Hi! I’m currently a senior in high school and planning on majoring in History (or a combination of History and Politics) at a UK University. I was wondering where you study or if you have any recommendable programs/schools?
As this is a submission I’ll respond in italics. I study at the University of Sheffield, and I couldn’t recommend it enough. A great city and a really fantastic History department that offer a wide range of modules (last semester I did Ancient Rome and also the United States during the Cold War!), and also lots of extracurricular things you can get involved in like the department blog and the oral history project. I also have quite a few friends who do both History and Politics and they seem to like it. As for other universities, I can’t give first-hand experiences but my other choices that I applied for were: Leeds (really struggled to decide between this and Sheffield - a fantastic university and History course), Durham (a very good university, just behind Oxford and Cambridge), Southampton and Liverpool. There are also the London universities like UCL, and the School of Oriental and African Studies which focuses on Asian and African history which is cool. Hope that helps, best of luck with applications!
August 21st 1831: Nat Turner’s rebellion begins
On this day in 1831 the Virginian slave Nat Turner began the deadliest slave rebellion the United States had ever seen, which resulted in the deaths of 55 whites. Turner, a slave preacher, had come to believe that God intended for him to lead a black uprising against the injustice of slavery. In the evening of August 21st 1831, Turner and his co-conspirators met in the woods to make their plans and early the next morning began the rebellion by killing Turner’s master’s family. Turner and his men, who soon numbered over 80, then went from house to house assaulting the white inhabitants. Eventually a local militia, and then federal and state troops, confronted the rebels and dispersed the group. Turner himself initially evaded capture but was captured on October 30th. Subsequently Turner, along with over fifty other rebels, was executed. However the retribution for Nat Turner’s rebellion did not end there. The uprising sent shockwaves across the South, and while full scale rebellion such as Turner’s was rare in the Deep South due to the rigid enforcement of the slave system, caused widespread fear of another rebellion. In the ensuing hysteria over 200 innocent black slaves were killed by white mobs. Turner’s rebellion came close to ending slavery in Virginia, as in its wake the state legislature considered abolishing the ‘peculiar institution’. However the measure was voted down and instead the state decided to increase plantation discipline and limit slaves’ autonomy even further by banning them from acting as preachers and learning to read. Similar measures were adopted across the slave-holding South and thus Nat Turner’s rebellion increased the South’s commitment to slavery, despite undermining the pro-slavery argument that it was a benevolent system and slaves were content. Turner has left behind a complicated legacy, with some seeing him as an African-American hero and others as a religious fanatic and villain; his memory raises the eternal question of whether violence is justified to bring about necessary change.
August 20th 1938: Lou Gehrig hits 23rd Grand Slam
On this day in 1938 the famous New York Yankees baseball first baseman Lou Gehrig hit his 23rd Grand Slam. Nicknamed ‘The Iron Horse’, Gehrig’s 23 Grand Slams remained the most on record until it was broken by fellow Yankees player Alex Rodriguez in 2013. The remarkable career of this exceptionally talented baseball player ended in 1939 when, after his performance had been deteriorating, Gehrig was diagnosed with a terminal neurodegenerative disease which severely limits physical mobility (often to the point of paralysis) while not affecting the brain. The disease is known by different names, for example in the UK it is called motor neurone disease (or MND), and in the US as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The diagnosis led Gehrig to retire aged 36 and on a July 4th 1939 ‘Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day’ at Yankee Stadium, he gave an emotional farewell speech that has become known as baseball’s Gettysburg Address. Lou Gehrig died two years later just before his 38th birthday. His legacy continues as one of the greatest players of all time and in the fact that many Americans now refer to ALS/MND as ‘Lou Gehrig’s Disease’. Other notable people to have this disease include Stephen Hawking, whose is an unusual case as he has lived with it for over 50 years. This cruel disease, which affects hundreds of thousands of people across the world, has been brought to the forefront of public attention due to the recent ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ in which someone has a bucket of ice water tipped over their head and then nominate others to do the same and donate to charity. To donate to this cause and find out more about the disease visit the ALSA website (US) or MNDA website (UK). The effort to raise funds and awareness of this disease which tragically ended Lou Gehrig’s life has been a great success, with over $30 million in donations being made to the ALSA and celebrities like Bill Gates, Robert Downey Jr. and the Foo Fighters getting involved.
"Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth…I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for”
- Lou Gehrig in his 1939 farewell speech
August 18, 1771. Phillis Wheatley, a famous poet, becomes a full member of Old South Meeting House, the church and public meeting space where she attended since being brought to Boston as an enslaved child more than ten years earlier. Old South Meeting House is where she first heard the Reverend George Whitefield preach, and her poem about him was the first poem to earn her widespread recognition. In 1773, she became the first African to publish a poetry book in the English language, and the third woman in America to do so.
Today, Old South Meeting House is a history museum, and we celebrate Phillis Wheatley day on August 18.
August 16th 1819: Peterloo massacre
On this day in 1819 a cavalry charge killed 17 and injured 600 at a public meeting in St. Peter’s Field, Manchester, England. The meeting of around 60,000 was held to demand parliamentary reform and was addressed by famous radical Henry Hunt, known as ‘the Orator’. Radical agitation had been on the rise in recent years due to the famine and unemployment that followed the Napoleonic Wars and the introduction of laws that many felt unfair to the working class. Despite the peaceful intentions of the meeting, local magistrates feared it and sent in the cavalry, who violently dispersed the crowd. 15 people died in the ensuing violence, with hundreds more injured. The event was nicknamed ‘Peterloo’ in reference to the Battle of Waterloo of 1815. The massacre caused public outcry which only encouraged the government, led by Prime Minister Lord Liverpool, to crack down on radicalism. This period is sometimes referred to as ‘reactionary toryism’.
webofepic said: So what about significant historical events associated with a particular date? Do you repeat the significant event most people would recognize year after year? Or do you do a lesser known event to mix things up (and risk having new followers think you overlooked a significant historical event!)?
Yes sometimes for major events I may repeat what I’ve written in previous years. I’ve had it happen before where I’ll write about a lesser known event and then get asks requesting a post about something I wrote about the year before, in which case I’ll repost it :)
August 14th 1947: Pakistani independence
On this day in 1947 the nation of Pakistan was founded upon its independence from Britain. In colonial India, a divide arose between the Hindu majority and the Muslim minority, the latter who felt their interests were not being represented by the Indian National Congress. Thus in 1906 the Muslim League was founded to protect Muslim rights and, eventually, call for independence and an independent Muslim nation state. The 1933 pamphlet ‘Now or Never’ urging Muslim nationalism coined a name for the new nation based on the Muslim Northern provinces that would form the country - P (Punjab) A (Afghania) K (Kashmir) S (Sindh) TAN (Balochistan). ‘Pakstan’, which in Urdu and Persian means ‘Pure Land’, soon became ‘Pakistan’. The Pakistan Movement continued to gain ground throughout World War Two, and despite resistance from Hindu leaders in the Congress, the two-state solution proved popular among the Indian Muslim electorate. Finally, after years of campaigning, the 1947 Independence of India Act passed the Congress, which provided for the two states of Pakistan and India to become independent from Britain on the 14th and 15th August respectively. The birth of Pakistan, largely due to League President Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s efforts to unite disparate Indian Muslisms, has been hailed as one of the major political achievements of modern Muslim history. However the division prompted widespread religious violence which killed thousands, and led to a massive population exchange, with the violence between the two new nations even descending into open warfare. In 1971 Pakistan further divided when Bangladesh seceded. August 14th is celebrated as Independence Day in Pakistan, but this year it coincides with a major protest against the current government. Opposition leader Imran Khan and anti-government cleric Tahir ul Qadri called for the march to protest the corruption of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government; around 100,000 people are expected to attend.
August 13th 1910: Florence Nightingale dies
On this day in 1910 the famous English nurse, Florence Nightingale, died in London. Born in 1820, she was named for the Italian city in which she was born where her wealthy parents were visiting at the time. Her parents initially tried to prevent her from training to be a nurse, which she resolved to do after she believed God wanted her to do some work. However Nightingale bucked the tradition of upper class women settling for a good marriage and instead pursued a career as a nurse. She became famous during the Crimean War of 1853 - 1856 when she drew attention to the poor conditions of the troops and nursed wounded soldiers. Other nurses laboured in Crimea alongside Nightingale, including the Jamaican-born Mary Seacole. Upon her return to Britain Nightingale began the movement for professional nursing by establishing a nursing school in 1860, leading many to call her the founder of modern nursing. Florence Nightingale was 90 years old when she died, and passed away in her sleep at her London home.
August 22nd 1910: Japan annexes Korea
On this day in 1910, Japan formally annexed Korea with the signing of the Japan-Korea Treaty. Signed by Prime Minister of the Korean Empire Lee Wan-yong and Japanese Resident General of Korea Count Terauchi Masatake, the treaty completed the process of dwindling Korean autonomy that had been furthered by other treaties since 1876. The treaty became effective on August 29th, a week after it was signed, on which day it was also officially promulgated to the public. This marks the beginning of the period of Japanese rule in Korea, during which time Koreans were expected to assimilate with Japanese culture and reject their own. Japanese colonial rule over Korea ended after Japan’s defeat in the Second World War, at which time Korea became an independent nation. In 1965 the treaties between Japan and Korea before 1910 were declared “already null and void”, but a debate continues over whether they were ever legally valid. The legacy of Japanese colonialism remains a controversial one. Many Koreans are still resentful of the treaty, which they believe was invalid as it was forced upon the Koreans, and the years of brutal imperialism that followed. As for the Japanese, there are mixed messages of sincere apology and defiant justification of imperialism; therefore full reconciliation between the two nations is still not complete.
Anonymous said: When you're a history Major as an undergraduate how much reading and work is normally involved with the major??
I’m at a British university so we don’t have the system of majors and minors, you just take one (or sometimes two) subjects for your whole three years of study. My course is just in History, and there is a lot of reading and work involved. There are not as many contact hours (aka time spent actually at university in lectures and seminars) as other subjects, but you are expected to spend a good few hours a day doing the required reading and some extra background reading of your own choosing. I guess if you don’t really like reading and writing lots of long essays History may not be for you, but if you’re okay with that then it’s a great course to do!
August 19th 14 AD: Augustus dies
On this day in 14 AD the first Roman Emperor, Augustus, died aged 75. Born Gaius Octavius and known as Octavian, he was named as heir of his great uncle Julius Caesar. Upon Caesar’s assassination in 44 BC, Augustus formed an alliance - the Second Triumvirate - with Marcus Aemilius Lepidus and Mark Antony, to rule and take vengeance on Caesar’s assassins. The alliance soon fell apart and the three fought for sole rule of Rome. Octavian emerged victorious after defeating Mark Anthony at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC. Octavian then set about ‘restoring’ the Roman Republic, which had been ruled by Caesar as Dictator, by formally returning power to the Senate. However in reality the new leader kept considerable power in his person, adopting many titles which became part of the imperial pantheon, including ‘Augustus’ (which loosely translates as ‘magnificent’), ‘princeps’ (first citizen), ‘pontifex maximus’ (priest of Roman religion) and ‘tribunicia potestas’ (power over the tribune assemblies elected by the people). Augustus’s constitutional system gave way to the birth of the Principate, the first period of the Roman Empire. He is also considered the first Roman Emperor because the empire greatly expanded under his rule. Augustus died in 14 AD, and was succeeded by his step-son and adopted heir Tiberius. Augustus thus began the stable line of ‘adoptive’ Roman Emperors which ended with Marcus Aurelius’s decision to name his birth son Commodus, who came to power in 180 AD. This year is the momentous 2000th anniversary of the death of the first Roman Emperor. Even today Rome is remembered as a pinnacle of civilisation and empire and much of modern Europe continues to be shaped by its legacy.
2000 years ago today
August 17th 1987: Rudolf Hess dies
On this day in 1987 Adolf Hitler’s former deputy in the Nazi Party, Rudolf Hess, died in Spandau Prison, Berlin. Hess, a leading figure of the Nazi regime, famously fled Hitler’s Germany during World War Two and flew to Scotland in an attempt to negotiate peace with the United Kingdom. On May 10th 1941, he flew from Augsburg and later parachuted near the Scottish village of Eaglesham. He told authorities he had an important message and was handed to the army who took him as a prisoner of war. Winston Churchill sent Hess to the Tower of London, making him its last inmate. After the end of the war and the fall of Hitler’s government in 1945 Hess was tried at Nuremberg alongside 22 others for his role in Nazi war crimes. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and incarcerated at Spandau until his death aged 93. Hess committed suicide via asphyxiation by electrical cord, however some have claimed that he was murdered.
August 15th 1965: Beatles at Shea Stadium
On this day in 1965 the Beatles played their iconic concert at Shea Stadium in New York City. The gig was part of the band’s 1965 tour of the United States, by which time they were international superstars and ‘Beatlemania’ gripped the world. The band formed in Liverpool in 1960, and came to prominence with their first hit ‘Love Me Do’ in 1962. By the time of the Shea Stadium gig they had a huge following in the US, and at Shea played to around 55,600 fans. As typical of Beatlemania, the crowd was deafening with their screams, which meant that the music could not really be heard, and were often seen crying and fainting. The Beatles did still manage to play a 30 minute set (very short by modern standards) with 12 songs. It was the intensity of these concerts, and the fact they could not hear themselves, that contributed to the band’s decision to stop touring in 1966. Soon after the Shea Stadium gig, which was followed by another huge concert at Los Angeles’ Hollywood Bowl, the band recorded their sixth album ‘Rubber Soul’. The Shea Stadium gig was immortalised in a 1966 documentary about the event, which contributed to it becoming one of the band’s most famous concerts. Shea was also an important milestone for the Beatles, and in fact for all musicians, as it ushered in the age of stadium concerts.
"At Shea Stadium, I saw the top of the mountain"
- John Lennon in 1970
Anonymous said: How do you consider which event you're gonna post? Like you obviously do not take the "most important" dates, so it would interest me how you do.
Well if it’s something really momentous like the recent 100th anniversary of Franz Ferdinand’s assassination and the 50th anniversary of US Civil Rights Act, then I will pick the ‘most important’ one. But most of the time it is honestly just what I feel like writing about, whether I know a lot about it beforehand or it’s something I want to know more about myself. When I’m studying something at university I’ll usually write about it (so recently I ended up writing a lot about pre Civil War America). Other times it’ll be something someone has explicitly requested (like today’s post about the founding of Pakistan) or something I think people will be interested in based on more general requests from followers. Hope that makes sense :)
Anonymous said: Egypt was so interesting though in its diversity of colour; some of the kings and queens are expected to have been very dark, while others including Cleopatra may have been fairly lighter or even white/Caucasian
I have had quite a few messages suggesting a similar point - that Cleopatra was in fact lighter skinned as she was from the Greek Ptolemaic family from Macedonia who married their siblings. To all of you who wrote in saying a similar thing thank for your contributions but I’ll just answer this one to avoid clogging people’s dashboards!