Category Archives: HISTORY

Civilising the cannibals

Civilising the cannibals


Western visitors to Fiji in 19th century liked to watch what they ate. Traveller John Erskine, for instance, was suspicious about some ‘pork’ he was offered and threw it away, convinced it was human. Similarly, labour recruiter John Gaggin paid close attention to the cutting up of a pig “to satisfy [himself] it was… not a baked boy or girl”.

William Herschel’s new planet

William Herschel’s new planet

After a drink-fuelled night discussing Homer, the medical student John Keats wrote his famous lines comparing his own wonderment with that of  “some watcher of the skies / When a new planet swims into his ken.” Keats was referring to William Herschel, the astronomer who had enlarged the solar system with a seventh planet, now known as Uranus.

How child labour changed the world

How child labour changed the world

Britain’s industrial revolution – the first in the world – would never had happened without child labour. That’s the startling conclusion drawn by a leading economic historian following the most detailed analysis of relevant contemporary sources ever carried out.

Leprosy in Middle Ages

Leprosy in Middle Ages

Leprosy, a debilitating and disfiguring affliction, has been feared and dreaded since biblical times. The bacterium that causes leprosy was discovered in the late 19th century; before than, particularly during medieval times, it was treated as a disease caused by moral uncleanliness.

How many prisoners were freed by the storming of the Bastille?

How many prisoners were freed by the storming of the Bastille?

Actually, only seven. In France, 14th July, Bastille Day, is a national holiday and a glorious national symbol, equivalent to 4th July in the United States of America. From the rousing paintings of the scene, you might think hundreds of proud revolutionaries flooded into streets waving tricolours. In fact, only just over half a dozen people were being held at the time of the siege.