Current Events XIX
A New NOW I
A New NOW II
Applegate Trail I
Applegate Trail II
Applegate Trail III
Doing Right Thing
T. Roosevelt I
T. Roosevelt II
Cicero's pro Caecina
pro Caecina II
pro Caecina III
Cynthia Barton Rabe
On Learning II
Charlton Lewis I
Charlton Lewis II
Cheng Yu I
Cheng Yu II
A KS Genius
Knowledge Project I
Knowledge Proj. II
Very Smart People
Ukraine 2011 (I)
Ukraine 2011 (II)
Ukraine 2011 (III)
Lariviere (U of O)
Thoughts on Patty
Symphony in Salem
Enough Learning I
Enough Learning II
CES Wood I (Legal)
CES Wood II (WV)
CES Wood III
CES Wood IV
CES Wood V
CES Wood VI
CES Wood VII
CES Wood VIII
CES Wood IX
CES Wood X
On Learning II
Bill Long 7/27/11
My Visit to the Getty--and Other Ruminations
C. Well, we can actually go deeper (not that you want to necessarily...). I decided to track down the actual statute from 1463 and, sure enough, I found it. In the Statutes of the Realm (vol 2, 1377-1504, pp. 392-402), under "3 Edw IV, c. 5 (1463)," according to the formal way that old English statutes are cited, we have the relevant law. But before citing it, it might be important to know its purpose. The primary purpose of the 11 pages of statutes enacted in 1463 was protectionist. England's wool trade was threatened by goods from the Continent; thus, they passed legislation prohibiting the importing of 67 types of goods. A goodly part of the legislation focused further on types of materials used in clothing and why they should be prohibited for various classes. In fact, the 1463 law became the most far-reaching sumptuary legislation passed to that date in English history. A page on the history of English sumptuary law or, more specifically, apparel legislation, is here.
Whereas protectionist legislation comes from an economic motive, sumptuary laws emerge primarily from a religious motivation--one ought not to be too finely accoutered because it goes against certain Biblical principles requiring modesty in dress and deportment. But sumptuary legislation is driven by another factor--the need to keep the social classes distinct. After all, in a strictly hierarchical society like medieval England's, one had to do everything one could to maintain the class distinctions that undergirded the society. Clothes are the easiest "tip off" of what class you belong to.
Here is the language from the preamble to the petition drawn up by the House of Commons and presented to the crown in 1463, which cleverly mingled the two ideas of modesty in dress and social class distinction:
"Prayen the Commyns in this present Parlement assembled to calle to youre blessed remembraunce that, in the days of youre most noble Progenitours, there have been dyverse ordenauncez and statutes made in this youre realm, for the apparell and aray of the Comyns of the same, as well as men as of women, soo that noon of them should use nor wear noon inordynat aray, but only accordying to their degreez...*"
[*Now you understand why there are spelling bees in the English-speaking world! After a paragraph like this, there had to be someone coming along who desired to standardize English spelling. But, it took 'em 300 years to do it and, even today, English spelling is a lot less standardized than one would think...]
After the preamble, which begins section 5 of the law (p. 399), which is annotated: "Apparel of Persons according to their several Ranks," we get to the language of the law. The statute goes on to say in deligtfully memorable language that
"the Commons of the said Realm, as well Men as Women, have worn and daily do wear excessive and inordinate Array, to the great Displeasure of God and impoverishing of this Realm and to the enriching of strange Realms and Countries, to the final Destruction of the Husbandry of this said Realm..."
In other words, we have a religious and economic disaster on our hands--one that leads to the outflow of money from England to "strange Realms" and, ultimately, to the destruction of our farmers. The end of the world, no doubt. Then, the law goes on to specify things about dress:
"No Knight under the Estate of a Lord..nor no Wife of such Knight, from the Feast of the Purification of our Lady, 1465 [i.e., this Feast took place 40 days after Christmas. Thus the effective day of the law was early in 1465. After all, you got to give people time to buy new clothes! And, clothes from local merchants, too] shall wear any manner Cloth of God, or any Corses wrought with Gold, or any Furr or Sables.."
If a Knight or Knight's wife (or lower classes) was caught doing this, he had to pay a stiff fine. Then, we go to the category of "Bachelor Knights" (you see how much you need to learn, just by patiently going through texts from another era?), a lower category of Knights. Neither ne nor his wife, from the effective date of the statute,
"shall wear any Cloth of Velvet upon Velvet, but such Knights which be of the Order of the Garter, and their Wives, upon Pain to forfeit to the King for every Default Twenty Marks.. And also that no Person under the State of a Lord, from the said Feast, wear any manner Cloth of Silk, being of the Colour of Purple; upon Pain to forfeit to the King for every Default X li (10 Marks?)."
The statute goes on to prohibit other classes, such as Esquires or Gentlemen, from wearing certain kinds of cloth, velvet or silk. It would be a wonderful exercise to go through all the classes of people named in the law and try to do what might be called a "social cartography" of mid-15th century England. Taking a week with this one page of this one sstatute, and filling in all the knowledge that the text assumes, would be more valuable than reading hundreds of pages of legal or historical books on medieval England.
Well, the law goes on to put limits on what people of various incomes can also wear, so there is some kind of cross-indexing that may be necessary between classes of people and incomes of those people. But not to prolong this too much, let's skip ahead of other furs, sables, ermines and income levels and get to the buttocks guy.
Getting to the Buttocks Section of the Law
Finally, on page 401, we come to the relevant section. But we begin with a new effective date--"from the said Feast of Saint Peter called ad vincula" (1465; this refers to the Biblical story in Acts 12 of Peter's sudden release from prison by an Angel of the Lord, and it was celebrated on August 1). And we have yet another class of people referred to--Yeomen. Two provisions are interesting:
"That no Yeoman, nor none other Person under that same Degree (then the effective date is given), shall use nor wear in Array for his Body, any Bolsters nor stuffing of Wool, Cotton, nor Cadas, nor stuffing in his Doublet, but only Lining according to the same; upon Pain to forfeit to the King's Use for every such Default Six Shillings and Eight-pence."
In order to understand this more fully, we would have to know the comparative value of money at the time, as well as what really is at stake in "stuffing" the garments. Does this make a person look more "substantial"? It would seem to me that since this would bolster, so to speak, the wool industry, by requiring more wool, that the law wouldn't disapprove. But that is something that I don't understand.
Now, finally, the buttocks!
"And our sovereign Lord hath ordained and established, That no Knight under the Estate of a Lord, Esquire, Gentleman, nor none other Person, shall use or wear from the Feast of All Saints (wow, we are really having lots of different effective dates!--this is November 1), 1465, any Gown, Jacket, or Coat unless it be of such Length that the same may cover his privy Members and Buttocks; upon Pain to forfeit to the King for every Default Twenty Shillings."
But then the statute goes on to fine the tailors that would make such gowns or garments. So, you have to go after the prostitutes and the Johns, so to speak. The statute continues with prohibitions about wearing shoes with Pikes (I guess pointed toes?) of a certain length.
Surely there is much knowledge to be gained by patiently going through this statute. It opens an entire world, of money, of classes, of protectionist legislation, of religious and social concerns, of fabrics, of the nature of the legal system, of enforcement mechanisms, of the English calendar, etc. Indeed, I would love to see a dissertation just on this subject! My own proposal for knowledge creation, detailed in the essays following this one, includes a method to get to the bottom of all this kind of knowledge.
Suffice it to say, however, that the two sentences from the Getty exhibit were mostly useful because they were unclear and needd to be unraveled. This is, what I find to be the case in life is that a good percentage of my learning comes from trying to unravel other people's confusion, inadequate abbreviation (as here) or commingling of information that leads to confusion, if you think about it, rather than knowledge. Thus I am terrifically grateful to the Getty, actually, for being so unhelpful in their exhibit--but unhelpful enough so that I had to expend some energy to clarify what is unclear. It is this kind of "thick description" that is at the heart of what I consider knowledge creation to be...
Conclusion--One More Example
2. Now, after all that complexity in an arcane area of research, let's look at a much more prosaic example, which shows how even on a fairly basic issue there is not clarity or complete knowledge easily available on the Net. The issue is the naming of Jamboree Road in Newport Beach CA. Here is an article that talks about it--the street was named at the close of the 1953 Boy Scouts of America (BSA) Scout Jamboree that met in Newport Beach. Jamboree Street became the street along which more than 25,000 tents were pitched as the scouts from all states and more than a dozen countries descended on the Newport Beach hills for a week (July 17-23, 1953). Celebrities joined the scouts; boxcars brought food; songs were sung and, I suppose, whatever is normally done at Jamborees was also done here.
But here is where the fun really begins for a researcher. One would first ask about the concept of a Jamboree, discovering that the first of these (planned as quadrennial) events was scheduled to be held in Washington DC in 1935, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the founding of the BSA. Yet it was put off for two years due to a polio outbreak in the Nation's Capital in 1935. Then, the next two were cancelled because of the war, and the one after that was held in 1950 at Valley Forge PA. Thus, the 1953 Jamboree in Newport Beach was not only the first that took place west of the Mississippi but was only the third Jamboree. So, questions continue. Who pulled strings to get the scouts to Newport Beach, a community of 15,000 at the time? Was the road paved or was it still dirt/gravel at that time? What was its prior name? Another report I read said that Jamboree Road was also named because it ended at a scout cabin eight miles to the east in Irvine. But I can't verify that at this point. Again, it would be good to have knowledge of what activities were held at the Jamboree.
A knowledge-centered approach to this event would not just present some of the facts of the Jamboree, but have copious links to stories about the history of scouting, the concept of the Jamboree, the choosing of Newport Beach, the events of that week, and then the memories of those who participated in it. This last point would be illustrated through narratives written by people or interviews (video or other) taken from participants. In addition, there would be links to the history of Newport Beach, with linked maps and photos of that city, so that an interested person could not only "freeze" Newport Beach as well as Orange County during July 1953 but could spread out and go earlier, year by year, or later, year by year, to begin to fill out the history and development of that area. Thus, the Jamboree could be a gateway to all kinds of knowledge. The task of those who would (re) conceptualize knowledge for the next generation would be to imagine all the subjects that could profitably be linked to the Jamboree and then provide detailed, precise and entertaining information on it all. Knowledge, then, would be at the fingertips of everyone--and they coudl pursue it based on the level of their interest. While Wikipedia gives us some basic information on many subjects at this time, what I envision goes far beyond the concept of that helpful encyclopedia.
Much more can (and will) be said. Suffice it to say now that the list of topics for knowledge creation/production is infinite, but focused attention on topics and the way that knowledge splays out from every topic, should be the goal. We will never be the same once knowledge is reconceptualized in this way.