Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Humanities/2011 August 13

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August 13[edit]

The Gunpowder Plot - was the king behind it?[edit]

Following a lead from VP(P) - [1], an editor has tried to add a section to Gunpowder Plot suggesting that the king was behind the plot - diff - and cites Scholastic's The Slimy Stuarts, part of their Horrible Histories series. It's doubtful that that book can be considered a reliable source. Two questions: 1) does anyone have the book to hand, to check whether the assertion is merely flippancy on the author's part and 2) has anyone come across a reliable source for such an assertion? thanks --Tagishsimon (talk) 03:10, 13 August 2011 (UTC)

there are serious historians, in peer-reviewed journals etc, that have questioned the veracity of the orthodox interpretation of the Gunpowder Plot - but this isn't an example of one. Not remotely meeting WP:RS, and as such, unfit to be cited as a source. AndyTheGrump (talk) 03:25, 13 August 2011 (UTC)
Indeed. The thrust of my question was towards whether anyone had an RS covering the assertion. --Tagishsimon (talk) 03:43, 13 August 2011 (UTC)
As much as I enjoyed the books myself, there must be a better source for it – whilst generally accurate, nothing in the series is new material. So I would be surprised if it weren't correct, but it needs a better source. Grandiose (me, talk, contribs) 10:28, 13 August 2011 (UTC)

Here is a negative review in a Catholic journal of a book arguing that Robert Cecil contrived the plot to defame Catholics. At least it provides a attributable reliable source for that minority theory. The Enigma of Gunpowder Plot, 1605: The Third Solution (review) μηδείς (talk) 19:08, 13 August 2011 (UTC)

Weather Service Modernization Act of 1992[edit]

What were the NWS offices closed/merged/created by the Weather Service Modernization Act of 1992? I know that the wiki article is redlinked, so the best I can do for background information is this link, where the text of the act can be found under the header "Weather Service Modernization". A Reference Desk Barnstar will be awarded if a complete list can be provided. Thanks in advance, Ks0stm (TCG) 03:51, 13 August 2011 (UTC)

Myth of Witch Drowning[edit]

Did the process of identifying a witch by dunking her in water to see if she float or sank always resulted in death as most source say including the article on dunking? I've heard on a documentary (can't remember the name but may have been a history channel one) that they didn't let them drown they actually pulled they back up if they sank, proving their innocence.--KAVEBEAR (talk) 06:16, 13 August 2011 (UTC)

Letting them die would have taken away the opportunity to punish/execute them later, so no, normally they would not be allowed to drown. We also have Trial_by_ordeal#Ordeal_of_water, which contradicts the dunking article. Also, is it normal that a witch was considered guilty if she sank? That was usually proof of innocence (as water wouldn't accept a guilty person, or something...maybe it was changed for the witch trials though. Adam Bishop (talk) 09:17, 13 August 2011 (UTC)
If she sank, she was innocent, as this was what normal people did: if she floated, she was using witchcraft to counteract the water and so she was guilty and burned at the stake. --TammyMoet (talk) 13:59, 13 August 2011 (UTC) This site seems to have been well researched with examples. --TammyMoet (talk) 14:03, 13 August 2011 (UTC)
I wonder, were there any witches put on trial (either in the Inquisition or the colonial witch hunts) who were ever released for being innocent?-- Obsidin Soul 14:09, 13 August 2011 (UTC)
Yes, lots. The cliché about the angry lynchmob carrying torches and pitchforks type of withchunting was not how these things generally went down. In most cases there were real trials and interrogations (some using torture, others where it wasn't found necessary). For examples of acquittals see here, here and here (this one being the largest witch trial ever carried out, and a majority by far of the accused were acquitted). --Saddhiyama (talk) 15:12, 13 August 2011 (UTC)
Interesting. I suppose they only really went through with it for the unfortunate few who were already viewed outcasts anyway.-- Obsidin Soul 15:57, 13 August 2011 (UTC)
Well if they sank, making them innocent, wouldn't they be saved before drowning? It would make more sense.--KAVEBEAR (talk) 00:29, 15 August 2011 (UTC)
But then the witch could have been pretending to sink. Googlemeister (talk) 18:49, 15 August 2011 (UTC)
Actually using the cucking stool (or dunking stool) was a common punishment for women in the British Isles. For example a Scottish law from 1590s states that if brewers (at this time brewers were mostly women, brewing at home for the household as well as for an extra income) makes "avill aill" they should "be put upon the cock-stule, and the aill distributed to the pure [poor] folk" (Martyn Cornell, Beer - The Story of the Pint, 2003, p. 46). I guess that is where the drowning in connection with women witches comes from. There is no hint as to why the poor folk should be punished when a brewer makes evil ale, though. This particular form of punishment, as the article states, seems to have been restricted in use to England and Scotland, originating from Saxon practices. So the practice of drowning would be witches may not have been common in other parts of Europe. --Saddhiyama (talk) 00:07, 17 August 2011 (UTC)

To say that letting them die would have taken away the opportunity of punishing them later is to confuse the point entirely. Witches didn't sink, they floated. Killing a supposed witch was not a problem, since drowning proved her innocence, and, presumably, going to heaven was her reward for cooperating in furthering the overwhelming state interest in rooting out witches. If she survived then she was obviously guilty and could be executed without further compunction. μηδείς (talk) 16:27, 13 August 2011 (UTC)

Middle ages land of nobles - acres and size[edit]

How many people would a 2000 acre big (or small if'd like) barony be able to hold?

It's not a big land (2,000 acres = 8 km2) but imagine that the land is rich and fertile, well suited for agriculture; farming and keeping livestock and such so that the people can be fairly self-sufficient and mostly cover their own most basic need; food. Obviously people would gather in small village(s) inside the barony and work what land was available to them, but with such a small barony there would a limit to how much it could produce and thus how many people it could sustain. My guess: around 400?

A similar 1000 acre land would thus be able to hold 200 maybe?

But if we double the land size from 2000 to 4000 acres then it would likely be able to hold significantly more than double the population of a 2000 acres-sized land, right, or does my way of thinking get me wrong?

I'm thinking middle ages around 1100-1250 first and foremost, pointing out what timeperiod I'm thinking of might be a good idea since the middle ages spanned over a long time (talk) 10:02, 13 August 2011 (UTC)

I think you'll find the most useful way of researching this is to look at the Domesday Book, and get an idea of the sizes of holdings, numbers of residents from that. The population slowly increased after that time, but fell again in the 14th century. Itsmejudith (talk) 10:10, 13 August 2011 (UTC)
Economy of England in the Middle Ages indicates that land bearing is limited by social systems of production and by technology. It also indicates that wastes and forests surrounded farmable land. Your best bet is to examine monastic records as these were kept in standard form by literate individuals. References for further reading on agricultural economics in the middle ages are to be found at the previously mentioned article. Fifelfoo (talk) 10:17, 13 August 2011 (UTC)
It also varied from country to country. --Saddhiyama (talk) 14:23, 13 August 2011 (UTC)
It also varied from local area to local area within a country. 2000 acres in Kent could support a lot more people than the same acreage in Yorkshire. Blueboar (talk) 01:39, 14 August 2011 (UTC)
Also note that land measurements like "acre" were based on how much the land would yield, not its exact size, at least before the middle to late 16th century. The units used in the Domesday Book, for example, varied in size according to the richness of the soil: a virgate was enough land for a single person to live on, a hide enough to support a family. Their actual size was smaller when measured on fertile land and larger in poorer, upland areas. The acre and carrucate were equally flexible. An acre of rough pasture was larger than an acre of meadow, which could produce hay. Under the feudal system land was held in exchange for services, so measurements of land were based on feeding people and yielding services, not exact areas. Only in the 16th century did surveying manuals begin to teach how to measure exact areas. Other units of measure were similar. A bushel of oats was larger than a bushel of wheat. Weak beer was measured with larger gallons and wine with smaller gallons. So, when reading old sources like the Domesday Book, one should remember not to understand terms like "acre" in their modern sense. I'm paraphrasing and quoting from Andro Linklater's book Measuring America. Pfly (talk) 03:34, 14 August 2011 (UTC)
We do have an article about the carucate which may be useful. Also, there has been a lot of academic work on medieval population, especially on the population of Britain. I suppose there are more recent works I'm not familiar with, but Josiah C. Russell was once the major name in this field ("British Medieval Population", and the article "The Pre-Plague Population of England"). Adam Bishop (talk) 09:01, 14 August 2011 (UTC)
To give you an example; my home town of Leyton in Essex was an ancient parish of 2,271 acres[2]. In the Domesday Book in 1086, the parish was divided into 6 seperate manors[3]. The total number of households was 51 (22 villagers, 18 smallholders, 8 free men and 2 priests) which might equate to perhaps 200 adults and almost as many children (that's my guess). It's not clear if the various lords of the manors lived on their estates or not. Besides ploughland in the parish (the exact amount is unclear for the reasons stated above), there were 194 acres of pasture, woodland capable of supporting 490 pigs and one mill. However in 1524, a survey of Leyton found only 49 persons (adults), including 18 labourers and 10 servants[4]. There are now nearly 100,000. Alansplodge (talk) 11:35, 14 August 2011 (UTC)

UK-US population ratio[edit]

When did the population of the United States overtake that of the UK? LANTZYTALK 22:31, 13 August 2011 (UTC)

Per this graph, mid-1850s. If the US data only counts state populations (and not US citizens resident in the territories), which is probable, then it's possible the magic date was in May 1858, when Minnesota was admitted. Shimgray | talk | 23:26, 13 August 2011 (UTC)
More specifically, Minnesota became a state May 11, 1858. (edited to add) The President signed the bill on May 12, 1858, so it is unclear how they became a state on the 11th. Edison (talk) 02:26, 14 August 2011 (UTC)
Thanks! I supposed it would be sometime in the nineteenth century. I didn't expect it would fall neatly in the 1850s. I don't suppose this event was regarded as noteworthy? - I mean the fact that most English-speakers were now non-English. Was this fact remarked upon at the time? It seems like the sort of fact that would induce despair in some quarters, or at least lead people to rethink the nature of the English language. LANTZYTALK 03:18, 14 August 2011 (UTC)
That date wouldn't have marked the transition you note, since there were primary English speakers outside of England in many places, including Canada, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, many places in the Carribean, etc. --Jayron32 03:34, 14 August 2011 (UTC)
(EC)In debates over Minnesota's elections in 1857, some complained that alien Norwegians, Swedes, Germans, and "savage Indians" had voted. Many Minnesotans of 1858 were not English speakers. There was indeed despair in the US Congress, but irregularities such as massive vote fraud, statewide election (rather than required by-district election) of three representatives, with only 2 of these reporting to be sworn in (because Congress only authorized 2 representatives), the separate rival constitutional conventions of Republicans and Democrats and the adoption of two slightly different constitutions, were all ignored and glossed over in favor of going ahead and adding the 32nd state. Others might note any despair in the UK. How many English speakers were there in India and the rest of the British Empire by 1858? Did they outnumber those in the UK? Edison (talk) 03:45, 14 August 2011 (UTC)
There were considerable numbers of people within the UK who couldn't speak English in the 1850s. George Borrow wrote Wild Wales, an account of a walking tour through Wales in 1854, for which he learned Welsh before he set out; although many people were bi-lingual there were a substantial minority who knew no English at all. In the 1850s Gaelic was alive and well in the Scottish Highlands and rural Ireland. There was no compulsory education in the UK until 1870. Alansplodge (talk) 12:34, 14 August 2011 (UTC)
The number of English speakers in India would have been much lower that the UK (which at the time included all of Ireland, btw). Working knowledge of English would have been limited to British expatriates and Indians working in the colonial administration and traders. British colonialists would communicate with locals (such as household staff, etc.) in 'kitchen Hindustani' rather than English. Even today, the vast majority of Indians do not speak English. And even then, by 1850s the expansion of a local middle class of colonial administration employees had not fully taken up pace. --Soman (talk) 15:10, 14 August 2011 (UTC)