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29 December 2008

On this day in history: First Spanish Republic ended, 1874

In February, 1873 King Amadeo I abdicated from the Spanish throne. Three years earlier, following the revolution against Queen Isabella II, the Spanish parliament, the Cortes Generales, had elected Amadeo , an Italian prince, as King to reign as a constitutional monarch. Political infighting within the Cortes hampered his ability to respond to successive disasters: uprisings in support of the restoration of the Bourbon dynasty, known as Carlists; republican revolts; and even assassination attempts. Amadeo finally gave up and returned to Italy as the Duke of Aosta, after the increasingly radical government forced him to sign a decree to sack a group of artillery officers who had refused to take orders from their new commander.

The day after the abdication, the Cortes voted that Spain become a republic but could not agree on what form it should take, some preferred that Spain become a federation while others wanted a unitary republic. The divisions in Spanish society undermined the republic as they had done with the constitutional monarchy. In January, 1874 the Captain General of Madrid, Manuel Pavía, declared his opposition to the federalism, which resulted in the formation of a unitary government without the federalists and monarchists.

With the Cortes disbanded the fate of the nation rested in the hands of the military forces of the various factions. The republican army managed to reverse the territorial gains made by the Carlists before deciding not to oppose Brigadier Martínez Campos when he declared his support for the Bourbon Prince Alfonso, son of Isabella, on 29th December 1874. Having lost control of their armed forces the government of the first republic collapsed, paving the way for the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy.

20 December 2008

On this day in history: Electricity generated by nuclear power for the first time, 1951

In 1934 the Italian physicist Enrico Fermi produced nuclear fission for the first time for which he received the Nobel Prize for Physics four years later. After receiving his prize, Fermi emigrated to the United States with his Jewish wife Laura to escape Mussolini's increasingly anti-semitic fascist regime in his homeland. He worked at Columbia University where he continued experimenting on nuclear fission before joining the project at the University of Chicago constructing the world's first nuclear reactor.

Following America's entry into the Second World War, the experimental work conducted on Chicago Pile-1 became part of the Manhattan Project, which was engaged in creating nuclear weapons. Following the end of the war, development began on more peaceful applications of reactor research, including the generation of electricity. To this end the United States government established the National Reactor Testing Station (NRTS) - now called the Idaho National Laboratory - in the Idaho desert in 1949.

That year construction work began on the Experimental Breeder Reactor 1 (EBR-1) at NRTS. Walter Zinn, who had also worked on the Manhattan Project, and his team at the Argonne National Laboratory designed EBR-1 as an attempt to prove that it was possible to create a breeder reactor rather than to become a working power plant. A breeder reactor is one that creates nuclear fuel at a rate that is greater than it can consume it.

On 24th August 1951 the reactor went critical for the first time. At 1:50pm on 20th December 1951, the power station produced electricity for the first time. It generated enough electricity to illuminate four 200watt light bulbs. The next day the scientists repeated the experiment, producing enough electricity for the EBR-1 building.

Two years later, it successfully began producing fuel as a breeder reactor. Experiments continued on the EBR-1, even after the reactor suffered a partial meltdown in November 1955, until it was deactivated in 1964. The following year EBR-1 became a National Historic Landmark.

To learn more about the reactor see the Experimental Breeder Reactor 1 fact-sheet available as a pdf file from the Idaho National Laboratory site.

19 December 2008

On this day in history: Emily Brontë died, 1848

Born on 30th July 1818 at the Parsonage in Thornton, near Bradford, Yorkshire, Emily Jane Brontë was the fifth of six children of Revd. Patrick Brontë and his wife Maria. Nearly two years after her birth, Emily's family moved to the small industrial town of Haworth where her father had accepted the post of curate, which offered greater financial security. Unfortunately, a year and a half after the family relocated, Maria died.

Their mother's older sister Elizabeth Branwell stayed on with the family after nursing Maria during the last months of her life. While the older Brontë girls clashed with their aunt when she extolled the virtues of fastidiousness and self-discipline, Emily did not. As well as learning domestic skills the girls also received instruction in more academic subjects along with their brother Branwell.

The four oldest girls were sent to the Clergy Daughters' School at Cowan Bridge, a newly founded institution that provided a formal education to the daughters of less wealthy Anglican clergymen. The poor conditions at Cowan Bridge resulted in a number of pupils contracting illnesses, including Emily's oldest two sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, both of whom contracted tuberculosis, wcich caused their deaths in 1825. Revd. Brontë brought Emily and her sister Charlotte home where he and Miss Branwell continued to educate them.

The four remaining siblings became a close-knit group, developing imaginary worlds that they began writing about. The four were separated when Charlotte attended Roe Head school in Mirfield. She later returned as a teacher there accompanied by Emily who went there as a pupil. After only three months Emily became so ill that she had to return home to be replaced at Roe Head by her sister Anne.

Divided from her sister Anne, with whom she was closest, Emily became more self-reliant and remained apart from the rest of her family. Much of her time was spent secretly writing poetry until she took the position of teacher at Law Hill girl's school near Halifax in 1838. She remained there for six months before another illness required that she return to Haworth.

Charlotte had the idea of setting up a school and persuaded their aunt to pay for her and Emily to attend a school in Brussels. Emily struggled through nine months of being the oldest pupil in a school where lessons were taught in French - a language she was not well versed in - before her father summoned her and Charlotte home because of the death of their aunt.

In 1845, Charlotte discovered one of Emily's poetry books, much to the annoyance of the younger sister. In spite of Emily's anger, the other Brontë children persuaded her to allow them to select poems to be submitted for publication along with other poems written by her sisters. A year later two girls published the collection called Poems pseudonyms of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell (Charlotte, Emily and Anne respectively).

Two years later, Emily, again under the name Ellis Bell, published the work for which she became famous: Wuthering Heights. This epic tale of the Earnshaws of Wuthering Heights and the Lintons of Thrushcross Grange confounded the critics of the day because of its innovative style. The publishers demanded that Emily contribute towards the publishing costs, even though they were using the Bell name to cash in on the success of Jane Eyre, written by Charlotte under the name Currer Bell.

The following year, Emily's brother Branwell died of tuberculosis - the symptoms of which had been masked by his alcoholism. At his funeral Emily contracted a cold that resulted in her own death on 18th December 1848. Following her death, Charlotte edited the two part Wuthering Heights into a single volume that was published under her real name.

The Project Gutenberg site hosts Poems and Wuthering Heights as well as other works by the Brontës.

18 December 2008

On this day in history: First European landing on New Zealand, 1642

Born in 1603 in the Dutch province of Groningen, Abel Tasman entered the service of the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (Dutch East India Company). By the mid-1630s Tasman was serving as a mate on a trading ship out of Batavia (modern day Jakarta). In 1634 he became master of the Mocha, a small trading ship, and served as second in command on a mission of exploration of the North Pacific.

After a series of journeys to various locations on the Pacific coast of Asia, Tasman commanded a fleet sent to search for the "Unknown Southland and Eastland" believed to be in the South Atlantic. In August 1642 he set sail for Mauritius where he turned south-east for then little known Australia. In November he sighted the island that now bears his name, which he claimed for the Netherlands on 3rd December.

Tasman intended to turn north to explore the east coast of Australia, but strong winds took the fleet on an easterly heading. On 13th December the explorers sighted land: the north-west coast of the Southern Island of what is now known as New Zealand. While exploring the coast, the fleet had a number of encounters with the Maori including an attack on one of the Dutch ships, which goes some way to explaining why the fleet only made a brief landing on the 18th December.

The fleet continued to explore the islands before returning to Batavia via the Tongan and the Fiji islands. Tasman made another voyage of discovery in 1644 before becoming a senior official in Batavia. He continued to serve there until his death in October 1659, apart from a period of suspension as a result of him passing a death sentence on a man without trial.

Abel Janszoon Tasman's Journal of his Discovery of Van Diemen's Land and New Zealand in 1642 is available on the Project Gutenberg Australia site.

17 December 2008

On this day in history: First successful powered aeroplane flight, 1903

At the dawn of the twentieth-century, the brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright left their cycle manufacturing business in Dayton, Ohio and travelled to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina to undertake experiments with flying machines. Over the next few years they made their annual pilgrimage to the sands of Kitty Hawk to refine the design of their manned gliders. Following successful test flights in the 1902 Glider, the brothers added an engine designed and built by one of their employees, Charlie Taylor, to their next model: the Wright Flyer I.

In December 1903, the brothers returned to North Carolina and assembled the Flyer while performing flight tests with the 1902 Glider. On the 14th, the brothers tossed a coin to decide which of them should pilot the Flyer for its maiden flight. Wilbur won, but he stalled the plane after pulling up too sharply.

Fortunately the aircraft did not suffer any major damage and was ready for another test flight within days. On 17th December 1903, Orville took his chance to make history. The flight lasted for twelve seconds in which time he covered a distance of 36.5m (120 feet). According to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale this was the World's first "sustained and controlled heavier-than-air powered flight."

The Smithsonian Institution refused to recognise the Wright's flight, preferring to give the accolade to one of their former secretaries, Samuel Pierpont Langley. Following Orville's unsuccessful attempt blackmail the Smithsonian into recognising the Wright's achievement by threatening to allow another museum to have the Flyer, the aircraft become an exhibit at the Science Museum in London, in 1928. Fifteen years later, Orville allowed the aircraft to be relocated to the Smithsonian after he received assurances that no other successful flight will be recognised by the Institution on a date prior to that of the brothers.

To learn more about these pioneering auronauts and their aircraft, see the Wright Experience site.

16 December 2008

On this day in history: Last recorded eruption of Mount Fuji, 1707

On 16th December 1707, Mount Fuji in Japan erupted. While this Hōei Eruption (as it became known) did not produce a lava flow, during its two week duration the eruption sporadically released hundreds of millions of cubic metres of volcanic ash into the atmosphere. This ash fell like rain on the nearby provinces of Izu, Kai, Musashi and Sagami, and witnesses recorded ash falling on Edo nearly 100km (60miles) away.

The eruption resulted in the opening of three new vents on the easterly side of the mountain and a small crater formed by a secondary eruption. Over the next year many effects of the eruption were felt including a flood of the Sakawa river caused by the fallen ash adding to the existing sediment in the riverbed. Mount Fuji has not erupted since Hōei, although it has yet to be declared inactive.

15 December 2008

Award and return

I would like to start by thanking Fashiona and Cindy at the Fenced in Family Blog for bestowing the Butterfly Award on the Modern Historian.

The rules for this award are:

1. Put the logo on your blog.
2. Add a link to the person who awarded you.
3. Nominate 10 other blogs.
4. Add links to those blogs on yours.
5. Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs

As such would like to pass on the award-love to the following:
A Brood Comb
Blogger Buster
Geek Mom Mashup
Learn French
Let's Learn French Together
Streamlined Mind
The Midnight Flyer
The Mythogenetic Grove

I am also glad to announce that the "On this day in history" posts will appear again soon, now that I have finished my assignment.

18 November 2008


I have an assignment to write over the next couple of weeks. As a result the regular 'On this day in history' posts will not be appearing every day (if at all). Apologies to my regular readers, but rest assured that normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

17 November 2008

On this day in history: Suez Canal opened, 1869

In the late eighteenth-century, Napoleon Bonaparte charged a survey team with the task of discovering the remnants of an ancient waterway that once joined the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Their findings appeared in the series of publications known as Description de l'Égypte published between 1809 and 1826. Although engineers deemed the route unsuitable for a new canal, the benefits of such a waterway inspired the French diplomat Ferdinand de Lesseps to secure a concession from the viceroy of Egypt, Said Pasha, to form a company construct a ship canal.

This authorisation, secured in 1854, granted a ninety-nine year lease on the land for the canal operators Compagnie Universelle du Canal Maritime de Suez ("The Suez Canal Company"), which incorporated in 1858. International scepticism resulted in most of the available shares being bought by French citizens. The Egyptian state purchased the remaining forty-four percent of the shares in the company in order that the project progress.

The construction began in 1859 employing tens of thousands of workers, most of whom were Egyptian forced labourers. Fearing a challenge to their domination of world trade, the British sent armed Bedouin to lead a revolt of the labourers. The viceroy condemned the use of slavery, halting work on the canal until the practice of involuntary labour ceased.

Following ten and a half years construction, on 17th November 1869 workers breached the barrage on the Suez plains reservoir filling the canal with water. Later that day the first ships sailed the 199 miles (192km) of canal joining the two seas. Ten days later the Egyptian Khedive, Ismail Pacha, officially opened the waterway.

15 November 2008

On this day in history: Only spaceflight of Buran, 1988

In 1974 engineers of the Soviet Union began work on the Buran ("Blizzard") project, which was a response to NASA's Space Shuttle programme. The Russian engineers favoured a design for a lighter reusable spacecraft where the entire body of the craft created lift, but the military leadership demanded that they copy the delta-wing design of the American Shuttle. Six years later, construction commenced on the spacecraft, with the first full-scale prototype reaching completion in 1984 and the first of the two completed production vehicles appearing in 1986.

As with the NASA design, in order to achieve space flight the Buran needed an external source of thrust that would be jettisoned when no longer needed. Buran employed an Energia rocket supplemented by four smaller liquid-fuel Zenit booster rockets, unlike the Shuttle, which uses two solid-fuel booster rockets connected to a fuel tank. The Energia made a successful test-launch in May 1987, paving the way for an unmanned test-flight of Buran.

At 3am local time on 15th November 1988 orbiter OK-1.01 lifted off from the launch pad at Baikonur Cosmodrome. The space flight lasted 206 minutes, during which Buran orbited the Earth twice before making a successful automatic landing on a runway back at Baikonur despite of a powerful cross-wind. Nevertheless, the success of the test flight was not enough to save the project, which was mothballed due to lack of funds and the shifting political situation in the Soviet Union before President Bosis Yeltsin officially cancelled the project in 1993.

14 November 2008

On this day in history: Philosopher G.W.F. Hegel died, 1831

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was born on 27th August 1770 in Stutgart, which was then part of the Duchy of Württemberg where his father served as a revenue officer. Hegel learnt Latin from his mother at a young age and later attended the Stuttgart Gymnasium. At his father's suggestion he embarked on a career as a protestant clergyman, enrolling at the University of Tübingen seminary in 1788.

On completing his studies in 1793, Hegel decided not to become a man of the cloth and started work as a private tutor in Berne, Switzerland. He had developed an deep interest in philosophy and began to study the works of Immanuel Kant and Johann Fichte. Nevertheless, he had not abandoned his study of religion as demonstrated by his writings of that time: Life of Jesus and The Positivity of Christian Religion.

In 1796, Hegel co-wrote The First Programme for a System of German Idealism with his friend the philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling. The next year he left for Frankfurt to take up a new tutoring job, but the bequest he then received following his father's death enabled him to return to education. In 1801, he found an non-salaried position at the University of Jena where he continued his studies, wrote and lectured.

Having exhausted the legacy from his father, in 1807, Hegel moved to Bamberg to take the position of editor of the Bamberger Zeitung newspaper. A year later he received the appointment of headmaster at a Gymnasium in Nuremberg. By this time he had published his first solo philosophical work, Phänomenologie des Geistes ("Phenomenology of Mind"), in which he detailed his dialectic method.

While teaching in Nuremberg, Hegel published the first part of his Wissenschaft der Logik ("Science of Logic") in 1812. The last part entered print in 1816, the same year that he received various offers of university professorships. He chose to take up the appointment from the University of Heidelberg, but two years later he became the chair of philosophy at the University of Berlin, where he published his Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts ("Elements of the Philosophy of Right") in 1821.

In 1830, the sixty-year-old Hegel became rector of the university and during the following year King Frederick William III of Prussia decorated him in recognition of his services to the state. Later that same year Hegel left Berlin during a cholera epidemic. Nevertheless, he died in his lodgings in Kreuzberg on 14th November 1831.

The German texts of a number of Hegel's works are available on Project Gutenberg. To learn more about Hegel's thought see his entry on the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy site.

13 November 2008

On this day in history: The Brezhnev Doctrine, 1968

On 13th November 1968, the soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev made a speech at the Fifth Congress of the Polish United Workers' Party reiterating the new foreign policy of the USSR. This policy first appeared in a September issue of the newspaper Pravda in an article entitled “Sovereignty and the International Obligations of Socialist Countries” written by Sergei Kovalev. Known in the West as the 'Brezhnev Doctrine', the policy amounted to the USSR reserving the right to use military force to prevent any socialist country from turning to capitalism.

The Soviet leadership used the doctrine to justify their invasion of Czechoslovakia earlier that year (as well as the invasion of Hungary in 1956). In effect the policy could be used to limit the independence of any country within the Warsaw Pact and to prevent reform or deviation from the Russian model of socialism by governments in the Eastern bloc and beyond. In 1979 the Soviet leadership applied the doctrine during their invasion of Afghanistan to prop-up the socialist government there; however, ten years later Mikhail Gorbachev effectively ended the doctrine when he chose not to use military intervention to halt the reform movements in eastern Europe.

The text of Brezhnev's 1968 speech follows.

The might of the socialist camp today is such that the imperialists fear military defeat in the event of a direct clash with the chief forces of socialism. Needless to say, as long as imperialism exists, the danger of war that imperialist policy entails can on no account he disregarded. However, it is a fact that in the new conditions the imperialists are making increasingly frequent use of different and more insidious tactics. They are seeking out the weak links in the socialist front, pursuing a course of subversive ideological work inside the socialist countries, trying to influence the economic development of these countries, attempting to sow dissension, drive wedges between them and encourage and inflame nationalist feelings and tendencies, and are seeking to isolate individual socialist states so that they can then seize them by the throat one by one. In short, imperialism is trying to undermine socialism's solidarity precisely as a world system.

The experience of the socialist countries’ development and struggle in these new conditions during the past few years, including the recently increased activity of forces hostile to socialism in Czechoslovakia, reminds the communists of socialist countries with fresh force that it is important not to forget for one moment certain highly important, time-tested truths.

If we do not want to retard our movement along the path of socialist and communist construction, if we do not want to weaken our common positions in the struggle against imperialism, we must, in resolving any questions of our domestic and foreign policy, always and everywhere, maintain indestructible fidelity to the principles of Marxism-Leninism, display a clear-cut class and party approach to all social phenomena, and deal a resolute rebuff to imperialism on the ideological front without making any concessions to bourgeois ideology.

When petit-bourgeois leaders encounter difficulties, they go into hysterics and begin to doubt everything without exception. The emergence of difficulties makes the revisionists ready to cancel out all existing achievements, repudiate everything that has been gained, and surrender all their positions of principle.

But real communists confidently clear the path ahead and seek the best solutions to the problems that have arisen, relying on socialist gains. They honestly acknowledge the mistakes made in a given question and analyse and correct them so as to strengthen the positions of socialism further, so as to stand firm and refrain from giving the enemies of socialism one iota of what has already been won, what has already been achieved through the efforts and struggle of the masses. ln short, it can confidently be said that if the party takes a firm stand on communist positions, if it is faithful to Marxism—Leninism, all difficulties will be overcome.

Experience shows most convincingly the exceptional and, one might say, decisive importance for successful construction of socialism that attaches to ensuring and constantly consolidating the leadership role of the Communist party as the most advanced leading, organizing, and directing force in all societal development under socialism.

Socialist states stand for strict respect for the sovereignty of all countries. We resolutely oppose interference in the affairs of any states and the violation of their sovereignty.

At the same time, affirmation and defence of the sovereignty of states that have taken the path of socialist construction are of special significance to us communists. The forces of imperialism and reaction are seeking to deprive the people first in one. then another socialist country of the sovereign right they have earned to ensure prosperity for their country and well-being and happiness for the broad working masses by building a society free from all oppression and exploitation. And when encroachments on this right receive a joint rebuff from the socialist camp, the bourgeois propagandists raise the cry of "defence of sovereignty" and “non-interference." It is clear that this is the sheerest deceit and demagoguery on their part. In reality these loud-mouths are concerned not about preserving socialist sovereignty but about destroying it.

It is common knowledge that the Soviet Union has really done a good deal to strengthen the sovereignty and autonomy of the socialist countries. The CPSU has always advocated that each socialist country determine the concrete forms of its development along the path of socialism by taking into account the specific nature of their national conditions. But it is well known, comrades, that there are common natural laws of socialist construction, deviation from which could lead to deviation from socialism as such. And when external and internal forces hostile to socialism try to turn the development of a given socialist country in the direction of restoration of the capitalist system, when a threat arises to the cause of socialism in that country — a threat to the security of the socialist commonwealth as a whole — this is no longer merely a problem for that country's people, but a common problem, the concern of all socialist countries.

It is quite clear that an action such as military assistance to a fraternal country to end a threat to the socialist system is an extraordinary measure, dictated by necessity; it can be called forth only by the overt actions of enemies of socialism within the country and beyond its boundaries, actions that create a threat to the common interests of the socialist camp.

Experience bears witness that in present conditions the triumph of the socialist system in a country can be regarded as final, but the restoration of capitalism can be considered ruled out only if the Communist party, as the leading force in society, steadfastly pursues a Marxist-Leninist policy in the development of all spheres of society's life; only if the party indefatigably strengthens the country's defence and the protection of its revolutionary gains, and if it itself is vigilant and instils in the people vigilance with respect to the class enemy and implacability toward bourgeois ideology; only if the principle of socialist internationalism is held sacred, and unity and fraternal solidarity with the other socialist countries are strengthened.

Let those who are wont to forget the lessons of history and who would like to engage again in recarving the map of Europe know that the borders of Poland, the GDR and Czechoslovakia, as well as of any other Warsaw Pact member, are stable and inviolable. These borders are protected by all the armed might of the socialist commonwealth. We advise all those who are fond of encroaching on foreign borders to remember this well!

Source: The Current Digest of the Soviet Press (Columbus, Ohio, 1968)

12 November 2008

On this day in history: Sir Thomas Fairfax died, 1671

Thomas Fairfax was born in January in 1612 at Denton Yorkshire. He was the eldest son of Ferdinando Fairfax, the second Lord Fairfax of Cameron, and his wife, Mary Sheffield, who died while Thomas was still a boy. After attending St John's College, Cambridge, Thomas entered the military, serving in campaigns in France and the Low-Countries.

Fairfax was a commander in King Charles I's armies during the bishop's wars against the Scots in 1639 and 1640, including their humiliating defeat at Newburn. The following year the king bestowed a knighthood upon Fairfax; however, the two men soon found themselves in opposing camps. As tensions mounted between king and Parliament, Fairfax supported the parliamentarians who charged him with delivering a petition to the king to request that he cease raising a personal army.

Charles refused to accept the petition, his horse nearly trampling Fairfax underfoot as he rode away. Britain slid into open civil war and Parliament raised their forces. Thomas' father became commander of the northern army with Thomas as his second-in-command and general of horse. Father and son commanded with great distinction despite being outnumbered by royalist forces.

In 1643, while his father defended Hull, Sir Thomas took the cavalry to join up with the forces of Oliver Cromwell and the earl of Manchester in Lincolnshire, since the mounted soldiery would be of little use defending a city. By this time, Sir Thomas had achieved a reputation as one of the Parliamentarian's most able commanders entrusted to command important campaigns across the North of England, including the command of 4000 troops at the battle of Marston Moor in July 1644, which proved to be a key parliamentarian victory.

The following December, Parliament passed the self-denying ordinance, an act that excluded all members of both houses from all military commands. Parliament created a new force from their three existing armies, which was soon to be known as the New Model Army. The House of Commons also voted that the thirty-two year old Sir Thomas Fairfax should be its commander-in-chief.

Sir Thomas' decisive victory at the battle of Naseby in June 1645 was instrumental in the collapse of the king's cause. Thomas then became embroiled in the political negotiations that occupied the various parties that had fought the war, including his own officers, who were becoming a potent political force in their own right. Injuries sustained in battle and general ill-health caused him to retire to Bath to recuperate, sparing him from some of the political machinations.

In spite of his position of authority, Sir Thomas found himself at odds with his subordinate officers and the republicans within the Parliamentarian camp. While he agreed that the king should be forced to surrender or resign, he did not support the execution of Charles I and was troubled by the war between Parliament and the Scots, who had taken up the royalist cause. Resolved to resign his post, his last act as commander-in-chief was to suppress a mutiny of radicals within the New Model Army in at Burford May 1649.

Now the 3rd Lord Fairfax of Cameron (his father having died the year before), he retired to his home in Nun Appleton in Yorkshire on a sizable pension of £5000 per year. Following the death of Oliver Cromwell and the ending of the Protectorate, the Rump Parliament sat again with Fairfax representing Yorkshire. Tensions grew between the Rump and the army under General John Lambert resulting in General George Monck bringing his army south from Scotland to defend Parliament.

In his last military command, Fairfax accepted Monck's invitation to join his army at the head of a force of Yorkshiremen. When news reached Lambert's forces of Fairfax's appearance, 1200 cavalrymen deserted Lambert to join up with the Rump's forces. Monck's victory paved the way for the restoration of the British monarchy.

Fairfax returned to his retirement at Nun Appleton avoiding the vengeful punishment meted out to the regicides by King Charles II's government. He spent his retirement reading, writing and engaged in religious duties. Ill-health marred the remaining eleven years of his life, which ended on 12th November 1671.

A biography of Sir Thomas Fairfax at David Plant's excellent British Civil Wars, Commonwealth and Protectorate, 1638-60 site.

11 November 2008

On this day in history: Signing of the Armistice ended the Great War, 1918

After over four years of war, in the Autumn of 1918 the forces of the Central powers began a slow retreat from the Western Front following a series of Allied advances. The German troops still engaged in strong rearguard actions and the occasional counter-attack. Nevertheless, the situation looked hopeless for the Germans as their allies in the other theatres of the Great War.

As winter approached the German high command were faced with two choices, annihilation or surrender. They chose the latter option and decided to bring matters to a swift conclusion in order to prevent an impending revolution. On 7th November, the acting commander in chief of the German forces, Paul von Hindenburg, sent a telegram to the supreme commander of the Allied armies, General Ferdinand Foch, requesting a meeting.

Allied troops escorted the German delegation in the five staff cars across the border before joining a train to travel to their secret destination: Foch's railway carriage in Compiègne Forest, northern France. The representatives of the Allies were in no mood to negotiate. The three days of discussion centered on their terms of surrender, to which the Germans only managed to achieve a few minor modifications and to officially register their protest at the harshness of the terms.

Following the abdication of their Kaiser the day before and the failure of a last-ditch effort to stall the process, at 5am on the 11th November 1918, the German representatives signed the Armistice document. The ceasefire came into effect at 11am that day, now known as "the eleventh of the eleventh of the eleventh." The belligerents settled the final peace accords the following year at the conference in Paris that resulted in the Treaty of Versailles.

The text of the Armistice document is available on Wikisource.

10 November 2008

On this day in history: Stanley found Livingstone, 1871

On 8th December 1840 Dr. David Livingston sailed from Britain to embark on missionary work in southern Africa. The month before he left he had received a medical licence from the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, and been ordained as a minister of the Congregational Union of England and Wales. In March 1841 he arrived in Cape Town where he stayed for a few weeks before heading north to take Christianity and western medicine to the Africans.

Over the next fifteen years he made several trips of exploration into the interior of the continent returning to Britain in 1856 to find that his accounts of his journeys had given him celebrity status. Over the next two years he wrote a book about his exploits entitled Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa, and embarked on a speaking tour. In 1858 he became a member of the Royal Society and had an audience with Queen Victoria.

Later that year, he embarked on an expedition up the Zambezi and Shire rivers to assess the prospects for trade in that area. Livingstone's six and a half years spent in Africa proved expensive and less successful than expected. His team spent less than eighteen months actually exploring the interior as the project was dogged by illness and logistical nightmares. He returned home in 1864 to a much less rapturous welcome than before.

Livingstone set off on another expedition in 1865 to establish a trading outpost on Lake Tanganyika, to continue his missionary work, and to seek the source of the River Nile. His journey through south-west Africa proved difficult and dispiriting. Sickness ravaged his party, who also bore witness to the evidence of the work of slavers. Livingstone often had to take detours to avoid local conflicts and within a year he had lost contact with the outside world.

In October 1868, the publishing editor of the New York Herald, James Gordon Bennett, assigned the task of interviewing Livingstone to the journalist Henry Morton Stanley. Over the next three years Stanley travelled the world hoping to hear news of Livingstone to no avail. Finally, he decided to mount an expedition to find the missionary himself.

In March 1871, Stanley set off with a well-armed party numbering about two-hundred. The journey proved long and arduous with the expedition becoming embroiled in local wars and weakened by the ever-present diseases. Nevertheless, on (a date now thought to be) 10th November 1871, Stanley arrived at Ujiji on the shores of Lake Tanganyika where he doffed his cap and uttered the immortal phrase, ‘Dr. Livingstone, I presume?’ Stanley provided Livingstone's party with much needed supplies and stayed with them for four months.

The two men developed a close friendship while they explored the region, but Livingstone politely declined the offer of returning with Stanley. In 1872, Stanley returned to Britain to find himself the subject of controversy. Many people doubted his claim that he had found Livingstone. Nevertheless, his book in which he gave account of his expedition, How I Found Livingstone, sold well. Dr. Livingstone died in April 1873 from malaria and internal bleeding caused by dysentery.

Project Gutenberg hosts a number of works by and about Dr. David Livingstone, including The Last Journals of David Livingstone, in Central Africa, from 1865 to His Death, Vol. II, 1869-1873.

9 November 2008

On this day in history: First issue of Rolling Stone published, 1967

In 1966 Jann Wenner dropped out of Berkeley and sought work as a journalist. His friend and mentor the music critic Ralph J. Gleason found him a job working at the sister newspaper of the San Francisco based Ramparts magazine, where he was a contributing editor. Gleason resigned from his post after a disagreement Ramparts' editor, Warren Hinckle, criticised the burgeoning hippie scene.

Together Wennner and Gleason decided to found their own magazine. Wenner raised $7500 in loans from his family and that of his fiancee. On 9th November 1967 they published the first issue of Rolling Stone magazine in San Francisco, with Beatle John Lennon on the cover. Initially the magazine reported on the city's counterculture but maintained a distance from the underground press.

Wenner took the roles of publisher and editor - positions that he holds to this day, while Gleason contributed articles to the magazine until his death in 1975. As well as reporting on cultural matters, the magazine began reporting on political issues for which it gained a growing reputation, not least because of the work of Hunter S. Thompson. As well as the self confessed gonzo journalist, Rolling Stone also gave breaks to many other popular writers including Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire), Joe Klein (Primary Colours), and P.J. O'Rourke (Parliament of Whores).

8 November 2008

On this day in history: The Louvre opened as a museum, 1793

On 8th November 1793, as the Reign of Terror began in Revolutionary France the Palais du Louvre (Louvre Palace) first opened in its new role housing a national museum. The palace started life as a twelfth-century fortress, which successive generations of French monarchs altered and expanded. In the mid-eighteenth-century, King Louis XV accepted a proposal to use part of the palace as a gallery in which visitors could view part of the royal collection.

Following the execution of Louis XVI and the suppression of the Catholic Church their respective art collections became property of the French people, as did many works of art confiscated from émigrés (those who had fled the country as the Revolution progressed). The public could view the initial collection of 537 paintings and 184 other works of art for free on three days a week. The French government pledged to provide 100,000 livres per year to expand the collection, but the military successes of the Republic resulted in many works of art from across Europe being brought back to France - a process that continued during Napoleon's reign.

6 November 2008

On this day in history: First Sex Pistols gig, 1975

On 6th November 1975, one of the most infamous rock bands of all time played their first concert at St. Martin's College of Art in London. The Sex Pistols emerged from an earlier group called The Strand that the boutique owner and impresario Malcolm McLaren managed. Following a brief spell in the United States promoting the New York Dolls, McLaren returned to England with the plan to develop the punk scene he had witnessed emerging in Lower Manhattan.

After changes in personnel and a succession of band names, the Sex Pistols line up was in place. The original members from The Strand, Steve Jones on guitar and Paul Cook on Drums, were joined by Glen Matlock on Bass and Johnny Rotten (real name John Lydon) on vocals. In September 1975, McLaren arranged rehearsals for the group at the Crunchy Frog studio, near the London's docklands.

Matlock was a student at St. Martins where he secured their first gig in a support slot at the college, which set the scene for their later reputation. The organisers pulled the plug on the band before they finished their set resulting in a brawl. Undaunted, the band continued to play at colleges over the next year before performing at larger venues and finally receiving national notoriety following an incident during a legendary early evening live television broadcast in which they used strong language leading to a moral outcry in the press.

To mark the thirtieth anniversary of the gig in 2005 The Independent newspaper's web site featured an article entitled "The birth of punk" sharing the memories of those who were there.

5 November 2008

On this day in history: Nixon won presidential election, 1968

On 5th November 1968, Richard Millhous Nixon won the U.S. presidential election following a turbulent campaign that saw the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, as well violent protests on the issues of race and the Vietnam war. Nixon, the Republican candidate, received 301 votes from the Electoral College and 43.4% of the popular vote; the Democratic candidate, Hubert Humphrey, received 191 Electoral College votes and 42.7% of the popular vote; an independent candidate George Wallace (the Governor of Alabama and former Democratic candidate who ran on a pro-racial-segregation ticket) received 46 electoral votes and 13.5% of the popular vote. Thus, Nixon was duly elected to be the 37th President of the United States, taking office on 20th January 1969.

Nixon's period in office is seen as a particularly divisive period in American history as opposition to the Vietnam war grew, especially after the bombing of Cambodia. Nevertheless, many of Nixon's policies were far from conservative: he continued the process of racial integration in schools; he expanded the role of the federal government by creating many new agencies; on the international stage, Nixon opened diplomatic links with China and achieved a degree of détente with the Soviet Union. In 1972 he won a second term in office following a landslide victory but resigned two years later following the Watergate scandal.

Richard Nixon's acceptance speech.

4 November 2008

On this day in history: Entrance to the tomb of King Tutankhamun discovered, 1922

In 1891, at the age of just seventeen, Howard Carter arrived in Egypt to work as an artist tracing the scenes on the walls of newly discovered tombs. While working for the passionate archaeologist W. M. Flinders Petrie at the excavation at Tell al-Amarna, Carter first felt the inspiration to become an archaeologist himself. Nevertheless, he continued to work as an illustrator until 1899 when Gaston Maspero, the director-general of the antiquities service of Egypt, gave him the position of chief inspector of antiquities in Upper Egypt in recognition of his managerial skills.

The appointment surprised the archaeological community because Carter had no formal qualifications in the field; however, he proved a capable administrator working hard to preserve and protect existing antiquities, and overseeing new excavations. In 1904, Carter was transferred to lower Egypt but during the following year he resigned following a violent incident between a group of foreign visitors and Egyptian antiquities guards. After spending a couple of years barely supporting himself selling his watercolour paintings and working as a tourist guide, Carter formed a relationship with Lord Canarvon after being introduced to Maspero.

Canarvon provided the financial backing for a number of digs in Egypt, and before long Carter was supervising them all. Carter approached Canarvon for funding for a project of his own: the hunt for the tomb of Tutankhamun, a previously unknown pharaoh whose existence Carter had recently discovered. A number of years passed with little success and as a result the two agreed that the 1922 expedition would be the last.

On 4th November 1922 Carter located the steps leading down to Tutankhamun's tomb, the best preserved example of its type in the Valley of the Kings. The excavation work and removal of the artifacts took a decade to complete while Carter travelled the world presenting lectures that fuelled a period of egyptomania. Ill health prevented Carter from producing a complete scientific report of his discovery; he finally died aged 64 in 1939.

The Ashmolean Museum web-site hosts Howard Carter's records of the five seasons of excavations financed by Lord Carnarvon in the Valley of the Kings 1915 - 1922.

3 November 2008

On this day in history: Last hanging at Tyburn gallows, 1783

The gallows at Tyburn in London were the site of the demise of many infamous characters. The first record of an execution there dates from 1196 when the leader of the London tax riots, William Fitz Osbern, along with nine of his accomplices were hanged from a gibbet. In 1499, Perkin Walbeck was convicted of treason and hanged at Tyburn: he had led the Cornish Rebellion two years before, claiming to be Richard IV, the younger of the two princes imprisoned in the Tower of London by their uncle King Richard III.

In 1571 the Elizabethan authorities constructed the "Tyburn Tree" a horizontal wooden triangle on three legs that enabled many people to be hanged at the same time. The religious strife of that period meant that many people were martyred at Tyburn including Edmund Campion, Robert Southwell and John Southworth, all of whom were later made saints by the Roman Catholic church. Later, following the restoration of King Charles II to the throne, the bodies of the regicides John Bradshaw, Oliver Cromwell, and Henry Ireton were exhumed and symbolically hanged in an act of grisly revenge.

On 3rd November 1783, the highwayman John Austin became the last person to be hanged at Tyburn. He was convicted of robbing and wounding 'a poor man' called John Spicer in a field near the road in Bethnal Green. Reportedly Austin's last words were "Good people, I request your prayers for the salvation of my departing soul; let my example teach you to shun the bad ways I have followed; keep good company, and mind the word of God." The sight of the "Tyburn Tree" is marked today by three brass triangles where Bayswater Road meets Edgware Road.

The transcript of the trial of John Austin is available on the Proceedings of the Old Bailey web-site.

2 November 2008

On this day in history: BBC Television Service started broadcasting, 1936

The first television broadcast in Britain was made on 30th September 1929 using an electromechanical system pioneered by the Scottish inventor John Logie Baird. His Baird Television Development Company Ltd used the British Broadcasting Corporation's London transmitter to send images over the airwaves. The following year, with the introduction of the BBC's Brookmans Park twin transmitter, Baird was able to broadcast sound along with the pictures.

The BBC started their own experimental broadcasts in 1932, using Baird's thirty vertical line system. By 1936 Baird had improved his mechanical system to 240 lines; however, the BBC decided to alternate between it and Marconi-EMI's new completely electronic 405-line system for their regular broadcasts. So, on 2nd November 1936, the BBC television service started broadcasting for the first time from their new studios at Alexandra Palace using the Marconi-EMI system and the new VHF transmitter.

The 405-line broadcast was the first regular high-definition television service in the world. It proved so successful that after a few months of switching between the two systems on a weekly basis, the BBC stopped broadcasting using the Baird electromechanical system. While the official range of the broadcasts was twenty-five miles (40km), in practice they could be picked up much further away (on one occasion as far away as New York when RCA engineers were experimenting with a British TV-set).

31 October 2008

On this day in history: Work finishes on Mount Rushmore sculpture, 1941

During the early 1920s, the state historian of South Dakota, Doane Robinson, promoted his idea of commissioning giant sculptures of key figures in the history of the West, such as Chief Red Cloud, Lewis and Clark, and 'Buffalo' Bill Cody. For a while Robinson's ideas captured the public imagination resulting in many arguments for and against the plan, but the plans came to nothing until Robinson managed to enlist the support of the state's Senator, Peter Norbeck. Senator Norbeck enjoyed the sort of political influence that could move the project forward and he suggested that Robinson find a sculptor capable of undertaking the work.

In August 1924, Robinson contacted Gutzon Borglum who accepted the commission but did not wish to focus his attentions on local figures; rather, he wished to produce a work that was national in scope. After surveying possible sites, the sculptor chose Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills as the location and four key Presidents as his subject matter. The presidents in question where George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt.

Senator Norbeck and the Congressman for South Dakota, William Williamson, arranged the passage of the required federal legislation to allow for the carving of the mountain. Following the passage of an equivalent Bill through the State legislature the work of raising funds could begin. Donations proved difficult to find until President Calvin Coolidge spent an extended vacation in the Black Hills, during which Borglum and Norbeck persuaded him to participate in the formal dedication of the work.

During his speech at the dedication ceremony, on 10th August 1927, President Coolidge pledged federal financial support for the project. After hearing the speech, Borglum climbed to the top of the cliff and made the first six drill holes. Over the next fourteen years, around four-hundred locals worked on-and-off to complete the project: constructing roads and infrastructure; dynamiting and then drilling; and sharpening thousands of drill bits.

A series of set-backs seriously reduced the scope of the project: the outbreak of the Second World War, Borglum's death from an embolism in March 1941, and the drying up of funds ended plans for a great vault behind the sculpture which was also scaled back. Borglum's son, Lincoln, continued his father's work until 31st October 1941. In all, the project cost just less than one million dollars and, surprisingly for a construction of that scale, it cost no lives.

Borglum's scale model demonstrating the full scope of the project.

30 October 2008

On this day in history: Coronation of George I, King of the Hellenes, 1863

In October 1862, following a power struggle that had lasted nearly two decades, King Otto of Greece lost his throne following a constitutionalist coup while he visited the Peloponnese. Ambassadors from the most powerful European countries persuaded Otto not to resist and he went into exile in Bavaria. The Greeks set up a Regency council to rule, which called a national convention to decide the fate of the nation.

The Greeks rejected the heir presumptive, Otto's brother Leopold, as their new king with many preferring Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Alfred was son of Queen Victoria of Great Britain who opposed his nomination, as had the representatives of France, Great Britain and Russia at the London Conference of 1832, where they decided that no member of the Royal families of their three nations should rule in Greece. Nevertheless, the Greeks insisted on holding a plebiscite in which Alfred received 95% of the votes.

The plebiscite revealed that the vast majority of Greek people wanted to keep a monarchy, so a new candidate had to be found. Eventually, the foreign diplomats and Greek leadership decided upon the seventeen-year-old Prince Wilhelm of Denmark. Prince Christian Wilhelm Ferdinand Adolf Georg (as he was christened) was the second son of Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg (later King Christian IX of Denmark).

The Greek Assembly unanimously elected Prince Wilhelm as King George I. He received the title 'King of the Hellenes', as opposed to 'King of the Greeks', the title that Otto had held. Seven months later, on 30th October, George I arrived in Athens for his coronation.

During his early reign George was instrumental in bringing the debates about the constitution to a conclusion. While Greece became a constitutional monarchy in name, political instability often resulted in George imposing minority governments on the people, leading to accusations that he was engaged in absolutism. Nevertheless, his reign lasted for fifty years until his assassination at Thessaloniki in March 1913.

29 October 2008

On this day in history: Sir Walter Ralegh beheaded, 1618

Born in Devon in 1552 into a Protestant, Walter Ralegh served in Ireland during the suppression of the Desmond Rebellions between 1580 and 1581. He received forty-thousand acres of land seized from the Irish and became a major landlord in Munster. By this time Ralegh had embarked on a career at the royal court that resulted in him quickly becoming a favourite of Queen Elizabeth.

Following the death of half-brother, Humphrey Gilbert, Ralegh decided to continue Gilbert's plans for the New World. In 1585 (the year Ralegh received a knighthood) he received letters patent to set up colonies in North America and sent two expeditions across the Atlantic: the first to set up a base for privateering on Roanoke Island; and the second to establish a farming community. Both expedition ended in failure and Ralegh focused his energies on writing.

In 1591, Ralegh secretly married "Bess" Throckmorton, one of the Queen's ladies-in-waiting, resulting in his disgrace. The Queen ordered Ralegh imprisoned and expelled his wife from court. After his release he retired to his estate at Sherborne in Dorset and became a Member of Parliament, representing three different counties during his political career.

In 1595 he led a naval exploration of South America; took part in the capture of Cadiz, a year later; and, explored the Azores in the following year. By 1600, he had regained the Queen's favour as demonstrated by her giving him the governorship of the Channel Island of Jersey. This restoration of his fortunes ended with the death of Elizabeth in March 1603.

Prior to the Queen's death Ralegh had made an enemy of Sir Robert Cecil, who had been charged with a smooth transition to the new monarch, King James I, for whom he became a trusted advisor. Two months into his reign, James stripped Ralegh of his offices and monopolies. In July 1603 Ralegh taken into custody and in November he faced trial for treason for being part of a plot against the new king.

Found to be guilty, he languished in the Tower of London until 1616, when he was released to embark on an expedition to Venezuela to find the legendary city of El Dorado. During the expedition, some of Ralegh's men sacked a Spanish outpost on the Orinoco river. The failure of the mission and the furious response of the Spanish gave James the excuse he needed to have Ralegh executed.

Following a number of failed attempts to escape and an investigation by a special commission, Ralegh faced the Privy Council where he was accused of treason and wishing to ferment war with Spain. The commissioners found him guilty and on 29th October 1618 Ralegh mounted the scaffold at Whitehall. After being shown the executioner's axe he remarked, "This is a sharp Medicine, but it is a Physician for all diseases and miseries."

Project Gutenberg hosts a copy of Ralegh's The Discovery of Guiana - an account of his 1595 expedition.

28 October 2008

On this day in history: Mino-Owari earthquake, 1891

At just after half-past-six on the morning of 28th October 1891 an earthquake shook the provinces of Mino and Owari, on the Nōbi Plain, Japan, the effects of which were felt felt as far away as Tokyo and Osaka. Modern geologists believe that the epicentre of the earthquake was on the Neodani Fault-line in the Gifu Prefecture. They believe that the earthquake would have registered between magnitude 8.0 and 8.5 on the Richter Scale making it the most powerful quake to have an epicentre under the Japanese mainland, and one of the most powerful earthquakes in history.

The Gifu and Aichi prefectures bore the brunt of the quake, but the residents of Shiga and Fukui prefectures also suffered damage. The ground along the fault line tore apart resulting in vertical uplifts of up to 20ft (6m) in some places and the uprooting of trees on the mountains near the epicentre. The city of Gifu suffered a great deal of destruction made worse by the many fires that broke out after the quake; however, the older buildings made in the traditional way fared better than the modern structures built according to western methods.

Records show that the disaster caused 7,273 deaths and 17,175 casualties. The loss is marked on the 28th day of every month in a Buddhist memorial service at the Earthquake Memorial Hall. The Prefecture of Gifu marks the anniversary of the tragedy as "Prefectural Earthquake Disaster Prevention Day", during which residents are helped to prepare for future quakes.

The Baxley Stamps web-site includes digital images of plates from The Great Earthquake of Japan, 1891 (circa 1892) by John Milne and W.K. Burton with Plates by K. Ogawa.

25 October 2008

On this day in history: Peoples Republic of China admitted to United Nations, 1971

The Nationalist government of the Republic of China (ROC) was one of the founder members of the United Nations in 1945. Following their declaration the People's Republic of China (PRC) in October 1949 the victorious Communists drove the Nationalist forces from mainland China. Despite the ROC only comprising the island groups of Formosa (now Taiwan) and the Pescadores, the Nationalist government kept its membership of the UN as well as a permanent seat on the Security Council as the recognised government of the whole of China.

During the 1960s, various nations that were friendly to the PRC put pressure on the UN to replace the ROC representatives with those of Communist China. Each the People's Republic of Albania moved a resolution to do as much. On each occasion the allies of the Nationalists, taking their lead from the United States, managed to secure enough support to defeat the resolution.

As the decade progressed, the admission of new nations to the UN resulted in a shift of sympathies to Communist China. This, coupled with President Nixon's desire to normalise relations with the Beijing government, removed the barriers to the adoption of a resolution admitting the People's Republic of China. Consequently, on 25th October 1971, the UN General Assembly passed resolution 2758: 'Restoration of the lawful rights of the People's Republic of China.'

Two-thirds of the General Assembly supported the resolution, including all of the members of the Security Council except - unsurprisingly - the ROC. The resolution recognised the PRC as the legitimate government of China, granted them a place in the UN General Assembly and permanent membership of the Security Council, whilst expelling the delegates of the ROC. Since then, the Taiwanese have sought the restoration of their membership of the United Nations, but opposition from the PRC, which has the right of veto, has prevented this from happening.

24 October 2008

On this day in history: Last commercial Concorde flights, 2003

During the late 1950s, aircraft manufacturers around the world started working on designs for supersonic passenger jets. The costs for such projects were so prohibitive that few of them progressed beyond the design stage. In the early 1960s, the British Aircraft Corporation, which had inherited the Type 223 supersonic transport (SST) project from the Bristol Aeroplane approached the French Sud Aviation, who were working on the Super-Caravelle SST, with an offer to co-operate on a joint project.

The result of this co-operation was Concorde, which made its maiden flight in 1969. By this time, Concorde only had one compettitor, the Russian Tupolev Tu-144, but cold war tensions and the crash of a Tu-144 at the 1973 Paris Air show meant that it was Concorde that attracted orders from the major airlines. Nevertheless, the oil crisis of late 1973, environmental concerns about nervousness about sonic booms (the noise the aircraft made as it broke the sound barrier) resulted in the cancellation of all the orders except those from the national airlines of France and the United Kingdom. These orders for ten aircraft each still required substantial government subsidies to keep the project alive.

In spite of these setbacks, Air France and British Airways (BA) started scheduled flights using Concorde in 1976. Although other airlines occasionally leased the aircraft, the high operation costs meant that supersonic travel was only feasible for the most profitible routes. Nevertheless, to continue running the services required high ticket prices, the continued government funding in the case of Air France and the sale of the British fleet of aircraft to BA at a knock-down price.

All this changed following the crash of a Concorde near Paris in July 2000. The year long grounding of all the Concordes contributed to the decision taken by both airlines to withdraw the aircraft. On 27th June 2003, an Air France Concorde flew for the last time and on 24th October that same year three BA Concordes made the last commercial flights by the aircraft: G-BOAG flew from New York to London; G-BOAE made a return flight to Edinburgh; G-BOAF flew around the Bay of Biscay. All three circled over London before landing within minutes of each other at Heathrow Airport.

23 October 2008

On this day in history: First appearance of the Smurfs, 1958

In 1947, the Belgian comics artist Peyo (real name Pierre Culliford) started writing the Johan strip about a medieval royal servant. The stories first appeared in Le Dernière Heure and then in Le Soir newspaper between 1950 and 1952. In September 1952, Johan moved to the comics magazine Le Journal de Spirou.

Two years later a greedy dwarf joined Johan in his adventures and, to reflect this, the strip became known as Johan et Pirlouit (translated in English as Johan and Peewit). In the story published on 23rd October 1958, called La flûte à six trous ('The Six Hole Flute'), the two became allies with a group of small sky-blue creatures in Phrygian caps called Les Schtroumpfs, known in English as the Smurfs. The Smurfs proved so popular that they appeared in their own strip in the following year.

The Smurfs in Johan and Peewit

The Official Smurfs website is marking the fiftieth anniversary of the little blue creatures with a charity auction in aid of unicef. Have a Happy Smurfday!

22 October 2008

On this day in history: Louis XIV revokes the Edict of Nantes, 1685

During the second half of the sixteenth century, France was torn apart by religious conflict caused by a power vacuum created by the death of Henry II in 1559. In 1589, the Bourbon King Henry III of Navarre became King Henry IV of France. With his conversion from Protestantism to Catholicism in 1593, Henry healed the divisions and ended the conflict, famously declaring that Paris vaut bien une messe ("Paris is well worth a Mass").

Five years later Henry issued the Edict of Nantes, which granted substantial rights to the French Protestants, commonly known as Huguenots. The four texts of the edict included articles guaranteeing the safety of French Protestants from the Inquisition while travelling abroad; Huguenots were also granted places of safety in France and the right to maintain fortifications for their protection there. Nevertheless, the edict reaffirmed that Catholicism was the state religion and that the Protestants must observe Catholic holidays and pay religious tithes.

Over the following decades the French crown slowly reduced Protestant enclaves to only two by 1622, La Rochelle and Mountauban. Following another religious civil war in 1629, the Protestants lost all military independence. For the remainder of the reign of King Louis XIII and while his son, Louis XIV, was still in his minority the Protestants stilled received a degree of religious toleration, although this varied depending on internal politics and France's relations with her Catholic and Protestant neighbours.

On 22nd October 1685, Louis XIV (grandson of Henry IV), revoked the Edict of Nantes in his own Edict of Fontainebleau. This edict declared Protestantism to be illegal in France and ordered the destruction of the Huguenot churches and schools. The declaration followed years of official persecution of French Protestants. The implementation of this policy, known as the dragonnades, involved the forced conversion of Huguenots to Catholicism.

The revocation did not result in another religious civil war; rather, many Huguenots elected to leave their country and seek asylum mostly in Protestant nations but some emigrated to more tolerant Catholic states. Estimates vary, but Louis XIV himself declared that the vast majority of Huguenots left France in the year following his edict: out of 800,000 to 900,000 Protestants only 1,000 to 1,500 remained.

During the French Revolution protestants were granted a degree of religious toleration culminating with Napoleon's Organic Articles of 1802 that granted full freedom of conscience to the Huguenots.

The Intnernet Modern History Sourcebook includes the full text of the Edict of Fontainebleau.

21 October 2008

On this day in history: First English school in South-East Asia founded, 1816

On 21st October 1816 Rev. Robert Sparke Hutchings established the Penang Free School in George Town on the island of Penang in the Malay archipelago. The island had been leased to the British East India company by the Sultan of Kedah since 1786. At the beginning of the nineteenth-century the British authorities founded schools to educate Europeans and the children of government officials.

Worried by the lack of education for orphans and the children from poor families, the chaplain to the presidency, Rev. Hutchings petitioned the authorities to establish a school. They managed to recruit a teacher, James Cox, who had previously taught in Madras. The school's first intake was twenty-five boys who not only received an education in their native tongue (and English if they so desired), but were also fed and clothed if they needed it.

Only those families that could afford it were required to pay any fees, but all the boys required a nomination to be admitted. A year later, the school was in a position to admit girls after recruiting Cox's wife as a teacher. That same year, management of the school passed to an elected Board of Directors, which actively created links between the school and the local community.

20 October 2008

On this day in history: Jackie Kennedy married Aristotle Onassis, 1968

Jacqueline Lee Bouvier married Senator John Fitzgerald Kennedy in September 1953. In 1961, JFK became president and Jackie Kennedy, his glamorous first lady. Ten years after their marriage, he was assassinated and five years later, in 1968, John's brother Bobby suffered the same fate.

Jackie suspected that the enemies the Kennedys were target ting members of the family. Fearing for the safety of her children she decided to leave the United States. This may go some way to explaining her marriage of convenience to the Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis.

The two married on 20th October 1968 in a ceremony held on his private island of Skorpios. The marriage suited both parties: Jackie gave Aristotle access to the world of celebrity; he provided her with the financial support and protection she felt she needed. The couple stayed married, despite often living apart, until Aristotle's death in 1975.

Jackie O (as she was then known) died on 19th May 1994. Robert D. McFadden's New York Times obituary for her is available on the newspaper's web-site.

19 October 2008

On this day in history: Black Monday, 1987

On Monday, 19th October, 1987, the world economy was rocked by a series of stock market crashes. The economic meltdown began when the Hong Kong stock exchange opened and share values began to plummet. As the other exchanges opened around the world they all suffered the same fate, resulting in the largest ever percentage decline in share values in a single day, which quickly became known as 'Black Monday'.

Over the previous year, the rapid economic growth of the mid-1980s began to slow culminating in small falls in the value of shares over the week before the crash. By the end of the month stock markets around the world were counting the cost of the meltdown: the Dow Jones Industrial Average in the United States fell by 23%; shares on the Financial Times Stock Exchange Index in the UK lost 26% of their value; the Spanish stock market saw a 31% decline; in Australia the collapse was 42%; the Hong Kong market suffered a loss of 46%; the New Zealand stock market was particularly badly by the crash that wiped away 60% of the value of shares.

To learn more see Mark Carlson's report "A Brief History of the 1987 Stock Market Crash with a Discussion of the Federal Reserve Response," (2007), a pdf file produced by the U.S. Federal Reserve.

17 October 2008

On this day in history: London Beer Flood, 1814

At about 6pm on Monday 17th October, 1814, an explosion rocked the West-End of London.
A giant vat full of fermenting porter (a dark coloured malt based beer), on top of the Meux's Brewery Co Ltd, violently burst releasing over half-a-million litres of liquid. This started a domino-effect as the other vats in the brewery also exploded. A flood of over one-million litres of beer consumed the nearby slum streets of the parish of St. Giles.

The deluge demolished two houses and damaged the Tavistock Arms public house on Great Russell Street, resulting in the death of 14-year-old barmaid Eleanor Cooper. Another eight people also lost their life in the disaster, most of them drowned, some of them died from injuries inflicted by the torrent, and one later died of alcohol poisoning. Tragically, many bereaved families were so impoverished that they exhibited their dead in return for a fee.

16 October 2008

On this day in history: Rodney Riots, 1968

On 16th October 1968, the students of the University of West Indies (UWI) in Jamaica became the latest to join in with the worldwide student protests of that year. The spark that lit the flame, in this case, was the Jamaican government's decision to bar Dr. Walter Rodney from returning to the country to continue his job as a lecturer at the university. Rodney, an influential left-wing historian of Africa and vocal participant in the Black Power movement, had been attending a conference in Montreal, Canada, when he returned to Jamaica the authorities would not let him disembark from the plane as he had been identified as a prohibited immigrant because of his visits to the USSR and Cuba.

When the students of UWI heard of Dr. Rodney's plight they caused such disruption on the campus that the university was forced to close. They then took their demonstrations onto the streets, marching first to Prime Minister Hugh Shearer's residence and then on to the parliament in Kingston. As the students marched other demonstrators joined in and the protests became increasingly violent and spread throughout the city leaving several dead and millions of dollars worth of damage to property.

15 October 2008

On this day in history: First day of Gregorian calendar, 1582

Throughout the medieval era concerns grew about problems with the Julian calendar as the date of the vernal equinox occurred on later dates each year, which had a knock-effect for the calculation of the date of Easter and other movable feast days. After decades of discussion, on 24th February 1582, Pope Gregory XIII issued the papal bull Inter gravissimas, which ordered the 'restoration' of the calendar. The Pope received manuscript called Compendiuem novae rationis restituendi kalendarium ("Compendium of the New Plan for the Restitution of the Calendar") from Antonio Lilius, brother to Aloysius, an Italian scholar and author of the treatise, who had died six years previously.

Lilius' plan, slightly modified by the German Jesuit scholar Christopher Clavius, required a reduction in the number leap-years. Centennial years (such as 1700 and 1900) would no longer have an extra day unless they were a multiple of 400 (e.g. 1600 and 2000). The reformation also required an adjustment by ten days.

The papal bull required the adoption of the new calendar in all Catholic countries. Consequently, in much of Italy, Spain, Portugal, and the Commonwealth of Polish-Lithuania Thursday 4th October 1582 was followed by Friday 15th October, the first day of what became known as the Gregorian calendar. Poor communications resulted in the Portuguese and Spanish colonies following suit later in the year, as did some Protestant nations.

Over the next two centuries the remaining Protestant nations in Western Europe adopted the reformed calendar, except the Swiss canton of Grisons which held out until 1811. In the twentieth-century the nations of eastern Europe followed suit by which time countries on the other continents had also adopted the Gregorian calendar.

The text of Inter gravissimas is available on the Blue Water Arts site.