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Posted in Ancient History, Geology, Historical articles, History, Interesting Words, Language on Tuesday, 21 May 2013
This edited article about language originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 261 published on 14 January 1967.
Roman soldiers were paid in salt
The province of Salzburg, of which the city of Salzburg is the capital, is one of the most beautiful regions in Austria. It attracts many visitors who come each year to see the rich and varied landscape, through which the rivers flow into the broad plains of Bavaria. In winter people flock to the ski slopes; in August they come to the Salzburg Festival.
The Festival was first staged in 1917, and includes the production of plays, operas and concerts, often featuring the music of Mozart, who was born and lived in Salzburg.
Salzburg is on the curve of an alpine river, the Salzach, and once aspired to be the ‘Rome of the north’. Narrow, sloping streets with houses built tall to conserve space, crowd the narrow piece of land between the swiftly flowing river and the steep mountain ledge which towers above.
The grandest buildings are those of the Prince-Archbishops who ruled the region until a century and a half ago. There are princely palaces, churches by the dozen and a cathedral with a dazzling white interior which its builder hoped would rival St. Peter’s, Rome. The nave is more than 100 yards long, the dome nearly 240 feet high, and the building can hold about 10,000 people.
In the middle ages, the Archbishops of Salzburg were Imperial princes as well as churchmen and the importance of Salzburg was firmly established.
In Salzburg, too, is the world’s oldest nunnery, where Julie Andrews was filmed in The Sound of Music, the story of the Trapp family. Frau Trapp had been a novice there.
Salt drew the earliest settlers to this region. Whole mountains of salt have been mined, leaving behind vast caverns. So many of them inter-connect that a person can walk through them for 25 miles without coming to the surface.
Salt is less important to Salzburg now, but for centuries the main job on the river Salzach was to carry salt boats on their way to the Danube. Castles sprang up along the series of rivers to exact tolls from salt and other goods.
Salzburg was a trading centre for salt in Celtic and Roman days. Hence its name – Salzburg, or salt fortress.
The Romans ruled this area for several centuries. They settled amongst the Celtic population, building settlements in places where the river was wide enough to facilitate trade. They began to build up a network of roads. The region prospered because, as men’s diet broadened to embrace agricultural products, extra salt became a valuable seasoning, imperative to health and almost as precious as gold.
Surviving phrases emphasise the value of salt – phrases like being ‘worth one’s salt’, ‘the salt of life’, or, as a measure of distinction, ‘sitting above (or below) the salt.’ At one time the Romans paid their soldiers in salt, for which the Latin word is sal. Later, the Romans replaced salt with a money allowance for buying it. They called this sum a salarium, or salary. Today, the salary is still the term used to describe the regular payment made to people at work.
Posted in Architecture, Famous landmarks, Geography, Geology, Historical articles, History, London on Friday, 17 May 2013
The seat of G B Greenough, Regent's Park, London.
Grove House dates from 1824-28 and was designed by Decimus Burton, who was soon to begin work on laying out the Zoological Gardens. This perfect villa was built for G B Greenough, President of the Geological Society and of the Royal Geographical Society. A cultivated bachelor, he held numerous charity parties and balls, and at other times specially invited guests were able to see his important fossil collection. The house was altered in 1877 and during the early twentieth century, but the substance of it and the splendid simplicity of Burton’s original conception have survived. Each elevation had views of the park and was different; in this picture we can see the grandest, the south front, with its roof-height portico of four Ionic double columns.
Many more pictures of Regent’s Park can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.
Posted in British Towns, Geology, Historical articles, History, Leisure, Medicine on Wednesday, 15 May 2013
This edited article about spa towns originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 256 published on 10 December 1966.
“One [o'clock] in the afternoon. Called for my flowered handkerchief. Worked half a violet in it. Eyes ached and head out of order. Threw by my work . . .” (Mr. Addison – The Spectator no. 323.)
Many such as these would come to ‘drink the waters’ at a spa in order to while away part of the year in a congenial social atmosphere under the pretext of the pursuit of health.
Spas like Bath were so popular at this time that the merits of their medicinal waters were remembered in the summer months when the rigours of London society began to pall. “The city of Bath” remarked Oliver Goldsmith, “by such assiduity, soon became the theatre of summer amusements for all people of fashion . . . Upon a stranger’s arrival at Bath, he is welcomed by a peal of the Abbey bells, and in the next place, by the voice and music of the city waits. For these civilities, the ringers have generally a present made to them of half-a-guinea, and the waits of half-a-crown, or more, in proportion to the person’s fortune, generosity, or ostentation.”
Society in Bath was organised by Beau Nash – “a man,” said Oliver Goldsmith, “who for 50 years presided over the pleasures of a polite kingdom” – and Bath was organised for Society. Its brilliance and gaiety revolved around the healthful springs.
Few of the wilting social ‘flowers’ who fortified themselves for the giddy round of frivolity with mineral water, can have known to whom they owed the fortunate and fashionable practice.
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Posted in Ancient History, Archaeology, Disasters, Geology, Historical articles, History on Monday, 29 April 2013
This edited article about Pompeii originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 234 published on 9 July 1966.
On August 24, A.D. 79, Pompeii, a city on the coast near Naples very popular with the wealthier class of Roman, was buried in a few hours by an eruption of the nearby volcano Vesuvius. Destruction was caused not by lava but by volcanic debris hurled through the air by the violence of the explosion.
First came a heavy bombardment of boulders and pebbles, then a thick cloud of fine, white ash. Finally a torrential rain, probably caused by condensing steam, fell to mix with the ash and form a kind of plaster. This plaster was to give a unique but gruesome gift to archaeologists of the future.
The rediscovery of Pompeii occurred in a roundabout fashion. In 1719, builders quarrying marble on the other side of Vesuvius found a treasury of statues. They had stumbled upon Herculaneum, a city destroyed by the same eruption as that which destroyed Pompeii: unlike Pompeii, it had been engulfed in a flow of mud which subsequently turned to a layer of stone 85 feet thick.
The finds were rich, for the people of Herculaneum had been unable to remove their possessions, but the difficulty of working in the solid stone discouraged all but the most dedicated treasure-seekers.
The discovery of Herculaneum reminded men of the existence of Pompeii, however, and search began on the probable site beneath obliterating vines and mulberries growing in the fertile, ashy soil to the south of Vesuvius. It was immediately successful and, because excavating was easier there than at Herculaneum, interest was gradually transferred to Pompeii.
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Posted in Disasters, Famous news stories, Geology, Historical articles on Tuesday, 16 April 2013
This edited article about natural disasters originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 226 published on 14 May 1966.
St Pierre, Martinique before the earthquake
At 7.50 a.m. on the morning of May 8, 1902, St. Pierre was a prosperous city and port nestling at the foot of Mont Pelee, a volcanic mountain on the French West Indian island of Martinique. Shops and offices were opening and in the harbour, ships were loading and unloading their cargoes. It was just the beginning of another day.
Ten minutes later, St. Pierre was a mass of blazing ruins, with 28,000 of its inhabitants dead or dying in the rubble. Only two people out of St. Pierre’s whole population survived the holacaust. One was a woman down in a cellar; the other was a man shut in the dungeon of the city’s prison. Four days later, rescue parties found them – burned, starving and terrified.
Mont Pelee had erupted many times before, but these minor eruptions had been a blessing, for the volcanic ash produced a fertile soil for the sugar plantations on which the island’s prosperity depended. But when the side of Mont Pelee tore open with a roaring explosion, and a vast cloud of super-hot smoke, gas and fragments of white-hot rock swept on to St. Pierre at a speed of three hundred miles an hour, the people were killed almost before they knew what had hit them.
After devastating St. Pierre, the fiery flood blasted across the harbour. With the exception of two steamers, every ship in the port was capsized and set on fire, their crews perishing in the boiling water.
The shock waves of the eruption encircled the earth, and the noise of the explosion was heard eight hundred miles away.
Posted in Australia, Famous news stories, Geology, Historical articles, History on Wednesday, 27 March 2013
This edited article about Australia originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 213 published on 12 February 1966.
Like many Australians, Edward Hargraves had gone to California to seek his fortune in the gold rush of 1849. But he came back poorer than when he left.
Struggling through the scrubland at the foot of the Blue Mountains in New South Wales, on February 10, 1851, something struck him as being familiar. The ground was very similar to that of the gold bearing hills of California. His training as a prospector was aroused and he started to dig. In a few hours he had found gold: and gold in unbelievably rich ore.
That was the beginning of the great Australian gold strike. News of Hargraves’s discovery swept through Australia like a bush fire and within a few weeks the whole way of life in New South Wales was shaken.
Thousands of men came to stake claims in the new gold fields. Shops, offices and factories soon found themselves without staff. In the harbours wharves were deserted and crews walked off their ships. Stockmen left their flocks and herds unattended while they searched for gold.
Within a few months of Hargraves’s discovery, even richer deposits of the precious metal were found in Victoria. Reports of fabulous nuggets being found spread throughout the world. Soon fortune hunters were pouring off hundreds of ships at every Australian port. After the gold seekers came tradesmen and shopkeepers to supply their needs.
Within two months the Australian gold fields had produced nearly £2,000,000 worth of the precious metal. But even more remarkable was the increase in the country’s population.
Posted in Disasters, Geography, Geology, Historical articles, History on Wednesday, 27 March 2013
This edited article about earthquakes originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 213 published on 12 February 1966.
Comrie Castle near Comrie village which has felt over 400 tremors in a century and a half
The air had become very still in Westminster on February 8, 1750. Suddenly the ground trembled: a few people were knocked off their feet; chimney stacks crashed into the streets; and one or two walls fell down. But no one was hurt and very little damage was done.
Britons do not think of their country having earthquakes, but historians have recorded 1,190 in Great Britain between 974 and 1916. Only twenty-two of them were strong enough to cause damage but even they do not compare with the disasters that in other countries have laid waste whole cities and killed thousands of their inhabitants.
Near Inverness, four strong earthquakes occurred during the nineteenth century. These were probably caused by a slip in the “great fault” which crosses Scotland along the line of the Caledonian Canal (a fault is a fracture in the earth’s crust along which the rocks on one side have been displaced in relation to the other). The village of Comrie in Perthshire is the most famous earthquake district in the British Isles. Between 1788 and 1921, 421 tremors were felt there.
Hereford is the most important of many earthquake-centres in England and Wales. The rest are mostly situated in the midland counties and in the southern counties of Wales.
Most of Britain’s disturbances are what geologists call twin-earthquakes. That is they consist of two distinct shocks, each one coming from a different centre. These shocks have never been very serious. Over a period of a thousand years only one person has ever been killed. That was in 1580; a draper’s apprentice was hit by a falling chimney pot when a slight tremor shook London.
Britain’s most severe earthquake was one morning in April, 1884, when a loud rumbling was heard at Colchester and the ground began to shake. A church was completely wrecked.
Posted in Adventure, Exploration, Geography, Geology on Monday, 18 March 2013
This edited article about volcanos originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 200 published on 13 November 1965.
Haroun Tazieff descends into an active volcano
We had no time to lose. The afternoon was already well advanced as I fastened myself to the rope and tied round my waist the end of the steel cable, which was to be used for supplies. I then started on the descent.
There is only one practicable way down. It is easy enough at the start: a kind of wide couloir scattered with large crumbling stones. After about fifty yards the slope becomes sharper; a vertical rocky bar has to be crossed, and one arrives at the first of the thick strata of volcanic tuff which lies between the layers of hard rock.
This wall reveals clearly the volcano’s internal structure, showing how the mountain was built up century after century by alternate deposits of lava flow and ashes, of grit and pebbles, which sank down and accumulated to form what is called volcanic tuff.
It was not difficult to cross the beds of reddish tuff, but it did require unusual caution. No hold is to be trusted.
When I was three-quarters of the way down, the cable became wedged. Ten minutes of shaking were of no avail, and my cries and shouts for someone above to wave the rope no longer reached my fellow explorers. I therefore unfastened myself and fixed the end of the steel cable to a jutting stone, leaving to Tormoz the task of bringing it to the bottom. Then I continued the descent, to a horizontal platform, where a mist enveloped me, forcing me to stop.
Time passed and I began to fear that it would be nightfall before there was a break in the mist. If this were the case, my companions would find it impossible to make a descent before the next day, and I would have the discomfort of a night without warm clothing and food.
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Posted in Adventure, America, Famous news stories, Geology, Historical articles, History on Wednesday, 6 March 2013
This edited article about the Klondike Gold Rush originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 175 published on 17 May 1965.
Gold seekers crossing the Chilkoot Pass during the Alaskan Gold Rush, 1896-1899
There is an almost inexhaustible fund of true adventure stories. Some of them belong to history books, while others lie forgotten in the yellowing files of the world’s newspapers. These stories, famous or otherwise, invariably deal with the exploits of lone individuals, or with small parties of brave men sharing a common danger.
This story is different, for it is a true adventure story that was shared by more than 30,000 people.
It is a story that began in the winter of 1896.
The United States was in the throes of a financial depression, and times were hard. Thousands of jobless and hungry men were wandering around the windswept streets, hopelessly looking for non-existent jobs; hundreds of people had been ruined by the failure of their banks; agriculture and the country’s industry was perilously near to coming to a standstill, and to cap it all, the Treasury had announced openly that it was short of gold. The future for many people in the United States looked very bleak indeed.
The depression had lasted for three years already and there were no signs of any immediate change. Something was needed to fire the people’s imagination to give them hope and keep them going through these difficult times. That something was to come almost immediately, from an unexpected quarter.
During that winter, stories had been trickling through of a gold strike in the Yukon territory of North Western Canada.
The strike had been made apparently in a creek that bore the Indian name of Throndak, which the miners eventually changed to Klondike.
No one had really believed these stories, until letters from the Yukon miners began to trickle through, which told of large nuggets lying within the reach of anyone who cared to shift a few boulders. The miners who were panning for gold in the creeks wrote, too, of how they were rapidly accumulating fantastic amounts of gold dust. Everyone in the Klondike, it seemed, was quickly becoming a millionaire.
Whatever doubt that may have remained regarding the truth of these claims was quickly dispelled when a boatload of miners from the Yukon returned to Seattle in July the following year. The men who got off that boat were lean, weather-beaten, and in rags. But each one of them was carrying a large sack or box of gold. The sight of those grinning miners trooping down the gangplank was enough to send reporters scurrying to the telephones with the story that was to begin the great Klondike Gold Rush.
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Posted in Famous news stories, Geology, Historical articles, History, Royalty, Superstition on Wednesday, 30 January 2013
This edited article about the Hope Diamond originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 113 published on 14 March 1964.
Louis XIV was delighted to buy the Hope Diamond from Tavernier
With a wave of his hand the visitor to the Court of King Louis the Fourteenth spread out twenty-five magnificent diamonds on to a spindly-legged table that stood between him and the French King.
The King’s eyes sparkled. Some of the diamonds were the biggest he had ever seen. One was particularly brilliant – a blue diamond that the visitor, whose name was Tavernier, carefully set aside from the rest.
Tavernier had brought back the diamonds from India. King Louis, always prepared to buy great treasures for his palaces, made an offer for them which was accepted.
There was, however, one disturbing point that Tavernier wanted to explain about the diamonds – and about the blue stone in particular: they carried a terrible curse upon them.
Before Tavernier could say any more, the King laughed him to scorn.
“You say . . .” he exclaimed, with tears of mirth running down his cheeks, “that this – this stone – was once the eye of a Hindu idol? Well, I suppose I can believe that – but to say that it carries a curse. . . !” The King dissolved into laughter again.
“But Your Majesty,” protested Tavernier, “as an experienced traveller and collector, I –”
The King cut him short with a wave of his hand. “Don’t tell me any more, Monsieur Tavernier. I’ll buy these stones and give you a good price for them – but please don’t tell me fairy stories into the bargain. You’ve been in the East too long.”
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