Deadliest disasters in history

As the dead toll of the Coronavirus continues to rise all around the world, a question arrives. How many deaths can we expect to see when all of this is over?

Recently the US Government predicted a best case scenario of 200.000 American fatalities and a worst case of 2.000.000. Comparing this to the almost 3.000 deaths of 9/11 and 2.400 of Pearl Harbor, even compared to the 400.000 american fatalities during the Second World War this shapes up to be one of the deadliest disasters in American history.

Predicting the total global fatalities of this crisis is impossible as we are still in the early faces of the crisis and many experts also predict a global second wave of deaths.

However we can look at other deadly crisis throughout history and observe how they played out, and why they became so deadly.

Mongol conquest 1206-1368

At its height the Mongol Empire spanned from modern day Korea to Poland. Covering an incredible 36.000.000 Square kilometers or more than 16% of earth’s surface.

This incredible feat of conquest was completed in under 100 years, thanks to the innovate and deadly Mongol warfare tactics.

It goes without saying, that this conquest was not peaceful. However often castles and citadels would simply open their gates and pay tribute, the moment they spotted the Mongol hordes approaching.

This was the result of the reputation that the Mongols had built for themselves. Every Lord and King had heard the tales of the rape, slaughter and destruction the Mongols inflicted upon their enemies.

Genghis Khan is supposed to have said: “The greatest happiness is to vanquish your enemies, to chase them before you, to rob them of their wealth, to see those dear to them bathed in tears, to clasp to your bosom their wives and daughters”. This serves as a explanation in itself to why the Mongol conquests of Eurasia was so deadly.

Lowest death toll estimate: 30.000.000

Highest death toll estimate: 57.000.000

European conquest of the Americas

This deadly event in human history shares a terrible connection to the crisis we face today. That is because the vast majority of the natives in the Americas didn’t die from the direct European conquest in wars and battles. However they died from the diseases that the European conquers carried with them.

The European lifestyle of the middle ages had included a much closer contact with domesticated animals and the diseases that these animals carried. This gave the Europeans a immune system much more capable of combating germs and diseases.

This way of life stood in contrast to that of the native americans. So upon contact, large disease outbreaks of smallpox, typhus and influenza began spreading rapidly among the natives, with deadly effect. Some estimate that around 90% of the native american population died due to disease, in the years following the early contact with Europeans.

However due to the lack of credible sources at the time, it is difficult to estimate the exact effects of European diseases upon the natives. However the rapid Spanish conquest of the massive empires of the Aztecs and Incas, serves as evidence of the devastating effects of these diseases.

Lowest death toll estimate: 8.400.000

Highest death toll estimate: 138.000.000

Second World War

Wars have always been some of the deadliest events in human history. Since they often broad both deaths on the battlefield and among civilians. However the Second World War took this to extreme new heights.

The massive technological and administrative advancements of the early 20th century was used to murder on a industrial scale. The Japanese conquest of China, The Holocaust and Operation Barbarossa are all example of this colossal new deadliness of warfare.

The global scale of the conflict didn’t help either, from France to China the war ravaged, there was no escaping the bloodshed.

Some countries suffered more than others though. The Soviet Union is estimated to have lost around 30.000.000 its citizens during the war, and China around 25.000.000. However these were both countries with relatively large populations.

Poland on the other hand lost only somewhere around 6.000.000 people during the war, however this is estimated to be around 20% of the countries prewar population.

In just 6 years earth lost around 3% of its population due to this conflict, something never seen before throughout human history. A testament to the deadliness of the war.

Lowest death toll estimate: 60.000.000

Highest death toll estimate: 118.000.000

Nurse’s Role during the Spanish Influenza

European streets erupt with praise each evening as civilians stand on their balconies and clap for the medical professionals who labour endlessly to save patient after patient rushed through the hospital doors. We can all agree that they deserve the honour and so much more.

One of the dominant heroes of the Spanish Influenza had to be the nurses, who risked their lives to save and/ or care for the victims of the 1918/ 1919 pandemic. Unfortunately nobody lined the streets, gave them a clap of honour each evening or praised their exhausting work. These silent heroes risked their lives with each patient they saw, fighting exhaustion and defeat each day in order to keep fighting the ravaging disease.

World War One:

Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife, Countess Sophie Chotek, about to set off on their visit to Saravejo on the 28th June, 1914.

The first world war began in the June of 1914 after the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand by a Bosnian Serb. Austria- Hungary, the Archduke’s country, then declared war on Serbia on 28th July 1914, and marked the outbreak of World War One.

In a world where most women were not even allowed to vote, thousands of nurses enlisted to work as Army Nurses in the war and play their part to support their country.

In most of the countries involved in World War One, all able- bodied men either enlisted or were drafted to fight in the war. This of course meant that most of the doctors were away from their home countries when the subsequent pandemic eventually broke out.

The Spanish Influenza:

Influenza Epidemic, Mill Valley, California, 1918 (C.Raymond)

The origins of the Spanish Influenza is unknown, but the first recorded incidence of the flu was among the American military in the spring of 1918. As soldiers from one country came into contact with soldiers from other countries and then went home to their families, it was extremely easy for the flu to be passed from person to person, and the global spread was exponential.

The first strain was quite mild, with most patients suffering the usual flu- like symptoms, and very few deaths. The second strain, however, came in the autumn of 1919, and this strain was a lot deadlier, causing the high mortality rate that history books write about.

It is estimated that over 500 million people were infected by the Spanish flu, while 20 – 50 million people were killed by it, and is known as one of the most dangerous pandemics in history.

Lack of Doctors:

A nurse tends to a patient in the influenza ward at Walter Reed Hospital during Spanish Influenza

Unfortunately most of the doctors were fighting as soldiers or working as Army paramedics in the war, and were completely unable to help with Spanish Influenza patients in their home countries.

Civilians were in desperate need of doctors, and soon the responsibility of the medical care of patients fell on the nurses.

Women during the Spanish Influenza:

Health workers prepare to retrieve victims of the 1918 influenza epidemic in St. Louis

The nurses of 1918/ 1919 are not given enough credit for the work that they accomplished during the Spanish Influenza. They worked tirelessly in hospitals as well as home visits, seeing as many as forty cases in a day, consistently putting themselves in danger with each patient they saw to and cared for. As there were no antibiotics or medicines for their patients, nurses made sure the Spanish Influenza victims remained hydrated, in bed and isolated to reduce infecting others who may not have yet had the disease.

Before the Spanish Influenza, the necessity for nurses was limited and they were underappreciated, their choice of profession was looked down upon and they were not seen as very important. However, by the end of the Spanish influenza, nurses had been on the forefront of the pandemic and people began looking upon them as an invaluable asset to society. They were seen as a necessary part of life and extremely important to the field of health care.

Because of these tenacious and courageous women from one hundred years ago, the nurses of today are celebrated and clapped for alongside all other medical professionals because of their hard work and endless dedication to saving lives and caring for who ever walks through their hospital doors.

10 Historical Movies to Watch in Quarantine

Is there anything better than a good long and emerging historical movie with popcorn? Certantly not!

This is the perfect time to enjoy one of these masterpieces digging into our past.

From Ancient Rome to the Second World War, gripling stories are told on the silver screen

Here are a few of the very best ones you can watch or rewatch in your quarantine.

10. Lawrence of Arabia

This classic movie tells the tale of legendary british intelligence officer T.E Lawrence better known as “Lawrence of Arabia” and his epic quest to stage a Arabic revolt against the Turkish Ottoman Empire during The Great War.

Year: 1962

Length: 216 min

Imdb: 8,3

9. Hacksaw Ridge

This WW2 era flick tells the tale of young medical student Desmond T. Doss and his experience as a US soldier during the Pacific war. Doss refused to carry a gun, vowing instead to save his fellow wounded soldiers. During his stay at Iowa Jima he saved 75 lives.

Year: 2016

Length: 131 min

Imdb: 8.1

8. The Kings Speech

This Oscar winning flick tells the story of British wartime monarch George the 6th, and his unexpected rise to head of the British Empire. The movie follows the kings struggle to combat his stuttering and deliver a speech to the British people in the darkest days of the Second World War.

Year: 2010

Length: 119 min

Imdb: 8

7. Master And Commander

This movie tells the fictional story of a Royal Navy vessel during the Napoleonic Wars and its mission to hunt down a French warship. Though the story is made up the movie gives a great glimpse of the life aboard a warship of the era.

Year: 2003

Length: 138 min

Imdb: 7.4

6. Das Boot

This movie tells the other side of the Second World War, from the German perspective. The setting of the film is life in a German submarine deep under the sea and we get to experience the stress, terror and boredom this creates for the crew.

Year: 1981

Length: 149 min

Imdb: 8.3

5. Braveheart

This epic movie tells the story of Scottish national hero William Wallace. A knight who led a mass revolt against English overlordship in the early 14th century. A great medieval epic with torture, war and amazing speeches.

Year: 1995

Length: 178 min

Imdb: 8.3

4. Gladiator

Gladiator tells the tale of fictional Roman general Maximus Decimus Meridius and his fall to gladiator. The movie includes real historical Roman emperors like Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. Not a true story but a great ancient movie flick with amazing gladiator battles.

Year: 2000

Length: 155 min

Imdb: 8.5

3. Downfall

Downfall tells the story of the very last and desperate days of the Third Reich. We follow life in a destroyed and besieged Berlin as the Soviet army draws closer to the “Fuhrer bunker”. We also witness the Fuhrer’s last desperate and vain attempts to fight to the end.

Year: 2004

Length: 155 min

Imdb: 8,2

2. Troy

Troy is the movie adaption of the legendary epic by Greek author Homer. The story follows Hector, Agamemnon, Achilles and all the other great characters of the epic during the assault on the ancient city of Troy.

Year: 2004

Length: 163 min

Imdb: 7.2

1. 12 Years a Slave

This tragic Oscar winning movie tells the tale of northern free black man Solomon Northrup, who is kidnapped and sold into slavery while on a music tour in Washington. The film follows his 12 year fight to return to freedom.

Year: 2013

Length: 134 min

Imdb: 8,1

How the world of sports reacted to the Spanish Flu

While people were celebrating Armistice Day in autumn 1918 an extremely deadly virulent strain emerged behind the scenes.

After the end of World War I a hidden enemy continued killing millions of people over the globe leaving over 50 million dead bodies behind.
Spain was the first to report the outbreak of the world wide epidemic and since then the causing virus is known as the Spanish Flu.
We still do not fully understand the origins of the pathogen and how it developed itself into a human virus but one thing is certain. It spreaded unexpectedly fast and infected half a billion people.

American Red Cross care for infected during “Spanish Flu Epidemic ” 1918

We can see COVID-19 spreading with the same speed and learning from the past strict measures made by governments all over the world seem reasonable beside the fact that its morality rate is nowhere near to Spanish Flu’s. The best way to prevent the spreading of the virus is minimalizing contact between individuals. We could not find a better place crowded with thousands of human individuals than a sport event. Thankfully the world of sports reacted to the outbreak of coronavirus as fast as possible.

The cancellation and postponement of sporting events are a common occurrence nowadays. Almost every major events from F1 Grand Prixs through the NBA season to the Olympic games were affected. But if cancelling great gatherings is the only way stopping viruses getting from one human to another why didn’t the sport associatons reacted to the Spanish Flu as fast as it was needed? Or did they eventually?

The Spanish Flu was highy underestimated all over the world until it started killing men, women and even children in great numbers.

At the time MLB was the largest American pro league. According to FANBUZZ, „(MLB) season ended shortly before the worst of the flu pandemic during the fall of 1918. Public health was so bad by the time the 1918 World Series came around, though, Major League Baseball went so far as to ban the “spitball” from being thrown.” Doctors were fighting in Europe and healthcare was in very poor conditions and the virus killing more and more people teams started to step back from games and the season came to its end. But with the Montreal Canadians and the Seattle Metropolitans having the same record they are remembered as co-champions.

Highschool and college football games, soccer and boxing matches were cancelled and public gatherings were banned in general.

Despite all the problems caused by the war and the flu, in 1920 the Belgian Olympic Committee decided to hold the Olypic games mainly to fade bad news about hunger, famine and bad post war circumstances. They sent out invitations to the games of the Seventh Olympia to be held in Antwerp.
They excluded the members of the late German alliance.

Polish legionist playing soccer 1918


Both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour De France were held in 1919 over the ruins of Europe the war left behind. The 1919 Tour De France is still known as one of the toughest race ever held simply because of the lack of usable roads and the number of finishing riders were the lowest in history with only 10 competitors finishing the race.

With that in mind it we can understand easier why cancelling sporting events is a reasonable and right step to do in these circumstances we are all in.
Learning from the mistakes of the past is vital for our future especially during the times of an epidemic.

How We Remember Heads Of State That Die In Office

William Henry Harrison

It is interesting to note how quickly the tone in the media changed when it was announced that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had coronavirus. For a man who has received more brickbats than bouquets from the British and American media – both for his handling of the virus and before that – , the suddenly sympathetic coverage he has obtained might seem a little surprising. Indeed, an editorial for the New York Times just two days ago was titled, “Boris Johnson is not cut out for this crisis (1).” After it was announced that he had tested positive, the New York Times and indeed most of the British media have limited themselves strictly to reporting on the factual information regarding not only his condition, but him personally. Moreover, the “goodwill” expressed by Johnson’s main adversaries, Jeremy Corbyn (Labour) and Ian Blackford (Scottish National), have come together to form a significantly more positive – or at least less hostile – image of Boris Johnson in the press and, in consequence, the public eye. Indeed, Bloomberg News reported that,  “ [polls] found personal ratings for Boris Johnson — himself now diagnosed with coronavirus — that have not been seen for a British Prime Minister since the early days of Tony Blair’s premiership in 1997. (2)”

Looking at the history of heads of state who have fallen ill, or died, can give us a better understanding of the current situation in Britain, which is certain to repeat itself elsewhere. Furthermore, it can even give an insight into how Boris Johnson will be remembered in the future. As with most things, this varies by county, so we can examine both what can be expected of the U.S, and Britain itself. 

The United States has had quite a few examples of presidents who have died in office, William Henry Harrison most famously catching either a cold or cholera and dying within 30 days of taking office. Historical analysis of his presidency is, however, obviously limited. More important examples are those of John F. Kennedy and James Garfield. In particular, Garfield, who served as president from March to September 1881, dying from an infection caused by a bullet-wound, bears some resemblance to Boris Johnson. Running on a campaign of moderate economic reform and radical changes to the bureaucracy, neither of which he lived long enough to see passed. Nevertheless, much like Kennedy would later be credited with the 1964 Civil Rights Bill, Garfield was praised by historians for his stance as a far-sighted reformer and largely credited with later changes, in spite of how little he was able to accomplish during the time he was actually in office. Furthermore, those American presidents who died in office after leading extremely controversial administrations, namely James Polk and William McKinlley, have been held in either beningin obscurity by historians, or had only the most positive effects of their tenure emphasized. 

Assasination Of James Garfield

The United Kingdom has had a different experience with its own Prime Ministers dying in office. This is largely due to the fact that only Spencer Percival, who was assassinated, ever held the distinction of having done so His reputation was much enhanced by his death, given the mass discontent caused by his total-war style measures against Napoleonic France. Indeed, for a long time he was hailed as a sort of martyr against foreign radicalism, before being largely forgotten, which in any case resulted in him having a far better reputation than he would have had otherwise. This being said, there was one other Prime Minister who effectively died in office, being forced to resign due to ill health and dying of a heart attack a week later. Henry Campbell-Bannerman, much like Boris, came to power through a series of byzantine maneuvers in Parliament, and after leading a minority government to the greatest victory of any party in a generation, laid out a plan for massive reform of the British economy and foreign relations. Unlike James Garfield, however, few historians ever mention Campbell-Bannerman. His Liberal Party opponents were much more effective at taking credit for his reforms, and his importance was further obscured by the outbreak of a period of mass instability and violence from 1914 to 1945, only six years after his death.

Postcard Of Campbell-Bannerman, Shortly After His Death

In the end, we can extrapolate from this analysis two conclusions: Firstly, there is an inherent quality to sickness in heads of government or state, and a possibility of incapacity to continue in office which that implies, that makes positive re-evaluation of politicians more desirable to contemporary commentators and historians alike. Secondly, the legacy of Boris Johnson, as Prime Minister who could be forced out of office due to incapacity by disease, will depend on events that occur after he leaves office. If the incoming global recession does result in a period of instability comparable to that of 1914-45, then Boris runs the risk of becoming a new and unfairly forgotten,  Campbell-Bannerman. If indeed the economic consequences of the coronavirus are mild, then he is likely to be more akin to James Garfield. Either way, Boris Johnson can, for now, take some relief in the more positive press that he is getting. 

Bibliography

1. Russell, Jenni. “Boris Johnson Is Not Cut Out for This Crisis.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 26 Mar. 2020.

2. Singh, Matt. “One Battle Boris Johnson Is Clearly Winning.” Bloomberg.com, Bloomberg, 28 Mar. 2020

How Ancient Rome Handled a Great Crisis

At the moment, nations all around the globe face the true test of their political, economic and social systems. It is this times of crisis that will define a generation.

It is almost a cliche at this point, that we should look at the true merit of people and institutions, not in their golden age, but in their times of struggle. To note how they manage to survive and perceiver when others don’t.

The cliche might be overstated, but it is not less true. As Sir Winston Churchill understood during the darkest days of british history, the summer of 1940, as the French Republic had just capitulated to the German war machine.

Churchill said the following on 18 June 1940 to the House of Commons: “… if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, This was their finest hour”. Churchill understood that if was not the long 19th century of British prosperity that would define the British people’s history, but the great overwhelming struggle they faced in 1940.

However the civilization that embodies this principale the best, is perhaps not the British but the ancient Romans. The Roman Republic and Empire experienced a great deal of colossal crisis throughout its existence. However their ability lied in persivience. Through civil wars, plagues, invading Carthaginians, the “Eternal City” still stood.

As the ancient king Pyrrhus of Epirus is supposed to have said “If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined.”. Rome could, like no other state, persevere through a crisis. However why was this possible, and can it teach us anything about the crisis we experience today?

Politics

Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus Roman Statesman and Dictator. 518 -430 BC

One of the most infamous examples of Roman crisis management is the appointment of Dictators.

After Rome had overthrown its kings in the 6th century BC, a republican government was established. The system was created to prevent one individual from obtaining to much power. Therefore the political top was split in two. Now two Consuls would lead the Republic. Both with the ability of cancelling each other out and with a 1 year governing term.

However this system proved less efficient in times of military conflict and other emergencies. For that reason the Romans created a temporary absolute political position, called a Dictator. The Senate would appoint the Dictator, but after that he would not have to comply to them. He would also pick a Co-Dictator called a “Master of Horse”, but the Co-Dictator would still ultimately be a subordinate to the Dictator. Keeping all political power with one man and cutting all possible bureaucratic bottlenecks that might arrive.

Dictators also did not have to fear retribution for their actions after the crisis had passed since they were exerted as soon as their term was over. A Dictator served for 6 months, or shorter depended on how long the crisis would last.

Rome’s political system can for many centuries of its existence be seen as a mix of democracy and monarchy. Attempting to take the best of having a democratic system, while avoid the problems democracy creates in great crisis.

Geography

The Death of Paulus Aemilius at the Battle of Cannae

Some might say that size doesn’t matter, but when we are talking about empires it truly does. The Roman Empire was one of the largest in history, and it ruled over vast territories from the British Isles to Iraq.

This of course gave Rome a advantage, since it had access to almost endless resources. Including large amounts of grain from Egypt , metals from Spain and slaves from North Africa. Rome could therefore also divert resources from less affected areas to prevent larger damage, in times of crisis.

Italy itself was also rich in men and resources which in the early days of the Republic gave Rome a massive advantage over Pyrrhus and Hannibal. Since Rome could lose battle after battle and legion after legion, but still had the ability to field a new one. While their enemies slowly got worn down.

However what gave Rome’s size its greatest strength, was something different. It was its decentralized structure. The Empire could experience a great crisis in a Spanish province however the Middle Eastern provinces would remain unaffected. This provided the Empire with an enormous amount of stability and made sure that the imperial center would rarely get shaken by these local crisis throughout the Empire.

It also worked the other way around. So when a bloody political conflict was raging in the city of Rome, the imperial provinces would often work unaffected.

Stealing

Roman God Neptune

A colossal part of Rome’s ability to survive crisis also laid in its ability to steal or adapt other civilizations ideas, technologies and skills.

This is perhaps most clear when looking at the Roman gods. Jupiter reminds one of Zeus while Poseidon reminds one a great deal of Neptune. That’s no coincidence, because when the Romans arrived in Greece they greatly admired the Greek city states, and sought to emulate them as much as possible.

However the Romans did not only plagiarize, they often sought to built on the already established ideas. As they did with Greek warships, which they greatly advanced on through the ages. By building on the original Greek designs.

The Roman army, highly regarded as the source of its stability and power, was in large part the product of other civilizations. Ideas from Greece, North Africa, Anatolia and Persia influenced the Roman army, and made it into the ancient worlds finest military machine.

So when a crisis struck Rome, they would seek to learn from that experience by adapting the best part of their enemies advantage. When the next battle, economic crisis or natural disaster would arrive, Rome would be more capable of overcoming it.

Ancient Rome and Today

Coronavirus check at Italian Airport

Therefor the three lessons that Ancient Rome can teach us today is avoid political gridlocks and bottlenecks at all costs, don’t let the political center be rocked and learn from those with better ideas.

How Will the Coronavirus Be Looked Back Upon?

History is riddled with pandemics. Among the building of the Pyramids, the Renaissance, and the Crusades are the Spanish Flu, Smallpox, and the Plague. And as mighty as humans think we are, we never are prepared. Viruses are unpredictable and various – they come, as the Coronavirus has, at random periods and with frightening speed. They send nations into panic and economies into ruin. Right now, it seems we’re living history. But how will our history be told? How will the Coronavirus be written about in the history textbooks of future generations?

In the information age, history is much broader and detailed than it could have ever been. With the advent of the internet, through video, texts, emails, articles, etc, everything that happens is set in stone. The right to be forgotten, whether we like it or not, simply doesn’t exist. And although it’s of no question that everything happening right now is recorded, it is impossible to consume absolutely all of it. No matter how life-changing and devastating it may be, people in the future will have to perceive the Coronavirus in mere summary. 

Most of what we learn of history is synopsis. Napoleon marched through Russia, Brutus killed Caesar, Columbus brought Smallpox to the Americas. Of course, for the people involved, these circumstances were of massive and unfathomable consequence. Napoleon’s conquests spurred widespread European political discussion and sparked fear for many regular households; not to mention the hundreds of thousands of young men stripped from their livelihoods to fight in the ensuing conflict. Caesar’s death led to a multitude of bloody civil wars and the end of the Roman Republic, killing and displacing many innocent civilians. But mention of these details in history books is scarce, if existent. Although the coronavirus is bitingly real and terrifying now, it is unlikely that it will occupy much space in the culture or discussion of future generations. 

And that’s an unfortunate fact. Because the Coronavirus pandemic is an instance which serves as damning evidence to the phrase “the only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history”. Pandemics are unpredictable, yes. The Spanish Flu killed tens of millions worldwide, the Broad Street Cholera outbreak ravaged the metropolitan center of London, and the Black Death took the lives of 1/3rd of Europeans, only to be ended with the invention of quarantine. Viruses evolve – it appears impossible to ever be prepared for such a sudden and mystifying event as a pandemic. But in the age of modern medicine and ultra-preparedness, the global reaction to Coronavirus is woeful.

The world economy has tanked, supermarket shelves are barren and restaurants are closed. Even in medically superlative nations like the United States, preventative measures have been limited to the mere suggestion of quarantine and basic hygiene, a suggestion which came too late to stop the disease from spreading across the country. Even worse, reliable information about the virus is difficult to come by. President Trump is (for the first time in many news cycles) stumbling and indecisive, often contradicting the explanations of Dr. Anthony Fauci – America’s top expert on infectious disease. Chinese media is spreading dangerously anti-foreign rhetoric to shift any blame away from itself, Americans are panicking and countries, hell even states, can’t come to any semblance of consensus regarding safety procedure or jurisdiction.

But the Coronavirus has brought positive changes, however small, as well. In the increasingly hostile and polarized political environment of the United States, it is refreshing to see Republican senators and governors adopting traditionally democratic ideas such as universal basic income and financial aid to deal with the economic stress brought by the pandemic. And the (albeit anecdotal) accidental environmental effects of widespread quarantine are evidence that pollutive human activity is surprisingly reversible. The newly-uncovered blues of Chinese skies and Venetian waters symbolize an inspiring hope in the constant fight against Global Warming. Furthermore, it is almost astounding to see countries practicing mutually beneficial foreign aid – non-toxic diplomacy is now hard at work in the age of Trumpian isolationism. 

But these changes are temporary. After the dust of Coronavirus settles, we could easily witness the resurgence of the political maelstrom of the 2020 elections, which has been largely set aside for the time being. When populations begin to leave their homes again and travel, now-clear skies and canals will surely be re-polluted. And it’s just our luck that while the positive effects of Coronavirus are temporary, the negative effects may not be so. Despite worldwide efforts to support suffering businesses, it is unclear whether the economy will truly recover, at least in the near future. And China’s anti-American propaganda, which is dangerously reminiscent of North Korean rhetoric, destroys the last remaining hope of preserving a healthy and strategic relationship with the communist nation. Not to mention the thousands of Coronavirus casualties, causing irreversible damage to families and communities all over the globe. 

The coronavirus pandemic will not be remembered fondly. Most likely it will be summarized, as it should be, as evidence of a world unprepared, politically charged, misinformed, and frighteningly fragile in the face of unexpected disaster. We can only hope that our story is learned from and never repeated.

Five Historical Hobbies to Pass the Time during Quarantine

You probably have a great deal more time on your hands now than you had a few weeks ago.

That might be a blessing or a curse.

For many quarantine stuck people, it is a curse because they simply can’t figure out what to do with all their new won time.

However learning something new is always a good idea.

Therefor, here are five hobbies that people in the past used to pass the time.

1. Sewing

Sailor Sewing a Signal flag while Sailing to Sierra Leone March 1942 on board HMS Alcantara photo by Cecil Beaton

In the past, people did not have all the technology that we take for granted. They had to pass what little down time they had their own way, using a variety of different methods. For most of human history, people did not buy clothes off a store shelf. Instead, they made their own clothes, or paid a tailor to make their clothes for them if they were wealthy enough. Sewing, especially hand sewing is a craft which requires a great deal of time, a resource that Covid 19 has granted many people. If you look up “Historical sewing patterns” and you will find many free and low cost patterns to practice your sewing. If you have a low budget, synthetic materials may be your only option, but if you have more to spare, it may be worth it to look up the materials that people used to make clothing. Common materials used in historical clothing are cotton, linen, silk, wool, and satin. If you work hard enough at it, you may even become skilled enough to sell your historical clothing for profit.

2. Calligraphy

“Arizona war worker writes her Navy boyfriend a thank-you-note for the Jap skull he sent her”, LIFE photo of the week, May 1944

In the old times, writing was an essential skill. With the advent of the typewriter, and then the computer, this skill has become completely useless. However, it is still an enjoyable hobby for the historically minded person. There are many resources online and at your local art store that can teach you. One fun way to do calligraphy is with a quill pen or similar calligraphy pen and ink. Low cost calligraphy supplies can be found both online and at many art stores.

3. Learning a musical instrument

Louis Armstrong playing for his wife, Egypt, 1961. (Colorised)

With few exceptions, all musical instruments have been used for hundreds, if not thousands of years. The Ocarina, a musical instrument featured heavily in the Legend of Zelda video game series, has its origins in ancient middle eastern civilizations. Some unique and interesting historical instruments include: The Ocarina as mentioned above, the harp, the medieval lute, and many more.

4. Historical games

German officers playing cards wearing gas masks, WW1 (Colorised)

In the past, many games were played to pass the time. Nine mens morris, tic tac toe, card games, chess, checkers, etc. There are online resources availible that can allow you to make your own historical games using modern tools, or you can also buy pre made games from certain sellers. Think of playing a historical game with your family instead of booting up your game console or smart phone.

5. Reading a book

A man floating in the Dead Sea with a book and an umbrella, Palestine, ca. 1920

Lets be honest with ourselves, many of us don’t read as much as we should. Reading is a hobby that has been around for thousands of years. Where once it was a luxury restricted to the educated upper class and religious elite, now everyone can read if they put in the effort to learn. Here’s a list of my historical books: Dante’s divine comedy, Plato’s Apologies, Ovid’s metamorphosis, Virgil’s Aeneid, Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Shakespeare’s many plays and sonnets, Julius Caesar’s The Gallic war, and many others. Go buy a book and get reading!

How Isaac Newton Used His Quarantine Productively

In 1665 when the great plague of London hit the english capital chaos erupted. It was a form of bubonic plague that ended up killing 75-100.000 citizens of the city. Almost a quarter of all its inhabitants.

Even though it would take around 200 year for scientist to realise what exactly had hit the city, Europe was not unfamiliar with large plague outbreaks. Therefor procedures like the ones used today to combat the Coronavirus were already widely used. Things like social distancings.

London before the great fire of London 1666

One of the 17th century englishmen affected by this, was none other than Sir Isaac Newton. However at that point Newton was not yet a Sir. He was a relatively ordinary student at Trinity College, Cambridge.

Newton was sent home by his university. Like all well off people like Newton that meant fleeing to the countryside and the young college student went to the family estate Woolsthorpe Manor in Lincolnshire.

Newton trived without his professors guidance and controle. His year away from Trinity is today referred to as his “years of wonders”. Newton himself called it the most intellectually productive period of his life.

Portrait of Sir Isaac Newton

First he began with the mathematics that he had already worked on in school, and developed part of of the foundation for modern algebra. However he quickly began mathematically experimenting himself.

He acquired prisms and observed light going through them. At that point no one knew what caused the rainbow like colors it created. Newton was fascinated by this mystery. He decided to use his new won time solving this mystery.

He even bore a hole in his shutters and observed the light flowing through. From here his theory of optics arose, which laid the foundation for a great part of modern physics.

A page of Isaac Newton’s notes on light and color, written during his qarantine in 1665-66

Outside his window stood an apple three. Need i say more?

However the widely told story that Newton was hit in the head with an apple and then all of a sudden understood gravity and motion is not entirely true. However the tree did play a role in his theory, and this was the period were Newton’s theory of gravity was developed. Head injury or not.

You might not be an Sir Isaac Newton. However you and Newton probably have something in common. You both would probably prefer to stay at your university, school or job. Sticking to your regular schedule. However nothing is so bad that something good can´t come out of it.

If you wish to be a bit more like Newton you might be able to create or understand something you wouldn’t have been able to in your normal circumstances. You might just solve a mystery like Newton, when your are unleashed from your daily rituals.

How Does US Elections Work During a Crisis

The United States have been in an election since early 2019 and is in the midst of picking the Democratic Party’s candidate to run against Republican president Donald Trump. This has meant rallies, town halls and polling stations for well over a year now.

However something has disrupted this process. The sudden mass arrival of COVID-19 on the US mainland. No longer can people meet in mass gatherings as an election like this demands.

Talk has even been made of President Trump’s ability to completely cancel the election and postpone it.

This begs a crucial question. If this turns into a larger health, economic and political crisis what will happen to the US election. Set to continue until the final election day in november.

To figure this out we can look at how previous national crisis in the US impacted presidential elections.

9/11 terrorist attacks 2001

Statue of liberty in front a smoking Manhattan September 11. 2001

The 9/11 terrorist attacks are a much different crisis than the one facing America currently. However like all crisis and elections they depend greatly on how the present leadership handles the crisis. 9/11 is a good example of how the president’s actions affect a reelection.

The september 11. terrorist attacks on the twin towers occurred on the exact same date as a municipal primary election was set to take place in New York. However the state legislature passed an emergency bill in order to postpone the election by two weeks. Giving us an example of what a crisis might directly do to a election.

It was also reported in 2004 that some parts of the Bush administration were talking about postponing the federal election in case of a another terrorist attack on US soil. However that idea fizzled away and was eventually given up on. However it shows the possible massive effects of a great crisis on US soil.

It was widely reported, in the aftermath of Bush’s election win in 2004 that the reason for President Bush´s win, was his handling of the 9/11 crisis and the following war on terror. Showing himself in the eyes of many as a strong and capable leader in face of a great national crisis. Therefor the crisis of 9/11 can be said to have had a direct political effect on the election, giving Bush 4 more years in office. As it might also have, positive or negatively, as President Trump’s handling of the crisis become apparent.

1918 pandemic

Emergency hospital during influenza epidemic, Camp Funston, Kansas, 1918

The world is a much different place more than 100 years after the 1918 pandemic. The pandemic in itself is also very different. The election in 2020 is also very different than the one americans faced in 1918. However this is perhaps the crisis in american history that resembles the current crisis most.

During the 1918 election, some incumbents were criticized for campaigning throughout the country, and not being in Washington to deal with the crisis. Therefore many politicians chose to communicate with voters through letters or press releases instead. One 1918 candidate even campaigned by greeting voters from his car, and drove around to voters.

The response to the virus varied greatly from area to area, however qurateenes, like today, were in effect in many places. In some areas local officials and campaigns made deals to open primary polling places and for speeches by the candidates to be given in front, as to boost the candidates changes. In an attempt to use the crisis for political gain, as we might very well also see today.

The national quarantine was lifted for 5 days before the election in november and politicians were allowed to campaign in those last days. However after the election infections and deaths climbed rapidly, even though voter turnout was very low.

Wars 1776 to 2020

A destroyed Japanese H8K flying boat is examined by men of the US Army – October 24, 1943

The United States have been involved in a fair share of wars since the American Revolution. The war of 1812, the US Civil war, WW1, WW2 and Vietnam. Just to name a few. In common for them all is that no matter how close or far the fighting was from the continental US, presidential elections kept on.

However these wartime election did not come without problems. One of the largest, being how soldiers could vote while being on the battlefront. It became a large issue during the US Civil War and fears about voter fraud plagued the debate. However eventually military suffrage was implemented. The controversy did not stop there though as endless debate was had about the effects this had upon the elections.

History and today

Donald Trump during his 2016 election campaign

So if history teaches us anything, it is that the election will likely not be cancelled. As America has seen a variety of different crisis before, but elections have kept on.

However what will likely happen is that the election will not occur without problems and conflict. Like 9/11 the crisis will impact voters view of the president because of his handling of the crisis. Like the 1918 pandemic more people might contract the virus when voting. Like America’s wars a logistical nightmare might arrive as people will have to vote from home in much greater numbers.