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English History

#OTD #Christmas 1992: First Text Message Sent With ‘ Merry Christmas ‘ By Vodafone Engineer in U.K

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Ace Press News From Cutting Room Floor: Published: Dec.03: 2022:

#AceChristmasNews – The text message is celebrating its 30th birthday – the first was sent to a mobile phone by a Vodafone engineer in Berkshire in the UK on 3 December 1992.

The first text message was sent to this model of phone - the Orbitel 901.
The first text message was sent to this model of phone – the Orbitel 901.

It was sent in order to test out the tech, and read “Merry Christmas”.

Neil Papworth sent it to one of the firm’s bosses, Richard Jarvis, who was at a Christmas party. He did not get a reply.

Mr Jarvis’s phone, a new-to-the-market Orbitel 901, weighed 2.1kg – roughly the same as 12 standard iPhone 14s.

At its peak, phone users exchanged billions of SMS – or Short Message Service – messages every year, and in 2010 the word “texting” entered the dictionary.

The service is still used, although internet-based, encrypted messaging platforms like WhatsApp and iMessage are far more popular.

According to Statista, there were 40 billion SMS messages sent in 2021 in the UK, down from 150bn in 2012. By contrast, there are 100 billion WhatsApp messages sent worldwide every day.

The service is still used by the NHS to send out appointment reminders, and by some firms as a form of log-in authentication, where a number sequence is sent which has to be entered into its website. 

However, SMS messages are not end-to-end encrypted, and therefore not considered to be secure.

Originally, an SMS could only be text, up to 160 characters long. The concept was born in the early 1980s but it was almost 10 years before one would be sent to a mobile device.

Most early phones had numeric keyboards, with two or three letters attached to each number – so for example to type the letter C, the number one key had to be pressed three times.

“Handset manufacturers didn’t include proper QWERTY keyboards because mobiles were only for making telephone calls and receiving messages, but not sending them,” said Nigel Linge, professor of telecommunications at the University of Salford.

Ben Wood, chief analyst at CCS Insight, recalled giving training sessions on how to send and receive text messages.

“It took off like wildfire and before long people were getting so fast at texting on phones, they could pretty much touch-type on a numeric keyboard,” he said.

“These days people spend more time looking at their phones than talking into them. SMS was arguably the catalyst for that transition.”

By Zoe Kleinman: Technology editor

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ENGLISH HISTORY: How Agatha Christie used her own experiences to shape her murder mysteries

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Ace Press News From Cutting Room Floor: Published: Dec.01: 2022:

#AceHistoryDesk – Agatha Christie is the bestselling novelist of all time. She is said to have sold more than a billion books in English and a billion internationally. Her books are outsold only by Shakespeare’s plays and the Bible.

Black and white photo of older woman seated at a desk with a typewriter
English novelist Agatha Christie wrote the world’s longest running play The Mousetrap.(Getty: Popperfoto)none

The late author wrote more than 80 books throughout her life, mostly crime novels.

Now historian, broadcaster and author Lucy Worsley’s new biography of the author, A Very Elusive Woman, considers Christie’s life. In particular, it looks at what it was like to be a female author in the early 20th century.

“In the early parts of her career, in the 1920s, [Christie] would make surprisingly confident statements about her ambition, what she wanted to achieve, how the fact that she liked being a working woman, a working mother even,” Worsley tells ABC RN’s Late Night Live.

But in 1926, everything changed for Christie: it was the year that she got caught up in a real-life crime drama.

“It sounds like the sort of thing that you get from the pen of Agatha Christie herself,” Worsley says.

“And what happened in 1926 is that she disappeared. She vanished.”

Old newspaper clipping with the headline 'hounds search for novelist' and a photo of Agatha and her young daughter.
Agatha Christie, left, was reported as missing for 11 days in 1926. (Getty: Hulton Archive )none

The author was missing for 11 days, which resulted in a national manhunt.

Finally she was discovered living under a false name in a hotel in Harrogate, in Yorkshire. She was 200 miles away from where she lived in Berkshire.

Rumours spread fast. Some journalists suggested that she had done it as a publicity stunt to sell books, Worsley says.

Another version of the story suggested that she disappeared deliberately to frame her cheating husband for having murdered her.

But neither are true, Worsley says.

“She actually said in 1926 ‘When I disappeared, it was a really distressing incident of mental illness. I was experiencing suicidal thoughts. All I wanted to do was to get away from my cheating husband, the pressure of my life, and to form a new identity for myself’,” she explains.

Worsley says Christie changed after this public shaming.

“You never hear any more statements of ambition from her, you get this whole ‘Oh, I’m a housewife. I’m just a married woman. My success just happened to me by accident’,” she says.

Worsley says the reluctance to address mental illness at that time can be attributed to the aftermath of the war. 

“There was this big debate that was going on in the 1920s about the nature of shell shock, which was a form of trauma experienced by many of the combatants in World War I — except that some people thought they were shirking,” she says.

The horrors of war

Christie gained much of her inspiration, as macabre as some of it may be, for her novels during the war.

When her first husband went to serve in France, Christie returned home to live with her mother. To support the war effort, she worked as a nurse.

“Now for an Edwardian young married lady to be working, it was just unheard of,” Worsley says.

“She assisted operations — without any proper training, it has to be said — and she had to do things like taking an amputated leg down to the hospital furnace to be burned.Agatha Christie studies documents with her husband, archaeologist Max Mallowan, in a library in her home in 1946. (Getty: Popperfoto)none

“She was having these difficult dark experiences. And then, like all the nurses in World War I, I think she had to go home to her mama, and not say that she had done these things, because people were keen to contain the horror of war.”

Worsley believes that understanding what it takes to keep face during difficult times is also what made her such a great detective writer.

“[She became] obsessed with the masks that people wore … when inside themselves, they’re experiencing something very different,” she says.

“In every one of Agatha’s stories, there’s somebody who appears to be respectable, nice, smiling, trustworthy, but actually, that person has a secret. That person has the capacity to be a murderer.”

Real-life inspiration

Christie’s interest in murder mysteries deepened when she began training as a pharmacist assistant.

“The war itself, I feel was kind of a macro reason that she became a detective novelist. But when she moved from the wards at the hospital into a new job in the hospital dispensary … this was the tipping point,” Worsley says.

Her work at the dispensary meant mixing a wide variety of medicines. It was a lot of responsibility.

“If you made a tiny slip, you could turn a medicine from lifesaving into something that was poisonous,” Worsley says.

The job provided her with a wealth of knowledge about poisons, but it also gave her a lot of spare time while she waited patiently for prescriptions to arrive.

“During these empty hours, she got out a notebook and she started to write,” she says.

Her first book, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, was published in 1920, and it featured a death by poisoning.

“It also features a young lady character who works in the dispensary of a wartime hospital. There’s quite a lot of Agatha’s own life that she’s woven into her books and stories,” Worsley says.

At the time, Christie thought she’d have to publish under a male pseudonym.

But that wasn’t the case.

Some women won the right to vote in England in 1918, and so the publisher encouraged her to publish under her full name, Mrs Agatha Christie, which she did.

By 1930, the author was at the height of her powers.

“Now she was ready to create Miss Marple, who is an independent woman. And everybody overlooks her … but to underestimate Miss Marple is kind of like to underestimate Agatha Christie. You will come in time to realise that that’s the smartest person in the room.”

Worsley acknowledges that Christie’s books contained abhorrent views on race and class that would be unacceptable today.

“I do find sometimes young people reading Christie for the first time say, ‘Oh, I don’t like this, it makes me uncomfortable’,” she says.

“But as a historian, I would say that, in fact, you have to read this stuff. You have to know what very large numbers of British and American people believed about the world in the 20s, the 30s and onwards, because it’s left its traces in the world that we live in today.”

ABC (HISTORY) REPORT

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ENGLISH HISTORY: Chaucer on Trial: It is not often the case that a medieval poet makes headlines in the NYT/Twitter

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#AceNewsRoom With ‘Kindness & Wisdom’ Nov.23, 2022 @acehistorynews

#AceHistoryDesk – Chaucer on Trial: It is not often the case that a medieval English poet makes headlines in the New York Times, or is a trending topic on Twitter.

Ben Jones

But this is what happened in October 2022 when two new legal documents were unveiled relating to the life of later medieval England’s most famous poet, Geoffrey Chaucer.

As Euan Roger, principal medieval records specialist at the National Archives, explained in his announcement of the discovery, the unearthed records clarify the relationship between Chaucer and Cecily Chaumpaigne. Chaumpaigne is best known to Chaucer scholars as the woman who may have accused the poet of rape or abduction more than 600 years ago and then released him from all charges in exchange for a substantial payment of ten pounds.

Before October the only known legal documents regarding Chaucer and Chaumpaigne had painted an incomplete yet troubling picture.

On 4 May 1380, Chaumpaigne, a London baker’s daughter, filed a quitclaim, a formal renunciation releasing Chaucer of all charges de raptu meo ‘relating to my raptus’. Raptus is an extremely difficult term to translate in this context: initially a word for robbery or snatching away, it could refer to rape, abduction or a range of other forms of bodily seizure and coercion.

Although a handful of other records connected with this case have since come to light, none have clarified the meaning of raptus in the quitclaim.

In fact, the circumstances surrounding the case were rendered even more suspicious by Christopher Cannon’s 1993 discovery of a second document filed by Chaumpaigne three days later. This document (a memorandum of the originally recorded quitclaim) was nearly identical in its description of the charges, except that the phrase ‘de raptu meo’ was absent. In its place was a general statement releasing Chaucer from all charges de feloniis transgressionibus compotis debitis (‘relating to felonies, trespasses, accounts, debts’), as well as any other charges that Chaumpaigne might have had against Chaucer up to that date.

Less than two months later, Chaucer’s friend John Grove filed documents promising to pay ten pounds to Chaumpaigne. No reason for the payment was given, but it struck some scholars as suspicious that, so soon after Chaumpaigne had released Chaucer from legal charges, one of his influential friends had promised to pass money to her. Might the poet have had something to hide?

Discoveries unmade

Such a possibility was not out of the question. Financial settlement was a common way to resolve criminal rape charges in later medieval England. With convictions rare but harshly punished (by castration, hanging or other forms of severe bodily harm, although these penalties were seldom carried out), accepting a sum in exchange for dropping rape charges was a way for victim-survivors to receive some form of restitution for the harm they had suffered.

These documents have inspired heated debate among Chaucer scholars, heightened by the fact that the original case of the raptus charge has not been found.

So contentious was the possibility that the so-called ‘father of English poetry’ might have been guilty of rape that more than one scholar remarked that they wished the quitclaim of 4 May 1380 had never been found. As Adolphus William Ward declared, ‘Such discoveries as this … we might be excused for wishing unmade’.

This controversy, which has raged for a century and a half, is why the newly discovered documents are so important: they are not simply records related to Chaucer’s life, but have the potential to shed light on one of the most disturbingly mysterious episodes of his lifetime.

They provide new information about how Chaucer and Chaumpaigne knew each other in the first place, along with credible evidence that the original charge of raptus might relate to a labour dispute between Chaucer, Chaumpaigne and a man called Thomas Staundon, rather than to Chaucer’s possible rape or abduction of Chaumpaigne.

The same side?

The first newly discovered document is dated 16 October 1379 and outlines the charges brought by Staundon against both Chaucer and Chaumpaigne under the Statute and Ordinance of Labourers, originally enacted to regulate wages and employment after labour shortages resulting from the Black Death. As the writ explains, Staundon claimed that, in violation of the statute, Chaucer was employing Chaumpaigne after she had left Staundon’s service before the agreed end of her employment with him. Staundon noted that although Chaucer had been requested to return Chaumpaigne to her original place of employment, he had not done so. The second new document is dated 9 April 1380 and is a warrant in which Chaumpaigne appoints two attorneys to represent her in order to answer the charge brought by Staundon. One of the two attorneys, Stephen del Falle, also represented Chaucer against Staundon’s claims.

The most striking thing these new documents tell us is that, contrary to what has been believed for 150 years, Chaumpaigne and Chaucer were – at least in this instance – on the same side of a legal dispute and one that primarily concerned labour rather than abduction or sexual assault. This information gives us an entirely new context within which to consider their relationship: medieval labour.

Sexual abuse

But there is much that these new documents do not entirely clarify. Exactly why was the word raptus used in Chaumpaigne’s quitclaim releasing Chaucer of legal responsibility? Why was it removed three days later from the memorandum recording the quitclaim? And how did Chaumpaigne’s experience in Staundon’s and Chaucer’s employment accord with (or diverge from) the experiences of countless medieval servant women who suffered sexual harassment, abuse, exploitation and assault from their male bosses in a time when those who paid for women’s domestic labour frequently felt entitled to their bodies as well?

Numerous legal cases illuminate the sexual mistreatment that male employers inflicted on their female servants.

The legal historian Gwen Seabourne has discussed a case of workplace sexual harassment from York in 1363 in which a Thomas de Queldale sued his former servant, Elena de Hustwayt, for leaving his employment ‘before the end of her contracted term’. Like Staundon in his own suit against Chaumpaigne and Chaucer, Thomas de Queldale claimed that Elena and her new employer had violated the Statute and Ordinance of Labourers. Elena countered that she had left Thomas’ employment because he had repeatedly made unwanted sexual advances toward her, or frequenter solicitavit ipsam ad cognoscend’ ipsam carnaliter contra voluntatem suam (‘frequently solicited her for sex against her will’). As Seabourne notes, the (all-male) jury sided with Thomas and determined that Elena had illegally broken her contract with him.

In another case from 1571, a 15-year-old servant named Joan Bellinger reported that her employer, Stephen Jeffrey, had exposed himself and then raped her in his parlor one evening while his wife was out to dinner.

When she protested that he was hurting her, Jeffrey replied, ‘No Joane I do not hurt thee, for this dothe me good and thee no harm’. Three respectable townswomen examined Joan and reported that she had indeed suffered genital trauma.

Into the archives

Medieval cases such as these are not outliers. Rather, they give us a glimpse of the entitlement with which employers often viewed the bodies of their female servants, who were regularly stereotyped as sexually available. The Statute and Ordinance of Labourers rendered these women especially vulnerable because it left them open to prosecution for breaking contracts with their employers, even when those employers were abusive. Legal cases featuring servant women’s claims of mistreatment (which are likely to represent only a fraction of these experiences) are vital evidence of the pervasive social attitudes about employment, entitlement, servant women and sexual access in medieval England. It is thanks to the new information uncovered by Roger and Sebastian Sobecki that we can now draw on the evidence of servant women’s treatment in order to investigate Chaumpaigne’s experiences.

If scholars may have long wished the initial discovery of the quitclaim ‘unmade’, the newly found life-records demonstrate the importance of clarifying historical evidence with new discoveries, rather than by sweeping others under the carpet.

Though much remains unclear regarding the Chaucer-Chaumpaigne case, what has been demonstrated is how much as-yet-unearthed treasure may lie in collections such as those of the National Archives. What is also clear is how crucial collaboration can be to findings such as these. The story of how the discovery was made began with a conversation over coffee about something Sobecki had noticed: an apparent change of handwriting in the memorandum of 7 May 1380. The detail led Roger on a quest into the archives, where he would ultimately find two new life-records among dozens of fragile parchment scraps wadded and bundled together. As he and the medievalist Andrew Prescott have observed, thousands of files and bundles have yet to be sorted and consulted, some of them stored ‘deep in salt mines in Cheshire in varying degrees of arrangement’. Much of this material still requires conservation. But who knows what other discoveries might be made in their pages?

HISTORY TODAY: Mary Flannery is Swiss National Science Foundation Eccellenza Professorial Fellow in the English Department at the University of Bern. Carissa Harris teaches medieval English literature at Temple University, Philadelphia.

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ENGLISH HISTORY: Palace of Westminster Refurb Possible 700-Yr-Old Medieval Thames River Wall Under House of Lords

#AceNewsRoom With ‘Kindness & Wisdom’ Nov.22, 2022 @acehistorynews

Ace News Room Cutting Floor 22/11/2022

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#AceHistoryDesk – Palace of Westminster: Possible remains of the medieval Thames shoreline have been uncovered by experts restoring the Palace of Westminster.

Ground assessments are underway at Westminster Palace
Ground assessments are underway at Westminster Palace

The stone structures under a section of the House of Lords chamber are likely to be at least 700 years old.

Engineers spent thousands of hours investigating and drilling boreholes as part of the ongoing work on the Houses of Parliament.

The Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) is now assessing the remains.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Speaker of the House of Commons said: “The Palace of Westminster is a treasure trove of history, and making sure this is properly conserved whilst also getting on with the vital job of restoring this unique place is a key priority.”

Drilling machine
Boreholes up to 70m (230ft) deep help assess ground conditions around the Palace of Westminster
Sample tubes beign made
Sample tubes with earth from deep underneath Westminster are marked for further examination

The work, as part of the Restoration and Renewal Programme, has involved drilling 70m (230ft) deep – deeper than the Elizabeth line – to assess ground conditions under the Houses of Parliament.

A small amount of material from the river wall was removed for analysis before the site was carefully sealed up again to protect the structure. 

The ground assessment project by Concept Engineering based in Coventry has drilled five out of a possible 15 to 20 boreholes since the summer, and will continue work until summer 2023.

The company said the structure which marks the border of the ancient embankment, was found just a few metres below the surface.

It is made from Kentish Ragstone, a hard grey limestone quarried from Kent that was also used in the construction of the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey. 

Sample being broken up
A sample of the wall is broken up to look for clues
Gravel box

Archaeologists discovered part of the medieval river wall in Black Rod’s Garden in Westminster in 2015, making this a second finding of the wall.

The first, found medieval timber structures thought to represent waterfront revetments, with a wall that runs alongside the medieval location of the riverside. 

When the Palace was built in the 1800s, after many of the medieval buildings burned down, the land was reclaimed from the Thames to make the Palace site bigger. 

Roland Tillyer, an archaeologist from MOLA said:

” We were expecting [stone structures] might be present in this area and the borehole in Chancellor’s Court may have encountered it.

“The first few metres of the borehole sequence was as expected, post medieval dump deposits, which are quite soft, but then around 3.5m (11.5ft) we came across much harder material, including Kentish ragstone, mixed with a sandy mortar.”

A spokesperson for the Restoration and Renewal Programme said archaeologists had been on-site for each of the boreholes to record any finds of historical significance.

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