Historical Expenditures

A recent topic of debate on the popular question and answer website Quora had to do with money spending in history. More specifically, one curious reader wanted to know what the biggest waste of money in the entirety of history happened to be. One user won best answer over the others, and it was discovered that the biggest waste of money in world history took place at the end of the 17th century in Scotland.

At the end of the 17th, century, Scotland was not in the best place. It was attempting to recover from warring with England, and was also faced with rebuilding after several famines knocked its population down to their knees. Things had calmed down by that point, but Scottish officials wanted to do something to move their economy along. They wanted to rebuild more quickly. As a result of this desire, they formed the Company of Scotland Trading to Africa in the Indies in an attempt to assert themselves as a European power.

Of course, they were going against already-established powers. Great European powers were already in existence and were not too keen on welcoming another power into their fold. Also, the East India Trading company had already formed and held almost all power over trading. They would not allow funds to get to the Company of Scotland Trading to Africa in the Indies. Therefore, Scottish officials asked for donations from their people. They attempted to stir up nationalism in their country for contributions equalling the equivalent of what would be 83 million dollars today. That amount of money was a large percentage of Scotland’s economy at the time, and it all went toward this new trading company.

So, Scotland sent five ships and over 1,000 colonists to the Gulf of Darien, which was Spanish territory. Spain was not at all happy about the idea of their waters being turned into the trading route of another country. Additionally, Scotland was repairing its relationship with England while beginning this venture. England was caught in a war in which they were allies with Spain. They could not afford to alienate Spain, and therefore had no inclination to assist Scotland in their trading. The colony, did, however, get set up in its predetermined location, but it soon fell apart, its people killed by famine and disease.

Back in Scotland itself lay a land that was down a large percentage of its economy. There was no way the country would survive on its own, so Scotland was officially integrated into the British empire.

In short, Scotland set out to stabilize its economy and economically recover from the political turmoil and famine that was just beginning to let up at the end of the 17th century. Instead of accomplishing their goal, they managed to spend so much of the money that made up their economy that their country had to be dissolved into another one.

I agree with the user who brought up this event on Quora. Scotland’s foolish attempts to form a trading company, no matter how well-meaning, were a waste of money that had the opposite effect from what they wanted. It was truly the largest waste of money in history.

Wounded Knee Lives On

 

We are sitting in the year of the 125th anniversary of the Wounded Knee Creek Massacre. On December 29, 1980, almost all members of a Lakota tribe were murdered by the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment. Hundreds of men, women, and children were dead, and many were wounded. Leading up to this killing, the United States were intent on taking over Lakota lands. There was significant tension there, which did not help when this specific Lakota tribe ran into the 7th Cavalry Regiment and one of its deaf members refused to give up his weapon.

This massacre began a movement in which indigenous people fought for their right to be recognized as owners of their own land. The Wounded Knee Creek Massacre became an international symbol. It stood for other genocides, and for the unfairness of United States expansion at the expense of other cultures. This did not, of course, happen right away. Directly after the killing, many soldiers in the 7th Cavalry Regiment received honors for the event. It was seen as a battle fought by heroes.

The survivors of the massacre fought to change that national view.

These survivors began by filing claims against the government. They had lost their homes, supplies, and almost all of their tribe, and sought monetary compensation. While the government found a way around their claims, the Lakota people refused to let the massacre be known as a glorious battle. It seemed as if they gained some traction in the 1930s, when a South Dakota representative called for congress to give thousands of dollars to the remaining Lakota people, but this was never discussed on the floor. The Lakota people were once again denied the money they sought to repay them for the deaths of their family members and the loss of their homes

However, even though the Lakota people have not yet gotten money for the Wounded Knee Creek Massacre, they were the spark that lit a fire in the hearts of a large number of activists. The killing shifted from a symbol of national glory to one supporting the wants and needs of indigenous people. Oral histories have been recorded and books have been written about what actually happened at the massacre. The U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment has since fallen out of favor.

A mere spark is, of course, not enough. However, hopefully the government will grow to accept its fault in the Wounded Knee Massacre and give the Lakota people the compensation they need and deserve.

Holiday History

The Christmas season is upon us, and with it comes excited children, putting baubles on trees, and singing carols out in the snow. What many people do not consider, however, is the history of this holiday.

The Christmas holiday is rooted in history, and has been celebrated in different ways for centuries. In began quite early. In Europe, it was celebrated as the winter solstice, meaning the days would only get warmer, and the sunlight would be around longer. In the Norse tradition, Christmas was celebrated from December 21st to the end of January, and it involved a lot of feasting.

This holiday was also present in Roman tradition. The weather was not as cold in Rome as it was in places like Scandanavia, so, at the end of December, the god of Saturn was celebrated instead of the solstice. This was an interesting celebratory period in which Roman society was literally turned upside-down, with the lower class ruling over the upper class. Also during Christmas-time took place a feast honoring Rome’s children.

When church officials decided to make the birth of Jesus an official holiday, they set the date during the time of these other celebrations to try to adopt some of the tradition. They figured people would be more inclined to celebrate this holiday if it was a morph of the ones that were already celebrated. The Christmas holiday only spread from there.

Of course, in lumping the Christmas holiday in with these other rituals, the church officials lost control of how people celebrated. While going to church was part of the norm, there was also copious amounts of drinking and much mischief directed toward the upper class.

Christmas went through a rough period in the 17th century, when it became outlawed in Europe. It was not declared a holiday in America until much later as well, as many of the early settlers were Puritan. In the 19th century, though, Americans slowly began to adopt it again by turning it into a time to spend with family instead of one in which to drink oneself under a table. Basing Christmas on charity and goodness made it more readily adoptable by everyone instead of just the upper class.

Christmas has been through some rough patches since, and it has turned into a holiday of consumption, but at its core, it is still based on the ideas of peace and giving that made it popular in America.

For more interesting Christmas facts, check out history.com.

Remnants of an Ancient Board Game Have Been Found in China

In a tomb near Qingzhou City in China, archaeologists have found the remnants of an ancient board game that hasn’t been played in over 1500 years.

The pieces found include a 14-face die made of animal tooth, 21 game pieces and a tile that appeared to be a piece of the game board. A skeleton was also found nearby – possibly belonging to a grave robber – in a shaft made by tomb looters.

 

The Game

Although no one is sure how it was played, archaeologists are fairly certain that the game pieces are from a game called “bo” or “liubo” as it was sometimes called. People stopped playing it around 1500 years ago.

A poet named Song Yu wrote a poem around 2,200 years ago seems to hint at what the game was like to play.

“Then, with bamboo dice and ivory pieces, the game of Liu Bo is begun; sides are taken; they advance together; keenly they threaten each other. Pieces are kinged, and the scoring doubled. Shouts of ‘five white!’ arise”

Sounds a bit like an ancient version of checkers.

The game uses a die with the numbers 1-6, each appearing twice, with two faces left blank. To the best of researchers’ knowledge, two players moved six game pieces around the points of a square in a symmetrical pattern. In some versions, sticks were thrown instead of the dice. It was immensely popular in during the Han Dynasty and has been depicted in sculpture from that time period.
No one is sure when it was invented, but according to legends, it was invented by Wu Cao, a minister to King Jie who reigned from 1728-1675 BCE.

The earliest remnant of a Luibo game was discovered in a royal tomb in Hebei, China. Archaeologists there found a pair of decorated stone boards from the 4th Century BCE.

There is even some evidence that the game spread beyond China. The Old Book of Tang mentions that Tibetans played the game. However, no Tibetan Liubo boards have been discovered. In addition, the Chinese translation of the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra – an ancient Buddhist text – mentions the playing of several games including Luibo. This seems to suggest that the game also found its way to India. However, no game remnants have been found there either.

 

Other Ancient Games

Many games that are played today, including Mancala and Tic Tac Toe, can be traced back to ancient times.

Some can be traced back as far as 4000 BCE, and archaeologists and historians have worked hard to recover their pieces and rules. The game of Senet, for example has been dated all the way back to 3100 BCE and a copy of the game was found in King Tuts tomb.

It would seem that most societies, from the cradle of civilization in Mesopotamia, to the Vikings, to the ancient Romans played board games. Boards themselves have been carved out of wood and stone for thousands of years. Variations on simple game pieces have been found carved out of stone, ivory and even human teeth and bone.

For more on ancient games, check out my slideshow of some of the earliest games ever found!

5 Little Known Facts About Dwight D. Eisenhower

Most people know that President Dwight D. Eisenhower was an American president. Some know he was the 34th, that he was born in Denison, Texas, and that he was a five-star general. Here are a few lesser known facts you may not have heard before.

1. He banished all squirrels on the White House’s lawn.
In the spring of 1954, the American Public Golf Association set up a new outdoor putting green, conveniently placed steps away the Oval Office. Eisenhower was an avid golfer, and became enraged when he found that the squirrels who roamed the White House grounds were digging up the putting green. He ordered his valet, Sergeant John Moaney, to shoot any squirrels on site. The Secret Service decided that wasn’t the best tactic and had groundskeepers trap the squirrels and release them into Rock Creek Park instead.

2. He was the first president to ride in a helicopter.
At Eisenhower’s request, the Secret Service approved the use of helicopters for short trips to and from the White House. On July 12, 1957, Eisenhower became the first president to ride a helicopter, flying in a two-passenger Bell H-13J to Camp David as part of a test of the White House evacuation procedures. Throughout his second term he used helicopters to fly to Camp David and his farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

3. While president, he spent almost two months in the hospital. 
During a vacation in Colorado in September 1955, Eisenhower suffered a heart attack. He was rushed to Denver’s Fitzsimmons Army Hospital where he remained for nearly seven weeks. His staff took over the hospital’s eighth floor, and Vice President Richard Nixon ran cabinet meetings (with the president’s approval, of course.)

4. He never saw active combat.
Despite 35 years in the military, including serving during both world wars, Eisenhower never saw a single day of active combat. Even though he requested an overseas assignment during World War I, he remained in training roles at home. By the time the United States entered World War II, Eisenhower had risen to become one of America’s top generals and was eventually appointed supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe.

5. He was born David Dwight Eisenhower.
Eisenhower’s parents originally named him after his father, but his mother, Ida, soon realized it wasn’t worth the confusion at home. She switched his first and middle name to avoid having two David’s to keep track of at all times. His original birth name remains inked in the family Bible and printed in his high school yearbook.