Posts filed under “History”


Third Series.

Elevators. The earliest models of elevators were small and used mostly for freight. They were not adopted for passenger use in better hotels and apartment buildings until they could be made large enough to accommodate a small orchestra, a practice that continued until the advent of recorded music made the orchestra redundant.


Do you have trouble sorting out the events of the Wars of the Roses? No more. In galloping Elizabethan fourteeners, William Warner gives us a complete English history called Albions England. When he comes to the Wars of the Roses, he finishes his narration by giving us the whole story “digested in this sum”:

Fourth Henry first Lancastrian King put second Richard downe:
Fourth Edward of the House of Yorke re-seazd sixt Henries Crowne:
Lad-Princes twaine were stabd in Field, of either Linage one:
Foure Kings did perish: Sundry times now-kings anon were none:
Sixe, three of either faction, held successively the Throne:
But from the second Richard to seventh Henry we pretend
Eight Kings this Faction to begin, continue, and to end.

Now you never need to worry about sorting out the Wars of the Roses again.


Anyone can tell you what has already happened in European history. Even if you cannot recite all the details, you doubtless remember the basic outline, which is that European history boils down to a bunch of Europeans killing each other. (Admittedly this makes it hard to distinguish from African, American, Asian, or Australian history.)

But it takes a certain confidence to tell us what is going to happen in European history, and to place the events in a chronological table. Fortunately, an English writer in the time of the Commonwealth has done that work for us, producing a chronology that continues through to the end of time. He begins, naturally enough, with the birth of Christ; but, since we already know what has happened in history, we may skip through the first half of the chronological table until we come to the good part.

The establishment of Protestantism in England was the pouring out of the first vial in Revelation, and the religious wars infect the stinking waters of the Papacy with blood. By 1630 the fifth vial is being poured out, and things are going badly for the Romish Church. In 1648 the Jesuits are proscribed in Poland, and this great victory against the Romanists brings us to the present time, 1650, when our chronologist is chronologizing. And here is where he makes his original contribution, because most historians stop their timelines at the present moment, but our current writer bravely slogs on into the future.

In 1659, “Three barbarous nations ſack Hydruntum in Apulia, made enrodes into the Eaſtern Coaſts of Italy, and ſack them with fire and ſword.” Rome is invaded and burned by Western Christians.

In 1660, “The faithfull and true Warriour riding upon a white Horſe deſcendeth from heaven with his Souldiers riding upon white horſes, to fight againſt the enemies of his Church.”

In 1666, Rome is utterly destroyed. “Rejoyce (O heavens!) for righteous are Gods judgements, He hath condemned the great Whore.”

In 1679, the conversion of the Jews begins. Now that the Christian world is Protestant, the Jews “begin to ſearch the Scriptures, and learn the waies of God.”

By 1684, the Jews of the West are converted to proper Protestantism, and they combine with the Jews of the East to attack the Turks. In 1698, they win the great battle for Jerusalem, and “the Turks are deſtroyed with an eternall deſtruction.” Gog and Magog also rise up, but rather anticlimactically are destroyed at once by fire from heaven.

The reign of the saints in Europe seems to begin about 1710, and by 1763 all Europe is ruled more or less directly by Christ.

In 1767 the Temple is restored in Jerusalem.

By 1793 the Jews are sending their missionaries all over the world to convert the rest of the people to Protestantism.

The Last Judgment and the end of time will happen in 1830. Dr. Boli hopes none of his readers had any firm appointments scheduled beyond that time.


That is the title of a little satirical French dialogue published in 1791, when Revolutionary France was still technically a constitutional monarchy. For those who read French, it is a delightful excursion into the absurdity of the Revolution, which may stand in for the absurdity of all human history. For those who do not read French, Dr. Boli’s translation of the title above may be all you need.

The two characters of the dialogue are Pistouret, a traveler just returned from China who finds France all in an uproar for reasons he knows nothing about, and Boniface, an ordinary citizen who tries to explain how everyone became free while Pistouret was away. To every one of Boniface’s explanations, Pistouret replies, “Ah! ah!”—and then asks whether things are as an obviously sane person would assume they are, only to be told that they are otherwise. Here is a short section taken more or less at random and translated for Frenchless readers:

Pistouret. Ah! ah! Another tax?

Boniface. Yes, you might say that, but it has to cost something not to be slaves.

Pistouret. Ah! ah! So you don’t obey anyone anymore?

Boniface. We obey the nation, the law, and the king.

Pistouret. Ah! ah! But wasn’t it the same before?

Boniface. Oh, no! There was that Bastille thing that we captured and destroyed.

Pistouret. Ah! ah! Did they capture and destroy all the other prisons, too?

Boniface. No, there have to be prisons.

Pistouret. Ah! ah! And why did they hate that one more than the others?

Boniface. Because… I couldn’t really say. It was to make the aristocrats mad.

Pistouret. Ah! ah! What are aristocrats?

Boniface. Now, where do you come from, that you ask me that question? They’re the enemies of the nation, the ones who caused the…uh… Someone can tell you that. As for me, I don’t understand anything.


Are end-times prophecies coming true before our eyes? Consider these signs of the end times, and prepare.

“Organic energy chews.”

Wireless smart beanies.

Japanese knotweed.


Individual stickers on every single piece of fruit at the supermarket (see Rev. 13:16-17).

“This is an apology call from your electric utility.”

Cheese-flavored ice cream.

“Updates to our terms of use.”

Gluten-free seltzer.





Monday, August 10, is George Washington Day. Be ready for the whole truth about the Father of His Country. Here is a very short specimen of what you may expect.

Meanwhile the business of creating a government occupied most of the meetings of Congress; and as Congress created the positions, the President was required to nominate men to fill them. Of course Washington could think of only one man to be the Secretary of the Treasury, and Mr. Hamilton was hardly able to contain his joy at being able to found his own currency.

“We shall base it on tens,” he explained, “which will at a stroke eliminate the difficulties of converting between pounds, shillings, dollars, and all the other coins that jangle in our purses; and we shall have a national currency, so that there will be no complicated formula, as there is now, to convert the coin of New Hampshire to that of North Carolina. As the people are familiar with the name, and as it carries no memories of our oppression by the British, we shall call our coin the dollar, and if—”

“And these dollars,” Washington interrupted—“of what size and weight will they be?”

“The weight, of course, will depend on the value we assign to the United States dollar; as for the size, we shall consult with the men we choose to run our mint, who will be able to tell us how such and so much a weight of silver is best distributed in a coin.”

“These are very important considerations from the point of view of a coin’s projectile properties,” said Washington. “The Spanish milled dollar travels well through the air, and possesses enough heft to carry it to its target without being too much buffeted by the wind. I should hate to see an American dollar without those properties; for men who throw dollars for sport are very particular about the dollars they throw, and might reject our United States dollar if its range and accuracy do not meet their expectations.”

“I am certain you could persuade our mint to take those considerations into account,” said Hamilton. “Now, as I said, multiples of ten will—”

“A milled edge also improves the grip, which for sporting purposes is one of the most important considerations.”

“Yes. The grip. Now, as I was saying, we shall make our dollar divisible into tens, which we might call ‘dimes,’ as being, of course, the tenth part of a dollar. A tenth part of a dime would then be a ‘cent,’ because it is the hundredth part of—”

“I thought you said it was the tenth part.”

“It is the tenth part of a dime, and therefore the hundredth part of a dollar.”

“Why can’t it make up its mind?”

“It is both at the same time!”

“My word! That’s clever.”

“And then the tenth part of a cent would be a mill, bec—”

“Because it is the millionth part of a dollar!”

“No,” Hamilton explained with strained patience, “only the thousandth part.”

“Then why is it called a mill?”

“Because it is—”

“Why not a thou?”

“Because the names come from Latin, or rather—”

“Oh, Latin,” said Washington knowingly. “Well, Latin is another matter altogether.”

Hamilton was about to say something more, but then appeared to realize that he had won as much of a victory as he was likely to win in this discussion, and resumed his earlier topic. “As I was saying, the division into tens will make calculations much easier for ordinary shopkeepers and merchants, who will find their duties lightened considerably.”

“For example,” said Washington, “if I buy a turkey quill at Stimson’s in Alexandria for one bit, which is an eighth of a dollar, then that comes to…now let me see…”

“Twelve and a half cents,” said Susanna.

“Twelve and a half? Well, that doesn’t sound very easy at all. How is that easier than saying ‘one bit,’ Hamilton?”

“It just is!” Hamilton sputtered. “Tens are easier!”

I looked at Susanna, but she had nothing more to say. With Hamilton’s explosion, she had accomplished her goal.



Monday, August 10, is George Washington Day. Be ready for the whole truth about the Father of His Country. Here is a very short specimen of what you may expect.

“It sounds very well,” said Washington, “but how are we to be sure of victory against so great an army? Cornwallis has greater numbers on his side.”

“The French fleet, sir, will be essential,” replied Susanna. “Cornwallis, we hear, has taken a position on the peninsula. If the French can prevent his escape by water, and prevent his being reinforced or resupplied, then we need only block the land routes, and we have him.”

This seemed like good advice to Washington, and so Admiral de Grasse was summoned to a meeting with the General, at which La Fayette was also present, along with Susanna and me. We unrolled a large map of the peninsula between the York and James rivers, and the three great leaders studied it in intense silence for a while. At last Washington spoke.

“If we dispose our soldiers here, on the north and east, with Fayette’s French army on the south, then you, Admiral, should be able to cut off Cornwallis completely by water to the west.”

“Yes,” de Grasse agreed, “the plan, it is excellent. He shall not escape us, by blue.”

Susanna looked down at the map. “I believe, sirs, that you have mistaken the water for the land, and the land for the water. These wavy lines here, you see, indicate the water; the land is this area behind them, here.”

“Ah!” said Washington. “Thank you, Phillips. Well spotted. That is important information, and complicates the strategy considerably. We cannot expect the men to stand very long in water that is possibly up to their necks, or even over their heads. We shall need to make some adaptations; perhaps some sort of bridge or pier assembly, or better yet a series of floating wooden platforms with which we can surround the peninsula on three sides, and on which the men can stand dryshod for an indefinite period of time. It will require a good bit of wood, which will require a good bit of labor; although the labor will be hastened considerably if we can find any large stands of wild cherry. That will do for the army; but, unless I am very much mistaken, the disposition of the fleet will require at least as much thought and labor, if not more.”

“Very assuredly,” the Admiral agreed. “I believe that a construction of the rollers, made perhaps of the trunks of the trees, will be necessary for the placing of the ships in position, if indeed suitable trees find themselves nearby.”

“Well, there fortune favors us,” said Washington. “Tidewater Virginia has many stands of pine that grow straight and tall, with few branches until very near the top; such trees would, it seems to me, make admirable rollers for our purposes.”

Susanna was sitting with her head down, her eyes closed, and her fingers on her temples; but now she spoke again. “If I may be so bold, sirs, it might be better to reverse the positions of the army and the fleet.”

The General and the Admiral both looked at her blankly for a moment; then Washington spoke slowly and cautiously. “Do you mean, the army on the land, and the navy in the water?”

“Yes, sir,” Susanna said with care and patience. “Each force deployed in its native element, so to speak.”

“My word, Phillips! How much simpler that makes everything! You see, Admiral, why I insist on having Captain Phillips present whenever we discuss strategy.”



Monday, August 10, is George Washington Day. Be ready for the whole truth about the Father of His Country.

The painting, “Washington Rising,” is an unwilling collaboration between Frederic Church and Gilbert Stuart.


Third Series.

Map of the Holy Roman Empire at the end of the Thirty Years’ War, by Wikimedia Commons user “Astrokey44,” licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.

Thirty Years’ War.—Although it is usually spoken of as a religious war, the Thirty Years’ War actually began with a bloody rebellion by the cartographers’ guild of Stuttgart. Unfortunately the rebellion accomplished very little.