Library Bulletin No 5


Westmorland of Apethorpe Archive Appeal

On 9 August the great news was announced that the appeal had been successful, meaning that the collection can be acquired under the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme, and will remain in Northamptonshire where it belongs, at the Northamptonshire Record Office. The Archives and Heritage Services manager, Sarah Bridges, already has plans to conserve and improve the cataloguing of the collection, so making it fully accessible to the public. The Society's contribution has been £2,000, plus a sum of £143 from the money collected for the tea at the lecture on the Victoria County History on 5th May.

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Life and death in Northampton – and beyond

Looking at classification number 330.942 in the background collection of our library is the uninteresting-looking volume containing the eighth and ninth annual reports of the Registrar General, 1847-48. At first there seems to be little of interest for those studying the history of Northamptonshire until one turns to the appendix for the report of 1847. There is listed and analysed the celebrated Northampton Table of Mortality, celebrated because this table (in reality a mortality table for All Saints Parish only) was used by all the major insurance companies of the time as a basis for calculating life insurance policies. In addition to a detailed analysis of the usefulness of these tables there is an excellent short history of Northampton from the tenth century; other interesting sections include examples of the use of the tables for the purposes of insurance, the population of Northampton from 1084 to 1841, mortality in Northampton from 1741 to 1780 and details from Domesday. The companies using the tables included The Atlas, British Commercial, Imperial, Rock, Scottish Equitable and Scottish Widows'.

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The Quarterly Review

Of less specialised interest is the Society's file of the Quarterly Review (75 volumes, 1810 to 1866). Although this is a broken file, the articles give a fascinating view of 19th century England, both local and national. Volume 101, 1857 has a 56 page article on the history and the major histories of Northamptonshire, including Baker, the Northamptonshire Glossary by his sister, Bridges, Sternberg, Hartshorne, and Whellan (1849 edition).

The Review includes many fascinating articles on non-Northamptonshire subjects. Volume 54, 1835, includes the first comparison of Todds Johnson's Dictionary and Richardson's then New Dictionary. It is the first review to be highly critical of Webster's Etymologies. Strangely enough volume 55, 1836, includes a review of Jamieson's Dictionary of the Scottish Language under 'Dialect'. Volume 108, 1860, includes a review of (or attack on) Darwin's Origin of the Species; in keeping with its usual rival, The Edinburgh Review.

On a lighter note one can come across (volume 105, 1859) the great scientist, Sir David Brewster's pithy comment on the wholesale pirating of his invention The Kaleidoscope – not to be repeated in this newsletter!

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Who really won the Battle of Waterloo?

It is always interesting to read what overseas commentators make of our history. Any Frenchman in 1842 reading the article on Wellington in our Dictionnaire des Dates will have come to a different conclusion as to who won the Battle of Waterloo. The gist of the article is given below:

The concern of the British Government was to secure the commitment of its Generals by making a succession of fabulous awards, reflected in the honours bestowed on Wellington, irrespective of his variable success in battles. Wellington was the luckiest of all the generals.

The battle of Talavera is a case in point. What should have been a clear cut victory ended in stalemate, despite the inadequacy of the French General Junot. The uncertain result was celebrated as a great victory in London, with Wellington further ennobled. At the battle of Fuente d’Onoro he was given a harsh lesson in military strategy. His luck returned at Salamanca, opposed as he was by a weary army. At Toulouse his force of 100,000 overcame an enemy of 20,000. Finally at Waterloo he was saved from complete defeat by the brilliant speed of Blucher and his Prussians, aided by the stubborn courage of the British infantry. The victory was Blucher’s, not Wellington’s, who nevertheless went on to be greeted in triumph throughout Europe.

(The summary of this single column entry is by our editor of the Library Bulletin, who is looking forward to reading the nineteen column entry on Napoleon.)

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