Friday, September 24, 2010

July 17th in History

180 – Twelve inhabitants of Scillium in North Africa are executed for being Christians. This is the earliest record of Christianity in that part of the world, and unfortunately combines two of the intertwining threads of today's history, death and religion.

1203 – Coming only a few years after the failed Third Crusade, the Fourth Crusade launched under the initiative of Innocent III, set out to recapture Jerusalem by way of an invasion of the Holy Land through Egypt. On arriving in Venice as a staging point, much like 'Wrong Way' Corrigan it took a dramatic detour.
Quite unlike Corrigan who didn't attack anyone, instead of attacking the Muslims in control of the Holy Land, being too underfunded and undermanned to reasonably succeed at that, the expedition was persuaded to attack Christian Constantinople by sea.  The assault sacked the city engaging in days of rampant raping, looting, pillaging and general destruction of their fellow Christians, including a massive desecration of the great church of Hagia Sophia and the destruction of one of the finest libraries in the western world, the magnificent Library of Constantinople.  This was the final chapter in a long line of divisive acts on both sides leading to the Great Schism in Christianity between the western Christians, the "Latins",  and the eastern Christians, 'the Greeks", dividing into what we call Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox branches of Christianity.  Not to be confused with the later schism of the Reformation, creating the divisions we know as Protestant and Catholic. The Byzantine emperor Alexius III Angelus flees from his capital into exile.  Anyone who ever, at any time, wishes to compare our modern middle eastern policies and military actions with the crusades would be wise to learn the history of those crusades.  Actually, anyone wishing to have a perspective on our modern military and diplomatic decisions would be wise to brush up on the history of the Crusades.

1402 – Zhu Di, aka the Yongle Emperor, assumes the throne of the Ming Dynasty of China..

1586 – A meeting takes place at Lüneburg between several Protestant powers in order to discuss the formation of an 'evangelical' league of defence, called the 'Confederatio Militiae Evangelicae', against the Catholic League.  See the great schism above, and the history of the crusades......but at least, no one headed in the wrong direction.

1744 – Elbridge Gerry, 5th Vice President of the United States  (bonus history points if you know who was the President), he leaves his mark on political history (and not in a good way) by his name being included in the new word for the practice of "gerrymandering", the creation of contorted political districts for political advantage.  At left is a mythical creature, the Gerrymander, a sort of dragon created by putting wings on the distorted map outline of such a district, originally used in a political cartoon.

1762 – Catherine II becomes tsar of Russia after having her husband Czar Peter III of Russia murdered.  Starting life as Sophie-Frederike Anhalt-Zerbst of Pomerania, she was married off to Peter, her second cousins in a dynastic marriage.  When she arrived in Russia, she didn't even speak the language.  After removing him from her path of ambition, she proceeded to modernize her adopted country and make it more efficient, and became one of the greatest figures in Russian history at a time and in a country where women rarely held the reins of power.

1791 – Members of the French National Guard under the command of General Lafayette open fire on a crowd of radical Jacobins at the Champ de Mars, Paris, during the French Revolution, killing as many as 50 people. Noble and well intended revolutions often take bloody, chaotic, and ugly detours from the noble and high sounding purpose which begins them.  The history of revolution is that in fact, they nearly never, ever, do anything else.  They certainly do reshape the course of history however.

1815 – Napoleonic Wars: In France, Napoleon surrenders at Rochefort, Charente-Maritime to British forces.

1827 - Florida is ceded to the United States by Spain.  It was not one of the original colonies.

1867 – Harvard School of Dental Medicine was established in Boston. It was the first dental school in the U.S.

1899 - birth of mystery author Erle Stanley Gardner, creator of Perry Mason, and actor James Cagney.

1917 – King George V of the United Kingdom issues a Proclamation stating that the male line descendants of the British royal family will bear the surname Windsor.  His predecessor, the ever-fashionable Edward the VII before he abdicated the throne to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson and became the Duke of Windsor, gave his name to the modern Half Windsor, Full Windsor, and Double Windsor knot involved in wearing the modern tie.  This may seem a silly legacy for the Duke of Windsor, but it is in fact a very impressive and pervasive one in the daily life of the 20th and 21st centuries, if you look at the number of men and the number of times ties have been worn in this way. Like the humble parking meter, this is an invention that has affected daily life for a long period of time, despite being every-day items that are inconvenient or uncomfortable but useful.  They should therefore be considered as valid a part history as the more dramatic great wars and revolutions and advances in art and science.  Think how many formal, official - and unofficial portraits of the men making history in the last century, and so far this one, show these historic figures in ties tied in a Windsor knot.  Besides, this historic advert of a model who is, or who just looks like, Edward VIII was too good not to use.  Bonus points if you know what surname the British Royal family used before Windsor.

1918 – On the orders of the Bolshevik Party carried out by Cheka, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and his immediate family and retainers are murdered at the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg, Russia, photo right.

1918 – Five are lost at sea when the RMS Carpathia  is sunk off Ireland by the German SM U-55.  In 1912, the Carpathia rescued the 705 survivors from the RMS Titanic.

1936 – Spanish Civil War: An Armed Forces rebellion against the recently-elected leftist Popular Front government of Spain starts the civil war.

1938 – Douglas Corrigan takes off from Brooklyn, ostensibly to fly back to Long Beach, California, but ends up flying over the Atlantic to Ireland.  His explanation for the mix-up was that he got lost in low clouds that obstructed his view of landmarks, earning him the life-long nick-name "Wrong Way" Corrigan.  He had been denied permission for the flight,  and had also made some specialized modifications before he took off, so his explanation produced some skepticism.  Corrigan was both an exceptional pilot and mechanic; he was also one of the builders of the Spirit of St. Louis flown by Lindbergh.  Corrigan personified the approach that it is better to ask forgiveness than permission.  Ooops?

1942 – World War II: The Battle of Stalingrad commences in modern-day Volgograd, which used to be Tsaritsyn before it became Stalingrad after the Russian Revolution.

1944 – World War II: Napalm incendiary bombs are dropped for the first time by American P-38 pilots on a fuel depot at Coutances, near St. Lô, France.

1955 – Disneyland televises its grand opening in Anaheim, California, and advertised itself as the happiest place in the world.  With all the references to murder, war, revolution and destruction, I thought we needed a little historic balance.

1968 – Revolution occurs in Iraq when Abdul Rahman Arif is overthrown and the Ba'ath Party is installed as the governing power in Iraq with Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr as the new Iraqi President. And we all know where that whole Ba'ath Party thing ended up.

1973 – King Mohammed Zahir Shah of Afghanistan is deposed by his cousin Mohammed Daoud Khan while in Italy undergoing eye surgery.

1975 – Apollo-Soyuz Test Project: An American Apollo and a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft dock with each other in orbit marking the first such link-up between spacecraft from the two nations.

1989 – First flight of the B-2 Spirit 'Stealth Bomber' begun as a project during the cold war.  Makes an interesting contrast on this day in history to the Apollo -Soyuz Test Project.  It was a very expensive project, heavily promoted under President Ronald Reagan.  Considered purely on aesthetic grounds rather than the pros and cons of its purpose and function, it certainly is an amazing looking aircraft, like something out of the earlier days of science fiction.

1998 – A diplomatic conference adopts the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, establishing a permanent international court to prosecute individuals for genocide, crime against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression. The United States is among the more than 110  nations which signed this treaty, but the U. S. did not ratify it, and subsequently 'unsigned' it.  Since 1998, this day is celebrated as the International Day of Justice in honor of the Rome Statute and the efforts of the International Criminal Court.

2007 – Transneptunian Object 2007 OR10 is discovered. The first Transneptunian object to be discovered was Pluto in 1930.  Just as land exploration preceded inevitable expansion in our history, we are now extending our exploration of space, and our expansion into it; so this is a more important note on this day in history than it might at first appear.

No comments:

Post a Comment