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Przekrój
Our eternally pessimistic correspondent gives his historical highlights for the month of November.
2019-10-30 00:00:00

November in History
Diary of an Eternal Pessimist

November in History
November in History

November in history according to an eternal pessimist.

Read in 7 minutes

1st November 1520

The Portuguese sailor Ferdinand Magellan discovered a strait connecting the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, which was crucial for his expedition around the world. This doesn’t really matter, though, because Magellan never completed his ambitious journey. He died in the Philippines during a senseless clash with the local tribes.

2nd November 1898

On this day, the first real cheerleading performance was held, pioneered by the University of Minnesota. Except it wasn’t a group of fit young girls striking poses and shouting motivational catchphrases, but… six male students.

3rd November 1938

In Paris, 17-year-old Herschel Grynszpan’s parents showed him a letter from their family who lived in Eastern Europe. The boy learned that his family had been deported from the Third Reich to Poland. Outraged, Herschel bought a gun and shot a German diplomat in an act of vengeance. Unfortunately, the assassination became an excuse for Hitler to launch the Kristallnacht pogrom.

4th November 1967

In Moscow, the construction of the Ostankino Tower was completed. This television and radio tower, standing at 540 metres, was the tallest building in the world for seven years, until it was surpassed by a Polish radio tower in Konstantynów, taller by a staggering 100-odd metres! Not that impressive though, once you discover that the latter fell in 1991.

5th November 1906

Marie Curie gave her first lecture at Sorbonne. The audience was divided; some were genuinely interested in science, but many came just to see whether the first female professor in a male-dominated university could handle the pressure. A female scientist, what a wild idea!

6th November 1913

Mahatma Gandhi was arrested while leading 2000 Indian miners at a protest in South Africa. Despite this turn of events, his peace marches changed Africa, India and the whole world – to an extent that many wars have not.

7th November 1143

When hunting for a hare, the king of Jerusalem, Fulk the Younger, fell off his horse. Little did he know that soon he would also fall from his throne. King Fulk died three days after the unfortunate hunting trip, having failed to recover from his injuries.

8th November 1798

Captain John Fearn discovered the “pleasant little island” of Nauru. Today, this patch of land in the Pacific Ocean has the reputation of being the worst place to live in the world. Exploited by its former colonial masters, the island is a bankrupt nation, ecologically ruined at that. Its people suffer from diabetes in large numbers, and its detention camps for refugees who have been refused entry to Australia are a disgrace.

9th November 1572

The Dutch astronomer Tycho Brahe observed and documented the explosion of a supernova in the constellation Cassiopeia. Centuries later, we have learned that those cosmic fireworks came from a part of the universe 9000 lightyears away from Earth. That’s what I call a proper show.

10th November 1940

Walt Disney wanted to be a good American citizen, and so he started working with the FBI. In practice, he ended up informing on ‘disloyal’ colleagues with communist sympathies. And his nose kept growing and growing like Pinocchio’s, whose story Disney introduced to the silver screen that same year.

11th November 1807

Writing in the satirical magazine Salmagundi, author Washington Irving was the first to attach the name ‘Gotham’ to New York City. All we had to do was wait another 132 years for Batman to make his first appearance.

12th November 1990

The British programmer Tim Berners-Lee came up with an idea: he wanted to create a net of hypertext documents on the internet. He called it the World Wide Web. And to this day, the Web keeps trapping people with arachnoid efficiency.

13th November 1789

“In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,” wrote Benjamin Franklin in a letter. Such a wise politician and scientist he was, and yet he failed to include one more cosmic certainty: the monthly pessimistic diary on “Przekrój”’s website.

14th November 1996

The King of Pop Michael Jackson married Debbie Rowe, a nurse. The world turned upside down! Nothing strange about that, though – the union was made in Sydney, Australia.

15th November 1571

Kasper Goski, the mayor of Poznań and an amateur astrologist, was decorated by the Venetian Republic and received a lifelong pension. It wasn’t the end of this Polish doctor’s honours, though: in Padua, where he studied, a monument of his likeness was erected. Did Mr Goski discover some medical miracle? Nothing of the sort! It’s much simpler – in one of his astrological gibberish monologues, he predicted that in 1571, Christians would win a great battle against Muslims. And when it really happened (on 5th October in Lepanto), the astrologist became a star.

16th November 1632

During the Thirty Years' War, the Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus won a spectacular victory against the Habsburg armies in Lützen. Not that he got to enjoy it for long; a stray bullet found him anyway, killing the victorious king in battle.

17th November 3 BCE

While the date might sound confusing for some, it refers to the supposed occasion of Jesus Christ’s birth. At least, according to the calculations of the ancient theologist Clement of Alexandria. The Church, however, decided to go with a different date. Perhaps it’s time to switch back to the one suggested by Clement? At least then nobody would feel the need to complain about the lack of snow at Christmas.

18th November 1784

During his travels across Sicily, Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz bathed in the sea. What a lucky guy. Back in Poland, the only bath he could have hoped for in November would have been in sleet and puddles.

19th November 1969

Charles Conrad, captain of the Apollo 12 mission, became the third man to stand on the moon. And was it really worth the bother? It’s not like anyone remembers the name of the third selenonaut ever! Oh well, it could have been worse. Just after Conrad, the pilot of Apollo 12, Alan Bean, descended. Look at this guy; he didn’t even make it onto the podium.

20th November 1947

Queen Elizabeth II married Prince Phillip. Little did she know that her reign would last pretty much forever, and her family would become a source of endless tabloid fodder.

21st November 1871

In a circus in Paris, Emilio Onra becomes the first human cannonball. Every generation gets the Gagarin it deserves, it seems.

22nd November 1833

A group of Polish post-uprising immigrants is sent to the US from Trieste. They had been deported by Austria on the basis of its agreement with America. Funnily enough, back then not many people dreamed of starting a new life on the other side of the Atlantic; many of the passengers were already trying to escape by the time the ship had reached Gibraltar.

23rd November 1963

The TV series Doctor Who makes its debut in the UK. The show remains wildly popular to this day, and last Christmas the newest, 13th incarnation of the Doctor was revealed. And for the first time ever, the Doctor took on a female form.

24th November 1793

On this day, La Marseillaise became the national anthem of France. It was the time of the Revolution, so nobody seemed bothered about the amount of bloodshed happening in the lyrics. Compared to the French, the Polish anthem sounds like a kindergarten song.

25th November 1796

Soon after the death of his mother Empress Catherine II, the new Russian monarch Paul I Romanov held a coronation ceremony for… his father, Peter III. The man had been assassinated in a court conspiracy over 30 years earlier, but Paul did not care. Oh, the lengths a son will go to take it out on his wretched mother’s ghost…

26th November 1911

Paul Langevin, Marie Curie’s married lover, went for a gun duel with Gustave Téry, who had written an article attacking the couple. The men faced each other in the Bois de Vincennes, but neither of them pulled the trigger at the given signal. Was it really an honourable way to solve the conflict?

27th November 1633

The ceremonious procession of the Polish envoy Jerzy Ossoliński entered Rome, scattering horse hooves on its way to manifest the wealth of the Polish Republic. No wonder Poland ended up occupied a century and a half later. Shouldn’t have gotten rid of the lucky amulets so keenly…

28th November 1918

Polish women were among the first in Europe to get voting rights. And yet, a century later, real equality is still but a distant dream…

29th November 1972

Pong, one of the first video games ever, made its debut. It all started so innocently, with a little square ball…

30th November 1427

Casimir IV Jagiellon was born to Sophia of Halshany and Władysław Jagiełło, who was an elderly man by then. Was it really his child? Nobody ever proved that the queen committed adultery, but the long list of possible suspects was already quite an embarrassment.

 

Translated by Aga Zano

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