Wednesday, 26 November, 2014
Harold Holt was Australia’s seventeenth Prime Minister until he disappeared, presumed drowned, on 17 December 1967, while swimming at Cheviot Beach, south of Melbourne, across Port Phillip Bay. Despite one of the largest ever search operations in Australian history, no sign was ever found of him.
He is but one person on a long list of people who have vanished under mysterious circumstances over the centuries. In some cases it was eventually learned what became of some people, but the fate of many remains unknown.
Australia, crime, history
Thursday, 13 November, 2014
It’s been twenty-five years since the Berlin Wall, the brick and mortar barrier that divided the German city of Berlin into East and West sections, during the height of the Cold War, was torn down. To mark the occasion, In Focus has assembled a collection of photos documenting the wall’s three decade history.
Berlin, history, photography
Monday, 10 November, 2014
Here’s something you may not have known. Even though one hundred years have passed since World War One, or the Great War started, Britain is still paying for its part in the conflict, in the form of repayments on bonds that the then government issued to fund the war effort:
Ten years later, the bonds were refinanced by Winston Churchill into 4% Consolidated Loans. Facing the huge financial strains of the Great Depression, chancellor Neville Chamberlain used patriotism again to convert some of the “4% Consuls” into perpetual bonds, which give the debtor the right to never pay the principal as long as the interest is paid – which he cut to 3.5%. The government has been paying about £136 million a year to holders of the perpetuals and war loans. The government estimates it has paid £1.26 billion in total interest since 1927.
history, war, World War I
Friday, 7 November, 2014
British historian Ian Mortimer, writing for The Guardian, identifies ten of most profound changes of the last one thousand years… listed here from the eleventh century onwards:
- Law and order
- The decline of personal violence
- The scientific revolution
- The French Revolution
- Invention of the future
development, history, innovation
Wednesday, 29 October, 2014
I didn’t see enough of The Wonder Years, a TV series set in the suburbs of a US town during the 1960s and 70s, that ran for six years. Time to track down a DVD box set I think. In the meantime I’m settling for this informative oral history of the show, published by Rolling Stone magazine:
We knew that the success or failure would rest on the shoulders of finding a phenomenal 12-year-old kid. Every casting director we interviewed said, “Whether you hire us or not, you really need to see this kid Fred Savage in Chicago for the role of Kevin.” We flew him out and read him with the other actors – and it was a no-brainer. We had seen some kids who were pretty good, but whether the series would have been anything like what it turned out to be with Fred… I suspect not.
film production, history, TV
Thursday, 23 October, 2014
A touching memorial, surely, to Hubert Rochereau, a French soldier who died in Belgium in April 1918, during the first World War, the room at the house where he grew up has been preserved – just as he left it – by his parents, then later, other owners of his home.
Even though Rochereau’s family sold the house in 1935, the sale agreement specified that his room not be altered in anyway for five hundred years. Although no subsequent owner has any real legal obligation to adhere to this stipulation, the current occupiers of the house seem happy to abide by the request.
The parents of the young officer kept his room exactly as it was the day he left for the battlefront. When they decided to move in 1935, they stipulated in the sale that Rochereau’s room should not be changed for 500 years. “This clause had no legal basis,” said the current owner, retired local official Daniel Fabre, who showed the room to the Nouvelle République newspaper. But nevertheless he and his wife, who inherited the house from her grandparents, have respected the wishes of Rochereau’s parents and will continue to do so.
history, war, World War I
Wednesday, 22 October, 2014
In 1964, Jerrie Mock, a mother of three living in Columbus, Ohio, piloting a single engine Cessna 180 aircraft, became the first woman to fly solo around the world, yet the chances are you’ve not heard of her…
But the last 50 years have produced no Hollywood movie, no legend, and, until recently, not so much as a statue of Mock in her small hometown. Elsewhere in Ohio – the so-called birthplace of aviation – the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton doesn’t include her. Committee members who vote for inductees, according to one who added Mock to the ballot in 2003, don’t recognize her name.
air travel, aviation, history
Tuesday, 21 October, 2014
The justice system’s perception of the seriousness of an offence looks to have changed over the centuries, for instance execution appeared to be an acceptable penalty for petty theft, at least in Britain, in the seventeenth century, according to a study of transcripts of old court cases that were tried at London’s well known criminal court, the Old Bailey.
The records of the Old Bailey, London’s central criminal court, tell the tale of one John Randal, who was tried on Sept. 9, 1674. He was charged “with two Indictments, one for Fellony for stealing several pieces of Plate, and other Goods…, and the other for Murder, Killing his House-Keeper.” That his theft and his murder were described and tried together was natural for a world where the protection of property was a virtue at least on par with the promotion of human happiness. Nearly a hundred years later, in 1769, William Blackstone argued that it is quite reasonable to execute someone convicted of stealing “a handkerchief, or other trifle, privately from one’s person,” even though other crimes that involve goods of higher value are punished less severely.
crime, history, law
Tuesday, 14 October, 2014
The arrival of what is effectively a smartphone you wear on your wrist, in watch style, caused a splash a month or so ago, but how about the codex rotundus, a circle shaped book, about nine centimetres across, that almost looks like it could be worn as a watch, as wearable technology.
And dating from the late fifteenth century, on top of that. How old hat does this make that smartwatch look then?
books, history, technology
Friday, 10 October, 2014
The 1883 volcanic eruption on the Indonesian island of Krakatoa didn’t just wreak havoc in its more immediate vicinity, the sound of the tremendous explosion circled the world for four days, or at least its ever decreasing remnant, that became too quiet to be heard by people, did:
Closer to Krakatoa, the sound was well over this limit, producing a blast of high pressure air so powerful that it ruptured the eardrums of sailors 40 miles away. As this sound travelled thousands of miles, reaching Australia and the Indian Ocean, the wiggles in pressure started to die down, sounding more like a distant gunshot. Over 3,000 miles into its journey, the wave of pressure grew too quiet for human ears to hear, but it continued to sweep onward, reverberating for days across the globe. The atmosphere was ringing like a bell, imperceptible to us but detectable by our instruments.
geology, history, nature, volcanoes