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Ignore the veracity of the mug shot above as it is quite a few years old now but still remains one of my favourites.  I prefer to avoid total anonimity and what better way to do so than to park yourself in front of a webcam and accept the results. Firstly, if you wish to contact me, try an email to  steve@the9libraries.plus.com .The Twitter button alongside is another  alternative means of conact and comes with explicit apologies to Her Sovereign Majesty. Latching onto original user names breeds sometimes bizarre inventiveness. Skype has been known to work so don't rule out ringing cossack763973. Incoming mobile calls can be accepted at 07939 853006. I don't do Facebook (well...would YOU with my afflictions??) and was recently pleased to see that it's popularity has been called into question, thus confirming my instinctive decision of some two years standing.
   The rationale behind this website is directed principally towards my overriding obsession with printed books. A well-stocked private library is one of the greatest glories of modern life. It has outrun the capacity of our modestly sized house nad much of my time is spent in artfully avoiding the impact it must make on my patient and very tolerant, not to mention dearly-beloved, wife. Although you can hardly make the comparison it is extraordinary to think that a latterday bibliophile of very modest means can own a quality library which exceeds in number the collections owned by some medieval kings. That is the joy unleashed by modern authorship, editing, printing and publishing. It is an EMBARRASSINGLY rich world of books out there and I am determined to take full advantage of it while I can. I offer no disparagement to people who enjoy novels of any sort, but I have to say that my interest stops totally short of the fiction genre. I have read such books in the past, both the classics and some modern works but they carry little weight with me now. I am completely focussed on history now and am in the process of disposing of the last of my fiction collection. Literary style plays second fiddle to my impatient desire to know much more about the past from which will have all sprung. That is not to say that I will suffer badly written popular history merely for its own sake. I can throw aside a turgidly written book as well as the next person and I study all the reviews for books much more than I ever did before. 
    Its only one small step forward to make the transition from being so fascinated by history and books, to seeking to make a modest living from trading. When the site is fully functioning it will contain many items of interest. There will be a lot to download, a guestbook to run, and information to share throughout a wide range of subjects. For the time being, however, I must concentrate on listing all the books I have for sale.


A Really Simple Explanation of Really Simple Syndication (RSS)


The World Wide Web was invented by Tim Berners-Lee when he launched the first web site on 6 August 1991. That web site described a new protocol that Berners-Lee had invented, called "HyperText Transfer Protocol," or http.

Tim Berners-Lee's invention has become very popular in the eighteen years since that modest beginning!

Of course, the World Wide Web has encountered various problems and "growing pains" in the past eighteen years. One of the biggest problems, in my mind, is simply that of popularity. There are millions of web sites available today. I like to check frequently with a rather large number of web sites to see what has been added recently. However, I find that checking each web site by using the 1991 technology that uses http protocol is time-consuming. Going out to each site and manually scanning to see what is new can consume quite a bit of time, especially if you want to check several hundred web sites!

Luckily, there is a simple solution: skip the http and use RSS instead.

Instead of you going out, make the new info come to you. In effect, your computer can retrieve all the new information and store that information on your hard drive.

The new RSS (Really Simple Syndication) protocol simply adds a method of automation: instead of performing repetitive tasks yourself, let your computer do them. After all, computers are really good at performing repetitive tasks.

In the old-fashioned http method, you (the user) open a web browser and go out to various web sites of interest and retrieve information. That process works well but is really slow. Checking a few hundred web sites might require hours.

In the newer method of using RSS protocol, your computer (or web program) will go out to the Web and retrieve any new information on web sites that you have specified in a list. You manually create the list, but the computer does the repetitive checking and retrieving of new information. The new information is then stored on the computer's hard drive, waiting for you to read it. Since the information is already stored for you, there is no waiting for web pages to display. Reading new articles that have been stored on a local hard drive is as fast or perhaps faster than reading new e-mail messages in an e-mail program.

Speed is the key here. In fact, if you connect to the Internet via a dial-up connection, you need RSS! However, even users of the highest speed fiber optic connections will find RSS to be pleasantly faster than retrieving information in the old-fashioned way. You can now check hundreds of web sites for newly-added information within a very few minutes, not hours.

First, you need an RSS reader. There are many to choose from for Windows, Macintosh, Linux, Palm, SmartPhone, and Apple iPhone operating systems. Most of them are available free of charge; a few with advanced features cost a few dollars. I'd suggest that you start with a free RSS reader and use that until you become experienced enough to understand the advantages of a commercial reader. I suspect that most users never upgrade; they keep using their free RSS readers for years.

An RSS reader might be a bit of software that you install on a local computer or it might be software that runs on a distant web server in the best "cloud computing" manner. 

Installing an RSS reader in your own computer usually results in faster operation, especially for people who do not have high-speed internet service. Hundreds of such newsreaders are available

You can easily switch to a different RSS reader at a later date if you wish to. Your list of monitored web sites can be exported as an OPML file and then imported into any other modern RSS reader; you won't have to manually create your list again.

Next, you need to “subscribe” to the web sites you wish to monitor. In this step you find web sites that offer information in RSS format. Luckily, millions of web sites do just that today. Most major news services, stock market information services, weather forecasts, sports reports, and much more are available as RSS feeds. I even monitor my checkbook entries via an online RSS feed!

In addition, almost all blogs offer RSS feeds. One estimate claims there are more than 50 million blogs, and that the number is increasing rapidly.

Subscribing means creating a list of sites you are interested in monitoring. The exact process will vary from one RSS reader to another, so you will need to read the program's documentation to find the exact steps for creating that list in the RSS reader you selected. With most RSS readers, you use a normal web browser to first find a web site of interest, then switch to the RSS reader and give it a command to "check this site often." In many cases, you can simply enter the URL for a favorite web site in a subscription search box. If that site offers an RSS feed, it will automatically be added to your list.

Most RSS readers check for updates at least daily; most can check even more often than that. Should you wish to, most RSS readers will even check hourly.

Instead of manually going out to find new information, you can make that info come to you. In effect, your computer retrieves all the new information and stores that information on your hard drive or on the hard drive of a single web server. The end result is simpler, easier, and much faster operation.

New articles will start arriving in your RSS reader without any action on your part

Would NHS Southern have appointed Irma Grese if she had been available? 

BlueGriffon, a WYSIWYG HTML Content Editor

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BlueGriffonIf you ever have a requirement to create HTML code for use in web pages, you might be interested in a new HTML editor called BlueGriffon. You use HTML editors to create web pages. The pages might be for a personal web site, your genealogy society's web site, or for most any other purpose.

BlueGriffon is a WYSIWYG editor. That is, "what you see is what you get." Unlike many other HTML editors, BlueGriffon is as easy to use as a word processor. You create each page on your own Windows, Macintosh, or Linux computer, and BlueGriffon automatically creates the underlying HTML code. You can then copy that code to a web site you control, be it a personal web page, a society web site, or most any other page on the Internet. Best of all is the price tag: free.

NOTE: HTML is "hypertext markup language." It is the code used to create many web pages. For a full explanation of HTML, look on Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Html. Use of BlueGriffon or a similar WYSIWYG HTML editor shields you from most of the HTML code, however. With BlueGriffon, you simply enter the text you wish to place on a web page, add the graphics and formatting, and let BlueGriffon do all the work of converting your keystrokes into HTML code that can then be uploaded to a web page.

I create HTML pages for much of this newsletter's web site at http://www.eogn.com. Some of the pages are created by the (simplistic) HTML editor built into the TypePad hosting service. However, that editor does not create more sophisticated web pages, such as pages that contain tables. I also create the weekly Plus Edition newsletter (found at http://www.eogn.com/wp/thisweek.htm) as well as an HTML email message sent every week to announce the availability of the latest Plus Edition newsletter.

Over the years, I have been through a number of HTML WYSIWYG editors. Some years ago, when I was still using Windows as my primary computer, I used Microsoft's FrontPage. Microsoft has now replaced FrontPage with a newer product called Microsoft Expression Web. Both FrontPage and Expression Web did a credible job but were expensive. Expression Web now sells for a "street price" of $80 to $100.

Upon switching to a Mac, I decided to obtain the "heavy duty" product that professional web developers recommend: Dreamweaver. It was very expensive at about $300. I quickly learned why it is called "heavy duty." It is awkward to use and has a long learning curve. In short, Dreamweaver can do almost anything a web designer needs to do. It is somewhat like an 18-wheeler: heavy duty, rugged, and able to carry most anything. However, driving it isn't much fun, and it is very uncomfortable. In 18-wheelers, you have to double-clutch. I sometimes felt that Dreamweaver was the same. I used the program for about two years, but I never did like it and never became comfortable with it. I really needed a simpler product that was more in keeping with my needs: an automatic transmission and a comfortable ride.

I found the product I wanted, called KompoZer. This WYSIWYG editor has served me well for the past year or so. It isn't perfect, however. In fact, I'd describe KompoZer as "a bit rough around the edges" and even a bit buggy. To be sure, KompoZer is simple to use and it has met my needs well. Best of all is its price tag: Free.

On May 10, 2011, BlueGriffon version 1.0 was released and was quickly followed by newer versions. The current release is version 1.1.1.

BlueGriffon is much like KompoZer, only updated. It has an intuitive application that provides Web authors (beginners or more advanced) with a simple user interface, much like a word processor. It allows the user to create attractive Web pages without requiring extensive technical knowledge about web standards. In most cases, anyone can create a web page using BlueGriffon and then either upload the result to a web server or copy-and-paste the code into some other content management system.

In fact, BlueGriffon even looks a lot like KompoZer but with a new, friendlier user interface. In addition, BlueGriffon contains a number of features not found in the older KompoZer, such as the ability to create and edit Cascading Style Sheets (CSS).

Those who appreciate the technical details will want to know that BlueGriffon can create and edit all HTML 4, XHTML 1 and HTML 5 (both HTML and XML serializations) documents. Even if you did not use BlueGriffon to create a Web page, you'll find that BlueGriffon can easily deal with it, providing you with a nice, simple and intuitive user interface to modify your data. BlueGriffon provides CSS support as well as the popular SVG editor. Using the SVG editor, you can draw vectorial graphics from within BlueGriffon to embed them into your documents. BlueGriffon will automatically add the necessary chunk of JavaScript code to your documents, enabling SVG rendering.

The producers of BlueGriffon also produce various (optional) add-on products to extend the capabilities of the base program, and most of those options do cost money. However, I have not yet found a need for any of the add-ons. I am still using the free basic version of BlueGriffon and, so far, it has easily accomplished everything I wished to try. If you have more sophisticated requirements, you might have a need for some of the optional add-ons.

BlueGriffon is available for Windows, Macintosh, and Linux systems. It is also available in English, Dutch, French, Czech, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Simplified Chinese, Spanish and Traditional Chinese.

HTML 5 Pioneer, a web site devoted to tools used by web designers, called BlueGriffon "the best HTML5 WYSIWYG out on the market today." You can read the full review at http://goo.gl/ayL7P.

To be sure, BlueGriffon does not contain all the advanced features of the $300 HTML editors. Expert web designers probably will still prefer Dreamweaver or similar tools. However, for those of us who need simpler, more user-friendly tools to create web pages or even parts of a web page, such as a table, BlueGriffon may be the better choice. I still have the $300 Dreamweaver installed on the computer I am using at this moment, but I now build all my HTML documents in BlueGriffon. I can build a web page faster and with less effort using BlueGriffon than I can with Dreamweaver. A person who is an experienced Dreamweaver user probably will have the opposite experience, however.

BlueGriffon may or may not meet your needs as well. If you are looking for a simple-to-use HTML editor and you don't want to pay a high price, I'd suggest you check out BlueGriffon at http://www.bluegriffon.org/

The September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center towers left New Yorkers stunned and bloodied, but unbowed. It was not the first attempt against the buildings; in 1993 terrorists exploded a car bomb in the basement of one of the towers. At that time, Thomas McLarty, then President Bill Clinton's chief of staff, said, 'To my memory, we had never really experienced anything like this on American soil.' In reality, terrorists had struck at Manhattan more than a century earlier.

In 1864 New York was the nation's largest city and a world unto itself. When the Southern states seceded from the Union in 1861, some even called for New York City to follow suit and set itself up as a city-state, though it soon elected to stick with the North. At the time more than 814,000 people were crammed onto Manhattan Island, many of them living in near poverty around the slum of Five Points. A few small communities sprinkled the wilderness above 42nd Street, though far-sighted city fathers had purchased the land for Central Park back in 1856, and construction began as a relief project during the panic and depression of the following year. The water of the Hudson and East Rivers was clean enough that people could still swim in it, and they did.

Nevertheless, some things never change. 'The greatest characteristic of New York is din and excitement,' said The Stranger's Guide to New York, a contemporary travel book. 'Everything is done in a hurry, for all is intense anxiety. It is especially noticeable in the leading thoroughfare of Broadway, where the noise and confusion caused by the incessant passing and re-passing of some 18,000 vehicles a day render it a Babel scene.' Broadway was indeed the city's leading avenue. Large hotels stood on nearly every corner, and it was the street where legendary showman Phineas T. Barnum had purchased the old five-story Scudder's Museum and renamed it Barnum's American Museum. Here the master showman operated a spectacular place where people of all ages could marvel at his collection of the weird and wonderful or attended entertainments in the Lecture Room. 'Three Mammoth Fat Girls, Weighing One Ton!' Barnum's notice in the New York Times for November 25, 1864, promised, as well as 'Three Giants, Two Dwarfs, Indian Warriors, French Automatons, &c. Dramatic Entertainments Morning, Afternoon, and Evening.'

New York was also a city torn asunder by divergent politics. For three days in July 1863 it had erupted in protest against the draft, with lynch mobs running wild in the streets and rioters burning houses and businesses. Although the initial reports of more than 1,200 deaths proved exaggerated, as many as 118 people may have been killed before exhausted Union troops, marching straight from their victory at Gettysburg, put down the riot. In the aftermath, President Abraham Lincoln appointed Major General John Dix to oversee the military control of the city.

However, all that was in the past, and November 25, 1864, promised to be a day of celebration. For more than 80 years the date had been remembered as Evacuation Day, the day when the British abandoned New York City during the Revolutionary War. And this year it marked the first time the three famous acting brothers, Edwin Booth, Junius Booth, Jr., and John Wilkes Booth, had performed together. They were putting aside their own political differences to appear at the Winter Garden Theatre in Shakespeare's play about an assassination, Julius Caesar. The production was a benefit to raise funds for a fine bronze statue of Shakespeare for Central Park.

Yet this Evacuation Day would be remembered for another reason. That evening Confederate agents planned to set New York City aflame. The plot had been concocted a few months earlier by Robert Martin, a former colonel under Confederate cavalry commander John Hunt Morgan (see 'The Great Escape,' February 2000). In 1864 Martin traveled to Canada to take part in the Confederate espionage operations being planned there. Like most acts of terrorism, the Confederacy hatched the New York operation as an act of retribution, a way to seek revenge for the Union's ravaging of Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, the breadbasket of the Confederacy. The plot was a simple one. Colonel Martin and seven other agents, dressed as civilians, would cross the Canadian border to aid in an uprising by Copperheads-Northerners who sympathized with the South-on Election Day, November 8. At a predetermined time, the agents would set fire to several of the hotels along Broadway, and the Copperheads would begin an uprising similar to the Draft Riots. Once they had captured General Dix and placed him in irons, they would raise the Confederate flag over the city and declare it an independent entity.

This audacious plot quickly fell apart. Union forces, tipped off by an informer, discovered the scheme, and troops under General Benjamin Butler marched into the city to maintain order. The quick action, plus the demoralizing news from Georgia that General William T. Sherman had captured Atlanta, deflated the Copperheads' ambitious plans.

Nevertheless, the eight Confederates assigned to torch the city remained determined to complete their task. One by one, they made their way into New York City and registered under assumed names at various hotels, all of them along Broadway. John W. Headley, Martin's second in command, contacted a local chemist from whom the Confederates had arranged to obtain 12 dozen bottles of a mixture that contemporary reports said was phosphorus. Other reports called it 'Greek Fire,' an incendiary mixture of sulfur, naphtha, and quicklime that bursts into flame when exposed to air. The mixture had a long history. The Ancient Greeks had invented it, and the Byzantines used it to destroy a Saracen fleet in the seventh century. For setting things ablaze, this was clearly the right stuff to use.

Headley found the chemist 'in a basement on the west side of Washington Place.' The old man handed him a heavy valise, and Headley lugged it onto a street car and took it with him to a rendezvous point. There he divided the bottles up among the other would-be arsonists, who put them in cheap black satchels. 'We were now ready to create a sensation in New York,' Headley declared.

The saboteurs struck on the evening of Friday, November 25. The first hotel they hit was the St. James on 26th and Broadway, where around 8:45 a guest saw smoke coming from a room that had been rented to a man calling himself John School. The locked door was broken down and the fire was put out in seconds. The room was empty, save for an empty bottle of Greek Fire in a black satchel.

The next hotel to report a blaze was the United States. A young man with a carpetbag had arrived that afternoon and asked for a room on a lower floor. The only one available was on the fifth floor, however, and the man agreed to take it 'with great reluctance,' reported the Times. The young man's odd behavior, as well as his wig and fake whiskers, aroused the proprietor's suspicions, or so he later said. But he rented the man a room anyway. At 8:45 someone discovered flames coming from the room, and the occupant had disappeared. Again, the fire was quickly extinguished.

A permanent resident of the St. Nicholas, a three-building hotel, noticed two men behaving suspiciously as they left the hotel. 'It's all right,' one reassured the other before they both disappeared into the night. At 8:55 fires broke out in Rooms 128, 129, 130, and 174, but the house fire department kept the blazes under control and restricted damage to those four rooms. Then shortly after 9:00 an employee of Barnum's Museum noticed a flash of fire on the fifth-floor staircase. His cry of fire 'ran through the Lecture Room, startling everyone and causing the most intense excitement,' said the New York Herald. 'Almost before any of those in the Lecture Room could get out the fire had been extinguished, but this did not seem to allay the excitement . . . . The giantess became so alarmed that she ran down the main stairs into the street, and took refuge in Powers' Hotel.'

At 9:20 a blaze erupted in a third-floor room of the Lafarge House, but guests and staff quickly extinguished it. The room's occupant, one J.B. Richardson of Camden, New Jersey, was nowhere to be found. 'When the alarm of fire was given at the Lafarge, the excitement became very intense among the closely-packed mass of human beings in the Winter Garden Theatre adjoining the Lafarge,' said the Times. Edwin Booth, a police inspector, and a local judge helped calm the anxious audience.

The fires continued. A room at the Belmont Hotel was set ablaze around 10:00, and a room at Tammany Hall around the same time. The man who checked into the latter room, who gave his name as C.E. Morse of Rochester, had disappeared, but his handwriting resembled that of the man who had checked into one of the rooms of the St. Nicholas Hotel that had been set alight. Both blazes were quickly extinguished. Also at 10:00, residents of the Metropolitan discovered a fire on the upper floor, but hotel workers put it out. Around 10:30 someone opened the door to a fourth-floor bedroom on the northeast wing of Lovejoy's Hotel and discovered a flaming mattress, but rapid action doused the blaze. At 11:00 in the New-England House, a man calling himself George Morse took a room on the second floor. 'In a few minutes he came down stairs and went out, saying he would return,' reported the Times. 'Soon afterward the room which he occupied was found to be on fire.' Here, too, the flames were doused quickly. Then at Lovejoy's Hotel another room was discovered on fire, this time on the southeast wing. It was rapidly extinguished.

Headley set one of his fires in the plush Astor House. He put the bedclothes and furniture on the bed, added some newspapers, poured turpentine on the pile, then took out his Greek Fire. 'I opened a bottle carefully and quickly, and spilled it on the pile of rubbish. It blazed up instantly and the whole bed seemed to be in flames before I could get out,' he wrote in 1906. Headley locked the door, casually made his way downstairs, and left his key with the clerk. He then set blazes at the Everett and United States Hotels. Walking down the street, Headley recognized another member of his gang, Captain Robert Cobb Kennedy, in front of him. 'I closed up behind him and slapped him on the shoulder,' Headley recalled. 'He squatted and began to draw his pistol, but I laughed and he knew me. He laughed and said he ought to shoot me for giving him such a scare.'

The fires continued. A room on one of the upper floors of the Fifth Avenue Hotel burst into flames when a porter opened the door. The arsonist had saturated the bedding with phosphorous, but it didn't ignite until the open door supplied the draft it needed. The porter extinguished the fire. At the five-story Hanford Hotel-which neighbored a planing mill and a large lumberyard-one of the upper floor rooms was found ablaze, but an employee put the flames out. Had the blaze spread, the entire Lower East Side might have been threatened. Meanwhile, the police discovered a couple of hay barges spitting fire, but they put them out without much difficulty.

Somehow the city's luck continued to hold, despite the fact that some people kept ignoring all warning of calamity. 'Immediately after the first alarm was given [Police Chief of Detectives John Young] went to the Metropolitan Hotel, told the proprietors what was anticipated, and urged them to set double watches through all the halls,' reported the Herald. 'He also sent similar messages to the other hotels, and had his advice been heeded, many of the fires would doubtless have been prevented.' All in all, the saboteurs set more than a dozen buildings ablaze that night, but none of them burned long. That was mainly because the raiders, in their desire to remain undetected, made one major mistake: 'It was noticed that in every room where the phosphorus was found the windows and all apertures for the admission of air and ventilation were tightly closed,' the Herald reported. Without a draft, the fires didn't have the oxygen they needed to reach dangerous levels.

New York City responded to the attack with fear and outrage. Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper called it 'The most diabolical attempt at arson and murder of which there is any record in the history of our country.' The Times called the plot 'one of the most fiendish and inhuman acts known to modern times.' P.T. Barnum quickly assured patrons with a statement that detailed his safeguards against future fires and said his museum was 'as safe a place of amusement as can be found in the world.'

The following day, the police began rounding up suspects-nearly 200 people in all. Among them was a women from Baltimore whom police had taken into custody after she was 'noticed going from one hotel to another, leaving each hotel just previous to the breaking out of the fire.' She was later released after explaining she had merely been trying to track down a store clerk who was living at one of the hotels. While the Times called for stricter control of Southerners in the city, and the Hotel Keepers' Association offered $20,000 in reward money for the apprehension of the arsonists, somehow all the Confederates managed to take trains out of town. They crossed back into Canada just two days later.

Robert Cobb Kennedy was not content to lie low in Canada. He was a man of action. A former West Pointer from Louisiana, Kennedy had maintained Southern sympathies and joined the Confederate army. Although captured and sent to the notorious Johnson's Island Prison on Sandusky Bay, Lake Erie, Kennedy had escaped only six weeks before the New York attack. A contemporary at the prison remembered him as 'a perfect dare-devil, and no situation, however perilous, seemed to daunt his courage.' It was Kennedy who set the fire in the Barnum Museum, when he ducked into the building to hide after setting fire to his assigned hotels. Kennedy decided to burn the museum on a whim, feeling 'there would be fun to start a scare,' as Headley recounted. 'He broke a bottle of Greek fire, he said, on the edge of a step like he would crack an egg. It blazed up and he got out to witness the result.'

Just two weeks after trying to set Broadway ablaze and crossing into Canada and safety, Kennedy involved himself in another covert operation-this time a plot to rescue seven Confederate generals being transferred between prisons by rail. This plot also failed, and soon after Kennedy returned to Canada he decided to make a break for his home state. This time his luck ran out. Detectives arrested Kennedy in Detroit and placed him on a train bound for New York City. There, in a military trial, judgment was swift and furious. 'The attempt to set fire to the city of New York,' said General Dix, 'is one of the great atrocities of the age. There is nothing in the annals of barbarism which evinces greater vindictiveness. It was not a mere attempt to destroy the city, but to set fire to crowded hotels and places of public resort, in order to secure the greatest possible destruction of human life.' And then the punishment was read: 'Robert C. Kennedy will be hanged from the neck till he is dead at Fort Lafayette, New York Harbor, on Saturday, the twenty-fifth day of March.'

On that day Kennedy stood on the gallows, and a hood was placed over his head. He began singing: 'Trust to luck/trust to luck/stare Fate in the face/for your heart will be easy/if it's in the right place . . . ' Then the platform dropped. He was the last Confederate soldier executed by the Union.

'Though the damage was minor, as it turned out,' Civil War historian Shelby Foote wrote, 'the possibilities were frightening enough. Federal authorities could see in the conspiracy a forecast of what might be expected in the months ahead, when the rebels grew still more desperate over increasing signs that their war could not be won on the field of battle.' Life in New York quickly returned to normal, so much so that an editorial writer for the New York Times believed that the city had not learned its lesson. 'The effective measures taken by the authorities will cause a temporary suspension of incendiary operations, no doubt,' he wrote, 'but it becomes us to see to it that we are not put off our guard by relapsing into a somnolent indifference. It is when we have got to fancy ourselves perfectly secure, that the pestilence will break out with new and accumulated force.'

This article was written by Phil Scott and originally published in the January 2002 issue of American History Magazine. For more great articles, subscribe to American History magazine today!

         The Hussite Wars
King Wenceslaus (Václav IV) was ruler of the Holy Roman Empire until 1400AD. In this fatal year he was disentitled by the electors and Prague lost its unique position as the empire’s capital city. A year afterwards allied German forces invaded Bohemia and if it wasn’t for Moravian Margrave Jošta the invasion could have ended in disaster because Wenceslaus didn’t attempt resistance. Part of the Czech nobility began colluding with Wenceslaus’ brother Sigismund (Zikmund), who was a ruler of Hungary. In 1403 he interned Wenceslaus in Vienna and almost became a king. However, his heartless policy didn’t win him many supporters and the political situation in Hungary postponed Sigismund’s Czech enthronement for many years.
The reformists were gradually prevailing and in 1408 Wenceslaus succumbed to their pressure and nominated new Old Town aldermen. For the first time Czech townsfolk dominated.  The king discussed the nomination with eminent noblemen who were in favour of reforms and also with preachers and scholars such as Jeroným Pražský and Jan Hus. Wenceslaus’ sympathy to reform froze when the second Charles IV’s son Sigismund Luxemburg, the Hungarian king, was elected as the Holy Roman emperor. It was even more painful because Sigismund promised to Wenceslaus to support his candidacy for the emperor’s crown.
The University was definitely occupied by those in favour of reform. Students provoked the king by burning imitations of papal documents so he eventually changed his decision regarding the Old Town council and nominated a new one, where the Germans had majority again. The Germans also got ten years remission of tax and on top of that the king gave up on his privilege to nominate alderman. Another apparent advantage was a very strange privilege according which a person was not allowed to appeal from the Old Town court to the royal court. The Germans executed two of Czech alderman which was an obvious revenge for their activities in the council since 1408 and also for the issue of the Decree of Kutna Hora which gave priority to the Czechs in the Prague University. These doings once again changed Wenceslaus’ opinion; he nominated a new council which ruled till 1420 even after the king’s death. The Czech Old Town council was instrumental in spreading the Hussite ideas to other royal towns.
Jan Hus decided in 1414 to make a journey to the council in Constance to vindicate his reform council ideas. He was there declared as a heretic, put in prison and on 6th July 1415, burned to death. A year later also Jeroným pražský was burned. This caused significant indignation and Czech nobility sent the council in Constance a protest which carried 452 Czech nobleman’s seals. In Prague, churches began the Celebration of the Lord's Supper in both kinds (bread and wine to priests and laity alike). Those priests who refused communion in both kinds were driven out of the churches.
In 1417 Prague University issued a declaration approving communion in both kinds as correct and corresponding with Christ commandments. The Faculty of Theology was subsequently abolished, Medical Faculty activities were discontinued and only the Faculty of Arts remained.
Wenceslaus succumbed to the pressure of his brother (who threatened with military attack) and of the Pope, in 1419 he agreed to the return of catholic priests. On the other hand he allowed for three churches to stay in the hands of Hussites. Freshly nominated New Town aldermen, who were catholic supporters, imprisoned a few Hussite radicals. Subsequently a preacher Jan Želivský and his followers broke into the Town Hall and threw the alderman out of the window. Prague, with exception of Vyšehrad, became a Hussite city. Afterwards new aldermen were elected and shortly afterwards the king Wenceslaus died at his castle Novy Hradek near Kunratic.
According to the tradition it was Wenceslaus’ brother the emperor Sigismund who was supposed to succeed him on the throne. However, he didn’t take power until the fratricidal battle of Czechs at Lipany in 1620. Hussites together with the nobility and Prague council demanded the emperor to allow for communion in both kinds and the annexation of Church property. Furthermore they asked for priests to be excluded from secular authorities, foreigners not to be allowed to carry state functions and the University privileges to be restored. They also insisted on legal proceedings to be carried out in the Czech language and towns with a Czech majority should have councils with a majority of Czech alderman. Sigismund refused to submit to these demands and attacked Prague, as he was well aware of the fact that those who held Prague can rule the whole of Bohemia. In 1420 he struck two battles and lost. Firstly he came with a huge army, which (according to some historical source books) amounted to 145 thousand soldiers. Against him stood the Praguers and the Taborites, who were lead by Jan Žižka. Sigismund let himself be crowned as a Czech king and shortly after the lost battle left the city. He came back in autumn (together with him came Moravian noblemen) when he wanted to help Vyšehrad, which was the only place remaining faithful to the king. He was defeated at Pankrácka plan, where some of the noblemen also died
The moderate Hussites were searching for new king but the radical ones didn’t desire foreign rule. Europe sent many crusades against the Hussites but these were always defeated. However, there had been dissents between the Hussites for many years which ended up in uniting of conservative Utraquists or Calixtines (the chalice was their symbol) with Catholics. These were defeated by Jan Žižka at the U Malešova battle.  Žižka’s desire was to unite Bohemia but he didn’t succeed as he died in 1424. Ten years later the disputes between different Hussite fractions ended up in the Battle U Lipan where the moderate Hussite faction, the Utraquists (in alliance with Catholics), defeated the more radical faction, the Taborites. After their victory the conservative Hussites negotiated with the emperor Sigismund. The agreement granted the communion in both kinds and Sigismund agreed to support the Czech language and to ban foreigners working in official posts. On top of that the Prague townsfolk extorted an issue of a document, stating that they don’t have to receive back those who emigrated during the revolution. Sigismund entered Prague on 23rd August 1436, half year later his wife Barbora was crowned empresses in St. Vitus Cathedral and on 12th April 1437 reconciliation with Roman Church was declared. Sigismund died in December 1437.
After his death anarchy sat in and this was interrupted only by a few efforts from the Czech nobility to restore royal power. Prague didn’t benefit form this state of affairs at all. The conservative Utraquist took power and Prague was ruled by Pešík of Kunvald and Pavel Detřichovice, who didn’t meddle in the city life affairs and minded their own business. In 1448 George of Podiebrad (Jiří z Poděbrad) entered the stage. This wealthy Utraquist nobleman acted as the Czech bailiff for ten years. When the Czech king Ladislaus the Postumous died (Ladislav Pohrobek in Czech, he ruled for only three years), George of Podiebrad was elected as the Czech king. He was elected by the assembly, which took place at the Old Town Hall. This election was uniquely democratic if we take into consideration that at these times the royal titles were mostly hereditary.
George of Podiebrad ruled in Bohemia until his death in 1471AD and his governance stabilised the situation. The Hussite’s motto “Truth wins” became also Gorge of Podiebrad’s motto and found its way onto the president standard after the Czechoslovakia Republic’s creation in 1918. Hussite Prague loved its king and built him two memorials during his lifetime. The first one, an equestrian statue with motto “Truth wins” was installed by the Prague archbishop Jan Rokycana in Tynsky church. Another statue, possibly also equestrian, wasn’t preserved. It may have used to stand on Charles Bridge, where today a Piet? is located. Prague suffered from the Hussite Wars as did the University. The Pope confirmed the University a Christian status in 1447. However, as all the teachers had to swear communion in both kinds in 1458, the University became second-rate as many teachers couldn’t work in Prague for religious reasons. The Hussite movement was distant and didn’t manage to establish contacts with Europe. That’s why it has been argued that Bohemian fell behind the rest of Europe. We can’t, however, deny that Hussites brought an unknown phenomenon - a profound national awakening which was to come in the rest of Europe only later.

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