Tag Archives: Cultural and social history

Red Indians and how to tame them

Red Indians and how to tame them


The Elizabethans’ colonial voyages brought them into contact with a people very different level of civilisation from their own—the ‘Indians’ of the New World, as is illustrated by the account written in 1588 by Thomas Harriot  1, the eminent mathematician, astronomer and explorer.

  1. Thomas Harriot (Oxford, ca. 1560 – London, 2 July 1621) — or spelled Harriott, Hariot, or Heriot — was an English astronomer, mathematician, ethnographer, and translator. He is sometimes credited with the introduction of the potato to the British Isles. Harriot was the first person to make a drawing of the Moon through a telescope, on 26 July 1609, over four months before Galileo. After graduating from St Mary Hall, Oxford, Harriot travelled to the Americas, accompanying the 1585 expedition to Roanoke island funded by Sir Walter Raleigh and led by Sir Ralph Lane. Harriot was a vital member of the venture, having translated and learned the Carolina Algonquian language from two Native Americans, Wanchese and Manteo. On his return to England he worked for the 9th Earl of Northumberland. At the Earl’s house, he became a prolific mathematician and astronomer to whom the theory of refraction is attributed.

Mormons in search of Promised Land, 1846-69

Mormons in search of Promised Land, 1846-69

The Mormons have been described as the most systematic, organised, disciplined and successful pioneers in American history. For over 20 years they were one of the main forces driving the settlement of the America West. The Mormons were remarkable also in migrating as a whole community, unlike the individualists and opportunists who made up the majority of the settlers of the West.

The entertainment in Tudor England

The entertainment in Tudor England

Apart from eating and drinking (and smoking), the Tudors were enthusiastic merrymakers: they liked to entertain and to be entertained. Henry VIII loved not only sport and food, but also music. He played several instruments, including bagpipes, recorders and flutes, and the virginals. His Chapel Royal included dozens of musicians, many of whom used to accompany him wherever he went.  Church music was generally written to be sung unaccompanied, but Henry liked to have trombones to accompany the plainsong of the choir.

The changing role of woman in 20th-century Britain

The changing role of woman in 20th-century Britain

Perhaps the most dramatic improvement in Britain’s way of life in the 20th century was the change in the place of women in the nation’s working life. The foundations for this change, which only reached a climax later in the century, were gradually laid in the decades before World War II.

London homes in Shakespeare’s time

London homes in Shakespeare’s time

Thanks to decades of peace, English houses are no longer made for defence but for comfort. The newly rich may still build turrets, battlements and gatehouses but these are only for show or to make a new place look venerable, implying an ancient lineage for themselves. Many a country house still has a moat, though the fact that it seldom runs right around it should tell you that it is not to keep attackers at bay – or for you to water your horse in – but to keep fish for the kitchen.