Monday, December 29, 2014

Ramesses the Great (video)

This is Canned History #5, where I add to my inventory of greatness with one of the most ancient greats out there: Ramesses the Great. As a pharaoh of the New Kingdom of Egypt, Ramesses did many great things like make war on his enemies, make structural works for the public to enjoy, and make dinner for his 200 wives every Thursday night. Plus, thanks to his greatness, there are statues of himself all over Egypt to remind us how great a guy who died over three thousand years ago could be. I think I like my chances!

Canned Histories: Ramesses the Great

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Mongol Conquest of India

*Just in time for Christmas, here is Part 3 of my "Mongol Conquest of..." series, where the red and green of the holidays symbolize the countless blood and guts spilt by Genghis Khan and friends during their many invasions. Check out my previous chapters on China and Central Asia, just to get your blood flowing (hopefully while it's still inside your body).*

Fig.1: The Mongols thought this map needed just a little more tan in the south...
When it comes to the Mongols, they were usually able to show up, take what they want, and kill whomever gets in their way before you could say "Ulaanbaatar." A notable exception to this strategy were the lands to the east of the Indus River in present-day India and Pakistan. There, the Mongols took their sweet time making their presence felt, preferring to savor the spices instead of wolfing it all down at once. Part of this might have been because they had a difficult time getting their normally-overpowering army deep into enemy territory, something that even Alexander the Great struggled with in the same exact area about 1,500 years prior (but don't tell the Mongols that, or else they might get mad and shove a sword deep into your kidneys' territory). It took several generations, but the Mongols finally did take control of India, and actually ruled it the longest out of all of their other possessions. Sounds like someone just wanted to play hard-to-get!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Argentine Civil Wars

Fig.1: If only all civil wars were fought with such ecstasy!
One of the classic conflicts that has occurred throughout history is between urban and rural: the city-slicker vs. the country bumpkin. Unfortunately this conflict has sometimes gone beyond merely making fun of the guy who gets his salsa from New York City (New York City?!). In the South American nation of Argentina, disagreements between the major city of Buenos Aires and the more rural provinces to the north and west often erupted into civil war. The issues of government power, federalism, the economy, and not knowing the difference between a hoedown and a hootenanny plunged the nation into constant fighting between the urban-dominated Unitarian Party and the rural-centered Federal Party. These conflicts uprooted Argentina's early history in the 19th century, stunting the growth of the young nation. But all that extra passion the civil wars generated was then put into the tango (fig.1), so maybe it wasn't all bad.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Great Trek

Fig.1: "Wait, so we're not trying to get to Fort Laramie?"
Mid-19th century. Pioneering families. Covered wagons. Attacks from the Natives. Death from disease and hunger. Sounds like someone's firing up a good old-fashioned game of Oregon Trail! In fact, I just described events that took place a whole ocean and a hemisphere away from the American West: the Great Trek of South Africa. In the 1830s and 1840s, a group of European settlers called Boers moved north after the British staked their claim to the region. Looking to reestablish their independence, the Boers journeyed inland and established their own settlements, government, and all-important comic book shops. Of course, the Africans that lived there didn't take too kindly to these pasty people moving in and using all of their stuff, and conflict between these groups slowed the Boers down more than an old lady writing a check at the dollar store. While the Great Trek is seen as the definitive moment for Afrikaners (the descendants of the Boers) and a strong source of their identity, many view it as the start of the poor race relations that persisted in South Africa well into the 20th century.

On second thought, maybe Oregon Trail is a lot more fun...

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Canada (video)

This is entry #3 of the C.A.N. World Factbook, the only reliable source for international information that's also chocked full of terrible jokes. Today, we are looking at the most humble, unassuming country on Earth: Canada. So how about we knock them down a notch or two? From its rich history, to its wide landscape, to its funny pronunciation of words, I have a lot of material to work with. And I don't even mention Justin Bieber! You're welcome.

C.A.N. World Factbook: Canada

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Defenestration of Prague

The word of the day is defenestrate:
de·fen·es·trate (dē-ˌfe-nə-ˈstrāt), verb

definition: to throw a person or thing out of a window

Origin: de- + Latin fenestra (window)

Used in a sentence: I couldn't help but defenestrate my little sister after she put lipstick on my G.I. Joes!
Fig.1: "This is the last time we book the conference 
room on the top floor!"
What does this have to do with history, you ask? Well, would you believe me if I told you that a major war actually started in Europe because some guys got defenestrated? It's true, I swear it! In 1618, the growing conflict between Catholics and Protestants in Bohemia (present-day Czech Republic) actually led to a situation where local noblemen threw their king's representatives out of a third-story window (fig.1). This allowed the bubbling religious pot to boil over, and Europe would be at war for the next thirty years during the Thirty Years War. The Defenestration of Prague is great not only because it's an awesome historical event, but it gives us the opportunity to learn some vocabulary as well! Please don't throw me out of a window for that!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Toussaint Louverture

Fig.1: "Turn around, the revolt is
back there!"
There are a lot of sucky things about slavery. But probably the worst part about it of all was that once you were a slave, chances are you'd be a slave for the rest of your life. Sure, there have been a bunch of slave revolts throughout history, but rarely do they get very far, and even the "successful" ones get squashed in the end (just ask Spartacus, if you can pinpoint which one he is). The glaring exception is the revolt against colonialism and forced servitude on the Caribbean island now known as Hispaniola, led by a man who called himself Toussaint Louverture (fig.1). While he was not a slave at the time the revolt began, nor did he initiate the revolt, nor did he live to see it finish (man, that's a lot of qualifiers), his impact on the events in French-held Saint-Domingue from 1791 to 1804 led directly to the independence and rule by former slaves in the western part of the island, now called Haiti. As such, he is considered to be a founding father of his country, on par with contemporaries like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson (I see no irony there whatsoever).

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Ayutthaya Kingdom of Thailand

Fig.1: Stuff like this was a prime target for those Europeans and their label makers.
Typically if you received a visit by the Europeans in the early modern period, soon you would face the unhappy prospect of watching them move in, snag all your resources, diminish your population to a subservient status, and take full control of the TV remote. One of the few places that escaped this fate was the country of Thailand in Southeast Asia (also known as Siam in the European practice of renaming nations whatever the heck they wanted). This was due in part to the actions and policies of the Ayutthaya Kingdom, which ruled the region from the 1350s until 1767. The kingdom was centered on the city of Ayutthaya (fig.1), considered in 1700 to be one of the most populated locales in the world, and unquestionably had the worst rickshaw traffic known to man. When those rascally Europeans came floatin' about, the Ayutthayan government successfully played the different embassies off each other, and even earned the respect and full friendship of Louis XIV of France, the most powerful and fluffy-haired king in the world! Let's find out more about these Thai fighters, and see how they avoided domination from any empires.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Battle of Zama (video)

Here is my first MS Paint Reenactment, wherein I use the latest in technological advancements to dramatically portray the decisive battle of the Second Punic War. The tactical decisions made by the Carthaginian Hannibal and the Roman Scipio at the Battle of Zama remain a classic testament to the strategies of war, and their maneuvers are beautifully demonstrated here with jaw-dropping visuals and stunning clarity. The carnage of the fighting is portrayed with such realism that this video is not recommended for small children or pregnant women. Or small pregnant children women.

MS Paint Reenactments: Battle of Zama

Friday, October 10, 2014

Marco Polo



Fig.1: "Okay, fine: POLO! What do you 
want from me?"
MARCO?! Oh, there you are. Sometimes I have trouble finding my audience for this blog. Thank goodness someone like Marco Polo (fig.1) once lived so we can annoy the crap out of people by repeating his name! Of course, the man had other achievements outside his delightfully rhyming moniker. For 24 years, this Venetian merchant traveled across Asia with this father and uncle, mostly under the employ of the famous Mongol ruler, Kublai Khan. While he was hardly the first European man to visit China, he achieved fame by describing his journey in his book commonly known as The Travels of Marco Polo, which was essentially one long Christmas letter bragging about his family vacation (everyone has that friend, don't they?). Though his outrageous stories were disputed even back then, many found the tales of mystical lands beyond their reach to be extremely fascinating, and might just have helped kick of the Age of Exploration that Europeans so love (and everyone else rues) to this day.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Custer's Last Stand at Little Bighorn

Fig.1: Still not nearly as bad as invading Russia.
There have been many screw-ups in military history. Notable ones include Napoleon's invasion of Russia, Hitler's invasion of Russia, and the Russians' invasion of Russia (boy, did they have egg on their faces when they did that). But among the non-invasion of Russia screw-ups, the one cited most often is United States General George Armstrong Custer's 1876 charge against an alliance of Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho Native Americans at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in present-day Montana (fig.1). Custer led a regiment of under 700 U.S. soldiers against a Native force believed to have been numbered over 2,000, and got beat worse than a stutterer at a spelling bee. Since then, Custer's name has been synonymous with arrogance, unpreparedness, underestimating one's opponents, and a delectable cream-based dessert sauce. But does he deserve this reputation? Were there uncontrollable forces working against him? Did he receive inaccurate information from his normally reliable spies? Should starch be added to create a thicker variation more suitable as a filling for tarts? Let us examine the man and the situation more thoroughly and, quite possibly, restore the old general's honor. It doesn't get more tasty than that!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Wives of Henry VIII (video)

Hey folks, I'm still on hiatus, and probably will be until the end of September. I know, I know, save your rotten tomatoes. But I thought I'd make it up to you by putting out another video! This is Canned History #4, which looks into the man who had six more wives than I'll probably ever have in my lifetime. The stories surrounding the marital history of King Henry VIII of England, and the women who were lucky and/or doomed enough to hold the position as his wife, have fascinated scholars and drama-obsessed weirdos for centuries. Join me as I explore each wife's rise and fall, from Catherine of Aragon to Catherine Parr, as well as the rise and not fall of Henry's waist size. It's good to be the king!

Canned Histories: The Wives of Henry VIII

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Tunguska Event

Fig.1: Treebeard's not going to like this.
An old maxim goes, "If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" Well if about 80 million trees fall as a result of some kind of incredible explosion (fig.1), and no one knows exactly how it happened, do we really care? This is what happened on June 30, 1908 near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in remote central Siberia. The blast leveled over 800 square miles of forest, measured 5.0 on the Ritcher scale, was about 1,000 times more powerful than the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima, and scored a perfect 2400 on its SATs. It is by far the most powerful natural explosion in recorded history (since those dinosaurs were too lazy and dead to write about whatever it was that made them extinct). Luckily enough, the blast occurred in the Pennsyltucky part of Russia and did not cause any casualties, which is more than I can say about my Uncle Lou's indigestion attack of '97 (R.I.P. Miss Pussykins).

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Cyrus, King of Kings of Persia

Fig.1: Connecting with Cyrus is a must for any young, aspiring career-seeker.
Sometimes it's advantageous to build up our resumes with loaded accomplishments that really weren't any big deal at the time, but look pretty good on paper. This is why, along with being a "Composer of Epic Histories" and "Part-Time Moat Salesman" (if you recall), I also claim to have been a "Non-Profit Project Manager" at Robin Hood's Merry Men for my time spent robbing from the the rich and giving to the poor (or, "Reallocating valuable resources for the increased production of low-performing sectors"). But when it comes to resume-padding, the ancient Persian ruler Cyrus II has us all beat. Listed under positions held, he has in an eye-catching, yet pleasing font: King of Anshan, King of Media, King of Babylon, King of Sumer and Akkad, King of Āryāvarta, and King of the Four Corners of the World (previous drafts where he only held three corners weren't as impressive). On top of all that, not only did he claim to be King of Persia (shah), but King of Kings of Persia (shahanshah), letting any other possible Kings of Persia coming in for an interview know that he had them all beat!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Storming of the Bastille

Fig.1: Makes me think of summer!
National holidays are a great excuse for patriotic citizens to kick their feet up and recall a glorious event in their history that defines their past and has echoed throughout time. Many celebrate their declarations of independence, such as the United States, India, and Brazil. Others honor the official formation of their government, like Canada and Australia. Some sad places like Greenland party just because it's the longest day of the year and will finally get a few precious hours of sunlight (their only chance to finally get some shoveling done). And then there's France. Out of all the magnificent moments in their illustrious history, what event do they choose to commemorate as their national holiday? The time when an out-of-control mob stormed a royal prison that was only holding seven people and was planning on closing anyway, and then murdered its surrendering officers in gruesome fashion before sticking their heads on pikes and parading them through Paris (fig.1). Cause that's the thing we want to remember while grilling burgers and gazing up at the fireworks! Yes, the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789 became the catalyst that really got the French Revolution going, but even that turned pretty darn ugly in a couple years. Is this the example we should be setting for our French children? They're rude enough as it is!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Brazil (video)

Welcome to entry #2 of the C.A.N. World Factbook, where we samba our way into the South American giant of Brazil. With a culture as beautiful as its beaches, and a history as vast and deep as its rainforest (and just as deadly too), what's not to love about this luscious Lusophone land? Plus, with the World Cup going on, I might as well cash in on the nation's popularity before we promptly forget about there existing anything but a North America. Enjoy it while you can, guys!

C.A.N. World Factbook: Brazil

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Fourth Crusade

Fig.1: "Why did I come in here again?"
You know when you walk into a room and forget why you got up in the first place? So then you decide to smash the nice china cabinet with a baseball bat for no good reason? That's sort of like what the Fourth Crusade was like. Like the previous crusades, its propose was to make the pilgrimage to the Holy Land and wrest control of it from the Muslims. The Third Crusade did this pretty well, except that Christians failed to recover the super holy city of Jerusalem (having the Holy Land without Jerusalem was like eating fried chicken without the skin...or the guilt). Luckily for them, a Fourth Crusade was called in 1198 for this exact purpose. Unfortunately, it got a little distracted and spent all of its time attacking Christian cities, most notably the Byzantine capital of Constantinople. While the Catholics did manage to absorb territory that had been out of their fold for centuries, they essentially weakened the position of Christianity in Eastern Europe, and allowed Islam to dominate the region within the next two hundred years. But at least they got lots of loot out of it in the short run! (Sadly, the crusaders never took Macroeconomics 101.)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Third Crusade

Fig.1: Tripoli and Antioch didn't 
appreciate the Dominions of Saladin 
being all up in their business.
Typically, the third chapter of a story leaves more to be desired. The "Part Threes" of Star Wars, Back to the Future, The Godfather, and that Keanu Reeves alternate-reality thing (whose third movie was so bad I dare not mention it) all fell flat in adequately wrapping up the story. The Third Crusade would follow much of the same pattern. After the Blues Brothers 2000-like debacle that was the Second Crusade, the state of Christianity was one of disunion. The Crusader States continued to squabble against each other and within themselves when the throne or the TV remote was up for grabs. The kings of Europe became too distracted with petty wars over land, titles, and how many peasants they'd like to rule over. No one in their right mind trusted the Byzantine Empire anymore (in fairness, those guys were more two-faced than Harvey Dent). All this was almost slightly excusable since the Islamic world was just as divided; the only thing that the Seljuqs in Turkey, the Fatimids in Egypt, and the Zengids in Syria and Iraq could agree on was that Muhammad is the messenger of God (which is a great thing, don't get me wrong, guys!). This changed with the rise of Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb (called Saladin by me and my fellow lazy historians), who united much of the Islamic dominions, stole territory from the Crusader states (fig.1), and forced the Christians in both Europe and the Holy Land to at least consider fighting some on else for once.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Second Crusade

Fig.1: The Crusader States of Edessa, 
Antioch, Tripoli, and Jerusalem might as 
well have been renamed Grumpy, Dopey, 
Bashful and Doc based on their actions 
between the First and Second Crusades.
As far as the Crusaders' goal of pilgriming to Jerusalem, taking back the Holy Land from the ruling Muslims, and annoying the crap out of everyone with their backstabbing ways, the First Crusade was a total success. As for the rest of the Crusades, don't get used to it. The Second Crusade, called nearly fifty years after the First, began the pattern of the European invaders having a goal in their heads, and then getting completely distracted on the way there. This strategy might work on a Saturday night-out with your friends, but had devastating consequences for all the money, manpower, and Mapquesting needed for your typical crusade. Add in the shifting alliances, political intrigue, and huffy overreactions typical of European relations at this time (or really anytime), and the Second Crusade was basically a drama-ridden train-wreck of a Spanish soap opera, without those spicy senoritas. I know, I wouldn't blame you if you stopped reading either.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The First Crusade

It is written in the Holy Scrolls of Acre that June shall be Crusades month! Okay, maybe I jotted that down on a Wendy's napkin last week at lunch, but it is written nonetheless! All this month, I will be covering the first four Crusades, which were honestly the only really effective Crusades (the words "effective" and "Crusades" aren't used too often together, but we're grading on a curve here). So sit back on your horse, get your chain mail on, and let's get ready to add a little more bloodshed to the tumultuous history of the Holy Land (more like the Bloody Land, if you ask me).

Fig.1: A sandbox next to the twirly 
slide is worth fighting for.

Remember when you were six-years-old, and some bully kicked you out of your favorite sandbox at the playground? Well what if, twenty-some years later, your cousins went back to that sandbox and beat up the random kids playing in it, just for revenge? That's sort of like how the Crusades went. Orthodox Christians lost control of the Levant (the "Holy Land" region now chiefly shared by the uncomically grumpy roommates: Israel and Palestine) during the Islamic conquests of the Middle East in the 7th century. Over four hundred years later, Catholic Christians went on a temper tantrum about it and decided to "take back" the region, even though it hadn't been under Western control since Ancient Roman days. Of course the people ruling there were a different group of Muslims than the ones who took it over in the first place, but they were making castles in the wrong sandbox nonetheless. What resulted was the beginning of religious and political strife that covered the Levant in blood for the next two hundred years...and then all the hundreds of years after that (not to mention the hundreds of years before). But hey, at least Europeans learned some maths and acquired a taste for spices! That makes up for it, right?

Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Voyages of Zheng He (video)

Here is Canned History video #3, detailing the life and adventures of one of the world's greatest explorers: Zheng He. Zheng doesn't get as much credit as his European counterparts, mostly because he didn't colonize the lands he visited, or exploit native peoples for their land and resources, or do the Spanish-patented "conquest dance" all over their gravesites and places of worship. Shouldn't he be more revered for not doing those things? I guess that's why kids these days enjoy the rap music more than good wholesome polka...

Canned Histories: The Voyages of Zheng He

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Battle of the Alamo

Fig.1: What's this place again?
They tell us that we must "Remember the Alamo!" But I've got a lot of stuff bouncing around my brain, like all 282 laws on the Code of Hammurabi, and the order of succession for the British throne (I'm only 486,593,204th in line!), and which establishments have dollar tacos on what days of the week. There needs to be a good reason for me to make room in my memory banks for yet another piece of information. So should we care about the Battle of the Alamo? Statistically, it's a relatively insignificant moment in the Texas Revolution, with the Mexican army overpowering a force of less than 200 Texian rebels to capture a small mission-turned-fort within a sparsely populated area. It also does not appear to be indicative of the overall war, as Texas would eventually shake off Mexican rule despite the loss, briefly becoming an independent republic before its annexation by the United States. So what's the point? Wouldn't we be better off remembering to have our pie à la mode instead? Well I guess the least we can do is take a look at the battle before promptly sending it to "working memory hell" along with everything we learned about trigonometry and the fact that there's a Caddyshack II (darn, I had to remind myself).

Friday, May 16, 2014

Great Zimbabwe

Fig.1: The Great Enclosure of the Great Zimbabwe is so 
great that is doesn't even violate the Double Great Rule 
that states two greats make a not-so-great!
Oh great, another "Great" thing! There are already people who are great, pyramids that are great, fires that are great, sugar-coated flakes that are great. How can there be so much greatness in the world? There must be certain great things that are greater than other greats! Well, let me ask you this: how many great things lend its name to an entire country? This is the case with the Great Zimbabwe (fig.1) in the Southern African nation of Zimbabwe (yes, Southern Africa has countries not named South Africa). This huge enclosed city once hosted the capital to a prosperous kingdom from the 11th to the 15th centuries, and still remains the largest stone complex in Africa south of the Sahara. The word zimbabwe, derived from the Shona language term for "large house of stone," described many such sites in the region, but only this one was considered to be the Great "large house of stone" (yay for adjectives!). This term then lent its name to the Iron Age kingdom that built the structure, the modern-day nation that houses it, and the next big celebrity birth (I'm looking at you, Jay-Z and Beyonce). I'd like to see your Great Depression do that!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Captain Henry Morgan

Fig.1: You know he's heroically propping 
his left foot on a barrel just off-sketch.
You know you've hit the pinnacle of historical fame when you have an intoxicating libation named after you. Great figures like like Samuel Adams, (Bloody) Mary I of England, and Vyacheslav Molotov have been so honored (although I wouldn't recommend ordering that last one at a bar), but among the most revered is the Captain himself. Before all that, Sir Henry Morgan (fig.1) was one of the most successful and most feared pirates at sea in the 17th century. The mere mention of his name caused nightmares for Spanish colonists throughout the Caribbean, especially ones where their house was being plundered while doing a public speaking presentation in their underwear. While Forbes ranks him as just the 9th wealthiest pirate of all time, his spiced rum generated over a billion dollars in sales in 2013 alone, and I think his reputation (and documented alcoholism) has something to do with that.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Australia (video)

Welcome to the C.A.N. World Facebook: a feature of my video presentations that cover the history, culture, notable features, and painfully obvious jokes regarding the nations of the world. Entry #1 is everyone's favorite country in the continent of Australia: Australia. From the fierce aboriginal society, the tenacious settlers descended from prisoners, its unique wildlife, to the obsession with the food paste known as Vegemite, there's a lot in Australia that can kill you. So come join me on a virtual trip to the land down under, where beer does flow and men chunder (whatever the heck that means).

C.A.N. World Factbook: Australia

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Gupta Empire: India's Golden Age

Fig.1: King Chandragupta I 
showing off the classic 
"Quarter in the Ear" trick.
Every great nation has its golden age, where a stable government and a wealth of cultural achievements make life an all-around awesome experience. Examples often include England during the Elizabethan era, China under the rule of the Tang Dynasty, and Russia that one day when the temperature went above 20°F. But before all of that, India had their age of gold during the reign of the Gupta Empire from the 4th to 6th centuries AD. The strong leadership of the Gupta kings meant that citizens were able to excel in disciplines such as science, astronomy, literature, engineering, medicine, and magic tricks that impress all the ladies (fig.1). While it went downhill after the Guptas' overthrow, India has been making a comeback in recent years, hitting strides in technology, film, education, and most importantly, Miss America contests (the winner's nationality gains the right to control stock prices for that fiscal year). So let us first look at India's original golden age before they begin a new one and take our jobs.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter Island

Fig.1: A quarterback's ideal offensive line.
I am on record of saying that Polynesians have never done anything exciting in the history of history. Well it takes a big man to admit when he's wrong, so please accept my apology, you fine patrons of the interweb (especially you three Polynesian patrons out there). They did one mildly interesting thing on the isolated hamlet in the South Pacific Ocean now known as Easter Island: the construction of 887 moai statues that dot the land to this day (fig.1). Their large heads, expressionless faces, and slightly pudgy bellies have become recognizable throughout the world, and are considered perfect homes for anthropomorphic cephalopods living next to pineapples under the sea. Unfortunately, the Rapa Nui civilization that sculpted these magnificent megaliths has been endangered for several centuries, with their language, traditions, and perfectly tanned bodies on the decline. We must save them before the Hawaiians and their silly hula dancing become the only Polynesians to ever accomplish anything of note!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Boston Tea Party (video)

Greetings, my few but loyal viewers. I have returned with another video history! This time I will be discussing the greatest moment involving property destruction and environmental pollution in American history: the Boston Tea Party. Arguably this event, as well as the British reaction to it, became the spark that ignited the North American colonies into a full-scale revolution, eventually ending with their independence as the United States. Plus, who doesn't love a party on a boat (especially one where you get to dump things overboard)? I hope they throw tea out of planes next!

Canned Histories: Boston Tea Party

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Isolationism in Tokugawa Japan

Fig.1: Leave me alone...or else!
Every once in while, we get in a mood where we really don't want to deal with other people and need a little "me time." Usually this passes after a short while... unless you're Japan, where your grumpy phrase lasts over two hundred years! From the 1630s until 1853, the Japanese closed its doors to the vast majority of foreign trade, diplomacy, and the latest international trends (meaning they missed out on the great "plaid fad" of the late 17th century). Even those few lucky nations with whom Japan reluctantly exchanged goods were restricted to a specific port on specific days and were required to avert their eyes to anything overtly Japanese. The rationale behind this isolation ranges from a desire to curb the growing European influence in the region, to establish control of the nation under the rule of the Tokugawa shogunate, to the fact that Portuguese people have really sweaty palms which grossed everyone out. It took a defiant, meddlesome act by an American (what else is new?) to open Japan's eyes to the world around them, allowing for their transformation into an industrialized superpower. Hmm, on second thought maybe we should have just let them be...

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Aztec Empire

Fig.1: Egyptians often show up just to laugh at 
the Aztec pyramids.
Among all pre-Columbian Mesoamerican civilizations located in the Central Valley of present-day Mexico, none come more first alphabetically than the Aztecs. Okay, I guess I'll give them more credit than that. The Aztec peoples created one of the most complex and fascinating cultures in North America, and established many customs prevalent within Mexico today. Its so-called "Empire," actually an alliance of three prominent city-states along with their groupies, successfully ruled and expanded throughout the region. They increased their wealth through natural resources and tribute, as well as their side-business through a technological advertising firm ("Let Adztech work for you!"). The main city of Tenochtitlan is estimated to have been the largest city in the world by the beginning of the 16th century, thoroughly embarrassing those feces-encrusted towns of London and Paris. But like pretty much everything, the Spanish had to arrive and screw it all up, conquering their land in the 1520s. Maybe if the Aztec engaged in a little more human sacrifice, their sun deity would have shone more favorably on them (which I would also argue is what currently ails the world economy).

Monday, March 17, 2014

Saint Patrick

Fig.1: Like most Irishmen, 
Saint Patrick never left the 
house without a shamrock.
Quick, name a saint and his/her official Catholic feast day! Unless you're a priest, nun, or biggest St. Bede fan on the planet (May 25; patron saint of historians, y'all!), chances are your first and only thought was Saint Patrick and March 17. That's because the spread and popularity of the Irish and their culture has allowed the holiday to take on a life of its own! Or because it's only feast day that it is acceptable to celebrate with a gratuitous amount of alcohol (although wouldn't be funny on September 28 to hear intoxicated people try to wish you a "Happy Saint Wenceslaus Day!"). Either way, not many people know too much about the man himself, who lived at some point during the 5th century Anno Doughnutty. Normally I would go on a rant about how kids these days are so unedumacated, but I will temporarily excuse them since not even the greatest of historical scholars possess that much information on Saint Patrick (c'mon, St. Bede, help us out!). So put down your drink(s) and let's delve into the life and legend of the man that give the Irish people more pride than anyone not named Arthur Guinness.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Battle of Thermopylae (video)

Here it is, folks! The first ever Canned History in direct-to-video format! Hooray for the interweb! I'm hoping to roll these out once a month, just to give your reading eyes a rest every now and then. You can watch it from here, or click the link below to check it out on YouTube. Also, feel free to give me some feedback so I can make future video histories even more awesome (as if that's even possible). Happy watching!

Canned Histories: Battle of Thermoplyae

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Mongol Conquest of Central Asia

*Welcome to the second installment of my "Mongol Conquest of..." series, where I present in gruesome detail the many campaigns, subjugations, and atrocities committed by the Mongol peoples in the 13th and 14th centuries. Make sure to read up on my history of the conquest of China, just to whet your appetite for all the violence and bloodshed that the Mongols do so well.*

Fig.1: Before and After pics of the Khwarazmid Empire in regards to their "Mongol diet." 
Before Genghis Khan and his crew got too involved with the Chinese, he looked at Central Asia as the ideal place to increase their wealth, expand their landmass, and get some good horse meat and pilaf. With part of the Silk Road already conquered after the fall of dumb stupid Xi Xia in 1209, the Mongols took a roadtrip west, slashing necks and taking scenic routes as they went along. The biggest obstacle in their way was the Khwarazmian dynasty, notable for their humble beginnings as Turkic slaves, and for being the only word in most encyclopedias' "Khw" section. The Khwarazmians were what smart people call a "Persianate" society, where they ruled over Persia (present-day Iran), displayed many characteristics of Persian culture and customs, emanated that typical Persian odor, but weren't actually Persian (although the Turkic smell isn't any less pungent). After throwing off the rule of the Seljuq Empire in 1194, Khwarazmian ruler Ala ad-Din Muhammad II used his magic genie and flying carpet to expand his territory from his capital of Urgench into most of Central Asia and Persia (fig.1 left), effectively becoming the next Persian shah (their fancy word for "king"). As to be expected, the Khwarazmid Empire got pretty full of themselves with this new-found power, and that's exactly the type of attitude the Mongols loved to exploit.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Pyramids at Giza

Fig.1: If the pyramids were built today, insurance companies would claim they need to be replaced in thirty years to account for "regular wear and tear" and "water damage."
Close your eyes and think of Egypt. What's the first thing you see? No, not the horrendous special effects in The Mummy franchise. You're probably thinking of the pyramids at Giza, carefully guarded by that watchful sphinx. This complex (officially called a "necropolis," meaning "city of I see dead people") is one of the most famous attractions in the world, visited annually by millions of tourists who don't mind having sand in their hair forever. Not only is the Great Pyramid the oldest of the Ancient Wonders of the World, it's the only one still standing! (I know I'd trust those contractors more than the slackers that made the Hanging Gardens of Babylon!) Most importantly, without these Ancient Egyptian works of engineering, we wouldn't have any clue what a polyhedron with the characteristics of a conic solid and a polygonal base is called, cause we sure ain't learning that crap from the 10th grade math teacher in whose class we spent more time playing Candy Crush.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

George Washington

It's Presidents' Day Weekend in the United States! So while you're out buying discounted mattresses and SUV's with 0% APR and $0 due at signing, let us remember the 44 leaders that have made the tough decisions so us commoners don't have to think about petty things like budgets and diplomacy and when they're re-invading Vietnam for the grudge match. I'll be going through all the presidents one by one at this time every year, which will take about 44 years (maybe I'll do Grover Cleveland twice). But we may have six to eleven more during that span, and then another one or two in the added time needed to cover them, so I'll probably be pushing up daisies before I'm done with this (especially if the Vietcong captures me in the counter-invasion).

Fig.1: Only an infallible man can sucker punch like that.
The Commander-in-Chief. The Father of His Country. The American Cincinnatus. The Conflagration from the Plantation (used during his UFC days, fig 1). Whatever you like to call him, everyone knows all about George Washington. He led the Patriots to victory over the British in the American War for Independence, allowing for the establishment of a free United States that would kick butt in everything for the next 200+ years. He presided over the Constitutional Convention, creating a governmental framework without any possible pitfalls. He became the very first President, and set various precedents for the office from titles, term limits, neutrality, and the fact that the American executive doesn't need to put the seat down for anybody. He is arguably the greatest man in the history of history! Unfortunately, there are many people who are willing to be arguably about it. Recent scholarship has attempted to take Washington down a notch or two, and show that he exhibited many shortcomings during his lifetime. I'm here to combat these so-called historians ("communists" is probably the more appropriate term) and present Washington the way he needs to be to those impressionable school children: as a hero who could do no wrong. Only then can Americans feel better about themselves.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Luba and Lunda Kingdoms

Fig.1: Did you know that the Luba and Lunda Kingdoms would hold hands while sleeping so they wouldn't float away from each other?
There have been a countless number of memorable kingdoms throughout African history. Most prominently are the Zulu Kingdom, the Mali Empire, the... um... the uh... well.... Did I mention the Zulu Kingdom? Hmmm, well I guess that's about all most of us know.  Well, there have been a countless number of kingdoms throughout African history that deserve to be memorable! As a public service, I will enlighten you about many of these entities that were doing just fine until those Europeans decided to scramble everything up. Here, I'll give you two histories for the price of one with the Central African sibling states of the Luba and Lunda. Unlike many kingdoms that existed contemporary of one another between the 17th and 19th centuries, they did not engage in continuous warfare (I'm looking at you, England and France), but actually strengthened political ties and returned each other's power tools when borrowed. Also, their respective government systems based on power sharing preserved order and prevented civil disputes during their rule. It's a lesson many states can learn from, especially ones in the lands that the Luba and Lunda once ruled (I'm looking at you, Shiny Happy People's Democratic Republic of the Congo).

Friday, January 31, 2014

Wu Zetian, Female Emperor of China

The nagging wife. The domineering mother. The aunt that forces you to commit suicide for dishonoring the family. These tried-and-true stereotypes have been around for ages, but the one who embodied it in force lived over 1300 years ago. Wu Zetian used these inherent talents to move up from being a concubine, to the wife of an Emperor, to becoming the only woman in Chinese history to take the title of Emperor herself! She successfully manipulated all of the men in her life, as well as scared the living daylights out of her subjects, just by giving that look (you know the one I'm talking about). Her ambition turned the powerful Tang Dynasty on its ear, and many consider her to be one of the most powerful rulers (regardless of sex) in all of history! You'd certainly make sure to "call when you get there" with this mother!

Fig.1: Original concubine recruitment 
poster featuring Emperor Taizong, 
circa AD 630.
There were some initial signs that Wu Zhao (as she was known before she got all famous) would become pretty influential. First, a total solar eclipse occurred in 624, the same year of her birth, demonstrating her ability to manipulate celestial bodies even as a little baby! As she grew older, she reportedly shied away from her home and needlework duties, and appeared more interested in ghastly things like politics and reading! Wu grew up during an exciting time in Chinese history: Emperor Gaozu established the Tang Dynasty in 618, the first long-term dynasty to rule a unified China in four centuries! Wu wanted a piece of that action, and when an imperial recruiter came to her grade school for an assembly on all the perks of becoming the Emperor's concubine, she was first in line to sign up. At age 13, she entered the harem of Emperor Taizong, which is one of those accepted instances in history that, unless you're Jerry Lee Lewis, we can't help but get the heebee-jeebees about.

Friday, January 24, 2014


Fig.1: I wish I could take time out of my busy 
hunting-gathering lifestyle to make one of these.
Ask folks around the world what is the greatest henge of stones in Europe, they should say the Avebury circle in Wiltshire, England since it is technically the largest by area. But most likely they will say the Stonehenge site located about twenty miles to the south, and quite frankly I don't blame these hypothetical people. I mean, look at the thing (fig.1). It is dang impressive! How did those Neolithic peoples lift up those huge stones like that? What was the original purpose of the monument? Why couldn't they just be content to pack up a mound of dirt like those drunken Irish were doing and call it a day? Amazingly, many of these questions still have not been answered by those lazy archaeologists! It is up to us, the fine patrons of the interweb, to figure out what these bloody British builders were thinking when constructing this monstrosity, even if it means taking some creative license with our theories (that's fancy talk for making stuff up).