Have you ever heard the phrase ‘an honest miller has hairy palms’? Or perhaps the old expression ‘safe as a thief in a mill’? Or maybe you’ve read The Miller’s Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer, and are familiar with the less-than-trustworthy character of the miller who was not only “a quarrelsome swaggerer”, “arrogant” and “sly”, but also “accustomed to steal”?
These phrases are very telling of the typical impression people had of millers back in the days of traditional mills – it doesn’t seem like they’d be getting a good character reference out of anybody! Working in a position of power, where your customers had to take it at your word that you were giving them their fair share of flour, must have been just that bit too tempting for some of these bogus scoundrels.
So, how did people ensure that their neighbourhood miller-cum-thief wasn’t playing fast and loose with their flour orders and swindling them out of their cash? Read the Gems of the Archive article, ‘Measure for Measure’, here to find out!