Europe's Early News Network

Did you know that handwritten sheets -- called avvisi -- circulated among the cities and courts of Europe in early modern Europe after public mail routes became common? They were bought on the streets or by subscription, and had information and news from cities like Warsaw, Paris, and Madrid. They sometimes even had information from further afield such as Ireland or the American colonies. It is hard to understand now, by the once or twice weekly avvisi were a revolution in news, connecting Europeans more than ever before.

One newsletter, dated March 19th, 1588, describes the famous Spanish Armada which sailed against Queen Elizabeth I of England. It was described as having "140 or more sailing ships and eight months of provisions" plus "17,000 combat soldiers and 8,000 sailors." The same avvisi also discusses the reconstruction of the Rialto Bridge in Venice, and how problems with pilings were fixed on-site rather than being replaced due to the "inconvenience" of closing the Grand Canal.

The first automatic fire extinguisher was created in 1723! It was patented in England by Ambrose Godfrey, a celebrated chemist, and it used a small gunpowder explosion to scatter fire-extinguishing liquid.

Census Fun Facts

  • In 3800 BCE, the Babylonian Empire took the world’s first known census -- of farmgoods. They counted livestock and quantities of butter, honey, milk, wool, and vegetables.
  • In 2 CE, China’s Han Dynasty took the oldest surviving census data, showing a population of 57.7 million people living in 12.4 million households. Chengdu, the largest city, had a population of 282,000.
  • The first modern census in Britain in 1801 didn’t ask people to list their ages.
  • The first census in the US in 1790 only cared about age if the person was a "free white male," which was sorted by “16 years and upward” and “under 16 years.” All other categories were ageless.
  • In 1853, Chile passed the first census law in South America.
  • Britain’s attempt to take a census in India in 1871 was difficult because there were rumors that the goal of the count is to identify girls to be sent to England to fan Queen Victoria during a heatwave.

The Persistent Power of Egypt's Mamluks

The Mamluks were a corps of slaves which went from being the elite bodyguards of the Ayyubid Caliphate founded by Saladin, to running Egypt for themselves. It lasted as an independent state for over 250 years, from 1250 to 1517 when Egypt was conquered by the Ottoman Empire. But the Mamluks survived.

By the 1630s, a Mamluk emir managed to become de facto ruler of the country. By the 1700s, the importance of the pasha (Ottoman governor) was superseded by that of the Mamluk beys, and it was even made official. Two offices, those of Shaykh al-Balad and Amir al-hajj -- both offices held by Mamluks -- represented the rulers of Egypt. In the name of the Ottoman Sultan, of course. It was only with the invasion of Egypt by Napoleon in 1799 that the Mamluk power center was permanently ended.

The Multiple Names of the Ottoman Empire

The Ottomans generally used two different terms when referring to their state, versus the territory the state ruled over. The state was called "Devlet-i Aliye-i Osmaniye" which literally translates to "the High Ottoman State." Side note: "Osman" was the founder of the Ottoman dynasty, and the English word "Ottoman" comes from his name which was sometimes translated as "Othman." The Ottomans called their territory "Memalik-i Mahruse," or "The Protected Lands." The two terms are sometimes more poetically translated to "the Sublime Ottoman State" or "the Sublime State" and "the Well-Protected Domains."

A 300-Year Old Recipe for Fried Chicken

Today is apparently a food day! Here is your second food-related post of the day: a 1736 recipe for fried chicken.

Nadezhda Durova (1783-1866), was the daughter of a Russian Army officer. When Napoleon invaded Russia, she decided that the boys clearly couldn't handle this, and it was time for a woman to step up. So she disguised herself as a man, and served in a cavalry regiment. She was the first recorded Female Officer in the Russian army, and was awarded the Cross of St George for bravery under fire. Her memoir, The Cavalry Maiden, is a significant document of its era because few junior officers of the Napoleonic wars published their experiences

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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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