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the work of history

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    October 2, 1944: The Warsaw Uprising ends.

    The Warsaw Uprising was a military operation that took place between August and October of 1944, an ultimately failed attempt led by the Polish Home Army to liberate the city of Warsaw from Nazi forces. Implemented as part of a national uprising, the operation’s goal was to liberate the city, but it was also to do so before the Soviet Union could assert its authority there over the Polish government-in-exile in London. Polish fighting forces numbered at around 50,000, the majority of whom were fighters for the Home Army, and most were considerably out-armed: the German force, while only consisting of between 10-15,000 men, had at their disposal tanks, airplanes, artillery - and a vulnerable civilian population. Despite these disadvantages, however, Polish forces managed to take back much of the city only a few days into the fighting. While relief and ammunition did come in the form of airlifts, it was not enough. The Germans launched counterattacks, and then massacred approximately 40,000 people (both civilians and fighters) within the span of one week early on in the uprising.

    Fierce urban warfare continued  for weeks; the under-armed and under-supplied Polish forces and Warsaw’s civilian population resisted German occupiers for a total of sixty-three days with little outside support except for Allied airlifts. Red Army forces, though nearby, did not offer significant military aid because most Polish resistance fighters supported the Polish government-in-exile and wished to limit the extent of Soviet influence in postwar Poland. Upon the resistance’s capitulation on October 2, 1944, the civilian population of Warsaw was cleared from the city. Between 150,000-200,000 were killed during the fighting, and a further 60,000 were shipped to concentration and extermination camps. The Nazis then methodically razed the city itself, though much of it had already been damaged during the 1939 invasion and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. 


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    October 5, 1789: Parisian women march on Versailles.

    The Women’s March on Versailles was one of the early significant events of the French Revolution. It took place three months after the Storming of the Bastille and a little over a month after the adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of Man by the National Constituent Assembly - so the spirit of revolution and ill feelings toward the government were high. The principal and immediate motivator for this episode was the continuing famine and scarcity of bread, which was especially acute in Paris and surrounding areas, but the march itself was not entirely a spontaneous event. An organized march on Versailles had been championed in August by the Marquis of Saint-Huruge to protest the King’s “strangulation” of the Assembly through his oppressive vetoes.

    But the Women’s March rallied around a cry for food, precipitated by reports of a lavish welcoming banquet conducted by military officers at Versailles, which itself was a symbol of the monarchy and its excess. Rallied by the beat of a drum, women gathered at the markets and then made their way through the city, armed with pitchforks and knives and accompanied by some men - including Stanislas-Marie Maillard, who later wrote an account of the event. In six hours, the crowd reached Versailles. The next morning, some members of the crowd burst through an unguarded gate, killed and beat several guardsmen, and narrowly missed the queen, who managed to escape. The crowd was pacified temporarily by the appearance of the queen with the Marquis de Lafayette on a balcony, where they met the rioters. Despite this goodwill, the people (now numbering at around 60,000) were imbued with a new sense of power over the royal family, whom they escorted to the Palais des Tuileries in Paris. 


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    bunniesandbeheadings:

    unhistorical:

    October 5, 1789: A crowd of Parisian women march on Versailles.

    The Women’s March on Versailles was one of the early significant events of the French Revolution. It took place three months after the Storming of the Bastille and a little over a month after the adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of Man by the National Constituent Assembly - so the spirit of revolution and ill feelings toward the government were high. The principal and immediate motivator for this episode was the continuing famine and scarcity of bread, which was especially acute in Paris and surrounding areas, but the march itself was not entirely a spontaneous event. An organized march on Versailles had been championed in August by the Marquis of Saint-Huruge to protest the King’s “strangulation” of the Assembly through his oppressive vetoes.

    But the Women’s March rallied around a cry for food, precipitated by reports of a lavish welcoming banquet conducted by military officers at Versailles, which itself was a symbol of the monarchy and its excess. Rallied by the beat of a drum, women gathered at the markets and then made their way through the city, armed with pitchforks and knives and accompanied by some men - including Stanislas-Marie Maillard, who later wrote an account of the event. In six hours, the crowd reached Versailles. The next morning, some members of the crowd burst through an unguarded gate, killed and beat several guardsmen, and narrowly missed the queen, who managed to escape. The crowd was pacified temporarily by the appearance of the queen with the Marquis de Lafayette on a balcony, where they met the rioters. Despite this goodwill, the people (now numbering at around 60,000) were imbued with a great sense of power over the royal family, whom they escorted to the Palais des Tuileries in Paris. 

    It should be noted that while the bread shortage was the catalyst to the march, the king’s refusal to ratify the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the proposed Constitutional Articles from the previous August (which included a cessation of feudal dues) were also powerful motivating factors and one of the reasons the march attracted bourgeois support. 

    But since people marching were poor and primarily women, their desires have been largely compartmentalized and dismissed as being nothing more than a blind cry for food. The reality is that they were more politically minded than given credit for. They drew a distinction between their desire for bread and their contended political rights, for when a royalist promised them that an absolute king would not let them starve they responded with how “they asked for bread but not at the price of liberty.”

    This is alluded to in the above post with a vague reference to the tyrannical veto but I just wanted to underscore: the so-called benevolent King Louis XVI would not even submit to the paltriest of paltry reforms. He had to be cajoled with force from the very beginning and was never the saint of Constitutionalism that some of his latter-day apologists have made him out to be.


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    "Season of the Witch" (1966), Donovan


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    October 14, 1962: The Cuban Missile Crisis begins.

    One of the defining and tensest moments of the Cold War, “the ultimate exercise in nuclear brinkmanship”, began on this day in 1962, when an American U-2 aircraft obtained images of Soviet nuclear missile installations in Cuba. By placing missiles a mere hundred miles or so off the shores of the United States, the Soviets hoped to counter any American attempts to oust the communist regime in Cuba and play out its role as a leader against Western imperialism; however, the move was also one that Khrushchev stated“would equalize what the West likes to call ‘the balance of power’”. Some - including President Kennedy - interpreted Khrushchev’s challenge as a prelude to a planned Soviet takeover of West Berlin. 

    After much deliberation and considering options ranging from nothing to full-scale invasion, the U.S. decided to “quarantine" Cuba through a naval blockade, also warning that it would "regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union". At the same time, an ExComm memorandum noted that the presence of these missiles on Cuba did not significantly upset the pre-existing balance of power. In an interview conducted 25 years later, Robert McNamara stated that U.S. demands that the missiles be removed were politically, not militarily, motivated. The crisis and diplomatic stalemate continued over the following weeks. On October 26, the Strategic Air Command was ordered to DEFCON-2: the alert state signifying a hyper-alert state of military readiness preceding possible nuclear war. DEFCON-2 had never before been ordered, and was thereafter never ordered again, reflecting the widely-held belief that the Cuban Missile Crisis was the highest point of tension between the United States and the Soviet during the Cold War, and that for two weeks, the world sat on the brink of nuclear war. 

    That situation of worldwide catastrophe was avoided through accords that involved the removal of Soviet missiles from Cuba, the removal of American missiles from Turkey and Italy, and an American guarantee to respect Cuba’s territorial sovereignty.


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    …the Saints are displayed in a cathedral in Eastern Germany close to the Czech border and were acquired in the 17th century when there was a big trade in relics. They are said to be the remains of Martyred saints that were stored in the catacombs of Rome before being removed and traded. They were reassembled and dressed in their fine regalia and displayed in ornate cabinets.

    Toby de Silva


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    October 16, 1793: Marie Antoinette is executed.

    On this day 220 years ago, the controversial and reviled Queen of France was executed by guillotine nine months after her husband, Louis XVI, met the same fate. During her husband’s tumultuous reign, she earned the ire of the people because of her extravagant and expensive taste, and her apparent obliviousness to the hardship and political upheaval around her. With the abolition of the constitutional monarchy in late September 1792, the royal family was arrested and imprisoned. The deposed king was put on trial, found guilty of high treason, and then sentenced to death by guillotine early the next year. 

    The “Widow Capet” was held in the Conciergerie, the “antechamber to the guillotine” during the months following her husband’s execution; during this period, her health severely  deteriorated  Her trial took place on October 14. Among the accusations leveled against her included the notorious claim that she had sexually abused her son. Firsthand accounts noted the queen’s composure, even the sympathy she briefly drew from the audience after a sympathetic appeal to the mothers among them; regardless, she was found guilty of treason and sentenced, like her husband, to die at the guillotine. She was carried by cart through Paris at noon, and then beheaded in front of a crowd of spectators, who reportedly erupted into cheers as the blade descended and ended the life of a woman who was a symbol of the root of all their strife. 


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    Earthrise from lunar orbit (Apollo 17), 1972.

    NASA


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    October 28, 1897: Edith Head is born.

    Over her fifty-four-year career, Edith Head earned eight Academy Awards (from a total of thirty-five nominations), the most of any woman in film history. Born Edith Claire Posener in San Bernardino, Head began her prolific career as a costume designer at Paramount Studios toward the end of the silent film era and at the start of the “golden age” of Hollywood - an age which she shaped through her designs - in 1923. In 1938, she became the first woman to head a design department at a major film studio when she became the chief designer at Paramount, a position which she held until her move to Universal Pictures in 1967. The eight films which she received Academy Awards for Best Costume Design were: The Heiress (1950), Samson and Delilah (1951), All About Eve (1951), A Place in the Sun (1952), Roman Holiday (1954), Sabrina (1955), The Facts of Life (1961), and The Sting (1974). She passed away in 1981 - four years after receiving her last Academy Award nomination.

    Today’s Google Doodle:


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  • 10/28/13--15:01: Osaka Castle, Takehiko Inoue




  • Osaka Castle, Takehiko Inoue


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    unhistorical:

    Danse Macabre, Op. 40 (1874), Camille Saint-Saëns


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    November 1, 1963: Ngô Đình Diệm is deposed in a coup.

    The Catholic anti-Communist leader of the Republic of Vietnam was elected to the presidency in a fraudulent 1955 referendum following the end of the First Indochina War. Initially supported by the United States, Diệm proceeded to enact a brutal and authoritarian (but inefficient) regime that soon became a liability to Diệm’s own American backers. Though Diệm was initially regarded as a reliable ally against the Viet Cong due to his Catholicism and uncompromising anti-Communism, his repression of suspected political dissidents as well as the nation’s Buddhist majority sparked much unrest and insurgency. When the Buddhist crisis of 1963 (and Thích Quảng Đức’s iconic act of self-immolation) brought further international attention to Diệm’s regime, the Kennedy administration consequently decided to act and re-assess their policy toward the South Vietnamese government. Two months before Diệm was deposed by his own military officials, Kennedy and his officials discussed the implications of carrying out a coup. Although the administration denied direct connections to Diệm’s deposition, State Department documents indicate clear support for the coup, and a heavy investment in its outcome. Cable 243 asserted that Diệm’s brother could not remain in a position of power and also weighed “the possibility that Diệm himself cannot be preserved”. 

    The coup was led by two top ARVN generals - Dương Văn Minh and Trần Văn Đôn. Their forces successfully lay siege to the presidential mansion, capturing and assassinating Diệm and his brother. President Kennedy, who was himself assassinated three weeks later, expressed some moral culpability for their deaths. The 1963 coup was followed by further attempts to establish American-approved governments to replace Diệm’s, further coups, and further U.S. intrusion in Vietnam.


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    November 10, 1938: Kristallnacht takes place.

    The anti-Jewish pogrom known as Kristallnacht (“crystal night”), or the “Night of Broken Glass” - after the shattered glass windows of Jewish-owned stores and other buildings - took place seventy-five years ago on November 9 and 10. After the Nazi Party’s rise to power in 1933 the new regime in Germany implemented a series of laws, including but not limited to the 1935 Nuremberg Laws, that defined racial status, placed boycotts on Jewish-owned businesses, and deprived Jews of German citizenship. In the period of economic recovery directly preceding Kristallnacht, non-Aryans (primarily Jews) were economically disempowered: Jewish businesses were transferred to non-Jewish owners, employees were fired, property was confiscated, to the benefit of many German banks and major companies. 

    What had primarily been persecution through economic/legislative means took a turn for the violent during Kristallnacht, which occurred in reaction to the shooting of German diplomat Ernst vom Rath by a young Polish Jew whose family had been deported from Hanover. Joseph Goebbels’ announcement - which clarified that any spontaneous demonstrations that might take place using the shooting as a pretext would not be hampered by party officials - was interpreted as a call to action. Local party leaders organized “spontaneous” riots that targeted Jewish property - businesses, synagogues, homes, mostly carried out by civilians and SA men, many of whom wore civilian clothing to give the violent acts the appearance of an uncontrolled public outburst instead of an organized pogrom. Kristallnacht lasted from the evening of November 9 through November 10. By the end, hundreds of synagogues had been burned or destroyed, and at least 7,000 businesses had been vandalized, destroyed, and/or looted. At least ninety-one people were killed, and tens of thousands were incarcerated. 

    I did not hear fire engines and we understood then that they didn’t come because they wanted the synagogues to burn. (NPR)

    The end of the pogrom was not even remotely the end. The day after the violence ceased, a new decree excluded Jews from engaging in most economic activities, and the Jewish community as a whole was fined one billion marks for vom Rath’s murder. The destruction and violence incurred upon Jews across the Reich marked a shift in the nature of the German government’s implementation of its anti-Semitic policy, and for this reason Kristallnacht is often considered one of the opening events of the Holocaust. 


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    Thank you! And the simple answer is that I’m kind of wary (i.e. scared. Extremely scared) of posting about things that I know nothing or barely anything about even given the vast resources available on the Internet, and unfortunately most anything that falls outside of modern American/Western European history falls into that category. This is something I’d desperately like to change, though.


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    Tomb of Bayezid I, Bursa, John Frederick Lewis (c. 1840)


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    Ammonitida and Prosobranchia from Ernst Haeckel’s Kunstformen der Natur (Art Forms of Nature), 1904.


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    the "Big Four"



    November 15, 1920: The first General Assembly of the League of Nations convenes.

    Part I of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles provided for the creation of the League of Nations, one of the earliest significant large-scale attempts at establishing a system of global collective security. Initially the centerpiece and fourteenth point of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson’s post-World War I “Fourteen Points" plan to ensure international peace and sovereignty, the League of Nations was envisioned as 

    a general association of nations… formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike.

    The horrors of the heavily industrialized warfare and unbridled bloodshed that characterized World War I provided the impetus for the formation of such an organization, and Wilson implored the American public to support his creation. However, factions in the United States Senate, on isolationist grounds, objected in particular to Article X of the covenant, which obligated member states to “undertake to respect and preserve as against external aggression the territorial integrity and existing political independence of all Members of the League”; Wilson would not accept the Republican leaders’ amendments to the treaty, nor would the Republicans ratify without the amendments. So Wilson’s own country failed to ratify the agreement, and the League of Nations General Assembly convened in Geneva, Switzerland, without its principal backer. Still, forty-two nations (not including the United States, Russia, or Germany, for different reasons) were represented at this meeting, during which rules of procedure and other technicalities were presented. 

    After failing to carry out its primary goals and ultimately failing to prevent the outbreak of a second World War, the League of Nations was dissolved in April 1946. 


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    November 19, 1863: Abraham Lincoln delivers the Gettysburg Address.

    150 years ago today, Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous 2-minute-long, 260 word speech at the dedication of a soldiers’ cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania - where, in July of the same year, Union and Confederate forces fought the bloodiest battle of the entire war. In his speech, Lincoln affirmed the value of the Union’s struggle in the context of the United States’ founding principles of liberty and equality. Since its delivery, the Gettysburg Address has been absorbed into American culture as a national symbol and as an iconic, defining moment in its history. 

    Text of the speech (of which several versions exist):

    Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

    Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

    But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.


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    Novemer 22, 1963: John F. Kennedy is assassinated.

    I turned around and said to him, “Mr. President, you can’t say Dallas doesn’t love you.” And there was a second or two, and I heard this noise.

    Nellie Connally


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    November 24, 1859: Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species is published.

    On this day in 1859, Charles Darwin brought into the mainstream the theory of evolution by natural selection with the publication of On the Origin of Species, which was the product of at least two decades of research and experimentation. In late 1831, HMS Beagle embarked on what would become a five-year survey voyage across the Atlantic and around the coasts of South America, with Charles Darwin aboard. Darwin served as the captain’s gentleman companion and the ship’s naturalist. Over the course of that five-year voyage between sea and land, Darwin collected samples and made observations, some of which would, upon his return to England, become the foundation for the basic theories promulgated in On the Origin of Species. During the period after his return from the Beagle voyage, Darwin continued to develop his theory and amass through independent research and experimentation a thorough body of evidence that would be included in his publication. 

    Darwin was not the first to suggest a theory of evolution, or the first to theorize a mechanism by which evolution might occur, or the first to propose natural selection as that basic mechanism (Alfred Russel Wallace independently conceived his own theory of evolution through natural selection). However, On the Origin of Species was widely read by the public, and Darwin, unlike many others of the time who proposed scientific theories that contradicted preexisting scientific notions, was already a respected and established figure in the scientific community of England. Still Darwin’s vague references to human evolution sparked much controversy and especially Biblical debate, although attempts to secularize science were underway and were likely aided by the debate over Darwin’s propositions. Within a few decades of his book’s publication, evolution - though not necessarily natural selection - was generally agreed upon by the scientific community to be a given. 


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