Sunday, July 14, 2019

The Formation of the English Kingdom in the Tenth Century by George Molyneaux

Cover for 

The Formation of the English Kingdom in the Tenth Century

The central argument of The Formation of the English Kingdom in the Tenth Century is that the English kingdom which existed at the time of the Norman Conquest was defined by the geographical parameters of a set of administrative reforms implemented in the mid- to late tenth century, and not by a vision of English unity going back to Alfred the Great (871-899).

In the first half of the tenth century, successive members of the Cerdicing dynasty established a loose domination over the other great potentates in Britain. They were celebrated as kings of the whole island, but even in their Wessex heartlands they probably had few means to regulate routinely the conduct of the general populace. 

Detailed analysis of coins, shires, hundreds, and wapentakes suggests that it was only around the time of Edgar (957/9-975) that the Cerdicing kings developed the relatively standardised administrative apparatus of the so-called 'Anglo-Saxon state'. This substantially increased their ability to impinge upon the lives of ordinary people living between the Channel and the Tees, and served to mark that area off from the rest of the island. The resultant cleft undermined the idea of a pan-British realm, and demarcated the early English kingdom as a distinct and coherent political unit.

In this volume, George Molyneaux places the formation of the English kingdom in a European perspective, and challenges the notion that its development was exceptional: the Cerdicings were only one of several ruling dynasties around the fringes of the former Carolingian Empire for which the late ninth, tenth, and eleventh centuries were a time of territorial expansion and consolidation.

Wrexford & Sloane Mysteries by Andrea Penrose

Murder on Black Swan Lane
In Regency London, an unconventional scientist and a fearless female artist form an unlikely alliance to expose a cold-hearted killer . . .

Murder on Black Swan Lane (A Wrexford & Sloane Mystery Book 1) by [Penrose, Andrea]The Earl of Wrexford possesses a brilliant scientific mind, but boredom and pride lead him to reckless behavior. So when pompous, pious Reverend Josiah Holworthy publicly condemns him for debauchery, Wrexford unsheathes his rapier-sharp wit and strikes back. As their war of words escalates, London’s most popular satirical cartoonist, A.J. Quill, skewers them both. But then the clergyman is found slain in a church—his face burned by chemicals, his throat slashed ear to ear—and Wrexford finds himself the chief suspect.

An artist in her own right, Charlotte Sloane has secretly slipped into the persona of her late husband, using his nom de plume A.J. Quill. When Wrexford discovers her true identity, she fears it will be her undoing. But he has a proposal—use her sources to unveil the clergyman’s clandestine involvement in questionable scientific practices, and unmask the real murderer. Soon Lord Wrexford and the mysterious Mrs. Sloane plunge into a dangerous shadow world hidden among London’s intellectual enclaves to trap a cunning adversary—before they fall victim to the next experiment in villainy . . .

Murder at Half Moon Gate
A wealthy lord who happens to be a brilliant scientist . . . an enigmatic young widow who secretly pens satirical cartoons . . . a violent killing disguised as a robbery . . . Nothing is as it seems in Regency London, especially when the Earl of Wrexford and Charlotte Sloane join forces to solve a shocking murder.

Murder at Half Moon Gate (A Wrexford & Sloane Mystery Book 2) by [Penrose, Andrea]When Lord Wrexford discovers the body of a gifted inventor in a dark London alley, he promptly alerts the watchman and lets the authorities handle the matter. But Wrexford soon finds himself drawn into the murder investigation when the inventor’s widow begs for his assistance, claiming the crime was not a random robbery. It seems her husband’s designs for a revolutionary steam-powered engine went missing the night of his death. The plans could be worth a fortune . . . and very dangerous in the wrong hands.

Joining Wrexford in his investigation is Charlotte Sloane, who uses the pseudonym A. J. Quill to publish her scathing political cartoons. Her extensive network of informants is critical for her work, but she doesn’t mind tapping that same web of spies to track down an elusive killer. Each suspect—from ambitious assistants to rich investors, and even the inventor’s widow—is entwined in a maze of secrets and lies that leads Wrexford and Sloane down London’s most perilous stews and darkest alleyways.

With danger lurking at every turn, the potent combination of Wrexford’s analytical mind and Sloane’s exacting intuition begins to unravel the twisted motivations behind the inventor’s death. But they are up against a cunning and deadly foe—a killer ready to strike again before they can recover the inventor’s priceless designs . . .

Murder at Kensington Palace
Wrexford and Sloane must unravel secrets within secrets—including a few that entangle their own hearts—when they reunite to solve a string of shocking murders that have horrified Regency London . . .

Murder at Kensington Palace (A Wrexford & Sloane Mystery Book 3) by [Penrose, Andrea]Though Charlotte Sloane’s secret identity as the controversial satirical cartoonist A.J. Quill is safe with the Earl of Wrexford, she’s ill prepared for the rippling effects sharing the truth about her background has cast over their relationship. She thought a bit of space might improve the situation. But when her cousin is murdered and his twin brother is accused of the gruesome crime, Charlotte immediately turns to Wrexford for help in proving the young man’s innocence. Though she finds the brooding scientist just as enigmatic and intense as ever, their partnership is now marked by an unfamiliar tension that seems to complicate every encounter. 

Despite this newfound complexity, Wrexford and Charlotte are determined to track down the real killer. Their investigation leads them on a dangerous chase through Mayfair’s glittering ballrooms and opulent drawing rooms, where gossip and rumors swirl to confuse the facts. Was her cousin murdered over a romantic rivalry . . . or staggering gambling debts? Or could the motive be far darker and involve the clandestine scientific society that claimed both brothers as members? The more Charlotte and Wrexford try to unknot the truth, the more tangled it becomes. But they must solve the case soon, before the killer’s madness seizes another victim . . .

Author - Christopher Nicole

Author Christopher Nicole has a plethora of titles out encompassing various stages in history (210 books if you can believe it). If you look for him on Amazon, there are eleven pages worth of books to select from. However, here are a few that caught my eye, mainly due to my interest in history and notable women in history:

The Lion Queen
Image result for lion queen christopher nicoleWho: Queen Tamar / Tamara / Thamar of Georgia (Queen of Georgia from 1184 to 1213, presiding over the apex of the Georgian Golden Age. A member of the Bagrationi dynasty, her position as the first woman to rule Georgia in her own right was emphasized by the title mepe, afforded to Tamar in the medieval Georgian sources)

Synopsis: Today Georgia is a small country existing in the shadow of Russia, but only 900 years ago the Georgians controlled an empire that stretched from the Black Sea to the Persian Gulf, the Mediterranean to the Caspian. This was the work of Queen Tamara, who, inheriting the throne at the age of twenty-five as King of the Georgians – there was no word for queen in the Georgian language – led her armies sword in hand. Accurately depicting a savage age, when life was cheap virtue non-existent, this is not for the faint-hearted, but it is also the tale of a remarkable relationship, and an undying love.

Lord of the Golden Fan
Who: Will Adams (an English navigator who, in 1600, was the first of his nation to reach Japan during a five-ship expedition for the Dutch East India Company. As a key advisor to the shōgun Tokugawa Ieyasu, he has been recognised as one of the most influential foreigners in Japan during this period)

Synopsis: Leaving Elizabethan Kent in search of adventure, Will Adams took a voyage through Indonesia. Sailing as pilot of five small trading ships on a twenty-one months' voyage to the fabled Spice Islands of Java and Sumatra, Will survived disaster to reach seventeenth-century Japan. Not only was he the first Englishman to set foot in Japan, but he also became the lifelong protégé and friend of the reigning Shogun, Iyeyasu.  By his prowess and wise counsel, Will also opened the way to Japan's first contacts with the learning and culture of the West. 

Image result for book cover ottoman christopher nicoleWho: Sir John Hawkwood (not to be confused with the enigmatic English soldier and condottiero - mercenary - of the same name who was prominent in England, France and Italy a half century earlier)

Synopsis: English master-gunner John Hawkwood uproots his family from their native land and journeys to this fabled city. With the city under threat by the Ottoman Turks, the Byzantine emperor is in desperate need of men like Hawkwood and the knowledge of cannon and gunpowder he brings.  For a time, the Hawkwoods enjoy status and privilege in return for John’s superior abilities as an artillerist. 

But all good things must come to an end. When tragedy strikes, even the close relationship John shares with the emperor cannot absolve the family of their sins, and with little more than the clothes on their backs, the Hawkwoods flee Constantinople. 

Captured by the savage Turks, John Hawkwood swiftly changes his allegiance, and once more applies his considerable skills…this time serving the conquerors in their victorious surge across eastern Europe and Mediterranean shores.  No man lives forever, but the Hawkwood line never dies. 

Over a span of nearly one hundred and fifty years, the Hawkwoods must employ every ounce of political cunning they possess to survive the swirling intrigues and bloody massacres that dominate the world in which they live.  Beyond the gleaming wealth and the veneer of power lie grim spectres of betrayal and sudden death, the threat of ravishment and torture lurking behind the gilded pillars of their palaces and harems.  And when the time comes to choose between Ottoman and Hawkwood, no one can say what the future might bring…

Queen of Destiny
Who: Adelaide of Burgundy (Holy Roman Empress by marriage to Otto the Great; she was regent of the Holy Roman Empire as the guardian of her grandson in 991-995)

Synopsis: Adelaide, Queen of Burgundy and Empress of the Holy Roman Empire, was one of the most beautiful and courageous women in history. She is renowned as the most prominent European woman of the 10th century and Christopher Nicole brings you the amazing story of her life, her struggles and her conquests.

Queen of Lions
Who: Margaret of Anjou (Queen of England by marriage to King Henry VI from 1445 to 1461 and again from 1470 to 1471 - this was the period in history known as The Wars of the Roses).

Synopsis: When the beautiful Margaret of Anjou marries King Henry VI of England, she is a virgin who longs for love, power, wealth, and a son.  After arriving in England she learns that her deeply religious and delicate husband is unwilling to satisfy her desires and there seems to be no hope of producing an heir.  He is not the powerful man she had imagined and she is shocked to learn he does not hunt, is not properly trained in the art of battle and has no interest in entertaining guests. Though her husband cannot quench her desires, there are others at court who can … 

Under her banner of the dangerous, passionate red rose, Margaret draws men to her, to fight and die for her, never losing her fierce ambition, never satisfied with less than all.  And as the Wars of the Roses looms, she rides among her troops, rallying her ‘lions’ to the glorious cause.

Queen of the Night
Who: Joanna I, Queen of Naples (countess of Provence and queen of Naples (1343–82) she defended her claim as well as that of the house of Anjou to the throne of Naples, only to lose it to Charles of Durazzo (Charles III of Naples). Beautiful and intelligent, she was also a patron of the poets and scholars of her time)

Image result for queen of the night christopher nicoleSynopsis: The year is 1338,11yo Richilde’s family is brutally murdered by pirates whilst her life is spared, she is subjected to unimaginable terror. The young English girl is sold, educated and groomed for the purposes of becoming a playmate and servant to the Duchess of Calabria, Joanna, the heir to the throne of Naples.  

Joanna is betrothed to Prince Andrew of Hungary, younger brother to the future King but unbeknown to both girls, Joanna’s foster mother, Donna, begins to hatch a manipulative plan.  In a bid to capture the kingdom for herself, Donna conspires against Joanna and aware of her desires, exposes the future queen to passions that would live on forever…

Stripping Joanna’s innocence under the pretence of educating her, Donna initiates a stream of sadistic events which will lead to the young Queen’s downfall.  In their struggle for survival, both Joanna and Richilde endure countless attempts on their lives … but, amidst it all, their strength to survive rallies on … as does their friendship …

Eleanor of Aquitaine and The Queen of Love
Who: Eleanor of Aquitaine (Duchess of Aquitaine, Queen of France, Queen of England, mother of Kings of England)

Sysnopsis: Book one deals with Eleanor's earlier life as a young woman and her first marriage to Louis VII of France, whilst the second deals with her marriage to Henry II and the remainder of her tumultuous life.

Dawn of a legend and Twilight of a Goddess
Who: Jane Digby, Lady Ellenborough (an English aristocrat, famed for her remarkable love life and lifestyle. She had four husbands and many lovers, and died in Damascus, Syria, as the wife of Arab Sheikh Medjuel el Mezrab, who was 20 years her junior.)

Synopsis Book 1: Jane Elizabeth Digby was born into one of the wealthiest families in nineteenth century England. By the age of seventeen, she became known as Aurora, the Light of Dawn, such was her beauty, and received the attentions of many a rich bachelor.  Her eventual marriage to Lord Ellenborough promised much but proved something of a disappointment when he turned out to be a prude in the bedroom. And so, Jane began to seek her pleasure elsewhere, conducting a string of scandalous affairs that would send shock waves through society.

Synopsis Book 2: It is 1835, and Jane Elizabeth Digby finds herself living in Bavaria having remarried the Baron von Venningen following an affair. But this is a marriage of convenience, for she has become the principal mistress of the German King. However, Jane, now approaching thirty, is becoming bored with her situation, and when she meets a glamorous Greek Count, she abandons everything to elope with him.

This is the beginning of a tumultuous career of love and adventure. Armed with her pistols, natural grace and wit, not to mention a body that turns heads, she jumps from one steamy affair to another, travelling from Athens into the bandit-ridden mountains of Albania, and the deserts of Syria, where, after a lifelong quest for love, she will become a living legend.

Queen of Glory
Image result for book covers christopher nicoleWho: Lakshmi Bai, Rani of Jhansi (Queen of the princely state of Jhansi in North India, she was one of the leading figures of the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and became a symbol of resistance to the British Raj for Indian nationalists.)

Synopsis: As the Indian Mutiny takes hold, one woman will establish her place in history for ever . . . ""India"," 1857." Aged just twenty-one, Lakshmi Bai, otherwise known as Manu, the widowed and recently deposed Rani of Jhansi, finds herself embroiled in the developing Indian Mutiny. Torn between leading Jhansi into battle or following the advice of her close friend and confidante, Emma Hammond, a tragic succession of events is triggered as the Mutiny comes to a head and Manu faces her destiny: one which will see her crowned as India s queen of glory. 

Full bibliography here @ Wikipedia

Diarmaid MacCulloch: ‘I got very irritated with Henry VIII’

From The Guardian
Thomas Cromwell
Diarmaid MacCulloch’s vast and exhaustive Thomas Cromwell: A Life, published in 2018, was described by Hilary Mantel – no slouch when it comes to the book’s subject – as “the biography we have been awaiting for 400 years”. Delving deeply into Cromwell’s private papers, MacCulloch argues for Cromwell’s central position in the supercharged power-politics of Henry VIII’s court.

MacCulloch studied under the great Tudor historian Sir Geoffrey Elton. He has written extensively on ecclesiastical history, and was ordained a deacon in the 1980s. He declined ordination to the priesthood because of the church’s attitude to homosexuality, but remains “a candid friend of Christianity”. He is now professor of the history of the church at Oxford University.

read interview here @ The Guardian

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Review: Fortune's Wheel by Carolyn Hughes

During the Medieval period the plague went by several names, the most common being "the Pestilence" and "The Great Mortality". Theories about the cause of the disease were numerous, ranging from a punishment from God to planetary alignment to evil stares. Not surprisingly, many people believed that the horrors of the Black Death signalled the Apocalypse, or end of time. 

The speed with which the disease could kill was terrifying to inhabitants of the medieval world. The Italian author Boccaccio claimed that the plague victims "ate lunch with their friends and dinner with their ancestors".

In England, the summer of 1348 was abnormally wet. Grain lay rotting in the fields due to the nearly constant rains. With the harvest so adversely affected, it seemed certain that there would be food shortages. However, there was worse to follow - It isn't clear exactly when or where the Black Death reached England. Some reports say the disease may have appeared as early as late June or as late as August. However, it was from this simple beginning, the disease spread throughout England with lightning speed and fatal consequences. 

Related imageThe effect was at its worst in cities, where overcrowding and primitive sanitation aided in its rapid spread. By November the plague reached London, and up to 30,000 of the city's population of 70,000 inhabitants succumbed. Over the next 2 years, the disease killed between 30-40% of the entire population. Given that the pre-plague population of England was in the range of 5-6 million people, fatalities may have reached as high as 2 million dead. 

One of the worst aspects of the disease to the medieval Christian mind is that people died without last rites and without having a chance to confess their sins. Pope Clement VI was forced to grant remission of sins to all who died of the plague because so many perished without the benefit of clergy. People were allowed to confess their sins to one another, or "even to a woman"

The death rate was exceptionally high in isolated populations like prisons and monasteries. It has been estimated that up to two-thirds of the clergy of England died within a single year. Peasants fled their fields. Livestock were left to fend for themselves, and crops left to rot. The monk Henry of Knighton declared, "Many villages and hamlets have now become quite desolate. No one is left in the houses, for the people are dead that once inhabited them." 

It is impossible to overstate the horrific effects of the Black Death on England. With the population so low, there were not enough workers to work the land. As a result, wages and prices rose. The Ordinances of Labourers (1349) tried to legislate a return to pre-plague wage levels, but the overwhelming shortage of labourers meant that wages continued to rise. Landowners offered extras such as food, drink, and extra benefits to lure labourers. The standard of living for labourers rose accordingly. 

The nature of the economy changed to meet the changing social conditions. Land that had once been farmed was now given over to pasture, which was much less labour-intensive. This helped boost the cloth and woollen industry. With the fall in population, most landowners were not getting the rental income they needed, and were forced to lease their land. 

Peasants benefited through increased employment options and higher wages. Society became more mobile, as peasants moved to accept work where they could command a good wage. In some cases, market towns disappeared or suffered a decline despite the economic boom in rural areas. 

The short-term economic prosperity did not last; the underlying feudal structure of society had not changed, and by the mid-15th century standards of living had fallen again. Yet for most levels of English society, the Black Death represented a massive upheaval, one which changed the face of English society in a profound way. 

This then is the backdrop of Carolyn Hughes' "Fortune's Wheel", the first in a series set in a fictional town of Meonbridge in Hampshire in 1349. Widow Alice atte Wode, finds herself trapped in a plague-village; there is growing conflict between the lord of the manor and his tenants; murder has reared its ugly head; and there is still the un-answered question of Alice's missing daughter. Here, it is the women who tell this multi-layered story - Alice, Lady Margaret, and freewoman Eleanor - and it is a story of the people - those with the most to lose and now the most to gain. 

The second in the series is "A Woman's Lot" followed by "De Bohun's Legacy", with a fourth on the way; and I look forward to reading them all.  "Fortune's Wheel" is a fine debut - something a bit different for those wishing to expand their historical fiction.

Review: The Woman Who Fought An Empire by Gregory J Wallance

Though she lived only to twenty-seven, Sarah Aaronsohn led a remarkable life. The Woman Who Fought an Empire tells the improbable but true odyssey of a bold young woman--the daughter of Romanian-born Jewish settlers in Palestine--who became the daring leader of a Middle East spy ring. 

Following the outbreak of World War I, Sarah learned that her brother Aaron had formed Nili, an anti-Turkish spy ring, to aid the British in their war against the Ottomans. Sarah, who had witnessed the atrocities of the Armenian genocide by the Turks, believed that only the defeat of the Ottoman Empire could save the Palestinian Jews from a similar fate. Sarah joined Nili, eventually rising to become the organization's leader. Operating behind enemy lines, she and her spies furnished vital information to British intelligence in Cairo about the Turkish military forces until she was caught and tortured by the Turks in the fall of 1917. To protect her secrets, Sarah got hold of a gun and shot herself. 

What we know about both military and espionage events in the Middle East during WWI I strongly suspect comes mainly from the stories of the exploits of Lawrence of Arabia and what became known as the Great Arab Revolt. This chapter in the history of Palestine I think has been largely overlooked in general, though no doubt is more familiar to purists - and I include myself in the former, which was why I was drawn to this book in the first place.

It is easy to turn the spotlight onto Sarah as " ... the concept that a spy ring might be led by a woman was still beyond the Turks' thinking ..". Indeed if we compare to the later exploits in France during WWII, though active members, most of the spy rings / resistance cells were managed / led by men. And her death itself, both tragic and heroic, certainly draws one to her like a moth to the flame - it was alleged that one Turkish officer said “She is worth a hundred men.”.

Wallance's use of letters from Sarah, her family, friends and inner circle to punctuate her story is important in giving the reader access to these lives and also into the thoughts of those who were on the spot. As eye-witness accounts, they are an invaluable component not only of Sarah's story but of that of the Nili spy ring itself. I can only thank the author for providing a much needed list of the main characters upfront and not as an appendix. So much easier to get a grasp of who was who and how they were related to each other as the story progresses.

Equally important in the storytelling is events post-WWI - and the local Jewish populations' thoughts on this period. I was quietly surprised that even up to the creation of the State of Israel in the 1940s, there was still no official recognition and that the spies themselves were regarded as "reckless and irresponsible by much of the Jewish community of Palestine". Even Srodes in his book writes that the achivements of Nili had been whitewashed out of history by those ".. who did not want to share credit with her .." for the events leading to the foundation of the Jewish State, and that with the deaths of those involved, "the family’s legacy was easily manipulated". Rehabiliation of the spy ring only came about in the late 1960s - 1970s (during the wars between the Yasser Arafat's PLO and Israel) when Israel was at its nadir and the need for the mythical leader of the Jewish resistance was at its strongest.

Meticulously researched, Wallance brings to life the events of the time, the lives of Sarah and her family, the exploits of the Nili spies, and, of course, of Sarah herself. In doing so, Wallance reveals to us the reader, the real human element. Sarah saw horrible things being done but instead of quietly looking the other way and keeping her head down, she stepped forward and made a difference.

Sarah, in one of her final letters, writes: " .. I have a large role in the work here, and if we have to endanger ourselves, my dear one, I think not of it. The work is dear and holy to me ...."

further reading
Spies in Palestine: Love, Betrayal, and the Heroic Life of Sarah Aaronsohn by James Srodes
A Spy for Freedom: The Story of Sarah Aaronsohn by Ida Cowen and Irene Gunther
Return of the Spies - Yemima Hovov

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Review: The Violent Abuse of Women by Geoffrey Pimm

The Violent Abuse of Women in 17th and 18th Century Britain
The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries are the gateway between the medieval world and the modern, centuries when the western societies moved from an age governed principally by religion and superstition to an age directed principally by reason and understanding. Although the worlds of science and philosophy took giant strides away from the medieval view of the world, attitudes to women did not change from those that had pertained for centuries. 

These new and unprecedented liberties thus gained by women were perceived as a threat by the leaders of society, and thus arose an unlikely masculine alliance against the new feminine assertions, across all sections of society from Puritan preachers to court judges, from husbands to court rakes.

This reaction often found expression in the violent and brutal treatment of women who were seen to have stepped out of line, whether legally, socially or domestically. Often beaten and abused at home by husbands exercising their legal right, they were whipped, branded, exiled and burnt alive by the courts, from which their sex had no recourse to protection, justice or restitution. Many of the most brutal forms of punishment were reserved exclusively for women, and even where the same, they were more savagely applied than would be the case for similar crimes committed by men.

What Pimm's book has done is catalogue the judicial use of violence as a form of punishment for crimes - or even perceived crimes - by women over the period of the 17th and 18th centuries, with a focus on Britain (and its satellite colonies).

This isn't a faint-hearted read as the violence depicted is often brutal, and may seem to today's reader, disproportionate to the crimes for which is was being administered as a form of judicial punishment. This is even more obvious when comparing the punishments metered out towards males for the same crimes (reference treason and coining).

Women were still considered to be subjected to the rule of the men in their lives - fathers, male relatives, husbands, employers. The were often the subject of violence at the hands of those who were said to have their own interests - and safety - at heart (see chapters on domestic violence, sexual abuse, abduction and clandestine marriage). Any form of countenance was viewed as rebellion against the social order and was therefore to be dealt with in as harsh as possible way in order to set an example to those women who may also consider "stepping out of line" and showing some form of independence of thought and spirit.

Pimm's book is divided into many categories - some of which overlap - which deal with not only the types of punishments used, but the types of crimes these were applied to. These chapters are often peppered with a snippets from social and legal papers and journals, in addition to contemporary writers (including Pepys, Swift and Johnson) - all of whom seem to think that their actions towards women were justified and beyond reproach. 

Pepys writes in his diary for February 1621 " ... our little girl Susan is a most admirable slut and pleases us mightily ..." and, later in December 1664, after attending the home of friend wrote " ... I found occasion of sending him abroad, and then alone [with the man's wife] ... overcoming her resistance I did what I wanted to my contentment ..." after which he went home for his supper!

From a modern mind, I was startled by such callous and objectifying attitudes, even more so when realising that this was considered "normal". Even more disturbing was that many punishments were carried out in public with some observers gaining sexual gratification from such public displays of a woman's nakedness being exposed, especially to the whip, which lead to punishments being metered out in private - "..... it is a shameful indecency for a woman to expose her naked body to the sight of men and boys, as if it were designed rather to feat the eyes of the beholders that to correct vice ..." - really as if this were her choice!

Like today, the onus of proof of crime was often charged upon the female victim, who whether vindicated or not, was still the victim of judicial violence - usually the lash or the wipe as women were still blamed or were held accountable for being the cause of violence against them - "the sins of Eve" - that women were responsible for leading men astray; and as men were their betters, the punishment should be all the more harsh.

This is a fascinating read for the student of both social and legal history, though I won't whitewash the fact that our modern day sensibilities (such as they are) will not only be offended but challenged. Having said that, one wonders if we have advanced as far as we think - or would like to think - that we have with regards to attitudes towards women. Not the least bit thought provoking.

suggested further reading:

Monday, July 1, 2019

Bourbon and Stuart by John Miller

Bourbon and Stuart: An enlightening comparison of the French and English monarchy in the seventeenth century by [Miller, John]In the seventeenth century most educated Europeans took it for granted that monarchy was the best form of government. Across Europe, monarchy was the norm, from the kings of England and France in the west, to the tsar of all the Russias in the east. But despite the widespread belief that kings were part of the natural order of things, the mid seventeenth century saw the execution of Charles I and the abolition of the monarchy in England, and a civil war in France which seemed to threaten to overturn the French monarchy.

John Miller’s entertaining and scholarly book is a rare comparison of monarchy in France and England during the seventeenth century, showing the weaknesses which led to civil war in both countries and the resilience which enabled the monarchies to emerge from their respective crises and go from strength to strength in the latter part of the century. This is a highly original work which covers new ground, questions received assumptions and shows the importance of the personalities and abilities of the key characters in influencing the course of events.

Throughout the text, John Miller has included lively and entertaining pen-portraits of the various kings and those most closely associated with them. This colourful background puts key characters of the age into a wider context, and shows clearly how closely the private lives of individual monarchs were related to decision-making.

Above all, this fascinating and wide-ranging account suggests fundamental differences between France and England which explain why the English monarchy recovered from the mid century crisis and still survives today, while the French monarchy came to grief at the Revolution.

Bourbon and Stuart: An enlightening comparison of the French and English monarchy in the seventeenth century is essential reading for anyone interested in the seventeenth century and the key personalities of the age.

Manuscript 512 - Rick Chesler

Manuscript 512 by [Chesler, Rick]For centuries, would-be explorers have examined a document written in 1753 rumored to hold the key to locating the so-called Lost City of Z, a fortified settlement containing many treasures and built entirely of gold. Thought to be buried somewhere within the Mato Grosso region of the Amazon rainforest, the lure of the vanished riches has long proven deadly to treasure-seekers who brave the forbidding wilderness and mysterious creatures in search of it.

Disgraced historian Dr. Hunter Winslow, fired from a lucrative professorship for stealing rare documents in order to gain a competitive edge over his colleagues, thinks the key to Manuscript 512 lies not in its words, but in its paper itself. The only problem is that to confirm his hypothesis means to destroy the document, something the Brazil National Library in Rio de Janeiro will never allow. But old habits die hard, and Hunter knows his way around a Special Collections room. After a brazen theft that triggers an international manhunt, the rogue historian is able to reveal the document’s secrets in a way no one else can, or ever will be able to again—by using its physical properties to reveal missing sections that had supposedly been irreversibly damaged.

Armed with this new information, Hunter embarks on an expedition to the deepest Amazon to put to rest the mystery of the lost city once and for all. But while Hunter is looking for the fabled treasure, the long arm of the law is looking for him. Will they catch up to him before he can locate the treasure of a thousand lifetimes, or will he become as lost as the city he seeks?