Saturday, 17 March 2018

Susanna Hoe and Derek Roebuck (2018) Women in Disputes: A History of European Women in Mediation and Arbitration, Oxford: HOLO Books.

In 2017 I was fortunate to meet and work with wife and husband team Susanna Hoe and Derek Roebuck. Susanna is an established writer in the field of women’s history and Derek is a practitioner and writer in the field of mediation and arbitration. In 1999 they established HOLO Books. Its two imprints - The Women's History Press and The Arbitration Press - reflect their interests and enthusiasm to publish scholarly books accessible to the general reader which may not appear commercial to mainstream publishers.

This latest publication from HOLO is an ambitious study of the history of women in disputes, both as active mediators and arbitrators as well as the recipients of awards determined by men. The material examined stretches across four thousand years of European history, from Biblical times to the end of the eighteenth century, while the final two chapters include sections on arbitration in the early American colonies settled by the English. I am a researcher rather than a writer and for that reason I am flattered that the authors have been able to include material I located in The National Archives and Surrey History Centre but would otherwise have gathered dust in my virtual archive.

This is an extensive study, underpinned by a desire of the authors to encourage a better understanding and recognition of the roles that women have played as peaceweavers.


·         The Ancient World:
·         Anglo-Saxon England:
·         Peaceweavers: European Rulers and Consorts:
·         European and Civil Wars 1337-1471:
·         Titled Women on Medieval England:
·         Untitled Women on Medieval England
·         Women in Fifteenth-Century Malta:
·         The Age of Elizabeth:
·         Elizabeth to Anne:
·         The Eighteenth Century:
·         Lady Anne Clifford: The Woman Who Wouldn’t:

Publisher’s Abstract:

From Homer to Jane Austen, storytellers have entertained their audiences with tales of women in disputes, as parties and peacemakers. This is our attempt to write their history, relying as far as possible on primary sources, documents which have survived by chance, never intended for our eyes by those who created and preserved them.

In 534AD, the Roman emperor Justinian expressly forbade women to act as arbitrators. In the thirteenth century Saint Thomas Aquinas stated that 'woman is naturally subject to man, because in man the discretion of reason predominates'.

Many have assumed that what was laid down as law or proclaimed as authority represented the reality. But women do not always do what men tell them they should. We have set out to find what has happened in practice over four thousand years, at least in Europe, beginning in the Bible and Ancient Greece and Rome, but thereafter concentrating on England, with regular references to the Continent.

A chapter on Anglo-Saxon England shows the inextricable ties with the Continent among women of the highest rank, as do two of the four that follow on the Middle Ages. Those women often mediated and arbitrated, but they also resolved disputes by a number of other ways. Then we show how common it was for titled women in England to resolve disputes. A chapter on 'untitled women' provides plenty of evidence of the regular resolution of their disputes. There is a digression then to Malta, to the records of a fifteenth-century notary, which tell the stories of women of every station and their disputes.

England's greatest monarch, Elizabeth I, supported women with free legal aid and her own personal interventions, in ways never since matched. The practice of submitting women's disputes to mediation and arbitration survived through the seventeenth century, despite revolution, regicide, fire and plague. A tailpiece tells how a dispute concerning the will of Temperance Flowerdew, one of the earliest European settlers in the 'New World', was resolved by the English Privy Council. A chapter on the eighteenth century emphasises the English Government's encouragement of mediation and arbitration, ending with how Mary Musgrove's mediation helped to establish the colony of Georgia, and two sections on France, one pre-Revolution, one Revolutionary. They challenge others to explore developments in the North American colonies and France. The Conclusion widens that challenge.

Lady Anne Clifford, a woman of infinite strength of will, has demanded the last word. She simply refused a royal command to submit to an arbitration which would have robbed her of the vast landholdings she held in her own right.

Find Rhiannon Markless at Legal Archive Research

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Book Review: Alison Eatwell (2017) Crime, Clemency and Consequence in Britain 1821-1839: A Slice of Criminal Life, Barnsley, W. Yorkshire: Pen & Sword History.


Alison Eatwell has an easy narrative style which she uses to good effect in this study of early nineteenth-century petitions for clemency, which were laid before the Home Secretary in the hope that a convict might gain a revocation or reduction of his or her sentence. The book offers a snap-shot in time of the many years during which certain convicts were likely to receive the death penalty, be sentenced to transportation to one of the oversees colonies, or serve a term of imprisonment with an additional order of hard labour. In other circumstances transportation was sought as a reduced sentence for a convict who might otherwise have been executed. The records of those appeals provides evidence of the experiences of individual prisoners.

Eatwell makes effective use of the original petitions held by The National Archives in series HO 17 and HO 18 to extract evidence of the daily business and conditions in the London prisons of Millbank and Newgate; on the hulk ships used to alleviate pressure on an overcrowded prison system or hold prisoners awaiting transportation; and in the penal colonies in New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land. The author similarly uses case studies to examine some of the offences typically represented in the records, namely: bigamy, forgery, assault with a deadly weapon, murder and offences of a sexual nature.

Petitions were submitted to the Home Officer by convicts, their friends, relatives and other associates with the intention of establishing a convict’s good character and proving him or her worthy of mercy. As such, the documents often include details of a prisoner’s personal circumstances and family background. Eastwell does not ignore the self-serving nature of a convict’s appeal for mercy, or the fact that the records are at best a highly edited version of events and circumstances. With that in mind, she examines the subjective nature of the appeal process, when the social standing of a petitioner or the extent of local support for a particular convict might influence the response received.