HP090: Crimean War

HP090: Crimean War
Crimean War

Crimean War (October 1853 – February 1856), war fought mainly on the Crimean Peninsula between the Russians and the British, French, and Ottoman Turkish, with support, from January 1855, by the army of Sardinia-Piedmont. The war arose from the conflict of great powers in the Middle East and was more directly caused by Russian demands to exercise protection over the Orthodox subjects of the Ottoman sultan. Another major factor was the dispute between Russia and France over the privileges of the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches in the holy places in Palestine.

This war gave the world:

  • Raglan sleeves (named after the 1st Baron Raglan, probably because it was designed to fit his coat for the arm lost in the Battle of Waterloo),
  • The cardigan sweater (named after James Thomas Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan, a British military commander, during his service in the Crimean War.),
  • The balaclava cap (The name “balaclava” comes from the town of Balaklava in Crimea. During the Crimean War, knitted balaclavas were sent over to the British troops to help protect them from the bitter cold weather.),
  • Florence Nightingale (her most famous contribution came during the Crimean War, which became her central focus when reports began to filter back to Britain about the horrific conditions for the wounded.),
  • The “Charge of the Light Brigade” immortalized by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (a disastrous cavalry charge led by Lord Cardigan during the Battle of Balaclava on October 25, 1854 in the Crimean War. It is best remembered as the subject of a famous poem entitled The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, whose lines “Theirs not to reason why / Theirs but to do and die” have made the charge a symbol of warfare at both its most courageous and its most tragic.)
  • And the epic novel War and Peace by Count Leo Tolstoy who was there as a young Russian artillery officer, and who’s experiences in Sevastopol did much to shape War and Peace.

Why this war was important

Changed the balance of power in Europe, weakening Russia, strengthening the imperiled Ottoman Empire, and leaving France the greatest military force in Europe, while Britain remained the greatest naval power. Austria gained strength both Germany and Italy achieved long-awaited unification, and the US, hardly an innocent bystander in this conflict, used its friendship with Russia to take possession of Alaska and Hawaii. Also, despite what American Civil War historians have said, it was the first war to be reasonably well documented by photographers, the first to take place in the age of the telegraph, the railroad, and steam-driven ships, the first in which mines played a significant role in naval warfare, and the first to propose a major use of chemical warfare. There were even war plans for a submarine and a proto-tank.

Because the British allowed newspaper correspondents to witness what went on and to write about it without censorship, the British public and later much of the world knew what was happening as in no previous war ever fought. The French imposed strict censorship during the war, but later a number of French officers managed to write about their experiences, as did the Sardinian’s, who joined the allied cause later in the war. The Turks wrote little, but the Russians wrote much.

How and why the war started

Tsar Nicholas I (who by the way was 6’ 4” tall) needed Mediterranean access. To do so he would have to reach an agreement with the Turks, but that would be meaningless if Britain’s powerful navy chose to block the way. The tsar tried to ally himself with the British but they refused.

Frustrated by his failure to convince the British to join him, as well as by the Turkish inflexibility, the tsar next sent Prince Alexander S. Menhikov to convince the Turks to accept Russian rule over the holy cities, a role that singularly ill suited the acid-tongued elderly nobleman, who hated the Turks. Menhikov did a horrible job. He offended the Turks often and threatened war whenever the Turks were difficult.

To deter Menhikov’s threats France and Britain responded with a threat to occupy Moldovia and Wallachia (now Romania) if the Turks did not give into Menhikov’s demands. The Turks ignored this. The tsar was not bluffing. On July 3, 1853, Russian troops marched into Moldiva and Wallachia heading for the Danube River. This area was under a kind of joint rule. The Turks had governors there, but no troops. The Turks did not receive tribute from the 2.3 million residents of this area.

Russia’s invasion was clearly provocative. Russia now claimed the tribute for itself, but no fighting was involved.

Austria called for a conference in Vienna. It was attended by Britain, France and Prussia but not Turkey or Russia. The conference produced an agreement acceptable to all parties in attendance.

The Turks were sent the agreement. They made some minor changes. Russia would not accept these new changes. The Turks responded with an ultimatum. When Russia did not responded by withdrawing its troops, Turkey declared war on October 5, 1853, sending 90,000 troops toward the Danube and 75,000 East toward the Caucasus.

Supported by Britain, the Turk’s took a firm stand against the Russians, who occupied the Danubian principalities (modern Romania) on the Russo-Turkish border July 1853. The British fleet was ordered to Constantinople (Istanbul) on September 23. On October 4 the Turks declared war on Russia and in the same month opened an offensive against the Russians in the Danubian principalities. After the Russian Black Sea fleet destroyed a Turkish squadron at Sinope, on the Turkish side of the Black Sea, the British and French fleets entered the Black Sea on January 3, 1854, to protect Turkish transports. On March 28 Britain and France declared war on Russia. To satisfy Austria and avoid her also entering the war, Russia evacuated the Danubian principalities. Austria occupied them in August 1854. In September 1854 the allies landed troops in Russian Crimea, on the north shore of the Black Sea, and began a yearlong siege of the Russian fortress of Sevastopol. Major engagements were fought at the Alma River on September 20, at Balaklava on October 25, and at Inkerman on November 5. On January 26, 1855, Sardinia-Piedmont entered the war and sent 10,000 troops. Finally, on September 11, 1855, three days after a successful French assault on Malakhov, a major strong point in the Russian defenses, the Russians blew up the forts, sank the ships, and evacuated Sevastopol. Secondary operations of the war were conducted in the Caucasus and in the Baltic Sea.

The war ends

The fall of Sevastopol ended the major fighting. For the warring countries and world opinion, Sevastopol was the key to victory; soon after its surrender, Austrian threats to enter the conflict, probably to be joined by Sweden and perhaps Norway, led Russia to negotiate, and peace followed. Russia accepted preliminary peace terms on Feb. 1, 1856. The Congress of Paris, a long discussion between French, British, and Austrian dominated peace conference, worked out the final settlement from February 25 to March 30, 1856, guaranteed the integrity of Ottoman Turkey and obliged Russia to surrender southern Bessarabia, at the mouth of the Danube, which was opened to the shipping of all nations. Russian dominance in Eastern Europe would end, and all the European powers guaranteed the independence and integrity of the Ottoman Empire. Turkey was left deeply in debt to France and Britain, but the peace treaty meant having twenty years of breathing room before another war with Russia began the final collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

The Crimean War was managed and commanded very poorly on both sides. Disease accounted for a disproportionate number of the approximately 250,000 men lost by each side.

Total Casualties of the war are probably over one million, in addition to an untold number of men, women, and children left permanently disabled by wounds or debilitated by disease.

  • ½ million deaths = Russian
  • ½ million deaths = Turkish
  • 100,000 = French
  • 25,000 = British
  • 2,000 = Italian

The war did not settle the relations of the powers in Eastern Europe. It did awaken the new Russian emperor Alexander II (who succeeded Nicholas I in March 1855) to the need to overcome Russia’s backwardness in order to compete successfully with the other European powers. A further result of the war was that Austria, having sided with Great Britain and France, lost the support of Russia in central European affairs. Austria became depended on Britain and France, which failed to support her, leading to the Austrian defeats in 1859 and 1866, which in turn led to the unification of Italy and Germany.

America’s Involvement

Few accounts of Crimean War mention the involvement of America, but American interest in the war was intense. Major newspapers throughout the country carried hundred of articles. The newspapers in America began to take Russia’s side. After all the French and other European governments had recently criticized American aggression in their war of expansion against Mexico. This hardened American attitudes toward France. As soon as the Crimean War broke out American Colonel Sam Colt went to Moscow to sell his famous revolvers and rifles. Other arms merchants followed his example. 15 American mechanics arrived to help with Russian railroad development. The US minister to Russia Thomas Seymour adored Tsar Nicolas I. 30 American surgeons (20 of who trained in Paris) volunteered to go to Sevastopol, where they were welcomed enthusiastically; half of them would die of disease before the war ended. 300 Kentucky riflemen asked the US government for permission to fight for Russia, but their request was denied.

Russia would later express its gratitude. Including approval of the Annexation of Hawaii by the US and support for the Union during the American Civil War. Perhaps most important, first leased then later sold, Alaska to the United States. Rather than risk its seizure by Great Britain.



Encyclopedia Britannica Vol. 3 p.737

HP088: John Paul Jones

HP088: John Paul Jones
John Paul Jones

Welcome to history podcast 88. We will be giving away some goodies from the History Channel at the end of this episode so stay tuned after the history to hear how you can win. Now I would like to cover an old request from the new forums board. The forums can be found at historyonair.com. This one is from Ben K. Ben asks,

“Jason, I would like to make a suggestion about a podcast on John Paul Jones. I recently read an article in Smithsonian about his body and it’s reburial from Paris. After reading the article I realized I don’t really know much about John Paul Jones at all and the article did not go into much detail about his life. I thought it might make an interesting podcast. Thanks, Ben, Katy TX”

Thank you for the suggestion Ben! There are some French names and places in this one so please bear with me the pronunciations. John Paul Jones’s original name was a little shorter, at just John Paul. He was born on July 6, 1747 to a master gardener on a Scottish estate. In short, John Paul is an American naval hero in the U.S. War of Independence renowned for his victory over British ships of war off the east coast of England on September 23, 1779.

Apprenticed at the age of 12 to John Younger, a Scottish merchant shipper, John Paul sailed as a cabin boy on a ship to Virginia, where he visited his older brother William at Fredericksburg. When Younger’s business failed in 1766, Paul found work as a chief mate of a Jamaica-owned slaver brigantine. After two years he quit the slave trade and shipped passage for Scotland. When both master and chief mate died of fever en route, he brought the ship safely home and was appointed a master. In 1772 he purchased a vessel in the West Indies but the following year, after killing the ringleader of a mutinous crew, he fled the islands to escape trial and changed his name to John Paul Jones. Two years later he returned to Fredericksburg and when the Revolutionary War broke out, he went to Philadelphia and was commissioned a senior lieutenant in the new Continental Navy.

Assigned to the “Alfred,” flagship of the little fleet commanded by Commo. Jones distinguished himself in action in the Bahamas and against the British ship “Glasgow” on the return trip. In 1776 he was in command of the “Providence,” and between August and October he ranged over the Atlantic from Bermuda to Nova Scotia, twice outwitting British frigates, manning and sending in eight prizes, and sinking and burning many more. Again in charge of the “Alfred,” later in the same year, he reached port unmolested with several prizes in tow.

Appointed by Congress to the newly built “Ranger” in June 1977, Jones made a spectacular cruise through St. George’s Channel and the Irish Sea, where he took a number of prizes. Arriving at Brest, Fr. On May 8, 1778, he was hailed as a hero by the French. He was once described by President John Adams as “the most ambitious and intriguing officer in the American Navy.”

In August 1779 Jones took command of a ship on loan from the French, named in honor of Benjamin Franklin, then serving as an envoy to France, whose popular “Poor Richard’s Almanac” had been translated as “Les Maximes du Bonhomme Richard.” “Bonhomme Richard” (here afterward referred to as Richard).

Jones’ mission aboard his loaned French ship was two-fold. He was to lead a small squadron harassing the Irish and English coasts and act as a diversion for a planned invasion of England by a combined French and Spanish fleet. But epidemics of small pox and typhus aborted the invasion, so Jones continued his raids on his own. He captured merchant ships and on Sept. 14 launched an assault on Leith, the main port of Edinburgh, only to be repelled by a sudden gale. On the 23rd, he sighted a vast convoy carrying naval supplies from Scandinavia, guarded by just two British ships, the 44 gun Serpis and the smaller Countess of Scarborough. At 5pm he ordered his crew to prepare for battle.

What followed was one of the most famous naval engagements in American history. The now forgotten battle was fought off a chalk cliff called Flamborogh Head. And is now called The Battle of Flamborogh Head.

One ship in his squadron chased the Countess of Scarsbough. But the others – including the largest, a 36-gun American frigate, the Alliance, commanded by a French officer – did not follow the Richard toward the Serapis.

The Richard was a converted merchantman. It had a larger crew than the Serapis, including about 100 Americans released in a prisoner exchange, and it carried almost as many cannon. But the heaviest were six old guns carried below the main deck. On the second broadside, fired about 7:15 p.m., at least one of the heavy guns burst. The explosion ripped a gaping hole in the Richard’s starboard side and Jones ordered the remaining big cannon abandoned.

At 7:30 the Serapis, with a better-trained crew, crossed the Richard’s stern, firing three broadsides that killed 22 marines. Already the Richard was leaking below the waterline. At 8 p.m. a light wind died to almost nothing, and the two ships collided when the Serapis tried to cross the Richard’s bow for another raking broadside. The ships separated, and then collided again.

This time Jones lashed them fast together, the Serapis’ bow grinding against the Richard’s stern. As the battle progressed, marksmen high in the Richard’s mast drove the English off their exposed main deck. But the Serapis gun crews protected below deck continued to batter the Richard, so that by 9 p.m. the Richard had only three small cannon left.

Eventually the Serapis’ heavier guns inflicted so much damage that their cannon balls began to fly straight through Jones’ ship, touching nothing. Jones was at one of them, directing fire at the Serapis’ main mast, when his carpenter and gunner’s mate, who’d seen the devastation below deck, tried to strike the Richard’s flag, lowering it to signal surrender. Jones turned from his cannon to stop them. An enraged Jones leveled a pistol at one and pulled the trigger. Then, when the gun misfired, he threw it at the fleeing pair, breaking ones skull. Soon after he heard the Serapis’ captain shout if he wanted to give up the battle.

Decades later, one of Jones’ lieutenants would tell a biographer that his captain replied, “I have not yet begun to fight.” But what he probably said was something like, “I may sink, but I’ll be damned if I strike.” In his own report, written several days later, Jones only said he “answered in the most determined negative” and that the battle then resumed with “double fury.”

It continued for another hour, growing more incredible. Twice the Alliance appeared out of nowhere to fire broadsides of grapeshot – at both ships. Somebody released English prisoners trapped deep inside the sinking Richard to save them from drowning. Instead of joining the fight, the prisoners, who had been taken in earlier actions, manned the Richard’s pumps to keep it afloat.

The end came suddenly, around 10:15, when a sailor crawled out on one of the Richard’s yardarms with a bucket of grenades. He began dropping them toward a half-open hatch on the Serapis. One bounced through and a series of explosions followed. The grenade ignited powder cartridges piled near the English cannon, setting off a flash fire. At almost the same time, the Serapis’ splintered main mast toppled.

After trying to save the Richard, Jones escaped on the re-rigged Serapis, eluding British pursuers on his way to a neutral port in Holland. He’d always sought glory and he got it. King Louis XVI gave him a sword to commemorate his victory, and he became the toast of Paris, where in the fashion of the time, he had many mistresses. Thomas Jefferson would keep a bust of Jones alongside those of Franklin, Lafayette and Washington.

But the rest of his life was mostly frustration. The Revolution ended before he saw any more real action, and the new nation had no money for a navy. In 1788, he was loaned to Catherine the Great of Russia to lead her Black Sea fleet in a war against Turks. He won a decisive victory, but left Russia in disgrace after being caught, or entrapped, in a sex scandal involving a young prostitute.

He died alone in Paris in July 1792, where his body, preserved in alcohol, was buried in a lead-lined coffin. More than a century later, in 1905, the coffin was dug up and sent to the U.S. in great pomp and circumstance. President Teddy Roosevelt, an advocate of naval power, presided at Jones’ reburial beneath the U.S. Navel Academy Chapel. “Every officer should know by heart the deeds of John Paul Jones,” Roosevelt said.

Jones, still known as the father of the U.S. Navy, was already immortal. Herman Melville in one of his later novels placed his fictional hero, Israel Potter, aboard the Richard at the Battle of Flamborough Head and wrote these words:

“Intrepid, unprincipled, reckless, predatory, with boundless ambition, civilized in externals but savage at heart, America is, or may yet be, the Paul Jones of nations.”

As of August 2006, an attempt was underway to resurrect Jones’ ship and its place in history. Since mid-July 2006, an expedition launched from the Avery Point campus of the University of Connecticut in Groton has been searching the North Sea for the wreck of the Richard. Already sinking under its still fighting crew, it went down the next day, abandoned by Jones in favor of the captured Serapis.

The battle sowed doubts about the war among the English and pushed the French closer to the American side. The battle also made Jones a celebrity on both sides of the Atlantic.

Thank you for listening to this episode of history podcast. You can visit the website at historyonair.com. Many thanks to the history channel for their generous donation of a DVD and book. This week we will be giving away the DVD to a lucky listener. The question to win the history channel DVD Digging for the Truth: Pompeii Secrets Revealed is What year was John Paul Jones born?

One last note. I have been enjoying some podcast that UC Berkley has been doing. There is even a history class being recorded and set up as a podcast. You can learn more and subscribe at webcast.Berkley.edu.


Encyclopedia Britannica


The Hartford Courant “Looking for the Master and Commander’s Lost Ship”, By Joel Lang, August 6, 2006


S.E. Morison, John Paul Jones, a Sailor’s Biography (1959)

John Paul Jones, fighter for freedom and glory,: United States naval institute,

HP086: Australia Day

HP086: Australia Day
Australia Day

Australia Day celebrates the anniversary of Captain Arthur Phillip unfurling the British flag at Sydney Cove and proclaiming British sovereignty over the eastern seaboard of Australia on 26 January 1788. That’s 219 years!

The quest for the celebration of a united Australian national day commenced within a few years of the First Fleet landing and the subsequent white settlement of this island continent.

January 26, through more than 200 years of debate and controversy, has remained the Australian celebratory national day since that date in January 1788 when ‘formal possession was taken of the Colony of New South Wales. On that day, Captain Arthur Phillip became Governor of the Colony.

The fledgling colony soon began to mark the anniversary of 26 January 1788 with formal dinners and informal celebrations. Manning Clark noted that on January 26, 1808, the ‘anniversary of the foundation of the colony’ was observed in the traditional manner with ‘drinking and merriment’. John Macarthur Senior had ensured his soldiers were amply supplied with liquor, bonfires were blazing and private houses illuminated.

By 1820, Australia was beginning to look undeniably prosperous and sentiments of Australian patriotism were being expressed at gatherings of ex-convicts. The sense of belonging to a new nation was encouraged in 1817 when Governor Macquarie recommended the adoption of the name Australia, instead of New Holland, for the entire continent.

An article in the Sydney Gazette on February 1, 1817 records a typical anniversary dinner held in the house of Isaac Nichols, a respected emancipist and Australia’s first Postmaster. Similar dinners are described involving William Charles Wentworth and friends on 26 January 1825 and 1828, when the catchcry and traditional toast had already become ‘to the land, boys, we live in’. Many ex-convicts owned and ran the wealthiest and most successful businesses in the colony.

The first official celebrations were held in 1818, marking the 30th anniversary of white settlement. Governor Macquarie ordered a salute of 30 guns to be fired from the battery at Dawes Point and in the evening gave a dinner at Government House for civil and military officers. A ball followed, hosted by Mrs Macquarie.

During this time the day was called Foundation Day. Throughout the early 19th century, the day became one for sporting events, with horse races popular from the 1820s and regattas from the 1830s.

The growing sense of patriotism was being expressed in other ways. Young Charles Tompson, reputed to be our first Australian-born poet and the son of a transportee, was moved to compose eight stanzas of tribute to his native country for 26 January 1824 titled ‘Wild Notes from the Lyre of a Native Minstrel’.

Edward Smith Hall, proprietor and publisher of The Monitor, had people such as Charles Tompson in mind when he wrote, in 1821, ‘the circumstances of the parents of the most of them having come to the country in bondage, so far from making them humble, causes them to be the proudest people in the world…the circumstance of being free is felt by them with a strength bordering on fierce enthusiasm.’

Fifty years after Phillip landed, in 1838, a number of celebratory events were organised and the first public holiday ever marked in Australia was announced for the 26 January in that year.

In distinct contrast to the mainly private and somewhat elitist anniversary dinners in previous years, January 26, 1838 became a day for everyone.

By 1888, Australia’s population numbered almost three million and many changes had taken place over the previous 50 years. Gold had been discovered in the 1850s, in places such as Bendigo and Ballarat, bringing great wealth, immigration from all over the world and increased agitation for democratic reforms (taxation and representation).

The first centenary of white settlement was celebrated with great enthusiasm. With the exception of Adelaide, all colonial capitals declared Anniversary Day 1888 a public holiday and celebrations took place throughout the colonies. Ceremonies, parades, exhibitions, fireworks, banquets, and church services were popular. In Melbourne there was a Centennial International Exhibition that remained open from August 1888 to February 1889, attracting nearly two million visitors.

The centenary was also marked by numerous historical publications and commemorative volumes as well as souvenirs and other centenary ephemera. Australians were beginning to talk widely about other political questions of the day, including the move towards Federation.

In 1871 the Australian Natives Association (ANA) was formed in Victoria. This was the first Australian Friendly Society and its motto was Advance Australia. The group, which had particular influence in the period between the 1890s to around 1914, had strong nationalistic aspirations and its members included Edmund Barton (who became our first Prime Minister), Alfred Deakin (Australia’s second Prime Minister) and Sir Isaac Isaacs (our first Australian-born Governor-General).

The ANA grew rapidly and branches were formed across Victoria and in all states as well as a branch in London. By the 1880s, the group was making a nation-wide impact.

The ANA supported many issues including afforestation, an Australian-made goods policy, water conservation, Aboriginal welfare, the celebration of proper and meaningful citizenship ceremonies, following the increased levels of migration after World War II, and the adoption of the wattle as the national floral emblem (accepted in 1912).

However, some of their strongest support was for Federation and a united Commonwealth (along with the Federation League), the celebration of a unified national day and the naming of that day Australia Day.

The general public appears to have embraced the 150th anniversary in 1938 with great enthusiasm. There were many celebrations and events for the Sesquicentenary – picnics, balls, musical performances and fireworks.

A significant amount of memorabilia remains from the celebrations – invitations, pamphlets, program brochures, tourist leaflets from large regional towns and musical, art and literary competitions, indicating the number of events that took place. However, little in the way of permanent structures and reminders were created during 1938, unlike the 1988 Bicentenary.

The euphoria of the 150th anniversary celebrations was maintained as February 1938 saw the staging of the British Empire Games in Australia for the first time. Of the 70 events held in Sydney, Australia won 24, far ahead of her nearest rival Canada with 13.

Since its formation in 1871, the ANA Association had been working towards the unified naming and dating of our national day. Following their concerted efforts and with the support of similar movements, the Commonwealth Government and all States and Territories finally agreed, in 1946, to observe the same National Day – 26 January – and to call that day Australia Day.

Separate Australian citizenship became law for the first time in 1949. The waves of non-British immigration after 1945 led to a new role for Australia Day, one that celebrated new citizenship with naturalisation ceremonies (now citizenship ceremonies).

An article in the Australia and New Zealand Weekly in January 1963 commented on the timing of naturalisation ceremonies for January 26, claiming that ‘this year, 4,500 ‘New Australians’ will become fully-fledged Australian citizens’. Citizenship ceremonies are still an integral part of Australia Day celebrations around the nation.

Celebrations began to recognise Australian excellence with Sir MacFarlane Burnet named the first Australian of the Year in 1960. Eight years later Lionel Rose became the first Aboriginal Australian of the Year. This annual award is now a popular tradition.

In 1979 the National Australia Day Council was formed and the Australia Day Committee (Victoria) was formed in 1982. From its inception, the Committee encouraged local celebrations, working with Councils and communities across Victoria to celebrate Australia Day. The Australia Day Committee (Victoria) also organises the Australia Day activities in Melbourne, and co-ordinates a number of year round programs associated with Australia Day.

However, the Australia Day public holiday was still held on the Monday closest to January 26 and to the broader community it was just another holiday.

By 26 January 1988, the community was ready to join in the excitement of the Bicentennial Celebrations. The world saw a ‘spirited and emotional country’ as Australians enjoyed the many spectacular events. In our bi-centenary year, 1988, the Australia Day public holiday was held around the nation on January 26. The highlight of the many celebrations was a re-enactment of the First Fleet’s voyage that departed from Portsmouth on May 13, 1987 and arrived in Australia in early January. Britain presented the tall ship, Young Endeavour, to Australia as its bi-centennial present.

1988 was also named a Year of Mourning for Australia’s Aboriginal people, who regarded the year as a celebration of survival. It was the most vocal Indigenous presence ever felt on January 26.

It was not until 1994 however, that all the states and territories endorsed the celebration of Australia Day on the actual day instead of the closest Monday. United Australia Day celebrations have been held on 26 January ever since.

Since 1988 Australia Day celebrations across the country have continued to grow in number and stature. Ceremonies now appeal to a broad community audience and attendances have increased considerably over the last 5-10 years.

While January 26 has remained our National Day from the time of Phillip’s landing, discussion has taken place since the 1800s on the pros and cons of this particular date. Over the years, the reason cited for a possible change of date has been varied – historical, practical and most recently, the desire for reconciliation with our Indigenous population.

The Centenary of Federation celebrations, held throughout Australia in 2001, opened and closed on Australia Day.

For Indigenous Australians, Invasion or Survival Day is an annual reminder of the occupation of the country they had inhabited for tens of thousands of years and recalls the damage to their relationship with the land, culture, traditions and beliefs that followed. However, many Indigenous people are active within Australia Day committees today. Australia Day is an important annual opportunity to recognise the honoured place of Indigenous Australians in our nation’s history, and to promote understanding, respect and reconciliation.

The date remains January 26 and the discussion continues.

Australia Day today is a community day. With formal ceremonies around the country – flag raisings, citizenship ceremonies and the presentation of community awards – combined with local events and fun activities, the day belongs to the people.

Celebrations now include a strong festive aspect with special events encouraging the participation of the entire family and all members of the community. Australia Day committees involve their ethnic and Indigenous communities, service clubs, sporting and cultural organisations while local government is increasingly supportive. Nationally, Australia Day celebrations are growing each year. Recent polls show that an overwhelming proportion of Australians now view the celebration of our National Day as a significant and important event and actively participate in some way – at organised celebrations or with friends and family.

While the historical significance of January 26 remains, there is a greater awareness of the wish to celebrate modern Australia. It is a land of many people, but one nation. It is a young, fresh and vibrant country in one of the oldest lands on earth, with one of the oldest cultures. It is a land of extremes but also a land of harmony and of the spirit of the fair go. Australia is one of the few countries in the world to celebrate 150 years of continuous democratic government.

Source: http://www.australiaday.vic.gov.au/history.asp

HP085: Masada

HP085: Masada

This is a request from my Father who recently visited Israel.

Masada, an ancient mountaintop fortress in southeast Israel, is the site of the Jews’ last stand against the Romans after the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.

Masada occupies the entire top of a great mesa near the southwest coast of the Dead Sea. The boat-shaped mountain towers 1,424 feet or 434 meters above the level of the Dead Sea. It has a summit area of about 18 acres. Some authorities hold that the site was settled at the time of the First Temple (circa 900 BC), but Masada is renowned for the palaces and fortifications of Herod the Great, king of Judadea under the Romans, who ruled from 37 to 34 BC, It is also known for its resistance to the Roman siege in AD 72 through 73.

Although first fortified by the Hasmonean king Alexander Jannaeus who ruled from 103 to 76 BC, Herod was the chief builder of Masada. His constructions included two ornate palaces (one of them on three levels), heavy walls, and aqueducts, which brought water to cisterns holding nearly 200,000 gallons or 750,000 liters. After Herod’s death in 4 BC, Masada was captured by the Romans, but the Jewish Zealots, a sect that staunchly opposed domination by Rome, took it by surprise in AD 66.

Following the fall of Jerusalem, and the destruction of the Temple in AD 70, the Masada garrison—the last remnant of Jewish rule in Palestine—refused to surrender and was besieged by the Roman legion X Fretensis. It took the Roman army almost 15,000, fighting a defending force of less than 1,000, including women and children, almost two years to subdue the fortress. The besiegers built a sloping ramp to attack the stronghold, which fell only after the Romans fired the defenders’ wooden walls. The Zealots, however, preferred death to enslavements, and the conquers found that the defenders, led by Eleazar ben Jair, had taken their own lives (April 15, AD 73). Only seven women and children—who had hidden in a water conduit—survived to tell the tale. Masada was briefly reoccupied by the Jews in the 2nd century AD and was the site of a Byzantine church on the 5th-6th century. Thereafter, it was abandoned until the 20th century, except for a brief interval during the Crusades; the Arabs called the mountain as-Sabaa (The Accursed).

A general survey of the ruins was made by Israeli archeologists in 1955-56, and the entire mountaintop was excavated by Yigael Yadin in 1963-65, assisted by thousands of volunteers from around the world. The descriptions of the Roman-Jewish historian Joesphus, until then the only detailed source of Masada’s history, were found to be extremely accurate; the palaces, storehouses, defense works and Roman camps and siege works were all revealed and cleared. A synagogue and ritual bath discovered there are the earliest yet found in Palestine. Among the most interesting discoveries is fragments of broken pottery inscribed with Hebrew personal names. These may be lots cast by the last defenders to determine who should die first.

In the 20th century Masada has become a symbol of Jewish national heroism, and the difficult ascent is regularly performed by Israeli youth groups. It is now one of Israel’s most popular tourist attractions. Arkia, Israel’s domestic airline, provides regular service to a small airfield on the adjacent Dead Sea plain.

Thanks for listening to another episode of History Podcast. If you enjoyed the show please take the time to fill out the survey at historyonair.com. Also, if you shop amazon.com please remember to start your shopping at the our site. Any purchases made will help support the podcast.

HP084: Olympics Cancelled

HP084: Olympics Cancelled

This episodes will be a quick one. I just wanted to put something out to let you all know I’m still around and have just been busy with the holidays.

So today I wanted to talk about a story that relates back to episode 49, the Olympics. This story is taken from Rick Beyer’s The Greatest Stories Never Told. A book published by the history channel.

That is all for the history this episode. It was just something to wet your appetaie for the history we will be getting into next year.

The survey on the website has had 97 listeners take it. Thank you all very much. I am really enjoying looking over your comments. If you have not taken the survey yet please do. We are half way to our goal of 200 responses. I will share the results of the survey with all of you when we have reached our goal.

Thank you all for shopping amazon through our links on the website. By taking just one extra step in your purchases this last quarter you have help pay the hosting fees of this podcast for four months!

Lastly lets talk about Frapper. It has changed significantly in the past few months. I can no longer see who signed up when. It is still fun to go put your pin in the virtual map, over at frapper, but I will not be able to give you a shout out on the show for signing up anymore. Instead please call the history hotline and I will play your shout out on the air. Or send an email letting me know that you would like it read on the air.

That’s all for this episode. Happy Holidays to you all. Thank you for a great 2006 and I look forward to speaking with you in 2007.

HP082: Louisiana History

HP082: Louisiana History

Welcome to history podcast episode 82. Today we have a listener submitted episode. Stay tuned after this episode for the frapper mappers and some more news about the website….

Sorry, no transcript for this guest episode.

A big thank you to Gene for submitting her episode. Gene has also submitted a couple other episodes and we can look forward to those in the near future.

Frapper Mappers:

  1. Jessyka from Boise, ID says, “HISTORY ROCKS! I’m glad I found a podcast that teaches me more about it before I start college. Thanks!”
  2. Micheal Saddler from Singapore says “Listening all the way from Singapore. Great show! Keep them coming.”
  3. Kurt Noorg from Syndey, Australia says, “Hey History Buffs. Great show to walk with learn while exercising a perfect world.”
  4. Tim Anderson from Tasmania, Australia
  5. CW Hardenburg-Perry from Coca Florida says, “I love Florida!”

Thank you all for listening to this episode of History Podcast. Please take the survey at the website and let me know a little about yourself. It won’t take long. We currently have 39 responses. When we have 200 I will stop mentioning the survey and will post the results on the website, so please take the time and participate in the survey.

Big news on the website. As of the recording of this podcast there are 54 people signed up for the listener fourms at the old site. And only 2 besides myself at the new site, Chris and Athena. So please us the new forums. I will continue to monitor the old forums but, you will get your questions and comments answered faster on the new forums. In addition to the new forums, I have recently launched a Wiki for the listeners. On this site you can add and edit webpages. I have almost all of the episodes posted to the wiki. This is a tool for all the listeners to use and I am very excited to see how you will all utilize it. Please visit the website today and see the new additions. Recommendations on new features for the website are greatly encouraged. You can send them to me via email or post them on the forums. Thank you all for listening, supporting and participating in this podcast.

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HP081: The Great Fire of Rome

HP081: The Great Fire of Rome
Rome Fire

Welcome to history podcast episode 81. Lots of news about the podcast to be covered after the history. Todays subject is The Great Fire of Rome in 64AD. As I am not familiar with this topic please excuse me if I make an mispronunciations and feel free to call me out on them in the forums.

This is a request from Chris Otto from Minneapolis Minnesota.

There is not a lot of information about the Great Fire of 64. I checked out four books from my local library, two of them on Nero who was the emperor at the time and the last two were by Roman historians Suetonius and Tacitus.

These two Roman historians only devote a couple pages each to the fire. There was another Roman historian who also wrote about the fire. Cassious Dio, but I could not find any of his works at my local library.

The two books about Nero do a very good job of summarizing what Suetonius and Tacitus report. The first book is Nero by Edward Champlin the second Nero: The end of a Dynasty by Miriam T. Griffin.

Champlin starts by opening the first question, when was the fire. Reports differ as to if it was the night of the 18th or 19th. However, all agree that the fire started in the southeastern section of the Circus Maximus near the Palatine and Caelaian hills. The items in the stores fuled the flames of the fire. The wind drove the fire down the 650 meters of the circus. Then it consumed its way north along the east side of the Palatine through the Colosseum’s Valley to the lower reaches of the Esquiline.

They tore down a number of small buildings so that there was nothing to feed the fire. The plan worked. After six days the fire stopped.

However, soon the fire returned. No mention is given to how much time passed between this fire and the last one. Only that the second fire started before the people had time to recover from the first. The second fire did not cause as much damage and death as the first.

To better understand the timing of the fires Camplin summarizes, “Tactius reports that the fire started on July 18 and burned itself out on the sixth day Suetonius says the disaster raged for six days and seven nights, scholars therefore assume that it started on the night of the 18/19 and burned of the six days of 19, 20, 21, 22, 23 and 24 of July and burned itself out during the night of the 24th. Tactius says it broke out again, but doesn’t mention how long the second fire lasted and Suetonius is apparently unaware that it had broke out again. The second fire started North of the Capitoline Hill, but did not spread to the Campus Martius, where the buildings were open to the newly homeless.

As for the extent of the damage Dio says that two-thirds of the city burned and countless people died. Fourteen of the cities regions were undamaged, three burned to the ground, and their were smoking ruins in the other seven. This is as detailed a description as I could find on exactly what burned and where.

Nero had been in Antium, but quickly returned to take control of the situation. He opened the Campus Martius and the buildings of Agrippa for the homeless. And even his own gardens were opened to those who had lost their homes. In addition he made arrangements for temporary housing to be constructed and provided supplies from neighboring municipalities. Suetonius says that the people were driven to take shelter in monuments and tombs. He also lowered the price of grain. As Camplin puts it “Nero’s response to the disaster was magnificent. Prompt relief of misery through temporary housing, emergency supplies, and cheap grain, he launched a careful and comprehensive long-term reconstruction of the city.”

This next quote from Suetonius does not speak well of Nero:

“Nero’s men destroyed not only a vast number of apartment blocks, but mansions which had belonged to famous generals….Nero watched the conflagration from the Tower of Maecenas, enraptured by what he called ‘the beauty of the flames’; then put on his tragedian’s costume and sang The Sack of Ilium from beginning to end. He offered to remove the corpses and rubble free of charge, but allowed nobody to search among the ruins even of his own mansion; he wanted to collect as much loot and spoils as possible himself. Then he opened the fire relief fund and insisted on contributions, which bled the provincials white and practically beggared all private citizens.”

Camplin backs up Suestonious claim that the rich paid for the disaster saying “The cost of the fire fell on the rich, communities outside of Rome.” So was Nero’s magnificent response to the fire worth it?

Yes, that is right it seems that many thought Nero was to blame for the fires. However, Suetonius was unsure. Dio and Tactius were sure of his guilt. Nero blamed a Jewish sect, infamous for its hatred of the human race. Not sure what sect that was. He sacrificed them to the gods. Camplin says, “initially ancient opinion was divided.” as to Nero’s guilt. Some writers (now lost) attributed the Great Fire to accident, some a plot by Nero.

So if Nero did do it why would he? According to Camplin, he is said to have been offended by the ugliness of the ancient buildings and the narrow, winding streets, and a play written shortly after his death made mention that he wanted to take revenge on his people of their support in 62 of his discarded wife, Octavia. Camplin continues, Nero therefore dispatched his agents to destroy the city, though accounts fo the actual arson differ. Dio presents his story as fact, he says, Nero’s men, pretending to be drunk or up to no good, set fire to different buildings in different parts of the city, causing general panic and chaos; later, some of those who should have been extinguishing the flames, soldiers and vigiles (the night watchmen), were seen actually to be kindling them, Suetonious’ account is similar: several ex-consuls discovered Nero’s own personal servants, his cubicularii, on their properties with tow and torches. Cubicularri were slaves who had the care of sleeping and dwelling rooms. Faithful slaves were always selected for this office as they had to a certain extent the care of the master’s person. Tacitus’ story is also similar, but he presents every thing as no more than rumor: rescue efforts were hampered be a number of unnamed people who either prevented the flames from being extinguished or openly hurled torches, shouting that someone had given them orders.

One final comment from Camplin, “Not only did the emperor cause the destruction of this capital, he gloried in it, or –as a seventeenth-century accretion to the legend so memorably phrased it—Nero fiddled while Rome burned. The accounts of what he actually did vary remarkably, as we have seen.”

In Nero’s defense there are three arguments of his innocence. 1. Accidents were far too likely, Rome was overcrowded, poorly constructed, and inadequately protected by fire-fighting forces. It constantly suffered major fires. 2. The moon was full on July 17, so on the 18/19 it was still almost full, making it a bad night for arson, because the arsonist were more likely to have been seen with so much light. 3. Why would Nero put so much effort into recovering from the fire if he had caused it? Wouldn’t have made more sense to demolish whatever he wanted and then rebuild?

What do you think? Visit the new Forums and let me know if you think Nero was innocent or not?

As for the people of Rome, they did not blame Nero, instead they blamed person’s unknown. If they did believe that Nero was to blame they would have made their beliefs known.

If Nero was innocent then what of his henchmen? Did they start the fire and it got out of hand? Or did they find the fire already blazing and contribute to it for their own reasons? Again, a question open for discussion on the new History Podcast forums. Check out the website for more information.

That does it for our history this week. Please stop by the website and let me know about yourself by taking the survey. You get to hear from me every week, but I don’t know many of you. The survey gives me a chance to learn about you. Please take a moment and fill out this short survey. Thank you.

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One more reminder please fill out the survey at historyonair.com. And keep an eye open for the new features this week. Thank you all for listening! After the show I will be playing a promo for Lifespring! Podcast and some audio comments I have received via the history hotline.