30th November

3340 BC earliest recorded eclipse

1667 Jonathan Swift born (author of Gulliver’s Travels)

1835 Mark Twain born, author of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

1872 first international football match (England v Scotland) – so play football

1874 Lucy Maud Montgomery born, author of Anne of Green Gables

1934 The Flying Scotsman reaches 100mph – so play trains

1982 Thriller album debuts – kids love it

Barbados Independence (from UK, 1966)


Amerindians came to Barbados from the 4th century. The Kalinago (indigenous Carribeans) came in the 14th century. When the Spanish and the Portguese came over in the 16th/17th centuries, the natives fled. A few Arawaks came over from British Guiana in the 1800s.

The British took over in 1627-8 and the population became mainly white. There wasn’t even many African slaves because a lot of work was ‘indentured labour’, when people paid for their passage to the New World by working for an employer there.

Barbados gained independence in 1966, keeping our Queen as head of state. About a third of the population emigrated to Britain in 1946-80,

Barbados’s national sport is cricket, music is calypso and soja.


Benin National Day – see 10th January

St Andrews Day (Scotland)

The first hunter-gatherers arrived 12,800 years ago, after the Ice Age retreated enough. There is a Neolithic village called Skara Brae on the Orkney Islands. Bronze Age Scots were called Picts/Caledonians.



The Roman Empire took England and Wales as Britannia, but the Caledonians remained their enemies. The Romans built Hadrian’s Wall to keep them out, although sometimes they moved as far in as the Antonine Wall (a less well-known wall in the centre of Scotland).


In the 6th century the Kingdom of the Picts became established, later known as Alba. By the 13th century the Picts had taken over most of modern Scotland. Their king David I brought in the Davidian Revolution: feudalism, towns called burghs, and an influx of English and French speaking knights that eventually made English fashionable rather than Gaelic or Norse.

In 1286 Alexander I died with no heir, and the English Edward I had to decide who should be the next king. He made John Balliol king but also made himself Lord Paramount of Scotland. When the Scots refused to help Edward fight France (instead actually negotiating the Auld Alliance with them instead), Edward deposed John and declared himself king of Scotland. This started the Wars of Independence (1296-1328) with William Wallace the most famous leader of the resistance.

Robert the Bruce was crowned king in 1306, and victory at the Battle of Bannockburn (1314) got him control over Scotland again. His brother, Edward Bruce, briefly invaded Ireland and became its king to try and strengthen Scotland’s position against England, but it didn’t take. In 1320 the world’s first documented declaration of independence, the Arbroath Declaration, should have finished it, but we carried on fighting.

in 1502 James IV of Scotland signed the Treaty of Perpetual Peace with Henry VII and married his daughter, so it seemed like we were getting along. But then James agreed to go to war with England with France because of their Auld Alliance. He was the last British monarch to die in battle, at the Battle of Flodden. The Auld Alliance was ended.

Scotland then had a Protestant revolution and booted out Mary, Queen of Scots, formerly queen of France. Her 1-year-old son James became King James VI. Then England’s Elizabeth I, Mary’s cousin, died without heir and James VI also became James I of England and Ireland. His son, James VII, was overthrown and replaced by William and Mary, and was the last Roman Catholic to rule Britain.

In 1707 the Treaty of Union made Scotland part of the United Kingdom. In 1998 it got its own Parliament again.

St Andrew is said to have been martyred on an x-shaped cross, or saltire, hence Scotland’s flag. Scotland’s national animal is the unicorn!

South Yemen Independence Day (from UK, 1967)

29th November

Stir-up Sunday (2015) – the last Sunday before Advent Sunday: make your Christmas pudding today!

1972 Atari release video game Pong

1898 C.S. Lewis born – read the Narnia books. Readalouddad recommends this version. They’re probably good to read from age 8.

Yugoslavia Republic Day (no longer observed because it doesn’t exist!)

Yugoslavia means Southern Slavs; it was founded in 1918 after WWI. At first it was called the Kingdom of Slavs, Croats and Slovenes but nobody really bothered calling it that – we called it the Versailles State as that was the treaty which founded it.

The prince regent of Serbia became king of Yugoslavia, King Alexander I. There was a shoot-out in his parliament in 1928; to help pull everyone together he suspended parliament, renamed the country Yugoslavia and redid the constitution. He resigned as dictator in 1931 and was assassinated three years later.

Supported by Italy and Germany, the Croats’ part of Yugoslavia declared itself ‘Croatia’.

In 1941 German, Italian and Hungarian forces invaded Yugoslavia. They split it up into Croatia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Serbia and Slovenia.

The resistance was divided between pro-royalist, pro-Serb Chetniks and pan-Yugoslav Partisans led by Joseph Broz Tito. Of course, the problem with two resistance groups is that they wasted a lot of time fighting each other, and the Chetniks actually ended up being supported by the Axis Powers. Tsk.

The Partisans because the greatest guerilla resistance in occupied Western/Central Europe, and freed Yugoslavia by 1945.Tito became the head of Yugoslavia as an independent communist state.

When Tito died in 1980, all the different ethic groups wanted their own country. In 1990 the all-Yugoslav Communist party was dissolved and the republics of Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina eventually emerged, after obviously lots of horrendous fighting, especially Kosovo. Serbia and Montenegro wanted to stay together as Yugoslavia, and weren’t officially named Serbia and Montenegro until 2003.

Also today:

  • President Tubmans Birthday (longest-serving Liberian president) – see 26th July
  • Vanuatu Unity Day – see 5th March

28th November

1811 Beethoven’s Op.73 premiers

1909 Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 premiers

1757 William Blake born

Albanian Independence (from Turkey, 1912) – see 11th January

Burundi Republic Day – see 1st July

Chad Proclamation of the Republic

Mauritania Independence Day (from France, 1960)

Panama Independence Day (from Spain, 1821)

26th November

1922 Howard Carter enters Tutankhamun’s tomb – there’s a Horrible Histories video here and a National Geographic one here. Tutenkhamun is famous because he became king aged 9, but died aged 18, which wasn’t enough time to build a pyramid. He was buried in a fairly small tomb instead, which was overlooked by robbers, so it was still full of treasure when Carter found it. There’s a great illustration of the tomb here.

Thanksgiving (2015, USA, fourth Thursday in November)

The USA is possibly the world’s most ethnically diverse and multicultural nation. Its human history began when Paleoindians moved in from Asia about 15,000 years ago.

In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue while working for Spain and discovered America. He thought he’d gone all the way around the world and found the other side of Asia; a few years later Amerigo Vespucci, after whom America is named, realised it was a whole new country.

Spain and France began to colonise the US. The Native Americans were nearly wiped out by the new diseases they brought.

Britain sent over its Puritans and convicts; the Dutch followed too but later gave their bits to England and their New Amsterdam and New Netherland was renamed New York and also New York.

13 British colonies – Virginia, Massachusetts Bay, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina and Rhode Island – were the beginnings of the United States.

In the French and Indian War (1754-63), Britain took Canada from the French, although parts have obviously remained stubbornly French. The British colonies now made up 2.6 million people and by now one in five Americans were black slaves.

Britain taxed the American colonials but didn’t let them vote for the British parliament, so eventually America revolted and in 1776 the states declared themselves independent. France and Spain helped them to defeat the Brits in the American Revolution. The US Constitution was adopted in 1787; their first president was George Washington.

The War of 1812 against the British Empire also conveniently stopped an independent Native American nation starting up in the midwest, so the states could expand across the north in the 19th century.

The northern states had abolished slavery by 1804, but the southern states carried on with it. Just before Abraham Lincoln came to power in 1860, seven of the southern states broke away and formed the Confederate States of America. Four more states joined them and the America Civil War began in 1861.

Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation said that if the rebelling states didn’t calm down, their slaves would be freed. He made the abolition of slavery the goal of the war, which meant the Europeans who had been planning on helping the Confederacy now couldn’t in case it looked like they were in favour of slavery.

The Union (North America) won the Civil War in 1865 and four million African Americans were made citizens with voting rights and everything.

As the United States expanded, they took French Louisiana and Spanish Florida, the Republic of Texas, a large area of Mexico, and bought Alaska from Russia in 1867.

In the 1830s ‘Trail of Tears’, Americans moved all the Native Americans they could find to Oklahoma so that there was more land for white people. Oh, and they killed off all the buffalo too.

They started to believe in something called Manifest Destiny, that it was America’s destiny to expand as far as it could, bringing democracy and civilisation. You can see America still thinks that way now.

In 1893 the US overthrew the indigenous Hawaiian royal family and took their island too; in the same year the US won in a war against Spain and took Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines.

In WWI the US hung around on the outside for three years and then helped with the victory bit. In 1920 US women won the vote, and in 1929 the Wall Street Crash ruined the economy for the whole world. After that Roosevelt came to power and implemented a social security system to help impoverished Americans.

In WWII, again, the US waited around for two years until Japan surprised everyone with an attack on Pearl Harbour. America had been conquering Pacific islands for the last fifty or so years and had recently started to annoy Japan by trying to put barriers on its trade. Japan needed to defeat America if it wanted to have a Pacific empire or just not feel threatened by the US anymore. As a consequence of Pearl Harbour, thousands of Japanese Americans were put in prison just in case.

America was the only country to emerge from WWII richer than before. While the first useful, peaceful, nuclear power station wouldn’t be invented until 1954 (in Russia), America was working on the first nuclear bomb. Well done them (although to be honest, Britain and Canada helped. Nazi Germany was trying too but luckily all the best nuclear physicists were Jewish and had fled to America. Just imagine if they’d got there first though.) The US is still the only country to have used a nuclear weapon in a war.

The Allies had decided to invade Japan because, well, we were at war, casualties were at an all-time high, and Japan had just bombed Pearl Harbour … but then they realised they’d probably incur about 4 million casualties doing so. The US checked with the UK that they could use their new atomic bombs… and Churchill said yeah, sure. God I hate us.

The first bomb, on Hiroshima, honestly meant to land on a tactically important bridge, but landed on a hospital instead, so that that 90% of all doctors and nurses in the area were killed or injured. The second, on Nagasaki, was even larger.

Japan surrendered shortly afterwards. They would have surrendered earlier if America had agreed not to change the emperor or government, to allow Japan to demobilise and punish war criminals of its own accord, and not to invade Japan or its territories. But why negotiate when you have new explosive toys to play with?

Some 240,000 people died, either immediately or later from burns, radiation and all the cancers that brings. In the year 2000 leukemias and cancer deaths were still occurring as a fault of the bombs. When UNESCO declared the Hiroshima Peace Memorial a world heritage site in 1996, when you’d think we’d all had enough time to feel ashamed of what we’d done and happy to encourage peace efforts, America and China whinged because Japan hadn’t lost that many people.

Anyway, on to the joys of the Cold War. America and Russia vied to be the bestest superpower but never actually threw the first atomic bomb, although everyone else was waiting for them to do it and destroy the world five times over. When Russia launched the first man into space, America worked on getting the first man on the moon. And so on and so forth until Soviet Russia collapsed.

Meanwhile, at home, the Klu Klux Klan were being horribly violent to black people and Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King were showing everyone how to express your emotions properly. Kennedy was assassinated; Nixon started the unsuccessful Vietnam War (which wasn’t supposed to be a war; the Americans were just helping. Honest.).

Nixon became the first president to resign after Watergate, when he tried to cover up the fact that his party members had broken into and wiretapped the Democratic National Committee.

America emerged from World War II as the sole superpower with the largest economy. Today 41% of all military spending in the world is by them – if they slowed that down a bit they’d be even richer.

Since 11 September 2001, after al-Qaeda terrorists attacked the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, the ‘War on Terror’ has seen America (and Britain, of course) invade Afghanistan to remove the Taliban government (which led to another guerilla war) and then Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein. The US officially ended the Iraq war in 2011, after Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan.

Activities: We did impressions of Disney characters and had to guess who was being who; we raced to see who could built the tallest skyscrapers out of Lego; we played baseball; we ate cheese-burgers with sweet potato fries; we danced to Elvis Presley; we made Ben & Jerry ice-cream sundaes; we tried to name all the states; we tried line dancing; singing the blues; and peanut butter and ‘jelly’ sandwiches and Krispy Kreme doughnuts washed down with Pepsi-Cola. We played cowboys and Indians and sung Broadway musical songs.

Mongolia Independence Day

The most famous Mongol is Ghengis Khan (meaning Universal King; his real name was Temujin), who united warring tribes and created Mongolia in 1206. The Mongol Empire soon stretched as far as Central Europe.

In the 17th century Mongolia lost its independence and was ruled by Manchurians. From 1911 Russia helped Mongolia free itself from China. In 1924 it became the second socialist republic after the USSR.

They drink suutei tsai, a salty tea that is mostly milk and a bit of rancid butter.

25th November

Guru Nanak Birthday (2015, founder of Sikhism)

Suriname Independence Day

Originally settled by indigenous people (?), in the 16th century British, French and Spanish explorers arrived.The Dutch and the English established plantation colonies there in the next century. They argued about who owned what, and eventually decided that the Dutch would keep Suriname, which they named Dutch Guiana, and the British would keep New Amsterdam, now more familiar as New York. I mean, we kiiiind of agreed, but we also invaded a couple of more times. Worth a shot.

The Dutch plantation owners relied on African slaves to grow coffee, sugar, cotton and cocoa. Some slaves escaped, and became the Maroons, fairly successful new tribes living in the rainforest. They kept coming back to raid the plantations, take away more slaves and kill plantation owners, until the Dutch agreed to give them their own legal land and sovereign status.

In 1863-73 the Netherlands abolished slavery and freed the slaves. Most slaves then left for the capital, Paramaribo, and were replaced by workers imported from the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) and India. Chinese and Middle Eastern workers arrived in the 19th and 20th centuries. This makes Suriname, for all its small size, one of the most ethically diverse places in the world.

During WWII America occupied Suriname to protect its bauxite mines. In 1975 Suriname finally gained independence from the Netherlands. Nearly a third emigrated to the Netherlands, fearing that it would be worse off alone. And yes, there was fraud and military coups, including as one ‘telephone coup’ where the military leader rang up the government to dismiss them, racial tension, civil war between the Maroons and the army.

It is the smallest sovereign state in South America and the only one where a majority speak Dutch.

Famous places in Suriname include the nesting site of the giant leatherback turtle, who come to the Galibi Nature Reserve to lay their eggs; and a cathedral that’s one of the world’s largest wooden buildings.

Bosnia-Herz National Statehood Day:

First inhabited by Neolithic Illyrians, conquered by Rome in A.D. 9, by the Middle Ages his area was being fought over by Hungary and the Byzantine Empire.

In 1463 it fell to the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) and a native Serbian Muslim population began to dominate.

By the late 17th century it was the front of the Empire and so kept being fought over.

From 1875 a peasant uprising in Herzogovina spread to involve many Balkan states and Great Powers until the Treaty of Berlin put it under Austro-Hungarian rule. This led to Gavrilo Princip assassinating Franz Ferdinand and sparking WWI.

Then it became part of Yugoslavia, invaded by the Nazis, and around 350,000 Serbs were killed in the Holocaust.

Josip Broz Tito led a communist resistance and was supported by Allies. When Soviet Russia fell, Yugoslavia broke up. Serbs wanted to stay with the Yugoslav federation; Bosniaks and Croats wanted independence. This led to the war 1992-5 that decimated Sarajevo and was termed a genocide: Serbs against mainly Bosnian Muslims.

24th November

Abel Tasman discovered Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) in 1642 – so learn about the Tasmanian Devil.

1826 Carlo Collodi born, author of Pinocchio

1849 Frances Hodgson Burnett born

Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859 (Evolution Day)

Pachelbel’s (wrote the Canon in D) birthday

William Web Ellis’s birthday, said to have invented rugby – try tag rugby.

Frances Hodgson Burnett’s birthday 1849 (wrote The Secret Garden, A Little Princess, and Little Lord Fauntleroy)

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s birthday 1864 (so learn the cancan)

First day of Brumalia: This festival celebrated Cronus (Saturn), Demeter and Bacchus, harvest gods, and was celebrated until 25 December (ring a bell?) which was the ‘Waxing of the Light’. There was lots of feasting and drinking, and prophecies were made for the rest of the winter.

Bon Om Touk (2015, Cambodia Water Festival celebrating the Tonle Sap river reversing its flow; I particularly like the procession of illuminated boats, Bandaet Pratip)