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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?

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.

SlightlyJaded Tue 25-Sep-12 13:03:44

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

LauraShigihara Tue 25-Sep-12 13:06:46

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.

LRDtheFeministDragon Tue 25-Sep-12 13:12:25

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.

LRDtheFeministDragon Tue 25-Sep-12 13:15:40

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.

LauraShigihara Tue 25-Sep-12 13:22:24

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

LauraShigihara Tue 25-Sep-12 13:30:57

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.

LauraShigihara Tue 25-Sep-12 13:32:58

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

LauraShigihara Tue 25-Sep-12 14:27:56

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.

LRDtheFeministDragon Tue 25-Sep-12 14:32:38

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?

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