Four of the American founding fathers married widows: Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Franklin. Interestingly, none had sons with their wives.

You Can Probably Guess What This Depicts

A textured manuscript illustration of, what else? Smallpox. From Japan, circa 1720.


"Having heard that he had in his library a certain very scarce and curious book, I wrote a note to him, expressing my desire of perusing that book, and requesting he would do me the favour of lending it to me for a few days. He sent it immediately, and I return’d it in about a week with another note, expressing strongly my sense of the favour. When we next met in the House, he spoke to me (which he had never done before), and with great civility; and he ever after manifested a readiness to serve me on all occasions, so that we became great friends, and our friendship continued to his death."

Benjamin Franklin, on how he made friends with a rival legislator in the Pennsylvania statehouse.

This is a real psychological phenomenon. Humans tend to value more people whom they have helped -- and conversely, devalue more people whom they have wronged. It seems that we like to be consistent, and so justify our actions after-the-fact by telling ourselves we like that person we helped, or we do not like that person we wronged.

Loneliness Is A Modern Invention

Literally -- the word first appeared in the 1800s. Before that time, English had the words ‘oneliness,’ the state of being alone, and ‘solitude,’ also meaning the state of being alone.

And while loneliness is understood to be a painful condition today, oneliness and solitude were debated. Some European philosophers thought solitude was damaging to a person’s physical and mental health. Others held that it was crucial to stay sane. And crucial for spiritual health: solitary confinement was originally not a punishment, but an path to reformation through enforced contemplation of one’s sins.

The Creation of Rotterdam (Part 2)

A month ago (or so) I posted a couple paragraphs on the Dutch city of Rotterdam's history. It was titled "The Creation of Rotterdam." Imagine my surprise when I came across this map, showing the physical expansion of Rotterdam's port. It was truly created, that is to say, built by men.

Let's Learn About Mexico!

The birthplace of plant domestication in the Americas. The first New World country to gain independence from the Spanish Empire. The eleventh-largest country in the world, by population. Like the United States, Russia, and China, this is a country that any informed citizen should have at least a basic knowledge about.

Eighteen for Eighteen

In eighteen years of military service, Napoleon Bonaparte had eighteen horses shot out from under him!

The Moon Star Flag: How Turkey’s Flag Came To Be

The Turkish national flag is mostly red, with a white star and a crescent in the center. Ottoman Sultan Selim III formalized the look in 1793, but the flag is actually much older.

The crescent-and-star combination has been used in Turkey since Hellenistic times (400s to 100 BCE). It likely came from ancient Mesopotamian iconocraphy. Ancient depictions of the symbol always show the crescent with horns pointing upward and with the star placed inside the crescent, for reasons that have been lost to time. When it came to Turkey, they gave it their own meanings. For Byzantium the moon symbolized Diana, also known as Artemis, the patron goddess of the city.

In 1453, when the city was conquered by the Ottoman Empire, the flag remained unchanged. With time, it became not just Istanbul’s flag but the Ottoman flag, with its design formalized in 1793 and its status as national flag formalized in 1844. Turks affectionately call the flag "ay yildiz" -- the "moon star" flag.

Many nations that were once part of Ottoman Empire adopted the star-and-crescent when they gained independence, including Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria. In the 1900s the symbol became associated with not just the Ottomans, but with Islam in general, and many states that were never part of the Ottoman Empire adopted it too, including Pakistan, Malaysia, and the Maldives. Pretty amazing that an ancient Mesopotamian symbol is flown around the world today.

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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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