Blog Posts

History of Bastille Day

July 14, 2020 /
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eiffel towerHISTORY OF BASTILLE DAY

Each year on July 14, Bastille Day is celebrated to commemorate the Storming of the Bastille in Paris on this date in 1789, an important date in the French Revolution. Also known as French National Day, it features feasting, fireworks, public dancing, and an address by the French President.

ArcHowever, the center of this celebration is the largest and oldest European military parade along the Avenue of the Champs-Élysées. This wide boulevard runs through Paris and is called la plus belle avenue du monde. Lined by high-end shops and eateries, as well as the Arch of Triumph in the middle, it is undoubtedly the most beautiful avenue in the world that I’ve walked along. [[Except this year, due to Coronavirus there will not be a parade.]] Bastille Day is celebrated across the globe wherever French ex-patriots, people of French ancestry, and Francophiles live. (more…)

History of French Fries

July 13, 2020 /
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frenchfriesHISTORY OF FRENCH FRIES: NATIONAL FRENCH FRY DAY

Today is National French Fry Day. While no one knows who began this celebration, placing in on July 13 is significant in that the important French holiday is the next day, July 14, for Bastille Day.

History of French Fries

Some French people might call the delectable potato confection Belgian Fries, and there is evidence that they may have originated there.

One story is that the phrase “French Fried Potatoes” first appeared in English in 1856 in the cookbook Cookery for Maids of All Work by E. Warren.

Another story, which is more likely, is that they were first called “French Fries” by American soldiers stationed in Belgium during World War I. After first tasting them, the Yanks called them “French” fries as it was the official language of their fellow Belgian soldiers.

However, due to the 2018 defeat of the Belgians by the French at the World Cup games, I cannot find any French people who will give any credit to the Belgians on these historical facts. A Belgian journalist claims that a 1781 family manuscript tells of deep-fried potatoes in the Spanish-Netherlands (now Belgium) before the 1680s. The fact that potatoes did not arrive in that area until around 1735 makes this a hot potato. Eating potatoes for food was popularized in France by King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, who wore potato blossoms in their buttonholes and hair.

origin of potatoes incas 200x300Potatoes are not native to Europe, but came from the New World, when Spanish conquistadors brought them back from Peru in the early 15th century. This is why J.R.R. Tolkien, at the suggestion of his careful readers, removed them from his mid-60s versions of his Hobbit and Lord of the Rings books, but the movies did not.

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History of John Calvin

July 10, 2020 /
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John CalvinHISTORY OF JOHN CALVIN

On July 10, 1509, in Noyon, France was born Jean Cauvin, known to us as John Calvin. Of all the leaders of the Protestant Reformation, none were as significant in forming biblical theology or ecclesiastic thought as this one man. Calvin’s teaching and tradition penetrated more of the world than any of the other Protestant traditions.

He would most influence the worldview of Western Europe, the UK, and the Americas up until the Modern period of history. His organization of the church government in Geneva would influence the church polity of Presbyterianism. His theology would influence the Congregational (Puritan) as well as German and Dutch Reformed Churches. Some Baptists and Unitarians, though they did not fellowship with Calvinistic churches, often contained aspects of his theology.

Influence on America

Many of the ideas incorporated into the American Constitution were done so by men inspired by John Calvin. He had a healthy view of the depravity of man, the need for checks-and-balances in government, the division of powers, and provision for the rightful and orderly succession of rulers. Founding Father James Madison was strongly influenced by Reverend John Witherspoon, the only clergy signer of the Declaration of Independence.

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History of James Madison

July 7, 2020 /
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James MadisonHISTORY OF JAMES MADISON

In this, the last of our articles on the Founding Fathers, we look at James Madison. He has correctly been called “the Father of the Constitution,” and one might think that the Constitution became active on July 5, 1776, but this is not how it happened.

The American Constitution didn’t go into effect until almost a decade and a half after the Declaration of Independence. How did this philosopher, diplomat, and Founding Father influence this? (more…)

History of John Adams

July 6, 2020 /
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John AdamsHISTORY OF THE 4TH OF JULY: JOHN ADAMS

Before John Adams became the first Vice President of the United States under George Washington, second President of the United States, the first resident of the White House, and writer of the Massachusetts State Constitution he had a role during the Revolutionary War period as one of the creators of the Declaration of Independence.

Committee of Five

He was on the Committee of Five and was at the age of 40 more senior than the 33-year-old Thomas Jefferson, but realized that Jefferson was the more eloquent writer. (more…)

History of the 4th of July: Thomas Jefferson

July 5, 2020 /
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Thomas JeffersonHISTORY OF THE 4th OF JULY: THOMAS JEFFERSON

Perhaps no one person is more associated with the 4th of July in American History than Thomas Jefferson, probably because it was his hand that penned the immortal Declaration of Independence.

As my friend Clay Jenkinson — who has been portraying Jefferson for over 20 years — says in his book Thomas Jefferson: The Man of Light:

“The Third President is the Muse of American life, the chief articulator of our national value system and our national self-identity. Jefferson was a man of almost unbelievable achievement: statesman, man of letters, architect, scientist, book collector, political strategist, and utopian visionary. But he is also a man of paradox: liberty-loving slaveholder, Indian-loving relocationist, publicly frugal and privately bankrupt, a constitutional conservative who bought the Louisiana Territory in 1803.”

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History of Independence Day: Was the Declaration of Independence really signed on July 4, 1776?

July 4, 2020 /
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Declaration of IndependenceHISTORY OF INDEPENDENCE DAY

Independence Day or the Fourth of July celebrates the adoption by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, of the Declaration of Independence, proclaiming the severance of the allegiance of the American colonies to Great Britain. It is the most significant secular holiday in the United States, observed in all the states, territories, and dependencies.

Although it is assumed that the Continental Congress unanimously signed the document on the 4th of July, in fact, not all delegates were present, and there were no signers at all, contrary to the theatrical musical 1776. Here is what really happened.

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History of Hamilton – The Musical

July 3, 2020 /
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Hamilton -- The MusicalHISTORY OF HAMILTON – THE MUSICAL

Hamilton – The Musical, how accurate historically is the recent Broadway blockbuster, currently available on Disney+ TV?  It’s based on the 2004 biography of Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, but does Hamilton – The Musical compare favorably to the actual history?

The Set-Up

As an aficionado of musical theatre — I see as many shows as I can whenever I visit New York or London — I must say it was stunning. I saw it live last summer at the Richard Rodgers Theater in NYC. It is indeed a contemporary American Musical and an especially New York City one (Hamilton lived in NYC.)

Miranda

Lin-Manuel Miranda

How can you argue with a Pulitzer Prizewinning, 11 Tony Award-winning, three-time Grammy Award-winning, Emmywinning writer, producer, director, conductor, singer, and actor like Lin-Manuel Miranda?

It’s got it all: hip-hop, jazz, R&B, Britpop (King George III), American musical theatre (think, Music Man), and numerous showstoppers throughout the show. It was clever and witty, self-conscious, and funny. There were plays on words and literary, historical, musical theatre, and biblical references. It was immensely entertaining. (more…)

History of Alexander Hamilton

July 2, 2020 /
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Alexander Hamilton
HISTORY OF ALEXANDER HAMILTON

Alexander Hamilton has gained new popularity recently, in large part due to the 2015 Broadway musical “Hamilton” by Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Birth of Alexander Hamilton

He was born in Charlestown, Nevis, in the Caribbean, out of wedlock to Rachel Faucette, of British & French Huguenot descent. She had been married to and had a son with Johann Michael Lavien when she fell in love with the Scottish James Hamilton. She left her husband and their son and moved in with Hamilton, where she lived with him in Nevis and on St. Croix. Alexander took his natural father’s surname.

His Scottish father, though he owned his paternity of Alexander, had abandoned them when Alexander was around ten when he’d learned her original husband intended to divorce her on the grounds of “adultery and desertion,” hoping to “spare her the charge of bigamy.” His mother ran a small provisions shop, operated by the five female slaves she owned. When she died of yellow fever when he was 13, she left him 34 books, and he was mostly self-educated. (more…)