Young Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) was a little genius; he entered the University of Leiden aged eleven, and published his first book when he was sixteen. He became the most important legal advisor of Johan van Oldenbarneveldt, Grand Pensionary of the most important province in the Netherlands: Holland.
In the early 17th century, The Netherlands was still at war with Spain, whom were surpressing the little Republic for years. On top of the war with Spain, a great theological controversy broke out between moderate Jacobus Arminius, a theology professor at Leiden, and his followers (who are called Arminians or Remonstrants) and the strongly Calvinist theologian, Franciscus Gomarus (whose supporters are called Gomarists or Counter-Remonstrants).
Grotius was a moderate believer and plead for tolerance between religions, and supported the Remonstrants. When Spain and the Netherlands agreed to an armistice in 1609, the Remonstrants aimed for permanent peace. Dutch Prince Maurits, however, who was the military commander, needed the war to keep up his power. Even if he had no clue about religion, he supported the Counter-Remonstrants, since they were pro-war. In 1618, Maurits couped.
This had bad consequences for Van Oldenbarneveldt and Grotius: they were accused of high treason. Van Oldenbarneveldt was beheaded publicly in 1619, a day after his conviction. Grotius was convicted to lifelong prison in Loevestein Castle, a state prison at that time.
He wasn't planning on staying there until his death, though. He lived there with his wife Maria and their maid, Elselina. Grotius was allowed to study in his prison cell, and he regularly received a large chest of books to this aim, which was later returned to the sender in Gorinchem, a city across the river. This eventually brought Maria to an idea: Grotius should hide in the book's chest and escape. She let him practice for days, in order for him to stay in the chest without making any sound. The escape succeeded on March 22, 1621. He fled to Antwerp and then Paris, where he met his wife again.
The Eighty Years’ War resulted from the revolt of the Seventeen United Provinces of the Netherlands against the political and religious supremacy of Philip II of Spain. The War started in 1566 with an iconoclastic fury known as ‘Beeldenstorm’. During the Beeldenstorm, Calvinists in Europe destroyed icons and other religious outings in Catholic churches.
Despite it being interesting, I won’t go into the details of the war, but pick out a fascinating event that happened in 1590.
In February 1590, a nobleman named Charles de Heraugiere was ordered by Maurice of Nassau to explore the conditions of Breda, and to discover possible weaknesses. With help of a bargeman who was loyal to the Dutch by trade, he entered the city in his barge: hidden between peat for winter along with a small group of soldiers. To his surprise, no one checked the barge upon entering town. Heraugiere (who apparently knew his classics), recognized the Trojan Horse style trick was the ideal opportunity for smuggling soldiers beyond the city walls.
Reporting back to Maurice, it was decided to station 1700 Dutch and English soldiers near Breda. Despite difficulties caused by wintry conditions, De Heraugiere and a small group of soldiers managed to enter the city hidden under piles of peat at night, March 3, 1590. The following day, they left their hiding places at dawn and took the guards by surprise and gained control over the city very rapidly. By the time Maurice and his troops arrived, the city was ready to surrender.
The capture of Breda marked a turning point in the War. After years of defensive strategy, the Dutch and English forces had at last achieved an offensive success. Maurice used Breda as an operational base and conquered other cities quickly afterwards.
And the bargemen? They were given subsidy for life :).
The tale of Pocahontas and Captain John Smith is well known all over the world. The story of the native American woman, who saves the life of an English settler in Jamestown, Viriginia, still intrigues people after over 400 years.
Pocahontas was born in around 1595 as a daughter of Wahunseneca, the Chief of the Powhatans. The Powhatan had a population of about 25,000 and included over thirty tribes at that time. Women and men had seperate tasks in the Powhatan society, but both were equally important. Women were responsible for building houses, collecting water, farming, cooking and manufacturing everyting needed in and round the house. Also, they collected edible plants. Men were mainly responsible for hunting.
The English landed in Virginia in May, 1607 and called their settlement Jamestown. The new settlers and the native Powhatan didn't encounter before the winter of that year. But when Captain John Smith went on an exploration, he was captured by a hunting party of Powhatans. We don't know for sure what happened there - in Smith's first account of the event, written in 1608, he does not meet Pocahontas there, but in a letter he writes to Queen Anne in 1616, he writes that Pocathontas dramatically and selflessly saved him from being executed in a large feast. Historians suggest that the Powhatan never really wanted to execute Smith, and that he may have misunderstood what was happening to him. It is possible Smith later exaggerated the story towards Queen Anne to impress her.
1. In the 19th century, industry bloomed in the (rich) Northern states. Railroads and factories popped up everywhere. The main industry in the Southern states however still lay in (cotton) farming. Whereas the North had already realized that slaveholding is immoral and had abolished slavery in the late 18th century, the Southern economy was still heavily dependent of slaves.
2. Anti-slavery Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United States in 1860 without carrying a single Southern state. The Southern states felt they were losing representation in the Union, and that in turn would mean they would lose power in the slavery question and other policies. Because their economy would fall apart when slavery would be forbidden, the only option left for them seemed to leave the Union.
They all laughed at him mockingly, his fellow people from the Cherokee tribe. But Sequoyah, son of a white father and a Cherokee mother, continued on his project rigidly, with success: he ultimately presented the Cherokee syllabary, making it possible for Cherokee to write and read in their language for the first time.
Sequoyah was born a son of an unidentified white (or half-white, as sources differ) father and a Cherokee mother around 1770. The young boy was raised by his mother alone, didn’t go to school and never learnt English. He spent time farming and tending cattle before he was injured and lamed, making it impossible for him to be a successful farmer or warrior. When he came in contact with white men, he learned the art of forging jewelry and became to work as a silversmith. Later he took on the profession of a blacksmith as well, repairing iron farm implements in his village.
As jewelry was popular among whites, Sequoyah stood in regular contact to them. He was impressed by their ability to transmit information to people in distant places: by letters. Among Cherokees, people tend to believe that writing was sorcery, and weren’t much interested in doing it themselves. Sequoyah, however, set a goal: he wanted to be able to write down his Cherokee language.
In 2017, it's been 200 years since the very first bicycle, invented by Karl Drais, was patented in Germany. Time to take a look at some historic cycle designs that are as curious as genius (or utterly stupid).
1. Karl Drais's Dandy Horse
The first bicycle-like vehicle was the Laufmaschine ("running machine"), later called velocipede or draisine, invented by Karl Drais in 1817 in Germany. It was nicknamed “dandy horse”.
The Laufmaschine was the first vehicle that allowed fast, horseless transportation. But rutted roads were difficult to balance on, and dandy horse riders were forced to take the sidewalks. But because they moved far too quickly (~15 km/h), pedestrians were endangered, complained, and the dandy horse lost its popularity.
2. Frederick Myers's UnicyclE
What we know as Rembrandts most famous painting, The Night Watch, is actually just not the whole thing. Only seventy-three years after it was finished, the painting was trimmed in order for it to fit into its new location, the Amsterdam town hall. About 60 centimeters were removed from the left side, and smaller strips from the other three sides. Because of that, the composition is now unbalanced, and some of the figures have been removed – just like that.
Also, the popular name is based on a misunderstanding. The Night Watch (whose original title is The Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch is not set at night at all! The misleading title was given to the painting in the 18th century, since the varnish had grown so dark over the years. The scene was thus misinterpreted as being nocturnal.
It isn't the smartest thing to marry a prince that is nicknamed "the Fair" when you have a tendency to jealousy, one would say. But princesses in the 15th century couldn't choose their husbands; their marriages were arranged for political reasons. Joan was one of the luckier girls, since she was betrothed to a man she absolutely adored: Philip of Austria. He lived up to his nickname, and on the night the two first met, it was love - or lust - at first sight. Philip insisted they would marry immediately so the young couple could love each other passionately.
Unfortunately, their attraction would turn out to be fairly unequal: Philip's feelings for Joan were mere desire, whereas Joan loved her husband obsessively. But he was young, handsome and on top of that he was a monarch (he ruled the Low Countries from the age of 18), so women lay to his feet and he loved it. He acted as if he was a young bachelor, drinking, feasting and having sex excessively. Joan was extremely jealous; she wanted her husband for her and herself only.
She often was moody and depressed, or could also break out in jealous rages. Philip couldn't care much, he would rather make things worse by avoiding her bedroom after they had been fighting over one of his excesses. She would cry of anger and despair and bump to the wall ceaselessly. Instead of starting to hate him, however, her mad love for him remained. He was all that she cared for: she lost all interest in politics and became isolated at court.
Elisabeth was born on Christmas Eve, 1837, in Munich, Kingdom of Bavaria. She was the second of two daughters of Duke Max Joseph and his wife Ludovika, a daughter of the Bavarian king Maximilian I.
In her youth, Elisabeth had no obligations at the Bavarian court and spent a happy time in their castle at Lake Starnberg, where she enjoyed playing and riding in the country. Elisabeth’s nephew was the young Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph. His mother, Archduchess Sophie of Austria, was his advisor in his political as well as in his personal life, and thus in fact the real ruler of the Empire. When Franz Joseph was 23, Sophie arranged a marriage with her nice Helene, Elisabeth’s older sister. The family was invited to come to Bad Ischl in Austria, so that Franz Joseph could propose to Helene, although the two had never met before. Helene and Franz Joseph didn’t feel comfortable in each other’s presence, but Franz was immediately attracted to the fifteen-year-old Elisabeth. And so this would be the first time that Franz Joseph would disobey his mother: he wanted to marry Elisabeth, otherwise he would not marry at all. His mother was infuriated, but accepted his wish – at least he would marry a niece, and that was what she wanted in the end. But Elisabeth had not been prepared to be an Empress as Helene; she had lived her free, informal life until that moment, and she would never be able to fully adapt the royal way of life with all its rules and etiquette.
The brothers Jacob (1785–1863) and Wilhelm Grimm (1786–1859) were German cultural researchers and authors who collected and published German folklore during the 19th century.
Other than sometimes falsely assumed, the brothers didn't make up the fairy tales themselves, but penned down popular German folk tales. With the movement of Romanticism that started in the late 18th century, the interest in fairy tales revived. While Germany was still an assembly of kingdoms and (grand) duchies, the brothers strongly believed that national unity relied on the knowledge of the common cultural past that was reflected in folklore.
In the introduction to their first book of collected fairy tales, the Grimms explain that they had travelled through Germany to talk with storytellers who supplied them with tales. Since the stories had been handed oraly from generation to generation, they often heard various versions of tales that were in fact the same stories. In these cases, the Grimms picked out the common content and molded it into a single tale.
The first edition of Children's and Household Tales ("Kinder- und Hausmärchen") was published in 1812, but was in a constant state of alteration. During their lifetime, the work was published 17 times. Wilhelm was the main editor of the two, making the tales stilistically similar, adding psychological and sometimes religious plots and dialogue.