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Scientists, politicians, emperors and God Himself

It’s easy to view history in a vaccum. In fact, it’s a consequence of studying so called ‘great man history’. We get used to thinking that history begins and ends with these people, forgetting that everyone is part of a wider narrative. So, to broaden our horizons, here’s five pairs of people that surprisingly lived at the same times.

Abraham Lincoln and P.T. Barnum

Lincoln — Alexander Gardner, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Abraham Lincoln and P.T Barnum could not be more different as men. Lincoln is famous for leading the United States through a decidedly less united time — the American Civil War, ultimately crushing the Confederacy, and…


MSG — Ragesoss, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Conspiracy theories and controversy

There are few foods so maligned in the West as monosodium glutamate, often simplified to MSG. Food labels and menus will be emblazoned with ‘MSG free’, a badge of honour from companies who are doing little but playing into our fears of what we’re eating to sell us products at marked up prices.

Our fear of MSG is steeped in controversy and conspiracy theories, but how did we get to this point?

Discovery and arrival in the West


The voices of the gods

The Oracle of Delphi — John Collier (enlarged by author), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Oracles were some of the most important people in the ancient world. These men and women were consulted on all important matters, especially marriage, war, and business. Both men and women could be oracles, and while there are far too many to list, looking at some of the most famous ones allows us to gain insight into the cultures and Gods for which they spoke.

The Oracle of Dodona

The history of oracles is mirky at best and many of the sites are thought to predate even the cultures from which they came, building upon earlier ones and religions to create what we today…


Carthage, Aeneas, and a cursed love fated to end in flames

The meeting of Dido and Aeneas — Nathaniel Dance-Holland, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Dido remains known as the mighty queen brought down by love, forever cursing her lover and his people to be her enemies. This is the narrative Virgil presents us with in his epic Aeneid, where many people’s interest in the founding Queen of Carthage begins and ends. She is a side character in the Aeneid, after all, an obstacle to Aeneas’ glorious founding of Rome.

The real Dido however is far more interesting, but historians have struggled to disentangle her from mythology for well over a century now. …


The woman who would be God

Heresy within religion is almost unavoidable. As religions crystalize around a doctrine, anything outside the orthodox becomes heresy. What is interesting, however, is why and how heresy grows. Often it is in response to difficult, sometimes unknowable questions, because the religious establishment is corrupt, or because individuals become disillusioned and seek their own path.

For Guglielma, a heretic, and a saint, it was all of these things, and the movement she inspired would shake Christianity to its core.

Guglielma

Guglielma’s early life cannot easily be separated from her myth, thanks in part to both the deliberate and accidental destruction of records…


Conquest of Hispaniola — Theodor de Bry, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Gonzalo Guerrero, the father of the first Mestizos

Many of us grew up hearing about the discovery of the New World. We learned the rhyme ‘in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue’, we learned that he was not in fact the first European to discover the Americas and eventually many of us learned of the horrific cost of Columbus’ ‘discovery’. For too many of us, names like Columbus, Cortes, and Pizarro rightly elicit anger today, while others have been forgotten.

Few of these men can be called heroes, and fewer still went to the New World to aid the people they found there, but their contributions to aiding…


Reconstuction of an elderly Neanderthal — Neanderthal-Museum, Mettmann, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The food and fall of our ancient cousins

The Neanderthals, one of our closest hominid cousins, emerged around 200,000 years ago in Eurasia, roughly the same time homo sapiens were emerging in Africa. It was once assumed that the two species were radically different — the smart, cunning humans, and the brutish, dumb Neanderthals.

Initially, dietary evidence seemed to support this too. While humans were dedicated omnivores, taking advantage of whatever they could find to sustain themselves, it was believed the Neanderthals ate a largely carnivorous diet, consisting mostly of big game, most famously represented by the woolly mammoth.

A growing body of evidence is challenging this concept…


An AI generated landscape — Datascientist55, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Who has the right to make ‘art’?

The questions around AI and art are not new ones. For decades now artists have been using AI in various forms to create art, but it’s only in the last few decades that we’ve begun to see what many of us consider to be ‘AI art’ — namely art made almost entirely by AI, with as little human interaction as possible.

But should AI even be making art, and how will the art world react to what may very soon be the first AI maestro?

Creativity and Art


Pioneering the horrors of trench warfare

The Siege of Sevastopol — Valentin Ramirez, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Siege of Sevastopol was one of the bloodiest battles in the Crimean War, a brutal conflict fought primarily between Britain, France, the Ottoman Empire, and Russia. The Crimean War was one of the pioneers of the kind of ‘trench warfare’ that would be used to such deadly effect in the American Civil War and on the Western Front during World War I.

The Siege of Sevastopol, a major Russian naval base, between October 17, 1854, and September 11, 1855, was perhaps the most important victory for the Allies and would pave the way for Russia’s eventual defeat in 1856…

Danny

Food fan, writer and history nerd. Sometimes I combine the three and write about them here :)

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