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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Ask A Historian's LiveJournal:

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Sunday, December 18th, 2016
1:27 pm
When and how did cousin marriage become taboo in the United Kingdom?
I'm writing a novel set in the 1860s-90s (haven't quite settled on the exact decade), and have been unsuccessfully trying to research this question. I've trawled through books and articles in University Library Cambridge, but I'm guessing I must not have hit on the right search terms. I've asked Reddit's Ask a Historian, and their lengthy silence would indicate that they don't know either.

I know that there was first cousin marriage in the early Victorian period, including Queen Victoria herself, Charles Darwin, and so on. Sources tend to emphasise that this was perfectly normal and unremarkable in the day. Nowadays, while cousin marriage is legal, it is almost always practised only in certain immigrant communities and mainstream culture seems to find it disgusting and improper - basically it's considered incest even if it's not legally incest.

What I'm trying to determine is this:

When did the cultural shift in which first cousin marriage stopped being widely acceptable take place?

What instigated this change?

Thanks for clicking on this thread.
Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016
11:05 am
I have a question on the ancient history of South Sudan...
Could it be considered that South Sudan shares its ancient history with to-date Sudan, or are the two completely unrelated? Im aware some of the tribes in South Sudan date to as back as 5000 years ago, but I am not entirely sure if it would be worthless to talk a bit about the Kushite dynasty in a project on South Sudan I have for school. Also, if they are unrelated(which is my guess), what could I say about South Sudan's ancient history? thanks in advance
Wednesday, August 24th, 2016
11:53 pm
Cost of horse tack in 13th century Languedoc
Does anyone know the approximate price for a saddle, or any other item of horse tack (stirrups, spurs, bridles etc) in Occitania, i.e. what is now the South of France, in 1215, or thereabouts?

I suspect the question is too specific (or, to put it another way, I suspect the answer is "no, no-one knows"). So, to broaden things out,

- how about the cost of any of these items in the first two decades of the thirteenth century?
- or, failing that, the first half of the thirteenth century? Or any time in the thirteenth century?
- or, if Occitania is too challenging, how about France? Or England? Or anywhere in Western Europe?

I realise that that implies that the payment might be made in any of a large number of currencies (Toulouse pennies, Tours pennies, Parisian pennies, English pennies, etc etc). That doesn't worry me too much; I reckon that there's enough data available to convert between them.

I've tried what I believe to be the obvious sources: Margaret Wade Labarge's "A baronial household of the thirteenth century" (1965); Joseph & Frances Gies' "Life in a medieval city" (1969); James Thorold Rogers' "A history of agriculture and prices in England, vol.1" (1866). And, bearing in mind the war raging in Languedoc in the decade in question, I've tried the main primary sources on the Albigensian Crusade - Pierre Des Vaux de Cernay, William of Tudela + the Anonymous Continuator, William of Puylaurens. Not to mention the more well known histories of the Albigensian Crusade: Jonathan Sumption, Zoe Oldenbourg. No joy with any of them.

Any ideas?
Friday, July 24th, 2015
5:40 pm
Osiris Festival of the Dead
There doesn't seem to be much activity here, but someone to ask is just the kind of thing I'm looking for. I hope someone is around to see this.

I have been trying to work out some of the particulars about the history of Halloween. That seems to be one of those topics where, well, you should double-check things. And some writers refer to an Egyptian festival of the dead involving Osiris and ghosts of the departed walking the streets and visiting their families. I've seen it a few times, with no time period or sources mentioned. That's not really something I would have expected from what I'd read before on the Egypt of the pharaohs. Maybe it's the Greek Anthesteria coming to hellenistic Alexandria?

What I'm really looking for is some suggested reading. Or at least key terms that might give me a little better luck with the database searches.
Wednesday, March 25th, 2015
11:08 am
French POW's in WW2 Germany
I am writing a picture book that will be illustrated and published this year about a story from my mom's life. She grew up in Germany during WW2 and lived on a farm. Her family was obliged to take in French POWs as agricultural labour - which is what the story is about. The question is: what sort of uniform would these POWs have worn on the farm? My mom remembers a dark blue uniform with a white stripe across the chest and back, but she's not 100% sure and I really do need to be sure. If you can help, that would be terrific.
Sunday, December 14th, 2014
7:55 pm
What is the earliest recorded pet clothing?
I hope this doesn't sound silly; I'm actually sincerely curious about it. One quote about history and anthropology that has always stuck with me is, "human nature doesn't change." If this is true, then should we not expect to see the behavior some modern humans show in dressing up their pets just to look cute to also persist throughout human cultures and history? Think of when you snuggle your favorite pet and want to put something pretty on it. That same emotion would exist in any human (or at least people with the same personality type), in any time.

I'm looking for example of pet clothing just for the purpose of a doting owner making the pet look cute, pretty, or elegant, not animal clothing that serves the purpose of protecting it in battle or displaying a fighter's coat of arms.

I actually went to google first, but my normally decent skills have failed me and left me with a bunch of vapid results pointing to pet costume retailers.

Thank you very much for any guidance! This seemingly trivial question really is important to me!
Sunday, October 12th, 2014
5:52 pm
Palace of Fishbourne

I have a Latin assignment to complete at school and we are asked to write about the Palace of Fishbourne. I'm just wondering if anyone knows what the size of the Palace is and also what materials were used in building the Palace.

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014
9:47 pm
I'm looking advice about master accounting charts.
I haven't been able to find any good accounting books at my local bookstore in my city. I was hoping to find the names of books that may include the longest format of accounting flow charts possible. Maybe charts that were once nearly upon a wall.


Wednesday, February 26th, 2014
6:08 pm
Pedro de Alvarado - Spanish Conquistador
I am doing a paper on Pedro de Alvarado, and I am required to "ask a historian" as one of my sources. I have done some research online and in the library, but I would be very grateful for any information that you give me in general on this explorer, but also on the following questions:

1- How many countries did Pedro de Alvarado invade? Are there other countries besides Mexico, Peru, & Guatemala?

2 - Why do you think he went to Hispaniola in 1510 with his uncle & brothers? There are many sources that say he went, but none say why he went.

3-How did he die? I have read that he died because a horse rolled over him during a battle. I have also read that he was lost at sea, and another source said that he died from a fall. Which of these do you believe to be true?

4 - When was he born (or your best guess)? Some sources say that he was born in 1485, some say 1495, and others say that nobody knows when he was born but was probably between 1485 & 1495.

Thank you for your help!
Monday, September 2nd, 2013
12:19 pm
Historical units of measurement

I am working on a fic and need the terms for distance used by Italians in the early 19th c. I know that prior to the adoption of the metric system, the Roman method of "feet" and "inches" was used but I need "miles". Anybody come across this in their reading?

The specific context is "100 miles out to sea".

Monday, December 3rd, 2012
9:52 am
Panama economic development
Ok, I've recently been traveling around Panama and got into a discussion about it's development. Why has Panama not developed faster especially in regards to infrastructure. This country was given what seems to me a substantial head start 100+ years ago. It had an endowment as opposed to a deficit when it was created, then given an allowance every year. Then there is the value of the canal in terms of jobs and tourism. How is it that Panama is for all intensive purposes at the same economic development level as many other central and South American country's.
Saturday, October 27th, 2012
2:29 am
Minor WW2 Mystery (British)
For several years my family has been trying to find out about this picture, which shows my late father Arthur Rowland talking to a naval officer during WW2.

The picture is stamped as copyright the News Chronicle, and the Imperial War Museum believes that the officer is Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsey, who was Commander of Dover and responsible for the evacuation of Dunkirk. They also say that the helmet my father was wearing identifies him as a Stretcher Party Supervisor in the Civil Defence Services (aka ARP for Air Raid Precautions), which we did more or less know. He was in the ARP in London, I think throughout the war, and is possibly one of the sources for a story that Gerald Kersh wrote about the ARP - my father knew his publisher, and may have known Kersh although I'm not 100% sure about that. About the only thing I can add is that I think that the man on the extreme left has the words "Depot Supervisor" on his helmet, which to me suggests that the picture was taken at an ARP depot.

The trouble is that this picture was more or less forgotten until after both of my parents had died, and we have no idea when or where it was taken, or what the occasion for it was - records appear to be more or less non-existent, and so far the picture hasn't turned up in microfilmed archives of the News Chronicle at the British Newspaper Library in Colindale. It would be nice to know more. Our last surviving relative of that generation was my uncle, but unfortunately he spent WW2 in the Far East, and was as puzzled by this picture as we are.

There's some evidence that this was after October 1943. In this picture Ramsay has the rank insignia of a full admiral. During Dunkirk he was still a Vice Admiral. In the summer of 1942 he was promoted and sent to Gibraltar to plan for and later command the naval aspects of Torch. In October 1943 he came back to the UK as the Naval Commander for Overlord. He died on January 2nd 1945, so this is presumably 1943-4.

Posting here at the suggestion of marycatelli on little_details; apologies to anyone who sees this in both communities.

If anyone can shed any light on this, or suggest any sources we could try, I'd be grateful for their help. Please feel free to pass this on to anyone who might know anything relevant. As noted above I've already tried the Imperial War Museum and the Picture Post archive, and I've just emailed the Civil Defence Association to see if they know anything.
Thursday, September 27th, 2012
12:02 am
Schoolbooks just antebellum
Hello all,

If anyone knows a good resource for schoolbooks available to girls around 1913, or has links, I would be most grateful if you pointed me their way. Thank you very much!
Wednesday, May 9th, 2012
7:59 pm
Actresses vs. Opera Singers
I have a hazy memory that in the 18th and 19th centuries actresses enjoyed as somewhat dubious reputation in polite society, mostly because some of them (it was assumed) also worked in the sex trade. 

Would the aura of sexual licentiousness and not quite respectable-ness also apply to Opera singers and, say, the members of the company at the Savoy? Or did the quality of the entertainment improve their social standing?
Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012
9:53 am
US Presidents
I find myself curious, and am trying to find or create (unsuccessfully) a list of the driving beliefs of the US Presidents. I am having trouble distinguishing between things that they were known for, but didnt necessarilly care about; and the things that they put effort into, and perhaps never saw come to fruition.

I would greatly appreciate some direction and/or assistance with this goal.
Monday, April 30th, 2012
4:34 am
Seating (medieval royalty)
When it came to seating arrangements at high tables, on thrones, etc, on which side did the king sit visavi his queen? Left or right? I have used my google fu to no avail, and would be grateful for an answer.
Thursday, March 8th, 2012
9:40 am
Catherine of Valois

I'm looking for a decent biography of Catherine, either online or published, for a story I'm writing.  She's unexpectedly difficult to research in Australia!  I've followed the links from Wikipedia, and read The Valois by Knecht and Queens Consort by Hilton.  I'm not sure how much I can rely on any of those sources.  I'm particularly interested in her early life, before her marriage to Henry V, and in a reference I found in Hilton's book to a contemporary rumour that she had an affair with Edmund Beaufort after Henry's death.  I couldn't find any further references to this affair.

Any help would be much appreciated!
Thursday, March 1st, 2012
1:05 pm
U.S. rurual architecture question
Hello, historians. I'm looking for the name given to a back room attached to a house in the rural U.S. in early 19th century New England (though I'll be happy to hear about other times and places). The room served to house small numbers of livestock. This is not a full barn, but just an unfinished room to shelter a single cow or a couple of milk goats, maybe a few chickens. You could reach the room through a door to the house as well as open the outer door to let the animals into the yard. I'm told this was a fairly common arrangement at the time, but nobody seems to know what to call it other than "an attached cowshed." Does anyone know if there was a more specific or different term in use at the time?

Thank you!
Sunday, February 12th, 2012
6:52 am
I can't seem to find much about this on my own but...

Okay Scotland and France were still in the Auld Alliance when the seven years war was lost. Darien Colony had failed for Scotland and the nation went into the UK to recover financially.

Since the Scots were France's allies, after the war was lost, did the two nations have any more communication after that? I can't find anything for or against. They were a heft alliance for nearly 500 years, did merging into the UK simply dissolve that? I know the Auld alliance was never officially ended.
Tuesday, February 7th, 2012
1:28 pm
Copper Kettle and Warming Pan
I hope this question is OK - it's possibly more social history than actual history, if that makes sense. I have a copper kettle and warming pan from my late mother-in-law. She and her sisters (born early 1920s) remembered their mother Ruth (born 1887) having the items on display, always beautifully polished. It's clear from the condition that both items have been actively used, rather than originating as ornaments, and amongst the many copper kettles on eBay the closest match claims to be from 1840.

So my question is - when did these items stop being used in an average working-class home? And are these the kind of items someone might have been given as a wedding present? Ruth's own mother was married in 1874 and her parents married in 1845.
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