OUTLINE FOR REVIEWERS
MY GRANDFATHERS' CLOCK
Author: Jack Bacon
Foreword: John Lienhard
Illustrator: Hugh L. Ratigan
Publisher: Normandy House Publishers
448 Pages, includes Front Matter, Bibliography, Index, and Notes.
Second Edition ISBN: 0-9708319-1-9
My Grandfathers' Clock traces the emergence of the human species from the Dark Ages through to the space age, by exploring a day in the life of each of 28 generations of one real family. Beginning with the Battle of Hastings in 1066 as experienced by a Norman knight named Grimbaldus, each succeeding generation of "everyman" experiences and reveals some facet of the development of modern society. The family partakes in numerous advances in technology, plus the establishment of elected government, the court system, and religious upheavals. They witness the development of universities, the birth of the Renaissance, the bubonic plague, the development of international trade, the settling of the New World, the opening of the American west, the Civil War, and the development of modern communications. In this century, they take part in the development of aerodynamics, the New Math, and finally, the building of the International Space Station. A persistent calling of the heavens is woven throughout the story, as mankind continues its constant climb to the stars.
Each chapter is a stand-alone historical vignette, which, combined with the other vignettes reads like an epic novel. In addition, each chapter contains a Context and Comment section to provide a broader perspective to the story, and a notes section that will tantalize all trivia fans. Famous and little-known quotations provide food for thought apropos of the chapter, and each setting is illustrated by artist Hugh L. Ratigan, in a style mildly reminiscent of illuminated manuscripts.
Collectively, a nearly 100-entry bibliography, over 450 chapter notes, and 4000 indexed pointers to over 800 topics make My Grandfathers' Clock a monumental contribution to historical literature, although the organization of the book allows the reader to enjoy it at any depth, from pure entertainment to deep scholarly research.
Chapter 1: "Conquest" October 14, 1066
The Battle of Hastings is fought, experienced by a Norman knight named Grimbaldus. Medieval tactics and weapons are described. The introduction of mounted warfare affects the outcome of the battle. Grimbaldus ponders the comet of 1066 and the Orinid meteor shower, and searches for messages in the stars.
Chapter 2: "Third Born" May 20, 1089
Ranulf, the third-born son of Grimbaldus is knighted at the newly finished Tower of London on Whitsuntide, 1089. The new knight ponders the law of primogeniture, and the ways to acquire power if not first-born. The setting reveals the structure of Norman rule, as well as first influx of innovations from the fall of Toledo (1085), including musical harmony. The construction of medieval armor is explored.
Chapter 3: "Changing Landscapes" May 14, 1122
Roger, the fourth son of Ranulf, is reeve of the Beccen Thorpe. (Old English for "Beech Tree Village") As reeve, he is responsible for the new system of justice, including the twelve-man jury of peers. Roger organizes a jury for a case pending against a tanner, wherein it is charged that flooding of his tanning pits has caused poisoning of cattle nearby. Following his understanding of the cause of the flooding, Roger goes to a neighboring village where Cistercian monks have erected a water-pumping windmill. Windmills are newly introduced technology to Western Europe by returning Crusaders. The mills have been perfected and propagated by the Cistercians. Roger's interview with a monk reveals the innovations of the Cistercians in land and water management, and in animal husbandry.
Chapter 4: "Dangerous Ground" October 17, 1173
Robert, the reeve's son, is caught up in the Norfolk insurrection under Hugh Bigod, that is part of a general rebellion against Henry II. The people resent Henry's consolidation and abuse of power, including such atrocities as the murder of Thomas á Beckett, and the imprisonment of Eleanor of Aquitaine, as well as many lesser issues.
Chapter 5 "Thrice Before Dawn" March 16, 1190
Robert's son William joins other English forces at York castle in 1190 under Richard the Lion-Hearted. William is there to fulfil the vow taken by his derelict father, to avoid excommunication and confiscation of his lands. Heraldry is explained. The slow evolution of surnames from old patronymic culture is explored, as the name "Bacon" evolves from the town name "Beccen Thorpe". Rabbits, introduced from France, are an ecological catastrophe in England, but provide food to the crusaders. Yorkminster's architecture is explored. Advances in transportation, armor, and weapons are described. William does not engage in the most ideally Christian behavior: each transgression is echoed by a rooster-shaped weathervane. William gets caught up in the riot at York, which results in the deaths of 150 Jews who have loaned money to finance the crusade.
Chapter 6: "Empowerment" February 20, 1216
Adam is 16 years old, and takes part in a public village reading of the Magna Carta with his father William. They discuss the differences in the world that this decree will bring to the common man. They use the transgressions of John Lackland as justification of the need for the expanded form of government.
Chapter 7: "Illumination" November 19, 1258
The academic practices of the Middle Ages are explored through the studies of Adam's son Robert, a student in Oxford. The chapter reveals the structure of the early universities, and the contents of the Quadrivium and the Trivium courses, which make up the seven liberal arts. The state of knowledge, dogma, and philosophy at the end of the Dark Ages are explored, including the revolutions in mathematics and science caused by the fall of Toledo over a century before, but only slowly incorporated. Robert wrestles with the Ptolemeic models of the universe, astronomy and astrology, and engages in a discussion with his more famous distant cousin, Roger Bacon, who is working on the problems of optics. They ponder the lenses of a pair of spectacles, newly introduced to the West after the Mongol invasions of 1237.
Chapter 8: "Warwolf" June 18, 1304
Edward I Longshanks, in battle with William Wallace ("Braveheart") raises the siege of Stirling castle in Scotland. Robert's son John is a carpenter/shipwright who assists in the building of the trebuchet. The new machine is nicknamed by the troops as "Warwolf". This new type of catapult heralds the end of the castle as an effective means of war. The construction and firing of Warwolf reveals details of medieval tools (including the newly invented wheelbarrow) and construction techniques of walls, of ships, of woodwork, and of roads. The worship of saintly relics is discussed.
Chapter 9: "The Third Estate" July 17, 1320
The carpenter's son, also named John, is a merchant who has built upon his father's woodcraft business and now deals in wool as well. He has traveled from a big wool deal in Brugges to see the Hot Fair of Troyes, now in its waning years. Italian merchants have recently succeeded in sailing directly from Italy to Brugges and to London, without need for overland passage of France, with whom there is a trade dispute. Thus, trade is changing, and the Hot Fair is on the way out. John barters for a foal of the new breed of Flemish warhorse that has emerged in the region.
Chapter 10: "Eternity" May 21, 1349
The Bubonic plague arrives in the village of Hessett in England, changing the lives of John III and of everyone he knows. John's father, the merchant, succumbs to the disease. Impacts of the disease on faith, commerce, family, transportation are revealed. Belief in astrology peaks, in response to increased printing and sale of public tracts, and general desperation and ignorance.
Chapter 11: "High Sheriff " June 14, 1381
John IV works to keep order in the era following the plague, as High Sheriff of Norfolk. Feudalism is virtually gone, and tradesman can sell their services virtually anywhere. He tries to contain a portion of Wat Tyler's rebellion at the gates of Bury St Edmunds. The wool trade and sheep farming begin to dominate the English economy, as feudal lands are consolidated into large open ranges after whole families and villages are destroyed. Property ownership is an enormously complicated affair, in the wake of all the deaths.
Chapter 12 "St. Crispin's Day" October 25, 1415
The Battle of Agincourt demonstrates the changes in military weapons and tactics, including the Welsh Long Bow, which annihilates the French army, with virtually no English losses. John V is a 30-year-old man-at-arms, who spends the night in preparation for the battle, and who sees the end of hand-to-hand combat as a major battle tactic.
Chapter 13: "Guidance From Above" June 17, 1431
Edmund returns to England near the summer solstice aboard a merchant ship crossing the English Channel, to end his military obligation in the Hundred Years' War. He engages in discussions with the ship's boy, who wants to hear of his exploits. Edmund agrees, but only if the boy will teach him the basics of astral navigation. The boy teaches the new techniques from the school established in Portugal in 1421 by young Prince Henry. A lateen-rigged caravel is observed, and the two discuss Dom Cabral's current expedition to reach and to map the Azores, out in the open ocean. Edmund finally reveals his participation in the English guard that escorted the Maid of Orleans to her death two weeks before. He and the boy discuss the details of her death, and wonder if she was indeed a saint. Edmund recognizes the unbounded potential in both the boy navigator and in the young maid, who each drew their guidance from above. He resolves to provide the best possible education for his young son, so that he might have such knowledge and inspiration.
Chapter 14: "Renaissance" August 31, 1466
John VI returns form a merchant trip to Florence where he has seen the great works of the early Renaissance. He has brought home several souvenirs, (including a silverpoint portrait for hire by a young, left-handed art student, named Leonardo). Political intrigue is high in Florence with plots against the Medicis, who have engaged in monopolistic deals with the Pope in Rome to mine Church lands for the exclusive worldwide alum trade. Moveable type has led to the Gutenberg Bible and to widespread books. The wars of the Roses disrupt English government, as King Henry VI has bouts of insanity, and lesser nobles plot intrigues. Suffolk is a tense place ever since the ordered assassination of the Duke of Suffolk (William de la Pole) for treason against Henry VI.
Chapter 15: "The New World" June 15, 1498
Thomas ponders the New World with his father and the larger family, during a game of chess. Columbus' voyages are now famous. The Earth is now confirmed to be a sphere, and the Portuguese exploits of Africa confirm the bounds of Earth. However, the people of Europe still believe that Columbus and Cabot have found the Orient, and have not yet recognized that there is indeed a new continent between them. The Malleus Maleficarum is guiding the Spanish inquisition. Thomas's wife Joanne wishes to learn to play chess, and she is given Caxton's "The Game and Playe of Chesse" to read: the first book printed in English.
Chapter 16: "Protestant" August 11, 1549
Thomas and Joanne's son John VII lives in the time of Martin Luther and of Henry VIII. John is baptizing his fifth child, and the family has gathered. He discusses with his cousin Nicholas Bacon (a courtier, and father of Sir Francis Bacon) the intrigues of the court, and the new economy that is arising following the redistribution of lands and the opening of the New World. The mercenary nature of Henry's dissolution of the monasteries is revealed. The two discuss the issues of the Catholic faith, the Protestant movement, and the Church of England, and how a misstep in faith can be interpreted as treason. John wrestles with his faith, and does not feel comfortable in a church lead by the crown. His mother's Tyndale Bible is considered a heresy, whereas the new Bishop's Bible is not. The baptism service is conducted under the newly-printed Book of Common Prayer, which is too crown-oriented for John's liking, and John's older children notice that the gold and stained glass have been removed from the old church. They wonder who took it. John resolves to convert to Protestantism.
Chapter 17: "New Times" April 29, 1584
John's son Michael discusses the Gregorian calendar with his family as they ride home from Easter services. The new Catholic calendar's piecemeal acceptance has created a problem across Europe, as Catholics and Protestants now work under different dates, separated by ten days. The family discusses as well as other upheavals in the Church of England. Puritanism takes a strong hold in Suffolk England, amid persecution.
Chapter 18: "Exodus" June 16, 1640
Michael II journeys to the new world, signs the Dedham Pact of 1636, and establishes the new town of Dedham Massachusetts with his family, as some of the first few thousand English settlers in Massachusetts. Shipboard life on the crowded immigrant ship is explored. The economics of the voyage and of resettlement are discussed.
Chapter 19: "Laws of the Land" December 9, 1675
John VIII marches to battle in King Philip's War (Nantuck Indian wars in Massachusetts) with his sons, while the women spin their flax through the night. As he marches, John sees evidence of his life's and his town's accomplishments. He has been active in the establishing new towns and farms, and in the enactment of colonial laws. John thinks on the problems of managing rapid growth, including early colonial finance, land distribution, law and justice. These issues are worst when they clash with the customs and expectations of the Indian inhabitants. The battle ensues, and John is wounded. His son Daniel kills his father's assailant, and realizes the horror of the murder that he, as a Puritan, has committed.
Chapter 20: "Sins of the Fathers" October 15, 1694
Daniel is dying too soon, aged 39. His early death causes him to wonder if he is being punished, either for his role in the Indian slaughter, or for the morality of the world that has been established by his family in the last 60 years. Twenty people in the next town (Salem) were executed for witchcraft in 1692. The slave trade is in full swing, enriching the nearby settlement of Newport RI. Colonial medicine, cooking, education, and the Congregationalist faith are explored.
Chapter 21: "Building up Walls" November 14, 1767
William, aged 70, slowly repairs a stone wall around his property with his son Joseph and his neighbor, using the stones from his field. The three discuss the coming town meeting on Dedham's response to the Townsend Act of 1767, and remember their participation in the raucous aftermath of the Stamp Act of 1765. They share memories of the growing grievances against England, stretching back to 1732, when England restricted exports of American goods to Europe, to protect British tradesmen.
Chapter 22: "Upheavals" August 18, 1786
Joseph is an itinerant printer of calico-like patterns on homespun in northern Connecticut and in southern Massachusetts, working in the ruinous post-revolution economic conditions leading up to Shays' rebellion, before the constitutional convention of 1789. The family's participation in the American Revolution is explored. The details of early printing techniques and of colonial barter are described.
Chapter 23: "What God Hath Wrought" June 23, 1812
Bankrupt, David leaves the village of Tallmadge (now within metropolitan Akron) which he founded as a Congregationalist mission in the wilderness of the Connecticut Western Reserve, now Ohio. His reflections on his seemingly failed life reveal the westward expansion of the colonies, and the continuing inability of the missionaries and settlers to comprehend the ways of the Indians. The War of 1812 is unfolding all around the family, as they walk the new McAdam surface of the turnpike in upstate New York. The family looks forward to seeing Fulton's Clermont steamboat, and perhaps Montgoflier balloons, when they reach civilization.
Chapter 24: "The Fires of Hell" April 14, 1861
Leonard Bacon, the missionary's eldest son, and a famous abolitionist, addresses the Center Church of New Haven Sunday April 14, 1861, the morning that Fort Sumter falls. His sermon addresses the inevitability of the Civil War, the failure of technology to improve the human condition, and the potential that the new technologies will make the coming war horrific. Leonard invokes the words of John Brown, whom he knew as a boy, and the contributions of Eli Whitney and of Samuel Morse, both previous members of his church.
Chapter 25: "Messages From the Shadows" December 19, 1903
Career preacher Leonard Woolsey Bacon has recently retired, and with his second wife is raising the last of his fourteen children, a son named David. Leonard looks back on career, including a job as personal secretary to Harriett Beecher Stowe, and his own worldwide travels and missionary work, where he has seen the affairs of the world become the concern of every citizen. Turn-of-the-century lifestyle is detailed. Young David is excited about the news of the Wright Brothers' flight.
Chapter 26: "Liberation" September 7, 1925
David Bacon is the recently-resigned chief of wind tunnels at the NACA Langley Aeronautical Research Laboratories in Hampton Roads, Virginia. He has come back to propose to Grace Dunlap, the second woman technical employee at the lab. His first wife's death in childbirth has left David as single parent of three small children. Grace is faced with a monumental decision, of whether to leave her prominent and pioneering woman's professional role, and to become a wife and instant mother of three. Airplanes and pilots are now in the sky (somewhere) 24 hours per day: Mankind has left the surface of the planet.
Chapter 27: "A Clean Slate" October 5, 1957
Benjamin is the youngest son of David and Grace. He is a mathematician like his mother, and now teaches in a private boy's high school, on the day after Sputnik is launched. As the students take a test in abstract math concepts, he seriously considers the state of mid-twentieth century education, and the escalation of the Cold War. His life in flashback reveals a wide range of lifestyles, from an ancient fishing village in Nova Scotia to the expansion of instant global communications with the creation of the North American Air Defense system. The launch of Sputnik brings the different facets of his life to a crossroads. He resolves to make the "new math" more relevant, as an integrated approach to solving problems. Using one step from each of algebra, geometry, and trigonometry, Ben works with his class to understand one interesting feature of the new satellite: when it will be within view of the students. His lesson brings the "new math" into instant relevance on the first day of the space age.
Chapter 28: "Conquest" November 1 1998
Jack is en route to the launch of the Zarya module: the first element of the International Space Station. He recollects the STS-84 mission the year before, on the 40th anniversary of the Sputnik, when the US, Russian, and European Space agencies orchestrated an intricate ballet in space of 3 enormous spacecraft, the sun, and even a particle of dust, to advance the state of space engineering. The operation had seamlessly integrated technicians and astronauts in several countries. Global communications have linked the citizens across the planet and the cosmos, in torrents of data and voices. As Jack emerges from the flashback, the International Space Station is poised to launch: the culmination of a millennium of human progress. The nations gather on the plains of Baikonur, where the space race started, and Jack recalls the story of the Tower of Babel. The people of Earth unite near the original site six thousand years after Babel to build a platform in the heavens, as the first of 70 rockets thunders its message to the stars: "We are coming."
Epilogue: "The Gathering" December 4, 1998
The living two generations of the family gather on the shore of Florida to witness the launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavour several weeks later, on its way to continue the assembly of the International Space Station, with an international crew. The earth shakes as the monstrous vehicle departs, and the sky lights up as though man had just recreated the sun itself. The flight obeys the predictions of the space worker, of his father the math teacher, and the teacher's aerodynamicist father and mathematician mother. It fulfils the dreams of twenty-eight generations past. The shuttle thunders over all the ancestral homes and settings of the previous twenty-eight chapters, arriving with its separated external tank and its target vehicle Zarya together in orbital dawn above the grave of Grimbaldus in England. In such lighting conditions, the three objects recreate the moving "stars" (meteors and comet) in the sky, which had caused the Norman knight to ponder his future nearly a thousand years before. Man has arrived in the cosmos to stay, and is now permanently living and dancing among the stars, through the daily struggles of all the generations that have gone before.