Historical things that blow your mind

(104 Posts)
TunipTheVegemal Thu 20-Sep-12 11:07:26

Here's mine (nicked from Cynthia Harnett in The Wool Pack)
Before the spinning wheel became widespread every single thread in every single item of clothing would have been spun by hand by a woman with a drop spindle. We'd have all been walking around with a drop spindle stuck in our girdle so we could spin with one hand at odd moments.

What minor or major facts about the past make your head spin?

The shear number of lives lost in various WW1 battles. Still shocks me everytime.

And on a slightly lighter note, that people used to sling poo & pee into the street or, if they were a bit more refined, have a hole-in-a-bench type loo that simply stuck out over the street or back yard. The Middle Ages must have stunk!

The first steam engine was invented by the ancient Egyptians!

TunipTheVegemal Thu 20-Sep-12 11:18:59

I didn't know that!
On a similar note, the Antikythera Mechanism was quite a surprise.

Clever chaps those ancients!

Marking place as these are fascinating!

I quite like the theory that the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were irrigated using Archemides screws.

Paleodad Thu 20-Sep-12 12:37:35

The minor things get me.
This summer, excavating in the agora area of a roman city, a member of the team found a ceramic roof tiles with the perfect impression of a small foot, perhaps (speculating wildly and romantically) the footprint of a naughty child playing where they shouldn't be.
A small thing, but a human connection across time that i find incredible.

That sound ace Paleodad!

Some0ne Thu 20-Sep-12 13:21:53

In the Grotte de Peche Merle in France, half a mile underground, as well as amazing cave paintings, there are childrens' footprints - from 10,000 years ago. Seeing the cave paintings is one thing, but the footprints were truly mindboggling to me.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Fri 21-Sep-12 23:30:39

A random mosaic in the middle of a forest somewhere in England, remains of a house. Brought it home to me that it wasn't just nobles and "show homes" that were "history " - it was a bog standard house that was too. It is one drawback of museums - it puts all the good stuff in one place but gives you no feel that some of the artefacts were just everyday items.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Fri 21-Sep-12 23:35:14

And on the border of science and history - that all that we are, see and touch, all the elements on Earth, were made in stars.

That always blows my mind,

BonkeyMollocks Fri 21-Sep-12 23:36:44

Wow! Just www!

Mind blown!!


Nigglenaggle Sun 23-Sep-12 20:27:59

Definitely with Paleodad on it being the human connections. For example the Roman letters found at Hadrians wall. Some of them could have been written in the not so distant past.

GoingforGoingforGOLD Sun 23-Sep-12 20:51:09

Some bits of cathedrals and churches are getting on for 1000 years old

That amazes me

LaQueen Mon 24-Sep-12 22:15:46

How the Egyptians built the pyramids, so perfectly and so vast.

Watched a program where, even with modern engineering and computers they were really struggling to achieve anything so perfectly aligned and on such an enormous scale.

akaemmafrost Mon 24-Sep-12 22:38:12

The writing in the stones on the walls of the tower of London of prisoners from centuries ago. Some are covered with protective glass but others you can touch. You can actually touch the carved words of historical figures who quite often had been condemned to die. Love the Tower of London.

These are amazing.

For me: that, for centuries and centuries, it was women who taught children how to read, not men. It was wives and mothers who were literate and doing the early teaching, not men, and not schools.

I guess it seems basic to us now, but it stuns me when I think that the stereotype is that women 'usually couldn't read' and that access to written culture is such a big deal.

2) That every medieval manuscript I look at was written by hand and has survived centuries, but the modern paperbacks won't last much longer than we will.

3) That, if you were a medieval priest, you actually had a set of written rules about what you had to do if a spider fell into the communion wine. You had to drink the wine and eat the spider (so none of the 'blood of Christ' was wasted). If you were a squeamish medieval priest, you had to drink the wine - fish the spider out of the cup - burn the spider-corpse .... and eat the ashes.

confused envy

That is definitely 'gross' not 'envy', there!

RustyBear Mon 24-Sep-12 22:50:19

That we see more images in a single day than an average Victorian saw in a lifetime.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Mon 24-Sep-12 23:21:31

Ooh that's a good one Rusty.

TunipTheVegemal Tue 25-Sep-12 09:11:58

LaQueen's one is interesting because it's so un-obvious. I would look at a pyramid and think, yeah, we could do that now, easy! Sometimes it takes specialist knowledge to know what is hard.

Another thing is knowledge we take so much for granted that it's hard to imagine people not knowing it. For instance, germ theory of disease. I catch myself thinking 'but couldn't they SEE it was germs?', forgetting that I know it not because I worked it out myself but because scientists got there after a lot of time and looking through microscopes.

That's a pet hate in books (including the lovely Children of Winter, unfortunately). Fiction writers just assuming everyone did somehow know about germs.

rusty - I would love you to bits if you have a reference for that? I mean seriously, I'm not doubting you, I just want a reference!

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

sleeplessinsuburbia Tue 25-Sep-12 09:53:25

LRD check out "shift happens" it's updated nearly every year, I remember it once talking about that.

sleeplessinsuburbia Tue 25-Sep-12 09:53:52

On YouTube!

RustyBear Tue 25-Sep-12 12:41:10

I don't have one, I'm afraid, but it was a policeman that told me! I was at a CEOPS conference on Internet safety for schools, and it was just said as an introduction to this guy's talk about safeguarding. I can easily believe it, though.

TheHeirOfSlytherin Tue 25-Sep-12 12:51:13

That my great great grandparents couldn't read or write. I have a copy of my great grandparents marriage certificate and both the signatures of the bride and groom's fathers are just an X.

And that no matter what period in history you look at, a bit of you was there somewhere in an ancestor.

LRD. It's said that the average (Western) person sees between 10 and 15,000 images a day of which around 5000 are advertising shock. I can't find anything that references a comparison to the Victorians but I can't believe they were exposed to anything like that

There ate quite a few references if you google "number of images seen in a day"

My mind boggles when I see artefacts like
crystal skulls or someone tells me that the Aztecs lined up some stone to exactly catch a ray of sunshine at midday during a full moon or some such thing. How? How did they do that? confused

That, in the long distant past, everything seemed to be done at a younger age. That Kevin the teenagers were married or working or leading battles. That they were making decisions at an age when they hadn't much life-experience and there were fewer elders around to ask for advice.

That men in their early twenties were respected. I'm thinking of Edward III leading men into battle against the Scots at about the age of twenty, and his men trusting him. Or Henry V chasing off Owen Glydower at about sixteen.

Thanks slightly - it's amazing.

sleep - thank you. I'm not seeing it, but I will keep looking.

TunipTheVegemal Tue 25-Sep-12 13:13:07

yes Laura, I have a hard time getting my head round teenagers leading men into battle too.
I'm reading about the Pilgrimage of Grace at the moment and there is a reference to one of the men who signed the declaration (not one of the leaders) being quite young; you look at the footnote and he's 10 or 11.
Imagine letting a child of that age sign up to something like that.

10 or 11?



TunipTheVegemal Tue 25-Sep-12 13:18:50

Thomas Metham, b 1526, d 1537. I kept re-reading it in case I'd made a mistake. But it makes sense in terms of what we know about the time and their attitude to youth.

Another thing is the amazing buildings from the medieval period. My local little city has the obligatory cathedral. It is 900 years old and so beautiful. You can see it from miles away and it always makes me feel very connected with the past when I remember how many years that it has been a landmark. And built and designed by craftsmen with such basic tools.

Also, YY to the pyramids. Utterly mindblowing.

TheHeirOfSlytherin Tue 25-Sep-12 13:24:28

Didn't the whole idea of being a teenager only turn up in the 50s though? So before that you were a child or an adult, no "finding you feet, allowed to make mistakes" inbetween stage.

FlibberdeGibbet Tue 25-Sep-12 13:27:27

Here's a link to the 2012 Shift Happens

really thought provoking stuff

At the battle of Crecy, the Black Prince led the vanguard aged only sixteen. I can't imagine anyone nowadays putting their lives on the line on the sayso of a teenager . grin

And,in some places, twelve year olds could serve on a jury.

It was younger society. You were in your prime in your twenties and old in your forties. I wonder if that is why they were so impulsive ?

TunipTheVegemal Tue 25-Sep-12 13:37:40

I read recently, I think in Ian Mortimer's Time Traveller's Guide To Medieval England, that younger societies tend to be more violent.

BrainSurgeon Tue 25-Sep-12 13:39:40

Lowering the tone I'm afraid - I can hardly believe that people didn't wash and kept windows closed at all times for fear that water and fresh air will do them harm. Or the way they lived before sewage was invented (I read that there were streams of the stuff flowing down the roads and that potties used at night time were emptied out the window onto said roads). Yuk.

susiedaisy Tue 25-Sep-12 13:49:11

Wow flibber great link really gets you thinking!

greenhill Tue 25-Sep-12 14:06:22

Most of the info that people thought they knew 500, 100 or even 10 years ago was wrong. Most of the stuff we think we know now will turn out to be wrong too. Subjectivity is tough.

susiedaisy Tue 25-Sep-12 14:22:00

Good point, great thread

YY Turnip Ian Mortimer always gives me something to chew over. I particularly like the Time Traveller's Guide.

Am currently reading The Fears of Henry IV - very interesting.

green - OTOH, there are things they knew 500 years ago that people rubbished for centuries and we're just finding out are right! (leeches, for starters).

The understanding people had of phonetics and memory in around 1300 got totally trashed thereafter, but I could take a beginners' textbook for teaching reading from 1300 into a primary school today, and it would be closer to what the teacher would be doing there than the 'look and say' books I learned from in the 1980s. I think that's amazing.

TunipTheVegemal Tue 25-Sep-12 14:35:52

how fascinating re phonics LRD!

Laura Amazon has just delivered my copy of his Elizabethan England one. I'd been planning to wait for the paperback but decided I couldn't wait!

SaggyOldClothCatPuss Tue 25-Sep-12 14:44:52

That the ancient egyptian"s used crocodile poo for contraception. And it does contain the right hormones! <<plucks yet another once watched documentary from the back of brain>>
Why the hell would you think "hmm, how not to get preggers...? I know, lets try croc shit!" And what exactly did they do with it? confused

margerykemp Tue 25-Sep-12 14:46:23

That some unmarried men didnt realise women had legs!

It must have made life feel very different when people truely believed that the world was flat and had strong faith and believed in life in heaven after death. Maybe that was a comfort from the hell of life then?

greenhill Tue 25-Sep-12 14:50:12

lrd you are right, that is precisely why I used the word "thought" rather than "what they knew". smile

Most of the stuff that the ancient people's of Egypt or Mayans knew in terms of engineering had to be rediscovered. After all the Romans brought a certain level of civilisation to Britain, but without the demand economy that they had, when they retreated to mainland Europe, the natives of this country were unable to maintain the irrigation systems, hot water systems etc and ended up dismantling the big buildings to use on their own property etc. These things then had to be rediscovered all over again.

TunipTheVegemal Tue 25-Sep-12 14:51:19

Margery, really? shock When was that?

Sorry, I wasn't trying to correct/lecture, I was just using your post as an excuse to share that thing about phonics because I think it's very cool. blush

greenhill Tue 25-Sep-12 15:26:32

lrd don't worry, I didn't take offence. As usual, I should have given an example in the first place. blush. I love your phonic fact too.

For anybody else that misread my first post I was musing on received wisdom, rather than incontrovertible facts.

Oh, whew! I get carried away on these threads and forget I shouldn't just jump in, hoping for a good 'yes but no but yes' debate.

It is absolutely fascinating, isn't it? That we clearly - as a species - have not the remotest clue of how to judge which work is accurate and which is not, sometimes for hundreds of years?

Though, I suppose life would be very boring if we were infallible and could always see exactly why some theory was correct.

With the phonics thing - people actually did blending back then. They actually sat children down and got them sounding out single letters, then blends of two letters together. It is just stunning to be reading this stuff now, and thinking how it is all very cutting-edge in modern education.

bureni Tue 25-Sep-12 15:37:00

The building of the Titanic and her 2 sister ships Olympic and Britannic still amazes me today, what a fantastic achievement for such a tiny country and all the people who built those massive ships by hand.

0.5% of men are descended from Genghis Khan.

This has been tracked through a Y chromosome pattern peculiar to Genghis' close family and descendants.

Redfly Thu 27-Sep-12 19:37:16

People who survived the Black Death passed on to their ancestors immunity to AIDs, not a bad inheritance.
And masses of stuff in WW2, like the sheer bravery of the first people to not only parachute, but parachute behind enemy lines, among them several women. They really didn't know if the idea would work.

SaggyOldClothCatPuss Thu 27-Sep-12 19:46:25

Really Redfly? That's pretty amazing!

RustyBear Thu 27-Sep-12 20:35:57

It would be more than amazing if they passed anything to their ancestors....

freerangelady Thu 27-Sep-12 20:38:21

Oooooh, interesting thread. What can I dredge up?

- that when I'm ploughing a field with my big tractor, it's only been about 15 generations that have farmed that field and as farmers tend to hang onto land for ages it's probably only 15 people away that would be mulling over Henry viii's new wife whilst trudging up and down.

- that my great aunt was in service in a big london house and can tell me about it.

- that my 87 yr old neighbour remembers farming with horses and outside loos and houses with no running water. Come to think of it, he hasn't got central heating here.

- that life for an egyptian peasant in 1920 ad would have been totally recognised by one from 1920bc

- I read once but cannot source the fact that a modern Sunday paper contains more material than a 16th century man would have read in a lifetime.

- that you had to live on potage for most of English history.

- that you can walk the streets in Pompeii that the ancient Romans did.

TunipTheVegemal Thu 27-Sep-12 20:50:39

Those are great Freerangelady.
I do feel like to understand history and what life was like for most people in England, you have to understand farming. People were very close to the land for most of history. Even London, in Roman times, had pigs running through it. It's no coincidence that my favourite historical novelist, Norah Lofts, was from a farming family.

MarinaIvy Fri 28-Sep-12 13:00:04

This actually shut me up:


If the link doesn't work, gist is: centuries of Europeans (including the Vikings!) couldn't break into America, until a plague wiped out 96% of the native population. Blows my freaking mind.

SaggyOldClothCatPuss Fri 28-Sep-12 19:38:04

Just worked that out Rusty! grin

AllPastYears Fri 28-Sep-12 20:11:29

In no particular order...

- that in Georgian times commodes might be used in a roomful of people, e.g. just kept in the corner of the dining room and in the middle of the meal you might go over for a poo (vom)

- the number of children who died in infancy

- the number of women who died in childbirth

- that the "past" is actually so recent - e.g. just 300 years ago, or even 100, people's lives were so different

- on the Genghis Khan descendants front, how about this? Bit flawed I think though - 1 million people wouldn't interbreed randomly, it would depend on location, social class etc.

- that human beings lived through the Ice Age

- that you used to be able to walk from England to France

- that there are so many remains of the past just below us (potsherds, old shoes, bones etc). Now that there are so many of us, and we all own and discard so much stuff, will future generations be deluged with our leavings and just not bother to dig up anything of ours?

Nigglenaggle Fri 28-Sep-12 20:41:29

As someone who would have died in childbirth a hundred years ago (or less, maybe...) then I am with you on that!

BikeRunSki Fri 28-Sep-12 20:52:26

This blew me away today. It's the anniversary of the Battle of Britain today and Jeremy Vine was talking to an elderly chap who'd fought it in. He was 19. His training (having never even seen a Hurricane Bomber) was three circuits of Biggin Hill. Amazing.

AllPastYears Sat 29-Sep-12 10:47:39

Oh, another thing:

- the amount of time that basic necessities take to produce if you have to do it yourself, by hand. E.g. using a quern stone to mill flour, or churning butter, or weaving. Sometimes when I throw something away, like a bit of mouldy bread, I think - what if I'd had to grow the wheat, and mill it, and bake it using firewood I'd collected myself? Certainly wouldn't be letting it go mouldy before it was eaten!

too much reading of Little Red Hen maybe

Saltire Sat 29-Sep-12 10:56:05

One thing that used to blow my mind was an old lady in the home I worked in. She died, aged 102 in 1997.
She used to tell me stories of seeing Queen Victoria, and watching her funeral, of seeing Edward V11 being crowned, of seeing his son crowned.
Her father died in WW1, she was a housemaid in a big house in London at that point
She rememberd hearing the footman talking about Ypres.
She worked in the - I think - war office, she was one of those women who used to push little boats and airplanes round on maps, but she did it at a secret place, and wasn't allowed to tell anyone, during WW2.

all these thing used to fascinate me - the fact that someone who had seen Queen Victoria was actually talking to me.

When it was the 50th anniversary of VE day she stood proudly in the sitting room of the home and told us all about where she was on that day - dancing down the Mall

Saltire Sat 29-Sep-12 10:59:27

Another thing is the sheer willpower of the men who were captured as POWs byt he japanese. A friends grandfather was one of them and he wrote it all down in a letter for his grandchildren to be read after he died. She let me read it. I was crying reading, but also felt this massive sense of emotion and pride (maybe the wrong word) that those men who survived had such willpower to not let the awful and atrocious conditions they lived in beat them.

Saltire the old lady story is amazing. It's how you imagine the heroines of world
War II novels ending up. She sounds like she was Fab. I am so glad she had someone like you to appreciate her.

Saltire Sat 29-Sep-12 16:09:32

I was always getting told off for spending o long talking to her

CakeBump Sat 29-Sep-12 16:41:34

That the Battle of the Somme saw a total of 1.2m casualties (both sides), and gained only 12km of land sad

BikeRunSki Sat 29-Sep-12 18:26:01

That before the nhs DD would not have been born live (heart stopped in labour,
crash emcs whipped her out in under 3 mins) and DS unlikely (footling breech only diagnosed once he'd got stuck and distressed, another emcs). And severe hyperemisis in both pg, needed rehydrating on a drip 8 times, total of 7 weeks in hospital over the course of 2 pg.

BestIsWest Sun 30-Sep-12 00:35:36

That between the First and Second World Wars more young women than men died in the Welsh valleys despite the men doing such dangerous jobs as working down the pits. The young men got all the good food as they needed to be strong to work down the mines or in the tin works. The young women got the left overs. Such poor nutrition left them more susceptible to disease such as tuberculosis hence the higher death rate.

I am continually shocked by history

BestIsWest Sun 30-Sep-12 00:36:53

Not to mention those that died in childbirth of course

fancynancypants Sun 30-Sep-12 09:06:31

That there are more people alive at this moment than have ever previously lived. Amazing.

nickeldaisical Mon 01-Oct-12 13:14:30

talking of outside loos - Frank Skinner said that he remembered when the council were bringing loos inside and his dad went "the toilet?! inside?! that's unhygienic!" (he said "like he thought that they were just going to put the toilet in the middle of the house or something")
and of course, in most cases, the toilet did go into a separate room.

nickeldaisical Mon 01-Oct-12 13:16:24

Bike - like that woman in Call the Midwife, who'd had 4 stillbirths because she had CPD and they'd all died in labour because she couldn't afford a c-section, and then she became pregnant after the NHS was founded, and was able to give birth to a live baby because she didn't have to pay for it.
that people were allowed to suffer and die because of poverty, and then an act of parliament saved all of those lives just by taking away the burden of paying at point of use.

InfinityWelcomesCarefulDrivers Mon 01-Oct-12 13:26:34

How few generations you have to go back to get to what I would class as 'history' - blows my mind a bit that my great great grandparents were born in the 19c. I also struggle thinking that the people I've know as elderly all my life (grandparents) were once babies and children. Like most people on this thread I'm most fascinated by the common touch - how people lived and were.

TunipTheVegemal Mon 01-Oct-12 13:47:04

Infinity - yes, and my grandmother's grandparents died in the workhouse.

GetOrfAKAMrsUsainBolt Mon 01-Oct-12 13:58:31

The poverty in living memory (specifically that of the 20s and 30s) and the attitudes of the wealthy towards the impoverished. Reading a history of mining at the moment and filled with rage.

The age that wealthy women were married off for dynastic reasons. Henry VII's mother Margaret Beaufort was married at 12 and had Henry when she was 13 (she never had another child).

The concept of those beautiful cathedrals being painted. They were all painted reds and greens and the statuary gilded. Can you imagine - they would have been the largest buildings for many miles and visible to so many - what an awe inspiring sight they must have been.

InfinityWelcomesCarefulDrivers Mon 01-Oct-12 14:50:10

How people must have found out about stuff so slowly. A big story such as king dying must have taken n age to spread through the country. Now we know instantly when a prince or princess takes their kit off.

InfinityWelcomesCarefulDrivers Mon 01-Oct-12 14:50:46

How people must have found out about stuff so slowly. A big story such as king dying must have taken n age to spread through the country. Now we know instantly when a prince or princess takes their kit off.

SorrelForbes Mon 01-Oct-12 14:55:19

InfinityWelcomesCarefulDrivers Now I feel old! My grandparents were born in the late 1800s! I find it incredible (why, I'm not sure) that my Great Grandfather's death certificate has the cause of death given as 'Exhaustion'. He was 36.

InfinityWelcomesCarefulDrivers Mon 01-Oct-12 15:33:52

grin In fairness I was thinking that did make my family quite young. My eldest grandparent was born in 26, so I think it's a fair assumption that her parents were probably born around the turn of the century. So it may be that my grandparents parents were born in the 19C too.
But shock at dying at 36! Just shows, now having your first child at 36 is of no comment.

Trills Mon 01-Oct-12 15:50:38

<mind blown>

Weren't all the lovely white classy Greek statues actually painted in gaudy colours too?

GetOrfAKAMrsUsainBolt Mon 01-Oct-12 15:51:39

I read a book recently and the author dedicated it to her mother who was born in the 1890s, which I thought was amazing. The author herself was born in 1933. Imagine having a mother who was a Victorian!

nickeldaisical Mon 01-Oct-12 15:56:51

my grandad was born in 1910.

nickeldaisical Mon 01-Oct-12 15:58:15

DH's mum was born in 1921.

now that's a scary thought! (she's 91, DH is 51, and DD is 9 months - so only three generations in 91 years!)

Trills - yes, they were typically brightly coloured. They became the white they are today due to some paints becoming bleached out by the sun and Victorians sensibilities (make them all white and cover or blot out the bits). We can still get a bit of an idea from those buried or otherwise protected and images on Grecian urns. A lot of Egyptian stuff has been white washed as well (a lot of the busts got a wash on them to 'protect' them, but also made them a lot lighter appearing).

InfinityWelcomesCarefulDrivers Mon 01-Oct-12 16:51:33

I worked for the NHS when it had its 60 year birthday. It was only then that I realised my MIL was only a year or so younger than the NHS! Ironically it is looking as though many people who were adults when the institution came into being, will actually outlive it.

InfinityWelcomesCarefulDrivers Mon 01-Oct-12 16:52:56

ever looked at your drivers' licence? Mine 'expires' or whatever in 2049. I will have children in their 40s and I can't imagine what the world will be like!

InfinityWelcomesCarefulDrivers Mon 01-Oct-12 16:53:28

just for the record,, I know they dont expire as such but need renewing etc

InfinityWelcomesCarefulDrivers Mon 01-Oct-12 16:55:31

and that even in my lifetime things have chnged so much. DH and I were watching a film we first saw what I considered fairly recently. They had a videotape, and I was laughing and sayng surely the technology had moved on. DH pointed out that we first saw the film in 2003, when, yes we had a DVD player, because DH was gadget boy and had to have the latest technology. It cost us £300 (!) and I didn't see the point of it.

Some of my grandparents were born in the 1890s. One grandfather was 14 when the Titanic sailed and he later fought in the First World War.

Why wives 3,4,5,and 6 thought it would be a good idea to marry Henry V111...

Why upper class women were essentially chattels to be traded in the marriage market, with no remorse whatsoever for marrying off a teenager to an old man and vice versa.

Why intelligent people abided by the jurisdiction of the Pope when, if you were rich and important you could have your marriage anulled by Rome on dubious grounds. If you were poor, tough titty.

Those are the kind of things I often wonder about.

monsterchild Mon 01-Oct-12 17:26:48

I find it amazing that the people who built Chaco canyon had the fortitude to watch and wait over 18 years to record the moons progress through the sky and then accurately build buildings that reflect that movement!
Of course it shouldn't be so surprising as they didn't have much to distract them, like TV our computers! Sometimes thus information makes me feel likeI'm not realizing my full potential!

GetOrfAKAMrsUsainBolt Mon 01-Oct-12 17:55:36

I remember reading that in the days of le bon ton (so 1770s 1780s) due to high gambling stakes someone ended up owing so much money to someone he agreed that his daughter could marry the man's son so the debts could be written off. Women were really commodities.

R2PeePoo Mon 01-Oct-12 18:46:23

That women couldn't own anything/control their own affairs and had no right to see their children in the case of marriage breakdown and separation until things began to change in the 19th century. For example when Millicent Fawcett had her purse stolen in the 1870's the charge against the thief was : '"stealing from the person of Millicent Fawcett a purse containing £1, 18s. 6d., the property of Henry Fawcett." The Married Women's Property Act wasn't passed until 1882/1893. After 1839 you could have custody of children under seven if you were of good character, but before that any access to your children would be controlled by your husband who could deny you access completely if he wished.

That some midwives could have astonishingly low mortality rates. Martha Ballard was a midwife in early america (died 1812) and she delivered hundreds of babies in her career (815 of which are recorded in her diary) but lost only 20 or so babies and five mothers.

alemci Mon 01-Oct-12 19:05:07

How everyone would know your business and how you couldn't just go to another town to live in the way we would today. probably fine if you were rich. The way you would have no rights and anyone could accuse you of say being a witch and then you could be dragged off to prison etc

Tryingtobenice Mon 01-Oct-12 19:24:02

Amazes me quite how truth is often stranger than fiction. Gladiator made the emperor commodus a great pantomime villain but even hollywood didn't think it would be believable to have him force people to beat themselves to death with pine cones. Yet it seems that is what he did.

GetOrfAKAMrsUsainBolt Mon 01-Oct-12 20:28:23

Yes about women's property. I watched a TV show the other day (Who do You think you are or something similar) and it said that if a woman owned her own business her husband was the owner of all the profits from that business until an amendment to the married Women's Property Act in the late 1920s.

nickeldaisical Tue 02-Oct-12 12:40:54

But women owned their own property if they were widowed - there are quite a lot of instances where a widowed woman ran a successful business - there was one owner of a bell foundry that did better when she ran it.
i can't remember the dates.

AllPastYears Tue 02-Oct-12 12:52:10

Interesting programme on this theme is "Christina, a medieval life" (Michael Wood) here

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