Category Archives: History

Books History

Notes from Ancestral Journeys: The Peopling of Europe from the First Venturers to the Vikings by Jean Manco

p. 129 China also gained domesticated sheep, horses and wheeled vehicles via this trail across the steppe. … A team investigated sheep DNA from four Bronze Age archaeological sites in nothern China. All but one of their camples carried mtDNA A, the most common today in all Chinese sheep and most Mongolian sheep. This haplogroup is found in the Near East and seems to have undergone an expansion around the time of domestication there. It is common in the North Caucasuses and middle Volga region. So it would appear that long-wool sheep arrived in the Far East in the Bronze Age via the nomads of the Eurasian steppe. Wool was to come a staple of nomadic life.”

p. 197 The estimate of the total number of Roman slaves over the 1,000 years of the rise and fall of the empire is over 100 million people. The majority were born into slavery.This limits the use of isotope analysis to identify the origins of Roman slaves, for it can only tell us whether an individual had travelled to the place where they were buried. An isotope study of the cemetery at the imperial estate of Vagnari in Iralty did tease out a few foreigners. Their mtDNA haploagroups were not particularly informative … the sample did contain at least one far-travelled individual from East Asia.”

Books History

Notes from The People: The Rise and Fall of the Working Class 1910-2010 by Selina Todd

p. 23 “Employers portrayed service as being distinct from other forms of wage labour, though, in reality, servants entered the labour market for the same reason as all other workers; they needed the money. In 1911 The Times published a flurry of letters opposing the Act, penned by such dignitaries as Lady Portsmouth, Lady Stanley and Sir William and Lady Bull. They declared that national insurance would “weaken the kindly ties between masters and servants” yet also that the Act would “place… a premium on malingering.”. They suggested that “the splendid record of health and reluctance to give in which our maidservants have established” was only down to their harsh working conditions and lack of benefits. Give these young working women any licence and they were likely to become feckless and irresponsible… Until 1911 the law agreed that employers’ needs should come first: the only legal obligations that a servant’s employer had to fulfil were the provision ‘of necessary food, clothing’ and lodging’; they were also prohibited from inflicting ‘any bodily harm’ on servants sufficient to endanger life or permanently damage their health. servants’ working hours and conditions were unregulated; many endured 12-hour days and few holidays (typically a Sunday once a week, a half day once a fortnight, and a week’s unpaid annual leave.”

p. 36 “In the month between the fall of Lloyd George’s post-war coalition and the general election, Bonar Law appointed Arthur Griffith-Boascawen, the 57-year-old son of a Denbighshire landowner, as minister of health. His brief included that nagging post-war problem: housing. … Life was hard in [overcrowded] conditions, particularly for women who struggled to keep their homes clean. Winifred Foley gret up in a ‘two-up, two-down miner’s cottage in the Forest of Dean, which housed her family of six until Winifred left to enter service in 1928. In her village, as in many others, overcrowding was made worse by the fact that there were ‘no drains and no dustmen’ and no electricity… Boscawen was … an experienced Conservative politician, well respected in the senior ranks of the party. … Yet he began his new role by refusing to honour the promise of the wartime coalition to build more homes. Boscawen dismissed the notion that working class voters required better housing, and advised young couples to continue sharing their parents’ cottages and tenements rather than seeking a home of their own. “In China and the East generally,” he declared, “they continue tolive under the parental roof quite contentedly.” … Unfortunately for Boscawen, many of his voters disagreed with his assessment. In the general election of November 1922 he lost his seat, after just one month in post.”

p. 48 “At a time when the vast majority of British people were working class, Baldwin’s presentation of trade unionists as a ‘minority’ committed to ‘anarchy was curious to say the last. … Like Baldwin, Britain’s press represented the country’s workers as a stubborn minority whose aims were beyond comprehension. Many liberal and left-leaning middle-class people simply took for granted that they represented the mainstream of British society and that their opinions were common sense, while those of the unionists were either radical or irrational.”

p. 74 (In the early 30s) “Young workers were cheap. Employers justified paying them low wages by claiming that they were ‘pin money workers’, who only worked for spending money. Yet the reality, as Winifred Holtiby observed, was that young wage-earners bore heavy responsibilities. Norman Savage grew up in Manchester. His father’s long-term unemployment led Norman to take casual jobs through his schooldays; he worked in a shop before and after school, and as a delivery boy in the school holidays. When he left school in the early 1930s, he and his oldest sister became responsible for keeping their family of six. … Peggy Few, who grew up in Nottingham, felt fortunate to find work at the city’s Players cigarette factory when she left school in the early 1930s. The factory paid good wages and conditions were reasonable .. in the mid-1930s, hoever, Peggy learned that this could be a mixed blessing. The day after she received a wage rise, her father’s unemployment assistance was stopped: ‘he cried like a baby and so did I’.”

p. 87-91 “In 1938 the work of the Women’s Health Committee culminated in the publication of working Class Wives. Margery Spring wrote up this study, which was based on interviews with 1,250 working-class women. They included the wives of wage-earners as well as women married to unemployed men, and country-dwellers as well as those living in inner-city slums. The voices of such a broad sample helped make Spring Rice’s most powerful argument that a rise in maternal mortality testified to widespread illness caused by poverty.” [Between 1923 nd 1933 the maternal mortality rate rose by 23%.].. She pointed out that a national health service, better unemployment benefit and state intervention to create work would result in ‘an incalculable saving in expenditure in the cure of disease and the tinkering with destitution.’ While voluntary and charitable organisations had done a great deal of good, they necessarily focused on those in most dire need of help; what was required was a new emphasis on prevention.”

p. 93 “The sight of dole queues filled with miners, craftsmen and clerks – the so-called ‘respectable’ working class and even the lower middle class – made many middle-class opinion-formers realise that hardship was arbitrary. Means-testing added to people’s indignities at a time of great stress, and for little gain: punitive welfare did nothing to reduce the number of those who were unemployed, and could severely damage the health of women and children, as well as that of unemployed men. The means test was designed to limit welfare provision but its implementation assisted a campaign to make social welfare a universal entitlement.”

p. 138 IN March 1941, at Bevin’s bequest, the government quietly abolished the household means test.”

p. 142 “Beveridge’s proposals aimed to free all Britons from want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness. The state would be responsible for ensuring that its citizens had the basic means to live (a ‘national minimum’) though workers had to contribute to this through insurance payments. This element of the scheme was necessary, he said, so that workers would experience ‘the duty and pleasure of thrift’ underpinning the scheme, he stressed, must be a government commitment to full employment… Beveridge’s stress on self-help and his assumption that ‘free donations’ would lead to idleness indicated that older suspicions about the moral fibre of the working class hadn’t disappeared. Nevertheless, by arguing for universal welfare provision that wasn’t policed by the means test, Beveridge had destroyed the distinction between the ‘deserving’ and the ‘undeserving’ that had penalized so many needy people before the war.”

p. 162 “The government refused to address the needs of women workers both because of the potential expense and because of their short-sighted belief that most working women would eventually be replaced by men… Britain’s economic recovery depended on mass-production and domestic consumption of cars, domestic appliances, electrical goods and clothing … employers in these industries preferred to employ cheap, unskilled and semi-skilled workers, primarily juveniles and women, rather than more expensive adult men. But Attlee’s Cabinet clung to the notion, lond enshrined in the labour movement’s campaigns, that the ideal family was one that could be kept by a single male breadwinner. Women’s pay and conditions were treated as matters of secondary importance. In 1946 the government pleaded financial pressure as a reason to ignore the recommendations of a Royal Commission on Equal Pay, which advocated equal pay for men and women in teaching and the higher grades of the civil services. In 1948 female factory workers eared, on average, 74s 6d a week – about half the average male wage.”

p. 202 “In the late 1850s the number of people with consumer goods like televisions increased, but their insecurity remained, especially in those areas of northern England and Scotland’s industrial belt that had been hardest-hit bay inter-war depression. In the early 1960s sociologists studied 500 households in inner-city Liverpool and a more prosperous southern suburb of Woolton. They found that more than 80 per cent of these families relied on some form of credit. Among them was Joan Hicks, a 41-year-old housewife who lived in Woolton with her husband Bill, an engineer, and their two teenaged children. The Hicks family owned their small terraced house and Bill was in skilled work. Nevertheless, when Joan was asked if she had trouble making ends meet, she answered ‘yes’ without hesitation. ‘Have to go without to keep up mortgage payments and pay for groceries and TV,’ she said.”

Books Early modern history History

From “Religious Refugees in the Early Modern World” by Nicholas Terpstra

p. 140-142 Al-Hasan Ibn Muhammad al-Wazan al-Fasi (c. 1494-1554)
“He was born in Granada shortly after the Spanish conquest, and by some accounts his mother was a Jewish convert to Islam. The family soon joined the diaspora that saw many thousands of Granadan Muslims cross to North Africa. They relocated to Fez, where an uncle served in the sultan’s court. His uncle’s influence secured a university education and a place in court for al-Hasan al-Wazan and when barely a teenager he travelled with the uncle on diplomatic missions into the Maghreb to Timbuktu. At 21 he went on his own to the Ottoman court in Istanbul. He witnessed the Ottoman conquest of Mamluk Egypt in 1517 and travelled further into Egypt in 1517, and into Arabia before returning home in 1518. He never arrived. Catholic corsair pirates working with the crusading order of St John out of the island of Rhodes seized the ship and imprisoned the passengers. When they realised that the 24-year-old boy was a university-educated diplomat from a prominent Moorish family they bundled him off to Rome where, after a short stay in the papal prison of Castel San Angelo he was presented to Pope Leo X… In 1520 al-Hazan al-Wazan converted to Catholicism and was baptized by Pope Leo X himself with the Latin name of Joannes Leo de Medici; most people in Rome referred to him simply as Giovanni Leone… he was a potential intelligence asset at a time when the pope feared the Ottomans would attack Italy from their new territories along the North African coast … He translated the epistles of St Paul into Arabic, in 1521, although his later writings and actions make it clear that his ‘conversion’ was a strategic and not a spiritual act. …It also set the stage for his most famous work, The Description of Africa, whose popularity led many to call him ‘Leo Africanus’. … {he] wrote this after a few years travelling around Italy during which he lived with a family of Jewish Iberian exiles in Bologna and wrote some other works on Arabic medicine and grammar … Al-Hasan al-Wazan disappeared just before some of Charles V’s unpaid and restless Germany mercenaries sacked Rome in 1527 … he most likely returned to Tunis and Islam. He may have journeyed to Fez, although there is no record of him in either place, or anywhere else for that matter. He seems not to have realised his oft-stated goal of writing an account of Europe for Muslims.”

p. 147 “Elizabeth Dirks was a Frisian girl sent to a convent by her noble family. Hearing of the execution of a local Anabaptist, she began studying the Latin New Testament and was drawn to radicalism. A year in convent prison failed to shake her convictions, and she fled disguised as a milkmaid, taking shelter with an Anabaptist family. She worked and taught with Menno Smons, and may have been the first Mennonite deaconess; those who captured her in January 1549 took her to be Menno’s wife. The arrest launched months of investigation. As reported in The Bloody Theater or Martyr’s Mirror (1660) Elizabeth parried firmly and intelligently with her interrogators, and their exchanges show a woman with a sure grasp of scripture ad doctrine, calmly confident, firmly pacifist, and not in the least intimidated by their power and authority. … they turned to torture in order to get the names of her accomplices,… but she never betrayed her faith or fellow believers. After two months she was executed in the fashion that some authorities reserved for these radicals, like Elizabeth, who had been rebaptized; she was sewn alive into a sack and thrown into the river – the so-called third baptism of drowning.”

Books History

Notes from Back to the Garden: Nature and the Mediterranean World from Prehistory to the Present by James H.S. McGregor

p. 25 “In recent decades new research into agricultural history has overturned paradigms that many of us learnt at school. We were taught that large-scale farming began in the Fertile Crescent when Mesopotamian chieftains consolidated their hold over multiple towns and create bureaucracies that coordinated the work of irrigating grain fields. … The theory had its roots in 19th-century concerns … the narrative of state-formation, which was the major political preoccupation of post-Napoleonic Europe, was further linked with the origins of the coercive power of the community – that is to say, the origins of war…. What prehistorians now believe is quite different. The agricultural revolution came about in fits and starts; it was by no means the creation of a single culture. Its great effect was achieved by the combination of scattered discoveries into a readily adaptable package of seeds herds and techniques of cultivation…. Researchers in other fields began to revise long-accepted views of the nutritional soundness of cultivated crops. What for generations had seemed to be a positive, progressive emergence from the dark uncertainties of the Paleolithic period was turned on its head. A utopian view of the Paleolithic is now far more common, along with a nagging sense that a lot of today’s proglems can be traced to the Neolithic Revolution, the beginning of today’s problems.”
p. 17
Jericho … when excavators reached the earliest levels,.. what they found contradicted everything they believed. Pottery had always been seen as a necessary part of the agricultural revolution. Theorists believed that it was re required to store grain and oil and carry water to houses and fields. Yet there was no pottery in the earliest levels at Jericho. The people of Jericho were sedentary and lived in houses surrounded by a high wall, but much of their diet cam from hunting and foraging. … The third feature of Jericho that confounded theory was the importance of trade to a society with no obvious social hierarchy.” Argument that grain at this time rare and precious – being grown on silt deposited by spring floods in an area with little rainfall – so a luxury commodity rather than a staple. They also had naturally occurring bitumen to trade.
p. 18 Catalhoyuk – in the earliest phases of city life the meat of wild aurochs was the mainstay… evidence of widespread and diverse trade. The quantity and quality of the imported goods that the city could afford poses the question of what they had to offer in exchange. Noting that the skulls and bones of aurochs became smaller over time, Sherratt and others have suggested that Catalhoyuk may have been the first place wild aurochs were domesticated. … less robust and less aggressive. … When domestication of cattle became a widespread practice, the city lost its commercial edge and simply vanished.
p. 53 Home ground for the matriarchal view of early societies is a group of farming communities that began to spread through the Danube Valley 7,000 years ago. … recognition of a culture of ‘Old Europe’. This culture flourished in much of the Danube basin from the western coat of the Black Sea eastward into the rich soils of Hungary. The culture was precocious and longlasting. It rested on a Neolithic package that originated in the Levant and reached the region through Greece. Between 5,000 and 3,500 BC the civilization of the Danube valley was one of the largest and most technically proficient in the world… the earth was moist, deep and easy to cultivate… the Danube floodplain covered hundreds of square miles… large expanses of rich soil encouraged housing clusters and the villages of Old Europe could be quite large, certainly bigger than any housing concentrations that had existed before this time….houses were relatively uniform… though plenty of pottery and skilled metalwork have been found in burials throughout the region, the villages had no potters’ or metalworkers quarters, nor any evidence of social hierarchy. There were no obvious headmen’s houses and certainly no palaces. There is no evidence of a priestly caste, and there are no distinct shrines or temples. Religion appears to have been a matter of household practice. … the most common art objects are small, portable figures… by far the greatest number are of women … one obvious characteristic of the figurines is their obesity. Whether that represents an ideal of beauty or even of fecundity, the figurines clearly show the effects of plentiful nourishment. … Female dominance in one sphere did not carry over into another, and contemporary specialists believe that these communities were not strictly matriarchal. Men seem to have controlled external relations involving trade and negotiations with neighbouring chiefs, while the rituals represented by the female figurines seem to have emphasized the dominant role of women inside the house, and perhaps were connected with ancestor cults centred on their mothers and aunts.”
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Books History Politics Women's history

From Our Hidden Lives: The Everyday Diaries of a Forgotten Britain 1945-48 (ed) Simon Garfield

p. 74 Thursday 9 August, 1945, Edie Rutherford, (43 at the end of the war, a proud and sometimes sanctimonious housewife in Sheffield, married to a timber merchant and football fanatic, eager for news from her native South Africa,… delighted with the Labour government despite everything).
“Japan gets her second atomic bomb. How many more before she wakens? I brought up the subject of the new bomb at work yesterday. Horror of its power if definitely the chief reaction …All at work commented on the cost of this atomic bomb research and remembered the howl that always goes up if 2/6d weekly is suggested for adding to old-age pensions. We live in a mad world.”

p. 375 Wednesday 2 April , Maggie Joy Blunt, 1947 (a lyrical and talented writer in her mid-30s living in a cottage by Burnham Beeches, near Slough, eager to leave her job as a publicity assistant in a metals company, frustrated that she can’t put her public school and university training to better use) – she’ through the diaries trying to write an 18th-century biography, she eventually died as a retired bookseller, no book recorded).
“Sarah, of tolerant, liberal outlook, living in a very conservative, well-to do-country district where everyone grumbles as they do here, obtained via her MP a ticket for the House one evening and sat in the Members’ Gallery. Heard Eden and Shinwell and said it was very interesting, but thought they wasted too much time talking for the sake of it and on schoolboy backchat.”

p. 443 Tuesday, 2 September 1947 Maggie Joy Blunt
“We none of use really understand what it’s all about, what the Government is doing for the future. They are criticised for being in too much of a hurry, trying to impose their ideals too rapidly, yet future generations may bless their little hour of power.
Smallness of plaice. Fishmonger explained that young shoals were being netted instead of thrown back. “Soon the North Sea will be dry of fish – that’s what will happen.”

p. 455 Monday 6 October Maggie Joy Blunt
Last week, an article by Easterbrook in the Northern Chronicle on ‘Britain is Being Poisoned’ – our rivers polluted and creatures in it killed off by man’s carelessness. Now an RU book on man-eating tigers (by Jim Corbett) in which the author says that this magnificent beast is being threatened by extermination.; Man is a slovenly, careless, greedy creature allowed to live in a miraculously wonderful world, which he won’t appreciate.”

Books Environmental politics History

Notes from An Environmental History of Medieval Europe, by Richard C. Hoffman

p. 32 “… particulars had to be learned by human users, sometimes through processes of trial and error. Early Neolithic clearances of fields in upland Britain became moorland and peat bog under later wetter conditions. Bronze Age clearances for pasture in Denmark strained local wood supplies to the point that some pasture was left to grow back as trees.”

p. 34 Mediterranean Europe acquired its Neolithic agriculture complex from southwestern Asia during the sixth and fifth millennium BCE. At first this comprised cereal grasses, legumes, and ovicaprida… intensive hand labour by humans maintained the system until draught animals (oxen, donkey) and a simple plough arrived by the early Bronze Age…. Crops had to be adapted to the rainy cool winter and the hot dry summer: annual cereals seeded in autumn grow throughout the winter and spring to mature before the summer drought; perennial grasses, vines, olives and other plants go dormant or otherwise adapt to the heat. .. Grain, olives and vines have formed the ruling trinity of Med crops since pre-classical times, providing the ancient staple diet of bread, oil and wine. Less stereotyped legumes from field or garden could provide important supplements. Grain crops, wheat and barley, … were reared on ploughed fields (ager) on a two-year cycle, alternating crop and fallow. Resting the field one year in two and ploughing the weeds under hoarded two years of previous water for the grain. Bare fallow leaves the soil surface open during the winter rains, both absorbing water and risking erosion. … Olive trees, … sensitive to frost … on the north they tidily mark a natural boundary of Mediterranean agriculture, which mostly coincided with that of the Roman world. .. Wines and olives might be grown beside vegetables in gardens, but especially when raised for family subsistence were often interplanted in grain fields as cultura mixta. … Livestock played a secondary role … a major technical problem inhibited livestock rearing in the Med, as summer forage was sparse in agricultural areas long cleared of most woodlands and subject to summer drought. The typical response even before good written records was vertical transhumance; a semi-annual movement of livestock and their keepers … to summer pastures in the mountains. The practice moved the animals to forage at the price of depriving the arable land of their manure and the risk of overgrazing upland woodlands and turning them to grass, maquis or garrigue. Transhumance componmuded the problem of fertility maintenance in Med dry farming, an issue that much worried Roman agricultural writers.”

p. 52-54 During and after Roman fall “a long series of epidemics and losses of regional populations caused inhabitants of the western provinces to decline steadily in numbers from the 15-20 million range of the second century to 8-10 million about 600. The economy lost its urban focus… environmental forces of both natural and anthropogenic origins had some significance in this evolution, while even more can be attributed to the environmental impacts of the cultural changes themselves. … [the end of ] the relatively warm and dry Roman Optimum… by the third century, falling general sea levels reveal, and traces of volcanic activity in ice cores help explain, a general cooling that continued into the fourth century, although some regions then became drier. In the Alps, the glaciers were advancing and the tree line creeping downwards. In winter 406, the lower Rhine surprisingly froze solid, giving Germanic invaders easy passage to plunder in Gaul. The ensuing fifth century, in Europe at least, was cooler still, and in the north up to c.450 wetter, but aridity in the southern Med is blamed for abandoned North African farmland. If, as some writers now estimate, mean annual temperatures declined by 1-1.5C from the second century to the sixth, Europe outside the Med basin was becoming less amenable to the favoured crops of Med agrosystems….
Severe pandemics ravaged the Empire during the late second century and again in the mid-third, killing as much as a third of its inhabitants. Some may rather have succumbed to ensuing food shortages and famines… most modern authorities now think these were smallpox, measles or influenza rather than plague. .. most famous is the ‘Justinian plague’, named retrospectively for East Roman Emperor Justinian (527-65)… Most late 20th-century scholars accepted this as the first pandemic of bubonic plaque … less tendentious label for the entire episode is Late Medieval Pandemic. Whatever the pathogenic agent, it was new or long unfamiliar in the region, entered from Africa, probably by way of Egypt, and caused many deaths. … a possibly new endemic presence of malaria… whose several varieties had colonized the Med since at least the sixth and fifth centuries BCE. … the form most common in the western Med debilitated rather than immediately killed, leaving victims with weakened immune systems and life spans shortened by other diseases, and persuading survivors to abandon marshy areas. …
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