General History Questions thread

Oskatat

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Looking at that question scientifically you can't base the statement "science was held back" on a comparison with a non-existent hypothetical future. It also sidesteps a definition of "scientific progress" and makes it into something supposedly easy to measure.
First, a short comparison. Around the year 1000 most people agre that the middle east was more advanced than europe and so was the far east (china area), both with different religious backgrounds. In that respect you could say that the christian area was behind scientifically.
However, by 1800 the dominant religions hadn't changed, but the scientific gap had closed a lot. By the start of WW2, europe was leading or at least equal in many sciences, aviation for example. During this period, the religions stayed pretty much the same. The conclusion must be that religion is not the decisive factor in scientific progress

A second part is that the common stereotype of scientific progress standing still in 'the dark ages' is simply wrong. It may have lacked people turning practical applications into a coherent theory, or a theory into practical applications, or it may have lacked he means to spread discoveries as they happened. If you think in more stereotypes, scientific progress is the moment where people say 'wow, that is new'. Then yes, it was a dark age indeed and all the discoveries were made later. If you think of scientific progress as continuous, the 'wow moments' made possible only because the foundation had been in place before, it was an age of improvements. Maybe not breakthroughs, but invaluable nontheless
A lot of newtons work can be found directly applied in the construction of cathedrals. If you set them in a chronological order you can even see the new principles and improved understanding of the forces involved. Noone put it in a theory untill later. People marvel at the cathedrals and ofcourse the plate armors of the time. And just as with the cathedrals don't seem to see the advances in metalurgy apparent in weapons and armor, ever stronger, lighter and more likely to retain its shape under stress rather than bend or break, or the improved understanding of physics in ever more complicated or improved ballistic weapons. And what about the printing press?
A lot of the 'scientific progress' from the era after 1500 is based on and would be impossible without the understanding of nature already in existence earlier, impossible without the advances in construction made by building cathedrals and castles, impossible without the improvements in metalurgy made by an arms race.

An easy example is the steam engine (some people may know where this is going, they read the same books as I did). It's been around for a long, long time in its basic form. It could open a heavy but perfectly ballanced temple door if you lit a fire on the altar (and the water resevoir was full). What it wasn't and what it would remain not was practical. It required insane amounts of fuel if put to serious work and had a tendency to burst. Improvements in metalurgy allowed for higher pressure, so it had more power, but that didn't solve the two main problems. What made it break through were a safety valve, taken from pressure cookers, to stop it bursting and a condensors slightly seperate from the heated area to improve heat efficiency, for which the principle was well known, just noone had thought to apply it to steam devices yet. So where is that wow moment, the great breakthrough? It doesn't exist, but it makes for a more understandable story, one that we, humans, like better. What it was most definately not was a new invention.
 

DarkShogun417

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I read a little bit about decapitation in medieval battles, which basically said that it was possible, but unlikely and impractical. What I'm curious about is what kind of weapon you would need to fully decapitate someone. Would any weapon you can swing do, or do you need something bigger?
 

RalliX

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DarkShogun417 said:
I read a little bit about decapitation in medieval battles, which basically said that it was possible, but unlikely and impractical. What I'm curious about is what kind of weapon you would need to fully decapitate someone. Would any weapon you can swing do, or do you need something bigger?
Need a strong arm and, a heavy sharp cutting weapon, such as a two-handed axe or great sword.
A blunt weapon will not suffice, unless it's a blunted edged weapon, in which case you'll need a bit more force to go through the flesh smoothly.
Frankly though, decapitation is usually done after killing the enemy, like scalping.
 

NikeBG

Baron
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Oskatat said:
However, by 1800 the dominant religions hadn't changed, but the scientific gap had closed a lot.
I'd just like to note that Christianity from AD1000 (not to mention from several centuries earlier) and Christianity from 1800, i.e. after the rise of scholasticism and especially of the Reformation and the Enlightenment, had quite substantial differences in the way science was treated.

What I've often wondered about is more in regards to social history, the way the common people lived, especially outside of towns and/or especially in the Early Middle Ages. The main two things bugging me are "toilets" and "fire".
In regards to the first:
- What did people wipe their asses with, considering toilet paper wasn't yet at hand? I know why the left hand is considered "bad" or "evil" or "dirty" etc in the Muslim world (and maybe in medieval Europe?), though I find it somewhat hard to believe that everyone just used their left hand to "wipe" themselves and nothing else. I've also heard of leaves, moss and even rocks (?), but good and useful specimens are not always available, IMO (after all, leaves would have to be big enough and not very "rough", no?).
- Where did people actually dump their stuff? After all, if everyone runs off into the forest every time he/she feels the urge, the forests would quickly stench away the whole district. On the other hand, a big hole dug in the ground and covered by a shack (outhouse) worked even until recent days, but then, what happens when it fills up?
In regards to fire, I've asked before about how did people light their fires, considering they'd need to do it relatively often. Though I've been lately wondering - considering in the last few years I've been living in a house, using firewood to actually heat that house, and we need at least 5 cubic metres of firewood to warm one room - how did people procure all that firewood? Especially if they didn't live near a forest (yes, I know Europe was more forested back then, but still), cutting down trees was much more laboursome than today and thus required a lot more time and effort, which would take those respective things away from actually working in the field. I'm guessing that the "procure firewood" operations were thus done mostly in the early spring season maybe, before the serious fieldwork began?
 

RalliX

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NikeBG said:
- What did people wipe their asses with, considering toilet paper wasn't yet at hand? I know why the left hand is considered "bad" or "evil" or "dirty" etc in the Muslim world (and maybe in medieval Europe?), though I find it somewhat hard to believe that everyone just used their left hand to "wipe" themselves and nothing else. I've also heard of leaves, moss and even rocks (?), but good and useful specimens are not always available, IMO (after all, leaves would have to be big enough and not very "rough", no?).

- Where did people actually dump their stuff? After all, if everyone runs off into the forest every time he/she feels the urge, the forests would quickly stench away the whole district. On the other hand, a big hole dug in the ground and covered by a shack (outhouse) worked even until recent days, but then, what happens when it fills up?
In regards to fire, I've asked before about how did people light their fires, considering they'd need to do it relatively often. Though I've been lately wondering - considering in the last few years I've been living in a house, using firewood to actually heat that house, and we need at least 5 cubic metres of firewood to warm one room - how did people procure all that firewood? Especially if they didn't live near a forest (yes, I know Europe was more forested back then, but still), cutting down trees was much more laboursome than today and thus required a lot more time and effort, which would take those respective things away from actually working in the field. I'm guessing that the "procure firewood" operations were thus done mostly in the early spring season maybe, before the serious fieldwork began?
Wiping with your hand... I guess it would be ideal next to a body of water to rinse.

Having myself lived in a wood-stove heated house in the past, as well as the present, I'd have to say that spring would probably be prime time for acquiring your own firewood. However, there probably would have been lumbermen or woodsmen who did the job of harvesting wood year-round. Maybe they would not be as common in southern lands, for example.
It takes a lot of time to cut down even one tree of +100cm thickness. It's also very laborious work with just hand-tools.
 

Oskatat

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even in these modern times, some people don't have toilet paper, or access to suitable leaves and/or moss. Rinsing with water and using he hand or (preferably) some washable cloth to dislodge the worst of it seems to be one alternative

garbage disposal: settlements of any size had a midden where the community dumped thrash. When it got too much or to smelly, it could be covered with earth and started over somewhere else. Note, however, that there was substantially less thrash. Food that we throw away was either eaten or fed to a pig or something. There were hardly any package materials and most of that and other stuff could be used to get fires started. Bones, something we now always throw away, had a whole range of useful purposes.

Firewood. Well, there is a reason people froze to death or had frostbite more often in history. Some things to keep in mind though are that houses were smaller, and so were the rooms. They were usually shared with more people too, and animals, which produces warmth too. If you just put on warm clothes, you can leave the room a lot colder than you likely made it and the type of activities back then compared to now were much more physically demanding, which also creates body heat, as opposed to sitting and looking at a tv or computer screen or reading a book, doing puzzles etc.

I don't have any sources to back me up on these stories, except the water toilet wipe, which I heard of first hand from someone recently immigrated from more or less rural india. The fact that they (several people yes) kept a water bottle with a twisted top (bent so it would be easier to bring it to the right place... do I need to describe everything?) on the toilet, and they were kind enough to explain to me how to use it.... Right, I prefer toilet paper
 

Bromden

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A big-ish tree can get a single household through the average Yurpean winter, although it largely depends on the wood itself. (by the way, 5 cubic metres for a single room sounds quite a lot, although you didn't say timeframe, I believe your house need better insulation) For example, pine burns much faster than average, but it's also easier to fell. And yes, fieldwork is not an all-year 24/7 occupation, they had plenty of time to get wood. And if they didn't fell 'em themselves, they just traded chickens for wood or something. As for lighting the fire, I once saw a simple firemaker tool made out of flint and steel, which produced a huge amount of sparks with a single click. Other than that, they guarded the hearth like there's no tomorrow; for example, in certain areas/times there was always someone in the house who's duty was to keep the fire going, they were even exempted from going to church.

dumpage: A good example is Gehenna, which was a valley of Jerusalem which was used to dump all kinds of garbage there. And with the big hole covered with a ****ter, it rarely filled up; as most things thrown/shat in there were organic, it decomposed faster than an average family could fill it up. And even if it did get full, they could just close it up with earth and dig another a few metres from there.
 

RalliX

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The Nutty Pig said:
Just a quick question, where did the hatred for the Jews come from?  :?:
They have a knack for banking. The filthiest of all professions.
 

Almalexia

Her Flamboyance, the Calipha
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Or, simply enough, because they were different. End of the day that's all it takes to earn hatred, even if it takes hundreds of years of proximity.
 

Jhessail

Panzervixen
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The Nutty Pig said:
Just a quick question, where did the hatred for the Jews come from?  :?:
One, they had a different religion and different customs which creates suspicion and fear
Two, during Medieval times they ran the proto-banks which earned them plenty of hatred (though only a small minority of Jews were wealthy)
Three, as a group of outsiders that does not want to assimilate, they have always been a very easy target
 

Falkner92

Banned
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Jhessail said:
The Nutty Pig said:
Just a quick question, where did the hatred for the Jews come from?  :?:
One, they had a different religion and different customs which creates suspicion and fear
Two, during Medieval times they ran the proto-banks which earned them plenty of hatred (though only a small minority of Jews were wealthy)
Three, as a group of outsiders that does not want to assimilate, they have always been a very easy target
You forgot the whole 'they killed Jeebus' part. That was a pretty big deal, especially in medieval Europe.
 

Falkner92

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Correct, and maybe that's how the educated elites of the time felt, but for the commoners? You know, the general public? That was a BIG reason.
 

Vicccard

Master Knight
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Nothing unites a group of people more then hatred pointed at another, preferably different and smaller, group of people.

There's your reason.
 

Oskatat

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I'd suggest a different/new thread if people want to discuss persecution/hate of jews/strangers/other religions/ethnic groups, since a discussion like that can go on for quite a bit
 

Jhessail

Panzervixen
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I don't remember anymore where I read it but I recall some author stating that the Romans had prostitutes everywhere. Not just in taverns and inns but at the Colosseum during games, in bath houses, even bakeries. They different terms for prostitutes, depending on she worked - so a bakery prostitute had a different nickname than one working in a bath house would have, and so on. I *think* the author went on to say that prostitution, while not a glamorous profession, was not as loathed as it was in some other places and times. Does anyone know further details or can confirm/debunk this?
 

Almalexia

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I've actually heard the same, though I don't recall where exactly. It may have been from the professor who was the tour guide at Pompeii? I'll look it up later personally to see if I can find some sources that corroborate.
 

RalliX

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I went to Pompeii, actually.
There was a particular house on a street-corner...  It had depictions of prostitution on the walls. It might have been a brothel.