Microbiographia | Issue 27

Posted 5:59pm Sunday 7th October 2012

At its peak in the 13th century, the Mongol Empire covered 16% of the Earth’s total land area. That’s more than twice the size of the USA, or around 90 times the size of New Zealand. It is the largest empire in human history. Subutai was a Mongolian general, serving first under Genghis Khan and then Read more...

Microbiographia | Issue 26

Posted 5:01pm Sunday 30th September 2012

Last week we chronicled the rise of Heshen, a Chinese official who became absurdly wealthy in the late 18th century. This week, we bear witness to his fall. Last week ended at Step Two of “Heshen’s guide to amassing inappropriately large stashes of treasure”, and we’ll pick up at Step Three after a Read more...

Microbiographia | Issue 25

Posted 4:25pm Sunday 23rd September 2012

Heshen was a corrupt Chinese official who lived during the second half of the 18th century. Corrupt officials, one might think, are a dime a dozen. What separates Heshen from the pack is his remarkable success. Though estimates are conflicting, it is believed thatwhen he died aged 48, Heshen’s Read more...

Microbiographia | Issue 24

Posted 4:57pm Sunday 16th September 2012

Roughly 500 years ago, Nicolaus Copernicus wrote a book, the gist of which was: “Hey guys, the Earth isn’t the centre of the universe, it actually goes around the Sun, lol.” Good job Copernicus. But wait, there’s more: 1800 years before Copernicus, another chap wrote a book (or scroll, whatevs) that Read more...

Microbiographia | Issue 23

Posted 4:03pm Sunday 9th September 2012

Royalty, some might think, ought to be excluded from the class of “obscure historical figures” by default. Ruling an empire, nation, duchy, or whatever no doubt entails a fair measure of celebrity during the time that you rule, but the caveat “during the time that you rule” is important. The sheer Read more...

Microbiographia | Issue 22

Posted 5:17pm Sunday 2nd September 2012

Today we focus less on the “historical” side of the column and more on the “lesser-known/interesting” side. Christophe Rocancourt, still alive today, is a real-life gentleman thief. He spent most of the last 40 years swindling rich Americans out of their riches. Rocancourt was born in Read more...

Microbiographia | Issue 21

Posted 4:26pm Sunday 19th August 2012

Today we pay a visit to medieval Germany*: a land of kings, nuns, and rampant mysticism. Resident there for most of the Twelfth Century was Hildegard of Bingen. She was, among other things, a musician, healer, writer, and mystic. The tenth child of a minor noble, Hildegard was given over to Read more...

Microbiographia | Issue 20

Posted 5:14pm Sunday 12th August 2012

Ok, here’s how I’ma lay it down this week. We’ll kick off with a little historical context, just to keep it real. Then I’ll dive into a couple of choice anecdotes: brace yourselves for a guy falling off a donkey. Finally, I’ll give some time to Saint Thomas’ work itself – work that certainly merits Read more...

Microbiographia | Issue 19

Posted 4:49pm Sunday 5th August 2012

30 May 1832. Paris at dawn. Two men stand back-to-back, loaded pistols at their sides. With the nervous precision found only in those facing their own mortality, they begin to walk apart. One of the men is unknown to history, and the reasons for the duel are also lost. What we know is that this man Read more...

Microbiographia | Issue 18

Posted 2:41pm Sunday 29th July 2012

So today I’ll be trying to remedy the anticipated Euro-centric subject bias mentioned in my first column (cos everyone remembers what I wrote three weeks ago). Basically, this means the subject is Eastern: Japanese, to be precise. Tomoe Gozen lived in the late 1100s, when Japan was rife with Read more...

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Toby Newberry