Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Sydney is Founded

Sydney was named after Thomas Townshend - Lord Sydney (1733-1800). He became British Secretary of State in 1783 and recommended the British establish a colony in Australia.

Saturday, 26 October 2013


In the distant past people often slaughtered their enemies but sometimes they were taken prisoner and used as slaves. In the ancient world slavery was common. The great civilisations of the Middle East, the Sumerians, Egyptians, Assyrians, Persians and Israelites all kept slaves. Slavery was also common in ancient India and China. The Celts who lived in Western Europe also kept slaves. The main source of slaves was prisoners of war. However slavery was usually hereditary. A slave's children were also slaves. Some people sold themselves or their children into slavery to avoid starvation.

As society became more advanced slavery became a huge business and buying and selling slaves became a thriving industry. (In the old Testament around 1800 BC Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers and was taken to Egypt).

The Greeks and the Romans too kept huge numbers of slaves. Some slaves were household slaves who worked in their master's homes. Others worked on farms and some were skilled craftsmen. Slaves who lived in mines probably had the harshest and most unpleasant lives. (Their lives were often short too). 

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Roman Clothes

Roman men wore tunics. Roman citizens wore a semi-circular piece of cloth called a toga. It was folded over one shoulder. Men wore white togas made of wool or linen. Senators wore a toga with a purple stripe as a mark of their rank. Women wore long dresses called a stola, dyed different colours. Often they wore a long shawl called a palla.

Ordinary Romans wore clothes of wool or linen but the rich could afford cotton and silk. Roman clothes were held with pins and brooches. Both men and women wore wigs and false teeth. 

Wednesday, 16 October 2013


In the late 5th century a Germanic people called the Franks carved out an empire in what is now France. (They gave the country its name). In 496 Clovis, the leader of the Franks became a Christian and his people followed.

In 771 Charlemagne became king of the Franks. In 772 he attacked the Saxons. After a battle in 782 more than 4,000 Saxon captives were beheaded. The survivors were 'converted' to Christianity by force. Charlemagne also annexed Bavaria. In 800 he was crowned emperor.

However Charlemagne's empire did not long survive his death. In 843 it was divided into three kingdoms, west, middle and east.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Married Women's Property

Until the late 19th century in Britain everything a married woman had was, legally her husbands property. However the 1870 Married Women's Property act stated that a married woman's earnings belonged to her. Further Married Woman's Property Acts were passed in 1882 and 1893. They allowed married women to own, buy and sell property the same as a single woman. 

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

17th Century Society

At the top of English society were the nobility. Below them were the gentry. Gentlemen were not quite rich but they were certainly well off. Below them were yeomen, farmers who owned their own land. Yeomen were comfortably off but they often worked alongside their men. Gentlemen did not do manual work! Below them came the mass of the population, craftsmen, tenant farmers and labourers.

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.