Monday, 27 January 2020

History Question

My last history blog post brought to an end my series on Building a Castle and the question is, what next? I don't want to scrabble around each week looking for any old thing to fill the space. I'm very concerned that if I'm bored writing, you're going to be bored reading it.
Here's a list of what I've done previously, and a link to the first post of each series:
My history books are about medieval Gower and I don't want to go outside the medieval period. It would mean researching a new period from scratch, which I don't have time for right now.

So, over to you!

Ann Marie Thomas is the author of four medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, and book two Alien Secrets, are out now. Follow her at

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Research: Advanced Technology for All

Parts of the world today have a generally high standard of living while others are very poor. We categorise countries as developed or developing, but it's not straightforward. Some countries have advanced enough technology to have a space programme while huge numbers of the population endure subsistence living. Will it ever even out? Will all the world ever be classed as developed?

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Building a Castle: Meals

We looked previously at the food supply and the kitchen, so we finish this long series by looking at meals. There is a chapter on meals in my free book Life in a Medieval Castle which you get for joining my mailing list. 

The main meal of the day was dinner, served about 11am. People may grab some bread and some ale before they started work at sunrise, but they then all came together for dinner. The Lord and his guests would have chairs at a table on a dais, but everyone else sat on benches at trestle tables which could be easily moved out of the way to free up the space in the hall. The word banquet comes from the French for little bench, banquette.

Friday, 10 January 2020

Research: Solar Panels in Space

Solar power is already widely used, from individuals with panels on their roof to great solar farms covering acres of land. But the major drawback is the atmosphere, which filters the sunlight, and the weather. Solar power only works when the sun is shining, or when the cloud cover is thin. If the panels could be placed outside the atmosphere those problems would be avoided.

However, solar panels in space have other problems, the first of which is getting them into space in the first place. Current rockets are expensive and the cost of getting large panels into space outweighs the benefits. Most satellites have solar panels for power once they are deployed, but the cost of getting them into space is offset by the benefits of the satellite's function.

Monday, 30 December 2019

Building a Castle: The Kitchen

Early in the medieval period castle kitchens and store rooms were free-standing buildings inside the bailey to guard against fire. As fire safety improved kitchens were built into the lower storey of the great hall, with a passage leading into the hall.

Medieval kitchen Gainsborough Old Hall (
The kitchen featured a large stone fireplace, big enough to roast sizeable animals or pieces of meat to feed the whole castle. The fireplace had a bread oven built into the back, and hooks for hanging pots to boil stew or vegetables. The problem with a large fireplace is getting the fire to draw when it was first lit. Some fireplaces had an aperture in the back which could be opened to create more draught, and they all had large chimneys.

Monday, 16 December 2019

Research: Nuclear Disarmament

According to the United Nations:
Nuclear weapons are the most dangerous weapons on earth.  One can destroy a whole city, potentially killing millions, and jeopardizing the natural environment and lives of future generations through its long-term catastrophic effects.  The dangers from such weapons arise from their very existence.  Although nuclear weapons have only been used twice in warfare—in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945—about 14,500 reportedly remain in our world today and there have been over 2,000 nuclear tests conducted to date.  Disarmament is the best protection against such dangers, but achieving this goal has been a tremendously difficult challenge.

Sunday, 8 December 2019

Building a Castle: Food Supply

Because a castle was built to withstand a siege, it was necessary to include gardens, food stores and areas for keeping poultry and livestock inside the walls. In peacetime there were fields outside the castle for herds and crops, and also a watermill or windmill to grind the grain.

Kitchen Garden
A typical kitchen garden grew vegetables and herbs. Some vegetables not known today were alexanders (like asparagus) and skirrets (with sweet-tasting white roots). Herbs were used in cooking and medicine, but also scattered among the rushes on the floor to combat smells and pests.