Union of South Africa Created (1910)

In 1910, the British colonies of Cape Colony, Transvaal, Natal, and Orange River were unified into the new Union of South Africa. Under the Union’s constitution, power was centralized. Elections were held, and Louis Botha became the first prime minister. The Dutch language was given equal status with English, and each province retained its existing franchise qualifications. The Union became independent and withdrew from the Commonwealth exactly how many years after its founding? Discuss

Henry Sidgwick (1838)

Sidgwick was a British philosopher whose Methods of Ethics is considered by some to be the most significant 19th-century ethical work in English. Drawing on the utilitarianism of John Stuart Mill and the categorical imperative of Immanuel Kant, he proposed a system of “universalistic hedonism” that would reconcile the conflict between the pleasure of self and the pleasure of others. He promoted higher education for women and cofounded what society devoted to studying paranormal events? Discuss

The Death Drive

In his observations of World War I veterans, Sigmund Freud noticed that the men had a strange proclivity toward reenacting traumatic experiences. He also observed this tendency in young children who often play games that simulate unpleasant situations. To explain this, he introduced and later developed the concept of the death drive: a primitive impulse for destruction, decay, and death, manifested by a turning away from pleasure. What Freudian principle does the death drive violate? Discuss

Old West Outlaw Pearl Hart Robs a Stagecoach (1899)

Hart was an American outlaw whose notoriety stemmed primarily from the fact that she was female. Her early life was fairly ordinary. She grew up wealthy and eloped at 16. In 1893, after seeing Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, she left her abusive husband and went west, where she acquired a taste for cigars, liquor, and morphine. In 1899, she helped rob a stagecoach, making away with over $400. She was apprehended, escaped, was recaptured, and then tried for her crimes. Why was she later pardoned? Discuss

René Barrientos (1919)

Barrientos was elected vice president of Bolivia in 1964, but he soon broke with the president and joined other army officers in a coup. He was installed as head of a military junta and became the sole president after winning the 1966 elections. He launched a moderate—albeit military—administration, retaining the reforms instituted by his predecessors. Three years later, he died in a helicopter crash. Why did he once jump out of an airplane with a parachute that had earlier failed to open? Discuss

Mind Your Manners

The use of the fork is a basic concern of Western table etiquette. The utensil’s origin is disputed; certain passages in the book of I Samuel suggest that forks were used during priestly sacrifice, and it is commonly accepted that the Greeks used serving forks long before the Middle Ages. Before the fork made its 10th century debut at tables across Europe, people commonly used their hands to eat. Why did the Roman Catholic Church initially consider the use of a fork an insult to God? Discuss

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874)

A British man of letters, Chesterton was a journalist, scholar, novelist, short-story writer, and poet. He wrote essays on Christianity and works of social and literary criticism on subjects such as Charles Dickens. His fiction includes the popular allegorical novel The Man Who Was Thursday, and his most successful creation, the series of detective novels featuring the priest-sleuth Father Brown. Chesterton was also known for collaborating with what author? Discuss

Prehistoric Music

Music existed long before human cultures were literate or had developed a written system of record-keeping, perhaps originating as an attempt to echo the sounds and rhythms of nature. These sounds may have been used to lure prey while hunting or in recreational or shamanistic rituals. The oldest known bone flute is about 50,000 years old, but experts believe that humans may have used what to create a form of music that predates such instruments? Discuss