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War Games: A 15th-century guide to violent combat
06.15.2017
09:58 am
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So, you want to learn how to fight like one of the world’s great duelists? Or maybe like a warrior from Game of Thrones? How about Jaime Lannister? Or, Brienne of Tarth? Or, maybe Bron or Ser Arthur Dayne, or even like the “Hound” Sandor Clegane? Well, you could do no better than seek some useful advice from one of the world’s oldest fencing manuals Flower of Battle (Fior di Battaglia, Flos Duellatorum) published in 1409 and written by the legendary Italian fencing master Fiore Furlano de Cividale d’Austria, delli Liberi da Premariacco or Fiore dei Liberi for short.

Del Liberi was an itinerant knight of the late 14th and early 15th-centuries, a man of action, an occasional diplomat, and a highly respected fencing master. He traveled across Italy, France and Germany training young condottieri in the art of swordsmanship and dueling. He was very particular in his choice of pupils and only taught those he considered to be worthy of his knowledge. On at least five separate occasions he fought duels of honor against those he refused to teach. Unsurprisingly, he always won. Though I’m sure his opponents would have picked up a few tricks from their humiliation.

It is not known when exactly del Liberi was born, though an estimate suggests he was born in Italy circa 1350. This is solely based on his introduction to the Flower of Battle where stated he had been training as a swordsman for “forty years or more.” As most swordsmen started learning their craft around the age of ten, this would make del Liberi in his fifties when he first started work on his combat manual Flower of Battle in the early 1400s.

Flower of Battle is a beautifully illustrated guide book split into several different sections explaining the intricacies of combat. These include top tips on wrestling, defenses against an enemy using a dagger, fighting with daggers (and not getting stabbed), fighting with a one-handed sword (and not getting killed), fighting with a two-handed sword (and not getting a hernia), as well as fighting in armor (without falling over), how to use a poleax (and win!), fighting with a longsword (and verily smite your enemies), and jousting and combat with a lance and spear (without falling off your horse). The teacher is identified with a gold crown on his head. The first set of illustrations in each section shows how to attack, the second how to defend.

The manual is believed to have been written for the wealthy nobleman Niccolò III d’Este who wanted his sons schooled in the art of combat—something that was essential for maintaining power in the tumultuous 15th-century. Only four editions of del Liberi’s Flower of Battle are known to exist. This one (in the public domain) is kept at the Getty where a full English translation of the book can also be found. Now that Canada has made dueling legal once again, it may be time to learn how to duel like the Italian master Fiore dei Liberi or at least like Jon Snow or Arya Stark.
 
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Hone up on your combat skills, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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06.15.2017
09:58 am
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Vintage sexist guide on ‘How to be a Super Secretary’
11.16.2016
10:45 am
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At first glance Memo: How to be a Super Secretary may look like some jokey merchandizing for a Betty Grable movie. Closer inspection reveals this slim pamphlet to be a genuine guide compiled by “renowned typist and secretary” Olga Elkouri as to what bosses look for in their secretaries.

Sometime in the mid-1940s, Miss Elkouri traveled across America asking various high powered executives what qualities they desired most in their secretaries. This was more than just typing, dictation and, you know, being good at their job. These bosses wanted wanted to hire secretaries who dressed smartly, who had “pleasant dispositions.” Women who can “stay cheerful” even when their boss is “grouchy, work piles up, and everything goes wrong.” Women who “look beautiful over the telephone” who “listen with undivided attention” and keep their “boss’s desk and office neat…his calendar up-to-date, his desk supplied with sharp pencils, erasers and blotters and his pen filled.”

These secretaries were silent about their own troubles—always “fair and sunny” and ready to protect their chief “no matter how [they] feel.”

The more important an executive, the more gracious, considerate, and democratic he is. The same ought to be true of his secretary. Your job is so big you cannot afford to be haughty. Be indispensable…but don’t let on you think that you are!

~snip~

You hide your light.

If you originate a good idea, you give credit to your boss because you advance with him. You give credit to others when it’s due…sometimes when it’s not, just to keep them happy!

~snip~

You are loyal

You put the interests of your boss first…even above your own. You speak of him always, to everyone, in terms of respect…

You carry the torch…give him encouragement when he is feeling low…put up with his bad humor when he has to let off steam…make him feel he’s a pretty wonderful person.

Super secretaries must also avoid their boss’s pet peeves like chewing gum, wearing bobby socks, arguing, being too noisy, emotional or moody, and worst of all not being lady-like enough.

Published by the Remington Rand Corporation in 1945, there are now only two “known” copies of this pamphlet—one held by Denver Library, the other by Hagley Digital Archives. Who knows this may yet make a comeback as the kind of office advice required to work for our alt-right overlords?
 
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More sexist tips on how to be a pleasant and pleasing to the eye office drudge, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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11.16.2016
10:45 am
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