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British Expat Communities in Portugal and Spain, Post-Brexit

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We are preparing to gather case studies and data on the experiences and concerns of British expats currently living in Portugal and Spain, in the aftermath of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. We intend to evaluate the impact the continued uncertainty is having on these communities, in the lead up to the expected triggering of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty by the end of March 2017.

BBC News (2 October 2016) Brexit: Theresa May to trigger Article 50 by end of March

If you are interested in taking part in this study, please contact:

elizabeth.evenden-kenyon@brunel.ac.uk

Data with be gathered via an online questionnaire (by invitation only). Any information provided can remain anonymous.

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Uncertainty faced by British Expats Post-Brexit in the news:

The Wall Street Journal British Expats Face Uncertain Future After Brexit

International Business Times British expats in Spain fear for future in adopted homeland post-Brexit

The Independent EU referendum risks British expats’ pensions, health care and public services

 

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Anglo-Iberian Relations in Post-Brexit Britain #AIRPBB

As Home Office figures have confirmed this week, there was a sharp increase in Hate Crimes  after the UK Referendum: figures leaped by 41% in the month after the vote to leave the European Union, with the number of incidents doubling in the days shortly after the vote. Verbal and physical assaults on migrant workers in the UK have risen sharply. We are very aware that some members of our academic community have been on the receiving end of unwelcome activity, and many have voiced their concerns over their future employment in the UK. These are turbulent times for our staunchly-inclusive community. We are pleased to hear stories of support for all who have been affected by the result.

Matthew Weaver, The Guardian, 13 October 2016: Hate crimes soared after EU referendum, Home Office figures confirm2000px-flag_of_europe_vertical-svg-1

‘Write to Remain’ campaign launched to guarantee rights of EU citizens

Those of us who work in education have heard some of our UK and migrant colleagues voice their concerns and experiences as we try to navigate this post-Brexit landscape. We believe it is important to map and voice these concerns and experiences, as well as to highlight positive action.

The Anglo-Iberian Network would therefore like to gather case studies on the experiences of Portuguese and Spanish academics, students, and communities, living and working in the UK, in the wake of the #Leave vote. (We are particularly conscious of the impact of the decision to #Leave on those who feel their voices were silenced by being denied the right to vote.)

NUS: 16 and 17 year olds denied the right to vote on their future

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If you would like to share your experiences and concerns (anonymously, or otherwise) of living and working in the UK with the Anglo-Iberian Network, or if you would like to help us gather data, please do get in touch.

We would like to hear from Portuguese and Spanish colleagues, and any others concerned about how the Brexit vote has had an impact on our lives, livelihoods, families, workplaces, careers, and so forth to date.

Please contact: elizabeth.evenden-kenyon@brunel.ac.uk to get involved.

We will ensure your voices are heard. #AIRPBB

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Catholic Record Society Conference 2015: Marian Catholicism and its legacy

A lovely summer's day in Cambridge, looking across the grass at Downing, while heading to dinner on Day 2.
A lovely summer’s day in Cambridge, looking across the grass at Downing, while heading to dinner on Day 2 of the conference.

This year’s Catholic Record Society (CRS) Conference was held at beautiful Downing College, Cambridge, during 20-22 July 2015. I was part of a panel on Marian Catholicism and its legacy, with Fred Smith (University of Cambridge,@Fred_E_Smith) and Ceri Law (Queen Mary, University of London,@Ceri_Law). It proved to be three days of vibrant and stimulating discussion, and was organised with great efficiency by Liesbeth Corens (University of Cambridge,@onslies) and Hannah Thomas (Durham University,@HannahJane85). Our abstracts are outlined below and full details of the conference and the Society can be found here:

http://catholicrecordsociety.co.uk/

(You can also follow the CRS on Twitter:@CatholicRS.)

ABSTRACTS

Dr Elizabeth Evenden – Catholicism under Philip and Mary: English and Spanish perspectives and the Elizabethan propaganda machine

It is hard to escape the influence of John Foxe’s Acts and Monuments on the history of English religious history; its perception of events persists, even in the media and heritage industries of England today. Perhaps the most provocative piece of propaganda of its age, Foxe’s narrative of the reign of Philip and Mary was relentless in its depiction of the alleged evils of Catholicism. At the apex of this evil practice was Spanish Catholicism. This paper will consider what Foxe had to say about the Spanish but also what the Spanish clerics and courtiers in England at the time had to say about the English (a viewpoint inevitably ignored by Foxe).

By examining Foxe and other contemporary printed sources, this paper sets them in the context of the manuscript sources available for those who were at the heart of the Spanish contingent in England. It considers the events in England that involved Spanish clerics – what influence they had in catholic practices and the notorious burning of heretics – and it considers why Foxe used certain tactics to discuss their involvement. It reveals how Foxe’s original remit for discussing the Spanish changed during the writing of the 1570 (second) edition, and consider the reasons why this was so.

Fred Smith – Pillars of Consciences: Deprived

Whereas an older generation of scholars saw the Marian restoration as a half-hearted attempt to resuscitate a dying breed of Catholicism, historians such as Eamon Duffy have recently opened our eyes to the vibrancy, zeal and strength of the Marian Church. This church was already developing the heightened interiority, stricter regulation and greater reverence for the papacy which were to become the hallmarks of Counter-Reformation Catholicism in the wake of the Council of Trent.

Despite this revolution in our understanding of the Marian Church, no similar reinterpretation of early-Elizabethan Catholicism has followed. The 1560s continues to be regarded as a decade of confusion and chaos in which English Catholics suffered a crisis of leadership, direction and identity. In the face of such uncertainty, most settled for a muddled compromise with the Elizabethan regime – finding ways of demonstrating their religious identity whilst still attending the services of their parish church.

Through examining the activities of a group of clergymen who were the vanguards of Marian spirituality, the cathedral clergy, this paper explores how an alternative view of 1560s Catholicism is possible. The large number of these clergymen deprived upon Elizabeth’s accession remained dedicated to the faith they had helped build under Mary, and worked to spread their understanding of what it meant to be Catholic amongst the English laity through print and preaching. An analysis of these printed tracts, as well as the opinions of laypeople who came into contact with these clergymen, reveals that they were in no way confused following the death of their queen. On the contrary, they seem to have been united in a firm ‘Marian’ understanding of the faith – an understanding which had no place for ‘lukewarm’ Catholics who conformed with the demands of Protestants.

Dr Ceri Law – Elizabethan memories of the Marian regime

 
The restoration of Catholicism in England under Mary I was only brief, but historians now increasingly recognise the deep cultural impact that it had upon English Catholicism.  However, the way that subsequent generations of English Catholics recalled, constructed and used the memory of this period has received very little attention.  This paper focuses upon the way that Elizabethan exile writers of Catholic polemics invoked both Mary I and her reign.  Taking the works of Nicholas Sander and Robert Persons as central case studies, it argues that we can see a shift in how these later writers sought to explain the apparent failure of Marian attempts to restore Catholicism.  In examining these Elizabethan constructions of the recent past, it is apparent how deeply these accounts are shaped by later circumstance, and how far this has affected their and subsequent judgements of Mary’s reign.

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My interest in the Spanish clerics who came to England during Mary’s reign was sparked by work for the British Academy John Foxe Project (www.johnfoxe.org), when I was writing mini-biographies of everyone mentioned by Foxe in his accounts of the reign of Mary I. (I cross-referenced the first four English editions, printed by John Day during Foxe’s lifetime – 1563, 1570, 1576, and 1583.) My work with Spanish sources for the period, as part of my current research project, has afforded me the opportunity to explore this topic further.

Although Foxe mentions Philip and his retinue on occasion throughout his narrative of Mary’s reign, he never places them centre-stage (not even Philip, as Consort); they remain on the periphery of his discussion. If you only read Foxe’s account of the return to Catholicism under Mary, you could be forgiven for thinking that Philip’s involvement was minimal and that the involvement of his Spanish clerics was negligible.

Then would she needes bryng in kyng Philip, and by her straunge Mariage with him, make the whole Realme of England subiect unto a straunger … With kyng Philip also came in the Pope and his Popishe Masse: with whom also her purpose was to restore agayne the Monkes and Nonnes vnto their places, neither lacked there all kynd of attemptes to the uttermost of her abilitie: and yet therin also God stopt her of her will, that it came not forward.

From ‘The unprosperous successe of thinges under Q. Marie’, in John Foxe, The ecclesiasticall history contaynyng the actes and monumentes of thynges passed in euery kynges tyme in this realme, especially in the Church of England principally to be noted: with a full discourse of such persecutions, horrible troubles, the sufferyng of martyrs, and other thinges incident, touchyng aswel the sayd Church of England as also Scotland, and all other foreine nations, from the primitiue tyme till the reigne of K. Henry VIII  (London, 1570) STC 11223, p. 2297.

This is, perhaps, to be expected. While Foxe could have chosen to attack them for their involvement in the restoration of Catholicism in England, they were not his primary target. Nor was his paper supply infinite (particularly in the case of the second edition, where Foxe expanded his text considerably). His primary targets were the English clerics and English nobility who assisted in the ‘persecution’ of English Protestants.

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Yet despite their shadowy appearance in Foxe’s text, several Spanish clerics were involved in the dismantling of Edwardian Protestantism and the revival of Catholicism under Mary and Philip. Many of them arrived with Philip in England on 20 July 1554, just five days before Philip’s marriage to Mary at Westminster Cathedral.

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Prior to Philip’s arrival, the marriage treaty made it abundantly clear that he could not involve foreigners in key decisions and positions in England, during his time as Consort:

he shall not promote, admit, or receive to any office, administration or benefice in the said realm of England and the dominions thereunto belonging any stranger or person not born under the dominion and subjection of the said most noble lady, Queen of England. [Paul L. Hughes, and James F. Larkin (eds), Tudor Royal Proclamations, 3 vols (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1964–69), II, p. 25.]

But that is not to say that Philip’s Spanish clerics were not in England in some quasi-official capacity, to assist in the restoration of Catholicism, and that Philip could not aid this restoration. The research of John Edwards (University of Oxford, http://www.mod-langs.ox.ac.uk/jedwards) has done much to reveal the extent to which Fray Bartolomé Carranza was involved in that restoration; indeed, he was pivotal in the reintroduction of the old heresy law ‘On the burning of heretics’ (of 1401) in England. (Carranza’s Comentarios, written during his time in England, is detailed elsewhere on this blog.) He was consulted not only on the day-to-day running of parishes but also on how to deal with English heretics. (Carranza had previously worked as a consultor to the Spanish Inquisition in Valladolid.)

Two Dominicans, Fray Pedro de Soto (Confessor to Charles V) and Fray Juan de Villagarcía, were among those who had made the journey to England, and they were both involved in the questioning of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer after his arrest. [For Foxe’s interpretation of the events leading up to Cranmer’s execution see Foxe, A&M [1563], pp. 1129–33. On the role of Villagarcia and de Soto, see Diarmaid MacCulloch, Thomas Cranmer: A Life (Yale University Press, 1997), pp. 584–99.]
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Carranza would later confirm that he was central in ensuring that the former archbishop be condemned as a heretic. [See John Edwards, Mary I: England’s Catholic Queen (Yale University Press, 2013), pp. 261–3 and John Edwards, ‘The Spanish Inquisition Refashioned: The Experience of Mary I’s England and the Valladolid Tribunal, 1559’, Hispanic Research Journal, 13 (2012): 46.]

The paper I presented at the CRS Conference was something of a ‘taster’ for my forthcoming chapter in Catholic Renewal and Protestant Resistance in Marian England (see below), which explores in greater detail this involvement of Spanish clerics in the revival of Catholicism in England. It also considers the Spanish perspective on events at the time, by detailing accounts written by Spaniards who traveled amongst Philip’s retinue, and who witnessed events first-hand.

We thoroughly enjoyed delivering our panel on Marian Catholicism and its legacy at the Catholic Record Society Conference. It seemed to go down well…

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Suggested further reading / listening

John Edwards, Mary I: England’s Catholic Queen (Yale University Press, 2013), pp. 261–3
_____, ‘The Spanish Inquisition Refashioned: The Experience of Mary I’s England and the Valladolid Tribunal, 1559’, Hispanic Research Journal, 13 (2012): 46
Elizabeth Evenden, ‘Spanish Involvement in the Restoration of Catholicism during the Reign of Philip and Mary’ in Catholic Renewal and Protestant Resistance in Marian England, ed. Elizabeth Evenden and Vivienne Westbrook (Ashgate, forthcoming 2015)
Diarmaid MacCulloch, Thomas Cranmer: A Life (Yale University Press, 1997), pp. 584–99

Melvyn Bragg’s ‘In Our Time’: Podcast about Foxe’s ‘Book of Martyrs’, featuring Diarmaid MacCulloch, Justin Champion and Elizabeth Evenden as guest experts

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Ushaw College and Bartolomé Carranza

Ushaw College, Durham. The College was founded in 1808 by scholars from the English College, Douai, who had fled France upon that college's closure during the French Revolution. Ushaw was the principal Roman Catholic seminary in the north of England for the training of Catholic priests. It closed in 2011 and is now part of Durham University.
Ushaw College, Durham. The College was founded in 1808 by scholars from the English College, Douai, who had fled France upon that college’s closure during the French Revolution. Ushaw was the principal Roman Catholic seminary in the north of England for the training of Catholic priests. It closed in 2011 and is now part of Durham University.

This week I attended a conference at Ushaw College in Durham. This three-day international and interdisciplinary conference was on the theme of Early Modern Catholics in the British Isles and Europe: Integration or Separation and was organised by two academics at Durham University: Dr James Kelly and Dr Hannah Thomas. The conference’s main sponsors were the Centre for Catholic Studies at Durham University and by the University of Notre Dame. It really was an excellent conference – and it was a particular joy to see so many grad students discussing their work. Two of them, Georgina Moore (Bath Spa) and Liam Temple (Northumbria), have blogged about the conference:

See: http://adventuresofahistorian.co.uk/?p=262 and http://www.theosophicaltransactions.com/2015/07/3.html

This was my first visit to Ushaw, and it certainly won’t be my last. The library and archive are magnificent and, if you study English and/or Iberian history, it needs to be on your ‘must visit’ list. There is, inevitably, a heavy emphasis on the 18th and 19th centuries in its collections but there are significant holdings for the early modern period as well.

Information about their holdings can be found here:

https://www.dur.ac.uk/durham.collections/ushaw/

It should be noted, however, that their holdings are not yet fully catalogued online and, as I have discovered during my first (brief) visit, there are many gems yet to be fully revealed at Ushaw. I am looking forward to making a detailed study of their Anglo-Iberian holdings in the coming months and will detail some of my findings in this blog from time to time.

One particular delight I discovered during my visit to the library this week was a copy of the first edition of Bartlomé Carranza’s Comentarios (1558).

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Bartolomé Carranza (1503-76) was a Spanish Dominican, who traveled to England as part of Philip of Spain’s retinue in 1554, on the occasion of Philip’s marriage to Mary I. Until recently, Carranza’s career and, in particular, his involvement in the rooting out of heresy during the reign of Philip and Mary, had been almost entirely overlooked by all but a handful of English-language scholars. Carranza was central to plans for restoring and maintaining Catholic worship in England.

The English Synod of 1555-56 identified the need to examine closely what was happening in the parishes, and to find suitable ways in which they could re-establish uniform worship. Carranza was commissioned to investigate current English religious practices and to write an official response. His research led him to produce the ‘Comentarios sobre el catechismo christiano’.

Mary I died before the  ‘Comentarios’ was completed, and it was not published until 1558 (in Antwerp). But the work remains important for understanding how the Marian Church sought to establish and maintain Catholic worship, since Carranza’s ideas were formulated – and presumably tested – while he was in England. His commentaries reveal much about his opinions on clerical responsibility, on how the laity should be expected to behave, and on how order could – and should – be maintained in England.

Carranza’s work in England appears to have been an extension of his previous activities as an inquisitor in Valladolid. As John Edwards has noted, it was this inquisitorial experience that provided him with a ‘blueprint’ for how to deal with heretical behaviour and heretical belief in England. (See John Edwards, ‘Fray Bartolomé Carranza’s Blueprint for a Reformed Catholic Church in England’ in Thomas F. Mayer [ed.], Reforming Reformation [Ashgate, 2012], pp.141-162.)

In the same year that his Comentarios were produced, Carranza fell foul of the Inquisition, who smelled more than a whiff of heresy in his commentaries. Carranza spent years languishing in prison, bereft of aid from Philip II, and his commentaries were placed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (‘Index of Prohibited Books’). Eventually, Carranza would be cleared of heresy but compelled to abjure sixteen errors. After doing so, he was ordered to remove himself to the Dominican cloister of Santa Maria sopra Minerva (in Rome), where he would live in seclusion; within a week of this judgement he was dead.

The copy of Bartolomé Carranza’s Comentarios (1558) at Ushaw College

The early provenance of the copy remains obscure but a later owner’s details can be found inside. Before making its way to Ushaw, it was previously owned by Dom José Maria de Mello, Bishop of the Algarves and Inquisitor General of Portugal (1756-1818). He was famously accused of being responsible for the mental decline of Queen Maria I of Portugal. He was also notorious for wanting the entire population of France to be excommunicated. (See Simão José da Luz Soriano, História de el-rei D. João VI, Primeiro rei constitucional de Portugal e do Brazil, em que se referem os principaes actos e occorrencias do seu governo, bem como algumas particularidades da sua vida privada [Lisbon: Typographia Universal, 1866], pp.15-17.) Quite a book, with quite a provenance then. I look forward to seeing what else can be found in the Iberian holdings at Ushaw.

You may also be interested to know that José Maria de Mello also owned a copy of the so-called Carey Bible, which is now housed in the John J. Burn’s Library at Boston College. His Bible bears the same provenance slip as that in the Ushaw copy of Carranza, which is pasted in a comparable position in both books. The Carey Bible was the first Catholic Bible printed in the USA, and was printed by Mathew Carey, an Irish immigrant and former journalist. Carey had lived and worked in France for a time, before relocating to Philadelphia. In the 1780s he first began printing copies of the King James Bible, before deciding to produce an edition of the 1582 Douay-Rheims Bible for the American market. It appears that fewer than 500 copies were printed.

If you have $2,250.00 to spare, José Maria de Mello’s copy of the first edition of Philipp van Limborch’s Historia inquisitionis (Amsterdam, 1692) is currently available for purchase from the American book dealer, Eric Chaim Kline:

http://www.klinebooks.com/pages/books/38035/philippi-a-limborch-philipp-van-limborch/historia-inquisitionis-cui-subjungitur-liber-sententiarum-inquisitionis-tholosanae-ab-anno#sthash.pjKKYTAy.dpuf

For José Maria de Mello’s copy of the Carey Bible in the John J. Burn’s Library see:

https://johnjburnslibrary.wordpress.com/2013/10/21/carey-bible-primary-source/

On the John J. Burns Library see: 

http://www.bc.edu/libraries/collections/burns.html

Suggested further reading

John Edwards and Ronald Truman (eds.) Reforming Catholicism in the England of Mary Tudor. The achievement of Friar Bartolomé Carranza (Ashgate, 2005)

John Edwards, Mary I: England’s Catholic Queen (Yale University Press, 2011), chapters 9 and 10

____, ‘Experiencing the Mass anew in Mary I’s England: Bartolomé Carranza’s ‘Little treatise in Reformation and Renaissance Review 9:3 (2007), pp.265-276

____, ‘Bartolomé Carranza de Miranda’s “Little treatise on how to attend Mass” (1555): a translation’, Reformation and Renaissance Review 11:1 (2009), pp. 91-120

____, ‘Fray Bartolomé Carranza’s Blueprint for a Reformed Catholic Church in England’ in Thomas F. Mayer (ed.), Reforming Reformation (Ashgate, 2012), pp.141-162

Elizabeth Evenden, ‘Spanish Involvement in the Restoration of Catholicism during the reign of Philip and Mary’ in Elizabeth Evenden and Vivienne Westbrook (eds.), Catholic Renewal and Protestant Resistance in Marian England (Ashgate, forthcoming in 2015)

José Tellechea Idígoras Tellechea (ed.), Bartolomé Carranza, Comentarios sobre el catechismo christiano, 2 vols (Madrid: Editorial Católica, Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, 1972)

____ (ed.), Fray Bartolomé Carranza. Documentos históricos, 7 vols (Madrid: Real Academia de la Historia, 1962-94)

A Portuguese blog on ‘As Invasões Francesas’ (‘The French Invasions’), detailing Dom José Maria de Mello’s role during the Peninsular War (which cites the text by Simão José da Luz Soriano mentioned above):

http://asinvasoesfrancesas.blogspot.co.uk/2010/01/pastoral-do-bispo-inquisidor-favoravel.html

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Anglo-Iberian Relations, c.1500-1850: Mértola, Portugal, 9-11 April 2015

Earlier this month, the conference entitled, Anglo-Iberian Relations, c.1500-1850 (#AIR2015) took place in Mértola, Portugal. It is planned that #AIR2017 will extend the chronological range of this conference so that we can invite speakers working on Anglo-Iberian relations ‘from the medieval to the modern’.

This year’s conference on Anglo-Iberian Relations and its associated activities were initially planned by me (Elizabeth Evenden) and then co-organised with Valentina Caldari, a PhD candidate at the University of Kent and O Universidade do Porto (see previous blog posts), with assistance from Fábia Fernandes (Travessa da Ermida, Lisboa). (Our hearty thanks go to Rosinda Pimenta at Merturis in Mértola, for all her organisational skills and help in situ.) It was our intention from the very beginning to create an interdisciplinary programme. Presentations at the conference this year included the work of historians, literary scholars, archaeologists, and those working in the heritage industry and local government. The conference proved to be an inspiring, informative event, presenting excellent networking opportunities for all. We are very pleased to have received so much positive feedback from all who attended this year.

A copy of the programme is available here:

https://angloiberian2015.wordpress.com/

As you can see, we had a broad range of topics and skill-sets being presented throughout.

A gallery of images from the conference is available here:

https://angloiberian2015.wordpress.com/gallery/

We also got to witness the great research and artistic talents on show at the local school in Mértola. Students who took part in our Community Outreach event (see previous blog) came to an Awards Ceremony held in the town’s theatre, on the first day of the conference. The winners and runners-up each received a certificate acknowledging their achievement, and prizes were donated by our sponsors at Porto Editoria and LEGO® Education.

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Above: images from the Award Ceremony

To accompany this initiative, an exhibition was also launched in the town, detailing a brief history of Anglo-Iberian Relations and showcasing the work undertaken by the students.

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Above: two panels from the exhibition

The exhibition will remain open to the public throughout Spring and Summer 2015.

An Information Session was also held for anyone interested in joining a forthcoming Network on Anglo-Iberian Relations: from the Medieval to the Modern. If you have any questions about this forthcoming network, or if you are interesting in joining this venture, please email: elizabeth.evenden@brunel.ac.uk for more information.

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#AIR2015: “Why Mértola?”

Many of you may be wondering why I chose Mértola as our conference location for ‘Anglo-Iberian Relations, c.1500-1850’, and why we didn’t go to a more well-known destination, such as Lisbon or Porto. With this in mind, I’d like to tell you more about the lead-up to the decision to hold #AIR2015 in Mértola, and why I think you’ll love this beautiful, little town in Alentejo.

Marie-Skłodowska-Curie Actions: knowledge transfer and public outreach

This conference is part of a European Commission initiative and represents one of the deliverables outlined in my Marie Skłodowska-Curie International Outgoing Fellowship. This fellowship is for three years (starting September 2012) and is based across Harvard University in the USA and Brunel University in the UK. My project is entitled ‘Re-presenting the “Black Legend”: conflict, coalition and the press in early modern Europe’. I am looking at relations between England, Portugal and Spain, and at the production of printed propaganda, c.1480-1680.

The European Commission funds research across the European Union (and beyond), to ensure that Europe is at the vanguard in best research practice but also to ensure that Europeans benefit from that knowledge gained and from these research initiatives. One of my objectives was to create knowledge transfer events and public outreach activities in Portugal. The intention was to take these events to a place that was both affordable to scholars and in an area that would benefit from our educational activities; to create a cultural exchange that would promote good relations and financially benefit the host location.

Prior to choosing Mértola, I investigated a number of areas across Portugal – in terms of the venues available, hotels, catering, transport, and so on. While cities like Lisbon and Portugal remain attractive, they can also be quite costly, given the size of locations required for conferences, the in-house audio-visual equipment required, and transport to and from hotels and airports. Once I visited the town of Mértola and met with representatives from the municipality, it soon became my firm favourite, for reasons I shall outline below.

Knowledge Transfer

My current research makes reference to Mértola, and I teach courses that involve studying the history of Islamic trade in the West. Today, the municipality has the second-lowest population density in Portugal (behind Alcoutim). Located on a hill by the Guadiana River, for many centuries it was an important commercial port. Evidence for its commercial and fiscally vibrant past abounds in the town, not least through the survival of its large, medieval mosque – now a Catholic church and the only surviving complete medieval mosque in Portugal.

Mértola has not forgotten its heritage. In the 1980s, a series of archaeological surveys did much to enrich our understanding of the surviving remnants of its diverse past, leading to an increase in cultural tourism in the region. The town now boasts several museums, all dedicated to revealing the town – and region’s – past.

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Images: Mértola’s mosque. It was transformed into a church in 1238.

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In uneven numbered years (including this year, 2015) the town hosts an Islamic Festival, celebrating the town’s Arab past, when it was the capital of a Taifa kingdom, and one of the most important ports on the route between the Iberian peninsular and North Africa. Traditional food, drink, dance, and textiles burst onto the streets in a blaze of colour and intoxicating sounds and smells. Similarly, the town runs a number of exhibitions and colloquia, dedicated to this theme. For a small town, it is clear that Mértola can handle a large influx of visitors, as well as educational events.

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Image: one of the bustling streets during Mértola’s Islamic Festival

Infrastructure

Therefore, upon visiting the town, it became clear that Mértola could handle an international academic conference. It was also clear that, while we could simply enter the town, discuss our work, and then leave, the town was also very open to being involved in our activities. This is exactly what I was looking for, under the terms of my Fellowship. This has led to the foundation of outreach activities with Mértola’s school, where we have worked closely with the teachers there to help the children learn about the history of European relations, of our shared cultural past, and about the importance of appreciating cultural diversity. We are also working with local food and drink producers, and with local musicians, to ensure that you experience fully all that Mértola has to offer.

The Municipality has worked extremely hard to keep costs low – way below anything we could have achieved in a big city. We have excellent facilities for our panels and plenaries, a beautiful castle for our conference dinner (during which local performers will be providing entertainment), and a range of cultural activities for you to experience during your stay.

I hope that you will agree that Mértola is an excellent venue for the first in a series of conferences examining the relationship between England and Iberia. We look forward to welcoming you to this beautiful town very soon.

Information about the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions is available here:

http://ec.europa.eu/programmes/horizon2020/en/h2020-section/marie-sklodowska-curie-actions

Information about the town of Mértola and its cultural events is available here: http://www.cm-mertola.pt/

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#AIR2015: information about our sponsors

The preparations for Anglo-Iberian Relations, 1500-1850*, began around 18 months ago, when I first visited the beautiful town of Mértola in Alentejo. Our venues are booked, and our draft programme is now available.

Draft programme: http://events.history.ac.uk/event/show/13324

( * #AIR2015 is the inaugural meeting of what is planned as a biennial conference. In 2017 we aim to extend the timeframe at either end.)

We are extremely fortunate to have received generous support for this venture, and I’d like to take a moment to tell you a little more about our current sponsors. We are seeking and negotiating further sponsorship for various aspects of #AIR2015 but, in the meantime, I’d like to offer my hearty thanks to those who are already helping us launch this new conference.

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First and foremost I must thank the Department of Arts and Humanities at Brunel University for their most generous support. As many of you know, conference organisation is a complex and time-consuming affair, and I would like to thank Prof. Thomas Betteridge (Head of Department) and Lisa Harris (Brunel Finance) for easing my burden. Thank you for all your support and guidance.

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I would also like to thank the School of History at the University of Kent for their generous sponsorship. My co-organiser, the extremely talented and all-round-lovely-person, Valentina Caldari, is a PhD candidate in the School. Thank you, Valentina, for all your hard work during these preparations.  Your endless wisdom and wit are always appreciated.

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The Municipality of Mértola has been extremely supportive of our new venture, and the town has welcomed us with open arms. A series of high-quality venues are booked for events during #AIR2015, and I thank all those involved in the preparations. Special thanks, in particular, go to João Serrão (Vice-presidente Câmara Municipal de Mértola) and his administrative team. It is a joy to work with you, and your help and generosity with your time are very much appreciated.

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Me with Snr. Serrão, visiting the venue for our Conference Dinner (Mértola’s Castle). There will be a wine bar, tables set for our dinner, and entertainment a-plenty!

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Some of you might be wondering where we sourced the image of Mértola used in our conference literature. This marvelous image of Mértola was taken by the talented photographer Roy Roos, and was actually the inspiration behind me first visiting the town. Roy has kindly allowed us to use the image for the conference.

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If you’d like to know more about Roy Roos’ work, you can visit his website here:

http://www.royroosphotography.com/

He also has a Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/royroosphotography

Think of Portugal and you often think of tiles (azulejos). They are ubiquitous – and stunning. Elizabeth Anjos has had a life-long love of Portugal’s tiles and they have become the inspiration for her work. Elizabeth produces stunning pieces of jewellery and sells them via her Etsy store, Átrio. There are a number of us who are attending #AIR2015 who are already familiar with Elizabeth’s work, and we are more than happy to advertise her wares at the event and in our conference pack. (Conference earrings or cufflinks, anyone?)

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To find out more about Elizabeth and Átrio, visit her Etsy page here:

https://www.etsy.com/people/Atrio

She also has a Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/o.Atrio?fref=ts

If you’d like to know more about Portugal’s azulejo tradition, the following videos may be of interest.

Traditional Portuguese tiles being made by hand:

Azulejos across the country:

The amazing variety of patterns in Portuguese tiles:

 

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Finally, I’d also like to reiterate my thanks to Porto Editoria for their generous sponsorship of our community outreach venture in Mértola. Over the last few months, students at Mértola’s school have been researching the history of relations between England and Portugal. The students have also taken part in our competition. They were asked to write an essay or create an artwork about any aspect of these relations that proved to be of particular interest to them. The entries submitted are amazing! We are still working through them all and I can tell it is going to be extremely difficult to pick winners from so many excellent pieces of work. Many thanks to all of the students who took part, and to all of the staff who have supported this venture so enthusiastically.

To learn more about Porto Editoria, see:

http://www.portoeditora.pt/

I do hope you can join us in Mértola! If you are unable to come to the conference, please do consider Mértola as a holiday destination. I’m certain you’ll love it…

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