Thursday, January 05, 2006

What the Tudors Did for Us

We had another "Hands on History" day today, with our volunteer historian. The subject was the Tudors, but in the course of each 1 1/2 session we covered english language, history, geography, humanities, engineering and everything else under the sun.

Some of the many things I learnt today included:

The indigenous Jamaicans were redskins – the arriving African slaves brought in by the Europeans brought malaria (they were immune) and wiped them out. The remaining Jamaicans married into the Africans and Europeans, creating the profiles that we recognise today;

Swan feathers made the best quills, and as female swans are called pens, hence the name for the writing implement became a “pen”. The knives used to cut the feather ends into a nib were called “pen knives”. Once pockets were invented, the knives had to have a folding blade and the “penknife” that we know today was born;

The Americas provided the Europeans with gold, silver, beaver skins, bear skins, Canadian hemp, cashew nuts, peanuts, coca, cocoa, tobacco, wild ginger, chilli peppers, Tabasco peppers, sunflower oil, evening primrose oil…. and in return we gave them malaria and yellow fever (from the slaves);

Africa provided the Europeans with slaves, coffee, henna, gum Arabic… and in return we gave them TB, measles, colds, smallpox, typhoid, cholera, STDs and cholera. Appropriately for this time of year, this led into a good discussion about slavery, apartheid and colonisation amongst the older children – and the parents.

The historian had plenty of artefacts for us all to handle – quills, buckles, pilgrimage badges, Tudor shoes, miniature armada warships, and thimbles amongst them.

All in all a very successful and enjoyable day – especially for me as I get to listen to the presentation 3 or more times and pick his brains in between.

On top of which, it meant my boys far exceeded our end of week target for learning, having sat still for nearly 1 ½ hours.

Next week we hope to attempt to make our own quills, and re-enact the Armada.

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