Tag Archives: Social and cultural history
If you can’t settle to sleep as usual and find yourself up before the break of day, you may care to venture outside the city where the dust on the roads is already been stirred up by country higglers, burdened with baskets of eggs, herbs, flowers, butter and beans. As they pass by, the unlicensed beggars from the hedgerows are gathering their tatters and trying to bear themselves like honest men as they think how to slip through the city gates, past weary watchmen, to ply their trade on the streets of the capital.
On 16th September 1921, four young men, Americans Lorne Knight, Milton Galle, and Fred Maurer; and Allan Crawford, a Canadian, were despatched to the remote, uninhabited Wrangel Island, off the coast of Siberia, in order to claim it as Canadian territory. Accompanying them was one woman – an Iñupiat Inuit named Ada Blackjack, hired as a seamstress. In a dictated statement, printed in Stefansson’s book, Blackjack wrote: “When we got to Wrangel Island, the land looked very large to me, but they said that it was only a small island. I thought at first that I would turn back, but I decided it wouldn’t be fair to the boys. Soon after we arrived I started to sew.”
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 fashion for “Egyptian” design that swept Europe after Bonaparte’s expedition was actually a revival of sorts. Europeans had drawn inspiration from the Nile at least since the fifth century B.C., when the Greek historian Herodotus wrote his famous account of the land that even then was seen as the fountainhead of ancient wisdom.
Coffee was one of the fancy new comestibles introduced to England in Stuart times. The first coffee-house was opened in Oxford in 1650; two years later they began to appear in London, and then elsewhere in the country; by the 1660s they were pretty well established. Customers generally ad to pay a penny for a cup, and the coffee-house was sometimes called the ‘penny university’, reflecting the intellectual stimulation visitors could expect. The habitués were almost entirely male, and fairly well-off. Inevitably, men of various professions and political persuasions came together at particular haunts.