Category: History

“Fraud, Bribery, and Corruption”: Joseph Ritson’s Account of an 18th-Century General Election

In the 18th century, a man could vote twice. He also expected to be paid expenses if he had to travel to vote. He also expected to be wined and dined by the

Review: Alexander Kaufman’s “Jack Cade Rebellion of 1450: A Sourcebook” (2019)

What emerges from Alexander Kaufman’s collection is the image of a socially diverse rebellion which included yeomen, esquires, gentlemen, land labourers, and even constables. For the first time, all the major historiographical, legal, and literary sources relating to Jack Cade’s Rebellion can be found in one easily accessible, extremely well-researched volume. This book, compiled by Kaufman—who is already a well-established expert on the topic—is likely to become and remain the standard work on the events of 1450 in the years to come. It will be indispensable for scholars, students, and even general readers wishing to learn more about that turbulent year in English history.

Stephen Basdeo’s “Robin Hood” Radio Segment

Most authors promise themselves they’ll never look at reviews of their book, but we can never help maybe sneakily wondering if our ‘average star’ count on Amazon has gone up or whether a feature has been done on your book on the local radio (and let me tell you, Goodreads reviewers are the harshest taskmasters). But I was lucky enough to have my Robin Hood book featured on an Australian radio station

Red Katy and her Customers

The room contains an assortment of devices for inflicting pain. All the time, the client is pleading with Katy for her forgiveness, promising “he will be good,” while she lays into him with the whiplash of her tongue, and afterwards with her collection of implements.

John Ball’s Letter to the Essex Men

In the summer of 1381, the people of England had had enough: disease, war, and low harvests had caused great discontent throughout the land. The Statute of Labourers (1351)—which kept wages fixed at a low price—was still in force, while the lowest class in society, the serfs, were the virtual slaves of the lord, forced to work the land for little-to-nothing beyond what was needed for their subsistence. To add insult to injury, the government had imposed 3 successive poll taxes in 1377, 1379, and 1380.

Revolting Women

It wasn’t only men who had all the fun during the Peasants’ Revolt: Joan Smith was ‘the leader of a great band of rebellious evil-doers from Kent’. Who were these rebellious women in the Peasants’ Revolt?

“If they must have a British Worthy, they would have Robin Hood”

“There are two kinds of immortality: that which the soul really enjoys
after this life, and that imaginary existence by which men live in
their fame and reputation. The best and greatest actions have proceeded
from the prospect of the one or the other of these; but my design is to
treat only of those who have chiefly proposed to themselves the latter
as the principal reward of their labours.”

Opium; or, How it Became a “Dirty Drug”

We live in an era in which, increasingly, governments in many western countries are realising that they are losing the so-called “War on Drugs”. Some countries have completely decriminalised certain substances, while in some states in the USA, you can buy marijuana over the counter for both medicinal and recreational use. Our attitude to illicit substances is increasingly looking not too dissimilar from that held by many people in the early nineteenth century.

The Awakening Conscience

William Holman Hunt’s painting of “The Awakening Conscience” (1853) told an all-too-familiar story: that of the working-class “kept woman” ensnared into a debauched lifestyle by an upper class man.

Jack Harkaway: The Victorian Harry Potter

The Victorians in many ways were just like us: they enjoyed a good scandal whenever it was reported in the press, they liked both trashy and high-brow entertainment, and like today, they had their popular heroes adored by both adults and children. Let me introduce you to the Harry Potter of the late-Victorian era: Mr Jack Harkaway.