Friday, 4 September 2020

A morning’s reflection

Like most people, my daily routine is fairly fixed. I check my incoming e-mails, look at the Google alerts I have for topics in early modern history and then look at twitter for items of interest posted by historians. I do not look as often as I should at the account of Susan Amussen, the widow of the late David Underdown, but this morning, thirty-five years after their marriage, she put up a photograph from their celebrations that conveyed her absolute delight on that day.

My original intention had been to comment on Neil McKendrick’s memoir on the life of Jack Plumb, the existence of which I discovered via Keith Livesey’s blog, A Trumpet of Sedition. It arrived on the last day of August and I finished reading it on Wednesday.[1] I do remember Plumb delivering the James Ford lectures in Oxford in Hilary Term of 1965 and hearing from him how the Tory Party of the late-seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries was now finished.

But I had no idea of the personal animosities and academic feuds which Plumb was pursuing in Cambridge and elsewhere. Needless to say, I was surprised to learn a day late when reading the last volume of Isaiah Berlin’s correspondence that Plumb had had a heart attack whilst dancing too vigorously at the Buckingham Palace party after the marriage of Lady Diana Spencer to Prince Charles. Plumb apparently had not received a sufficiently prestigious card of invitation.[2]

More seriously, I spotted on the website of the National Archives a piece by Richard Knight on the levying of Ship Money in the 1630s. He has been working on the Privy Council’s registers for the 1630s which, inevitably, contain a good deal of material on this subject. Oddly though, he has not used Alison Gill’s highly important 1991 Sheffield University thesis which illustrates how a collection of the levy collapsed in the late-1630s after the judgment in Hampden’s case.

Christopher Thompson 4th September 2020 

[1] Neil McKendrick, Sir John Plumb. The Hidden Life of a Great Historian. A Personal Memoir. (EER Publishers. Brighton, Sussex. 2020)

[2] Affirming. Letters 1975-1997. Isaiah Berlin. Edited by Henry Hardy and Mark Pottle. (Pimlico. London. 2017), page 174.