Archive for the ‘General Topics’ Category

The Poll Tax, Part One: The Cupboard is Bare

Although the poll tax was said to have been used all the back to ancient times, it’s most widely remembered in relation to the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. According to Wikipedia: “The word ‘poll’ is an archaic term for ‘head’ or ‘top of the head’. The sense of ‘counting heads’ is found in phrases like […]

Great Seal, Privy Seal, and Signet: What’s the difference?

We know that the Great Seal was an indispensable tool for keeping the government running. Historians pay close attention to the use of the Seal; not only does this help identify the date and reign of a particular warrant, but the use of lesser Seals helps us follow the movements of our itinerant kings. Edward […]

Non-native Species in Britain (for research)

When writing historical fiction, one little slip like giving King Alfred a tomato can wreak havoc with an author’s credibility. The other day I was called to task for using a rabbit in Canute’s Britain, because the reviewer said that rabbits were introduced by the Normans. Yikes! I was saved by the recent archeological discovery […]

The English Manor Part 3: The Burden of the Serf

The difference between the free and unfree peasant on the English Manor was dramatic. While all had to pay rent, for the most part the responsibilities ended there for the freeman, with the exception of a few boon days required by everyone during harvest time. The serf, on the other hand, was obliged to dig into […]

The English Manor Part 2: The Free and the Unfree Peasants

In Part 1 of The English Manor, I gave a broad generalization of the average manor components. In Part 2, I’m going to do my best to differentiate between the classes of manorial population: the free and the unfree. This is harder than it sounds! One of the reasons this subject is so complicated is that by no […]

The English Manor Part 1: The Land

I discovered this amazing map in Montague Fordham’s book, “A Short History of English Rural Life from the Anglo-Saxon Invasion to the Present Time” published in 1916. (It’s amazing what you will find on ForgottenBooks.com.) I’ve recently come to the conclusion that any study of the Middle Ages is incomplete without getting your hands around […]

Lord Mayors of London

I found this paper, interestingly enough, as a loose insert in the used book I had received from England. The name of the book is THE TURBULENT LONDON OF RICHARD II. The book is practically unreadable, but does preserve lots of names and minutiae from the period that are of no interest to almost anybody. But you […]

Excerpt from FATAL RIVALRY, Part Three of The Last Great Saxon Earls trilogy

In this chapter, Harold has come back from his ineffectual meeting with the Northumbrian rebels and must relay their demands to King Edward and Tostig: TOSTIG REMEMBERS       Editha and I stood next to the wall watching as Harold entered the great hall accompanied by a group of men who were very nervous; […]

Yule Celebrations in the Nordic lands

Yule celebrations are Pagan in origin and came from the Germanic countries. The celebrations were alive and well in the Nordic lands, and were most likely brought over to Anglo-Saxon England with the Viking settlers. Eventually, the midwinter celebrations merged with the Christian festival of Christmastide, better known as the 12 Days of Christmas. I […]

Harold Marches to York, September 1066

While working on my novel FATAL RIVALRY, I have had quite a struggle putting together a timeline for events leading up to Stamford Bridge. Many histories (even Wikipedia) tell us that as soon as Harold learned of the defeat at Fulford, he rushed north and surprised the Vikings who expected him to be at the […]