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the work of history

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    Stanley Kubrick (July 26, 1928 – March 7, 1999)

    I have always enjoyed dealing with a slightly surrealistic situation and presenting it in a realistic manner. I’ve always liked fairy tales and myths, magical stories. I think they are somehow closer to the sense of reality one feels today than the equally stylized “realistic" story in which a great deal of selectivity and omission has to occur in order to preserve its “realist" style.

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    July 27, 1953: The Korean War ends.

    After three years of hostilities between North Korea (and its primary allies China and the Soviet Union) and South Korea (and its primary allies the United States and other nations of the U.N.), an armistice ended this early conflict of the Cold War. The South Korean side suffered a total of approximately 180,000 combatants killed, while the North Korea and its allies lost between 300,000 and 700,000. The total number of civilians killed during the conflict was massive as well - an estimated 1,500,000 - and many monstrous (but comparatively little-known) atrocitieswere committed by forces on both sides as well. The Korean War is often described as a “forgotten" war because of the greater attention paid to the larger conflicts that took place before and after it.

    The armistice was, accordingly, not any sort of dramatic resolution. It established the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) across the peninsula, crossing the 38th parallel, which once served as the dividing line between North and South Korea. It issued a ceasefire, which was grudgingly accepted by South Korean president Syngman Rhee, and settled the issue of the prisoner of war repatriation. But it was intended to, according to its preamble:

    [establish] an armistice which will insure a a complete cessation of hostilities and of all acts of armed forces in Korea until a peaceful settlement is achieved….

    No final, formal peace settlement was ever achieved. The shaky settlement that was achieved was likely accomplished in part due to the United States’ hints that it would not rule out using nuclear weapons to bring about an end to the stalemated conflict.

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    July 30, 1818: Emily Brontë is born.

    Few details are known about the relatively short life of the middle Brontë sister, due in part to her reclusive and shy personality; according to most who knew her (and few outside her family knew her well), Emily was typically silent, a lover of nature, but unsociable. She was born in Yorkshire, England, two years after Charlotte Brontë and two years before Anne, and she, like both her sisters, wrote under a pen name - according to Charlotte, the sisters "had a vague impression that authoresses [were] liable to be looked on with prejudice". 

    Emily was Ellis Bell to Charlotte’s and Anne’s Currer and Acton Bell. Before she died at age 30 in 1848, she published several poems and a single novel - the classic Gothic novel Wuthering Heights, which initially received mixed reviews when it was first published at the beginning of the Victorian era. The novel was criticized for being too bleak, too gloomy and and wild and dark, and with one magazine writing: 

    How a human being could have attempted such a book as the present without committing suicide before he had finished a dozen chapters, is a mystery.

    Charlotte’s novel Jane Eyre was an immediate commercial (and to an extent critical) success, regarded until the end of the century as far superior to her sister’s work, but critical appreciation for Emily’s work grew throughout the 20th century. 

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    The Twa Corbies (from Some British Ballads, 1919) - Arthur Rackham

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    July 13, 1863: The New York City draft riots begin.

    The United States employed a national conscription system for the first time during the American Civil War via the Enrollment Act of 1863, which established a quota of troops from each congressional district. Commutation was possible - if a draftee could afford to pay $300. Already relations between the diverse groups populating New York City at the time were tense because of job competition, but particularly between poor white laborers and black workers. Now there was the fact that the affluent could pay their way out of the army, and the fact that many fresh, friendless immigrants had been wrangled by political machines into becoming citizens and voting without realizing that this made them eligible to be drafted (whereas black non-citizens were not). Anger over the draft and problems surrounding it and the war as a whole erupted in a four-day riot that ended with over a hundred dead.

    Many of the rioters were Irish workers who competed with black workers for the same low wage jobs and, with the issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation in early 1863, feared further competition as freed slaves headed north, searching for work. Because of these deep-rooted concerns, anger initially directed at the government and conscription soon found a new target/scapegoat: the city’s free black population. On the first day of rioting, the Colored Orphan Asylum was looted and then burned to the ground; black homes and businesses were destroyed, along with buildings affiliated with Republicans and abolitionists. Interracial couples were also attacked, and over a hundred people were killed by furious mobs - one black man was attacked by several hundred people at once, then strung up high and set on fire. At this time, few soldiers were stationed in New York, having been sent south to repel invading Confederate forces. State militias were eventually called in to quell the violence, and it was quelled, but property damage reached several million dollars, and African-Americans subsequently fled the city or relocated out of their mixed race neighborhoods. 

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    August 4, 1792: Percy Bysshe Shelley is born.

    Though he died before he reached the age of thirty, Percy Bysshe Shelley produced during his short life a substantial collection of poetry, dramas, and prose that, after his death, cemented his status as one of the great craftsmen of Romantic literature. Born in West Sussex, Shelley published his first work in 1810 - a Gothic novel entitled Zastrozzi; through the eponymous villain, he made clear his own atheistic worldview, which he expanded upon in his 1811 treatise "The Necessity of Atheism”. His first major poetic work, Queen Mab (1813), also addressed radical themes such as atheism and revolution; in addition, his political poem The Masque of Anarchy (1819) is considered an early statement on the principles of nonviolent resistance. 

    In 1816, Shelley married the daughter of a political philosopher he admired greatly, William Godwin, and Mary Wollstonecraft: the future Mary Shelley, herself an author (most famously of Frankenstein). He and Mary befriended the poet Lord Byron, another important figure of the Romantic movement, and Leigh Hunt, another author with connections in the literary circle that also included men like John Keats, Charles Lamb, and William Hazlitt. Unlike Byron, Shelley’s works were not enormously popular until after his death in 1822, and even then he remained most popular with particular groups: Pre-Raphaelites, socialists, and laborers. His popularity and reputation among the foremost literary critics fluctuated as time passed, but his literary output and political ideals were nevertheless highly influential. 

    His most famous works, apart from those already listed, include Ozymandias, Prometheus Unbound, Ode to the West WindTo a SkylarkAlastor, AdonaisThe Cloud, and The Cenci.

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    Ilya Repin (August 5, 1844 - September 29, 1930)

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    Hey, so… in an effort to not become extremely detached on this blog, I’m going to make an audio post sometime soon answering some (like a dozen or so) of your questions; this is a social networking site, after all; they can be simple (what’s your favorite color, or whatever) or less simple (why/when did you make a blog) or completely random (what was the last movie you saw in theaters) or really stupid, anything that will make me less faceless, because after nearly two years of running this blog, I feel like I don’t know any of you, and none of you know me… so - I hope this doesn’t come off as weirdly self-absorbed - go ahead and ask (nothing too personal, though)

    obligatory question mark?

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    Hiroshima, August 6, 1945; Nagasaki, August 9, 1945. 

    In time I came to an open space where the houses had been removed to make a fire lane. Through the dim light I could make out ahead of me the hazy outlines of the Communications Bureau’s big concrete building, and beyond it the hospital. My spirits rose because I knew that now someone would find me; and if I should die, at least my body would be found. I paused to rest.

    Gradually things around me came into focus. There were the shadowy forms of people, some of whom looked like walking ghosts. Others moved as though in pain, like scarecrows, their arms held out from their bodies with forearms and hands dangling. These people puzzled me until I suddenly realized that they had been burned and were holding their arms out to prevent the painful friction of raw surfaces rubbing together. A naked woman carrying a naked baby came into view. I averted my gaze. Perhaps they had been in the bath. But then I saw a naked man, and it occurred to me that, like myself, some strange thing had deprived them of their clothes. An old woman lay near me with an expression of suffering on her face; but she made no sound. Indeed, one thing was common to everyone I saw - complete silence.

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    August 9, 1936: Jesse Owens wins his fourth gold medal at the 1936 Summer Olympics. 

    One can unfortunately experience that often the free man must even fight with blacks, with Negroes, for the victory trophy. This is an unparalleled disgracing and a degrading of the Olympic idea.

    In 1932, the NSDAP newspaper Volkischer Beobachter openly expressed contempt at the prospect of black athletes competing alongside white Aryan athletes for Olympic medals; in 1933, the party mouthpiece wrote plainly of the upcoming 1936 Summer Olympics: “the blacks must be banned”. In the end, Jewish, black, and other undesirable non-Aryan athletes were allowed to compete. While anti-Semitic signs and the like were removed, the event was molded into a showcase of Nazi ideals, meant to project an image of a peaceful but powerful Nazi Germany. The absolute victory of Germany’s superior Aryan athletes would complete this image.

    Though Germany did trump every other nation in the overall medal count, one athlete captured international attention and became the most successful individual athlete at the games by winning four gold medals: Jesse Owens, African-American track and field athlete, Alabama native. Between August 3 and August 9, Owens won the 100m sprint, the long jump (for which he set a record that stood for a quarter century), the 200m sprint, and the 4x100 sprint relay. While Owens later famously stated “Hitler didn’t snub me – it was FDR who snubbed me” in response to the American president’s  failure to acknowledge his achievements, the Führer’s response was not entirely a fountain of goodwill. Albert Speer later wrote in his memoir Inside the Third Reich that Hitler rationalized Owens’ victory by claiming that “people whose antecedents came from the jungle were primitive” (referring to people of African descent) and that “their physiques were stronger than civilized whites”. 

    Owens was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1976 by Gerald Ford, forty years after his performance at the Olympics. 

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    August 12, 30 BC: Cleopatra VII commits suicide.

    One year after the decisive Battle of Actium, in which Octavian (the future Roman emperor Augustus) soundly defeated Mark Antony at sea, Alexandria fell to the land forces of this same man. Faced with an entirely hopeless situation, Mark Antony committed suicide via his own sword. Cleopatra VII Philopator, the last of the Ptolemies to rule Egypt and effectively the last pharaoh of Egypt, followed suit soon after.

    She had aligned herself with Mark Antony following Julius Caesar’s assassination in 44 B.C., and she had subsequently given birth to three of his children, though it was her son by Caesar, Caesarion, who succeeded his mother as pharaoh of Egypt. According to most accounts, and most depictions in popular culture and art, Cleopatra committed suicide by having a poisonous snake (usually an asp) bite her. Modern historians and toxicologists have theorized that, rather than carrying out her suicide in a dramatic and potentially painful, drawn-out way, she simply consumed a deadly mixture of various drugs and poisons. Seventeen-year-old Caesarion was temporarily, and in name only, pharaoh for ten days before being killed on Octavian’s orders - supposedly strangled to death. His kingdom, his mother’s kingdom, and the kingdom of nearly three hundred years worth of Macedonian Greek kings, became the Roman province of Aegyptus

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    Alfred Hitchcock (August 13, 1899 - April 29, 1980)

    The only way to get rid of my fears is to make films about them.

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    The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

    August 18, 1920: The Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified.

    The Nineteenth Amendment, which prohibited laws denying U.S. citizens the right to vote on the basis of sex, was first drafted by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and introduced to Congress in 1878.

    A focused American women’s rights movement is traditionally said to have begun thirty years before in 1848, when the Seneca Falls Convention met in Seneca Falls, New York. In the post-Civil War era, groups such as the American Equal Rights Movement began advocating specifically for women’s suffrage, but a schism over support for the Fifteenth Amendment, which prohibited disenfranchisement on the basis of race but not sex, divided the movement. Anthony’s and Stanton’s organization, the National Woman’s Suffrage Association, condemned the Fifteenth Amendment and sought to obtain women’s suffrage through a federal constitutional amendment. 

    The initial failure of the proposed amendment (rejected by the Senate in 1887) was followed by a period during which most states in the western United States granted its female citizens full suffrage and many others adopted partial suffrage laws. The amendment was considered in Congress several more times after Woodrow Wilson’s election in 1912, first in 1914, and then in 1915, 1918, and 1919. In May 1919, both houses passed the amendment, whereupon it was sent to the states, who ratified it in succession until the necessary 36th (Tennessee) approved the amendment on August 18, 1920. 

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    August 22, 1902: Leni Riefenstahl is born.

    The infamous director once said of her most famous film, Triumph of the Will (1935): “it casts such a shadow over my life that death will be a blessed release.” The film was a chronicle of the 1934 Nuremberg Rally, and it earned her international acclaim; Riefenstahl’s technical innovation and evocative imagery secured her status early on as one of the most important female filmmakers (or filmmakers, period) of all time. Her other famous documentary, Olympia (1938), drew similar praise. Her talent as a director (and dancer, actress, and photographer) was and is rarely disputed, but her role as “Hitler’s propagandist” coupled with that very same talent transformed Riefenstahl into a controversial figure whose films raise similar questions as D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation: both directors utilized groundbreaking techniques and created highly influential works, but the nature and content of those works are distasteful, polarizing, and twisted. Though she claimed (after the war) that Triumph was a purely historical film, it is most often reviewed and criticized as a piece of propaganda - a powerful piece, and an important documentary - but propaganda nonetheless. Roger Ebert succinctly stated that the film is generally regarded as “great but evil”, a description which many might apply to the film’s creator. 

    So Riefenstahl, who lived to age 101, never fully shed her connection to National Socialism and to the frightening ways her chosen art form could mesmerize and enrapture viewers. Because most of her postwar filmmaking efforts failed due to her association with the Nazis, she took up photography and scuba diving, and excelled at both well into her 90s.

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  • 08/22/13--11:50: Waterhouse + Women

  • Waterhouse + Women

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    Ferryman - Utagawa Kuniyoshi

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    August 24, 79: Mount Vesuvius erupts.

    Much of what is known of the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius comes from the descriptive epistles of Pliny the Younger (nephew of Pliny the Elder), who wrote that the event, which buried the nearby cities of Pompeii, Herculaneum, Stabiae, and others, was preceded by a series of small earthquakes that were not then recognized as precursors of the destruction that was to come. By all accounts, nearly everyone living within reach of the volcanic destruction was caught unprepared when Mount Vesuvius finally erupted - ejecting thick clouds of stone and ash into the air, and engulfing the cities in pyroclastic material, layered several feet thick.

    Between 16,000 and 20,000 people were killed in the destruction, either from inhaling deadly gas fumes, from suffocation through ash inhalation, or from being struck by pieces of debris and rock. The subsequent rainfall turned the layers of ash and volcanic material which covered Pompeii into a kind of natural concrete, hiding and preserving the city until its rediscovery in the 16th century. Herculaneum was not rediscovered and excavated until 1738. 

    Excerpt from one of Pliny’s letters/accounts of the eruption:

    Ashes were already falling, not as yet very thickly. I looked round: a dense black cloud was coming up behind us, spreading over the earth like a flood.’Let us leave the road while we can still see,’ I said, ‘or we shall be knocked down and trampled underfoot in the dark by the crowd behind.’ We had scarcely sat down to rest when darkness fell, not the dark of a moonless or cloudy night, but as if the lamp had been put out in a closed room.

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    The history tag is one of those broad general interest tags (like illustration, art, music, education, gif, etc) that has this special function where certain posts get featured by tag editors, so that when you search #history, you only see the posts that were featured rather than every post on tumblr tagged “history”. You’ll know that your post was featured if there’s a little blue tag in front of all your other tags:


    To see all the other posts, there’s this other option to “show all posts tagged history”.

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    Below the radar:


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    laststrix said: And if I run a history blog, how do I get featured? This seems quite unfair for rather small blogs =/ Or how does it work?

    It takes time to build up your blog, I guess, and I actually think this system is a nice way for greater numbers of people to discover previously undiscovered blogs, because otherwise: most people wouldn’t bother browsing through the history tag at all, because then they’d had to sift through everything within, and also since sometimes editors just go through the general history tag (or related tags) and feature posts they like. In the FAQ on Featured Tags it says:

    Tag your posts and track the tags you’re interested in. If your posts are worth highlighting, our Tag Editors and TumblrBot will find you. To learn more about tagging posts, visit our handy help document.

    which I think is good advice. 

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