Dirty People, Not Rats and Fleas, May Have Been Why The Black Death Spread

A new study suggests that we should stop blaming rats for spreading the Black Plague. Instead, the findings suggest, we should look at ourselves. Dirty humans, not dirty rats, were the likely culprits in spreading the bubonic plague. Specifically, “ectoparasites,” such as body lice and fleas carried by people, are more likely to be the guilty party.

Using mortality data from nine plague outbreaks in Europe between the 1300s and 1800s, the teams in Norway and Italy tracked how pandemics developed. In seven of the cases there was a closer resemblance to the human model for outbreak spread compared with the alternatives. Which means that if humans were just a little cleaner, the plague would not have spread so easily, or killed so many.

The Cheesiest Bank In The World

In Italy there’s a special tier of Parmesan cheese called Parmigianino Reggiano that is considered to be so valuable that it has its own (privately-owned) bank. The bank, in one form or another, has been around since the Medici Era. Here's how things work: it can take more than 3 years for the cheese to cure. And during that time, cheesemakers still need to be paid, cheesemaking buildings still need their heating bills paid, et cetera. So while the cheese is curing, this special bank will hold it in a special, air-conditioned vault and the cheese’s owner can take out a loan against it. The loan can keep the cheese making going while the  Parmigianino Reggiano gets perfectly aged and ready for the big time. When the loan is paid off, the owner gets the cheese back and can sell it for a premium.

The cheese contained in the Parmesan vault is valued in excess of $100 million. Although there is top-notch security, the bank has been robbed three times in the past, because c’mon, their vault is both valuable and delicious!

Michael Farraday (1791 - 1867), an important scientist who made major contributions to electromagnetism and electrochemisty -- including electrolysis and electromagnetic fields -- also invented the balloon. Yes, the thing often found on the ceiling after parties.

This Romantic Writer Was Truly A Romantic

Mary Shelley -- writer of Frankenstein, wife of poet Percy Shelley, and daughter of women's rights advocate Mary Wollstonecraft -- was also an lgbtqia+ supporter. Though she would never have used that term. In 1827, Shelley helped obtain false documents for her friends Isabel Robinson and Mary Diana Dods; the two were in love, and wanted to move to France as husband and wife. With Shelley's help they were successful, and Mary eventually visited them, at their new home in France.


"It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend."

William Blake (1757 - 1827), an English poet, painter, and printmaker

President Jefferson's Proposed State Names Were Quirky!

Before his famous Louisiana Purchase, Jefferson toyed with creating fourteen new states west of the Appalachians. Some of the names, like Alabama, Michigania, and Illinoia, made it into states eventually. Others, like Pelisipia and Polypotamia, have been quietly forgotten. Much to the relief of modern schoolchildren who only have to contend with spelling "Mississippi."

Modern Sea Monsters

Dolphins, porpoises, and whales are all mammals in the clade called cetaceans, which is from the Greek word meaning “sea monster.”

The First Lady's Library

Abigail Powers started life as a schoolmistress in New York state, and eventually married one of her pupils -- future US president Millard Fillmore. The couple, though never rich, acquired a private library of over 4,000 books which was astonishing for the time.  Though Abigail stopped teaching after the birth of their first child, and Millard's election to the New York state legislature, she never lost her love for learning. Her husband always made sure to buy her a few new books during his travels to cities like Albany, New York, and Washington. So when Abigail moved into the White House, she was horrified to discover that the executive mansion housed not a single book. No library for the president? An outrage.

She got Congress to give the Fillmores $2,000 to start a collection for a presidential library, and Abigail personally supervised the purchase of each item. Maps, reference works, histories, even some novels made their way to the White House's second-floor parlor, which became the official White House library. The finishing touch was a piano, which Abigail had taught herself to play. Though the room has changed (from the second floor parlor to the ground floor) the White House library is still the most famous legacy of Abigail Powers Fillmore, the First Lady who loved to learn.

Where Do Popes Come From?

  A map of where, in the world, popes have been born. Note that they placed each pope in the country he would be born in, if he was born today. Three popes were born in modern-day Tunisia, sure, but that was back in the Roman Empire. Those ancient "Tunisian" popes would have called it the province of "Africa" and it included eastern Algeria and northern Libya, as well as Tunisia.

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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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