Writings and Photography

BRITISH HISTORY

Brief Histories of English Cultural Phenomena:

Rural England:

A Witchcraft-Infested Land: Demythologising England’s Rural Past

Nostalgia for an imagined rural idyll that existed in England prior to industrialisation and urbanisation is not grounded in reality. When, during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, people poured out of the English countryside and into cities, they faced many new challenges and hardships, but they also escaped from a world filled with the worst kinds of ignorance and superstition.

British Folk Beliefs and Culture:

The Eighteenth Century:

Urban Music in Eighteenth Century London

Three hundred years ago, long before ‘Drill’ music came along, the air of London was filled with the sound of obscene and criminally-linked music.

The Nineteenth Century:

The Lives of the Rural Poor in Nineteenth Century England

Long days, back-breaking work, poor living conditions, and a monotonous, uninspiring diet.

Backwoods Horror in Nineteenth Century Devon

A violent clan living in squalor on a run-down old farm; a hatred of civilisation and religious authority; a house shared with animals; the suggestion of incest; and the traveller who escapes back to the safety of urban modernity… Although this sounds like a typical American horror film scenario, the Cheriton family actually existed in nineteenth century rural Devon and became so notorious that they even made the pages of the New York Times.

The Folk Beliefs of Nineteenth Century Devonians: An Overview

Despite Christianisation, the onset of scientific advances, and the Englightenment, the common people of Britain (and plenty of its more formally educated citizens) continued for a long time to adhere to a wide variety of magico-religious folk beliefs. The West Country county of Devon was a bastion of such beliefs and practices, up to at least the beginning of the twentieth century.

Reports on Witchcraft in 19th and early 20th Century English Newspapers

Throughout the nineteenth century (and into the early twentieth century), the worldview and belief system adhered to by a large proportion of the English population – particularly those dwelling in the countryside – was not grounded in Christianity and the teachings of the church, but, rather, in a longstanding belief in witchcraft, as evidenced by newspaper reports of the time.

Source Texts On English Folk Beliefs:


SOUTHERN HISTORY AND CULTURE

Defining ‘The South’

What is ‘the South’? It depends who you ask…

Foods of the Old South

Contrary to popular belief, fried chicken and biscuits were foods of the wealthy elite, and most Southern food was bland and monotonous.

‘Southern’ Food That Isn’t

Fried green tomatoes, pimento cheese, sweet tea… All came from the North.

The English Roots of Southern Culture

Arguably more than any other region of the United States, the South has most closely preserved its origins in the England of old. In its speech ways, food, architecture, gardens, culture, and folklore, the South remains deeply English at its core.

The English Roots of ‘Southern Barbecue’ and ‘Southern Hospitality’

The ‘Virginia hospitality’ that forms the basis for the early construction of the notion of a uniquely ‘Southern hospitality’ was in reality the result of the transplanting of the social mores of the English gentry to the colony. Likewise, the barbecue tradition of the South is actually rooted in the social events of the wealthy elite, who reenacted the medieval hog roast of England using cooking techniques developed by Native Americans, and seasoning techniques popular in England.

The Survival of Old English Speech Ways in the American South

The accents, dialect, and vocabulary used in the Southern states of the US (as well as the African American Vernacular English of American blacks descended from slaves of the old South) are very different from the ‘American English’ you will find in many other parts of the US. The reason for this is that Southern speech ways are derived from the speech of settlers who came from very specific areas of Britain.

How I reckon ‘I reckon’ became a ‘Southern’ expression

In Britain, ‘I reckon’ is used widely across social classes, yet in the United States it has come to be associated with lower class rural whites. This post looks at the history of the expression and how it came to be seen as ‘Southern’.

The British origins of Black Southerners’ folk beliefs

When ‘hoodoo’ is examined, it becomes clear that the true origins of a number of black Southerners’ folk beliefs lie in Britain.

The European Roots of African American Crossroads Magic

Selling one’s soul to the Devil at the crossroads and the use of the black cat bone have a long European history.

Thomas Sowell and the Misrepresentation of Old South Culture

Sowell misunderstands and misrepresents the culture both of the Old South and of England.

The Truth About the Confederacy and the American Civil War

Contrary to the claims of Confederate apologists, white supremacy and slavery were absolutely central to the Confederacy and the Civil War.

The Myth of the Christian South

The South retains a strong religious identity and is a key part of the ‘Bible Belt’, but the notion that it is deeply Christian is inaccurate.

Country Music and the Construction of ‘Authenticity’

When neotraditionalists claim there is such a thing as ‘true’ country music, and when they claim that today’s radio country sound is ‘inauthentic’, I would argue that they are presenting a notion of country music that is disconnected from its actual history.


FOOD HISTORY

Hot Peppers and Hot Sauces in the English Cookery of the 17th to 19th Centuries

While English food has a reputation for being mild or bland in flavour, in past centuries the wealthy of England enjoyed capsicums, cayenne pepper, chilli vinegars, and hot sauce.

The Highly Spiced Cuisine of 18th Century England

For the better off at least, the English cookery of past centuries was highly spiced and featured a wide variety of seasonings.

The English Roots of Southern Fried Chicken

Southern fried chicken finds its origins in the kitchens of the English gentry, not in a supposed meeting of Scottish and African cooking techniques.

Fried Chicken Recipes, 1736-1922

Tracing the evolution of Southern fried chicken from England to the Southern States.

The English Origins of Sweet Potato Pie

Sweet potato pie is a dish of English origin, first enjoyed by royalty and the gentry.

The English Roots of Potlikker Greens

Collards, bacon and greens, and pot liquor all originated in England.

The English Origins of Chitlins, Pig Feet, and other Variety Meats

Now considered poor people’s food or black ‘soul food’, the variety meats that made their way into Southern and soul food cookery came to America from England.

Guinness: A Very British Drink

The real history of Guinness reveals it to be an English drink, produced by an Ulster Unionist family, which gained international success via the British Empire.

The Diet of Black American Slaves and the Diet of the English Rural Poor

When the foods given to the slaves are compared with those eaten by the English rural poor, they are revealed to be almost identical.

No, Coffee Did Not Come to the United States from Africa

Debunking pseudohistory from National Geographic.

Red Stripe Beer: ‘Jamaican Pride in a Bottle’?

A look at the true origins of Red Stripe, beyond the promotional myth-making.

The British Roots of Jamaican Tonic Wines

Magnum Tonic Wine is hugely popular in Jamaica and among the Jamaican diaspora. The popularity of tonic wines in Jamaica is the result of a British product being adopted and given a Caribbean identity.


MISCELLANEOUS

The Myth of Christian America

The United States remains uniquely religious, but that religion is not Christianity as historically understood.

Which are the most ‘country’ states in the USA?

Surprisingly, they’re not in the South…

‘Pawns of Monsanto’? Farmers Challenge the Narrative

A popular – and populist – claim about farmers being ‘controlled’ by Monsanto is disputed by farmers themselves.

Western European Herbalism

Traditional Western European medicinal and magical uses of a variety of herbs and plants.

European-American Folk Traditions

When settlers from the British Isles and Germany arrived on the shores of North America, they brought with them not only Christianity, but also a variety of folk beliefs and practices related to every aspect of life and death.

Love Powders in American Folk Magic

So-called love powders offer another example of how European folk magic continued to thrive in the New World.

A Critical Examination of the Rastafari Religion

Rastafari is a strange mix of black nationalism, a bizarre reading of the Bible, Hindu traditions, and misrepresentation of the historical Haile Selassie.


NON-EUROPEAN TRADITIONS

Articles at HubPages on saints and spirits in non-European folk religion:

Baron Samedi
An important spirit in the Voodoo religion.

Santa Muerte
A skeletal Latin American folk saint.

Maximón
A Mayan folk saint also known as San Simón.


TRAVEL

Photos, videos, and writings from my trips to the United States:

PHOTOGRAPHS

VIDEO

WRITINGS ON SOUTHERN FOOD IN CHICAGO