Friday, 31 August 2012


In the early 18th century England suffered from gin drinking. It was cheap and it was sold everywhere as you did not need a license to sell it. Many people ruined their health by drinking gin. Yet for many poor people drinking gin was their only comfort. The situation improved after 1751 when a tax was imposed on gin.  

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Poverty in the 17th Century

At the end of the 17th century a writer estimated that half the population could afford to eat meat every day. In other words about 50% of the people were wealthy of at least reasonably well off. Below them about 30% of the population could afford to eat meat between 2 and 6 times a week. They were 'poor'. The bottom 20% could only eat meat once a week. They were very poor. At least part of the time they had to rely on poor relief.

By an act of 1601 overseers of the poor were appointed by each parish. They had power to force people to pay a local tax to help the poor. Those who could not work such as the old and the disabled would be provided for. The overseers were meant to provide work for the able-bodied poor. Anyone who refused to work was whipped and, after 1610, they could be placed in a house of correction. Pauper's children were sent to local employers to be apprentices.  

Wednesday, 29 August 2012


I wrote a short history of Libya. Its only been a short time since the revolution but there is reason to be hopeful for the country.  

Tuesday, 28 August 2012


Aztec society was divided into classes. At the very top was the emperor. Below him were the nobles and priests. Below them were merchants, craftsmen, peasants and then slaves.

Merchants formed a class of their own. They lived in their own areas of cities and their children usually married the children of other merchants. Merchants who carried out long distance trade were called pochteca.

There were also many craftsmen in Aztec society. Although the Aztecs did not use iron and bronze some craftsmen made jewellery from gold, silver and copper. Other craftsmen made objects of obsidian, jade and semi-precious stones. There were also feather workers who made things like headdresses from feathers.

Monday, 27 August 2012


The great city of Liverpool began as a tidal pool next to the Mersey. It was probably called the lifer pol meaning muddy pool. There may have been a hamlet at Liverpool before the town was founded in the 13th century. It is not mentioned in the Domesday Book (1086) but it may have been to small to merit a mention of its own.

King John founded the port of Liverpool in 1207. The English had recently conquered Ireland and John needed another port to send men and supplies across the Irish Sea. John started a weekly market by the pool. In those days there were very few shops so if you wanted to buy or sell goods you had to go to a market. Once a market was up and running at Liverpool craftsmen and tradesmen would come to live in the area. 

Friday, 24 August 2012


Games similar to draughts were played by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. The Arabs played a similar game and by about 1100 a form of draughts was being played in France. In the USA draughts is called checkers. 

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Costa Rica

I wrote a brief history of Costa Rica. Fortunately Costa Rica is a Central American success story. Its a relatively prosperous country and its industries are growing.  


Figs have been grown in the Middle East since prehistoric times. They were mentioned in Sumer (Iraq) as early as 2,500 BC. They were a staple food in Egypt and were later grown by the Greeks and Romans. Figs were probably introduced to China in the 8th century AD. Figs were taken by Spaniards to the Americas in the 16th century. Figs were also introduced to England in the 16th century. 

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Space Exploration

The first human being in space was a Russian, Yuri Gagarin who was launched on 12 April 1961. He made a single orbit of the Earth and landed the same day.

The first American to orbit the Earth was John Glenn on 20 February 1962 in Mercury 6.

The first woman in space was Valentina Tereshkova, who orbited the Earth 48 times between 16 and 19 June 1963.

On 18 March 1965 Aleksi Leonov became the first person to walk in space.  

Monday, 13 August 2012

Antarctic Exploration

Captain Cook was the first person to cross the Antarctic Circle. Amundsen reached the South Pole in 1911. Richard Peary was the first person to fly across the South Pole in 1929.  

Sunday, 12 August 2012

The Model T Ford

On 12 August 1908 the first model T car was made by Henry Ford. The new car was very cheap and made motoring possible for the masses. The secret was mass production, which enabled the new cars to be assembled cheaply.  

Thursday, 9 August 2012

19th century sports

Ice hockey became an organised sport in the 1870s. The International Ice Hockey Federation was formed in 1908.

People have played games with mallets and hoops for centuries but modern croquet began in the 19th century. Similarly games similar to badminton have been played since ancient times. However modern badminton developed in the late 19th century.

At the end of the 19th century bicycling became a popular sport. The safety bicycle went on sale in 1885 and in 1892 John Boyd Dunlop invented pneumatic tyres (much more comfortable than solid rubber ones!) Bicycling clubs became common.

In the 19th century Archery was considered a suitable sport for women. It was considered 'ladylike'. Meanwhile polo is an ancient game. We are not certain where it was invented but it was probably played in Persia about 2,000 years ago. In the 19th century the British learned to play polo in India and they brought it back to Britain. The first polo club in Britain was founded in 1872.

Then in 1896 the Olympic Games were revived. 

Wednesday, 1 August 2012