The Great Unwashed and the Greater British Bath

The Great Unwashed and the Bath

The English language enshrines the great English tradition of social division by providing a rich vocabulary for expressing the divide between an elite us and a disparaged them.

English academia, with its strong elitist traditions, nurtured and enriched this vocabulary of social division until it finally succumbed to the Cambridge Cancer during the 20th century when it adopted arcane arithmetic as its elitist language of preference.

While Charles Darwin was at the University of Cambridge from 1828 to 1831, undergraduates used the term “hoi polloi” or “Poll” for those reading for an ordinary degree, the “pass degree”.

At that time only capable mathematicians would take the Tripos or honours degree.

In his autobiography written in the 1870s, Darwin recalled that “By answering well the examination questions in Paley, by doing Euclid well, and by not failing miserably in Classics, I gained a good place among the οἱ πολλοί, or crowd of men who do not go in for honours.”

Initially, the only way to obtain an honours degree at Cambridge was the mathematical Tripos examination.

Although a classical Tripos was created in 1822, it was only open to those who already had high honours in mathematics or those who were the sons of peers.

This restriction ended around 1850, and Triposes in the Moral Sciences and Natural Sciences were introduced in the 1860s.


Fittingly, it was the distinctly elitist Cambridge alumni Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton who coined the phrase The Great Unwashed during the 19th century whilst making a “considerable fortune” from the novels he wrote for the reading public.

Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton PC [1803-1873], was an English novelist, poet, playwright, and politician.
He was immensely popular with the reading public and wrote a stream of bestselling novels which earned him a considerable fortune.
He coined the phrases “the great unwashed“, “pursuit of the almighty dollar”, “the pen is mightier than the sword”, “dweller on the threshold”, as well as the infamous opening line “It was a dark and stormy night”.

Hoi polloi [Ancient Greek: οἱ πολλοί, hoi polloi, “the many”], is an expression from Greek that means the many or, in the strictest sense, the majority.

In English, it means the working class, commoners, the masses or common people in a derogatory sense.

Synonyms for hoi polloi, which also express the same or similar contempt for such people, include “the great unwashed“, “the plebeians” or “plebs”, “the rabble”, “riffraff”, “the herd”, “the proles” (proletariat) and “peons”.

Many academic disciplines also established their elitist credentials during the 19th century by introducing arcane vocabularies into the English language which are generally unintelligible to the uninitiated and are frequently used to intimidate and confuse The Great Unwashed.

However, an elitist group of Geologists truly excelled during the 19th century when they enshrined their arcane vocabulary in a quasi-religious belief system called uniformitarianism.

James Hutton is often viewed as the first modern geologist.
In 1785 he presented a paper entitled Theory of the Earth to the Royal Society of Edinburgh. In his paper, he explained his theory that the Earth must be much older than had previously been supposed in order to allow enough time for mountains to be eroded and for sediments to form new rocks at the bottom of the sea, which in turn were raised up to become dry land.

Followers of Hutton were known as Plutonists because they believed that some rocks were formed by vulcanism, which is the deposition of lava from volcanoes, as opposed to the Neptunists, led by Abraham Werner, who believed that all rocks had settled out of a large ocean whose level gradually dropped over time.

Sir Charles Lyell first published his famous book, Principles of Geology, in 1830.
This book, which influenced the thought of Charles Darwin, successfully promoted the doctrine of uniformitarianism.

Uniformitarianism is the assumption that the same natural laws and processes that operate in the universe now have always operated in the universe in the past and apply everywhere in the universe.
It has included the gradualistic concept that “the present is the key to the past” and is functioning at the same rates.
Uniformitarianism has been a key principle of geology and virtually all fields of science, but naturalism’s modern geologists, while accepting that geology has occurred across deep time, no longer hold to a strict gradualism.

The positive aspect of uniformitarianism for Geology is that is has [generally] protected them from the Cambridge Cancer [of mathematics] which has destroyed many other academic disciplines.

The negative aspect of uniformitarianism for Geology is that after generations of academic inbreeding it has generally enfeebled and retarded their intellectual discipline.

Therefore, it seems singularly appropriate that a member of The Great Unwashed should introduce a new generation of Geologists to the story of The Greater British Bath.

The Greater British Bath was an endorheic basin in North West Europe.

An endorheic basin is a closed drainage basin that retains water and allows no outflow to other external bodies of water, such as rivers or oceans, but converges instead into lakes or swamps [permanent or seasonal] that equilibrate through evaporation.

The drainage basin of The Greater British Bath included the Baltic and parts of the North Sea and English Channel.


The Greater British Bath

The draining of the The Greater British Bath began when the Atlantic basin opened.

Seafloor Spreading

The opening of the Atlantic basin eventually separated Greenland from Scandinavia and Great Britain whilst dragging the British Isles westward as the continental shelf began to subside into the Atlantic basin.

The draining of the The Greater British Bath can be observed in the geology of eastern England as a series of bath rings beginning in the Lower Permian and terminating in the Upper Jurassic.

Bath Rings

The draining of The Greater British Bath began with a catastrophic event which deposited a vast quantity of plant debris [above the shoreline] which subsequently formed the Carboniferous Coal Measures.

The initial plug hole used to drain The Greater British Bath was a channel than is clearly identifiable on the sea floor off the west coast of Norway.

Baltic Drainage

However, the subsidence of the western continental shelf into the Atlantic basin resulted in the pooling of vast quantities of raw chalk in [what is now] the south of the North Sea.

This pool of raw chalk was the accumulated sediment [dregs] from the once mighty Greater British Bath.

In 1853, when a transatlantic telephone cable was being laid, the first samples of the ocean floor were retrieved, from a depth of around 10,000 feet.

Mud dredged up from the bottom, when examined under the microscope, was found to consist almost entirely of the skeletons of a still-existing Globigerina species, along with the calcium carbonate skeletons of round, single-celled phytoplankton algae called Coccosphaerales, more commonly know as coccoliths.

In short, the Atlantic mud, which stretches over a huge plain of thousands of square miles, is raw chalk.

Life Everlasting: The Animal Way of Death – Bernd Heinrich – 2012

Chalk is a soft, white, porous sedimentary rock, a form of limestone composed of the mineral calcite.

Calcite is calcium carbonate or CaCO3.

It forms under reasonably deep marine conditions from the gradual accumulation of minute calcite plates (coccoliths) shed from micro-organisms called coccolithophores.

It is common to find chert or flint nodules embedded in chalk.

Chalk can also refer to other compounds including magnesium silicate and calcium sulfate.

Calcite seas were coincident with times of rapid seafloor spreading and global greenhouse climate conditions (Stanley and Hardie, 1999).

Seafloor spreading centers cycle seawater through hydrothermal vents, reducing the ratio of magnesium to calcium in the seawater through metamorphism of calcium-rich minerals in basalt to magnesium-rich clays (Wilkinson and Given, 1986; Lowenstein et al., 2001).

This reduction in the Mg/Ca ratio favors the precipitation of calcite over aragonite.

Increased seafloor spreading also means increased volcanism and elevated levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and oceans.

This may also have an effect on which polymorph of calcium carbonate is precipitated (Lowenstein et al., 2001).

Sadly, the continued subsidence of the continental shelf caused the pooled raw chalk to inundate large areas of East Anglia, South East England and appears to have even flowed through a gorge that crossed the Isle of Wight.

Southern Chalk

IOW Geology

Sediment thickness

The raw chalk then solidified into the famous chalk formations found in southern England and the country acquired a new sobriquet: Albion.



The final draining of The Greater British Bath connected Britain to the continent in the south of the North Sea basin

Britain was connected to mainland Europe by a large expanse of land known as Doggerland in the southern North Sea basin.

At this time, the Thames’ course did not continue to Doggerland but flowed southwards from the eastern Essex coast where it met the Rhine, the Meuse and the Scheldt flowing from what are now the Netherlands and Belgium.

These rivers formed a single river—the Channel River (Fleuve Manche) – that passed through the Dover Strait and drained into the Atlantic Ocean in the western English Channel.

However, Doggerland once again disappears beneath the waves as the Oceanic Sea Level rose [during the early Holocene] as other inland seas drained away into the new oceanic basins.


English Channel

The final touches were then applied to the Geology of southern England when one, or more, tsunamis swept in from the Atlantic Ocean and deposited a swathe of debris across the country from the Bristol Channel in the West to the Thames Estuary in the East.


Unhappily, mainstream Geologists refuse to countenance the evidence supporting the story of The Greater British Bath [as the huddle around the fire during the long winter evenings relating sagas about the Ice Age] despite numerous appeals to common sense.


UPDATE 2nd August 2014
An extended description of raw chalk.

Almost the whole of the bottom of this central plain (which extends for many hundred miles in a north and south direction) is covered by a fine mud, which, when brought to the surface, dries into a greyish white friable substance. You can write with this on a blackboard, if you are so inclined; and, to the eye, it is quite like very soft, greyish chalk.

Examined chemically, it proves to be composed almost wholly of carbonate of lime; and if you make a section of it, in the same way as that of the piece of chalk was made, and view it with the microscope, it presents innumerable Globigerinæ imbedded in a granular matrix.
Thus this deep-sea mud is substantially chalk.
I say substantially, because there are a good many minor differences; but as these have no bearing on the question immediately before us,–which is the nature of the Globigerinæ of the chalk,–it is unnecessary to speak of them.

Globigerinæ of every size, from the smallest to the largest, are associated together in the Atlantic mud, and the chambers of many are filled by a soft animal matter. This soft substance is, in fact, the remains of the creature to which the Globigerina shell, or rather skeleton, owes its existence and which is an animal of the simplest imaginable description. It is, in fact, a mere particle of living jelly, without defined parts of any kind–without a mouth, nerves, muscles, or distinct organs, and only manifesting its vitality to ordinary observation by thrusting out and retracting from all parts of its surface, long filamentous processes, which serve for arms and legs. Yet this amorphous particle, devoid of everything which, in the higher animals, we call organs, is capable of feeding, growing, and multiplying; of separating from the ocean the small proportion of carbonate of lime which is dissolved in sea-water; and of building up that substance into a skeleton for itself, according to a pattern which can be imitated by no other known agency.

The notion that animals can live and flourish in the sea, at the vast depths from which apparently living Globigerinæ have been brought up, does not agree very well with our usual conceptions respecting the conditions of animal life; and it is not so absolutely impossible as it might at first sight appear to be, that the Globigerinæ of the Atlantic sea-bottom do not live and die where they are found.

As I have mentioned, the soundings from the great Atlantic plain are almost entirely made up of Globigerinæ with the granules which have been mentioned, and some few other calcareous shells; but a small percentage of the chalky mud–perhaps at most some five per cent. of it–is of a different nature, and consists of shells and skeletons composed of silex, or pure flint. These silicious bodies belong partly to the lowly vegetable organisms which are called Diatomaceæ, and partly to the minute, and extremely simple, animals, termed Radiolaria. It is quite certain that these creatures do not live at the bottom of the ocean, but at its surface–where they may be obtained in prodigious numbers by the use of a properly constructed net. Hence it follows that these silicious organisms, though they are not heavier than the lightest dust, must have fallen, in some cases, through fifteen thousand feet of water, before they reached their final resting-place on the ocean floor. And considering how large a surface these bodies expose in proportion to their weight, it is probable that they occupy a great length of time in making their burial journey from the surface of the Atlantic to the bottom.

On a Piece of Chalk – Thomas Henry Huxley – Macmillan’s Magazine (1868)

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One Response to The Great Unwashed and the Greater British Bath

  1. Pingback: The English Inkblot Test | MalagaBay

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