THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Untold lives blog

8 posts from May 2021

28 May 2021

Sadi, servant to the Sulivan family

On 11 July 1787 a young Indian servant named Sadi was sentenced to death at the Old Bailey after being convicted of stealing bank notes to the value of £400 from his employer Stephen Sulivan.  William Morris was tried for receiving the stolen notes and was defended by barrister William Garrow.  Morris was also found guilty by the jury, but sentencing was delayed in his case because of a legal uncertainty.

View of the scaffold and gallows outside the north quad of Newgate Prison; a screen on the right leading up to entrance to scaffold  with gallows over platform.‘A Perspective View of the temporary Gallows in the Old Bailey’ 1794 © The Trustees of the British Museum Asset number 765670001 - View of the scaffold and gallows outside the north quad of Newgate Prison; a screen on the right leading up to entrance to scaffold, with gallows over platform.

Sadi, also known as George Horne, was a footboy in the Sulivan household in Harley Street, London.  Stephen Sulivan’s father Laurence had been a prominent East India Company director and politician.  Having served the East India Company in Madras and Calcutta, Stephen returned to England in the summer of 1785 with his wife Elizabeth and son Laurence.  The Sulivans brought Sadi with them as he had attended Laurence since his birth in January 1783 and was a favourite of the family.  They wished to preserve Sadi’s ‘simple manners’ and ‘innocent mind’ from corruption by their other servants so he stayed in the nursery, eating and sleeping with his charge.  He had unrestrained access to the private apartments of the house.

However in 1787, Sadi began behaving with ‘repeated irregularities’.  The Sulivans dismissed the young man, intending to send him back to India.  Whilst awaiting a passage in an East Indiaman, Sadi was sent to lodge with Thomas Saunders, the assistant keeper of the East India Company’s tea and drug warehouse.

It came to light that Sadi had been stealing from the Sulivans for two years – muslins, silks, calicos, linen, pearls, clothing, and a special shawl belonging to Elizabeth.  The stolen goods were passed on to other servants in the house who encouraged Sadi to continue with his thefts.  He stole four guineas without being detected and then one bank note for £1,000 and two for £200.  When Sadi showed the £1,000 note to two of his fellow servants, they told him it was too great a sum to pass on without detection.  After keeping it for some days, he threw it under the kitchen grate where it was found by the housekeeper who gave it to Elizabeth.  The notes for £200 were sold by Sadi for a guinea to William Morris, formerly butler to Stephen’s father.

Elizabeth called on Sadi at his lodgings.  He burst into tears and made a full confession, directing her to Morris’s home in Petticoat Lane.  She went there with a constable and Morris’s wife handed over the two bank notes.

Other servants of the Sulivans were also arrested and charged with receiving stolen goods: Thomas Absalom, his wife Martha, and Catherine Smith.  Martha Absalom was apprehended at Maidenhead in Berkshire and found to have property belonging to Elizabeth Sulivan.

On 24 August 1787, the King granted Sadi a reprieve from the death sentence passed on him.  The young Indian remained in Newgate prison but he died shortly afterwards on 9 December.  The death rate in Newgate was extremely high in the late 1780s because of severe overcrowding and an outbreak of ‘gaol fever’ (epidemic typhus).

A few days after Sadi’s death, the case of William Morris was finally settled. He was discharged because the judges agreed with his defence counsel that the bank notes he had received could not be classified as goods and chattels, the term used in the charge against him.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
The case is reported in Old Bailey Online and in the British Newspaper Archive (also available via Findmypast), for example Hampshire Chronicle 4 June 1787, Bury and Norwich Post 6 June 1787, Derby Mercury 7 June 1787 and 13 December 1787, Kentish Gazette 24 July 1787, Sheffield Register 1 September 1787.

 

26 May 2021

A Scandalous Annotation: the story of Madame Grand

On 10 July 1777 a marriage was recorded in the Bengal Parish Registers between ‘Mr Francis Grand, writer in the Hon'ble Company’s Service and Miss Varle of Chandernagore’.  Sometime afterwards, the register was annotated in a different hand ‘This is the famous Madame Grand, afterwards wife of Talleyrand’. 

Entry in church register for marriage of Francis Grand to Catherine Varle 1777Register entry for marriage of Francis Grand and Catherine Varle  IOR/N/1/2 Bengal Baptisms, Marriages, Burials (1755-1783), f.275 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Annotations of this sort in official registers are highly unusual, and someone thought Madame Grand famous (or infamous) enough to add the note.  So, what was the story of Madame Grand?

Nöel Catherine Werlée (sometimes Worlée, Verlée or Varle) was born in Tranquebar – sources put her date of birth as 21 November 1761 or 1762.  She was the daughter of Peter John Werlée, Capitaine du Port, and had both Danish and French heritage.  She met George Francis Grand in Bengal at Ghireti House, home of Monsieur Chevalier, Governor of the French Settlement at Chandernagore, and the couple formed an attachment.  At the time of her marriage to Grand in 1777, Catherine would have been in her mid-teens.  In Narrative of a life of a gentleman… Grand writes ‘…never did a union commence with more brightening prospects.  On our parts, it was pure and disinterested, and blessed with the sincerest attachment’. 

The garden front of Ghireti House, near Chandernagore,Bengal - a large white house standing in open space. A lady is arriving being carried in a chair by Indian menThe garden front of Ghireti House, near Chandernagore, Bengal by Samuel Davis WD968  © British Library Images Online

Despite settling down to married life in Calcutta, the couple’s happiness was not to last.  The young Catherine Grand came to the attention of the notorious politician Philip Francis, and on 8 December 1778, Grand returned home to the news that Francis had been apprehended in his house after attempting to seduce his wife.  Grand acted swiftly to banish Catherine to her family in Chandernagore, and to successfully sue Francis for ‘criminal conversation’ or adultery in court, receiving a judgement of 50,000 sicca rupees.

Catherine Grand appears to have lived at Hooghly under the protection of Philip Francis during 1779.   Perhaps having been rejected by her husband she felt she had little choice.  The affair was not to last, and Madame Grand did not stay in India, leaving for Europe in December 1780.  By 1783 she was in Paris, where she was painted by Élisabeth Vigeé Le Brun. 

Painting of Madame Grand wearing a white dress decorated with blue ribbons, with a matching ribbon in her blonde hairMadame Grand (Noël Catherine Vorlée, 1761–1835) 1783 by Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Public Domain

Sometimes described as a courtesan, Catherine Grand moved between London and Paris during the French Revolution, rumoured to be supported by a number of wealthy men.  By 1797 she was living with the Foreign Minister Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord.  Catherine Grand was divorced from her husband in absentia in 1798, and in 1802 she married Talleyrand, supposedly at the behest of Napoleon in order that the wives of foreign dignitaries could be received by her.  As a result of her marriage she became Princess de Benevento and later Princess de Talleyrand.

After their marriage the Talleyrands settled at Neuilly.  Marriage did not seem to suit them, and they began to lead separate lives.  By 1815 the couple was estranged, with Catherine living in London, although she continued to receive financial support from Talleyrand.  She returned to Paris later in life and lived at Auteil, where she died on 10 December 1835.

Lesley Shapland
Cataloguer, India Office Records

Further reading:
IOR/N/1/2 Bengal Baptisms, Marriages, Burials (1755-1783), f. 275
George Francis Grand, Narrative of the life of a gentleman long resident in India (Cape of Good Hope, 1814). Available via Google Books 
H.E. Busteed, Echoes from Old Calcutta (Calcutta: Thomas Spink & Co., 1888). Chapter VIII: Madame Grand. Available online via Google Books 
C. E. Buckland, Dictionary of Indian Biography (London: Swan Sonnenschein & Co, 1906)

 

20 May 2021

Personal Reflections on the Indian Political Service – Part One: An Overview

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the European Manuscripts section of the India Office Library and Records ran a project called the Indian Political Officers Scheme.  The project’s aim was to collect written accounts from ex-Indian Political Service (IPS) officers who had lived and served through the last decades of British India.  It followed on from an earlier successful project to collect the memoirs of ex-Indian Civil Service (ICS) members, which ran between 1974 and 1979.  A list was compiled of former IPS officers, and to each one a letter was sent outlining the project and soliciting contributions.

The resulting collection (Mss Eur F226) contains the memoirs of 35 former officers (or in some cases, their wives) who responded to the request, some of whom had enjoyed second careers in other spheres such as politics (e.g. Francis Pearson) and diplomacy (e.g. John Shattock and Michael Hadow).  Their memoirs mainly cover the period 1920-47, documenting service as political officers in the Indian States, the North-West Frontier Province, and Balochistan, as well as the Agencies, Residencies and Consulates in the Persian Gulf.  A few ex-officers also record their post-IPS careers and even their years in retirement.

Head and shoulders photographic portrait of Sir Francis Fenwick Pearson aged 58Sir Francis Fenwick Pearson, 1st Bt. (1911-1991). Photograph by Godfrey Argent, 26 November 1969. © National Portrait Gallery, London NPG x166029 National Portrait Gallery Creative Commons Licence

With the exception of Balraj Krishna Kapur, all the former officers were of British or Irish origin.  Some had family ties with British India; a few were also born there.  John Cotton writes of ‘a continuous connection with the Indian service in the direct line for more than one hundred and seventy years’, while Louis Pinhey notes that his great-grandfather was Surgeon-General of Madras [Chennai].  Both Hadow and Patrick Tandy were born in India, as was Charles Chenevix Trench (later a successful author), whose father also served in the IPS.  Many were from privileged families, although a few came from more humble beginnings, such as Thomas Rogers, the son of a shipbuilder, and Herbert Todd, who grew up on a farm in Kent.

Whilst the memoirs largely focus on experiences in the IPS, many of the authors also reflect on other aspects of their lives.  As a result, the memoirs abound with varied and often-amusing anecdotes of the kind that rarely surfaces in official correspondence.  There are stories of trips taken during leave, details of leisure pursuits, and glimpses into officers’ social lives.  Also mentioned are encounters with famous figures, some of which might be expected (e.g. Mahatma Gandhi), whereas others are rather surprising (e.g. Agatha Christie).

Head and shoulders photographic portrait of Sir Joseph Herbert Thompson aged 63Sir (Joseph) Herbert Thompson (1898-1984). Photograph by Godfrey Argent, 17 October 1961. © National Portrait Gallery, London NPG x171150 National Portrait Gallery Creative Commons Licence

Most of the memoirs were written at least 30 years on from the events they describe, in response to the request. Inevitably, the authors are less reserved in their memoirs than in official records, and consequently a greater number of passages contain offensive descriptions of members of colonised populations.

The reflections on British India are mainly positive.  There is some criticism of how Britain handled the transfer of power in 1947, and a few negative remarks about certain senior British officers and politicians, but mostly the authors remember the Empire and their roles within it with fondness.

David Fitzpatrick
Content Specialist, Archivist, British Library Qatar Foundation Partnership

Further reading:
India Office Private Papers Mss Eur F226 

 

18 May 2021

Introducing Elizabeth Blackwell to Hans Sloane

One day in early August 1735, a woman arrived at the London home of Sir Hans Sloane, letter of introduction in hand.  Social networking etiquette required such a document when approaching a new acquaintance.  And, Elizabeth Blackwell hoped to connect with Sloane, who was linked with numerous networks of knowledge, and acquire his support.  Some 280 years later, that letter is held by the British Library and identified as Sloane MS 4054, f. 90.

Letter written by physician Alexander Stuart introducing Elizabeth Blackwell to Sir Hans SloaneThis letter, written by physician Alexander Stuart, introduced Elizabeth Blackwell to Sir Hans Sloane. Sloane MS 4054, f. 90

One of Sloane’s close colleagues, a Scots-born physician named Alexander Stuart, had written it on Blackwell’s behalf.  But even before stating the reason for her visit, Stuart assured Sloane that 'Mrs. Blackwell' merited his consideration. She was, he wrote, the 'Niece of Sir Wm. Simson, one of the Barons of the Exchequer, whom you know; & first Cousine to My Lady Cook Windford, whom you also know'.  She was, then, a gentlewoman who could be linked to persons familiar to Sloane.

With those salient points covered, Stuart explained why Blackwell wished to see him.  She was working on a project, and Sloane’s endorsement would be of great help.  A 'very ingenious person', Blackwell wanted to draw a set of about 500 plants from the most up-to-date (1721) edition of the Dispensatory of the Royal College of Physicians.  Blackwell also had with her a proposal for the project. In all likelihood, it was similar to those drawn up by persons who were writing books that they wanted to sell by subscription.  Its wording probably resembled the text of an advertisement that ran in the London Evening Post on 9-11 October 1735: 'This Day are publish’d PROPOSALS For PRINTING by SUBSCRIPTION, A Curious Herbal'.

Botanical drawing of a dandelionElizabeth Blackwell’s illustrations include this Dandelion. Plate 1 of Joseph Banks’ copy of A Curious Herbal (London: Samuel Harding, 1737). 452.f.1.

Stuart’s letter also noted that the document had space at the bottom for signatures of endorsers – akin, perhaps, to the page that is found in volume one of effectively every copy of A Curious Herbal.  The apothecary Isaac Rand had composed the proposal for Blackwell and, along with the illustrious Dr Richard Mead, had promised to sign it.   Would Sloane also 'be so good as to sign the recommendation'?

Page of Publick Endorsements from A Curious HerbalThis page of Publick Endorsements likely resembled the one that accompanied the proposal that apothecary Isaac Rand wrote for Blackwell. A Curious Herbal (London: Charles Nourse, 1782), vol. 1. 445.h.6.

As it happened, no.  But Sloane would help Blackwell in other ways, which were cited in the dedication that she composed to him – one that was engraved and printed on pages found in various copies of A Curious Herbal.  Likewise, Blackwell would compose dedications to Stuart, Mead, Rand, and six other men who contributed to her undertaking.

Elizabeth Blackwell's dedication to Sloane in A Curious HerbalSloane didn’t sign Blackwell’s recommendation but he helped her in other ways, as noted in this dedication. Joseph Banks’ copy of A Curious Herbal (London: Samuel Harding, 1737), vol. 1, after plate 96. 452.f.1.

What other insights might Stuart’s letter provide into A Curious Herbal and Elizabeth Blackwell?  If nothing else, its references to Blackwell’s uncle and cousin (whom, research indicates, lived in or near London) cast some doubt on claims that she was from Aberdeen.  Without wishing to wound Aberdonian pride, the possibility cannot be discounted.

Janet Stiles Tyson
PhD candidate at Birkbeck, University of London

 

13 May 2021

Racism in the India Office Arab Reports

Content Warning: The following post contains discussion of colonial history and racist descriptions and depictions that may cause distress.

This blog post provides examples of racist attitudes documented in one of the India Office’s Political and Secret Department files.  The examples illustrate how these attitudes formed part of intelligence gathering by the British in the Middle East during World War One, and how they fed into discussions and decision making.  British policy in the Middle East was formulated and implemented by the same people gathering intelligence, producing these reports and commenting on them.  To understand this history, it is important to acknowledge the variety of motives and attitudes held by the people involved, including attitudes of racial superiority.


In February 1916 the Intelligence Division of the British Admiralty sent a report to the India Office Political and Secret Department detailing the military and political situation in Arabia, Mesopotamia, the Western Desert, Syria and Sinai.  This was the first of 27 reports, initially called Arabian Report then the Arab Report, ending in January 1917.

In June 1916 an uprising began in Mecca, led by Sharif Hussein and backed by the British.  The revolt succeeded in ejecting the Ottomans from Mecca.  But the subsequent loss of momentum left the British unsure whether they should continue to support Hussein with troops.  The situation was complicated by pacts with the French contradicting promises made to Hussein, and by the need to win the war.

The opening section of the first Arabian Report focused on the attitude and activities of the Sharif of Mecca, particularly ‘his present aim [of reconciling] all the Arab powers in Arabia by persuading them to abandon all side issues, and assist him in hunting the Turks from the country’.  The other sections dealt with the war, specifically transport, troop movements, armoury, and the outcome of battles or skirmishes.

The reports rely on a mixture of official and unofficial accounts, and rumour.  There is a general anxiety regarding the veracity, and thus usefulness, of the information presented.  The authors balance this ambiguity with personal judgements about the reliability of a source or accuracy of material.  From June 1916, the reports are accompanied by an ‘Appreciation’ by Sir Mark Sykes, highlighting sections and adding his own thoughts.  Senior members of the Political and Secret Department wrote their comments in ‘Minutes’ attached to each report.

These comments and observations provide evidence of the attitudes and racial prejudices of the writers.  For example, the Arabia Report XVII contains a statement on Sayed Idrisi.  After noting an unconfirmed rumour that Idrisi has ‘made peace with the Turkish Governor of Yemen’, the author remarks that, although ‘this is improbable… it must not be forgotten that Idrisi is an Arab’.  The implication is that he cannot be trusted to keep faith with the British.

Section of a report on ‘Idrisi’ contained in Arabia Report XVIISection of a report on ‘Idrisi’ contained in Arabia Report XVII IOR/L/PS/10/5876, folio 345r [Crown Copyright]

A similar sentiment appears in Sykes’ ‘Appreciation’ of Arabian Report XXA.  Referring to the ‘hostility of the Arabs at Rabej’, Sykes is dismissive of the event and describes the participants as ‘probably…wild, suspicious and excited’, noting that ‘The incident is an excellent example of the difficulties with which we shall have to contend in dealing with what a well-known writer described as a “fox-hearted elfin people”.’.

Mark Sykes’ ‘Appreciation’ of Arabian Report XXASir Mark Sykes’ ‘Appreciation’ of Arabian Report XXA IOR/L/PS/10/586, folio 246v [Crown Copyright]


Similar examples of racial derision are scattered through Sykes’ ‘Appreciations’ and the reports.  Friction between Idrisi and the Sharif of Mecca is ascribed in part by Sykes to ‘difficulties which…Arab racial peculiarities have laid in their path’.

Mark Sykes’ ‘Appreciation’ of Arab Report IVSir Mark Sykes’ ‘Appreciation’ of Arab Report IV IOR/L/PS/10/586, folio 209r [Crown Copyright]

Sykes’ racist implication that Arabs are predisposed to arguments and divisions is repeated elsewhere, by Sykes and others.  The author of the first Arabian Report notes his belief that ‘The Arab is essentially unstable’.

Section of report on ‘Asir’ from Arabian Report XVIIISection of report on ‘Asir’ from Arabian Report XVIII IOR/L/PS/10/586, folio 455r [Crown Copyright]

While discussing the representation of different peoples in the press, Sykes presents his own opinion that ‘The aboriginal inhabitant of the Mesopotamian swamps is equally truly a wild, treacherous, lawless savage, while the mixed riparian tribes of Irak are congenital Anarchists for geographical and historical reasons’.

Extract from Mark Sykes’ ‘Appreciation’ of Arabian Report XXVII

Sir Mark Sykes’ ‘Appreciation’ of Arabian Report XXVII IOR/L/PS/10/586, folio 4r [Crown Copyright]

Snippet from Mark Sykes’ ‘Appreciation’ of Arabian Report XXVII Sir Mark Sykes’ ‘Appreciation’ of Arabian Report XXVII IOR/L/PS/10/586, folio 4v [Crown Copyright]

Together with the official reports, the racial prejudices held by the authors of these accompanying documents helped shape British policy in the Middle East.

Lynda Barraclough
Head of Curatorial Operations, BL Qatar Partnership

Further reading:
IOR/L/PS/10/586 Arab Reports
James Barr, A Line in the Sand: Britain, France and the Struggle that Shaped the Middle East (London, Simon & Schuster, 2011)
Priya Satia, Spies in Arabia: The Great War and the Cultural Foundations of Britain’s Covert Empire in the Middle East (OUP, 2008)

Details on the British Library’s Anti-Racism Project can be found here:
Towards and Action Plan on Anti-Racism
Living Knowledge Blog, 10 March 2021

 

11 May 2021

Accidental poisoning by arsenic

In 1786 tragedy struck the village of Badgeworth in Gloucestershire.  William Benfield, a labourer of ‘exemplary industry and sobriety’, bought a sack of wheat and took it to be ground at Bubb’s Mill near Alstone.  A ratcatcher had mixed meal with white arsenic to poison vermin and some of this was put by mistake into William’s sack.

View of a mill - figures and a boat on the left-hand side; a mill at the centre of the scene; water in the foreground; a house on a hill in the distance; trees throughout the scene.View of a mill at Tewksbury. Published 10 July 1801 by R. Ackermann at his Repository of Arts, 101 Strand. Maps K.Top.13.70.e. Copyright British Library Images Online 

The flour was used for three weeks to make bread for William, his wife Esther and their children.  The family soon began to feel unwell, but had no reason to suspect that the bread was the cause.  When neighbours were taken ill after borrowing a loaf from the Benfields, the bread was tested and particles of arsenic discovered.

Physician Mr Clarke of Cheltenham was called to help the Benfields.  The medicines which he administered helped Esther and some of the children, but William and his sons John, 12, and Paul, 8, were taken to Gloucester Infirmary.  William died in great pain on 28 August 1786, about eight weeks after the flour was first used for baking.  He had probably eaten the largest share of the bread.  The Badgeworth burial register reads: ‘William Benfield was Buried August the 30 by being poisoned by Arsnick being put into his grist at Alston Mill’.

On 16 October 1786 John and Paul were transferred to Bath Hospital to be treated with mineral waters.  Their case is recorded in a book featured in an earlier blog post.  Their symptoms on admission were vomiting, sore stomach, thirst and dryness of the mouth.  The boys had begun to lose the use of their limbs, with both numbness and pain in the fingers and toes.  John could just about walk, but Paul was unable to support himself.  They drank the waters and bathed in them, with no other medicine prescribed except a gentle purgative when they arrived.  When the report in the book was written on 11 December 1786, both boys were said to be improving.  John was much stronger, whilst Paul could walk reasonably well without assistance and was improving daily.

However things must have taken a turn for the worst for Paul shortly afterwards because he died in Bath in the spring of 1787, aged 9.  He was buried on 15 March 1787 at Bathwick St Mary.

Esther re-married on 12 October 1787 to Edward Lane at Badgeworth.  They had at least two children together, Edward and Charlotte.

Benjamin Benfield, one of the children who had escaped serious injury from the arsenic, quit his job as a labourer and enlisted in the 3rd Regiment of Foot Guards in 1799.  He served in the Army for 20 years and fought at Waterloo.  Benjamin was discharged on pension in May 1819 because he had bad feet and was worn out.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive  e.g. Bath Chronicle 7 September 1786.
Narrative of the Efficacy of the Bath Waters, in various kinds of paralytic disorders admitted into the Bath Hospital (Bath, 1787).
Badgeworth parish registers at Gloucestershire Archives – digital versions available via Ancestry – there are baptism records for nine children of William and Esther Benfield 1771-1785.

 

07 May 2021

The Women’s FA Cup Final at 50: putting the women’s game on the record

To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the first Women’s FA Cup Final on 9 May 2021, Chris Slegg, journalist and stakeholder of the Women’s Football Association Archive, held at the British Library, explores his research into the women’s game.

Selection of Women’s Football Association programmes from the 1990sSelection of Women’s Football Association programmes from the 1990s. Copyright – Eleanor Dickens.

‘I’ve loved football my entire life.  My book shelves are crammed full of record books and history books about the game, and they are almost exclusively about the history of the men’s game.

It struck me that most football fans are familiar with the classic men’s FA Cup finals.  We all know about the great goals too.  The history of the Women’s FA Cup though has remained largely unknown.  Even finding a comprehensive list of every scorer in a Women’s FA Cup final was not possible.

So Patricia Gregory and I decided to combine our research and bring this history together.  Gregory is a former colleague of mine at the BBC and was a founding member of the Women’s Football Association.

The official magazine of the Women’s Football Association, July 1981.The official magazine of the Women’s Football Association, July 1981. Copyright – Patricia Gregory.

At the end of the 1960s she and her peers at the WFA fought the FA to overturn the ban on women playing that had stood since 1921.  They were successful in their efforts and set up the first ever national cup competition for women in the 1970-71 season which became the Women’s FA Cup we know today.

Those players who took to a bumpy pitch inside an athletics stadium at Crystal Palace as Southampton beat Scottish side Stewarton Thistle 4-1 in the 1971 final paved the way for what we have half a century on - a final attended by more than 40,000 fans (pre-Covid) at Wembley and watched by two million viewers live on the BBC as well as a fully professional Women’s Super League.

Patricia and I set about reading through every WFA newsletter and match programme we could find, as well as searching the British Newspaper Archive, interviewing dozens of former players and managers and viewing any surviving TV footage.

Together with the help of far too many people to mention we have undertaken the most comprehensive review of the Women’s FA Cup Final ever carried out.

Finally some of the statistical mysteries have now been solved.  While football fans are well-versed in the men’s Cup final trivia, through our research we have been able to establish the equivalent record holders in the women’s game for the first time.  We are hoping to surprise them soon with confirmation of their achievements.

“We wanted to celebrate the great games, great goals and great players throughout the decades and to fully recognise the achievements.  Even when the ban was overturned women players weren’t welcome and there was barely any coverage,” says Gregory.

Sexist newspaper coverage in the 70s and 80s was commonplace with reports written almost exclusively through male eyes.  Few journalists seemed to be able to resist referring to any errors as “boobs” and players even had their marital status disclosed during reports.

We’ve come a long way from there but it’s notable that the winners of the FA Vase (a competition for non-League men’s teams who play in the ninth and tenth tiers of English football) collect £30,000 in FA prize money – that’s £5,000 more than Manchester City Women were awarded for winning the 2020 Women’s FA Cup.  There’s still a long way to go in the fight for equality in football.’


Further reading:
The result of this research will be published in the book A History of the Women’s FA Cup Final, released on 6 May 2021 by the History Press. The book celebrates the 50th anniversary of the very first final which was held on 9 May 1971.
The Women’s Football Association Archive British Library Add MS 89306. For further information on the Archive, please contact Eleanor Dickens - eleanor.dickens@bl.uk.
British Newspaper Archive

Programme for the first ever international football match for the England team who played Scotland at Ravenscraig Stadium on 18 November 1972Programme for the first ever international football match for the England team who played Scotland at Ravenscraig Stadium on 18 November 1972.  Copyright – Patricia Gregory.

 

04 May 2021

Gout Raptures – a War among the Stars

Today is May the Fourth – Star Wars Day.  To mark this, we are sharing a dramatic poem from 1677 entitled Gout Raptures … or an historical fiction of a War among the Stars.

Gout Raptures
The author Dr Robert Witty explains in his introduction that he was laid up with gout in his hands and feet.  Unable to handle a pen or turn over the pages of a book, he fell into a contemplation of ‘the Stars and Constellations in Heaven’.  Witty thought up a story of a war amongst the stars since astronomers agreed that there were aspects of planets and fixed constellations which made them ‘contrary to each other’.  The result was Gout Raptures, written subsequently in idle moments and on journeys.

The star war started with a dispute between Saturn and Luna (the Moon).  Saturn was unhappy that a female ruled the night.  Saturn in Capricorn proclaimed war, and Luna in Cancer rose in opposition.

‘In Capricorn old Saturn
the worst of all the seven,
Design’d the Night to rule in spight
of all the Stars in Heaven.

His quarrel was at Luna
declaring his opinion,
None could but vex that the female Sex
should hold so large dominion.

She lowest of the Planets
the other Tropick claimed,
But down she shall, and catch a Fall,
and thus a war’s proclaimed.’

Jupiter supported Luna and sent out the Eagle and Beagle constellations to spy out Saturn’s forces.  On the advice of a council of all constellations, Jupiter raised two armies – a standing army of fixed stars and a flying army of planets.  War was declared and Jupiter found the rebels in Taurus with the Fiends of Hell and the Heathen Gods.  The rebels fled, pursued by Jupiter from sign to sign.

‘In stead of Pike and Pistol
they fought in fiery flashes,
What’s Cannon proof they pierced through
no Sword can make such gashes.’

When the rebels reached Scorpio, Cupid fired an enchanted arrow and put an end to the war.  All the stars fell in love with each other, and peace and quietness was restored.

Witty pointed out similarities in his story to the path of the English Civil War and the restoration of King Charles II.  Gout Raptures had English, Latin and Greek versions in one volume so that schools could use it.

Robert Witty or Wittie (c.1613-1684) was born in Beverley, Yorkshire.  A friend of the poet Andrew Marvell, he became a schoolmaster and then a physician, practising in Hull and York before moving to London.  He also published Popular Errours … in Physick, a translation of James Primrose’s De vulgi in medicina erroribus, and wrote Scarbrough Spaw, a book championing the efficacy of mineral waters.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Robert Witty, Gout Raptures. Ἀστρομαχια. Or an historical fiction of a War among the Stars (Cambridge, 1677).  A verse in English, Latin and Greek.  Available to read online.