history

Rowan Moore Gerety / WLRN

The St. Patrick's parade is over and the Irish (and honorary Irish) have gone home to sleep off their annual bout of intemperance, but the multi-generational marchers of the Italian-American St. Joseph Society in New Orleans are only just dusting off their tuxedos and straightening their bow ties. Once the shamrocks and shenanigans have vanished from the narrow streets of the French Quarter, and the keg of green beer is empty, another parade — in honor of an entirely different saint — is beginning to gear up.

The curious origins of the ‘Irish slaves’ myth

Mar 17, 2017
<a href="http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/ncl2004002613/PP/">Lewis Wickes Hine/Library of Congress</a>

Irish Americans were slaves once too — or so a historically inaccurate and dangerously misleading internet meme would have you believe.

The meme comes in many varieties but the basic formula is this: old photos, paintings and engravings from all over the world are combined with text suggesting they are historic images of forgotten “Irish slaves.”

The myth underlying the meme holds that the Irish — not Africans — were the first American slaves. It rests on the idea that 17th century American indentured servitude was essentially an extension of the transatlantic slave trade.

Father Columba Stewart (@ColumbaStewart) has spent more than a decade traveling to some of the world’s most dangerous regions — Iraq, Syria, the Balkans — to find and preserve manuscripts, many of them centuries old. And now, with the rise of ISIS, his work has become more urgent than ever.

Did a thirst for lemonade, the beverage that launched a thousand childhood businesses, keep Paris safe from the bubonic plague? Did ergot poisoning lead to the Crusades? According to a new book by Tom Nealon, food writer and antiquarian bookseller, it's a distinct possibility.

Nealon's book, Food Fights and Culture Wars, searches through patchy historical records to trace subjects like how chocolate led to war. In a chapter on "cacao and conflict," Nealon traces some of the violent history spawned by a love of chocolate.

Carron Case / WLRN

Harvey Mattel says there are two kinds of radio collectors: Those who collect for what's on the inside and those who collect for what's on the outside.

He's the latter. 

But you would never know this unless you stepped inside his house or caught a glimpse of the inside of his office. By day, this 67 year old man is a lawyer in Fort Lauderdale. During his off hours, thought, he's a full-fledged radio collector and enthusiast.

Now, it's no surprise that Neanderthals didn't brush their teeth. Nor did they go to the dentist.

That means bits of food and the microbes in their mouths just stayed stuck to their teeth. While not so good for dental hygiene, these dental plaques are a great resource for scientists interested in understanding more about Neanderthal diet and lifestyle.

Among the rolling hills of ancient Africa, sometime around 8000 B.C., a dusty traveler was making gastronomic history, quite by accident.

Thirsty from a long, hot journey, the weary herdsman reached for the sheepskin bag of milk knotted to the back of his pack animal. But as he tilted his head to pour the warm liquid into his mouth, he was astonished to find that the sheep's milk had curdled. The rough terrain and constant joggling of the milk had transformed it into butter --- and bewilderingly, it tasted heavenly.

In the waning years of the Civil War, advertisements like this began appearing in newspapers around the country:

"INFORMATION WANTED By a mother concerning her children.

There are very few scenarios where I could see myself considering the flesh of a fellow human being as food, and the ultimatum "eat today or die tomorrow" comes up in all of them. Most people are probably with me on this.

But Bill Schutt's newest book, Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History, reveals that from a scientific perspective, there's a predictable calculus for when humans and animals go cannibal. And far more humans — and animals — have dipped into the world of cannibalism than you might have imagined.

The word 'refugee' has a surprising origin

Feb 20, 2017
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William Hogarth&nbsp;

As long as there has been war, there have also been people fleeing conflict and attempting to find shelter outside their homeland.

But in English, the word "refugee" is suprisingly recent in origin. It has its roots in 17th-century France, when a huge influx of French migrants known as Huguenots left their country to escape religious persecution. The French réfugié became the English refugee.

Thomas Jefferson wrote the famous words "all men are created equal," but he also owned more than 600 slaves over the course of his life.

His Virginia plantation called Monticello is being renovated to shed more light on the enslaved people who lived and worked there.

One of the most notable of those slaves was Sally Hemings. Jefferson is widely believed to have fathered her six children. The museum is working to restore a restroom believed to be Hemings' living quarters.

It has been three-quarters of a century since President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. The order, issued just over two months after Japan's surprise attack at Pearl Harbor, gave the U.S. military the ability to designate areas "from which any or all persons may be excluded."

Plants that feed on flesh have fascinated scientists going all the way back to Charles Darwin, and researchers now have new insight into how these meat-eaters evolved.

Even plants that evolved continents away from one another rely on strikingly similar tricks to digest their prey.

The Statue of Liberty was modeled after an Arab woman

Feb 1, 2017
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Brendan McDermid/Reuters

As Americans grapple with Donald Trump's ban on travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries, it's a good time to point out a little-known irony. The Statue of Liberty — that symbol of American freedom and diversity that has greeted immigrants for generations — was originally modeled after an Arab woman.

The statue's designer, Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, was enamored with Egyptian pyramids and monumental sculpture. According to historian Edward Berenson, in the 1860s, Bartholdi decided to build a monument to commemorate the opening of Egypt's Suez Canal.

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