Medieval Fairs and Market Towns

medieval fairs and market towns

After quitting Soberton Down, we came up a hill leading to Hambledon, and turned off to our left to bring us down to Mr. Goldsmith’s at West End, where we now are, at about a mile from the village of Hambledon.

A village it now is; but it was formerly a considerable market-town, and it had three fairs in the year. Wens [large overcrowded cities] have devoured market-towns and villages; and shops have devoured markets and fairs; and this, too, to the infinite injury of the most numerous classes of the people.

Shop-keeping, merely as shop-keeping, is injurious to any community. What are the shop and the shop-keeper for? To receive and distribute the produce of the land. There are other articles, certainly; but the main part is the produce of the land. The shop must be paid for; the shop-keeper must be kept.

When fairs were frequent, shops were not needed. A manufacturer of shoes, of stockings, of hats; of almost anything that man wants, could manufacture at home in an obscure hamlet, with cheap house-rent, good air, and plenty of room. He need pay no heavy rent for shop; and no disadvantages from confined situation; and then, by attending three or four or five or six fairs in a year, he sold the work of his hands, unloaded with a heavy expense attending the keeping of a shop.

Quoted from: “Rural Rides“, William Cobbett, 1830.

Featherbeds, Rushlights, Brooms: The History of Household Objects

featherbed day

A very well documented and illustrated website on the history of everyday home life, housekeeping and domestic objects: Old & Interesting. A few examples:

Featherbeds were only for the rich in the 14th century, but by the 19th century they were a comfort that ordinary people could aspire to – especially if they kept a few geese. The beds, also called feather ticks or feather mattresses, were valuable possessions. People made wills promising them to the next generation, and emigrants travelling to the New World from Europe packed up bulky featherbeds and took them on the voyage. If you didn’t inherit one, you needed to buy up to 50 pounds of feathers, or save feathers from years of plucking until there were enough for a new bed.”

“For centuries in small cottages there were people who could not afford any kind of candle. For them a cheap alternative was a rushlight made from a rush dipped in grease, or a burning splinter of wood. These were held pinched in a nip like pliers or tongs on a stand. Nips were also called nippers or a pair of nips. They could be combined with a candle-holder for people who used both kinds of light, depending on their needs and budget at different times.”

“When you stop and think about it, you probably realise that brooms got their name because they used to be made of branches of broom, a yellow-flowering shrub – except when they were made of birch or heather. Many other shrubby plants have been used across the world for sweeping and brushing. Tie a bundle of good local twigs together, with a tight, narrow grip at one end, and you can whisk dirt away. If you attach the broom to a broomstick, so much the better.”

More: Old & Interesting

How to Build a Medieval City

how to build a medieval city

The “Dictionnaire raisonné de l’architecture française du XIe au XVIe siècle” is an overwhelming reference work consisting of 9 books (some 5,000 pages in total) on medieval and renaissance architecture in France. It is written in French, as you already suspected, but the detailed illustrations make it worthwhile for all architecture and history devotees. There is really all you need to know to build, for instance, a gothic cathedral, including the gargoyles. The work appeared in 1856 and was written by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, an architect known for his restorations of medieval buildings. The separate volumes can also be found on the Internet Archive.

 

Making a Dugout Canoe Using Stone Tools and Fire

Making a Dugout Canoe Using Stone Tools and Fire

“The Dugout Canoe Project (.pdf) began as an experiment to use traditional Native American technologies. Archaeologists are reliant on just a few ethnohistoric sources that mention how Native Americans made dugout canoes using stone tools and fire. Numerous contemporary examples of dugouts exist, particularly Plimouth Plantation’s Wampanoag Indian Program, made by burning and scraping out logs. However, to the best of our knowledge, no one has attempted to fell a tree using only stone tools and fire. We wanted to see if we could cut down a live tree using these technologies, something that may not have been done in this area for several hundred years.”

“Dugout canoes are probably the first type of boat ever made. People from all over the world made dugouts. They were widely used in North America before the arrival of Europeans. Dugout canoes were made by Native Americans across North and South America for transportation and to hunt fish with a spear, bow and arrows, or with hooks made from antler or bones. In Eastern North America, dugout canoes were typically made from a single log of chestnut or pine. Carefully controlled fires were used to hollow out these logs. The fires were extinguished at intervals to scrape out the burned wood with wood, shell or stone tools, giving the canoes a flat bottom with straight sides.”

Courtesy of the Fruitlands Museum. More posts on primitive technology.

Medieval Lives Documentary Series

Medieval Lives is a BBC documentary series looking at the Medieval world with the intent of finding out what it was really like. The series consists of eight episodes, each of which examines a particular Medieval personality: the peasant, the monk, the damsel, the minstrel, the knight, the philosopher, the outlaw and the king. Via Ran Prieur.

Oil Dependency & Alternative Fuels in 1909

“The fuel chiefly employed for motors (to the abundant supply of which the rapid rise of the automobile industry may be said to be largely due) is petrol. The motor industry, which is fast becoming one of the world’s greatest industries, is thus dependent upon the supply of a fuel which to all appearance must, according to the present trend of progress, fail in the near future to be equal to the demand. The Motor Union of Great Britain and Ireland became somewhat alarmed at the serious rise in the price of petrol, and in September 1906 it was suggested that a special Committee should be appointed to fully discuss this important subject.”

alternative fuel in 1908“In July 1907 the official report of the Committee was issued, and through the courtesy of the secretary of the Motor Union the following extracts are taken: The Committee have carefully considered the various substitutes for petrol which have been brought before them, and have unanimously arrived at the conclusion that the main efforts of the Motor Union should be in the direction of encouraging in every way the use and development of a substance, such as alcohol, produced from vegetation.”

“Alcohol offers a complete and satisfactory substitute for petrol so far as its properties are concerned, and hence probably the most important recommendation of the Committee is that connected with the production on a large scale of alcohol for the purposes of a fuel. It may be noted that the argument added to all others, but which to many in this country would probably appear the most important of all, is the fact that it would form a home industry, especially if produced from some substance, such as peat, potatoes, or beet, which would place the country in an independent position with regard to foreign supplies, a consideration which, it should be noted, is leading the Governments of France and Germany, particularly the latter, to give every encouragement to the use of alcohol as a fuel.”

Quoted from “Commercial peat: its uses and possibilities“, Frederick T. Gissing, 1909. Picture: the 1909 Alco Six Race Car.

Early 20th Century Wave Power

Wave power 1“Los Angeles will be a smokeless and sootless city, clean pure. It will be made so by all the power and heating plants being supplied with power and heat from the ocean waves by the Starr Wave Motor.”

Read more: three inventors who tried to bottle the ocean’s power. Hat tip to Klaas Van Gorp.

Medieval England twice as well off as today’s poorest nations


Research led by economists at the University of Warwick reveals that medieval England was not only far more prosperous than previously believed, it also actually boasted an average income that would be more than double the average per capita income of the world’s poorest nations today.

Summary & full paper (pdf): “British Economic Growth 1270-1870”, Stephen Broadberry & others, University of Warwick. Previously: they did not work that hard in those days, either.

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The Blackfoot Indians

6a00e0099229e888330147e0f2647d970b-500wi More than 1,400 Walter McClintock glass lantern slides at the Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

“Pittsburgh native Walter McClintock graduated from Yale in 1891. In 1896 he traveled west as a photographer for a federal commission investigating national forests. McClintock became friends with the expedition’s Blackfoot Indian scout, William Jackson or Siksikakoan. When the commission completed its field work, Jackson introduced McClintock to the Blackfoot community of northwestern Montana. Over the next twenty years, supported by the Blackfoot elder Mad Wolf, McClintock made several thousand photographs of the Blackfoot, their homelands, their material culture, and their ceremonies. Like his contemporary, the photographer Edward Curtis, McClintock believed that Indian communities were undergoing swift, dramatic transformations that might obliterate their traditional culture. He sought to create a record of a life-way that might disappear. He wrote books, mounted photographic exhibitions, and delivered numerous public lectures about the Blackfoot.”

Below some pictures of their homes.

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Horse-Drawn Public Transportation

“For a hundred years, from the early 1800s to the early 1900s, Europe and America had cities of at least a million people that ran on a massive, sophisticated network of carriages and streetcars. By 1880, according to historian John H. White, Jr., US cities had 415 horse-drawn railways running, with 18,000 cars on 3,000 miles of track, carrying 1.2 billion passengers a year. Most of these lines continued decades into the age of electricity and coal, simply because the horses worked better than any other option.” Read: Horse-drawn public tranportation. Thanks, Johan. Previously: Bring back the horses.