We, human beings have come a long way since we started walking on our two legs! In this collective journey of ours, we have discovered, invented, and developed many things to make our lives better and beautiful. Umbrella is one such object that we take for granted today, which has undergone several changes as part of the evolution of human civilization.
From its utilitarian origins as a protective shield against forces of nature to a style statement for the ultra-modern and rich of today; Umbrellas and Parasols have come a long way. To understand them better, let’s take a brief look at their evolutions and origin.
A simple Google search informs us about the origins of the word “Umbrella”. The word finds its origins in the Latin word “Umbella” or “umbra”, which denotes shade or shadow. Another word that is associated with Umbrella is “Parasol” which has a French origin, which combines the words “Para”, meaning to stop or to shield, and “sol”, meaning sun. Simply put, both words i.e. “Umbrella” and “Parasol” have utilitarian meanings, which illustrate the usage of the object that they represent.
As iterated earlier, Umbrellas or Parasols, have been part of the evolutionary journey of human civilization. Therefore, several ancient cultures have mentioned them as an integral part of their life. From Ancient Egypt to China, ancient civilizations across the globe tell us a fascinating story about the Umbrellas and their evolution.
The first recorded mention of Parasols is found around 4000 years ago in Ancient Egypt. During that time, ancient Egyptians developed the earliest forms of Umbrellas using palm leaves that were attached to a stick. With the passage of time, palm leaves gave way to animal skins initially and woven cotton cloth later on. However, animal skins and cotton were scarce commodities in ancient Egypt, making Umbrellas quite expensive and therefore exclusive to nobles, religious leaders, and royalty. In Egypt, umbrellas or parasols were also seen as a status symbol and a mark of wealth. It is also important to note that the umbrellas used in ancient Egypt were primarily used to shield people from harsh sunlight, as they figure out any way to make them waterproof.
The earliest mention of Umbrella in the Chinese culture is found in around the 11th Century. In ancient China, umbrellas were made of leather and therefore were quite costly making it a luxury item. However, unlike Egyptians, the Chinese did find an effective way of making Parasols waterproof and thereby more utilitarian as far as their weather is concerned. The waterproof Chinese umbrellas were in great demand across the globe, but they failed to reach European shores because of the lack of international trade routes.
In the 12th and 13th Centuries, European voyagers found their way to China and established regular trade relations with the oriental world. It is through this trade that Umbrellas found their way into Europe. However, because of limited availability, they remain scarcely available and were quite expensive. Moreover, in Europe, Umbrellas were seen as a feminine product that was ‘not suited’ for men. This coupled with the economic downturn and fall of the Roman Empire meant that the prevalence of Parasols in Europe remained limited.
In the 16th and 17th Centuries, Europe was going through the industrial revolution and trade became a primary economic activity for Europeans. Consequently, Europeans ventured out into deep seas to explore ‘new worlds’ to expand their empire and to build trade routes. This led to the easy availability of umbrellas in the continent. Moreover, as part of the modern manufacturing process, Europeans were able to mass produce parasols using machines and other equipment making it far more affordable as compared to their previous avatars. Furthermore, the demand for umbrellas in Europe was also fuelled by the rainy climate in Northern Europe.
Thanks to the globalized world that we live in, Umbrellas have become a household name today. Today, umbrellas can be found in almost every home on the planet. However, with time, Umbrellas have also evolved into something beyond a utilitarian product; it has become a style statement, a status symbol, and something that we can’t imagine the world without. If you also want to add some style quotient and oomph while also protecting your skin from the elements of nature; do check out some fabulous Umbrellas and Parasols in our e-store here.