If your Georgian ancestry includes men and women of means, then it is likely that portraits were painted of them in miniature form. These portable, intimate keepsakes were a precursor to photographs of loved ones tucked into pockets or displayed with pride in the family home. They offer a fascinating study of Georgian society. Hand-held portraits of individuals date back to the 15th century, inspired by those that appeared in illuminated manuscripts. In the 18th century the term ‘miniature’ was coined, derived from the Italian miniatura, when portrait miniatures grew in popularity across Europe.
London’s Fleet Street is a fascinating road, with alleys and courts running off it and behind it; it is an old thoroughfare that has long been home to a wide range of residents, including manual workers, shopkeepers, craftsmen, lawyers. Fleet Street was the focus of ‘rough doings’ back in the Middle Ages, with violence and murder taking place there. Yet even at this time, it was also already a busy shopping centre, with Walter Thornbury, in Old and New London (1878), referring to a bootmaker on the street who had once provided Edward II with six pairs of boots with silk tassels.
Like many others, I took my summer holiday in Britain this year instead of heading off abroad, and this gave me the chance to explore some of the beautiful countryside that England has to offer. On an August Sunday morning, having spent the night at a comfortable travellers’ hotel beside the A40, I was getting some air taking a stroll around the pretty village of nearby West Wycombe when I came across the Hell-Fire Caves. Set at the bottom of a hill, their tea room was open and a number of people were emerging from the entrance after exploring the man-made cavern set behind the umbrella-shaded tables and benches. After a welcome cup of tea and some cake I had become sufficiently intrigued to want to take a look inside these caves myself.
The subject of many a crime drama on television, blackmail has intrigued, horrified and fascinated people for centuries. Blackmail, the attempt to gain a payment through threats or pressure, is an example of extortion – the action of extorting anything, especially money, from someone either by force or by using one’s authority or power over another individual. Given that the word ‘extortion’ has been recorded since the 14th century, and ‘blackmail’ since the early 16th century, it’s clearly an age-old practice.
Initially founding a Catholic order in Manchester, she then set up various schools in the area, in which she taught the children of the poor their Catholic faith as well as providing them with a basic education. Furthermore, she helped the poor in Manchester and the surrounding areas to cope with poverty and the reality of living in a both urban and recently industrialised society.
By the 1600s the flax plant was widely grown by families and communities throughout Britain, the fibres home spun by women and children, and linen cloth for household use woven by jobbing weavers. Strong and absorbent, different grades of linen fabric were used for clothes, domestic furnishings, sailcloth, sacks and artists’ canvases. There was some commercial production in areas including Norfolk, Yorkshire and Ireland, although the softest, finest lawns were often imported from the Low Countries. Yet despite linen’s popularity and convenience, the linen industry within England was overshadowed by the all-important, zealously protected English wool trade (see February–August Periodical issues), while wool was restricted elsewhere. Consequently linen manufacture was actively encouraged as an alternative economic product within Scotland and Ireland.
In the early days of its history, Cornwall’s geographical position – a peninsula reaching out into the Atlantic Ocean – put it firmly on the ancient maritime trading routes, and it enjoyed a special place in the history of Britain as a centre of trade. The fact that it was surrounded by sea also predestined fishing to become one of the major industries of the region.
The Middle Ages covers a span of roughly a thousand years, and through that time people were subject to an array of not only deadly diseases but deplorable living conditions. It was a time when cures for sickness were often worse than the illness itself mixed with a population of people who lacked any real understanding of sanitation and cleanliness.
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