Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Timeline of Mahatma Gandhi's Life

Source: http://www.kamat.com/mmgandhi/mkgtimeline.htm

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi born in Porbandar in Gujarat.
Gandhi leaves for Johannesburg for practicing law and is thrown out of a first class bogie because he is colored.
Mohandas K. Gandhi, 37, speaks at a mass meeting in the Empire Theater, Johannesburg on September 11 and launches a campaign of nonviolent resistance (satyagraha) to protest discrimination against Indians. The British Government had just invalidated the Indian Marriage.
Mohandas Gandhi in Transvaal, South Africa leads 2,500 Indians into the in defiance of a law, they are violently arrested, Gandhi refuses to pay a fine, he is jailed, his supporters demonstrate November 25, and Natal police fire into the crowd, killing two, injuring 20.
Mohandas Gandhi returns to India at age 45 after 21 years of practicing law in South Africa where he organized a campaign of “passive resistance” to protest his mistreatment by whites for his defense of Asian immigrants. He attracts wide attention in India by conducting a fast—the first of 14 that he will stage as political demonstrations and that will inaugurate the idea of the political fast
A civil disobedience campaign against the British in India begins March 12. The All-India Trade Congress has empowered Gandhi to begin the demonstrations (see 1914). Called Mahatma for the past decade, Gandhi leads a 165-mile march to the Gujarat coast of the Arabian Sea and produces salt by evaporation of sea water in violation of the law as a gesture of defiance against the British monopoly in salt production
Gandhi begins a “fast unto death” to protest the British government's treatment of India's lowest caste “untouchables” whom Gandhi calls Harijans—”God's children.” Gandhi's campaign of civil disobedience has brought rioting and has landed him in prison, but he persists in his demands for social reform, he urges a new boycott of British goods, and after 6 days of fasting obtains a pact that improves the status of the “untouchables”
India becomes free from 200 years of British Rule. A major victory for Gandhian principles and non-violence in general.
Gandhi is assassinated by Nathuram Godse, a Hindu fanatic at a prayer meeting

On Warfare

My opinion:The 60 Most Important ‘Advances’ in the History of Warfare (not in order of importance)

1. The invention of the tank
2. The birth of air warfare and the development of the aircraft carrier
3. First use of biological weapons
4. Harnessing the powers of fire and water.
5. The A-Bomb
6. The H-Bomb and the Neutron Bomb.
7. Chemical weaponry
8. Gunpowder
9. The stirrup
10. Domestication of the Horse/Camel/Elephant.
11. The development of Bronze weaponry
12. The creation of the standing army
13. Invention of the flintlock musket
14. Development of the first canons. Birth of artillery warfare.
15. The longbow
16. Surveillance satellites
17. Invention of the rifle
18. Laser weaponry
19. Military organization
20. The invention of the wheel
21. The Invention of the shield
22. Invention of barb wire
23. Invention of the machine gun.
24. Invention of the hand held pistol
25. The development of the suit of armor.
26. The development of siege warfare and such devices as the catapult.
27. Diplomacy /Deception.
28. Dynamite
29. The invention of the Molotov cocktail.
30. The invention of the mortar
31. Invention of the radio.
32. Walled cities and moats.
33. Development of the computer/microprocessor.
34. Invention of the helicopter
35. Invention of the hand grenade.
36. Invention of the smart bomb.
37. The development of propaganda techniques.
38. The invention of the submarine
39. The invention of radar.
40. The development of land mines.
41. The invention of the parachute.
42. The sophistication of espionage techniques - eg. code breaking.
43. The invention of the assembly line for production.
44. Development of anti-aircraft weaponry.
45. The arrival of the Dreadnoughts (Turn-of-the century Metal Battleships)
46. The invention of the torpedo.
47. Compulsory military conscription.
48. Invention of the bayonet.
49. Blitzkrieg warfare.
50. Terrorism/ Suicide soldiers.
51. Khaki battle uniforms.
52. Sniper fighting.
53. Trench warfare.
54. Cluster bombs.
55. The convoy system.
56. The removal of barriers of class and race distinction in the army.
57. Women in the military.
58. Scorched earth warfare.
59. The invention of the armored car and the Jeep.
60. The invention of the depth charge. To be used in anti-submarine warfare.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

King Arthur in History

Source: http://www.britannia.com/history/arthur/karef.html.
(Sheds some light on Arthur the Warrior King who fought the Saxons).

There is only one contemporary Arthurian source that can be examined today. "Concerning the Ruin of Britain", or "De Excidio British History Clube" was written by the Northern British monk, St. Gildas, in the mid-6th century. Unfortunately, Gildas was not a historian. He was only interested in lamenting the loss of the Roman way of life and reproaching the British leaders (Constantine, Aurelius Caninus, Vortepor, Cuneglasus & Maglocunus) who had usurped Imperial power and degraded Christian values. There is no reference to Arthur, but Gildas does make reference to a character called "The Bear", the meaning of the Celtic word, Art-. He praises Ambrosius Aurelianus and also mentions the Siege of Mount Badon, though not the name of the victor. Gildas' writings are dated immediately prior to 549 (the death of Maglocunus, one of his usurpers). The passage telling of Badon places the siege forty-four years before this. This places Arthur firmly around the turn of the 6th century. (See Alcock 1971).

The Welsh Easter Annals or Annales Cambriae, supposedly written over the years that they cover, AD 447 to 957 (though very early entries were probably written some time after the events), are amongst the earliest sources to mention Arthur. Used to calculate Easter dates, this document also records historical events alongside many of its yearly entries. Two of these tell of Arthur. AD 516 refers to "The Battle of Badon, in which Arthur carried the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ for three days and three nights on his shoulders and the Britons were the victors". The entry for AD 537 records "The Strife of Camlann in which Arthur and Medraut perished". All characters included elsewhere in these, otherwise reliable, annals appear to have been real historical people. There is no reason to suppose, therefore, that Arthur and Mordred were not likewise. It has been suggested that stylistically speaking, Arthur's appearance in the Badon entry may have been an interpolation. Criticisms of the length of the battle are unfounded though, for Gildas (see above), more correctly, calls the battle a siege. The statement that Arthur carried "the cross of Our Lord on his shoulders" may refer to an amulet containing a chip of the true cross. Or more likely it is a transcriptual error of Welsh "shoulder" for "shield", indicating the cross was merely an armorial bearing. (See Alcock 1971).

Arthur does warrant a passing comment in the early 7th century poem Y Gododdin by Aneirin, the famous bard from the Royal House of the North Pennines. This work praises the efforts of the Northern British armies, headed by those of Din-Eityn and Gododdin, at the battle of Catraeth around AD 600 and one warrior is described as having "glutted black ravens on the ramparts of the fort, although he was no Arthur". It has been argued that this shows the early spread of Arthur's fame. Unfortunately, considering the northern overtones, this may refer to the Arthur's Northern contemporary, King Arthwys of the Pennines.

The last major Arthurian reference occurs in the 8th century "Historia Brittonum" or "History of the Britons", apparently written by a Welsh historian called Nennius, possibly a monk from Bangor Fawr (Gwynedd). Nennius used numerous chronicles to put together this compilation history of the British peoples, followed by genealogies and a list of the 28 Towns of Britain. The work is particularly noted for its chapter concerning the Campaigns of Arthur, telling of his twelve battles. These latter may be a Latin summary of an ancient Welsh battle list, possibly pre-dating the unmentioned Battle of Camlann. Was this sung at Arthur's Court? Each battle is named in turn, but the enemy is not specific and the places are difficult to identify. Nennius states that at all the battles, Arthur fought them, implying the previously mentioned Kentish Saxons, though this seems unlikely. (See Alcock 1971)

Where was Jesus buried?

The Israeli-born, Canadian-based filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici is reigniting claims, first made over a decade ago, that a burial cave uncovered 27 years ago in Talpiot, Jerusalem, is the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth and his family.
At a press conference in New York on Monday, the two-time Emmy winner Jacobovici and his team - including Hollywood director James Cameron - will detail claims that of 10 ossuaries found in the cave when it was discovered in 1980, six bear inscriptions identifying them as those of Jesus, his mother Mary, a second Mary (possibly Mary Magdalene), and relatives Matthew, Josa and Judah (possibly Jesus's son).
Their documentary will be screened this week in the US, UK, on Channel 8 in Israel and around the world. The producers are said to have worked on the project with world-renowned archeologists, statisticians and DNA specialists.

For the rest of the story go to..

Source: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1171894508893&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

Friday, February 23, 2007

25 Critical Events in the History of South America

1. European Invasion and the Subsequent Indian Genocide (includes the campaigns of Pizzaro)
2. Creation of the vast Inca Empire
3. Creation of Chibcha Empire
4. Conversion of Indigenous South American population to Catholicism
5. The Anti-Spanish Rebellions of Bolivar and San Martin
6. The Granting of Independence to the South American countries in the 1820s and 1830s
7. Discovery of tin and silver deposits in South America
8. Pope divides South America between the Spanish and the Portuguese
9. Don Pedro II becomes King of Brazil
10. Bernardo O’ Higgins rebels in Chile against the Spanish
11. Black Slaves arrive in Brazil to work on the plantations
12. The Chaco War
13. Beginning of the modern Deforestation of the Amazon
14. Period of Juan Peron’s rule in Argentina
15. Period of the Vargas dictatorship in Brazil
16. Splitting off of Panama from Columbia to create the Panama Canal
17. Discovery of Oil in Venezuela
18. Formation of the MERCOSUR trading group
19. British attack Buenos Aires in the 19th century
20. The Period of the Dirty Wars in Argentina
21. The Falkland War and the Collapse of the Ruling Junta in Argentina
22. The Collapse of the Pinochet Regime in Chile in the 1990s
23. The South American Foreign Debt crisis
24. Collapse of the Stroessner Regime in Paraguay in the late 1980s
25. Menem introduces Fiscal conservatism into the Argentinian economy

WWII Movies

Just my opinion...

The Fifteen Best Second World War movies of All-Time

1. Schindler’s List
2. Patton
3. The Great Escape
4. Bridge on the River Kwai
5. The Longest Day
6. Saving Private Ryan
7. Das Boot
8. Battle of the Bulge
9. Stalingrad
10. The Dirty Dozen
11. Where Eagles Dare
12. Escape from Sobibor
13. Dambusters
14. The Eagle has Landed
15. The Battle of Britain

When did the first Americans arrive on Turtle Island?

Clovis claim in jeopardy...

WASHINGTON - The Clovis people, known for their distinctive spear points, likely were not the first humans in the Americas, according to research placing their presence as more recent than previously believed.
Using advanced radiocarbon dating techniques, researchers writing in Friday's issue of the journal Science said the Clovis people, hunters of large Ice Age animals such as mammoths and mastodons, dated from about 13,100 to 12,900 years ago.
That would make the Clovis culture, known from artifacts discovered at various sites including the town of Clovis, N.M., both younger and shorter-lived than previously thought. Previous estimates had dated the culture to about 13,600 years ago.

For the source and the rest of the story go to

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Wannsee Protocol

The site referenced contains an English translation of the Wannsee Protocol described below. It is disturbing but worth visting.

Source: http://www.h-net.org/~german/gtext/nazi/wanneng2.html
Note how the Nazis were even concerned with the 200 or so Albanian Jews.

The "Wannsee Conference" was not a name its participants would have given to their meeting; it is simply the most convenient description available for historians of the Holocaust. At a villa owned by the SS on the shores of a suburban Berlin lake called the Wannsee, mid-level bureaucrats from a number of Nazi agencies, all named in the introduction to the text, assembled at the request of Reinhard Heydrich, the chief of the Reich Security Main Office and head of the German secret police apparatus. Heydrich and his boss, Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, were in the process of assuming leadership in the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question," i.e., the murder of Europe's Jews by the Nazis. This meeting was a part of that process, as bureaucratic coordination would be required for the massive efforts to be undertaken throughout Europe to kill the 11,000,000 Jews described in the document. The Nazis ultimately succeeded in killing between five and six million of Europe's Jews, with hundreds of thousands, mainly in the Soviet Union, already dead by the time of this meeting

Remember the 1990s

Try this Quiz...Answers below.

1. This went into its fourth month by January 1996. What was it?
2. This Commerce Secretary was killed in a plane crash on April 3, 1996. Who was this man?
3. From which Country is UN Secretary General Kofi Annan?
4. The City of Kabul fell to this group in 1996. Who were they?
5. In a cemetery in which Country did a bomb kill 13 people on November 10, 1996?
6. He was elected as Israeli Prime Minister on May 31, 1996. Who was this man?
7. A mid-air collision killed 342 people in which Country on November 12, 1996?
8. This Country announced an end to nuclear testing on January 29, 1996. Which Country was this?
9. On January 16, 1997, Israel agreed to give up a large portion of this West Bank City. Which City was this?
10. What did the U.S., UK, and France agree to freeze on February 3, 1997?
11. How old was the Chinese Leader Deng Xiaoping at his death? To the nearest 2 years.
12. Where in Egypt were 62 people killed at a tourist site on November 17, 1997?
13. This Country fell into a state of anarchy after many in the population lost life savings as a result of a failed pyramid scheme. Which Country was this?
14. What was reported to be 4.8 % in June 1997?
15. This American Politician was found guilty of ethics violations on January 17, 1997. Who was this man?

Answers to the 1990s (IV)

1. The U.S. Budget Crisis.
2. Ronald Brown.
3. Ghana
4. The Taliban.
5. In Russia.
6. Benjamin Netanyahu.
7. India
8. France
9. Hebron
10. Nazi Gold Loot.
11. 92
12. In Luxor.
13. Albania
14. The U.S. Jobless Rate. It was the lowest since 1973.
15. Newt Gingrich. The man who had masterminded the Republican Revolution in The House of Representatives since 1994

Sunday, February 18, 2007

100 Milestones in Human History pre-350 BCE

Modern Man develops in Africa. Mass Migration out of Africa
Development of Early weapon – the Spear.
Modern Man reaches Europe and Asia
Modern Man reaches North and South America
The End of the Ice Age
Development of Early musical instruments flutes.
The End of the Stone Age (Neolithic Period)
Cattal Hayuk Civilization in Turkey.
The Agricultural Revolution. Domestication of Animals and Early Crops/
Development of the earliest towns in Mesopotamia.
Priest hierarchies dominate Mesopotamian society.
Invention of the Wheel in Mesopotamia.
Mesopotamians develop Cuneiform.
Menes unites Upper and Lower Egypt. Beginning of First Dynasty.
Polynesians reach South America and New Zealand.
Indus River Civilization develops. First Vedas.
Longshan Culture in China. Civilization on Yellow River.
Olmec Civilization in Central America
Abraham develops monotheism.
Nazca Civilization in South America
Birth of the Bronze Age
Writing of the Epic of Gilgamesh - Mesopotamia
Egyptian develop Hieroglyphics
Hittites replace Hatti as dominant civilization in Asia Minor .Build Empire based on Iron (so-called Iron Age)
Minoan Civilization develops on Crete. Colonizes Eastern Mediterranean.
Jomon Culture in Japan.
Beaker Culture in Europe. Construction of Stonehenge.
Rise of the Shang in China. End of the Xsia. Bone Writing comes to the forefront.
Sargon I builds Akkadian centered Empire.
Growth of Elam power base in Mesopotamia.
Old Babylonian Kingdom. Hammurabi writes first Law Code.
Old Kingdom in Egypt sees the Era of the Pyramids – First Step then Great.
Egyptians develop calendar to track the flooding of the Nile.
First Japanese Emperor – possible mythology.
Rise of Giordian city state in Asia Minor.
First Intermediate Period in Egypt History. Beginning of Middle Kingdom.
Aryan invasion of India drives Dravidian culture to Deccan Plateau
Earliest Proofs in Mathematics (Theorem of Pythagoras).
Beginning of Caste System in India.
Sea People raid Mediterranean Coast (possible ancestors of Philistines)
Middle Kingdom ends in Egypt with Hyksos invasion. Chariots introduced.
Hurrians and Assyrians weaken Hittite Empire.
Zhou Dynasty flourishes in China.
Beginning of New Kingdom in Egypt.
Akhenaton introduces monotheism in Egypt (together with Nefertiti)
Return to Polytheism under Tutankhamen
Exodus from Egypt of Hebrews. Giving of the Torah.
Hebrew invasion of the Land of Canaan. Canaanite civilization in decline.
Reign of Military Queen Hatshepsut in Egypt.
Reign of Ramases II. Egypt reaches great expansion.
Battle of Kadesh. Egyptians v Hittites. Ends in stalemate.
Period of Judges in Hebrew History. eg. Deborah (Barak), Gideon.
Assyrians dominate Mesopotamia (following weakening of Hittites).
Babylonians popularize Base 60 Mathematics.
Beginning of United Kingdom Period in Hebrew History.
Myceneans overthrow Minoans to dominate Greek Mainland.
War between Greeks and the Trojans
Kingdoms of Lydia (Asia Minor) and Media develop in the Middle East
Phoenicians find Carthage. Colonize Cyprus. Develop Alphabet for trading.
King David defeats the Philistines.
David makes Jerusalem the Hebrew capital.
Solomon builds the First Temple.
Contact between Hebrews and Africa through Queen of Sheba and Solomon.
Etruscans dominate Northern Italy.
Founding of the city of Rome. (First King Romulus).
New Kingdom in Egypt bought down by Libyan Invasion.
Latins occupy modern Italy.
Nubian Kingdom grows in power in Africa.
Breakup of Hebrew Kingdom into Judea and Israel.
Bantu Migration across Africa. Re-distribution of populations.
Era of Assyrrian growth under Ashurbanipal, Ashurnasirpal, Sennecherib, Sargon II, Essarhadon. Assyrian Empire centered around Nineveh, Caleh, Ashur dominates Mid East.
Assyrians Conquer Israel Beginning of the Ten Lost Tribes Episode.
Ancient Civilizations Flourish in SE Asia. Vietnam. Laos, Cambodia, Thailand.
Etruscans dominate early Roman kingdom.
Collapse of Mycenean Kingdom in Greece. Beginning of Greek Dark Ages.
Greek colonists settle Ionia and Italy.
Etruscans driven out. Rome becomes a Republic.
Scythians dominate Steppes of Europe.
Babylon defeats Assyria to become dominant power in Middle East.
First Temple destroyed by the Babylonians. Beginning of the Exile.
Babylonians defeat and conquer Egypt.
Building of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar.
Persians unite Medians and Lydians under their control.
Beginning of Zoroastrian Religions.
Cyrus founds Archemenid Dynasty. Defeats Babylon.
Jews permitted to return home to Judea
Ionian Philosophy Schools flourish in Miletus.
Pythagorean philosophy school flourishes.
Beginning of Greek City state Era. End of Dark Ages.
Cambyses brings Egypt under Persian control.
Reign of Persian King Darius I. Beginning of Ionian Rebellion against Persia.
Birth of the Cult of Mitras.
Important Battles of Greek-Persian Wars fought: Marathon, Thermopylae. Salamis, Plateae. Greek victory. Xerxes I finds himself on losing side.
First History by Herodotus (Persian Wars)
Sparta and Athens fight the Peloponessian Series of Wars. Sparta wins.
Thucydides documents wars history.
Athenian Trio dominate Greek Philosophy
Greeks use Optics to advance Geometry.
Age of Pericles in Athens
Rome consolidates hold on Italian. War against Latin States, Samnites, Sabines, Etruscans, Greek City States.


Fill in the missing individual/entity (indicated by a ?) in the sequences shown below:

1. Rocard, Cresson, ? , Balladur
2. Ortoli, Jenkins, Thorn, ?
3. de Valera, Griffiths, Cosgrave, ?
4. Sharett, Ben -Gurion, Eshkol, ?
5. Jefferson, Burr, ?, Gerry, Tompkins
6. Tilden, Hansock, ?, Blaine, ? , Harrison
7. Johnson, Mansfield, Byrd, ? , Daschle
8. Lewis, Irons, ?, Pacino, Hanks
9. Masefield, Lewis, Betjeman, ?
10. Byatt, ? , Unsworth, Ondaatjie, Doyle
11. Giyatso, Gorbachev, ?, Menchú
12. Costner, Demme, ?, Spielberg
13. Lange, Russell, Moore, ?
14. ?, Rosebery, Salisbury, Balfour
15. Oklahoma, ?, Arizona, Alaska, Hawaii

Answers to Successions
1. Pierre Bérégovoy - (French Prime Ministers).
2. Jacques Delors - (EU Commision Presidents).
3. Éamon de Valera - (Irish Prime Ministers).
4. Golda Meir - (Israeli Prime Ministers).
5. George Clinton - (U.S. Vice-Presidents).
6. Grover Cleveland - (losing Presidential candidates).
7. George Mitchell - (Democratic Senate leaders).
8. Anthony Hopkins - (Best Actor Oscar Winners).
9. Ted Hughes - (Poets Laureate).
10. Ben Okri - (Brooker Prize Winners).
11. Aung San Suu Kyi - (Nobel Peace Prize Winners).
12. Clint Eastwood - (Best Director Oscar Winners).
13. Jim Bolger - (New Zealand Prime Ministers).
14. William Gladstone - (British Prime Ministers)
15. New Mexico - (order in which states gained entry into the Union).

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Judaism - Some Important Points

Compiled this as part of a philosophy course that I taught

1. How old is Judaism?

Judaism is about 3500 years old which makes it the oldest of the monotheistic religions.

2. What are the principle beliefs in Judaism?

Main beliefs are:
• The existence of one God who is all-powerful, all-present, complete and perfect. God has many names (often represents attributes) and transcends time and space. God is ‘Ein Sof’ – Without an end.
• God created everything including human beings. Human beings have free will to choose between good and evil.
• God wants us to choose the good and ethical path but the choice is ultimately ours.
• Happiness is achieved by following God’s commandments (mitzvot), duplicating his kindness and improving yourself as a human being both spiritually and in your dealings with others.
• Man is a partner with God in creation. Man has a duty to heal the misery of the world through Tikkun OIam (repairing the world).
• God has chosen the Jewish people to help others in this manner. The guidelines for living are supplied in the Torah (Five Books of Moses or Pentateuch).

3. Who are the Patriarchs?

• These are the fathers of the Hebrew/Jewish people. They are Abraham, his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob.
• Their wives Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah are known as the Matriarchs.
• The same figures appear in the Christian Old Testament.

4. Why is Moses so important?

• Moses led the Hebrews out of Egypt in the Exodus. He is considered the greatest prophet. God revealed the Torah to all the Hebrews at Mont Sinai (after the Exodus) but it was Moses who was entrusted with transcribing it.
• Moses is a prophet in Christianity and Islam as well.

5. What are the principle books in Judaism?

All the commandments (there are 613 are contained in the Torah or Pentateuch). The Torah sits at the epicenter of Jewish thought. In addition to the Torah there is the Prophets (Jeremiah, Samuel, Micah, Joel, Ezekiel etc) and the Writings (Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastics, Esther, Ruth, Lamentations etc). The Torah + Prophets + Writings = Tanakh. The Tanakh is roughly equivalent to the Christian New Testament.
Judaism also has the Talmud which is made up of the now codified Oral law (Mishna) and the Rabbinical interpretations (Gemara). The Talmud is unique to Judaism although it has influenced Christian thought.

The 16th Century

The century when Western Civilization grew into maturity. Here is a list of 45 key events that I compiled that are worth noting.

1. The Spanish Armada
2. Battle of Lepanto
3. Sulamein the Magnificent’s conquest of Hungary
4. The Voyage of Magellan
5. Henry VIII defeats Scots at Flodden Field
6. Cortes defeats the Aztecs
7. Pizzaro conquers the Incas
8. Galileo falls foul of the Inquistion
9. Henry VIII and Francis I negotiate at the Cloth of Gold
10. Henry VIII breaks from the Catholic Church
11. Martin Luther pins 95 Theses to church door at Wittenberg
12. War of the Three Henry’s in France
13. Charles V becomes Holy Roman Emperor
14. Meeting of the Council of Trent: Beginning of the Counter reformation
15. Formation of the Jesuits
16. Birth of Calvinism
17. Clashes in Switzerland between Pro-Catholic and Anti-Catholic Cantons. Death of Zwingli.
18. Michelangelo completes Sistine Chapel
19. Luther called before Diet of Worms
20. Abdication of Charles V in favour of his brother and son
21. Cartier and Champlain explore Canada
22. Discovery of Florida
23. Wars between Venice and Turks
24. Peace of Augsburg
25. Anabaptist revolt
26. Reign of Bloody Mary
27. Irish Revolts against Elizabeth I
28. English Pirates terrorize Spanish Main
29. Invention of the Telescope
30. Tycho Brahe documents changing heavens
31. St. Bartholomew Days Massacre of Hugenots
32. Edict of Nantes offrers religious freedom in France
33. Foundation of the House of Bourbon
34. Pope divides South America between Spanish and Portuguese
35. Spain annexes Portugal
36. Dutch revolt against Spanish
37. Rise of Presbyterians in Scotland. John Knox et al.
38. Henry VIII develops the Royal Navy
39. Italian Wars end. French are driven from Peninsula.
40. Kepler advances Laws of Planetary Motion
41. Search begins for Northwest and Northeast passages
42. Francis Bacon champions the Scientific Method
43. Shakespeare begins writing plays
44. Maltese pirates harass Turkish shipping.
45. Balboa discovers the Pacific

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Another Quiz on World War II - The Early Years

The Second World War

1. This man became head of the Vichy Government on July 11, 1940. Who was he?
2. At which town did the French sign an armstice with Germany in June 1940?
3. Between which days were the Allied forces evacuated from Dunkirk?
4. Which two Welsh cities were bombed by the Germans to start off The Battle of Britain?
5. August 13, 1940 is known by another name when discussing The Battle of Britain. What is this name?
6. These weapons of war were responsible for the so-called ‘Happy Time’. What were they?
7. This is also known as Phase 4 of The Battle of Britain. By which name however is it more commonly called?
8. What did the Germans aim Phase 2 of The Battle of Britain at?
9. What was the codename for the planned German invasion of Britain?
10. Which three countries signed the Tripartite Pact on the September 27, 1940?
11. Which African Territory did Italy attack on August 4, 1940?
12. What did the U.S. agree to give Britain in September 1939 in exchange for bases?
13. This European Country refused to join the Axis, at a meeting held on October 23, 1940.
What was this Country?
14. Where did Hitler and Mussolini meet on October 4, 1940?
15. Which Country did Italy attack in October 1940?

Answers to The Second World War

1. Henri Pétain.
2. Compiegne
3. Between May 26th and June 23, 1940.
4. Cardiff and Swansea. The Germans attacked the docks of these cities; beginning of Phase 1 of The Battle of Britain.
5. Eagle Day or Adlertag. Germany iniated a high intensity bombing campaign to weaken the RAF. Beginning of Phase 3 of The Battle of Britain.
6. The U-Boats that plagued the North Atlantic.
7. The London Blitz. Phase 1 of The Battle of Britain was the attack on the docks.
8. Allied shipping in the English Channel.
9. Operation Sea Lion.
10. Germany, Russia, and Italy.
11. British Somaliland. They attacked from Ethiopia.
12. Destroyers
13. Spain
14. The Brenner Pass.
15. Greece. The Italians sent 10 divisions into Greece, but were not successful.

Key Events in the History of Quantum Mechanics

1. James Clerk Maxwell argues that the positions and velocities of molecules are initially at random. Later he will introduce the Maxwell distribution curve plotting the number of molecules vs their respective velocities for given temperatures.
2. Ludwig Boltzmann introduces the field of Statistical Mechanics. Introduces theorem of the equipartition of energy.
3. Blackbody Radiation arises. Experimental work carried out by Wilhelm Wien.
4. Lord Rayleigh and James Jeans introduce the concept of the ultra-violet catastrophe.
5. Max Planck saves the day (and opens up a can of worms) by introducing concept of discrete units of energy quanta where each quanta has an energy = hf. h = Planck’s constant and f = frequency of the quanta (or photon in the case of light).
6. Phillip Lennard works on problem of photo-electric effect.
7. Albert Einstein explains how photons of light above a threshold frequency can liberate electrons and provide them with kinetic energy. He will win a Nobel Prize for his work.
8. Joseph von Fraunhofer discovers dark lines in solar spectrum (later Fraunhofer lines). These will become the basis for Astrophysical spectroscopy.
9. Gustav Kirchoff discovers Helium on the sun using Fraunhofer solar spectrum.
10. J.J. Thompsopn discovers the electron.
11. Ernest Rutherford discovers positive nucleus of atom. Experiments carried out by Geiger and Marsden.
12. Arthur Compton works out the momentum of a photon. Shows the effect of photon scattering and wavelength shift.
13. Niels Bohr explains Bright Line Light Spectra. Introduces concept of probability waves. Explains working of Hydrogen atom. Bohr uses relies heavily on analysis of hydrogen spectrum by Swiss math teacher Johann Balmer.
14. Most scientists will grow to accept probability description. A noteable exception is Albert Einstein.
15. Pieter Zeeman demonstrates the Zeeman Effect ie. The extraneous spectral lines which appear when excited atoms are placed in a magnetic field.
16. Bohr introduces the n, k and m quantum numbers. N = orbit size, k = orbit shape and m = orbit direction.
17. Wolfgang Pauli speaks about the Pauli Exclusion Principle. Adds fourth quantum # for spin. No two electrons can have the same set of four quantum numbers.
18. Bohr uses quantum Mechanics to explain the nature of Mendeleev’s Periodic Table. Concept of Closed and Open Electron shells introduced.
19. Wave Particle/Duality appears to be winning out in the battle to describe the nature of light.
20. Louis De Broglie introduces the concept of Matter Waves.
21. G. P. Thomson proves that Matter Waves do exist.
22. Werner Heisenberg introduces Matrix Mechanics. Introduces Uncertainty Principle. Probable death of the Philosophy of Determinism.
23. Max Born and Erwin Schrodinger further develop Matrix Mechanic.
24. Schrodinger introduces his famous equation – contains wave function, position and energy of photon.
25. Fourier analysis builds on Scrodinger’s work – looks at the number of nodes in a vibrating system.
26. Schrodinger argues that particles may not even exist. Wants to describe all particles as superposition of waves.
27. Henrik Lorentz argues otherwise. Wave function that Schrodinger felt did not spread out. Appears to spread out.
28. Schrodinger introduces famous cat problem.
29. Born introduces concept of quantum mechanical probability. Speaks about Probability Amplitude of an Electron.
30. Consciousness and the Collapsing Wave Function problems are addressed by Eugene Wigner.
31. Paul Dirac brings together a new solution that looks at the problems of Bohr, Einstein and Planck’s Quantum Theories.
32. Dirac Introduces Transformation Theory.
33. Birth of Quantum Electrodynamics. Richard Feynman’s field
34. Dirac uses equation to solve problem of Electron Spin.
35. Dirac predicts existence of Anti-matter.
36. Bohr speaks about complementarity.
37. Formalization of Copenhagen Interpretation.
38. Einstein speaks of his box of light.
39. EPR Challenge to Bohr.
40. The Non-Locality Issue rises to the fore.
41. Bell’s non-inequality principle argues that nature is non-local.
42. Period of New Advances: Action at a Distance, Entanglement, Qbits, String Theory, Quantum Loop Gravity.
43. The Future: We will await and see.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Terrorist Attacks against the US

Source: http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0001454.html
(A brief history)

Sept. 16, New York City: TNT bomb planted in unattended horse-drawn wagon exploded on Wall Street opposite House of Morgan, killing 35 people and injuring hundreds more. Bolshevist or anarchist terrorists believed responsible, but crime never solved.
Jan. 24, New York City: bomb set off in historic Fraunces Tavern killed 4 and injured more than 50 people. Puerto Rican nationalist group (FALN) claimed responsibility, and police tied 13 other bombings to the group.
Nov. 4, Tehran, Iran: Iranian radical students seized the U.S. embassy, taking 66 hostages. 14 were later released. The remaining 52 were freed after 444 days on the day of President Reagan's inauguration.
Lebanon: Thirty US and other Western hostages kidnapped in Lebanon by Hezbollah. Some were killed, some died in captivity, and some were eventually released. Terry Anderson was held for 2,454 days.
April 18, Beirut, Lebanon: U.S. embassy destroyed in suicide car-bomb attack; 63 dead, including 17 Americans. The Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility.
Oct. 23, Beirut, Lebanon: Shiite suicide bombers exploded truck near U.S. military barracks at Beirut airport, killing 241 marines. Minutes later a second bomb killed 58 French paratroopers in their barracks in West Beirut.
Dec. 12, Kuwait City, Kuwait: Shiite truck bombers attacked the U.S. embassy and other targets, killing 5 and injuring 80.
Sept. 20, east Beirut, Lebanon: truck bomb exploded outside the U.S. embassy annex, killing 24, including 2 U.S. military.
Dec. 3, Beirut, Lebanon: Kuwait Airways Flight 221, from Kuwait to Pakistan, hijacked and diverted to Tehran. 2 Americans killed.
April 12, Madrid, Spain: Bombing at restaurant frequented by U.S. soldiers, killed 18 Spaniards and injured 82.
June 14, Beirut, Lebanon: TWA Flight 847 en route from Athens to Rome hijacked to Beirut by Hezbollah terrorists and held for 17 days. A U.S. Navy diver executed.
Oct. 7, Mediterranean Sea: gunmen attack Italian cruise ship, Achille Lauro. One U.S. tourist killed. Hijacking linked to Libya.
Dec. 18, Rome, Italy, and Vienna, Austria: airports in Rome and Vienna were bombed, killing 20 people, 5 of whom were Americans. Bombing linked to Libya.
April 2, Athens, Greece:A bomb exploded aboard TWA flight 840 en route from Rome to Athens, killing 4 Americans and injuring 9.
April 5, West Berlin, Germany: Libyans bombed a disco frequented by U.S. servicemen, killing 2 and injuring hundreds.
Dec. 21, Lockerbie, Scotland: N.Y.-bound Pan-Am Boeing 747 exploded in flight from a terrorist bomb and crashed into Scottish village, killing all 259 aboard and 11 on the ground. Passengers included 35 Syracuse University students and many U.S. military personnel. Libya formally admitted responsibility 15 years later (Aug. 2003) and offered $2.7 billion compensation to victims' families.
Feb. 26, New York City: bomb exploded in basement garage of World Trade Center, killing 6 and injuring at least 1,040 others. In 1995, militant Islamist Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and 9 others were convicted of conspiracy charges, and in 1998, Ramzi Yousef, believed to have been the mastermind, was convicted of the bombing. Al-Qaeda involvement is suspected.
April 19, Oklahoma City: car bomb exploded outside federal office building, collapsing wall and floors. 168 people were killed, including 19 children and 1 person who died in rescue effort. Over 220 buildings sustained damage. Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols later convicted in the antigovernment plot to avenge the Branch Davidian standoff in Waco, Tex., exactly 2 years earlier. (See Miscellaneous Disasters.)
Nov. 13, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: car bomb exploded at U.S. military headquarters, killing 5 U.S. military servicemen.
June 25, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia: truck bomb exploded outside Khobar Towers military complex, killing 19 American servicemen and injuring hundreds of others. 13 Saudis and a Lebanese, all alleged members of Islamic militant group Hezbollah, were indicted on charges relating to the attack in June 2001.
Aug. 7, Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: truck bombs exploded almost simultaneously near 2 U.S. embassies, killing 224 (213 in Kenya and 11 in Tanzania) and injuring about 4,500. 4 men connected with al-Qaeda 2 of whom had received training at al-Qaeda camps inside Afghanistan, were convicted of the killings in May 2001 and later sentenced to life in prison. A federal grand jury had indicted 22 men in connection with the attacks, including Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden, who remained at large.
Oct. 12, Aden, Yemen: U.S. Navy destroyer USS Cole heavily damaged when a small boat loaded with explosives blew up alongside it. 17 sailors killed. Linked to Osama bin Laden, or members of al-Qaeda terrorist network.
Sept. 11, New York City, Arlington, Va., and Shanksville, Pa.: hijackers crashed 2 commercial jets into twin towers of World Trade Center; 2 more hijacked jets were crashed into the Pentagon and a field in rural Pa. Total dead and missing numbered 2,9921: 2,749 in New York City, 184 at the Pentagon, 40 in Pa., and 19 hijackers. Islamic al-Qaeda terrorist group blamed. (See September 11, 2001: Timeline of Terrorism.)
June 14, Karachi, Pakistan: bomb exploded outside American consulate in Karachi, Pakistan, killing 12. Linked to al-Qaeda.
May 12, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: suicide bombers killed 34, including 8 Americans, at housing compounds for Westerners. Al-Qaeda suspected.
May 29–31, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: terrorists attack the offices of a Saudi oil company in Khobar, Saudi Arabia, take foreign oil workers hostage in a nearby residential compound, leaving 22 people dead including one American.
June 11–19, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: terrorists kidnap and execute Paul Johnson Jr., an American, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. 2 other Americans and BBC cameraman killed by gun attacks.
Dec. 6, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia: terrorists storm the U.S. consulate, killing 5 consulate employees. 4 terrorists were killed by Saudi security.
Nov. 9, Amman, Jordan: Suicide bombers hit 3 American hotels, Radisson, Grand Hyatt, and Days Inn, in Amman, Jordan, killing 57. Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility.
Sept. 13, Damascus, Syria: an attack by four gunman on the American embassy was foiled.
Jan. 12, Athens, Greece: the U.S. embassy was fired on by an anti-tank missile causing damage but no injuries.

Two Science History Sites Of Note

The Galileo Project
Has information not only about Galileo himself but also Tycho Brahe, William Gilbert, Simon Marius, Johannes Kepler and Hams Lipershey amongst others.

Isaac Newton Resources
Lots of links to the World of Sir Isaac - includes a link to a Latin version of Principia.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Historical What Ifs?

These are worth thinking about.

1. What if Alexander the Great had had an heir? What form would his Empire taken?
2. What if Hitler had died from a Gas attack in World War I? Would Communism spread much
quicker? Would the State of Israel been born?
3. What if the American Revolution had failed? Would the U.S. be part of the Commonwealth today or would it have gained independence later? Would it still be a Superpower today?
4. What if Japan had defeated the U.S. in the Second World War’s Pacific Theatre? Would communism still have taken hold in China? Would the Soviet Union have emerged as a Superpower? Would the Cold War involve three parties instead of two?
5. What if Alaska had never been sold to the U.S. by the Russians? How would this have affected Canada and the U.S.? What type of Cold War situations could have arisen in such a universe?
6. What if paganisn had succeeded in halting the advance of Christianity in Europe? Would the Jews still have been persecuted? Would Europe been saved the ravages of religious war? How would Islam have spread with no large scale counter-balancing force?
7. What if the English had not defeated the French in Canada? Would a significantly larger portion of North America have become Francophone? How would this have changed the complexion of the U.S.?
8. What if Britain had been connected to Europe by an isthmus? Would the country have developed the Great Empire it once held? Would English been so universal a language? How dominant would the Royal Navy have been in power politics? Would Napoleon and Hitler have successfully invaded and conquered Britain?
9. What if the Ancient super-continent of Pangaea had not split apart? How would this have changed Power Politics assuming the development of modern countries?
10. What if males and females had equal physical strength? Would so many societies have been male- dominated? Would there be more or less strife? Would the population have increased by the large number that it has?
11. What if the Arabs had accepted the 1947 Palestine Partition Plan? Would an Arab state have existed in peaceful harmony with a Jewish state? Would the region be wealthier for it? Would the Arab-Israeli Wars that followed still have taken place?
12. What if the American political and economic experiment was copied in South America after many countries on that continent gained independence in the 19th Century? Would South America be a center of power today? Would the U.S. role in Western Hemisphere politics have been diminished? Would the South American countries eventually have united to form a Federation?
13. What if Genghis Khan’s hordes had reached Paris? How would this have affected European History?
14. What if the Magna Carta had never been signed? Would British Liberalism still have evolved? Would the country have been cursed by a greater degree of reactionary tendencies?
15. What if the Roman Empire never existed? Would Western Civilization have been so pervasive

A bit on Alfred the Great

The most important Saxon King he is the only English Monarch with the suffix 'Great'.

Taken from http://www.britannia.com/history/monarchs/mon6.html

Youngest son of King Æthelwulf, Alfred became King of Wessex during a time of constant Viking attack. He was driven into hiding by a Viking raid into Wessex, led by the Dane, Guthorm, and took refuge in the Athelney marshes in Somerset. There, he recovered sufficient strength to be able to defeat the Danes decisively at the Battle of Eddington. As a condition of the peace treaty which followed, Guthorm received Christian baptism and withdrew his forces from Wessex, with Alfred recognizing the Danish control over East Anglia and parts of Mercia. This partition of England, called the "Danelaw", was formalized by another treaty in 886.

Alfred created a series of fortifications to surround his kingdom and provide needed security from invasion. The Anglo-Saxon word for these forts, "burh", has come down to us in the common place-name suffix, "bury." He also constructed a fleet of ships to augment his other defenses, and in so doing became known as the "Father of the English Navy." The reign of Alfred was known for more than military success. He was a codifier of law, a promoter of education and a suppor|er of the arts. He, himself, was a scholar and translated Latin books into the Anglo-Saxon tongue. The definitive contemporary work on Alfred's life is an unfinished account in Latin by Asser, a Welshman, bishop of Sherbourne and Alfred's counsellor. After his death, he was buried in his capital city of Winchester.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Two Historical Poems

The following are two Poems that I wrote

Turntable Revolution

Marat's eyes perched with hate
Look to the guillotine of Robespierre.
Mind Twisted, warbled smile
Idealism incarcerated behind an ancient fortress.

Look behind the walls of power.
The Cult of the Supreme being awakens a vengeance.
Rejection of old values for new.
Reason gone not even justice remains.
They too have died at the cynicism of Concorde.

Wretched revolt
Forgotten is the Peace of Necker.
The king is dead and so is the queen.
Evil turned back
like an Acid Washed sea.
Where lies the providence of Mirabeau
and the silent sanity of Rousseau ?

Gambetta's Balloon

A balloon rose over Paris
Crowded with the bodies of three men.
Into the air it swaggered.
Above the Prussian guns.
Bringing news to the people.

Let the Marseilles ring out loud
Brave Frenchmen all is not lost.
The Carolingian heart will run free.

For in the rancid back alleys of the city's bedeviled left bank
Rises the voice of students.
Children of the Commune.
Burn down the Bonapartists and Bismarck's battalions too.
Let a new power take hold
to exorcise the Gothic curse.

Sweeping through Hausmann
past the artists of Montmartre
the new Republic strives to survive
the nation's third but not its last.

King David

Taken from
by Shira Schoenberg

The biblical King David of Israel was known for his diverse skills as both a warrior and a writer of psalms. In his 40 years as ruler, between approximately 1010 and 970 B.C.E., he united the people of Israel, led them to victory in battle, conquered land and paved the way for his son, Solomon, to build the Holy Temple. Almost all knowledge of him is derived from the books of the Prophets and Writings: Samuel I and II, Kings I and Chronicles I.

David was the eighth and youngest son of Jesse from the kingly tribe of Judah. He was also a direct descendent of Ruth the Moabite. David began his life as a shepherd in Bethlehem. One day, the prophet Samuel called him out of the field and anointed him without the knowledge of the current king, Saul. David simply returned to his sheep. His first interaction with Saul came when the king was looking for someone to play music for him, and the king’s attendant summoned the skilled David to play for him. Saul was pleased with David and kept him in his service as a musician.

The first time David publicly displayed his courage was when, as an inexperienced boy armed with only a stick and a few stones, he confronted the nine-foot, bronze armored Philistine giant, Goliath of Gath. After skilled warriors had cowered in fear for 40 days, David made a slingshot, invoked God’s name, and killed the giant. After this, Saul took David on as commander of his troops and David formed a close friendship with Saul’s son, Jonathan.

David was successful in battle against the Philistines and this aroused the jealousy of Saul, who tried to kill David by throwing a spear at him. David stayed with Saul, however, and Saul offered him his own daughter, Merav, as a wife. He later reneged on his promise, but offered David his second daughter, Michal, in exchange for the foreskins of 100 Philistines, a price that David paid.

Saul’s jealousy of David grew and he asked his son Jonathan to kill David. Jonathan was a friend of David’s, however, and hid David instead. He then went to his father and convinced Saul to promise not to kill David. Saul promised, and David returned to his service. This promise did not last and, after Saul attempted to kill David a second time, Michal helped David run away to the prophet Samuel in Ramah. David returned briefly to make a pact of peace with Jonathan and to verify that Saul was still planning to kill him. He then continued his flight from Saul, finding refuge with the king of Moab. On the way, the priest Ahimelech of Nob gave David a weapon. When Saul heard this, he sent Doeg the Edomite to kill 85 of the city’s priests.

In the course of his flight, David gained the support of 600 men, and he and his band traveled from city to city. At one point, in Ein Gedi, David crept up on Saul while he was in a cave, but instead of killing him, cut a piece from his cloak and confronted Saul. Saul broke down and admitted that David would one day be king and asked David to swear that he would not destroy Saul’s descendants or wipe out Saul’s name. David swore to this, but it did not stop Saul from continuing to pursue him. Finally, David and his supporters joined the service of Achish, the Philistine king of Gath who entrusted David with control of the city of Ziklag. Under Achish’s employ, David raided the cities of nomads who harassed the Jews and gave the spoils as gifts to the leaders of Judah to win their support for him against Saul.

Eventually, while David was out battling a tribe called the Amalekites, Saul and Jonathan were killed on Mt. Gilboa in a fight with the Philistines. David mourned, and then began a new stage in his life, as king of Judah. He moved to Hebron, along with his wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail of Carmel, and his followers. The people of Judea were grateful to David for saving them from desert raiders while he was in Ziklag, and they appointed David king.

Meanwhile, Abner son of Ner crowned Ish-Boshet son of Saul king over the tribes of Israel. The kingdoms of Judah and Israel fought, with David’s dynasty growing stronger as Saul’s grew weaker. Finally, after Abner had a fight with Ish-Boshet, Abner approached David and made a pact with him, which allowed David to unite the two kingdoms and rule over all of Israel. As Abner was leaving David, however, David’s advisor and army commander, Joab, killed Abner without David’s knowledge. Soon, Ish-Boshet was also killed and the tribes of Israel anointed David as their king. David was 30 years old at the time, and had ruled over Judah for seven years and six months. Over the years, he had taken more wives and had many children. He had also made pacts with kings of various surrounding countries.

David’s first action as king was to capture what is now the City of David in Jerusalem, fortify it and build himself a palace. When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king and was threatening their hegemony over all of Palestine, they attacked, spread out over the Valley of Raphaim and captured Bethlehem. David retaliated and, in three battles, forced the Philistines out of Israel.

Once David had established the safety of his kingdom, he brought the Holy Ark, which had been passed from city to city, to Jerusalem. He then wanted to build a temple to God and consulted Natan the prophet. Natan replied to David that God would always be with David, but it would be up to David’s son to build the Temple because David had been a warrior and shed blood.

David then began fighting wars against Israel’s neighbors on the east bank of the Jordan. He defeated the Moabites, the Edomites, the Ammonites and the Arameans. These wars began as defensive wars, but ended with the establishment of a Davidic empire that extended over both sides of the Jordan River, as far as the Mediterranean Sea. David enforced justice in his empire and established civil and military administrations in Jerusalem, modeled after those of the Canaanites and Egyptians. He divided the country into twelve districts, each with its own civil, military and religious institutions. He also established Jerusalem as the secular and religious center of the country. Each district paid taxes to Jerusalem and the people began to make pilgrimages to Jerusalem each year on the holidays of Passover, Shavout and Sukkot.

Despite this flawless reign on a national level, David had many problems in his personal life. One day while the men were at war, David spied a beautiful woman, Bathsheba, from his rooftop. He discovered that she was married to Uriah the Hittite, but this did not stop him from sending for her and getting her pregnant. He then recalled Uriah from battle and pretended that Uriah was the father of Bathsheba’s baby. Uriah refused to go home to his wife, so David sent Uriah to the front lines of battle, where he was killed. David then married Bathsheba. When confronted by Natan the prophet, David admitted his sin. In punishment, Bathsheba’s child died and David was cursed with the promise of a rebellion from within his own house. Bathsheba and David soon conceived a second son, Solomon.

David’s personal strife continued when his son Amnon raped Tamar, Amnon’s half-sister. Absalom, who was David’s son and Tamar’s brother, then killed Amnon. Absalom fled, but David could not stop thinking about him. Finally, Joab convinced David to allow Absalom to return. Absalom was a handsome man and became popular with the people of Israel. Then, 40 years after Samuel had anointed David king, Absalom, along with 200 men, journeyed to Hebron with the intention of rebelling against his father and taking over his kingdom. He had the support of the men of Hebron who were insulted by the removal of the kingdom from Hebron to Jerusalem, the elders whose status was undermined by parts of David’s policy and the Benjamites who wanted to avenge Saul’s family.

David feared that Absalom would return and conquer Jerusalem, so he and all his followers fled the city, leaving only 10 concubines to guard the palace. David told the priests Zadok and Abiathar to remain in the city along with his friend and now spy Hushai the Archite. Meanwhile, Absalom reached Jerusalem, took over the city and slept with David’s concubines. Hushai befriended Absalom, advised him, and told the priests to send messengers informing David of Absalom’s plans. David gathered his troops and then killed 20,000 of Absalom’s Israelite soldiers, including Absalom himself. David returned to power. A second revolt broke out at the hands of Sheba son of Bichri, but with the help of Joab, David succeeded in crushing this rebellion as well, and in killing Sheba.

Eventually David grew old and had to stop fighting. He constantly felt cold and could not get warm. At this point, Adonijah, David’s oldest son, declared himself king. David, however, had promised Bathsheba that her son Solomon would be king, and publicly anointed Solomon. Fearful of retribution Adonijah ran to the altar in Jerusalem, but Solomon pardoned him and sent him home.

David delivered a last set of instructions to his son, telling him to follow the words of God and to repay in kind specific people that had either wronged David or helped him. David then died after 40 years as king, 33 of those in Jerusalem. He was buried in the City of David.

David was a poet and the rabbis believe that David wrote the Book of Psalms, or at least edited it. Throughout his life, David prepared for the construction of the Holy Temple by setting aside the necessary physical materials, commanding the Levites and others in their duties for the Temple, and giving the plan for the Temple to Solomon. It is then fitting that according to tradition, the Messiah, who will build the third temple, will be from the Davidic dynasty. Today, Jews pray daily for the coming of the "Messiah, son of David."

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Personal thoughts on history

How does someone become interested in history from a young age?

Like almost anything else exposure to the topic helps. Both my father and grandfather were avid historian lovers and passed on this pursuit to me. In that sense I was very fortunate. Some people have the ‘history bug’ in their blood, whilst others are drawn to the subject by a defining event in their childhood ie. a movie, a book, a picture of some sort. Most people however who have a fondness for history seem to appreciate the subject only later on in life, which is a great pity as the richness of our shared historical legacy, should have an appeal to all ages. I think that traditional academia has in a way served to turn people away from the subject rather than toward it.

And why do you think this is so?

Forced memorization, an emphasis on dates and indiscriminate facts is certainly the killer at the secondary school level. At university, the narrowing of disciplines and the emphasis on specialization add further to this estrangement. University serves to purge generalization. Not only in history but in many other disciplines as well.

So what is your solution?

A rebirth of amateur history, history for the people. What is needed are more history clubs, regular journals, greater access for the public of historical ideas. Academics have used language to empower themselves and so remove ideas which are understandable to many away from a common domain. In short the subject has to come down from its pedestal. A call to arms by amateurs is needed to rescue the subject from the shackles of the so-called specialists. Just as the amateur has played a vital role in astronomy so to can they re-make history into the subject it should be. The internet is helping with this renaissance but progress is slow as the middle ground which should be occupied by the generalist is small. Over time it will grow.

How are you contributing to this revolution?

I am working at several levels in this struggle. Firstly, by teaching the subject to students at the high school level in the way it should be taught ie. with an emphasis on critical thought and far range thinking, secondly by promoting the subject on my website www.lonelythinker.com, thirdly through the writing of my fun and informative (ok I am biased) quiz books and future histories, and finally by involving myself in historical discussion groups. It will take time but it is nevertheless a beginning. I figure that if I can impart my enthusiasm for the subject to even a handful of people I have made a great stride.

What area of history appeals to you most?

I often think of this question myself and still the answer remains inconclusive. I am drawn somehow to the dark ages that period between the Fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476AD and the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The concept of the Dark Ages is very much a misnomer and certainly it a non-European context was indeed a period of Enlightenment (especially in the Islamic world). However there are many area of world history that are fascinating: the Napoleonic Period, The rise of idealism in Europe in the 19th century, Ancient Greece, Africa in the post World War II period etc. to name a few. Each has their own drawing power and entices me with their own specific charm. I guess I plain and simple enjoy the study of history. Its like a puzzle which we are constantly working to unravel.

When do you think History began?

With the big bang. I don’t believe in this concept of pre-history. Its just a crutch to narrow the field of study. I support a continuity of events that precedes humanity but is directly responsible as well for defining our species’ development over time. Its for this reason that I see so much of a merger between history and the sciences despite the attitude of many who would treat these disciplines as independent. Having established this broad time spectrum I do however believe that it is necessary to sub-divide time into eras, but these are only artificial and serve really to make the historians job much easier.

Agriculture played a very important role in the development of civilization. This concept has served as a virtual pillar of western thought which often seems history as beginning with the establishment of agricultural civilizations in Mesopotamia, the Indus River, China and the Nile. What do you think about this assumption?

I agree that it is commonplace but I don’t like it. For one it sets the tone that all non-agricultural based societies are barbaric. This negates the importance of several well organized hunter-gatherer communities that sprung up all over the globe. Many of these societies had laws and cultures which were just as sophisticated as these so-called permanent agricultural societies but by this narrow definition have been relegated to the trash heap of historical analysis. Civilization has many forms and is more ubiquitous than we give it credit for. I often wonder if the term itself is more a hindrance than anything else. Sort of a hangover from the Enlightenment when many were too over zealous in expressing them perceived superiority over others.

But doesn’t your more inclusive definition open itself up to a cultural relativism?

No, because advances and step backwards in the march of humanity can take place in any type of society. The Nazis were scientifically advanced but took several steps backwards in an absolute moralistic scale because of their actions. There are still absolute guidelines which the historian can define to ascertain the value or progress of a so-called civilization. Its the duty of the historian to consult with the philosopher to determine what these guidelines should be. This is the challenge that makes historical analysis so challenging.

Lets look at Mesopotamia and its to in driving Western History. Why do you think Mesopotamia played such a crucial role?

The Mesopotamian civilization sprung up in the fertile area between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Such city states as Ur and Erich were very advanced were the product of a stable environment. As a result of their geography the Mesopotamians could afford to live off the land and did not as so many other hunter gatherer societies have to move to another locale to find food. With a consistency of base, settlements became more entrenched and people invested more in the land. They thus in a sense had more to lose and consequently gravitated toward a system that would ensure stability. Once the stability had been created, a vehicle was now in place to drive the model to he surrounding areas. This of course is easier said that done, and the threat of external invaders were always present, but the society survived as it was more consistent in its framework than the other tribes around it. The same was true of Egypt, the Indus Civilization and the Chinese civilization that developed along the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers.
Western Civilization is a composite of many inputs. In a sense it is not uniform, that is why its history is so plagued with violence. However after a while the societal structure gravitates to a stable mode: in Europe’s case, it is the unity of the EU.

Ancient Egypt Quiz

From my book: Take the History Challenge

1. Which type of Pyramids were built the century before the Great Pyramids?
2. In what Egyptian location were the most famous of these pyramids built?
3. According to Egyptologists which Pharaoh was responsible for building the First Great Pyramid?
4. By what other name was this Pharaoh known as?
5. Who was his son?
6. Between which centuries did the Old Kingdom last?
7. Which king united Upper and Lower Egypt?
8. Who was the Egyptian God of Wisdom?
9. What people lived immediately to the South of the Egyptians?
10. What people lived immediately to the West of the Egyptians?
11. Who was the Egyptian God of Evil?
12. Who sponsored the mission that discovered ‘Tut’s’ tomb?
13. What were the two most popular names for Egyptian pharoahs?
14. Which Egyptian god is depicted by a jackal?
15. Which Egyptian god is depicted by a falcon?


Answers to Ancient Egypt I
1. Step Pyramids.
2. Zosa in the 26th Century BC.
3. Cheops (or Khufu).
4. Khufu (Cheops).
5. Khafre
6. 26th to the 22nd Century BC.
7. Menes
8. Thoth
9. Nubians
10. Libyans
11. Seth
12. Ramases and Ptolemy.
13. Lord Carnarvon.
14. Anubis
15. Horus

Some War of the Roses Sites

Here is the intro to a useful site on the War of the Roses. For more go to:


The Wars of the Roses were a series of civil wars fought in medieval England from 1455 to 1487 between the House of Lancaster and the House of York. The name Wars of the Roses is based on the badges used by the two sides, the red rose for the Lancastrians and the white rose for the Yorkists. Major causes of the conflict include: 1) both houses were direct descendents of king Edward III; 2) the ruling Lancastrian king, Henry VI, surrounded himself with unpopular nobles; 3) the civil unrest of much of the population; 4) the availability of many powerful lords with their own private armies; and 5) the untimely episodes of mental illness by king Henry VI.

Here is another site worth visiting:
Has some practical biographies

A ninformative description of the Battle of Bosworth Field
- The deciding Battle in the War.

Friday, February 9, 2007

The Bill Clinton Presidency

These are the twenty + issues that in my opinion most define his presidency.
(not in order of importance)

1. The slaying of the budget deficit. More Congress than Clinton.
2. The Technological and Economic boom of the 1990s. Although not much of this phenomenon should be credited to Clinton (and no Al Gore did not invent the internet).
3. Resolution of the Bosnian and Kosovo Crises.
4. Diplomatic success in Haiti. The Toppling of the military regime with minimal violence.
5. Political, social and human failure in Rwanda and Somalia.
6. The Monica Lewinsky Debacle and Clinton’s subsequent impeachment.
7. Failure to solve the Health Care Problem (Too much of a conflict of interest having Hilary run the show).
8. Another tulip frenzy - this time its called the Dot.com ‘phenom’ later the Dot.com crisis.
9. Al-Qaeda comes to the fore with the bombing of two US embassies in Africa.
10. Failure to ratify anti-landmine treaty.
11. The Don’t-ask-Don’t-tell compromise for gays in the military.
12. Ratifying Kyoto. Too bad that Bush did an about-face on this.
13. The sickness of the Japanese economy.
14. A Bill Clinton clone - Tony Blair becomes PM in the UK.
15. India and Pakistan were at loggerheads (once again) as each went ahead with irresponsible muscle-flexing missile testing projects.
16. Collapse of the dictatorship in Indonesia (world’s 5th most populous country).
17. Asian Economic Flu.
18. Introduction of the Euro in the Old World.
19. Cloning with adult cells of a sheep called Dolly. Human cloning becomes a possible reality.
20. AIDS upswing on the rise especially in Africa.
21. The North Korean Safe Nuclear Technology debacle - Will we pay the price for this in the future?

An Assortment of Ancient Greece Questions

(Any History teacher is free to use these questions. Enjoy!!!)
- Useful for Knowledge and Understanding

What are the main geographical regions of Greece?
What seas surround Greece?
What islands have played an important role in Greek history?
Who were the Minoans?
Why did the Minoan civilization collapse?
Are the Minoans related to the Atlanteans?
Where did the Mycenae come from?
What was their main city?
How did they differ from the Minoans?
From which civilization did the Greeks borrow their alphabet?
Why is the Greek Dark Ages called a such?
Who were the Dorians?
Who was Homer?
Who was Hesiod?
Where did philosophy begin?
Who were the Titans?
Who were the Olympians?
Which were the leading Greek City State?
How did Athens differ from Sparta?
Who was Lycurgus?
Why did the Persian Wars break out?
What were the leading battles of the Persian War?
Who was Phidippides?
Why did the Greeks lose at Thermopylae?
What was a Trieme?
How did democracy manifest itself in Greece?
Who was Heraclitus?
Who was Empedocles?
Who was Democritus?
Who were the Pythagoreans?
Who was Euclid?
What parts of the Mediterranean were colonized by the Greeks?
What was Sappho known for?
What was the Classic Age?
How were women treated in Ancient Greece?
What was the importance of Solon?
Who was Pericles?
Who was Aristophanes?
Who are the three Fathers of Greek drama?
What was a hoplite?
Who was Hyppatia?
What was the Delian League?
Why is Thucydides regarded as a better historian than Herodotus?
What was the Pelopenessian War? How was it decided?
Who were the Thirty Tyrants?
Why did Sparta decline?
Who was Cleisthenes?
Who were the sophists?
Which three philosophers were known as the Athenian trio?
Who was the Father of Medicine?
Who were the leading names in Greek Science?
What were the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World?
What three types of architectural columns are associated with Ancient Greece?
What buildings sit on top of the Acropolis?
What Sports were competed for in the Olympic Games?
Who was Philip II of Macedonia?
How did Philip unite Greece?
How did Philip die?
What age did Alexander succeed Philip?
Who was Alexander’s influential mother?
Which Persian king was Alexander’s chief rival?
What were Alexander’s three greatest battles against the Persians?
What Ancient Mesopotamian city did Alexander intend on becoming his capital?
What city did Alexander found in Egypt?
Which high priest was Alexander alleged to have bowed to?
Who was Buccephalus?
What values did Alexander export to his Empire?
How much territory did Alexander conquer?
Who was Alexander’s wife?
Who did Alexander defeat at the Battle of Hydaspes River?
Why did Alexander turn back after conquering parts of India?
How was Alexander’s Empire divided after his death?
How long did it take Alexander to set up his Empire?
Who was his most famous male lover?
What was the significance of the Hellenic Age?
Who were the Ptolemaics?
Who were the Seleucids?
In what way did the Greeks clash with the Carthaginians?
How did the Art of the Hellenic Period differ from that of the Classical Age?
When did the Romans conquer Greece?
Who were the Stoics?
Who were the Neo-Platonists?
How did Christianity reach Ancient Greece?

Grade 11 History Test

The following is an example of a Grade 11 History test that I administered several years ago.

Israelites and India

In what ways does Hinduism differ from Judaism? (5)

What is the function of the Bodhisattva? (1)

Which person/deity is being described below:

Macedonian Greek conquered parts of India
Reformed Buddhist King known for his building projects
He drove the Greeks out of India
The Hindu preserver god
A wise king he built the first Temple in Jerusalem
The First Hebrew Patriarch
He led the Israelities out of Egypt (7)

Name the following terms from the clue given:

Jewish book of Mysticism
In Hebrew it means to ‘Repair the World’
Period of Jewish History after the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans
Most Important Hindu Book
Buddhist term for Enlightenment
Ultra-Pacifist Buddhists
The Second Highest Caste (7)

What is the difference between dharma and kharma? (2)

How does Mahayana Buddhism differ from Therevada Buddhism? (3)

Why has ethical monotheism been such a powerful force in world history? (2)

Write a mini-essay. Three paragraphs (+mini intro + conclusion) describing the major events that shaped Hebrew History from 3000BC to 100AD? Be as specific as possible. (12)

Thursday, February 8, 2007

An early look at the war on terror

Article details the US fight against the Barbary Pirates
Name to remember: Stephen Decatur

The events of September 11, 2001 shocked the United States out of its complacency concerning its invulnerability. Even though the U.S. has the most powerful military machine on earth, it might be of little avail; it seems that a new type of war will be fought. A war that will need resolve, years of effort, and new tactics.
This is not the first conflict in which America has faced such deprivations against life and property. There was another time when it was determined that diplomacy would not only be futile, but humiliating and in the long run disastrous. A time when ransom or tribute would not buy peace. A time when war was considered more effective and honorable. And, a time when war would be fought, not with large concentrations of military might, but by small bands peopled with individuals of indomitable spirit.

For the rest of the article go to

Julius Caesar alive on the web

The following is a list of great websites on Rome's most famous citizen

A useful timeline on Caesar's life

A web resource on William Shakespeare's Caesar

The ever informative Crystalinks site

The Assassination of Jules

An Interview with the General

Busts and Coins of Caesar

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Biological Philosophy

Questions to use to encourage thinking in Biology. A Recourse to the History of the subject will help.

1. Argue the point: It was inevitable that life would come into being as its precursors were all present
2. Evolution toward complexity is an illusion. Yes or No?
3. The Respiratory pathways (Glycoloysis, Krebbs cycle and the Electron Transport Chain) developed from Photosynthesis. Examine this idea with reference to the Light and Dark Cycles?
4. Human Beings are an ecological community. Argue Yes or No?
5. Mendel fudged his results. Do you agree or disagree with this assertion. Why?
6. What inefficiencies or points of failure would you correct if you could redesign the human circulatory system? Why?
7. Is DNA a living entity on its own?
8. Life is a series of interlinked feedback systems. Is this an over simplification?
9. What similarities underpin the internet and the human body?
10.Structure is driven by functionality in all biological systems. Do you agree with this statement?

Ancient History: Thinking Questions

Thinking Type Questions

1.What is a civilization?
2. Why was agriculture so important? How did it transform society?
3. Why was the Sumerian Civilization so successful?
4. What commonalities did the Egyptian and Sumerian Civilizations share?
5. How does codified law change society?
6. How did the Phoenicians benefit from the use of an alphabet?
7. Why did the Assyrian civilization collapse?
8. What was the overall weakness of polytheism? Why would monotheism eventually succeed in the West and Near East?
9. What is a barbarism? How can we identify barbarisms?
10. Show how the statement ‘diversity is the strength of a civilization’ is true in the scope of the ancient world?
11. Argue the point: It is inevitable that agriculture gives birth to industry.
12. In the Ancient world – how has history changed as a result of the maxim ‘might is right’?

On Religious Zionism

Early Orthodox Proponents of ZionismAlthough most leaders of traditionalist Judaism were hostile to political Zionism, a few significant individuals recognized the authentic religious roots of Jewish messianism, and were among the first to discern the profound social and political difficulties that beset European Jewry.
Among the most prominent precursors of religious Zionism were:
Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer (1795-1874)
Rabbi Judah Alkalay (1798-1878)
Rabbi Samuel Mohilewer (1824-1898)The Orthodox supporters of Zionism organized as the Mizrachi movement (literally: "Eastern", but actually derived from the Hebrew acronym for "Spiritual Centre"). The party was founded in 1901 at a conference of religious Zionists convened in Vilna by Rabbi Isaac Jacob Reines (1839-1915), who served as the organizations first president.
In 1905 Rabbi Reines established the first modern yeshivah in Eastern Europe, in Lida, Lithuania. Here the traditional religious curriculum was combined with practical secular subjects. He argued that Orthodoxy would be at a disadvantage as long as religious Jews could not achieve economic affluence.
The ideology of the Mizrachi movement saw Jewish nationalism as an instrument for realizing religious objectives, especially of enhancing the opportunities for the observance of the Torah by a Jewish society dwelling on its own soil.
In addition to its important network of modern religious schools (which became the basis for the Israeli State Religious School System), in which spoken Hebrew and Biblical studies were taught (unlike the traditional yeshivot), the Mizrachi participated fully in Zionist congresses and other political activities, and trained its members for agricultural labour in Palestine. Largely through its youth movement, B'nai Akiva, it established settlements, especially in the Beit She'an valley in the Galilee.

For more go to the source: http://www.ucalgary.ca/~elsegal/363_Transp/Orthodoxy/Zionism.html

Charlemagne in a nutshell

Some say he was the first European. Here is a brief overview on the reign of one of the greatest Frenchman/German.

Source: http://www.humnet.ucla.edu/santiago/histchrl.html

"By the sword and the cross," Charlemagne (Charles the Great) became master of Western Europe. It was falling into decay when Charlemagne became joint king of the Franks in 768. Except in the monasteries, people had all but forgotten education and the arts. Boldly Charlemagne conquered barbarians and kings alike. By restoring the roots of learning and order, he preserved many political rights and revived culture.
Charlemagne's grandfather was Charles Martel, the warrior who crushed the Saracens (see Charles Martel). Charlemagne was the elder son of Bertrade ("Bertha Greatfoot") and Pepin the Short, first "mayor of the palace" to become king of the Franks. Although schools had almost disappeared in the 8th century, historians believe that Bertrade gave young Charles some education and that he learned to read. His devotion to the church became the great driving force of his remarkable life.
Charlemagne was tall, powerful, and tireless. His secretary, Eginhard, wrote that Charlemagne had fair hair and a "face laughing and merry . . . his appearance was always stately and dignified." He had a ready wit, but could be stern. His tastes were simple and moderate. He delighted in hunting, riding, and swimming. He wore the Frankish dress: linen shirt and breeches, a silk-fringed tunic, hose wrapped with bands, and, in winter, a tight coat of otter or marten skins. Over all these garments "he flung a blue cloak, and he always had a sword girt about him."
Charlemagne's character was contradictory. In an age when the usual penalty for defeat was death, Charlemagne several times spared the lives of his defeated foes; yet in 782 at Verden, after a Saxon uprising, he ordered 4,500 Saxons beheaded. He compelled the clergy and nobles to reform, but he divorced two of his four wives without any cause. He forced kings and princes to kneel at his feet, yet his mother and his two favorite wives often overruled him in his own household.
Charlemagne Begins His Reign In 768, when Charlemagne was 26, he and his brother Carloman inherited the kingdom of the Franks. In 771 Carloman died, and Charlemagne became sole ruler of the kingdom. At that time the northern half of Europe was still pagan and lawless. In the south, the Roman Catholic church was striving to assert its power against the Lombard kingdom in Italy. In Charlemagne's own realm, the Franks were falling back into barbarian ways, neglecting their education and religion.
Charlemagne was determined to strengthen his realm and to bring order to Europe. In 772 he launched a 30-year campaign that conquered and Christianized the powerful pagan Saxons in the north. He subdued the Avars, a huge Tatar tribe on the Danube. He compelled the rebellious Bavarian dukes to submit to him. When possible he preferred to settle matters peacefully, however. For example, Charlemagne offered to pay the Lombard king Desiderius for return of lands to the pope, but, when Desiderius refused, Charlemagne seized his kingdom in 773 to 774 and restored the Papal States.
The key to Charlemagne's amazing conquests was his ability to organize. During his reign he sent out more than 50 military expeditions. He rode as commander at the head of at least half of them. He moved his armies over wide reaches of country with unbelievable speed, but every move was planned in advance. Before a campaign he told the counts, princes, and bishops throughout his realm how many men they should bring, what arms they were to carry, and even what to load in the supply wagons. These feats of organization and the swift marches later led Napoleon to study his tactics.
One of Charlemagne's minor campaigns has become the most famous. In 778 he led his army into Spain to battle the infidel Saracens. On its return, Basques ambushed the rear guard at Roncesvalles, in northern Spain, and killed "Count Roland." Roland became a great hero of medieval songs and romances (see Roland).
By 800 Charlemagne was the undisputed ruler of Western Europe. His vast realm covered what are now France, Switzerland, Belgium, and The Netherlands. It included half of present-day Italy and Germany, part of Austria, and the Spanish March ("border"). The broad March reached to the Ebro River. By thus establishing a central government over Western Europe, Charlemagne restored much of the unity of the old Roman Empire and paved the way for the development of modern Europe.
Crowned EmperorOn Christmas Day in 800, while Charlemagne knelt in prayer in Saint Peter's in Rome, Pope Leo III seized a golden crown from the altar and placed it on the bowed head of the king. The throng in the church shouted, "To Charles the August, crowned by God, great and pacific emperor, long life and victory!"
Charlemagne is said to have been surprised by the coronation, declaring that he would not have come into the church had he known the pope's plan. However, some historians say the pope would not have dared to act without Charlemagne's knowledge.
The coronation was the foundation of the Holy Roman Empire. Though Charlemagne did not use the title, he is considered the first Holy Roman emperor (see Holy Roman Empire).
Reform and Renaissance Charlemagne had deep sympathy for the peasants and believed that government should be for the benefit of the governed. When he came to the throne, various local governors, called "counts," had become lax and oppressive. To reform them, he expanded the work of investigators, called missi dominici. He prescribed their duties in documents called capitularies and sent them out in teams of twoÄÄa churchman and a noble. They rode to all parts of the realm, inspecting government, administering justice, and reawakening all citizens to their civil and religious duties.
Twice a year Charlemagne summoned the chief men of the empire to discuss its affairs. In all problems he was the final arbiter, even in church issues, and he largely unified church and state.
Charlemagne was a tireless reformer who tried to improve his people's lot in many ways. He set up money standards to encourage commerce, tried to build a Rhine-Danube canal, and urged better farming methods. He especially worked to spread education and Christianity in every class of people.
He revived the Palace School at Aachen, his capital. He set up other schools, opening them to peasant boys as well as nobles.
Charlemagne never stopped studying. He brought an English monk, Alcuin, and other scholars to his court. He learned to read Latin and some Greek but apparently did not master writing. At meals, instead of having jesters perform, he listened to men reading from learned works.
To revive church music, Charlemagne had monks sent from Rome to train his Frankish singers. To restore some appreciation of art, he brought valuable pieces from Italy. An impressive monument to his religious devotion is the cathedral at Aachen, which he built and where he was buried (see Aachen).
At Charlemagne's death in 814 only one of his three sons, Louis, was living. Louis's weak rule brought on the rise of civil wars and revolts. After his death his three quarreling sons split the empire between them by the Partition of Verdun in 843.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Tsar Alexander III

His reign began in turmoil. More on his dictatorial rule.

(Source: http://www.alexanderpalace.org/palace/alexbio.html)

Considered Russia's last true autocrat, Alexander III was the epitome of what a Russian Tsar was supposed to be. Forceful, formidable, fiercely patriotic, and at 6' 4" towered over his fellow countrymen. He was the embodiment of the fabled Russian bear. He came to power at a critical point in Imperial Russian history. The Industrial Revolution had finally come to Russia and capitalism was taking root. Foreign investment within the country was at an all time high. His Father, Alexander II was within hours of granting the country its first constitution. Ironically, Alexander III was not born heir to the Russian throne.
Born in St Petersburg on February 26, 1845 (old style), he was the second son of Alexander II, the "Tsar Liberator" who had freed the serfs. His older brother and heir to the throne, Nicholas, died in 1865. The young Grand Duke was greatly influenced by his tutor Constantine Petrovich Pobedonostsev who instilled into him conservative fundamentals of autocracy, Orthodoxy and nationalism that were required to govern the Russian Empire. Pobedonostsev believed that all opposition to the government be ruthlessly crushed and viewed liberal ideas as constitutions and free press as a threat to the state. It was also Pobedonostsev that taught Alexander III to be anti-Semitic and view the Jewish community of the Empire as "Christ Killers".
With the death of his brother, Alexander inherited more than just the title of Tsarevich. While on his deathbed, his brother Nicholas insisted that he also take his fiancÚe. In October 1866 Alexander married the Danish Princess Dagmar. After her conversion to Orthodoxy, she took the name of Marie Fedorovna. Together, Alexander III and Empress Marie had five children. Their first child, Nicholas, was born in 1868 and would be the last Tsar of Russia. Their second child, George, was born in 1871 followed by Xenia (1871), Michael (1878) and Olga (1882). George died at 27 of tuberculosis in 1899. Michael is sometimes considered 'Tsar for a day', as Nicholas abdicated in his favor in 1917 before he, too, renounced the throne. The Bolsheviks murdered Michael six days before Nicholas and his family in July 1918. Xenia and Olga were able to escape Russia along with their mother during the Revolution.
The reign of Alexander III began in tragedy. On March 1, 1881, on the eve of the signing into law Russia's first constitution, two assassins threw bombs at the Tsar's carriage in St. Petersburg. Alexander II was mortally wounded and died shortly thereafter. Russia's hopes for a constitution also died that day. One cannot fault Alexander's reaction to his father's death. His father, the Tsar Liberator, had freed the serfs, predating Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation by two years. One can only imagine the rage he, his wife and children felt as they watched the Tsar bleed and die in a St Petersburg palace. This event would solidify the reactionary tone of his 13-year reign.
As a result of the assassination, Alexander III would not consider granting the constitution. He tightened censorship of the press and sent thousands of revolutionaries to Siberia. In his Accession Manifesto, he declared his intention to have "full faith in the justice and strength of the autocracy" that he had been entrusted with. Any liberal proposals in government were quickly dismissed. Alexander was determined to strengthen autocratic rule as a God given right. His reign is often referred to as the Age of Counter Reform.
To many westerners he appeared crude and not overly intelligent. Queen Victoria commented that she thought him as "a sovereign whom she does not look upon as a gentlemen". Indeed, he was not educated or prepared in his youth to be Emperor. But what he lacked in style he more than made up for in his conviction of his position, his love for his country, and an understanding of the importance he could play in shaping his country's future. He possessed such a strong will as to rule the Russian Empire as absolute autocrat, to the point where the Empire stabilized and prospered, thus allowing capitalism to begin to take root. During his reign the autocracy stabilized and dissent was forced underground. He worked to strengthen and modernize Russia's armed forces while avoiding armed conflict and improve Russia's standing as a world power.
To his credit, as a husband and a father he was greatly successful. He was also good with kids and doted upon his daughters. He dressed simply and would wear his clothes until they were threadbare. His simplicity was also evident in his choice of living quarters. Though he lived in the large Gachina Palace, he chose to live in the renovated servants area. He was known as "The Peasants Tsar", and because of his size was always viewed as larger than life. He loved the simplicity of Russian life and had little taste for anything western.
In October 1888 the Imperial train derailed while the Tsar and his family were eating in the dining car. No one was seriously hurt, but the strong Alexander III lifted the roof of the car from the wreckage so that his family could escape. It was not known at the time, but the Tsar had suffered a severe bruise to his kidney that would contribute to his death 6 years later.
At the beginning of 1894 Alexander III was 49 years old. It was believed that he had, barring assassination, many years left to his reign. As the year progressed, his health deteriorated at an alarming rate. The best doctors of the time were called to help, but none were able to save the dying Emperor. Alexander Alexandrovich Romanov, Tsar of all the Russia's, died of Nephritis on October 20, 1894 (OS) at the summer palace at Livadia in the Crimea. He was buried in the St. Peter & Paul Cathedral in St Petersburg, the last Tsar be so. He left behind an incomplete legacy, his work unfinished, and an heir unprepared to rule.
History tends to view Alexander III as a brutish despot. His only accomplishment being to strengthen his autocratic rule at the expense of the working class and peasantry. To his credit he stabilized the Russian government and maintained peace with his European and Asian neighbors. History is blessed with perfect hindsight. Alexander III, however, had no such luxury. He had no idea that the causes he cared for and the means at which he obtained them would cause the eventual destruction of the way of life and government he cherished so deeply. His canceling of the planned constitution set into motion events that would eventually take Russia to the brink of annihilation. The Tsar's inability or unwillingness to prepare his son Nicholas at an early age to rule as absolute autocrat further exacerbated the future events that would sweep over his Empire. Finally, Alexander was hopelessly out of touch with the emerging realities of a modern industrialized Russia. Autocratic rule was established at a time in Russian history when the nation was illiterate, uneducated, and attacked from foreign powers on all sides. That time was no more. At a time when the Russian government should have begun adjusting itself to the changing realities of the 19th Century, Alexander instead clung to and strengthened the autocracy. This is his greatest failure. He was a loving father and devoted husband. There is no doubt that he loved his country and fully expected to answer to God as to his accountability as Tsar. History has made its judgement. Should we ever presume to know God's? .