February 15th, 2016

Personal safety and jam tomorrow

I'm finding it slow but very important to develop my own subjective sense of how women compromised and navigated places and social situations to remain safe. It's such a big part of women's lives today (I do not walk through certain carparks at night, I do not travel at night alone at all unless I can walk quickly enough, I carry my keys in my hand if I must, I do not walk through clumps of lingering drunk guys and so forth) and I was even more so in the late 17th century, with the burden of civil war still upon England and France. My sorting of this is going to take a while longer, but it looks as if I'll understand enough to compromise my women's lives magnificently. Everything they do will be despite the world, and most of it won't feel extraordinary to them.

The other thing I'm sorting is just how very, very wrong most novels get 17th century magic. I keep thinking about things I know and realising that knowing them isn't the same as understanding them which isn't the same as internalising them to the level one needs to write effectively from. I now have a thought to ground myself with, should I go astray which one of the critical tools I use personally to achieve understanding.

My memory code for magic is Salem and Boston. Not the 1692 trials. Earlier. By the time of my novel (1682) Massachusetts (especially Boston) was the place where witches operated according to English pamphlets. "We have no witches in England anymore, but Boston isn't so fortunate," is the kind of feeling I was reading. This led me to a whole lot of thought about a whole lot of things, several of which are critical.

The obvious thought is a jam-tomorrow thought. Jeanne Favret-Saada did a study of modern witchcraft in the pre-bocage in France. I visited the area and chatted with the locals and they all said "She's wrong. We don't have that kind of thing here. You want..." And I want to the next area and chatted and they told me the same thing. They added there (in the Norman bocage) at the best witches were all from the Berry region. When I read 17th century material there is a lot of talk about witches and they're always known and they're always somewhere emotionally close (such as Boston, Mass.) but out of reach ie they're safe to talk about because no-one's going to meet them. This is terribly important for my women, because when they travel, they might be travelling into jam-tomorrow in their mind, or they might not, and the actual places that witches and magic in general are counted only sometimes overlap with the popular places where there is supposed to be magic. I could do an overlay map r find one that someone else has done, but right now, jam-tomorrow is what I need for my novel. Or rather, I need "witches in Massachusetts."

It just struck me that a modern equivalent of this is probably the deadly Australian continent in the eyes of the US. S often US documents show a greater fear of Aussie spiders than of local gun deaths.

I was going to talk about some of the other consequences of the magic side of reading, especially for women travelling, but I need a cuppa and I need to read 2 more thingies before lunchtime. I looked at my month's schedule last night and I have some reading to catch up on.

(no subject)

I was reading an a article on English citizenship and tax status in the 17th century and particularly sorting out what 'sons of strangers' were. This was partly for my book, but also partly because I thought it might help me understand the late 17th century status of a family that married into mine in the early 19th century.

it turned out to be very important for the book, because it gave me a hinge of a plot point.

It also gave me something surprising.

It's been clear for a while that the main reason for the claim that England was free of Jews between 1290 and Cromwell was because many historians have wanted this to be the case and have ignored evidence. It's a popular belief and if one doesn't address one's popular beliefs, one reinforces them through research, sometimes with intent, but usually out of ignorance. This is by way of background to me noting that a person given the freedom of London (full citizenship) had it revoked in 1596 because it was determined that he was the son of someone not English ie he had some rights because he was born in England, but there was some doubt as to his status.

What was of interest to me was his name. I think it quite possible that someone who was an adult in 1596 and was called Menasses Bloome was Jewish. The question is whether this influenced the choice to deny him those civic rights he was fighting for? The other question is, when did his parents move to England. Not after 1576, I'm guessing, since he was an independent adult at the time of the decision (had to be, to be awarded freedom, as far as I know). And the other, other question is whether this was part of how Jews were 'othered' later on ie why English birth wasn't sufficient for Jews at a later period when it was sufficient for many other groups. First I'd have to establish that Bloome was definitely Jewish, and that may be difficult. Still, it's a datum to consider, Menasses Bloome and also a date to consider, 1596.

None of the other names in the article were as interesting from this point of view, and the basis of the article was the case made in 1603 for free rights for a child of Scottish parents born in England.

Anyhow, one more piece in a big puzzle.