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Preface, October 2009

By Lawrence Goldman

>New online contents, October 2009

Welcome to the fifteenth online update of the Oxford DNB in which, as every May and October, we extend the dictionary’s coverage of men and women ‘from the earliest times’ to the twentieth century. The October 2009 update adds biographies of 96 individuals active between the thirteenth and late twentieth century. In addition to new biographies the release includes 10 theme articles comprising ‘reference groups’ (profiling well-known historical networks) and ‘reference lists’, which provide information on holders of prominent offices or honours in the past.

October’s update also marks the fifth anniversary of the dictionary’s first appearance in print and online. The fifteen updates published since 2004 have added biographies of 2123 men and women active between the first and the twenty-first century, along with more than 400 theme articles (groups, lists, and features) for quick reference. To mark the fifth anniversary, the Oxford DNB’s editors have chosen some of their favourite lives published between 2005 and 2009.

The October 2009 update includes two principal sets of biographies, in which new additions are linked by common national and geographical themes.

The first set considers men and women who shaped the political, economic, and cultural history of Scotland from the seventeenth to the late twentieth century, alongside Scots remembered for activities overseas. Appropriately in the 250th anniversary year of the birth of Robert Burns, our new selection includes an entry on the poet’s wife, Jean Armour (1765–1834), a subject of his popular verses and a link to Burns as he emerged as a figure of national importance after his death in 1791. This selection has an additional resonance for the dictionary, as it coincides with the tenth anniversary of the death of the Oxford DNB’s founding editor, Colin Matthew, who was born in Inverness, brought up in Edinburgh, made annual visits to the highlands, and was among many other things an accomplished piper. His wide Scottish interests are traceable in his contributions to the dictionary.

Our second set of new biographies comprises Britons associated with Central and South America between the early nineteenth and the late twentieth century. Many were prominent in the military campaigns that secured the independence of the new Latin American republics. Later subjects went as settlers, missionaries, diplomats, businessmen, and archaeologists. In many cases they, like earlier political activists and mercenaries, are commemorated in their adopted countries but their stories are less familiar to British readers.

The crossing of national borders is a theme that connects other new subjects added in this update—notably two small groups of Hanoverian courtiers and Genevan exiles who came to Britain in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Looking beyond the British Isles, our interest in the history of empire and Commonwealth continues in this update with a selection of ten individuals active in Africa, the Caribbean, Malta, and Singapore, while the project to chart the pre-Reformation episcopate adds twelve more bishops from the twelfth to the sixteenth centuries.

As ever, full details of the October 2009 update are available from the new online contents page, and a free selection of extracts and highlights from the latest release is available here. The complete dictionary (57,045 biographies and 462 theme articles) is available, free, in nearly all public libraries in the UK, with most now offering remote access, which enables library members to log in, at any time, at home (or anywhere they have internet access). Full details of participating public libraries, and how to gain access to the complete dictionary, are available here.

Scottish lives: Scotland and overseas

The Scottish subjects added to the dictionary are remembered for their varied contributions to 400 years of national life and to the promotion of Scottish culture beyond the British Isles. Among the earliest of the new additions, two individuals—the royalist heroine Christian Fletcher (1619/20–1691) and Jean Armour (1765–1834), wife of the poet Robert Burns—will be familiar to many as prominent figures in the national story. Fletcher, the wife of a presbyterian minister at Kinneff, near Montrose, was one of a group of royalist sympathizers responsible for smuggling the honours of Scotland (the crown, sceptre, and sword of state) out of Dunnottar Castle, so preventing them from falling into the hands of Cromwell’s English forces. Though it was she who removed the honours and, with her husband, kept them safe until 1660, Christian Fletcher received scant recognition for her courage during her lifetime. Only after the honours were rediscovered by Walter Scott, and placed on permanent display at Edinburgh Castle from 1819, did interest in Fletcher grow. By the late nineteenth century she had become an exemplar of loyalty and heroism, depicted in books and popular art, and held up as a model by Robert and Agnes Baden-Powell for members of the Girl Guide movement. Within the last decade renewed interest in Fletcher and her true role at Dunnottar has been prompted by the inclusion of the crown of Scotland in ceremonies at the Scottish parliament. In contrast to Christian Fletcher, whose celebrity is entirely posthumous, Jean Armour received considerable public attention as an important link to her deceased husband, then rapidly taking on the mantle of Scotland’s national poet. In life their relationship had been far from comfortable: Armour suffered censure from her family and the kirk, endured Burns’s philandering and scorn, and was left with a family to raise in her mid-twenties after the poet’s early death. But to later generations she was also, clearly, Burns’s true love and the subject of some of his most popular songs, as well as being a person of remarkable tolerance and fortitude. It is not surprising therefore that Armour has become a figure of commemoration in her own right, especially in her native Ayrshire and in Dumfriesshire, and has featured prominently in events to mark the poet’s anniversary during 2009.

In addition to Armour, October’s update includes three further individuals included for their place in the history of Scottish literature. The Orkney novelist Joseph Storer Clouston (1870–1844) won early acclaim for his stories of comic escapades, farcical situations, and confused identities. He went on to develop the espionage genre in The Spy in Black (1917), which was made into a film which was premièred in August 1939, with ominous timing in view of its theme: a projected German submarine attack on the British fleet in Scapa Flow. During the Second World War Joseph Todd Gordon Macleod (1903–1984) became a household name as a BBC newsreader, but his principal significance is as a poet who wrote vivid evocations of the Scottish landscape and its inhabitants, under the pseudonym Adam Drinan—an allusion to his ancestors’ origins on Skye. Landscape and rural pursuits were also interests of John McNeillie (1916-2002), known to many by his pen name Iain Niall, and for his novel Wigtown Ploughman (1939), which offered a brutal and compelling account of the hardships of Ayrshire’s rural economy, and remains a staple of the Scottish school syllabus.

A calmer depiction of the countryside was to be found in the work of the artist William Shiels (1783–1857). A founder in 1826 of the Royal Scottish Academy, Shiels first established his reputation as a portraitist, and led a peripatetic existence that took him to the United States, before returning to Edinburgh, where he undertook a series of scientifically accurate illustrations of domestic livestock, informed by his experience of growing up on a Berwickshire farm. Patrick Allan-Fraser (1813–1890) also began his career as a portraitist and became a leading member of the Clique circle of painters, one of Scotland’s first informal groups of artists. Today, however, Allan–Fraser is better known both as an architect, responsible for remodelling Hospitalfield House, Arbroath, in an early manifestation of the arts and craft style, and as an art patron whose legacy continues with the Hospitalfield Trust for artists. From his Edinburgh studio William Fergusson Brassey Hole (1846–1917) painted a number of popular works depicting scenes from Scottish history, and these brought a commission in 1897 to carry out a striking mural decoration for the central hall of the new Scottish National Portrait Gallery, sections of which are available here, and which in full charts Scotland’s past from the Stone Age to Thomas Carlyle. Mural paintings of Scottish historical and Celtic mythological themes also featured in the work of the Dundee artist John Duncan (1866–1945), a leading figure among Patrick Geddes’s Celtic revivalists of the 1890s, who went on to produce his finest works in the Edwardian period under the influence of the European symbolist movement.

Scotland’s standing as the home of golf is represented in this update by the St Andrews carpenter Hugh Philp (1786–1856), whose name is forever associated with his elegant handmade clubs, designed for hitting the leather balls stuffed with feathers then used by players of the game. Although displaced by clubs adapted to the new gutta-percha balls, Philp’s work remained sought after by connoisseurs, who regarded him as the Stradivarius of golf-club makers. The Perth fishing tackle business of Peter Duncan Malloch (1852–1921) catered for the annual pilgrimage to the Scottish hills, rivers, and lochs of sportsmen in pursuit of game. Himself a champion angler, Malloch was also a scientific naturalist and an authority on fish conservation, and wrote a pioneering study of the salmon’s lifecycle. In the new sport of motorcycling, Hawick garage-owner James Guthrie (1897–1937), an army dispatch rider during the First World War, was offered a racing contract by the British Norton bike firm. For three years European 500cc champion, and winner of six Manx TT races, Guthrie died after crashing while in the lead in the final lap of the German grand prix in 1937. Meanwhile, in the world of mass entertainment, the comedian Tommy Lorne (1890–1935) successfully perpetuated the Scottish pantomime tradition into the 1920s and, despite fierce competition from cinema, managed to break box-office records even during the depression years. What many Scots saw at the cinema in this period owed much to Sir Alexander King (1888–1973), the cinema manager and booking agent responsible for more than ninety venues across Scotland, and a member of the Films of Scotland Committee, which promoted Scottish life and culture on screen, including a film by Walt Disney in his People and Places series. Alongside cinema, football was another mass entertainment form of the early twentieth century. While the crowds focused on events on the pitch, their ability to do so in their hundreds of thousands owed much to the Glasgow engineer Archibald Leitch (1865–1939), who became Britain’s most prolific and innovative stadium architect. Leitch’s success is all the more striking given that his career was almost ended following the collapse of a stand at his new Ibrox stadium in Glasgow in 1902. Cleared of responsibility for the disaster, he went on to create grounds for, among other clubs, Rangers (for whom he rebuilt after 1902), Arsenal, Manchester United, Everton, Sunderland, and Aston Villa, with designs that remained in use until wholesale redevelopment in the 1990s.

Leitch’s spirit of technical innovation (he was also an early exponent of concrete as a building material) is shared by another engineer, James Blyth (1839–1906), who in the late 1880s constructed the first turbine capable of generating electricity from wind power. Blyth’s windmill, erected at his holiday cottage near Montrose, predated that of an American engineer by several months. That it lacked the braking mechanism of the American model has meant that Blyth’s design is often overlooked as a world first. Not that this relative lack of control impaired Blyth’s design: indeed, his second ‘wind engine’ ran for nearly thirty years, providing electricity for Montrose asylum. Innovation in geriatric medicine was the achievement of Noah Morris (1893–1947), who dedicated himself to understanding and promoting the specific needs of elderly patients typically excluded from care in voluntary hospitals.

Both Morris and Blyth spent their working lives as university teachers at Glasgow and Anderson’s College (later Strathclyde University) respectively—just two of the institutions that have given Scotland its far-reaching reputation for excellence in higher education. Among the beneficiaries of the Scottish university system now added to the dictionary is Donald Fitzroy Bell (1859–1908), an Edinburgh law student who founded a students’ representative council to organize student participation in the university’s tercentenary celebrations in 1884, thereby creating a model for student institutions elsewhere in Britain and the English-speaking world. Bell stood unsuccessfully as a Conservative parliamentary candidate for Berwickshire against another of the dictionary’s newcomers, the sitting Liberal MP, Harold John Tennant (1865–1935), who made his mark in parliament talking up the issue of protecting workers employed in hazardous occupations. Brother-in-law of the prime minister, H. H. Asquith, Tennant went on to a series of social-reforming achievements, such as the medical inspection of schoolchildren and the establishment of minimum wage regulations, and was briefly a member of the wartime cabinet as secretary of state for Scotland. Scotland’s status within the United Kingdom was a leading interest of the University of Glasgow’s regius professor of law, Andrew Dewar Gibb (1888–1974). Described as ‘a legal nationalist’, he regarded Scots law, which had survived the Act of Union, as a basis for the restoration of Scottish nationhood, and went on to serve as chairman of the Scottish National Party.

Our final selection of new Scottish subjects made their name overseas. Having graduated from St Andrews, David Colville (c.1581–1629) spent his life in Spain and Italy where, as an Arabic scholar of precocious ability, he advanced European understanding of the Koran by interpreting the Muslim holy writ from the basis of Arabic commentaries rather than from the common position of anti-Islamic polemic. William Trent (d. 1724) was another Scot, originally from Inverness, who is known for a life outside Scotland—on this occasion as a merchant in colonial America and as the founder of Trenton (now the capital of New Jersey) where his Georgian residence, the site of a museum to his life and settlement, has been designated an American national landmark. William Hastie (1754/5–1832) and Adam Menelaws (1748?/9–1831) were two of the master stonemasons who in 1784 responded to the architect Charles Cameron’s advertisement in the Edinburgh Evening Courant to work on Catherine the Great’s palace at St Petersburg. Their lives illustrate Scots’ long association with Russia. Menelaws went on to undertake architectural and landscape design for tsars Alexander I and Nicolas I, while Hastie became involved with other Scottish craftsmen in ironworks construction and bridge-building, and had a considerable influence on Russian town planning. A century later, in 1884, the Scottish general Sir Peter Stark Lumsden (1829–1918) was selected to lead the British commission to settle the disputed borders of Afghanistan, and was involved in the celebrated Panjdeh incident, when Russian forces overran a border post and brought the two countries to the brink of war. Also in Asia, the Glasgow missionary James Gilmour (1843–1891) embarked on his two decades of solitary, self-denying work in Mongolia, where he failed to make converts but produced a classic account of Mongolian life. An engineering fitter from Dundee, James Thompson Bain (1860–1919), became acknowledged as the founder of trade unionism in South Africa, where he fought on the Boer side and developed a deep hostility to the mine-owners. In 1913 he organized a successful general strike, but in 1914 was deported to Britain, where a vast demonstration in Hyde Park registered his standing among the British left. By contrast Robert McVey Dollar (1844–1932), who started his working life as a lathe operator in Falkirk, prospered in the North American timber trade and became a shipping tycoon on the Pacific coast. He never forgot his native land, and his homecomings to Falkirk were marked by a succession of benefactions to the town. When she was still a child, the family of Mary Garden (1874–1967) left Aberdeen in search of better opportunities in America, where singing lessons paid for by her father’s employer led her to a career as an operatic soprano. Chosen by Debussy to create the role of Mélisande, she followed this with further successes in Paris and New York, as well as film appearances, before her retirement in 1934 and eventual return to Aberdeen, where she died.

Britons in Latin America

Continuing the overseas theme, the October 2009 update includes a selection of Britons active in Latin America, after the end of Spanish and Portuguese colonial control. Many of those who sought adventure in the independence movements were of Irish origin. Peter (Pedro) Campbell (1782–1832), dubbed the Irish Gaucho, was a Tipperary tanner who served in the British expedition to the River Plate in 1807 commanded by John Whitelocke, whose attempt to capture Buenos Aires ended in humiliating failure. Campbell was taken prisoner and remained in South America, becoming a guerilla leader in the wars of independence from Spanish rule, and was acknowledged as the founder of the Uruguayan navy. The ‘liberator of Chile’, Bernardo O’Higgins (1778–1842), was the son of an Irishman who had served the Spanish crown; educated in England, where he spent his formative years, he returned to South America, became a commander in the patriot armies, and as supreme director of Chile staffed the Chilean navy with British officers. Previously tried for his involvement in the United Irishmen rising of 1798, and describing himself as a Roman Catholic victim of religious persecution, John Devereux (1778–1860) raised an Irish legion in support of Simón Bolívar. His supporters included Francisco Burdett O’Connor (1791–1871), from a Cork landowning family and brother of Feargus O’Connor, the Chartist leader. O’Connor spent seven years fighting in the independence campaign, and was declared a liberator of Bolivia, where he settled as a farmer. In 1829 a Dublin-born mercenary in the Colombian army, Rupert Hand, earned notoriety for his role in the killing of the rebel José María Córdova, later regarded as a national hero. After a colourful military career Hand became a teacher of English in Caracas. Another mercenary, Richard Longfield Vowell (1795–1870), the orphaned son of an MP in the Irish parliament, fought for nearly thirteen years in the independence campaigns, and survived to chronicle his experiences, published after his return to Britain in 1830. Contemporary with Vowell’s works was a carefully observed account of Simón Bolívar’s forces written by the Scottish soldier and sometime slave overseer Alexander Alexander (b. 1781/2), who had enlisted in the Venezuelan rebel army after service in the Royal Artillery.

After independence British influence in the region became so pervasive that it has been described as part of the ‘informal empire’. Among those who sought to make their fortunes there was Robert Ponsonby Staples (1784/5–1852), who represented British merchants in Buenos Aires in a semi-official capacity. At Bahia, Brazil, the British consul William Pennell (1765–1860) astutely managed the relationship between the British, Portuguese, and Brazilian governments during the process of Brazilian independence, protecting the trade privileges that British merchants enjoyed. Pennell’s success in building relationships in Brazil was shared by a successor in Bahia, James Wetherell (bap. 1823, d.1858), who left an unusually perceptive account of everyday life in the province. John Henry Mandeville (1773–1861) spent a decade as minister in Buenos Aires, where he mediated in the rivalry between the British merchants there and in Montevideo and managed relations—which some critics regarded as servile—with the Argentinian dictator Juan Manuel de Rosas, whom he saw as essential for maintaining stability in the country. Less sensitive to local interests was Britain’s chief representative in Central America for two decades, Frederick Chatfield (1801–1872), who aspired to incorporate the region into the British empire, meddling in local politics and pursuing expansionist territorial claims, before over-reaching himself in his attempts to pre-empt growing American involvement in the region. Equally controversial was the Glasgow anti-slavery activist David Turnbull (1793?–1851), who as superintendent of liberated Africans at Havana tirelessly exposed the continuance of the slave trade in the remaining Spanish colonies of Puerto Rico and Cuba, from where he was soon expelled.

Many of the Britons drawn to the new South American republics settled there. Perhaps the most remarkable was Mary Greenup (1789–1846) from Faversham in Kent, whose second husband, General James English, was in charge of raising a legion of mercenaries to fight under Bolívar. She accompanied her husband to South America in 1819 and was at the centre of the social scene in Bogotá, where she represented British banking interests. Later she ran a cacao plantation. Alexander Caldcleugh (1795–1858), whose account of his travels is an important source for the early years of independence, took the part of British bondholders in Chile, where he was visited by Darwin during the Beagle voyage. Thomas George Love (1792/3–1845) arrived in Buenos Aires in 1820, where he ran the meeting place for British merchants, and founded a newspaper for the British community, in which he criticized London’s failure to accord the Argentine republic proper respect as an independent nation. Two further Britons were prominent among the technical experts brought to Paraguay to spearhead that country’s national development in the mid-nineteenth century. The first was a London engineer, William Henry Keld Whytehead (1825–1865), who established and directed an arsenal at Asunción, whose scale and technology attracted widespread attention, and which played an important part in Paraguay’s war against the triple alliance of Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. The second was a Scottish doctor, William Stewart (1830–1916), who trained army medical staff and was personal physician to the president and his remarkable consort (the Irish-born Eliza Lynch, whose biography appeared in an update of the Oxford DNB published in 2005). The independence of the former Spanish colonies also attracted such travellers as Frederick Catherwood (1799–1854), whose involvement in archaeological expeditions and railway building reflected the opportunities the region presented.

For emigrants from Wales, Patagonia offered a remote location where the Welsh language and traditions could be protected from external influences. A young printer in Caernarfon, Lewis Jones (1837–1904), was attracted to the idea of a Welsh colony, and organized the first pioneers to the Chubut Valley settlement, founded in 1865. Among those settlers was Abraham Matthews (1832–1899), a Congregational clergyman who ministered to their spiritual needs, likening the Welsh colonists to the Israelites in the desert.

South America was also the focus for protestant missionary and educational effort, as illustrated by four Scottish lives. James (Diego) Thomson (1788–1854) travelled through South America between 1818 and 1825 under the auspices of the British and Foreign School Society founding monitorial schools, encouraged by the governments of the new republics as a low-cost means of spreading education. In subsequent journeys to Mexico he distributed copies of the Bible and initiated its translation into indigenous languages. The missionary Robert Reid Kalley (1809–1888) was driven from the Portuguese island of Madeira as a result of his proselytizing among the Catholic population, but he and his wife Sarah Poulton Kalley (1825–1807) made more headway in Brazil, where they successfully established an evangelical church. From the South American Missionary Society’s base on Keppel Island in the Falklands, Wilfrid Barbrooke Grubb (1865–1930) set out in 1889 to work among the indigenous peoples of the remote Paraguayan Chaco. His pioneering thirty-year mission, combining evangelizing with concern for the economic well-being of the peoples affected by westernization, was much publicized in Britain, where he was presented as ‘the Livingstone of South America’.

Tyntesfield house near Bristol, built in Victorian Gothic style for William Gibbs (1790–1875), is evidence of wealth generated by British commercial interests in the former Spanish colonies. A lucrative guano monopoly in Peru and Chile underlay the prosperity of the Gibbs family, and funded William Gibbs’s high-church philanthropy. In 1884 the Cornish mining engineer George Chalmers (1857–1928) became superintendent of the Morro Velho gold mine in Brazil, the world’s deepest mine, and part of the largest foreign enterprise in Brazil, as well as being the centre of a large British community with its own church and clubs. By the early twentieth century, however, British commercial supremacy in the region was under challenge from the United States and Germany, as the business writer William Henry Koebel (1872–1923) warned. Koebel’s British Exploits in South America (1917) was wartime propaganda, criticized by scholars for omitting the more disreputable episodes (like Henry Morgan’s sacking of Portobello), and proved to be an epitaph to a diminished role. Nevertheless, in the post-war years the Scottish livestock breeder Sir Herbert Gibson (1863–1934), who ran his family’s ranches near Buenos Aires, continued to promote trade relations between Britain and Argentina, and was awarded a baronetcy for organizing the British Empire Trade Exhibition in Buenos Aires in 1931. Unusually, he took Argentinian citizenship, though he was readmitted a British subject during the First World War, when he secured supplies of South American wheat to feed the allies. The merging of expatriates into South American societies was exemplified by the civil engineer Richard Edward Latcham (1869–1943), who was employed on infrastructure projects during the colonization of the Araucania region of Chile. Meeting many Mapuche people, he learned their language, and developed a self-taught interest in Chilean anthropology and pre-history, on which he became a leading authority. His scholarly studies stood in contrast to the sensationalist approach of the adventurer Frederick Albert Mitchell-Hedges (1882–1959), whose quest for vanished Mayan cities in Central America in the 1920s was the subject of much embellishment and, subsequently, doubtful claims. And Latin America continued to attract idealists, among them Michael Woodward (1932–1973), who was born in Chile to a British father and Chilean mother. Educated in Britain, he returned to Chile and became a Roman Catholic priest, embracing liberation theology. His activities in that cause led to his arrest and death under interrogation when the Chilean military seized power in September 1973.

Empire and Commonwealth

The breadth and depth of Britain’s influence overseas are further reflected in the lives of ten new subjects with connections to the British empire and Commonwealth added to the dictionary in this update. Though never formally part of the British empire, Egypt was a lynchpin of the imperial system from the 1880s, and the leaders of Egyptian opinion consequently faced peculiar obstacles in their demands for self-government. Saad Zaghlul (1857x9–1927) was initially favourable to British rule, but in the turmoil following the First World War and the intensification of British control of Egypt he emerged as the leader of the nationalist movement, suffering deportation twice before becoming prime minister of Egypt after concessions by Britain. He was never reconciled to the limited extent of Egypt’s independence, however, and the Wafd party that he founded—which was led after his death by his protégé Mustafa al-Nahas (1879–1965)—dominated Egyptian politics for the next thirty years, in a fraught, albeit at times ambivalent, relationship with the British.

Al-Nahas’s failure to use the dominance of the Wafd to bring about long-overdue social reform in Egypt was a key factor in the growing unpopularity of his party, and its eventual demise at the hands of a military coup in 1952. By contrast Sir Paul Boffa (1890–1962) of Malta, Lim Yew Hock (1914–1984) of Singapore, Robert Llewellyn Bradshaw (1916–1978) of St Kitts, and Sir John Carter (1919-2005) of Guyana were all powerful figures in the labour movements of their respective colonies, and used their positions both to agitate for important labour and social reforms and as the springboards for political careers within the developing independence movements in their colonies. Bradshaw was the only one of the four not to live to see his country become independent, in part because of secessionist movements in Nevis and Anguilla (which resulted, eventually, in Anguilla remaining a crown colony). Lim, on the other hand, came himself from a secessionist state, but when Singapore broke away from Malaysia he chose to enter the Malaysian diplomatic service rather than continuing his political career in Singapore. The fractious nature of post-independence politics in countries struggling with the legacies of British rule are even more evident in the lives of Joe Appiah (1918–1990) of Ghana and Siaka Stevens (1905–1988) of Sierra Leone. Appiah, despite an impeccable early career in the anti-colonial movement, was increasingly aligned with Ashanti particularism, and was one of the most prominent civilian supporters of the military coup in 1972. Stevens similarly played on ethnic rivalries in Sierra Leone to become the corrupt and dictatorial president of a one-party state, paving the way for the brutal civil wars of the 1990s and early 2000s.

Two African intellectuals from very different eras complete this group of lives framed by the experiences of empire. Francis Peregrino (c.1851–1919) was born in Accra, lived and married in England, and then spent twelve years in America before finally settling in South Africa, where he became a prominent, though idiosyncratic, leader of the Cape coloured community and advocate of pan-Africanism. Dambudzo Marechera (1952–1987), from Zimbabwe, is now widely recognized as one of the most brilliant if also one of the most difficult African writers of his generation. His short, violent, troubled life, and his equally bleak and disturbing writings, not only reflected his name (meaning ‘sorrow’ or ‘trouble’ in Shona) but also epitomized the rootlessness and despair of those at the sharp end of colonialism, racism, and discrimination.

Crossing boundaries: émigrés, exiles, and advocates

Many of the new subjects added to the dictionary in this update left Britain for a new life, principally South America. But equally some others came from continental Europe to foster diplomatic ties or to seek political refuge. Links with the German states became especially important during the eighteenth century after the accession of the elector of Hanover as King George I in 1714. The brothers Gerlach (1688–1770) and Philipp von Münchhausen (1694–1762), second cousins of the infamous Baron Münchhausen, were distinguished émigré politicians who acted as George II’s chief ministers for his German lands, shaping Hanoverian affairs from London. A generation on, Ernst Friedrich Münster served Hanover as an influential champion in George III’s court, and Britain as a skilled mediator in the negotiations that followed the end of the Napoleonic wars. The continued importance of Anglo-German dynastic ties is evident in the life of Princess Frederica (1848–1926), daughter of King George V of Hanover, and—as George III’s great granddaughter—a princess of Great Britain and Ireland. Having refused to accept a Prussian pension, Frederica turned to her British relatives (she was a correspondent of her aunt, the duchess of Cambridge, and of her father’s cousin Queen Victoria) and moved to Hampton Court. In England she engaged in charity work, establishing in Surrey a home for poor women recovering from childbirth.

Britain as a refuge is a theme further developed in the lives of three late eighteenth-century Genevan exiles—Sir Francis D’Ivernois, Jacques-Antoine Duroveray, and Étienne Claviére—who settled first in Ireland and then in London. All three were prominent members of a political movement that had sought to remove French influence from their native city state, and all were exiled after the rising’s suppression in 1782. Their hopes of creating a New Geneva in Ireland having come to nothing, the trio—who each became a British subject—gathered around Lord Shelburne’s Bowood circle of intellectuals and reformers. Thereafter their political trajectories took contrasting courses. Clavière, a prominent financier, moved to Paris and became a minister in the revolution’s Girondin regime, advocating closer ties between France and Britain through his contacts in the Bowood circle. Accused by Jacobins of being a British spy, he again sought refuge in London as a British subject in 1793 but was handed over to the revolutionary tribunal, in whose custody he committed suicide. Duroveray and D’Ivernois, by contrast, remained in London until their exile was lifted in 1790. Having returned to Geneva, Duroveray advocated the creation of a British-style constitution and later served as a British agent against the French. D’Ivernois meanwhile returned to Britain to become a diplomatic agent and propagandist for William Pitt’s ministry, for which he was knighted in 1796. A fourth Genevan added this October is Étienne Dumont (1759–1829), who, while not an exile from the failed rising, was also resident in London and was a member of the Bowood circle. Here Dumont met the philosopher Jeremy Bentham, of whose work he became an internationally recognized interpreter, editor, and advocate. Through a series of accessible summaries, published first in French and then translated into English, Dumont did much to shape the promotion and appreciation of Benthamism in Britain and continental Europe.

The act of disseminating the ideas and work of another, on this occasion the Methodist leader John Wesley, brings together four more eighteenth-century figures. A feature of the early evangelical revival was the prominence given to women, first as band leaders and then—as with Leeds-born Sarah Crosby (1729–1804)—as preachers from the 1760s. Crosby’s well-documented life offers valuable insight into Wesley’s views on women’s role within Methodism, including practical advice on the best way for women to address mixed crowds. Aspects of Wesley’s character are also evident in his relationship with a second preacher, Sarah Ryan (1724–1768), whose conversion to Methodism followed an early life of bigamy and poverty. Ryan, who initially lodged with Sarah Crosby and later ran an orphanage with the influential preacher, Mary Bosanquet, proved too controversial for some, including Wesley’s wife. But for Wesley himself Ryan’s redemption provided a direct reminder of God’s presence. As he wrote to her: ‘Others often lead me to Him …you bring me straight to His presence.’ Religious careers like those of Crosby and Ryan reveal the importance of the Methodist leader in explaining women’s prominence within the movement. However, such opportunities declined in the 1790s after his death, prompting many women to break with Wesleyanism in favour of less hierarchical revivalist groups like the Methodist Bible Christians. One such figure was Ann Freeman (1797–1826) who became a notable and popular field preacher during the 1820s—on one occasion addressing a thousand-strong crowd in Brighton—and who travelled across England and Ireland either alone or with a female companion. Denied the preaching opportunities of an earlier generation, women now sought to promote the work of those who had gone before them. The considerable significance of Mary Bosanquet, and her husband John Fletcher, within the early Methodist movement owes much to our fourth new addition, Mary Tooth (1778–1843), who perpetuated the couple’s spiritual legacy by collecting relics and establishing their former home as a site of pilgrimage from the 1820s.

Medieval churchmen: royal and episcopal service

In October we also continue our project to offer a complete listing of the pre-Reformation episcopate, and here we add biographies of twelve churchmen active between the twelfth and the early sixteenth century. The majority of the bishops in this selection are notable for their achievements not just as churchmen but also in royal administration and diplomacy. Richard Bintworth (c.1285–1339) was one such man of talents. A doctor of civil law, in the 1330s he was charged with the weighty task of finding agreement on ‘all matters in dispute’ between the kings of England and France. But the peak of Bintworth’s career was short-lived: consecrated bishop of London and appointed chancellor of the realm in 1338, he died at the end of the following year. Brevity of office also marked out the career of Henry of Braunstone (d. 1288), the first of five bishops of Salisbury included in this update, whose pontificate lasted just seven months. It would have been longer had he not been beaten to the see by Walter Scammel (d. 1286) in an election held three years earlier. Scammel, like Richard Bintworth, had came to Salisbury with a notable record of royal service, including temporary custody of Wilton Abbey, then a troublesome house riven by dissension. Henry of Braunstone’s successor was William de la Corner (d. 1291), a trusted royal servant who continued in diplomacy after his election, acting in 1290 as Edward I’s representative in negotiations between the kings of France, Majorca, and Aragon. De la Corner, who died overseas during a later diplomatic mission, was in turn succeeded by Nicholas Longespée in 1291. Though himself an old man by medieval standards (then in his mid-sixties he was described as annosus or ‘full of years’), Longespée enjoyed a comparatively lengthy five-year reign as bishop. The fortunes of Ralph Erghum (c.1338?–1400), our fifth bishop of Salisbury, reveal the dangers to be had in combining ecclesiastical and political careers. Elected bishop in 1375, Erghum became a royal councillor after the accession of the ten-year-old Richard II in 1377, but he was demoted to the lesser see of Bath and Wells at the instance of the lords appellant in 1388.

Political questions, this time of royal inheritance, also shaped the episcopate of Walter Durdent (d. 1159), who as bishop of Coventry was required to tread a careful line on the subject of King Stephen’s successor, Durdent’s preference being Duke Henry, the future Henry II, not Stephen’s son Eustace. Personal diplomacy was likewise an attribute of John (d. 1180), bishop of Chichester, who became directly involved in a dispute with the monks of Battle Abbey when they claimed exemption from episcopal jurisdiction. Bishop John’s approach was firm but polite—likened by the abbot to being offered a sword smeared with honey. Disputes also marked the reigns of two further bishops added in this update. William Gray (c.1388–1436), bishop of Lincoln, was concerned with cases of heresy arising from the spread of Lollard opinions, as well as with monastic apostasy. The latter was also a cause of disquiet for John Smart—one of two suffragan bishops added in this set (the other being William Duffield)—who as abbot oversaw the troublesome Wigmore Abbey in the years immediately before the dissolution of the monasteries. Smart’s story is a truly remarkable one through which it is possible to plot minutely the ebb and flow of power politics that saw the abbot accused of, among other crimes, sexual incontinence, extortion, and the gross mismanagement of the abbey and its community. That Thomas Cromwell chose not to resolve the dispute between Smart and his canons reveals how advantageously Wigmore’s reputation for chaos served Henry’s administration on the cusp of one of the most momentous events in English history. At the time Smart not only escaped punishment but also gained handsomely from a generous pension after the dissolution of his house, though subsequently he has been condemned by historians as ambitious, dishonest, and unworthy. By contrast our final bishop, Roger of Clinton (d. 1148), has experienced a more positive reversal of opinion. Denounced in the Gesta Stephani as dim, violent, and overly fond of sports, Roger emerges here as a man of learning responsible—while bishop of Chester—for the extensive rebuilding of Lichfield Cathedral and, like others in this update, as a capable ambassador of royal interests overseas.

Themes: groups and reference lists

The ten theme articles added in October 2009 see a return to Scottish history. During the 1890s the kailyard school of novelists (of whom J. M. Barrie was the most prominent) gained considerable popularity for their romanticized depictions of rural Scottish life and customs against the backdrop of encroaching urbanization. By contrast, essays on two earlier groups—the lords of the congregation and the kirk party—recall more turbulent episodes in Scotland’s past. In both cases the group’s actions were motivated by efforts to promote protestantism in the face of ungodliness. In the late 1550s the lords of the congregation, a gathering of Scottish peers named for the bond to which they committed themselves, mounted a rebellion against the regent, Mary of Guise. Having successfully taken control of the government after Mary’s death, the lords were responsible for the legal establishment of protestantism within Scotland and later served as exemplars for members of the covenanting movement. Almost a century later militant presbyterians gained political control in Scotland with the kirk party—a radical regime opposed to those seeking to restore Charles I’s authority and committed to the promotion of godly rule, though it was divisions within the kirk that led to the party’s collapse in 1650. Other Scottish-related themes in October’s update include ‘reference lists’ of the lords advocate—the head of the system of public prosecutions in Scotland and now the Scottish government’s chief legal officer—and of the presidents of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, which was established in 1783 as Scotland’s national academy of science and letters. October’s update includes two further reference lists: cabinet secretaries (since 1916 head of the cabinet office and therefore the chief civil servant responsible to the prime minister and cabinet) and holders of the Order of Merit, an honour instituted by Edward VII and awarded for ‘exceptionally meritorious service’ in science, the military, or the arts.

Literature and warfare are topics that appear in the first of the three remaining reference groups published in this update. The Dymock poets were a quintet of writers, among them Rupert Brooke, who came together in the villages on the Herefordshire-Gloucestershire border immediately before the outbreak of the First World War. Their work—like that of the kailyard school—was characterized by fond recollections of a rural landscape now out of reach to soldier poets overseas. Our two remaining groups describe networks that shaped English, and later British, foreign affairs. The English participants in the Field of Cloth of Gold took part in one of the Tudor period’s most spectacular set-piece diplomatic events between Henry VIII and François I of France. The purpose of the gathering, which saw the monarchs and their entourages indulge in weeks of tournaments and banquets, was to negotiate a strategy to contain the ambitions of the new Holy Roman emperor. Despite such gatherings, relations with France were then, and remained, at best cordial and ever likely to deteriorate into conflict. Two centuries later the British were involved in a series of wars with France, the fiscal and economic burdens of which did much to worsen relations between George III’s government and British Americans opposed to taxation without political representation. Our essay on the ‘founding fathers’ of the United States identifies the politicians, soldiers, and legislators who achieved independence, and also traces the different ways in which the protean notion of a founding generation has been re-defined by successive generations of Americans.

As ever, readers with access to the complete Oxford DNB (and this includes members of almost every British public library) can browse among the more than 250 groups and 150 reference lists now available in the themes area of the online edition. A selection of existing group essays is also freely available, along with some highlights from the new groups in the October 2009 update.

Our next online update

Our next online update will be published in January 2010 and will extend the dictionary’s coverage further into the twenty-first century, with more than 200 entries on men and women who died in 2006.

Lawrence Goldman, editor

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