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MikeP

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The Guns of August
Barbara W. Tuchman, Robert K. Massie
Eyewitness to History - John Carey Whether it is the death of Socrates or George Orwell being shot by a sniper in the Spanish Civil War (I didn’t know about that!), if you love history, you already know you should read original sources and not just rely on someone’s interpretation of events. This book, [b:Eyewitness to History|290217|Eyewitness to History|John Carey|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1349055094s/290217.jpg|281568], is pack-jammed with accounts of famous events and not so well-known points in history. It is just plain fun, I enjoyed almost every account. The accounts are not long, ranging from a couple paragraphs to, at most, 10 pages. Most are 1-2 pages long, easily read in less than 5-10 minutes. I read one or two every day and did not race through the book. The blurb on the front, “Wondrous, a found treasure” pretty well sums this book up. I spoilered some because of the graphic content. Lots of military events but plenty of other accounts to keep most folks interested.

Here is an account of everyday life in the Middle Ages:

A Boy Thief, 1324

On Monday [in April, 1324] at the hour of vespers John, son of William de Burgh, a boy five years old, was in the house of Richard le Latthere and had taken a parcel of wool and placed it in his cap. Emma, the wife of Richard, chastising him, struck him with her right hand under his left ear so that he cried. On hearing this, Isabella, his mother, raised the hue and carried him thence. He lingered until the hour of curfew of the same day, when he died of the blow and not of any felony. Emma forthwith fled, but where she went or who received her the jurors knew not. Afterwards she surrendered herself to the prison at Newgate.

The Spanish prove they are the equal of any when it comes to visiting horror on the New World

Spanish Atrocities in the West Indies, c. 1513—20, Bartolome de Las Casas

Las Casas, who became a Dominican missionary, was the first European to expose the oppression of the native races of Latin America He had himself taken apart in the conquest of Cuba, 1513

The Spaniards with their Horses, their Speares and Lances, began to commit murders, and strange cruelties; they entred into Townes, Borowes, and Villages, sparing neither children nor old men, neither women with childe, neither them that lay in, but that they ripped their bellies, and cut them in peeces, as if they had beene opening of Lambes shut up in their fold. They laid wagers with such as with one thrust of a sword would paunch or bowell a man in the middest, or with one blow of a sword would most readily and most deliverly cut off his head, or that would best pierce his entrails at one stroake. They tooke the little soules by the heeles, ramping them from the mothers dugges, and crushed their heads against the clifts. Others they cast into the Rivers laughing and mocking, and when they tumbled into the water, they said, now shift for thy self such a ones corpes. They put others, together with their mothers and all that they met, to the edge of the sword. They made certain Gibbets long and low, in such sort, that the feete of the hanged on touched in a manner the ground, every one enough for thirteene, in honour and worship of our Saviour and his twelve Apostles (as they used to speake) and setting to fire, burned them all quicke that were fastened….the story goes on from here with more

The only way this will be purged from America is through a bloody war:

American Slavery: Punishment of a Female Slave, New Orleans, c. 1846, Samuel Gridley Howe

The author, Samuel Gridley Howe, was a leading America educator, and a pioneer in the education of blind and handicapped children.

I have passed ten days in New Orleans, not unprofitably, I trust, in examining the public institutions — the schools, asylums, hospital prisons, etc. With the exception of the first, there is little hope of amelioration. I know not how much merit there may be in the system; but I do know that, in the administration of the penal code, there are abominations which should bring down the fate of Sodom upon the city. If Howard or Mrs. Fry ever discovered so ill-administered a den of thieves as the New Orleans prison, they never described it. In the negroes’ apartment I saw much which made me blush that I was a white man, and which, for a moment, stirred up an evil spirit in my animal nature. Entering a large paved courtyard, around which ran galleries filled with slaves of all ages, sexes, and colours, I heard the snap of a whip, every stroke of which sounded like the sharp crack of a pistol. I turned my head, and beheld a sight which absolutely chilled me to the marrow of my bones, and gave me, for the first time in my life, the sensation of my hair stiffening at the roots. There lay a black girl flat upon her face, on a board, her two thumbs tied, and fastened to one end, her feet tied and drawn…the account goes on and is quite graphic

Some are not playing nice when they evacuate Gallipoli.

Gallipoli: The Allied Evacuation, 19 December 1915, Norman King-Wilson

The abandonment of the Gallipoli Campaign brought about the resignation of Churchill, the chief supporter of the venture.

On the morning of the 19th I got my final orders. By 8 p.m. only eleven men and myself of the FA [Field Ambulance] remained. The men in the trenches spent the last day turning every dugout into a death trap and the most innocent-looking things into infernal machines. Some dugouts would blow up when the doors were opened. A drafting table had several memorandum books lying on it each with electrical connections to an explosive charge sufficient to destroy a platoon A gramophone, wound up and with record on, ready to be started, was left in one dugout so contrived that the end of the tune meant the death of the listeners. Piles of bully beef tins, turned into diabolical engines of destruction, lay scattered about. In front of the trenches lay miles of trip mines. Hundreds of rifles lay on the top of the parapet, with string tied to trigger,…. .

Orwell is just so matter of fact describing being shot in the neck:

The Spanish Civil War: Wounded by a Fascist Sniper, near Huesca, 20 May 1937, George Orwell

I had been about ten days at the front when it happened. The whole experience of being hit by a bullet is very interesting and I think it is worth describing in detail.

It was at the corner of the parapet, at five o’clock in the morning. This was always a dangerous time, because we had the dawn at our backs, and if you stuck your head above the parapet it was clearly outlined against the sky. I was talking to the sentries preparatory to changing the guard. Suddenly, in the very middle of saying something, I felt — it is very hard to describe what I felt, though I remember it with the utmost vividness.

Roughly speaking it was the sensation of being at the centre of an explosion. There seemed to be a loud bang and a blinding flash of light all round me, and I felt a tremendous shock — no pain, only a violent shock, such as you get from an electric terminal; with it a sense of utter weakness, a feeling of being stricken and shrivelled up to nothing. The sandbags in front of me receded into immense distance. I fancy you would feel much the same if you were struck by lightning. I knew immediately that I was hit, but because of the seeming bang and flash I thought it was a rifle nearby that had gone….more follows.


Highly recommended for your daily dose of history.