Friday 15 July 2011

Reasons to be Cheerful... ish

The British Museum’s original purpose was to provide for “the scientific study of manners and customs of particular peoples and to show their development from savagery toward civilisation.” We like to think we’re near the “civilisation” end. How are we doing?

1650 Cromwell prescribes the death penalty for adultery (repealed under Charles II).

1685 Last witch legally executed in the UK. The last witch convicted was Jane Wenham in 1712. A suspected witch was lynched in 1705 in Scotland.

1801 George III gave up British monarchs’ claim to be King of France.

1840s-50s Slavery abolished in Moldavia (now Moldova, with former territories now in Romania, Ukraine). Most of the slaves were Roma or Tartar.

1870 The punishment of hanging, drawing and quartering for treason abolished (in the face of strong resistance).

1875 Sending boys up chimneys to sweep them made illegal (after strong resistance from some).

1967 Inter-racial marriage becomes legal in the US.

1970s “Crime passionel” no longer a defence for murder in France.
2009 “Provocation” no longer a defence for murder in the UK (abolished by the Coroners and Justice Act).

1971 The FA allows women to play on the pitches of affiliated clubs.
1971 Women given the vote in federal elections in Switzerland. One canton held out until 1990 for local elections.

1973 Homosexuality ceased to be classified as a mental disorder with the 1973 revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). A compromise diagnosis termed ego-dystonic homosexuality persisted despite heavy criticism until finally being removed in a 1987 version of the DSM.

1981 Last forcible sterilisation in the US. Many US states proposed and enacted sterilisation laws from the late 19th century. “The Oregon Board of Eugenics, later renamed the Board of Social Protection, existed until 1983, with the last forcible sterilization occurring in 1981.” Wikipedia

1987 Diane Abbott becomes UK’s first black MP. 1st non-white MP in UK parliament was Dadabhai Naoroji in 1892. Abbot was the 4th non-white MP & 1st black MP of either sex.

1990s Tall girls are no longer treated with sex hormones (a practice that began in the 50s). (Social Science & Medicine, September 2010: The medicalisation of "tall" girls: A discourse analysis of medical literature on the use of synthetic oestrogen to reduce female height Jo-Anne Rayner, Priscilla Pyett and Jill Astbury (In China many have their legs lengthened in agonising surgical procedures. Many jobs have height requirements. Guardian 15 Dec 2003)

1998 Death penalty for treason abolished.

1999 The “right” of a defendant in a rape case to cross-examine the victim is removed. (Michael Howard started the process in 1996.)

2002 Ugandan-born Bishop Sentamu becomes the first black bishop in the UK to take charge of an Anglican diocese.

2003 14 US States legalise homosexuality. (Legal in Italy since 1870, England 1967, Scotland 1980, N Ireland 1982, Isle of Man 1992, Tasmania 1997. (Dan Snow)

2008 Anyone forcing someone else into a marriage can be jailed for up to two years.

2010 The President of Brazil puts forward a bill to make smacking children illegal.


The old days have a habit of lingering on. Michael Wood, London Review of Books, 18 March 2004


Smacking, bullying and boarding schools are still legal in the UK.

More here and here.

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