Insult in the 16th Century (Revised)

The use of insulting language in the late 16th century is easily seen in court records of the time. After the Reformation there was a sudden rise in defamation allegations being recorded. Defamation laws required there to be an economic consequence or accusation of crime for the case to be brought to court, hurt feelings were not enough. The general type of these cases is easily seen, in situations where it is men v men, the insult is normally against a man’s reputation, or the activities of his wife. The thought being that a man’s reputation was precious, and any insult is important enough to take to court. Most of these cases were tried at the secular courts, with the exception with those concerned with sexuality, generally against women, these went to church courts. Men were more likely to be concerned with insult that could affect their business, while women’s entire reputation was based on the accepted sexual mores of the day.

The most dangerous insults towards men, and those pursued most vigorously, were those against their professional business. Thomas Handley accused Elizabeth Vincent of destroying his business when she publicly proclaimed “God forbid that ever Handley take any work in hand that ever shall prosper” after her child died in his care. He claimed as a result of this he lost customers. Some insults were meant to suggest that men were outsiders to their communities and a threat by questioning their parentage – a direct insult to their reputation – such as those levelled at John Johnson by a neighbouring couple who claimed ‘no man knew from where he came’ while also branding him a ‘Scotty Rouge’ and ‘Vagabond’ further pushing an idea of a threat to the community. While drinking alcohol was seen as an important part of male friendship, extreme or common drunkenness was seen as a man out of control. One John Paterson was described as a ‘foresworn drunken fellow’ and a ‘spewbleck’ describing what drunkenness did to him.


The cases of women v women or men v women are quite different. When women were insulted it tended to be of a sexual nature, often with the word ‘whore’ being used. Other words of a negative sexual nature solely towards women such as ‘jade’ and ‘queane’ can be seen in cases such as Anne Webb’s diatribe against Margery Dunne in 1593:‘thow hacking queane thou hacking jade comon ridden Jade codpeece whor codpeece quean…’. Some cases such as this one seem to be more attacks on other women out of anger. Other women sometimes would directly attack women who had sex with their husbands such as a case in 1579 where Alice Amos was heckled by Susanna Symonds: ‘Thow art a whore And I sawe my husband stand between thie legs and thow didst put thow hands into his codpeece very rudely.’ The difference between the gender and the language of insult has been explored by Laura Gowing in her article ‘Gender and the Language of Insult in Early Modern London’ in History Workshop. Gowing states that after 1600 the consistory court of London found its time taken up by cases sued by women concerning insults about their sexual and moral behaviour. This statement is backed by numerous records of what is said in these cases.


When cases were between men and women the tone often changed. One such case is between Robert Coke and Joan White. The basis of the argument is that Robert found a knife in the street, which Joan then claimed to be hers. Robert then claimed that Joan ‘…liest (sic) like a whore…’, to which Joan replied ‘Whose whore am I…’. Robert then stated ‘…thou art John Cokes whore…’. This relatively simple exchange of insults was enough for it to be heard in court. The document in which these quotes originate is part of the church court record dated 30th October 1585. Some were possibly revenge, men often defamed women they claimed to have slept with; whether this was always true if women rejected male advances or if it was in revenge for when women tried to end things we cannot always know. In 1574 James Granger threatened Alice Marsh by telling her: ‘Alice Marsh was an arraunte whore and that he had lyen with her, and that he would send letters to her husband to declare the same’.

The study of these documents show how insults were tailored to men and women, depending on their social standing. The fact that women were able to pay the costs of taking a case to a judge suggests that their husbands considered an insult against the woman an insult against them, as it would suggest that if their wife was a whore he could not control her sexual actions and he was a cuckold. The number of cases where men brought the cases to court where female family members were accused of ‘whoredom’ is interesting, as men were considered the guardians of their female family member’s sexual behaviour.

I find this all very interesting as it shows how the higher levels of society dealt with insult and potential controversy in the late 16th century, going to such lengths to protect their reputation as they would their own interests.


The Crown of Aragon (a snapshot)

This blogger is still on the Iberian Peninsula and so it will be another Iberian inspired post that is related to my travels. In February 2017 I visited Zaragoza in the autonomous community of Aragon in Spain. The blog will highlight the Crown of Aragon and is intended to provide a basis of knowledge for such a vast realm, in the hope that readers would be intrigued and would like to find out more.

Since I was a child, I had always been fascinated with the history of Aragon. For many British schoolchildren the first mention of Aragon is when we study Henry VIII and his six wives, the first being, Catherine of Aragon who is the daughter of Isabella and Ferdinand (Los Reyes Católicos). Ferdinand being the King of Aragon and Isabella the Queen of Castile, through their marriage this dynastic union layed the foundations to a seemingly united Spain. However, there is never really anymore to it than that. We only learn that Aragon was a realm on the Iberian Peninsula and that it was included in Catherine’s title. A personal favourite tale about the Crown of Aragon that I came across when I was much older was that Ferdinand’s mother, Juana Enriquez was so desperate to have her son born in Aragon that when she was pregnant she crossed over from Navarre to Sos del Rey Católico. However, I digress there is more to the Crown of Aragon than Ferdinand and his daughter Catherine. Let’s see…


Cathedral of the Saviour of Zaragoza, commonly shorted to “La Seo”, photo taken by sholderness13

What was the Crown of Aragon’s size throughout its history?

The Crown of Aragon was a vast territory that covered large parts of the eastern coast on the Iberian Peninsula. Included in the realm was; Aragon, Catalan territories, the Kingdom of Valencia (1238-1245), the Kingdom of Majorca (1229-1235), the Kingdom of Naples (1442), Corsica (1324), Sicily (1282) and the Duchy of Athens and Neopatras (1311-1390).


So where did it all begin?

Aragonese monarchs were crowned in La Seo Cathedral in Zaragoza, a Cathedral erected on a former Roman and Moorish site. After this the Cathedral was built in the Romanesque style. Throughout the course of La Seo’s history, the design had changed to Gothic-Mudejar and Renaissance styles. The Crown of Aragon emerged as a result of a dynastic union, much like the union of Isabella and Ferdinand that was to come in 1469. However the circumstances were different. Raymond Berenguer IV of Barcelona at twenty four years old was betrothed to Petronilla of Aragon when she was only a year old, whereas Isabella and Ferdinand were closer in age. Petronilla’s father, Ramiro II Aragon wanted his daughter to marry the Count of Barcelona as a result of gaining some support against the Alfonso VII of Castile. Both Ramon and Petronilla had jointly ruled over their territories. Aragon was a landlocked realm and as such it had no access to the sea which would know doubt improve trade. Through Petronilla marrying Ramon, Aragon gained easy access to the Mediterranean. However both realms remained distinct in terms of culture, identity and law.


Relationship to Castile-

At one point Aragon and Castile were joined temporarily under Sancho III of Pamplona who wanted to unite all the Iberian Christian realms at a time when the Caliphate of Cordoba appeared to retract into taifas (independently ruled principalities). Sancho III ruled from 1004 until his death in 1035 and assumed the throne of Pamplona. Sancho revised the border of Navarre and Castile by marrying Muniadona of Castile. During his reign he would acquire power in the rest of Northern Iberia including Leon, Galicia, Aragon and the east towards Barcelona. It was upon his death that this “unity” dissolved. In Sancho’s will the realms he had claimed were divided up amongst his surviving sons. On the face of it this split between the two kingdoms appeared to have changed in the twelfth century when Alfonso I of Aragon and Navarre married Doña Urraca, Queen of Leon, Castile and Galicia. However, the marriage was unsuccessful and was as a result annulled. The annulment sparked an outbreak of war between the territories and in a sense became rival domains that did not amalgamate successfully until the marriage of Isabella and Ferdinand.



For the most part the Crown of Aragon had two distinct languages, Aragonese and Catalan. These languages are Romance languages and they belong to the same language group as Castilian Spanish, French and Galician to name but a few. Despite Catalonia being part of the Crown of Aragon, they had maintained their language. So in terms of linguistic unity in the Crown of Aragon depending on where the population were settled two different languages were spoken in the realm. Catalan was spoken in the east of the realm and was spread as far as the Balearic Islands and Corsica. Aragonese remained in the territory of Aragon.

Castilian Spanish did not arrive until the 1400s and even then Aragonsese was more common. It was really in the 1600s that Castilian Spanish started to spread in the territory, thereby pushing the Aragonese language slowly up towards the Pyrenees. Catalan for the most part did not distinguish as much as Aragonese. By the 1600s Castilian Spanish made its way into Catalonia but unlike Aragonese, where the language was not in much use, Catalan remained alongside Castilian Spanish. However, nowadays outside the Barcelona metropolitan area it is far more common to be greeted with a “Hola, Bon Dia” than a “Hola, Buenos Días” at face value.


What does it mean for Spain today?

The coat of arms. The Crown of Aragon’s coat of arms are an eye catching red and yellow stripped seal that is said to have been used since the time of Ramon Berenguer IV of Barcelona. Some theories differ in this explanation, suggesting the coat of arms belonged to Count Ramon Berenguer II. This implies that the origin of the coat of arms was much older. According to legend the coat of arms was created by Charles the Bald (King of West Francia, King of Italy and later known as Holy Roman Emperor) during the 9th century AD. Bald’s fingers were said to have been covered in blood from war and he placed them down Wilfrid I of Barcelona’s shield as an act of gratitude. However this is often disputed and is according to legend after all.


The flag of Catalonia, an example of the red and yellow stripped flag, photo taken by sholderness13


Today many areas in Spain bare the red and yellow stripped design on flags in many shapes and forms. Here is a list of the most famous flag bearers-

  • Kingdom of Spain flag (the coat of arms is present)
  • Catalan flag
  • Aragonese Flag
  • Valencian Flag
  • Balearic Islands Flag

The Scouse Way of Speaking: How Liverpool’s Accent Developed

Feature Image: Liverpool’s Skyline from New Brighton Beach

The Liverpool accent, most famously dubbed the ‘Scouse’ accent, is one of the most noticeable and varied speech patterns in England – and in the British Isles. But have Liverpudlians always talked like they have a blocked nose? Have they always spoken in a higher pitch towards the end of a sentence? Have they always finished sentences with the word ‘like’? This post looks at how the famous twang of Liverpudlians has developed over the years.

Is it an accent or a dialect?

First of all, it’s important to look at the distinction between accent and dialect, and which one the Liverpool way of speaking falls into. Andrew Hamer is a lecturer of English Language at the University of Liverpool and defines the two as such:

Dialect: “this includes the vocabulary you use, the grammar that you use and lots of local expressions as well. Dialects are defined socially – depending on your social background, and regionally – in terms of the area that you come from.”

Accent: ‘The sounds that people produce – it can involve the tunes that people use when they are speaking, and also the individual sounds of speech. So ‘accent’ is a more narrow term than dialect.’

Hamer defines the Liverpool speech as an accent, stating that although there are a number of deviations on slang and local expression., i’s the way it is spoken and sounds in how it really deviates, which is why it can be defined as an accent.

 Where does it come from?

It’s generally agreed the Liverpudlian accent was much the same or similar as other Lancashire accents up until the mid-nineteenth century and only really began to develop into its famous twang from then. In correlation with other events it’s easy to see why. In the 1840s and early 50s, the Irish Potato Famine had caused mass starvation across the country, and many emigrated to Liverpool to escape and start new lives. As many as 1.3 million Irish moved to Liverpool during the famine, and as early as 1851 one in five people in Liverpool were born in Ireland.

Irish migration, of course, has a long history in Liverpool. Its proximity to Ireland had led to this, but its development as a port really accelerated the movement towards the city. This huge shift, and through becoming a huge proportion of the population, had an impact on Liverpool, not only in making Liverpool the great port city it became, with their work on the docks, but also on the way the Lancastrian scousers spoke.

Liverpool’s Proximity to Wales

Welsh migration also had an impact on the city and its accent. Liverpool is very close to the border of North Wales and its connections made movement very easy. This movement came a little later than the Irish, towards the end of the nineteenth century. Around 80,000 Welsh-born people lived in North West England in 1892, with many concentrated in Liverpool. Historian Merfyn Jones notes that many Welsh migrants were forced to move due to economic collapse, mainly from the northern counties. A main driver, he underlines, was the collapse of large-scale copper mining in Anglesey, an island off North Wales. But Welsh influence had been there from much earlier, with a migration influx starting in 1760. By 1900, there were 90 Welsh-speaking chapels, churches and mission halls. Therefore, it was not just the Welsh accent influencing the city, but the language itself.

Has it changed?

Accents and dialects are continuously changing, whether due outside influences or personal choices. The influx of American influences in Britain has caused an Americanized way of speaking in younger generations, and also a heavy focus on the capital of the country and its own cockney slang has influenced speech patterns across the country. The Liverpool Museums website has underlined how the accent has been under constant development, and this can be seen with the shift in speech patterns since the mid-nineteenth century.

Overall, Liverpool’s distinctive accent can be compared in comparison with its neighbouring city and also a giant of the Industrial Revolution, Manchester. Only thirty miles away, Manchester’s immigration also included Irish and Welsh, but mostly relied on that on surrounding Lancashire areas, forming its own way of speaking into a Lancastrain dialect, whereas Liverpool’s can really only be described as Scouse.

Further Reading

Liverpool Museums, Accent and Expression

Merfyn Jones, Welsh Immigrants in the Cities of the North West of England. 1890-1930: Some Oral Testimony 

BBC, Local Dialects: Ask the Experts 

Exodus, Irish Migration into Liverpool in the Nineteenth Century 

Liverpool Welsh, A Brief History of the Liverpool Welsh 

Karjala – In search of Karelia

Let me take you away to the white taiga of the north of Europe today. Where lakes cover the land, and the tundra approaches on the horizon. Okay, it may not be Lapland with all its mythos, but this border region has been a very contested area of influence up in Scandinavia. Swedes, Finns and Russians, all want to possess the beautiful and wild Karelia. You would then think, what have I got lost all that way to the east, being this a different type of Scandinavian territory? Well, Karelia and I have a different type of bond. Karelia is where all the cool quirky things come from – folk music and symphonic metal delivered by the great Varttina and Nightwish…Karelia is also Tolkien land, for the Kalevala tells its story and that of all Finland.

So what or where is Karelia, you will be thinking? And so the problem begins. Karelia has been traditionally referred to the territory comprised between the White Sea and south-eastern Finland colliding with the Russian border. The area passes through the Lake Onega, Lake Ladoga and finally down to the Gulf of Finland. However, for the Russians Karelian has always been the eastern side of the region, the piece of the puzzle they got after the Winter War (1939-1940).  The called it the Republic of Karelia, becoming then a Russian federal subject. Nowadays, for the Finnish, Karelia is majorly the territory still within their borders – north and south Karelia, traditionally speaking, although sometimes they also include the area of Kymenlaakso and southern Savonia. In essence…Too many ideas of one Karelia. And this is part of the problem currently. The Karelian identity is so lost in the tensions of nationalism and geopolitics that it is difficult to understand what there is left of its people and its culture.

Just so you get an idea, the entire history of Karelia – or the known big history –  is all about how this provide changed hands and master over and over. We begin with the early Finno-Ugrian tribes, attracted to this land due to the abundance of cooper mines and the natural geological formations of the relief that constituted viable refuges for the people inhabiting the area after the Ice Age. Mining became the main resource for these people from the year 1 AD up until the year 1000. This agglomeration of hunter/gatherers was composed by Korela, Sum, Ves and a few Saami people at the north (otherwise referred as Pol). After the year 1000 AD, groups of Slavs started to come into the territory from and through the areas surrounding the White Sea. Karelia became part of the Kievan Rus around the 9th century. With the decline of Kievan power, the Novgorod Republic took over in the 13th century. Nevertheless, Karelia remained fairly independent. its main town and administrative center was the town of Korela (currently known as Priosersk). However, the crusading campaign of the German and Scandinavian states of the end of the 13th century would bring more changes to the puzzle. Here commences the conflict known as the Swedish-Novgorodian Wars. The ever-growing tension between the Swedes and the inhabitants of the Rus had been apparent since the Viking Age. As Sweden grew stronger, their desire to control the Gulf of Finland increased as this would improve their commerce by seizing trading routes from the Rus to Byzantium. However, this was the economic-political niche of the Novgorod Republic. And thus the quarrel begun. After a series of fights, everything resumed with the Treaty of Noteborg (1323). The result? Karelia is split in 2. The Swedes established their capital in Viborg.

Swedish control was not something the Karelians appreciated much. So little by little the exodus begun. By 1617 Sweden acquired more territories in what then was Russian Karelia. The culture clash and discomfort of the inhabitants meant that a great portion of the population fled to the East, into Russia’s territory. However, the Russians were not to be undermined, for the prowess of the Swedish Military Revolution eventually had to come to an end. Therefore, some 100 years later, in 1721, in a sudden turn of events, the Swedes found themselves on the losing side of the argument, resulting in the Russians taking for themselves most of Karelia, thanks to the Treaty of Nystad. This opened the door to the never-stopping imperial power of Russia: with nothing and no one stopping them, the intruded into Finland. By 1809 Suomi was effectively yet another Russian Province.

Despite Russian rule would only last another 100 years, Karelia did not return to its Finnish mother. After the rise of Bolshevism, Karelia became an ASSR (Autonomous republic of the Soviet Union) in 1923. The few pieces of Karelia still left in Finland became Russian in 1940, after the events of the Winter War and thanks to the Moscow Peace Treaty. Further commotion spread across the region, with thousands inhabitants having to be relocated. Bitterness grew in the hearts of the Finns as their land was taken away alongside with its second biggest city: Viipuri, the old Swedish Viborg, which was then a center for Finnish industry. Moreover, Karelia became the only SRR to be degraded to an ASSR within the Soviet Union. It is assumed this is due to the increasing minority of Russian population by the 1940s in the area, which lead to believe this could result in secession – and this was not in the plans of Mother Russia. Therefore, by demoting Karelia to a merely administrative republic, with no rights of its own, the Russians were saving face in case their most feared outcome turned into reality.

And of course, these are just the political consequences and tensions over the area…But, have I mentioned the religious issue? Well, you see this is the problem when you find yourself in a contested border: different nations can equal different religions. Since the Reformation, Scandinavia became primarily of Lutheran or Protestant affiliation. Nevertheless, we all know that on the other side of the border, the Orthodox Church was an important pillar of Russian prowess…And this is without to mention the pre-Christian, pagan roots and vestiges of native cults in the area, predominantly now represented by the Saami minority…Karelia, oh broken Karjala…Ah, of course I was forgetting…Language, another diverging point. Of course, at heart Karelia’s native tongue is of Finnish ascendency. But what is Karelian language? Depends on who you ask. For some linguists Karelian is just a dialect of Finnish, but for others it is a linguistic entity of its own with strong ties to Suomi. Just to make things more complicated, and assuming that Karelian is a language on its own, I must inform you know that there is no standardisation of the lingo. Therefore each author would speak and write Karelian according to their own local accent and dialect…However three main trends have been established. There is the Latin based alphabet, and used in the territories of the north as well as the territories of the Lakes Onega and Ladoga (Olonets Karelian). And then, we have the Tver Karelian, for the Russian sympathisers, which uses the Cyrillic script…And let’s not forget about that time during the 1940s that due to the centralisation of the USSR, the Republic of Karelia spoke Karelian but written in Cyrillic…

As you can see the situation is quite complicated, and particularly mesmerising to get your head around, so I shall not go into this much further. I think the message is clear: the only Karelia that remains one piece is the ecologic region. Now, I thought after the dissolution of the USSR, perhaps the cultural identity of Karelia had been restored somehow somewhat…It will appear that some attempts have been done through history. The Fennoman movement in Finland during the 19th century, which emerged from the nationalisms and romanticisms of this time, vouched for the incorporation of Karelia as a Finnish territory, and inspired many of the reconciliation attempts with Eastern Karelia in the 20th century. Of course, one cannot forget Karelianism – the movement inspired by the Kalevala, Finnish national epic, mostly composed of traditional Karelian poems.

However, the complications are many, and Karelia is always in the nationalistic political agenda of Finland. Perhaps it would not be so bad it the collapse of the Soviet Union would not have been so brutal for the region. This effectively supposed a huge economic recession in the area, to such an extreme that the inhabitants of diverse  Karelian territories even abandoned their homeland and relocated in Finland; a few going East as well. The urban decay of this territory has only contributed to the disappearance of a unique culture, as all the refugees mingle with Finns or Russians…and this leaves me no choice but to conclude my update of today. What is Karelia? I am still uncertain. Only time can tell if the once wild and independent Karjala will rise again.




The Bantu Expansion

Since we are still with migrations and the movement of people, I decided to get stuck in Africa for another blog update. Today I will speak about the Bantu expansion. Now I did not know about this until I actually had a look around, so due to my lack of knowledge of the subject, this may be one of my more technical updates. Nevertheless, I hope you find it informative and as interesting as I did.

In general terms the Bantu expansion is considered the first formative event in Africa. This migration took place due to the movement of Bantu language speakers which some experts believe to have lasted for thousands of years, so it was a long process and developed at various stages. The evidence that we have for this migration are mainly linguistic. This associates the branch of Niger-Congo Bantu dialect expanding along the areas of modern-day Cameroon and Nigeria around 3000 years ago. Once this synergy commenced, the Bantu proceeded with their expansion towards the eastern and southern territories within the African continent. The expansion reached central Angola c.500 BC. Then the direction of the flow of people seems to have changed towards the Great Lakes, with strong settlements by 500 AD. Furthermore, by c.300 AD Bantu speakers occupied most of Africa south from the Sahara. It is worth mentioning that this migratory tendency has been identified to be not self-conscious, or rather not entirely intentional, but rather circumstantial. This is suggested due to the somewhat erratic yet natural wave of expansion; always moving into areas which were not properly occupied.

Some scholars support the idea that there was a re-boot of the Bantu expansion some centuries later: between the 1200s and 1600s. This is the period when the Bantu speaking people of the Great Lakes area consolidated power and asserted their influence in neighboring lands due to an increase of population, producing more specialised labour and strengthening their military power. Thus, the seat of their rule formed at Zimbawe. Moreover, some experts contemplate the elongation of the Bantu expansion further into the modern period, supporting that the rise of the Zulu empire in the 18th and 19th centuries was related to the original migration process – but perhaps this is too much of a stretch, and I am personally not convinced of this fact.

The reasons for the movement area still uncertain, and they vary depending on who you may ask. It was traditionally understood that the Bantu migrated in order to conquer new lands and expand their area of influence. Nevertheless, linguists believe that the migration may actually be related to a societal change regarding agricultural developments, considering that there is evidence in the language development suggesting that the people in South Africa changed from being hunter-gatherers to farming communities with the arrival of the Bantu to this area. Archaeologists have supported the genesis of this expansion due to agricultural developments as well as the perfection of iron work and subsequent increase of trading activities. However, this does not add up with the linguistic evidence found in correlation to the migratory movements towards the south. According to Hambert, the early Bantu migrations could not be connected with the use and improvement iron technology as there are no words in the language that reflect these were used within society. Therefore Hambert believes the lack of words proves the lack of resource work, or at least to a meaningful degree. Instead, current research looks towards the rise and use of cereal crops as a possible determining factor for the expansion process.

Nevertheless, there is an incredible and fundamental issue regarding research on this subject and a coherent historiographical record for this subject which affects most pre-modern African history. This is the struggle to find relevant archaeological finds, or at least to gather a record substantial enough from were to extrapolate ideas and theorise what is supported by the practice. Moreover, there are plenty of chronological issues in what relates coherence due to the lack of written records produced by the Bantu, fact that only changed in recent centuries with the modernisation of the African communities due to European influence and intervention. That is the reason why the linguistic evidence are crucial in this study, as they are the only source that seems to have paced itself in a way that is at least identifiable to linguists and anthropologists.

So, if you are looking for an exciting, open field to get into, perhaps you should consider African studies and the Bantu cultures.

Wuthering Heights review- Understanding the origins of Heathcliff

Wuthering Heights. A classic gothic novel that many would remember studying at secondary school (I included). What’s more I revisited the novel this summer after coming across it whilst clearing out of halls! Within minutes I found myself flicking through a few pages to completing chapter after chapter on the long journey home. What struck me after reading this novel other than the love triangle and gothic imagery was the heritage of the central character, Heathcliff and how the other characters of the novel help shape the many possibilities of where he originated from. It is a topic that I believe fits very well for a WU History review and that sparks much lively debate.

Firstly it is important to establish the evidence from the novel and what certain characters have guessed about Heathcliff’s past. This is conveyed through the narrator of the story Nelly and suggested by Heathcliff’s guardian Mr Earnshaw. Nelly mentions about the ‘gibberish’ that Heathcliff spoke on arrival at Wuthering Heights, her speech suggested Heathcliff possibly came from as far afield as India and Mr Earnshaw himself stated that he ‘found’ Heathcliff wandering the streets of Liverpool.

Looking back at what the narrator, Nelly mentions, the ‘gibberish’ is sound evidence to provide an explanation about the possibility of Heathcliff being a Roma gypsy. A valid reason for this claim could be to do with how he attempted to communicate upon he’s arrival to Wuthering Heights. He’s speech was described as ‘gibberish’ and somewhat ‘foreign’. The Romani language itself deviates from the English language. The English language is from the Germanic groups of languages that include; German and Norwegian, whilst the Romani language comes from the Indo-Aryan language groups that include Hindi and Gujarati. This provides readers with some evidence about Heathcliff’s supposed Roma upbringing because it indicates why Nelly and the Earnshaws could not understand what he was saying.

Throughout the novel there is more evidence to suggest that Heathcliff was descended from Roma gypsies and this reason allows readers to make a connection to the later piece of evidence. It is clear that because of his foreign language the characters at Wuthering Heights shunned him, including Cathy initially. Gypsies faced much persecution throughout history and this occurred during the late Eighteenth century when the novel was set. In Western Europe the Romani people faced much persecution. For instance in 1749 Roma gypsies were rounded up in Spain and forced to remain in labour camps. Further persecution of the Romani community occurred in the English-speaking world too, where they were often distrusted and despised, including in England. This makes a valid argument, as in the novel many of the characters loathed him. In particular Heathcliff’s foster brother Hindley often abused him and referred to him as a ‘dirty, rotten gypsy’ frequently. This provides an adequate explanation as to why certain characters did not take too kindly to Heathcliff as many people in England at the time were distrusting of gypsies, indicating that Heathcliff himself was one as only a few characters accepted him into their society.

However, there are some flaws to this more common assertion, regarding Heathcliff as a Roma gypsy. Firstly the ‘gibberish’ that Nelly described did not directly state that Heathcliff was of Roma origin. It can be argued that readers should treat Nelly’s comment as a potentially flippant remark as Heathcliff could have spoken any unrecognisable language, not merely Romani. What’s more Nelly later in the novel provides further flippant comments about Heathcliff’s origins and suggests he could have been an ‘Indian prince’. It is comments similar to that which appeared to make Nelly’s account of Heathcliff unfeasible to readers. Nevertheless there was some truth in how he could have come from India, yet it was not probable to suggest he was a Roma gypsy who travelled to England from India. This is because recent genetic evidence suggests the Roma peoples of India travelled to Europe across the Middle East years before the Eighteenth century. However, Heathcliff could have travelled to England as a Lascar Indian. There is a valid argument for this point of view as Mrs Linton makes a reference that Heathcliff might have been a ‘Lascar stowaway’. This point of view seems likely as Lascars were seamen that came from India and were employed on British ships from the sixteenth century. The time frame of Wuthering Heights fits in nicely with this explanation as many Lascars entered Britain in the Eighteenth century and many remained in the county, circa 10, 000. Also, the significance of Mr Earnshaw finding Heathcliff on the streets of Liverpool indicated that there was a high probability that he was a Lascar Indian as Lascars sailed to ports and Liverpool was and still is a port city.

Having said that in spite of using this evidence to suggest Heathcliff was a Lascar Indian, some readers could interpret the evidence differently and I myself because of the city of Liverpool. Liverpool was a place synonymous with the slave trade and the slave trade was not abolished in Britain and its empire at the time when the novel was set, allowing some readers to make the connection that Heathcliff could have been a freed or an escaped slave that arrived in Liverpool. This is a probable alternative to other explanations in regards to Heathcliff’s origins. Likewise, Mrs Linton exclaims that Heathcliff could have been an ‘American castaway’. From Mrs Linton’s account it is likely he could have been an African-American or perhaps mixed race as it would indicate again reasons as to why many characters ill-treated him and perhaps more so then the other explanations to his origin.

To conclude in spite Emily Bronte neglecting Heathcliff’s exact origins of he’s past, she had only given readers hints about the possibilities of where he had come from. After reading the novel I came to the conclusion that he was likely to have either been a Romani gypsy, a Lascar or an African-American and wanted to explore the three possibilities. Although after careful reading the most likely of the three, (a Romani gypsy) was Heathcliff’s likely upbringing as unlike much of evidence suggesting he was black or a Lascar it only seemed to be from a snapshot in time within the novel. The evidence suggesting Heathcliff was a Roma gypsy was consistent as there was frequent references to him being a gypsy, a term in Eighteenth century England for Romani peoples. I hope this review was an enjoyable read and that it will inspire you to come to your own conclusions based on what Emily Bronte had written and for you all- to delve through a classic of English Literature again and again…

Intrview with Dr. Chris Aldous

SO! Ali and I ventured out to ask Dr Chris Aldous about his life and career. Chris is a very interesting person. As a historian he specialises in eastern history, mainly Japan, and apparently there are not many historians in the UK that study such thing!

So we asked him plenty of questions about this as well as some other general things related to history as an academic discipline, the students, changes and future.

Here is the result! Please listen to our video on You Tube or here:

Note: the recorder run out of battery right at the end of the interview. However, Ali has typed up a summarised answer to our time machine question. And here is it:

In response to our traditional time machine question, Chris said he would like to travel back to the moment that the Japanese emperor Hirohito publicly announced the Japanese surrender on August 15th 1945. Chris said he would be interested in being amongst the average Japanese civilians to hear their responses to the announcement, as the topic has long interested him in his career.

Anyway, we hope you like it! We will have more soon!


This time Karl and I deliver to you a very interesting meeting with Dr Eric Lacey, our Old Norse teacher. He is also teaching at the University of Winchester a module called Religion and Society in the Early Middle Ages, concentrated in the geographical area of Northern Europe (which I also did as an undergraduate and enjoyed very much!).

So, if you want to find out a bit more about all this, just have a listen to our podcast: