Who was one of the first true historians?

Herodotus, a renowned writer from Ancient Greece during the 5th Century BC, embarked on a monumental project in ‘The Histories’. This literary work aimed to document actual historical events, such as the lives of monarchs, significant battles, and geographical landscapes. It also compiled fascinating stories of giant gold-digging ants, a raging king who commanded the sea to be whipped 300 times, and a dolphin that heroically saved a renowned poet from drowning. Although some of the details in Herodotus's text may not be entirely accurate, ‘The Histories’ revolutionised the recording of the past and earned Herodotus the title "father of history", as hailed by the Roman orator and writer Marcus Tullius Cicero.

Getting to the root of the problem

Historical recordings before Herodotus's seminal work were often mere lists of events without any explanation or attempt to understand the underlying causes, with everything attributed to the will of the gods. However, Herodotus sought a more rational and comprehensive understanding of the past. He pioneered a novel approach by examining events from multiple perspectives to understand the reasons that led to them.

The Histories

Herodotus, a Greek born in the Persian-ruled city of Halicarnassus, grew up during a tumultuous period of wars between the Greeks and Persians. Fascinated by the subject, he embarked on a mission to learn all he could about it. ‘The Histories’ opens with the line "Herodotus of Halicarnassus here displays his inquires". His inquiry into the Persian Wars is one of the most significant and well-known aspects of this historical work.

In ‘The Histories’, Herodotus explored the political and cultural differences between the Greeks and Persians and provided valuable insights into the mindset and motivations of both sides. He recorded the internal debates of the Persian courts alongside tales of Egyptian flying snakes. This approach to research was called "autopsy", meaning seeing for oneself, and it allowed Herodotus to become the first writer to examine the past based on the different types of evidence he collected. He evaluated eyewitness accounts, rumours, and traditions before using his reasoning to draw conclusions about what had occurred.

As his influence and power expanded, Herodotus's writing and the idea of history spread across the Mediterranean. As the first legitimate historian, Herodotus was not without flaws and faced criticism, both during and after his lifetime, from those who doubted the accuracy of his stories. However, contemporary evidence has shed light on some of his seemingly incredible claims. For example, there is a species of marmot in The Himalayas that spreads gold dust while digging. The ancient Persian word for marmot closely resembled the word for ant, so the historian may have fallen victim to a translation error. All in all, Herodotus fared quite well for someone who was writing in an entirely new style.

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Who was Mary Anning?

Mary Anning was responsible for unearthing a stunning array of prehistoric fossils in the 19th Century. Her discoveries radically changed the way scientists thought about the history of Earth.

Mary Anning was a fossil collector who made some of the most significant geological discoveries at a time when not much was known about the evolution of Earth and life on it.

Mary was bom in England in 1799 in the sea-side town of Lyme Regis. Mary could hardly attend school as her family was very poor. However, she not only taught herself to read and write but also learned about rocks, soil, anatomy of animals, etc. As a child, she would often go to the seashore with her father to collect shells. Mary learnt fossil hunting and cleaning from her father. After her father's death, she began exploring the rocky hill-ridges along the shore. She had a good eye for the fossils and braved the merciless rocky terrain to unearth a stunning array of prehistoric fossils. The family made a living by selling the 'curiosities' found along the seashore.

Along with her brother, Mary discovered the first complete fossil of ichthyosaurus or fish lizard when she was just 11. Some of her important discoveries include fossils of two giant sea reptiles or plesiosaurs, a flying reptile (pterosaur) and some prehistoric fishes. Mary also discovered that ink from belemnites (squid-like prehistoric creature) can be ground up and used for painting.

Mary Anning soon became famous and was considered an authority on prehistory and geology. Eminent scientists often corresponded with her or came to see her collection of fossils. This is especially noteworthy at a time when women did not enjoy equal status with men. Her discoveries at Lyme Regis, radically changed the way scientists thought about prehistoric life and the history of the earth.

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Who is known as pepper queen of India?

Rani Chennabhairadevi is known as "The Pepper Queen' (Raina da Pimenta) of India. Her reign lasted 54 years, the longest by an Indian queen. She ruled from Gerusoppa, capital of the Saluva dynasty, between the 15th and 16th centuries. Her kingdom extended from Goa to Bhatkal and Karwar, up to Malabar. This belt was known as pepper country, as the spice grew in the virgin forests. Shiploads of pepper, betel nut, timber and sandalwood were traded with the Portuguese, British, Dutch and Africans in exchange for precious metals and stones. Most of the trade happened through Mirjan port in Uttara Kannada. The queen resided at and controlled the pepper trade from Mirjan Fort on River Aganashini. The Portuguese and the Keladi kings tried to capture Gerusoppa which Chennabhairadevi thwarted twice. The Keladi kings joined with the Bilagi chieftains to defeat her; she was imprisoned and died in captivity at Keladi.

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Which is the highest gateway in India?

Buland Darwaza, prime monument of Mughal architecture, is the highest gateway in the world. Buland Darwaza was built by the emperor Akbar in memory of his victory over Gujarat. The 15-storey-high gateway is the southern entrance to Fatehpur Sikri, which is a city, located 43 km away from Agra. It was formerly called Fatahabad, derived from the Persian word Fatah meaning victory. The city flourished as Akbar's capital till 1585. During that year, it was abandoned because it was near the Rajputana neighbourhood with limited water resources. Subsequently, the capital was changed to Agra and Fatehpur Sikri became a ghost town.

Standing tall in the courtyard of the mosque, Buland Darwaza is a prominent monument in Fatehpur Sikri. The central face of Buland Darwaza carries an inscription that talks about Akbar's religious tolerance and how broad-minded he was. The eastern archway of Buland Darwaza has a Persian inscription, which is a record of Akbar's conquest of the Deccan in 1601 AD. Along with decorations in carving and inlaying of white and black marble, it has 42 approach steps and is 53.63 metres high and 35 metres wide. It has a consolidated height of about 54 metres from the ground level.

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What was Charles Dickens purpose for writing Great Expectations?

Great Expectations is a literary masterpiece by Charles Dickens that presents a caricature of the unjust socio-economic conditions of 19th Century England from the point of view of its seven-year-old protagonist Pip. Let's us look at what makes this novel relevant today.

Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth in February 1812. His father was a clerk in the Navy office: because of this, they had to constantly move about and follow his different appointments. The looming money troubles caused the ten-year-old Dickens to leave school to take up work so he could contribute to the family's income. He was sent to work at a blacking factory in London that made polish for metal surfaces. His experience at the factory was scarring and traumatic. These childhood experiences became an intangible part of all of his narratives and made him sensitive to the precariousness of life. Research suggests that this is one of the main reasons why the protagonists of some of his most iconic books like Oliver Twist, David Copperfield and Great Expectations, are children bound by unfortunate circumstances.

Great Expectations

Great Expectations begins with a young boy named Pip encountering an escaped convict in a churchyard. The child is terrified and intrigued and he brings the convict some food. This act of kindness, then, set up ripples that will work their way through his life and that of the convict for many years to come. This novel is a bildungsroman (a coming-of-age story) on the experience of childhood and great expectations of the future that help one move forward. Robert Douglas. Fairhurst, an author and professor at Oxford University, calls it the best novel about growing up and the strains and scars it leaves behind.

What makes it a classic?

 The narration

Dicken's mastery of storytelling is reflected in his ability to capture the voices of people from different social classes without being biased. By writing Great Expectations in the first person, he crafts a narrative that puts the reader in the shoes of the poor, orphan Pip on a journey to fulfil his ambition to rise above his social standing and take his place in society as a gentleman. As a story told in three parts, at three different stages of Pip's life, the novel focusses on the role of life experiences in shaping the personality of an individual.

Literature: A catalyst for change

As one of the most famous novelists writing in the English language in the 19th Century, Dicken's ambition in life was to prove that stories and literature could help fix the problems of the world. Even from the early days of his childhood, he displayed all the signs of a great showman. Public readings held by the author displayed his genius of getting the audience interested in serious topics like the evils of industrialising society, the sordid working conditions in factories, child labour and the inefficiencies of the government through stories with interesting plots, clownish characters and happy endings. Through his stories, Dickens set out on a mission to educate society.

One of the main reasons why Great Expectations has managed to stay relevant in the 21st Century is because we still live in a time of extreme inequality and indifference.

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Who is the captain of Victoria after Magellan's death? What is a Voyage to remember while this?

Five hundred years ago, the Victoria, captained by Juan Sebastian Elcano following the death of Ferdinand Magellan, returned to Spain after completing the first circumnavigation of the world.

After a quarrel with the Portuguese king, Ferdinand Magellan enlisted the support of Spain's King Charles for an expedition to reach the Moluccas by sailing westwards. The Spanish wanted a share in the valuable spice trade from the Moluccas, but the Portuguese controlled the eastward route around southern Africa.

 On September 20, 1519, Magellan set out with a fleet of five vessels. In spite of a mutinous crew, rough weather, scurvy, a desperate lack of provisions and unknown waters, Magellan successfully crossed the Atlantic and eventually navigated through the strait at the southern point of South America which was later named after him.

The three remaining ships crossed the Pacific Ocean in a northwesterly arc for three and a half months without once encountering inhabited islands. Hunger, thirst and illness claimed 19 lives before the crews found fresh provisions in the Mariana Islands.

They finally reached the Philippines in March 1521, the first Europeans ever to set foot there. Within weeks Magellan was killed after becoming involved in a battle between two rival local chieftains. The Victoria, the only remaining ship from the original fleet, eventually returned to Spain in September 1522 under the command of Juan Sebastian Elcano, having completed the first ever circumnavigation of the globe.

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Monarchy & Shakespeare

Royal patronage bestowed upon Shakespeare's Globe theatre the prestige, and popularity it required to reach a wider audience. This is the reason why literary critics believe that Macbeth which is easily one of the greatest plays written by the bard was skillfully designed to flatter the reigning monarch King James I.

King James I succeeded Queen Elizabeth I as the royal head of the nation following the latters death in 1603. Known for his love for art and generosity towards actors, playwrights and other performers of the day, within ten days of ascending to the throne he offered his patronage to Shakespeare's acting troupe, which the bard graciously accepted. Overjoyed by the sanction of the royal patent, the legendary playwright changed the name of his troupe to The King's men, in honour of the reigning monarch.

The role of a patron

A patron was usually a wealthy aristocrat or royal court official who would fund the playwright's or artist's work and livelihoods. Acting companies based in London at the time would also require their patrons to get them a licence to perform and this was the reason why many such companies would then be named after their benefactors.


Royal patronage bestowed upon Shakespeare's Globe theatre the prestige, and popularity it required to reach a wider audience. These favours are the reason why literary critics believe that Macbeth which is easily one of the greatest plays written by the bard around 1606 (his first play under his new patron) and set in King James I's native land of Scotland, was skilfully designed to flatter the king. It also featured like treason, revolt and downfall of the monarch's murderers - legitimising the divine right of kings as dictated by the European Christianity of the time.

Shakespeare's history plays

Ten plays that are referred to as Shakespeare's history plays cover English history from the 12th to 16th Century and each of these is named after and revolves around, the reigning monarch of the period. These political plays were seen as patriotic exercises that celebrated past greatness and sympathised with the suffering of the bygone days. In An Apology for Actors (1612), Shakespeare's contemporary Thomas Heywood wrote, that history plays are written with the aim to teach their subject obedience to their king. Some examples of these plays include Richard II, Hendry V, and Richard III. Although critics are still divided about whether or not the bard's chronicle plays were merely tools of propaganda, one cannot deny the huge impact the works of this legendary wordsmith have had on our collective understanding of these historic figures.

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What is origin of an algorithm?

Did you know that the name algorithm comes from the name of Persian mathematician Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi?

An algorithm is a set of rules or instructions used in calculations and problem-solving operations. Algorithms date back to 300 BC when their inscriptions were found on Babylonian clay tablets. Originally, they were marking schemes which the common people used to keep track of their cattle and stocks of grain.

The name algorithm comes from the name of Persian mathematician Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi who wrote a book on Hindu-Arabic numerals. The Arabic work was translated into Latin as "Algoritmi de numero Indorum." and later into English, "Concerning the Hindu art of Reckoning."

Algorithms became a significant part of mathematics laying the foundation for the algebra of logic, variables in calculations, greatest common divisor, approximation of Pi, prime numbers, etc.

The modern algorithm is a sequence of steps laid down to fulfil a particular task. British mathematician and computer scientist Alan Turing worked out how a machine could follow algorithmic instructions and solve complex mathematical problems. Thus began the computer age. Now algorithms are used in all major applications in information technology including navigation (GPS), shopping and internet searches.

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What is the History of the ampersand symbol (&)?

An ampersand (&) is a symbol that represents the conjunction 'and'. An alteration of 'and per se and', this sign is simply the product of combining the letters e and t, Latin (et) for the conjunction. It was first used in Roman cursive writing dating back to the first century A.D.

First historical record

Author Keith Houston in his book Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols & Other Typographical Marks claims that this symbol made its first appearance in historical records after being found on an unearthed graffiti from the ruins of Pompeii - a city in ancient Rome which was buried in volcanic ash following the eruption of the Mount Vesuvius in 79 A. D.

Repetitive recitation

In 19th Century Britain, school children reciting the alphabet would include the ampersand as the 27th letter.

At the time, it was customary to recite the Latin phrase 'per se' (which means by itself) before any letter that could also be used as a word in itself (like A, I and &). So their daily alphabet rendering would end with: X, Y, Z and per se and. Over time this phrase was slurred to ampersand and it entered the common vocabulary around 1837.

National Ampersand Day

This day was established by American author, designer and typographer Chaz Desimone in 2015, due to his preception of the ampersand sign as an art form. He introduced this day to pay homage to the illustrious history of this symbol, which is also a central motif in his fun art projects and initiatives. Therefore, September 8 is annually celebrated as National Ampersand Day in the U. S.

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What is Fantasmagoria?

Fantasmagoria was a popular form of horror theatre that was brought from Berlin, Germany to France in the 18th Century and thrilled audiences with macabre illusions created through audio effects and magic lanterns.

Fantasmagoria was a popular form of horror theatre that was brought from Berlin, Germany to France in the 18th Century and thrilled audiences with macabre illusions created through audio effects and magic lanterns. This kind of experimental visual storytelling can be clearly seen as a precursor to modern horror movies. Étienne-Gaspard Robert, a physicist and stage magician, is one of the most influential figures in this genre of the theatre.

Magic lanterns

The discoveries in the fields of science and technology at the end of the 17th Century allowed for the invention of the magic lantern for the projection of images.

Professor Tom gunnings from the University of Chicago, explains this technology was the precursor to the slide projector of more recent times. It was an invention that consisted of a lamp which allowed images painted on glass to be projected on the objects in dim-lit rooms.

Fantasmagoria was a spectacular theatrical experience which was often held inside abandoned crypts and the stone chambers that were built underneath the floors of old churches. These crypts usually contained religious items like altars, coffins and magical symbols and in combination with the sound effects and optical illusions created by the magic lanterns, would leave the spectators shivering and shuddering, covering their eyes out of fear.

The critical thought

Art is often employed as a tool to push through the boundaries of culture, politics and economics. The fantasmagoria shows under the guise of entertainment opened an avenue to voice social concerns, critique blighted superstitions and bring forth the blind side of enlightenment.

The concept of this revolutionary spectacle was used as a metaphor by influential thinkers like Karl Marx and Walter Benjamin to describe how people were tangled up by the materialism, aesthetic paraphernalia and propaganda of the capitalist world.

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Were the dinosaurs killed by more than one asteroid?

A newly discovered undersea crater off the coast of West Africa is leading scientists to wonder whether the dinosaurs were wiped out by more than one asteroid 66 million years ago.

What appears to be a second large asteroid impact crater has been discovered under the sea off the coast of West Africa, leading scientists to speculate that it may have been the smaller cousin of the one that struck the gulf of Mexico millions of years ago, wiping out the dinosaurs.

At 9km wide, the newly discovered crater- dubbed the Nadir Crater - is not as larger as the vast Chicxulub Crater in Mexico, which is estimated to be around 180km wide and 20km deep.

However, its size, age and placement on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean is leading geoscientists to wonder if the Earth was hit by more than one space rock that fateful day 66 million years ago, or if the Nadir Crater was caused by a chunk that broke off the Chicxulub asteroid.

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Nushu: world's only secret language curated by women

Originating in China's Jiangyong province in the 19th Century as a code of defiance against social gender inequality, Nishu (Chinese for women's writing) is considered to be the world's only writing system that is created and used exclusively by women.

Once upon a time...

In Ancient and Imperial China a set of moral principles called the Three Obidiences dictated the entirety of a woman's existence. Schools and education were privileges reserved for men while ignorance was seen as a womanly virtue. These unfair stringent rules and social ideals forced women to come up with a new language to tell their stories, comfort each other, sing out their sorrows and express admiration. This was how Nushu the world's only writing script curated and used exclusively by women came into being, Passed down through generations from mothers to daughters, Nushu is based on phonograms (where each character represents a sound). Besides communication, women also embroidered this script onto handkerchiefs, belts, shoes and fans hiding their secrets in decorative patterns.

The earliest record of Nushu

The earliest known artefact with the script on it is a bronze coin from the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom (1851-1864) unearthed in Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu province. The characters etched in Nüshu on the coin translate to "all the women in the world are members of the same family".

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What is Levi Strauss and the History of the Invention of Blue Jeans?

Levi Strauss, a 17-year-old immigrant from Bavaria arrived in San Francisco during the great Gold Rush of the 1850s to sell canvas for tents and covered wagons. When he discovered that the miners trousers wore out fast, he decided to make trousers out of the canvas with metal rivets on the pocket comers to give them more durability. The trousers were in great demand because of their toughness and snug fit, which he got by making a miner sit with his jeans in a horse-watering trough, and then lie down in the sun till it shrank.

Levi's trousers were called jeans after gene, the Genoese name for the heavy, twilled canvas. Later, when Levi used a softer French fabric called Serge de Nimes, his trousers came to be called denim jeans. Levi Strauss & Co., the company Levi founded, is the world's first and largest manufacturer of denim jeans.

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Did you know how the Singer Sewing Machine became the premier sewing machine in the world?

Isaac Singer made the first commercially successful sewing machine in the 1850s. While developing his famous sewing machine, Singer, at one point was faced with a problem that seemed insurmountable: how to get the thread to run through the needle smoothly and continuously without breaking or getting stuck.

One night he dreamt that he was being chased by tribals carrying large spears. As they drew closer he noticed that every spear had a hole just below the point of the blade. He awoke with a start.

The next morning he made a needle with its eye near the point instead of at the top. That solved his problem. The thread could now run consistently through the needle. His invention was complete and the Singer Sewing Machine soon became the premier sewing machine in the world.

Charles Richard Drew's method for storing of blood plasma revolutionised the medical profession by helping save countless lives across the world.

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What are the historical walls around the world?

Walls are often erected as military fortifications. Be it the long, winding 'Great Wall of China' or the Peace Walls which are being pulled down, walls are cloaked in mystery and have many tales to narrate. Here is a peek at some of the unique walls in the world.


 In 1949, Germany split into two- the East Germany which allied itself to the Soviet Union and West Germany. A large number of people started moving from Soviet-controlled East Germany to the West. In response to this, the country's government decided to construct a wall. It was built as a barrier surrounding West Berlin thereby preventing any access to West Germany. At first, the wall was built using barbed wire and later followed by concrete. When the Soviet Union began to collapse, the wall was opened and was demolished later.


Troy is the lost city that has captivated people for years. And so has the Trojan war. This legendary war that was fought between the people of Troy and the Greeks forms the premise of Homer's Illiad. Even as the occurrence of the Trojan war remains a debate, the city of Troy in Turkey is of archeological interest. The ruins of the famous walls at this ancient site are still standing, whispering legends from the past.


 Running more than 20,000 km, the Great Wall of China is the most famous border wall in the world. Its construction started in the 7th century BCE and went on for two millennia. The wall was built across northern China and southern Mongolia. Many workers died during its construction. Although the gigantic wall was built, it could’t withstand the invasions. For instance, Genghis khan and his Mongolian army could easily break in.


In Belfast, a unique 'ritual' has been going on for the past few years. Here, the walls are being pulled down. Back in 1969, Peace Walls (Peace Lines) were constructed in Belfast to separate Catholic neighbourhoods from Protestants. Northern Ireland was going through a conflict period Troubles, with unionists wanting to be a part of the United Kingdom and nationalists (Catholics) wanting to stay with Ireland. Around 100 walls were eventually erected. In 2013, the Northern Ireland government decided to dismantle the walls to improve community relations and have set 2023 as the target for this. Many walls have been dismantled till now.


Built in the 5th- 6th century, the great wall of Gorgan was constructed as a barrier in northern iran. The wall was erected to ward off attacks from the Turks and it comprises around 40 forts.


Built in the years of 122-30 CE, by the order of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, the hadrian’s wall ran a length of 72 miles. The Roman frontier was built to protect northwestern Britain from barbarians. The walls give an idea of Roman Empire’s military architecture and also had towers and barracks.

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