Episode 135: A House of Cards

In the early 1400s, playing cards made their first appearance in England. Those cards provide evidence of an early form of printing, but it would take another generation for Johannes Gutenberg to invent the printing press. In this episode we explore the history of playing cards and the printing press, and we also look at the end of the Hundred Years’ War. We also examine how these events contributed to the history of English and the transition from the Middle Ages to the modern era.


17 thoughts on “Episode 135: A House of Cards

  1. Another great episode full of fascinating insights into the development of the printing press. I enjoyed being able to get away from Dark Reality back into the 15th Century. Do you think that in years to come you might do an episode on how the Coronavirus Pandemic has changed the English Language? Already words like “lockdown” and “self-isolation” have entered the language.

    I hope that you and all your readers are keeping well and keeping safe.

  2. This podcast, besides being superlative in SO many ways, is a truly uplifting distraction from the modern world and our particular current situation! To revel in the glory and story of our language is, for me and I’m sure many of us, a pleasure that ranks right along with that of music. Each is something that I cannot get enough of.
    I only started listening (from episode 1) a couple months ago. I am now, also like many of us, in solo self-isolation and have completely caught up to this latest episode, which besides being thoroughly enjoyable as always, now also leaves me a little sad to have to wait for the next! I have been simply devouring your edifying and kindly presentations and have grown rather spoiled by simply being able to load up one after the other.
    I am amazed at you scholarship and generosity of time to be able to share so much of what is really a sideline for you(?)! You are a lawyer, you say? How do you find the time, I wonder! Well…. I don’t wonder at this point. No doubt there will be an upsurge of podcasting in these “idle” times. Perhaps you will be able to increase your output now to help keep us in the thrall of knowledge and away from the grip of the sickness ! 😉

    Thank you so much for all you are doing here!!

    • Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad you’re enjoying the podcast. I wish I could produce them at a faster rate, but my research process and other commitments don’t really permit it. If you listen to all of the episodes and want more content, you can always check out https://www.patreon.com/historyofenglish for bonus episodes.

    • Dear Fredrick, I found myself in your situation and solved my problem by starting all over again. (I’m up to #87.) It’s sobering to realize how much of the information I’ve already forgotten, so the second time around is still a delight.

  3. As per usual, awesome podcast! I’m a Tarot history enthusiast- I bet you would really enjoy digging into the imagery of some of those early decks. Richard Cavendish has a great book on the Tarot. Thanks for all your insights!!!

    • Thanks. I think the Tarot deck and the deck of modern playing cards share the same basic origins in the early European decks of the 1300s. I didn’t discuss the Tarot in this episode, but it has a fascinating history as well.

  4. The same “French suits” are used in France as in most of Europe, but the national card game there is Tarot français (French Tarot). The game has nothing to do with fortune telling, but uses a 78-card deck with a common ancestor to the tarot deck you might know.

    It has a fifth suit (the “atout”), numbered 1-21. Each of the four familar suits has four face cards: Valet, Cavalier, Dame, Roi (Jack, Knight, Queen, King). The usual word for queen is reine, but dame is used so the two highest cards don’t start with the same letter, as with king and knave/jack.

  5. Kevin:

    I can’t thank you enough for this podcast. I caught it by accident and after listening to 4 or 5 episodes I had to go to the start and take it from there. In a crowded podcast universe, yours stands out a one of the best I’ve ever heard. Well thought out, well researched, well delivered. I can’t find enough adjectives to qualify it. Thank you so much for your efforts. I look forward to hours and hours of enjoyment.

  6. Pingback: Half-price phonics playing cards, for social, screen-free fun | Spelfabet

  7. The suits described for the Egyptian playing cards match almost exactly the suits in a tarot deck. The tarot deck has coins, cups, staffs, and swords.

  8. Pingback: New 2 ways to spell vowels cards, including a free deck | Spelfabet

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