The many-headed monster devours its 100,000th victim

The monster heads

We are delighted to report that we recently received our 100,000th view on the many-headed monster! We would like to thank everyone who reads the blog, as well as all those who share posts with others, or who take the time to comment. It is safe to say we wouldn’t be here without you.

The monster celebrates like it is 1566.

The monster celebrates like it is 1566.

We usually mark milestones with some reflection, so here goes:

The monster’s first post appeared 18 July 2012 (so we will soon be 3 years old as well). Mark Hailwood and Brodie Waddell were the founding members, soon joined by Laura Sangha and Jonathan Willis. Since then we’ve:

  • Posted 167 blogs
  • Had 48,500 visitors
  • Featured 11 mini-series
  • Received 766 comments

Our most successful post is now Brodie’s ‘A missing child and a suspicious meat pie in 1645’, relating the strange case of human flesh allegedly being sold as food. After being featured on the suspiciously named Hacker News, this post received an astonishing 4,857 views (4,246 visitors) on 2 June 2015. Continue reading

What is history for? Or: Doing history/ thinking historically

Laura Sangha

Last week, I delivered the introductory lecture for a second year undergraduate module, ‘Doing History’, and for various tedious reasons, I also recently spent some time reading, reflecting on and writing about why I consider history to be valuable. In the process, I conducted an entirely unscientific google trawl, trying to gauge what the general perception of the discipline was. I was struck by the fact that the popular or ‘commonsense’ perception of history encourages a rather limited assessment of its social and intellectual usefulness. What exactly do I mean?

Narratives and stories

Drake’s defeat of the Armada – a rollicking yarn!

Perception: The past provides a seemingly endless supply of rollicking good yarns, from Henry VIII’s tortuous relationship status to Sir Francis Drake’s swashbuckling Caribbean adventures. These are easily converted into good reads.

That’s nice, but it doesn’t make history particularly valuable. Anyway, the best stories are made up ones. Continue reading

What flesh eatest thou? A missing child and a suspicious meat pie in 1645

Brodie Waddell

On 26 June 1645, as the war between the King and Parliament raged, John Coleman sat down at his lodgings in London to eat a meat pie. As he ate it, a strange thought occurred to him: ‘What flesh eatest thou’?

At that moment, even as he chewed, a flood of doubts and suspicions swept into Coleman’s mind. Why had his landlady made meat pies on a fast day? Why had the girl who delivered it to his room been acting so oddly? What had happened to the child who had been missing the previous evening?

The answers must have struck him like a blow, because suddenly ‘hee could eate noe moore’, verily believing ‘the Pye was made of a Childs flesh’. Pieter Claesz (c1630) Still Life with Pewter Pitcher, Mince Pie, and AlmanacAccording to his later testimony, Coleman then went out into the neighbourhood to try to learn more. Here he heard from several women that a child in a yellow coat had been seen wandering the streets on previous evenings and that a butcher’s wife had unexpectedly given the child bread and butter. A gentlewoman, it was said, was ‘almost madd for her chyld which was lost’.

Although Coleman’s testimony ends there, an incident six weeks earlier seems to reveal more. On May 13th, a crowd attacked Mary Hodges, saying that under her apron she had ‘sugar plumbs and dyer bread to entice young Children away’. Another group attacked Hodges on June 2nd, accusing her of being ‘a night walking whore’.

Then the story, like the pie, goes cold. Continue reading