Oct 312019
 

Today it is Samhaim, I spotted an off-the-cuff remark on Twitter about women being executed for ‘witchcraft’ in the past, and I also knew that many men were executed for ‘witchcraft’ in the past, so I decided to see if I could get some half-reasonably accurate data on the genders of executed witches.

I got rather rough lists of names from both Wikipedia and here. Processing the two lists was not fun :-

  1. First I removed duplicates where possible.
  2. I flagged as M(ale) all the names that were obviously (to me) male. Or where there were other clues (“husband”).
  3. I flagged as F(email) all names that were obviously women, those where there was some doubt, and those where there was a hint (“daughter”).
  4. I flagged as F(emale) all surname-only names.

This quite possibly over-estimates the number of women executed for witchcraft, and is nowhere near accurate (a list of 477 names out of tens of thousands is a hopelessly small sample).

Out of that list of names, 384 were women (approximately 75%) and 113 were men (approximately 25%). This is nowhere near equal, but neither were male executions so rare that you can honestly say “women were executed for witchcraft”; it has to be “women and men were executed for witchcraft” (or some variation of that).

Having said that, it would be nice to see some proper historical statistical work done to see if a more accurate ratio could be determined.

The Red Door
Nov 112018
 

If you use the Unix or Linux command-line, you may very well wonder about the origins of some of the “special” characters. One of those is tilde (~) which is expanded by the shell into “home” :-

✓ mike@Michelin» echo $HOME                        
/home/mike
✓ mike@Michelin» echo ~
/home/mike
✓ mike@Michelin» echo ~root
/root

This doesn’t of course work in general; just in the shell.

But where did this usage originate?

As it turns out, it was the markings on the keyboard of the ADM3A terminal :-

If you used Unix in the late 1970s/1980s, you may very well have used the ADM3A terminal and it seems that those who added the tilde feature to the Unix shell were amongst the users.

Nov 112018
 

Horseshit.

Normally on Remembrance Sunday, we remember the dead of all wars, but this one is a bit special – it’s exactly 100 years since the armistice that brought the killing phase of World War 1 to an end.

Around this time of year, there are often those who make grand pronouncements about the sacrifices those who fought made for some sort of noble goal – our freedom, the freedom of others, to defeat a really nasty enemy.

None of that applies to those who died in WW1; some of them may have felt they were fighting for their freedom (and our freedom). But they really fought because of the 19th century equivalent of mutually assured destruction.

Austria-Hungary and Serbia fought because of the assassination of a single man. Russia fought to support Serbia; France fought to support Russia; Britain fought to support France. And Germany fought because Austria-Hungary fought. This gross over-simplification happened remarkably quickly – all of the declarations of war occurred within about 1½ weeks.

So no great debate on the aims and goals of what the war was for then.

So whilst those who fought (and in some cases died) in wars are not to blame, not all wars were fought for good reasons – certainly you’ll find it hard to find a good reason for WWI. 

Light’s Shadow
Jun 232018
 

On any number of occasions, you encounter the first half of a quote from 1 Corinthians 7:1-16 from feminists determined to show that christian marriage is no more than sexual slavery for women :-

For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does.

However the full quote makes it sound a little bit different :-

For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.

Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again.

Not quite the same. Perhaps not at modern levels of political correctness, but neither is it at quite the level that the feminists will portray it as.

Now there are other bible verses on marriage; some good (from today’s perspective) and some bad. If you take all the bad bits, it makes it sound like women were repressed to the point of being ground into the ground. If you take all the good bits, it makes it sound like early christian marriage was a perfect equal partnership of a type that wouldn’t look totally wrong even to today’s standards.

The truth lies somewhere in between.

If I move onto mediæval marriage, there is often a mistaken belief that an arranged marriage was a forced marriage, and that arranged marriages were always young girls being married to lecherous old men. There is always the assumption that the men were always happy about the arrangement whilst the women were always unhappy.

In other words, it wasn’t just women “persuaded” into an arranged marriage.

As for young girls being married off to old lecherous men, there are a few exceptions :-

  1. Henry II may have been “old enough” when he was married to Eleanor of Aquitane, but she was 11 years his senior.
  2. David II was just under 5 years old when he was married.
  3. Henry IV was probably 14 when he was first married.

Obviously not conclusive, and it is still possible that the overwhelming majority were lecherous old men marrying young girls. But we don’t really know.

As to women being forced into arranged marriages, it certainly happened from time to time, but there were usually plenty of opportunities for the victim (whichever one) to escape :-

  1. The church was opposed to forced marriage, and it is possible that they would assist those forced into a marriage to get an annulment (although a peasant might find this trickier).
  2. There are plenty of cases where women who were opposed to an arranged marriage would run off to a convent for temporary (or permanent) refuge.
  3. The church would recognise any “informal” marriage as a valid marriage blocking any further marriages. So anyone with a problem with a proposed arranged marriage could simply run off and get married to someone else. Which would instantly block any arranged marriage.

One indication that forced marriage wasn’t generally accepted is that the Magna Carta contains a provision to block the king from forcing his wards into arranged marriages. So the barons who forced the king into accepting the Magna Carta were annoyed by the king forcing their female relatives into marriage.

Property rights are a similar area where the law is misunderstood; married women could not own property in their own right. True enough, but there are two aspects that are overlooked :-

  1. Dowry was an arrangement by which a woman’s family or the woman herself could take property into a marriage with the expectation that on the death of the husband that the property would be returned to her. It was an arrangement to ensure that the woman had the resources to maintain herself after the marriage died. And whilst this was open to abuse, there are plenty of legal cases to show that a woman could (and usually succeeded) take a case to court and get the dowry returned.
  2. In some cases women could get a declaration of femme solo to go into business on her own account, own property, and be responsible for her own debts independent of her husband.

Does this mean that everything was equal and fair? Of course not, but equality wasn’t an important concept to the mediæval society – and that applied to men just as much as women. But neither was it quite as bad as portrayed; indeed there are plenty of indications that conditions for women got worse as the mediæval era ended and the modern era began.

One concrete indication of that was the 1834 reform act which for the first time explicitly removed the vote from women; before that date women could and did qualify for a vote under the regulations for their constituency. Although social pressure to not vote increased towards 1834.

Early Morning Seatrip

Mar 312018
 

If you read any history at all, you will encounter many incidents of exploitation – the English exploiting the Irish, the Irish exploiting the Scottish (see Dál Riata), the English exploiting the Scottish, the Scottish exploiting the English, everyone exploiting the Welsh, etc.

As an example of how it wasn’t as simple as sometimes claimed, there is a small sliver of Anglo-Irish ancestry in my family history. Undoubtedly they exploited the Irish back in the 18th century and before, but whilst they started as English, in every generation they married into the Irish aristocracy; so in at least one case the exploiters of the Irish were half or more Irish themselves.

And that is just one small corner of the world – it was happening just about everywhere.

Take another example – slavery. Everybody immediately thinks of the Atlantic slave trade, but those who look closer are in for a surprise – firstly that most slaves were made slaves by African slavemasters. And secondly the African slave trade had been going on uninterrupted since the Roman era – chiefly to the east.

At the same time the Atlantic slave trade was going on (16th-19th centuries), the Barbary pirates were also taking slaves – European slaves. It is estimated that 1-1.5 million were taken, although these figures are disputed, it is also the case that the Barbary slave raiding caused many small towns and villages to be deserted along the coastlines of Spain, Italy, and other places with a Mediterranean coastline.

And the early history of Europe is awash with slavery – Romans, Vikings, Angles, Saxons, and others, all participates in raiding for slaves – for local use, to Rome (in the early days), and to Byzantium (later on).

It is easy to look at one historical incident, and see the English exploiting the Irish, the Europeans exploiting Africans, etc. And there is an element of truth in that.

But it can also be seen not as the members of a nation exploiting the members of another nation, but as a type of person exploiting another type of person. The pure Marxist would claim it is the rich exploiting the poor, and there is an element of truth to that, but it is overly simplistic.

It is really more that the exploiter is the kind of person willing to do almost anything to enrich themselves including exploiting others. There isn’t anything wrong with getting rich or being rich as long as it is done honestly and reasonably.

There is a certain kind of person who does not care what level of suffering they cause to another person. For convenience let us call these people “sociopaths”.

In every example of exploitation in history, no matter what we label those responsible I am sure that the exploiters were sociopaths.

Now this is all very intellectually interesting, but perhaps the real question here is what should we do about the invisible sociopaths in today’s society? Because there are plenty – we might call them bankers, or slum landlords, or Russian oligarchs, or other things, but in the end what they all have in common is that they are sociopaths.

Giving The Sky The Finger

 

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