Monday, September 26, 2005

The Brownings

On January 10, 1845, Robert Browning wrote to Elizabeth Barrett for the first time, after reading her volume of poetry, Poems. He was a little-known thirty-two-year-old poet and playwright, she was an internationally renowned poet, an invalid, and a thirty-nine-year-old spinster. "I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett -- I do, as I say, love these verses with all my heart," the letter said. Over the course of the next twenty months, they would write each other close to six hundred letters -- one of the greatest literary correspondences of all time.
The pair's last letter was exchanged on September 18, 1846, the night before the two left for a trip to Italy, and two weeks after their secret marriage. Their romance, which she would eventually credit with saving her life, lasted for fifteen years and spawned some of the world's most beautiful poetry. Elizabeth Barrett Browning was the daughter of Mary Moulton Barrett and Edward Barrett Moulton Barrett, an extremely wealthy landowner who owned sugar plantations in Jamaica. Her mother died when Elizabeth was just twenty-one, after having given birth to twelve children. Although Elizabeth, the eldest, was probably her father's favorite child, she struggled along with her siblings under his tyrannical parenting. Incredibly controlling, Mr. Barrett insisted that none of his children marry, baffling even the family's closest friends.
To add to her difficulties, from the time she was a teenager, Elizabeth suffered from a mysterious illness that caused her uncontrollable spasms of pain, breathing difficulties, and a general malaise that made her unable to leave her house. In fact, she rarely left her room, and believed that she was destined to forever remain a sickly shut-in and spinster. When Robert Browning first began to court Barrett -- through their correspondence -- she seemed to enjoy the relationship, but dismissed any romantic aspect of his attention, unwilling to believe that he could really be interested in her. Browning, the son of Robert and Sarah Anna Browning, a bank clerk and pianist, was a direct and ardent suitor. But despite his obvious affection and the mutual admiration that is prominently displayed in their letters, Elizabeth refused to see him until the spring -- months after their first contact -- as the cold weather of the winter made her health poor. The couple's first meeting occurred in May 1845, after five months of regular correspondence. It is believed that Browning wrote to Barrett immediately afterward to declare his affection -- flouting Victorian convention -- but this letter has not survived. Elizabeth, sickly and so long in isolation, found it difficult to trust his intentions and was already skeptical of the institution of marriage and its treatment of women. Despite the obstacles, Browning's visits continued, though always when Elizabeth's father was not at home. In the summer of 1845, Barrett's physician recommended that she travel to Pisa, in Italy, for the winter because he felt sure she would not survive another harsh season in London. Her father, for seemingly unknown reasons, refused to allow the trip. After writing to Browning about her predicament, he wrote back, saying, "I would marry you now." Instead of dismissing him as she had done before, she embraced his sentiments. They continued to see each other regularly, and, thanks in part to an unseasonably warm winter, Barrett's health began to improve. In January 1846, Elizabeth, inspired by Browning, took a major step toward recovery by leaving the room where she had spent the last six years of her life.By May 1846, Barrett began to walk outside and, in her letters, credited Browning for having a large part in her recovery. Also, she had begun to decrease her use of the morphine and opium prescribed for her condition. By summer, she was living a much more active life. On September 12, Barrett and Browning were married, before another London winter could again weaken her health. Sadly, the wedding was held in secret, with only her maid and Browning's cousin attending as witnesses. Although she was then forty years old, Barrett lived in fear of her controlling father's wrath if he found out that she was disobeying his direct order not to marry. When her deception was revealed, she was disinherited by her father, as were the two other Barrett children who dared to defy him. Just a week after their marriage, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning left London for Italy, where they would spend the next fifteen years of their lives. Barrett Browning's Sonnets From the Portuguese (1850), of which the line "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways" has since become one of poetry's best-known, was written during their courtship and early marriage and is about her dramatic romance with Browning, and how he helped her save herself from a life of sickness and isolation. In Italy, both poets would enjoy many productive years of writing, as well as the birth of their son, Robert Wiedeman Barrett Browning, in 1849. She completed a second edition of Poems, as well as Casa Guidi Windows (1851), Poems before Congress (1860), and her well known verse-novel, Aurora Leigh (1857). She also became active in the fight for Italian nationalism, the abolition of American slavery, and the advancement of the condition of women. He published Men and Women, which was dedicated to his wife and is considered to contain his best poetry. They remained in Italy for fifteen years, until Elizabeth died in her husband's arms on June 29, 1861. Casa Guidi, the Brownings' home in Florence, Italy, has been preserved and is open to visitors.

The Robinsons

Jackie Robinson is one of the most admired people in sports. But unlike most sports heroes, his battles did not take place only on the athletic field. His most important battles were against the pervasive national racism that not only excluded blacks from participation in major league baseball, but from economic opportunities in fields of all kinds. Robinson led the Dodgers to four National League pennants and one World Series championship in 1955. And, in the process, he led his nation in a struggle for civil rights that continues today -- but he didn't do it alone.
When the Brooklyn Dodgers' Branch Rickey began his search for a talented and educated black baseball player to be the first to integrate the sport, twenty-six-year-old Jackie Robinson seemed the perfect man for the job. A graduate of UCLA, he was a superb four-sport athlete with strong religious roots and a strict work ethic. But, Rickey realized the hard road that lay ahead of Robinson, and during their first meeting, on August 28, 1945, he harshly questioned him about whether or not he could handle the hatred, threats of violence, and baiting he would have to endure as he crossed the color line. In his autobiography, Robinson recalled Rickey asking, "You got a girl? There are going to be times when you're going to need a woman by your side."
Rachel Isum was Robinson's fiancee. They had met in 1940 when she was a first-year nursing student at UCLA and he was already an accomplished athlete. They were married on February 10, 1946. Two weeks after the wedding, they left for Robinson's first spring training, for the minor league Montreal Royals, in Daytona Beach, Florida -- the deep south, a bastion of hard-core racism. In an interview with the Houston Chronicle, Rachel Robinson later recalled, "That first spring training was like a nightmare. There was so much degradation. There was bigotry like we had never encountered." But Jackie, with Rachel at his side, endured the indignities of the training trip and a season filled with countless insults, threats, and bean balls on his way to leading the league in batting, runs scored, and fielding. The next spring, despite a threatened boycott by the club's players, the Brooklyn Dodgers promoted Robinson to the major league -- seven years before the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling integrated the country's schools. In the majors, the Robinsons again suffered through death threats, constant verbal harassment from managers, players, and fans, and physical abuse, including more pitches to his head and body. But Robinson succeeded in winning the respect of players and fans and was named Rookie of the Year in 1947, after batting .297 with 125 runs scored and twenty-nine stolen bases and leading his team to a National League title. By 1949, with the signing of more blacks to major league baseball, integration had arrived in major league baseball. Throughout his life, Jackie credited his wife Rachel for providing the support that allowed him to work through the difficulties of his baseball career. "Strong, loving, gentle and brave, never afraid to either criticize or comfort," he once wrote of his wife. Later, according to People magazine, he said, "When they try to destroy me, it's Rachel who keeps me sane." People also reported that Norma King, wife of Dodger pitcher Clyde King, once said of Rachel, "I recall the look of pride on her face watching him play while the rest of us were worrying about whether our husbands would do something foolish." After Jackie's retirement from baseball in 1956, the Robinsons continued to play a visible role in politics and the civil rights movement. They were staunch supporters of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the fight against segregation, and spoke out against black separatists like Stokely Carmichael. The Robinsons were especially proud of their three children, Jackie Jr., Sharon, and David. Sadly, Jackie Jr. died in a car accident in 1971. In an interview with the Boston Globe, daughter Sharon said of her parents, "The house revolved around my father, but my mother was always the center of the family. She was in a real partnership with my father. We felt that. We knew that. He appreciated it and we did too." Even after a heart attack cut short Jackie's life on October 23, 1972, Rachel, who has also worked as a nurse and teacher, has continued to work hard to advance the legacy that she and her husband began as newlyweds. In 1973, she founded the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which she still chairs. To date, the foundation has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships to help send more than 500 minority and underprivileged students to college. Rachel Robinson continues her husband's work of leading by example. Many who knew the couple are not surprised. Major league first baseman Mo Vaughn, who wears number 42 in honor of his hero, Jackie Robinson, once told the Boston Globe, "Jackie Robinson couldn't have been Jackie Robinson if it wasn't for Rachel Robinson. It's another case of the fact that behind every good man is a good woman. Study your history. He wanted to quit. She wouldn't let him."

The Trumans

He first saw her in Sunday school when he was six years old and she was just five. "She had golden curls and beautiful blue eyes," he recalled. They graduated from high school together in 1901, but went their separate ways -- he moved to Kansas City and she to Colorado for a year -- until becoming reacquainted nine years later. It was then that Truman, who once wrote of Bess, "I thought she was the most beautiful and the sweetest person on earth," began his first and longest campaign -- to win the heart of Bess Wallace.
Bess lived in her family home in Independence, Missouri. Harry was a hard-working farmer from Grandview, twenty miles away. So he courted her, in part, by mail. Their correspondence would continue for nearly fifty years -- an exciting ride through nine years of courtship, fifty-three years of marriage, family, career changes, and political fortunes that thrust them to the very center of the world stage. More than 1300 letters from Harry to Bess Truman survive in the Truman Library collections.
Sadly, most of her letters to him have been lost to history. After showering Bess with attention and letters for more than a year, Harry proposed to her in 1911, but she turned him down. He persisted, and eventually she fell in love with him. He had a standing invitation to dinner at the Wallace home on Sundays, often sleeping across the street, afterwards, on the floor of his cousins' house because travel between Grandview and Independence was arduous. To win her favor -- she was from a wealthy family -- and better his prospects, he entered into a series of business ventures -- mining, drilling for oil, and other speculations -- most ending in disappointment. Although he also served as Grandview postmaster and as a county road overseer, his future remained uncertain. When the United States entered World War I in April 1917, Harry Truman joined a Missouri National Guard field artillery regiment. Federalized as the 129th Field Artillery Regiment of the 35th Division, the unit trained for combat in Oklahoma. Arriving in France in April 1918, he had additional training before taking command of Battery D, a unit known for rowdiness and intransigence. He won respect for his leadership and courage under fire, seeing action in the Vosges Forest, the Meuse-Argonne offensive, and near Verdun. Throughout his military service, Truman carried Bess Wallace's picture in his breast pocket. Writing to her frequently, his spirits were buoyed by her promise to marry him upon his safe return.

The History of Valentine's Day

Every February, across the country, candy, flowers, and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. But who is this mysterious saint and why do we celebrate this holiday? The history of Valentine's Day -- and its patron saint -- is shrouded in mystery. But we do know that February has long been a month of romance. St. Valentine's Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. So, who was Saint Valentine and how did he become associated with this ancient rite? Today, the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred.
One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men -- his crop of potential soldiers. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death. Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they were often beaten and tortured.
According to one legend, Valentine actually sent the first 'valentine' greeting himself. While in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl -- who may have been his jailor's daughter -- who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed 'From your Valentine,' an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories certainly emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and, most importantly, romantic figure. It's no surprise that by the Middle Ages, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England and France.
While some believe that Valentine's Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine's death or burial -- which probably occurred around 270 A.D -- others claim that the Christian church may have decided to celebrate Valentine's feast day in the middle of February in an effort to 'christianize' celebrations of the pagan Lupercalia festival. In ancient Rome, February was the official beginning of spring and was considered a time for purification. Houses were ritually cleansed by sweeping them out and then sprinkling salt and a type of wheat called spelt throughout their interiors. Lupercalia, which began at the ides of February, February 15, was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.
To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at the sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The priests would then sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification.
The boys then sliced the goat's hide into strips, dipped them in the sacrificial blood and took to the streets, gently slapping both women and fields of crops with the goathide strips. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed being touched with the hides because it was believed the strips would make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city's bachelors would then each choose a name out of the urn and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage. Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine's Day around 498 A.D. The Roman 'lottery' system for romantic pairing was deemed un-Christian and outlawed. Later, during the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds' mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of February -- Valentine's Day -- should be a day for romance. The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. The greeting, which was written in 1415, is part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England. Several years later, it is believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.
In Great Britain, Valentine's Day began to be popularly celebrated around the seventeenth century. By the middle of the eighteenth century, it was common for friends and lovers in all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. By the end of the century, printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology. Ready-made cards were an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of one's feelings was discouraged. Cheaper postage rates also contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine's Day greetings. Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began to sell the first mass-produced valentines in America.
According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated one billion valentine cards are sent each year, making Valentine's Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. (An estimated 2.6 billion cards are sent for Christmas.) Approximately 85 percent of all valentines are purchased by women. In addition to the United States, Valentine's Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, and Australia.
Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages (written Valentine's didn't begin to appear until after 1400), and the oldest known Valentine card is on display at the British Museum. The first commercial Valentine's Day greeting cards produced in the U.S. were created in the 1840s by Esther A. Howland. Howland, known as the Mother of the Valentine, made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as "scrap".

Old West

1820 The famous frontiersman Daniel Boone dies in Missouri
On this day in 1820 the great pioneering frontiersman Daniel Boone dies quietly in his sleep at his son's home near present-day Defiance, Missouri. The indefatigable voyager was 86.
Boone was born in 1734 to Quaker parents living in Berks County, Pennsylvania. Following a squabble with the Pennsylvania Quakers, Boone's family decided to head south and west for less crowded regions, and they eventually settled in the Yadkin Valley of North Carolina. There the young Daniel Boone began his life-long love for wilderness, spending long days exploring the still relatively unspoiled forests and mountains of the region. An indifferent student who never learned to write more than a crude sentence or two, Boone's passion was for the outdoors, and he quickly became a superb marksman, hunter and woodsman.
Never satisfied to stay put for very long, Boone soon began making ever longer and more ambitious journeys into the relatively unexplored lands to the west. In May of 1769, Boone and five companions crossed over the Cumberland Gap and explored along the south fork of the Kentucky River. Impressed by the fertility and relative emptiness of the land--although the native inhabitants hardly considered it to be empty--Boone returned in 1773 with his family, hoping to establish a permanent settlement. An Indian attack prevented that first attempt from succeeding, but Boone returned two years later to open the route that became known as Boone's Trace (or the Wilderness Road) between the Cumberland Gap and a new settlement along the Kentucky River called Fortress Boonesboro. After years of struggles against both Native Americans and British soldiers, Boonesboro eventually became one of the most important gateways for the early American settlement of the Trans-Appalachian West.
Made a legend in his own time by John Filson's "Boone Autobiography" and Lord Byron's depiction of him as the quintessential frontiersman in the book Don Juan, Boone became a symbol of the western pioneering spirit for many Americans. Ironically, though, Boone's fame and his success in opening the Trans-Appalachian West to large-scale settlement later came to haunt him. Having lost his Kentucky land holdings by failing to properly register them, Boone moved even further west in 1799, trying to escape the civilized regions he had been so instrumental in creating. Finally settling in Missouri--though he never stopped dreaming of continuing westward--he lived out the rest of his life doing what he loved best: hunting and trapping in a fertile wild land still largely untouched by the Anglo pioneers who had followed the path he blazed to the West.


1888 T.S. Eliot is born
On this day, poet T.S. Eliot is born in St. Louis, Missouri.
Eliot's distinguished family tree included an ancestor who arrived in Boston in 1670 and another who founded Washington University in St. Louis. Eliot's father was a businessman, and his mother was involved in local charities.
Eliot took an undergraduate degree at Harvard, studied at the Sorbonne, returned to Harvard to study Sanskrit, and then studied at Oxford. After meeting poet and lifelong friend Ezra Pound, Eliot relocated to England. In 1915, he married Vivian Haigh-Wood, but the marriage was unhappy, partly due to her mental instability. She died in an institution in 1947.
Eliot began working at Lloyd's Bank in 1917, writing reviews and essays on the side. He founded a critical quarterly, Criterion, and quietly developed a new brand of poetry. His first major work, The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock, was published in 1917 and hailed as the invention of a new kind of poetry. His long, fragmented images and use of blank verse influenced nearly all future poets, as did his masterpiece The Waste Land, published in Criterion and the American review The Dial in 1922. While Eliot is best known for revolutionizing modern poetry, his literary criticism and plays were also successful. In 1925, he accepted a job as an editor at Faber and Faber, which allowed him to quit his job at the bank. He held the position for the rest of his life.
Eliot lectured in the United States frequently in the 1930s and 1940s, a time when his own worldview was fluctuating: He converted to Christianity. In 1957, he married his assistant, Valerie Fletcher. The couple lived happily until his death in 1965.


1982 KITT's Debut
The first episode of the television show Knight Rider aired on this day, starring David Hasselhoff as private eye Michael Knight. However, the real star of the show was "KITT," his talking car. KITT, a modified Pontiac Firebird, complete with artificial intelligence and glowing red lights, assisted Michael in his detective work. During the show's four years, KITT attracted a loyal fan following, and a few episodes even featured "KARR," KITT's look-alike nemesis.
1910 Losing Control of a Giant
William C. Durant, carriage maker and entrepreneur, was the original patriarch of the corporate behemoth General Motors (GM). But financial difficulties cost him control of the company on this day. Determined to regain control of his brainchild, Durant joined forces with Louis Chevrolet to establish the Chevrolet Motor Company. Five years later, Durant and Chevrolet acquired control of GM and extended the massive umbrella of the General Motors Corporation, with Durant serving as president. Yet, he would go on to lose control of GM yet again in 1920, this time permanently.
1920 Ford's Texas Ranger
The Ford Ranger, named after the Texas Ranger, was first announced appropriately in Houston, Texas. Although the Ford truck has changed considerably since the first Ranger model, the name still connotes a rugged, tough image. The Ford Ranger 4x4's are especially popular for off-road driving and other hardy pursuits

1996 Shannon Lucid returns to Earth

U.S. astronaut Shannon Lucid returns to Earth in the U.S. space shuttle Atlantis following six months in orbit aboard the Russian space station Mir.
On March 23, 1996, Lucid transferred to Mir from the same space shuttle for a planned five-month stay. A biochemist, Lucid shared Mir with Russian cosmonauts Yuri Onufriyenko and Yuri Usachev and conducted scientific experiments during her stay. She was the first American woman to live in a space station.
Beginning in August, her scheduled return to Earth was delayed by more than six weeks because of last-minute repairs to the booster rockets of Atlantis and then by a hurricane. Finally, on September 26, 1996, she returned to Earth aboard Atlantis, touching down at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Her 188-day sojourn aboard Mir set a new space endurance record for an American and a world endurance record for a woman.

1960 First Kennedy-Nixon debate

For the first time in U.S. history, a debate between major party presidential candidates is shown on television. The presidential hopefuls, John F. Kennedy, a Democratic senator of Massachusetts, and Richard M. Nixon, the vice president of the United States, met in a Chicago studio to discuss U.S. domestic matters.
Kennedy emerged the apparent winner from this first of four televised debates, partly owing to his greater ease before the camera than Nixon, who, unlike Kennedy, seemed nervous and declined to wear makeup. Nixon fared better in the second and third debates, and on October 21 the candidates met to discuss foreign affairs in their fourth and final debate. Less than three weeks later, on November 8, Kennedy won 49.7 percent of the popular vote in one of the closest presidential elections in U.S. history, surpassing by a fraction the 49.6 percent received by his Republican opponent.
One year after leaving the vice presidency, Nixon returned to politics, winning the Republican nomination for governor of California. Although he lost the election, Nixon returned to the national stage in 1968 in a successful bid for the presidency. Like Lyndon Johnson in 1964, Nixon declined to debate his opponent in the 1968 presidential campaign. Televised presidential debates returned in 1976, and have been held in every presidential campaign since.

1580 Drake circumnavigates the globe

English seaman Francis Drake returns to Plymouth, England, in the Golden Hind, becoming the first British navigator to sail the earth.
On December 13, 1577, Drake set out from England with five ships on a mission to raid Spanish holdings on the Pacific coast of the New World. After crossing the Atlantic, Drake abandoned two of his ships in South America and then sailed into the Straits of Magellan with the remaining three. A series of devastating storms besieged his expedition in the treacherous straits, wrecking one ship and forcing another to return to England. Only the Golden Hind reached the Pacific Ocean, but Drake continued undaunted up the western coast of South America, raiding Spanish settlements and capturing a rich Spanish treasure ship.
Drake then continued up the western coast of North America, searching for a possible northeast passage back to the Atlantic. Reaching as far north as present-day Washington before turning back, Drake paused near San Francisco Bay in June 1579 to repair his ship and prepare for a journey across the Pacific. Calling the land "Nova Albion," Drake claimed the territory for Queen Elizabeth I.
In July, the expedition set off across the Pacific, visiting several islands before rounding Africa's Cape of Good Hope and returning to the Atlantic Ocean. On September 26, 1580, the Golden Hind returned to Plymouth, England, bearing its rich captured treasure and valuable information about the world's great oceans. In 1581, Queen Elizabeth I knighted Drake during a visit to his ship. The most renowned of the Elizabethan seamen, he later played a crucial role in the defeat of the Spanish Armada. The explorer died 1596 at the age of 56.


On September 26, 1957, West Side Story, composed by Leonard Bernstein, opens at the Winter Garden Theatre on Broadway. For the groundbreaking musical, Bernstein provided a propulsive and rhapsodic score that many celebrate as his greatest achievement as a composer. However, even without the triumph of West Side Story, Bernstein's place in musical history was firmly established. In addition to his work as a composer, the "Renaissance man of music" excelled as a conductor, a concert pianist, and a teacher who brought classical music to the masses.
Born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, to Russian-Jewish immigrants in 1918, Bernstein began piano lessons at his own insistence when he was 10. He immediately demonstrated an instinctive talent for music and by age 12 was studying at the New England Conservatory of Music. He studied piano and composition at Harvard but was encouraged by the American composer Aaron Copland and others to become a conductor after they observed Bernstein's intuitive grasp of classical music and his unusual ability to play complex orchestral scores on the piano.
He studied conducting with Fritz Reiner and Serge Koussevitzky and in 1943 was hired as an assistant conductor for the New York Philharmonic. In the history of the orchestra, no assistant had been called on to conduct, but on November 14 fate smiled on Bernstein when guest conductor Bruno Walter fell ill. The night before, Bernstein had heard a singer perform one of his compositions and then, in typical Bernstein fashion, had stayed up late drinking and playing piano at the post-recital party. With three hours of sleep, a hangover, and no rehearsal, Bernstein was asked to conduct a complex program of Schumann, Strauss, Rosza, and Wagner that was going to broadcast from Carnegie Hall across the nation by CBS radio. The concert was a sensational success, and The New York Times published a front-page article the next day announcing the arrival of a great new conducting talent.
For the rest of his life, Bernstein was an internationally sought-after conductor. He toured the world many times over and in 1953 became the first American to conduct at La Scala in Milan, Italy's foremost opera house. He had an animated and flamboyant style, and on more than one occasion Bernstein actually fell off his conducting podium in his enthusiasm. A respected classical pianist, he sometimes conducted from the piano stool. Charismatic and good looking, Bernstein was a popular idol known to people who never listened to classical music.
Refusing to restrict himself to conducting, he composed acclaimed symphonies, operas, and scores for ballets. He was also deeply interested in American popular music, and jazz influences can be found in many of his classical pieces. His best-known works were for Broadway, and the musicals he composed include On the Town (1944), Wonderful Town (1953), Candide (1956), and West Side Story (1957).
For West Side Story, a reinterpretation of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet transposed onto New York's West Side, Bernstein worked with the brilliant choreographer Jerome Robbins and the lyricist Stephen Sondheim. West Side Story tells the tale of a love affair between Tony, who is Polish American, and Maria, a Puerto Rican, set against an urban background of interracial warfare. With its gritty story and volatile dance sequences, West Side Story was the antithesis of traditional American musicals. Bernstein's exhilarating, semi-operatic score runs throughout the play and keeps the tension and emotion high.
When it opened on September 26, 1957, West Side Story received a mixed critical response. Debuting one day after the forced integration of Central High School in Little Rock, the musical's story of racial conflict was discomfiting to some. West Side Story won just two Tony Awards, for choreography and set design, but made an impressive maiden run of 732 performances. In 1961, a film version starring Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer was an enormous hit, and took home 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The stage version of West Side Story was soon revived, and the musical is still performed today.
Leonard Bernstein was also a talented educator who taught America about classical music with the television programs Omnibus and Young People's Concerts. In 1973, he was invited to Harvard to lecture on linguistics and music. He died in 1990 at the age of 72.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

World War II

1942 Gestapo headquarters targeted in Norway
On this day in 1942, British bombers attempt to take out the local headquarters of the German secret state police, the Gestapo, in Norway. They miss--but send some Nazis running for their lives.
Germany invaded Norway in April 1940, in a stunning blitzkrieg campaign, a response to Britain's laying of mines in Norwegian waters--which was itself a response to Norway's iron-ore trade with the Axis power. But in one short month, the British and French troops that had landed in Norway to aid in its defense were chased out, as well as Norway's royal family, who set up a government-in-exile in London. The Germans immediately established a Reich commissioner to rule the occupied territory. The commissioner outlawed all political parties but one--the pro-Nazi National Unity Party. It was led by Vidkun Quisling, the former Norwegian minister of war. His name would become synonymous with acquiescence and collaboration. Quisling, now a German puppet, ruled as a Nazi wannabe, an overlord who would brook no dissent, even sending thousands of his own countrymen to German concentration camps. A majority of Norwegians despised both Quisling and his German masters. Teachers and clergy resigned their positions in the state-sponsored church in order not to be implicated in the new fascist regime.
One means of keeping defiant locals of newly occupied countries under control was the use of the Gestapo. An office was typically set up in conquered nations to terrorize the populace. On September 25, during a Nazi Party rally in Oslo, British aircraft, aiming to destroy the records of the Norwegian Resistance (kept in Gestapo headquarters, but not as yet acted upon), bombed the building. The bombs missed their target, but surrounding buildings were hit, and four people were killed. The Brits did put a scare into the Nazis, though, who ran from the city, leaving their Party's rally in ruins.

Wall Street

1997 Salomon Lands Under Travelers Umbrella
The rich got richer when the financial services company Travelers Group acquired investment giant Salomon Brothers on this day. With a $9 billion price tag, the Wall Street stalwart didn't exactly come cheap, but the purchase promised to pay impressive dividends by strengthening Travelers sagging presence in America's investment circles, as well as in foreign markets. Still, the deal faced criticism. Some wondered whether Travelers could mesh the business and culture of its investment bank, Smith Barney, with that of Salomon Brothers, while others questioned the steep purchase price, which was roughly double Salomon's official value of $4.6 billion. There was also an inevitable round of layoffs to consider, which threatened to damage company morale. Such arguments seemed to matter little to Travelers' ambitious president Sanford Weill. After all, he had just completed a deal that promised to secure Travelers an elite position at the top of the investment community. And for Weill, such impressive results were exactly the point of the purchase. According to one board member, Weill was not simply strengthening his company, but was courting the immodest goal of building "the greatest financial services company in the history of the country and in the history of the world."
1944 Future Wall Street Star is Born
Michael Douglas, who played the infamous Gordon Gekko character in Oliver Stone's 1987 film Wall Street, was born on this day in 1944. Douglas won an Oscar for his portrayal of the unscrupulous stockbroker who audiences loved to hate.
1996 AT&T Sells Satellites
In a move to keep pace with the competition, Loral Space Communications announced on this day that it had acquired Skynet, AT&T's broadcast satellite division. The deal cost Loral a cool $712.5 million in cash, money that AT&T would use to try to dethrone the "Baby Bells" in the nation's long-distance and local markets.
1996 Back in the Wild Blue Yonder
With the takeoff of Flight 21 on September 25, 1996, Pan Am Airlines was in the skies and back in business. In 1991, financial woes had forced the once-prosperous airline to ground its fleet. While the revived company was armed with $40 million in capital and an experienced staff and management team, investors remained wary. After starting the day at an asking price of $15, Pan Am's stock made a modest gain to close at $16.75.

Vietnam War

1969 Congressional opponents of Nixon Vietnam policy renew opposition
Senator Charles Goodell (a maverick Republican from New York) proposes legislation that would require the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam by the end of 1970, and bar the use of congressionally appropriated funds after December 1, 1970, for maintaining U.S. military personnel in Vietnam.
The legislation failed to pass, but it was followed by 10 similar proposals over the next three weeks by legislators including Senators Jacob Javits, Frank Church, and Mark Hatfield. Nixon had temporarily silenced his critics earlier in the month by announcing a new troop withdrawal and a reduction in the draft call for the next two months, but many of those who opposed him in Congress felt that Nixon had ignored an opportunity to push for peace in Vietnam when Ho Chi Minh had died on September 1.
Also on this day: Two terrorist attacks occur near Da Nang in which 19 South Vietnamese die. Viet Cong commandos threw a grenade into a meeting place, killing four civilians and one policeman and wounding 26 others. At nearly the same time, a bus struck a mine 95 miles southeast of Da Nang killing 14 civilians.
1964 Political instability continues in South Vietnam
In South Vietnam, rumors of another coup cause government troops to take up key positions around Saigon, but nothing materializes. In Qui Nhon, South Vietnamese troops put down an antigovernment demonstration by Buddhist leaders. These incidents were part of the continuing instability in South Vietnam following the November 1963 coup that resulted in the death of President Ngo Dinh Diem.

Civil War

1864 President Davis visits General Hood in Georgia
Confederate President Jefferson Davis meets with General John Bell Hood at Hood's Palmetto, Georgia, headquarters to discuss the recent misfortunes of the Army of Tennessee. Since Hood had assumed command of the army in July, he had launched an unsuccessful series of attacks on Union General William T. Sherman's forces, endured a month-long siege in Atlanta, and was finally forced to abandon the city. Now, Davis journeyed to Georgia to shore up the sagging morale of his leader and troops.
The most pressing problem was dissent within the Confederate command. Leading generals began feuding and pointing fingers to assign blame for the disastrous Atlanta campaign. Hood blamed General William Hardee, commander of one of Hood's three corps, for the loss of Atlanta, and Hardee demanded removal from Hood's authority. After conferring with Hood, Davis reassigned Hardee to the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Even though Hardee was the most able corps commander, Davis personally selected Hood to command the Army of Tennessee in July, and refused to admit his mistake. Unfortunately for the Confederates, Hood invaded Tennessee in the late fall, and by Christmas he saw his once-grand army virtually destroyed.
On his return trip to Richmond, Davis gave a speech at Columbia, South Carolina, in which he gushed about Hood's prospects. In doing so, he let slip important information, saying that Hood's eye was set "upon a point far beyond that where he was assailed by the enemy." Sherman read the quote in a newspaper a few days later and guessed, correctly, that Hood intended to move back into Tennessee to cut Sherman's supply lines. Sherman planned his fall strategy accordingly, sending part of his army to deal with Hood while he took the rest across Georgia.

Tribute to a Racer

1987 Tribute to a Racer
Ray Harroun's place in history was sealed when the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp featuring the famous racing champion. Called "Racing Car 1911," the stamp depicted Harroun and the Marmon Wasp which he drove to victory in the first Indy 500. Harroun, an engineer, had built the car himself and was the only driver on the Indianapolis track without a riding mechanic. The mechanics usually accompanied the driver in order to warn him of the other cars in the race, but Harroun went the race alone after he rigged up a device that allowed him to see the cars behind him--the first rearview mirror. The race took over six hours to complete, with Harroun coming from 28th place to finish first. He died in 1968 at the age of 89.
1725 Birth of a Steam Pioneer
Nicolas Joseph Cugnot, the French engineer who designed and built the world's first automobile, was born in Austrian Lorraine on this day. Cugnot arrived in Paris after the Seven Years War with the hope of tinkering with several inventions he had conceived during the war, including a steam-driven vehicle. After six years, Cugnot succeeded in building two steam-propelled tractors--which were actually huge and heavy tricycles. Although they may not have had power steering or cruise control, these massive tricycles are considered the world's first automobiles.
1936 A Brush with Fate
Bill Schindler, a race-car driver, met with misfortune on this day, crashing during a sprint race in Mineola, New York. Three days after the accident, Schindler's left leg had to be amputated. However, this loss did not prevent him from continuing his career.


1789 Bill of Rights passes Congress
The first Congress of the United States approves 12 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and sends them to the states for ratification. The amendments, known as the Bill of Rights, were designed to protect the basic rights of U.S. citizens, guaranteeing the freedom of speech, press, assembly, and exercise of religion; the right to fair legal procedure and to bear arms; and that powers not delegated to the federal government were reserved for the states and the people.
Influenced by the English Bill of Rights of 1689, the Bill of Rights was also drawn from Virginia's Declaration of Rights, drafted by George Mason in 1776. Mason, a native Virginian, was a lifelong champion of individual liberties, and in 1787 he attended the Constitutional Convention and criticized the final document for lacking constitutional protection of basic political rights. In the ratification process that followed, Mason and other critics agreed to approve the Constitution in exchange for the assurance that amendments would immediately be adopted.
In December 1791, Virginia became the 10th of 14 states to approve 10 of the 12 amendments, thus giving the Bill of Rights the two-thirds majority of state ratification necessary to make it legal. Of the two amendments not ratified, the first concerned the population system of representation, while the second prohibited laws varying the payment of congressional members from taking effect until an election intervened. The first of these two amendments was never ratified, while the second was finally ratified more than 200 years later, in 1992.
1981 O'Connor takes seat on Supreme Court
Sandra Day O'Connor becomes the first female U.S. Supreme Court justice in history when she is sworn in by Chief Justice Warren Burger.
Sandra Day was born in El Paso, Texas, in 1930. She grew up on her family's cattle ranch in southeastern Arizona and attended Stanford University, where she studied economics. A legal dispute over her family's ranch stirred her interest in law, and in 1950 she enrolled in Stanford Law School. She took just two years to receive her law degree and was ranked near the top of her class. Upon graduation, she married John Jay O'Connor III, a classmate.
Because she was a woman, no law firm she applied to would hire her for a suitable position, so she turned to the public sector and found work as a deputy county attorney for San Mateo, California. In 1953, her husband was drafted into the U.S. Army as a judge, and the O'Connors lived for three years in West Germany, with Sandra working as a civilian lawyer for the army. In 1957, they returned to the United States and settled down in Phoenix, Arizona, where they had three children in the six years that followed. During this time, O'Connor started a private law firm with a partner and became involved in numerous volunteer activities.
In 1965, she became an assistant attorney general for Arizona and in 1969 was appointed to the Arizona State Senate to occupy a vacant seat. Subsequently elected and reelected to the seat, she became the first woman in the United States to hold the position of majority leader in a state senate. In 1974, she was elected a superior court judge in Maricopa County and in 1979 was appointed to the Arizona Court of Appeals by Governor Bruce Babbitt, a Democrat.
Two years later, on July 7, 1981, President Ronald Reagan nominated her to the Supreme Court to fill the seat of retiring justice Potter Stewart, an Eisenhower appointee. In his 1980 presidential campaign, Reagan had promised to appoint a woman to the high court at one of his earliest opportunities, and he chose O'Connor, out of a group of some two dozen male and female candidates, to be his first appointee to the high court.
O'Connor, known as a moderate conservative, faced opposition from anti-abortion groups, who criticized her judicial defense of legalized abortion on several occasions. Liberals celebrated the appointment of a woman to the Supreme Court but were critical of some of her views. Nevertheless, at the end of her confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill, the Senate voted unanimously to endorse her nomination. On September 25, 1981, she was sworn in as the 102nd justice--and first woman justice--in Supreme Court history.
Initially regarded as a member of the court's conservative faction, she later emerged from William Rehnquist's shadow (chief justice from 1986) as a moderate and pragmatic conservative. On social issues, she often votes with liberal justices, and in several cases she has upheld abortion rights. She is known for her dispassionate and carefully researched opinions on the bench and is regarded as a prominent justice because of her tendency to moderate the sharply divided Supreme Court.


During the centuries when space travel was only a fantasy, researchers in the sciences of astronomy, chemistry, mathematics, meteorology, and physics developed an understanding of the solar system, the stellar universe, the atmosphere of the earth, and the probable environment in space. In the 7th and 6th centuries BC, the Greek philosophers Thales and Pythagoras noted that the earth is a sphere; in the 3rd century BC the astronomer Aristarchus of Samos asserted that the earth moved around the sun. Hipparchus, another Greek, prepared information about stars and the motions of the moon in the 2nd century BC. In the 2nd century AD Ptolemy of Alexandria placed the earth at the center of the solar system in the Ptolemaic system.
Scientific Discoveries
Not until some 1400 years later did the Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus systematically explain that the planets, including the earth, revolve about the sun. Later in the 16th century the observations of the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe greatly influenced the laws of planetary motion set forth by Kepler. Galileo, Edmund Halley, Sir William Herschel, and Sir James Jeans were other astronomers who made contributions pertinent to astronautics.
Physicists and mathematicians also helped to lay the foundations of astronautics. In 1654 the German physicist Otto von Guericke proved that a vacuum could be maintained, refuting the old theory that nature "abhors" a vacuum. In the late 17th century Newton formulated the laws of universal gravitation and motion. Newton's laws of motion established the basic principles governing the propulsion and orbital motion of modern spacecraft.
Despite the scientific foundations laid in earlier ages, however, space travel did not become possible until the advances of the 20th century provided the actual means of rocket propulsion, guidance, and control for space ve


Under escort from the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division, nine black students enter all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Three weeks earlier, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus had surrounded the school with National Guard troops to prevent its federal court-ordered racial integration. After a tense standoff, President Dwight D. Eisenhower federalized the Arkansas National Guard and sent 1,000 army paratroopers to Little Rock to enforce the court order.
On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka that racial segregation in educational facilities was unconstitutional. Five days later, the Little Rock School Board issued a statement saying it would comply with the decision when the Supreme Court outlined the method and time frame in which desegregation should be implemented.
Arkansas was at the time among the more progressive Southern states in regard to racial issues. The University of Arkansas School of Law was integrated in 1949, and the Little Rock Public Library in 1951. Even before the Supreme Court ordered integration to proceed "with all deliberate speed," the Little Rock School Board in 1955 unanimously adopted a plan of integration to begin in 1957 at the high school level. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) filed suit, arguing the plan was too gradual, but a federal judge dismissed the suit, saying that the school board was acting in "utmost good faith." Meanwhile, Little Rock's public buses were desegregated. By 1957, seven out of Arkansas' eight state universities were integrated.
In the spring of 1957, there were 517 black students who lived in the Central High School district. Eighty expressed an interest in attending Central in the fall, and they were interviewed by the Little Rock School Board, which narrowed down the number of candidates to 17. Eight of those students later decided to remain at all-black Horace Mann High School, leaving the "Little Rock Nine" to forge their way into Little Rock's premier high school.
In August 1957, the newly formed Mother's League of Central High School won a temporary injunction from the county chancellor to block integration of the school, charging that it "could lead to violence." Federal District Judge Ronald Davies nullified the injunction on August 30. On September 2, Governor Orval Faubus--a staunch segregationist--called out the Arkansas National Guard to surround Central High School and prevent integration, ostensibly to prevent the bloodshed he claimed desegregation would cause. The next day, Judge Davies ordered integrated classes to begin on September 4.
That morning, 100 armed National Guard troops encircled Central High School. A mob of 400 white civilians gathered and turned ugly when the black students began to arrive, shouting racial epithets and threatening the teenagers with violence. The National Guard troops refused to let the black students pass and used their clubs to control the crowd. One of the nine, 15-year-old Elizabeth Eckford, was surrounded by the mob, which threatened to lynch her. She was finally led to safety by a sympathetic white woman.
Little Rock Mayor Woodrow Mann condemned Faubus' decision to call out the National Guard, but the governor defended his action, reiterating that he did so to prevent violence. The governor also stated that integration would occur in Little Rock when and if a majority of people chose to support it. Faubus' defiance of Judge Davies' court order was the first major test of Brown v. Board of Education and the biggest challenge of the federal government's authority over the states since the Reconstruction Era.
The standoff continued, and on September 20 Judge Davies ruled that Faubus had used the troops to prevent integration, not to preserve law and order as he claimed. Faubus had no choice but to withdraw the National Guard troops. Authority over the explosive situation was put in the hands of the Little Rock Police Department.
On September 23, as a mob of 1,000 whites milled around outside Central High School, the nine black students managed to gain access to a side door. However, the mob became unruly when it learned the black students were inside, and the police evacuated them out of fear for their safety. That evening, President Eisenhower issued a special proclamation calling for opponents of the federal court order to "cease and desist." On September 24, Little Rock's mayor sent a telegram to the president asking him to send troops to maintain order and complete the integration process. Eisenhower immediately federalized the Arkansas National Guard and approved the deployment of U.S. troops to Little Rock. That evening, from the White House, the president delivered a nationally televised address in which he explained that he had taken the action to defend the rule of law and prevent "mob rule" and "anarchy." On September 25, the Little Rock Nine entered the school under heavily armed guard.
Troops remained at Central High School throughout the school year, but still the black students were subjected to verbal and physical assaults from a faction of white students. Melba Patillo, one of the nine, had acid thrown in her eyes, and Elizabeth Eckford was pushed down a flight of stairs. The three male students in the group were subjected to more conventional beatings. Minnijean Brown was suspended after dumping a bowl of chili over the head of a taunting white student. She was later suspended for the rest of the year after continuing to fight back. The other eight students consistently turned the other cheek. On May 27, 1958, Ernest Green, the only senior in the group, became the first black to graduate from Central High School.
Governor Faubus continued to fight the school board's integration plan, and in September 1958 he ordered Little Rock's three high schools closed rather than permit integration. Many Little Rock students lost a year of education as the legal fight over desegregation continued. In 1959, a federal court struck down Faubus' school-closing law, and in August 1959 Little Rock's white high schools opened a month early with black students in attendance. All grades in Little Rock public schools were finally integrated in 1972.

Failure is Not an Option

There are numerous ways of telling the story of the Space Race: from the astronaut’s point of view; as a recounting of missions and key events that led us to the moon; as a tale of technological competition and political rivalry between the U.S. and the USSR. This documentary relates the saga of our journey to the moon from the perspective of the ground-bound heroes who ran the missions from Mission Control in Houston.And what a story it is: a digest of the decade that took us from Sputnik to the moon, through Apollo 17, the final moon trip. The show combines recent interviews and animated recreations with lots of historical film footage, providing a unique perspective on the triumphs, the setbacks, and the tragedies of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions.This documentary is based on the book of the same name by Gene Kranz, the Flight Director on most of these early space missions, and a rock-solid character who is alternately tough and tender, but always erudite and competent. Kranz saw it all happen, and tells his tales of triumphs and emergencies in a compelling, no-nonsense manner. (If you saw Ron Howard’s “Apollo 13,” you’ll recognize Kranz, one of the central figures of the film, portrayed by Ed Harris.)While Kranz is the central focus, the doc also features interviews with many of his key people. If the Flight Controllers of Mission Control are an orchestra, the Flight Director is the conductor. And their story, although a subtext to the main drama, is fascinating in its own right. Legions of engineers—young, brilliant, adaptable, and blessed with common sense—flocked to NASA in the ‘60s. Watching them in their unofficial uniform—white shirt, skinny tie, and pocket protector—living on a steady diet of coffee, cigarettes, and junk food, these highly competitive nerds, infected with “Go fever,” are the very genesis of our current “geek culture.” Ironically, while they were anything but hip, they were also way ahead of their time.We don’t go to the moon anymore. But we did, repeatedly. And guys like Gene Kranz made it happen. The biggest compliment we can give this documentary is to say simply, “This show is a GO!”

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Stalin: A beginner's guide

A decade after the disintegration of the Soviet empire, the true horrors and consequences of Stalin's regime are coming to light, as Russia begins to confront the horrors of its past.
Stalin certainly has a hold on the popular imagination – his name produces a list of approximately 560,000 pages on Google. Here you will find the very best of the internet sites and books on Stalin, so you can find out why he is increasingly considered the worst dictator of the 20th century. A 29-part Russian comic in the tradition of Judge Dredd, a fantasy of the two dictators battling for supremacy (Stalin wins). Well worth a visit, if only to admire the artwork and appreciate the translation. The thoughts of Marshal Stalin – from 'A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic' to 'When we hang the capitalists, they will sell us the rope we use.'Article about Gruto Parkas, a Stalin-themed amusement park/open-air museum in Lithuania established by a 'canned mushroom mogul'. It is dotted with about 65 bronze and granite statues of former Soviet leaders and their henchmen. 'It combines the charms of a Disneyland with the worst of the Soviet gulag prison camp,' says its founder proudly… Check out for a description of the park and some photographs of it taken in 2001.News of a forthcoming (2005?) computer game that revolves around a plot to assassinate Stalin at a party assembly in autumn 1952. Key features include 'the photorealistic representation of the most prominent Moscow sights: subway stations, the Kremlin, Moscow State University, etc', 'top-secret objects: a military transport underground line, secret labs, underground dug-outs, Stalin's bWebsite devoted to the Japanese punk rock band The Stalin. Its lead singer Michiro Endo says that he chose to name his band after Stalin because he 'is very hated by most people in Japan, so it is very good for our image' and because the name means 'the downside of every good idea'.unker' and 'over 300 types of destroyable objects: book-cases, chairs, ashtrays and so on'.

Adolf Hitler: Hitler of the Andes

Most people think that Hitler and Eva Braun killed themselves in a bunker on 30 April 1945, as Allied forces closed in on Berlin. Braun died by taking poison; Hitler probably shot himself. But that 'probably' expresses the sort of seed of uncertainty from which a myth can grow.
When the Soviets found the partially burned remains of a man and a woman near Hitler's bunker, their forensic specialists concluded that these were the corpses of Hitler and Braun and that both had died from cyanide poisoning. But the discovery was kept secret – perhaps because Stalin was not completely convinced. Russian officials even said that they thought Hitler might have escaped from the bunker.
A further Soviet investigation of the site in 1946 found bloodstains on Hitler's sofa, and also skull fragments, and concluded – echoing the official inquiry conducted by British intelligence officer (and later historian) Hugh Trevor-Roper – that Hitler had, in fact, shot himself. But still the Soviets remained silent.
That silence, whatever its motives, fuelled the doubts of the Americans, who went on to conduct an 11-year investigation into the possibility that Hitler was hiding out in the foothills of the Andes or in a remote part of Argentina.
After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the archive detailing the Russians' discoveries at the bunker was finally made available to outsiders. It revealed that the corpses had had an interrupted and rather undignified journey back to Moscow after the war, being repeatedly buried and dug up at various stages to confuse prying eyes. Both bodies had then been destroyed in the 1970s.
However, part of Hitler did indeed survive: his teeth. One of the few things on which almost everyone agrees in the strange story of Hitler's posthumous career is that the teeth in question once belonged to the Führer. They were positively identified in the Russians' first investigation by two former dental assistants who had worked on Hitler's teeth. Skull fragments also survived.
For some, however, such evidence can never be as compelling as contemporary reports suggesting, for example, that Hitler was working as a croupier in a French casino.

Series Synopsis

Were your ancestors sheep-thieves or war heroes, saints or sinners, nobility or simple folk? Are there family secrets you'd like to unlock, legends you'd like to untangle? Let Ancestors in the Attic help you solve dramatic, personal family mysteries and take you on a worldwide quest for answers.
MysteriesTell us what you know about the person in your family whose story most intrigues you. It can be a distant ancestor, a grandparent, parent, uncle or aunt. Does the mystery involve an heirloom or do you have an artefact that tells a tale you can't decipher? Send us a picture and tell us how it relates to your story.
LegendsDo you have a family legend you've always wanted to confirm? A great, great grandfather who might have been a European aristocrat, an ancestor related to a famous politician or world-renowned musician.
Brick WallsPerhaps you've hit a brick wall in your research or just have a question you'd like answered. Submit it for review by our expert panel. If we have the solution it may appear in an episode.
Your StoriesTell us the astonishing stories you've already unearthed. Have you made an unexpected or startling discovery while researching your heritage? Has tracing your family tree changed your life?

A Vast and Diverse Land: Fast Facts

Carrot Creek and Fork Lake are in Alberta, Cranberry Lake, Fruitvale, Parsnip River and Salmon Arm in British Columbia, Coffee Cove in Newfoundland, Meat Cove and Sugar Loaf in Nova Scotia while Apple Hill, Honey Harbour, and Hungerfold find their place in Ontario.
Proposed names for Canada at the time of Confederation include: New Britain, Laurentia, Brittania, Cabotia, Columbia, Canadia and Ursalia.
In 1793 the British government created the community of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. Its inhabitants were loyal Protestants from Germany, Switzerland and France selected to balance out the French Catholic presence in Nova Scotia.
Baffin Island, Ellesmere Island and Victoria Island are three of the ten largest islands in the world.
Canada's area totals 9,976,000 square kilometres, making it the world's second largest country.
90% of Canada's tourism comes from American travellers.
Dawson City was home to over 38,000 people at the height of the gold rush. Today, fewer than 2,000 people live there.
Churchill, Manitoba boasts its status as "Polar Bear Capital of the World."
Nahanni National Park in Northwest Territories and Dinosaur National Park in Alberta, along with eleven other sites, are listed on the United Nation's World Heritage List.

A Short History of Submersibles

The impulse to travel underwater has fascinated the human race for thousands of years. From early trips like the mythical journey of Alexander the Great to the modern nuclear boats like the powerful Seawolf class in the U.S. Navy, the development of underwater travel, first for scientific reasons, and then for military reasons, has fascinated historians and scientists for centuries.
An example of early interest in underwater exploration can be found in the work of Leonardo da Vinci. He may have produced a proto-type for a submersible wooden-framed boat covered in goatskins, "with oars providing propulsion through waterproof sweeps" (Clancy 1). No surviving information exists about the submersible, so it is unknown whether or not da Vinci tested his invention on the shores of Italy.
In Britain, carpenter and gunner William Bourne designed the world's first true submersible boat. A u-shaped boat with its hull completely enclosed, Bourne's design took into account the need for ballast tanks (weights intended to steady the vessel during travel) — demonstrating his innate understanding of how ships actually float. Bourne's submarine was designed to engineer the ballasts, and thus control the vehicle's submergence and reemergence, by using screws that increased or decreased the amount of water within the tanks. The entire contraption was waterproofed by leather hides, and oars would be used for underwater propulsion, like da Vinci's fabled submersible.
Bourne's design appeared in 1578, but it was not until Cornelius Drebbel, a Dutch physicist and inventor, decided to build a modified version of the boat, did it actually get made. Drebbel's boat became the world's first working submarine when it was launched on the Thames somewhere around 1620. Contemporaries described the boat as 'an enclosed rowboat' manned by twelve men working the oars.1 Despite massive leakage from the greased leather outer protection, the boat managed to stay submerged for long enough to descend to depths of 12-15 feet. The passengers on board became the first people to travel in a working submarine, and the oarsmen the world's first submarine crew.However, the "true significance [of Drebbel's submarine] was the development of an air supply, akin to the modern snorkel, first seen operationally on the German submarine U-539 in January 1944" (Hutchinson 8). Drebbel's submarine projects soon came secondary to his knowledge of explosives, and they were soon abandoned for the more pressing pursuit of developing effective weapons for war.
Throughout the rest of the 17th century, submarines were designed by a variety of early inventors, including Marin Mersenne and George Fournier, both of whom were Jesuit priests; Abbé Giovanni Alfonso Borelli, whose boat contained goatskin ballasts; and lastly, De Son, whose Rotterdam Boat (1653) had clockwork designed to work an internal paddle. However, it was not until 1775 that submarine technology took a giant leap forward when Yale-educated David Bushnell designed and built the Turtle, which became the first boat to be used for military purposes. Manned by Sergeant Ezra Lee, the Turtle, manipulated by hand-cranked propellers (both vertical and horizontal), set off on September 6, 1776 with orders to attack a British warship (HMS Eagle). Constructed with a drill to enable Lee to bore into the ship's hull, the Turtle was to be dragged close to its target where its captain would submerge, attach the explosives and then peddle away. Unfortunately, the Turtle was spotted, and this coupled with the fact that Lee was unable to drill into the Eagle's Hull, ensured the mission was less than successful. Lee released the explosive, and after it failed to hit its target, he beat a hasty retreat.
Military submarines as we know them today have their origins in both the Turtle, and also the Nautilus, a modified Turtle designed and built by Robert Fulton. Fulton, who was American by birth, was living in Paris at the time when the Nautilus was first demonstrated in the Seine. Despite working quite well (Nautilus stayed submerged for six hours at depths of 25-feet), the Nautilus failed to attach its charge to any British ship — and Fulton, abandoned by the French government, never built another version after selling his boat for scrap metal in 1800. In 1804, Fulton ended up on British shores demonstrating his machine to a Navy 'unimpressed' by its 'underhanded' nature (Clancy 3).
After the disastrous attempts by both the Turtle and the Nautilus to actually hit their targets, the Civil War was now the theatre for the evolution of submarine warfare when the H.L. Hunley became the first boat to destroy an enemy's ship. The boat's original captain, and one of its designers, Horace L. Hunley, died during a test run of the boat in 1863. Undeterred, the determined Confederates raised the hull of the boat, renamed the vessel after its brave captain, and sent it off to destroy the USS Housatonic on October 17, 1864. The H.L. Hunley achieved its mission — but it was uA new era of boats had arrived. Now a proven weapon of warfare, the H.L. Hunley paved the way for John Holland's boats — the first "practical combat submarines" (Clancy 3). Irish-American Holland first conceived of the submarines to aid in the Fenian cause, whose Irish Fenian Brotherhood funded his first three boats. In short, Holland's "simple 53-feet nine inches long boat was the forerunner of other submarines purchased soon after by the British, Japanese and Dutch navies" (Hutchinson 23). Holland's designs, including the six boats he contracted to the U.S. Navy in August 1900, definitively moved submarine technology into a whole new era. Now armed with torpedoes that could be reloaded, propelled by an electric motor powered by batteries for submergence and a re-engineered hull for better movement underwater, Holland-designed submarines were in use until the mid-1920s.
Of course, as the boats become essential parts of the quickly evolving Navies of two world wars, technology vastly improved. From the implication of the use of diesel engines to the inspiring use of U-boats by the Germans, submarines emerged as integral aspects of war strategy. The nuclear revolution changed submarine propulsion forever. Now, boats travel faster, move quieter and are armed with weapons so powerful that it is difficult to imagine the extent of their destructive ability . Today, the evolution of the submarine has far surpassed even the imaginations of those early inventors who were utterly dedicated to conquering methods of underwater travel and warfare.nable to remove itself from the wake of its 90-pound explosive charge and was destroyed.

From Peaches Baskets to Basketball

In a time before radio broadcasts, televised games and marketing superstars, local enthusiasts would gather together in gymnasiums, local dance halls and homemade courts to play a rough and tumble game of basketball. Over the years, basketball has developed from an accepted pastime to one of the world's most popular sports.
The game's founder, James Naismith, was born in Almonte, Ontario in November 1861. An active child with an interest in physical education, Naismith graduated from McGill University with a degree in philosophy in 1887. He later pursued a second degree in religion at Montreal's Presbyterian College. In 1891, Naismith found himself in Springfield Massachusetts at the YMCA Training School teaching physical education.
Dr. Luthor Gulick, head of the physical education department, asked Naismith to invent a game that could be played inside, intended to distract the students during the winter. Naismith was instructed the game had to be easy to learn and played in teams. Gulick gave Naismith two weeks to come up with something.
Based upon a childhood game he used to play called "Duck on a rock," Naismith came up with 13 basic rules for his new game. According to an article in Maclean's"Naismith took a soccer ball and asked the school janitor, a Mr. Stebbins, to find him two small boxes to use as goals." As there were no boxes to be found, they improvised and used peach baskets instead. The baskets were nailed approximately three metres off the ground on either side of the gymnasium.The first game of basketball was played on December 1, 1891. Naismith organized the game so there were a total of 18 players - nine per side. He acted as the referee and the final score was 1-0. Basketball was an immediate success, and it spread by word of mouth across the country, sometimes to the detriment of other organized activities. Most of Naismith's original 13 rules are still a part of the game today.
Professional basketball appeared as early as 1896, when a team in Trenton, New Jersey charged admission to a game and then dispersed the profits between its players. The early games were framed by a 60 by 40 foot court enclosed by chicken wire to prevent the ball from ever being out of play. Players were often pushed into the wire, resulting in numerous bloody injuries along the way. After each point was scored there would be a centre jump, unlike present day games, where a jump ball is introduced at the beginning of the game and at the start of the second half.
Early basketball games had no limitations with respect to holding onto the ball during play. This meant that aggressive teams held the ball in the backcourt for seemingly never-ending periods of time. These stalling techniques were commonplace, and the foul became an important tool in gaining possession of the ball. Teams had specific players dedicated to making foul shots, which became integral to winning a game.
In the United States, the National League was formed in 1898, mostly to prevent less than honest promoters from exploiting players. In early league play, basketball players were not signed to specific contracts, so they could switch teams at whim, ensuring line-ups would change on a regular basis. Outfitted in long socks, sneakers, shorts and tank tops, the players would move from team to team according to pay scale. After only five seasons, the inaugural league folded.During the 1920s, the chicken wire was replaced by netting. Players would then use the nets to change the direction of play, changing the pace of the game entirely. Other innovations during this time period were "pivot play" (developed by the original Celtics) and man-to-man defense (because you'd never know who was going to be on your team). In 1925, the American Basketball League was founded. The league signed players to individual contracts, banned the chicken wire cage, made backboards mandatory and also adopted the college rule whereby two-handed dribbling was illegal.
Various other professional leagues appeared on the landscape before the National Basketball Association was formed for the 1949-1950 season. Two of the more important leagues were the National Basketball League (1937) and the Basketball Association of America (1946). The National Basketball League saw professional teams developed by specific corporate sponsors, in this case, Firestone and Goodyear. The Basketball Association of America was heavily influenced by the popularity of college ball, recruiting the top players from schools around the country and using primarily collegiate rules. The BAA also drew heavily upon the NHL for their structure and, in fact, of the 11 teams in the original league, five were directly connected to hockey teams.
The Toronto Huskies played against the New York Knicks in the BAA's first game November 1, 1946. Unfortunately, the Toronto franchise was not successful, ending up last in its division and folding after the first season. The rivalry between the two leagues was the main precursor to their merger in 1949. The National Basketball Association's first season started with 17 teams drawn from both leagues. Today, the league consists of two conferences with 29 teams comprised of talented players from all ends of the earth.

Friday, September 23, 2005

A History of British Architecture

The Middle Ages - 1066 and all that
Architecture is about evolution, not revolution. It used to be thought that once the Romans pulled out of Britain in the fifth century, their elegant villas, carefully-planned towns and engineering marvels like Hadrian's Wall simply fell into decay as British culture was plunged into the Dark Ages. It took the Norman Conquest of 1066 to bring back the light, and the Gothic cathedral-builders of the Middle Ages played an important part in the revival of British culture.
'The great cathedrals and parish churches that lifted up their towers to heaven were acts of devotion in stone...'
However, the truth is not as simple as that. Romano-British culture - and that included architecture along with language, religion, political organisation and the arts - survived long after the Roman withdrawal. And although the Anglo-Saxons had a sophisticated building style of their own, little survives to bear witness to their achievements as the vast majority of Anglo-Saxon buildings were made of wood.
Even so, the period between the Norman landing at Pevensey in 1066 and the day in 1485 when Richard III lost his horse and his head at Bosworth, ushering in the Tudors and the Early Modern period, marks a rare flowering of British building. And it is all the more remarkable because the underlying ethos of medieval architecture was 'fitness for purpose'. The great cathedrals and parish churches that lifted up their towers to heaven were not only acts of devotion in stone; they were also fiercely functional buildings. Castles served their particular purpose and their battlements and turrets were for use rather than ornament. The rambling manor houses of the later Middle Ages, however, were primarily homes, their owners achieving respect and maintaining status by their hospitality and good lordship rather than the grandeur of their buildings.
Fitness for purpose also characterised the homes of the poorer classes. Such people didn't matter very much to the ruling elite and so neither did their houses. These were dark, primitive structures of one or two rooms, usually with cBuildings of the Middle Ages
White Tower, at the heart of the Tower of London, was begun by Bishop Gundulf in 1078 on the orders of William the Conqueror. The structure was completed in 1097, providing a colonial stronghold and a powerful symbol of Norman domination.
Durham Cathedral was begun by Bishop William de St Carilef in 1093 and completed about 1175. The choir was extended in the Gothic style between 1242 and 1280. Muscular pillars and round-headed arches make Durham one of the most imposing Norman buildings in England.
Haddon Hall, Derbyshire, was probably begun in the 12th century, but was remodelled and adapted at various times right through to the 16th century. It was then carefully restored in the early 20th century. Haddon shows the quality which characterises the great medieval house, in which function dictates form.
King's College Chapel, Cambridge, spans the period of transition between the Middle Ages and the Tudors. Its foundation stone was laid in 1446 by Henry VI and the structure, with its lacy perpendicular fan-vaulting, was completed by 1515 during the reign of Henry VIII. The windows were installed in 1546-7.rude timbeThe Tudors - stately and curious workmanship
In a sense, the buildings of the 16th century were also governed by fitness for purpose - only now, the purpose was very different. In domestic architecture, in particular, buildings were used to display status and wealth, as William Harrison noted in his Description of England (1577):
Each one desireth to set his house aloft on the hill, to be seen afar off, and cast forth his beams of stately and curious workmanship into every quarter of the country.
This stately and curious workmanship showed itself in various ways. A greater sense of security led to more outward-looking buildings, as opposed to the medieval arrangement where the need for defence created houses that faced inward onto a courtyard or series of courtyards. This allowed for much more in the way of exterior ornament. The rooms themselves tended to be bigger and lighter - as an expensive commodity, the use of great expanses of glass was in itself a statement of wealth. There was also a general move towards balanced and symmetrical exteriors with central entrances.
'In spite of this building boom the Renaissance was generally slow to arrive in England...'
In addition there was progress towards more stable and sophisticated houses for those lower down the social scale. Stone, and later brick, began to replace timber as the standard building material for the homes of farmers, tradespeople and artisans. To quote Harrison again:
Every man almost is a builder, and he that hath bought any small parcel of ground, be it never so little, will not be quiet till he have pulled down the old house (if any were there standing) and set up a new after his own device.
In spite of this building boom the Renaissance was generally slow to arrive in England, largely because Elizabeth's troublesome relations with Catholic Europe made the free exchange of ideas difficult. Craftsmen and pattern-books did come over from the Protestant Low Countries, but by and large our relative isolation from the European cultural mainstream led to a national style which was a bizarre though attractive mixture of Gothic and Tudor Palaces and Houses
Hampton Court Palace (1515 onwards). The great house that Cardinal Wolsey began and then gave to Henry VIII in 1525, in a desperate attempt to stay in the King's favour, has undergone many changes since the 16th century. Christopher Wren rebuilt the south and east ranges for William and Mary between 1689 and 1694, and the Palace contains some remarkable Tudor work, notably Henry VIII's hammer-beamed Great Hall.
Longleat House, Wiltshire, which was completed in 1580, exemplifies the confidence of Tudor craftsmen in a society that was more stable than that of their medieval ancestors. It looks outwards rather than in on itself, whilst classical detailing such as the pilasters that flank the expanses of glass, and the roundels carved with busts of Roman emperors, show that Renaissance ideas were creeping slowly into Britain during the mid 16th century.
Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire (1591-97). This is the archetypal late-Elizabethan house: tall, compact and beautiful. It was designed, probably by Robert Smythson, for Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury who was better known as Bess of Hardwick. Her descendants, the Dukes of Devonshire, made Chatsworth their principal seat, and left Hardwick more or less unscathed. A remarkable survival.
Whilst Elizabethan houses in England concentrated on the conspicuous display of wealth, Scotland saw the building of castles and fortified houses continue well into the seventeenth century. In fact, fortification became a style in its own right, and the turrets and strongly vertical emphases of Scottish Baronial houses mark one of Scotland's most distinctive contributions to British architectureclassical styles.r frames, low walls and thatched roofs. They weren't built to last. And they didn't.

Malmesbury: England's Oldest Borough

Malmesbury Abbey
On the northern borders of Wiltshire stands the small market town of Malmesbury. Its origins date back to the middle of the sixth century, after the Saxons wrested final control over this part of the country from the Britons. Malmesbury is the oldest borough in England, with a charter given by Alfred the Great around 880.
According to the 16th-century writer, Leland:
'The toun of Malmesbyri stondith on the very toppe of a greate slaty rok, and ys wonderfully defended by nature'.
And indeed, the river Avon and a tributary almost completely surround the town, forming a perfect natural defence system.
The town is dominated by the now ruined abbey at its centre. Only a third of the abbey has survived, but in the Middle Ages the building had a tall central spire, reaching 7m (23ft) higher than Salisbury Cathedral's 123m- (404ft) high spire.
' the Middle Ages the building had a tall central spire...'
Malmesbury Abbey's founder, Maidulph, died in 675. At this time Aldhelm, a Saxon by birth and related to King Ine of Wessex, took over the leadership of the borough, and under him the town grew in stature and importance.
Around 700, Aldhelm built the first organ in England, which was described as a 'mighty instrument with innumerable tones, blown with bellows, and enclosed in a gilded case', and he is also credited with other churches in the area, including the one at Bradford-on-Avon, which stands to this day. He King Athelstan and William of Malmesbury

Athelstan's tomb Malmesbury Abbey Perhaps the most important of Malmesbury's benefactors was the first king of all England - Alfred the Great's grandson, Athelstan. He reigned between 925 and 940.
Athelstan was a distinguished and courageous soldier who pushed the boundaries of the kingdom further than anyone had done before.
In 927 he took York from the Danes and forced the submission of King Constantine of Scotland and of the northern kings. All five of the Welsh kings agreed to pay a huge annual tribute to him, and he also eliminated opposition in Cornwall.
In 937, at the battle of Brunanburh, Athelstan led a force drawn from Britain and defeated an invasion by the king of Scotland in alliance with the Welsh and Danes from Dublin.
'Athelstan was a collector of artworks and religious relics, which he often gave away to churches to gain their support.'
Under Athelstan, law codes strengthened royal control over his large kingdom. Currency was regulated to control silver's weight and to penalise fraudsters. Buying and selling was largely confined to the burhs, encouraging town life. Areas of settlement in the Midlands and Danish towns were consolidated into shires.
Overseas, Athelstan built alliances by marrying off four of his half-sisters to various rulers in western Europe. He was also a great collector of artworks and religious relics, which he gave away to many of his followers, and to churches in order to gain the support of the clergy.
Athelstan died in 940 at the height of his power, and was buried in Malmesbury Abbey. He had been an ardent supporter and endower of the Abbey, and it is fitting that he should be buried there.
Another famous son of Malmesbury was the great historian William of Malmesbury (1095-1143). He was educated at the now famous abbey school.
William's approach to writing history was quite different from that of his medieval counterparts, and much more like the approach of a modern scholar. He paid great attention to accuracy and detail, and used eyewitness accounts and solid documentary evidence to support his arguments.
One of William's stories was about an 11th-century monk called Elmer, who made himself a pair of wings and jumped from the tower of Malmesbury Abbey, flying about 200 metres (220 yards) before crashing and seriously injuring himself.
Elmer, Aldhelm and William of Malmesbury are all remembered in the stained glass at the Abbey, in a room now used for storage.died in 709 and was canonised, and he has been known ever after as St Aldhelm.

The Sermon of the Wolf

The birth of England
When did England become England? Some believe the English identity was formed long after the Norman Conquest, others are not so sure.
I think the idea of England and the allegiance to the English crown and English law was created by the Anglo-Saxon successors of Alfred the Great - long before 1066.
Wulfstan talks about the English as 'one people under one law'.
Let me give you an illustration, a snapshot from those days. It comes from a public speech by a bishop made in 1014.
At that time England was in deep trouble. By the winter of 1013-14, the government of Anglo-Saxon England had almost collapsed and the King, Ethelred the Unready, had gone into exile abroad.
The country had been devastated by Vikings and everybody complained about government inefficiency and failure to act and implement policy. Things could not really get much worse. It was at this point that Archbishop Wulfstan of York preached a sermon to the high-ups in the land.
"The devil has led this people too far astray... the people have betrayed their own country (literally their 'earth'). And the harm will become common to this entire people.
"There was a historian in the time of the Britons called Gildas who wrote about their misdeeds; how their sins angered God so much that finally He allowed the army of the English to conquer their land. Let us take warning from this... we all know there are worse things going on now than we have heard of among the ancients. Let us turn to the right and leave wrongdoing... Let us love God and follow God's laws." Archbishop Wulfstan, Sermon of the Wolf, 1014
Wulfstan was a leading member of what we might call the royal think-tank: the great and good who advised the king, the big landowners, earls, royal kinsman and prominent churchmen.
Archbishops were often the main motivators in policy: they told the kings what to do and Wulfstan did just that. We still have one of his notebooks where we can read for ourselves his thoughts, written in his own hand.
What can a speech from 1014 tell us about English identity? Audio requires RealPlayer, use this for help downloading the software.
Like the speech of any modern politician, of course, Wulfstan has to be taken with a pinch of salt. (Even then, some of his audience may not have followed his line that the Day of Judgement was nigh.)
But this short extract tells us a lot about Anglo-Saxon England. It tells us that the English themselves had been invaders of Britain, many centuries before; that they were Christian; and that they lived under the rule of Christian law.
What is very interesting is that even with the government tottering and the social order cracking, Wulfstan also talks about the English as "one people under one law". He takes it as read that we can refer to the English nation, so we can see that an allegiance between the people, the king and the law is already in existence.

The Anglo-Saxons

The term Anglo-Saxon is a relatively modern one. It refers to settlers from the German regions of Angeln and Saxony, who made their way over to Britain after the fall of the Roman Empire around AD 410.
The Roman armies withdrew from Britain early in the fifth century because they were needed back home to defend the crumbling centre of the Empire. Britain was considered a far-flung outpost of little value.
At this time, the Jutes and the Frisians from Denmark were also settling in the British Isles, but the Anglo-Saxon settlers were effectively their own masters in a new land and they did little to keep the legacy of the Romans alive. They replaced the Roman stone buildings with their own wooden ones, and spoke their own language, which gave rise to the English spoken today.
The Anglo-Saxons also brought their own religious beliefs, but the arrival of Saint Augustine in 597 converted most of the country to Christianity.
The Anglo-Saxon period lasted for 600 years, from 410 to 1066, and in that time Britain's political landscape underwent many changes.
'The Anglo-Saxon period stretched over 600 years, from 410 to 1066...'
The early settlers kept to small tribal groups, forming kingdoms and sub-kingdoms. By the ninth century, the country was divided into four kingdoms - Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia and Wessex.
Wessex was the only one of these kingdoms to survive the Viking invasions. Eric Bloodaxe, the Viking ruler of York, was killed by the Wessex army in 954 and England was united under one king - Edred.
Most of the information we have about the Anglo-Saxons comes from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a year-by-year account of all the major events of the time. Among other things it describes the rise and fall of the bishops and kings and the important battles of the period. It begins with the story of Hengist and Horsa in AD 449.
Anglo-Saxon rule came to an end in 1066, soon after the death of Edward the Confessor, who had no heir. He had supposedly willed the kingdom to William of Normandy, but also seemed to favour Harold Godwinson as his successor.
Harold was crowned king immediately after Edward died, but he failed in his attempt to defend his crown, when William and an invading army crossed the Channel from France to claim it for himself. Harold was defeated by the Normans at the Battle of Hastings in October 1066, and thus a new era was ushered in.

Peoples of Britain

The story of early Britain has traditionally been told in terms of waves of invaders displacing or annihilating their predecessors. Archaeology suggests that this picture is fundamentally wrong. For over 10,000 years people have been moving into - and out of - Britain, sometimes in substantial numbers, yet there has always been a basic continuity of population.
'Before Roman times, 'Britain' was just a geographical entity and had no political meaning and no single cultural identity.'
The gene pool of the island has changed, but more slowly and far less completely than implied by the old 'invasion model', and the notion of large-scale migrations, once the key explanation for change in early Britain, has been widely discredited.
Substantial genetic continuity of population does not preclude profound shifts in culture and identity. It is actually quite common to observe important cultural change, including adoption of wholly new identities, with little or no biological change to a population. Millions of people since Roman times have thought of themselves as 'British', for example, yet this identity was only created in 1707 with the Union of England, Wales and Scotland.
Before Roman times 'Britain' was just a geographical entity, and had no political meaning, and no single cultural identity. Arguably this remained generally true until the 17th century, when James I of England sought to establish a pan-British monarchy.
Throughout recorded history the island has consisted of multiple cultural groups and identities. Many of these groupings looked outwards, across the seas, for their closest connections - they did not necessarily connect naturally with their fellow islanders, many of whom were harder to reach than maritime neighbours in Ireland or continental Europe.
It therefore makes no sense to look at Britain in isolation; we have to consider it with Ireland as part of the wider 'Atlantic Archipelago', nearer to continental Europe and, like Scandinavia, part of the North Sea world.First peoples

The first 'Britons' were an ethnically mixed group From the arrival of the first modern humans - who were hunter-gatherers, following the retreating ice of the Ice Age northwards - to the beginning of recorded history is a period of about 100 centuries, or 400 generations. This is a vast time span, and we know very little about what went on through those years; it is hard even to fully answer the question, 'Who were the early peoples of Britain?', because they have left no accounts of themselves.
'Throughout prehistory there were myriad small-scale societies and many petty 'tribal' identities...'
We can, however, say that biologically they were part of the Caucasoid population of Europe. The regional physical stereotypes familiar to us today, a pattern widely thought to result from the post-Roman Anglo-Saxon and Viking invasions - red-headed people in Scotland, small, dark-haired folk in Wales and lanky blondes in southern England - already existed in Roman times. Insofar as they represent reality, they perhaps attest the post-Ice Age peopling of Britain, or the first farmers of 6,000 years ago.
From an early stage, the constraints and opportunities of the varied environments of the islands of Britain encouraged a great regional diversity of culture. Throughout prehistory there were myriad small-scale societies, and many petty 'tribal' identities, typically lasting perhaps no more than a few generations before splitting, merging or becoming obliterated. These groups were in contact and conflict with their neighbours, and sometimes with more distant groups - the appearance of exotic imported objects attest exchanges, alliance and kinship links, and warsBefore Rome: the 'Celts'

The defeated Iron Age tribes of Britain At the end of the Iron Age (roughly the last 700 years BC), we get our first eye-witness accounts of Britain from Greco-Roman authors, not least Julius Caesar who invaded in 55 and 54 BC. These reveal a mosaic of named peoples (Trinovantes, Silures, Cornovii, Selgovae, etc), but there is little sign such groups had any sense of collective identity any more than the islanders of AD 1000 all considered themselves 'Britons'.
'Calling the British Iron Age 'Celtic' is so misleading that it is best abandoned.'
However, there is one thing that the Romans, modern archaeologists and the Iron Age islanders themselves would all agree on: they were not Celts. This was an invention of the 18th century; the name was not used earlier. The idea came from the discovery around 1700 that the non-English island tongues relate to that of the ancient continental Gauls, who really were called Celts. This ancient continental ethnic label was applied to the wider family of languages. But 'Celtic' was soon extended to describe insular monuments, art, culture and peoples, ancient and modern: island 'Celtic' identity was born, like Britishness, in the 18th century.
However, language does not determine ethnicity (that would make the modern islanders 'Germans', since they mostly speak English, classified as a Germanic tongue). And anyway, no one knows how or when the languages that we choose to call 'Celtic', arrived in the archipelago - they were already long established and had diversified into several tongues, when our evidence begins. Certainly, there is no reason to link the coming of 'Celtic' language with any great 'Celtic invasions' from Europe during the Iron Age, because there is no hard evidence to suggest there were any.
Archaeologists widely agree on two things about the British Iron Age: its many regional cultures grew out of the preceding local Bronze Age, and did not derive from waves of continental 'Celtic' invaders. And secondly, calling the British Iron Age 'Celtic' is so misleading that it is best abandoned. Of course, there are important cultural similarities and connections between Britain, Ireland and continental Europe, reflecting intimate contacts and undoubtedly the movement of some people, but the same could be said for many other periods of history.
The things we have labelled 'Celtic' icons - such as hill-forts and art, weapons and jewellery - were more about aristocratic, political, military and religious connections than common ethnicity. (Compare the later cases of medieval Catholic Christianity or European Renaissance culture, or indeed the Hellenistic Greek Mediterranean and the Roman world - all show similar patterns of cultural sharing and emulation among the powerful, across ethnic boundaries.)Britain and the Romans

Almost everyone in Britannia was legally and culturally 'Roman' The Roman conquest, which started in AD 43, illustrates the profound cultural and political impact that small numbers of people can have in some circumstances, for the Romans did not colonise the islands of Britain to any significant degree. To a population of around three million, their army, administration and carpet-baggers added only a few per cent.
'The future Scotland remained beyond Roman government, although the nearby presence of the empire had major effects.'
The province's towns and villas were overwhelmingly built by indigenous people - again the wealthy - adopting the new international culture of power. Greco-Roman civilisation displaced the 'Celtic' culture of Iron Age Europe. These islanders actually became Romans, both culturally and legally (the Roman citizenship was more a political status than an ethnic identity). By AD 300, almost everyone in 'Britannia' was Roman, legally and culturally, even though of indigenous descent and still mostly speaking 'Celtic' dialects. Roman rule saw profound cultural change, but emphatically without any mass migration.
However, Rome only ever conquered half the island. The future Scotland remained beyond Roman government, although the nearby presence of the empire had major effects. The kingdom of the Picts appeared during the third century AD, the first of a series of statelets which, during the last years and collapse of Roman power, developed through the merging of the 'tribes' of earlier times.The 'Dark Ages'

Were the 'Celts' displaced or absorbed by the invaders? In western and northern Britain, around the western seas, the end of Roman power saw the reassertion of ancient patterns, ie continuity of linguistic and cultural trends reaching back to before the Iron Age. Yet in the long term, the continuous development of a shifting mosaic of societies gradually tended (as elsewhere in Europe) towards larger states. Thus, for example, the far north-western, Irish-ruled kingdom of Dalriada merged in the ninth century with the Pictish kingdom to form Scotland.
'It was once believed that the Romano-British were slaughtered or driven west by hordes of invading Anglo-Saxons, part of the great westward movement of 'barbarians' overwhelming the western empire.'
The western-most parts of the old province, where Roman ways had not displaced traditional culture, also partook of these trends, creating small kingdoms which would develop, under pressure from the Saxons, into the Welsh and Cornish regions.
The fate of the rest of the Roman province was very different: after imperial power collapsed c.410 AD Romanised civilisation swiftly vanished. By the sixth century, most of Britannia was taken over by 'Germanic' kingdoms. There was apparently complete discontinuity between Roman Britain and Anglo-Saxon England; it was once believed that the Romano-British were slaughtered or driven west by hordes of invConclusion

Britain has always absorbed invaders and been home to multiple peoples How many settlers actually crossed the North Sea to Britain is disputed, although it is clear that they eventually mixed with substantial surviving indigenous populations which, in many areas, apparently formed the majority.
As with the adoption of 'Celtic' cultural traits in the Iron Age, and then Greco-Roman civilisation, so the development of Anglo-Saxon England marks the adoption of a new politically ascendant culture; that of the 'Germanic barbarians'.
'Contrary to the traditional idea that Britain originally possessed a 'Celtic' uniformity which first Roman, then Saxon and other invaders disrupted, in reality Britain has always been home to multiple peoples...'
Perhaps the switch was more profound than the preceding cases, since the proportion of incomers was probably higher than in Iron Age or Roman times, and, crucially, Romano-British power structures and culture seem to have undergone catastrophic collapse - through isolation from Rome and the support of the imperial armies - some time before there was a substantial presence of 'Anglo-Saxons'.
In contrast to Gaul, where the Franks merged with an intact Gallo-Roman society to create Latin-based French culture, the new Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in Britain, although melded from indigenous and immigrant populations, represented no such cultural continuity; they drew their cultural inspiration, and their dominant language, almost entirely from across the North Sea. Mixed natives and immigrants became the English.
Contrary to the traditional idea that Britain originally possessed a 'Celtic' uniformity, which first Roman, then Saxon and other invaders disrupted, in reality Britain has always been home to multiple peoples. While its population has shown strong biological continuity over millennia, the identities the islanders have chosen to adopt have undergone some remarkable changes. Many of these have been due to contacts and conflicts across the seas, not least as the result of episodic, but often very modest, arrivals of newcomers.ading Anglo-Saxons, part of the great westward movement of 'barbarians' overwhelming the western empire. However, there was no such simple displacement of 'Celts' by 'Germans'.