Historical novel, Historical research, Historiography, Industrial revolution, Library, Renaissance, Research, Research Tip, Victorian Era, Women, women's history

Curses Indeed!

Featuring The Encyclopedia of Swearing

Annie – my protagonist

It’s great when you’re writing and come up with just the right word or expression.

And being historically accurate makes your work more authoritative and trustworthy.

While working on my historical novel, set in 1800s Vancouver, I needed to find a few accurate expletives to come out of my protagonist, Annie’s mouth. She’s a factory girl and not shy about expressing her opinions!

I still haven’t found exactly what I’m looking for – namely – something like, “damn it” (or preferably stronger) – an expletive for her to say when something falls on her foot. Feel free to suggest something in the comments please!

I did a quick internet search and got a few ideas and then went onto our local library catalogue and found this amazing resource.

It’s called An Encyclopedia of Swearing: The Social History of Oaths, Profanity, Foul Language, and Ethnic Slurs in the English-Speaking World, by M.E. Sharpe

At the Vancouver Public Library (VPL), it’s an e-pub found by a catalogue search and available only to VPL library card holders. Call a librarian if you don’t find it in your own local library. It may be accessible differently than it is here.

I couldn’t see how to find an answer my question (the curse following the thing falling on her foot), but while scrolling around and trying out different things I tried out a search on the word “prostitute”.

Along with some historical and literary references, and bibliographic references, I got this list of words spanning the years 1100-2000.

1100whore
1200
1300strumpet, concubine, quean, common woman
1400harlot, slut, filth, mistress
1500drab, trull, mutton, cat, doxy
1600prostitute, moll, punk, doll, jade, hussy, trollop, gypsy, slattern
1700biddy, conveniency, bunter
1800fallen woman, hooker, blowen, streetwalker
1900broad, call girl, call boy, tramp, tart, lady of the night, hustler, slag
2000escort, sex worker

A few other terms in the table of contents of this encyclopedia include:

  • expletives – homosexuals 
  • ethnic slurs
  • etymology
  • piss
  • punk
  • shrew
  • soldiers and sailors slang
  • shit words
  • turd
  • twat 

and more….

There are entries for a few regional terms, including Scots, South African,and probably some more

And entries for a few historical periods including Renaissance and Victorian, and probably some more

Use the table of contents or do a search.

Just be careful if you do a search that you use the correct search field labed, “search within this publication”. Otherwise your search will bring up results from all the Gale online publications held by your library.

Another option is to use the “advanced search”

  • Enter “prostitution” as a keyword
  • Scroll down and enter the name of the publication
  • I entered “encyclopedia of swearing” and the full title was auto-filled
  • Scroll down
  • Press, search

I noticed that not every term gives a nice date-line table like the one that showed up on my search for Prostitute.


You can save your results on Google Drive, Cloud, and other platforms.


For academic works there are also options to put the citations into whatever citation protocol you’re using.

Archive Angel
Bradford, England, Historical documents, Historical research, Industrial revolution, Novel excerpt, Research, Women, women's history, Yorkshire

Getting a feel for Bradford

No matter how much you read or watch, there’s nothing like travel to get a deeper feel for a place whether you’re doing historical research or not.

There are things you just don’t think of asking or looking for while researching a place from afar. And things that other sources might not mention because they seem too mundane or obvious.

But by being in a place, you absorb so much, whether consciously or not, that adds depth to understanding your story’s or your ancestors’ settings.

I spent a few days in Bradford in West Yorkshire this week, a place that’s currently going through some tough economic times.

I felt a sadness there – a feeling that was much more palpible than all the research I’ve been doing about the place over the past year.

Is this a vestige of its history? Did the working poor of the 19th century have the same apparent feeling of defeat as I perceived in Bradford this week?

A few people made a lot of money in the textile industry of Bradford in the 19th century.

But the vast majority of its 200,000 inhabitants, including thousands of children – and my protagonist Annie – worked 12-hour days in appalling conditions, earning barely enough to keep body and soul together.

And they lived in dark, dingy, and overcrowded housing surrounded by 200-foot high smokestacks spewing sulphurous smoke from factories throughout the city.

A classic Dickensian scene of the industrial revolution.

Adding to the misery, then and now, Bradford is a very windy place. Relentlessly so. And last week it was really cold too despite the spring season.

It wore me down the way I imagine it wore Annie down as she walked, hunched over in the pre-dawn light on her way to the factory where she worked.

But there were times when the simple pleasure of hearing songbirds chirping made me smile as I walked down the street, or looked out onto the famous moors of the Bronte sisters, and I imagined it bringing some happiness to Annie too.

Along with the more linear research I’ve done so far, I am holding fast to these feelings and impressions of Bradford, adding fuel to the fire of my imagination as I conjure up Annie’s thoughts, feelings, and actions.

And also to work them into her memories as she traveled miles from the only home and life she ever knew before arriving in the village of Granville (later Vancouver), in 1885, a tiny settlement with a lumber mill, surrounded by towering evergreens, and a dearth of white women.

Bradford, England, Historical research, Industrial revolution, Novel excerpt, Women, women's history, Yorkshire

Bradford – where Annie comes from

factorygirl
Annie

I’m going to visit the city of Bradford next week – now the curry capital of the UK, so I’ll definitely be trying out curry and banghan bharta.

But the main reason I’m going, is because the protagonist of the novel I’m working on comes from there.  Her name is Annie and she was one of thousands of girls and young women who moved to Bradford to get work in a woolen mill. Here is a picture of what I imagine her to look like.

Originally Bradford was a small market town, with a population of about 7000 people. Up until about 1800, women came from the surrounding villages to sell their spun wool and cloth. But as technology developed, the home-spun work these women did couldn’t compete with the hundreds of yards of fabric that could be produced every day in the mills of Bradford.

It ended the century’s-old spinning and weaving tradition in the countryside. As a result, thousands of girls and women migrated to Bradford from the surrounding towns to get work in the factories, swelling the population to nearly 200,000 by 1850.

By then the city had earned a reputation for being the wool capital of the world, but at a cost.  There were frequent outbreaks of typhus and cholera and mill workers in the city had a life expectancy 20 years.

More than 200 chimneys spewed out sulphurous smoke, polluted the waterways with dyes and other chemicals and had the dubious distinction of being the most polluted city in England.

Annie and her sister Mavis are only 10 when they get pawned off by their orphanage, and sent to work 12-14  hours a day in one of the textile factories in Bradford