The Vatican had a list of prohibited books ("Index Librorum Prohibitorum") a surprisingly long time: from 1557 until 1966.

When Eunuchs Could Marry

According to Chinese official historical records, there had been a historical record of eunuch marriage as early as the Eastern Han Dynasty. But they were not common until the Ming Dynasty. Starting in 1402, the Yongle Emperor quietly began allowing eunuchs to marry, as thanks for their significant contributions in Jingnan Rebellion which nearly knocked Yongle off his throne. From then on the marriage of eunuchs had legitimacy because it had the tacit approval of the emperor. The Yongle Emperor even awarded wedding to eunuchs who made significant contributions. These were, for obvious reasons, marriages for intimacy and companionship not children. Eunuch marriages remained common in the imperial court through the end of the Qing Dynasty in 1912.


"Mona Lisa is the only beauty who went through history and retained her reputation. "

Will Rogers, an American stage and film actor, vaudeville performer, cowboy, humorist, newspaper columnist, and social commentator. In the mid-1930s he was hugely popular as a wit and a film star, commanding some of Hollywood's highest fees. Rogers was also a Cherokee citizen born in 1879 in the Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory. It is today Oklahoma.

Although the Mamluks were famously slave-soldiers who took over Egypt, you might not know they actually remained "slaves" even after seizing power. Slaves were taken, then raised in state barracks and trained according to their aptitude (soldiers, bureaucrats, administrators). Those positions were not available to the general public, as the state-raised slaves were seen as having no loyalty to their families, only the state. They were legally emancipated upon reaching the age of majority.

A Medieval London Theater Uncovered

A Shakespeare-era theater, the Boar's Head Playhouse, has long been known from historical documents but was only recently re-discovered thanks to a construction project in London's Whitechapel neighborhood. Originally an inn, the Boar's Head was converted to a theater in 1598. But open-air performances had been held there since at least 1557, according to surviving records, when a play performed there, "A Sack Full of News," got banned by the Lord Mayor of London for its "lewd" content.

What The Ell?

"Ell" is a unit of measurement based on the Old English word for "arm." The unit was the length of a forearm, usually 45 inches or 1.143 m. It has fallen out of use, as have many other units of measurement based on arms:

  • digit (1/60 ell)
  • finger (7/360 ell)
  • palm (1/15 ell)
  • hand (4/45 ell)
  • shaftment (2/15 ell)
  • span (1/5 ell)
  • cubit (2/5 ell)

Where Do Country Names Come From?

Multiple countries have names whose origin is unknown. You would think we would know why people called their land a certain name, but in some cases, it is a mystery. These "etymology-less" countries include:

  1. Andorra
  2. Armenia
  3. Brunei
  4. Chile (a really new country!)
  5. Cuba
  6. Cyprus (this one is an old country, fine)
  7. Djibouti
  8. Greece's name for itself, Hellas
  9. Paraguay
  10. Portugal comes from the Latin "Portucale." "Port" is the same as in English, but it is combined with the unknown word "cale." So half of Portugal's name is of unknown origin
  11. Syria
  12. Uruguay

Bronze statue of Guan Yu, a general serving under the warlord Liu Bei during the late Eastern Han dynasty of China. After he died in 220 CE his deeds entered popular folklore. Guan Yu was deified as early as the Sui Dynasty (581–618 CE) and also became considered a bodhisattva. Today he is god of war, loyalty, and righteousness. This bronze statue dates to the Ming Dynasty, 1400s - 1500s CE.

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    HISTORICAL NON-FICTION

    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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