International History Blogfest for 5th April

"A master who led German art with courage and lofty idealism, in the right direction, and preserved it from harm".
John Murray receives the first 3 chapters of a natural history book from an English deacon.

The book attempts to lay out a method for the new theory of evolution to produce new species, a method the deacon refers to as natural selection. Murray rejects the book, telling the deacon to work on his proof.
One of his critics famously describing Louis Spohr in "Famous Composers: Schubert. Louis Spohr" (Nathan Haskell Dole, 2010).

Listen on Youtube to one of his symphonies.
On this, the anniversary of his birth, we briefly review selected aspects of his amazing talent of one of the towering figures on the musical scene of the first half of the nineteenth century.
Kurt Cobain, fresh from rehab, entered the studio to work on his album Starting New. The optimistic lyrics and bright music proved deadly on their sales, though, as fans of Nirvana’s old sound rejected his personal transformation. This huge disappointment proved fatal for Cobain, and he killed himself with a drug overdose in 1995.

Oscar Wilde is victorious in his libel suit against the Marquis of Queensberry. The Marquis had the audacity to charge Wilde, a well-known womanizer, with seducing his young son, and Wilde proved the charge false by parading in a seemingly endless line of women who attested to the author’s prowess in the boudoir.
Hailed by many of his contemporaries as quintessentially Romantic his great works were inherited by Felix Mendelssohn. Consequently, he is considered to have assumed a pivotal position between Classicism and Romanticism.
Update: Chris Tutt (Secretary of the Spohr Society of Great Britain) adds:

I would just add comments about the works which have been recently revived. The 8th violin concerto is the best known of his 17, but it is not performed as much as even fifty years ago when great violinists like Heifetz still had it in their repertoire. A recent recording with Hilary Hahn has been well received.

Perhaps the most frequently performed work of his is the Nonet as it is regarded widely as the most appealing work for this combination. Also his 4 clarinet concertos have been recorded several times and are being performed. His set of 6 songs for soprano, clarinet and piano (Op.103) appear regularly in concerts (usually alongside Schubert's 'Shepherd on the Rock').

Most of his orchestral and chamber works have appeared on CD together with five of his operas. His oratorio 'The Last Judgement', a great favourite in Victorian times, has not been revived in Britain, but it is now getting known again in Germany with at least 6 CD versions.

On this day the highly regarded German composer, violinist and conductor LOUIS SPOHR was born in the North German city of Braunschweig in the duchy of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel to Karl Heinrich Spohr and Juliane Ernestine Luise Henke (the parents who chose to name him Ludwig like his later contemporary Beethoven). He was 6' 7'' tall.

He published nine symphonies, ten operas, fifteen violin concerti, four clarinet concerti, and various works for small ensemble, also notable for inventing both the violin chinrest and the orchestral rehearsal mark. His compositions never completely abandoned the blueprint of the Viennese masters. Despite these achievements he has fallen into obscurity and is now rarely heard (only the Eighth Violin Concerto is played today). In fact, Little of his own music survives in the general repertoire, but he is remembered as one of the preeminent conductors of the first half of the nineteenth century and as a seminal figure in the development of modern violin playing. Also, in addition to having invented both the violin chin-rest and rehearsal numbers/letters for printed music, he was the first major conductor to use a baton.

He was sponsored by Duke Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand and inducted into the ducal orchestra at the age of just fifteen. He was then sent on a year-long study tour to study under the violin virtuoso Franz Anton Eck travelling as far as St Petersurg. Considered ripe for a concert tour of his own, he returned to Northern Germany and shot to overnight fame in the German-speaking world after a concert in Leipzig in which he received a rave review from the influential critic Friedrich Rochlitz who was "[brought] to his knees" – not only for his violin-playing but also for his violin concerto in D minor. As a result, he was a sensation at the youthful age of twenty.

During his later life, he remained a prominent figure on the international music scene, making no fewer than six tours of England throughout the years. Appointed Konzertmeister. (orchestral director), he travelled on to Vienna as leader of the orchestra at the Theater an der Wien where he became friendly with Beethoven (at his house they collaborated on Piano Trio, Op 70 No.1 "The Ghost"). He subsequently became opera director at Dirk Puehl's home town of Frankfurt am Main and finally, on the recommendation of Weber who had declined the post, Court Kapellmeister at Kassel, where he died on October 22nd 1859.

During his life-time he was a prolific composer, producing more than one hundred and fifty works with opus numbers, in addition to a number of works without such numbers. One of the first to use a baton and also inventing rehearsal letters, which are placed periodically throughout a piece of sheet music so that a conductor may save time by asking the orchestra or singers to start playing "from letter C", for example.

The Spohr Society of Great Britain was founded in 1969 as the British branch of the International Louis Spohr Society, which is based in the German city of Kassel where he spent most of his working life.

We are delighted that Google+ reader Pietro Montevecchio musician and graduate of Universität Mozarteum Salzburg had shared his own insights on Louis Spohr.

Faust's vicissitudes let us compare Spohr and Schubert, showing how a central myth of Western civilization, which has inspired many of the greatest masters of universal literature (from Christopher Marlowe to Thomas Mann), can provide us a key to highlight the differences between the two composers, as well as, in general terms, the difference between a greatly skilled musician and a genius.

Please, look at the dates: Hegel's “Phenomenology of Spirit” was published in 1807, Goethe's first part of Faust in 1808, Spohr's Opera “Faust” in 1813 and Schubert's lied “Gretchen am spinnrade” in 1814.

The reason why I cite Hegel here is that Ernst Bloch has shone the light on the red line that ties the masterpiece of the philosopher's youth and Goethe's opus magnum: Hegel's Phenomenology can be considered the philosophical counterpoint of Goethe's Faust, or the latter the literary counterpoint of the former. Hegel shows us how the Spirit becomes gradually aware of itself, starting from the state of Sensorial Knowledge, passing through the dialectic negation of objective reality, till reaching the peak of the Absolute Knowledge. Goethe does the same with the individual destiny of Faust. Far from being the haughty man of the traditional medieval morality plays, the one who runs out the limits assigned by God to His creatures and finally brings about his own ruin, Goethe's hero walks along the way toward the fulfillment of his soul and individuality. But the only way to do so, in a world which by no means can satisfy his yen for the unlimited, is to deny his limited nature, and face his own opposite, Mephistopheles, in a dialectic conflict at the end of which he will discover the infinity in himself.

There's no deal between Faust and Mephistopheles, but a wager which Faust knows he cannot but win: only beyond the borders of the well known existence, through the tragic struggle against the antithesis, it is possible to find the authentic synthesis, that is the real truth of individual identity as a reflection of the infinity. Only at this point the hero can say: “Foreknowledge comes, and fills me with such bliss, I take my joy, my highest moment this”.

Spohr didn't draw any inspiration from Goethe's masterpiece. His opera is based on the old medieval legends and despite its well refined craftmanship (but Spohr was never a master of the counterpoint like his contemporary Luigi Cherubini) and early romantic character (but Mendelssohn went well beyond him in roaming the lands of the fairies), it never casts an eye on the boundless plains of the Being. On the contrary, Spohr gives us another morality play which warns against the infringement of the limits. In fact, in the recitativo at the beginning of the third act, Mephistopheles sings (concerning Faust): “you stupid blind man! You tried to cross the border assigned to you and become a god among the mortals”. Spohr's Faust is condemned to Hell.

Schubert drew directly inspiration from Goethe's Faust. He didn't write a huge opera, but a lied. He didn't choose to tell a story, but only to describe the feelings of Gretchen, sitting at the spinning wheel, regretting Faust's seduction and abandonment. Schubert's lied is a fragment, just like one of those ancient roman ruins we admire in the eighteen century prints. However, it is precisely the fragment that raises our imagination to those peaks where we can contemplate the infinity, of wich the fragment is a part. And despite the tragic harmonies of the piano accompaniment and the relentless movement of the constantly revolving semiquaver figurations in the right hand (allegory of the revolving of the wheel and of the dialectic flow of life) even the betrayed Gretchen feels, at the climax of the piece, when the piano falls silent, that infinity is visiting her, and those who are walking through the boundless plains of the Being.

We are delighted that Michael Leinert from the "German part" of the Spohr Society of the USA has been kind enough to share his own insights on Louis Spohr.
Spohr’s close friendship with Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy and Robert Schumann:

Robert Schumann wrote in his Conclusion from the review in Neue Zeitschrift für Musik about Spohr's Symphony No. 7 in C major, Op. 121: “Let us follow him in art, in life, in all his striving! [...] May he stand with our greatest Germans as a shining example!”.

The importance of the romantic composer, violin virtuoso, teacher, conductor Louis Spohr and his “Lieder”(German Art Song):

Louis [Ludwig] Spohr (1784 – 1859) forged a significant contribution to the development of the German Lied through his compositions for voice and piano. It is astounding that this "Spohr chapter" of 19th century Art song has until now been largely neglected in music history and by researchers of German Lied. In his essay “Louis Spohr - Ruhm und Vergessenheit eines Komponisten zwischen Romantik und Biedermeier” the musicologist Peter Rummenhöller appeals for a revision in the evaluation of the composer Louis Spohr and states: “Almost none of the above mentioned [Spohr’s composer colleagues are meant] were able to unite Beethoven's achievements in such a way with the new tendencies of the Romantic like Louis Spohr.” Spohr's life spans a time period in which very different musical directions and styles emerged and were accepted. In literary history, this period, with the designation “between Goethe-time and Realism”3 proves what is quite applicable to Spohr's life and work, in that it encompasses the time of the “Biedemeier”4, also that of the “Vormärz” and the “Junges Deutschland”. At this point, let that be sufficient for the characterization of the evolving times in which Louis Spohr lived and worked.

Spohr's personality was characterized by a pronounced sense of justice and a strong ability to assert himself. To that extent Spohr, particularly when it came to the political situation of the times, was not by any means an “old master of Biedermeier” or a Romantic dreamer turned away from the world. To site one example, in 1852 he brought a lawsuit against the local reigning nobleman, the Kurfürsten (elector) Friedrich Wilhelm von Hessen, to the upper court of Kassel because of "illegal salary extraction”.

Spohr's political attitude is to be recognized clearly as liberal. That brought him into some difficulties during the restoration period. With his assertive manner he succeeded, despite large resistance, to produce Wagner's “Der Fliegende Holländer” in 1843 and in 1853 “Tannhäuser" at the Hoftheater in Kassel.10 Spohr was, next to Paganini, the most famous violin virtuoso of his time, as well as an internationally esteemed teacher (with 200 students11), a recognized conductor throughout Europe and a composer whose works were successfully performed everywhere during the 19th Century. Many of his compositions are characterized by unusual versatility and willful experimentation, in regard to both ensemble composition (double string quartets, string quartet with orchestral accompaniment, etc.), and in the musical form and harmony (chromaticism.

Throughout a time period of more than 50 years Spohr dealt with the art form Lied (not counting the early songs of 1802, taking into consideration that the composer in his “Lebenserinnerungen” refers to them as lost). The result is 105 one and two voiced Lieder, with two - or four - handed piano accompaniments. In Op.103, Op.154 and the work without opus number WoO 92 an obbligato instrument is added.

The research of Louis Spohr's Lieder is not easy due to the situation of unclear sources. As Simon Moser in his musicological study "Das Liedschaffen Louis Spohrs”, in two volumes, published in 2005 states: "The traditional delivery of the Lied autographs is incomplete; direct commentaries from Spohr about his Lieder are conveyed only in a few cases [...]. The International Louis Spohr Society e.V. lost the largest part of its valuable holdings, systematically gathered since the year 1908, through confiscation in 1933 and one year later the mayor of Kassel ordered that they be destroyed."

The distribution of the Spohr inheritance in the year 1860 contributed to the fact that his estate in the truest sense of the phrase was "scattered to the far ends of the earth". In addition to the original and first editions from the assets of the Spohr Society of the United States of America and the publisher Christoph Dohr, and through the inspection of autographs, compositions. Chamisso, Geibel, Tieck, Hoffmann von Fallersleben, Uhland, Walther von der Vogelweide, and the French poet Victor Hugo are also represented. They belong, with others not mentioned here, without question to the literary elite of that time.

Several of Spohr's Lied compositions were casual commissions, others written on behalf of princes and publishers, or developed for magazines and anthology collections. This should not lead to the conclusion (unfortunately already wide spread) that Spohr's achievements held a subordinate role in the Lied repertoire of the 19th Century. The opposite is the case. Spohr can be accepted as a path finder for an unmistakable and original type of German Lied style that Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms and Hugo Wolf further developed.

Spohr's Lieder are crafted with an exemplary, sensitive text interpretation, which require of the interpreter an acute skill of vocal declamation. Some are boldly written with harmonies that point toward the future, while others, in their lyric simplicity show a large wealth of melodic ideas. For example the Lied Mitternacht WoO 97 with four-handed accompaniment, achieves excitement filled intensity, without lapsing into fashionable obvious effects. His extensive knowledge of the "human instrument" is evident in his treatment of the vocal line.

Throughout his life, from the first Liederheft Op. 25, composed in 1809, Louis Spohr developed a progressive, individual style that deeply enriched the German Art Song of the 19th Century.

Louis Spohr’s “Leitmotifs” and his influence to Richard Wagner:

Many operas of Louis Spohr are composed with “Leitmotifs” – later was this term “occupied” by Richard Wagner. 50 years before Wagner’s famous “Tristan chord” you can hear this chord progression in Louis Spohr’s String Quartet op. 4 No.1 Adagio. In Louis Spohr’s opera Der Alchymist, written in 1830, one can hear and see a similar chord progression [No. 14 Romanza con Coro] like Wagner’s “Tristan chord”.

Also in Louis Spohr’s Double Quartet op. 65, Nr 1 in D minor, written in 1823, one hears prophetic passages of harmony. We will hear just a few bars of the first movement Allegro vivace.

He was a Free Mason, joining other composers like Mozart, Haydn and Liszt. His liberal attitude brought him into some difficulties during the restoration period. With his assertive manner he succeeded, despite large resistance, to produce Wagner's Der fliegende Holländer at the Hoftheater in Kassel in 1843 and in 1853 Tannhäuser.

There are three compositional elements found in the operas of Louis Spohr that contribute to the later German Romantic Opera:

1. The employment of thematic reminiscence

A Leitmotif can be defined as a melodic passage or phrase, a chord progression or rhythm associated with a specific person or character, situation, idea or element. They help to relate the story without the use of words, to accompany the words or to add an extra level to the present drama.

2. The building up of scene-complexes

Opera was developing away from the classic Italian style, the number opera with secco recitative and the German Singspiel with spoken dialogue to the more through-composed style like the music dramas of Richard Wagner. This development can be seen clearly in the operas of Louis Spohr in that he combined ensembles, recitatives and arias to create large-scale scenic complexes and eventually through-composed forms.

3. The expressive use of chromaticism

Criticized often for his over-use of chromatics and modulations, Spohr was one of the first to employ chromaticism for expressive purposes, instead of purely musical purposes. The use of chromaticism by the romantic composers as a dramatic tool led the musical world eventually into polytonality, atonality and the use of 12 tones equally.

The fortieth President of the United States Charlton Heston died in Beverly Hills, California. He was eight-four years old.

His tenure was dominated by the contra war against the left-wing government of Ernesto "Che" Guevara in Bolivia which re-opened an eighty year old dispute which began in the 49th State.

By 1898 armed hostilities in the Spanish-American War had come to an end. Ignominiously defeated, Spain was forced to relinquish control of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippine Islands to the United States. Debate over what to do with America's new possessions was fierce.
In the case of Cuba in particular, there had been considerable sentiment in favor of independence prior to the outbreak of war, when lurid articles regarding the real and alleged brutalities of the Spanish colonial regime appeared regularly in the newspapers of media baron William Randolph Hearst. Once Cuba passed into U.S. hands, however, ardor for freeing it cooled considerably. Businessmen liked the cheap sugar and other products Cuba provided, while naval officers saw it as an ideal site for bases.

An alternate history by Eric B. Lipps The colonialist faction would ultimately triumph. In formal peace traty, signed in Paris on December 10, 1898, no mention was made of independence for Cuba. The following year, by act of Congress, the possessions taken from Spain was be declared U.S. territories. On January 1, 1959, Cuba became the 49th U.S. state. That same year, Hawaii, also annexed in 1898, will become the 50th; Alaska formally became the 51st state the following year, and in 1965, the Philippines became the 52nd. In 1970, Puerto Rico at last became the 53rd U.S. state. Of the territories taken from Spain in 1898, only Guam would not have become a state by the turn of the century, chiefly due to its small population.

In 1964, the youthful and charismatic Lieut. Gov. Fidel Castro of Cuba was elected to the U.S. Senate. Castro, a former law student who entered politics in the 1950s, would be an impassioned voice for America's growing Spanish-speaking populace, and would be one of the sponsors of the Senate resolution formally granting statehood to the Philippines. In the Senate, Castro would start out as a solidly moderate Democrat who initially supported the war in Vietnam, but will grow disillusioned, finally announcing his outright opposition in 1969. His change of heart would anger many conservatives in his home state, sparking a challenge from Republican Rep. Fulgencio Batista, a decorated Korean War veteran, in 1970. Sen. Castro survived, however, and in his new incarnation as foreign-policy liberal opposed President Heston's contra war against the left-wing government of Ernesto "Che" Guevara in Bolivia in the 1980s. And in 2000, in a hotly-contested election, Democratic nominee Fidel Castro narrowly defeated former Texas governor George W. Bush to win the U.S. presidency, becoming the first native Spanish-speaker to hold that office.

Under immense pressure with Communists smashing across much of the Korean front, President Douglas MacArthur announced his proposals for a major spring counter-offensive at the US Congress on this day.

Familiar with the characteristic belligerency of "Old Brass Hat", members of the House of Representatives were still shocked to hear the proposed reintroduction of Chiang Kai-shek's Formosan forces into the fighting.
But the former General's plans went further then opening a second front on the Chinese mainland, much further. Because MacArthur was seeking authorisation to expand the war to China by bombing bases in Manchuria, if necessary, perhaps with nuclear weapons (thirty to fifty was the number he actually had in mind).

An alternate history Critics of the administration alleged that the architect of this escalation was of course none other that MacArthur himself. He had chosen to expand the war aims from the liberation of South Korean to unifying the peninsula. When US forces crossed the 38th parallel and advanced toward the Yalu River, the border with China, despite warnings from Beijing, MacArthur dismissed the danger of Chinese intervention and predicted quick victory. But China intervened massively in late November, pushing the US forces back to the 38th parallel and beyond.

Despite the fact that MacArthur was exaggerating the Communist Chinese threat to overrun South Korea, he replaced military logic with patriotic emotion - "there was no substitute for victory" he said. And now less than five years after the Pacific War had been ended with the use of nuclear weapons, US politicians realised there were staring down the thin end of the wedge. The United States Senator for Missouri Harry S. Truman called for impeachment, declared that the Korean Conflict had "snapped his brilliant but brittle mind".


Today's quintiple post follows a variant of the original structure of our weekly collaboration:
Alternate Historian writes about a real event in German History, whilst Dirk writes about a fictionalized event in English Alternate History. We have also included an article from Jeff Provine, Eric B. Lipps and Marko 'Lev' Bosscher plus some fun-size Alternate History "Learning Snacks" from Robert A. Taylor.

Hebrew Year 1412
The long ordeal of Noah ends as his ark lands on top of a large mountain in Asia. After the great exodus of animals from the vessel, he and his family tore it apart and used it for building materials, since most trees had been destroyed by the flooding. In later days, this led to a boom market for homes that claimed to have been made from the original ark.

"Ratman" Robert A. Taylor
Robbie's #tweetfromalternatehistory now available on Twitter and his latest e-book "The Tree Of Knowledge (The Chelsea Perkins Trilogy)" on Amazon.
South Chilean guerillos manage to cut off the highway between Vina del Mar and the North Chilean capitol of Santiago. The coastal region of La Serena is isolated, and the southern reactionaries work on the locals to get them to switch their loyalties from the legitimate Communist government to their illegal one. American troops soon root them out, but their poisonous propaganda remains behind.

Fox Film Corporations lets bit actor Marion Morrison go. Morrison had proven disappointing to the studio, which had hoped he would be a Western star the likes of Audie Murphy. Morrison went back to acting classes, and achieved fame later in the decade as a star of several historical and period films.

The rejection of Jamestown's leader John Rolfe by the Powhatan chief's daughter leads him to stage a raid against her village and kidnap her. Although most of the Jamestown sttlers considered the Powhatans mere savages, the rape of Pocahantas was detested, and they seized Rolfe and turned him over to Chief Wahunsonacock in the name of justice.

Alexios Komnenos Executed

Still considered by many the eastern Roman Empire, Byzantium fell into renewed chaos in the second millennium after centuries of rule reestablished by military strength of Justinian, Maurice, and Heraclitus. Justinian had pushed the empire to its zenith in the sixth century, and other great emperors worked to hold onto its expansive territory. However, the cost in manpower and resources gradually weakened the empire as Arab strength grew. The Macedonian dynasty of Basil the first restored much of the declining Byzantine strength, but the death of Empress Theodora, childless at 76, left the empire without clear leadership in 1056. Her successor Michael VI abdicated to become a monk, and his successor Isaac I abdicated after nearly being struck by lightning, leaving rule to the wealthy Doukas family. They bloated the bureaucracy with highly paid but ineffectual leadership, undercutting the soldiers, who began to rebel on the frontiers.

In 1074, rebellion broke out in Asia Minor, which was put down by Alexios Komnenos. The Komnenoi were a successful military family, and Alexios fought bravely in wars against the Seljuk Turks and in putting down rebellions in the Balkans. During the political turmoil, generals Nikephoros Bryennios and Nikephoros Botaneiates revolted simultaneously, and Botaneiates successfully overthrew Michael VII Doukas in 1078. He effectively politicked for religious and public support and offered Bryennios the position as junior co-emperor. Bryennios refused and was subsequently defeated by Alexios, blinded, and forcibly retired.

As Nikephoros III Botaneiates, he attempted to establish a new court, but his efforts only worsened the confusion. The established bureaucracy became alienated and even more ineffective while Botaneiates' co-emperor John Doukas and the old court began plots to overthrow Botaneiates. They concentrated their efforts on Alexios, who had continued to serve as a heroic general in the West and prepared to battle against invading Normans who fought to return the rule of the deposed Michael VII. Empress Maria of Alania, former wife of Michael VII and then wife of Botaneiates, adopted Alexios as her son and sent him to raise an army along with his natural and adoptive brothers. His mother, Anna Dalassena, escaped the suspicious palace guard and sought sanctuary at Hagia Sofia. The guards attempted to bring her home, but she exclaimed falsehoods of a plan to blind Alexios and his brother, whom she said had fled the city so that they might continue to serve the emperor. Although they tried to quiet her, she swore that she would only leave the church if Botaneiates gave his cross to her along with the vow that he would do no harm to her family.

An alternate history by Professor Jeff Provine Botaneiates became suspicious of her theatrical appeal and refused to give such a vow. He sent agents to find Alexios and his brother, who were indeed raising an army. They were brought back to Constantinople on April 1, imprisoned, and executed. Anna Dalassena hid in Hagia Sofia, which Botaneiates surrounded in a "siege" that prevented food other than sacrament to enter. Embarrassed, she was forced to leave the church and resigned to the convent of Petrion. Botaneiates set about rooting out the rest of the conspirators, which crippled the government in a crucial time.

The Normans under Duke Robert Guiscard continued their invasion of Byzantine lands after securing Sicily and Malta from the Muslim forces to the south. Using the political instability as a pretense, his forces conquered southern Italy and began an invasion of the Balkans with papal blessing. His army overwhelmed Botaneiates' defenses at Dyrrachium and moved toward Constantinople. Botaneiates attempted to defeat the army in the field, but his armies were repeatedly crushed, and the loot won by the Normans kept dissension at a minimum. Finally, in 1085, Robert sacked Constantinople and ended the Byzantine Empire.

Robert died after a few years' rule in Constantinople, and the Norman kingdom there collapsed under Seljuk attack. The ruling Seljuk emperor, Alp Arslan, had established a frontier of feudal "beyliks" (states) after defeating the Byzantines in Anatolia in 1071 at Manzikert. When the Seljuks splintered after the death of Malik Shah, Kilij Arslan founded the Sultanate of Rum in Asia Minor, pushing westward with the Emir Chaka of Smyrna until the Normans retreated back to Italy and Sicily. Muslim control rolled westward across the Balkans, butting up against Christendom's strongest center in Italy. Many talked of a united Christian force to drive back the Turks, but the most that Pope Urban II was able to manage was a bolstering of defenses for Italy and a push to retake lands along the North African coast to affirm Spain's Reconquista.

Meanwhile, trade flourished between the Italian city-states, such as Venice. With the Byzantine stranglehold on east-west trade removed, the Muslims gained great influence shipping good westward. Trade with Kiev at the north of the Black Sea brought Islam to Russia, where it made great advances overriding the Orthodox Christian beliefs adopted in the century before. Constantinople continued being one of the main hubs of the world, and Europe continued as a rich market for Islamic traders for centuries to come. Christian kingdoms, meanwhile, expanded southward and across the Atlantic Ocean to the New World there. While Europe underwent a Renaissance in the seventeenth century, many great minds traveled to the libraries of Constantinople to study, keeping the Islamic world apace with innovations in medicine, mathematics, and science.

In reality, Alexios successfully overthrew Nikephoros III Botaneiates. Having taken the vow that he could do no harm to the family and facing Alexios' army that bribed the city guard to enter Constantinople without a fight, Nikephoros had no choice but to abdicate. Alexios began the Komnenian dynasty, which revitalized the empire for a time. Perhaps most notable for history, Alexios pleaded for aid from Urban II in fighting the Seljuk Turks as Christian allies, which culminated in the Crusades.

Alexander Nevsky defeated at the Battle of Lake Peipus

Novgorod was under heavy pressure from both the East and the West. In the east the Golden Horde loomed, while Novgorod was repeatedly invaded from the west during the Northern Crusades. And when the Teutonic Order invaded once again Alexander, elected Prince of Novgorod, marched against them with a substantial army. Meeting the Teutonic forces, led by Hermann the Prince-Bishop of Dorpat, near the bank of Lake Peipus. Hoping to draw the knights into a disadvantageous position Alexander withdrew across the narrow strait connecting Lake Peipus with neighbouring Lake Pskovskoe.

Lake Peipus is unusually shallow for it’s size and is frozen throughout winter, thawing out only at the end of April. The lake thus formed a solid surface for the combatants that 5th of April, but the heavily armoured mounted Teutonic Knights were at a disadvantage when having to charge across the ice. Although the knights drew up in wedge formation Hermann called of the assault when he saw the strength of the Russian position, deciding instead to go around it to find a better approach.

Seeing the Teutonic forces move towards the east bank of the lake Alexander sent out his own cavalry in an attempt to provoke Hermann into an attack. The lighter Russian cavalry was swift enough, even on the ice, to freely harass the Estonian infantry that made up the bulk of Hermann’s force. But rather than being goaded into a frontal assault on the Russian position Hermann lined up his infantry in a defensive position, while sending most of his knights to the shore to move around the enemy position.

What was intended by Hermann to be a temporary position, to hold of the harassing cavalry in anticipation of an assault on Alexander’s position, would become the focal point of the battle. Alexander seeing the opportunity to attack the outnumbered Teutonic forces, and worried about the knights working his flank moved his troops on the ice as well. Leaving behind only a token force to delay the knights moving against them. The battle soon developed into a furious melee as the remaining knights prevented the Russian cavalry from outflanking the Teutonic troops.

An alternate history by Marko 'Lev' Bosscher
Alexander’s ploy failed however when the Teutonic Knights returned, having heard the sounds of battle carried on the wind (a `Zeichen Gottes` according to the knights own chronicler). The knights unexpectedly fell on the left flank of the army of Novgorod and panic swept across the battleline, quickly turning into a full rout. Only Alexander and the ‘druzhina’ (the “fellowship” or retinue, numbering a thousand of the best warriors) held and tried to fight their way back to their original position.

Badly outnumbered they never made it off the ice, Alexander fell among many of his men and the remainder surrendered after being completely encircled. The Teutons then marched South to take Pskov, which they had lost to Alexander the previous year. After receiving further reinforcement from the Livonian Order Hermann marched on Novgorod itself in the summer. It seemed that history would repeat itself as on the approach to Novgorod a Russian army marched to meet the Teutonic forces and oppose them in battle. But this Novgorod had not had the time to recover from it’s losses, the Battle of Lake Peipus had not only cost the Republic most of it’s seasoned warriors but also it’s most capable military leader. The army of Novgorod was swept aside by the invading knights.

But even before Hermann reached the city walls of Novgorod he was met by envoys of the Council of Nobles, and they made a fantastic offer. The republic of Novgorod would submit to the Teutonic Order on the condition that the Republic would continue to exist and maintain it’s current structure. It was a offer that Hermann could hardly refuse, but being a devout Catholic he could not allow Novgorod to remain Orthodox. He sent the envoy back with the message that he would only accept if Novgorod would only elect Catholic Princes, and marched on to lay siege to Novgorod.
Upon reaching the city Hermann found the gates open and messengers proclaiming himself the newly elected Prince of Novgorod. It was a devious political move as it effectively ended the war, but left the Teutons with an Orthodox country in their possession. It would only be the start of of political maneuvering that would see the Archbishop of Novgorod pledged allegiance to the Pope, but maintaining orthodox customs and traditions.

The Teutonic Order thus acted as the sword and shield of Orthodox Novgorod against it’s neighbours and the mongol horde. It was an uneasy alliance held together by Novgorod’s profitable position as gateway to the Baltic Sea and a slow conversion to Catholicism. But it ensured Novgorod’s continued survival into the late Middle Ages and it provided the Teutonic Order with the means to maintain the large armies that were it’s raison d’etre.

In reality, Alexander defeated the Teutonic Knights at the Battle of the Ice and went down in history as Alexander Nevsky, probably the most famous Russian warrior in history and granted sainthood by the Orthodox Church. Novgorod would thrive for several centuries, but would ultimately be annexed by the Grand Duchy of Moscow at the end of the 15th century.

What if... Pocahontas had not died in 1617, muses Dirk Puehl on the anniversary of her marriage to English colonist John Rolfe..
Today, 399 years ago, the first recorded interracial in the New World between the planter John Rolfe and the “Mother of the Confederation” Pocahontas took place in Jamestown, Virginia. Initially, Rolfe saw marriage to a daughter of the paramount chief of the then already relatively powerful Native Powhatan Confederation as a good idea to secure his expanding tobacco plantations. What agenda Pocahontas and her father, known as Chief Powhatan may have pursued originally is unclear, but the baptised and newly-wed Native Princess took her husband to a visit of the English mother country, accompanied by trusted Powhatan advisors. She met with King James I in England who almost had Rolfe executed for high treason for forming an alliance without royal consent and excluded him from the meetings on grounds of his lower social status. Pocahontas fell ill when the couple was about to return to Virginia, but finally recovered and returned to the New World in the spring of 1618.

An alternate history by Dirk Puehl Pocahontas went to the territory of the Powhatan soon after and was rarely seen in the colony for quite a while, probably dealing together with her father with the uprising of Tomocomo, a shaman who accompanied the Rolfes to England and was quite obviously set against teaming up with the English settlers with a vengeance. While the Powhatan territory became more and more a holding centre for refugees from the colony – two thirds of its inhabitants were actually there against their will, coloured slaves bought from a Dutch man-of-war as well as the deported from England who all fled west to Werowocomoco, the Powhatan capital on the York River – traditional elements within the tribal confederation pursued a policy of isolation against the foreigners. After the death of Pocahontas’ father in 1618, his brother Opechancanough tried to turn the tide – the princess was acclaimed “High Chief” of all Tsenacommacah or tribes while her uncle collected the dissatisfied elements and began a guerilla war. Against the new “Mother of the Confederation” as well as the English invaders. Though Governor Thomas Dale repulsed the haphazard invasion of Opechancanough along the James River, he called to the mother country for reinforcements and Pocahontas’ Powhatan Confederation had a full fledged war at her hands in the early 1620s.

Nonetheless, the English colonial troops were not strong enough to fundamentally harm the Powhatan Confederation but managed to dislocate the Tsenacommacah settlements east of the headland of the headwaters of the James River, securing the colony and allowing a permanent settlement of the Confederation in the Appalachian region between the new Pennsylvania and the territory of the Shawnee and Cherokee in what was to become Kentucky. After Pocahontas death in 1646 she was succeeded by her son Thomas Rolfe. His descendants dominated the Powhatan Confederation for the next 150 years until Powhatan joined the rebellion as 14th colony in 1776.

On this day Irish-American actor and statesman Eldred Gregory Peck was born in La Jolla, California. One of the world's most popular film stars from the 1940s to the 1960s, he was appointed United States Ambassador (Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary) to Ireland by President Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Needless to say the appointment of a lifelong supporter of the Democratic Party would have been unthinkable had the Republicans won the recent Presidential election. The GOP nominee, Richard Nixon had actually placed him on his enemies list due to his liberal activism.
This was primarily due to his opposition to Hollywood blacklisting; in 1947 he signed a letter which deplored a House Un-American Activities Committee investigation of alleged communists in the film industry.

An alternate history An intensely private man, Peck had only accepted the "great adventure" because of his Irish ancestry. That flowery description of the new role was his own phrase, but surely the timing of his arrival in Ireland on the eve of the sectarian violence surrounding the "Battle of the Bogside was precipitous.

Peck had not sought political office. He had politely, but firmly declined, offers to run against Ronald Reagan for State Senate in 1964, and later the Governship of California in 1968. After the elections, Democrat supporters (including the defeated incumbent Governor Edmund Brown) were convinced that his charisma, and celebrity status, could have defeated his fellow actor.

A political confrontation between the two actors finally occurred in 1987 when Peck did the voice over on television commercials opposing Reagan's Supreme Court nomination of conservative jurist Robert Bork. Bork's nomination was defeated to the disgust of many, including another actor Charlton Heston who registered his protest by formally joining the Republican Party.

On this day the thirty-ninth Vice President of the United States John Goodwin Tower was tragically killed (along with twenty other people including his middle daughter, Marian, and the astronaut Sonny Carter) in the crash of Atlantic Southeast Airlines Flight 2311 on approach for landing at Brunswick, Georgia. He was sixty-five years old.

Tributes were led by George Romney the thirty-seventh President of the United States with whom he had won back-to-back elections before his own narrow defeat to Senator Birch Evans Bayh, Jr. in his own bid for the White House during 1976.
An alternate historyDespite the enduring warmth of their personal popularity ratings, they had a modest record. The main achievements included pulling out of Vietnam also beginning a period of detente with the Soviet Union and China, but they failed at several attempts to reform government programs.

A remarkable figure of the Cold War era, he had been become famous through his historic election to the Senate: (1) first Republican U.S. senator from Texas since Reconstruction, (2) third Republican from the former Confederacy since Reconstruction, (3) first Republican from a former Confederate state since Newell Sanders of Tennessee left office in 1913 (a gap of forty-eight years), and (4) first Republican from the former Confederacy ever to win a Senate seat by popular election. it was a platform from which George Walker Bush would build in his own run for the Senate during the early 1990s.

Robbie Taylor, Creator of Today in Alternate History Eric B. Lipps, writer for Today in Alternate History Dirk Puehl, Editor of #Onthisday Professor Jeff Provine, Editor of This Day in Alternate History
Haleh Brooks, Guest Reader of #Onthisday Marko Bosscher, tours Natural History museums at Eruditorum Alternate Historian, Editor of Today in Alternate History Eric Oppen, writer of Today in Alternate History
Jackie Rose, novelist for Extasy Books Andrew Beane, Editor of Voice of the Christian Worker Pietro Montevecchio, Musician Ruairi James Heekin, web master of Sleeping under the Cross.

No comments:

Post a Comment