Saturday, May 5, 2012


Napoleon in Egypt

On this day in 1260, the cunning Kublai Khan seizes control of the vast Mongol Empire, which extends from the Black Sea all the way to the Pacific coast, including most of China, half the Middle East and all of Central Asia. And yet he still made time to be a good host to explorer Marco Polo... for over seventeen years!

Two of the most influential philosophers of all time are born on this day. First, in 1813, Christian existentialist Soren Kierkegaard is born in Denmark. The father of communism, Karl Marx, is born in Germany, five years later in 1818.

On this day in 1821, Emperor Napoleon I dies in exile on the island of Saint Helena in the South Atlantic. To this day, he remains one of the most influential World Historic figures of all time, leaving behind a legal, social, military and cultural legacy that simply cannot be over-stated. To teach one's self about the life of Napoleon Bonaparte is to teach one's self the foundational history of the Modern world.

On this day in 1920, police arrest Italian-born anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti for allegedly murdering two men during a botched bank robbery in Braintree, Massachusetts. Their subsequent trials, appeals and executions are the focal-point of one of the biggest justice-related brou-ha-ha's in the history of the USA. I'm talking scores-of-people-dying-in-revenge-bombings big. It made the reaction to the Rodney King verdict look tame by comparison.

On this day in 1925, biology teacher John Scopes is arrested for teaching evolutionary theory to his students in Dayton, Tennessee. This leads to the Scopes Monkey Trial, widely considered one of the most controversial and impactful judicial exhibitions (if not decisions) of the 20th century. What few people know is that the whole thing was a set-up from the start.

On this day in 1981, Irish activist Bobby Sands dies in the Long Kesh prison hospital after a 66 day  hunger-strike. He was 27 years old.

The videogame Wolfenstein 3D, the first-ever "first-person shooter", is released on this day in 1992, leading inexorably to all kinds of craziness.

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