Sunday, October 30, 2011

Place to visit: Jorvik Viking Centre in York, UK

At Jorvik you can come as close as you're ever likely to get to seeing, hearing and smelling how our Norse forebears lived

It must be the smell that most people remember after visiting the Jorvik Viking Centre.It so distinctive that set s you immediately centuries back in the past. You are in Viking World!

The Life and Death of Girolamo Savonarola

A Dominican friar and prophet Girolamo Savonarola, living between 1452-1498, is considered the forerunner of the Reformation. A fasting, praying 15th century John the Baptist of his time, Savonorola's messages were fire, light, and searing conviction. Savonarola was a monk known for his learning and his sanctity, but helpless, almost ludicrous, as a preacher.

Savonarola was born of a noble family at Ferrara and in 1474, entered the Dominican order at Bologna. He seems to have preached in 1482 at Florence, but his first trial was a failure. In a convent at Brescia his zeal won attention, and in 1489 he was recalled to Florence. His second appearance in the pulpit of San Marco - on the sinfulness and apostasy of the time - was a great popular triumph, and by some he was hailed as an inspired prophet.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Antarctic Photography

October sees the opening of a new exhibition at Buckingham Palace, marking the 100th anniversary of Captain Scott’s ill-fated journey to the South Pole.

Captain Scott and his team

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Place to visit: Caerphilly Castle, UK

Caerphilly Castle rests within the rolling hills north of Cardiff, a concentric masterpiece with a fully flooded moat. The tremendous size of the castle and its two lakes makes Caerphilly the largest in Wales and the second biggest in Britain.

Built by marcher lord Gilbert de Clare between 1268 and 1271 as a response to the growing threat of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, the castle served as an effective defence against the Welsh.
It eventually fell into disrepair, causing the antiquary Leland to describe it as a ruin in 1539. Some damage has certainly been done to the castle, particularly to its leaning tower, which Cromwell may have attempted to destroy with gunpowder during the Civil War.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Elephants of King George III

The collection of exotic animals become popular during the reign of Charles III of Spain (1716- 88), and his prized Indian elephants were paraded as symbols of wealth, power and prestige.The interest aroused by these animals and the problems encountered are explored by Carlos Gomez-Centurion in "Treasures Fit for a King: King Charles III of Spain's Indian Elephants" ("Journal of the History of Collections", vol 22, no1, OUPI).

The increase in trade and the opening of new navigation routes, combined with a fascination for the exotic, led many monarchs to disperse animals around their royal residencies. However, according to Gomez-Centurion "transpoting an elephant to Europe remained an expensive and difficult undertaking, even for a king."

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

St Swithun's come back

Swithun is one of England's most mysterious saints. No one knows exactly why, 108 years after his death, he was transformed into a saint. The reasons were probably political. Winchester Cathedral  - politically, but not ecclesiastically, the premier church in the land - was the place where many Anglo-Saxon kings were buried. As the "capital" of Wessex, the town was also the political heart of late Anglo-Saxon England.

St Swithun woodcarved portrait

Monday, October 10, 2011

Did the Scottish mass-murdering cannibal Sawney Bean actually exist?

According to most accounts, Alexander "Sawney" Bean was a Scottish farm labourer born in about 1530 in Galloway. Soon after his marriage, and for reasons unknown, Sawney and his wife moved to live in the Bennane Cave. This cavern is over 200 metres deep and the entrance is covered by the sea at high tide. From this lair Bean ventured out to ambush, murder and rob unwary travellers. The bodies were brought back to the cave where they were butchered and eaten. Thus no evidence of the crimes was left.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Charles V the Wise

Charles (1337 - 1380), son of King John II the Good became the first French heir apparent to bear the title of dauphin after the area of Dauphine was added to the royal domain in 1349. Charles became the kingdom's regent while he was still in his teens after the English captured his father at the Battle of Poitiers in 1356. As regent he dealt successfully with the revolt of the Jacquerie and the popular uprising headed by Etienne Marcel, who armed Paris against royal rule.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Women First

Ninety years ago women were allowed to take up civil posts for the first time. The Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act, 1919, was introduced at the time when women were still restricted from taking a full part in civil life, despite their partial enfranchisement in 1918. The Act enabled women to enter a legal profession and the civil service and to become jurors. In a broad opening statement it specified that "A person shall not be disqualified by sex or marriage from the exercise of any public function, or from being appointed to or holding any civil or judicial office or post, or from entering or assuming or carrying on any civil profession or vocation".

The Act provide employment opportunities for individual women and many were appointed as magistrates, but in practice it fell far short of the expectations of the women's movement. Senior positions in the civil service were still closed to women and they could be excluded from juries if evidence was likely to be too "sensitive".Coupled with hostile attitudes to their employment at a time of economic crisis, this placed obstacles in the way of women and reduced the efficacy of the legislation.
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