This Year in History: 1709

For the last few years, when the vacation and holiday seasons come around and the news stories start to dry up, I've looked back in time to previous centuries to find something newsworthy. Today, please join me on a whistle stop tour 300 years back in time to the year 1709 ....

An usually cold weather front hit Northern Europe on January 6 (believed to be the coldest period for 500 years). The Great Freeze lasted three months but the effects were felt all year. The seas around the coast of Britain and Northern France froze over, crops failed and in Paris alone 24,000 died. In London, the Thames froze solid and markets took place on the ice. Some suggest that the freeze was caused by volcanic eruptions of Mount Fuji in Japan and, to a lesser extent, Santorini and Vesuvius in Europe.

Although it was a very cold winter it was not entirely out of character – 1709 was one of the 24 winters between 1408 and 1814 (a period broadly known as the "Little Ice Age") in which the Thames froze in London. Although the people at the time probably didn't think much of the weather, music lovers have reason to be grateful for the Little Ice Age as Antonio Stradivari created his finest instruments between 1698 and 1725 and it has been proposed that the particularly cold climate caused the wood used in his violins to be denser than in warmer periods, contributing to the tone of his instruments.

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This Year in History - 1609

For the last few years, when the vacation and holiday seasons come around and the news stories start to dry up, I've looked back in time to previous centuries to find something newsworthy. Today, please join me on a whistle stop tour 400 years back in time to the year 1609 ....

The Renaissance is in full swing. While Galileo demonstrates his first telescope to Venetian lawmakers and Cornelius Drebbel invents the thermostat, Johannes Kepler is busy publishing his first two laws of planetary motion. Meanwhile Henry Hudson is off adventuring, becoming the first European to see Delaware Bay and the Hudson River. Not far away, seven ships arrive at the Jamestown colony reporting the sad demise of their flagship, the Sea Venture, wrecked off the coast of the uninhabited island of Bermuda. The survivors, including writer William Strachey, eventually reach Virginia ten months later in two small ships they built while marooned on the island. Strachey's account of the wreck is believed to be the inspiration for Shakespeare's The Tempest (1610-11).

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This Year in History - 1908

Davina Morgan-Witts, BookBrowse editor

Each year, as the holiday season comes around and news becomes thin on the ground, we look back into history for a snapshot of the news in centuries past .....

Literary highlights (from a modern perspective) published in 1908, one hundred years ago, include The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame; War of the Classes and The Iron Heel by Jack London; Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery; The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck by Beatrix Potter; A Modern Utopia and The War in the Air by H G Wells; My Double Life by Sarah Bernhardt; The Man Who Was Thursday and All Things Considered by G K Chesterton;  A Room With a View by E M Forster; Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz by L Frank Baum; and the births of Ian Fleming and Louis L'Amour.  The Nobel Prize for Literature was won by German philosopher Rudolf Christoph Eucken.

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This Year in History - 1808

Davina Morgan-Witts, BookBrowse editor

Each year, as the holiday season comes around and news becomes thin on the ground, we look back into history for a snapshot of the news in centuries past. This time we travel to 1808:

In the USA, the Theatre St Philip opened in New Orleans.  In Germany, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe published the first part of Faust. In Britain, the first Royal Opera House in Covent Garden was destroyed by fire and Sir Walter Scott published Marmion, an epic poem about the Battle of Flodden Field.  In France, Francois Marie Charles Fourier (credited by modern scholars with originating the word feminisme) argued in his Theory of the Four Movements that the extension of the liberty of women was the general principle of all social progress, though he disdained 'equal rights'. Followers of Fourier would go on to establish about 30 socialist colonies based on his principles in various parts of the USA.

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This Year in History - 1708

Davina Morgan-Witts, BookBrowse editor

Each year, as the holiday season comes around and news becomes thin on the ground, we look back into history for a snapshot of the news in centuries past .....

1708 was a rather dull year for literature, at least from the perspective of modern-day readers looking for works by authors still well known today, but it was an important year for three historians who used their retirement to produce notable works:

The first volume of Theologian Joseph Bingham's 10 volume Antiquities of the Christian Church was published; on its completion in 1722 it provided an exhaustive and methodical account of the antiquities of the Christian Church.

Theater critic and theologian Jeremy Collier published the first volume of his Ecclesiastical History of Great Britain - which, while controversial, became widely used.

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This Year in History - 1608

Davina Morgan-Witts, BookBrowse editor

Each year, as the holiday season comes around and the news stories start to dry up, we look back into history for a snapshot of the news in centuries past. This year, we start in 1608 ....

While the early settlers at Jamestown struggled for survival, London was a hive of dramatic endeavor:

Ben Jonson's The Masque of Beauty and The Hue and Cry After Cupid were both published and performed for the first time. Thomas Heywood published The Rape of Lucrece; Thomas Middleton published The Family of Love, A Mad World, My Masters and A Trick to Catch the Old One; and William Shakespeare published King Lear - to name but a few.

Elizabethan dramatist and pamphleteer, Thomas Dekker, was also in fine voice, publishing two tracts: The Dead Term and The Bellman of London; and considering that he claimed credit for 240 plays during his 60-year lifetime, it seems likely that he turned out a few plays as well.

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