A Bad Year For Verona

The city of Verona, Italy lost 61% of its population to the Black Plague in one year (from 1630 to 1631). It was part of a recurrence of the Black Plague which struck Italy particularly hard.

The Uniquely Beautiful Roofs of Bermuda

Bermuda’s earliest houses had roofs made from palm leaves, but by the late 1600s, the residents began upgrading their roofs to stone shingles. Stone shingle roofs are heavy and resistant to hurricane winds. But flat roofs, the norm everywhere else in the world, are not a good idea in Bermuda. Over the centuries builders learned to cut steps into the roofs to slow down heavy rain so that they could be collected without overwhelming the building’s gutters. The geometric white roofs that Bermuda is famous for are actually extremely practical! Rain water harvesting is critical for survival in Bermuda — there are no fresh water springs or lakes in Bermuda — and until recently, it was the only source of fresh water on the islands. So by law, all Bermudan houses must have underground cisterns which collect rainwater and supply the house with its water.

Who Ran Korea During The Choson Period?

Scholar-Officials (sadaebu or sonbi) represent the highly educated ruling class that emerged during the Choson dynasty (1392-1910 CE) of Korea. The founder of the Choson dynasty, Yi Songgye adopted Neo-Confucianism - the modified teachings of the early Chinese philosopher Confucius to establish new principles for Korean governance. Implementing a competitive Confucian examination system to select civil servants, early Choson kings created a class of government officials who were familiar with Chinese and Korean historical and literary classics. Their new system was modeled on the older Chinese one. The new class of scholar-officials challenged aristocratic families that had monopolized power during the previous Koryo period (935 - 1392 CE).

The Weird Family History of Iceland

Iceland has a population of 332,529 that for hundreds of years has been largely isolated from the rest of the world. Inbreeding is a constant concern due to the country’s small size, and the migration of most of the population into the capital city. Luckily, the country has been literate since its founding, and because of its small population and isolation, we have marriage and birth records pretty much since the founding of the island. Everyone's family tree is known. It is pretty neat -- every Icelander today can trace their heritage back to which founding settlers they come from.

And to help prevent inbreeding today, an app was developed: Islendiga-App (English: App of Icelanders). The whole giant Icelandic family tree is on the app, and people can check to see if they are related. Its slogan is “Bump the app before you bump in bed.”

In the 1600s, Spanish poet Francisco de Quevedo bought rival poet Luis de Góngoras' house, just so de Quevedo could evict him. De Quevedo also wrote several sonnets insulting de Góngoras' large nose. Here is a portrait of Góngoras so you can check his nose for yourself -- it is definitely not short!     De Quevedo and de Góngoras are widely considered the most prominent Spanish poets of their era.

Have you ever seen a stranger-looking bird? Or a one-horned sheep? “Several local animal species, including a dodo” from 1624, drawn in Mauritius by Adriaen Matham.

An intensive, two-week study is being done on the Girl with the Pearl Earring, one of Vermeer's most famous paintings. Using a host of exploratory new technology, the Mauritshuis Royal Picture Gallery hopes to answer many questions about the painting's creation. For instance, they are investigating what minerals went into the painting’s pigments.

It has been more than 20 years since the painting was scientifically examined. As you can imagine, science has progressed a lot since 1994, and the tools that are being used today are much less invasive.

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    HISTORICAL NON-FICTION

    By Lillian Audette

    This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!

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