Pilgrim badges and the birth of tourism

By james read, guest blog author on 26 Aug 2015
Curator looking at medieval Pilgrim Badges

Curator looking at medieval Pilgrim Badges

For centuries, tourism was a pursuit largely reserved for nobility. By the Middle Ages though, the rise of Christianity and success of the crusades saw a surge in pilgrimages across all classes, for religious salvation, to pray for relatives or simply to escape the misery of medieval life. This was the first time people were travelling en masse for reasons other than war, trade or industry – and was the beginning of tourism proper.

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The Great Fire of London and the invention of insurance

By james read, guest blog author on 21 Aug 2015
Woodcut from 'Shlohavot, or, The burning of London in the year 1666'

Woodcut from ‘Shlohavot, or, The burning of London in the year 1666′

The Great Fire devastated London. There were few recorded deaths, but estimates put the destroyed property value at £10,000,000 (£1.5 billion in today’s money). From the ashes rose an unlikely development: the world’s first property insurance policies.

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Wapping and the world’s biggest Victorian pet shop

By james read, guest blog author on 12 Aug 2015
baron rothschild zebra carriage

Lionel Walter Rothschild with his famed zebra carriage, which he frequently drove through London, 1895

The Ratcliff Highway, joining London’s Docklands to the City, was a wild place in the early 18th century. It was home to gin shops, shorebound sailors and Bengal tigers. The world’s biggest exotic pet shop, Jamrach’s Emporium, was located at number 164. The discerning collector could buy everything from lions for £100 to polar bears for just £25, and in the 1840s there was plenty of demand. Charles Darwin had just returned from his Galapagos-encompassing trip aboard HMS Beagle, the first touring circuses were travelling England, and advances in print technology meant zoological illustrations were the thing to have in one’s drawing room. It was the beginning of England’s great love of animals.

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Brian Haw: the Parliament Square protestor

By jen kavanagh, senior curator of contemporary history on 11 Aug 2015
Brian Haw

Brian Haw

London has been the host to many a historic protest. From the Suffragettes of the early twentieth century to the anti-austerity marches we see today, free speech and the right to stand up for what you believe in add to the richness of the capital.

When it comes to longevity and determination regarding modern protest, Brian Haw has become somewhat of a modern London icon. Born in London in 1949, Brian moved from his family home in 2001 to start a protest camp in Parliament Square. Read the full postRead the full post

How suffragette poster art helped women get the vote

By james read, guest blog author on 16 Jul 2015
'The Vote Girl', Suffrage Atelier poster

‘The Vote Girl’, Suffrage Atelier

The fight for female voting rights was a long and difficult one – even once a national campaign began in the 1870s (after a woman was allowed to vote by mistake), it would take another 60 years for all adult women to be allowed to vote. Political posters were used heavily to enlist support at rallies and counteract the negative caricatures of suffragists being used in the press.

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Christina Broom photographs the spectacles of London

By anna sparham on 13 Jul 2015
King George V, Queen Mary and Princess Mary, at a thanksgiving service at Guards Chapel, Armistice Day, 1918  © Museum of London

King George V, Queen Mary and Princess Mary, at a thanksgiving service at Guards Chapel, Armistice Day, 1918 © Museum of London

The London that Christina Broom knew and embraced as she embarked on her ventures with photography in 1903 would profoundly shape her ambitions, subject matter and way of working. Tradition, pageantry and ceremony, in keeping with the era, interweave Broom’s work. This might be deemed fairly conventional. Yet her compositions, approach and the access she determinedly obtained, indicative of this photographer’s strength of character, define and distinguish her images from the work of her contemporaries. Read the full postRead the full post

Christina Broom: The Business of Postcards

By guest on 6 Jul 2015
Christina Broom with her postcards stall at the Women’s War Work Exhibition, 1916

Christina Broom with her postcards stall at the Women’s War Work Exhibition, 1916

Against the leading Edwardian women photographers, Broom’s entrée to postcard production stood out as a unique business venture. She turned to producing picture postcards just as they were becoming a popular cultural phenomenon. Although pre-stamped official government postcards had been available for sending messages in Britain since 1870, the picture postcard offered a product that was original, functional and commercial. Read the full postRead the full post

Christina Broom: Ceremony and Soldiering

By guest on 29 Jun 2015
Life Guards S. Raper, Sidney Crockett and William H. Beckham, 13 September 1915 © Museum of London

Life Guards S. Raper, Sidney Crockett and William H. Beckham, 13 September 1915 © Museum of London

Photography has played an important part in shaping public understanding of the world’s armed forces since the mid-nineteenth century. John McCosh (1805–85), a Scottish surgeon and amateur photographer serving with the East India Company’s Bengal Army, created what are currently believed to be the earliest photographs of British soldiers between 1843 and 1856, a period which included the Second Anglo-Sikh War (1848–9). Elsewhere, an unknown daguerreotypist photographed American troops during the American–Mexican war of 1846–8. Despite the obvious constraints of early technology, both photographers captured the combination of ceremony and soldiering that forms the essence of military life. Read the full postRead the full post