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How the Mayflower Compact Laid a Foundation for American Democracy

August 5, 2019 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

Pilgrims had to find a way to get along with “strangers” on their ship once they landed in the New World.

On the morning of November 11, 1620, when the , some of them made “discontented and mutinous speeches” claiming that since they were not in Virginia, “none had power to command them.”

Before departing the ship, then, the Pilgrims decided to draw up an agreement to bind them and the “strangers” together, and ensure that everyone in the new colony would abide by the same laws. The result, a document drafted and signed aboard the ship by nearly all of the adult male passengers, would become known as the Mayflower Compact.

The Rules of the Mayflower Compact

While they intended to form a government for their new colony, the Pilgrims and others aboard the Mayflower were not declaring their independence: The Mayflower Compact (though the Pilgrims never called it that) began with a clear statement of loyalty to King James of England, along with a commitment to God and to Christianity.

In settling the first colony in the “Northern parts of Virginia,” the document continued, the Pilgrims and the other Mayflower passengers would “covenant and combine our selves together into a civil body politick.” As part of this united body, they pledged to make and abide by the same “laws, ordinances, Acts, constitutions, and offices” in order to further “the general good of the Colony: unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.”

In its form and content, the Mayflower Compact echoed that of earlier covenants that Separatist Christian groups had drawn up when they established their churches in England and Holland, to bind them to each other as well as to God.

The agreement also drew on the secular tradition of the social contract, the idea of covenants between men themselves, which went back to ancient times, but would later be made more famous by philosophers like Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

According to a list printed by Bradford’s nephew, Nathaniel Morton, in his 1669 pamphlet New England’s Memorial, 41 of the adult male passengers on the Mayflower signed the agreement, including two of the indentured servants aboard. Soon after signing it, they elected John Carver as the first governor of the new colony, which they called Plymouth Plantation.

Impact and Lasting Influence of the Mayflower Compact

While 400 years earlier, the Magna Carta had …read more

Source: HISTORY

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6 Major Breakthroughs in Hunter-Gatherer Tools

August 5, 2019 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

From sharpened rocks to polished stone axes, Stone Age human ancestors made progressively more complex devices over 2.6 million years.

Humans weren’t the first to make or use stone tools. That honor appears to belong to the ancient species that lived on the shores of Lake Turkana, in Kenya, some 3.3 million years ago. (1969), which is still used by many archaeologists for classification today.

2.) Stone handaxe (Acheulean tools): 1.6 million years ago

An Acheulean handaxe from Swakscombe, Kent, now held in the collections of the British Museum.

The next leap forward in tool technology occurred when early humans began striking flakes off longer rock cores to shape them into thinner, less rounded implements, including a new kind of tool called a handaxe. With two curved, flaked surfaces forming the cutting edge (a technique known as bifacial working), these more sophisticated Acheulean tools proved sharper and more effective.

Named for St. Acheul on the Somme River in France, where the first tools from this tradition were found in the mid-19th century, Acheulean tools spread from Africa over much of the world with the migration of Homo erectus, a closer relative to modern humans. They have been found at sites as far afield as southern Africa, northern Europe and the Indian subcontinent.

3.) A new kind of knapping (Levallois technique): 400,000 to 200,000 years ago


Stone tools found in a neanderthal flint workshop discovered in Poland.

Though teardrop-shaped Acheulean handaxes remained the dominant tool technology until around 100,000 years ago, at least one significant innovation emerged long before that among early human species such as Homo neanderthalensis, or Neanderthals.

Known as the Levallois, or prepared-core technique, it involved striking pieces off a stone core to produce a tortoise-shell like shape, then carefully striking the core again in such a way that a single large, sharp flake can be broken off. The method could produce numerous knife-like tools of predictable size and shape, a considerable advance in toolmaking technology.

Named for the site outside Paris where archaeologists first recognized and described it in the 1860s, the Levallois technique was widely used in the Mousterian tool culture associated with Neanderthals in Europe, Asia and Africa as late as 40,000 years ago. While Neanderthals were long assumed to be far more primitive than modern humans, their prolific production of such relatively sophisticated tools suggests a more complicated reality. …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Grand Central Terminal opens in New York City

August 5, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

On this day in 1913, New York City’s Grand Central Terminal opens for the first time. The transportation hub as we know it today began construction in 1903, but before that 89 E 42nd was home to an older steam train station built in 1879. Even though the station had been updated to deal with an increased volume of commuters coming from suburbs outside the city, a collision between outdated steam trains in 1902 killed 15 people, and made it clear that a more substantial renovation was needed.

That same year, engineer William Wilgus and railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt began planning the landmark that Grand Central is today. They proposed a station with new electric trains that would not emit exhaust fumes and could, for the first time, operate underground. Planning officials also changed the station’s name. Technically a station, because trains no longer went south of Grand Central Station, the hub was renamed Grand Central Terminal. While these renovations and improvements had practical value, the more significant impact that both Wilgus and Vanderbilt hoped to create was cultural.

Grand Central was designed to usher New York into the dynamic 20th century. As the world around it grew increasingly interconnected, Vanderbilt wanted Grand Central to overtake its rival Penn Station as the palatial gateway to the heart of a rapidly growing country. That ambition was manifested in the form of a towering white marble facade and a ceiling mural depicting God’s view of the sky. After almost 10 years of construction and more than $4 billion in today’s money, New York’s architectural marvel opened to the world.

Despite initial success, Grand Central eventually fell into severe disrepair due to an increase in highway use and gradual neglect. Even the ceiling blackened due to cigarette smoke. As early as 1945, there were calls to tear down the building. However, the destruction of the original Penn Station between 1963 and 1966 sparked a movement to preserve architecturally significant buildings in New York, including Grand Central. Several high-profile New Yorkers, including former first lady Jackie Kennedy Onassis and architect Philip Johnson, formed The Committee to Save Grand Central. The committee fought to preserve Grand Central’s status as a landmark building, ensuring it could never be torn down. A $100 million restoration beginning in 1980 reestablished Grand Central as a bustling monument to the power and grandeur of New York City.

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Source: HISTORY