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 →
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.