Lessons in the "History" Category

The end of the world – or is it?

Today, let’s talk about the end of the world. According to the ancient Mayan calendar it was meant to end on December 21st 2012. By reading this lesson after this date the world is obviously still here!

There have been many superstitions and predictions about December 21st. Some people might say the world might not end exactly on this date but soon after. Then again the world might just last a few more thousand years…

Category: The World / End of the World / Mayan Calendar

Europe 1912, Europe 2012

You are in a bar discussing about how life is at the moment in Europe, its challenges of living there and its politics. You are also discussing the future, about how life might be like, and about how Europe might look like in the future. You live somewhere in Europe where there is one currency and where there are many nationalities. You live where the movement of trade is easy and fair, with little paperwork - thus avoiding goods being blocked at borders for days on end. You live where people can cross vast areas freely from the mountains to the sea without hindrance and false borders.

Category: History / Europe / Change

Why English is the most important language in the world

Today, let’s talk about why English is the most important language in the world. Considering the size of the country it beggars belief how the English language has remained at the forefront of languages students desire to learn. Of course, the question is why? There are many answers to this. In this lesson we will explore a few thoughts on this subject.

Category: English / History / Importance of English

Auschwitz – A lesson in history

Today, let’s talk about Auschwitz. It’s a lesson in history we should never forget. Why discuss it now? Simple – I was recently invited to go to Poland for a long weekend to Cracow. One of the trips we made was to Auschwitz. I can tell you – it makes you think twice on many things once you have visited the place.

Whilst it is not in my top 10 places to visit I believe it is a place you should visit once in your life. Indeed, many tourists do – during mid June to mid September mostly. It is as creepy and shocking today as you can imagine. When you walk around the site you can only imagine how ghastly it was and what it might have been like to live there. I will add – for those non-believers who say the Jews weren’t murdered by the Nazis – I say this – visit this place and you will rapidly think again.

Category: History / WWII / Auschwitz

Should France preserve Hitler’s Atlantic Wall?

Sections of Hitler’s Atlantic Wall in France are being restored by enthusiasts. But should it be preserved? Should the Nazi fortification be fully embraced as part of the country’s image?

The so-called Atlantic Wall – Hitler’s defensive system against an expected Allied attack – stretched all the way from the Spanish border to Scandinavia. It was in France where the most extensive building took place. In fact 1,287km (800 miles) of French coast have substantial and evocative vestiges of war-time Europe. However, in France up till now there has been no effort to preserve this extraordinary historical landmark.

The French, have it seems, been quite happy to see the German defences rust away and crumble over time. But now it appears a new mood has emerged. Recently, several local associations dedicated to safeguarding portions of the Wall have been set up in France. Times have moved on, memories of the war have lapsed, and a new generation no longer feels pain or guilt, but curiosity.

Category: History / France / Hitler’s Atlantic Wall

Hadrian’s Wall

Today I thought we could look at Hadrian’s Wall. But what is Hadrian’s Wall and where is it? For that matter who was Hadrian? Well, Hadrian’s Wall was a defensive fortification on the edge of Roman Britain; on the edge of the Roman Empire. Begun in AD 122, during the rule of emperor Hadrian (ruled AD 117-138) it was the most heavily fortified border in the Roman Empire.

The wall was built to separate the Romans from the barbarians. Initial construction took six years. Expansions were later made. At every 1/3 Roman mile there was a tower, and at every mile a fortlet containing a gate through the wall. Possibly there was a tower and one or two barrack blocks. Forts were built every seven miles.

In addition to its role as a fortification it is thought the gates of the wall served as customs posts to allow trade and levy taxation. The actual wall lies in northern England. A significant amount of it can still be seen today. It runs from coast to coast.

Category: Places to Visit / Hadrian’s Wall / History

Rusyns survive time in Central & Eastern Europe

One of the joys of living in Central Europe is to discover more about its history. On a trip over from Luxembourg, a while back, I came across an interesting article in Time Magazine about ‘Lost Tribes in Old Europe’. One of these ‘lost tribes’ is that of the Rusyns who are located in eight countries spread over Central and Eastern Europe. Most live in Eastern Slovakia and Western Ukraine.

Rusyns are also known as Ruthenians. They are members of a Slavic tribe that settled in this area in the 6th century. Rusyns speak a distinct language. They are renowned for their exquisite wooden churches, often built without nails. They were mainly a poor farming community yet their culture and tradition were very vibrant and widespread.

Rusyns have resisted assimilation for centuries. They have endured hardship. The Hungarians suppressed them by forcing them to learn Hungarian. The Austrians stole their land and taxed them to the hilt by demanding more animals and crops. This severe hardship forced thousands and thousands of Rusyns to emigrate after 1880 to the industrial regions of north-east America.

Category: History / Central & Eastern Europe / Rusyn

The British Empire – where the sun never set

At its peak the British Empire was the largest empire the world had ever known. It was said ‘the sun never sets on the British Empire’ because its span across the globe ensured that the sun was always shining on at least one of its numerous colonies or subject nations. Its power and influence stretched all over the globe for several centuries.

For better or worse it had a massive impact on the history of the world. It was a product of the European age of discovery that began with the maritime explorations in the 16th century, which sparked the era of the European colonial empires. The America’s colonisation forming part of the first era of the British Empire.

Category: History / British Empire / Great Britain

France’s new medieval castle takes shape

Deep in the forests of central France something totally unique is happening. A knight’s castle is under construction. It’s the vision of one man, Michel Guyot, whose idea was to build a complete 13th century castle by using only authentic tools and locally sourced materials.

Every detail of the project is made as accurate as possible, even down to the clothes worn by the workers. If ropes are needed they are made on site; when stone is needed it needs to be quarried out of the ground etc. It’s actually the first castle of its kind to be built for nearly 800 years.

The Château de Guédelon, near the village of Saint-Fargeau in Burgundy, is probably the world’s most unusual building site. It is an exercise in archaeology in reverse, as it is discovery by building up, not by digging down. The foundations were laid back in 1997. It is due to be completed in 2025, when it will be a full-sized castle with battlements and a moat and six towers. According to Monsieur Guyot it is based on the period of 1228.

Category: History / France / Medieval Castle

So how were the Noughties for you?

The Noughties are now over. Another decade has ended. So how were the Noughties for you? Was the era a success or will you regard them like having had a big hangover? How will you remember them? What was the best bit of the Noughties?

There are many things that happened in this era. The TV and newspapers have been full of articles about this decade. It certainly gets one thinking about the Noughties. For example what were the top 5 films of the Noughties? What were the top 5 TV programmes…The top 5 important historical moments…The top 3 records of the era? What were the worst top 3 records?

Who made the headlines during the Noughties? Who were your favourite film stars, musicians and politicians? Which ones did you detest? What were the political scandals of the Noughties? Who got fired? Who triumphed? Who died?

Who were the top 3 best sportsmen and women? What were the top 3 sports events of the decade? How did society change in the Noughties? Were we better or worse off? What new gadgets did we start using? Just how did the financial crisis hit you at the end of the Noughties?