The History of a Banner

Have you ever wondered about the images which appear in the banner at the top of this blog? Just a random series of ‘historical’ images would seem a logical conclusion. So, here is what they are.

The group on the left are a group of students looking at medieval manuscripts on the Keele Latin and Palaeography Summer School in the library of Lichfield cathedral in the early 1990s. The woman in blue pointing is Barbara Clapham, a regular at the school, and one of a group of women of a similar age at the school who had ‘done interesting things in the war,’ in her case at the Ministry of Information in Cambridge. Next are a few images of sculpture taken at the Ospedale degli Innocenti in Florence, but taken during a workshop for architectural conservation students – historic conservation is one of those vocational careers for which historians are often well-qualified. The black and white image of a mother and children on the doorstep comes from Keele’s archives, one of the families in Chester studied by Le Play house in the 1920s, a remarkable collection of data and images which has yet to be properly studied. And finally is a reliquary case containing a fragment of the bones of St Celsus, a fourth-century martyr whose cult, and this relic, was popular in the diocese of Metz. The reliquary was purchased on a popular web trading space; the relic, of course, was free, a case of the pardoner, Chuacer’s seller of relics going online.


Henry VII, Henry VIII and Petitions at Keele

The Ranulf Higden Society holds one of its annual lectures at Keele. This year the lecture will take place on Saturday 14 April, 10.30am for 11.00am, and includes the following lectures:

Dr Samantha Harper (University of Winchester) ‘Kingship, Court and Society: The Chamber Books of Henry VII and Henry VIII’.

 Dr Helen Killick (University of Reading) ‘The Writing of Petitions in Late Medieval England’.

Claus Moser Research Centre, Keele University, ST5 5BGlogo

Charge: £10 for members, £12 for non-members

Buffet Lunch for a Small Charge

Please email the secretary to confirm attendance:

Attendance is free to Keele students.

Dr Tony Phillips Memorial Seminar and Tree Dedication Ceremony

One of History’s very great friends and collaborators was Dr Tony Phillips, an eminent historical geographer, who sadly died a few months ago. The School of Geography, Geology and the Environment at Keele University are holding a memorial seminar and tree dedication in his honour on Friday 18th May 2018 when Dr Colin Phillips of Manchester University will speak on one of Tony’s great interests:  ‘The map that almost

Tony in his usual serious mood

was. Collecting information for Gregory King’s projected map of Staffordshire, circa 1680.’

12.30-14.00 Buffet Lunch: WS0.16 (Cope Lab), William Smith Building. Hosted by the School of Geography, Geology and the Environment, Keele University.

14.00-16.00 Memorial Seminar. WS0.06, William Smith Building. Welcome: Professor Clare Holdsworth, Keele University. Remembering Tony. Contributions are welcome from anyone who worked with Tony in any capacity. Please contact Clare Holdsworth if you would like to contribute. Dr Colin Phillips, ‘The map that almost was. Collecting Information for Gregory King’s projected map of Staffordshire, c.1680.’

16.00-16.30 Tree dedication in the grounds of Keele University. Guests of honour Mrs A Davies and Ms Penny Davies.

17.00 onwards Drinks and evening meal at the KPA, Keele University. Please contact Clare Holdsworth if you would like to join us for the evening meal. Menu and price to be confirmed. Further Information please contact Clare Holdsworth:

New Book on Staffordshire in the First World War


Professor emerita, Karen Hunt, has just published a new book on Staffordshire in the First World War, fulfilling the ironic boast in her retirement speech in which she said she was retiring to become a historian. Ian Bailey of the North Staffordshire Historians’ Guild reviewed it for their newsletter, and here it is minus his lament about the ungenerous font size.

Karen Hunt, Staffordshire’s War (Amberley Publishing, 2017, £14.99159 pages)

This is a descriptive book about life on the home front during the First World War.
None of that navel-gazing that historians and the occasional sociologist like to
indulge in – what is Staffordshire, is it a proper unit for study? – that sort of thing.
A promising start then. And it is a good book. Despite its apparently shortish length it is surprisingly difficult to summarise as so many aspectsof life are mentioned: work, domestic hardship, food, volunteering (both for the services and to contribute to solving local needs) and so on. Troublesome groups such as conscientious objectors and
refugees are discussed and extensive use is made of the tribunal papers that have
come to light to reveal something of dailylife. Finally, peace was made: how was it
celebrated and what came after? The usual subjects, you might say. Other
books have been describing the home frontfor some time. However, this does have
the advantage of being more immediate: it is Staffordshire’s war. Reading what
happened in other nearby places made me wonder about the potential for other even
more local studies. Some have already been written – Paul Anderton’s work onBelgian refugees is familiar to some or all of us. Maybe it is time for more twentieth-century
studies in local history. The inter-war years maybe?Nurse Dyson

One last point. On page 75 Annie Allen of Eccleshall is mentioned as the only woman
on a Staffordshire war memorial. Ethel Dyson is named on the memorial in Talke church. Are there any others?


Nurse Ethel Dyson’s name on the war memorial in Talke church.

The Levitt Lecture 2017

This year’s Levitt lecture will be given by historian and filmmaker Michael Wood. His title is  ‘Why the Anglo-Saxons Matter – Athelstan and the Making of England.’ The lecture is at 2.00 p.m. Saturday 18 November 2017.


It is often forgotten, but the roots of England  lie before the  Norman Conquest:  the foundations of the English state were laid by  three generations of the Wessex royal family, Alfred the Great, his son Edward and daughter  Aethelflaed, and his grandson Aethelstan.  In this  illustrated talk, with special focus on Aethelstan, Michael Wood argues that they are the most important rulers in English history:   without them  the history of Britain might have been radically different:  no English state perhaps, no English law, or English ideas about government;  maybe no English language as the world’s language?

Michael Wood is a distinguished historian and filmmaker and is currently  Professor of Public History at the University of Manchester. Among his recent films was the BBC 2 series The Story of China.  His academic specialism is later Anglo-Saxon history, the Alfredian dynasty and especially the reign of Athelstan the first king of England. He recently  received the British Academy President’s Medal for outreach in History.

The Levitt lecture was established in memory of the late John Levitt, adult-education tutor organiser in English at Keele who taught extensively on Old English language, literature and history. In tune with that tradition the lecture is always FREE and open to all with an interest in study.

The 2017 will be held in the Westminster Theatre at Keele University at 2.00 p.m. on 18 November 2017.

Booking is not necessary, but further details may be had from Dr Philip Morgan

Digital Humanities at Keele 15 September

Digital Humanities at Keele is a free, one-day symposium which will take place on Friday 15th September at the Claus Moser Research Centre on campus. Scholars from across the university, alongside some esteemed external keynote speakers, will be discussing a range of exciting new ways of carrying out humanities research using computational tools, from digital mapping to network analysis.
All are welcome, and the conference will include a free lunch and wine reception! 

At a historian’s graveside

Academic conferences don’t routinely make a pilgrimage to the gravesides of their subjects, but at last weekend’s session on Thomas Frederick Tout: Refashioning History in the 20th Century, held at the Institute of Historical Research delegates did visit Tout’s grave in Hampstead parish church.

Tout’s grave in Hampstead parish church. The inscription is from Chaucer’s prologue to the Canterbury Tales, And gladly would he learn and gladly teach. The unusual deadboard or leaping board style allowed for the later burial of Tout’s wife, Mary Tout née Johnstone to be added to the other side.

Tout wrote on the reignof Edward II and on the Administrative history of medieval England, but also helped found the Manchester school of history, and pioneered what we would later call the ‘specialised’ approach to the teaching of history which included an undergraduate dissertation. What had been planned as a modest discussion amongst a select group of scholars attracted speakers and delegates from the United Kingdom and Ireland, the United States and Canada, and Australia.

Few historians can expect their works to be used and read nearly a century after their deaths, but Tout’s place in intellectual history, in the foundation of history as a profession, and in his exploration of the history of the fourteenth century seems to have maintained its hold on scholars across the world. The conference was attended by members of Tout’s family, including his grandson and great-granddaughter.

grave party
Tout’s grandson, Tom Sharpe, at the graveside with Professor Seymour Phillips, modern biographer of Edward II in the foreground.

Gemma Scott. Postgraduate Student of the Year, 2017

Bob Beattie award Gemma Scott, one of our current postgraduate students, has just been awarded the inaugural Bob Beattie Award as postgraduate student of the year by the Keele Postgraduate Association. Bob was Keele’s first lecturer in Clinical Psychology in 1965, and a great supporter of postgraduate students. mostly in the informal setting of the KPA clubhouse. Gemma’s award acknowledges her energy and enthusiasm, enhancing the experience of a great many postgraduate students, both academically and socially. Gemma’s research is on women’s political activism during India’s political Emergency, 1975-1977.

The Battle of Cannock Green: A Lost Battle of the English Civil Wars?

Dr Ian Atherton thought he had found something to contribute to a current research project in which several colleagues at Keele are involved, ‘The Chase Through Time, Cannock Chase, Staffordshire’ The Chase through Time.

This is what he discovered.

Writing at the end of March 1643, the editor of the Parliamentarian newsbook Certaine Informations included a short account of a battle between the Roundheads under Sir John Gell who had advanced out of Lichfield, and the earl of Northampton’s Cavaliers from Stafford ‘upon Sunday last, at a place called Cranock green’. No place called either Cranock Green or Cannock Green is known in Staffordshire, but could this be an otherwise unknown, or ‘lost’ civil-war battle at Cannock in March 1643?


The date ascribed to this battle, however, Sunday 19 March 1643, shows that this is not a forgotten civil-war battle, but an account of what is well known to historians as the battle of Hopton Heath. This newsbook report of a battle at Cannock Green illustrates the phenomenon of co

Hopton heath memorial

mpeting names given to battles and the processes of battle nomenclature. Despite the oft-cited example of Shakespeare’s Henry V where the English king, on learning that his victory has been fought in the shadow of Agincourt castle, declares ‘Then call we this the field of Agincourt’, the process of naming a battle was far from straightforward, and it was common for the same encounter to go by various names. The battle of 19 March 1643 was known to contemporaries by four different titles. Three inhabitants from Leek who fought on the Parliament’s side later claimed for their losses ‘in the bataile of Heawood’, naming the encounter from the Parliament’s quarters around Great and Little Haywood before the battle. The naming of a battle from the location of the camp b

efore the fight was not uncommon, with Hastings in 1066 being only the most famous example. Sir William Brereton, the Cheshire Parliamentarian who joined with Gell’s forces to face the Royalist army, located the battle at Salt Heath. Since he had marched from Newcastle-under-Lyme to Stone and then Sandon on his way to the rendezvous, he had presumably advanced onto the heath land from the north or Salt side, hence the name. A Royalist account published a couple of weeks after the battle named it Hopton Heath, perhaps because the last settlement the Cavaliers had passed on their march north-east out of Stafford was Hopton. Both Hopton Heath and Salt Heath were established t

oponyms before the battle. The name Cannock Green probably derives from a report of Sergeant-Major Lee, a London Parliamentarian in Gell’s forces. His naming of the battle probably reflected the mental geography of an outsider for whom Cannock Chase was the most significant feature noticed on his march out of Lichfield. It might also suggest that for strangers to the region Cannock Chase seemed to extend north of the River Trent to the unenclosed heath land north-east of Stafford. One response to all these competing names was not to name the battle at all, but merely locate it by reference to the nearest well-known town. Sir John Gell, for example, in his account of his service in the first year of the war merely described the unnamed battle as ‘on a heath within two myles of Stafford’.

The name Cannock Green did not catch on, repeated only in Thomas May’s 1647 History of the Parliament of England and then forgotten. Nor did the name Haywood stick. But both Salt Heath and Hopton Heath were often used for the battle throughout the 1640s, with a tendency for Parliamentarian sources to use the former, and Royalist ones the latter. That the name Hopton Heath eventually triumphed was probably because the battle was principally remembered for the death of the earl of Northampton, and hence the Royalist name persisted. The various names for one civil-war battle illustrate, therefore, that while previous historians have tended to examine alternative battle names as evidence in their search for the precise location of the fighting, they should rather be seen, as Philip Morgan has argued, ‘as part of the discourse of memory’, and also as indicating the movements and mental geographies of troops before the battle.

New Book on the Mongols: Peter Jackson

Our emeritus professor Peter Jackson has recently published a new book with Yale University Press on the The Mongols and the Islamic World: From Conquest to Conversion He has set out to explore two questions. First,  the impact on the Islamic world (Jackson bookDār al-Islām) of the campaigns of conquest by the armies of Temüjin, better known as Chinggis Khan (d. 1227), and his first three successors, under whom the empire of the Mongols (or Tatars, as they were often termed) came to embrace all the Muslim territories east of Syria and the Byzantine Greek oecumene. And second, it examines the character of Mongol rule over Muslims down to, and just beyond, the conversion of the various khans to Islam.

It is available at a mere £30! You can also follow the publisher’s  blog