History A’la Carte January 2018


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: 


Fashion vs Fashion Plates—the Wild & Crazy 1830s

I know that many of the fashion plates I put up each month make readers wonder what women were thinking. In this regard, the 1830s plates seem to take the cake. Fashions in the first half of the decade were extravagant and exuberant. Gigantic sleeves ruled. Hair reached heights it hadn’t seen since the 18th century, and the styles were like mad sculptures. 

Tomb of China’s Shakespeare found

Archaeologists excavating the site of a demolished factory in Fuzhou, Jiangxi Province, east China, have discovered the tomb of Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) playwright Tang Xianzu(1550-1616). A large grouping of tombs was first unearthed after the demolition of the old plant last year, 42 of them in total, 40 dating to the Ming Dynasty. Tomb M4 was identified as Tang’s from an epitaph, one of six found at the site some of which are believed to have been written by the playwright himself. His third wife Fu was buried with him in the tomb; his second wife Zhao was buried in the neighboring tomb labelled M3.

How to Beautify Your Face, 1660

Look, beauty has a price, and sometimes that price is collecting pigeon droppings and digging the roots of the ass-cowcumber.

And so to bed – 18th Century night attire

As well as being essential items of clothing to help people stay warm on those cold winter nights and to cover their modesty, people clothed only in their night apparel provided the caricaturists of the day with a plentiful supply of material, so we thought we would take a quick, lighthearted look at a few of these to cheer up a cold winter’s day.

Henry Tudor at Raglan Castle

At the start of the wars of the roses Margaret Beaufort was a relatively insignificant member of the house of Lancaster but after years of struggle she and her son, Henry became the ultimate victors. During her years of struggle for her son’s rights she can have had no inkling that he would one day become King of England.

Victorian Electric Traps for Rats and Cats

Victorians had all sorts of problems and rats and cats were one of their biggest problems. For instance, on an island off Cornwall, known as Looe or St. George Island, one Victorian gentleman found rats overrunning the island. They were so bothersome that no matter how much effort people put into exterminating them, they reappeared. He stated that it was “not how to kill the rats, but how to annihilate them so effectually as to place the reappearance of even one of them altogether out of the question.”

Six Science Questions – Answers from the Sixth Century

Even in the Early Middle Ages people were asking scientific questions about their world. Here are six of these questions, and the answers that were provided by a Byzantine philosopher in the year 531.

The Elizabeths: Elemental Historians

For the most part, working professional historians bring to their sources a fundamentally forensic sensibility: they tend to treat their archival scraps like so many clues, which, rightly read, permit the reconstruction of events and persons. There is much to be said for this program, which works pretty well. But it does have its limits. For instance, certain old tidbits afford a queer intimacy with the past that seems to exceed their evidentiary utility. A death mask may display, trapped in white plaster, a single hair once belonging to the human whose visage we contemplate. The hair is of severely limited utility to a practicing historian, yet it rather seethes with an urgent presencing of the past — and that clearly has something to do with the work of history. So what’s to be done?


What can you say after that? Until next time!


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    • J. W. Garrett on January 30, 2018 at 8:05 pm
    • Reply

    The inquisitive mind wants to know… regardless of the century in which [s]he lives. When the human mind is challenged, it will come up with a solution to most any problem… although the solution sometimes causes as many problems as the problem itself. Wonder what they will say about us in 100 years?

    1. In boggles the mind to think how backward we will appear 100 years from now!

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