Lessons in the "History" Category

Time to discuss the time

Two hundred or so years ago every town and city in the UK had a different time. For example, if it was 11.00am in London, in Bristol, which is 200 miles to the west, it would be 10.50am. This is because each had their own time according to a local sundial. Local time had worked for hundreds of years – right across the world in fact!

When the railways started running, a railway timetable was introduced, as trains need to run on a timetable. This meant there could only be one time, from which everything would run from. That time in the UK was Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). The time signal for this ran from the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London, along cables that ran alongside the railway lines to every station in the UK.

Great Victorian Inventions

Today, let’s talk about Victorian inventions. Do you know of any? There were many. Here’s a few of them…

In 1840 the Victorians introduced the first prepaid postal service that used a postal stamp. Letters could be sent anywhere in the UK for one penny using a stamp called the Penny Black. In 1859 a green national standard post box was introduced. Later British post boxes became red.

Category: Inventions / Victorian Inventions / Technology

Hidden London!

Today let’s talk about hidden London. By that I mean parts of London that are hidden away; yet are literally right in front of our eyes when walking around the capital city...

Cabmen’s shelters in London are, to the untrained eye, green sheds. Introduced in 1875, they were used as a refuse for horse drawn cab drivers to eat, drink and take shelter from the weather. Today, just 13 remain. Whilst taxi drivers still use them today, so can you!

Category: London / Secret Places to Visit / Tourism

Auschwitz – A lesson in history

Today, let’s talk about Auschwitz. It’s a lesson in history we should never forget. Why discuss it now? Simple – I was recently invited to go to Poland for a long weekend to Cracow. One of the trips we made was to Auschwitz. I can tell you – it makes you think twice on many things once you have visited the place.

Whilst it is not in my top 10 places to visit I believe it is a place you should visit once in your life. Indeed, many tourists do – during mid June to mid September mostly. It is as creepy and shocking today as you can imagine. When you walk around the site you can only imagine how ghastly it was and what it might have been like to live there. I will add – for those non-believers who say the Jews weren’t murdered by the Nazis – I say this – visit this place and you will rapidly think again.

Category: History / WWII / Auschwitz

Should France preserve Hitler’s Atlantic Wall?

Sections of Hitler’s Atlantic Wall in France are being restored by enthusiasts. But should it be preserved? Should the Nazi fortification be fully embraced as part of the country’s image?

The so-called Atlantic Wall – Hitler’s defensive system against an expected Allied attack – stretched all the way from the Spanish border to Scandinavia. It was in France where the most extensive building took place. In fact 1,287km (800 miles) of French coast have substantial and evocative vestiges of war-time Europe. However, in France up till now there has been no effort to preserve this extraordinary historical landmark.

The French, have it seems, been quite happy to see the German defences rust away and crumble over time. But now it appears a new mood has emerged. Recently, several local associations dedicated to safeguarding portions of the Wall have been set up in France. Times have moved on, memories of the war have lapsed, and a new generation no longer feels pain or guilt, but curiosity.

Category: History / France / Hitler’s Atlantic Wall

Hadrian’s Wall

Today I thought we could look at Hadrian’s Wall. But what is Hadrian’s Wall and where is it? For that matter who was Hadrian? Well, Hadrian’s Wall was a defensive fortification on the edge of Roman Britain; on the edge of the Roman Empire. Begun in AD 122, during the rule of emperor Hadrian (ruled AD 117-138) it was the most heavily fortified border in the Roman Empire.

The wall was built to separate the Romans from the barbarians. Initial construction took six years. Expansions were later made. At every 1/3 Roman mile there was a tower, and at every mile a fortlet containing a gate through the wall. Possibly there was a tower and one or two barrack blocks. Forts were built every seven miles.

In addition to its role as a fortification it is thought the gates of the wall served as customs posts to allow trade and levy taxation. The actual wall lies in northern England. A significant amount of it can still be seen today. It runs from coast to coast.

Category: Places to Visit / Hadrian’s Wall / History

Rusyns survive time in Central & Eastern Europe

One of the joys of living in Central Europe is to discover more about its history. On a trip over from Luxembourg, a while back, I came across an interesting article in Time Magazine about ‘Lost Tribes in Old Europe’. One of these ‘lost tribes’ is that of the Rusyns who are located in eight countries spread over Central and Eastern Europe. Most live in Eastern Slovakia and Western Ukraine.

Rusyns are also known as Ruthenians. They are members of a Slavic tribe that settled in this area in the 6th century. Rusyns speak a distinct language. They are renowned for their exquisite wooden churches, often built without nails. They were mainly a poor farming community yet their culture and tradition were very vibrant and widespread.

Rusyns have resisted assimilation for centuries. They have endured hardship. The Hungarians suppressed them by forcing them to learn Hungarian. The Austrians stole their land and taxed them to the hilt by demanding more animals and crops. This severe hardship forced thousands and thousands of Rusyns to emigrate after 1880 to the industrial regions of north-east America.

Category: History / Central & Eastern Europe / Rusyn

The British Empire – where the sun never set

At its peak the British Empire was the largest empire the world had ever known. It was said ‘the sun never sets on the British Empire’ because its span across the globe ensured that the sun was always shining on at least one of its numerous colonies or subject nations. Its power and influence stretched all over the globe for several centuries.

For better or worse it had a massive impact on the history of the world. It was a product of the European age of discovery that began with the maritime explorations in the 16th century, which sparked the era of the European colonial empires. The America’s colonisation forming part of the first era of the British Empire.

Category: History / British Empire / Great Britain

France’s new medieval castle takes shape

Deep in the forests of central France something totally unique is happening. A knight’s castle is under construction. It’s the vision of one man, Michel Guyot, whose idea was to build a complete 13th century castle by using only authentic tools and locally sourced materials.

Every detail of the project is made as accurate as possible, even down to the clothes worn by the workers. If ropes are needed they are made on site; when stone is needed it needs to be quarried out of the ground etc. It’s actually the first castle of its kind to be built for nearly 800 years.

The Château de Guédelon, near the village of Saint-Fargeau in Burgundy, is probably the world’s most unusual building site. It is an exercise in archaeology in reverse, as it is discovery by building up, not by digging down. The foundations were laid back in 1997. It is due to be completed in 2025, when it will be a full-sized castle with battlements and a moat and six towers. According to Monsieur Guyot it is based on the period of 1228.

Category: History / France / Medieval Castle

So how were the Noughties for you?

The Noughties are now over. Another decade has ended. So how were the Noughties for you? Was the era a success or will you regard them like having had a big hangover? How will you remember them? What was the best bit of the Noughties?

There are many things that happened in this era. The TV and newspapers have been full of articles about this decade. It certainly gets one thinking about the Noughties. For example what were the top 5 films of the Noughties? What were the top 5 TV programmes…The top 5 important historical moments…The top 3 records of the era? What were the worst top 3 records?

Who made the headlines during the Noughties? Who were your favourite film stars, musicians and politicians? Which ones did you detest? What were the political scandals of the Noughties? Who got fired? Who triumphed? Who died?

Who were the top 3 best sportsmen and women? What were the top 3 sports events of the decade? How did society change in the Noughties? Were we better or worse off? What new gadgets did we start using? Just how did the financial crisis hit you at the end of the Noughties?