17th Century

A Brief History of Ballet, Pt. 2

In the first part of this two-parter, we covered ballet’s origins and early evolution. We left off with the founding of the Academie Royale de Musique, and the ways Jean-Baptiste Lully worked to ensure that his academy had as much prestige as possible.  

A Brief History of Ballet, Pt. 1

For a long time, there was no formalized dance in western culture. Eventually, court performers in Europe were asked to also teach their audiences how to dance, blending the worlds of performance and social dancing, and creating a new art form.

The Beheading of Sir Walter Raleigh

Among other things, Sir Walter Raleigh was a courtier, an explorer, a historian, a Member of Parliament and a soldier. He was part of England’s defense against the Spanish armada, as well the Tudor conquest of Ireland, some of which was truly horrifying. According to some people, he is now a ghost. 

The Defenestrations of Prague

“Defenestrate” just means “to throw out of a window.” And apart from sounding like the punch line to a joke about Daleks … there has been a surprising amount of defenestration in Czech history. And almost all of it has been connected religious wars.

Henry Every, Successful Pyrate

Every carried out what’s been described as the most profitable and brutal pirate raid in history. It became a massive international incident, and Britain tried to repair its relationship with the Mughal Empire through a highly publicized series of trials.

The East India Company's Theft of China’s Tea Secrets

Great Britain's relationship with tea is part of its cultural identity. But before the mid-1800s, China was the only source of tea, which was a problem in the eyes of the East India Company. 

The Minuscule Science of Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek

Leeuwenhoek wasn’t REALLY a scientist -- he had no formal training. But he made dozens of scientific discoveries. He’s credited with discovering microscopic life in a variety of forms, using lenses he ground himself.

Catalina de Erauso, the Lieutenant Nun

Despite growing up in a convent and coming very close to taking religious vows as a nun, Catalina de Erauso wound up living a life of danger and adventure. A lot of today's episode falls into the general category of "exploits."

William Hogarth

In the early 18th century, an engraver-turned-artist made his mark on the art world by producing satirical prints in series that commented on morality and society. And some of his work is used today as a teaching tool.

Maria Sibylla Merian

As a naturalist illustrator, Maria Sibylla Merian helped dispel many entomological myths and improved the scientific study of insects and plants, and she did it beautifully.