This 18th-century Qing Dynasty vase is in the form of a bronze gu (an ancient Chinese ritual bronze vessel from the Shang and Zhou Dynasties used to drink). Circa 1736 - 1795 CE.

Only one British Prime Minister has ever been assassinated. Spencer Percival was shot on May 11th, 1812 by John Bellingham, a Liverpool merchant. Bellingham who had been imprisoned in Russia and believed he was due compensation from the British government, but whose petitions had been denied for 2 years.

Black Plague's "Family Tree" Reconstructed

In the 1300s, the Black Plague swept through Europe. To create a "family tree" of the plague, scientists conducted a genetic analysis of Yersinia pestis strains taken from 34 individuals who died in 10 different countries between 1300 and 1700. The results suggest that over time, the bacteria Yersinia pestis mutated and diversified into multiple clades. All the clades found in the study were related to back to one ancestral strain. That suggests that the Black Plague entered Europe just once. And the oldest strain, the one that appeared to have been the others’ ancestor, was from remains found in a little Russian town named Laishevo.

Here’s where a caution must be added. Such analyses are always limited by the available bacteria strains -- the family tree will be added to over time as more bodies are recovered and more bacteria strains isolated.

Why Were The Terms "Axis" and "Allied" Used For World War II?

The terms "Axis" and "Allies" were in use by each side even before World War II. Mussolini began using the term "axis" in 1923 when he was trying to secure political support from the Weimar Republic against Yugoslavia and Belgrade's French ally during the Italo-Yugoslav Fiume Crisis. To roughly translate his Italian, Mussolini declared that "there is no doubt that the axis of European history passes through Berlin" (non v'ha dubbio che in questo momento l'asse della storia europea passa per Berlino). When Japan was added to the international alliance Tokyo was added to the "axis." (Picture a line going north from Rome through Germany, over the North Pole, and landing in Tokyo.) In Italian literature, you will sometimes find it referred to as The RoBerTo Axis, Rome-Berlin-Tokyo.

Allies has a less interesting history. It was simply reused from the last war.

Victorians Also Loved Sensationalized Murders

During the Victorian Era, not-unusual collectibles were figurines of serial killers. Examples include the Red Barn Murder, the Murders at Stanfield Hall, the Bermondsey Horror, and William Palmer, who was nicknamed “The Prince of Poisoners.”

Japanese Tobacco Box, circa 18th Century

What makes this box particularly ironic is that at the time, no one knew tobacco’s connection with cancer and ill-health. It was just an interesting box that happened to be for holding tobacco!

Why Does Turkey Love Tea?

Today, Turkey is famous for its tea. It has the highest tea consumption per person, followed by the UK. The most popular type in Turkey is the distinctive Rize tea, a black tea from Turkey’s Rize Province on the eastern Black Sea coast.

Surprisingly, tea is not an ancient Turkish tradition. The drink overtook coffee in popularity only after World War I and the breakup of the Ottoman Empire. With the loss of the Ottoman southern provinces, coffee was suddenly an expensive import. Tea, as a homegrown product from Anatolia, was cheap and caffeinated. Economics was the spark that started the Turkish love affair with tea.

Great Britain Seeing Woodlands Rise to Medieval Levels

Great Britain is at similar forest-cover levels as it was during the Middle Ages! Which is a whopping... 13%. Ouch. Still, that's up by 5% since 1919, when records of forest cover began. How do we know that's similar to the Middle Ages? The Domesday Book, King William the Conqueror's great tax census, recorded that 15% of his domain was forested in 1086, and censuses show that was down to 6 to 10% by 1300.

A History of Marshmallows

Marsh mallow, or Althea officinalis, is a plant indigenous to Eurasia and Northern Africa. We know ancient Egyptians mixed marshmallow sap with nuts and honey. Though no one knows what it tasted like! For thousands of years, to make a sweet remedy for sore throats or simply a sweet, marsh mallow's root sap was boiled, strained, whipped, and sweetened. Marshmallows had to be created by hand, poured and molded into something similar to what we eat today. Because marshmallows were so time-consuming to create they remained available only to the elite.

In the late 1800s two revolutions happened in marshmallow history, which together created the new "starch mogul" system. First, confectioners started using marshmallow molds made of modified cornstarch. At the same time, they replaced the mallow root with gelatin, creating a much more stable form of marshmallow. The new starch mogul system was pioneered in France. It quickly crossed the Atlantic, catching on the USA in the early 1900s. The marshmallow-covered sweet potato casserole was invented in 1917, along with putting marshmallows in hot cocoa. And in 1927, a recipe for s'mores appeared in a Girl Scouts handbook.

In 1948, the American Alex Doumak created and patented the extrusion process, once again revolutionizing marshmallow-making. His process involves taking the marshmallow ingredients and running them through tubes. Afterwards, ingredients are cut into equal pieces, and packaged for sale. In the 1950s the newly cheap marshmallows were hugely popular in the US.

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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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