History and Life Newsletter: Catalog of evil people

This text belongs to the History and Life newsletter, which is sent every Thursday afternoon.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
03 April 2024 Wednesday 16:24
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History and Life Newsletter: Catalog of evil people

This text belongs to the History and Life newsletter, which is sent every Thursday afternoon. If you want to receive it, sign up here.

History is full of villains and even, from a gloomy point of view of life, there will be those who argue that among historical figures the evil ones are the majority. Be that as it may, the adventures of many of them are interesting.

A sinister lieutenant. Boosted by Stalin's purges in the 1930s, Lavrenti Beria became the dictator's lieutenant and designer of his policy of repression, although, like many, this did not save him from falling into disgrace. Only the death of the communist leader saved him. In the following months he began a reform plan to break with his past, but his former comrades at the head of the party settled the pending accounts. Beria was tried and executed.

M for Mussolini. Although it may seem strange, Benito Mussolini has a monument in Spain in his honor and in that of the fascist soldiers who fell in the Civil War. The mausoleum of Puerto del Escudo, between Burgos and Cantabria, has remained abandoned for decades, but now the decision of Castilla y León to protect it and the support of the far-right Italian government have unearthed the Pyramid of the Italians and its gigantic M from oblivion. .M for Mussolini.

A Nazi in the sanctuary. That Spain housed a monument to Italian fascism is not a mere coincidence, because without Franco it would never have been built. In the same way that, without the dictator, León Degrelle (the Belgian Nazi and former member of the SS) would never have taken refuge in Spain after the Second World War, where he died peacefully in 1994.

Evil or savior? It is true that some villains unquestionably deserve such a description, but in other cases evil depends on the eyes with which you look at it. Long before the wicked of the 20th century, another historical figure like Julius Caesar was reviled by the traditional Roman elites – represented by Cato – who considered him a tyrant. For others, however, the dictator was the savior of Rome.

An adventurer of the 18th century. The 18th century sailor, spy and adventurer Jorge Juan stars in the latest Historia y Vida podcast. The career of one of the most fascinating characters of the Spanish Enlightenment makes for more than one adventure novel, even more so if his role as an explorer is added. Like the one shown by the members of Adrien de Gerlache's Belgian expedition to Antarctica. It could have ended, like many, in disaster but its members survived.

The price of light. Until the appearance of kerosene light in the mid-19th century or the electric light bulb (1880s), the cost of lighting a room was stratospherically expensive. At the beginning of the 14th century, obtaining a light output similar to ten 13w LED bulbs cost the equivalent of almost 47,000 euros, and only for 7 hours, using candles, oil or similar. The pre-industrial era was, therefore, eminently dark. Read in Big Think. (in English)

Civil War online. The Spanish Civil War Museum, unique in its theme and online, has just added new galleries: about the conflict in Catalonia and the Basque Country, and about the impact of the conflict on international public opinion. The museum is promoted by historians Antonio Cazorla and Adrian Shubert.

Fallen bridges. The collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore on March 26 joins the long list of infrastructures of this type that have been reduced to rubble as a result of accidents of various kinds. To name just a few examples, and only from the United States, the Silver Bridge in Ohio (1967, 46 deaths), the Portage Canal Swing Bridge in Michigan (1905 due to a boat crash), the I-40 bridge in Oklahoma (2002, 14 also died after the impact of a freighter) or the Tacoma Narrows of Washington (1940), remembered for the chilling images filmed before its fall.

But these accidents are not American heritage. Some of those that occurred in the Old Continent are remembered almost two centuries later, such as that of Angers (France, 1850), where about 200 soldiers died due to a combination of poor quality materials, the wind and the sway possibly caused by the passage military troop. In Asia, among many others, the Seongsu disaster (South Korea, 1994, 32 deaths) and the Rafiganj Railway Bridge (India, 2002, 130 deaths) stand out, as a result of sabotage.

In southern Europe, the memory of the Morandi bridge in Genoa (2018, 35 fatalities) is still fresh and, in the domestic sphere, that of Almuñécar (2003, Granada, six dead) and that of Esparreguera (2000, Barcelona, 5 deceased).

The list of this type of accidents, therefore, is very extensive. The surprising thing is not so much that an accident of these characteristics still occurs today, but, above all, that it takes place in the world's leading economic power. Beyond the specific causes (it has been pointed out that the Francis Scott Key Bridge should have had measures to protect its pillars against possible collisions of large ships) some information points to the general deterioration of the infrastructure throughout the country and that of the bridges. in particular.