History A’la Carte November 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: 



Student Life in the Medieval University: The Swedish Experience

What was it like to attend a university in the Middle Ages? A recent book tracked students from Sweden who attended the University of Leipzig – who enrolled, what did they study, and what happened to them. It also reveals the challenges to earning a degree in medieval times. … Among the things that students were forbidden from doing included fighting, spending time with prostitutes, gambling in taverns, or walking around the city during night. If you got caught, you could be fined or spend a couple of days in prison. Theft and murder would result in expulsion.

~Read the whole article–it seems college students haven’t changed much since the middle ages!

Before Almack’s

Social activities, fashions, entertainment and more are all driven by “the next big thing.” This is nothing new. Throughout history, we can find examples of this. During the Regency era, Almack’s Assembly Rooms were THE place to be during the Regency era. A voucher for Almack’s conveyed more social impact than invitations to multiple private balls and parties. When Almack’s Assembly Rooms opened in February of 1765, Mr. Macall was in direct competition with Mrs. Cornelys’ assemblies at Carlisle House, and it was by no means certain that Almack’s would be “the next big thing”. A veritable Studio 54 of its time, the assemblies at Carlisle House were geared for the highest society and were quite something….

Cape Fear’s first flushing toilet goes on display

A stone toilet bowl from the 18th century that is believed to be the first flushing toilet in the Cape Fear region of North Carolina has finally been given the pride of place it deserves at the Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson Historic Site after years of sad neglect in archaeological storage.

The Hand of History: Hands, fingers and nails in the eighteenth century

In the second half of the eighteenth century, the body became more ‘polite’. It was important for people to look a certain way; to dress in particular clothes certainly, but also to try and achieve an ideal body shape. Any sort of bodily deformity or deficiency was socially undesirable and carried connotations of immorality or low status. An increasing range of corrective products was being manufactured and marketed for people desirous of a socially pleasing form. An important component of the ‘polite body’ was the hand. 

~Does any of this sound frighteningly modern?

‘Bling’ in Georgian Interior Decoration

Many of those who went abroad sent home vast numbers of pictures, statues and other objects, all chosen to display their refined taste and fastidious appreciation of Classical art. Some, unfortunately, lacked both qualities and so wasted their money on purchases of items produced by locals eager to cash-in on their naivety. Others had the taste, but not the deep pockets necessary to support it. Nevertheless, many Georgian houses open to the public today benefit greatly from the period of frantic collecting that characterised much of the century — until Napoleon put a stop to continental travel.

Smallpox Inoculation in 18th Century France

In France in the 1700s, there was great opposition to a person getting a smallpox inoculation. Part of the problem was doctors could not ensure the inoculations worked because of too many variables. For instance, to create an inoculation, doctors collected pus or scabs from someone infected with smallpox and then introduced this infected matter into a person by scratching the surface of the skin (usually on the person’s arm). If the person was lucky, the inoculation worked, and, if unlucky, the person developed a full-fledged case of smallpox.

~Talk about a truly terrifying roll of the dice!

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    • J. W. Garrett on November 18, 2017 at 8:18 am
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    I loved this post. Man… every generation thinks it is at the top of knowledge, creativity and style. I look back over the decades and cringe at what we thought was beauty and what we did to achieve it. Our style of decorating from the 70’s, now looks horrid. Orange??? What were we thinking? Oh well, I am amazed at the collection of amazing and interesting facts and tidbits that you always manage to find. It is so much fun to read your on-dits. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thanks so much, JW. I really enjoy putting these tidbits together.

    • Teresa Broderick on November 18, 2017 at 9:55 am
    • Reply

    Loved this post. The most frightening thing of the past for me is the medical side of it!! I’d say more times than not you died if you got anything above the norm at all. Yeuck!! Some of the so called cures!!!

    1. Me too! It’s just plain scary to think what they thought was curative!

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