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March
27
2018

My NACBS: David Clemis

Posted by StephenJackson under my NACBS | Tags: David Clemis, early modern, spotlight | 0 Comments

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My NACBS

This is the second post in our new series designed to introduce and connect NACBS members. Taking our lead from the American Historical Association’s member spotlight posts, we hope to deepen our sense of community through short posts that delve into who we are and what we value. For more information on this new series, contact Blog editor Stephen Jackson at Stephen.Jackson@usiouxfalls.edu.

Name and title: David Clemis, Associate Professor of History, Mount Royal University, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

What are your fields of interest?

British intellectual and cultural history, 1600-1800. More particularly, the history of understandings of moral agency, cognition and identity in “the British enlightenment.” My current work is on the social and cultural history of alcohol use in England, 1600-1830.

What are you currently working on?

I am writing an article on “Galenic medicine” and conceptions of intoxication and addiction in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  This work fits into a larger study of legal and medical understandings of intoxication and addiction in early modern Britain.

Do you have a favorite archive, digital or physical? What about it draws you in? 

Early English Books Online and Eighteenth Century Collections Online are indispensable.  Given that where I live, I can manage only a few weeks per year in relevant physical archives.  Although the Rare Books Room of the present British Library is serviceable and pleasant, one longs for the very different atmospheres of the old round Smirke and north library reading rooms.

What is the most fascinating text, artifact or object you’ve encountered in your work?

I have recently been fascinated by Humphrey Brooke’s Ugieine or a Conservatory of Health (London, 1650). I am intrigued by the striking parallels between Brooke’s conception of the causes and nature of chronic drinking and very recent researchers’ notions of addiction, not as a disease, but rather as more of a matter of habit. Despite the obvious differences in this seventeenth-century “Galenic” physician’s views and modern neuro-scientific models, it is interesting how they both thread together the physiological effects of alcohol, the social context of its consumption, and a degree of moral agency on the part of the chronic drinker. 

What attracted you to this work? Why British Studies?

When I was undergraduate and master’s student there was much excited talk of “postmodernism.” I was rather interested in finding out what “the modern” was and where it had come from before it vanished. That led me to studies of the period 1450 to 1800. Of course, Britain and its history figured conspicuously in most accounts of the development of modernity. Further, as graduate student at the University of Toronto, I found the most interesting and challenging historians generally happened to study Britain: J. M. Beattie; Michael Finlayson; and Trevor Lloyd.

Who most influenced your academic work?

As an undergraduate studying philosophy at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Norman Brown and Carlos Prado kindled the conceptual, analytic, and epistemological character of my academic interests. While at Queen’s, the philosopher Michael Tanner, a visiting professor from Cambridge, inspired my passion for the historical study of culture. Those teachers at Queen’s lit a passion for intellectual life that thwarted my family’s intention that I should practice law.  John Beattie at the University of Toronto was an excellent teacher of social history methods, a great model of scholarly rigor and integrity, as well as an indispensable supporter of my career, however, bogged-down it has occasionally been. As a co-supervisor of my doctoral thesis and the indomitable, ebullient leader of the IHR’s “Long Eighteenth-Century Seminar,” Penelope Corfield has been wonderful inspiration for both my teaching and research. 

Less personal but important early influences on the kind of history I try to practice have been the work of E.P. Thompson, Natalie Zemon Davis, Keith Thomas, and Roy Porter. The endeavor to understand values, attitudes, and beliefs within their social contexts is a matter of great interest to me. More recently, in the field of drug and alcohol history, the work of Phil Withington, Mark Hailwood, and James Nicholls has also shaped the direction of my research interests.

Have your academic interests transformed over time?

As a graduate student, I was privileged to have John Beattie and Peter King as supervisors. Under their influence I was much engaged by the social history that developed in the 1970s and 1980s, especially the study of crime and local authority in the eighteenth century. Over time, however, my deep-seated interests in cultural history and the history of ideas have become more pronounced in my teaching and research activity. In 2001, I left England for a job in Western Canada, which meant I was able to spend only a few weeks a year in local archives, the British Library, and the National Archives. Digital versions of printed sources necessarily became by the greatest objects of my study. This has reinforced the intellectual and cultural historical turn in my work. 

Does your project have any particular relevance to the contemporary—political, social, cultural, etc.? 

Addiction is, of course, a matter of much public concern, particularly since the emergence of the opioid crisis in recent years. One hopes that historical studies of the changing conception of chronic drinking and compulsive behavior might enrich contemporary, much vexed, debates over the nature of addiction. More broadly, I hope that this kind of study of historical medical and legal texts, and the understandings they convey of human behavior, moral agency, and personal identity, will constitute some kind of contribution to wider debates within the humanities.

Do you have a favorite text to teach?

Voltaire’s Candide, which I teach in an Enlightenment survey course, is always a lot of fun for students and it nicely engages a variety of course themes. That experience tempts me to try to teach Tristram Shandy as a cultural history text in an eighteenth-century Britain course, but that seems too big a challenge and is best left to colleagues in the English Department.  The Old Bailey Online - The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674-1913 is a fabulous resource to use with students because it affords explorations of so many interesting themes. 

When you’re not working, what do you like to do?

Worry about how much work I need to get done?? But, I also enjoy cycling and travel. I love reading and seeing Shakespeare performed.

 

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April
10
2015

Finding Margaret Morice

Posted by jaskelly under BISI, Blog | Tags: early modern, eighteenth century, Gender, Scotland, women | 0 Comments

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By Dr Deborah Simonton, University of Southern Denmark


I ‘met’ Margaret Morice in 1998. I had just finished writing A History of European Women’s Work.[1] Needing to get into some real primary research and since I was working at Aberdeen University, I asked myself the fairly simple question, ‘What kind of work were women doing in eighteenth-century Aberdeen?’ It was provoked by a number of factors, curiosity not being the least of them.

One of the first steps was a visit to Aberdeen City Archives, one of the best in Scotland. The initial visit was a bit demoralising, because the staff could only suggest the usual finding aids. Undeterred, I trundled through these and found the Register of Apprentices. This produced the first surprise, and was where I first found Margaret. With the exception of one entry for another female baker, she was the only one on record — but in regular entries, between 1776 and 1797, she traded as ‘Margaret Morice and Co., baker in Aberdeen’.[2] This is notable on a number of levels. The bakers, along with the weavers, were seen as the most prestigious of the seven Incorporated Trades in Aberdeen. As their historian insisted:

Notably in Aberdeen, the baking of loaf and biscuit bread has been preserved as a strict monopoly for the men bakers. According to the acts and ordinances of the Baker craft in Aberdeen, women were not allowed to bake any bread, pastry, or pies to be sold in the streets or chops, a restriction that was maintained until the abolition of trading privileges in 1846.[3]

Margaret also traded using her married name, when most Scots women kept their family name. She did so, I believe, because it furthered her commercial position as a widow.

Her husband had not been recorded in the Aberdeen Register of Apprentices, which misled me until I discovered that his apprentices were recorded in the Inland Revenue Apprenticeship Registers. Margaret’s, in contrast, appeared only once at Inland Revenue; all of her apprentices followed his death.[4] As a relatively prominent member of the Incorporated Trades, and their Council representative from time to time, her husband would have paid the stamp duty and ensured that his apprentices were properly recorded. On the one occasion when she did, she had just ended a partnership with a previous apprentice. (She twice entered into such a partnership.) Thus a ‘properly’ registered apprentice may have been essential to retaining the prestige of the business. Over the 30 years that she ran the business herself, Margaret Morice apprenticed 16 boys from the tradesman classes (compared with John’s 12 over 25 years). The apprentice fee paid and the boys’ terms of service compared well with those for male bakers, including John’s, in Aberdeen, Essex, Birmingham and Staffordshire.[5]

The discovery of Margaret Morice sent me on a trail, which I followed alongside other research on Gender in European Towns.[6] In fact, I became addicted to finding Margaret Morice. Since there was little business information available in the archives, I turned to the parish records of births, deaths and marriages, available on microfilm in the Local Studies section of the Public Library. Here I found her birth on 25 August 1718 and the birth of her seven children, including twins, beginning in 1739 and ending in 1750. Through serendipity, tucked in the back of the Council records, I found a notice of John’s burial in January of 1770, when she was 52. These also noted the death of a ‘child of John Morice’ on a couple of occasions. Thinking laterally, I tried Ancestry.com, and found the death of four of the children at very young ages. The eldest, David, and the female twin, Barbara, have a bigger part to play in her story. The seventh is still AWOL.

Trying a different line of enquiry, I went to the National Archives of Scotland (now National Records of Scotland), hoping for a will or inventory — no luck. I did however find window- and inhabited house-tax lists, showing her to have paid these through much of the same period that she was taking apprentices. Council Enactment Books added snippets here and there, mostly about John, but clarified that the bakery was well-established, that they owned the property from 1752 and that he was gradually building up a business and political persona. I felt I was coming closer to ‘seeing’ Margaret Morice, but frustratingly still with a great deal of speculation on my side. Gradually her story was becoming more and more visible — but still with gaps and a sense of incompleteness.

A return visit to the Archives, assisted greatly by a Strathmartine Trust grant, turned out to be an epiphanic experience.[7] On arrival, Fiona Musk, the archivist, simply asked what I was trying to do. Not very optimistically, I told her, and then said flippantly, ‘What I would really like to do is find Margaret Morice’, that is, literally locate her in the town. I knew roughly where the business was, but Fiona’s response, ‘I am sure I have seen her name on a map,’ was astonishing after sixteen years of research. A few hours later, she returned with a bundle — and there was Margaret, on the plans for the ‘New Street ‘(now Union Street) — in one of the houses to be demolished.[8] I confess I did a dance in the record office to the amusement of the other four people in the room.

Furthermore, Fiona pulled up the records of saisine, which I had previously been told would be useless. They unfolded the story of the property, from John’s purchase to its sale to the Council in 1800. At first I was perplexed as to who the sellers were: the two boys were named Abercrombie. Through antiquarian books in the Record Office, we identified that they were her grandsons, the sons of her daughter Barbara, who had become the second wife of an esteemed clergyman. This bundle corroborated and clarified the narrative of her son David’s bankruptcy and Margaret’s right to the property.[9] I had simultaneously been reading the Aberdeen Journal for the period, and there, in a notice Margaret Morice placed in 1789, I found her ‘voice’ for the first and only time. Her statement ensured that none of David’s debts were charged to her and asserted her role as baker in Aberdeen.[10] Up to then, all other mentions of her in the press had been oblique: a partner announced the end of a partnership with her; her son asked for a lease for his mother; and lawyers asserted her claim to the property.

There are still other small trails to follow up, but from piecing together an array of disparate records, I have been able to create a picture of her business, which was clearly long-standing and central to the commercial area of Aberdeen. It was also tolerated by the guild and held its own until near her death. Stories of women such as Margaret Morice are the bread and butter of our research; they whet our curiosity and through them we see the lives of towns come alive. This tale is not yet finished. Margaret Morice’s story, taken together with that of other businesswomen, about whom there may be yet less detail, will help us to explore how women’s businesses inflected the character of eighteenth-century towns.

This tale of discovery probably replicates many other searches and journeys made by other historians. Our curiosity leads us on; we get ‘addicted’ to finding answers, not all of which are terribly important. Perseverance and asking the same question, or similar ones, of the records, over and over, or of tangential material and of librarians and archivists is our stock in trade. In an age that prioritises publication — and publication of a particularly designated sort — we must not lose the curiosity and love of the past that drives us; we need to hang on to the wonder and joy of discovery — even with a little dance or two. And we need to keep using our skills, training and insight to solve these little mysteries; they can help solve the big ones.

 



[1] Deborah Simonton, A History of European Women’s Work, 1700 to the present (London: Routledge, 1998).

[2] Aberdeen City Archives (ACA), Enactment Books, 5. Register of Indentures, 1622-1878, see also Simonton, ‘Margaret Morice’, in The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women, eds, Elizabeth L. Ewan, Sue Innes, Sian Reynolds and Rose Pipes (Edinburgh University Press, 2006), 272; Simonton, ’Negotiating the Economy of the Eighteenth-Century Scottish Town’ in Katie Barclay and Deborah Simonton, eds, Women in Eighteenth-century Scotland (Ashgate, 2013), 225.

[3] Ebenezer Bain, Merchant and Craft Guilds, A History of the Aberdeen Incorporated Trades (Aberdeen: 1887), 212.

[4] Great Britain, Public Record Office, Board of Inland Revenue. Apprenticeship Regis­ters, 1710-1808, IR1. For John, volumes for 1743-68; for Margaret, 1788.

[5] Simonton, ‘Education and Training’, 341, 352; see also Joan Lane, Apprenticeship in England, 1600-1914 (London, 1996), 117.

[6] Gender in the European Town, www.sdu.dk/geneton

[7] See the Strathmartine Trust website on support for Scottish research, http://www.strathmartinetrust.org/

[8] ACA, New Street Trustees, CA/10/1/30 South Entry Plan - Castle Street & Narrow Wynd, 1799

[9] Ibid, CA/13/NStT/5-16 Act ordaining David Morrice jnr to dispone his real & personal estate, 1789.

[10] Aberdeen Journal, 20 July 1789.

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H-Albion is looking for candidates who would like serve as our Book Review Editor for England, Wales, and Scotland, 1540-1689. Applications are invited from scholars specializing in the early modern period. The successful candidate will serve as book review editor for two years and will be responsible for commissioning and editing book reviews.

Please send a cover letter and CV to Jason M. Kelly at jaskelly@iupui.edu.

Application deadline is 5 May 2010.

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