Wednesday, 26 March 2014

How Clever Were We In The Past?

This blog at times lurches into or draws from history.  This comes in many forms and the joy of the web is the amount of digital information becoming available.

This allows us to go to the real history and comment of periods of the past and to judge for ourselves what may be what and measure the realities of then matched against what is thought or what we are told by intervening writers.

Today a choice example dropped into the mail inbox from family with a link to an article in a current publication.  The link is about the 1869 period proposed subway below The Thames but within it is another link marked "here" to an 1869 original article in The Engineer.

Going back to the original 1869 image will involve time but if you have it is quite rewarding in a number of ways.  What is fascinating is the range of subject matter in what you would think to be a technical journal of a defined range of academic field. 

There is a basic assumption that engineers will have necessary and vital interests in a good many other matters of study at the time across a wide range of academic fields.  The Royal Albert Hall, above, was being built in 1869 and stands among a number of varied academic establishments from that time.

What is striking about the language is the ability of all the writers to convey information and discussion, matched with clarity, freedom from jargon or confusion and the confidence in the prose.

It is said that we all stand on the shoulders of giants.  In the mid Victorian age, were there more giants around than in the present day?


  1. The Victorians were much closer to the harsh realities of life and death. Perhaps this gave them more focus on what matters and what doesn't. We seem to have lost that.

  2. Here's evidence that average IQ has been declining at about 2 points per decade for the last century and a half. The Victorians really were smarter.