Friday 5 January 2024

Received Ideas about History 37

Women gave birth at ten, men went off to war at five, and the average Englishman died before he was born. (The Reduced Shakespeare Company)

It’s not safe to drink tap water abroad. (Still lingers.)

Gladiatorial contests always ended with the death of one of the participants. (Weren’t gladiators slaves and valuable properties?)

Flaming torches were used for lighting indoors. (See historical films.)

Famous characters from the past were modern liberals before their time. (Just another form of hagiography, points out @MrGodfrey11. We used to make them out to be saints, and whitewash realities such as Thomas Jefferson’s affair with a slave who was his deceased wife’s sister.)

French cooking is really Italian, imported by Catherine de Medici when she married Henri II. 

Feminism began in the 1800s/1900s. (Tell that to Mary Wollstonecraft, 1759-1797.)

Sexual intercourse began/In nineteen-sixty-three... (Philip Larkin)

The Maya disappeared after the collapse of their civilisation. (They’re still around.)

Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. (The woman with the jar of precious ointment, who anoints Jesus’ feet and dries them with her hair and is assumed to be a prostitute, is confused with Mary, sister of Martha, who was one of Jesus’ disciples. In art, the repentant Magdalene, dressed only in her long hair, was yet another excuse for artists to paint naked women. Has anyone made a list?)

Medieval people were Christian fundamentalists. (Fundamentalism is a recent, 200 years ago, invention. Medieval people were Catholics. Catholic dogma was worked out by the Early Fathers of the Church, and if you couldn’t read or didn’t understand Latin, you had no access to the Bible.)

Arab settlers in Spain taught Europeans how to wash.

The Victorians didn’t have feelings. (@FullAsMuchHeart. They didn't have a sense of humour, either. Sorry, Thackeray and Dickens.)

Ordinary people in the Middle Ages just wore a rough tunic with a frayed hem. They wore well-made comfortable clothes which fitted them properly. 
(@duchessmathilda. They liked bright colours too.)

The nursery rhyme “one, two, buckle my shoe” started in plague times because people wore “special shoes” during plagues. (@michelleheeter. She may be thinking of Ring o'Roses.)

Easter is named after Ishtar? It doesn't even sound similar in any language other than English or German. This myth was created by a Calvinist fanatic who was accusing the Catholic Church of being pagan. (@Apocaloptimist5)

People of every ethnicity have always been free in the UK(@BradfemlyWalsh. The Romans and Anglo-Saxons owned slaves. The Normans outlawed slavery but set up serfdom.) 

The Scarlet Letter is a good depiction of the Puritans? It's a description of what 1850s Hawthorne thought about the 1650s Puritans. (@ToFertileChurch)

The defenders of the Alamo were brave heroes? They were fighting to keep slavery legal in Texas after Mexico outlawed it. (@schweetbird)

Iceland is Green but Greenland is Ice, and the Vikings named them that way to throw off invaders.  Iceland has a ton of glaciers (ice) and when Greenland was originally settled, it was green with pastures. Then the Little Ice Age occurred… (@CarpinelliGeosc)

Divorce rates are higher in recent decades because "back in the day, people worked on their marriages and didn't just give up". Like no, women were seriously oppressed then and had few options compared to today. (@SkeelMagnolia)

People used to say "ye" rather than "the" in English (e.g. ye olde pub). It was written that way because the printing equipment imported from the continent didn't have the letter "thorn" for printing "þe". (@TechnocratGames)

In the olden days, peasants ate bland pottage. Spices were expensive – and were only used by the rich to disguise the flavour of rotten meat. (Medieval peasants flavoured their pottage – and meat and fish – with sharp-tasting herbs like sage, thyme, dill, rosemary, savoury, sorrel, chervil, parsley, onions. Also crab apples, bilberries, juniper berries, sea buckthorn, damsons.)

More in my book What You Know that Ain't So.

More here, and links to the rest.

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