6th August

1926 Gertrude Ederle is the first woman to swim the Channel – so go swimming!


1945 ‘Little Boy’ drops on Hiroshima


1991 World Wide Web invented


1881 Alexander Fleming (discovered penicillin) born


1928 Andy Warhol born – so make your own!

Bolivia Independence Day (from Spain 1825):

Bolivia has been inhabited for around 3,500 years. The Aymara people (Andes natives) arrived to found the little village of Tiwanaku in 1500 B.C. This village spread over Bolivia, Chile and Peru, controlling the people through distribution of surplus food and with the elite controlling llamas used for transport. However, a drought led to Tiwanaku disappearing around 1000 A.D.


Between 1438-1527, the Inca Empire took over Bolivia, but then the Spanish conquered the Inca Empire and Bolivia became part of Spanish Upper Peru.

The Incas had used a system called mit’a, where a family were allowed 65 days of the year to farm and the rest of the year must be spent servicing the community, building roads and nobles’ palaces. The Spanish adopted this system, requiring 1 seventh of all men to work in the mines.

One of Bolivia’s cities, Potosi, became the largest city in the New World, its mines producing huge wealth. However, the mita system was unpopular and led to rebellions.

Tupac Catari led a rebellion in 1781, laying siege to La Paz. In 1809 the Chuquisca and the La Paz revolutions were both squashed by Spain, but the next year the whole continent rebelled.

On 6 August 1825 Bolivia was finally declared independent, after Antonio José de Sucre led a successful military campaign in support of Simón Bolívar, whom Bolivia is named after.

In 1836 Bolivia invaded Peru because Bolivia wanted Peru to put its president, Luis José de Orbegoso, back in power. Then Peru and Bolivia formed a Confederation, which threatened Chile, so Chile declared war on the pair of them the same year. Argentina joined in on Chile’s side. Eventually Chile won, the Confederation was dissolved and Peru became independent.

So then Peru invaded Bolivia (sigh). They fought each other until 1842. Then in 1879-83 Chile declared war on Peru and Bolivia over resources, and Chile ended up claiming some of southern Bolivia. In 1903 Bolivia lost Acre to Brazil. So since independence it’s lost half its territory.

Its native people had no education or vote, and basically could only be miners or farmers. In 1932-5, Bolivia was at war with Paraguay and lost its Gran Chaco region.

In 1952 the Revolutionary Nationalist Movement took power, gave everyone the vote and education, and nationalised the mines.

However, by the 1960s Bolivia was run by military dictatorships funded by the CIA in the hope they’d keep on top of the Communist rebels, like the Argentine Che Guevara, who was assassinated by the CIA and the Bolivian army in 1967.

Since then governments have had problems with privatising infrastructure, like gas and water, so that the people can’t actually afford it.

Deforestation has led to loss of water, so farmers in the upper river basins are offered bee-hives to compensate for not being able to cut down trees. Bolivia’s landscape is incredibly diverse, containing 199 ecosystems. 70% of all known bird species live there, and 3,000 kinds of butterfly. Its laws accord Mother Nature the same rights as humans! I love that. It has 38 official languages, including Spanish!


Their culture includes the Diablada, or devil dances; football is the most popular sport.


Jamaica Independence Day (from UK, 1962)

Between 4000 and 1000 B.C. Taino/Arawak (indigenous Carribeans) people settled here.

Christopher Columbus claimed it for Spain after arriving in 1494. The English, led by Sir William Penn, the father of the William Penn who founded Pennsylvania, took it from Spain in 1655.

The Spaniards fled, freeing their slaves who went to live in the mountains (there were Tainos and other escaped slaves there already, called maroons, from the Spanish cimarron, a fugitive in the mountains – cima means summit or top. This is where we get ‘marooned’ from.).

A Jewish community had also settled here, fleeing the French and Spanish who had kicked them out. The Jews and Brits decided that to avoid Spain coming back they would make Jamaica a haven for pirates (maybe this is why pirates love Jamaican rum!).

Under the Brits, slave labour made Jamaica one of the biggest producers of sugar in the world, and when we abolished the slave trade in 1807 we imported Chinese and Indian labourers instead.

However, in 1834 we noticed banning the slave trade hadn’t reduced slavery at all, as slaves were just smuggled in instead. So then we banned actual slavery. At that time the Jamaican population was 15,000 white, 5,000 free black; 40,000 mixed race …. and 311,070 slaves. Yikes.

Jamaica became independent in 1962, and initially had ten years of economic growth but then it was noticed that the urban poor were staying poor. Since then, their manufacturing and exports have dropped considerably and apparently now 60% of Jamaicans would like to be part of Britain again!

It is now the third most populous Anglophone country in the Americas, after America and Canada. Jamaican music includes reggae (like Bob Marley), ska, rocksteady, dub, dancehall and ragga. Cricket is the most popular sport.

5th August

2012 Rover lands on Mars – and every year sings Happy Birthday to itself.

Burkina Faso Independence:

Before France conquered it in 1896-7, it was mainly made up of Mossi kingdoms, living in villages and relying on hunting, fishing and farming. In 1904 it became part of French Upper Senegal and Niger. The French built schools and taught everyone French; top students could continue further education in France.

The western bits of Burkina Faso took advantage of WWI to start the Volta-Bani War against France, but lost. In 1919 France separated Burkina Faso from the rest of the Senegal and Niger colony and called it Haute Volta.

Its first governer, François Hesling, built roads and tried to force everyone to grow cotton, but this failed and Burkina Faso was rearranged again, now becoming part of the Cote d’Ivoire, French Sudan and Niger.

After WWI France reversed this again, and re-made Upper Volta as part of its French Union (as opposed to Empire, which was now a dirty word and we were all pretending we had never done such a thing).

On 11 December 1958, it became the Republic of Upper Volta with self-government within the French community. It became fully independent in 1960.

Obviously, like almost every first African leader, the first president, Maurice Yaméogo, ignored the new constitution that allowed everyone to vote every five years, and banned all other political parties.

And inevitably (history seriously repeats itself a LOT), there was a military coup and the actual army was in charge for four years, led by Lt. Col. Sangoulé Lamizana. But he can’t have done a bad job because by the time they got around to actual elections in 1978, he was re-elected. But almost immediately he was deposed by another colonel, and then that one was deposed and the next one and so on and so on.


On 4 August 1984 President Thomas Sankara was in power (following a military coup, yes) and renamed the country using a word from each of the country’s two major native languages: Burkina is Mòoré for ‘men of integrity’, and Faso means ‘fatherland’ in Dioula. So it kind of means ‘Homeland of honest people’.

He also did all kinds of cool stuff, like mass-vaccinations, infrastructure improvements, the expansion of women’s rights, encouragement of national agriculture, and anti-desertification projects, and demanding that the West cancel Africa’s debts.

But he was sadly a military Marxist, set on indoctrinating the youth and killing off anyone who disagreed, so overall he was kind of bad (not that Marxism is bad, but killing people for disagreeing with it definitely is). In 1987 he was killed in a coup d’état led by Compaoré.

Compaoré leads in the best example of capitalism, privatising all the nationalised stuff Sankara had built and becoming immensely rich – while the rest of the country remains entirely undeveloped. He’s still in power now.

Croatia Victory Day and National Thanksgiving Day – see 25th June.

3rd August

1958 USS Nautilus, a nuclear submarine, travels under the Arctic. It was commissioned in response to Russia’s Sputnik, the world’s first manmade satellite, which made America super jealous.

Make a submarine for bath time!

Hungry Ghost Month begins (2016, China): People burn pretend money outside their homes or businesses. This money is for the ghosts to spend while they are here. They also put food out for the ghosts. They hope that if the ghosts have food and money they won’t cause any trouble.

Also today:

  • Niger Independence Day (from France, 1960)
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines Emancipation Day
  • Venezuela Flag Day – see 5th July