Category Archives: General History

The Minoan Labrys; or, Cutting Through a Historical Mystery

Close up of Minoan Labrys

So, I’m watching The Librarians on TNT, which is similar to Warehouse 13, except with more well-known actors.  It’s based off a series of TV-movies starring Noah Wyle as the Librarian, a person tasked with gathering dangerous magical artifacts so they are not misused by others. The new series does not feature Wyle, whose character has gone off to deal with the Big Bad, while leaving junior Librarians to deal with the everyday business. This week’s episode featured the Golden

This Week in History: Eruption of Vesuvius

Image from

Although there is some debate as to the specific month and day of the eruption, August 24 is the most common one given as the start of the Mt. Vesuvius eruption in 79 CE.  The disaster buried the nearby cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum and caused one of the highest number of deaths by volcano in recorded history, with estimates ranging from 10,000 to 30,000. The area was prone to earthquakes, so few people paid heed to the rumbles leading

Today in History: Storming the Bastille; or, What I Hate the French Revolution

July 14 marks French National Day, or what English speakers call Bastille Day.  It’s based on a celebration first held a year after the storming of the Bastille, but it can’t get away from the fact that the date traces back to an event of uprising and murder. My Least Favorite Historical Event To date, there is nothing I like teaching less than the French Revolution, which also occurs in my least favorite time period, the 18th century.  The first

European Witch-Hunts; or, Persecution, Chaos and Hysteria for All

Women being hung for witchcraft

The topic of the European Witch-Craze, stretching roughly between the late 15th century and the mid-17th century, is a complex topic. It’s very easy to simply disregard it as barbaric and superstitious, and, indeed, academia did exactly that until the 1960s. That doesn’t mean you can’t find material about witch trials before 1960s.  It does mean whatever you find will almost assuredly not be written by an academic, have poor knowledge of historical context, and frequently just be flat out

Diagnosing the Black Death: Will the Real Plague Please Stand Up?

Painting of Plague

Last week I was facing a variety of headlines addressing new finds concerning the Black Death. In USA News, for example, the headline is London Skeletons Reveal Secrets of the Black Death, which nicely introduces the associated story. (As a note, the article is incorrect saying the Black Death killed 75 million people. The total population of Europe before the Black Death was 75 million people.) The skeletons were found as part of work on Crossrail, a rail line running

The Galileo Affair, or a Baffling Road Toward Heliocentricism

The house arrest of Galileo Galilei in 1633 is commonly put forth as an example of how religion, and particularly the Catholic Church, is against scientific progression. The issue of science and religion in general deserves its own post (or many), but this specific example has gained its own unique spin. What Happened – The Short Version Galileo, one of the central movers of the Scientific Revolution, was repeatedly questioned by the Inquisition concerning his heliocentric theories, which it labeled

Barbie Queen of Scots

Another winner from Grumpy Eleanor of Aquitaine: I love the disclaimer on the source page: Yes, I know her costume is not historically accurate – she was a commission and was specifically requested *not* to be! To be clear, I in no way blame the maker for this.  He or she was following directions.  But how does one phrase that request?  “I’d like a Mary Queen of Scots Barbie doll, just so long as she doesn’t look like Mary Queen

A Little Ass Music from Hieronymus Bosch has provided this little gem: a college student has transcribed the musical notes painted on the butt of one of the characters in Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights, which is arguably the most bat-shit crazy painting of the Renaissance. So…is this best played on an ass trumpet? Just asking.

The Great Bone Wars and the Myth of the Myth of the Brontosaurus

Thunder Lizard

In my mind, something called the Bone Wars should fit in a chronology just after, say, the Time War.  There are many things in my head, however, that don’t line up with reality. If you know anything about dinosaurs, you know what a brontosaurus is. They show up in pretty much every dinosaur cartoon. If you envision a dinosaur, you probably first think of a brontosaurus or tyrannosaurus, or maybe velociraptor, triceratops, or stegosaurus. Brontosaurus vs. Apatosaurus If you were

The History and Future of Everything — Time – YouTube

This really puts things into perspective.  History is BIG, and I think the wider perspective is really important in understanding it. It’s also one of the reasons I am not big on modern history.  We don’t have enough perspective on it.  We can’t fully judge the context because the context is still being written. For static images reflecting the same ideas, you can find them on wait but why.

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