The English: Are They Human? Case Study 13: Soot-Covered Geese

The Maestro
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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.

Chimney Sweeping with Geese, illustration from 'The Chimney-sweeper's  Friend and Climbing Boy's Album' by James Montgomery, published 1825 | PBS  LearningMedia


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. 


Grimy Victorian London painting | Victorian london, London history,  Victorian
Best city in the world, ain’t she, lads? [source]

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. 

Fireplace Cleaning,Fireplace Service,Cleaned-Thousand Oaks,CA

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. 

Chimney sweep, before child labor laws outlawed the work of such young  children. : pics
This lovable scamp might make all the way to eighteen, if he behaves himself! [source]

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. 


Information for this article taken from here, here, and here.

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The Maestro
The Maestro
The Maestro is a mystical Canadian internet user and New England Patriots fan; when the weather is cooperative and the TV signal at his igloo is strong enough, he enjoys watching the NFL, the Ottawa Senators & REDBLACKS, and yelling into the abyss on Twitter. He is somehow allowed to teach music to high school students when he isn't in a blind rage about sports, and is also a known connoisseur of cheap beers across the Great White North.
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clint greasewood

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Last edited 13 days ago by clint greasewood

Honestly, if you can’t use children for hard labor, what are they good for?

King Hippo

sheeeit, nowadays, the fuckers can hardly be arsed to do simple shit like “take out garbage” or “pick up Daddy’s drugs.”


Thought my foie gras tasted a bit smoky.

Senor Weaselo

Rebuttal: It’s a fate too good for geese. Fuck ’em all.

Senor Weaselo

I’m still trying to figure how to get revenge at Roslyn Pond Park. The scene of the crime, those bastards will pay.


When they fly in flocks and honk, you can hear it a quarter mile away, at least. My dog freaks out when she hears them. I hate them.


Well, if you weren’t a chimney sweep, you drew chalk drawings in the park for the nanny and the children to come see. Or you would dance on rooftops across the city at night singing fun songs. Bank owners would be seen flying a kite at the end of the day. Good times, man!

But every so often, a wind would come from a certain direction and your best girl would have to go. That was the sad part.

Senor Weaselo
Viva La Tabula Raza

Came down to the comments for some Mary Poppins reference, excellent job!