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Thursday, 27 December 2012

Darwin

HMS Beagle set sail on 27 December 1831. On board was Charles Darwin. I wrote his biography www.localhistories.org/darwin 

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Dead Pope on trial

In 897 Pope Stephen VI had the dead body of a previous Pope called Formosus dug up and put on trial. Not surprisingly the former Pope did not say much in his own defence and he was found guilty . There was not much point in executing him but they threw his body in the River Tiber. I suppose that must be what they call 'a body of evidence'.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Jane Austen

I wrote a brief biography of Jane Austen the great novelist of the early 19th century www.localhistories.org/austen 

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Paris, France

I wrote a brief history of Paris one of the world's greatest cities and scene of several revolutions www.localhistories.org/paris 

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Saturday, 24 November 2012

James Simpson

I wrote a brief biography of James Simpson the great Scottish surgeon who was a pioneer of anaesthetics. www.localhistories.org/simpson 

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Joseph Lister

I wrote a little history of the surgeon Joseph Lister. He is called the father of antiseptic surgery. www.localhistories.org/lister  

Women at University

On 17 November 1880 women in Britain were awarded degrees for the first time. Three women were granted Bachelor of Arts degrees from the University of London. Despite our image of the Victorians as stuffy and repressive women gained more rights in the 19th century. The territory of Wyoming became the first place to allow women to vote in 1867. New Zealand became the first country to give women the vote in 1893. www.localhistories.org/womensrights 

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

George Fox

I wrote a short biography of George Fox the founder of the Quakers. He was a brave man who refused to compromise his principles. www.localhistories.org/fox 

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Belize

I wrote a little history of Belize. Its a small country and many of its people are poor but its developing rapidly.  www.localhistories.org/belize 

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Musical instruments

Many new musical instruments were invented in the 19th century. The harmonica was invented in the early 19th century. The tuba was also developed in the early 19th century. The accordion was invented in 1821 and the concertina followed in 1829. Also in the early 19th century valves were added to the trumpet and in 1846 Adolphe Sax patented the saxophone. www.localhistories.org/music 

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Leon Trotsky

I wrote a short biography of Leon Trotsky. In the words of the famous song by the Stranglers 'he got an ice pick that made his ears burn'. www.localhistories.org/trotsky 

Monday, 29 October 2012

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Anne Askew

I wrote a short biography of Anne Askew. She was an English Protestant martyr of the 16th century. www.localhistories.org/askew 

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Lenin

I wrote a brief biography of Lenin. Lenin was a fool. He was mainly responsible for creating a totalitarian regime which killed millions of innocent people. www.localhistories.org/lenin  

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Angels

I wrote an article about angels. Whether you believe in angels or not they have played a major part in Western culture, in art and literature. Recently belief in angels has revived and books about them have become popular. www.localhistories.org/angels  

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Fire of London 1666

In 1666 came the Great Fire of London. It began on 2 September in a baker's house in Pudding Lane belonging to Thomas Farynor. It probably began because Farynor had not properly extinguished his ovens after a days baking. The wind fanned the ashes and a fire began.

 At first it did not cause undue alarm. The Lord Mayor of London Thomas Bludworth was awoken and said "Pish! A woman might piss it out!". But the wind caused the flames to spread rapidly. People formed chains with leather buckets and worked hand operated pumps all to no avail. The mayor was advised to use gunpowder to create fire breaks but he was reluctant, fearing the owners of destroyed buildings would sue for compensation. 

The fire continued to spread until the king took charge. He ordered sailors to make firebreaks. At the same time the wind dropped. www.localhistories.org/fire 

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Fizzy drinks

Fizzy drinks were invented in 1773 by Joseph Priestley, who discovered how to trap carbon dioxide in water and made carbonated water. www.localhistories.org/drink 

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

London

The Romans founded London about 50 AD. Its name is derived from the Celtic word Londinios, which means the place of the bold one. After they invaded Britain in 43 AD the Romans built a bridge across the Thames. They later decided it was an excellent place to build a port. The water was deep enough for ocean going ships but it was far enough inland to be safe from Germanic raiders. Around 50 AD Roman merchants built a town by the bridge. So London was born. www.localhistories.org/london 

Friday, 5 October 2012

Tudor Astronomy

I wrote an article about Tudor astronomy. The 16th century and early 17th century were a great age for astronomy when people's view of the universe changed completely. www.localhistories.org/tudorastronomy  

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Monty Python

5 October 1969 was a great day in British history. On that day a new TV programme was broadcast. It was called Monty Python's Flying Circus. The rest as they say is history.

Imperial Chinese Society


In a Chinese family the father had complete authority over his wife and children. A woman was ruled by her father, or by her husband or (if widowed) her son. Marriages were arranged by parents with the help of go-betweens and children had no say in the matter. However many wealthy men kept concubines.

Children were supposed to be obedient. In China male heirs were very important as they carried on the family. Girls were valued much less than boys and baby girls were often left outside to die or were drowned. In any case infant mortality was high. People would have many children but not all would live to adulthood.
Only boys went to school. There they learned the teachings of Confucius by heart. They also learned calligraphy. Of course, only a minority of boys went to school. Most did not. Instead they worked in the fields from an early age.

When they were 4 or 5 girls had their feet bound. Eventually the girl's feet became deformed so they had difficulty walking. However 'lily feet' were very attractive to men.

In China the upper class were officials called mandarins. To become a mandarin you had to pass certain exams. The exams were, in theory open to almost all men. However Chinese merchants were held in low esteem.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

The Opium Wars


The Opium Wars were a shameful episode in British history. The Chinese government took action to combat this menace. In 1839 an official called Lin Zexu was sent to Guangzhou to stop the opium smuggling. He commanded the British to hand over their stores of opium. Reluctantly they obeyed. However the British government sent a fleet to blockade Guangzhou and the ports of Ningbo and Tanjin. In 1841 a Chinese official negotiated a treaty. He agreed to give the British Hong Kong and pay what it cost the British to send a fleet to China. However neither side was satisfied with this treaty and the war resumed.

The British sent a second fleet and occupied several ports. This time the Chinese were forced to pay a much larger amount of money. They were also forced to open 5 ports to British merchants (Guangzhou, Xiamen, Fuzhou, Ningbo and Shanghai). British citizens were to answer only to the British authorities if they committed any crime while they were in China. Chinese tariffs on British goods were to be only 5%. Soon afterwards the Chinese were forced to sign similar treaties with other European countries. Unfortunately the Chinese had fallen behind in military technology and they were no match for the European forces.

The first Opium War of 1840-42 was followed by a second conflict. Neither side was satisfied with the treaty of 1842. The Chinese naturally resented the treaty. The British accused Chinese officials of 'dragging their feet' and obstructing trade. Conflict came to a head in 1856 when the Chinese boarded a ship called The Arrow. In 1858 the British sent another fleet to China and the Chinese were forced to sign another treaty. Ten more ports were opened to trade and foreigners were to be allowed to travel around China.

In 1859 British officials returned to ratify the treaty but they were prevented from entering China. However in 1860 the British sent another expedition. This time the British burned the emperor's summer palace. China was forced to open ports in the north to trade and to pay a large sum of money to Britain. www.localhistories.org/china 

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Friday, 28 September 2012

Shang Dynasty


The Shang dynasty created a highly organised state. Though they ruled only a part of China their cultural influence spread through most of it. Writing was invented in China about 1,500 BC. The earliest evidence of it comes from bones used for fortune telling. Bones were touched with a red-hot piece of bronze so they cracked. The cracks were then interpreted and the predictions were written on them. The form of writing invented during the Shang era remained unchanged for thousands of years.

The Shang were polytheists (they worshipped many gods). The most important god was called Di. During the Shang dynasty the practice of ancestor worship began. Ancestor worship is the belief that the dead can intervene in the affairs of the living. Offerings were made to them to keep them happy. Ancestor worship became part of Chinese culture for thousands of years. The Shang probably invented the Chinese calendar.

Silk was probably first made in China during the Shang era. It was made by 1300 BC. During the Shang era bronze was more widely used. Previously it was only used to make weapons. After 1700 BC bronze vessels were made. However tools such as sickles, ploughs and spades were usually made of wood and stone.

The Shang built the first real cities in China. The first capital at Zhengdou had walls more than 6 kilometres long. (Later the capital was moved to Anyang). The Shang also built palaces and temples. The Shang nobles were very fond of hunting.

During the Shang era slavery was common in China. Prisoners of war were made into slaves. Human sacrifice was still practiced. When a Shang emperor died his servants and slaves either committed suicide or were killed to accompany him into the afterlife. Because of the need to capture slaves warfare was common. After 1200 BC chariots pulled by 2 or 4 horses were used in Chinese warfare. www.localhistories.org/china 

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Droit de Seigneur

There is a common myth: In Europe in the Middle Ages a Lord had the right to sleep with a bride on her wedding night. 

There is no documentary evidence from the Middle Ages that such a law or custom ever existed so its almost certainly a myth. www.localhistories.org/histmyth 

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Prague

I wrote a little history of Prague. Its a very historic city. Fortunately most of its buildings survived the Second World War intact. www.localhistories.org/prague  

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Sweden


By the 9th century Sweden had become one kingdom. However Swedish kings had little power. When a king died his eldest son did not necessarily inherit the throne. It might go to a younger son or even to the dead kings brother. However as the centuries passed the kings power slowly increased.

In the 11th century Sweden was converted to Christianity. Afterwards it became a part of Western civilisation. A missionary called Ansgar went to Sweden in 829 but he had little success in converting the Swedes. However a Swedish king, Olof Stokonung, became a Christian in 1008. However it was a long time before all Swedes were converted. Paganism lingered on in Sweden until the end of the 11th century. Nevertheless by the middle of the 12th century Sweden had become a firmly Christian country. www.localhistories.org/sweden 

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Gdansk

I wrote a little history of Gdansk in Poland. It was the birthplace of Solidarity and the end of Communism. www.localhistories.org/gdansk 

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Warsaw

I wrote a short history of Warsaw. Unfortunately the city was devastated during the Second World War. However it was rebuilt and it is now a vibrant and flourishing city. www.localhistories.org/warsaw  

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Torun, Poland

I wrote a history of Torun, Poland. Its a very historic city famous for its Medieval buildings. Today it has a Gingerbread Museum! www.localhistories.org/torun 




Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Cracow

I wrote a short history of Cracow in Poland. For centuries it was the capital of Poland and was a centre of trade and Polish culture. www.localhistories.org/cracow  

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Spanish Armada

I wrote an article about the Spanish Armada but its defeat had much more to do with the appalling weather than with the English ships. www.localhistories.org/armada  

Monday, 10 September 2012

The Gunpowder Plot

I wrote an article about the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. It was a conspiracy to blow up parliament and King James I with gunpowder. In England it is commemorated every year on Bonfire night. www.localhistories.org/gun 

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Ancient China


Chinese civilisation developed independently of others because it was separated from them by deserts and by sheer distance. After 10,000 BC people in China lived by hunting and gathering plants. Then, about 5,000 BC, the Chinese began farming. From about 5,000 BC rice was cultivated in southern China and millet was grown in the north. By 5,000 BC dogs and pigs were domesticated. By 3,000 BC sheep and (in the south) cattle were domesticated. Finally horses were introduced into China between 3,000 and 2,300 BC.

By 5,000 BC Chinese farmers had learned to make pottery. They also made lacquer (a kind of varnish made from the sap of the Chinese lacquer tree). The early Chinese farmers also made baskets and wove cloth (before sheep were domesticated hemp was woven). The Chinese also made ritual objects from jade such as knives, axes and rings. The wheel was invented in China about 2,500 BC. www.localhistories.org/china

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Mozambique

I wrote a little history of Mozambique. It is still a very poor country but its economy is growing rapidly. There is every reason to believe that Mozambique will be an African success story in the future. www.localhistories.org/mozambique  

Friday, 7 September 2012

18th Century Gardens


The most famous gardener of the 18th century was Lancelot 'Capability' Brown. Kent and Bridgeman mixed formal and informal elements in their gardens but Capability Brown adopted a completely informal style. He wanted to 'improve' nature not rework it. Brown sought to remove the 'roughness' of a landscape and perfect it but afterwards it should be almost indistinguishable from a landscape created entirely by nature.

After Brown came the famous gardener Humphry Repton (1752-1818). He first became a gardener in 1788 and even within his lifetime a reaction began against the informal landscaping style towards more formal gardens.

Meanwhile in 1725 the Society of Gardeners was founded in England. In London public gardens were created - although you had to pay to view them. However in the 18th century pleasure gardens were still only for the upper class and the middle classes. If poor people had a garden they had to use it for growing herbs or vegetables. They had neither the time nor the money to grow plants for pleasure. www.localhistories.org/gardening 

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Bhutan

I wrote a little history of Bhutan a remote mountain kingdom. Its still a poor and overwhelmingly agricultural country but it has great potential. www.localhistories.org/bhutan 

Monday, 3 September 2012

Early 19th Century Houses


In the early 19th century housing for the poor was often dreadful. Often they lived in 'back-to-backs'. These were houses of three (or sometimes only two) rooms, one of top of the other. The houses were literally back-to-back. The back of one house joined onto the back of another and they only had windows on one side.

The bottom room was used as a living room cum kitchen. The two rooms upstairs were used as bedrooms. The worst homes were cellar dwellings. These were one-room cellars. They were damp and poorly ventilated. The poorest people slept on piles of straw because they could not afford beds.

However conditions gradually improved. In the 1840s local councils passed by-laws banning cellar dwellings. They also banned any new back to backs. The old ones were gradually demolished and replaced over the following decades. www.localhistories.org/19thcent 

Sunday, 2 September 2012

20th Century Women

During the 20th century women gained equal rights with men. In 1918 women over 30 in Britain were allowed to vote. In 1928 they were allowed to vote at the age of 21 (the same as men). From 1975 it was made illegal in Britain to sack women for becoming pregnant. Also in 1975 the Sex Discrimination Act made it illegal to discriminate against women in employment, education and training. In the late 20th century the number of women in managerial and other highly paid jobs greatly increased. www.localhistories.org/20thcent  

Friday, 31 August 2012

Gin

In the early 18th century England suffered from gin drinking. It was cheap and it was sold everywhere as you did not need a license to sell it. Many people ruined their health by drinking gin. Yet for many poor people drinking gin was their only comfort. The situation improved after 1751 when a tax was imposed on gin. www.localhistories.org/18thcent  

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Poverty in the 17th Century


At the end of the 17th century a writer estimated that half the population could afford to eat meat every day. In other words about 50% of the people were wealthy of at least reasonably well off. Below them about 30% of the population could afford to eat meat between 2 and 6 times a week. They were 'poor'. The bottom 20% could only eat meat once a week. They were very poor. At least part of the time they had to rely on poor relief.

By an act of 1601 overseers of the poor were appointed by each parish. They had power to force people to pay a local tax to help the poor. Those who could not work such as the old and the disabled would be provided for. The overseers were meant to provide work for the able-bodied poor. Anyone who refused to work was whipped and, after 1610, they could be placed in a house of correction. Pauper's children were sent to local employers to be apprentices. www.localhistories.org/stuart  

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Libya

I wrote a short history of Libya. Its only been a short time since the revolution but there is reason to be hopeful for the country. www.localhistories.org/libya  

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Aztecs


Aztec society was divided into classes. At the very top was the emperor. Below him were the nobles and priests. Below them were merchants, craftsmen, peasants and then slaves.

Merchants formed a class of their own. They lived in their own areas of cities and their children usually married the children of other merchants. Merchants who carried out long distance trade were called pochteca.

There were also many craftsmen in Aztec society. Although the Aztecs did not use iron and bronze some craftsmen made jewellery from gold, silver and copper. Other craftsmen made objects of obsidian, jade and semi-precious stones. There were also feather workers who made things like headdresses from feathers. www.localhistories.org/aztec

Monday, 27 August 2012

Liverpool


The great city of Liverpool began as a tidal pool next to the Mersey. It was probably called the lifer pol meaning muddy pool. There may have been a hamlet at Liverpool before the town was founded in the 13th century. It is not mentioned in the Domesday Book (1086) but it may have been to small to merit a mention of its own.

King John founded the port of Liverpool in 1207. The English had recently conquered Ireland and John needed another port to send men and supplies across the Irish Sea. John started a weekly market by the pool. In those days there were very few shops so if you wanted to buy or sell goods you had to go to a market. Once a market was up and running at Liverpool craftsmen and tradesmen would come to live in the area. www.localhistories.org/liverpool 

Friday, 24 August 2012

Draughts

Games similar to draughts were played by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. The Arabs played a similar game and by about 1100 a form of draughts was being played in France. In the USA draughts is called checkers. www.localhistories.org/board 

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Costa Rica

I wrote a brief history of Costa Rica. Fortunately Costa Rica is a Central American success story. Its a relatively prosperous country and its industries are growing. www.localhistories.org/costa  

Figs

Figs have been grown in the Middle East since prehistoric times. They were mentioned in Sumer (Iraq) as early as 2,500 BC. They were a staple food in Egypt and were later grown by the Greeks and Romans. Figs were probably introduced to China in the 8th century AD. Figs were taken by Spaniards to the Americas in the 16th century. Figs were also introduced to England in the 16th century. www.localhistories.org/fruits 

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Space Exploration


The first human being in space was a Russian, Yuri Gagarin who was launched on 12 April 1961. He made a single orbit of the Earth and landed the same day.

The first American to orbit the Earth was John Glenn on 20 February 1962 in Mercury 6.

The first woman in space was Valentina Tereshkova, who orbited the Earth 48 times between 16 and 19 June 1963.

On 18 March 1965 Aleksi Leonov became the first person to walk in space. www.localhistories.org/spacetime  

Monday, 13 August 2012

Antarctic Exploration

Captain Cook was the first person to cross the Antarctic Circle. Amundsen reached the South Pole in 1911. Richard Peary was the first person to fly across the South Pole in 1929. www.localhistories.org/antarctica  

Sunday, 12 August 2012

The Model T Ford

On 12 August 1908 the first model T car was made by Henry Ford. The new car was very cheap and made motoring possible for the masses. The secret was mass production, which enabled the new cars to be assembled cheaply. www.localhistories.org/transport  

Thursday, 9 August 2012

19th century sports


Ice hockey became an organised sport in the 1870s. The International Ice Hockey Federation was formed in 1908.

People have played games with mallets and hoops for centuries but modern croquet began in the 19th century. Similarly games similar to badminton have been played since ancient times. However modern badminton developed in the late 19th century.

At the end of the 19th century bicycling became a popular sport. The safety bicycle went on sale in 1885 and in 1892 John Boyd Dunlop invented pneumatic tyres (much more comfortable than solid rubber ones!) Bicycling clubs became common.

In the 19th century Archery was considered a suitable sport for women. It was considered 'ladylike'. Meanwhile polo is an ancient game. We are not certain where it was invented but it was probably played in Persia about 2,000 years ago. In the 19th century the British learned to play polo in India and they brought it back to Britain. The first polo club in Britain was founded in 1872.

Then in 1896 the Olympic Games were revived. www.localhistories.org/sport 

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Timeline of Inventions

I wrote a timeline of inventions. A tribute to human inventiveness through the ages. www.localhistories.org/techtime  

Popular Myths


Pythagoras discovered Pythagoras's theorem

No doubt Pythagoras was a brilliant man but the famous theorem was known to the Egyptians and the Babylonians long before he was born. www.localhistories.org/histmyth 

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Great Terror

On 28 July Robespierre the man who sent thousands to their deaths during the French Revolution was guillotined himself. www.localhistories.org/greatterror  

Monday, 23 July 2012

China in Space


 The Chinese launched their first manned spacecraft in 2003. In 2008 the first Chinese taikonaut walked in space.  Then in 2012 Liu Yang became the first Chinese woman in space. www.localhistories.org/space  

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Sri Lanka

On 21 July 1960 Sirimavo Bandaranaike became prime minister of Sri Lanka. She was the first woman prime minister in the world. www.localhistories.org/srilanka 

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

William Herschel

I wrote a little biography of William Herschel the great astronomer who discovered Uranus. He also discovered infrared light. www.localhistories.org/herschel  

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Bastille

On 14 July 1789 the crowd in Paris captured the Bastille. There were only 7 prisoners in the Bastille but it was a symbol of royal power. The Bastille was built in the Middle Ages as a fort to defend Paris but it was later used as a prison. The fall of the Bastille meant the beginning of the end for Louis XVI. www.localhistories.org/frenchrevolution  

Friday, 13 July 2012

Ruth Ellis

Ruth Ellis was hanged on 13 July 1955. She was the last woman to be hanged in Britain. I wrote a history of capital punishment in Britain www.localhistories.org/capital 

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Tudor London

London grew enormously in the 16th century. At the end of the 15th century it may have had a population of 60,000 or 70,000 but by 1600 London had a population of perhaps 250,000. In 1500 the town was encompassed by its walls but by 1600 rich men had built houses along the Strand joining London to Westminster. In the Middle Ages the church owned about 1/4 of the land in London. When Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries it released a great deal of land for new buildings. www.localhistories.org/tudorlondon  

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Senegal

I wrote a brief history of Senegal. Its still a very poor country but the economy is growing steadily and there is reason to be hopeful about the future. www.localhistories.org/senegal  

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Panama

I wrote a short history of Panama. Its still a poor country but it is developing rapidly and it has a bright future. www.localhistories.org/panama 

Monday, 2 July 2012

Copernicus

I wrote a short biography of Nicolaus Copernicus the great 16th century astronomer. He was the genius who realised that the Earth and the other planets orbit the Sun not the other way round. www.localhistories.org/copernicus  

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Aztec Daily Life

I wrote a short article about the daily life of the Aztecs. They were a very interesting civilisation despite the horrific practice of human sacrifice. www.localhistories.org/aztec 

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Tycho Brahe

I wrote a short biography of the great Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe. Although he lived before the invention of the telescope Tycho made accurate measurements of the movements of the planets and plotted the position of stars. His work was very useful to later astronomers like Kepler. www.localhistories.org/brahe  

Henry VIII

Happy birthday Henry VIII. He was born 28 June 1491. Henry VIII wasn't perfect but people often forget his positive achievements. He was the father of the British navy for a start. www.localhistories.org/Henryvii i 

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Kepler

I wrote a short biography of the great astronomer Johannes Kepler. He was the genius who realised that planets orbit in ellipses not in circles. (At the time it was a revolutionary idea). He also discovered 3 laws of planetary motion. www.localhistories.org/kepler  

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Bannockburn

On 24 June 1314 the Scots won a decisive victory at the battle of Bannockburn. I am surprised the Scots don't have a holiday to celebrate, a Bannockburn Day. It was one of their greatest victories and it assured Scottish independence.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Biscuits

Several new biscuits were invented in the 19th century including the Garibaldi (1861), the Cream cracker (1885) and the Digestive (1892). In the 20th century new biscuits were introduced. Custard creams were invented in 1908 and Bourbons were invented in 1910. HobNobs followed in 1986. www.localhistories.org/biscuits  

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Brighton

I wrote about the city of Brighton. It began as a Saxon village and it was turned into a small market town in the early 14th century. Brighton began to boom in the late 18th century when rich people believed that bathing in sea water was good for your health. Today Brighton is still one of Britain's greatest seaside resorts. www.localhistories.org/brighton  

Monday, 18 June 2012

Anglo Saxon Food


Anglo Saxon women ground grain, baked bread and brewed beer. Another Saxon drink was mead, made from fermented honey. (Honey was very important to the Saxons as there was no sugar for sweetening food. Bees were kept in every village). Upper class Anglo Saxons sometimes drank wine. The women cooked in iron cauldrons over open fires or in pottery vessels. They also made butter and cheese. Saxons ate from wooden bowls. There were no forks only knives and wooden spoons. Cups were made from cow horn.

The Anglo Saxons were fond of meat and fish. However meat was a luxury and only the rich could eat it frequently. The ordinary people usually ate a dreary diet of bread, cheese and eggs. They ate not just chickens eggs but eggs from ducks, geese and wild birds. www.localhistories.org/food 

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Magna Carta

On 15 June 1215 King John sealed Magna Carta. (He didn't actually sign it instead hot wax was dripped onto the document and John pressed his seal into the wax). The Magna Carta proved to be the bedrock of English liberty. www.localhistories.org/kingjohn 

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Place names


BURY, BOROUGH
Is usually a corruption of burh, which meant a fort of fortified place. Aylesbury was Aegel's burh or burgh. Boarhunt was burh funta the spring by the fort. Narborough in Leicestershire was nor (north) burh.

BY
Was the Danish word for village. Derby was Deor By the deer village. Enderby in Leicestershire was Eindrithi's by.

CASTER, CESTER AND CHESTER
Are derived from the Saxon word ceaster, which meant a Roman fort or town. Lancaster was Lune ceaster. Chichester was Cissa's ceaster. www.localhistories.org/names 

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Modern Olympic Games

In 1896 the Olympic Games were revived. Wrestling, which had been a popular sport for thousands of years became an Olympic sport in 1904 and the first Olympic Winter Sports were held in 1924.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Captain Cook

I wrote a brief bio of Captain James Cook. Cook was one of the great explorers of the 18th century, known for surveying the coast of New Zealand and claiming New South Wales for Britain. He was also a humane and enlightened man. www.localhistories.org/cook  

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Facebook

You can also follow www.localhistories.org on Facebook

Coffee

I wrote a brief history of coffee. In the Middle Ages coffee was discovered by the Arabs. In the 16th century it spread to Turkey and to Europe. Today coffee is one of the world's most popular drinks. www.localhistories.org/coffee  

Monday, 4 June 2012

Ned Kelly

I wrote a brief article about the infamous bushranger Ned Kelly. When he was hanged in 1880 his last words are supposed to have been 'such is life'. www.localhistories.org/kelly  

Sunday, 3 June 2012

1952

In 1952 18% of households in Britain had a car and 6% had a fridge. In Britain tea rationing ended (there were no tea bags in the UK till 1953). In the USA The first sex change operation was performed. Mr Potato Head was invented. 12,000 people died in a London smog.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Nicaragua

I wrote a little history of Nicaragua. It is still a very poor country and underemployment is a serious problem. There is not much reason for optimism. www.localhistories.org/nicaragua  

Friday, 25 May 2012

Greek Science


The Ancient Greeks were the first scientists. Greek philosophers tried to explain what the world is made of and how it works. Empedocles (c. 494-434 BC) said that the world is made of four elements, earth, fire, water and air. Aristotle (384-322 BC) accepted the theory of the four elements. However he also believed that the Sun, Moon and planets are made of a fifth element and are unchanging. Aristotle also studied zoology and attempted to classify animals.

Aristotle also believed the body was made up of four humours or liquids (corresponding to the four elements). They were phlegm, blood, yellow bile and black bile. If a person had too much of one humour they fell ill.

Although some of their ideas were wrong the Greeks did make some scientific discoveries. A Greek named Aristarchros believed the Earth revolved around the Sun. Unfortunately his theory was not accepted. However Eratosthenes (c.276-194 BC) calculated the circumference of the Earth. www.localhistories.org/science 

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

First Newspapers


The first newspaper in England was published in 1641. The first American newspaper was printed in 1690.The first newspaper in Canada was printed in 1752. The first Australian newspaper was printed in 1803. www.localhistories.org/media 

Monday, 21 May 2012

Dark Side of History

I have recently added a number of articles to a section of my website about the dark side of history www.localhistories.org/darkside  

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Panties

The word knickers to mean women's underwear was first recorded in Britain in 1881. The word panties was first recorded in the USA in 1908 but it never caught on in Britain. www.localhistories.org/panties  

Sunday, 6 May 2012

History of Toys


John Spilsbury made the first jigsaw puzzle in 1767. He intended to teach geography by cutting maps into pieces but soon people began making jigsaws for entertainment. The Kaleidoscope was invented in 1817.

In the 19th century middle class girls played with wood or porcelain dolls. They also had dolls houses, model shops and skipping ropes. Boys played with toys like marbles and toy soldiers as well as toy trains. (Some toy trains had working engines fuelled by methylated spirits). They also played with toy boats. However poor children had few toys and often had to make their own.

In a well off Victorian family children played with rocking horses and clockwork toys like moving animals. Clockwork trains were also popular. So was the jack-in-the-box.

Simple toys like spinning tops were also popular. So were hoops and games like knucklebones and pick up sticks in which you had to pick up coloured sticks from a pile without disturbing the others.

On Sundays children often played with toys with a religious themes like Noah's arks with wooden animals.

Children also loved magic lantern (slide) shows and puppet shows. www.localhistories.org/toys 

Friday, 4 May 2012

Age of Consent

In 1275 in England the age of consent for a girl was set at 12. It was raised to 13 in 1875 and to 16 in 1885.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Condiments


According to one story a French chef first made mayonnaise in 1756. However there are many stories about where it comes from. Hollandaise sauce was also first recorded in the mid-18th century. Ketchup began life as a Chinese fish sauce called ke-tsiap. The name was gradually changed to ketchup and in Britain people added other ingredients instead of fish. In the 18th century they began adding tomatoes. Sauces similar to tartar sauce were made in the Middle Ages but 'modern' tartar sauce was first made in the 1800s.

In the 19th century with the Industrial Revolution condiments began to be mass-produced in factories. Tomato ketchup was a best seller and HP sauce was invented at the end of the 19th century. Meanwhile Worcester sauce was invented in Worcester in 1835 by John Lea and William Perrins. Horseradish sauce went on sale in bottles in the USA around 1860. Salad cream was invented in 1914. www.localhistories.org/condiments 

Monday, 30 April 2012

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Middle Ages

When I was at school I was taught a very biased version of history. In it progress ended with the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century and began again with Leonardo Da Vinci in the 15th century, which is nonsense. 

Medieval Inventions

People often think people in the Middle Ages were primitive but they weren't. Among other things they invented the compass, windmills, the wheelbarrow, mirrors, glasses (the kind you wear), guns, clocks and the printing press. www.localhistories.org/middle 




Saturday, 21 April 2012

Henry VIII

On 21 April 1509 Henry VII died. Henry VIII became king. He proved to be one of England's greatest kings. www.localhistories.org/HenryVIII

Friday, 13 April 2012

Nepal

I wrote a brief history of Nepal. Today Nepal is still a very poor country but it has great potential for tourism and there is reason to be optimistic for its future. www.localhistories.org/nepal  

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Dominican Republic

I wrote a little history of Dominican Republic. Its a poor country but its economy is growing quite strongly. In particular tourism is expanding and there is reason to be optimistic about the future of the country. www.localhistories.org/dominican  

Friday, 6 April 2012

Easter

Don't forget to read my history of Easter at www.localhistories.org/easter  

Mary Tudor

I wrote a little article about Queen Mary Tudor who is sometimes called 'Bloody Mary' because she persecuted Protestants www.localhistories.org/mary  

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Tudor Life

You can read all about daily life in Tudor (16th century) life in my article www.localhistories.org/tudor  

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Antarctica

I wrote a little history of Antarctica at www.localhistories.org/antarctica  I was going to write its history some years ago but I got cold feet.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Kettering

I wrote a little history of Kettering in Northamptonshire at www.localhistories.org/kettering 

History of Poverty


At the end of the 19th century more than 25% of the population was living at or below subsistence level. Surveys indicated that around 10% were very poor and could not afford even basic necessities such as enough nourishing food. Between 15% and 20% had just enough money to live on (provided they did not lose their job or have to take time off work through illness).

If you had no income at all you had to enter the workhouse. The workhouses were feared and hated by the poor. They were meant to be as unpleasant as possible to deter poor people from asking the state for help. In workhouses you could not wear your own clothes. You had to wear a uniform. Husbands and wives were separated and children were separated from their parents. Inmates had to do hard, unpleasant work such as breaking stones or pulling apart old rope. There were also many strict rules. However in the late 19th century workhouses gradually became a little bit more humane. www.localhistories.org/povhist  

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Board Games

Games similar to draughts were played by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. The Arabs played a similar game and by about 1100 a form of draughts was being played in France. In the USA draughts is called checkers. www.localhistories.org/board  

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Mary Rose

I wrote a little timeline of events in World history during the time of the Mary Rose, Henry VIII's warship, which sank in 1545. www.localhistories.org/maryrosetime 

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Monday, 12 March 2012

Chocolate


In the early 19th century chocolate Easter eggs were made in France and Germany and from the 1870s they were made in England. Meanwhile in 1847 Fry made the first chocolate bar. However at first there was only dark chocolate. It was not until 1875 that a Swiss named Daniel Peter invented milk chocolate.

Meanwhile the first box of chocolates was made in 1854. In 1868 for the first time a box of chocolates was made in a heart shape for St Valentines Day. www.localhistories.org/chocolate 

Friday, 9 March 2012

Tudor Theatre

In the early 16th century actors performed in market squares or inn courtyards. However in the late 16th century theatre became more and more popular and it eventually became worthwhile making a purpose-built theatres in large towns. In 1576 a man named James Burbage built the first theatre. Others followed. Those who could afford the best seats were sheltered from the weather. However the poor customers stood in the open air. They were called groundlings. Rich people sat on the stage! www.localhistories.org/tudor  

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Morocco


The written history of Morocco began about 1,000 BC when a people called the Phoenicians from what is now Lebanon sailed there. The Phoenicians were great traders and they founded trading posts in Morocco. The Phoenicians founded the city of Carthage in what is now Tunisia. Soon Carthage became the dominant power in the region. Meanwhile by about 400 BC the native Berber tribesmen formed the kingdom of Mauritania.

In 146 BC the Romans conquered Carthage and their influence in North Africa gradually grew. Finally in 42 AD the Romans annexed the kingdom of Mauretania. Morocco remained under Roman rule until the 5th century AD. www.localhistories.org/morocco  

Friday, 2 March 2012

Hoddesdon

I wrote a little history of Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire. It has been a small market town since the 13th century but it grew much larger in the 19th century. www.localhistories.org/hoddesdon  

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Boston US


Boston was founded in 1630 by English Puritans fleeing religious persecution. On 29 March 1630 a fleet of 11 ships carrying 700 people sailed from England to Massachusetts. They were led by John Winthrop (1588-1649).

At first the people settled at Charlestown, which had been founded the year before. However fresh water was short so most of the new settlers moved across the river to a peninsula called Trimountaine. In 1630 the new settlement was named Boston after Boston in England from which many of the settlers came. www.localhistories.org/bostonus 

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Potatoes and pumpkins


Potatoes
Potatoes are native to South America and they were grown by the native people for thousands of years before Europeans discovered them. The Spaniards took potatoes to Europe in the 16th century and they were first introduced to England in 1586. However at first potatoes were regarded as a strange vegetable and they were not commonly grown in Europe until the 18th century. In the 1840s potatoes in Ireland were afflicted by potato blight and the result was a terrible famine as the people had come to rely on potatoes for their staple food.

Pumpkin
Pumpkins are native to central America. The Native Americans used them as a staple food. Pumpkins were adopted as a food by European colonists. Meanwhile Christopher Columbus brought pumpkin seeds to Europe. In Tudor England pumpkins were called pompions. www.localhistories.org/vegetables 

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Bodmin


In the 6th century St Petroc, the patron saint of Cornwall, established a monastery at Padstow. In the 10th century it moved to Bodmin. In the 12th century it was changed to an Augustinian priory. The name of the town 'Bodmin' may mean 'house of monks'. Certainly, for centuries the priory dominated the town. Henry VIII closed the priory in 1538 but the monk's fishpond survives as Priory Pond.

However at the time of the Domesday Book (1086) Bodmin was the only market town in Cornwall. During the Middle Ages Bodmin was an important market for wool and tin. www.localhistories.org/bodmin 

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

King John and Richard II

Most people know that King John (1199-1216) agreed to the Magna Carta but he was also the first English king to wear a dressing gown. Richard II (1377-1399) was the first English king to use a handkerchief.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Shrove Tuesday


Shrove Tuesday come from the old word shrive, to confess because people confessed their sins before Lent. You were not supposed to eat eggs during Lent so people used them up by making pancakes. Its also why we say 'gave him short shrift'. A shrift was a confession to a priest. You gave a criminal a short time to say a shrift before you hanged him.

Hanging, drawing and quartering



This was the punishment in England for treason. The person was drawn on a hurdle pulled by a horse to the place of execution. They were hanged (strangled by being suspended by a rope) but when they were still alive and sometimes conscious they were cut down. The executioner cut open their stomach and 'drew out' their entrails. Finally the person was beheaded and his body was cut into quarters.

After 1814 the full sentence was no longer carried out. Instead the person was hanged until they were dead and then beheaded. They were not disembowelled. The last case was in 1820. However hanging, drawing and quartering was not formally abolished until 1870. www.localhistories.org/pun

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Vegetables


Runner beans
Runner beans are native to central America and were grown there long before they were discovered by Europeans in the 16th century. Runner beans were first grown in England in the 17th century.
Spinach
Spinach is native to Asia. However it was unknown to the Greeks and Romans. It was first grown in Persia. Later it was grown by both the Arabs and the Chinese. The Arabs introduced spinach to southern Europe and by the 14th century it was eaten in England.
Tomatoes
Tomatoes are native to South America. The Spaniards came across them in the 16th century. However tomatoes were unknown in England until the end of the 16th century. www.localhistories.org/vegetables  

Greece

I wrote a brief history of Greece. Its a fascinating country. www.localhistories.org/greecehist  

Friday, 17 February 2012

Sydney


Sydney was founded in 1788 when the first fleet arrived in Australia from England. On 13 May 1787 a fleet of 11 ships set sail from Portsmouth, England. On board were 759 convicts, most of them men with sailors and marines to guard the prisoners. With them they took seeds, farm implements, livestock such as cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, horses and chickens and 2 years supply of food. The first colonists came ashore at Port Jackson on 26 January 1788. They were commanded by Captain Arthur Philip (1738-1814).

Sydney was named after Thomas Townshend - Lord Sydney (1733-1800). He became British Secretary of State in 1783 and recommended the British establish a colony in Australia. www.localhistories.org/sydney  

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Life in Britain in 1913

I wrote a brief article about life in England in 1913 at www.localhistories.org/life1912  

Shepton Mallet


Shepton Mallet lies just west of a main Roman road, Fosse Way and the Romans settled in the area. However the modern village of Shepton Mallet was founded by the Saxons. They conquered eastern Somerset in the 7th century and founded many villages. Shepton Mallet was once called sceapton malet. Sceap means sheep and tun meant farm, estate of settlement. Obviously it was a place known for sheep. In the 12th century the Malet family were the lords of the manor. In time it became Shepton Mallet.

At the time of the Domesday Book in 1086 Shepton Mallet was only a small village with a population of only about 100. Later in the Middle Ages it grew larger but in the 14th century it probably still had only 400 or 500 inhabitants. However in 1318 Shepton Mallet was granted the right to hold weekly markets so it must have a been a busy little place. In The Square are the remains of the Shambles where butchers sold meat. www.localhistories.org/shepton  

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Typewriter


Christopher Scholes who invented the first practical typewriter was born on this day in 1819. Today he is forgotten by most people, which is a pity as we still use his qwerty lay out on our keyboards.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Women in British Government

In 1918 in Britain women over 30 were allowed to vote. In 1928 they were allowed to vote at the age of 21 (the same as men). In 1919 Nancy Astor became the first female MP and in 1929 Margaret Bondfield became the first female cabinet minister. In 1979 Margaret Thatcher became the first female Prime Minister. www.localhistories.org/govt 

Friday, 10 February 2012

Ancient Musical Instruments


The Ancient Egyptians played many instruments. They played castanets, drums and bells. They also played stringed instruments like the harp, the lyre (a kind of vertical harp) and the lute. They also played wind instruments like flutes and trumpets. The Egyptians also played a rattle called a sistrum.

The Greeks played stringed instruments like the harp and the lyre. They also played a large lyre called a Kithara. Its strings were plucked with a plectrum. The Greeks also played wind instruments like the syrinx or panpipes, which was made of reeds of different lengths. They also played cymbals.

The Romans had similar musical instruments, the lyre and harp, the trumpet and flutes. The Romans also played the bagpipes and they made organs. www.localhistories.org/music 

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Edinburgh

Edinburgh started as a fort. Castle Rock is an easily defended position so from earliest times it was the site of a fort. In the 7th century the English captured this part of Scotland and they called this place Eiden's burgh (burgh is an old word for fort). In the 10th century the Scots re-captured the area. Late in the 11th century Malcolm III built a castle on Castle Rock and a small town grew up nearby. By the early 12th century Edinburgh was a flourishing community. www.localhistories.org/edinburgh  

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Monday, 6 February 2012

Boiling


In England a law of 1531 allowed poisoners to be boiled alive. In 1532 a cook called Richard Roose was boiled alive and in 1542 a woman called Margaret Davy was boiled alive. However the law was repealed in 1547. www.localhistories.org/pun 

Saturday, 4 February 2012

What the Russians did for us


What did the Russians do for us? They gave us the great writers Tolstoy, Chekov and Dovstoyevsky and the composers Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and Rachmaninov. Dmitri Mendeleev created the periodic table of elements. Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space and Valentina Tereshkova was the first woman. Most importantly millions of Russians died fighting the Germans during the Second World War.

Friday, 3 February 2012

English Place Names


BURY, BOROUGH
Is usually a corruption of burh, which meant a fort of fortified place. Aylesbury was Aegel's burh or burgh. Boarhunt was burh funta the spring by the fort. Narborough in Leicestershire was nor (north) burh.

BY
Was the Danish word for village. Derby was Deor By the deer village. Enderby in Leicestershire was Eindrithi's by.

CASTER, CESTER AND CHESTER
Are derived from the Saxon word ceaster, which meant a Roman fort or town. Lancaster was Lune ceaster. Chichester was Cissa's ceaster.  www.localhistories.org/names 

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

What the Swedes did for us


What did the Swedes do for us? They gave us the great botanist Carl Linnaeus, the astronomer Anders Celcius who invented centigrade temperature measurements and Anders Angstrom a great physicist. (The Angstom unit used to measure microscopic distances is named after him). A Swede named Alfred Nobel invented dynamite.

Let the cat out of the bag


It’s also a myth that the phrase 'let the cat out of the bag' comes because a cat o' nine tails was kept in a bag. The cat o' nine tails was not used in England till the mid-17th century but the phrase is much older. It probably comes because people at market used to sell pigs in bags but sometimes by sleight of hand they would give the customer a bag with a cat in it instead. If you let the cat out of the bag you exposed the deception. www.localhistories.org/sayings

The Upper Crust


It’s a myth that we call the rich the 'upper crust' because in Tudor times they cut the top off a loaf and gave it to the rich. They may have done that sometimes but the phrase was never recorded in the 16th, 17th, 18th or 19th century in England. It was first recorded in the USA in the 19th century. It wasn't used in England till the 20th century. I am afraid that many charming stories about old sayings are myths.

Greenland

I wrote a little history of Greenland. It only has a small population but its a fascinating country. www.localhistories.org/greenland  

Monday, 30 January 2012

Ancient Surgery


The Egyptians did have some knowledge of anatomy from making mummies. To embalm a dead body they first removed the principal organs, which would otherwise rot.

However Egyptian surgery was limited to such things as treating wounds and broken bones and dealing with boils and abscesses. The Egyptians used clamps, sutures and cauterisation. They had surgical instruments like probes, saws, forceps, scalpels and scissors.

They also knew that honey helped to prevent wounds becoming infected. (It is a natural antiseptic). They also dressed wounds with willow bark, which has the same effect.

The Ancient Greeks bathed wounds with wine. (The alcohol helped to prevent infection).

In the Roman Empire techniques of surgery were dominated by the ideas of Galen. He was interested in anatomy. Unfortunately by his time dissecting human bodies was forbidden. So Galen had to dissect animal bodies including apes. However animal bodies are not the same as human bodies and so some of Galen's ideas were quite wrong. Unfortunately Galen was a very influential writer. For centuries his writings dominated medicine. www.localhistories.org/surgery 

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Vacuum cleaners

The vacuum cleaner was invented by Hubert Booth in 1901. His earliest model was petrol driven and was so big it had to be pulled through the streets by a horse. It was parked outside your house and hoses were fed through the windows. The first portable electric vacuum cleaner was invented in 1908. Gradually during the 20th century vacuum cleaners became cheaper and more common. By 1959 about two thirds of British homes had a vacuum cleaner. Then in 1979 James Dyson patented the bagless cyclonic vacuum cleaner. It went on sale in 1993. www.localhistories.org/housework  

Thursday, 26 January 2012

What the Norwegians did for us


What did the Norwegians do for us? They gave us the artist Edvard Munch and the composer Edvard Greig and the explorer Roald Amundsen was the first person to reach the South Pole.  www.localhistories.org/norway  

What the Hungarians and Czechs did for us


What did the Hungarians and Czechs do for us? A Hungarian named Biro invented the biro (I used to hate fountain pens at school). A Czech invented the modern contact lens. A Czech playwright invented the word robot. The great writer Franz Kafka was a Czech. Many Czech pilots fought in the Battle of Britain.

Australia

On 26 January 1788 the first fleet reached Australia. It was the start of a great nation. www.localhistories.org/australia  

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

What the Poles did for us


What did the Poles do for us? 10% of the pilots who fought in the Battle of Britain were Polish and the Polish resistance gathered vital info about the German V1 flying bomb. Polish soldiers fought the Nazis in North Africa, Italy and France. The composers Chopin and Paderewski were Poles. So were the great astronomer Copernicus and the scientist Marie Curie. www.localhistories.org/polefam

What the Romanians and Bulgarians did for us


What did the Romanians and Bulgarians do for us? A Romanian called Nicolae Paulescu discovered insulin. A Romanian engineer called Henri Coanda played a key role in developing the jet engine. A Bulgarian engineer called Assen Jordanoff played a big part in developing modern aircraft. A Bulgarian scientist called John Atanasoff played a large role in the invention of computers.

Chinese inventions


What did the Chinese do for us? Most people know they invented gunpowder and fireworks. They also invented tea and ice cream. The Chinese also invented silk, porcelain and wallpaper. They also invented the toothbrush and they invented playing cards.

What the Romans did for us

What did the Romans do for us? They introduced celery, cabbages, radishes, carrots, cucumber, broad beans, peas, turnips, lettuce and walnuts into Britain. (Food must have been boring before then!)

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

6th Century Plague

In the 6th century AD bubonic plague struck and killed millions. It 543 AD it struck the Byzantine Empire and it soon spread to other parts of Europe. The 6th century plague may have killed 25% of the population. It certainly claimed the lives of millions. www.localhistories.org/plague 

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Medieval Towns


In the Middle Ages most people lived in the countryside and made a living from farming. However at the time of the Domesday Book (1086) about 10% of the population of England lived in towns. Moreover trade boomed in the following two centuries and many new towns were founded.

The first thing that would surprise us about those towns would be their small size. At the time of the Domesday Book in 1086 London had a population of about 18,000. By the 14th century it rose to about 45,000. Other towns were much smaller. York may have had a population of about 13,000 by 1400 but it then fell to about 10,000 by 1500. Most towns had between 2,000 and 5,000 inhabitants.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Rotherham

I wrote a history of Rotherham in Yorkshire, one of Britain's great steel towns and a major manufacturing centre at www.localhistories.org/rotherham  

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

British Television


Television began in Britain in 1936 when the BBC began broadcasting. TV was suspended during World War II but it began again in 1946. TV first became common in the 1950s. A lot of people bought a TV set to watch the coronation of Elizabeth II and a survey at the end of the that year showed that about one quarter of households had one. By 1959 about two thirds of homes had a TV. By 1964 the figure had reached 90% and TV had become the main form of entertainment - at the expense of cinema, which declined in popularity.

At first there was only one TV channel but between 1955 and 1957 the ITV companies began broadcasting. BBC2 began in 1964 and Channel 4 began in 1982.

In Britain BBC 2 began broadcasting in colour in 1967, BBC 1 followed in 1969. 

Monday, 16 January 2012

Gladiators


A gladiator training school was called a ludus. At its head was the owner and trainer of gladiators, called a lanista. Among types of gladiator were the Thracian, who carried a small round shield called a parma and a retiarius who carried a fishnet and a trident. A murmillo carried a sword and shield similar to those used by Roman soldiers. Other types of gladiator were equites who fought on horseback with lances. British gladiators fought from chariots. They were called essedarii. Gladiators called andabatae fought wearing helmets with no eye holes. As they were blind they had to listen for their opponent!

Gladiators also fought animals such as lions and tigers. Furthermore fights sometimes took place on artifical lakes. Small ships were launched on an artificial lake and sea battles called naumachiae were held on them. www.localhistories.org/gladiators  

Saturday, 14 January 2012

16th century drinks


In the 16th century it was not safe to drink water so for ordinary people drinking ale or beer was essential. Young children drank milk but usually only the poorest people drank water.

In the 16th century housewives were expected to brew their own beer although it was also sold commercially. In the 16th century beer was not just a drink it was also a food. It contained valuable nutrients.

In Tudor Times cider and perry were common drinks in certain parts of England. 

Wine was the drink of the wealthy as it had to be imported. Wine was imported from France and Germany but an increasing amount was imported from Spain and Portugal. Sweet wine was still imported from the Eastern Mediterranean. In the 16th century wine was often flavoured with spices.

Other drinks in 16th century England included sherry, which was known as sack and brandy. The origins of brandy are obscure but it was a popular drink by the 16th century.

The origins of whiskey are lost in history too but by the 16th century it was being distilled in Scotland and was a popular drink. People thought whiskey was medicinal.