Call for contributions: Volume of essays examining the urbanisation of Catholic communities in England in the generation after the Relief Acts of 1778 and 1791.

This call for contributions is shared on behalf of Dr. Marie Rowlands, Emeritus Visiting Research Fellow in History at Newman University.

A proposal for publishing a volume of essays examining the urbanisation of Catholic communities in England in the generation after the Relief Acts of 1778 and 1791. (18 George III c. 60 and 31 George III. c. 32.)

The great majority of this post-Relief generation of lay Catholics lived by profit made in trade and manufacture, or in the provision of professional services. The number of the Catholic gentry was declining to a few hundred, and old missions on their estates were in many cases being transferred to towns.

By 1840 there were over 700 Catholic missions in England, almost all in towns- county towns, ports, leisure towns and, most frequently, industrial towns.  They each had a good-even handsome- church, a presbytery, Sunday schools and charity schools. Their chapels stood on the High streets, alongside the new chapels of the Methodists, the Baptists and the Independents, and in their Classical architecture asserted their pride in the one true faith.  These were paid for by the middle class of the town missions, in the same way as their fellow townsmen who were Church of England or nonconformists, supported their new churches, chapels and schools.

This generation of English Catholics, replaced old habits of getting along with a new assertion and pride.   Catholic life was conducted within the hortus conclusus of home, church and school, secure in the conviction that the Catholic Church was the only true church. Catholics became- and remained well into the 20th century -a fortress church, defending themselves against the not infrequent outbursts of local popular anti-Catholicism, and strengthening their networks of support.

The work of John Bossy, Leo Gooch, and Michael Mullet has transformed understanding of the laity in this period but to take the work further there is need to dig deeper into the experience of Catholic lay men and women of the poor, working and middle class. This requires a collection of specialist local studies using the tools and techniques of social and local history, as well as ecclesiastical sources. Much work of this kind has been done in the last twenty-five years, but published only locally or in unpublished Ph.D. theses.

Possible topics for such essays could include:

  • Catholics, their occupations, relationships, wills.
  • Church buildings, sacred space, architecture, finance, location in the town.
  • Ritual, prayer, services other than Mass, Mass attendance in towns.
  • Church music, at weekly services and for special occasions.
  • Catholic social events, publications, printers and bookshops
  • Social conditions and circumstances of the Catholic poor, location in the town.
  • Sunday schools, Charity schools, education, middle class schools.
  • Catholic popular press.

Interest is already being shown by contributors concerning towns in the North West and Midlands but such a volume should include London and towns in the North East and South.

Please reply to

Professor Michael Mullett, Lancaster University; Marie B. Rowlands Newman University, Birmingham; Professor Judith Champ Oscott College. Birmingham.


Victorian Fears Colloquium 2018

Newman University are proud to be hosting the first Victorian Fears Colloquium on Monday 18th June 2018. It has been co-organised by Ian Cawood, Sophie Allen and Zoe Chadwick, and is an interdisciplinary conference covering a range of topics that relate to the main theme. All postgraduates and ECRs are welcome to submit, and we particularly welcome interdisciplinary papers and panels.

Deadline for submissions: Friday 26th January 2018.

Email submissions to:

For further information and updates please see our website and follow us on twitter @VictorianFears

CFP Round 2

The (restricted) generosity of the first Christians

The next seminar in our Humanities Research Seminar Series is Dr Tim Murray from the University of Nottingham talking about The (restricted) generosity of the first Christians’.

The seminar will be taking place in room DW112 on Thursday 2 November 2017 at 5pm. 

As always refreshments will be provided and all are welcome to attend.

See below for the abstract of the paper:

Jesus made some outrageous statements about generosity, such as “sell your possessions and give to the poor” (Matthew 19.21) or “give to everyone who asks of you” (Luke 6.30). The radical, seemingly limitless, generosity espoused in these sayings has been problematic ever since, both for interpreters of the text and Christian communities who consider Jesus’s commands to be authoritative. This paper examines the first Christian communities, those who preserved and transmitted these commands of Jesus, identifying when, why and how they restricted their generosity. By doing so we may better comprehend how the financial practices of the first Christians related to the commands of Jesus and their social context. This in turn may be hermeneutically useful for modern Christian communities who continue to wrestle with these issues and their current complications, including globalisation, a highly politicised ‘welfare’ debate and the shadow side of discrimination legislation.​

The Rule of Thirds: A Simplified Approach to Essay Writing

Writing essays can be rewarding. It’s rare, but sometimes the research fits together organically, sentences flow crisp and clear, and Word doesn’t throw a paddy at your citation formatting. Most of the time, however, an interruption to at least one of these ideal conditions announces itself, and the most common result is that you stare deep into an existential crisis with no idea what your essay should look like. The rule of thirds can help, and once you’ve used it a few times, it does the work for you.

The rule of thirds is an essay structuring method that orders your thoughts, interrogates your question, and lays out your arguments in the process. It follows one rule: repeatedly break up your essay into thirds until each part has only one job. Because you begin from the whole (top-down) rather than the beginning (bottom-up), the rule of thirds makes it near-impossible to write a useless or ill-fitting sentence.

Let’s say for a moment you want to write a very short essay about Francis the Corgi. Bear with me. You could start listing details, but it might not make for a very coherent read. For it to feel like you started and ended in the right place without any obvious omissions or sense of arbitrariness, you can and often should use the rule of thirds.

Let’s say this essay has been issued by a professor who really doesn’t care for lesson prep: in a hundred and fifty words or less, describe the appearance of Francis the Corgi. Let’s say you’d rather expedite things so you can get on with pretending to write your thesis.

Firstly, segment every essay you ever write into an introduction, body, and conclusion, like so:

  1. Introduction
  2. Body
  3. Conclusion

Then, examine the question, identify its crucial element, and use it to break up the body section. You get as much from an essay as possible by basing its structure on its subject, and this essay is about Francis the Corgi’s appearance:

  1. Introduction
  2. Body
    • General Appearance
    • Movement and Behaviour
    • Specific Details
  3. Conclusion

Notice that my three body sections progress from general to specific. You can choose which part of your question lets you do this. Just remember that an essay with a logical structure – where there are reasons for the order of your sentences and paragraphs – will always make for coherent argument and easy reading. The rule of thirds makes doing this a breeze. In this case, a single paragraph will suffice for each section, but you could further sub-divide as is needed.

What next? Divide again. It doesn’t necessarily have to be into three sentences, because style is more subjective that that, but we should look to place three statements or observations under each heading:

  1. Introduction
    • Francis is a corgi. He was born in 2014. He likes jazz and long walks.
  2. Body
    • General Appearance
      • Francis is thirteen inches tall. He is a creamy shade of brown. He has longer fur than most corgis.
    • Movement and Behaviour
      • There is a spot of fur he can’t reach, but he spends hours trying to lick it. Because he is immature, he nibbles people’s fingers. He walks in a slight zig-zag because he hurt his left back leg when he was a puppy.
    • Specific Details
      • Francis has also has one claw missing from that leg. There is a patch of off-white fur near his tail. He has brown eyes.
  3. Conclusion
    • Francis the Corgi is a puppyish character with a bad leg and unusual fair. While generally well-behaved, it’s best that petters watch their fingers around him. You can often find him preening to the smooth sounds of jazz.

And there you have an essay plan that has written the piece for you. All that remains is to turn it into standard paragraphs and smooth out the prose:

Francis is a corgi who was born in 2014. He likes jazz and long walks.

He is thirteen inches tall and has relatively long fur that is a creamy shade of brown.

There is a spot he can’t reach, but he still spends hours trying to lick it. He nibbles people’s fingers out of immaturity, and walks in a slight zig-zag because of a puppyhood accident involving his left back leg. He has one claw missing from that leg.

There is a patch of off-white fur near his tail, and, adorably, he has brown eyes.

Francis the Corgi is a puppyish character with a bad leg and unusual fair. While generally well-behaved, it’s best that petters watch their fingers around him. You can often find him preening to the smooth sounds of jazz.

The more observant reader will note that the statement about his missing claw has been moved to the second body paragraph. This is because it fits better and the rule of thirds is designed to help rather than enforce. So long as you plan rigorously, you’ll have time to play around with the odds and ends of paragraphs.

There are few writers who can see their way through more than seven hundred to a thousand words without putting plan to paper first. Even they would take far longer to write this essay without the rule of thirds in particular. Imagine just writing one sentence after the next without forethought. Imagine having to consider every facet of your style, structure, form all at once. Imagine doing so over ten thousand or even a hundred thousand words.

The rule of thirds allows you craft an essay that is fundamentally designed to answer its question. It also allows you to chart out the progression of your argument and consider structure and style at different times, giving you space to focus on each. Finally, it breaks down huge tasks into something less daunting, allowing research and writing to be done in a modulated and less chaotic manner.

It can be used for fiction too. The three-act structure works well for this very reason. Films, plays, poems: many can be broken sensibly into three parts. I planned out and wrote this thousand word blog post in just under ninety minutes using the rule of thirds.

The next time you feel overwhelmed by a piece of work, remember the rule of thirds. It might even give you time to work on that thesis.

*hysterical laughter*


Phillip Sutcliffe-Mott (@tobeormotttobe)

The Flavian Amphitheatre and the Impact of Public History.

Joe Clark is studying on the MRes Humanities course at Newman University. He is currently researching the reasons why Emperor Domitian was subject to damnatio memoriae (damnation of memory) by the Senate following his reign. The Senate attempted to wipe a ‘bad’ emperor’s reign from history, and he is interested in the intentions behind the Senate’s move as well as the effectiveness of damnatio memoriae. You can find him on twitter @Joe96Clark.

I visited Rome for the first time in 2015 on a Newman University field trip. It was the first opportunity I had as an undergraduate to travel abroad with my cohort, and I made sure I seized every opportunity to visit as many historical sites as I possibly could. We visited sites such as the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain (although just our luck it was closed for that summer), the Roman Capitol Building and the St Peter’s Basilica. Though seeing Rome from what felt like the top of the world at the top of St Peter’s Basilica was incredible, the highlight of the trip was well and truly the Flavian Amphitheatre.

I stood inside the Colosseum in awe, appreciating the history that it held with the huge number of gladiatorial shows, and it was at this point that I knew I wanted to study its history further. I explored for two hours, reading descriptions on models of how the Colosseum once stood upon its completion and I had so many questions that needed answering. I spent a great deal of time admiring the amphitheatre from all different angles on both the ground and the upper floor. I was completely encapsulated by the scale of the building work and appreciated how well preserve the amphitheatre was – considering it is nearly 1,950 years old. Henceforth, it became one of the focusses in my undergraduate dissertation just over a year later when preparing for my final year. I knew the Colosseum had to play a role. Eventually, my dissertation’s focus was on the Emperor Domitian. He was the second son of Emperor Vespasian (who commissioned the Colosseum’s construction) and the third of the Flavian Dynasty to become Emperor.

The consensus amongst both ancient and modern historians alike is that Domitian had a bad reputation. That he ran a largely tyrannical regime and he forced the Senate to take a position against his rule. However, thanks to my research, I put forward the case in my undergraduate dissertation that Emperor Domitian was in fact, not a ‘bad’ emperor, and instead his reign was a continuation of his Flavian predecessors’ successful reigns before him. Both Emperor Vespasian and Emperor Titus had successful and popular reigns, and I found that Emperor Domitian had an equally successful reign in most aspects of his reign.

I decided to continue with postgraduate study because I felt that more had to be done to prove that Domitian was in fact a successful emperor. This has led me to research further the concept of a ‘bad’ emperor across Roman history. My MRes dissertation will be looking at the impact damnatio memoriae had on various emperors including Domitian. I will be arguing that Domitian did not deserve the treatment he posthumously received when comparing his reign to other emperors who also succumbed to damnatio memoriae such as Commodus, Elagabalus and Caracalla. I chose these emperors as they ruled across each of the first three centuries and this will emphasise changes in patterns for how Roman emperors suffered damnatio memoriae, as sanctioned by the Roman Senate.

The link between studying the Colosseum through primary and secondary literature and visiting the Colosseum just a couple of years ago is a strong reason behind why I chose to study ancient history for my undergraduate dissertation. I originally struggled to choose a specific period to study when choosing my undergraduate dissertation topic, and often felt uncomfortable talking to my peers about it. However, the university trip to Rome and visiting the Colosseum inspired me and helped me to decide the direction I want to take in my studies. Furthermore, it is the reason why I am studying on the MRes course at Newman University for the next year.


Newman Humanities Research Seminar Series 2017-18


The series will start with Dr Kate Katafiasz (Senior Lecturer in Drama at Newman University) who will be presenting Living on two sides of a piece of skin: drama and the real’ – see below for a brief outline of the paper.

Dramatist Edward Bond makes surprising claims for the political power of drama. Because it involves pretence or mimesis it is an art form many (following Plato) have dismissed as escapist, even childish. In any case, drama is often overlooked these days in favour of what Hans-Thies Lehmann (2006) usefully terms ‘postdrama’.  Yet according to Bond, drama helps us create ‘the patterns and forms of being human’ in response to great crises of culture. Bond cites ancient Athens and Jacobean London as places where drama radically changed human reality, to inaugurate the classical world, Roman Christianity, the industrial revolution. This is he states, a process so multiple and complex that ‘only drama can do it – not technology, administration, the economy or salesmanship […] Drama itself is the form of reality’. (Bond 2012: 6; 2016: vii, viii).

This paper will be published next year in Registres, Theatre Research Journal of the Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris 3. Its version for the Newman Humanities Research Seminar will use slides, and aims to offer an intelligible, at times performative engagement with early Poststructuralist Philosophy, in an attempt to understand how drama may provoke the profound cultural change to which Bond refers. It may be of interest to anyone interested in critical theory and especially those actively involved in any aspect of postgraduate Humanities research.

For details on upcoming seminars please see the following link: