Category Archives: Historical

Who Was the Most-Feared Pirate?

Despite what you’ve read — or seen in the movies — many think the most-feared pirate was actually a Chinese woman.  Her name was Ching Shih (widow of Cheng), nicknamed Madame Ching, and she lived from 1775 until 1844.   Her territory was the China Sea in the early 19th century. She began as a Cantonese

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A Lesson From The Great Sausage Duel

Have you ever heard about The Great Sausage Duel of 1865?  It’s not completely obscure, with 426 hits on Google.  The incident is described in a 2014 article on the “Skulls in the Stars” website (https://skullsinthestars.com/2014/11/01/the-great-sausage-duel-of-1865/ ). The two protagonists are the Minister President of Prussia Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898) and Rudolf Virchow (1821-1902), who

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History Repeats Itself Again

I’ve been following the recent news about the so-called “Dreamer” program, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative that President Obama created by executive order late in his administration, and the actions the Trump administration are taking to undo the program.  As such, I ran across an item that suggests this is not the

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The First Radical Abolitionist?

If I mention Frederick Douglass or Harriet Tubman, you probably think abolitionist.  But have you ever heard about Benjamin Lay? Benjamin Lay was a most unusual radical.  He stood just over four feet tall and had an extreme curvature of the spine (kyphosis).  Born in 1682 in Colchester, England, he was a third-generation Quaker.  As

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What Is It Like Being a Slave?

I got one.  Driving last weekend to see the solar eclipse (you may have heard about that), I happened to catch one of my favorite radio podcasts in real time, “This American Life” on NPR.  If you’ve never listened, each hour-long program has a theme, divided into acts.  This was Program 623: “We Are The

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A Female Paul Revere?

With the 4th of July on the horizon, I recently ran across an interesting Revolutionary War story.  Everyone remembers Paul Revere and his “midnight ride” in April, 1775, but Revere was only one of a number of riders, and he was captured.  Such are the vagaries of history. I know history is much more complicated. 

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Canada’s Rosa Parks

When we think of civil rights, we tend to focus on our own (considerable) struggles.  But other countries have had periods of turmoil, too. Consider Canada.  Viola Desmond was a businesswoman who owned a beauty salon and school.  She was traveling across Canada, looking to expand her business, when her car broke down in New

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Remembering Tiananmen Square

The Writer’s Almanac reminded me that what is remembered as the Tiananmen Square Massacre happened on June 4, 1989.  On that day, Chinese troops stormed the square to end demonstrations that had actually begun months earlier.   Thousands of supporters from three dozen universities staged hunger strikes and sit-ins in the name of democracy.  The Chinese

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