December 2, 1943 The Surprising Origins of Chemotherapy – Today in History

In the 12th century, Bernard of Chartres described a process of finding truth, in building on previous discoveries. The concept is best remembered in the words of Sir Isaac Newton, in 1675: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants”…

Source: December 2, 1943 The Surprising Origins of Chemotherapy – Today in History

The Crusader Conquest of Constantinople | toritto


It is the Year of Our Lord 1075 and a great disaster has befallen Christendom.

The Islāmic armies of the Seljuk Turks have taken Jerusalem.

In Western Europe, the Roman Empire is gone some 600 years.  In the East the empire still lives at Constantinople, its Emperor ruling portions of the eastern shore of the Adriatic through the Balkans and Greece into Asia Minor and Syria.  It is in constant conflict with the…

via The Crusader Conquest of Constantinople | toritto

All in the details – A visit to Haddon Hall II


Other than the Elizabethan connection, we really had, at that point, no idea why we had felt the need to visit Haddon Hall. We knew little about the place, apart from the legend of the romantic elopement of Dorothy Vernon and the fact that ‘ye harmytt’ of Cratcliffe Crags had supplemented his hermit’s income by supplying rabbits to…

via All in the details – A visit to Haddon Hall II | Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo

A visit to Haddon Hall | Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo

The Vernons mentioned are my forbears! haddonhall

Every time we had driven past Haddon Hall, I had the feeling we needed to go there. The feeling bugged me a bit, as stately homes have not really been part of our research. We tend to be drawn to the landscape and sites things five thousand years old, rather than five hundred, so I could not see why…

via A visit to Haddon Hall | Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo

Trip to Colditz Castle – W.U Hstry

Colditz Castle [Wikimedia]

Colditz Castle [Wikimedia]

In late July I was fortunate enough to travel Germany, taking in many of its cultural and historical sites. It is fair to say Germany did have plenty to offer in the famous cities and towns of Berl…

Source: Trip to Colditz Castle – W.U Hstry

Richard the Lionheart vs. Cyprus | W.U Hstry

1191 saw many different battles in the Third Crusade, but one in particular that interests me is the battle between Richard I of England versus the leaders of Cyprus. This battle was not planned by either party, but rather an unforeseen opportunity of conquest brought about by a rather vicious storm while on route to Sicily. This storm wreaked havoc on the kings’ ships, destroying three of them. The survivors of these shipwrecks made their way to the shores of Cyprus, to find the natives peaceful and welcoming. The survivors were brought to a nearby castle by…

Source: Richard the Lionheart vs. Cyprus | W.U Hstry

Flyting Was Medieval England’s Version of an Insult-Trading Rap Battle | Atlas Obscura

Flyting from Norse folklore and Old England should be incorporated into American politics. (Photo: Public Domain/WikiCommons)

Imagine a world that had swapped its guns for puns and its IEDs for repartees. Such a planet is possible if only those in power would manage their conflicts with flyting, the time-honored sport of verbal jousting.

Flyting is a stylized battle of insults and wits that was practiced most actively between the fifth and 16th centuries in England and Scotland. Participants employed the timeless tools of provocation and perversion as well as satire, rhetoric, and early bathroom humor to publicly trounce opponents. The term “flyting” comes from Old English and Old Norse words for “quarrel” and “provocation.” ‘Tis a form of highly poetic abuse, or highly abusive poetry—a very early precursor to MTV’s Yo Mama and Eminem’s 8 Mile.

“Court flyting” sometimes served as entertainment for royals such as Scottish kings James IV and James V. The most famous surviving exchange is The Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedie, which was performed in the early 16th century by…

Source: Flyting Was Medieval England’s Version of an Insult-Trading Rap Battle | Atlas Obscura

Jewish London up to the time of the Great Fire of 1666 | The Lost City of London

(Posted on 16th March to mark the anniversary of the terrible pogrom in York on that day in 1190).

A minority community of Jews became  established in England, including in London, in the reign of the Norman king William I, “the Conqueror”,  in the late eleventh century, many of its members originating from Rouen in Normandy and  involved in money-lending (Christians being barred from the practice at the time).  Tragically, the Jews became subject in the…

Source: Jewish London up to the time of the Great Fire of 1666 | The Lost City of London

The Robot Clocks of 12th-Century Turkey | Atlas Obscura

Al Jazari was not only an exceptional engineer and inventor, but also an incredibly talented illustrator. The elephant clock is perhaps his most famous invention. (Photo: Public Domain/Wikipedia Commons)

During his 70 years on Earth, Turkish scholar and inventor Al-Jazari built an impressive range of robots, clocks, and robot clocks. What’s even more impressive is that he created the bulk of them during the 12th century.

Al-Jazari (1136-1206), whose full name was Al-Shaykh Ra’is al-A`mal Badi`al-Zaman Abu al-‘Izz ibn Isma`il ibn al-Razzaz al-Jazari, worked as the chief engineer at Artuklu Palace, headquarters of the Artuqid dynasty that ruled over parts of Turkey, Syria and Iraq in the 11th and 12th centuries. During his time there, he invented a large number of devices that revolutionized mechanical engineering: everything from a mechanical waitress who served drinks to a group of robot musicians who played their instruments on a lake in the palace to entertain guests.

While these inventions may seem trivial today, their contribution to…

Source: The Robot Clocks of 12th-Century Turkey | Atlas Obscura

The Stone of Oo: High Weirdness from Southern France – Beachcombing’s Bizarre History Blog

Originally posted on Beachcombing’s Bizarre History Blog.

Oô in southern France has two things going for it. First, that name, I mean what…?! And second the pierre d’Oô, one of the weirdest objects to emerge in the last three or four thousand years of human endeavour: a sculpture of a lady and her pet. At this point, readers should take a moment and just enjoy the jarring horror of the stone and try and work out for themselves what is going on. While you are thinking about this let’s get the coordinates down. The image is carved onto a three-foot marble stone presently kept at the Musée des Augustins de Toulouse: the marble is native to the Pyrenees so no shock there. A controversial question is the stone’s date. Some have suggested antiquity, some have suggested the Middle Ages and there have been mumblings about a modern fake: one of these is almost by definition correct, but which one? The consensus opinion is that the stone was part of the church of St Jacques in Oô that was built in the…

via The Stone of Oo: High Weirdness from Southern France – Beachcombing’s Bizarre History Blog.

Muslims in Latvia

The refugee crisis in Europe has also affected Latvian society. Latvia as EU country is taking part in handling the crisis and has agreed to accept to host at least 776 refugees from Syria, Libya and other countries. Meanwhile the country is already holding a large number of refugees who managed to cross the Latvian border. They are from various Muslim countries including Afghanistan. In following years Latvia might experience an influx of Muslim immigrants in form of refugees or work seekers. Although by no means Latvia is one of the most desired places for Middle Eastern refugees, on the contrary Latvia with its economic issues and rough climate is one of the lest desired. Also the knowledge and contact between Latvia and Middle Eastern Muslim countries have been limited. But, that does not mean that this will be first time in Latvian history when a new ethno-religious community will emerge. Muslims in small numbers have lived in Latvia since 19th century and their presence has…

Source: Muslims in Latvia

The Jewish Ghosts of Palermo

The Dangerously Truthful Diary of a Sicilian Housewife

There was a Jewish presence in Sicily for centuries, possibly from before the birth of Jesus. The Jews were the only outsiders who made their homes in Sicily and became part of her population without invading. They simply turned up, fitted in and made themselves indispensable.

IMG_20150416_110436 Possibly the most important Jewish street in Palermo, the Via dei Cartari was where all the Jewish scribes drew up any contract needed by the citizens of Palermo

The Jews were the literate and educated members of society and they also taught their children all the different languages they knew. This guaranteed them work as interpreters and scribes.


In Palermo, they lived and set up their shops in the Jewish quarter of Palermo, where they also build very modest synagogues, and schools to pass on their knowledge to their children. They were the educated and wealthy elite. Their skills made them indispensable to successive…

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Eleanor of Aquitaine: Why we should not forget the medieval era when searching for our most powerful queens.

The York Historian


On the 9th September, Queen Elizabeth II surpassed Queen Victoria as the longest reigning British monarch. Journalists marked the event with comparisons between the two queens, [1] whilst some historians chose to look back to the Tudor queens of England; Mary and Elizabeth. [2] Both Victoria and Elizabeth I expanded Britain’s oversea territories, were patrons of the arts, and successfully ruled without a husband over shadowing them. It is understandable such large characters dominate our historical view when we search for the strong female leaders of our past. However, our focus on these women, mean that powerful medieval queens often get forgotten. I am not attempting to say that they had any equal power to that of the more modern Queens – medieval queens were undeniably second to the king.

Dispelling a myth

Medieval queens were also not the weak and submissive figures they sometimes come across as. Such…

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In Search of Sir Lancelot

History... the interesting bits!

winchester wiki The Great Hall and Round Table in Winchester

I have always had a soft spot for the Arthurian Romances. I love the legend of King Arthur and really hope that there was a historical Arthur who inspired the original tales. His Knights of the Round Table are held up as models of chivalry throughout Europe.

And the recent discovery of some wonderful wall paintings of Lancelot du Lac in a Ducal Tower in Siedlęcin in Poland is simply incredible.

Rodengo, Schmalkalden and Siedlęcin: Where Did the Knights of the Round Table Go?

rodengo222 Castel Rodengo

King Arthur is mortally wounded and taken to the isle of Avalon, the cream of the crop – his best knights dead. With their passing the age of chivalric deeds and marvelous exploits is over.

Is it really? After all, what the king and his knights have left behind is an extensive body of literature…

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