Sunday, June 29, 2014

Tanks that Shaped WWII - Panzer I

Panzer I
Poland, 1939 – German light mobile tanks became the spearhead of Hitler’s blitzkrieg. From the shadow of the Treaty of Versailles, the Panzer I were new German tanks developed that initiated another devastating war. Tanks shaped World War II. It moved battles from trenches to open plains. Mobility overtook static strategies. And the Panzer I was among the tanks that played during World War II.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Radama I: Great King of Merina

Radama I
While Europe was engulf by the Wars against Napoleon Bonaparte, in the small but rising Malagasy Kingdom of Merina, a new ruler emerged. Although young, his mind and ambition was fit for the task of ruling a country. Military, diplomatically, educationally, and economically, he brought development into his kingdom. King Radama I brought progress to his people that his later successors would destroy and cherish.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Dinning with King Louis XIV

King Louis XIV dinning with Moliere
King Louis XIV was the ruler of France.  An egocentric King, he wanted to make his everyday life a show for every aristocrat to watch in his beautiful and magnificent palace of Versailles. From the time he wakes up in the morning, towards his every meal, and until the time of his sleep in the night, all of daily activities were ritualized to become small shows for the nobility. Even when it was time for his meals, all of it was turned into a show. Aristocrats gather around the King, waiting a chance to be notice and spoken to. Among of these ritualized meals was the Grand Couvert.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

South Sea Bubble: 18th Century Meltdown

South Sea Bubble by Edward Matthew Ward
In 2008, a global recession hit the world hard. It is a fact in an economy that there are periods of highs and lows, booms and bust. Bursting bubbles were inevitable if an authority is not careful enough. Bubbles are characterize by rapid rise of prices of a commodity and its sudden deflation caused by different circumstances. After nearly a century after the Tulip Mania, another bubble was created just a sea across, to England. A new and more volatile bubble was created. From a flower, the crazed turned to hopes and lies of a monopoly and profit of a company, the South Sea Company.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Purity Law: Protecting Beer in Bavaria

William (Wilhelm) IV, Duke of Bavaria
Before the advent of water treatment and water safety laws, water quality was very poor. It was only use for washing, bathing, but never for human drinking. It was a custom of the people to drink processed beverages, like wine, ale, and also for beer. Popularity of beer led into problems in productions. In order to protect the consumers of beer, two dukes enacted the Purity.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Emperor Hongwu: Founder, General, Executioner

Emperor Hongwu
For an almost hundred years, the Yuan Dynasty ruled China. From the conquest of Kublai Khan, the Mongols was the first foreign dynasty to rule all of China. But then, a rebellion rose that would launched a new dynasty. A dynasty that would last for a hundred years, born from its founder, Emperor Hongwu.

Yuan China, early 14th century, China had been under the domination of their conquerors, the Mongols. Their swift and mobile cavalry brought the fall of the previous Song Dynasty. After the death of its founder, Kublai Khan, the Yuan saw ten more emperor. But then, in the early 13th century, the Han Chinese felt misruled, neglected, and indignation. In this situation, poor boy with a great destiny would be born.

Zhu Yuangzhang was born in 1328 the farmlands of Fengyang County in Anhui Province. His parents were famers living off from their harvest. In 1344, disaster struck his family, natural disasters hit the region. A famine then ensued. During the famine, Zhu’s parents died. He then entered a Buddhist monastery to become an apprentice and more importantly, to survive. He received basic education through the monks.

In 1352, he joined an anti-Yuan rebel group known as the Red Turbans. The Red Turban was a group of several religious individuals. It was a melting of various beliefs, from Buddhist to an obscure Manicheanist. The organization, however, was fragmented. It had several groups operating in separate regions with separate leaders but with a paramount lord who was Han Liner.

Zhu joined the Red Turbans operating in the Yangtze River. He came under the command of Guo Zixing. He was a protégé of Guo. Eventually, Zhu was married to Guo’s daughter who later became Empress Xiaocigao or Empress Ma.

In 1355, Guo died and Zhu became the leader of the Red Turbans in the Yangzte region. He was a great military order. He valued loyalty, obedience, and discipline among his troops. In 1356, his skills was greatly proven when he captured Nanjing, his capital and future center of the Ming Dynasty. From his victories, he took the name Duke of Wu, from the Wu Kingdom during the Three Kingdoms Period. And later on, to promote his interest of establishing of a dynasty, he took the title of Prince of Wu in 1364.

Meanwhile, Zhu took several more victories against other opposing factions of the Red Turban. In 1363 he scored a victory against Chen Youliang, the Red Turban warlord in Central China, during the Battle of Lake Poyang. Four years after his stunning victory, it was followed by another one in 1367. He defeated another rival in the Central region of China, Zhang Shicheng. Then in the same year, Han Liner, drowned under suspicious circumstances. Han drowned while being guarded by Zhu’s troops. It was suspected that he was assassinated by Zhu.

With most of his enemies gone and the fall of the weakened Yuan Dynasty, Zhu finally to establish his Dynasty. On January 12, 1368, in his palace in Nanjing, he proclaimed the foundation of the Dynasty of Ming or Radiance. He then took the reign name of Hongwu or Great Military Achievement.

As a start of his reign, he allowed a number of Mongols to stay in china. They were permitted also to remain in some positions in government. Also, some units also had Mongol troops.

The Emperor also moved to stabilize the government and the Empire. He brought back the Six Ministries, which were the Ministry of Revenue, Personnel, War, Justice, and Public Works, under the watch of the Prime Minister. Then in 1370, he reinstated the Civil Service Examination.  For the creation of efficient land taxation system, he ordered a map for land-survey as well as, compilation of records of previous land taxes in 1387. To control the landowning families, Hongwu made them to move and live in Nanjing.

Along with establishing a stable government, Hongwu made more military exploits. Under his command was over a million soldiers. His army also took advantage of firearms as weapons. Mongol raiders wreak havoc to the border towns of China. Hongwu launched punitive expedition to the north. Twice, in 1372 and 1380, he raze the capital of the Mongols, Karakorum. From his experience at the Battle of Lake Poyang, Hongwu saw the importance of a navy and established one. The navy served as a coast guard especially against pirate attacks in south. To strengthen command and control he also established military commissions throughout the country.

Hongwu was a notable supporter of Neo-Confucian ideas. He promoted Zhu Xi’s Family Ritual. He also patronized the establishing of many community schools throughout the Empire.

But most of Hongwu’s reign, however, was widely marred by consolidation and brutality. He highly preferred the neo-Confucianism ideas of a leader, where obedience, loyalty, and discipline was highly regarded. During his time as a rebel leader, this worked perfectly for his soldiers. This same ideals were then made also for civilian officials and bureaucrats. The idea of a strong and absolute leader, however, resulted in massive deaths and purges. Corporal punishments, such as flogging was applicable to incompetent officials. Under his reign two major purges were made against influential officers. In 1380, the rising role of his Prime Minister, Hu Wei Yong, gained the attention of the paranoid Emperor. Threatened by Hu’s growing influence he ordered his execution. Hu’s family and allies also felt his fury and many more were killed. After the issue, the Emperor abolished the position of Prime Minister and placed the Six Ministries under his control. It was then followed by the establishment of a somewhat Secret Police. In 1382, the Embroidered Uniform Guards was formed. The second major purged that the Emperor made was in 1393, when he ordered the execution of thousands of officials. By the end of his reign, Hongwu claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. He proved his absolute and autocratic power.

In 1398, Emperor Hongwu died. His eldest son died few years ago, in 1392. The throne then fell to his grandson, the future Emperor Jianwen. However, ambition brought down the young Emperor and brought Hongwu’s fourth son, Emperor Yongle.

From Emperor Hongwu, a new prosperous China would be born. A dynasty made from blood, a lot of blood. But from blood, Hongwu and his successors ushered a dynasty of builders, explorers, and intellectuals.

See also:
Emperor Yongle: Usurper and Builder
The Golden Age of Manchu Dynasty - Emperor Kangxi
The Last Great Manchu Emperor
Wu Zentian: Only Woman Emperor of China

Li, X. China at War: An Encyclopedia. California: ABC-CLIO LLC, 2012.

Nolan, C. The Greenwood Encyclopedia of International Relation. Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2002.

Perkins, D. Encyclopedia of China: An Essential Reference to China, Its History and Culture. New York: Routledge, 2013. 

Rossabi, M. A History of China. West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons, 2014.

Tanner, H.  China: A History. Indiana: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2009.

Wolff, R. The Popular Encyclopedia of World Religion: A User Friendly Guide to Their Beliefs, History, and Impact on our World Today. Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Jim Fisk: Manipulator, Speculator

James Fisk
After the Civil War, America experience a rapid reconstruction followed by unprecedented industrialization. Government did not dominated the scene but businessmen, speculators, and bankers. Among the most prominent, infamous, and unscrupulous of these men was James Fisk. Ruthless and greedy, he inflicted torment to his enemies and even to his own company.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Creation of Margarine

Hippolyte Mège-Mouriès
In the period prior to the 20th century, butter was a luxury commodity. Only the wealthy and the aristocracy could only afford. The main reason was it’s made of pure dairy. And dairy was too expensive for the common people. And so in the 1860’s, a leader would present a prize that would led to the creation of a butter substitute – margarine.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Ranavalona I: Bloody Queen

Ranavalona I
In the 19th century, European influence in the African coast grew tremendously. It was to engage in the lucrative trade of slaves, initially, gold, spices, and salt. In the biggest island of Africa, Madagascar, a Queen rose against the foreigners in the defense of local traditions and customs. Her methods, however, displayed high level of cruelty. This was the Merina Queen Ranavalona I.

Florin: Medieval Age Euro

The famous landmark of Florence, the Duomo, 
or the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore 
Coins are part of our everyday lives. It allows us to make transactions in small quantities, like buying a candy or using for transportation fair, or even a simple vending machine. The history of coins had progressed so long. It began by the time people discovered metals and learned how to trade. In the Medieval period, one coin that dominated the period was made by the small but powerful Italian city-state of Florence – Florin.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Tulip Mania: The First Big Bust

Semper Augustus - a popular species
of tulip during the Mania
In 2008, a global recession hit the world hard. It is a fact in an economy that there are periods of highs and lows, booms and bust. Bursting bubbles were inevitable if an authority is not careful enough. Bubbles are characterize by rapid rise of prices of a commodity and its sudden deflation caused by different circumstances. In history, one of the weirdest but significant bubbles was started by a flower – a tulip.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Emperor Yongle: Usurper and Builder

Emperor Yongle
He was an Emperor that thought large. He had high ambition which drove him to power. After power was his, he continued to think big; and he was determine to realize it. From his dark rise came an open and majestic China. A China that that had a new imperial capital and a new splendor for its rulers and officials to enjoy. A China that stretched its reaches as far as Africa. This was the reign of Emperor Yongle.

The Life of Jay Gould

Jay Gould
He was a man brave enough to clash with one of the wealthiest man in the United States. He proved to be even bolder when he was prepared to use illegal means to achieve his goals. He profited at the expense of other’s money and life savings. From a poor humble background, the life of Jay Gould horrified many.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Nian Rebellion: In the Shadows of Taiping

Rebellion, war, and incursion, these what describe China during the tumultuous latter half of the 19th century. The Manchu led Qing Dynasty was in its final chapters. It faced the strong and powerful imperialistic agendas of the West. Its Empire was being carved into several sphere of influences among the Europeans. Domestic affairs was as bleak as its foreign relations. Rebellions of discontent erupted in various regions of Imperial China. The largest was the Taiping Rebellion. Simultaneously, other minor rebellions gave headaches to the Forbidden City. Among these obscure rebellion was the Nian Rebellion.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Erie War: Watered Stocks and Unregulated Capitalism

A caricature of the Erie War
He started as a ferry tycoon. But from the flames of the Civil War, a new booming industry emerged – the railroad industry. A man with tenacity and ruthlessness, Cornelius Vanderbilt entered the rising industry to get a share of the profits. In 1860’s he managed to take a hold of the important New York Central Line that connected New York City to the western part of New York State. However, this was not enough. He wanted as well take control of the second line that went farther to Chicago, which was held by Erie Line. His attempt to grab the line would spark what would be known as the Erie War.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Catal Hoyuk: The First City of the World?

The Neolithic Age saw humanity’s great leap forward in its history. Agriculture, animal domestication, and sedentary living developed building the foundations of future civilizations. In Asia Minor, Çatalhöyük have been the most famous example of Neolithic settlement in the region.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Menelik II: Ethiopian Independence and Modernization

Menelik II
In 1885, the Berlin Conference resulted to the infamous Scramble for Africa. European imperialism devoured all of Africa. Even a tiny European state, like Belgium, acquired territories in the African continent larger than their own. However, in the Horn of Africa, one Kingdom stand tall among others. Abyssinia (modern day Ethiopia) managed to defend itself from the clutches of the Europeans. Credited of this defense was the modernization efforts of its ruler – Menelik II. 

How a Pope Spread Coffee to the World?

Pope Clement VIII
In the 17th century, coffee drinking began to rise in Europe. Venetian merchants who exclusively traded with the Ottomans brought samples of the caffeinated drink to Europe. However, alarm bells of the most powerful religious institution in Europe, the Catholic Church, rang. The decision of whether the church should thwart the rise of coffee or should allow it to continue laid in the hands of the Pope, Clement VIII.

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Golden Age of Manchu Dynasty - Emperor Kangxi

Emperor Kangxi
There only few foreign dynasty that led China, one of the most longest and most well-known was the last dynasty of Empire – the Manchu led Qing Dynasty. In the 16th century, the Manchus were still consolidating their hold of the Chinese Empire. The Manchu Emperors were wise enough to know that to control China, they must not just rule it militarily but also culturally. He Manchus must show and make themselves Chinese. One of the most famous Manchu Emperors that would consolidate China militarily and launch a new golden age of Chinese culture was Emperor Kangxi.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Mussolini's Battles: The Battle for Births

During the 1920’s to 30’s Italian politics was dominated by the National Fascist Party. The party promoted far right wing ideology and led by a charismatic and though World War I veteran Benito Mussolini. Four years into his leadership of Italy, he commenced series of economic battles to address certain issue in the economy. First was the Battle of Grain which was followed by the Battle for the Lira. In 1927, he launched another battle – the Battle for Births.

John Jacob Astor: King of Fur

John Jacob Astor
America is the land of opportunity for migrants hoping for a better life. America began when Europeans started to move to the New World from the 17th-century. After the first thirteen colonies won their independence, many continued and began to realize their dreams in the newly independent United States. One of these individuals was a German immigrant that rose to become the first of the most influential and wealthy men in the country.