Saturday, August 30, 2014

Surprises and The Unintended Invention of Potato Chips

George Crum
Cornelius Vanderbilt was a famous tycoon. First made his name well-known in the ferry industry. He was renowned to be given the title “Commodore” for his good quality of service and his vast ferry business. But when the steam engine dawned, he moved from the sea to land. He invested a lot of his wealth in creating a huge railroad empire. He made a lot of money as well as enemies as a result of his aggressive business tactics. He contributed on the rise of the railroad industry as well as capitalism in America. However, besides business and industry, Vanderbilt was said to have made another surprising contribution. According to legends, he had been instrumental for the creation of one of the most eaten snack in the world – Potato Chips.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Songhai Empire: The Last Great Empire

Songhai Empire
In area of Western Africa, great civilization appeared and fell. Cities like Timbuktu, Gao, and Djenne (Jenne) were just among the flourishing cities of trade, culture, and education. Trans-Saharan trade of cloth, gold, and salt brought wealth and prosperity to the civilization that control such lucrative routes. Rivers provided fresh water and food that sustained empires for long time. Among the last empires that grew in this part of the world is the Empire of Songhai. From obscurity of a shadow of another empire, it grew to become the dominant power in the area.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Antonine Plague:The End of Pax Romana

Galen
The period of Pax Romana lasted for over a century. Spanning over the reign of the Five Good Emperors, it was a period of prosperity, peace, and expansion for the Roman civilization. But during the reign of the last of the Five Good Emperors, Marcus Aurelius, calamity struck the Empire. Even more deadly than a barbarian invasion, a disease spread like wild fire across Rome. The disease was known as the Antonine Plague, the plague that would end peace and tranquility of Rome.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Township and Village Enterprises: Owed by So Many to So Small

Mao proclaiming the foundation of
the People's Republic of China
The death of Mao Zedong brought waves of changes to Communist China. Under Mao, China suffered hardship through his failed Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution. The nation was in ruins. Many were poor, starving, and jobless. After his demise, a brief period became under Hua Guofeng. But he was later replaced by another formidable figure in Chinese politics – Deng Xiaoping. Under his authority China saw reforms that shook the foundations of communism. Among his projects were small business called Township and Village Enterprises.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Umayyads: Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan

From the chaos brought by the death of Shias and Sunnis, a new caliphate rose. From the brutal murder of Caliph Uthman and the disintegration of order during the reign of Caliph Ali, Governor Muawiya from Damascus fought hard in order to establish a new caliphate from the ashes of the previous Rashidun caliphate. The Umayyad Caliphate was the result of Muawiya’s efforts. And from the foundation that Muawiya established, his successors would develop it to create one of the largest empires that the world had ever seen. Considered a part of the greatest caliphs of the Umayyad, Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan would cement the caliphate in the world by war and by reforms.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

John Warne Gates: From Barbed Wire to Riches

John Warne Gates
Barbed wire is a small tool that changes the world. It changed how ranchers grew their livestock. It’s a tool used to keep prisoners inside their prison. It changed the faces of battlefields forever. During the advent of this small but decisive tool, many took the opportunity to make some money from it. But one man stood to dominate the industry. A man that did not invent barbed wire but used it to made a fortune from it. A fortune that so huge that a million dollars can be easily loss in one poker game. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Potosi: The Mine that Changed the World

Sketch of Potosi in 1533
The discovery of the Americas was just the start of an exploration of a land that had so much potential and resources. A new economic order in Europe brought so much change in trade and economic perspective and policies. This new policy, called Mercantilism, brought the need for the control of sources of raw materials as well as new markets for manufactured products. This led to a wave of imperialism, colonialism, and a search for sources of wealth. The Spanish, in particular, were keen to discover El Dorado, the city of gold. But what they found out in the Peruvian highlands was almost similar in size of wealth. Cerro de Potosi would change a landscape of the mountain itself and world commerce as a whole.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Andrianampoinimerina: Founder of a New Merina Kingdom

Andrianampoinimerina
A lone big island stand in the East Coast of Africa. The island of Madagascar is the largest island in the African continent. And here a story of Kingdom would begin. Once a small divided Kingdom at the center of the island, a king would rise up to unite once more this kingdom. King Andrianampoinimerina would take challenges by battle or by diplomacy to unite the divided Merina Kingdom and enlarge it to dominate the whole island.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Stories of Ice Cream: Italians

Remorse of Emperor Nero by John William Waterhouse
Every summer, the scorching is always a torture. Sweat pouring down in your head and in your body. Thirst unquenched. People do drastic things to remain cool, facing air conditioner, fanning oneself vigorously, etc. But one thing that people would search is a treat that help to ease the heat. And there noting more than ice cream. A dairy product with mixed with different flavors that cools the body. However, it is such a surprise that this summer time treat has a shrouded history. In stories the Italians were widely credited for its creation.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Special Economic Zones: Center of Growth in China

Deng during his visit of Johnson Space Center
After the death of Mao Zedong, a new more powerful China emerged. With new leadership, conservative and hardline communism was abandoned in favor of a more liberal and reformist attitude. “To be rich is glorious” became the motto of the paramount leader of China in the 1980’s – Deng Xiaoping. With the aim of improving China to maintain Party control he established Special Economic Zones to provide new jobs and propel China to new heights.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Umayyads: Muawiya

Umayyad Caliphate in 750
Upon the death of the third Rashidun Caliph, Uthman, tensions between those who supported election for the next leaders and those who wanted blood relatives of Mohammad to succeed and lead the community. The later, called the Shia Muslims, gain the upper hand when their candidate, Ali ibn Abi Talib, cousin and son-in-law to the Prophet Mohammad, became finally the new caliph. However, many challenged his authority. Allegations of conspiracy for the murder of previous Caliph and lack of conviction to punish the murders of Uthman, drove many to rebel against Ali. Among those who oppose the caliph would be Muawiya. He would lead the strongest opposition to Ali and eventually lead to the establishment of a new Caliphate – the Umayyad.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Rodolphe Lindt: Chocolate Smooth as Silk

Rodolphe Lindt
In the 19th century, the tiny land lock country of Switzerland became the center of development for chocolate production. The advent of industrialization led to the commercialization and improvements to the production of once luxurious products and turning to a product that the masses could enjoy. Names like Jean Tobler and Daniel Peter were pioneers to the rise of chocolate. And among the most ingenious and successful of this chocolatiers was Rodolphe Lindt.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Great Athenian Plague: The Plague that Killed Athens

Acropolis of Athens by Leo von Klenze
With war in its doorstep, Ancient Athenian fought another more internal and equally dangerous foe – disease. Disagreement between the two superpowers of the ancient Greek world collided during the Peloponnesian War starting 431 BCE. As the Athenian and Spartan forces fought each other, Athenians suffered a huge blow in form of a Great Plague. A plague that would end it supremacy in the ancient world.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Tanks that Shaped WWII - Panzer IV

Panzer IV
Russia, 1941 – the German tanks led the advance to the Russian tundra under Operation Barbarossa. Hitler desire to crush the heart of communism and to gain the huge oil supply in the Caucasus. Among the tanks that pushed back the Red Army was the Panzer IV. Tanks shaped World War II. It moved battles from trenches to open plains. Mobility overtook static strategies. And the Panzer IV was among the tanks that played during World War II.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Household Responsibility System: Changing the Face of Rural China

Deng Xiaoping
A nation mourned the death of its leader, Mao Zedong, and later would begin the revitalization of its agriculture. During the time of Mao, China’s farmers faced restructuring and famine. But upon the death of founder of the PRC, a new leader rose. A more practical and more pragmatic, Deng Xiaoping would fix the problems left by the previous regime. Among his priorities was fixing the livelihood of the many peasants in the Chinese countryside. His answer for lack of unproductivity and inefficiency was the Household Responsibility System.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Ranavalona III: The Last Sovereign of Merina

Ranavalona III
The desire of the French for Madagascar erupted in last month of 1883. Months into the middle of the war, the Queen, Ranavalona II, became ill and died. Upon her death, his husband, the real power in Kingdom, and Prime Minister Rainilaiarivony looked for another Queen. He found it in form of a niece of Ranavalona II who became to be known as Ranavalona III. Her reigned would be the last of the Merina Dynasty and its Kingdom.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Sea Beggars: The Foundation of the Dutch Navy

William "the Silent"
In the upheavals of the Protestant Reformation, the Spanish Netherlands of Philip II saw the rise of a new world power. The Dutch sought to make their own destiny. A destiny impossible under the Spanish hegemony. As a result, a war that would last over eighty years rocked the Low Countries. At the front of the conflict were group of seafarers that would later lay the ground work for the Dutch navy – the Sea Beggars.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Rashidun: Ali ibn Abi Talib

Ali ibn Abi Talib
In 656, the reign of the third caliph of the Rashidun Caliphate, Uthman ended bloody. The nepotism and rise of corruption of Caliph Uthman caused dissent and chaos within the Islamic community. Then, Mohammad ibn Abu Bakar, son of Caliph Abu Bakar, led the murder of Caliph Uthman. The Caliphate then fell in the hands of son-in-law and cousin of Prophet Mohammad, Ali ibn Abi Talib. His reign saw the rise of division and chaos.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Conrad Van Houten: Start of a Chocolate revolution

Conrad van Houten
Ever since, the time of that Hernan Cortez brought back cacao beans from the Americas, it became a luxury across Europe. From Spain it spread across to France and into the court of the extravagant court of Louis XIV. It then spread to other countries, to the Swiss, the Dutch, and later, the British. More and more ways of processing chocolate developed. Among the most pioneering was a Dutch chocolatier and engineer, Conrad van Houten.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Cohongs: Domination of Trade

The Thirteen Factories (1825)
China’s rulers were anxious about the proselytizing of the Christians in its ports. In the mid 1700’s, the Manchu Qing government decreed that all foreign trade of China would only pass to the ports of the southern city of Canton. And in Canton, only few were allowed to transact with the outsiders. Those who were only allowed to mingle with the western traders were called Cohongs (Kohongs or simply Hongs). They would serve as intermediary between Beijing and the Europeans.