Romanticising History

So I was scrolling down my Facebook feed and I saw this Tumblr exchange. It’s starts off with an alleged fact about the Viking women having the right to castrate her husband if he mistreated her and is then added to. (Having studied Old Norse societies on and off for a few years and having googled this to death there doesn’t seem to be any evidence for the first claim. )

On the basis of these claims a user states that we should be romanticising the Vikings rather than the Victorians. There are many issues with this.

Firstly, do we romanticise the Victorians? Maybe for their many innovations, but certainly not the attitudes to women and human rights. I don’t think I’ve seen any mainstream modern promotion of 19th century attitudes to women, which I believe is what the crux of this post is about.

Secondly, why would you want to romanticise a society where mutilation of people’s genitals is seen as a good thing?! I think the people applauding this would react very differently if it were women who were being mutilated. It seems to be some sort of misguided female empowerment that’s in fashion at the moment (obviously I’m not against female empowerment, just the misguided stuff).

Unfortunately, examples of this happening in the modern day have been seen as amusing to some people. An example being Sharron Osborne making light, on a US TV talk show, of a man having his penis cut of by his female partner and then put in the garbage disposal (that’s an American thing in sinks that’s supposed to grind up food or something), and the audience and other panel members laughed along with her. It’s sort of portrayed as women getting their own back on men for centuries of oppression, but clearly not a lot of thought is put into that position. It’s a very childish view of gender issues. Basically it’s an extension of the playground boys vs girls attitude. This is spilling over into people’s views of history, which I don’t think is a good thing. We need to realise that people are not responsible for the actions of other people who happen to share the same gender, especially if the other people have been dead for century.

Another side to this issue is cherry-picking historical evidence to make women seem to have had more power or influence than they actually did, and to make past societies seem more progressive than those in the present day or more recent history (like the Victorians). I take particular issue with the touching of the hand claim. It is true that men could be punished for touching a woman without permission in Old Norse society, but it’s missing crucial details. There were various fines for different body parts being touched. From this post you’d think that the more intimate the touching, the higher the fine would be, but that was not the case. The fine would be lower for intimate places because it was assumed that the woman had consented to other areas being touched before that without complaint. Essentially, this is the equivalent of telling sexual assault victims that it was their fault for leading the other party on.

This leads me to my next point. Viking society was extremely patriarchal and was infused with what would be called ‘Toxic Masculinity’ today. There were a class of insults under Icelandic law which a person could be murdered for saying without repercussions for the murderer. One of them was calling a man gay, but it’s slightly more complex than that. It was not an insult if you were doing the penetrating, but was if you were the one being penetrated because it reduced you to the level of a woman. Therefore women were considered inferior to men. As such, they were constantly under the authority of their male relatives (fathers, brothers, husbands, etc.). The men could force their female relatives into marriages for their own gain.

The magic claim is the wrong way around. Women were not seen a magic. It was magic that was seen as feminine. It could be seen as dishonourable or unmanly for a man to practice magic. This fact is covered in some of the Sagas as Odin was a practitioner of magic.

Being seen as feminine was considered very negative for Norse men of the Viking period. This is played for laughs in a few sagas. Lokasenna is an Old Norse story in which Loki basically goes around insulting all the gods by calling the male gods gay and the female gods sluts. In another saga Thor is forced to dress up as a woman (which he finds humiliating) because his hammer has been stolen, so he had to pretend to marry the guy who stole it in order to get it back as a wedding present (Loki also features in this as an all too willing bridesmaid – Loki is strange). This demonstrates that femininity was looked upon in disgust in men, and that’s probably not a society that we should be romanticising.

Also of note is the revelations about the ancestral DNA of Icelandic people. While the male DNA was mostly Scandinavian, the female DNA was mostly Irish. The most likely scenario that caused this would be Viking raiders taking Irish women captive as slaves and bringing them back to Iceland. Again, not really a society that you want to romanticise.

All in all, you shouldn’t romanticise the Vikings or the Victorians. To be honest, I don’t think we should be romanticising any society, past or present. If a society is romanticised, the picture painted is shallow and very simple. We won’t do history justice by acting in this way. Societies are complex and should be treated as such. There are ‘good’ things and ‘bad’ things about every society and our opinion of them is biased by the environment that we have lived in. Therefore historical facts (or fictions in this case) should not be evaluated without the context of the society they came from, and people should do more research before posting or believing claims that they read online.

Tl;dr – don’t romanticise any historical period and fact check claims made online.


Harry Ernest Field (1888-1918)

Harry Ernest Field was born to George Henry and Amelia Elizabeth Field (née Gibson) during the first quarter of 1888 in Leeds. George had been born in Nottinghamshire in 1859 and was a plumber by trade. He married Amelia Elizabeth Gibson (b. 1851 in Leeds) on 25th November 1883 at St. Clements’ Church in Sheepscar, Leeds. The Church has since been demolished, probably to make way for the Sheepscar interchange.

St Clements

Harry was baptised the same day as his sister, Anne ‘Annie’ Gibson Giddins Field (later Atkinson), on 28th March 1890 at St. Paul’s Church in Shadwell. He and his sister both first appear in the census records in 1891 with their older brother Thomas ‘Tom’ Lindley Ainsworth Field, along with their parents. I was initially unable to find their 1891 census record because, for reasons unknown, their surname was given as ‘Gibson’ rather than ‘Field’, and George Henry was recorded as ‘Frederick’. It may seem like this is a completely different family, but the Head of Household’s (George/Frederick) occupation and place and age match with other records. The first names, ages, and places of birth of his wife and his children also match. I do not know if this was a genuine mistake or a deliberate attempt to mislead people.

He next appears on the 1901 census at the age of 13 and is already working, with his occupation being listed as ‘Errand Boy’. The 1901 census is the first census to feature his youngest sibling, Francis ‘Frank’ Morgan Field age 7, whom I have written about previously. By the 1911 census Harry is listed as a ‘Cabinet Maker’. He is 23, single and has had no children. Though there is a misconception that most people married very young in the past, this is not the case. Men seem to have tended to marry in their late 20s or 30s, women in their early to mid-20s or later. Men would have wanted to get themselves established in a trade, or at least a steady occupation, before marrying as falling on hard times could still mean falling into poverty and ending up in the workhouse. As such, he was probably still in the same occupation at the outbreak of war in August 1914.

Unlike his brother, Harry most probably didn’t join the army in 1914 or 1915 as his medal records show no 1915 Star, the medal that was given to those who served overseas in 1915. He was 26 when war was declared, whereas Frank was 20. The idea of war seemed to appeal most to younger men and often boys who still had a sense of invincibility and immortality. These younger men were also less likely to have families to support or be fully immersed in a career. As Harry and anyone who personally knew him are long gone, we can only guess at his thoughts on the war.

Unlike with his brother Frank, Harry’s service timeline is unclear. This is due to a few factors. The first being that his service records were probably destroyed in bombing during the Second World War. This means that it is unknown when he joined the army and when his unit were posted to France. Frank’s service records were also probably destroyed; however, he was commissioned in 1916 and he had initially joined the Leeds Rifles, which make him easier to track. Harry remained a private for the duration of his service and is therefore not specifically mentioned in any battalion war diaries. This also means that he was not mentioned in the supplements to the London Gazette, which reported commissions, promotions, and deaths of officers. Harry had also not joined a battalion associated with a certain town or city, such as the Leeds Rifles and the Leeds Pals, so there is less information about the general experience of men in his unit. In addition, there is no way of knowing if he joined voluntarily or was conscripted. Unfortunately, lack of records and the complete absence of family stories mean there is not much that we can know for certain about him.


What we do know follows. Harry would have joined at the close of 1915 or likely later. He ended up in the 10th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers with the service number 40279, though he had previously been in the 15th Battalion. According to his military death record he had also been in the Royal Army Service Corps, formerly the Army Service Corps, with the service number 4289. He was killed on 12 October 1918 during an attack on the town of Neuvilly, where he is buried in Neuvilly Communal Cemetery Extension. He was posthumously awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal and his next of kin was his mother Amelia.

Regarding the day of his death, there was more detail than I expected in the battalion war diary. The amount of information included in a war diary can vary greatly based on the protocols of the unit concerned and the individuals who recorded the information. Consequently, I have more information about the day that Harry died (12th October 1918) than the day that his brother died.

By 12th October 1918, 10th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers had been in France for over three years having taken part in many battles including The Battle of the Somme, The Battle of Arras, The Battle of Passchendaele, The Battle of Amiens, and The Battle of Cambrai. 833 members of the battalion had died since the start of the war according to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

On 12th October 1918 the battalion had orders to attack the town of Neuvilly from the south in support of the Duke of Wellington’s West Yorkshire Regiment (The Dukes) and the Manchester Regiment. The attack began at 05:00 with an artillery barrage. The Dukes seem to have been late in arriving and did not get themselves across to the north side of the river fast enough and, as such, some of their platoons and A & C companies of the 10th Lancashire Fusiliers were caught by the enemy artillery barrage. In addition, there were still machine guns and sniper posts on the south side of the river, which should have been cleared prior to the 10th battalion getting there. The officer commanding A company was wounded at 05:48 whilst clearing these posts in house to house fighting, and a replacement had to be sent from battalion HQ. The rear platoons of The Dukes still hadn’t crossed when their forward platoons came under fire at the railway line, north of the river. During the delay, A and C company of the 10th Lancashire Fusiliers had ‘dug in’ on the south side of the river. B company crossed the river at 06:00 following the Manchester Regiment, which D company was attached to, and had taken 30 prisoners by 08:00.

By 08:30 33 men had been through the Regimental Aid Post. B company was clearing the village, but A and C companies were under heavy machine gun fire and still unable to cross the river. At about 09:00, B company came under machine gun fire and were unable to finish clearing the village. D company was later given orders to clear a factory north east of the railway.

By 12:00, 3 officers and 45 other ranks had been through the Regimental Aid Post. At 12:50 A and C companies were ordered to pass through the village with B company from north to south as enemy forces had re-entered the village via the railway. At 15:00 the enemy launched a strong counter attack following a heavy artillery barrage and forced the Manchester Regiment off the ridge they had been holding. At this point B company was passing through the village as ordered with A and C companies to the north waiting to follow. Half of D company was advancing on the factory, mentioned above, and the other half were near a quarry. The counter attack was stopped, and the enemy forces took many casualties, however they succeeded in retaking the village. A, B, C, and D companies were positioned in the quarry and prevented the enemy from crossing the river.

At 17:00 orders were received from the Manchester Regiment to hold the quarry and bank north of the river. A and C companies began to clear the houses south of the river again to make sure no enemy had managed to get across. They encountered no enemy forces in that area but came under heavy fire from positions north of the river. The companies of the 10th Battalion the Lancashire Fusiliers were relieved by the Sherwood Foresters (Nottingham and Derbyshire Regiment) and the 7th Lincolnshire Regiment during the night.

‘The Battalion went into the line with 20 off. + 558 O.R and came out with 16 off. + 364 O.R.’

In total there were 4 officers and 134 other ranks wounded, 15 other ranks missing, and 33 other ranks killed. The battalion had taken 2 officers and 47 other ranks prisoner.


Of the 33 recorded as killed, 19 are buried in the Neuvilly Communal Cemetery Extension as recorded by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, including Private Harry Ernest Field aged 30. This cemetery contains 95 casualties from the First World War and 1 from the Second World War. The 95 casualties from the First World War were all killed between 10th and 27th October 1918. This includes 2 from the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), 11 from the Dorsetshire Regiment, 2 from the Durham Light Infantry, 4 from the East Yorkshire Regiment, 1 from the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, 20 from the Lancashire Fusiliers, 2 from the Leicestershire Regiment, 1 from the Lincolnshire Regiment, 2 from the Machine Gun Corps (Infantry), 38 from the Manchester Regiment, 1 from the Middlesex Regiment, 1 from the Royal Engineers, 2 from the Royal Artillery, 7 from the Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby Regiment), and 1 from the West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales’s Own).

The names of the Lancashire Fusiliers casualties are as follows:

5th Battalion –

  • Second Lieutenant Robert Sebastian Stott MC aged 21

10th Battalion –

  • Lance Corporal W. E. Pile aged 34
  • Private H. J. Box aged 24
  • Private H. Carr
  • Private H. Daniels
  • Private G. Dellar aged 33
  • Private T. Ellis aged 25
  • Private Harry Ernest Field aged 30
  • Private F. J. Filkins aged 30
  • Private James Francis Finnigan aged 34
  • Private Thomas Bentley Hand aged 29
  • Private Albert Hart aged 34
  • Private C H Howard
  • Private J H Jenkins
  • Private William Johnson aged 21
  • Private C Kenny
  • Private T Lawton aged 20
  • Private Frank Lester VC aged 22*
  • Private H B Warhusrt
  • Private A Warner

*Private Frank Lester was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 12th October 1918. It was presented to his mother by King George V. There were also two Military Crosses, one Distinguished Conduct Medal, and three Military Medals awarded to members of the 10th battalion for actions on that day.


Harry’s effects of £17 and 10 shillings were sent back to his mother, who would have also received his medals. It is often seen as particularly tragic if someone died this close to the end of the war, but, in reality, the effect it had on his family and friends would have been very similar if he had died in October 1914. I can only hope that they got the news quickly and didn’t have suffer through an experience like the family of Wilfred Owen (18th March 1893 – 4th November 1918), receiving a telegram whilst the church bells rang to celebrate Armistice.



On the first anniversary of his death, his family put a notice in the Yorkshire Evening Post:

‘In proud and loving memory of Harry Ernest Field, 10th Batt. Lancashire Fusiliers, killed in action Oct 12, 1918 – interred at Neuvilly Communal Cemetery, near La Cateau.

-From Mother, Sister, and Brother.’



‘At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.’

What is an autistic meltdown?

What is a meltdown?

One aspect of autism that most people are aware of, even if they don’t know the name, is an autistic meltdown. In the media it is typically portrayed by a child, usually a boy, screaming and engaging in behaviours that people associate with tantrums. The first thing to know is that a meltdown is not a tantrum, despite how similar they may look. A tantrum is manipulative behaviour employed by young children in order to get what they want. As soon as they achieve the desired result, the tantrum will stop. Meltdowns are very different. A meltdown is a form of the fight/flight response. Another example of the fight/flight response is a panic attack, or simply becoming nervous before public speaking. As such, a meltdown is not under the control of the individual having one. It is a state of extreme distress that cannot be stopped, only mitigated.


What does a meltdown look like?

I am far from the first person to describe what a meltdown looks like, and many others have done a better job of it than I will do here, but I will try my best.

A meltdown differs from individual to individual and is affected by the age and personality of the person affected. For example, a 6-year-old boy’s meltdown will not look the same as a 45-year-old woman’s.


What do meltdowns look like in children?

In children, at first glance, a meltdown is likely to look similar to a tantrum. There may be screaming, crying, throwing objects, and running away amongst other things. There are important distinctions though. During a tantrum a child is aware of their environment, they may engage in dramatic behaviour, but they will not hurt themselves. They will also look to the caregiver to make sure they are paying attention, and, as mentioned above, the episode will stop when the child gets the thing they want. During a meltdown a child may not be aware of their environment, they may engage in self injurious behaviour, they are unlikely to look to see if anyone is watching them, and finally the behaviour will not stop if the cause of the meltdown is resolved (e.g. not getting the right brand of juice to drink). As you can see, it is not easy to tell the two apart at first especially if you don’t know the child. There is also the very real possibility that the meltdown will not take this form as all autistics are different. Some people may be wondering why I haven’t used video evidence to show the difference between the two. The answer is that I think it is unethical to record a person in severe distress and put it online without their informed consent. I don’t believe most children are able to grasp the consequences of a video of themselves being broadcast online, so I don’t think they are able to give consent.

So, if you see a child having a meltdown, what should you do?

Hopefully the child’s guardian will be present, however if they are not, attempts should be made to find or contact them. You should not leave the child alone, so you may need to enlist the help of another person. After that you should just keep a safe distance and just make sure that the child doesn’t run off or do anything too dangerous. Trying to restrain the child may make the situation worse and can be dangerous if you do not know safe restraint techniques. So, unless the child is putting their life in danger you shouldn’t try to stop what they are doing.

If you come across a scene in which a caregiver is present either offer help, if appropriate, or keep walking. It isn’t comfortable for the child or the caregiver to be stared at when this is happening. If you see others staring, commenting on the situation, or even filming it, it would be helpful for you to ask them to stop. I’d advocate this approach even in the case of tantrums because it doesn’t benefit anyone.

It is important to remember this when you see a child screaming in a supermarket or on a bus. They may not be having a tantrum and may just be so overwhelmed that their brain cannot cope and are therefore having a meltdown.


What do meltdowns look like in adults?

Again, there is the issue of individuality, although it may be more pronounced in adults. As such two people can meltdown in completely different ways. For one person, it may seem to others that they are being an over-emotional ‘drama queen’. For others, they may start stuttering or ticking. Many have similar meltdowns to the ones they had in childhood, but now may have slightly more control. The meltdowns may occur less or more frequently, entirely depending on the individual. The adult meltdown is still a type of the ‘Fight or Flight’ response and there will therefore be physical symptoms; hyperventilation, increased blood pressure, jumpiness, dilated pupils, tunnel vision, shaking, and dry mouth to name a few. However, adult autistics often recognise these symptoms and manage to get to privacy. This is because a meltdown is an intensely exposing loss of control and deep embarrassment can be felt if one is had in public. There is also an aspect of danger of having one in public. People may misinterpret what is happening and become hostile. At worst, in places such as the USA, autistics are afraid of being killed by police or people who feel threatened. As I realise that I haven’t given a very good picture of an adult meltdown I have included a video of myself having one.

Content Warning: Self injurious behaviour from the start.


In the video, I am ticcing a lot. This is common in my meltdowns. Every tic is an attempt to suppress an impulse to lash out at my surroundings or myself. As you can see, it doesn’t always work. I cough at times, but I wasn’t ill when I recorded this. The coughing is an effort to get rid of the build up of energy that occurs before a meltdown. This video probably doesn’t look as dramatic as you would think a meltdown should, but it certainly felt a lot worse than it looks. For whatever reason, I have very quiet meltdowns, but they are still meltdowns none-the-less. The price to pay for having a quiet meltdown is usually physical injury.


What does a meltdown feel like?

This is a question that many people and it is very difficult to answer. The only real way to describe it is through metaphor, which has  its own pitfalls, however I will do my best. For me, it feels like having restless legs, but in every joint (that is the reason you can see me hyper extending my elbows) . It feels like I am going to explode. In fact, I want to explode and just destroy my surroundings. We’ve all seen the videos of office workers smashing their computers or printers out of frustration. Everyone has experienced a lesser version of that by, for example, slamming a door when angry. There is a build up of frustration, agitation, or anger and then a physical release which usually brings some relief. Now imagine that you cannot release the negative feelings. They are stuck in you at the point just before you would be slamming a door. That’s what a meltdown feels like for me. Here are some descriptions by other autistics about how they experience meltdowns:

15 People on the Autism Spectrum Describe What a Meltdown Feels Like


How can you help an adult having a meltdown?

If you do not know the person, the best way to help is by not making it worse. Don’t ask questions. Don’t come too close. Try to keep others away. Try to minimise any sensory input, for example, turning off music or lights in a room.  If you think that they may be a danger to themselves or others you might have to call emergency services. If you know the person it is best to ask them what to do in event of a meltdown when one isn’t happening. Everyone is different, so what works for one individual may make the situation worse for another.


I hope this post has been informative. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments.

When to Fight and When to Retreat

An Autistic’s Take on Autistic Burnout


Living as an autistic can be difficult. You’d be hard pushed to find an autistic that doesn’t feel this way. As an autistic, wider society can seem like a battlefield, like a war. The autistic is constantly barraged by intense sensory information that is not felt by non-autistic people. There is a secret fight in every conversation we are uncomfortably conscripted into, edging through it like a mine-field, planning your next verbalisation as a chess player would his next move. Strategising. This is the fight to look ‘normal’. Whether drummed into us in therapy or gleaned from every sneer or condescending look or comment we are taught that we must act normal, but there comes a point where this is no longer possible. We pull on our armour – ear plugs, sun glasses and compression material and try to tough it out, but there comes a point when the sound of the traffic is too loud,  when you run out of your regularly deployed scripts for conversation. When you are revealed as an imposter, as a spy in the camp. This rarely ends well. When the barrage becomes too much, too loud, too often, you crack. The meltdown. Your strictly disciplined façade is ripped off and you are exposed, raw. You want to tear at something, everything, anything. To charge into no-man’s land with nothing but your fists. Some of us, sometimes, can stop ourselves and instead force ourselves to stay below the parapet writhing in agony on the cold uncomfortable ground. But there are those who cannot and return exhausted, bloody and shuddering, or do not return at all… The survivors, still filled with adrenaline, drag themselves from the mud, take a large gulp of air, replace their masks and brace for another onslaught.

Meltdowns are nothing new to most autistics. They’ve fought that battle many times and pick themselves up every time. Nearly every time. When the barrage has become too fierce for too long, when it penetrates your armour, sometimes we don’t get up. Sometimes we are still cowering in the mud for days, weeks, months at a time. Then a decision must be made. Whether to retreat or to stand your ground. To stand your ground means to take these barrages at an increasing rate, fighting the meltdown almost constantly, in the hope that maybe, this time, this day, it will stop. You’ve stood your ground before but this time might be different, this time it might end you. To retreat, to pull oneself from the fray even to just a short distance may give you the respite you so desperately need. Maybe retreat could be seen as a tactical movement to the rear, to rebuild energy for a return to the fight. Maybe. But sometimes the barrage keeps creeping slowly forward, consuming your normality as it passes. Then it becomes an all-out sprint backwards. A fumbling, stumbling surge back and back and back until you are crawling, until you can go no further. It leaves you far from the frontlines, far from the barrage, but trapped. Burnout. Trapped in a paralysis which no doctor can say how to treat, how long it will last, if you’ll ever move again. A paralysis, a coma but a desperately needed one. You wait stuck, paused in time until the paralysis passes, until you can feel sunlight on your face, until the wounds heal enough to release you from your bonds.

Eventually you advance again. Retaking ground lost in the retreat, sometimes all, sometimes some, sometimes very little and with no guarantee that you will ever reach the line that you once braved. Often, you are left with scars, some small and barely noticeable, some gaping wounds which are tacked together with improvised bandages. On the advance back an autistic watches as those who stood their ground pass. Some run wildly as you did, some dragged back screaming, some wide eyed, vacant on stretchers. You pause, thinking of joining them in their movement backwards, but a hand on your shoulder pushes you forward. The hand belongs to one who has advanced again with you. You hear calling from the line you left, words of support encouraging you forwards. The autistic steels themself and begins to push forward again. On the way you meet people just like you advancing at different speeds despite the increasing noise of the barrage. Some at a limping, dragging speed, some running double-time. Some are resting, just for a little while they say, sometimes you join them. You do not know if you’ll ever reach the line again, but you sure as hell won’t stop trying. You may not be able to battle as you did in the past, you may never be able to, but this is not waving the white flag. This is not yet surrender.

Emma Paley


*Note: this post is not about fighting autism itself.