TH2022 Ep17 Left Handed in History

Season 2022 – Talk 17 – Being Left Handed in History

In Being Left Handed in History Margaret Denyer tells us about the trials and tribulations of left handed people throughout history.

Click a thumbnail below to view the image gallery that accompanies the talk.


Margaret is a ‘leftie’ herself and that drives her interest in this topic. She tells us that it isn’t easy to identify left handed people in history because there are no indisputable records. The paintings of historical people are not always truthful.

Research shows that lefthanders make up 10% of the population but 20% of Mensa members.

People are made to write with their right hand until well into the 20th Century!

In history:

In the time of early ‘man’ research suggests a slight right handed majority with around 56% chiselling right handed.

History frowns on Left handers. Language, civilisation and beliefs give us clues. Ancient language has words for ‘Right’ but not for ‘Left’. A taboo?

‘Right’ also means correct and fair whereas ‘Left’ is sinister, unlucky, clumsy and treacherous. The ‘Right hand of the Gods’ is for healing and good whereas the left is for curses!

Medieval Europe accuses left handed people of witchcraft and consorting with the devil. Paintings of Joan of Arc show her as left handed. Are they true? In some societies left handed women might not be able to marry.

Tools and Machines:

Many tools and machines suit right handed people. In the hands of a left handed person they can be dangerous to both the user and those around them.


For many years education has a bias towards right handed people. Sometimes teachers tie a school child’s left hand to the back of the chair to force them to write with their right hand. The inkwell in the desk is also on the right making it difficult to write with the left hand.

Listen to the podcast and hear Margaret tell the full story.

About this podcast:

This is an edited recording of a talk given to the Farnham u3a World History  Group.

It is not always possible to use all of the images in the original talk for copyright reasons.

The Farnham u3a site is here.

This podcast is also available through Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Castbox, Deezer, PodchaserSpotifyStitcher and Vurbl and others.

AKM Music licenses Media Magazine for use as the theme music.

© The MrT Podcast Studio and Farnham u3a World History Group 2018 – 2023

Author: Tim D

In the early 1970s Mr Timothy & his Phonograph was a popular mobile disco around Leeds University and Tim was known as MrT. Tim also spent 9 years broadcasting a weekly programme on Hospital Radio in Wakefield. He worked for more than 40 years for large industrial organisations and spent his last 15 years in global commercial management roles. Following retirement he started making podcasts in 2017.