History Articles

History of August: Who Is It Named After?

August 1, 2023 /
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What’s in a name?

The name of this month wasn’t always August; previously, the Romans called it  Sextilis. This was back in 753 B.C., in the days of the founding of Rome by its first king Romulus in 753 BC, when there were originally ten months (… Sept, Oct, Nov, Dec.) In 8 B.C., the Roman Senate decided to honor their first Emperor, Augustus Caesar, by changing the month’s name to Augustus.


History of Reek Sunday: The Legend of St Patrick Driving the Snakes from Ireland

July 28, 2023 /
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Reek Sunday

HISTORY OF REEK SUNDAY: The Legend of St Patrick Driving the Snakes from Ireland

Several years ago, at this time of the Summer, on one of my teaching trips to Ireland, I found myself on the west coast, where they have a saying,

Ahh… west o’ here, the next parish over is Boston.

This Sunday, like the last one in July every year, is Reek Sunday or Garland Sunday in Ireland. During this event, 25,000 to 40,000 people will walk the 3.5-hour round trip 764 meters up Reek Mountain, or Croagh Patrick, in County Mayo, Ireland. Over 100,000 people visit Croagh Patrick throughout the year.

It’s the sacred mountain of St. Patrick and a popular pilgrimage in honor of the patron saint of Ireland, commemorating his driving the snakes from Ireland.

Or did he?


History of William Wilberforce: Champion of British Slavery Abolition

July 26, 2023 /
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William Wilberforce

One hundred ninety years ago today, on July 26, 1833, the Slavery Abolition Act passed its third reading in the House of Commons, ensuring the end of slavery in the British Empire. William Wilberforce authored it.


August 24 marks the birthday of British statesman and England’s greatest abolitionist, William Wilberforce. He was a man well-known to the Founding Fathers of the American Revolution. He became not just a politician, philanthropist, and abolitionist but also a writer of such popularity (in his own day) as C.S. Lewis was in the 20th century.

As I mentioned in my previous article on the History of Amazing Grace, Wilberforce’s mentor was the song’s author John Newton. The popular film “Amazing Grace” tells, in brief, the life of Wilberforce.

William Wilberforce was born in 1759 to privilege and wealth in 18th century England and, though physically challenged, worked for nearly 20 years to push through Parliament bills for both the abolition of the slave trade as well as the emancipation of enslaved people in the British Empire, almost 200 years ago.


History of St James Day: and the Camino de Santiago

July 25, 2023 /
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St James Rembrandt


July 25 is the Feast Day of St James, and Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, and some Protestants accordingly celebrate St James Day. For Orthodox churches that follow the Julian calendar, it’s on April 30.

Each summer, pilgrims walk the Camino de Santiago or the Way of St James that finds its way to the traditional grave of Saint James in Spain.

Who was St James, and what is his relation to this pilgrimage?


History of the 1st Moon Landing – Apollo 11: 54 Years Ago

July 20, 2023 /
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Apollo 11


Fifty-four years ago today, at 3:17 Eastern Time, July 20, 1969, the first human stepped out of the Apollo 11 lunar module onto the moon. With the immortal words of the 38-year-old Neil Armstrong:

“That’s one small step for (a) man,
one giant leap for mankind.”

…the first man in history began an excursion on the moon that lasted over two and a half hours.

Five hundred million people watched it on television. Everyone I knew watched it.


Jerusalem in a Day, part 3

July 19, 2023 /
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jerusalem 2013(2) aerial temple mount (south exposure)


In Part 1, I discussed some of the Christian sites in the city of Jerusalem. In Part 2, I discussed the Jewish tradition. In this final article, I’ll examine the third most important Muslim site in the world, after Mecca and Medina.

Urusalim (Jerusalem) gets its name from the Canaanites, the earlier inhabitants of Palestine, after their local god Shalem. The city was first conquered by Muslims in 632 AD.

In 1995, the largest quarter of the city was the Muslim Quarter, inhabited by 20,000 Palestinians. Today, with Jerusalem’s expansion outside the Old City, the Muslim population is over 350,000. A journey through the Arab Market in this quarter is like navigating a labyrinth.


Jerusalem in a Day, part 2

July 18, 2023 /
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oldcityjerusalem01 st 06


In Part 1, I discussed some of the Christian sites in the city of Jerusalem. Here, we discuss the Jewish tradition.

In 1995 Jerusalem celebrated 3,000 years of the City of David, commemorating when King David entered the city and made it his capital, rather than Hebron. It was a fortress city that David took from the local Jebusites (II Samuel 5:9) and further built up the area. It is located southeast of the current Old City as a jetty of land between the Kidron and Tyropoeon Valleys and above the juncture of the Hinnom Valley.


Jerusalem in a Day, part 1

July 17, 2023 /
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the temple mount jerusalem


Is it possible to see Jerusalem in a day? I did.

Twenty eight years ago, following a trip to Israel, I published three articles. I was speaking on technology in Tel Aviv and had only 24 hours to visit Jerusalem. The city may have changed, but the historical sites haven’t. I’ve updated the articles for clarity and currency.

In all my travels across two million miles and fifty countries, no other city in the world is quite so moving, so awe-inspiring as Jerusalem… at least to a historian.

Jerusalem is the “Holy City,” sacred to the three major Abrahamic monotheistic world religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

I had an opportunity to visit the holiest places of each of these in the city. I will begin with the Christian locations, as it was Passion Week (or “Holy Week”) for Christians.

  • Jerusalem is the #1 pilgrimage for Christians the world over.
  • Rome is the #2 pilgrimage destination.


History of Bastille Day: Its Relation to the French Revolution

July 14, 2023 /
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eiffel tower

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.


Bastille Day is celebrated across the globe wherever French ex-patriots, people of French ancestry, and Francophiles live.


Movie Review: Mission Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One

July 13, 2023 /
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mission impossible – dead reckoning part one poster


[No spoilers]

The seventh movie in the Mission: Impossible franchise is non-stop action, where the plot does not get in the way of the daredevil stunts. And this is only the first installment of “Dead Reckoning Part One.” Will there be a sequel? It’s a sure thing.

This summer blockbuster was filmed during the COVID-19 pandemic amidst many delays over two years. It premiered finally on June 19, 2023, on the Spanish Steps in Rome. We’ll have to wait for the second episode until June 28, 2024. Budget: $291M.

We’re re-introduced to the remaining IMF (Impossible Mission Force) from previous movies: Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), and Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg). Former MI6 agent, sometimes IMF agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), has appeared in a couple of the previous M:I movies and comes in from the cold for this one.

Sure, some of the actors are getting a bit older – Cruise is 60 – but that does not detract from the energy.


History of French Fries: Are They Really French?

July 13, 2023 /
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French Fries

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


Origin of French Fries

Some French people might call the delectable potato confection Belgian Fries, and there is evidence that, in fact, 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 more likely story 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 language of their fellow (southern) Belgian soldiers.

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 handling this a hot potato.


History of John Calvin: The Genius of Geneva

July 10, 2023 /
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John Calvin

On July 10, 1509, in Noyon, France, Jean Cauvin was born. We know him by his Latinized name, John Calvin.

Of all the leaders of the Protestant Reformation, none were more significant in forming biblical theology or ecclesiastic thought than this one man. Calvin’s teaching and tradition penetrated more of the world than any other Protestant tradition.

He would most influence the worldview of Western Europe, the UK, and the Americas up until the 20th century. His organization of the church government in Geneva would influence the church polity of Presbyterianism.

His theology would influence the Congregational (Puritan) church of Colonial America, as well as the Hungarian, German, and Dutch Reformed Churches. Though Baptists and Unitarians did not usually fellowship with Calvinistic churches, some contained aspects of his theology.