14th July

1960 Jane Goodall arrives in Tanzania to study chimps

1862 Gustav Klimt born (painting geometric shapes and lots of gold paint over photos of family and see if you can make your own Klimt)


2015 New Horizons flies past Pluto and sends first hi-res images back to Earth.


Bastille Day: (La Fête Nationale) 1789 Paris citizens storm the Bastille, a prison for political prisoners who had wronged the monarch. This may seem like a noble thing to do, but it was probably because there was a lot of gunpower and ammo in there that they wanted to get hold of. From 1790 it became la Fête de la Fédération, celebrating a constitutional monarchy (i.e., a king with rules to stop him getting tyrannical).

There have been French humans for about 1.8 million years, and Lascaux is the most famous decorated cave from this era, and from the Stone Age there is the Carnac Stones.

In 600 B.C. Ionian (now Turkish) Greeks founded Massalia, now Marseilles, the oldest city in France. The rest became Gaul, inhabited by Celts.


Around 390 B.C. the Gallic chieftain Brennus defeated the Roman army and besieged Rome.


Around 125 B.C. the south was conquered by the Romans and became Provincia Romana (now Provence). Julius Caesar conquered the rest of Gaul in 52 B.C., squashing a revolt by Vercingetorix.

But from the beginning of the 5th century A.D., Germanic tribes, including the Franks after which France is named, invaded and settled as the Roman Empire fell.

Gaul became several German kingdoms, except for one Gallo-Roman bit that remained, and English Celts fleeing the (Germanic) Anglo-Saxons came and settled in Armorica, which became Brittany, a very Celtic realm.

Clovis I, painted 1700 years after he died

The Franks took over most of France, and in 498 the emperor Clovis I was the first Germanic ruler to become Christian. Because of this the Pope called France ‘the eldest daughter of the Church’, and its kings ‘the Most Christian Kings of France’. France became quite Roman again, and was called Francia.

Clovis I established the Merovingian dynasty, but this weakened by 798 and was replaced by the Carolingian dynasty, of whom Charlemagne, Charles the Great, ended up ruling most of Western and Central Europe and became Holy Roman Emperor.

In the 9th and 10th centuries the king became less powerful due to Viking invasions, and feudalism was introduced. The king’s vassals (kind of like dukes, who swore loyalty to the king in return for land, which previously had belonged to peasants, and who gathered armies to fight for him) became almost as powerful as him, particularly William the Conqueror who was Duke of Normandy and King of England.

In 1337 the English King Edward III, whose grandad was Philip IV of France, decided he ought to have inherited the throne (he shouldn’t have, as it was on his mum’s side that he was related, and the French throne didn’t pass down the female line) and started the Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453). Nice one.

People like Joan of Arc led counter-attacks against the British; meanwhile the plague didn’t help, killing half of the 17 million French people.

Then they had the French Renaissance, mainly characterised by wars with Italy; then they had the Wars of Religion against the Protestants, killing thousands of Huguenots (Protestants) until Henry IV issued the Edict of Nantes telling everyone to get along.

Louis XIV

The monarchy reached the peak of its power and wealth under Louis XIV; France became Europe’s leading power with the biggest population, and aristocrats and diplomats around the world spoke French. Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes and kicked the Huguenots out.

Louis XV

Under Louis XV, basically everyone (Britain, Spain, Prussia, Russia, etc.) went to war with France in the Seven Years’ War, and France lost New France (like, most of the eastern half of the US) and its Indian territories to Britain. Sad face.

Louis XVI

Louis XVI supported the Americas gain independence from Britain and Spain, but the example of the American Revolution unfortunately inspired his own people and led to the French Revolution.

After the storming of Bastille, France became a constitutional monarchy with Louis XVI still king. But the rest of Europe was horrified and kept threatening to go to war with France if it didn’t sort itself out.

France pre-emptively declared war on the Hapsburg monarchs of Austria; Prussia took Austria’s side, Britain supported the revolts happening within France itself and in 1792 France was declared a Republic.

Louis XVI was guillotined for treason.


His wife Marie Antoinette (the one who, when told the peasants were revolting because there was no bread, said ‘Let them eat cake’) was also guillotined; their heir, the 7-year-old Louis-Charles, was imprisoned where he died aged 10.


Over the next couple of years, the Reign of Terror, led by Maximilien de Robespierre, saw tens of thousands of people executed and the inevitable civil war killed hundreds more.

In 1799 Napoleon Bonaparte took power. The rest of Europe was still at war with France, but Napoleon shrugged them off and conquered most of continental Europe.


(France and her client states)

This spread new French ideas like the metric system of measurements (France briefly had a metric calendar and metric time, with 10 100-minute hours making up a day and all the months renamed, roughly translated into English as Vintagearious, Fogarious, Frostarious, Snowous, Rainous, Windous, Buddal, Floweral, Meadowal, Reapidor, Heatidor, and Fruitidor. Bonkers.), and the Napoleonic Code which states that no one is special because their dad was a rich someone, and the most qualified person should get the job.

About 1 million Frenchmen died during the Napoleonic Wars, which ended in 1812 when Napoleon totally failed to defeat Russia. No one ever defeats Russia.



The Bourbon monarchy (in the shape of Louis XVI’s brother, Louis XVIII) was restored and Napoleon was exiled.

Then Napoleon returned from exile on 20 March 1815 and enjoyed what is known as the Hundred Days of Napoleon before he was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo (against Nelson from Britain and Bluecher from Prussia) and Louis XVIII came right back.

Then France had another revolution in July 1830, which made Louis-Philippe I the constitutional monarch, overthrowing Charles X who had succeeded Louis XVIII.

Napoleon III

Then in 1848 the French Second Republic was declared; four years later Napoleon’s nephew, Louis-Napoleon, was named Napoleon III, emperor of the Second Empire.

But wait, who was Napoleon II, you ask? Well, when Napoleon I was exiled, he still stubbornly declared his son ‘Napoleon II, King of Rome’, which nobody took any notice of but anyway, that name was taken so they moved onto number III.

But Napoleon III was kicked out during the Franco-Prussian Wars and France moved onto its Third Republic. By now France was the second biggest empire in the world, ruling 8.6% of all land on Earth.

In WWI France was on the side of Britain and Russia (the Triple Entente) against the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, Bulgaria). 1.4 million French soldiers died in WWI.

In 1940 France was invaded by Nazi Germany and became Vichy France (named after the town Vichy where the new government was set up). In 1944 the Allies invaded Normandy and worked their way up over the year to defeat Hitler.

France then had the Fourth Republic which was great for a decade but then France’s empire began to fall apart a bit: Indochina was lost and then Algeria wanted independence, a decision so difficult for France it nearly led to civil war.

Charles de Gaulle

In 1958 they made a Fifth Republic with a stronger president, Charles de Gaulle, who began to grant independence to France’s colonies, beginning with Algeria.

In May 1968 French students and workers protested against the effects of capitalism and 11 million went on strike for two weeks; police attacks made the situation worse. Eventually de Gaulle dissolved the government and called for new elections, which had the effect of magically dissipating everyone’s anger. And they voted his party back in. Plus ça change, eh?


  • Have croissants and hot chocolate for breakfast.
  • Read Asterix.
  • French scientist Lavoisier discovered oxygen (before then there was a vague idea about ‘phlogiston’) – try experimenting with candle snuffers and talking about what happens to candles (and us!) when oxygen is removed.
  • The Montgolfière brothers invented the hot-air balloon – make a hot-air balloon ride in a washing basket under a load of helium balloons.
  • Copy some French art, like Monet, or a pointillist Eiffel Tower like Georges Seurat’s.
  • Play boules.
  • Sing the Marseillaise.
  • Have a pique-nique, with baguettes, Brie, grapes, and crepes for pud.


Iraq Republic Day

The first humans in Iraq were Neanderthals around 65,000 years ago. Agriculture and cattle-breeding appeared here for the first time in the world.

From 4,000 B.C. Iraq was ‘Uruk’, a Sumerian settlement of several cities which became the world’s first civilisation – known as the Cradle of Civilisation – meaning the humans had learnt how to live together with shared rules, manage the nature around them, write in pictographs, have specialised jobs, architecture and taxes.

This is literally the first moment in history – as it was the first time humans began to write history down. They invented the wheel, and maths, astronomy, law, medicine and religion. The Sumerian language was and still is unrelated to any other. Which is weird.

From 3000 B.C. the Akkadian Semitic people arrived in the area, and their languages and cultures merged with the Sumerian one.

Around 2600 B.C the Epic of Gilgamesh was written, an epic poem that was the first work of great literature, which includes the first tale of the Great Flood.

From 2335-2124 B.C. Iraq was taken over by an Akkadian king and became the centre of the Akkadian Empire.

Then there was the Neo-Sumerian Empire, then the Old Assyrian Empire, during which the most detailed set of written laws EVER was created.

In 1792 B.C. the ruler of a minor town called Babylon decided to take over southern Iraq, and it became Babylonia, while the north remained Assyria.

In 1356-1070 B.C. Assyria became the most powerful empire in the world… then it did it again in 935-605 B.C. – even bigger this time. During this period the people became to speak Aramaic instead of Akkadian.


Then it became the Neo-Babylonian Empire, which wasn’t as great, then it became part of the Achaemenid Empire centred in Persia.

In the 4th century B.C. Alexander the Great conquered it for Greece. Then the Persians took it again under the Parthian Empire, and the Romans tried a few times too, bringing Christianity with them. Then another Persian Empire, the Sassanid Empire, took it, and it became the battleground between the Sassanid Empire and the Byzantine Empire.

From the mid-7th century an Arab-Muslim conquest brought Arabs and Kurds into Iraq, as well as Islam. Baghdad became the leading metropolis of the Arab-Muslim world, with more than a million multicultural inhabitants, and a centre of learning during the Islamic Golden Age.

In 1257 the Mongols arrived and, as the Caliph refused to surrender, sieged the city and massacred the Baghdad people. They destroyed the House of Wisdom, containing priceless documents. Baghdad would never achieve such prestige as a centre of learning and culture. again.

In the mid-14th century a third of people died from the Black Death.

In the 16th century the Ottoman Empire took over. During this rule (1533-1918) Iran battled with the Ottomans for control of Iraq, and sometimes succeeded. Bedouin nomads also frequently raided the country. Iraq’s population, over 30 million in 800 A.D., fell to just 5 million by the start of the 20th century.

In WWI the Ottomans lost and Iraq became a British mandate. For some reason we decided to put Iraq’s Sunni minority in charge.

Iraq gained independence in 1932. In 1941 a coup d’etat overthrow the Regent’s government, and Britain invaded in case Iraq decided to cut off oil supplies to the West. A month later we forced an armistice and then ruled Iraq with a military occupation for six years, also just in case. We left our military bases there until 1954.

In 1958 Iraq got rid of its monarchy and became a Republic. Then they had a load more coups until in 1979 Saddam Hussein came into power.


Iran also overthrew its monarchy and the new Ayatollah declared Iran an Islamic Republic and said he was going to make Iraq an Islamic State too. He armed Iraqi Shiite and Kurdish rebels and paid people to assassinate Iraqi officials. So they went to war – the First Persian Gulf War. Iraq wasn’t always winning and at one point Saddam killed off up to 100,000 of his own country’s Kurdish people in case they were the bad guys…

Then Iraq had to pay back $80 billion in US support money for the war, and Kuwait’s over-production of oil was keeping oil prices down, which Iraq exported too, so next Saddam invaded Kuwait. The U.S. and a lot of other countries said ‘Nope’ and got involved at this point.

While Saddam was distracted, Shiite and Kurdish rebels led uprisings against him, and these were squashed with chemical weapons. So the US and other countries established no-fly zones to protect the rebels and surrounding civillians. He bombed the US planes patrolling the no-fly zones, so in 1998 American bombed Iraq right back.

In 2001, the 9/11 attacks on America led to America declaring war on Afghanistan, where the leader of the Al-Quaeda, Osama Bin Laden was. But America was feeling a bit paranoid now, and so when Iraq refused to prove that it didn’t have nuclear or chemical weapons, America declared war in 2003. They invaded, took down Saddam’s government and installed a new government.

By 2004 Sunni and Shiite Muslims were fighting against each other and against the new regime. New democratic elections took place but the insurgencies and rebellions kept happening. In 2007-11 the US and other countries withdrew their troops. Up to 1.2 million Iraqis had died during the war.

The new government was Shiite-dominated, which the Sunnis claimed ignored their voice. Iraq remains unstable, and it might need to be split into a Kurdistan, Sunnistan and Shiastan.

Iraqi music includes Salima Pasha and Ezra Aharon.

Rath Yatra (2018 – a Hindu festival in which statues of deities are transported by chariot to the temples. Lord Jaggernath’s chariot seems so unstoppable and huge it led to the English word ‘juggernaut’) – http://rathayatra.co.uk/london/


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