See What Happened Was...
fun stories from history
China during the 1500’s. Not something Europeans knew much about. Europe during the 1500’s. Not something China knew much about.
Or did they?
The Mongols: Beards. Furry hats. Ponies. Ruthless conquest. Ghengis Khan. The Mongol Empire was huge, the largest contiguous (all stuck together) empire in history. You may know their conquest of China, but you might not know the full extent of their massive empire or the legacy of one of its greatest sons.
After Ghengis Khan died his land was split up and the large chunks were given to his different sons but still united under one of them, Ögedei, who received the title of Great Khan. One of Ghengis’ sons had died, so his land was passed on to a grandson by the name of Batu.
Batu was a pretty competent leader so one day his uncle Ögedei asked him to expand the empire. In 1235 he was assigned an army of 130,000 men and sent on his way. Batu headed west into what we now call Russia but at the time was a collection of principalities collectively only known as Rus.
Let’s start at the beginning. The original Thanksgiving was motivated by three different traditions—the Wampanoag people's practice of offering thanks to the Creator during harvest time, the Europeans’ annual celebration of the harvest, and the Puritan’s belief in religious holidays as a way of acknowledging and thanking God for his provision during difficult times.
Because this kind of celebration was so widely observed across these different people groups it’s not hard to imagine that similar celebrations might have been happening elsewhere—and they were. It is likely that Spanish and other English settlers had their own harvest feasts years before the Mayflower reached North America, but we didn’t know much about these until the 20th century, so it is unlikely that they are the direct ancestors of our beloved food fest.
So, after the first meal with Squanto and Co. how did the tradition become what it is today?
Everyone knows that pirates are super cool. Though if you think about it, they're kind of the worst--what with all the killing and stealing and never showering--but we all love them anyways. What do you picture when you think of pirate? Probably a guy with greasy long black hair and beard, nice floppy hat, clothing an eclectic mixture of grotty pirate sackcloth and classy British tailcoats with some minimalist accessories--single hoop earring, maybe a hook, but only if it's practical. And while this image is not entirely inaccurate and some pirates did look like that, it is not true of all of them. Not all of them had hooks, not all of them wore classy British tailcoats, not all of them had beards--heck, not all of them were even men! But you probably saw that coming given the title of this post.
noun de·fen·es·tra·tion: a throwing of a person or thing out of a window.
Just hold on to that for later, it’ll come in handy.
Some wars are started by greed, others by miscommunication, family squabbles, or religion. Sometimes a mixture of all of these. The Thirty Years War, one of the first major conflicts involving many major powers in Europe, was one of the religious ones.
Oh Franz. Sweet, sweet Franz Ferdinand. Many of you are probably familiar with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand as the spark that started World War I. But if you’re like me, you may not know the details of how the assassination actually went down. Heads up—it wasn’t exactly well executed. But therein lies the fun, so let’s dive in.
You know that thing of where your older brother takes your pizza rolls and you’re super mad at him but also too intimidated to confront him directly so instead you try to take your other brother’s Gameboy hoping that that will make your older brother respect you?
No? Just me? Well, if you can’t relate to that, the Irish-American’s of the 1860’s sure can. It’s time to learn about the Fenian Brotherhood.
The Star Spangled Banner—that great American poem that would become our anthem. We all know the story of Francis Scott Key and his vision of the flag that still waved amidst the smoke of rockets and bombs. We’ve all heard his description of the broad stripes and bright stars, but did you know that you can go and see the actual flag that inspired these lyrics?
The National Museum of American History in Washington DC has that very star spangled banner on display. How did it get there? Why do we not all know about this? Shouldn’t it be proudly waving at the Super Bowl?
Well, here’s what we know.
What makes a pirate?
Who are his parents?
What was his first day of work like?
What does he feed his parrot?
While we may never know the truth for many pirates (cause they weren’t real), we do know a bit about one particular, very special pirate: Sir Francis Drake.
Drake was born between 1540 and 1544 (ok so we don’t know everything about him, there aren’t many written records from that time). Francis was the oldest of twelve sons, which might explain his proclivity for theft. He probably had to steal scraps from his brothers to survive. Edmund, his father, was a farmer for the second earl of Bedford. So, humble beginnings for Francis. I mean, not even the first earl.