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the work of history

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    How to Look Dapper by J.C. Leyendecker

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    - Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952)

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    Well, here’s an entire online book on the subject… I’m not sure how good it is, but it looks really in-depth.

    Sites for general info: x, x, x, brief accounts by civilians/veterans, there are a lot more, but I hope that covers the basics. (As always, followers, please contribute if you have anything to add)

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    March 15, 1917: Tsar Nicholas II abdicates.

    Crowned in 1894, Nicholas II led Russia through a disastrous and embarrassing war against Japan, a period of widespread political and social unrest, a world war in which millions of Russians were killed, and finally, the last Russian Revolution before the Tsar’s abdication. Violence and riots erupted as a result of the hardship - famine, inflation, military defeat, all-around misery - caused by the first World War, and especially the Tsar and his government’s handling of the war. In Petrograd, then the Russian capital, thousands of people converged to protest and condemn the Tsar, his disastrous policies, and the old imperial government. the Tsar attempted to use military force to put down the rebellion, but it was too late; thousands of soldiers joined the rebellion in protest as well. On March 15, 1917, Tsar Nicholas II abdicated as Emperor of All the Russias, and because he was the last to officially rule (his designated successor, Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich, never reigned), his abdication also brought an end to the Romanov dynasty, which had ruled Russia for over three hundred years. 

    The Tsar signed his own decree of abdication in the afternoon, and his issued statement called for the people of Russia “to obey the Tsar in the heavy moment of national trials”, but the Russian Empire was dissolved that year with the proclamation of the Russian Republic and the creation of Soviet Russia following the October Revolution. Nicholas and his family (his wife, four daughters, and son) went into exile and were subsequently executed together in July of 1918. 

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    Today is 45th anniversary of the My Lai Massacre.

    Photo gallery (images may be graphic)

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    March 18, 1893: Wilfred Owen is born.

    Wilfred Owen was a British poet who wrote primarily during (and on) World War I. In 1915, he enlisted in the British Army and left for the Western Front in early 1917, only to come face-to-face with the horrors of war and senseless slaughter that would become subjects for his most famous poems, including Dulce et Decorum est, “Anthem for Doomed Youth” and Parable of the Old Man and the Young; these were poems that condemned the war and condemned the romanticized notions of war that misled so many of his generation to their deaths. A few months into his service, Owen was diagnosed with shell-shock after a shell exploded near him, and he was sent to a war hospital in Edinburgh, where he met another English war poet - Siegfried Sassoon. The two struck up a friendship that was ultimately very creatively beneficial for Owen; Sassoon both inspired Owen as a poet and helped publicize his works, which were unknown at the time of his early death. 

    Owen’s short but important output of war poetry was primarily written within a span of a year and a few months; in August of 1918, he returned to the Western Front. He was killed in action in France on November 4, 1918, one week before the signing of the Armistice that ended military hostilities all across Europe.

    If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood 
    Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs, 
    Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud  
    Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, 
    My friend, you would not tell with such high zest  
    To children ardent for some desperate glory, 
    The old Lie: Dulce et Decorum est 
    Pro patria mori.

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    My icon is The Coronation of Napoleon, and my sidebar image is John William Waterhouse’s version of La Belle Dame Sans Merci.

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    According to the wiki and this page, plenty - Maximilian I became Emperor of Mexico, the Titanic left Southampton, Emiliano Zapata was killed, The Great Gatsby was published, a lot of people were born (and died), etc etc

    And thank you!

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    (disclaimer: when I recommend books, I probably haven’t read them myself, since I tend to be the type that hoards and starts dozens of different books and then never gets to finishing any of them. It’s terrible…)

    Even if we were only talking Europe, that would be a crazy broad category. For books specific to Industrial Revolution-era Britain (which, I guess, is what most people picture when they think “Industrial Age”) there’s the (sort of old) Industry and Empire and the even older book The Industrial Revolution, 1760-1830. If you wanted you could also look at some sources from the time period, and it wouldn’t hurt to also read some lit from that time period - Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, and the entire sub-genre of the industrial novel

    This is a very inadequate rec list so I think I’ll just turn this question over to my followers….

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    March 20, 1602: The Dutch East India Company is founded.

    The Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oost-indische Compagnie) was founded through the sponsorship of the Dutch government, who granted it a monopoly over trade in the East Indies through a charter that was set to expire after twenty-one years. The company could, through this charter, build forts and conduct military and diplomatic activities in the area, which would help to protect and direct Dutch trade in the East Indies (the Dutch Republic was, at the time, engaged in the Eighty Years’ War against Spain). 

    During its nearly two centuries in existence, the Dutch East India Company became the first company to issue stock, and also the first (or second) multinational company; in addition, it is, according to some estimates, the most valuable company in history - adjusted for inflation, it is valued at $7.4 trillion. The VOC also came into direct competition with the British East India Company, especially after the Dutch took over many Asian settlements and holdings previously held by the Portuguese over the course of the Dutch-Portuguese War. One of its most famous leaders was Jan Pieterszoon Coen, who served as its Governor-General twice, helped to expand and strengthen its reach, and also founded the capital of the Dutch East Indies - Batavia, today called Jakarta. 

    The company reached the height of its power in the late 17th century but soon went into decline thanks to corruption and poor management, and its hegemony over trade in the East Indies disintegrated until its dissolution in 1800. The territories that had been colonized by the VOC became the Dutch East Indies, to be administrated by the Dutch government, who finally granted the colony independence in 1949 after over three centuries of Dutch rule. 

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    I honestly have never read a single book about the VOC, so I have no idea, but if anyone has any recommendations… This might help, though?

    EDIT: a helpful Dutch follower just messaged me and added this link, which is a nice list of English-language books, a Dutch book, and a page specifically about Japan.

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    March 21, 1925: The Butler Act is enacted.

    Tennessee’s infamous Butler Act forbade the state’s public school teachers from teaching students any other explanation for the origins of the human species other than that found in the Bible, in the book of Genesis. The act’s reach extended even to state universities, and it explicitly banned (in the very first line) the teaching of the “Evolutionary Theory”/the theory of man’s descent from “a lower order of animals”. Violators of the new law would be charged with a misdemeanor and, if convicted, would be fined between $100 and $500. 

    The most famous violator of this law was John Scopes, a biology teacher who agreed to allow himself to be arrested in order to challenge the law on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union, which was searching for a test case to determine the constitutionality of the law, and found it in The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopessometimes called the Scopes Monkey Trial. The trial was highly-publicized and fascinated the America of the Roaring Twenties, when jazz music and flappers existed alongside the remnants of old Victorian morals. William Jennings Bryan (a politician most active in the late 1800s and early 1900s) representing the prosecution and Clarence Darrow representing the defense - a veritable battle for opposing values, a clash between old and new, science and anti-intellectualism, fundamentalism and modernism. 

    The law stood until 1967 until its repeal after another Tennessee teacher filed a suit, citing the First Amendment and freedom of speech.

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    March 22, 1933: Dachau concentration camp opens.

    Dachau concentration camp, located in the southern German state of Bavaria, was completed and opened less than two months after Adolf Hitler was named Chancellor or Germany, making it the earliest built of the Nazi concentration camps. The construction of Dachau took place amidst the Nazis’  consolidation of power in the German government (and very soon over all aspects of German life), and its initial purpose was to suppress any potential opponents of the new regime - political prisoners, often communists and social democrats. Later, the camp’s prisoner population came to include common criminals and religious dissidents; in 1935, Jehovah’s Witnesses and homosexuals arrived as prisoners to Dachau; in 1938, after the annexations of Austria and the Sudetenland, 11,000 Jews were deported to the camp; and throughout the war, more prisoners from all across Europe came to Dachau. In 1939 its prisoners were relocated to Buchenwald, but by 1944 thousands of people had been packed together into this overcrowded, disease-ridden camp.  

    As the first camp to be established by the Nazis, Dachau served as the model for later concentration camps and a testing ground for techniques that would be used at those other sites. Theodor Eicke was made commandant of the camp in June of 1933, and it was he more than anyone who devised the system and regulations of Dachau and most later Nazi camps. His Lagerordnung served as the camps’ disciplinary code, laying out the various punishments, ranging from hard time to flogging to death, to be doled out to prisoners who violated dress codes or attempted to agitate revolt. Although distinct from the extermination camps of Poland, whose main purpose was to kill as many people as possible as efficiently as possible, Dachau claimed thousands of lives due to poor sanitation, starvation, overworking, outbreaks of typhus, and other factors. 

    Dachau, its subsidiary camps, and the approximately 60,000 people imprisoned within them were liberated in April of 1945 by American soldiers, who, after seeing the horrific conditions of the camps and the railroad cars piled high with bodies, killed a number of German guards. In May, the 7,000 prisoners (mostly Jews) who had been forced by their guards on a death march to Tegernsee were also liberated. 

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    Chinua Achebe, author of Things Fall Apart (and many other novels) and icon of modern African literature, died today at 82. 

    She looked at each in turn with a strained smile on her countenance. `Truth is beauty, isn’t it? It must be you know to make someone dying in that pain, to make him … smile. He sees it and it is … How can I say it? … It is unbearably, yes unbearably beautiful.

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    March 26, 1812: The term “gerrymander” first appears in print.

    The phenomenon dubbed “gerrymandering” by the Boston Gazette, in which district boundaries are redrawn (often to from an irregular shape) to grant a party an advantage in an election, was named for Elbridge Gerry, then governor of Massachusetts. In 1812, Gerry signed a piece of legislation that defined new state districts which favored his own party, the Democratic-Republicans, over the Federalist challengers; in the following election, the Democratic-Republicans retained their majority in the state senate, although Gerry lost his governorship. The famous cartoon that appeared in the Gazette, likely created by Elkanah Tisdale, depicted these new oddly-shaped districts as a reptilian creature called the “Gerry-Mander”, a combination of the governor’s name and “salamander”. 

    By the mid-1800s, use of the word “Gerry-Mander”, which became “gerrymander”, soon spread beyond its original use as a reference to Elbridge Gerry’s salamander districts, to describe a technique that has been in use in American politics since the country’s founding and endures to this day. 

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    Fenton's "Valley of the Shadow of Death"

    March 27, 1854: The Crimean War begins.

    The Crimean War was one of the first major conflicts to pit the Great Powers of Europe against each other following the Napoleonic Wars. It was fought between an alliance made up of the French, British, and Ottoman Empires (with support from Sardinia)  and the Russian Empire, with much of the action taking place on the namesake peninsula of Crimea, and it arose as a result of a number of different factors (though much of it centered around the slowly-decaying Ottoman Empire). In the summer of 1853, Tsar Nicholas I sent troops to Moldovia and Wallachia, principalities then under the control of the Ottomans, leading the Ottoman Empire to declare war on the Russians in October 1853, followed by the belated France and Great Britain on March 27 and 28 of the next year after Russian ships destroyed an Ottoman force at the Battle of Sinop. 

    Like the American Civil War a decade later and an ocean away, the Crimean War was one of the first “modern” wars. Railroads, armored warships, and telegraphs were used, and William Howard Russell acted as one of the world’s first modern war correspondents when he covered the action for the Times; similarly, Roger Fenton presented some of the first examples of war photography to the public - his famous photo “Valley of the Shadow of Death” is pictured above. Wedged between the Napoleonic Wars and the 20th century, the Crimean War was also a conflict that combined elements of both, most obviously in that tactics had not yet caught up with technology. In addition, Russia’s defeat in the war proved to be one of the factors that led to Tsar Alexander II’s emancipation of Russia’s large population of serfs. The war cost hundreds of thousands of lives on both sides, and it was tremendously unpopular on both sides as well. 

    Many of the cultural aspects of the war have outlived the military and political - for example, women like Mary Seacole and Florence Nightingale (both of whom treated soldiers at the famous Siege of Sevastopol) are better-known than the conflict they served during, and the “Charge of the Light Brigade” at the Battle of Balaclava was immortalized by Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poem

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    I just wanted to make a post to thank you guys for following my blog and to let you know that my college decisions are complete - yesterday, I got into Johns Hopkins!! (…after getting rejected from all of my other top schools, so that is where I’ll almost definitely be attending next year). As a CTY alumna, I feel like I’ve completed some kind of circle or fulfilled a prophecy, and in the end, despite my (many) rejections, I feel very pleased with how everything turned out, and I’m so incredibly excited to see how I’ll be able to contribute to the community at JHU.

    I also feel like, after going through that strenuous, terrible application process, that I could be a college advisor myself, so if anyone needs any advice or reassurance, feel free to come to me (off anonymous, preferably, or through fanmail).  Anyway, thank you all again - I feel obligated to thank you since I wrote my main essay about this blog, hehe… and also because I still feel a bit undeserving. 

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    March 29, 1951: Ethel and Julius Rosenberg are convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage.

    In August of 1949, the Soviet Union conducted its first successful nuclear weapons test when it detonated RDS-1, or First Lightning (Joe-1 to the United States) in Kazakhstan; when President Truman notified the American public of this new and shocking (and shockingly, suspiciously fast, in the eyes of the West) development in September of 1949, the nations were thrust into a nuclear arms race. In 1950, a German physicist named Klaus Fuchs was arrested by British authorities, who revealed him to be an atomic spy for the Soviets, having supposedly supplied for the Soviet program atomic research from the United States. Fuchs, in turn, identified Swiss-born chemist Harry Gold as his courier, and Gold’s confessions led authorities to David Greenglass, the brother of Ethel Rosenberg, Army machinist for the Manhattan Project, and Soviet spy. 

    The Rosenbergs, Ethel and Julius, joined the American Communist Party in 1942. In June of 1950, Julius was arrested after being named by Greenglass as a spy, and Ethel was arrested shortly after in August; their trial began on March 6, 1951, and throughout their testimonies neither would speak on anything that might incriminate other members of the Communist Party. Both were convicted of espionage and sentenced to death under the Espionage Act of 1917; Irving Kaufman, the judge who imposed their sentences, famously remarked:

    I believe your conduct in putting into the hands of the Russians the A-Bomb years before our best scientists predicted Russia would perfect the bomb has already caused, in my opinion, the Communist aggression in Korea, with the resultant casualties exceeding 50,000 and who knows but that millions more of innocent people may pay the price of your treason…

    Many Americans undoubtedly agreed with Kaufman’s condemnations, yet still the Rosenbergs had their supporters, among them Jean-Paul Sartre, who criticized Americans’ hysteria, accusing them of being “afraid of the shadow of [their] own bomb”; Pablo Picasso, who called the Rosenbergs’ impending execution a “crime against humanity”; and many others, including Frida Kahlo, Albert Einstein, and Bertolt Brecht. Even the Pope implored President Eisenhower to commute the couple’s death sentence, to no avail - on June 19, 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg became the first and only American civilians to be executed for espionage during the Cold War. It remains unclear how much the Rosenberg’s treason actually advanced Soviet atomic research, or whether Ethel was actually guilty of any treason (her participation and guilt were vehemently denied by their two surviving children). 

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    UNHISTORICAL: I just wanted to make a post to thank you guys for following my blog...:



    I just wanted to make a post to thank you guys for following my blog and to let you know that my college decisions are complete - yesterday, I got into Johns Hopkins!! (…after getting rejected from all of my other top schools, so that is where I’ll almost definitely be attending next year). As a…

    Former CTYer! Where did you attend?

    CTY was a huuuuuge part of my middle school/early high school years, so I’m ecstatic to have been accepted to JHU!! I attended the summer camps at Loyola Marymount.

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    March 30, 1940: Japan establishes a Chinese puppet government in Nanjing.

    In 1931, the Empire of Japan invaded Manchuria (the northeast portion of China) following the Mukden Incident and, following its successful conquest of the region, established a puppet state known as Manchukuo, or Manshū-koku, which came to be “ruled” in 1934 by Puyi, China’s last emperor, who had been permanently deposed in 1917. In 1937, a clash known as the Marco Polo Incident marked the beginning of total war between China and Japan and the beginning of the full-scale Japanese invasion of China. Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and his forces (which had temporarily made peace with the Chinese Communist Party in the midst of their civil war) managed to hold off the Japanese reasonably well, though his armies incurred massive casualties and the war cost countless civilian lives as well. In 1937, the Japanese captured the Nationalist capital at Nanjing and carried out a massacre against its inhabitants that came to be known as the “Rape of Nanking”. 

    The Kuomingtang fled to Chongqing, and in 1940 the Japanese established a collaborationist government to rival the relocated KMT government; this new “Reorganized National Government of China” was led by Wang Jingwei (pictured above), a former member of the KMT, known in postwar China as a Benedict Arnold-type collaborationist traitor. The new government used the same flag (with an extra pennant reading “peace, anti-Communism, national construction”) and emblem as the KMT government and claimed to be the rightful government of China, although it was not recognized by any of the Allied powers, nor did it exert any actual governing power over the regions it was supposedly given control over (i.e. ostensibly all of China except Manchukuo). It operated under three main principles: pan-Asianism, anti-communism, and anti-KMT. Wang Jingwei, whose government was subject to constant sabotage and resistance throughout the war, died before its end, in 1944, and the regime was dissolved in 1945 after Japan’s defeat in World War II. 

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