This Week in History: David & Michelangelo

David by Michelangelo
Michelangelo’s David, photographed by Jörg Bittner Unna, courtesy of Wikimedia

This week in 1501, Michelangelo began work on his statue of David, one of Renaissance Italy’s most famous works of art. The artist took three years to complete the piece, unveiling it in 1504. David was originally meant to stand on the roof-line of the Florence Cathedral, but it (he) was instead placed at Palazzo Vecchio in the public square. In 1873, David was moved to the Gallery of the Academy of Florence, with a replica standing in the original site.

Magellan: This Week in History

this week in history: Magellan's ship Victoria circumnavigated the globeThis week in history, in 1522, the Spanish carrack Victoria returned home with just eighteen crew-members. She had completing the first circumnavigation of the globe. The expedition had begun in 1519 with five fully-crewed ships under the command of Ferdinand Magellan. During the long journey across the Atlantic and Pacific and beyond, most of the initial 260 crew members deserted, died of malnutrition, or were killed in battle. Magellan himself met his end at the Battle of Mactan in the Philippines in 1521. His body was never recovered and so did not complete its journey with the Victoria, but we still credit him with the first circumnavigation of Earth.


© 2019 by David W. Tollen. All rights reserved.

My New Novel, Secrets of Hominea!

My new novel just went on sale! Secrets of Hominea is a magical middle grade fantasy novel: a tale of giants, gnomes, queens, and adventurers — and of science and history. It’s for readers age 9 to 14.

middle grade novel

My first novel, The Jericho River, won multiple awards, including wins at the Next Generation Indie awards and the London Book Festival, as well as a bronze medal in the Readers’ Favorite awards. Continue reading “My New Novel, Secrets of Hominea!”

George Washington and the Dignity of the Presidency

George Washington infused the American presidency with his personal dignity and restraint. That may seem a hazy contribution, but it has shaped our nation. “President” was a new title for a head of state in 1789, and no well-known republic had ever created such a strong one-man executive. America’s presidency could easily have become a sleazy office known for naked power. Such a graceless office might have degenerated into a banana republic strongman’s post. Or America might have suffered the sort of “citizen leadership” that destroyed the French Revolution, with executives relentlessly accusing and slandering each other. But no. Our first president was another sort of man. Continue reading “George Washington and the Dignity of the Presidency”

Star Wars and History: Samurai and Nazis

~ This is the last of a six-post series called Star Wars and History. ~

Samurai_on_SS_Kamakura_Maru_menu -- cropped
Samurai with faceplate

Star Wars draws on history for its look and feel as much as for its plot choices. In particular, the samurai of Medieval and early modern Japan contribute their style both to good guys and bad buys. Darth Vader’s armor looks like a night black, plastic version of samurai armor, and the Jedi’s robes have medieval Japanese feel too. Continue reading “Star Wars and History: Samurai and Nazis”

Terrorists and Barbarians

Vive la France
Vive la France

In the wake of terrorist attacks like Friday’s mass killings in Paris, we often call our enemies “barbarians.” They are not. Barbarians like the Vikings, Huns, and Xiongnu lived on the fringes of civilization and preyed on their richer and more settled neighbors. But they did not hate their victims. If fact, they often admired them and adopted their ways. The barbarians were not intolerant. Nor were they even immoral by the standards of their times, since few pre-modern societies condemned violence against outsiders. Barbarian raiders were just opportunists; looting and pillaging offered their fastest route to wealth. Continue reading “Terrorists and Barbarians”

The Ugly Duchess

The Ugly Duchess, Quentin Matsys
The Ugly Duchess, Quentin Matsys, c. 1513

The Ugly Duchess isn’t a post-modern surrealist painting. Nor is it a cover from Mad Magazine or an R-rated version of the Duchess from Alice in Wonderland. It’s a Renaissance masterpiece, created around 1513 by Flemish painter Quentin Matsys. No one knows who sat for the picture. Nor can anyone answer the really interesting question: Why did Matsys paint The Ugly Duchess? Continue reading “The Ugly Duchess”