Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Darwin, Australia

I wrote a brief history of Darwin, Australia. It suffered badly in a cyclone in 1974 but it is now thriving and growing rapidly. 

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Ancient Clocks

The earliest method of telling the time of day was the sundial. It is not known when the sundial was invented but they were certainly used in Ancient Egypt and Ancient Iraq. They are also mentioned in the Old Testament. Other ancient civilisations such as the Greeks and the Romans also used sundials. Over time sun dials gradually became more accurate and they remained a common way of telling the time until the early 19th century.

About 1400 BC the Egyptians invented the water clock. It consisted of two containers of water, one of which was higher than the other. Water flowed along a tube from the higher container to the lower at a steady rate. Rings were marked on the inside of the lower container and when the water level reached one it meant another hour had passed.

The Saxons used a candle clock. A candle was divided into segments and it took an hour for each segment to burn. 

Friday, 26 July 2013

Poznan, Poland

I wrote a little history of the city of Poznan in Poland. It suffered under Communism but it is now flourishing again. 

Tuesday, 23 July 2013


I wrote a history of Cuba. Its still a Communist dictatorship but one day it will be free. 

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Inca Food

The Incas lived in the highlands and lowlands of what is now Peru. In the lowlands the staple food was maize. In the highlands the main food was potatoes. Incas also ate peppers, tomatoes and avocadoes. They also ate peanuts and a grain called quinoa.

Llamas and alpacas were kept for wool and for carrying loads but they sometimes provided meat. Incas also ate guinea pigs. They also fished and ate birds. However for most Incas meat was a luxury.

Incas drank a fermented drink called chicha. Ordinary Incas drank from bowls carved from gourds. Rich Incas drank from pottery vessels or even ones made from gold or silver.

Poor people ate food off dishes placed on the ground. Inca nobles ate off a cloth on the ground. There were no tables. 

Tuesday, 16 July 2013


In 1903 a speed limit of 20 MPH was introduced in Britain. It was abolished in 1930. However in 1934 a speed limit of 30 MPH in built-up areas was introduced. Meanwhile electric traffic lights were invented in the USA. In Britain the first electric traffic lights were installed in London in 1926. Insurance for motorists was made compulsory in 1931. A driving test was introduced in 1934. Also in 1934 Percy Shaw invented the cat's eye Meanwhile the AA was formed in 1905.

The parking meter was invented by Carlton Magee. The first one was installed in the USA in 1935. A Swede named Nils Bohlin developed the three-point seat belt in 1959. In 1983 wearing a seat belt was made compulsory. Wheel clamps were introduced to Britain in 1983 and speed cameras in 1992.

Meanwhile in 1936 Belisha Beacons were introduced to make road crossing safer. The first zebra crossing was introduced in 1951. The modern pelican crossing dates from 1969 and lollipop men and women were first introduced in 1969.

In 1931 an American called Rolla N. Harger invented the first breathalyser. It was first used in Indianapolis USA in 1939. In Britain double yellow lines at the sides of the roads meaning no parking were introduced in 1958 and wheel clamps were introduced in 1983. Speed cameras were introduced in 1992. 

Sunday, 14 July 2013

19th Century Women

In 1874 the first successful typewriter went on sale (It was invented in the USA by Christopher Sholes) and the telephone was invented in 1876. These two new inventions meant more job opportunities for women.

In the late 19th century contraception became easier. In 1877 Annie Besant and Charles Bradlaugh published a book on the subject called Fruits of Philosophy. They were both prosecuted by their sentences were quashed on appeal.

Life became more comfortable for most women in the 19th century. James Simpson (1811-1870), who was Professor of Midwifery at Edinburgh University, began using chloroform for operations in 1847. 

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Ruth Ellis

On 13 July 1955 Ruth Ellis was hanged. She was the last women in Britain to be hanged.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Kings in the Middle Ages

In the Middle Ages the king ruled by divine right. In other words people believed that God had chosen him to be king and rebellion against him was a sin. However that did not stop rebellions! Kings had limited power in the Middle Ages and rebellion was easy. A great deal depended on the personality of the king. If he was a strong character he could control the barons. If he were weak or indecisive the barons would often rebel. Warrior kings who fought successful wars were the most powerful as they were popular with the nobility. 

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Tudor Transport

In Tudor times transport was still slow and uncomfortable. Roads were still just dirt tracks. Men were supposed, by law, to spend a number of days repairing the local roads but it is unlikely they did much good! People travelled by horse. You could either ride your own or you could hire a horse.

In Tudor times you would be lucky if you could travel 50 or 60 kilometres a day. It normally took a week to travel from London to Plymouth. However rich people deliberately travelled slowly. They felt it was undignified to hurry and they took their time.

Goods were sometimes transported by pack horse (horses with bags on their sides). Also carriers with covered wagons carried goods and sometimes passengers. However when possible people preferred to transport goods by water. All around England there was a 'coastal trade'. Goods from one part of the country, such as coal, were taken by sea to other parts. 

Friday, 5 July 2013

History of Coffee

Coffee reached Europe in the late 16th century through trade. Coffee was introduced into Italy first. (Today coffee is still a very popular drink among the Italians). Coffee really became popular in Europe in the 17th century. In the 1600s coffee houses opened across Europe. The first coffee house in England opened in Oxford in 1651 and by the late 17th century there were many coffeehouses in English towns where merchants and professional men met to drink cups of coffee, read newspapers and chat.

The first coffee house in London opened in 1652 and by the end of the 17th century there were hundreds of them. Merchants met to do business in specialist exchanges and gentlemen's clubs took over as the places where well to do men met to socialise and chat.

Meanwhile the first coffee houses in America opened in 1689. Merchants Coffee House opened in 1737 and it became an important meeting place. In America drinking coffee rather than tea became patriotic after the Boston Tea Party of 1773 (a protest against a British tax on tea).