Thursday, April 20, 2017

Japan’s Constitutional Revolution

World War II established in the public mind a Japan that was militaristic and expansionist.  In the decades around 1900 Japan was moving towards democracy and constitutional monarchy.  It took a series of assassinations and coups for the military to take control.  Here’s a series of histories and memoirs from contemporary Japanese writers.

I was one of the first Japanese to visit foreign lands, and was able to do so only by stealth, escaping to Shanghai in 1863. The country was only just opened to foreign intercourse, and Japanese subjects were not yet allowed to leave the country. By Ito Hirobumi, Prime Minister.

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Friday, April 14, 2017

Texas Declares Independence

Mexican army crosses border.  Disaster at Alamo.  Massacre at Goliad.  Sam Houston writes (referring to himself in the third person):

San Antonio had been taken in 1835. Troops were to remain there. It was a post more than seventy miles from any colonies or settlements by the Americans. It was a Spanish town or city, with many thousand population, and very few Americans. The Alamo was nothing more than a church, and derived its cognomen from the fact of its being surrounded by poplars or cottonwood trees. The Alamo had been known as a fortress since the Mexican revolution in 1812. The troops remained at Bexar until about the last of December.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation

The inside story told by his closest aides. How the Cabinet helped Lincoln edit the draft proclamation.  This story as told in History Moments is 9,000 words long.

In his preliminary proclamation of September 22, President Lincoln had announced his intention to urge once more upon Congress the policy of compensated abolishment. Accordingly, his annual message of December 1, 1862, was in great part devoted to a discussion of this question. “Without slavery,” he premised, ”the rebellion could never have existed; without slavery it could not continue.” 

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

France Takes Back Louisiana

Territory includes entire Mississippi River.  Where is western boundary?  Spain gives it up.  What’s Napoleon thinking?  President Jefferson writes:

There is on the globe one single spot, the possessor of which is our natural enemy. It is New Orleans, through which the produce of three — eighths of our territory must pass to market, and from its fertility it will ere long yield more than half of our whole produce and contain more than half of our inhabitants.

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Monday, April 10, 2017

Conquest of the Air

First airplane.  Balloons at mercy of winds; airplanes go wherever pilot wants.  And don’t forget the importance of speed in air transportation.  This series tells the story of the pioneers of air travel up to the Wright Brothers’ break-through flight at Kitty Hawk on December 17, 1903.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

First Practical Locomotive

Railroads annihilate distance and time.  Train clocked at 25 miles per hour.  Able to maintain speed for hours at a time.  Hundreds of miles in hours.  Big competition in Rainhill, England October 29, 1829.

This story by Samuel Smiles has the mood of the Space Race a century and a half later. Following closely upon the beginning of steam-navigation, the introduction of railways, with cars drawn by steam-locomotives, was the greatest triumph, up to that period, of mechanical invention.

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Saturday, April 8, 2017

USA Splits

Southern states secede from the Union.  Protests Republican Presidential election results.  New nation formed.  Abraham Lincoln’s response.  Civil War effectively began on this day.

On the 12th of October, 1860, he [the governor] issued his proclamation convening the Legislature of South Carolina in extra session, "to appoint electors of President and Vice-President ... and also that they may, if advisable, take action for the safety and protection of the State." There was no external peril menacing either the commonwealth or its humblest citizen; but the significance of the phrase was soon apparent.

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Friday, April 7, 2017

British Plants Outpost in India

Queen Elizabeth charters British East India Company.  Murky future for British East India Company. Portugal and The Netherlands already established in India and East Indies.  Hostile Turks block British out of Red Sea and Persian Gulf.

This selection is from Ledger and Sword: Or, The honourable company of merchants of England trading to the East Indies, 1599-1874 by Henry Beckles Willson published in 1903.

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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Coup in Portugal

It’s 1910. Republic proclaimed.  Centuries of monarchial rule ended.  King flees.  Eyewitness report.

It was nearly one in the morning when my train from Badajoz drew into the Rocio station at Lisbon; yet I had no sooner passed the barrier than I heard . . . .

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Sunday, April 2, 2017

Magellan’s Voyage Around the World

As told by the survivors.  Pictured is the southernmost point of the South American mainland.  After Magellan’s death in the Philippines Antonio Pigafetta took command.  As the expedition lay off the South African coast, he writes,

Some of our men, and among them the sick, would have liked to land at a place belonging to the Portuguese called Mozambique, both because the ship made much water and because of the great cold which we suffered; and much more because we had nothing but rice-water for food and drink, all the meat of which we had made provision having putrefied, for the want of salt had not permitted us to salt it. But the greater number of us, prizing honor more than life itself, decided on attempting at any risk to return to Spain.

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Saturday, April 1, 2017

Romans Invade Britain

First Julius Caesar, later the Emperors.  Queen Boudica rallies Britains.  London sacked. Desperate Battle at Watling.  Romans outnumbered 20 to 1.  Can Queen throw Romans off island?  Oliver Goldsmith writes:

Paulinus hastened to relieve London, which was already a flourishing colony; but found on his arrival that it would be requisite, for the general safety, to abandon that place to the merciless fury of the enemy. London was therefore soon reduced to ashes; such of the inhabitants as remained in it were massacred; and the Romans with all other strangers to the number of seventy thousand were cruelly put to the sword. 

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Friday, March 31, 2017

Netherlands Crisis 1672

England, France, German Powers attack The Netherlands.  Overwhelming force.  Dutch stand alone.  Retreat on all fronts.  Dutch open dykes; flood land.  Desperate defense.

When The Netherlands was attacked by France, England, Sweden, and even some German powers, it seemed that the Dutch were finished. Against all of these powers they stood alone. Seldom has any people held out so heroically against such overwhelming numbers as did the Dutch in 1672.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Benjamin Franklin Experiments with Electricity

Lightening is electricity.  It has two opposite charges (positive and negative).  Dangerous experiment with kite in storm.  Franklin’s experiments and his discoveries in his own words:

“Place an iron shot of three or four inches diameter on the mouth of a clean, dry glass bottle. By a fine silken thread from the ceiling, right over the mouth of the bottle, suspend a small cork ball about the bigness of a marble, the thread of such a length as that the cork ball may rest against the side of the shot. Electrify the shot, and the ball will be repelled to the distance of four or five inches, more or less, according to the quantity of electricity.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Germanicus in Germany

Roman general to retrieve defeat of Teutoburg Forest.  Germans defiant; Romans unsteady.  Year is 13 AD.  Roman Empire is still brand new.  Is Rome doomed?  Tacitus says,

Germanicus therefore handed over to Caecina four legions, five thousand auxiliaries, and some tumultuous bands of Germans who dwelt on this side the Rhine; he led, himself, as many legions, with double the number of allies, and erecting a fort in Mount Taunus, upon the site of one raised by his father, he pushed on in light marching order against the Cattians; having left Lucius Apronius to secure the roads and the rivers, for, as the roads were dry and the rivers within bounds — events in that climate of rare occurrence — he had found no check in his rapid march, but on his return apprehended the violent rains and floods.