Friday, September 13, 2019

My Favorite History Periods


Hey y'all!

I've teased the fact that I'm a historian by trade for quite some time on both my blogs but I haven't really actually....talked about it?

Well, I am going to remedy that today, by talking about my favorite history periods!

Now, being a huge history buff...I try to experience history in as many ways as possible. This entails going to living history events (which lead me to becoming a historical reenactor), cooking actual recipes from time periods, experimenting with historical sewing/crafts, using historic garden practices, playing historical music, lots of reading, and lots of documentary watching.

Yes, I'm one of those geeks. Bet you didn't see THAT coming, did you?

So therefore, the reasoning behind my favorite time periods are going to be lengthy. Just so you're aware, LOL. 

With that, let's get started!



Medieval/Renaissance Europe

As many Catholics do, I'm fascinated with the peak of Catholic culture that happened during the Middle Ages and in the Holy Roman Empire. The whole idea of the Crusades and the Counter-Reformation is really interesting to me.

The medieval fashion silhouette for women is one of the most flattering that I've seen. Hearth-cooking and homespun clothing is also really attractive to me as an old-fashioned crafty person. While there are increasing technological innovations, this is the period in which great engineering feats were still being constructed by hand (cathedrals, etc.).

I also am in love with Renaissance music. I used to play secular Renaissance music in college, and I've sung Renaissance polyphony during Mass. I have whole playlists devoted to this genre! Also, I like some Renaissance art - at least the figures are more realistic (though I'm more partial to later art like Romanticism myself). In other cultural notes, I'm also fascinated by bards and morality plays.

But there are some downfalls. I could do without the bawdy humor though *gross*. Medieval agriculture and animal husbandry is kinda fascinating too, but it's pretty hard on the body. Also depending on the period, the men's clothing is just....bleck. Sorry guys. And that's not even touching on the dirtiness and sickliness of the period....




Tudor England

This period is basically an extension of the Medieval/Renaissance period, so why am I including this period in this list?

I'm sure that it's due to the fact that several members of my family are affiliated with the Anglicans that I'm fascinated with the English Schism. I have an especial fascination with Catherine of Aragon and the dissolution of the monasteries. I'm sure that the movie "Man for All Seasons" and the documentary series "Tudor Monastery Farm" only deepened that obsession.

Tudor England has it's own little little quirks that make it unique. The women's fashion for French hoods is extremely pretty.

Granted, I could do without the bawdy humor that is prevalent in English society at this point. And maybe the necklines could be raised just a hair on the women's dresses. And don't get me started with the men's clothing....*facepalm*





1740-1780s America

As a child, my obsession was the 1770s and the American Revolution. The American Girl doll Felicity probably helped that obsession along a little. As I got older, I read a ton of books about the Founding Fathers, including founding documents like Common Sense and the Federalist Papers. I have even researched from books dating to this time period - including a real 18th century ledger housed in the Special Collections at Williamsburg.

I visited a lot of 18th century sites, including Philadelphia and Williamsburg - the latter is still one of my absolute favorite places in the entire world. Revolutionary battle reenactments are also really fun to attend.

This is one period in which I love the men's styles of clothing more than I like the women's style. Technologically, there are some small advances, but there is still a lot of handwork - which I like.

As for music, I am quite in love with fifes and drums, as well as the Baroque style music like Handel.  English Country dances are also popular during this period, which are FUN to do. And while the cuisine of the 18th century is not totally my favorite (I do prefer my lettuce RAW, thank you), who could pass up fire-cooked food? And.....TEA!! (dear me, does that make me a Loyalist?)

What I do not like about this period? The intellectual and social movements that were going on at this time. Materialism, secret societies, and "reason" are really popular during this time, and a lot of them are anti-God, never mind anti-Catholic.
Oh yeah, and the pale makeup look from Renaissance and Georgian time periods is awful. Just thought I'd mention that.




19th Century America (and Britain)

The other fictional crush that I had was Little House on the Prairie. So it is much of a surprise that 19th Century makes the list?

What I really like is that the 19th century really is the most varied when it comes to culture. It starts with the Early Republic, goes through Jane Austen and War of 1812, to Civil War, all the way to the Edwardian Age (which technically ended at WW1, but whatever). You can literally pick a decade at this point and get a totally different aesthetic.

Academically, this isn't my favorite period to study. Those social and political struggles of this time period is not much better than in the last century...they're actually worse. There is a lot of emphasis on that in schools, much to my chagrin. And there is some social fads that are really disturbing (i.e. spiritualism).

But, this is one time period that I would, without a doubt, LIVE in. And reenact too - which I've done.

I say both America and Britain in this one, because 1) they are culturally similar, and 2) Queen Victoria is an interesting personage. British literature during the 19th century is also really really fascinating. Yes, I tend to lean towards America more than Britain in most cases, but it's still really cool.

There are several innovations that are familiar to us, including electricity, simple machines, canned foods and products and such. Medical advances had advanced somewhat from barbarism (not much, but it's a start!). Agriculturally, there is a lot of advances in animal and plant breeding, and development of important machines such as the reaper-binder.

But there are other things that are distinctly old-fashioned. The fashion silhouettes are among the most modest in history, with tasteful trimmings and cuts. There is enough work that needs to be done in a day that it leaves you without boredom or exhaustion. Most transportation is still done with slower methods like horse and carriage and trains. Communication is still done with letters. Cooking is a blend of scratch and prepared mixes, depending on the decade.

I like all of that.





World War II/1950s

This is probably my most odd-ball of all the categories. I'm not a fan of the 1950s culture or music, unlike the other categories that I've mentioned. This is because some of the cultural fraying that is present in today's culture has it's roots in this time period. I watch a lot of 50s comedy, and the "family/marriage" jokes can be extremely cringy and second-wave feminism also was getting started at this time *hisses*

This period is so fascinating to me because of the women. How the women coped on the home front - taking the factory jobs, and keeping the fires burning. The whole Cult of Domesticity. The fashions are also pretty good, but not my absolute favorite (still too many low necklines, and backless dresses). Oh yeah and the medicine was much better...

Agriculturally, it's almost a crossroads. Tractors were now coming onto the scene and the system of modern agriculture that we know today was just now starting to be developed. There were still a lot of small farms and local trade. I had not really realized it....until I saw the Wartime Farm Documentaries. Ah yes, the farm documentaries strike again...

Oh, and the 50's styles of cars? They're actually really pretty. Take a look:






Well then, that ought to do it!

Is it also a coincidence that I tend to gravitate towards British history as well? Maybe....then again, a quarter of my family hails from the British Isles, so that actually might be a legitimate thing.

Whew! I have talked enough about this. I want to hear from you now! What time periods are your favorite, and why?

Old-fashionably yours,

Catherine