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How Bread Shortages Helped Ignite the French Revolution

September 30, 2019 in History

By Una McIlvenna

When Parisians stormed the Bastille in 1789 they weren’t only looking for arms, they were on the hunt for more grain—to make bread.

Voltaire once

As the monarch was required to ensure the food supply of his subjects, the king was nicknamed “le premier boulanger du royaume” (First Baker of the Kingdom). His Finance Minister Jacques Necker claimed that, to show solidarity with those who lacked wheat, King Louis XVI was eating the lower-class maslin bread. Maslin bread is from a mix of wheat and rye, rather than the elite manchet, white bread that is achieved by sifting wholemeal flour to remove the wheatgerm and bran (and which meant one had enough wheat at one’s disposal to discard a bulk of it in the process).

But such measures were not enough, and bread (or the lack of it) was exploited as a weapon by revolutionary minds. A plot drawn up at Passy in 1789 to foment rebellion against the crown, allegedly proposed several articles, the second of which was to “do everything in our power to ensure that the lack of bread is total, so that the bourgeoisie are forced to take up arms.” Shortly thereafter the Bastille was stormed.

READ MORE: How Did the American Revolution Influence the French Revolution?

Origins of the French Revolution (TV-PG; 3:38)

Bread may have helped spur on the French Revolution, but the revolution did not end French anxiety over bread. On August 29, 1789, only two days after completing the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, the Constituent Assembly completely deregulated domestic grain markets. The move raised fears about speculation, hoarding and exportation.

On October 21, 1789, a baker, Denis François, was accused of hiding loaves from sale as part of a plot to deprive the people of bread. Despite a hearing which proved him innocent, the crowd dragged François to the Place de Grève, hanged and decapitated him and made his pregnant wife kiss his bloodied lips.

As Turgot, an early economic adviser to Louis XVI, once advised the king, “Ne vous mêlez pas du pain”—Do not meddle with bread.

…read more

Source: HISTORY

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How Did Magna Carta Influence the U.S. Constitution?

September 30, 2019 in History

By Dave Roos

The 13th-century pact inspired the U.S. Founding Fathers as they wrote the documents that would shape the nation.

In 1215, a band of rebellious medieval barons forced King John of England to agree to a laundry list of concessions later called the Great Charter, or in Latin, Magna Carta. Centuries later, America’s Founding Fathers took great inspiration from this medieval pact as they forged the nation’s founding documents—including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

For 18th-century political thinkers like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, Magna Carta was a potent symbol of liberty and the natural rights of man against an oppressive or unjust government. The Founding Fathers’ reverence for Magna Carta had less to do with the actual text of the document, which is mired in medieval law and outdated customs, than what it represented—an ancient pact safeguarding individual liberty.

“For early Americans, Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence were verbal representations of what liberty was and what government should be—protecting people rather than oppressing them,” says John Kaminski, director of the Center for the Study of the American Constitution at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Much in the same way that for the past 100 years the Statue of Liberty has been a visual representation of freedom, liberty, prosperity and welcoming.”

When the First Continental Congress met in 1774 to draft a Declaration of Rights and Grievances against King George III, they asserted that the rights of the English colonists to life, liberty and property were guaranteed by “the principles of the English constitution,” a.k.a. Magna Carta. On the title page of the 1774 Journal of The Proceedings of The Continental Congress is an image of 12 arms grasping a column on whose base is written “Magna Carta.”

Rights of Life, Liberty and Property

King John signing Magna Carta, 1215.

Of the 60-plus clauses contained in Magna Carta, only a handful are relevant to the 18th-century American experience. Those include passages that guarantee the right to a trial by a jury, protection against excessive fines and punishments, safeguarding of individual liberty and property, and, perhaps most importantly, the forbidding of taxation without representation.

The two most-cited clauses of Magna Carta for defenders of liberty and the rule of law are 39 and 40:

39. No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Why China at 70 Needs to Listen to the Voices of Those It Silenced

September 30, 2019 in Economics

By James A. Dorn

James A. Dorn

On October 1, 1949, Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the People’s Republic of China before a huge crowd in Tiananmen Square. After three years of gruelling civil war with the Nationalists under the command of Chiang Kai-shek, Mao had emerged as the victorious head of the world’s largest communist country. During his tenure as chairman of the Communist Party, until his death in 1976, Mao ruled with an iron fist.

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He imitated the Soviet system of central planning, outlawed capitalism and private property, collectivised agriculture, destroyed family life by mandating large-scale communes, and placed the party/state above the people in all aspects of life.

The model of state-led development, which Mao supported, was one that favoured autarky over open markets and international trade, depriving China’s people of the advantages of specialisation according to comparative advantage, and stripping them of the benefits of free trade.

The absence of competitive markets for resources, goods, and ideas severely handicapped China’s development.

While Mao concentrated on increasing the power of the state and suppressing individual freedom, Deng Xiaoping began China’s economic liberalisation movement under “socialism with Chinese characteristics”.

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The pragmatist Deng recognised that China’s future prosperity depended on reform and opening up to the outside world. By experimenting with new forms of ownership, and creating special economic zones, Deng facilitated the rebirth of entrepreneurial activity and the growth of the non-state sector. Peaceful development was more important to Deng than class struggle.

China prospered greatly under Deng’s leadership, until the Tiananmen uprising in 1989, at which time Zhao Ziyang, a key figure in the reform movement, was ousted as general secretary of the Communist Party and put under house arrest for opposing the use of force to end the occupation of Tiananmen Square.

From 1980 to ’87, Zhao had helped guide economic policy as China’s premier. In September 1988, following a conference in Shanghai organised by the Cato Institute …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Is China or Fear of China the Greater Threat?

September 29, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

America looked at Imperial China as a potentially limitless consumer market. Washington sympathized with the republic under the Nationalists against Imperial Japan. Post-World War II China under Mao Zedong turned into a serious threat, eventually second only to that of the Soviet Union.

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However, mutual fear of the USSR fostered rapprochement between the United States and the People’s Republic of China. After Mao’s death, the PRC adopted significant economic reforms, sparking rapid growth. Personal autonomy greatly increased. Political freedom lagged, but many Americans hoped rising income and expanding private enterprise would foster political liberalization.

Instead, after the crackdown in Tiananmen Square China adopted an unstable system of loose authoritarianism. Although challenging Chinese Communist Party control would result in prison, more general discussions of political and policy topics were tolerated, at least in academia. Foreign contacts expanded significantly. A semi-independent press developed, which could challenge local government malfeasance. Protests against abusive local officials were common. The CCP’s reputation crashed as corruption burgeoned.

Now, President Xi Jinping is pushing the PRC rapidly in the opposite direction. Concerned about the party’s declining authority, he has imposed an increasingly totalitarian system—one which Mao likely would admire, especially its technological innovations. Among its fearsome features: forcing a million or more Muslim Uighurs into reeducation camps, crushing the slightest public hint of dissent, and imposing a “social credit” system designed to regulate all personal behavior.

At the same time, the economic relationship with America is foundering. While it should surprise no one that authoritarian Beijing subsidizes and manages its industries, the PRC also has engaged in commercial espionage, tolerated the widespread theft of intellectual property and discriminated against U.S. firms. Companies which missed the promised bounty from Chinese investment now applaud the Trump administration’s trade war or abandon the Chinese market altogether.

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The PRC also has grown more aggressive internationally. Although Beijing does not threaten fundamental American security—no one imagines a Chinese assault on the U.S. homeland—it is mounting a significantly greater challenge to American influence in …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Satanism

September 27, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

Satanism is a modern, largely non-theistic religion based on literary, artistic and philosophical interpretations of the central figure of evil. It wasn’t until the 1960s that an official Satanic church was formed by Anton LaVey.

Prior to the 20th Century, Satanism did not exist as a real organized religion but was commonly claimed as real by Christian churches. These claims surfaced particularly when persecuting other religious groups during events like the Inquisition, various witch hysterias in Europe and Colonial America and the Satanic Panic of the 1980s.

Who Is Satan?

The Christian figure of Satan is viewed as a horned, red, demonic human figure with a pointy tail and sometimes hooves. To Christians, sinners are sent to his domain—hell—after death. Hell is described as an underground world dominated by fire and Sadistic demons under Satan’s command.

Satan’s first appearance wasn’t in Christianity. He began as the Zoroastrian Devil figure of Angra Mainyu or Ahriman, which opposed the Zoroastrian creator god and tempted humans. Satan is later portrayed in Jewish Kabbalism, which presents him as a demon who lives in a demonic realm.

The name “Satan” first appeared in the Book of Numbers in the Bible, used as a term describing defiance. The character of Satan is featured in the Book of Job as an accusing angel. In the apocryphal Book of Enoch, written in the first century B.C., Satan is a member of the Watchers, a group of fallen angels.

Later established as a nemesis of Jesus Christ in the New Testament, the final book of the Bible, Revelations, depicts him as the ultimate evil. It’s the Christian figure of Satan that Satanism directly references.

Satan as Anti-Hero

In his 14th-century poem “Inferno,” Dante captured centuries of Christian belief by portraying Satan as an evil monster. But the Romantics of the 17th century recast him as an admirable and magnetic rebel, an anti-hero defying God’s authoritarianism. John Milton’s epic 1667 poem “Paradise Lost” is the pivotal text for establishing this interpretation in creative works. William Godwin’s 1793 treatise “An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice” later gave Milton’s depiction political legitimacy.

The most enduring Satanic symbol was created by occult author Éliphas Lévi. Lévi describes him as the horned goat deity Baphomet, in his 1854 book Dogme et Rituel, which linked Baphomet with Satan.

Probably a French misinterpretation of “Muhammed,” Baphomet was the deity the Knights Templar were …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Trump: Transform the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve into an Oil Bank

September 27, 2019 in Economics

By Steve H. Hanke

Steve H. Hanke

Following the attacks on key crude oil production facilities in Saudi Arabia, President Donald Trump announced the authorization of the release of oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to keep the market well supplied. This move changes nothing in the way the SPR is governed. The market, not the President, should determine the release of the massive SPR.

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Government stockpiles are nothing new. The U.S. has had a long and fatal attraction to hoarding commodities for national emergencies. Indeed, the government has squirreled away everything from aluminum to zinc. But, the mother of all these commodity hoards is the SPR. Established in December 1975, it consists of five underground storage facilities hollowed out from salt domes in Texas and Louisiana. At present, they hold 645 million barrels of crude oil, over 1.5 times greater than the amount in private U.S. inventories. The massive SPR inventory would fully supply U.S. crude consumption for almost an entire month.

With an average price paid of $29.70 per barrel of oil, the current SPR inventory has cost the U.S. government $19.2 billion to fill. Even at today’s market prices, the increased value of this crude inventory does not make up for the opportunity costs of carrying it for so long. This is all just a drop in the bucket when compared to the capital costs of constructing and maintaining what is probably the greatest white elephant in the United States.

The SPR — like the other government stockpile programs — has had a stormy history. One of the more outrageous episodes occurred in late 1978. The Saudis cut a deal with the Carter administration to stabilize oil prices by increasing their output. In return, the U.S. agreed to stop purchasing oil destined for its stockpile, giving the Saudis de facto control of the SPR. The Saudis knew the oil markets and the importance of seemingly small changes in the demand for inventories. They also knew that the Americans would keep their end of the bargain and that they would not.

In the 44 years following its creation, the SPR has only been tapped three times for emergency purposes: during the Persian Gulf War in 1991, following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and in response to NATO’s involvement in the Libyan Civil War in 2011. Even though the …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The Prehistoric Ages: How Humans Lived Before Written Records

September 27, 2019 in History

By Lesley Kennedy

For 2.5 million years, humans lived on Earth without leaving a written record of their lives—but they left behind other kinds of remains and artifacts.

Earth’s beginnings can be traced back 4.5 billion years, but human evolution only counts for a tiny speck of its history. The Prehistoric Period—or when there was human life before records documented human activity—roughly dates from 2.5 million years ago to 1,200 B.C. It is generally categorized in three archaeological periods: the …read more

Source: HISTORY

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U.S. Whistleblowers First Got Government Protection in 1777

September 26, 2019 in History

By Christopher Klein

The Founding Fathers passed the country’s first whistleblower protection law just seven months after signing the Declaration of Independence. The government even footed the legal bills.

The U.S. government has long made protecting whistleblowers a priority. In fact, just seven months after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Continental Congress passed what Allison Stanger, author of Whistleblowers: Honesty in America from Washington to Trump, called the “world’s first whistleblower protection law.”

The whistleblowers who sought protection were 10 American sailors and marines who had reported improper behavior by the Continental Navy’s most powerful man.

Having already answered the call of the new nation to take up arms against Great Britain, the officers gathered below the deck of the USS Warren on February 19, 1777 to sign a petition to the Continental Congress documenting abuses by their commander, Commodore Esek Hopkins. Lacking any legal protections for speaking out, the men understood that they could be branded as traitors for denouncing the highest-ranking American naval officer in the midst of war.

The brother of a former Rhode Island governor and signer of the Declaration of Independence, Hopkins had been appointed as the first commander in chief of the Continental Navy in December 1775. Although his brother was a member of the Continental Congress, Hopkins held the body in low regard and repeatedly defied its orders and blamed others for his failings.

“He has been guilty of such crimes as render him quite unfit for the public department he now occupies,” wrote the 10 petitioners, who worried that sailors would quit in service of their country if Hopkins remained in power. In addition to the petition, sailors detailed the commodore’s quick temper, misconduct and poor character in signed personal affidavits.

“I know him to be a man of no principles, and quite unfit for the important trust reposed in him,” wrote James Sellers, who accused Hopkins of cursing the marine committee of the Continental Congress as “a pack of damned fools” and treating “prisoners in a very unbecoming barbarous manner” in violation of orders that British captives be “well and humanely treated.” Chaplain John Reed echoed the complaints of “inhuman” treatment of prisoners and added that Hopkins was “remarkably addicted to profane swearing” and set “a most irreligious and impious example.”

United States Naval Admiral Esek Hopkins.

The Continental Congress Backs the Whistleblowers

Driven by what he …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Why the 'Radical' Brady Bunch Almost Never Got Made

September 26, 2019 in History

By Erin Blakemore

It’s been burned into generations of brains: the story of a lovely lady and a man named Brady whose marriage creates a blended family of eight (not counting Alice, Tiger or Cousin Oliver). Today, The Brady Bunch is viewed as classic, family-friendly entertainment—not scandalous or challenging fare by any means.

But though the show is a beloved, safe-seeming staple for modern audiences, it was groundbreaking when it was first conceived—so groundbreaking that it almost never got made.

The history of The Brady Bunch begins in 1966, when TV producer Sherwood Schwartz read a news item in the Los Angeles Times that claimed 30 percent of marriages involved children from a previous relationship. Now, in 1966 this was a new phenomenon,” he later hit theaters. Based on a true story, the film follows Frank Beardsley, a U.S. Navy officer with ten children, and Helen North, a nurse with eight children. Both of their spouses have died, and despite their fear of blending their large broods, their mutual attraction leads to marriage and a massive new family. The couple learn to manage their 18 children (with one on the way) through a combination of hilarious mistakes and military tactics.

Starring Lucille Ball as North and Henry Fonda as Beardsley, the film was not received well by critics. But the public loved it, and it grossed over $25 million in box office receipts (over $180 million in modern dollars).

Two years after he pitched the networks, Schwartz’s idea seemed long dead. The movie—with a premise extremely close to the one he had developed—could have been the nail in its coffin. Instead, it resurrected the idea at ABC.

Later, Schwartz recalled the movie as “serendipity”: a chance to have another piece of intellectual property prove the success of his concept for him. “A big hit in another medium [gives] executives an ‘excuse for failure,’” he wrote in his 2010 book on the Brady Bunch.

Now that ABC/Paramount knew the public was interested in stories about big, blended families, Schwartz had an in. The network ordered 13 shows and was set for a 1969 premiere. The film had helped greenlight the TV show, but the similarities between both sparked potential legal trouble for Schwartz. Since it was based on a true story, Schwartz knew he could not allege that Yours Mine and Ours had copied his idea.

Instead, the film’s producer …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Rita Moreno becomes the first Hispanic woman to win an Oscar

September 26, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

On April 9, 1962, Puerto Rican actress Rita Moreno becomes the first Hispanic woman to win an Oscar, for her role of Anita in West Side Story (1961).

Moreno, who was born in Puerto Rico in 1931 and grew up in Long Island, New York, began acting at a young age, landing her first Broadway role at the age of 13. Later in life, Moreno recalled her early career as a time when the only roles available to her were stereotypes: “The Conchitas and Lolitas in westerns … it was humiliating, embarrassing stuff.” Nonetheless, she was successful, appearing in a supporting role in the The King and I, which won five Academy Awards in 1956.

A few years later, she was cast in the role of her lifetime: Anita in the film remake of the musical West Side Story. While many of the actors, including leads Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer, did not perform their own singing parts, Moreno recorded most of Anita’s songs herself. One such song was “America,” a piece with heavy Latin influences in which characters both celebrate the experience of Puerto Rican immigrants and decry their adopted country’s racism.

West Side Story was an enormous success, winning ten Oscars including Best Picture. As she accepted her award for Best Supporting Actress, a bewildered Moreno kept her acceptance speech concise: “I can’t believe it. Good Lord! I leave you with that.”

Despite this triumph, Moreno remained disenchanted with Hollywood and did not work on another film until 1968′s The Night of the Following Day. She returned to regular film and television work and in 1975 won a Tony Award, again for Best Supporting Actress, for her role in The Ritz. For most of the ’70s, Moreno was a member of the main cast of the popular children’s show The Electric Company. Her appearance on another children’s program, The Muppet Show, earned her her Emmy and, with it, the coveted EGOT—an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Award—in 1977.

…read more

Source: HISTORY