9 items from history that prove life is infinitely better now



2017-08-30 14:47:26

When you feel like you’ve had enough of the pace of the modern world - when the news is getting scarier by the day - it’s tempting to look back on history with rose coloured spectacles.

But the past is a foreign country. And almost everything is rubbish there.

Here are nine reasons to be cheerful in the here and now.

9. Pattens

These two uncomfortable looking pieces of iron footwear are known as pattens.

Image: Hansons Auctioneers

It could be worse, look at these - Image: Hansons Auctioneers

They were built to keep the feet of a young noble out of the muck and filth strewn across the streets of 17th century England.

Today we have sewers and sanitation systems. Stilts are no longer a necessity for crossing the street.

If that’s not cause for rejoicing I don’t know what is.

8. The pillory

If you’re convicted of a crime these days, you’ll at least be given the chance to defend yourself and a lawyer who’ll have your back.


No fun at all - Image: Mosby & Co 

That wasn’t the case in the olden days.

Instead, if you were accused of some petty crime you’d be shackled into the stocks and pelted with rotten veg.

You’d be freed when everyone in your village was satisfied you’d had a thoroughly miserable time.

7. The mangle

Of all the tedious jobs around the house – washing has to be one of the worst.


A massive waste of energy - Image: Morphy Auctions 

Even the simple act of loading and unloading a washing machine is deeply irritating. Don’t even get me started on putting the results in a tumble dryer, or worse yet, hanging them out to dry.

But in the past there were no machines to do our washing for us. The whole thing had to be done by hand.

The ultimate symbol of the nagging dread of washing day is the mangle – a heavy set of rollers turned by a stiff and unco-operative handle.

No wonder people wore the same set of clothes for weeks on end.

6. Arcade machines

There were no X-Boxes or Playstations in the 1800s.


And they say kids these days don't know how to have fun - Image: Dan Morphy Auctions 

Instead, if you fancied some fun, you could go to an arcade and pay 1c to be electrocuted by a machine like this one.

“Electricty is Life!” the caption at the top roars.

Yes, but we're lucky today to have found better uses for it.

5. Medical instruments

This case of ghoulish implements is enough to make you fall to your knees in gratitude over your healthcare plan, however meagre it may be.


Infinitely worse than any medical program today - Image: Case Antiques Inc 

That big, black saw at the back? That’s for cutting through bone.

And given there were no antibiotics in the 1800s, amputation was a disturbingly common cure for what ailed you.

I won’t go in to what the rest are for but, suffice to say; none of them is remotely pleasant.

4.  Puppets

Looking to relax on your evening off, after a hard day toiling in a vicious hellhole with zero working conditions?


No. No thank you - Image: San Carlo Aste 

Your options were limited.

If it’s the 1900s or earlier there’s no TV.

Even the cinema hasn’t been invented yet.

Unluckily for you, it looks like you’re off to see a puppet show.

To watch a pair of squeaky voiced horrors made of porcelain and cloth crack their heads together and accuse one another of stealing sausages.

No thank you.

Give me the Kardashians any day.

3. The Bible

Literacy wasn’t really a thing before the industrial revolution.


What a snoozefest - Image: Dreweatts and Bloomsbury 

And up until the 1600s the only book going was the Bible, which was in Latin.

No Catherine Cookson. No Jackie Collins. Not even any Joan Collins.

The only people who could read were priests.

And they were just there to let you know exactly what was waiting for you in hell if you didn’t get the harvest in on time.

2. Candles

Gas lamps were invented in the 1800s. The lightbulb followed soon after.


A fire hazard - Image: Millea Bros 

But your options were limited if you wanted to stay up past four in the afternoon in winter in the endless centuries before.

Yes, we had candles. But we also lived in structures made predominantly from wood.

Today candles are used in spas, for satanic black masses and absolutely nothing else.

1. Swords

Yeah, the constant threat of nuclear annihilation hangs over us today.


Just a really big knife - Image: Czerny's International Auction House 

But Armageddon is just too abstract a concept to be frightened all the time.

For our ancestors, being conscripted into battle was an ever present hazard.

If the sheer terror of facing an army of people, all of whom want to kill you, across a field wasn’t bad enough – the fact that they’re all armed with swords makes everything so much worse...

Because a sword is just a really big knife. 

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