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Napoleon's Waterloo

Waterloo is a small town a few miles south of Brussels, Belgium. It's an unassuming place, with a church, a few inns, and some homes surrounded by old stone farmhouses and lots of open fields. Those farms [more…]

The Good, the Bad, and the Mortal: The Deities of Norse Mythology

The Norse deities came in two flavors, the Vanir and the Aesir. The Vanir were the older, fertility gods; they included Freyr, Freya, and Njord. The Aesir were more modern, warlike gods, which included [more…]

The Birth of Impressionism: Manet and Monet

Impressionism began to take shape in the 1860s on the canvases of Édouard Manet, Claude Monet, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. But the actual birth of Impressionism was probably the summer of 1869, when Monet [more…]

Discovering the Baroque Masters: Caravaggio and His Followers

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, known more simply as Caravaggio (1571–1610), was the greatest and most influential painter of the Baroque style. He was also a quick-tempered Bohemian who was often jailed [more…]

Diseases Decimate Native American Populations

From the 16th century through the early 20th century, no fewer than 93 confirmed epidemics and pandemics — all of which can be attributed to European contagions — decimated the American Indian population [more…]

Napoleon: Educating a Genius

Napoleon's family was not impoverished, but it was by no means wealthy. During Napoleon's childhood, the Bonapartes owned only a few rooms of a large house [more…]

Lewis and Clark: William Clark for Expedition Co-Captain

Thomas Jefferson was leaning on Lewis to find a second in command for the expedition. Lewis went a step further than naming a second: He wrote to William Clark in June of 1803 and offered him co-command [more…]

SAT II U.S. History: Taking a Look at Format and Content

The SAT II U.S. History exam usually contains about 90 questions that you have to answer in one hour. The questions tend to get harder as you move through the test [more…]

Debunking the Beatles Conspiracy: "Paul Is Dead"

One of the strangest events surrounding the Beatles was the rumor in 1966 that band member Paul McCartney was dead. Not only was he dead, but was replaced with a double. More amazing was that the band [more…]

Rushing for Gold and Statehood in California

On the chilly morning of Jan. 24, 1848, a man looked down into a sawmill ditch off the American River, about 40 miles east of Sacramento, California, (or 120 miles east of Yerba Buena, which soon became [more…]

Finding a Voice during the Harlem Renaissance

No period of African American literary history receives as much attention as the Harlem Renaissance, which ranged roughly from the beginning of World War I to the Great Depression. For the first time, [more…]

Figuring Out How Roman Mythology Got So Darned Mixed Up

Roman religion and, therefore, Roman mythology, was a long, drawn-out process of bringing together the gods, stories, and rituals of various cultures and making them Roman. People who study religion or [more…]

Barbarian Invasions: Lightening Up the Dark Ages

Everyone talks about the barbarian invasions during the Dark Ages, but barbarian is rather unfair. These "barbarians" had a well-developed culture, with their own laws and forms of art and codes of ethics [more…]

Napoleon: Being a Hero in a Troubled Nation

After military successes in Egypt, Napoleon was treated as a returning hero of mythic proportions in 1799. To the French people, he was Caesar and Alexander rolled into one. The streets were full of his [more…]

Escalating the Vietnam War: The Tet Offensives of 1968

The Tet holiday is revered in Vietnamese society as a series of days to visit with and enjoy family and friends. It has also been a time of great victories over previous foreign invaders in Vietnam. Almost [more…]

Enter a War Hero: President Ulysses Simpson Grant

Ulysses Grant's two terms as president are usually considered the most corrupt of any of the presidencies in U.S. history. Why did an honest man suffer such horrible terms in office? For one reason, Grant [more…]

Battles in the Sky: Nostradamus Predicts World War I

Oh, the irony of naming things. World War I was originally called The Great War because no one imagined that all the nations would fight at once — never mind the idea they'd do it again later. No one imagined [more…]

Armageddon and the Book of Revelation

The events written in the biblical Book of Revelation go by a number of names — Armaggedon, Apocalypse, The End Times — and for thousands of years, people have been seeing the signs of Armaggedon in the [more…]

Revising the Code of Canon Law (1983)

For Roman Catholics, canon law is another term for Church or ecclesiastical law. The word canon comes from the Greek word kanon, which is a "measuring reed. [more…]

Examining the Life of Malcolm X

Although best known for slogans such as "By Any Means Necessary" as well as posters depicting him with a gun, Malcolm X was a very complex man. An ex-convict, Malcolm X's strength, charisma, and intelligence [more…]

Setting the Stage for the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan

Throughout history, foreign armies who happened to be in the neighborhood of Central Asia often stopped by Afghanistan for an invasion or two. The Greeks and Persians in ancient times and the Arabs and [more…]

Examining the (Re)Birth of the Renaissance

A 19th-century Swiss historian named Jacob Burckhardt coined the term Renaissance (rebirth) for the big changes in thinking and the arts that took place in Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries. The rebirth [more…]

Running Hot and Cold Following World War II

The years after World War II weren't peaceful. But they didn't erupt into World War III either (cross your fingers). For much of the time after World War II, the major world powers were preoccupied with [more…]

Scrutinizing Naval Warfare during the Civil War: The Ironclad

In April 1861, after Fort Sumter, Union navy personnel hurriedly attempted to destroy its most important facility in Norfolk, Virginia, to prevent it from falling into the hands of the newly seceded state [more…]

Unlocking the Secrets of Symbolism in Nostradamus's Writings

People around the world have always searched for signs and omens that tell what the future brings, and they've looked just about everywhere. Since 1555 or so, people have looked to Nostradamus's writings [more…]

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