The Day the World Grew Dark
Four minutes and thirty-eight seconds of total darkness on August 2, 1133 (Julian calendar), portended catastrophe: the death of King Henry I of England, followed by years of civil war, and Duke Frederick’s burning of Augsburg in Germany. In honor of today’s eclipse, I hope you’ll enjoy five chroniclers’ accounts:
“In this year King Henry went over sea at Lammas, and the second day as he lay and slept on the ship the day darkened over all lands; and the Sun became as it were a three-night-old Moon, and the stars about it at mid-day. Men were greatly wonder-stricken and were affrighted.”
Extracts are from David Le Conte at MrEclipse.com. He credits the first two quotes to UK Solar Eclipses from Year 1 by Sheridan Williams, Clock Tower Press, 1996, and the last three to Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation by F. Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997 (pages 392-393).
8/21/2017 09:42:48 am
Not quite so historically interesting, but one of my third great-grandmothers died in Sweden on the day of a total eclipse. My cousin, Denny, found her death notice in the church books and translated it as follows (btw, 15 children in Sweden was VERY unusual):
Definitely historically interesting! Especially as hearing of the eclipse precipitated her sudden collapse (stroke?) - makes me wonder if she or others around her associated eclipse with catastrophe. Do we know the date? The web page my blog links to may have a chronicler's account of that eclipse.
8/21/2017 12:02:18 pm
Sarah, the date was July 28, 1851. I suppose you could read into this that the news of the eclipse caused her apparent stroke, but perhaps she was just plumb wore out, 19 pregnancies, 48 years old, her 10-month-old son on her hip... and it was a coincidence. But I surely love these details. Certainly I was surprised to find out that someone in this very rural area knew the eclipse was going to occur that day, and certainly I think that they were more superstitious about these things and she may well have been very frightened when she heard the news. It would be a fun story to write up. Maybe write up two or three different versions of how it may have happened, kind of like in the movie, Groundhog Day.
8/21/2017 12:04:34 pm
Yes! See section 4!
Lisa, the 1851 accounts are interesting and complex. Unlike the medieval chroniclers, those in the 19th century clearly knew in advance the eclipse was coming (as you say) and knew what was happening. Yet superstition was still there - no pregnant woman dared to leave her room during the eclipse.
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I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.