Saturday, 9 May 2015

The Art of Travel

In my researches for The Secret of Saynshand (silkpunk adventure in China and Mongolia), I've just come across a gem of a book, which tells everything a traveller needs to know when they're going on an expedition. It was written in 1872, by Francis Galton (himself a seasoned traveller in Darkest Africa) and the subtitle is "Shifts and Contrivances Available in Wild Countries".
A lot of it is very sensible advice, about pitching tents, drying your clothes over a camp fire, and so on, but there are parts of it that are, to modern eyes, quite hilarious.
Like his section on allowing women on the expedition, for instance:

"Natives' Wives - If some of the natives take their wives, it gives great life to the party. They are of very great service, and cause no delay....for a woman will endure a long journey nearly as well as a man, and certainly better than a horse or a bullock." He goes on to quote a Mr Hearne, an American traveller of the eighteenth century, who recorded the words of a 'savage' chief: "'Women,' said he, 'were made for labour: one of them can carry or haul as much as two men can do. They also pitch our tents, make and mend our clothing, keep us warm at night; and in fact there is no such thing as travelling any considerable distance....without their assistance.' And 'though they do everything, are maintained at trifling expense: for, as they always stand cook, the very licking of their fingers, in lean times, is sufficient for their subsistence.'"
So, they work harder, and you don't even have to feed them properly! Isn't that great?
He goes on to add, in a more general way: "It is in the nature of women to be fond of carrying weights; you may see them in omnibuses and carriages, always preferring to hold their baskets or their babies on their knees, to setting them down on the seat by their sides."

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