Adventures at The School of Historical Dress: Part 1


The second year of my PhD has kicked off in style.

Last weekend, I was lucky enough to attend a short course at The School of Historical Dress in London.

The School of Historical Dress was founded by Jenny Tiramani (formerly Director of Theatre Design at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, 1997-2005), Santina Levey, and Vanessa Hopkins in 2011 to promote the study of historical clothing and dressmaking. As well as offering a variety of short courses each year, the School cares for numerous surviving garments and textiles and regularly publishes books about the cut and construction of historical dress.

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The course I attended – Tailoring in Garments 1400 – 1800 – was all about historical tailoring practices. Taught by Melanie Braun and Claire Thornton, the three-day course was an intensive, hands-on insight into a range of techniques found in surviving garments and sources from across the centuries. The idea was to turn a neatly-stacked pile…

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Relearning how to learn: potential ideas for scholarly debate

Before Shakespeare

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We’ve just finished our four-day Before Shakespeare conference, and this blog post is an attempt to report back to the profession more generally about the things that worked or didn’t work in the way we ran the event. That will easily feel presumptuous to lots of people, but I guess I’ve realised our profession harbours lots of unspoken and often contradictory assumptions about what a conference is and what it’s for: in particular, whether it’s a space for the display of expertise or a forum to learn and discover together.

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A number of delegates told us that the event felt new and newly enabling in a number of ways, and this is an attempt to think about how and why that happened (you can read some of those delegates’ thoughts herehere and here). This post is aimed at anyone running a scholarly conference or interested more generally…

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The Man with the Golden Pen

Before Shakespeare

We’re very pleased to present a guest post by Derek Dunne on a fascinating event at the Blackfriars…


Bond A duel of a different sort happened at the Blackfriars, Michaelmas Day 1595

Do you know who the best writer of Elizabethan London was? Not the most prolific, or the most poetic, or the most popular, but simply thebestwriter. This is a contentious question among scholars, but if contemporary accounts are to be believed, then the prize goes to Peter Bales. Bales’ superior penmanship brought him to the attention of Queen Elizabeth herself, earned him a place in Holinshed’s Chronicles, and would eventually lead him into the employ of ‘spy-master’ Francis Walsingham for a mission concerning Mary Queen of Scots. In this short piece, I want to introduce you to the most important Elizabethan writer you’ve never heard of and outline why his career matters to anyone…

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‘At Christmas we banquet, the rich with the poor’: Christmas Dinner in Tudor & Stuart England

the many-headed monster

Mark Hailwood

screen-shot-2012-12-18-at-8-19-47-pmChristmas dinner is undoubtedly one of the most popular Yuletide rituals in Britain today – but what is its history? If you like, as any good historian would, to have a bit of historical context up your sleeve to bore your relatives with over the Christmas period, then I offer up to you the following morsels about the ritual meal’s sixteenth and seventeenth century character…

A cycle of midwinter celebration was established in Britain in the early part of the Middle Ages, so by the sixteenth century the Twelve Days of Christmas – running from 25th December to 5th January – had already been the focus of festivities for centuries. The holidays kicked off with Christmas Day itself, and after attending an early morning church service the attention quickly turned to feasting. From Advent Sunday, the fourth before Christmas Day, people were encouraged by the Church…

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Emotion and the arts: CfP and research network

Digital Shakespeares

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Dear friends, a post that isn’t explicitly digital, but that certainly doesn’t exclude it either–

Along with Dr Marie Louise Herzfeld-Schild, I’m hoping to make connections with other researchers interested in the role of the arts and aesthetics in the history of the emotions. In a 2005 essay entitled ‘Is there a cultural history of the emotions?’, Peter Burke made a bold claim: ‘The kinds of document historians use most do not tell us very much about emotions.’ The arts, he and others have suggested, are where past emotions really reside, but figuring out how to study them is tricky business.

In an attempt to start unpicking this question, Dr Herzfeld-Schild (a musicologist) and I (a literary scholar) are organising a panel at the Cultural History conference in Umeå in June 2017 called ‘Emotion and the Arts: An Interdisciplinary History’. The panel is now open for paper proposals, which should be…

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The Before Shakespeare Guide to the Elizabethan East End

Before Shakespeare

guide-to-eliz-east-end-imageSummer 1567.  A feature piece for Elizabethan developers, house buyers, tourists, and those interested in keeping up with the latest cultural developments just outside of the City of London. 

In this feature, we tell you why it might just be worth buying that coaching inn with the extra land, or finally getting around to doing something with that Courte or yarde lying on the south syde of the Garden…[1]

We’ve all heard it said that things stop at Aldgate, but plenty of Londoners have found the journey east worth making. Mile End has a reputation as a space “outside” London very much for “outsiders,” but don’t let that put off the more well-heeled among you: this area has long been a property hotspot for noblemen investing in (and inheriting and marrying into) marshland, manors, and fields. You might have heard of the parishes of Stepney and Whitechapel, with their small…

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I’ve been thinking. If I was commissioned to write a sonnet (don’t go there, just arguing) and I wrote a controversial but acclaimed 15-line poem, about women. Could I claim genderised politics when it got slammed?

Cause that’s exactly the kind of job Rice did with ‘Shakespeare’s Globe’, and the kind of defence that is put forward.

But then I’m a ‘traditionalist’. And a bit of a ‘tourist’ too. Cheers for that. Love my critical sense being labelled away.

Printing & Books in Early Modern Europe – a bibliography

Early Modern France

I recently started teaching a new module on printing and books in early modern Europe – my dream module. This is a one-semester module taught through 11 two-hour long seminars, and the module includes sessions in Special Collections at the Brotherton library, and visits to the Leeds Library and to the Centre for the Comparative History of Print/School of English Print Room. As part of the preparation, I had to get together a bibliography, and – acknowledging that my knowledge is weighted towards France and the sixteenth century – I turned to Twitter for help. And as I have so often found, the #twitterstorians did not let me down. I promised I would make that bibliography public – well, four weeks into term, I’ve finally got round to it.

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Galatea Workshops

Before Shakespeare

We invite scholars to participate in exploring John Lyly’s Galatea at the Jerwood Space this August. The award-winning theatre maker Emma Frankland and Andy Kesson will be working with a company of performers, exploring the play’s representations of non-normative sexuality and its concluding investment in transgender identity. We are grateful to Shakespeare Bulletin, the University of Roehampton and the Before Shakespeare project for funding and supporting this work.
Scholars are invited to participate in this exploration by joining us in the performance space in two- to three-hour slots, available throughout the week (11am-1pm, 2pm-5pm). Scholars are welcome to come as witnesses to the workshop, to document it or to take a more active role and join the performance workshop itself. The workshop is a week-long process of theatrical research and development and is not building towards a final performance at the end of the week.
The workshop will take…

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