"Many folk are frighten to look out into the future because of the uncertainty they face or the many unwelcome changes in their lives that they find hard to readjust to. Such apprehension and doubt keeps deep within them a yearning for a return to the past when things were much different than today. As a person who grew up during the 1950's as a happy, contented and fulfilled child in a large family, I can easily understand their position, but as a life-long history student with an avid passion to read and learn about both the past and present, I know how easy it is to wear the wrong coloured spectacles when we examine memories and past feelings.
I often wonder about conventions and customs of the past and present, and in particular how so many of the old ways seem alien in today's 'progressive' world. In the final analysis, I am obliged to conclude that a large part of how we view things is governed by one's age and circumstance. Whereas, I wouldn't have minded being part of the 18th and 19th century gentry or aristocrats and enjoying their landed, wealth and titled position, I know that I would have hated to have been some down-trodden scullery maid, hard working/low paid field hand or 9-year-old boy up a factory chimney.
That was a time when to have a child outside wedlock would cast a mark of shame upon a maiden's brow that could never be erased; when to steal a loaf of bread for want of starvation could see some poor soul transported across the world or even hanged, when debtors who were unable to redeem their loan would find themselves in prison. These were the days when men never allowed women to forget that they were men while routinely forbidding them to do 'this' or 'that' as they were constantly reminded by court and custom that they were only women,and as such were the property of their husband who they'd been placed on earth to serve.
These were the days when a woman could be beaten with a stick, no longer than one foot in length by her husband; times when women remained trapped in unhappy marriages and when to leave their marriage partner against his will meant penury, the loss of all contact with one's children and a life of destitution as a social outcast. This was a time when divorce was unheard of and male hypocrisy ruled supreme; a time when wives were there to breed child after child until either their body gave up the ghost or their husbands gave up the drink and his unreasonable demands on them. It was only within the last century that woman got the vote and their right to have or not have children was established. It was not until the 1970's that forced sex by a husband upon an unwilling wife; an undoubted form of domestic violence and sexual abuse, became widely recognised by law and society as being wrong and a crime. It is hard to think that less than 50 years ago in England there was no such concept as 'marital rape.'
Of all the good changes that have occurred over the past century, the best changes in my view have seen the vast disappearance of discrimination practices by man against woman!
I do however sadly miss the absence and bond of a community spirit that once existed in my youth, along with an attitude of 'make do and mend' that was quickly overtaken during the past thirty years by one of 'get now and spend', whether or not the item was really needed or could be afforded! I also regret the change of pace that we tend to live at today as many men drive fast cars, eat fast food and seek out fast women for instant satisfaction.
Of all past customs though, one I sadly regret the passing of is the ability of all class of people of 'keeping one's word'. I grew up at a time when to break it meant instant loss of Office for any politician and the withdrawal of all community respect from the man or woman in the street. Not only was a person's word their bond, but to break it was nothing short of personal disgrace. I always remember my parents telling me, ' Billy, I would prefer you to break the law, break a leg or even break your neck before breaking your word. A poor person has nothing in this world that is worth keeping except their good name and they will forever hold on to that if they keep faith with their word.'
All in all, while my love of history will always enable me to place a favourable slant on times now long past, I prefer to read about the past these days than to have ever been obliged to live it." William Forde: August 9th, 2017.