Monday, September 11, 2017

Neptune Discovered

In the history of science, this discovery is important because the knowledge of a new planet preceded its actual sighting.  From the series which tells how this happened.

The explanation by Newton of the observed facts of the motion of the moon, the way he accounted for precession and nutation and for the tides; the way in which Laplace explained every detail of the planetary motions — these achievements may seem to the professional astronomer equally, if not more, striking and wonderful; but of the facts to be explained in these cases the general public is necessarily more or less ignorant, and so no beauty or thoroughness of treatment appeals to it or excites its imagination. But to predict in the solitude of the study, with no weapons other than pen, ink, and paper, an unknown and enormously distant world, to calculate its orbit when as yet it had never been seen, and to be able to say to a practical astronomer, “Point your telescope in such a direction at such a time, and you will see a new planet hitherto unknown to man” — this must always appeal to the imagination with dramatic intensity, and must awaken some interest in the dullest.

Read more:

Friday, September 8, 2017

Civil Forfeiture Came from a Strange Place

This article from Bloomberg View gives the history of the practice of Civil Asset Forfeiture.  This issue was recently in the news when the Attorney General rolled back Obama restrictions on the practice. 

This practice goes way back in history – even to the Middle Ages.  Read it here.

Note that there is a distinction between civil forfeiture and criminal forfeiture.  Also, civil forfeiture cuts out the owner of the asset (usually money) and makes the property itself guilty.  Property, unlike individuals, have no rights, so the government gets around all of that Bill of Rights stuff.

I give my own opinions of this issue in my history website.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Napoleon Crowned Emperor of France

French Revolution ends Kingdom; creates Empire.  In between there’s democracy, reign of terror, and dictatorship.  Pope presides at coronation ceremony. 

A smaller crown was immediately put upon the head of the Empress, who, being surrounded by her ladies, everything was done so quickly that nobody was aware of the substitution that had taken place. 

Read more:

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Gunpowder Plotters Executed

Yesterday ended our series on the Gunpowder Plot.  Had they succeeded the entire British establishment would have been blown up, including the King and his family, the Parliament, and the Lords. 

Read more:

Thursday, August 17, 2017

American History Landing Page

This has highlights of the history of the United States of America. Passages from the works of some of the greatest historians about the most important events are presented.

Some of the writers selected are Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, are Theodore Roosevelt.

Some of the events selected are Pilgrims Settle Plymouth, Declaration of Independence Signed, and Early Days of Baseball.

Find it here:

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Right-Wing Versus Left-Wing History Problems

Its that during different periods in the past the two sides have had different positions on the issues.  For example, in 1960 left wing politicians such as Rockefeller (R) and JFK (D) favored greater defense spending while more right-wing pols such as Nixon (R) did not.  One can cite many more examples.

Here’s the core of the problem.

As American civilization has grown, American government has not grown at the same pace.  The gaps between the size of government and the need for government has caused the problem.  During the 19th. Century government was smaller than was needed while in recent decades the government has been larger than needed. 

When did the government tax too much, regulate too much, and spend too much?  - And when did it do those things too little?  Different times, different answers.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Intellectual Origins of the Republican Party

The Republican Party was never a minor (third) party. In 1854 it simply replaced the Whig Party as the major party opposing the Democrats. The immediate cause of this was the Democrats’ Kansas-Nebraska Bill of that year which largely negated the Compromise of 1850. But this event alone could not have explained a sudden transformation of American politics of this magnitude.

So, what did cause all of this? The best contemporary explanation can be found in Abraham Lincoln’s first speech in his famous debate with the Kansas-Nebraska Acts chief author, Stephen Douglas.

“Under the Dred Scott decision “squatter sovereignty” squatted out of existence, tumbled down like temporary scaffolding.

Read more:

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Gunpowder Plot

In 1605 Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators planned the greatest act of terrorism of all time.  They waited months until England’s Parliament met.  When the King, the Lords, the Cabinet, the High Clergy, and well, everybody else was in one place, they planned to set the fuse. They placed enough barrels of explosives under Parliament to blow the whole shebang sky high.  Fortunately, one of the plotters sent a letter to a friend warning him to stay away.  That friend turned the letter in and that’s how the authorities discovered the plot.

Imagine the scene when the government officials first discovered the barrels of gunpowder and Guy Fawkes guarding them.  Talk about being caught red-handed!

Today History Moments begins a series on this:

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Historians Need to Produce More History

And less politics.  It seems that all of the history sites are talking about Trump instead of historical topics.  Take History News Network produced by George Washington University, for example.

Its mission is to cover the history field but hit the link above to see what it has become.  Virtually every article is about him.  Him.  That guy.

Authors are supposed to submit resumes together with their articles to ensure that they are authorities on the topics they submit.  What does that matter anymore when all of the articles resemble a newspaper op-ed?

Yes, I know that not all of the history sites are doing this.  And I admit that I produce political content from time to time, though pieces such as that Nancy Pelsosi Fact File is for education purposes only.  My Fact File pieces only list biographical information that is essential.  These and all current history posts by myself constitute only a tiny part of History Moments output.

My complaint isn’t that history sites produce some politics; my complaint is when the politics crowd the history content right out.

Nancy Pelosi Fact-File

Essential biographical information on the House Minority Leader. Fact-Files is a series in History Moments that gives historical information on people in the news. Non-partisan, non-sectarian, just the facts.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

I Will Teach Big History Class

From the Big Bang to the Final Blackout.  Looking forward to prehistory topics like dinosaurs.  Then early civilizations, Europe’s outsized influence on world civilization, and the Industrial Revolution.  People good and bad like Caesar, Napoleon, and Trump.

Then today’s major powers face the future.  Last future history – a contradiction in words?

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Comenius Modernizes Education

John Amos Comenius (1592-1671) is now generally recognized as the founder of modern education.

The chief work of Comenius, the Didactica Magna, was probably      finished about 1638, and was shown in manuscript to many persons at that time. Its ideas as to education were widely accepted, and its influence and that of its author spread rapidly over much of Europe.

It is in the department of method, however, that we recognize the chief contribution of Comenius to education. The mere attempt to systematize was a great advance. In seeking, however, for foundations on which to erect a coherent system, he had had to content himself with first principles which were vague and unscientific.

Read more:

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

My Favorite Social Media History

These are my go-to places.  What are yours?

Google Communities – History
Google Collections – History Moments *
Linked In Groups – History Enthusiasts and Practical History
Facebook Groups – History Group * and  World History
Pininterest Boards - History
Tumblr Blogs – Ancient History Encyclopedia
Twitter - @jacklemoine *

* I moderate this.

Monday, August 7, 2017

British History Landing Page

This has highlights of the history of Great Britain and the British Empire.  Passages from the works of some of the greatest historians about the most important events are presented. 

Some of the writers selected are Edward Creasy, Sir Walter Scott, are Kate Norgate.

Some of the events selected are Joan of Arc’s Trial and Execution, How the House of Commons Began, and The Boer War.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

First Battles of the Hundred Years War

Sluys in 1340 was the first major victory of the English Navy.  Then came the spectacular Battle of Crecy in 1346 which established the dominance of the English longbowman over the French knight.  Later in the war the French would employ combined arms tactics to neutralize the longbow.  History Moment’s series is from Froissart’s Chronicles.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Mexican Revolution Video

This is a great documentary on the revolutionary struggles in Mexico in the early decades of the 20th. Century. It gives the historical background of these struggles in the late 19th. century. Lots of contemporary footage of Mexican figures and events.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Paul Ryan Fact-File

Essential biographical information on the Speaker of the House.  Fact-Files is a series in History Moments that gives historical information on people in the news.  Non-partisan, non-sectarian, just the facts.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

What If the Confederacy Had Won the Civil War?

HBO and the creators of The Game of Thrones TV series are under attack because they are planning to produce a series on this.  An essay in The Washington Post summarizes the case against this.  Here’s a link to it:

I do not understand the uproar.  Amazon has a highly rated and critically acclaimed series on what if the Axis powers had won World War II.  The TV series is called “The Man in the High Tower.”  In it, Hitler was still alive and had some scenes in the show.  Moreover, this series has been on since 2015. 

While the Confederates were evil (slavery), weren’t the Nazis at least as bad?  Why does one series get condemned and the other acclaimed?  I don’t understand.

Columbus Discovers America

In his own words.  And from the book written by his son Ferdinand.  Amid all of the controversies about his actions, what was his side of the story?

“Now in the meantime I had learned from certain Indians, whom I had seized there, that this country was indeed an island, and therefore I proceeded toward the east, keeping all the time near the coast, for three hundred twenty-two miles, to the extreme ends of this island.”

Read from a letter he wrote when he got back to Spain:

History Moments recently concluded a series on this.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Peace Between French Canada and Iroquois

It is 1645 and the French outposts at Quebec, Montreal, and Three Rivers have been throttled by the Iroquois Confederacy.  The French Allies, the Hurons, have been decimated. 

Now a conference at Three Rivers agrees on peace.  But will it last?

Francis Parkman takes up the story

From his book “The Jesuits in North America in the Seventeenth Century”.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Who Walked on Water?

“If one morning I walked across the Potomac River, the headline that afternoon would read: ‘President Can’t Swim.’”

– Lyndon B. Johnson

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day, 2017

A battle we should not forget. Year: 1862.  Place:  Frankfurt, Kentucky.

Confederates capture Kentucky capital, Frankfurt.  Install Confederate Governor and state government.  Lengthy Inaugural Address.  Hearing cannon fire in distance.  Union army approaching.  Inaugural ball postponed.

Battle of Perryville.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Swiss Win Independence

Cantons unite to overthrow Emperor.  Swiss Confederation United

The decisive and brilliant battle of Sempach, the second of the long roll of victories that mark the prowess of the Swiss, is thus described by an old writer:

Read more:

Friday, May 26, 2017

Vicksburg Falls

Confederate States of America cut in two.  Confederate army surrenders to Grant.  Mississippi River now controlled by Union.

Vicksburg had a double importance for the Confederacy. Its height, at a bend of the Mississippi, gave its guns command of the river, so that the Union vessels could not pass up or down. Even more important than this was the fact that a large part of the supplies for the Confederate armies was drawn from the country west of the Mississippi. These were brought by rail to a point opposite Vicksburg, ferried across, and again loaded upon rail-cars and carried to the east. The capture of the city, therefore, would rob the Confederacy of both these advantages.

Read more:

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Reign of Terror in France (1793-1794)

It forever shamed the French Revolution. It began in March, 1793, when the Revolutionary Tribunal was established by the National Convention.  This series is written by François P. G. Guizot the Prime Minister who ended absolute monarchy in 1830 but was retired in the Revolution of 1848.

The judges sat with pistols ready to hand; the President cast his eyes over the lists for the day and called upon the accused. "Dorival, do you know anything of the conspiracy?" "No!"

"I expected that you would make that reply; but it won't succeed. Bring another."

"Champigny, are you not an ex-noble?"


"Bring another."

"Guidreville, are you a priest?"

"Yes, but I have taken the oath."

"You have no right to say any more. Another."

"Ménil, were you not a domestic of the ex-constitutional Menou?"



"Vély, were you not architect for Madame?"

"Yes, but I was disgraced in 1789."


"Gondrecourt, is not your father-in-law at the Luxembourg?"



"Durfort, were you not in the bodyguard?"

"Yes, but I was dismissed in 1789."


So the examination went on. The questions, the answers, the judgment, the condemnation, were all simultaneous. The juries did not leave the hall; they gave their opinions with a word or a look. Sometimes errors were evident in the lists. "I am not accused," exclaimed a prisoner one day.

"No matter; what is thy name? See, it is written now. Another."

Read more:

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Vasco da Gama Opens Sea Route to India

Europe now able to bypass Levant.  Hostile Ottoman Empire no longer can block Europe out of Orient.  Terrifying voyage.  Most crewmen killed.  When way-stations planted, future voyages to be safer.  Vasco da Gama’s own officer writes this series.

Vasco da Gama on a horse, with all the men of the fleet on foot, richly dressed in liveries, and accompanied by all the gentlemen of the court, went down to the wharf on the bank, and embarked in their boats, and the standard went in that of Paulo da Gama. Then, taking leave of the gentlemen, they went to the ships, and on their arrival, they fired all their artillery, and the ships were dressed out gayly with standards and flags and many ornaments, and the royal standard was at once placed at the top of the mast of Paulo da Gama; for so Vasco da Gama commanded. Discharging all their artillery, they loosened the sails, and went beating to windward on the river of Lisbon, tacking until they came to anchor at Belen, where they remained three days waiting for a wind to go out.

Read more:

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

France Annexes Burgundy

Eliminates rival.  Major expansion of territory.

Burgundy was a huge territory on France’s eastern border.  The Duke of Burgundy’s lands included modern Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxemburg.  Then he held lands south of that to include Alsace and lands south to the Swiss border.  From there his lands extended west into the heartland of modern France.  During the Hundred Years War, Burgundy’s alliance with England had been a major factor in France’s difficulty defending itself.

Then catastrophe struck.  The King of France’s chief advisor writes this short chronicle which begins:

The Duke of Lorraine and his army of Germans broke up from St. Nicholas, and advanced toward the Duke of Burgundy, with a resolution to give him battle.

Read more:

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Bolivar and South American Independence

3 Great Epics in South American History:  (1) Spanish/Portugese discovery and conquest; (2) Colonial Period; (3) Revolutions Period.  Among the most important revolutionary leaders is Bolivar.  Who to tell it?

For the history of South America, from its discovery to the early 20th. century, there is no authority to be preferred to Débérle, whose work, from which the following narrative is taken, is based upon those of the best previous authors, and verified from authentic documents — many of them never before published — in archives and public and private libraries, in America and Spain.

Read more:

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Crown TV Series

Clair Foy as Queen Elizabeth II in the Netflix series.
Fair Use image from Netflix.
It is a lavish production and historians have generally given it high marks for historical accuracy.  It covers the reign of Queen Elizabeth II and is projected to go multiple seasons.  Season 1 is on Netflix now.  The producers plan on addressing the aging problem by switching out the lead actors every two seasons.

What I’ve seen so far -- few thoughts.

Monarchies have gone from one extreme (absolutism - not portrayed here but part of the backstory) to the other extreme that is depicted here. In one scene Churchill declares that the government controls every aspect of the royals’ life and Elizabeth knuckles under and accepts that. For example, she considers it a victory when the cabinet grants permission for Phillip to take flying lessons “though no loops or rolls”. The family and by extension the entire system looks ridiculous. Assuming that the Netflix’s story is accurate, I wish that Elizabeth had shown a little more spunk and insisted on control of her family’s private life. While this might have provoked a Charles-I-kind of a row, she would have been on solid ground and if the monarchy had fallen as a result of that, at least it would have been for something noble.

As it is, the series makes her look weak and ridiculous. It could be because that is what she was.

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Boer War

Arthur Conan Doyle wrote more than just the Sherlock Holmes stories.  He also wrote a history of this war.  I added to the selected passage from his book by selections from a journalist’s eye-witness account of the Boer Government and an additional selection from a historian with a special perspective on the conflict.

On the causes of the conflict, Doyle writes:

In 1890 the inrush of outsiders alarmed the Boers, and the franchise was raised so as to be attainable only by those who had lived fourteen years in the country. The Uitlanders, who were increasing rapidly in numbers and were suffering from a formidable list of grievances, perceived that their wrongs were so numerous it was hopeless to have them set right seriatim, and that only by obtaining the leverage of the franchise could they hope to move the heavy burden that weighed them down. 

Read more:

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Man in the Arena

You folks probably know the TR quote that is today’s History Moments post but I’m putting it here because it is worth another read.

It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.

– Theodore Roosevelt
“Citizenship in a Republic,” Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Italy Finally United

The unification of Italy, for which Italian patriots had longed and labored through many generations, was one of the most signal events of the nineteenth century. The story of Italy includes two heroes: the dashing fighter Garibaldi and the calculating statesman Cavour.  The struggle lasted with intermissions from 1848 to 1871, over 20 years.

From Pietro Orsi’s history:

Thus, this valiant family, of which one had already fallen gloriously at Varese in the campaign of 1859, and another had died in Sicily of exhaustion during the toilsome march of “the Thousand,” now yielded a fresh contingent to the band of Italian martyrs in the cause of freedom. 

Read more:

Monday, April 24, 2017

Normans Conquer England

Battle of Hastings.  William the Conqueror Defeats Harold’s Saxons.  Normans came from Vikings.  Centuries of Viking Invasions end in English Defeat. 

Political/genealogical considerations being secondary to military ones, the invasion of England by Normandy, the Battle of Hastings, and the subsequent conquest of England by the William the Conqueror, the Duke of Normandy and then the King of England, is one of the celebrated stories of the Medieval Age.

Story told by the great Edward Creasy:

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.

Read more:

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.

Read more:

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.” 

Read more:

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.

Read more:

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.

Read more:

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.

Read more:

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.

Read more:

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 . . . .

Read more:

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.

Read more:

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. 

Read more:

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.

Monday, March 27, 2017

First Written Constitution in World History 1639

Earliest Union Among American Colonies 1643.  Confederation of New England formed.  John Marshall, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court later writes about this.

As the Connecticut Constitution was not only the first instrument of its kind, but also formed, in many respects, a pattern for others which became the organic laws of American States, so the first union of colonies, in 1643, is important not alone as being the first, but also as foreshadowing the later confederation and the final union of the States themselves.

This union, the result of good-sense and of a judicious consideration of the real interests of the colonies, remained in force until their charters were dissolved. Rhode Island, at the instance of Massachusetts, was excluded; and her commissioners were not admitted into the congress of deputies, which formed the confederation.  

Friday, March 24, 2017

Hannibal at Battle of Zama

Hannibal defends Carthage in climatic battle of wars against Rome.  Scipio Africanus sets out to destroy Carthagian might and make Rome the dominant power in the west. The story of the Battle of Zama as told by the great historian of the Roman Republic, Livy.

Even those persons whose confidence in Scipio and hopes of victory were great, were affected with anxiety, increasing in proportion as they saw their completion approaching. The state of feeling among the Carthaginians was much the same; for when they turned their eyes on Hannibal, and the greatness of his achievements, they repented having solicited peace; but when again they reflected that they had been twice defeated in a pitched battle, that Syphax had been made prisoner, that they had been driven out of Spain and Italy, and that all this had been effected by the valor and conduct of Scipio alone, they regarded him with horror, as a general marked out by destiny, and born for their destruction. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The 1848 Revolutions Reach Rome

In today’s post in History Moments* Naples invades from the South. What is Garibaldi doing? What is the Pope doing? Austrians and French are coming – Spain, too. Oh, my!
 “. . . the small forces at the disposal of the Republic should be husbanded for the repulse of others besides France, who claimed to be defenders of the Pope — Austria, the King of Naples, and even Spain!”

* See the main blog History Moments on Wordpress.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Ancient Rome Establishes Republic

How the ancient Kingdom of Rome transformed into the Roman Republic is a unique story in history. The reason for this is the unique office of Tribune. While the Consuls came to serve the special interests of the patrician class (the nobility) the Tribunes were specifically instituted to serve the plebian class (the peasantry). What other country in ancient or modern times have instituted an office with similar duties and powers? This is the story of how that happened.

Tarquin had made himself king by the aid of the patricians, and chiefly by means of the third or Lucerian tribe, to which his family belonged.  While Tarquin was building his temple on the Capitol, a strange portent offered itself; for a snake came forth and devoured the sacrifices on the altar.

The entire story ended yesterday here.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

An American Creed

A creed is a list of fundamental beliefs that all (almost) share. Christians have the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed.  Obama referred to an American Creed.  This article refers to an American Creed based on iconic statements from American history.

Among those statements is Franklin Roosevlt's "We have nothing to fear but fear itself" from his first inaugural address.  This is one of the most stupid statements ever (Hitler and the Nazis having got into power just  few weeks earlier).  I do not understand how historians celebrate that statement.  Here's my post on this together with a video of FDR's statement.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

When Did the French Revolution Begin to Go Wrong?

Lots of revolutions in the news last year and more to come in 2017.  I predict Venezuela.  But so many of them go bad.  The template for revolution going bad is the French Revolution of the 1790's.  Here's a story about the execution of Louis XVI.  Then there's the murder of Murat.  Then the French Civil War began.

Up to this point the killings could have been taken as the necessary actions to change an entrenched despotism.  But now it went to execution.  Then came the Reign of Terror.  What would have happened had the French Revolutionaries kept to the high road?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Mongols Invade Japan

In 1267, Kublai Khan's emissaries returned with the news that Japan refused to accept inclusion in his empire.  Diplomacy having failed, military conquest would follow.  The struggle would be like the Battle of Britain with the invincible empire against the tiny island nation but without the airplanes and friends overseas to help.

This is the first in a new series on Kublai Khan's attempted conquest of Japan

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Ivan the Great Establishes Russia

It is hard today to think of Russia as a minor power, much less as an oppressed tributary of another power but as our story begins that is the state of things in the territory around the city of Moscow. The story of how Russia went from there to the Russia of today is one of the most consequential of history.

At the birth of Ivan III (1440) Russia was all but stifled between the great Lithuanian empire of the Poles and the vast possessions of the Mongols. In vain had a succession of Muscovite princes endeavored to give unity to the little Russian state. Between the grand princes of Moscow and those of Lithuania stood Novgorod and Pskof, the two chief Russian republics, hesitating to declare their allegiance.

By the creation of new appanages the Russian princes continually destroyed the very unity for which they labored. Moreover, at a time when the great nations of the West were organizing, Muscovy or Russia had no settled relations with their civilization. The opening of the Renaissance, the progress of discovery, the invention of printing -- by these the best spirits in Russia were stirred to fresh aspirations for national organization and participation in the great European movement.

This is how the selection begins.  It continues here.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Fall of Troy

While we know that this event happened the stories about it belong to the common cultural foundation of Greek civilization.  They were myths and legends but important to the national heritage of ancient Greece.  The distinguished authority on ancient Greece George Grote summarizes the mythos of the Fall of Troy in the series which begins here.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Having Trouble With Your New Year Resolution to Read a History Book?

A journey of a 1,000 miles begins with a single step.  Start with a single 5 minute story.  Then read the entire selection.  Then read the book. 1, 2, 3.

Search.  Lots of history sites to choose.  Look for those sites that have authoritative passages from established historians.  Or, if you get frustrated with that, try History Moments.

Yes, I know.  Still more frustration.  How to pick something from that lengthy list?  That's the trouble with having more choices -- more choices to choose from.  Alright, I'll choose somethng for you.  Suggested pic for today:  The exciting story of the first expedition to reach the South Pole.

As for all of those books, choose a book from The Basic History Library (free): ------------->

Yes, this is a little self-serving because I refer to my own collections but I do not know of anyone else who is doing what I am doing.  Also, it is free.