How Did They?

If you write historical fiction or if you write something that has ties to the past, you may need to do some research to find out what people did back then For instance, in Regency England there were few hospitals and while doctors made house calls, they were not well trained in stuff we take for granted today. Like cleanliness.

Of course, microscopes (1644) and the knowledge of germs and infection weren’t in common use until Joseph Lister and Louis Pasteur proved their existence. But in England in the turn of the 18th century, doctors did what they could, depending on their field. If you were having a baby, you got the midwife. If you were having a toothache, you went to the barber. And if you had a cold, well, the apothecary would give you something to make you well.

111108 apothecary

How did they travel to other countries? Basically, most common folks didn’t. The upper class also didn’t travel unless absolutely necessary. The military was a good way to see the world until you died. You could travel around the country by mail coach or by the Great North Road in your own vehicle, but horses needed to rest and be fed, and could not go at a killing pace if you wanted them to last very long.

111118 coach

Of course, in the Colonies, they took wagons across huge stretches of prairies and mountains to find a better place to live. All you had to worry about was weather, mostly. Farther back in time and across the world, we have believed the Gauls invaded the British Isles and settled in Scotland and Ireland. Some historians think that was not the case. The Saxon migration, however, did happen. And surely Romans contributed to the populations all along the Empire.

111118 barbarian

How did they keep food from going bad? If you had the money, you had ice delivered from the nearest mountaintop. You pickled and salted much of your perishables. Poor folks, actually, had very little food to worry about at the end of the day. But larger households and estates used cool pantries on the north side of the house, where dairy products and meats could be stored for 2 or 3 days.

111118 primitive pantry

How did they communicate over long distances? My husband and I always marvel at the fact that we made it for so many years without cell phones. It’s both easier now to communicate and more difficult when you think you are communicating but the other person isn’t getting the text/call/panicky voice mail. But long before even regular phones, people would write out by hand with ink on paper the words they wanted to send. If you read Regency romances, you are probably aware that they had a really cool postal system back then for local mail. Messages to Europe could be delayed by the war but sometimes they were received in time.

111118 ship full sail

Letters to America were equally impacted by the wars, but also the fact there was a bit more water between the two points. Two weeks or more would pass before a letter arrived at the port in America, then however long it took to be delivered, then the same amount of time for a reply. Emergencies were better off handled without input from across the pond.


111118 pigeon post
This pigeon can actually be mailed


I hope to do more on this subject so please let me know if there is an area of research you particularly would like some information about. An era and a geographical location would be helpful. Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Thursday.

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