The Hood Old Days; EXCLUSIVE BOOZED UP HOODIES WITH KNIVES AREN'T NEW ..THEY WERE SCOURGE OF THE MIDDLE AGES

The Mirror (London, England), April 12, 2008 | Go to article overview

The Hood Old Days; EXCLUSIVE BOOZED UP HOODIES WITH KNIVES AREN'T NEW ..THEY WERE SCOURGE OF THE MIDDLE AGES


Byline: BY DAVID EDWARDS

LOITERING on a dark street corner, the gang of teenagers furtively pass a bottle around, tugging at their hoodies to hide their faces from passers-by.

With knives tucked into their belts, these rowdy yobs are the scourge of politicians and strike terror into the local community.

It may sound like a scene from any modern inner city estate or town centre but, in fact, the year is 1100 and the respectable citizens of the Middle Ages are being harassed by binge-drinking hoodies.

It will be cold comfort if you've been a victim of yob Britain, but it seems that hardly anything has changed in almost 1,000 years.

Young lads back then were just as partial to hanging out together to drink cheap, strong booze and annoy the locals as they are today.

Professor Robert Bartlett - who presents Inside The Medieval Mind, a new TV show that reveals how hoodies first emerged in the 12th century-explains: "Britain has had teen tearaways at least since the Middle Ages."

BINGE-DRINKING

"JUST like their modern-day equivalents, they wore hoods, frequently got drunk and caused all manner of headaches for the average citizen and politician."

The four-part series reveals other startling similarities between the Britain of 1100 to 1500 and the country we live in today, including our national binge-drinking habit.

"People sometimes think that Britons hundreds of years ago were not quite real but when you look at the evidence, it's quite clear they were very similar to us," says Prof Bartlett, an expert on the Middle Ages who lectures at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.

Although the term hoodie only started being used in 2003, they were a very real problem for our ancestors.

As Prof Bartlett, 57, explains: "A lot of the towns would be full of teenage boys who'd been sent from the country to serve seven-year apprenticeships.

"As you can imagine, being boys away from home for the first time they'd prove a rather unruly element, apt to cause a bit of social unrest. They soon developed a reputation for drinking, chasing girls and being a nuisance.

"It's a period when teenagers became visible for the first time and you could expect to see them drinking mead on street corners. They would be wearing hoods, or cowls, which originated with monks but soon became a pretty standard form of headgear for Medieval youths.

"You could also expect them to be carrying knives because everyone did in those days to cut their bread."

MURDEROUS

LONG before the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent banned the wearing of hooded tops in 2005, or Tory leader David Cameron gave his much-derided hug-a-hoodie speech a year later, the authorities were taking a tough stand against them.

Prof Bartlett says: "There was legislation attempting to stop them going to the pub too much and another law, passed in the 14th century, tried to stop them wearing clothes or haircuts that were too fashionable.

"They were a fashion-conscious lot and it was felt they needed to be kept in their place.

"Long-pointed shoes and dressing in funny materials were expressly forbidden because it was such a hierarchical system and they weren't meant to dress above their station. Fur or silk weren't allowed, and bright red or blue collars would have been frowned upon as these were colours of the ruling classes."

And it wasn't just hoodies who had a reputation for drinking to excess. One 12th century Latin manuscript refers to Potatrix Anglia, or "England the drunken", echoing Britain's latter-day reputation for being the binge-drinkers of Europe. In fact, Medieval Britain was a far more violent place than today.

A study by US academic Ted Robert Gurr reveals murderous brawls and violent deaths were everyday occurrences of the period, and most deaths that were not from natural causes resulted from fights with neighbours involving knives, cudgels and agricultural implements.

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