Ice skating for recreation dates back to at least the Middle Ages and roller skates were initially invented in the 18th century to enable ice-skaters to practise without ice, their first recorded sighting being in London in 1743. In 1760 the first patented skates were launched in London by Belgian inventor John Joseph Merlin: essentially these were shoes or bindings fitting over the regular footwear, but with wheels instead of the narrow blades used on ice – a style that today we would call inline skating. However, their rudimentary design meant that they were hard to steer and had no mechanism for braking. Reputedly Merlin wore a pair of his new skates to a masquerade party at Carlisle House in London but the esteemed inventor was not a skilled skater: his speed and direction becoming out of control, he crashed into a large mirror, severely injuring himself and possibly setting back the sport for decades.
On the north side of Ludgate Hill in Elizabethan times, there once stood a theatre where plays were performed in the yard of an important City of London coaching inn. Even after the performers had moved on, La Belle Sauvage continued its hotel business until part of the yard behind the premises became the long-term home of a publishing business.
With actress Meghan Markle marrying Prince Harry in May 2017, the issue of how we Brits perceive American women has been a matter of great public interest in recent times. The white American women who came to Britain in the past in one capacity or another have, in fact, always provoked debate and controversy.
Queen Victoria and the public at large were outraged at the conditions that British troops had to tolerate during the Crimea conflict (1853–56). The army sent out 54,000 men, of whom around 18,000 died and 9,000 became invalids. Most of the casualties succumbed not to bullets and artillery but illness – infections such as cholera and dysentery, and even to scurvy. Even for the wounded who made it back to the UK, the military facilities available to treat and rehabilitate severely injured men were dispersed across multiple sites and were primitive.
Scottish crime records can reveal fascinating insights not only into horrific events, but also the communities that had to deal with them, and the onus placed on families to look after members with obvious psychological or mental health issues. By looking at records from the High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh, and Scottish newspaper reports, a picture can be built of how such issues affected rural communities.
TheGenealogist has released the maps and field books for the Westminster area into its exciting record set, The Lloyd George Domesday Survey. This new release can be used to find where an ancestor lived in 1910 to 1915 in the area around this part of London. This unique combination of maps and residential data held by The National Archives has been digitised by TheGenealogist so that researchers can locate where an ancestor lived. The maps are large scale and exceptionally detailed with hand annotations that, in the majority of cases, allow family historians to find the exact property in the street.
Humans have dressed their hair with headgear and various ornaments since time immemorial. We have already covered hats previously in this column, and could add here that badges, brooches, tassels, flowers, ribbons and bows, feathers and even whole stuffed birds have been added to caps, hats and bonnets, at different points in history. Ladies’ hat pins, used to secure the fabric of the headwear onto the hair, are a whole topic in their own right, with Victorian and Edwardian hat pins fashioned from diverse materials including gold and silver, semi-precious stones, ivory, jet, even sharks’ teeth, becoming major collectors’ items today.
Bedfordshire stretches from the chalk ridge of the Chiltern Hills in the south to the broad drainage basin of the River Great Ouse and its tributaries. In the 9th century it became Danish territory, but it was recovered by King Edward the Elder. The first actual mention of the county came in 1016 when Canute laid waste to the whole shire.
This book encompasses the whole span of human history. It brings together some of the world’s leading historians, under the expert guidance of Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, to tell the 200,000-year story of our world, from the emergence of homo sapiens through to the 21st century: the environmental convulsions; the interplay of ideas (good and bad); the cultural phases and exchanges; the collisions and collaborations in politics; the successions of states and empires; the unlocking of energy; the evolutions of economies; the contacts, conflicts, and contagions that have all contributed to making the world we now inhabit.
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