When Eunuchs Could Marry

According to Chinese official historical records, there had been a historical record of eunuch marriage as early as the Eastern Han Dynasty. But they were not common until the Ming Dynasty. Starting in 1402, the Yongle Emperor quietly began allowing eunuchs to marry, as thanks for their significant contributions in Jingnan Rebellion which nearly knocked Yongle off his throne. From then on the marriage of eunuchs had legitimacy because it had the tacit approval of the emperor. The Yongle Emperor even awarded wedding to eunuchs who made significant contributions. These were, for obvious reasons, marriages for intimacy and companionship not children. Eunuch marriages remained common in the imperial court through the end of the Qing Dynasty in 1912.

In 1894, Queen Victoria of England decided to pay a visit the London Horse Guards in her carriage. She was not amused to arrive and find guards drinking and gambling while they were supposed to be on duty. She ordered that, as punishment, the guards had to parade for inspection by an officer every day at 4 o’clock -- for 100 years! The punishment ended in 1994 but Queen Elizabeth II wanted the parade to continue. So the Household Cavalry still parade every day.

"Contagium vivum fluidum," Latin for "contagious living fluid," was how viruses were first described in 1898. It was described as a fluid because the virus being studied was able to slip through the finest mesh filters then available, like a fluid.

Tillie Anderson was a Swedish seamstress who became a professional cyclist in America and dominated the sport in the 1890s. She won all but seven of the 130 races she entered. Unfortunately, women's cycling races declined and eventually ceased to be a professional possibility. By 1902 there were no longer any women’s races. Anderson switched careers, becoming a Swedish masseuse for wealthy families in Chicago, and helping establish bike paths in Chicago in the 1930s.

Using Dental Tartar to Reconstruct Diets from Japan's Edo Period

Samples of tartar from the teeth of 13 people who were buried in what is now eastern Tokyo in the latter half of the Edo Period, from 1603 to 1867 CE, were analyzed in a recent study. DNA from rice was identified in the tartar of eight of the individuals. The DNA of other foods, including daikon radish, the minty herb “shiso” perilla, green onion, Japanese chestnut, carrot, and pumpkin was also identified. The researchers noted that the DNA results match records describing these foods from the period.

Non-food items were also found. DNA from tobacco plants, which may have been smoked, was also found in the tartar. Slightly more obscure was resin from tropical lowland rainforest trees -- potentially a tooth powder? “The technique will make it possible to survey what each individual ate,” Rikai Sawafuji of the University of the Ryukyus said of the project. Such analysis could allow researchers to determine which foods were used as staples, and even which were an individual’s favorite foods, he added.

Mark Twain once entered a contest that offered $10 for the best original poem on the topic of spring, “no poem to be considered unless it should possess positive value.” He submitted this and took the prize.

An Anecdote on Shakespeare, the Mexican-American War, and the Male Psyche

In 1845 the US President James Polk ordered about half of the United States army to enter Texas, then an independent country the US had just annexed, and set up camp north of the new Mexican border. Polk wanted to provoke Mexico into attacking and starting a war. The army was basically told to mass just close enough to Mexican border to be worrisome, then stay put and do nothing. As you can imagine the men started drinking, fighting, and generally behaving like bored young men. Their officers decided to curb the rowdy behavior by...building a theater and staging Shakespeare plays! Only logical solution, really.

The first play planned was Othello. They found an officer, Porter, to play the lead role, but then there was a problem: who could play Desdemona? The officers eventually discovered a slim, girlish officer who everyone acknowledged looked great in a dress. His name was Ulysses S Grant. So this is the story of how the man who would become the general that led the Union Army in the American Civil War, then led the country as president through the start of Reconstruction after slavery was abolished, spent time rehearsing what it would be like to be a white woman in love with a black man.

In the end Porter could not handle playing Othello opposite Grant as Desdemona, and they brought in an actress from New Orleans. Makes you think about American society's willingness to accommodate male fragility around their sexuality.

France Made Already-Free Slaves Pay For Their Freedom

When Haiti's slaves fought for their independence (and won) against France, France required its former colony to pay "reparations" to the French government and French slaveholders for the "theft" of their slaves. Costing billions of dollars in today's money, it was financed by French banks and the American Citibank. The debt was only paid off in 1947. Having to continually send money out of the country has been a major factor in maintaining Haitian poverty over the past two centuries. France, by the way, continues to refuse considering repaying the reparations back to Haiti.

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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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