Madagascar Does Not Come From Where You Think

In multiple ways. First, it is a break off from the Indian sub-continent, not African, even though it is very very close to Africa. Second, the first settlers on Madagascar between 350 and 550 CE were of Malayo-Indonesian descent. Specifically, from Indonesia, Sumatra, and Java. Yes, that is on the other side of the Indian Ocean, rather than across the short Mozambique Channel to Africa. These were joined around the 800s CE by Bantu migrants crossing the Mozambique Channel and intermarrying with the Malagasy. A big clue about Madagascar's unusual migration history is that most common language of Madagascar, also called Malagasy, can be identified as part of the Austronesian language family.

A Litany of Horrors

The Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, when Bangladesh fought to be independent of Pakistan, was in large part prompted by the 1971 Bangladesh genocide. Pakistan had attempted to suppress calls for Bangladeshi self-determination with genocide. They killed between 300,000 and 3,000,000 people and raped between 200,000 and 400,000 Bengali women, who had been declared "public property."

During the subsequent nine-month-long Bangladesh Liberation War there was also ethnic violence between Bengalis and Urdu-speaking Biharis. Biharis faced reprisals from Bengali mobs and militias. Estimates of Biharis killed in ethnicity-based violence range from 1,000 to 150,000 to 500,000. As with any war, there were also refugees. It is known that 8 to 10 million people, mostly Hindus, fled Bangladesh and the violence.

Eventually it became clear that Pakistan was going to lose the war, and control of Bangladesh. Their response was the systematic execution of Bengali intellectuals who they suspected supported independence. Professors, journalists, doctors, artists, engineers, anyone who could potentially help lead the new nation, were targeted. On 14 December 1971, over 200 of Bangladesh's intellectuals were abducted from their homes in Dhaka. They were taken to torture cells in prisons around the city. They were then executed en masse.

The fact that this mass killing was orchestrated by Pakistan is one of the few parts of the Bangladesh Liberation War that is not debated. This is because after Bangladesh was liberated, a list of Bengali intellectuals (most of whom were murdered on the 14 December) was discovered in a page of Major General Rao Farman Ali's diary. It had been left behind at the Governor's House in Dhaka.

The Bolshevik Writer's New York Sex Scandal

In 1906, the Russian Bolshevik writer Maxim Gorky traveled to the United States where he was given a warm welcome. Gorky had it all. He was a financially successful author, editor, and playwright, who supported an anti-tsarist revolutionary Social Democratic Party (SDP, who would eventually become the Bolsheviks), and contributed to liberal appeals to the government for civil rights and social reform. He was even arrested and spent time in Russia's infamous Peter and Paul Prison. On his release, Gorky completed a successful tour of Europe, before heading across the Atlantic to America in April 1906. His political positions were very popular in the United States. He was scheduled to tour New York, Washington (where a visit was planned with President Theodore Roosevelt), Boston, and Chicago while raising funds for the SDP.

But then a scandal hit. It turned out the woman accompanying Gorky on tour was not actually married to him. She was Maria Andreyeva, a star of the Moscow Art Theatre. Sure, Andreyeva was an ardent SDP member herself. And sure, Gorky had been amicably separated from his wife for years, unable to get a divorce from the tsarist-supporting Russian Orthodox Church. In Russia and other countries they had been to they were even considered to have a common-law marriage. But none of that mattered when New York City newspaper The World decided to play up their "illicit" relationship to sell papers. Gorky and Andreyeva were thrown out of their Manhattan hotel, where they had initially been given an entire floor. Two other hotels then refused them service. They remained in the states for 6 months by staying in private homes but the public shunned them and the trip barely raised US$10,000. By the end of 1906 Gorky was staying in Capri where he stayed until 1913.

The scandal in America had interesting repercussions. Gorky remained famous as an author, and became a five-time nominee for the Nobel Prize in Literature. When the Bolsheviks took Russia he initially went back, before being exiled due to opposition to many Bolshevik policies. He eventually returned but soon fell afoul of authorities again and was placed under unannounced house arrest. His death of pneumonia continues to have questions around it. This did not stop the Soviets from promoting hi a great Soviet writer who emerged from the common people. His name graces many streets, villages, stamps, and even a Gorky Museum in Moscow. Which had no mention of Andreyeva or his later unofficial wife, Moura Buberg.

Know Their Names

The MOSFET (metal–oxide–semiconductor field-effect transistor, or MOS transistor) was invented at Bell Labs in 1959, and it is the basis for much of modern electronics. It is now the most manufactured device in history. You probably own hundreds of MOSFETs, in computers, appliances, phones, even lamps. MOSFET was invented by Egyptian-American engineer Mohamed M. Atalla and Korean-American engineer Dawon Kahng.

Roman Seaside Pool

Built of concrete and stone, this circular pool still sits in northern Israel. It is unclear what the pool was built for. Guesses include catching tyrian snails, used to produce purple dye which was famously only worn by emperors.

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.

Samurai and Horse in Full Armor

This particular type of samurai armor is known as Tatehagidō Armor. The horse's armor does not have a special name and is completed with a horned dragon mask. Sadly this was not to terrify the opponent's horse, because horse armor was a symbol of the owner's status, and was only used by high-ranking samurai in important processions. Early Edo Period,

Famous Crusade Battlesite Pinpointed

Researchers have at long last pinpointed the location of the Battle of Arsuf. What is that, you ask? Arsuf was a key battle in the famous Third Crusade (1189–1192). Researchers utilized historical documents, environmental analysis, and material evidence to determine the spot on the Sharon Plain, north of modern-day Tel Aviv, where Christian troops led by Richard the Lionheart defeated the Muslim army of the sultan Saladin. This was the first battle that demonstrated Saladin could be defeated. It also gave the Crusaders control of the central Palestinian coast and the major port of Jaffa.

But the Third Crusade is most famous for what it could not do: retake Jerusalem. After fortifying Jaffa and getting a three-year truce from Saladin, the Third Crusade returned home in 1192.

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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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