This post reminds me of the lessons I’ve been doing with my Year 8 History class about Medieval Europe and the Black Death.
My students were very interested in the plague, and surprised by the fact that this was when quarantine, social distancing, and the wearing of masks became the go-to modes of dealing with contagious disease. They were also surprised by the time it took the Europeans to understand the importance of basic hygiene, and how very long it took to develop good medical knowledge.
These lessons were highly relevant in These Times, and helped the kids to understand why we’re being reminded to wear masks, wash and sanitise our hands, and keep away from other people. It was good to be able to discuss how relevant history can be.
We all agreed we are incredibly thankful for modern medicine, science, vaccines and health care.
It does strike me as bizarre, however, that with all the scientific and technological advances we’ve made, we still have to remind people to wash their hands. Some things, it seems, never change.
In this time of Covid 19, when we don’t know why it seems to affect men more than women, and some ethnicities but not others, it is interesting that back in the 14th century the tsunami of the Great Pestilence of 1348 was followed by lesser waves that differed in many ways from the original. The first of these, in the England of 24 Edward III (January 1360 to January 1361) was called the secunda pestilencia and appeared to affect mostly the very young, babies and adolescents. Women were not affected in the same way.
The Chronicle of the Greyfriars of King’s Lynn notes: “…In that year  began a plague among Londoners at about the feast of St Michael, where at first infants…
Celebrating Mary Shelley’s Birth Date, August 30, 1797
“Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos …” Mary Shelley
Every year, the most ardent Mary Shelley fans remember this author on August 30. Frankenstein is still one of the most popular and enduring novels since its publication in 1818. We spend time reading her short stories and browsing her biographies, maybe discovering a new fact about her life and writing.
Did you know Frankenstein was inspired by a nightmare? In the preface of the third edition of the novel, Mary says that Frankenstein came to her in a dream. During a sleepless night in her dark room, behind closed shutters “with the moonlight struggling to get through … I saw with shut eyes, but acute mental vision – I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts…
Tuesday, May 8, 1945 was the day on which the Allies accepted the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany. The war in Europe was over. That day became known as Victory in Europe Day, or VE Day.
Today is the 75th anniversary of VE Day, and as such it is a day for remembrance and thankfulness for all who fought for our freedom.
It is important to remember the past so that we do not allow its atrocities to occur again.
It is important to remember that the freedoms we enjoy came at a price — and for some, that was the ultimate price of their lives.
It is not as formal or sombre a day of remembrance as Anzac Day or Armistice Day, but I always take a few moments to stop and reflect. I think ithat’s a good and respectful thing to do.
I also like to observe the date by sharing my favourite WWII-related image. After all the “May the 4th be with you” and “Revenge of the Sixth” Star Wars memes on social media all week, it seems only fair to return the favour with a history-nerdy meme.
I don’t know who created this, but whoever did was a genius.
VE Day. #reflection #WWII #VEDay #VictoryinEuropeDay #Churchill
History is full of amazing achievements and world-changing events. It is also full of amazing women who accomplished incredible things, made discoveries and inventions that had significant impacts on the world as they knew it but also on the future, and did it all despite being suppressed — and sometimes oppressed— by social structures that gave the power, property and privileges to men.
Don’t get me wrong — I like men as much as the next girl, but it’s fair to say they’ve held the lions share of the power, wealth and privilege in times past. That’s why I have particular respect and admiration for those women who had the temerity and confidence do do their thing regardless of what men, and many other women, thought.
Today, I want to encourage everyone to celebrate International Women’s Day by considering everything they have been taught or given by women – not just historical figures but, more personally, their mothers, aunts, teachers, carers, family members… and the list is endless.
Women have spoken into our lives and invested in us individually in countless ways. Whether personally or professionally, casually or consistently, they all deserve our recognition and thanks.
While we should be doing that every day, International Women’s Day gives us an excellent reminder to make a special effort to thank and acknowledge the women who have got us where we are today.
Sure, there is still progress to be made and true equality to be achieved. But we’d be a whole lot further behind if it were not for those women who have gone before us and set alight the lamps that have shown us the way.
Why We Should All Celebrate International Women’s Day #InternationalWomensDay #WomensHistory #IWD2020
I really enjoy the story of Beowulf. I read it with my Year 9 students in English, and we explore the ways in which the poetry and storytelling are similar or different to the ways in which things are done now.
That’s why I was excited to learn of the existence of The Seafarer, another AngloSaxon poem of similar vintage, which was almost lost to history for all time.
It, too, is written in Old English, and uses similar devices of imagery and poetic narrative to those found in Beowulf, such as kennings and alliteration. This poem, though, reads more like a dramatic monologue than an epic heroic adventure, and is far more religious and deeply spiritual than the secular, wildly fantastic and, at times, quite superstitious story of Beowulf.
What treasures these stories and poems are – snippets of the past that have survived the centuries despite the best efforts of warring tribes and religious authorities alike to destroy everything that stood between them and the power they sought over Britain and her people.
“….It is said that Henry V wore it [the Black Prince’s Ruby] in his jewel-encrusted helmet at the battle of Agincourt, and Richard III did also at the battle of Bosworth….”
I found the above sentence in a post on the British Medieval History Facebook group. How very intriguing. It’s something I had never heard before. Did Richard really wear the priceless but cursed gem at Bosworth? If so, was he (as one friend has suggested) emulating Henry V? Or even the Black Prince himself?
The ruby is actually “a magnificent 170-caratredspinel, the largest uncut spinel in the world. This particular precious stone, known as ‘the Great Imposter’, has a traceable history dating back seven centuries and is rumoured to be cursed, as its consecutive royal owners have been dogged by…
I’m always a bit lost for words when people remark that history is boring. Not because I have nothing to say— far from it— but because I know they are never going to be anywhere near ready for the conversations I want to have with them.
I accept that in the past, some teachers have been guilty of making history very, very dull, but it was not the history that was boring: it was the teacher.
I’ve had some of my own students question, “Why do we need to learn about this? How am I ever going to use this in real life?” My responses vary depending on the topic at hand, but they are consistently positive and enthusiastic about how interesting and inspiring history can be.
I have recently discovered two new examples to offer to students or friends who complain about history.
A week or so ago, I read a story of a 14th century nun named Joan who faked her own death to get out of the convent she was living in. How’s that for dedication?
Apparently, she wasn’t the only one who wanted to escape either. Having studied medieval history and knowing the lifestyle adhered to by monks and nuns of the time, I can’t say I blame any of them.
Faking your own death is definitely taking it to the next level, though, so I feel that Joan deserves a bit of recognition and applause for her commitment to the performing arts.
I now know more about this amazing creature than my friends will ever think beneficial. You can bet I’m going to tell them all about it, and I know my Year 9 boys are going to love it, too. I almost can’t wait until they complain again, so that I have a good reason to get the story out and share it.
Seriously, take a look at this beast. This picture from a medieval bestiary, or book of animals, portrays this particular bonnacon as being rather pleased with himself and his toxic poop. He’s never going to be sorry.
Go on. Tell me now that history is boring. I dare you.
My friends and I were standing in front of a portrait of Oliver Cromwell at the Tudors to Windsors portrait exhibition at the art gallery in Bendigo. .
As I often do, I added my own commentary. In a posh English accent and lower vocal register, I quipped, “Look at me being all godly and humble and unroyal and stuff before I go and kill a bunch of people and destroy all the monasteries… you know, on God’s behalf.”
A well-dressed elderly gentleman had come to stand beside me. When I finished speaking, he added in a crisp, upper class accent: “Bastard.” He was not wrong.