What's all this then?

My name is Victoria Stiles and I'm an Early Career Historian currently doing whatever odd research / consulting / outreach / tutoring jobs come my way. I blog here about some of the interesting texts I've found.
My research focusses on books about Britain and the British Empire which were in circulation in Nazi Germany but you'll also find a smattering of school textbooks, witchcraft beliefs, bog drainage, bemused travellers and weird illustrations that caught my eye.
Translations from German are my own. Comments are currently unmoderated and are mostly spam for leather jackets anyway.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Snippets - Seaside Fun in 1830s Lytham

The local history I was taught at school in Lytham St.Annes seemed to consist of a flood, a lifeboat disaster, and the building of a church in the middle of a lot of sand-dunes. They never told us about the fun, frolics and nutty stunts. These stories are all taken from the Preston Chronicle.

Walking Backwards. - On Tuesday last, at Lytham, George Edwards, a man of colour, walked backwards a distance of 10 miles, in one hour and 49 minutes, on a piece of ground half a mile in extent. He has also performed the task of taking up with his mouth, from the ground, 100 potatoes, one yard distance from each other, in forty-three minutes and 42 seconds, returning with each potatoe to the starting place. (Saturday July 30th, 1831)

Swimming Feat. - On Tuesday last, Dr. Bedale, of Manchester, in compliance with his previous anouncements, exhibited in presence of several hundred spectators, some of his peculiar and surprising feats in the waters of the Ribble. Soon after twelve o'clock, he appeared in a boat a short distance below Penwortham bridge, and having provided himself with a suitable garment, his legs were tied together, and he was thrown headlong into the stream, from which he soon rose and floated in different postures with the apparent lightness of a log of wood, and without any perceptible exertion. In this manner, and afterwards in a variety of postures, he swam and floated towards Avenham and returned with t
he ebb, to the gratification of the curious. In the afternoon he proceeded to Lytham to confer a similar gratuitous treat upon the visitants to that place, where he would find a wider scope for his skill in "wrestling with the ocean wave." (Saturday August 13th, 1831)

Bathing Exploits. - Sunday last, being one of those midsummer hollidays, with a high tide, of which the lovers of country excursions and salt water usually take advantage, a vast number of both sexes, and of all ages, set off for Lytham at an early hour, in carts and other vehicles, as well as on foot, "to lave their lim
bs in ocean's briny flood." About 60 individuals however, with greater pretensions to taste than to seek locomotion, by these every day-means, resolved to enjoy an aquatic excursion to the same destination ; and sweating, and puffing under a load of finery, they embarked, full of glee and expectation, at the Marsh end, on board the Lytham Packet and stood down the river. All appeared to betoken a day of genuine pleasure ; but, as fortune would have, it the Captain of the Packet and his mate had newly taken command, and not having sufficiently studdied Hamilton Moore's navigation ; while following their vocation of "spinning yarns," in this town ; being, in other words, fresh water sailors, before they had completed a third of their voyage, they ran the vessel upon a sand-band, to the g

reat alarm and chagrin of the passengers. There she stuck as fast as the obelisk, and after numerous attempts to gether off, which helped to bed her the deeper in the sand, the gay assemblage had but the alternative to stay aboard for the next tide, or submit to the dreadful necessity of making their way on shore, upon Longton Marsh, in the best way they could. The latter was, after a sage council of war, preferred, - and some of the females waded, and some were carried on shore, to the infinite detriment of their holliday garments. One lady in a lutestring dress was fairly soused under water, without having had the trouble to go so far as Lytham ' and divers were the mishaps to shoes, stockings, bonnets, and their etceteras. Even after landing they had new perils to encounter. The sea had left large pools and slimy ditches in the Marsh, over and through which they were force to push on as they could: they had next to scramble over dikes

and hedges, and experienced "hair breadth scapes" and "moving accidents, by flood and field," before they reached the village of Longton, where they had leisure to ruminate on their adventures, and wisely come to a resolution to make the next trip to Lytham upon Terra Firma. (Saturday August 4th, 1832)
Photo: bathers in 1834. There's more on wonderful nineteenth-century bathing suits from ModCloth, Thread for Thought and Clancy's Classics.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

History Misremembered

These sentences are taken from "English as She is Taught", a collection of answers given by American schoolchildren, published 1887. The whole thing is available in various formats here. These are simply the ones I liked best.

Alfred the Great reigned 872 years.
Elijah was a good man who went up to heaven without dying and threw his cloak down for Queen Elizabeth to step over.
Luther introduced Christianity into England a good many thousand years ago. He was once a Pope. He lived at the time of the Rebellion of Worms.
Julius Caesar is noted for his famous telegram despatch I came I saw I conquered.

Technical Terms
Greece is divided into periods.
The history of Rome is wrapped in antiquity.
The Middle Ages come in between antiquity and posterity.

Animals in History
Gorilla warfare was war where men rode on gorillas. [Wishful thinking?]
The Celts were driven out of England into Whales.
Queen Mary married the Dolphin.
The only form of government in Greece was a limited monkey.

Columbus knew the earth was round because he balanced an egg on the table.
Benedict Arnold was greatly regretted by the Americans as well as by the English.
Rufus was named William on account of his red hair.
The Britains conquered Julius Caesar and drove him ignominiously from his dominions.
Cromwell was only a parallel with Bonaparte.

Did You Know..?
The Puritans found an insane asylum in the wilds of America.
The Habeas Corpus Act said that a body whether alive or dead could be produced in court.
Slavery was caused by the admission of Missouri into the Union.

Floundering (or How to Answer a Question with no Information)
William Penn was born in Boston in 1607. He was the first white man who founded Pennsylvania. He founded Pennsylvania because his name was William Penn.
Gen. Washington is famous for the Washington Monument.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Cuttings - Lancaster - June 1811

Two stories of military misconduct from the Lancaster Gazette, June 1811. The best thing about these for me is the presence of the words "sennight", "grazier" and "whither". Every day's a school day. Bear in mind that these events take place in the middle of the Napoleonic Wars.

On Friday sennight, a court-martial was held at Boston, on a private in the Local Militia assembled there, named Bilton, for having absented himself from duty, and behaving insolently to his officers - The Court sentenced him, for these offences, to the months imprisonment in the county gaol, - the first and last fortnights of the time in solitary confinement: and the man was accordingly taken under guard to Lincoln on Saturday, and delivered into custody at the castle.

A Lieutenant in the above regiment resigned his commission on Monday, rather than undergo a court-martial on his conduct for appearing in town to be married, at a time when he was availing himself of the excuse of illness for not joining the regiment this year. He is a considerable grazier at Pinchbeck; and when on the point of leading his intended bride into Boston church, was arrested by order of the Colonel, and taken into the field of exercise; whither, in a short time, the lady (albeit, not remarkable for modesty) followed, and demanded her gentleman; and it was with difficulty she could be scared away.

The 28th Regiment at Quatre Bras

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Cuttings - Wrexham, April 1894 - Part III

Final clippings from the Wrexham Daily Advertiser, with the loose connecting theme of "cures which are clearly bonkers".

Extract from "Our Ladies' Column - By one of themselves", April 28, 1894

"I had a paper sent to me from Cannes the other day by a doctor who is resting there on his return from the Medial Congress at ROme, and in it I find that both the "Lancet" and the "British Medical Journal" have submitted this "Champagne sans sucre" to exhaustive analysis, and they both declare that it supplies a long-felt want to the medical profession, who hitherto have been afraid to prescribe champagne to their patients because of the sugar ordinarily contained in it, but that this "Laurent Perrier sugarless Champagne" removes the objection, and in addition it is assisted in its reviving effect by the introduction of a proportion of coca leaf extract. Of course, all champagne is a rather costly and luxurious beverage, but taken in moderation, and by those thos are exhausted through illness or overwork, I do not think it will be found to be an extravagant remedy, and it certainly is a pleasant one. All these restorative luxuries I mention for the benefit of my readers, though I hope they may not require them."

Advertisement from the front page of the same edition:

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Cuttings - Wrexham, 1894 - Part II

Following Monday's revelations of a FRAUDULENT NUN in Glasgow, the editor respectfully submits to her readers' attention further extracts from The Wrexham Advertiser and North Wales News.

April 14

"Professor Fleming, the great authority upon electric lighting, is lecturing on the subject at the Royal Institute. He points out that in 1879 a Select Committee of the House of Commons reported that there was no reasonable scientific grounds for believing that the electric light would ever be a practical success. There are now 260 miles of mains in London, and quite 400 miles in the provincial towns."

LOCAL NEWS, April 07

"THE PHONOGRAPH - We invite our readers' attention to the phonograph which is at present on exhibition in the Blossoms Hotel Yard, Charles-street. Mr Garner, the proprietor, has a fine instrument, and the records are of a very superior kind. We have listened to several and can testify that they are exceptionally good. Mr Garner takes most of his own records, and has one of a cornet solo by Mr Lloyd, of the Blossoms Hotel. The proprietor takes more than an ordinary interest in the instrument, and his conversation concerning it shows he thoroughly understands it. No one who has an opportunity should fail to hear this marvellous invention."

FOOTBALL, April 21

"STOCKPORT COUNTY V. NANTWICH. - At Stockport, on Saturday. The home team, who were assisted by a stiff breeze, completely overplayed the visitors in the first half, and goals were obtained by Leigh, Smith, Hewitt, and Upton. At half-time Stockport led by four goals to none. After the interval McCoombe put on another point for Stockport. Nantwich then played up much better, but were unable to score, and retired beaten by five goals to none."

Monday, 20 June 2011

Cuttings - Wrexham, 1894 - Part 1

From the "General News" section of the four April editions of The Wrexham Advertiser and North Wales News, 1894. I'll post cuttings from "Arts and Science", "Local News" and "Football" on Wednesday, followed by advertisements and other bits on Friday. If I get some positive feedback, hopefully I'll make this a regular thing.

April 7th

"Alexander Douglas, alias Donaldson, was sentenced to four years' penal servitude at the Old Bailey, on Monday, for bigamously marrying Annie Crump, a young woman living at Birmingham, who advertised for a husband, and from whom he obtained a number of goods and £80 which she had saved. The prisoner, who is an ex-convict, pleaded in extenuation that his victim had shown great indiscretion, but the judge remarked that the prisoner in making this statement aggravated the offence."

April 14th

"On Sunday afternoon, Mr John Hutton, twenty-three years of age, Great Orton, near Carlisle, went for a ride on his bicycle and returned after a couple of hours' spin. On dismounting he fell dead. He had been suffering from influenza, and was under orders not to do any cycling for a month or two."

"It is announced from Berlin that in spite of the prohibition of the police, experiments have been made indoors with the bullet-proof coat invented by the German tailor Herr Dowe, who himself wore the coat and was shot at. The bullet-resisting property of the garment is said to have been proved. Herr Dowe sustained no injury."

April 24th

"The Bishop of Manchester, writing to the author of a pamphlet entitled, "A Few Plain Words to the Bishop," says that he "lives as plainly as any working man," works harder and more hours than nine out of ten of the working men, and yet is compelled by the expenses incidental to his office to spend £1,000 a year more than his official income."

April 28th

"At Glasgow, on Monday. Sarah McCormick pleaded guilty to falsely representing herself to be a converted nun from Lanark Convent, and inducing the public to pay to hear her recite alleged shocking revelations of convent life. She was sentenced to seven days' imprisonment. A charge against "General" Evans, of the Gospel Army, of aiding in the deception, was dismissed."
(Also appeared in the Birmingham Daily Post Tuesday, April 24, 1894)

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

On the cliquishness of minorities

Two quotes, out of what I assume is a huge number of similar examples. The first is Frederick the Great surveying his new Polish territory, quoted in Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius, The German Myth of the East: 1800 to the Present (Oxford, 2009), pp.37-8:

In 1772, he wrote to Voltaire of the Poles as the 'last people in Europe'. Likewise, he expressed dissatisfaction with the Jewish presence in the towns of the frontier provinces, concluding however that they were necessary 'on the Polish border because in these areas the Hebrews alone perform trade. As soon as you get away from the frontier, the Jews become a disadvantage, they form cliques'.

The second is from David Cameron's recent speech on immigration (which I blogged about at the time, here). The full text of this is on the BBC website:

In one case, an applicant applied as an 'Elite Chef' for a fried chicken shop. The main qualifying criterion was the rate of pay. So in this case, his sister, who owned the shop decided to pay him exactly the amount that allowed him to qualify. There was nothing the authorities could do and he was allowed in.
So it has fallen to this government to sort out the system - and we are completely changing the way it works so it is truly geared to the needs of our economy.

Rather than suggesting that Cameron is the reincarnation of Frederick the Great, the point I'm trying to make is this: Minorities have often been attacked on the basis that they band together to help each other, excluding the majority population, and therefore securing advantages for themselves. If this does happen it's because the majority, especially in boom times, don't need to forge such close networks to deal with problems. It makes more sense to move away from home to somewhere you can find a job you want to do, which you stand a good chance of getting because you're fluent in the right language and fit in with the dominant culture there. You may not need to be around to take care of parents, elderly relatives, younger siblings and cousins, because they have full access to state services. Immigrant communities have stronger bonds because they need them. Partly as a consequence of this, and in turn causing it, groups of such workers can be very useful to the national economy, as shown by both of the above quotes.

No resemblance: David the Great and "Just Call Me" Freddy

The problem comes when the economy contracts again, and everyone needs to fall back on their support network. Minorities may then seem to have an unfair advantage, because they are used to dealing with hardship and have informal systems in place for helping everyone in their community to scrape by. Similar to people failing means tests because they have spent twenty years in work carefully putting a little money aside each month, minority communities may end up punished for their previous organisation, thrift and hard work.*

The best historical example of this would be the fate of Jewish communities in Europe. Legally barred from other professions, they came to specialise in finance and in the trade in second-hand goods. During the economic crisis following the depression, most people existed in a world of torture and deprivation, defined by these two industries. On the one hand life-savings became worthless and interest on new loans was crippling. On the other, possessions had to be sold off cheap, and essentials such as clothes and shoes bought after a lot of haggling and pleading. Because of the ways they had had to deal with previous discrimination and hardship, Jewish communities seemed to be easily profiting from Germans' misfortune. Coupled with the pervasive myth that it was a worldwide Jewish conspiracy that had caused the crash in the first place, this was a very toxic mix.

Immigrants and other minorities make naturally easy targets. Politicians should be wary of criticising them, however subtly, for those same patterns of behaviour they have been forced to adopt. When stuck between a rock and a hard place, it's natural to want to give each other a leg-up.

*That isn't to say that majority white communities in Britain have not undergone extended periods of hardship. There are countless examples, particularly in former industrial or mining towns. My focus here is on communities who are easily distinguishable from a majority population who consider themselves to have been in that area longer.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Sehr geehrter Herr Hitler...

Fascinating latter from Hitler to a British newspaper, declining their offer to publish his thoughts on the economic crisis: http://www.lettersofnote.com/2010/06/yours-faithfully-adolf-hitler.html
I'm especially impressed by the translation, which has maintained the pompous, slightly rambling style of the original.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Find the fifth pig

I'm developing a bit of a side-interest in the propaganda war that took place in the occupied Netherlands during World War Two. Consequently, coming across this via a comment under a Five Chinese Crackers post kind of made my evening.