17th Century almanac for July - Dutch print circa 1600
17th Century almanac for July

17th Century Almanac for July

The 17th Century almanac for July – ‘the month of summer’s prime’ with its long, hot ‘dog days’. But it was once ‘the hungry month’. It was also the campaign season, when armies demanded free quarter, food, fodder and contributions to their cause.

17th Century Life and Agricultural Labour

In the 17th Century, July was spent weeding the corn and bean fields before harvest. This was unpleasant but necessary work. Whole families laboured in the open fields in the summer heat.

Thistles, dock, dead-nettle, charlock, corncockle, corn marigolds, cornflowers, blackgrass and couch grass roots all needed to be weeded out, by hand. There were no weedkillers.

If this work was not done, the grain would be filled with inedible seeds and the fields filled with even more weeds (and less crops) the next year. Today, our farmers are still struggling to control blackgrass that invades fields and kills wheat.

The ‘Hungry Month’, Free Quarter & Contributions

We often have an idyllic view of pre-industrial summer. For sure, the sun must have brought happy times. But we should not forget that July was ‘the hungry month’. Almost all of the last year’s grain would have been consumed. What was left was expensive and mouldy. Until the new harvest had started, there would be little bread to feed those working long days in the fields.

July was also the hight of the campaign season. We often focus on the battles that punctuate a war. But we should never forget the impact armies have on the land and its civilian population. Troops in the 17th Century demanded quartering, food, drink and fodder for horses.

At best, householders were paid sixpence a day per soldier for board and lodging. More usually, they were given a chit to reclaim the cost at the end of the war. This was free-quarter. Armies also expected contributions in terms of taxes to support their cause and war effort. Many were left bankrupt, particularly those who had quartered the losing side.

The arrival of marching troops in July often left communities with nothing, stripping them bare in the hungriest of months. If nothing else, this must have pushed many young men to take up arms, to join the ranks that took their food and beds, or join the Clubmen that resisted them. Young women and boys must also have left their homes to follow those who were fed, rather than be left with nothing.

The Grain Moon, St Swithin’s Day & The Little Ice Age

As ever, the moon was key to setting the harvest. The fullest crop would come after the full moon. This year, the new Grain Moon will rise early, on 5 July, and be full on the 21st.

But the weather had to be fair. The 15th of July is St Swithin’s Day, said to set the weather for the next forty days. These should be the long, hot ‘dog days’ of summer, following the rising of Sirius in the evening sky.

However, the Little Ice Age resulted in unpredictable summers through the 1630s and 1640s, devastating crops. The impact of this climate change event is now recognised as a key contributory cause of The General Crisis of the 17th Century and the most violent period in world history ever.

Whether you are weeding your crops, or feeding armies, I hope you can enjoy the dog days of ‘summer’s prime’. As ever, if this post has left you with nothing but an empty cupboard, please tell me how to refill it.

Follow & Read More

I will post more of the 17th Century Almanac and yearly activity in Early Modern Britain, next month. If you would like to receive an email notification of the next post, please click the button to follow.

In the meantime, this website includes more posts and articles about life in 17th Century Britain, Europe and the Americas at Historical Notes and Maps. These include notes and pages on the impact of the Little Ice Age and The General Crisis of the 17th Century. They include articles on the English Revolution and Great Rebellion. They also include Pike and Shot Warfare and battles of the English Civil War.

You can also find more posts on Early Modern history, Living History and re-enactment at News & Events. You may also wish to read about the English Civil War history talks and battlefield walks I give.

See More & Share

Alternatively, check out Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or YouTube for more posts. These include notes from my historical research, Living History and English Civil War fiction. They also include upcoming events and opportunities to meet. Or, follow on social media at #DividedKingdomBooks or #EnglishCivilWarFiction on:

If you want even more, join us in the Divided Kingdom Readers’ Club. Clubmen receive FREE access to exclusive short stories, email and more. Click the link to sign up and join us.

Spread the Word

If you like what you see, please click, share and spread the word via email or your social media on: