Saturday, January 01, 2005

BBC History: Before and After the Great Fire of London

BBC History: Before and After the Great Fire of London - An interactive animation comparing key landmarks of the London skyline before and after the Great Fire, from panoramic etchings made by Wenceslaus Hollar in 1647 and 1667.

From the site:

What did London look like before and after the Great Fire in 1666? View the animation above to see etchings of the London skyline made before and after the event.

In the aftermath of the Great Fire of London, Sir Christopher Wren was entrusted with the task of rebuilding St Paul's Cathedral, the greatest building project of the age. View Wren's changing designs for St Paul's.

In 1666 the Great Fire devastated the City of London. But was it an accident or a Papist plot?

Friday, December 31, 2004

History of Paraguay

History of Paraguay. This is a short but interesting overview to the history of the South American nation of Paraguay.

From the site:

Pre-Columbian civilization in the fertile, wooded region that is now Paraguay consisted of numerous seminomadic, Guarani-speaking tribes, who were recognized for their fierce warrior traditions. They practiced a mythical polytheistic religion, which later blended with Christianity. Spanish explorer Juan de Salazar founded Asuncion on the Feast Day of the Assumption, August 15, 1537. The city eventually became the center of a Spanish colonial province. Paraguay declared its independence by overthrowing the local Spanish authorities in May 1811.

The country's formative years saw three strong leaders who established the tradition of personal rule that lasted until 1989: Jose Gaspar Rodriguez de Francia, Carlos Antonio Lopez, and his son, Francisco Solano Lopez. The younger Lopez waged a war against Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil (War of the Triple Alliance, 1864-70) in which Paraguay lost half its population; afterwards, Brazilian troops occupied the country until 1874. A succession of presidents governed Paraguay under the banner of the Colorado Party from 1880 until 1904, when the Liberal party seized control, ruling with only a brief interruption until 1940.

In the 1930s and 1940s, Paraguayan politics were defined by the Chaco war against Bolivia, a civil war, dictatorships, and periods of extreme political instability. Gen. Alfredo Stroessner took power in May 1954. Elected to complete the unexpired term of his predecessor, he was re-elected president seven times, ruling almost continuously under the state-of-siege provision of the constitution with support from the military and the Colorado Party. During Stroessner's 34-year reign, political freedoms were severely limited, and opponents of the regime were systematically harassed and persecuted in the name of national security and anticommunism. Though a 1967 constitution gave dubious legitimacy to Stroessner's control, Paraguay became progressively isolated from the world community.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Twenty-Five Lectures on Modern Balkans History

Twenty-Five Lectures on Modern Balkans History. This site has a large number of essays dealing with the most problematic region of Europe. These were all written by Steven Sowards of Michigan State University.

From the site:

One can't understand the Balkans without understanding its ethnic groups, and one can't understand the ethnic groups and their history without knowing the influence of the region's geography.

Even the geographic extent of the "Balkan" region is a matter of controversy. Many scholars, especially those writing in the Cold War era, have included only the Communist states and linked them with Czechoslovakia, Poland and East Germany, while omitting Greece and ignoring Turkey and the Ottoman era. Other historians exclude Hungary, Croatia and other Habsburg lands, because of their "central" European character, supposedly contrary to Balkan themes. But the presence of contradictory themes is itself characteristically Balkan.

For the purposes of this course of lectures, the Balkan area includes Greece, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Romania, Albania and Hungary. Most of this area was once under Ottoman Turkish rule; the rest under the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The lectures will not deal with all of the Ottoman Empire, which extended into Asia and Africa, or other former Habsburg lands such as Czechoslovakia and parts of Poland.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

The Capture of a Slaver

The Capture of a Slaver - Full text of an article which appeared in The Atlantic Monthly in 1900 regarding the capture of a slave trading vessel in 1850.

From the site:

FROM 1830 to 1850 both Great Britain and the United States, by joint convention, kept on the coast of Africa at least eighty guns afloat for the suppression of the slave trade. Most of the vessels so employed were small corvettes, brigs, or schooners; steam at that time was just being introduced into the navies of the world.

Nearly fifty years ago I was midshipman on the United States brig Porpoise, of ten guns. Some of my readers may remember these little ten-gun coffins, as many of them proved to be to their crews. The Porpoise was a fair sample of the type; a full-rigged brig of one hundred and thirty tons, heavily sparred, deep waisted, and carrying a battery of eight twenty-four-pound carronades and two long chasers; so wet that even in a moderate breeze or sea it was necessary to batten down; and so tender that she required careful watching; only five feet between decks, her quarters were necessarily cramped and uncomfortable, and, as far as possible, we lived on deck. With a crew of eighty all told, Lieutenant Thompson was in command, Lieutenant Bukett executive officer, and two midshipmen were the line officers. She was so slow that we could hardly hope for a prize except by a fluke. Repeatedly we had chased suspicious craft only to be out-sailed.

At this time the traffic in slaves was very brisk; the demand in the Brazils, in Cuba, and in other Spanish West Indies was urgent, and the profit of the business so great that two or three successful ventures would enrich any one. The slavers were generally small, handy craft; fast, of course; usually schooner-rigged, and carrying flying topsails and forecourse. Many were built in England or elsewhere purposely for the business, without, of course, the knowledge of the builders, ostensibly as yachts or traders. The Spaniards and Portuguese were the principal offenders, with occasionally an English-speaking renegade.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

John Adams

John Adams. This is a brief but informative biography of the 2nd American President. He was the first President to have a son who also became President. George H.W. Bush is the second.

From the site:

John Adams (October 30, 1735 - July 4, 1826) was the first (1789 - 1797) Vice President of the United States, and the second (1797 - 1801) President of the United States.

Adams was born on October 30, 1735 in what is now the town of Quincy, Massachusetts . His father, a farmer, also named John, was a fourth generation descendant of Henry Adams, who emigrated from Devon, England, to Massachusetts about 1636; his mother was Susanna Boylston Adams.

Young Adams graduated from Harvard College in 1755, and for a time taught school at Worcester and studied law in the office of Rufus Putnam. In 1758, he was admitted to the bar. From an early age he developed the habit of writing descriptions of events and impressions of men. The earliest of these is his report of the argument of James Otis in the superior court of Massachusetts as to the constitutionality of writs of assistance. This was in 1761, and the argument inspired him with zeal for the cause of the American colonies.

Monday, December 27, 2004

History of American Samoa

History of American Samoa. This is a small but intersting look at the history of American Samoa.

From the site:

Migrants from Southeast Asia arrived in the Samoan islands more than 2,000 years ago and from there settled the rest of Polynesia further to the east. Contact with Europeans began in the early 1700s but did not intensify until the arrival of English missionaries and traders in the 1830s. At the turn of the 20th century, the Samoan islands were split into two sections. The eastern islands became territories of the United States in 1904 and today are known as American Samoa. The western islands became known as Western Samoa (now just Samoa), passing from German control to New Zealand in 1914.

The 1907 Catholic Encyclopedia wote of Samoa, "A group of islands situated in latitude 13§30' and 14§30' south and longitude 168§ and 173§ west, and composed principally of fertile mountainous islands, such as Savai'i, Upolu, Tutuila, Manu'a, of volcanic and coral formations. The natives are tall, muscular, hardy, and fearless seafarers, but ferociously cruel (formerly cannibalistic) in war; hospitable, but indolent in peace; of dignified and courteous bearing, and skilled in debate. The aboriginal government was an aristocratic federation of chiefs, chosen from certain families, controlling the royal succession."

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Norway 1940

Norway 1940 - Describes the German invasion, with Orders of Battle, battle descriptions, historical background, and politics, concentrating on the Norwegian side of the conflict.

From the site:

After the swift German capture of Poland the war more or less died down, as neither side, for several reasons, wanted to get involved in a major combat along the Germany-France border. In this situation the interest in operations in secondary fronts raised. Both the Allied and the German high commands came to look at Norway as an interesting area for operations. To the Allied because control of Norway would be a way to gain control of the iron ore fields in northern Sweden. To the Germans as a base for the German fleet. During the winter 39-40 advanced planning aimed at getting control of Norway was done in both German and Allied high commands.

The increased interest in the Scandinavian theatre led to an increasing number of incidents along the Norwegian coast. The aggressive stance of especially Britain toward Norway, and the apparent weakness of the Norwegian defense and unwillingness of Norway to take fight to defend its neutrality convinced Hitler that there was a real threat toward the Iron ore supply from Sweden, which was very important to Germany at this stage of the war. Thus Hitler decided that Germany would invade Norway - operation Weserübung.

The allied planning toward Norway was hampered by political considerations and an unclear goal of the operation. Finally an operation was launched. It had an unclear goal and relied on a number of questionable premises. As it turned out the Allied and German operations were launched virtually simultaneously. On the 8th of April British destroyers mined the sea approach to Narvik, while the landing troops were waiting in port, loaded on their transports. At that time the German invasion fleet were on their way already.

In Norway there was an increasing uneasiness over the situation, and the days before the 9th of April a number of disturbing news and rumors came, that in retrospect pointed clearly at the upcoming invasion. The government failed to see that clearly though, and though the coastal defense, naval and many army units were put on highest alert at the evening of the 8th, no further mobilization was ordered until long after midnight, when the invasion force targeted at Oslo already had passed the outer defenses of Oslofjord.