22nd May

1980 Pacman released

1813 Richard Wagner born, so listen to the Bridal Chorus (from the opera Lohengrin) and the Ride of the Valkyries.

1859 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle born – so play a murder mystery game


1907 Hergé born – so get Tintin out the library

Haiti National Sovereignty Day:

Haiti was the first independent nation of Latin America and the Caribbean, and the first black-led republic in the world. It’s the poorest country in the Americas and, aside from Canada, the only officially French-speaking country there.

It is part of the island of Hispaniola (the other part is the Dominican Republic). The island was originally inhabited by Taino Indians, until Columbus arrived in 1492.


The Taino people really fought against his colonies, such as the queen Anacaona, now considered one of the island’s founders, but lost. Disease and malnutrition killed off so many Taino Indians that the Spaniards had to import African slaves to do their work for them, and eventually the Tainos became nearly extinct.

Then it became a haven for pirates and French ‘buccaneers’ (people who attacked Spanish ships).

Eventually Spain and France settled their differences by splitting the island, with France taking the Dominican side. This side was very populous, wealthy and full of brutally treated slaves and later mixed-race free peoples.

In 1791 the slaves realised they greatly outnumbered the white population and revolted. The French government abolished slavery and Toussaint Louverture became leader, but then Napoleon decided to invade with the plan to reinstate slavery.

Toussaint Louverture

The French soldiers mainly died of yellow fever; the general invited Louverture to negotiations… then kidnapped him and sent him to a French prison to die, but the slaves continued to fight until Napoleon gave up.

The slaves named their country Ayiti, which by coincidence meant ‘homeland’ in Taino and in Fon African, and was the Taino name for the whole island before the Spanish came.

America (Jefferson) tried to ignore the new country, the only country ever to become an independent nation after a slave revolt, in case their revolt encouraged American slaves.


A Haitian general, Dessalines, who had led the battle that defeated the French, was named emperor and killed off all the white people he could find; he was assassinated and then the north was ruled by Henri I, who built the largest fortress in the western hemisphere, La Citadelle Laferrière, and replaced slave labour with unpaid labour (hmm).

The south was ruled by  Alexandre Pétion, who believed in democracy so long as it didn’t apply to himself (he decided he was President for Life) and did a bit of socialist redistribution of land. Consequently the poor loved him but just used the land to feed themselves (selfish); exports and the economy fell.

In 2010 Haiti suffered a massive earthquake.

Does your kid like Haitian art like Hector Hyppolite? What do they think of voodoo?

Martinique Slavery Abolition Day:

Also known as the island of flowers, Martinique was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1502. Before then it was inhabited by Arawaks, then Caribs, and then the Taino.

In 1635, Pierre Belain d’Esnambuc, French governor of the island of St. Kitts, landed with 150 French settlers after the English kicked him out of St Kitts. Since then Martinique belonged to France. The indigenous Caribs tried to rebel but mainly lost.

France mainly sent its Huguenots (Protestants) over who didn’t fit in with their Catholic culture, becoming servants in the plantations; however Martinique is mainly Catholic today.

In 1902 Mont Pélée erupted and killed 30,000 people – learn about volcanoes. Zouk music comes from Martinique.

Yemen National Day

Yemen has always been at the crossroads between East and West for trade. It went from Bronze Age to a caravan culture without anyone really noticing, and that became the Sabaean Empire in the 11th century. Saba could be the Biblical Sheba.

The Sabaeans built the great Marib Dam, one of the ancient wonders of the world, to catch the monsoon rains from the mountains and irrigate the surrounding land.

In 680 B.C. Saba extended to take over the Aswan kingdom, but it was too deserted (literally) to really do anything with, so they just controlled the trade routes.They worshipped a moon god called Almaqah.

The Romans tried to invade in 25 B.C. but were so uncharacteristically incompetent that they were easily defeated and the Sabaeans haven’t seemed to have even noticed them enough to mention them in any writings. The Romans called Yemen Arabia Felix, Happy Arabia (as opposed to Arabia Deserta).

Then Saba divided into two warring tribes.

(to be continued…)

Other events today:


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