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Archive for October, 2013

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Peru and Ecuador threw of the Hispanic yoke with mixed success

Posted in Geography, Historical articles, History on Monday, 28 October 2013

This edited article about South America originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 442 published on 4 July 1970.

Peruvia Indians, picture, image, illustration

Native Indians of Peru by Ron Embleton

Peru has the highest standard gauge railway in the world. It is so high that trains carry oxygen equipment for the safety of passengers. At one point the line reaches 15,688 ft. only a little lower than the summit of Mont Blanc, the tallest peak in Europe.

This “railway in the sky” was built between 1870 and 1893. A war between Peru and Chile halted its progress, and, when work was resumed, its great American engineer, Henry Meiggs, had died, so a British company finished the job.

The line runs 260 miles from Callao, the seaport near Peru’s capital, Lima, to Huancayo, and the trip through the towering Andes is one of the supreme tourist attractions on earth.

The railway is vital to Peru’s economy, too, as it links the coast with her rich copper, lead, zinc, silver and gold mines. It is a fiendishly difficult railway to maintain, with 66 tunnels, 59 bridges and 22 zig-zags which gets trains up and down the mountains, but, despite landslides, avalanches and floods, the line’s safety record is excellent.

Peru is South America’s third largest country and has nearly 12 million people. Its geography has set them tough problems. The narrow coastal strip is desert where rain rarely falls. The Andes then soar up steeply, sometimes to over 20,000 ft. In eastern Peru the mountains are forested, and beyond lies the beginnings of the Amazon jungles.

Sixty per cent of Peruvians live in high country dominated by the Andes. Nearly half the population are Indians and most of the rest are of mixed Spanish and Indian descent. Because the Indians are used to high altitudes they are key figures in the mining industry. They also raise sheep and graze their llamas and alpacas. Many are self-supporting, but their standard of living is low and their educational standards lower still.

Lima was founded by the Spaniards in 1535 and became the capital of Spanish South America. Until a few years ago it was famous for its delightful Spanish-colonial architecture, but now, with 2.5 million people to house, vast skyscrapers have changed the skyline dramatically.

The city’s climate is pleasant, but it hardly ever rains. Instead, from June to October fog and mist wet the ground! Callao, Lima’s port, is eight miles from the capital.

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Aegir the giant was Lord of the sea and a hoarder of gold

Posted in Historical articles, Legend, Myth, Sea on Monday, 28 October 2013

This edited article about Germanic mythology originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 442 published on 4 July 1970.

Germanic giant, picture, image, illustration

A typical Germanic giant by Nadir Quinto

Giants who lived in the mountains or the seas were the first of all living creatures to appear on earth. This, at any rate, is what the ancient people believed, although we have learnt since that they were wrong.

But these giants were not gods. They began roaming the world even before the gods were spoken of, and they were invented by the ancient tellers of tales to explain away such frightening things as volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, winter and earthquakes.

For this reason, the giants were represented as angry, surly and hostile creatures who could, in contrast, sometimes show kindness.

Among these giants was Aegir, who was the lord of the sea. The old Germanic tribes believed that he was not quite a god, but was friendly with the gods, who invited him to their feasts.

In return, he entertained in his palace under the sea. Aegir did not need any fires to light his palace, for the gold which decorated it gave off a bright light.

How did Aegir get this gold? Probably, the early people believed that it came from the treasure-laden ships which sank on their journeys.

With the giants producing storms and hurricanes, to venture on to the seas was highly dangerous. And there was yet another danger in the perils meted out by Aegir’s wife, Ran. She had an enormous net. With this she tried to catch every man who sailed on the seas.

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The seaside gets the royal seal of approval from George III and the Prince Regent

Posted in British Towns, Historical articles, History, Medicine, Royalty, Sea on Monday, 28 October 2013

This edited article about the British seaside originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 442 published on 4 July 1970.

George III at Weymouth, picture, image, illustration

At Weymouth George III came out of his bathing hut to music and cheers by Clive Uptton

It is a fine Sunday morning in the summer of 1789 and there is high excitement in the little seaside town of Weymouth. There has, as a matter of fact, been a festive air about for some weeks, since who should be residing there for the sake of his health but His Majesty, King George III? This monarch had for some time been the cause of great anxiety to many of his ministers, since it was increasingly obvious that, if not completely mad, King George was distinctly potty.

Fortunately, he got better, and the way to recuperate from “pottiness,” “dottiness” or absolute madness had long been prescribed by many of those doctors who were behind the growth and prosperity of the English Seaside. The method was sea-water and plenty of it!

And so we come to Weymouth in 1789. For quite a while the town has been preening itself under the Royal Patronage. Fancy! The King himself in residence, visiting the theatre, attending the Assembly Rooms, strolling on the promenade and, in private, being hardened up for this great day when he is to enter the sea. Behold, then, the loyal banners over the shops and the streets – “God Save the King” shouts Weymouth, “God Save the King” is written in letters large upon the head-bands of the two sturdy ladies known as “dippers” whose privilege it is going to be to thrust their Sovereign Liege Lord into the briny and control any violent reactions which he may make.

The King is about to bathe! A special “machine” upon wheels and with the Royal cypher over its seaward door is fresh-painted and ready. The streets and the waterfront are crowded with loyal citizens. The King and his attendants pass through the cheering crowds, and His Majesty enters the bathing-machine which moves behind its horse into a suitable depth of water where, the “Royal Dippers” await him.

Every boat for hire is laden and crowding around the seaward side of the machine. At last – the moment! The pale torso of the monarch appears upon the steps and slowly the King descends into the grey-green waters. The “dippers” seize him and firmly dunk him under the waves. Instantly a band of music strikes up “God Save Great George our King” and Weymouth is shattered with cheers.

Unfortunately “Great George Our King” was not saved permanently from his dottiness which became more and more pronounced. Some twenty years later he was pronounced totally mad, and his son, George, Prince of Wales, became the Prince Regent.

Just why did King George III select Weymouth for his first bathe, when the Sussex village of Brighthelmstone – or Brighton – was so much nearer to London? Because Brighton contained not only his dissolute brother, the Duke of Cumberland, but also his even more wild-living son, George, Prince of Wales. By the time of the King’s first bathe the heir to the throne had been larking about in Brighton for all of five years.

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Emiliano Zapata – trigger-happy bandit or noble revolutionary?

Posted in Heroes and Heroines, Historical articles, History, Politics, Revolution on Monday, 28 October 2013

This edited article about Mexico originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 442 published on 4 July 1970.

Zapata, picture, image, illustration

Zapata, the bandit who all but ruled Mexico by James E McConnell

He was cruel, cunning and quite ruthless. He was known to have killed nearly 250 people with his own hands, and to have ordered the execution of at least a further 1,100 people. He was illiterate, but for nearly eight years his word was law over one-third of the whole area of Mexico. He knew nothing about politics, but politicians courted him. He was a hunted man with a price on his head, but everywhere he went, he was feted as a hero. At the height of his power he rode at the head of 20,000 men. Yet he died alone, like a cornered animal. Thousands hated and feared him; millions loved and revered him. His name was Emiliano Zapata, meaning a leather hinge.

To understand how Zapata came to be such a force in that unhappy land of Mexico, it is necessary to know something of the state of affairs which existed in the September of 1910, when Mexico City was celebrating the one hundredth anniversary of Mexico’s independence from Spain. It was a time of festival, of parades and feasts, and of a great deal of pomp and ceremony, a time, too, when Mexico City was also celebrating the continuing survival of Don Porfirio Diaz, who had ruled Mexico for more than a third of a century.

Don Porfirio was now eighty, a magnificent man for his age, who could still ride a horse with the best of them. To the rich and those in positions of power, he was the maker of modern Mexico, the man who had brought progress and stability to a land which had known nothing but unhappiness for centuries.

But outside the glittering reception halls, there was far less cause for celebration. The one-third of a nation that was Indian existed in misery. The growing industrial class were only marginally better off, and prices were high. Workers and peasants who actively protested were shot. Hate and suppressed violence was in the air from the Mexican border of Tijuana to Oaxaca in the South, and it needed only one man to spark it off.

The man who provided that spark was Ignacio Madero. No one less like a revolutionary could be imagined.

Madero, a short, mild mannered little man, had become active in politics in 1900. From then onwards he had been in active revolt against the Diaz regime. Finally arrested in 1910, he managed to escape over the Mexican border into America, where he issued a manifesto of revolutionary principles, which was, in effect, a declaration of war on the Diaz government.

The response to his clarion call to arms was immediate. Peasants, ranchers, schoolteachers, lawyers and students, strapped on cartridge belts and took their rifles from their hidden storing places, and prepared to fight. One of these was a young rancher, Emiliano Zapata, who lived in the rich sugar growing state of Morales.

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The combination of aerial observation and airborne weapons changed C20 warfare

Posted in Aviation, Historical articles, History, Weapons, World War 1 on Monday, 28 October 2013

This edited article about World War One originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 442 published on 4 July 1970.

Aerial warfare in WW1, picture, image, illustration

Enemy aircraft overhead by Frank Bellamy

So far, our look at the First World War has brought us through the first two nerve-searing months of the German advance to the Marne, and subsequent retreat to the Aisne.

It was the opening phase; the land warfare that came after was quite different. No more cavalry in horsehair plumes, no more long marches; the days of trench fighting had begun.

This is a convenient point to digress from our main narrative, and take a look at what was, in the cloudless summer of 56 long years ago, a mere sideshow to the great concert of the guns – the war in the air.

The first practical aircraft were delicate things of spruce, piano wire, and glued-on cloth fabric. Their initial function in war was for reconnaissance. Bombing came later: the problems involved in carrying bombs, let alone hitting a small or moving target from the air while travelling at considerable speed, took a while to work out.

The aircraft was to reveal itself as a superb means of seeing what the enemy was doing. If Von Moltke had possessed a well-organised reconnaissance air arm in August, 1914, he could have avoided the Battle of Mons, and driven on to Paris.

The early reconnaissance flyers of the opposing forces were like rival TV news cameramen filming the scene of a riot; basically antagonistic to each other, but more concerned with the technical complexities of the job than interfering with the other fellow.

One day, some spoil-sport took a gun up into the air with him, and shot at a member of the “opposition” – and air warfare began.

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Cromwell’s spymaster saw the potential of cryptography for the secret service

Posted in Espionage, Historical articles, History, Politics, Revolution, Royalty on Monday, 28 October 2013

This edited article about espionage originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 441 published on 27 June 1970.

John Thurloe, picture, image, illustration

John Thurloe, secretary to the council of state in Protectorate England and spymaster for Oliver Cromwell

The Dutch Ambassador stared anxiously from his window before returning to his writing-table. The man was still there; an innocent-looking fellow, scanning a broadsheet. But the Ambassador knew better. Flustered, he took up his pen again. “Sir,” he scribbled to his master, “I dare not write much news. All our actions are spied. We have spies set to watch us in our houses. We cannot be certain of anything that we do, that it shall not be known or miscarry.”

It was 1653 and England lay under the relentless rule of Oliver Cromwell. But although the turmoil of the Civil War was past, the country was far from secure. At home and abroad, fanatical religious sectarians and exiled Royalists schemed to overthrow the Protectorate, while the other States of Europe watched with greedy eyes, ready to win what advantages they could from England’s embarrassments.

For six years the vigilance of one man kept the plotters at bay. His name was John Thurloe.

This quiet, unassuming civil servant controlled an elaborate network of spies. His men on the Continent sent “letters of intelligence” which kept him abreast of the affairs of every capital, while at home his agents bribed their way among clerks, postmasters and carriers, intercepting and tampering with the correspondence of suspected enemies of the State.

So efficient was Thurloe’s organisation that he was commonly believed to be in league with the Devil and to use supernatural powers to smell out treason.

In fact he relied on his agents and on the diligent activities of his cryptographers.

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Prince Albert’s architectural dream would become his most public memorial

Posted in Architecture, Famous landmarks, Historical articles, History, Leisure, London, Royalty on Monday, 28 October 2013

This edited article about London originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 441 published on 27 June 1970.

The Royal Albert Hall, picture, image, illustration

The Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences, Kensington, London

The Albert Hall – the very words – The Albert Hall, means so many different things to so many different people. Many young students hitchhike from every part of Britain to queue, sometimes all night at the doors of The Albert Hall to get standing room to hear “The Proms” – The Promenade Concerts. Lovers of music first went to the Queens Hall where Sir Henry Wood conducted the early Promenade Concerts. The Queens Hall was destroyed in 1941. But even if it hadn’t been destroyed by enemy action, it could not have held all those who wish now to come to these concerts.

To others the Albert Hall means Jazz Festivals, Religious Revival Meetings, Folk Music Festivals, Boxing, Women’s Institute Meetings, or Balls and Exhibitions. In fact, whenever a hall is needed to hold a very large number of people, The Albert Hall is the hall chosen. It is vast. It is so vast that it has frightened many singers and performers. Oval in structure it is 219 ft. long, 185 ft. wide and its external height is 155 ft.

Who built the Albert Hall, and why and when? The very name Albert gives the clue, for the man who dreamed of a great hall where people could come to take part in appreciating the arts and sciences was Prince Albert, The Prince Consort, husband of Queen Victoria.

The state opening of the Albert Hall was on 29th March, 1871. It was opened by Queen Victoria herself, who was then an old woman and a widow. Her son, the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, read the address of welcome. The whole Royal Family was present, and so was the Prime Minister of the day, Mr. Gladstone. The dream that Prince Albert had had for so many years, the dream of a great hall had come true, but he was not there to see it. His wife and Queen saw his dream realised as a lasting memorial to his memory.

The idea of a great hall first came to Prince Albert when the Great International Exhibition in Hyde Park was being held. The year was 1851. It was Prince Albert who inspired this exhibition. It was a great success. Six million people visited it and the profits from the exhibition were invested in an estate in South Kensington.

Then Prince Albert began to dream of a great central hall, not just an exhibition hall. This hall would be a permanent hall. Exhibitions were things for a very few months, then they disappeared, but a great permanent hall – that would be different.

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The deadly war of the rival Egyptian gods

Posted in Africa, Ancient History, Birds, Historical articles, History, Religion, Rivers on Monday, 28 October 2013

This edited article about Ancient Egypt originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 441 published on 27 June 1970.

Egyptian gods, picture, image, illustration

Osiris, Isis and Horus from a drawing by Maximilian Weidenbach

What strange stories are engraved upon the walls within the cavernous pyramids of ancient Egypt? What does the picture writing in these tombs of kings tell us of the tribes of the Nile valley and their gods?

Many learned scholars have studied them and the stories they read in these stone or brick structures unfold a narrative of wandering tribes, bearded hunters and of the gods which led them into battle.

Plutarch, a Greek author who lived in the 1st century A.D., evidently knew what these ancient texts contained. In writing of events long past, he related happenings which the kings had engraved inside their pyramids 25 centuries before him.

Somewhere on the sandy-coloured walls may be the story of Osiris, one of Egypt’s greatest gods, whom Plutarch tells us about in detail.

Osiris was the god of the dead and was born in Thebes in Upper Egypt. His first job was to abolish cannibalism. He taught the people how to make farming tools and to grow grain and grapes. Later, he built towns and gave his people fair laws.

After civilising Egypt, Osiris set out on a conquest of Asia, coming back home after he had travelled the whole world and spread civilisation everywhere.

But the homecoming of this tall, dark, handsome god was marred by the jealousy of his younger brother, Set, who was a rough, wild, red-headed villain.

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The modern horse’s hoof was once an impressive claw

Posted in Animals, Historical articles, Prehistory on Monday, 28 October 2013

This edited article about animals originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 441 published on 27 June 1970.

Moropus,   picture, image, illustration

The Moropus by Richard Hook

In the 18th century, scientists found the remains of a creature with herbivorous teeth and carnivorous-like claws. They were surprised that these should belong to the same animal. It was extraordinary for an animal having teeth designed for eating only vegetation also to possess claws like those of an animal which fed on meat.

Later more complete skeletons were found in the Miocene strata of Nebraska (a layer 25 million years old), and these convinced the scientists that an animal had existed with teeth similar to a horse and with enormous claws. Although it looked like a horse, it did not play a part in the horse’s development; so it was in a family called Ancylopoda, its own name being Moropus.

Moropus stood about six feet tall at the shoulders and did, in fact, somewhat resemble the horse, but was more cumbersome and muscular. Its feet, however, each had three enormous claws. It would have fed on lush vegetation and fresh green grass. The big question is – why the claws? This has been the cause of much speculation. Often in the development from one animal to another the main part changes, but other parts remain the same. Possibly the Moropus developed like a horse; but kept its claws.

What did it use its claws for? Probably for scratching and digging for bulbs or roots. It is unlikely that it would have attacked, using these as a weapon. But it would probably not have been averse to defending itself or its family from any carnivorous animals that might wander into its territory.

The British seaside holiday began as a source of salty alternative medicine

Posted in British Towns, Historical articles, History, Leisure, Medicine, Sea on Monday, 28 October 2013

This edited article about the British seaside originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 441 published on 27 June 1970.

Scarborough, picture, image, illustration

The Foreshore Road, Scarborough

“Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside,
Oh, I do like to be beside the sea . . .”

Yes, of course we do, and that old Music-Hall song wasn’t written without reason. And on it went:

“I do like to stroll upon the Prom, Prom, Prom,
Where the brass bands play ‘Tiddley-om-pom-pom’.”

But some 200 years ago that song would have made no sense at all. The seaside! The very sound of it sent cold shivers down the backs of the British people. The sea, to the average Englishman of those days, was an abomination. It was brutish and barbarous, wild, wet and windy. The sea was something best left to the Navy who were forced to use it, and to those poor wretches known as fishermen who huddled by its margins in hovels in the greatest discomfort.

It would probably be true to say of mid-18th century England that not one person in a thousand would see the sea in a lifetime. Indeed, many writings of the times refer to the effect of the sea upon some inland-dwelling ladies beholding it for the first time. Fainting, swooning and what they called the “vapours” were very common. The novelist Charlotte Bronte was so overcome by her first sight of the sea at the fishing village of Bridlington that she trembled, begging to be left alone, and burst into torrents of tears. And this from a lady who loved the gaunt and desolate Yorkshire moors.

One old lady who was taken to the seaside at Blackpool because she “desired to behold the ocean just once before she died” reacted very differently. It was, it seems, a day of absolute calm, and the tiny wavelets lisped almost soundlessly over Blackpool sands. After contemplating the spectacle for some minutes the old lady asked in accents of deepest disappointment: “Is that all it does?”

Nevertheless, the idea of the sea was generally one of horror at worst, and at best one of sheer boredom. As for the notion of actually going into it – this was too disagreeable and ridiculous for words. The tale is told of a French lady who did actually enter the water of her own free-will and for enjoyment. Onlookers had nothing but pity for the poor demented creature. She was clearly mad, and for the most terrible of reasons – she had been bitten by a mad dog. Had not an eminent physician openly declared that the most sovereign remedy for rabies was for the victim instantly (if it chanced to be handy!) to plunge into cold salt sea water?

And here we have it. This episode was the beginning of the beginning of what was to become “sea-fever.” True, the French lady was actually enjoying her dip, but this was beside the point. The first so-called truth of the matter was that sea-water was good for people. An ever-growing number of sober-minded doctors began to proclaim that the briny was the cure for all ills.

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