Manpower for sea power

Life at sea may not have been a particularly attractive prospect for a man in Georgian England, but it was always an option: The Royal Navy was constantly, chronically, in need of sailors. Its peacetime […]

Spencer Perceval’s assassination

All that is generally remembered about Spencer Perceval is that he was the only British prime minister ever to be assassinated. By all accounts he was a thoroughly decent, honourable and competent man, but he […]

The little Ice Age

From about 1550 the climate again grew colder with the intensification of what is known as “The Little Ice Age” which had begun in 1320s. In February 1565 Pieter Brueghel the Elder painted his famous […]

Matilda: A Queen in King’s World

January 14th, 2015

Power was inherently and inescapably male in the Middle Ages. The images displayed on the Great Seal of England encapsulated expectations of a medieval monarch: on one side the king sat in state to administer justice to his people, a sceptre in his hand; on the other he rode a towering warhorse with his sword unsheathed, ready to defend his kingdom. But a woman couldn’t sit as a judge or lead an army into battle. A woman, therefore, could not rule.

Manpower for sea power

January 8th, 2015

Life at sea may not have been a particularly attractive prospect for a man in Georgian England, but it was always an option: The Royal Navy was constantly, chronically, in need of sailors. Its peacetime strength in 1792 was fifteen thousand men,but in five years it increased eightfold, and by 1813 the number stood at one hundred and fifty thousand- this in a nation whose population was only about 10 million. England’s navy may have been the envy of the world, but it was not at all uncommon for her warships to sail undermanned.

The changing faces of Santa Claus

December 24th, 2014

On 23 December 1951, the Catholic clergy at Dijon organised an execution of Santa Claus. An image of him was hanged from the railings of the cathedral and then burned in front of several hundred Sunday School children. Santa Claus arouses strong feelings.

The short history of banishment

December 18th, 2014

Even in primitive societies, the threat of exile struck terror into people’s hearts and minds. A savage punishment, it snatched men from their wives and children, so condemning even the innocent who were left behind to a precarious existence. A few who were banished survived the perils of isolation.

The Venerable Bede

December 15th, 2014

Bede was a Northumbrian, born in 673 on the lands of the monastery of St Peter at Wearmouth. At the age of seven, his parents sent him to St Peter’s to begin his education. And there he remained, first as student and then as master, either at Wearmouth or at the twin monastery of St Paul at Jarrow on the river Tyne, till his death in 735 at the then ripe age of 62. 

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