The Wacky World of Early Modern Patents

Harrison, Charles. "Farmers! Protect your Crops by Using 'Bink's Patent Futurist Scarecrow. ' Specially Designed by an Eminent Cubist. No Bird Has Ever Been Known to Go within Three Fields of It." Punch, July 17, 1918, 33. Punch Historical Archive, 1841-1992

│By Ellen Grace Lesser, Gale Ambassador at the University of Exeter│

The famous wizarding twins Fred and George Weasley first introduced patents to me, explaining them to be the legal right granted to an inventor to prevent others from copying their invention. State Papers Online taught me that patents can be more than that: they are the official and legal conferring of a right or a title of any kind to anyone for a set period of time. In practice, this means that as long as a right or a title is temporarily conferred to a named entity (whether that be an individual person or a company) the right is a patent. It was interesting to discover that patents do not necessarily have to apply to inventions. While looking into the State Papers Online archive, I discovered many other kinds of patents as well as patents for inventions. From the contents of the patents to the physicality of the documents, I will share with you three of the patents I found in the archives and why each is interesting in a different way.

Read moreThe Wacky World of Early Modern Patents

“What we may expect”: The Corrupting Power of Power

A Bloater (fish) from Yarmouth, drawing. "The Utilisation of Bribery." Punch, October 13, 1866, 150. Punch Historical Archive, 1841-1992

│By Ellen Grace Lesser, Gale Ambassador at the University of Exeter│

We have all heard the maxim, “Power corrupts”. This has been altered in recent years, and now you may hear an alternative: “Power brings out people’s true colours”. It is not that power necessarily makes anyone “bad”, but that if a person is already “bad”, this is highlighted when they gain power. Yet is it the power itself that does this to people, or is it the desire for power? In this post, I will investigate the coverage of political bribery scandals from sources in The Sunday Times Digital Archive and The Times Digital Archive to see where the corrupting power of power truly lies.

Read more“What we may expect”: The Corrupting Power of Power