A 16th-century book, with notes in the margins, may have been annotated by Shakespeare himself. The 1576 copy of François de Belleforest’s "Histoires Tragiques" has faded ink symbols next to six passages -- passages featuring a Danish prince who avenges his father's murder by his uncle, who cemented his stolen throne by marrying the prince's mother. Sound familiar? The "Histoires Tragiques" was already thought to have been one of Shakespeare's sources for Hamlet. This new find may have been the specific copy Shakespeare read!
The chrysanthemum was brought to Japan around the beginning of the Heian period (794−1185). By the Edo period (1600 - 1868) hundreds of types of chrysanthemums were being cultivated. These pages come from Gakiku, the first picture book of chrysanthemums published in Japan, in 1691. Its beautiful illustrations and Chinese-style poems introduced readers to 100 different varieties of the flower.
Kalaw Lagaw Ya, the language spoken by central and western Torres Strait indigenous peoples, was a lingua franca before western colonization. Kalaw Lagaw Ya was the language often used by Papua New Guineans and Australians to communicate when trading or traveling.
What was a "coup"? Many acts of bravery in the face of an enemy counted. Any touch to an enemy warrior, or their defensive works or even stealing their horse counted. The most prestigious "coup" was touching an enemy warrior, without harming them, and getting away without being hurt oneself. And the most daring way to do that was to sneak up to an enemy warrior, while they slept, and touch their body without getting caught. As you can imagine, that last one was pretty rare.
There were many ways of counting coups, from notched sticks to lines on one's shirt. In general practice, a warrior who won a coup was permitted to wear an undyed eagle feather in their hair. If the warrior had been wounded in the attempt, however, they had to paint the feather red.
Quakers were one of the first groups to provide equal access to education and leadership skills, for both genders. The Quaker faith believed in equality between the genders. And they acted like it. Women as well as men were given education. Women as well as men could give sermons, and lead Quaker meetings. Women as well as men could run business meetings for the church. It was revolutionary stuff in the mid-1600s and 1700s!
Hannah Callowhill, born in 1671, was the second wife of Pennsylvania founder and proprietor William Penn. “Proprietor” means he owned the colony. And he could run it as he saw fit.
When William Penn died in 1718, his will gave control of the colony not to his son but to his widow. Though a son from Penn’s first marriage fought the will, he lost in court, and Hannah Callowhill Penn controlled Pennsylvania for six years, until her death. Although she did so through a deputy. Still, she lives on in the history books, as the only woman to control a British proprietary colony for so long.
One of the last battles of Japan's "age of warring states" happened at Fushimi Castle, in Kyoto. What was the “age of warring states”? It is a period in Japanese history, stretching from the mid-1400s to the early 1600s, that was marked by near-constant military conflict. The period ended when Tokugawa Ieyasu came into power and established the Tokugawa shogunate, unifying Japan under a feudal system with himself at the top.
In his climb to power, Tokugawa had to subdue everyone else. And that was bloody. At one point, a vassal of Tokugawa's named Mototada were left defending Fushimi Castle with 2,000 men. Tokugawa's enemy, Ishida Mitsunari, had 40,000 men. The ending was decided before the fighting started. But Mototada did not give up, and did not surrender. A betrayal from within after 12 days of siege ended things quickly, however, and Mototada knew he was doomed. With fires raging everywhere, Mototada and his remaining three hundred and seventy warriors did what was considered honorable and noble for a defeated samurai — they committed seppuku, or ritualistic suicide./p>
Although Fushimi Castle was basically a small skirmish in a large war, its reverberations went far beyond the immediate loss of the castle. In the weeks that followed, Tokugawa Ieyasu raised an army of 90,000 and challenged Ishida Mitsunari's forces for a decisive battle at Sekigahara, which would mark the final victory of Tokugawa over, well, everyone in Japan. The Tokugawa family would rule Japan, with the emperor as a figurehead, for the next 268 years./p>
As part of the mopping-up after the warring states period, and to show everyone that Tokugawa remembered those loyal to him, Tokugawa immortalized Mototada. In 1623, the shogun had the fire-damaged Fushimi Castle dismantled. Sections of the castle that had not been burned or destroyed were salvaged. Some of the salvaged materials happened to be the floor boards upon which Mototada and his men committed suicide to avoid capture. Their blood had soaked so deep into the wood that the boards were permanently stained. Tokugawa had those boards incorporated, mainly as ceilings, into a number of castles and temples across Kyoto. They are known as chitenjo or “blood ceilings.”
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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