Category: Social and Cultural History

Plague Ahoy! Maritime quarantine in the 18th century

Reading time: 8 minutes
On 23 August 1720 at the Council Chamber in Whitehall, the Privy Council issued an order to the commissioners of His Majesty’s Customs ‘to prevent the landing any goods, passengers, or seamen from on board any ships coming from the Mediterranean’. Diplomats and statesman had been in correspondence for weeks about the worrying state of affairs developing in the south of France. Writing to Secretary of State James Craggs, the diplomat Robert Sutton related ‘the melancholy news of a pestilential distemper being crept into Marseille by the infection of some bales of cotton brought from Sidon (in modern day Lebanon)’. Other letters reported that the seamen on the said voyage had died, with many others taken sick and transported to infirmaries. Four porters, who had opened the goods carried on the ship, died suddenly as the distemper spread from ship to shore killing as many as 24 people in one street. Quarters of the city were barred up and houses and their contents were burned. The plague had hit Marseille.

Read More

Meeting Grace O’Malley, Ireland’s pirate queen

Reading time: 8 minutes
There are many surprising finds when one peers into the intriguing annals of piracy – none more so than the life of Grace O’Malley (Gráinne Ní Mhaille).
Born in 1530 to an Irish chieftain of the O’Malley’s of Murrisk, situated in a remote north-western corner of County Mayo, she forged a career in seafaring and piracy spanning over 40 years. Aside from this she was frequently active in regional politics and in native opposition in Connaught to encroaching English rule.

Read More

ABUSE AND TENACITY: UKRAINE’S STRUGGLE FOR AUTONOMY

Reading time: 10 minutes
The 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine has rightfully outraged and shocked much of the world; a war of aggression from one nation to another, this attack and occupation has been the largest such incursion into a foreign land since the Second World War. Indeed it has also created the displacement of nearly 4 million Ukrainians, leading to Europe’s greatest refugee crisis in 80 years.

Read More

The Mafia, The Godfather, and the Hollywood romance

Reading time: 8 minutes
The Godfather. Perhaps one of the greatest films and franchises of all time; March 24, 2022, will mark the 50th anniversary of the film’s theatrical release, which is a number that in ways seems both large and small. Large from the perspective that it has already been five decades since it shook the cinematic world, yet small in that a film of such importance and influence was released in the backyard of our modern history: 1972.

Read More

REEL OR UNREAL HISTORY

Reading time: 5 minutes
Long before “fake news” wedged itself into American vernacular, “fake” or “engineered” news on film had a powerful influence on democracy and world regimes. A few years ago, one of my history students observed that a film reel of Teddy Roosevelt from the 1915 Panama–California Exposition was shockingly authentic. After viewing the reel, my student reflected on how useful it was to see the world “exactly” as it was lived in history. This response gave me pause. Had I done enough to introduce the reel and complicate it as a primary source? My student accepted the moving images on the screen as pure historical truth. This reflection helped me realize I was missing an opportunity to use newsreels as a teaching tool to engage critical analysis and media literacy in my history classroom.

Read More

Why January 6 Was Not Like a Banana Republic

Reading time: 5 minutes
After the January 6 insurrection, many observers, including former US presidents, current legislators, pundits, journalists, and editorial writers invoked the mob violence and bloody mayhem as the usual political culture of so-called “banana republics.” Although it is an easy comparison to make, Latin Americanists found this galling, because the term refers to a specific economic and political trope created by and in service to US interests. Using the phrase banana republic to describe any attempted coup or insurrection draws on a century of stereotypes about Latin America created by the US to serve US interests. As a description of the events of January 6, the comparison lacked both subtlety and accuracy.

Read More

Tulip mania: the classic story of a Dutch financial bubble is mostly wrong

Reading time: 7 minutes
Right now, it’s Bitcoin. But in the past we’ve had dotcom stocks, the 1929 crash, 19th-century railways and the South Sea Bubble of 1720. All these were compared by contemporaries to “tulip mania”, the Dutch financial craze for tulip bulbs in the 1630s. Bitcoin, according some sceptics, is “tulip mania 2.0”.

Read More

HOW DID A COCKATOO REACH 13TH CENTURY SICILY?

Reading time: 7 minutes
Among the hand-written documents, books, and ancient artefacts in the Vatican Library is a 13th century manuscript on falconry written in Latin by or for the Holy Roman Emperor – King Frederick II of Sicily.
Frederick’s De Arte Venandi cum Avibus (The Art of Hunting with Birds) dates from between 1241 and 1248. In its margins are nine hundred drawings of falcons, falconers and other animals kept by the emperor at his palaces.

Read More

Humans domesticated horses – new tech could help archaeologists figure out where and when

Reading time: 8 minutes
In the increasingly urbanized world, few people still ride horses for reasons beyond sport or leisure. However, on horseback, people, goods and ideas moved across vast distances, shaping the power structures and social systems of the premechanized era. From the trade routes of the Silk Road or the great Mongol Empire to the equestrian nations of the American Great Plains, horses were the engines of the ancient world.

Read More
Loading