31st August

1895 the Zeppelin invented

1897 Edison invents the movie projector (Kinetoscope)

Malaysia Merdeka Day (independence from UK, 1957)


Malaysia has been inhabited for over 40,000 years. The original settlers were Negritos (Australoid-Melanesians), followed by traders and settlers from India and China, bringing Hinduism and Buddhism.

The Langasuka Kingdom was on the northern peninsula from the 3rd to the 15th century; while the south was the Srivijaya Empire, an important centre for Buddhism. There isn’t much evidence of either reign now, and afterwards the Indonesian Majapahit Empire took over the peninsula and archipelagos.

In the 15th century the Malacca Sultanate was founded, which became an important trade centre and a centre for Islamic learning. In 1511 this was conquered by Portugal. The Dutch took it in 1641.

In 1786 a Malaysian sultan leased Penang to the British East India Company. The Company went on to buy Singapore, and by the 20th century most Malaysian states had a British advisor.

In WWII Japan invaded, and afterwards Britain wanted to unite Malaysia into a crown colony but it was really sick of being occupied. Instead it became the Federation of Malay under British protection. Meanwhile mostly Chinese inhabitants launched a guerilla Communist campaign against the British. This Malayan Emergency lasted until 1960.

In 1969 they had race riots, and afterwards the Prime Minister introduced a New Economic Policy which tried to increase the share of the economy for Malay natives, or bumiputera.

Malaysia is famous for the Petronas Towers:

Also for the Malay tiger, the orangutan, the proboscis monkey and the Rafflesia flower that can grow up to a metre wide:

and the Batu Caves.


Kyrgystan Independence Day (from Soviet Union, 1991)

Kyrgyz means 40 – a reference to Manas, a legendary hero who united 40 clans against a Turkic enemy. Kyrgystan’s flag has 40 rays surrounding the wooden top of a yurt. (Kyrgyz is also said to mean ‘red dog’, and ancient clans used to believe they were descended from a Heavenly Red Dog.

Humans have lived in Kyrgystan for at least 200,000 years. It became a Turkic Khaganate before 840 A.D. It became part of the Mongol Empire in 1207. In the 18th century the tribes were taken over by the Chinese Manchu dynasty, and in the early 19th century by an Uzbek Khanate.

In the late 19th century China and Russia agreed that Kyrgyzstan belonged to Russia. In 1936 it became a Socialist Republic of Soviet Russia.

Kyrgyzstan is very ethnically diverse and this led to ethnic tensions. In 1990 they tried to confiscate some Uzbek collective farms to build houses on, as there was a housing crisis, and this led to the Osh Riots.

In August 1991 Kyrgyzstan gained independence. The Soviet-era president was voted president again, but the Tulip Revolution in 2005 made him resign. There were more riots in 2010 against government corruption (a lot of MPs were getting assassinated).

They have a pretty weird sport called Ulak Tartysh, which is a bit like polo except instead of a ball they use a headless goat.


Limba Noastra (Moldova National Language Day) – see 27th August


Trinidad and Tobago Independence Day (from UK, 1962)

Trinidad was the earliest part of the Carribbean to be settled, 7,000 years ago by Amerindians and Arawaks.

Christopher Colombus arrived on 31 July 1498. Spanish soldiers arrived with armies later to take land. In 1699 the Amerindians revolted against the Roman Catholic missionary priests, and several hundred died.

In the 1700s Trinidad was part of the Vice-Royalty of New Spain, along with Mexico, Central America and some of the Southern US states. However, Spaniards were much outnumbered by Amerindians, so in 1783 the Spanish King said that as long as immigrants swore allegiance to the Spanish crown, anyone could go in. The population increased 15-fold, with French, British, German and Italian migrants and their slaves.

Meanwhile Tobago was colonised by the Dutch and Courlanders (a Latvian duchy).

In 1797 a British ship anchored and somehow the Spanish governor immediately surrendered. Trinidad became a British-owned French-speaking country with Spanish laws!

After the abolition of slavery in 1838, Britain brought in hundreds of thousands of Chinese and Indian labourers. Petrol was discovered in 1857. In 1889, during the Napoleonic wars, Britain took Tobago too.

Trinidad and Tobago gained independence from Britain in 1962.

Trinidad and Tobago are the birthplace of calypso music and the steelpan, maybe the only acoustic instrument invented in the 20th century. Also Soca music


Colorado founded (1876), literally named the colour red.

China’s Hungry Ghost month ends (2015): people put out boats with lanterns on them and their ancestors’ names written on them; the ghosts follow the boats floating away down the river.


30th August

Kazakhstan Constitution Day

Kazakhstan is the largest landlocked country in the world.

It was inhabited by nomadic tribes from the Neolithic period, who regularly raided Russia for slaves. From 206 B.C. it was an important part of the Silk Road.

Then the Mongols invaded led by Genghis Khan, and his descendants ruled the Kazakh Khanate 1456-1847. By the end, the Khanate was divided into three jüz or hordes. As it was weak, the Uzbek Khanate and the

From 1807 Russia took over as part of the ‘Great Game’, trying to build the Eastern Europe Empire before Britain took it. It imposed Russian language and the Kazakhs didn’t really like it.

The Russians encouraged immigration into Kazakhstan, which caused resentment and eventually the Central Asian Revolt in 1916.

Following the 1917 Russian Revolution, and subsequent civil war, the Russian Empire collapsed and became the communist Soviet Union. The collectivisation of the 1920s-30s caused a famine, while Stalin executed their intellectuals to repress their culture further. After WWII Soviet Russia put its main nuclear test site in Kazakhstan, with no regard for the people who lived there.

In 1953 Russian leader Kruschev decided to make Kazakhstan ‘Virgin Lands’ which would supply grain to the rest of the Union. They’d deported loads of their unwanted into Kazakhstan too, so now they only made up 30% of the population.

On 16 December 1991 Kazakhstan was the last Soviet state to declare independence. Its communist-era leader, Nursultan Nazarbayev, became president and still is.


East Timor Popular Consultation Day (to have independence from Indonesia in 1999)

New Guineans and Australians migrated to East Timor about 40,000 years ago, with Austronesians migrating there about 3,000 B.C. It traded sandalwood, honey and slaves with China. Europeans arrived in the 16th century to trade sandalwood, and Portugal took it over from 1769 (the Dutch took West Timor).

In WWII Japan invaded, and the Allies fought the Battle of Timor with Timor volunteers.

In 1974 Portugal had the Carnation Revolution and withdrew from its colonies; East Timor became independent a year later. Indonesia were scared as its new leading party were left-wing, so invaded. Until 1999 the Indonesian rule of East Timor was pretty brutal, with thousands killed or dying from hunger.

In 1991 pro-independence protestors were gunned down by the Indonesian military. This was a turning point, and the UN helped East Timor vote for independence in 2002.


St Rose of Lima Day (Peru)

Turkey Victory Day (1922 War of Independence against the Allies after WWI) – see 29th October

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.