Last week (well, actually in 1643), Henry Marten started raising a cavalry regiment and caused some trouble by taking the King’s horses from the royal mews. This week, he takes more horses from some other people, with controversial consequences. This might get a bit repetitive as I’ve tried to include every example I know of. In academic publications I usually pick a few examples and don’t lay out all the evidence in detail, but with a blog post I can do it differently.
I’ve just started to appreciate another advantage of taking digital photos of documents in the National Archives (a.k.a. PRO): comparing original signatures. That’s not exactly a revolutionary discovery, but I actually used it this week and it was quite exciting. I’ve mentioned John Gower before in posts about my work on saddlers. I had two collections of facts which I thought probably refer to the same person, but I hadn’t conclusively proved it.
The archives of the London Saddler’s Company show that a John Gower was a freeman of the company, and was admitted to the livery in 1640. The will of John Gower, citizen and saddler of London, was written on 18 October 1644 and proved by the Prerogative Court of Canterbury on 9 May 1645. This will mentions that John’s wife was called Jane, and that they lived in the parish of Saint Katherine Creechurch. Jane Gower went on to sell saddles to the New Model Army in 1645.
Financial records of the Essex county committee and the committee of the Eastern Association at Cambridge show that they bought lots of saddles from a John Gower. He is sometimes described as Captain Gower, and in at least one case money was received on his behalf by his ensign. It’s quite likely that this is the same Gower who commanded a company in the Earl of Manchester’s foot regiment.
On the balance of probabilities and assumed that these records all related to the same man but I wasn’t absolutely certain. This week I was sorting out some photos from my last research trip, including warrants issued by the Essex committee (SP 28/227). I noticed that John Gower had signed receipts on some of them. I already had photos of his original will (PROB 10/648) so it was easy to compare them.
This is a receipt for money paid for saddles by the Essex committee, dated 26 September 1643.
And this is part of the will, dated 18 October 1644.
They look pretty similar to me so now I’m fairly certain that it is the same man. The signature on the will looks very shaky, presumably because he was terminally ill when he wrote it.
As well as the practical benefits of record linkage, this is also a way of connecting with the reality of the past. If the same signature appears on two different documents belonging to different organisations and created at different times, the most parsimonious explanation is that John Gower was a real person who signed the documents in the course of his life. His home must have been destroyed in the great fire, if not before or after, and as far as I know none of the saddles that he made survives today. Saddlers Hall was destroyed by fire on more than one occasion, and nearly all of the company’s 17th century plate was sold or lost. These signatures are probably the only remaining physical traces of John Gower.
[Edit May 2016: This paper isn’t available online any more but you’re not missing much. It was like a skeleton of my book before I’d thought of any of the exciting bits. The audience seemed happy enough with it anyway.]
The Great Supply Chain of Being: Horses, People, and Networks of Authority in Civil War Essex
Delivered at Bishop Grosseteste University College, Lincoln, 14th November 2007
[Edit May 2016: This abstract was a load of wank that I’d originally written as a proposal for the Experience of Authority conference in Cambridge, but they quite rightly rejected it. So then I palmed it off on BGC without bothering to rewrite it, even though it was for a less specialist audience. The paper I ended up with bore very little relation to the abstract, which is probably just as well. I still don’t have a clue about network theory but Ruth and Sebastian Ahnert, and all the people running Six Degrees of Francis Bacon, are doing it properly now.]
I’ll be giving a paper to the research seminar at Bishop Grosseteste University College, Lincoln, on Wednesday 14th November at 4pm. The paper is entitled “The Great Supply Chain of Being: Horses, People, and Networks of Authority in Civil War Essex”. I’m still not sure whether that’s a good title, but it’s a reaction against my “stuckist” phase when I hated puns and tried to make my paper titles as boring and descriptive as possible! The paper will be a fairly brief and accessible overview of some work in progress, which takes in military supply systems, authority, property rights, and the human/animal boundary. Abstract below, although the focus keeps changing as I rewrite it:
The right of humans to control and exploit the non-human was justified by the concept of the Great Chain of Being, which also reflected the hierarchical ideal of early-modern government and society. Much recent work has shown that this concept is inadequate as a model for analysing realities which were far more complex than the ideal. Grids and networks are now seen as better analogies for understanding what Michael Braddick and John Walter termed a “complex of hierarchies”. As King and Parliament raised armies, created new administrative structures, and sought legitimation, these hierarchies multiplied and the relationships between them became even more complex.
Horses were a vital resource for armies and economies, leading to conflicts over ownership. These conflicts can not simply be seen in terms of binary oppositions between military and civilian, or local and central. There were many different ways in which soldiers, administrators, and civilians negotiated power and property rights. Material contributions to the war effort ranged from voluntary contributions to requisitioning through military force. Even when arbitrary force was used, there was scope for choice and agency in strategies for seeking redress. Ultimately forced requisitioning proved to be inefficient and counter-productive. Parliament found that the consent and co-operation of property owners was vital. The war could only be won by resolving conflicts of interest and maintaining enough consensus for long enough to overcome the royalists.
While isolated from the main theatres of military operations, the county of Essex was a major contributor of horses, men, and money to the parliamentarian war effort. This was not simply determined by the dominance of pro-parliament puritans in county government. Authority still had to be negotiated both within and outside the county. This paper will explore experiences of war in Essex in 1642-45, demonstrating the complexity of networks of power, and how conflicts could arise within them and be resolved. The pressures of war revealed that even the distinction between man and beast was not as clear as the chain of being might suggest.
Over at Victoria’s Cross, Gary Smailes posted a link to an article about the history of memorialisation from the Imperial War Museum. The article includes a photo of the memorial to the royalist officers Sir Charles Lucas and Sir George Lisle, who were executed on the orders of Sir Thomas Fairfax after the siege of Colchester in 1648. The article presents English Civil War memorials in terms of “deeds of heroism”, and by omitting the background to their execution perhaps unintentionally implies that Lucas and Lisle were victims or even martyrs. It’s worth pointing out that they were both executed for breaking their parole — they had previously surrendered to Parliament and promised not to fight again. Even so, this is quite an unusual case, and might be explained by the bitterness and frustration engendered by the siege of Colchester. Another interesting aspect which the article doesn’t mention is that there was a long running feud between the Lucas family and the borough of Colchester, which makes it ironic that the town now has a memorial to Sir Charles.