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Showing posts from February, 2014

The Luddite Riots of 1811-1816

In the spring of 1811 a series of labor riots started in Nottingham and spread throughout England. The rioters were mainly textile workers. They were protesting the knitting machines that they believed were responsible for putting them out of work and worsening their working conditions.
The rioters caused a lot of damage but they had a sense of humor, at least at first. They claimed they were working under the direction of General Ludd (or even King Ludd), a made-up personage most likely based on the name of a young mill worker who smashed a knitting machine in a burst of anger in 1779. The rioters called themselves Luddites, and they often adopted women’s clothing as part of their rioting gear.


Like their namesake, the Luddites smashed machines, too, particularly the shearing frames used in the production of cloth. From 1811 to 1816 there was rioting and frame-breaking across England. The protesters' grievances included more pay and a guarantee that workers would be hired only aft…

A Regency Valentine

Ah, Valentine’s Day, the time of year when a young girl’s fancy turns to . . . chocolate. (At least if that young girl is like me.) And if the girl in question is also obsessed with the Regency, she may be wondering if chocolate was around during the Regency.
The answer is yes and no. During the Regency you could drink a cup of chocolate, but it was a gloppy, spiced brew not very similar to the hot cocoa we drink today. And on St. Valentine's Day, a lucky Regency miss could hope for a love note from an admirer, but a box of chocolates was out of the question. 



By the time of the Regency chocolate had been in Europe for several centuries. Derived from the fruit of the cacao tree, chocolate was consumed in what is now Mexico and Central America by the Mayan and the Aztecs as early as the 6th century, for religious and medicinal purposes. These native Americans took their chocolate cold and unsweetened (because they didn't have sugar) and considered it a health drink.

Spanish explor…

Regency Fops

Beau Brummel was the quintessential dandy, and many men of his time tried to mimic his style. But some of Brummel’s followers clearly went overboard, which is one reason why we sometimes think of a dandy as being synonymous with a fop – a man who is vain and excessively concerned with his manners and appearance, to the point of ridiculousness.
The word fop has been tossed around in the English language since the 15th century, and for many years it was used to describe a fool of any kind. But over the centuries the word gradually began to apply to men who were vain and dressed foolishly because of their vanity.
Fops were standard characters in many Restoration comedies of the 17th century. These characters had names like Sir Fopling Flutter and Lord Foppington.



More recently, there have been many fops in popular fiction, including Agatha's Christie's fussy but brilliant Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot. 
My favorite fictional fop is Sir Percy Blakeney, aka the Scarlet Pimpernel. …