Anne Clifford and the North: Raising Awareness of Cultural Heritage

Submitting Institution

University of Huddersfield

Unit of Assessment

English Language and Literature

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies, Literary Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

University of Huddersfield research into Lady Anne Clifford and her Great Books of Record has led to wide-ranging new awareness of a key figure in regional history, women's writing and political and cultural engagement. Supported by extensive dissemination efforts, including an exhibition, a series of public lectures and numerous media appearances, the work has helped inform the broader popular debate about the period in which Lady Anne lived, especially in terms of challenging cultural and gender stereotypes, and has generated both local and national interest in her life, her achievements and her continuing significance. The tourism, heritage and culture industries have benefited as a result.

Underpinning research

As a patron of authors and literature and a literary figure in her own right, Lady Anne Clifford, the 17th-century aristocrat whose fight for equal land rights is sometimes cited as a milestone in feminism, has become central to the study of early modern women's writing. During her lifetime — she was born in 1590 and died in 1676 - her influence was felt both nationally, through a network of relationships with leading figures, and regionally, through her administration of large parts of the North. In recent years historians and literary scholars have become increasingly interested in her life and work and their contribution to the larger emerging picture of the period.

The University of Huddersfield's Dr Jessica Malay (2005-present) is a leading scholar in the field of early modern women, with much of her work particularly focused on how their writing reflected complex constructions of social space by participating in and challenging the influential forces of their environment. These forces included developing concepts of private ownership and property and the social restrictions women faced in Renaissance England - all issues that essentially revolved around notions of a "woman's place" [1].

A natural extension of this work and her research in the field of early modern literature and culture more generally, Malay's studies of Lady Anne Clifford began in 2010 and were funded by a three-year grant from the Leverhulme Trust. Malay, the project's principal investigator, worked with Dr Sheila Sweetinburgh (University of Kent; employed by Huddersfield under Leverhulme grant) to transcribe and edit the Great Books of Record, Lady Anne's 600,000-word history of the trials and triumphs of her family dynasty over six centuries and her own landmark legal struggle — in defiance of James I, Oliver Cromwell, her father and her husbands — to inherit the Cliffords' vast estates in Cumbria and Yorkshire, including five castles and a number of villages.

Malay and Sweetinburgh's transcription has revealed the networks of political affinities derived from family alliance and foregrounded the female's role as integral to the construction of these networks and political power both nationally and regionally. Drawing on rich narrative evidence of how they circumvented male authority to participate more fully in society, the research has challenged the notion that women in the 16th and 17th centuries lacked any power or control over their lives. The study has also questioned standard assumptions regarding family networks, the interaction of lords and tenants and other aspects of more than 500 years of social and political life in Britain. Most specifically, it has made for a better understanding of both the culture of the period and the ways in which past social constructions continue to inform present-day cultural attitudes [2, 3]. The full transcription will allow a wider readership full access to the Great Books for the first time when it is officially made public in 2014.

References to the research


1. Malay, Jessica L: Textual Constructions of Space in the Writing of Renaissance Women (monograph), EMP, New York, 2006, ISBN-13: 978-0773457898

2. Malay, Jessica L: `Anne Clifford: Appropriating the Rhetoric of Queens to Become the Lady of the North', in Rhetoric of Queenship, Louise Wilkinson and Elizabeth Oakley Brown (eds), Four Courts, Dublin, 2009, 157-170, ISBN-13: 978-1846821783

3. Malay, Jessica L (2012): `The Marrying of Lady Anne Clifford: Marital Strategy in the Clifford Inheritance Dispute', Northern History, 49(2), 251-264, ISSN 0078172X



Leverhulme Trust: `Anne Clifford's Great Books: A Transformative Narrative of Identity and Place', January 1 2010 to December 31 2012, Jessica L Malay (PI) — £156,274

Details of the impact

The University of Huddersfield's research into Lady Anne Clifford and her Great Books of Record has helped inform the broader popular debate about the period in which she lived, particularly with regard to challenging cultural and gender stereotypes, and has generated both regional and national interest in her life, her achievements and her enduring significance. This is evidenced by widespread successful engagement with the public, the media and other stakeholders and by shifts in Lady Anne's portrayal by the tourism, heritage and culture industries.

The work has generated renewed public interest in Lady Anne in what she always termed "the lands of my inheritance" — the vast areas of Craven, Yorkshire, and Westmorland, Cumbria, in which she continues to be revered in folk memory. For example, it served as the catalyst for the Great Books and the Great Picture, a triptych commissioned by Lady Anne in 1646 to mark her final succession to her inheritance, being exhibited together in public for the first time. Entitled Anne Clifford's Great Picture and her Great Books of Record, the event, held at Abbot Hall Art Gallery in Kendal, Cumbria, ran from May till September 2012. It attracted more than 7,600 visitors and was accompanied by two public lectures — the first by Malay and the second by Professor Patricia Phillippy, of Kingston University, before a combined audience of more than 150 — as well as the production of 1,500 copies of a complementary publication, Anne Clifford: A Life in Portrait and Print, written by Malay and published by the University of Huddersfield, Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Cumbria County Council and the Leverhulme Trust [a, b]. Attracting a total audience of almost 250, public lectures have also been delivered at (among others) Austwick Field and Local History Society, Austwick, North Yorkshire (April 2011); the University of Huddersfield Centre in Barnsley, South Yorkshire (April 2011); the University of Huddersfield Centre in Oldham, Lancashire (May 2011); and Kent History and Library Centre, Maidstone, Kent (April 2013).

The tourism, heritage and culture industries have directly benefited from the increased public interest generated by these outreach efforts, as well as from the research itself. The administrator at Skipton Castle, North Yorkshire, where Lady Anne was born, has described Malay's work as "of great importance in unearthing and illuminating [Lady Anne's] life", adding: "[It] has changed the way that she is viewed and portrayed by the heritage industry." [c]. The president of the Friends of Cumbria Archives has praised Malay's work as "a fascinating and original insight into one of Cumbria's most important archives, its contemporary and current significance and the culture and genealogical influences which lay behind its compilation" [d]. Malay gave public lectures at Skipton Castle in May 2011 and to the Friends of Cumbria Archives in December 2011.

Wider public awareness of Lady Anne has been achieved through significant media outreach. This has included high-profile appearances by Malay on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour, broadcast in August 2012 to an estimated audience of around three million listeners and still available via BBC iPlayer [e], and ITV's Great Houses, presented by Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes and attracting an audience of more than two million [f]. Acknowledging the research's challenging of historical stereotypes, Radio 4 previewed its feature on Lady Anne by noting: "Virginia Woolf once claimed that no woman could have become a successful writer in the time of Shakespeare, yet Dr Jessica Malay has spent the last three years transcribing the work of a very interesting Renaissance female author."

Stories generated throughout the course of the research have appeared both locally and nationally, including in Ancestors Magazine (March 2010), the Craven Herald (March 2011) and The Observer (March 2013). The comments section of the latter's online version is illustrative of the kind of debate prompted by the work, with contributors discussing Lady Anne's cultural relevance, her continuing influence and her importance (or otherwise) to the cause of feminism — as well as requesting further information about the research and related lectures [g]. Circulated in August 2012, a press release entitled `Great Books reveal how Renaissance women fought men and won' was published by a range of websites and blogs, including Science Daily [h], Women of History [i] and Feimineach, reflecting the broad appeal of the research and its insights. A YouTube video in which Malay discusses the research was viewed more than 200 times between uploading in May 2012 and the end of the impact period [j].

Sources to corroborate the impact

a. Malay, Jessica (2012): Anne Clifford: A Life in Portrait and Print — booklet to accompany Anne Clifford's Great Picture and her Great Books of Record exhibition at Abbot Hall Gallery

b. Director, Exhibitions and Collections, Abbot Hall Art Gallery

c. Administrator, Skipton Castle

d. Webmaster, Friends of Cumbria Archives

e. Woman's Hour, BBC Radio 4, August 30 2012

f. Great Houses with Julian Fellowes, ITV, January 22 2013 — Daily Telegraph review

g. `Rediscovered portrait of early feminist goes under the hammer', The Observer, March 3 2013

h. `Renaissance women fought men and won', Science Daily, August 14 2012

i. `Lady Anne's Great Books of Record', Women of History, August 15 2012

j. Youtube video: `Jessica Malay and Lady Anne Clifford's Great Books of Record'