Correcting A Historical Myth

The statement "To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize" is often falsely attributed to Voltaire, the French philosopher during the Enlightenment in the 1700s. The statement is actually much, much younger. It comes from an essay by a racist, neo-Nazi, Holocaust denier, and white separatist American named Kevin Strom which was first published in 1993.

The jigsaw puzzle was invented in 1766 by Briton Johns Spilsbury. He wanted an educational tool to help teach geography, and the first jigsaw puzzles were cut up maps.

Samurai Children Were At-Risk For Lead Poisoning

A modern scientific study which analyzed 70 remains from a samurai cemetary showed that many samurai children had higher amounts of lead than the women, who in turn had higher amounts than the men. Sadly the young were the worst affected: those under 3 had the highest levels among children. The lead levels were high enough to be causing intellectual and developmental difficulties. In the worst cases, the lead levels were 150 times that which causes problems in modern children.

The study traced the lead poisoning to the lead-based white makeup popular among the children's mothers during the Edo Period. Since such makeup was only worn by kabuki actors, geisha, and samurai women, it is likely poorer children were spared.

The longest-reigning emperor of China, the Kangxi Emperor (1661 – 1722), was also the last to maintain traditional Manchurian army regulations. These decreed that a commander who returned from a battle alone (with all his men dead) would be put to death. The same for an ordinary foot soldier. The rule was intended to motivate bravery. Trying to save oneself would just end in an execution, so soldiers knew their whole unit needed to defeat the enemy to win.

An Iron Lacquered Samurai Mask

The majority of masks were half-length (mempo), covering the nose and the face below the eyes. Full masks (somen) were rarer. The majority date from the peaceful Edo period. With no practical usage for mempo and somen, armorers like the Myōchin clan became known for crafting ever more varied masks as a demonstration of their creativity and their famous metalworking skills. Inscribed by Myōchin Muneakira, Edo period, circa 1713.


In the Kinkerbuurt, Amsterdam, the streets are named after Dutch poets and writers from the 1700s and 1800s. This inspired Yugoslavian artist Sanja Medic to transform the façade of a residential complex into a bookcase. Inside are 250 ceramic “books” by the Kinkerbuurt authors. Though it looks pretty, they are sadly not readable.

In southern Scotland, metal detectorists have discovered a cache of more than 200 musket balls, coins, and gold and gilt buttons. They were found on property near the shore of Loch nan Uamh that was owned by Alasdair MacMhaighstir Alasdair, Gaelic tutor to Charles Edward Stuart, also known as Bonnie Prince Charlie. The various ammunitions are thoughts to have been intended to arm Jacobites in their uprising to support the Stuart Dynasty, but unfortunately, it arrived after their decisive defeat at the Battle of Culloden on April 16, 1746.

Alexander Hamilton Enslaved People

The American founding father, member of New York's Manumission Society, held enslaved people and represented slaveowners in sales of enslaved peoples. The new evidence comes from re-examining original documents, particularly his cashbook. In Hamilton's handwriting is a payment for the "term" of a "negro boy." This means Hamilton owned an enslaved boy, and was paid for loaning him out to others.

And most damning is the final entry in the cashbook. In an anonymous handwriting, someone settling Hamilton’s estate following his death wrote down the value of various Hamilton possessions, including the value of "servants." At the time in New York "servant" and "slave" were often used interchangeably. But paid servants were not owned, and therefore would not have counted as Hamilton's possession, to be valued as part of his estate. Only an enslaved person would have been given a monetary value.

Japan had an Edo-period card game involving collecting monster cards to beat opponents. Sound familiar? Success required knowledge of Japanese mythology and folklore because players could only gain a monster card if they correctly matched a monster to clues read by a referee. The player who accumulated the most cards by the end of the game wins. It was local to Tokyo, and was named Obake Karuta.

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    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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