400 years ago today: the death of Richard Cocks, head of the EIC trading post in Japan

On the 27th of March, 1624, a man died aboard a ship crossing the Indian Ocean, and was buried in the sea. The ship was the English East India Company (EIC) ship Anne Royal, which had left Batavia on Java a month earlier, and was heading for England. The man was Richard Cocks, late head […]

The British East India Company in Southeast Asia, 1600–1800

I have a new publication out today! “The British East India Company in Southeast Asia”, in the new Oxford Handbook of Southeast Asian Englishes, ed. by Andrew Moody (OUP site; Google Books). In brief, my article has two parts. First, it is a country-by-country account of the places in Southeast Asia that the East India […]

Notes from the plague years 1603, 1605 & 1607

Early modern letters contain frequent mentions to illness and contagious diseases. Four hundred years ago, the plague was a recurring, er, pestilence. When it hit London, those who were able to do so left the city for the relative safety of the countryside. Such temporary evacuees included Shakespeare’s acting company – but also most of […]

What were English East India Company merchants drinking in Japan?

A note on terminology, and an addendum (and correction) to my PhD thesis 1. How did I miss that? Doing research, it’s easy to find yourself going down rabbit holes, chasing answers that seem to always elude your grasp. You do your best, but still have to resign yourself to unsatisfactory results. In my case, […]

Letterlocking: How did you fold a letter in the early modern period and what did it mean?

First impressions are important. When I receive mail – physical items by post, that is – simply the size and shape of the envelope tells me something about the sender. A5-sized envelopes (well, C5-sized, but you know what I mean; ditto below) tend to be bills or notes from the bank, A6 and smaller are […]

An addendum on the history of the word “linguist” in the sense ‘interpreter’

One of my first publications was an article titled “Jurebassos and Linguists: The East India Company and Early Modern English words for ‘interpreter’” (abstract; full paper as a pdf). The article is a fairly straightforward and I admit rather light-weight investigation of the Early Modern English semantic field of ‘interpreter’, in which I note that […]

On marking language-switching in speech and writing

So what I have to say is too long to fit in a tweet or even a handful of tweets. I followed the link in this tweet – https://twitter.com/kissane/status/627264725697581057 …which lead to this video by Daniel José Older, titled “Why We Don’t Italicize Spanish”, where he explains why language-switches in his books are not italicized […]