The Bishop/King/Patriarch Who Ruled In England

In the late 1200s and early 1300s, English people joked that there were two kings in England. One was in London and wore a crown, and one was in Durham and wore a miter. The second man was Antony Bek, bishop of Durham. He was bishop of Durham from 1284 until his death in 1311.

As bishop of Durham, Bek was the head of the independent "palatinate of Durham." This was a quasi-state with large landholdings recognized by the English crown. The palatinate could mint coins, raise armies, administer justice, and collect taxes. In return for these rights, the palatinate had to protect its territory from the enduring threat of Scottish invasion into far northeastern England. It was a sort of especially independent marcher holding that was headed, not by a hereditary marquess, but by a bishop. This made Bek a military, diplomatic, and religious leader. And not just in England too -- while on crusade with King Edward I he was named patriarch of Jerusalem, a title that made him the most senior churchman in England.

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 Finicky World Record

The lowest reliable surface air temperature measured on Earth was -128.6 F (-89.2 C) in 1983. All those words to describe temperature matter, to make clear that this temperature was taken by measurement apparatus we can scientifically trust, and it was near the surface of the Earth as in not in the atmosphere. Oh, and of course this was measured in Antarctica.

Good News Friday

Researchers from the National Agricultural Research Organisation Uganda and the International Potato Center have developed a new variety of potato which is resistant to late blight. That's the same blight that devastated Ireland and killed so much of its population that it took until 2016 for Ireland's population to exceed pre-blight levels. Today, late blight is a threat to one of the staple crops in the East African region. Using new molecular techniques, the researchers transferred late-blight resistance genes into the popular East African potato variety Victoria. Currently, smallholding farmers have to use fungicide every 3 days to protect their crops from late blight. This new development can boost crop yields while also reducing farmers' dependency on fungicides which hurt their finances, their land, and the people who live near the fields.

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.

Researchers from the Spiš Museum in Slovakia have announced finding more than 800 artifacts, including a unique Celtic bronze sculpture, at the site of a hillfort in northern Slovakia. “These are mostly Celtic coins, bronze clips and other parts of clothing, products from clay, ceramics, glass beads, and bracelets,” said archaeologist Mária Hudáková. The figurine depicts a man with golden eyes wearing only a neckerchief. It is special because unlike previously-found Celtic sculptures, it depicts the person realistically and with golden eyes. The site has been known since the 1800s but this is the first systematic study of the hillfort.

Bronze Ram on Wheels, from Indonesia's Majapahit Empire

Proving that if it is at all possible, children everywhere want animals on wheels. Circa 1300s - 1400s.

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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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