Thursday, 25 March 2010

The Role of Women During the English Civil War

When Did You Last See Your Father by William Frederick Yeames

The image above is probably typical of the view we have of the role of women during the English Civil War; it's easy to assume they stayed at home, demure, and vulnerable to the whims of powerful men. While it's true all the most famous protagonists were men, women did not, could not, stay out of such a widespread and divisive conflict and, either through choice or necessity, made a significant contribution. Some joined political movements such as the Levellers, others took on jobs previously filled by men. If you'd like to know more about what they did, and why, have a browse through the following links:

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Oddest History Video Ever

I'm desperately hoping this is an elaborate practical joke. If so it's hilarious; if not, it's scary.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Historical tv for the weekend

Just spotted the Devil's Whore on YouTube. If you haven't seen it it's well worth a look! There are a number of historical inaccuracies in the series, but it does give a good overview of the lives of women during the Civil War.

ps: I wrote a short review of the series which you can find here.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

What was on the menu in January 1861?

Image from Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management

Hi, I'm Tess, this is my first post here. Kate asked me to join in to share my love of all things culinary, I'm very new to blogging so please be gentle.

It's impossible to discuss cookery in a historical context without mentioning Mrs Beeton. Her Book of Household Management is still a best-seller, even if most people tend not to follow the recipes. It's actually not a cookery book as such, it's far more comprehensive and covers all aspects of household management as the title suggests. Obviously, the house that was being managed was unlikely to be that of ordinary people, this was a tome aimed very much at the middle and upper classes who could afford a small army of staff to keep them in the style to which they had become accustomed.
Despite, or perhaps because of, this, it does give an interesting insight into social history, and with that in mind, my first post highlights the way our diets and purchasing options have changed. We now take it for granted that we can, for example, buy fresh strawberries at Christmas, but that wasn't always the case.
This extract from The Book of Household Management lists what would have been available in January ... assuming you were wealthy enough to afford them.
FISH.—Barbel, brill, carp, cod, crabs, crayfish, dace, eels, flounders, haddocks, herrings, lampreys, lobsters, mussels, oysters, perch, pike, plaice, prawns, shrimps, skate, smelts, soles, sprats, sturgeon, tench, thornback, turbot, whitings.
MEAT.—Beef, house lamb, mutton, pork, veal, venison.
POULTRY.—Capons, fowls, tame pigeons, pullets, rabbits, turkeys.
GAME.—Grouse, hares, partridges, pheasants, snipe, wild-fowl, woodcock.
VEGETABLES.—Beetroot, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, celery, chervil, cresses, cucumbers (forced), endive, lettuces, parsnips, potatoes, savoys, spinach, turnips,—various herbs.
FRUIT.—Apples, grapes, medlars, nuts, oranges, pears, walnuts, crystallized preserves (foreign), dried fruits, such as almonds and raisins; French and Spanish plums; prunes, figs, dates.
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Wednesday, 13 January 2010

The Suffragettes

Updated to add: I can't get the video to appear here, so if you aren't seeing it, here is the link.

I found this video highlighting the work of the suffragette movement over on YouTube. I know their efforts are often dismissed nowadays, and it is true that the combined effort of women in World War 1 probably did play a bigger part in them winning the right to vote, but I still think the suffragettes were admirable and they certainly focused national attention on to the issue of womens' suffrage. We owe them a lot!

This video sadly isn't embeddable, but it gives a more detailed look at the suffragette movement, and the music (Aretha Franklyn) is pretty funky.

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Sunday, 10 January 2010

The Humours: No laughing matter

A statue of Asclepius. The Glypotek, Copenhagen.
Image via Wikipedia

You're probably familiar with scenes in historical dramas in which a character becomes ill and is then 'bled' by a physician. You've also probably wondered quite what that was supposed to achieve; nowadays, the idea of inflicting a further injury on an already sick person seems a bit bizarre. However, a few centuries go it all made perfect sense.

Up until the 18th - 19th centuries, medicine was strongly influenced by ancient Greek and Roman teachings, which included the concept of 'humours'. The humours were black bile, yellow bile, phlegm and blood, and it was believed these four elements were present in every human being. If a person was healthy, then their humours were in balance; if they fell ill, it was because their humours were imbalanced. Bleeding, either with leeches or through a deliberate wound, was the cure if the patient was found to have too much blood.

These practices continued for centuries, despite their inefficacy and were only supplanted with the advent of more modern medicine  - which ironically probably drew more on folk medicine, at least in terms of new drug treatments, than anything which was advocated by previous generations of the medical profession.

Further reading:

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