Image of an Ancient Greek woman using a mirror, dated 470 to 460BC. What is the significance of mirrors in history? See below... (Photo information)
Welcome to InfoBritain, for historical visiting information in the UK. InfoBritain tells you what happened and where it happened. We have articles and visits relating to all historical periods from prehistoric Britain to recent times, and to the lives of major British authors, artists, musicians, scientists, politicians, military and royal figures. You can use our site search, or our various menus to find suggested visits relating to times or people. Alternatively go to the regions menu, find a place to visit in a particular area, and then link back to the history relating to it. We also have a full accommodation booking service for all parts of the mainland UK. We specialise in historic accommodation, but we also have comprehensive lists of hotels of all types and price ranges. See the regional menus on the right. Enjoy!
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A Personal Note (Archive)
May 14, 2016
We take mirrors for granted today, but a reflective surface probably played a crucial role in the development of human self awareness. Obviously if you see an image of yourself, and realise that image is you, self awareness has been acheived. This could only have first happened when people looked into the water of ponds or gently flowing rivers. Not surprisingly springs, rivers, ponds and lakes have often been invested with spiritual significance. The huge Bronze Age monument at Flag Fen in Cambridgeshire, a ritual bridge structure across an area of water meadow, probably celebrated the reflective characteristics of water.
The earliest manufactured mirrors were made from obsidian, a rare, naturally reflective volcanic rock. Examples of obsidian mirrors have been found in the area of Anatolia in modern day Turkey, dating to around 6000BC. From 4000BC craftsmen in Mesopotamia were making polished copper mirrors. From this time onwards mirror manufacture continued as a highly expensive business, confining ownership of mirrors to the rich. It wasn't until 1835 that the silvered glass mirror was invented by German chemist Justus Von Liebig, and mass production became possible. Today mirrors are everywhere. We brush our teeth, style hair, and squeeze spots in them. But mirrors were the first place where we became aware of ourselves, and are now used as a basic test of self-awareness in the animal kingdom. In 1970 the psychologist Gordon Gallup developed the Mirror Test to judge ability in self recognition. So far only humans and other great apes, dolphins, orcas, European magpies, and a single Asiatic elephant have passed the mirror test.
So that mirror in your bathroom was the place humanity first became aware of themselves, and where we discovered we are not alone in this ability.
Historical news for May
Throughout May Bodiam Castle in East Sussex offers the chance to play with toys and games from medieval England. Events run between 11am and 4pm all month. Telephone 01580 830196.
2016 is the 150th anniversary of the London Blue Plaque's scheme where properties linked to famous historical figures are marked with a blue plaque. There are now over 900 blue plaques on buildings across London, with three added last month for playwright Samuel Beckett, physicist Patrick Blackett and engineer Benjamin Baker. English Heritage is celebrating this anniversary with four guided walks in London on 7th and 8th May. For more information go to http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/
Anniversaries for May
2nd May 1985: The artist Andy Warhol makes an entry in his diary - an unashamaedly mundane account of the people he meets and what he buys in shops. In this entry he objects to Bianca Jagger's attempt to make more of his life than he does: "And Bianca was driving me crazy saying how she was researching my days in Pittsburgh for her book on Great Men, and she went on and on about how I broke the system, broke the system, and I felt like saying, 'Look Bianca I'm just here. I'm just a working person. How did I break the system?' God she's dumb."
5th May 1967: Britain's first satellite, Ariel 3, goes into orbit around the Earth, after lauching in California. Ariel 3 was used to study conditions in the upper atmosphere.
16th May 2001: Deputy prime minister John Prescott punches a man who throws an egg at him during a visit to north Wales.
18th May 1964: Following a Whitsun weekend of clashes between Mods and Rockers on beaches in south England, four young men are jailed by Margate magistrates, while two men received similar punishment in Brighton. These events would be famously depicted in the film Quadrophenia made in 1979.
27th May 1955: Following five years of political stalemate, the Conservatives under Anthony Eden win a clear victory in the general election. Following the disastrous Suez Crisis, Eden resigns less than two years later.
31st May 1957: The House of Un-American Activites charges playwright Arthur Miller with contempt of Congress after he refuses to reveal the names of alleged Communist writers. The conviction would be quashed in August 1958.
A preview of my novel - about a girl who discovers that surprisingly she can't find her way to the sort of secret world found in story books. So she searches for an alternative.
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Thank you to photo contributors Danielle Davis, Jean Edwards, Vicky Eagle of Portsmouth Dockyard, Kevin Edwards, Derick Fusco, Julian Jones, Richard Jones, Jackie Lewis, Debbie Lowless, Judy Mills of the Corinium Museum, Jane Barron of the World Rugby Museum, and Susan Stuart of Old Spitalfields Market.