THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Untold lives blog

10 posts from October 2018

31 October 2018

Three women accused of witchcraft: a unique pamphlet from the height of the witch craze

We associate witches with broomsticks, evil potions and fairy tales but we should remember that in early modern Britain witchcraft really was something to fear, especially for those women accused of it.  The British Library holds the sole surviving copy of a pamphlet called A Detection of Damnable Driftes, Practized by Three Witches Arrainged at Chelmifforde [Chelmsford] in Essex, at the Late Assizes There Holden, Which Were Executed in Aprill, 1579.  It describes the cases against women accused of witchcraft, three of whom were found guilty and hanged in 1579.

Photo 1

Elizabeth Fraunces, of Hatfield Peverel, was by all accounts a fairly notorious witch, having been to court twice before this trial.  In her previous confessions, she admitted to possessing a familiar that took the shape of a white cat unhelpfully called Satan.  She also confessed to stealing sleep and killing one Andrew Byles, who would not marry her after getting her pregnant.  The cat told her what herbs to drink to abort the pregnancy.  Elizabeth also confessed to killing her six-month-old daughter and making her second husband lame.  She was imprisoned and pilloried.  During her third and final trial, Elizabeth confessed to bewitching her neighbour Alice Poole because she refused her some yeast.  Elizabeth employed a spirit to bewitch her that took the shape of a “little rugged dogge”.  She was a spinster by this time.  Before being put to death, Elizabeth named other local witches; it was common for women to incriminate others; it took suspicion away from themselves.

Photo 2
Elleine Smith, of Maldon, was a young women who refused to give her father-in-law a portion of the money she’d received from her mother, who had been executed for witchcraft years before.  They argued and Elleine purportedly told him that he’d regret crossing her.  He wasted away soon afterwards.  She was also accused of inflicting great pains on her neighbour because, during these pains, the neighbour noticed a rat run up his chimney and change into a toad.  He apparently thrust it into the fire and it turned blue.  Lastly, and most horrifically, Elleine was accused of killing a four-year-old girl by breathing on her. She was found guilty and hanged.

The last execution described in the pamphlet is that of Mother Nokes, who was accused of making a young man lame after he stole her daughter’s gloves.  Mother Nokes then discovered that her husband was having an affair and that they were expecting an illegitimate child.  She told them that they wouldn’t keep the baby for long and, shortly afterwards, it died.

The causes of the witch craze are still hotly debated but it was undoubtedly a febrile social phenomenon that spread like wildfire through communities.  Early modern people were superstitious and the witch craze was a period of widespread moral panic; they certainly believed in witchcraft.  The vast majority of those accused were women cast out of their communities and victims in their own right.  In this pamphlet alone, we have a woman who was abandoned and left to abort her pregnancy, a young woman whose father-in-law was trying to take her money and a wife whose husband had an affair.  Whether they were falsely accused or took revenge by witchcraft or more natural means, this pamphlet is testament to the plight of three women in desperate situations.

Maddy Smith
Curator, Printed Heritage Collections

Further reading:
More about Elizabeth Fraunces

 

30 October 2018

The 1918 influenza pandemic in India

‘Nearly every household was lamenting a death, and everywhere terror and confusion reigned.’

This year marks the centenary of the 1918 influenza pandemic. Of all countries, India was the worst afflicted. Perhaps as many as 17 millions died, in two waves of disease that swept the land in May and October.

Official documents in the India Office Records record the outbreak, progress, and aftermath of a disease for which no one was remotely prepared. Northern, Central and Western India suffered the most. The files bring together reports of sanitary commissioners from across the country, such as this despatch from the Punjab:

Image 1 (Punjab) IOR/L/E/7/949

The commissioner of Bombay noted the terrifying speed of contagion:

Image 2 (Bombay)IOR/L/E/7/949

Popular treatments included quinine, hot whisky, and aspirin.  They had no effect. Of more value were practical measures: those taken by the commissioner of Madras were typical:

Image 3 (Madras)IOR/L/E/7/949

Once the epidemic had passed, the officials considered what they might have done differently. The general mood was defeatist. If America and Europe had failed to halt the epidemic, what hope had a country like India? Without a marked improvement in living conditions, it was clear that India would remain vulnerable to future outbreaks of the disease.

There was a solitary cause for satisfaction: the heroic behaviour of communities and individuals. In their thousands, members of the public, community leaders, and government servants had stepped forward to give practical and financial help:

Image 4 (cert)Mss Eur F534/143 ‘Certificate of thanks issued to George Dick, barrister’

 

Image 5 (Delhi) IOR/L/E/7/949, ‘Report from Health Officer, Delhi, on outbreak in Calcutta’

Without this remarkable surge of support locally, the commissioners agreed that the calamity nationally would have been even worse.

Antonia Moon
Lead Curator, Post-1858 India Office Records

Further reading:
India Office Records -
IOR/L/E/7/949 (‘Influenza’, 1919)
IOR/P/10595 (India Medical Proceedings, 1919)

David Arnold, ‘Disease, Rumor and Panic in India’s Plague and Influenza Epidemics, 1896-1919’, in Empires of Panic: Epidemics and Colonial Anxieties, ed by Robert Peckham (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2015), pp. 111-29.

 

25 October 2018

The East India Company and Marine Society boys

Jonas Hanway’s Marine Society is perhaps best known for its pivotal role in supplying the Royal Navy during manpower crises in the 18th century, ridding London’s streets of vagrant and delinquent boys, putting them to good use for the nation.  A lesser known aspect of the Society’s work is the apprenticeship of boys to merchant vessels; over 25,000 were sent to sea in this manner 1772-1873.

Marine Society BMBritannia seated at the foot of a statue of charity inscribed 'Marine Society', as a woman at left brings two poor children towards her, and members Jonas Hanway, John Thornton and William Hickes stand at right with another boy. After Edward Edwards (1774). Image courtesy of the British Museum.

By the 1820s merchant supply was the main endeavour of the charity, and the East India Company was the biggest and most important employer for the Society.  Between 1786-1858, over 2,000 boys were supplied for trade expeditions or the Bombay Marine (later the Indian Navy).  The East India Company became de facto patrons, contributing generous donations; their relationship first began during the Seven Years war, as a letter of March 1757 from the Society to the Company illustrates, thanking them for £200.

Marine Society 1IOR/E/1/40 ff. 160-161v

The first batch of 42 boys were apprenticed on 5 December 1786, to the ships Locko and Melville Castle for five years.  Boys were generally apprenticed for between four and seven years, or sometimes contracted for the voyage only; because the Company were taking large numbers of boys at a time, the Society granted exemptions from their usual strict requirement for a formal apprenticeship.  This did not mean that those boys only had a short-term experience with the Company though; an informal arrangement was effected whereby a boy could return from the voyage and board the Society’s training ship until their next assigned voyage. 

The Society did try to monitor the fate of the boys.  A letter to the Company dated 1 October 1805 castigated '…sixty-six of the Boys sent from this Office into the Grab Service of the Honorable Company in 1801 are omitted in the return dated Bombay 1st January 1805, and to request that they [the Court of Directors] will be pleased to give orders, that the necessary information may be obtained as early as possible, the Friends of the Boys being under great anxiety at not having an account, as they were promised, and had reason to expect'.
 

Marine Society 2IOR/D/160 ff. 64-66

One of the missing boys never returned.  Patrick Connelly was a destitute thirteen year old from Ireland when he presented at the Society’s offices looking for a better life.  He was placed on board the Northampton for five years, but sadly drowned near the end of his term on 26 May 1805.  A certificate was provided to the Company: 'This is to Certify that Patrick Connelly was sent by this Society to the Honorable East India Company’s Grab Service, he went to India in the Northampton in 1802 and was drowned 26 May 1805'.
 

Marine Society 3IOR/D/165 f 89

However, for some boys the risk of death was a gamble that ultimately paid off.  Fourteen-year-old George Byworth, son of a Lambeth watchmaker, went out to the East Indies in the Scaleby Castle in March 1823, and by eighteen was Third Officer on the Lord Lyndoch.

Caroline Withall
British Library Research Affiliate @historycw

Further reading:
IOR/E/1/40ff 160-161v  Letter from Marine Society to East India Company 24 March 1757
IOR/D/160ff 64-66 Letter from Marine Society to East India Company 1 October 1805
IOR/D/165 f 89  Certificate concerning Patrick Connelly 24 November 1808

 

23 October 2018

A unique appeal from four Indian schoolgirls

Whilst working on the collection of Thomas William Barnard Papers (Mss Eur C261), I found a fascinating letter dating from 1923.  It was sent to Captain Barnard of the Indian Medical Service by four poor girls at a school in Pudukad. The letter is elaborately decorated with a border of stamps from India, Canada, Newfoundland, New Zealand and Austria.

  IMG_0968Mss Eur C261/5/5

The letter reads:

Jesus Mercy.
The good God rewardeth even a cup of Cold Water given in His name to one of His little ones.
O.J. Annie, Mary, Catherine and Elizabeth. Poor Students. Chemgaloor, Pudukad Post, Malabar

Most Honred Sir,
We, four poor student girls (Mary and Catherine are orphans) most respectfully and humbly beg to state that we are in great difficulties and distress. We are badly in need of food and Clothes. We are promoted to our new class. We have not got new books. We most humbly pray you will be kind enough to send us some help. We pray you will not refuse our humble prayer. Thanking you in anticipation, we beg to remain

Yours most obedient and humble servants.
O.J. Anne and others
22.6.1923

Can any of our readers shed light on the authors of this appeal?

Karen Stapley
Curator, India Office Records

Further reading:
Mss Eur C261/5/5 – unique appeal for a donation from girls attending a school in Pudukad, 22 June 1923.

 

18 October 2018

Propaganda Portraits of Muslim Rulers during WW2

The Ministry of Information was the British Government department responsible for publicity and propaganda during the Second World War. On 22 August 1940, Arthur John Arberry at the Ministry of Information wrote to Roland Tennyson Peel at the India Office, enclosing colour portraits of Emir Abdullah of Transjordan (ʿAbdullāh bin Ḥusayn al-Hāshimī), the Sultan of Muscat and Oman (Sa‘īd bin Taymūr Āl Bū Sa‘īd), and the Shaikh of Bahrain (Shaikh Ḥamad bin ‘Īsá Āl Khalīfah, erroneously referred to as the Shaikh of Kuwait in the letter).

Arberry wrote that the Ministry’s Far Eastern Section had ordered a large quantity of these portraits for distribution in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), and that a caption would be added ‘indicating that these Muslim rulers support Britain in the present war’, in an attempt to foster support for the Allies amongst the predominantly Muslim population. He went on to request Peel’s advice ‘as to whether these portraits could appropriately be used for distribution on a large scale in the Middle East, especially in Hadhramaut and the Persian Gulf’, as propaganda.

This letter and the portraits, below, are included in the file IOR/L/PS/12/3942, which has been digitised and will soon be available to view on the Qatar Digital Library

Iorlps123942f19

Letter from Arthur John Arberry of the Ministry of Information, to Roland Tennyson Peel of the India Office, 22 August 1940. Reference: IOR/L/PS/12/3942, f 19. 

Ogl-symbol-41px-retina-black

EmirAbdullahPortrait of Emir Abdullah of Transjordan (ʿAbdullāh bin Ḥusayn al-Hāshimī), c 22 Aug 1940. Reference: IOR/L/PS/12/3942, f 21.

The copyright status is unknown. Please contact copyright@bl.uk with any information you have regarding this item.

SultanMuscat&OmanPortrait of the Sultan of Muscat and Oman (Sa‘īd bin Taymūr Āl Bū Sa‘īd), c. 22 August 1940. Reference: IOR/L/PS/12/3942, f 22.

The copyright status is unknown. Please contact copyright@bl.uk with any information you have regarding this item.

  HakimBahrain
Portrait of the Hakim of Bahrain (Shaikh Ḥamad bin ‘Īsá Āl Khalīfah), c. 22 August 1940 . Reference: IOR/L/PS/12/3942, f 23.

The copyright status is unknown. Please contact copyright@bl.uk with any information you have regarding this item.

Arberry was sent a reply from John Percival Gibson of the India Office, advising him that ‘we think it undesirable to make any use for publicity purposes of the Sultan of Muscat’s portrait, chiefly for the reason given in Peel’s letter to Rushbrook Williams of the 23rd January [1940]’. The letter referred to is not included in this file, however a draft copy of it can be found in file IOR/L/PS/12/2995, f 9. In this letter, Peel informs Laurence Frederic Rushbrook Williams of the Ministry of Information that ‘the Sultan of Muscat has asked that steps might be taken to prevent publicity being given…to Muscat. Apparently the Sultan is apprehensive that such publicity might draw unwanted attention to his country in German & Italian quarters’, and ‘We have promised to respect his wishes’. 

In Gibson’s reply to Arberry, he also stated that provided the Sultan of Muscat’s portrait was omitted, he did not think there would be any objection to distribution of the other portraits in the Middle East generally, but that this was more a matter for the Colonial Office and the Foreign Office. However, he added that ‘I doubt it would be worth the expense to make any distribution in the Persian Gulf, where the attitude of the Sheikhs is well enough known’.

Arberry further consulted the India Office about whether it would be politically acceptable to include a portrait of the Shaikh of Kuwait (Shaikh Aḥmad al-Jābir Āl Ṣabāḥ), to which Peel responded that there was no objection.

Before the portraits were finally approved, Sir Hassan Suhrawardy, Adviser to the Secretary of State for India, was asked for his opinion on them. Suhrawardy approved the green border of the portraits, but thought that it should be an olive shade instead. He also advised the Ministry of Information that the star and crescent symbol should be omitted from the border, for the reasons stated in the letter below.

Iorlps123942_f11

Copy of a letter from Sir Hassan Suhrawardy to E J Embleton, Studio Manger at the Ministry of Information, 5 November 1940. Reference: IOR/L/PS/12/3942, f 11.

Ogl-symbol-41px-retina-black

 

Susannah Gillard,

Content Specialist, Archivist

British Library / Qatar Foundation Partnership

 

Further reading

British Library, Coll 30/202 ‘Persian Gulf. Photographs of Notabilities (Sheikhs &c) (used for propaganda purposes)’ IOR/L/PS/12/3942

British Library, Coll 20/35 'Sultan of Muscat's desire to avoid wireless and press publicity during wartime' IOR/L/PS/12/2995

15 October 2018

The royals are here!

RA_QEIIRoyal armorial of Queen Elizabeth II used at her coronation, 1953. BL 99330.tt.12

We have a vast array of images and information about British armorials, thanks to the British Armorial Bindings database. The database was created by John Morris, and since his death in 2006 has been edited by Philip Oldfield. It is a fantastic resource and - thanks to the various ways of interrogating the system - simple to use.  Royal British coats of arms (many from bindings in the British Library) have only just been added to the database.  This is due to their sheer number and complexity.  These armorials are more than simple marks of ownership, the actual motifs (called ‘charges’) throw unexpected highlights on the history and mythology of the UK.

RA2

How did we recognise who was who before the invention of the internet?  Today images, personalised emojis, logos and avatars mean immediate identification is easy with a click or tap.  In the midst of a 15th century battle, though, a fully armoured knight was effectively a man of mystery unless he had a shield, badge or flag depicting his allegiance.  When a king took part in a battle his coat of arms had to be noticeable, enabling the soldiers to rally around their own royal general.

Harry PayneHenry V at the Battle of Agincourt, wearing on his surcoat the royal arms of England (three lions on red), quartered with the fleur de lys of France as a symbol of his claim to the French crown. Painting by Harry Payne.

All British monarchs have at least one stamp of the “arms of dominion” reflecting the lands over which they reigned. As William III did not rule over just Britain, he used the Stuart coat of arms (from his Stuart wife, Mary) with the addition of the escutcheon (i.e. shield) of Nassau in the centre to represent his lands in the Low Countries (see below).

BL_292_d_29BL 292.d.29

Every member of the royal family has an individual coat of arms which must be different from that of the reigning monarch.  The Prince of Wales has a ‘label of difference’ to distinguish him as the oldest son of the reigning monarch.

BL_c46_b_7BL C.24.b.7. The white arrows point to the label of three points, a mark of cadency to indicate an eldest son, in this case Prince Henry Frederick, who died before he could become King, at the age of eighteen.

 There are many royal motifs.  This link from British Armorial Bookbindings demonstrates some used on the books of the Stuart Prince of Wales, Henry Frederick (1594 -1612) Charles I’s elder brother. 

A royal armorial can reflect the history of the realm. George III of England was king of Hanover, (see left below, in the centre) therefore those arms had to be included too.  This continued until the reign of Queen Victoria when it disappeared because she did not rule Hanover.

K&Q

 

The royal armorial has also something to tell us about the myths of a country.  One of the animals which supports the British royal shield is the mythical unicorn, Scotland’s national animal.  It first featured on the arms of William I of Scotland d.1214 and was associated with purity, nobility and strength.

In 1603, James VI of Scotland, whose Scottish shield can be seen on a bookbinding here, assumed the English crown (as James I of Great Britain).  This event was reflected in the royal armorial.  The individual royal arms of Scotland, Ireland and England were brought together and have remained major elements of the royal arms today. The new shield was supported by the lion, standing for England and the unicorn representing Scotland.  Sometimes the charges are arranged in such a way as to give Scotland pride of place in dexter position.

L&U

The nursery rhyme beginning “The lion and the unicorn / Were fighting for the crown” is thought to refer to the heraldic supporters.

 
P J M Marks

Printed Heritage Collections

See British Armorial Bindings online

https://armorial.library.utoronto.ca/content/british-armorial-bindings

11 October 2018

An Irish soldier in India

In July 1859 Gunner Richard Scott wrote a letter to his father from Poona.  Scott was about to return to Britain after fighting with the Bombay Horse Artillery in the Indian Mutiny or Rebellion.  He wrote of his military experiences and asked for help in finding employment.

  Poona 1871Street scene in Poona by John Frederick Lester (1825-1915) c.1871 WD3549 No. 18

Richard Scott enlisted at his home town of Dublin on 24 August 1857 for twelve years’ service with the East India Company.  Scott was 5 feet 7⅛ inches tall, with brown hair, blue eyes and a fresh complexion. His age is given as twenty but records point to him being just seventeen, suggesting that he was joining the army without parental consent.  This is borne out by his letter home.

  Scott letter L MIL 5 365IOR/L/MIL/5/365 no.473 Noc

 ‘Dear Father
Altho I never wrote to let you know of it I suppose you are aware that I am a soldier in the East India Company’s forces.  I would have written long since to let you know how I was getting on, but from the time I landed in the Country up to the present I could not be shure if I wrote would I ever live to receive an answer.  All the fiting is now over and we are just returned to quarters after being out on field service for nearly 18 months.  The Troop to which I belong has been engaged several times with the rebels but I came off unhurt through it all and strang to say, altho we often were obliged to take the field against overwhelming numbers, our small forse always came off victorios.

Dear Father I suppose you are aware that by a late Act of parliment the East India Company’s Troops are disbanded that is all that wish to take their discharge can have it and all those who wish to stop in the country can Remain as they are, their former service will count for them.   I have taken my discharg & come what will of it for I do not like the country, And perhaps I would never get the chace of leaving it again. Dear Father I cannot expect that you will do any thing for me when I go home again, but I will be in a very poor condition when I land, I will be left in London without one penny in my pocket and who have I to look to except you, if you can spare it Dear Father send me a few pounds that will keep me some time an buy me a suit of clothes And shurly you have interst enough to get me a situation with some Gentleman.  I would go as a groom, I have been Riding horses since I joined the service both in the Military style and the other way.’
 

Lucknow after Mutiny IWMAftermath of the Siege of Lucknow by Felix Beato  © IWM (Q 69821)

 Scott was given a certificate of discharge from the Bombay Regiment of Artillery on 1 October 1859 ‘being unwilling to serve in HM Indian forces’ after the disbandment of the East India Company armies.  Sadly he died of dysentery on 26 October 1859 at sea on board the Hope on his way home.  His father John sent his letter to the India Office in 1863 with an application for payment of Lucknow Prize Money.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
IOR/L/MIL/9/23 Recruitment register Dublin 1855-1858
IOR/L/MIL/12/282 f.1369 Discharge certificate for Richard Scott 1859
IOR/L/MIL/5/365 nos.473, 1793, 2491 – enquiries about soldiers

09 October 2018

Hungary Water for Missionaries?

In November 1764 the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge wrote to the Court of Directors of the East India Company for permission to send a number of ‘sundry items’ out to their missionaries in India on the ships sailing that season.  The Society sent out various supplies to their missionaries each year and their lists often included unexpected items such as the Four Cheeses in Lead and a Harpsichord sent out in 1762 and featured previously on Untold Lives.

The 1764 list of sundry items included the surprising entry of two bottles of Hungary Water.  Hungary Water, also often known as “The Queen of Hungary’s Water” was one of the first alcohol based perfumes to be produced in Europe and was primarily made with rosemary.   It was the most popular fragrance and remedy in Europe until the development of Eau de Cologne in the late 18th Century.  The water has many myths associated with it, the most common one being that it was named after the Queen of Hungary who used it and at age 70 was believed to have looked so youthful a 25 year old Duke asked for her hand in marriage believing her to be of a similar age.

Hungary waterAdvertisement for Hungary Water in Homeward Mail from India, China and the East 9 June 1857

Hungary Water was most commonly used as a cure-all beauty tonic and was believed to help maintain a youthful appearance and beauty.  It was also considered to have health benefits when digested including to improve strength and eyesight and to dispel gloominess.  The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge presumably sent it to their missionaries for the health benefits, rather than to maintain their youthfulness and beauty.

The Toilet of Flora Title PageThe Toilet of Flora (1775)   Noc


The 1775 publication The Toilet of Flora features a recipe to make what is refers to as ‘Genuine Hungary Water’:

'Put into an alembic a pound and a half of fresh pickt Rosemary Flowers; Penny royal and Marjoram Flowers, of each half a pound; three quarts of good Coniac Brandy; having close stopped the mouth of the alembic to prevent the spirit from evaporating, bury it twenty-eight hours in horse-dung to digest, and distill off the Spirit in a water-bath.

A drachm of Hungary Water diluted with Spring Water, may be taken once or twice a week in the morning fasting.  It is also used by way of embrocation to bathe the face and limbs, or any part affected with pains, or debility.  This remedy recruits the strengths, dispels gloominess, and strengthens the sight.  It must always be used cold, whether taken inwardly as a medicine, or applied externally.'

More recipes from the publication The Toilet of Flora featured in the 2013 Untold Lives blog post Lip Salve and Worms in the Face.

Karen Stapley
Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
J Broughton, Secretary to the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge to Robert James, Secretary to the Court of Directors of the East India Company, Nov 1764. IOR/E/1/46, ff 737-739