In 1417, humanists Poggio Bracciolini and Niccoló de' Niccoli paid the ultimate price for their redoubtable efforts to recover classical Latin manuscripts.
On the Nature of ThingsIn January, Bracciolini had discovered a copy of the long lost De rerum natura on a shelf in the Benedictine Abbey in Fulda. Superficially a didactic poem by Lucretius, "On the Nature of Things" was in fact a great work of Epicurean philosophy that proposed the Universe was governed by fortune. Ironically the discovery itself was entirely down to chance. After Roman Pope Gregory XII had abdicated the papal office remained vacant for two years, giving Poggio some leisure time for his pursuit of manuscript hunting.
The unfortunate Bracciolini failed to recognize the true significance of OtNoT, and asked his friend to make a copy. But the Catholic Church certainly did recognize its heresy, indeed they had systematically destroyed copies for centuries. Because OtNoT was a frighteningly compelling justification of atheism that threatened Rome to its very foundations. Self-evidently, had Epicurean philosophy taken hold instead of Christianity, mankind would be free to seek pleasure and the world would have been transformed beyond recognition.
In 1980, during a routine quality assurance review, the IBM PC locks up and engineer David Bradley hits control-alt-delete to force a soft reset.
IBM scraps the Three Fingered SaluteWith Development lead Don Estridge looking horrified by this "three fingered salute", Bradley quickly explains the need for an engineering workaround to protect the power supply and hard drive from the energy surge of a hard reset. Estridge nods wisely in understanding but firmly insists that this amateurish feature is used for internal purposes only, solely during development only and is to be removed from the final BIOS code. "IBM doesn't do Easter Eggs" being his final words on the subject.
But unfortunately, the locks and software crashes never seem to go away, after all, the programming schedule is incredibly ambitious and as the deadline fast approaches some form of quality compromise become inevitable. To achieve this design goal with some degree of industry standard the team are forced to discretely add a reset pin to the top left side of the keyboard. And as Estridge had anticipated all along, the hardware override feature has the perceptional impact of placing the blame of crashing squarely on the software developers. They in turn are forced to confront this and dramatically improve the quality of their programming code such that the hardware reset is hardly ever necessary for the end-user.
It is 1967, and Elvis Presley marries June Carter, a two-time divorcee six years his senior. An article from our Happy Endings thread devised by Jackie Rose.
Happy Endings 32:
A Royal Wedding in Memphis, TennesseeBoth Southern musicians had been managed by Colonel Tom Parker and were distantly related, nevertheless their union was anything but inevitable. "Elvis got a crush on whoever was handy. I decided I wouldn't touch him with a 10-foot pole. Lord only knows where he'd been. I think that was a big shock to his ego".
However by the mid nineteen sixties there were at dead ends and unknowingly both moving along the same arc of fate. Even if the King was marrying a divorcee, there was no abdication crisis to worry about. Carter had actually been divorced twice and pursued by even more troubled individuals such as the slim, moody wildcat Johnny Cash who was addicted to drugs. Elvis on the other hand was simply trapped in a flow of formulaic movies and assembly-line soundtracks. It was suggested by Parker that Elvis might benefit from a duet singing Southern belle, and when he heard June's surprisingly rough voice he was instantly sold on the idea of a new direction. Somehow they reached out and found each other (personally and professionally), and the rest is as they say alternate history.
In 1399, Henry Bolingbroke is captured and executed by supporters of the true English king, Richard II (pictured), as he attempts to usurp the throne.
The Usurper Henry Bolingbroke is executedAlthough Richard was often perceived as a weak and indecisive king, he was still the one true king, and Bolingbroke had little popular support.
With this rebellion dealt with, Richard II reigned without incident until his death in 1415. He left behind a young son, Richard III, who was 12 when he assumed the throne from his father. He was a virtual puppet for his grandfather, Charles VI of France, until his 18th birthday, when his mother convinced him that the English deserved a king who was his own man. Queen Mother Isabella had detested her father ever since he had given her to Richard II as a bride when she was a mere 7 years old, and had come to love the country in which she had spent almost all of her life. It was rumored that she sang a happy little song when King Charles died in 1422, but it is certain that she advised King Richard to press his claim on the French throne, which he did with little opposition, since France was in great disarray after Charles' death. Richard III proved to be nothing like his father, owing to his mother's strength as an advisor, and ruled for 65 years, expanding English dominion over half of Europe.
In 489 AD, on this day the insidious threat from Ostrogoths under King Theodoric the Great was finally extinguished by the forces of Flavius Odoacer at Verona in Northern Italy.
Ostrogoths defeated at VeronaTo depose the last emperor of the Western Roman Empire (Romulus Augustulus) Odoacer had successfully led a revolt of Herulians, Rugians, and Scirians soldiers.
But his chief adversary was the Ostrogoth known as Theodoric the Great who invaded Italy, captured almost the entire peninsula and forced Odoacer to take refuge in the capital city of Ravenna. When the city surrendered Theodoric invited Odoacer to a banquet of reconciliation intending to kill him1. But he had already escaped, and immediately set about reassembling an army to reconquer Italy. The successor state that he managed to build was absorbed into the Justinian Restoration half a century later.
In 1859, on this day Abraham Lincoln the President of the Pacific Rail Road (RR)Company delivered the memorable "Milwaukee Speech" at the Wisconsin State Fair.
An article from the Jefferson Unbound thread.
Lincoln Unbound - the Milwaukee Speech
by Ed & Scott PalterAlthough he had retired from politics after his unsuccessful race for the Senate, he had lost none of the eloquence that he had used to challenge his opponent Stephen Douglas. In fact, removed from the maelstrom of mid-West politics he was at liberty to speak with a level of candor that none had heard before in Illinois.
Of course the transcontinental railroad had been a bargaining chip of the 1850 compromise . And Lincoln had risen to the position of Chief Attorney (although he might have resigned had he beaten Douglas). In defeat he had received the consolation prize of the President of the RR company. Inevitably, he quickly became a FreeSoiler and supporter of the Homestead Act concept
because the Federal Government had given a bounty to finance construction consisting of land along the railroad route that the RR could sell as a profit.
In 1938, on this day, Diplomatic Talks Imploded at Munich.
Talks Implode at MunichAfter the successful Anschluss in April of 1938 where Austria "linked-up" with Germany, Hitler began making pushes further eastward. He ordered Konrad Henlein, leader of the Nazi Party's extension into Czechoslovakia, the Sudeten German Party, to begin rabble-rousing to create a facade for seizing the next area on his list. President of Czechoslovakia Edvard Beneš refused to roll over and began mobilization of his country for war. Hitler reacted by ordering his generals to accelerate war-preparations for an invasion no later than October 1.
France and the United Kingdom, meanwhile, were increasingly wary of Hitler. French Prime Minister Édouard Daladier felt Hitler wanted "a domination of the Continent in comparison with which the ambitions of Napoleon were feeble". He describe Hitler's policy of expansion, "Today it is the turn of Czechoslovakia. Tomorrow it will be the turn of Poland and Romania. When Germany has obtained the oil and wheat it needs, she will turn on the West. Certainly we must multiply our efforts to avoid war. But that will not be obtained unless Great Britain and France stick together, intervening in Prague for new concessions but declaring at the same time that they will safeguard the independence of Czechoslovakia. If, on the contrary, the Western Powers capitulate again they will only precipitate the war they wish to avoid".
On September 15, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain flew to Hitler's home for a private meeting. Hitler quickly became antagonistic, accusing Chamberlain of threats. Chamberlain, in exasperation, asked, "Why did I come over here to waste my time?" The three-hour negotiations accomplished nothing more than proving Hitler's firm stance that the Sudetenland have self-determination (which, coincidentally, would join it to Germany).
Shortly after Chamberlain returned to London, Daladier met with the British government to create an allied plan. They eventually decided Hitler was right on the point of self-determination, granting him the lands where ethnic Germans were above 50% of the population, but also promising to secure independence for the rest of the state. Czechoslovakia initially refused but at last agreed. Hitler, however, only added new demands upon his first being met. He announced that he would invade September 28.
Beneš began preparations for war using Czechoslovakia's extensive modern frontier defenses. The Soviet Union vowed to join in support, but Beneš wanted, and needed, the West. At last Daladier began to press for a firm stand and prompted Chamberlain (whose policies of peace were clearly breaking down) to hand over the reins of diplomacy on the Sudetenland issue. In a last-ditch effort to save Europe from another war, the leaders met at Munich for talks that eventually turned into yelling matches as the suddenly aggressive Daladier backed by a resolute Chamberlain refused to be pushed by Hitler's "childishness". Daladier and Chamberlain returned to their home countries and spoke of the failure of diplomacy.
On October 2, Hitler's forces began to move into the Sudetenland, beginning World War II. The Germans became embroiled with the Czechoslovakians, and plans to invade France and the Low Countries were postponed. Poland attempted neutrality but was soon strong-armed by the Franco-Polish and Anglo-Polish alliances established in 1921 as well as a new eastern alliance led by the USSR, already substantially mobilized in preparation for the Winter War with Finland. Hitler quickly declared war on Poland, and Soviet and German armies met in the divided country. There, the Germans turned the Soviets (who were still recovering from Stalin's Great Purge of officers in 1937) and began an invasion of Russia itself. The sheer numbers of Soviet troops and the will of the people eventually stalled the German invasion through Stalin's government-in-exile in Siberia.
Meanwhile, the West was given some respite to mobilize their countries and contain Germany and its Italian allies. The Second World War proved brutal, but one could only imagine what Hitler would have done with another year's worth of preparation. By the end, the expeditionary forces of Britain and France successfully invaded Germany from the west, and the rebuilding of Eastern Europe began in 1944.
This story is continued by Ed in October 3rd, 1938 - Talks Restarted at Munich.
In 1938, in the early hours of this ill-fated day Arnold Hiller (pictured), Franz von Papen, Benito Mussolini and Édouard Daladier respectively the heads of government for the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and France, signed the quadripartite Munich Agreement which permitted the British annexation of French colonies in Africa and the Middle East.
The Right Honourable Arnold Hiller, M.P
A teaser by Ed & Chris OakleyDespite their public declaration of "peace in our time" there was precious little doubt that the four European powers were on the road to war. But in Hiller's case, he couldn't wait for it to start.
He exclaimed furiously soon after the meeting "Gentlemen, this has been my first international conference and I can assure you that it will be my last". Hiller now regarded Daladier with utter contempt. A British diplomat in Berlin was informed by reliable sources that Hiller viewed Daladier as "an impertinent busybody who spoke the ridiculous jargon of an outmoded democracy. The umbrella, which to the ordinary Frenchman was the symbol of peace, was in Hiller's view only a subject of derision". Also, Hiller had been heard saying: "If ever that silly old man comes interfering here again with his umbrella, I'll kick him downstairs and jump on his stomach in front of the photographers". In one of his public speeches after Munich, Hiller declared: "Thank God we no longer have umbrella politicians in this country".
Of course many public figures were utterly dismayed by the hostility between the two former allies. However, the prestige of the French State had sharply diminished since 1918, and the philosophy of appeasement had taken deep roots. One individual who might perhaps have stood up to Hiller was Edward VIII, King of England. However he had been outmanoerved during the Abdication Crisis, and for the last two years Hiller had enjoyed unrestricted freedom of action as combined Head of Government and Head of State.
You can read read the latest part of Chris Oakley's timeline at The Right Honourable Arnold Hiller MP at Changing the Times Magazine.
In 1962, following the tragic death of iconic white journalist Walter Cronkite, the right-wing "gotcha" media began to decisively turn against the Civil Rights Movement.
Gone Crackers 1 Civil Rights Movement enters Stormy Waters after the loss of an anchorEven though the Movement itself was governed by peaceful principles, the reaction clearly was not; a series of violent escalations began to rip the fabric of society apart. And the campus struggle at the previously segregated University of Mississippi had brought a frightening new development, a direct confrontation between Federal and State Level troopers.
When Cronkite was shot in the cross-fire while reporting the controversial admission of an African American student James Meredith, the media elite had concluded that the country was now on the verge of Civil War. Thereafter all major news channels began to sharply criticize the actions of the Movement and its leaders. Then two weeks later, some even more devastating photographic images were taken.
In 1800, vindicated by a principled yet desperately unpopular "do nothing" decision that had destroyed his own re-election prospects John Adams seized the opportunity to call for a Constitutional Amendment that would restrict the office of the US Presidency to just a single term.
American Hero 2
Ed, Eric Lipps, Robbie Taylor & Scott PalterThe occasion was Adams' finest moment of statesmanship, the signing of the Treaty of Mortefontaine which concluded a "quasi-war" waged by the United States and France primarily in the Caribbean.
Under huge pressure to seek a declaration of outright war from the Congress, Adams remained true to the principles of Washington's Farewell Address which called for his successors to avoid American involvement in conflicts with the European powers. Both the first and second Presidents shared the view that real patriots ignored popular opinion and resisted the influence of friendly nations to seek what was best for their own country
The address also warned of the broader dangers of sectionalism, a concept utterly alien to both Founding Fathers who believed that statesmen should act in the broader interests of the Republic rather than in accordance with the narrow agenda of party.
The Treaty signing might have come too late for Adams to win in 1800 yet with the full support of his predecessor, Adams took a bold step that might remove future Presidents from the short term pressures to act unwisely that either party or public opinion could bring to bear. So he crafted his own farewell address, drawing upon the experience of the quasi-war to justify a single term, six year term limit that would keep future Presidents honest. However he made a critical error by failing to address the issue of succession for a future President who died in office. Or how to avoid Congress pursuing a deselection policy with the blunt instrument of impeachment.
Worse was to follow. Because unfortunately for Washington and Adams, opposition forces (principally Jefferson and Madison) sought to take the proposal off the table by recommending even more comprehensive changes. Their counter-proposal was a Roman style political succession which would require politicans to progress from State Legislatures through to Capitol Hill prior to running for the highest office. The implication of such a change was obvious. A barbed weapon aimed at Adams himself, because such a proposal would rule out dynastic succession, almost certainly preventing his ambitious son John Quincy Adams from ever running for President in the future.
In 1938, as Austin Rover Chief Neville Chamberlain signed the Munich Agreement, the Birmingham Industrialist predicted that it was "peace in our time" between the warring car manufacturers who had travelled to Baveria to seal the historic deal.
Car WarsThe cause of the dispute was a nasty piece of industrial espionage committed by the deranged former Reichkanzer Adolf Hitler who dreamt of blond-haired Aryan families motoring stylishly down autobahns to a worker's package holiday in the Alps. During his leadership of a short-lived minority government in early 1933, Hitler travelled to the Tatra Factory in Czechoslavakia where he was presented with a Tatra V570 prototype (pictured) by the Austrian engineer Hans Ledwinka. Suitably impressed, the Slavic origin of the design did not cause any unsurmountable intellectual obstacles to the Reichkanzer hurriedly passing the design onto Porsche who back-engineered the Volkswagen "Beetle".
By the time that Franz Papen succeeded Hitler a few weeks later, Nissan had also stolen a key design from Austin Rover. And so by the late 1930s, the car manufacturers were at each other's throats.
Fortunately, Chamberlain was able to secure broad agreement for an International Car Manufacturers Trade Association popularly known as the "Axis Alliance". The Czechs experienced explosive expansion and growth after Munich, overwhelming Volvo during the early 1940s. And rivalry was limited to motor racing as exemplified by Hans Ulrich-Rudel1 the lead driver of the Porsche Team which won the inaugural Formular One competition in 1950.
In 1955, on this day the actor James Dean narrowly survived a car crash.
James Dean Narrowly Survives Crash Born February 8, 1931, James Dean grew to become America's favorite Bad Boy of the 1950s and '60s. A popular, though mediocre, high school student, he left his aunt's farm in Indiana where he had been sent to live after his mother's death of cancer and moved to California. He first enrolled at Santa Monica College in pre-law, then transferred to UCLA to study drama. Acting would hold him the rest of his life.
He beat out hundreds of other actors to play Malcolm in Macbeth, which spurred him to drop of out college and act full time. After a few commercials and walk-on roles in Hollywood, he moved to New York where he came into method acting at the Actors Studio. He worked in television and theater, which led to his return to Hollywood for the role of Cal Trask in East of Eden. The film would be a tremendous success, which was only to be overshadowed by Rebel Without a Cause. 1956 would give Dean another break-out role in Giant, which would win him an Academy Award with his willingness to portray Jett the oil tycoon as older with gray, receding hair.
During the filming of Giant, Dean would experience what he called "one of the spookiest things" in his life. In addition to acting, he had become a great racing enthusiast. He traded for a 550 Porsche Spyder, one of only ninety made, which was nicknamed "Little Bastard". Customized by George Barris of Batmobile fame, the car had tartan seating, striped wheelwells, and its name painted on its sleek silver. He was so proud of the car that he showed it off to Alec Guinness immediately upon meeting the great actor. Guinness said that a "strange thing" came over him with an "almost different voice" telling Dean, "'If you get in that car, you will be found dead in it by this time next week".
Dean had never been one for taking advice from his elders (such as the rift in his relationship with his father when he had given up the idea of law school), but Guinness's words seemed to sink in. The next week he was headed to Salinas, CA, for a sports car race. At the last moment, he decided that he ought to drive the brand-new car to familiarize himself with it rather that put it in a trailer. Just before getting into the car, he thought of Guinness and decided against it. Near Cholame, a Ford Tudor took a fork at speed and buzzed directly in front of the truck pulling the trailer, nearly throwing them off the road. Dean imagined that if he had been driving, he would have been in the Ford's path, and Guinness's words would have come true.
While at the race, Dean sold the Spyder, saying he didn't believe in curses but that he'd "rather not risk it". Later in his life, Dean would become an enthusiast for racing as well as car safety. While against Nixon's lowering of speed limits on interstate highways, Dean was a great component for safety belt laws and innovations in airbags and retardant foams. He is famous for his public service announcement repeating his ad-libbed line, "The life you might save might be mine".
Dean would act in 44 movies over his illustrious career. He would be known for his roles in The Magnificent Seven, Cool Hand Luke, Hang 'em High, and, perhaps most famously, Easy Rider. Other films would pit him against Marlon Brando, another famous bad boy, with him gaining the role of militaristic Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, but losing out for Jor-El, Superman's father, though Dean would return as General Zod for the sequel. His final role would be as the aged Ed Bloom in Tim Burton's Big Fish, which critics said gave an extra layer of distrust to the father's tales, further darkening the film.
In 2006, at age 75, Dean repurchased his Porsche 550 and took it for a drive. It was found by a patrolman on an early morning at a scenic overpass with Dean inside. The actor had died of a stroke but reportedly had a smile on his face.
In 1955, actor James Dean was badly injured in an automobile accident, one day after finishing work on the film Giant. After months of convalescence, he returned to work as an actor.
Giant by Eric LippsThroughout the late 1950s and the 1960s, Dean, who had earned fame portraying moody, rebellious young men in such films as Rebel Without a Cause, gradually broadened his range. One of his more notable roles would be as the lovestruck cowboy in Marilyn Monroe's final film, Bus Stop, in 1962.
In the 1970s he would move into directing, specializing in social-commentary films, with an occasional foray into other genres. He would continue to act occasionally, however, last appearing opposite Harrison Ford as the corrupt archaeologist Belloq in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. In 1984 he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He died January 11, 1986.
In 2016, on this day the International Olympic Committee (IOC) issued a preliminary report on the Games of the XXXI Olympiad.
XXXI Olympiad Part 1: The ReportLaunched in a fanfare of unparalled excitement, the opening event was a Basketball exhibition match featuring US President Barack Obama. But only two weeks later, the event were hastily moved to Rio De Janeiro. That decision required a explanation [to be continued] ..
In 1938, on this day the architect of appeasement, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returned from the Munich Conference where he had negotiated a carthaginian peace with the megalomaniac monster he respectfully called "Mr Hitler". From the first floor window at 10 Downing Street, Chamberlain acknowledged the crowd which had gathered outside, declaring, "My good friends, this is the second time in our history there has come back from Germany to Downing Street peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time".
Countdown to War Part 1: Peace in Our TimeWinston Churchill condemned the Munich Agreement as a "total and unmitigated defeat", stating that "You [Chamberlain] were given the choice between war and dishonour. You chose dishonour, and you will have war". When Churchill died later that year, the case for war would be taken up by Conservative backbencher Leo Amery, who would now Speak for England.
After Chamberlain's death, his successor Prime Minister Halifax would ensure that argument would be lost in the "mother of all parliaments"; whilst war did not follow - at least for the British - there was plenty more dishonour. Because in the so-called Third Munich Agreement1 hammered out at Yalta in February 1945, Polish land east of the Curzon Line was passed to Russia. Mr Hitler had established the principle of "Might makes right" in foreign policy and perhaps after all Britain's new-found "Splendid Isolation" was no bad thing. Because the Churchillian sense of honour was surely an anacronyism in the New World Order that had emerged from the collapse of the British Empire.
In 5760, of the Jewish Mundane Era, Palestine-Israel Republic (PIR) ambassador to the UN Mahmoud Abbas was hastily recalled to Jerusalem for a debriefing on the previous day's events at the Temple Mount (continued from Part One). Eternal City Part 2 - Abbas Recalled
That same day Syria's national parliament passed a resolution condemning the actions of PIR security forces in reaction to the September 29th demonstrations in Jerusalem.
On this day in 1968, retired general William Westmoreland met with Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon at Nixon's California home; the meeting was arranged by a mutual friend who had recommended Westmoreland to Nixon as a potential future Secretary of Defense.
As it turned out, however, Westmoreland would join the Nixon Administration in a much different capacity -- he would serve as White House chief of staff for most of Nixon's first time as President of the United States.
On this day in 1973, Roger Staubach suffered his first defeat as a starting quarterback as the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Dallas Cowboys in overtime 41-38.
On this day in 1999, Tom Brady finished his rookie season with the Lowell Spinners with a 4-1 win.
On this day in 1941, US naval intelligence officials advised President Franklin Roosevelt that they had obtained credible evidence the Imperial Japanese Navy was planning an attack on the US Pacific Fleet's headquarters at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Roosevelt found this hard to accept until US Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Ernest J. King told him that evidence had also been found the IJN had developed a torpedo capable of operating in Pearl Harbor's shallow depths.
|Franklin D. Roosevelt|
On this day in 2010 the CSI spinoff CSI:Miami began its eighth and last season on CBS. One notable cast change for the series was the replacement of David Caruso with former Star Trek: Enterprise lead Scott Bakula as new Miami-Dade crime lab team leader Lt. Zach Brinker.
In 1962, Attorney General Robert Kennedy reaches a deal with Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett to allow James Meredith to register at the University of Mississippi. Meredith is escorted onto the campus under the protection of federal prison guards, deputy federal marshals and U.S. border patrol agents. Those precautions prove justified when a mob of more than 2,000 people converges on the campus and attacks those standing guard with guns, bricks, Molotov cocktails and bottles. Federal troops are called in and use tear gas on the mob, forcing it to retreat. Two people die and nearly two hundred are injured, including 28 federal marshals who have been shot. This is only the beginning.
In 1810, word of attacks on Boston, Philadelphia, Norfolk, and Charleston by Napoleon's fleet reaches London, and it is realized that France's naval strength is far greater than had been assumed; had the ships dispatched to attack the American colonies been added to those attacking England in the Aug. 4 Battle of the Channel, in which the British Navy held off a massive French assault, the outcome quite likely would have been different. A panicky King George III realizes the war with Napoleon is likely to be a long one.
In council with his ministers, the King asks how much help in the way of arms manufacture London can count on from America. He is told bluntly that even leaving aside the damage done by the French attacks, he can expect little such aid because of the Crown's deliberate policy, extending back decades, of discouraging industrial development in the American colonies except for shipping, in order to preserve America as a source of raw materials for British industry and a captive market for British manufactures.
In 1914, Stanley Baldwin invites the French ambassador in Rome to the talks in 'the Milano Telegram'. 'There might be a chance of survival for the French nation. Report in Milan!'
In 1934, future Israeli Prime Minister Elie Wiesel is born in Romania. Like many of Israel's first leaders, he survived the Holocaust but lost dozens of family members, including his parents. He made his own way to Israel, where he became a staunch Likudnik, taking a hard line against all of Israel's enemies in his years as Prime Minister in the late 70's.
In 1399, Henry Bolingbroke attempts to ascend to the English throne after King Richard II abdicates, but the majority of the nobles refuse to recognize him. Civil war breaks out across the land, and Henry is forced to release former King Richard from prison and reinstate him in order to calm the country.
In 1960, the first animated series to appear in prime-time, The Flagstones, appeared on this evening on ABC. The show about cavemen leading surprisingly modern lives among dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures was a ratings hit for the network, even if the critics detested it. It lasted 9 seasons and gave birth to a generation of American animation.
In 1935, George Gershwin's great light opera about the plight of working African-Americans under capitalism premiered in New York City. Porgy and Bess took the American musical scene by storm, and is a staple of light opera companies around the world.
In 1924, Truman Persons was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. A flamboyant homosexual activist, he spearheaded homosexual rights movements in the 50's and 60's, famously declaring, 'I refuse to be labeled a criminal because of who I love.' Persons was lynched by Ku Klux Klansmen in 1968 after he had begun speaking out for the rights of African-Americans throughout the south.
In 856, the newly-invented printing presses of Baghdad produce the first machine-made copies of the Koran. The faithful need no longer puzzle out mistakes of handwriting; all versions of the holiest book of Islam are invariant from this point on.
In 1207, Mawlana Jalaluddin Rumi's - better known as Rumi - was born on this day in Balkh in Central Asia, now part of Afghanistan. For many years now, the 13th-century mystical Muslim scholar has been the most popular poet in America Translations of Rumi's verse are hugely popular and have been used by Western pop stars such as Madonna. They are attracted by his tributes to the power of love and his belief in the spiritual use of music and dancing - although scholars stress that he is talking about spiritual love between people and God, not earthly love. Rumi, whose 800th birth anniversary falls on Sunday, will be present at Madonna's concent, appealing for a peaceful solution to the conflict in Afghanistan.
In 1938, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland awoke screaming from the most appalling nightmare of his entire life. In the dream, he had been giving Hitler Czechoslovakia on a dish. The inscription in the flag: 'On towards the East!'. Chamberlain realised it was a strategic error to exclude Stalin from the talks. He acted upon this insight and the result was the Eden-Molotov Agreement in 1940, which effectively terminated Germany militarism on the continent of Europe.
In 415 AD, fleeing for her life in her chariot, the brilliant mathematician Hypatia escaped the clutches of an angry mob of Christian fanatics gathered on the steps of a church called the Caesarium in the Egyptian City of Alexandria.
Hypatia escapes the angry mobHer sponsor the Roman Prefect Orestes had recently been the victim of a similarly deadly assault. He finally decided that the time had come to move against Cyril the young bishop of Alexandria. He wrote a damning letter to the emperor Theodosius II, telling him of the events. As laid out, they charged the Catholic Church with a systematic, religious suppression of applied science.
Meanwhile Bishop Cyril provided his own report drawing the Emperor's attention to Orestes' refusal to accept his offer of a Bible. This was a bad mistake because the Emperor recognized the blatant attempt to exert the primacy of religious authority. His own investigations determined that although Orestes and Hypatia were indeed pagans, it was their intellectual florescence that posed such a threat to the Catholic Church. And that suppression in turn threatened the very future of the Empire that desperately needed technological development in order to survive.
Naturally, Theodosius II chose the Empire and within decades, mankind understood the relations of the planets to the Sun and much else besides. Alexandria would become the scientific hub of a reinvigorated Roman Empire and the religion of Christianity would fade into obscurity. Fundamentally, mankind wanted to reach for the Stars, and even if this choice launched a new global atheism, it was ultimately preferable to centuries of darkness worshipping a mysterious God. But this exhilarating future was all due to Hypatia's escape, after all, it was her prominent knowledge on conic sections that led to her breakthrough observation that the Earth revolved around the Sun in an ellipse.
In 1758, on this day the future British Prime Minister was born in a rectory in Burnham Thorpe, Norfolk, England, the sixth of eleven children of the Reverend Edmund Nelson and his wife Catherine.
This post is an article from the Midshipman George Washington thread.
Midshipman George Washington #6bAfter an indifferent career as a sailor Horatio Nelson cut his losses, declaring his intention to resign his Royal Navy commission and stand for Parliament in a letter dated 12th July, 1783 and addressed to his former commanding officer and mentor Captain William Locker.
As the Captain of the Frigate HMS Albemarle, he had led a largely unsuccessful mission to the Caribbean which left him and his crew deeply out of pocket. Nevertheless, he had escaped any form of direct criticism and because his reputation was intact he was able to enter the court entourage of Admiral Samuel Hood. Influenced by the factional politics of the time, he contemplated standing for Parliament as a supporter of William Pitt, and after a few months of frustration, was fortunate to find a safe seat.
Within six months, Pitt the Younger was invited by the King to serve as the First Minister. Although he departed just two years later, he would return and serve continously for seventeen years. This period neatly overlapped two crises of vital strategic interest to the British Government. He would call upon Nelson as an able Minister to meet head-on the dual challenges from North America and France.
In the United Provinces, General Bendict Arnold had refused to relinquish supreme authority. And the Continental Army was refusing to disband until unpaid wages were settled in full by the Continental Congress. The outcome of this standoff was that Arnold not only seized power and ruled as a tyrant, but he turned his troops on the Congress and emulated Cromwell's control of the Long Parliament.
The emergence of this militaristic dictatorship was a shocking development to the intelligentsia in France. Certainly the rising force of Republicanism was sharply checked. And as the future of the Bourbon Family tottered in the balance, the British Government had to make a difficult choice. Ironically, the decision was taken by another charismatic military leader, a young officer by the name of Napoleon Bonaparte; his order to give the Parisian mob a "whiff of grapeshot" settled the matter.
In 1938, on his return from the conference in Munich to Heston Aerodrome, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain waves the paper signed by the so-called "Rimland Powers" of Great Britain, Italy, France and Germany.
The Fall of Comrade Stalin Part 3: Comrade Stalin isolated at MunichThe document contains details of a territory re-alignment that reverses German losses in the Versailles Agreement. But it also contains secret protocol in which the Western victor powers willingly form a comprehensive military alliance with the Nazis.
In Western opinion, Chamberlain's address is chiefly remembered for the confident assertion "Peace in our Time", widely recognized as a clear signal of intent to work together to check Bolshevik expansionism. In Eastern Europe, anger is displaced by cynicism bourne out of the Russian occupation of Lithuania which forced the newly created states to choose sides.
Although all European Politicians agreed that Comrade Stalin was the aggressor, the nations formed by the Versailles Agreement understood the realities much better than Chamberlain; he is quite wrong in his false assertion, because a global war is less than a year away. Rushed forward by the "Munich Betrayal", Comrade Stalin presses ahead with his embryonic military alliance with Japan combining the considerable military capabilities of the so-called Heartland Powers. But for different reasons, it soon becomes clear that through expedience rather than choice, each side has turned away from its natural partner(s) simply to protect itself from invasion. This is a crossover teaser for Chris Oakley's Comrade Hitler thread.
In 1938, on this day at the Munich Conference a settlement was signed permitting Nazi Germany's annexation of Czechoslovakia's areas along the country's borders mainly inhabited by German speakers, for which a new territorial designation "Sudetenland" was coined.
The Fall of Comrade Stalin Part 1: Heartland vs. Rimland Power Blocs formThe settlement (including a large number secret protocols) was officially signed in the early hours of the next day by high representatives of the British, French and Czech Governments. Absent (in matter of fact, actually excluded) from the Conference was representatives of the Soviet Union. Because Comrade Stalin was fully aware that the Western victor powers had willingly formed a comprehensive military alliance with the Nazis.
Under other circumstances, Anglo-French public opinion would have been firmly against such a deal. However the belligerent acts of Communist Russia and Imperial Japan had convinced the Governments in London and Paris that the greater threat was on their periphery, and they desperately needed Herr Hitler to maintain a semblance of global hegemony. And the Eastern European countries that had been formed out of Versailles, they had been forced to choose sides by the relentlessness of Bolshevik expansionism. Some had already opted to join the Russians and Japanese in an unlikely, anti-colonial alliance of the so-called "Heartland Powers". Others had joined Britain and France in the so-called "Rimland Powers". And so the World was gripped in this undeclared "Cold War" with a major conflict between the allied nations of the Heartland and Rimland Powers appearing to be just around the corner.. This is a crossover teaser for Chris Oakley's Comrade Hitler thread.
In 331 B.C., 250,000 Persian troops fought 40,000 Greeks under Alexander. Darius III had 40,000 horsemen in his cavalry alone. Through strategic positioning, Alexander went straight for Darius and forced him to flee with his troops following him now leaderless. The odds of victory were slim and yet it happened.
Darius wins the Battle of GaugamelaThe two-hundred year old Persian powerhouse does not fall and come to an end but would continue for many more years. Babylon wouldn't be pillaged over the next hundred years and perhaps the country is maintained through one ruthless leader after another up until the time of the Romans. Alexander, Son of Phillip, never becomes "Great" and his Macedonian empire crumbles under the existing weight of his father's debts.
Although many will say that Alexander's life was all for naught anyways due to an early death, it is hard to ignore the accomplishments of his life. Persia was the worlds superpower which had a larger army than any other county and outnumbered Alexander's army five to one.
A new story by Brian PeotterThe effect of Alexander's reign on the ancient world was a hurricane mixed with a tornado mixed with a wildfire. His legacy was studied by Hannibal, Scipipo Africanas, and countless other famous generals all the way to today's West Point graduates. Generals used the battle of Gaugamela as well as others to encourage their men(and themselves) in battles with overwhelming odds against them. The knowledge of this victory might very well have had an effect on other battles through the judgment of other generals.
This is not to mention the fact that the political geography of Greece would have changed the day after news of Gaugamela reached Greece. Athens and Sparta would become the new sources of influence in most of the country as Macedonia fell apart. Perhaps Rome has more trouble conquering Greece in the next century as there would have been more of a gap of time to redevelop a government and army within Greece. Persia too has a different outlook; instead of becoming a land of many kings and city states it might be the Persian empire standing up to the invading Roman army and perhaps Rome could fail to conquer the eastern Mediterranean.
In 1865, on this day Andrew Johnson (pictured) was charged with treason by the special Congressional Assassination Committee specifically formed to investigate him.
Deconstruction, Part 1: The "miserable inebriate Johnson"Born in Raleigh, North Carolina in 1808, Johnson served as first the governor, and then the Senator of Tennessee. That he was the only Southern Senator who refused to join the Confederacy made him uniquely suitable as the 1864 Veep candidate. So much so, that he had convinced Lincoln to exclude the State of Tennessee from the Emancipation Proclaimation. Better qualified, alternative candidates such as Hannibal Hamlin and General Benjamin Butler were casually discarded. Of course Lincoln, had he known his fate, would have preferred a radical Republicans to be a "heartbeat away from the Presidency".
But far from demonstrating that the southern states were still part of the Union, Johnson managed to alienate the whole of the US Government. Because on Inauguration Day, an intoxicated Johnson delivered a slurred speech to Congress. Clearly in a state of high drunkeness, the Veep made a large number of inappropriate comments causing the First Lady to label him the "miserable inebriate Johnson".
In fact, Johnson had needed fortification in order to go through with the whole chirade, perhaps even hoping that at this advanced stage, the conspiracy to kill Lincoln and replace him with a sympathetico might be aborted. And that plan seemed to be working quite well when Johnson was dismissed that very evening. Yet Lincoln had his own reasons for being short-tempered, once elected, he had decided to go "Cold Turkey" on the anti-depressants he had been using for many years. Prior to the Inauguration, the President had in fact been ingesting more than nine thousand times the recommended daily dose of mercury.
But the special Committee did not know Lincoln was a recovering drug addict, simply that they had examined a volume of evidence that placed the drunken Johnson at the head of a conspiratorial plot to kill the President. To be continued..
In 1967, on this day Johnny Cash & June Carter sung "Jackson" at the Ralph Emery Show on WSM radio.
An installment from the Happy Endings thread
Happy Endings Part 26:
Knight in Rusty Armour 2For various reasons their unforgettable duet performance was no accident. The screenplay of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" had inspired lyric writers Billy Edd Wheeler and Jerry Leiber and their song first appeared on The Kingston Trio album "Sunny Side!" released in 1963. But their re-interpretation of Edward Albee's depiction of the breakdown of the marriage of a middle-aged couple was given a sharp new resonance by the Cashes. Beneath the surface was a terrible sadness. Because June had already been married twice, and John once. But unlike the song, the fire hadn't gone out of their marriage, quite the opposite. There was no shortage of passion in their self-described "ring of fire" but June had refused to marry him for a number of reasons. Stung by the social mores of the time relating to children conceived by multiple fathers, and aware of his addiction problems, she repeatedly refused to his offer of marriage. But of course the addition problem disguised deeper issues, he was unloved, and suffering from self-worth. He was in fact trying to kill himself, had written his own death penalty and was dressed for the funeral. His music was an expression of his tormented anguish.
And for John, June's rejection was crushing, it was a terrible sadness that he explored in "If I was a Carpenter". Because after the tragic death of his elder brother in a table saw accident, his father had told him the wrong brother had died (in fact John and his mother had premonitions and had begged Jack not to go to work). He spent much of his adult life wearing black as if attending a funeral, becoming increasingly addicted to drugs. He was repeatedly busted, and developed a deep sympathy for prisoners. But of course Jesus meets everyone at the point of their need, and so it was with the Cashes. Because they were both seeking redemption, and in each other, they found it, marrying on the 1st March 1968. They lived together for thirty-five years, dying months apart. And John fought off his drug addition. In the 1970, they had a child, John Carter Cash. That was their happy ever-after love story, and it would have profound consequences for justice, redemption and humiliation, aspects of the human experience that the Cashes knew all too well. Because if he could be saved, then perhaps he could help others to have a second chance as well.
They toured together at American prisons raising the issue of mistreatment. And then two breakthroughs came. Firstly, the election of Jimmy Carter, a relative of June. This allowed John to progress discussions on prison reform that had begun in 1970 with Richard Nixon (pictured). And his home in Hendersonville, twenty-five minutes north of Nashville was in the Congressional District of Al Gore, Jr. (Gore Snr. was also connected to June from her earlier performances with her legendary family on WSM radio). Three years before their respective deaths, Al Gore, Jr. was elected President, committing himself to a state-by-state program of repeal of the death penalty. Despite the resistance of many, he succeeded. It was the triumph of humanity that he had fought for his whole life, made possible by June who had helped him "Walk the Line". Because as the great man once said, something had been missing in this harsh world, but finally, it had been fulfilled.
In 480 BC, on this day twelve hundred triremes (pictured) of the Achaemenid Navy crushed a naval force a third of the size assembled in the Saronic Gulf near Athens by an Alliance of city-states desperate to defend Greece from a second Persian invasion.
Famous Persian Victory at the Battle of SalamisBut the resulting military conquest was a strategic disaster for the Empire because Greek rebelliousness stymied Persian overlordship. Even before the Battle of Salamis, this outcome was suspected by the struggling adminstrators of the Greek Colonies. Because Persepolis was too far from Greece, and the Persian governance system too loose to exerce effective control over such a distant and hostile geography.
Yet Ionion culture would survive, and eventually re-emerge from the mass revolts of the City States that had been foolishly provoked by the destruction of Athens. But in one sense, Salamis change everything. Supremely overconfident in victory, the Persians set themselves an even loftier ambition: the conquest of India.
In 1453, on this day Pope Nicholas II issued a decree calling for a crusade to recover Constantinople from the Ottoman Turks.
God Wills IT!The fall of the great city (pictured) had forced the Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI Palaiologos to declare with great reluctance "Better the Cardinal's hat turban than the Sultan's turban!" . Following in the foot steps of his equally pragmatic predecessor Michael VIII Palaiologos, he had escaped, and fled to Morea where he temporarily re-seated the Byzantine Empire in the desperate hope of a change of fortunes.
And of course relief could only come one source. Ironically, matters had now turned full circle, because the original flight to Morea had actually been caused by crusader steel when armed Venetians had burned a large part of the city to the ground. It was this event, the Fourth Crusade that had established a Latin Empire, and turned the Byzantines against their fellow Europeans. But even as they fled their city, they created the mini-states in Morea, Nicaea, Trebizond, and Epirus that would ensure Byzantine rule might continue albeit briefly, after the fall of Constantinople.
And so Pope Nicholas II siezed a unique opportunity to heal the great schism in the Eastern Orthodox Church and Roman Catholic Church that had been widened by the Fourth Crusade. Accordingly, he signed the decree "God Wills IT!" and set about gathering support from Spain, France, and the Italian States . However his greatest ally was Frederick III, King of Germany, whom he crowned emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, on the condition that he aid in the pope's new crusade.
By 1916, Yuan Shikai was the chief architect of the New Army that was created in the terminal phase of the Qing Dynasty. Although considered to be a friend of the reformers who sought to establish a constitutional monarchy, he supported the Dowager Empress in her last, unhappily successful effort to stifle reform in the final years of the dynasty.
A New Chinese Dynasty in 1916monarchy, he supported the Dowager Empress in her last, unhappily successful effort to stifle reform in the final years of the dynasty. He was involuntarily retired at the time of her death in 1908. At the time of the Revolution of 1911, however, he was recalled to Peking to save the dynasty. To the surprise of the last Qing officials, however, he supported the insurgents.
The end of the imperial system in 1911 seemed at first to have been accomplished without any major national calamity. At any rate, there were no peasant uprisings or civil war.
A new story by John ReillyThe revolution was sparked by the revolt of a major army garrison; others soon followed suit. The provinces, led by local assemblies, essentially seceded from the central government. The leader of China's modernizing forces, Dr. Sun Yatsen, was briefly made provisional president by a national parliament. However, when the last emperor finally abdicated in 1912 under pressure by Yuan Shikai, Sun deferred to Yuan. Yuan, after all, did have greater governmental experience. He also had the army, at least in North China.
On becoming provisional president, Yuan quickly suppressed the national parliament and the assemblies. The government of the country at the local level was returned to the magistrates. During 1915, he took steps toward establishing a new dynasty. His bid for the throne was mildly favored by the British, but strongly opposed by the Japanese. The attempt to secure Japanese acquiescence was at least one factor in his agreement to most of Japan's very harsh "21 Demands," which severely impinged on Chinese sovereignty. In any case, there were other reasons for staying on the good side of the Japanese at that time. The British were wholly preoccupied by the First World War, so their Japanese allies at least temporarily had a free hand in East Asia. (Besides their Chinese initiatives, the Japanese used the opportunity to pick up Germany's colonial possessions in the region.)
Despite the unfavorable diplomatic situation, Yuan declared himself emperor at the beginning of 1916. It did not work. He could not get foreign support, military or financial, though investors had hitherto regarded him as a good credit risk. He was opposed by his own generals for a variety of reasons, and he had forfeited the support of the nation's reformers. He abandoned the monarchical experiment in March. He died in June, reportedly of natural causes.
Yuan was probably not the man to found a new dynasty in any case. His career had been made in the crepuscular world of the late Qing. One of the benefits of dynastic change is that it allows for a fresh start in policies and personnel; Yuan offered neither. Let us assume, however, that a more attractive personality had attempted a similar enterprise. Is there any plausible set of historical circumstances under which the New Dynasty could have been established in 1916?
Yuan's most pressing handicap was probably that the advent of the First World War left him to face the Japanese alone. While there is a good argument to be made that a war like the First World War was almost inevitable, there is no particular reason why the war had to start at the time and in the way it did. Worse marksmanship in Sarajevo in 1914 could easily have delayed the start of the World War by a year or more. Even had it started in 1914, a cease-fire might have been declared when the armies deadlocked in the West. For that matter, the war would have been over by 1915 had the Schlieffen Plan worked. A quick defeat for Britain, before it had invested heavily in men and emotions, would not have done the British Empire any immediate harm. Rather the opposite, in fact. One suspects that, like the Russians after their string of defeats in the Balkans and the Far East in the early years of the century, the British would have determined not to lose further ground anywhere in the world. This would have predisposed the British to oppose Japanese policy in China simply for the sake of opposing.
In any case, this was the direction in which British policy had long been evolving. By 1914, British were already dubious about their alliance with Japan and they scrapped it as soon as they decently could after the War. A unified China that needed the protection of the Royal Navy against Japan would not have endangered British interests at Hong Kong and Shanghai, but it would have been a formidable barrier to further Japanese expansion.
Rectifying the international situation, however, solves only the proximate problem. The deeper difficulty that a new dynasty would have faced would have been a crisis of legitimacy. Chinese dynasties made perfect sense in terms of Confucian ideology; they had been the only imaginable form of national government for upwards of two millennia. The Qing had indeed been overthrown in part because they were Manchurian foreigners. However, the movement against them had been informed, not simply by Han nationalism, but by a critique of the Confucian heritage itself.
Throughout Chinese history, successful brigands and ambitious generals had become acceptable as the founders of dynasties by signaling their intention to follow traditional precedents of government and morality. There was almost an established drill to go through, down to the wording of key proclamations. After a period of interdynastic chaos, even a personally horrible candidate who honored the forms could nevertheless get the support of the local gentry and magistrates. They did not have to like a would-be dynastic founder; they simply needed to be assured that government would again become predictable and comprehensible.
It was precisely this cultural consensus that reformers in China had spent the prior 50 years destroying. Though no democrat, Yuan Shikai still falls into this class. His modernized national army, and his use of it as the primary instrument of government, was as un-Confucian as the democratic assemblies favored by Sun Yatsen. There were plenty of tradition-minded people in China still in 1916, even among the literate elites. However, they were not for the most part the people who managed new enterprises or who understood modern administrative techniques. Yuan could not have created a dynasty on the traditional model without bringing the country back to 1800.
On the other hand, even if a traditional monarchy was not possible, it does not follow that no monarchy would have been possible. The 20th century has not lacked for monarchies that justified themselves by simultaneous appeals to tradition and the project of modernization. There was a gaggle of them in the Balkans between the First and Second World Wars, kings of shaky new states who make themselves dictators when parliamentary government stopped working. In practice, these regimes were not much different from the party dictatorships elsewhere in Europe.
The most successful example was not in Europe, but in the Middle East. There, the new Pahlavi Dynasty of Persia (which it taught the world to call "Iran") attempted a program of national modernization comparable to, but milder than, the reconstruction of Turkey undertaken by Kemal Ataturk and his successors. To be a Pahlavi Shah was not quite the same thing as being a Shah in prior Persian history had been. The Pahlavi Shahs had new bases of social support and a novel relationship with the outside world. Still, some of the ancient terminology of government lent a bit of credibility to the letterheads of the new regime. We should remember that it actually lasted quite a long time for a government of ruthless modernizers, until the late 1970s. It is conceivable that a competent candidate could have established an analogous government in China, and so might have become "emperor" in a similarly qualified sense.
So how would a new dynasty have affected Chinese history for the first half of the 20th century? Such speculation may require less imagination than might at first appear. The reality of the New Dynasty would be that, while in some respects traditional in form, the government would actually have been a moderately conservative military dictatorship. We don't have to speculate about what such a regime would have looked like: the Nationalist government provides the model. There would have been two major differences, however.
First, the New Dynasty would have had a far greater measure of legitimacy than the Nationalists ever achieved, even during the brief period before the Japanese invasion when they governed almost the whole country. Legitimacy and hypocrisy are often inversely related. The Nationalist government pretended to be running a republic; it delivered less than it promised. The New Dynasty, on the other hand, would have been pretending to be a Confucian monarchy. All it would have needed to do is govern the country better than did the Qing in the 19th century. This would not have been a tall order.
The biggest advantage, however, would be that a dynasty established around 1916 might have succeeded in preventing the warlord era entirely. This does not require a great leap of faith. After all, before 1916, even Yuan Shikai had shown some ability to put uppity provincial commanders in their place.
There are a few things that we might reasonably assume about our hypothetical New Dynasty. As we have seen, it would probably have had British support. Partly for that reason, it would have had more credibility with international investors than did the Republic. If it also had just enough features of a parliamentary democracy to garner some support among the business class and intellectuals, then it seems likely that a formal monarchy would have been better able to control potential warlords than was the Republic. Deleting the warlord era would not only have spared the country the damage and disorder of that period, it would also have probably spared China Communism.
Chinese Communism as an insurgent movement was able to gain a foothold only because of the breakdown of national authority in the 1920s. It was because the central government was in eclipse that the Communists were able to establish bases in south-central China, and then to escape to Yennan when those bases were attacked. There would still, of course, have been a Communist Party in some form, but the New Dynasty government would not have needed to make common cause with it, as the Nationalists did early in this period. (For a while, foreign observers tended to think of the Nationalist Party as a Communist front.)
If China had not fallen into disunity, one suspects that the Communist Party would have been more urban and less rural than in fact it was. After all, in this scenario the countryside would have been better policed. In all likelihood, its history would have paralleled that of the Japanese Communist Party; frequently suppressed, never destroyed, important primarily as an aggravating factor during episodes of civil unrest.
Would the New Dynasty have performed much better against the Japanese in the `30s and `40s than the Nationalists did? One of the axioms of world history is that military dictatorships have incompetent militaries. They use their armies as police, and cops are not soldiers. Still, it is hard to imagine that the New Dynasty army could have done worse than the Nationalists did. In any case, assuming that a revived Chinese Empire would have been a long-term client of Britain, the Japanese would have had to think twice before making provocative actions south of Manchuria.
The effect of a more coherent China, on the other hand, might have been to sharpen Japan's strategy toward it. The Japanese war against China was a meandering series of campaigns, often without discernible strategic purpose. A Chinese government that actually governed the country would have made a far more valuable target. Japan might have confined their Chinese operations to a single blitzkrieg campaign to compel China to neutrality for the great offensive of 1941, and it might have worked.
And as for the second half of the century? We will assume that the Japanese still lost the war. Despite the havoc the war caused on the Asian mainland, it was always a naval war, and there is no way Japan could have won it without forcing the United States to a negotiated peace in the first few months. Would China then have proceeded more or less directly to full modernization, on the model of Japan? Conceivably, but my own suspicion is that the second fifty years would have been surprisingly like the history of the People's Republic.
The New Dynasty would no doubt have been greatly energized by being among the victors in the war. This would be particularly the case if, as this scenario suggests, the country had been less damaged by the conflict. Doubtless there would have been a decade or so of very rapid growth, and the beginning of real prosperity in some regions. The problem is that a regime of this type does not, in the long run, benefit from improving conditions. As the history of the Pahlavi regime in Iran illustrates, the effect of modernization in an authoritarian context can often be to manufacture an opposition that would not otherwise have existed. At the beginning of such regimes, people are often grateful for the establishment of basic civil order. Later, when economic conditions improve, they are content to look after their private lives. Finally, there will be a self-assured middle class that asks the regime, "What have you done for us lately?" By that point, the chief benefit that the regime could bestow would be to abolish itself. Such situations lead to trouble.
The chronology could have been similar to that which happened in the real world: great disorder in the 1960s, the restoration of social peace in the 1970s, followed by relaxation in the 1980s. The jettisoning of the New Dynasty would probably have been the price of the restoration of order. As happened after the overthrow of the last Shah of Iran, the successor regime would probably have been more "conservative" in some ways. The conservatism, however, would have been of the "social conservative" type. Confucian tradition would have been quite as capable as Shia Islam of generating a critique of modernity. This sort of consideration never troubled the People's Republic much, but then the Communist regime is explicitly dedicated to uprooting Confucianism. The New Dynasty, in contrast, would have been based in part on a show of respect for tradition. In other words, the regime would have had to preserve the standards by which it would eventually be judged and found wanting.
There would, no doubt, have been vast differences from the China of today had an imperial regime of some sort been reestablished after the Qing. Still, the upshot could have been that, after about 1975, China would again have been a republic of sorts. Like India, it would have been a vast country with greatly varying levels of development. Because of a lack of local tradition, it would probably not have been a very democratic republic. Still, it would no doubt have been friendly to private economic initiative, carried out in the context of overall government planning.
There is a fashion in certain history departments to encourage speculation about alternative histories as a way of demonstrating the contingency and unpredictability of history. Fair enough, but I myself have doubts about how much contingency and predictability history actually manifests. No doubt it is true, as the chaos theorists tell us, that the flapping of a butterfly's wings at Peking can cause tornadoes in Kansas a month later. From this, many students of alternative history surmise that similarly tiny changes in the events of the past could create a whole different world farther down the line. The reality is that, while a butterfly may cause tornadoes, it cannot cause an ice age, or prevent winter from turning into spring. There are principles of conservation in history, whereby many different routes can lead to a similar destination. One of the uses of alternative history is to discern what was really inevitable.
In 522 B.C., In the wake of the fall of Babylon, the Persians and Medes rose up in a great empire under Cyrus. His mighty rule stretched from the Indus to the mountainous reaches of central Asia through Babylonia and Arabia to Judea, where it met with the border of the Egyptian kingdom. Cyrus's son Cambyses II decided to add Egypt to the menagerie of the empire.
Bardiya Executes Treasonous Lords His brother Bardiya had been named satrap of provinces in the far east, but Cambyses knew better than to leave a popular heir to the throne while he, the proper emperor, was gone to war. He had Bardiya secretly killed and then set toward Egypt with a powerful army. Even after his brother's death, Cambyses was haunted by dreams of Bardiya on the royal throne and being able to pull back the bow of the Ethiopians while Cambyses could not.
Despite his dreams, Cambyses conquered Egypt thoroughly in 525 BC. He made efforts to invade Kush to the south, but harsh deserts forced his armies to retreat. Later, he launched a failed expedition to punish the Oracle of Amin at the Siwa Oasis in which 50,000 men were buried in a freak sandstorm. His next military advance was planned against Carthage, but his Phoenician allies refused to fight against their brothers.
In 522 BC, word came to Cambyses that Bardiya had returned to Susa. The emperor formed up his army to destroy the usurper, but, according to his spear-carrier Darius, Cambyses was afraid. Victory seemed impossible against a man he had already killed, a crime he finally publicly confessed, though no one seemed to believe him. Cambyses stabbed himself in the thigh with his own sword, making to look like an accident, and died over a week later from gangrene. Darius gathered the army and returned to Susa himself.
Upon arrival in the capital, Darius met with the years-dead Bardiya. It seemed to be him, so much so that even his own wives in his harem said that it was he. The people loved him thanks to the negligent absence of Cambyses in Egypt and Bardiya's three-year celebration of tax remissions. However, as Bardiya had transferred the capital Media, the story began to unravel: Bardiya was actually Gaumata, a Medean magician from the east who had made himself to look like the dead prince. The Persian lord Otanes discovered the truth and gathered a group of his fellows, including Darius, to carry out an assassination.
They planned to catch the impostor by surprise in his castle, but Bardiya was tipped off by his network of spies. His guards caught the assassins, and they were hanged within hours. Bardiya went on to rule for decades more, turning eastward to expand the empire of the Medes deeper into the rich lands of India. In coming decades, there would be squabbles with the Greeks inhabiting Asia Minor, but the Bardiyan line would pacify the locals with shows of military strength, construction projects, and wealth through trade. Many suspected a Persian invasion across the Dardanelles, but the imperial attention went continually east.
In the fourth century BC, the Macedonians would descend upon Achean and conquer their fellow Greeks under Philip II. His son Alexander continued the unification of Greece by turning against the Persians. His invasion would cross like lightning through Asia Minor and into Judea, but the imperial counter-attack at the Siege of Babylon would kill the young conqueror with an army hardened by years of warfare conquering Indian kingdoms. With attention turned westward again, the Persians would reconquer Egypt and bring back their old allies in Phoenicia for a successful invasion of Greece. After putting the Greeks under control, they pressed westward in the Mediterranean, taking the defeated Carthage as a protectorate and conquering the upstart Latins in their village called Rome.
Eventually the Persian Empire would spread from what the Greeks called the Pillars of Hercules (Gibraltar) to the nestled southeastern edge of the Himalayas. Over the centuries, the empire would grow ungainly and weak, falling in the west to German barbarians and disintegrating into nation-states in a vast revolution. While the empire is a shadow of itself as Persia today, its foundations can be seen as Zoroastrianism stands as the principle philosophy of the world. That which is good works for the good in Ahura Mazda, and evil is evil, and to ask "What is good?" or "What is evil?" is a silly game attributed to Greeks.
On this day in 1971, Pope Paul VI and his senior aides evacuated the Vatican in an attempt to preserve the Holy See against the chaos sweeping Italy after China virus outbreaks in Rome and Milan.
On this day in 1954, Giants outfielder Willie Mays made what may have been the greatest catch of his career, grabbing a fly ball over his shoulder to rob Cleveland Indians slugger Vic Wertz of what otherwise would have been a sure home run in the first game of the 1954 World Series.
That catch paved the way for a four-game New York sweep of Cleveland and cemented the reputation of Giants third base coach and former Knights outfielder Roy Hobbs as an outstanding finder of and mentor to up-and-coming talent.
When Hobbs finally retired from his coaching position at the end of the 1965 baseball season, Mays organized the farewell party for "The Natural"; Mays also gave the induction speech at Hobbs' posthumous admission to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989.
In 1829, the 'Scotland Yard' headquarters of the new London Metropolitan Police Force opens for business following passage of the Metropolitan Police act as a result of strong lobbying by Home Secretary Robert Peel.
'The Yard' will open offices in Britain's American colonies over the next several years, gradually assuming many of the functions of the hated Order Police as well as conduction ordinary law enforcement.
In 1991, Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey announces he will seek the Democratic nomination for president in 1992.
In his announcement, he praises the President for his victory in the Gulf, but expresses the view that Kemp's economic program is a 'well-intentioned disaster in the making.'
In 1969, scientist Erika Eleniak was born in Glendale, California. The child of a Ukrainian immigrant who had moved to Hollywood to be an actor, Eleniak was saved from a life of drug abuse in high school by a teacher who showed her that science could give her a better high than any drug. After getting degrees in astronomy and physics, she became well-known as a popularizer of science with her television series, How Do They Do That?.
In 1916, capitalist counter-revolutionary John Rockefeller used his vast, ill-gotten wealth to leave the then-United States of America for the United Kingdom. 'A businessman can no longer thrive in the communist environment of the United States,' Rockefeller said in the press conference announcing his defection. Socialist President Woodrow Wilson denounced Rockefeller's reactionary statement and froze all of Rockefeller's assets still in the U.S.
© Today in Alternate History, 2013-. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.