Tuesday, 29 May 2012


I wrote a little history of Nicaragua. It is still a very poor country and underemployment is a serious problem. There is not much reason for optimism.  

Friday, 25 May 2012

Greek Science

The Ancient Greeks were the first scientists. Greek philosophers tried to explain what the world is made of and how it works. Empedocles (c. 494-434 BC) said that the world is made of four elements, earth, fire, water and air. Aristotle (384-322 BC) accepted the theory of the four elements. However he also believed that the Sun, Moon and planets are made of a fifth element and are unchanging. Aristotle also studied zoology and attempted to classify animals.

Aristotle also believed the body was made up of four humours or liquids (corresponding to the four elements). They were phlegm, blood, yellow bile and black bile. If a person had too much of one humour they fell ill.

Although some of their ideas were wrong the Greeks did make some scientific discoveries. A Greek named Aristarchros believed the Earth revolved around the Sun. Unfortunately his theory was not accepted. However Eratosthenes (c.276-194 BC) calculated the circumference of the Earth. 

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

First Newspapers

The first newspaper in England was published in 1641. The first American newspaper was printed in 1690.The first newspaper in Canada was printed in 1752. The first Australian newspaper was printed in 1803. 

Monday, 21 May 2012

Dark Side of History

I have recently added a number of articles to a section of my website about the dark side of history  

Saturday, 19 May 2012


The word knickers to mean women's underwear was first recorded in Britain in 1881. The word panties was first recorded in the USA in 1908 but it never caught on in Britain.  

Sunday, 6 May 2012

History of Toys

John Spilsbury made the first jigsaw puzzle in 1767. He intended to teach geography by cutting maps into pieces but soon people began making jigsaws for entertainment. The Kaleidoscope was invented in 1817.

In the 19th century middle class girls played with wood or porcelain dolls. They also had dolls houses, model shops and skipping ropes. Boys played with toys like marbles and toy soldiers as well as toy trains. (Some toy trains had working engines fuelled by methylated spirits). They also played with toy boats. However poor children had few toys and often had to make their own.

In a well off Victorian family children played with rocking horses and clockwork toys like moving animals. Clockwork trains were also popular. So was the jack-in-the-box.

Simple toys like spinning tops were also popular. So were hoops and games like knucklebones and pick up sticks in which you had to pick up coloured sticks from a pile without disturbing the others.

On Sundays children often played with toys with a religious themes like Noah's arks with wooden animals.

Children also loved magic lantern (slide) shows and puppet shows. 

Thursday, 3 May 2012


According to one story a French chef first made mayonnaise in 1756. However there are many stories about where it comes from. Hollandaise sauce was also first recorded in the mid-18th century. Ketchup began life as a Chinese fish sauce called ke-tsiap. The name was gradually changed to ketchup and in Britain people added other ingredients instead of fish. In the 18th century they began adding tomatoes. Sauces similar to tartar sauce were made in the Middle Ages but 'modern' tartar sauce was first made in the 1800s.

In the 19th century with the Industrial Revolution condiments began to be mass-produced in factories. Tomato ketchup was a best seller and HP sauce was invented at the end of the 19th century. Meanwhile Worcester sauce was invented in Worcester in 1835 by John Lea and William Perrins. Horseradish sauce went on sale in bottles in the USA around 1860. Salad cream was invented in 1914.