August is often a quiet month, as people straggle back from beach to desk and and the new academic year, but this month has produced a fine crop of early autumnal fruit from the blog tree. This months History Canrival is a mixed bag of riots, roadways, building walls and observatories, executions, and playing games.
Tom Sykes, at In Pursuit of History, tell us of a stop over by Charles I on his flight after the Battle of Worcester which saw the fleeing monarch hiding under a tree in the rain, something we’ve all done too often this past month! The pause at Whiteladies saw Charles decide to flee to Wales, abandoning the road to London, and London draws a share of attention this month. Christopher M. Cevasco begins a series on that most important roadway in the city, London Bridge, at his blog, in what promises to be an interesting history of this landmark. Inspired by London, Oxford Dictionaries topically remind us of the origins of words relating to riots from the 13th Century to 1991. Shakespeares London is evoked in Anchora’s beautifully illustrated posting about the blank A1 pages of early printed books, which protected title pages that were, we are told, on “every available surface around London, a form of advertisement as significant as it was ephemeral”
There is a thread of gruesome this month as well, from England to new England. The chirurgeon’s apprentice introduces us to the practice of vivisection in Early Modern England as practiced by Robert Hooke in 1664 and described in his letters to his colleague in the Royal Society, Robert Boyle. Slightly later, Executed Today reminds us that in 1692, on the 19th of August in New England, they executed Martha Carrier, the third of the Salem Witch executions and the subject of a historical novel, The Heretics Daughter, by Kathleen Kent. Moving from the panic at Salem to Ohio in 1857, Christopher M. Cevasco has a timely account of the failure of the Ohio Life Insurance and Trust Company which produced a short but sharp financial crisis that year in the US – terms like “overexpansion”, “railway booms” and “caused railroad securities to lose their value.” all have a terribly contemporary ring to them.
Moving from bad news to good news, because the Berlin Wall is now gone, Dr Kelly Hignett at The View East reminds us that 50 years ago this year saw the building of the Berlin Wall. Hignett addresses the physical and mental walls, and it’s commemoration, and links to a post with footage of the construction which will surely be useful in classes on Cold War history. Also moving from bad news to good news, Renaissance Mathematicus has a wonderfully structured post that begins with a murder and ends with a cartesian research group. (Perhaps we should have a prize for the best one liner about that paring!) Over at teleskopos, Rebekah Higgitt leads us from maths back to London and the foundation of the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, for which the foundation stone was laid on 10th August 1675, a significant date in the history of science.
With all the riots, vivisection, murders and executions this month, you might expect Soldiers Mail to add more of the same, but, as is often the case, the letters of Sam home to Em and Lena are all about the mundane existence of camp life on the Mexican expedition, full of talk of pay, watches, guard rosters and improvised desks. Soldiers Mail has a long series of the letters of Sgt. Samuel E. Avery from 1916 to 1919, worth noting if you need primary sources from that period.
In the spirit of keeping what I think is the most interesting wine for last, History and the Sock Merchant asks “How well do modern computer games do modern history?” in a post that is bound to arouse divided opinions. I always enjoy reading H&tSM, and as an avid gamer I am drawn to the questions about using games in teaching. H&tSM has reviewed three games in terms of their historical value, and while I don’t like all three myself, I’m hard pressed to come up with alternatives which suggests there is room in the market for more history based games.