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“Przekrój” Magazine brings to the English reader some of the best journalism from across Central and Eastern Europe, in such fields as culture, society, ecology and literature. Stand aside from the haste and fierceness of everyday news and join us now!

Przekrój
Our eternally pessimistic correspondent gives his historical highlights for the month of July.
2019-07-01 13:00:00

July in History
Diary of an Eternal Pessimist

July in History
July in History

July in history according to an eternal pessimist.

Read in 7 minutes

1st July 2011

The mighty Arnold Schwarzenegger turned out not to be such a great husband, and so his wife Maria Shriver filed for divorce. The unfaithful Arnie got taken to the cleaners by his bitter Kennedy-clan wife.

2nd July 1505

A young law student, Martin Luther, was caught by a sudden storm near Erfurt. Thankful to the heavens for sparing him a tragic death by lightning, he solemnly swore to join a monastic order. It would be a stormy time for the Church.

3rd July 1922

Prompted by the famous Norwegian polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen, the League of Nations started issuing passports to refugees and stateless persons. Among those who benefited from his initiative were the composer Igor Stravinsky, the writer Vladimir Nabokov and the pilot Jadwiga Piłsudska-Jaraczewska (daughter of Marshall Piłsudski). Still a pressing issue, albeit an uncomfortable one.

4th July 1982

33-year old singer Ozzy Osbourne, also known as the frontman of Black Sabbath, entered matrimony. The bride, brave enough to live under one roof with the Antichrist incarnated, was Sharon Arden. Their partnership turned out to be stormy and toxic, but it continues to this day.

5th July 1994

Jeff Bezos started a company called Cadabra. This small online bookstore would morph into the global giant known as Amazon – named after the South American river. Little did he know that this river would soon flood the entire market.

6th July 1922

Cars in the newly-independent Poland finally lost their registration plates from the times of the Partitions. The government required all drivers to change them to new, Polish plates. The citizens, however, were in no rush to do so. An excess of laziness, or perhaps deficiency in patriotism?!

7th July 1550

Chocolate, a delicacy from Mexico, was brought to Europe for the first time, at least according to the traditionally-accepted timeline. Only scientists are still debating whether it’s good or bad for us.

8th July 1913

A miniature toy construction set for children, known as the Erector Set, was patented in the US. This educational toy, however, would find its way to the hearts of adults as well as children. It would help scientists to build… the first artificial heart. Hurry up, everyone, and start playing with toys for humanity!

9th July 1401

The Turko-Mongol emperor Timur conquered Baghdad. Tens of thousands of people died. Muslims started slaughtering Muslims – power and wealth became more valuable than any faith.

10th July 1040

Lady Godiva rode naked through the streets of Coventry in order to win a bet with her husband, making him lower the taxes he’d imposed upon the people of the town. Our modern taxing authorities wouldn’t take pity on us even if we were all left without two pennies to rub together.

11th July 1562

King Sigismund II Augustus struck an agreement with the European postal-service mogul Christoph von Taxis, establishing the Polish Post. It would take just a few years for the first scandal to erupt when citizens discovered that its services were unreliable and expensive. After five centuries, we can safely say that it is an institution with much respect for tradition.

12th July 1562

A Spanish bishop of Yucatan, Diego de Landa, gave the order to burn tens of thousands of Mayan manuscripts, sculptures and cult images. And then… he wrote a book on the very same culture. The audacity!

13th July 1923

The famous sign was installed on the hill overlooking Hollywood. The original sign was a bit longer than today – it said Hollywoodland and advertised a new local housing development. Only 25 years later, after the last four letters fell off, did the sign become the symbol of the entire showbiz district. That’s Hollywood for you – they can make anything glamorous, even garbage.

14th July 1789

Louis XVI wrote “Nothing” in his diary under this date. That’s because on this day he did not hunt anything, so, in his view, nothing worth mentioning had happened at all. The poor fellow! And the Bastille had just fallen, too…

15th July 1869

Frenchman Mège-Mouriès patented margarine. It was supposed to be just a cheap butter substitute for sailors and workers, and look how successful it became! It more than earned him his bread and butter, although doctors are not so happy about it.

16th July 1627

People from the Icelandic Vestmannaeyjar archipelago would have probably expected the Spanish Inquisition sooner than the attack of the Barbary pirates. Yet the impossible can happen when you least expect it. Over 200 Icelanders were kidnapped and dragged onto the pirate vessels to be sold at the slave market in Algiers.

17th July 1821

Spain sold Florida to the US. Apparently, there is such a thing as too many beaches.

18th July 1971

Pelé, the three-time winner of the FIFA World Cup, played his last match for the Brazilian team. Their fans were worried that without him, Brazil would struggle to win the cup again. Yet even in their darkest nightmares, they wouldn’t have expected to wait until 1994!

19th July 1814

Samuel Colt was born. There was no gun salute available to celebrate his birth, so he would have to start making revolvers himself.

20th July 1969

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin administered himself Holy Communion before heading out for his first Moon walk. What was meant to be a solemn and reflective moment became a galactic-scale controversy that continues to this day – about whether the conquering of space should allow displays of personal religious preferences or not.

21st July 1983

The record temperature of –89.2°C was registered at the Soviet research station Vostok in Antarctica. It was the lowest registered air temperature in history. Meanwhile, the Cold War was still going on between the world’s largest superpowers. Nobody knew if humanity would live long enough to keep the research going.

22nd July 1834

Adam Mickiewicz married Celina Szymanowska. It wouldn’t be a poetic romance at all. The couple would have some children, but Mickiewicz would throw himself into politics, and Celina would be consumed by Messianic madness.

23rd July 1904

The first rolled waffle-like pastry – also known as the ice-cream cone – was introduced at the St. Louis World’s Fair. If only it came with an endless supply of ice cream, too…

24th July 1978

Top Dog, a classic Polish movie by Feliks Falk, had its premiere. Years later, we find the sleazy social climbers a common breed, and not just in show business.

25th July 1984

The Soviet astronaut Svetlana Savitskaya became the first woman to perform a spacewalk. She was lucky to make it back. But not fortunate enough to outshine Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman to travel into space.

26th July 1376

The Masovian Prince Janusz I of Warsaw allowed the people of Warsaw to build a bathhouse and charge an admission fee. Being a seasoned politician, he negotiated a free pass for himself, though.

27th July 1866

After much effort, the connection between Europe and America was restored when the transatlantic telegraph cable was fixed. Nonetheless, the Old and New World still struggle to communicate to this day.

28th July 1540

Noblewoman Catherine Howard married the amorous king of England, Henry VIII, becoming his fifth wife. She probably dreamed of being the last. Big mistake: as soon as the King got cross with Catherine, she was swiftly executed.

29th July 1683

King John III Sobieski took his army to Vienna. What would have happened if he’d stayed in Kraków? Some say Austria would be under occupation a century later, instead of Poland. Others insist that this way both nations would have ended up broken…

30th July 1930

Uruguay beat Argentina in the first ever World Cup Final, winning 4–2. Not much of a champion, though – just 13 teams were competing, and no Polish eagles in sight…

31st July 1936

King Haakon VII of Norway opened the famous Troll’s Road. The road turns and twists in the most impressive way! Still, we’re sure internet trolls will find something they don’t like about it.

 

Translated by Aga Zano

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