Why do the British call cake pudding
A brief history of everyday things
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Bill Bryson A Brief History of Everyday Things
Translated into German by Sigrid Ruschmeier
The original edition was published in 2010 under the title “At Home. A Short History of Private Life «at Doubleday, an imprint of Transworld Publishers, London.
Verlagsgruppe Random House FSC-DEU-0100 The FSC®-certified paper EOS used for this book is supplied by Salzer Papier, St. Pölten, Austria. 1st edition Copyright of the original edition 2010 by Bill Bryson Copyright © of the German-language edition 2011 by Wilhelm Goldmann Verlag, Munich, in the Random House GmbH publishing group Typesetting: Buch-Werkstatt GmbH, Bad Aibling Printing and binding: GGP Media GmbH, Pößneck Printed in Germany ISBN 978-3-442-30122-5
Contents beginning A few words in advance 1. The year 2. The house 3. The entrance hall 4. The kitchen 5. Scullery and pantry 6. The fuse box 7. The living room 8. The dining room 9. The cellar 10. The hallway 11. The Study 12. The garden 13. The plum room 14. The stairs 5
15. The bedroom 16. The bathroom 17. The dressing room 18. The children's room 19. The attic Thanksgiving
A few words in advance Some time after we moved into a former Anglican rectory in the heart of the Norfolk countryside, I had to go to the attic to see where it was slowly and inexplicably dripping from. Since there were no stairs leading to the attic, I had no choice but to climb a high stepladder and then rather improperly wind my way through a hatch - which is why I had never been up until that day (and since then only with moderate enthusiasm climbed up). When I finally flopped through the hatch and got up in dust and gloom, to my surprise I found a door that was nowhere visible from the outside. It opened easily and led to a small spot on the roof, no larger than a tabletop, between the front and rear gables. Victorian houses are often a conglomerate of structural twists and turns, but I couldn't make any sense of this. Why an architect had a door installed somewhere that was obviously neither necessary nor useful was a mystery to me, but I was amazed to admit that one had a wonderful view from up there. Somehow it's always exciting to look down on a world that you know well but have never seen from this perspective. I was about fifteen meters above the ground, which gives you a more or less complete view in the middle of Norfolk. Directly in front of me was the ancient, flint-built church to which our house once belonged; behind it, a little way down the slope and separated from the church and rectory, was the tranquil village. And in the other direction, to the south, there was 7 on the horizon
Wymondham Abbey, a massive, magnificent, medieval box. Halfway between them, a rattling tractor was making dead straight furrows in the ground. All around was calm, pleasant, timeless English countryside. Which I felt very familiar especially because the day before I had hiked through a good part of it with my friend Brian Ayers. Brian, having just retired as a county archaeologist, probably knows more about Norfolk's history and landscape than anyone else in the world. Since he had never been to our village church, he really wanted to take a look. She is pretty and old, older than Notre Dame in Paris, about the year the Cathedrals of Chartres and Salisbury were built. But in Norfolk, which is teeming with medieval places of worship - 659 in all - it's easy to overlook one thing. “Have you ever noticed that rural churches are slowly sinking into the ground? Anyway, it looks like it, ”said Brian as we walked into the churchyard. Because this place of worship also stood in a hollow, like a weight on a pillow, and the foundation walls were a whole meter lower than the churchyard that surrounded the building. "Do you know why?" As I often do when I mess around with Brian, I had to admit that I didn't know. “Well, this church isn't sinking,” Brian said with a smile, “it's the cemetery rising. How many people do you think are buried here? "I tried to guess from the tombstones and said," I don't know. Eighty? Hundred? ”8
"Well, I think that's a bit of an understatement," Brian replied indulgently. “Think about it. A rural community like this has an average of two hundred and fifty people, which translates to about a thousand deaths per century. In addition, there are a few thousand souls who do not make it into adulthood. Multiply that by the number of centuries the church has under its belt, and you see that these are not eighty or a hundred tombs, but rather twenty thousand a few steps from my front door. "Twenty thousand?" I gasped. He nodded, completely unimpressed. “Needless to say, that's a lot. That's why the ground has risen three feet. "He gave me a minute to digest, then went on," There are a thousand parishes in Norfolk. And of course they have left a lot - as we archaeologists say - material culture over the centuries. Buildings, equipment, tools, jewelry and graves too. ”He studied the various church towers in the distance. “You can see ten or twelve other churches from here. That means there are probably a quarter of a million graves in our immediate vicinity - and all of that in a stretch of land that has always been rural and quiet, where nothing great has ever happened. ”That was Brian's way of explaining how to be in a bucolic, thin populated region like Norfolk can boast 27,000 archaeological finds a year, more than any other English county. "People have been dropping things here for a long time - long before England became England." He showed me a map of all known archaeological sites in our parish. There was 9 in almost every field and meadow
Something was recovered or discovered - Neolithic tools, Roman coins and ceramics, Anglo-Saxon brooches, graves from the Bronze Age, Viking homesteads, and right behind our rectory, for example, a farmer had found a rare Roman phallus-shaped pendant while crossing a field in 1985 . Again and again I imagine, full of amazement and amazement, how a man in a toga once stood where my property now ends, pats himself from top to bottom and is dismayed to realize that he has lost his lovingly cherished memory, that then lying in the ground unnoticed for seventeen, eighteen centuries - while Anglo-Saxons, Vikings and Normans came and went, while the English language and nation came into being, and the British monarchy and thousands of other things developed. And finally, at the end of the twentieth century, someone who looks astonished, picks up the lost piece of jewelry. As I stood on the roof of my house and enjoyed the unexpected view, the thought suddenly occurred to me why the discovery of a Roman phallic pendant had attracted the (admittedly brief) attention of the world, but not the normal activities of the people in all of them two thousand years since the thing fell in the dust. Sure, people went about their everyday business - eating, sleeping, sex, and the other little joys in life - well-behaved and inconspicuously for centuries, I thought. And then it fell like scales from my eyes: Yes, exactly! This is what history is made of. From the fact that many, many people do normal things! Even Einstein must have thought of his vacation at times in his life and of what there was for dinner or 10
what delicate fetters the young lady had who got off the tram across the street. Our lives and thoughts are made up of such things, but we hardly treat them as secondary or serious consideration. I don't know how many hours of my student life I had to deal with the Missouri Compromise in American history or with the Wars of the Roses in English; in any case, I was asked to do so far more often than to do it with the history of eating and sleeping, the Thinking about sexuality or other small pleasures. Therefore, I thought, it is perhaps not uninteresting to only deal with very ordinary things for a long time and finally pay attention to them. For example, while walking through my house, I was amazed, yes, even a little horrified, at how little I knew about the world in here, and when I was sitting at the kitchen table one afternoon, lost in thought, playing with salt and pepper shakers, I noticed that I had no clue why we of all the spices on earth have such a lasting love for these two. Why not with pepper and cardamom or salt and cinnamon? And why do forks have four prongs and not three or five? There must be reasons for all of this. As I got dressed, I wondered why all my suit jackets had a row of pointless buttons on their sleeves, and when I heard someone talking about paying for board and lodging on the radio, I realized I didn't know where the phrase came from comes. All of a sudden the house seemed full of secrets. And so I got the idea to walk through it, from room to room, and consider what role each individual has played in people's everyday lives over the centuries. 11
In the bathroom I would come across the history of personal hygiene, in the kitchen that of cooking, in the bedroom that of sexuality, dying and sleeping - and so on and so forth. I wanted to write a story of the world without leaving home. I have to say that the project had a certain appeal. Some time ago I tried to understand the universe and how it all fits together in a book - no small endeavor, as you can imagine. So it was very tempting to occupy myself with something that was neatly defined and pleasantly finite like an old rectory in an English village. I didn't even have to take off my slippers. Of course it turned out very differently. Houses are amazingly complex, real treasure troves. To my great surprise, I found that everything that happens in the world - everything that is discovered, created or bitterly contested - ends up in the house in one way or another. Wars, famines, the industrial revolution, the Enlightenment - everything is there: hidden in your sofas and chests of drawers, in the folds of your curtains and fluffy down pillows, in the color of your walls and the water in your water pipes. The story of the things that are part of our everyday life is not just one of the beds, sofas and kitchen stoves, as I had lightly assumed, but also one of scurvy, guano and bed bugs; it has to do with the Eiffel Tower and with the robbery of corpses, so actually with everything that has ever happened. Houses are not a retreat from history. History ends up in houses. Needless to say, any type of story tends to expand. To put the story of everyday things in a book I had to, that was 12
Clear, meticulous choices for me right from the start. And although I shall go back in time to ancient times (one cannot talk about baths and bathrooms without mentioning the Romans), what follows focuses mainly on the last 150 years, with particular emphasis on the second half of the nineteenth century, when the modern world was really born - and that happens to coincide exactly with the time since the house we now wander through has existed. We have become used to so many conveniences - to be warm, washed clean and well-fed - that we easily forget one thing: All of these achievements are not that old. It took ages to get that far, and then mostly everything came at once. How exactly this happened and why it took so long is what the following pages are all about. Although I do not specifically mention the name of the village in which the old rectory is located, I would like to point out that the place actually exists and that the people I am talking about also live or have lived there.
Chapter One The Year I. In the autumn of 1850, an absolutely astonishing building rose in height in Hyde Park, London: an airy, huge greenhouse of iron and glass with a floor area of about 7,7000 square meters and of such enormous dimensions that four St. Paul's cathedrals would have found a place in it. During its short life on earth, it was the tallest building in the world. Officially known as the "Palace of the World Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations", it was a real splendid building, which caused astonishment mainly because it was so breathtakingly glass, so splendidly and unexpectedly quickly finished. Douglas Jerrold, columnist for the satirical weekly Punch, dubbed it the "Crystal Palace," and the name stuck. The construction itself had taken just five months. It was a miracle it was completed in time at all, because a year earlier it hadn't even existed as an idea. The exhibition for which it was conceived was the dream of an official named Henry Cole, who otherwise has earned a place in history as the inventor of the Christmas card. (He wanted to get people to use the new Penny Post.) In 1849, Cole attended the industrial exhibition in Paris - a comparatively provincial affair and sent only by French manufacturers - and was determined to do something similar in England, but on a larger scale Style. He inspired many socially important people, including Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's husband, for the idea, and so the ers15 took place on January 11th, 1850
te preparatory meeting for a world exhibition. The opening should take place on May 1st of the following year. So you had almost sixteen months to plan and build the largest building anyone had ever imagined. In addition, tens of thousands of exhibits had to be carted in from all over the world, restaurants and toilets had to be built, staff hired, insurance taken out, flyers printed and police protection taken care of. There were thousands of things to do in a country that was by no means convinced that it wanted such an expensive and elaborate event in the first place. In any case, the goal was unattainable in the short time. For the exhibition hall alone, two hundred and forty-five designs were submitted in an open competition - all of which were rejected as unrealizable. Faced with the impending disaster, the committee did what committees like to do in desperate situations: it appointed a new committee with a more melodious name. The "Building Committee of the Royal Commission for the World Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations" consisted of four men Matthew Digby Wyatt, Owen Jones, Charles Wild and the great engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel - and had the sole task of working with a narrowly limited, To present a design on a tight budget that was worthy of the largest exhibition in history, which began in ten months. Only the young Wyatt was a trained architect, but he hadn't built anything to date and earned his breadth in the writing guild. Wild was an engineer, but had almost nothing to do with ships and bridges; Jones was an interior designer. Only Brunel had experience with large projects. He was also without a doubt ingenious, but in so far as it was annoying as it was almost always tedious and costly to find a compromise between his lofty visions and what was realistically feasible. 16
The building the four men hatched was a disaster, to say the least: huge and low, a gloomy, dark shed with the serene atmosphere of a slaughterhouse. It looked as if four architects were in a hurry to come up with something for themselves. The costs could hardly have been calculated, but the building could not have been built anyway because thirty million bricks would have been used. Where do they get them from, let alone block them in the short time? The whole thing should be crowned with an iron dome about sixty meters in diameter, at least that's what Brunel's suggestion - a great thing, of course, but perhaps a touch absurd on a one-story hall. Nothing so gigantic had ever been constructed out of iron, and of course Brunel could only have begun to fiddle around with how to get the trumpet on the roof with the building underneath.Everything should be ready in ten months! It was also unclear who would tear everything down again after six months and what would become of the mighty dome and the millions of bricks; You didn't even think about that. In the midst of this worsening crisis, Joseph Paxton stepped in, a quiet contemporary, head gardener at Chatsworth House, the main residence of the Duke of Devonshire, which - unsurpassably English - is located in Derbyshire. Paxton was an amazing guy. Born in 1803, he came from a poor farming family in Bedfordshire who sent him to work as a gardener when he was fourteen. In doing so, he quickly distinguished himself and only six years later headed an experimental nursery for the renowned new Horticultural Society in West London, which was renamed the Royal Horticultural Society shortly afterwards - an immensely responsible job for someone barely out of boyhood. Once, speaking to the Duke of Devonshire who owned Chiswick House next door (and also a 17th
Most of the rest of the British Isles, a total of eight hundred square kilometers of fertile land including seven large mansions), the Duke immediately took him to his heart, apparently less because he sensed something ingenious in Paxton than because the young man spoke loudly and clearly . The Duke was hard of hearing and appreciated clear language. On the spur of the moment he asked Paxton if he wanted to be a head gardener at Chatsworth. Paxton wanted. He was twenty-two years old. A surprising and, on top of that, extremely clever move by the aristocrat. Because Paxton threw himself into the job with sheer dizzying energy and dedication. He designed and built the famous Emperor Fountain with a jet of water that shot almost a hundred meters into the air, a masterpiece of engineering that has only been surpassed once in Europe; He laid out the largest rock garden in the country, planned a new village on the Duke's estate, became the world's leading dahlia expert, won awards for growing the finest melons, figs, peaches and nectarines in the country, and built a huge tropical house , known as the Great Stove. With an area of just over four thousand square meters, it was so spacious that Queen Victoria was able to drive through it in a horse-drawn carriage when she visited in 1843. Paxton also helped the Duke pay off a million pounds of debt through improved management and administration. And with the blessings of his master, he founded and ran two gardening magazines and a national newspaper, the Daily News, of which Charles Dickens was brief editor. Paxton wrote gardening books, invested so skillfully in railroad stocks that he was appointed to the boards of three companies, and had the world's first city park in Birkenhead, near Liverpool, built to his design. When the chief botanist of Kew Gardens, the Royal Botanical Gardens, Paxton an 18th
sent the ailing, rare lily and asked if he could save it, Paxton built a special greenhouse and - that goes without saying - made it bloom in three months. When he learned that those responsible for the World's Fair were desperately looking for a design for the large exhibition hall, he hit upon the idea that something similar to his greenhouses might work. So he scribbled a rough sketch on a piece of blotting paper while chairing a board meeting of the Midland Railway, and over the next two weeks completed all of the drawings for assessment. Then all competition rules were broken for him. His design was accepted after the submission deadline and explicitly forbidden combustible materials were also accepted, for example many square meters of wooden flooring. In addition, architecture experts rightly pointed out that he was not a trained architect and had never built anything on this scale. Well, nobody had that at all, and therefore nobody could claim with a clear conscience that the whole thing was feasible. Many feared that the hall would heat up unbearably when the sun was shining on it and people jostled inside. Others were afraid that the window bars at the top would expand in the summer heat, that the huge panes of glass would fall out silently, and that the crowds of visitors below would be killed. The biggest concern, however, was that the extremely fragile-looking structure would simply be blown away in a storm. So the risks were considerable and well known, but after a few days of anxious hesitation the Commissioners selected Paxton. Nothing, yes, absolutely nothing - says more about Victorian Britain and the strokes of genius it was capable of than having a gardener build the boldest building 19
of the century. For Paxton's Crystal Palace you didn't need any bricks, yes, no mortar, cement or foundations either. It was screwed together like a tent and placed on the ground. This was not only a resourceful answer to a monumental task, but also a radical departure from everything that had previously been attempted. The greatest advantage of Paxton's airy palace was that it could be built from prefabricated, standardized parts. The basic element was cast-iron beams, about three feet wide and seven feet long, which were screwed together so that a frame was created in which the panes of glass could be inserted - almost one hundred thousand square meters or a third of all the glass that would normally be in a year Great Britain was produced. A special mobile platform was constructed for installation, which moved along the roof racks, so that the workers could manage eighteen thousand panes a week - an efficiency and productivity that would even today border on a miracle. In order to install the necessary running meters of gutters, a total of more than thirty kilometers, Paxton designed a machine with the help of which a small team could lay about six hundred meters a day. So far that would have been the daily output of three hundred men. The project was maddening in every way. However, Paxton was very lucky when it came to timing, because just in time for the World's Fair, glass suddenly became available in greater quantities than ever before. It had always been a delicate material. It was difficult to produce good glass, yes, it was not easy to make any at all. It hadn't been a luxury item for so long. Fortunately, however, two new technical inventions brought about a change. First of all, the French invented rolled glass, so called because the liquid glass was spread on plates 20
and then rolled. For the first time it was possible to make really large panes and thus also large shop windows. However, the rolled glass had to cool down for ten days after it was rolled out, which meant that the plates were occupied most of the time. After that, each pane of glass had to be sanded and polished extensively. Which of course made the whole thing expensive. In 1838 a cheaper manufacturing method was developed: flat glass. It had most of the good properties of rolled glass, but it cooled faster and didn't take as long to polish, so it was much cheaper to make. Suddenly there was unlimited and inexpensive production of glass in large panes. At the same time, two age-old taxes were abolished at the right time: the window tax and the glass tax (which, strictly speaking, was a consumption tax). The window tax dates back to 1696 and was so exorbitant that people, wherever possible, did not build windows in their houses at all. The bricked up window openings we see today on many historic buildings in Britain were only painted to look like windows. (Sometimes it's a great, great shame they aren't still painted.) The tax was deeply hated as a "tax on air and light" because it meant servants and other people with limited resources were doomed to be in air - to live in lightless rooms. The second tax was introduced in 1746 and was not based on the number of windows but on the weight of the glass in the windows. So throughout the Georgian era, thin, weak glass was produced while the window frames were made very sturdy to compensate. During that time, the so-called ox eyes or slug discs also appeared. The place on ei21 was designated with ox-eye
A glass plate on which the glassmaker's umbilical iron was attached. Because this part of the glass was considered a flaw, it was not taxed and developed a certain appeal for those who had to or wanted to watch out for money. Slug panes became popular in simple inns and shops, as well as in private homes at the back of the house, where chic and elegance were not important. The glass tax was abolished in 1845, just before her hundredth birthday, and shortly thereafter the tax on windowpanes, coincidentally - and practically - in 1851. Just as Paxton needed more glass than anyone before, the price dropped more than the half. Together with the technical innovations in glass production, this was a major reason why the construction of the Crystal Palace was possible in the first place. The completed palace was exactly 1,851 feet (564 meters) long, 408 feet (124 meters) wide, and nearly 110 feet (33.5 meters) high in the center (matching the year of its completion), making it a much admired avenue Elms could be left in it, which otherwise would have had to be felled. Due to the size of the building, the use of materials was enormous: 293,655 panes of glass, 33,000 iron frames and thousands of square meters of wooden flooring. But thanks to Paxton's construction, the eventual cost was a whopping 80,000 pounds. All in all, it took just under thirty-five weeks to build. St. Paul's Cathedral had taken thirty-five years to build. Incidentally, they had been working on the new parliament building a good three kilometers away for a decade, and it was still a long way from being finished. One author of Punch suggested, and only half-jokingly, that the government put Paxton in charge of drafting a crystal parliament. The phrase "Ask Paxton" was used for confused situations.
The Crystal Palace was both the largest and the lightest, floating building in the world. Today we are used to large areas of glass, but for someone who lived in 1851, the opportunity to walk through wide, high, airy rooms inside a building was overwhelming, even dizzying. We can simply no longer imagine the view that the arriving visitor could see from afar on the glittering, transparent glass exhibition hall. It must have looked as delicate and fleeting, as wonderfully magical as a soap bubble. Yes, the people who came to Hyde Park must have lost their knees at the sight of the magnificent building floating above the trees, sparkling in the sunlight.
II. When the Crystal Palace was built in London, a much more modest building was erected next to an ancient village church under the wide Norfolk sky not far from the market town of Wymondham: a rather inconspicuous, spacious rectory with an asymmetrical roof, bold chimneys and wooden-decorated gables - »quite large, comfortable in a reliable, respectably ugly way, ”said Margaret Oliphant, an immensely popular and prolific Victorian novelist, describing houses of this type. -
We will come across the house again and again in this book. It was built for Thomas J. G. Marsham, a young pastor from a good family, by an Edward Tull of Aylsham, an architect who, as we shall see, had fascinatingly little talent. Marsham was twenty-nine years old and the beneficiary of a system that belonged to him and his kind
Chen offered more than a decent living and asked little in return. In 1851 there were 17,621 clergymen in the Anglican Church, and a country pastor who had less than two hundred and fifty parishioners to care for the salvation of less than two hundred and fifty parishioners had an average income of five hundred pounds a year no less than a senior civil servant such as Henry Cole, the Man behind the World's Fair. Younger sons from high and low nobility had a choice: they could go into church service or join the military. And they often also brought family assets with them. In many parish offices, people also increased their income by leasing parish land, i.e. the arable land that belonged to the position. Even less privileged incumbents were generally doing really well. Jane Austen grew up in a rectory in Steventon, Hampshire, which she found embarrassingly inadequate, but it had a living room, kitchen, reception room, study, library, and seven bedrooms; Nobody suffered hardship here. The richest benefice was at Doddington, Cambridgeshire; it comprised 38,000 acres and, until it was split up in 1865, brought the lucky owner an annual income of £ 7,300 - which would be about £ 5 million today. * At that time there were two types of pastors in the Anglican Church: vicars and rectors. The difference was minimal as far as the clergy was concerned, but huge in financial terms. Traditionally the vicars were substitutes for the rectors, but by the time of Mr. Marsham this distinction had largely disappeared, and whether a pastor was called vicar or rector was mainly determined by the term used in the parish concerned. Just the difference in income that remained. 24
The remuneration of a clergyman was not made by the church itself, but arose, depending on the pastor's office, from leases and tithes. The latter consisted of either the big tenth * sums of money from 1851 to compare with today's money is not uncomplicated, because you can use different methods. In addition, things that are now expensive (farmland, servants) were relatively cheap then, and vice versa. I am grateful to Professor Ranald Michie of Durham University for suggesting that comparing retail prices in 1851 and today will give the most accurate results. Looked at that way, Mr Marsham's five hundred pounds would be about 400,000 pounds today. The annual per capita income in Great Britain was just over twenty pounds in 1851.
(from the main crops such as wheat and barley) or the small tenth (vegetables from the garden, fattening animals and whatever else you could eat). The rectors got the big tithe, the vicars the small tithe, which meant that the former were consistently the wealthier, sometimes a considerable amount. Since the tithe was a constant source of tension between the pastor and the peasants, it was decided in 1836, a year before Queen Victoria acceded to the throne, to simplify matters. From now on the farmer should no longer give his pastor an agreed portion of his harvest, but pay a fixed annual sum calculated on the basis of the general value of his land. This meant that the clergy were entitled to the taxes granted to them even if the peasants had bad years, to put it the other way round: the pastors always had good years from now on. The country clergyman's job was remarkably easy. You didn't have to be pious, that wasn't even expected. To hold an office in the Anglican Church, one had to have a university degree. But since most pastors studied classical philology and by no means theology, they had no training in preaching or 25
in being an inspiration to other people, giving consolation or otherwise giving meaningful Christian support. Many did not even bother to write sermons, but bought a long book with finished texts and read one to them every week. Completely unintentionally, the result was that a caste of very educated, well-off people emerged who had an infinite amount of time to spend. And as a result, they in turn began to be interested in extraordinary things, often out of the blue. Never before in history has a group of people made such merit in such a broad spectrum of areas, preferably in areas for which they were by no means assigned. Let's take a look at a few: George Bayldon, vicar in a remote corner of Yorkshire, always had so few visitors to his services that he turned half the church into a chicken coop, trained himself to be a linguist (and a real luminary) and that authored the first dictionary of Icelandic. Not far from him, Laurence Sterne, pastor of a parish not far from York, wrote popular novels, the best known of which is the life and views of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. Edmund Cartwright, rector of a country parish in Leicestershire, invented the mechanical loom that ultimately made the Industrial Revolution truly industrial. At the time of the London World's Fair, over a quarter of a million of his looms were in use in England alone.In Devon, Pastor Jack Russell bred the terrier of the same name, while in Oxford, Pastor William Buckland wrote the first scientific description of a dinosaur and 26
it was no coincidence that he became the world's leading authority on coprolites, the fossilized feces of primeval animals. Thomas Robert Malthus in Surrey wrote A Treatise on Population Law; Or an examination of its past and future importance to human welfare, along with an examination of our prospects for its future elimination or alleviation of the evils it causes and established the discipline of political economy. (As you may recall from school days, he claimed that mathematically speaking, food production was impossible to keep pace with population growth.) Pastor William Greenwell of Durham was one of the founding fathers of modern archeology, but is better known among anglers than Inventor of "Greenwell's Glory", the popular fly fishing trout fly. In Dorset, a man named Octavius Pickard-Cambridge became the world's leading spider expert, while his contemporary Pastor William Shepherd came up with a story of filthy jokes. John Clayton of Yorkshire first practically demonstrated how gas lighting could work in the second half of the seventeenth century, and Pastor George Garrett of Manchester invented the submarine *. Adam Buddle, pastor-botanist in Essex, was the namesake of Buddleia, the magnificently blooming butterfly lilac. Berkshire Pastor John Mackenzie Bacon was a hot air balloon pioneer and father of aerial photography. Sabine Baring-Gould (yes, a man) wrote the hymn "Onward, Christian Soldiers" and - which one might not think of immediately - the first novel to feature a werewolf. Cornwall's Pastor Robert Stephen Hawker was an excellent poet and was admired by Longfellow and Tennyson, although he always alarmed his churchmen for wearing a pink fez and a 27th birthday
Spent much of his life under the powerful, beneficial influence of opium. Gilbert White, in Hampshire's Western Weald, was the most respected naturalist and conservationist of his day and author of the brilliant and very popular natural history of Selbornes. In Northamptonshire, Pastor M.J. Berkeley as the leading expert in the field of fungi and plant diseases. Alas, alas, it appears to have been responsible for spreading many harmful plant diseases, including the most vicious one, powdery mildew. John Michell, rector in Derbyshire, * The ship was called Resurgam, "I shall be resurrected," which turned out to be a rather unfortunate name, because three months after it was launched in 1878 it sank in the Irish Sea and never rose again. Neither did Garrett, by the way. Discouraged by his experience, he gave up preaching and inventing and moved to Florida, where he tried his hand at farming. That too turned out to be a disaster, and he ended his disappointing, mercilessly downhill life as an infantryman in the American Army in the Spanish-American War and died, impoverished and forgotten, in New York in 1902 of tuberculosis.
showed William Herschel how to build a telescope, and Herschel used it to discover Uranus. Michell also invented a method of weighing the earth in what was arguably the most sophisticated scientific experiment of the entire eighteenth century. He died before it could be done, but that was finally done in London by Henry Cavendish, a bright relative of Paxton's employer, the Duke of Devonshire. The most brilliant clergyman of all, however, was Pastor Thomas Bayes of Tunbridge Wells, Kent, who lived from 1701 to 1761. For all that is known, he was a shy person and a hopeless preacher, but at the same time a gifted mathematician. He invented the mathematical equilibrium
chung, which has come to be known as Bayesian rule and looks like this:
People who understand the formula can use it to solve various extremely complex problems that involve probability distributions, or, as they say, inverse probabilities. You can calculate statistically reliable probabilities from incomplete knowledge. The striking thing about Bayesian rule is that it could not be used at all in its Creator's lifetime. You need powerful computers to do the calculations that are necessary to crack the problem at hand. In the Bayesian days it was just an interesting, but completely pointless, brain teaser. Apparently he himself thought so little of his rule that he did not bother to make it known to the public. In 1763, two years after Bayes' death, a friend sent it to the Royal Society in London, which published it in its Philosophical Transactions under the modest title "Attempt to Solve a Problem from the Doctrine of Chance". In reality, it was a towering milestone in the history of mathematics. Today Bayes' rule is used to create models of climate change, to predict stock market developments, to determine measurement results using the radiocarbon method, to interpret cosmological events and everywhere else where probability is involved and that only because there is an English Cleric in the eighteenth century made a few thoughts and wrote them down. 29
Many other churchmen did not produce great works, they produced great children. John Dryden, Christopher Wren, Robert Hooke, Thomas Hobbes, Oliver Goldsmith, Jane Austen, Joshua Reynolds, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Horatio Nelson, the Brontë sisters, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Cecil Rhodes and Lewis Carroll (who was ordained himself, but the profession never exercised) were all pastors' children. How immense the influence of the clergy was can be seen by looking up the British Dictionary of National Biography on the Internet. If you enter rector you get four thousand six hundred hits, with vicar another three thousand three hundred. In contrast, 338 for "physicist", 492 for "economist", 639 for "inventor" and 741 for "natural scientist" look very modest. Interestingly enough, they are not much more numerous than those for "philanderers", "murderers" or "mentally ill", but are considerably exceeded by "eccentrics" with 1010 hits. Many of the pastors did such outstanding work that it is easy to forget about these truly extraordinary people that most of the others, if they achieved great things at all or had the ambition to do so, left no trace of them - like our Mr. Marsham. He achieved fame at best as the great-grandson of Robert Marsham, the founder of phenology, the science (if you can call it that) that tracks seasonal changes, the first buds on the tree, the first cuckoo in spring, and so on. One might think that people would take it for granted, but it hadn't been like that before, or at least they hadn't written it down systematically, and once Marsham started it became a hugely popular and respected pastime around the world. In the United States, for example, Thomas Jefferson was an avid phenologist. Even when he was president, he found 30
the time to note the first and last appearances of thirty-seven fruits and vegetables in the Washington markets, and to instruct his steward at Monticello, his Virginia plantation, to watch out for such things as well, so that the data could be seen to be significant Indicated climatic differences between the two places. When today's climatologists say that the apple blossom is three weeks earlier than it was two hundred years ago, they are referring to Robert Marsham's notes. This Marsham was also one of the richest men in East Anglia. He owned a large estate in a village near Norwich that goes by the curious name of Straffon Strawless. Thomas John Gordon Marsham was born there in 1821. As an adult, he only had to move a few kilometers to accept the pastor's post in our village. We know almost nothing about his life here. But much about the everyday life of a country pastor in the golden age of the species because we have the hardworking records of one who lived in the neighboring parish of Weston Longville, five miles north across the fields (and still visible from the roof of our rectory). His name was James Woodforde and he lived in the second half of the eighteenth century. It will not have been so different then as it was in Mr. Marsham's time. Woodforde was neither particularly pious, educated, nor gifted, but he enjoyed his life and kept a cheerful diary for forty-five years, which, as I said, offers a very detailed insight into the life of a country pastor. It was forgotten for almost a century and a half, but after it was discovered it was published in abridged form in 1924 as a country pastor's diary. And although, as one critic noted, it was "little more than a chronicle of gluttony," it became an international bestseller. 31
The amount of food served in the eighteenth century is staggering, and Woodforde seldom sat down to eat a meal that he did not describe in detail afterwards. The following was served in a typical dinner in 1784: sole in lobster sauce, young chicken, ox tongue, roast beef, soup, fillet of veal with morels and truffles, pigeon pie, sweetbreads, young goose and peas, apricot jam, cheesecake, steamed mushrooms and trifle. At another Ma (h) 1 he was able to try a veal plate, a ham, three chickens, two roasted ducks, neck piece of pork, plum pudding and plum cake, apple tart, various fruits and nuts and the whole thing with red and white wine, beer and Wash down cider. Nothing beats a good meal. When his sister died, he wrote down his sincere mourning, but also found space for the remark, "A fine turkey roast tonight." Not much from the outside world penetrated the diary. The American War of Independence was hardly mentioned, and the good pastor noted the storming of the Bastille in 1789 as a bare fact, but described in detail what he had eaten for breakfast. Fittingly, the last entry in the diary also concerns a delicious feast. Woodforde was certainly a decent person - from time to time he would send food to the poor and lead an impeccable, virtuous life - but in all the years of dutifully keeping his diary, he doesn't even seem to think about composing it wasted a sermon or felt special affection for his parishioners except that he was happy when they invited him to dinner and always liked going there. If it is not typical of what was typical, then here you can see what was possible.
How Mr. Marsham fits into all of this will never be known; if his aim in life was to leave as few marks as possible on history, then he achieved it gloriously. In 1851 he was twenty-nine years old and unmarried (which he remained throughout his life). His housekeeper, a lady with the interestingly unusual name Elizabeth Worm, stayed with him - until her death in 1899 - so at least she must have found him nice. Unfortunately, we don't know whether anyone else found him nice and entertaining. However, we have a small encouraging note. On the last Sunday in March 1851, the Anglican Church conducted a nationwide survey to find out how many people had attended that day. The results were shocking. More than half of all residents of England and Wales had never gone to church and only 20 percent had attended an Anglican service. No matter how brilliant the pastors were in devising mathematical rules or creating dictionaries, they were apparently no longer nearly as important to their communities as they were before. Thank goodness that hadn't got around in Mr. Marsham's parish. The survey there showed that seventy-nine believers had attended the morning service that Sunday and eighty-six the afternoon service. That was about seventy percent of the sheep in his parish - a result well above the national average. Assuming this involvement was normal for him, then our Mr. Marsham was obviously a respected man. In the same month the Church of England conducted its visitor survey, a census was also held in the UK, which provides confidence-building precision
The result was that the country had 20,959,477 inhabitants. The British made up only 1.6 percent of the world's population, but they were as rich and productive as no other nation. This 1.6 percent of humanity was responsible for half of the world's coal and iron production and controlled almost two-thirds of shipping and one-third of trade. Virtually all cotton in the world was made in British factories, on machines invented and built in Britain. The London banks had larger deposits than all the world's financial centers combined, and London was at the center of a vast, growing empire, which at its heyday spanned nearly thirty million square kilometers and in which "God Save the Queen" was the national anthem for a quarter of the world's population . Great Britain was world leader in almost every measurable category. It was the richest, most creative, most productive country - in which gardeners also rose to greatness. Suddenly, for the first time in history, most people were spoiled for choice. Karl Marx, resident in London, was astonished to discover, with a slight undertone of helpless admiration, that five hundred different types of hammers could be bought in Great Britain. The economy was booming everywhere. Today's Londoners live surrounded by grand Victorian buildings, while people back then were surrounded by construction noise. Eight railway stations were opened within twelve years, and the unrest and chaos - the trenches, the tunnels, the torn earth, the constant jams of carts and other vehicles, the smoke, the noise, the haywire - that went with the construction from railways, bridges, sewer systems, pumping and power stations, underground trains and the like, meant that Victorian London was not only the largest city in the world, but also the loudest, smellyest,
dirtiest, liveliest, busiest and most uprooted. The 1851 census also showed that the kingdom now had more people living in cities than in the country (for the first time anywhere on earth!), And these enormous crowds caught the eye everywhere. There were hordes of workers, of travelers, of people going to school, jail, or hospital. When they were enjoying themselves, it was of course en masse, and nowhere did they go with such exuberant enthusiasm as the Crystal Palace. Because not only was the building fantastic, inside you couldn't help but be amazed. Almost one hundred thousand things were shown, distributed among fourteen thousand exhibits. Among the novelties were a knife with 1851 (!) Blades, furniture that had been knocked out of appropriately large blocks of coal (solely because they wanted to demonstrate that it was possible), a bed that could be converted into a life raft, and one that automatically dumped its stunned occupant into a freshly made bath; Furthermore, all kinds of flight apparatus (except functioning ones), bloodletting instruments, the largest mirror in the world, a giant lump of guano from Peru, the famous diamonds named Hope or Koh-i-Noor *, the model of a suspension bridge that runs between Great Britain and France * The Koh-i-Noor had become one of the crown jewels two years earlier, namely after it had been taken from its illegitimate owner (or, depending on the beholder's point of view, captured) by the British Army during their conquest of the Punjab. Most people, however, were rather disappointed with the gem. Although the stone - nearly two hundred carats - was large, it was poorly cut and lacked brilliance. After the World's Fair it was bravely trimmed down to a more sparkling one hundred and nine carats and placed in the royal crown.
could have been built, as well as an infinite number of machines, textiles and all sorts of other manufactured goods from all over the world. The Times then calculated that it would take two hundred hours to look at everything. Not every exhibit was sparkling. Newfoundland dedicated its entire stand area to the history and production of cod liver oil and became an oasis of calm, much appreciated by those looking for a break from the crowds. The United States booth almost went empty. Because Congress failed to pull out funds in a frugal fit, the whole thing had to be financed privately.But when the American products arrived in London, it was found that the organizers had only paid enough to allow the goods to be transported to the port, but not further to Hyde Park. Apparently no money had been made available to set up the stand and staff it for five months. Fortunately, the US entrepreneur George Peabody, who lives in London, stepped in and saved the American delegation from the self-inflicted crisis by providing a nest egg of fifteen thousand dollars. All of this only confirmed the more or less general belief that Americans were lovable backwoodsmen and not yet ripe for unsupervised excursions into the big wide world. The surprise was all the greater when everything was set up. Things didn't seem right at the American stand: Almost all machines did something that the world had eagerly expected of machines - punching nails, grinding stones, pulling candles - but with a precision, speed and relentless reliability that faced them other nations could only rub their eyes in amazement. 36
Elias Howe's sewing machine impressed the ladies immensely and promised the impossible, namely that one of the most desolate domestic activities could become an exciting pastime. Cyrus McCormick introduced a mower that supposedly did the jobs of forty men, such a bold claim that hardly anyone believed it. But when you drove out into the country in the vehicle, it turned out that it could do everything you had promised. Most exciting, however, was Samuel Colt's new drum revolver, which was multi-shot and therefore mercilessly fatal - and on top of that could be manufactured in a factory-made manner. Only a local creation could rival such masterpieces in terms of novelty, usefulness and precision - Paxton's great hall itself, but that of all people was supposed to disappear after the end of the exhibition. For many Europeans, American produce was the first disturbing indication that the tobacco-chewing hillbillys across the pond were quietly on their way to becoming an industrial giant - but then again they found it so unlikely that they didn't even believe it when it did actually came like that. The most popular attraction at the world exhibition, however, were not exhibits, but the elegant »retreat rooms«, where visitors could relieve themselves in all comfort. The offer was gratefully and enthusiastically accepted by 827,000 people, once in a single day by 11,000 people in urgent need. In 1851 there was a terrible shortage of public toilets. In the British Museum, up to 30,000 visitors a day had to share just two outdoor toilets. In the Crystal Palace, however, there were even flush toilets, which delighted the visitors so much that they had nothing more to do than to have them installed at home. What how we 37
will soon have catastrophic consequences for London. In addition to this hygienic innovation, there was also a social novelty at the world exhibition, because for the first time people from all walks of life came together and practically came into close contact with one another. Many were afraid that the common people - "the noble unwashed", as William Makepeace Thackeray had called them the year before in his novel The Story of Pendennis - would prove unworthy of the trust placed in them and spoil everything for the wealthy, yes , maybe even sabotage. After all, it was only three years since there had been popular uprisings and governments overthrown in Paris, Berlin, Krakow, Budapest, Vienna, Naples, Bucharest and Zagreb. It was particularly feared that the exhibition would attract Chartists and their sympathizers. Chartism was a popular movement - the name comes from the "People's Charter" (which, in turn, was formulated based on the Magna Charta) of 1837. A number of political reforms were called for, all of which look rather modest in retrospect: It went from the abolition of rotten and pocket boroughs * to the introduction of universal suffrage for men. Over a period of about ten years, the Chartists tabled a series of petitions in the London Parliament, one of which was nearly ten kilometers long and supposedly signed by 5.7 million people. Parliament was impressed, but rejected it anyway, for the good of the people, of course. Universal suffrage, it was unanimously agreed, was a dangerous thing - “entirely * In rotten boroughs, a member of parliament could be elected by a very small number of people. In Bute, Scotland, for example, only 38
a resident of fourteen thousand had the right to vote and could choose himself. In turn, nobody lived in pocket boroughs at all, but they were "represented" with a seat in parliament that those who had it could sell or leave to a son who was "difficult to place". The most famous pocket borough was Dunwich, once a coastal town in Suffolk with a large port, the third largest in England, which was washed into the sea with the city in a storm in 1286. Despite its obvious non-existence, this borough was represented by a series of privileged zeros in Parliament until 1832.
incompatible with the existence of a civilization ”, as the historian and MP Thomas Babington Macaulay put it. In 1848 the situation in London came to a head. The Chartists announced a mass rally on Kennington Common, south of the Thames. It was feared that the furious crowd would become so indignant that they would rush over Westminster Bridge and storm Parliament. Government buildings were quickly secured across the city. In the Foreign Office, Lord Palmerston, Secretary of State, barricaded the windows with bound volumes of The Times. Men were posted on the roof of the British Museum with a supply of bricks to pound on the heads of those who tried to conquer the building. Cannons were set up in front of the Bank of England and the civil servants in several authorities were even equipped with swords and ancient muskets, perhaps not always well-maintained, which were just as dangerous for their users as for those who bravely faced them. One hundred and seventy thousand special protection men - mostly rich gentlemen and their servants were on alert; in command was the energetic Duke of Wellington, who was eighty-two years old and deaf to anything that was not extremely loud and courageous.
In the end, however, the gathering dispersed peacefully, and not only because the Chartist leader, Feargus O'Connor, suddenly behaved in a very bizarre manner (syphilitic dementia had not yet been diagnosed and only led to his admission to an institution the following year ). On the contrary, those who were gathered were not savage revolutionaries at heart, and they neither wanted to instigate nor fall victim to a great bloodshed. In addition, a downpour in good time ensured that the option of “retreating to the pub” appeared far more appealing than “storming parliament”. The Times found that "the London mob is neither heroic nor poetic, patriotic, enlightened or clean, but a good-natured bunch." And as condescending as this judgment sounded - it could not be dismissed entirely out of hand. Although the all-clear was announced for the time being, the excitement continued unabated in some camps in 1851. Henry Mayhew noted in his widely acclaimed The Poor of London, published in the same year, that the working population "down to the last man" was made up of "hot-headed proletarians with subversive thoughts." But apparently even the hot-headed proletarians loved the World's Fair. It opened without incident on May 1st, 1851, "a wonderful, impressive and touching spectacle," remarked a beaming Queen Victoria, who described the opening day (apparently out of deep conviction) as the "greatest day in our history." People came from all corners of the country. An eighty-five-year-old woman named Mary Callinack became famous for walking four hundred miles from Cornwall. During the five and a half months that the exhibition lasted, six million visitors came; the day with the most was October 7th: almost 110,000 turned 40
let in. Once there were 92,000 people in the palace at the same time - the greatest number that had ever been inside a single building. Not all visitors were delighted. William Morris, designer and future esthete, then seventeen, was so appalled by what he saw as a lack of taste and cult of excess that he stumbled out of the building and vomited in the bushes. But most people thought it was wonderful, and almost all of them behaved well. During the entire World's Fair, just twenty-five visitors were charged with minor offenses - fifteen for pickpocketing and ten for petty theft. The low crime rate is even more amazing when you consider that Hyde Park was notorious for its dangerousness back then, especially from the start of dusk when the risk of being mugged was so great that people formed groups before they did crossed it. Thanks to the crowds at the World's Fair, it was one of the safest places in London for almost six months. The exhibition made a profit of £ 186,000, enough to buy thirty acres south of Hyde Park, popularly known as Albertopolis, where the great museums and institutions that still dominate the area today were built: the Royal Albert Hall, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Royal College of Art, and the Royal College of Music. Paxton's mighty Crystal Palace remained in Hyde Park until the summer of 1852; then one finally came to a decision about one's future fate. Almost no one wanted him to disappear entirely, but there was no way of agreeing what would become of him. A pretty crazy Vor41
The only thing to do was to transform it into a three hundred meter high glass tower. Eventually it was rebuilt in south London, in Sydenham, in a new park called Crystal Palace Park. For some inexplicable reason it became even bigger during the procedure: namely one and a half times as large, and you used as much glass as before. Because it was built on a sloping site, rebuilding it was much trickier. Everything collapsed four times. About 6,400 workers were at work, it took them more than two years, and seventeen lost their lives. What had taken shape in the first crystal palace as if by magic was now missing. He never regained his place in the nation's favor. In 1936 it burned down. Ten years after the World's Fair, Prince Albert died, and a large neo-Gothic spaceship called the Albert Memorial was erected in his honor west of the place where the Crystal Palace had stood. The cost was a whopping one hundred and twenty thousand pounds, or one and a half times that of the Crystal Palace. Albert is now enthroned under a huge gold-plated canopy, a book on his lap: the catalog of the world exhibition. There are no statues or other monuments to Joseph Paxton or Henry Cole. Of Paxton's original Crystal Palace, only the two large wrought iron gates that were located at the ticket control at the entrance and which now undetected mark the border between Hyde Park and Kensington Garden remain. The golden age of the country pastors also ended abruptly. The 1870s saw a serious agricultural crisis that hit landowners and those who depended on land for prosperity. One hundred thousand peasants and farm laborers left the country within six years. In our parish, the population has halved in fifteen years, the Ein42
The parish property tax rate was just £ 1,713, just under £ 100 more than Thomas Marsham had cost to build his house three decades earlier. At the end of the century, the average income of the English country pastor was less than half what it had been fifty years earlier. In terms of purchasing power, it was downright starvation wages. Rural parishes were no longer attractive benefices. Many clergymen could no longer even afford to marry. Those who were smart and had the opportunity to do so would use their skills elsewhere. "At the turn of the century," writes David Cannadine, "the best minds of a generation were no longer to be found in the Church, but somewhere else entirely." In 1899 the Marsham family property was split up and sold, ending a good, important relationship with the county. Strangely, an unexpected incident in the kitchen was largely responsible for the devastating agricultural crisis of the 1870s and beyond. We'll come to the event soon, but before we enter the house and start our tour, we should perhaps spend a few pages discussing what I think is relevant here as to why people live in houses at all.
Chapter Two The House I. If we could bring Pastor Thomas Marsham back to life and bring him to his rectory, he would be most surprised (aside from being back at all) that the house has become practically invisible. Today it stands in a dense forest that belongs to the property and gives it a decidedly secluded atmosphere. In 1851 it was brand new, almost alone in the wild, a red brick building in an open field. And although this brick building is of course a few years older and has gained a few electrical cables and a television antenna, it has remained almost unchanged since 1851. Today, as then, it is used as a residence. And, as it should be, exudes security. That is not by accident. Everything about our house (and everyone else) had to be thought out - doors, windows, chimneys, stairs - and, as we shall see, many things took a lot more time and experimentation than is commonly assumed. Houses are strange things, actually. They can have almost any shape and size, be made of almost any material and can be placed anywhere. But no matter where in the world we go, houses and that people have made a home there, we immediately recognize. They have been doing it since time immemorial, and a first reference to this is remarkable
This fact happened coincidentally in the very year our old rectory was built, in the winter of 1850. Then a mighty storm swept over Britain, yes, one of the worst in decades, and left a trail of devastation far and wide. Five ships wrecked on the Goodwin Sands off the Kent coast and all the sailors perished. Eleven men drowned off Worthing in Sussex who wanted to help a ship in distress in a lifeboat and their boat capsized in a gigantic wave. Off Kilkee on the west coast of Ireland, an Irish sailor named Edmund, on his way to America, got out of hand, and passengers and crew had to watch helplessly as their ship drifted against rocks and shattered. Ninety-six drowned, but a few fought their way ashore, including an elderly lady clinging to the back of the brave captain named Wilson, who was English, the Illustrated London News noted with grim satisfaction. More than two hundred people perished in the sea around the British Isles that night. In the Crystal Palace, which was being diligently built in London, the newly installed panes of glass jerked and rattled, but stayed in place, and the half-finished building itself withstood the lashing winds with hardly a groan. Much to the relief of Joseph Paxton, who had promised it would be stormproof but was pleased when it was confirmed. Seven hundred miles to the north, the storm raged for days in the Orkney Islands off Scotland. In Bay o 'Skaill, he tore off the grass cover from a large, strangely irregular hill called howe up there, and which has been a landmark since time immemorial. When the weather finally calmed down and the islanders took a look at their remodeled beach, 45
To their astonishment, they saw where the howe had stood the remains of an ancient stone village, the nine houses of which stood close together, had no roofs, but were otherwise miraculously intact and still contained many things from the original inhabitants. The village was five thousand years old, older than Stonehenge and the pyramids - only a handful of buildings on earth are older - and it turned out to be infinitely rare and important. It's called Skara Brae. Thanks to the completeness and the good state of preservation, it looks almost eerily homely. Nowhere does one get a better feeling for life in the Stone Age than here.You really get the impression that people have only just left it. The high level of development is always impressive. The houses were very spacious and had lockable doors, a sewer system and apparently even basic sanitary facilities such as slots in the walls to get rubbish and excrement out. The walls that are still standing are up to three meters high, so there was plenty of headroom and the floors were laid with stones. Every house also has built-in chests of drawers made of stone, niches for supplies, box-like parts, probably beds, as well as water reservoirs and layers of insulation that must have kept the interior cozy and dry. Since the houses are all the same size and built according to the same plan, it is reasonable to assume that a community lived here that was not hierarchically structured. Covered corridors ran between the houses and led to an area whose floor was also laid with stones and which was intended for gatherings - the first archaeologists called it the "marketplace". The life of the residents of Skara Braes does not seem to have been bad. They had jewelry and pottery, grew wheat and barley, and had plenty of shellfish 46
and fetch fish from the sea, including cod up to seventy pounds. They kept cattle, sheep, pigs and dogs. The only thing they didn't have was wood. For heating they burned seaweed, which burns very badly, but what was a problem for them is good for us. If they had built their houses out of wood, there would have been nothing left, and we would not have even been able to imagine Skara Brae. The uniqueness and importance of Skara Brae cannot be overstated. Prehistoric Europe was a largely empty continent. Fifteen thousand years ago there were perhaps less than a measly two thousand people in the British Isles. Up until the days of Skara Brae, the number might have risen to twenty thousand, but that still wasn't more than one person in seven and a half square kilometers. Which explains why it is quite exciting these days to come across a sign of life from the Stone Age. (Back then, of course, it wouldn't have been any less exciting.) There were all sorts of oddities in Skara Brae, too. A building, for example, stands a little apart from the others and is locked from the outside, which cannot really mean anything other than that everyone inside was locked up. Which in turn tarnishes the impression that everything here was peace, joy, pancakes. After such a long time, of course, you can't say why you thought you had to keep someone in custody in such a small community. The watertight storage containers that were found in all dwellings are also mysterious. It is generally believed that limpets were kept in them, molluscs with a hard-shelled "bowl" that are found in abundance in the vicinity of Skara Brae. But why someone always wants to keep fresh limpets in stock remains a mystery, even if one speculates wildly, because limpets are horrible to eat, they only contain one calorie per 47
Little animals and are so rubbery that you can't really get them small when you chew them. Yes, you use more energy to chew than you get from them. We know absolutely nothing about the people of Skara Brae, where they came from, what language they spoke, what made them settle in such a lonely outpost on the treeless edge of Europe - but it seems that the village has existed uninterruptedly for six hundred comfortably quiet years. Then, around 2500 BC. BC, the residents disappeared one day, apparently head over heels. In the corridor in front of a house one found jewelry pearls scattered, which were certainly valuable for the owner. Apparently a chain was broken and the wearer was too panic or distressed to pick it up. Why the happy idyll Skara Braes came to such an abrupt end remains in the dark as much as much else. Amazingly, more than three quarters of a century passed after the village was discovered before anyone even looked at it properly. Only the explorer William Watt from the nearby Skaill House had saved a few items, and one weekend in 1913 a party party armed with spades and other tools went out from Skaill House, gleefully ransacked the site and took, God knows what to take with me as a souvenir - terrible! The Stone Age village was not dealt with more intensively. But when in 1924, again in a storm, part of a house was washed into the sea, it was understood that it would be better to secure the place and have it appraised by experts. An Australian-born, interesting, weird, brilliant Marxist professor at the University of Edinburgh got the job,
who hated fieldwork and only went out when he had to. His name was Vere Gordon Childe. Childe was not a trained archaeologist. There were few people in the early 1920s. During his studies of classical philology and philosophy at the University of Sydney he developed a passionately deep and lasting love for communism, which blinded him to the excesses of Josef Stalin for a long time, but made his archaeological theories interesting and surprisingly alive. In 1914 he came to Oxford, where he devoted himself to the study of the early peoples and to leading
Authority in this field. In 1927 the University of Edinburgh appointed him the newly created Abercrombie Professor of Prehistoric Archeology. That made him the only academically qualified archaeologist in Scotland, and of course when sites like Skara Brae needed to be explored, he was called in. In the summer of 1927 he set out north by train and ship to the Orkney Islands. Almost all of the contemporaries who have described Childe devoted themselves almost lovingly to his strange demeanor and strange appearance. His colleague Max Mallowan (who is known to posterity as the second husband of Agatha Christie) said that Childe had a "face so ugly that it hurt to look at it." Another colleague remembered Childe as "tall, awkward and ugly, eccentrically dressed and abrupt in his way, a strange, often unsettling personality." Certainly, the few surviving photos of Childes confirm that he was no beauty - skinny and chinless, owl eyes behind large glasses, and a mustache that looked as if he was going to come alive and crawl away at any moment - but no matter how unfriendly people looked Appearance of his head say - the inside was a treasure trove. Childe had a wonderfully receptive memory and an extraordinary gift for languages. He read at least a dozen living and dead languages, so that he could sift through both ancient and modern texts on any subject that interested him - and there were hardly any subjects that did not interest him. The mixture of weird looks, cuddly speaking and shyness, physical awkwardness and downright overwhelming intelligence was just more than many people could bear. One student remembered Childe addressing those present in half a dozen languages on what was actually a sociable evening, demonstrating how to divide with Roman numerals in writing
table on the chemical methods for determining the age of Bronze Age finds and quoted the length and breadth from a myriad of classical poems in the original language. A lot of people just found it annoying. The dig itself did not interest him, to say the least, the bean. Almost reverently, his colleague Stuart Piggott remarked that Childe "is incapable of assessing archaeological evidence in the field and of the procedures for collecting, recognizing and interpreting it." Almost all of Childe's books are based on reading rather than personal experience. He even had a limited command of the many languages. Although he could read it perfectly, he used a self-made pronunciation so that no one who knew the language could understand him. When he wanted to impress his colleagues in Norway and tried to order raspberries, he got twelve beers. Regardless of his strange looks and behavior, he pushed the cause of archeology forward. In the course of three and a half decades he wrote six hundred articles and books, both popular and scientific, including the bestseller Driving Forces of Events: People make their own history (1936, German 1949) and stages of culture: From primeval times to antiquity ( 1942, German 1952), which many archaeologists claim to have moved to take up the profession. Most of all, he was an original thinker, and it was just as he was poking around in Skara Brae that he had perhaps the greatest and most original idea in archeology of the twentieth century. Traditionally, man's past is divided into three very different periods: the Paleolithic (or Paleolithic), which began 2.5 million years ago and lasted until 52
The Mesolithic (Mesolithic), which marked the transition from the hunter-gatherer way of life to the widespread beginning of agriculture and lasted four thousand years, and the Neolithic (Neolithic), which lasted the last, extremely creative, approximately two thousand years includes up to the Bronze Age. Within all three periods there are many other subdivisions - Oldowan, Mousteria, Gravettia and so on - but they are mainly of interest to specialists and should not concern us further here. It can be said, however, that in the first 99 percent of our history as humans we did not do much more than reproduce and survive. Then, however, people all over the world discovered agriculture and ranching, the art of irrigation, writing, architecture, governance, and all the other refinements of being that together make up what we lovingly call civilization. This moment has often been described as the most momentous event in human history, and the first to realize it in full and to conceptualize the entire complex process was Vere Gordon Childe. He spoke of the "Neolithic Revolution". It remains one of the great mysteries of human evolution. Scientists can tell us exactly where and when it happened, but still not why. With a probability bordering on certainty (well, at least we think so) major climate changes played a role. About twelve thousand years ago the earth began to warm up very quickly and then for a whole millennium, for unknown reasons, it suddenly became bitterly cold again, as if the Ice Age was still breathing 53
one last time. This period is called the Younger Dryas by scientists. (After an arctic plant, the silver arum or Dryas octopetala, which is one of the first to start growing again after a sheet of ice has thawed. There was also an older dryas, but it was irrelevant for human development.) After ten more In any case, after centuries of biting cold, the earth warmed up again quickly and has remained comparatively warm since then. Almost everything we have created as higher evolved beings happened in this brief period of climatic glory. What is interesting about the Neolithic Revolution is that it took place all over the world, among people who had no idea that, far from them, others were doing exactly the same thing. Agriculture and ranching have been independently invented at least seven times - in China, New Guinea, the Andes, Mexico, West Africa, the Middle East, and the Amazon Basin. Urban settlements also sprang up simultaneously in six different locations - in China, Egypt, India, Mesopotamia, Central America and in the Andes. That this happened all over the world, often without people having any possibility of contact, is almost scary at first glance. As one historian put it: “When Corts landed in Mexico, he found streets, canals, cities, palaces, schools, courts of law, markets, irrigation systems, kings, priests, temples, farmers, artisans, armies, astronomers, merchants, sports, Theater, painting, music and books before «- everything was created completely independently of similar developments on other continents. Some things are scary even at second glance. Dogs, for example, were domesticated at roughly the same time in places as far apart as England, Siberia, and North America.
The idea that all people across the globe suddenly saw the light at the same time is tempting, but far exaggerated. These developments usually took a very, very long time. Trial and error and readjustment followed one another, often over a period of thousands of years. Agriculture began 11,500 years ago in the Levant, eight thousand years ago in China, and a little over five thousand years ago in large parts of the American double continent. Humans had also been living with domesticated animals for four thousand years before anyone had the idea of making the bigger animals do the work, namely pulling a plow; in the West people tortured themselves for another two thousand years with a heavy, unwieldy, highly inefficient straight plow, until someone arrived with the simple curved plow that the Chinese have always used. The wheel was invented in Mesopotamia and used immediately, but in neighboring Egypt they waited two thousand years before actually using it. Separately, the Maya in Central America also invented the wheel, but since they couldn't think of any practical application for it, they only used it as a children's toy. The Inca had no wheels at all. Also no money or iron and no writing. In short, progress was anything but predictable and steady. For a long time it was thought that the so-called settling down went hand in hand with the beginning of agriculture and animal husbandry. It was believed that people stopped roaming as nomads and built land and kept domestic animals for more reliable sources of food. Hunting wild animals is difficult and risky, and hunters will certainly come home empty-handed at times. It is much better to take control of your food into your own hands and have it permanently and conveniently within reach 55
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