How May Day became a workers’ holiday

May Day is celebrated around the world as a labour holiday. One of the few countries that doesn’t celebrate it is the one where it all began, the USA. The origins of May Day as a workers’ holiday go back to strikes, police brutality, and a miscarriage of justice in the USA of the 1880s.

Interesting reading.


Did Jewish Slaves Build the Pyramids?

No, almost certainly not.

In 1977, Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin visited Egypt’s National Museum in Cairo and stated “We built the pyramids.” Perhaps to the surprise of a lot of people, this sparked outrage throughout the Egyptian people, proud that they had built the pyramids. The belief that Jews built the pyramids may be prominent throughout Christian and Jewish populations, but it’s certainly not the way anyone in Egypt remembers things.

Well, whatever Menachem Begin believed, the evidence does not support that assertion. The historical evidence we have suggests that no Jews were in Egypt at the time of the Pyramids. (The Exodus didn’t happen either.)


The Liberation of Paris: Whites only

In August 1944, at the time of the Liberation of Paris, the French army was two thirds black. Two thirds! De Gaulle had raised an army in Africa. And yet, all the soldiers involved in the Liberation of Paris were white, on the basis that it would be “better for French morale”. That probably wasn’t the real reason (after all, De Gaulle himself, who should know something about how to manage French morale, opposed the idea).

Propaganda: it seems the (white) American commanders were afraid of how the sight of black soldiers freeing Paris would look on newsreels back home where everyone had been brought up on whitewashed history. So to maintain that image they forced the French to whitewash their army, forcing fiction on fact.

Interesting reading.


Anne Bonny and Mary Read: Piracy, Sex, and suchlike matters

In the early 18th century, Anne Bonny and Mary Reed were, along with Calico Jack Rackham, among the most-feared pirates on the Spanish Main. Their lives were hard, fascinating, and quite unlike the stories which may have been told.

Disenfranchised outsiders, victims of institutionalised exploitation, sexual minorities – everyone found a haven in lawless pirate ports such as New Providence in the Bahamas, where they not only raised merry hell with the shipping, but also founded shipboard democracies that were centuries ahead of their time in tolerance and respect for personal diversity.


Chiune Sugihara: A hero at a desk

This man saved 6000 Jews. He was a Japanese diplomat in Lithuania. When the Nazis began rounding up Jews, Sugihara risked his life to start issuing unlawful travel visas to Jews. He hand-wrote them 18 hrs a day. The day his consulate closed and he had to evacuate, witnesses claim he was STILL writing visas and throwing from the train as he pulled away. He saved 6000 lives. The world didn’t know what he’d done until Israel honored him in 1985, the year before he died.

Chiune Sugihara.


Sexist Fantasy: It doesn’t have to be that way

History is sexist. We know that. We don’t need to be reminded. The modern day is pretty sexist too.

Fantasy is fantasy. It can be sexist, but it certainly doesn’t have to be.

And, of course, a sexist society can be portrayed in a non-sexist fashion, by examining it partly from the perspectives of the oppressed. So if you do want to write about a sexist culture, write about all of it.

Furthermore, history was not necessarily as sexist as you might imagine. In fact, there are rather a lot of recorded women doing things women don’t do.