Monday, September 27, 2010

August 10th in History

610   In Islam, the traditional date of the Laylat al-Qadr, when Muhammad began to receive the Qur'an, and celebrated as part of Ramadan, the ninth month in the Islamic tradition, but which does not correlate to the fixed western calendar.  The entire month is celebrated with fasting during daylight hours, with special reverence given to the last ten days of the month in which it is believed that the first five verses of the Qur'an were revealed to Muhammad.  Different branches of Islam celebrate different specific days for this event, within the month of Ramadan. The Laylat al-Qadr and the Battle of Badr are considered in Islam to lay the foundation for and as a justification of an Islamic state. Because of the especially holy nature of these dates in Islam, it can be an especially potent occasion for jihad.

Otto I

955   The Battle of Lechfeld: Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor defeats the Magyars, ended 50 years of Magyar invasion of the West. This was a major victory for Otto, part of the Carolingian dynasty of Charlemagne; he became the first Holy Roman Emperor, combining the titles of Duke of Saxony, King of Germany and King of Italy. The Holy Roman Empire endured for approximately a millennium.

991   Battle of Maldon: English, led by Bryhtnoth, Duke of Essex, are defeated by a band of Vikings near Maldon in Essex during the reign of English King Aethelred the Unready. And there is an epic poem. And a web site:  Aethelred had become King at the age of 10 years old when his brother, St. Edward the Martyr was murdered - the circumstances are unclear.  The person blamed for the murder was Aethelred's mother, the first anointed and formally crowned Queen of England, who was believed to have wanted to clear the path for her own son to the throne; St. Edward the Martyr was her step-son.  As a result of this accusation, Aethelred had trouble gaining the support of those who had been political allies of his older step-brother.  The whole story is full of interesting details, including comets that were believed to be omens of famine, interesting legends about Aethelred's mother who was the second or third wife of King Edgar of England.  She was reputed to have been very beautiful, leading King Edgar to kill her first husband in order to marry her, and was also a very powerful woman in her own right.  The marriage was actually a shrewd political alliance, but the perceptions of illicit sex, violence and intrigue was another reason for Aethelred to be unpopular. 

Aethelred's nickname of 'unready' is actually the result of bad scholarship of Old English; the actual word was "unraed" which meant 'bad counsel', which was a play on words at the time on 'Aethelred' which translated as 'good counsel', and not as unready or unprepared.  The 'unready' perhaps related to the practice begun by Aethelred of paying 'Danegeld' to buy off the Vikings so they would stop raiding and go away after the defeat at Maldon, on the advice of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Archbishop also paid off the Vikings, not to burn the Cathedral of Canterbury.

Ethiopian fresco of the Queen of Sheba
traveling to meet King Solomon

1270   Yekuno Amlak takes the imperial throne of Ethiopia, restoring the Solomonic dynasty to power after a 100-year interregnum.  They Solomonic dynasty takes its name from the tradition that it is descended from King Solomon and the Queen Makeda of Sheba, after she visited Solomon in Jerusalem.  The Biblical account is recorded in the Old Testament, I Kings, 10:1-13 and II Chronicles  9:1-12. The language spoken in Ethiopia and Eritrea is Semitic, and certain parts of Africa show DNA evidence of links to Jewish ancestry.

Victoria, from a map detail

1519   Ferdinand Magellan's five ships set sail from Seville to circumnavigate the globe. Second in command Sebastian Elcano, Basque navigator, completed the expedition after Magellan's death in the Philippines.  Only one ship, the Victoria, made it back of the five.

1675   The foundation stone of the Royal Greenwich Observatory in London is laid.  The first royal astronomer is John Flamsteed, charged by Charles II, ""apply himself with the most exact care and diligence to the rectifying of the tables of the motions of the heavens, and the places of the fixed stars, so as to find out the so much desired longitude of places for the perfecting of the art of navigation."  This investment in astronomy was part of the competition between England and Spain in naval exploration and Imperial ambitions.

1680   The Pueblo Revolt begins in New  Mexico, in which Native Americans revolt against the Spanish colonization.  Also called the Pope's Rebellion, a combination of resistance to the proselytizing of religion by the Spanish in conflict with Native American religion, and in part due to the pressures of a drought and resulting famine brought those resentments to a head

1776   American Revolutionary War: Copies of the United States Declaration of Independence reaches London.  They were published in British newspapers in mid-August, and reached continental Europe where it was translated and published in newspapers in later August.  In the UK, John Lind was commissioned to write a rebuttal pamphlet, Answer to the Declaration of the American Congress, including a criticism of Natural Rights by Jeremy Bentham, although written anonymously in the pamphlet. The criticism of Natural Rights was also later used as an argument against the French Revolution as well.

1792   French Revolution: Storming of the Tuileries Palace. Louis XVI of France was arrested and taken into custody.

1821    Missouri was admitted as the 24th U.S. state.

Jacques Macie, aka
James Smithson

1846    The Smithsonian Institution was chartered by the United States Congress after James Smithson donated $500,000 for the purpose. Smithson was born Jacques Louis Macie, the illegitimate son of Sir Hugh Smithson, Baronet Stanwick, by his mistress, taking the last name of his mother's first husband.  Sir Hugh subsequently changed his last name to Percy, and became the Duke of Northumberland, and in 1802, Jacques Louis changes his name to Smithson after his mother died.  Smithson was a brilliant mineralogist and chemist, and one of the youngest members and officers of the Royal Society.  Smithson originally left the vast fortune he had accumulated to his nephew, son of his illegitimate half-brother, who had to change his last name to Hungerford.  Name changing was apparently a family passion. Smithson's will stipulated that if his nephew died without any heirs, the money would go to the U.S.  In 1835, Hungerford, nee Dickson died without heirs.  Due to lawsuits and other difficulties, the Smithsonian Institution was not established until 10 years later.  It is unknown why Smithson left his wealth to the United States, as he had no apparent ties to the U.S., and had never actually visited the United States, despite being well-traveled.  Smithson died and was buried in Italy; in 1904 Alexander Graham Bell, one of the Smithsonian Regents, brought Smithson's body to the U.S., and had  it buried at the Smithsonian 'Castle'.

1874  Herbert Hoover was born; he grew up to be the 31st President of the United States, one of only two either to have no elective office experience prior to being elected to the office, or a ranking military background.

1901 U.S. Steel Strikers

1901    The U.S. Steel Recognition Strike by the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers began, and subsequently failed.  Part of the craft unionism movement, the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers had declined in membership from a high of 24,000 in 1892, to only 8,000 in 1900.  At issue were technological advances which had substantially changed the industry, but a much more significant factor was the formation of monopoly trusts, including the multi-national US Steel, which had plants not only in the U.S. but in Canada and Central Europe. One of the significant figures in the conflict was Samuel Gompers, founder of the AFL part of the AFL-CIO; Gompers refused. Gompers was instrumental in the policy of unions to 'elect their friends' and 'defeat their enemies' politically.

1905   Russo-Japanese War: peace negotiations begin in Portsmouth, but the peace didn't last very long.

1913   Second Balkan War: delegates from Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Montenegro, and Greece sign the Treaty of Bucharest, ending the war - at least for a few years, until the outbreak of WW I.

1920    World War I: Ottoman sultan Mehmed VI's representatives sign the Treaty of Sèvres that divides up the Ottoman Empire between the victorious Allies.  This treaty was not terribly lasting either.

1944    World War II: American forces defeat the last Japanese troops on Guam.

1949    U.S. President Harry S. Truman signs the National Security Act Amendment, streamlining the defense agencies of the United States government, and replacing the Department of War with the United States Department of Defense.

1954   At Massena, New York, the groundbreaking ceremony for the Saint Lawrence Seaway is held.

1981   Murder of Adam Walsh: The head of John Walsh's son is found, inspiring the creation of the television series America's Most Wanted.

anti-Japanese American sentiment
post-Pearl Harbor
Japanese Americans in
WW II Internment Camps

1988    Japanese American internment: U.S. President Ronald Reagan signs the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, providing $20,000 payments to Japanese Americans who were either interned in or relocated by the United States during World War II.

1990   The Magellan space probe reaches Venus.

1993 Ruth Bader Ginsburg was sworn in as the second female Supreme Court justice.

The Alfred P. Murrah building,
after the bombing

1995    Oklahoma City bombing: Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols are indicted for the bombing. Michael Fortier pleads guilty in a plea-bargain agreement for his testimony.

Yuri Malenchenko

2003   The highest temperature ever recorded in the UK – 38.5°C (101.3°F) in Kent. It is the first time the UK has recorded a temperature over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
            Yuri Malenchenko becomes the first person to marry in space. His bride was in Texas while he was in space over New Zealand. Malenchenko is ranked 9th for time in space, having been on both Mir and the International Space Station.  (Apparently he couldn't schedule enough time on earth to get married in person?)

2006   Scotland Yard disrupts major terrorist plot to destroy aircraft traveling from the United Kingdom to the United States. All toiletries are banned from commercial airplanes.  The plot involved detonating liquid explosives on ten different airline flights between the UK, and Canada and the United States. Twenty five were arrested in the UK, with additional arrests in Pakistan.

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