Costs of historical production

The third season of Vikings started last week. In addition, I started watching the tv series Outlander. I realized (again) that I mostly watch shows like this for the historical details. In the past this has typically meant famous historical figures, or battles, or famous places.

Since I started cooking and knitting I spend a LOT of time looking at food and clothes.

I have a sort of geeky approach to cooking and knitting. I read a LOT about the topics, I listen to a bunch of podcasts, I watch a lot of tutorials. I like to learn the theory as well as the practice. I like to see what masters of the craft are doing, as well as outre artists. I like to understand the fundamentals and basics, to learn where everything comes from.

What happens, then, is that when I am watching historical fiction I am frantically trying to add up the sheer weight of hours of work that have gone into making the things on the screen. That salted meat and hard bread packed into the longship for the trip to Wessex? Or that knit wool shirt? Or how about that woven blanket? Or all those great kilts? What about the simple existence of BREAD? Do you know how much WORK it is to make BREAD?

And that’s not even touching the products I don’t know how to make. The carved chairs, the metal sconces, the PLETHORA of weaponry …

… the stone castles.

When a farmhouse burns on these shows, I want to weep. The loss of time and production is … staggering.


When I first started going to conventions and ren fest I was shocked, SHOCKED, at the costs of the goods. Leather belts, floofy shirts, pewter mugs, etc. My understanding of a fair price point had been artificially suppressed by the global economy, by mass production. By unfair and extortionate labor practices taking place across the world where I could ignore it all. I had no actual idea how much work it took to make things.

After I found out, now that I understand, I feel that I pay no-where near enough for the craft labor of others. Most artisans don’t make an actual living with their work.


There’s a warning in all the how-to-knit books — everyone says do NOT make a Boyfriend Sweater. That your loved one will never, EVER, unless they are also a knitter, understand how much work and commitment and love you have put into making something they could have bought in an instant for a quarter of the money.


I also watch survivalist shows. Alaskan Beards. Windburns of the Outback. Jungle Feet Alone. Bearded Survival. You know the sort of show I mean. I hate the part where the show introduces “drama” into a scene. I want to shout at the shows that just making food for a week is drama enough!

I would watch these people make shingles all morning and spin wool all afternoon. I marvel at the skill and commitment and TIME.


When a farm burns on Vikings, or Jaime’s shirt is ripped apart on Outlander, I want to weep. At the loss, the destruction. at the fact that some woman or women will now have to spend additional hours of theirs lives that they could have used for food or joy or reading or dance on making another damn shirt.

Yet the costs of production also fill me with intense pride in humanity. Look at us.

Just, LOOK at us.

Look at how far we have come, when the costs of getting here are so murderously high.


One Response

  1. This is lovely. Also I am dying over the reality show titles.

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