February 15, 2018

DicKtionary – D is for Dollars – Hetty Green

Filed under: Business, History, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

Published on 14 Feb 2018

D is for dollars, 100 to the penny,
Some have but few, others have many,
Some hoard them too – the frugal and mean,
And none was more frugal than one Hetty Green.

Hosted and Written by: Indy Neidell
Based on a concept by Astrid Deinhard and Indy Neidell
Produced by: Spartacus Olsson
Executive Producers: Bodo Rittenauer, Astrid Deinhard, Indy Neidell, Spartacus Olsson
Edited by: Bastian Beißwenger

A TimeGhost format produced by OnLion Entertainment GmbH

The rise of the bourgeoisie

Filed under: Economics, Europe, History — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Ed West on the beginning of the end of military aristocracy in Europe and the rise of the merchant class:

The medieval system began with the Franks, whose mastery of cavalry made them the most powerful tribe in the former western empire. Later, the Normans used horses in far larger numbers and developed the cavalry charge, used to lethal effect at the Battle of Hastings. Cavalry underpinned the European social order because only those with a reasonable amount of land could afford the destrier warhorse, which cost 30 times as much as a regular farm animal and could carry up to 300lbs in weight, including 50lbs of iron armor — itself very costly.

The sons of the aristocracy were mostly schooled in warfare from a young age and despised learning and trade, which were viewed as dishonorable, leading to an excess of landless younger sons whose only skill was fighting, many of whom found their way to wars, or caused them, or made a living at absurdly dangerous tournaments. Cavalry developed certain rules — chivalry, which primarily concerned the treatment of aristocratic prisoners — as well as an idealization of the aristocratic warrior through the stories of Arthur, Lancelot, and Roland that singers recited at the courts of dukes and counts.

This order was first shaken in 1302 when France’s cavalry confidently marched north to suppress a revolt by the Flemish. Flanders is not naturally rich in resources — Vlaanderen means flooded — but its people had turned swamps into sheep pastures and towns, building a cloth industry that made it the wealthiest part of Europe, its GDP per capita 20 percent greater than France and 25 percent better than England. The wealth of Flanders’ merchants was such that when Queen Joan of France visited, she afterward wrote in horror that: “I thought I would be the only queen there, but I find myself surrounded by 600 other queens.”

The Flemish were traders, not knights, which is why the French were sure of victory. And yet, with enough money to pay for a large, well-drilled infantry, they were able, for the first time, to destroy the cavalry at the Battle of the Golden Spurs. It was the beginning of the end. No longer could the aristocracy simply push around the bourgeoisie, and as the latter grew in strength, it undermined the violence-obsessed culture of the nobility.


The aristocratic class that wished for glory in battle was in retreat, and yet, despite this, won the narrative. While in exile in Burgundy, King Edward had met a London merchant by the name of William Caxton who in his spare time transcribed books for aristocratic women. Exhausted at the toll of work, he learned through business contacts of a new technology in Germany, called movable type; when Caxton brought a printing press back home one of the most successful books he published was Thomas Malory’s The Death of Arthur.

It became the influential work in celebrating the Heroic Narrative of the Middle Ages, but the aristocratic ideals it harked back to were mostly a sham and ultimately rested on the rusty sword (and Malory was a convicted rapist). No account of any trader or banker could ever compete with these knights’ tales, of course, and yet you could argue that they were the real heroes who shaped our world.

February 14, 2018

Russian Pistols of World War 1 I THE GREAT WAR Special feat. C&Rsenal

Filed under: History, Military, Russia, WW1 — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

The Great War
Published on 13 Feb 2018

Watch C&Rsenal: http://youtube.com/candrsenal

Indy talks to our weapons expert Othais about the Russian Pistols of World War 1.

Viral mapping by Sasha Trubetskoy

Filed under: Australia, Cancon, History, Media — Tags: — Nicholas @ 03:00

Have you seen this map by Sasha Trubetskoy?

Click to embiggen.

It wasn’t the first time one of his maps went viral, but it provided him a key insight into getting his maps in front of a large number of people:

I learned from Reddit that if a Canadian sees something that mentions Canada, they will upvote out of solidarity. You can game that. So I made a map of every Canadian province, if every Canadian province proposal had succeeded. Not many people know Jamaica was going to be part of Canada. That map got me on Huffington Post Canada.

I was like, Canada worked, let’s try Australia. Same idea, every Australian state proposal. That worked too.

A very popular recurring theme in viral maps is a fictional subway network of some sort. I can see why people like that. It’s cute, it’s bright colors, everything’s nice and organized, it’s fun to look at.

Somehow I stumbled upon the idea of representing the ancient Roman road network. I tried to make it look like a modern publication that the actual Roman Empire would have, like little leaflets at the train station. The map is in Latin. I don’t know Latin, but I have a knack for picking up little bits and pieces, maybe born out of necessity from my childhood. My parents come from Moscow, and at home we only spoke Russian. My grandma speaks French.

Latin has six cases, Russian has six cases, and they’re essentially the same. I had an intuition, like, how would I say this in Russian? Then replace the words with Latin. It turns out that’s a fantastic way of doing it.

H/T to Colby Cosh for the link.

QotD: Portuguese quality of life … or “Is Portugal a shithole?”

Filed under: Europe, History, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

You see, you can judge a country’s status as an … ah… excrement sinkhole by figuring out “Migration out or in?”

In Portugal this picture is complicated. They are suffering “brain drain” as their youngest, brightest and most educated decamp for Germany, England, or even Brazil (where the picture is also complicated) but at the same time they receive immigrants from Africa, Brazil, South America, China and, weirdly, Russia (I’ve never figured out if these are descendants from people who took their crappy cars when the wall came down, and drove until they hit the ocean (or drove/walked till they hit the ocean) or whether they’re a fresh migration. I know the first existed, but I haven’t sussed out the other particulars.)

So, Portugal is not a shithole. What it is is a country so tied down by regulations, rules, and the ever present weight of tradition (Portugal, like many Baltic countries produces way more history than it can consume locally) that it works at cross purposes to itself.

Looking at what Portuguese (at least some) can do abroad, in terms of insane amounts of work and sometimes success, one assumes that if Portugal could eschew its perennial fascination with socialism, it would … well… I don’t know, but it would be scary for good or ill.

I mean for a country tied up with socialism (first national, then international) for the best part of a century, it’s not doing badly at all. Look at it this way: it hasn’t gone Venezuela. And the gentleman in the back who just said that’s because they can’t do anything efficiently, not even socialism, is just being mean. Yes, the Portuguese have been locked in a tragic fight throughout history with their traditional enemies, the Portuguese, but that’s no reason to look down on them.

Sarah Hoyt, “On Shaking The Dust From One’s Sandals”, According to Hoyt, 2018-01-17.

February 13, 2018

Tulip mania … wasn’t

Filed under: Economics, Europe, History — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Tim Harford on bubbles in general and the great seventeenth-century Tulip mania in the Netherlands in particular:

It seems all so much easier with hindsight: looking back, we can all enjoy a laugh at the Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, to borrow the title of Charles Mackay’s famous 1841 book, which chuckles at the South Sea bubble and tulip mania. Yet even with hindsight things are not always clear. For example, I first became aware of the incipient dotcom bubble in the late 1990s, when a senior colleague told me that the upstart online bookseller Amazon.com was valued at more than every bookseller on the planet. A clearer instance of mania could scarcely be imagined.

But Amazon is worth much more today than at the height of the bubble, and comparing it with any number of booksellers now seems quaint. The dotcom bubble was mad and my colleague correctly diagnosed the lunacy, but he should still have bought and held Amazon stock.

Tales of the great tulip mania in 17th-century Holland seem clearer — most notoriously, the Semper Augustus bulb that sold for the price of an Amsterdam mansion. “The population, even to its lowest dregs, embarked in the tulip trade,” sneered Mackay more than 200 years later.

But the tale grows murkier still. The economist Peter Garber, author of “Famous First Bubbles”, points out that a rare tulip bulb could serve as the breeding stock for generations of valuable flowers; as its descendants became numerous, one would expect the price of individual bulbs to fall.

Some of the most spectacular prices seem to have been empty tavern wagers by almost-penniless braggarts, ignored by serious traders but much noticed by moralists. The idea that Holland was economically convulsed is hard to support: the historian Anne Goldgar, author of Tulipmania (US) (UK), has been unable to find anyone who actually went bankrupt as a result.

It is easy to laugh at the follies of the past, especially if they have been exaggerated for the purposes of sermonising or for comic effect. Charles Mackay copied and exaggerated the juiciest reports he could find in order to get his point across.

Update, 15 February: For more detail on the lack-of-bubble in Tulip Mania, you might want to read Anne Goldgar’s post at The Conversation.

Feature History – Seven Years’ War

Filed under: Americas, Britain, Europe, France, History, India, Military, Russia — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Feature History
Published on 14 Jan 2017

Hello and welcome to Feature History, featuring the Seven Years’ War, an overdue video, and the reason you don’t record after just waking up

February 12, 2018

The Browning High Power pistol finally ends production after 82 years

Filed under: Cancon, History, Military, Technology, WW2 — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Kyle Mizokami reported on this last week:

Small arms manufacturer Browning has ended production of the Browning Hi Power semiautomatic handgun. The legendary pistol served in armies worldwide, from Nationalist China to the British Special Air Service and was one of the first high capacity pistols ever invented. An invention of prolific arms designer John Moses Browning, the Hi Power was the inventor’s last pistol design.

As noticed by The Firearm Blog, the pistol‘s product page was quietly changed to include the words, “no longer in production” and the prices were removed. The Hi Power pistol was in continuous production for 82 years.

The Hi Power was the brainchild of American small arms legend John Moses Browning, a prolific inventor who also created the M2 .50 caliber machine gun, still in use with U.S. military forces today. He also invented the M1911 handgun, the U.S. military’s standard sidearm for nearly 70 years, and literally dozens of other pistols, shotguns, rifles, machine guns, and even a cannon. Browning was working on the Hi Power when he died in 1926, and the gun was eventually finished and sold by his manufacturing partners in Belgium in 1935.

The Hi Power had little in the form of commercial success before World War II, but was used by both sides during the war. Belgium’s surrender to Nazi Germany saw plans for the gun smuggled out of the country to Canada, where they were built for Nationalist Chinese forces and British and Canadian paratroopers and special forces. The tooling left behind in occupied Belgium went on to produce handguns for German military forces, particularly paratroopers and the Waffen SS. After the war the gun was sold to civilians and armed forces, particularly those belonging to NATO, and eventually more than 50 armies and 93 nations adopted the Hi Power as their standard sidearm. More than a million Hi Powers were eventually produced.

Australia’s unique contribution to hamburger culture – beetroot

Filed under: Australia, History, USA, WW2 — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

On one of my mailing lists, an Australian member made a bit of a to-do about the only “proper” burger having “beetroot” on it, along with other (one assumes lesser) condiments. Having been pranked more than once by Aussie friends, I was sure he was just doing his bit to wind up the American burger purists on the list. Yet, a very cursory search produced this article from back in 2014 that appears to fully back the original assertion:

Australian hamburger sightings started during the ’30s: a by-product, no doubt, of our blossoming post-first world war relationship with America, but it wasn’t until the 1940s that beetroot began regularly appearing alongside tomato, lettuce and onion on burgers. That was thanks largely to the openings of the Edgell and Golden Circle canneries in 1926 and 1947 respectively – but one of the more interesting theories, however, suggests the trend has its origins in pranking US troops ashore on R&R.

“Maybe it was our desire not to be Americanised?” ponders Warren Fahey, Australian folklore collector and author of Australian food history compendium, Tucker Track. “For some reason the idea of hamburger wrapping stained by beetroot juice was accepted as the sign of a great hamburger. People get quite emotional over the subject of Australian hamburgers. Some say a real hamburger must have slices of canned beetroot and others still declare its inclusion as a travesty.”

According to Fahey, beetroot on burgers had its heyday in the ’50s and ’60s. Following the simultaneous 1971 arrival of fast food’s big two – the first McDonald’s opened in the Sydney suburb of Yagoona, while Hungry Jacks, the Aussie nom de plume of Burger King, began its Aussie campaign in Innaloo, just north of Perth – the combination’s popularity began to wane, as did that of milk bars, beachside kiosks and other traditional hamburger vendors.

Despite the sustained growth of American franchises, however, Australia’s burger-with-beetroot population remains stable. Even once the big players pull their seasonal go-Aussie burgers after 26 January, the odds of finding a beetroot-enriched specimen at a neighbourhood lunch bar or new-wave “gourmet” hamburger chain remain good.

[…] the country’s last Australian-owned cannery shut in 2013. Fortunately, the signs are promising that farmers in Queensland’s Lockyer Valley might soon have a processing facility to call their own. It’s a cause we can all get behind, not just for the sake of a rural Australian community, but in the name of national pride: an Aussie hamburger made using beetroot processed overseas just doesn’t seem fair dinkum.

A New Zealand member of the list also chimed in, saying that beetroot was an essential component of Kiwi hamburgers as well. While it might sound weird, it’s probably no more so than pickles or relish as a burger topping, once you get used to it.

Update: In 2017, New Zealand McDonald’s re-introduced the Kiwiburger, including beetroot:

So, you can get your beetroot burger fix in both Australia and New Zealand (for a limited time, anyway).

February 11, 2018

The Austro-Hungarian Serial Killer Vampire I OUT OF THE TRENCHES

Filed under: Europe, History, Military, WW1 — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

The Great War
Published on 10 Feb 2018

Chair of Wisdom Time! This week including the story of the notorious Bela Kiss.

QotD: British Socialism in the 1930s

Filed under: Britain, History, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words ‘Socialism’ and ‘Communism’ draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, ‘Nature Cure’ quack, pacifist, and feminist in England.

George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier, 1937.

February 9, 2018

DicKtionary – C is for Car – Henry Ford

Filed under: Business, History, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

Published on 8 Feb 2018

C is for car – the automobiles
And nothing is cooler than a boss set of wheels,
From selling some cars, this man made a horde,
Mechanic and boss man, here’s Henry Ford.

Hosted and Written by: Indy Neidell
Based on a concept by Astrid Deinhard and Indy Neidell
Produced by: Spartacus Olsson
Executive Producers: Bodo Rittenauer, Astrid Deinhard, Indy Neidell, Spartacus Olsson
Camera by: Ryan
Edited by: Bastian Beißwenger

A TimeGhost documentary format produced by OnLion Entertainment GmbH

Austro-Hungarian House of Cards I THE GREAT WAR Week 185

Filed under: Europe, History, Military, WW1 — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

The Great War
Published on 8 Feb 2018

The situation for Austria-Hungary is dire, even after the success in Italy and the peace negotiations at Brest-Litovsk. Strikes and mutinies break out across the Empire and the emerging drive for ethnic self determination by the subjects of the Empire are worrying to the leaders of the Habsburg Empire.

February 7, 2018


Filed under: Health, History — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 26 Sep 2015

The development of contraceptives has come a long way. It all started with questionable ointments and rituals to avoid pregnancy. The effectiveness of new inventions have since improved greatly. Especially the invention of rubber and latex for condoms or contraceptive ideas like the diaphragm or the pill. Learn about the development of contraceptives and their societal standing this episode on IT’S HISTORY.

February 6, 2018

Hit and Run – Motor Torpedo Boats in World War 1 I THE GREAT WAR Special

Filed under: Britain, Europe, History, Military, WW1 — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

The Great War
Published on 5 Feb 2018

The Naval arms race of the early 20th century certainly meant that battleships got ever bigger and more powerful. But there is a David to every Goliath and so Motor Torpedo Boats were developed and used for “hit and run” style operations by both the British and the Italian Navy. Especially, the Italians used their Motoscafo armato silurante (MAS) with great success against the Austro-Hungarian Navy.

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