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Left-handed History and Customs

History is littered with strange attitudes and goings on to do with left-handedness - here are some of the interesting ones that we have come across

  History
Customs
Politics
Proverbs

History

It was no coincidence that the fourth finger of the left-hand was chosen for the wedding finger in 300BC. Doctors at that time believed a nerve from this finger ran directly to the heart!

Napoleon Bonaparte and Josephine de Beauharnais, are one of the most famous left-handed couple in history. They married on 9th March more than 200 years ago.

The Romans were responsible for a lot of anti-left customs. They were the most militantly right-handed people in history. Romans invented the right handed handshake, the fascist salute, and that right to left alphabet that still causes a lot of trouble!

Customs

HANDSHAKES
Whilst Julius Caesar was left-handed it was he who instructed all of his Roman subjects to adopt the right-handed handshake. Maybe this was because it left his weapon hand free whether greeting either friend or foe? Similarly it is though that a reason for preferring the right-hand greeting is that this generally was the weapon hand thus clasping them together allowed neither party an advantage on meeting for the first time. Interestingly Lord Baden Powell chose the left-hand for the Scouting handshake. Two theories exist. One that the left hand is nearer to the heart and the second is that using the non-weapon hand was a sign of trust.

DRIVING ON THE LEFT / RIGHT
The origin of the rule of the road dates back to how people travelled in violent feudal societies. As most people are right handed it made sense to carry any protective weapon in this hand. When passing a stranger on the road, it would be safer to walk on the left, so ensuring that your weapon was between yourself and a possible opponent. Jousting knights would hold their lances in their right hand, therefore passing on each others' right.

Revolutionary France was to overturn this historic practice, as part of its social rethink. Their military general and self-proclaimed Emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte was left handed, therefore his armies had to march on the right so he could keep his sword arm between him and the advancing enemy. From this time any part of the world that was colonised by the French would travel on the right, the rest would remain travelling on the left.

There is a more detailed article with more information here

Politics

In the French parliament before the revolution, the nobles sat in the right side of the king, while the capitalists sat on the left. The right became associated with the prevalent social order, and the left with the subversive elements wanting to change it.

Proverbs

A mole on your left eyebrow reveals that you will always have problems in love and marriage!

An old Italian proverb claims 'The left-hand is the hand of the heart'


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