" It takes a great deal of history to produce a little literature. "
Henry James

Back in the day


H. L. Hunley Becomes First Submarine to Sink an Enemy Warship

The US Civil War-era submarine Hunley required an eight-man crew—seven to power the propeller with a hand-crank and one to steer. Within months of its launch, the Confederate sub had sunk and been salvaged twice, taking the lives of five crewmen the first time and the entire crew the second. Manned with a new crew, Hunley became the first submarine to sink a ship in battle, yet the achievement was marred when the sub itself sank, killing all aboard yet again. When was it recovered?



State Opening of Parliament

Once a year, the cellars of the Palace of Westminster are ceremoniously searched for explosives as part of the State Opening of Parliament, a colorful annual event that marks the return of the United Kingdom's legislature from recess. Other traditions associated with the event include the Crown holding a member of the House of Commons hostage and the House of Commons slamming its doors shut in the face of the queen's messenger. Why did Queen Elizabeth II miss the ceremonies in 1959 and 1963?

Born on a day like today


Isabelle Eberhardt

As a Swiss explorer traveling in North Africa, Eberhardt often dressed as a man to move more freely through Arab society. Intensely independent, she took the side of Algerians fighting against colonial French rule. She converted to Islam, was initiated into a Sufi brotherhood, and married an Algerian soldier. She wrote about her travels in books and newspapers. She survived a murder attempt—in which her arm was badly injured by a saber—only to die at the age of 27 in what unlikely fashion?

Last updated on Sunday, 17th February 2013

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