Do You Have A Favourite Period In History?

Do you have a favourite period in history?

Perhaps your eyes glaze over if anyone should mention the Victorians with their penchant for shoving small boys up chimneys...the secretive gentlemen's clubs, where they smoked opium and lusted after little girls...changing servants names to something more suitable for the girl who scrubbed the grates and made up the longer to be known as Charlotte she had to learn to be remember to drop a curtsey when the Master was home and not mind too much sharing a bed in the attic with the downstairs maid, who had BO and sometimes wet the sheets through homesickness.

I can never wait to get past the Victorians in the research I do...tend to gallop through the 1700's as well...all those dandified men in tight breeches, holding pretty lace hankies and women in diaphanous frocks...though the 1700's was also the heyday for the Weavers and the Dyers...the occupations which interest me the most...the late 1700's was the time when stealing a fancy waistcoat or a sheep would have meant death on the gallows...when Debtors Prisons were chock a block full...Highwaymen and Footpads thrived as did smugglers, bringing in casks of fine French Brandies and wooden chests of tea.

Now the 1500 and 1600's were a time of intrigue at the Royal Court...a time of sieges and minor battles...a time when if you should fall out of favour for whatever reason, you'd find yourself at the Tower...waiting in a sorry line to be beheaded. Plots were hatched and treachery was afoot...Cromwell banned Christmas and wealthy men left their wives the second best bed...houses leaned drunkenly over cobbled streets while the lack of sewers made cities a cess-pit of disease...the river Thames in London was nothing but an open drain...full of floating corpses of people and animals.

Such interesting times they must have been...sons of gentlemen went up to University and read Law looking dreadfully important in their long black gowns...or Theology, taking up a position in a small country church...chasing out the straying pigs before the Sunday service.

The 1300 and 1400's I don't find difficult to visualise at all...cold stone castles with narrow winding stairs...tapers to light the dark nights flickering in the endless draughts...dancing Bears with rings through their noses, brought from countries far away...graphic drawings of the monsters who lived deep in the oceans...fortified houses and carefully nurtured herbal gardens...swords with shafts decorated with precious jewels...linen presses scented with Thyme and Lavender...brown robed monks bent over manuscripts... quill pens in hand... dipping into Oak Gall inks. Reaching the age of forty was an achievement...Plagues and Small Pox...Typhus and Leprosy...

These were the times when people with a mental illness were cared for and nurtured within their community...when anyone slow in their learning was treated kindly...stiff penalties ensued if anyone was caught teasing or being unkind...

The great Monasteries of Europe were at their height...jealously guarding the Saints Relics they had in their possession...a finger from St Therese perhaps or a piece of the True Cross...

So, my favourite time in history would have to be the 1300 and 1400's...

27 Replies

  • Oh Vashti I wish you had been my history teacher you make it sound so interesting, I've learnt more from your short text than I did in 4 years. I do have a grandiosed idea of coming down a grand staircase in a magnificent dress. Thank you.

  • You're very welcome Nanaeal xxx

  • I have to say that it is the early modern period -16and 17 centuries. Although having said that the 1590s were probably the worst decade in history to have lived. National outbreaks of plague nearly every year, famine in 1595,96, 98. Constant war. Having worked at Shakespeare's Birthplace I can tell you that those young men in their high boots, wide sleeved shirts, jerkins and long hair are just too distracting. As for the 'second best bed'. This was the marital bed where all of the secrets were told and the hey ho went on. The best bed was kept downstairs to show the neighbours that you could afford the expensive drapes and coverings. A certain person left his best bed to his daughter Susanna as part of the house, New Place, which she inherited. His wife would have been so upset and cross if he had not left her the second best bed that she probably would have dug him up and killed him all over again!

    I would have preferred to have been born one of the emerging middling class or farm owning people. They had decent food, lots of veggies and home produced meat. Their daughters could choose their own husbands whereas the poor daughters of the aristocracy were sold to the highest bidder, however, abusive, neglectful or decrepit.

  • that's why you worked at Shakespeares birthplace...all those handsome young men!

  • Hi Vashti, that's an evocative piece but I just thank goodness that I am alive now...I remember how hard my grandparents worked just to make ends luxuries. I can imagine that their parents lives were even state pensions and the threat of the workhouse.

    My husbands ancestors were a lot posher than mine, but as still standing says their life may not have been a bed of roses either.

    I guess I have no romance in my soul!

  • I suppose there's always be those who work hard and still struggle....

  • Not sure about this Vashti. I remember reading Katherine, John o Gaunt's mistress whom he married sometime in the 1390's. She is buried in Lincoln Cathedral. The author writes of the cold, the smells and even ladies hands and lips being smothered in goose fat because they were chapped & sore from the cold. I think a lot of people died from what we would now term Bronchitis, because of the open fires and the smoke. I think now is probably better. x

  • Goose fat then...Lip balm now!

  • I quite liked the 1950s. I was very young, loved life, trained as a nurse and met my husband. The UK was a different place. We lived simple lives as regards technology. What we didn't have, we didn't miss. X

  • Thank you pergola!

  • Brilliant question. 17th (1600-1700) without a shadow of a doubt. Amazing time: Shakespeare still writing at the beginning, theology at its most rabid and vibrant, Puritans, our only Civil War, the assassination of a King, the Metsphysical poets, the Restoration of the monarchy, the licentiousness of the court and the mad, blood soaked shenanigans of Restoration drama. What's not to like?

    K xxx

  • Brilliant answer!

  • I collect Ladybird books their history series is fantastic. My favourite period? Probably Roman -but it's almost a given seeing I live right on Hadrians Wall.

  • Like pergola I'd choose the 1950's, after the war we began to have 'fashion' instead of just clothing, pretty prints, swirling skirts and the films gave us not just ideas above our station, but hope for a better future. Then came rock and roll with Bill Haley and then - Elvis! .... And then boyfriends! After work and at weekends it was all dancing, roller skating and bike rides. Even without those things I don't think I'd like to have been around before there was any proper sanitation.

  • Agree with that Magpuss. Apart from a hole in the ground, I wouldn't fancy the use of grass or whatever was in use at the time.

  • That is so interesting. If only my history teacher had been a tenth as good as you then history would have been so interesting. All he seemed to teach was dates of things and not much else. Xx

  • Dates were all I ever learned at school, I was desperate to learn more about the peoples diets and they spent their they lived...still can't recall the dates!

  • Hi I had to think about this one.... I think an aristrocratic lady of the 17th C would have suited me. All those wonderful gowns and gentleman who were gentlemen. I would have to be young and beautiful though and definitely not a servant as they led dreadful lives. I would be loved and have respect for my high position and not ever have to work. I would get up at 12 pm having spent my nights dancing and playing cards and having a party. Lovely. x

  • So you'd be regarding those days as of interest to yourself?

  • Of course! Actually I love history, the more ancient the better :) x

  • I would not have wanted to be a woman in any century before the late 20th Century. Just think of the sheer horrors some poor women had to suffer in childbirth.

  • I didn't really mean that AS was wondering if you have a favourite historical period...

  • Yes I would say reading through.....we have given up a lot of our MORAL standards for COMMODITIES!! Audrey xxx. To give and receive pure LOVE is wondrous!

  • Thank you Vashti for starting this topic. At school history mainly was about Kings and Queens and 'important people' - I always wanted to know what was happening to everyone else. On changing schools (yet again - having 'done' Tudors and Stuarts three times in a row) I was fortunate enough to be at a school that offered a GCE in Economic and Social History with an excellent teacher too. That triggered a life long interest in social history. While I do not particularly have a favourite period I would have loved to have met some of the engineers who did such amazing things in the industrial revolution in this country. Thomas Telford is a particular favourite. How did a man born in poverty on a croft in rural Scotland and who had little formal education manage to design and build such wonderful bridges? They are things of beauty that sit well in their landscapes as well as still working well nearly a couple of hundred years later. In more modern times I really enjoy David Kynaston's epic coverage of the lives of 'ordinary' people, using the Mass Observation letters from all over the UK.

  • History in the schools I attended was dry and horribly boring...remembering long lists of dates mostly.

    Thomas Telford...was it he who built the bridge at Ironbridge in Shropshire...I've seen that one.

  • The year before I got married

  • I think I'd like to have lived as a Celtic High Priestess, here in the place I live now. :)

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