A long-awaited blog post.

I have once again disappeared like an entire Roman legion into the Teutoburg Forrest, only myth and rumour and a desperate emperor bemoaning the loss… Only to spring back into blogging action. With characteristic melodrama.

I won’t ask if you missed me… But rather update you on the exciting historical adventures of the graduate historian/archaeologist who has found themselves slowly wiggling their way into the heritage sector. I know, I don’t claim that it isn’t thrilling stuff.

The most shocking aspect of all these shenanigans is that, dear reader, is not that I have successfully procrastinated from writing a blog post for so long. Nor is it that I have tried to cut down on my sandwich eating habits in the name of health. I have, and please don’t judge me too harshly, been tempted away from Rome, Greece, the classical world all together…

*brief pause for a sharp intake of breath*

I surely will be confined to some terrible circle of hell for my historical transgressions. I will be attempting to atone for my sins by returning to the motherland of the ancient world in due course. Nonetheless welcome to the strange and by my standards at least, mysterious world of 18-19th century social history.

As the more observant of you may well have now deduced, this is largely related to my career prospects and the interesting direction they are now taking. But simultaneously, I think that anyone who has a grain of interest in history will undoubtedly work up at least a passing interest in any period, be it the Lascaux caves or the economic state of post-revolutionary Cuba (despite what some of my former lecturers might claim).

More specifically I have found myself ingratiating my way into the world of crime, punishment and social history that goes along with those two cheerful themes. Weirdly enough, I have become so used to the distance of the past with ancient history, that, on confronted with history that is in some parts quite solidly within my own living memory that I almost don’t know what to do with myself. The Courthouse that I have been becoming better aquatinted nearly saw out the millennium, closing it’s doors to the magistrates and law offices in 1998. What madness is this indeed. I find myself reading titles such as ‘The Lost Courthouses of Yorkshire’ and quite enjoying the historical narrative they tell.

Showing below: the original Courthouse building with some not-so-original criminals and other characters in front of it.
Not a legionary in sight: my most recent reading escapades
But never fear, reader, if you where thinking that traversing into the world of our more recent history meant a departure from all vestiges of the grim, gruesome, hilarious or deeply political, then, you’ll be happy to be reassured that this is not the case. With the tendency of human nature being what it is, coupled with a few instances of criminality and cruelty even in rural(ish) Yorkshire there is plenty to report on. Although the weather isn’t half as good as Rome. 

In fact, on a more somber note, that fact that, if you are so inclined, you can read about the sentencing, the warrants and outcomes of trials in English as it was written (rather relying on the esteemed services of a Greek or Latin scholar to translate it all) it brings it much closer to home. In a sort of similar way to actually seeing the contored casts of the bodies from Pompeii or Herculaneum. Reading about people distanced from yourself by a much shorter period of time breaks, what I believe in the theatre world would be called, the fourth-wall. It also reminds us that the law as we know it today is as much embedded in history as the politics and social thinking of the time. 

In 1815 (200 years ago, for the like of me and the less mathematically gifted), Joseph Blackburn, an attorney, was hanged at York, for forging a £2 stamp on a mortgage deed. While this, as Raymond Curry point out,  was a more complicated case than the barest of facts reveals, it still brings home that curious tendency of history to make everything seem simultaneously alien and immediate at the same . 

I hope you will continue to join me on this, newest leg, of journeying around the past. Follow my twitter for more frequent updates on the world of archaeology, history and musings. Lastly, be comforted by the fact that I gave in and had a subway sandwich on my way home before I could finish this blog post. So much for the new health regime . 

…but, it is right that the vocal thinkers of the twenty-first century, when criticising harsh methods of punishment or restrictions amongst other cultures, do not imagine that Britian has always been so refined a place in it’s attitude to criminality or behaviour as it is nowadays.

Emma pinxit 


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