This week in 930 CE, the chieftains of Iceland established the Althing, which remains the country’s parliament. It’s the world’s oldest surviving legislature. Northmen (sometimes called Vikings) had arrived on the island about 60 years before, and now they set about to govern themselves – meeting outdoors at a place called Thingvellir, which means “assembly
This week in 1494, the Spanish and Portuguese Empires signed the Treaty of Tordesillas—brokered by the Pope. The treaty divided the globe between the two great powers, fifty-fifty. The Treaty of Tordesillas drew a line through the Atlantic, from pole to pole. New lands (non-European countries) to the West belonged to Spain. That gave it
This week in 1683, the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology opened in Oxford. It was the world’s first university museum and was named after Elias Ashmole, who in 1677 had given Oxford University what became the museum’s first collection. Construction also began in 1677. The current museum building was finished in 1845. That first
Last week, I posted this article that had 3 real theories on the origins of April Fool’s Day, and 3 fake theories. Below are the 3 true theories: 1. In 1582, France switched from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, which moved New Year’s Day from March to January. People who still celebrated in March were mocked as
Historians debate the origins of April Fool’s Day, with three possible explanations. Which of the following are real; which three are actual theories for the holiday’s origin? In 1582, France switched from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, which moved New Year’s Day from March to January. People who still celebrated in March were mocked
This week in 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe published her anti-slavery novel, UNCLE TOM’S CABIN. Beecher Stowe was a teacher at Hartford Female Seminary in Connecticut. She originally published her most famous work as a 40-week serial in “The National Era,” an abolitionist periodical. Publisher John Jewett saw potential and proposed that Stowe turn the serial
This week in 1804, the Louisiana Territory transferred from French to U.S. sovereignty, with the change marked by a ceremony in St. Louis. The territory had actually changed hands before, from France to Spain and then, as late as 1800, back to France. France’s First Consul, Napoleon Bonaparte (later emperor), had planned to reestablish a
This week in 1781, the Articles of Confederation went into effect in the United States, following ratification by the 13 colonies – a.k.a. states. Work on the Articles had begun in 1776, around the time of the Declaration of Independence. Completion took a year and a half, until November 5 of 1777 – for two
This week in 1600, South America experienced the most violent volcanic eruption in its recorded history. The volcano known as Huaynaputina, in Peru, exploded, and the impact was global. The surrounding area was devastated, of course – much of it buried in six feet of volcanic ash and rock. But the eruption also altered global
William Henry Harrison, America’s 9th President, was born this week in 1773. Harrison probably would not be pleased to learn his greatest legacy: establishing the system for presidential succession, by dying in office. The Constitution has surprisingly unclear terms about succession, so when Harrison died in 1841, no one knew if the Vice President would
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