History Girls

{April 10, 2011}   Lady Godiva


The countess Lady Godiva pleaded with her husband to lower the heavy taxes he had imposed on the people of Coventry; Annoyed with her persistent appeals, he eventually agreed to accept her demands if she would ride naked through the streets of the town.

As a virtuous, respectable medieval lady, she was horrified at the suggestion but the fact that she did as her husband told her showed the level of compassion she had for the people. So the legend goes, she ordered everybody to stay in their houses and shut all their windows and doors. She then loosened her hair to cover her body and mounted her horse.

Out of respect, all but one of the citizens of eleventh century Coventry obeyed her command. A man by the name of Tom could not resist a peep at the Countess, (giving us the term peeping Tom) but as he looked at her, he was struck blind. After completing her journey, her husband lived up to his word and abolished all taxes in the town except for those on horses.

Read about the real history behind the legend of Lady Godiva


King Tut’s grandmother, the powerful and beautiful Queen Tiye, might have had an unattractive flat wart on her forehead, according to a mummy expert.

Located between the eyes, the small protuberance was found on the mummy of the so-called Elder Lady (KV35EL). Boasting long reddish hair falling across her shoulders, the mummy was identified in February 2010 by DNA testing as Queen Tiye, the daughter of Yuya and Thuya, wife of Amenhotep III, and mother of Akhenaten.

The skin growth had gone unnoticed until Mercedes González, director of the Instituto de Estudios Científicos en Momias in Madrid, spotted it looking at the mummy during a visit to the Cairo Museum…..

The wife of the 18th dynasty King Amenhotep III, the mother of the heretic pharaoh Akhenaten and grandmother of King Tut, Tiye (who lived from 1415 to 1340 B.C.), is one of the most intriguing women in Egyptian history.

Described by her husband as “the lady of grace, sweet in her love, who fills the palace with her beauty, the Regent of the North and South, the Great Wife of the King who loves her,” she was the most influential woman of Amenhotep III’s 38-year reign.

Read More: Discovery News

Anna Atkins, original name Anna Children (born March 16, 1799, Tonbridge, Kent, Eng.—died June 9, 1871, Halstead Place, Kent), English photographer noted for her early use of photography for scientific purposes.

Anna Children, whose mother died soon after she was born, was involved from an early age in the scientific activities that occupied her father, John George Children. A respected scientist, he was secretary of the Royal Society and was associated with the British Museum.

While in her early 20s, Atkins made drawings for her father’s translation of Jean-Baptiste de Monet Lamarck’s Genera of Shells (1823), but her prime interest lay in the study of botany. She married John Pelly Atkins in 1825. Through her father’s association with Royal Society members William Henry Fox Talbot and the astronomer and chemist Sir John Herschel, Atkins learned of the photographic process then being invented.

Read More:womenshistorymagazine.com

When Axaiacatzin, King of Mexico, and other lords sent their daughters to King Nezahualpilli, for him to choose one to be his queen and lawful wife, whose son might succeed to the inheritance, she who had the highest claims among them, for nobility of birth and rank, was Chachiuhnenetzin, the young daughter of the Mexican King.

She had been brought up by the monarch in a seperate palace, with great pomp, and with numerous attendants, as became the daughter of so great a monarch. The number of servants attached to her household exceeded two thousand. Young as she was, she was exceedingly artful and vicious; so that, finding herslf alone, and seeing that her people feared her on account of her rank and importance, she began to give way to an unlimited indulgence of her power.

Whenever she saw a young man who pleased her fancy she gave secret orders that he should be brought to her, and shortly afterwards he would be put to death. She would then order a statue or effigy of his person to be made, and, adourning it with rich clothing, gold, and jewellry, place it in the apartment in which she lived. The number of staues of those whom she thus sacrificed was so great as to almost fill the room.

When the king came to visit her, and inquired respecting these statues, she answered that they were her gods; and he, knowing how strict the Mexicans were in the worship of their false dieties, believed her. But, as no inquity can be long committed with entire secrecy, she was finally found out in the manner……

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In his book, ‘De Excidio Britanniae’ or ‘Concerning the Ruin of Britain’ Gildas Bandonicus, a British monk denounces the evil ways of the Celtic people of his time. Written in the 540’s, it is by far the most comprehensive primary source from the time of the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain.

“Whatever in this my epistle I may write in my humble but well-meaning manner, rather by way of lamentation than for display, let no one suppose that it springs from contempt of others, or that I foolishly esteem myself as better than they; -for, alas! the subject of my complaint is the general destruction of every thing that is good, and the general growth of evil throughout the land;- but that I would condole with my country in her distress and rejoice to see her revive therefrom: for it is my present purpose to relate the deeds of an indolent and slothful race, rather than the exploits of those who have been valiant in the field…….

I revolved again and again in my amazed mind with compunction in my heart, and I thought to myself, “If God’s peculiar people, chosen from all the people of the world, the royal seed, and holy nation, to whom he had said, ‘My first begotten Israel,’ its priests, prophets, and kings, throughout many ages, his servant and apostle, and the members of his primitive church, were not spared when they deviated from the right path, what will he do to the darkness of this our age, in which, besides all the huge and heinous sins, which it has in common with all the wicked of the world committed, is found an innate, indelible, and irremediable load of folly and inconstancy?”

Read more on The Primary Sourcebook

{June 17, 2010}   The Forgotten Victorians

It’s usually modern art that aims to overturn preconceptions, but a new show of 19th century paintings delivers more shocks than Tracey Emin.

One revelation is embedded in the title — “Black Victorians: Black People in British Art 1800-1900.” The very concept of “black Victorians” may surprise.

There had, of course, been Africans in Britain long before Victoria ascended the throne in 1837, but in the 19th century they were a familiar sight — not that you’d know that from most accounts of the old Queen’s reign. Yet Victorian art depicted many black subjects — not only servants, but also soldiers, sailors, actors, musicians and pugilists. “I began to look more systematically and discovered hundreds [of these images],” Jan Marsh says. “It both reveals Victorian art as not as white as we imagine, but also Victorian society as not as white as we imagine”….

Of course, many black Victorians did still occupy subordinate positions. In Thomas Faed‘s Visit to the Village School (1852), set in Scotland, a local bigwig and his wife listen to the youngest students reading, while some of the older pupils taunt their young black servant.

Such story pictures were put together from studies of professional models. Jamaican-born Fanny Eaton often turns up in the background of biblical subjects, but later in the century black models appeared on the losing side in topical battle pictures. Prints like Lts Coghill and Melville Saving the Colours, Zulu War, 1879 (1882), after Adolphe Alphonse de Neuville, may look stagey to us, but even back then not everyone found them convincing. A critic commented: “[We see] the ordinary Parisian negro-models, reproduced in more or less warlike attitudes”….

For the most part, Victorian society was one in which most thought black people inferior. Yet Marsh observes: “Although Victorian society was racist through and through, this is not reflected in the art.”

Source: Time.com
Image source:   popculturepost.com   

Sacrificial remains of humans and animals, believed to be at least 2,700 years old, have been found in central China’s Luoyang city, Chinese archaeologists say.

The bones are part of a recently discovered burial complex covering nearly a quarter acre (945 square meters) and containing 14 tombs, a water channel, and 59 pits from the Western Zhou dynasty. (Related: “Ancient Mass Sacrifice, Riches Discovered in China Tomb.”)

During the Western Zhou period (1100 B.C. to 771 B.C.), the sacrifices of animals—and sometimes humans—to ancestors or deities were a routine part of Chinese culture. The sacrifices were often made to bless houses, said David Sena, a China historian at the University of Texas at Austin.

“In general, there’s been a tendency to describe Western Zhou as a more humanistic period, when the practice of human sacrifices”—which were commonplace during the preceding Shang Dynasty—”were waning,” Sena said.

“But I think the archaeological evidence shows quite clearly that human sacrifices persisted throughout the Zhou period as well.”

Thousands of years ago, during the Western Zhou, the Luoyang area was home to a secondary, eastern capital of China.

Regarded by Confucius and other philosophers as a “golden age” of Chinese history, the Western Zhou period ushered in many of the characteristic political and cultural institutions of Chinese civilization, Sena said.

For example, the Shangshu, or “book of history,” which purportedly records the speeches and deeds of the Zhou dynasty’s first kings and which later became a classic, can be traced back to this period.

Source: National Geographic
Image source:  vochongnhanam.net 

The years after the Battle of Hastings and the death of Harold were full of turmoil. Collusion, treachery and rebellion were rife, and that was just the English. Threats from enemies, both foreign and domestic, to William’s hard-won Kingdom never left him, yet he was able to complete Domesday Book, Britain’s earliest, and still valid, public record.

William intended to make his rule easier as the successor to Edward, with the co-operation of the English. In this, the English magnates readily acquiesced, remembering the lessons learned from the Danish Conquest 50 years before.

After all, Edwin and Morcar were the grandsons of one of the most successful collaborators, and Waltheof had nothing to lose by supporting the new régime. We should also note that William did not move immediately against Stigand, despite the disapproval of the Pope. In fact, the two chief prelates of England were perhaps the staunchest supporters of William among the English magnates, once they had accepted William as God’s chosen successor to Edward the Confessor.

William returned to Normandy in 1067, taking the three English Earls with him as hostages and leaving Odo of Bayeux and William fitzOsbern in charge of England. During these early stages of the Conquest, he was most concerned with the security of his newly won kingdom.

He ensured this security by granting a compact area of land to trusted Norman nobles whose task it was to build a castle and guard it against all comers. These were the castleries. The earliest were the so-called ‘rapes’ of the south, granted to William’s two half-brothers, Odo of Bayeux and Robert of Mortain as well as his two trusted followers the Comte d’Eu and William fitzOsbern.

Orderic Vitalis: The jeers of the English outside Rochester reflect one attitude to the Conquest, expressed eloquently by Orderic Vitalis:

And so the English groaned aloud for their lost liberty and plotted ceaselessly to find some way of shaking off a yoke that was so intolerable and unaccustomed. Some sent to Swegn, King of Denmark, and urged him to lay claim to the kingdom of England which his ancestors Swegn and Cnut had won by the sword. Others fled into voluntary exile so that they might either find in banishment freedom from the Normans or secure foreign help and come back to fight a war of vengeance. Some of them who were still in the flower of youth travelled into remote lands and bravely offered their arms to Alexius, Emperor of Constantinople, a man of great wisdom and nobility.

Source: bbc.com
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{June 12, 2010}   The Pleasures of Courtly Love

It would be false to conclude that love involved nothing but suffering. Medieval love involved two main components: suffering and pleasure. I would first argue that love was pleasurable because it involved the sating of ones desires. When one loves something, one desires it.

Therefore, when one is with the object of one’s love, then the desire is being sated. The sating of one’s desires is clearly a source of pleasure. Hence, when one sates the desire that is involved in one’s love, one is pleasured.

In addition to the larger characteristic of pleasure, there are three “mini-elements” of love in the Middle Ages. These three “mini-elements” support the fact that pleasure is a characteristic of love in the medieval period.

Sexual Pleasure

The most obvious “mini-element” of love is sexual pleasure. This element clearly supports the idea that love involved pleasure. Andreas Capellanus touches on this element of love when he quotes the Queen (of the so called “court of love”) as saying that women prefer young men for lovers because of “physiological reasons”.

The “physiological reasons” that she is referring to are clearly sexual. Apparently, “medieval ideas were far from the Victorian notion that women did not enjoy sex”. In fact, “thirteenth-century German scholar, Albertus Magnus” believed that “greater [sexual] pleasure and appetite belonged to the woman”. Whether or not this was the case, it seems that sexual pleasure was enjoyed by both partners involved in the love affair.


The second “mini-element” of love in the Middle Ages will be termed fantasy. Though it is not certain exactly what role courtly love played in medieval life, it is certain that it existed in the fantasies of the medieval people. The songs and poetry of the time period often centered on themes of love: “courtly love, the pure love a knight felt for his lady whom he sought to win by military prowess and patience; or the love he felt for the wife of his feudal lord; or carnal desires seeking satisfaction”.

Whatever the exact theme, love was often the topic of these works. Also, these works often involved fantasy. In fact, fantasy was especially involved for those who read or sang the songs or poems. This is because the enjoyment of these things is predicated upon imagining that what they describe is actually taking place.

This imagining, I think, can be called fantasizing. Clearly, then, love was often the topic of these fantasies. In this aspect, love is again found to be pleasurable. For what are our fantasies if not creative imaginings for the purpose of pleasure.

Heightening of Honor and Worth

The fact that love involved the heightening of honor and worth conveys the final “mini-element” of love. Andreas Capellanus wrote about the effects of love which, according to him, included this characteristic:

Love causes a rough and uncouth man to be distinguished for his handsomeness; it can endow a man even of the humblest birth with nobility of character; it blesses the proud with humility; and the man in love becomes accustomed to performing many services gracefully for everyone. O what a wonderful thing is love, which makes a man shine with so many virtues and teaches everyone, no matter who he is, so many good traits of character!

The Countess Marie seems to agree with Capellanus. In a letter to him, she writes about the necessity of love to increase a man’s honor and worth of character.

Certainly, pleasure is involved in the increasing of a man’s honor and goodness of character. But is this pleasure only afforded to men? Georges Duby suggests that the answer is no. He believes that courtly love “gave a woman a definite [though confined] power”. Duby also writes that women engaged in love affairs “were entitled to certain marks of respect”.

Additionally, this characteristic of love is applicable to women in that love “compensated the medieval lady for the brutalities of marriage and recognized her existence as an individual”.

The respect and compensation that love offered to women of the Middle Ages prove that love was pleasurable to women as well as men in that it involved the heightening of honor or worth of character.

Source: westminstercollege.edu
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In the late nineteenth century, Arthur Wharton (1865-1930) was an athlete of legendary proportions, competing at the top level in many sports including cycling, rugby, cricket athletics and football.

It was previously believed that Wharton was the first ever black football player; however new evidence has recently come to light that shows this distinction goes to Andrew Watson, who played in Scotland in the 1870s. Despite this, Wharton was a pioneer in the sporting world, competing in arenas almost universally occupied by white people. He was a well liked, well respected competitor but unfortunately, his life story did not have a happy ending.

In 1886, at the age of 20 Wharton entered the Amateur Athletics Association (AAA) Championships at Stamford Bridge. As well as becoming the first black athlete to win an AAA championship, he also set a new world record at the event becoming the first man ever to run 100 yards in 10 seconds flat. Later that year, Wharton signed a professional contract with Preston North End football club, one the top teams in the world at that time. Ironically, despite being the fastest man on earth, he was to become a highly respected goalkeeper.

Wharton had a reputation as a hard man on the field and when he unleashed his trademark ‘prodigious punch’, it was said that he always connected with ether the ball, or an opponents head! In those days a goalie could handle the ball anywhere in his own half and players could barge him whether he was on or off the ball, which explains the logic of having a fast, powerful goalkeeper. Wharton seems to have relished the more physical side of the game and like many goalkeepers, he seems to have had an eccentric streak. In a letter to the Sheffield Telegraph and Independent (12th January, 1942) T. H. Smith wrote;

“In a match between Rotherham and Sheffield Wednesday at Olive Grove I saw Wharton jump, take hold of the cross bar, catch the ball between his legs, and cause three onrushing forwards – Billy Ingham, Clinks Mumford and Mickey Bennett – to fall into the net. I have never seen a similar save since and I have been watching football for over fifty years”.

Wharton stayed at Preston North End for three years before signing for Rotherham United in 1889. Five years later he moved to Sheffield United were he spent a miserable year, finding it difficult to hold a regular first team place. In 1895 he went back to Rotherham United, were he played in only fifteen league games in six years.

During his time at Rotherham, Wharton was also a pub landlord, running the Albert Tavern and later the Plough Inn in Rotherham then the Sportsman Cottage pub in Sheffield. During this period, he developed a drinking problem, causing his career to nose dive and eventually forcing him to retire from football in 1902. He spent the rest of his life as a colliery haulage worker and by the time he died, on the 12 December 1930, of epithelioma and syphilis, he had fallen into obscurity and was a penniless alcoholic.

Source: socyberty.com

et cetera