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Thread: Historically Accurate v. Modern squick

  1. #26
    Historicals and Horror rule donroc's Avatar
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    In the 17th century, Philip IV of Spain wed at age 10 Elizabeth de Bourbon age 11.5 in 1615. They did not cohabit as man and wife until "his balls dropped" at age 15. There are many more royal and noble examples of this throughout history, as well asuncles wedding nieces and first cousins doing same. and the Egyptian dynastic thing. Tell the stupid reader/critic to get over it. Write with verisimilitude as it was.





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  2. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom from UK View Post
    This all goes to show how everyone sees their own culture as obviously "normal". In the UK the "age of consent" is 16. Once a girl is 16, she can have sex with a man of any age. A 40 year old guy isn't going to make a lot of friends having sex with a girl of 16 but it's not a legal matter.
    He may not make many friends but i doubt he'd be labeled totally disgusting for his acts either.
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  3. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Skibone21 View Post
    A quote from Barbara Stanwyck in Lady of Burlesque "I went into show business when I was seven years old. Two days later the first comic I ever met stole my piggy bank in a railroad station in Portland. When I was 11 the comics were looking at my ankles. When I was 14 they were...just looking. When I was 20 I'd been stuck with enough lunch checks to pay for a three-story house."

    From what I've seen throughout history is a lot of the girls were taught from an early age to expect to marry in their teens. They were shamed if they hadn't. So 14 or 16? I doubt she'd be damaged goods. As you can see in the quote above even Hollywood was joking about grown men vying for teenage girls (not to mention every new teenager on the block had to beat off the men from Elizabeth Taylor to Natalie Wood to Shirley Temple.)

    I'm not sure it's that big of a deal since it's a story. Even less so if you can make it somehow apparent that it was the norm.
    Kama Sutra says that bride after menses is no good... so there is that awkward moment where she is "past prime" being fourteen means she had her menses most likely. Kama Sutra is contemporary to the times of the story. Meaning the average marriage age would be eleven... *cough* That's not a teen... (You didn't read the links?)

  4. #29
    Akilli Skibone21's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rachel Udin View Post
    Kama Sutra says that bride after menses is no good... so there is that awkward moment where she is "past prime" being fourteen means she had her menses most likely. Kama Sutra is contemporary to the times of the story. Meaning the average marriage age would be eleven... *cough* That's not a teen... (You didn't read the links?)
    Well as to any set of rules there are people that don't follow them. There are bunch of rules dealing with names the way a girl looks etc. that I'm sure weren't followed to the tee. I think you have some wiggle room there to work with. I don't think the readers will know that MOST women were married during that time at 11 and even so I'm sure plenty were 14 and just as valued.
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  5. #30
    Third time's the charm Tom from UK's Avatar
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    The age of menses dropped significantly in the 20th century. I have no idea what it was back then. You can probably pretty much make your own choice.
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  6. #31
    A seadog looking for crewmates Elenitsa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Deb Kinnard View Post
    In their superb book MARRIAGE AND FAMILY IN THE MIDDLE AGES, Frances and Joseph Gies talk all about this topic. Good information. The age of marriage for women in medieval Europe was always lower than that for men, and both went up and down over the centuries, probably (as Engineer Tiger says) in response to population pressure either positive or negative. I also read Daniel Herlihy's THE MEDIEVAL HOUSEHOLD, hoping for some information on how homes were managed and run, but it wasn't as good as the other title.

    The core of this whole discussion is that the contemps didn't think marrying a girl off at 14 or 16 constituted sexual abuse. If we're going for accuracy, we have to some extent to put aside our modern mores and think as they did. But as the author, I have control. If 14 for my heroine squicks me out, or may squick out my readers, I can always make her 18 and have another character moan and groan about how she was kept single "too long." It's up to me, and that's fine. I do have a tendency to want to stick to their true ways in the middle ages, however.
    This is exactly how I think. We don;t have to be "politically correct" if those times had no such notion; we have to strive to be true for those times.

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  7. #32
    Toughen up. gothicangel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elenitsa View Post
    This is exactly how I think. We don;t have to be "politically correct" if those times had no such notion; we have to strive to be true for those times.
    And of course, in many of the eras we are writing in, 'politically correct' meant saying what kept your head on your shoulders, and not the executioner's block.
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    For what it's worth, when the average lifespan was less than 50 years, they had to start young. So 14 would probably equate with 28 or so today when our lifespans are almost 100 yrs.

  9. #34
    ideas are floating where they will Stlight's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rachel Udin View Post

    Still raises questions--is she damaged goods at 14 already? *sighs*

    It is my understanding that 'damaged goods' means a woman/girl has already had sex.

    It's my understanding that the terms for waiting way late to marry are 'on the shelf' and 'old maid' though these terms are probably from the Regency period in Europe. 'Damaged goods' maybe from a later period.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stlight View Post
    It is my understanding that 'damaged goods' means a woman/girl has already had sex.

    It's my understanding that the terms for waiting way late to marry are 'on the shelf' and 'old maid' though these terms are probably from the Regency period in Europe. 'Damaged goods' maybe from a later period.
    Yeah, but the marker in the Kama Sutra put it as "Any time after puberty." I like my colorful language in posts. It's not as if I'm going to be writing the novel in sanskrit....

    There was an argument that puberty dropped radically, but I also saw a counter claim that the data is skewed in two ways which makes it harder to assess:

    1. That the data tends to talk about puberty hitting at 16-17, in Medieval times, however that data seems to be taken from lower class/poor. Which begs the question: What about the rich? (Which is what the paper was pointing to).

    2. The paper also pointed out that though human physiology is the same, there wasn't much accounting for countries outside of Europe and the United States (as in after 1776). That's a pretty narrow range... and I'm dealing with dates from 42 AD to 200AD... with a fairly well rich upper class in India who are marked by mostly a vegetarian diet. (They are Hindus... at least and from my research Hindus were a little more strict in those days.)

    Given the data, one could assume to a certain degree one could slide with, say 12-14 being menses, given a healthy diet. I doubt I can get away with 16, since diet is the largest factor.

    Still, I find it creepy to want to marry someone before they are able to have attraction to you, which is what the Kama Sutra suggests (the non-sexual part that people ignore), but then I'm kinda steeped in the modern culture. The justification for that is that in the Kama Sutra, the logic is that once a woman has menses (and I know this is wrong in modern logic), she's no longer a virgin, or a very big risk of not being one. Despite that, the Kama Sutra doesn't seem to advocate rape because it also goes into detail about "waiting" and "certain looks". Basically marrying a pretty girl early, seducing her with child games, and then waiting for her to "give that look". *sighs* In modern times, isn't that what one calls a sexual predator? So I'm looking at a 11-12 year old at best--though later versions of this school of thought go on to have sex manuals about girls at 8-10 years old. (That's not until much later--I believe it's the Ana Ranga?).

    To be fair, the Palace of Illusions, a novel set before my timeline and in what is now India, pretty much glossed over this. Talked briefly about sexual education, but not really about menses much.

    The main character's older sister is being held as a fabulous ideal... so I need to get it right--because if her sister got married to age and the MC didn't that would do well plot-wise to feed her insecurities, though it might feed the reader squick, at least there would be some accuracy. Still waiting on the last reference to triple check against some claims that the age of marriage was at a much younger age later in India's timeline.

    Again, not dealing with Europe. =P If my geography hasn't gotten wacky.

    I should note to be fair that some countries married children together early, but didn't expect consummation until much later... (Joseon Korea, China--forgot which dynasties, and maybe Japan?)

  11. #36
    Words are life Belle_91's Avatar
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    Question for some of ya'll: Are any of your characters in your historic stories slave-holders. I have an MC and he's the LI who owns slaves in New Orleans in the 1830s. As we all know, this was sadly very common. While he does free his slaves at the end of the story and sees that he's wrong, in the beginning, he owns slaves and supports the institution. A lot of people did back then. He gets called out for his $hi+ by my MC who is an abolitionist, but for a good chunk of the book he owns three slaves, one of them being a little girl. He doesn't beat them, but he is mean to them at the beginning.

    *Side note: I'm doing a retelling of Beauty and the Beast.

    So my question is, if you are dealing with the subject of slavery, how are you doing it?

  12. #37
    It happened at his concert... Deb Kinnard's Avatar
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    I would hope you are doing it according to the mores of the time and place you're writing about, and not to any modern "eww!" thing that equates slave owning in its own milieu as being "character bad." Sometimes, in all cultures and eras, people do the expedient and socially normative thing rather than thinking it through and doing what their conscience dictates. If it works for your story, your slave owner might be one of these people, or, as you say, he might be convinced by a passionate and articulate abolitionist.

    What makes me mad is when a whole market insists (as unfortunately Christian fiction seems to) that even in the pre-Civil War South, you cannot show a slave owner as being anything but Le Eeevil. No redeeming characteristics. No good side. In fact, it's better to show them all being abolitionists, even if it's totally wrong for the time and place of the story. Peope who insist on being revisionist make my blood boil.
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  13. #38
    Words are life Belle_91's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Deb Kinnard View Post
    I would hope you are doing it according to the mores of the time and place you're writing about, and not to any modern "eww!" thing that equates slave owning in its own milieu as being "character bad." Sometimes, in all cultures and eras, people do the expedient and socially normative thing rather than thinking it through and doing what their conscience dictates. If it works for your story, your slave owner might be one of these people, or, as you say, he might be convinced by a passionate and articulate abolitionist.

    What makes me mad is when a whole market insists (as unfortunately Christian fiction seems to) that even in the pre-Civil War South, you cannot show a slave owner as being anything but Le Eeevil. No redeeming characteristics. No good side. In fact, it's better to show them all being abolitionists, even if it's totally wrong for the time and place of the story. Peope who insist on being revisionist make my blood boil.
    He frees his slaves, but suffers major reprocussions for it. Belle is an abolitionist and thus does not have any friends in New Orleans.


    I'm watching the infamous Patriot and it makes me twinge when the slave tells Colonel Tavington that he isn't a slave. Um even if your master was cool, nice, and fed you cotton candy every day, you knew you were a slave. Sorry, I had to vent about this.

  14. #39
    Toughen up. gothicangel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Belle_91 View Post
    Question for some of ya'll: Are any of your characters in your historic stories slave-holders.

    So my question is, if you are dealing with the subject of slavery, how are you doing it?
    As you know, I'm writing Roman fiction, and for my MC slavery is absolutely normal. I agree with Deb, he behaves completely by his social mores. As I write more books, I want to show the flip side of slavery, it wasn't just the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians . . . Everyone was doing it. Personal freedom was a tenous thing, and if you were on the losing side in battle, you were fair game. Even Romans were enslaved, hence why it was acceptable to fall on your sword, but not commit suicide because of your injuries.

    The Romans believed that they had divine providence on their side, and that is why they won so many battles. It was their destiny. If it wasn't, then they would lose the favour of the gods. And after all, slavery was a tradition, and nothing was more important the Romans than their traditions.
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  15. #40
    never mind the shorty angeliz2k's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rachel Udin View Post
    Yeah, but the marker in the Kama Sutra put it as "Any time after puberty." I like my colorful language in posts. It's not as if I'm going to be writing the novel in sanskrit....
    Still, I agree that "damaged goods" like "ruined" implies "no longer a virgin". I'm not sure that's quite the right color phrase.

    I should note to be fair that some countries married children together early, but didn't expect consummation until much later... (Joseon Korea, China--forgot which dynasties, and maybe Japan?)
    Many, many European royals were married as young children, but the married couple didn't sleep together until the younger one reached a certain age (say 14), when it was felt sexual intercourse would be acceptable. It may be the advice to marry young that you're referencing is similar; snag the pretty girl/the girl with the enormous dowry, then bed her when she's ready. Is the advice really to have sex with an eight year old, or just to marry her before someone else does? Am I interpreting it wrong?

    Quote Originally Posted by Belle_91 View Post
    Question for some of ya'll: Are any of your characters in your historic stories slave-holders. I have an MC and he's the LI who owns slaves in New Orleans in the 1830s. As we all know, this was sadly very common. While he does free his slaves at the end of the story and sees that he's wrong, in the beginning, he owns slaves and supports the institution. A lot of people did back then. He gets called out for his $hi+ by my MC who is an abolitionist, but for a good chunk of the book he owns three slaves, one of them being a little girl. He doesn't beat them, but he is mean to them at the beginning.

    *Side note: I'm doing a retelling of Beauty and the Beast.

    So my question is, if you are dealing with the subject of slavery, how are you doing it?
    To answer your question: yes (as you know, of course!). My female MC (who is 16 at the beginning of the story and takes slavery as a given without thinking too much about it) becomes a large slave owner upon marrying her husband. The husband is despicable for other reasons, actually. But although I haven't gotten that far in the story yet, I suspect he'll be quite kind to his slaves.

    Quote Originally Posted by Belle_91 View Post
    He frees his slaves, but suffers major reprocussions for it. Belle is an abolitionist and thus does not have any friends in New Orleans.

    I'm watching the infamous Patriot and it makes me twinge when the slave tells Colonel Tavington that he isn't a slave. Um even if your master was cool, nice, and fed you cotton candy every day, you knew you were a slave. Sorry, I had to vent about this.
    Exactly. My main character's love interest (who is not her husband, alas) will point out to her that it doesn't matter how nice she is to her inherited slaves, the status of "slave' in and of itself is evil.

    Naturally, I could go on for ages about the topic, but I'll spare y'all. I will just say that slave holders weren't inherently evil. They used elaborate, flimsy arguments to justify an institution that was to their pecuniary and social advantage. Most were born into the culture and believed in it fully (hence the lingering Lost Cause). Many treated their slaves relatively well as far as these things go. Many inherited slaves and couldn't easily set them all free at the drop of a hat (what about the old and the sick?). Treating them as TEH EVAL does no one any favors. I think it behooves us to ask why they acted as they did and to use their example to examine our own flawed logic and attitudes.

    Like I said, I could go on and on. Belle, Maybe we could discuss some of this outside this thread (I don't want to derail or dominate the thread).
    Last edited by angeliz2k; 06-10-2012 at 05:46 PM.
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    Words are life Belle_91's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by angeliz2k View Post
    Belle, Maybe we could discuss some of this outside this thread (I don't want to derail or dominate the thread).
    Yes, definatly! I was actually going to ask if you wanted to beta-read the story after I've completed it and edited it.

    And I agree with what you are saying. It's such a complicated issue.

  17. #42
    practical experience, FTW mayqueen's Avatar
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    In the novel I'm querying, one of the characters is a slave. It's set in the late "Viking age" England. I treat the issue as historically accurate as possible. It isn't a moral wrong. I have the character who owns the slave reflecting on the fact that he could have been the slave if the battle had gone the other way. But slavery isn't a major theme in the novel.

    I think you can make it an issue of morals if you have an abolitionist as a character. That works. But I don't like reading novels with modern morals about slavery built into the story. (Unless you are Octavia Butler writing Kindred.)
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    Dull Old Person Flicka's Avatar
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    You know, I edited out my post because honestly, I couldn't really get across what I meant very well. Suffice to say, I think a moral agenda is much harder to pull off than a story aimed merely at historical accuracy.
    Last edited by Flicka; 06-10-2012 at 11:32 PM.
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  19. #44
    Historicals and Horror rule donroc's Avatar
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    This may contribute perhaps as a result of diet. Skeletons from the Carolingian Empire of the 9th century had several inches more of height according to my research for both men and women on average than those of the medieval era.





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    Quote Originally Posted by Belle_91 View Post
    So my question is, if you are dealing with the subject of slavery, how are you doing it?
    I think that generally speaking readers are open to the topic. After all we have Uncle Tom's Cabin and Roots on one side of the scale, and Gone With the Wind on the other.

    My WIP is pre-Civil War, but my MC is a Quaker. Some 49er's brought slaves to help them mine the gold, but miners had a "rule" that every man could keep what he took from the ground. Some slaves were able to buy their freedom that way.

    So that is how I deal with it.

    Belle, your book sounds awesome. I love fairy tale retelling books. Book of A Thousand Days by Shannon Hale is one of my favorite books.

  21. #46
    Barbershoppin' Harmony Whore BardSkye's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Belle_91 View Post

    So my question is, if you are dealing with the subject of slavery, how are you doing it?
    My MC is Essene, a sect which believed slavery was wrong, though in 30BC Judeae it was a fact of life. She becomes a slave herself, then marries into the aristocracy. (Verified fact, believe it or not.)

    She accepts slavery as a common condition and doesn't think much about it. Even when she becomes the wife of a tetrarch, she knows better than to try and change his views on the condition. She views things like bull-baiting and public executions the same way. They're a normal, accepted part of the world she lives in.

  22. #47
    practical experience, FTW Sunflowerrei's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Belle_91 View Post
    Question for some of ya'll: Are any of your characters in your historic stories slave-holders.
    Yeah. It's backstory in my novel, but yes, my MC ran a sugarcane plantation in the West Indies in the 1790s. After his wife dies, he frees the slaves, takes his daughters, and moves back to England. The repercussions of being a slave owner are among the many issues he has.

    I read a book called Bury the Chains, about the abolition movement in Britain to free slaves, led by Quakers. Absolutely fascinating.

    As for the main topic of this thread, a girl has to have a certain amount of fat in order to even have a period. So diet is obviously a huge part of it. I'm sure that then, as it is now, puberty varied. I was 10, but I have friends who were 12 and 13. One friend didn't get her period until she was 15. Incidentally, she's Hindu and vegetarian.
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  23. #48
    Toughen up. gothicangel's Avatar
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    I think it would be wrong for all us historical novelists to just stop writing about slavery. It is a part of our very recent history. I know there are people out there who like to behave as though it was something that happened a long time ago, but it isn't.

    In my current WIP, I have several scenes of torture perpetrated by the Praetorian Guard. Now, I could pretend and say 'look at these barbaric, uncivilised ancient cultures using torture. Aren't we civilised?' When the truth is that we have governments and policing services that still condone such tactic because of 'national security.' There was a case a few weeks ago, where a police officer had twisted the arm of a suspect he was questioning, to a point where the limb was dislocated, to achieve a confession.

    I think it is important that we historical writers aren't afraid to draw comparisons and say, 'you know, we aren't that different.'
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  24. #49
    Dull Old Person Flicka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gothicangel View Post
    I think it would be wrong for all us historical novelists to just stop writing about slavery. It is a part of our very recent history. I know there are people out there who like to behave as though it was something that happened a long time ago, but it isn't.

    In my current WIP, I have several scenes of torture perpetrated by the Praetorian Guard. Now, I could pretend and say 'look at these barbaric, uncivilised ancient cultures using torture. Aren't we civilised?' When the truth is that we have governments and policing services that still condone such tactic because of 'national security.' There was a case a few weeks ago, where a police officer had twisted the arm of a suspect he was questioning, to a point where the limb was dislocated, to achieve a confession.

    I think it is important that we historical writers aren't afraid to draw comparisons and say, 'you know, we aren't that different.'
    And to the degree we don't do things anymore, it's really nothing but a fragile web of laws and social control that holds us back. Take that away, and we're all beasts; then and now. Look at the war in Yugoslavia in the '90s. Look at Rwanda. Let's not fool ourselves into thinking that we are, at core, one iota different from people 2000 years ago.

    I don't have slaveholders in my story, at least not in the '20s plot which is the one I'm currently working on, but I do have several people who took part in WWI in different parts of the world, and, really, none of them have come out smelling of roses or with a great many illusions about their fellow men...
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  25. #50
    Toughen up. gothicangel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flicka View Post
    And to the degree we don't do things anymore, it's really nothing but a fragile web of laws and social control that holds us back. Take that away, and we're all beasts; then and now. Look at the war in Yugoslavia in the '90s. Look at Rwanda. Let's not fool ourselves into thinking that we are, at core, one iota different from people 2000 years ago.
    I was reading something the other day, that said [in a quite snooty way] 'after all, look at those Romans using blood-sports to divert attention away from a political situation.' Yes, we just have ultra violent movies instead and put on big shiny show of sports to deflect us from the incompetence of the government . . .

    I always marvel at the similarities. I've just asked my sister [the church historian]: 'when did Christianity start having bishops, was it before Constantine?' So I Googled, and lo-and-behold they can be dated back to 30AD.
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