A Fitting Coda to a Year Like No Other

Occasionally we seem to bear witness to something important. It's the unsettling feeling of looking into the void of unwritten history and the weight of uncertainty bearing down. It makes life seem interesting. And ominous.

I was too young to remember 9/11, only the barely concealed awkwardness of a father searching for the words to describe this horror to an 8-year-old. As you get older you learn how truly difficult it is to communicate something so obvious to someone who does not have the experience to see the obvious. …

“Surrender of ex-General Twiggs, late of the United States Army, to the Texan troops in the Gran Plaza, San Antonio, Texas, February 16, 1861.” Harper’s Weekly, March 23, 1861.

Going into the election of 1860, tensions in the United States over the legal status of slavery in the territories had reached a boiling point. The passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act meant any new states admitted to the Union out of the lands acquired from the Louisiana Purchase and the Mexican Cession could vote on allowing slavery in their state constitutions. This doctrine of “popular sovereignty” had led to bloodshed in Kansas over that prospective state’s constitution, and the rise of the Republican Party, which opposed any expansion of slavery, created a national tinderbox.

The race became a four-way election…

Statue of Timur in Tashkent, Uzbekistan

The Silk Road and the Central Asian region have long been the crossroads of empires, and the plaything of numerous conquerors throughout history. Only in the 13th century would it be united under the rule of the Mongol Empire, the largest contiguous empire in history. but this would not last for long.

The Mongol Empire disintegrated into several autonomous khanates by the 14th century. The eastern portion of the former empire became the Ming Dynasty of China. Turko-Mongol (Tatar) peoples would dominate the other three khanates. The Golden Horde consisted of the northwestern sector of the former empire, and at…

Trump is a populist demagogue in the spirit of Latin American caudillos of the past. But the future he points to is darker and nihilistic, one that can be found in its later stages in the gangster state of Putin’s Russia.

The period immediately leading up to and following the 2020 elections is defined by the pressure campaign of Trump and his surrogates to ensure the results of the election were in his favor. As has been documented extensively, and convincingly argued by the House impeachment managers, Donald Trump began the process of questioning the election results back in April

Three men fight for the French throne

Henry IV at the Battle of Arques

The Stage is Set

The final phase of the French Religious Wars was known as the War of the Three Henrys (1587–1589) and was a raw struggle for power between three political factions. The monarchists, religious moderates, and the political class all continued to support the French king Henry III of the House of Valois. Henry, Duke of Guise led the Catholic League, which was a coalition of Catholic French nobles who had effectively usurped control of the French crown. …


Photo by Clint McKoy on Unsplash

The night danced away
With us around the fire pit
We looked at the crescent moon
And talked unaware
Of the beauty around us.

And we laughed and
We drank and
We Smoked the night out
We wandered up the hills.
Under the dark cover
They appeared as twilight outlines
And a shadow river flowed
Between moonlit hilltops.

Shapes came forward
And faded back
Some shaped like me
Their voices called out
And mine in response
And we carried on through
The moonlit forest.

A river flowed ahead
We saw reflections of starlight
Bright dots on a silky canvas
We chilled our feet…

Diversity can be found in some unlikely places

I grew up on a ranch north of the “small” town of Corsicana, Texas. The town was the county seat of Navarro County and the center of a regional economy supported by ranching and agriculture. Corsicana is what you might expect from a small town on the dividing line between east and central Texas. Rumors spread quickly, often through the halls of churches. Religion and the school district were the backbones of social life, as well as that great Texas small-town tradition, the weekly ritual of Friday night lights.

It was a simple way to live. You get up and…

The 1570 Peace of Saint-Germain-en-Laye had temporarily put a stop to the civil war between Catholics and the French Protestants known as Huguenots. Riots and sporadic violence continued, including periodic massacres of Huguenots at the hands of Catholic mobs. But these events were not perpetrated by the French government.

St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre by François Dubois

A Tenuous Peace

The leader of the Huguenot armies, Gaspard de Coligny, had found his way into the council of the young French king Charles IX (1560–1574). Coligny slowly manipulated Charles IX into siding with the Huguenot faction in his court and drove a wedge between the king, the king’s mother Catherine de Medici…

Hagia Sophia, the largest church in the world in what was once the capital of the Byzantine Empire (Istanbul)

From humble beginnings to the world’s most powerful ruler

By the turn of the 9th century, the Byzantine Empire had experienced nearly 200 year of steady decline. Once the most powerful state in Europe, the empire had been reduced to control of Anatolia and small parts of modern Greece and Italy due to a combination of infighting and territorial expansions of the Arab and Slavic peoples on its frontiers. This period of decline had weakened Byzantine society, creating the perfect environment for an ambitious and competent outsider to rise through the ranks and make his mark.

Basil the Macedonian was born in 811 AD in western Thrace to a…

Our submission guidelines

Welcome! The goal of this publication is to present stories from the past that helped shape the world we live in today. To do this, we want to tell compelling stories in a way that draws in the audience and doesn’t feel like a college history lecture. We welcome high-quality, engaging drafts from writers with a passion for history.

Please read on for the submission guidelines.

What We Look For

The Footnotes of History is a platform to educate a modern audience about the stories that shaped our world. We put a premium on historical accuracy and on avoiding politically charged narratives where possible…

Ken Briggs

San Antonio-based entrepreneur, marketer, and writer. Check out my site: https://ken-briggs.com/

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