Fake news: a very (early) modern problem

Fake news and misinformation have hit the headlines recently as concerns grow about its extent and impact. In this guest post, Dr Francis Young examines the parallels between contemporary digital fake news and English civil war newsbooks. Dr Young is a historian of early modern England and the Catholic Record Society’s Volumes Editor. You can follow him on twitter @SuffolkRecusant.

In the immediate aftermath of the US election, Facebook came under fire for allowing ‘fake news’ to dominate its platform, and there was much lamenting that traditional print media – which, in theory, at least tries to verifies sources and stories – has been replaced by social media as the source of ‘news’ for many people. The ‘fake news’ problem raises many profound and interesting questions about what ‘news’ really is, and what makes it ‘real’ as opposed to ‘fake’, but commentators have perhaps been too hasty in assuming facebook-fakesthat fake news is something new and something alien to the ‘traditional print media’. In fact, the pattern of user-generated news that we see on contemporary social media platforms is closer to the original pattern of dissemination of news in the first age of print.

Defining what counts as ‘fake news’ is not straightforward, given the traditional print media’s overt political bias, spinning of rumours, wilful misinterpretation of statistical data, and editorial decisions to foreground minor stories and ignore many newsworthy ones. However, a strict definition of ‘fake news’ would exclude speculative stories that might be true and are supported by anonymous sources. The reporting of such stories with the implication that they are fact may be dubious journalism, but it is the longstanding practice of the tabloid press. ‘Fake news’, in the strict sense, would have to be the kind of story that no conventional newspaper or news website would run because it directly contradicts easily verifiable fact: for instance, the report that Donald Trump won the popular vote in the US election as well as the votes of the electoral college. No conventional media would run with a story that is demonstrably false; to do so would run the risk of being discredited as a news outlet or sullying the ‘brand’ of a conventional newspaper. Continue reading

Alehouse Characters #3: The Wastrel Husband

Mark Hailwood

This is the third in a series of posts written to mark the publication of my book, Alehouses and Good Fellowship in Early Modern England, which is now available in paperback. Monster readers can take advantage of a special offer to get 25% off (getting the book for just £13.49) by using the promotion code ‘BB125’ when ordering here. Each post in this series focuses on a character that features in the book, and uses them to highlight some of my key themes and arguments.

As we saw in the previous post, the rising popularity of alehouses and good fellowship in seventeenth-century England met with considerable opposition from Church and State. But concerns over developments in England’s drinking culture did not just emanate from hostile ruling elites—from the ‘top down’—they were also voiced within popular culture. This can be seen most clearly in contemporary anxieties that ‘good fellowship’ spawned ‘wastrel husbands’. One such example is the central character of this post: John Jarret.

John Jarret

John Jarret

Jarret, like Roaring Dick of Dover, is the central character of a broadside ballad, and whilst both men are keen partakers of alehouse good fellowship, John Jarret’s drinking is portrayed in rather more problematic terms than Roaring Dick’s. Rather than being a celebration of good fellowship, the ballad featuring Jarret—narrated by his long suffering wife—is a warning about its dire consequences.[1] Continue reading

Alehouse Characters #1: The Jovial Good Fellow

Mark Hailwood

This is the first in a series of posts written to mark the publication of my book, Alehouses and Good Fellowship in Early Modern England, which is now available in paperback. Monster readers can take advantage of a special offer to get 25% off (getting the book for just £13.49) by using the promotion code ‘BB125’ when ordering here. Each post in this series focuses on a character that features in the book, and uses them to highlight some of my key themes and arguments.

Meet our first alehouse character: Roaring Dick of Dover, the Jovial Good Fellow of Kent.

Roaring Dick of Dover

Roaring Dick of Dover

Roaring Dick is the narrator of an eponymous 1630s drinking ballad of the sort that would have been performed in, and perhaps even pasted onto the walls of, England’s seventeenth-century alehouses. Continue reading

‘The Rabble that Cannot Read’? Ordinary People’s Literacy in Seventeenth-Century England

Mark Hailwood

Those of us historians intent on exploring the world of ordinary women and men in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries conduct a lot of our research by looking at surviving examples of what such people read–for instance, cheap printed broadside ballads–or of what they wrote–take, say, Joseph Bufton’s notebooks. These materials are fascinating and undoubtedly useful, but regular readers of this blog might understandably find themselves wondering about the validity of this approach, and asking themselves a simple but important question: to what extent could the lower classes of England actually read and write in the seventeenth century?

David Teniers the Younger 'Peasants Reading a Letter...' But could they?

David Teniers the Younger ‘Peasants Reading a Letter…’ But could they?

It’s a fair question, and has important implications. Does this material really provide a window into the minds of the most humble people in Tudor and Stuart society, or were reading and writing skills the preserve of the more affluent, or at least the middling, classes of society? After all, in 1691 the puritan writer Richard Baxter had described his lower-class neighbours as ‘the rabble that cannot read’. Was this fair? Continue reading

Living Broadside Ballads: An Immersive Conference Experience

Mark Hailwood (I’m now on twitter: follow me @mark_hailwood)

As many readers of the ‘monster will know, April is one of the academic year’s prime conference seasons – and this year I threw myself into it with gusto, delivering three different papers on two continents in the space of a week. Now I’ve recovered, I wanted to offer some reflections on a unique conference experience that I enjoyed at the Huntington Library’s ‘Living English Broadside Ballads, 1550-1750’ event, convened by Paddy Fumerton of EBBA fame.

‘Immersive’ history has been an important theme of many posts on this blog; that is, an approach to history that concerns itself not only with surviving written sources, but also with the sights, sounds and material traces of past society. So it was fascinating to attend a conference that sought to ‘bring to life’ the various aspects of early modern printed ballads, not just as texts but as songs, dances and visual objects. This isn’t a conventional paper-by-paper conference report, but rather a selection of some of the highlights that spoke to this idea of ‘immersive’ history: Continue reading

A post written in the stars

Laura Sangha

According to my horoscope, consulted on the website of a popular entertainment magazine, this will be a good week for me. With six planets in my sign, I’m ‘the one to watch!’. I might be feeling the pressure, but before the week is out, ‘luck will come’. Excellent news, I am sure you will agree. Look in most entertainment magazines and tabloid papers and you would hardly be surprised to find the similar revelations in the stars, tucked away somewhere between the week’s television and the latest suduko. You might be more interested to discover that, unlike wikipedia currently suggests, astrology did not gain broader consumer popularity through the influence of ‘regular mass media products’ in the twentieth century, but in fact had a ‘popular’ following many centuries before then.

The search for order and meaning in the sky is, of course, ancient. No one would deny that there is an obvious link between the sun and events on earth. As winter finally loosens its grip here in the UK you might be particularly aware of this right now. The northern hemisphere is slowly exposed to more direct sunlight because of the tilt of the earth’s axis, the days lengthen, the altitude of the sun changes, the sun feels hotter. As a result, animals change their behaviour, plants and trees burst into life, and Brits start donning shorts and having shivery picnics at the seaside.

A diagram of the heavens from a 1613 almanac.The evident link between the celestial bodies and terrestrial events was no less obvious to our forebears, and it led very naturally to an interest in the heavens. It was common to wonder how else the celestial bodies might influence life on earth. Lunar cycles were being recorded on cave walls as early as 25,000 years ago; the first organised system of astrology arose in the second millennium BC in Babylon; it was developed by the Greeks and Romans, and refined by Arabic practitioners. By the early modern period it was a very well established scholarly tradition, backed up by scriptural references: Jesus’ birth was of course marked by the appearance of a new star in the sky that the wise men followed to Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1-2), and at the beginning of the world ‘God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years’ (Genesis 1:14).

Thomas Blount gave a neat early modern definition in his 1656 Glossographia or a Dictionary (and note Blount’s qualification which preserves God’s omnipotence as well as man’s free will):

Astrology: Astrology is a Science which tels the Reasons of the Stars and Planets motions. Astrology doth promise by the motion and influence of Stars and Planets to foretel things to come, or it professeth to discover the influence and domination of the superior Globe over the inferior, and therefore may be tearmed a kind of natural divination, so long as it keeps it self in due limits, and arrogates not too much to its certainty; into which excess if it once break forth, it can then be no longer called natural Divination, but superstitious and wicked; for the Stars may incline, but not impose a necessity in particular things.

The characters of the xii signes... so that every man will understand them.

The characters of the xii signes… so that every man will understand them.

Natural astrology was concerned with the general character of planetary influences in such fields as agriculture and medicine; judicial astrology was the attempt to interpret these influences to make prediction and give advice (so tabloid stars are an example of this). Mastery of the science of astrology took skill and was intellectually demanding, and as a result, sixteenth-century astrology tended to be the domain of the learned and elite members of society. In seventeenth-century England however, this began to change, as a result of the emergence of handbooks which set out the basic rules of astrology and the rise of the ‘almanac’. Sorry wikipedia, but popular knowledge of the science was therefore probably greater in the Tudor and Stuart period than ever before or since.

The anatomy of a mans body, as the parts thereof are governed by the 12 celestial signs

The anatomy of a mans body, as the parts thereof are governed by the 12 celestial signs.

An almanac was an annual, short, cheap publication with a range of material in it. It fulfilled a variety of roles, offering religious, moral, practical as well as astrological advice. Usually the first section had a calendar and details of planetary motions and conjunctions. Along with the prognostications, there was often also an ‘Anatomy’ or ‘zodiacal man’, as well as information on local fairs, highways, the phases of the moon, feast days, medical and farming advice. Often almanacs had a secondary role as a notebook or diary (look at the front of your diary, mine still has ‘useful information’ including astronomical information), and therefore they were worth hanging on to, and many survive, luckily for us. Bernard Capp[1] has shown that the genre allowed astrology to take on a new social dimension. They served as handbooks that set out the basic rules to astrology in a clear and simple manner, for use by all sorts of people, from peers to serving-maids. Astrological terms passed into common usage: think ‘jovial’, ‘lunatic’, ‘mercurial’. And almanacs were really the starting point for this post – I was idling browsing a few from spring 1613, exactly 400 years ago, wondering what sort of things were going on back then, and I thought it would be an excellent idea to share some of that advice with monster readers, to set them up for the summer.[2] Enjoy!

WARNING: This stuff is a bit dated, for the most cutting edge advice you should probably turn to biodynamic gardening, where ‘gardeners plough, prepare, sow, plant, harvest and compost according to the phases of the moon and the constellations (signs) it passes through’.

1613 HISTORY: How many years is it since….

Frontispiece to John Woodhouse's alamanac for 1613.

Frontispiece to John Woodhouse’s alamanac for 1613.

  • The world began: 5562
  • Noah’s flood: 3906
  • Conquest of the Romans: 1664
  • Coming of the Saxons: 1163
  • Coming of the Danes: 774
  • Conquest of the Normans: 546
  • The Battle at Agincourt: 197
  • Printing first used: 153 [1460]
  • The first use of coaches in England: 58
  • Pauls Steeple burned with lightening: 52
  • The rebellion in the North: 44 [a reference to the 1569 Rebellion of the Northern Earls in reign of Elizabeth I]
  • The great snow: 34
  • The general earthquake: 33 [also known as the Dover Straits earthquake, 1580]
  • Tilburie Campe: 25 [a reference to the Spanish Armada, 1588]


What phase of the moon should I….

  • Cut hedges? Between the change and the full, from the end of Jan till the beginning of June
  • Geld cattle? In Aries, Libra and Sagittarius, the moon being past the full
  • ‘Dung land’ that weeds may not abound? In the old of the moon

How can I tell if there will be rain or foule weather?

If the sun is fiery at his rising. If he rise and a little after be covered with great black clouds. If the horns of the new moon are blunt. When bells are heard further than usual. When wainscot doors and wooden coverings open straighter than of custom. When swine and peacocks make a great noise. When birds be busy in washing themselves. Moles behaving busily. Cattle eating greedily, and licking their hooves.

What should I be doing in the outdoors at the moment?

Working outside? You'll want to know when it will be light then.

Working outside? You’ll want to know when it will be light then.

In April you should sow barley, hemp, and flax, and some of your garden seeds, as cowcumbers, citrons, melons and artichokes. Good housewives should now begin to be busy about their Dairies, and tanners to pill barke.

In May you should sow barley, set and sow tender herbs and seeds, set stills to work, stir land for wheat and rye, stop lopping trees, weed winter corn, teach hops to climb, but cut off the superfluous branches, and watch your bees.

More generally, cold will diminish and living creatures will begin to recover their strength lost over the winter. Soon the earth will put on her new yearly ornaments, beasts, fowls and birds will make harmony.

When and where can I go to a fayre?

There are too many to mention, but on 1 May try Leicester, Brickhill, Reading, Warwick, Maidstone, Lichfield and Stanstead. On the 3 May try Waltham Abbey, Cowbridge, Benbigh, Knighton. In Rogation week: Beverly, Engfield, Horsham. On Ascension Day: Kidderminster, Bishops-Stratford, Wigan, Burton, Bridgend.

MORAL ADVICE: What good deeds shall I do this season?

The deeds of hospitality would be useful: feed the hungry, cloth the naked, be good to the widow and the fatherless. Remember:

Hast thou 2 Loafs, 2 Coats, give one of each
To him that pines and starves (I thee beseech)
Alas! (Rich man) thou know’st not what thy
May come unto, when thou art dead and gone.
Farmers! give th’ poor some corn. Shepherds give
Some cloth the back, some fill the Belly full
Doctors, give Physick for mere Charity:
Millers, be sure ye grind their Corn toll-free.


April is a good month to have a spring clean – not only of your house, but also of your body. It is the fittest time of year to ease diseased bodies, and to restore by means of evacuation and blood letting. Remember with this simple rhyme:

Learn the most ausipcious times to let blood with this simple guide.

Learn the most auspicious times to let blood with this simple guide.

This month all things their strength renew,
by letting of blood, you shall not rue
The pores open and blood abounds,
or purging, also no harme redounds.

And finally, beware. The sicknesses of spring are melancholy, madness, the falling sickness, nosebleeds, coughs, itch, scabs, ulcers , gout, pain in the joints, and also, ‘some strange diseases’….

[1] Bernard Capp, Astrology and the Popular Press (London, 1979).

[2] The extracts are taking from the following almanacs: John Dade, A new almanacke and prognostication, 1613; John Johnson, An almanacke and prognostication for this yeere of our lord and sauiour Iesus Christ 1613; William Mathew, 1613 a new almanacke and prognostication, for the yeare of our Lord God; John Woodhouse, A plaine almanacke and prognostication, 1613; John Bucknall, The Shepherds Almanack, being a diary or register for the year 1676.

Workers’ Representation Part Three: Mining and Modernity

Mark Hailwood

So, I thought it was about time to introduce another image of woodcut workers from my trawls through the English Broadside Ballad Archive, and what could be more appropriate than an image from a special new year’s ballad: A New-Years-Gift for Covetous Colliers, published sometime in the 1680s or 1690s. The ballad itself praises Parliament for acting against price-hiking colliers – those involved mainly in the distribution and sale of coal – but includes an image of the primary workers in the coal trade, miners:


The image isn’t particularly remarkable. There is no evidence in this depiction of the hostile stereotype that miners were a ‘race apart’ from other workers; no coal-blackened faces to help symbolise this cultural otherness; no visual indicators that miners were, as Daniel Defoe put it, ‘subterranean wretches…a rude, boorish kind of people’.[1] Continue reading

The Starlings Go to War

Laura Sangha

It’s that time of year when I am always reminded of one of my favourite providential pamphlets, The Wonderfull Battell of Starelings,fought at the Citie of Corke in Ireland, the 12. and 14. of October, 1621.[1] The pamphlet was published by a London printer in 1622, is short at nine pages, and it also has a wonderful woodcut that gives a graphic rendering of the events described in the text.

The pamphlet described howabout the seuenth of October last, 1621 there gathered together by degrees, an vnusual multitude of birds called Stares, in some Countries knowne by the name of Starlings’. The birds ‘mustered together … some foure of fiue daies, before they fought their battels, euery day more and more encreasing their armies with greater supplies, some came as from the East, others from the West, and so accordingly they placed themselues, and as it were encamped themselues eastward and westward about the citie’. Finally, on Saturday morning, at around nine o’clock:

vpon a strange sound and noise made as well on the one side as on the other, they forthwith at one instant tooke wing, and so mounting vp into the skyes, encountered one another, with such a terrible shocke, as the sound amazed the whole city and all the beholders. Vpon this sodaine and fierce encounter, there fell downe into the citie, and into the Riuers, multitudes of Starelings … some with wings broken, some with legs and necks broken, some with eies pickt out, some their bils thrust into the brests & sides of their aduersaries, in so strange a manner, that it were incredible except it were confirmed by letters of credit, and by eye-witnesses, with that assurance which is without all exception.

This ‘admirable and most violent battell’ continued with several more encounters between the two sides, before the birds seemed to vanish, so that on Sunday not one was seen about the city. On Monday the birds returned again for a final terrible assault, when many more wounded and dead birds fell into the streets of Cork. The pamphlet finishes with some rather brief and generic comments that the reader should not search out the reasons for such ‘ wonderfull workes of Almighty God’, but we should remember that ‘it doth prognosticate either Gods mercy to draw vs to repentance, or his iustice to punish our sinnes and wickednesse’.

The pamphlet’s description of strange events interpreted within a (loose) providential framework makes it typical for the time, and thanks to Alexandra Walsham, we can easily make sense of what at first seems to be a bizarre account.[2] We have already encountered this type of material on the monster. It is a great resource for teaching with, introducing students to the idea of the ‘difference’ of the early modern period – although there are lots of elements of this past society that seems familiar to us, material like this confronts us with the vast gap between the early modern outlook and mentality, and our own. They see God’s intervention in the world to create an unnatural event (birds aping human military activity), their interpretive framework, their means of making sense of the event is providential, it is religious.

What do we see? Probably we would see a ‘murmuration’: starlings gathering into large flocks in the autumn evenings – it is a natural event, spectacular, but perfectly normal. Our interpretive framework is not religious but scientific, the starlings are “always ready to optimally respond to an external perturbation, such as predator attack,” according to a Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences paper.  When dead birds fall from our skies, we call in the veterinary inspectors, carry out tests, blame fireworks, the internet, UFOs – as you can see in this news report, our modern day equivalent of the early modern pamphlet.

Of course it isn’t as straightforward as that – it never is. Early modern people were not ignorant of bird behaviour, and they certainly knew about autumnal flocks, as you can see from this extract from an almanac of 1700:

Signs of Cold weather, or hard winter.

THE Suns setting in a Mist, looking Red, and Broader than usual.  The Clearness of the stars, and their much Twinkling.  Starlings, Feldefars, and other Birds of a Hot Nature, hastening in great Flocks or Flights from the Northern to the southern Climates. [3]

In fact, further investigation quickly uncovered further titbits about the birds: they were good mimics, valued for their singing, and could be caught and kept for pets.

One of the many illustrations in R. Blome’s ‘Gentlemans Recreation’, this one depicts the practice of hawking.

R. Blome, The gentlemans recreation in two parts : the first being an encyclopedy of the arts and sciences … the second part treats of horsmanship, hawking, hunting, fowling, fishing, and agriculture (London, 1705).

The STARLING.This is a very docile Bird, and if taken out of the Nest young is apt to learn both to walk and Whistle. ‘Tis a hardy Bird; their food is Sheeps-Hearts, or other raw Flesh, hard Eggs minced, Hemp-seed, wet Bread, and the like.

John Ray, The ornithology of Francis Willughby of Middleton in the county of Warwick Esq, fellow of the Royal Society in three books (London, 1678).

§. VII. How to take Stares with a limed string: out of Olina’s Uccelliera.Take a small string of a yard or thereabout long, bind it fast to the Tail of a Stare, having first carefully limed it all over, excepting one Palm next the bird. Having found a flock of Starlings, come as near to them as possible, holding your Stare by the wings as near as you can, and let her go to her fellows, which as soon as you shew your self to them, will presently take wing: Your tail-tied Stare endeavouring to secure her self of her liberty, thrusting her self into the middle of her fellows, will entangle many of them, and so not being able to fly, they will afford a pleasant spectacle in tumbling down to the ground: where you must be ready with a Brush or Besom to strike them down. Many other devices there are to take several sorts of birds with Lime-rods, &c. which I think needless to set down; it being not difficult for an ingenious Fowler to invent as good or better, when he shall have opportunity of taking those kinds of Birds.

Aside from this fascinating insight into just what these country folk were up to, this is a further reminder that early modern people were far from ignorant about the world around them, but that the battle of the starlings points to areas of divergence in underlying assumptions, outlooks, and technological and intellectual understandings between their society and ours. At certain moments, certain people would turn to a religious interpretation, though it is clear that this was not the only explanation on offer.

A sketch of a starling from John Ray’s ‘Ornithology’. Ray was a fellow of the Royal Society.

Of course, the significance of the battle has been attached by the pamphlet’s author, perhaps as a means to justify printing his entertaining report – a moral message makes it worthy of publication. Or maybe it was a way to appease the author’s printer Nicholas Blount, who seems to have adhered to Calvinist principles: Blount refused to print plays and other frivolous material, so the author’s religious framework was perhaps necessary concession with its roots in the world of commerce. They key thing is, that when we look beyond cheap printed pamphlets the interpretations might diversify.

The other thing that strikes me about all these birds mustering together and plummeting from the heavens, is that in some respects a certain amount of faith is needed to accept our scientific explanations. Scientists admit that starling flocks ‘transcend biology’, and that science has only a sketchy understanding of what the phenomena is all about – there is much more ‘still to be discovered’. Our modern confidence that we will eventually work it out contrasts with the early modern warning not too look into these mysteries too deeply, highlighting yet more difference. Yet there is also similarity: this clip was filmed recently in Ireland, and science alone might find it hard to explain the sense of awe in wonder inspired by the sight and sounds of the murmuration even today. The clip also makes it much easier for us to appreciate where the ‘battell’ interpretation came from. I strongly recommend that you watch the video (it gets really good about 50 seconds in), and perhaps let me know what you see.

[1] Anon, The wonderfull battell of starelings fought at the citie of Corke in Ireland, the 12. and 14. of October last past 1621 (London, 1622), STC (2nd ed.) / 5767.

[2] Alexandra Walsham, Providence in Early Modern England (Oxford: OUP, 1999).

[3] C.P., The sheepherd’s new kalender: or, The citizens & country man’s daily companion treating of most things that are useful, profitable, delightful, and advantageous to mankind (London, 1700), Wing (2nd ed.) / P11.

Norwich Entertainments – Part V: Ballad-singers and dangerous news, with coffee

Brodie Waddell

The people of late seventeenth-century Norwich did not get their entertainment solely from hairy children and pieces of plays. They also amused themselves with the ever-growing numbers of printed works that were pouring from the presses at that time.

In June 1680, for example, the Norwich Mayor’s court ordered that ‘Twoe Ballad singers haveing Lycence to Sell ballads, pamphlets small bookes & other bookes Lycensed from the Office of the Revells have leave to doe soe until Monday senight [?seven-night]’.1

Ballad entitled ‘An Excellent New Sonnet On the Goddess Diana and Acteon’ (c.1725-69). EBBA.

Title-page of a chapbook titled ‘The Life and Death of Fayr Rosamond’ (1755). SF.

These balladeers were just two of the hundreds that traipsed through the city streets and country lanes of early modern England, singing to advertise their wares. The exact contents of a peddler’s sack could be very diverse. In addition to all sorts of petty trinkets, they sold tales of drunken sailors, royal mistresses, industrious spinsters, and much else besides. Often these were in the form of broadside song sheets, but they might also be ‘pamphlets’ and ‘small books’, sometimes called chapbooks, written in prose to provide merriment or salvation for the price of penny or two. Margaret Spufford and Tessa Watt, among many others,  have discussed this ‘cheap print’ in much more detail, noting that ballad-sellers were often condemned by the authorities as vagrants. But in late seventeenth-century Norwich at least they seem to have been welcomed by both the townspeople and city officials.

Rather more unusual, however, was the license issued to a man a year earlier. In November 1679, the court declared that ‘Lawrence White is allowed to reade & sell Pamphlets on Horsebacke untill Wednesday next’.2 Continue reading

Workers’ Representation Part Two: Making Hay

Mark Hailwood

Herein lies the second installment of my blog series on woodcut images of workers

As I sit here in fenland fog, my mind drifts back to sun-baked Californian afternoons at the Huntington Library. Often I would avail myself of a short break from such wonders as the Ashby-de-la-Zouch manor court records, and pop upstairs to the office of the Director of Research, Steve Hindle (who also happens to have been my PhD supervisor) to either pick his brains or raid his bookshelves.

On one such afternoon we fell to discussing the following painting that hangs upon his office wall, a depiction of the Montagu family at their Sandleford Priory estate in Berkshire, by Edward Haytley, commissioned in 1743:

The Montagus at Sandleford Priory
Source: hayinart

At first I was a bit worried – what was this flag bearer of ‘history from below’ doing with an aggrandising portrait of the rural gentry in pride of place on his wall? Continue reading