Age of Victoria

MRS BEETON’S EXCELLENT MINCE PIES

MRS BEETONS EXCELLENT MINCE PIES

The upmarket version of Mrs Beetons classic
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine Victorian British

Equipment

  • Mixing bowl
  • wooden spoon
  • muffin tin
  • knife
  • table spoon
  • rolling pin
  • Chopping
  • Sauce pan
  • chopping board

Ingredients
  

  • 3 Large lemons
  • 3 Large apples
  • 1 lb Stoned raisins
  • 1 lb Currents
  • 1 lb Suet
  • 2 lbs Moist sugar
  • 1 oz Sliced candied citron
  • 1 oz Sliced candied orange peel
  • 1 oz Sliced candied lemon peel
  • 1 teacup Brandy
  • 2 tbsp Orange marmalade
  • Butter (soft) for baking

Instructions
 

  • Grate the lemons, set rind aside. Then squeeze the juice into bowl.
  • Boil the lemons in water in the saucepan till soft and then chop them finely.
  • Skin and core the apples. Bake until soft then chop them finely.
  • Mix lemon choppings and apples
  • Now add all the ingredients to the bowl, and mix thoroughly.
  • Store in a clean jar in the fridge for 1 week till ready to bake.
  • Get your pastry (either home made or shop bought), and roll to desired thickness (suggested 4 cm)
  • Grease the muffin trays with butter
  • Cut the pastry into circles and add to muffin tray
  • ⅓ or ¾ fill subject to your taste. Put light pastry lid on top.
  • Bake in oven for 20 mins (or till golden). Sprinkle with ice sugar if desired.

Notes

Keyword Christmas, Mince Pies, Traditional, Victorian

AOV CHRISTMAS SPECIAL 2020

Merry Christmas everyone. What a year, so lets round it off in comfort. This special episode features.

  • Thank you’s.

  • Quick chat about Victorian Christmas Cards

  • Introducing Mrs Beeton, and the standardisation of recipes.

  • Why running a household really was difficult.

  • A valet or a butler?

  • Hints of gender conflicts and the danger of left over Turkey.

  • Order above all – Spit Spot.

  • Mince pies, and extraordinary mince pies

  • What would the neighbours say?

  • The birth of sweets

  • Dying for a humbug

  • Pass the arsenic.

  • A Christmas Ghost story.

You can find the full mince pie recipe here

Thanks for your listening. I hope you enjoy. If you want to get in touch, I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at ageofvictoriapodcast@gmail.com, follow me on twitter @ageofvictoria, visit the website at www.ageofvictoriapodcast.com. The show also has a facebook page and group. Just search for Age of Victoria. Don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes, it takes less time than making a coffee. If you want to support the show on patreon, just click here, or you can go to Patreon and search for age of victoria podcast or my name.

MRS BEETONS ORDINARY MINCE PIES

Mrs Beetons ordinary mince pies

The classic recipe from Mrs Beetons original Household Management
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine Victorian British

Equipment

  • bowl
  • wooden spoon
  • muffin tin
  • rolling pin
  • knife
  • table spoon
  • chopping board

Ingredients
  

  • 2 lbs raisins
  • 3 lbs currants
  • 1 ½ lbs lean beef
  • 2 oz citron
  • 2 oz candied lemon peel
  • 2 oz candied orange peel
  • rind of 2 lemons
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • ½ pint brandy
  • 1 nutmeg
  • Puff pastry (shop bought or home made), or filo pastry or sweet crust pastry.
  • Butter
  • icing sugar to decorate

Instructions
 

  • Stone and cut the raisins once or twice across, but do not chop them; wash, dry, and pick the currants free from stalks and grit. Set aside
  • mince the beef and suet, taking care that the latter is chopped very fine. Set aside.
  • slice the citron and candied peel
  • grate the nutmeg
  • pare, core, and mince the apples
  • mince the lemon-peel, strain the juice
  • when all the ingredients are thus prepared, mix them well together, adding the brandy when the other things are well blended
  • press the whole into a jar, carefully exclude the air, and the mincemeat will be ready for use in a fortnight. (I'd recommend that you store it in a refrigerator for no more than 5 days as it has meat in it, or you properly seal it in a sterilised preserve jar).
  • Roll out the pastry to desired thickeness, allowign for it to expand during cooking.
  • Cut cirles from the pastry.
  • Grease the muffin trays, then insert the circles, being sure to make sure the sides come to the top of the muffin holes.
  • Find willing street urchin to fill the muffin holes with your mince meat. Have them stoke the coals of the oven.
  • Put a layer of pastry on top of the mince pies.
  • Place in the oven and have the urchin watch them to ensure they are not over cooked.
  • After 30 mins remove from the oven and show them to the urchin. Give the urchin a ½ penny and a cup of watered down gruel for their trouble. Then reflect on your lack of Christian charity, given them a crown and two mince pies.
  • Cool and serve with sprinkled icing sugar.

Notes

The key to Mrs Beetons ordinary mince pies is the home made mince meat including the beef. You can get fresh beef suet at the butchers, or shop bought pre-packed. She would have made her own pastry of course, and cook would doubtless siphon off a little more brandy than was strictly needed. What sets this recipe apart from modern mince pies is the use of beef.

Be careful with the storage as this recipe contains raw meat; you probably want to be a bit more careful with it than the Victorians were!

If you marinate it over night in the fridge and cook the next day then it is fine. If you want it to last longer, keep in fridge overnight. The next day sterilise one or two air tight preserving jars. Preheat the oven to 110°C. Wash the jars and lids well in hot clean water and place on a baking tray (do not put any plastic or rubber seals in the oven). Put the jars and lids in the hot oven for 10 minutes. After leaving the jars to cool, divide the mincemeat between the jars, seal and label. You can store the mincemeat in a sterilised jar in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Or try her Extraordinary Mince Pies that don't contain meat.

Keyword Christmas, Mince Pies, Traditional, Victorian

EP034 HOW TO BUILD HELL

The journey into Empire continues as we look at Tasmania, known as Van Diemen’s Land. Here the European settlers, the indigenous people, the convict system, the bush rangers, the lure of food, the battle for land, resulted in war, conquest and genocide. The birth pang of a new world was one of agony, yet the future of a unique culture and the amazing beauty of the island were in stark contrast to the declared British ambition of making it the ultimate penal hell. Join me for the complex and painful settlement of Tasmania, and its incorporation into the Empire.

  • This episode covers

  • Guest promo and thank you’s.

  • The brief history of Tasmania and the amazing geograph and ecosystem.

  • Settlement and strategic necessity – keeping the French out.

  • First contact goes wrong – the Risdon Cove Massacre.

  • Mad Tom loves a drink.

  • Governor Sorrell vs the outlaws.

  • The sad death of the Tasmanian Whisky Industry – murdered in 1839

  • The Black War begins – the stage is set for genocide.

  • Tools of the trade – muskets & raiding.

  • A terrible place for a soldier – why colonial Van Diemen’s Land was feared.

  • What was left after? A land of possibilities.

  • The forgotten – listening to the descendants.

Thanks for your listening. I hope you enjoy. If you want to get in touch, I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at ageofvictoriapodcast@gmail.com, follow me on twitter @ageofvictoria, visit the website at www.ageofvictoriapodcast.com. The show also has a facebook page and group. Just search for Age of Victoria. Don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes, it takes less time than making a coffee. If you want to support the show on patreon, just click here, or you can go to Patreon and search for age of victoria podcast or my name.

EP033 (PT2) WHO OWNS THE LAND?

The journey into Empire continues as we look more closely at the Australia’s, and the difficult issues of landownership, native rights, and how land can tie to identity. I also cover the culture clash between the Europeans and the Indigenous Peoples. This is part 2, which covers more of the background of Empire in the Australia’s, the First & Second Fleets, the impact of liberalism and the difference in world views between the Europeans and the Indigenous Peoples, the lure of food, the battle for land, the place of science and the timeline leading to the early Victorian Era in the Australia’s. If you haven’t listened to pt1 yet, I suggest you do that before listening to this.

Thanks for your listening. I hope you enjoy. If you want to get in touch, I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at ageofvictoriapodcast@gmail.com, follow me on twitter @ageofvictoria, visit the website at www.ageofvictoriapodcast.com. The show also has a facebook page and group. Just search for Age of Victoria. Don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes, it takes less time than making a coffee. If you want to support the show on patreon, just click here, or you can go to Patreon and search for age of victoria podcast or my name.

EP033 (PT1) WHO OWNS THE LAND?

The journey into Empire continues as we look more closely at the Australia’s, and the difficult issues of landownership, native rights, and how land can tie to identity. I also cover the culture clash between the Europeans and the indigenous aborigines. This episode then breaks and in part 2, it will cover more of the background of Empire in the Australia’s, the impact of liberalism and the difference in world views between the Europeans and the Aborigines, and the timeline leading to the early Victorian Era in the Australia’s.

This part covers

  • Thank you’s to Patrons, and listener reviews.

  • Elaboration on listener feedback/comments.

  • The complexity of ethnic identity in the UK.

  • The idea of conquest as a legitimate means of ownership

  • Indigenous rights as a concept

  • The culture clash between Europeans and the Aborigines at a high level

  • Terra Nulis and settlement.

  • To whom the law applies

  • The first steps to human rights

  • Break for end of part 1.

Thanks for your listening. I hope you enjoy. If you want to get in touch, I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at ageofvictoriapodcast@gmail.com, follow me on twitter @ageofvictoria, visit the website at www.ageofvictoriapodcast.com. The show also has a facebook page and group. Just search for Age of Victoria. Don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes, it takes less time than making a coffee. If you want to support the show on patreon, just click here, or you can go to Patreon and search for age of victoria podcast or my name.

EP032 PHILOSOPHY OF EMPIRE – THE VALUE OF LIFE?

To understand the past, sometimes we need to examine our values and subject them to philosophical analysis. The British Empire was a complex, varied entity that stretched across the world and changed over the centuries. How do we understand the mindset of those people in the C19th who created it, or lived in it? This episode is designed to get you thinking and analysing big questions and unpleasant moral problems. Ultimately the answers will be down to your judgements. Be warned some material is upsetting and contains references to genocide, racism, slavery, the holocaust, abortion and critiques of religion. I hope you find it stimulating.

Topics
  • Thank you’s to Patrons, and some listener reviews.

  • The complexity of Empire, and the settler empire.

  • How common were empires?

  • Are people innately warlike and violent?

  • Is life important; the need for philosophy.

  • Is life important; what would God do, and does that make it ok?

  • Is life important; building a moral framework for atheists.

  • The worst pub bore ever – drunken philosophy.

  • The economic value of life.

  • If your people are starving, is it immoral not to invade another country?

  • The right to liberty and freedom to do what you want except when you can’t.

  • Heuristics, mental shortcuts, and cognitive biases; how bad decision making affects empires.

  • The power and danger of othering.

  • Look him in the eyes as he dies.

  • Gengis Khan, and how to turn genocides into hero worship.

  • The dangers of anarchy, law and order.

  • Some impacts of Empires; feeding the hungry, and killing other people.

  • Final thoughts.

Thanks for your listening. I hope you enjoy. If you want to get in touch, I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at ageofvictoriapodcast@gmail.com, follow me on twitter @ageofvictoria, visit the website at www.ageofvictoriapodcast.com. The show also has a facebook page and group. Just search for Age of Victoria. Don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes, it takes less time than making a coffee. If you want to support the show on patreon, just click here, or you can go to Patreon and search for age of victoria podcast or my name.

EP031 VICTORIA & ALBERT – A ROMANTIC PRINCE & A WEDDING

How does the Queen of Kingdom and ruler of the Empire choose a husband? This is not a choice to get wrong, so Victoria was under pressure. Was Albert the Romantic Prince and perfect companion of her dreams? Learn about the Prince, his childhood, his music, & his journey from shy intellectual to confident suitor to the Queen.

This show covers

  • Prince Alberts childhood & family scandals.

  • The close relationship between Germany & Britain.

  • The German Romantic movement.

  • Did they really fall in love?

  • Albert had groove.
  • A royal proposal & Lord M’s advice for marriage.

  • What, a German? Tory opposition and financial constraints.

  • Preparing for the wedding.

  • The Bride Wore White.

  • A very, very successful wedding night.

Thanks for your listening. I hope you enjoy. If you want to get in touch, I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at ageofvictoriapodcast@gmail.com, follow me on twitter @ageofvictoria, visit the website at www.ageofvictoriapodcast.com. The show also has a facebook page and group. Just search for Age of Victoria. Don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes, it takes less time than making a coffee. If you want to support the show on patreon, just click here, or you can go to Patreon and search for age of victoria podcast or my name.

EP030 QUEEN VICTORIA’S NO GOOD, VERY BAD YEAR

How was Victoria coping with being Queen? She was intelligent, stubborn, cultured, but sometimes misguided and blinkered. Worse, the nation itself seemed fractured, bitter, and in danger of collapse. Her first two years as monarch showed the need for her to have a partner. Someone who could share the load, act as a lightning rod and shield on shoulder, and make the transition from partisan Queen to Monarch for the whole nation. There were some dangerous rocks in the waters and Victoria would have to learn to tread carefully as she made her steps on the journey to being the monarch that united the nation.

This show covers

  • Reviews and thank you’s

  • Lord Melbourne – brief biography

  • Introduce Sir Robert Peel

  • Situation of UK/Empire in 1830’s.

  • Chartism.

  • Lady Flora Hastings

  • Affair of the Bedchamber

  • Resolution

  • Victoria’s mental/physical state.

  • How Prince Albert helped.

Follow the show on Facebook on our Facebook Page or in the Facebook group for Victorian trivia or the latest news.

You can listen on iTunes, Apple Podcasts and subscribe for free to get all the latest episodes, or even leave me a review. The show is also on Spotify, Stitcher, Podbean. Don’t forget to tell your friends.

Support the show on Patreon, and get exclusive patrons only episodes plus other goodies.

3RD ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL VICTORIA & ALBERT – A ROYAL, AND A ROMANTIC

EP030 3rd Anniversary Special: Victoria & Albert -a Royal and a Romantic.

The podcast is 3 years old, so time for Victoria and Albert to become a couple. One of histories famous romances and two names that almost define the age. Yet it was a strange road that brought them together. In this show we look at Queen Victoria’s tricky love life, the problems of being a royal celebrity, meet some of Prince Alberts competition, and learn how they finally came to meet. But was it love at first sight?

Gallery of Romanticism Key Works

This show covers

  • Reviews and thank you’s for 3 years

  • The importance of the German Romantic movement.

  • The problems of a royal marriage.

  • A woman? As Queen? What would the Bible say?

  • Immaturity and dynastic tangles.

  • Stalking Victoria.

  • Enter Prince Albert, stage right.

  • Duke Alex, boxes of bling, and heartbreak.

Follow the show on Facebook on our Facebook Page or in the Facebook group for Victorian trivia or the latest news.

You can listen on Apple Podcasts and subscribe for free to get all the latest episodes, or even leave me a review. The show is also on Spotify, Stitcher, Podbean – basically all your favourite podcatching platforms. Don’t forget to tell your friends.

Support the show on Patreon, and get exclusive patrons only episodes plus other goodies.

GALLERY OF ROMANTICISM

These are some key works that give a flavour of the range of works in the Romantic movements around Europe. I will add to this gallery from time to time. It is important to remember the impact that paintings had on culture. They were not separate, but far more entwined with mainstream events; Liberty Leading the People was a striking political statement, and has become iconic. The Slave Ship by Turner was just as much a political statement; he painted it to encourage Prince Alberts opposition to the horrors of the slave trade. The Romantic movement transcended borders and allowed a rich cross-fertilisation of ideas in art, poetry, music, science, literature, philosophy, archaeology and government.

EP029 THE COURT OF KING CHOLERA – THE GREAT VICTORIAN PLAGUE

EP029 “The Court of King Cholera – the great Victorian plague” explores one of the most famous pandemics in history. There was horror, death, and a little hope. Many bad decisions, anger and mistrust, but also groundbreaking science. When disease strikes it is easy to think humanity is levelled and we all stand together – does history prove this is true?

This show covers

  • Reviews and thank you’s

  • The initial panic of cholera?

  • Mt Tambora and the first pandemic

  • Poverty and failure.

  • Official corruption, murderous doctors and anti science mobs.

  • The dawn of the Victorian era in the time of Cholera.

  • What is the cause? Is it something in the air?

  • The lowest point – horror show at the orphanage.

  • The Doctors Strike Back.

  • Onwards and upwards, or a warning from history?

Follow the show on Facebook on our Facebook Page or in the Facebook group for Victorian trivia or the latest news.

You can listen on iTunes and subscribe for free to get all the latest episodes, or even leave me a review. The show is also on Spotify, Stitcher, Podbean. Don’t forget to tell your friends. The sources for this episode are here

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SOURCES – EPISODE 029 CHOLERA

There are a huge number of sources on Cholera and the Victorian response to the great pandemics. It affected everything from science to art to culture to city planning. I used the following sources for episode 029, but there is so much more to discover. This should provide some good jump off points.

MINI018 RAILWAY TIME

MINISODE 018 RAILWAY TIME is here to take a light hearted look at the social etiquette of train travel, and the small matter of how the trains revolutionised time. This show covers

  • Reviews and thank you’s

  • Railways; is this a polite way to travel?

  • “I say, have we met?”

  • The problems with the timetables.

  • The Victorians control time itself.

Follow the show on Facebook on our Facebook Page or in the Facebook group for Victorian trivia or the latest news.

You can listen on iTunes and subscribe for free to get all the latest episodes, or even leave me a review. The show is also on Spotify, Stitcher, Podbean. Don’t forget to tell your friends.

Support the show on Patreon, and get exclusive patrons only episodes plus other goodies.

EP028 BROTHER CAN YOU SPARE A DIME? RAILWAY MANIA AND SOCIAL CHANGES

EP028 BROTHER CAN YOU SPARE A DIME? RAILWAY MANIA AND SOCIAL CHANGES is here to count the cost of progress. As railways make men staggeringly rich, people start to fly too close to the sun and get their wings singed. Or fall prey to predators, like George Hudson, the Railway King. This episode covers

  • Reviews, thank you’s and some podcast recommendations

  • Railways; bringing a potential bonanza.

  • The profits of the first line, and tragedy.

  • The cost of doing business; political bribery.

  • A growing mania.

  • Boom time turns bust.

  • George Hudson – rise and fall of the first Great Railway Baron.

  • The end of the mania, and a new normal.

Follow the show on Facebook on our Facebook Page or in the Facebook group for Victorian trivia or the latest news.

You can listen on iTunes and subscribe for free to get all the latest episodes, or even leave me a review. The show is also on Spotify, Stitcher, Podbean. Don’t forget to tell your friends.

Support the show on Patreon, and get exclusive patrons only episodes plus other goodies.

EP027 Pt2 “made it run”

Railways were one of the great achievements of the Victorian Era, but they are complicated and hard to build. This show covers the process and the people involved in building these incredible pieces of engineering. Pt 2 of this episode covers;

  • The navigators; hard work for hard men.

  • Drink hard, play hard, fight hard.

  • The riots.

  • Individual lives.

  • The great railway tunnels.

  • The miners – life and death in the dark.

  • Monuments to sacrifice.

Follow the show on Facebook on our Facebook Page or in the Facebook group for Victorian trivia or the latest news.

You can listen on iTunes and subscribe for free to get all the latest episodes, or even leave me a review. The show is also on Spotify, Stitcher, Podbean. Don’t forget to tell your friends.

Support the show on Patreon, and get exclusive patrons only episodes plus other goodies.

EP027 Pt1 “Once I built a railroad”

Railway building was a great achievement of the Victorian Age, but railways are complicated and hard to build. This show covers the process and the people involved in building these incredible pieces of engineering. Pt 1 of this episode covers;

  • The kinds of labourer & builders.

  • Surveying and risks to historic sites.

  • Wordsworth and the Lake District.

  • Acts of Parliament and politicians on the take.

  • Equipment troubles

  • The navigators; hard work for hard men.

Follow the show on Facebook on our Facebook Page or in the Facebook group for Victorian trivia or the latest news.

You can listen on iTunes and subscribe for free to get all the latest episodes, or even leave me a review. The show is also on Spotify, Stitcher, Podbean and you can also listen via the website at ageofvictoriapodcast.com. Don’t forget to tell your friends.

Support the show on Patreon, and get exclusive patrons only episodes plus other goodies.

EP026 The railway is coming!

The railway is here. What a change Britain was about to see! A herald of a new age, and new way of life. Something new in human history. This episode covers;

  • The English landscape and the train 1820-1840.

  • Early trains & popular .

  • Economic impacts.

  • Canal and coach monopolies.

  • Slum clearance & Agar Town.

  • A riot in Basingstoke.

  • Triumph of the railways.

Follow the show on Facebook on our Facebook Page or in the Facebook group for Victorian trivia or the latest news.

You can listen on iTunes and subscribe for free to get all the latest episodes, or even leave me a review. The show is also on Spotify, Stitcher, Podbean and you can also listen via the website at ageofvictoriapodcast.com. Don’t forget to tell your friends.

Support the show on Patreon, and get exclusive patrons only episode plus other goodies.

BONUS CHAT WITH THE SIECLE PODCAST – BRITAIN AND FRANCE AFTER WATERLOO

Bonus episode of The Age of Victoria & The Siècle! Learn about the differences between how France and Britain experienced the years after Waterloo in a conversation between your host Chris Fernandez-Packham and David Montgomery, host of the Siecle Podcast.

We chat about the state of Britain and France after the battle of Waterloo, to around 1830. I really enjoyed this opportunity chat to a fellow history fan. British and French history is deeply entwined and getting perspectives of each was fascinating. If you haven’t listened to the Siecle, please do because it is covering the same period as the Age of Victoria, but for the French. It will increase your understanding of the C19th immensely and is also extremely enjoyable.

Follow the show on Facebook on our Facebook Page or in the Facebook group for Victorian trivia or the latest news.

You can listen on iTunes and subscribe for free to get all the latest episodes, or even leave me a review. The show is also on Spotify, Stitcher, Podbean and you can also listen via the website at ageofvictoriapodcast.com. Don’t forget to tell your friends.

Support the show on Patreon, and get an exclusive patrons only episode plus other goodies.

MINI017 Great things are done when men and mountains meet

“Great things are done when men and mountains meet; This is not done by jostling in the street.” -William Blake

Join me for this adventurous minisode.

This show has

  • Setting the scene; literature and the quest for adventure.

  • How Victorian masculinity was shaped by adventure literature.

  • How the mountains effect our minds

  • An ordinary boy from Surrey gets a job oversea’s.

  • The philosophy of mountains in the Victorian era.

  • A dangerous climb.

  • A woman’s place is seeking adventure..

Follow the show on Facebook on our Facebook Page or in the Facebook group for Victorian trivia or the latest news.

You can listen on iTunes and subscribe for free to get all the latest episodes, or even leave me a review. The show is also on Spotify, Stitcher, Podbean and you can also listen via the website at ageofvictoriapodcast.com. Don’t forget to tell your friends.

Support the show on Patreon, and get an exclusive patrons only episode plus other goodies.

SOURCES FOR QUEEN VICTORIA’S CORONATION.

SOURCES ON QUEEN VICTORIA’S CORONATION

Details on Queen Victoria’s coronation are available, but the event is often skimmed over in popular histories on the topic. I touched on her coronation in episode 24, and used the following sources to provide a favour of the day. Tracking down the musical and Order of Service was tricky, but luckily some dedicated Circular in 1902 had gone to a lot of trouble to do a detailed reconstruction, and I’m really glad about that. I will add to this list when I do a future deep dive into the coronation.

In addition to those, I consulted the usual general sources on Victoria that are listed in the sources for episodes on Victoria’s early life.

TRANSCRIPT: EP014 DARKNESS FALLS: MT TAMBORA PT2

EP014 DARKNESS FALLS: MT TAMBORA PT2

The episode you are about to hear is part 2 on the eruption of Mt Tambora in 1815, and its immense effects around the world that lingered long into the Victorian period. If you haven’t listened to pt 1, please listen to that first. The ash and dust from Mt Tambora had spread out around the entire world by winter of 1815. Last episode I described the enormous dust cloud in the pacific. I made a mistake though when I got the location of Pittsburgh wrong, which is in Pennsylvania. Well done to eagle eyed listener Jonathan for spotting that. I apologise to all you lovely listeners who live in either Pennsylvania or Ohio. Both states are lovely, and one day I would love to visit both for beer and burgers. So here’s hoping.

I just wanted to mention before we get going that the show now has a new logo and artwork. Don’t worry, I haven’t been bought out by Disney as a new addition to the Marvel Universe. It is just that I wanted something that was a bit brighter and a bit more focused on Victoria. I’ll miss the Lady of Shallot as she got us on the air, but I love the new look and owe Rob at Totalus Rankium an immense thank you for the amazing design work.

Also a huge thank you for the most recent iTunes reviews by Tigpack, Holh123 and Ms Pod-a-lot. I really love getting these reviews, and they help new listeners find the show. If you want to say a thank to me for making the show, well head to iTunes, make sure you are logged in, search for the Age of Victoria Podcast, and click on Ratings & Reviews. Then click on Write a Review. Then tell the world what you think.

Play show introduction including contact details.

[QUOTE] I had a dream, which was not all a dream.

The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars

Did wander darkling in the eternal space,

Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth

Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;

Morn came, and went – and came, and brought no day.

Men forgot their passions in the dread

Of this their desolation; and all hearts

Were chill’d into selfish prayer for light.

[END QUOTE]

Lord Bryon “Doom” 1-9

The climate chaos in Europe in 1816 inspired Bryon to write those chilling words. Now everyone would have to deal with the consequences. They are almost to vast to be believed at first. When talking about climate change, sometimes the small numbers can mislead people into thinking that the impact is also small. The world can seem so vast and immutable that the idea a minor thing like a volcano in South East Asia could change world climates and up end civilisations seems too fantastic. That’s because the human mind is very geared to the immediate, the fight or flight response. We aren’t very good with the idea of system changes and disruption.

Climate science

The year of 1816 is a powerful illustration of the wild effect small changes in climate numbers can have. It was unfortunate that the eruption occurred during a very vulnerable period in Europe. The continent was already experiencing a cold decade since 1810, and previous volcanic eruptions had exacerbated this cooling trend. If these eruptions were like putting too much gasoline or petrol on the BBQ, well the massive Mt Tambora eruption was like having the air force drop napalm on it. The scale of the eruption was cataclysmic. The release of aerosols disrupted the critical North Atlantic Oscillation and the Jet stream changing the weather in Europe immensely.

One immediate impact was to strengthen the polar vortex. This is a common outcome of disruptions to the jet stream. Some listeners might recall in 2017-2018 North American temperatures plummeted as a result of just such a strengthening of the polar vortex caused by disruptions of the jet stream. Likewise a weakened jet stream has been responsible for the incredible hot summer in Europe & the UK in 2018. The model of how changes to the jet stream affect weather is well established and you can see it in both the 1815-1816 event and the more recent polar vortex events caused by climate change.

Now you might be jumping up in your seat saying “come on, how do we know what the volcano did to temperatures.” Well in the first place we are really, really lucky that weather observation was a great passion in the C18th and C19th. Thomas Jefferson was an obsessive observer of weather, even taking observations on 4th Jul 1776, a time when he was rather busy! The Royal Navy kept meticulous air & sea temperature records, along with notes on the weather & cloud formations. Even during battle no interruption to recording was permitted. Their study of the trade winds and climate theory intensified throughout the C19th.

Many, many Americans like Timothy Dwight and many Europeans across the continent religiously recorded temperatures and weather patterns. Ironically there was ongoing debate in New England about whether the climate was warming up and whether deforestation was to blame. Observers noticed the effect of deforestation on the soil and how it increased the problem of drought and water run off, with drier soils expected to be warmer therefore creating a feedback loop. The basics of climate change were being understood in the earl C19th but a lot of the links and main causes were still unknown. The jet stream wouldn’t even be discovered until after WW2. Modern scientists have measured the aerosol remnants of the eruption in ice core samples and lake sediments. They have also recorded the plummeting temperatures in tree ring growth. As solar dimming went into effect around the world, land then sea temperatures dropped. Sunsets became increasingly red or orange and strange, enough to show up in analysis of art work of the period. People became fearful of portents. There is even a popular supposition that the eruption might have influenced the weather the day and night before the Battle of Waterloo, destroying Napoleon’s last fading hope of victory.

Before we look into events on the ground, we need to have a quick think about famine. There’s a fairly fashionable view that famines are only caused by political mismanagement or bad economic decisions, and that there is always enough food to feed people. It is just that bad economics means people can’t afford the higher prices of food in times of scarcity. What you need to remember about this idea, which I am not challenging, is that it is mostly applicable to post industrial societies where human mismanagement is the trigger for most famines. In the pre-industrial world and the Victorian era, absolute food supplies could be wiped out. Excessive rain, flooding, drought, volcanoes, plague, deforestation, desertification and inundation from the sea could mean that absolute food levels declined precipitously.

Mainland Britain

In Britain, the great struggle of the day in 1815 was dealing with the post Napoleonic War economy and the increasingly dysfunctional Royal Family. On a continent wrecked by war, a series of poor harvests had made the populations immensely war weary and fragile. Now millions of soldiers were being discharged and the civilian authorities would have to integrate them back into economies that badly needed rebuilding. This was difficult as the ruling classes mostly had little to no interest in the welfare of the general population provided the overall wealth of the nations territories was maintained. Free market economics was the ruling philosophy in Britain. The market would determine people’s monetary worth. Most educated people thought government interference in the economy would always make things worse.

Britain as a whole enjoyed a good harvest in the Autumn of 1815. It was the calm before the storm. Winter in England seemed colder than usual. March saw some recovery with excessive rain, then April had some snows preventing travel in places. This delayed the growing season, but wasn’t extreme. Scotland had a miserable, freezing winter and lots of storms. Even in May conditions didn’t seem to improve in Scotland. Across Europe in May snows fell. Farm land across the UK remained unproductive and the weather threw great, great lashes of snow, sleet and rain at farmers. The Royal Cornwall Gazette raised concerns about farmers having to give up on some crops Unfortunately the government was led by the mediocre Lord Liverpool, with Lord Castlereagh periodically usurping his meagre authority. King George III descended further into blindness and irreversible madness, whilst the Prince Regent (the future King George IV) became increasingly fat, extravagant and despised. By March 1815 the Prince Regent had wracked up personal debts of over £1,480,600. A sum of money that was simply mind boggling at the time. For comparison, the HMS Caledonian, one of the finest First Rate warships ever built for the Royal Navy in the Age of Sail, cost £96,381 to build and another £6,711 to fit out. In other words, the Prince Regents debts could have covered the cost of a world class battleship and had change to perhaps build a supporting frigate and operate them both. His debts were nothing like as much in the national interest either.

There’s great quote here about the state Britain was in in 1816

[QUOTE] Lord Liverpool entered 1816 facing a host of problems as Britain made the transition from war to a peacetime economy. A trade recession caused in part by the termination of wartime contracts forced numerous businesses to cut wages or lay off workers and others to declare bankruptcy. The ranks of the employed swelled further as the government rapidly demobilised the army, throwing more than a third of a million men into the labour market [END QUOTE]

It was in this atmosphere that debate raged over the corn laws. They were designed to keep grain prices high by preventing imports. They weren’t meant to punish the poor per se; instead the idea was that they kept British farms in production. The corn laws prevented importation of grain unless British grain prices fell below a certain level. Essentially acting as a subsidy for farms that wouldn’t be able to stay afloat without them. The knock on effect was that the poor paid a higher price from grain, and as grain was a huge portion of their entire spending, the high prices were regressive and punitive. Still rural farms were major employers, and the main food source. The British government had to keep them in business. The problem was that the effect was far beyond keeping them in business and far more about lining the pockets of already rich landowners.

Riots broke out in Bridport, Dorset and then in Bury St Edmunds. Demobilised soldiers in East Anglia were hit by the collapse of the old cottage based spinning industry as a result of the industrial revolution, and also a massive collapse in wages, as well as sky rocketing food prices. In Norfolk nearly 1,500 people armed with improvised weapons raised flags saying “Bread or Blood” before looting shops and farms for food, as well as attacking local gentry who had to call out the militia. The town of Ely was also rioting for food. Eventually the local magistrates had to call out not the local militia but the Yeoman Cavalry supported by profession troops from the Royal Dragoons. Ominously for the authorities, the riots barricaded themselves into the tavern and it appeared shades of the French revolution were in danger of sweeping across the country. The troops had to storm the tavern, killing one rioter. 80 were arrested, and 5 were hanged.

Onto this dangerous situation of desperate hunger, unemployment and wage collapse, the government response days before the Bridport riot was to vote to spending tens of thousands of pounds on wedding gifts to the Prince Regents daughter Charlotte. One land owner spoke for many of the ruling class when he grumbled

[QUOTE] The main root of evil is in the taxes. [END QUOTE]

There was no thought really from the establishment of any form of poor relief. Some of the population were getting utterly desperate, roaming the country for support, or hoping the Prince Regent would take up their cause. The Prince Regent was told by Parliament that the government had already done everything it could, and the only real remedy was to give things time to improve. His reply spoke volumes, as he lamented

[QUOTE] the distresses of some classes of the people and trusted that they would bear them with fortitude and energy. [END QUOTE]

That’s a hard message to hear from a man of incredible wealth, immense debts, and who was so fat he had to wheeled in a special chair up a ramp to mount a horse.

It was onto this fragile country with a dysfunctional government and despised monarchy that the climate devastation was about to really bite. As wet, cold spring turned into a wet cold summer, even by English standards, some of the press began to worry about the next harvest. They couldn’t know it, but wild swings were occurring with the jet stream, causing mass climate destabilisation across Europe and Northern America. It rained almost daily, and even in mid July storms brought more rain and hail, and even total darkness in parts of Scotland.

Some of the smarter economists like Thomas Maltheus or David Riccardo knew that the situation was teetering on the brink of disaster throughout the United Kingdom, but couldn’t think of real alternatives to the hands off approach of the government. By the end of July the Anglican Church was officially praying to God for relief from the weather. Rain, hail, landslides and flooding continued to ruin crops across the entire UK and Europe. Shockingly to many English tourists, they found the situation in Europe was even worse than in the UK. France remained under occupation, straining food supplies to breaking point, and it was in post Napoleonic political crisis. Food riots broke outing France and Belgium. This crisis of 1816-1817 has been called the last great substance crisis of the Western World. It was the last real time in Europe when there was an absolute lack of food on a massive scale.

The knock on effect on British trade was catastrophic. 2/3 of jobs were lost on the London docks. 10,000 servants were reported as out of work. If the official response was poor, at least some Dukes, senior churchmen and reform campaigners began meeting to arrange private charity relief. The need was desperate. In one parish alone 800 men queued for meagre relief supplies of bread and cheese.

Remember this kind of suffering can’t be waved away. A person whose farm had been devastated, and whose tenant farmer employer had left him unemployed had no where to turn. The situation for the causal labourers was even worse. There were thousands in this situation. Eventually hunger and starvation will override any kind of obedience to law. Imagine you were a magistrate and you tell a man who is watching his family starving to death in front of him that it is fine because it would be immoral for the government to interfere with the economy or for him to steal money from the rich aristocratic who is spending it on wine and lace. That’s not how humans work. Eventually there comes a snapping point. It had happened in France, and Britain teetered on the brink. Let’s step back and ask why the ruling class responded this way to the crisis. Leave aside the moral consideration of what kind of person would let people starve to death if they could help stop it, especially with little real impact on themselves. Look instead at the incredible shortsightedness of it. What is it that made the ruling class in Britain so secure in the idea they could continue as things were? I think a lot of it comes down to importance society of the time placed on hierarchy. The rigid world view that had been internalised at all social levels. The British establishment world view couldn’t flex to view poverty as anything but a moral failure rather than a result of massive structural inequalities and devastating climate change.

At the end of August more snow was added to the misery of the almost constant rains sweeping mainland Britain. Even the normally chirpy establishment newspaper the Times begin to allow hints that all was not well, but still maintained the line that the wheat harvest had been bountiful. This was either deluded or dishonest. Fake news of the highest order. The government duly attempted a coverup, by suppressing reports into crop yields and conditions as they were so alarming. Crop after crop was lost, and any hope of a good late harvest evaporated. Canterbury alone suffered economic losses of around £70,000.

The philosopher James Mill wrote to the economist Riccardo

[QUOTE] the corn here is absolutely green, nothing whatsoever in the ear; and a perfect continuance of rain and cold. There must now be of necessity a very deficient crop, and very high prices – and these with an unexampled scarcity of work will produce a degree of misery, the thought of which makes the flesh creep on ones bones – one third of the people must die – it would be a blessing to take them into the streets and highways, and cut their throats as we do with pigs.” [END QUOTE]

Ireland

The effects of Mt Tambora were beginning to be felt in Ireland as early as January 1816, when ferocious storms wrecked the Sea Horse transport ship in Tramore Bay killing 363 people.

Tragically agriculturally fragile Ireland was hit with devastating force. I do want to emphasise that when I’m talking about Ireland now, I’m giving you a really brief skim of the surface. C19th Irish society, geography and economics were very complicated, and are often indulge far too much the subject of historical stereotyping or romanticising about a huge subject.

80% of the rural population of Ireland were incredibly poor tenant farmers and labourers, who even in the best years hovered over the brink of ruin. Marginal farms had been brought in to production by the richer members of the tenant farmer class, and the Anglo Irish gentry during the boom of the Napoleonic Wars, which had now gone bust. Almost all of Ireland was dependent on land wealth in some form; whether rich or poor, everything came back to the land. The gentry owned it, and took out huge loans on it, whilst providing jobs and local spending. The middle class did the day to day tenant farming and the great mass of the population did the labour. A vast gulf existed as the Anglo Irish landowners often only spoke English whilst the main of the population spoke Irish. Each feared and hated the other to a degree.

I want to remind you though not to read back from the Great Famine of 1845, also known as the Irish Potato Famine or the Great Dying, and this event. They were two very different events with very different causes. The Irish potato famine hit an already fragile society on its main crop which had come to be over relied on by the very poorest of the population, whereas the the famine of 1816 hit the entire of Europe across every kind of plant and animal farming, hitting all classes. In normal times, Ireland was prosperous agriculturally and didn’t have an unusual history of famines compared to the rest of Europe. The effect of the Great Famine sometimes distorts the history of Ireland and makes it easy to assume that the whole history of Ireland was one of poverty and starvation. It wasn’t, and was regarded as agriculturally rich.

Still the reliance on the potato meant that populations in Ireland had increased rapidly by 1816, yet society rested on a fragile base. The land, even in good years, could only just support the growing population as land became increasingly subdivided between growing families. The potato allowed a family to live on a small area of land, focusing their diet on potatoes, cows, chickens and pigs. This increased reliance on the potato even more at the bottom of society, and stored up trouble for the future. It wasn’t the primary cause of the famine in 1816. The massive population kept wages low as well. As America became more prosperous, Ireland exported less to the USA, leaving it achingly dependent on trade with Britain. The recent act of Union hadn’t helped. When Ireland became part of the United Kingdom, the Irish Parliament was eventually abolished and Irish MP’s were granted seats in the Westminster Parliament. Whilst some in Ireland were initially excited about this, since it gave them access to the ruling Parliament of one of the most powerful nations in the world, it had some huge draw backs.

Firstly Irish MPs were hugely outnumbered, so although they could now raise Irish issues on a larger stage, they had less voting power to make changes. Secondly the Irish were seen as culturally and socially distinct so they couldn’t operate the power and patronage back channels to circumvent these problems like the English. Thirdly it meant that local understanding and connections were lost. Fourthly, Ireland was now part of the same domestic market as the rest of the UK. Its textile workers and farmers were in direct competition with their fellow workers on mainland England (Scotland and Wales had different economies so they weren’t in the same markets).

Parts of Ireland did have an industrialising urban base similar to England, but it couldn’t easily compete with the established large scale mills in the North of England. There were also substantial numbers of Irish cottage based weavers who were facing the same problems as their English cottage based weaver counter parts.

Also please put to one side the idea that Ireland was overpopulated. The idea of over population is a difficult one. It isn’t a case of having too many people or too many babies. It depends greatly on how much food can be produced, the energy needs of the people, and wider economy. The rural Irish population was considered backwards by many tourists, and standards of housing were dreadful in comparison to more prosperous towns, but it is interesting to note that the Irish population as a whole was regarded as well fed and healthy. Reliance on the potato earlier than in mainland Britain, meant that overall calorie intake was quite high and compared favourably to the rural poor in England. The Irish History podcast has looked at this in a lot of detail, and we will do a deeper dive in our future episodes.

What is striking though is just how fragile the Irish economy was, how dependent it was on a few key area’s, and how dysfunctional the political structures were especially with absentee landlords. This was made worse by poor and repressive government from Westminster. The overall impression of Ireland in 1816 is one of a socially unsettled country that didn’t have the economic and agricultural resilience to cope with major shocks.

The enormous social tensions in Ireland meant that the British authorities were mostly focused on keeping order. Crime and disorder became a self fulfilling prophecy. There had been some recent violent uprisings, and the British viewed them as treasonous or at the very least criminal. It is worth baring in mind that during the Napoleonic Wars, some members of Irish society had formed alliances with the French to assist invasions, so the British viewed the loyalty of some of the Irish as highly suspect. The main establishment authorities, including men like Robert Peel, came expecting to find rampant crime, found it, assumed that this was the cause of the problems in Ireland and then focus on crime. This increased tensions, fuelling the cycle. Innate distrust and prejudice against Catholics only made things worse, whilst Irish gangs rioted for good reasons and bad, often robbing and intimidation the law abiding. British government reprisals could be extremely brutal and occasionally indiscriminate, worsening relations. The British monarchy was in an especially difficult position when it came to Catholic Ireland. The four King George’s and William IV were all from the House of Hanover. The claim of the Hanoverians to the English throne was based on the explicit claim to be protestant monarchs not Catholics. It was linked to the claim that the only other royal house that could have claimed the English throne, the House of Stuart, was illegitimate because it was Catholic. That might sound trivial to us, but it had huge implications. If the Hanoverians supported Catholic rights or emancipation in Ireland they were undermining their own claims to the right to the English and Scottish thrones. After all, if Catholics were entitled to equal treatment and freedoms, then surely there was no basis for the House of Stuart not to have retained the throne and that would make them the ruling house. This was a real bind for the conservative upper classes, including Sir Robert Peel.

In Ireland, men like Sir Robert Peel were too detached from the reality on the ground for the bulk of the rural Irish population. The rain was decimating crops, with over 143 days of rain in row totalling 31 inches. Daniel O’Connell, the nationalist was horrified at conditions, and even the gentry were facing ruin.

The climate disruption triggered one of the great demographic earth quakes in history. Irish people who could began the first major emigration to the United States, but also to Canada. To Peel’s annoyance it was the richer protestants who left. He would have preferred it to have been from the mass of souther rural poor to ease the pressure on food supplies and hopefully reduce death rates. He had no idea of the terrible situation in the USA and nor did the emigrants. Sadly for many of them, fleeing didn’t bring safety. Supplies would sometimes run out on the voyage to America, and many destitute people who did reach New Jersey or Philadelphia starved to death in the streets. The poorest of the population could often only afford the cheap tickets to Liverpool, and the mass emigration of the Irish to the British mainland caused immense tensions as they almost inevitably ended up as labourers, competing for already scarce jobs. (Dr Majorie Bloy http://www.historyhome.co.uk/c-eight/ireland/ire1817.htm)

By September and October, full reports of the utter humanitarian crisis in Ireland were beginning to hit home with Peel and the London Press. County Kerry, County Mayo, County Westmeath, CountyFermanagh, County Antrim and County Down all reported massive flooding, wiping out what was left of the crops and potatoes. Some fields near Drogheda, were so flooded, they were colonised by ducks swimming on them.

Ok, if that isn’t shocking enough, think about this. Most of the rural population in Ireland depended on cutting peat and turf for fuel, shelter and building materials. The rain made it sodden and useless. What meagre food there was couldn’t easily be cooked, and there was no fire for warmth. Peel now knew he had a massive disaster on his hands, but as he said

[QUOTE] I fear we have melancholy prospects before us and are threatened with calamities for which it is impossible to suggest a remedy. [END QUOTE]

It is easy to assume that Peel was blind to the problems in Ireland and came with the common hostile attitude held by most of the ruling class, but he actually commented that he regarded the Irish in a positive light, with immense potential for development. His correspondence and replies in Parliament were often extremely positive in around 1816. He said in a reply to Sir J Newport in the House,

[QUOTE] that it is impossible to see them without admiring many of their qualities. [END QUOTE]

he went on to list them as being faithful, honest and chaste in marriage. He always commented on other occasions about the problems of Ireland being what we would call structural; he was scathing about the absentee gentry and felt the lack of them living in Ireland, but collecting rents from estates they owned there, was holding back the economy, taking money out of the country, and weakening the talent pool that would normally be the back bone of the local administrations and court systems. He also attacked the free press in Ireland, which he viewed as the main cause of many of the problems in the country, since it corrupted what he viewed as an honest population in his opinion. His view was wholly paternalistic. He was a Tory after all, but it was based on the assumption that a local land owning gentry should actually be local, bound to the community and incentivised to help it prosper. He wanted greater protection for some key industries to allow them to develop, and he was highly reluctant to sanction military deployments. There’s an interesting quote from him in a debate in Parliament – the Army Estimates Feb 1816

[QUOTE] The house must not suppose that the government listens to every hasty application from magistrates for a military force. Such applications often spring from groundless fears; and the answer invariably returned to them is, that it is impossible to attend to every individual who makes them. [END QUOTE]

I’m telling this so you understand that Peel was a clever, complicated person. He wasn’t a repressive tyrant, nor did he want to commit some kind of genocide in Ireland. He did come to the view that only law and order maintained by the army would keep the country from collapse. This was a dangerous course though. The Protestant army in Ireland had engaged in some brutal repressions of the local population, and had also suffered some brutal reprisals or random attacks. The use of the military in Ireland was never going to help improve social tensions or help with necessary reform. Still put yourself in the shoes of the officials in many rural area’s. There’s no refrigeration, no trains or trucks to move food around. No mass reserves of food, no real canned goods or rations. The main bulk food stuff that was relatively non-perishable and transportable ws grain and perhaps rice. These weren’t going to be available at short notice, and even if they were the expense was huge and there was no real way to distribute the food around the countryside.

Administration remained primitive and used parchment and dipped ink pens. News travelled slowly in rural Ireland, even by the standards of the C19th. Even the best of administrations was slow, but Ireland in 1816 was a society with deep structural problems, rife with social and religious tension, deep issues in its government and suffering periodic repression from the Westminster Government and British army. It is easy to blame the authorities, but as the old saying goes, try walking a mile in their mochasins. When mass climate disruption hits, human societies can suffer seriously. Whilst the easy view is that the authorities are always at fault, the reality of system wide shocks is far more complicated, especially in a country with the difficulties faced by Ireland.

As if Ireland hadn’t suffered enough though, with grim inevitability, disease in the form of Typhus struck in September. It would kill tens of thousands of Irish. Combined with the famine over 100,000 Irish would die. This was tragedy on an enormous scale. The fear and helplessness goes beyond easy understanding. The Typhus epidemic would continue until 1819. It is ironic to note that when the great famine struck Ireland in 1845, Peel was Prime Minister. Again he was responsible for dealing with a colossal crisis in Ireland, and again he was initially unaware of the terrible scale of the humanitarian disaster unfolding, but he would eventually come to destroy his party and government to repel the Corn Laws in part to help the victims of the great famine.

In October northern England was again hit with ferocious floods. East Riding, Berwick, and numerous other towns, were flooded with bridges washed away and fields inundated. Labour was so cheap by now farmers could take their pick of workers, but with no crops to harvest there were no jobs. Cattle couldn’t be fed, so were sold off at rock bottom prices threatening the ability of farmers to keep enough livestock for the following year.

At the very top of society though, Lord Liverpool and his government were feeling fairly happy. They were pleased to see revenue from taxes rising, and in accordance with the classic economic theories of the times assumed this meant people were obviously buying more goods, so the economy was growing and therefore overall the economy was actually healthy and wealthy. Low interest rates, good gold reserves and plenty of credit and relatively low debt levels made him feel even more confident. Any problems with the lower class weren’t the problem of the government; it was for the invisible hand of the market to sort out. Private charity, not government aid was viewed as the only possible response; the job of government was to keep spending and taxes low. Government aid was viewed as encouraging idleness.

It strikes me as strange how these arguments get rehashed and go in endless cycles throughout history. Still, it seems an immense stretch to say in hindsight that the poor were at fault for the massive climate disturbance in 1816. Bread prices were soaring. People across the country were desperate in unimaginable ways. Food riots broke out again and again. In hard hit Wales, strikes and riots broke out. Magistrates called for troops. Eventually as local yeoman were not enough, veteran cavalry from Waterloo were deployed in Newport to crack what seemed to be a rebellion. Still the government did nothing, convinced that this was revolutionary agitation rather than sign of distress. When 8,000 people gathered at Spa fields to talk about petitioning the Prince Regent in November the temperature dropped below freezing. Snow returned. The protesters railed against high taxes and ominously the Tricolour flag of revolution was seen flying, liberty caps were mounted on pikes, and cries went up of marching on “the British Bastille” of Coldbath Fields Prison. American Ambassador John Quincy Adams was shocked to find people starving in the street. Lord Castlereagh, star of our episodes on the Congress of Vienna, had his home stoned. The Prince Regent refused to meet MP’s petitioning for reform and Lord Liverpool refused to assemble Parliament to debate. A mob formed and marched on the Tower of London, but was dispersed.

This was the perfect excuse for Lord Liverpool. He summoned Parliament in January and whipped up fears that there was a revolution, so strong repressive legislation was needed to preserve national security. Spy networks were set up, meetings of more than 50 people were required to obtain prior permission, a gagging act was brought in and ancient rights of Habeas Corpus were effectively suspended. Meetings were broken up. Cavalry were deployed enthusiastically. Quick trials and hangings of suspected rebels became common. Transportation to Australia was increased. With great reluctance though Parliament was forced to enact schemes to provide loans to employers to create jobs usually though public works like road building, canals or land improvements. The response was electric and take up immense. It wasn’t enough to force Lord Liverpool to take the situation in Ireland seriously, despite Peel’s efforts to provide food to the poor and also keep a lid on serious riots. Peels attempts to import grain failed miserably, so he finally tired of waiting on Lord Liverpool. He set up his own distribution system run by 5 protestants, 2 quakers and a Catholic. This was shockingly radical for the time especially from a Tory. He created a small scale financial fund based on the same model as the British schemes. It remained a drop in the ocean, especially against the background of mutual hostility and establishment prejudice.

Gradually the year of 1816 ended and in 1817 the climate, although harsh, began to stabilise enough for a more normal harvest. Times would remain bitterly hard for the bulk of the working population of the United Kingdom and reform would be strongly resisted by the ruling classes. The next 15 years of British history was defined by the war for social reform and democratic reform. This is the backdrop Victoria herself would grow up in, and attitudes to the monarchy were deeply shaped by this disastrous period, especially the immense unpopularity of the Prince Regent (later King George IV). Without Victoria, and more especially without the brilliance of Prince Albert, it is likely the damage to the monarchy done in this period would never have been repaired and perhaps Britain would have joined the continent in the year of revolutions in 1848.

Join me next time as where we turn our attention across the Atlantic and discover that in America there was no escape from the icy grip of the Year without Summer.

CHRISTMAS SPECIAL 2019

Victorian Christmas Time! Mistletoe and Wine; listening to Podcast time.

This is a special episode for Christmas 2019. Learn about the hustle & bustle of the Victorian Christmas, with a focus on the games and entertainments. Find out how much effort people went to, then enjoy the bonus story on a special subject.

This show has

  • Victorian celebrations.

  • The postal service.

  • Games.

  • Music & the penny gaff.

  • Pretending to be respectable.

  • A big bonus.

Follow the show on Facebook on our Facebook Page or in the Facebook group for Victorian trivia or the latest news.

You can listen on iTunes and subscribe for free to get all the latest episodes, or even leave me a review. The show is also on Spotify, Stitcher, Podbean and you can also listen via the website at ageofvictoriapodcast.com. Don’t forget to tell your friends.

Support the show on Patreon, and get an exclusive patrons only episodes plus other goodies.

EP025 The industrial revolution & shattering the energy ceiling.

Forged in fire, the new era is born. The British unlock a new energy source and create the industrial revolution. Humanity around the world is transformed; no longer limited by our own muscles or the plodding of animals or the slow harnessing of wind and wave. Instead the British unleashed a revolution that allowed humanity to surpass all of its previous limit. Without this moment, nothing in the modern world would have been possible.

This show has

  • An outline of key concepts of energy sources and management.

  • The application of energy to useful tasks.

  • The early pioneers.

  • The great ripples of change.

  • Triumph of industry

  • Poverty in the midst of plenty.

  • Angry authors & a cultural shift.

Follow the show on Facebook on our Facebook Page or in the Facebook group for Victorian trivia or the latest news.

You can listen on iTunes and subscribe for free to get all the latest episodes, or even leave me a review. The show is also on Spotify, Stitcher, Podbean and you can also listen via the website at ageofvictoriapodcast.com. Don’t forget to tell your friends.

Support the show on Patreon, and get an exclusive patrons only episode plus other goodies.

TRANSCRIPT: EP013 THE VOLCANOES WRATH – THE YEAR WITHOUT SUMMER 1816

Setting the scene

Imagine a tranquil pacific heaven. Sandy beaches, warm ocean and gentle breezes. This is in many ways as close to paradise as humans have come. Plenty of fish in the seas. It is a world away from the horrors of Europe in 1815. A Europe where the Napoleonic Wars were entering their final, lethal stages. The battle for the Enlightenment seemed on a knife edge in Europe, and the seeds of it were clinging on in the fledgling United States. Everything seemed to revolve around people in Europe if you take the narrow view, one that is heavily centred on Western civilisation.

Jane Austin published Emma, the War of 1812 officially ended, the British conquered Ceylon, countries in Europe were being created and breakthroughs in technology were being made. All in all, it would seem like the old school of history, the view of the age of man shaping the world was particularly applicable.

In Java in April 1815, one particular man Thomas Stamford Raffles, the Lt Governor was going to have a very, very bad day even in paradise. In fact he was going to have a series of them. They would sharply crush the notion that something as insignificant as mankind was the cause of the greatest events in 1815. Napoleon might have restarted the wars, and appeared to shape the course of history, but in fact nature was going to do something spectacular and heartbreaking.

Raffles was a really interesting guy. He was an aristocratic and had been a key player in the conquest of Java from the French. He was appointed Lt Governor during the 45 day campaign to take Java from the French. He was clever and able to negotiate local politics but at the same time he led military actions against native Javanese who resisted. He crushed the Javanese Princes and looted a royal archive. He also seized nearby territories for the British in case Java was to be returned to the Dutch after the Napoleonic Wars ended. In this respect he appeared much like the typical image of a heartless European conqueror. He had another side though; he was interested in history, arranging the cataloguing of numerous historical sites of importance in Java. He instituted farming reforms, and made modest attempts at curtailing the slave trade although he owned slaves himself. In his future governorships he would go further to abolish slavery entirely as well as writing a history of Java and going on to found Singapore. He would write a book on Zoology and be instrumental in the founding of London Zoo.

You can see in him a prototype for many of the Victorian empire builders who often curiously blended extreme military hawkishness with immense intellectual drive and curiosity.

The event

On the 05 April 1815 Mount Tambora, located in the north of Sawumba Island near Java would begin the first in a series of mega eruptions. These would have devastating impacts not just on the local area, but eventually around the world.

Whatever our modern views on colonial military conquest, it is important to recognise the sheer talent of men like Raffles. Yet during the eruption of Mt Tambora, it is painfully clear how little power or influence even a man of the energy and intellect like Raffles could actually have.

Between 05 April 1815 and 10 April 1815, Mt Tambora would erupt three main times. These eruptions would be some of the largest in recorded human history. They were on a scale that can only be realistically be described using language like biblical, or cataclysmic. There’s a great article in Wired magazine that gave a fantastic scientific summary of the sheer energy involved. I’m going to quote it now, but you can find it online on Wired magazines website.

[QUOTE] An explosive eruption like Tambora releases huge amount of energy. A rough estimate for the 1815 event is ~1.4 x 1020joules of energy were released across the few days of eruption. One ton of TNT releases ~4.2 x 109 joules, so this eruption was 33 billion tons of TNT. That’s 2.2 million Little Boys (the first atomic bomb). The US uses about 1.17 x 1020 joules of power each year (at least in 2007), so Tambora, in the span of a few days, released about the same amount of energy as the consumption of the entire United States in one year (or ~ 1/4 of the entire world’s annual energy consumption!) If you want to compare it to other geologic events, the 2004 Indonesian earthquake that generated the Boxing Day tsunami releases ~110 petajoules of energy (1015joules). That still leaves Tambora ~1200 times more powerful than that M9.3 earthquake. [END QUOTE]

https://www.wired.com/2015/04/tambora-1815-just-big-eruption/

What do those numbers mean? Honestly I don’t know. The human mind can’t really cope with that kind of scale. We can’t grasp it. Put it this way, the explosions of Mt Tambora could even be heard as far away as 1,615 miles in Sumatra. That’s like an explosion going off in New York City that could be heard in Denver Colorado. Scientists can use the Volcanic Explosivity Index to record how explosive an eruption is. This scale is logarithmic, running from 0-8. That means each step up the scale is ten times more powerful than the last.

So let’s put Mt Tambora on the scale and relate it to a few eruptions you might have heard of. The basic on all the time eruptions in Hawaii that you might have seen beautiful pictures of, they clock in at 0-1 on the scale. The Soufriere Hills Volcanoes in Monsarrat are on the 3, whilst stepping up to 4 includes major eruptions like Eyjafjallajökull (2010) in Iceland which was a huge media event, it ground all the planes and was on the news and I’m sure we all remember it. These are big, pretty disruptive events, but that only got up to a number 4 on the scale. Stepping up to 5 now includes terrifying events like Mt Vesuvius and Mt Saint Helens. If you remember the Mt Saint Helen’s eruption it was staggering. I can still remember the impression it made on me as a young child watching news reports.

Moving up another step to 6 gets to Pinatubo, which cooled global temperatures by about 1 degrees and also includes Mt Krakatoa. Ok, I think you are beginning to get an idea now because now we are stepping up to 7, which includes monsters like Mt Tambora. You have not experienced anything like this in your life time and you should be profoundly grateful. Tambora is the only confirmed VEI 7 eruption during human recorded history.

There’s a Minoan eruption of Thera in the middle of the second millennium BC may have been, and it is suspected, although not proved, that the eruption of Samalas volcano in 1257 was also a VEI scale 7 eruption and it might have helped trigger the mini ice age. The reality is then that no human being on Earth today has experienced anything as powerful as a VEI 7 volcano, and Mt Tambora is the only confirmed VEI7 incident in recorded human history.

A VEI 7 eruption is capable of changing the climate on a global scale. It can end civilisations. Raffles and men like him would be in the middle of observing and trying to pick up the pieces. Then the changes would spread around the world. We will look at the wider impact next episode. These would include the spread of Cholera, changes in art and literature to reflect mass famine, increased migration in the United States, deaths world wide, flooding and devastating changes to weather, including reduced sunlight for months. For now, we are going to look at the eruption and its immediate impact in more detail.

The amount of material blasted out into the air caused a zone of darkness covering a radius of (373miles) 600km. If you are struggling with that distance, imagine the distance from New York City to Pittsberg Ohio or from London to north of Glasgow in Scotland. Then turn it from day time to night time and leave it like that for two whole days. Now try to imagine that you have no idea how volcanoes work, or any kind of modern science. No electric lights or backup generators. No satellites or radios or reserve communications. Imagine instead that you live on an island in the pacific and there is a massive noise then darkness falls. If you are educated like Raffles you might look for natural causes but you would be wholly ignorant of almost the entire scientific knowledge you need to have an understanding of what is happening. Even though the great Benjamin Franklin had recently proposed that volcanoes might affect the weather in some, fully understanding of what a volcano does and how it works was over a century away. For the uneducated and for the bulk of the native populations in the local, this would be framed in more religious terms.

Remember that beautiful scene I told you to picture at the beginning. Well it was gone; blasted out of existence by the titanic forces of Mt Tambora. Erased. Volcanoes have a number of destructive characteristics. There is the initial explosion, which contains immense energy. This not only forces magma to the surface, but also rips rock from the volcanic chambers and surface free. There is also the massive devastating pyroclastic flows: waves of superheated gas containing gas, ash and rock that can travel hundreds of kilometres an hour. Often people nearby have only a few moments before they get hit and killed. Humans are simply too fragile to survive close to a VEI7 explosion. Even those further away are in terrible danger. The immense heat and energy can cause hurricanes of ash and debris. Toxic gases can kill thousands, and the thick clouds of ash can become so heavy that breathing is impossible, or people & buildings can be crushed under the weight. If near water, devastating Tsunami’s can be created. In the case of Tambora, one travelled 500km, finally hitting the East coast of Java with a 2 metre high wave.

There is also a following wave of rock, ash and pumice that can rain down for days. This choking ash can mean that plant and animal life is swiftly killed, with rivers being turned into ash filled soup. Within 24 hours the ash cloud thrown up by Mt Tambora covered an area the size of Australia. By the end of the year, the ash would have risen and spread out into the stratosphere to form an invisible but powerful veil of ash around the entire planet. This would reflect sunlight, and drastic cool global temperatures.

We were lucky, if that’s the right word, to have witnesses like Raffles to record the event. Perhaps at another time in human history we wouldn’t know about it except from the geological record. Even lacking the most basic equipment, these observation accounts are invaluable and also chilling. For example Raffles says he was informed by an employee that

[QUOTE]

At ten, P. M. of the 1st of April, we heard a noise resembling a cannonade, which lasted, at intervals, till nine o’clock next day; it continued at times loud, at others resembling distant thunder; but on the night of the 10th, the explosions became truly tremendous, frequently shaking the earth and sea violently. Towards morning they again slackened, and continued to lessen gradually till the 14th, when they ceased altogether. On the morning of the 3rd of April, ashes began to fall like fine snow; and in the course of the day they were half-an-inch deep on the ground. From that time till the 11th the air was constantly impregnated with them to such a degree, that it was unpleasant to stir out of doors. On the morning of the 11th, the opposite shore of Bali was completely obscured in a dense cloud, which gradually approached the Java shore, and was dreary and terrific. By one, P. M., candles were necessary; by four, P.M., it was pitch-dark; and so it continued until two o’clock of the afternoon of the 12th, ashes continuing to fall abundantly: they were eight inches in depth at this time.’

[END QUOTE]

Perhaps you think of ash as a bit of dust. A minor inconvenience. Well when it comes to Volcanoes, it isn’t. A volcanic ash cloud can contain

Carbon dioxide

Sulfates (sulfur dioxide)

Hydrochloric acid

Hydroflouric acid

As well as various minerals and fibres. All of these can cause horrific lung damage.

Perhaps you could visualise it more like this. Imagine you go and light five giant BBQ’s in your back garden. Now wait until the heat has died down enough that the coals are grey and just about approachable. Now get inside a small shed say. Then have two friends tip the whole lot onto your head, and they then shut you inside. Picture the heat, the fact that you can’t go anywhere, the ash fills your eyes and burns your lungs. Every breath you take is congested and a fiery agony. Imagine the pain and twisted horror as you realise there’s no escape and no help. This is the world of the survivor in their last moments. If you are far enough away, then it is a rain of cold ash. That brings darkness like Raffles described.

12,000 human beings died in the initial eruptions in ash falls, pyroclastic flows and clouds of superheated gas up to 1,000oC. Some of their carbonised remains were buried under the lava.

In C19th Java and the Pacific, there were no international rescue services that could help. No cars or planes to evacuate. No aid workers being flown in. No dried food supplies and water tankers. No emergency generators. Nothing. One of the most devasting natural disasters in human history was striking at a time when humans hadn’t even fully mastered primitive steam engines in any but the most basic ways.

On the back of this were the Tsunamis and flooding triggered by the eruptions, and reaching up higher into the atmosphere was a layer of ash that would bring darkness to the region.

Now I really, really need to remind you that the whole world in the C19th was basically either agrarian, pastoral or hunter-gather with little in the way of food or water storage as we would understand it today. So that meant most food production was highly localised. Disruption to local food production, even for a single season could result in real hardship, even if the wider country the area was located in was unaffected; local famines could and did erupt savagely. The area’s covered by ash were absolutely out of production. Death by starvation was absolutely guaranteed for a large number of the survivors. There was nothing they could do. They were doomed. That’s hard to get your head round today. There are no accounts from them. I can only picture some of the ash covered survivors walking around in a daze, blinded and slowly starving. Unable to find water or relief, the ash blighting their lungs.

Raffles dispatched Lt Philips to try to see what was going on and give aid. He discovered emptied villages, and desperate people reduced to eating plant stems and palm leaves.

The Rajah of Saugar told Lt Philips during the initial investigations

[QUOTE] Between nine and ten p.m. ashes began to fall, and soon after a violent whirlwind ensued, which blew down nearly every house in the village of Saugar, carrying the tops and light parts along with it.

“In the part of Saugar adjoining [Mount Tambora] its effects were much more violent, tearing up by the roots the largest trees and carrying them into the air together with men, houses, cattle, and whatever else came within its influence. This will account for the immense number of floating trees seen at sea.

“The sea rose nearly twelve feet higher than it had ever been known to be before, and completely spoiled the only small spots of rice lands in Saugar, sweeping away houses and every thing within its reach. [END QUOTE]

An entry from the British Naval Chronicle 1815 July to December vol 34 shows how dreadful the local situation was. This is a bit of a long quote, so bare with me

[QUOTE] Eruption of Mount Tomboro. Extract of a Letter, dated the 29th of May, 1815, from Batavia, from a Merchant of that Place.

“We have had one of the most tremendous eruptions of the Mountain Tomboro, that ever perhaps took place in any part of the world; this mountain is situation on the island of Subawa, and is distant from Batavia not less than 350 miles. We heard the explosions here distinctly, and had some of the ashes. It was totally dark at Macassar long after the sun was up; and at noon, at Sourabaya, the sun succeeded in enlightening the good folks so as to allow them to see some yards around; the ashes lay at Macassar, which is 250 miles from Sambawa, 1 1/2 inches deep. Captain Feen, of the Dispatch,and Captain Eatwell, of the Benares, who have visited the island since the eruptions, both declare, that the anchorage is much changed, and that they found the sea, for many miles around the island, so completely covered with trunks of trees, pumice stone &c. as he was told, that a village was inundated, and had three fathoms of water over it. Great numbers of the miserable inhabitants have perished, and others die daily. The crops of paddy (rice) have been utterly destroyed over a great part of the island; so that the situation of the unfortunate survivors will be really pitiable.” [END QUOTE]

Lt Philip would state

[QUOTE] the extreme misery to which the inhabitants have been reduced is shocking to behold. There were still on the road side the remains of several corpses, and the marks of many others where they had been interred: the villages almost entirely deserted and the houses fallen down, the surviving inhabitants having dispersed in search of food.” [END QUOTE]

As the locals reeled, and the Europeans struggle to think of a meaningful response, the cloud of ash rose inexorably up into the atmosphere. For some of the immediate local tribes, the even could only be understood in religious terms. The further away from the eruption, the less knowledge there was of it.

The local impacts would be devastating, causing immediate deaths of around 70,000 people from starvation or lack of water on top of the 12,000 that had been immediately killed in the eruption. Some villages literally sank. Cattle and horses died in droves, and rich rice fields were destroyed. Temperatures plummeted and many people were plunged into darkness. Officials reported having to light candles during the day to work. Tsunamis wrecked costal regions. Worse though, the immense disruption to the South Asian Monsoon would cause famines and create the conditions in India for the rise of the great scourge of the Victorian age, and its most famous disease – Cholera. A disease that will continue to wreck havoc, even today.

The massive famines in China weakened government control and led to massive rebellions against the Qing dynasty. The knock on effect of this, it has been suggested, was to allow Yunna to become a Chinese narco state. It would play a central role in global poppy production, in turn influencing Victorian Britain’s Opium Wars.

Sadly most of the sources from this period are from the more insulated aristocracy. As you can see from the quote of the Raja, even the rich suffered of course, but we don’t have the same local accounts from famine stricken peasants or workers in South East Asia as we do of the Irish population during the terrible Irish famines.

People around the world would be struck by freak weather in ways they couldn’t understand or deal with. Ireland, Switzerland and America were extremely hard hit as we will see next episode and the one after. During these episodes on Mt Tambora the climate disruption we will see the massive changes it wrecks on human civilisation and how it changes the very direction of history itself. Join me next time as we see what happens to the world as Summer itself fails, and the weather seems to dive into insanity. Kings, emperors, peasants or soldiers. No one, and no where would be untouched, and the impact would have far reaching consequences for the shape of history.