West Dartmoor U3A Newsletter

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January 2018

December 2017

November 2017

Report of the November Meeting from the Secretary, Barbara Schofield

Ian Mortimerís talk "The Time Travellerís Guide to Restoration Britain (1660-1700)Ē, which he gave to the November meeting of West Dartmoor U3A was insightful, entertaining and a totally engrossing climax to the 2017 lecture progamme.

Without the aid of a tardis or any other device, Mr. Mortimer took his audience back to the seventeenth century, using the alphabet as signposts, guides to the information detailed more fully in his book of the same name.

 The speaker stated his aim, by saying that a good historian should be able to tell you what it was like to be there, a close up of a brutish world.  Beginning with A for Abolition, the audience was left in no doubt about the situation in which Charles 2nd found the country.  In 1660, his legislation ended, overnight, years of the puritan agenda which had seen all playhouses closed, Christmas outlawed, adultery and blasphemy becoming capital offences, everything immoral becoming illegal.

Having set the scene, Ian cited the kingís need for privacy in his Whitehall palace, as promoting the development of the modern town house and town planning. This period saw the coldest winters ever known when even the sea froze.  The wealthy learned to drink tea, coffee and experienced the delights of chocolate. Institutions familiar today, such as Lloyds of London and the Stock Exchange emerged from the coffee houses, popular then as now, but more exclusive. 

It was a time of exploration and innovation, scientific invention and research.  On the down side, health, with teeth being fifth in the hierarchy of causes of death, a high child mortality rate, only 10% of the population aged over sixty combined with the cruelty of the justice system   made it seem much less attractive to a would-be time traveller. It was pointed out that we were all lucky to have ancestors who had survived.

Commenting on the lack of morality of the king, whose mistresses and their illegitimate offspring were ennobled and whose descendants still occupy the top tiers of the English aristocracy.  Mr. Mortimer pointed out that Charles and his supporters had been humiliated, lost everything so that when they returned , it was on their terms.  The king wanted everybody to know and understand where the power lay.

The talk was a rollicking ride through an exciting time when colour returned to life and opportunities abounded in a London centric society. Men fought duels, often over very little.  Women had few rights, but Aphra Behn was a trail blazer, the first woman to earn her living as a writer.  Slavery, though denied, existed.  Insurance was born as was the National Debt and gambling was out of control.

Finally, Z was for the zenith of individualism and for evidence of that, Ian advised his audience to look no further than the Diary of Samuel Pepys.







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