April 17

A day of freedom, and its obverse...


1885, Baroness Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen), Danish author ("Out of Africa")

1894, Nikita Khrushchev, Soviet Premier

1897, Thornton Wilder, American novelist and playwright

1916, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, the world's first woman Prime Minister...

which is no doubt true in the specific, but somewhat disingenuous in the general...

Hatshepsut, Pharaohess of Egypt in the 15th century BCE; Nefertiti a hundred years after her, and several Cleopatras later on; Sammuramat of Assyria in the 9th century BCE; Eleanor of Aquitaine; Isabelle of Castille; Queens Mary and Elizabeth of Tudor England (technically Mary Queen of Scots as well, but she was powerless throughout her reign); Catherine de Medici, Queen of France at the same epoch; Amina of Nigeria; Mbande Nzinga of Angola; Catherine the Great of Russia; Queen Victoria of course; Tzu-Hsi and Wu Zetian, both Empresses of China; Sorghaghtani Beki of Mongolia; Nur Jahan of India; Liliuokalani, the very last ruler of independent Hawaii; Queen Seondeok of Korea; the Trung sisters, precursors of Jeanne d'Arc, who led the Vietnamese to freedom from the Chinese in the 1st century CE...

Wouldn't it be so much more interesting and exciting if we gave our kids world history in school, instead of the narrow parochialisms of "the history of those who have ruled our little tiny realm, their wars, their marriages, their occasional refoms", which is all that most countries on planet Earth can manage.

Hai Bà Trưng - the Trung Sisters

and four events:

1534, Sir Thomas More, English statesman and writer, imprisoned

1961, "Bay of Pigs" invasion

1980, Zimbabwe won independence (I have a note that Ian Smith became Prime Minister of Rhodesia on April 17th 1964, but I don't plan to expand on that sad fact in this blog)

1982, Queen Elizabeth gave Canada complete independence from Britain (interestingly phrased! and absolutely questionable - I once had the pleasure of sitting next to Michaëlle Jean, the then General Governor-General, at a Jewish community dinner in Toronto, and in making conversation I asked her, quite directly, about this: she smiled, very graciously, and changed the subject - yes, the word I want to use here is definitely "subject").

And lastly, and quite possibly my favourite recorded historic moment ever: 

Today, in 1986, peace was formally agreed, and signed, between the Netherlands and the Scilly Isles. Who even knew they were at war (or that the Scilly Isles might have the means of making war)?

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