5 Objects That Illuminate the Medieval Exchange Between Africa and Europe – Atlas Obscura

DURING THE MEDIEVAL PERIOD, BETWEEN the 8th to 16th centuries, West Africa was flush with vast resources and gold. Its kingdoms were some of the most prosperous the world has ever known. When the king Mansa Musa of 14th-century Mali made a stop in Cairo, Egypt, it’s said that he handed out so much gold to the poor that he single-handedly caused…

Source: 5 Objects That Illuminate the Medieval Exchange Between Africa and Europe – Atlas Obscura

Maya Angelou, Malcolm X & Cuba

mayateatowelIt was 1965 in Accra, the capital city of Ghana. Maya Angelou had been set up there for a few years working as a journalist. It was a long way from her birthplace in St Louis (Missouri), but she enjoyed life in Africa.

One day in January, her son, Guy, got home from school to find a feast of fried chicken – his mum’s speciality – laid out. But that wasn’t the most striking thing in…

via Maya Angelou, Malcolm X & Cuba

GROUP PHOTO OF FRENCH SOLDIERS IN NORTH AFRICA (WORLD WAR I ERA) | THE CABINET CARD GALLERY

This vintage real photo postcard features a group of uniformed French soldiers in Northern Africa. The sign they are holding,”Honneur Aux Bleus” reveals some interesting information. Th…

Source: GROUP PHOTO OF FRENCH SOLDIERS IN NORTH AFRICA (WORLD WAR I ERA) | THE CABINET CARD GALLERY

Uncovering the brutal truth about the British empire | Marc Parry | News | The Guardian

British soldiers assist police searching for Mau Mau members, Karoibangi, Kenya, 1954. Photograph: Popperfoto/Getty Images

The Long Read: The Harvard historian Caroline Elkins stirred controversy with her work on the crushing of the Mau Mau uprising. But it laid the ground for a legal case that has transformed our view of Britain’s past…

Source: Uncovering the brutal truth about the British empire | Marc Parry | News | The Guardian

Portuguese Slave Traders Were No Match for Angolan Queen Nzinga Mbandi | Atlas Obscura

In the 16th century, Portuguese slave traders turned to the Congo and southwest Africa, after their stake in the slave trade was threatened by England and France in the northern part of the continent. Their most stubborn opposition came from an unexpected source: an Angolan queen who ruthlessly…

Source: Portuguese Slave Traders Were No Match for Angolan Queen Nzinga Mbandi | Atlas Obscura

George Washington Williams and the Congo Genocide | toritto

Political cartoon from 1906 showing King Leopold of Belgium entangling the Congolese in rubber coils

“At the very beginning of the twentieth century there was an unquenchable demand in America and Europe for an amazing new technology—air-filled rubber tires. The Age of the Railroad was ending. Henry Ford was making cars by the million, bicycles were pouring out of factories, freight was moving in gasoline-powered trucks, and they all ran on rubber. The Congo had more natural rubber than anywhere else.

To meet this demand King Leopold II of Belgium, in one of the greatest scams in history, tricked local tribes into signing away their lands and lives in bogus treaties that none of them could read. He sold these “concessions” to speculators who used torture and murder to drive whole communities into the jungle to harvest rubber.

The profits from the slave-driving concessions were stupendous. Wild rubber, as well as elephant ivory for piano keys and decoration, was ripped out of…

Source: George Washington Williams and the Congo Genocide | toritto

World War II bomb found in a Kenyan farm – YouTube – sentinelblog

Bomb experts in Kenya detonated a bomb found by a herder in a grazing field in Kajiado County of Eastern Kenya.The bomb is suspected to have been abandoned during the Second World War or by local soldiers during training sessions in the area in the 1990s.

Source: World War II bomb found in a Kenyan farm – YouTube – sentinelblog

Illustrated London News May 15, 1943—General Alexander

illuslondnewsheaderalexanderalexandertext

THE BRITISH “ALEXANDER THE GREAT”: GENERAL SIR HAROLD ALEXANDER, WHOSE SUPERB STRATEGY IN THE BATTLE OF AFRICA HAS BEEN HAILED BY OUR ALLIES AND BY NEUTRAL STATES AS EPOCH-MAKING.

A second triumph has come to General Alexander; with Montgomery in the field, he planned the campaign that started at El Alamein, and now, as chief strategist of the Tunisian campaign, he has used the men of the Eighth Army, the First Army, the Second American Corps and the Corps d’Afrique with brilliant results. He has completely out-generalled von Arnim and helped to bring about the repaying of the Dunkirk debt.  General Alexander was appointed C.-in-C., Middle East, in 1942, after fighting, as G.O.C., Burma, the brilliant delaying action which saved India by giving us time to reorganise. It was he, too, who was in command at last on the beaches of Dunkirk, and on that occasion as well, no  little credit is due to him as a master strategist. Now these bitter memories will be wiped out, and he has the satisfaction of knowing the enemy are suffering the same as our men at Dunkirk.

Reading the above, which is from my original edition of The Illustrated London News, 15th May 1943, the one thing that strikes me above all is the clue the last sentence gives about the reality of Dunkirk. Only the brain-dead would not have realised that that episode of the war had been an unmitigated disaster.

© Sarah Vernon

Elizabeth Piper Ensley – Organizing African-American Suffragists

Elizabeth Piper Ensley c. 1900

Yesterday, I posted an article on Facebook by Lynn Yaeger at Vogue entitled The African-American Suffragists History Forgot. It was a good, short article which gave names of a number of African-Ame…

Source: Elizabeth Piper Ensley – Organizing African-American Suffragists

Bf 109 pilots in North Africa used to fix bottles of Coca Cola to the underside of their wings so that the drink would cool at high altitude and be ready to drink after landing.

In 1925, the Coca-Cola Company commissioned a brass watch fob in the shape of a Swastika emblazoned with the company logo and the message to drink Coca-Cola in bottles for 5 cents. This may sound…

Source: Bf 109 pilots in North Africa used to fix bottles of Coca Cola to the underside of their wings so that the drink would cool at high altitude and be ready to drink after landing.

A Time to Die – the Spanish Inquisition in Sicily

The Dangerously Truthful Diary of a Sicilian Housewife

The history books about Sicily have little to say about the time of the Spanish rule. I find this strange, because the Spanish changed Sicily more than any other conqueror. The way they wanted this island is the way it still is: the Sicilians just cannot seem to shake them off.

Prickly pears Prickly pears

Some history books do tell us they brought tomatoes, which the Sicilians planted around Etna and with everything. They brought cocoa beans which the Sicilians of Modica still make into bars of raw chocolate using the Aztec recipe the Spanish conquistadores taught them. They brought the potato, and made Sicilians such an island of chip-lovers that they even invented the chip pizza. They created the Sicilian baroque style of architecture which is unique to this island, is found all over it, and is so spectacularly beautiful it has made six baroque Sicilian towns into a UNESCO…

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The Mad Monarchist: The British Army in World War I

Originally posted on The Mad Monarchist.

At the outbreak of war in August of 1914 the one major power for whom the Germans had probably the least respect in terms of its army was Great Britain. In terms of size it was dwarfed by the French army and certainly had nowhere near the numbers of the massive Russian army. Whereas the Royal Navy had ruled the waves for centuries and had a reputation second to none, the army was not taken nearly so seriously. It was most frequently used in minor colonial wars which the Germans tended to discount as being victories won against enemies unworthy of serious consideration. When the subject of their intervention was broached to the Kaiser, he joked that he would simply send the police to arrest the British army as soon as they landed. To say that the British army was underestimated would be a gross exaggeration. Discounted and despised, the British army soon proved to the Germans just how wrong they had been. The British army may not have been as large as the French or as heavily armed as the Germans but in fact it was the British who had, man for man, probably the best army in the world in the summer of 1914. Their force was small but it was experienced, disciplined and magnificently trained. Years of colonial conflicts had left them with a body of soldiers who had great endurance and experience in what war was really like.

4th Bn Royal Fusiliers at Mons

During the initial German offensive across Belgium and into France, the British Expeditionary Force had their first major clash with the Germans at the battle of Mons and all myths about the British army…

via The Mad Monarchist: The British Army in World War I.

The Painted Horn: visiting a rock art site in Somalia

British Museum blog

Jorge de Torres, Project Cataloguer, African Rock Art Image Project, British Museum

Painted image of long-horned cow with human figure underneath, Laas Geel, Somalia (Photograph © TARA/David Coulson – image not yet catalogued) Painted image of long-horned cow with human figure underneath, Laas Geel, Somalia. (Photograph © TARA/David Coulson – image not yet catalogued)

As I look up at the rock shelter here in Somalia, several thoughts cross my mind about the beautiful pieces of rock art above me. There’s always a strange feeling when you visit for the first time a place you have been studying for a long while: a merging of expectations, recognition and, in some cases, a feeling of its being other than how one had imagined it. The first time I saw the Pyramids in Egypt, for all their greatness and despite the myriad of photos, they appeared somehow different to how I had pictured them. However, this has never been the case for me when faced with the paintings and engravings on natural rock surfaces…

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Two Nerdy History Girls: From the Archives: Sarah Bowdich Quells a Mutiny, 1816

Originally posted on Two Nerdy History Girls.

In 1816, not all English ladies were leading a genteel, Austen-esque life in the country. At least one of them was sailing with her infant daughter to Africa to meet her husband. Sarah Wallis Bowdich (1791-1856) was the only woman, let alone the only lady, on board a small merchant ship full of desperate men. Here’s Sarah’s own telling of what happened one evening, from her 1835 book Stories of Strange Lands, & Fragments from the Notes of a Traveller:

“The surgeon whispered to me his apprehensions that all was not well, and that our people…were irritated and annoyed, and in a most discontented state. The first mate was in command of the vessel; and, though he was an admirable sailor, and a most obliging and excellent person, was very impetuous. The dinner was sent to table very ill-dressed, and the cook was summoned aft to receive a reprimand. He became impertinent, and the mate, seizing a butter-boat, threw it at his head….A general scuffle ensued, and the second mate, running to the chest of arms, loaded a brace of pistols, and stood in the door-way of the cabin, swearing to two men who came aft, that he would blow their brains out if they ventured a step further. I expostulated with him, but he only replied, “You do not know the danger, Ma’am; the men are in a state of mutiny, and if they…

via Two Nerdy History Girls: From the Archives: Sarah Bowdich Quells a Mutiny, 1816.