> Let's Talk - History! - Its All Zara

Let's Talk - History!

September 02, 2017

Happy Saturday blog readers!

As usual it is time for my weekly "Let's Talk" segment and this weeks topic is history, a subject I take a great deal of enjoyment discussing and like always I have company to discuss it with me:

Katie - @katiessanctuary on Twitter and her blog can be found at: https://katiessanctuaryblog.wordpress.com/

Poppy - @poppy_raptor on Twitter and her blog can be found at: https://thepoppyraptor.wordpress.com/

Estelle - @estelleosaurus on Twitter and her blog can be found at: https://estellosaurus.com/

Katie's thoughts: "History has pretty much been in my bones since I was a nipper - I remember being fascinated by majestic castles, stories of Kings and Queens & cosying up to my Dad on a Sunday eve to tune into Time Team!

For me, it's like unearthing treasure. It's the opportunity to walk through different worlds, to witness different events and to let yourself imagine what it might have been like to live in a different era. I feel like it's my escape from an otherwise 'ordinary' life!  

I particularly love all the gory bits - the hair-raising tales from the Tower of London, the tyrannical Henry VIII & his six wives, Hitler & the nazis, stories of crime and punishment - the grisly bits are the best bits! In fact I've recently been reading about body snatching in the 19th century wherein body snatchers would dig up corpses during the dead of night, in order to sell them to medical students for autopsies. Yikes.

I alluded to this earlier with my reference to ol' Henry VIII, but I bloody love the Tudors. They just fascinate me! I've always had a bit of an affinity with Henry VIII's doomed second wife Anne Boleyn - she was perceptive, courageous and incredibly determined, and I think for the period she really stood out; much like her daughter Queen Elizabeth I, who I'm equally fascinated by! Fun fact - she brushed her teeth with sugar! 

I was actually fortunate enough last year to work at Hampton Court Palace - one of my favourite places and one of Henry VIII's joints (he pinched it off a bloke called Wolsey) - & oh my giddy aunt; I couldn't believe my luck everyday being able to stroll towards such a grand imposing red brick building - if those walls could talk! If you've not been before, I absolutely recommend you go! 

I'm so intrigued by what's come before; how people used to do things, how they dressed, what they thought - it's real magic. I also love that you can read old diaries (I'm nosy like that) - Queen Victoria (another gutsy, determined female!) is famous for keeping diaries throughout her life, and it gives such an insight into her world! I must admit, I adore her relationship with Prince Albert - their love was all consuming and I'm a big sap, so...y'know. ITV are currently showing Season 2 of Victoria, beginning with her early years as Queen - Jenna Coleman is perfect as the young monarch, so if you haven't watched it before, grab Season 1 ASAP & catch up! 

In a nutshell, I love history because it's like...there is always a stone to turn over. There will always be something new to learn, a new character to meet or a new event to relive. I'm actually studying towards a degree in history with the Open Uni!  I'll not lie, I'm not entirely certain what I'll do with it yet, but for now I'm doing it for the love it, and that's good enough for me!"

Poppy's thoughts: "I've always been a pretty major history buff, it was one of the only subjects I ever did consistently well in at school, but somehow, sitting down and trying to articulate quite what it is that I love so much about it is incredibly difficult.

Earlier today, whilst I was at work, I was struck by a sudden thought, that Catherine Howard, the 6th wife of Henry VIII, was a real person. She breathed the same air as I do, ate mostly the same food and perhaps thought some of the same thoughts as me too. This might sound stupid, but when you live your life buried in a book like me, it's an easy thing to forget, especially when history is so alive with so many unfathomable characters whose lives were truly extraordinary. Sometimes more so than fiction.

Catherine Howard, for example, was only 16 when King Henry VIII proposed to her (he was 49) and was Queen of England for just over a year before being beheaded for treason. She was just 18. Her crime? She had written a love letter to a man her own age, and had slept with other men before her marriage to the King. Yes, both were punishable by death in Tudor times, but looking back now, it seems brutal that a young girl could be executed for this.

Let's jump forwards 300 years, to the beginning of the 20th century and the Romanov dynasty of Russia. King Nicholas II had only one son, Alexei, who suffered from a rare, incurable blood disease called haemophilia. The King's wife, Alexandra, believed that a local peasant mystic had the power to heal her son. This man was called Rasputin and he soon had access to everything the monarchy had to offer. This dirty, alcoholic, sexually voracious man became the scourge of Europe, turning the royal family into a laughing stock. Rasputin was eventually executed by a group of young men who claim that Rasputin simply would not die. First, they laced his food with cyanide, but this didn’t seem to affect Rasputin at all. They then shot him in the chest, but still he did not die. After a violent struggle, they claim they eventually shot him twice more and threw him into an icy cold river to ensure he really was dead. As there is no other theory to account for Rasputin's death, this remains as the version most widely told, and doesn't it just sound like something out of a creepy horror movie?

I think it’s this fascination with a world so different to my own that keeps me going back to history, and all the stories it has to tell. Of course, there are wonderful exhibits and museums on history throughout the UK, but for me, it’s books that I turn to, both non-fiction and occasionally historical fiction (Philippa Gregory is a bit of a guilty pleasure for me!) as they really allow me to get lost in all these past worlds. Next on my reading list is a book on the important female figures from medieval Europe, which is excellently titled Game of Queens."

Estelle's thoughts: "I adore history. I was always pretty good at it at school and combined with a love of reading, I’ve read a lot of history books – when I was younger the Horrible Histories books were a big favourite of mine.

I think the most fascinating history is from the 1800s, when you think about the Industrial Revolution, the advances that were made in science and medicine during the period are phenomenal. I love medical history, especially the history of hospitals, asylums, medical breakthroughs etc.

I’m a big Victorian/Edwardian era fan. The clothes, the people, the changes that happened during the reign of Queen Victoria and King Edward VII are fascinating. I’m more of social history buff – so I love to learn what was happening in the homes of the people in all classes. Did you know that drugs like morphine and cocaine were readily available to treat things like coughs and colds and that during the Victorian period, giving your baby a daily enema was considered good practice?!

I’ve been reading a lot about Victorian asylums recently and the advances and breakthroughs made in the mental health field, some of the practices of the time were particularly barbaric so it’s so interesting to see them start to treat mental health in a much better way. For example, people often had all their teeth removed because doctors believed that mental disorders stem from infections in the brain carried in the teeth! They used to treat cocaine addictions by giving them heroin! You should definitely watch The Knick for a brilliant insight into the advances in medicine in the early 20th Century.

The breakthroughs made in medicine during the period are, where they start to realise that washing your hands and instruments before a surgical procedure vastly improves the chances of survival for your patient! Many treatments and procedures we see today are based on things that were discovered in the 1800 and 1900s.

I adore the social history side of any era – I love to know how people really lived and how similar some of the activities of daily living are today. Ruth Goodman is an historical writer who actually lives the way that people lived – her insights are wonderful because she’s actually really tried to live like a Tudor or a Victorian, you can really feel the history and the lives of people in her words, so I would urge you to check out some of her writing.

History is a wonderful thing and it has shaped who we are today, history is being made every single day and we are all part of it and I think that’s amazing!"

My thoughts: "I have always enjoyed history both in school and at home, my mother takes a large interest in the Ancient Egyptians and their cultures so much so that her room is full of Egyptian ornaments, books, tapestries and even jewellery. I seem to have inherited her love for ancient history and have studied many stories and tales of Roman armies, Greek myths, Mayan religion and Aztec building structures. I took history as a GCSE and mostly studied the 20th Century era with WWll, Hitlers Germany and the devastation of the Holocaust. This I studied for two years and eventually took my exam where I got a B which made me quite happy, however deciding to study it at A-Level was a whole new ball game apparently. For a start my teacher was very unkind and showed no interest in teaching us and it was awkward asking him for help, he also missed out a lot of important facts that we had to find ourselves because he was quite lazy and when the exam came around not many of us passed because he'd taught us nothing about one of the topics!

I soon gave up doing history at college because it just wasn't enjoyable and I was losing heart with one of my favourite subjects, so I took to watching documentaries at home and teaching myself various things I didn't know. Before I quit history at college however I did a long thesis discussing Mussolini's significance in Italy during the second world war, which was quite easy for me as my Nonna had lots of stories about it because she was there in Italy when the war was announced. I achieved quite high marks on the paper and was pleased that putting my heart and knowledge into something was rewarded, but I had done too badly on the exam to pass onto the next year so I dropped it.

I may take it up again one day but for now history remains an interest and more of a hobby than a chosen career path, I have plenty to deal with when it comes to my Medical Science course which I start again in a few days. How I went from history to science I'm not quite sure but the beauty of history is you can still learn about it while studying something else!"

A big thank you to my three guest writers who's work was absolutely fantastic and I had such enjoyment putting this post together. Join me again next Saturday for another topic and more discussion.


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