|Tea Tuesdays: The Scottish Spy Who Stole China's Tea Empire|
March 10, 2015, NPR by Staff
In the mid-19th century, Britain was an almost unchallenged empire. It controlled about a fifth of the world's surface, and yet its weakness had everything to do with tiny leaves soaked in hot water: tea. By 1800, it was easily the most popular drink among Britons.
The problem? All the tea in the world came from China, and Britain couldn't control the quality or the price. So around 1850, a group of British businessmen set out to create a tea industry in a place they did control: India.
|London rail work unearths thousands of skeletons from Bedlam|
March 09, 2015, PhysOrg by Jill Lawless
They came from every parish of London, and from all walks of life, and ended up in a burial ground called Bedlam. Now scientists hope their centuries-old skeletons can reveal new information about how long-ago Londoners lived—and about the bubonic plague that often killed them.
Archaeologists announced Monday that they have begun excavating the bones of some 3,000 people interred in the 16th and 17th centuries, who now lie in the path of the Crossrail transit line. They will be pored over by scientists before being reburied elsewhere.
|Vatican: Michelangelo letter drew ransom demand|
March 08, 2015, BBC (UK) by Staff
The Vatican says it has received a ransom demand for the return of a stolen letter by Renaissance artist Michelangelo.
The request for money, made to the cardinal in charge of St Peter's Basilica, was refused, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said.
The letter was among several that went missing from Vatican archives in 1997.
|Treasure chests and old artefacts from 18th century pirates hidden in the Seychelles - rare discoveries according to hotel owner on Praslin island|
March 08, 2015, Seychelles News Agency by Sharon Meriton Jean and Hajira Amla
Historians from Seychelles and Europe believe that hundreds of years ago, the Seychelles archipelago of 115 islands were used as a pirate hideaway, and legends of buried treasures still make a good yarn among the islands’ 90,000 inhabitants.
A few locals and foreign nationals have even chosen to make the pursuit of these treasures their lifetime quests.
The attraction of finding famous hidden treasures is understandable, including that of ‘La Buse’ (The Buzzard), also known as Olivier Levasseur, which is now estimated to be worth up to a billion dollars.
|Bacon's Castle celebrates 350th anniversary with intriguing name, rich history|
March 07, 2015, Richmond Times-Dispatch (VA) by Bill Lohmann
As names of famous places go, Bacon’s Castle might not seem the most precise, but considering the alternative appellation for this stately home was Arthur Allen’s Brick House, it’s no wonder something with a little more pizazz caught on.
As far as anyone knows, Nathaniel Bacon, who led an uprising against Colonial governor Sir William Berkeley in 1676, never actually set foot on this onetime plantation, and the structure doesn’t fulfill the modern expectations of a castle, but Bacon’s Castle is what it has been called for at least two centuries, which means the house is attached to a great story, so there you have it.
|Carbon-14 results soon to shed light on Mona Lisa's identity|
March 05, 2015, La Gazzetta del Mezzo Giorno (IT) by Staff
Carbon-14 results on the remains of three people exhumed from Florence's Sant'Orsola convent will soon reveal whether they include those of a woman thought to have sat for Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa painting, researcher Silvano Vinceti said Thursday. Vinceti, who chairs Italy's National Committee for the valorisation of historic, cultural and environmental heritage, said the tests will be ready in 15 days to a month, at the latest.
|The East India Company: The original corporate raiders|
March 04, 2015, The Guardian (UK) by William Dalrymple
One of the very first Indian words to enter the English language was the Hindustani slang for plunder: “loot”. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, this word was rarely heard outside the plains of north India until the late 18th century, when it suddenly became a common term across Britain. To understand how and why it took root and flourished in so distant a landscape, one need only visit Powis Castle.
The last hereditary Welsh prince, Owain Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn, built Powis castle as a craggy fort in the 13th century; the estate was his reward for abandoning Wales to the rule of the English monarchy. But its most spectacular treasures date from a much later period of English conquest and appropriation: Powis is simply awash with loot from India, room after room of imperial plunder, extracted by the East India Company in the 18th century.
|Planned pipeline threatens Revolutionary War battlefield in Georgia|
February 27, 2015, WRDW-TV News 12 (GA) by Staff
Construction on a new 360 mile long pipeline could start in just a couple of months. The 'Palmetto Project' pipeline would run from Jacksonville, Florida up through North Augusta to Belton, South Carolina.
It would pump up to 167,000 barrels of petroleum products across the two state every day, but folks in Screven county say it would destroy a national treasure.
|Building the First Slavery Museum in America|
February 26, 2015, Science Daily by David Amsden
Louisiana’s River Road runs northwest from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, its two lanes snaking some 100 miles along the Mississippi and through a contradictory stretch of America. Flat and fertile, with oaks webbed in Spanish moss, the landscape stands in defiance of the numerous oil refineries and petrochemical plants that threaten its natural splendor. In the rust-scabbed towns of clapboard homes, you are reminded that Louisiana is the eighth-poorest state in the nation. Yet in the lush sugar plantations that crop up every couple of miles, you can glimpse the excess that defined the region before the Civil War. Some are still active, with expansive fields yielding 13 million tons of sugar cane a year. Others stand in states of elegant rot. But most conspicuous are those that have been restored for tourists, transporting them into a world of bygone Southern grandeur — one in which mint juleps, manicured gardens and hoop skirts are emphasized over the fact that such grandeur was made possible by the enslavement of black human beings.
|Centuries-old DNA helps identify origins of slave skeletons found in Caribbean|
February 26, 2015, The Associated Press by Chris Carola
His words grace New Hampshire’s license plates - “Live Free or Die” - yet most people outside New England would be hard-pressed to identify Gen. John Stark, despite his heroics in two 18th century wars, including key roles in some of the American Revolution’s most significant battles.
Two brothers hope to enlighten readers with their new book on the Granite State’s favorite son, who did most of his soldiering in New York while serving in the forerunner of today’s U.S. Army Rangers and, two decades later, leading troops in the nation’s fight for independence.
|How Was The Revolutionary War Paid For?|
February 23, 2015, Journal Of The American Revolution by John L. Smith, Jr.
It’s one thing to make speeches about declaring independence, or to assemble militias and discuss battle tactics against the enemy.
It’s quite another thing to pay for it all.
So how do you pay for a war that no one expected to last eight years?
|Cambridgeshire church plague graffiti reveals 'heartbreaking' find|
February 20, 2015, BBC (UK) by Staff
"Heartbreaking" graffiti uncovered in a Cambridgeshire church has revealed how three sisters from one family died in a plague outbreak in 1515.
The names Cateryn, Jane and Amee Maddyngley and the date were inscribed on stonework in Kingston parish church.
It was found by Norfolk and Suffolk Medieval Graffiti Survey volunteers.
|Storm washes Armada wreckage on to Sligo beach|
February 20, 2015, The Irish Times by Marese McDonagh
Fears have been expressed for the security of the three Spanish Armada shipwrecks off the coast of Co Sligo, following the discovery of two separate remnants, apparently washed up on Streedagh beach by recent storms.
Donal Gilroy from the Grange and Armada Development Association (GADA) said the discoveries underlined the fragility of the wrecks, described by one expert as “the best archaeological site for this time of maritime archaeology in the world”.
The National Museum and the heritage office at Sligo County Council were notified yesterday about the finds, which follow the discovery last year of part of a 20ft rudder from one of the vessels on the beach.
|Getting to know George Washington, America's 'conservative revolutionary'|
February 18, 2015, The Virginia Gazette by Mitchell B. Reiss
As we approach George Washington's birthday this coming Sunday, Feb. 22, it is appropriate for us to look past the mattress and car sales invoking his name and pause to reflect on his many contributions to our country. From the distance of more than two centuries, how should we assess his impact on the United States? And what relevance does his life have for us in 2015?
|Confronting political extremism through debate itself|
February 17, 2015, Richmond Times-Dispatch (VA) by Michael Signer
Today, our commonwealth and the country at large are being poisoned by a toxic brew of extremism, gridlock and cynicism about leadership itself. Congress is both historically unpopular and unproductive. President Barack Obama has been stymied in his quest to bring hope and unity to a country divided between red and blue. And here in Richmond, many leaders of both parties can barely speak to each other, let alone compromise, on issues ranging from Medicaid expansion to nonpartisan redistricting.
...For a model, our political leaders today should look further back in time — to James Madison. In researching young James Madison’s rise over the past four years, I was struck by how Madison challenged extremism through the politically unlikely but powerful force of debate.
|I, Tituba: Working as a Historical Reenactor in Salem|
February 10, 2015, The Toast by Dianca London Potts
I was Tituba. Or at least, everyone thought I was. During my freshman year at a small liberal arts Christian college in Wenham, Massachusetts, my lifelong fascination with the Salem Witch Trials and an empty bank account prompted me to apply for a job as a historical reenactor. For nine dolllars an hour, I dressed in heavy cloaks, long skirts, and leather boots with golden buckles. I revived the past as a member of the street cast for Cry Innocent, a dramatized play recounting the trail of Bridget Bishop, the first citizen of Salem to be executed as a witch. Somewhere between the excitement of make-believe and a steady paycheck, I forgot the historical implications of something I couldn’t change: the color of my skin.
|The Bravest Son of Liberty?|
February 07, 2015, Yankee Doodle Spies by S.W. O'Connell
Jamaica, Long Island that is. Brigadier General Marinus Willett may in fact be one of the greatest and accomplished New Yorkers - ever. He was a descendant of Thomas Willett, who arrived in New York on the ship The Lion in 1632. The elder Willett served as the first English Mayor of New York City after New Amsterdam fell to the British in 1664. Marinus' father was Edward Willett, a farmer who lived in Jamaica, Long Island (now Queens). Hard to believe that the mean streets that folks see on the way to JFK Airport once was some of the lushest farm land in America. But Edward was a man of letters and business - he made his living as a school teacher and a tavern keeper.
|World premiere of Vivaldi's earliest known work|
February 06, 2015, BBC (UK) by Benedetto Cataldi
The newly-discovered earliest known work by Italian baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi is being premiered at a concert on Monday in Florence, at the city's renowned Uffizi art museum.
The new Vivaldi discovery is an instrumental work that has been dated to between 1700 and 1703. It will be performed by the baroque ensemble Modo Antiquo, under the baton of Federico Maria Sardelli, the conductor and musicologist who unearthed this composition.
|Remarkable Discovery Describes Hemmings Cabin Interior|
February 05, 2015, Monticello.org by Susan Stein
While study of Mulberry Row has been underway for nearly 60 years, Monticello curators just discovered new important information about the furnishings of John and Priscilla Hemmings’s cabin. We could hardly believe our luck to find a very rare, first-person account about the interior of a slave dwelling. It was written by the last great-grandchild born at Monticello, Martha Jefferson Trist Burke (1826–1915). Amazingly, Martha Burke vividly remembered the interior of the Hemmngs’s dwelling because of the strong impression it made upon her at 2 ½ years of age. Written in her own hand in a lined notebook in 1889, she notes,
|Thomas Jefferson Conducted Early Smallpox Vaccine Trials|
February 04, 2015, Smithsonian Magazine by Marissa Fessenden
In May of 1980, the World Health Assembly declared the world free from smallpox. The disease that had killed millions of people every century for much of recorded history was gone (at least, outside of laboratories)—a triumph that began with English doctor Edward Jenner, who discovered in 1796 that a little bit of a similar virus from cows could protect humans. Cows are vacca in Latin, hence vaccination.
Jenner’s work reached the U.S. in part due to the efforts of a Harvard professor, Benjamin Waterhouse, who vaccinated his own family and exposed them to smallpox patients. But Waterhouse wanted to spread the word, so he wrote to an amateur scientist in Virginia, writes Steven Johnson for How We Get to Next. That scientist was Thomas Jefferson.
|6 Famous Wild Children from History|
February 03, 2015, History.com by Evan Andrews
According to legend, the city of Rome was founded by Romulus and Remus, two twin boys who were born to a princess and abandoned in the wilderness as infants. The pair would have died if not for the kindness of a she-wolf and a woodpecker, which suckled and fed the boys until a shepherd adopted them. The story of Romulus and Remus’s youth is most likely a myth, but history abounds with tales of kids who spent their early years in confinement or alone in the forest, often emerging with little knowledge of language or social cues. From a wild boy kept as a pet in King George’s court to an Indian who was supposedly raised by wolves, learn the puzzling and often tragic stories of six famous feral children.
|Taj Mahal Gardens Found to Align with the Solstice Sun|
February 02, 2015, LiveScience by Owen Jarus
If you arrived at the Taj Mahal in India before the sun rises on the day of the summer solstice (which usually occurs June 21), and walked up to the north-central portion of the garden where two pathways intersect with the waterway, and if you could step into that waterway and turn your gaze toward a pavilion to the northeast — you would see the sun rise directly over it.
If you could stay in that spot, in the waterway, for the entire day, the sun would appear to move behind you and then set in alignment with another pavilion, to the northwest. The mausoleum and minarets of the Taj Mahal are located between those two pavilions, and the rising and setting sun would appear to frame them.
|Corpse of 200-Year-Old Monk Found in Lotus Position|
January 29, 2015, Discovery News by Rossella Lorenzi
The amazingly intact remains of a meditating monk have been discovered in the Songinokhairkhan province of Mongolia, according to a report in Mongolia’s Morning News.
The mummified body, which was covered in animal skin, has been sitting in the lotus position for about 200 years.
According to the report, no information is so far available as to where the body was found.
|Vice-Admiralty Courts And Writs Of Assistance|
January 28, 2015, Journal of the American Revolution by Bob Ruppert
Vice-Admiralty jurisdiction was established in the American colonies
in 1697; Vice-Admiralty courts were created in Maryland (1694), New York (which included Connecticut and New Jersey) and South Carolina (1697), Pennsylvania (which included Delaware) and Virginia (1698), Massachusetts (1699), New Hampshire (1704), Rhode Island (1716), North Carolina (1729), and Georgia (1754). They were not effective in enforcing trade laws due to bribery of officials, smuggling, salutary neglect on the part of England, and poor appointments. As a result, after the French and Indian War, when tax revenue was needed to cover the debt incurred by the war, England shut down the ten courts and created a single court in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The Crown appointed and sent Dr. William Spry from England to serve as “Judge of the Vice-Admiralty Court of all America.”
|A Saint With A Mixed History: Junipero Serra's Canonization Raises Eyebrows|
January 28, 2015, NPR by Jasmine Garsd
The name Junípero Serra is well known in California: Schools and streets are named in his honor, and statues of the 18th century Spanish missionary still stand. But Native American activists are far less enamored with the friar, saying Serra was actually an accomplice in the brutal colonization of natives. They object to Pope Francis' recent announcement that he will canonize Serra when he travels to the U.S. this fall.