Suggestions for seeing Early Modern history in England

In about 1.5 weeks I’ll be on my way to a conference in Oxford (“Louis XIV Outside In“), combined with a month-long research jaunt at Oxford, Cambridge and in London. I have plenty of archival volumes to consult, but I thought this would be a good opportunity to query you all about your favorite early modern military ‘things’ to see in southern England. I only spent a few weeks in London during my dissertating phase (kinda like the pupal stage), so I didn’t have too much time to see much other than the National Army Museum.

So what should someone interested in EMEMH check out when they’re in England? One could obviously name the various museums, and obviously I’ll be checking out Blenheim Palace, but what I’m particularly interested in are specific items to be on the lookout for, not just a listing of various museums. For example, ‘the National Army Museum has a really cool ____’, or ‘there is an interesting example of early modern architecture at ____’, paintings or statues or reliefs of early modern rulers/generals (particularly equestrian or military), city gates, early modern memorials, walls which famous generals pissed on…

A few examples from past trips, just to give you an idea of the specificity I’m hoping to get:

  • Cannonballs (fired by the British during their bombardment) hanging in a Copenhagen church (Sankt Peter’s).
  • An early modern grenade-launcher attached to a carbine in Copenhagen’s Arsenal.
  • Plans-relief of northern French fortresses in the basement of Lille’s Palais des Beaux Arts.
  • Incongruous city gates towering in the middle of Paris (Portes de Saint-Martin and Saint-Denis).


If you want to mention other interesting items outside of England, that’s ok too. If there’s interest, we could probably do a series, a country a month or something…


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3 responses to “Suggestions for seeing Early Modern history in England”

  1. miz_geek says :

    Any non-EMEMH recommendations are welcome, too (says the spouse who knows far more about the Duke of Marlborough than any normal person should). I’ve got a week to spend in Oxford, and no matter how nicely he asks, I’m not spending it photographing papers at the Bodleian.

  2. Wienand Drenth says :

    Regarding England, it may be interesting to visit Brixham. There is a statue of William of Orange in the harbour and the area (Torbay) is nice too. However, there is no ‘here the course of history was changed’ atmosphere, and the statue is dwarfed several other attractions.

    Going to Bavaria, the village of Hochstadt is worth a visit. In English sources it is Blenheim this and Blenheim that, but I think referring to the (2nd) battle of Hochstadt does more justice to the other nationalities doing a lot of the fighting. Anyway, that is a small Heimatmuseum in Hochstadt with several nice dioramas showing several episodes of the battle, and the usual documents, paintings and odd musket. There are also dioramas of the first and third battles of Hochstadt. Paintings of several of several Bavarian kings keep a close eye on the visitors. The square across the museum is ideal for some r&r. In Blindheim (Blenheim) one finds several monuments related to the battle, and a lookout tower.

    To the west, I would recommend a visit to Rastatt. The German Army Museum is located in the palace where the treaty of Rastatt was signed in 1714. The museum gives a nice and decent overview of the military history of Germany.

  3. learnearnandreturn says :

    Marlborough House in London isn’t usually open to the public, but I saw inside a few years ago during Open House weekend. Unfortunately the dates don’t look propitious for you (September) but details are here for anyone who wants to time their trip accordingly.

    If you can get north, the post Culloden forts along the Scottish border – Fort George, Fort William and (I think) Fort Augustus are interesting – FG in particular shows the Vauban style layout very well.

    For miz_geek, first, my sympathies! But Oxford is a wonderful place with plenty to do – there should be concerts in the evenings at some of the colleges during the summer.

    If you have access to a car, Bletchley Park is about half way between Cambridge and Oxford, and is a fascinating place, with very good guided tours. This is where they cracked the Enigma code in WW II and developed the computer. Difficult to reach without a car – and WITH a car, make sure you take careful note of the detailed directions on their website. Otherwise you may spend the rest of your life on the Milton Keynes roundabouts.

    Have a lovely time.

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