Mark Harrop '76
Those of us with indelible memories of professors and History classes in Swift Hall (or other VC) buildings to share them with fellow alumni/ae... Vassar's exceptional English, German, American and French History offerings led me to take as many of those courses as possible, while majoring in French (which I speak, read and write fluently). After graduating in 1976, I spent six years as an editor for two McGraw-Hill publications covering the global metals mining, refining and trading sectors and as an export analyst for a Swiss (French-speaking) cargo inspections company. I then embarked upon a two-decades-plus career as a public relations practitioner, working in-house at McGraw-Hill and at several top agencies in NYC. One Vassar-inspired constant through the past four decades has been my "dream retirement" research project: an analysis of the Duke of Monmouth's 'Inglorious' Rebellion of 1685 and its influences on 18th- and 19th-century English and French historical novels. I attribute this longstanding interest and wish to the teaching skills of two professors -- both Englishmen -- the late Alan Simpson (a PhD-holder from Oxford University) and Anthony Wohl, whose PhD was from Cambridge, that other great British university.) In the spring semester of my junior year, I had the unique privilege of taking then-VC President Alan Simpson’s 300-level “Revolutions of XVIIth Century England” course, held on Monday evenings when he was on campus -- in the President's House with his lovely wife Mary serving us tea and cookies midway through!
This was my fourth English History course, following three taken with my favorite full-time History professor Tony Wohl (always accompanied by his impeccably well-behaved King Charles spaniel, whose name I've forgotten!). [Ed. note, the dog’s name was Mary and she was probably an Afghan –spaniel mix, according to Tony Wohl.] In several survey classes touching on the English Revolution and ensuing Restoration of the latter Stuarts, Professor Wohl had piqued my interest in the brief transition periods leading to Charles II’s accession to the throne and to the controversial succession of his Catholic brother James II. I had written a term paper on the key role played in the anarchical years of 1659-60 after Oliver Cromwell’s death by the Puritan General George Monck, in brokering the end of the Protectorate and the monarchy’s restoration under Charles II.
I was excited by the prospect of focusing on Stuart England with Professor Simpson, getting the perspective of another British Vassar faculty member. When we got to the Exclusion Crisis toward the end of Charles II’s reign in 1679-81 –- fueled by concerns over his growing absolutism, the likely succession of a Popish Stuart King (his brother James II) and anti-French sentiments -- Alan Simpson motivated me to pursue my “interregnum” studies theme. My key player this time was James Scott, Duke of Monmouth and Charles II’s illegitimate son, and the role he played in another transition period leading to a potential change of power 25 years after the one over which Monck had presided. The Monmouth Rebellion did not end as favorably for its chief protagonist, nor for most of his hapless followers. My zealous research culminated in a 22-page essay (plus four pages of footnotes with a bibliography), titled “An Account of the ‘Inglorious Rebellion’ of the Duke of Monmouth,” that I submitted on March 5, 1975. Professor Simpson gave me a B+, noting that I had “put a great deal of work into this and deserve credit for it. To get an A, two things were needed: 1. A paper which was more of an evaluation and less of a narrative than this – this would also have shortened it! 2. An improved style. You must learn to use paragraphs and to write a more polished prose. But don’t be discouraged!”
I never forgot his advice, nor have I abandoned my resolve to expand on this interesting, largely overlooked episode in English history. Over the ensuing 38 years, I have continued to take sporadic but extensive notes from numerous, varied sources on the abortive Monmouth (or Pitchfork) Rebellion, also known as the Western Rising of 1685, as well as the preceding Exclusion Crisis and the Duke’s formative years.
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