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Archive for April, 2011

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The Indian Mutiny

Posted in Anniversary, Famous battles, History on Friday, 29 April 2011

10 May marks the anniversary of the beginning of the Indian Mutiny in 1857. The mutiny began as a rebellion of sepoys (Indian soldiers) in the East India Company’s army in the town of Meerut in the north of India and soon spread to other areas.

picture, Indian Mutiny, East India Company, sepoy, soldiers, Bengal, Delhi

Soldiers at Delhi attack the rebels. Illustration by C. L. Doughty

The East India Company had expanded greatly in its influence in India in the 18th and early 19th centuries by forming alliances with local rulers or direct military annexation and was, in effect, the government of much of India. The causes of the rebellion were many: fears over payment, pensions, overseas service, the introduction of the new Enfield Rifle which used cartridges rumoured to be greased with tallow (pork or beef fat), offensive to Hindus and Muslims.

At Meerut, 85 sepoys of the Bengal Army were court martialled on 9 May for refusing to carry out firing drills. A revolt broke out the next day amongst the remaining troops and citizens and over 800 prisoners were freed along with the soldiers. The revolt quickly spread to Delhi and the Great Rebellion, which lasted over a year, had begun.

Many more pictures relating to the history, culture and wildlife of India can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

The transcontinental railroad

Posted in Anniversary, Transport, Travel on Friday, 29 April 2011

10 May marks the anniversary of the completion in 1869 of the transcontinental railroad, or Pacific Railroad, that linked the East and West coasts of the United States. The line was also popularly known as the Overland Route.

picture, transcontinental railroad, Pacific Railroad, Overland Route, railway, trains, Union Pacific

The building of the Union Pacific railroad

Construction had begun in 1863 by the Central Pacific Railroad of California and the Union Pacific Railroad. The former broke ground on 8 January 1863 in Sacramento, California, and the last spike – or golden spike (a ceremonial spike donated by the governor of Arizona) – was driven into the ground at Promontory Summit, Utah, by Governor Leland Stanford, one of the key investors in the Central Pacific Railroad.

Many more pictures relating to railroads and railways can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

Rudolf Hess arrives in Scotland

Posted in Anniversary, World War 2 on Friday, 29 April 2011

10 May marks the anniversary of the parachuting into Scotland in 1941 of Rudolf Hess, a prominent Nazi politician and Adolf Hitler’s deputy in the Nazi Party during the 1930s.

picture, Rudolf Hess, parachute, Scotland

Rudolf Hess, the deputy of the Nazi Party, parachutes into Scotland in 1941. Illustration by Angus McBride

On the eve of Germany’s planned war with the Soviet Union, Hess took off from Augsburg in a Messerschmitt Bf 110. Hitler ordered  squadron leaders to scramble fighters to stop him but Hess arrived over Renfrewshire, Scotland, and parachuted down to a farm near Eaglesham, breaking his ankle during the jump and being arrested by a farmer with a pitchfork.

He was subsequently installed in the Tower of London (the last political prisoner to be held there) in isolation. Hess proposed a peace treaty but his terms were refused. Instead, he was held in Wales until being tried at Nuremberg in 1945. He was then held at Spandau Prison until his death in 1987.

Many more pictures relating to World War II can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

The conversion of Constantine to Christianity

Posted in Historical articles, History, Religion, War on Thursday, 28 April 2011

On 28th October 312 a great battle took place between the Emperor Constantine and his implacable foe the Emperor Maxentius.

Constantine, picture, image, illustration

Constantine has a Divine vision, by Roger Payne

The Battle of Milvian Bridge was fought over one of the great crossings on the river Tiber. Taking this important route was a great strategic prize and saw the beginning of the end of the Tetrarchy, and gave tremendous impetus to Constantine’s rise to sole imperial power. According to such revered chroniclers as Eusebius of Caesarea and Lactantius, it was during this battle that Constantine had some sort of Divine vision, in which God commanded him to daub his soldiers’ shields with the sign of the cross, and thereby lead them to victory. It was this visionary moment which saw his conversion to Christianity. For his part, Maxentius was drowned in the bloody waters of the Tiber.

Many more pictures relating to Constantine and the Roman Empire can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

Moses breaks the Tablets

Posted in Bible, Religion on Thursday, 28 April 2011

When Moses returns from Mount Sinai he is horrified and disgusted to find the Israelites in a frenzy of pagan idolatry.

Moses, picture, image, illustration

Moses breaks the Tablets, by Clive Uptton

In his absence the chief instigators have gathered people’s gold and melted it down to produce the notorious pagan idol called the Golden Calf, which in their folly they are all now falling down before, and worshipping with unthinking abandon, as well as dancing and feasting to celebrate their new god. It is this appalling sight which greets Moses, and no amount of excuses from the ineffectual Aaron can placate him. His sense of moral outrage compels him to dash to the ground the two great Tablets bearing God’s Commandments, and shatter them to pieces. He then sets about destroying the idol,  and when he has done so begs God’s forgiveness for the Israelites.

Many more pictures relating to the Bible can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

‘Henry V’, by William Shakespeare

Posted in Actors, Famous battles, History, Literature, Shakespeare, Theatre on Thursday, 28 April 2011

Henry V is a history play almost certainly written early in 1599, and closes the tetralogy which began with Richard II. It was published in a Bad Quarto in 1600, and reprinted with no corrections, so that it was not until the First Folio that a far superior text was first made available.

Agincourt, picture, image, illustration

English bowmen at Agincourt, with King Henry V riding into battle

The play focuses on key events leading up to the momentous and unlikely English victory at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, and the political settlement with the French thereafter. Its sources are those of Holinshed’s Chronicles and probably Samuel Daniel’s poem on the civil wars. There are, of course, famous speeches in many of Shakespeare’s plays, but in Henry V two in particular have captured the imaginations and hearts of Englishmen everywhere, and both are both spoken by the king: the first, at the siege of Harfleur, opens with the rousing “Once more unto the breach, dear friends”; the second is the so-called St Crispin’s day speech, which Henry delivers not just with the solemnity and martial grandeur of a king, but also with the care and affection of a man for his fellow soldiers, and deep love of his country:

For he to-day that sheds his blood with me

Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,

This day shall gentle his condition:

And gentlemen in England now a-bed

Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,

And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks

That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

The famous film of the play starring Laurence Olivier as Henry V was considered a brilliant piece of propaganda by Winston Churchill, made as it was, during one of the most difficult years in the Second World War. It remains one of the greatest films in British cinema history, helped in no small part by the superb film-score composed by William Walton.

Many more pictures relating to Shakespeare and his plays can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

Franklin Pierce: Famous Last Words

Posted in Famous Last Words on Thursday, 28 April 2011

Franklin Pierce, who became the 14th President of the United States, was born in New Hampshire and educated locally in Hillsborough and at Francestown Academy before attending Phillips Exeter Academy and Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. He was a contemporary of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow at the latter.

picture, Franklin Pierce, President, United States of America

Franklin Pierce, 14th President of the United States of America

After graduating, he began practicing law and also began his political career. He was elected to Congress in 1833-37, the youngest US Representative at the time, aged only 27 when first elected. He served in the Mexican-American War and, afterwards, returned to politics. He was a compromise candidate at the Democratic National Convention, standing only to break a deadlock between four major contenders and won.

He then went on to win the 1852 presidential election, serving his term in 1853-57. A divisive President, he made a number of decisions that lost him many supporters, especially his support of expanding slavery. His reputation was subsequently destroyed when he declared support for the Confederacy during the American Civil War.

Pierce died in Concord, New Hampshire, of cirrhosis, his final words not recorded, although his thoughts may be summed up by his favourite hymn, sung at his funeral:

White Thee I seek, Protecting Power / Be my vain wishes stilled, / And may this consecrated hour / With better hope be filled.

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Richard Byrd flies over the North Pole… or did he?

Posted in Adventure, Anniversary, Exploration, History on Thursday, 28 April 2011

9 May marks the anniversary of the first flight over the North Pole in 1926 undertaken by Richard Evelyn Byrd Jr., an American naval officer.

picture, Richard Byrd, North Pole, South Pole, aircraft, ice, penguins

Richard Byrd attempts to follow-up his trip to the North Pole with a flight over the South Pole. Illustration by Graham Coton

Byrd learned to fly during World War I whilst serving with the U.S. Navy. His passion for flying led him to develop techniques for navigating aircraft over open ocean which led to him plotting the flight path of the first ever transatlantic crossing.

In 1926, he and pilot Floyd Bennett attempted a flight over the North Pole in a Fokker F-VII. Taking off from Spitsbergen, an island off the coast of Norway, he claimed to have flown over the Pole before returning to the island. He was awarded the Medal of Honor and secured funding for a similar flight over the South Pole.

However, there have been many doubts cast over the legitimacy of Byrd’s claims. This was exacerbated when Byrds diary was released in 1996 which revealed that sextant readings and other data had been erased and altered and diary entries differed from his official report. It is now thought that Byrd did not reach the pole, based on both data alteration and the speed that would have been required from his aircraft to achieve that goal.

Byrd did later successfully fly over the South Pole, earning his place in the history books.

Many more pictures relating to the North and South Poles can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

Captain Blood and the Crown Jewels

Posted in Adventure, Anniversary, History on Thursday, 28 April 2011

9 May marks the anniversary of a daring raid by Colonel Thomas Blood, who attempted to steal the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London in 1671.

picture, Captain Blood, Crown Jewels, Tower of London, crown, sceptre, orb

Captain Blood, disguised as a parson, attempts to steal the Crown Jewels. Illustration by Peter Jackson

Blood, born in County Clare, Ireland, was the son of a blacksmith who fought in England for the Royalist forces of Charles I during the English Civil War. However, he switched sides and became a Roundhead under Oliver Cromwell, for which he was rewarded with land grants and a position as justice of the peace. After the Restoration, he was forced to flee back to Ireland. There, he attempted to kidnap and later to kill the Duke of Ormonde, who was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.

Back in England Blood began planning his audacious crime. He befriended the recently appointed Master of the Jewel House, Talbot Edwards, and convinced him to show the Crown Jewels to some of Blood’s friends. In the Jewel House, Edwards was bound, gagged and hit with a mallet and Blood began stealing the jewels, only to be interrupted by Edwards’s son. Edwards also managed to work loose his gag and raise the alarm.

Blood and his fellow crooks fled, but were soon captured. Surprisingly, he was pardoned by the king for reasons that remain unknown.

Many more pictures relating to crimes throughout the ages can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

Birth of Howard Carter

Posted in Adventure, Anniversary, Exploration on Thursday, 28 April 2011

9 May marks the anniversary of the birth of Howard Carter, archaeologist and Egyptologist, in 1874.

picture, Howard Carter, Tunankhamen, Egypt, treasure, tomb, pharaoh

Archaeologist Howard Carter peers into the tomb of Tutankhamen. Illustration by John Millar Watt

Carter was sent out to Egypt in 1891, aged 17, to assist Percy Newberry in the excavation and recording of tombs at Beni Hasan. By 1908 he was working for Lord Carnarvon, supervising the excavations. Carnarvon financed Carter’s work in the Valley of the Kings from 1914, although work only began in earnest after 1917.

In 1922 the excavation uncovered steps that led to the tomb of Tutankhamun. With Carnarvon in attendance, he breached the doorway and peered in and, even by the light of a candle, could see gold and other treasures still in place. When Carnarvon asked whether he could see anything, Carter responded: “Yes. Wonderful things.”

Many more pictures relating to the history, culture and wildlife of Egypt can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.