Friday, 10 January 2014

Reasons to Be Cheerful 9

Successive acts giving people rights (to complain, to protection) have made society far less authoritarian than it was 30, 40, 50 years ago. Some allege that their freedom is limited by the proliferation of laws and people claiming they have a right not to be offended. They know what they can do.
476 The Western Roman Empire ends

1095 Pope Urban II proclaims the First Crusade at the Council of Clermont because "Deus vult" (God wills it).

Putney Debates The Levellers call for: “All power to rest with the people through Parliament,  and the Commons to meet every two years. The native rights of all Englishmen were to be guaranteed – freedom of religion, freedom from conscription, and equality before the law. Perhaps most radical of all, every man (but no woman) was to have the vote, regardless of whether he held property and thus had ‘a fixed stake in the Kingdom’. Cromwell and the army leadership were horrified – the Leveller proposals amounted to anarchy. … The last ringleaders were shot against the Church wall in Burford in 1649... When Cromwell died in 1658, the army ushered in the return of the monarchy to England within two years. It would take over two hundred years for the demands of the Levellers – let alone the call for universal suffrage – to be heard again on these shores." (Laurie Blair, 2013)

1750 The Sale of Spirits Act (the Gin Act) eliminates small gin shops
1804 French rule ends in Haiti and it becomes the first black republic and second independent country in the Americas
1814 The Waltz is permitted at public ballroom Almack’s
1834 Spanish Inquisition is abolished
1835 Cruelty to Animals Act
1856 First plastic, Parkesine, patented
1869 North German Parliament proclaims Jewish emancipation1871 All restrictions on Jewish life in Germany removed

1876 Birmingham Council bans the building of back-to-backs
1880 University of Pennsylvania awards its first degree to a woman. University of Cambridge? 1948.
1891 Custody of Children Act

1902 Pharmacy Act orders that bottles for poisonous and non-toxic products must be distinguishable by touch
1911 Protection of Animals Act outlaws badger baiting
1923 International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry says that ALUMINIUM and ALUMINUM are both acceptable
1926 Act ends reporting of divorce case details in newspapers
1930 Women are allowed to bathe in the Serpentine (a lake in Hyde Park)
1947 End of First Division and Second Division prisoners. First Div, upper-class political prisoners, really did enjoy better than holiday camp conditions.
1948-53 Penal servitude (slave labour) and hard labour abolished in prisons
1955 Divorcés allowed into Royal Enclosure at Ascot, but not onto the Queen’s Lawn
1960 Ruby Bridges, 6, faces a screaming mob to attend school (US schools are now integrated)

1970 Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act abolishes the ability to sue for breach of promise to marry "In the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, the breach of promise action was only formally abolished in 2010.” (Wikipedia)

1971 Women are admitted to the US National Press Association
"After the National Press Club admitted the first African-American male journalist in 1955, female journalists escalated their fight for entry. In December 1970, members of the Women's National Press Club voted to allow men into their club and renamed it the Washington Press Club. The next month, the National Press Club voted 227 to 56 to admit women. In 1985, the two clubs merged." (Wikipedia)

1973 Women stockbrokers allowed on the trading floor of the London Stock Exchange
70s and 80s The “fagging” system in public schools fades away

For the last few decades, boarding school enrolment has been falling fast: from about 120,000 in 1981, to 66,776 in 2013 (37,171 boys compared to 29,605 girls). ( "Boarding at the age of 7 has long ceased to be significant. The Independent Schools Council census for 1999 shows that out of 71,252 boarders only 378 or 0.5% were under 8. The 2011 census shows that out of 68,102 boarders only 198 or 0.3% were under the age of 8." (Guardian)

1970 Restaurants no longer ban women for wearing trousers (evening trousers become a thing)
1970s It becomes acceptable for women to wear trousers at work
1990s It becomes acceptable for women musicians to wear trousers in concerts

1983 We cease to be subjects and become citizens

1983 Chief Constable James Anderton said “No machine should be allowed to get in between the suspect and his interrogator. It would break that essential rapport which a detective needs to elicit an admission of guilt legitimately.”
1984 Police and Criminal Evidence Act dictates that police interviews must be recorded (And now police are going to wear video cameras that suspects can see.)

1989 Regulations come into effect for mandatory rear seatbelt wearing by children
1990 The Swiss canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden gives women the vote, the last to do so. ("As if time had stood still" boasts its website.)

1994 Apartheid in South Africa dismantled

1997 BBC drops the National Anthem. It's also dropped from theatres and cinemas.

2001 The Royal Ulster Constabulary is  replaced by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). Recruits were recruited on the basis of 50% Catholic, 50% Protestant.

2012 Stalking becomes a criminal offence in England and Wales

1865 Ku Klux Klan founded to establish white supremacy in the South of the US
1871 KKK banned by Congress
1880 KKK all but disappears
1915 KKK revives
“In the end its violent views brought about its own demise. The KKK still exists today in a highly dilute form but its actions are muted and most  members have drifted away to join the right-wing neo-Nazi groups that follow the same racist agenda.” (Secret Societies, Nick Harding)
2014 The KKK have a few thousand members, down from millions.

Well done us
We removed the need for land ownership to qualify to vote; we removed dual voting rights from those with more than one property; we lowered the voting age; we introduced secret ballots for MPs; we abolished the hereditary principle in the House of Lords; we introduced the Parliament Acts allowing the House of Commons to decide matters on its own. More significantly we had the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 which set up the Supreme Court and removed the functions of Speaker of the House of Lords and Head of the Judiciary of England and Wales from the office of Lord Chancellor.

And some time in the late 20th century we stopped giving children toy guns.

In 2013...

Viagra has crowded out most of the market for aphrodisiacs in Chinese TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) buyers… TCM is dying fast. (Twitter, 2013-09-13)

Northern Ireland lifts ban on allowing gay couples to adopt.
Ireland will recognise foreign same-sex marriages.
There's talk of raising the age for joining the Army from 16 to 18.
China is to relax its one-child policy.
The UK is discussing lowering the age of consent. (Germany 14, France 15 – US 18)
Courts are discussing removing Bibles and getting witnesses to promise to tell the truth.
The Washington Redskins are debating changing their name.

Less than cheerful
Cycle lanes “have no legal standing, they’re just blue paint”. (Police crash investigator, Oct 15 2013)

In 2012, approx. 6.6m children worldwide died before their fifth birthday - this is half of under-fives who died in 1990. (@WHO)

More here, and links to the rest.
More at

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