Category Archives: CULTURAL AND SOCIAL HISTORY

The executioner’s job in 18th and 19th century

The executioner’s job in 18th and 19th century


Executioners were both heroes and villains. Those who carried out the death penalty on despicable crooks earned the support of the mob which turned up to watch. But if the criminal were popular fellow then it was hangman, beware, for the unruly crowd might instantly seek to avenge the death.

Has good King Wenceslas started it?

Has good King Wenceslas started it?

If you’re looking for something that explains the origins of Boxing Day, well, you’re not going to find it here. The day-after-Christmas holiday is celebrated by most countries in the Commonwealth, but in a what-were-we-doing-again? bout of amnesia, none of them are really sure what they’re celebrating, when it started or why.

Food feasts in Ancient Rome

Food feasts in Ancient Rome

The festive consumption of food and drink was an important social ritual in the Roman world. Known in general terms as the convivium (Latin: “living together”), or banquet, the Romans also distinguished between specific types of gatherings, such as the epulum (public feast), the cena (dinner, normally eaten in the mid-afternoon), and the comissatio (drinking party).

Crossroads burials – The resting place for suicides

Crossroads burials – The resting place for suicides

Suicide used to be regarded as shocking and blasphemous, and a coroner’s verdict of  “felo de se” – literally crime against oneself – usually resulted in the body being buried at a crossroads, with a stake through the heart, and with no religious ceremony. The suicide’s property could also be confiscated.

Clan tartans are not an ancient Scottish tradition

Clan tartans are not an ancient Scottish tradition

While plaids are certainly an ancient Scottish tradition,the idea of clans having their own tartan is surprisingly modern.  In 1829 John and Charles Allen, fraudsters who claimed to be descendants of Bonnie Prince Charlie, approached the Scottish antiquary Sir Thomas Dick Lauder saying they were in possession of a late 15th century manuscript known as the Vestiarium Scoticum, which detailed all the various identifying tartans of the Highland and lowland clans.