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Learn more about the 2012 launch of the new She-philosopher.​com here.

For more about how “well-motivated historical inquiry” can enlighten us, see the webessay explaining She-philosopher.​com’s concept.

I plan to add some interesting new content re. medieval women masons to She-philosopher.​com’s study page on California’s flawed Good Neighbor Fence Act of 2013 (AB 1404) as soon as I can get to it.
  In the meantime, there is material on the 21st-century British woman stone-worker, Harriet Pace, available here.
  Click/tap here for discussion of the artistry & value of those laboring in haute construction (in this case, the ambitious V&A Dundee design museum, which opened September 2018).
  And click/tap here for a discussion of more provocative wall art, which challenges us to rethink masonry construction in terms of process as well as product.


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**  themed historical studies, with a focus on 17th-century arts & sciences, and material culture  **

First Published:  August 2012
Revised (substantive):  16 April 2024

Opening quotation markThe premises and procedures of
well-motivated historical inquiry
may thus furnish a simple distinction:
not the past, but investigating
the past is edifying.Closing quotation mark

Nancy Struever, “Philosophical Problems and Historical Solutions,” 85.
   In At the Nexus of Philosophy and History, ed. by Bernard P. Dauenhauer (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1987).


THE STUDIES SECTION OF was added in August 2012. It houses synopses that offer convenient entry points to ongoing research projects which can be thematically organized.

Unfortunately, not everything I study can be so neatly arranged. Some research topics — ranging from Europeans’ discovery and marketing of pharmaceuticals such as contrayerva, to the history of trades and industrial arts such as printing and masonry — are too eclectic to be easily contained within a single organizing category. My study of contrayerva, for example, is a subset of the much larger research project focused on the Countess of Kent’s powder recipe, Pulvis Cantianus; and my study of the practice of masonry, including women’s involvement in the trade, merges with research in other areas such as early proposals to reform vocational education, debates over the pros and cons of full public disclosure of scientific & technological advances, including trade secrets, the quarrying of stone and growth of materials science, the mason as Aristotle’s model phronimos (a person who possesses practical wisdom), “branding” small businesses, etc. Such a bold sweep inevitably leads to overlapping conceptual categories which, at least in the early stages of the research process, defy easy categorization. If a single, themed presentation exists for my masonry-related historical research, I haven’t been able to discover it!

In my experience, clarity about the research process and its direction sometimes comes with time and distance, and is almost always a serendipitous discovery. Because the studies presented here are open-ended, it is difficult to epitomize them. Like everything else at, each study synopsis must be polished enough to withstand the acid bath of peer review, and yet still allow for ongoing revision, so as to accommodate new research. This is a difficult balance to strike, and helps explain why I can’t churn out scholarly webessays with the same abandon other Web publishers enjoy.

The following list of active links will be updated as I continue to learn more. With historical research of this sort, there’s no way of knowing ahead of time what I shall find, or when I shall find it, especially given my penchant for following up the most interesting research leads, and opening myself to detours and distractions that wreak havoc on my schedule, but otherwise almost always bear fruit.

Currently, the list of themed studies underway at includes:

  English Printers’ Ornaments (overview page)

  Trade Recipes: Printer’s Ink

  Trade Recipes: Writer’s Ink

  Medical Recipe: The Countess of Kent’s Powder (Pulvis Cantianus)

  Medical Recipe: Lady Owen’s 16th-Century Practice of Chemotherapy

  the 17th-Century Traveler as Citizen Scientist

  Amanteca: AmerIndian Feather Paintings

  Ars memoria (the art of memory)

  Early-Modern Branding

  Early-Modern Desalination Systems

  European Fashions Inspired by AmerIndian Body Art

  Natural & Cultural History: the Chameleon

  Natural & Cultural History: American Cochineal and European Markets

  Natural & Cultural History: the Pineapple

  Natural & Cultural History: the American Hummingbird and European Markets

  Natural & Cultural History: the Flying Fish

  Natural & Cultural History: the Sagoin (marmoset)

  Natural & Cultural History: Tobacco

  Natural & Cultural History: Maize (Indian Corn) and its Cultivation in Virginia

  Natural & Cultural History: the Five Sexes

  Legal History: Guns and Militias in Early-Modern Anglo-America
     SUMMARY   In my study entitled “The Missing Historical Context: Anglo-American Gun Laws & the Original Intent of the Second Amendment,” I argue that the individual right to keep and bear arms, as popularized by the NRA, SCOTUS, etc. — e.g., “The Bill of Rights grants citizens the right to bear arms to protect themselves against a potential tyrannical government.” — is a postmodern invention.
     It is my opinion that the Second Amendment (which developed from a rich body of militia & gun law dating back over a hundred years in the Anglo-American colonies) was not originally about the individual’s right “to keep and bear arms,” but about states’ rights to maintain an armed force (“a well regulated militia”) for the “better protection and defence of the country against invasions and insurrections” (Ordinances Passed at a Convention Held at the Town of Richmond, in the Colony of Virginia, on Monday the 17th of July, 1775, p. 3).
     From this country’s founding with the first permanent Anglo-American settlement planted at Jamestown, Virginia on 26 April 1607, sedition was as much on the minds of the Anglo-American governing class as was tyranny. Despite what 21st-century legislators such as Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) believe — “It’s not about hunting. It’s not about recreation. It’s not about sports. The Second Amendment is about maintaining within the citizenry the ability to maintain an armed rebellion against the government, if that becomes necessary.  ¶  I hope it never does.” (qtd. by Lisa Desjardins in her 5/28/2021 reporting for the PBS NewsHour) — U.S. persons have no constitutional right to armed insurrection.
     Features a series of images documenting the postmodern shift away from the original public meaning of the Second Amendment.
     With 5 appendices published thus far:

–  a second-window aside giving Waverly K. Winfree’s entry for William Waller Hening in Oxford’s American National Biography; Hening was a Richmond, VA councilman, a clerk of the Superior Court of Chancery for the Richmond District, and deputy adjutant general of Virginia, as well as a colleague of Thomas Jefferson, who contributed to Hening’s compilation of Virginia law; Hening’s authoritative publication (in 1809) of the Second Amendment (as adopted on 15 December 1791, when the Bill of Rights was ratified by Virginia) differs markedly (title and text) from our postmodernized version

–  a second-window aside with an illustrated essay on this country’s earliest representative institution, the Virginia House of Burgesses, and the founding principles of universal suffrage and of full representation in 1620s–1650s Virginia

–  a second-window aside with an extract (“For the Militia”) from William Cavendish’s MS. Letter to Charles II (a scribal publication written c.1650s) asserting the king’s prerogative to control the armed forces and to disarm the provinces (independent, regional militias); the centuries-old struggle between a strong “military-imperial executive” and a “civilian-localist legislature” (S. S. Webb, “Army and Empire: English Garrison Government in Britian and America, 1569 to 1763,” 24 and 26) roiled Anglo-America from its founding — “The final issue which had precipitated the Civil War in 1640 was the control of the armed forces of the Crown” (A. S. Turberville, A History of Welbeck Abbey and Its Owners, 2 vols., 1938, 1.172) — and is, I believe, a forgotten subtext for the original 18th-century version of the Second Amendment (before being postmodernized during the late-20th–21st century)

–  a second-window aside with excerpts from Archbishop John Potter’s Archaeologia Graeca (rev. and enl. 2nd edn., London, 1706) giving ancient Greek laws (6th century BCE) disarming citizens, which was a founding principle for western civilization

–  a second-window aside with an excerpt from Alfred N. Chandler’s Land Title Origins: A Tale of Force and Fraud (1945), documenting religious establishments in Anglo-America prior to The First Amendment, all of which extended, rather than abolished, European customs of religious persecution: “Those colonies which had been the most noted as havens of religious tolerance became the most intolerant.” (A. N. Chandler, Land Title Origins, 42)

–  a second-window aside with an excerpt (“Title XXXII. Bearing of Unlawful Weapons.”) from Sir George Mackenzie’s Laws and Customes of Scotland, in Matters Criminal (Edinburgh, 1678), documenting historical restrictions on bearing “offensive Arms” in public. Mackenzie’s legal treatise establishes that “Hagbuts, Pistols, and other Fire-works” were all deemed “unlawful Weapons” under both the common law and civil law transplanted to Scottish-America: “the carrying of such Arms was repute publick violence, though no prejudice was done”; ergo, “Pistols, were forbidden, and the bearers punished, albeit no prejudice followed.” Punishment for the crime of carrying “forbidden Weapons” in public ranged from “the prohibit Arms were confiscat” to “amputation of the right hand” and/or “confiscation of their moveables, or syning and imprisonment” and/or “banished the Realm during his lifetime.”

  Classical Virtue: Festina lente

  Classical Virtue: Phronesis

  Classical Virtue: Prudentia

  Modern Justice: California’s flawed Good Neighbor Fence Act of 2013 (Assembly Bill 1404 or AB 1404), under which long-time California property owners have lost founding rights
     SUMMARY   California state legislators contend that AB 1404 “clarified and modernized” Cal. Civ. Code § 841 (enacted c.1872); conversely, I argue that AB 1404 corrupted existing law, and that state legislators who now refuse to conduct a revisal — and either fix the corrupted law, or reenact the original statute — are fake representatives.

  Modern Justice: Taming & Advancing Our Democracy

These are in various stages of preparation. Once a research synopsis for a given study has been finalized and posted to, its title in the above list will change to an active hyperlink, indicating its publication online.

facsimile of mid-18th-century tail-piece

^  Reading in the book of human nature. (Ornament from the 1753 Supplement to Ephraim Chambers’ Cyclopaedia, by George Lewis Scott, et al.)
     “History has been call’d, by a great Man, Speculum Mundi: The Looking-Glass of the World; It gives the best prospect into Humane Affairs, and makes us familiar with the remotest Regions: by this we safely sit in our Closets, and view the horrid Devastations of Countreys, Tumults, Changes and Ruptures of Common-Wealths; The Reverse of Fortunes, the Religions, Politicks and Governments of Foreign Nations; by this we may consult what practices have Establish’d Kingdoms, what Laws have render’d any particular Nation more Safe, happy and Civiliz’d than its Neighbours; and, what has Contributed to the Weakness and Overthrow of Bodies-Politick, and what has Facilitated its Rise and Settlement; and, in a Prospect of the whole, a New Scheme may be drawn, for future Ages to act by.” (from “An Essay upon All Sorts of Learning” in the Athenian Society’s The Young-Students-Library, 1692, v)

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