- The English: Are They Human? Case Study 14: The London Beer Flood - November 26, 2020
- The English: Are They Human? Case Study 13: Soot-Covered Geese - November 19, 2020
- The English: Are They Human? Case Study 12: The Depression Police - November 12, 2020
Despite controlling one-third of the world’s landmass and one-quarter of its population at its peak in the late 19th century, one really has to wonder if the English are even civilized in the first place. As Indian historian and MP Dr. Shashi Tharoor stated in a 2015 speech at Oxford University, “No wonder the sun never set on the British Empire… even God couldn’t trust the English in the dark.”
In G.J. Renier’s The English: Are They Human?, the author sets out to examine why the English are the way they are; it’s not an easy task. Despite the title being absolutely hilarious, the book itself is somewhat humorous, but overall quite academic. This, to me, is quite disappointing. Thus, I am setting out to improve upon his work, and find some case studies that properly shed light on what makes the English such an absurd people. Fortunately, there’s so much out there to choose from. After careful research, it is my conclusion that the English cannot be considered human.
They used to use live geese to sweep chimneys.
Date: Victorian England (1837-1901
Location: All of England (and probably much of the rest of the UK)
The 19th century was a hell of a time for the British Isles. The Industrial Revolution transformed the United Kingdom from a wealthy, though predominantly rural, influential European country into the world’s biggest superpower, largely in part due to the immense economic wealth created through mass industrialization and urbanization. England, in particular, despite massive economic inequality throughout the Industrial Revolution, still ended up providing better economic outcomes, if not actual standards of living, for virtually all its subjects, from the Queen herself all the way down to the lowest street urchin. It was a time of exciting new technology, groundbreaking scientific discovery, and massive lifestyle changes – most of which continue to impact the world to this very day.
The rapid urbanization of cities, in particular, came on the strength of having so many factory jobs available. With rich coal deposits across the island, cheap fuel was available in abundance, and soon, entire cities burnt coal in order to power machinery and heat homes.
For those of you who’ve read Dickens, you’ll know that most major cities looked like absolute dogshit in this era. The grime, muck and soot got everywhere. If your factory job got you down and you were looking for a career change, chimney sweep work was abundant in this time.
The wealthy often had many chimneys in their manors – even in more urban centres. This would typically come with a hefty price to pay for a chimney sweep’s services, and prices continued to increase as the century went on. For the poor, hiring a chimney sweep was not always an option. A dirty chimney, however, could lead to death due to poor ventilation, buildup of noxious gases, and/or leftover coal ash accidentally setting things on fire.
So what to do for those who can’t afford the services of a chimney sweep?
Just chuck a live goose down there.
If you had a home with a chimney in it that was too small for a child to clean it – as was also extremely common practise in England during the 19th century – some master sweepers would climb up on the roof of the house, tie the legs of a goose together, and drop it down the chimney. As the goose flapped its wings, the soot coating the chimney walls would get dislodged, where it could later be swept up, compressed into bricks, and sold off as fertilizer to enterprising farmers. Then the sweep retrieves the goose and repeats the process at the next house.
This is, of course, barbaric – and yet somehow the fate of the dirty, disgusting goose was often better than that of the children who were born into poor families; families poor enough would often “allow” their children to become chimney sweep apprentices, where they’d make a pittance having to work for years for a master sweep, climbing chimneys to clean, oftentimes barefoot, and with no protective gear or safety harness whatsoever.
It would take until 1870 for legislation to be put in place that finally ended the use of young boys as chimney sweeps for good – when the Education Act was passed and school became compulsory for all children, the practise finally dwindled out after over a century of popularity in the UK. The geese would have to pick up the slack, it seems – at least until the use of coal eventually was rendered mostly moot by far more efficient oil, gas and electric heating sources at the beginning of the 20th century.
All this to say – if you’re barbaric enough as a culture to make geese or little boys risk fiery death and cancer just for the sake of making a few bucks… you can’t be considered human. That is some absolutely sociopathic shit.