Macbeth at Shakespeare’s Globe

Credit: Shakespeare's Globe.

Credit: Shakespeare’s Globe.

“Out, out, brief candle!” With the theatre dark and the stage lit, spooky singing was the order of the day for Shakespeare’s Macbeth at the reconstructed Globe Theatre. For most of those in the History FSP group, it was the first time seeing the Scottish Play and, while the new Globe is known more for its ambience than its theatrical brilliance, the production was entertaining, albeit with a few too many Trump references thrown in.

The burly, militaristic portrayal of the Thane of Cawdor’s slow descent into madness and the almost naive-seeming King Malcolm set an eerie slate for the tragedy of Scotland, while the operatic rendition of the witches’ songs and the madness alit betwixt them and Lady Macbeth cut through the somber atmosphere of the performance with an electric tempestuousness.

While not all the group stayed throughout the performance (“My hands are of your color, but I shame/To wear a heart so white,” perhaps?), those that did were treated to a dramatic conclusion and, for some, an enjoyable conversational recap on the tube ride back to Hampden House.

The choice of grey coats was interesting; while not as loaded a motif as it is in the United States, the Confederacy imagery was hard to ignore. Do with that as you will.

Visiting Hampton Court

During the weekend following our orientation week at UCL, the History FSP along with some members of the Government FSP took a train out to Hampton Court Palace. We were all tired after a week of getting lost trying to navigate London, but the trip was completely worth it.

Henry VII Tudor

Henry VII, the first Tudor King of England and father of Henry VIII. Defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field, ending the Wars of the Roses. A politically astute man, Henry VII would be turning in his grave if he knew about some of the decisions his son would go on to make while living at Hampton Court.

Originally a site of no great importance, in 1514 Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, the Archbishop of York and Lord Chancellor of England under Henry VIII, began building the extravagant and lavish Hampton Court Palace. It was meant to impress upon foreign dignitaries and the English nobility the power of the Lord Chancellor and the relatively young Tudor dynasty. Wolsey told King Henry VIII that the palace was being built in his name and honor, so as not to trigger the young Tudor king’s famous jealousy and temper. When Wolsey failed to get Henry a Papal annulment for his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, he fell out of favor with the larger than life king and Hampton Court was seized by the Crown. Various English and British monarchs have lived in and rebuilt Hampton Court to suit their needs. From William III of Orange to George I, it was clear as we walked through Hampton Court that various projects, courtly traditions, and personal tastes have left their mark on the palace.

Walking through the front gate to Hampton Court there is a long pathway leading to the main entrance. The length of and views from the pathway immediately convey the sheer size and grandeur of the palace without even having to enter. The palace is not meant to be defended against attack, indicative of the centralization, stability, and security of England’s renaissance monarchy. Upon passing under the main arch, decorated with Tudor roses on the interior ceiling, there is a large courtyard with various entrances. Our group walked through the one leading to the Great Hall, in which Henry VIII would feast with his courtiers. Lavishly decorated with stained glass and the heads of game, the Great Hall was furnished with tables, tapestries, informational guides on dining and courtly entertainment in the 1500s, and an ornate dining table and chairs for the King and his companion of choice

Throughout the palace, I tried my best to get lost, but no matter where I went there were various videos playing explaining the history of the Tudor dynasty and its significance in bringing England to the world stage, Henry VIII’s six wives, his children Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth, and the monarchs that came after the Tudors. An area of the palace that I particularly enjoyed was the huge kitchens with real roasting spits and model bread ovens, ale storage, herbs, spices, and 16th century cookware. I also spent a lot of time in several courtyards with fountains and a garden with a variety of roses, the symbol of the Tudor dynasty.

The entire FSP stopped at a cozy café within the palace itself for coffee and tea in a rustic dining area. Nearby, there were various gift shops selling everything from foodstuffs modeled after what was cooked, eaten, or drunk by Henry VIII to teas and chocolate that became popular at court after Britain established its empire.

Arthur, Prince of Wales

Arthur, Prince of Wales at age 15. Henry VIII’s elder brother and Henry VII’s eldest son and heir, betrothed to Catherine of Aragon and groomed to be King. Passed away at age 15. How different would the world be if England had a King Arthur instead of Henry VIII?

Outdoors, we saw acres upon acres of gardens, fountains, outdoor walkways, a maze to get lost in, and horse carriages giving tours of the beautifully maintained landscape. An indoor tennis court could also be accessed from the outside, in which people were playing the form of tennis played in Henry VIII’s day, “real tennis.” Before he became fat and unsightly, Henry VIII was an attractive and athletic prince, called Prince Harry by those who loved him and standing at a towering 6’2’’.  He loved his sport and being watched by his courtiers. From hunting to tennis, Hampton court allowed Henry to have fun and entertain his court.

Young Prince Henry

Henry VIII at age 15, shortly after becoming King of England. 

Throughout the entire palace, there are various galleries of art, gift shops, gardens, and mock displays meant to convey the realities of court life under the various monarchs who called Hampton Court a home. For all Tudor buffs or anyone who has watched or read Wolf Hall or watched Showtime’s The Tudors, Hampton Court is a must visit and a place to get lost in for a day while you’re in London.

Working in the Archives

My independent research is about how universities responded to conscription laws during the Second World War. Students were conscripted at different times in their academic careers depending on what they were studying, with science, technology, and medical students getting more time at university before going to war than those studying arts or humanities.

So far, I’ve done work in the National Archives and the archives of the University of London. I’ve really enjoyed working in the university archives because they apparently don’t get used often, so the staff and the university archivist were all really excited that I wanted to use the archive. They helped me navigate the finding aid and select materials to look at, and while I work they often check in on me and chat about my progress. Some of the documents I’ve looked at include the diary of a librarian during the war, the minutes of the Military Education Committee, and a memorandum sent to the University Grants Committee (essentially begging for more money because many university buildings had bomb damage).

I went to the National Archives for the first time last week with Allison and Rachel. Though much more efficient, the National Archives lacked the personal warmth of the university archives. It would be possible to do a whole day of work there without interacting with another human being. After making an online reservation for a seat in the reading room, you fill out an online order form for your materials and they arrive in a cubby corresponding to your seat number about an hour later. The reading room is huge and rather sad looking. It’s filled with dozens of tables in clusters. It’s silent. There are people in blue coats who monitor the room and scold you if you handle documents incorrectly. While working in the National Archives was a less friendly experience, I did enjoy getting to read Parliamentary discussions about the bills that affected universities during the war.

Archival research is much slower than I expected. Much time is spent waiting for documents to reach you, and then sifting through papers that are irrelevant to your topic. Even though I’ve barely scratched the surface of my topic, it’s amazing getting to see all the information that’s preserved in these spaces. Despite the tedious parts, it’s really cool trying to find a bigger narrative or meaningful message behind the words someone scribbled on a scrap of paper in 1944.

Hello world!

We (The fall 2016 History FSP program – 16 amazing students and me) have been in London for about 10 days.  Classes have started, two walking tours are under our belt, a trip to Hampton Court, and a viewing of MacBeth at the Globe.  And lots of exploring.  Here we are (with Professor Lockyer) yesterday at Somerset House, at the end of the Walking Tour.  We did 20,000 steps!  (Posted by Gaposchkin, 10.5.2016)