A new parliament started yesterday, so I thought I'd talk about parliamentary beginnings, endings, and the history of how this complicated system came about. Yesterday was the Queen's Speech, which takes place every year in the spring. It's usually a day of great pageantry and ceremony, though because of the coronavirus, today's speech is going… Continue reading Why Did The Queen Speak To Parliament?
Guilds are a staple feature of fantasy fiction, especially video games. Players enjoy rising through the ranks by doing missions for the guild, eventually becoming guildmaster. But how did they work in real life? St George's Guildhall, King's Lynn, built around 1428. Funnily enough, fantasy gets some stuff right here. They usually use the terms… Continue reading How Medieval Guilds Worked
A lot of fantasy writers draw inspiration from medieval Europe - or what they think is medieval Europe. This means kings with absolute authority, dirty peasants, shifty merchants, grubby towns and - besides a handful of inept town guards who seem to work directly for the king or local lord - a total lack of… Continue reading Inspiration: How Medieval Towns Worked
Today is the Ides of March; the day Julius Caesar was assassinated. He'd been called to a meeting of the senate, and when he arrived, they assassinated him. While over sixty people were involved, they were organised by one man: Marcus Junius Brutus. Caesar was said to have muttered the now-famous line, et tu, Brute?… Continue reading Was Brutus Really An Evil Traitor?
This was a bit of a rabbithole I fell into while researching for my latest 'What Happened 700 Years Ago' column. It's a fascinating story, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. It's the 1270s. London is starting to grow: it will soon become the financial hub of northern Europe, but… Continue reading The Italian Winemakers Who Once Controlled England’s Money
I'm part-way through reading The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan. The primary argument is that the Middle East and Central Asia played a much bigger and more important role in antiquity and medieval times than we generally realise in the west, and I've enjoyed it so far - especially his coverage of the period between… Continue reading King Harald of Norway and the Globalised Medieval World
Over the last week, all eyes have been on Pennsylvania. The most likely swing state in the US general election, it's now the place the Trump campaign are targeting most heavily with their litigation blunderbuss. One place has particularly drawn their ire: Philadelphia. As Trump said, "a lot of bad things happen in Philadelphia. Bad… Continue reading Pennsylvania and the President
If someone asked you how Medieval society was organised, you'd probably tell them it was a feudal system. And you wouldn't be wrong. At its heart, feudalism was a system of relationships where people exchanged labour or service (especially military service) in return for land. This was the stuff that the nobles were mostly preoccupied… Continue reading Everyday Law for a Medieval Peasant
The information used here comes from this post by Dr Ian Mortimer on Edward's death. It's worth noting that I'm not totally convinced by the argument, and that the debate over Edward II's death is still unsettled, with Edward II scholars coming to vastly different conclusions on the same evidence. But the argument is one… Continue reading The Two Deaths of Edward II
Cookbooks have been published since at least the 1600s. Most of those early ones, though, are nigh-unusable by modern standards. Not only were the instructions vague, they hardly ever mentioned measurements of ingredients, and most lacked structure and organisation. They changed in 1805, when Maria Rundell submitted a manuscript, "A New System of Domestic Cookery,"… Continue reading The 1805 Cookbook That Changed The World