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the work of history

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    “A Mandingo with sword”, 1906. 

    NYPL


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    May 6, 1895: Rudolph Valentino is born.

    Born in Italy, Rudolph Valentino was one of the most popular actors of the last years of the silent movie era - his most notable films, including The Four Horsemen of the ApocalypseThe SheikBlood and Sand, The Eagle, and The Son of the Sheik, were released between 1921 and 1926, the year of his death. Unlike swaggering swashbucklers like Douglas Fairbanks and masculine leading men like John Gilbert, Valentino was loved and criticized for his “femininity” and his un-American, exotic looks, which caused him to be typecast in roles like that of the titular character in The Sheik. One editorial in the Chicago Tribune was scathing in its criticism of Valentino and his destructive (in the opinion of the editorial’s author) attack on American masculinity:

    A powder vending machine!  In a men’s washroom! Homo Americanus! Why didn’t someone quietly drown Rudolph Guglielmo [sic], alias Valentino, years ago?… Do women like the type of “man” who pats pink powder on his face in a public washroom and arranges his coiffure in a public elevator?

    Valentino’s popularity as a romantic lead and sex symbol was unrivaled at the time (and few from that era have left legacies as enduring), and when he died of pleuritis at the early age of thirty-one, it was reported that several of his fans had attempted suicide and that riots had broken out at his funeral. His untimely death only further cemented his status as a cultural icon.


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    Sure! It’s John William Waterhouse’s La Belle Dame sans Merci (“The Beautiful Lady Without Mercy”), a figure from John Keats’ ballad of the same title who was, like many siren-like women from myth and lit, the subject of several Victorian/pre-Raphaelite paintings - examples: Frank Dicksee, Frank Cadogan Cowper, Henry Rheam, Arthur Hughes.

    Basically the ballad tells of a narrator who comes upon a “haggard and woe-begone” knight, who in turn describes a woman - the titular Lady Without Mercy - with wild eyes and long hair, who enraptures him, frolics in fields with him, and then lulls him to sleep. As he sleeps, he has a nightmare about dead kings, princes, and knights, presumably all men who had succumbed to the Lady’s charms, and they warn him “La Belle Dame sans Merci/Hath thee in thrall”, whereupon he wakes up in the dazed and lonely state the narrator finds him in. 

    So yeah! La Belle Dame sans Merci. 

    image

    Basically a variation of the femme fatale siren-type figure. Waterhouse (and a lot of writers/artists of that era, in general) liked those…. you see with that in LamiaHylas and the Nymphs, and The Siren


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    May 7, 1915: A German U-boat sinks the RMS Lusitania.

    The sinking of the British ocean liner Lusitania was one of the most infamous events of World War I, carried out by the SM U-20 as part of Germany’s policy of unrestricted submarine warfare against Great Britain and its allies. The event, which took the lives of nearly 1,200 people (including 128 American citizens), enraged the British and Americans, provided the basis for effective war and recruitment propaganda in the future, and turned public opinion in the United States against Germany so quickly that the country’s carefully preserved neutrality threatened to collapse. It did not, at least not until 1917, when Germany declared its intention to resume its practice of unrestricted submarine warfare, which reignited Americans’ lingering anger over the Lusitania.

    At the time of its sinking, the Lusitania had officially been carrying as cargo war materials (ammunition, fuses, artillery shells), making it, in the eyes of the Germans, a legitimate military target, despite the fact that the ship was also at the time carrying 1,959 people. Of that number, 1,198 died when the ship was torpedoed off the coast of Ireland. The ship sank in 18 minutes, as opposed to the 2 hours 40 minutes it took for Lusitania’s White Star Line Rival, RMS Titanic, to sink, but like with Titanic, most of the deaths probably resulted from hypothermia, as survivors of the initial torpedoing awaited rescue floating for hours in the waters of the North Atlantic. In addition, the manner in which the Lusitania sank rendered most of its lifeboats unusable. The commander of the German U-boat, Walther Schwieger, was labeled by some a war criminal, although despite sparking outrage in the United States, the attack was not on its own enough to bring the country into the war. Three days later President Wilson made this comment in a speech:

    There is such a thing as a man being too proud to fight. There is such a thing as a nation being so right that it does not need to convince others by force that it is right.


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    May 10, 1774: The reign of Louis XVI begins.

    Louis XVI succeeded his grandfather Louis XV as King of France and of Navarre at age nineteen. By this time he had already been married to the Austrian Archduchess Maria Antonia, or Marie Antoinette, for four years; their marriage had, so far, been unfruitful the couple had failed to produce any children and would not until 1778; in addition to his and his wife’s progenitive problems, the new King was faced with numerous issues which required the immediate attention of a tenacious and resourceful head of state (he was not one), including France’s financial problems (later including the enormous debt accumulated after the American War of Independence), and various social, economic, political problems that the King was in the end unable to fully address, though not due to a severe disinterest or lack of intelligence but rather the feebleness of his character (he was often described, as both a child and adult, as shy and indecisive). Some of his actions were popular with the people, such as his approval of the Edict of Versailles in 1787, which granted certain non-Catholic religious groups the right to openly practice in France; he also reinstated the regional parlements, which decentralized power from the crown but also enabled nobles to block the attempted radical reforms of Terray and Maupeou, who were both dismissed only months after Louis XVI’s ascension to the throne. Tensions between the privileged First and Second Estates and the Third Estate (whose members made up 98% of the country’s population), widespread food shortages, and general unrest and malaise, persisted throughout his reign. 

    In 1789, the King was forced in his desperation to summon the Estates-General, the first time this assembly had been called in 175 years; this summons, the declaration of the National Assembly, the Tennis Court Oath, and the Storming of the Bastille marked the beginning of the French Revolution, which ended - at least for Louis - in his deposition and execution. 


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    psyclonejack:

    kelvin506:

    unhistorical:

    Saul Bass: Film Title Sequences— It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad WorldAnatomy of a MurderSomething WildNorth by NorthwestEdge of the CityPsychoThe Man With the Golden ArmGoodfellasCowboySpartacusBunny Lake Is Missing, Vertigo

    oh, puh-leeze
    these are just copies of 40 years old ideas
    f.e. Vertigo = Tatort
    and that was mainstream long before I was born
    and I was born long before you were born
    :)

    Vertigo was released in 1958…


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    Jason Charming the Dragon (1665 - 1670) - Salvator Rosa 


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    Sicilienne, Op. 78 (1893) - Gabriel Fauré


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    I actually made a recommendation list once, but I think at this point it’s probably outdated. If anyone has any more blogs to add, please do by replying to this ask. 

    (And thanks!)


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    May 13, 1943: The North African Campaign ends.

    The North African Campaign of World War II began on June 10, 1940, when Italy officially declared war on Great Britain and France, after which forces of the British Army stationed in Egypt (which had been occupied by the British since 1882 and would remain occupied until the 1950s) captured an Italian fort in Libya (an Italian colony), initiating the conflict. Of the nations fighting on both the Allied and Axis sides, many had colonial interests in North Africa and in the territories surrounding, some dating back to the period of imperialist frenzy known as the Scramble for Africa, and the strategic Suez Canal zone, not to mention vast oil resources, was located in this area. Fighting in North Africa primarily took place in the Libyan Desert, in French North Africa, and in TunisiaThree of the war’s most iconic military leaders commanded forces in North Africa - Bernard Montgomery, Erwin Rommel, and George S. Patton.

    Although initially outnumbering the British by a wide margin, Italian military leaders were extremely aware of the fact that they were engaging a modern European enemy using tanks and guns that had been used to subjugate local populations (in addition, Allied codebreaking played a major role in destroying Axis supply lines)After their utter defeat by Allied forces in Operation Compass, which also ended in the destruction of the eastern half of Italy’s African armies, Rommel and the Afrika Korps entered the conflict in February of 1941. Allied and Axis forces pushed each other back and forth across North Africa until a decisive Allied victory at the Second Battle of El-Alamein stopped the Axis advance into Egypt, marking a major turning point in the war in North Africa. The North Africa Campaign came to an end when the remainder of Axis forces, surrounded by the British Army and trapped on the coast in Tunisia, surrendered on May 13, 1943. 

    Their defeat in North Africa led to the Invasion of Sicily - the penetration of Europe by the Allies through its “soft underbelly”. 


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    Online museum collections are the best. My favorites, though, are the National Museum of the American Indian, which has a really neat search function, and the Met, although the other Smithsonian collections are also good. Other than that, LIFE, the Atlantic’s photo compilations, archives (the NYPL), etc. And sometimes I just browse wikipaintings.


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    May 15, 1536: Anne Boleyn is found guilty of treason.

    Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife after Catharine of Aragon and the wife for whom the king broke away from the Catholic Church, was arrested in May of 1536 and charged with adultery, incest, and treason. Her arrest took place only three years after her marriage to Henry, which had so far produced no male heirs and only one healthy child; the king had meanwhile taken Jane Seymour, who was to become his third wife just weeks after Anne Boleyn’s execution, as a mistress. Anne was, according to contemporary accounts, intelligent, witty, and anything but submissive. all traits that Henry found desirable, even exciting, in a mistress, but not in a wife; her confrontational nature combined with her failure to bear male heirs healthy enough to survive past infancy caused their marriage to crumble.

    Anne Boleyn’s arrest was based on accusations of her illicit sexual relationships with a court musician, several aristocrats, and Anne’s own brother George; she was charged with both adultery (a form of treason when committed by a queen) and plotting the death of the king (another form of treason). Of her accused lovers, five were found guilty of treason, including George Boleyn, and executed by decapitation on May 17, 1536. Anne was held in the Tower of London and remained there until her own execution on May 19, 1536; her final words were reportedly a prayer:

    To Jesus Christ I commend my soul; Lord Jesus receive my soul.

    Anne Boleyn was survived by one child, who was the only one of her siblings to survive birth and infancy, who was declared illegitimate and deprived of her birthright not long after her mother’s execution in order to clear the way for her father’s male heirs, and who eventually became one of England’s most famous, most influential monarchs.


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    laineporwit:

    unhistorical:

    May 15, 1536: Anne Boleyn is found guilty of treason.

    Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife after Catharine of Aragon and the wife for whom the king broke away from the Catholic Church, was arrested in May of 1536 and charged with adultery, incest, and treason. Her arrest took place only three years after her marriage to Henry, which had so far produced no male heirs and only one healthy child; the king had meanwhile taken Jane Seymour, who was to become his third wife just weeks after Anne Boleyn’s execution, as a mistress. Anne was, according to contemporary accounts, intelligent, witty, and anything but submissive. all traits that Henry found desirable, even exciting, in a mistress, but not in a wife; her confrontational nature combined with her failure to bear male heirs healthy enough to survive past infancy caused their marriage to crumble.

    Anne Boleyn’s arrest was based on accusations of her illicit sexual relationships with a court musician, several aristocrats, and Anne’s own brother George; she was charged with both adultery (a form of treason when committed by a queen) and plotting the death of the king (another form of treason). Of her accused lovers, five were found guilty of treason, including George Boleyn, and executed by decapitation on May 17, 1536. Anne was held in the Tower of London and remained there until her own execution on May 19, 1536; her final words were reportedly a prayer:

    To Jesus Christ I commend my soul; Lord Jesus receive my soul.

    Anne Boleyn was survived by one child, who was the only one of her siblings to survive birth and infancy, who was declared illegitimate and deprived of her birthright not long after her mother’s execution in order to clear the way for her father’s male heirs, and who eventually became one of England’s most famous, most influential monarchs.

    Whoa do you know how much this reminds me of Cersei from A Song of Ice and Fire?

    I’ve always associated her with Margaery - the list of false lovers (including both court singers and noblemen), a conspiracy engineered by political rivals, confessions obtained from the accused under torture, really vaguely implied suspected incest, and charges of adultery/treason, not to mention her personality… 


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    Besides the fact that it’s super interesting and that even someone whose favorite subject isn’t history will find something interesting about it, history can teach practical skills like critical thinking and analysis/writing/clear communication (which college programs like to stress), and even beyond that -

    History is important because it is literally how we came to be; people talk about it as if it’s something so alien, so disconnected, and so totally irrelevant from society today when it is exactly the opposite - can you analyze or understand society without also understanding how it came to be? Is it even possible to make any kind of meaningful statement about society without knowing any historical context?

    This next point is kind of (extremely) cliche, but history encompasses all of humankind’s greatest and ugliest accomplishments. We can embrace the beautiful (the art, literature, culture, even the stories by themselves) and learn from the ugly. That was so cliche in fact I think I lifted that from some speech one of my middle school/high school teachers gave at the beginning of the year, but yeah, it’s still true. History can be a tool and it can be entertainment.

    Also it’s so interesting even if your friend doesn’t think it’s important or particularly applicable to her own life!!! Even historiography and the way history is taught and what effect that has on people (and groups of people) is interesting! (Just think about the fact that interpretations and biased accounts of history can be and are used to oppress people, or the fact that so much propaganda depends on a general lack of historical knowledge to work). The only thing I imagine could turn people off about learning history is the massive amounts of reading, and maybe the perceivedimpracticality of the subject. 

    What do you guys think?


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    Besides the fact that it’s super interesting and that even someone whose favorite subject isn’t history will find something interesting about it, history can teach practical skills like critical thinking and analysis/writing/clear communication (which college programs like to stress), and even beyond that -

    History is important because it is literally how we came to be; people talk about it as if it’s something so alien, so disconnected, and so totally irrelevant from society today when it is exactly the opposite - can you analyze or understand society without also understanding how it came to be? Is it even possible to make any kind of meaningful statement about society without knowing any historical context?

    This next point is kind of (extremely) cliche, but history encompasses all of humankind’s greatest and ugliest accomplishments, not to mention more or less every other subject. We can embrace the beautiful (the art, literature, culture, even the stories by themselves) and learn from the ugly. That was so cliche in fact I think I lifted that from some speech one of my middle school/high school teachers gave at the beginning of the year, but yeah, it’s still true. History can be a tool and it can be entertainment.

    Also it’s so interesting even if your friend doesn’t think it’s important or particularly applicable to her own life!!! Even historiography and the way history is taught and what effect that has on people (and groups of people) is interesting! (Just think about the fact that interpretations and biased accounts of history can be and are used to oppress people, or the fact that so much propaganda depends on a general lack of historical knowledge to work, or the fact that this objective information can be interpreted and twisted a million different ways to a million different ends). The only thing I imagine could turn people off about learning history is the massive amounts of reading, and maybe the perceived impracticality of the subject. 

    What do you guys think?


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    May 17, 1954: The Supreme Court unanimously rules public school segregation unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education.

    Fifty-nine years ago today, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in a landmark case that the segregation of public schools was prohibited under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; newly-appointed Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote in the opinion:

    Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law; for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the negro group…. We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.

    The doctrine of “separate but equal” as justification for racial segregation emerged in the United States in the 1890s and was upheld in 1896 in Plessy v. Ferguson, in which the Supreme Court ruled that states could enact racial segregation laws; in the South, this legitimized the dismantlement of Reconstruction Era reform and the South’s enactment of Jim Crow laws. Many states in the North/members of the Union during the Civil War also maintained racially segregated schools it was the policy of the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas that Oliver L. Brown and twelve other plaintiffs sought to challenge, after all. At the time, the Board’s policy permitted Topeka’s school districts to segregate their elementary and middle schools. Under the direction of the NAACP, each of the plaintiffs enrolled their children in local all-white schools and, when their children were refused enrollment, filed a class action suit in the District Court of Kansas, which subsequently ruled in favor of the Board. This decision took place in 1951.

    The case that was heard by the Supreme Court in 1953 was a combination of five similar cases (all backed by the NAACP), including Brown v. Board, which lent the Supreme Court case its name. After much deliberation, including a request to rehear the case after the court failed to reach a decision the first time, the Warren Court banned (in a unanimous decision) the segregation of public schools. The justices were divided on how Brown could be enforced and on the issue of judicial activism versus restraint, though Warren pushed for unanimity to further legitimize the decision and prevent Southern resistance (it did  not). Although Brown was a key decision and the first step toward the end of de jure segregation, the path to desegregation was long and rocky; Topeka desegregated its elementary schools within two years, but resistance in the South against the court’s decision and against desegregation was inexorable, resulting in incidents such as the Little Rock Crisis and other manifestations of what Virginian politicians dubbed “massive resistance”. 


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    “Suddenly a rumour spread among the people that there was not enough beer and pretzels for everybody”

    “1,389 people were trampled to death”


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    Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.


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    Moscone and Milk







    May 21, 1979: The White Night riots begin.

    On November 27, 1978, Harvey Milk - San Francisco’s first and one of the country’s first openly gay elected officials - was shot and killed by San Francisco supervisor Dan White (also killed in the attack was Mayor George Moscone). White and Milk had served together (and often clashed on issues while serving together) on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors under Dianne Feinstein for around ten months before White, citing his disgust at the corruption of city politics and his need for a higher salary, resigned his position as supervisor. After Moscone declined his request for re-appointment to his position at Milk’s (and others’) urging, White assassinated both men at San Francisco City Hall. 

    White’s trial officially began on May 1, 1979. The jury announced its verdict three weeks later after 36 hours of deliberation  White was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to seven years in prison; his defense team had successfully argued that, because of White’s spiral into depression (as evidenced by his change in diet from healthy foods to junk food), he would have been unable to premeditate murder, therefore making it impossible for him to be charged with first degree murder. Instead, White’s assassination of Milk and Mayor Moscone was defined as third degree murder, a “heat of passion” crime, and the least severe conviction White could have managed to leave the courtroom with, despite the fact that White had admitted to planning the assassinations of Carol Ruth Silver and Willie Brown. 

    The “White Night riots” began in the Castro District (where Harvey Milk began his work as a gay rights activist) as a gathering of several hundred people, mostly members of the Castro’s LGBT community. Enraged over White’s light sentence, thousands of protesters erupted into violence, and riots broke out near City Hall. By the end of the incident, during which policemen indiscriminately attacked rioters and vice versa, sixty-one policemen and around 100 protesters were hospitalized. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, tensions between San Francisco’s conservative elements and its growing minority populations increased as the latter groups gained political and economic influence - this hostile divide was apparent within the Board of Supervisors, in the conflict between White (who was relatively conservative) and Milk, and in the White Night riots, which pitted the city’s police department, which had raised money for White’s defense, against the city’s gay community, which had been revitalized under Milk’s leadership and by his election.

    In 1985, Dan White committed suicide. Harvey Milk was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. 


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