Five Hundred Years of Friendship

Welcome to the History of Emotions Blog at Queen Mary, University of London.

From this page you can browse a series of specially commissioned blog posts supporting the BBC Radio 4 series ‘Five Hundred Years of Friendship‘.

The series is presented by Dr Thomas Dixon, Director of the Queen Mary Centre for the History of the Emotions.

We hope that these blog posts will provide a lasting resource for anyone interested in reading more about friendship, past and present.

They are written by experts on friendship from various fields – including philosophy, psychology, sociology, literature, and history. They are grouped according to the themes of the three weeks of the series, first broadcast in March and April 2014.

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I. Extending the Family, 1500-1800

Robin Dunbar, ‘Counting your friends in threes’

Mark Knights and Tessa Whitehouse, ‘Talking about friendship’

Antonella Liuzzo Scorpo, ‘Friendship in the middle ages’

Mark Vernon, ‘Philosophy and the art of friendship’

Laura Gowing, ‘Friends without words’

Amanda Herbert, ‘Female alliances’

Naomi Pullin, ‘The Lord hath joined us together’

Alex Shepard, ‘Crediting female friendship’

Naomi Tadmor, ‘Friends and families’

Sally Holloway, ‘Friendship, love, and letter-writing’

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II. Improving Society, 1800-1918

Helen Rogers, ‘Thick as thieves’

Beaty Rubens, ‘Stranger danger in the 18th Century’

Thomas Dixon, ‘Leaving the magic kingdom’

Helen Rogers and the Writing Lives project, ‘Memories of improvement’

Emma Townshend, ‘From the same animal pattern’

Liz Gray, ‘Loyalty and a dog called Bobby

Angharad Eyre, ‘Creating a circle of friendship: Constance Maynard’

Santanu Das, ‘The dying kiss’

Paul Reed, ‘Looking for the Grimsby Chums

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III. Connecting the World, 1918-2014

Seth Koven, ‘The match girl and the heiress’

Sue Morgan, ‘Without a friend thou canst not live well’: Maude Royden, friendship and faith

Michael Kay, ‘Phone a friend?’

Jenna Bailey, ‘Can any mother help me?’

James Ellison, ‘Friends across the ocean’

Thomas Dixon, ‘Thank God we can choose our friends’

Barbara Taylor, ‘Friendship trumped madness’

Mark Peel, ‘New worlds of friendship’

Deborah Chambers, ‘Online friendship’

Beaty Rubens, ‘What makes friendships last?’

 

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Listen to ‘Five Hundred Years of Friendship

Listen to a range of other available BBC Radio 4 clips and programmes about friendship

Follow Thomas Dixon on Twitter: @ThomasDixon2014

Follow the History of Emotions Blog on Twitter: @emotionshistory

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What makes friendships last?

Beaty Rubens is the Series Producer of ‘Five Hundred Years of Friendship‘ on BBC Radio 4. She previously produced a 30-part history ‘The Invention of Childhood‘, presented by Michael Morpugo, first broadcast in 2006. In this blog post, Beaty describes a personal friendship stretching back 40 years, and examines why it has lasted.

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As I opened the image on my laptop and the photo filled my screen, I was instantly transported back to a time in the South of France, aged twelve, eyes screwed up against the sunlight, lips tight with anxiety about what I was going to say next to the French girl, Fabienne, standing beside me.

Photo friendship

More than 40 years later, we are still friends.  In fact, my friendship with Fabienne is probably my oldest continuous friendship.   When she sent this photo to me, I was immersed in making a 15 part narrative history series on the changing face of friendship, so friendships – how we make them, what their function is, why they matter to us today, and have mattered over the centuries, – were very much on my mind.

Fabienne and I had met for the first time the day before the photo was taken.  Two families, each with six children, sitting at two long tables in a French hotel dining-room.  We seemed a good match from the start.  Her parents were looking for an English pen-friend for their daughter and had noticed that I was about the same age. Might I be interested?

Initially, our friendship entailed laboured letter-writing, in which we each attempted to stretch our small grasp of grammar and wildly inadequate vocabulary around descriptions of our twelve year old selves.  But mutual visits to one another’s homes and schools, learning to find common ground in the space between two countries, two cultures, two languages, gradually became easier.

As Thomas Dixon, the presenter of Five Hundred Years of Friendship explains, scholars generally identify three distinct kinds of social bonds within the concept of friendship: ‘familial’, ‘instrumental’ and ‘emotional’.   The French word for pen-friend is “correspondent”, and Fabienne and I had the good fortune to find a real correspondence between us, so that our friendship ticked all three boxes.

“Familial” bonds are the oldest form of friendship, and the term really refers to kinship within or between families. We never had this, but our younger brothers became friends, our mothers still exchange phone calls, and our shared understanding of how to operate amongst many siblings helped our friendship to become absorbed into each other’s families.

Our friendship was of real utility too – that’s the ‘instrumental’ bit – as our language skills were improved by a growing desire to communicate beyond the basis of “Do you like the Beatles?” and “Surely you can’t be saying you’ve  never heard of Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin?”.   Fabienne’s English is far better than my French, but, to this day, I can be in a group of French people and unthinkingly follow not only the words but also the shifting tenor of the conversation – a Gallic “moue” of the lips, a shrug of the shoulders – and for that I have my friendship with Fabienne to thank.

Finally, there is the emotional part – which, as the series reveals, was not always  considered the most important aspect of friendship in the past, but is certainly central today.  We were lucky at the start to share many interests: we were both passionate readers, we studied the same subject at university, and, years later, we even married men with the same name.

Now, into our fifth decade, our friendship continues to flourish on shared memories, experiences, jokes.  We love each other’s national cuisine and exchange Maltesers for Carambars, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding for tajine d’agneau, Summer Pudding for Tarte aux Pomme.  And while we acknowledge one another’s national characteristics, we also dismiss them: Fabienne agrees that (some) English women dress well; I concede that (some) French people understand irony.   When we both turned 50 a couple of years ago, we didn’t manage to celebrate together, but now we have a plan.

Perhaps the hotel, with its large, light dining room, offering family supper at six o’clock each evening, is still there?   Certainly we might revisit the medieval town with its window boxes spilling geraniums over the river, and find again the bridge where we stood, in our 1970s frocks, waiting for our lives to begin.

[This piece was first published on the Radio 4 Blog]

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Thick as thieves

Dr Helen Rogers is Reader in Nineteenth-Century Studies at Liverpool John Moores University, and the author of the blog Conviction: Stories From a Nineteenth-Century Prison. She is also one of the editors of the Journal of Victorian Culture. In this post for the History of Emotions blog she writes about her research into juvenile criminals, including their friendships and tattoos, subjects she also speaks about in Episode 6 of ‘Five Hundred Years of Friendship’.

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We’ll never know who coined the phrase ‘as thick as thieves’ to describe close and furtive acquaintances but the phrase had currency by the late 1830s when it began to appear in fiction and newspapers.[i] The timing is striking for it coincides with growing cultural anxieties about the rise of a ‘criminal class’ inhabiting a clandestine world of ‘hardened’ offenders bound by ‘evil associations’ and ‘bad connections’.

Poor and unprotected children were deemed particularly susceptible to ‘contaminating influences’.[ii] Nowhere was this evoked more vividly than in Oliver Twist (1837-9) with its fascinated horror in the tight bands of boisterous, street-wise youths and their corruption by professional thieves. In Dickens’s portrayal of the wily Fagin and his artful dodgers, the novel speaks to enduring concerns about unregulated childhood friendships and inappropriate adult-child relationships that underlie our preoccupation with ‘grooming’.

What can these cultural anxieties tell us about the experience of youthful companionship in the past? Here I trace the friendship networks of boys and youths who served time at Great Yarmouth Borough Gaol in the 1830s and 1840s. Law enforcers in Yarmouth frequently observed the link between offending and ‘bad connections’, namely relatives and friends. In his report when dispatching sixteen-year-old Thomas Bowles to the hulks, the Gaoler noted:  ‘Bad character and connexions. Hasty disposition.’ Sentencing Thomas to seven years transportation for theft, the magistrates hoped he would be sent to one of the new ‘reformatories’ designed to rehabilitate young offenders.[iii]

In 1839-41, 41% of prisoners at Yarmouth were aged eighteen or under, mostly convicted of vagrancy, petty theft, and absconding from apprenticeships.[iv] While the authorities did little to address the causes of youth offending, Sarah Martin, a local dressmaker, voluntarily ran a pioneering scheme of prisoner rehabilitation. She spoke to inmates as a friend and fellow sinner, like other Christian philanthropists committed to ‘loving the sinner, not the sin’. Less common, the Christian fellowship she offered prisoners extended to teaching reading and writing, training in useful work, and helping discharged prisoners find employment. Knowing the likelihood of their reoffending, she worked assiduously with first-time offenders. Her notes on inmates before and after their release indicate what they had to gain by her assistance and the challenges they faced in following her strict programme of Christian improvement, as we can see by following Thomas Bowles through his early convictions to his transportation.[v]

‘Sarah Martin and her Jail Congregation’, Women of Worth: A Book for Girls, illustrated by W. Dickes, (London: James Hogg, 1859)

Swiftly following a short remand, Thomas was imprisoned again, aged 14, for three months in 1841 for breaking into a shop and stealing with Joshua Artis (16) and Edward Juniper (13). Martin thought Thomas a ‘clever boy – and both diligent and obedient’. While regretting he had a ‘bad father’ and that his mother was ‘in want and distress’, she hoped with ‘judicious guidance he might become a better character’.[vi]

Like other Christian reformers, Sarah Martin believed lack of moral and religious training was the cause of much delinquency. She taught young prisoners by using picture-story books which stressed the need to be good and kind friends to each other and dutiful to their parents and teachers, while illustrating the dire fate awaiting wicked and idle children. The prison scholars enjoyed these books, despite their humourless didacticism, asking for more each day.[vii] Learning and useful work were valued distractions from the tedium of confinement, as the ‘diligent’ Thomas must have found. Many acquired literacy remarkably quickly, often by helping each other with their letters. Few were prepared to forgo the opportunity of instruction and consequently inmates policed themselves in class and rarely were punished for misconduct. If their prison schooling was effective, it was in part due to companionship between cellmates.

The Gaoler’s disciplinary record exposes, however, the different tenor of inmate relationships when left to their own devices. Thomas, Joshua and Edward were punished several times during their sentence for fighting, quarrelling, and making noise together. Their unruly behaviour continued on release for within months they were back in prison for stealing a bottle of wine.[viii] In the 1840s, prisons were increasingly turning to solitary confinement to prevent inmates ‘contaminating’ each other, especially the young, but at Yarmouth most spent the day in small wards where friendships were forged and rivalries battled out. Juveniles were by far the most troublesome inmates, particularly boys under 17.  While some met ‘partners in crime’ in gaol, many knew each other from outside. Overwhelmingly, friendships were between boys of a similar age rather than with the career criminals feared by social commentators.

In their raucous behaviour, the boys asserted their place in the inmate pecking order, stood up defiantly to authority, and sought to control the prison environment with their loud and disruptive use of space. In nine imprisonments before he was transported, Joshua Artis was punished eighteen times for talking with prisoners in the chapel, insolence to the gaoler and chaplain, and for being always ‘Idle and Artful’. Acting out his cockiness for his own and others’ amusement, Joshua climbed the prison walls with one cellmate, threw water over another, shouted to get the attention of the female inmates, and so on.[ix]

Both the boys’ offending and their bravado seem to have been responses to their precarious position in the family home and the labour force as well as their imprisonment. Most had finished what little schooling their family could afford and were expected to pay their way. Though few had no family ties, two-thirds of those transported had lost a parent, which suggests the immediate support networks of many juveniles were similarly compromised by bereavement and poverty. Thomas Bowles’s family, for instance, had been deserted by his father and he had spent time in the workhouse where he had been a ‘refractory pauper’.[x]

Work, play and offending merged with each other. Boys were prosecuted, frequently together, for swimming where it was prohibited, removing sand from the shore, stealing rope off the docks, and letting boats adrift. Some were fortunate to have an apprenticeship yet struggled to adapt to work discipline, often losing their employment through absence. Most depended on casual labouring jobs or occasional sea voyages, as did Thomas, but supplemented irregular work by pilfering. Provided her young scholars appeared committed to reform when released, Sarah Martin would help tide them over until they found a job, giving them a basket and a weight of fish so they could support themselves by hawking. She also kept a close eye on them.

The prison visitor recommended Thomas to a Sunday school and ordered him a two-penny loaf for the Sabbath and a blue slop at the end of the month if he attended. The boy called to say he had found work as a bricklayer’s labourer and could pay his sister for sheltering him. He was anxious to assure the teacher of his good conduct. He had met a prison friend, he explained, who ‘asked me to go with him in a boat on Sunday but I told him I would not, for I should go to the school, and said “You had better go to:” he said “Well, perhaps I shall.”’ But when next the teacher called on Thomas, she found him without work and playing marbles. This prompted a lecture. If he wished to play, he should drive a hoop or throw a ball; marbles was a form of gaming that would lead to worse. She was relieved when he won a berth on a fishing vessel for which she bought him canvas trousers.[xi] But her support seemed to come to nothing for the boy was imprisoned for leaving his master before being sentenced to transportation for housebreaking.[xii]

With their precarious networks of support, laddish behaviour gave boys like Thomas much needed companionship and relief from the hard task of survival. Without the steadying influences of regular employment and their own family and dependents care for, male juveniles were by far the most likely of Martin’s ‘liberated prisoners’ to reoffend. Two-thirds of repeat offenders at Yarmouth were under twenty-one. They also featured heavily in the persistent offenders who were transported.

The convict records of these boys and young men reveal the allegiances and habits which militated against the pious intervention of the prison visitor.[xiii]  Among their physical characteristics listed on their convict records can be found the descriptions of their tattoos. All most all had elaborate tattoos marking the names of family, loved ones and friends which reveal the strength of their attachments. One had the names of the boys with whom he had been convicted and others he met in gaol.[xiv] Another had an image of two men arm-in-arm, probably the brother with whom he was transported.[xv] Many wore blue dots, perhaps denoting gang membership.

Their tattoos, often begun in their early teens, also signalled the boys’ efforts to join the adult world of Yarmouth men, based around heavy labouring occupations, sea-faring, and the tavern. Joshua Artis displayed his hardy defiance of authority: ‘Man with staff in one hand cuffs in the other.’[xvi] In a port where lives depended on the sea and fate loomed large, their tattoos bore the superstitious, gambling and risk-taking elements of this culture. Most, including Thomas, wore the maritime symbols of mermaids and anchors, with their promise of safe passage. The tattooed ‘fouls’ on Thomas’s arms no doubt showed his love of cock-fighting and the failure of his teacher in warning him against gambling.

Among the most repeated images in the convicts’ tattoos were pictures of men smoking and drinking, crossed pipes and cupped glasses, the symbols of masculine camaraderie and conviviality. In their tattoos, then, these boys and young men celebrated the friendships that sustained them and on which, they had imagined, they would build their future.

Illustration 2: John Newstead’s tattoos, described by Gaoler, 8 June 1844, showing the names of friends and crossed pipes and glasses.

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Follow Helen Rogers on Twitter: @helenrogers19c

Read more at the Conviction blog

Return toFive Hundred Years of Friendship at the History of Emotions Blog


[i] The earliest reference I can find via Google Books is in the novel Mayne Reid, Osceola the Seminole (1818), though there are no more until T. Hook’s The Parson’s Daughter (1835). The earliest newspaper reference via the British Newspaper Archive is in relation to the Tories in an election covered by the Western Times, Devon, 19 August 1837. Thanks to Miriam Cady and Robin J. Barrow for searching Eighteenth Century Collections Online for me.

[ii] Heather Shore, Artful Dodgers: Youth and Crime in Early Nineteenth-Century (London, Boydell Press, 2002)

[iii] Thomas Bowles, per Asiatic, 1843, Police no. 10001; database no. 6264; Conduct Record, CON33/1/42; Convict Indent, CON14/1/24, State Archives of Tasmania. Bury and Norwich Post, 4 Jan 1843 p. 3

[iv] Based on analysis of Gaol Registers.

[v] Anon. Sarah Martin, the Prison Visitor of Great Yarmouth, with extracts from her Writings and Prison Journals, a New Edition with Additions. London: Religious Tract Society, n.d. [1847]. Helen Rogers, Kindness and Reciprocity: Liberated Prisoners and Christian Charity in Early Nineteenth-Century England, Journal of Social History, Spring 2014, 47.3: 721-45.

[vi] Gaol Register, 15 December 1841; Martin’s Register 1841, no. 106. All the gaol records are held at Norfolk Record Office. Sarah Martin’s surviving journals are on display at the Tolhouse Museum, Great Yarmouth Museum Services.

[vii] Helen Rogers, ‘“Oh, what beautiful books!” Captivated Reading in an Early Victorian Prison’Victorian Studies, Vol. 55, No. 1 (Autumn 2012), pp. 57-84.

[viii] Gaol Keeper’s Journal, 1841-5; Gaol Register, 20 June 1842.

[ix] Gaol Keeper’s Journal, 1836-40 and 1841-45.

[x] Sarah Martin, pp. 130-2.

[xi] Sarah Martin, pp. 130-2.

[xii] Thomas Bowles, per Asiatic, 1843, Police no. 10001; database no. 6264; Conduct Record, CON33/1/42; Convict Indent, CON14/1/24.

[xiii] Between 1836 and 1852, twenty-six boys and young men were transported to Van Diemen’s Land who had begun offending at Yarmouth when under twenty one. (A similar number were transported elsewhere). All but 3 were tattooed according to their convict records.

[xiv] John Newstead, 21025, per Ratcliffe (2), 1848, CON33/1/91, CON14/1/40 (see image)

[xv] Isaac Riches, 17982 per Joseph Somes (1), 1846, CON33/1/77, CON14/1/35

[xvi] Joshua Artis, 15826, per Theresa, 1845, CON33/1/67, CON14/1/29.

 

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Stranger danger in the 18th Century

Beaty Rubens is the Series Producer of ‘Five Hundred Years of Friendship‘ on BBC Radio 4. She previously produced a 30-part history ‘The Invention of Childhood‘, presented by Michael Morpugo, first broadcast in 2006. Here, in an article first published on the BBC News website, she writes about the perceived dangers of childhood friendships, both in the eighteenth century and the present. 

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Many parents are anxious about their children falling in with the “wrong crowd”, particularly in the era of untrammelled access to social media. But worries about the wrong type of friends go back 200 years at least.

In the 18th Century, children were given “conduct books” that gave moral advice on how best to live their lives. They routinely warned of the dangers of friendship.

“Friendship was regarded as quite dangerous,” says Professor Matthew Grenby, an expert on children’s literature from Newcastle University. “Friends are the sort of people that are going to lead you off the straight and narrow and are going to be detrimental to your secular prospects and also your spiritual prospects.”

One particularly popular book, The Governess, by Sarah Fielding, published in 1749, warned that a “delight in friendship may lead to all manner of errors”.

“Fielding was very anxious that you could fall in with the wrong crowd, and that these people are going to be problematic for you in a way that your family, which has your best interest at heart, is not,” says Grenby. The 18th Century view of children’s friendships is “family – good, friends – very often bad”.

But changes in the 19th Century made this view unsustainable. As family size diminished in the mid-Victorian period, a child would simply have had fewer siblings to turn to for companionship. Meanwhile, the introduction of the Elementary Education Act in 1880 meant that children were going to school en masse and inevitably forming friendships outside their own families.

Two Victorian friends

Anxieties persisted. Grenby believes children’s school stories from Thomas Hughes’s Tom Brown’s Schooldays to Angela Brazil’s A Fourth Form Friendship were simply a more appetising continuation of the conduct book tradition. The books featured veiled warnings about falling in with the wrong crowd – though things do tend to work out well in the end. After a few unhappy errors of judgement, Tom is befriended by the saintly Arthur, while Brazil’s heroine, Aldred, is saved by the sensible and forgiving Mabel.

A new book on social media and personal relationships in the 21st Century, by Professor Deborah Chambers, of Newcastle University, suggests that young people continue to show balanced judgement in their choice of friendships.

Online, Chambers believes the most worrying dimension is the new concept of public display – whether in establishing a new friend or bringing a relationship to an end by “unfriending”.

“People are still learning the etiquette that’s required for this sort of set of online friendships.”

For those parents who are concerned that their children’s social circle will be a bewilderingly random selection of people met on social media, there is reassurance. The vast majority of young people are not forming online friendships with strangers, says Chambers. “Young people often say that they regard face-to-face friendships as superior, and very few of the young people that have been engaged with by researchers are interacting with strangers online. Their connections are actually still very local, and they’re usually with people at school that they connect with in the evening, at home. They are cementing friendships”.

Young people who find difficulties forming bonds at school are more likely to turn to online friendships with strangers, Chambers concedes. A group of girls from King Edward VI Handsworth School for Girls in Birmingham, are typical in sharing a subtle understanding of different types of friendship. One girl says: “A Facebook friend is an acquaintance that you just want to have a way of communicating with, rather than switching phone numbers or emails, because that’s a bit too personal.”

More than one of the girls in the group spoke of deactivating their Facebook accounts: “I recently just deleted my Facebook because I was kind of considering whether these people were my friends, and I felt that I knew more about strangers than I needed to know, and I wanted to be comfortable in the fact that I know who my friends are, so I saw people with hundreds and hundreds of friends and that’s why I deleted mine.”

Three girlfriends

Parents who worry that their children are soulless “cyborgs” stuck permanently in front of a screen having only virtual relationships are wrong, says Dr Thomas Dixon, from Queen Mary, University of London.

“In fact, they’re doing something quite similar to what we did in our childhood and just reinforcing it.”

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Crediting female friendship

Dr Alexandra Shepard is Reader in Early Modern History and Director of the Centre for Gender History at the University of Glasgow.  Here she reflects on a rare glimpse of a long term friendship between two London women in the early-eighteenth century.  She will be discussing this case at greater length in a public lecture for the Royal Historical Society in Huddersfield on 21 October 2014.

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Friendship was celebrated in print in sixteenth and seventeenth century Europe as equivalent to marriage and kinship.  One character sketch of a ‘true friend’ depicted him as ‘dear as a good wife, more dear than a brother’.  Friends were mates, second selves, and other halves.  With roots in classical literature (particularly Cicero’s dialogue On Friendship), such idealisations of ‘entire’ or ‘perfect’ friendship usually imagined relationships between men.  In practice, the development of deep emotional attachments was not limited to men.  Women also celebrated such bonds using the imagery of both marriage and kinship. The physical remains of such friendships – diaries, letters, and even tombs celebrating their union – tend to survive only for those wealthy enough to have had the time, writing skills and resources to record and commemorate them.

Monument to Sir John Finch and Sir Thomas Baines, in Christ’s College, Cambridge, designed to commemorate their friendship which Finch described as a ‘marriage of souls’.

Such bonds were not exclusive to higher ranking men and women, however.  Occasionally the daily realities of past intimacies can be glimpsed amongst the voluminous records of the litigation that soared to unprecedented levels between the mid-sixteenth and mid-eighteenth centuries, which concerned the affairs of the relatively humble as well as the intrigues of the rich.  A particularly interesting example concerns the relationship of two women – Elizabeth Carter and Elizabeth Hatchett – who were friends and partners in a pawn-broking business in London in the early eighteenth century.  We know about them because of a property dispute over Elizabeth Hatchett’s claims to Elizabeth Carter’s goods after she died ‘of a fever’ in 1722.  Hatchett’s own death occurred a mere nine months after Carter’s, and the case was brought by Elizabeth Carter’s sister (Mary Lucas) against one Eleanor Jennings who had inherited Elizabeth Hatchett’s property.  Mary Lucas sued Eleanor Jennings on the grounds that Elizabeth Hatchett had wrongfully bequeathed property belonging to Elizabeth Carter (particularly a ‘gold striking watch’ and a brooch of diamonds) to which Hatchett had had no claim and which rightfully belonged to Lucas.

The case revolved around the relationship between Elizabeth Carter and Elizabeth Hatchett who had clearly enjoyed a long association as co-residents and trading partners before Carter’s death.  In question was whether they had been mutually bound to each other by intimacy and friendship, or whether they had been in each other’s service and/or debt with one taking responsibility for the other’s maintenance.  Thirty-nine witnesses were produced to give evidence, generating over 200 pages of testimony on the character of Carter and Hatchett’s association.  In support of Mary Lucas’s case against Eleanor Jennings, Carter was represented by the majority of witnesses as an extremely wealthy and successful midwife as well as money-lender, on whom Hatchett had depended as a servant, and whose extensive goods Hatchett had misappropriated during Carter’s final sickness and after her death.  The evidence in support of Eleanor Jennings’ claims instead focused on the extent to which the women had worked in partnership with each other – with Hatchett as the senior partner – and stressed Carter’s relative poverty and her reliance on Hatchett for her basic provisions and care in her final sickness.

It is particularly interesting that both women were married during the majority of their association. Elizabeth Carter’s husband (a baker by trade) predeceased her by a year or so, while Elizabeth Hatchett’s husband outlived her. The women’s ties to each other appear to have been more significant than the bonds of marriage. Hatchett’s husband had been a long-term inmate of Wood Street debtors’ prison until she secured his release (shortly after Carter’s death), reportedly providing him with a new suit of clothes on condition that he relinquished any claims on her property.  Elizabeth Carter’s husband had given up baking, and, depending on which witnesses are to believed, either lived comfortably on the proceeds or relied on his wife for support having failed miserably in his trade.  At this point the women are described as having ‘a greater Love & kindness to & for each other than one Sister could have for another’.  Another witness, declaring that ‘she never saw more sincere Friendship & Affection between any two Persons’, described a scene in which Carter and Hatchett made an agreement that the ‘longer liver’ of the two would inherit all that the other had in her possession, with Carter reassuring her husband that Hatchett would care for him should he be left a widower on her death.  Their business partnership – which delivered extensive returns – as well as their emotional ties, appear to have bound these women more closely together than their conjugal obligations to their husbands.

Deposition of Susanna Bagnall, wife of Ditus Bagnall (writing master) of Stockwell, Surrey, 21 May 1725.

Women such as Carter and Hatchett could be lifelines to others – such as Carter’s sister-in-law who borrowed 20 shillings to fit out her son for an apprenticeship (secured with a pawn of a silver salt and a silver spoon).  They also contributed crucial resources in the form of cash and credit to an expanding economy. This is not to become dewy eyed about the possibilities of friendship in a bygone age.  It is clear from the witness testimony in this case that Carter and Hatchett could drive a hard bargain, and that they were on the look-out for investment opportunities rather than simply providing a service for their friends and neighbours.  And just as the authors of printed tracts on friendship cautioned – even of ‘entire’ or ‘perfect’ unions – friendship was not without its risks or pitfalls, particularly when it concerned ties of debt or uneven obligation.  Warning his son about trusting a friend with credit, William Cecil (Elizabeth I’s famous adviser) counselled that ‘it is a mere folly for a man to enthrall himself to his friend’.  Even the rosiest idealisations of friendship acknowledged the difficulties of disentangling selfless love from instrumental self-interest.

The reason we know so much about of Carter and Hatchett’s great affection for each other was because it did not last: Mary Lucas’s claim to her sister’s estate was at least partly on the grounds that Carter had renounced Hatchett as a thief, a cheat and a fraud not long before her death.  The two women had clearly fallen out, with Carter pursuing a charge of theft against Hatchett in a case heard by the Old Bailey in April 1719 – which charge was dropped on the suspicion that it was maliciously motivated rather than grounded in fact.This case not only sheds light on the ‘great intimacy & friendship’ between these two women.  It also reveals the dense networks of mutual support that connected Carter and Hatchett with others.

The majority of the witnesses in this case were women, many of whom spoke of their own ‘acquaintance’ and ‘intimacy’ with Carter and Hatchett on account of having regularly borrowed money from them. Because there was insufficient coinage in circulation to support the growing volume of exchange in the early modern economy, as many as 90 per cent of transactions were undertaken on credit.  The extension of credit required mutual knowledge and mutual trust, and a good deal of small-scale, informal credit was brokered by wives despite the fact that marriage barred women from the formal ownership of moveable property.  Women were also active as money lenders, providing the resources necessary to bridge gaps in cash flow or for future investment.  Carter and Hatchett lent money to women from within the immediate vicinity of St Stephen, Coleman Street where they lived as well as to residents of neighbouring parishes.  Carter also exploited her connections more further afield, for example in the parish of Christ Church, Surrey, by lending to a poor widow of that parish who got her living by cutting wool for a hatter who had first been introduced to Carter through a mutual friend.  Many witnesses describing how they came to borrow money from Carter or Hatchett similarly alluded to webs of friendship that had secured an introduction.  In some cases, familial ties established patterns of trust.  A neighbour of the two women described how his mother had first borrowed the sum of £10 from Hatchett, after which he and his brother had regularly borrowed smaller amounts, presumably on their mother’s recommendation.

The fragility of the ties binding Carter and Hatchett compared with the legal bonds enshrined in marital property law also become evident in the action of Carter’s husband, Humphrey, who exploited the rift between his wife and Hatchett to claim his entitlement to all outstanding loans due to Carter (which he did by way of a newspaper notice).  Carter and Hatchett’s friendship would have chimed with their contemporaries’ concerns about the conflicting demands of selfless devotion and the practical realities of mutual obligations.  As recounted by those who witnessed it – no doubt with a degree of distortion to serve the interests of the litigants in the case – Carter and Hatchett’s friendship was perhaps more unusual in traversing the full extremes of both.  Besides shedding light on the connection between two women in eighteenth-century London, this case is also a reminder that both extremes were so readily imaginable for the many witnesses who supplied so many intricate details of their relationship.

 

Further Reading:

Alan Bray, The Friend (University of Chicago Press, 2003)

Amy Louise Erickson, ‘Coverture and capitalism’, History Workshop Journal, 59 (Spring, 2005), pp. 1-16

Alexandra Shepard, Accounting for Oneself: Worth, Credit and the Social Order in Early Modern England (forthcoming, Oxford University Press, 2014)

 

Return to: Five Hundred Years of Friendship at the History of Emotions Blog

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Thank God we can choose our friends

Dr Thomas Dixon is the presenter of ‘Five Hundred Years of Friendship‘ on BBC Radio 4 and the Director of the Centre for the History of the Emotions at Queen Mary, University of London. In this blog post he reflects on the history and ideology behind the idea that we can choose our friends.

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On Christmas Eve, 1902, a Northamptonshire newspaper carried a satirical selection of revised proverbs, twisting old sayings into modern shape. These jolly festive gems included, ‘Many are called, but few get up’,  ‘People who live in glass houses should pull down the blinds’, and ‘God gives us our relatives – thank God we can choose our friends.’

The idea that we can choose our friends, but not our families, had become a commonplace by the early twentieth century, but in earlier periods it would not have made much sense. Prior to the industrial revolution of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the distinction between friends and family was pretty blurred. One’s ‘friends’ were a supportive and interconnected web of close relatives, workmates, and neighbours – indeed any particular friend could quite easily be all these things at once.

Katherine Philips

The modern celebration of specially chosen friends supposes two things that only became widely available much more recently: education and leisure. Select, emotional friendships used to be the preserve of an educated elite – they required a refined sensibility and the spare time to indulge it. Such relationship also relied on being able to read and write – whether letters of friendship of moral and religious treatises on the subject. This was the kind of friendship engaged in by Erasmus and Thomas More in the sixteenth century, and by a remarkable woman called Katherine Philips who conducted a philosophical ‘Society of Friendship’ through letters from her home in the Welsh town of Cardigan in the seventeenth century.

In a society like ours, in which a large proportion of the population go to university, and can enjoy an extended, educated, leisured period of adolescence, this kind of friendship has become the norm rather than a minority pursuit. The coffee-drinking, wise-cracking ‘family of choice’ idealised in the hugely popular American sitcom Friends, first broadcast between 1994 and 2004, is a modern descendant of the friendships of choice celebrated by Renaissance humanists.

And the world of the globally marketed and highly successful commercial product, Friends, brings us to the final ingredient of the modern friendship of choice: consumerism. The Scottish economist Adam Smith, the great prophet of the free market in the eighteenth century, put rational individual choice at the heart of his philosophy in The Wealth of Nations. Smith’s other great work was his Theory of Moral Sentiments, which explained the centrality of affectionate relationships to human society. But even in that work, Smith emphasised that the ‘prudent man’ would choose his friends not of the basis of ‘giddy admiration’ but by the ‘sober esteem of modesty, discretion, and good conduct’. It is to Adam Smith that we owe the idea that we are consumers in the emotional as well as the economic realm.

Today our public profiles on Facebook or Twitter are like shop windows, displaying our wares in search of friends or followers, and we speak about choosing our friends as we might choose our toothpaste, a new phone, or which newspaper to read. Online display and branding seem to be as important for socialising as for selling.

But in reality, how many of us actually make new friends in this way? Even in our highly connected age, family, neighbourhood, education, and work provide our closest friends in the vast majority of cases. It seems to me that there is still much truth in what the social critic John Ruskin wrote in Sesame and Lilies, in 1865: ‘granting that we had both the will and the sense to choose our friends well, how few of us have the power! or, at least, how limited for most, is the sphere of choice!’

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Leaving the magic kingdom

Dr Thomas Dixon is the presenter of ‘Five Hundred Years of Friendship‘ on BBC Radio 4 and the Director of the Centre for the History of the Emotions at Queen Mary, University of London. In this blog post he reflects on the powerful emotions of friendship experienced in childhoods past and present. 

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Inevitably in making a series covering five hundred years of friendship in short fifteen-minute episodes, there were many examples and illustrations of the changing contours of friendship over the centuries that I had to leave out. I found myself thoroughly sympathizing with the author of a lovely Victorian book called Golden Friendships: Sketches of the Lives and Characters of True and Sincere Friends, published in 1884. The Preface to that book starts: ‘The difficulty in selecting illustrations of friendship has not lain in finding, but in choosing, examples.’

My own copy of Golden Friendships seems to have been presented to a diligent Victorian student as a reward for her academic efforts. It is inscribed: ‘Miss Mogford. 1st Class Prize for English. August 1888’. I do not know who Miss Mogford was, nor about her own experiences of friendship, but there is no doubt that Victorian classrooms and playgrounds reverberated with ideas of friendship. Episode 7 of ‘Five Hundred Years of Friendship’ opens with a reading from Benjamin Disraeli’s 1844 novel Coningsby, reflecting this:

At school, friendship is a passion. It entrances the being; it tears the soul. All loves of after-life can never bring its rapture, or its wretchedness; no bliss so absorbing, no pangs of jealousy or despair so crushing and so keen! What tenderness and devotion; what illimitable confidence; infinite revelations of inmost thoughts; what ecstatic present and romantic future; what bitter estrangements and what melting reconciliations; what scenes of wild recrimination, agitating explanations, passionate correspondence; what insane sensitiveness, and what frantic sensibility; what earthquakes of the heart and whirlwinds of the soul are confined in that simple phrase, a schoolboy’s friendship! ‘Tis some indefinite recollection of these mystic passages of their young emotions that makes grey-haired men mourn over the memory of their schoolboy days.

This image of grey-haired men mourning over the lost emotions of their schooldays is a poignant one – and puts me in mind of the Simon and Garfunkel song, written over a century later, ‘Old Friends’, including the line ‘Can you imagine us years from today sharing a park bench quietly? How terribly strange to be seventy.’

But one of my favourite stories of a Victorian friendship, although one with a tragic ending, comes not from the records of Victorian schooldays, but instead from the experiences of a young boy whose greatest friendship was with a toy horse. My own little boy, who is four years old, has a bed full of cuddly toys that he calls ‘soft friends’ – with which he formed his earliest and strongest emotional bonds, other than those with his immediate family. And so the following story had particular resonance for me.

It is a tale of Victorian love, from the memoirs of Greville MacDonald – later a noted doctor, and it is included in Ginger Frost’s book Victorian Childhoods (Praeger, 2009, p. 77). MacDonald recalled that as a boy in the 1860s he’d had a favourite wooden horse called Dobbin.

I loved it as much as any girl her doll, so that at last it must break my heart. It slept with me and fed with me, helped me to carry things away from their right places and compel them to some fairyland service…But there came a day when our nurse had to caution me to be gentler with Dobbin or I should break him. Indignant with her narrow views as to his mortality, I exclaimed, “He won’t break! He’s wood, not china!” and, to prove my claim, I threw him against the nursery wall.

Dobbin’s back was broken: there he lay in two pieces, dead for all eternity. I think I was too much amazed to weep; yet the tragedy did, I know, leave my conscience with a wound I would not touch, knowing it could never be healed. Dobbin was dead: one door into the kingdom of magic was closed for ever.

If only Dobbin had been a ‘soft friend’, young Greville could perhaps have avoided this early disaster. All of us can recognize something of the experience he recounts here of an early and in some way irreparable loss – whether of a toy, a pet, or even a loved one.

Horses and donkeys, in their flesh and blood forms, were favourite objects of Victorian sentiment (along with dogs, of course, whose special status is explored in Episode 8 of the series). In Arthur Morrison’s novel, A Child of the Jago, set in the East-End slums, a young boy’s best friend is a donkey, with whom he shares his food, even when he is going hungry, as well as his tears, and his inmost sorrows.

The history of friendship is not exclusively a story of humans but also one of books, imaginary beings, toys, and animals in which people, whether children or adults, have invested some of their strongest emotions.

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New worlds of friendship

Professor Mark Peel is Head of the College of Arts, Humanities and Law at the University of Leicester. He has previously held chairs of history at both Liverpool and Monash Universities. Professor Peel contributed to Episode 12 of ‘Five Hundred Years of Friendship’ and previously wrote chapters on twentieth- and twenty-first-century friendship for Friendship: A History (2009). In this post he explains the thinking behind those chapters.

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What I tried to capture in the two chapters I contributed to Friendship: A History was the escalating significance of friends for most twentieth-century people, and the ways in which friends—because they were chosen—were important companions for the more and more self-fashioned lives that people imagined and sometimes enjoyed. Of course, it is always important to think about constraints, and the horrors of the twentieth century are obvious enough. But I wanted readers to think about some of the changes that had broadened people’s experiences and life expectations, given more of us some sense of command over our destinies, decreased our reliance on family and neighbours, and allowed us to breach the boundaries that can be created by the intolerances of faith and caste. Making friends is an important part of that story, as I tried to show in the following extracts:

“In the first half of the twentieth century, a wider range of people came to regard a particular form of intimate and emotional friendship as a crucial component of a good life. More than family, kin or faith, friendship was the social glue of modernity. Friendship helped people manage, endure and even enjoy dramatic transformations, strengthened the horizontal bonds of age and shared experience, and nourished those who lived beyond sanctioned boundaries. . . Friendship was the conversation about who you had been, who you were and who you wanted to be. It was for the discussion of dilemmas and the rehearsal of new directions. Because you chose your friends, it also epitomised what was, for most people, a new degree of freedom to make their own way. What relatively few nineteenth-century people could enjoy became the realistic aspiration of many. Popular culture and popular conversation agreed on the growing significance of friends, and the importance of friendliness as a model for improving the relationships you had to have, such as those with family or neighbours. Cultural descriptions and prescriptions also focused on the links between friendship and successful selfhood: your friends, more than anyone, witnessed and assisted you develop a true sense of self. New forms of knowledge and leisure also shaped these understandings of friendship. More than philosophers and social scientists, advocates of friendship’s instrumental virtues—such as Dale Carnegie—and the producers of mass entertainment moulded the idea and the expectations of friendship among twentieth-century people.”

In a history of twentieth-century friendship, I wanted to make two other significant points. The first was to speak against the assumption that ordinary people were the victims of collapsing structures of traditional affiliation—family, community, neighbourhood, church, group or nation—and were or would end up adrift in a sea of isolation. Elites have generally seen something like this as the outcome of democratising and modernising forces that they don’t much like, largely because they assume ordinary people to be somewhat backward, under-developed and only partly educable versions of themselves. The evidence suggests that a capacity for friendship, amity and tolerance is not restricted to elites, and that the avant garde of friendship is often made up of outsiders, migrants and others.

The second was, a little boldly, to declare the twentieth century the century of female friendship:

“There was also a decisive shift in friendship’s location, as those once presumed unfit for its responsibilities became its exemplars. If heterosexual men seemed to struggle with the demands of this more intense, emotional and self-exposing idea of friendliness, women and then homosexual men became its chief agents, advocates and public performers. The idea that women possessed a special capacity and desire for befriending—whether innate, socialised or perhaps even as an outcome of patriarchal oppression—was clearly important well before the twentieth century. As Stacey Oliker argued, and as earlier chapters have shown, women’s increasing specialisation in feeling, emotional communion, sentiment and disclosure was evident well before the turn of the century. At its beginning, in 1907, one American male writer had already declared that “in the emotional region, many women, but very few men, can form the highest kind of tie”. It was an interesting prophecy, for the twentieth century was the age of female friendship, or perhaps the age when friendship became female. As the boundaries between male intimacy, male friendship and homosexuality became ever more difficult to control, women focused more and more attention on the intimacy and enclosure of ‘true’ friendship. Yet friendship among women—and among other outsiders, too—also changed its meanings and possibilities. From them came new or refreshed idealisations of inclusive friendship as a bulwark against oppression, as a crucial foundation for personal and collective liberation, and as a model for a better world. There were famous friendships of activism and mobilisation, and there were congresses promoting the friendship of nations. And there were thousands of unrecorded intimacies, moments of connection and disclosure that just as surely changed the future.”

Finally, in writing about the end of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first, it was important to recognise and celebrate the popular culture of friendship, and the ways in which “the link between friendship and love is seen as more and more important. In the popular advice of magazine, film and television, love without friendship is an ever more brittle bond; by century’s end, as the Spice Girls sang, “if you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends, make it last forever, friendship never ends”. . . Learning how to make friends was also changed by the expanding scope of vision. Twentieth-century people could see and hear much more of the world, and new or cheaper technologies of recording and sharing information—photographs, cassettes, and videos at first, and then the virtual worlds of the computer age—provided a platform for everyday intimacy over long distances. This was the crowning moment for the millions of penpals, penfriends and would-be travellers who could, as affluence increased and the costs went down, begin to visit as well as write to people and places separated by great distances. There was an increasing capacity to replay and relive the key moments of a life spent with friends, and friends were more and more likely to dominate the supporting cast in each person’s photo- or video-documentary of their lives.”

And in popular culture, television has to loom large:

“With its dramatised guides to selfhood, relationships, emotions and romance, and with its growing focus on talk, ‘lifestyle’, ‘reality’ and everyday living, television became the single most important place in which twentieth-century people could see how they might live, whether that meant changing or staying the same.” By the end of the century, we saw a “new wave of hugely successful performances of friendship’s pleasures, from Friends to Sex in the City and Will & Grace. If friendship’s revitalising properties seemed less certain to sociologists, philosophers and social temperature-takers, popular celebrations of enduring, intimate friends made a life without them one of the bleakest prospects that most people could imagine. These celebrations—and earlier ones such as The Golden Girls or The Mary Tyler Moore Show—also made clear the ways in which female friendships became even more central to popular as well as academic versions of ideal bonds. In movies and television shows, at least, the strongest friendships were between women and, from about the 1980s, between women and gay men. Male friendships did not completely disappear, but by century’s end, anxieties over friendlessness and the incapacity to make and keep friends seemed almost to assume that such problems mostly involved heterosexual men.”

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Friends across the ocean

Dr James Ellison is Reader in International History at Queen Mary University of London. In this post for the History of Emotions Blog he explores international friendship and the history of Anglo-American relations – from eighteenth-century hostility, via the Churchillian ‘special relationship’, to the present.

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In 1927, the BBC adopted the motto: ‘Nation Shall Speak Peace Unto Nation’. The intent to broadcast peace and create friendship between nations was of its time. In the years following the First World War, the hope in international affairs was for more friendship and less enmity. It was there in the formation of theLeague of Nations, in 1919, and, later, in the United Nations. Institutionalised friendship between peoples through diplomacy and politics was seen by progressives as the antidote to war. Of all relationships between nations in the twentieth century, claims to friendship have perhaps been made most consistently – especially after 1945 – by the Americans and the British. They even have a term for it: the special relationship.

Figuring out what has been special about the Anglo-American relationship has preoccupied commentators and historians since Churchill first coined the phrase in 1946. Friendship is certainly an element, but taking its measure is far from easy. If friendship can be defined as action without self-interest, then it does not apply. No nation speaks peace unto another nation without wanting something in return. If friendship is based on common interest, then it certainly did and does apply and, moreover, it became a political tool used to affirm and reaffirm a relationship which was of value to both sides, for similar and different reasons. It has also been used rhetorically, both to ceremonialise a strategic alliance and to camouflage differences. At different levels in the hierarchies of international affairs between the two nations, it has undeniably produced the kinds of genuine personal bonds that we associate with friendships between individuals.

It had, of course, not always been that way. Struggles for independence, such as that of 1776, do not often produce immediate friendships. Hence George Washington described the new nation’s policy as being against ‘the insidious wiles of foreign influence’ and to ‘steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world’. Isolationism had been born and the Republic’s anti-imperialism ensured that no hands of friendship would be offered across the Atlanticas the new nation evolved. And the feeling was mutual. Samuel Johnson declared in 1778, ‘I am willing to love all mankind, except an American’.

An 1898 poster promoting British-American rapprochement, showing Columbia and Britannia in the background holding flags, and Uncle Sam and John Bull in the foreground shaking hands.

The cultural ties which would breed friendships outside, and inside, governments began in the nineteenth century. Such was the interchange between elites, especially through Ivy League and Oxbridge scholarly exchanges, and between peoples as literature and science, trade and finance, drew the two nations closer. Organisations whose purpose it was to promote Anglo-American friendship grew. In 1902, ‘The Pilgrims of Great Britain’ were formed inLondon, followed six months later by a companion group inNew York. Membership was reciprocal and the Pilgrims’ aim, which remains today, was to foster fellowship between Americans and Britons and other English-speaking peoples.

Hopes for fraternity in the first half of the twentieth century were not always held in the corridors of power. As Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1927, Churchill told his Cabinet colleagues that ‘no doubt it is quite right in the interests of peace to go on talking about war with theUnited Statesbeing “unthinkable”’. Yet he added, ‘everyone knows that this is not true. However foolish and disastrous such a war would be … we do not wish to put ourselves in the power of theUnited States’. Being half American did not seem to incline Churchill towards theUnited Statesat the end of the twenties. Any friendship he felt forAmericaor Americans was outweighed by international rivalry and lack of common interest in international affairs. Yet in less than twenty years, all that changed. Claims to Anglo-American friendship were the result.

In his ‘Sinews of Peace’ speech delivered at Westminster College,Fulton,Missouri, on 5 March 1946, Churchill did not only talk about the iron curtain descending across the continent of Europe. The ‘crux’ of what he had travelled to the United States to say was this:

Neither the sure prevention of war, nor the continuous rise of world organisation will be gained without what I have called the fraternal association of the English-speaking peoples. This means a special relationship between the British and the Commonwealth and Empire and theUnited States. … Fraternal association requires not only the growing friendship and mutual understanding between our two vast but kindred Systems of society, but the continuance of the intimate relationship between our military advisers…

The use of the language of friendship, and of intimacy, was not employed here by Churchill for the first time to evoke, and reinforce, UK-US ties. His personal relationship with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt remains the most special of all presidential-prime ministerial friendships.

Roosevelt and Churchill – the most special of special relationships

It held within it the elements that would go on to build friendships between others and between the two nations: shared experience of war; common values; ease of communication; in-jokes and an affability known to a class of politicians and officials in the middle part of the twentieth century, and perhaps beyond. Churchill and Roosevelt’s alliance flowered in the letters they exchanged – running to thousands – during the Second World War, when the president used the codename ‘Former Naval Person’ when writing to the prime minister to create familiarity (Churchill had been First Lord of the Admiralty and Roosevelt had been Assistant Secretary of the Navy). Churchill’s intentions went much further. On becoming prime minister, he attempted to claim the natural friendship of the American people to engage Roosevelt alongside Britain in its darkest hour. Personal ties, however, did not convince Roosevelt to take America to war. Had it not been for Pearl Harbor, camaraderie would not have matured into military and strategic alliance. Without national interest in international affairs, friendship means little.

Nevertheless, it played its part in the protocols of statesmen and women. When Churchill learned of Roosevelt’s death in April 1945, he telegraphed the president’s widow, Eleanor: ‘I have lost a dear and cherished friendship which was forged in the fire of war.’ Eleanor would herself call on the same language after the war as she became a champion of the United Nations. On 12 April 1948, she unveiled a statue of her late husband in Grosvenor Square, close to the US Embassy in London. In her speech, she invoked the purpose of the friendship between English speaking peoples as upholding freedom throughout the world. She said that she would like her husband to be known as ‘valiant for friendship,’ not just for the Americans and the British, but for all humankind to ‘break down misunderstandings and differences’ and ‘to build a world of friendship’.

Eleanor Roosevelt in London.

The rhetoric of Anglo-American friendship may now be as, or more, significant than the strategic partnership that joins the two nations. After all,Britain no longer wields the power that it once did and other friends have more. Yet an old and tested friendship, and the story that can be told about it, can still be reaffirming and have greater purpose.

A special relationship today? Cameron and Obama trade bottles of beer, in Toronto in 2010, to settle a bet they made on how their nations’ teams would fare in the World Cup.

To get a sense of that, consider how President Obama evoked the history of Anglo-American friendship as a political tool for today in his speech to the Houses of Parliament on 25 May 2011:

As two of the most powerful nations in the history of the world, we must always remember that the true source of our influence hasn’t just been the size of our economies, or the reach of our militaries, or the land that we’ve claimed. It has been the values that we must never waver in defending around the world – the idea that all beings are endowed by our Creator with certain rights that cannot be denied.

That is what forged our bond in the fire of war – a bond made manifest by the friendship between two of our greatest leaders. Churchill and Roosevelt … what joined the fates of these two men at that particular moment in history was not simply a shared interest in victory on the battlefield. It was a shared belief in the ultimate triumph of human freedom and human dignity – a conviction that we have a say in how this story ends.

 

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