In case you hadn’t noticed yet, I like videos of maps, preferably with timelapses and swanky animation. Here’s a new one of all the battles of the world. It starts at 1000 CE, and while definitely biased towards Europe it gets bonus points for the soundtrack.
hidden gems include “never leave a price tag on the present unless it is a very expensive present” and “when in Paris (for modern times, Las Vegas) behave as if all the world were your mother-in-law”
Toilet paper was invented in China in the late 1300s. It was for emperors only.
In 1800s Great Britain, opium was marketed under the name “Quietness” — for babies
- It took a crusade, called for in 1193 by Pope Celestine III, to convert the region to Christianity
- Estonia was the first country in the world to use online voting, beginning in 2005
- they were also first to institute a flat tax, in 1994
- it won its independence not once but twice from the Soviet Union (and has two independence days to prove it)
- Estonia is named after the “Ests” who lived in the region in the first century CE
Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it
—George Bernard Shaw
The Mountains of Kong, right in the center of West Africa, were first drawn by English cartographer James Rennell. Or rather, first invented. You see these mountains don’t exist. It didn’t stop them appearing on maps until 1880, when someone, you know, checked. (It was French explorer Louis Gustave Binger if you care about that sort of thing.) The mountains of Kong were apparently popular, though, or cartographers were lazy, because they continued to appear on maps and atlases. Goode’s World Atlas showed them until 1995!
In honor of everyone’s favorite History Channel show, here’s a list of facts about the pillaging, plundering Vikings:
- The word “Viking” was originally a verb, describing the action of seafaring
- The first humans to arrive on Iceland were Irish explorers, who arrived no later than the year 795. The colony that they established did not last; when the Vikings arrived eighty years later, only a few hermits remained.
- In the 800s, Vikings were raiding as far southeast as Constantinople
- Also in the 800s, they founded Dublin. In the year 1000, the world’s largest slave market was run by Vikings in their city of Dublin.
- Viking ships were steered by rudders on the right side, called styrbord, Old Norse for “steer side” from which the English word “starboard” derives.
- The Vikings had a god of snowshoes, named Ull.
- Only one Viking helmet has ever been found, in a Viking grave in south Norway. It did not have horns.
The popular medieval folk belief that birds choose their mates on February 14 made doves a favorite symbol for Valentine cards.
Television? The word is half Greek and half Latin. No good can come of it.
—Manchester Guardian editor C.P. Scott, 1928
Voltaire popularized the story of Newton getting hit with an apple.
Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Just your average American rural town — except for the fact that everyone entering had to pass through a security checkpoint, undergo a full search, and speak of nothing they saw or did in Oak Ridge. It was established in 1942, as part of the Manhattan Project. But the only people who knew that were the scientists. None of the eventually 75,000 workers had any idea what their jobs were, and if they started asking too many questions beyond the specific tasks assigned to them, government agents would pay them a visit within hours and escort them out of town.
“If somebody was to ask you, ‘What are you making out there in Oak Ridge,’ you’d say, ’79 cents an hour,’” recalled one resident. Workers weren’t allowed to say certain words, such as helium or dial. Naturally the secrecy and odd tasks led to a number of wild rumors in Oak Ridge. A popular one was that the town was a prototype socialist community masterminded by Eleanor Roosevelt as part of her plan to turn America communist.
Morale was low. So the American government carefully created the utopian suburban town to amuse and distract the workers. There were roller-skating rinks, bowling alleys, theaters, club sports, sponsored dances, and more. Everyone was very young — Oak Ridge did not even need a funeral parlor. Former worker Colleen Black recalls “And so you got acquainted and you went to the dances on the tennis courts and the bowling alleys.”
Set up by the US Government, the town was also segregated. African Americans lived in one-room shacks in a separate part of town. Their children went to an all-African American school, and Oak Ridge High School did not accept African American students so they had to take a bus out of town every day to go to school. (The picture below shows African American town leaders.) Oak Ridge was also built on legally dubious land. Residents had been given two weeks’ notice to leave their homes before the government seized them.
In the end, the project was completely successful. When the bombs dropping on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was published in American newspapers, Oak Ridge residents along with the rest of the country learned the US had a superbomb. On V-J Day, there was dancing in the streets.