Archive for the ‘1600s’ Category

Haiti was a land of the Tainos (Arawaks). But then one day in 1492 a white man named Columbus arrived from over the seas. He noticed they wore gold jewellery. He told them he would cut off the hands of any Taino over 13 who did not give him a certain amount of gold or cotton every three months. The Taino fled inland, but the Spanish followed, running them down with dogs and killing them, looking for the gold mines. They made girls into sex slaves. It got so bad that mothers were killing their own babies.

In two years half the Tainos were dead.  By 1555 they were all gone.

In 1505 Columbus’s son brought the first African slaves to the Americas, bringing them to Haiti. By 1519 there were already slave uprisings.

In 1697 France got Haiti from Spain and called it Saint-Domingue.

By 1789 Haiti produced three-fourths of all the sugar in the world, its black slaves producing more wealth than all of English-speaking North America. A third of slaves died within three years after arriving from Africa.

In the 1790s Toussaint L’Ouverture led a slave uprising that in time overthrew the French, making Haiti independent in 1804. The slaves were freed and the land divided among them. The 3,300 remaining French were killed and white was taken out of the flag, leaving red and blue.

For its loss France demanded payment of a crushing debt. France, Britain and America cut it off from overseas trade until it agreed to pay the debt. It took till 1947 to pay it off.

Like the Roman Empire, Haiti had no peaceful means for power to change hands. Often the government would be overthrown every few years.

From 1849 to 1913 America sent warships into Haitian waters 24
times to “protect American lives and property.”

Haiti was under American military rule from 1915 to 1934. Major General Smedley D. Butler said he hunted the Haitians “like pigs” and made Haiti “a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenue in.” American troops practised “indiscriminate killing of natives” while the American press called Haitians “a horde of naked niggers” in need of “energetic Anglo-Saxon influence”.

America rewrote Haiti’s laws so that Americans could buy up land. They sent 40% of Haiti’s income to American and French banks to pay back debts.

From 1957 t0 1986 Haiti was ruled by the Duvaliers: Papa Doc and Baby Doc. They ruled by terror through the paramilitary Tonton Macoutes. America backed them and opened factories there.

Since the fall of Baby Doc, Haiti has gone back and forth between military rule and democracy, with Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a country priest, as the star democrat. America sent in troops in 1994 to restore Aristide to power, but it seems likely they were behind his overthrow in 1991 and 2004.

Democracy was last restored in 2006. The government is backed by a UN force but it is still weak. On top of that Haiti was hit by hurricanes and tropical storms in 2008 that killed over a thousand and by an earthquake in 2010 that has killed 110,000 at last count.

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The following is based on part six of Jacob Bronowski’s BBC series on the history of science and invention, “The Ascent of Man” (1973). It is about astronomy up to the time of Galileo (pictured):

Cultures all over the world have some knowledge of astronomy – if only to know when to plant. But often it never goes beyond that.

The Mayans, for example, had the number zero before Europe did and a much better calendar too, yet they did not study the motions of the stars.

Easter Island was the same: people came there by accident but had no way of leaving because they had no model of the heavens. They were stuck there as the stars passed overhead, their secrets unread.

It seems the New World lacked a model of the heavens because they lacked the wheel. The Greeks built their model on the wheel: wheels within wheels, forever turning. It was Ptolemy who wrote down that  model in all its glory in about the year 150. It stood for over a thousand years.

In 1543 Copernicus put the sun, not the earth, at the centre – for sound Renaissance reasons. To the man in the street it seemed unnatural.

Then in 1609, a lifetime later, all that changed when Galileo in Venice, Italy pointed a telescope at the stars. What he saw proved Copernicus right.

The Catholic Church at the time was battling against the Protestant heresy. Taking a hard line, it believed that faith should rule. Galileo believed that truth should persuade.

In 1611 the Vatican starts to keep a file on him. In 1616 they tell him he can no longer hold or defend the Copernican system as proven fact.

Galileo waits till a more intellectual pope came to power, Pope Urban VIII in 1623. He is the one who hired Bernini to work on St Peter’s. But he is also the one who had the birds in the Vatican gardens killed because he did not like the noise.

In 1624 Galileo came to those gardens and had six long talks with the pope. He asked the pope if he could teach Copernicus. The pope said no. But Galileo continued to believe the pope was on his side. He was profoundly mistaken.

Galileo returned  to Florence and wrote “The Dialogue on the Great World Systems” (1632). Because the book did not present Copernicus as fact but merely debated his ideas, Galileo thought he was safe. But just to make sure he got four imprimaturs from Church censors.

It did not work. The pope stopped the presses and tried to buy back all the copies. Then in 1633 he called Galileo before the Inquisition. They threatened him with torture, twice, and forced him to state that Copernicus was wrong. Silencing him, the Church banned his book for over 200 years.

That all but killed science in Catholic countries. Now the cutting edge of science moved to the Protestant north. Indeed, in the year that Galileo died, in 1642, on Christmas day was born Isaac Newton in England.

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The Delaware in the 1640s.


The Delaware or, as they call themselves, the Lenape (leh-NAH-pay, meaning the “common or ordinary people”), were the Native Americans who lived in and near what is now New York and Philadelphia in the north-eastern US. They had lived there for at least a thousand years when Whites arrived.

Country facts (circa 1500):

  • Name: Lenapehoking;
  • Location: New Jersey and parts of neighbouring states;
  • Population: 30,000 to 85,000, maybe more;
  • Area: about 55,000 sq km;
  • Languages: Munsee in the north, Unami in the south, both Eastern Algonquian languages (related to those that Squanto and Pocahontas spoke);
  • Religion: ethnic;
  • Technology: Eastern Woodlands;
  • Government: decentralized, ruled by sachems (religious chiefs);
  • Currency: wampum, aka “glass beads”.


The Delaware grew maizebeans and squash, gathered strawberries and hunted deer (pictured), bear and elk. They lived in long houses, sometimes in towns of up to 300.  They were not the wandering bands of hunter-gatherers that most Whites imagine, much less “savages”.

Whites began arriving from Europe in number in the 1600s. Many Delaware died of White diseases, like smallpox, cholera and measles.

Whites got their land in three main ways:

  1. war, preferred by the Dutch but practised by Anglos too, like George Washington, who fought them.
  2. purchase, like when Manhattan was bought for $24 worth of trinkets and glass beads – a statement so misleading as to be a lie.
  3. court cases – where White judges upheld fine print, where the Delaware had few rights or protection. Preferred by Anglos.

Money: mostly wampum, shell beads on a string. Whites sometimes call it “glass beads”, which is like calling their money “pieces of paper”.

The Delaware knew how to fight in the woods better than most White men did, and they even had guns (which were too slow-loading till the 1800s to be much better than bows and arrows). But one thing they did not have were numbers. More and more Whites kept coming over the seas every year. And whatever land Whites could not get by sale or the small print of a contract, they took by force.

An excuse to fight the Delaware could always be found. Once it was because one of them took a peach. Small things like that grew into years of war. Even those who had taken on Western ways were killed. Even those who had become peaceful Moravian Christians were killed. Even women and children were killed. It did not matter to Whites.

lifeam1The Delaware who had lived through the White diseases and the White wars were pushed west bit by bit – through Pennsylvania in the 1600s and 1700s,  Ohio, Indiana and Kansas in the 1800s and so on till most of them came to Oklahoma by the 1860s. Some, though, wound up in Wisconsin, some in Ontario. By 2000 there were about 16,000. Unlike other Native Americans, few married Blacks.



Languages: They spoke Unami and Munsee.  In 2009, Munsee had seven or eight native speakers, Unami had none. You can still hear them in prayers and in place names, like Manhattan, the Poconos, Hackensack, Rockaway, Massapequa, Carnarsie, Parsippany, Minisink, Raritan and Jamaica (in Queens).


Mannahatta in 1609 | Manhattan in 2009. Image Mark Boyer WCS. Click to enlarge.

– Abagond, 2009, 2016.

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shakespeareHere is the Lord’s Prayer in Early Modern English (from the Geneva Bible of 1587):

Our father which art in heauen,
halowed be thy name.
Thy Kingdome come.
Thy will be done
euen in earth, as it is in heauen.
Giue vs this day our dayly bread.
And forgiue vs our dettes,
as we also forgiue our detters.
And leade vs not into tentation,
but deliuer vs from euill:

Early Modern English (1474-1660) is English from about the time of Caxton in the late 1400s, when he printed the first book in English, to Milton in the middle 1600s. It is the English of Shakespeare and the Authorized King James Bible, of Hobbes, Bunyan,  Marlowe, Spenser, Bacon and Donne. It was considerably different from the English of Chaucer in the late 1300s, yet it was easily understood up until the late 1800s.

It was when English had become a respectable language, like French. It was taking in huge numbers of Latin words. Shakespeare showed its beauty and power. Even so, it was not the giant world language it is now – only about 5 million people in a corner of Europe spoke it. English was just beginning to spread its wings.

It was the English that was brought to America. The American use of –ize instead of -ise and mad in the sense of angry, for example, go back to this time.

It was during this period that English spelling became more or less fixed. This started with Caxton in the late 1400s, who pretty much wrote words the way they sounded. Most of what makes English hard to spell comes from the Great Vowel Shift that came soon after in the 1500s: that was when the silent e became silent, as did the k in knife, the w in wrong, the t in listen, the l in half and so on. It is when words like food and good or sweat and meat stopped rhyming in spite of how they were spelled.

The most noticeable difference between our English and theirs are all those thous and -eths. But even in the early 1600s they were already falling out of use. They are more common, for instance, in the King James Bible, which preserves an older English from the middle 1500s, than they are in Shakespeare. By the 1600s -eth was probably said as -es regardless of how it was spelled.

Some notes:

  • My became mine before a vowel: “mine apple”.
  • Is could still sometimes take the place of has in the perfect tense: “He is come”.
  • Its was just coming into use in the 1600s: before then his and whereof were used instead: “the weight whereof was an 130 shekels.”
  • Ye was used instead you when it was the subject of a sentence: “But be ye doers of the word.”
  • Thou was the familiar form of “ye”, but it was falling out of use.
  • Instead of using do to make a question you could just put the main verb first: “Have ye three apples?”

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The European slave trade (1502-1807), which brought 10 to 20 million blacks to the Americas in chains – and left just as many dead at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean – was immoral.

It amazes me that I have to write a post about this. I had to write one on the beauty of black women too for the same reason: because the same things kept coming up in comments.

Everyone seems to know the slave trade was wrong. Yet, despite that, many people, mostly white people as far as I can tell, keep bringing up the Arabs who sold black slaves or the black African kings and merchants who took a full and willing part in the slave trade.

That is all true, so far as I know, but so what?

It does not lessen the guilt of white slave traders one bit. Just because other people were doing it does not make it right or any less wrong. And since when did Europe ever use the Arabs or black Africans as their moral guides?

This talk about Arab slave traders and so on is a moral argument and it is not even a good one.

The argument comes down to something like this: Your mother catches you taking ten cookies from the cookie jar. Your younger brother took three. When your mother asks you about what you did, one of the first things out of your mouth is that your brother took three cookies.

So what? So what!?

What he did was wrong too, of course, but it does not change your guilt, not one bit.

The “blacks do it too” argument is what got Don Imus into trouble. Just because some black rappers get rich selling music – mainly to white people – in which they call black women bitches and hoes, that does not make it suddenly right. It is still wrong to call any woman a prostitute, unless she is in fact one, and even then it is still a mean thing to do. Why should black women be any different?

The same goes for black slave traders and making blacks into slaves.

No one forced the Europeans to have a slave trade. They did it willingly. They did it knowing full well that making anyone a slave is wrong.

Maybe they thought little of the black Africans, but they still knew blacks were humans with an immortal soul. Their holy book teaches them that all men are the same in God’s eyes.

We know they saw blacks as humans. Because the excuse in Virginia in the 1650s to make blacks into slaves was that they were not Christians. Meaning they were viewed as humans: no one talks about the Christianity of horses.

The racism through which most white Americans now view blacks only started in the 1660s. It is a measure of how wrong they knew the whole slave thing was because otherwise there would be no need for racism.

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I have written quite a bit about white people lately. Here is the overview:

White people (1502- ) are those light-skinned people who come from Europe, the Middle East and parts nearby. Over the past 500 years they have settled in Australia, South Africa, North and South America.

Some say that Muslim and Latin American whites are not white, but if you are going to divide the world into five or so races, there is no physical reason to set them apart – only ones of history and religion.

Even so, in English when people say “white” they mainly mean the whites in North America and Britain. I do too.

Who counts as “white” in America has changed: the Irish and the Jews were not considered to be “white” at first. The same is true now for Latinos. About 40% of Americans who are part African pass for white.

On the world stage, whites are on top, but only since about 1800.

Northern Europe had been a backward corner of the world through most of history. As late as the 1400s Timbuktu, a black city in Africa, and Tenochtitlan, a brown city in Mexico, each had far more people than London, a white city in Europe.

Egypt and China, not Europe, have been the most advanced parts of the world through most of history. China still was as late as 1700 and likely will be again by 2030. Just look at who is studying engineering now.

Many whites think they are on top because they are just better than everyone else. Either because of their race, their way of life or their laws and customs.

Not quite.

Whites got on top because they had guns and ocean-going ships and industry first. Japan has shown these things are not “white”, so whites got them first only through an accident of history.

Whites, except for their power, are the same as everyone else. God did not make them special. God is not smiling on them. Hardly.

Starting in the 1600s in America they came with their guns and pushed the red man off his land and then with their wonderful ships (they were a wonder), they brought black men over the seas in chains to work that land. It is not what Jesus would have done, but it is what they did.

Deep down they knew it was wrong. So to live with themselves they had to believe a lie: whites are better than everyone else. A lie most of them still believe to this day.

Racism is not just some bad habit they fell into. It is built into their sense of who they are.

White American racism was open and naked down to the time of Martin Luther King, Jr. They have since changed. But it seems their words have changed far more than their hearts. They still think they are better than blacks, but their excuses are now a bit more subtle and carefully worded – not so much to hide their racism from the world but from themselves.

– Abagond, 2008. 

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The Portuguese empire (1415-1999) was the first and the last of the empires of western Europe. It sold black pepper from the Spice Islands and black men from Africa. It helped to spread the Catholic faith, especially to Africa and Asia, and made Portuguese a language spoken by more people than French. The empire gave birth to Brazil, Angola, Mozambique and other countries.

At one time or other Portugal ruled parts or all of Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Indonesia, East Timor, Bahrain, Barbados, Nagasaki in Japan, Tanzania, Kenya, Yemen, Morocco, Uruguay, Sri Lanka, Goa in India and Macao in China, among others.

From 1000 to 1300 the Portuguese Christians took over what is now Portugal from the Moors. But in a sense they never stopped: in the 1400s they kept on going, down the coast of Africa. By 1498 they had reached India, by 1571, Japan. They had ports and outposts all along the coasts of Africa and Asia, from Lisbon to Nagasaki. The empire was at its height – not in land, but in power, trade and wealth.

Treaty of Tordesillas: The groundwork for this was laid in 1494, two years after Columbus discovered the Americas. The pope divided the world outside Europe in half between Portugal and Spain. In effect Portugal got Brazil and all of Africa and Asia except the Philippines.

The agreement held long enough among European powers to shape both empires. Portuguese power in its half of the world was not challenged till the 1600s by the Dutch. In 1500 the Portuguese had the best ships in the world, but by 1600 it was the Dutch.

The Dutch fought the Portuguese everywhere, even in Brazil. Portugal managed to hold onto Brazil, but lost Ceylon and the Spice Islands (Sri Lanka and Indonesia). Worse than mere land, they lost control of trade from the East. The glory days of the empire were over.

In the 1700s Brazil became the jewel of the empire. Brazil had sugar, gold, diamonds, cacao and tobacco. Black slaves worked the land. With the growth of Brazil inland, the empire reached its height in terms of land.

Extensão máxima do Império Português no século XVII.

The early 1800s brought the wars of Napoleon. The king fled to Brazil. Rio, not Lisbon, was the seat of the empire for a while. But after the wars Portugal was no longer strong enough to hold onto Brazil. It became independent in 1825.

This was a huge shock. To make up for its loss, Portugal turned its attention to its possessions in Africa, especially Angola and Mozambique.

In the late 1900s the empire came to an end.

In 1974 Salazar fell from power in Portugal and nearly all of the remaining countries of the empire were freed: Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, Sao Tome & Principe and East Timor. Some of these sank into wars of succession, particularly Angola and Mozambique. Indonesia took over East Timor, killing a third of its people.

But even then Portugal still had Macao near Hong Kong. That was given back to China in 1999, the last bit of the empire to go.

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Portrait of An African Princess, by Floris Jespers

Aqualtune (1600s) was an African princess who became a slave in Brazil, the grandmother of Zumbi, who later died trying to free the slaves. She is the princess in the song “Zumbi” by Jorge Ben Jor.

She was from the Congo and some say she was Yoruba, as were many of the slaves who were brought to north-eastern Brazil.

In the Congo she led an army of 10,000 men to defend her father’s kingdom against the Chagas. But the Chagas won and she found herself on a slave ship crossing the sea to Brazil.

As the song puts it, she was standing in an ox cart with her subjects, being sold as a slave. That was in Recife, Brazil. She was sold to a planter from Porto Calvo in southern Pernambuco.

She was strong, but she was bought not to work the land but to give birth to future strong slaves. Like a prized race horse, she was not allowed to choose her mate.

In 1630, a few months before she was to give birth, she and others escaped. She had heard about a place in the mountains to the west called Palmares where people of all colours lived together in freedom.

Palmares was no dream: as she found out, it was true! It was a kingdom – some say a republic – set back from the coast near the “nose” of Brazil. It ran for 200 kilometres across what are now the states of Pernambuco and Alagoas. It had nine rivers and nine towns in the virgin forest. At its height in the 1670s it had 50,000 people: runaway black slaves, native Indians and whites on the run from the law. The largest town had 2000 houses.

Palmares supported itself, growing its own food. It sold enough cassava and sugar to buy salt, guns and gunpowder. It could work iron but it could not make guns. In the end that proved to be its downfall. Even so, it lasted nearly a hundred years, standing up to both the Portuguese and the Dutch.

Aqualtune became a leader in Palmares. Two of her sons, Gana Zona and Ganga Zumba, also did. She lived in Palmares till she died in old age, living long enough to see forces from Sao Paulo burn down her town.

In 1655, in the middle of the war with the Dutch, her oldest daughter, Sabina, gave birth to Zumbi. He would grow up to become the last ruler of Palmares and a hero to millions.

Zumbi fought against the Portuguese for 15 years. The king offered to make peace with him twice, but both times he refused. In the end he was betrayed. On November 20th 1695 the Portuguese cut off his head, a day that is still remembered in Brazil.

The picture I chose is not Aqualtune herself, but it is a picture of a princess from the Congo. She is strong and proud just like I imagine Aqualtune to be.

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Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) was a British thinker from the middle 1600s, the godfather of the banana republic. In his book “Leviathan” he argued that democracy would never work. He is famous for saying that man’s life is naturally “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”

Hobbes was a private teacher for the powerful Cavendish family in Britain. He also translated Thucydides into English. Thucydides wrote about the war between Athens and Sparta, showing how men were driven by self-interest alone, however they may dress up their actions in fine words.

Later Hobbes saw Britain itself torn apart by war when Cromwell and the Roundheads rose up against the king. He fled with the Cavendish family to Paris to wait out the war. There he taught the future king, Charles II, and wrote his master work, “Leviathan“. He also met some of the best minds of Europe, like Descartes and Gassendi.

When his book came out in Paris in 1651 the Catholic Church was not pleased. The “Leviathan” seemed to have little room for God; man was little more than a machine. Hobbes was no Catholic, but he left Paris and went back to England.

“Leviathan” lays out Hobbes’s philosophy about nature, man, history, morals, power and the state. It planted two seeds into Western thought:

  1. The power of the king comes not from God, as everyone up till then believed, but from the will of the people. Power and rights in society come from a social contract, an agreement among the citizens of a state at its founding that binds future ages. The contract is often taken for granted, not written down.
  2. Nature is a machine. Not just the stones and the stars, but even living plants and animals and man himself. Even the mind itself is nothing but a machine.

Hobbes saw man as driven only by self-interest. Out of fear of death he will give away his rights to a king. The king then has all the rights and power of society, his subjects are left with none – they gave them away. The king is above even the law.

Kings grew powerful not by divine right, as they said in those days, but by force. His power came not from above but from below, from his subjects.

But even though Hobbes used this sort of thinking to support the right of kings, Jefferson would later use it to argue for democracy: since the king got his power from the people, the people had the right to overthrow him.

Hobbes thought that democracy would never work: it makes decisions too slowly and changes its mind too often. This makes it completely unsuited for war. In time the kings would overthrow any democracies that took root. Democracy is one of those bad ideas spread by the Greeks.

Few accept Hobbes’s philosophy, but his way of thinking has become common. Like reasoning from history instead of from the nature of man. It has especially affected Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Rousseau, Bentham and Mill.

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Money in Shakespeare’s time

Money in Shakespeare’s time was counted in pounds, shillings and pence – or pennies:

  • 12 pennies make a shilling
  • 20 shillings (or 240 pennies) make a pound

English money remained that way till 1971, when it was decimalized. Shillings then disappeared and now 100 pence make a pound.

The pound came from the old Roman libra, the shilling from the solidus and the penny from the denarius. That is why “s” is short for shilling, “d” is short for penny and the sign for pound looks like a fancy L.

There was no paper money back then, just silver and gold coins. No copper coins either. The penny was a silver coin down to the time of Napoleon. It was about 12 mm across and had half a gram of silver.

I will express all prices in pennies to make them easier to compare. Divide by 60 to get crowns. And, based on the price of silver, divide by 5 to get current American dollars and by 10 to get current British pounds. As you will see, the cost of living was much lower.

The English coins that Shakespeare mentions (the value of each is given in pennies):

  • angel (120)
  • crown (60)
  • shilling (12)
  • sixpence (6)
  • groat (4)
  • twopence (2)
  • penny (1)
  • halfpenny (0.5)
  • farthing (0.25)

He mentions pounds but only as an amount of money, not as a coin. The one-pound coin was called a sovereign, but I do not see where he mentions them.

Crowns, the most commonly used coins, were made of either silver or gold. Any coin more than a crown was made of gold, while the lesser coins were all made of silver.

Foreign coins that Shakespeare mentions (with the value in pennies):

  • ducat (120)
  • guilder (120)
  • dollar (50)
  • crusado (27-48)

He calls the French ecu a crown.

What people got paid (in pennies a day):

 80,000     the top merchants
 80,000     Duke of Bedford
 54,000     queen (what she spent a day)
   3200     minister
   2000     nobleman
   1200     knights
    600     esquire
     80     merchant
     80     country gentleman
     53     army captain
     29     lieutenant
     17     ensign
     15     army corporal
     16     common parson
     14     army drummer
     13     pikeman
     12     craftsman
     12     actors
     11     landowner (12 hectares)
     10     journeyman
     10     soldier
      9     labourer
      7     watchman
      7     ploughman
      7     maid
      6     shepherd

For those who get food as part of their pay, like maids and soldiers, I added 5 pennies.

For some of these I assumed a 6-day work week or a 300-day work year.

What things cost, given in pennies (“L” means the price is for a litre, “kg” for a kilo):

   1152     tobacco, kg
   1080     portrait
    480     sugar, kg
    480     Bible
    360     horse
    331     officer's cassock
    300     silk hose
    264     cloves
    240     spices, kg
    240     a book of Shakespeare's plays
    171     officer's canvas doublet
    120     hire a coach for a day
     96     pepper, kg
     80     boots
     48     bed
     24     tooth pulled
     15     small book
     12     hire a horse for a day
     12     wine, L
     12     shoes
      6     cherries
      6     butter, kg
      6     beef, kg
      6     scissors
      6     eyeglasses
      6     blue cloth jerkin (vest)
      5     meal at an inn
      4     food for a day
      4     a dozen eggs
      4     a knife
      3     cheese
      3     a dozen buttons
      2     see a play from the gallery
      1.3   bread, kg
      1     see a play from the ground
      1     bed in a tavern
      0.8   candle
      0.5   ale or beer, L

Note that many of these are a middle price of a broader range.

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Authorized Version

The Authorized Version (AV) (1611) of the Bible, also known as the King James Bible or King James Version (KJV), is the most read English translation of the Bible, if not the most read Bible translation of all time.

The AV translates the Greek of the Textus Receptus for the New Testament and the Hebrew of the Masoretic text for the Old Testament.

While it is the best translation ever done in English, it is not perfect:

  1. Its English is becoming too old to clearly understand.
  2. We now know that the original that it translates has errors. None of them are serious.

The New King James Version (NKJV) attempts to set right the first but not the second.

So far no new translation has been good enough to take the place of the AV, not even the NKJV.

The authority and respect that the AV enjoys today did not come about till 1700 when a whole generation had grown up on it and it alone.

Before 1650 the Geneva Bible stood against the AV. It was the translation of choice for Milton, Bunyan and the Pilgrim Fathers who came to America on the Mayflower. It was the translation of those who fought for the republic in the English civil war in the middle 1600s. Those who fought against them for the king read the AV. In the end the king’s men won and so did their translation.

The AV is a faithful translation. It is not as good as the Latin Vulgate – it is much harder to turn Greek into English than into Latin. But it translates the original almost word for word, even keeping much of its word order.

The English translations of the past 50 years are much looser than the AV, putting a much thicker layer of interpretation between the reader and the original.

The AV is so close to the original that it sounded a bit strange at first. It was full of strange Greek and Hebrew ways of putting things, like “stand in awe”, “it came to pass”, “by the skin of his teeth” and “from time to time”. None of these expressions were common before 1700, yet sound completely natural now. That shows the influence the AV has had on English.

The AV is written in the English of south-east England. It has helped to make that sort of English a universally accepted form of the language.

The AV sounds old-fashioned to us, but it sounded old-fashioned even when it first came out. In 1611 few still said “He loveth his dog” instead of “He loves his dog”, or “The house and the windows thereof” instead of “The house and its windows”. That old-fashioned sound comes from the way it was translated.

The AV that is commonly printed today drops the books of the Apocrypha, uses updated spelling and punctuation and is no longer printed in thick, Gothic letters.

The King-James-Only Movement accepts the King James Bible as the only trustworthy translation of the Bible.

– Abagond, 2007.


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Sugar looks like salt but tastes sweet. It can take different forms: as a brown, thick liquid it is called treacle or molasses. As a fermented drink it is called rum. Powdered sugar can be white or brown.

Sugar is added to food and drink to make it taste better – and to sell more of it.

The demand for sugar in Europe led to the growing of sugar cane (Saccharum officinarum) in Brazil and on the islands of the Caribbean. At first poor Europeans worked the land, but they died off too quickly from disease. Growers then used slaves from the Guinea coast of Africa instead. This is how black people first came across the sea from Africa.

The poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and others in the early 1800s stopped using sugar till the British stopped using slaves to produce it.

In the 1600s Britain and France fought one another for control of the sugar islands of the Caribbean sea. They made more money out of these islands than from the rest of North America.

Sugar can also be made from sugar beets (Beta vulgaris). The French found this out in the time of Napoleon when the British cut them off from the sea.

Three common kinds of sugar:

  • sucrose – ordinary table sugar
  • fructose – the kind found in fruit
  • glucose – the kind the body uses

Fructose is two times sweeter than sucrose, but is harder for the body to take in.

Sucrose is made out of fructose and glucose put together. High fructose corn syrup is mostly fructose with some glucose. It is made from maize. In America it is cheaper than ordinary sugar and takes its place in Coke and many other processed foods.

Your body breaks down food into sugar, fat and some other things. The sugar is put into your blood and this in turn feeds the rest of your body.

When you eat and drink too much, a lot of it passes through your body, but almost all of the sugar remains. What sugar you cannot burn in the next few hours gets stored as fat. It turns the fat back into sugar when needed. The body is built this way to get through times of little food.

This is why the only way to lose weight, short of medical treatment, is to eat less and exercise more. This uses up the fat the body has stored.

The part of your body that controls the level of sugar in your blood is called the pancreas. It does this with a substance it makes called insulin. Insulin carries glucose through the blood.

If your pancreas goes bad then you will get a disease called diabetes. Some just have to watch what they eat, but most have to take insulin. Unchecked, diabetes in time will make you go blind and even kill you by the damage done to your heart, nerves and kidneys by high levels of blood sugar.

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Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) was an English philosopher who was a founder of Western science along with Galileo and Descartes. He did this by adding induction to Greek science.

While many thought that Aristotle and Holy Scripture already had all the answers, Bacon saw that man was only at the beginning of what he could know.

Bacon laid out his ideas for the future of science in two books: “De Augmentis Scientiarum” (1623) and “Novum Organum” (1620).

The “Novum Organon,” or New Organon, was his master work. The old Organon was a book by Aristotle in which he laid down the rules for thought and science.

Aristotle said that one starts out with facts and axioms. An axiom is a statement whose truth requires no proof because it is self-evident. It becomes the starting point for all other proofs. By applying his rules of thought to these you can prove other statements true. These in turn can be used to prove yet other statements true. And so on.

This is called deduction. It sounds wonderful but Bacon said it was not enough. For example, it cannot prove whether the sun will rise tomorrow.

Therefore Bacon added induction: if two things always seem to go together, like night and day or smoke and fire, then if one exists you can conclude that the other exists too. So if it is night, then you can conclude day will follow.

Bacon drew up induction tables to show when an induction was a good one.

Induction is not as certain as deduction, but neither is it as limited: you can find out a lot more using induction. And even if it was not the royal road to truth, Bacon believed it would get you close enough as a starting point.

With induction the knowable becomes what you can see or make happen over and over again. This led to the experiment becoming the heart of science. It also led in time to intellectuals like Hume and Jefferson doubting the existence of miracles.

With induction science moves from seeking the whys of nature to predicting and later controlling nature. Bacon said that knowledge is power, its purpose “the relief of man’s estate.”

Bacon was a hero to Hooke, Boyle, Comte, Jefferson and even Kant. He was later attacked by Joseph de Maistre.

While later ages justified Bacon’s faith in science, in his own day he was regarded chiefly as a king’s minister who was a good writer, famous for his books of wordly wisdom like his “Essayes” (1597) and “De Sapientia Veterum” (1609).

But even in his time he made science respectable among philosophers and fashionable among gentlemen. His book “Nova Atlantis” (1626) gave such gentlemen the idea of forming the Royal Society.

Bacon did not believe in Copernicus: he could not see the earth moving through space like that.

Francis Bacon is no relation of Roger Bacon, an English philosopher of the 1200s.

His best books:

  • “Essayes” (1597)
  • “Novum Organum” (1620)

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Rene Descartes (1596-1650) was a French philosopher. In Latin his name is Renatus Cartesius, from which we get the word “Cartesian.” He moved Western philosophy beyond Aristotle, created analytic geometry by applying algebra to geometry and was a leading light of the new science.

Descartes is the one who said “Cogito, ergo sum”, Latin for “I think, therefore I am”.

Descartes said that if you really want to know the truth, then at least once in your life you must doubt everything. From this universal doubt he knew that he existed because he doubted! “I think, therefore I am.” From there he proved that God exists, using the proofs of Anselm and Aquinas. But God would not deceive us, therefore we can trust our senses too. And so on.

Descartes reasoned from truths he could not doubt to new truths and then reasoned from these new truths to derive yet other truths and so on through a process of deduction.

Descartes did to philosophy what Euclid had done to geometry, building it from the ground up. So had Aristotle, but Descartes was far more thorough. It was quite unlike Bacon’s science by induction.

Descartes founded the school of rationalism. It said that man’s knowledge is based on reason and certain inborn ideas. This was later opposed by the empiricism of Locke.

Descartes saw the body and all of nature as matter in motion, as moving parts working together. The human mind, on the other hand, was something completely different. The mind was not material, it was not an ordinary part of nature. You could not see it or touch it. We only know about minds because we all experience them.

This is known as mind/body dualism, where the world is divided into mind and body. Most philosophers in the English-speaking world see it as a false distinction.

Descartes wondered where the mind was connected to the body. So he cut open dead animals and he cut open dead men and looked. Only man had a pineal gland, so he thought that was it. Years later, however, the pineal gland was found in other animals.

Descartes was a pious Catholic and, like Galileo, saw himself as helping the Church into the new age of thought. The Church did not see it that way.

While Descartes was writing his master work on science, “Le Monde”, the Church condemned Galileo for teaching the theory of Copernicus as true. That is just what Descartes had done in “Le Monde”! He stopped writing the book and never put it out. Instead he came up with his theory of vortices. It had some following till Newton proved Copernicus right once and for all.

In 1649 he went to Sweden to teach philosophy to the queen. The cold was too much for him and he died of pneumonia a year later.

His best books:

  • Discourse on Method (1637)
  • Meditationes de prima philosophia (1641)
  • Principia philosophiae (1644)

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John Locke (1632-1702) was a British philosopher. The American system of government is based on his political ideas. He founded the school of empiricism against that of Descartes’s rationalism. In his day he was seen as the philosopher of freedom.

Thomas Jefferson said he was one of the three greatest men who ever lived. He got his political ideas from Locke, from his First and Second Treatises of Government.

In the “First Treatise of Government” (1690) he argued against the divine right of kings. Kings in those days said that their right to rule comes from God. Locke shows why this is not true.

In the “Second Treatise of Government” (1690) he argues that the chief purpose of government is to uphold property rights.

Locke saw man as naturally good and rational. Men are created equal and are willing to live and let live. They know that to do well in this world they will need to work with others. Men are born with certain rights, among these the right to life, liberty, health and property. Government exists to uphold these rights and it is only given power for this reason.

Government therefore serves the people, not the other way round. They are created as the result of a social contract to uphold these rights. Therefore when government destroys these rights, the people have the right to overthrow it. “Government rules by the consent of the governed,” Locke said.

To keep government from growing too powerful, Locke said there should be a system of checks and balances: The power of government should not be all in one man’s hand, but divided so that no one part of government can grow too strong.

Property rights are important because they allow men to enjoy the fruits of their labour.

Locke believed in freedom of religion and conscience for everyone – except for Catholics and atheists.

Locke’s political thought opposed that of Hobbes. It was later built on by Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill and put into practice by the American Founding Fathers, especially Thomas Jefferson.

In his “Essay Concerning Human Understanding” (1690) Locke lays out his ideas about the nature of human knowledge. In doing this he founded a new school of philosophy called empiricism. It opposed the rationalism of Descartes.

According to Descartes knowledge is produced by reason and certain ideas that are built into our brains.

Locke, on the other hand, saw the human mind as a tabula rasa – a blank slate. No ideas are built in. All it starts out with are the five senses and the power of reason. The senses working on our brain, with some help from reason and thought, produces the ideas we have about the world: space, time, colour and all the rest. The ideas are almost stamped into our brain through the senses.

Empiricism was later developed by Berkeley and Hume, who found holes in Locke’s thinking.

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