Tag Archives: history

Inspiration from the past, and all the stuff I didn’t think I wanted to learn

 (Photo by me.)
(Photo by me.)

So this week I’ve been plotting like mad, and the new book has required me to create not only the regular kind of things for a book (overall plot and characters, romantic and character arches, etc), but also something more: I’ve had to create the entire world my story takes place in, down to planets and their resources, the gov’t systems controlling those planets, and potential political issues.  It’s been crazy, but a lot of fun too.

And as I’ve been considering starting a rebellion and a war in my new solar system, I’ve considered how much I owe my ability to do so to two high school social studies teachers: Mr. Tietzen and Mr. Long. These men had very different styles, and how they taught their subjects, covering history, political systems, current events, and position papers was also very different, but both of them have contributed to my new world, and I thought how thankful I am they taught me all of that.

One of the projects Mr. Tietzen gave us was, coincidentally, invent your own country. You were given basic guidelines (like about resources, etc), but then you had to come up with all of the rest of the information, like political system, values, exports, flag, etc. Yeah, I’m betting you can see how useful that was. (Just of note, I can still remember the name of my country: Elephanté, and yes, it did have an elephant on the flag.) 😉

Mr. Long taught me a lot more, probably some of the best things I first learned about writing and a position paper, current events, and his favorite: watching and learning about history and political events on the spectrum of the rise and fall of three primary elements. These were: individualism, egalitarianism, and nationalism (and if I’ve forgotten one, it’s not his fault, totally mine!)  You wouldn’t believe how important this, as well as considering the causes and repercussions of both the French Revolution and World War I, is to my development of this new world.

The other teacher who has to get a shout out and who I’ve drawn on is my Classics 101 prof, who sadly I can’t recall the name, but who let me focus my entire paper on how pirates brought about the fall of the Roman Empire.  And yes, this too plays into the creation of my new world.

All of which made me think how much we can draw upon what we know, and how sometimes, we hit on something that really is intended for us, something that makes use of what we know and what we love. And if we’re writers, sometimes it means we get to create that perfect symmetry. In my case, I think it’s going to turn into a space opera romance; I’m terrified and tremendously excited all at once. 🙂

So now to you: have you ever found something you’re doing in your current life makes you draw on things you never thought you’d find useful in your past? Maybe that one thing you didn’t even want to learn?

Thanks for reading, and wishing you all a great week and happy writing out there! 🙂

A Regency Woman’s “Job”

Today’s post was inspired while I poked around at other people’s lovely blogs. I came upon “The Regency Reticule” (do follow the link to check it out yourself.) Here’s the quote I liked:

“…For instance, nowadays, most parents of daughters want their little girls to grow up and find a career or vocation they can be really passionate about.  In the Regency though, what most parents thought was ‘best’ for their daughters was an advantageous (financially) marriage.  Marriage was seen, for women, like a career is now.  It was prepared for, educationally and emotionally.  We have to realize that back then there really was no social safety net other than the church, and that was the dreaded ‘charity’…” [Source: http://loveregencies.tripod.com/regencyreticule.html]

Harriet Arbuthnot, painted by John Hoppner; Source: Wikipedia Commons
Harriet Arbuthnot, painted by John Hoppner;
Source: Wikipedia Commons

The part that particularly struck me was “marriage was seen, for women, like a career is now.” It’s a very interesting thought – and one I don’t disagree with. The Regency period held few rights for women – inside or out of marriage. Essentially, they traded the dominion of their parents for the dominion of their husband. Divorce was extremely rare, requiring an Act of Parliament (yes, see how often that’s likely to happen – especially if some of the hubby’s friends are in said parliament).

So marriage as career. What would that mean? Certainly there’s the requisite “heir bearing” or the perennial phrase “heir and a spare” (considering high infant mortality rates, you’d probably want more than one spare). If your husband is connected within society, it’s your duty to “represent” him well out and about, to help secure connections through female relationships, and certainly make good arm candy when necessary. Though often, husbands and wives spent little time together, men preferring the company of other men, and spending more of their time at their clubs (and quite possibly with the mistress), whereas women socialized, attended teas and events with friends, and probably often found themselves alone at home at night (unless of course they engaged in extramarital affairs as well.)

What happened if, as a woman, you chose another career? Jane Austen is often a prime example of this, never marrying, and living on the charity of her brother. While she chose a career outside of marriage – and few can claim not to have heard of her – interestingly, she didn’t want her name on the early books, and when she died and was buried, she isn’t listed as “awesome writer of fantastic fiction” (well, something more in Regency-speak, but you get the drift). Instead, her eulogy makes no mention of her writing whatsoever, instead emphasizing her “sweetness.” (I’ll save you the trouble of looking it up for yourself – it’s near the end of the page: Jane Austen’s eulogy can be found here.)

There are other females who chose careers outside marriage. Such as:

  • Amelia Curran, and Irish painter and close friend of Percy Bysshe Shelley.
  • Harriet Arbuthnot had a career AND a marriage as a diarist, social observer, and political hostess.
  • Sarah Burney, English novelist, unmarried, cared for her father and family; sister to novelist and diarist Frances (Fanny) Burney. She’s an interesting example who didn’t marry, and suffers near penury, the associated scandal of possible incest (though this has since been dismissed), but lives to the ripe old age of 71. A hard, but interesting life.
  • Mary Anne Clarke, who left her husband who went bankrupt shortly after her marriage when she was 18, and is perhaps most famous for becoming the mistress of the Duke of York, and selling army commissions because he didn’t set her up to the style she required.
  • Felicia Hermans, who didn’t let marriage stand in the way of her literary career as a poet, although she died at only 41

Want to know more? Check out: Women of the Regency Era on Wikipedia; some very intriguing women, and not all of them chose marriage as their career.

So, what would you do if you were in the Regency? Would you choose a career in marriage – as was the norm? Or would you dare to be different like some of the women above? Any other different Regency women you’ve discovered?

Thanks for reading – and hey, like the post? Why not follow the blog? Hope you have a great week!

A Very Brief History Of Forensics: Yes, Pre 20th c.

Like most people, I got my first “taste” of forensics through CSI, and found myself fascinated.

Unlike most people, this fascination led me to want to write a book about a Regency era detective who used forensics to solve crimes, and magic to fill in the blanks of unavailable technology. First, I had to research what was possible in early 19th century forensics. Turns out, quite a bit. I’ve included references if you’re interested in finding out more.

700s – Chinese use fingerprints to authenticate documents

925 A.D. – England’s Charts of Privileges lists the office that would become coroner (“crowners” at first), who collected taxes, and also summoned inquest juries when someone was seriously wounded or died from “misadventure”. Coroner’s became “death investigator’s” by the 13th century when they examined all dead bodies to determine the nature of wounds, diseases, and a person’s matter of death. (Ramsland, Beating the Devil’s Game, p5)

c. 1000, Quintilian, a Roman attorney, wins acquittal for his client by proving that bloody palm prints were intended to frame him.

1247 A.D. – Sung Tz’u, a Chinese lawyer, offered advice in one of the oldest forensic technique books, Hsi yüan chi lu (The Washing Away of Unjust Imputations). He based his ideas on solving cases and calculated decomposition rates on strict observation and logic. In this handbook on autopsies, the author describes how different causes of death would demonstrate themselves in the state of the body. (Ramsland, Beating the Devil’s Game, p6-7)

end of the 16th century – Battista Condronchi offered De Mortis Veneficiis, a study of poisoning deaths, followed seven years later by De Relationibus Medicorum by Fortunato Fedele. (Ramsland, ibid, p11-12)

1609 – First study on handwriting analysis by Frenchman Francois Denelle.

mid 1600s – Germany’s University of Leipzig offered a course in forensic medicine.

1670 – Anton Van Leeuwenkoek develops the first simple microscope, the world’s first powerful precision microscope.

1728 – Frenchman Pierre Fauchard writes Treatise on the Teeth, which proves teeth could be used for identification purposes.

post 1780 – “Scotland established itself as a leader in forensic investigation post-1780, such as in the case of a murderer girl where a cast of a suspect’s shoe was made, and the wound was determined to be made by a left-handed killer because the slash had started on the right. (Ramsland, ibid, p.16-17).

1784 – England. John Toms is convicted of murder because a torn piece of paper in the murder gun matched a piece of paper in his pocket; this is considered perhaps the first documented incidence of physical matching evidence.

1806 – Dr. Valentine Rose showed how arsenic could be detected in human organs, showing how toxicology was valuable to crime solving.

1807 – First forensic science institute established at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. Even Americans looking to improve medical jurisprudence looked to Scottish physicians.

1811 – French pediatrician and chemist, Pierre Nysten, published results of his studies on rigor mortis, identifying various stages.

1811, December 7 – Horrific crime in London’s East End along the Ratcliffe Highway; intruder murdered shop owner Timothy Marr, his wife and apprentice, and the baby sleeping in the next room. Two weeks later, similar murders at the King’s Arm Inn. A seaman’s maul was found with the initials “J.P.” and an Irish sailor was suspected, but never convicted as he hanged himself first in Coldbath Fields Prison. (Ramsland, ibid, p. 22-23).

1813 – prodigy Dr. Mathieu Joseph Bonaventure Orfila publishes the first systematic treatise on known poisons. Has a second book four years later, but not consulted by police for a criminal case – despite being the world’s authority on toxicology – until 1824. (Ramsland, ibid, p32).

1814-1815 – Vidocq, a police informant working for Napoleon (among other things he’s accused / remembered as), had a systematic approach to crime which advanced forensic techniques, like keeping detailed written records, notes, comparing spent bullets to weapons, preserving footprint casts, comparing handwriting samples, suggesting fingerprints could be used as a form of I.D.

1823 – Czech physiologist Johannes Evangelist Purkinje publishes description of nine fingerprint types, thinking they could be used for identification (and you’ll note, arriving earlier than Galton). (Ramsland, ibid, p31).

1833 – Vidocq establishes world’s first detective agency, Le Bureau des Renseignments.

1835 – Bow Street Runner Henry Goddard uses matching bullets and the discovery of an inside job to solve a crime, and become one of the forerunners of ballistics experts (Ramsland, ibid, p35).

1839 – the word “scientist” comes into use.

1843 – Belgium’s Sûreté Publique takes the first known mug shots of criminals. Throughout the 1850s, police departments across Europe and the U.S. compile archives of prisoner images. (Ramsland, ibid, p44)

1859 – U.S. becomes the first country in which photographs can be used as evidence in a court of law.

1892 – Francis Galton develops the fingerprint classification system.

1901 – Karl Landsteindr identifies human blood groups.

So, what do you think? Does forensics interest you? Have you ever gotten so interested in something that it’s led you down unusual research paths? 

Thanks for reading. And hey, like the post? Why not sign up for the blog? Hope you have a fantastic week. 🙂

You Called Him What?: Some Regency name-calling

I love slang and strange turns-of-phrase, especially when it comes to swears and name calling. Now, courtesy of Mr. Southey and “Letters from England,” I have a fun post for today with some English Regency slang. Can’t be sure how much he’s just having fun, and how much truth there was in it, but hey, it’s all good. 🙂

“horse” (see Southey, p314): “employed in combination to signify any thing large and coarse, as in horse-beans, horse-chestnut, horse-radish.”

Horse godmother – a woman of masculine appearance

Jolly dog – great compliment and name for a man from his companions

honest dog – name for a man when he adds other good qualities to good naturedness

sad dog – a male reprobate

dog – a term of endearment by an Englishman for his child; also what he calls a misbehaving servant

puppy – term of contempt for a coxcomb or vain, flighty man

bitch – the worst name for a woman

spaniel – flatterer

bull-dog – a ruffian

ugly hound – an man who looks terrible

whelp, cur, mongrel – terms of contempt and reproach for young men

pug – a young woman with an upturned nose

So, know any “spaniels” or “honest dogs”? 🙂

What are some of your favorite slang terms that would appear very unusual to an outsider – perhaps indecipherable? Historical or current, it’s all good. Do share. 🙂

Thanks for reading, and have a great week. And hey, before you go, why not sign up to follow the blog? You don’t want to miss anything.

Have a good one!