Latest from the H for History blog

The peasants are revolting . . . by S.D. Sykes

Posted on: 18/09/2013 with tags: Black Death, peasants revolt, plague, plague land, s d sykes, the butcher bird, Medieval

I love the patterns in history. The reflection of our own times in distant ages. The idea that the narrative never really changes, only the cast. Earlier this week a “tough stance” was announced on benefit fraud – which seems to have given rise to the usual rhetoric on phone-ins, websites and newspapers. Dependency culture, scroungers, single mothers, feral children, forty fags a day… plasma televisions. It brings to mind something I read recently while researching my second book The Butcher Bir…

read more…

Of Biscuits and Banquets (and the Great British Bake Off)

Posted on: 17/09/2013 with tags: An Appetite for Violets, baking, banquet, Bergamot, biscuits, Earl Grey tea, Elizabeth I, food, historical fiction, historical recipes, Martine Bailey, recipes, Spice, Sugar, Sugarwork, The Great British Bake Off

Tonight it is Biscuit Week on The Great British Bake Off, with a technical challenge to bake the thinnest tuiles and create a ‘Biscuit Tower’. We usually associate the Georgian past with roast beef and steaming puddings, but in fact their biscuits were extraordinarily delicate. Macaroons, lemon wafers and ginger nuts were popular, though generally eaten with wine rather than tea. Bergamot was a high fashion flavouring, extracted from the skin of bergamot oranges. Nowadays, its spicy orange scent…

read more…

Rebecca Mascull, author of THE VISITORS, on the inspiration behind her debut novel

Posted on: 11/09/2013 with tags: farming, historical fiction, hop farmers, hops, Kent, oast houses, Rebecca Mascull, research, The Visitors

In my novel THE VISITORS, the main character’s father is a Victorian hop farmer. He owns hop fields in Kent, where his men place hop poles in the ground, then walking on stilts they string up the coir twine between each pole. Beautiful rows of bright green hop bines. You can clearly see how the hops grow up the wires which were strung up by the farm workers, often walking on stilts. The men train the hop plants to grow clockwise around the strings and spray them with soft soap to kill pests. In…

read more…

The Extinction of the Woolly Mammoth

Posted on: 11/09/2013 with tags: Clan of the Cave Bear, Earth's Children, Ice Age, Jean Auel, Natural History Museum, Woolly Mammoth

  Professor Adrian Lister of the Natural History Museum was talking on the radio this morning about the extinction of the Woolly Mammoth. New research published in the Proceedings of the Royal Institute indicates that the species died out over a long period and not because they were hunted to extinction, as has been previously suggested, but due to climate change. Enormous herbivores, bigger than elephants, they would have needed a huge amount of grass and foliage to eat every day, and the…

read more…

Georgian Fig Pie recipe

Posted on: 10/09/2013 with tags: An Appetite for Violets, baking, food, great british bake off, historical recipes, Martine Bailey, Georgian

Tonight’s episode of The Great British Bake Off is all about pies and tarts. Ah, pastry. Shortcrust, puff, flaky, filo, choux – so many wonderful variations of the same essential ingredients, but also a million opportunities for error! The whole of Britain holds its breath, it seems, when Paul and Mary turn over the contestants’ tarts to judge whether or not they have a soggy bottom … We don’t know yet what mixture of pies and tarts will be on show this evening, but we do know that figs are in s…

read more…

The 2020 Olympics, Japan 400 and Shogun

Posted on: 09/09/2013 with tags: asia, backlist, classic, historical classics, James Clavell, Japan, olympics, samurai, Shogun

It’s been a busy few days for Japan. On Saturday, Tokyo was chosen as the host city of the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, beating Istanbul in the final ballot by 60 votes to 35 (Madrid had been eliminated in an earlier round). The decision means that Tokyo is the first Asian city to host the Games twice (they were awarded host status in 1940, but that year’s Games were cancelled due to the outbreak of World War II).  Also, for those of you who listened to this morning’s Today pro…

read more…

Marina Fiorato’s favourite historical novels

Posted on: 06/09/2013 with tags: Anya Seton, Ellis Peters, favourite historical novels, historical classics, historical crime, historical mystery, Marina Fiorato, Umberto Eco

One of our wonderful authors, Marina Fiorato, is behind today’s post. Read on to find out what her favourite historical novels are, and which books inspired her to become a writer.  Shield of Three Lions by Pamela Kaufman This is a wonderful novel featuring – in my opinion – one of the most engaging heroines in historical literature. Alix of Wanthwaite loses her estate in the north of England and goes to petition the king for their return. The only problem is that Richard I is engaged on t…

read more…

They Dined Upon Quince (in honour of The Great British Bake Off)

Posted on: 03/09/2013 with tags: An Appetite for Violets, baking, food, great british bake off, Martine Bailey, Georgian

Today, one of our brilliant authors, Martine Bailey, reflects on historic British cooking traditions and, of course, the national obsession that is The Great British Bake Off: ‘Each week as I sit transfixed by The Great British Bake Off I marvel at the ever wilder flavour combinations. Already we’ve seen a grapefruit cake, followed by a chicken paneer and white chocolate bread combination (now that does seem a flavour too far). Culinary fashions aren’t new: long ago, bouquets of flower flavours…

read more…

The History of Bank Holidays

Posted on: 22/08/2013 with tags: Bank Holidays, Sir John Lubbock

As we approach the last long weekend of the year, we thought we’d do a little digging into the history of the bank holiday, and here’s what we discovered … It was the Liberal politician and banker Sir John Lubbock who introduced the Bank Holidays Act in 1871. The four designated days were: Easter Monday, Whit Monday (the first Monday in May), the first Monday in August and Boxing Day. Apparently the English people were so grateful that the days were known as St Lubbock’s Days for a time. It wasn…

read more…

The Great British Bake Off and the history of food

Posted on: 20/08/2013 with tags: An Appetite for Violets, baking, food, great british bake off, historical recipes

We are all ridiculously excited that The Great British Bake Off starts again this evening on BBC One. As we’re approaching the end of summer (sob!) we’re all in need of a pick-me-up in the form of bakers extraordinaire Mary Berry (Bezzer, apparently!) and Paul Hollywood, the comic delight that is Mel and Sue and, of course, all the different contestants and their wonderful sweet and savoury concoctions. There are lots of keen bakers at Hodder & Stoughton (do follow our various twitter accoun…

read more…