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Health and hygiene before modern times

  • EUROPE: Why the fuck are we always getting sick? Is it demons? Is it ghosts? Is it a curse?
  • EVERYBODY ELSE: Have you tried washing your ass?


French princess Isabella was only 12 years old in 1308 when she sailed into the court of English king Edward II as his wife. And he, the 24-year-old freshly crowned monarch, was very much in love  …   just not with her. The person Edward was in love with was a young knight named Piers Gaveston. That Edward had a lover wasn’t shocking, nor was it a big problem that his lover was a man. The problem, as the English court saw it, was how “immoderately” Edward loved the glamorous, arrogant Gaveston— enough to risk his entire kingdom and the lives of thousands of soldiers. When Gaveston was around, Edward was worse than useless, barely able to hold a conversation, much less govern. When Gaveston wasn’t around, Edward was a wreck.

While Edward and Isabella were married in France, Gaveston stayed in England with his own child bride, Edward’s 15-year-old niece. Less than a month later, Isabella witnessed firsthand just how deep the man’s hooks went into her husband’s heart. During the ceremony at Westminster Abbey investing Isabella with the title of queen, it was Gaveston who held the crown. At the coronation feast afterward, he sat next to the king under tapestries that depicted not the emblems of Edward and Isabella but the arms of Edward and Gaveston. And just to turn the dagger a bit more, Edward handed over the wedding gifts from Isabella’s father— jewels, warhorses, the whole lot— to his one true love. Isabella’s uncles, who had attended the coronation, returned to France in a frothy rage. Which was bad news, given that France and England were perpetually squabbling and barely maintaining an uneasy truce. England was already embroiled in a conflict with Scotland and didn’t need another front to open up. England’s powerful magnates— the lords and earls who really ruled the land— decided that Gaveston was too great a distraction for the king and needed to be removed. But attempts to exile the king’s favorite proved futile. Edward would send Gaveston away and then, a few months later, call him back.

Their frustration with Edward reached a boiling point in 1312; civil war was in the making. Edward and Gaveston traveled the countryside, trying to keep ahead of the lords baying for the latter’s blood, but they couldn’t run for long— England is only so big. On May 19, Gaveston surrendered to the king’s enemies at Scarborough Castle, where Edward had left him ensconced with a battalion. Just over a month later, Gaveston was executed, brutally and without a trial. The king swore he’d have his revenge.

Isabella, meanwhile, was biding her time. She’d become an adult while following Edward and Gaveston around the country; at the time of Gaveston’s execution, she was pregnant with her husband’s son and heir. On November 12, 1312, the 17-year-old queen gave birth to a healthy baby boy. She’d done her duty to crown and husband, and her position was secure. She had also accumulated enough political acumen to manage her useless husband and try to keep the nation from civil war. Edward and his warring lords patched things up long enough to sign a peace treaty, which got them through the first few months of 1313 without killing one another. With Isabella’s mediation, the lords swore fealty to Edward once again, but it was a tenuous peace. The Scots were hammering England’s defenses to the north, and Edward’s most powerful earl (and the man responsible in part for Gaveston’s murder), a man named Lancaster, refused to aid him. Worse, Lancaster was actively plotting against Edward while England was left rudderless, without a real leader.

Isabella remained at Edward’s side, his confidante and advisor. That is, until about 1318, when Edward again became infatuated with a young man in his company. Unlike the foppish Gaveston, Hugh Despenser was shrewd, cruel, and paranoid. He used the royal relationship to seize his rivals’ lands and treasuries. As Despenser hoarded more gold and more land, more and more lords began defecting to Lancaster’s side. Isabella worked to maintain peace between her husband, his magnates, and an irate France, but they all demanded that Despenser be exiled. In July 1321, Edward gave the order; ever the sly one, Despenser went only as far as the English Channel, where he and his father turned to pirating merchant ships while awaiting word from Edward. Meanwhile, the king’s struggles with Lancaster came to a head. Lancaster found himself on the losing side of the battle; he was arrested and executed as a traitor. Edward had his revenge.

Edward may have won a battle, but he was about to lose the war. Triumphant after Lancaster’s death, he hastily called the Despensers back to England and made Hugh his chief advisor. Ever the opportunist, Hugh then started to make moves on Isabella’s property and that of her children. Bad decision.

Hell hath no fury like a woman whose children’s birthright is in danger. Now a seasoned political manipulator, Isabella waited for just the right moment to act, and in 1325 opportunity finally landed in her lap. By then, England’s relationship with France had frayed over land that both claimed to rule. It was decided that Isabella was ideally suited to work out a solution with her relatives back home. So the queen (who had likely planted the idea with Edward and Despenser) made her way back to France, where she spent several restorative months in the bosom of her family. Six months after landing in Calais, she was followed by her son, 12-year-old Prince Edward, on the pretext that relations between France and England would be softened if he were made duke of Aquitaine. And just like that, 27-year-old Isabella held the trump card: the heir to the English throne.

Within weeks, Isabella showed her hand. “I feel that marriage is a joining together of man and woman  …   and someone has come between my husband and myself trying to break this bond,” she said in a statement. “I protest that I will not return until this intruder is removed.” Edward was gobsmacked. “On her departure, she did not seem to anyone to be offended,” he supposedly remarked. Isabella’s plan was ingenious and subtle. Her husband was a useless king, but she couldn’t say so without looking like a traitor. So she cleverly shifted the blame to Despenser and cast herself as the dutiful wronged wife. Isabella also knew that Edward was unlikely to be a worthy leader even if Despenser were removed. Lucky, then, that she happened to have an alternative ready to roll and under her control: her son, the prince.

Isabella had spent the last six months getting all her ducks in a row. Not only did she have France on her side, she had also won the loyalty of a faction of disaffected Englishmen to legitimize her rebellion. They were led by Roger Mortimer, one of the nobles who had led the revolt against Edward. Two years earlier, Mortimer had made a daring escape from the Tower of London and turned up in the French court. He and Isabella met up in Paris; he became not only her captain, but her lover as well.

To get her son on the throne, Isabella needed military might, so she and Mortimer engineered a marriage between young Edward and the daughter of a French count. In late September 1326, Isabella and Mortimer set sail for England with her daughter-in-law’s dowry— 700 soldiers— along with a pack of mercenaries paid for by Isabella’s brother, the king of France. Isabella was, without a doubt, at the head of this operation; one fourteenth-century image shows her leading the troops while clad in shiny armor. Popular support for her as a romantic, righteous figurehead had been growing since word of her rebellion spread; that support, and her ranks, continued to swell after she returned to English soil. Edward had fallen out of favor not only with his lords and magnates but also among his people, who had suffered famine and war while he was occupied with avenging his lover’s death.

The end came swiftly. On November 16, the king and his companion were caught trying to make it across open country in Wales. Hugh Despenser was brought before the queen and her lords and sentenced to death. He was dragged through the streets, stripped naked, and hauled 50 feet in the air by his neck. He was then disemboweled while alive and castrated— punishment, it was rumored, for his intimate relationship with the king. As if all that wasn’t enough, he was beheaded, too.

The king was confined to Monmouth Castle as a prisoner of Henry of Lancaster, brother of the rebellious earl whom Edward had executed four years before. But Isabella and Mortimer still had one problem: with Despenser gone, the dynamic duo no longer had reason to challenge Edward’s fitness to rule. So, clever Isabella argued that, by fleeing to Wales, Edward had abandoned England and his right to rule it. Prince Edward was, therefore, the rightful king. The relieved bishops and lords of England agreed. Now all that remained was to convince Edward to resign the throne in favor of his son. Faced with overwhelming opposition, he agreed, and Prince Edward, just 14 years old, became King Edward III on February 1, 1327. Isabella, as the mother of the underage ruler, and Mortimer, as leader of the deposing army, now held authority in England.

The situation was unprecedented— it was the first time the country had ever had a living ex-king. And there was also the issue of Isabella’s marriage: Edward may have been an ex-king, but he was not her ex-husband. With Despenser gone, she had no legitimate reason not to return to him. Moreover, Edward’s very existence posed a threat to the new regime, especially since it appeared he wasn’t completely without supporters. Indeed, by September 1327, three plots to free him had been foiled. So the queen and her captain hit upon a more traditional means of ridding themselves of this troublesome ex-king: murder.

The story is probably apocryphal, but later chroniclers morbidly insist that Edward II was murdered by the violent application of a red-hot poker up his backside. However death occured, on the night of September 21, 1327, the 43-year-old relatively robust former king conveniently died. He was buried with all the ceremony accorded to a dead monarch, his wife and son weeping and kneeling before his gilded hearse.

But young King Edward III, it seems, had learned a trick or two at his mother’s knee. Though Isabella and Mortimer were content to run things in England indefinitely, Edward wasn’t about to sit idly by and watch them do it. In late 1330, just three years after Isabella and Mortimer seized power, the 18-year-old king outflanked them. Mortimer was arrested as a traitor by a group of nobles loyal to the crown; he was hung on November 29, 1330. Isabella had but one choice: accept the death of her lover and an enforced retirement, surrendering her vast estates to her son. Ever the realist, she did so within a week of Mortimer’s execution. Isabella lived the rest of her life in quiet obedience to her son, dying in 1358. The “She-Wolf of France,” as she came to be called, was buried as she requested: with a silver vase containing the heart of her husband, the man she’d kicked off the throne and probably murdered.



fuckyeahdiomedes:

colourfulpantsandarainbowhat:

WHY DO PEOPLE CALL IT FUCK, MARRY, KILL WHEN THEY COULD CALL IT BED, WED, BEHEAD



fuckyeahcanadianhistory:

On March 29th, 1867, the British North America Act received Royal Assent from Queen Victoria. Four months later on July 1st, 1867, the act came into affect and the Dominion of Canada came into existence. 



shout-out to this essay for being half set before confederation so i get to take up more space with ‘british north america’ than i would otherwise with just ‘canada’



Invasion of the Viking women unearthed »

Women may have accompanied male Vikings in those early invasions of England, in much greater numbers than scholars earlier supposed, McLeod concludes. Rather than the ravaging rovers of legend, the Vikings arrived as marriage-minded colonists.



cuddlytogas:

thetechnicolortrenchcoat:

Today is Copernicus’s 541th birthday. You may remember Copernicus as the man who said “Hey, what if the Earth went around the sun?” To which the Catholic Church replied “Hey, what if we set you on fire?” 

 (via)



city-of-trees:

Plantagenet valentines!  (These are really dumb I’m sorry)



Emperor’s New College

tokyodoll13:

English Majors:

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Architecture Majors:

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Music Majors:

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Engineering Majors:

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Mathematics Majors:

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Theater Majors:

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Latin American Studies Majors:

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Linguistics Majors:

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History Majors:

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Religious Studies Majors:

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Law Students:

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Chemistry Majors:

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Women & Gender Studies Majors:

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Anthropology Majors:

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Sociology Majors:

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Philosophy Majors:

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Geology Majors:

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Economics Majors:

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Classics Majors:

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Government Majors:

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Anonymous sent:
Can you explain why Europeans were much more technologically advanced than the indigenous populations of Africa? I mean, these cultures hadn't even invented sewage systems, which is something the Romans were able to design and implement in 800-735 BC (a long fucking time before "the white man" colonized it)... I mean fuck, without "the white man", they would probably still be in the fucking bronze age.

shitrichcollegekidssay:

I don’t really know what kind of history books bigots like you read.

The Great Libraries of Timbuktu? The steel metallurgy of the Haya? Dentistry? Caesarean section? Premature neonatal care? Mathematics, architecture, engineering?

I know it’s hard for a racist like you who imagines “technological advancement” to be some kind of end-all-be-all, or proof of some “inherent intelligence”. I know, I know. It’s hard to imagine, but Europeans have been drawing knowledge from everyone around them since the dawn of time. What did you think ended the Dark Ages?

Your magical (read: white supremacist) idea of a purely 'white' Rome never existed.

Nevertheless…

The Minoan culture on the island of Crete between 1500-1700 B.C.E. had a highly developed waste management system. They had very advanced plumbing and designed places to dispose of organic wastes. Knossos, the capital city, had a central courtyard with baths that were filled and emptied using terra-cotta pipes. This piping system is similar to techniques used today. They had large sewers built of stone.”

In case you needed further clarification, neither the Minoans nor other (later) Greeks were ethnically uniform. They also had the first flush toilets, dating back to 18th century B.C.E. They had flushing toilets, with wooden seats and an overhead reservoir. The Minoan royals were the last group to use flushing toilets until the re-development of that technology in 1596.

Oh, and look the Mayans had indoor plumbing, acqueducts, and pressurized water too. I mean, you can ignore that the area Mayans lived in had little to few rivers, no lakes or standing water, nor other sources of running water, while simultaneously dealing with monsoons and flooding due to one of the heaviest yearly rainfalls in the Americas.

Classic Maya even used household water filters using locally abundant limestone carved into a porous cylinder, made so as to work in a manner strikingly similar to modern ceramic water filters.

Of course, by this time millenia later none of your precious “white people” had developed any methods besides shitting in pots.

Continuing, the earliest archaeological record of an advanced system of drainage comes from the Indus Valley Civilization from around 3100 B.C.E in what is now Pakistan and North India.  By 2500 B.C.E (almost 5,000 years ago), highly developed drainage system where wastewater from each house flowed into the main drain.
All houses in the major cities of Harappa and Mohenjo−daro had access to water and drainage facilities. Waste water was directed to covered drains which lined the major streets directed to covered drains, which lined the major streets. Each home had its own private drinking well and its own private bathroom. The mains that carried wastewater to a cesspit were tall enough for people to walk through. Reservoirs, a central drainage system, fresh water pumped into the homes. Pools. Baths.
It was made from bricks smoothened and joined together seamlessly. The expert masonry kept the sewer watertight. Drops at regular intervals acted like an automatic cleaning device.

Filters for solid waste.

Sorry, what were the British doing up until like, 200 years ago? Shitting in the streets? Oh yeah.
I mean, I could get into how by the Shang Dynasty (roughly 1600 B.C.E.), China had sophisticated plumbing including pressure inverted siphons.

Or into the city of Amarna, Ancient Egypt. Or Persepolis, Persia and the Achaemenids in 600 B.C.E.
But, I mean, it sounds like the only one still in the Bronze Age is you.


mrsdarcy:

archdrude:

The Amazing Connections Between the Inca and Egyptian Cultures 

"The ancient Egyptians (in Africa) and the ancient pre-Incas/Incas (in South America) evolved on opposite sides of the globe and were never in contact.

Yet, both cultures mysteriously possessed the same strikingly identical body of ancient art, architecture, symbolism, mythology and religion.

The Victorian era scholars, faced with this enigma, concluded that both cultures must have been children of the same Golden Age parent civilization, “Atlantis.”

Today, Egyptian/Inca parallels are not only being ignored by American and Western scholars, they’re being suppressed.

Many baffling and unsolved similarities link the ancient Egyptians and the ancient pre-Incas/Incas ― even though both cultures evolved on opposite sides of the planet, separated by oceans” Read More

I read somewhere that the ancient Egyptians may have had the technology to travel the Atlantic..more research needed, but would be an explanation



Black death was not spread by rat fleas, say researchers »

ruckawriter:

Evidence from skulls in east London shows plague had to have been airborne to spread so quickly.

Oh.

Okay.

That’s… worrying….



Pre-inca tomb discovered in the house where Mario Vargas Llosa was born

archaeologicalnews:

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A pre-inca tomb has been found in Arequipa, in the building where Peruvian writer, Mario Vargas Llosa was born. After four days of investigation, the Ministry of Culture has confirmed that the remains date back to the Churajón culture.

The tomb is 1.5 m deep and contains four ceramic pots recognizable as being from the Churajón culture, according to archaeologist Marco López. He said that the Regional Authority of Culture were evaluating whether the tomb would be opened to the public physically or virtually.

Churajón culture was a pre-inca culture that developed on both riverbanks of the Chili River Valley which runs through the current city of Arequipa. Read more.



Forget GPS: Medieval Compass Guided Vikings After Sunset

archaeologicalnews:

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Often regarded as ruthless robbers, the Vikings were also impressive mariners capable of traversing the North Atlantic along a nearly straight line. Now, new interpretations of a medieval compass suggest the sea robbers may have skillfully used the sun to operate the compass even when the sun had set below the horizon.

The remains of the supposed compass — known as the Uunartoq disc— were found in Greenland in 1948 in an 11th-century convent. Though some researchers originally argued it was simply a decorative object, other researchers have suggested the disc was an important navigational tool that the Vikings would have used in their roughly 1,600-mile-long (2,500 kilometers) trek from Norway to Greenland. Read more.



Every historian wants to know what really happened in the past. That means- at a minimum- gaining access to records, the more detailed and accurate, the closer to the actual events, the better. But in our hearts we always want more than we can ever have: We want to read documents that are lost forever; to interview people long dead; to be eyewitness to the great events that changed the course of history. We want that in part because we want to solve mysteries, we do want to know the truth about the past.
From I Wish I’d Been There, Book Two edited by Byron Hollinshead and Theodore K. Rabb (via historyismyboyfriend)


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