Worst year to be alive? Try 536 AD, not 2020

When asked which year was the worst in history to be alive, many historians are quick to mention 536 AD. It might seem surprising that these historians can pinpoint a specific year as a clear winner, considering how fraught human history is with suffering. Perhaps it is less surprising, however, when the events of 536 are described. Due to a heavy fog, many portions of … Continue reading Worst year to be alive? Try 536 AD, not 2020

President for one day: The David Atchison administration

As of July 11, 2020, there have officially been 45 U.S. presidents. Theories abound regarding the power held by figures such as Dick Cheney or Edith Wilson, but the official tally stands. Should it? The presidential line of succession is an important mechanism to ensure that, at any point in time, someone occupies the office. In 1849, the president pro tempore was third in that … Continue reading President for one day: The David Atchison administration

Welcome to Hell, Biagio da Cesena: Michelangelo’s spiteful addition to ‘The Last Judgment’

As most are aware, Michelangelo’s famous renderings on the Sistine Chapel, “The Last Judgment,” were highly controversial among Italian clergy for their depiction of nudity. Few were more aghast at Michelangelo’s sacrilege than Biagio da Cesena. The conservative Papal Master of Ceremonies expressed his distaste for Michelangelo’s work by stating that, due to the fresco depicting “all those nude figures, exposing themselves so shamefully,” it … Continue reading Welcome to Hell, Biagio da Cesena: Michelangelo’s spiteful addition to ‘The Last Judgment’

Independence Day: The origin of fireworks and the 4th of July

According to Ron Swanson, “history began on July 4, 1776” when a small colony declared its independence from its motherland – one of the most powerful countries in the world, at the time. Now the United States celebrates its independence every 4th of July with fireworks, barbecues, and parties. However, when did we start using fireworks to celebrate our independence? Around 200 B.C. fireworks were … Continue reading Independence Day: The origin of fireworks and the 4th of July

Operation Footloose: The Cold War dance-off for Inuit loyalty

When the CIA and KGB began their decades-long espionage war in the latter half of the 1940s, the Bearing Strait between Alaska and Siberia became a key strategic battleground. Realizing Anchorage was closer in distance to Berlin than it was to Seattle, intelligence analysts predicted that the far north could become the main front in a future ground war between the United States and the … Continue reading Operation Footloose: The Cold War dance-off for Inuit loyalty