Archive for the ‘facts’ Category

Facts about the extraordinary life of Joan of Arc

  • joan-arc Joan of Arc is a national heroine of France, who came from very humble surroundings to inspire the Dauphin of France to drive the British out of the country. She was initially very successful, but later was tried for witchcraft and burnt at the stake. However, seven years after her death, the British left France and she became revered as an inspired leader.
  • She was born in 1412 Domremy, France, the daughter of a tenant farmer and died at the age of 19.
  • Joan of Arc’s real name was Jehanne d’Arc. She is also known as Jeanne d’Arc (French) and at her trial, she called herself – “Jehanne la Pucelle” The Maid of Orléans. She may also have gone by the name Jehanne Vouthon.
  • From the age of 13, she reported hearing ‘voices from God’ – entrusting her with an important mission.

“I was thirteen when I had a Voice from God for my help and guidance. The first time that I heard this Voice, I was very much frightened; it was mid-day, in the summer, in my father’s garden. ”

– Joan of Arc from her trial transcript.

Mission to the Dauphin

  • Joan_of_arc_200 There had long been a prophecy that a young female virgin would save France. This prophecy helped to build up a following for Joan of Arc.
  • Her mother had a dream that Joan led a band of soldiers because of this, her parents carefully watched over her – fearing one day she would leave home. Joan was outwardly obedient to her parent and when she felt it was time to leave, she took the help of her uncle.
  • When Joan of Arc first arrived in the court of the Dauphin in  Chinon in 1428, she was initially greeted with incredulity and suspicion. She was refused a meeting with the Dauphin. However, she stayed and some locals became impressed with her honesty and fervour. Eventually, the Dauphin agreed to meet her and in a private meeting – Joan is said to have revealed something only a ‘messenger of God’ could have known. After this, the Dauphin accepted Joan of Arc and took her seriously.
  • The Dauphin of France was Charles de Ponthieu, he was considered weak and an ineffective rule, but after meeting Joan of Arc the fortunes of the French changed. The Dauphin was crowned King Charles VII on 17 July 1429, a year after meeting Joan of Arc.



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Interesting Facts about Sir Edmund Hillary

Edmund_Hillary_at_Delta_Camp_near_Blenheim_during_WWII Sir Edmund Hillary, along with Sherpa Tenzing was the first person to climb Mount Everest – the world’s highest peak – in May 1953. The news was released on the morning of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation.

In his diary many years, Tenzing said Hillary reached the top of Mount Everest first, though there was no competitive feeling between the two. FOr many years they kept a pact that they did not reveal who was ‘first’ They climbed with a sense of oneness and friendship. Hillary had made a determined effort to become friendly with Tenzing and the two became life-long friends, though ironically when they met never talked about the Everest expedition, only their families

“After the expedition, Tenzing and I spent quite a lot of time together, but we never, ever, talked about the climb up Everest. I don’t know why.” (NYT)

Edmund_Hillary_and_Tenzing_Norgay On top of Mount Everest, Hillary went to shake the hand of Tenzing, and Tenzing responded by warmly embracing him. They spent 15 minutes at the summit. Hillary took photos of Tenzing and down the mountain. There are no photos of Hillary at the summit as he wasn’t sure Tenzing had ever used a camera. Describing his experience of reaching the summit, Hillary said

“I felt a quiet glow of satisfaction spread through my body — a satisfaction less vociferous but more powerful than I had ever felt on a mountain top before.”

Before the Second World War, Hillary had said to a friend that “I will climb Mount Everest” – but at the time, there was uncertainty over whether it was possible. For many decades climbers had dreamt of scaling the world’s highest peak, but many had died in their failed attempt to reach it. Hillary later said, he was very lucky to be able to complete his dream. Describing the view from the top he said

“The whole world around us lay spread out like a giant relief map… “I am a lucky man. I have had a dream and it has come true, and that is not a thing that happens often to men.” (NY Times)

On the 1953 British expedition, there were 350 porters, 20 sherpas and ten climbers. From these ten climbers, there were three teams of two who would be chosen to go from the final camp to the summit. The first pair to make an attempt on the summit were Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evans. But, they were forced back only 101 metres short of the summit on 26 May. Three days later Hillary and Tenzing made their successful climb.


View of Mount Everest

In 1960, Hillary organised the expedition which led to the first successful ascent of Everest without oxygen. Griffith Pugh climbed to the top after spending many months acclimatising at altitude.

During the 1960 expedition, Hillary also investigated the legend of the ‘abominable snowman’ or great yeti. Hillary found rational explanations for the feared legend.

South pole. In 1958, Hillary reached the south pole as part of the Commonwealth-Trans-Antarctic Expedition. They reached the south pole by motor vehicles and were the first cross-land expedition since Amundsen and Scott pre-WWI.

North Pole. In 1985, he flew to the North Pole with a party that included Neil Armstrong (first man on the moon), Steve Fossett — (first man to fly a balloon around the world) — and Patrick Morrow — (the first person to climb the highest peaks of all seven continents) It made Edmund Hillary the first person to attain the ‘Three Poles Challenge” – Everest, North pole, south pole.

Source of the Ganges – In 1977, he took an expedition from the mouht of the Ganges, to its source in the Himalays.


Hillary’s first experience of climbing mountains came in 1935, when aged 16, he went on a school trip to Mount Ruapehu. This trigged a life-long love of high mountains.

Hillary didn’t like using the term ‘conquer’ mountains. He felt it was better to describe as completing the ascent. After climbing Everest, like the Sherpa tradition, he was grateful to the mountain for allowing a successful ascent.

“It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”

In New Zealand, he spent three days looking after young women Ruth Adams, who slipped 20m and broke her arm. Hillary dug an ice cave until a rescue mission could be launched. Hillary believed in the importance of safe and forceful climbing.

“I’ve always hated the danger part of climbing, and it’s great to come down again because it’s safe,”

After climbing Everest, Hillary thought no one would ever want to do it again. The opposite happened with many thousands now ascending on routes made easier with steps. He has criticised the commercialisation of climbing Mount Everest and feels it is not like the mountaineering of old

Personal life

As a youngster, he had great insecurity about his physique. His physical training teacher looked at him with contempt. Hillary said, “I developed a feeling of inferiority about my physique which has remained with me to this day, not about what [it] could achieve but a solid conviction about how appalling I looked.” However, a late growth spurt and realisation he was stronger than others when climbing helped to boost his esteem.

After his successful climb of Everest, Hillary devoted much of his time to the Himalayan Trust which built schools, hospitals and airstrips in Nepal. Hillary later received honourary citizenship for Nepal in recognition of his lifelong love of the country.

After dropping out of college he became a beekeeper. The business was started by his father and his mother was known for breeding ‘Queen bees’ During a working day he could be stung several times by bees. After looking after bees in the summer, he concentrated on climbing in the winter.

For a time, he followed a spiritual group called “Radiant Living” this was the forerunner of new age movements, with an emphasis on vegetarian diet, eating fruit and veg, physical exercise and positive attitude. Hillary became a teacher for the group a short while.

For a time Hillary was a pacifist – influenced by the Radiant Living movement. He initially applied to join NZ air force in 1939 but withdrew his application because of pacifist beliefs. By 1943, he had lost his pacifism and joined the RNZAF for the remainder of the war.

Hillary did not follow a particular religion, but he had an interest in all main religions, especially Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism of Nepal and India.

“I have no particular religious beliefs at all, but I am interested in all religions… I think that we have to learn to choose our own path, to make our own way, and in many ways, to overcome our own problems.”

A couple of months after climbing Everest, he became engaged to Louise Mary Rose – who was 11 years younger. She was 23, he was 34. He was so nervous about proposing, he asked his future mother-in-law to do it on his behalf. He later said the marriage was ‘the most sensible action that I have ever taken’

His first wife Louise, tragically died in a plane crash in 1975, along with his daughter Belinda. They were travelling in Nepal to help Hillary build a hospital.

Hillary died on 11 January 2008, at the age of 88, He died of heart failure at Auckland City Hospital. Most of the ashes were scattered in the Hauraki Gulf in Auckland, while some were sent to a Nepalese monastery near Mount Everest.


After Everest, Hillary received innumerable awards and praise by the media, including a knighthood. He found the attention difficult and when seeing a big crowd appear for his return to Auckland, he commented to a friend “Gosh this is going a bit far”

Nz5d In 1992, he became the first living Kiwi to be featured on a banknote. Hillary insisted that the mountains in the background be of NZ mountains rather than Everest. And when being told of the honour he wryly remarked – does this mean I have to be respectable for the rest of my life?

He was named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of the twentieth century.

Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Facts about Sir Edmund Hillary”, Oxford, UK., published 9 April 2020.


High Adventure – Edmund Hillary



High Adventure – Edmund Hillary at Amazon


David_Livingstone Famous Adventurers – Famous adventurers and explorers, including Christopher Colombus, Marco Polo, Roald Amundsen and Neil Armstrong.

Famous firstsCaptain-cook – Notable achievements and experiences which were achieved for the first time

Facts about Simon Bolivar

  • Simon Bolivar was responsible for liberating the modern-day countries of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. He is one of the very few people who have had a country named after them.
  • His parents died when he was young and he was brought up by a family slave called Hipolita. He described Hipolita as the ‘only mother I have known.
  • During the movement for independence, 696 battles were fought using on average 1,400 men. Bolivar often acted as a military leader and sometimes left to his chief commander Antonio Jose de Sucre.
  • Bolivar married in 1801, but his wife Maria died early the next year from yellow fever. Bolivar was so upset he vowed never to marry again, which he didn’t. He did have several lovers.
  • When Bolivar was only 22 years old, he got down on his knees and made a vow to his friend Alexander von Humboldt that he would lead his people to freedom. He was standing on Monte Sacro, Rome – a hill famous for being the scene of a popular uprising of poor Romans against the upper-class.
  • Bolivar was at the coronation of Napoleon, and he was impressed with the adulation Napoleon received. Bolivar couldn’t hide the fact he wanted to be a great hero. He loved to receive praise and flattery.
  • On 5 July 1811, the national congress of Venezuela declared its independence. Bolivar was overjoyed and to mark the occasion of Venezuela’s freedom he made the decision to free all the slaves in his family. (at a time when slavery was important to the economy)
  • In 1815, he fled to Jamaica where he wrote one of his most powerful words on freedom

“A people that love freedom will in the end be free. We are a microcosm of the human race. We are a world apart, confined within two oceans, young in arts and sciences, but old as a human society. We are neither Indians nor Europeans, yet we are a part of each.” – Bolivar, Letter from Jamaica, 1815

  • Bolivar received support from many countries and rulers across Latin America. For example, President Alexandre Petion of Haiti gave substantial support to Bolivar. Haiti had recently freed itself from French rule.
  • Bolivar was a great self-publicist and he used this to good effect. When he returned to Venezuela in 1816, he was successful in spreading rumours about his successful army. Even inventing military victories. This helped bolster morale amongst the population for the cause of liberation.
  • One story about Bolivar is that he was on his own when he saw 15 Spanish troops about to encircle him. He shouted out to his own troops the order to attack. (his troops were not there) but the Spanish retreated rather than face his imaginary army.
  • Bolivar visited Great Britain and was impressed at their model of political governance. He sought to emulate their government in his own constitution. He was able to secure the help of many troops from Great Britain and Ireland which were vital in later battles to drive out the Spanish.

“The freedom of the New World is the hope of the Universe.” – Simon Bolivar

  • In 1819, hBatalla_de_Junin-1824inter of 1824, he led his troops over another Andes pass – 3,600m high to liberate Peru. He lost many men due to exposure and the blinding sun, but proceeded to defeat the Spanish forces at the Battle of Junin, starting the liberation of Peru. Never one to hold back on drama, Bolivar exclaimed to his men on the trek

“Soldiers you are about to finish the greatest undertaking Heaven has confided to men – that of saving an entire world from slavery!”

  • Bolivar had a grand plan and vision for a federation of southern American states. It was bold and forward thinking but alas did not come to anything as there was too much internal division.

“It is harder to maintain the balance of freedom that it is to endure the weight of tyranny.” – Simon Bolivar

  • The last few years for Bolivar were upsetting. Despite achieving the liberation of many countries, former allies turned on him and there was a serious attempt on his life. His greatest general, Sucre was assassinated on the orders of a former friend of Bolivar – Jose Maria Cordoba.
  • In 1829, Bolivars own country Venezuela left the Gran Colombia federation.
  • Bolivar died from tuberculosis in the house of a Spaniard who was loyal to Bolivar. He requested all his papers destroyed but his friends did not listen.
  • Bolivar has often been called the “Washington of South America” – like George Washington, Bolivar had to deal with poorly equipped and poorly paid armies. They both overcame great odds to liberate their country from a colonial power. Both were enlightenment thinkers though Bolivar freed his slaves, Washington never did. Bolivar was also more of a dictator than Washington.
  • Bolivar was born rich to an aristocratic family. But, throughout his life, his wealth diminished and he died quite poor. Despite loving fame and flattery, he had little interest in material wealth.
  • Bolivar was first buried in Santa Maria where he died. But, in 1842, his remains were moved to Caracas in Venezuela. In 1842, he was moved to the cathedral of Caracas and in 1876, he was relocated to a monument at the Pantheon of Venezuela. In 2010, his remains were dug up and tested for poison, but found to be negative.

Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Facts Simon Bolivar”, Oxford, UK., Last updated 21 March 2020.


Bolivar: American Liberator

Book Cover


Bolivar: American Liberator at Amazon


Jennifer_Lopez Famous Hispanics – A list of famous people of Spanish-speaking origin. Includes Shakira, Jennifer Lopez, Simon Bolivar, Selena and Jorge Ramos.

Courageous people – People who have overcome difficult circumstances and difficult odds. Includes Joan of Arc, Galileo, Harriet Tubman, Socrates, Malala Yousafzai.

Simon Bolivar (1783 – 1830) Bolivar was known as ‘El Libertador’ – the Liberator. He led several Latin American countries (Peru, Bolivar, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela) to independence from the Spanish monarchy. After successfully leading the liberation struggle, he served as president for a federation of Latin American countries until his death in 1830.


Facts about the American Revolution

  • The American Revolution was a struggle between 13 American colonies and Great Britain.
  • The American colonies wished to attain independence and create a new sovereign nation – the United States.
  • The American Revolutionary War lasted for eight years – between April 1775 to September 1783.
  • The American colonists supporting independence were named Patriots.
  • The American army was known as the Continental Army after the Continental Congress of 13 states.
  • The 13 colonies were Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts Bay, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island.
  • Colonists remaining loyal to the British crown were known as ‘loyalists’.
  • British soldiers were known as ‘redcoats’ or ‘devils.’
  • During the war, the majority of people living in the American colonies were ‘fence sitters’ not taking either side.
  • The American Commander in Chief was George Washington.
  • The British military commander at the start of Revolution was Sir William Howe, though he was later replaced due to failures in the British war effort.
  • King George III led British resistance to American independence. The British Prime Minister was Lord North (a Tory)
  • Not all British MPs supported military action against the American Patriots. The ‘Whig’ faction, e.g. Edmund Burke criticised military action to resolve the issue.
  • During the war, African-American slaves served on both sides of the war. The British offered freedom to slaves who escaped their masters and served with loyalist forces. After 1776, George Washington raised a small number of black only units.
  • During the chaos of war, many slaves were able to escape.  In South Carolina, 30% of slaves escaped, migrated or died during the conflict.
  • Approx 25,000 American Patriots died during military service – the biggest cause of death was disease – often in unsanitary prisoner of warships.
  • Compared to the ratio of the population, The War of Independence was the second-deadliest American conflict after the Civil War.
  • In 1776, the population of the 13 American colonies was estimated at 2.4 million. 85% of the white population was of British descent, with 9% of German origin and 4% Dutch.
  • Approx 42,000 British sailors deserted in the war. American colonies also had difficulties raising troops due to the economic need to stay on a farm. 90% of the American population worked on farms.
  • The British army was weakened by needing to also fight in the Caribbean.

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Facts about the Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution was a period between the late 18th Century and early 20th Century, which saw rapid growth in mechanisation, industrial production and change in society.

Two stages of Industrial Revolution

  • The first stage of the Industrial Revolution (1770-1870) – Centred on steam, water, iron and shift from agriculture.
  • The second stage of Industrial Revolution (1870-1914) – New technologies of electricity, development of petrol engine, oil, and greater use of cheap steel.

Key features of the Industrial Revolution

  • Population shift – moving from rural agriculture to work in factories in cities.
  • Mass production of goods, increased efficiency, reduced average costs and enabled more to be produced.
  • The rise of steam power, e.g. steam trains, railways and steam-powered machines.
  • Industrial and scientific discoveries enabled a revolution in our understanding of the material world.
  • Rapid industrialisation had a cost in terms of pollution and poor working conditions for labour.

Reasons for the Industrial Revolution


Birmingham New Street station

  • New technologies dramatically improved speed of transporting people and goods. The first Intercity railway was built in 1830 between Liverpool and Manchester. The railways enabled more freight to be transported cheaply and quickly.
  • In 1700, it took four days to travel from London to Manchester, by 1870, it took four hours.
  • Application of steam engines. The development of the steam engine was critical for the Industrial Revolution. It enables steam trains, but also steam-powered pumps and machines, which increased the productivity of labour.
  • Agricultural revolution enabled higher food output from fewer farm workers, leading to surplus workers who could go and work in factories. This revolution in agriculture was due to new techniques like crop rotation, selective breeding, economies of scale from bigger farms and better transport.
  • Growth in global trade. Helped by Britain’s effective shipping capacity and Empire, which was a source of raw materials.

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Facts about the Renaissance

The Renaissance was a period in history between the 14th and 17th Centuries, associated with a wave of new artistic, scientific and cultural achievements.

  • The French word renaissance literally means ‘rebirth’, and was first seen in English in the 1830s.
  •  The first quote of Renaissance in English:
    “A style possessing many points of rude resemblance with the more elegant and refined character of the art of the Renaissance in Italy.” – W Dyce and C H Wilson’s Letter to Lord Meadowbank (1837)
  • The Renaissance is seen as a period of rebirth from the Dark Ages of Europe to the more enlightened and progressive ages of Europe.
  • The century before the Renaissance was particularly dark with the Hundred Years war (1337–1453) devastating much of Europe, the failed Crusades and also the Black Death (1346–1353) killing about 25 million people, 33% of the population at the time.
  • However, some academic scholars feel the term ‘Renaissance’ is too vague and the ‘Renaissance years’ were not particularly enlightened. Some scholars feel that the Renaissance was more accurately part of a ‘Longue Duree’ of European history.
  • The Renaissance period still saw real problems, such as religious wars, political corruption, inequality, witch-hunts and corrupt Borgia Popes. Most people who lived through the Renaissance did not view it as a ‘Golden Era’!
  • The Renaissance was a period of groundbreaking explorations, with the discovery of new lands outside Europe by famous explorers, such as Christopher Columbus and Vespucci.
  • The Renaissance was also a period of scientific discovery. Galileo Galilei and René Descartes (1596–1650) promoted a new view of astrology and mathematics, which challenged old Aristotelian ideas.
  • N.Copernicus began the process of changing the whole view of the world. He argued the Sun was the centre of the galaxy rather than the Earth. This heliocentric view of the world was controversial because it challenged the existing teaching of the church. But, during the Renaissance, this heliocentric view gradually came to be accepted.
  • The Renaissance was most strongly associated with Italy and Florence in particular. But most other European countries had their own Renaissance.
  • For example, The Netherlands developed its own Renaissance revival of painting, including Jan van Eyck. The artistic style of the Netherlands later had an influence on Italy.
  • The English Renaissance began later, in the late 15th Century, and was focused more on literature and music – less on art.
  • Key figures of the English Renaissance included William Shakespeare, John Milton, William Byrd (music) and William Tyndale (translating Bible into English)

Art of the Renaissance


Leonardo’s famous portrait of the perfect man was based on Vitruvius’ De Architectura (1st century BCE) – mostly a treatise on architecture, but also the human body.


The ceiling of Sistine Chapel was commissioned by Pope Julius II, and painted by Michelangelo.

“Without having seen the Sistine Chapel one can form no appreciable idea of what one man is capable of achieving.”

— Johann Wolfgang Goethe, 23 August 1787


‘David’ by Michelangelo is one of the great masterpieces of the Renaissance. It symbolises the defence of the civil liberties of Florence, with the eyes of David turned towards Rome.


The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci is perhaps the world’s most famous painting. Da Vinci worked on the painting continuously for over 20 years – striving to attain perfection.

  • Sfumare‘ was a new painting technique of the Renaissance; it means to evaporate or to fade out. It was developed by da Vinci and enabled greater depth and realism to be given to a painting.
  • The term chiaroscuro refers to the fine art painting modelling effect of using a strong contrast between light and dark.

Reasons for the Renaissance


Sandro Botticelli portrays the family of Piero de’ Medici in Madonna del Magnificat.

  1. The Black Death decimated the population of Europe in the 14th Century but left survivors with relatively more wealth and ability to climb social/political structures. It led to a decline of feudalism.
  2. New political structures – with new men in positions of power, patronage of the arts was a way to secure greater status and prestige.
  3. This new political order led to the patronage of the powerful and wealthy Medici family in Florence, who could afford to give commissions to artists.
  4. Migration of Greek scholars and texts from Constantinople to Europe after the conquest by the Ottoman Turks (1453).
  5. Creation of the printing press by J.Gutenberg c.1440 allowed greater printing of books and the spread of knowledge to a wider range of the population. This was particularly important for printing of Bibles, including for the first time Bibles in English and not Latin.
  6. New secular/humanist ideas. Thinkers like Plutarch (1304–1374) and Erasmus (1466–1536) helped make classical texts and humanistic ideas more relevant and popular to a Christian society.
  7. Artistic genius of people such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael.
  8. Greater openness of the Church. In response to a decline in the temporal power of the Catholic Church, the Vatican sponsored more arts and reforms as part of the Counter-Reformation in response to the criticism of Luther. Pope Nicholas V and Leo X  sponsored many Renaissance art projects as a way to bolster the church.
  9. Greater trade between Italy and the rest of Europe. Also, ironically, the wars between Italy and France helped spread Renaissance ideas.
  10. The Crusades led to the exposure of many European scholars to Eastern ideas; it also facilitated the growth of trade and commerce.

Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan “Facts of the Renaissance”, Oxford, UK., 12th February 2016. Updated 26 June 2017.

Famous Men of the Renaissance & Reformation

Book CoverFamous Men of the Renaissance & Reformation at Amazon

Related pages

leonardo-da-vinci People of the Renaissance (1350s to 1650s) The Renaissance covers the flowering of art and culture in Europe. Primarily in art, but also in science. Includes Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael.


voltaire People of the Enlightenment (1650s to 1780s) The Enlightenment is a period which saw the growth in intellectual reason, individualism and a challenge to existing religious and political structures.

John_Keats People of the Romantic Era (1790s to 1850s) Romantic poets (Blake, Keats, Coleridge, Wordsworth and Shelley) and Romantic artists, composers and writers.

Pierre_Fauchard Scientific Renaissance – The key people involved in the Scientific Renaissance of 1450-1687, including Copernicus, Galileo, Francis Bacon, Newton and Sir Robert Boyle.


Famous landmarks in England

Some of the most famous landmarks and tourist attractions in England, including Big Ben, Blackpool Tower, Palace of Westminster and Windsor Castle.

Blackpool Tower


Opened in 1894, it was inspired by the Eiffel Tower in Paris. It is 158 metres tall. The Tower Ballroom is a major entertainment venue. Blackpool is one of the most popular seaside resorts in England.

White cliffs of Dover


The imposing chalk cliffs face the European continent at the shortest crossing of the English channel. The White Cliffs of Dover are the first sight of England for people crossing the English channel.

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Facts about Abraham Lincoln

Key facts about Abraham Lincoln

  • lincoln-100 Born February 12, 1809. Assassinated April 15, 1865.
  • 16th US President 1861-1865
  • Lincoln was President during the American Civil War, leading the Union to victory over the Confederate states.
  • Issued Emancipation Proclamation 1st January 1863
  • Gave Gettysburg Address 19 Nov 1863.
  • 1865 – helped pass the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery in the United States.
  • Assassinated by Confederate spy, John Wilkes Booth one week after the surrender of Lee’s Confederate Army.


Bouncing back from Failure

Lincoln’s life was notable for numerous setbacks and personal misfortune.

Lincoln failed in business in 1831 and again in 1833.  He was defeated for the Legislature in 1832 defeated for speaker in 1838, defeated for Elector in 1840. Lincoln was defeated for Congress in 1843 and 1848. Defeated for Senate in 1855 and 1858. Defeated for Vice-President in 1856. He suffered a nervous breakdown in 1836.

His mother died when he was nine. His beloved sister Sarah died from childbirth in 1821. He also had younger brother Tommy, who died three days old. His first love Ann Rutledge died of typhoid fever in 1835. He also saw two of his young sons die – Edward and “Willie” Lincoln (1862.)

“I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.”

Lincoln Observed: The Civil War Dispatches of Noah Brooks


  • Abraham_Lincoln Lincoln was noted for his unusual, ugly looks. Walt Whitman gives a typical description on seeing Lincoln: “Lincoln has a face like a Hoosier Michael Angelo, so awful ugly it becomes beautiful, with its strange mouth, its deep cut, criss-cross lines, and its doughnut complexion.”
  • Height: Lincoln was tall (6″ 4′) and relatively thin. A neighbour in New Salem said of Lincoln he was “thin as a beanpole and ugly as a scarecrow.”
  • Weight: Most sources suggest around 180lbs.  During his presidency, he is believed to have lost weight.
  • Beard. Lincoln was the first President to wear a beard.
  • He grew a beard after an 11-year old girl, Grace Bedell, wrote a letter in the fall of 1860 saying that he would be more charming with whiskers. ‘for you would look a great deal better for your face is so thin‘. Lincoln replied to her letter and started to grow a beard (Letter) (In the 1990s, the original letter was sold for $1,000,000.)

Personal life


  • Lincoln was born in a one-room log cabin in Kentucky on the Western Frontier.
  • He was named Abraham Lincoln after his paternal grandfather who was a military captain in the American Revolution and was killed by Native Americans in 1786.
  • In 1816, his family moved to an unbroken forest in Indiana – a non-slaveholding territory.
  • Lincoln had two brushes with death; 1816 he was saved from drowning, 1819 he was kicked unconscious by a horse.
  • Lincoln read late into the night to improve his own education. He sought out any good books he could read.
  • In 1825, he left a borrowed book on George Washington out in the rain; the farmer Josiah Crawford made Lincoln work for two days to pay off the costs of damage to the book.
  • Lincoln abstained from alcohol and tobacco throughout his life
  • Lincoln supported the Temperance movement, though he also suggested the Temperance movement would be more successful if it concentrated less on denunciation and more an emphatic/sympathetic understanding of those who drink.
  • Lincoln became very close to his step-mother Sarah “Sally” Bush Johnson who his father remarried. His step-mother helped to re-invigorate the family home after finding it in a state of disrepair.
  • He was not close to his father and did not attend his funeral.
  • Lincoln was physically strong, adept at using an axe. However, he was said to be not keen on manual labour.
  • Until he was 21, he had to give all earnings to his father. It gave him a natural empathy for those who could not keep the fruits of their labour.
  • Up until 1827, Lincoln earned no more than 31 cents per day for manual labour. He once ferried two passengers halfway across the Ohio river, and he was tossed two half dollar coins. Saying: “It was a most important incident in my life. I could scarcely credit that I, a poor boy, had earned a dollar in less than a day. … The world seemed wider and fairer before me.
  • Lincoln volunteered for the Army during the Black Hawk War, though he never saw action.
  • On one occasion during the Black Hawk War, he saved the life of a Potawatomi – a native Indian who wandered into this camp. His men wanted to kill him, but Lincoln intervened to prevent this.
  • In 1832, Lincoln opened a general store in New Salem, Illinois. It proved a commercial failure. Lincoln liked to talk politics to customers, and his partner drank heavily building up debts.
  • After his business failed in 1833, he was left with debts of $1100. He avoided bankruptcy and referred to it as his “National Debt.” He eventually paid it off.
  • Lincoln worked at various jobs – farm hand, rail-splitter, county surveyor, lawyer, boatman, General Store Manager, New Salem Postmaster, speaker.
  • Lincoln became an adept boatman, making long trips down the major rivers of Mississippi, Illinois and Ohio.
  • Lincoln is the only president to successfully apply for a patent (No. 6469). His device was to help boats stuck on sandbanks.
  • As president, he earned $25,000 a year. On his death, he left no will and had an estate of $82,000.
  • He married Mary Todd in 1842. Lincoln was not confident around women, stating once “I can never be satisfied with anyone who would be blockhead enough to have me.”


  • Lincoln attended school for less than a year.
  • Lincoln was an entirely self-taught lawyer, learning from  Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England.
  • Lincoln was admitted to the bar in 1836.
  • Lincoln’s law practices were based in Springfield, Illinois.
  • Lincoln and his partners handled over 5,000 cases. From murder charges to civil and Railroad cases.
  • Lincoln took one case to the US Supreme Court Lewis v. Lewis (1849)
  • In 1858, he defended William Armstrong on the count of murder. He successfully defended his client after using a Farmer’s Almanac to show on that day the moon was at a low angle, and witnesses could not have seen the event in detail.


  • Lincoln witnessed slavery first-hand while sailing down to New Orleans. It is said he took a vow to end slavery after seeing a beautiful negro girl sold into slavery.
  • Lincoln opposed slavery by often referring to the Declaration of Independence and the opening lines on the equality of men. Lincoln contented the Founding Fathers intended for slavery to die out and for the US to aspire closer to this lofty goal of equality.
  • In the 1850s, Lincoln opposed acts such as the Kansas-Nebraska Act which could see the spread of slavery into free states.
  • In the 1850s, Lincoln was not an abolitionist. He did not believe the constitution allowed to interfere in the southern slaveholding states. However, he personally wished for all men to be free and denounced the extension of slavery into any new state.
  • In 1857, Lincoln denounced the Supreme Court’s decision in Dred Scott v Sanford, arguing that Declaration of Independence
    ‘did consider all men created equal — equal in certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’.”



  • From 1834-1842, Lincoln served as a Whig politician holding a seat in the Illinois state legislature.
  • Lincoln’s domestic policies included supporting internal improvements – government spending on infrastructure, such as canals, roads and bridges.
  • Lincoln quietly expressed support for giving women the vote at a time when it was rare: “I go for admitting all whites to the right of suffrage who pay taxes or bear arms – by no means excluding females.” June 13, 1836 (Sangamo Journal)
  • 1847-49 he was a Whig member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
  • Lincoln was critical of President Polk’s actions over the Mexico War. This was politically costly for Lincoln, as many considered it unpatriotic to question the President’s motives and action over the war.
  • After two years in Congress, he decided not to re-stand for election and 1849 returned to being a lawyer.
  • In 1854, Lincoln ran for Senate as a Whig. Despite leading after six rounds, Lincoln asked his friends to vote for the anti-slavery Lyman Trumbull. Lincoln felt his withdrawal was necessary to beat the incumbent pro-slavery Democratic candidate. Trumball would remember this act of political magnanimity, and he went on to co-author the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery.
  • In 1858, Lincoln campaigned for Senate against Stephen Douglass. There were seven major debates, which attracted large crowds. Douglas supported the extension of slavery. Lincoln opposed the extension
  • Although he lost this 1858 election, his performance impressed many in the new Republican Party.
  • During the 1860 election for the Republican Nomination, Lincoln was considered the outsider. He had little executive experience, serving only two years in the House of Representatives.
  • In the 1860 Presidential election, Lincoln  was promoted as the “The Rail-splitter candidate” Lincoln’s humble roots, coming from a log-cabin and hard manual labour of splitting logs for rails was used to portray their candidate as a man of the people, someone embodying the “American Dream.”
  • In the 1860 election, Lincoln won – becoming the first US president from the Republican Party.
  • In 1860, turnout was a record 82.2%.
  • He won the electoral college by 180 to 123, though received only 39% of the national vote.
  • In the 1861 Inaugural address, Lincoln made overtures to the south to prevent secession.
  • As President, Lincoln vetoed only four bills passed by Congress.
  • In 1861, Lincoln signed a bill for the first US income tax of 3% on incomes over $800.
  • Lincoln was responsible, in 1863, for making Thanksgiving a major US holiday.
  • In 1863 Lincoln approved the creation of the National Academy of Sciences.
  • In 1864, Lincoln approved a grant and federal support for Yosemite Valley and the nearby Mariposa Big Tree Grove to be used for public recreation (later National Park)
  • In 1864, Lincoln was re-elected in a landslide, receiving 78% of the Union soldiers vote.

Lincoln during the Civil War

Lincoln and his cautious General McClellan.

  • Lincoln was determined to avoid firing the first shots in any Civil War with the South. However, ignoring the advice of many in his cabinet, he also approved the Federal Fort Sumter to be restocked, leading to the first skirmish of the war.
  • In the early months of the war, Lincoln tread carefully to keep Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri and Delaware from joining the Confederacy. Lincoln said, “I hope to have God on my side, but I must have Kentucky.”
  • Lincoln assumed sweeping powers during the Civil War, taking a close interest in military issues as Commander in Chief.
  • Lincoln’s acts included a military draft, suspension of habeas corpus and the power to appoint generals.
  • Lincoln avidly read many military manuals and became frustrated with generals, such as McClellan who he considered too timid.
  • During the Civil War, Lincoln was criticised by both “Copperheads” southern Democrats supportive of slavery in the south, and radical Republicans who wished to see the immediate abolition of slavery.
  • In 1862, Lincoln stated the Civil War was primarily about defending the Union: “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery.”
  • However, on September 22, 1863, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation to free slaves in 10 states under Union control. The end of slavery now became a military objective.
  • On signing the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln stated: “I never, in my life, felt more certain that I was doing right than I do in signing this paper.”
  • The Gettysburg Address November 19th. Lincoln spoke for just three minutes, saying 272 words.
  • Lincoln was ill during the Gettysburg Address with an early stage of smallpox.
  • At Gettysburg, a fellow senator Edward Everett gave the main address, speaking before Lincoln for two hours and 13,607-words.
  • In 1863/64, Lincoln appointed General Ulysses S. Grant to the command of the Union army.
  • Many criticised General Grant and spread rumours of his heavy drinking, but Lincoln, supportive of his general, reportedly stated: ‘Well, I wish some of you would tell me the brand of whiskey that Grant drinks. I would like to send a barrel of it to my other generals.”
  • Lincoln toured battlefields. On one occasion, Captain Oliver Wendell Holmes shouted at him, “Get down, you damn fool, before you get shot!”
  • Lincoln often showed compassion to deserters. He rarely allowed execution for desertion. Overturning 75% of death sentences for desertion – rising to 95 percent by the middle of the war.


  • Abraham Lincoln was assassinated Good Friday, April 14, 1865, while attending a play at Ford’s Theatre.
  • On the day of his death, Lincoln told his wife, he wished to visit the Holy Land.
  • Booth was a Confederate spy from Maryland, who was incensed when Lincoln supported voting rights for blacks in a speech 11 April 1865.

Personal characteristics

  • “Honest Abe” – Abraham Lincoln gained the nickname of ‘Honest Abe’ when his business partner died and Lincoln inherited his debts. Rather than flee town, as was common in the West, Lincoln remained and worked hard for several years to pay off his debts.
  • Lincoln was widely considered a man of integrity, truth and conscience.
  • In 1856, Walt Whitman denounced northern, eastern Democrats, stating he wished to vote for a Presidential candidate who had the following characteristics. “I would be much pleased to see some heroic, shrewd, fully-informed, healthy-bodied, middle-aged, beard-faced American blacksmith or boatman come down from the West across the Alleghanies.”
  • Lincoln rarely resorted to slogans, stereotypes and personal attacks in politics, but generally offered considerations developed from his reflections and reading.
  • In the political sphere, Lincoln generally rejected equal voting rights for black voters (it was a minority political view in the 1860s). Frederick Douglass, who sometimes disagreed with Lincoln, nevertheless stated. “He treated me as a man… He did not let me feel for a moment that there was any difference in the colour of our skins.”


  • Lincoln loved to read the Bible. He never joined any particular church, though he did attend different churches with his wife, especially when President.
  • Lincoln expressed belief in an all-powerful God, but no explicit profession of Christian beliefs.

Unusual facts about Lincoln

  • On November 9, 1863, he saw the actor John Wilkes Booth – his eventual assassin during a play ‘The Marble Heart’ at Ford’s Theatre.
  • In 1842 Abraham Lincoln almost fought a duel with swords with the Illinois State Auditor, James Shields. The duel never took place after friends intervened.
  • On October 3, 1863, President Lincoln made the traditional Thanksgiving celebration a national holiday.
  • After Lincoln was elected president in 1860, the King of Siam offered him a gift of elephants.
  • Co-incidences with the assassination of JFK and A.Lincoln. Both presidents were shot in the head on a Friday seated beside their wives. Lincoln was shot at Ford’s Theatre; Kennedy was shot in a Lincoln automobile, made by Ford. (more co-incidences)

Labels applied to Lincoln

  • “Spotty Lincoln” – over Lincoln’s desire to enforce President Polk to point to spot where the first conflict with Mexico actually occurred.
  • “Black Republican” – During the 1858 Senate election, Lincoln was given the derogatory label ‘Black Republican’ for his support for black Americans.
  • The Great Emancipator.
  • Father Abraham – For biblical reference to Abraham who led his people during the war.
  • The Tycoon – For energetic leadership of Civil War
  • Uncle Abe – For his kindly, avuncular nature.

Historical Reputation

  • In scholarly ranking polls, Lincoln has been rated as the best president in a poll of polls (Washington Post)


lincoln-100 Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) 16th President of the US from 1861-1865. He led the Union forces during the American civil war. Lincoln led the North to victory preserving the Union and passing a bill to abolish legal slavery.

Lincoln_Memorial Lincoln Quotes – “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” – Abraham Lincoln

People of The American Civil War (1861-65) A list of over 20 famous and influential figures in the American Civil War (1861 – 1865) Includes politicians, generals, soldiers, spies and social activists. Including; Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant.

Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Facts Abraham Lincoln”, Oxford, UK., 13 March 2017.

Facts about Scotland


Loch Lomond by Bill Higham

  • Population of Scotland: 5,313,600 (9% of UK population 64m)
  • Area: 33% of UK landmass including 790 islands. (660 uninhabited)
  • Capital: Edinburgh
  • Patron Saint: Saint Andrew

Scotland’s major cities

  • Glasgow – 592,820
  • Edinburgh – 486,120
  • Aberdeen – 217,120
  • Dundee – 144,290
  • Inverness – 56,660
  • Stirling – 89,850

Mountains: Ben Nevis is the highest peak in the UK at 1,346m.

There are 600 square miles of freshwater lakes, including Loch Ness

Loch_Ness_monster Loch Ness Monster is a famous and enduring myth of an ancient sea creature still inhabiting the deep loch of Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands. It became world famous in 1934 after a hoax photograph was widely circulated.

The first recording of the Loch Ness monster was 565 AD where a follower of St. Columba related being attacked by a ‘water beast.’
Scottish dogs.


There are over 2,000 castles recorded being built in Scotland, most of which are still standing. Famous castles include Stirling Castle (above) Balmoral and Edinburgh Castle. Usually, these were built as defensive mechanisms. Read On…