Just over a year ago, I published my 100th post on this blog, which I celebrated in suitably withdrawn style with this post. Today I reach my 150th post and again felt the need to mark my personal milestone. Stretching credibility to its extreme I decided to do this by pretending that this was actually the 150th anniversary of my blog starting, i.e. that I had begun this in 1865. Stick with me! I’ve always had an interest in history, so I wanted to see what was happening in 1865, what kind of world this blog would have launched into, if that had been technically possible. Yes I know I’m stretching reality a little here, but it’s my blog so I can do what I like, right? So, tonight I’m going to party like it’s 1865….
Being British I’m going to concentrate mostly on what happened here, although 1865 was a momentous year in American history so that will get an honourable mention too. The first thing that struck me about the year was that we had two Prime Ministers. Nothing unusual about that, except that the first one died in office, which doesn’t happen every year! The two were Viscount Palmerston, who was succeeded by Lord John Russell. Politics in 1865 hadn’t really opened up to the plebs, had they! But what is, for me, most notable is that both of these were Liberals. Yes, not just one but two Liberal Prime Ministers in the same year. Given their current representation of just 8 MPs out of 650 it may take a while before that can happen again!
In terms of social history, 1865 really was another age! It was the year that saw the first speed limits introduced – 2mph in towns and 4mph in the countryside. Wow! Elizabeth Garrett Anderson graduated as the first female doctor in the UK, a notable victory for glass ceiling breakages. A new Poor Law Act improved conditions in workhouses. The Salvation Army was formed. And Jumbo, an African elephant, came to live in London Zoo and was a huge attraction to a populace who had heard the explorers’ stories and seen line drawings, but could never have imagined what such an animal really looked like. They didn’t have television to show them!
In the world of science and technology, this was the year that Joseph Lister discovered the sterilising effects of carbolic acid, the Crossness Pumping Station opened – a major part of the newly installed sewage system for London. Sorry, I couldn’t resist that one! On another forward-looking note, the SS Great Eastern set off on a voyage to lay transatlantic telegraph cable, an early development in the world of mass communication whose importance cannot be understated. The year also saw important developments in the field of electromagnetics and the first modern publication on the theory of eugenics, which became a kind of forerunner of Hitler’s master race theory. In literature, Charles Dickens published Our Mutual Friend, having earlier in the year survived a major train crash that killed 10 people, and Lewis Carroll published Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland.
The year also saw the usual crop of notable births and deaths. Among those who died were Mrs Beeton, the Nigella Lawson of her day, and the novelist Elizabeth Gaskell. The future King George V was born in 1865, as were the writer Rudyard Kipling and the famous nurse Edith Cavell. But I’m going to close the British part of my look back to 1865 by marking the birth of the rather beautifully named Tinsley Lindley. It’s alright, I’d never heard of him either! But his story is so quaint and so typically British I just had to share it! By profession Lindley was a barrister, but I won’t hold that against him. His claim to fame is that he was a footballer, who at one time held the scoring record for England in international matches: 14 goals in just 13 games. He was a centre forward who, because of his career, never became a professional footballer. The thing that really got my attention was that he hated the idea of football boots, which he believed slowed him down as they were too heavy for him. So he played in his everyday shoes! Isn’t that simply wonderful? Somehow, I can’t imagine Wayne Rooney playing in ordinary shoes nowadays, assuming he owns any, that is.
1865 was a momentous year in America, too. It was dominated by the Civil War, which came to an end after four years of fighting that cost around 600,000 lives. With the end of the Civil War came the abolition of slavery, which had until then been legal in the southern states. The US also had a change of leader, Andrew Johnson becoming the 17th President of the United States after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth, who was later caught and killed, as were four co-conspirators. The year also saw what has since been recognised as the first quick draw shootout, in which Wild Bill Hickok shot Little Dave Tutt over a poker debt. It was also the year in which the US Secret Service and the Ku Klux Klan were formed. Sorry, America, I really have tried to find good things but it isn’t easy!
I’m no historian, so I’ll leave it at this. Of course I recognise that the world is much bigger than just Britain and the US, but I’m just making a small selection of events to give a feel for how different things were back then and, sadly, in the case of wars and violent deaths how little has changed in some respects. As I said at the outset, I’ve chosen this way to mark my 150th post. If anyone has read all 150 I salute you!