Tag Archives: History

Why is handwriting from the past so much prettier than writing now?

People didn’t have much in the way of alternatives before the typewriter was invented. There was a great emphasis on having clear, legible handwriting.

People either wrote by hand or not at all. So there was a lot of emphasis on having good handwriting in letters and documents and people just got better at through sheer amount of practice they were getting.

Now since the advent of keyboards no one cares about handwriting anymore and it has been antiquated outside of signatures. Keyboards do the same thing perfectly every time with less effort.

Where did the social expectation of only girls wearing dresses come from?

About three thousand years ago, men who were going into the field to work, or going to battle would “gird up their loins” by taking the hems of their robes, and tying them up around their legs like pants.
This continued for quite a while, then the styles started to change. Robes became dresses over time, and pants became the norm for those that went out to work and fight. Being that peasant women stayed on the homestead for a majority of their lifetimes, there was no need for pants.
Also, in the past pants were more expensive than dresses, because sewing wise, dresses are extremely simple (not modern ones), while pants are more complex. So you used pants only if needed and usually they were useful for the manly works, while all the women stuff was easily doable also with dresses, so there wasn’t need for expensive, more complex and so more prone to breaking pants.
From that, it stemmed the conception that dresses aren’t manly, so the style evolved with that.

What was the Cold War? And why is it called Cold War?

Despite the phrase, the cold war was not actually a continuous armed conflict. Rather, it was a tense political situation created by the aggressive policies of both the United States of America and the Soviet Union (USSR). It virtually ended with the dissolution of the USSR.
After the second World War, the USA and Soviet Union emerged as the two superpower nations in the world. They were powerful and influential economically and militarily but polar in ideologies, one an avid practitioner of capitalism and the other a staunch supporter of communism. Even though they fought the war on same side, their relation was filled with mutual distrust and suspicion. The two powers gradually began to extend their spheres of influence and and the world began to split into two blocs, the Eastern Bloc, led by Soviet Union and the Western Bloc, headed by the US. The USA formed military alliances such as NATO and SEATO. At the same time the Soviet Union began to practice their expansionist propaganda, leaving both the powers in a race for domination.
The term cold war was first used by renowned writer George Orwell in in his essay You and the Atomic Bomb in 1945. The first specific use of the term to denote post-war confrontation between the USSR and the United States was in a speech by Bernard Baruch on 16 April 1947. The term got wide popularity with the book The Cold War by newspaper columnist Walter Lippmann.
The Berlin Blockade (1948–49) was the first major crisis of the Cold War. It expanded with the Chinese Civil War and the Korean War (1950–53). The USSR and USA tried to assert their domination and bring the countries of Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia to their respective blocs.
Major crises, such as the Suez Crisis (1956), the Berlin Crisis (1961), and the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962) followed. The Cuban crisis was particularly noted for escalating the tension almost to a direct confrontation between the two powers. Later, the USSR crushed the Prague Spring liberalization program in Czechoslovakia in 1968, and the US suffered a defeat in the Vietnam War that had been going for two decades.
During the 1980s, the Soviet economy began to suffer a stagnation. It was only aggravated by the two reforms introduced by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Glasnost and Perestroika. Gorbachev also ended the Soviet involvement in Afghanistan. At the same time, various republics in the USSR witnessed rising waves of national sentiments. Freedom revolutions hit the countries and the communist regime was peacefully overthrown in most East European countries. The only nation that witnessed bloodshed was Romania.
The Communist Party of the Soviet Union lost control of things and it led to the formal dissolution of the USSR in December 1991. Parallely, communist regimes in other countries such as Mongolia and Cambodia also collapsed.
The cold war inspired a new movement as well, the Non Aligned Movement. It was spearheaded by India, Egypt and Indonesia and included primarily the nations of Asia and Africa liberated from colonial rules. These nations didn’t align themselves with any of the blocs and stayed neutral in the situation.
You might also like:

How did America get its name?

Even though it was Christopher Columbus who discovered the American continent, he had no role in naming the land. In fact he thought the place he had discovered was India, as that was his goal. In a bizarre turn of events, America was named after the Italian traveler Amerigo Vespucci by two cartographers, possibly due to ignorance of Columbus’ achievements.
Columbus discovered the American continent in 1492. Amerigo Vespucci, who was a friend of Columbus, was excited about this new discovery. Vespucci was a Florentine merchant who owned a business of furnishing supplies for ships in Spain. In 1499, seven years after Columbus’ first voyage, Vespucci accompanied an expedition that consisted of four ships. They crossed the Atlantic and sailed along the eastern coast of South America, and visited Trinidad. Returning after a couple of years, Vespucci wrote letters to home in which he described the newly discovered places with exaltation. He called the lands he had visited Novus Mundus, meaning New World. It was he who put forward the concept that the land his friend had discovered was not India. He published his accounts of the voyage and discoveries in 1502 and they became widely popular.
In 1507, Martin Waldseemuller, a German cartographer, chose to make a new map of the world and decided to incorporate the new lands detailed in Vespucci’s accounts into it. He and his associate, Mathias Ringmann, had been working on a reproduction of Ptolemy’s treatise on geography, based in the French town of Saint-Die. They produced a huge map, in which this new land was depicted as a separate continent with name America. It was the first time the word America was printed. Presumably, they were not aware of the discoveries of Columbus and thought it was Vespucci who discovered the new continent.
Ringmann, in the introduction to the treatise, wrote that they chose to call the land America meaning the Land of Americus as a tribute to Vespucci. The map of Waldseemuller initially had only South America. North America was added to it later. It was the famous geographer Gerard Mercator who used the name America to denote the entire north and south parts of the continent in 1538.
Lately there have also arisen the claim that America might have been named after Richard Amerike, a wealthy merchant from Bristol. It is claimed that a group of Bristol merchants had discovered the continent before Columbus and decided to name it after their major sponsor.
You might also like:

Where there ever Black slave owners?

While the modern history of slavery is built on racial discrimination and superiority complex, there are some unpopular truths that many have forgone to acknowledge. While the slave tradition was certainly fertilized by the White people, there were numerous free Blacks who involved themselves in buying and selling slaves in America.
The evidences suggest that Blacks, or African-Americans as they are called now, were involved in slave trade, not just as victims but also as perpetrators, from at least 17th century. Throughout the American civil war, there were myriad Black masters who owned slaves. Historians have been in unceasing arguments over the motivations of these masters to trade their own people. Some claim that the free Blacks bought slaves in order to protect them from the atrocities they would otherwise suffer under their White masters. The opposing argument is that they were motivated by the same things as the Whites: exploitation.
Interestingly, there is an element of truth in both arguments. There were some Black masters who bought slaves with philanthropic intentions while there were others who were exactly like their White counterparts. All of the 13 American states had free Blacks who owned slaves, though very few official records exist about them. One of the earliest records is about the couple Anthony Johnson and Mary Johnson of Virginia, who approached court in 1654 to obtain the service of their indentured Black servant John Castor. One particular name that was notorious among the slave owners is of Nat Butler, a farmer from Maryland who made slave trade a regular affair. The slave ownership reached its peak among the Blacks around 1830s. Most of them owned one or two slaves, most likely a family member to protect them from outside humiliation. There were a number of people who owned numerous slaves, like Antoine Dubuclet, William Ellison, John Carruthers Stanly, Justus Angel and Andrew Durnford who all had more than 50 slaves.
During the civil war, a group of Black slave owners in New Orleans even pled their allegiance to the Confederacy and formed their own private army to defend it. This militia had 440 men initially and was termed as Native Guards of Louisiana by the state governor. At its peak, it had some 1,000 guards. When Louisiana fell to the Union army, some of these guards changed sides and formed a new militia to fight for the Union. However, as the civil war progressed, the number of Black slave owners saw a decline and only a small fraction of the total slave owners were Blacks.
You might also like:

When and where did slavery start?

Over thousands of years of the history of humans, we have been witness to many abominable things. Slavery certainly ranks high among them. It has robed millions of their happiness and dignity, and led them to subjugation under other members of their own species.
Slavery has a very long history. It traces its birth back to prehistoric times and has been there in almost every civilization from ancient times. In many cultures, it was legal and slaves were considered properties of their masters. The social status of slaves varied according to places and time.
Slavery began with the formation of civilizations. Early humans were hunters and nomads, who had no use of slaves. With the dawn of civilizations, new jobs were created and workers were needed. Slavery began with the workers hired for cheap wage. Wars were one of the primary sources of slaves. The captives of war were considered slaves and were made to work for meager food and accommodation. Debts, selling of children by poor families, punishments and all created more slaves. In many places, children born to slave mothers were recognized as slaves as well.
It is not possible to pinpoint the exact place and time when slavery started. Written reference to slavery has been found in the Code of Hammurabi, daring back to 18th century BC. The ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt and Indus Valley were all familiar with slavery, though the fraction of slaves was very small.
The earliest known slave society emerged in Greece. It was particularly strong in the state of Athens. Most of the slaves were domestic servants. The male slaves did the outdoor works while the females were retained as concubines or maids. From there slavery spread to Roman Empire and other civilizations. The expansion of Roman Empire triggered more wars and created new slaves. In the last two centuries BC, more than half of the Roman population was slaves. It was also when slaves began revolts, most famous of those led by Spartacus.
Slavery spread to Entire Europe and was strong in the middle ages. With the beginning of colonization it reached Africa and America and parts of Asia. The Arab world also endorsed the slave culture since 8th century.
From 18th century, the world witnessed many abolition movements which resulted in the ban of slavery. Many European countries banned the slave system. In 1863, American president Abraham Lincoln issued his historical Emancipation Proclamation.
You might also like:

What is Root Beer? What is its history?

Soft drinks have a significant part in American life. Root Beer is particularly notable among them, loved by people of all generations. The root beer is a carbonated sweet beverage very similar to birch beer. It is more popular in the North American continent. The drink is traditionally made from the root or bark of the sassafras tree (Sassafras albidium) or the vine smilax ornata (sarsaparilla). As with any other food, it also has various forms, in accordance with local recipes. In addition to sassafras roots, some of the most common ingredients of root beer are vanilla, wintergreen, ginger, coriander, molasses, cane sugar, licorice root and black cherry.
The modern root beer is characterized by sweetness and foamy nature, and is normally devoid of alcoholic content. The amount of caffeine varies, sometimes entirely lacking.
The precursors of root beer are believed to have appeared in the 16th or 17th century. But even before that the Native Americans had been using beverages made from sassafras roots for culinary and medicinal purposes. With the arrival of Europeans, their small beer tradition in which fermented beverages were used for medicinal purposes had an influence in American culture as well. These drinks were made from various herbs and roots of trees and had low alcoholic content. They included birch beer, sarsaparilla beer and ginger beer.
The credit of marketing root beer commercially for the first time goes to pharmacist Charles Elmer Hires from Philadelphia. There are different versions of the tale about how he invented the recipe for his drink in the 1870s. His version of root beer was first introduced to public at the Philadelphia centennial Exposition in 1876. He named his drink ‘Hires Root Tea’ and called it the ‘great health drink’. He later changed the name to root beer to market in the coal mines of Pennsylvania. Hires began to bottle the drink in 1886 and made a good business. By 1890s, root beer was very popular in America. In 1898, Barqs, one of the competitors of Hires, came up with a version of the beverage made from sarsaparilla which became very popular as well.
Now numerous versions of root beer are sold in America. While sassafras root is used in traditional root beers, commercial products use artificial flavors mainly because the oil of sassafras is carcinogenic. A&W Root Beer, founded by Roy Allen in 1919, is the bestselling brand of the beverage today.

You might also like:

What is the Non-Aligned Movement? In what context was it formed?

The Non-Aligned Movement is a group of countries which are not officially aligned with any of the two power blocs. It was found in 1961, when cold war was raging between the USA and USSR (Soviet Union). Since the collapse of Soviet Union and the end of Cold War, the movement has become rather irrelevant, but continues to be a key organization among the developing countries.
Its history begins in 1950s. Following the Second World War, the world began to polarize in to two military blocs led by USA and USSR. Meanwhile the colonialist nations had begun to lose the grip on their colonies and many countries in Asia and Africa became free in those years. USA and Soviet Union began their attempts to attract these new nations into their sides, creating a bi-polar world and leading to the Cold War.
At the same time, India decided not to join either of these alliances and to keep same distance from them. Jawaharlal Nehru, the erstwhile Prime Minister of India, put forward the idea of forming an organization for these new nations, especially those from Asia and Africa. Named Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), it was aimed to represent the socio-political state of the Third World, and protect the common interests of the countries. The objectives of this movement were largely based on the Panchsheel principles signed by India and China in 1954. Nehru’s idea got support from the heads of various countries including, Josip Broz Tito (Yugoslavia), Dr Ahmed Sukarno (Indonesia), Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana) and Gamal Abdul Nasser (Egypt).
The foundation for the movement was laid in the conference which took place in Bandung, Indonesia in April 1955. The principles of the organization were defined in the charter titled Bandung Declaration. Later at the 1956 conference at Brioni in Yugoslavia, they were re-emphasized. The formal foundation of the movement was in conference of heads of states that was held in 1961 at Belgrade. 25 nations, which decided to remain neutral in the Cold War, participated in the conference, announcing the beginning of Non-Aligned Movement.
The basic principles of Non-Aligned Movement are favor of peace, development and eradication of poverty as well as the protection of cultural and political interests of the member countries. The growth of co-operation among the nations and the empowerment of poor countries are its aims. 120 states are part of the movement with a number of observing members. The first Secretary General of the organization was Josip Tito. The term of office lasts three years.

Related posts:

Who was the first person to circumnavigate the world? Was he alone?

Ferdinand Magellan
During the heyday of colonialism, the empires organized many expeditions, to find new markets for their products. The first circumnavigation of the globe was the result of one of those expeditions. Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan is considered to be the first person to have circumnavigates the Earth. However, he was not alone in the expedition nor he could finish the journey and make it home.
The actual goal of Magellan and his crew was to find a path to Spice Islands belonging to East Indies through the west side. The expedition was sponsored by the Spanish king Charles I. The East Indies had been under Spanish rule then.
Magellan and crew set out on the voyage on 20 September 1519. The ensemble consisted of five fleets with around 250 crew members. The flagship which Magellan captained was named Trinidad. They first traveled to South America through the Atlantic. Sailing along the eastern coast of the continent for some days, they passed a strait which is now known as Strait of Magellan, to enter the Pacific Ocean. The ocean was named so by Magellan himself. Surviving a troublesome period which could have seen the voyage stopped because of mutinies and climatic challenges, they reached Homonhon island of The Philippines. Some of the natives were receptive to the explorers but others were not. Magellan indulged in a battle with one of the ethnic groups there and was killed on 27 April 1521. After his death, the crew resumed the journey and reached the Spics Islands. After a brief stay and trade, they decided to split into two groups and continue the voyage. The first group was led by Juan Sebastian Elcano in the ship Victoria along the West route. The second ship Trinidad, after a repairing period, tried to sail along East but was captured by the Portuguese and destroyed in a storm.
On 6 September 1522, Elcano arrived in Spain with the remaining crew, which had reduced to a mere 17. They finished the first circumnavigation of the world, though it was unintentional. More than two hundred crewmen had lost their lives during the voyage that lasted almost three years.
It took another four centuries for one to achieve the feat alone. In 1898, an American named Joshua Slocum became the first person to circumnavigate the planet alone. His voyage was in a small ship named Spray. He earned the necessary money from speeches he rendered at various places during his journey.
The first circumnavigation by air was in 1933. American pilot Wiley Post was the person who accomplished the feat. Starting on July 15, he took 7 days, 18 hours and 49 minutes to finish the journey on his monoplane named Winnie Mae.

Related posts:

What is the difference between United Nations and League of Nations?

The United Nations Organization is the largest intergovernmental organization to promote co-operation between countries and maintain peace. It was formed after the Second World War which happened due to the inefficiency of another organization. This predecessor of UN was the League of Nations.
League of Nations was formed after the conclusion of the First World War. The horrific effects of the war had shocked many people across the world. An anti-war sentiment acquired strength among both people and statesmen alike. It was in this circumstances, the erstwhile American President Woodrow Wilson put forward the idea of an organization of countries at the Paris Peace Conference which ended the First World War. The goal of the organization was to foster co-operation between different countries and more importantly, avoid another war by maintaining international peace.

Click image to view in full size

On 28 June 1919 44 countries signed the charter of League of Nations. The official formation was on 10 January 1920. Its headquarters were first at London and then were shifted to Geneva in Switzerland. Finding solutions to the disputes between nations through discussion and promoting disarmament were among the important goals of the League of Nations. The first General Assembly was held on 15 November 1920 at Geneva. The first Secretary General of the organization was Sir James Eric Drummond.

The organization was composed of three major constitutional wings; General Assembly, Executive Council and Secretariat. Permanent Court of International Justice and International Labor Organization were also the auxiliaries of the League of Nations.
Even though it was formed to achieve a great goal, League of Nations was a failure in many aspects. It saw a setback in its incipient days itself. America, though it was one of the founding nations of the organization, didn’t join League of Nations. Following the path of USA, some other nations also avoided from joining the organization. Several nations were also unreceptive to the suggestion of reducing the weaponry. Countries like France and Germany completely rejected the idea citing security reasons. Many major powers later withdrew from the organization.
And, contrary to the goals of the League of Nations, many countries rushed to increase their weaponry. The organization was unable to do anything to prevent it. Meanwhile, countries had also started to form military alliances as well. The 1930s saw a lot of military campaigns, and they led to another great war. With the beginning of Second World War, it lost its relevance and the failure of League of Nations became absolute. Later the UN replaced it and the organization was dissolved on 20 April 1946. Many LN auxiliaries were inherited by the UN.

Related posts: