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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?

LRDtheFeministDragon Tue 25-Sep-12 15:11:52

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.

LRDtheFeministDragon Tue 25-Sep-12 15:31:32

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.

LRDtheFeministDragon Tue 25-Sep-12 15:33:20

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.

SillyBeardyDaddyman Wed 26-Sep-12 09:32:11

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.

SlightlyJaded Sat 29-Sep-12 11:19:27

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

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