Week Ten: Final Thoughts

Hello for the last time. This past week was certainly a lot of travelling. One day had an extra eight hours and I still spent the entire day travelling. By now I’m back at home in Eugene and it certainly feels weird. Like a normal weird, but a different weird than I left initially. To be honest, it felt so normal that I forgot I wanted to write one more blog post. But I think it’s important to write one final one because I don’t think a study abroad program is complete without understanding the transition period a bit. In any case, I still started the week in London, so I’ll go ahead and start there.

I didn’t have anything I needed to do on Monday. Or the rest of the week, but Monday I absolutely had nothing to do. I had turned in everything, gotten my grades on everything, and even mostly packed up by this point. So I really didn’t plan on doing anything except sit at my desk all day again, but my friends convinced me to go out one last time. This time to the Natural History Museum.

The Natural History Museum is located pretty close to where we live, and ended up being pretty close to what I wanted the Science Museum to be. It was large, interactive, and plenty informative. I spent a good amount of time in their geology exhibit and their evolution exhibit, both of which I found pretty interesting. Especially the evolution exhibit with all the new discoveries popping up questioning everything we thought we knew about our evolutionary history. The museum also had some stunning works of art, like this display in the main hall:

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The museum is definitely geared towards kids, but that never stopped me before. In fact, it probably encouraged my friends and I to go to the butterfly exhibit. That exhibit is just a greenhouse filled with many different types of butterflies. We had to pay to get in but it was definitely worth it. Here are some pictures of that:

We walked through that for a while before eventually making it back home. That night we saw a big musical called Half a Sixpence, which was really phenomenal. The artistry in the dancing was really on display throughout, and it was well performed. It was a fun night to end a fun day.

The next day I didn’t do anything until we went to our final non-play scheduled meet-up, high tea. We were initially supposed to participate in high tea in Bath, but that fell through, so instead we ended the program with the fanciest dinner of my life. For those unfamiliar, high tea is basically just everything you would expect a filthy rich, very upper class couple would do for a meal. We had to dress up, which I did. I even found a tie to sort of match my purple athletic sneakers. So that’s cool.

The dinner was spent drinking tea, prosecco, and water while enjoying two courses of fabulous food. Together, we walked from high tea to our final performance, which was an acrobatics display. We had a bit of trouble finding the theatre, but in the end, we got in and enjoyed the show.

Now that should be the end of the story, but high tea got its revenge on me. I think high tea discovered I shouldn’t be participating in high tea in my athletic sneakers, so it planned to kill me. I mentioned that I drank a lot. Well all of it filled my bladder during the performance, to the point where I tried to escape, couldn’t find the exit, then spent the next ten minutes fidgeting and sweating profusely trying to figure out a way to get out of the theatre to use the restroom. I was in distress so badly that one of the ushers motioned to me so I could leave. I was able to escape, only to have the most painful and de-stressing pit stops I’ve ever had. I made it back in just in time to see the beautiful finale. I wish I could’ve enjoyed that more, but I really felt like I was dying because of how bad I needed to pee. After the show, I got some fro-yo with the massive amount of change in my pocket, and eventually made it back home to finish packing.

Unfortunately for me, that still wasn’t the end of the story. The whole incident led to an adrenaline rush, which made me feel completely exhausted and strange for the rest of the day. The adrenaline rush masked a back spasm I had because of the distress I was in, so for the rest of the week I was hobbling with an incredibly stiff and painful lower back. Well played, high tea. Well played.

Wednesday was the day everyone left. Or a lot of people. Not me. I forgot the end date so I booked my flight a day late. Luckily my girlfriend and a couple other friends were in the same boat and we were able to book a hotel for the night nearby. We spent the day wandering around and hanging out in the hotel. Pretty unexciting, but we all had to get up obscenely early the next day to catch our flights out of London. This pretty much sums up Thursday:

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Thursday was the big travelling day, and it started for me at 4 in the morning. I accidentally got up an hour earlier than I intended, so I hung out with my friend that I happen to have a similar flight with. We left together at around 6 to catch a train to get to Heathrow. I really didn’t need to leave that early, but I wanted to leave with my friend. I ended up spending a couple extra hours at the airport.

The flying was very uneventful. The first plane I was on was really fancy. It had windows that could change their tinted-ness and plenty of pretty decent meals. The second flight from Chicago was really dull. I ended up landing in Seattle about an hour early, which meant I could get back home an hour early. Which was good because it was ten-thirty when I finally made it home.

Friday was a day for me to relax and gather everything, including my cat, for my trip back down to Eugene. My mom ended up taking me wine tasting. It was pretty cool. I got to try around a dozen different wines and hang out with my mom. That day I also spent hanging out with my cats. I got some pretty nice pictures of them:

Saturday I left really early to get back early enough so that I could watch the final production of the University’s season, Mr. Burns. In this, I was successful. I made it back before noon, so I was able to get shopping done and get myself settled in without worrying about making the play. Sheldon, the cat, is pretty good in long car rides, so that was nice not having to deal with an angry cat for an hour and a half.

That night I saw Mr. Burns. I was really happy to get that opportunity, because all of a sudden I could compare work similar to what I’ve been doing for the last three years to professional work that I saw in London. Watching the show gave me a unique perspective on what I can do to make our theatre more professional in quality, and gave me insight into things that we do that are of professional quality. I did like watching the play too. The scrip itself is really interesting, and the production was well put together. I was really sad that the audience was really quiet for the show that I saw. I thought it was really funny, but I was about the only one laughing.

So now I’m basically just cruising. I have a job interview lined up and I started my next batch of mead. I’m really excited for this summer. Last summer was one of the most rewarding summers I’ve had, and I didn’t really do anything. This summer, I have projects to complete and I have more friends staying down here. That about sums everything up. Have I changed because I was gone for two months? Probably. Have the people that stayed in Eugene change? Most definitely. Will that cause changes in my relationships with all these different people? For sure. But the only thing I can do about that is look forward to it.

Thanks for sticking with me for these past ten weeks. I will surely have more adventures in the future, and all of you will as well. Maybe my experiences have changed you in come capacity, and that would be all that I would ask from me detailing my experiences like this. I would say until next time, but there isn’t one. Instead, I’ll end in the way that this began, with a cute picture of my cat:

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Have a great summer!

 

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Week 9: When the Fun Comes Winding Down

Hello! This is my second to last personal blog post of the term. That’s kind of intense. Not that this post will be intense, but just that it’s sort of crazy to be able to categorize an experience like this by counting to 10. But here I am. Number 9 of 10. That feels weird to say.

Anyway, this week overall was pretty unspectacular as far as things I did. Since the term was winding down, the work I had to do was winding up. Most days I spent inside either catching up on work or pretending to catch up on work. That didn’t keep me from doing cool things though, as some of the shows we watched this week were really fantastic.

Monday started off as nothing special. I needed to complete three period styles posts this week so I did one on Monday. To do that, I wanted to get some photos of Georgian architecture, so I wandered myself off and came back. All in all, nothing too special. I did see a Rolls Royce in the square I went to. So that was cool. But mostly it was educational, but I did enjoy having some time to myself to wander around.

That night we saw Woyzeck with John Boyega (from the new Star Wars trilogy). The play originates from a series of scraps written by a German playwright before he died, so it is heavily adapter to each performance. This showing was apparently even more adapted than it generally is. Not that I would know; I haven’t read the original ‘play.’ The show itself was pretty good, but I feel I would’ve really enjoyed it if the production had strayed further into the realm of the surreal. The play is about how someone can go crazy because of the situation around him, and the set was a bunch of insulated panels. At times, the play was surreal, but never really pushed the limits. It was, however, clear why John Boyega is well-known. He was fantastic.

Tuesday was a lot of the same of Monday. I spent that day writing my Victorian blog post, but again I needed to go out and get some photos. This time I went to the Prince Albert Memorial on the edge of Hyde Park and across the street from the Royal Albert Hall. The memorial is huge. It stands at almost 180 feet tall and in the center is a massive gold statue of Prince Albert. The monument was commissioned by Queen Victoria after her husband, Prince Albert, died. Here is what it looks like, along with the Royal Albert Hall:

I guess sometimes building 180 foot tall elaborate monuments is a good way to mourn someone. Or not. I’m not a psychologist. Don’t listen to my advice.

Conveniently, the neighborhood I’m staying in is a great example of Victorian architecture in housing, so I didn’t have to go far to get good pictures of that.

That night we saw Life of Galileo by Bertolt Brecht. Brecht is well-known for his unique style and plays such as: The Good Person of Sezchuan and Three-penny OperaLife of Galileo, however, might just be his best play, and I can say with much certainty that it was my favorite play of the term. One big aspect of Brecht’s style is how he manipulates his plays to distance them from the audience. This may seem counter-intuitive, but the idea goes that by distancing the play from the audience, the audience is then allowed to critically think about the themes of the play while witnessing them. This is done through direct addresses, generally at the beginning of the scenes, to summarize what’s going to happen. Other things include, weird prop usages (no food when drinking or eating), out of period costuming, having actors interact as real people with the audience, and really abrupt song and dance. It seems odd, and a big criticism of Brecht is that his technique makes his shows feel dry or emotionless, and when done badly, this can definitely be the case. However, this production utilized Brecht’s technique just beautifully. It started with the staging. Our group got seats literally in the middle of the stage. There was a large cushioned area surrounded by a wooden walkway that was generally used as the performing area, although the place where we were sitting also was utilized a lot. We has cushions to sit/lay on that could move around, and we were certainly forced to a few times. The actors came out before the show and chatted with us, and I even got to talk with one. He insulted my shirt but I know he was just jealous.

A lot of the other techniques I mentioned were also utilized. This production also used projections a lot, and the projections were projected directly above us. We were encouraged to lay down and watch them. Those moments were completely magical.

On top of all that, the play and the acting was completely phenomenal. The story is about Galileo and his struggles under the powers of the Roman Church. The play deals with how to explore and be scientific under a regime that doesn’t encourage it, flat out denies it, or persecutes people that research (sound familiar?). The play really spoke to me because of my physics background, and I had never really seen that before. All the actors were just so happy to be talking about science and exploring the boundaries of what we know as people, and that’s what I want to be doing. I absolutely loved it, and I want to be a part of the show at some point in my professional career.

Wednesday we had our last acting class and in it we learned improv. However, we seemed to surprise our instructor with how ready we were to do improv games so she had to improvise the lesson plan. It was really fun, but not particularly useful in a gaining knowledge sense since we had done plenty of the activities before.

Before the show, I spent some time outside writing in my acting journal because it was really nice out. While outside, there were a bunch of cute bumblebees pollinating flowers. I managed to catch one, but the pictures only turned out okay. Here they are:

That night we saw Twelfth Night for the second time, but this time it was at the globe. On the way to the globe I realized I didn’t have a picture of St. Paul’s Cathedral, so I got a really good one:

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It was a solid show, and I had fun watching it, but it wasn’t really all that special, and I was definitely still thinking about the show the previous night.

Thursday I spent working on my last period styles post. It was definitely nice to finally be done with that, and I also learned some cool things about buildings I had ran into previously. While looking up buildings that were damaged in the Blitz during WWII, I found a church that I had seen several weeks earlier. At the time, I thought it was odd that just the tower still remained, and that it was situated in the middle of a traffic island. Now I know the area of town was completely bombed and the only thing that survived was the tower that was originally from the 14th century. Pretty cool.

That night we saw a new play called Common at the National. It was really cool and was fun to watch. But I realized during the show that I just have a hard time connecting to shows done in massive theatres like the Olivier. So again, it was pretty good, but nothing super inspiring.

Friday I went out with some friends to go to Abbey Road to do the super touristy thing of pretending to be The Beatles. The road is really busy, and there are a lot of other people trying to get photos. We got lucky at one point and I was able to walk out into the road to get the right angle to get the photo. Here are the best photos of the day, one with me and the masterpiece I took:

That day we also wandered through Trafalgar square and a Primarch, which is basically the cheapest department store ever. It was good to finally get outside and do something since I basically hadn’t been doing that all week.

That night we watched a play called Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour. It’s a really funny play about a group of girls, who happen to be fantastic singers, and their journey through a choir competition. They all happen to be Scottish, which made it very difficult understand them because I wasn’t used to the accent. Also, one of my friends had to use the bathroom really bad during the show, which made me think I had to pee really bad, so there just ended up being a massive struggle bus in the back of the audience. In the end, I could tell the play was really good and well put-together, I just didn’t enjoy it as much as I could have.

Saturday was spent inside mostly. It was really wonderful out, so I ended up doing a bunch of homework outside, but I didn’t do anything special that day. I am, however, basically done with all work I have to do for the term, so that’s cool.

I did all of my work Saturday so I could go out and do something on Sunday, which I did. My girlfriend and I went on a date to Hyde Park, where we just walked around admiring the wildlife. There were a lot of geese and swans, and a couple little baby geese and swans mixed in. I got some nice pictures of the lake and some other things:

All in all, this week was spent doing a lot of writing and a lot of thinking, but not a lot of exploring so it really wasn’t all that exciting. In case anyone is worried, yes there was an attack in Central London Saturday night, but no one in the program was anywhere near it, so we’re all safe.

Since the program is winding down, we don’t have that much to do left. We have high tea scheduled for next week and I’m coming home on Thursday. There will be one more post, so stay tuned!

Until next week!

Period Styles Week 9: Windsor Era (1914-present)

The 20th and 21st centuries are times of massive change, on a scale never before witnessed. Technology advances to places past where people could dream of in previous years, destruction reaches unprecedented volumes, and the blending of cultures and movements of peoples brings massive changes to cultures around the world. This is the hallmark of the modern era.

Modern art is strongly influenced by the massive changes in the world. Different mediums allows for new types of art, mass media allows for the propagation of art to new places, and the immensity of events created new influences and themes. The most fascinating modern art movement to me is the creation and rise of absurdism.

Absurdism is a blanket term more or less describing things that don’t follow the rules of realism. In painting, this can be seen in a use of weird colors, shapes, or even a distortion of reality. Here are some early asburdist paintings I found at the Tate Britain:

The timing of the beginning of absurdism corresponds to the industrial revolution. Massive changes in technology allowed for a huge population boost in urban centers. Urban life distorted a lot of people’s sense of reality, and the continuation of technological advancements got people to explore the boundaries of the mediums they were working with. This is really obvious when looking at architecture.

The ability to work with curved glass, along with new understandings of metal and engineering allowed architects to come up with new shapes and sizes for new buildings. Early 20th century architects generally built upward, trying to achieve new feats in man-made monuments. Skyscrapers were popular and continue to be popular as functional icons. London has relatively few and shorter skyscrapers compared to other large cities. This view from the Millennium Bridge shows most of the skyscrapers in London right now:

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London’s skyscrapers also are noticeably not classically shaped. From the shard and it’s conical shape, to the wedge of the building on the left of the image, London’s large modern buildings are pushing the realms of possibility.

Modern architecture is a strange combination of rationalism and absurdism. Strange shapes combine with the cold efficiency of modern office spaces both provide the resources needed with a massive population and give skylines that are unique to each massive city. Other modern buildings I’ve come across show this combination:

The fourth picture showing several different modern styles of construction.

The history of currency during this time reflects the rationalism and globalization of the modern era. However, tradition reigned supreme up until the Decimalization in 1971. A few changes were made: new bank notes were made and included the face of the monarch, coins featuring the portrait of non-monarchs were being made (notably of Winston Churchill), and bank notes became a much more official tender. However, the big change really came with the Decimalization.

Decimalization was under consideration for nearly ten years before being enacted. Pounds were still the standard, but pence were now worth one one-hundreth of a pound. Shillings, which had been around for several hundred years, were no more. Metals within the coins no longer mattered, so the different types of gold and silver coins ceased to exist. Since then inflation caused the demise of the half-pence and the one-pound bank note, and the introduction of the 20 pence coin and the 2 pound coin.

The art of coins and notes were much less traditional as we get more recent. Coins with different backs commemorated different events, such as the 50th anniversary of D-Day and the commonwealth games. Here are the coins with the new backs:

Collectors sets of coins were and continue to be common. These sets of coins are uncirculated and do no intend to become circulated, but are legal currency.

One pound coins became brass in 1983, and each year they had a different back representing one of the nations that made up Britain. Like this coin from 2000, for example:

Since then, the pound coin has again changed, to make forgery more difficult.

When I went to the Bank of England, I got pictures in lower quality of all these examples. From late pre-decimal all the way to a modern proof set, all the coins are shown here in poor quality:

Bank notes have appreciated the expansion of art on the notes. The art serves a dual purpose: to celebrate icons and events in British culture, and to make counterfeiting incredibly difficult. An example of this is on the 5 pound note depicting Churchill and the houses of parliament:

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Currency has long been a source of art within British culture, and changes in coinage reflect the changes in government in different eras. Currency is unique to other arts in its specific use in the economy. Because of this, changes in coinage change not only because of art preferences, but also because of political and economic concerns. However, period styles still managed to find their way into this foundation of economics. I’ve had a lot of fun exploring the history of currency in Britain, and how various people utilized currency in their times. I also had fun exploring architecture around London and England, exploring how different styles affect different types of art. So this about concludes the last of my extensive history posts. I’m excited to know how future art styles will continue to affect art across the board.

 

Period Styles Week 8: Victorian & Edwardian period (1837-1914)

The Victorian era is distinct from previous eras because of its relative peace and consistency. The era brought the end of the focus on rationalism, and a renewed focus on romanticism. Buildings and apartments are lavish and accessorized, and general architecture is significantly more extreme. Take a look at the Prince Albert Memorial, it was created by Queen Victoria after her husband died:

The memorial sits alone in right across the street from Royal Albert Hall. It is a whopping 54 meters or 177 feet tall. It is ridiculously ornate and detailed. It also showcases the neo-gothic styling of the time period. The 19th century was also the first time glass was used as a building material, and alongside steel, became a hallmark of Victorian tube stations and Leadenhall Market:

The Victorian era also was right in the middle of the industrial revolution. Massive buildings could be created faster and more uniquely than ever before. The relative peace of the time allowed for architects and engineers to be as creative as technology allowed. Towards the end of the Victorian era, electricity was being used to light up buildings and streets. Population was booming. Right where we live, in Earl’s Court, is a wonderful example of a posh Victorian neighborhood. Here are some pictures of the area:

Plenty of businesses that began during this period still exist today, and some in the original buildings. The introduction of steel added to the styling of signs and outdoor facades:

The Victorians are also the people that painted almost all of the remaining Tudor buildings the black and white we associate with the time period today. The Victorians were powerful, lavish, and aimed for romantic beauty in everything. Many old monuments or buildings have updates from the Victorian era. Often they are faithful reconstructions with Victorian flair. A great example of this is in Bath, where the bath houses were reconstructed to be more pleasurable to the Victorians.

Archaeology and colonialism also dominated certain fashion styles of the times. The Victorians loved preserving history, but only if they could bring it back home. Hearing of colonial exploits helps people living at home understand the power of the English empire. And it really was powerful. The saying “the sun never sets on the English empire” comes from this period.

In art, cameras were just beginning to exist, this meant that paintings started to have a different meaning. Early absurdism and surrealism comes from industrialization, and in late Victorian artwork the creativity in color and style show. Painters are beginning to do what pictures can’t at this time. Here are some paintings from the period:

Theatre and novels became really popular during this period. The 19th century was the climax of British naval superiority as well as cultural dominance. Some of this is reflected in the coinage and currency of the era.

Science also expanded dramatically during this time period. Charles Darwin came up with his theory of evolution during this period. Germs and microbes were understood better, and the expansion of antiseptics made hospitals cleaner and safer. Anaesthetics were also being widely used during this time frame. Engineers had also began making commercially feasible railroads. And railroads across the world made expansion and maintenance possible over massive distances.

Political stability almost directly corresponds to stability in coins and currency. I’m beginning to add currency to my discussion because bank notes are introduce and widely used during this period. The Great Recoinage of 1816 did its job. Very few new coins were introduced during Queen Victoria’s reign. However, that did not stop the styles of the time from being reflected in the coins struck during the period.

One of the main changes in the Victorian era was the resistance to Rationalism. Early Victorians and Late Georgians were interested in decimalizing the currency of Britain, basically instead of pounds being worth 20 shillings and 240 pence, a pound would be 100 pence, which would help make global trading more intuitive. Decimalization was first introduced to parliament in 1824, but the issue didn’t gain any headway until 1848, when the florin, valued at one-tenth of a pound, was introduced. In the 1850’s the issue was under serious consideration by the Royal bank, but was eventually quashed due to two important people in the process. In 1874, the halfcrown was re-introduced into circulation after it had been supplanted by the decimal coin, the florin. The two coins ran side by side until 1969.

1860 marked the beginning of the use of bronze instead of copper in small coins, leading to smaller, lighter coins. The tradition of the ‘bun penny’ in design and material was consistent until decimalization in 1970. Silver coins received a 40 year gap in minting, from 1847 until the queen’s jubilee in 1887. Pre-1847 crowns were called ‘gothic’ crowns, and are considered some of the most beautiful coins ever made:

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Their ornate design and traditional styling is the epitome of classic Victorian art.

The gold standard became widely adopted around the globe. This allowed for easier trading among all world economies as exchange rates were constant.

Bank notes were beginning to be used during this period. Up until 1844, bank notes were created by pretty much anyone who wanted to start a bank and make money. In 1844, the government gave a monopoly to the Royal Bank to be the only place allowed to make bank notes in England. The bank notes of the period looked like this:

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The design is simple, but the font is elegant and pretty. Bank notes became significantly more ornate and difficult to replicate as the years moved on.

Victorian styling is that of a strong, stable empire. Unfortunately, the stability didn’t last much after Queen Victoria died. Two world wars, globalization, and rapidly expanding technology defines the England of the next 100 years.

Period Styles Week 7: The Georgian Period (1714-1837)

When Queen Anne died in 1714, she left no heirs, and because there was a law preventing the passing of the throne to Catholics, the throne was passed to Anne’s second cousin: George I. King George I kingship was rocky to begin with. Their were still descendants of the Stuart line alive when King George ascended, but were denied the throne because of their Catholicism. Fortunately for George, eventually the rebellion was quelled. Unfortunately for all the Georges, stability was never lasting. Between colonization, Napolean, rogue colonies, and mercantilism, peace was near impossible to retain. The constant warfare had its affect on art throughout the period and especially on the coinage of the period. I’ll get to that in a sec, but first here are some images of Georgian housing and fashion:

Georgian society was remarkable for it’s new emphasis on Grecian logic and mathematics. The London houses are built in strict, dark brick and smushed tightly together. Compared to Tudor housing, these are sturdy, level, and significantly longer lasting. When in London, it’s easy to distinguish Georgian housing from other types because of its dark brick and lack of protrusions from the front wall. Important government buildings and the like built in Georgian styling also resembled Greek and Roman temples. Scientists of the time include Edmund Halley, who discovered the exact timing of Halley’s comet, and Benjamin Franklin, whose experiments progressed the world’s understanding on electricity and whose diplomatic abilities secured an alliance with France. By the time George III came, fashion became much more lavish. Color became a big part of clothing again. Examples of Georgian art are also shown at the bottom of the photo set.

However, I came to focus on the coins. King George I  and King George II largely continued the traditions of the monarchs before them, with the main deviance being the continued expansion of the use of copper coinage. Early on, these coins became the subject of counterfeiters, and the copper began being coated in tin. However, these coins corroded quickly and the coins reverted back to copper. Here’s an example of some George I and George II coins :

Their metal and simple design denotes its low value. In the first two George’s reigns, things changed slightly, but not drastically. However, a lack of precious metals brought drastic reform to the English coinage system, brought on by George III.

Provincial token coins were coins created by companies to meet the demand of the populous when the government failed. This practice began in 1648, but was ended in 1670. In 1754, production of smaller denominations ceased, as the mint thought demand had been met. However, they were wrong, as constant counterfeiting and a growing population quickly outgrew the supply. Starting in 1787, a mining company started making their own provincial token coins. These coins had a unique design, and towards the end of their run, some were made exclusively for collecting. The practice quickly spread, and companies, traders, and even propagandists started making their own currencies. Coins became vehicles for cheap advertising, and the large number of different types drew the interest of cataloguers and collectors. 1795 was the year of the first coin catalogue attempting to list all the known token coins. This was also the first time collecting became a hobby among many people. A consequence of this is the making of mules, or coins that had the front of one coin, and the back of another. Many coins from this era turn up in uncirculated on near-mint condition. Here are some pictures of these different coins:

The popularity of the tokens quickly brought them down. In 1799, after many new government coins were circulated, the circulation of the token coins was banned.

However, the coins did not keep up with demand, and in 1811, more token coins were being manufactured. The warring with France meant there also was a shortage of silver coins, so the Bank of England had to step in. In 1816, the tokens were banned again after the Great Recoinage. The tokens of this period are less extravagant, but still widely varied in style.

The metal shortage was a constant issue for King George III. In the very early 1800’s, England captured the Spanish armada, and with it a slew of silver Spanish coins. To meet the demand of coinage in Britain, the bank of England made what is called counter-marks. Basically, they took the old coin and restamped it hastily. This proved to be an easy target for counterfeiters, so in 1804, the Bank of England completely changed the process and made what are called Bank of England dollars:

Other coins introduced around the same time are some 2 pence pieces called cartwheels, which attempted to fix some of the problems of copper coins by being made up of 2 pence worth of copper. Unfortunately, this meant the coins were a whopping 2 ounces (8 of them would weigh a pound), so they were incredibly unpopular and scrapped not too long after.

The Great Recoinage of 1816 came after the end of the war with Napolean and concerned itself with the re-introduction of silver coinage, and a standardization of gold coins. The gold guinea at the time was worth 21 shillings, so it’s value was shifted to the more acceptable sovereign at 20 shillings. A massive amount of silver coins was also introduced at the time, totalling almost 80 million coins. This massive influx of coins also created a tradition of silver denominations that changed marginally over the next 150 years. After George III’s reign, George IV merely introduced the 2 pound coin and the tradition of 5 pound coin proofs that continues to this day.

The trip I made to the Bank of England finally starts to some into play, as their collection of coinage only really begins at the beginning of the Georgian period. Here are some pictures of the coins at the Bank of England:

Coins of the era were significantly less traditional than those of precious eras. Shortages led to privately made currency, and coins themselves became avenues for companies to advertise of revolutionaries to radicalize. This period gives us a glimpse as to what could happen if currency making becomes privatized now. With the introductions of credit cards and coupons, in a sense it’s already happening. As far as the progression of coins, the Great Recoinage did its job pretty well, as no major changes happened to coins until 1970, however the consistency of denominations does not mean that the art styles of the time periods did not affect currency. The consistency allowed for art to really shine on the coins of the ages. I’ll delve into that deeper in my next post.

 

 

Week 8: School is finally starting to catch up

Hello everyone! This week has been an exciting week of shows, events, personal progresses, and life experiences. First though I want to talk about a few violent attacks that have been locationally close to me and my family and friends. Earlier this week, there was a terrorist attack in Manchester at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. Manchester is quite a bit away from London, so no one on this program was affected, but it did cause concern in the area. The UK’s terror threat rose to critical, the parks were completely dark at night, and heavy pedestrian traffic areas were patrolled my several armed guards. In times like that, it’s easy to let the fear of terrorism get the better of you, making you make irrational decisions or judgments. It’s important to maintain perspective. Acts of terrorism are functionally impossible for people not in national intelligence to do anything about. Getting overly worried, and especially attacking other people in the aftermath of these events does only harm. That brings me to the second attack in Portland, where a white supremacist fatally stabbed 2 people and wounded a third after they were protecting some others from a verbal tirade. Many people I know knew these people, and it’s scary to think that in the act of protecting others, one can lose their own lives. The people that were stabbed are heroes, and hopefully this tragic incident will help people understand the true danger of modern white supremacy, and the danger of supporting those that refuse to condemn white supremacists.

Moving on, this week was headlined by wonderfully unique events. On Monday, instead of a class we got to talk with the cast of one of the shows we saw recently: While We’re Here. The two actors were absolutely wonderful to talk with, and the two hour talk could’ve really gone another two hours. After that, we had a backstage tour of the National, which was really uninspiring. We got to walk around the shops and learn a bit about the theatres, but much of what we were told we already knew from just watching shows in all the spaces. It was a really beautiful day though, and we got to spend some time outside which made the tour not so worthless. We had a show at the National that night, so some people stayed in the area, but I’m lazy so I went back home and played video games for the couple hours before I had to leave again.

The show that night was called Salomé. It’s an adaptation of the story of Salomé in the bible, which has been previously adapted many times in different forms of art, including a play by the same name written by Oscar Wilde. The play utilized the space really well, and created some stunning stage pictures, but the scale and epicness of the play detracted from any emotional connection I had with the story. It was still fascinating to watch though, and I still enjoyed it. I called it a 2-hour painting immediately after watching it.

Tuesday was spent on an excursion to Kew Gardens. It is a massive garden originally made by George III but greatly expanded by Queen Victoria. Many beautiful greenhouses were added, which were filled to the brim with incredible plants. We spent most of the day there and I got a large number of pretty pictures:

The big red building is Kew Palace. We also got to see an iguana in the desert green house, which I fully wasn’t expecting. It just sort of appeared behind some of my friends and I had to warn them so they wouldn’t scream and disturb the peace in the garden.

That night we saw The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. This is a beautiful show, based on a book, that’s been running for almost 7 years. I remember learning about it Freshman year of college in my special effects course. It utilized all sorts of different projections, lighting, set, props, staging, and movement designs to create a stunning world centered around the experiences of an autistic boy named Chris. It was truly one of my favorite shows I’ve ever seen and would recommend to others if it wasn’t closing in two weeks.

Wednesday we had the second of two puppetry workshops. In it, we worked on hand puppetry and bun-raku puppets, a type of ensemble puppetry. This was a wonderful class. Instilling life into inanimate objects can create beautiful moments, and is utilized in theatre and film for that reason. I am certainly no puppet master after the two classes, but I gained a new appreciation for other forms of theatre and storytelling.

That night we saw The Treatment directed by Lyndsey Turner, who famously directed the Hamlet with Banana Cucumber a few years back. The Treatment utilized color washes with set and costuming like no other show up to this point to create a disgusting reality of some film producers making a movie. The show is about how someone’s story, when given to others, transforms into things that are no longer yours. It was really cool to watch, especially for the design elements.

Thursday was our first free day of the week so I went to the Tate Britain, an art museum on the river. It was another wonderful day out, as it’s been all week, so I bought me some sunglasses. The Tate Britain is a really well put-together museum with a huge light installation in the main hall. I walked through the history of British art exhibit, and got some cool photos of the art:

The Tate Britain is a place to put on the list when visiting London. It also has a really cool app that goes into depth about different paintings and the styles used. If you are really interested in art or art history, that app is one of the best things you can download.

Thursday night greeted us with another play at the Globe. This time it was Romeo & Juliet. The director made an incredibly bold choice by including rave music and thick clown make-up. The best way to describe it, for me, is a poorly-formed idea of rave culture. The show brought up some interesting aspects of extreme emotion in Shakespeare that I hadn’t recognized before, and it focused the story in a way that was new. However, parts of it were just straight racist or really not thought through well. The show was universally panned by critics, even receiving the mythical one-star review from a few. Did it deserve that? No. It was an interesting idea that should be explored, but way more responsibly than how it was done in this case.

Friday was another free day, but I had to write an essay due on that day so I spent most of the day writing or pretending to write. I did in fact get it done, but it wasn’t until pretty late. I did also get some serious progress with the play I’m writing, which is now 4 complete scenes with one more to go. It’s a whopping 26 pages, so as of right now, it is the longest thing I’ve written. Massive revisions will be required before I’ll let other people read it, but I’m  almost done with the first draft, which in and of itself is a massive milestone for me.

That night we didn’t even have a play, but we did have to prepare for a long full-day excursion on Saturday. This excursion was to Hever castle first, the home of the Boleyn’s when Anne Boleyn married Henry VIII, and the beach in Hastings second. What a wonderful day that was. Here are the pictures of the castle first:

It was yet another beautiful day in a beautiful place. The castle itself is not particularly big, but it is so pretty. The grounds are also home to a beautiful lake and garden. The castle is still privately owned as a hotel I believe. But within the castle are many original pieces of furniture and paintings, one of which is a really unflattering portrait of Henry VIII. There were also a shit-ton of ducks, which were mostly napping when I arrived. They were nice enough to let me get this wonderful photo:

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And coincidentally one of my friends got a picture of my taking that photo:

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We could’ve spent a long time at the castle, but we had a coast to go to. Hastings is home to the famous Battle of Hastings, in which William the Conqueror won and became king of England. It is also home to the first castle commissioned by William, and much of the ruins still stand. We got all the way up the cliff to the ruins to only find out there was an admission fee no one wanted to pay. However, the cliff has stunning views of the city, and I still got some pictures of the castle. I also got some pictures of the rocky beach, which was a pretty unique color:

It was windy enough that I could fly. Here’s some proof:

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During our time there I also bought a bunch of candy and ice cream on a cookie. I also went mini-golfing by myself so I’m basically 10 with a few dollars and not enough parental control.

That about sums up my life and the week I just had. Because we’re getting so close to coming back, I’ve actually had to start like dealing with leaving and stuff. And catching up on coursework. I’m a bit afraid that next week is going to be dominated by me writing, but oh well I really just did that to myself. We do have a couple exciting plays this week, including Voyzeck with John Boyega. I’m really excited for next week and finally returning home, but I’m also excited to finish my play. I haven’t finished a rough draft of anything since early freshman year of college, so this is a long time coming. I’m gonna wrap up with a bunch of pictures of My cat and My mom’s cat hanging out, because cats are cute and I want you to read next week’s blog:

Until next week!

Week 7: Tough things get tougher when you’re abroad

Hello everyone! This week has been a tough one to say the least. My dog I’ve had since I was 8 died this week. She was getting very old and got injured to the point where she couldn’t move on her own. My parents made the heartbreaking decision to put her down as she wasn’t getting any better. I know this is very hard for my parents, as she’s been a child to them all this time. She was a wonderfully smart and stubborn dog that loved all of her family members. For me, I really wish I was home for this. I wanted to see her again before she died, but since I’m rarely at home anyway, that would’ve probably always been the case. I miss her, for sure, and my house will certainly be more somber without her.

This week started off with me having shitty hotel wifi in Bath, a town aptly named for its Roman baths built around natural hotsprings in the area. The town was always a travel spot for rich people to relax and get healthy. It’s home to some wonderful pieces of architecture from both the Romans and the Georgians and was the home to Jane Austen for a while. Probably most importantly, it used to be one of the homes of Nicholas Cage. Unfortunately he had to sell the house, but his former neighbors still think very highly of him.

Monday we had a tour of the city guided by a wonderful person named Andrew. He walked us around showing us all of the important points in the city and sharing fun facts with us along the way. One place he showed us is called the Crescent, a huge field surrounded on one side by big Palladian Houses. Here’s what it looked like:

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The town is small but incredible. It’s really pretty and the history of the place is truly remarkable. After the tour we visited some classic Georgian rooms and the Fashion Museum. The Fashion Museum was incredibly well put together. It was complete with styles all the way from the 1500’s. It wasn’t pictures either. They had complete outfits from those times all the way to modern fashion. The ball rooms were also beautiful. Here’s what two of them looked like:

That afternoon we had time to ourselves to explore the city further and to explore the Roman baths. I went pretty quickly to the baths to wander through. They are stunning. Here’s some photos:

It’s easy to not truly understand the scope of Roman engineering. When going through history classes you get the information that Roman buildings still stand and that their aqueducts are still fully functional and it’s really easy to not get the full scope of how incredible that is. These baths in Bath are almost entirely functioning off of Roman engineering. The pipes and gutters that originally moved the water around are still doing that today, 2000 years later. That’s incredible! The room shown last in this group was a steam room. The stacks of bricks held a floor above them and let the hot water flow beneath them. The baths were also a treasure chest of Roman artifacts. Plenty were displayed in a museum attached. I also had the treat of tasting the water that comes from the spring. It tastes very similar to watered down blood. Is it better than Ashland’s famous Lithia water? By far yes. Is it pleasant? Not really. In fact, it’s more disturbing than anything. 2/10 would only try once.

Tuesday was come back home day. I was a little sad to leave because the town was just so pretty. In fact, it is one of two cities in the world that is a World Heritage site, along with Venice. It’s unique cultural history and beauty really deserve that designation, and I would go back in a heartbeat. There is also an incredible place where you can get a full spa treatment with the waters from the springs. I’m not saying anything but if I came back I might just return with baby skin and smooth buttery muscles.

Anyway, Tuesday was also pretty cool. On our way back we stopped in Salisbury, home to the famous Salisbury Cathedral, probably the second greatest cathedral in England next to Westminster Abbey. The town is very Tudor. Many buildings have that iconic style and quirky not-flat-ness. But really, you come to the town for the cathedral, and it really does impress. Walking into the open field where it is you would see this:

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It’s enormous. And you can get a tour up through the tower, which is taller than it looks in the photo at a whopping 400 and some feet. Unfortunately, all those tours were booked, so I was stuck at ground level. So I wandered in and was hanging around looking at things and I didn’t realize I was waiting for a guided tour until a tour guide came right behind me a small group gathered around me. At first, I was a bit confused, but a random tour is probably the best tour so I followed the group. Definitely worth it.

First thing I learned was that the cathedral’s foundations were 4 feet deep. The reason for that is that below the four feet of earth is about 20 feet of gravel. And the gravel is really just water. In fact there’s a small hole in the ground where someone can stick a stick down in to make sure it is water. If the gravel were to dry up, the whole cathedral would collapse. So that’s exciting.

We almost immediately passed the world’s oldest working clock. It only shows hours and ticks every 3 seconds. It’s pretty cool so I took a bad photo of it.

After that we walked through the rest of the cathedral. It was almost entirely built in the 1200’s in about 40 years. The tower was added in the early 1300’s. Interestingly, the tower, being massive and a lot of stone, put a lot of pressure on the thin foundations of the cathedral, making some of the stone supports bend rather dramatically. Also pretty exciting.

The roof was originally painted and all the windows were stained glass. But when puritanism swept the nation, they hated color and fun, so they painted the ceiling and removed most of the stained glass. Some of the paintings were restored by the Victorians, but most of it was lost. Some of the original stained glass remains, and that it all really cool.

The cathedral is also home to the best-kept copy of the original Magna Carta, one of four to exist. And the cathedral has the largest cloister of any church in England. Basically, this church was pretty badass. But the tour guide pointed out a few times where the stone masons had a bad day and messed up the decorations. They were a bit sad.

I ate at the cafe and then we had to leave. However, I got some great pictures of the cathedral and you’ll get to see what I’m talking about. Oh they also had a really pretty font from 2008 that’s pretty cool. Here’s the photos:

It’s really pretty, and definitely a place to visit if you can.

We got home and had the evening off so I didn’t do anything, as you would expect. The next day we had a movement workshop as part of the acting class and it was really wonderful. Like, she didn’t have us stop at all and I was very sore for the next few days. It was the workshop where I felt I left with something very useful that I can continue with. It was also really fun.

That night we saw Don Juan at the Soho with David Tennant. The show was strange to say the least, and not in the weird post-modern sense, I mean in just it was weird. It was funny, but also like definitely not at times. It was basically the theatre showing off that they had a really famous actor and that you paid to watch him. Strange.

Thursday I spent mostly inside again, except at one point I walked around. Pretty edgy of me I know.

That night we watched a play called Assata Taught Me in this really small theatre. It’s about this well-known black nationalist named Assata Shakur and her relationship with this teenager in Cuba. Assata is a real person, and she currently resides in Cuba and on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list. The play was really beautiful. The set and all the special effects were perfectly in time. The acting was also wonderful. The small space really helped give the incredible intimacy that the play wanted. Really a beautiful piece.

Friday I went to the Sir John Soane’s museum, which is really just his house that the English Government hasn’t really touched. Unfortunately I couldn’t take pictures, but the museum is really really cool. Soane was a famous architect and a collector, and both are on full display in his house. It’s not a super long walk-through, but definitely worth it.

That night we watched another play in a really small space called Last Company. It’s a play about two families meeting over dinner. One family’s child had taken his life due to bullying from the other family’s child. It was really emotionally raw and well put together. Very intense.

And that’s really been my week. This weekend I’ve spent catching up on work mostly. I’m happy that I visited all the places I did this week, because they really were incredible. The loss of my dog hurts, and unfortunately being abroad doesn’t help anything, but I have a good group of friends here and at home and my mom sent me several photos of her. If I were to remember her in one picture, it would be in the one where I remember her most. She’s sticking her tongue out and laying next to the fire place.

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Until next week!

Period Styles Week 6: The Stuart Dynasty or Reformation & Restoration

Week 5 was the travel break so there is no period styles exploration for that week.

This week in period styles, I’m diving in to a tumultuous period of English history. It begins with the English Reformation, a name for the move the English church made when it separated from the pope. It officially began in 1527 when King Henry VIII tried to divorce his wife. In 1534, parliament passed a law that made the king the supreme head of the church of England. This began the wave of Protestantism in England and Britain. This also coincided with the wave of puritanism that swept across England, leaving many churches with clocks instead of saints and eventually the end of theatre. The transition between Catholicism and Protestantism wasn’t easy. After Henry VIII came Edward VI, and then came Mary I, who put the English church underneath the papacy again. Proceeding her was Elizabeth I who took the title of Supreme Governor and brought England back into Protestantism. When Elizabeth I died in 1603, she left no direct heirs, so James VI of Scotland inherited the monarchy, religious uncertainty, and became James I, King of England, of the Stuart family.

After James I was Charles I. During Charles I reign, a large civil war broke out between the Parliamentarians and the Royalists about the governance of England. This ended in 1651 with the beheading of Charles I, the exiling of Charles II, and the establishment of the commonwealth. During this time, the leader of the parliamentarians ruled. His name was Oliver Cromwell. When he died in 1658, the commonwealth fell apart, and in 1660 the monarchy was restored with Charles II taking the throne. This period is known as the Restoration. From there the monarchs go as: James II, William III & Mary II, and ends with Queen Anne. The Stuart dynasty ends with the death of Queen Anne in 1714.

The reason I go so in depth in the history of this period is because the political climate shaped the evolution of art and style of the time. Artistically, the difference between Tudor and Stuart art is minimal. Architecture of the period was either similar to Tudor styles or what’s called Palladian, a style led by an Italian architect name Palladio. Architects all over England during the restoration were influenced by Palladio. Sir Christopher Wren used Palladian style architecture, most famously in his rebuilding of St. Paul’s Cathedral. We visited Bath, and that city is filled with Palladian architecture, including the Circus and the Crescent. Here is a picture of the Crescent:

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Style in clothing evolved into more slimmer clothes. The first three-piece suit came from this era. Here are some pictures of some monarchs (and Oliver Cromwell) of the period:

Theatre also changed during this time. Jacobean theatre (early Stuart) was dark and bloody, well known for its extreme violence. Restoration Theatre is famous for its many famous figures: (Nell Gwynn and Aphra Behn to name two) as well as its comedy. The political turmoil of the period meant that the populous was hankering for political commentary or escapism, much in same way as Americans are now.

Science during this time saw great advancement in England. Galileo (not English) paved the way for other scientists to explore what was previously perceived as common knowledge. Sir Isaac Newton (shown below) came from this period. He is well-known for his mathematical definition of gravity, as well as his discovery of force equations and the formation of Calculus. He truly was the Einstein of his time.

Sir Isaac Newton was also important in his role as Master of the Royal Mint. From 1696 until his death in 1727, he worked at the mint in important positions. In an effort to curb counterfeiting, he proposed to add the ridges on the edge of coins so that coin shaving could be detected. I’ll come back to him later.

The history of coins during this era is fascinating. King James I continued the tradition of coin making that he inherited and made many of them in a similar style (obviously with his crest on the back). He did, however, introduce the gold sovereign (one pound, 20 shillings) and named it the unite. Unfortunately, the price of gold was rising in comparison to the silver most countries were using for their coins, so the price of the sovereign was raised to 22 shillings in 1612. The next printing of coins were lighter, and brought the price back down to 20 shillings. Here are some pictures of his coins:

James I also marked the end of the ryal (30 shillings), the half-ryal (15 shillings) and eventually the angel. He minted most other coins in silver, except the farthing, which he minted in copper. This was generally resisted by previous monarchs, as copper was significantly less precious, but as Scotland had already began the practice of copper coinage, James I brought the practice to England. Initially these coins were minted with a tin coating to give the appearance of a silver coin, but that was soon ended.

Charles I continued these practices. He also introduced a new gold coin called the triple unite, worth 60 shillings. Here’s a picture:

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Before continuing, I should talk about the Latin on the coins. The Latin sayings were added to coins in the Tudor period, as dies were getting more and more detailed and the tradition stuck. James I used sayings like “I will make them one nation.” on his later coins. Coins became a vehicle for propaganda, especially for those that held gold coins and could read Latin. Charles I, on the triple unite, used biblical passages among other things on the coin.

During this time, there were several coins worth one pound: the silver sovereign, the unite, and the laurel. The Carolus was also introduced at this time, initially valued at one pound, but later changed to 23 shillings.

In addition to these coins, silver coins were still being made. In an attempt to exploit the silver mines of Wales, a new mine was opened in Aberystwyth in 1638. These coins beared the three ostrich plumes of the prince of Wales as a mint mark. Mint marks were being used at this time to distinguish where the coins were made. Mint marks can be found on most coins now, including American coins. Here are some silver coins from Charles I, with mint marks from the Tower of London:

These are two different coins.

During the civil war, minting became difficult. Parliament took control of the royal mint at the Tower of London, but still struck coins bearing Charles I. Charles I had to get creative in where he minted coins. He made several different minting sites during the next few years, all bearing the mint marks of the mints. This means that coins during this time from specific mints are excessively rare.

After the civil war ended, Commonwealth coins were created. They all had the same design, with the weights and roman numeral denoting the value of the coin. The shilling looked like this:

Cromwell streamlined some of the many different types of coins, leading to only having the gold coins be the unite, the crown, and the halfcrown. Silver coins were the crown, the halfcrown, shilling, sixpence, halfgroat, penny, and halfpenny.

Charles II brought the end of hammered coins, introducing screw presses into the mints. He also reintroduced the groat and the threepence. In 1663, a new gold pound coin was introduced: the guinea. Here’s some pictures, from Charles II to William and Mary:

Guineas, due to their gold, were overvalued in comparison to silver. This led to silver coins leaving England and gold coins entering, leaving England with an unofficial gold standard. In 1694, the Bank of England was founded and paper money started to get made.

Sir Issac Newton, in his time as Mint Master, strived for exactness in his coins. During this time, coins were infinitely more correct and consistent than they had been previously.

By the end of the period, the introduction of new coins slowed, and mints continued to strive for complete consistency and accuracy. The introduction of machinery into the mint process helped this a lot. New methods of coin making also made counterfeiting more difficult. Coins were higher quality by the end of the period, and the push for consistency marks the value of logic in currency. Coins still followed the tradition of having the monarch’s face on the front with the family crest on the back with the Latin sayings on the edges.

In summary, the turmoil plaguing this period is reflected with the currency of the time. There were many new coins introduced and many mints were used. Ways of making counterfeiting more difficult were introduced, and machines were beginning to be used. Coins now had a consistent clean look. This was expanded and continued into the Georgian period, as the political turmoil of the period was significantly less on the home front.

Period Styles Week 4: Tudor

This week is the Tudor period, or when Henry VII ascended to the throne in 1485 and began the Tudor dynasty in English Monarchy. The time period concluded in 1603 when Queen Elizabeth I dies. In a general sense, this time period is known for is iconic white houses with black wooded beams and the Elizabethan era, when big neck ruffles and plays were popular. In this exploration of the styles of this period, I will first examine some of the iconic looks and general architecture, then I will go in depth about the history of currency in the era.

*Side note: I know I said I would be generally examining the use of gold in these periods, but I found that to be less interesting and more difficult to follow than to just look at currency and coinage throughout history. I hope you will find as much enjoyment as I have going through history with this focus.

The most iconic style of old English style is the Tudor style of housing. It appears in anything fantasy, like dungeons and dragons games, and it appears on the globe. Many such houses exist throughout England; during our group excursions out of London, whole streets would be lined with Tudor buildings. London however, has almost none, as they all burned down in the great fire of 1666. You might be wondering: “Wow! How is that possible?” I’ll explain.

Tudor buildings were entirely made of wood and wattle and daub, a building material made up of wood and some sticky material (it varies). The roofs were thatch, and the buildings were built all connected to each other. Here is what a street of Tudor buildings looks like:

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Tudor buildings also stuck out on the second floor, if they were on roads, to allow the emptying of waste buckets onto the street below without hitting the bottom floor. These buildings have notoriously not flat floors. It’s possible to see in the above photo, but here are some other ones that show that feature more obviously:

It’s really easy to recognize a Tudor house because of its unique style and quirkiness.

As I said earlier, due to the nature of the houses, the whole city of London burned down, in what seemed to be an inevitable disaster. So the only example of Tudor architecture in London is in the Cathedrals and other important buildings. Some examples of the Tudor architecture in stone are in Oxford. Here’s some photos:

Another iconic part of Tudor style is in their dress, especially during the Elizabethan age. The National Portrait Gallery has many great examples of Tudor styles on monarchs:

The first picture is of Queen Elizabeth I, the second is of a series of monarchs in the Tudor era, and the last is of Frances Drake, a famous explorer in the Elizabethan age. I also saw some excellent examples of fashion evolution in the fashion museum in Bath, but I didn’t take any pictures.

Okay, moving now into the history of currency in England. Anglo-Saxon King Offa brought currency to the British Isles with his minting of the first silver penny in the 8th-century. Here’s what it looked like:

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It followed the same denomination of Holy Roman coins. Four farthings made a penny, 12 pennies made up a shilling, and 20 shillings made up a pound (in this case, a literal pound). In reality, 240 pennies rarely made a pound, but the name and value system stuck. However, coins worth more than a penny weren’t made until the introduction of the Sovereign with Henry VII in 1489. It looked like this:

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The first shillings were minted in 1504. Pound coins follow a similar style throughout the Tudor reign. In Henry VII’s time, the pound was debased and turned into a 1/3 silver and 2/3 bronze composition. At this point, 60 shillings made a pound, and later that was changed to 62 shillings in a pound. The value of gold coins changed considerably during this time.

Another new coin, the half-sovereign, was also minted during this time. It was, as you would expect, worth half a sovereign or 10 shillings. Here’s an example of one from Elizabeth I:

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An artistic difference between these coins and the sovereigns is the way the monarch is shown on the front. In the sovereigns, the monarch is shown in a throne facing front, in the half-sovereigns, just the monarch’s head is shown and they are facing to the side. The backs of the coins are very similar with the crests of the royal family in the center. However, these coins weren’t the only ones made during this time period.

The crown was also introduced during the Tudor period. The crown, with a value of 5 shillings (quarter pound for those keeping track) was introduced by King Edward VI in 1551. It looked like this:

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During this time, both gold and silver crowns were issued; it wasn’t until the reign of Charles II that silver became the only medal in crowns. Half crowns were also introduced with crowns and looked like this:

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Also introduced in 1551 was the sixpence, worth six pence or a half shilling. It looked like this:

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Another coin was the threepence. This coin struggled as it had a similar value to the “half-goat” or twopenny piece. It was created in 1551 with the rest of the coins and looked like this:

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Edward VI introduced several coins, but did in fact remove others. The half-pence and farthings coins ceased under his rule.

As is obvious by the sheer number of coins, coins became an important part of everyday life during the Tudor period. The sheer number of different coins allowed for ease in transactions, and the traditions of having several different coins continues today (right now I believe the coins are: 1 pence, Mike Pence, 2 pence, 5 pence, 10 pence, 20 pence, 50 pence, 1 pound, 2 pounds, and 5 pounds). However, since the coins were made with precious metals, it was pretty easy for people to shave the edges of the coins to make some money off of their materials. Their inconstant shape made detecting shaved coins nearly impossible. This problem plagued the mint, and it wasn’t until after the Tudors that that was fixed.

The process for making these coins didn’t really change during this period. Stamps were made more and more detailed and the centralization of coin-making allowed for consistency in the designs. As far as the design of coins, Henry VII started the tradition that lived for many many years.

That’s all for this period. Next post is about the Stuart Dynasty, or what’s known as the Reformation and Restoration. There is plenty of interesting style choices form this period that are still visible today, and in currency history, we get a celebrity special guest!

Week 6: You know that time when homesickness really starts to kick in? Yeah, me too

Hello everyone! This blog post is courtesy of shitty hotel wifi (that I even had to pay to upgrade because uploading pictures took about 10 minutes a picture)! Anywho, this week has been a short, but important week in my travels. I’ve made a lot of progress on projects outside of the program, as well as deeper personal understanding.

This week really started on Tuesday, as that was the day most people came back from their excursions. I didn’t do anything except play Civilization 6 all day (and all week). That night though, we went to the National for the third time this trip to see an American play called Ugly Lies the Bone. It’s an 80 minute play about a wounded veteran learning how to cope with her pain from injuries sustained on duty and a changing hometown identity. I really enjoyed it, and I’m spending a lot of time with it due to the fact I’m writing an essay about it.

Wednesday we had our acting class again, except this time we learned about Shakespeare and how to approach his writing. It was mostly movement based, as the first half of the class was spent split in two halves to make “faerie choruses.” For some unholy reason I was picked to lead one of the two halves as a choreographer. In case you don’t know, there are two dancers in the group, and conveniently they were split between the two groups. One of them was chosen to lead and choreograph one group while our group was stuck with me (not a dancer). In the end, we collaborated to make an interesting dance to a piece of text. The second half of the class was spent playing with different contexts with Shakespearian text. I ended up getting put into a scene from Midsummer Night’s Dream playing Demetrius, the same character I played in high school. All in all, it was fun, but I didn’t really feel like I learned too much. I’m excited to learn more about Shakespeare next year when I’ll (hopefully) be taking a class on it.

That night we went to the globe and saw Nell Gwynn. It’s a modern play about the first popular English female actor, Nell Gwynn. She also went on to be a mistress of Charles II. The Globe Theatre is where Shakespeare originally had his plays put up before the theatre burned down. Since then, the theatre was rebuilt to the exact same specifications as the original, down to the thatched roofing and wood nails. It’s open air, which means there’s no roof over the stage and the standing room in front of the stage. The play played really well in the space, and utilized the setting sun to allow cool lighting in the second half of the play. The play was also acted beautifully, and was together a really fun experience. If given the opportunity to see Nell Gwynn performed I would recommend it highly.

Thursday I went to the National Portrait Gallery, which is a museum of portraits of important British people starting in the 1500’s. The gallery really was astonishing, as it held the original portraits that would be featured in many, many textbooks. Here are some:

They are, in order: George Washington, a dramatic painting of someone dying in Parliament, Captain James Cook, Sir Edmund Halley, Sir Isaac Newton, Nell Gwynn, Charles II, Sir Francis Drake, and Pocahontas. The gallery also includes significantly more recent portraits, going through the 1800’s all the way to the most recent portrait of Ed Sheeran. This museum really was one of the coolest places I’ve been to thus far, and I would highly recommend to anyone that visits London.

That night we saw the second of two Russian plays, The Three Sisters. This one, like the last one, was certainly disappointing, but between the two, The Three Sisters was much better. It was, however, an example of how Three Sisters could be played as a comedy, instead of as a drama. In general, though, the two Russian plays were pretty disappointing.

Friday was spent visiting another iconic London museum: The Victoria and Albert Museum. I have already visited it once, but I came in from a different entrance and it was a massively different museum. It’s enormous, and because I needed to get stuff done, I limited myself to the history of Britain exhibit before going anywhere else. It was cool finally seeing some Tudor, Reformation & Restoration, and Georgian artifacts in a museum, as things from those eras where surprisingly difficult to find. Here are some photos, mostly from the recreated rooms they had on exhibit:

This museum, like the British museum, is massive and has a ton of famous art pieces and artifacts. Also a must-visit.

Friday night was a play called While We’re Here. It’s a play between two older former lovers. It’s in a really small space and I managed a front row seat. It was also quite enjoyable, and played well with the theme of the week: Life Sucks And Nothing Means Anything In The End Anyway. It was a little depressing to say the least.

Saturday, most of the group went out to Hampstead Heath, but I stayed in to work on writing projects. In the morning, I began to transcribe a play I’ve been wanting to write for a while. If you remember from two weeks ago, I mentioned I had an idea for a one man show. Well, I scrapped that idea, but began thinking about including romance in the story, a theme I’ve been avoiding ever since I started writing. Earlier in the week I began using a new process of making a story and recorded myself being two people in a conversation. After not too long, I had a twelve-minute recording of a potential first scene. This story really could’ve ended there, but Saturday morning I opened up a folder on my computer called “creative writing,” and stumbled upon a bunch of old poems and short plays that I had forgotten about from late high school to early college times. I read some of them, and even read a few aloud to one of my roommates, and remembered how much I really do like writing, but how horrible I am at actually completing things. One poem, called Tunnels, I realized would work well as a part of the play I had started recording. That made me really want to type up what I had recorded, so I began the tedious process of copying word for word everything I said over those twelve minutes. In the end, I had seven typed pages of dialogue, two distinct characters, a story arc, and an idea for the next scene, which I recorded later that day. That recording is 18 minutes long. I really want to have a play I wrote performed at school before I graduate, and I finally have an idea and motivation to complete that goal. So that’s cool.

That day, everyone returned to tell me that I missed a really cool opportunity, but I wasn’t all that sad about it. I got to do something I hadn’t done in almost three years. That night a group of us hung out, got drunk, ate far too much McDonald’s, and failed to prepare for our trip the next day.

Sunday was in fact travel day, but a very fun travel day. We stopped by Stonehenge and Avebury, which is this small village surrounded by sheep and a huge henge complete with an old church. Here are some pictures from those stops:

It was a really beautiful day out. Stonehenge is remarkable, and the surrounding landscape is littered with prehistoric burial grounds and other landmarks. Avebury is also beautiful, and probably cooler than Stonehenge. You can actually walk through the stones and through the henge. Sheep were grazing everywhere, and the church is around a 1000 years old with artifacts in it that are from the Anglo-Saxons, a group that supposedly didn’t live in the area. We ate dinner in the only pub in the world that is inside a stone circle and was visited a couple times by this lovely border collie. After another drive we made it to Bath, where we will be spending the next few days and the reason that I have shitty wifi.

I mentioned in the title that I’m beginning to feel homesick. That’s for sure true. I miss my friends and my cat for sure, but I’m also longing for summer. Last summer was odd. I had almost no responsibilities and was able to more or less do whatever I wanted. This summer will be similar, but hopefully I’ll be able to progress on some hobbies or projects I’ve had to put on the back burner for a couple years. In a lot of ways, I’m being reminded of a few summers ago, being on the precipice of moving to college. Not knowing what to expect but also not being able to do anything about it. That summer, I deepened a lot of friendships, was writing a lot, and really was able to do a lot of self-discovery. This summer is shaping up to be a lot like that, and I’ll have projects to power me through the months. I’m excited, and a bit scared for the future. That seems to be a good place to be.

Before summer though, I’ve got a few more weeks of London to experience. Next week, I’ll be detailing my experiences in Bath, as well as seeing David Tennant live. It’s certainly shaping up to be a crazy fun week!

Until next time