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the work of history

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    Thanks so much! And thanks for following.


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    October 5, 1962: Dr. No, the first James Bond film, is released.

    With twenty-two films out (and a twenty-third set for release this October), the series was the first film series to gross over a billion dollars; it was the highest-grossing series ever until surpassed by Harry Potter in 2011, but it retains the top position adjusted for inflation. And it turns fifty years old today.

    FUN FACTS.

    • Six actors have played the iconic character - Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig.
    • Of them, Lazenby starred in the least (perhaps for good reason, but the quality of his performance is still disputed among fans). 
    • Sean Connery wore a toupee in all of his films.
    • Actors who were offered or considered for the role include Michael Caine, Richard Burton, Cary Grant, Adam West (Adam West), Michael Gambon, James Brolin, Clint Eastwood, and Mel Gibson.
    • Ranulph Fiennes was rejected for having “hands too big and a face like a farmer”; Patrick McGoohan declined the role for “moral reasons” (i.e. he thought Bond was too promiscuous).
    • Author Ian Fleming was initially doubtful about Sean Connery playing the role, calling him “an overgrown stunt-man”. 
    • Roger Moore was the oldest actor to play Bond, at fifty-seven.
    • George Lazenby was chosen for the role after producer Cubby Broccoli and director/editor Peter Hunt saw him in a chocolate bar commercial.
    • Each film has featured at least two “Bond girls”. A View to a Kill had the most, with six.
    • The famous gun barrel sequence has been a part of every Bond film, but the Bond in this sequence was played by a stuntman until Thunderball.
    • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was also based on an Ian Fleming novel, and it was also produced by a James Bond producer.
    • Steven Spielberg was informed in the 1970s by Cubby Broccoli that he was not experienced enough to direct a Bond film.
    • Goldfinger was the first Bond film to win an Oscar.
    • Adjusted for inflation, the highest-grossing Bond film is Thunderball

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    October 6, 1927: The Jazz Singer, the first prominent “talkie”, is released.

    You ain’t heard nothing yet” was a line spoken by Al Jolson in the first feature film with synchronized dialogue. In a way, his words were almost prophetic - the success of The Jazz Singer ushered in a new age of cinema. The movie smashed Warner Bros.’ previous box office record, demonstrating the profitability of the “talkie”. Prior to the release of this film, however, most studios and critics doubted talking film technology and dismissed it as a novelty; Harry Warner, whose company would pioneer talking films, famously scoffed “Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?” (although the full quote reveals that he believed recorded music would be a more decisive factor).

    At the 1st Academy Awards (1929), The Jazz Singer was excluded from the top prizes because it was a talkie, but the Academy bestowed upon the film a Special Academy Award, recognizing it as “the pioneer outstanding talking picture, which has revolutionized the industry”. 2011’s The Artist was actually the first silent film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture since 1929, revealing how fas the silent film’s departure was. By the early 1930s, what had once been viewed as a fad was now standard procedure for most of the major studios. 

    But the advent of the talkie was not beneficial for everyone in the industry. Some filmmakers continued to flourish despite the change, like Charlie Chaplin, who released some of his most popular films (City Lights, Modern Times, and The Great Dictator) after 1927; others, like, Douglas Fairbanks, who had once been called “the King of Hollywood”, could not adjust. Musicians who had provided live music for silent films also found themselves out of work, because prerecorded musical tracks rendered them obsolete. 


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    October 7, 1900: Heinrich Himmler is born.

    At first glance, Heinrich Himmler resembled a balding, dull, thoroughly average office worker or banker; in fact he was one of the most powerful men in Nazi Germany and one of the main orchestrators of the Holocaust. As Reichsführer of the SS, Himmler controlled the Allgemeine SS, the SS-Totenkopfverbände (responsible for the administration of concentration camps), the Orpo (the regular police), the Kripo (criminal police), the Gestapo (secret police), the SD (intelligence agency), and, until its mobilization, the Waffen-SS (the armed wing of the SS). In 1943, he was made Minister of the Interior. 

    Himmler was fascinated with the occult throughout his life. He had his organizations adopt runes as symbols, and he viewed the SS itself as a sort of cult (around which a religion in a post-Christian, Nazi-ruled world would revolve). In 1935 he helped found a group called Ahnenerbe, a self-described “study society for Intellectual Ancient History”, devoted to tracing the cultural and anthropological history of the Aryan race (he could have easily been featured in an Indiana Jones movie). He was also interested in the traditions of Buddhism and Hinduism and apparently owned a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, comparing Hitler to Krishna (and perhaps himself to Arjuna). 


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    A group of white and African-American college students and professors are harassed in Jackson, Mississippi while protesting segregated lunch counters - May 1963.


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    October 9, 1967: Che Guevara is killed.

    At the time of his capture, he had been attempting to organize a Marxist takeover of Bolivia with his joint Cuban-Bolivian group, the National Liberation Army of Bolivia, but nearby Bolivian special forces were alerted of Guevara’s location, and he was taken prisoner on October 8, 1967. Outnumbered, Guevara was wounded in the gunfight that preceded his capture; he surrendered and told his captors: “I am worth more to you alive than dead”. 

    He was taken prisoner and held in a small town called La Higuera until, on October 9, the soldiers received orders from the Bolivian President to carry out Guevara’s execution (a decision American officials later called “stupid”). His last words are disputed - he either declared “I know you’ve come to kill me. Shoot, you are only going to kill a man”, or he said, according to General Ovando of the Bolivian Armed Forces: “I am Che Guevara and I have failed”. Guevara was shot multiple times, and his body was put on display briefly so that soldiers and locals could look upon the remains of the almost mythic revolutionary (some locals reportedly cut off locks of his hair for good luck). His hands were amputated and preserved in formaldehyde, and his hand-less body was moved to a different location. In Cuba, Fidel Castro declared three days of mourning and personally delivered a eulogy in Havana, in which he declared Guevara to be “the model of a man… who does not belong to our times but to the future”. 

    Other links: a timeline/compilation of documents on Guevara’s death.


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    October 10, 1861: Fridtjof Nansen is born.

    Fridtjof Nansen (born in Oslo, Norway) was a champion athlete, scientist, Polar explorer, diplomat, humanitarian, Nobel Peace Prize recipient, and wearer of an exceptional mustache. 

    In 1888, Nansen and a carefully-selected group performed the first complete crossing of Greenland,  hundreds of kilometers in below-zero temperatures… on skis. In 1893, Nansen attempted something perhaps even more daring - an expedition to the geographical North Pole, called the Fram expedition. Nansen was no simple adventurer, however. His goal in travelling to the North Pole was in itself a scientific experiment; his purpose was to see if the natural drift of the Arctic Ocean would bring his ship straight over the pole. His proposal was derided by many, including other polar explorers, like Adolphus Greely, who called the plan “self-destruction”; however, Nansen did not yield and carried out the experiment anyway. Eventually, he bested Greely’s Farthest North record by reaching a latitude of 86°14’ N (Greely thankfully admitted later that he had been wrong). After this expedition, Nansen retired from exploration, but the manner in which he carried out this last experiment (using small crews and lifting techniques from the indigenous people) proved extremely influential; furthermore, he was an inspiration to a later generation of Polar explorers, including Ernest Shackleton and Roald Amundsen. 

    After retiring from exploration, Nansen devoted his efforts to scientific study, and later, diplomacy and humanitarianism. In 1922, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for “his work for the repatriation of the prisoners of war, his work for the Russian refugees, his work to bring succour to the millions of Russians afflicted by famine, and finally his present work for the refugees in Asia Minor and Thrace”. 

    He was also once a Badass of the Week (naturally).


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    October 12, 1492: Christopher Columbus arrives in the Americas.

    In early 1492, as the Reconquista came to an end, Christopher Columbus (a native of Genoa, in present-day Italy) was promised by Ferdinand and Isabella the titles of Admiral of the Ocean Sea and Viceroy and governor of any lands he acquired for Spain. He was also promised 10% of any revenue made during his voyage, which was originally an attempt to establish a westward route to the the Indies. Most educated Europeans understood by the 15th century that the Earth was spherical, not flat, but Columbus severely miscalculated the size of the Eurasian landmass and the distance from Europe to Asia. He and his three ships, the Santa Maria, the Niña, and the Pinta, set sail in August of 1492. On October 12, the expedition arrived on an island they called San Salvador, known to the natives as Guanahani; it is still disputed today which exact Bahamian island Columbus first arrived on when he reached the Americas, which he believed were the Indies.

    The indigenous people, mostly Arawak, Taíno, and Lucayan, were generally peaceful and engaged in some trade with the Europeans. Of the Taíno, Columbus wrote that they were “very gentle and without knowledge of what is evil; nor do they murder or steal… in all the world there can be no better people”. By the early 1500s, the population of Taíno people on Hispaniola had dropped from an estimated 600,000 to under 50,000 because of a combination of factors - famine, enslavement, disease, and massacre by the Europeans. By the end of his first encounter with the natives, Columbus had concluded that they could be both easily Christianized and easily conquered (yet he also described them as “of a very acute intelligence” to King Ferdinand in an early letter). When Columbus returned to the New World in 1493 and 1498, he set up a cruel system of tribute and enslaved a great number of natives, despite the Spanish crown’s insistence that he maintain friendly relations with them. 

    Columbus Day was officially instituted in the United States in 1937, although the first celebrations were organized by Italian-Americans in the late 1800s as a celebration of their heritage. Because of Columbus’s controversial legacy in the Americas, the holiday is also highly divisive. South Dakota, with its large population of Native Americans, celebrates the day instead as Native American Day. Some Latin American countries observe the Día de la Raza rather than Columbus Day. The holiday is logically opposed by most Native American organizations, but even the American National Council of Churches called in 1992 for its member churches to refrain from celebrating the holiday, saying “what represented newness of freedom, hope, and opportunity for some was the occasion for oppression, degradation, and genocide for others”.


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    October 13, 1307: Philip IV orders the arrest of Templar Knights across France.

    On this day, the king of France (with the blessing of Pope Clement V) ordered the arrest of hundreds of Templars, to whom the king owed a tremendous debt. While financially well-off, the Order had gone into decline as Europe lost interest in the Crusades, leaving the organization as a whole aimless and unstable. The knights who were arrested were charged with a series of claims, ranging from plain heresy to demon worship, desecration of the cross, and homosexuality. There was no proof to substantiate any of these claims, and in fact the charges were more or less the “standard” claims made by the king to discredit any “inconvenient” groups and individuals; whether there was any shred of truth to Philip’s charges or not, hundreds of Templars subsequently confessed under torture. While Pope Clement V attempted to secure actual trials for the knights, Philip intervened and had many who had confessed burned at the stake.

    At the 1311-1312 Council of Vienne, the Knights Templar was disbanded, and their property was confiscated. In 1314, the last Grand Master of the Templars, Jacques de Molay, was burned at the stake on an island on the Seine. As he died, it is said that he cursed both the king and the pope, and sure enough, Clement and Philip died within nine months of Molay’s execution. 


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    Philip James de Loutherbourg

    October 14, 1066: William the Conqueror defeats Harold Godwinson at the Battle of Hastings.

    The relatively short Norman conquest of England began in September of 1066, was (more or less) decided at Hastings, and ended in December of that same year, when William I, Duke of Normandy and descendant of Viking vassals to the king of France, was crowned king of England. The previous king of England (and last Anglo-Saxon king) Edward the Confessor was childless and heir-less upon his death; according to William, Edward had promised him the throne, but Edward’s brother-in-law Harold, son of the powerful earl Godwin of Wessex (hence “Godwinson”), took the throne instead, which he claimed had been promised to him by Edward on his deathbed. 

    The decisive Battle of Hastings was fought around 10 km from Hastings, atop Senlac Hill. Harold’s force, though claiming the higher ground, was made up mostly of infantry versus the Norman cavalry, archers, and crossbowmen. With the advantage of elevation, the English shield wall tactic proved fairly successful… at first; however, when the Normans fled and the English gave chase, the tides of battle began to turn. Seeing that the shield wall was broken, William had his archers fire again, and, according to the Bayeux Tapestry (pictured above), an arrow struck the Anglo-Saxon king through the eye. Harold was the first of three English kings to die in battle. The Battle of Hastings ended soon after - a decisive Norman victory, and essentially the beginning of Norman England. 

    With Harold dead, a new king was hastily proclaimed - Edgar the Ætheling, a Hungarian-born grandson of Edmund Ironside. Edgar was only fifteen and, having no significant military or leadership experience, was forced to submit to William’s forces as they advanced on London. 


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    This site is usually reliable… it also provides some book references at the bottom, which might be helpful as well.

    I can’t find any other good eyewitness accounts, but here’s the speech he delivered prior to his execution. Here’s a compilation of handy links/documents (the first one is a speech from 1999, but if you skip down there are more sources from 1649).


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    “…the Black Panther Party, without question, represents the greatest threat to internal security of the country.”

    - J. Edgar Hoover, 1969.

    October 15, 1966: The Black Panther Party is founded in Oakland.

    The Black Panther Party was founded by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale as the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense; the purpose of the party, as outlined in its “Ten Point Program”, was to attain “land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace” for local communities. Initially a small-scale effort, the Black Panthers spread to other major urban centers within a few years, and some of their “survival programs”, like Free Breakfast for Children, were smashing successes. It was not as a whole a black nationalist group (at least not after 1968), despite its close affiliation with Stokely Carmichael; instead, the Black Panthers advocated for a more inclusive “revolutionary internationalist movement” and some chapters allied themselves with the White Panther Party, the the Puerto Rican Young Lords, the Mexican-American Brown Berets, and the Young Patriots Organization. One of the leaders of its Berkeley chapter was Richard Aoki, a Japanese-American. Influenced by Mao Zedong’s teachings, Huey Newton called upon his organization to, above all, “serve the people”.

    Still, the Black Panthers drew criticism for the sometimes openly violent tactics of some of their members (stances on certain issues were obviously not uniform throughout the Party, but militancy was a theme common to every chapter). Huey Newton himself was arrested for the murder of an Oakland police officer, and he was also accused of (and later admitted to) killing a prostitute and assaulting his tailor. In one particularly notorious incident, a nineteen-year-old member and suspected police informant named Alex Rackley was tortured with scalding water and then murdered, supposedly on Bobby Seale’s direct orders. It was because of incidents like this, plus reports of drug dealing and extortion, that the Black Panther Party went into decline and was eventually dissolved in 1982.

    Other links: on COINTELPRO, the FBI’s project dedicated to dealing with certain domestic political organizations, including “Black Nationalist Hate Groups”. 


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    October 16, 1946: Ten Nazi leaders are hanged at Nuremberg.

    Of the twenty-four men who stood on trial at the “greatest trial in history”, twelve were sentenced to death. Of these twelve, one had been tried in absentia and had probably died in May of 1945 (Martin Bormann), while another escaped the noose by committing suicide the night before his scheduled execution (Hermann Göring). Although these twenty-four men represented who the tribunal believed could be held most accountable for aggravating and planning a war of aggression (not to mention genocide), several key figures were missing from the trial. Hitler, Himmler, and Goebbels had all committed suicide months before the trial began. Reinhard Heydrich had been assassinated 1942, and Adolf Eichmann had fled to South America. The doctors’ and judges’ trials were conducted separately. The officials who were tried were each indicted for at least two of the following charges:

    1. Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of a crime against peace
    2. Planning, initiating and waging wars of aggression and other crimes against peace
    3. War crimes
    4. Crimes against humanity

    The ten who were eventually found guilty and executed were:

    Hans Frank,General-Governor of the Nazi-administrated portion of Poland. Like many of his colleagues, Frank earned a nickname for his fruitful career. His was the “Jew Butcher of Kraków”. Frank, one of the few of the accused to show remorse for his actions, said before his death that “a thousand years will pass and still Germany’s guilt will not have been erased.

    Wilhelm Frick, Reich Minister of the Interior. Frick also co-authored the Nuremberg Laws, and his last words were “long live eternal Germany”. 

    Alfred Jodl, colonel general and a high-ranking figure of the OKW. In 1953, Jodl was acquitted of the main charges brought against him at Nuremberg.

    Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Chief of the Reich Main Security Office. He was the highest-ranking SS member present at the Nuremberg Trials, and one of his last statements was that he regretted “that crimes were committed of which [he] had no knowledge” - an almost laughable statement (based on the evidence presented, the court had found him guilty of crimes against humanity and of war crimes). 

    Wilhelm Keitel, head of the OKW and Hitler’s unofficial war minister. Keitel requested that the International Military Tribunal execute him as a military man (by firing squad), but his request was denied. In his last words, he asked for “God Almighty to have mercy on the German people”. 

    Some maintain that the American executioner John C. Woods purposely botched the executions, because the length of the rope was not sufficient to snap the necks of the accused immediately; Keitel’s hanging was particularly gruesome - it took twenty-four minutes for him to strangle himself to death.

    Joachim von Ribbentrop, Reich Minister for Foreign Affairs. His last words were “I wish peace to the world”. Ribbentrop’s execution was also carried out poorly; according to most accounts, it took somewhere between ten to twenty minutes for him to die. 

    Alfred Rosenberg, Leader of the Foreign Policy Office, Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories, party Reichsleiter, and, most importantly, primary author of many components of Nazi ideology. Rosenberg met his execution stoically, and his hanging was one of the swiftest.

    Fritz Sauckel, Gauleiter of Thuringia and director of German labor. As “General Plenipotentiary for Labour Deployment”, Sauckel was responsible for the administration of the hundreds of thousands (to millions) of people who were forced to labor for German industry. Sauckel went to the gallows defiantly, declaring “I am dying innocent. The sentence is wrong. God protect Germany and make Germany great again. Long live Germany!”

    Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Reichskommissar of the occupied Dutch territories. His IQ was reportedly the second-highest of all the defendants, at 141. Seyss-Inquart was the last to be executed, and his last words were “I hope that this execution is the last act of the tragedy of the Second World War and that the lesson taken from this world war will be that peace and understanding should exist between peoples. I believe in Germany.”

    Julius Streicher, publisher of the inflammatory newspaper Der Stürmer and Gauleiter of Franconia. Streicher was not a high-ranking official, nor did he participate in the planning of the war or the Holocaust, but his role as “Jew-Baiter Number One” was enough for the IMT to find him guilty of crimes against humanity. His execution was the most melodramatic, and he made many theatrical statements as he went to his death (“Heil Hitler!” and “The Bolsheviks will hang you one day!” among them). His IQ was also the lowest of any of the defendants, at 106. 


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    Tony Millionaire





    October 18, 1851: Moby-Dick is published.

    Herman Melville’s classic novel, one of the “Great American Novels”, opened with one of the most famous lines of all time: “Call me Ishmael”. It was first published during a period sometimes called the American Renaissance, during which The Scarlet LetterWaldenLeaves of Grass, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and other classic literary works were also published. Alternatively called The Whale, Melville’s novel may have been inspired by - first, the sinking of the Massachusetts whaling ship Essex by a sperm whale in 1820, and second, accounts of whale attacks by an enormous white sperm whale whalers called “Mocha Dick” (yes, Mocha Dick). Melville undoubtedly incorporated some of his own experiences aboard whaling ships in the early 1840s. 

    Melville, who called it a “wicked book”, considered the work his magnum opus, and he was shocked when critical response was less than enthusiastic. Nathaniel Hawthorne, the person to whom Melville dedicated his novel to, wrote that the book gave him “an idea of much greater power than his preceding ones”, but others criticized it as an awkward blend of the technicalities and romance of the whaling industry, as disjointed and confusing, as illogical and strange. The fact that a British publishing company released the book after expurgating it and removing the epilogue altogether may have added to confusion. Whatever the case, Moby-Dick remained a relatively obscure book until the post-World War I era, seventy years after its original publication and thirty years after Melville’s death. Melville’s skill and his novel’s merits were recognized partially through the efforts of Carl Van Doren, who dedicated a section of his study The American Novel to him. The Observer placed it among the top 25 of its “100 Greatest Novels of All Time” list.

    Also, today’s Google Doodle.

    Other links: full book online.


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    John Trumbull


    Auguste Couder


    Howard Pyle

    October 19, 1781: The British surrender at Yorktown.

    The Siege of Yorktown, which began on September 28, 1781, was one of the last major battles of the American War of Independence and a decisive victory for the American side. Several weeks earlier, French admiral François-Joseph Paul, comte de Grasse, defeated a British fleet at the Battle of the Chesapeake, cutting off supplies or relief to a now-trapped Lord Charles Cornwallis. Cornwallis, shortly after the battle, sent a message to his superiors: “If you cannot relieve me very soon, you must be prepared to hear the worst”. 

    The worst did come, when a combined force of French and American soldiers, totalling at around 21,000, marched from Williamsburg to Yorktown, Virginia and began shelling British lines. After over a week of heavy fire and the successful capture of two British fortifications, Redoubts #9 and 10, by Alexander Hamilton, Lord Cornwallis surrendered. On October 19, the articles of capitulation were signed by Cornwallis, Washington, Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur (Comte de Rochambeau), and the Comte de Barras in place of Admiral de Grasse; they declared the entirety of the British forces (over 7,000 troops) prisoners of war. Cornwallis declined to meet Washington on the day of surrender, claiming to be ill, and sent another officer to present his sword to the victorious commanders. Washington, in turn, refused the sword and had his second-in-command accept it in his stead. 

    Although the war did not formally end until 1783, the British Prime Minister, Lord North, is said to have exclaimed “Oh God, it’s all over!” upon hearing of the defeat at Yorktown. 


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    Japanese pamphlet



    October 20, 1944: The Battle of Leyte begins.

    In March 1942, after Japanese forces successfully invaded and occupied the Philippines, General Douglas MacArthur delivered a speech in which he promised to return to the Philippines and free it from Japanese occupation, declaring “I shall return”. He began his fulfillment of that promise in October of 1944, when he waded ashore on the island of Leyte and announced “People of the Philippines: I have returned.

    The Leyte campaign marked the beginning of the combined American-Filipino effort to expel Japanese forces from the Philippines. The American landing on Leyte was followed soon after by the Battle of Leyte Gulf, which, measured by the tonnage of ships in the combined orders of battle, was the largest naval battle in history. At this point in the Pacific War, the Japanese Empire was outmatched in terms of troops and vessels by the Allied forces; the Battle of Leyte also saw the Japanese air force carry out its first ever kamikaze attacks. By the end of the battle in December, the Japanese side suffered over three times as many casualties as the Allied. 

    The last of the major Philippine Islands were successfully recaptured in August of 1945, and General Tomoyuki Yamashida, who commanded the Japanese defensive force during the 1944-45 campaign, was executed in 1946 for atrocities committed against civilians and prisoners of war. 

    (pictured above) an amusing Japanese pamphlet made to discourage American troops landing on Leyte.


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    William Clarkson Stanfield


    JMW Turner


    Auguste Mayer


    Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg

    October 21, 1805: The Battle of Trafalgar is fought.

    At the Battle of Trafalgar, fought off Cape Trafalgar (south of Spain), the British Royal Navy engaged and decisively defeated a larger Spanish-French force in one of the most significant engagements of the War of the Third Coalition. Before the 1800s, the British Royal Navy (while large) was consistently matched or outmatched by enemy forces, but its victory at Trafalgar cemented Great Britain’s status as the greatest naval power in the world. 

    The main commanders at Trafalgar were Pierre-Charles Villeneuve, Federico Gravina, and one-armed national hero Horatio Nelson; the latter two died from injuries sustained during battle. As the battle commenced, Nelson famously signaled “England expects that every man will do his duty”. He was shot and killed on the deck of the HMS Victory during the battle, but managed to defeat the larger force through superior tactics, and in the end the British took twenty-one enemy ships and 8,000 men prisoner. The real victory, however, was that the British were now ensured safety against French invasion. Trafalgar probably had little effect (compared to its long-term significance) on the war itself, as Napoleon’s victory at Austerlitz just months later crushed the Third Coalition, but Britain’s dominance at sea lasted until long after the Emperor’s death. 


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    October 22, 1882: Edmund Dulac is born.


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  • 10/22/12--08:33: How old are you?
  • I turned 17 a few days ago.


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    Uhh, thanks, haha.


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