Monday, 10 September 2012

The Gunpowder Plot

I wrote an article about the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. It was a conspiracy to blow up parliament and King James I with gunpowder. In England it is commemorated every year on Bonfire night. 

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Ancient China

Chinese civilisation developed independently of others because it was separated from them by deserts and by sheer distance. After 10,000 BC people in China lived by hunting and gathering plants. Then, about 5,000 BC, the Chinese began farming. From about 5,000 BC rice was cultivated in southern China and millet was grown in the north. By 5,000 BC dogs and pigs were domesticated. By 3,000 BC sheep and (in the south) cattle were domesticated. Finally horses were introduced into China between 3,000 and 2,300 BC.

By 5,000 BC Chinese farmers had learned to make pottery. They also made lacquer (a kind of varnish made from the sap of the Chinese lacquer tree). The early Chinese farmers also made baskets and wove cloth (before sheep were domesticated hemp was woven). The Chinese also made ritual objects from jade such as knives, axes and rings. The wheel was invented in China about 2,500 BC.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

20th Century Women

During the 20th century women gained equal rights with men. In 1918 women over 30 in Britain were allowed to vote. In 1928 they were allowed to vote at the age of 21 (the same as men). From 1975 it was made illegal in Britain to sack women for becoming pregnant. Also in 1975 the Sex Discrimination Act made it illegal to discriminate against women in employment, education and training. In the late 20th century the number of women in managerial and other highly paid jobs greatly increased.  

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. 

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.  

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Middle Ages

When I was at school I was taught a very biased version of history. In it progress ended with the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century and began again with Leonardo Da Vinci in the 15th century, which is nonsense. 

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Mary Rose

I wrote a little timeline of events in World history during the time of the Mary Rose, Henry VIII's warship, which sank in 1545. 

Monday, 20 February 2012

Shrove Tuesday

Shrove Tuesday come from the old word shrive, to confess because people confessed their sins before Lent. You were not supposed to eat eggs during Lent so people used them up by making pancakes. Its also why we say 'gave him short shrift'. A shrift was a confession to a priest. You gave a criminal a short time to say a shrift before you hanged him.

Monday, 6 February 2012


In England a law of 1531 allowed poisoners to be boiled alive. In 1532 a cook called Richard Roose was boiled alive and in 1542 a woman called Margaret Davy was boiled alive. However the law was repealed in 1547. 

Monday, 30 January 2012

Ancient Surgery

The Egyptians did have some knowledge of anatomy from making mummies. To embalm a dead body they first removed the principal organs, which would otherwise rot.

However Egyptian surgery was limited to such things as treating wounds and broken bones and dealing with boils and abscesses. The Egyptians used clamps, sutures and cauterisation. They had surgical instruments like probes, saws, forceps, scalpels and scissors.

They also knew that honey helped to prevent wounds becoming infected. (It is a natural antiseptic). They also dressed wounds with willow bark, which has the same effect.

The Ancient Greeks bathed wounds with wine. (The alcohol helped to prevent infection).

In the Roman Empire techniques of surgery were dominated by the ideas of Galen. He was interested in anatomy. Unfortunately by his time dissecting human bodies was forbidden. So Galen had to dissect animal bodies including apes. However animal bodies are not the same as human bodies and so some of Galen's ideas were quite wrong. Unfortunately Galen was a very influential writer. For centuries his writings dominated medicine. 

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

What the Poles did for us

What did the Poles do for us? 10% of the pilots who fought in the Battle of Britain were Polish and the Polish resistance gathered vital info about the German V1 flying bomb. Polish soldiers fought the Nazis in North Africa, Italy and France. The composers Chopin and Paderewski were Poles. So were the great astronomer Copernicus and the scientist Marie Curie. In 1923 a Pole named Leo Gerstenzang invented cotton swabs (cotton buds).

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Medieval Towns

In the Middle Ages most people lived in the countryside and made a living from farming. However at the time of the Domesday Book (1086) about 10% of the population of England lived in towns. Moreover trade boomed in the following two centuries and many new towns were founded.

The first thing that would surprise us about those towns would be their small size. At the time of the Domesday Book in 1086 London had a population of about 18,000. By the 14th century it rose to about 45,000. Other towns were much smaller. York may have had a population of about 13,000 by 1400 but it then fell to about 10,000 by 1500. Most towns had between 2,000 and 5,000 inhabitants.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

20th century newspapers

In the 20th century newspapers became still more common. The Daily Mail was first published in 1896, The Daily Express was first published in 1900 and the Daily Mirror began publication in 1903.

In 1964 The Daily Herald became The Sun and The Daily Star was founded in 1978. Meanwhile The Sunday Telegraph was founded in 1961 and in 1962 The Sunday Times became the first newspaper to publish a Sunday colour supplement. The Mail on Sunday began in 1982. The Independent was first published in 1986. Also in 1986 Today became the first colour newspaper in Britain.