Thursday, December 30, 2010

Rasputin and 2010

This is my last post for 2010! I can’t believe how quickly the time went this year; I’m almost done with college, I’m 22 now, and I’ve been blogging for a whole year. 2011 looks to be a promising year, and I’m excited to see what life has planned for me.

But enough of the inspirational stuff about me, you’re here to read about history. And I think I picked quite an interesting event for this week.

My sophomore year of high school my Advanced Placement European History teacher put up a picture of Rasputin up in the front of the classroom to watch us. He is definitely a creepy looking man with a colorful history.

On December 30, 1916 Rasputin was murdered. Rasputin was born in Siberia to peasants. Early in life he became a self-proclaimed holy man. Rasputin won the favor of Czar Nicholas II and Czarina Alexandra because he had the ability to stop the bleeding of their hemophiliac son.

Through this Rasputin gained a lot of trust from the royal family, especially Czarina Alexandra. When Czar Nicholas abdicated and left to fight in WWI, Rasputin was helping run the country with the Czarina.

Here is the interesting part of the story; at this point the noble class got annoyed at how much power Rasputin had. The only way to get rid of the problem was to kill Rasputin. He was first fed a large amount of poison, however he did not die. Next, the nobles shot Rasputin, twice to no avail. Finally they tied him up and dumped him in the river. Only then did the man die.

My history teacher also claimed (although this has no back checking) that Rasputin was a large man, over six feet tall, and also quite the lady’s man. Personally, I think he is not the most attractive person I’ve ever seen.

I’ve also been forgetting one main goal of my blog these last few months: to link the past to the present. Another thing I’ve heard about Rasputin was he claimed so long as he was alive nothing bad would happen to the Prince. After Rasputin’s death the noble class went a step further and brutally murdered the royal family.

In a strange overlapping of fate, on December 30, 1922 the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or USSR, was established under soviet leader Lenin. I hope I don’t need to spell out the rest of this history for you.

On another note, I wanted to conclude my blog for this year by highlighting some events I think will become history from this year.

First, the mining rescue from Chile: I did not follow the story too closely, but came on just in time to watch the last miner being rescued. This event was important because it was a positive news story; these men banded together and worked to survive. The country of Chile banded together to rescue the men with the aid of the world sending supplies and engineers. Many countries and people worked together to successfully rescue those men.

The death of the Georgian Lugar Nodar Kumaritashvili at the beginning of the Winter Olympics: This is one of the sad events from 2010.

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico: This oil spill only made me angrier and angrier the longer it went on. If a solution can be found to bring men home from the moon after a crisis with a space ship (Apollo 13) then surely some solution to this oil spill could have been found sooner than it was. Another bleak point of 2010, however something I hope we can learn from for the future.

The Icelandic Volcano Eruption: This caused most of European air travel to stand still, and disrupted air travel for over a month after the eruption.

Prince William and Kate’s engagement: speaks for itself.

So that is what I’ve brainstormed for this week. I am very excited for the New Year this year. I’m going out with some friends, and am quite certain I will have a blast ringing in the New Year. Make your resolutions, enjoy the holiday, and as I always finish my blogs: Happy History!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Saint Nick

Just one small side note from the topic a little: I looked back, way back, to my first post. It was December 23, 2009; I have been blogging now for over a year. Some things are the same, like Word underlining the word blog as misspelled. Some are different. Regardless I still love doing this, and plan to keep it up for another year, and beyond. I hope that you, my readers, will stick with me.

Up until now I’ve tried to be very balanced with my posts. As surprising as it may be, not everyone in the world celebrates Christmas, so doing a post with a Christmas undertone is a bit tough for me.

I do celebrate Christmas, but I’m actually also Jewish, and celebrated Chanukah earlier this month as well. So, before I start this post I would like to say not everyone celebrates the same holidays here; in fact I had one friend describe this week as tough because of how Christmas oriented it is. Turn on the TV and you get Christmas movies, shows, advertisements and music. This is why I say “Happy Holidays” as the universal greeting this time of year; it encompasses everyone.

But when I got on to search for historical events this week I found this and couldn’t resist.

December 24 many children will go to sleep with visions of Sugar Plums dancing in their heads, listening intently for the sound of reindeer on their roofs and the impression that Santa Clause is coming to their town. For all who celebrate Christmas, Santa is a man with a big beard who comes down the chimney and leaves you all the presents you asked for. Santa also lives in the North Pole with his elves, his reindeer and his sleigh. But where did the idea of Santa really come from?

St. Nicholas was originally a monk born around 280 C.E. in modern Turkey. St. Nicholas was known for his kindness; it is rumored he gave away all his inherited wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick. The best-known story of the time was how St. Nicholas saved three poor sisters from being sold into slavery by providing them with a dowry.

Nicholas became known as the protector of children and sailors over time. St. Nicholas’ feast day is celebrated December 6, and on this day it was considered lucky to make large purchases or get married. By the Renaissance St. Nicholas was the most popular saint in Europe. St. Nicholas remained popular even after the Protestant Reformation, especially in Holland.

St. Nicholas’ popularity spread to the United States towards the end of the 18th century. The name Santa Clause originated from the Dutch nickname Sinter Klaas. The Dutch living in New York gathered to celebrate his death an event documented in several New York newspapers.

In 1804 woodcarvings of Santa were distributed at the New York Historical Society. These woodcuts included images of Santa with stockings filled with toys and candy. Santa’s fame only increased from there.

Santa’s importance increased especially for children in the early 19th century. With the rise of magazines and other media, advertisers slowly began to expand Christmas’ importance. Stores began advertising for Christmas shopping in the 1820s; by the 1940s separate advertisements were created for Christmas shopping. Santa became a draw to different stores, luring in kinds for a glimpse of a live Santa. I personally think it was the rise of this consuming society that brought a rise of Santa over time.

Other countries had their own Santa’s as well. Cristkind or Kris Kringle delivered presents to well-behaved Swiss and German kids. In Scandinavia a jolly elf named Jultomten delivered gifts in a sleigh drawn by goats. In English legend Father Christmas who filled stockings on Christmas Eve. Pere Noel (translation Father Christmas) has a similar role in France.

A Russian story tells of a woman named Babouschka who gave the three wise men wrong directions on purpose so they wouldn’t find Jesus. Later she felt remorseful but could not undo the damage. On January 5 she visits children leaving gifts in hopes of undoing the damage. A similar story exists in Italy where a witch rides a broomstick down the chimneys of Italian homes to deliver toys into stockings of lucky children.

Today Santa is in every mall, in commercials and even drinks Coca-Cola. He is pat of the American culture, just like Christmas.

I’m going to finish off this post by wishing everyone a very Happy Holiday Season. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Chanukah or anything (or nothing) in between I hope you have had time with your families to celebrate. Because ultimately, I think that is the most important thing.

Happy History to all, and to all a Good Night!

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Lion-Heart

When I was a little girl one of my favorite Disney movies was Robin Hood. This movie had the animals playing the part of all the characters. You had a fox as Maid Marian and Robin Hood, a Lion as King Richard, a younger Lion as King John and a snake as Sir Hiss the exchequer.

My mom pointed out a vital argument over Thanksgiving break. Because I loved watching Robin Hood (and still do) my mom said even at a young age I was meant to be a historian, and you know what? I think she had a very valid point.

Today, December 20 in 1192 King Richard was captured on his way back to England from the Third Crusade. When I saw this fact today I knew I wanted to blog about it, because of the parallel with one of my favorite movies as a child.

King Richard took the thrown after King Henry II. Richard was the third son born to Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, a marriage that is one of the most interesting in History. Eleanor was married previously to the King of France, and bore him two daughters before the marriage was ended. Eleanor then married Henry, heir to the English thrown. With their marriage England inherited most of the western area of France in addition to the mainland of England.

The first son born to Eleanor and Henry was named William; he did not survive childhood. The second son was named Henry; he died before he could inherit the thrown. The third son was Richard, followed by Geoffrey and finally by John.

Richard really was, as Disney claimed in their movie, Eleanor’s favorite son. Richard grew up in France in the court in Aquitaine where Eleanor grew up. He was close with the French lords. John was only the favorite of Henry after all three older boys, along with Eleanor, rebelled and waged war against their father. John was too young join in.

King Richard was crowned King, and spent much of his early reign on the content in France fighting against the French King for land. And as many strong Kings during the Middle Ages, when the opportunity came to go on Crusade, King Richard went.

He really wasn’t supposed to be captured at all. Richard simply angered Leopold V of Austria while on crusade, and to get back at him captured him when Richard was on his way home. Leopold required 2 million pounds from England for Richards return. Eleanor, still alive at the time, worked the hardest to get the money for Richards return. John, who was acting as King in Richards place, also worked for his brothers return (no doubt because Eleanor required him to).

In the end Richard was returned to England, and immediately went back to the continent to gain back all the land John lost while Richard was on crusade. And unlike how the new 2010 movie Robin Hood with Russell Crow depicts it, King Richard died on the continent from gangrene after he received an arrow in the arm. He was searching for treasurer with his knights.

Now, if you have read carefully you should be wondering why Geoffrey did not become King after Richard did. Alas, he too died, but he left behind a teenage son who should have inherited instead of John by the rules of feudal law. However, this son mysteriously disappeared and was found dead. This left no one but John, the last of the sons of Eleanor and Henry. King John is also the only King John in English history. He was one of the worst English Kings; he single handedly lost all the land in France to the French King.

And that is the history briefly summarized for everyone. I hope you all enjoyed reading about it. And I would go pop in my favorite Robin Hood, but my VCR is no longer in my living room. Wow, VCR, history in itself. I feel much older than I should for admitting my old Disney movies are on VCR.

I hope everyone has a great rest of his or her December 20, and I will work hard to update again this week. I have a good idea I may expand a bit on. As always, Happy History!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor day is a day many Americans know. If anything, you’ve seen the movie titled Pearl Harbor and associate the day with Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett from the movie (am I dating myself by assuming this? There are other movies about the day out there too like Tora! Tora! Tora!). But in reality, 69 years ago in 1941 Japan bombed the Navy port in Hawaii, beginning U.S. involvement in WWII.

At 7:55 a.m. Hawaiian time, a Japanese dive-bomber appeared above Oahu. Shortly after 360 Japanese warplanes followed and descended on the naval base at Pearl Harbor, and the attack struck a critical blow to the U.S. Pacific fleet.

Diplomatic negotiations with Japan had been deteriorating and it is said President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his advisers knew an imminent Japanese attack was probable. At the time nothing had been done to increase security at Pearl Harbor.

Since it was Sunday many men had been given passes to attend Sunday services. No alarm was sounded because a fleet of B-17 had been expected to arrive. Much of the Pacific Fleet was rendered useless after the bombing and a total of 2,400 Americans were killed and 1,200 were wounded, many while attempting to fight back against the attack. The only lucky part was all three Pacific fleet carriers were out at sea.

A day after Pearl Harbor was bombed President Roosevelt appeared before a joint session of Congress and declared, “Yesterday, December 7, 1941- a date which will live in infamy- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”

After asking for a declaration of war the Senate voted for war 82 to 0 and the House of Representatives approved the resolution by a vote of 388 to 1. Only Jeannette Ranking of Montana voted against war because she was a devout pacifist. She also cast a dissenting vote against the U.S. entrance into WWI.

Three days later Germany and Italy declared war against the U.S. and the government acted in king. President Roosevelt had been looking for an excuse to become involved in Europe and saw this as the excuse he needed.

After the attack Isoroku Yamamoto, the Japanese Admiral is credited with saying, "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve." This quote comes from a popular American movie Tora! Tora! Tora! and Yamamoto may have never said these words.

What is known is the admiral may have begun questioning the decision to attack Pearl Harbor in the first place, beginning to believe Japan could not win a protracted war against the United States. There is no verification for the quote, but it does well to summarize some of the feelings at the time.

I hope everyone takes the time to remember December 7 today, it is important to our country, and changed the course of history during the time. It is possible without the attack the U.S. would not have entered WWII in the first place. But that is uncertain as well, and I can’t readily answer that larger question.

In other news, if anyone is interested in viewing my thesis I spent so much time on, visit the website I created for it at:
I hope you enjoy it!

I hope everyone has a great week, and a Happy Holiday Season! Chanukah is going on right now (it’s the sixth night), and Christmas is coming up!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Japan and Pearl Harbor

You all thought I was going to blog about the history of Thanksgiving, didn’t you? Well, I try to keep my readers on their toes, and tried to stay away from the expected. Thus, I am posting a day after the holiday. Making last minute changes, in retrospect blogging about Black Friday may have been a good choice. But, this is also interesting. So, here we go with my second post of the week.

Looking through my possible topic suggestions for my later post, I found November 26, 1941 the Japanese task force left for Pearl Harbor.

Adm. Chirchi Nagumoto led the Japanese First Air Fleet, with the orders should "negotiations with the United States reach a successful conclusion, the task force will immediately put about and return to the homeland." These negotiations had been ongoing for months and Japan wanted to end U.S. economic sanctions put in place because the U.S. wanted Japan out of China and Southeast Asia.

Neither side was budging, and Roosevelt anticipated a Japanese strike as retaliation, but was unsure where the strike would be. The Philippines, Wake Island and Midway were all possibilities.

Nagumo had no experience with naval aviation and did not like taking risks; he considered the attack on Pearl Harbor to be one of those risks. Chief of Staff Rear Adm. Isoruku Yamamoto felt differently and believed the only way Japan would gain a victory was a surprise attack.

As far as the Roosevelt War Department was concerned, if war was inevitable, it desired "that Japan commit the first overt act."

Everyone knows December 7 is Pearl Harbor Day, but I thought it was interesting how the fleet left on November 26.

I hope everyone had a marvelous holiday. For those going out Black Friday Shopping, enjoy. And Happy History to all!

Monday, November 22, 2010


Ok, so I have once again taken a lot of time to myself to work on my studies. The good news is I presented my thesis and got an A on it! The bad news is I have been slacking on my history. To make up for it I am going to try and update twice this week, so I can say I have accomplished a bit. However, it is break, so I may just not get to it at all.

During my hiatus, there have been some very interesting topics:
• The Sistine Chapel Ceiling opened to the public on November 1, 1512
• German scientist Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen discovered the x-ray on November 8, 1895
• WWI Ends at 11:00 a.m. on November 11, 1918
• The Elizabethan Age began November 17, 1558 when Elizabeth ascends the thrown at the age of 25

Today, November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy dies. Everyone knows the story; JFK was in a motorcade at a parade in Dallas, Texas when Lee Harvey Oswald killed him. Allegedly three shots were fired, two hitting the president and fatally wounding him, and also seriously injuring Governor Connally.

The President was pronounced dead 30 minutes later. Vice President Linden B. Johnson was sworn in as President at 2:39 p.m.

Oswald joined the Maries in 1956, and was discharged in 1959 and left for the Soviet Union. Oswald tried unsuccessfully to become a citizen. He later returned to the U.S. in 1962 with his wife and child. Oswald allegedly shot and missed former U.S. Army General Edwin Walker in 1963; Walker was known for his extreme right-wing views. Oswald later went on to found a pro-Castro organization, and Oswald tried later that year to return to the U.S.S.R. or move to Cuba. He later moved to Dallas.

Oswald was found less than an hour after JFK was shot. Two days later he was killed while being moved to a more secure county jail by Jack Ruby.

I believe LBJ is a president overlooked by history. He is most commonly known with beginning the Vietnam War, however he also tried to improve the conditions of life in the U.S. with his Great Society social programs.

It is interesting to consider what could have been if JFK was not killed. During his time as president, JFK had to deal with the Cuban Missile Crisis with Cuba and the Cold War. JFK was also famous for the first televised Presidential debate with Richard Nixon.

So, this is the history for today. And later this week I will try to get another blog posted. I already have two ideas. I’m also taking the chance to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. It’s the start of the holiday season, so take some time to enjoy yourself with family and friends. And as always: Happy History everyone!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Ferdinand and Isabella

I really try to get this out more than once a month, which sounds funny to say since I almost did it two months in a row. However, in my slight defense, I am very busy at this moment with my honors thesis, papers for class and club activities. It has resulted in me getting up much earlier than necessary to give myself a couple extra hours in my day.

So forgive me for not finding the time to research a historical event. And the one time I did remember to look, I found nothing really interesting for that one week. I’ve been meaning to check ever since.

Today, thanks to my “This Day in History” e-mail, I saw today, October 18, 2010 marks the anniversary of the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella in 1469. This is one of the more important marriages in history, since by getting married the two were able to unite the different territories of Spain under one solid rule. This act also led to Spain becoming a power in the world.

Once Ferdinand and Isabella took the thrown, they introduced the Spanish Inquisition, a brutal system meant to convert or deport Jewish citizens in the country. Four years later, Muslim citizens were given the same choice.

Then in 1492 Spanish explorer Christopher Columbus introduced Spain to the new World, and Spain was able to acquire a vast empire.

The Union between the two leaders set Spain on a path to greatness and world dominance. Spain would retain its position as a world power until the reign of Queen Elizabeth.

Spain’s global influence is important, and the Spanish Inquisition was also important. I’m sorry I don’t really have the time to dwell on them too much, but the colonies Spain created became countries in the world today. With that, I’m going to post my short blog for today, and hopefully come back with something a bit more substantial next time. As always, wishing everyone happy history!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

William the Conqueror

This week there were several interesting things that happened. Tuesday September 28 in 1701, divorce was legalized in Maryland. Then on Thursday September 30 in 1791 Mozart’s opera “The Magic Flute” premiered in Vienna, Austria.

However, sifting through all the events, I thought some of the most interesting events went together involving William the Conqueror. I’ve mentioned William before, in my post involving Maud in June. Well now I’m going to go into detail about his invasion of England.

In 1066 the last of the Anglo Saxon Kings died without an heir to the throne. The only logical person in England who could take the crown was Harold Godwinson, the brother to the Queen. Within days Harold was crowned King.

However, the problem was in 1038 the previous King Harold Harefoot made a treaty with King Magnus of Norway that if either died without a male heir, the other would inherit the thrown.

Cut to 1066, and Harald Hardrada, King of Norway, claims he has a right to the thrown because of the treaty signed in 1038.

At around the same time, William, Duke of Normandy decides he also has a claim to the English thrown. He said he was promised the thrown. However, before invading he made sure he had the permission of the King of France (his lord under the Surfdom system) and Pope Alexander II.

Harold Godwinson had a choice to make as a new king; who would he deem the larger threat? He decided Harald Hardrada was the larger threat, and took his entire army North to wait for him to come. Because it was a colder winter, it took until September until Hardrada finally came.

Meanwhile, William was waiting in the North of France for a “favorable wind” and it wasn’t until September 29, 1066 he decided the wind was favorable enough for him to sail. In reality, William was waiting to see which Haro(a)ld would win the battle.

Turns out Harold Godwinson won the Battle of Stamford Bridge against the Norwegian Harald Hardrada. As soon as the battle was won, Harold had to move quickly to the South of England to meet William’s army, who sailed three days after the battle.

In one week Harold moved from the North of England, to the South a total of 120 miles in 13 days, which considering the time period is amazingly fast. In the meantime, William had invaded England September 29, 1066 and was working to strengthen his position around Hastings.

On October 14, 1066, the Battle of Hastings was fought, and William won. William was crowned December 25, 1066 when he reached London. It took so long because there was fighting along the way. He became known as William I, King of England, or more commonly known as William the Conqueror, and ended the Anglo-Saxon Period.

To solidify his legitimacy to rule, William had the Bayeux Tapestry created, by his half brother. It is 20 feet tall, and 240 feet long. View the tapestry animated here.

There are a couple of interesting facts about William’s early reign. He brought pre made castles with him when he invaded England, and began to assemble them when he invaded. This allowed him to fortify his position as King of England and strengthen his rule. He build 500 castles during his reign, including the Tower of London.

In addition, William was a bastard son of the King of France, so before he became William the Conqueror, he was known as William the Bastard. In Medieval Europe, being a bastard actually allowed the person to wield a great deal of power.

There is so much to say about Williams reign. He changed England forever because he was from the continent. And after his death, Williams son Henry I would also change England even more. These changes are seen through today because of the influence they had on the government of England. 1066 changed England forever.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"Free at Last"

I have been on an almost month long hiatus, and for that I’m sorry. There really is no excuse except to say I’ve been busy and a bit lazy and become a bit more selective about the history I wish to select. This is probably something I should work on, but for now I’m breaking my silence with a post.

Initially I searched and found nothing of interest this week. But I think that was my lack of motivation talking, because when I went back I found something very interesting and very relevant to post about.

September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln submitted his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.

Lets back up to the beginning of the war. Originally, the South seceded from the Union based on States Rights, not on Slavery like many think. Yes, the states rights ultimately linked back to slavery, but that was not the original argument.

Ultimately, it was the decision to secede from the Union to preserve slavery that killed slavery.

At the beginning of the war, President Lincoln emphasized the need to preserve the Union. Although he was against slavery, he knew his view was not widely shared. Many would think he was abusing his power as the president.

However, as the war continued, Lincoln was forced to consider several factors regarding slavery. First, as the Union moved into the South, the armies were bombarded by an increasing number of runaway slaves. This meant there needed to be a solution of what to do with the vast number of people. Also, slaves grew the majority of food supplying the Southern army. If the slaves were freed it would hurt the Southern Army.

For these reason, Lincoln’s policy on slavery shifted. Over time the issue of slavery expanded. In April 1862, slavery was prohibited in Washington D.C. In June of the same year slavery was prohibited in the western territories of the country.

And so, all these steps led to the Preliminary Emancipation announced on September 22, 1862. Lincoln announced that January 1, 1863 all areas controlled by the Confederate States of America were free. This meant if states surrendered to the Union, they would not have to give up their slaves.

Lincoln thought if he threatened slavery he could convince the Southern states to surrender, ending the war. This Emancipation did not free the slaves, since it did not go into effect until January 1, 1863. It also did not free the slaves in areas controlled by the Union, so all the northern and western states, and areas reclaimed by the Union in the south, like Tennessee and New Orleans. It wasn’t until the 15th Amendment was passed after the conclusion of the war that was slavery abolished universally across the United States.

The United States is the only country in history to fight to free its slaves. While the Emancipation Proclamation did not free all the slaves in the U.S., it did set the stage for the passing of the 15th Amendment. For this reason, it is an important event in United States history.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Council of Nicaea

This last week has been very busy for me. I moved back to school, and will actually start my senior year tomorrow. I can’t believe how fast four years of college have gone, and am even more surprised that in a few short months I’m going to have to start looking for a real job.

But besides all of this, I’ve looked into this week in history, this week that will be the last first weeks of my college undergraduate career. I did find some very interesting things, but the Council of Nicaea caught my eye over other things.

In 324 Emperor Constantine became the sole ruler of the Roman Empire. After having four Emperors ruling the Roman Empire for several years, this was a break from the recent tradition. Also making him that much different, Constantine was the first Roman Emperor who converted to Christianity.

During the early years of Christianity there was a major debate between church leaders about the divinity of Jesus because he was born and had a beginning. This thought eventually spread to all Christians, and the religion faced a possible schism with religious leaders debating both sides.

Because of his interest in the religion, Constantine called a meeting between the religious leaders to discuss this ideology. This council of the religious leaders became known as the Council of Nicaea, named after its meeting place in Nicaea, Turkey, and it concluded on August 25, 325.

At this council, the members worked to define Christ and ultimately established the Holy Trinity, and determined only the Son became incarnate as Jesus Christ.

Another key part of the council I remember from class is the importance the decision held for Constantine. As a single ruler taking control after several years of the heptarchy where four emperors ruled together, this would place him as the most influential and important person in the Empire. On Earth, the Roman Emperor was the most important person, even more important than a key religious figure.

The decision was very controversial, and did cause a split in the Church, forming the modern day Easter Orthodox religion. Ultimately, this council helped form some of the founding stones of the Christian Religion, surviving to the present day. Without the decisions of this council, the Christian religion may not have even survived.

I hope everyone enjoys their week, and as always, Happy History!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Unconditional Surrender

On August 6, 2010, I opened my e-mail just like any other normal morning. Since I’m on summer break, I don’t have as many e-mails coming into my inbox, so I usually only have to check it once instead of the thousand times like normal during school.

And like usual, I had my daily e-mail from telling me what happened that day in history, and like usual I opened it and glanced at the first thing that poped up. But unlike mornings before when I had deleted it without scrolling down (because does not always give me the history I seek; more American 20th century which I’m trying to stay away from on most occasions) this day was different.

The top story was that on this day August 6, 1945, the Atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. I couldn’t believe it; for some reason, even though I know the day I just never associated it with summer, or even thought about it in August. I looked outside at my beautiful sunny morning and still sat there in shock. Something about the realization that this beautiful day held such death and horror really resonated with me; enough to break up my retelling of my trip to Israel and want to divulge into the significance of this day, and August 9th when the second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, in ending WWII with the Japanese.

Beyond everything else I just have a desire to honor those who did die in these bombings, and look a little into what was, and what could have been.

Fact: At 8:16 a.m. August 6, 1945 the Atomic Bomb was dropped on the city of Hiroshima. About 80,000 people are killed in result of the bomb with 35,000 inured. 60,000 would be dead due to effects of the fallout. There were 90,000 buildings in Hiroshima before the bomb was dropped and only 28,000 remained after the bombing. The bomb used gained the nickname “Little Boy”

Fact: At 11:02 a.m. August 9, 1945 the second Atomic Bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki. This bomb was nicknamed “Fat Man” and although the hills in the area did a better job containing the blast, it is estimated between 60,000 and 80,000 people will killed from the initial blast.

Fact: August 15, 1945 it is announced to the Japanese people that Japan had surrendered unconditionally to the Americans.

There is something about the mood associated with the Atomic Bombs that has kept me from really desiring to spell out minute-by-minute details for this week. I think enough is known about the topic for everyone to get the gist. I also think there is enough controversy about it that going into the decision would pollute the strong facts associated with the event.

Photo Credit: my cousin Chelsea Lauwereins visited Japan four years ago. Thanks for your picture of Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Park. This is the only surviving building from the Atomic Blast, and the bomb exploded directly above this building.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Masada is a place that has serious significance to the Jewish people for one small event that happened there. Located on the top of a hill south of the Dead Sea, the location of Masada is prime to be able to see miles around.

Visiting Masada is a fantastic experience you can only feel if you visit it. There are two options to get up to Masada: hike to the top, or take a cable car. And my group hiked to the top, which for me made the experience the more special.

Masada was built by King Herod, and included two palaces, a bath house and giant storerooms. I’m sure the location was chosen because of its view of the surrounding area. But the building and location of Masada is not what makes the site so special, but rather what happened there in history.

In 70 C.E. the Jews revolted against the Romans; at the time Israel was part of the Roman Empire, which spanned around most of the Mediterranean. The Romans eventually put down the revolt, destroying Jerusalem and the Temple there. After the revolt, 960 revolt leaders fled south, and lived at Masada for three years under siege.

The Romans could have easily left the Jews alone, but it wasn’t their style. Instead, they spent months (possibly years, I didn’t find a definite time amount) building a siege ramp to reach the top of Masada and the Jews living there. When they finally made it to the top, the Jews had a choice to make: would they allow themselves to be taking prisoner, where their wives would probably be raped and their children would be sold into slavery, or would they take their lives to spare themselves and their families that fate? The leader of the zealots, Elazar ben Yair decided on a mass suicide.

It is from the Roman Flavius Josephys that we have the account of the mass suicide today. Josephys claims to have found two women and five children who escaped the suicide and it was them who told him the story of the suicide, and restated Yair’s final speech. Here is a taste of it:

"Since we long ago resolved, never to be servants to the Romans, nor to any other than to God Himself, Who alone is the true and just Lord of mankind, the time is now come that obliges us to make that resolution true in practice.... We were the very first that revolted [against Rome], and we are the last that fight against them; and I cannot but esteem it as a favor that God has granted us, that it is still in our power to die bravely, and in a state of freedom. Let our wives die before they are abused, and our children before they have tasted of slavery, and after we have slain them, let us bestow that glorious benefit upon one another mutually." It is then said Yair ordered all possessions to be destroyed except the food, because "[the food] will be a testimonial when we are dead that we were not subdued for want of necessities; but that, according to our original resolution, we have preferred death before slavery."

I think one of my favorite parts about visiting Masada was hiking up to the top. Granted, our hike lasted only 10 minutes (which was ok since it was insanely hot there, even at 8 a.m.). We hiked up the Roman siege ramp, which definitely appealed to my nerdy history interests. I was literally walking on history, which made it a very special experience. Being on top of Masada provided the most amazing view of the surrounding area, and visiting the ruins was fantastic.

This picture is looking down onto the palace built on the bottom two levels of Masada. I wish we could have visited that area, but I have somewhere to explore next time I go.

Around Masada you can see these squares on the ground in various shapes and sizes. These are the remnants left over from where the Romans camped while they were sieging Masada. You can still see these areas today, it is amazing.

This is the bath house. This was one of the places we explored in depth.

This room is the medium temperature room. I believe the painting on the side of the wall is original, but I am again uncertain if that is the case, or it was added to give the viewer persepective.

This is probably the best picture I have of the hot room. The floor was raised here, and the steam would travel out pipes on the walls.

This is the spot where Masada was finally breeched by the Romans. I was amazed because how steep it was at that spot (like almost everywhere else around Masada).

And finally, one of my favorite pictures from there.

Masada was a magical experience, although it was very, very hot while I was there. Enjoy pictures I took, and happy history!

Sunday, July 25, 2010


One part of being in Tel Aviv is definitely partying. If you want a city in Israel to have a good time, Tel Aviv is the place. The one night we were there (which was not close to being enough time to experience the city) it was a White Night. Every store was open all night long, and my Aunt told me White Night refers to being tired the next day from being awake all night.

But Tel Aviv also has some historical points that are just as important as the nightlife there. Tel Aviv began as the Jewish suburb to Jaffa (Yafo), an Arab port city located on the coast. Jaffa is actually believed to be the oldest port city in the world, and I do remember memorizing its location for my map tests in my Ancient Israel class this last semester. In fact, it is believed trees from Jaffa were used by King Solomon to build the First Temple.

Jaffa itself has a lot of history associated with it for the Jewish, Christian and various other religions (There is a Greek Mythological association with the town) and despite my desire to list all of them here, since I did not visit the town this is not the time. So, we’ll have to save the Jaffa history lesson for when I do actually visit the city, or find another link to it.

Today’s history lesson is on Tel Aviv and the birth of the State of Israel. On May 14, 1948 the State of Israel was created, eight hours before the termination of the British Mandate.

What is cool about Independence Hall is the history the building had even before Israel became a state. The place chosen as the birthplace of a nation was the former home of Meir Dizengoff, the first mayor of Tel Aviv, and one of the founders of the city.

In the early 1900’s the Jews of Jaffa wanted to have a place of their own away from the Arab city, so they purchased the land out north in the attempts of establishing a suburb town there. In 1909, sixty-six families gathered to divide up land plots of what would become Tel Aviv. The city began to be built and Dizengoff led the way in trying to make the area independent from Jaffa, eventually winning and becoming the city’s first mayor.

In 1936 Dizengoff died, leaving his house as an art museum for the city of Tel Aviv. His home would play a crucial role in independence. On my tour to the location the tour guide asked why we thought the site was chosen as the place to sign the declaration of independence. The room is very small, probably only fitting 250 people tops, so why on one of the most important days in the countries history did they pick to sign in Tel Aviv, instead of Jerusalem, and in that place?

During the war of independence Jerusalem was under siege, and it was not an option as a place to meet. In fact, Jerusalem was originally lost to the Israeli’s and Jews were not welcome there until the city was reclaimed during the Six Day War in 1967.

Another point the tour guide made was that there was a war at this time, and the location is partially underground with small windows, almost like a bunker.

The decision to declare a state came two days before it happened, so the chairs used were borrowed form local coffee shops, and the microphones were borrowed from a shop. Interestingly (for a journalism major that is) the first advertisement of the country was a sign on one of those microphones for the store the microphone was borrowed from.

Visiting this site was a different change of pace from the ancient history usually associated with the region, and was definitely enjoyable to learn about. As always feel free to leave comments and enjoy the pictures I (and some of my other tour mates) took there.

Photo Credit: Rebecca Schwartz. This is the front of the building.

Photo Credit: Becca Drowos. This is a good look at the room where Israel became a state.

Photo Credit: Becca Drowos. Another view of looking at the room.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Dear readers, it is time for something I’ve been looking forward to all summer: posting about Israel. After a whirlwind 9 days (which should have been 10 but Delta canceled our flight out) I have returned to the states wanting nothing more than to return. The bottom line is if you want ancient history, go to Israel. Its position as the crossroad of the ancient world gave the area significant wealth to outside empires, and caused an extreme meshing of cultures. Layers of history are found in each different place because of the number of empires that have ruled the area over time and what they did to try and leave their mark on the land.

Within two hours of being in the country, my group was already staring at the meshing of cultures at Caesarea. This town has a modern area as well as ancient ruins, which have been put on display for tourists, and it is located in the northern area of Israel, on the coast and is probably about one hour north of Tel Aviv.

When the Emperor Augustus came to power he placed King Herod in control of Israel. King Herod is a figure that was responsible for many of the building projects in Israel during the Roman Rule. In fact, King Herod is so important I even spent a day studying him and what he did for Israel in my Roam Empire class.

King Herod built Caesarea for the same reasons other rules built: to try and boost the economy of their region. Over 12 years King Herod built the city into the grand city it became, complete with a deep-water port, aqueduct, hippodrome and amphitheater. King Herod named it Caesarea in honor of the Caesar of Rome, who at the time was Augustus.

Caesarea was not only important to the Roman population there; the religious communities of the region also found importance with the city. Prominent Christen leaders lived her; Pontius Pilate governed Caesarea during the life of Jesus and this is where Simon Peter converted the first non-Jewish Roman, Cornelius, to believe in Jesus.

In 640 CE Caesarea was the last Palestinian city (after the revolt in 70 CE the name of the region was changed to Palestine after the Philistines living there to punish the Jews) to fall to the Muslims. After this time period the city was neglected, and after several earthquakes was largely destroyed.

The area also has a rich religious history. When Caesarea was originally built King Herod dedicated a temple to Augustus, the Roman Emperor at the time. Later, Christian leaders Peter and Paul visited the city (recorded by the New Testament) and later it was the center of Jewish revolt against the Romans.

From my tour there I learned some really interesting information about the historical importance of the hippodrome in Caesarea. Our group was seated in the stands of the hippodrome, and we listened as our tour guide explained the importance of the site to Jews.

In the ancient times the stadium housed all of the chariot races and gladiatorial games in the area. As we were there and we were talking about the glory of the stadium during those days, our tour guide also told us a darker side of the area’s history. After the Bar Kochva Revolt all the religious leaders who participated in the revolt were brought to Caesarea. Once there they were forced to participate in the gladiatorial games, which became a fight for their lives.

Prior to the revolt, Rabbi’s urged the Jewish population to stay away from the gladiatorial games. But once they were fighting for their lives they recognized how important it was to have the crowd on your side, because it was also the crowd who determined if someone would live or die. So Jews began to attend the gladiatorial games to try and support those who were forced to fight for their lives.

The hippodrome is where Rabbi Akiva was killed. Rabbi Akiva was highly educated and systematized the material later becoming the Mishah.

Enjoy the pictures I took while I was there. I definitely was in history heaven, and I’m pretty sure everyone in the group knew how infatuated I was with history by the end of the tour. It’s ok; I think I surprised them all in a good way by the end of the trip with my knowledge!

Crusader Fortifications built by Louis XI of France who came during the sixth cursade during the 13th Century. This was aparently built on previously destroyed fortifications by Saladin in 1187, and Muslims described the city as a well-fortified city.

Byzantine Period Reservior

I believe this is what is left of the wall that used to surround the harbor. But I could be totally wrong.

This is a Dedicatory Inscription for Pontius Pilatus. Since it is written in Latin, this hints at the Romanization throughout the province and in Caesarea at the begining of the first century C.E.

This is the ampitheatre in Caesarea, and concerts are still held there today.

I have at least two other posts I would like to do from my trip. Be patient as I work to get them up, and leave comments if you wish letting me know how you like this one. And as always, happy history!

Sunday, June 27, 2010


The ancient land of Canaan, (today known as Israel) was of significant importance to the ancient empires because it was the overland route between the Egyptian and Assyrian Empires. For thousands of years this land has been contested, conquered and under several influences. For this reason the area is rich in different cultural influences, and history.

On June 28 I travel to Israel, and this trip could not happen at a more opportune time. I just took an Ancient Israel class, where I studied about early Israelite history: the Exodus from Egypt, King David and Solomon, the Divided Monarchy time period and exile into Babylon. Because of how old of history we are talking about, the only written source for the time was the Bible. We read this as a historical document, trying to put the religious elements on the back burner and compare the written evidence with the archeological record that has been found in the region.

Religious or not, the area provides a very interesting history because of its location, and because of the different power struggles going on in the region. Locked between two of the largest Empires in the world, the region was constantly fought over. It wasn’t until the two regions receded lands due to internal turmoil the country of Israel was able to form. The little slice of land became a monarchy under David, and later solidified under his son Solomon.

The archeological record does support a central government. Three towns, Megiddo, Hazor and Gezer all have the same six chamber gate. This gate was extremely secure against an attack, and all three towns were placed along the ancient overland travel route from Egypt to Assyria. There is also evidence of soldiers being held at these sites, so these cities were also defensive for the region.

After the short stint as a united Monarchy, the region split into two different countries: Israel in the North, and Judah in the South. The two countries were not one entirely equal proportion since Israel had most of the agricultural resources because of the wetter climate. For this reason, as well as encompassing the fertile Jezreel Valley, the country was more on the international scene, having to fight off other surrounding regions from conquest. However, eventually the Assyrian Empire was able to conquer the region and claim the land as part of the empire.

Now only Judah was left, and this area began to also feel the international pressures after a time. Then, a shift happened. The Assyrians were conquered by the Babylonian Empire and the Kingdom of Judah itself fell. It was at this time those living in Judah were exiled into Babylon. However, 50 short years later, the Babylonian Empire fell to the Persians, and those living in exile were allowed to return back to Judah. It was at this time the term Jew was developed to describe those living in Judah.

After this time the region was conquered by Alexander the Great during the Hellenistic period, and eventually the rule of Rome. This last part is stretching my knowledge since we barely touched on the Hellenistic period in my class. I did touch on Israel during my Roman Empire class as well, and learned a little about the Herod Dynasty.

But this is all really to give you context about the area I will be traveling in. My hope is that I will visit some of these ancient places on my trip and be able to post more specific history and information when I get back.

So, until I get back, I wish all my readers happy history. I am looking forward to visiting and living it!

Thursday, June 17, 2010


In 1066 A.D. everything changed in England. William the Conquer claimed the throne of England, and established a feudal system while unting the Heptarchy for good. After his death, the country was fought over by his three sons, and was first ruled by his second son William Rufus, and finally by his third son Henry. Henry I ruled after the unpopular reign of his brother and had a lot of interesting things associated with his rule. Perhaps I can find a good time to speak about all of this at a later time, but for now it isn’t too relevant.

But there are two important things to note for this post. The first is that Henry’s oldest brother, the first born son William was given Normandy when his father died, and after fighting for it, Henry eventually claimed Normandy as part of his territory. This meant England consisted of both the country of England and the province of Normandy. The second important thing Henry did was mend relations by marrying Matilda, Princess of Scotland.

But the problems really started after Henry I died. During his life, Henry had 22 children, which under normal circumstances wouldn’t be a problem. The problem was of those 22 children, only two were with his wife, and only one of them was a son. Making matters even more complicated was the fact that Henry’s one legitimate heir died in a shipwreck, leaving only his daughter, also named Matilda, as a legitimate heir to the throne of England.

Despite being a woman, Matilda (or Maud. Matilda is the Latin version of Maud) had all the skills to make a good ruler. She was smart, ambitious and was a good manipulator. When she was 12 she was married to the German Emperor, but they had no children. When he died she returned to her father’s court, and she was married to her second husband Geoffery of Anjou and Maine. They were married June 17, 1129, and while it is believed they did not love each other (she was 23 and he was 13) they had three sons in four years.

Henry had his Barons swear oaths to his daughter three times while he was still alive, but when he died in December 1135 his Barons rebelled against her, and supported her cousin Stephen of Blois as King instead. This is for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Normandy and Anjou had been rival territories for some time, and her being married to Geoffery placed Anjou as a ruling power over Normandy. Many of the Barons were Normans. The second reason was despite her skill, Maud had a reputation of being a difficult woman.

Blois was a small territory, and Stephen was a weak man, allowing the Barons to have free rule in England as they desired. Maud did not give up her throne easily, and waged a 20-year Civil War with Stephen for the throne. In the end, Stephen was able to maintain the crown, but her son Henry was accepted as the next ruler of England.

If you want a good summer read that is exciting and a bit historical, I might recommend “The Pillars of the Earth” by Ken Follett. It is a book taking place during the Civil War, and he touches a bit on both Stephen and Maud, although his main characters and not either of those. There is also brief mention of Henry II. I was reading the book when I found the date of Maud and Geoffery’s marriage, and that is probably why I felt partial to blogging about it this week.

I’m thinking of bringing the sequel to Israel with me as a good plane and bus book that will keep me occupied.

I realize that the last three posts have been about England, and I am sorry there isn’t more variety. I will try to leave next week with something from a different area of the world. Then, two weeks I’ll be gone to Israel, so I will probably dedicate at least two posts (make up ones from what I missed earlier) to some history from that area. But for now, feel free to post comments or suggestions below. Happy History all!

Friday, June 11, 2010


On the 28 of June I am leaving to go on a 10-day trip to Israel. Needless to say, I am very excited and because of that it seems I’ve gotten my dates mixed up.

Last Friday I posted about Henry VIII and his first Queen Catherine of Aragon. They were married on June 11, and I thought last Friday was the 11. But instead, my post was a week early, so I find myself in a bit of a predicament about what to post on for the real this week.

So I decided since history is looking at things in retrospect anyway, I would post something interesting that happened on Tuesday of this week, Tuesday June 8 in 793 A.D.

In 793 the Vikings raided Lindisfarne in North Umbria and this event is commonly accepted as the beginning of the Scandinavian invasion of England. Lindisfarne Priory was one of the most important centers of early Christianity in Anglo-Saxon England.

The monastery was founded in 635A.D. and since it was located on an island along the coast it was an easy target for Vikings. The Vikings began to travel to other countries because of the cooling climate in Scandinavia, and many began to settle in Greenland, Iceland and even England. The people who settled on land were not known as Vikings, but rather as Norse. It was only those who went on raiding parties to gain wealth to sell who were known as Vikings.

During this time the Monastery’s were some of the richest places in Anglo-Saxon England. The Anglo Saxon chronicle was kept every year about activities in the country, and for 793 I found this entry:
"AD. 793. This year came dreadful fore-warnings over the land of the Northumbrians, terrifying the people most woefully: these were immense sheets of light rushing through the air, and whirlwinds, and fiery dragons flying across the firmament. These tremendous tokens were soon followed by a great famine: and not long after, on the sixth day before the ides of January in the same year, the harrowing inroads of heathen men made lamentable havoc in the church of God in Holy-island, by rapine and slaughter."

After 793 more Viking raids would come, and North Umbria would continue to be the destination of the raids. The Monastery’s continued to offer wealth to those who raided them, and the Vikings would not be dispelled until after Albert the Great came to power in 871, uniting all seven of the states in England (North Umbria, Mercia, East Anglia, Sussex, Wessex, Essex, Kent) into one united country.

The Vikings continue to be romanticized today, and they are definitely a cooler part of history, I must admit. I would to take the opportunity to say the horns of the helmet were not really historically accurate; they began as a costume for an opera in the 1800’s.

Next week I will have a time accurate post. Until then, leave comments and happy history!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon

Everyone knows the story: Henry VIII wanted a son, and his first wife couldn’t provide one so he divorced her for Anne Boleyn and in the process changed the religious landscape of England forever.

This is all fine and dandy, and while I know that Anne is the interesting one (the typical intelligent conniving woman men of the time feared) Catherine was an interesting woman in her own right. Instead of sitting back and allowing her husband to discard her, she put up a massive fight to maintain her control in England.

This is all relevant because on June 11, 1509 Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon were married. However, this was not the original destiny for Catherine.

Catherine was the youngest surviving child of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. The two monarchs were revolutionary, uniting all the different territories of Spain into one country, and together were able to make Spain one of the most powerful countries in Europe. It was Ferdinand and Isabella who financed Christopher Columbus and his expeditions to the New World, and it was also these monarchs who carried out the Spanish Inquisition.

When Catherine was three, a marriage alliance was put in place between Catherine and Arthur, the elder son of Henry VII.

In 1501 when Catherine was 16 she traveled to England where she married Arthur on November 14, 1501. Six months later Arthur died, and Catherine was widowed. Because Catherine was still young, and Henry VII was keen on keeping her dowry, she was betrothed to Henry 14 months later. However, Henry was too young to marry.

By 1505 when Henry was old enough to wed Henry VII wasn’t as keen on a Spanish alliance, and Catherine’s future was uncertain for four years until 1509 when Henry VII died. One of Henry VIII first actions was to marry Catherine, and she was finally crowned Queen on June 24, 1509.

Catherine had six children total with only Princess Mary surviving. Her last recorded pregnancy was in 1518. Henry did have mistresses and two who are known are Mary Boleyn and Bessie Blount.

By 1526 Henry began to separate from Catherine because he had fallen in love with Anne Boleyn, the sister of Mary one of his mistresses. This is when the debate began. Henry wanted a male heir, up until this time there had only been male rulers of England. Matilda had attempted to gain control of England 3oo years earlier, but had been unsuccessful because of the male authority engraved at the time.

Now we all know the rest of the story: Henry decided after reading the Bible to have his marriage annulled. Catherine appealed the case to the Pope to try and maintain the status of her daughter Mary, and insisted her marriage to Arthur was no consummated and therefore they were not truly husband and wife. Finally in 1533 when Anne became pregnant and Henry broke from the church and had the Archbishop of Canterbury grant the annulment, and limited Catherine’s status as Princess Dowager of Wales. Catherine refused to accept the title, and died three years later.

This is the part of Catherine’s life that everyone knows. But what about the Queen Catherine; what was her life like between becoming Queen and being discarded.

Immediately after her marriage, Catherine was regarded as a close political advisor to her husband. In 1513 Henry went to war with France and made Catherine regent over England. While he was gone, Catherine had to deal with Scottish rebellion and put herself at the front of the troops to lead in war against the Scottish until the battle of Flodden Field ended the campaign.

It was after this that Ferdinand made a treaty with France, and Henry was greatly angered by the action. At this point Catherine realized she had to chose between her father or her husband, and changed her loyalty to England.

Despite this, Henry’s chief advisor Lord Chancellor Cardinal Wolsey never trusted Catherine, so over time Henry began to disregard her political advice.

Despite all of this Catherine was well loved by the people. She often gave to the poor of England food, clothes, money and fuel for fires in the winter. When Henry sought to divorce her the people were outraged.

I think Catherine is an overlooked woman in history. She was a very strong character considering all she was up against. If she had the right husband, I think things may have panned out differently. Instead of making her an enemy, making her an ally may have allowed England to gain an even stronger position. Catherine had been to war with her parents, and had first hand knowledge of how to unite a country and make it strong.

Sure, considering all of Henry’s six wives, Anne is usually the favorite because of the scandal she created. And because of the religious legacy left in England. However, Overlooking Catherine is not wise: given her chance she could have shined.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ice Skating

I am not a sports writer. I do like to watch sports, but really only understand football fully. I’ve had many embarrassing interactions with friend about sports that I know nothing about. But what I lack in sports knowledge, I think I make up for with my knowledge of history and the arts. I figure when you’re a writer you have to focus on what you know.

However, when one of my friends got the opportunity to work on a one day internship with Smuckers Stars on Ice, I decided a little variety in a portfolio never hurt anyone. So, for one day I placed myself out of my element, history and the performing arts, and focused on my Achilles heel: sports.

And it was one of the most exciting experiences I’ve had so far. Because it was only a one-day internship, I had the freedom to do whatever really. I learned basics about audio interviews in a class last year, and haven’t had a chance to utilize my skills since. My teacher said I was one of the best in the class, so I decided that would be what I would focus on from the experience. The tough part for me has been how to incorporate sports into my blog.

The initial idea was to do the history of ice-skating, but I’ve done something similar several times before. I’m trying to keep things fresh, and writing another history on how a sport has come to be just doesn’t seem appealing to me. Plus, it’s not exactly timely at the moment.

So I searched around a bit before I found an appealing topic.

Jackson Haines is the man credited with bringing figure skating to America. From what I could find on Haines, he was a dancer and combined these skills with his skating. He was revolutionary because he broke away from the rigid style of the time.

In 1863 Haines proclaimed himself the figure skating champion in America (which in retrospect didn’t mean much since many athletes gave themselves the title). However, the unenthusiastic attitude of Americans caused Haines to leave for Europe where he was warmly received. It was here the international style of figure skating was born, and the style eventually came back to America.

Haines was a revolutionary skater. I wish I could find more on him, but there was very little information I considered reliable. He seemed like a charismatic person and skater.

I did find some other historic figure skating moments at In 1948 Dick Burton won the gold medal. He was the first American to win the gold. In 1998 Tara Lipinski became the youngest Olympic gold medal skater. She was 15.

With this being said, I hope you can walk away knowing a bit more about some of the colorful skaters in the skating history. That being said, I’m going to attach my finished audio files for the skaters I interviewed at the Stars on Ice. Feel free to give them a listen. I’m pretty proud of them, and audio is definitely something I’d like to incorporate into my blog on a more regular basis.

As always, leave comments, and happy history!

Jeremy Abbott Interview

Meryl Davis and Charlie White Interview

Ben Agosto Interview

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Elizabeth I v. Mary Queen of Scotts

I’m really sorry I once again missed a week. Last week was finals week, and I feel that does grant me some leeway for neglecting my blog. However, we’ll tack it on as something I should make up, and make it up I will… I’m plotting readers, and it’s going to be well worth the wait.

Enough of that, on to my blog for this week.

Elizabeth I is one of my favorite monarchs, probably because she was the first strong Queen of England, and was able to make England one of the world powers without a man reigning over or with her. Through all of this, one of the things most known about her was her feud with her cousin Queen Mary of Scotland, and the next in line for the thrown of England. For this reason, the two were rivals for years.

For Christmas my friend got me the coolest book ever, and it definitely comes in handy for this post. It is called “Great Rivals in History: When Politics gets Personal.” This book is very valuable for this topic, and actually lays out the complexities of the issue.

The feud was laid by King Henry VIII. After King James V of Scotland died, Henry sought to bring the country under English control, something tired previously by England for hundreds of years. However, there were a couple of problems with this. First, Mary, James’ daughter, was related to Henry. Her grandmother was Henry VII sister, Margaret, thus making her a Tudor. Mary’s mother (also a Mary) was a Guise, one of Frances noble families. Complicating the situation further was the fact that Scotland was a Catholic country, and England at this point was no longer Catholic (Henry brake with the church to marry his second wife Anne).

Henry demanded that Scotland accept him as King and discard all French ties, something Mary Guise refused to do. Mary was crowned Queen of the Scotts when she was nine months old, and moved to France with her mother at the age of five for her safety.

After Mary’s husband (The Dauphin of France) died Queen Catherine de Medici of France wanted to limit the powers of the Guise family and pushed for Mary to return back to Scotland. In the summer of 1561 Mary prepared to return home. She was 19 years old, and almost six feet tall, something unheard of at that age. Before Mary left she sought Elizabeth’s promise of a safe passage through English waters, but Elizabeth would only agree if Mary ratified the Treaty of Edinburgh in which Mary would renounce her claim to the thrown of England. Mary refused to sign the treaty, and sailed anyway.

Elizabeth did not want to name Mary as next heir in case there would be an uprising in England winning her the thrown. When Elizabeth contracted Small Pox she had a change of heart; if Mary would agree to marry Robert Dudley she would agree to name Mary as her heir. Mary dismissed the offer, and instead married Henry Stuart her first cousin and a pretender to the English throne. Henry was a terrible husband; he demanded more power than Mary was able to give him and attacked her when she was pregnant hoping she would miscarry. He also killed one of Mary’s trusted aids in front of her. Henry later died after an explosion in his home went off, although he did not die from that but from suffocation.

Blame for Henry’s death fell on Mary, and she later married her third husband James Hepburn the Earl of Bothwell. This was the final straw for the Scottish people and they rose against her and Bothwell. They captured Mary in June 1567 and forced her to abdicate the thrown to her ten-month old son James. She was held prisoner in Edinburgh and then Lock Leven.

This was not the end for Mary; she escaped and raised an army against the Scottish lords who had imprisoned her. She was defeated and fled to England. Mary was hoping to get help from Elizabeth, but Elizabeth did not want to aid her. The Protestant Lords in Scotland did not want Mary returned and Elizabeth wanted these men on her side if conflict with France escalated.

Elizabeth did not see Mary, and instead imprisoned her in Sheffield Castle, and although Mary was tried for her husband’s death she was never convicted. Mary’s imprisonment stretched on for 19 years, during which Mary was sending letters to King Phillip II of Spain with the intensions of becoming Queen of England and returning the country to a Catholic country.

Ultimately Mary was out of touch with reality; Elizabeth was immensely popular in the country. However Mary did become focus of plots against Elizabeth’s life. As the attempts became more serious, Mary lost the little freedom she had. When Anthony Babington, a Catholic gentlemen, wrote of his plot to kill Elizabeth, and when Mary returned his letter Mary was put on trial for treason. In October 1586 Mary was found guilty, and the punishment was death. On February 8, 1587 Mary was killed. The first stroke missed her neck and struck her skull instead. The second swing severed her neck.

When Elizabeth died at the age of seventy in 1603 she named James Stuart, Mary’s son as her heir.

Why is all this significant? Ultimately it is what happened after Mary’s death which shaped the future: King Phillip II of Spain sending his infamous Spanish Armada to England to teach them a lesson and to overthrow Elizabeth and restore England as a Catholic country. Elizabeth and England defeated his Armada, and Spain’s international prominence began to decline as England’s power increased.

I figure everyone is familiar with Elizabeth I, but I couldn't think of a good painting I had seen of Mary. So I'm including both to be unbiased. Happy history all!

Mary Queen of Scotts

Queen Elizabeth I

Sunday, May 2, 2010

"The Children's Miracle"

I just recently had to write a research paper for my New South class. We were allowed to pick our own topic, something within the scope of the class. This doesn’t really narrow down the possibilities; the class time period is from 1865 to present. It also doesn’t help how difficult it is for me to make decisions regarding topics for papers.

With that, I went in to see my teacher, and he suggested I focus on something with the media to satisfy my second major. Thus, I settled on the media coverage of the Birmingham Campaign of 1963.

May 2 marks the anniversary of the Children’s Crusade, the portion of the campaign when school children began marching and filling the jails in Birmingham. This step became a necessity because of the low adult turn out for the earlier portion of the movement. In order to be effective the Civil Rights leaders realized they needed to effectively flood the system; have so many jailed no one else could be arrested because of the space issue.

In addition to the different phases of the campaign, I learned a lot about the media coverage of the movement. Initially the media coverage (and when I say this I mean the northern perspective) was against the Civil Rights movement. At the time the Cold War was in full swing, and journalists thought the movement leaders were working with the Communists.

The New York Times and Washington Post exert internal influence within the media world. If these papers cover an event, local papers will be more inclined to cover the same story because of it’s importance. Life Magazine also covered the movement with three startling pictures taken by photographer Charles Moore. Thus, my ultimate thesis was the coverage, whether negative or positive, was good because more Americans became exposed to the story and pictures photographers saw.

It was the images from the movement which probably struck the reader more than the articles. After the Birmingham Campaign President Kennedy decided to push Civil Rights legislation to end Jim Crow laws in the South and similar practices occurring in other parts of the country.

These three images I've included were three pictures from the May 17, 1963 edition of "Life Magazine." They are also three of the most famous images from the movement. One thing that bothers me is all the pictures featured older students or adults, which ignored the younger children participating in the movement. While it is an ethical decision many journalists make to exclude children under the age of 18, it is my opinion that the publications excluded a large part of the story by not picturing the younger movement participants.

This is just a summary of what I discussed in my paper, but again I found it fitting that I could summarize a bit of it for my blog this week. I did enjoy writing the paper; it fused my two majors and I enjoyed reading historical sources on the movement and journalism sources reflecting on the coverage of the movement.

This is my last week of class! I’m excited, but a bit sad too. I really did enjoy my classes. I’ve also realized I still haven’t posted anything from my Ancient Israel class, so I may need to tie in that topic for next week. Hope everyone has a great week!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A late Inauguration

As the semester winds down and the days get longer, I find that I’m not as motivated to do the end of the year projects I have due for school. This also translates into not writing my blog, and after saying I’ll catch up from my missed week three weeks ago, I now find I’m behind even more. So, for the sake of school, I will put these two off until this summer, and will make up for them then.

So, with that being said, I will continue on for this week. As I was scanning my possibilities I found several from the Civil War (West Virginia seceded from Virginia in 1861 and six years later Louisiana was the last Southern country to complete Reconstruction), but since I did that subject for my last post I think I need to do something from a different time period.

There are also the possibilities from WWI and WWII, but I’m not feeling that either. I think I wanted something from the Middle Ages, but I guess those didn’t appeal to me either. Thus, I’ve decided on something from early American history.

On April 30, 1789 George Washington was inaugurated as the first American President. Washington not only served as the first U.S. President, but also as the Commander in Chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War.

In 1781 when the British surrendered the United States was created under the Articles of Confederation, the first U.S. government. The Articles of Confederation did not last long because of several weaknesses associated with it, mainly a weak federal government without the power to tax or print money, and 13 separate state governments acting like 13 individual countries. In addition for any laws to pass nine of the 13 states needed to pass the law, which proved to be very difficult.

The problems with the Articles of Confederation did not go away, and eventually the Founding Fathers decided a new government was necessary, one with a strong central government.

In 1787 Washington met with other state delegates at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. At the convention the Constitution was drafted and signed, forming the government that is still in place in the U.S.

Washington was voted president unanimously by the Electoral College and served two terms as president, setting the informal president for presidents through Franklin D. Roosevelt who served four terms.

April 30 seems to be a late date to inaugurate a president, and it was. March 4 was the inauguration date of Washington’s second term, and March 4 remained the inauguration date until F.D. Roosevelt’s second term in 1937. The two exceptions were the inaugurations of James Monroe (March 5 because March 4 fell on a Sunday) and Rutheford B. Hays (March 3 because March 4 was again on Sunday).

However in 1937 the Twentieth Amendment to the Constitution was passed, changing the inauguration date to January 20. In the early years of the nation the four-month waiting period was justified because of the communication lag and difficult transportation. However, as technology advanced the lengthy “lame Duck” period was not as necessary, so the Twentieth Amendment changed the inauguration date to January 20.

So, there is a bit of history about inauguration in the U.S. and the early political landscape. And now, I fear I must return to those end of the year papers. Only two weeks until summer! Happy history all.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Beginning

On Friday I saw the 9 of April is the anniversary of the peace agreement between General Lee and General Grant. This peace settlement ended the Civil War in 1865 after five years of fighting.

I noticed this too late, and decided instead of producing a thrown together post, I would prefer to post one good post, and try to fit in two this week making up for my missed week. So, instead of doing more reading tonight I was researching what would be happening this week so I could begin to select my post topic for this week.

I hit the jackpot this week. April 12, 1861 Confederate troops began firing on Fort Sumter in Charleston South Carolina, beginning the Civil War. Within four days we have the beginning and end of the Civil War. I took a class last semester about the Civil War, so I will reference my notes for this subject; if I didn’t take advantage of this opportunity I’d be crazy. So lets set the stage for the event.

Abraham Lincoln was voted President in 1860, causing many in the South to become alarmed. During his campaign Lincoln said repeatedly he wanted to contain slavery to the states that already had it, preventing future spread. Many Southern states thought by limiting slavery Lincoln would trample on the states rights. Actually, there were a lot of factors leading into the war, but states rights and slavery were the two main reasons.

South Carolina was the first state to secede from the country on December 20, 1860. By February of 1861 Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas had seceded. The secessionists met in Montgomery to establish the Confederate States of America, created a provisional government and asked the slave states to join it. They appointed leaders of the government from the states, and sent delegates to the Border States to try to persuade them to join the CSA.

By March the CSA was in trouble because there was no unity, no money and not a lot of man power if war was to come. In the mean time, Lincoln was sworn into office (because at this time the President did not resume office until March) and tried to ease tensions by promising he would not attack any of the southern states.

The costal forts became very important. Most were in the south because of the fear of an attack from Mexico, and the union controlled the forts. These forts were a symbol of Union presence, since the federal government of the U.S.A. still had possession of these forts. However the South believed these forts were their territory.

Fort Sumter was one of the forts, located in the Charleston Bay. After time the fort needed supplies, and Lincoln sent a ship with supplies to the Union troops stationed there. He also sent a warning to the Confederate States telling them he was only sending supplies, not troops. Lincoln did not want to anger the boarder states, which had yet to secede. Despite the warning, the Confederate Government decided to fire on the ship.

Once this happened a war started between Fort Sumter and the rest of the Charleston Bay. Eventually, the soldiers stationed at the fort did surrender. Lincoln responded by asking for volunteers to help put down the rebellion in the South, and in response Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina and Arkansas secede.

Almost four years later three days shy of the four year anniversary of the firing on Fort Sumter General Lee would surrender to General Grant ending the Confederate States of America.

I was fortunate enough to visit Fort Sumter while I was visiting the South. It is one of the best tours I’ve taken and I definitely learned a lot about Fort Sumter and the beginning of the war. With that I say happy history for now, and hopefully I can get another post up this week!