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the work of history

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    September 12, 1940: The Lascaux cave paintings are discovered.

    The discoverers of the celebrated Paleolithic cave paintings were four teenagers, who had stumbled upon the site while searching for their lost dog. Located in southwestern France, the Lascaux cave system was first studied by and introduced to the public by archaeologist-priest Henri Breuil. It was opened to the public in 1948, but it closed once more in 1963 in order to help preserve the paintings.

    Nearly 2,000 illustrations, of animals (stags, bison, cattle), humans, and other, more abstract designs, can be found in the Lascaux caves; these illustrations are some of the oldest examples of any sort of high-quality, complex art, estimated to be anywhere from 13,000 to 25,000 years old. These paintings are divided into several sections, including a “Great Hall of the Bulls”, which contains some of the cave’s most famous pieces - black aurochs, one of them measuring over seventeen feet across. Other sections include a “Chamber of Felines”, and “the Shaft of the Dead Man”. The purpose of these paintings remains obscure - perhaps the caves were regarded as sacred places, where special rites were performed, or maybe our prehistoric ancestors really, really liked painting animals.

    If you haven’t watched “Cave Of Forgotten Dreams” on Netflix yet you must!  It offers a very rare look into these caves!

    Cave of Forgotten Dreams is about the similar (actually slightly older) Chauvet Cave, but it is excellent! I second the recommendation.

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    They’re very similar, and the movie is fantastic, so no big deal! Thanks for the recommendation, too. 

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    I am so terrible with the Gilded Age and everything (in U.S. history) between 1865 and the 1920s. Anyone have any suggestions?

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    September 13, 1501: Michelangelo begins work on David

    Michelangelo was commissioned in August of 1501 by the Operai of the Florence Cathedral to complete his great masterpiece. Several artists, including Agostino de Duccio and Antonio Rossellini, had worked on the large marble block (for entirely different projects, in fact) before it came into Michelanelo’s possession. It took him a little over two years to complete his sculpture, whereupon there was some debate as to where it should be placed. A small portion of the Florentine believed that David should be placed outside the cathedral - either on it or near it, but it was finally settled that the sculpture would be placed near the entrance of the town hall of Florence, the Palazzo Vecchio; it stayed there until 1873, when it was moved to the Academia Gallery, its current home.

    David was not an uncommon subject of Italian Renaissance sculptors - Donatello created two, one in the early 1400s, and another in the 1440s, and Verrochio sculpted his own in the 1470s. Neither, however, ever achieved the level of recognition Michelangelo’s version now enjoys. Michelangelo’s version, perhaps departing from the mainstream portrayal, depicts David as an apprehensive youth, probably moments before his confrontation with Goliath; Michelangelo’s David also impresses on account of its sheer size alone - Donatello’s sculpture was life-size, but Michelangelo’s measured over five meters tall (around 17 feet) and weighed six tons.

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    September 14, 1901: Theodore Roosevelt is sworn in as president upon the death of William McKinley.

    Vice-President Roosevelt was on his way to Buffalo to visit the President (who had been shot at an exposition a week before), when he received a telegram informing him that McKinley had died. When Roosevelt arrived in Buffalo around ten hours later, he was quickly sworn in by a district judge at the Ansley Wilcox House. He also spoke these words to McKinley’s cabinet:

    I wish to say that it shall be my aim to continue, absolutely unbroken, the policy of President McKinley for the peace, the prosperity, and the honor of our beloved country.

    At age forty-two, Theodore Roosevelt became the nation’s youngest ever president. 

    Interestingly enough, Roosevelt was only nominated to the vice-presidency (an office he said was “not a steppingstone to anything except oblivion”) because, as governor of New York, he had refused to become the tool of any political machine, which earned him much contempt from bosses like Thomas C. Platt. Platt and his allies, who planned to replace Roosevelt with a more machine-friendly, compliant governor, helped him capture the nomination as a way to “shelve” him by relegating him to a mostly useless position. Their plan turned out well. 

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  • 09/14/12--18:50: Seguindo ;)
  • Thank you!

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    I love coming back from school to messages like this - thank you very much. It helps.

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    Arthur Rackham’s illustrations for Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung).

    We have been told in ancient tales many marvels of famous heroes, of mighty toil, joys, and high festivities, of weeping and wailing, and the fighting of bold warriors – of such things you can now hear wonders unending!

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    September 15, 1916: The tank makes its debut at the Battle of the Somme.

    In an attempt to counter the dragging, senseless brutality of trench warfare, the British began developing armored vehicles they called “land ships” barely a year into the war. On September 15, at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette (a part of the Somme Offensive), a primitive but functioning combat vehicle called the Mark I made its debut on the battlefield. One British officer describes seeing a tank in action for the first time:

    We heard strange throbbing noises, and lumbering slowly towards us came three huge mechanical monsters such as we had never seen before.

    Only around fifty tanks were dispatched at Flers-Courcelette, and their debut was largely an experiment. While their sudden appearance did come as a surprise to the German forces, they did not give the British a very substantial advantage. They were slow (with a top speed of 3 km/hour), unreliable (many broke down to mechanical failures), and unwieldy (others were unable to maneuver the terrain). They did not, as British propaganda suggested they might, put an end to trench warfare and the war instantly (it lasted two more years). But they were new.  

    It was not until World War II that tanks became an essential part of warfare, and even then, it was not the British but the the Germans who used them to the greatest effect. 

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    on the Speedwell

    Montague Dawson

    September 16, 1620: The Mayflower departs Plymouth.

    Intwo months, the Mayflower crossed the Atlantic Ocean and anchored at a harbor in Cape Cod. She was carrying 121 passengers (including 30 crew members), around half of whom were members of (or related to members of) a Separatist congregation that had fled to the Netherlands from England to avoid persecution. Although the religious environment there was tolerant and open, some of the Separatists feared the “Dutchification” of their children and future conflict between the Netherlands and Spain, so, led by William Bradford, they decided to establish their own colony in the New World. Theirs would become the oldest English settlement in New England (although not the Americas - that was Jamestown). 

    Around forty of the passengers were planters, merchants, adventurers, and their families. This number included Myles Standish (“Captain Shrimp”), who served as the Plymouth colony’s primary military leader. In all, 74 males and 28 females arrived on the Mayflower - plus two dogs. This group referred to themselves as the “First Comers”; the term “Pilgrim” was not applied until the late 1700s. Few people died on this initial voyage, and one baby was even born en route. He was subsequently (and aptly) named Oceanus. 

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    Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States, Howard Chandler Christy

    September 17, 1787: The U.S. Constitution is adopted.

    We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

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    Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States, Howard Chandler Christy



    September 17, 1787: The U.S. Constitution is adopted.

    We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

    I’m sorry, but it is impossible for me to read this without reading it to the tune of School House Rock’s rendition.

    Honestly…. same. Sometimes I forget that you’re not actually supposed to sing it.

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    September 18, 1931: The Japanese engineer the Mukden Incident.

    Similar to Germany’s Gleiwitz Incident, which was used to justify the 1939 invasion of Poland, the Mukden Incident served as the prelude to Japan’s invasion of Manchuria, which began the very next day. 

    On September 18, officers of the Imperial Japanese Army set off an explosion near a section of railway track owned by a Japanese company - the South Manchuria Railway; although damage was minimal (trains could reportedly still pass over this portion of track), the Japanese placed the blame for the attack on Chinese nationalists. On September 19, Japanese forces invaded and occupied Manchuria, establishing the puppet state of Manchukuo (满洲国) in September of 1932. The Japanese ignored the objections of the League of Nations, which would not have been able to enforce any of its mandates in the first place. The major western powers had little incentive and little authority to intervene militarily, and the state of the world economy was too poor to impose any significant economic sanctions. Therefore, Japan went mostly unopposed in its invasion, and the Manchukuo government remained in place until 1945, with Puyi, “the Last Emperor”, as its (puppet) sovereign.

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    September 19, 1911: Sir William Golding is born.

    From his most famous and most controversial work, Lord of the Flies (1954): 

    This is our island. It’s a good island. Until the grown-ups come to fetch us we’ll have fun.

    We’ve got to have rules and obey them. After all, we’re not savages. We’re English, and the English are best at everything.

    …and the mask was a thing on its own, behind which Jack hid, liberated from shame and self-consciousness.

    The world, that understandable and lawful world, was slipping away.

    … maybe there is a beast… What I mean is… maybe it’s only us.

    Kill the pig. Cut her throat. Spill her blood.

    His mind was crowded with memories; memories of the knowledge that had come to them when they closed in on the struggling pig, knowledge that they had outwitted a living thing, imposed their will upon it, taken away its life like a long satisfying drink.

    ‘Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill! You knew, didn’t you?’ said the head. For a moment or two the forest and all the other dimly appreciated places echoed with the parody of laughter. ‘You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you? Close, close, close! I’m the reason why it’s no go? Why things are what they are?’

    You’ll get back to where you came from.

    There was something good about a fire. Something overwhelmingly good.

    Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy.

    Golding won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1983.

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    September 20, 480 BC: An allied Greek force defeats the Persians at the Battle of Salamis.

    In the most significant engagement of the second Persian invasion of the Peloponnese, Greek forces duplicated their victory at Marathon a decade before and once again decisively defeated a larger Persian force. The Battle of Salamis was preceded by the concurrent Battles of Thermopylae and Artemisium (both Persian victories), and even further back by the first Persian invasion of Greece, which also ended in a Persian defeat. Darius the Great’s defeat at Marathon did not discourage him from once again attempting invasion, but he died in the midst of preparations for a second attack; his plan for the subjugation of Greece was then passed on to his son, Xerxes I, who, like his father, was unable to conquer this loose collection of city-states even with the power of the Persian Empire behind him.

    The Battle of Salamis was fought in the narrow strait between the mainland and the island of Salamis (supposed birthplace of the hero Ajax and of the playwright Euripides). A Greek fleet of a little under 400 ships, led by the Athenian politician Themistocles (pictured), faced a Persian force of twice (or three times, according to some estimates) that number, led by Xerxes and his female commander Artemisia I of Caria. Despite the Persian defeat, Xerxes is said to have exclaimed “My men have turned into women and my women into men” while lamenting the failure of his own side or perhaps praising the bravery of his woman commander (or both). The actual events of the main battle are vague, but apparently the Greek fleet was able to split the Persian forces in two, eventually destroying a third or a fourth of the ships. Like the Battles of Thermopylae and Marathon, the Battle of Salamis has attained an almost mythic status over the centuries, probably due to the improbable victory moreso than the decisiveness of the battle.

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    I really should… I did provide more links before, but I stopped doing it. I’ll definitely try to provide more sources from now on. And thanks for reading! 

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    Every single day.

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    September 21, 1937: The Hobbit is published.

    J.R.R.Tolkien’s classic children’s novel turns 75 years old today. The book begins with the line “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit”, a sentence which, according to Tolkien, came to him spontaneously while marking papers. The first edition dust jacket was designed by the author himself, who also provided the black and white illustrations. Since 1937, The Hobbit has been translated into over forty languages and sold tens of millions of copies. The initial print of 1,500 copies ran out in three months, and response was unanimously favorable. Tolkien’s close friend and fellow fantasy author C.S. Lewis wrote in The Times Literary Supplement: ”Prediction is dangerous: but The Hobbit may well prove a classic.

    Perhaps The Hobbit’s greatest legacy was not the book itself but the sequel that was published seventeen years later - the far more complex first volume of The Lord of the RingsThe Fellowship of the Ring. Urged on by his publishers, who wished to make the most out of the smashing success that was The Hobbit, Tolkien worked on his sequel slowly and deliberately through the years of World War II and after. Both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings brought the popularity of fantasy literature to new heights and established Tolkien as the “father” of modern high fantasy. 

    The first film of Peter Jackson’s new trilogy, based off The Hobbit, is set for release in December. 

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    September 23, 1889: Nintendo is founded.

    When Fusajiro Yamauchi founded Nintendo Koppai (as it was called until 1933) in Kyoto, the company’s sole product was handmade Japanese-style playing cards, called hanafuda (flower cards). “Nintendo” (任天堂) means, very roughly, something like “leave luck to heaven”, referring to the hanafuda gambling games, which were popular with the yakuza. In 1902, Nintendo began manufacturing western-style playing cards for export. The company still sells hanafuda and kabufuda cards, including the Daitouryou (“president”) set, a replica of cards that were produced early in the company’s history. Pictured on these cards is a portrait of Napoleon; some speculate that Fusajiro Yamauchi mistook Napoleon for the president of France, or for George Washington.

    In 1963, Nintendo Playing Card Co., Ltd. became Nintendo Co., Ltd., marking the start of a new era in the company’s history. It was in the 1960s that Nintendo began manufacturing non-card games, including the Ultra Machine, the Ultra Hand, the Love Tester, and other novelties, although it was somewhat difficult for the company to expand into and establish a firm footing in the toy industry. Throughout the 1970s, Nintendo worked to develop more complex games (like the Laser Clay Shooting System) and new technologies. These breakthroughs finally culminated in the games and consoles that were released in succession during the ’80s, including 1981’s Donkey Kong, which featured a carpenter named Jumpman, who later became an Italian plumber named Mario in a 1983 game. In 1983, the company also released a landmark console called the Nintendo Entertainment System, and the rest is history. 

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    Sometimes I get people asking me to write about specific topics, and I see and acknowledge your input, but please understand that I’m still a huge newbie (and a busy newbie who is currently applying to college to boot). There are certain subjects that I just don’t know a lot about (ancient history, for example), so it’s more difficult for me to post about them. It’s not that I don’t like them, it’s only that the only history I have “formally” studied is American.

    So I appreciate your opinions, and I’m thankful that you read my blog enough to have opinions about it. If I don’t immediately take your recommendations, it’s not because I hate people, I’m just busy… or intimidated, is all.

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