Future United States President Ulysses S. Grant was born Hiram Ulysses Grant. He changed his name at West Point to avoid having his military uniforms marked with initials "H.U.G."

Saïd Abdullah

This bust was entitled "Saïd Abdullah of the Mayac, Kingdom of the Darfur" by the sculptor Charles Henri Joseph Cordier in 1848. It was modeled on an African visitor to Paris. That same year, slavery was abolished in all French colonies. Yes, in 1848. The sculpture, and its later companion piece "African Venus," were hailed as expressions of human pride and dignity in the face of grave injustice. They also lent an exotic interest to "the other" which was a hallmark of romanticism.

Spanish conquerors brought bullfighting to Mexico. Second only to Spain, Mexico now has the most bullfighting rings in the world. Mexico City's Plaza de Toros México -- which literally translates as "Plaza of the Bulls" -- is the largest bullring in the world.

Golden Ear Plugs from Kenya, circa 1800s

These ear plugs are an example of traditional jewelery worn by some Swahili people along the east coasts of Kenya and Tanzania. You might recognize them as "gauges” -- not something you use to sleep better at night.

Old-School Basketball Wasn't Coach-Friendly

Basketball coaches were not allowed to talk to their players during a game until 1949, when they were finally allowed to talk with them -- but only during time-outs.

Let's Talk About Angkor Ceramics!

The Khmer Empire, also known as the Angkor Empire, was a powerful Hindu-Buddhist empire in Southeast Asia. It held more or less power in the region from the early 800s to the mid-1400s when its capital city of Angkor fell. The first evidence by an academic of stoneware ceramic production was the documentation in 1888 by the French explorer Etienne Aymonier of an abandoned kiln site on Phnom Kulen. Not much investigation into Angkor ceramics was made until the 1960s, however, when deforestation and road-building uncovered kiln mounds for ceramics in the fields of Buriram province in northern Thailand. Once the discovery became known, a new interest in the ceramics of Angkor was born. Since then, many more kilns have been found across the former empire.

Angkor ceramics were made either with grayish-white clay bearing green glaze or with dark-colored clay using brown glaze. Occasionally, when a potter was apparently feeling adventurous, a ceramic would be made with both grayish-white and dark clay, and glazed with both green and brown glaze. And of course there were many unglazed ceramics. Angkor ceramics, though just two colors of clay, had a variety of shapes. Click through the image gallery to see some examples.

"Nothing contributes so much to tranquilize the mind as a steady purpose - a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye."

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (née Godwin). She was an English novelist, short story writer, dramatist, essayist, biographer, and travel writer -- and you probably know her as the author of the 1818 novel Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus.

The Last Samurai

The year was 1868 and the Boshin War – also known as the Japanese Revolution – had made its way north to the the city of Aizu. The Aizu Clan was locked in battle with the Imperial Army, who were trying to restore the power of the Japanese Emperor to rule the country. Aizu was on the side of those who wanted to keep the shogunate system, where power lay in the hands of feudal lords and the samurai they employed. This battle here would be one of the last. The castle at Aizu was besieged and, after a month, the rulers surrendered.

There was a particularly famous incident that occurred during the Battle of Aizu. A group of teenage warriors, 16 or 17 years old, had retreated to a hill from which to survey the battle and figure out what to do next. Called Byakkotai, their unit was intended to be reserve warriors, who fought if things got dire. And things were very dire: looking down on the city the Byakkotai saw flames consuming everything. The castle had fallen! The last stronghold of the Aizu was gone. Rather than surrender and lose their honor, the young soldiers drew their swords and committed suicide. What makes the Byakkotai's story so tragic -- and famous -- was that they were wrong. The castle had not fallen, yet, although parts of the city of Aizu were indeed on fire. They died for nothing.

It was the beginning of the end and it wouldn’t be long until the Emperor Meiji was able to take control of all of Japan. After their defeat the armies of Aizu and its allies were banished, and lost all status -- and as samurai under a shogunate they had been near the top of the totem pole in Japan. It was a big loss. A loss that echoed across the entire country as samurai everywhere lost their privileges and had to adapt to a new way of living.

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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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