Friday, 20 March 2015

The Dutch East India Company...Laura Libricz

The Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie, the Dutch East India Company, was a trading company founded in 1602. Considered by some to be the first corporation in the world, the VOC was in any case the largest and most impressive trading company in Europe during the Early Modern Period. The Company ruled the trade zone between South Africa and Japan and was granted authority by the Dutch government to build forts, appoint a governing body and to form an army, as well as conducting trade and establishing colonies. 

Some statistics:  The Company operated from 1602 until 1795. In a span of 193 years, they employed over a million workers--soldiers, sailors, clerks and merchants, sailed  4,785 ships and moved more that 2,5 million tons of Asian goods. By 1650, 50% of the merchant ships in Europe were owned by the Dutch.

Surviving today are over 25 million pages of documents, housed in Jakarta, Colombo, Chennai, Cape Town and The Hague. The VOC archives are the largest source of early modern history found anywhere in the world.

The Company was at home in Amsterdam and Amsterdam in the early 17th Century generated some impressive statistics itself. In 1567, the population was 25,000. In 1610, the population had doubled; in 1620 the city had grown to 100,000 people. In 1660, 200,000. Because of the war with Spain, trading had moved from Antwerp to Amsterdam after 1585. People flocked then to the source of employment. This drastic rise in population reflected how many refugees were fleeing from Spanish troops and the fact that Amsterdam was known for religious tolerance. 


Willem van de Velde, The Cannon Shot (ca. 1670) Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

But what made them sail half way around the world? Compared to bulk goods like timber, tar and salt there was more money to be made trading luxury goods like spice and sugar. And the only place to get spice and sugar was half way around the world. Spice was in great demand because the taste of less-than-fresh meats did not satisfy the discerning palate.

Up until the end of the 16th century, the Spanish and the Portuguese were in control of the seaways and the routes were unknown to the Dutch. The Dutch merchants sailed their first voyages after 1596 when extensive information regarding Asian ports and navigation were brought back from abroad by a man named Jan Huyghen van Linschoten. Early voyages were successful and in order to keep merchants from competing against each other, the VOC was formed and claimed a monopoly over trade in the East.

But these sea voyages were long, grueling, dangerous, tedious, lasting up to six months, even longer. What sort of person voluntarily boarded a sailing ship? On to waters uncharted? Riches were to be had in the spice trade, yes, but those who earned the money were rich merchants who stayed home and got richer. Merchants living in the Indies had a life expectancy there of about three years. For those who travelled with the Company, only one in three returned.

Those who travelled were those who more or less had nothing to lose. Cramped quarters, wormy water (if any fresh water at all), hard bread infested with weevils, disease, fleas, lice. A simple soldier had maybe a few square feet of space below deck. Was this life really so bad for these men? For many of them, the conditions on the ship, regular substantial meals and employment outweighed the disadvantageous life they were facing in Europe.

If you are interested in reading some more about the VOC... have a look at Alison Stuart's posts on the Wreck of the Batavia... http://hoydensandfirebrands.blogspot.com.au/2011/02/wreck-of-batavia-part-1.html and http://hoydensandfirebrands.blogspot.com.au/2011/03/wreck-of-batavia-part-2.html

Here is an excerpt from The Master and the Maid:
Sebald Tucher, Hamburg, April 1617
The morning light that shone through the shutters woke me early. I stood stiffly from my chair, walked outside and opened the shutters quietly, assuming Katarina slept still and peaceful. I stoked the fire, made a pot of tea and sat back at the desk. I wanted to finish my journal entry and record our arrival in Hamburg before she woke up. I had fallen asleep half way through my writing last night. I now sat in the parlor of my uncle’s house, staring out of the open window at the crooked row of houses, quill in hand, listening to the hooves on the road, the shouts of fishermen and laughter from women across the street.

As I read back through my journal I noticed that my impressions of my two favorite cities were similar, but for many reasons quite different. I compared them to two brothers, and relationships between brothers are anything but still and uneventful.

Where I imagine Amsterdam as the younger of the two siblings, I am of course left with only my unspoken impression because my Dutch comprehension and speaking skills are below average. There’s a willy-nilly speed in the comings and goings all along the canals. Bustling, energetic movements from the water, from the people, and the rats tick like time. Recklessness, friendly and fuelled by success, would propel the city to greatness, in my opinion.

But in Hamburg there was a discipline, like a strict older brother’s, that was not as apparent in Amsterdam. Rules were meant to be followed, but they were lovingly enforced. Of late, they seemed to be fortifying the lovely city. A wall was being built and soldiers were numerous in the streets. I read in the weekly newspaper that this endeavor was costing them dearly. But to summarize the citizens by the clothes they wore in one word, it would be “affluent.” The atmosphere was festive, the mood positive, the people unaffected by matters unknown. Politics seemed to be a policy of neutrality. Maybe because there was more air in the north, the feeling as if one could escape by way of the sea. The sea was freedom and the people were less inclined to close their minds.

About Me: Laura Libricz
I am a writer, a mother, a guitar factory worker. And I love to write. I was born and raised in Bethlehem, PA and moved to Upstate New York when I was 22. After working a few years building Steinberger guitars, I got a scholarship to go to college. I tried to ‘do the right thing’ and study something useful, but spent all my time reading German literature (ahem, struggling through originals and reading the English translations.) And the passion for writing brewed there in the background. But most of my writing from that time landed in the fire. What a shame, I think now. 

I earned a BA in German at The College of New Paltz, NY in 1991 and moved to Germany, where I reside today. My first novel, The Master and the Maid, is the first book of the Heaven's Ponds Trilogy and is now available at Smashwords and at Amazon. The second book, The Soldier's Return, is scheduled to be released in October 2015. Both are historical in nature, dealing with the Thirty Years War in Germany from 1618-1648.




Tuesday, 10 February 2015

RECONSTRUCTING THE THIRTY YEARS WAR - Laura Libricz

Judging by the images and the books that are popular today, can you imagine how someone 400 years from now will view our society? How will they reconstruct our day in age based on the records we leave behind? That is, if they can even access our information. What impressions will they have of our culture?

I take this into consideration as I research and write my 17th century historical novels. I have a good idea of what the time period looked like from paintings like those from the Dutch Golden Age. Objects and artifacts that survived the passing of time help illustrate how people lived their daily lives. But what people thought, what they felt, can only be taken from the work of those who wrote down their experiences. Even then, we only get the point of view of individuals with a certain standing in the community. We are subject to see history based on their beliefs and more importantly, what they wanted the reader to believe.

So, as I reconstruct the Thirty Years War and the impact the war had on the Aisch Valley in Franconia, Germany, I choose sources that give me a more realistic version of the world I am recreating. These include local historical almanacs, autobiographical accounts that survived over the years and current research of the Early Modern Period. I’d like to tell you about my most important ones.

The Thirty Years War was considered The Great War by the Germans up until WWI. The devastation it left behind was up until that time unmatched. The population was reduced by a third, some believe by half. Great tracks of land were left untouched by the war but other areas were set back 100 years in their development. Some of the villages in my area died out completely for more than two generations. And a surprising number of events that transpired there were written down and collected.

Germans call them Heimatbücher; village historical almanacs, written by local residents, village officials and clergy. Many small communities have them. Full of church records, local weather chronicles, tax records, marriage, birth and death registers, maps and photographs, you’ll find one on almost every bookshelf in Germany. They recorded everything from the Hussiten Wars to the Little Ice Age, the natural catastrophe believed to help fuel the Thirty Years War. Many of the troop movements that stain Germany’s war-torn history and the damage left behind can be found in these books. They tend to be overlooked by ‘real’ historians but they are a wealth of knowledge and now our little secret.

Around the time of the Thirty Years War, the early 1700’s, literacy in Germany was supposedly 2% to 4% of the population, without taking into consideration the difference between those who read regularly and those who could read at all. The reported literates were either of a high standing or involved in the church. More Protestants were known to be able to read than Catholics. Yes, there were those women who were learned but the majority of these were men. And some of these people felt the need to write their memoirs.

A local hero from the town of Uehlfeld in Franconia, Veit von Berg was a young Protestant pastor who was in the city of Neustadt an der Aisch when it was sacked in July 1632. After the war, in 1648, he was commissioned to serve the Evangelical parish in Uehlfeld. Thirty-five people survived the horrors that left this village in ash and rubble, a village that once had population of over 600. Veit von Berg spent his free time rebuilding Uehlfeld, teaching the savaged farmers how to sow seed and live life and writing his autobiography. This is a touching, explicit, insightful story of his fight to live through an unjust war.

A more famous story is Simplicius Simplicissimus by Grimmelshausen, considered to be the first German novel. It is the story of a peasant boy torn away from his family by marauding mercenaries. We follow him from the abduction, to the life with a hermit, to military service, to wealth and excess back to the life of a hermit. The adventures he experienced are considered to be the autobiographical account of Grimmelshausen’s life.

In 1988, Jan Peters, a German historian, found a hand-written document in the Berliner Staatsbibliotek, the Berlin Library. Peters set out to decipher the writings and search for the author, whose name is nowhere in the writings to be found. After much detective work, the writer is believed to the mercenary soldier, Peter Hagendorf. Hagendorf recorded his 25-year career as a mercenary and the 22,500 km travels that took him from Italy to Germany, to the Spanish Netherlands and France. He also took part in the famous Sack of Magdeburg in 1631.

Now, most of my reference books are in German and most of them are written by men. But I want to recreate this time period for an English-speaking audience and keep the language contemporary. I want to get close to the characters, inside their heads, and I also want to do this from the viewpoint of a woman. And I want to stay true to the events documented in my sources.

American historian, Joel Harrington, http://as.vanderbilt.edu/history/bio/joel-harrington professor at the Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, specializes in the Early Modern Period in Germany and has written numerous books concerning this time period in the English language. In 2009, he published The Unwanted Child: The Fate of Foundlings, Orphans, and Juvenile Criminals in Early Modern Germany (University of Chicago Press, 2009). Harrington studies the situation of abandoned children in Nuremberg, Germany, their mothers and the role society played in all of this in the early modern world.

Over the years, the more information I searched for, the more I found. This is only a small outtake from all the sources I have collected. For me, the love of research equals the love of writing historical fiction. And as I reconstruct the Thirty Years War, these books and documents are as instrumental to my writing as my computer and a pad and paper. The stage is set and I can bring in the actors and raise the curtain.
  



Laura Libricz at home here:  http://lauralibricz.blogspot.de/

I am a writer, a mother, a guitar factory worker. And I love to write. I was born and raised in Bethlehem, PA and moved to Upstate New York when I was 22. After working a few years building Steinberger guitars, I got a scholarship to go to college. I tried to ‘do the right thing’ and study something useful, but spent all my time reading German literature (ahem, struggling through originals and reading the English translations.) And the passion for writing brewed there in the background. Most of my writing from that time landed in the fire. What a shame, I think now. 


I earned a BA in German at The College of New Paltz, NY in 1991 and moved to Germany, where I reside today. My first novel, The Master and the Maid, is the first book of the Heaven's Ponds Trilogy and is now available at Smashwords, Amazon and all other e-book sellers. The second book, The Soldier's Return, is scheduled to be released in October 2015. Both are historical in nature, dealing with the Thirty Years War in Germany from 1618-1648.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

The Price of Beauty in the Seventeenth Century - Jessica Cale

Maybe She’s Born With It (Maybe It’s Lead!)

Barbara Palmer (née Villiers), Duchess of Cleveland by John Michael Wright
So many seventeenth-century portraits feature women with smooth, perfectly white complexions. The paint used in the portraits would have been very similar to the makeup used by the women featured, both being comprised chiefly of white lead. By the Restoration, cosmetics were widely available and used across the social spectrum. In a time when freckles were undesirable and so many faces were marred with smallpox scars, demand for complexion correctives was high, and white lead made its first comeback as a cosmetic since the end of the Roman Empire.

Ceruse was made of lead carbonite or oxide and could be combined with lemon juice or vinegar. It was bought as a powder and mixed into a paste with water or egg whites and applied with a damp cloth to whiten the face, neck, and chest. It clung well to the skin and didn’t have to be applied too heavily to produce an even, matte result. It could be set with a mask of egg whites to varnish the skin or powders of starch or ground alabaster.

While it could create the illusion of perfection for a time, ceruse was not without its failings. The egg whites dried quickly on the skin, and they would have created an uncomfortably tight mask that would wrinkle and crack with any facial movement at all, so smiling and talking were out. Over the course of a day, it could even turn grey, necessitating touch-ups with alabaster powder to disguise the changing tone. Ceruse was also found to have a depilatory effect on the eyebrows and hairline, which could be seen as an advantage (or disadvantage, if false mouse-skin eyebrows don’t appeal to you) and could partially explain the artificially high hairlines that appeared throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Still, it was preferable to the alternative, a combination of borax and sulphur, which created a pale powder that was very drying as well as slightly yellow; not very compatible with the fashionable pink and white complexion of the time.

Ceruse was also extremely poisonous. The most sought-after ceruse came from Venice, seen by many as the center of the fashionable world, which was the most expensive and contained the highest concentration of lead. In 1651, Noah Biggs warned against the use of lead in lab equipment and near any water supplies in The Vanity of the Craft of Physic, and the Royal Society noted that people involved in the manufacture of white lead suffered from cramps and blindness by 1661. Mercury was used in the production of beaver hats, giving rise to the term “mad as a hatter.”

Although mercury and lead were known to cause madness, they continued to be used in cosmetics, hair rinses, and popular (if only somewhat successful) remedies for syphilis in every form from enemas, ointments, and pills to steam baths or “sweats” in mercury vapor.


The first person known to die from it was Lady Coventry in 1760. 

Hogarth. Harlot's Progress (detail)

Patches

Patches reached their height of popularity in the seventeenth century. Lady Castlemaine advised ladies to wear them daily, except when in mourning. They could be made of taffeta or other thin, black fabrics, and even red Spanish Leather. They came in all shapes and were affixed to the face with gum to disguise blemishes or pockmarks, or to provide a “mark of Venus.”

They were called different things depending upon their position on the face. A patch beside the mouth was called a “kiss.” At the middle of the cheek, it was called a “finery,” a “boldness” beside the nostril, and a “passion” at the corner of the eye. During the 1650s, it became fashionable to wear patches shaped as coaches complete with galloping horses, although it’s difficult to imagine how large a patch would have had to be to resemble anything of the kind.

If a coach and six was not to the wearer’s taste, the Exchanges were restocked daily with a plethora of shapes. From The Gentlewoman’s Companion (Anonymous, 1675):

“By the impertinent pains of this curious Facespoiling-mender, the Exchanges (for now we have three great Arsenals of choice Vanities) are furnished with a daily supply and variety of Beautyspots … and these Patches are cut out into little Moons, Suns, Stars, Castles, Birds, Beasts, and Fishes of all sorts, so that their Faces may be properly termed a Landscape of living Creatures. The vanity and pride of these Gentlewomen hath in a manner abstracted Noah’s Ark, and exprest a Compendium of the Creation in their Front and Cheeks. Add to this the gallantry of their Garb, with all the Ornamental appurtances which rackt Innvention can discover, and then you will say … That she was defective in nothing but a vertueus mind.”

Despite this scathing attack on the virtue of London’s patch-wearing populace, patches continued to be popular through the eighteenth century, and during the reign of Queen Anne, were even worn to indicate political allegiances by wearing them on different sides of the face. 



Jessica Cale

Jessica Cale is a historical romance author and journalist based in North Carolina. Originally from Minnesota, she lived in Wales for several years where she earned a BA in History and an MFA in Creative Writing while climbing castles and photographing mines for history magazines. She kidnapped ("married") her very own British prince (close enough) and is enjoying her happily ever after with him in a place where no one understands his accent. You can visit her at  http://www.authorjessicacale.com


Look out for her debut novel, Tyburn the first of a romantic series set in the time of the Restoration. 

BUY TYBURN

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Ride the TITLE WAVE into the 17th century



Books by Eve LaPlante, David Teems, Francis Bremer,
John Fox, and Nathaniel Philbrick.
 There’s a vast crowd of enthusiasts reading and discussing everything medieval and renaissance. But time didn’t stop with Elizabeth Tudor’s death in 1603. Are you looking for the rest of the story?

King James, his son King Charles I, and grandsons Charles II and James II kept the drama level high and dangerous in the seventeenth century. Their marriages and lovers, births and deaths, political intrigues, religious conflicts, witch hunts, and wars marked the beginning of our modern period. Their aristocrats and politicians, tradesmen, midwives, ministers, writers, musicians, scientists, and artists changed the world.  


Have you noticed that it’s the gift-giving season?  Why not knock out your whole gift list right now with these suggestions? The gift of a book is one that's remembered for years. Some people find it convenient to buy books for all their siblings, or as appreciation gifts for their children’s teachers. You might give paperback books to some in the family, or use the Kindle-gift option. Some books are stand-alone, some are part of a series.

This is a list of authors who have the 17th century covered, from Shakespeare and midwife forensic investigators to barber surgeons, Charles II’s mistresses, men and women who founded American democracy, servants and highway robbers, people who gave their lives for their principles or just because they were falsely accused as witches. In these books you’ll find sumptuous gowns and high society, educated women, poverty, prostitutes, and massacres, childbirth and plague, castles and manors, cathedrals and meetinghouses—even a vampire.

Our ninth or tenth great-grandparents knew these people—or were these people. (Well, probably not the vampire—but everyone else!) Discover what their lives were like, and how their lives formed who you are. Many of the book characters from the 17th century are based on facts, events, and real people. The authors, in addition to their literary skills, have spent months and years in research to get the 17th century world “just right,” so you’ll get your history veggies in a delicious brownie.

Ride the wave of the time-space continuum into the 17th century with these award-winning and highly-rated authors. The images you see are a small sample of what's available from this talented group! Click the highlighted author’s name to open a new tab.


Anna Belfrage Time-slip (then and now) love and war.


Jo Ann Butler — From England to New England: survival, love, and a dynasty.


Susanna Calkins — Murder mysteries set in 1660s London. 


Francine Howarth — Heroines, swashbuckling romance.


Judith James — Rakes and rogues of the Restoration.



Marci Jefferson — Royal Stuarts in Restoration England.


Elizabeth Kales French Huguenot survival of Inquisition.


Juliet Haines Mofford — True crime of New England, pirates.


Mary Novik — Rev. John Donne and daughter.



Donald Michael Platt Spanish Inquisition cloak and dagger.


Katherine Pym — London in the 1660s.


Diane Rapaport — Colonial New England true crime.


Peni Jo Renner — Salem witch trials.


Christy K Robinson — British founders of American democracy and rights.


Anita Seymour  Royalists and rebels in English Civil War.


Mary Sharratt — Witches (healers) of Pendle Hill, 1612.


Alison Stuart — Time-slip war romance, ghosts.


Deborah Swift — Servant girls running for lives, highwaywoman.


Ann Swinfen — Farmers fighting to keep land, chronicles of Portuguese physician.


Sam Thomas — Midwife solves murders in city of York.


Suzy Witten — Salem witch trials.


Andrea Zuvich — Vampire in Stuart reign, Duke of Monmouth and mistress.






Introduction and illustrated table by Christy K Robinson. You're welcome to share this page in your blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. Shortened URL: bit.ly/1xAUir1

Monday, 1 September 2014

Time for a Change!

To all our loyal readers and followers...

In keeping with the Hoydens sleek new look, there will be a slight change to the way we do business here at Hoydens.

For eight years (and 283 posts!) we have been posting every week on every conceivable subject relevant to the seventeenth century.

The writing world has changed enormously in that time and there are many more writers dipping their toes into our favourite period of history, so rather than hear from the same voices on a weekly basis, we are moving to a less formal format and inviting all comers with an interest in the seventeenth century and/or a book set in that period to use the Hoydens and Firebrands blog site as a forum to put up your post.

The regular Hoydens – Anita Davison, Mary Sharratt, Kim Murphy, Alison Stuart, Deborah Swift, Jo-Ann Butler, Andrea Zuvich and Christy Robinson will still be popping up – after all you can’t shut us up once we get on to our favourite subjects.

So if you are interested in a guest post, just email us (using the contact form to the right) and if it fits, we will put your guest post up as and when you want it.

Looking forward to lots of new and interesting voices and hoping our regular followers enjoy the new format.

Love from

The Hoydens