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William Rastrick had worked as an overlooker at Shute's Silk Mill in Watford. Rastrick was interviewed by Michael Sadler and his House of Commons Committee on 23rd July, 1832.
Question: How young have you known children go into silk mills.
Answer: I have known three at six; but very few at that age.
Question: What were your hours of labour?
Answer: From six in the morning till seven at night.
Question: Was it found necessary to beat children to keep them up to their employment?
Question: Did the beating increase towards evening?
Answer: Their strength relaxes more towards the evening; they get tired, and they twist themselves about on their legs, and stand on the sides of their feet.
Question: As an overlooker did you stimulate them to labour by severity?
Answer: Certainly, my employer always considered this indispensable.
Question: Did you not find it very irksome to your feelings, to have to take those means of urging the children to the work?
Answer: Extremely so; I have been compelled to urge them on to work when I knew they could not bear it; but I was obliged to make them strain every nerve to do the work, and I can say I have been disgusted with myself and with my situation; I felt myself degraded and reduced to the level of a slave-driver in such cases.
Question: Is not tying the broken ends, or piecing, an employment that requires great activity.
Question: Does not the material often cut the hands of those poor children?
Answer: Frequently; but some more than others. I have seen them stand at their work, with their hands cut, till the blood has been running down to the ends of their fingers.
Question: Is there more work required of the children than there used to be when you first knew the business?
Answer: Yes; on account of the competition which exists between masters. One undersells the other; consequently the master endeavours to get an equal quantity of work done for less money.
The Victorian Era Wages Salary Earnings for Various Jobs
In the Victorian era, wages could vary dramatically from employer to employer in the same industry, according to Atack and Bateman’s 2000 report. On the low end of the spectrum, manufacturing workers earned just $8 a month, compared to the more than $166 workers at the top-paying firms would make during the same period in 1880.
The authors attribute rising wage disparity in the 19th century, in part, to the growing numbers of workers who were finding employment in very large establishments, which generally paid far less than their smaller counterparts.
Why Was the Industrial Revolution so Important?
The Industrial Revolution had a large number of effects that transformed modern society both in Europe and around the world. For brevity, the discussion of these social effects will be limited largely to Great Britain, where the Industrial Revolution began in earnest in the late eighteenth century. The social effects include changes in labor practices, standards of living, food and nutrition, housing, sanitation, water supply, and the general social structure.
Standards of living changed dramatically during the Industrial Revolution. However, there is still debate regarding whether standards as a whole improved or declined. While real wages may have improved, some say that industrialization only improved most for the upper class while the working class suffered because it looted surplus value. Others say it improved life for the middle class by adding value and making consumer goods more widely available to the middle classes. Some argue that improvements were made as early as the 1810s, but others say nothing was seen until the 1840s and 1850s.
Regardless of what side of the issue present-day economists land on, all can agree that the period was marked by a sweeping economic and social change. Britain transformed from a rural, agrarian society to one that moved by the masses to urban centers where waged labor was available. In cities, the need for housing grew and the tenement system of living began to dominate the streets of Britain’s urban industrial centers. People would live packed into single rooms, sometimes marked by lines on the floor, with thousands of people living in a single row of terraced houses. Tenements had outward facing windows, but those living in interior rooms had no access to windows or ventilation. Additionally, running water was unavailable, and tenants shared communal toilets. Those who wanted to bathe could do so in communal bathing areas. As a result, unsanitary living conditions abounded. Waste management was also not yet a focus. Solid waste was found in piles near to living quarters, and human waste generally contaminated the drinking water supply.
Labor conditions also impacted public health and quality of life on a massive scale. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, work was largely performed at home on farms rather than in factories. The agrarian life was a hard one and full of strife crop failure was a regular occurrence in places like the Scottish Highlands and the island of Ireland. Thanks to mechanization and the concentration of industrial operations in the cities, whole families moved to the families in droves. Men, women, and children all worked for low wages, but women and children earned only half or even one-sixth of what men earned. Working conditions were as poor as wages long, demanding hours were made worse by cruel systems of discipline. Factory workers saw their wages docked for infractions like using the toilet without permission or chatting with their neighbor. Many also lived in factory-owned housing where they faced the double-bind of low wages and high rents in addition to poor, crowded living conditions. Child laborers had particularly dangerous jobs they worked long hours with their parents, made the least, and their size made them prone to being handed the most dangerous jobs like crawling into machinery. Children were also subject to the most grotesque punishments factory overseers might even go as far as to nail their ears to the table as a punishment for being bold.
The horrible labor conditions were not to last forever. Poor treatment and growing public awareness of exploitation led to the growth of the labor movement. New labor unions would fight for limits on hours, safety at the workplace, and an increase in wages. It offered the greatest impact on child labor by limiting the number of hours a child could work during the day and improving wages and safety.
The Factory Act of 1802 was the first of the formal legislative fixes for working conditions. However, it was limited to English cotton mills and several other facilities. Later acts including the Factory Act of 1819, Factory Act of 1833, and Ten Hours Act of 1847 all went further to improve conditions for workers across Britain. Although these acts contributed improvements, it is not to say that life became easier. Minimum wage, the eight-hour working day, and more protective child labor laws were still far away.
History in Focus
The topic of this exhibit is child labor and the right to childhood. Our topic took place primarily in Chicago, Illinois. We chose to focus on this region because it was the region Jane Addams resided in from 1889 to the early 1900s when she was involved in the fight against child labor, immigration reform, peace activism, and women’s suffrage. This exhibit will focus specifically on the Chicago child labor activities of Jane Addams, since it would be too large in scale to cover national child labor activity. Additionally, the exhibit will identify some of the major labor groups and child labor laws that may or may not have been from Chicago, because of either Jane Addams role in them or for additional context.
Fourteen year Old girl spinning cotton in a West Texas mill. Photographed by Lewis Hine.
From Agriculture to Industry
This website is primarily concerned with the time period between the Progressive era of the late 1800s and first World War. Briefly, it is important to understand some of the history prior to the Progressive Era to further emphasize the lack of child labor protection in place, and rather how this concern was so unprecedented prior to the Industrial Age. Before the growth and dependence of an industrialized economy, agriculture and trading were the main economic engine. Elite Southern farmers were dependent on the labor of enslaved African Americans and for smaller rural farms it was a family business. The Industrial Age changed this dependency on crop output to a reliance on wage. Additionally, since the nation’s founding there have been immigrants, but with industrialism, how they have been exploited has changed. Child labor developed in full force during the American Industrial Revolution. Industrialization attracted and often required many workers and their families to move from farms and rural areas into urban spaces and factory work. In factories and mines children were often preferred as employees, because owners viewed them as more manageable, cheaper, and less likely to strike.
Nine year old newsgirl working in Hartford CT. Photograph taken by Lewis Hine in 1909.
The New Child Laborer
Children provided an endless supply of exploitable and disposable labor for factories and businesses. Additionally many immigrant families were dependent on every member of the family contributing to the household income. School therefore was less of a concern then earning enough money to put food on the table. Considering these circumstances, Child labor activists not only had to contend with corporations but also working to convince the parents of children to send their kids to school.
Jane Addams reading to children.
The Role of Women
There were men and women fighting against child labor, but what rendered this subject especially important for women was there ability to step beyond the home. Drawing on maternalism, they could argue that as women, society assigned them to be the “moral” guiders and nurturers, therefore women had a right to work beyond the home in the fight of preserving the home and the child.
The anti-child labor movement was a direct extension of the Progressive Era and other social movements of the time. Other major movements happening during this Progressive Era included Frances Willard’s Temperance movement organized under Woman’s Christian Temperance Movement. This movement again followed the idea that as women they had a moral obligation to be the caregivers of society. The saloon was the public sphere, men’s sphere, but when those men came home drunk it then affected the women’s sphere, the home. Another major movement of the era was the women’s suffrage campaign led by key figures including Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The memberships of many of these women often overlapped into other organizations and women’s clubs, illustrating the agency of this complex network of women. It is important to note, however, that within these movements racism persisted, undermining a more united effort for all women. Many of these women’s groups or organizations only admitted a specific type of women, often those that had the time, money and status- white, middle to elite class women.
The Right to Childhood
The exhibits topic of interest cannot be compacted within just the few decades consisting of the Progressive era. The importance of childhood is a value that transcends across history and something to explore through this exhibit. In Chicago, newsboys were being poorly treated and so began one of Jane Addams many projects where she decided her help needed to be. The working conditions and experiences of these children included sexual abuse, fourteen hour work weeks, and the expectation to work in any type of weather. Child actors served as another profitable scheme by theaters . Child actors still exist today but what about these children of the nineteenth and early twentieth century render their experience different from the child actors a century later? The exhibit endeavors to connect this past with the future because it remains a relevant and relatable dialogue for understanding why we hold our childhoods to such an importance, a reality that people several decades ago could not fathom.
Hull House Maps and Papers. Map of nationalities in Hull House neighborhood of Chicago, IL.
Jane Addams’s Hull House
A regional aspect the exhibit would like to explore is the Hull House neighborhood. Thanks to the work of Florence Kelley, Jane Addams, and other Hull House residents the exhibit will be able to utilize the Hull-House Maps and Papers for a deeper analysis of a portion of the Chicago neighborhood. The method in which these women were mapping this predominantly immigrant neighborhood by income and nationality provides considerable insight. The maps constructed through their research was a relatively new technique, and their subjects, poor immigrant households, were particularly unique. This map would be less useful probably if it was of a more elitist, upper class demographic, since they could more easily afford for their children to attend school. Not only would the exhibit like to compare these maps of the nineteenth century to the Google maps of today’s Hull House neighborhood, but also touch upon the wages of each household. The Hull House Maps and Papers offers two maps, one plotting the household income of each home and the other color coding the buildings by nationality. The income map provides a visual analysis in which to compare how much of that income could have been earned by a child. In researching the average income of a newsboy or girl, child actor, child factory worker, etc., we can then compare this to the household incomes from the income map.
The National Archives
- NRA 34890 John Ashby, attorney and estate agent, Shrewsbury: corresp and papers link to online catalogue
- NRA 5961 Evelyn Baring, 1st Earl of Cromer: corresp and papers link to online catalogue
- NRA 35175 Borough Steam Wheel Works, engineers, Southwark link to online catalogue
- NRA 9674 Canterbury prerogative court link to online catalogue
- NRA 24026 Chancery Masters exhibits: manorial documents
- NRA 20556 Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill corresp and papers
- NRA 32307 Duchy of Lancaster: manorial documents link to online catalogue
- NRA 32903 English National Board for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting
- NRA 32315 Exchequer Office of the Auditors of Land Revenue: manorial documents link to online catalogue
- NRA 35889 John George Fearn, jeweller and goldsmith, London link to online catalogue
- NRA 35890 Hill & Robinson, engine and boiler mfrs, Coseley link to online catalogue
- NRA 39979 Lumley-Saunderson family, Earls of Scarbrough: legal, financial and family papers link to online catalogue
- NRA 36224 Minera and Bagillt lead mines and smelting works link to online catalogue
- NRA 39973 Monck family, Dukes of Albemarle: family and estate papers link to online catalogue
- NRA 39784 Sir William Montagu, Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer: estate and business papers link to online catalogue
- NRA 20658 William and John Pitt, 1st and 2nd Earls of Chatham and William Pitt the Younger: corresp and paper link to online catalogue
- NRA 6139 William and John Pitt, 1st and 2nd Earls of Chatham and William Pitt the Younger: corresp and paper link to online catalogue
- NRA 23347 Public Record Office: miscellaneous accessions link to online catalogue
- NRA 32309 Public Record Office special collections: manorial documents link to online catalogue
- NRA 42064 Scudamore family, Viscounts Scudamore: estate papers link to online catalogue
- NRA 4812 Smith family, Viscounts Hambleden: family and business papers incl WH Smith corresp and papers
- NRA 30828 State Papers Supplementary: private papers link to online catalogue
- NRA 32306 Stonor and Cely families: papers link to online catalogue
- NRA 44864 Townshend family, Marquesses Townshend: family and estate papers
- NRA 23947 Treasury Solicitor: manorial documents link to online catalogue
- NRA 35828 Vulliamy & Son, clock and watch makers, London link to online catalogue
- NRA 5901 Welby family, of Allington: family and estate papers
In the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries a distinctive family economy linked together urban working-class families in Europe and North America. Adult males were ideally, and normally in practice, the main wage earners their wives, particularly once children started to be born, rarely worked for wages on a regular basis outside the home children found waged work as soon as they were able, or as soon as the law allowed, and turned over most of their earnings to their mothers for family use. In Belgium, for example, children were contributing 22 percent of family income in 1853, and 31 percent in 1891. In the United States toward the end of the nineteenth century, by the time the adult male in a family was in his fifties, children were contributing about one-third of the family's income in Europe, it was rather more: 41 percent. The deep-rooted assumption, inherited from an agricultural economy, was that children should contribute to the family economy as soon as possible. Factory laws and laws enforcing schooling raised the starting age over time, but there is much evidence that children themselves felt proud to be able to start making a contribution to family welfare. Their mothers, the only alternative wage earner in the family, were fully engaged in child rearing, housekeeping, and sometimes bringing in further income through casual work or taking in lodgers. No one could be in any doubt that children's earnings improved a family's economic position, and children who might have continued at school often did not take up the opportunity, aware of the family's need for income.
The majority of working-class children in Western society lived in families whose economies were structured in this way. There were, of course, many differences from country to country and within them they were most visible in the United States where immigrant and ethnic communities had different traditions and different responses to the changing economic situation. Italian immigrant families in New York, for example, made much more use of child labor than did Jewish immigrants, in part because of traditions in the countries they came from, but perhaps mainly because the earning power of Italian adult males was less than that of Jewish ones: extra income was needed, and children were the obvious source of it. The same argument holds true for Philadelphia in the late nineteenth century: the children of Irish and German immigrant families were more likely than those of native whites to be in the workforce, but this was mainly because the fathers in these families earned less than those of native whites. As the income levels of immigrant families rose the dependence on child labor declined. By the early twentieth century a common white American response to the economic situation was becoming apparent: an increasing emphasis on the desirability that the adult male should be the sole wage earner and that children should be in school. In hard times, for example in the depression of the 1930s, there would be a return to the use of child labor, but legal restrictions on its use meshed with values and norms that made child labor undesirable. The situation for black families was rather different. In Philadelphia, for example, black children were less likely to be employed than immigrant Irish or German children, not because their families were better off, but because of ethnic structuring in the labor market which denied access to blacks. Partly for this reason, partly because black families seem to have placed a higher value on the education of their children than immigrant families, black married women were, in a range of U.S. cities, between four and fifteen times more likely to be employed than immigrant wives. Unlike white communities, whether native or immigrant, black families put the emphasis on mothers rather than children as the key supplementary wage earners.
The effects of individual- and national-level factors on attitudes toward child maltreatment ☆
Knowledge is lacking regarding the extent to which national norms and policies designed to protect minors influence individual attitudes toward child maltreatment. Relying on the tenets of cultural sociology, we examine whether the orientation of a nation influences individual attitudes toward child maltreatment. Specifically, nations with greater economic and political stability tolerate more self-expressive values, focusing on individual autonomy and enhancing quality of life. Conversely, nations with a survivalist orientation, often characterized by greater economic uncertainty, are less supportive of behaviors that may result in further instability. The current study builds on extant research by investigating the effects of national norms and policies and individual-level attitudes and characteristics on individual attitudes toward child maltreatment (N = 66,391) in 53 developing and developed nations. We analyze data from the World Values Survey using Hierarchical Generalized Linear Modeling. Overall, countries with a greater survivalist orientation appear less tolerant of child maltreatment. Moreover, greater support for violence in general at both the national- and individual-level are associated with more supportive attitudes toward child maltreatment. Policy implications and legislative reform are discussed.
Mills & Mines
The mills had their own railway sidings at Sowerby Bridge Station .
The mills burned down in 1965 and the buildings were demolished shortly afterwards
|Cabinet Works, Brighouse||Ref 15-1082|
The mill is recorded as having 4 storeys at one end and 5 at the other, being 13 windows high, and 8 across, and employing over 300 people.
The little yard/slope to the mill is Snake Hill .
On 29th January 1909 , the mill &ndash then occupied by J. Cheetham & Sons Limited &ndash was destroyed by fire which started in the drying room. After the fire, Cheetham's bought the vacant Belle Vue Mills and was soon able to resume production.
In 19. David Hepworth bought the mill and used it for his businesses Stovit & Hepworth Domestics .
In 1977 , the mill was destroyed in a fire described as Brighouse's biggest bonfire and the great Brighouse fire of 1977 .
The property was sold to Richard Binks of Mill Royd Mill .
The Hepworth family do still  own the properties on Princess Street, the next yard across
It was later used for cotton spinning. In 1873 , it was damaged by fire. In 1904 , it was occupied by Hardman's and was destroyed by fire
Owners and tenants have included
The site became a scrap yard. The site was cleared in 2001 and is now a housing development
In 1890, the works comprised a number of large 2 and 3-storey buildings and covered between 5 and 6 acres.
The works were served by a reservoir in the grounds of Birds Royd House
On 24th October 1889, Rowland Holroyd was killed in a roof fall at the works
|Calder House Mills, Mytholmroyd||Ref 15-381|
|Calder Mill, Hebden Bridge||Ref 15-C750|
- Hebden Bridge Cotton & Commercial Company 
- John Horsfall & Sons 
- Richard Thomas & Sons 
- Abraham Robertshaw & Sons [1905, 1947, 1949]
- Robertshaw & Company [1950s]
- Calder Metal Company 
In 1906, it was affected by the fustian weavers' strike .
It was badly damaged by fire on 3rd November 1964
In 1894, Fairburns bought the mill and combined it with Victoria Works, Rastrick
Established by Thomas Berry & Sons around 1831
Built as a cotton mill in 1824 the building was subsequently converted into a dye works. The 5-storey building was increased by 2 storeys.
The 300 ft high chimney of 1842 was said to be the tallest in the district
In the 1960s, the mill was demolished and 2 houses built on the site.
 The site is to be cleared and 8 new houses built.
Yorkshire Plastic Wires moved here from Normanton around 1982.
The building was demolished in 2001/2002. The site is now occupied by various retail outlets
Aka Charlestown Mill , Roddins Mill .
Originally, a water-powered cotton mill. This was the largest mill in Charlestown.
A woollen mill is recorded in 1786. It was built by Christopher Rawdon and the Rawdon family .
About 1825, the Ashworth family took a lease on the mill.
About 1830 , the mill was badly damaged by fire, and lay derelict for many years.
The Rawdons then moved to Liverpool, leaving Mr Sam at Roddins in charge.
In 1839, the Ashworths and James and Christopher Rawdon sold some of the land for the construction of the railway.
In 1861, it was owned by the Lacy family .
In 1906, the body of writer James Henry Ogden was found here.
There was a fire at the mill on 9th January 1922 .
In 1926, it became Cords Limited , owned by Shepherd and Tattersall . The company produced cotton tyre fabric, using a process patented by Mr Shepherd , which was used in the manufacture of tubeless tyres. The business closed in 1971.
The early 19th century water siphon and overflow sump are listed
6-storey mill which was one of the largest mills locally.
It became the headquarters of John Edwards & Sons .
When it was owned by Sir Henry Edwards , he objected to pollution &ndash see Edwards-Wainhouse Feud &ndash and had all the chimneys at the mill demolished except for one short chimney. He installed Juke's Patent device in the boiler house to remove much of the visible carbon from the smoke.
It was damaged by fire on 20th April 1980 .
The mill was built in the 1840s by John Lord and his sons.
In 1859 , the mill was flooded.
There was an explosion on 21st January 1875 , when 6 people were killed and other injured. This is still regarded as one of the town's worst industrial disasters.
There were further fires in 1884 and in 1886 .
The building was sold in 1987.
The mill was damaged by a disastrous arson attack in 1990 . The mill reopened in 1991, and the visitors' centre offered many attractions for the tourist.
When production at the mill stopped, it continued as a tourist attraction until it was abandoned.
It has been empty and boarded up since 2003.
In December 2005, planning permission was granted for part of the mill to be demolished and for the remainder to be converted into 32 apartments.
In September 2007, the proposed design &ndash which had been revised for 51 apartments and 75 parking spaces &ndash was turned down by council planning officers who decided that it
would be detrimental to the character and appearance of such a prominent location
. because of the design, parking problems, the risk of flooding and noise
On the 1st August 2019, there was a large fire at the derelict mill, which left the building
The engine &ndash a horizontal single cylinder steam engine &ndash was undamaged by the fire, and was taken to Gordon Riggs Garden Centre, Walsden
20 Illegal Baby Names That We Can't Believe People Actually Tried to Name Their Kids
They're a subject of intense thought for every new parent. After all, the name you give your child follows them their entire life. Some names, especially celebrity ones like Blue Ivy, or Apple, are undoubtedly distinctive. Then there are the names that are just plain illegal.
1. America - Messiah
In 2013, a Texas judge ruled that a baby named Messiah must change his name to Martin because "it's a title that has only been earned by one person … Jesus Christ." The ruling was later overturned.
2. America - Adolf Hitler
In 2009, a three year old New Jersey resident became the subject of contention when a baker refused to decorate a cake for his birthday. Why? His name was Adolf Hitler Campbell.
3. America - 1069
It's absolutely illegal to put numerical symbols in your baby's name. You can't for instance, name a child 1069, like someone in North Dakota tried to do.
4. America - Accented names
In California, you can't have accents on your baby's name, so names like Élodie are out of the question.
5. United Kingdom - Monkey
In the UK, you can't give your baby a name that might be construed as racist or insulting. For this reason, you can't call your child "Monkey."
6. Malaysia - Chow Tow
Chow Tow means smelly head. It's obviously not a very nice name to give a child, but we're assuming someone tried to, which is why it's banned in Malaysia.
7. France - Nutella
A French couple once tried to name their daughter Nutella because they hoped she'd be as sweet as the sugary hazelnut spread. A French judge wasn't sweet on the idea, however, and the couple were forced to change the name to Ella.
8. New Zealand - Anal
Someone actually tried to name their child this. A New Zealand judge, thankfully, said no. Not cool, whoever it was that did this. Not cool.
9. Japan - Akuma
Akuma means devil in Japanese, and some (Japanese) person, tried to name their child this. The Japanese courts weren't having it, and the name was banned.
10. America - III
Someone in California tried to name their child this – pronounced "Three." Unsurprisingly, the judge said nope, as this was a symbol rather than a name.
11. New Zealand - Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii
New Zealand is not having it with these shady baby names, because when someone tried to name their daughter this, the government assumed guardianship of the child to ensure a better name was found for her.
12. United States - Misteri Nigger (the second 'I' in Misteri is silent)
Obviously a California Judge said heck no, because the name basically amounted to "fighting words." Imagine, for instance, the tumult it would cause if someone shouted those words across the street.
13. Germany - Osama Bin Laden
A couple in Cologne, Germany felt moved to name their child this very incendiary name. A judge felt moved to rule no.
14. Mexico - Robocop
Someone in Sonora, Mexico thought it was a smart idea to name their child Robocop, presumably after the 1987 movie. Thankfully, a judge blocked their attempt.
15. United States - Santa Claus
When Robert William Handley of Ohio tried to rename himself Santa Claus, a judge refused, because:
16. New Zealand - Chief Maximus
Chief is a solid name and so is Maximus, so why not put them together, one prospective parent reasoned. The New Zealand judge, of course, said no, and banned the name altogether.
17. China - @
One Chinese couple tried to name their child the @ symbol, pronounced “ai-ta" in Chinese, which sounds very close to the words "love him." A judge ruled yes, but the Chinese government ruled no. Many countries have bans on naming children symbols.
18. Mexico - Circumcision
We're going to give this parent from Sonora, Mexico the benefit of the doubt and say they just didn't understand what this name meant. Either way, it's been banned.
19. Sweden - Metallica
Parents can love heavy metal all they want but they can't, however, name their children after heavy metal bands. This is according to a court in Sweden.
20. "." (Pronounced "full stop")
Some couple in New Zealand thought it would be cool to name their baby a punctuation symbol. A judge said nah, and sent them on their way.
Historical Inaccuracies in Assassin's Creed Series contd.: The Renaissance according to Assassin's Creed II.
Previously I covered Unity, then I went backward and started with AC1, and now I am going to do look at the historical backdrop of Assassin's Creed II and see how it measures up to history.
AC2 is a much bigger game than AC1. It has a story that covers forty years of a man's life which is actually pretty unique. It makes the game feel like a long historical novel the way few open-world games manage. That is to its credit. In AC1, you had 7 historical figures on-screen (Al Mualim/Rashid ad-din Sinan, Robert de Sable, Garnier de Nablus, William of Montferrat, Sibrand, Jubair, King Richard I) balanced with other fictional characters who have the most screen-time (namely Altair and Malik). AC1 had at most 10-12 real monuments. By comparison, AC2 has some 20-odd historical figures. An even greater number of monuments, art-works and so on. You have the database here for the first time. More than that, while these games are mainly the story of the fictional Auditore family, the side-missions and optional conversations really emphasize supporting characters and villains more than the first game did. So there's a lot more to cover here.
SOURCES listed at the end. So let's begin.
Assassin's Creed II
Setting: Italy during the City State era between 1459-1507 - The Florentine Republic, Tuscany, Romagna, the Republic of Venice, and the Papal States.
Pop-Culture View of The Renaissance: The Renaissance is interesting because there really isn't one big movie about the period. Most people's idea of Renaissance is based on Tudor England, which was basically the last major European country to participate. Most people's idea of the Renaissance is based on the Da Vinci Code, on Machiavelli's Prince, Harry Lime's famous Cuckoo-Clock speech in The Third Man, and also stuff like The Godfather where the Mafia are treated as princes, and people assume that the Renaissance feudal families were like mob-bosses based on that. That line in Godfather III, where Michael Corleone says, "We're back to the Borgias" clinches it.
Sequences 1-3: This is Ezio's Origin story. 1476-1478.
Ezio was born in 1459 (we see his birth in a short scene) and then we meet him and his brother in a street fight with Vieri Pazzi in the year 1476. Vieri de'Pazzi is a fictional character, but his dad and Uncle were real. Street fights like the one you saw there weren't uncommon except that noblemen like Ezio and Vieri were unlikely to fight each other themselves. It was more likely for them to hire bravos (i.e. mercenary thugs with short swords) to do it for them. The Auditore family is wholly fictional as is their villa. In the course of the entire story of their downfall and Ezio killing Uberto and then going to Monteriggioni, we learn that the Auditore are an up-jumped recently ennobled family aligned with Lorenzo de'Medici before being framed by the Templar puppet Gonfalioniere (something like Mayor) Uberto Alberti (also fictional). The entire idea of a Gonfalioniere independently executing someone without Medici approval is absolutely unlikely given the way the Medici corrupted the city government and manipulated appointments.
The stuff about Monteriggioni's history that Mario Auditore talks to Ezio, about them fighting Florence in wars and so on, is accurate. What isn't accurate the town itself. There's no Villa Auditore at the center, and while it is a tiny walled town, it isn't as small as what you see in the game here. We also get generic architecture when the real Monteriggioni had famous churches which we don't see here.
We meet Leonardo da Vinci here. And he looks right for his age. and he is described as the handsome magnetic guy his contemporaries described him as. We also get a reference to him dissecting cadavers when he asks Ezio to leave one of his victims in his study. The period and choice of 1476 is interesting because in that year Leonardo was accused of sodomy and investigated, and there's a huge gap in his life between 1476-1478. Patrice Desilets, developer of AC2, pointed out that the sodomy charge was going to be in this game but the bosses wanted it out.
Sequences 4-6: This is the Pazzi Conspiracy sequence. 1478-1480.
The conspirators are all real figures (Francesco de'Pazzi, Jacopo de'Pazzi, Bernard de Barnoncelli, Stefano Bagnone, Archbishop Salviati, Antonio Maffei). We also get our first looks at Lorenzo de'Medici and Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia here. One surprising change is the fact that the Conspiracy's main backer, Pope Sixtus and especially his nephew Girolamo Riario (Caterina Sforza's husband) isn't mentioned here. We later meet Caterina Sforza anyway and her husband died in 1488 making him a more logical Templar Grandmaster than the one they chose.
One of the major problems with a game that spans 40 years is that aging up characters as time passes becomes an issue of realism. By 1478, the year of the Pazzi Conspiracy, Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia was a youngish man, 45 years of age, noted to be handsome, friendly, and kind in person. completely different from the cackling fatso we see throughout the game. He put on weight in his later years. They kind of cover this by making him wear a hood throughout his pre-papal era. Likewise, at this time Rodrigo was Cardinal in a Roman suburb and wasn't anywhere close to the Pazzis and Florence.
There's a similar problem with Lorenzo de'Medici. If Ezio was born in 1459, then Lorenzo (born in 1449) was ten years older than him. Lorenzo became de-facto head-of-state in 1469, but he looks older. He should look like Ezio's older brother. His characterization as this dignified and fierce statesman is nothing like the real guy. Lorenzo was known to be a playboy and a guy who put on pageants and expensive shows, someone who wasn't all that interested in government. But yeah, he was held in respect and esteem and was quite charismatic so that part is fair here.
The Pazzi attack on the Medici didn't happen outside il Duomo, it happened inside it. Lorenzo hid in the sacristry of the Church. The part where the entire city goes on alert and panic when the Medici are attacked is accurate however. Francesco de'Pazzi, Archbishop Salviatti, and Bernardo Baroncelli were all hanged from the windows of Palazzo Vecchio, rather than just Francesco de'Pazzi as we see in this game. The conspirators didn't flee to San Gimignano. They went to nearby villages and towns, were caught, identified and brought back to Florence and executed in public, in very graphic and gruesome fashion. That happened especially in the case of Jacopo de'Pazzi who was caught in Castogna, sent back to Florence, tortured and attacked by a mob, who then cut up his body and attached his head as a door-knocker to his own mansion. Also the game's narrative spacing implies that the conspirators were hunted over a long period of time. In real life, the main conspirators were killed in a matter of days, and the Medici purge of the Pazzi lasted for another three months.
One thing the game doesn't deal with, was that the Pazzi Conspiracy was a much bigger event than what we see. In the two months that followed the attack, 80 people were executed. So it wasn't a case that Ubisoft ran out of targets or historical figures to kill. The real thing was way bloodier and gorier. Whereas in the game it's just the main conspirators. The murder of the Archbishop wasn't like in the game, attacking him in a secret villa at San Gimignano, it was publicly done and it had consequences, with the Pope excommunicating the entire city, and the city's clergy backing Lorenzo and then excommunicating the Pope, and with Naples declaring war on Florence on behalf of the Pope with the entire city in panic of being invaded and occupied. Lorenzo il Magnifico actually personally went to Naples and sweet-talked a peace deal. The bit about Lorenzo de'Medici wiping out the Pazzi. That actually did happen, but Lorenzo also went out of his way to spare a few of them. He also made sure that Riario's relations, a cousin of his lived. So he wasn't as bad as Lucrezia Borgia in Brotherhood made him out to be, though his retribution was significantly more brutal than what we see.
Sequence 6-12. Forli, Venice, and Barbarigo Conspiracy. 1480-1488
This is a short bridging sequence where Ezio and Leonardo had to Venice. The year is now 1480. We also meet Caterina Sforza at Forli. Caterina Sforza looks way older than she should be. She was born in 1463, which means she's younger than Ezio but she looks his age/a little older somehow. She was around 17 or 18 in 1481, which means that Ezio should be more than a little creepy in hitting on a woman so much younger than him (albeit married with children. Caterina Sforza married at the age of 13, and gave birth to a kid in 15. so I think it's clear why Ubisoft felt they had to change that). Leonardo is located in Venice for most of this sequence. At this time, he should be in Milan. He did go to Venice but that was intermittent and in the 1490s. His biggest association was working at Milan between 1482-1499. The game conveys the impression that Leonardo's career was Florence-then-Venice, when that wasn't the case at all.
The Barbarigos were a real-life Venetian family and they were among the top 40 prominent families who divided the Dogeship for three centuries. Emilio Barbarigo, your first Venetian target is fictional, as is Silvio Barbarigo who you kill later at Lɺrsenale. But Marco Barbarigo, the Doge you attack at the Carnevale is real, and he did die in 1486 but he wasn't publicly assassinated like in this game. His replacement Agostino Barbarigo is real too, and yeah he did replace Marco. The Doge whose assassination you fail to prevent, Doge Mocenigo, also real and he died in the same year at thee Ducal Palace, and yeah there were rumors that he was poisoned, so that part is justified. Ezio's allies in Venice include the Thieves Gield (Antonio, Rosa) who are fictional, and the mercenary Bartolomeo dɺlviano who is a real-life figure and a mercenary in service to Venice, and who later did align with anti-Borgia families like the Orsini, so that part is fair. We meet Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia at Venice at the end. At this time, he was administrator at Cartagena, Spain.
We also get to see Niccolo Machiavelli who in 1488 was about 19 years of age, but he looks younger than Ezio so there's that. At this point he should still be a student and early careerist in Florence, and not in Venice and Forli.
Sequence 13-15: Battle of Forli DLC and Bonfire of the Vanities DLC and Finale in Rome 1488-1499.
These two sequences were originally released as DLC but subsequently reinserted into the GOTY release in its natural place (and thats how I played it first time). Ludovico and Ceccho Orsi were real figures, but the entire order of their real actions and their activities here are inverted. The Orsis assassinated Girolamo Riario, Caterina Sforza's husband. There's no evidence in real life that she was the one who ordered her husband's hit as the game implies. The Orsis holding Caterina's children hostage and that exchange between her and them, is based on rumors but is credible enough but that happened after her husband's assassination. And if anything, the Orsis were allied with the Medici rather than the Borgia, since Girolamo Riario was the last of the Pazzi conspirators, and the main mastermind more-over. We also see a big siege of Forli and a castle battle that didn't happen at this time. The combat and style doesn't look convincing, too few soldiers and meagre equipment and whatnot.
We also see Savonarola at the end. He's presented as this unknown nobody. But by 1485, Savonarola was already known in Florence for his sermons and speeches. He wasn't as unknown and secret as the game presents it. The portrayal of Florence under Savonarola has him converting it into some kind of theocracy, with the Apple of Eden manipulating a few people to serve as his puppets. In actual fact, Lorenzo de'Medici was responsible for Savonarola. Lorenzo il Magnifico's final years in the 1480s, saw Medici Bank collapse, with branches in London and Bruges shut down. Lorenzo also started running out of wealth, so he started using state funds to live out his lavish lifestyle, his pageants, and parties. The entire Pazzi crisis and the years of paranoia and siege that followed, also saw an economic downturn in the city. Savonarola became popular precisely because his message coincided with that weak economy and political corruption. In the game, Savonarola's rise is blamed on Lorenzo's son Piero (who is unseen) but in fact it was Lorenzo's own fault.
Savonarola actually founded a more democratic republic than under the Medici. He negotiated in person with the King of France and prevented a sacking of the city. This made him personally popular. In the game when Ezio returns the crowd chatters about things went worse under him, but that would not have been the opinion then. He was fully supported by Pico della Mirandola, and by Sandro Botticelli. In the game he governs via a police state with bonfire burnings across the city, but the bonfires were special events and had wide public support. The major one happened just once in 1497. Savonarola was certainly quite repressive and tried to pass more puritanical laws as time went on. So I am not saying he was really some good guy who got a bad hand. But in the DLC, Ezio's targets are either manipulated stooges or cynical hucksters who joined with Savonarola for base motives, as if nobody had pure reasons for believing in him and supporting him. It was Rodrigo Borgia, Pope Alexander VI since 1492, who moved against Savonarola and conspired for his death and execution. In the game Ezio gets that.
This is actually the end of the Florentine part of the story (aside from some flashbacks in Brotherhood side missions). I always felt that it was a major weakness of AC2 for the climax to downplay Florence by the finale. There's a reason why in GTA San Andreas, you returned to Los Santos after going to Las Venturas. I think that AC2 would have been better served if rather than Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia, you had Girolamo Riario and then Savonarola as the main villains. Because the Auditore family and the Medici are the main focus of the first section of the game and so Florence is the center of AC2. The fact that the Medici and by extension the Auditore were potentially complicit in Savonarola's rise makes for a better story than what the game told. After all Giovanni Auditore, Ezio's Dad, is a banker who works with Lorenzo de'Medici, he had to know of his corruption and miserliness, and so on.
The finale of the game is obviously fictional. But yeah Rodrigo Borgia became Pope Alexander VI in 1492 and by 1499, when Ezio pays him a visit, he was settled in and was becoming quite a powerful and competent administrator. The portrayal of the Sistine Chapel that we see here, is accurate. No Michelangelo's ceiling because that is forever associated with Pope Julius II. Michelangelo was 24 in 1499 and in Florence, and that was the period when he sculpted David. To be absolutely clear, looking at the game now with all this detail, I am not sure why Rodrigo Borgia is really the bad guy in AC2. I mean yeah he's a name figure and everything. But most of the game takes place in Florence and Venice, and not in Rome. Nothing about his actions in AC2 has anything to do with the real shady stuff he did in history. So I will deal with the Borgia in Brotherhood.
- For a while now, I have been thinking about and bothered with what I think is Ubisoft's Double Standard. Returning to Assasin's Creed II after playing AC3, Black Flag, Freedom Cry, Rogue, Unity, Syndicate, I can't help but notice a pattern, whereby the Assassin's Creed games seems to imply that stuff like racism, slavery, and discrimination happens only in America and the New World and not in Europe. The games basically emphasize Europe's architecture and other cities in a very touristy way, without any hint of the ugliness that was part of that time.
- Europe in the Middle Ages and especially in the Mediterranean practised slavery. The slaves were mostly Eastern European at first but by the end of the 14th Century started including Africans. In fact the word slave comes from "slav" as in the Slavic people, a group that is today Europe's most populous ethnicity. Most slaves of this time were Russians, Tartars, Greeks, Bulgarians, basically the Balkan peoples. Most of these slaves were women and well their enslavement in households were obviously exploitative, and the business in time became glorified human trafficking with all the horrible nastiness you can think of. Slaves were of any religion, Christian, Muslim, and Jewish. Slavery was more common in Venice than Florence, but even then the Medici owned slaves as did many other Florentine families. It was considered a status symbol to own slaves in Europe, and it was a mark of privilege to do so. Marco Polo who the game's lore reveals to be an Assassin was a slaveowner albeit someone who freed his slaves in his will. Games like Asssassin's Creed III, Black Flag, Liberation, and Freedom Cry, and even Rogue, acknowledged slavery in America and the New World, and that is right and proper but it's kind of weird that the developers didn't touch on this because this is mentioned in virtually any book of Venice I found, and it's a widely known fact about it. The scale of research done for Assassin's Creed II is such that the developers absolutely had to come across these facts when reading up on Venice, Florence and other places. In AC1, because the focus on the crusades was so razor-thin and narrow, the leaving out details was justifiable and it made sense, but the expansion of scope and greater ambition means, that what is excluded sticks out even more so in AC2. The only thing close to slavery in AC2 is the case of Dante Moro but there it's more of a fantastic and baroque thing rather than an actual institutional evil that something even average people do.
[EDIT: I scanted in this post, the presence and attitudes to prostitution in the game. But luckily for you all, u/Chamboz has put a detailed post on this: https://www.reddit.com/r/badhistory/comments/73xces/assassins_creed_ii_and_the_erasure_of_womens/ brought to my attention by u/cuc_AOE ].
- I mentioned above that Leonardo da Vinci in 1476 was accused of sodomy and that originally developer Patrice Desilets wanted to include it but Ubisoft told him no. Had Leonardo been tried and found guilty of that charge, he would have been sentenced and burnt at the stake. Homophobia was especially bad under Savonarola who enforced those laws more than the Medici did. Though again there is no evidence that he actually sentenced anyone to death, but this led to more persecution and pressure and exile.
- The big elephant in the room is of course Anti-Semitism and the complete lack of Jewish characters. The Renaissance is one of the most important periods for Jewish history. Jews in Florence were prominent supporters of the Medici and were protected by Lorenzo il Magnifico from fanatical clerics. Jews faced persecution and orders of expulsion under Savonarola, which isn't mentioned in the game once. Jews in Venice had better treatment compared to other places, but even then Jews were only allowed to work in Venice and not live there, could be evicted from a moment's notice, and had to wear a yellow band in public. In 1515, years after the game, the Republic of Venice ordered that Jews could stay in a special area, a foundry scrap heap called "getto", from which we get the word ghetto, of which the Venetian ghetto is the first of its kind, for any group anywhere. But even in the 1480s, you still had a prominent presence of Jewish people in Venice, they were doctors, physicians, merchants, and scholars, exactly the kind of people Ezio hangs out with for most of the game. The big problem with making Rodrigo Borgia the bad guy is precisely because one of his most notable actions as Pope, was allowing Jews exiled from Spain and Portuga 1492 to settle in Rome without fears of conversion. He did that for pragmatic rather than entirely altruistic reasons, and some of that would be reversed under Cesare Borgia, but he did do it.
- AC2 has more side-missions with narrative than AC1. Most of it is silly and deals with fictional characters. This includes the tombs, most of which is set inside famous landmarks but has weird mechanisms and so on that never existed in the real place. The exception is the Basilica di San Marco in Venice where the interiors reflect the real one inside well. The Database in AC2 is generally reliable and informative. So I don't think there are too many issues there, except again the lack of mention of the racism, slavery, and homophobia that was part of daily life.
- In terms of costumes, I think AC2 looks stagey. Ezio's outfit in particular strikes me as being inappropriate for his rank. He's a nobleman and aristocrat and later he becomes a fugitive, so that means that when he is blending in "rich areas" and so on, he should wear the proper clothing and in poor areas, he should dress accordingly. This is a problem with all the games going forward, since historically, until the modern contemporary area (and even today it still counts), costumes and clothing were primary indicators of rank, class, and station. In addition to not dealing with the other stuff, AC2 doesn't deal well with class either. The only time Ubisoft does this is in Liberation, the side-game and there the costumes are a gendered thing as if men of all classes and stations never had to deal with any of this at any time.
- Architecturally, the notable thing about AC2 compared to AC1 and later games is that it tries to avoid anachronism in a few notable instances. Rialto Bridge is wooden in Venice as opposed to the more refined one you see now. Sistine Chapel doesn't have Michelangelo's painting. This is of course unavoidable with stuff like Campanile of San Marco which in real life collapsed in an earthquake and was then reconstructed, and the Campanile here looks like that one rather than the real one. The towers and buildings are also quite obviously compressed to be made climbable with hand and foot-holds. San Gimignano should not be as easy to climb as it is in this game I think.
- AC2 also has you collect art items for your Palazzo which is Old Master stuff that you can have the fantasy you own. From what I see, all of them look like Museum pictures today rather than an attempt to simulate the look and colours of that time based on contemporary reports and modern research.
- In terms of language, AC2 has an English interspersed with Italian words and phrases. Most of it is swearing, and insults, but there doesn't seem to be any attempt at differentiation with dialect, when this was a big issue in Italian history. The Florentine dialect (which is the one that contemporary Italian is based on) versus Venetian, versus Romagna, and Rome. I have been told that the Italian is very bad and cliched, and laughable to native speakers.
A major problem in retrospect with AC2 is that where in AC1, the Assassins and Templars played historical roles during the Crusades. Here they become metaphors. And those metaphors come from pieces of history and it's based on cliches. The major cliche of Renaissance Italy is proto-mafia feuding families, so now the Assassins and Templars are Italian feuding families, the game is mostly about good noble families like the Auditores/Medici/Sforza versus the Borgia/Pazzi/Barbarigo. What this means is that Assassin's Creed can't claim any neutrality about history. They pronounced judgment and decided that X is Good, and Y is Bad, and they do that, without giving good historical reasons to make that call. This is problematic when you consider the real history of the Renaissance, which is that for Italy, this was a period of never-ending constant warfare. The game focuses on small-scale assassinations but in actual fact many of these Italian families and local city-states would ally with rival powers to attack their own neighbours. Florence for instance allied with France for safety against the Pope, who in turn tried to get the Holy Roman Empire, Spain and Portugal on board. All these feuding families ultimately screwed over Italy and in the next century, many of the artists, and artisans would leave Italy and work in safer climates outside. The whole idea of there being a good family is ridiculous.
So that's that, I've finished UNITY, gone back to AC1, and now AC2. AC2 took longer than I thought it would. I am going to do AC3 next, then Syndicate, and Origins. I am going to skip Brotherhood and Revelations because most of the games there have very slight historical content being largely fictional, mostly the "Borgia while not good weren't as bad". They are also shorter. And most of the complaints I said about the portrayal of Renaissance Europe (the downplaying of slavery, racism, class, and so on) would be repeating what I wrote here. The main thing would be the architecture of Rome and Constantinople which is too specialized for me. BLACK FLAG is in my opinion the most accurate game but it's also a game like AC1 which doesn't have a lot to get wrong and most of my criticisms and complaints about the ship combat in Black Flag is true for the naval component of AC3, so I will discuss that there. ROGUE is not a game I like but it's also entirely fictional and lore-related in its game having little to do or say about the Seven Years War, which I will deal with in AC3 anyway.
Not sure which order I will do it. I think I will do Syndicate, and then AC3. After that, Origins. Need to read up for all of those games but I know quite a bit about it. Or I can do it chronological.
That's that. Let me know what you think.
Florence: A Portrait. Michael Levey. Harvard University Press. 1996.- Pg. 211. Lorenzo became head of state at the age of 20 in 1469.- Pg. 213. Lorenzo's time was seen as the most stable in Florence.- Pg. 233. Pazzi Conspirators were hunted down, there was a ringing of a palazzo bell.- Pg. 234. Lorenzo de'Medici used state funds for personal use because Medici Bank was closing down.- Pg. 234. Lorenzo de'Medici summoned Savonarola to meet him on his deathbed.
The Medici: Power, Money, and Ambition in the Italian Renaissance. Paul Strathern. Pegasus Books. 2016.- Pg. 48-49 In 1400s Florence, slaves, mostly women, would be distributed among wealthy families.- Pg. 168-169 Lorenzo il Magnifico had 100 galley slaves sailing with him.- Pg. 160-166 The Pazzis attacked Lorenzo and his brother inside il Duomo and not outside the Church as in the game. The Pazzis were arrested and brought down by an angry mob. Jacopo de'Pazzi wasn't killed in San Gimignano, but he was brought back to Florence, tortured/killed/mutilated/put on display in pieces before his house.- Pg. 166. The Pope excommunicated Florence, and in response Florentine priests excommunicated the Pope.- Pg. 189. Leonardo was accused of sodomy, and risked getting burnt at the stake.- Pg. 206. Under Lorenzo, Medici Bank collapsed and went under. Branches in London and Bruges closed down.- Pg. 218-223. Savonarola came to power after Lorenzo's death. He cut a smooth deal with the King of France, prevented the city from being sacked. Installed a democratic government, provided amnesty to enemies, tax reforms, he also got the support from Pico della Mirandola, Poliziano, and Sandro Botticelli.
The Family Medici: The Hidden History of the Medici Dynasty. Mary Hollingsworth. Pegasus Books. 2018.- Pg. 180-181. The Medici myth of the patron of arts. With many stories of patronage attributed to them years after the fact via folklore and propaganda.- Pg. 185-187. Lorenzo il Magnifico corruption. Used state funds for personal use.- Pg. 187. Pazzi wars drained the city and affected the economy. Medici bank collapsed. And final years was actually quite lean.
Venice: History of the Floating City. Joanne M. Ferraro. Cambridge University Press. 2012.- Pg. 30-37. Venice was a city that depended on slave trade.- Pg. 69. Barbarigo one of 40 families that shaped the dogeship between 1383-1612.- Pg. 48. Jews were treated like a foreign community.- Pg. 90. Jews were required to wear a yellow star, played a vital part in all aspects of Venetian society as finance managers, physicians, scholars.- Pg. 91. World's first Jewish ghetto, or any ghetto, was founded in 1515- Pg. 78-106. Venice depended on slave trade. Sold slaves and imported slaves from Eastern Europe, Caucasian regions, mostly Slavs, Turks, Tartars, and even Russians. Also Catholics including Greeks in Aegean islands. From the Late 1400s, African slaves displaced European slaves.
Venice: Pure City. Peter Ackroyd. Random House. 2009- Pg. 48. Venice became a haven for Jews exiled from Spain and Portugal.- Pg. 113. Venice's slave trade from the 12th Century surpassed that of other cities, Rialto Market was a slave market, they sold Russians and Eastern Europeans to Saracens. No patrician family was without 5 slaves. Artisans owned slaves. Marco Polo owned a slave, Peter the Turk, who was freed in his will. By 1580, there were at least 3000 slaves in the city.
The Borgias: The Hidden History. G. J. Meyer. Bantam Books. 2013.- Pg. 106. Rodrigo Borgia/Pope Alexander VI welcomes Jews exiled from Spain and Portugal and settled them in Rome, and allowed them religious tolerance.