Footnotes to History

The Personal Realm of John Wilson Croker, Secretary to the Admiralty (1809-1830), a "Group Family"

By Nigel Harris

Footnotes to History brings a novel focus to social history. It is a study of a "group family" - an extended family closely structured through marriages that were either internal or with trusted associates. Its members strove cooperatively for their own mutual benefit. This kind of social entity evolved down the centuries, reaching its zenith in the early nineteenth century. The family portrayed, the Pennells, provides a supreme example of such a united body. John Wilson Croker, his two half-nieces and his best friend all married into it. The size of this "group family" gave ample scope for marriages between cousins. Most men in it gained prestigious appointments through Croker's patronage, but at the price of giving him their unswerving loyalty. From diaries, personal letters, newspaper articles, Chancery papers and Government documents, Footnotes to History brings the character of family members to life and shows how they interacted. Their personalities are portrayed through a wealth of entertaining anecdotes recorded by their contemporaries. Discussion focuses on the family in the nineteenth century, but how it evolved is also described. With their varied occupations and far-flung travel, the people whose stories are narrated give insight into fascinating but little frequented byways of British social and colonial history, such as intelligence gathering in the seventeenth century and the Newfoundland cod trade in the eighteenth. Their direct participation in events included riding from Dorset to London to warn James II personally of the Duke of Monmouth's landing and rescuing Marie Antoinette's daughter from Napoleon. Footnotes to History takes us on a meandering journey through British history brought to life by the experiences of one family over more than two centuries. [Subject: History, Social History, British Studies]

Publication Date: 8/1/2016
Format: Paper
ISBN: 9781845198305

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