On this day one hundred years ago, Imperial German soldiers who had peacefully arrived in the Belgian city of Leuven (Fr: Louvain), having taken hostages and accepted the parole of its mayor on behalf of its citizens, without warning set fire to the city and massacred its inhabitants forever altering the city, its university's library, and the course of the war.
Belgian Judicial Report on the Sacking of Louvain in August 1914 The destruction and rebuilding of the Louvain Library: claim and counterclaim
This fall, the South Dakota Historical Society Press will publish Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography of Laura Ingalls Wilder - apparently full of "not-safe-for-children tales includ[ing] stark scenes of domestic abuse, love triangles gone awry and a man who lit himself on fire while drunk off whiskey" (or, more academically put, "full of the everyday sorts of things that we don't care to think about when we think about history"). They've been blogging the process of research, annotation, and publication at The Pioneer Girl Project, as well as stories about crabs, a new letter from Pa, really useful books, as well as photos and a series of interviews with the researchers involved via.
Mahmoud Darwish once wrote, of Gaza, “We are unfair to her when we search for her poems.” [more inside]
Shakespeare's Restless World is a BBC radio series (podcast link) where the director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, explores England during the lifetime of William Shakespeare as represented by twenty objects, much in the way of his earlier A History of the World in a 100 Objects (previously). The focus is on Shakespeare's plays and how they were understood by his contemporaries. The series was also published as a book.
On 16 April 1746, the Jacobite forces of Charles Edward Stuart fought loyalist troops commanded by William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland near Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. In 1964, Peter Watkins wrote and produced a docudrama for the BBC, from the perspective of a documentary crew on the ground, depicting the battle and its aftermath: Culloden. [1:12:14]
New analysis on Richard III's bones reveal the richer diet available to a king, as well as his drinking habits.
In 1924 the BBC transmitted its first live outside broadcast: a duet between cellist Beatrice Harrison and the nightingales nesting in the garden of her Surrey home. Capturing the song of the Nightingale. [more inside]
In Search at San Jose the R&D minds at IBM describe how they designed & built the world's first hard drive, the IBM 305 RAMAC (previously). First sold in 1956, it stored a whopping 5 million characters of information, all ready for immediate access to the user.
Íslandskort is a digital collection of historical maps of Iceland put online in high quality pdf-files and jpegs by the National Library of Iceland. Here are a few of my favorites: 1, 2, 3. You can either browse a timeline of all the maps or browse categories such as first maps of Iceland, Iceland on sea charts in the 17th and 18th centuries and other maps, which includes maps of Frisland (1, 2), a phantom island that bedeviled cartographers for centuries.
"Burkhard challenged Miller to a 'Cheese Duel': Burkhard and Miller would sit at a table, and if Burkhard could cut a piece of Limburger cheese and Miller not wretch, Miller would be forbidden from complaining about Wisconsin and her cheese ever again." [more inside]
Up, up and g'day: Superdoreen is Miss Galaxy 1982 A fascinating peek into Australian history and culture through a tiny sliver of artwork. [more inside]
I have one great party trick. Anytime someone asks me if I’ve ever come across something really cool while working in the Motion Picture Preservation Lab, I tell them about the time we had what looked like footage of a Boy Scout camp and then the Boy Scouts raised a Nazi flag along with the red, white, and blue.Audrey Amidon, of the (US) National Archives Motion Picture Preservation Lab, tells the story of that time they found 1937 film footage of an upstate New York nazi youth summer camp.
In These Hopeful Machines "James Gardner traces a personal path through the evolving world of electronic music – and meets some of the people who made it happen. In six content-rich episodes he looks at over 100 years of recording techniques, electronic instruments and gizmos, and their use in popular music, art music and their position in Western culture." [more inside]
Harry Shearer reenacts the moments preceding Nixon's resignation speech as captured by a running television camera. If it seems weird and stylized, the actual footage seems even weirder. The reenactment is part of a television series, Nixon's the One, created by comedian Shearer and Nixon scholar Stanley Kutler. Andrea DenHoed writes about the TV show and the strange scene before the speech in The New Yorker.
The closure of the Hindustan Motors factory in Uttarapara, West Bengal, is the end of an era in Indian history. The Ambassador is the perfect example of all that was wrong with Indian policy towards industrialization, manufacturing and business. Protectionism and the license raj created a seller's market where people waited years to buy a car. Until liberalization in the 1990s, the Amby hadn't known any real competition, and there was no pressure to either modernize or improve quality. None of this mattered, at least we had a car. And there wasn't any other quite like it in the world. RIP, motor gadi.
"Novels are no use at all in days like these, for they deal with people and their relationships, with fathers and mothers and daughters or sons and lovers, etc., with souls, usually unhappy ones, and with society etc., as if the place for all these things were assured, the earth for all time earth, the sea level fixed for all time." [more inside]
Changing the Face of Medicine is an online exhibition from the National Library of Medicine, first published in 2003 but continuously updated, that honors the lives and achievements of American women in medicine. It is divided into sections (see the "more inside"), but you can also browse the biographies of the physicians alphabetically or by other criteria. [more inside]
Featured in the Australian literary journal Meanjin, Restless Indigenous Remains is a Paul Daley essay on how the Australian government's National Museum handles the remains of Indigenous people accumulated during Australia's colonial period. An engaging, thoughtful and sobering piece, it covers the history of 'remains collection' in Australia, as well as the current debate concerning whether the Indigenous defenders against colonial expansion should be recognized by the Australian War Memorial.
The shortening leash on American children: We heard a lot about sneaking out, petty theft, amateur arson, drugs, and sexual experimentation from our older respondents. But as time passes, the picture of childhood looks a lot less wild and reckless and a lot more monitored. We asked parents how they would react if they caught their kids doing what they had done as kids. A typical response: "I'd probably freak out and turn my home into a prison."
Are you trying to write a period-correct Captain America story or just have questions about NYC in the 1930s-40s in general? The tumblr Steve Rogers Is Historically Accurate is here to help.
Sexy Keepers of Death is a blog which curates the paranormal and creepy whether it's fictional, debatable or real. Unsolved mysteries, antiquities, strange creatures, unbelievable events, historical hoaxes, urban legends, unnerving art and more!
How Ronald Reagan Used An 'Invisible Bridge' To Win Over Americans - "Rick Perlstein's new book describes how Reagan emerged as the leader of a potent political movement during the turbulent mid-'70s. He says the soul of Reagan's appeal was how he made people feel good." [more inside]
In the records of human conflicts, there are at least three Chicken Wars. Two left little mark on the world at large, and the third resulted in some strange work-arounds for heavy tariffs. The first was Wojna kokosza, the Chicken or Hen War of 1537, when an anti-royalist and anti-absolutist rokosz (rebellion) by the Polish nobility resulted in near-extinction of local "kokosz" (an egg laying hen), but little else. The second was an odd spin-off of the more serious War of the Quarduple Alliance that lasted from 1717 to 1720. Though most of the activity happened in Europe, there were some battles in North America. The Texas manifestation was the capture of some chickens by French forces from a Spanish mission, and a costly overreaction by Spanish religious and military men. The third Chicken War was a duel of tariffs during the Cold War, with the only lasting casualty being the availability of foreign-made light trucks in the United States. [more inside]
First world war – a century on, time to hail the peacemakers "On the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War, we should remember those who tried to stop a catastrophe" [more inside]
The Imperial Kitchen
Among the kiosks, halls, reception chambers, and harem baths, I suspect that visitors today spend the least time of all in the palace kitchens—unless they have an interest in Chinese porcelain, which is displayed in there. Otherwise there’s nothing much to see, just a series of domed rooms. Outside you can count the ten pairs of massive chimneys, but there’s no smoke. It’s a pity that the building is so quiet, because it was in here, over four centuries, that one aspect of Istanbul’s imperial purpose was most vividly expressed.
23-year-old Mohammad Reza Domiri Ganji takes some amazing photographs and 360° shots of Iran's historical sites. [more inside]
Mr. Phelan's Building. Medium's Sarah Agudo and Marcin Wichary investigate the building they work in: "Ancient and modern at the same time; multiple slices of time meeting under one penthouse-sporting roof." [more inside]
Philby's boss was Sir Stewart Menzies, who, we are told, "rode to hounds, mixed with royalty, never missed a day at Ascot, drank a great deal, and kept his secrets buttoned up behind a small, fierce mustache. He preferred women to men and horses to both." Menzies was an amateur at a time when his adversaries were professionals. Philby's fellow Soviet spy Donald Maclean was a mess. But since he was a mess with the right accent and background he easily found a home in the British spy service. At one point, Macintyre says, Maclean "got drunk, smashed up the Cairo flat of two secretaries at the U.S. embassy, ripped up their underwear, and hurled a large mirror off the wall, breaking a large bath in two. He was sent home, placed under the care of a Harley Street psychiatrist, and then, amazingly, after a short period of treatment, promoted to head the American desk at the Foreign Office."Kim Philby, the Soviet spy who infiltrated MI6, is the subject of a Malcolm Gladwell article in The New Yorker. Gladwell argues that Philby's story is not about spying but "the hazards of mistrust." He is interviewed on a New Yorker podcast about his article. Gladwell's article is also a review of Ben Macintyre's book on Philby, A Spy Among Friends. Gladwell reviewed Macintyre's previous book, Operation Mincemeat and argued that spy agencies might be more trouble than they're worth.
"The Wall Street Journal has selected 100 legacies from World War I that continue to shape our lives today." You can sort according to your interest via the tabs at the top of the page. [Previously]
King Arthur Flour's Flourish blog investigates America's Love Affair With Pizza from the home cook's perspective. In The Beginning asks "When did Americans start making their own pizza at home, from scratch, rather than piling into the Studebaker to drive down to the pizza parlor for takeout?", and answers by reproducing pizza recipes from 1945, 1954, and 1961. [more inside]
The BBC will be covering World War One in great detail over the next four years. They've already started, with podcasts, interactive guides, online courses, programs new and old plus much, much more. Perhaps it's best to start at the beginning, with Professor Margaret MacMillan's Countdown to World War One (podcast link) or the account of her fellow historian Christopher Clark, Month of Madness. Of course, how the war started is still contested by historians, as recounted in The Great War of Words. The latter two are also part of the main WWI podcast. Or you can dive into the Music and Culture section, go through an A-Z guide or look at comics drawn by modern cartoonists.
The Battle of Bouvines was fought 800 years ago on July 27, 1214 and its outcome directly led to the Magna Carta and also to the national identities of both England and France. Some historians claim this date should be remembered after the Battle of Hastings in 1066 as one of the defining moments in English history. King John attempted to retake lands in Normandy employing an alliance army including Otto of Germany. John attacked from the south, but more importantly Otto was decisively defeated at Bouvines. Humiliated in defeat John was forced to consent to the Magna Carta, and the Anglo-Norman realm came to a final end allowing both England and France to develop their separate national identities. More background.
"In peace or war, the ultimate refuge—the sanctuary of all that is humane—lies distilled within the warmth of the kitchen." Journalist Paul Salopek pauses in the middle of his 21,000-mile Out of Eden Walk from Africa to South America -- Ethiopia to Tierra del Fuego -- to reflect on the food shared with him during his time in Israel and Palestine. "Watching the women of Nablus move briskly, efficiently, purposefully about their tasks, chatting, often joking (about men, politics, life), I am reminded of all the meals that admitted me briefly into the conflicted lives of Israelis and Palestinians." [more inside]
Where Restaurant Reservations Come From: Why did the practice develop? In the startup terms of our day, what problem did the institution of restaurant reservations solve? Well, the answer boils down to... sex and propriety.
Narrowly saved from the scrapyard just a few years earlier by then-mayor Dianne Feinstein, San Francisco's historic fireboat Phoenix has been credited with saving the Marina District from a blaze in the wake of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Following this heroic feat, two anonymous residents donated $300,000 towards the purchase of a second fireboat, Guardian, and a $50,000 gift from a Buddhist temple in the Marina funded her refurbishment. While Guardian's 1,200-mile journey from Vancouver did not go entirely smoothly, the crew arrived safely to a hero's welcome in San Francisco, including a water display from Phoenix. Now, with a recent vote, city supervisors have approved funding to build the city's first new fireboat in 60 years. [more inside]
The History of Autocorrect
...some of the calls were quite tricky, and one of the trickiest involved the issue of obscenity. On one hand, Word didn't want to seem priggish; on the other, it couldn't very well go around recommending the correct spelling of mothrefukcer. Microsoft was sensitive to these issues. The solution lay in expanding one of spell-check's most special lists, bearing the understated title: “Words which should neither be flagged nor suggested.”
Dave's Classic Limousines is dedicated to documenting Limousines prior to the Super-Stretch era and features pictures and descriptions of Custom Coachworks cars and one offs (home built and commercial) plus a page devoted to presidential limos. [more inside]
Currency Wars, or Why You Should Care About the Global Struggle Over the Value of Money In October 2010, the Brazilian Finance Minister made news by claiming an 'international currency war' had broken out. The term 'currency war' promptly became a buzz phrase with commentators and public officials warning about the dangers of these wars and their historical roots in the Great Depression. The U.S. government, in turn, has applied the idea to China, which it has accused of currency manipulation for the better part of a decade. So why does this matter? And how unusual is this all? Historian Steven Bryan puts currency wars in historical perspective and reminds us that currency policy is inextricably linked to national interests and that manipulation is the historical norm, not the exception. [more inside]
31 Adorable Slang Terms for Sexual Intercourse from the Last 600 Years Lexicographer Jonathon Green’s comprehensive historical dictionary of slang, Green’s Dictionary of Slang, covers hundreds of years of jargon, cant, and naughty talk. He has created a series of online timelines (here and here) where the words too impolite, indecent, or risqué for the usual history books are arranged in the order they came into fashion. (If you don’t see any words on the timelines, zoom out using the bar on the right.) We’ve already had fun with the classiest terms for naughty bits. Here are the most adorable terms for sexual intercourse from the last 600 or so years.
Animal Land where there are no people was a children's book released in 1897, written by Sybil Corbet, who was four years old, and illustrated by her mother, Katharine Corbet. "Animal Land where there are no People is quite near, only you can't see it... They live by the North Pole and in the leafy places near. It is always light there, always day, they climb the poles and always play." [more inside]
A dynamic map of world history since 3000 BC. Link starts at 338 BCE, the year before the first conquests of Alexander.
Cat-Scan.com is one of the strangest sites I've seen in some time. I have no idea how these people got their cats wedged into their scanners, or why.
“Every time the paper blade falls a camera will be triggered to capture the expression of the those who have put their neck on the line for an art experience like no other. Each fearful facial expression, forever immortalized on the PaperCuts-Exhibtion.com.”