You guys really liked my first History Behind Voyager post (that you can read HERE) so I thought I’d keep the Voyager party going with a new little installment. Now, if you’re strictly a show watcher, or haven’t read Voyager yet, then this post will contain some spoilers!
You have been warned. This is the spoiler zone. Happy reading!
Chinese Immigrants in Scotland
Yi Tien Cho, or Mr. Willoughby as we know him, has been quite the controversial figure recently, with some saying that he was akin to a racial caricature. But as with many characters in Diana Gabaldon’s books, there’s still a bit of history tucked away in Mr. Willoughby, regardless of his fondness for feet and training birds.
The British began their regular trading with China in the 1600s. While the increase of tea and silk imports helped the Chinese economy, it also kept the ships sailing in regular intervals. But, not every Chinese sailor went home. They settled around the docks, often sending for their wives and families once they raised enough money for their expensive passage. But the population didn’t explode overnight, it was more of a slow trickle with only a few dozen Chinese immigrants officially living in Great Britain in the early 1800s. That explains why old Mr. Willoughby was all by his lonesome in his new country…well that and he had been on the run!
Once on their transatlantic voyage, Claire gets her first taste of turtle soup, complete with a generous amount of sherry. While the dish was popular in Singapore and in the US due to a large snapping turtle population, the savory stew holds a special place in England’s history. It was considered the meal of England’s nobility, but it didn’t stop the common man from buying the meat at the local butcher shop or trying to catch their own in the local waters.
Historically, sailors would catch green sea turtles in the West Indies and keep them aboard ship for a constant supply of food. But by the 1750s, the mass hunting left the population a little skimpy, making it an even more sought after dish. Luckily, there was still a nice little population around Bermuda, giving sailors like Jamie and Claire the ability to catch some for the famous turtle soup. If you’re interested in getting a bowl, it’s not like it was in the olden days when it was readily available for a pretty penny in all the finest tea shops. But if you can find some turtle meat of your own, HERE is a recipe!
Claire and Jamie spent some time in ships cabins during their trip, but what were luxury accommodations on regular passenger ships really like? Well, if there were 8 foot ceilings and walls, as well as a straw stuffed mattress, it was considered basically 1st class. I mean, even the captains on most passenger ships only had a small room with the basics to call their own. Having a small writing desk was also something that only passengers with private quarters and some sway would obtain. But no matter the class you were in, you can bet your petticoats it was going to stink. With fresh water being carefully rationed for the journey, cleanliness took a backseat. The scent of unwashed bodies, vomit and other bodily fluids, and possibly living livestock would be pretty overwhelming.
Meals were usually served in the common areas of each class, the food being directly brought up from the galley…unless you had to bring your own food for the journey as many boats stipulated. But for meals provided by the ship, there would be ale, salted meats, tack cakes, and fresh meats and vegetables in the beginning. And of course there would be turtle soup, if they could catch it.
No matter where Claire is, she’ll end up nursing a doctoring men and women from all walks of life. So it wasn’t a surprise when Claire had to crack open her medicine box aboard the ship. Historically, she would actually be much more qualified to be a ship doctor than most men, and it wasn’t just because she was a literal doctor from the future.
Unless they were working for the Royal Navy, the ship’s doctors rarely had any formal medical training at all. They usually learned their trade on the job from the older “surgeons” and learned how to generally keep the sailors and passengers alive. The most common things they would have to deal with was venereal disease, minor lacerations, and rope burn. There was also usually a dedicated sickbay on board that was well ventilated for the doctor’s use. The floor of this room would also be sprinkled with sand to keep people from slipping on the blood that would accumulate. Safety first!
British Fashion in Jam
Jamaica became a British colony in 1655 and the white population was bolstered by the English sending Irish and Scottish indentured servants or prisoners to the island. By the 1700s, the sugar plantations were in full swing and the money was flowing…to the British plantation owners at least.
Anyways, the climate in Jamaica was obviously vastly different than that in England. But the heat didn’t stop modesty or the use of fine imported fabrics. Silk and satin were still the fabrics of choice for well-bred ladies and gentlemen in the evening hours when dressing for dinner or attending a grand event, as well as a powdered wig. Usually, a touch of powder on the face and a beauty mark would complete the look. During the day, ladies would wear dresses of thin muslin in pale colors and carry umbrellas to ward off the sun.
In season 3, I expect to see very few kilts, plenty of old-school breeches, powdered wigs, men in heels, and the fabulous silk violet gown that Claire famously wears as Mrs. Malcolm! But overall, much of what we’ll see will be like a toned down version of the costumes from France, just a little less plaid.
The Maroons have a long history that goes back to the first slaves in the Americas. Basically, the Maroons are escaped slaves that built independent communities away from their past captors. The would try to form safe towns where they would maintain their heritage, plant crops, and try to stay alive. But it wasn’t easy, as they were constantly at risk of being forced off their lands, captured, or even killed,
In Jamaica, the Maroons were constantly at odds with the colonists that took over more and more land to plant crops, pushing the Maroons out of each small town they created. But the Maroons began to fight back and demanded lands for their own colonization. After the First Maroon Wars that ended around 1738, the British government granted them land and safety. So, surely that was the end of their oppression? Wrong.
The Maroons in Jamaica had to fight the British government several more times until finally gaining peace in the 1800s. Today, there are still 11 Maroon settlements that maintain their own cultures and identities that they managed to maintain since the 1730s. Their rich heritage was formed from combining all the different backgrounds of the escaped slaves. They formed their own religion, spirituality, and way of life. It’ll be interesting to see how the show brings their history to life!
We recognize this historical figure as Mayer Red-Shield, the coin peddler who connects the Duke of Sandringham with some Jacobite gold. The real Mayer is just as interesting, as his legacy created the famous Rothschild banking dynasty.
Born into a large, poor, Jewish family in Frankfurt, Mayer really had to work his way to the top of the banking world. He started as an apprentice and after a time, became a dealer of rare coins. He amassed such a collection, he gained the patronage of princes all over Europe. By the time his sons were of age, he had expanded his banking business into London and France where he invested in such things as textile production. The gangly boy with the bag of coins we meet in Voyager would grow up to build one of the most powerful financial dynasties in history.
That’s it for my mini history chat! For more Outlander fun, check out our Outlander page HERE! And if you like my articles, you’ll probably love my books!
Queen of Emeralds is a thrilling historical Scottish romance that takes you on a journey through London, deep into the Highlands, and into the arms of a laird. You can order it HERE! The Non-Disclosure Agreement shows what happens when a small town girl and a hot shot billionaire mix business and pleasure. This book is available HERE!