Dec
05
2014
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On this day

1848

President Polk triggers the gold rush by confirming Californian finds

#OnThisDay in 1848, President Polk made his inaugural address in which he confirmed the positive results of a gold survey carried out for Colonel Richard Mason, California’s military governor.

The President’s announcement came almost a year after the first flecks of gold were found in the American River at the base of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains.

An 1849 handbill from the California Gold Rush

Polk’s writings were emphatic, with the President noting that, “The accounts of abundance of gold are of such an extraordinary character as would scarcely command belief were they not corroborated by the authentic reports of officers in the public service.”

It triggered the gold rush, with tens of thousands of people (mainly men) moving out west to seek their fortune. By the 1850s, the remaining ’49ers and their families contributed to California’s swelling population and its speedy accession to the Union as the 31st state.

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Written by IDC in: In This Week |
Dec
05
2014
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Fuck off, mein Führer!

By 1935, the Nazi Party had consolidated its grip on the Third Reich. The Enabling Act and November 1933’s election made Hitler the supreme power in Germany. The Night of the Long Knives saw the party bear its murderous teeth to opposition but the regime’s brutality had been established from the outset; Dachau was founded immediately following Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor. So it was a very dangerous time for a decorated German war hero to tell Adolf Hitler to go and fuck himself.

General Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck was a hero to many in Germany as the Lion of Africa. At the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Lettow-Vorbeck was in German East Africa (modern day mainland Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi), far from the conflict’s European battlefields. Here he commanded the East African Schutztruppe, a mixed force comprising around 200 German and 2,500 African (mainly Askari) soldiers.

Adolf Hitler and Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck

Looking at a map of Africa from the turn of the century, you can see how the odds were stacked against Lettow-Vorbeck. Amidst the vast swathes of British pink, French purple and Belgian blue, Germany’s orange possessions are both relatively small and surrounded. With the British Royal Navy and the French Marine nationale dominating the surrounding seas, the possessions were also somewhat beleaguered.

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Written by IDC in: History |
Dec
04
2014
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On this day

1791

The world’s oldest Sunday newspaper, The Observer, is first published

#OnThisDay in 1791, The Observer was published by W.S. Bourne. It was the world’s first Sunday newspaper and, still in publication 223 years later, remains the oldest Sunday newspaper.

The first issue of The Observer (Sunday 4 December 1791)

Mr Bourne thought that his newspaper would make his fortune. In a telling portend of future financial difficulties, its proprietor instead faced debts of almost £1,600.

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Written by IDC in: In This Week |
Nov
27
2014
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On this day

1096 a

Pope Urban II issues his call for the first crusade 

#OnThisDay in 1096, the Holy Father delivered a speech at the Council of Clermont that would trigger the crusades. The Council had brought together 300 leading figures in the Catholic Church in France, but Pope Urban targeted his words at the chivalric ideals of the knights and nobles of France.

Pope Urban II preaching at the Council of Clermont. Sébastien Mamerot, Les passages d'outremer  Jean Colombe [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Pope called on all Christians in Europe to go to war against Muslims in order to help the besieged Eastern Orthodox churches and to reclaim the Holy Land.

According to legend, the Holy Father finished his speech with the rallying cry of ‘Deus vult!’ or ‘God wills it!’.

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Written by IDC in: In This Week |
Nov
25
2014
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On this day

1867

Alfred Nobel patents dynamite

#OnThisDay in 1867, Swedish chemist, inventor and entrepreneur Alfred Nobel patented his discovery of dynamite. Dynamite was easier and safer to handle than its more unstable predecessor nitroglycerin.

Portrait of Alfred Nobel (1833–1896) by Gösta Florman (1831–1900) [Public Domain, via Wikicommons]

It would play a crucial role in some of the late nineteenth centuries engineering and mining triumphs, literally blasting paths for progress.

Nobel considered naming his invention Nobel’s Safety Powder, but instead chose a name inspired by the Greek word dunamis, meaning force, power, capability and strength and all conveying the explosive power of the discovery.

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Written by IDC in: In This Week |
Nov
24
2014
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On this day

1859

Charles Darwin publishes On the Origin of  Species

#OnThisDay in 1859, Charles Darwin’s seminal work on evolutionary biology On the Origin of Species is published.

Title page of the 1859 Murray edition of On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin

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Written by IDC in: In This Week |
Nov
23
2014
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On this day

1936

Life magazine is launched in its new format by Henry Luce, revolutionising photojournalism

#OnThisDay in 1936, the first edition of Henry Luce’s Life magazine was published. Fulfilling the adage that a picture is worth a thousand words, Life’s focus on images brought it huge success and influence.

Cover of the 19 June 1944 issue of Life (magazine) with Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower By LIFE magazine, Time Inc., Official U. S. Army Photo in cover (Google images) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Life reached a peak circulation of a staggering 8.5 million, before this levelled off and fell as it came under increasing competition from other magazines, television and, ultimately, the internet.

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Written by IDC in: In This Week |
Nov
22
2014
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On this day

1963

JFK is assassinated in Dallas

#OnThisDay in 1963, President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas. His death resulted in the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson and decades of conspiracy theories and both amateur and professional sleuthing.

Picture of President Kennedy in the limousine in Dallas, Texas, on Main Street, minutes before the assassination

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Written by IDC in: In This Week |
Nov
22
2014
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How shall we remember them?

In 1919, London hosted a Victory Parade that marked a unique moment of national rejoicing, mourning and catharsis. The Parade, also known as the London Peace Parade, saw returning troops march through packed streets in the capital. The city’s iconic monuments were momentarily joined by a series of temporary structures erected to mark the march.

One of these, a plain but elegant wood and plaster cenotaph erected on Whitehall, would strike such a chord with the people that a permanent version would be built in its place. The stone-carved Cenotaph was unveiled the following year, and remains the focal point of national remembrance.

On 19 July 1919, London played host to 15,000 troops from across the British Empire. Their procession was  led by Field Marshal Douglas Haig and other senior military leaders. The capital was festooned with flags and bunting, the drab wartime caterpillar bursting into the vivid and victorious colour of an imperial butterfly.

The Cenotaph on Whitehall in London is designated as the United Kingdom’s primary war memorial. It commemorates the end of World War One.

The Union flag was proudly displayed alongside flags of the home nations, the dominions, the services and the banners of her allies. Whilst the Stars and Stripes and French Tricolour were popular, the defiant black, yellow and red of Belgium was a particularly poignant reminder of the start of the conflict.

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Written by IDC in: British History,History |
Nov
22
2014
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The United States of Greater Austria

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Written by IDC in: Videos |

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