History Articles

History of Passover: the Jewish Pesach Holiday

April 22, 2024 /
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Sunset tonight, April 22, marks the beginning of Passover. Exodus 12 in the Hebrew Bible tells the story of Passover from the life of Moses. Ten plagues were visited upon the Egyptian pharaoh (starring Yul Brenner in “The Ten Commandments,” though he was better in “The King and I“) to get his attention to release the Children of Israel from bondage.

The final plague was the death of the firstborn son, visited upon the land by the Lord’s destroyer. The Jews were to smear the blood of a sacrificed lamb upon “the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses” so that the destroyer would “pass over” them unharmed. Pharaoh relented and released the Israelites. The Israelite slaves took the road out of Egypt. The Greek words for “road out” are Ex ‘odos, and by way of Latin, Exodus.


History of Earth Day

April 22, 2024 /
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April 22 is called Earth Day because it commemorates and celebrates the observance of the anniversary of our discovery of planet Earth. By all accounts, there is general agreement that Earth is far superior to the planet from which we came, as we shall recount below.

Meanwhile, several companies on Earth celebrate it as a holiday, or draw significant attention to it with feats of Interweb and mobile legerdemain.


History of the Founding of Rome: the Short Version

April 19, 2024 /
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kapitolinische wölfin museum capitolini

Capitoline Wolf feeding Romulus and Remus, 296 B.C.


Rome was founded on April 21, 753 B.C., according to the Roman antiquarian Titus Pomponius Atticus.

The City’s origins are shrouded in legends and myths. One founding myth is about Aeneas, a Trojan War hero, and his descendants, who are believed to have played a role in the City’s founding.

Another, more popular legend deals with twin brothers and a kidnapping.

Who were the key players, when did the City begin, what was the evolution of Rome, and what happens on April 21?


History of April 19: Three Reasons Why It’s Significant

April 19, 2024 /
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Many of my Facebook friends have asked me to write an article on the History of April 19th. Why?

Statistically, this date is slightly more likely to fall on a Tuesday, Thursday, or Sunday (58 in 400 years each) than on Friday or Saturday (57) and somewhat less likely to occur on a Monday or Wednesday (56).

But what important things have happened historically on this date in history?

There are many, but here are just three:


Reformation – April 19, 1529

April 19On April 19, at the Second Diet of Speyer, the first use of the term Protestant occurred. What was the context? Back at the First Diet of Speyer, Germany, in 1526, followers of Martin Luther in Germany and Ulrich Zwingli in Switzerland understood that the Roman Catholic Church would permit the toleration of Lutheran and Swiss Reformed versions of worship. This would essentially suspend the impact of the Edict of Worms, which, back in 1521, declared Luther an Imperial outlaw and banned the reading or possession of his writings. (He had already been religiously excommunicated by the Pope the previous year in 1520.)

Following the First Diet of Speyer, German Princes understood now that cujus regio, ejus religio — literally “Whose realm, his religion” or roughly “the religion of the Prince is the religion of his territory.” If a Prince followed Luther, so too could his people.

However, if the First Diet suspended the Edict of Worms, the Second Diet reinstated it or, more particularly, excluded toleration for Lutherans, Zwinglians, or Anabaptists. A group of German Princes, realizing this could mean the end of tolerance for Lutherans and Reformed, subsequently filed a formal legal “protest” and were hence called Protestants.


History of the Diet of Worms: Martin Luther on Trial Over 500 Years Ago

April 17, 2024 /
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Martin Luther

Luther Memorial, Worms


Over five hundred years ago, on April 17, 1521, Martin Luther was tried before the most powerful ruler in Europe, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.

While the name may sound unappetizing, the Diet of Worms was a formal imperial deliberative assembly in the German city of Worms. It was called to have Martin Luther either reaffirm or renounce his teachings. In German, it’s called the “Reichstag zu Worms.”

Why was Luther called, who tried him, what were the charges, and what happened after?


History of Tax Day: Still April 15?

April 15, 2024 /
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Generally, April 15 is the deadline for filing income tax, kind of.

It has been said by tax accountants that:

“taxes will never be due on April 15 again.”

The Coronavirus pandemic delayed deadlines to July 15 in 2020, and May 17 in 2021. Natural disasters and public emergencies have brought extensions in many states.

Historically, Congress initially set the income tax filing deadline in March, but it revised the Internal Revenue Code in 1954, moving it to April 15, where it remains unless it conflicts with a weekend or holiday.


History of the Marathon: Ancient and Modern

April 15, 2024 /
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Today in Boston, Massachusetts, the Boston Marathon will be run. It begins at the start line in Hopkinton, MA, at 10:00 AM and follows the race route into Boston.

This is the oldest and longest-running (no pun intended) annual marathon event, at least in the Western World. It began in 1897, the year following the reintroduction of the marathon competition into the first modern Olympics in 1896.


History of the Civil War: When was the First Shot?

April 12, 2024 /
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Fort Sumter

Fort Sumter


What was the “trigger” that started the American Civil War?

On April 12, 1861, the first formal hostilities of the American Civil War occurred when Confederate troops attacked the military installation at Fort Sumter in South Carolina.

The Fort, located in Charleston Harbor, was a coastal fortification built after the War of 1812 as part of the U.S. coastal fortification system. Over 30 years in the building, it still was not finished when the first attack rang out in 1861.


The First Shot of the Civil War

South Carolina had already declared its secession from the Union over four months earlier. Repeated requests by the state for the Federal soldiers to evacuate had been ignored. One last request on April 11 was declined, and nearby Fort Johnson opened fire on Fort Sumter. For 34 continuous hours, Confederate batteries fired upon Fort Sumter starting, it is reported, at 4:30 AM.



Fort Johnson, Opposite Fort Sumter, Harbor of Charleston, South Carolina.


The next day, on April 13, Fort Sumter surrendered. No soldier in the Fort died during the battle, though one Confederate soldier later died of a wound from a misfired cannon. The escalation of hostilities accelerated, with President Lincoln calling for a volunteer army as four additional Southern states declared their secession from the Union.


History of Gmail: 20 Years Ago

April 1, 2024 /
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Gmail logo, March 31, 2004, the day before the announcement


Twenty years ago, on April 1, 2004, Google released Gmail to limited beta testing for only 1,000 users outside Google.

Here’s the original press release.

A few months later, I got an invitation to the beta, which was not opened to the general public until 2007. What follows is the story of the evolution of this remarkable free email tool, which is now used by almost two billion users worldwide.


History of April Fools’ Day

April 1, 2024 /
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April Fools’ Day, or All Fools’ Day, is the name given to the custom of playing practical jokes on friends on that day or sending them on fools’ errands. The origin of this custom has been much disputed; it is in some way a relic of those once universal festivities held at the vernal equinox, which, beginning on the old New Year’s Day celebrations of March 25, ended on April 1.

Another view is that it is a farcical commemoration of Jesus’ trials during Passion Week in Jerusalem, when he was sent from Annas‘ House to Caiaphas‘ Palace to Pontius Pilate‘s Praetorium to Herod Antipas‘ Hasmonean Palace and back to Pilate again. These culminated in his crucifixion on Good Friday, which may have been April 1. (more…)

History of Easter: The Players: Where are They Now?

March 31, 2024 /
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You may be asking yourself, “Self,” you ask, “where are they now?” And well you might ask. What happened to our players AFTER the events in the Easter story?


Herod Antipas

Herod AntipasYou may remember that I had said Antipas‘ taking his brother’s wife Herodias as his own wife led to his ruin. Actually, it led to his exile and death. Her ambition pushed him where he would not have otherwise gone. Antipas’ nephew and Herodias’ brother, Herod Agrippa (who we meet in the New Testament book the Acts of the Apostles as one of the early persecutors of the new church) had spent and borrowed much money while he was in Palestine.

Herodias suggested that her husband Antipas help her brother Agrippa financially, but they argued. Agrippa lived much of his time in Rome and was a close friend of the future Emperor Gaius (the infamous Caligula). While riding in a chariot with Caligula, Agrippa commented that he could not wait until the then Emperor Tiberius was no longer Caesar so that Caligula might have his rightful place. A loyal slave overhearing this relayed it to Tiberius, who had Agrippa thrown into prison.


History of World Backup Day

March 30, 2024 /
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There isn’t much history, as the first celebration of this geek holiday was in 2011. World Backup Day is barely a decade old.

But the need is real, now more than ever, especially in light of this salient fact: April Fools’ Day. March 31, the day before, is an excellent time to check your backups. On the eve of the day, famous for pranks, this might be your last chance.

You may have learned at the University of Hard Knocks that it’s not a question of “if” you’ll lose your data but “when.” Having a redundant copy of it can make all the difference, and you may be able to skip the course at U of H.K. on Pulling Your Hair Out.