On this day in … 1964

USS Maddox is reportedly attacked by North Vietnam in the Gulf of Tonkin. This becomes known as the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, and leads Congress to authorize military force (known as the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution).

Sir Roger Casement By National Library of Ireland on The Commons (Sir Roger Casement  Uploaded by russavia) [see page for license], via Wikimedia Commons

On this day in … 1916  

Sir Roger Casement was hanged at Pentonville Prison in London. He had been convicted of treason for his role in the Irish Easter Rising for independence. Casement’s execution, along with 14 other executions at Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin and the shooting of Thomas Kent in Cork, would help to turn public opinion decisively against the British in most of Ireland.

Trebuchet in Castelnaud, France by Luc Viatour /

Warwolf and the hammering of the Scots

Stirling Castle is a striking, man made addition to an already formidable natural fortress. Sheer cliffs thrust up from the rolling Scottish Lowlands. The thick castle walls extend these solid quartz-dolerite foundations towards the sky. It is imposing and seems impregnable. It probably was, at least until Warwolf came to visit. In 1304, Stirling Castle was the last Scottish holdout to the English invasion. Edward I of England had lived up to […]

Hudson Bay

On This Day … in 1610  

On This Day in 1610, Henry Hudson sails into what would become known as Hudson’s Bay, Canada.  

Snippets square

Snippets – Which country shut down TV for July for summer holidays?

Until 1983, no television was broadcast in July in Iceland. It took until 1987 for broadcasts to be made on Thursdays on state broadcaster RÚV (European Journalism Centre); Drury Lane Theatre was destroyed six times by rioting in the turbulent 18th century (British Library); and Heroine was produced in the laboratories of Bayer. One story of how it got its name was that the head of Bayer’s research department based it on the German […]

Ballot used for Austrian referendum, 1938 See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Fixing the results  

On Sunday, Greeks will go to the polls to vote in a crucial referendum. The politics are fraught, the media is frenzied and accusations and recriminations are already flying. The ballot paper has attracted plenty of attention, both inside and outside of Greece. The question is detailed and, to eyes that are unaccustomed to non-Roman alphabets, impenetrable. Some commentators have pointed out that the ‘no’ option is given first. It made me […]

The Euro monument outside the ECB in Frankfurt, Germany By This photo (C) Lars Aronsson (Own work) [CC SA 1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The (sovereign) default option

Sovereign debt default was a lot more common when it was literally sovereigns defaulting. Kings liked money. They didn’t like paying it back. So, quite often, they didn’t. In the richest economies, default has become rare. One of the reasons the Greek financial crisis is dominating headlines and moving markets around the world is the rarity of a rich country failing to pay back the IMF. But back in the nineteenth century, […]