Fustian is a heavy woven fabric primarily used in men's clothing. In the nineteenth century, especially during the rise of the Chartists (1838-1850), the material had a political significance as it was worn by members of the working class, often as a conscious symbol of their class allegiance.
The Lascars were sailors or militia from the Far East, especially the Indian subcontinent, who were employed on European ships during the time of colonial expansion, from the 1500s to the beginning of the twentieth century. By 1855, 12,000 lascars were visiting Britain every year, mainly employed on British merchant ships owned by the British East India Company.
The Episcopalian Church in the United States is a branch of the Anglican Church, formed after the American Revolution when it was forced to part company with the British Anglican establishment. During the nineteenth century, Episcopalian congregations were concentrated along the East Coast of America.
Harris tweed is a type of woollen cloth woven on islands in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. Tweed, a water-resistant, hard-wearing material, is often used for outerwear, particularly jackets, and was associated with upper class outdoor activities such as hunting. Harris tweed is considered the best.
A husting is an event during an election campaign when candidates present themselves to their public. In America, the equivalent term is the stump. The word 'husting' comes from Old English, via the Old Norse expression 'húsþing' meaning 'house things': assemblies of particular households to discuss domestic matters.
The Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed in 1854. As Sam reflects, it was an extremely divisive piece of legislation, and it paved the way for the American Civil War. Whilst opposing the Act, Abraham Lincoln gave a famous three-hour speech against slavery called the Peoria Speech.