Not at all pants – well maybe a little

Forgive me a touch of scepticism, but I can’t resist pointing to the story around today just about everywhere that discarded pants helped to boost literacy: claiming that it was when urbanisation led people to more widely adopt underwear, unlike those uninsulated peasant farmers, that there were lots of rags around from which to make paper.

As someone on the medieval list pointed out, lots of that underwear would have been made from wool, and thence useless for papermaking, and I’d like to point out that in Caxton’s time (contrary to the story’s claim), paper was not at all cheap – making up half or more of the cost of a book – and imported into Britain right until the end of the 16th century.

But hey, why spoil a nice tale?

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