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Sunday, 26 February 2012

Barclays Bank

Barclays Bank traces its origins back to 1690 when John Freame and Thomas Gould started trading as goldsmith bankers in Lombard Street, London. The name "Barclays" became associated with the business in 1736, when James Barclay, son-in-law of John Freame, one of the founders, became a partner in the business.

In 1728, the bank moved to 54 Lombard Street, which was identified by the 'Sign of the Black Spread Eagle', over the years becoming a core part of the bank's identity.

In 1896 20 banks in London and the English province united under the banner of Barclays and Co., a joint-stock bank. The largest of them derived originally from John Freame's goldsmith bank.

In 1917 the name was changed to Barclays Bank Ltd.

In 1959 Barclays became the first British bank to order a computer for its accounting.

The first ever ATM was fitted outside the bank's branch in Enfield, north London on June 27, 1967.

In 1987 Barclays became the first UK bank to issue a debit card.

Source Wikipedia


Barcelona is Spain's second-largest city, its largest port, and its chief commercial center.

Barcelona was founded by the Carthaginians in the 3rd century BC.

The city was devastated during the War of Spanish Succession in 1714 when during the Siege of Barcelona the capital city of Catalonia was forced to surrender to Spanish and French Bourbon armies.

FC Barcelona, one of the most successful clubs in Spanish football, was founded by Swiss football pioneer Joan Gamper on November 29, 1899.

Work on Barcelona’s fantastical Sagrada Familia Roman Catholic church is expected to be complete by 2026 — 144 years after it was begun by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi in 1882. He joked that his client, God, was in no hurry to see it finished.

Gaudi spent his last 15 years living as a hermit beneath the unfinished structure of his great Barcelona church. He was run over by a tram and looked so bedraggled that bystanders took him for a tramp and were slow in getting him to hospital, where he died on June 10, 1926.

Barcelona FC’s Camp Nou opened on September 24, 1957.  It is currently the largest stadium in Europe with a seating capacity of 99,354.

By from Barcelona, Spain - The Camp Nou Stadium - Wikipedia

The city hosted the Summer Olympics in 1992.

When Barcelona won the Riba Gold Medal in 1999, it was the first and only time that the winner was a city, not an architect.

Pope John Paul II was a fair goalkeeper in his youth and was a honorary member of Barcelona FC.

Barcelona has built around 300 playgrounds for senior citizens that are meant to improve fitness and decrease isolation.

Barcelona's 197 foot Columbus Monument was built to mark how Christopher Columbus reported to Queen Isabella after his first voyage to the Americas. The statue shows him supposedly pointing to the New World, but he is actually pointing south, to Algeria.

Barcelona attracts over one million visitors every week.


A Barbiturate is a Hypnosedative drug, commonly known as a ‘sleeping pill’, consisting of any salt or ester of barbituric acid C4H4O3N2. It works by depressing brain activity.

In 1864 the German chemist Johann Friedrich Wilhelm Adolf von Baeyer succeeded in synthesising a new organic compound. The date, December 4th coincided with the feast of Saint Barbara, and so the German name given to the substance was called “Barbitursäure” or barbituric acid.

In 1887 a powerful hypnotic (to produce sleep) called sulphonal came into medical use. Sulphonal was the first really popular drug of the Bayer Company's laboratories in Germany, and helped finance research on further hypnotics.

In 1903 the German chemist Emil Fischer and pathologist Joseph Freiherr Von Mering  introduced new hypnotics and sedatives (to produce a calming effect), that became known as barbiturates. These are derived from barbituric acid with the addition of several small hydrocarbon sidechains and they took the place of the earlier drugs such as Sulphonal.

Tolerance develops quickly in the user so that increasingly large doses are required to induce sleep. A barbiturate's action persists for hours or days, and can cause confused, aggressive behaviour or disorientation.

Overdosing causes death by inhibiting the breathing centre in the brain.

Most barbiturates, being highly addictive, are no longer prescribed and are listed as controlled substances.

Source Hutchinson Encyclopedia © RM 2012. Helicon Publishing is division of RM.

Barbie Doll

The idea for Barbie came about after Mattel toy partner Ruth Handler watched her daughter, Barbara, cut dolls out of magazines and carefully choose clothes and accessories to clothe them in. All other dolls on the market at the time were baby dolls, but Ruth realised there was enormous potential in a doll with adult features, allowing children to act out their dreams.

Ruth Handler

Barbie was named by Ruth after her daughter. Her full name is Barbie Millicent Roberts, and she is from Willows, Wisconsin.

Barbie was the first doll with developed breasts

Mattel designer Jack Ryan (1926-1991) created the popular image of the Barbie doll. Apart from Barbie's general appearance, Ryan designed both the hinge that enabled her knees and waist to bend and her pull-string voice box.

Ryan was also noted for being being the sixth husband of Zsa Zsa Gabor.

The Barbie Doll made her debut in a zebra-striped swimsuit at the New York Toy Fair on March 9, 1959. It took toy stores across the US by storm and more than 351,000 dolls were sold that year at $3 (£2.00) each.

The first Barbie doll was introduced in both blonde and brunette in March 1959. Original uploaded by Barbieologin at Wikimedia Commons

March 9th is also used as Barbie's official birthday.

She was introduced to the UK in 1961.

Barbie wasn't given bendable legs until 1965.

After Aqua recorded their hit single Barbie Girl in 1997, Mattel sued the Danish band, in 2002, saying they violated the Barbie trademark and turned Barbie into a sex object, referring to her as a "Blonde Bimbo."

Mattel sells over 20-million Barbies a year. About half of American girls have owned at least one.

In 2003, Barbie was first banned then declared a threat to morality in Saudi Arabia.

In 2012, Iran banned the sale of Barbie dolls to protect the country from decadent Western cultural influences.

A standard Barbie doll is 11.5 inches tall, giving a height of 5 feet 9 inches at 1/6 scale. Barbie's vital statistics have been estimated at 36 inches (chest), 18 inches (waist) and 33 inches (hips). At 5'9" tall and weighing 110 lbs, Barbie would have a BMI of 16.24 and fit the weight criteria for anorexia.

Judged by the head size, if the Barbie doll were life-size she'd be 7ft 2in tall and, strangely, given that she is meant to be a teenage girl, her figure would be 36-13-38!

If Barbie were life-size her neck would be twice the length of a normal human’s neck.

On average, a Canadian girl owns seven Barbie dolls, whereas an American girl owns eight. 

The world’s largest collection of Barbie dolls is owned by Bettina Dorfmann, from Dusseldorf, Germany, who has more than 15,000 of them.

There are more than 200 different types of Barbie Dolls.

Barbie has held more than 130 different careers since she was first introduced in 1959.

There are more Barbie dolls in Italy than there are Canadians in Canada.

Every second, two Barbie dolls are sold somewhere in the world.

Two and a half time more Barbies are sold every year than babies are born in the US.

There's a Barbie-like Islamic doll called "Fulla".

Sources, Wikipedia, Daily Express

Samuel Barber

Samuel Barber was born on March 9, 1910 in West Chester, Pennsylvania, the son of Marguerite McLeod (née Beatty) and physician Samuel Le Roy Barber.

Childhood home of Samuel Barber in West Chester, Pennsylvania

At the age of 10 Samuel Barber (1910-1981) wrote a short opera entitled The Rose.

At the age of 12, Barber was holding down a part-time $100-a-month organist’s post at Westminster Church in his home town of West Chester, Pennsylvania.

At 14 he became one of the first pupils at the new Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.

Samuel Barber, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1944

Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings was premiered the NBC Symphony Orchestra under the direction of the conductor Arturo Toscanini in 1938. It was an immediate hit and remains his best-known score.

When Barber's third opera Antony and Cleopatra officially opened the New Metropolitan Opera House in September 1966, the critical mauling the work received – mostly to do with Franco Zeffirelli’s over elaborate staging rather than the music itself – virtually finished him. Barber spent many years in isolation after its harsh rejection and suffererd from depression, as well as being beset by alcoholism.

Barber died of cancer in 1981 in New York City at the age of 70. He was buried in Oaklands Cemetery in his hometown of West Chester, Pennsylvania.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012



The word ‘barber’ comes from the Latin barba, "beard".

The barber's trade has been traced back to 3500 B.C in Ancient Egypt, where relics of razors have been found. Priests and men of medicine are the earliest recorded examples of barbers.

Barber shops first came into vogue in the Ancient Greek period. Men would have their beards, hair, and fingernails trimmed and styled in an agora, which also served as a social gathering where political, sports, and social news and gossip was exchanged.

Some Ancient Greek barbers were skilled artists and respected community members. Others were household slaves who were punished if they allowed a hair out of place.

Barbering was introduced to the Romans by the Greek colonies in Sicily in 296 B.C. After Publicus Ticinius Maenas, a wealthy Greek businessman, brought professional barbers from Sicily to Rome, barber shops quickly became very popular centres for daily news and gossip.

In Roman times all free men had to be clean shaven while slaves were forced to wear beards. 

Roman barbers dressed cuts with spiders’ webs soaked in vinegar.

Roman Barbers use thin-bladed iron razors, shaved a face with an iron novacila, or Roman razor, which were sharpened with water and a whetstone. They didn't always use soap or oil, which is probably why it takes so long to shave a patron's face.

A decree was issued in 1092 Britain by which the ecclesiastical authorities forbade monks to grow beards. As a result many surgeons also became "beard-cutters” or barbers.

In the Middle Ages barbers also performed as surgeons, a practice previously attended to by monks, priests, and other clergymen. The barber pole was introduced in Britain featuring red and white spiraling stripes, which indicated the two crafts (surgery in red and barbering in white).

Barbers received higher pay than surgeons until surgeons were entered into British war ships during naval wars.

In 1450, an Act of Parliament prohibited barbers from performing surgery.

Richard Arkwright, the inventor of the spinning frame initially started off as a barber. After the death of his first wife, Patience Holt, by whom he had a son, he married Margaret Biggins in 1761. Margaret had a small income, which enabled Arkwright to expand his barbering business. He acquired a secret method for dyeing hair and traveled about the country purchasing human hair for use in the manufacture of wigs.

In 1940s Mississippi there was a man called the Phantom Barber who would break into people's houses at night, and cut their hair. His prime target was young girls with blonde hair.

Apprentice barbers in Copenhagen staged the longest strike in history from 1938 to 1961. 


Danny DeVito is a qualified hairdresser.

It is illegal in Elkhart, Indiana, for a barber to threaten to cut off a youngster's ears.

Barbers are not allowed to eat onions between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. in Waterloo, Nebraska.

Forest Grove, Oregon, is home to the world’s tallest barber pole. Built in 1973, the red, white, and blue striped pole is 72 feet high.

Source Daily Express

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Barbed Wire

Ironmonger Lucien Smith of Kent, Ohio patented the first artificial thorn hedge on June 25, 1867. It is better known today as barbed wire.

Joseph Farwell Glidden, a DeKalb, Illinois Farmer was the first to invent a method for mass manufacturing of barbed wire. It was cheap to produce and easy to put up and Glidden made a fortune as miles of his wire criss-crossed American farms. It was the beginning of the end of open range in the west.

In 1876 commercial production was 1,500 tons and by 1900 annual barbed wire production had reached 200,000 tons. By 1910 wooden fences had almost disappeared.

Barbed wire was used for military purpose the first time in the Spanish-American War during the siege of Santiago by the Spanish defenders.

Horses panic easily, and once caught in barbed wire, large patches of skin may be torn off. For this reason barbed wire was the single most important factor in rendering the U.S. Cavalry ineffective and led to the Cavalry's eventual dismantling.

Barbed wire was used extensively by all participating combatants in World War I to prevent movement, with deadly consequences. Barbed wire entanglements were placed in front of trenches to prevent direct charges on men below, increasingly leading to greater use of more advanced weapons such as high powered machine guns and grenades.

The Devil’s Rope Museum in Texas is a museum of barbed wire, housed in an old brassiere factory.

The Kansas Barbed Wire Museum has 2,000 varieties of barbed wire

Source, Wikipedia


The first barbecuers may well have been prehistoric cavemen. Anthropologists say they may have started roasting meat some 1.4 million years ago.

The word “barbecue” first appeared in print in 1653. It comes from a word Arawak Indians in Haiti use who smoke strips of meat over an open fire on a grating of wood called a “berbekot”.

The word barbecue took on in America the meaning of meat cooked on an apparatus in the open air over a fire and the social gathering incorporating such cooking by the 1730s.

Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th president of the United States, hosted the first barbecue at the White House that featured Texas-style barbecued ribs

Lexington, North Carolina is known as the Barbecue Capital of the World. October is Barbecue Month there, with a month-long Annual Barbecue Festival.

The most popular foods for cooking on the grill are, in order: burgers (85 percent), steak (80 percent), hot dogs (79 percent) and chicken (73 percent).

THE average barbecue grill has 124 % more germs on it than a lavatory seat and is cleaned only twice a year.

3 out of 4 American households own a grill and they use it on average of 5 times per month

Sources Grilling Facts and Trivia, Food For Thought; Extraordinary Little Chronicles of the World by Ed Pearce,

Saint Barbara

Saint Barbara (d235) of Nicomedia, Turkey, spent her youth on her own in a tower, especially built for her by her father to protect her from the world. She converted to Christianity, against the will of her father and rejected an offer of marriage that she received through him. After attempts to un-convert proved unsuccessful, Barbara’s father struck off her head. Immediately he was struck by lightning and his body was consumed. As a result Barbara was made the patron saint of artillery.


An Island country in the Caribbean, Barbados is about 300 miles north of Venezuela

Barbados was originally inhabited by Arawak Indians, who were wiped out soon after the arrival of the first Europeans, the Portuguese, in the early 17th century.

When first settled in 1625, Barbados was found to be almost totally covered in dense jungle, with a very large population of wild pigs.

Barbados became a British colony in 1627 and remained so until independence on November 30, 1966.

The island's first and second Governors, Captain William Deane, and John Powell, respectively, were each arrested during their terms as Governor, and returned to England in irons.
Barbados has experienced 12 Hurricanes and 15 Gales of sufficient force to cause extensive damage, recorded from Settlement in 1625 until now.
The first settlement in Barbados, Holetown, acquired its name due to the off loading and cleaning of ships in the very small channel located within the immediate vicinity of the town. These tasks left the area in an untidy and smelly condition....thus the Jamestown area became referred to as "the Hole", which evolved into "Holetown", as it known today. (This channel is no longer in use for such purposes).

The Capital city, Bridgetown, was originally named "Indian Bridge" for the rude bridge which had been constructed over the river (now known as the Careenage) by the Indians. It was later called the "town of St. Michael" in official documents, before finally being named Bridgetown when a new bridge was built in place of the Indian Bridge, sometime after 1654.
The House of Assembly, in 1666, by special Act, ordered that all buildings under construction of wood be halted, and that all buildings in Bridgetown, including homes, must be built of stone, due to the fire which totally destroyed Bridgetown in that year. The Capital has since been devastated by fire several times.
The first slaves in Barbados were white (called Indentured Servants); people who, for various reasons, had been deemed enemies of the Crown. This practice was so prevalent during the period 1640 to 1650, that a phrase for punishment was coined "to be Barbadoed".

In 1688 fearing that slaves would use them to organize revolts, colonial officials in Barbados ban slave dances and the use of drums and horns

In 1736 Barbados boasted 22 Forts and 26 Batteries, mounting a total of 463 Cannon, along it's 21 miles of Western shoreline.

George Washington caught smallpox during a trip to Barbados in 1760. As a result he was permanently scarred.

The Lord Nelson Statue, erected on Bridgetown's Trafalgar Square on March 22, 1813, is older than the statue and square of the same name and fame in London.

Lord Nelson's statue in Barbados, West Indies, November 2000 

Trafalgar Square was renamed National Heroes Square in April 1999, in honor of the national heroes of Barbados.

On April 13, 1816: Bussa led a rebellion from British-ruled slavery, becoming the first national hero of Barbados.

During the period 1841 - 1845, Barbados was considered the healthiest place in the world to live, having one death per 66 people, compared to world averages of approximately one death per 35 people.
People, in times past, traveled from all over the world to Barbados for it's Healing Qualities. These were to be immersed totally, with the exception of the head, in the sands of the beaches of Cattlewash in St. Andrew. This treatment was believed to cure many ills and lasted for some years before waning.
Barbados had on record, in 1846, 491 active Sugar Plantations, with 506 windmills.

The national flag of Barbados was officially adopted on November 30, 1966, the island's first Independence Day,  when it was raised for the first time by Lieutenant Hartley Dottin of the Barbados Regiment.

South Carolina, in the USA, was originally settled by Barbadians, and it's first Governor was a Barbadian.

Barbados' highest point is Mount Hillaby, which isn't much of a Mount as such, "rising" to 1,120ft (340m) roughly at the heart of the country.

Sources, Hutchinson Encyclopedia © RM 2012. Helicon Publishing is division of RM.


Baptists originated among early 17th century English Dissenters led by a preacher from Gainsborough called John Smyth. These “Baptists” were Christians who had rejected the Church of England and Catholic Church but couldn't accept orthodox Calvinism. They advocated adult baptism, as they couldn't understand how a baby can appreciate the importance of infant baptism.

Due to persecution in England the early Baptists were forced to emigrate to Amsterdam. John Smyth and fellow English Non-Conformist, Thomas Helwys, founded there the first official Baptist church 1809.

The first English Baptist church was built at Spitalsfield, London by Thomas Helwys and a small group of fellow Christians in Newgate in 1612.

The first American Baptist church was established at Providence, Rhode Island, in 1612 when Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island, was baptized before proceeding to baptize eleven others.

The very first package tour was organised by an English Baptist minister named Thomas Cook who on the July 5, 1841, for a return fare of 1 shilling, took a party of 570 people from Leicester to a temperance rally 11 miles away at Loughborough. He subsequently organised other package tours as part of his fight against the demon drink.

Of the world total of approximately 31 million Baptists, some 26.5 million are in the USA .

According to the 2005 English Church Census 8% of regular churchgoers in England are Baptists. There 2,386 Baptist churches with an average congregation of 107.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

The First Adult Baptism Of The Reformation

In 1523 the Zurich reformed Christians Conrad Grebel (d1526) and theologian Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531) divided over the issue of whether Mass should be abolished or not. Two years later Zwingli, who had began to reform Zurich by working with the city council, officially severed ties with Grebel and his fellow radicals over the issue of infant baptism. When the council, ordered that any unbaptized infants must be submitted for baptism within eight days, Grebel stood his ground, refusing for his recently born child, Issabella, to be baptized.

Seven days later, at a meeting of those who sided with Grebel, George Blaurock, a married former priest, stepped over to Conrad Grebel and asked him for baptism in the same way as the early church-fully immersed upon confession of personal faith in Jesus Christ. Blaurock was baptized on the spot, the first adult baptism of the Reformation. Afterwards on this historic snowy January evening the former priest proceeded to baptize the others present. Grebel, who died of the plague the following year is often called the ‘Father of Anabaptists’.


Baptism is the immersion in or sprinkling with water as a religious rite of initiation. It was practiced long before the beginning of Christianity.

St Augustine laid the foundations for infant baptism. He taught that people are born with an affinity for sin and as descendants of Adam and Eve share in the guilt of original sin. Therefore infant baptism was important.

The Swiss Anabaptist Movement was founded on January 21, 1525 when Conrad Grebel, Felix Manz, George Blaurock, and about a dozen others baptized each other in the home of Manz's mother in Zürich, breaking a thousand-year tradition of church-state union.

The early Anabaptists were often drowned by their persecutors as the authorities reckoned if they wanted to be fully immersed- let them! King Ferdinand declared drowning (called the third baptism) "the best antidote to Anabaptism".

Print from Anglican theologian Daniel Featley's book, "The Dippers Dipt, or, The Anabaptists Duck'd and Plung'd Over Head and Ears, at a Disputation in Southwark", published in 1645.

The phrase "in limbo" comes from the belief that unbaptized infants were deemed unable to go to heaven or hell (as they have not committed a sin).

A Swedish pastor was electrocuted as he stood in a pool of water for a baptism ceremony when one of his assistants handed him a live microphone.

The priest at young Boris Yeltsen’s christening was so drunk that he dropped baby Boris into the font then forgot he was there.

When the one-month-old Prince Charles was baptized by the Archbishop of Canterbury at Buckingham Palace, the water used was from the River Jordan.

Here is a list of songs about baptisms


Remains of the oldest known banquet were found in a cave in Israel in 2010. The feast dating back to around 10,000 BC, included 71 tortoises roasted in their shells. Archaeologists believe they were eaten during the funeral of an elderly woman of status.

Food and drink had a special importance for the ancient Greeks. Hospitality was a much valued virtue, when the head of the house was entertaining, female slaves ground the corn and prepared the food. The host then cooked the meal sometimes with the help of friends. Any visiting stranger was seated in the best place and it was customary to offer him, before the meal, a bath or foot wash.

Ancient Greek men liked to attend banquets called symposia, a continuation of dinner in which cheeses, fresh and dried fruit, salted cakes and yoghurt in honey were served.

The Greeks believed that mealtime offered an opportunity to nourish the spirit as well as the body. They reclined on couches while eating with poetry, lyre playing and dancing in the background.

After defeating Pompey and his sons Julius Caesar was awarded a ten-year dictatorship. To celebrate his victory over his rival, Caesar gave a banquet at which 150,000 guests were seated at 22,000 tables. It lasted for two days.

The Egyptian Queen. Cleopatra, once gave a lavish banquet for Mark Antony at Alexandra. The Roman expressed his surprise at the outlay involved. Cleopatra, to impress him further, took a pearl eardrop and dissolved it in vinegar to prove she could consume a fortune in a single meal.

Before eating at a Roman aristocrat’s banquet, the guests changed their clothes putting on a woollen tunic provided for this purpose. The dishes were presented first to the master of the house, accompanied by music and a servant executing a dance step. Meanwhile the guests, both men and women, ate reclining.

Roman banquets were livened up by performances by acrobats, dancers, flute players and theatrical performances. Knives and spoons were only occasionally used, most people ate with their fingers despite the prevalence of sticky sauces.

Banquets for the Roman gentry could be bloody affairs. A cook who dished up under-done meat would be stripped and beaten.

Wealthy Roman aristocrats used ice mixed with seaweed to keep fresh fish (they transported ice from the mountains near Rome) along with salt. They then staged lavish banquets where as many as a hundred types of fish could be served.

When a Roman aristocrat had eaten his fill at a banquet, he would get a slave to dangle a feather down his throat so that he could be sick and make room for more food.

Belching at the table was a sign of politeness at Roman banquets.

In 115 BC, the Roman senate tried to ban the eating of dormice, oysters and imported birds at banquets — in an attempt to curb the excessive lifestyles of the upper classes.

In his golden palace Nero possessed a spectacular dining room in which there was a revolving ceiling which turns day and night, in time with the sky. He had pipes installed under banquet plates to allow his guests to be spitzed with rose scent between courses.

In medieval Japan, it was considered a major social faux pas to eat the food served at banquets, Instead, the diner was expected to just look and appreciate its beauty before cramming as much as you could into their sleeves or pockets to eat later.

After returning to Venice with his father and uncle after 25 years of adventures in China, Marco Polo’s relatives have failed to recognise the strangely clad, ragged folk in their tartar crimson satin robes, who told wild tales about numerous jewels and treasures. So the Polos invited them to a banquet. They entered dressed in their satin robes, before discarding them for damask then for velvet. Finally they slit open their garments and out fell precious Chinese stones, which they presented to their guests.

During the Hundred Years War, Edward the Black Prince was relaxing with his lords when the captured John the Good, the French king, was brought in. He politely invited the French regal prisoner into his tent where they discussed the current state of the battle at Poitiers over a few vessels of wine. Edward then entertained John and some of his leading men at a banquet, the Prince personally served his royal foe at his table, before the French king was sent off to London.

Anne Boleyn had a rather off-putting habit, first observed during her coronation banquet, of vomiting during meals. So one of her ladies in waiting had to hold up a sheet to shield her from other diners at appropriate moments.

The Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe died in 1601, several days after his bladder burst during a banquet. It has been said that to leave the banquet before it concluded, would be "the height" of bad manners, and so he remained until his bladder exploded.

At a state banquet hosted by Charles 1st of England, his French chef, Gerald Tirsain, has developed a delicious new variation of flavoured snow. Milk, cream and eggs had been added to make it much creamier and sweeter than any other iced dessert The guests were delighted, as was Charles who summoned the cook, and had him promise to keep the recipe for his frozen cream secret. The King wanted the delicacy only at the Royal Table and offered him £500 a year to keep it that way.

It wasn’t until the 1670s that the fork began to achieve general popularity as an eating implement. Before then at European banquets hands were still being used to serve much of the food, even though the servants were only using their fingertips.

Peter the Great the Emperor of all Russia, ate simple food and had lousy table manners, regularly trampling across the banquet table, treading on dishes and cutlery with his unwashed feet. However he laid on lavish banquets, modelled on the splendour of Versailles. He preferred to be seated near the door so he could slip away early.

The largest banquet in history was in around 1730 when King August II fed some 30,000 people at a military feast in Radewitz, Poland.

The drink of champagne was made popular by a magnificent banquet thrown by the Marquis of Sillery in France in the middle of the eighteenth century. Once his party had got going, some girls dressed as ancient Greeks celebrating Bacchus, the Greek god of wine, appeared on the floor carrying flower-wreathed bottles of the new drink. The corks were popped and the fizzy wine was poured into unusually large glasses especially made for the occasion.

George IV's coronation banquet in Westminster Hall on July 19, 1821 was perhaps history's most lavish meal, costing the equivalent of £20 million. Turtle soup was followed by salmon, turbot, and trout, venison and veal, mutton and beef, braised ham and savory pies, daubed geese and braced capon, lobster and crayfish, cold roast fowl and cold lamb, potatoes, peas and cauliflower. There were over 1,000 sides dishes, nearly 500 sauce boats brimming with lobster sauce, butter sauce and mint. Peers lobbed whole chickens up to their famished families who were gathered above.

George IV coronation banquet

Queen Victoria was a famously fast eater, often getting through seven courses - 50 dishes - in less than half an hour, which meant many of the guests at a banquet barely  got a mouth full.

Mark Twain once quipped "A banquet is probably the most fatiguing thing in the world except ditch digging. It is the insanest of all recreations.”

When he was Papal Nunco to France, the future Pope John XXIII was invited to a banquet. His dinner partner wore an extremely low cut dress, which the prelate affected not to notice. During the meal when dessert was offered however, he selected an apple & offered it to the lady. She refused…he urged “please take it madam. It was only after Eve ate the apple that she became aware of how little she had on.”

When a US President eats at a foreign state banquet, his food is actually prepared and served by White House stewards, who call the hosts ahead of time to find out what everyone will be having.

Sources Radio TimesSource Food For Thought: Extraordinary Little Chronicles of the World by Ed Pearce

Battle of Bannockburn

The Battle Of Bannockburn was fought on June 23-24 1314 at Bannockburn, Scotland, between Robert (I) the Bruce, King of Scotland, and Edward II of England.

Edward II, attempting to relieve Stirling Castle, led over 2,000 knights and 15,000 foot soldiers, including about 5,000 archers. Bruce had only 500 light cavalry and some 7,000 foot soldiers.

After an English attack was repulsed, Edward's forces made a night march to outflank the obstacles. This manoeuvre was badly executed, leaving Edward's knights in boggy ground and the archers out of position in the rear. Bruce blocked the English advance with schiltrons (tightly packed formations) of pikemen, then, as the archers tried to deploy, charged with his cavalry and routed them.

This depiction from the Scotichronicon (c.1440) is the earliest known image of the battle

The victorious Bruce attributed his success to the relic of the Scottish Saint, St. Fillan, which he took into battle. He declared it was the Saint’s intercession that gave him victory.

Robert Burn's "Scots Wae Nae" was inspired by Bruce's marching song "Hey Tutti Taitie" which was sung by his troops during Bannockburn.

The defeat of the English led to the independence of Scotland.

Source Hutchinson Encyclopedia © RM 2012. Helicon Publishing is division of RM.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Joseph Banks

Sir Joseph Banks  (1743-1820) was wealthy and able to indulge his interest in science; he was a passionate and skilful botanist and this took him on several major expeditions at his own expense.

In 1768 Banks learnt had learned that the British explorer James Cook planned to sail to the south Pacific in the Endeavour to observe the transit of Venus and to seek evidence of the postulated Terra Australis Incognita or "unknown southern land". He joined the expedition, which lasted 3 years, with his staff of eight, and returned with a large collection of new specimens to find himself a celebrity.

The voyage was the first to be organised and equipped for biological work, even though the Government's secret plan was political - to secure a territorial advantage over the French.

On board the Endeavour there were 17 sheep, 4 South sea Hogs, an English boar, its sow and a litter of piglets.

Banks' collection and classification of biological specimens as a member of the expedition helped establish botany as an academic discipline.

Banks was the first European to report a description of a kangaroo.

He brought back 1300 new plant species and is credited with the introduction to the Western world of eucalyptus, acacia, mimosa and the genus named after him, Banksia.

It was Banks who suggested the idea that Botany Bay in Australia would form a suitable penal settlement.

Banks did much to establish the Botanic Garden at Kew, which he planned as a major collecting centre and source of advice on all aspects of plants.

Source Europress Family Encyclopedia 1999.

Bank Robber

The first bank robbery in United States history took place during the night of Saturday, August 31 or the morning hours of Sunday, September 1, 1798. An enormous sum of $162,821 was stolen from vaults of the Bank of Pennsylvania at Carpenters' Hall in Philadelphia. The robber was Isaac Davis, a member of the Carpenters' Company. Davis and a partner, who died of yellow fever within days of the robbery. Confronted with questions about his sudden wealth, Davis was promised a pardon in return for full disclosure and full restitution. He apparently never served a day in prison

Edward Smith was the first indicted bank robber in the U.S. On March 19, 1831, Smith stole $245,000 from the City Bank of New York, using a set of copied keys. He spent $60,000 before he was caught and sentenced to five years hard labor on the rock pile at Sing Sing Prison.

The Tiflis bank robbery was an armed robbery of a bank stagecoach on June  26, 1907 in the city of Tiflis (now Georgia's capital, Tbilisi). The robbery was organized by a number of top-level Bolsheviks, including Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin, and executed by a party of revolutionaries led by Stalin's early associate Ter-Petrosian (Kamo). The robbers attacked a bank stagecoach and surrounding police and military using bombs and guns while the stagecoach was transporting money through Yerevan Square (now Freedom Square) between the post office and the Tiflis branch of the State Bank of the Russian Empire. They escaped with 341,000 rubles (equivalent to around $3.86 million in 2017).

The first armed robbery using a "getaway car" took place in Paris on December 21, 1911 when four members of the Bonnot Gang used a Delaunay-Belleville automobile they had stolen a week before to escape after robbing a courier who was bringing cash to the Société Générale Bank. They got booty equal to 5,126 francs, but the rest of it was composed of securities.

The first robbery by Bonnot's Gang on December 21, 1911

Bank robber John Wojtowicz plotted some of his robbery based on scenes in  the 1972 Al Pacino-starring movie, The Godfather. Al Pacino later went on to play Wojtowicz in the 1975 film  Dog Day Afternoon based on the robbery.

On January 22, 1976, a guerrilla force blasted into the vaults of the British Bank of the Middle East in Bab Idriss, cleaning out the contents of the safe deposit. The boxes of cash and other valuables were estimated by former finance minister Lucien Dahdah at $50 million. It was the single most lucrative bank robbery in history, occurring during the worst civil unrest period ever in Beirut, Lebanon.

Jonathan Hensleigh, the writer of the 1995 movie Die Hard With a Vengeance, was interrogated by the FBI over his screenplay. The plot Hensleigh devised to rob the bank was so plausible, the FBI wanted to know where he got his information.

In 1995 a bank robber in Florida was asked to wait while the cash he demanded was brought. He waited 20 minutes to find police waiting outside.

The largest ever bank robbery involved thieves digging a 256 foot-long tunnel 13 foot below street level, which ended directly underneath the Banco Central in Fortaleza, Brazil, on August 6, 2005. The thieves seized 3.5 tons of bank notes worth about R$ 160 million. In the aftermath of the burglary, of the 25 persons thought to be involved, just eight had been arrested, and about R$20 million recovered.

Andre Stander, a South African policeman and criminal, robbed banks on his lunch break and often returned as the investigating officer.

The world's oldest convicted bank robber is J.L. Hunter Rountree. At the age of 91 he stole $1,999 (£1,243) from a Texas bank. He was sentenced to 151 months and died in prison a year later.

"Sutton's Law", which states "that when diagnosing, one should consider the obvious" is named after the famous American bank robber, Willie Sutton. When Sutton was asked "Why do you rob banks?" he replied, "Because that’s where the money is."

A man tried to rob two banks after covering his face with lemon juice in the mistaken belief that, because lemon juice is usable as invisible ink, it would prevent his face from being recorded on surveillance cameras.

A bank robbery that takes place out of office hours is classed as a mere burglary in the UK.

Every day, 20 banks are robbed and an average of $2,500 is taken.

Half of all bank robberies take place on a Friday.

The most common time for a bank robbery is Friday, between 9 and 11 a.m. The least likely time is Wednesday, between 3 and 6 p.m.

Sources US History,

Bank Note


Development of the banknote began with the Chinese T'ang Dynasty of (618-907AD) with local issues of paper currency, but it wasn't until 1661 that a bank (Stockholms Banco of Sweden) issued banknotes.

By 960 the Song Dynasty, short of copper for striking coins, issued the first generally circulating paper money.

A Yuan dynasty printing plate and banknote with Chinese and Mongol words.

One of the oddities which struck Marco Polo most forcibly during his travels in the Far East was the use of bank notes. The Italian gave a fascinating description of government officials stamping the notes with a cinnabar seal.

The term "bank note" comes from the notes of the bank ("nota di banco") and dates from the 14th century.

The first banknotes in Europe were issued by the Swedish bank Stockholms Banco.on July 15, 1661.These banknotes became popular very quickly simply as they were much easier to carry than the large copper daler, especially for making large payments (a note could be sent in an envelope - previously the large coins had to be transported by horse and cart).

The first paper money in Europe, issued by the Stockholms Banco 

The colony of Massachusetts issued the first paper money in America on February 3, 1690. It was a temporary experiment of banknote issue carried out by Sir William Phips as the Governor of the Province of Massachusetts Bay to help fund the war effort against France.

The Bank of England issued the first one-pound and two-pound banknotes on March 2, 1797. They were introduced after a series of runs on the bank caused by the French Revolutionary War drained its bullion reserves and forced it to use paper instead.

Joseph Bramah (1748-1814) was a very prolific inventor, best known for coming up with the hydraulic press. In 1806 he invented a machine for printing bank-notes with sequential serial numbers.

Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) was concerned about a proposal by Robert Peel's government banning the circulation of all notes below £5 in Scotland, (a law had recently been passed banning them in England), which would have meant the disappearance of the much loved Scottish £1 note. So he wrote a series of letters, called the letters of Malachi Malagrowther, which were published in the Edinburgh Weekly News in 1826, that stressed the importance of Scottish banknotes as part of the Scottish financial system and as an example of Scottish identity. Sir Walter generated such a furore that the government was forced to back down and to this day portraits of him appear on the front of all notes issued by the Bank of Scotland.

Andrew Jackson, who appears on the U.S. twenty-dollar bill, was hugely opposed to paper money.

The Green Ink used in American currency was invented by a Canadian in 1857. Using chromium trioxide, it is difficult to reproduce by counterfeiters and cannot be destroyed by acid.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury first issued paper U.S. currency on March 10, 1862 to make up for the shortage of coins and to finance the U.S. Civil War.  The denominations available were $5, $10, $20, $50, $100, $500, and $1,000.

By the end of the U.S. Civil War, 33 percent of all U.S. paper currency in circulation was counterfeit. This was a devastating situation for a nation struggling to recover economically from such a destructive war. On July 5, 1865, the Secret Service was created as a part of the Department of the Treasury to help suppress counterfeit currency.

The 1896 silver certificate series of American banknotes, also known as the Educational Series (see below), depicted various allegorical motifs and are considered by some numismatists to be the most beautiful monetary designs ever produced by the United States. They were redeemable for their face value of silver dollar coins.

This $2 banknote features the motif Science presenting steam and electricity to Commerce and Manufacture, designed by Edwin H. Blashfield, on its obverse. On the reverse are portraits of Robert Fulton and Samuel Morse. Wiki commons
The phrase "In God we trust" was first used on US paper money in 1957, when it appeared on the one-dollar silver certificate. The first paper currency bearing the phrase entered circulation on October 1, 1957.

The world's largest paper banknote, the 100,000 Peso, issued by the Philippines treasury in 1998  to celebrate the centenary of the country's independence from Spain, has an area of 119 square inches.


Paper money is not made from wood pulp but from cotton. This means that it will not disintegrate as fast if it is put in the laundry

Dollar bills are made of 75% cotton, and 25% linen.

American dollar bills are nicknamed greenbacks after the notes Abraham Lincoln had printed to finance the Civil War - black on the front and green on the back.

Massachusetts-based paper company Crane & Co. has been producing the paper for all the American notes since 1879. Founder Stephan Crane was making paper long before the American Revolution.

Only four women have appeared on British banknotes: Queen Elizabeth II, Florence Nightingale, prison reformer Elizabeth Fry and the symbol of the country's national identity, Britannia.

Martha Washington in the only woman whose portrait has ever appeared on a US currency note. Her portrait was on the face of the $1 silver certificate issues of 1886 and 1891, and on the back of the $1 silver certificate of 1896.

In 1932, when a shortage of cash occurred in Tenino, USA, notes were made out of wood for a brief period. They came in $1, $5 and $10 values.

Five people have been depicted on U.S. currency during their lifetime. Abraham Lincoln was portrayed on the 1861 $10 Demand Note; Salmon Chase, Lincoln's Secretary of the Treasury, approved his own portrait for the 1862 $1 Legal Tender Note; Winfield Scott was depicted on Interest Bearing Notes during the early 1860s; and Francis Spinner and Spencer Clark both approved the use of their own image on fractional currency.

The Tower of Independence clock on the back of a U.S. $100 dollar bill shows the time as 4:10.

A U.S. dollar bill is .0043 inches thick. It takes 233 dollar bills to make a stack one inch high.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank, the $100 bill has an average life span of 15 years,  the $1 bill lasts an average of 5.9 years, the $5 bill averages 4.9 years of use, the $10 bill gets 4.2 years, the $20 bill lasts 7.7 years and the $50 stays strong for about 3.7 years.

A ripped dollar bill still has its face value, as long as the remaining piece is larger than half.

The words 'United States of America ' appear 12 times on every US bank note.

An estimated two-thirds of all US $100 bills are held outside the US.

On a Canadian two dollar bill, the flag flying over the Parliament building is an American flag.

Canada had to alter their $5 note to make Wilfrid Laurier look less like Spock, the Star Trek character portrayed by Leonard Nimoy.

An example of "Spocking" using a portrait of Laurier from 1907, a similar portrait to the one used on the Canadian $5-bill.

The printing of British £1,000 notes was discontinued in 1943.

The ten-shilling note was officially withdrawn by the Bank of England in 1970.

Traces of cocaine were found on 99% of UK bank notes in a survey in London in 2000.

The reason the portrait of Winston Churchill looks grumpy on the £5 note, is because the photographer had just snatched the cigar out of Churchill's mouth.

When euro notes were issued in 2002, tests in Germany showed that they could survive being washed and spun dry but ironing ruined them.

If you cut an Australian bank note in half, each of those halves are legal tender worth half the face value of the note.

To be legal, prop money for films must be one-sided and less than 75% or more than 150% of the size of a real banknote.

A flu virus can survive on most surfaces for only 48 hours, but can live on a bank-note for 17 days.

A notaphile collects bank notes.


Thursday, 9 February 2012

Bank Holiday

In 1871 The House of Commons passed the Bank Holiday Act, creating public holidays. The Act designated four Bank Holidays in England and Wales (Easter Monday, Whit Monday, First Monday in August and Boxing Day plus St Stephen's Day in Ireland. 

These first Bank Holidays were brought in thanks to Liberal MP and banker Sir John Lubbock. People were so grateful they dubbed them St Lubbock’s Days.

The first Monday of September is when Labour Day is celebrated as a salute to working men and women across the country. Its origins go back to 1884 when the Knights of Labour held a big parade in New York City and passed a resolution to hold future parades, always on the first Monday in September. It spread and was celebrated in many areas and in many states. Ten years later, U.S. President Grover Cleveland signed an act of Congress, making Labour Day a federal holiday in the U.S.

Columbus Day only became an official American Holiday in 1937. It happened because The Knights of Columbus, an influential male-only Catholic organization, wanted a strong Catholic role model for their children to be dignified by the government. After intense lobbying by the Knights, President Franklin Roosevelt and Congress declared Columbus Day a legal and federal holiday.

May Day was introduced in 1978 in the UK, when the first Monday in May and the final Monday of May in Scotland, were designated as bank holidays.

Argentina is the country with the most national holidays in the world, with a total of 19 days off.



The earliest known bank was the Egibi Bank of Neuchanezar in Babylon, which was established in 575BC.

The New Testament city of Ephesus was extraordinarily prosperous. Its tourist trade brought in so much revenue that included in the town was one of the world’s first banks.

In 1318 the Italian Lombard family were granted land in what is now Lombard Street, London.
The Lombards might lay claim to being the earliest bank in Britain, with their goldsmith/pawnbroking/moneylending business there.

Casa delle compere e dei banchi di San Giorgio (The Bank of Saint George) was founded in 1407 in Genoa to Italy to consolidate the public debt, which had been escalating due to the war with Venice for trading and financial dominance. It was the oldest chartered bank in Europe and of the world.

Christopher Columbus maintained accounts at the Casa delle compere e dei banchi di San Giorgio, as did Ferdinand and Isabella. Columbus stored his loot from his travels to the New World there.

Italy's Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, built in 1472 to give loans to the poor, is the longest running bank in the world.

Il Banco di Santo Spirito (The Bank of the Holy Spirit) was a bank founded by Pope Paul V on December 13, 1605. The Bank was the first national bank in Europe (as the bank of the Papal States).

Morris & Clayton was one of the earliest banks in Britain. The earliest surviving English cheque was drawn on this bank on February 16, 1659, for the sum of £400, handwritten in ink on paper, with a trace of sealing wax.

The earliest example of a national bank, established in some form of partnership with the state, was the Bank of Sweden, which was founded in 1668. Today its the world's oldest surviving bank. 

The Bank of England (see below) began its existence on July 27, 1694. It was created by Royal charter and capitalized by a public share subscription. In return for this privilege, the Bank loaned the Government £1.2 million at 8 per cent interest, plus an annual management fee of £4,000.

Banks in the City of London used to identify themselves with coats of arms for people who couldn't read.

Founded in Birmingham, England in 1765, the original symbol of  Lloyd's Bank was a beehive before the black horse was introduced in 1884.

The first American commercial bank, the Bank of North America, opened in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on January 7, 1782. It was thus the Nation's first de facto central bank.

By 1783, Congress and several states including Massachusetts enacted legislation, allowing Americans to pay taxes with Bank of North America certificates. Within three years, the Bank was considered a creditworthy institution. The Bank of North America was succeeded in its role as central bank by the First Bank of the United States in 1791.

The First National Bank of the United States in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

When shares in the bank were sold to the public, the Bank of North America became the country's first initial public offering.

The Bank of the United States was created by Alexander Hamilton, first Secretary of the Treasury, in 1791. Hamilton believed a central bank was necessary to stabilize and improve the nation's credit, and to improve handling of the financial business of the United States government under the newly enacted constitution. Modelled on the Bank of England, it had the power to issue notes and government bonds and thus to manage the national debt.

The Commercial Bank of Scotland was founded by John Pitcairn, Lord Cockburn and others on March 25, 1810 in response to public dissatisfaction with the three charter banks. In 1969, the bank merged with the Royal Bank of Scotland to become the largest clearing bank in Scotland.

Former headquarters on George Street, Edinburgh. By User:Jonathan Oldenbuck - Wikipedia Commons

The Bank of Savings in New York City, the first savings bank in the United States, took its maiden deposits on Saturday, July 3, 1819. It was housed in the Old Alms House, and the apartment the bank took cost them nothing, simply occasionally a share in the repair of the building.

The first bank to get a charter from the United States Congress was The National Bank of Philadelphia in 1863.

The Pennsylvania Trust Company, of Carlisle Pa. became the first American bank to offer a Christmas club account in 1909.

The first recorded use of a bank using a drive-up window teller was the Grand National Bank of St. Louis, Missouri in 1930. The drive-up teller allowed only deposits at that time.

The Bank of America was originally called the Bank of Italy until the founder, Amedeo Giannini, changed the name in 1930.

The United Kingdom's oldest investment banking institute, Barings Bank, collapsed in 1995 after a securities broker, Nick Leeson, lost $1.4 billion (£860 million) by speculating on the Singapore International Monetary Exchange using futures contracts. On December 1, 1995, Leeson pleaded guilty to fraud related to the losses that led to the collapse of the Bank.

The turn of the 21st century saw a big rise in telephone banking. In 2003 in the UK there were 33 million telephone bank accounts, 28 per cent of all personal accounts, compared with 18% five years previously.


Italy's Credem Bank takes Parmesan cheese as a security on loans. In 2009, an estimated $188 million-worth of cheese was stored there.

JP Morgan Chase now ranks as the largest company and bank in the world as of 2011.

The Banco de la Nación branch in Macusani, Peru, is the highest altitude bank branch in the world, It is located at 14,393 ft (4,387 metres) above sea level.

Egg Banking PLC is now the world's largest "pure" internet bank.

To open the vaults at the Bank of England you need a key which is three feet long.


The banjo is a four or five stringed plucked instrument with a long neck and circular drum-type sound box, which is usually associated with country, folk, Irish traditional music and bluegrass music.

It was originally a nine-stringed instrument with a gourd body and a wooden stick neck, which originated in Africa before making its way to America, where it has long been associated with the culture of Southern African Americans.

The first definitive description of an early banjo is from a 1687 journal entry by Sir Hans Sloane, an English physician visiting Jamaica, who called this Afro-Caribbean instrument a “strum strump.”

President Thomas Jefferson remarked on the skill of black slaves playing the instrument in the late 18th century, referring to it as a "banjar."

The banjo was popularised by the minstrel shows of the 19th century. Joel Walker Sweeney, an American minstrel performer from Virginia, was the first white man to play the banjo on stage. He replaced the gourd with the drum-like sound box and reduced the strings from nine to five.

William Boucher (1822-1899) was the earliest commercial manufacturer of banjos. The Smithsonian Institution has three of his banjos from the years 1845-7.

Sweeney's group, the American Virginia Minstrels, introduced the banjo to Britain in 1846, where they became very popular in music halls.

Here are some contemporary songs featuring the banjo.

Sources Songfacts, Oxford University Press


Bangladesh is bounded north, west, and east by India, southeast by Myanmar, and south by the Bay of Bengal. It name means ‘Bengal nation.’

Present-day Bangladesh was formed into the eastern province of Pakistan when India was partitioned 1947.

Substantially different in culture, language, and geography from Western Pakistan, East Pakistan resented their political and military dominance. A movement for political autonomy gained strength as a result of West Pakistan's indifference, when flooding killed 500,000 in East Pakistan in 1970.

The Bangladesh Liberation War began after the Pakistani military junta based in West Pakistan launched Operation Searchlight against the people of East Pakistan on the night of March 25, 1971. It pursued the systematic elimination of nationalist Bengali civilians, students, intelligentsia, religious minorities and armed personnel and resulted in the flight of 10 million East Pakistani refugees to India.

The violent crackdown by the Pakistan Army led to Awami League leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman declaring East Pakistan's independence as the state of Bangladesh the following day.

Over 200 of East Pakistan '​s intellectuals were executed by the Pakistan Army and their local allies on December 14, 1971. (The date is commemorated in Bangladesh as Martyred Intellectuals Day.)

Rayerbazar killing field photographed immediately after the war, showing dead bodies of intellectuals image courtesy: Rashid Talukdar, Wikipedia Commons

The West Pakistani forces in East Pakistan surrendered after India intervened on the secessionists' side.

East Pakistan renamed itself Bangladesh on January 11, 1972. The republic of Bangladesh was proclaimed and rapidly gained international recognition. The national flag (see below) was adopted officially six days later.

Since the early 1980s claims have been made that the majority of the drinking water in the country was contaminated by arsenic, as a result of the tubewells program established in 1972 by international aid agencies which was supposed to guarantee safe drinking water, but instead bored down to a subterranean layer of arsenic. It was estimated that, in 1998, 75 million people were at risk from arsenic poisoning.

Bangladesh is the most densely populated country in the world, with more than 2,600 people per sq mi. Only 15% of the people live in urban areas.

Bangladesh, about the same size as Iowa, has about 24 million more people than Russia, the world's largest country!

On April 29, 1991, a  cyclone hit Bangladesh, killing more than 135,000 people. It was one of the worst disasters of the 20th century.

Bangladesh was hit by 159 cyclones between 1885-2015. It receives roughly 40% of the impact of total storm surges in the world.

A damaged village in Bangladesh following the cyclone

75% of women have their first child by the age of 17 and close to 73% of girls in Bangladesh are married by age 18.

In Bangladesh, children as young as 15 can be jailed for cheating on their finals.

The national anthem of Bangladesh includes the lines: "The fragrance from your mango groves Makes me wild with joy."

Source Hutchinson Encyclopedia © RM 2012. Helicon Publishing is division of RM.

Monday, 6 February 2012


The city of Rattanakosin, now known internationally as Bangkok, was founded on the eastern bank of the Chao Phraya River by Phutthayotfa Chulalok (known as Rama I) on April 21, 1782. He set up his government there following the the destruction of Ayutthaya by Burmese invaders. Rama I fortified the city with a 4.4 mile wall with 15 forts and 63 gates.

The Emerald Buddha was installed on March 22, 1784 in its current location at the Wat Phra Kaew on the grounds of the Grand Palace in Bangkok. The figurine is of the meditating Buddha seated in yogic posture. It is made of a semi-precious green stone (jade or jasper rather than emerald), clothed in gold and is considered the palladium of the Kingdom of Thailand.

Emerald Buddha, in the winter season attire

Life in the city was for long founded on the canals, or klongs, which provided valuable defenses as well as means of transport, and Bangkok was known as the ‘Venice of the East’.

View of 19th-century Bangkok with the Golden Mount in the background.
Up till the mid-19th century, the primary means of transport in Bangkok (and Siam in general) was by boat. This began to change as the country opened up to Western ideas and influences, and underwent modernization during the reign of King Mongkut (Rama IV, r. 1851–1868) On August 19, 1861, Western consuls, complaining of ill health due to a lack of roads in which they could travel by horse-drawn carriage, requested that the King build a new road on the east side of the river behind the consulates and businesses. As a result, Charoen Krung Road was built, the first in Thailand using modern construction methods. Construction of the road marked a major change in Bangkok's urban development, with the major mode of transport shifting from water to land. Charoen Krung Road was Bangkok's main street up to the early 20th century, but later declined in prominence.

Postcard of Charoen Krung Road, c. 1910s–1920s

In the later 19th century, under Rama V, trade was stimulated as the canals and most of the city wall were largely displaced by the building of a network of roads and bridges.

When the Allies bombarded Bangkok on January 24, 1942, this led Thailand, then under Japanese control, to declare war against the United States and United Kingdom.

Allied Bombing of Rama VI Bridge.

The hosting of the 13th Asian Games in 1998 brought about the construction of a large number of new roads, which helped to relieve traffic congestion in the city.

The correct name for the capital city of Thailand is actually Krung Thep ("city of angels"), and it's been this way for over 130 years. Foreigners persist on calling it Bangkok.

Bangkok's full ceremonial name, which came into use during the reign of King Mongkut, reads as follows:
Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit
The name, composed of Pali and Sanskrit root words, translates as:
City of angels, great city of immortals, magnificent city of the nine gems, seat of the king, city of royal palaces, home of gods incarnate, erected by Vishvakarman at Indra's behest.

The city's ceremonial name (partially visible) is displayed in front of the Bangkok City Hall. Photo by Hdamm Wikipedia Commons

Bangkok is sinking at a rate of 2 to 5 centimeters a year.

Bangkok is the world's hottest city according to the World Meteorological Organisation.

A tenth of Thailand’s entire population lives in Bangkok.

Bangkok is the most visited city in the world, with 21 million international visitors in 2016. As a result Thailand now earns ten per cent of its income from tourism.

Source Hutchinson Encyclopedia © RM 2012. Helicon Publishing is division of RM, The Sun.