Category Archives: Early Modern

What Makes a Good Husband: An Early Modern Take

What makes a good modern husband? Most people take the classical view; a husband is supposed to be the breadwinner, the one who works the 9-5 job and supports the family. Occasionally they might do the odd job around the house, but more conservative people will say the sole realm of the husband is the workplace. A more modern take is that while a husband is still expected to work they are also supposed to take an active role in the household – playing an equal role with the housewife in a less rigid men and wife family system.

The early modern husband was encouraged to be far more. Part geologist, meteorologist, chef and carpenter, the early ideal early modern husband should be at least familiar with all of those on top of their farming duties. The ‘English husbandman drawne into two bookes, and each booke into two parts.’ by Gervase Markham, written in 1613, attempted to show the contemporary readers what the ideal husband should strive to be. With advice on ‘how he shall judge and foreknow all kinde of weathers and other Seasons of the yeare’[1] and ‘of several parts and members of the ordinary Plough, and of the joyning of them together’[2] Markham’s book is full of practical advice that while it may not make the average farmer an expert it would at least help to familiarise themselves  with the necessary basics of these areas.

[1] Gervase Markham, English husbandman drawne into two bookes, and each booke into two parts. , (1613), p 4

[2] Ibid p.5

 ‘Farmers harvesting crops’ , Wikimedia Commons/Library of Congress. 1486

It is important to note however that most of the population at the time were illiterate[1] – the average peasant farmer would not be able to read or perhaps even own such a book. Markham himself states that ‘this title of Husbandman is not tyed onely to the to the ordinarie Tillers of the earth’[2]. Only small landowners were expected be true Husbandmen and could become this idealised version of the term. Ordinary workers were not expected to reach such lofty heights. The term Husbandmen is applied to the master of the house rather than the modern meaning of a married man[3], but it is very unlikely that a literate man who independently owned his own land would be a bachelor. As such Markham’s book still serves as a guide for the ideal husband regardless of what term is used. The agricultural elements and the actual educational portions of the books might have been shared with the workers on the farm who could not access the book due to either poverty or illiteracy, but is very unlikely they would be interested or perhaps even shown the sections on etiquette or the ‘election of friends’[4], as it was not necessary for the common peasant.

[1]David Cressy, ‘Literacy in Seventeenth-Century England: More Evidence’,The Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Vol. 8, No. 1, (Summer, 1977), p.144

[2] Markham, English husbandman, p. 10

[3] C. S. Partridge, ‘Tabular lists from Mr. Redstone’s Calendar of Bury Wills.’, Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and Natural History, Vol 13, (1907)

[4] Markham, English husbandman, p.4

David Cressy, ‘Literacy in Seventeenth-Century England: More Evidence’,The Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Vol. 8, No. 1, (Summer, 1977), p.1448

What all this points to is that the 17th century English society was, naturally, deeply focused on agricultural matters. There is a short section in Markham’s book explaining ‘The Duties and Vertues appertayning to the Husbandman’[1], but only two pages are devoted to what kind of personality and relationships the ideal husbandman should have. The rest of the book is entirely devoted to agricultural matters, primarily related to farming crops and other food sources but in the second portion of the book there are instructions on ‘Of the Adornation and Beautifying of the Garden for Pleasure’[2] which shows that although there was this large focus on production of food there was a growing part of the English higher class that were interested in growing the show gardens that became popular across the 18th and 19th century. Markham’s book can thus be seen as almost an example of the public interests of the time alongside what the society thought of as the ideal husbandman.

[1] Markham, English husbandman,p.4

[2] Ibid p.8

Example of an English pleasure garden
‘ The Grand Walk’, Giovanni Antonio Canal, 1751

A later chapter of the book would help the ideal husbandman to ‘make Grapes grow as big, full, and as naturally, and to ripen in as due season, and be as long lasting as either in France or Spain.’[1] The rather obvious attempts to invoke a sense of patriotism about growing grapes that can rival continental ones is an interesting chapter in the book. Although this is a nice example of the classic anti-foreign mindset that was well established in English society at the time[2], it is rather strange to see it in the context of growing grapes; and in the guide for how to be a good husbandman at that. What this can show is how deeply this element of wanting to be equal or better than the European powers was held by the high educated society. Markham was a member of the nobility rather than being a member of the lower social classes[3] and as such would have been aware of this mood. By extension, this guide to be the ideal husbandman again can act as a guide for not only how to be a good early modern husbandman but also as a way to see the opinions of society at the time.

[1] Markham, English husbandman, p.8

[2] Robert Winder, Bloody Foreigners: The Story of Immigration to Britain, (2013)

[3] Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). “Markham, Gervase”. Encyclopædia Britannica. 17 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 73

‘Evil May-Day’ riots against foreign communities in London in 1517 London Apprentice, 1852

It’s hard to say what the expectation is approaching a book like this. Most people would not expect there to be such a diverse amount of knowledge, all of it being needed if someone wanted to be the ideal early modern husbandman. On reflection it shouldn’t be a surprise however. The modern idea of a good husband still applies somewhat; that they are the breadwinner and the man of the house who works their 9-5. Early modern England took it a bit more literally and expected the early modern husbandman to be the one making the bread himself, and Markham’s book would be there to help establish what the ideal husbandman to be.

Bibliography

Chisholm, Hugh, ‘Markham, Gervase’. Encyclopædia Britannica. 17 (11th ed.), (1911, Cambridge University Press.)

Cressy, David, ‘Literacy in Seventeenth-Century England: More Evidence’,The Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Vol. 8, No. 1, (Summer, 1977)

Markham, Gervase, English husbandman drawne into two bookes, and each booke into two parts, (1613)

Partridge, C. S., ‘Tabular lists from Mr. Redstone’s Calendar of Bury Wills.’, Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and Natural History, Vol 13, (1907)

Winder, Robert, Bloody Foreigners: The Story of Immigration to Britain, (2013)

Le Strange ways of living: An analysis of Jane Whittle and Elizabeth Griffiths work.

When exploring the literature produced by Jane Whittle and Elizabeth Griffiths, one can sense the imagery that these two prominent historians in their field present about Seventeenth-Century life as an upper-class citizen. Following the activities of Lady Alice Le Strange, the two authors break down the household management that Le Strange exhibits into differing sub-sections. During this blog post, I will emulate this structure and give insight and analysis to the literature. Before we break down this text, one thing that is important to know is who exactly wrote this text, and what are their values hold approaching their research. 

Figure 1: A portrait of Alice Le Strange, found on the Eastern Daily Press website

Griffiths admits on her page from the University of Exeter that the Le Strange family, especially Alice had been of interest to her since 1981 when she was researching projects for her Ph.D. With her research, Elizabeth acknowledges, not being complete yet, we as readers of her work can see the passion and dedication to the project that she has spent 38 years on. Therefore, one can assume that with such dedication to one specific area of study, Griffiths factually will be very accurate and knowledgeable about the source.

Professor Jane Whittle on the other hand, also teaching at the University of Exeter, specializes in economic development, work, and gender. This is definitely something to keep in mind whilst reading her contributions to this chapter as the economics of the household and the roles of each of its members are the central theme of this literature

Books and Accounts

Figure 2: A ‘good’ housewife, A 17th Century pamphlet, taken from Martine Van Elk

Immediately when reading this section of the chapter, Whittle and Griffiths commend Alice’s ability to take accounts, even tipping her superiority of management over her husband, tokening her as systematic. This is something that many historians in the field wouldn’t hasten to agree to, with some historians such as Tim Lambert implying that such ‘Gentlewomen’ having multiple roles in comparison to the traditional view of a housewife, even running the household over a steward when the husband was away on business. Although Alice would take on many roles within the household, the main reason for her heavy involvement in estate management is suggested to be her interest in it. But during the chapter, our historians suggest that Alice’s service in the books didn’t necessarily mean she had the power within the estate, due to some women being forced into accountancy by their patriarchal husbands as the marriage was an essential mechanism for survival in this period. With the pair working together in harmony, this brings us onto our next sub-heading.

Servants.

Although Alice’s books are a vital part of the Estate Management of Hunstanton manor, the roles of running the household and estate expand further than the books that she kept. Being a smaller estate than what would be typical of people of the Le Strange’s income. Alice and her husband Harmon were able to manage the entire estate without the cost of ‘high-income servants’ such as stewards. They also didn’t have many servants, making sure their live-in servants had multiple roles such as the coachman also brewing beer. Many servants found themselves as a close member of the family as they would tend to their family all hours of the waking day, Olivia Harris suggests in her literature that 27% of servants were ‘Collateral Kin’. Showing that although there were vast differences in their social status and class, servants were valuable to upper-class families and they held a lot of knowledge about each of the family members. Something that can prove this is by watching Downton Abbey, the relationship that this show indicates between the Master and Servant is one that can grow to be personal and intimate.

Marriage.

Figure 3: A Godly Form of Household Government, by John Dod and Robert Cleaver. Found on Worthpoint

In this sub-section of the chapter, our authors focus on Alice’s marriage with Harmon and how they would seek literature to form a stable and ‘ideal’ marriage. John Dod and Robert Cleaver’s ‘A Godly forme of Household government’ is suggested to be found within their personal collection. The importance that strikes me with this book is that Dod and Cleaver’s material suggests distinct roles within the ‘Micro-government’ of the family. It also commanded the views of marriage for this period, implying that patriarchy was the ideal form of sustaining a healthy marriage. This is interesting to look at from a historians perspective as the whole chapter, Whittle and Griffiths commend Alice Le Strange on her integral role within the estate management, but with the mention of Dod and Cleaver, a learned historian would realize that although she undertook such important roles, the free will was not her own and it was not her decision to take control. Alice was granted these roles from Harmon, she didn’t adopt them. This is further proven by Whittle and Griffiths using the wording of ‘Delegation’ to imply the hierarchy within this household.

Final Thoughts.

I want to finalize this blog post with a thought, with what we have explored within this chapter, how much control did Alice really have? Sure, she controlled many aspects of the estate, for example, keeping the books and accounts, therefore overseeing control of the finance of the estate. But was this not all her own merit? Due to the puritan devotion to patriarchal hierarchy, can we really say that Alice was in complete control? Whittle and Griffiths convey the message that Alice was happy with her many duties but continuously chose to use the words ‘earnt’ and ‘delegated’. So, is the life of Lady Alice Le Strange one of a pioneering woman taking control of the estate and having power, or was her power bestowed upon her by a ‘higher being’?

• Downton Abbey, Robert cheats on Cora, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=exNK4l6D9zw>/ , [accessed 12:15, 08/11/2019]
• Exeter University, Elizabeth Griffiths, <https://humanities.exeter.ac.uk/history/staff/griffiths/>, [accessed 11:42, 08/11/2019]
• Exeter University, Jane Whittle, <https://humanities.exeter.ac.uk/history/staff/whittle/>, [accessed 11:50, 08/11/2019]
• Gardiner, Jean, Encyclopedia of Political Economy, (1999), Vol. 2, p843
• Harris, Olivia, Households and Their Boundaries, History Workshop, No. 13 (Spring, 1982), p148
• Hepburn, Louise, New book chronicles the work of a very organised Norfolk woman, <https://www.edp24.co.uk/news/new-book-chronicles-the-work-of-a-very-organised-norfolk-woman-1-4263665>, [accessed 16:29, 08/11/2019]
• Lambert, Tim, Life for Women in the 1600s, <http://www.localhistories.org/17thcenturywomen.html>/, [accessed 12:03, 08/11/2019]
• University of Worchester, John Dod and Robert Cleaver, A Godly Form of Household Government (1598), <https://staffweb.worc.ac.uk/beelzebub/1/dod-and-cleaver%2c-godly-form.html> , [accessed 12:40, 08/11/2019]
• Van Elk, Martine, Discover ideas about Moreton Hall, <https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/295619163014300430>/, [accessed 15:55, 08/11/2019]
• Whittle, Jane and Griffiths, Elizabeth, Consumption and Gender in the Early Seventeenth-Century Household: The World of Alice Le Strange, (Oxford University Press, 2012), pp.26-48
• Worthpoint Editor, RARE 1630 PURITAN JOHN DODD & ROBERT CLEAVER A GODLY FORME HOUSEHOLD GOVERNMENT, <https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/1630-puritan-john-dodd-robert-cleaver-537331774> , [accessed 15:50, 08/11/2019]
• Wrightson, Keith, We are never far from where we were, <https://brewminate.com/early-modern-households-in-england-structures-priorities-strategies-roles>/, [accessed 13:20, 08/11/2019]

Treating a cough … Early Modern style!

Recently I came down with a cough. I know, that sounds so interesting, but I left it untreated, hoping it would go away only now it has shifted onto my chest and is causing my sides to ache from all the coughing so perhaps that wasn’t the best idea I’ve ever had.

So I thought I’d take this opportunity to look at some early modern remedies for coughs because who needs modern medicine? Intrigue has to come from somewhere, right? So why not from my own ailments? Let’s look at Receipt Book V.b.400, together.

Looking first at some remedies for a sore throat, the ingredient allum was often repeated.

Recipe from p.111 of Receipt Book V.b.400 (EMROC)

A quick search on the Oxford English Dictionary website told me that allum was an old term for salt. This was reassuring at least. Even now, if you’ve got a throat infection, gargling with warm saltwater still comes highly recommended by the nhs as salt can help fight bacteria and reduce swelling while the warm fluid helps to loosen the mucus. It’s unlikely though that this specific connection between salt and bacteria, was made by early modern recipe writers. Instead recipes were often the result of trial and error, evident in the continued testing and alteration of recipes by younger generations, some are even crossed out entirely if it’s found that they don’t work.¹ If something worked, it was repeated. The use of salt, or rather “allum”, clearly worked with sore throats.

Side note – the prevalence of this ingredient in old recipes could be seen as the basis for the label of ‘gargling saltwater’ as an “old wives tale” in that it literally was just that.

With this discovery in mind and a mental note to double check ingredient names, I continued to look through the book.

The next 3 pages, pp.112-14 are left blank, potentially intended for later additions relating to the mouth and throat issues on the preceding pages. These empty pages tell us something though as they show a desire for organisation. Medicines were not simply written in as and when the author came across them, they were organised in relation to what they treated. Such an organised recipe book would be much easier to use if a family member fell sick as they could flip to the right section and choose from the most appropriate recipes without having to leaf through pages and pages to find something. From these blank pages alone, we can already see a great deal of forethought. Who knew 3 blank pages could say so much?

The next 9 pages are more relevant, pp.115-23, as these include recipes that I could choose from to treat my cough. From the number of recipes available, we can see that a cough was clearly a common ailment leading to the collation of various recipes with the hope that one might just work for the type of cough that was being suffered with. The different variations in coughs also lead to there being many different medicines to treat them all. This variation is visible in the titles of the recipes.

p.116 of Receipt Book V.b.400 (EMROC)

From a focus on stopping phlegm, to a cough felt in the lungs as opposed to the throat to even more specifically phlegm in the lungs when there is pain felt in the sides, there’s one for when it’s accompanied by wheezing, or shortness of breath (I’ll admit I didn’t realise there was a difference) and even a dry cough.

p.118 of Receipt Book V.b.400 (EMROC)

A couple of these titles (above and below) have something else worthy of note in them. Notice the inclusion of the word “wonderfully” in the top one, or “excellent” in the bottom one. These recipes were considered as certain to work then, likely to have been tested by either the author or someone she knew before being given this credit in the title.

p.120 of Receipt Book V.b.400 (EMROC)

A similar implication can be see in the use of the word “approved” in the title on p.120. Approval suggests testing by someone other than herself; it may not say who but they were clearly enough in her esteem to be believed on the efficiency of this medicine before she wrote the recipe down.

I’ll end the suspense and choose a medicine for my cough.

I considered looking at a recipe focused around phlegm as it seemed most appropriate to my current condition but perhaps this is too much information about my cough so instead I settled on one entitled “For the Cough of the Lungs” on p.119. However I also found a recipe 2 pages later entitled “Against the Cough of the Lungs” on p.121. A quick comparison of the two reveals the use of very similar ingredients. Both use rasins, annyseed, sugar and maidenhair (which according to Culpeper, is a plant similar to a fern – ALWAYS double check ingredients because this one confused me – he says that it is good for coughs but should always be used alongside other ingredients as its effects are ‘weak’),² boiled in running water. This mixture is then strained and two spoonfulls are taken in the mornings. The only differences I could find was that the first on p.119 included liquorice whereas the second on p.121 used figs. A couple of questions spring to mind. Why include 2 recipes that are so similar? Did she perhaps forget that she had already written the first? Did she find that figs were a better substitute for liquorice but not enough to discount the first recipe? I turned back to Culpeper, he was so helpful on the topic of maidenhair after all. Liquorice is once again suggested for use when suffering with a cough, but he recommends the use of liquorice, maidenhair and figs together in a drink rather than separately.³ Therefore these recipes may have been put together based on pre-existing knowledge of the benefits of what we might considered were the active ingredients. Perhaps her own testing was what led to their separation between two recipes. It should be noted that the second recipe is more detailed, including a suggestion to clean the raisins, strain the medicine through a linen cloth, and that the user “shall find present remedy probatum oft”. These added details imply she had more faith in second one than in the first as it comes across as more tested.

Either way, I’m not a massive fan of liquorice or figs so I might just stick to my honey and lemon drink.

Notes:

¹Leong, E., ‘Collecting Knowledge for the Family: Recipes, Gender and Practical Knowledge in the Early Modern English Household’, Centaurus, 55, 2 (2013), p. 91.

²Nicholas Culpeper, Culpeper’s Complete Herbal (London, 1653) p.221

³Ibid, p.216

Stereotypes about the early modern household and the reality

When people think about the early modern household, most think of the stereotypes regarding to gender roles. Even though I took modules on early modern topics before, taking HR650 allowed me to realise some of my thoughts on the early modern household were not necessarily correct. This blog post will look at the stereotypes about gender roles, the spaces/rooms in the household and their purpose, and household hierarchy. I will try to give an example for certain cases which proves the stereotypes slightly or fully incorrect.

  1. Household hierarchy

The household was seen as the husband’s castle, but the household was not organized “towards a rigorous spatial segregation of the sexes”.[1] Instead the lines between household work was blurred, the tasks overlapped between the spheres. [2] The wife did not have as much power as the husband, but her power within the household was still significant. Mistresses had to overtake as the head of the household when their husbands were away, which meant their authority was respected within the household. In addition as Amanda Flather suggests in Gender and space in Early Modern England, most of the time women had the keys for the house/rooms, which gave them the freedom and power to go wherever and whenever they wanted within the house.[3]

Family picture from early modern England
Picture taken from: https://www.elizabethi.org/contents/essays/marriage.htm


After the husband and wife, their children were next in the household hierarchy. Even though they did not have much power, they were still above the servants. After the children in the hierarchy, the male servants (if there were any) were next and lastly the female servants. Female servants had the least power. (Plus they could be assaulted by their masters too) Servants did not have any privacy as they did not own the keys for their own rooms, which meant their master and mistress could walk into their room if they wanted to.

  1. Gender roles

 The stereotypes of early modern gender roles are usually about how women belonged in the kitchen, mostly working within the household, and not having any power in their marital relationship. Some primary sources suggest the opposite however. As the example of Alice Le Strange’s household records show us, wives could handle money, even sort out some businesses. She noted their financial situation; how much money they earned, what did they spend that money on, basically about the movement of money within their household. She wrote about everything related to the household.[4]

Pages from Alice Le Strange’s record book
Image taken from: https://norfolkwomeninhistory.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/lest-bk15.jpg

Furthermore it was not only Alice Le Strange dealing with the financial situation of the household, since women had the keys, they most likely knew where the money of the household was stored. Women also payed bills and rent, (even sold goods,) which means they did not only do the domestic tasks.[5] This proves the theory of how a marriage in the early modern times was more an economic partnership rather than a love based relationship.
In addition Alice Clark’s research suggests that in the pre-industrial economy when many businesses where operated in the household, women had a chance to take part of the agricultural work and trade.[6] The borderlines between men’s and women’s jobs were blurred, everybody was part of most tasks.

  1. Rooms/spaces of the household

The size and the numbers of the room within a household depended on where the house was located. Houses in towns and on the countryside looked significantly different, especially their layout. Based on the drawing found in The English Husbandman, the kitchen and other food preparation rooms (either for their own consuming or to sell products) were one third of the whole household. These rooms were clearly not open to visitors. But surprisingly not only women and servants went into these rooms, children and husbands went into them as well. From the dining parlor (marked B on the picture below) there was a room for the mistresses’ use (marked D on the picture below). The reason why I am pointing that out is because according to Gender and space in Early Modern England all sexes could enter all rooms.[7] Even though some room names included their owner, it might have been used by everyone living there.

The ideal house plan by Gervase Markham, The English Husbandman (1613)
  1. Spaces within the household and their purpose

As mentioned before there were no gender specific rooms in the household, the lines were blurred. For example when we think of a kitchen, we associate the space with women and servants. Even though it was the place where women and servants actually worked together, everybody in the household could come and go. Moreover, some husbands/men actually were interested in cookery. There was a discussion about this topic in one of the seminars which I found very interesting. The discussion was about how not all elite women kept records of the household, sometimes their husband took over. They could add small changes to some recipes as well. Before taking this module I would never have imagined men taking an interest in cookery or recipe noting in this time period.  Some liked to experiment, which means they were welcome in the kitchen and even used it. Interestingly since medicine making and cookery were similar to the processes of practicing chemistry, at this age women were naturally in the “scientific field”. Even though women most likely had more knowledge on the subject, only men could publish their discovery, such as Henry Baker’s observation of the blackcurrant jelly to cure sore throat. This is another example of how women were associated with medicine and healing, but it was still only men being able to publish their discoveries.

In conclusion it can be said that even though husbands/masters were the head of the household, their mistress/wife had more power than the stereotypes let us believe. Spaces within the household were not gender specific, for example men did go about the kitchen too. In addition men actually took part in cookery and recipe books even though the stereotypes suggest those were female task.

Bibliography

Flather, Amanda, Gender and space in Early Modern England (Woodbridge, 2007).

Herbert, Amanda E., Female alliances; gender, identity, and friendship in early modern Britain (New Haven, 2014).

Markham, Gervase, The English Husbandman (1613).

Whittle, Jane and Elizabeth Griffiths, Consumption and gender in the early seventeenth-century household: the world of Alice Le Strange (Oxford, 2012), Chapter 2.

…….

[1] Amanda Flather, Gender and space in Early Modern England (Woodbridge, 2007), p. 40

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid. p. 75

[4] Jane Whittle, Elizabeth Griffiths, Consumption and gender in the early seventeenth-century household: the world of Alice Le Strange (Oxford, 2012), Chapter 2.

[5] Amanda Flather, Gender and space in Early Modern England (Woodbridge, 2007), p. 47

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid. p. 43

A plum cake: (A ‘slight’ modern adaptation to an old classic)

my version of a 1725 plum cake

welcome library Debora Branch’s book recipe by Lady Backs for a plumb cake  https://wellcomelibrary.org/item/b1874350x#?c=0&m=0&s=0&cv=26&z=0.0591%2C0.468%2C1.0916%2C0.6968

I came across a recipe for ‘A plum cake’ by lady Backs in Debora Branch’s recipe book dating back to 1725 and I felt inspired to recreate it. However, while studying the ingredients list, I have found that it is not as straight forward as it appears to be. This meant that after some considerable research, some minimal adaptations had to be made to the original recipe, but I did follow the methodology as in scripted.

Ingredient list:

  • 2 pound of flour   – 907g
  • Quarter pound of sugar – 113g
  • Half an ounce of mace- 14g
  • Cloves
  • nutmeg
  • 11 eggs- 8 whites
  • Quarter pint orange flower- 142ml
  • Half pint of ale yeast- 284ml
  • Pound and a quarter of butter- 566g
  • 3 quarters of a pint of cream- 426ml
  • 3 pounds of currants – 1.360kg

Firstly I have to address the fact that although this is a plum cake, the ingredients list does not contain any plums. The recipe does however call for 3 pounds of currants, so I took the liberty of looking up the definitions of the two in the oxford dictionary which I have demonstrated below.

‘Plum is the edible fruit of the tree Prunus domestica (family Rosaceae), which is a fleshy drupe of variable size, usually having purple, red, or yellow skin with a dull powdery bloom when ripe, a sweet pulp, and a flattish pointed stone. Of the many varieties, the sweeter and juicier kinds are used as dessert fruit and are dried as prunes, while more astringent types are used in cooking and in making jams and alcoholic drinks.’https://0-www-oed-com.serlib0.essex.ac.uk/view/Entry/146028?rskey=qVeI43&result=1&isAdvanced=false#eid

Currants on the other hand are raisins or dried fruit prepared from a dwarf seedless variety of grape, grown in the Levant; much used in cookery and confectionery. currants can also be a small round berry of certain species of Ribes called Black and Red Currants. Currants were introduced into English cultivation some time before 1578, when they are mentioned by Lyte as the Black and Red ‘Beyond sea Gooseberry’. They were believed at first to be the source of the Levantine currant; Lyte calls them ‘Bastarde Currant’, and both Gerarde and Parkinson protested against the error of calling them ‘Currants’.https://0-www-oed-com.serlib0.essex.ac.uk/view/Entry/46089?redirectedFrom=currant#eid7552580

In this case, as well as with other plum cake recipes of the time ‘Plum cake’ refers to a wide range of cakes made with either dried fruit (such as currants, raisins, or prunes) or with fresh fruit. Plum cakes made with fresh plums came with other migrants from other traditions in which plum cake is prepared using plum as a primary ingredient.https://bakeryinfo.co.uk/news/archivestory.php/aid/1848/18th_Century_plum_cake.html

I also came across another ingredient referred to in the recipe as ‘orange flower’, unsure of what this was I consulted similar recipes for plum cake at the time as found a couple of examples of an ingredient called orange flower water such as the example shown below and is most likely referring to orange ‘blossom’ water. 


The Dudley book of cookery and household recipes 1909

Orange Blossom Water was a very popular flavoring in the 18th and 19th centuries in American and English cookery. It is derived from the distillation of orange flowers from the Seville Orange tree or other varieties of orange trees. The use of orange blossom water in cookery comes to the west from North Africa, The Middle East, and the Mediterranean. The flavour of this distilled water is flowery but not too overpowering.http://atasteofhistorywithjoycewhite.blogspot.com/2014/10/cooking-with-orange-flower-water-orange.html

Because I couldn’t get my hands on orange blossom water I instead opted to use the zest of 3 oranges, although it may not have achieved the same effect, neither of the ingredients is too overpowering so I don’t think it strayed too far from the original outcome.

 

 

 

 

 

Another error that I encountered was that the original recipe calls for ‘ale yeast’ this would be easily accessible in an early modern household because it was common to brew your own beer at home. However, I instead used bakers yeast in my cake because it more readily accessible in supermarkets today. this meant that instead of using half a pint of ale yeast I used 14 grams of bakers yeast as this was the correct quantity per the amount of flower I used and I mixed that into half a pint (284ml) of water to create a similar effect.

lastly, the recipe calls for mace which I did not have and doesn’t specify how much nutmeg and cloves to use so because mace and nutmeg have a very similar flavour, I used 18 grams of nutmeg to make up for the two. Along with 4 grams of cloves which I ground up into a powder.

In the end I mixed all the dry ingredients together and then all the wet ingredients together before throwing everything into one big.. big bowl and combinng it all together. I let it proof twice to let it rise, this was done before and after I added all my mixed dried fruit and I left it to bake on 180c for 45-50 mins before turning the oven down to 110c for an extra 10-15 mins. I took my cake out of the oven and let it cool down completely before serving.

 

 

 

 

Giving Food as Gifts


George Cruikshank ‘At Home in the Nursery or The master and Misses Twoshoes Christmas Party’ 1835

We all love food. We eat it every day, we incorporate it into celebrations, and we even use it as gifts – it is the most basic form of offering. Most family get-togethers nowadays will often incorporate food, with the practice often helping maintain relationships. The gifting of food is still a very common practice; I frequently gift my grandparents with chocolates and biscuits, despite my grandfather having diabetes… he likes what he likes.  However, how common was the gifting of food in Early Modern England?

Gift giving is explained as having two features: the first is the exchange of goods, with the value of gifts being uncertain and the time between giving and exchanging being at the discretion of those involved.[1] The meaning of the gift typically outweighs its value. The second feature of gift giving is that it takes place in a context of reciprocal interactions, with parties usually exchanging gifts at the same time.[2] 

The gifting of food was important in Early Modern society for the maintenance of relationships, peacemaking, corporate alliances and sometimes as a doctrine of charity to those who may be less well off. If you engage in readings regarding Medieval or Early Modern life, you might notice that food gifts sometimes appear as ‘rewards’. Food was not the only thing exchanged. During the period we see items such as silverware, furniture and money also exchanged. Neighbourly exchange of goods was common within this period. There was still a popular belief in witchcraft and some people thought it best to please their neighbours to avoid being cursed or being subjected to accusations. Often, peasants gave hens to their lords at Easter and other times throughout the year as well as their rent which needed to be paid.

Gift Giving at Christmas

Christmas has often been known as a time of over-spending and overindulgence, some might argue that we spend far too much money on gifts for loved ones and friends. Within the Early Modern period, gift giving typically commenced on New Years Day. Some people gave items of monetary value, whereas others exchanged produce. This included apples, eggs or a fat capon (a castrated cockerel specially fattened for the table).[3]  




Langley and Company, ‘Langley’s New Twelfth Night Characters’, 1818

Foods for the Feast

Dining was a common practice for those living in Early Modern society. The upper-class had certain cultural practices which were to be followed. This included things like elaborate dinner clothing, meal preparations, entertainment and the exchange of goods.

In the countryside, the gentry and elite members of society often showed their hospitality by hosting entertainment for their friends and neighbors. This included music, feasts and performances, especially during the Christmas period. Guests showed their gratitude by giving gifts to the hosts. A gentleman from Sussex, Timothy Burrell often invited friends, family, and dozens of the “humbler neighbors and their wives”.[4] Richer neighbors gifted the Burrell household with presents such as large quantities of cheese and butter, wine, sugar, chocolate, ducks, and pigeons.[5] The “humbler” attendees would bring “small tributes”. [6]

The Early Modern Period saw some of the most notable exchanges in history, including the Columbian Exchange. Despite this well-known, large scale form of exchange, it is important to remember the small transactions that occurred within communities as tokens of gratitude and appreciation. Remember, ‘It is better to give an apple than to eat it’!


[1] Ilana Krausman Ben-Amos, ‘Gifts and Favors: Informal Support in Early Modern England’, The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 72, No. 2 (June 2000), pp. 229.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Hannah Flemming, ‘Christmases past to present(s): how the great British Christmas took shape’ (2011), <https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/uk/london/8966907/Christmases-past-to-presents-how-the-great-British-Christmas-took-shape.html> [accessed 28 April 2019].

[4] Timothy Burrell, ‘Journal and Account Book of Timothy Burrell, from the Year 1683 to 1714’, Sussex Archaeological Collections, vol. 3 (London, 1850), pp. 125.

[5] Ilana Krausman Ben-Amos, ‘Gifts and Favors: Informal Support in Early Modern England’, The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 72, No. 2 (June 2000), pp. 315.

[6] Timothy Burrell, ‘Journal and Account Book of Timothy Burrell, from the Year 1683 to 1714’, Sussex Archaeological Collections, vol. 3 (London, 1850), pp. 126.

Georgian Christmas – What a Feast!


Hogarth’s ‘The Assembly at Wanstead House’, 1728-31

When we think of Christmas, most of us will think of the massive amounts of food we have left over at the end of the day. If you are like my family one joint of meat is not enough, we typically having gammon, turkey and beef. But just what did the Georgians feast on at Christmas and how similar is this to what we eat today? 

After the English Revolution (1642 to 1660) Christmas was made illegal in England under the rule of radical Puritan, Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell banned the festivities as the Puritans believed that “excessive eating, drinking, and partying” were sinful acts and that the day should instead be a sober day of reflection.[1]After his death, the monarchy was reinstated, with King Charles II on the throne. Christmas was back!

Georgian Christmas spanned much longer than in the Medieval and Tudor period or than our own festive period today. Beginning on St. Nicholas Day, December 6th, to Twelfth Night, January 16th.[2] The month-long celebration included attending church, exchanging presents, lavish get-togethers and parties.

Traditional Food

Christmas in this period saw large feasts, parties and get-togethers, meaning the quantity of food needed was massive. A lot of the food preparation was thus done in advance. Dishes like boiled puddings were something the kitchen staff and cooks could prepare around a week beforehand without them going bad. Cold food was also something that was customary.

Some dishes the feasts included were turkey or goose, venison but this was mainly eaten by the gentry, Christmas pudding, mince pies, twelfth cake, which is like modern Christmas cake, soups, cheese and a whole array of other meats and vegetables.

Doughlas Barnett, ‘Passing The Wassail Bowl’

As Christmas is a time for festivities and parties, many in the Georgian era consumed a lightly spiced ale with honey from large drinking bowl. The Wassail bowl was passed around the dinner table from guest to guest. The Anglo-Saxon term “weas hael” is what the Wassail Bowl was traditionally toasted to – meaning “for your health”.

Mince Pies

Mince pies have always been a popular item to eat around Christmas time. Today, the average Briton consumes an average of 27 mince pies at during the Christmas period.[3] However, mince pies haven’t always been the sweet treat we know them as today.

Traditionally, mince pies did contain mincemeat, typically being beef or mutton but in this period the type of meat would depend on the household income. These mince pies were a savory dish, rather than a sweet. Something strange about the mince pies is that during preparation an old tale demands that the mixture should only be stirred anti-clockwise. Also, the shape had great significance. They were an oval shape to represent the manger baby Jesus slept in.[2] Around Christmas, stars were put on top of the mince pie to represent the star that led the shepherds and kings to Bethlehem; this is something we still see today.

When looking at King George III’s Christmas Day Menu and many of the other menus for this festive period, “minced pyes” are a popular item incorporated into the daily feasts. You can see “2 dishes of minced pyes” at the bottom of the image to the right.

If you are interested in baking your own traditional Georgian mince pies, you can find a recipe put together by the National Trust here.

Christmas Pudding

Christmas pudding was regularly referred to as plum pudding within the Georgian era as one of its main ingredients was plum. Christmas pudding was traditionally made with chopped up pieces of meat, but within the Georgian period, suet was used instead. Again, like mince pies, plum pudding is something that frequently appears on King George III’s royal menus.

If you would like to make your own Georgian Christmas pudding this year take a look at the recipe below.

A boiled Plum Pudding – Hannah Glasse (18th-century recipe)

“Take a pound of suet cut in little pieces not too fine a pound of currants and a pound of raisins storied eight eggs half the whites half a nutmeg grated and a teaspoonful of beaten ginger a pound of flour a pint of milk beat the eggs first then half the milk beat them together and by degrees stir in the flour then the suet spice and fruit and as much milk as will mix it well together very thick Boil it five hours”.[]Hannah Glasse
[

I Hope you have enjoyed reading about Georgian Christmas dishes and get to try out the recipes. Happy baking!


[1] Serina Sandhu, Shoppers have already spent £4 million on mince pies (2017), https://inews.co.uk/news/uk/shoppers-already-spent-4-million-mince-pies/ [accessed 27 April 2019]

[2] The Journal, ‘The taste of Christmas past’ (2010), http://www.thejournal.co.uk/culture/restaurants-bars/the-taste-of-christmas-past-4445817 [accessed 27 April 2019].

[3] Joanne Mattern, ‘Celebrate Christmas’ (United States: Enslow Publishers, 2008), pp. 22.

[4] Ben Johnson, ‘A Georgian Christmas’, Historic UK, < https://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/A-Georgian-Christmas/> [accessed 27 April 2019].

[5] Hannah Glasse, ‘The Art of Cookery made plain and easy’ (Michigan, 1967). pp. 167.5



Weather Forecasting: An English Virtue

Meteorology: the seasons, autumn. Engraving by A. Collaert . Credit: Wellcome Collection.

One of the readings from our class’s seminar caught my attention as an exciting topic to observe from the perspective of an early modern household. The suggested reading was a chapter within the first book of The English Husbandman (1635) by the prolific writer on domestic advice, Gervase Markham. As you can probably guess from the title, the chapter was regarding, ‘… other vertues, as namely how he shall judge and foreknow all kinde of weather and other seasons of the yeare.’ The reason it was of interest was due to the lack of consideration I had placed on weather and seasonal predictions with its specific relevance to the household, before this source. The revelations described by Markham and my own personal curiosity have led me to comment on why this ‘skill’ was something husbandmen would aim to possess.

Defining the fore-telling of the seasons and weather as a ‘vertue’ and devoting a whole chapter to this skill shows the importance Markham placed upon a man’s ability to know the future climate. Initially, this seemed strange, referring to weather watching and season prediction as a virtue in early modern England. I presumed the accuracy and belief in weather prediction would have been minimal in a society which had yet to enter the period of scientific enlightenment. However, the specific instructions Markham presents to predict weather and seasons suggests that ordinary husbandmen had some investment in these beliefs which to the modern reader appear incredibly abstract. It required the husbandman to be in tune with the natural world around him, relying on cues in the environment.

The English Husbandman (1635) p. 19.

One method which was used before the emergence of the barometer in the late 17th Century was natural astrological theory, judging the weather by looking at the celestial bodies.[1] These movements and the weather produced from them were believed to be directly linked to human physiology.[2] The renaissance revival in the humoral theory connected the weather conditions and more specifically astrology to effects on bodily fluids.[3]This mirroring was a key aspect of Markham’s weather and season predictions. The latter part of the chapter concerns the reactions a husbandman should have to the prediction of a poor year in health, rather than solely foretelling weather as the title suggests, Markham integrates monthly medical intervention with general observations which impacted on agricultural wealth. (See example above)

The other technique which Markham gives the husbandman for long term weather forecasting was using the weather experienced during the first twelve days of Christmas as a guide to the weather over the whole year, each day corresponding to each month. This was a conventional technique used in Western Europe, although the first day of observations varied regionally, with some nations choosing the New Year to mark the monthly weather.[4] This would have been a simple way for a husbandman to predict monthly weather patterns. It would have been more accessible to the ordinary man compared to the astrological practices which could be sophisticated and require calculations.[5] Nonetheless, the visible celestial changes such as moon phases and eclipses were expected to be observed under Markham’s instruction. This popular astrology could indirectly influence mortality through the weather changes; it was advisable to take note.

The English Husbandman (1635) p. 16.

Agricultural society in this period was vulnerable to adverse weather conditions, extremes in seasons could result in reduced crop yields, and traditional farming methods did not have a way to protect against these or absorb the losses adequately. Knowledge of weather would have been useful for planning, to prevent or promote the available farming methods. A good understanding of weather would lay the foundation for successful agricultural practices and allow the husbandman to hone his skills on the later parts of the book, such as planting, grafting and harvesting.

The majority of the advice given seems extremely rational and practical for the English husbandman, such when to expect ‘good yeares’ by observing where frosts fell, and plants bloomed at certain times during the year.

A woodcut representing one month from the peotry work by Edmund Spenser, “The shepheards calender : conteining twelue æglogues proportionable to the twelue monthes : entituled, to the noble and vertuous gentleman, most worthie of all titles, both of learning and chiualry, Maister Philip Sidney” (London, 1591) p.55. Credit: Internet Archive Book Images

Ordinary early modern families were reliant upon favourable weather conditions to ensure they avoided spells of dearth and famine. Weather could, therefore, be something which determined life and death for many communities. Knowledge of weather and changes of the season’s patterns and adapting to future weather would have been extremely desirable in this period. Finding ways to harness the natural world would give the husbandman some feeling of control. In times when people were susceptible to serious illness having some forward knowledge on the health of your family to plan for sickness would have been beneficial, even if the source of such knowledge was questionable. In hindsight, the importance Markham places on weather knowledge is reasonable; we take accurate weather forecasting for granted in the modern world.

Luckily the stakes are not as high in today’s society. Nonetheless, it is interesting to see the importance of weather prediction in this period. Perhaps the fact that some of these weather beliefs still exist shows how ingrained the confidence in personal weather forecasting is in the English psyche.

[1] Jan Golinski, ‘Barometers of Change: Meteorological Instruments as Machines of Enlightenment’ in William Clark, Jan Golinski and Simon Schaffer (eds.), The Science of enlightened Europe (Chicago, 1999), p. 82.

[2]Patrick Curry, Prophecy and Power: Astrology in Early Modern England (Princeton, 1989), p. 23.

[3]Golinski, ‘Barometers of Change’, p. 70.

[4] Stephen Wilson, The Magical Universe: everyday ritual and magic in premodern Europe (London, 2000), p. 53.

[5]Curry, Prophecy and Power, p. 11.

Technology and the downfall of Recipe Books

Times have changed with the advancement of technology, and practically anything can be found on the internet. In the early modern historical period the internet evidently did not exist; books were the principal source for finding information to any questions that one needed to know. Books were available on how to cultivate land, grow food and recipes ranging from food to medicine. But has the advancement in technology meant that recipe books are a thing of the past?

Technology such as the internet has made accessing recipes to be at the click of a button; you can search ‘recipes’ into google and find yourself with over 2.6 Billion sites worth of recipes. In the past the equivalent of this would be a recipe book, which would be passed down through many generations within a family. The Johnson Family recipe book was written between the years 1694 to 1831, with hundreds of distinct recipes that also include medicinal recipes.

The Johnson Family Recipe Book 1694-1831.

Recipe books in family households were passed down through generations; the different handwriting shows how many authors were involved in the making of one recipe book. The Johnson Family recipe book had a continuous change of calligraphy; the writing at the beginning of the book is not the same as the last page in the book. The recipe book also holds sentimental value; ‘Elizabeth Phillips’ is the first name to appear, then it is written ‘Elizabeth Johnson the gift of her Mother Johnson’[1]. The handing down of a recipe book makes it an heirloom, where generation after generation was able to include their own recipes that future generations could try.

Technology has made the sentimental value and worth of recipe books almost disappear. People now no longer need to keep a copy of a recipe, as they can always find the recipe they need by searching for it on the internet. Although it has also allowed for others to share their most special family recipes, one that springs to mind that I have attempted is from Pasta Grannies. They are able to use the internet to share recipes they learned from their mothers and grandmothers. Family recipes are now able to reach all ends of the earth, rather than stay in one family household recipe book.

An example of medicine recipes.

Recipe books were critical in the everyday life, especially for when a person fell sick. Medicinal recipes were used in the hopes to cure people; if it worked then it would be recorded in a book and the recipe would not be lost. A medicinal recipe could be found between food recipes; ‘A salve for any soare but chiefly for a burning sore’ recipe was written following a ‘To make short cakes‘ recipe[2]. By having the medical recipes in-between food recipes shows just how vital and essential it was for people to keep a record of the recipe cures. However, with the advancement of technology, we are also able to find remedies online for common illnesses; there even are online doctors that can diagnose our symptoms! Thus the requirement no longer exists to hold onto recipes that can cure our illnesses.     

An example of a ‘good’ approval on a recipe.

When you look at a recipe book you may notice little squiggles around the recipes. These squiggles are in fact notes which vary from asserting that a recipe is ‘good’ (and even better if they have a tick next to the ‘good’). To even the disapproval of other recipes represented by being crossed out of the recipe book; ‘to make Goosbery Viniger’ in the Johnson Family recipe book was edited to be improved, but in the end crossed out of the recipe book. In some recipes, tips are included of what was done to improve a recipe. A Johnson family member found to perfect making ‘boiled sydar’ you need to have ‘16 pound of pouder sugar to a hogs head’ [3]. This is no different to online recipes’ comment sections, where comments are filled with approval or disapproval of people who have tried the recipes.  Some even offer advice on how to improve recipes by adding or removing ingredients, just like in recipe books.

Recipe books hold significant value, as we are still continuing to use them, this includes both in food and medicine especially. We no longer have to keep a record of recipes, as we can find any recipe through technology; which has meant in the loss of recipe books being written in the modern day. Technology has allowed for the creation of apps such as ‘Food Network’, which allows you to store your favourite food recipes; thus having a large book filled with recipes would be inconvenient. Let me know what you think, are recipe books a thing of the past?      

[1] Wellcome Library. Johnson Family recipe book (MS3082) London, 1694-1831  

[2] LUNA: Folger Manuscript Transcriptions Collection, Medicinal and cookery recipes [manuscript]. (124205) Complicated ca, 1625-1725

[3] Wellcome Library. Johnson Family recipe book (MS3082) London, 1694-1831

Collecting Knowledge and Family Secrets.

In the modern world, spending time in the kitchen and developing new methods and recipes for cooking has somewhat diminished – with many preferring the sociability and immediate readiness presented by restaurants and fast-food establishments. With so much choice and a wide-range of cuisine styles, it is easy to see why but whilst we are spoilt for choice, are we depriving ourselves of the same choices and styles in our own kitchens?

Elaine Leong’s article on collecting knowledge has made me consider what culinary secrets my family may hold, if any and why such knowledge has not been passed down to me as readily as it may have been for a first-born daughter in an early modern household. Leong explains that the family worked as a collective and that no one member was exempt from contributing to the pages of what would become a family book, dedicated to food recipes and medicinal recipes for the curing or relief from ailments but also of lineage and family history. [1] Whilst I can’t imagine my parents keeping such records, as they too prefer the efficiency of modern-day dining and have the luxury of modern healthcare, I thought of my nan, who seems to always be hand-preparing food for our visits.

Upon speaking with her, I soon came to the realisation that whilst early modern households preferred the handwritten sources of knowledge, my Nan retained hers internally. When I questioned her on any potential family recipes passed down from her mother and Nan she simply replied with “It’s all in my head. I remember because I watched my mother do it so often, it just became something ingrained.” To my surprise she also told me that she had never measured anything and that written recipes, because of their reliance on measurements, were better thought of rather than written down – as by reading them, you felt restricted to follow them precisely. Instead she judges her quantities based on visual appearance – something else she attributes to watching her mother closely in the kitchen. All the recipes she then went on to give examples of tended to be those of the dessert type – puddings and cakes.

When I questioned her further on why she had never passed down the knowledge to my mother, she simply replied that it was because she didn’t need it and had never asked or showed an interest in collecting the knowledge. My mother, whilst she cooks many fresh and homey meals, does not tend to make things such as bread and puddings from scratch – which is mainly since they are so cheaply and readily available in the supermarkets pre-made. Modern-day families tend to be working families now, with each member absent from the house daily, going about work and education. When and if the entire family does reside in the same room at the same time, time is very much of the essence and so in respect of my mother’s household, there simply isn’t the time to invest so much in to baking and dessert making.

Only a few hours after the initial conversation with my Nan, I received another call from her – correcting her early notion that every recipe she had was mentally retained as she had a digitally kept version of a recipe for Irish Soda Bread passed down from my granddad’s side of the family. It had come in to her possession after a distant family member had come across the recipe in his ancestors’ collections and had transcribed it digitally to distribute to those members of the family that lived too far from him to be able to verbally communicate. Upon glancing at the recipe, I suddenly came to a realisation about my own habits of collecting information.

Whilst I have already mentioned my awareness of my Nan hand-preparing food, I personally, had never asked for her advice when preparing food, myself. The digital format of the soda bread recipe was so familiar to me that I realised that I had spent a great deal of time looking up recipes through search engines, rather than collecting it generationally and I had done so naturally and without thought. With everything so readily available via the internet and with the devices connected to the internet being so vast and numerous, I had flocked to them for the answers to my questions, rather than speaking with the people in my family. As a product of my time, I also tend to buy ready-made ingredients from the supermarket and much of my daily food is plucked from the depths of my freezer. Whilst I cannot change my past actions, glancing over the surface of the potential culinary secrets of my family has made me determined to give use to my kitchen and to make the most of the knowledge that could be available to me, if I only I could stray from the convenience of the internet and verbally and physically communicate with those around me.

[1] Elaine Leong, Collecting Knowledge for the Family: Recipes, Gender and Practical Knowledge in the Early Modern English Household (2013) <https://doi.org/10.1111/1600-0498.12019> Wiley Library Online Library <https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/> [date accessed 28 March 2019]

How to Craft the Perfect Orchard

If like me, living in a city means you don’t really have much garden space, so I can say I have never grown anything before in my life. But this hasn’t always been the case. From the first half of the twentieth century, orchard gardens began propping up all over England on the properties of high-status houses, sometimes owned by religious orders or noblemen. Particularly in Greater London’s county of Herefordshire, fruit orchards were easy to come across due to its excellent microclimate, which creates the perfect conditions for growing fruit. Nowadays, Herefordshire has an abundance of craft cider manufactures, like Gwatkin Cider but the county is still home to many orchards, for example, Shenley Park.

Gervase Markham (1568- 3 February 1637) was an English poet and author. Coming from a family of knights and nobles, he was largely exposed to the luxuries of the upper-class social order, making him no stranger to the operations of a household or pleasure gardens.

Markham wrote about many subjects. His works ranged from comedy, poetry, novels, and ‘how to’ books. One of his most popular works is The English Huswife.

Looking at the second part of Markham’s The English Husband I am going to explore just how the English Husbandman crafted the perfect orchard; this will definitely come in handy if you ever inherit 50 acres or land or if, like us, you marvel at those who lived in Early Modern Europe.

Crafting Your Orchard

To begin with, you want to seek out the sunniest, airiest section of land in your newly inherited property. If your garden faces south, you’re in luck, you’ll have direct sunlight from the south and west sun beaming on your property, helping the growing process.

The foundations of your orchard should look as displayed on the left. Craft a great large square, approximately 12 to 14ft, before sectioning off into four quarters. In the centre, if you’re feeling extra fancy you can add a fountained, as fashioned in the diagram, or maybe a small pond.

At this point, we’re ready to plant our fruit trees. The U.K bestselling apple is Gala apples, originally an apple of New Zealand. They grow extremely well in our climate and are profitable. Markham suggests the planting of pears and wardens (a hard cooking pear) as the next best option, and quinces and chestnuts are your third. Depending on how much fruit variety you would like, stone fruits, such as apricots, peaches etc. can be grown by the wall at the north section of your orchard.

Your orchard should aim to resemble the diagram to the right. Our smaller dots are your stone fruits, like your peaches, plums, or apricots. The centre consists of our apple trees. These are to be around 5 feet apart from one another.

Within 6 to 10 years your orchard should be flourishing. Get ready for endless plum and apple tarts!

Some tips for perfecting your orchard:

  1. Make sure your soil is fertile.
  2. Choose your fruit wisely. English climate is moderate, to say the least. Fruit trees, such as apples, plums, pears and cherries thrive in our mild climate. Remember, apples are delicious.
  3. Plant your summer and winter fruits at different times. Planting them together can prove problematic; this is because as seasons change the soil moisture fluctuates, which can affect the way the fruit develops.

Other links:

To learn more about the history of the orchard see Pee Brown’s The Apple Orchard: The Story of Our Most English Fruit.

https://historicengland.org.uk/images-books/publications/drpgsg-rural-landscapes/heag092-rural-landscapes-rgsgs/

https://ptes.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/wildlife-and-management-guide.pdf

‘Little Adults’?: The Presence of Children in the Early Modern Household

When reflecting upon the early modern household’s project, the lack of children present in the source material was raised and having already researched the extraordinary child demoniac cases of the late Elizabethan and Early Stuart periods, I decided to delve further. Considering the increased ratio of the child demographic in the early modern period, I found it odd that not more mention is made of children in relation to the household/family unit. There were plenty of children around so why are they not all-over contemporary literature?  

Early modern children have previously been considered as ‘little adults’, bred for labour and repressed of play and nurturement. [1] One answer is that they were not regarded as ‘full humans’ until they reached adulthood and could contribute to the household, therefore their mention was irrelevant. Yet when I came across two particularly worried women seeking advice from Sir. Hans Sloane about their children’s illnesses, I was glad to know that they certainly did care about their offspring, and a great deal too. Children tend to appear in sources when there was a cause for concern, the emotional despair of parents is then best seen through private documentation such as letters and diaries. The seventeenth-century diarist Reverend Ralph Josselin, constantly reflected upon his children’s fortunes and misfortunes, confirming that they were always on his mind. [2]

To be clear, childhood in the early modern period it is the stage before ‘youth’, which we would now interpret as adolescence. I am not suggesting that some early modern children, namely those of poorer families weren’t turfed out of home to work when circumstances required, but this was out of necessity and not choice. In terms of the middling classes at least, it can be gleaned that children could live out their childhoods with joy and love.

Mrs Tothill and Mrs Lowther wrote to Sloane with unrestrained desperation. Concerned that her son’s trouble with worms was re-emerging, Mrs Lowther lamented: [3]

‘I cant help fearing the Consequence of such frequent returns & therefore though it proper to acquaint you that we are very apprehensive’

Similarly, Mrs Tothill pleaded with Sloane :

‘I humbly beg you to grant me so as to take him into your compasinat and affecinat cear as a youth far from his own family and Sr both Mr Tothills and my grattud shall attend you in the most perticullers manner affecinat parants can show’

Mrs Tothill recognises that Sloane is unknown to her personally, yet her grief over one of her four sons whom ‘is a very dear dearling child’ to her and Mr Tothill is so great it prompts her to seek out Sloane. [4]

Yet these are parents of the eighteenth-century, a time where Phillip Aries decided families began to care for their children. [5] Apparently, until some point in the seventeenth-century, child-parent relations were distant and there was no such separation between the stages of childhood and youth, children were simply expected to ‘adult’ quickly. Being familiar with the child demoniac cases I must disagree with Aries. Parents were more concerned for their children than ever in the post reformation decades, a surge of child rearing publications became available, [6] and the removal of the element of exorcism in baptisms created an enhanced fear for the salvation of children.

Early modern children represented a religious battleground, where either God or the Devil would persevere, and the child’s predestination would become clear. In some cases, this battle was very visible. When 14-year-old Mary Glover fell into fits in 1602, later ascribed to possession, her parents feared so much for her life that they ‘caused the bell to be touled for her’. [7] Throughout the detailed report on her case, the efforts her parents went to cure her and the emotional trauma they felt is obvious. Regularly noted as being by Mary’s side is her mother, and her father did all he could with his connections to restore her health, sending forth ‘many harty sighes’ when preachers gathered to pray for Mary. [8] The concerns that prompted parents to seek advice or reflect upon in diaries were largely generated by health and prosperity, unsurprisingly interlinked with the religiosity of the era.

Considered by many to have been taking advantage of their enhanced position as demoniacs, the Throckmorton children enjoyed playing with others whilst out of their fits. [9] In fact, play was one of the only things that could temporarily restore Elizabeth Throckmorton:

‘she was never out of her fit within doores…she would be merrie and lightsome, finding many things wherein she would take delight, as playing with her cosens’ [10]

Sofonisba Anguissola, The Chess Game (1555).

By looking at private and extraordinary sources, the presence of children is found, and they are not projected as neglected little adults at all, clearly ‘children pastime themselves’ with ‘light and childish sportes’. [11] These snippets rather suggest a strong, emotional connection between the early modern parent and child.

References:

[1] Paul Griffiths, Youth and Authority (New York, 1996).

[2] Alan Macfarlane (ed.), The Diary of Ralph Josselin: 1616 – 1683 (Oxford, 1976).

[3] K. Lowther to Hans Sloane, 1739-05-02, Sloane MS 4076, f. 48, British Library, London.

[4] Tothill to Hans Sloane, 172-08-14, Sloane MS 4046, ff. 282 – 283, British Library, London,

 f. 283r.

[5] Phillipe Aries, Centuries of Childhood (1962).

[6] John Lyster, A rule how to bring vp children (London, 1588).

[7] Stephen Bradwell, Mary Glovers Late and Woefull Case, Together with her Joyfull Deliverance (1603), British Library, Sloane MS 831, f. 4v.

[8] John Swan, A True and Breife Report, of Mary Glovers Vexation (1603), p.8.

[9] D. P. Walker, Unclean Spirits, (London, 1981).

[10] Unknown, The most strange and admirable discouerie of the three witches of Warboys, 1593,pp. 10 – 12.

[11] Ibid.

Further reading:

Ben-Amos, Ilana Krausman, Adolescence and Youth in Early Modern England (New Haven, 1994).

French, Anna, Children of Wrath: Possession, Prophecy and the Young in Early Modern England (Farnham, 2015).

Sharpe, J. A., ‘Disruption in the Well-Ordered Household: bAfe, Authority and Possessed Young people’ in Paul Griffiths, Adam Fox and Steve Hindle (eds), The Experience of Authority in Early Modern England (Basingstoke, 1996).

Self-Murder

During a visit to the University of Essex’s Special Collections, whilst pursuing a number of early modern household books, I came across the term ‘self-murder’ in George Cheyne’s A Treatise on Health and Long Life, (London, 1787), p. 142.       

Self-murder or suicide as we know it today, was not something that had previously popped up during my studies, and therefore caught my attention.  It got me thinking about what this term meant to those of early modern society, and how their understanding and reactions to it mirrored or differed from ours.

There has always been to a certain extent a perceived stigma surrounding mental health and suicide, and even up until the last few decades it has not been something openly spoken about, which could explain its lack of real presence in historical literature.

In the aforementioned treatise from the year 1787, Cheyne explicitly linked the occurrence of self-murder in Britain to the high frequency of chronical distempers, such as scurvy.  He suggested that the British’s inability ‘to suffer patiently the lasting pains of chronical distemper’ resulted in their opting to take their life by means of suicide.  This brief mention of suicide really sets the tone, that self-murder was understood by Cheyne at least, as a weakness of character.

 I wanted to know more and upon further investigation I came across Michael MacDonald and Terence Murphy’s comprehensive investigation into the history of suicide, Sleepless Souls, (Oxford, 1990).  They discuss how early modern responses and attitudes towards self-murder came full cycle.  First hardening and then returning to a more sympathetic and tolerant view more in alignment with the ancient philosophies. 

In Tudor and early Stuart England self-killing was not only a sin in the context of religion but also a criminal felony. This was due to its knock on effect within society, such as the family of a male self-murderer being unable to cope financially.  This crime was taken very seriously and would be tried posthumously, with the heirs of the deceased being severely punished for their actions.

Sir John Everett Millais, Ophelia, (Surrey, 1852).

Ophelia’s suicide in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet (London, 1589), although fictitious is one example that publicly illustrated how diverse the responses to suicide in the early modern period were. They were symptomatic to the legal, theological and popular attitudes of society. 

Let us look at what had occurred in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in order to bring about this complete transformation of opinion that MacDonald and Murphey talk about.  They believe that political and religious changes have much to do with the increasing hostility towards suicide, specifically the Protestant Reformation.  Protestant reformers preached that suicide was a terrible sin instigated by the devil and a crime against God.[1]  In this sense it would be easy to see why attitudes towards self-murder changed, with religion being so deeply embedded within the heart of every early modern household. 

George Abbot the then future archbishop of Canterbury spoke of suicide as being the very antithesis of Christian hope, ‘a sin so grieuous that scant any is more heinous unto the Lord’.[2]  These sorts of opinions were reiterated and stressed in many other treatise, sermons and devotional works, really entrenching early modern society with this belief concerning suicide, despite the lack proofs supporting it within the bible. 

A further notion regarding suicide preached by the clergy, was that self-murder actually came from God, as an act of retribution for sins committed.  This argument was employed as a tool during the reformation as a way to promote one’s own church, and examples were used of Catholic persecutors of Protestants that went mad and then killed themselves.

Despite attitudes evidently becoming more hostile during the Protestant reformation, it is worth mentioning what the Catholic Church thought in regards to the act of self-murdering.   

According to Catholic teaching despair was a sin unforgivable, and suicide was the consequence of extreme despair, and was therefore one of the seven mortal sins.  This belief would to a certain extent, contradict the view that the reformation had as much to do with the changing attitudes towards self-murder as first thought.  The Catholic association of suicide and despair is clearly depicted in Giotto Di Bondone’s Seven Vices and Seven Virtues (Padua, 1306)found in the Cappella Scrovegni Chapel.

After 1660 a greater ecclesiastical, judicial and societal leniency towards self-murder was evident, the causes are more complex than those that contributed to the earlier hardening of attitudes.  Much of it is owing to the English Revolution and its after effects upon local government and legal institutions.  

The abolition of prerogative courts, the fall of censorship, and the rise of the new science enlightenment philosophy, all played their parts.[3]  Many were in opposition to this relaxing of attitudes some even protested, nevertheless this was a time of cultural change and the lay persons opinions outweighed those in support of severity concerning self-murder. 

The rise in literacy towards the end of the eighteenth century also enabled more to read the widely published defences of suicide, and it came to be regarded by many as a rational choice.  Despite the law against self-murder not actually being changed until the nineteenth century, the use of it in court became increasingly suspended.   

With suicide being ever present in our daily news as the biggest killer of men under 49, I felt it was important to see how over time attitudes to it have changed.  Even in the early modern period acceptance and sympathy for the victims of self-murder won over the judicial and ecclesiastical attitudes of hostility.  It is innate to sympathise with fellow human beings especially in their darkest times, nobody should ever feel ashamed or alone when suffering mental health issues.   

Bibliography/Further Reading

Abbot, George, An Exposition Upon the Prophet Jonah, (London, 1600).

Bondone, Giotto Di, Desperatio, (Padua, 1306).

Cheyne, George, A Treatise on Health and Long Life, (London, 1787).

MacDonald, Michael & Terence R. Murphy, Sleepless Souls, (Oxford, 1990).

MacDonald, Michael, ‘The Medicalization of Suicide in England: Laymen, Physicians, and Cultural Change, 1500-1870’, in Framing Disease: Studies in Cultural History, eds. Charles E. Rosenberg, Janet Lynne Golden, (New Jersey, 1997).

Millais, Sir John Everett, Ophelia, (Surrey, 1852).

Mortality Analysis Team, ‘Suicides in the UK: 2017 registrations’, https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/bulletins/suicidesintheunitedkingdom/2017registrations, Office for National Statistics, https://www.ons.gov.uk/, [accessed 25/03/2019].

Murray, Alexander, Suicide in the Middle Ages, (Oxford, 1998).

Shakespeare, William, Hamlet, (London, 1589).


[1] MacDonald, Sleepless, p. 5.

[2] George Abbot, An Exposition Upon the Prophet Jonah, (London, 1600), p. 132.

[3] MacDonald, Sleepless, p.109.

Becoming Michael Fish: using Early Modern methods to predict the weather

The weather forecast plays an arbitrary role in most of our day to day lives as a segment on the news or something to quickly check on an app. It only really becomes important when planning a day out or looking out for severe weather warnings. Weather is not something most people are concerned about unless in extreme conditions or if the weather is predicted incorrectly, such as in 1987 when Michael Fish assured viewers in his lunchtime weather broadcast that there was not a hurricane on the way. However, in the early hours of the next day, the south coast of England faced gales that reached 115 miles per hour.[1]

‘Michael Fish revisits 1987’s Great Storm’, BBC News, 16 October 2017.

For people in the early modern period, especially those who relied on agrarian method for their own produce and business, the weather was pivotal in ensuring their survival. Gervase Markham includes a section in his book The English Husbandman (1635) about how to read signs from the sun, moon, clouds and air to help the reader predict the weather, with a focus on rain. The fact that it was included as part of a book that ‘contained the knowledge of Husbandly Duties’ shows how vital it was to have some understanding of the weather in early modern society.

Stephen Wilson highlights that weather prediction was not a new practice in the early modern period and that it took place in the Ancient world as well and could be linked to divine beings.[2] Weather in the early modern period was not perceived as just a natural occurrence but also influenced or controlled by other forces such as God, saints, demons or humans with specials powers such as witches which allowed for its unpredictability.

For five days, I have used Markham’s guide to reading signs about the weather to see if I could successfully forecast the weather or become the next unfortunate Michael Fish. On Thursday, around lunchtime, the day seemed grey with a thick blanket of cloud covering the sky.

‘If there you shall at any time perceive a Cloud rising from the lowest part of the Horizon, and that the maine body be blacke and thicke, and his beames (as it were) Curtaine-wise, extending upward, and driven before the Windes: it is a certaine and infallible signe of a present shower of Raine, yet but momentary and soone spent, or passed over : but if the Cloud shall arise against the Winde, and as it were spread it selfe against the violence of the same, then shall the Raine be of much longer continuance.’

Gervase Markham’s ‘signes from the cloud’

Checking Markham’s ‘Signes from the cloud’, the cloud did seem to start at the horizon and cover the sky but did not seem particularly black or thick. As a black and thick cover of cloud is a sign of a brief rainy shower, I forecast that there would be a light shower later in the day , more of a drizzle fitting to the pale clouds. I was wrong – at about 3pm, the sun was shining, and the sky was blue and clear. Going back over my notes, I realised I should have noticed the lack of waterfowl on the lake – if the ducks and geese would have been on the lake then it would have been almost certain to have rained.



‘If you shall perceive water-Fowle to bathe much’

After falling short reading cloud signs, I turned to Markham’s more definitive signs. Markham suggests that salt becoming moist when placed in a dry place is a sure sign that rain will follow. So, I placed salt on my bedroom windowsill, in an attempt to limit the effects of modern-day insulation and left it overnight. When checked the first two mornings, the salt had remained dry which was consistent with the fine, spring weather forecast, however on third morning the salt had become damp, forming clumps that suggested rain was on the way – although I could not spot the neighbour’s cat washing behind her ear to confirm with a sign from a beast, rain did follow.

‘If Salt turne moyst standing in dry places’

While my readings of Markham’s signs were not always accurate, the empirical reasoning behind the signs are identifiable. By observing the moisture levels in salt, dampness in the air can be visibly seen which suggests incoming wet weather. Empirical observation is also seen in the various descriptions of cloud colouring that suggests rain, an understanding which is common today with dark clouds in the day suggesting that rainfall is due. Markham, like Michael Fish, used the tools he had to best predicate the weather and educate others of the best way of doing so. Markham’s work shows how early modern people running households sought to bring order and predictability to their lives. Through reading signs in order to predict the weather, the good husbandman would have been able to prepare and plan in order to best provide for his household. While weather forecasts may not play such a pivotal role in all our daily lives, except for businesses where work takes places mainly outside, the impact when it is predicted wrong can be catastrophic, just ask Michael Fish!

[1] Joe Shute, ‘Weatherman Michael Fish on missing the Great Storm of 1987: ‘when I saw what happened I thought, ‘oh s***’’, The Telegraph (12 October 2017), https://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/weatherman-michael-fish-missing-great-storm-1987-saw-happened/ [accessed 1 April 2019]

[2] Stephen Wilson, The Magical Universe: Everyday Ritual and Magic in Pre-Modern Europe (London, 2000), pp. 57-58.

Gervase Markham, The English Husbandman (London, 1635), pp. 10-13, http://historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/ [accessed 25 March 2019].

A 17th Century recipe in a 21st Century kitchen.

Today we have the world at our finger tips. We can order products or goods online and have them delivered right to our front doors. We can pop to the shops and have fruits and food goods from around the world available to us. If we want to try something new, we have endless resources to help us find the best recipes. The accessibility we have to recipes today has removed the importance of cooking advice and recipe books being passed down, edited and improved through the generations; now we simply go onto the internet or the shops and buy or find the best recipe that suits us. The lack of exclusivity of recipe books today in comparison to the seventeenth century has inspired me to follow a recipe and record the results. From this experiment I hope to discover if there is something to be said for the almost casual formatting of recipes and the smells and flavours people in the seventeenth century experienced and if the same can be created in a twenty-first century kitchen.

John and Joan Gibson: Medical recipe book, 1632-1717.

‘To make lemmon Marmalad’ is a recipe from John and Joan Gibson’s medical recipe book. The first entry to this book was 1634 and the last 1717. It was interesting to find food recipes alongside recipes for medicines, however home remedies were often used when a doctor was not available therefore it comes as no surprise to find recipe ‘To make Lemmon Marmalad’ in the same book as a recipe for ‘if ye be swelld & ye humor hott’. The three hands in this recipe book belonged to John Gibson, Joanne Gibson and Joanna Gibson, this is an example of recipe books being used by the family and handed down through the generations. Adding to this often, the author would be credited alongside the recipes, for example, ‘given me by Lady Davey 1717’ shows the exchange of recipes and the relationship between women.

John and Joan Gibson: Medical recipe book, 1632-1717.

The format and way this recipe reads is different to the format seen in today’s recipes. There are no titles for ingredients, equipment and method. There are no measurements of time and heat. The general lack of specific information in the recipe shows the possibility such details were not needed in the seventeenth-century. This gives insight to the difference in the requirements of a recipe book then and what are needed now. The recipe reads as a list of instructions therefore when trying to gather ingredients and the appropriate equipment for the recipe, I had to read the recipe several times. Terms used such as ‘put it to’ made the instructions unclear and hard to understand what the method required me to do. As a result, although this is a relatively simple recipe, the re-reading and lack of guidance made this recipe fairly difficult to follow. The ingredients are interesting as quantities and types were not provided. For example ‘Take green apples’ it does not say how many apples or the type (regular or cooking?) of apples to use. This could have resulted in a different tasting marmalade each time this recipe was followed therefore the consistency of this recipe’s results come into question. Did this recipe produce the same marmalade every time?  The lack of specific details in the recipe could not have guaranteed this lemon marmalade would have always reliably been the same. The recipe would likely have been interpreted differently each time therefore producing difference in the taste and texture of the marmalade depending on the quantities of ingredients used by different people.  I also wondered ‘why am I using apples in lemon marmalade?’  Sugar was expensive in the seventeenth-century therefore using apples as a sweetener for the marmalade can be a justification. The availability of lemons may have also contributed to the use of apples in lemon marmalade as lemons were likely imported and so apples were easier to come by in volume. I suggest apples were used to add to the texture, sweetness and volume to the lemon marmalade. The lack of clear instructions and precise ingredients present the idea the availability of flavours, ingredients and equipment would have encouraged the motion to use whatever was available to those following this recipe.

My ‘Lemmon Marmalad’

Overall, the aroma in the kitchen was very pleasant and sweet, especially when boiling the apples. Due to the lack of explicit measurements and quantity of ingredients, it took three batches to find the right lemon, sugar and apple ratio to make an edible marmalade. The result was a syrup-like, particularly sticky, tangy and sour marmalade with a bitter sweet aftertaste. The experience of reading and following a seventeenth-century recipe has been interesting as it has shown relative difference in the understanding and requirements of recipes between the seventeenth and twenty-first centuries.