I saw ‘Belle‘ over the weekend and loved it. Based on a true story, the film has neatly tied loose ends and liberal embellishments that give the story an Austen-esque feeling, but it’s more than just another period piece.
I recommend reading two great background pieces before seeing the movie to get a better sense of who Dido Elizabeth Belle was and what makes her story so remarkable:
I’ve been reading The Richest Woman in America, a biography of Hetty Green and her money-centered life during the Gilded Age in America. I’m just about a third of the way in, and Ms. Green is already showing her true colors – and by that, I mean an extreme obsession with money.
This obsession is not unique to Ms. Green. In the latter half of the 19th century, there was a widespread American fascination with getting rich quick. The Gold Rush propelled people west to find their fortunes, and speculators were flooding the new and evolving financial market. I came across an 1887 article by Henry Clews, a notable financier of the era, where he writes that “every fool who has a few hundred dollars” tried their luck on the market, most without success (p. 415).
Guinness. As a beer, its rich, dark color is instantly recognizable. As a company, Guinness transformed its product into an international success story…by using statistical analysis.
Grab a pint and take a look:
Prior to the late nineteenth century, brewing was no exact science. If it looked good, smelled good, and had the right consistency, it was fine to drink. Brewing was not a large industrial enterprise, rather public houses were often tied to one brewer’s product and the beers were fairly local.
As late as the 1860s there were only a handful of registered brewing companies and the five or six on the London Stock Exchange rarely got attention (Payne, 1967). Yet there was such a transformation in the late 1800s that, by 1905, Guinness had become the 10th largest British company.