With the birth yesterday of the Prince of Cambridge, an important free resource can show you how royal births and their reception have changed throughout history.
Connected Histories brings together 22 digital resources related to early, modern and nineteenth-century Britain. The search engine allows researchers to collect and share important sources for British history in one place, revealing unexpected connections and surprising parallels, whether from nineteenth-century newspapers, the records of courts and parliaments, or drawings. It also allows sophisticated searching of names, places and dates.
The project, funded by Jisc, is a partnership between the University of Hertfordshire, the Institute of Historical Research, University of London and the University of Sheffield.
A search for terms related to ‘royal births’ highlights a wealth of information drawn from historical sources across British history, revealing changes in medical practices, celebrations and cultural behaviours. Highlights include:
- The Lord Mayor of London having his watch stolen on the way to see the King on the birth of Prince Frederick, Duke of York in 1763
- A baby picture of our longest-reigning monarch, Victoria, drawn in 1820, when her 64-year reign was still ahead of her
- Engravings of jousts, which were held in 1510 to celebrate the birth of the short-lived Prince Henry, son of Henry VIII
- A picture of a queen holding a bawling baby from a ‘Comic History of Britain’, published in 1847
- Congratulations offered by the House of Lords on the birth of Prince George William in 1717
- In the Hague, the Stadtholder freeing deserters from prison because of the birth of a daughter, 1771
- The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland sending their congratulations on the birth of another prince, Adolphus, in 1774
- A satirical print of the birth of a princess, where a range of people react differently to the news, 1796.
Jane Winters, head of publications and IHR Digital, Institute of Historical Research, University of London, says:
“Researchers have benefited enormously from the digitisation of historical sources over the past couple of decades, by universities, archives, libraries and commercial organisations. However, varying access arrangements and methods of production have meant that many of these resources are under-exploited and the opportunities of the digital have not yet been fully realised. Connected Histories is conceived as a means of overcoming some of the barriers to access, by offering a simple route in to a huge and varied corpus of research materials. With a single search, the precedents and historical context for any major public event, such as a royal birth, can easily be discovered, in both image and text.”
Paola Marchionni, programme manager, Jisc, says:
"When Jisc funded Connected Histories to offer a unified entry point to a range of diverse historical collections, we didn't know it would become one of our ‘jewels in the crown’. Since then the site has grown from strength to strength doubling the number of collections it now cross searches and establishing itself as a key online resource for the study of British history. "