Friday, October 28, 2005

The American Civil War

The American Civil War marked a turning point in the history of conflict. Between 1861 and 1865 the world would witness devastating new weapons and tactics that finally brought an end to Napoleonic warfare and ushered in a brutal and bloody new era which would culminate in the horrendous casualties of the Western Front. The war that divided a nation would have implications that affected the entire world – introducing new concepts from mass production and ironclads to machineguns – it would usher in the age of modern warfare and would leave a nation mourning hundreds of thousands of its children.

THE WEST: The People

The West, an epic saga of the American West, chronicles the history of one of the most extraordinary landscapes on earth

It is a story of how individual and collective actions changed history and shaped a nation. The series explores the region from the times of the earliest Native Americans, all the way into the 20th century.

As this odyssey unfolds, it reveals the many cultures and individuals who converged on the West from every point on the compass. Their disparate desires, so often in conflict with each other, resulted in triumph, tragedy, and some of the most compelling stories in American history.NATIVE AMERICAN LANGUAGESNative American languages, languages of the native peoples of the Western Hemisphere and their descendants. A number of the Native American languages that were spoken at the time of the European arrival in the New World in the late 15th cent. have become extinct, but many of them are still in use today. The classification Native American languages is geographical rather than linguistic, since those languages do not belong to a single linguistic family, or stock, as the Indo-European or Afroasiatic languages do. There is no part of the world with as many distinctly different native languages as the Western Hemisphere. Because the number of indigenous American tongues is so large, it is convenient to discuss them under three geographical divisions: North America (excluding Mexico), Mexico and Central America, and South America and the West Indies. It is not possible to determine exactly how many languages were spoken in the New World before the arrival of Europeans or how many people spoke these languages. Some scholars estimate that the Western Hemisphere at the time of the first European contact was inhabited by 40 million people who spoke 1,800 different tongues. Another widely accepted estimate suggests that at the time of Columbus more than 15 million speakers throughout the Western Hemisphere used more than 2,000 languages; the geographic divisions within that estimate are 300 separate tongues native to some 1.5 million Native Americans N of Mexico, 300 different languages spoken by roughly 5 million people in Mexico and Central America, and more than 1,400 distinct tongues used by 9 million Native Americans in South America and the West Indies. By the middle of the 20th cent., as a result of European conquest and settlement in the Western Hemisphere, perhaps two thirds of the many indigenous American languages had already died out or were dying out, but others flourished. Still other aboriginal languages are only now being discovered and investigated by researchers. Some authorities suggest that about one half of the Native American languages N of Mexico have become extinct. Of the tongues still in use, more than half are spoken by fewer than 1,000 persons per language; most of the speakers are bilingual. Only a few tongues, like Navajo and Cherokee, can claim more than 50,000 speakers; Navajo, spoken by about 150,000 people, is the most widely used Native American language in the United States. By the end of the 20th cent. 175 Native American languages were spoken in the United States, but only 20 of these were widely known, and 55 were spoken by only a few elderly tribal members; 100 other languages were somewhere between these extremes. Mexico and Central America, however, have large aboriginal populations employing a number of indigenous languages, such as Nahuatl (spoken by about 1.5 million people) and the Mayan tongues (native to about 4 million people). In South America, the surviving Quechuan linguistic family, which includes far more native speakers than any other aboriginal language group in the Americas, accounts for some 12 million speakers. Another flourishing language stock of indigenous South Americans is Tupí-Guaraní, with about 4 million speakers. Classification A language family consists of two or more tongues that are distinct and yet related historically in that they are all descended from a single ancestor language, either known or assumed to have existed. The languages of a family are closely related in phonetics, grammar, and vocabulary. The attempts made to classify Native American languages into such families have encountered various obstacles. One is the absence of written records of these languages except in the case of Aztec and Maya. Even there the texts are comparatively few in number; the Spanish conquerors destroyed almost all the texts they found. Another problem is that most records of any linguistic value were made after 1850. Also, there are at present insufficient numbers of trained persons able to record many of the indigenous American languages and collect data, especially in Mexico and Central and South America. The absence of grammars handed down from the past, owing to either the dearth of writing or the destruction of written texts, has further hampered the study of the Native American tongues. Linguistic scholars, therefore, have to turn to native informants to gain material for the analysis of these languages. Native American languages cannot be differentiated as a linguistic unit from other languages of the world but are grouped into a number of separate linguistic stocks having significantly different phonetics, vocabularies, and grammars. Asia is generally accepted as the original home of the Native Americans, although linguistic investigations have not yet established any definite link between the Native American languages and those spoken in Asia or elsewhere in the Eastern Hemisphere. Some scholars postulate a connection between the Eskimo-Aleut family and several other families or subfamilies (among them Altaic, Paleosiberian, Finno-Ugric, and Sino-Tibetan). Others see a relationship between members of the Nadene stock (to which Navajo and Apache belong) and Sino-Tibetan, to which Chinese belongs; however, such theories remain unproved. Characteristics The languages in America N of Mexico are best known; those of Mexico and Central America are less so, and those of South America and the West Indies are the least studied. Systematic investigation has shown the Native American languages to be highly developed in their phonology and grammar, whether they are the tongues of the Aztecs and Incas or the Eskimos or Paiutes. There is great diversity among the indigenous American languages with respect to phonology and grammar. The tongue of the Greenland Eskimos, for example, has only 17 phonemes, whereas that of the Navajos has 47 phonemes. Some languages have nasalized vowels similar to those of French. Many have the consonant known as the glottal stop. Some Native American languages have a stress accent reminiscent of English, and others have a pitch accent of rising and falling tones similar to that of Chinese. Still others have both stress and pitch accents. A grammatical characteristic of widespread occurrence in Native American languages is polysynthesism. A polysynthetic language is one in which a number of word elements are joined together to form a composite word that functions as the sentence does in Indo-European languages. Thus, a sentence or phrase is expressed by one long word unit, each element of which has meaning usually only as part of the sentence or phrase and not as a separate item. In a polysynthetic language, no clear distinction is made between a word and a sentence. For example, a series of words expressing several connected ideas, such as I am searching for my lost horse, would be merged to form a single word or meaning unit

Seven Modern Wonders Of The World Part One

ROEBLING, JOHN AUGUSTUSRoebling, John Augustus, 1806-69, German-American engineer, b. Mulhouse. He studied engineering in Berlin and in 1831 came to the United States. He demonstrated the practicability of steel cable and established a plant for manufacturing it at Trenton, N.J. A pioneer in the building of suspension bridges, he built the Allegheny Suspension Bridge (completed 1845) at Pittsburgh, the Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge (completed 1855), and the Cincinnati and Covington Bridge over the Ohio (completed 1867). His most ambitious project was the Brooklyn Bridge. It was scarcely begun when Roebling, directing operations, was injured in an accident and died a few days later. His son Washington Augustus Roebling, 1837-1926, b. Saxonburg, Pa., grad. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 1857, had aided his father in building the Allegheny Suspension Bridge. During the Civil War he joined the Union army as a private, was transferred to Irvin McDowell's engineering staff, and rose to the rank of colonel. He went to Europe to study engineering and especially pneumatic caissons. After his father's death he directed the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. Because of continuous underground work he was stricken (1872) with decompression sickness (caisson disease), but despite his invalidism he directed the project until the bridge was opened to traffic (1883). In 1888 he took over the management of the Roebling plant in Trenton. See biography by H. Schuyler (1931); D. B. Steinman, The Builders of the Bridge (1945).

1886: Statue of Liberty dedicated

1636The founding of Harvard University, the first university in the United States of America. Its named after John Harvard , the English-born Puritan minister who bequeathed £779 and a 300 volume library.
1831English chemist and physicist Michael Faraday demonstartes the first dynamo
1836Proclaimation of the Federation of Peru and Bolivia.
1886The Statue of Liberty, designed by Auguste Bartholdi, is presented by France to the United States of America to mark the 100th anniversary of the America's Declaration of Independence.
1914American entrepreneur George Eastman announces his invention of a colour photograph process to be marketed by his Eastman Kodak Company.
1918Czeckoslovakia proclaims independence.
1949In Britain, a glove puppet named 'Sooty' makes his first appearance on BBC television.
1958In Britain, the State Opening of Parliament is televised for the first time.
1962The end of the 'Cuban Missile Crisis' when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev orders Russian missiles on their way to specially-built rocket sites in Cuba to sail away and orders the bases, threatening the United States of America to be dismantled.
1962Opening of Britian's first urban motorway - the M62 around Manchester.
1971In Britain, the House of Commons backs Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath and, by a majority of 112, votes for Britain to apply to join the EEC - the European Economic Market.
1864French painter Henri deToulouse Lautrec is born into a wealthy aristocratic family. He suffers from dwarfism and several other physical deformities. Many of his most famous paintings are inspired by Parisian low life - and he is a frequent visitor to music halls (especially the Moulin Rouge in Paris); cabarets, circuses and brothels. Dies after suffering a second stroke in 1901. Apart from those pictures bought by collectors, more than 500 of his works are in the Lautrec Museum in the French town of Albi where he was born.
1793American inventor Philo Remington born in New York. Works in his father's small arms factory and designs the 'Remington' breech-loading rifle.
1794Scottish physician Robert Listor is born in Linlithgow. Carries out Britain's first operation with the aid of an anaesthetic.
1903English novelist Evelyn Waugh. Major works include: 'Decline and Fall' (1928); 'A Handful of Dust' (1934); 'Brideshead Revisited' (1945) and his World War II trilogy 'Sword of Honour' (1952-61). Dies in 1966.
1927English cabaret singer and jazz musician Cleo Laine born in Middlesex.Real name Clementina Dinah Campbell. Marries band leader Johnny Dankworth.
1927English actress and stage director Joan Plowright born in Lincolnshire. Performs on stage opposite Laurence Olivier whom she marries in 1961.Is an award winner both as an actress and later as a stage director.

The Lost Atlantis

If it had existed at all, all traces of Atlantis have disappeared. Atlantis has puzzled and fascinated historians for centuries.
Are its secrets buried at the bottom of the sea, or is Atlantis one of the great myths passed down from ancient civilization?
Plato, in his dialogues the Timaeus and the Critias, tells of the high civilization that flourished there before the island was destroyed by an earthquake. The legend persists, and societies for the discovery of Atlantis remain active.
Plato described Atlantis as an ideal state, and the name is considered synonymous with Utopia. Francis Bacon called his account of the ideal state The New Atlantis.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Golden Gate Bridge

For six years Joseph Strauss, a bridge builder from Chicago, had been visiting San Francisco to supervise work on a small drawbridge, one of four hundred he had built around the world. But Strauss's ambitions far surpassed any work his firm had ever attempted before...
This programme documents the construction of what was then the longest suspension bridge in the world, built hundreds of feet above the dangerously churning waters of the entrance to San Francisco Bay. It would be known as the Golden Gate.
The 1920 census delivered San Franciscans a shock: Los Angeles had surpassed San Francisco as California's largest city. While Los Angeles had plenty of land, San Francisco was bottled up at the tip of a peninsula. Economic survival depended on expansion.
The idea of a bridge linking the city with its neighboring counties was appealing, but the mile-wide gap between San Francisco and Marin presented huge challenges.
At the mouth of the Gate, the oncoming force of the Pacific Ocean creates turbulent waves and ripping currents. The location is plagued by gale-force winds and dense fogs. Strauss set his sights on bridging a spot that other engineers had deemed impossible.
When he delivered his plans for the bridge, resistance emerged from every quarter. Environmentalists protested that the bridge would mar the Golden Gate's pleasing vista. Shipping companies claimed the bridge would impede navigation in the bay. Ferry companies were bent on protecting their monopoly on bay-crossings. The war department feared the bridge would become a target in wartime. But no amount of opposition would deter Strauss.
In 1925, he moved to San Francisco to drum up support. He set out on a road trip, speaking at public meetings in small towns in the northern counties, proudly presenting his own bridge design.
"Most people, myself included, think that it was very ugly, to the point of hideous," says structural engineer Mark Ketchum. Still, Marin County signed on, with Sonoma and Napa soon following. In all, six counties joined the Bridge District. Work began in January 1933.
Hundreds of men were hired to do the back-breaking work of removing three-and-a-quarter million cubic feet of dirt to make room for the anchorages that would hold the bridge's main cables in place. Throughout construction, the workers would be exposed to the severe weather and dangerous conditions of working high above the Golden Gate. "They were farm boys and clerks and taxicab drivers who became high steel men... teetering along on a girder up there," says historian Richard Dillon.
The 6,450-foot span would be the longest cable-spinning distance attempted to date. To spin the main suspension cables, Strauss hired Roebling & Sons, who shipped 80,000 miles of wire from New Jersey. On May 20, 1936, the last cable wire was laid, two months ahead of schedule.
"The cable system is really the lifeline of a suspension bridge," says Ketchum. "That big cable, that looks so solid when we see it today, was spun in place from individual wires that are each about the size of a pencil."

The ROMAN EMPIRE in the First Century

The Roman Empire laid the foundations for the creation of early Europe. It built roads that spanned the length of the continent in all directions and had a sophisticated aqueduct system which no longer meant that a town had to be situated near a river to survive. As long as the Empire was expanding Rome grew richer and stronger. In the First Century AD, Rome progressed from a Republic to an Empire, and with death of Julius Caesar became an inriguing and controversial Dynasty of Emperors. Rome had one of the most colourful and cosmopolitan societies in history with influences from all over the world. Life in Rome was bustling and most Romans lived in small apartments or rooms in a shared tenant building called an insulae. Wealthier Romans lived in large villas outside the city in order to avoid the noises and the smells but the atmosphere in Rome was unlike any other city at the time. In wake of the 1st Century AD the Empire spanned from Palestine, North Africa, Greece, Italy, Asia Minor through to France, Iberia and eventually Britain.

The Lost Legions Of Varus

It was a catastrophe beyond the scope of imagination; an entire army of 20,000 men, slaughtered by barbarians.
More incredible still, the perpetrators of this massacre were German tribesmen, a conquered people whose own leaders had long been 'Romanised' and were at this time merely regarded as harmless pacifists.
But the Varus disaster, as it became known, became a defining moment in world history; a turning point in the fortunes of Rome. It marked the high water mark of Roman expansion eastwards in Europe.
So what had gone wrong? For in the midst of this catastrophe, it seems that the only thing the Roman leader Varus had done right was to fall on his sword when the outcome became inevitable.
As the guerrilla tactics of the Germanic tribes massacred the disciplined troops of in the dense forest of Teutoberg, everything seemed to have conspired to destroy the might and aspiration of Imperial Rome.


Legion, large unit of the Roman army. It came into prominence c.400 &BC; It originally consisted of 3,000 to 4,000 men drawn into eight ranks: the first six ranks, called hoplites, were heavily armed, while the last two, called velites, were only lightly armed. Marcus Furius Camillus is traditionally regarded as the great organizer of the legion. Under Camillus the hoplites were divided into three groups: the hastati (youngest men), the principes, and the triarii (oldest). Within the legion was the cohort, consisting of one maniple of each of the three groups plus 120 velites and a cavalry unit about 30 strong. A legion was composed of 10 cohorts and comprised about 5,000 men. In Caesar's time each legion had a commander who was responsible to the Senate, 6 tribunes, a legate, a prefect, and some 60 centurions. Training was hard, with much difficult drilling to prepare the men especially in shock tactics and for rapid marches. The standard weapons were the spear (pilum) and (after Scipio Africanus Major conquered Spain) the short thrusting sword (gladius). The characteristic emblems of the legions were eagles inscribed SPQR [Senatus Populusque Romanus—the Senate and the people of Rome], and they carried the eagles in triumph over the far reaches of the empire for hundreds of years. Upon the legions rested to a large extent the glory of Rome. They were primarily heavy infantry and were vulnerable to quickly moving cavalry and archers (e.g., the defeat of Marcus Lucinius Crassus at Carrhae) and to guerrilla fighters (e.g., the famous defeat of Varus by the Germans). With the Germanic invasions the legion proved unable to match the barbarian horsemen, rendering it obsolete.


Foreign Legion, French volunteer armed force composed chiefly, in its enlisted ranks, of foreigners. Its international character and the tradition of not revealing enlistees' backgrounds have helped to surround the Foreign Legion with an aura of mystery and romance. Although foreigners had served in French armies previously, King Louis Philippe created (1831) this specific foreign legion. Originally intended to pacify Algeria, the legion also was active in the pacification of Morocco and fought in other areas of the French colonial empire and in both world wars. It was later active in the French campaigns in Indochina and Algeria. One regiment of the legion supported Algerian insurgency against the French government (1961) and was rapidly disbanded. The legion was normally stationed in Algeria until 1962, when its headquarters were transferred to S France, near Marseilles. The army's regiments were scattered throughout the world. There have been many other foreign legions; e.g., a British legion participated in the Carlist Wars in Spain, and in the Spanish civil war (1936-39) the International Brigade fought on the Loyalist side.


Czech Legion, military force of about 40,000 to 50,000 men, composed mostly of Czech and Slovak Russian prisoners of war and deserters from the Austro-Hungarian army who enrolled in the Russian army during World War I. Constituted with the consent of the Russian revolutionary government set up in 1917, the legion took a minor part in fighting the Germans and Austrians. After Russia left the war as a result of the peace of Brest-Litovsk in 1918, an agreement between the legion and the Bolshevik regime in Russia allowed for the evacuation of the legion via the Trans-Siberian RR and its eventual transfer to the Franco-German front. During its evacuation, the legion reluctantly became involved in the Russian civil war, fighting mostly on the anti-Bolshevik side, and controlled in mid-1918 much of the vital railroad line. However, plans (favored by some Allied officials) to use the legion for intervention against the Soviet regime never materialized.


American Legion, national association of male and female war veterans, founded (1919) in Paris. Membership is open to veterans of World Wars I and II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. The preamble to the organization's constitution, adopted at the convention in St. Louis that same year, expresses its purposes in part as to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States; to maintain law and order; to foster and perpetuate a one hundred percent Americanism; … to safeguard and transmit to posterity the principles of justice, freedom, and democracy; to consecrate and sanctify our comradeship by our devotion to mutual helpfulness. The organization has done much work in social welfare, particularly in the areas of veterans' benefits and child care. With national headquarters in Indianapolis, Ind., it is the largest veterans' association; it holds an annual convention, which often addresses national issues. The American Legion's efforts have been bent not only to obtaining benefits for veterans but also for the families of those who died in war. Although it is organized on a nonpartisan, nonpolitical basis, its policies have been criticized as extremely conservative by many opponents, and its influence has waned, particularly with the loss of many World War II veterans. There is also a women's auxiliary for the wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters of veterans.

ESCAPE TO THE LEGION: Escape To The Legion - Part 4

No other military force retains the chilling, enigmatic mystery of the French Foreign Legion. It's been painted as the definitive military machine; the harsh last resort for men on the run; and the ultimate boys own adventure. In Escape To The Legion we will aim to marry the historical appeal of Lad's army with the genuine living-history experience of Frontier House.
Led by explorer and former SAS trainer Bear Grylls, a group of mainly British men will be placed in a Saharan Foreign Legion Fort where for 4 weeks they will experience a compressed Foreign Legion training programme led by 3 full uniformed former Legionnaires. The filming will follow the daily ups and downs of these recruits as they attempt to turn themselves into viable Legionnaires.
Traditionally the Legion has been a place for men to escape a past they'd rather forget. You get a new name, a new identity and the chance to start again. Bear will round up a diverse band of 11 men (this is the FOREIGN legion after all) who've realised they desperately need to change: ex-philanderers, ex-cons, bored wage slaves, bankrupts and sad divorcees, all looking for redemption and personal transformation in the harsh life of the Legion. Their backstory will be filmed and intercut throughout the series.
Escape To The Legion will also identify and film a number of former Legionnaires who are mostly British who will talk about their time in the Legion. Their experiences will underpin the veracity of the contemporary experience. Bear's role is of chief motivator. He'll inspire his comrades through the tough times. The challenge is for the whole company to make it through and be presented with the iconic 'kepi blanc' after a series of punishing trials. But by the end of it all, can our disorderly rabble really emerge with the resolve and self discipline to change their lives back home?
Our constructed, all-purpose Legion experience will draw on the most punishing and iconic aspects of Legion life over the past 40 years. And most importantly it'll be helmed by real, war worn, grizzled ex-Legionnaires. Escape To The Legion combines the dramatic tension of the greatest Legion literature with a real contemporary experience of potentially life changing proportions. At last we'll really find out what it to means to run away to join the Foreign Legion.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Abram family

Images like this are interesting on their own. But in order to have real historical value they need to be seen in a broader context - say compared with other photos from the same period. Take a look at this photo of the Abram family - and what the owneThe Abram family, taken around 1900, Northamptonshire
The picture shows Charles Abram (born 1859) and Emily Abram (born 1861) with some of their children and grandchildren.
Emily and Charles had 13 children. The family has since dwindled in size, and there are now only two male descendants of the family alive - one living in Australia.
Now you have two family photos, both from the late Victorian era. What do these images have in common? How are they different from the kind of family snaps we have on our mantelpieces today? What might you be able to deduce from this about how families have changed? r, Toni Abram, says about it.

The Evans family

The Evans family, Ogmore Vale, Wales, 1898 Now for your chance to do some history. Look at this photograph. At first glance it doesn't seem so very different from the family snaps that we take today - it's just older. But look again, this time with the eyes of a historian. What can you see now?
Below are the comments of the owner of the photo, Derek Evans.
Pictured are my great grandparents, John Evans (born 1841) and Betsy Evans (born 1845) with their ten surviving children; two others had died in infancy, one from typhoid fever and the other from dysentery.
John was a migrant railway worker - a 'ganger' - who laid track throughout South Wales, eventually settling near Bridgend in 1860. The family took up residence at Crossing House, Caedu, Ogmore Vale, where John became the crossing gate keeper.
To distinguish the family from other Evanses they were known locally as 'Evans the Crossing'.

A postcard from Darwen

What was your locality like in the past? As you walk along the roads or streets near your home, what evidence can you see of changes that have taken place? Discover how to unlock the secrets of the past by looPicturing the past
What was your locality like in the past? As you walk along the roads or streets near your home, what evidence can you see of changes that have taken place? What has caused these changes, and what can they tell you about the history of your neighbourhood?
Postcards provide a rich source of pictorial evidence for the physical fabric of local life.
One way to answer questions like these is to look at the visual evidence left behind by past generations. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries picture postcards of local scenes, including urban street scenes, were produced in large quantities in every part of the country. Since many of them were kept by their recipients, they also survived in large numbers, providing a rich source of pictorial evidence for the physical fabric of local life.king at a picture postcard.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Britain's population trebles

The most visible sign of economic growth was the steady increase in Britain's population. Since the Romans it had fluctuated between two and six million, but from 1750 it grew exponentially, nearly trebling in a century to reach 21 million by 1851. This increased to 37 million by 1901. Simultaneously, if at first very slowly, the country was getting richer. During the 18th century much of this wealth was channelled into fighting expensive wars, mostly against the French. Victoria's reign, however, saw a marked improvement in the standard of living of working people: a greater number people were living longer, more comfortable lives.
Furnaces and forges blackened buildings; industrial chemicals and sewage killed off rivers...
Since the 1820s British writers and politicians had talked of living in a 'machine age'. They did so with excitement and pride, but also with a high degree of anxiety. The material prosperity stemming from uncontrolled industrial and urban development came at a high environmental and social cost, causing urban squalor, despoiled landscapes, dislocated communities and jeopardised livelihoods. Furnaces and forges blackened buildings, industrial chemicals and sewage killed off rivers, and roads and railways cut through fields and ancient monuments. People either migrated far from friends and family (millions of them overseas), submitted to the factory's unaccustomed routine and irksome discipline, or suffered the de-skilling of their trade. Not even the skilled élite of the working class was immune from the insecurity of unemployment, illness and old age.
In the late 18th century, many thousands of women throughout rural Britain saw their spinning wheels become redundant and their jobs disappear into the factories. A generation later, hand-weavers fought a long, impoverishing battle against the power loom. Under-employed agricultural labourers in southeast England scraped a bare living, subsidised by poor relief. Catastrophically, in 1845-51 a million of Victoria's Irish subjects died (and another million emigrated) when blight repeatedly destroyed the potato crop and, largely through a misplaced faith in the free market, insufficient aid was provided. Industrialisation offered neither universal nor immediate gains.

Workshop of the world

When Queen Victoria opened the Great Exhibition on 1st May 1851, her country was the world's leading industrial power, producing more than half its iron, coal and cotton cloth. The Crystal Palace itself was a triumph of pre-fabricated mass production in iron and glass. Its contents were intended to celebrate material progress and peaceful international competition. They ranged from massive steam hammers and locomotives to the exquisite artistry of the handicraft trades - not to mention a host of ingenious gadgets and ornaments of domestic clutter. All the world displayed its wares, but the majority were British.
All the world displayed its wares, but the majority were British.
This dominance was both novel and brief. It was only half a century earlier that Britain had wrested European economic and political leadership from France, at a time when Europe itself lagged far behind Asia in manufacturing output. By 1901, however, the world's industrial powerhouse was the USA, and Germany was challenging Britain for second place. But no country, even then, was as specialised as Britain in manufacturing: in 1901 under ten per cent of its labour force worked in agriculture and over 75 per cent of its wheat was imported (mostly from the USA and Russia). Food and industrial raw materials, sourced from around the globe, were paid for by exports of manufactures and, increasingly, services such as shipping, insurance and banking and income from overseas investment. Nor was any other country so urbanised: already in 1851 half the population inhabited a town or city; by 1901 three-quarters did so. Yet even in 1851 only a minority of workers was employed in 'modern' industry (engineering, chemicals and factory-based textiles). They were largely concentrated into a few regions in the English north and Midlands, South Wales and the central belt of Scotland - where industrialisation was evident by 1800.


The Troughton telescope had used an object glass of 5 inches diameter, which, at the time of its manufacture, in 1793, was the largest ever made by the optician Peter Dollond. Airy's new telescope had an object glass of 8.1-inch diameter. It had a magnification of 195, and most importantly, incorporated a number of measures to reduce the overall errors incurred in observations. There are, for example six micrometers for reading the scale, which gives the angle above the horizon of the star. Each is read, and an average of the six is taken, so even if one is slightly out, the reading is still very accurate.
When making a transit observation, one major source of error was the reaction time of the observer between when he (and it was always a he) observed the star, and when he noted the time. To reduce this error Airy came up with a way of linking both. With this chronograph, instead of observing the star, listening to or glancing at the regulator, and then mentally registering the time before noting it down, all the observer had to do was observe the star and simultaneously tap a key.
The barrel chronograph, from Dunkin's The Midnight Sky
The task of reading the chronograph sheets to extract the time for each observation was then passed down the production line to the computers, as the clerks who did the calculations were called. The observers' role was therefore reduced to just making the observations, while interpretation of these observations was left to the computers. As it happens, there was a certain amount of cross over, with many of the observers having some of their time assigned to computing duty, while some computers spent a portion of their time being trained up as observers

The Airy Transit Circle

George Biddell Airy was Astronomer Royal at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich from 1835 to 1881. In his time, Airy transformed the observatory, installing some of the most advanced astronomical apparatus of his day and expanding both staff numbers and their workload. Staff had to clock-in and clock-out - common practice in Victorian factories and he also introduced new methods for dealing with the larger scale of the organisation. Further steps to automate systems and the production of strict step-by-step guidelines, all helped to reduce human error and increase efficiency.
The Airy Transit Circle, installed in 1850 and first used on 4th January 1851 is emblematic of the revolution in working practice introduced by Airy at the Royal Observatory. It sits on the north-south line, which today marks longitude 0°. This Prime Meridian, signals the start of the Universal day for the entire world. At the time of its installation, the Airy Transit Circle marked a huge advance on existing technology.
A transit instrument is always lined up with a north-south line, or meridian. When a star passes over the meridian, the transit instrument can be used to measure the angle at which this happens. Whilst this happens, an extremely accurate clock, called a regulator, is used to measure the time it occurs. These two measurements give the co-ordinates of that star, which can be used to make a star chart - and star position tables to aid navigation. The production of these tables, published annually to this day in the Nautical Almanac, was fundamental to the founding duty of the Observatory, which was to improve navigation.

Friday, October 21, 2005

FDR: A Presidency Revealed

For twelve years he stood as America's 32nd President, a man who overcame the ravages of polio to pull America through the Great Depression and WWII. From his legendary Fireside Chats to his sweeping New Deal, Franklin Delano Roosevelt revolutionized the American way of life.FDR: A PRESIDENCY REVEALED examines one of history's most compelling figures. Inspired by his cousin Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt rose to the nation's highest office during the depths of one of its darkest periods. A man of few words, he brought a nation together through his revolutionary Fireside Chats. He introduced vast reforms like Social Security and work relief for the unemployed. At the same time, his administration hid a dark underbelly teeming with covert maneuvers, spy rings, and powerful enemies.Featuring never-before-seen home movies, rare audio recordings, and interviews with FDR's grandson Curtis Roosevelt, the nation's leading academics, and Pulitzer Prize-winning authors, this original program from THE reveals the full story of FDR's remarkable 4-term presidency.

1861 Battle of Ball's Bluff

Union troops suffer a devastating defeat in the second major engagement of the war. The Battle of Ball's Bluff produced the war's first martyr and led to the creation of a Congressional committee to monitor the conduct of the war.
After the Battle of Bull Run on July 21, President Lincoln appointed General George McClellan to organize the defeated Federal Army of the Potomac. McClellan spent the fall assembling and training his force, but he was under pressure from Lincoln, the public, and Congress to take action that fall against the Confederates, who were waiting just across the Potomac River. McClellan ordered General George McCall to make a reconnaissance across the river, and he instructed General Charles Stone to watch the nearby town of Leesburg, Virginia, while McCall's men were moving.
Stone sent a detachment across the river on the night of October 20, and the inexperienced soldiers reported seeing a Rebel camp that turned out to be shadows. Stone decided to move more men over until a force of 1,600, under the command of Colonel Edward Baker, was poised for an attack the next morning. Baker was a close friend of President Lincoln, and Lincoln had named his second son after him.
Baker placed his men in a dangerous position. They were in a clearing with their backs to the edge of Ball's Bluff, a 100-foot high cliff above the Potomac. They faced a wooded ridge that was rapidly filling with Southerners. The Confederates launched an attack at 3 p.m., and Baker's command was in trouble. Baker was killed, and many of his men jumped from the bluff to their deaths or scrambled down a narrow trail only to find their boats swamped in the river. Less than half made it back to the other side of the Potomac.
The Union suffered 49 killed, 158 wounded, and 714 missing and captured, while the Confederates suffered 33 killed, 115 wounded, and one missing. Lincoln was stunned by the loss of his friend Baker, who became a Northern martyr despite his ineptitude in conducting the battle. The political fallout was swift. Angry Republicans were highly suspicious of McClellan, a Democrat, and other generals. The Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War was formed in December. This group was stacked with Radical Republicans who favored tougher treatment of the South and slaveholders. The committee's first investigation was the disaster at Ball's Bluff, and General Stone became the scapegoat. He was arrested for treason soon after and was jailed for six months.

1891 Birth of the Nashville Speedway

On this day, a one-mile dirt track opened for harness races at the site of the present-day Tennessee State Fairgrounds in Nashville. Harness racing proved a popular event at the annual Tennessee State Fair, but it was nothing compared to the excitement generated by the fair's first automobile race, held at the fairgrounds in 1904. For the next 50 years, motor racing events were the highlight of the annual state fair, drawing top American drivers to compete, and launching the careers of others. In 1956, the track was paved and lighted, and the tradition of weekly Saturday night racing at the fairgrounds was born. And in 1958, NASCAR came to Nashville with the introduction of the NASCAR Winston Cup to be run on a brand-new half-mile oval. The legendary driver Joe Weatherly won the first Winston Cup, beating the likes of Fireball Turner, Lee Petty, and Curtis Turner in the 200-lap event. Between 1958 and 1984, the fairgrounds hosted 42 NASCAR Winston Cups, and Richard Petty and Darrell Waltrip were the overall leaders in victories, with nine and eight Winston Cups respectively. The last Winston Cup race to descend onto the Tennessee State Fairgrounds was a 420-lap event won by driver Geoff Bodine. But despite the departure of the Winston Cup, the Nashville Speedway continued to improve on its racetrack, and illustrious racing events such as the Busch Series are held on the historic track every year.

1797 USS Constitution launched

The USS Constitution, a 44-gun U.S. Navy frigate built to fight Barbary pirates off the coast of Tripoli, is launched in Boston Harbor. The vessel performed commendably during the Barbary conflicts, and in 1805 a peace treaty with Tripoli was signed on the Constitution's deck.
During the War of 1812, the Constitution won its enduring nickname "Old Ironsides" after defeating the British warship Guerriýre in a furious engagement off the coast of Nova Scotia. Witnesses claimed that the British shots merely bounced off the Constitution's sides, as if the ship were made of iron rather than wood. The success of the Constitution against the supposedly invincible Royal Navy provided a tremendous morale boost for the young American republic.
In 1855, the Constitution retired from active military service, but the famous vessel continued to serve the United States, first as a training ship and later as a touring national landmark. Since 1934, it has been based at the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston. Over the years, Old Ironsides has enjoyed a number of restorations, the most recent of which was completed in 1997, allowing it to sail for the first time in 116 years. Today, the Constitution is the world's oldest commissioned warship afloat.


President Dwight D. Eisenhower signs an executive order transferring the brilliant rocket designer Wernher von Braun and his team from the U.S. Army to the newly created National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Von Braun, the mastermind of the U.S. space program, had developed the lethal V-2 rocket for Nazi Germany during World War II.
Wernher von Braun was born into an aristocratic German family in 1912. He became fascinated with rocketry and the possibility of space travel after reading Hermann Oberth's The Rocket into Interplanetary Space (1923) when he was in his early teens. He studied mechanical engineering and physics in Berlin and in his free time assisted Oberth in his tests of liquid-fueled rockets. In 1932, Von Braun's rocket work attracted the attention of the German army, and he was given a grant to continue his work. He was eventually hired to lead the army's rocket artillery unit, and by 1937 he was the technical director of a large development facility located at Peenemünde on the Baltic Sea.
Von Braun's rocket tests impressed the Nazi leadership, who provided generous funding to the program. The most sophisticated rockets produced at Peenemünde were the long-range ballistic missile A-4 and the anti-aircraft missile Wasserfall. The A-4 was years ahead of rockets being produced in other nations at the time. It traveled at 3,600 mph, was capable of delivering a warhead a distance of more than 200 miles, and was the first rocket to enter the fringes of space. In 1944, the Nazis changed the name of A-4 to V-2 and began launching the rockets against London and Antwerp. The V stood for Vergeltung--the German word for "vengeance"--and was an expression of Nazi vindictiveness over the Allied bombardment of Germany. The V-2s took many lives but came too late to influence the outcome of the war.
Von Braun and 400 members of his team fled before the advancing Russians in 1945 and surrendered to the Americans. U.S. troops quickly seized more than 300 train-car loads of spare V-2 parts, and the German scientists were taken to the United States, eventually settling at Fort Bliss, Texas, where they resumed their rocketry work. At first, they were closely supervised because of their former allegiance to Nazi Germany, but it soon became apparent that they had fully shifted their loyalty to America and the great scientific opportunities it provided for them.
In 1950, von Braun and his team, which now included Americans, were transferred to Huntsville, Alabama, to head the U.S. Army ballistic-weapons program. During the 1950s, von Braun enthusiastically promoted the possibilities of space flight in books and magazines. In 1955, he became a U.S. citizen.
The USSR successfully launched Sputnik--the world's first artificial satellite--in October 1957, but von Braun's team was not far behind with its launching of the first American satellite--Explorer 1--in January 1958. In July of that year, President Eisenhower signed legislation establishing NASA, and on October 21 von Braun was formally transferred to the new agency. Von Braun, however, did not really go anywhere; NASA's George C. Marshall Space Flight Center was built around von Braun's headquarters in Huntsville. In 1960, he was named the Marshall Center's first director.
At Huntsville, von Braun oversaw construction of the large Saturn launch vehicles that kept the United States abreast of Soviet space achievements in the early and mid 1960s. In the late 1960s, von Braun's genius came to the fore in the space race, and the Soviets failed in their efforts to build intricate booster rockets of the type that put the first U.S. astronauts into a lunar orbit in 1968. Von Braun's Saturn rockets eventually took 27 Americans to the moon, 12 who walked on the lunar surface. Von Braun retired from NASA in 1972 and died five years later.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Isaac Asimov(1920-1992)

'All I do is write,' Isaac Asimov once said, 'I do practically nothing else, except eat, sleep and talk to my wife.' Labelled the human writing machine, and widely considered a genius, Asimov was one of the most prolific writers of recent history. He had published 14 stories and written a further 17 by the time he was 21. He went on to write over 500 books.
Early life
Isaac Asimov was born in Petrovichi, Russia on 2 January 1920. His actual birth date soon became fiction though as Asimov's mother paved the way for her son's successful career. In order to start the bright lad a year early in school she changed the birth date to four months earlier, having observed the poor record-keeping of the Soviet authorities. It worked.
Asimov's family left the Soviet Union when he was three years old, taking him and his baby sister Manya to New York. Here, Isaac proved to be a promising student and before long was writing a column for his high school newspaper. He joined Columbia University at the age of 15 and graduated in chemistry before going on to receive a Master of Arts and a PhD in biochemistry.
Rising star
Writing remained his first love, however, and at the age of 19 he published his first short story, Marooned off Vesta (1939), in the magazine Amazing Stories. Within two years, the young student had written 31 stories. Science fiction had a new rising star, with an insatiable appetite for writing. During the 1940s, he began the books that would be the basis for his reputation as a valid sci-fi author – the Positronic Robot series and the Foundation series.
In 1942, Asimov met Gertrude Blugerman on a Valentine's Day blind date and the couple were married later that year. They had two children together, David and Robyn Joan, but the marriage wasn't to last. A chance meeting at a science fiction convention in 1956 was to prove fatal for the relationship. Asimov signed a book for a fan, Janet Opal Jeppson, and the attraction turned out to be instant. They didn't actually meet again until three years later at a mystery writer's banquet. And they didn't get married until 1973, two weeks after he'd gotten divorced from Gertrude.
Asimov worked as a lecturer of biochemistry at the Boston University School of Medicine from 1949, the same year he started writing a column for Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. He soon discovered he needed more time for his writing and eventually, after 9 years, he gave up teaching altogether. Free just to write, Asimov began working eight hours a day, seven days a week.
Writing in earnest
His work was wide-ranging and well respected. In 1957, he won a Thomas Edison Foundation Award for his book Building Blocks of the Universe. He went on to win many awards for his writing, including a Hugo award in 1963 for 'adding science to science fiction' for his work in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. His Foundation series was awarded the Best All-time Novel Series Hugo Award in 1966.
That same year saw the release of the Hollywood film Fantastic Voyage, for which he wrote the screenplay (as well as the original novel). It is often assumed that he wrote the screenplay after the novel as it was the screenplay that was published first. But this was not the case. Asimov explains that he 'wrote quickly and Hollywood works slowly.'
He was back winning awards in 1973: his novelette The Bicentennial Man won a Hugo Award and a Nebula Award. It has since been made into a Hollywood film. In 1976 a magazine dedicated to the writer appeared: Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine. He also wrote two more autobiographies, In Memory Yet Green (1979) and In Joy Still Felt (1980).
Asimov was also involved in other science fiction film classics, such as 1979's Star Trek: The Motion Picture where he acted as science advisor on the request of creator and producer of the original Star Trek series Gene Roddenberry.
It has recently been claimed that Asimov's Foundation series was read by the world's most wanted man, Osama bin Laden. And in August 2002, Giles Foden reported in The Guardian that 'Japan's Aum Shinrikyo [the cult group] – which released 11 packets of deadly sarin gas into the Tokyo subway system in 1995, was apparently trying to build a community of scientists modelled on Asimov's Foundation.'
That Asimov's work may have influenced such people shouldn't reflect badly on the writer. He didn't intend to appeal to terrorist groups, indeed, he believed violence was 'the last refuge of the incompetent.' Science fiction, whoever writes it, is a fertile genre in which to find individuals or plots with evil intent – the genre is built on evil geniuses, empires and mad men seeking world domination. Luckily, these supposed links don't seem to be harming Asimov's reputation or detracting from his popularity.
Life after death
In 1992, Asimov died from AIDS-related heart and kidney failure aged 72, a consequence of an infected blood transfusion during a triple bypass operation in 1983. And although he has been dead for over 10 years, books, stories and essays from the author are still being published. Many of these are marketed as his 'last work' – a claim that has often been true in one way. Gold was his last anthology of science fiction stories, published in 1991. Forward the Foundation was the last Foundation novel, published posthumously in 1993. I Asimov: A Memoir was his last autobiographical volume, published posthumously in 1993, for which he won the best non-fiction Hugo Award. And these may not actually be the last – there are still unpublished essays and stories lurking in his estate. The human writing machine continues to deliver after his death. He was even posthumously entered into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in Kansas City in 1997.
Isaac Asimov remains well known for his science fiction writing, in particular his Positronic Robot and Foundation series, but his influence wasn't limited to sci-fi alone. In fact, Asimov wrote for almost every style and genre, from children's books and histories to geography and factual science pieces. Today his work continues to be read and respected across the globe.

HG Wells

HG Wells forecast 20th century society so accurately that he has been dubbed 'the man who invented tomorrow'. He is seen by many as the founding father of modern science fiction and was predicting the future long before people like Herman Kahn and Arthur C Clarke. He foresaw super-highways, overcrowded cities and television news broadcasts well in advance of their reality. This talent for prophecy was to prove most accurate, however, when regarding the machinery of war.
Early life
The youngest of three brothers, Herbert George Wells was born to a lower middle class family in Bromley, Kent. After breaking his leg as a child he had a period of convalescence in which to read. This was a passion that he would continue to indulge at the library of Uppark, the estate where his mother was a housekeeper.
But his more immediate work didn't service his love of literature – he was apprenticed to a draper. This didn't last, and in 1883 he took on a student assistantship at Midhurst Grammar School, giving him the opportunity to study and teach. Later, after winning a scholarship to the Norman School of Science in South Kensington, he studied under the biologist TH Huxley. Huxley influenced the young writer greatly and inspired the character of Russell in his 1908 novel, Ann Veronica.
Wells left the Norman school of Science in 1887 without completing his degree. But in 1890, after teaching in private schools for some years, he obtained an honours degree in biology from London University.
He married his cousin Isabel in 1891, but the marriage wasn't to last and he later eloped with one of his students, Amy Catherine, in 1895. He did not stay faithful, however, and during his life had many mistresses, often modelling his female characters on them.
Early works
His first published work was a biology textbook in 1893 but his debut as a novelist came in 1895 with The Time Machine. The book is generally accepted as one of the first modern science fiction stories, but it is also notable for offering the first glimpse of the author's prophetic style. In this novel, Wells asserts that time is a fourth dimension, pre-empting Einstein's theory of a four dimensional time continuum by years.
The novels that followed were The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896) and The Invisible Man (1897). Both were clearly influenced by his background in biology, featuring scientists tampering with the forces of nature. It was in 1898, however, that he published arguably his most famous work: The War of the Worlds.
The War of the Worlds
In the years preceding the publication of his classic invasion novel, Mars had captured the writer's imagination. In 1894, the red planet was positioned close enough to the Earth to allow an Italian astronomer, Giovanni Schiaparelli, to see channels on its surface. This led to fervent speculation that Mars was harbouring life and in less than four years HG Wells had unleashed his Martian invaders on the world. The novel was made into a Hollywood film in 1953 but it was the earlier 1938 radio broadcast by Orson Welles that caused the most controversy. On its first airing many Americans believed that the Earth really was being invaded by Martians – there was widespread panic.
All of Wells' writing was heavily influenced by his belief that society could be better organised. And though after the First World War he published several non-fiction works, it was his preoccupation with warfare and society that led to his most astute predictions.
Destructive technology
In his life, as well as his work, HG Wells seemed torn between the idea of the salvation and destruction of human society. In 1903, he foresaw the use of modern tanks, in The Land Ironclads. In 1908, inspired by the Zeppelin flights in Germany, he published The War in the Air, depicting a civilisation decimated by the aerial bombing of cities. Perhaps one of his most important insights was in The World Set Free, published in 1914. In it, he predicted the use of the atomic bomb, well before the world witnessed the horror of Hiroshima. although this work dealt with nuclear destruction there was also a more positive message in it that hinted towards a future without war.
This optimism had all but disappeared by the time of his last novel though. Mind at the End of its Tether (1945) portrayed his growing dissatisfaction with the world. Wells died in London, after living to see many of his darkest predictions come true.

Who were the Jutes?

'Those who came over were of three of the more powerful peoples of Germany: the Saxons, the Angles and the Jutes. From the Jutes are descended the men of Kent, the Victuarri (that is to say the people who inhabit the Isle of Wight) and that people who are today called the Jutes and are located in the kingdom of the West Saxons, opposite the Isle of Wight. From the Saxons (that is to say from that area which is now called Old Saxony) came the East Saxons, the South Saxons and the West Saxons. Next, from the Angles (that is to say from the country which is called Angulus and which is said to have remained deserted from that time to the present, between the lands of the Jutes and those of the Saxons) are descended the East Angles, the Middle Angles, the Mercians, all the race of the Northumbrians (that is to say of those peoples who live to the north of the river Humber), and the other Anglian peoples.'
Bede's account of the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons in England (in his Historia Ecclesiastica, completed in 731 AD) is largely a regurgitation of an earlier account by the British cleric, Gildas, whose De Excidio Britannia (The Ruin of Britain) was written around the end of the fifth century. But in one key passage, part of which is reproduced above, he diverges from his principal source and introduces us to the Jutes.
Historians used to be very doubtful about Bede's account of the Jutes. He suggests, for example, that the Jutes (or Iutae) came from Jutland, which seems logical enough except that language experts insisted that the two names come from different roots. As the archaeological evidence has grown, however, it seems clear that Bede was right. The Jutes did come from Jutland. They did found the Kentish kingdom. And they did occupy and rule the Isle of Wight.
Later versions of the foundation of the English nation tended to write the Jutes out of that history. But recent work by historian Barbara Yorke suggests that not only was there a Jutish kingdom on the Isle of Wight but also on the mainland opposite (an area that Bede describes as the 'land of the Jutes'). She argues that the history of the Jutes was lost as a result of their defeat and conquest by the West Saxons, but that they occupied large parts of what is now south Hampshire, close to the location of the dig.

Anglo-Saxon society

Subsistence farming'There is little evidence from which to reconstruct the daily lives and social structure of the early post-Roman peoples, but the evidence that does exist points towards a society reverting to subsistence farming within the context of an unpredictable political scene,' says Anglo-Saxon specialist Andrew Reynolds.
The typical subsistence farming family would have lived under the rules of their particular chief or king. The standard home appears to have been what archaeologists call a 'sunken featured building' (SFB), but there is also some evidence for the continued use of Roman buildings as well. SFBs used to lead archaeologists to believe that people lived in squalor (thus confirming popular misconceptions about the 'Dark' Ages) because they are usually found full of domestic rubbish. However, that is now considered unlikely and the current theory is that the sunken level is an underfloor cavity that would have been used for storage.
Social classesSociety was divided into several social classes with the king or chief at the top. Below the king were two levels of freemen: thanes and ceorls (pronounced churls). The division between these two was one of land ownership. Below the thanes and ceorls were slaves and tenant peasants.
ClothingIt appears that in these early times the robe or tunic, gathered at the waist, was the common garment for a man, together with hose and soft shoes. Women appear to have more commonly worn an extended robe or dress. Brooches were used for attaching clothing and the status of individuals has been reflected in the quality and richness of the brooches found with grave goods.
TradeThe average family would have required many items that could not be produced on the smallholding. Trade and markets played an important part in everyday life. Certain products like salt, iron, wine, stone, tools and weapons were traded over wide areas. Though coinage was used to some degree by ruling classes it was nothing like as prominent in society as it was during the Roman occupation. Many people would have existed by using a bartering system, exchanging their excess produce for the items they needed.
Crafts and skillsSome skilled people would have used their crafts to produce items that they could then exchange or sell in order to survive. An example would have been the metalworker who could produce and repair tools as well as make items of jewellery, charms and brooches to present at market. We know from archaeological finds that some of these people were very skilled and produced fine work.
The dedicated metal workshop would have contained a small stoking furnace (if working with bronze) or a large funnel furnace (if working with iron), an hearth for heating metal when shaping it, and a workbench with associated tools. Depending on the items being produced the whole operation might have been no bigger than a modern garden shed, or it could have been a larger affair with several people working at once. Other cottage industries would have contributed to the family economy. Textile production, leather working and even brewing were all popular skills employed by the Anglo-Saxons.
Belief systemsMany attempts have been made to understand the belief systems of the Anglo-Saxon peoples. Using place-name investigation, written evidence and archaeology a picture of Anglo-Saxon ritual and religious practice has been constructed. Archaeologists now understand that the Early Anglo-Saxons lived a Pagan life worshipping a range of gods that catered for different needs.Place-name evidenceMany of the towns, villages, fields and parishes that we know today still carry traces of their Pagan origins in their place-names. These can be good indicators for religious practice. The Anglo-Saxon word hearg, for example, means 'sacred grove' or 'idol'. Hearg has evolved through time to be known as Harrow today. We can identify the location of sacred Saxon sites by the names many places still carry today, such as Harrow in Middlesex, Harrow Hill in Sussex and Harrowden in Bedfordshire.
Other names relate directly to those of Pagan gods, such as Woden (Wodnesfeld in Essex means Woden's field) and Thunor (Thursley in Sussex means Thunor's grove). We also know the gods of Tiw, Thor and Friya in our days of the week (Tuesday, Thursday and Friday respectively).
Written evidenceThere is no written evidence directly from this early period that relates to Pagan practice. In effect we are dealing with a 'prehistoric' period – a time before written history. Archaeologists have had to draw on sources from both before and after the period to try to understand how people lived. It seems that religion was not a source of spiritual revelation, but more a means of insurance for one's worries. People would create charms or invocations to different gods to ensure success in material things such as good crops or success in battle.
Archaeological evidenceExcavation has presented the largest body of evidence for Pagan practice, including temples, shrines, burials and cremations. The varying status of burials indicates the different strata of a chiefdom society and the presence of grave goods is good evidence for the early Anglo-Saxons believing in the afterlife. Some multiple burials have hinted at the possibility that female servants (or slaves) may have been sacrificed on the death of their male owner to accompany them in the next world.
Law and orderAgain, much of what we know about Anglo-Saxon law and order comes from sources later in the period because there is limited evidence from the earlier times. We do know that the popular image of unruly groups dealing out their own brand of retribution whenever they saw fit is not very accurate. Anglo-Saxon chiefs and kings operated a fearsomely efficient judicial system, which included drowning, decapitation, hanging, stoning, burning and mutilation as punishments for different crimes. In their pursuit of law and order the ruling classes could be ruthless and fully understood the political mileage to be obtained in the punishment of criminals.
Execution sites would have been a common sight at many settlements, prominent boundaries and road junctions. A passing traveller would have been under no illusion about the need to behave in any given district. Some crimes carried set punishments. Swearing false oaths (lying), for example, would carry a sentence of 40 or 120 days confinement. The crime of minting forged coinage was punished by cutting off the offender's hands and nailing them to the door of the illegal premises.
A judicial ordeal would take place if any doubt surrounded a person's guilt. Ordeals took place at sacred sites or (later in the period) in prominent churches. The ordeals would take different forms, including hot irons, cold water and stones drawn from boiling water applied for set periods until a confession was obtained or innocence confirmed.

The Anglo-Saxons Dark Ages

The 'Dark Ages' is a term given by some archaeologists and historians to the centuries after the Roman period, from about 410 AD, when it is very difficult archaeologically to see what happened as far as settlement, farming and so on are concerned. There is hardly any written evidence from this time and much of what we know from the early written sources was actually transcribed much later. Bede's Historica Ecclesiastica writings, for example, which provide us with the most complete account of the history of this period, date from the mid-seventh century.
The absence of written records meant that the Dark Ages were seen as 'dark' in the sense that we didn't know much about them. The description also came to be associated with the idea that civilised life collapsed in Britain after the Roman departure and didn't recover again until the Renaissance a thousand years later. In most of Britain, people stopped using and making pottery, ceased producing and using coins, built in wood (which has rotted away) rather than stone and, in many other ways, have denied archaeologists the wealth of inorganic and concrete evidence they are used to from the Roman centuries.
The Anglo-Saxons Today the term 'Anglo-Saxon' is most widely used to describe the period, which historians divide into:
Early Anglo-Saxon (450-650)
Middle Anglo-Saxon (650-800)
Late Anglo-Saxon (800-1066)
Although the early part of the period would certainly have encompassed some unsettling times, people still lived productive lives. Many fine archaeological discoveries have helped reinterpret the time as one of consolidation and development.
Though urban centres tended to fall into decay in the fifth century, trade still continued with continental Europe. Mediterranean pottery was imported and grave goods found with burials from the time include imported bronze, glass and ivory. Various finds of Anglo-Saxon jewellery and other metalwork, meanwhile, have shown it to be highly sophisticated and often delicately wrought.
The VikingsFrom the 8th century onwards, Viking raiders began to appear in increasing numbers. 'Viking', the Norse term for pirate, has come to be used as the general name given to the Northmen (Norsemen) from Scandinavia who raided, plundered and then settled many parts of Britain and Europe in the 8th, 9th and 10th centuries.

VANISHINGS: The Life Of Reilly - Super Spy

In 1925, Sidney Reilly, one of the British Secret Service's most successful spies, traveled to Moscow to meet with a shadowy group that was dedicated to the defeat of Bolshevism and the removal of Stalin.

Friends and associates felt Reilly was being set up, but Reilly, an implacable foe of the Bolsheviks, refused to listen.

Then, shortly after arriving in Moscow, the Ace of Spies went missing.
The British Foreign Office denied all knowledge of his whereabouts, but surely somebody must have known...


By the mid-1920s, Joseph Stalin had established himself as strongman of the USSR. Soon he was building Communism ruthlessly, by putting into effect a dramatic policy of massive industrialisation and agricultural collectivisation which caused widespread unrest and misery. Stalin's response was wholesale destruction of his enemies - either at a series of show trials which almost invariable ended with a death sentence, or more secretly with arrest by the secret police and disappearance into the Gulag, the vast network of labour camps in which many millions were to die.

1805: Battle of Trafalgar

In one of the most decisive battles in history, a British fleet under Admiral Horatio Nelson defeats a combined French and Spanish fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar, fought off the coast of Spain. At sea, Lord Nelson and the Royal Navy consistently thwarted Napoleon, who led France to preeminence on the European mainland. After the crushing defeat at Trafalgar, Napoleon was forced to abandon his plans for an invasion of England. At the height of the engagement on October 21, Nelson was mortally wounded while pacing the quarterdeck of the HMS Victory. He died a few hours later, and his body was solemnly brought back to England for burial. In London, a column was erected to his memory in the newly named Trafalgar Square.
1858The first performance of the dance, the 'Can Can' in Offenbach's 'Orpheus in the Underworld' in Paris.
1878Irish politician Charles Parnell becomes the first President of the newly-formed Irish National Land League.
1879American inventor Thomas Edison patents the electric light bulb.
1934In China, Communist leader Mao Tse Tung and 100,000 supporters begin their 12 month 'Long March' - a 6,000 mile trek from southern China where they are being persecuted, to the north of the country.
1950Chinese forces occupy the neighbouring country of Tibet.
1960Britain launches its first nuclear submarine - HMS Dreadnaught at Barrow.
1964The world film premiere of 'My Fair Lady'.
1966In Wales, more than 140 people - at least 114 of them children - are killed in the small mining village of Aberfan when tonnes of slush, from a nearby coal slag tip weakened by rain, slides downhill and engulfs the village school, a farm and a row of terraced houses.
1975The British unemployment figure reaches 1,000,000 for the first time since World War II.
1984Austrian Formula One Grand Prix driver Niki Lauda becomes world champion for the third time.
1985In one of Britain's worst motorway crashes, 13 people are killed on the M6 motorway in Lancashire.
1996In Britain, Frances Lawrence - widow of headmaster Phillip Lawrence who was stabbed to death by a group of teenagers outside his schoolgates - launches a 'better citizenship campaign' to promote good behaviour in schools.
1997'Candle in the Wind '97 ' - the re-working of the hit single Elton John sang live at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, is declared the biggest selling single in music history.
1772English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge is born in the village of Ottery St Mary in Devon. Among his famous poems: 'The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner' and 'Kubla Khan'.
1833Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite and founder of the 'Nobel' annual awards, is born in Stockholm. Dies in 1896.
1917American jazz trumpeter 'Dizzy' Gillespie - born John Birks in South Carolina. Becomes the leader of several big bands in America after World War II and leads a full orchestra on several international tours. Dies in 1993
1926English actor Leonard Rossiter. Becomes famous for playing comedy roles such as 'Mr Rigsby' and 'Reginald Perrin' on British TV during 1970s and 1980s
1940British musician Manfred Mann. During the 1960s his group records a string of succesful hit songs such as 'Do Wah Diddy-Diddy Dum, Diddy Do'; '5-4-3-2-1' and 'Pretty Flamingo'.
1940Yorkshire and England cricketer Geoff Boycott is born near Pontefract. Becomes one of the few cricketers in the world to score 100 Test centuries - completing his one hundreth century playing for England on his 'home' ground at Headingley in Leeds.
1805Admiral Horatio Nelson, fatally wounded on the HMS Victory, died only a few hours after the Battle of Trafalgar

BOMBERS: Bombers 1

Programme one deals with early explosives, timers, booby traps and incendiaries - made by Loyalists as well as the IRA. Former terrorists and bomb disposal experts discuss training, stolen commercial explosives, use of fertiliser, bomb making "kitchens", development of the car bomb, tactics, mistakes, own goals. Main reconstructions La Mon and Dublin/Monaghan bombings from the victims' point of view.

The series features unique contributions from Forensic Science Agency of NI, former RUC and Special Branch officer, Bomb disposal officers and former members of Republican and Loyalist paramilitary groups.

Tsunami - 2004 Wave of Death

The 2004 tsunami was caused by a 9.3 earthquake - the second strongest quake on record. It was nature's fury at it's worst, targeting most of its destructive energy at northern Indonesia and Thailand in the east, Sri Lanka, India and the coast of Africa to the west, and killing more than 200,000 people in 14 countries.

This hour looks at the tsunami as it moves from coast to coast, through the eyes of people who lived through it and scientists now studying its course. Using the extraordinary amount of amateur video that recorded the disaster, it takes the viewer inside the world's deadliest tsunami.


As Napoleon Bonaparte surveyed the English Channel in 1805 his ambitions of conquest were checked by one single factor – the Royal Navy. At the time of Trafalgar the Royal Navy was a superbly skilled, well led and disciplined force. Officers were promoted on merit, and constant training at sea gave her crews a distinct edge in seamanship and gunnery. Confidence, aggression and the inspirational leadership of men such as Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson had crushed French naval ambitions and led to defeatism and despondency amongst French sailors. By 1805, Britain had firmly established her naval superiority over her enemies with a string of victories that ensured British dominance at sea. The most stunning of these encounters occurred in 1798 when Nelson destroyed the French fleet at Aboukir Bay in Egypt – crippling French naval power and leaving an entire French army stranded on the North African coast. However, by 1805 the pendulum had begun to swing back towards Napoleon’s empire. The fragile peace treaty of 1802 between Britain and France had fallen apart and the entry of Spain into the conflict brought a wealth of naval power under the emperor’s command. The French Ruse After years of forced submission on the oceans, the newly-crowned French Emperor finally saw an opportunity to defeat the old enemy once and for all. With his army encamped at Boulogne and poised to strike across the channel, Napoleon devised an elaborate and ambitious plan. French and allied Spanish squadrons would escape the ports in which they had been blockaded by the Royal Navy and would head out towards the West Indies. There they would evade Nelson’s pursuit and return to the Channel to achieve a temporary naval superiority – giving Napoleon time to ferry his troops across to Britain. Execution Admiral Villeneuve, the French naval commander, duly broke out of Toulon in March and sailed for the West Indies. However, too few squadrons managed to break free and Nelson, who had pursued Villeneuve to the Caribbean, suspected he had been deliberately lured away from European waters and quickly returned. Any hope of a French invasion of Britain was now lost and Napoleon was forced to turn his attention elsewhere. Villeneuve, demoralised by his failed to live up to his Emperor’s expectations, took his fleet to Cadiz in Spain where he was promptly blockaded by the Royal Navy. Ordered by Napoleon to sail to Italy to support French operations there, Villeneuve procrastinated until, stung by the Emperor’s accusations of cowardice and incompetence – and by news that he was to be replaced – he finally gave orders to sail. Nelson, now cruising fifty miles outside Cadiz, was informed by frigates of the departure of the Franco-Spanish fleet on the 19th October. Two days later the British intercepted the allied fleet en route to the straits of Gibraltar. Perhaps sensing disaster, Villeneuve ordered his fleet to about-turn and head back to Cadiz. Nelson, spotting the enemy’s attempt to escape, rushed in to attack. The Battle The French fleet formed up in a line of 33 ships - a standard tactic of naval warfare - although the quickly executed about-turn for home had disorganised their formation. Nelson, audacious and unorthodox as ever, formed his fleet of 27 ships into two columns that sailed directly at the enemy line, with designs to split the French column into three separate parts. As the British fleet approached, they were at the mercy of enemy broadsides and were able to return only limited fire. One column was led by Nelson aboard HMS Victory, the other by Collingwood aboard HMS Royal Sovereign. Both lead ships had fire poured upon them as they sailed toward the enemy. The pace of the advance was slowed by light winds and, at 11.25am, the British fleet finally drew near to their targets. Nelson now sent a signal to all ships that has since become legendary in naval history: “England expects that every man will do his duty.” Breakthrough The first British ship to break the enemy line was the Royal Sovereign, which proceeded to rake the colossal Spanish flagship Santa Anna. The rest of the column followed her through the line, each raking enemy ships to port and starboard. HMS Victory made slower progress towards the French fleet, all the while coming under heavy fire. Finally, at 1pm, she broke the enemy line, pouring fire into the French flagship the Bucentaure. Victory now closed with Redoutable, exchanging broadsides at point-blank range. It was during this engagement that a French sharp shooter spotted Nelson’s unmistakable guise on the deck of Victory and aimed a lethal shot at the British admiral – Nelson was mortally wounded. Carried below, Nelson continued to attempt to direct the battle, despite the fact that it was clear his own fate was sealed. The battle raged on and soon, after receiving terrible punishment, Redoutable surrendered. With the French van cut off from the fighting, and only a few of its ships managing to rejoin the fleet, the superior gunnery of the Royal Navy began to take its toll. At 4.15pm Villneuve’s flagship Bucentaure struck her colours. Just minutes later, Nelson, having received the news of this most dramatic of victories, finally succumbed to his wounds. The battle’s brutal finale came at 5.45pm when the French ship Achille was destroyed in a spectacular explosion. Aftermath In total, nineteen French or Spanish ships had been destroyed or captured while the British had not lost a single vessel. The decisive British victory ended Napoleon I's hopes of securing dominance on the ocean and confirmed Nelson’s reputation as the Britain’s greatest naval hero.


The Battle of Monmouth took place on June 28th 1778 in rural New Jersey. It was a key moment in the Revolutionary War between Great Britain and her thirteen rebellious colonies, and was the last major battle of the Revolution in the North. For over 200 years the battle at Mommouth has been seen as one of George Washingtons greatest triumph, but now forensic science is casting a shadow of doubt over the battle-field. Was it such a great victory or was the first president just plain lucky?


Teams of deep-water detectives use today's cutting-edge technology to make a shipwreck "tell its story." Each hour-long episode investigates one underwater mystery, told through fascinating underwater footage, CGI graphics, expert interviews, archival materials and dramatic re-enactments.
In Summer 1942, with the U.S. at war in Europe and the Pacific, few Americans knew that the war raged in their own backyard. Dozens of Hitler's U-boats had penetrated the Gulf of Mexico, sinking merchant vessels and oil tankers. Of all the U-boats that attacked the Gulf, only one rests at the bottom of the sea--the U-166. Experience the excitement of the first thorough investigation into the wreckage since discovery in 2001 and learn of the technological advances that made its identification possible.


Warfare was a way of life in the ancient world - the terrible power of tanks, machine guns, missile launchers and devastating flamethrowers was felt on the battlefields of the ancients.
The technology of war drove ancient inventors and engineers to ever greater lengths to defeat their enemies. They were, perhaps, the greatest masterminds of the battlefield - yet who were they, and how did they make their sophisticated lethal machines over two thousand years ago?
Ancient warfare was every bit as technical and lethal as the warfare of today. From the sinister machines that could bring a city's wall crashing down to Greek fire, the napalm of the Ancient world - warfare was as terrible then as it is now. But one of the most lethal war machine ever seen was the colossal Helepolis or 'city taker' the most sophisticated siege machine in history.
The sheer ingenuity and complexity with which these machines of war were created proves that the people of the ancient world were great inventors, mathematicians, and engineers.

THE ROYAL NAVY: The Sun Never Sets

The beginnings of WWII find England standing alone. Nothing more devastatingly reveals the loss of England's unchallenged naval superiority than the quick and deadly sinking of HMS Hood and other powerful ships of the Royal Navy by Germany's mighty monster, the Bismarck, and deadly raider, the Graf Spee. However, Britain began the long fight back. With the rallying cry, ‘Sink The Bismark!’, and the successful pursuit of the Graf Spee the Royal Navy begins to turn the tide as the U.S. and the Allies join the war. After VE day, in a little known story, British carriers became decisive elements in the war in the Pacific.
After WWII, the downsizing of armed forces and decline of the British Empire, signalled the end of the Royal Navy as a world force. But in the Falklands war in 1982, thousands of miles from home, protecting their rights to one of the last remnants of the Empire, the sinking of the Argentine cruiser Belgrano by a British nuclear submarine, and the successful strikes of the carrier borne Harrier jets, again demonstrated the continuing resolve and effectiveness of the Royal navy. Today, with her nuclear missile subs and jump-jet carriers, the Royal Navy remains a decisive force in NATO, and a powerful reminder of the history and traditions of the extraordinary centuries when Britannia ruled the waves.

The Whitechapel Murders: Jack The Ripper

The identity of 'Jack the Ripper', the man who mutilated and murdered a series of 'fallen women' in the Whitechapel area of London in 1888, is one of the most baffling mysteries in the history of crime.
Hoaxes, forgeries and false trails have clouded the hunt for Britain's most notorious serial killer. But now, using the skills of contemporary forensic investigation, David Jessel uncovers sensational new evidence about the man who turns out to have been Scotland Yard's prime suspect. For over a century his name has remained a secret - it may have been suppressed by Scotland Yard detectives who once had him in their grip, but let him slip away.
The trail to find out more about the man leads David Jessel from the slums of the East End to the splendour of Niagara Falls, revealing one of the most exotic figures of the age. Detectives at the time believed he was 'Jack the Ripper'. As this programme shows - they had good reason.

The Great Stink

Nineteenth Century London stank, a stench that could be smelt over 60 miles away, but this was the least of the capital’s problems - the sewage from over 2 million Londoners flowed into the Thames daily; the same river from which the cities inhabitants drew their unfiltered drinking water! As a result Cholera and other waterborne diseases were killing over 6000 people per year.
The towns folk hung sackcloth soaked in deodorising chemicals over their windows just to make the air in their homes breathable. When walking the streets the ground would often give way - people would fall into badly constructed cesspits, drowning in their neighbours faeces.
What’s more the methane gas, created by these cesspits and the build up of sewage, regularly exploded killing any unfortunate passers-by. In these fatally unhygienic conditions the average life expectancy of a Victorian working class man was just 18.
These conditions were horrific but politicians failed to act. That is until one hot summers day the putrid stench of the Thames drove the countries lawmakers from the Parliament buildings coughing and vomiting. The press called it The Great Stink.
This is the story of how the man they elected to sort out this catastrophe, Joseph Bazalgette, built what was described as 'the most wonderful work of modern times' – the London sewage system.
This colossal undertaking saved the lives of thousands, extinguished cholera epidemics and was the largest, most impressive, feat of engineering the world had ever seen. Bazalgette’s creation was the envy of cities across the globe.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Titanic: Beyond The Curse

The greatest supernatural story of all times. After seven years of interviews with historians, divers, survivors and scientists, the compilation of hundreds of archives, testimonies and documented premonitions, has emerged a terrifying picture of the forces that conspired to bring about the tragedy.
For this was not a mere accident: the fate of the Titanic was sealed from the start. It was the outcome of a perfectly orchestrated chain of events, an unstoppable machine beyond human control.
Along its journey, countless signs announced the impending and inescapable disaster.Full of astonishing revelations, conducted as a criminal investigation, this scientific thriller provides unprecedented insights into the nature of curses.Titanic, British liner that sank on the night of Apr. 14-15, 1912, after crashing into an iceberg in the N Atlantic S of Newfoundland. More than 1,500 lives were lost. The Titanic, thought to be the fastest ship afloat and almost unsinkable, was on her maiden voyage and carried many notables among the more than 2,200 persons aboard. These circumstances made the loss seem the more appalling to the public in England and the United States. Official and other investigations revealed that messages of warning had been sent but had either not been received by the commanding officers or had been ignored by them. The ship had continued at full speed even after the warnings were sent. She did not carry sufficient lifeboats, and many of the lifeboats were launched with only a few of the seats occupied. Other vessels in the vicinity were unable to reach the Titanic before she sank; one, only 10 mi (16 km) away, did not respond because her wireless operator had retired for the evening. The disaster brought about measures to promote safety at sea, particularly the establishment of a patrol to make known the location of icebergs and of stringent regulations about the proper number and proper equipment of lifeboats to be carried by vessels. The catastrophe inspired a large literature. An expedition led by Robert

IN NELSON'S FOOTSTEPS: In Nelson's Footsteps

In this three part series we follow in the footsteps of Horatio Nelson in his Native Britain, to see the sights that he saw and to explore the influences which shaped his character and formed his genius. In the last episode our presenter Colin White meets with one of Nelson's descendants. We learn what life would have been like on board the Victory from the man who directly follows in Nelson's footsteps. We visit the Admiralty boardroom where the plans for the Battle of Trafalgar were made. Colin describes the last few hours of Nelson's life on the Victory before he was fatally wounded. We see and hear how Nelson's life and death was celebrated at his funeral at St. Paul's Cathedral.

DEEP SEA DETECTIVES: Sinking On The Saint Lawrence

During the Golden Age of Ocean Travel, millions safely crossed the Atlantic. But on May 28, 1914, the Canadian passenger liner Empress of Ireland steamed outbound on the St. Lawrence toward Liverpool. Around 2 a.m., as the coal carrier Storstad traveled inbound, the ships were engulfed in fog and collided. In 14 minutes, the Empress sank, taking 1012 people with her. Deep Sea Detectives John Chatterton and Michael Norwood head to Canada, where they think the truth waits to be found.

The Glen Cinema Disaster

75 years ago Scotland witnessed one of its worst human disasters. On the afternoon of Hogmanay 1929, during a children’s matinee at the Glen Cinema in Paisley, a film reel began to issue thick black smoke from the projection room. The auditorium - packed with 1000 children - filled with smoke. The panicked kids piled up behind the fire exit but couldn’t get out – the collapsible metal gate was locked. The next day, Paisley was stunned by the news that 71 children had been crushed to death in the worst cinema disaster in British history. Unable to deal with the horror of the accident, the Glen and the memories of those who died there were locked away.
In 2005 a team of archaeologists rediscovered the cinema buried behind the walls of a furniture shop in Paisley’s town centre. The town once again remembers the tragic story. As eyewitnesses recall the horror they were told to forget the people of Paisley commemorate the 75th anniversary of the disaster.