The full text of the essay collection Politische Freiheit und republikanische Kultur im alten Europa (Vitznau, 2015) is now accessible online. Published last year to mark the bicentenary of the (temporary) restoration of the Swiss parish republic of Gersau in 1814, the volume includes studies of political freedom in Austrian, Swiss, German and Italian communities, thematic surveys of republican thought and constitutional conflict alongside two contributions in English: Ann Hughes on ‘Gender and Republicanism’ and Marc Lerner on ‘William Tell – The Material Culture of a Freedom Myth’. If you’d rather have a hardcopy, just drop me a line!
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Audio recordings of Jonathan Willis and John Harper’s talks can now be found under our Parish Symposium 2014 page, at http://my-parish.org/events/parish-symposium-2014/parish-symposium-2014-podcasts
A video of the Berkswell Bellringers stall, along with a full video of a quarter peal of bells, can be seen at http://my-parish.org/events/parish-symposium-2014/parish-symposium-2014-videos
And a selection of images from the day taken by Paula McBride can also be viewed at http://my-parish.org/events/parish-symposium-2014/parish-symposium-2014-photos
Having planned the bicentenary ‘Gersau 2014’ celebrations for over two years, it was heartening to see the parish church of St Marcellus – site of the historic assembly which restored the independent republic on 2 February 1814 – packed solid for the commemorative Landsgemeinde exactly 200 years later (see the picture gallery on the project homepage). Following the Candlemas service (which included the blessing of St Blasius, protector against a range of diseases, administered to each parishioner) and an outdoor reception by the District Council (lubricated by a specially commissioned ‘Republic Wine’), the sounds of drummers – not to speak of a cannon salute – summoned the audience back inside. What director Roger Bürgler had prepared surprised everyone: Schiffmeister Balz, Gersau’s mythical resistance hero (impersonated by actor Stefan Camenzind, pictured above on the cover of today’s Bote der Urschweiz newspaper), emerged to challenge the congregation to think not just about the past, but also the future. One-by-one, he asked speakers to present their different takes on ‘freedom’: the district mayor, a Swiss MP, a refugee from military dictatorship in Turkey, a historian (who happened to be yours truly), a village jester and delegates from fellow peasant republics Dithmarschen and Gochsheim. In-between, on a giant screen, we saw video clips of Gersau’s dramatic landscape and appeals from current schoolchildren, punctuated by live performances from musicians, singers and – yes – a yodeling duet. Following a colourful procession, proceedings continued in the afternoon with a sold-out banquet, a couple of historical lectures and a full entertainment programme in the school hall. Judging from the media echo (cf. the podcast report of Swiss National Radio SRF), the day was a great success and succeeded in getting people to engage with the aims of ‘Gersau 2014′.
Last Friday brought the opportunity to visit Berkswell, the location of the 2013 parish symposium. You can see images of St. John’s (ably captured by Don White) in our remarkable parish churches section.
For a report of proceedings and impressions of the atmosphere visit the symposium page here.
Do you know of a parish church that is particularly remarkable? If so, please leave a comment, as we would love to feature it.
This is a guest post by Dr Sarah Richardson, Associate Professor of History at the University of Warwick. Her book, The Political Worlds of Women: Gender and Politics in Nineteenth Century Britain, discusses the rich female political culture in Victorian Britain, including women’s participation in parish politics.
Women and the Politics of the Parish
The parish electorate in England and Wales was generally broad and inclusive. There was the potential for elections for a range of parish officers including constables, highway surveyors and overseers of the poor. Parishioners could also vote for parish servants such as beadles and sextons. Although there were attempts to reform and codify this system in the early nineteenth century, in reality, in many parishes, democracy was in the ascendant. What is less appreciated is the fact that women ratepayers were able to participate in these very local elections. There are many reasons for this oversight. First, two landmark pieces of legislation in the 1830s, the Reform Act and the Municipal Corporations Act, restricted the right to vote to ‘male persons’. Second, the story of female enfranchisement has been dominated by the women’s suffrage campaigns at the end of the century. And, third, there is little direct evidence of women voting, therefore, historians have assumed they were effectively barred from the polling booth.
The discovery, in a box of solicitors’ papers, of a poll book for the election of overseer of the poor for St Chad’s parish in Lichfield, provided the missing link between the theoretical right of women to vote, and their practical application of that privilege. The poll book listed over 300 voters and among them were the names of 30 women. Ironically, they were almost equally split between the Tory and Liberal candidates. The women came from all walks of life, from wealthy businesswomen to lowly paupers. The fact that they were able to participate and make choices in this parish election has important implications for our understanding of female citizenship in this period.
To learn more about the poll book and its implications, see the following:
BBC Radio 4, Document: Victorian Women Voters (available on iplayer)
The Victorian female franchise (Victorian Commons blog)
Women voted 75 years before they were legally entitled to in 1918 (Daily Telegraph blog)
Where are all the women in politics? (History and Policy policy paper)
01/30/2013 in Media
‘Parish Pieties’, with Beat Kumin, Andrew Spicer, Gary Gibbs, Penny Roberts, Bill Sheils, and Brodie Waddell.
A podcast introduction to ‘Parish Pieties’, the 2008 Warwick Symposium on Parish Research, with Beat Kümin, and featuring a discussion of different approaches to the theme of ‘Parish Pieties’ by Andrew Spicer, Gary Gibbs, Penny Roberts, Bill Sheils and Brodie Waddell.