Top 10 Reasons the 18th Century was Awesome
by Mohammed Shariff
When we think of the past, we tend to either romanticize it or flat-out abhor it. Apparently none of us could feel comfortable living in a time when the internet was a type of fishing tool. Also, the old days featured a touch of misogyny and a good dose of slavery, as well as completely lacking electricity—but there were plenty of awesome things back then which definitely made up for the downsides. Things like:
10 Great Safeguards for the Poor
“Socialism,” which features a strong welfare system, is looked upon poorly in some countries today. But this was not always the case: during the eighteenth century, the English Parliament passed three different laws allowing for welfare for the unemployed.
And these weren’t “handouts,” either. The Workhouse Test Act allowed people who were poor to receive aid, provided they would try to find a job. The law even gave churches the ability to get federal aid so that they could feed and house the poor. But this leads to a problem: what if there weren’t any jobs to get? The Government had your back on this too. Building projects were commissioned purely to provide jobs for unskilled laborers who were out of work. These building, called “follies” were mainly aesthetic and some of them are still around today.
9 Education Was Easy
Let’s say you wanted to become educated, or at least aware of the world, in eighteenth century Europe. The only problem is that you’re flat-out broke. Well, in London and all over Europe, “coffeehouses” were on the rise. Unlike the hipster dens of today, these coffeehouses drew intellectuals like professors or students from universities like Oxford and Cambridge. For a penny, people could buy a cup of coffee and listen to these great minds discuss the state of the world or whatever field they were an expert in.
Essentially, you could get free lectures in all sorts of topics. Historians say that these coffeehouses eventually led to a massive literacy spike that also resulted in hundreds of new newspapers all over Europe. (...)
6 The Coolest Animal Attractions
If you lived in the 1700s, London was the place to be. The city would get a number of circus attractions every year—and while some of them were the usual “bearded lady”, sometimes they got insane animals. The Learned Pig, for example, was an attraction that debuted sometime around 1760. It had been trained using classical conditioning to do math, tell the time, play cards, and even read your future. The pig was a huge success, and inspired a number of imitations—including one pig in the States that was eventually accused of witchcraft and had to go on the run. That’s not a joke.
5 People Wore Sunglasses
You can pretty safely assume that people hundreds of years ago didn’t exactly dress in denim and leather jackets. That fashion style is reserved purely for the world in which Mad Max exists. But one thing they did wear, oddly enough, was sunglasses. James Ayscough initially thought his invention could be used for corrective purposes, as actual glasses. But when he realized that tinting the lenses didn’t exactly fix your eyesight, he gave them out anyway. These early sunglasses were usually tinted blue or green, making them 100% cooler than the ones we have today.
4 People Drank Soda
Speaking of cool things people did back in the 1800s that you wouldn’t expect, the first soda water was being handed around too. Joseph Priestly was the first person to invent soda water by mixing oxygen and water. Since he was primarily an academic chemist and a philosopher, he didn’t capitalize on it. But J.J. Schweppe—whose name you may recognize from Schweppes’ ginger ale—did exactly that. His business exploded, and people have been drinking fake bubbly ever since.