History

The scads of advertisements from Ancestry.com or PBS’ “Finding Your Roots” make it easy to imagine geneaology as the arena of the hobbyist or amateur historian. Sites and shows like those and others suggest that, in our highly individualistic world, ancestry is just a pastime. But in fact ancestry still has (literally) grave consequences. Matters
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After Rebecca Salome Foster, a prison reform advocate called the “Tombs Angel” in recognition of her work with inmates at a Manhattan detention center colloquially called “The Tombs,” died in a 1902 hotel fire, prominent judges and politicians—including then-President Theodore Roosevelt—lobbied for the creation of a memorial recognizing her contributions. Two years later, the resulting
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Last summer, a mammoth tusk hunter exploring the shores of the Tirekhtyak River in Siberia’s Yakutia region unearthed the fully intact head of a prehistoric wolf. Preserved by the region’s permafrost, or permanently frozen ground, for some 32,000 years, the specimen is the first partial carcass of an adult Pleistocene steppe wolf—an extinct lineage distinct
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Earlier this week in Washington, D.C., more than 30 distant relatives of the 18th-century British scientist James Smithson crowded the lobby of the Smithsonian Castle building. Unfurled before them was a genealogy tree dating back several centuries for the Smithson and Hungerford families. Each of the members crouched over the document, searching for their place
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A new novel by Tudor historian Alison Weir outlines a controversial alternative to the oft-cited account of Henry VIII’s divorce from his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves. As Sarah Knapton reports for the Telegraph, Weir’s Anna of Kleve: The Princess in the Portrait, the fourth installment in the non-fiction and fiction writer’s Six Tudor Queens
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For centuries, serious offenders from the region of Cambridgeshire, England, met their judgement in court in the Isle of Ely, a historic area that was accessible only by boat until the 1600s. There, judges heard cases of theft, witchcraft, assault and murder—and now, as Alison Flood reports for the Guardian, the University of Cambridge is
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To commemorate the end of a bloody Revolutionary War, George Washington issued what might be considered the first executive order, setting aside the last Thursday of November as a day of thanksgiving and prayer. His 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation was short, a mere 456 words, punctuated by references—“Almighty God,” “the Lord and Ruler of Nations,” “the
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Cheerios literally popped into existence in 1941 when a physicist at General Mills developed a “puffing gun” that created CheeriOats, as the cereal was first called. But long before the oaty little O’s came into existence, Bronze-age Austrians were producing something similar around 900 B.C. by hand, though researchers aren’t quite sure if those barley
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SMITHSONIAN.COM | June 7, 2019, 12:12 p.m. The first iteration of Pride had a strict rulebook: Walk in an even line, wear professional clothing, and do not display affection for a partner of the same gender. Held in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. every Fourth of July beginning in 1965, the Reminder marches—named after the need
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