The Invention of Wireless Cryptography

In 1915, a congressional bill was introduced to ban all civilian wireless activities from the airwaves. Static was always a problem as the summer heat rolled in. Situated on a hundred-acre plot along the Long Island coastline and “dropped in a mosquito-infested field,” the Sayville wireless plant began experiencing the seasonal interference that comes with[…]

Pioneers of U.S. Military Cryptology: Colonel Parker Hitt and Genevieve Young Hitt

Genevieve Hitt, likely the first woman to serve the U.S. government as a cryptologist, broke ground in her own way, paving the way for future generations of females in the profession. Introduction “The father of modern American military cryptology, whose Manual for the Solution of Military Ciphers guided our early, halting footsteps in the science[…]

Ambassadors and Missionaries, Converts and Infidels: The 1686 Siamese Embassy to Versailles

Examining the formal and contextual heterogeneity, as well as the interpretive instability, of objects representing the 1686 Siamese embassy to Versailles. Between 1680 and 1688 six embassies were dispatched between King Narai (1633-1688) of Siam and King Louis XIV (1638-1715) of France. These extraordinary diplomatic events, which were the first official exchanges between the two[…]

An Artistic and Architectural History of the Great Mosque of Damascus

Damascus is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world. To understand the importance of the Great Mosque of Damascus, built by the Umayyad caliph, al-Walid II between 708 and 715 C.E., we need to look into the recesses of time. Damascus is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world,[…]

Divine Reverie: Revelation, Dream Interpretation, and Teeth in Antiquity

You might say the Roman emperor Septimius Severus was a dreamer, but he wasn’t the only one. You might say the Roman emperor Septimius Severus was a dreamer, but he wasn’t the only one. The ancient tabloid known as the Historia Augusta records that not long after coming to Rome, a young Severus made the mistake of[…]

Lucky Discoveries of Lost Ancient History

Our knowledge of the ancient world owes a lot to chance discoveries. Here, we share the stories of some of the most important and unlikely finds from ancient Western history. Unearthing a secret scroll, tablet, stone or parchment filled with important revelations about the past is an archaeologist’s dream. Chance finds, like the Dead Sea Scrolls –[…]

The Comstock Law of 1873 and Reproductive Rights

The Comstock Law brought reproductive issues to the forefront of American society and paved the way for many future Supreme Court Cases on relevant topics. The Comstock Law was a controversial law because it limited the reproductive rights of women and violated every person’s right to privacy. This federal law was the beginning of a long fight[…]

The Trial of Madame Restell (Ann Lohman) for Abortion in New York, 1841

The termination of Restell’s conviction involving Purdy kept her out of prison and allowed her to continue to perform abortions in New York. In the spring of 1841, abortionist Ann Lohman, called Madame Restell, was convicted for crimes against one of her abortion clients, Maria Purdy. In a deathbed confession, Purdy admitted that she had received an abortion provided[…]

Unearthing the Health of Victorian London

What bones tell us about the lives and deaths of the dead. In 2011, AOC Archaeology completed an archaeological excavation at St John’s Primary School, Peel Grove, in Bethnal Green, London, ahead of the construction of a new nursery school. The site was a former burial ground privately run as a commercial business by pawnbroker[…]

Health, Hygiene, and the Rise of ‘Mother Gin’ in Georgian Britain

Investigating health and hygiene in 18th century Britain, against a backdrop of industrialization and the subsequent over-crowding in the cities. Medical knowledge was very basic during the this period. While there were gradual improvements in healthcare, for many people even minor diseases could prove fatal. Living Conditions The growth of cities and towns during the[…]

How the Classic Maya Coped with Changing Climate Conditions

Many people think climate change caused Classic Maya civilization to collapse abruptly around 900 A.D. An archaeologist says that view is too simplistic and misses the bigger point. Carbon dioxide concentrations in Earth’s atmosphere have reached 415 parts per million – a level that last occurred more than three million years ago, long before the evolution of[…]

Civilizational Collapse Has a Bright Past – But a Dark Future

Modern civilizations might also be less capable of recovering from deep collapse than their predecessors. Is the collapse of a civilisation necessarily calamitous? The failure of the Egyptian Old Kingdom towards the end of the 2nd millennium BCE was accompanied by riots, tomb-raids and even cannibalism. ‘The whole of Upper Egypt died of hunger and[…]

Daniel Webster and the Dazzling 1830 Defense of a Strong Federal Government

New England statesman Daniel Webster believed in strong, centralized power when it served his region’s interests. For generations, school children memorized the ending to Daniel Webster’s “Second Reply to Hayne,” delivered during the famous Webster-Hayne debate of January 1830. This most-famous-of-debates began in a modest fashion, with an argument over westward expansion and morphed into[…]

America Declaring Independence: Drafting the Documents

The committee delegated Thomas Jefferson to undertake the task, and he worked diligently in private for days to compose a document. Draft and Prints Jefferson’s letter to Weightman is considered one of the sublime exaltations of individual and national liberty — Jefferson’s vision of the Declaration of Independence and the American nation as signals to[…]

Visible Proofs: A History of Forensic Medicine

Forensic medicine, also called “medical jurisprudence” or “legal medicine,” emerged in the 1600s. The Rise of Forensics Overview As European nation-states and their judicial systems developed, physicians and surgeons participated more frequently in legal proceedings. By the late 1700s, medical jurisprudence had become a standard subject in the medical curriculum. In the early 1800s, Parisian[…]

Crime and Punishment in Georgian Britain

From gruesome, public executions to Georgian Britain’s adoration of the ‘heroic’ highwayman, the author investigates attitudes to crime and punishment in Georgian Britain. Introduction Throughout this period many people viewed criminals and law breaking as heroic and courageous, and the activities of robbers and villains were often widely celebrated in popular culture. Stories of daring[…]

Think The Press Is Partisan? It Was Much Worse for Our Founding Fathers

A scheming and salacious newspaper reporter targeted Hamilton and Jefferson – and nearly ruined them. It is a common complaint that the drive for traffic at news sites in the digital age has debased our political dialogue, turning a responsible press into a media scramble for salacious sound bites. But partisanship and scandal-mongering go way[…]

Palaeography: Medieval Scribes and the Transmission of Hebrew Scientific Works

Before the age of printing, the texts and layouts of Hebrew works were not standardised. This is because the transmission of works was out of the hands of their authors and in the hands of scribes. Dr Israel Sandman considers the intervention of scribes when copying Hebrew scientific works. When transmitting Hebrew works, scribes were[…]

The Failure of the Third Crusade, 1189-1192

The Third Crusade failed to put Jerusalem back in Christian hands. Introduction In 1187 Outremer (the collective lands conquered by the crusaders) experienced its first major loss since Edessa in 1147 – the loss of Jerusalem at the hands of Saladin. Jerusalem was the primary aim of the First Crusade, and after this event would[…]

A Thousand Years of the Persian Book

Persian gained prominence as a literary language and a lingua franca—a common cultural language—about a thousand years ago. Introduction In the past millennium, a rich and varied written and spoken heritage has developed in the Persian language, elevating the visibility of Persian civilization among world intellectual traditions. That tradition is particularly strong in the fields[…]

Ancient Antioch and the Tetrapolis of the Seleucid Empire

This tetrapolis (“land of four cities”) was to remain the core of the Seleucid Empire. Antioch was probably founded in 307 BCE as Antigoneia by one of the successors of the Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great, Antigonus Monophthalmus. The details are unclear, but we know of the existence of this earlier city, and we know it was more ore less in[…]

Ritual Sacrifice May Have Shaped Dog Domestication

An ancient Arctic site suggests a complex relationship between humans and dogs. By Lea Surugue In the Siberian Arctic, the Ob River flows lazily across vast, cold stretches of tundra. In the city of Salekhard, Russia, where it meets with the Polui River, lie the remains of an ancient ritual site. Overlooking the floodplains, it[…]

The Sacrificial Puppies of the Shang Dynasty

A new study suggests young dogs were frequently buried with humans in China some 3,000 years ago, but the precise reasons remain elusive. By Joshua Rapp Learn During the last centuries of China’s Shang dynasty, which lasted from 1600 B.C. to 1050 B.C., ritual sacrifice was a well-oiled cultural phenomenon, rich and varied in its[…]

Vernon Lee’s ‘Satan the Waster’: Pacifism and the Avant-Garde

Part essay collection, part shadow-play, part macabre ballet, Satan the Waster: A Philosophic War Trilogy (1920) is one of Vernon Lee’s most political and experimental works. Amanda Gagel explores this modernist masterpiece which lays siege to the patriotism plaguing Europe and offers a vision for its possible pacifist future. When all the nations shall welter[…]

The Fate of Secrets in a Public Sphere: The Comte de Broglie and the Demise of the ‘Secret du Roi’

The Comte knew that there were both advantages and pitfalls in the use of secrecy in diplomacy. Introduction In every century, secrecy has been a part of the diplomatic game and the sine qua non of espionage. For Louis XV, however, secrecy became a volatile weapon that did him more harm than good, especially at[…]

Unethical, Even Illegal Campaign Tactics Are as Old as Our Republic

Since the earliest years of the republic, candidates have used deceptive, underhanded and dubiously legal tactics to discredit their opponents. 1800: Jefferson vs. Adams The 1800 race between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams was a lowly beginning for the new American democracy. Jefferson was Adams’ vice president from 1797 to 1801. To defeat his boss without[…]

Gluttonous Wealth and Desperate Poverty in the Middle Ages

The message in medieval manuscripts is clear: The rich are good, the poor are trouble. Gluttony—overindulging in food or drink—was one of the seven deadly sins of the medieval European church. In the medieval view, the story of Adam and Eve established gluttony as man’s original and worst sin. Tempted by the snake, they ate[…]