What happened with Mary Toft (1703–1763)?

The portrayal of the “Miraculous History of Mary Toft” (Public Domain — William Hogarth — wiki)

The English housewife Mary Toft caused quite a stir in Britain at the beginning of the eighteenth century. According to herself and the people around her, she regularly gave birth to rabbits. One day, she is even said to have miraculously given birth to a pig. The English newspapers loved these stories. Until the English king, George I (1660–1727) intervened and exposed Mary Toft as a fantasist.

The beginning of a strange story

The Roman and Chinese empires during the first century. Source: Gabagool via Wikimedia Commons

What was their image of this distant empire?

The short answer is: yes, the Romans knew of the existence of China. They called it Serica, meaning ‘the land of silk’, or Sinae, meaning ‘the land of the Sin (or Qin)’ (after the first dynasty of the Chinese empire, the Qin Dynasty). The Chinese themselves were called Seres. But, what image did the Romans have of the Chinese, and what did they write about them?

From about the beginning of the first century to about the end of the third century AD, the four great empires of Eurasia were in contact with each other through the Silk Road.


The story of the only German aircraft carrier during World War 2

Graf Zeppelin (Public Domain — U.S. Navy)

The “Graf Zeppelin” was the only aircraft carrier ever built by Germany during the Second World War. It was named after Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin but was never fully completed and therefore played no role in the course of the war.

An ambitious project

Atomic weapons test in 1946 on the atoll Bikini

What are the effects of nuclear weapons on naval vessels?

Under the code name “Operation Crossroads”, the US Navy conducted the first series of nuclear tests in the summer of 1946 at the Bikini Atoll in the South Pacific. It was the beginning of an unprecedented nuclear race. Let’s take a look at the events of the time.

What happened before

Already on 16 July 1945, American scientists detonated an atomic bomb near Alamogordo in the New Mexico desert. Scarcely three weeks later, on 6 August 1945, “Little Boy”, a nuclear bomb of 15 kilotons of TNT made of enriched uranium, was dropped over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. …

How a Russian soldier wanted to reinstate the Mongolian Empire and fought a heroic but doomed struggle

Baron Roman von Ungern-Sternberg after his arrest.

A homicidal psychopath who had his way in the unravelling and chaos of the Russian civil war, or an eccentric visionary who fought a hopeless battle against both Soviet communism and Chinese expansionism? Who was Baron Roman von Ungern-Sternberg, the still-imaginative Russian warlord who briefly ruled Mongolia 100 years ago?

End of the Tsarist Empire

Freiherr, or Baron, Roman von Ungern-Sternberg was an officer in the Tsar’s army and descended from an old Baltic-German family from today’s Estonia, then a province of the Russian Tsarist Empire. He grew up in Reval — today’s Tallinn — and on his family’s estate on the Baltic island of…

Nazi racial doctrine in pictures

In 1935, the Nuremberg Race Laws were passed in Nazi Germany. The basis of these laws, which paved the way for the Holocaust, was the Nazi belief in the superiority of the Aryan race. The National Socialists gave the title of honorary Aryan to people who were not officially Aryans but were considered as such for political reasons. These included, for example, the Japanese, with whom the Nazis cooperated geopolitically.

The Aryans themselves were also divided into different races. Nazi ideologist Hans F.K. Günther described six Aryan subraces around 1943: the Northern race, Western race, Eastern race, Dinaric race, Eastern…

Green energy becomes invisible

An old-fashioned illusion has now been used to create a cloak of invisibility. It can make people, vehicles and buildings invisible — and triple the production of solar cells.

Photo by MICHAEL WILSON on Unsplash

Half a man walks across a field of solar panels. Only his feet, head and one arm are visible. The rest of the man is invisible and replaced by green grass.

His body is covered with the most promising material that comes close to a cloak of invisibility, largely obscuring even large objects from view.

The plastic in the jacket was made by Canadian inventor Guy Cramer of the company Hyperstealth…

How the Irish finally got their independence after years of British rule

A flag bearing the Great Seal of the Irish Free State

The struggle of the Irish to get rid of British rule has been a bloody one. It began with an uprising in 1916 and six years later ended in a civil war. Eventually, the Irish Free State takes shape and is admitted to the League of Nations in 1923. But long after that, private militias continue to fight each other. In 1939, the Republic declares its neutrality when the Second World War breaks out.

Nationalism and self-determination

How an army mostly consisting of fierce woman fought the French

These amazon veterans fought for King Behanzin in the Dahomey wars. (wiki)

The members of the elite troops of the kingdom of Dahomey were aggressive, ruthless — and female. The French rulers quickly gained respect for the African amazons, who instilled fear through hard training — and gin.

Shrill war cries break the peace of the morning near the port of Cotonou in present-day Benin.

Thousands of warriors of the Dahomey tribe stand on the lawn in front of the city. The 359 French soldiers in the city rush towards the defensive wall, and soon shots rain down on the field.

The French are astonished to see that the vanguard consists of…

Gas chamber in Hadamar (CC BY 3.0 — Frank Winkelmann — wiki)

A dark page in history, often overshadowed by the Holocaust

The term ‘eugenics’ was first used in the late 19th century by the British scientist Francis Galton (1822–1911) to describe the intervention in the genetic make-up of human beings. However, the term acquired a wry connotation under the Nazi regime and degenerated into a veritable genocide.

The impetus

As early as 1925, when he published his book “Mein Kampf”, Hitler left no doubt that, in his opinion, in the long run only the Aryan race had the right to exist. When the National Socialists came to power in 1933, racial improvement of the German people was high on the agenda. Thus, with…


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