For more than two centuries, young Italian boys were castrated to preserve their pre-pubescent singing voices. They became hotly sought-after in church choirs and operas around Europe. This is the story of the castrato singers.
Until just recently, there lay, inside the Enjuin Temple in Asakuchi, Japan, one of the most intriguing mummies in the world. It was not of an ancient human or an animal, but of something in between, something which should ostensibly exist only in legend: a mermaid.
Every English student knows The Rape of the Lock, Alexander Pope’s mock-heroic satire of the social mores of 18th-century British gentry. What fewer people know is the model Pope used: Alessandro Tassoni’s 1622 masterpiece, La secchia rapita. Its subject is quite an unusual historical event—a 14th-century war fought over a stolen bucket!
The Ancient Egyptians were the first to use perfumes, but it wasn’t until 1888 that the first commercial deodorant hit the shelves. For decades it was just a niche product until a genius ad campaign made it a necessity in the early 1920s. Now, it seems like we can’t go a day without wearing the stuff!
In 1932, tens of thousands of World War I veterans peacefully converged on Washington to demand cash bonuses they weren’t scheduled to receive for another 13 years. What they got instead was a violent clash with the US Army. This can happen here. It already did.
Signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on June 22, 1944, the GI Bill of Rights was designed to provide federal benefits for returning World War II veterans. It gave them the opportunity to attend college and get low-interest loans to buy homes; it gave the country something more: hope and dreams of equality.
In 1942, a now-classic image of a young woman in a red-and-white polka dot bandana appeared on a U.S. government-issued war poster. And thus Rosie the Riveter was born, an icon of the American can-do spirit and a persevering symbol of feminism, representing the millions of women who took on jobs typically held by men while the men were off fighting the war.
He was an able diplomat who successfully managed to ward off several deadly diseases and hold a vast empire in decline; yet, he’s mainly remembered today as the frail king with the Habsburg jaw, the final offspring of centuries of aristocratic inbreeding. It’s time to reappraise the legacy of King Charles II, the last Habsburg ruler of the Spanish Empire.
In 1680, Juan Carreño de Miranda—Charles II of Spain’s court painter—produced two portraits of Eugenia Martínez Vallejo, an extremely obese 6-year-old child. They earned her the moniker “la Monstrua,” the Monster. She was really just sick.
Originating in 15th-century Spain, limpieza de sangre was a racist legal concept and a complex caste system developed as a way to discriminate between the Old Catholics and the newer Christian converts of known or presumed Jewish or Muslim heritage (conversos and Moriscos).
Originally, handfasting was a humble engagement ritual. A few centuries—and scholarly misunderstandings—later, it became an elaborate Wiccan alternative to white Christian marriages.
The Habsburg jaw, well known, little understood—until a team of researchers detailed the inbreeding behind the royal smile.
Insults never die they just evolve. Medieval insults were surprisingly creative and some are still relevant to frustrations we face in modern life.