Posts filed under “History”


From Wikipedia:

Bonaventure was formally canonised in 1484 by the Franciscan Pope Sixtus IV, and ranked along with Thomas Aquinas as the greatest of the Doctors of the Church by another Franciscan, Pope Sixtus V, in 1587. Bonaventure was regarded as one of the greatest philosophers of the Middle Ages.

He is the patron saint of bowel disorders.


On this day in 1812, the first steamboat to ply the Ohio and Mississippi arrived in New Orleans, which was named in its honor. The craft had left Pittsburgh with a great fanfare two and a half months earlier, but naysayers insisted that, though it could float downstream, the thing could never make it upstream against the powerful currents. A crowd is still standing on the Mon Wharf in Pittsburgh waiting for the boat to come back and prove the naysayers wrong.


Special Christmas Number.

Little Drummer Boy. — The man who wrote “The Little Drummer Boy” was a raving atheist who had vowed revenge on all of Christian culture.

Neckties. — It is estimated that four hundred twenty million neckties will change hands today. Four hundred fifteen million of them will change hands again next year.

Santa Claus. — In Australia and other countries of the Southern Hemisphere, owing to the Coriolis Effect, Santa Claus comes up the chimney and leaves the presents on the roof.

Tchaikovsky. — Tchaikovsky was under the impression that he was writing an advertising jingle for the Imperial Nutcracker Company of Nizhny Novgorod. He had to make hurried revisions when he discovered that there would be people dancing to his music.

Wise Men. — A fourth king from the east brought the infant King a fruitcake, but theologians have steadfastly denied him the title of “wise man.”


If you are very observant, you might have noticed that a site called “The Historical Spectator” has been listed for a little while in the right margin over there. →

This is a small experiment in creating a very simple Web site that is pleasantly easy to read, the way a traditional book is, and at the same time makes almost no demands either on the server or on your browser. It is pure text, arranged in a column of about the ideal width for reading, with text comfortably but not annoyingly large, using your browser’s default fonts. The formatting is controlled by a two-kilobyte CSS file, and that is all there is to the content-management system.

As for the content, it consists of meanderings in the curious byways of history. When Dr. Boli finds a chunk of text that illuminates some dusty corner of the past in an entertaining way, he will post it here, so that others may be entertained by it as well. If you have a long memory, you might recall that Dr. Boli had a site called “The Historical Spectator” years ago that was also dedicated to “history as seen by the people who lived through it.” That site still exists as a backup on some local disk in this pile right here under the desk, and some of its material may eventually be brought back.

The current site is hosted on free space as an annex of the Eclectic Library, which is also built in almost pure HTML. The address may change at some point if the free server becomes unusable, as free servers sometimes do (although this one has been going for several years now). But free space is very useful for little experiments like this one.


Wikipedia on Procopius:

Apart from his own writings, the main source for Procopius’s life was a high grandma in the Suda, a Greek encyclopaedia written sometime after 975, which discusses his early life.

A grandmother under the influence of controlled substances strikes Dr. Boli as a somewhat unreliable source.


CompuServe was, for many computer users in the 1980s, a bright vision of the connected future. You could send electronic mail to a correspondent, who would receive it practically instantly,  or at least the next time he connected to the service, which might be weeks from now, since the connection was quite expensive. You could post messages in discussion groups where other like-minded individuals, which is to say individuals with no lives in the real world, could read them and debate them endlessly. You could download new software that would make your computer do wonderful and exciting things like converting from pounds to kilograms.

And CompuServe is still there. You can find an “About CompuServe” page on the site, where you will learn that the latest version of CompuServe, Version 7, adds “Support for the latest Windows operating system, Windows XP, for greater compatibility.” This will come as good news for those who were wondering whether the time had yet come to upgrade from Windows Me. Yes, the time has come. You will like XP much better.

The CompuServe site is a fascinating time capsule, taking us back to the early days of the century, when it might still be imagined that the Internet could be a kind of added-value option for an on-line service from 1969. What makes the experience all the more surreal is that the site carries today’s news, presented in the same format it might have appeared in back in 2001.


On this day in 1066, William the Conqueror won the Battle of Hastings and imposed a greatly enlarged vocabulary on the unwilling Saxons.


On this day in 1231, the Holy See officially established the Holy Inquisition throughout the Holy Roman Empire, and everything was just as holy as all get out.


Marooned on a bleak windswept island for three and a half months, the Duke of Creasing ate his own boots cut into medallions and served with a light basil cream sauce.

The Roman emperor Fastidius ate only peanut butter and jelly, both procured from still-unknown sources at ruinous expense.

Louis Comte de Villaine once threw an entire dinner out the window because he didn’t like the way the prawns were looking at him. A passing prawn-covered gendarme was not amused, and the Comte spent thirty days in jail for “negligent battery with a comestible item or items.”

Mrs. Alexandra Kostka of Polish Hill always arranges her pierogies with the fold on a north-south axis, making sure to take into account the difference between magnetic north and true north.

Reginald Wallburton would not put milk or cream in his coffee until he was assured that it came from cows of a particular bloodline, all descended from a legendary nineteenth-century cow known as Butterface Bertha.



May 5, 1805.

[Clark.] i am riting in the Jernal this Evning becaus Lewis cant spel wirth a Durn. We left Fort Claptrap in the Morening very hungary, & Lewis said we ott to hunt Dear, but the Dear in this Contrie are Armd with Carbines & make por Sport, so we were very hungary untill Diner, when falling in with Nativs of the Sha-la-la Nation, we were conduckted to their large double-wide house, where they servd us a Repast of long ropes of Grane flower, which in their Tung they call Spag-het-tee. i observ that heere grow the Apples commun to our contrie, except that heere the Apples are of a Yello culler & ob-long shape, & hang in grate Clustres: so they tolled me, but i never saw the Trees, & firthermore i observ that the Apples hav markes on their Skinns with the word Chi-qui-ta, which is the Sha-la-la goddis of Frute. Lewis spent the Evning makeing a confounded Fule of himself over the Cheef’s pretty Daugter, but she payed him no Nevermined, & had ize onely for Me. lodgd last Nite at a grate house kept by the Sha-la-las for Wayfairers, which in their Tung is called Mo-tel-six.

[Lewis.] I hav started my own Jornil becos Clark cant spel wurth a Dern. Our accomadasions at Fort Claptrap beeing nun of the Best, wee left erly & preepared to hunt dere; but Clark beeing the grosse Cowerd he is turnd tale & ran at his 1st site of a Buck, & made sutch a Noyse about it that the dere wer Spookt & wee had no meet. In this contree I note that the Rocks gro to a Prodijus size, which I atribute to the nattural Feccunditty of the soyl. There is also a kind of boosh or Tree whitch gros long fybers whitch in the Sha-la-la langwidge are named Spag-gitty, & whitch the natives cook & eat with a Soss made of tomayters. I hav not seen the Tree, but we et the fybers last Eevning with a friendly tribe of Sha-la-las, who also gave us sum Froot cald in theyre langwidge Ba-na-na-na, whitch is theyre word for plum. Clark embarist hisself makeing Gew-gew eyes at the dauhter of the Chefe all nite, but she ignord him & made eyes at me insted.