Replica of Hanseatic League (Hanse) stall selling spices and exotic fruits
Hanse trade was vast
In last week’s blog, I wrote about the rise of the Hanseatic League or Hanse. It became very powerful—and extremely rich—simply by working really hard and trading very cleverly. To give you an idea of how extensive Hanse trade was, take a look at this graphic from the Hansemuseum of all the items traded through Bruges (click to enlarge to read):
imports: cloth at the top, metals, foodstuffs, weapons, exotic animals, luxury goods and more Exports: jewels, pearls, carpets, parchment, sugar, weapons, furs, sponges, dyes and more
Clearly, if you were wealthy enough, you could buy practically anything known at the time. At the top of the blog, I’ve repeated last week’s image of a replica spice stall. But there are more. Continue reading →
Hanseatic League trading range in the 16th century and key trading partners
Who in Britain has heard of the Hanseatic League (in German, die Hanse)? And yet the Hanseatic League was probably the most powerful trading network in northern Europe for centuries, from its inception around the 12th century until its demise in the 17th.
What’s more, one of the Hanse’s prime locations—you may be surprised to learn—was London. In 1176, King Henry II granted merchants from Cologne the privilege of establishing their own trading post in London. And from then on, their business flourished.
I recently visited Hanseatic League cities and towns in Germany, from Berlin to Lübeck. Continue reading →
Frederick the Great? Who he? (A question asked by Brits, perhaps, but probably not by Germans.)
Not many monarchs get to be called “the Great”. Here, in England, we had Alfred. In Russia, they had Peter and, later, Catherine (though she was a German, not a Russian). In Prussia, there was Frederick. So what made him Great?
I mentioned in the blog about my passport woes that I really wanted to visit Sans Souci, Frederick the Great’s summer palace, south-west of Berlin. Well, now I have. And it was fascinating in ways I hadn’t expected at all. Continue reading →
Earlier on this week, I caught myself saying “Touch wood” and started to wonder where the expression came from. Was it me being superstitious? Or was it just a cultural thing, like saying “Bless you” when someone sneezes, or “Goodbye” (= God be with you) when we leave them?
As is the way of such things, it started me down a whole warren of research rabbit holes. What’s not to like? At least for a blogger like me, rooting around for something to write about.
I assumed that “touch wood” must be ancient, perhaps dating from pre-Christian times when sacred groves of trees were venerated.
Shades of the wonderful Asterix and his Druid, Getafix. (That’s a classic example of the humour of Asterix’s brilliant English translators, Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge. The original French name was Panoramix which isn’t nearly as clever, I don’t think.)
According to Wikipedia, I was sort of right about the Celtic history of touching wood (or knocking on wood) as a kind of protective magic to turn away misfortune. The proper term is, apparently, apotropaic. (No, me neither.) However, there’s a later Christian explanation, relating to the wood of the cross. And an even more modern derivation, from a game of tag called “Tiggy Touchwood”.
Personally, I prefer to stick with the Celtic origin theory. “Touch wood” or “Knock on wood” seems to be in common use in loads of countries which might suggest that it is very old.
I’ve been reading a fascinating book, Follow the Money, by Paul Johnson (yes, the one who is Director of the Institute of Fiscal Studies). It includes passing references to financial history, including tax and the kind of revenue-raising choices made by British governments over the centuries.
When I wrote about coronations a few weeks ago, I didn’t mention flags. But for the 2023 coronation, they were everywhere, weren’t they? Strings of bunting featuring the Union Jack (or Union Flag, if you prefer). So I thought I might blog about the origins and evolution of the flag we all recognise and take for granted.
Many, perhaps most, national flags are fairly simple, perhaps just three coloured stripes, like the French and German ones. The Union Jack is much more complicated, as is the flag of the USA. That’s another flag that has evolved and may continue to do so, like the differences in our languages. Dame Isadora has blogged about that, more than once 😉
The Union Jack is the flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, to use the full title. And so the flag should represent the constituent parts. But does it? Where is Wales, for example? Continue reading →
You may already be fed up with coronation information and PR. However, my blog this week is not about next Saturday’s coronation of Charles III. It’s about earlier ones, specifically about the outrageously extravagant coronation of George IV on 19 July 1821.
Well, the long Regency is my period, isn’t it?
And although the Regency ended on the death of George III on 29th January 1820, the coronation had to be delayed from August 1820 because the new king wanted to deal with the “problem” of Caroline of Brunswick.
He didn’t succeed in divorcing her, but he did succeed in keeping her out of his coronation. She died two weeks later, still Queen Consort, but never crowned.
Why was George IV’s coronation so extravagant?
Two basic reasons. First, the new king’s love of excess. Second, Napoleon. Continue reading →
Back matter is where the independent publisher can blow their own trumpet. It’s a great PR opportunity for an author to get readers involved and, crucially, buying more of the author’s books. So it’s worth doing it as well as you possibly can.
Back matter is probably the second-last thing an author needs to do before uploading her ebook. (The last thing is to update the Table of Contents.) Before doing back matter, you should have done all in the following list (click to see my previous blogs on how to do them):
Recently, I was stopped in my tracks over female language. Specifically French female language. And then I thought about English, and how different it is. Or is it?
What do I mean by “female language”? Well… I suppose I mean the words and phrases used to signify that we are referring to someone female rather than male. It’s an issue in French, because it’s a gendered language. In English, we’re increasingly moving away from gendered language. For example, we don’t talk about actors and actresses any more, just about actors. And in cricket, we have batters, not batsmen. In the fishing industry, we have fishers, not fishermen. Back before the war, the women who painted china were called paintresses. I can’t imagine anyone using that word now, can you? Or—pace Jane Austen—authoress.
The issue arose because, in the book I’m currently working on, there is a reference to a female examining magistrate in Paris. Now, the French for judge is “le juge” and an examining magistrate (the one who oversees the pre-trial enquiry) is “le juge d’instruction”. So far, so fairly OK. One would address such a magistrate as “monsieur le juge”. But what if he is a she? Continue reading →