History A’la Carte September 2017


It can’t possibly be a surprise that I read tons of history articles each week. I just can’t help myself–I’ve got to share some of the fascinating things I’ve come across. Here are a few of my recent favorites: 



Irma exposes dugout canoe, history buff saves it

A dugout canoe driven from its watery home on the bottom of the Indian River just north of Cocoa in Brevard County, Florida, by Hurricane Irma has been saved thanks to the quick thinking and responsible actions of a local history buff. Freelance photographer and history enthusiast Randy “Shots” Lathrop spotted a cypress log on the banks of the Indian River on Monday, September 11st. A less keen eye would have dismissed it as just another piece of arboreal debris littering the shores of the river thanks to Irma’s destructive power, but Lathrop noticed its carved interior and prow and recognized it as a dugout canoe.

–One more bit of proof that you never know what a hurricane will do…

10 Milestones in Medieval Law

Which moments from the Middle Ages have changed the way we look at the law and justice? In Michael Roffer’s latest work, The Law Book: From Hammurabi to the International Criminal Court, 250 Milestones in the History of Law, he traces the codes, legal statutes and trials that have helped shape civilization. The Middle Ages had their share of legal milestones, and here are ten that Roffer believes had a profound impact on our society.

Pioneering French Midwife: Angélique du Coudray

The pioneering French midwife, Angélique du Coudray, gained fame in the 1700s. She was born in 1712, the same year as the King of Prussia (Frederick II, known as Frederick the Great) and the Enlightenment writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Little is known about Coudray’s early years. However, at twenty-five she graduated from the College of Surgery École de Chirurgie in Paris and completed her three-year apprenticeship that allowed her to become an accredited midwife.

Soon after Coudray’s graduation, schools began to bar women from gaining instruction in midwifery. 

–I confess, sometimes reading history bits like this one makes me want to headdesk!

There’s nothing like washing your dirty linen in public!

Edward Weld, son of Humphrey Weld and Margaret Simeons of Lulworth Castle was taken to court by his wife the Honourable Catherine Elizabeth, daughter of Lord Aston.

The couple married June 22, 1727, but according to Catherine her husband was impotent. The trial took place in 1732. The couple had lived together for the vast majority of their marriage, but Catherine confirmed that the marriage was never actually consummated.

 –More proof that people haven’t changed a bit!

The Murky Recesses of the Georgian Post Office

Espionage was an important element in the remit of The Postmaster General in the eighteenth century. It sometimes surprises people to know that the Georgian Post Office played such an important range of roles in this area, more or less doing the jobs that Special Branch and the Secret Services (MI5 and MI6) do today. Not just passive interception of documents either. The Post Office was an active participant in transmitting intelligence to and from those who needed it, as well as significant roles in collecting and creating it. It even took some part in various government “dirty tricks” aimed at thwarting or revealing plots and stratagems by hostile parties.

–Sounds a little like the plot for the next period thriller, doesn’t it?

A Cure for Melancholy: Victorian Medical Advice on Treating Depression

What we recognize today as depression was, in the Victorian era, popularly known as melancholia or melancholy.  Like depression, melancholy ranged in seriousness from mild, temporary bouts of sadness or “low spirits” to longer, more extreme episodes, characterized by insomnia, lack of appetite, and suicidal thoughts.  While symptoms of melancholy were usually easy to recognize, medical opinions often differed on what it was that caused the condition.  As a result, treatment plans for the melancholic patient varied widely.

Finding Love Among the Clauses – a Successful Medieval Marriage

Marriages in medieval times were rarely about love. Boys and girls born as heirs or heiresses to wealth and large estates had little say in who they married – it was up to their elders to arrange such matters. Marriages were seen as mutually beneficial contracts, and hopefully over time the couple would develop a fondness for each other and find contentment in their union. In most cases, they probably did.

–This is an awesome story!

Barbers and Shaving in early modern Britain.

In the early modern period, barber-surgeons were firmly part of the world of medical practice. In fact they were probably the most numerous of all practitioners. It was they who dealt with medical tasks from patching up wounds and minor surgery, to bloodletting, digging out earwax, scraping the tongue and combing the dandruff and scurf out of sweaty, unwashed heads. On the barbering side, they also cut hair and shaved.

–Ooooh, ick, that’s all I can say!

Grandmas and Breastfeeding in Antiquity and Beyond

There are two fascinating ancient sources that show us that grandmothers did influence their daughters’ choices (not) to breastfeed in antiquity. The first is an account by the orator Favorinus (c. 80-160 CE), preserved in the writings of Aulus Gellius (c. 125-180 CE). Favorinus had gone to visit a friend’s wife who had recently given birth to a son. The friend, we are told, was of senatorial rank and from a very noble family. His wife had experienced a difficult labour and was extremely tired as a result. Favorinus was keen to hear how the baby would be fed: ‘I have no doubt she will breastfeed her son herself’, he exclaimed. The grandmother of the new born, however, had other plans. 


What can you say after that? Until next time!


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    • Glynis on September 26, 2017 at 4:39 am
    • Reply

    Loved the story of the canoe! It just goes to show you have to have the right person in the right place at the right time 😊.
    I used to work for the Post Office and after my start on a crown office counter I worked in the head office in accounts and statistics, however I don’t believe I ever worked with Special Branch (unless it was so secret that I didn’t realise)
    Thank goodness I didn’t have to work in a barbershop in the days you mention as I have no doubt my job would have been cleaning up the mess (ugh!)
    Thanks for this post Maria.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed these. I have such fun putting these posts together. Usually I end up with some great ideas for the plot-bunny compound!

    • J. W. Garrett on September 26, 2017 at 9:43 am
    • Reply

    You always have the most interesting posts. I love historical facts… and some of them are horrifying. I often wonder what future generations will think of our practices. Will they call us barbaric?

    1. That’s a great point, J.W. I think you’re right, at some point, we’ll definitely look barbaric too!

    • Sheila L. Majczan on November 5, 2017 at 4:07 pm
    • Reply

    Your posts always have some tidbit of educational history. The canoe story was a good example of interesting news.

    1. Thanks, Sheila, I enjoyed it too.

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