Suez Canal: It Will Never Work

The disaster of the Indian mutiny in 1857 and the delays in getting news of it made people consider ways of improving contact between Europe and Asia. But when a ship canal in Suez was suggested, Lord Palmerston responded: “For the last 15 years Her Majesty’ Government have used all the influence they possess at … Continue reading

Spiritualism and Table Tappers

This is from a wonderful book, The Year of the Wombat,┬átracing events, mostly in London, for┬áthe year 1857: “”Spiritualistic experiments made by persons interested in the new electro-biological discoveries” were infiltrating both religion and science with a stream of double-agents. The most successful practitioner of the cult, Daniel Douglas Home (a grandson of the 10th … Continue reading

The Ultimate Criminal Conversation Case

Before the first Divorce Act of 1857 in England, married couples had few options if their marriage went off the rails. One option was for the husband to sue the wife’s lover for criminal conversation. Towards the end of the 18th century, juries were encouraged to award huge payouts as compensation for the loss of … Continue reading

The Claim

I watched this as part of my research for wife selling, as this is based on Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge, in which a man sells his wife and child for a gold claim, becomes fantastically wealthy before his women reappear and he has to deal with his past actions. The scenery is spectacular, … Continue reading

Do You Own the Dancefloor?

This is a documentary that will be released soon, about the end of the Hacienda nightclub in Manchester which gave rise to the Madchester music scene of the 1990s. It went bankrupt and was demolished for yet another block of inner city flats, but everything was auctioned to raise fund for charity. I heard an … Continue reading

Telegraphs of Love

One of the plates in Lawrence Stone’s Road to Divorce features a publication of 1796, part of a whole industry cashing in on a readership keen to discover how the rich and famous were misbehaving, with detailed transcripts of divorce trials reaching a wide and fascinated audience, so no different to now. The title page … Continue reading

Slow West

This film comes highly lauded from Sundance, and with Michael Fassbender promises to be rather special – a modern take on the endlessly being reinvented Western. It is the story of Scot without much of an accent Jay Cavendish who is in search of his lost love, falls in with Fassbinder’s Silas Sellick who he … Continue reading

Fracking: nil. People Power: 1

The first attempt to frack for oil in Britain has just been rejected by Lancashire county council. May we see many more such results for common sense and the views of ordinary Britons. Fracking is too risky, too fraught with danger to the environment to be allowed – as USA and Australia have learnt to … Continue reading

A Law unto Himself

This comes from Laurence Stone’s brilliant, huge book The Road to Divorce: One of he dominant figures in English divorce law of the late 18th century was Lord Erskine as council for plantiffs who did brilliant work standing up for the misbehaving wives. His wife died in 1805 and had been having a long term … Continue reading