bookmark_borderSentenced to death over a ten pound bank note

A gun pointed at the queen on a ten pound noteSusanna Lalliment didn’t know how to spell her own name.   She was said to be descended from French Huguenot refugees, but she seemed to speak English well enough.

The Lalliments were skilled lace makers in Nottingham. The lace business in Nottingham, however, was changing.  New technology put many traditional craftsmen out of work.

Perhaps being descended from immigrants contributed to workforce mobility.  Susannah and her father moved to London; and that’s where all the trouble started. Continue reading “Sentenced to death over a ten pound bank note”

bookmark_borderWhat’s your favorite book about 1812?

There’s a new initiative called World Book Night that allows readers to give away 480,000 books.  To join you need to be willing to distribute 24 copies.

I was thinking it would be nice if we could vote for some books that teach history.  It would be a shame if some substandard “chewing gum for the brain” book won.

It would be much worse, however, if the winner were one of those dull “classics” that everyone displays but no one reads. Continue reading “What’s your favorite book about 1812?”

bookmark_borderWhen Tecumseh made the Mississippi flow backwards

Here the Earth, river, &c torn with furious convulsions, opens in huge trenches, whose deep jaws are instantaneously closed; there throws a thousand vents sulfurous streams gushed from its very bowels, leaving a vast and almost unfathomable caverns. – William Leigh Pierce, eyewitness

1812 was a year of science.  The discovery of dinosaurs, the electric battery, iodine and many other marvels firmly placed the year within the “Age of Reason.”

Portrait of Tecumseh
Tecumseh, from John Frost's Illustrated Historical Sketches of the Indians

At the same time, new “superstitions” were developing.  One of these was helped by three of the most powerful earthquakes America had ever known.  Some scientists fear such earthquakes could come again, and this time, the devastation could be much greater. Continue reading “When Tecumseh made the Mississippi flow backwards”

bookmark_borderThe Empire’s New Talent

French Actor and Actress Dancing
French Theatrical, by Louis, from two old prints

From Shakespearean actor Kenneth Branaugh, to a portrayal of former Prime Minister Margaret “Maggie” Thatcher, you’ll see the British flag waving down the aisle at this year’s academy Awards.  Again.  Yet again.

One starts to wonder if the Americans have a “sense of inferiority” when it comes to the dramatic arts. If so, from whence does this pathetic inferiority complex come?  Let’s start in the month of April, 1812. Continue reading “The Empire’s New Talent”

bookmark_borderGreat Snakes! Australia in January 1812.

“A snake of the diamond kind has been lately killed at Blackwattle swamp, the length of which was 10 feet 4 inches, and its largest circumference five inches.” the Sydney Gazette reported on January 4th, 1812.

A woodcutter was going about his business, when he turned around and saw the “monstrous” creature. Naturally the woodcutter was afraid of snakes, so he whacked the animal on the head.

That didn’t stop the snake much, so the woodcutter ran for his life. Continue reading “Great Snakes! Australia in January 1812.”

bookmark_borderThe Parliament that Shook the World

7 January 1812 opened the sixth session of the fourth parliament of the United Kingdom.

Significant debates were held concerning constitutional change, including Catholic Emancipation, and changes to Parliament itself. Continue reading “The Parliament that Shook the World”

bookmark_border1812, When Big Banks Could Go Bankrupt

2nd of January, 1812. London was the world’s financial capital, and “Boldero and Lushington” were one of the biggest and best known financial firms in 19th century London.

Photograph of two winged statues joining hands at an angle on top of the National Audit Office in London
National audit Office, London, photographed by the author February 2011

The firm started in 1738, under the name of “Thomas Miners.” In 1742, when Charles Boldero joined the firm, it became “Miners and Boldero.”  As the Boldero family’s influence in the firm increased, so did both their fortunes.

So it was a huge surprise when, on January 2nd 1812, Boldero, Lusington, Boldero and co. stopped making payments. Continue reading “1812, When Big Banks Could Go Bankrupt”