On Saturday March 11 2023, the Northern Premodern Seminar held its third annual Castle Symposium.
The day featured two keynote talks (in person and online) which aimed to start (as the event’s subtitle suggests) ‘Diverse Conversations about Late Medieval and Early Modern Castles’
11.30 to 12.30 Keynote
Dr Emily Rowe
‘The Making of English Gold’
12.30 to 1.30 Break
1.30 to 2.30 Keynote:
Dr Natasha Awais-Dean
‘Belonging and Meaning: diverse approaches to the study of Renaissance jewels and the discipline of jewellery history’.
3pm Event ends
Dr Emily Rowe
Dr Emily Rowe is currently a lecturer at King’s College London, but will begin a short-term fellowship at the Huntington Library in May 2023. Her PhD, awarded in 2022, focused on metallurgical metaphors for writing in early modern English texts, examining how writers engaged with the material cultures of blacksmithing, coining, and bullets to reflect on their craft. Emily Rowe is also the founder of the Early Modern Metals Research Network, an international network aimed at scholars interested in metals across the early modern world. She has published on war and satire in Explorations in Renaissance Culture and has forthcoming chapters on materiality in early modern women’s writing and metallic music in early modern London.
The Making of English Gold
“Imagine then, that from the rich and Golden Indian Mines, sundry Ships, Frigots, and Gallies, are returned home”
Despite their best efforts, early modern prospectors found little gold in English soil. Comparing English metals to those of the New World, one letter in Richard Hakylut’s Diverse Voyages remarks, “our mettalles be lead, tynne, and yron, so theirs be golde, silver, and copper”. But, as Jove says in celebration of iron in a 1629 pageant, “Were there no gold nor silver in the land: / Yet Navigation (which on Iron does stand) / Could fetch it in”. Travel writers and economic proclamations often encouraged the ‘fetching in’ of gold to England and insisted that it must not be exported. Pageants, court masques, and plays often dramatise this movement, such as Anthony Munday’s Chruso-thriambos, which sees ‘Indian’ gold and accompanying subjects drawn along the Thames towards Baynard’s Castle and Westminster, where they and the ships that carry them are “returned home”. Gold, once it reaches English soil, is naturalised. Indian gold becomes English gold. This paper will explore how literary texts and historical documents imagine English locations, such as castles, palaces, the Tower of London, and London itself, as ‘magnetic’ and ‘naturalising’ spaces, to which foreign gold is attracted and made English. This keynote is part of my new project, The Making of English Gold, which explores how gold was understood and imagined by early modern writers as both physical and conceptual matter that needed to be ‘Englished’.
A recording of Dr Rowe’s talk is available here:
Dr Natasha Awais-Dean
Dr Natasha Awais-Dean is the author of Bejewelled: Men & Jewellery in Tudor & Jacobean England (The British Museum 2017), Research Integrity Manager at Kings College, London, and Trustee of The Society of Jewellery Historians, the oldest society in the world dedicated to the study of jewellery.
Belonging and Meaning: diverse approaches to the study of Renaissance jewels and the discipline of jewellery history
Traditional, connoisseurial approaches to jewellery history have favoured the idea of provenance, assigning place as part of a jewel’s description. It seems though that such an approach may prove anachronistic, as the bejewelled pieces that adorned the bodies of English courtiers in the early modern period were complex in their make-up. Discerning a ‘nationality’ of a jewel is irrelevant, as the materials used in its manufacture would have come from a variety of sources. But more than this, as David Mitchell has identified, in the late 16th and early 17th centuries the centres of London, Paris and Antwerp were so interconnected, with skills, technique, innovation and design transferred between them. Beyond the cross-continental currents evident in the design and materiality of these objects, the makers themselves were often foreign-born, with Henry VIII patronising numerous foreign goldsmiths. Just considering the physical properties of a jewel reveals that diversity was ever manifest in the early modern courts. But also reflecting on object biographies shows that jewels were multi-layered, with narratives that shift over time. In the same way that items of jewellery were not static, nor too can be the discipline of jewellery history. This is still a space occupied by a certain demographic, one I am trying to disrupt with my diverse perspectives of how the field needs to broaden its reach. As a Trustee of the Society of Jewellery Historians, I recognise the influence I can now have on making jewellery history more accessible to those traditionally excluded from what very much still is an elite (and somewhat homogenous) space. In this talk, I will reflect on how I’ve navigated my place within the discipline of jewellery history, presenting jewels to address questions of place, belonging, and meaning.