Mary Hamilton was perhaps the most notorious cross-dresser or ‘female-husband’ of her day. She lived in Somerset, among other places, and was the subject of scandal across the country for her habitual crime of marrying other women. Her story was preserved in the pages of an anonymous pamphlet by a famous contemporary novelist and dramatist. Through the story of Mary Hamilton, Sheila Hannon considers the rights and responsibilities of modern-day novelists and dramatists in their use of historical evidence. To what extent can writers take liberties with historical record in the name of ‘dramatic license’, when much of the ‘historical evidence’ that remains is itself fiction?
During the eighteenth-century, Britain was the hub of the international market in iron. Although the British Isles could boast a well-established domestic iron industry, native ironmasters were unable to meet the rapidly growing demand for iron in the major metalworking districts of the Midlands and the north. As a result, large quantities of bar iron had to be imported from the Baltic to meet the shortfall. Much of this iron, destined for the West Midlands, was shipped through Bristol. In this article, Chris Evans looks at Bristol’s iron trade through the business records of Graffin Prankard, a Bristol merchant who played an important role in this commerce in the first half of the eighteenth century.