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A Famous Explorer's Missing Body Was Just Found Under a London Train Station

January 28, 2019 in History

By Becky Little

Captain Matthew Flinders is famous for circumnavigating Australia and putting the continent on European maps for the first time. He’s also the subject of urban legends because of the fact that, for over 200 years, nobody has known exactly where his body is buried. But in January 2018, archaeologists finally identified his remains behind a train station in London.

Flinders died in 1814 just one day after publishing A Voyage to Terra Australis, a written record of his journey around Australia that included maps. His maps showed that Australia was one single continent, rather than two land masses that Europeans had previously called “New Holland” and “New South Wales.” Before that, he also circumvented Tasmania and proved it was separate from Australia.

He was buried with a headstone at St. James’ burial ground in London. But his headstone disappeared in the 1840s, when the Euston train station expanded into the graveyard. Since then, no one has known where exactly he was, Though urban legend has placed him under platform 15 (among others).

It turns out he wasn’t under any of the platforms at all. Instead, archaeologists discovered his remains behind the train station, at the site where they are exhuming some 45,000 graves to make way for a controversial high-speed railway station known as HS2. Archaeologists in London had been hopeful they’d find Flinders among the tens of thousands of exumations and luckily, they were able to easily identify his grave thanks to a lead breastplate on top of his coffin.

“We’ll now be able to study his skeleton to see whether life at sea left its mark and what more we can learn about him,” said Helen Wass, the head of heritage for HS2, in a government press release.

A map of Australia showing the parts explored between 1798 and 1803 by Matthew Flinders.

Flinders was a prisoner of war when he drew one of his first maps of Australia. It had been peacetime when the British naval officer began his circumnavigation in the summer of 1802. Yet by the time he completed his journey the next summer, his nation was at war with France in a conflict known as the Napoleonic Wars. Occupying French forces arrested the captain on the East African island of Mauritius in late 1803, while he was sailing back home.

It was as a captive in 1804 that he drew what is perhaps …read more


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'Orphan Trains' Brought Homeless NYC Children to Work On Farms Out West

January 28, 2019 in History

By Erin Blakemore

Begging. Blacking boots. Dodging angry, drunken adults. Living on the street. The 35 children who gathered at New York’s Children’s Aid Society in 1880 all had stories of deprivation and abuse to tell. Now, their ragged clothes had been stripped from them and replaced with sturdy new clothing and coats by aid workers. It was time for a long journey west.

“No mother’s tears were shed over the departing waifs,” wrote a reporter from the New York Daily Tribune, “no father’s counsel was given to the boys who were about to enter upon a new life.” That new life awaited them in Iowa, where they would arrive after a days-long train trip that swept them from urban New York to the rural Midwest. There, the Children’s Aid Society workers hoped, they would be adopted by families and put to work in fields and on farms.

They were part of what is now known as the orphan train movement, a sweeping attempt to protect homeless, poor and orphaned children in a time before social welfare or foster care. Organized by reformers in the Eastern United States, the program swept children westward in an attempt to both remove them from the squalor and poverty of the city and help provide labor for farms out west. Between 1854 and 1929, up to 200,000 children were placed on the trains and adopted by new families. But though many children did ride to better lives on orphan trains, others did not.

Orphan trains were the brainchild of Charles Loring Brace, a minister who was troubled by the large number of homeless and impoverished children in New York. A massive influx of new immigrants had crowded the city, and a series of financial panics and depressions in the late 19th century created unemployment. Meanwhile, cheap housing became harder to come by. As a result, tens of thousands of destitute children ended up on the street. Since there was no social safety net, there was no organized way to reach individual children or provide them with welfare or social services. Brace wanted to change that.

Characterized by Brace as belonging to the “dangerous classes,” these neglected children begged outright or performed small services like shining shoes and selling newspapers. They were often arrested for vagrancy or petty theft and thrown into prison along with adults. In an attempt to help them, Brace founded the …read more


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Eight Knights Who Changed History

January 28, 2019 in History

By Livia Gershon

Well-trained, heavily-armored knights represented a triumph of military might during the Middle Ages.

There’s no more iconic symbol of medieval Europe than the knight: clad in shining armor, jousting with his rivals, wearing a token of his lady love. But knights were far more than romantic figures—they were a triumph of military technology. Accounts from the Middle Ages describe the well-trained, heavily-armed warriors trampling through enemy forces while chopping off limbs and heads.

The resources needed for horses, armor and

New episodes of Knight Fight premiere Wednesdays at 10/9c. Watch here.

William of Poitiers

One of the earliest and most significant victories for knights in the Middle Ages was the Norman conquest of England, and a lot of what we know about that fight comes from William of Poitiers (c. 1020 – 1090). Trained as a knight in his youth, William went on to become a priest and scholar. When William the Conqueror invaded England in 1066, William of Poitiers was his chaplain. Later, he provided a well-known account of the king’s life and the conquest.

The priest didn’t hesitate to flatter his king in his writing, describing his charge into battle with gleaming shield and lance as “a sight both delightful and terrible to see.” But, despite his biases, William of Poitiers worked hard to get his facts right. For example, his account of the Battle of Hastings—a triumph of mounted knights against an Anglo-Saxon army made up mostly of infantry—is based largely on eyewitness accounts from soldiers who fought there, providing one of the most important sources for modern historians.

El Cid (Rodrigo Díaz)

(c. 1043-1099) Rodrigo Díaz, more popularly known by his title, El Cid, is best-remembered as a hero of the Spanish Reconquista, leading Christian forces to victory over Muslim rulers in Spain. But his real story is a bit more complicated.

Rodrigo Diaz, also known as El Cid.

Born into an aristocratic Castilian family, Díaz became a prominent military leader serving two kings of Castile. Later, though, he spent more than a decade fighting mostly as a mercenary, putting himself at the service of a number of Muslim leaders and earning great wealth and fame. As a commander fighting for the taifa of Zaragoza, an Arab Muslim state in what’s now Eastern Spain, he defeated both Muslim and Christian armies.

Historian Simon Barton writes that it was only near the …read more


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China's Role in the Upcoming Trump-Kim Show

January 28, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Earlier this month, North Korean spy chief Kim Yong-chol visited
Washington to confirm the second summit between Supreme Leader Kim
Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump, likely next month. Kim has
held three meetings with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in,
and another one, in Seoul, is expected soon. China’s
President Xi Jinping is in the lead—for now,
anyway—with four meetings with Kim. Vladimir Putin and Shinzo
Abe are waiting for their first.

These numbers matter. Beijing’s advantage likely is by
North Korean design. Kim took over in the aftermath of his
father’s death in December 2011, but for six years Xi kept
the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s new leader
at arm’s length. There were no meetings, no invitations, even
to the well-attended 2015 anniversary commemoration of the end of
World War II. In contrast, South Korean President Park Geun-hye
enjoyed a place of honor alongside Xi.

The U.S. should encourage
continued bilateral cooperation and seek support for a specific
denuclearization plan.

The relationship between the DPRK and the People’s
Republic of China has long been difficult at best. Since 1950, when
Beijing’s intervention saved Kim Il-sung from annihilation by
American-led forces in the Korean War, China has commonly referred
to their connection as “lips-to-teeth” (implying that
the two regimes are extraordinarily close). However, Kim showed no
gratitude for the intervention, claiming victory for himself and
eliminating the PRC’s allies within the North Korean
leadership. He also began the country’s nuclear program,
which would protect his nation’s independence from its
“friends” as well as enemies.

Although Kim’s son and successor, Kim Jong-il, visited
China often, he ostentatiously refused to take its advice on
economic reform. He also continued to pursue nuclear weapons,
despite China’s desire for a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.
His son and successor, Kim Jong-un, accelerated nuclear and missile
testing. Two years into the younger Kim’s reign, he executed
his uncle, who was the regime’s chief interlocutor with
Beijing and was accused of putting the interests of another,
unnamed nation before that of his own. When I visited the North in
mid-2017, I was told of the Kim government’s determination to
be economically independent of “any nation.” There was
no doubt who they meant.

China long returned the barely suppressed hostility. But the
government wants neither collapse nor South Korea-dominated
reunification, which would leave U.S. troops along the Yalu.
Rather, Beijing desires a more pliant and responsible ally.

Because of the two nations’ ideological connection,
bilateral relations are handled through the Chinese Communist
Party’s international department, though that link was
strained by the CCP’s departure from its revolutionary
beginnings. The People’s Liberation Army also supports the
relationship, though less firmly than in the past, both …read more

Source: OP-EDS