Cricket in the Air?

Georgian Era Stoolball

Here’s a brainteaser for my readers and especially for those who reenact during the Georgian Era.  What game, dating back to at least the 15th century, do some researchers credit as a possible origin for Cricket, Rounders and Baseball?  I’ll give you a couple more clues.  In the early periods, it was often associated with Easter time.  It also would be a great game for demonstrating at a living history event, and even involving the public, since both men and women played it.  Give up?  Well, the answer is Stoolball!  Never heard of Stoolball?  Well, it is not a game involving cow patties but you can read on to learn about this historic game that is still played today.

Stoolball’s origins

Stoolball is one of the best-documented of the early ballgames, with more than sixty possible references to its play between 1086 and 1861. Continue reading

Happy Anniversary to HRH Elizabeth II



Today, 9 September 2015, HRH Elizabeth II becomes England’s longest reigning monarch, surpassing the record of 63 years, 7 months and 2 days set by her great, great, grandmother Queen Victoria.

A few interesting facts about the two Queens.

  • A member of the German House of Hanover, VICTORIA, who stood 4ft 11in (1.5 metres), was the last of the Hanoverian monarchs. She had nine children- four of whom became sovereigns or married sovereigns.
  • ELIZABETH, who is 5ft 4ins (1.6 metres), is a descendant of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, which was renamed the House of Windsor during World War One. Elizabeth and Prince Philip have four children.
  • Some 400,000 people gathered in London for VICTORIA’s coronation.
  • An estimated 27 million people in Britain watched ELIZABETH’s coronation on TV and 11 million listened on the radio.
  • VICTORIA married Prince Albert on 10 February 1840 aged 21. They were married for 20 years, before he died in December 1861.
  • ELIZABETH married the Duke of Edinburgh on 20 November 1947, also aged 21. They have been married for nearly 68 years.  She is the first reigning British monarch to celebrate a diamond wedding anniversary.
  • When VICTORIA assumed the throne in 1837 – the population of England, Scotland and Wales was 16 million. She died on 22 January, 1901, when there were 32.5 million people living in England and Wales.
  • ELIZABETH took the throne in 1952 with the UK population at 50 million. At her Diamond Jubilee, in 2012, it had increased to 63.2 million.
  • VICTORIA oversaw an empire, measuring a quarter of the globe, and some 400 million people.
  • ELIZABETH is head of state of the UK and 15 Commonwealth realms, with a combined population of about 139 million.
  • VICTORIA’s reign included 10 UK prime ministers. She outlived all but two.  William Gladstone was prime minister on no less than four occasions during her monarchy.
  • ELIZABETH has overseen 12 prime ministers. Margaret Thatcher was the longest-serving – for more than 11 years.
  • Both queens were shot at by a lone gunman while out riding near Buckingham Palace.
  • ELIZABETH loves the private royal estate at Balmoral in Scotland, which was bought by VICTORIA.

Continue reading

The Indecent Foreign Dance: The Waltz Arrives in England


Cinderella and Prince Charming Dancing


“We who go forth of nights and see without the slightest discomposure our sister and our wife seized on by a strange man and subjected to violent embraces and canterings round a small-sized apartment – the only apparent excuse for such treatment being that it is done to the sound of music – can scarcely realize the horror which greeted the introduction of this wicked dance.”  – (Fitzgerald, 1867)


Few sights are as romantic as that of a couple, absorbed in each other, sweeping across the floor in a waltz.  It is certainly the highlight of many a fairy tale and even Jane Austen allows her couples ample time on the dance floor.  But what is the real story behind the waltz and how it was received when it arrived in England in the early 1800s?

Origins of the Waltz

The history of the waltz actually dates back to the 1500′s.  There are several references to a sliding or gliding dance, i.e. a waltz, from the 16th century including the representations of the printer H.S. Beheim.  Hans Sachs wrote of the dance in his 1568 Eygentliche Beschreibung aller Stände (1568) and the French philosopher Montaigne wrote of a dance he saw in 1580 in Augsburg, where the dancers held each other so closely that their faces touched (possibly La Volta).  Kunz Haas, in about the same period wrote: Continue reading

Spying for the Crown – Part 4: Civilian Spies for Wellington




“Tell me Mr. Robertson, are you a man of courage?”  “Try me Sir Arthur.”  “That, is what we mean to do”  –  Conversation between Sir Arthur Wellesley and Father James Robertson  (Longford, 1969)

“The French armies have no communications and one army has no knowledge of the position or of the circumstances in which the others are placed, whereas I have knowledge of all that passes on all sides.” – Sir Arthur Wellesley  (Esdaile, 2004)

Civilian Sources of Military Intelligence

During the French Revolutionary/Napoleonic period, there were a number of churchmen who served as agents for the British military.  During the Revolution, the French Republicans adopted policies, targeting the Church, attempting to de-Christianize the country.  These included:

  • Confiscation of Church lands, which were to be the security for the new Assignat currency
  • Destruction of statues, plates and other iconography from places of worship
  • Destruction of crosses, bells and other external signs of worship
  • Institution of revolutionary and civic cults, including the Cult of Reason and later the Cult of the Supreme Being
  • Enactment of a law, on October 21, 1793, making all nonjuring priests and all persons who harbored them liable to death on sight
  • Celebration of the goddess “Reason” in Notre Dame Cathedral on 10 November 1793

On the surface, Napoleon appeared to restore the Church to France through the Concordat of 1801, which established complete reorganization of the dioceses and declared Roman Catholicism France’s chief religion.  At the same time, the Church renounced their claim to the previously confiscated Church lands, and asked surviving bishops to resign their French sees. However, in 1802, Continue reading

Considering origins, causes, and ways to approach the American revolutionary period

As someone who writes on all things occurring in the Georgian Era, I follow many history blogs; particularly the more academic ones.  One of the blogs that I follow is The Junto.  This blog is a group blog made up of junior early Americanists—graduate students and junior faculty—dedicated to providing content of general interest to other early Americanists and those interested in early American history, as well as a forum for discussion of relevant historical and academic topics.

Last week (Aug 10 – 15, 2015), they published a series of articles, essentially and online round-table, discussing different approaches to the study of the American Revolution and understanding how the break between England and her American Colonies came about with what seems to be exceptional rapidity.  I highly recommend these posts to those interested in understanding the American drive for independence that culminated in the American War for Independence as they may give you some more avenues to explore.

The posts were:

Aug 10:  The Origins of the American Revolution: A Roundtable

Aug 11:  The Origins of the American Revolution: Religion

Aug 12:  The Origins of the American Revolution: Social Experience and Revolutionary Politics

Aug 13:  The Origins of the American Revolution: Definition, Periodization, and Complexity

Aug 14:  The Origins of the American Revolution: Politics and Politicized Societies

Aug 15:  The Origins of the American Revolution: Empire

All of these are rather short posts but the footnotes point to a lot of good sources to dig deeper into each subject and help to further understand the author’s point.

© Chuck Hudson

Spying for the Crown: Part 3 – Military Intelligence During the Peninsula Campaign




“A great part of the information obtained in war is contradictory, a still greater part is false and by far the greatest part is of doubtful character.” – Carl von Clausewitz  (Clausewitz, 1908)

“All the business of war, and indeed all the business of life, is to endeavour to find out what you don’t know from what you do.” – Sir Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington  (The Quarterly Review, 1877)


Exploring Officers

When Napoleon named his brother Joseph as the ruler of Spain he created the impossible alliance; a  British, Spanish  and Portuguese coalition that turned into a catastrophe for the French.  For five years, the war in the Iberian Peninsula sapped the strength, resources and morale of the French soldiers and their officers.  The average French conscript saw a posting to Spain as a one-way ticket to hell.  Aside from the British regulars under Wellington’s command, Spanish irregulars, known as ‘guerrillas’ fought what they called Guerra a Cuchillo – ‘war to the knife’, a war of brutality, assassination, torture, and revenge.  (Crowdy, 2006)

When Wellington landed on the peninsula with 30,000 regulars, he found himself outnumbered and, by all accounts, without even a proper map.  He also knew almost nothing about the French forces except that they were more numerous than his forces and were largely undefeated.  He was also unsure about his allies, the Portuguese and Spanish, and had no idea what level of support to expect from them.  Wellington quickly realized that what he needed was accurate intelligence.  With no specialized operational intelligence service, Wellington became his own chief of intelligence.

Those Wellington employed for secret service work were people he personally trusted, an assorted bunch of British officers, Spanish irregulars, and clergymen.  Continue reading

How the British won the American Revolutionary War




Gene Procknow published an article last week on the Journal of the American Revolution blog arguing that British gains from the global conflict that was the American Revolution outweighed their loss of the 13 American Colonies and thus the American Revolution was a win for the British.

What are your thoughts on Eugene’s idea? Let me know in the comments below.