Sunday, November 27, 2011

This Blog became the Website

This blog continue to exist as the website
on the new location

If you liked this blog, you are very welcome to visit 

There you can find all old posts and also a lot of new
Thank you !!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Manchester Martyrs

In September 1867, Colonel Thomas Kelly and Captain Timothy Deasy were arrested in the centre of Manchester on suspicion of terrorism. News of their arrest was immediately sent to Mr. Disraeli, the Prime Minister, as Colonel Kelly was the most prominent Fenian of them all, having only recently been confirmed as Chief Executive of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and as such was considered quite a capture. A few days later the both prisoners were conveyed from the Court House in Manchester to the County Jail on Hyde Road, West Gorton. They were handcuffed and locked in two separate compartments inside the Police van, there was a posse of 12 policemen to escort them.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Place to Visit: Eastnor Castle, UK

Eastnor was built by the 2nd Baron (Lord) Somers, later 1st Earl, between 1810 and 1824. The combination of inherited wealth, his judicious marriage to the daughter of the eminent and rich Worcestershire historian, Rev. Treadway Russell Nash, and his great ambition prompted the 1st earl to commission a castle to impress his contemporaries and raise his family into the higher ranks of the ruling class. Then, as now, the size and splendour of a country house evidenced the standing and fortune of any family.

His architect, the young Robert Smirke, who was later well known for his design for the British Museum, proposed a Norman Revival style. From a distance, Eastnor tried to create the impression of an Edward Ist-style medieval fortress guarding the Welsh Borders. It was a symbolic a defiant assertion of power by an aristocrat in a period of fear and uncertainty following the French Revolution and during the Napoleonic Wars.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thomas Müntzer and Peasants' War

Peasant-plebeian movement in Reformation strongest was expressed in the Anabaptist movement and the Peasants' War in Germany 1524-1525. Peasants and urban population (plebs) could not accept Lutheranism and princely Reformation. There were a new sects in the Reformation movement. Anabaptists (re-baptized because they required re-baptism in the mature years of life) were particularly disseminated in the plebeian classes. Some revolutionary Anabaptists preached the abolition of private property and common property.

Among these Anabaptists in Zwickau came preacher Thomas Müntzer and committed to them a strong influence. Spoke out strongly against Luther - "fat skin from Wittenberg," as he called it - as Luther put faith in the defense of private property and wealth. Müntzer was against the nobility, against feudalism, against class society and the authorities and called for the armed struggle against the utilization of people. Nobles and priests must leave the castles and palaces, begin to live in ordinary houses and live like all other people.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Third Crusade: Richard The Lionheart in comparison with other crusaders

The allure of Jerusalem

King Richard I of England twice marched inland from the Palestinian coast towards Jerusalem, reaching the small dismantled fortress at Beit Nuba, just 12 miles from the Holy City - in December 1191 and gain in June 1192.
Christian warrior against the Muslim
On both occasions the Lionheart probably had little or no intention of actually prosecuting an attack on the city - instead these were feints, designed to test Saladin's resolve and to augment diplomatic negotiations. In all this, the king followed the best precepts of medieval generalship, but he failed to account for the distinct nature of crusading warfare - species of conflict underpinned by religious ideology and dependent upon the overwhelming devotional allure of Jerusalem.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

King Charles’ II Flight after the Battle of Worcester

On Friday 5th of September 1651 the future king Charles II hid in a Shropshire barn. It was Francis Wolfe of madley who provided this shelter from imprisonment and death, as Charles fled from defeat at the Battle of Worcester. Years later, after his restoration to the throne, the king gave a magnificent silver tankard to the Wolfe family in recognition of their kindness and bravery in concealing him. “King Charles’ barn” still stands in Madeley today.

King Charles II of England
What actually happened?

After his campaign went badly and finally finished at Worcester in 1651, Charles fled north out the Worcester and rode through the night, arriving in Shropshire on the morning of Thursday 4th. One of his companions advised him to make for “White Ladies”, a large timber-framed house on the site of a medieval nunnery. The property was owned by a Catholic family sympathetic to the Royal cause. The owners were away, but luckily for Charles, their servants the Penderel family were staunchly Royalist. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Operation "Flaming Dart"

Operation Flaming Dart was America’s response in 1965 to North Vietnamese attacks on US bases in South Vietnam. Operation Flaming Dart commenced in February 1965 and was ordered by US President Lyndon B Johnson. After a series of attacks on US bases in South Vietnam, mainly the base at Pleiku, Johnson ordered a series of air attacks on North Vietnamese bases in an attempt to warn off the government in Hanoi.

On February 7th 1965 the US base at Camp Holloway was attacked by the Viet Cong. Camp Holloway was near to the South Vietnamese town of Pleiku. Eight US soldiers were killed with over 100 injured. Johnson had two choices. He could both ignore it and treat the attack as a minor one that would not lead to an escalation in terms of the scale of attacks on US bases. Alternately, he could, as commander-in-chief of US forces, order a major military response in a show of power that the Hanoi government would have to respond to. The US military had already selected a number of military targets in North Vietnam and Johnson opted for the second option – though there is little evidence that Johnson was willing to try the diplomatic approach at this moment in time.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The horse in Middle Ages

The horse was an integral and essential component of medieval existence. Horses were needed for tournaments, for hunting, for pleasure, for travel, for transport and haulage, for agricultural work, and for war.

Ladies in hunting

Friday, November 4, 2011

William Wilberforce's Mission for Humane Rights

William Wilberforce (24 August 1759 – 29 July 1833)
In the late 1700s, when William Wilberforce was a teenager, English traders raided the African coast on the Gulf of Guinea, captured between 35,000 and 50,000 Africans a year, shipped them across the Atlantic, and sold them into slavery. It was a profitable business that many powerful people had become dependent upon. One publicist for the West Indies trade wrote, "The impossibility of doing without slaves in the West Indies will always prevent this traffic being dropped. The necessity, the absolute necessity, then, of carrying it on, must, since there is no other, be its excuse."

By the late 1700s, the economics of slavery were so entrenched that only a handful of people thought anything could be done about it. That handful included William Wilberforce.

This would have surprised those who knew Wilberforce as a young man. He grew up surrounded by wealth. He was a native of Hull and educated at St. John's College at Cambridge. But he wasn't a serious student. A neighbor at Cambridge recalled, "When he [Wilberforce] returned late in the evening to his rooms, he would summon me to join him…. He was so winning and amusing that I often sat up half the night with him, much to the detriment of my attendance at lectures the next day."

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Reign of Tsar Ivan IV, "The Terrible"

Ivan IV, the Terrible
Ivan IV (1533 - 1584), known as "The Terrible" completed the centralization of Russia that begun with his predecessors. Though his influence is unquestioned, it is difficult to determine which of his actions were motivated by the cool rationalism of a power politician raised in an age of intrigue and sudden death and which were the act of a paranoid who felt beset by traitors.

 Early life

Ivan ascended the throne at the age of three. When Ivan was just three years old his father died from a boil and inflammation on his leg which developed into blood poisoning. Ivan was proclaimed the Grand Prince of Moscow at his father's request. At first, his mother Elena Glinskaya acted as a regent, but she died of what many believe to be assassination by poison when Ivan was only eight years old. According to his own letters, Ivan and his younger brother Yuri often felt neglected and offended by the mighty boyars from the Shuisky and Belsky families. He was fortunate to survive his minority, as boyar families struggled to reassert their authority. In 1547 he became the first ruler to take formally the title Czar of all Russians, and he moved quickly thereafter to extend the authority and to destroy boyar independence.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Book Review: Matilda: Queen of the Conqueror By Tracy Borman

Behind every great man, so the saying goes, is a great woman - or, in the case of the man known to posterity as William the Conqueror, a diminutive one. William's wife Matilda of Flanders stood little more than four feet tall, but she loomed large, all the same, in the creation of his newly royal dynasty.

The first of her attributes that appealed to the young William, duke of Normandy, was her impeccably blue blood. Matilda's father, Baldwin, was count of the wealthy and strategically significant territories of Flanders, and a descendant of the great Charlemagne, while her mother, Adela, was a daughter of the king of France. Her lineage promised to bestow both lustre and legitimacy on the bastard-born Norman duke, whose power, amid the brutal unpredictability of eleventh-century politics, had always depended principally on the strength of his sword-arm.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Place to visit: Jorvik Viking Centre in York, UK

At Jorvik you can come as close as you're ever likely to get to seeing, hearing and smelling how our Norse forebears lived

It must be the smell that most people remember after visiting the Jorvik Viking Centre.It so distinctive that set s you immediately centuries back in the past. You are in Viking World!

The Life and Death of Girolamo Savonarola

A Dominican friar and prophet Girolamo Savonarola, living between 1452-1498, is considered the forerunner of the Reformation. A fasting, praying 15th century John the Baptist of his time, Savonorola's messages were fire, light, and searing conviction. Savonarola was a monk known for his learning and his sanctity, but helpless, almost ludicrous, as a preacher.

Savonarola was born of a noble family at Ferrara and in 1474, entered the Dominican order at Bologna. He seems to have preached in 1482 at Florence, but his first trial was a failure. In a convent at Brescia his zeal won attention, and in 1489 he was recalled to Florence. His second appearance in the pulpit of San Marco - on the sinfulness and apostasy of the time - was a great popular triumph, and by some he was hailed as an inspired prophet.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Antarctic Photography

October sees the opening of a new exhibition at Buckingham Palace, marking the 100th anniversary of Captain Scott’s ill-fated journey to the South Pole.

Captain Scott and his team

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Place to visit: Caerphilly Castle, UK

Caerphilly Castle rests within the rolling hills north of Cardiff, a concentric masterpiece with a fully flooded moat. The tremendous size of the castle and its two lakes makes Caerphilly the largest in Wales and the second biggest in Britain.

Built by marcher lord Gilbert de Clare between 1268 and 1271 as a response to the growing threat of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, the castle served as an effective defence against the Welsh.
It eventually fell into disrepair, causing the antiquary Leland to describe it as a ruin in 1539. Some damage has certainly been done to the castle, particularly to its leaning tower, which Cromwell may have attempted to destroy with gunpowder during the Civil War.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Elephants of King George III

The collection of exotic animals become popular during the reign of Charles III of Spain (1716- 88), and his prized Indian elephants were paraded as symbols of wealth, power and prestige.The interest aroused by these animals and the problems encountered are explored by Carlos Gomez-Centurion in "Treasures Fit for a King: King Charles III of Spain's Indian Elephants" ("Journal of the History of Collections", vol 22, no1, OUPI).

The increase in trade and the opening of new navigation routes, combined with a fascination for the exotic, led many monarchs to disperse animals around their royal residencies. However, according to Gomez-Centurion "transpoting an elephant to Europe remained an expensive and difficult undertaking, even for a king."

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

St Swithun's come back

Swithun is one of England's most mysterious saints. No one knows exactly why, 108 years after his death, he was transformed into a saint. The reasons were probably political. Winchester Cathedral  - politically, but not ecclesiastically, the premier church in the land - was the place where many Anglo-Saxon kings were buried. As the "capital" of Wessex, the town was also the political heart of late Anglo-Saxon England.

St Swithun woodcarved portrait

Monday, October 10, 2011

Did the Scottish mass-murdering cannibal Sawney Bean actually exist?

According to most accounts, Alexander "Sawney" Bean was a Scottish farm labourer born in about 1530 in Galloway. Soon after his marriage, and for reasons unknown, Sawney and his wife moved to live in the Bennane Cave. This cavern is over 200 metres deep and the entrance is covered by the sea at high tide. From this lair Bean ventured out to ambush, murder and rob unwary travellers. The bodies were brought back to the cave where they were butchered and eaten. Thus no evidence of the crimes was left.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Charles V the Wise

Charles (1337 - 1380), son of King John II the Good became the first French heir apparent to bear the title of dauphin after the area of Dauphine was added to the royal domain in 1349. Charles became the kingdom's regent while he was still in his teens after the English captured his father at the Battle of Poitiers in 1356. As regent he dealt successfully with the revolt of the Jacquerie and the popular uprising headed by Etienne Marcel, who armed Paris against royal rule.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Women First

Ninety years ago women were allowed to take up civil posts for the first time. The Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act, 1919, was introduced at the time when women were still restricted from taking a full part in civil life, despite their partial enfranchisement in 1918. The Act enabled women to enter a legal profession and the civil service and to become jurors. In a broad opening statement it specified that "A person shall not be disqualified by sex or marriage from the exercise of any public function, or from being appointed to or holding any civil or judicial office or post, or from entering or assuming or carrying on any civil profession or vocation".

The Act provide employment opportunities for individual women and many were appointed as magistrates, but in practice it fell far short of the expectations of the women's movement. Senior positions in the civil service were still closed to women and they could be excluded from juries if evidence was likely to be too "sensitive".Coupled with hostile attitudes to their employment at a time of economic crisis, this placed obstacles in the way of women and reduced the efficacy of the legislation.

Friday, September 30, 2011

German New Guinea - How Germany lost its territory in Pacific

In August 1914 the British called on the Australian and New Zealand governments to capture Germany's colonial possessions in the Pacific. Among the most important was German New Guinea, annexed in 1884. Comprising the north-east of the island (Kaiser-Wilhelmsland) and several nearby islands (the Bismarck Archipelago), German New Guinea boasted Germany's largest force in the Pacific, with more than 600 natives led by German officers and reservists.

The postcard from German New Guinea
Australian troops sailed to New Pomerania (now New Britain) to seize Rabaul, the administrative capital of German Oceania. Two parties struggled to pick their way through dense jungle. Then they encountered fierce resistance, coming under heavy fire from German and native gunmen hidden in trees and hastily built trenches.

The Pirates Were Never Say That

Brace yourself for a barrage of "salty dogs," "scallywags," and "swabbies." Monday is International Talk Like a Pirate Day, a parody holiday and general nerdfest ginned up on an Oregon racquetball court in 1995 to honor buccaneer speech of the 17th and 18th centuries.

But did pirates really "arr" and "avast" all the time? Probably not, experts say, though it's tough to say exactly how most so-called "Golden Age pirates really talked.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Samurai: A Short History

Japan has a history that dates back thousands of years. Scientists believe the Japanese people descended from many groups that migrated to the islands from other parts of Asia, including China and Korea. As early as 4500 B.C., the Japanese islands were inhabited by fishermen, hunters and farmers. The early culture was known as "Jomon," which meant "cord pattern."


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Queen Elizabeth I's Fashions

In theory what one may wear is governed by “Acts of Apparel”, detailed regulations with the force of law. Thus only Knights of the garter and persons of the rank of Earl and above, for example, are supposed to wear cloth of gold or silver or purple silk. There are exemptions for gentlemen actually in attendance on the Queen or serving on a foreign embassy or having a disposable income of at least 200 pounds a year. In practice, outside a royal court, these rules are widely ignored.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Jewish Diaspora from AD 70 to 1800

For over 2000 years the history of the Jews has combined external dispersal with internal cohesion. The decisive dispersal of the Jewish people took place under Rome. Although the Jewish revolts of AD 66 – 73 and 132 – 5 and their vigorous supression by the Romans, as well as Hadrian’s measures to de –Judaize Jerusalem, caused rapid deterioration in the position of the Jews in Judaea, elsewhere in the Roman world their legal and economical status and the viability of their communities remained unaffected.

This stimulated a constant flow of migration from Palestine, Mesopotamia and Alexandria to the western and northern shores of Mediterranean. Consequently, widely scattered by internally cohesive Jewish communities developed all over the west and north of the Roman empire: in Italy, in Spain and as far north as Cologne. The Cairo community was a major element in Mediterranean commerce and has left its detailed records (the Cairo ‘Genizah’) of life there during the Middle Ages.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Public transport under Tudors and Stuarts

The public transport at the beginning of 17th century was almost non-existent. If you wanted to risk your life, you could take a ferry across or along the Thames in London, but the watermen were notoriously rude, the river was effectively an open sewer, and the boats occasionally sank. Rich people had horses to ride and carriages to be carried in, but everyone else had to walk. All that was to change in 1643, when a Captain Baily, who had once sailed in the fleet of Sir Walter Ralegh, launched a fleet of his own.

Mughal India and the growth of British power

The Foundation and the Rise
Founded in the early 16th century, the Mughal empire was at its height from 1550s to the 1650s, preceding over a golden age of religious cooperation and cultural synthesis. But in the 18th century it rapidly disintegrated, with the British emerging as the victors over the French and the Maratha Hindus in the struggle for the succession.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Last Druids

In the summer of AD 60, a vast Roman army commanded by the Governor of Britain, Gaius Suetonius Paulinus, descended on the coast of north Wales. This well disciplined fighting force was directed at eradicating all resistance on the island of Anglesey (Mona Insulis), which lay just off the coast.

There were several motives behind Rome's assault against Anglesey. For Tacitus, the reasons for Paulinus choosing to attack the island were twofold: "Mona Insulis contained a large population, while it also acted as a haven for refugees." Paulinus therefore appears to have been intending to remove this independent refuge to which opponents of Roman rule had been fleeing.

The large population of Anglesey also offered the prospect of vast financial rewards for the Romans; with military victory, many of the island's inhabitants would be enslaved, generating considerable profits when sold on the slave markets.Evidence of the trade in humanity practiced in Celtic as well as Roman society came to light in 1943 when slave chains were discovered in Llyn Cerrig Bach in south-west Anglesey.

Anglesey was also agriculturally rich, often referred to as the breadbasket of north Wales, and the island also possessed desirable mineral deposits, especially copper. However, there is a little doubting that the principal reason for Roman attack was that the island was the focal point of Druidism in Britain.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Brief History of Prosthetic Medicine

The Egyptians were the early pioneers of prosthetic technology. Their rudimentary, prosthetic limbs were made of fiber and it is believed that they were worn more for a sense of “wholeness” than function. However, scientists recently discovered what is said to be the world's first prosthetic toe from an Egyptian mummy and it appears to have been functional.
424 B.C. to 1 B.C.

An artificial leg dating to about 300 B.C. was unearthed at Capua, Italy, in 1858. It was made of bronze and iron, with a wooden core, apparently for a below-knee amputee. In 424 B.C., Herodotus wrote of a Persian seer who was condemned to death but escaped by amputating his own foot and making a wooden filler to walk 30 miles to the next town.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

On this day: First block in Berlin Wall was set up

In the afternoon of August 12 at 4 p.m. Walter Ulbricht, the East German leader, signed the commands to close the border. Next Sunday at midnight the army, police and the "Kampfgruppen" began to bolt the city. The wall is built and separates the city into two parts for more than 28 years.
Streets, the railway and the S-Bahn (city railway) are broken, stations of the U-Bahn (underground railway) are closed, even cemeteries are not spared. Nothing is forgotten and the East Germans will not be allowed to free travel to the West until 1989.

Building the wall

Friday, August 12, 2011

On this day: King Phillip's War was ended

King Philip's War of 1675-1676 was a predictable Indian rebellion against continuing Puritan incursions into Native American lands. Though Indian attacks were vicious, they were no more so than those the Puritans had waged with less provocation.

In May of 1637, several hundred recent Connecticut Valley settlers led by English Captain John Mason, formerly of Boston's Dorchester settlement, surprised and torched a Pequot village while its warriors were absent. The Puritans surrounded the village and shot hundreds of women, old men and children attempting to escape the flames. An eyewitness account of that horror reads "It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the flames, and horrible was the stink and scent thereof; but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they gave the praise thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them." John Mason wrote back to Dorchester that God had "laughed at his enemies and the enemies of his people,...making them as a fiery oven."

Thursday, August 11, 2011

On this day: Ronald Reagan's "Slip of the Tongue"

On August 11, 1984, as he prepared for his weekly address on National Public Radio, then-US President Ronald Reagan made his legendary voice check, when, instead of uttering the usual “testing,” declared: "My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes."

The recording of the joke, though not broadcast over the air as was the common misconception, was still smuggled to the outside world, provoking a general embarrassment worldwide.

The moment the president's flippant remark was released, it immediately caused a stir both in the United States and abroad. Most international media responded with outrage, fearing that the joke about "outlawing" the Soviet Union had once again put the two superpowers on the verge of a third world war.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Victoria Kaʻiulani, Princess of The Lost Empire

Princess Ka'iulani  (1875 - 1899)
Victoria Kaʻiulani Kalaninuiahilapalapa Kawēkiu i Lunalilo Cleghorn (1875–1899) was heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi and held the title of crown princess. Kaʻiulani became known throughout the world for her intelligence, beauty and determination. Her royal status, talent and double-ancestry (Hawaiian-Scottish) kept her frequently in the press of the day, and newspaper accounts of her comings and goings throughout her life are extensive, often parallel or interconnected with those of Queen Liliʻuokalani.
She never wanted her people to be able to say that she, as next in line to the throne, made no effort on their behalf. The most notable (and well-known) instance of this took the form of an unofficial visit with the then U.S. President Grover Cleveland and his wife. While there was no direct political discussion (and no meal shared, as depicted in a recent film) during this short White House meeting, without doubt the Princess' grace and dignity impressed the Clevelands greatly, increasing the President's already existing sympathy for the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi's independence. Her role as representative of her people's rights and wishes was understood.

Anglo-Saxon Gold Rewrites History

An enormous hoard of gold, unearthed in a field near the village of Hammerwich, near Lichfield, in Staffordshire, UK, on 5th July 2009, is proving to be one of the most astonishing European archeological discoveries for decades.

The one of newly photographed artefact
The find, discovered by an amateur metal-detecting enthusiast Terry Herbert - comprises more than 1,500 items, amounting to more than five kilogrammes of gold and including remains of 84 sword pommels, three crosses and several helmets. This compares with the 1.5 kilogrammes of gold in Sutton Hoo in Suffolk - previously the largest Anglo-Saxon treasure trove ever discovered.

Jesse Owens: The Hero of the Games

James Cleveland Owens was born in Oakville, Alabama, on September 12, 1913, the son of a sharecropper, a farmer who rents land. He was a sickly child, often too frail to help his father and brothers in the fields. The family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, in 1921, for better work opportunities. There was little improvement in their life, but the move did enable young Owens to enter public school, where a teacher accidentally wrote down his name as "Jesse" instead of J. C. He carried the name with him for the rest of his life.

Jesse Owens in the peak of his career

When Owens was in the fifth grade, the athletic supervisor asked him to join the track team. From a skinny boy he developed into a strong runner, and in junior high school he set a record for the 100-yard dash. In high school in 1933 he won the 100-yard dash, the 200-yard dash, and the broad jump in the National Interscholastic Championships. Owens was such a complete athlete, a coach said he seemed to float over the ground when he ran.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

What is the right way to teach history in British schools?

Everyone has an opinion about history in schools. Andrew Marr and Terry Deary certainly do. But it doesn’t follow that, because they have opposing views, one of them must be right. Both have interesting things to say, particularly about the importance or otherwise of subject knowledge.

In any case, what are we to make of Terry Deary’s assumption that it doesn’t matter whether pupils know the names of dead prime ministers? Is it because they’re dead? History would be a rather thin discipline if we excluded people from study because they’re no longer living. Or does he just dislike prime ministers?
Whatever the reason, it seems a bizarre approach to studying the past, as well as a rather selfish one. I bet Terry Deary knows about Gladstone and Disraeli. It’s because he knows about them that he can so confidently assert that they don’t matter. I think our pupils have quite as much right to know about them as he does – more, indeed, if they’re studying 19th-century British history, since they’d actually find this knowledge quite useful.

Prime Minister Gladstone - Should we know about him?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Legendary Route of Pony Express

Young and daring horseback riders once carried U.S. mail between St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California, from where it was then taken by steamer to San Francisco. The service began on April 3, 1860. Its promoters hoped to prove that the central route followed by the Pony Express was better than the longer southern route used by the stagecoaches of the Butterfield Overland Mail. Senator William M. Gwin of California was the chief promoter of the Pony Express, while the freight firm of William H. Russell, William B. Waddell, and Alexander Majors backed the project financially.

Romantic view of Pony Express
The Pony Express route followed the Oregon-California Trail, along the Platte River in Nebraska, through South Pass in Wyoming. At Fort Bridger, Wyoming, the riders left the trail, swung to the south of the Great Salt Lake, and then headed due west across the salt desert to the Sierra Nevada Mountains at Carson City, Nevada, and then across the Sierra Nevada into California and on to Sacramento. Relay stations stood 10 to 15 miles apart along the route.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The world’s first video game

The world’s first video game, OXO, was invented in 1952. As the title suggests, it was simple tic-tac-toe, and you could only play it on the EDSAC computer at the University of Cambridge. (Watch it in action here.) The fun didn’t really get started until the late 1960′s, when Robert Baer, Bill Harrison and Bill Rusch developed a ping pong game you could play on your television. The video below shows Baer and Harrison playing the game on the “brown box” — the prototype for the computer consoles that would make the 70s and 80s such wonderful, sedentary decades to be a child.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Romanov Mystery - Finally solved or endless crime story

Anastasia Romanov born June 18,1901 to the Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and his wife Alexandra Fyodorvna was the youngest daughter of the four daughters the couple had. Anastasia was the younger sister of Grand Duchess Tatiana, Grand Duchess Maria, and Grand Duchess Olga her only brother was Alexei Nikolaevich, Tsarevich of Russia. The claim is that on July 17, 1918 she was murdered with her entire family by the Bolshevik secret police.

Romanoy Royal family

Rumors continued to fly about the possibility of her survival due to nobody being able to clearly identify where her body had been located. The mass grave had been revealed in 1991 however only the mother, the father and three daughters had been located. The body of Alexei and one of his sisters had not been located.
In 2008 the Russians made claim that her possible survival had been disproved and that the remains of a young boy and a young girl's charred remains had been located near Ektarinburg in 2007 and that fact was they were the remains of Alexei and one of his four sisters. In March 2009 Michael Coble of the USAF DNA identification laboratory stated that all sister's had been accounted for and that nobody survived. Isn't this questionable? Did they run tests on the young boy to prove in fact that he was Alexei? Or was it a burial ground for two unidentified children?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

On this day: The King Henry II of France died after fatal injury

Historically, as the representative of a nation, it was essential that a monarch remain strong and healthy. In 1559 Henri II of France was injured at a jousting tournament when a lance splintered, went into his eye and shot upwards into his brain, causing a subdural haemorrhage (a build-up of blood between the inner and outer membranes covering the brain). Although he was badly injured, the king managed to get to his chambers, where all of his physicians gathered in the hope of curing him.

Medieval tournament
Born in 1519, the future Henry II married Catherine de Medici in 1533 when they were both 14 years old. His father, King Francis I, reportedly supervised the consummation, announcing they had both shown valour in the ‘joust’. Catherine was rich but not pretty and Henry was soon in the arms of Diane de Poitiers, a beautiful, ambitious widow in her mid-thirties who became almost a queen behind the scenes. Henry had other mistresses but his two other great loves were hunting and jousting. He succeeded his father to the French throne on his 28th birthday in 1547 and in 1558 his and Catherine’s eldest son, the stunted and sickly Francis, was married to Mary, Queen of Scots, who had been brought up in France by her mother’s family, the Guises, to keep her out of the hands of the English. The French intended through her to acquire the Scottish throne.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Time of Book Burning - Nazi's Burning of Souls

"Where books are burned, human beings are destined to be burned too." 
 Heinrich Heine

An event unseen since the Middle Ages occurs as German students from universities formerly regarded as among the finest in the world, gather in Berlin and other German cities to burn books with "unGerman" ideas. Books by Freud, Einstein, Thomas Mann, Jack London, H.G. Wells and many others go up in flames as they give the Nazi salute.

In Berlin, Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels gave a speech to the students, stating...

"...The era of extreme Jewish intellectualism is now at an end. The breakthrough of the German revolution has again cleared the way on the German path...The future German man will not just be a man of books, but a man of character. It is to this end that we want to educate you. As a young person, to already have the courage to face the pitiless glare, to overcome the fear of death, and to regain respect for death - this is the task of this young generation. And thus you do well in this midnight hour to commit to the flames the evil spirit of the past. This is a strong, great and symbolic deed - a deed which should document the following for the world to know - Here the intellectual foundation of the November (Democratic) Republic is sinking to the ground, but from this wreckage the phoenix of a new spirit will triumphantly rise..."

The speech and book burning were accompanied by the singing of Nazi songs and anthems.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The History of Poland in 10 minutes

This is an interesting short video about Polish history from Middle Ages to Modern Time. Well, personally I think it needs more than 10 minutes to get a bits of a country's history, but if you are looking for a starting point - you may enjoy!!

Here are some book recommendations:

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Olaudah Equiano - The African

Recent scholarship has raised doubts about whether or not abolitionist Olaudah Equiano, who was known in  his own lifetime as Gustavus Vassa, was born in Africa. While baptismal and naval documents indicate that he was born in South Carolina, it is argued here that his autobiographical account is nonetheless accurate, although allowing for reflection and information that was learned later in life. Information on facial markings (ichi) and other cultural features that are recounted in Vassa’s account indicate that he had first hand experience of his Igbo homeland and that he was about the age he thought he was at the time of his forced departure from the Bight of Biafra on a slave ship in 1754.
My life and fortune have been extremely chequered, and my adventures various. Even
those I have related are considerably abridged. If any incident in this little work should
appear uninteresting and trifling to most readers, I can only say, as my excuse for mentioning it, that almost every event of my life made an impression on my mind, and
influenced my conduct. I early accustomed myself to look at the hand of God in
the minutest occurrence, and to learn from it a lesson of morality and religion; and
in this light every circumstance I have related was to me of importance.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Slavic Nations in Medieval Time

Europe's population during the Middle Ages consisted, in one way or another, largely of Slavs. They were the largest single ethnic group in Europe. At first, they were located primarily in eastern and southeastern Europe. The South Slavs comprised what are now the Serbs and Croats; the West Slavs were the ancestors of the Poles and Czechs; and East Slavs - who became Eastern Orthodox - were the forerunners of the Russians and Ukranians.

Early polish Swiatovit, a four sided statues depicting a Slavic supreme deity

This schism would help define the differences between eastern and Western Slavs. Eastern Slavs were controlled by the violent Byzantine Empire, while Western Slavs were influenced by more progressive elements. Some historians believe that the iron-tight control imposed on Eastern Slavic countries in the Middle Ages led inevitably to modern socialism.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How Vikings honoured their dead

Elite Viking funerals were like giant theatrical performances, according to new researches. Piecing together evidence from Viking art, mythology and archeology and from non-Viking historical texts, Aberdeen University professor, Neil Price, has concluded that drama formed a key element in Norse funerary ritual from at least the eight to the tenth century.

He believes that Vikings acted out scenes from Norse mythology - and from the dead person's life. Indeed, he has concluded that there is a distinct possibility that some Viking mythology actually derives from dramatic representations of the lives and exploits of deceased heroes, performed at their funerals.
Some of the evidence comes from the Swedish Baltic island of Gotland where carved stones, erected to commemorate the dead, depict mythological stories.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

England as papal fiefdom and agreement of paying tribute to the pope

King John's surrender of his realm in 1213 was symbolised by his agreement to pay an annual tribute to the pope of 1,000 marks (666 pounds). This tribute was paid, albeit irregularly, into the 1290s. However, king Edward I and Edward II, John's grandson and great-grandson, found themselves increasingly at odds with the papacy, partly over their rights to collect their own taxes from the English church and also over the pope's partisan support for the king's of France. As a result, no tribute was paid in the 30 years before 1330. The last payment ever recorded was a token 1,000 pounds from Edward III in 1333, in expectation of papal favours.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Hereford Mappa Mundi on show again

The Mappa Mundi was drawn on a sheet of vellum 64 x 54 inches, supported by an oak frame, with the actual map contained within a circle 52 inches in diameter. Most of the writing was with black ink, with red and gold leaf used for emphasis, and blue or green for rivers and seas . The Red Sea however, was depicted in red. Mountain ranges were indicated by scalloped designs and towns by walls and towers.

The Mappa Mundi from Hereford Cathedral, Herefordshire
Maps like the Mappa Mundi were produced in considerable numbers throughout the medieval period in "studios" dedicated to that purpose. A number of monks would have worked under a master such as Richard of Haldingham, making numerous copies of this and other manuscripts used by the Church for tuition.
The map bears the name of its author 'Richard of Haldingham or Lafford' (Holdingham and Sleaford in Lincolnshire). Recent research suggests a date of about 1300 for the creation of the map.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Legal Looting in Medieval England

In 1547, Thomas Michell murdered Eleanor and John Sydnam and then killed himself. Knowing Michell to be "a man of great possessions", the local undersheriff, Nicholas Sarger, rushed to the murderer's home to seize his belongings. When Sarger arrived, he found Michell's neighbours already in the house, busily removing everything they could carry. And they weren't the only ones taking an interest in the dead man's effects for, soon after, Nicholas Heath, the king's chief almoner, launched suits against Sarger and the others, claiming that the goods belonged to him.

This almighty scramble for loot in the wake of three violent deaths may appear more than a little unseemly. Yet, it was a common occurrence in 16th and 17th century fact, by the time Thomas Michell took his own life, the practice of appropriating criminal's possessions had been deeply embedded in English common law for centuries. The concept of felony forfeiture, as the practice is known, was first introduced under the Anglo-Saxons. By the 12th century, it was following a well-established formula, with criminals forfeiting their goods to the king and their lands to their lord - after the king taken the profit of those lands for a year and a day.

A house is pillaged in the 14th century

Friday, June 3, 2011

Post-war society: Social life in 1950's

What are you thinking when you see a pictures of your parents or grandparents back in 50's? Old black and white photos, people in simple clothing, sitting on the sofas with strange (looks almost shabby!!) upholstery, but, somehow, they seems happy. Life in the early 1950’s was still very strict and simple. Women were still obligated to the status of housewife and men were the main breadwinners in the family. Children, including teenagers, were to be seen and not heard but by the mid-1950’s, that was becoming more difficult because of newfound freedoms, rock and roll music, and other outlets teenagers had available to them. 

Family gathered around the radio
In USA, segregation and racism was still part of life and although there were some major changes to erase both like in 1954, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled segregation in public schools were unconstitutional, there were still problems forcing blacks to take drastic measures for equality and inclusion like in 1955, when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a public bus. 

Rosa Parks arrested in 1955

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Age of Enlightenment - The new way of thinking in the 18th century

Scientific Discoveries

The spectacular theoretical achievements capped by Newton in the seventeenth century were not repeated in the eighteenth. However, much of importance was done in the realm of theoretical refinement and in the laboratory.


Physics  In physics Pierre Laplace (1749-1827) refined the New­tonian mechanics to demonstrate that the solar system was a self-regulating mechanism. Joseph Lagrange (1736-1813) developed applications for differential calculus and was instrumental in the formulation and adoption of the metric system. Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) advanced the study of electricity with his demonstration that lightning is an electrical discharge. In Italy Luigi Galvani (1737­-1798) studied the effect of electrical shock on muscles and Alessandro Volta (1745-1827) developed the voltaic cell or battery. 

Luigi Galvani's experiment

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Yuri Gagarin - The First Spaceman

 12 April 1961

The people of the United States share with the people of the Soviet Union their satisfaction for the safe flight of the astronaut in man's first venture into space. We congratulate you and the Soviet scientists and engineers who made this feat possible. It is my sincere desire that in the continuing quest for knowledge of outer space our nations can work together to obtain the greatest benefit to mankind.

John F. Kennedy
Kennedy's telegram to president  Khrushchev after Vostok 1 mission

Yuri Gagarin was born in the Smolensk region of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). His family was displaced during World War II (1939-1945) and moved to the town of Gzhatsk in the northeastern part of Smolensk. In 1949 Gagarin began his higher education at a manufacturing trade school in Lyubertsy, a town outside of Moscow. In 1951 he trained as a metalworker at the industrial technical school in Saratov, which is southeast of Moscow. While he was in Saratov, he joined a flying club and learned to fly airplanes. His instructor recommended him to the air force, and Gagarin began attending the Soviet Air Force cadet training school at Chkalov (now Orenburg) in Russia in 1955. He graduated from the academy with high distinction in 1957, shortly after the launch of Sputnik 1.

Yuri Gagarin (1934 - 1968)
Gagarin applied for the six-week cosmonaut screening process in 1960 with just 230 hours of flying experience. He and 19 others were selected to become cosmonauts. Of these 20 men, 12 eventually completed space flights. Gagarin and fellow cosmonaut Gherman Titov, front-runners in their class, were both contenders for the Vostok 1 flight.
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