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350 BC
283 BC
Kautilya, Indian political advisor, lived about this time. He is generally called Chanakya (derived from his father's name "Chanak") but, in his capacity as author of the Arthashastra, is generally referred to as Kautilya derived from his clan's name "Kotil" (Kautilya means "of Kotil"). He was a master of the shrewd act of diplomacy.
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190 BC
180 BC
The “Wisdom of Sirach” was written about this time in Hebrew. Its apocalyptic tone reflects the shock of the Jewish religious establishment at the encounter with Hellenic culture.
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125
Lucius Apuleius, Roman philosopher and satirist, was born about this time. His work included "Metamorphoses" and “The Golden Ass,” which retold the story of Cupid and Psyche.
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158
Apulieus of Madaura (~124-~180), Romanised Berber and author of “The Golden Ass” (aka the Metamorphoses) defended himself at the Roman basilica in Sabratha (Libya) against charges of witchcraft in an oration known as Pro de se magia, or more commonly the Apologia. The Golden Ass is the only Latin novel which has survived in its entirety, and is an imaginative, irreverent, and amusing work which relates the ludicrous adventures of one Lucius, who experiments in magic and is accidentally turned into an ass.
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400
600
The Kama Sutra (~pleasure-thread), an Indian text latered considered to be the standard work on human sexual behavior, was written in Sanskrit by the Indian scholar Mallanaga Vatsyayana. It was privately printed in 1883 in a version attributed to orientalist and author Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890). The chief work was done by Indian archaeologist, Bhagvanlal Indraji, under the guidance of Burton's friend, Indian civil servant Foster Fitzgerald Arbuthnot, and with the assistance of student, Shivaram Parshuram Bhide.
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899 Oct 26
Alfred the Great (b.849), writer and king of Wessex (871-99), died. He helped to bring about the English state, the Royal Navy and English universities. He translated Pope Gregory’s “Pastoral Care,” the universal history by Orosius, Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, and the “Consolation of Philosophy” by Boethius.
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1002
1019
In Japan Lady Murasaki Shikibu wrote her classic court novel "The Tale of Genji." The novel "Genji Monogatari" (Genji the Shining One) was later considered the world's 1st novel. The long work explored the imperial court of the Heian period through the life and many loves of Genji, son of the emperor's favorite concubine. Arthur Waley made an English translation in 6 installments between 1925 and 1933. Edward Seidensticker made a translation in 1976. Royall Tyler made a new translation in 2001. In 2000 Liza Dalby authored her novel "The Tale of Murasaki."
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1300
1400
The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, attributed to Luo Guanzhong, was written about this time. The historical novel was set in the turbulent years towards the end of the Han dynasty and the Three Kingdoms period in Chinese history, starting in 169 AD and ending with the reunification of the land in 280.
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1321 Sep 14
Dante Alighieri, author of the "Divine Comedy," died of malaria just hours after finishing writing "Paradiso." The poem was completed in Italian rather than Latin. It helped make Italian the dominant linguistic force in European literature for the next few centuries. In 2006 Barbara Reynolds authored “Dante: The Poet, the Political Thinker, the Man.”
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1343
Geoffrey Chaucer (d.1400), English author, poet and diplomat, was born about this time.
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1371
Ubaid Zakani, Persian writer, died. His work included “Mush va Gorbeh” (Mouse and Cat), a match for Rebelais when it comes to mocking religion.
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1400 Oct 25
Geoffrey Chaucer (b.~1343), author (Canterbury Tales), died in London. In 1965 Charles Muscatine (1920-2010) authored “Chaucer and the French Tradition: A Study in Style and Meaning.”
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1510
Bernard Pallissy (d.1590), French ceramicist, painter and writer, was born.
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1528
Baldassare Castiglione (1478-1529), Italian diplomat and courtier, published "Il Libro del Cortegiano" (The Courtier), an exhaustive study of etiquette and court life that was read and copied throughout Europe. In 1561 Sir Thomas Hoby provided an English translation.
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1530
Erasmus (1469-1536), Dutch Renaissance humanist, authored “On Good Manners for Boys” (De civilitate morum puerorum).
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1547 Sep 29
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (d.1616) was born, at Alcala de Henares, near Madrid. "He was first a soldier and was captured by Barbary pirates in 1575. His family was unable to raise the ransom money until 1580. He was not initially successful as a writer until he wrote "The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha" (1604).
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1550 Apr 12
Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, was born (d.1604). Some claimed that he was responsible for all the 37 plays, 154 sonnets and 2 long narrative poems that are attributed to William Shakespeare. De Vere was first advanced as the author of Shakespeare’s work in 1918 by English schoolmaster J. Thomas Looney.
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1558
John Knox authored "The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women." He was referring to the governments of Mary Tudor in England and Mary, Queen of the Scots.
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1571
Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616) was wounded in the Battle of Lepanto, which pitted Ottoman Turkish forces against the Holy League, led by Spain. Returning home aboard the ship La Marquesa he was hit with three musket shots by Turkish pirates and spent years captive in Algiers. The Trinitarian order negotiated his release and helped pay a ransom that ruined the Cervantes family. In 1604 he published the first part of "The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha."
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1580
Michel de Montaigne, French scholar and nobleman, wrote his personal essays entitled "Les Essais." His 107 essays included “On the Cannibals.”
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1590
Bernard Pallissy (b.1510), French ceramicist, painter and writer, died. Pallisy produced his designs by attaching casts of dead lizards, snakes, and shellfish to traditional ceramic forms such as basins, ewers, and plates. He then painted these wares in blue, green, purple, and brown, and glazed them with runny lead-based glaze to increase their watery realism. The style became known as Pallisy ware.
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1604
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547-1616) published the first part of "The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha." Don Quixote and his friend Sancho Panza seek what a modern poet has called an impossible dream, a dream of justice in an earthly paradise, a contradiction in terms, as practical men have always known... Cervantes was the first to see that the new world coming into being needed such heroes; otherwise it would go mad." In 2006 Manuel Duran and Fay R. Rogg authored “Fighting Windmills.”
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1605 Oct 19
Thomas Browne (d.1682), British writer (Garden of Cyrus), was born.
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1626 Apr 9
Francis Bacon (b.1561), English philosopher, statesman, scientist, jurist, orator, and author, died. Bacon has been called the father of empiricism. His works argued for the possibility of scientific knowledge based only upon inductive reasoning and careful observation of events in nature.
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1643
Roger Williams of Providence, Rhode Island, published “A Key into the Language of America,” a dictionary of the Narragansett Indian language and a commentary on the culture and customs of the southern New England Indians. The work was printed in England by Gregory Dexter.
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1644
Roger Williams published “The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution,” a sweeping condemnation of Massachusetts’s intolerance and a manifesto defending the rights of each individual to decide, according to his own conscience, how best to worship god without interference from any civil authority.
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1663 Apr 10
Samuel Pepys, London-based diarist, noted that he had enjoyed a French wine called Ho Bryan at the Royal Oak Tavern. This same year the Pontacs, a top wine-making family in Bordeaux, founded a fashionable London restaurant called Pontack’s Head. Ho Bryan later came to be called Chateau Haut Brion.
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1676
Roger Williams published “George Fox Digg’d Out of His Burrowes.” It was an account of his debates with the Quakers in Newport and Providence.
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1679 Dec 4
Thomas Hobbes (b.1588), English philosopher, died. "The reputation of power IS power." Hobbes sought to separate politics from religion. In his book “Leviathan” he argues that the only way to secure civil society is through universal submission to the absolute authority of a sovereign.
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1682 Oct 19
Thomas Browne (b.1605), British writer, died. The Norwich doctor wrote mysterious-sounding books such as “Religio Medici” and “Pseudodoxia Epidemica.” In 2015 Hugh Aldersey Williams authored “The Adventures of Sir Thomas Browne in the Twentieth Century: The Life and Afterlife of the Seventeenth Century’s Most Inquiring Mind.”
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1687 Apr 16
George Villiers (b.1628), the 2nd Duke of Buckingham, died. The English statesman was a poet, an amateur chemist and one of England’s richest men.
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1697 Jun 7
John Aubrey (b.1626), author of "Monumenta Britanica," died. In 1948 Anthony Powell authored the biography "John Aubrey." In 2015 Ruth Scurr authored “John Aubrey: My Own Life,” an autobiography in the form of a diary that he never wrote.
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1711
Daniel Defoe, author and enthusiast of Latin America, persuaded the British government to set up the South Sea Company to trade with the region. Speculation fueled value in the company’s shares, but the bubble crashed in 1720. In 1960 Virginia Cowles authored “The Great Swindle: The Story of the South Sea bubble.”
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1712 Jun 28
Jean-Jacques Rousseau (d.1778), writer and philosopher, was born in Geneva, Switzerland. His books include "The Social Contract."
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1717
1718
Voltaire (1694-1778), French writer, was imprisoned in the Bastille for his lampoons of the Regency.
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1719 Apr 25
Daniel Defoe's novel "Robinson Crusoe" was published in London. Crusoe was based on the story of Alexander Selkirk (1676-1721), a man who was voluntarily put ashore on a desert island (1704-1709)
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1726
Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), Irish born clergyman and English writer, authored Gulliver's Travels.
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1727
In Munich the “Die Andächtige Pilgerfahrt” (The Devout Pilgrimage) by Vincentius Briemle was published. The 2 illustrated volumes consisted of travel writing of journeys to Italy, Austria and the Holy Land.
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1729 Jan 12
Edmund Burke (d.1797), British politician and author, was born in Dublin. Burke advocated consistent and sympathetic treatment of the American colonies: "A very great part of the mischiefs that vex this world arises from words."
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1729
Voltaire and Charles Marie de la Condamine engaged in a bond fund scheme to take advantage of bonds issued by the French government.
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1731
Henry Fielding (1707-1754) wrote his ballad-opera “The Lottery.”
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1735
In London, England, Col. Sir Thomas De Veil began dispensing justice from a house on Bow Street. De Veil was succeeded by Henry Fielding.
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1735
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) translated a book on Abbyssinia by a Portuguese Jesuit: “A Voyage to Abyssinia.” In 1759 Johnson authored his prose fiction “The History of Rasellas, Prince of Abissinia.” In the novel morality and happiness are shown not as matters of simple alternatives but sometimes impossible ones.
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1745 Oct 19
Jonathan Swift (b.1667), Irish born clergyman and English writer (Gulliver's Travels), died. In 1963 Prof. Edward Rosenheim (1918-2005) authored “Swift and the Satirist’s Art.” In 1998 Victoria Glendinning published the biography: "Jonathan Swift: A Portrait." In 2017 John Stubbs authored “Jonathan Swift: The Reluctant Rebel”.
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1748
French police started a file on Voltaire (1694-1778).
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1749 Sep 10
Emilie du Chatelet (b.1706), writer and mathematician, died from an infection that followed a pregnancy. Her work included a translation of Newton’s Principia from Latin to French. She met Voltaire in 1733 and they soon began living together. In 1957 Nancy Mitford authored “Voltaire in Love.” In 2006 David Bodanis authored “Passionate Minds: The Great Enlightenment Love Affair” and Judith P. Zinsser authored “La Dame d’Esprit.”
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1749
Henry Fielding, novelist and magistrate, commissioned a half dozen constables known as the Bow Street Runners. The runners vanished in 1829 with the creation of the Metropolitan Police, who established their headquarters at Scotland Yard.
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1759
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), English lexicographer, authored his novel “History of Rasselas,” on the elusive nature of happiness.
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1762 Mar 10
Jean Calas, a French protestant (Huguenot), was tortured and executed in Toulouse on the charge that he killed his son to prevent him from converting to Catholicism. Voltaire took up the case believing that Catholic judges were biased. He wrote pamphlets and letters to support his case and urged high-placed friends to place the case before the Great Council of Louis XV. On March 9, 1765, Jean Calas and his family were acquitted and the death of the son was ruled a suicide.
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1763 Feb 12
Pierre de Mariveaux (b.1688), French novelist and playwright, died.
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1763
Voltaire authored his "Treatise on Tolerance." In 2015 it began climbing the French best seller list in the wake of attacks by French-born Islamic extremists.
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1774
Nicholas Cresswell, Englishman, arrived in the US and spent 3 years traveling and meeting prominent Americans of the time including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and British Gen. William Howe. Cresswell kept a journal and in 2009 it was published as “A Man Apart: The Journal of Nicholas Cresswell 1774-1781.”
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1774
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) published his novel "The Sorrows of Young Werther." In 1887 French composer Jules Massenet (1842-1912) turned into an opera. The opera premiered at the Imperial Theatre Hofoper in Vienna on February 16, 1892.
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1776 Feb 17
Edward Gibbon (1737-1794), English historian, published his 1st volume of "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire." He completed the 6-volume classic in 1788.
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1778 May 30
Voltaire (b.1694), French writer born as Francois-Marie Arouet, died. His books included Candide (1759).
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1778 Jul 2
Jean-Jacques Rousseau (b.1712), Swiss-born writer and philosopher, died in France. He was considered part of the French Enlightenment along with Voltaire and Diderot. In 2005 Leo Damrosch authored “Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Restless Genius.”
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1781
1865
Andres Bello, diplomat, politician (a Senator in Chile - his adopted country), educator, poet and author of a Spanish grammar, was born in Venezuela. His selected writings were published by the Oxford Library of Latin America in 1998.
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1781
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), English lexicographer, essayist and poet, authored “Lives of the English Poets.”
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1782
Pierre Choderlos de Laclos authored his novel “Les Liaisons dangereuses” (The Dangerous Liaisons). In 1988 a historical drama film of the same name was based upon Christopher Hampton's play Les liaisons dangereuses, an adaptation of the novel. In 1994 composer Conrad Susa (1935-2013) and Philip Littell created an opera of the same name based on the novel.
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1784 Dec 13
Samuel Johnson (b.1709), English lexicographer, essayist, poet and moralist best known for "The Dictionary of the English Language," died. "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." -- (To which Ambrose Bierce replied, "I beg to submit that it is the first.") Johnson, an antagonist of slavery, left behind an annuity and much of his personal property to his black valet, Francis Barber (b.1735-1801). In 1791 Boswell wrote the celebrated "The Life of Samuel Johnson." In 1955 Walter Jackson Bate (1918-1999) published "The Achievement of Samuel Johnson" and in 1977 the biography "Samuel Johnson." In 2000 Adam Potkay authored "The Passion for Happiness," in which he argued that Samuel Johnson should be included in the Anglo-Scottish Enlightenment along with David Hume, Adam Smith and Edward Gibbon. In 2000 Peter Martin authored "A Life of James Boswell." In 2008 Peter Martin authored “Samuel Johnson: A biography.”
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