Historical Nonfiction

fun facts, quotes, and pictures from history

Two days after 9/11, the French newspaper Le Monde ran an editorial with the headline “Nous sommes tous Américains.”  In French, américains are steak tartares.  But unlike a famous incident JFK had in Berlin, nobody thought Le Monde was saying “we are all steak tartares.” Because that would be stupid.

(Source: csmonitor.com)

Klephts, meaning “thief” or just “brigand” in Greek, were highwaymen that became self-appointed armatoloi, anti-Ottoman insurgents, and warlike mountain-folk who lived in the countryside when Greece was a part of the Ottoman Empire. They were the descendants of Greeks who had retreated into the mountains during the 1400s to avoid Ottoman occupation and oppression. They carried on a continuous war against Ottoman rule and remained active as brigands until the 1800s, when Greece rebelled against Ottoman rule.

Klephts, meaning “thief” or just “brigand” in Greek, were highwaymen that became self-appointed armatoloi, anti-Ottoman insurgents, and warlike mountain-folk who lived in the countryside when Greece was a part of the Ottoman Empire. They were the descendants of Greeks who had retreated into the mountains during the 1400s to avoid Ottoman occupation and oppression. They carried on a continuous war against Ottoman rule and remained active as brigands until the 1800s, when Greece rebelled against Ottoman rule.

Belfast’s Berlin Wall

Belfast is criss-crossed with walls and gates, which close at nights and on weekends. Houses near the walls have metal bars on the windows to guard against the rocks and bottles occasionally thrown over. Colorful murals and graffiti cover the walls. But they are a stark reminder of a city still divided. By religion — Catholic or Protestant — and politics — Unionists for Great Britain and Republicans for Ireland.

This is a legacy of The Troubles, and while the walls and gates are the most visible (and inconvenient) reminder, there are others. Half the city flies the Union Jack, half the Irish tricolor.  And when new public housing is built in the city it is still built with a separating wall.

(Source: dangerous-business.com)

What a mounted crusading knight might have had in 1266, around the time of the Siege of Jerusalem

What a mounted crusading knight might have had in 1266, around the time of the Siege of Jerusalem

It has been said of the Iliad that anyone who starts reading it as history will find that it is full of fiction but, equally, anyone who starts reading it as fiction will find that it is full of history.

Arnold Toynbee

(Source: futilitycloset.com)

Most anthropologists and biologists view race as a political grouping with roots in slavery and colonialism. The number of races and who belongs in each race have shifted over time and nations—not because of responses to scientific advances in human biology, but rather in response to political purposes.

(Source: facts.randomhistory.com)

Photographs from The North American Indian, a 20-volume work published between 1907 and 1930, filled with over 1,500 photographs as well as records of tribal lore and history, biographical sketches, and descriptions of traditional foods, housing, clothing, ceremonies, and customs. American photographer Edward S. Curtis wanted to capture all he could before it vanished. The pictures cover almost all of the USA, even the ice along the Arctic Ocean and the desert border with Mexico. While painting an idealized picture, Curtis’ images also contrasted with the public’s perception of Native Americans as impediments to be moved off useful land.

(Source: curtis.library.northwestern.edu)

In Japanese folklore, otters were seen as very dangerous — they would shapshift into beautiful women or unthreatening children to kill men.

(Source: Wikipedia)

The Disappearing City In Peru

The Chimu people once had a vast empire that stretched more than 1000 kilometres from southern Ecuador down the coast of Peru. It was built on the remnants fo the Moche culture. Their empire thrived thanks to complicated water works to bring water to the desert, and the abundant seafood off the coast.

At one point, their capital Chan Chan housed over 30,000 inhabitants. That makes it the largest city in the Americas before Europeans arrived. It had been founded in 850 CE, and eventually covered over 20 square kilometers. Chan Chan had grand palaces, public meeting spaces, and of couse lots of houses!

Some of the walls have intricate designs of the things that were important to this culture – so lots of seafood. In the middle of the compound, representing the most important thing of all – water – a large lake was used for aesthetic and ceremonial purposes. Although Chan Chan was a functioning city, the Chimu put great emphasis on art and design and this citadel was one of the ultimate showcases of this.

Today, Chan Chan is under threat — not from the Incans who stormed in and ended the Chimu, or the Spanish who stripped the city of its precious gold and silver — but from the weather. Since Chan Chan is made from mudbrick, it erodes in rain. With changing weather patterns what was once the driest place on earth is getting lots more rain. Peru is trying to protect this once-great city, but UNESCO has named it an at-risk site and the site is so large perfect protection is impossible.

(Source: timetravelturtle.com)

Why We Can’t Judge Ancient Art

Basically, anything like cooking, painting, music, pottery — anything aesthetic — cannot be judged properly. Because modern tastes are so different from what they used to be, what a 17th-century Ottoman would have found sublime we might call meh. And vice versa.

Now this is all up for debate, of course, but it seems pretty convincing to me. Taken from this askhistorians thread.

In Wyoming’s Teton Wilderness, North Two Ocean Creek splits into two smaller creeks: Pacific Creek flows westward to the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Creek eastward to the Atlantic.

In Wyoming’s Teton Wilderness, North Two Ocean Creek splits into two smaller creeks: Pacific Creek flows westward to the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Creek eastward to the Atlantic.

No African-American artist topped the US Billboard Chart in 2013 — the first time this has happened in 55 years

(Source: TIME)

Heddy Lamarr, Ahead of Her Time

image

In 1941, together with co-inventor George Antheil, she submitted her secret radio-guided torpedo system which allowed a torpedo to switch (or hop) between 88 different frequencies, making it virtually impossible for the enemy to track and detect the incoming torpedo. 

The system was so advanced the US Navy said it was unworkable and poured scorn on the explanation that certain parts of it worked like the fundamental mechanism of a player piano. Technology did eventually catch up and in 1962 Hedy Lamarr’s system was finally put in place by the Navy.

(Source: null-hypothesis.co.uk)

Why William Darby Got A Film

“Onward we stagger. And if the tanks come, then God help the tanks!”

That quote comes from the commander of the 1st Rangers Battalion and a soldier who so distinguished himself that the unit became known as “Darby’s Rangers.” The unit was among the first American ground forces to see action against the Nazis, beginning in Tunisia. During that time, Darby made very good on his boast. According to his citations for Distinguished Service, he personally oversaw the destruction of several German tanks with light artillery and grenades. He was also known for personally reconnoitering German positions. A rumor went around that at one point a courier visited Rangers headquarters. When he asked some soldiers where Darby was, one of the Rangers quipped “You’ll never find him this far back!”

Sadly, Darby did not get away with such bold actions forever. On April 30, 1945, he was killed in action when a tiny shell fragment hit him in the heart. It was only one week before Germany surrendered and on the same day that he was to be promoted to brigadier general.

(Source: listverse.com)