March 2012

What Do the Rose Bowl and the Ottoman Empire Have in Common?

March 29, 2012

Marching bands. Beginning in 1299, the elite corps of the Ottoman armies, the janissaries, used military bands made up of wind and percussion instruments to inspire their troops and terrify their enemies. (Not that different from a half-time show, right?) The music they played was called mehter, a stirring mixture of drums, horn and oboe […]

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When Is A Pirate Not A Pirate?

March 21, 2012

When he’s got a license to steal. From the 16th through the mid-19th centuries, governments issued licenses, called letters of marque, to private ship owners that gave them permission to attack foreign shipping in times of war.  Called privateers, these government-sanctioned pirates were an inexpensive way for governments to patrol the seas.  Private investors outfitted […]

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Déjà Vu All Over Again: Back to Afghanistan

March 14, 2012

A while back I blogged about Great Britain’s first disastrous attempt to invade Afghanistan. That post barely scratched the surface of the story, so I was delighted when Shelf Awareness sent me Diana Preston’s The Dark Defile:: Britain’s Catastrophic Invasion of Afghanistan, 1838-1842 to review. In The Dark Defile,  Preston tells the story of Great […]

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Prince Henry, the So-Called Navigator

March 7, 2012

I’ve been thinking about Prince Henry the Navigator of Portugal today, and re-reading bits of Peter Russell’s excellent biography,  Prince Henry “the Navigator”: A Life You remember Prince Henry.  He’s the first in a series of names that you learned in grade school:  Prince Henry the Navigator, Columbus, Dias, Magellan–maybe Henry Hudson if your teacher […]

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