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the work of history

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    Tsimshian bear headdress (c. 1850) and grizzly bear war helmet (c. 1870), British Columbia.


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    January 9, 1806: Horatio Nelson’s state funeral takes place.

    Admiral Lord Nelson, regarded as one of Britain’s greatest heroes both during life and even more so after death, lost his arm and sight in one eye in combat while leading forces of the Royal Navy against the Spanish and French navies at the onset of the Napoleonic Wars. He eventually lost his life as well, during his most famous battle and victory at Trafalgar, during which he was gravely wounded. According to Sir Thomas Hardy, the mortally wounded and Nelson said to him:

    Hardy, I do believe they have done it at last… my backbone is shot through.

    Nelson was taken below deck and died approximately three hours after being shot, and when news of his death (as well as the Royal Navy’s victory at Trafalgar) reached his country, it seemed almost as though they were unsure how to react. King George III remarked that “We have lost more than we have gained”, and The Times commented that the navy’s “splendid and decisive Victory” had been “dearly purchased” with the life of one of the nation’s most celebrated heroes. Nelson’s funeral procession was grand and befitting someone so highly-regarded by his people; it consisted of thirty-two admirals and 10,000 soldiers, who accompanied Nelson’s coffin to St. Paul’s Cathedral, where he was interred in a sarcophagus originally intended to carry a cardinal. London’s Trafalgar Square was named in commemoration of the 1805 battle, and at its center stands the 169-foot tall monument commemorating Nelson himself - Nelson’s Column. 


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  • 01/09/13--19:30: Helmet, 1540, Germany.




  • Helmet, 1540, Germany.


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    By the way, guys, “misc” is my new tag for assorted non-photography, non-painting things I find on the Internet, mostly arms and armor and clothes and craft-type things. And chicken helmets.


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    January 10, 1920: The Treaty of Versailles goes into effect.

    Exactly five years after the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the Allied Powers (France, the British Empire, Japan, Italy, and the United States) signed this treaty with Germany, officially declaring peace between the nations after the 1918 armistice ended hostilities. The terms of the treaty were shaped by a monumental six month period in Paris, during which dozens of world leaders met at the Paris Peace Conference to discuss the state of affairs in a post-World War I world, dealing with issues ranging from racial equality to self-determination to the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. And the course of this conference (with regard to the Treaty of Versailles, at least) was shaped by David Lloyd George, George Clemenceau, and Woodrow Wilson, all of whom had their own aims at the conference. President Wilson’s main goal was to have the new peace treaty incorporate the principles laid out in his Fourteen Points; this undertaking ended mostly in failure, although the Allied leaders attempted to appease Wilson by creating a League of Nations (according to his fourteenth point). The British wanted to see Germany subdued, though perhaps not punished. The French, whose country had been invaded by Germany/German states in both 1870 and again in 1914, wanted Germany weakened, and they achieved this through the Treaty of Versailles.

    The treaty determined that Kaiser Wilhelm and other German leaders would be tried as war criminals; it provided that the Rhineland would be occupied for fifteen years by Allied forces; Germany’s armed forces was limited to no more than 100,000 men; its navy was limited to a certain amount of ships and no submarines at all; its military could not use poison gas, tanks, or armed aircraft; much of Germany’s territories were transferred and ceded to surrounding nations. Most famously, the treaty’s “war guilt clause” blamed the “aggression of Germany and her allies” for the “loss and damage” incurred by World War I, and in 1921, Germany was made to pay billions of marks in reparations to the Allied nations. In reality, Austria, Hungary, and Turkey should have also helped pay off reparations, but Germany was the only country of them rich enough to afford to. Germans were, as a whole, both outraged at the massive amounts of money they would have to pay, and entirely in denial of having done anything wrong in the first place. 

    In the end, the United States rejected the treaty, and none of the main parties were fully satisfied, least of Germany, which, for years before 1939, violated provisions of the treaty one after another. The factors contributing to the rise of National Socialism in Germany are numerous and complex, but the aftermath of the Treaty of Versailles is nearly always regarded as one of them. Nazi propaganda played heavily on the German public’s lingering bitterness toward the treaty. 


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    Medusa burgonet, Italy, 1543 (Filippo Negroli)


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    January 11, 1757: Alexander Hamilton is born.

    Here, sir, the people govern; here they act by their immediate representatives. 


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    Evidently, manually manipulating photographs to decapitate people was a popular pastime before the age of Photoshop.


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    The Hall of Mirrors before and during the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, 1919.


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  • 01/12/13--18:47: Photo









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    I personally haven’t watched many/any documentaries on those periods so I wouldn’t be able to tell you anything beyond what a Google search could… PBS has documentaries on communism, the Kennedys and the Clinton administration, but you would have to judge for yourself any biases present (or not). Anyone have any suggestions?


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    January 13, 1898: ”J’accuse” is published.

    Émile Zola’s letter denouncing the French government for its anti-Semitism was directed at the president of France, Félix Faure, and it was published on the front page of future Prime Minster Georges Clemenceau’s newspaper L’Aurore for all of France to read. By this time, Alfred Dreyfus, the Jewish French artillery officer who had been publicly stripped of his rank after being found guilty of treason, had spent three years on the penal colony on Devil’s Island. In that period of time, new evidence linking an entirely different figure to whatever acts Dreyfus had been charged with was exposed, kicking off a debate over anti-Semitism that split the country.

    Zola’s letter was one important part of that debate; it began with this line:

    Would you allow me, in my gratitude for the benevolent reception that you gave me one day, to draw the attention of your rightful glory and to tell you that your star, so happy until now, is threatened by the most shameful and most ineffaceable of blemishes?

    Zola went on to describe what he called a “stain on [France]’s cheek” - the faulty case made against Alfred Dreyfus that led to his unjust conviction, the anti-Semitism of the French government, and the acquittal of the actual perpetrator of treason, whose guilt had been covered up. He made his arguments so strongly that the government would have to sue him for libel, which he knew full well; by being brought to trial, Zola would in turn force the government to reveal their weak case against Dreyfus and new evidence that might work in his favor. Zola was convicted of treason in February of 1898 but fled to England in order to escape jail time, confident in his own statement that “The truth is on the march, and nothing shall stop it.” The truth marched on, and in 1906, Dreyfus was completely exonerated, and he was even awarded the Légion d’honneur. As far as Zola’s involvement was concerned, Dreyfus’ triumph was a triumph for the modern intellectual and his or her new influence on society.


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    January 14, 1943: The Casablanca Conference begins.

    Codenamed “SYMBOL”, this Allied conference was conducted in a hotel in Casablanca two months after the British-American invasion of French North Africa. Originally intended to be the first meeting of the war between the “Big Three” (Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin), the conference ended up settling with the Big Two plus the French - Churchill, Roosevelt, and Charles de Gaulle and Henri Giraud were the only leaders in attendance; the Russian leader was, reportedly, too occupied with his own nation’s ongoing efforts to drive out German forces. Notably, in attending the conference, Franklin Roosevelt became the first sitting American president to visit Africa and the first to leave the country during wartime. Among the issues discussed was a plan to invade the “soft underbelly of the Axis” - Italy, which would open up another front on continental Europe and hopefully relieve pressure off the Soviets. Another product of the conference was the Casablanca directive, plans for the bombing of strategic targets in Germany to be launched from Britain. 

    But by far the single most significant product of this conference was the Casablanca Declaration, which announced to the world that the Allies would accept nothing less from the Axis powers than unconditional surrender, a phrase Roosevelt had lifted from the American Civil War general Ulysses S. Grant. He assured that although this policy would ideally mean the end of the Axis threat forever, it was not aimed at the people of each respective nation but rather “the philosophies in those countries which are based on conquest and the subjugation of other people”.

    Churchill and Stalin both disapproved of the policy, and it ended up serving as motivation for the Axis powers, now presented with two options by the Allies (total, crushing defeat and victory) to fight even harder. The Allied policy of “unconditional surrender” may have even prolonged the war in this way, and also because it was a useful propaganda tool in Axis countries. Late in the war, the Japanese made this statement, probably representative of many Axis attitudes toward unconditional surrender, to Soviet officials:

    ...so long as England and the United States insist upon unconditional surrender, the Japanese Empire has no alternative but to fight on with all its strength for the honor and existence of the Motherland.


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    Once the world’s tallest man-made structure, the Eiffel Tower was also, for nine years, the world’s tallest advertising space.

    (And halfway through those nine years, it lost the title of “world’s tallest man-made structure” to the Chrysler Building). 


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    January 15, 1929: Martin Luther King, Jr. is born.

    Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.


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    January 16, 1547: Ivan IV Vasilyevich (“Ivan the Terrible”) is crowned Tsar of All the Russias.

    Ivan IV was the son of Vasili III, Grand Prince of Moscow, a title he acquired upon his father’s death when he was just three years old. Ivan’s mother served as regent for five years until her own death, and eight-year-old Ivan and his younger brother were left in the care (or rather custody) of the boyars, who mostly neglected the boys and fought among themselves for power (one of the families may have even had a hand in Ivan’s mother’s mysterious death). In 1547, the sixteen-year-old Grand Prince had himself crowned “Tsar of All the Russias”, marking the beginning of the Tsardom of Russia, which lasted until 1721, when it was succeeded by the Russian Empire. The tsar was no mere duke - he was an autocrat granted “by the Grace of God” power equal to the emperors of Rome and Byzantium, as was only fitting for a state whose rulers saw it as the “Third Rome”. Ivan was crowned at the Cathedral of the Dormition in Moscow with the symbolically significant “Golden Cap” - Monomakh’s Cap. 

    Although granted the sobriquet “Terrible” by English-speakers, Ivan’s Russian nickname, “grozny” means something closer to “fearsome” or “formidable”. 


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    President Eisenhower warns Americans of the dangers of the “military-industrial complex” in his farewell address - January 17, 1961. 

    Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative. Together we must learn how to compose differences, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose. Because this need is so sharp and apparent I confess that I lay down my official responsibilities in this field with a definite sense of disappointment. As one who has witnessed the horror and the lingering sadness of war – as one who knows that another war could utterly destroy this civilization which has been so slowly and painfully built over thousands of years – I wish I could say tonight that a lasting peace is in sight.


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    January 18, 1871: Wilhelm I is proclaimed German Emperor.

    Ten days before the fall of France to German forces and seven months into the Franco-Prussian War, William Frederick Louis of the House of Hohenzollern, then king of Prussia, was proclaimed emperor of the new unified German Empire, which succeeded the kingdoms of Prussia, Bavaria, and Württemberg, the duchies of Baden and Hesse, the North German Confederation, and the annexed (previously French-held) territory of Alsace-Lorraine. The new German Empire was a federation of twenty-seven states, the largest of which was Prussia, and its emperor’s full titles were:

    His Imperial and Royal Majesty William the First, by the Grace of God, German Emperor and King of Prussia; Margrave of Brandenburg, Burgrave of Nuremberg, Count of Hohenzollern; sovereign and supreme Duke ofSilesia and of the County of Glatz; Grand Duke of the Lower Rhine and of Posen; Duke of Saxony, of Westphalia, of Angria, of Pomerania, Lunenburg, Holstein and Schleswig, of Magdeburg, of Bremen, of Guelders,Cleves, Jülich and Berg, Duke of the Wends and the Kassubes, of Crossen, Lauenburg and Mecklenburg; Landgrave of Hesse and Thuringia; Margrave of Upper and Lower Lusatia; Prince of Orange; Prince of Rügen, of East Friesland, of Paderborn and Pyrmont, of Halberstadt, Münster, Minden, Osnabrück, Hildesheim, of Verden, Cammin, Fulda, Nassau and Moers; Princely Count of Henneberg; Count of Mark, of Ravensberg, of Hohenstein, Tecklenburg and Lingen, of Mansfeld, Sigmaringen and Veringen; Lord of Frankfurt.

    His title was notably “German Emperor” and not “Emperor of Germany”, though he preferred the latter.

    The German Empire was officially established in the Hall of Mirrors of the Palace of Versailles, the same location where, nearly half a century later, the Treaty of Versailles would dismantle the empire, to be replaced by the Weimar Republic. 


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    Arthur Rackham’s illustrations for Alice in Wonderland 


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    January 19, 1809: Edgar Allan Poe is born.

    Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to an actor and actress, who named their son after a character from William Shakespeare’s King Lear. In 1827, Poe (by then a private in the U.S. Army) released his first book, which was published anonymously (he was credited as “a Bostonian”) and received virtually no attention from the public. He published a third book after being court-martialed and kicked out of West Point, after which he attempted to make a living off writing - which did not quite work out for him, thanks to a lack of international copyright laws and widespread economic strife; for much of his life, Poe, unable to make ends meet, lived in some state of destitution. In 1840 he published Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, a collection of short stories that was unsuccessful both critically and commercially but includes “The Fall of the House of Usher”, “Ligeia”, and other relatively well-known works. Poe’s 1845 poem “The Raven” finally launched him to mainstream fame, although that was published under a pseudonym as well, and Poe only received $9 for its publication. In 1835, a twenty-six-year-old Poe married his thirteen-year-old cousin, Virginia Clemm, who died just twelve years later, two years after “The Raven” was published. His wife’s failing health and eventual death may have inspired his various poems about women and death, most notably “Annabel Lee” and “The Raven” itself. 

    Poe died delirious, poor, wearing clothes that were not his own, and of unknown causes. His legacy was further marred by Rufus Wilmot Griswold, a critic chosen to become Poe’s literary executor; Griswold’s first act of defamation against Poe was his writing an unpleasant obituary that claimed him a “genius” but characterized him as a man often struck by spells of “madness or melancholy”. Griswold’s influential portrayal of Poe as a passionate, enigmatic, and morally dissolute (even “evil”) man may have actually attracted readers to his work, which featured stories and characters possessing similar qualities. Whatever his life or personal character, Poe remains a key figure in the American Romantic and Gothic movements/subgenres, and he is often cited as having written some of the earliest modern detective novels. 


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