Session 14. Research in Action: Panel: Premodern material culture in motion

Zoom Channel 1

Nat Cutter (UMelb), Matthew Martin (UMelb), and Sarah A. Bendall (ACU)

(1) Nat Cutter, Morocco leather’s diffusion in Early Modern Britain

Morocco leather, a luxurious, richly-dyed sumac-tanned goatskin originating in the Maghreb, took British bookbinding by storm in the seventeenth century, rapidly becoming the coveted covering for the rich and fashionable and spawning a host of imitations and substitutions as its prestige increased. This paper presents preliminary work mapping the provenance of books bound with morocco leather around early modern England, Scotland and Wales, showing how London elites, country seats, and networks of fashionability and patronage all played a role.

Nat Cutter is an early career historian, ARC research coordinator and teaching associate at the University of Melbourne, researching diplomatic, economic, and cultural relations between early modern Britain and the Maghreb. Nat’s research in media history, social networks, diplomatic history and piracy has received fellowships and prizes from the Hakluyt Society, Folger Shakespeare Library, Huntington Library, ANZAMEMS and the University of Melbourne.

(2) Matthew Martin, Mapping Catholic artists in post-Restoration London

This paper outlines a proposal for a mapping project investigating the activities of Roman Catholic artists and artisans in seventeenth and eighteenth-century London. This population of artists, many with continental training, have been almost entirely neglected by art historians. The project proposes to investigate how these artists were able to function under the penal laws in the English capital during this period. How did they access places of worship? How did they interact with their Protestant counterparts? And most importantly, how did they negotiate networks of patronage? 

Matthew Martin is lecturer in art history and curatorship in the University of Melbourne. From 2006 to 2019, he was a curator in the department of International Decorative Arts and Antiquities in the National Gallery of Victoria. His research interests include the cultural aesthetics of eighteenth-century European porcelain, and confessional identity in eighteenth-century artists’ networks.  

(3) Sarah A. Bendall, From whale to wardrobe: the movement and trade of baleen in Early Modern Europe

By the late eighteenth century, the trade in baleen was well established. Several industries were involved in its movement from whales, to whalebone merchants, to manufacturers and, finally, consumers. However, this clear movement of goods, the result of two centuries worth of trade, is less established for the earlier sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This paper traces the trade of baleen from whales in Newfoundland and Spitsbergen through merchant trade routes, to middlemen such as haberdashers, to the craft trades that utilised it and finally to consumers. 

Sarah A. Bendall is a Research Fellow at the Gender and Women’s History Research Centre, Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences, Australia Catholic University. She is a material culture historian whose work specialises in the roles of gender in the production, trade and consumption of global commodities and fashionable consumer goods between 1500-1800. She is the author of Shaping Femininity (Bloomsbury, 2021) which was awarded highly commended in the Society for Renaissance Studies biannual book prize in 2022.