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Archive for April, 2013

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Hattusas was razed to the ground by fire in the 2nd Century B.C.

Posted in Ancient History, Anthropology, Archaeology, Bible, Historical articles, History, War on Tuesday, 30 April 2013

This edited article about the Hittites originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 236 published on 23 July 1966.

Hattusas, picture, image, illustration

Hattusas, the mountain stronghold of the warlike Hittites by Ron Embleton

A mountain-top in Turkey seems a more fitting site for the castle of a robber chieftain than the capital of a great empire. But it was here that archaeologists discovered the ruins of the chief city of the Hittites, a powerful race which the Bible mentions several times as the rulers of an empire somewhere in Asia.

The discovery of the heart of this lost empire of the Hittites had no one dramatic moment. Instead the work was carried on by experts over many years.

Scholars concerned with records of ancient Egypt had found many references to a warlike people called Hatti, with whom even the mighty Pharaohs dealt carefully. These people used chariots in war, were able to put thousands of soldiers in the field, and had built up a complex series of alliances with neighbouring kings. In a great battle in 1288 B.C., they and the Egyptians fought to a standstill and thereafter treated each other with respect.

Meanwhile, other scholars in Turkey and the Middle East discovered that statues, ruins and inscriptions of an unknown race were to be found over a wide area. Certain links seemed to connect the Hatti of the Egyptian annals and the Hittites of the Bible with this mysterious race.

The information picked up in Egypt and Turkey was assembled together in Europe by other experts, until gradually a picture was built up of a people who had ruled their empire from the mountains of Turkey. Expeditions were sent out to try to locate the nerve-centre of this empire.

In 1906, systematic excavations began among strange ruins on a mountain-top near the Turkish village of Boghazkoy, and it was here that the archaeologists found what they were looking for. The ruins at Boghazkoy turned out to be the remains of Hattusas, the long-sought Hittite capital.

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The Wellington gunner with fifth man’s luck

Posted in Historical articles, History, World War 2 on Tuesday, 30 April 2013

This edited article about World War Two originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 236 published on 23 July 1966.

Sgt J Newton, picture, image, illustration

Sergeant Newton did not look back, but kept running until he could run no more

Lying alert and tense in the undergrowth, the young sergeant air-gunner peered out cautiously at the small suspension bridge across the River Bidasoa, which forms part of the French-Spanish Border.

The bridge was deserted, except for a lone sentry on the Spanish side. The French side, for some reason, was left unguarded.

The fugitive was Sergeant (later Flt.-Lt.) J. Newton. As he weighed his chances of escaping across that frontier bridge, he boosted his own morale with the thought that, in spite of some anxious moments, his luck had held so far.

Months had passed since the Wellington bomber, of which he had been front gunner, had made a forced landing on an enemy-occupied airfield at Antwerp-Deurne, after being badly shot up over Aachen.

“Burn and beat it!” was the rule in such emergencies. Newton now vividly recalled that mad scramble after they had set the shattered bomber ablaze with Verey pistols. His first cartridge had flashed back in his face. As they all dashed away in different directions, their skipper’s, “Good luck, chaps,” ringing in their ears, Newton had been half blinded and in agony.

For two days he was on the run without treatment for a burned eye; then he found refuge in a doctor’s house, not 15 miles from the target he had helped to bomb.

Five secret escape organisations were then helping shot-down Allied airmen. One had contacted Newton, giving him a fierce grilling to make sure he was not an enemy agent in British uniform. Satisfied, they moved him to a nurse’s house in Brussels.

He was locked in an attic and warned to keep quiet. Surprise searches were frequent, but his hiding place proved safe. He endured his “prison” for weeks, tormented by boredom and raging toothache.

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The mark of the cross was a simple signature for the illiterate

Posted in Historical articles, History, Politics, Religion on Monday, 29 April 2013

This edited article about literacy originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 235 published on 16 July 1966.

Voting booths, picture, image, illustration

Voting booths at a polling station in a Parliamentary Election where voters mark their ballot paper with a cross

There is still in existence at Canterbury a document of the year 1072, which bears the “signatures” of William the Conqueror and his Queen, Matilda. But unlike documents signed by the Queen today, William’s and Matilda’s signatures are simply crosses.

The reason for this was simple: in those days few people, however powerful or wealthy, could read or write. In the above instance, a clerk had written the document, in Latin, and the king and queen, who spoke a Norman blend of Old French, had signed it with the sacred symbol of a cross to give it the seal of truth. The same scribe had then written out their names next to the crosses they had drawn.

Archbishop Lanfranc of Canterbury was able to add his own name, but he also drew a cross, in this case the regular episcopal cross which bishops still add when writing their names today.

It is difficult for us to imagine how administration was carried on in Anglo-Saxon times, when few government officials could read or write. Even accounting seems to have been done by means of a stick, called a “tally”, into which notches were cut to register sums of money.

Before the 10th century, most information was sent by word of mouth along with a token to prove that it was genuine. The only formal written instruments of government were charters granting lands or privileges. These were seldom signed, but the king or other donor would put a sacred cross against his name which had been written by a clerk.

The trouble was that these crosses could easily be forged, and so kings began to send letters bearing their own stamped seal. The use of the cross as a signature obviously did not immediately die out since William and Matilda were still using it.

The crosses used were often of different shapes, including the St. Andrew’s cross, shaped like our X. This form of signature is still with us today; it is the sign we are asked to use on voting forms in elections.

Captain John Dundas Cochrane travelled 3000 miles on foot

Posted in Historical articles, History, Travel on Monday, 29 April 2013

This edited article about Captain Cochrane originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 235 published on 16 July 1966.

Captain Cochrane, picture, imAGE, ILLUSTRATION

Captain John Dundas Cochrane wandered an amazing 3,000 miles on foot and married a lady from Kamtchatka

The tall Englishman trudging along the Moscow road suddenly heard footsteps crunching in the snow behind him. He turned and found two ragged, masked bandits threatening him with a musket and bayonet. One gestured to the silent, frozen forest, and unwillingly Captain Cochrane left the road. A minute later the bandits had stripped him of his clothes and few possessions and had tied him to a tree.

While the Captain shivered in the sub-zero cold of the Russian winter, the two men searched his knapsack and pockets for money and valuables. Then, having found his passport, his money and letters of introduction, they bundled his clothes into the knapsack and left him to freeze to death.

It was one of the worst moments for Captain John Dundas Cochrane during his amazing 3,000-mile walk overland from Dieppe, in France, to Okhotsk, on the other side of Asia.

Born in 1786, John Cochrane entered the Royal Navy at the age of ten. Physically and mentally rugged, he worked his way up to the rank of Captain and saw action against French ships during the Napoleonic wars. After Waterloo the fleets were reduced, and Cochrane, like so many officers, found himself without a command.

Detesting idleness, he requested permission from the Admiralty to lead an expedition to discover the source of the African river Niger. The request was rejected, so, in February, 1820, the Captain decided to undertake a journey of his own – on foot.

He had hiked from Paris to Berlin, through Poland to Lithuania, and on to Novgorod, in Russia . . . and now he was tied naked to a tree, with only minutes before the terrible cold killed him.

Luckily the Captain had strong lungs, and his cries for help resounded through the ice-spangled trees. A passing peasant heard him and cut his bonds.

The Englishman had to tramp barefoot over the snow for nine miles to a village where a kindly merchant gave him new clothes. Then, undaunted by loss of his money and papers (of which he managed to get copies later), Captain Cochrane went on his way to Moscow.

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The ruined cities of the Mayas were reclaimed by the rainforest

Posted in Ancient History, Anthropology, Archaeology, Architecture, Historical articles, History on Monday, 29 April 2013

This edited article about the Mayas originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 235 published on 16 July 1966.

Mayan city, picture, image, illustration

The Mayas and their dazzling city by Ron Embleton

The ancient civilization of Central America is one of the most mysterious in the world, for the people who lived there were unknown to the rest of the world until the 16th century.

Even now, no one knows where they came from. Some believe that they migrated via the Arctic circle, or by boat or raft across the oceans. There are even claims that, originally, they came from the legendary lost continent of Atlantis.

All that can be said with certainty is that these people – the Aztecs, Toltecs and Mayas – were related to each other and created a civilization equal to any in the world.

About the year A.D. 300 the Mayas, for some unknown reason, abandoned their cities in the south and moved northward. Their migration lasted for many years, but they came at length to an area now known as Yucatan, a province of Mexico, and there built cities exactly resembling those they had so mysteriously abandoned.

One of the 18 clans into which the Mayas were divided chose a curious area to found their capital, Chichen-itza. Most cities are founded near rivers, but there are none in this arid district of Mexico, although rainfall is heavy. The rainwater simply percolates through the local limestone and collects in pools underground.

The builders of the city knew this and therefore constructed enormous reservoirs, hundreds of feet below ground, where the water remained cool and sweet.

Like the civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia, the Mayas depended upon a complex system of irrigation. The land was thus made fertile at places like Chichen-itza and remained so for hundreds of years – until the coming of the Spaniards in the 16th century.

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Lady Jane Grey was the reluctant nine-days’ Queen

Posted in Historical articles, History, Religion, Royalty on Monday, 29 April 2013

This edited article about Lady Jane Grey originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 235 published on 16 July 1966.

Lady Jane Grey, picture, image, illustration

Lady Jane Grey waves a sad farewell to her husband from her prison, as he passes by on his way to be executed, by Peter Jackson

On July 10, 1553, a 16-year-old girl, Lady Jane Grey, was told that she was Queen of England. Her protests disregarded, she was made the unwilling victim of a power-game played out among her relatives.

Henry VIII had authorised that after his own children (Edward, Mary and Elizabeth) the crown should pass to the descendants of his younger sister, Mary Duchess of Suffolk.

The boy, Edward VI, succeeded Henry as the law demanded, but the Duke of Northumberland, head of the Regency government, knew that his power would be destroyed if his arch-enemy, Mary, succeeded as Henry VIII had willed.

Intent on securing his own future, Northumberland’s first step was to force the unwilling Lady Jane Grey, daughter of Mary of Suffolk, to marry his son, Lord Guildford Dudley: his second was to persuade the young king, Edward, to change the Law of Succession in favour of Lady Jane.

King Edward’s death on July 6, 1553, was kept secret from Mary Tudor until Lady Jane had signed a proclamation from the Tower of London, stating her accession to the throne. Orders were issued on her authority, and the Lord Treasurer surrendered the Crown Jewels to the new Queen.

When news of her brother’s death reached Mary, she prepared to face Northumberland’s attack, but so hated was he that his supporters deserted him, and Mary was everywhere proclaimed Queen.

After nine days “reign”, Lady Jane was locked in the Tower. She and her husband were sentenced to death for treason. Innocent, but feared dangerous, they were both executed on February 12th 1554, amidst widespread sympathy.

St Swithin is remembered in a traditional rhyme

Posted in Architecture, Customs, Historical articles, History, Religion, Royalty, Saints on Monday, 29 April 2013

This edited article about St Swithin originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 235 published on 16 July 1966.

Winchester Cathedral, picture, image, illustration

Winchester Cathedral, from the North West. by Alfred Robert Quinton

If we remember St. Swithin at all, it is on July 15, for according to the old rhyme: –

Saint Swithin’s day, if thou dost rain,
For forty days it will remain;
Saint Swithin’s day, if thou be fair,
For forty days ’twill rain no mair.

But Saint Swithin was more than just a rainy saint of legend. He was a great church administrator.

Born towards the close of the eighth century, he entered Winchester monastery as a monk and eventually became Abbot and Bishop of Winchester.

While he was Bishop of Winchester, St. Swithin persuaded the king to pass a law transferring to the church a tithe or tenth of the produce of the royal estates. Gradually, the payment of tithes became compulsory on all estates throughout the kingdom.

According to legend, St. Swithin’s association with wet weather dates from the rebuilding of Winchester cathedral by William the Conqueror.

When St. Swithin died in 862 he had been buried at his own wish in a humble grave outside the cathedral walls. William the Conqueror decided, however, that the saint should be reburied in a magnificent tomb inside the cathedral.

On July 15, 1077, the work of reburial began. Hardly had a spade been stuck into the soil of the old grave than a blinding rainstorm caused all to run for shelter.

The rain continued for forty days, and the reburial had to be abandoned. The rain was taken as a sign that St. Swithin did not want the fine tomb built for him. So the Saint was left in his humble grave, and a chapel was erected over it.

John Kay’s flying shuttle speeds up weaving

Posted in Engineering, Famous Inventors, Historical articles, History, Industry, Revolution on Monday, 29 April 2013

This edited article about John Kay originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 235 published on 16 July 1966.

Weaving with shuttle, picture, image, illustration

A weaver sits at a loom showing the workings of the flying shuttle

Man has been weaving cloth for thousands of years, but until the flying shuttle was invented by John Kay, born on July 16, 1704, the weaver’s craft had hardly changed since the days of Ancient Egypt.

Cloth is woven by passing horizontal threads, called the weft, through alternate vertical threads called the warp. The weft threads were held in a device called a shuttle, which was sent forward through the warp threads by one hand, and returned by the other.

John Kay was the son of a weaver and he had often watched his father swinging the shuttle backwards and forwards by hand. It occurred to him that there must be some easier way of moving the shuttle.

He made experiments and in 1733 took out a patent for a new type of loom, needing only one hand to pass the shuttle backwards and forwards through the warp. He also invented an automatic mechanism which closed up the threads of the weft much more tightly.

Weaving firms quickly realised that Kay’s Flying Shuttle would greatly speed up production, but had no intention of paying for the idea. In court Kay’s claims were upheld, but the legal costs were so heavy that he lost most of his money.

Kay managed to open a factory of his own, but the weavers, fearing the new looms would put many of them out of work, wrecked his workshop.

Kay went to France for a time. He invented a power loom but was too poor to develop it. He returned to England to find the weavers making huge profits out of his invention. He died in poverty in 1764.

Lord Kitchener is best remembered for a WW1 call-up poster

Posted in Communications, Historical articles, History, World War 1 on Monday, 29 April 2013

This edited article about Lord Kitchener originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 235 published on 16 July 1966.

WW1 Home Front, picture, image, illustration

London during WW1 with Lord Kitchener's face looking down from that famous call-up poster by Frank Bellamy

The stern face of Lord Kitchener, which stared down accusingly from call-up posters all over England during the First World War, was probably the best incentive young men in Britain could have had to join the Army. In his young days, this man had been involved in colourful exploits that had made him famous throughout the British Empire.

The plaque above marks the house at 2 Carlton Gardens, near St. James’s Park, London, where he lived from 1914-1915, during the war for which his poster with the slogan: “Your Country Needs You” helped to recruit troops.

Son of a colonel, Horatio Herbert Kitchener (1850-1916) was brought up in Ireland. After a spell of training at the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich in 1870 he offered to join the French Army to help repel German invaders.

Kitchener’s attempt to get into the French Army was frowned upon in England and he was reprimanded for “a breach of discipline”. His next three years were spent more quietly in the Royal Engineers. Then, quite suddenly, he was sent to explore Palestine – a first small step that was to carry him far.

When Britain acquired Cyprus in 1878, Kitchener was the officer chosen to survey the island. Then he became a temporary vice-consul at Kastamuni, in Asia Minor. In 1882 he asked if he could join an expedition to crush a rebellion in the Egyptian Army. His request was refused, so he took a “holiday” instead, dressing himself up as a Levantine and spending his time reconnoitring the Nile valley.

His “holiday” over, Kitchener returned to Cyprus and to an uncomfortable interview with an angry superior officer. Shortly afterwards he found himself second-in-command of a unit of Egyptian cavalry.

At this time, severe trouble was brewing in the Sudan, where the Mahdi, a Moslem religious leader, had united rebellious Arab tribes against the British.

The Mahdi was a powerful man with a large, determined and skilful army. The important city of Khartoum in the Sudan fell to his men. In 1886, Kitchener, now a recognised authority on the Middle East, was appointed Governor-General of the Eastern Sudan, where for some years he steadily prepared an army to challenge the Mahdi. The result was the battle of Omdurman, 1898, in which the Mahdi was beaten by an army less than half the size of his own.

By 1914, Kitchener, famed and trusted by the public, had unrivalled knowledge of the British Empire. He was made Minister of War and was one of the few who realised that the fight with Germany would not be “over by Christmas”. He set out to expand the British Army to an extent never before attempted, and in three years the Army grew to three-and-a-half times its former size – three million of the men were volunteers. His success probably saved Europe from German domination.

In June, 1916, Kitchener sailed from Scapa Flow to visit the Tsar of Russia, who wanted his advice. He was never seen again. His ship, H.M.S. Hampshire, disappeared in bad weather off the Orkneys, probably sunk by a mine.

John and Charles Wesley were destined for greatness

Posted in Bible, Historical articles, History, Music, Religion on Monday, 29 April 2013

This edited article about John and Charles Wesley originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 235 published on 16 July 1966.

John Wesley, picture, image, illustration

John Wesley preaching in the market place by Peter Jackson

It was fortunate that the house of the parson at Epworth in Lincolnshire was large, for he had a very big family. His two most famous sons, John and Charles, were the fifteenth and eighteenth children born to the Reverend Samuel Wesley and his wife, Susannah.

John and Charles were both sent to a famous school, John to Charterhouse and Charles to Westminster, and from there both went on to Oxford.

It was during their student days at Oxford that the two brothers showed the earnestness of their religious beliefs. They met regularly with a few friends for prayer and study of the Bible, and behaved with a seriousness by no means common among their fellow students. Of several nicknames given to them at this time, one has survived to become the title of their followers even two centuries later. That was the name ‘Methodists’, which referred to their methodical and disciplined way of life.

In 1735, when John was 32 and Charles 28, the brothers sailed to the New World colony of Georgia as missionaries. It is strange to learn that these two men, who were later such amazingly effective missionaries among their fellow-countrymen in Britain, were a dismal failure in America! Within two years they were home again.

John then underwent an experience which changed his whole life. Christianity took on a new and deeper meaning for him, and became a religion of the heart, as well as of the mind. Soon afterwards Charles Wesley underwent a similar change of heart, or ‘conversion’.

In the course of the next half-century, John Wesley travelled on horseback an average of 8,000 miles every year. He prepared his sermons at a little desk attached to the saddle of his horse, and for the most part delivered them in the open air, often to large crowds.

Many of the clergymen in the places he visited did not like either his message or his methods, and refused to allow him to preach in their churches. As a result John Wesley gradually found himself a stranger in the Church of England, in which he had been brought up, and eventually he began appointing his own ministers to look after those who had heard him so gladly. In this way there began the groups of ‘the people called Methodists’ who today form the world-wide Methodist Church numbering 12 million members, of whom about three-quarters of a million live in Britain.

Charles Wesley was outstanding as a writer of hymns, of which he wrote more than 5,000. Today many of them are still sung by Christians of all denominations, and there can scarcely be anyone who does not know a few lines of his most famous composition, ‘Hark, the herald angels sing’.