On this day in 1305 William Wallace was executed for high treason in London. Wallace was one of the major leaders of the Wars of Scottish Independence that took place throughout the late 13th and early 14th centuries. He led Scottish forces against the English with great success, such as at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297, for which he was knighted. However he was later defeated at the Battle of Falkirk in 1298 and eventually captured in 1305, at which point he was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered by King Edward I of England. After his grisly execution, Wallace’s preserved head was set on a pike atop London Bridge. The Wars for Independence that Wallace had fought so valiantly for were successful, and Scotland remained an independent nation until it joined with England in 1707 to form Great Britain. Wallace has since become a Scottish icon and a symbol of the nation’s continuing campaign for independence. He remains a popular figure in literature and film, most famously portrayed by Mel Gibson as the protagonist of the 1995 film Braveheart.
"I could not be a traitor to Edward, for I was never his subject" - Wallace on his treason charge
On this day in 30 BC the last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt, Cleopatra VII, committed suicide. She came from a family of Greek origin who ruled Egypt after the death of Alexander the Great. Upon the death of her father Ptolemy XII in 51 BC Cleopatra became co-ruler with her brother Ptolemy XIII (and later her other brother Ptolemy XIV). She famously became lovers with Roman leader Julius Caesar, with whose help she was restored to rule after her brother had tried to oust her; she eventually became the sole pharaoh of Egypt. Cleopatra travelled to Rome with Caesar, but returned to her native Egypt upon his assassination. After Caesar’s death, she began a relationship with Mark Anthony as they worked together against Caesar’s successor Octavian. However their attempt was in vain, and at the sea Battle of Actium on the Greek coast in 31 BC they suffered a resounding defeat by Octavian’s forces. The two fled back to Egypt, where Anthony committed suicide after his troops deserted him. Cleopatra followed soon after, supposedly killing herself by means of an asp bite on August 12th 30 BC. With the fall of these two powerful figures, Octavian was able to consolidate his rule and become the first Roman emperor as ‘Augustus’. Caesarion, Cleopatra and Caesar’s son, who had been ruling as co-ruler with his mother, was killed by Augustus’s forces and thus Egypt soon became a province of the Roman Empire. Cleopatra remains a famous figure for her political astuteness and remarkable leadership of Egypt and has been popular in art and literature, including William Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra.
On this day in 1945, the first nuclear attack in history occurred when the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The American plane Enola Gay dropped the bomb called ‘Little Boy’, which killed around 70,000 people instantly. The effects of the radiation killed thousands more in later years, resulting in a catastrophic death toll of around 140,000 people. Three days later the ‘Fat Man’ bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, resulting in the loss of around 75,000 lives; in both cases, the majority of casualties were civilian. Whilst other Axis powers including Nazi Germany had already surrendered earlier that year, ending the war in the European theatre, Japan had continued to fight the Allied forces. The bombings were therefore deemed necessary by the United States to end the war and avoid a costly invasion of Japan. In the aftermath of the devastating attacks, Japan surrendered to the Allies on 15th August, thus ending the war in the Pacific theatre of World War Two. Today, 69 years on, the atomic-bomb scarred cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki provide a sharp reminder of the horrors of nuclear warfare.
"My God, what have we done?" - Enola Gay’s co-pilot Robert Lewis upon seeing the impact
I’ve seen a few fashion posts trying to expand the “Marie Antoinette is not Victorian” rant, but this stuff can get complicated, so here is a semi-comprehensive list so everyone knows exactly when all of these eras were.
Please note that this is very basic and that there are sometimes subcategories (especially in the 17th century, Jacobean, Restoration, etc)
And people wonder WHY I complain about History/Art History periodization. Note how much overlap there is to the above “eras”, and how many exceptions and extensions there are to these categories.
Oh, and by the way…
Because you wouldn’t want to be historically inaccurate.