"To read good books is like holding a conversation with the most eminent minds of past centuries and, moreover, a studied conversation in which these authors reveal to us only the best of their thoughts."

René Descartes, Discourse on the Method, 1637

The Secret Catholic Queen

Anne of Denmark, wife of James VI and I of Scotland and England, was a renowned beauty who gave her (famously unfaithful) husband three children. She was also a secret Catholic. Her husband was a great Reformist, aka a Protestant, whose Catholic subjects frequently plotted against. Anne's background was also Protestant; her grandfather had heard Martin Luther speak, and made Denmark and Norway officially Lutheran. Yet despite all this, Queen Anne had decided Catholic sympathies.

While it is unknown if she officially converted -- if she did, it was of course a secret -- Queen Anne had gathered about her an enclave of intimate Roman Catholic bedchamber attendants. Among their number was Jane Drummond who facilitated the queen’s private Catholic worship. This included smuggling priests into court and disguising them as her personal attendants. The Spanish ambassador reported that “Mass was being said by a Scottish priest, who was simply called a ‘servant’ of [the queen’s] lady-in-waiting, Lady Drummond.”

What Does Calculus Mean?

In Latin it means "small pebble." It is a reference to the abacus, where mathematical calculations used to be done by moving back and forth small beads or pebbles. Over time, the Latin word had come to mean "reckoning, account," mathematicians borrowed it for the phrase "differential calculus" and the rest is history.

Saadi Tombs of Marrakech

Click through the image gallery to see more photographs. The Saadi were a dynasty which ruled Morocco from 1549 to 1659. Their royal tombs were forgotten and lost after the dynasty declined, until being rediscovered in 1917.

Loneliness Is A Modern Invention

Literally -- the word first appeared in the 1800s. Before that time, English had the words ‘oneliness,’ the state of being alone, and ‘solitude,’ also meaning the state of being alone.

And while loneliness is understood to be a painful condition today, oneliness and solitude were debated. Some European philosophers thought solitude was damaging to a person’s physical and mental health. Others held that it was crucial to stay sane. And crucial for spiritual health: solitary confinement was originally not a punishment, but an path to reformation through enforced contemplation of one’s sins.


"Time is what we want most, but what, alas! we use worst; and for which God will certainly most strictly reckon with us, when Time shall be no more"

William Penn, from "Some Fruits of Solitude" 1693.

Gold Mine Found In Late Medieval Latrines

Wine barrels, which were used as latrines in the late 1680s, have been discovered in central Copenhagen. Analyzing them can provide detailed insights into what Danes at the time were eating and drinking, as well as evidence about health problems they may have been experiencing.

Using a variety of modern techniques, archaeologists have identified a number of local foods including fish, meats, a number of grains, cherries, coriander, lettuce, mustard, and hazelnuts. Put together, the scientific evidence suggests that Danes were eating a varied and healthy diet of local products. And the owners of the latrines were likely wealthy, able to take advantage of of a global trading network, as evidenced by their cloves from India's Moluccan islands, and figs, grapes, and bitter orange or lemon from the Mediterranean.

Unfortunately, their hygiene could have been better. The latrines contained evidence of whipworm, roundworm, and tapeworm, and specifically of varieties that are known to infect people. Either the owners did not wash their hands often enough, or they did not cook their food properly. The natural result was parasites.

The Creation of Rotterdam (Part 2)

A month ago (or so) I posted a couple paragraphs on the Dutch city of Rotterdam's history. It was titled "The Creation of Rotterdam." Imagine my surprise when I came across this map, showing the physical expansion of Rotterdam's port. It was truly created, that is to say, built by men.

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    HISTORICAL NON-FICTION

    By Lillian Audette

    This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!

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