John Gallagher

John Gallagher teaches history at Leeds. He is the author of Learning Languages in Early Modern England.

Shriek of the Milkman: London Hawking

John Gallagher, 2 November 2023

The presence of hawkers shaped the streets of London. Their barrows and stalls might block the traffic, especially when they set up in busy places – on bridges, for instance. But they are best remembered for their sound.

Inside​ the manuscript that contains the 16th-century protocols of the council of St Gall, in Switzerland, is a poem that offers helpful advice. ‘Oh man, think long,’ the anonymous poet urges, ‘before talk escapes your mouth.’ If you want to be successful, you need to learn to ‘speak thoughtfully, without anger and hatred … Listening quickly and answering...

On​ a spring day in 1691, in what is now the town of Cēsis in Latvia, a group of local men waited to give testimony in a provincial courtroom. The case was unremarkable: a theft from the local church. One by one the men were called up by the judges, who were wealthy members of the German-speaking elite. When an old man called Mātiss took the stand, the judges noticed that the local...

Civility​ as a concept, or an ideal, didn’t take hold in England until the 16th century – when the national mood, insofar as we can speak of one, was a mixture of bravado and temerity. Eyeing the cultural achievements of France and Italy, and uneasily measuring themselves against the Romans and Greeks, early modern English thinkers worried that their customs, society and...

Fear the fairies: Early Modern Sleepe

John Gallagher, 18 May 2017

Of the thousands​ of people who visited the Buckinghamshire astrologer-physician and clergyman Richard Napier around the beginning of the 17th century, many were troubled by questions of sleep. The mother of 11-year-old Susan Blundell told Napier that her daughter was ‘now given mutch to sleeping’, and that two days before, she had slept ‘the space of 24 houres but that...

How to Read Aloud

Irina Dumitrescu, 10 September 2020

It is easy to overlook how loud pre­-modern education was. Most of our evidence for more than a thousand years of teaching consists of books, and, to the modern way of thinking, books are objects used...

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