This chapter focuses on Dominique Vivant Denon, director of the Louvre in the early nineteenth century and possibly the most prolific mummy collector in Europe. Denon was a member of the scientific commission that accompanied Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt. He returned to France with a mummified foot, which became the centrepiece of his collection and inspired a story by the celebrated writer Théophile Gautier. Denon went on to acquire a full mummy from the collection of Napoloeon’s wife, Joséphine de Beauharnais, following her death. This mummy became the subject of a private unwrapping, for which we have a detailed report and sketches. Denon also acquired two mummy heads, one of which remains in storage in the Louvre to this day. The chapter concludes with an earlier story about a mummy’s foot. In 1763, doctors performing the first dissection of a mummy in Britain were surprised to find an onion attached to its foot. A quarter of a century later, in 2016, the author encountered this same foot by chance in the Hunterian Museum in London. This strange relic raises uncomfortable questions about the treatment of human remains and the ethics of displaying them in museums.
This chapter seeks to expand upon recent work on literature and succession politics through consideration of Ireland in the Elizabethan and early Stuart periods. Rather than looking at drama– there having been no contemporary Irish ‘stage’ – this chapter examines a range of distinctive literary practices that survive from contemporary Gaelic society, chiefly bardic poetry. It explores the extent to which these literary practices can be understood as political practices. ‘Bards’ were no mere entertainers. They were councillors and arguably the primary arbiters of political legitimacy, which they addressed by means of a highly stylized verse genre known as dán díreach. These political practices were conditioned by a specific set of structural conditions. Unlike England, Ireland was in a perpetual state of, if not crisis, succession uncertainty. Numerous claimants could contest a Gaelic regional kingship, and invariably they did. Fluidity of executive authority in Ireland was a structural constant. That structure itself started to break apart under pressure from Tudor colonial advancement, with profound effects on political practices and the thinking they engendered. This chapter explores some of the effects of Anglicization on Irish literary practices. Specifically, it looks at literary exploration of three arenas of executive power: local Gaelic kingships, Irish high-kingship, and ‘external association’ with other monarchies. The title of the chapter reflects an initial speculation that members of the Gaelic learned class projected different roles for Tudor/Stuart and Habsburg rulers in new political schemas forged in what was a greatly expanded public realm of discursive practice.
The royal body – mythologized, represented, staged, clothed, performed, imagined, gazed upon – has played a central role in the cultural construction and projection of monarchical legitimacy. Because of this, the royal body has also been a site of monarchical vulnerability, providing a locus for the subversion and critique of royal authority. But royal bodies were also bodies subject to disease, decay, and death, demanding a politico-medical history of the royal body that pays attention not only to the embodied experience of our royal subjects but also to the ways in which a monarch’s bodily illness or health could be implicated in broader political discourses. This chapter offers some reflections on the embodied kingship of James VI and I, reflections that I hope will allow us to explore some underexplored aspects of early modern political culture. The first part of the chapter focuses on the fashioned monarchical body as a locus of royal authority, looking (briefly) at the representation of James’s body in painted and engraved portraiture and assessing (in more detail) the image of the royal body in some of James’s writings on kingship. The chapter then turns to the subversive libellous counterpoint to these authorizing representations, exploring how a variety of texts, including the sensational Catholic libel Corona Regia, made the royal body the crux for wide-ranging and politically meaningful critique. The third part of the chapter examines the pathological history of the royal body. Thanks to his chief physician, we know a good deal about James VI and I’s history of chronic and acute illness, but aside from the king’s biographers and a handful of modern diagnosticians, scholars have not made much use of what we know. As we shall see, chronic physical ailments figure in both official and libellous representations of the royal body. But James’s suffering body was at the centre of other political histories, and ill health shaped James’s kingship in other ways. It was integral to some of the dynamics of Jacobean court politics, in particular the central role of the royal favourite, and it provided the occasion for both the expression of political anxiety and the practice of royal mythmaking in the early Stuart public sphere. The chapter thus concludes with a case study of the royal health crisis of 1619, exploring the medical and court politics of the royal sickroom and the multivocal representations of James’s illness in elite newsletters, popular rumour, and official ritual.
This volume brings together cutting-edge research by some of the most innovative scholars of early modern Britain. Inspired in part by recent studies of the early modern ‘public sphere’, the twelve chapters collected here reveal an array of political and religious practices that can serve as a foundation for new narratives of the period. The practices considered range from deliberation and inscription to publication and profanity. The narratives under construction range from secularization to the rise of majority rule. Many of the authors also examine ways British developments were affected by and in turn influenced the world outside of Britain.
The National Health Service (NHS) officially ‘opened’ across Britain in 1948. It replaced a patchy system of charity and local providers, and made healthcare free at the point of use. Over the subsequent decades, the NHS was vested with cultural meaning, and even love. By 1992, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson declared that the service was ‘the closest thing the English have to a religion’. Yet in 2016, a physician publishing in the British Medical Journal asked whether the service was, in fact, a ‘national religion or national football’, referring to the complex politics of healthcare. Placards, posters, and prescriptions radically illuminates the multiple meanings of the NHS, in public life and culture, over its seventy years of life. The book charts how this institution has been ignored, worshipped, challenged, and seen as under threat throughout its history. It analyses changing cultural representations and patterns of public behaviour that have emerged, and the politics and everyday life of health. By looking at the NHS through the lenses of labour, activism, consumerism, space, and representation, this collection showcases the depth and potential of cultural history. This approach can explain how and why the NHS has become the defining institution of contemporary Britain.
This chapter considers the religio-political situation of English-language Bible reference works c. 1550–1650. It focuses upon printed, single-volume publications whose scope included the entire Bible. These works were targeted to broad audiences and tailored to a wide range of interests that different readers might have had on varied occasions. Though there is recent scholarly interest in early modern information management and reading practices, there has been limited attention given to Bible reference works, especially those aimed at broad audiences. Because these publications sought to influence how broad audiences used their Bibles, they had the potential to affect the spread of post-Reformation religious belief. For this reason, they were of interest to church and state authorities, who in turn had a significant impact upon these works’ contents and production. This chapter demonstrates that the genre’s trajectory was towards increasing proliferation in number and style of publications, but that this was fostered or hedged – to varying degrees, and in varying ways – by the changing religio-political scene. By giving attention to this significant but often-overlooked genre, and to the circumstances surrounding its development and production, we gain a more complete understanding of practices surrounding print and the politics of religion in early modern England.
In this brief opening chapter, the author tells the story of how she came to be interested in Egyptian mummies. It was while working as a summer gallery attendant at the Musée du Louvre in Paris that she first learnt of the strange and often troubling stories behind how these ancient remains came to be held in European museums. She would go on to make these stories and the ethical questions around the possession and presentation of human remains the focus of her academic career. The chapter concludes with a description of the Mummy Stories project, which gathers people’s accounts of their interactions with Egyptian mummies from around the world.
This chapter examines the place of representation within a history of the NHS. It includes analysis of the arts as well as popular culture, drawing upon novels, plays, television, film, and art, and tracing development from the emergence of the service in 1948 up to its seventieth anniversary. This history has been remarkably neglected to date. The chapter argues that one reason for this is that a focus on the NHS in the arts and popular culture is less easy to locate than we might expect and that this is revealing of the way in which new languages of representation had to be created. It demonstrates that the early NHS therefore drew heavily on existing representational tropes. The NHS did emerge as a frequent backdrop to the romance and comedy of the era, but the significance of this lay less in the articulation of arguments about the special qualities of the NHS than in the way it fostered affection through familiarity. Representational exploration of the ‘NHS-ness’ of the NHS took much longer to emerge and often did so in part through the emergence of critique. The chapter shows how this coupling of affection and critique, established by the end of the 1960s, had a long-term legacy in popular culture’s representation of the service. Nevertheless, it concludes by suggesting that there are huge challenges for critical representation of such a complex system in an era in which a simplistic cultural symbolism has become more powerfully embedded than ever before.
As befitted someone who operated in the tradition of transcendent Jacobinism, the radical infidel Richard Carlile’s affective politics cut across the public-private divide as well as national boundaries in his quest for a politics for pure reason unsullied with feeling. He was conscious of the way in which political and religious authorities legitimated their hegemony by enslaving the mind as a way of enslaving the body, in which some radicals were complicit in their failure to attack organised religion. Carlile challenged this by practising and promoting an embodied affective politics which demystified popular understandings of the passions and prescribed an ascetic regimen that empowered the working classes. Unlike other radicals discussed in this book, he was resistant to the idea that bodies were porous and merged with their environments. As the first section shows, Carlile engaged in a debate about the location of feeling in the body. Far from being an esoteric preoccupation of his that spoke only to his interest in materialism and science, Carlile insisted that the seating of the passions had important political implications. The chapter then moves on to discuss Carlile’s Every Woman’s Book, a book widely known amongst historians of feminism and sex, but not historians of emotion. Carlile’s excursus on this one passion is revealing of his understanding of sex, gender, and the politics of feeling. This chapter develops the concept of ascetic radicalism to underscore the affective basis of Carlile’s problematic quest for ‘pure reason’, focusing on the period in which he was a prominent radical leader, c.1819–1832. Ironically, for someone who rejected the notion that bodies were defined by space, Carlile’s affective politics reached their apotheosis in the prison cell, but for reasons explored in the final section, it began to break down in the early 1830s.
Universal happiness was the goal of the socialist Robert Owen’s ‘new moral world’ or the ‘rational system of society’, and he promised to eradicate bad passions. If Owen’s story is well known, much less has been said about what, exactly, he meant by happiness. In Owenite formulation, happiness meant something quite specific and tended to be used relatively: in short, happiness denoted the absence of negative feelings, and was to be achieved in quite prescriptive ways. As this chapter will show, the feeling of happiness for Owenites was inseparable from its practice. Owen appears to adhere to a form of ascetic radicalism – a set of feeling rules which accented restraint and was premised on the assumption that people had the capacity to change how they felt. But on closer inspection, Owen’s views on whether feelings were beyond the control of an individual was ambiguous. He had an entirely reductive understanding of the passions which led him to turn on its head the prevailing view of elites that negative feelings were the result of bad, immoral character. Having sketched out the centrality of the passions in Owen’s critique of the old moral world, the chapter then moves on to consider how and why Owen believed changing the conditions in which people lived would lead to changes in how they felt. Central here was his belief that happiness would ensue when the passions had been recalibrated and harmonised rather than restrained per se, though Owen never satisfactorily resolved the tension between the need to restrain some passions and unshackle others. Focusing on the tensions and contradiction in Owen’s formulation of happiness – and feelings more generally – sheds new light on the reasons why Owenism failed.