such auto-didactic experience could improve the population, this explained Bryce’s long-standing campaign for access to moorlands and mountains in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Then it was my turn to present a paper on the development of a little-known form of environmentalism known as Ödlandschutz – protection of the wasteland. Amongst a select group of male German mountaineers, mountains became a challenging terrain through which to move; the emphasis in mountaineering, for them, was a kinetic engagement with the terrain, rather than a visual engagement with the view. Consequently, they sought to ‘protect’ the terrain from ‘development’ – which in effect meant not building overly-comfortable huts and paths in the Alps. Yet, as my paper went on to discuss, these elite mountaineers could not escape the economic and cultural systems that had built up around hut and path construction in the late-nineteenth century, and, within a decade, they were manoeuvred into building a large, commercial hut of their own by a combination of local elites, national politics in Germany and Austria-Hungary, and the economics of tourist development.

All in all, an excellent conference – I for one cannot wait for the European Society for Environmental History Conference in Versailles next year!

Commemorating Napoleon’s Hundred Days in 2015

napoleon100daysEveryone knows that Napoleon was decisively defeated at the battle of Waterloo in July 1815 and next year will witness a number of commemorations to mark the bicentenary of this landmark event, not least on this side of the Channel. The Waterloo 200 website lists all activities, including a major exhibition at the British Museum, ‘Bonaparte and the British’.

Historians, among them Keele’s emeritus professor Malcolm Crook,  will be contributing to the commemorations by highlighting Napoleon’s return to power in the spring of 1815 (following his abdication just a year earlier), an amazing adventure that culminated in Waterloo and became known as the Hundred Days. Exiled to the small Mediterranean island of Elba, Napoleon still hoped to regain his throne in France and, on 1 March 1815, he landed in Provence. He was taking a massive risk, but opposition melted away and on 20 March he entered Paris in triumph. On a website hosted by the University of Warwick, a series of items relating to the Hundred Days will be posted each day, from March to July 2015. Documents, cartoons, pottery, poems, and songs will be displayed to illustrate and illuminate contemporary reactions to this astonishing episode.

Napoleon duly re-established his Empire but, whatever his popularity among the French people, he needed to defeat the allied armies of the major European states if he was to remain in power. Though Waterloo was, in the words of Wellington, ‘a close-run thing’, Napoleon lost and this time he was exiled to St Helena in the South Atlantic, from which there was no return. Nonetheless, the Hundred Days fostered a legend of Napoleon that fascinated the nineteenth-century imagination.