Hue and Cry

Minstrel condemned to the Gallows
Minstrel condemned to the Gallows

Most children are taught in school that modern policing in England started with the Bow Street Runners in London. The author Henry Fielding founded the Runners in 1749; they were unique as they were attached to the Bow Street magistrates’ office and paid from central government funds. Throughout history however the signs of the often rigid enforcement of the law have been visually evident. During the Roman occupation of Britain you would almost certainly have seen crucifixions or perhaps witnessed ad bestias (“to the beasts”) at the amphitheatre, where criminals were forced to face wild animals without the benefit of weapon or armour. Throughout post-Roman Britain and into the Middle Ages you would have seen gallows at crossroads with decomposing naked bodies swinging from the ropes. The putrefied heads of traitors would greet you as you approached the city gates. Every village would have stocks to punish petty offenders and rogue traders would often find themselves in the pillories. Continue reading

To Begin at The Beginning

Norwich Cathedral stained glass window

I was unsure where to start with my first slice of history. This is not only my first blog post on but my first ever blog post! After much cogitation I decided to take inspiration from Welsh poet Dylan Thomas; “To begin at the beginning”, and where better to start ‘my slice of history’ than the start of history itself.

You might be thinking that pinpointing the creation of Heaven and Earth would be difficult but in 1658 James Ussher, Bishop of Armagh in Ireland did just that. Ussher estimated that “the beginning” occurred at nightfall on Saturday, October 22 4,004 years before the Nativity of Jesus. Of course current theory suggests the Earth is 4.54 billion years old and the Universe 13.75 billion years old, but before the 18th century when geological research began to suggest otherwise, the best information the majority of the Christian and Jewish world had was the Bible. The Hebrew Bible (or Christian Old Testament) measures the passage of time through biblical history from the Creation until the kingdoms of Israel and Judah through various “begats”, reign-periods, and other means. Continue reading