Nu History Podcast – Episode 1: History in a Pandemic

Introducing the Nu History podcast! A key feature of our newly re-branded blog!

Our aim with these podcasts is to simply get together and talk about any given topic relating to history! And usually we will plan to have a special guest or two to learn from about their area of expertise.

For our first episode, hosts Lilly and Alex are joined by James to talk about our different perspectives on how the Covid-19 pandemic has and will effect history, particularly in museums, academia and reenactment!

You can listen through Spotify below, or head to Anchor for links to follow on Apple, Google and wherever else you get your podcasts.

The Struggles With Lesbian History

LGBT history as a whole is difficult to study, with both its legal and societal condemnation historically and today. The first attempts to study the history of homosexuality were not started until the 19th century and these were largely hampered by source scarcity and societal opinion. It was not until the mid 20th century that as a study it became more popular, and until the 1970s that all identities under the LGBT umbrella were included. The last several decades have seen a massive increase in scholarship, especially in gay male history; however other identities have struggled much more. Trans historiography has been hampered by how to define trans historical figures, particularly so in the issue of whether people were trans or if they were passing as another gender for other reasons, such as avoiding being drafted into military service. Bisexual history has languished similarly due to the issue of how to consider historical figures who appeared to be bisexual – were they bisexual or were they gay and their opposite sex relationships a requirement of the society they lived in, or were such relationships genuine? This, of course, has implications for same-sex history: are historical figures being labelled as attracted only to the same sex or could they have been bisexual? While the lack of definitively knowing hampers any study of history, LGBT history particularly struggles.  

Lesbian history has always struggled – even the term ‘lesbian’ to describe history has been considered by some to be a difficult descriptor. Some feel that lesbian refers to an identity that historically women would have not considered themselves to be. Sometimes the phrase ‘women who loved women’ has been used. Scholars such as Cook and Rich argued for the use of the term ‘lesbian’ to describe women who had relationships with other women. However other scholars prefer to avoid the term, arguing that lesbian as a concept did not exist, or that the term does not fit the historical reality of the women they are studying. Others have also argued that this term is too Western-centric. However, others have pointed out that terms such as queer are too broad and erase the specific experience of women. This issue on phrasing symbolises the difficulty that lesbian history has faced. 

While there has been little debate about male homosexual history, lesbian history has been much more problematic. The existence of lesbian history has always been harder to find, just because as the history of women in general has been difficult to source because of the domination of men in the historical written word, lesbians have often been written out of history – even more so than heterosexual women who generally have been only featured when, relevant to men. Lesbian behaviour was less likely to be prosecuted than gay male behaviour (not that lesbians were not prosecuted but they were caught less often or in some cases the sheer idea of lesbianism was so alien that legislation did not exist) which also reduces the amount of source material available, although what does exist is important. Prior to the 19th century lesbian history is fragmented, although some lesbian historians, like Emma Donoghue, have criticised historians for failing to notice mentions of lesbians due their own heterocentrisim. Debates over whether female historical figures had romantic and/or sexual relationships with each other or whether they simply had close platonic friendships plague lesbian history. Many lesbian historians have pointed out that they themselves, and those that came before them who clearly were, and often identified, as lesbian have been described as ‘platonic’ yet that there are often signs of such romantic and/or sexual relationships. Anne Lister’s diaries are an example of this; when her diaries were originally deciphered some declared them a hoax because of their explicitness’ and her frank understanding of her sexuality.  

Most sources we do have on lesbian history focus predominantly on upper class women as they were the most able to record their own experiences. This can be frustrating for two reasons: women in the lower classes made up higher proportions of the general population and therefore are more likely to make up a significant proportion of lesbian women; and also that working class women traditionally had more opportunity to socialise with other women and without as much scrutiny. Upper class women were far more likely to have limited social circles and limited opportunity to be able to conduct affairs privately. Not only does this limit the amount of available knowledge it also means we miss out on knowing about working class lesbian subcultures and communities prior to the 19th and 20th centuries.  

Oral history has been an important part of lesbian history and has provided a significant amount of source material, although this is mostly restricted to post 1920s, as lesbian oral history was not recorded until the 1970s and beyond.  Along with sources such as zines and photography, archive groups in the 1970s and 1980s attempted to construct archives focused on the lesbian experience, such as the Lesbian Archive – now housed at the Glasgow Women’s Library, and the Lesbian Herstory Archives in New York. Other regional archives exist as does archives holding either LGBT history as whole or feminist/women’s history. 

So why is lesbian history so important to discover? Other than the general desire to uncover the past as much as possible, many lesbians find it important to connect to their forebearers and to demonstrate that their identity is legitimate and has existed for millennia. Lesbian erasure, historically and currently, is a major issue not just in society in general but also in the LGBT and feminist communities that claim to include and represent them. Erasure and ignorance of lesbian history helps exacerbate lesbian erasure. Many lesbians have been outspoken about society’s attempts to erase ‘lesbian’ as an identity, from claiming that ‘lesbian’ is exclusive or to that it doesn’t even exist – the tendency for some historians to deny lesbian history prior to the 19th century does just this.  

LGBT history often focuses on gay men while feminist history often focuses on heterosexual women. The fact that lesbians have often been both at the forefront of social movements is often ignored, even within these movements, and despite their presence they have been later ostracised or written out of these histories. Therefore their lesbian identity has been paramount to them. This importance also highlights the need for lesbian history to be inclusive of all lesbians. Recent scholarship has aimed to not only focus on white middle-class women in western societies but to expand our knowledge of lesbian history and how the diversity of these women are how we can broaden our overall knowledge.  

Ancient and Medieval Board games

Board games have been a part of human society for thousands of years, and although most of them have been lost to the ages, there are still plenty that have survived either in some physical form, or described. Archaeological finds of various game boards and pieces that we may never know the rules to can be an interesting if frustrating source, but the combination of games that have survived to the modern day, written sources and artwork can often reveal how many of these old games are played. There is evidence to show that all levels of society would have enjoyed gaming in various forms, be you rich or poor, educated or not, old or young.

There are many examples in recorded history of people playing board games, such as Romans sitting in the forum playing Ludus Latrunculorum, Monks in Gloucester Cathedral playing Fox and Geese in their cloister, or even Queen Elizabeth I entertaining her courtiers by gambling with dice games. With all these games, we may know who played them but unfortunately there is little to no word on who designed them. Game design is a very commonly discussed and recorded topic amongst gamers today, but there isn’t really anything of this sort to look at in Historical games. But it is interesting to think how some of these very unique games came to be. A modern game usually undergoes a long process of design, starting with the creator’s first ideas and knowledge of game mechanics, and then going through rigorous testing and redesign. These historical games must have undergone a similar process, as games that are well balanced and play so well don’t get made by accident.

Roman Board games
Throughout the Roman Republic and Empire, there is evidence to suggest that Romans had a culture rich in board and dice games. Game boards have been found scratched into surfaces and pavements, and fragments of ceramic and even wooden boards have survived. Ludus Latrunculorum or Latrunculi is the ‘game of little soldiers’. This appears to have been a well-respected game in the early Empire. Unfortunately the game in its Roman form hasn’t really survived, so instead we must look at those related to it such as the Greek game Poleis, which was played throughout the 1st millennium AD in Asia Minor and the Near East. There is also the North East African game Seega, which appears to preserve some of the Roman game’s characteristics. It would be nearly impossible to fully recreate this game now, not least because a game that existed across an area the size of the Roman Empire was bound to have more than a few variations and houserules. Some Roman authors do give some information though, and these can usually be confirmed by the archaeological finds. Varro (116-27 BC) writes that the board was marked by orthogonally intersecting lines where the pieces moved on the squares between those lines. This sounds like a simple grid as you’d expect. Boards of this type that have been found from the Roman period appear to have varying sizes. For example there was a stone block of 9×10 squares excavated in Dover, 8×8 squares discovered in Exeter, as well as on the steps of the Parthenon in Athens and the Basilica Julia in Rome. And a roof tile from Mainz shows a 9×9 grid. So it appears that the number of squares on the board, and perhaps the number of pieces would have varied. Among other writers to mention the game, one anonymous author wrote a poem dedicated to Roman Senator Cnaeus Calpernius Piso, supposedly a famous player of the game. They mention that the pieces used by the two players would be of two different colours such as black and white, and at the beginning of the game “the pieces are cunningly disposed on the open board”. This suggests that the initial placing of the pieces requires some strategic thought, similar to nine men’s morris, and unlike a game such as chess which has fixed starting positions. An isolated piece was captured by flanking it on two sides, but as philosopher Seneca wrote it was still possible to find a way “the surrounded stone could go out”, before it was removed from play.

Another example of a popular Roman boardgame is ‘Five Lines’. It is one of the oldest known boardgames from ancient Greece where it was known as Pente Grammai. The poet Alkaios mentioned the game in one of his poems, and boards in terracotta with five parallel lines typical of the game have been found in graves of the same period. There are also similar boards to be found scratched into the surfaces of marble floors in temples the ruins of other Greek sites. In the time of the Roman Empire we can find more information about the game. Pollux in the 2nd Century AD wrote that “each of the players had five pieces upon five lines” and that “there was a middle one called the sacred line”. Based on other descriptions and archaeological finds, it appears that there would have been larger versions of the game as well.

Anglo Saxon and Viking Board games
As we go further through history, we can see some different games appearing. The Anglo Saxons and Vikings of the early Medieval period both played ‘nine men’s morris’ extensively. The game is much older though, and is one of the longest surviving board games to this day. There are Roman Examples, with boards carved into pavements and clay tiles, and the earliest dated example is a clay board dated to around 100 AD from Mycenae, but there are other boards resembling these from Egypt that may go back as far as 1400 BC. The game also spread through the Roman Empire and even ended up in 9th century India. Examples from the Viking world include those from the 9th century Gokstad ship burial in Norway. The game was also incredibly popular through the medieval period, as such it was recorded in Alfonso X’s ’Book of Games’ in 1283, and many carvings of it have been found in the cloisters of Cathedrals such as Canterbury, Salisbury, and Westminster Abbey. The origin of the name ‘Nine Men’s Morris’ is somewhat of a mystery, but it was possibly first recorded as such in Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. The most plausible theory for the name is that ‘Morris’ is not actually related to the English folk dance, but comes from the latin merellus, which means gaming counter. The game itself is a fairly simple two-player strategy game where each player attempts to capture their opponent’s men by making rows of three counters. A key aspect to the game is that it is played in two phases, with the first phase being about each player taking turns to strategically place all their men before the main phase starts. There are also many variations of the game with varying rules, inevitable for a game that has lasted thousands of years across multiple continents. Some versions differ in size, such as the smaller three men’s morris, or the larger twelve men’s morris.

Tafll Pieces found in a 9th Century grave in Birka, Sweden

One game that is most commonly associated with the Vikings is the Tafl family of games, most notably Hneftafl. There are many variations of this game, usually of differing sizes, and many examples come from England and Ireland, as well as Scandinavia. Most games date to the typical dates of the Viking period, from around 800 AD, but it could have originated much earlier. All Tafl games are asymmetrical, which is what makes it fairly unique when compared with most other historical games. It is a grid of an odd number such as 13×13, 11×11 or 9×9 squares. This allows for a central square on which a ‘king’ is placed. The concept of the game is that a king and his bodyguards are in the center, and a greater number of attackers on the opposing team surround them on all 4 sides of the board. The Goal for the attackers is to capture the king by surrounding him with 4 pieces, whereas the king’s team instantly wins if he reaches one of the 4 corners of the board. There are two particularly important writings about Tafl games, the earliest being a 10th century Irish gospel book which shows the starting positions for a game called Alea Evangelii, which is an 18×18 variant of Tafl. The second is a Welsh writing from the Tudor period which explains the rules of an 11×11 variant. Other variants of the game include Fitchneal which as a small 7×7 variant taken from Irish written sources, and with some physical examples such as the Balinderry peg-board, which is now at the National Museum of Ireland. Tablut is a 9×9 version which has a written observation of it in play from 1732 by Carl Linnè while travelling in Lapland. Hneftafl is the example that appears frequently in Norse literature and discovered in Viking Age sites. It is a 13×13 board with 32 attackers facing 16 defenders and a king.

Later Medieval Board games
Related to nine men’s morris, which would have still been popular at the time, is a game that is first named in 15th Century English documents, and that is Fox and Geese. Physical evidence for this game goes further back, as there are some carvings of the board in Gloucester Cathedral from the 14th Century. It may be even earlier, as it is also referred to as Marelles, which is related to the other name for nine men’s morris. The name ‘Fox and Geese’ itself is first found in 1633. It is also around this time when the game seemingly saw an increase in popularity. The basic rules are that there is a single ‘Fox’ against a gaggle of thirteen ‘geese’. Players take it in turns, with one moving a single goose at a time, and the other moving their fox. The geese have to trap the fox and prevent it from moving to win, whereas the fox has to remove all the geese, which is done by jumping over a goose if there is an empty space the other side. This means the geese must surround or corner the fox in multiple ranks before they have too few left. Variants of this game mostly include more geese, which may have been an attempt to balance the game. There are also double and triple size versions of the board that come about in the 17th century that increase the number of geese and foxes as well. An offshoot of the game is Asalto from the 18th century, which replaces the old theme for a more military emphasis, it being about two officers facing off against multiple enemy soldiers.

There are many many other board games that I could go into here, not least of all is chess, but that is perhaps the most famous board game of all time, so I needn’t explain it here. I will simple say that chess was originally a 6th Century Indian game known as Chaturanga. It reached Europe by the 10th Century. From the 13th century onwards there were many variants that would seem bizarre to us now such as four-seasons chess, which is a four player version, and there is also courier chess, which is played on a rectangular board, uses more pieces named the courier, counsellor and spy that move differently, and moves are taken in turn but four at a time. From the late 15th Century onwards we begin to see what would become modern chess, and it was fairly recognizable by the 17th Century.

The First World War at Bayonne and the Basque Country

As it happens for my mother’s birthday we went to the French Basque Country and visit Bayonne. There, they had a temporary exhibition called “La grande guerre, Bayonne et le pays Basques”- at the Musee Basque.

So as we were there, it was pretty unique and our WW1 posts are ongoing, armed with this new smart phone, I took some pictures to post it fresh for you!!

Et voila! Let the pictures talk themselves.



**By the looks of the surnames I would even be inclined to belief these could be Sephardi, as the surnames are Spanish.









I hope you found this interesting. And if you have the chance to go there, stop there, they will be there until the 22nd of December 2015.

Everyday life, everyday war. Taxis at the Marne 1914

So here you are: you are out in the rain; you are late; you call a taxi cab. Those traditional black cabs in London, the all-famous yellow cabs of New York…Business as usual. Now think again: you are out, albeit maybe not in the rain; you are running out of time and, oh yes, this is a war and the enemy is at the gates. You may not think that calling a taxi cab is a good idea right now. But then again you may be proved wrong. And now all taxis are gone.

Interestingly enough, when trying to reach the origins of the word, you will find, for instance, that almost each article of the Wikipedia, either in French or English shows a different version. So appealing for a WWI related article… There is the Romantic version of the Von Taxis family, charged by Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian with the responsibility of establishing a courier line between Holland and France (this is also compelling from our point of view) and keeping a growing business which involved mail, people and parcels throughout Europe and along the centuries, Hence the name “taxi”. Then there is the boring, but plausible, version of taxi as a form of tax, or fee, applied to the transport and different variations on this team that put the accent on a local entrepreneur.

Anyway, taxis are means of transport which for us are always available (except when we really need one). But in 1914, near Paris, the situation was far worse than having to pick a cab under the rain at peak hour downtown with your shopping bags soaking and getting late to an important appointment. There was a war there. And the local team and allies were losing it. But everyday life was on the verge of coming to the rescue in the form of some hundreds of four-wheel vehicles. In fact the important point here is how everyday life came to fight amidst the armies of the world and played an important part during the war. Like the Paris taxis did in what is now sometimes known as the “Miracle of the Marne”.

In fact, the so-called miracle was more about human force of will than divine intervention, and the Paris taxis were just one factor among others in the Allies effort to stop the German offensive. General Gallieni, in command of the Paris forces, saw an opportunity for attack in a change of direction of Von Kluck’s army. Finding an exposed flank, Gallieni, who have been very active rallying the Parisians to defend their city and believed that Germans must be stopped at all costs, first asked for troops, then asked for using them (in a very forcible way, it seems) in an offensive way so precipitating a general counteroffensive that, until this point, was everything but certain.

In order to carry troops in time to the front, some rough 40 miles away from Paris, in the valley of the Ourcq, Gallieni had to resort to everything available. Given that at least a hundred taxicabs were already in active service for the Paris Military Authority, the next step was almost inevitable. Gallieni’s Chief of Staff, General Clergerie, made the calculations: six hundred cars, transporting five soldiers each, taking two trips to the Ourcq…that was six thousand more soldiers to throw at the German armies. Six thousand very much-needed troops available. It seems that the requisitioning was made on the spot, with policemen halting taxis in the streets, even those on duty, and drivers asking passengers to get out as they were “called to combat”.

The order was issued at one pm, with the depart set at six pm. Gallieni himself review the six hundred taxis, refueled and loaded with soldiers, before they left. Most of them were the Renault AG1 Landaulet model. According to Boucard, in the aftermath of the battle and following city regulations, taxi drivers ran their meters thus charging the National Treasury with 70.012 Francs. That is “sprit de coprs” one guess…

There is some controversy about the real impact of this action in the outcome of battle. What it is unquestionable is that, somewhat fortuitously, everyday life came into the war and with it, a renewed feeling of hope and unity for the French, a new strength that would be increasingly needed to endure the ongoing conflict.

This “invasion” of the realm of war by the forces of daily life, as in this scene of simple taxis, only back lights lit to avoid enemy reconnaissance, marching to the battlefield, was new to everyone. Everyday life had been usually interrupted and disturbed by war and not the other way around; not that in this case simple, homely things, were in position to disturb war. But probably for the first time in the history of warfare objects from civilian life were brought into battlefields with shocking effects. And taxis were just the beginning.

Probably the most successful civilian object in WWI was barbed wire. And its appearance was, somewhat, a consequence of the use of taxis (granting romantically that the miracle of the Marne was real and taxis had an actual impact in the development of war): having reached Paris the German Army, the war most likely would had finished and barbed wire fields wouldn’t have cost thousands of lives. It seems fitting, albeit horrible, that soldiers were to be led like cattle to their deaths between lines of barbed wire, which is, more or less, the purpose of barbed wire also on civilian life.

Phones would have been a success also, given that the mass use of high explosive shells wouldn’t have rendered the lines completely useless most of the time, and giving the likes of Adolf Hitler a job to do coming to and fro through the trenches with orders and information.

Anyway, as Charles Chaplin will show in Modern Times, mass production was definitely taking care of things, at home and in the field, and the home front was to be closer than ever to the action during the war as a result of the application of industrialization to life. And to war. Sometimes, as we have seen, what was happily used in regular life, was also to be used, in far grimmer circumstances, to help killing enemies. Taxis were now taking soldiers to the battlefield instead of taking merry couples to a ballroom; phones were dictating orders to shell-shocked men; last but not least, barbed wire, from the Marne to the Kaiserslacht was to be responsible for the trapping, wounding, slaughtering of thousands of farmers who, probably, died with perplexity in their faces thinking on how something they were so familiar to could had betrayed them in such a ghastly way.

A Not-So-Brief History of Makeup

As a makeup enthusiast myself, I’ve always been curious about where the trends began and why we started applying liquids and powders, potions and concoctions, to improve our faces.

A commonplace feature in the everyday woman’s morning routine, you could be forgiven for assuming that makeup and cosmetic enhancement are mere products of postmodern social insecurities. However, you’ll be pleased to know we’re not the only generation to view makeup as an essential to enhance our lives, and while we interpret this enrichment in a vastly different way, the principle remains the same – wanting to look different. From the geisha of Japan to the infamous Elizabeth Taylor look of Cleopatra, makeup has been a vital development of both female and male culture.

Both men and women in ancient Egypt often used eye paint, made from kohl, to accentuate their eyes in an almond shape, as we find evident on Pharaohs funerary masks and sarcophagi. Kohl was a mixture of crushed almonds, antimony, ash, ochre, malachite and copper, materials renowned for their strong pigmentation and healing properties, as kohl was also thought to improve eyesight and act as a barrier against optical ailments and glare from the blinding desert sun. A combination of copper and ore pigment named mesdemet was introduced around 4,000 BC to be worn around the eye to accentuate and attract attention. Also, dyes were formulated from henna and rouge to alter the appearance of hair, skin and nails, for both cosmetic and health purposes. Around 10,000 BC even creams to prevent stretch marks and wrinkles were available to those wishing to improve their chances of a good afterlife by perfecting their current life.

A thousand years later, the Greeks and Chinese associated whiter faces with purity, and as such put rice powder and white lead to use on their skin. In ancient Greece, a form of eyeshadow developed under the name ‘fucus’ because of the prominent green and blue pigments formed by powdered malachite and lapis lazuli. The Chinese utilised their cosmetics to determine social class, the wrong shade of red nail dye could make the biggest difference. An extreme cosmetic improvement we’ve thankfully grown out of is the Chinese way of painting their teeth black and gold dating from 1500 BC. Across the sea in 11th century Japan, girls were using crushed flower petals, rice flours and even bird droppings to beautify the eyes. Wiser cultures, however, would adapt edible materials for beautification that were readily available to all, for example the Greek use of berries to heighten lip and cheek pigmentation.

The Roman world initially objected to the trends coming in from across the Mediterranean as superficial and vain, and even used sacred Egyptian oils for sexual purposes to stain the reputation. However, after an influx of plagues, they began to consider the medicinal uses of makeup in order to ward off the bad spirits, just as they had witnessed Iraqi people painting their faces to keep the evil eye at bay. Butter and barley powder were improvised as a spot prevention mixture around 100 AD, and the age of the Roman baths saw in the age of purifying mud baths.

During the Middle Ages, the Church condemned cosmetics as breeding grounds for vanity, one of the Seven Deadly Sins. However, medieval England maintained the vision that pale skin represented purity, therefore women would often use egg whites on their faces, and as such a resource was widely available, the effects could be felt by many echelons of society. In comparison, the Renaissance period saw the introduction of less readily accessible ingredients, such as arsenic and mercury, in hindsight the most dangerous materials to adhere to ones skin. While the Middle Ages saw the golden age of dyed red hair, the 1500s brought the angelic qualities of bleached blonde hair to public prominence.

Alongside public consumption for personal gains, the theatrical application of cosmetics was the most prolific use under the reign of Queen Victoria, who formally denounced makeup as vulgar and as such theatrical use was the only acceptable means. That is, until the 1900s, where women visited beauty salons in secrecy to avoid others knowing they required products to preserve their youthful looks. While health has remained a significant factor in the use of cosmetics in the past, it has been documented that women used young boy’s urine or ox blood to reduce the appearance of freckles.

The question of a postmodern society’s recent obsession with appearance crumbles in light of this extensive evidence. Whether it be medical or purely cosmetic, society’s priorities can be determined by their dependence on makeup and the reasons behind it.



A brief look at the history of the toothbrush

In this blog update I will be briefly looking at an ordinary object that all of us use on a daily basis, usually two to three times a day (at least that’s what we’re told to do) can you guess it? It’s the toothbrush! This invention left everyone smiling with amazement and this will be the theme for my blog post.

Whilst many people associate toothbrushes with the modern-day supermarket versions, toothbrushes began early in history as nothing more than the end of twig. Indeed around 3,500 to 3,000 years ago Ancient Egyptians and Babylonians were using the ends of twigs as toothbrushes with evidence of this shown alongside their remains in their tombs. To many these early forms of toothbrushes have been termed chew sticks.  The Chinese too had a similar method of cleaning their teeth and created the first bristle toothbrush in the late fifteenth century. These were created by using bristles from the necks of pigs and attaching them to a bone or bamboo handle thus creating a pre- teeth cleaning device. This idea was adapted by Europeans when contact became more fluid between China and the Middle East and then Europe though the Europeans replaced the pigs bristles with the softer horse hairs and occasionally used feathers.

The modern versions of toothbrushes started to take form in the following centuries. Whilst France took the lead in promoting the use of the toothbrush in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Englishmen, William Addis of Clerkenwald, created the first mass-produced toothbrush in about 1780. The design at this point was very similar as it was still constructed from pig’s neck bristles and the handle was still made from animal bone, though in 1844 the toothbrush evolved with the first 3-row brush. An American company called H. N. Wadsworth also began mass producing toothbrushes in 1885. Another American company, the Florence Manufacturing Company of Massachusetts was the first to box up toothbrushes. Up to this point, the toothbrush had relatively few changes it would not be until the twentieth century that the device would become beyond doubt modern.

The next stage of toothbrush development was in 1938 when the old style of brush was replaced by first nylon bristle toothbrushes. Nylon toothbrushes were invented by Dupont de Nemours and were quickly replaced as people preferred the new models and by the 1950s softer nylon bristles were being made. Electric toothbrushes were just round the corner as in 1939 they were developed in Switzerland and Broxodent, the first electric toothbrush in the US was unveiled in 1960 by the Squib Company. Toothbrushes have changed very little over the past centuries, apart from in colour and design (brush size and design) as the idea behind them stays the same. The toothbrush of today shows the same characteristics of those from Ancient Egypt and China. This concludes my very brief look at the history of toothbrushes.


The History of Cameras

The history of the camera is extensive, technical and, at times, obscure; for example there is no one particular person credited with the invention of the camera, it was more of a continual process of progress throughout history. Nevertheless notable names include Johann Heinrich Schulze, Joseph Niépce, Louis-Jacques Mandé Daguerre and George Eastman.

The camera obscura was known to be the first device that captured an image on-screen. It had been known to scholars as early as the 4th and 5th centuries around the time of Aristotle. However in 1021 AD, Idn al-Haytham was the first man to give a clear and correct description of the camera obscura and the diffraction of light, as well as being recognised as the father of modern optics.

After the analysis of the camera obscura, came the exploration of chemical components needed to create a photograph. In 1727, Johann Heinrich Schulze discovered that using silver nitrate could create a black and white image. The chemical reaction of the film to silver nitrate, meant that the covered parts remained white and that which was exposed, turned black. However, over time, everything turned black.

Joseph Niépce, like Schulze, was not involved directly with the invention of the camera, but of what a camera could produce – a photograph. Niépce was able to create a photographic image with camera obscura, but it required 8 hours of light exposure and only lasted a few hours. Niépce described the camera as an ‘artificial eye, which is nothing but a small box six inches square’ and this metaphor is still true today; the camera we know, allows a recreation of the image we see in front of us, artificially creating the human eye.

Over the next 100 years, the camera progressed through shorter development times, the development of the negative-positive process which allowed for multiple copies, the first photograph advertisement in 1843 and forty years later the first Kodak roll-film camera was produced and patented by George Eastman. The camera was developed with a lens and was sold with film in order to appeal to the mass market.

Inventions of new technology allowed the camera to be honed and perfected; this meant that the camera was an invention of its time; being improved upon when technology permitted. Edwin Land marketed the Polaroid camera in 1948; this was followed by the integration of instant colour film in the 60s. After colour, all that was left was to improve upon was the speed in which a camera took a photograph, the digital screen to view photographs, the quality of the picture and the size of the camera. I don’t want this to sound derogatory by using the phrase ‘all that was left’, but these developments, in comparison to the 1800s and the technological hindrances the inventors faced, seemed simple and just needed a team of creative people in order to progress. For instance, in 1985, Pixar were the first company to ever create an animated feature-length film, and they had to invent the digital imaging processor in order to create ‘Toy Story’.

In today’s society, cameras have become an indispensable accessory, whether individually or as part of a computer or phone. We take advantage of the ease in which we can use this technology and it is fascinating to see how much we have progressed from the 18th century, when the interest in capturing an image really started, to the 21st century, when we cannot think about life without capturing parts of it.