History as It Happens: Snapshots from the Past

History Today, July 2008 | Go to article overview

History as It Happens: Snapshots from the Past


Earliest Caesar Found

A life-size bust of Julius Caesar found at Aries in southern France may be the earliest representation of the Roman ruler. The marble bust depicting an ageing Caesar dates to 46 BC and was found in the Rhone River by divers in October 2007. Other items found at the same time include a 1.8-metre marble statue of Neptune and a Hellenic satyr cast in bronze.

Einstein Letter

A private letter from Albert Einstein indicating his beliefs on religion has surfaced. The letter to philosopher Eric Gutkind is dated January 3rd, 1954, and was sold at Bloomsbury Auctions in London for 207,600 [pounds sterling]. In the note, written in German, Einstein states: 'The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish.' The physicist, who died the following year, continues: 'The Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people.'

Treasure Hunt

The Spanish government is suing an American company for salvaging treasure from a shipwreck, claiming it was the early 19th-century galleon Nuestra Senora de la Mercedes. The Mercedes was sunk in 1804 by Britain in the Atlantic off the Algarve; documents filed by the Spanish government with a court in Florida on May 8th state: 'The sinking of Mercedes was a pivotal event in Spanish and European history, and the site and its contents are the inalienable historical heritage and patrimony of Spain.' Odyssey Marine Exploration salvaged 17 tonnes of gold and silver coins (worth $500m) in May 2007, claiming the vessel lies in international waters at the site, named 'Black Swan'. The Spanish believe they are the rightful owners of the bullion but Odyssey argues: 'The Company does not believe there is sufficient evidence to conclusively prove that the site is indeed related to the Mercedes or any other ship ... there is no hull of a shipwreck at this site. What we have found to date is apparently a cargo from a shipwreck as opposed to an actual vessel.'

Historic Gunboat

HMS Handy, a 19th-century Royal Navy gunboat, could be lost after the scrapyard where she resides was sold for redevelopment. Built in Newcastle in 1882, she was renamed HMS Excellent and saw action in the First World War on the Belgian coast. After another name change in April i922, Demon was used by the Dover Harbour Board as a floating crane and sold in the 1970s to a scrapyard in Portsmouth which is now due for redevelopment. Campaigners hope to secure a location for the gunboat and restore her. See the Demon on www.nationalhistoricships.org.uk or email savethehandy@hotmail.com.

Ripper Parallels

A new Jack the Ripper exhibition in the Museum of Docklands, London, highlights the similarities with women involved in prostitution today. 'Jack the Ripper and the East End' explores the notorious Whitechapel murders and features a 'talking head' exhibit from an East London charity working to improve the lives of women involved in prostitution. …

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