February 25th, 2011

never there

Michael Wood's Story of England; The Spice Trail

Started off TV night on Weds with the penultimate episode of Michael Wood's Story of England - which covered the period from Henry VIII through to the early 19th Century. Which brought it to roughly the same time period as I've got my genealogy research back to (in some cases), it shouldn't've surprised me when they talked about someone's age on the 1841 census but somehow it did. This period covered the religious back & forth of the Reformation & the Civil Wars - the parish records for the mid-1640s are non-existant because of the wars, and because (as Wood pointed out) the parish priest may or may not have been in favour at any given point. And covered the move from feudalism to capitalism - at the beginning of the period most people in the village farmed a bit of land for food for their family, and at the end of the period there were still some farmers but the open strip fields were now enclosed and they grew food for sale & everyone else worked other jobs to buy what they needed. The Industrial Revolution was a part of this trend, and the programme closed with a segment about the machine knitters (which was the primary industry in the village) who were dreadfully exploited - whole families working long hours for little pay, and not even able to buy enough of the necessities of life. It's a shame the next one is the last one - I could quite happily have watched twice as many of these :)

Second programme of the evening was the first episode of The Spice Trail - a kind of sequel to The Frankincense Trail which we watched last year. Kate Humble goes to exotic places looking for the origins and makings of various spices. This first episode covered pepper and cinnamon. By coincidence J and I had been talking the other day about pepper, wondering where it came from - and now we know! It grows as green berries on a creeper, that are then sun-dried (black pepper) or soaked (white pepper). And cinnamon is the inner bark of a bush, that they peel and then roll up into the cinnamon sticks we buy. Where the programme shone, I thought, was the historical & botanical information and showing us the farmers/producers of the spices. But I thought (as with The Frankincense Trail) there was a bit much of the "hey look at the funny people" stuff, I'd've fast-forwarded past some of it had I been watching on my own - but I have a very low threshold for that sort of thing before I find it both boring & cringe-making. J didn't have nearly as much of a problem with it as I did (and doesn't categorise it that way anyway :) ).