Tag Archives: Cultural and social history

Food and drink in the Middle Ages

Food and drink in the Middle Ages


The production, processing, and consumption of foodstuffs were a primary preoccupation of the medieval population. In the earlier unsettled period, the production was strictly for the household; later, with the development of towns and more stable settlements, there was the growth of markets and trade in foodstuffs. Throughout the period, the most important social activity was eating in the company of others; usually this was family, but often it was lord and retainers.

The Gypsies, from 10th to 20th century

The Gypsies, from 10th to 20th century

The Gypsies, or Roma, are unique: they are the only nomadic people in recorded history who have not been either hunters or herders. They are believed to have originated in the north of the Indian Subcontinent but are now found in all European countries, the Middle East, North Africa, North and South America and Australia.

Robert Owen’s social experiment at New Lanark

Robert Owen’s social experiment at New Lanark

One of the Scotland’s great social reformers was a Welshman, Robert Owen, born in 1771. He would have been saddened that such misery still exists. Twenty miles south-east of Glasgow, further up the Clyde, where the river is not the broad, shipbuilding estuary of the great city but a tumbling stream hurtling through narrow, tree-lined gorges, is the scene of the great experiment to make the world a better place.

Punishing the poor

Punishing the poor

Poverty came close to being a crime in 16th and 17th  century England. Once the needy sought help from the monasteries but during the reign of Henry VIII most of these had been dissolved. City dwellers feared the influx of penniless beggars from the countryside who were considered idle, lawless and a threat to the public order of the towns. Given their lack of work and inability to support themselves, it was thought discontent might breed among the poor resulting in social unrest or even revolution.

The slang in Elizabethan London

The slang in Elizabethan London

Pronunciation of words in Elizabethan English is a complicated matter, since linguistically it rests between the “say what you see” rules of Middle English and the more esoteric pronunciations of Modern English.  It is unreasonable to have the term ‘cider’ pronounced ‘zoiderr’, ‘farmer’ as ‘varmerr’; ‘house’ as ‘hoos’; ‘tea’ as ‘tay’; ‘grass’ as ‘grace’ or ‘graz’; ‘creek’ as ‘crik’.  Also there are regional things to keep in mind, for instance in the East and North counties.