History

Land Ho! Explorers and the Age of Discovery

To the Europeans, the West was a great unknown. Many people believed that over the western sea there was nothing but darkness and danger. Yet throughout the past, travelers tried to find out what was on the other side of the water. There are very few traces of those first explorers. They lived in times when most people could not write, so stories of their discoveries were passed down as tales told around hearth fires. Sometimes they were believed, sometimes not. Russell Freedman’s Who Was First? Discovering the Americas looks at the evidence behind this puzzle.

Mysteries of Ancient Egypt

Ancient cities grew up around rivers, for the rivers were the source of life for all the people and animals who lived there. The waters of the Nile were no different. They flooded every year, making the soil rich for growing crops.

In time, a civilization arose by the Nile whose wonders can still be seen today. From the Valley of the Kings to the great pyramids and the Sphinx, the almighty kings of Egypt left monuments to celebrate their glory for eternity.

You needn't take a boat, an airplane, or even a camel to discover this ancient place. You can discover lots about Egypt on the Web and in the library. Unearth the Nile's secrets with our Ancient Egypt Book List to guide you.

Dig This!

Wouldn't it be cool if even a few of the old stories were true? Legends say that giants walked the Earth, Atlantis vanished under the sea, and Greece and Troy fought a devastating war over a beautiful woman. Amazing, but true: all these stories are based on facts.

Archaeologists digging in China discovered the fossils of Gigantopithecus, a giant ape standing 9 or 10 feet tall. These huge but probably gentle apes died off 500,000 years ago. Traditionally, villagers collected their bones and made them into medicines. They called their finds dragon bones. Some have wondered whether pockets of the animals may have survived into later centuries, giving rise to the legend of Big Foot.

Columbus Day: A Day of Discovery

Columbus Day is sometimes called Discoverers' Day. In the spirit of discovery, take some time to learn about the world as it was in the days of the European explorers. You can make a compass, learn about the stars, read about other explorers and discoverers, and find how even our way of eating has changed since the Europeans came to the Americas looking for gold, glory, and, yes, tasty cooking spices.

Pizza Without Tomato Sauce?

The explorers who came to the Americas found the food enjoyed by the native people to be very different from what they knew at home. They had never seen tomatoes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, maize (corn), pineapples, chili peppers, or even cocoa. The vegetable dishes from the Europe they knew relied on parsnips, cabbages, peas, carrots, turnips, and onions. After being at sea and living off of a diet of lentil soup, salt beef from a barrel, salted sardines, hardtack, and other delights, the fresh, new foods of the islands would have been an astonishing change.

CRRL Presents: John Pearce, Historic Preservationist

Interview airs beginning August 18.
John Pearce is Director of the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library and Director of the James Monroe Presidential Center. He shares his more than 40 years of experience in Early American Culture, decorative arts, and heritage preservation.  

Find out more about CRRL Presents.

Flight from Monticello: Thomas Jefferson at War

If your early education taught you something about Thomas Jefferson, it likely included facts on his part in authoring the Declaration of Independence, the Louisiana Purchase, and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. Jefferson was an ideas man—a deep thinker. Well-educated in the classics at the College of William and Mary, he stayed out of the usual undergrad troubles by keeping at his studies and socializing with the professors while classmates spent their time drinking, gambling, and racing their horses through the streets. As historian Michael Kranish relates in Flight from Monticello, he made plenty of friends, but they were from the same landed gentry class as himself.

He first encountered an upstart farmer named Patrick Henry at a friend’s dinner party. Jefferson was not impressed by his dress, candid manners or frank speech, which drew a crowd of admirers. Not so much the classical scholar, Patrick Henry was already a practicing attorney while Jefferson was still in school.  While Jefferson carried on learned conversations with his professors, Henry was winning cases—not with references to Greek and Roman scholars but by spelling out the plain merits of the case and the rules of law. Jefferson found his courtroom arguments crude but admired his ability to turn a phrase and set a crowd on fire.

Let Peace on Earth Begin with Me

This year marks the 65th anniversary of one of the most disastrous and tragic events in the history of humankind. Hiroshima Day is observed in many parts of the world with special vigils and peace marches. It is held to commemorate the dropping of the first atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Watch this video of a survivor describing the Hiroshima bombing. Three days later a second bomb fell on the city of Nagasaki. "Peace Day" was declared on the first anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima by the Japanese to try to ensure that the horrendous, enduring effects of nuclear warfare would never be repeated.

New 'Virginia History for Kids' Resource

CRRL History is pleased to announce a new history resource, Virginia History for Kids.  This set of selected books is targeted for children and includes such popular topics as the founding fathers, women's history, frontier life, spies, the American Revolution, colonial life, slavery, the Civil War, and even pirates!  The list lets you choose topics that interest you and see books the library has to check out. 
Put a book on hold by clicking the 'Reserve this title' link.  You can take a look at this new resource here

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective

At 5 o'clock in the morning, a curly-headed toddler went missing from his bed in the spacious mansion in the English countryside, never to be seen alive again.
Young Saville Kent's soon-to-be-discovered vicious murder at the hands of someone who was surely a family member or trusted servant excited the press, the populace, and the authorities and ultimately drew the attention of one of Scotland Yard's first and finest detectives, Jack Whicher. Like the fictional Sherlock Holmes, Detective Whicher had a keen mind and almost sixth sense for uncovering criminals in the most unlikely places. With no forensics lab modern or otherwise to help him discover the identity of Saville's killer, Whicher used reason and intuition when setting about his task.

John Paul Jones: A Founder of the U.S. Navy

From a Scottish port to colonial Fredericksburg to the royal courts of France and Russia, the little man who famously refused to give up the fight was perfectly at home in both cottages and elegant salons, but he was always eager to set sail for adventure and glory.