Very Short Fact: On this day in 1964, Khrushchev ‘retires’ as head of USSR.

On the level of international relations, the Khrushchev period saw two-way diplomatic traffic that would have been unthinkable under Stalin. […]At the de-Stalinizing 20th Party Congress of February 1956, he brought peaceful coexistence back on the agenda: Soviet ideology no longer insisted that a new world war was inevitable. Yet Khrushchev also conducted himself brashly and belligerently in almost all the gatherings he attended, issued ultimatums that led to the construction of the Berlin Wall, and brought the superpowers the closest to nuclear war they would ever be when he recklessly raised the stakes in the Cuban Missile Crisis. 

[p. 132-133, The Soviet Union: A Very Short Introduction, by Stephen Lovell]
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Image: Kruschev and Castro, 1961. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Very Short FactOn this day in 1964, Khrushchev ‘retires’ as head of USSR.

On the level of international relations, the Khrushchev period saw two-way diplomatic traffic that would have been unthinkable under Stalin. […]At the de-Stalinizing 20th Party Congress of February 1956, he brought peaceful coexistence back on the agenda: Soviet ideology no longer insisted that a new world war was inevitable. Yet Khrushchev also conducted himself brashly and belligerently in almost all the gatherings he attended, issued ultimatums that led to the construction of the Berlin Wall, and brought the superpowers the closest to nuclear war they would ever be when he recklessly raised the stakes in the Cuban Missile Crisis. 

[p. 132-133, The Soviet Union: A Very Short Introduction, by Stephen Lovell]

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Image: Kruschev and Castro, 1961. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Very Short Fact: On this day in 1970, the Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wins the Nobel Prize for literature.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1962), which described honestly the routine of a Stalinist labour camp, broke a long-established taboo and aroused heartfelt reactions from its readers. Once again, literature was being forced to assume a civic, even a political, role as a kind of loyal opposition. In Novy mir, readers could follow in muffled form a debate which could not be articulated openly in the media.

[p. 118, Russian History: A Very Short Introduction, by Geoffrey Hosking]
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Image: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Evstafiev. CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Very Short FactOn this day in 1970, the Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wins the Nobel Prize for literature.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1962), which described honestly the routine of a Stalinist labour camp, broke a long-established taboo and aroused heartfelt reactions from its readers. Once again, literature was being forced to assume a civic, even a political, role as a kind of loyal opposition. In Novy mir, readers could follow in muffled form a debate which could not be articulated openly in the media.

[p. 118, Russian History: A Very Short Introduction, by Geoffrey Hosking]

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Image: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Evstafiev. CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Very Short Fact: On this day in 1938 Germany annexes the Sudetenland following the Munich Agreement, signed by Adolf Hitler and Neville Chamberlain on 30 September, 1938. Chamberlain had returned from Munich hailed as bringing “peace to Europe” after signing a pact with Germany.
"My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time."

At Berchtesgaden, Bad Godesberg, and finally at Munich in September 1938, he came to terms with Hitler. In effect, he allowed the Germans to annex Sudetenland on the basis of any timetable they chose, without British or French armed retaliation. For a brief moment, it seemed that this policy of surrender had mirrored the public’s response. Chamberlain returned in triumph, announcing, in an ominous phrase, that it was to be peace in our time.

[p. 42, Twentieth-century Britain: A Very Short Introduction, by Kenneth O. Morgan]
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Image: Neville Chamberlain and the Munich Agreement, 1938, from Imperial War Museum. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Very Short FactOn this day in 1938 Germany annexes the Sudetenland following the Munich Agreement, signed by Adolf Hitler and Neville Chamberlain on 30 September, 1938. Chamberlain had returned from Munich hailed as bringing “peace to Europe” after signing a pact with Germany.

"My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time."

At Berchtesgaden, Bad Godesberg, and finally at Munich in September 1938, he came to terms with Hitler. In effect, he allowed the Germans to annex Sudetenland on the basis of any timetable they chose, without British or French armed retaliation. For a brief moment, it seemed that this policy of surrender had mirrored the public’s response. Chamberlain returned in triumph, announcing, in an ominous phrase, that it was to be peace in our time.

[p. 42, Twentieth-century BritainA Very Short Introduction, by Kenneth O. Morgan]

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Image: Neville Chamberlain and the Munich Agreement, 1938, from Imperial War Museum. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Very Short Fact: Knowledge: A Very Short Introduction is publishing this month and is number 400 in the VSI series. Are you an Academic or a Pyrrhonian?

Ancient Greece was in fact the birthplace of two distinct sceptical traditions, the Academic and Pyrrhonian. Academic sceptics argued for the conclusion that knowledge was impossible; Pyrrhonian sceptics aimed to reach no conclusions at all, suspending judgement on all questions, even the question of the possibility of knowledge.

[p. 13, Knowledge: A Very Short Introduction, by Jennifer Nagel]
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Gif vis giphy.com

Very Short FactKnowledge: A Very Short Introduction is publishing this month and is number 400 in the VSI series. Are you an Academic or a Pyrrhonian?

Ancient Greece was in fact the birthplace of two distinct sceptical traditions, the Academic and Pyrrhonian. Academic sceptics argued for the conclusion that knowledge was impossible; Pyrrhonian sceptics aimed to reach no conclusions at all, suspending judgement on all questions, even the question of the possibility of knowledge.

[p. 13, Knowledge: A Very Short Introduction, by Jennifer Nagel]

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Very Short Fact: Knowledge: A Very Short Introduction is publishing this month and is number 400 in the VSI series. Do you know the difference between a fact and an item of knowledge?

It’s tempting to identify knowledge with facts, but not every fact is an item of knowledge. Imagine shaking a sealed cardboard box containing a single coin. As you put the box down, the coin inside the box has landed either heads or tails: let’s say that’s a fact. But as long as no one looks into the box, this fact remains unknown; it is not yet within the realm of knowledge.

[p. 2, 3, Knowledge: A Very Short Introduction, by Jennifer Nagel]
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Very Short FactKnowledge: A Very Short Introduction is publishing this month and is number 400 in the VSI series. Do you know the difference between a fact and an item of knowledge?

It’s tempting to identify knowledge with facts, but not every fact is an item of knowledge. Imagine shaking a sealed cardboard box containing a single coin. As you put the box down, the coin inside the box has landed either heads or tails: let’s say that’s a fact. But as long as no one looks into the box, this fact remains unknown; it is not yet within the realm of knowledge.

[p. 2, 3, Knowledge: A Very Short Introduction, by Jennifer Nagel]

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Very Short Fact: On this day in 1960, at the Summer Olympics in Rome, Abebe Bikila becomes the first sub-Saharan African to win a gold medal, winning the marathon in his bare feet.

Herodotus lives on, of course, in popular culture – in the race named after the Athenian Pheidippides’ run to Sparta, for example, seeking assistance at Marathon. The very name of Marathon has even contributed its last syllable to the word ‘telethon’ made up to designate the sustained hours of irksome television broadcasting that interrupt regular programming to raise money for a worthy cause.

[p. 111, Herodotus: A Very Short Introduction, by Jennifer T. Roberts]
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Abebe Bikila, 1960, by Blackcat. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Very Short FactOn this day in 1960, at the Summer Olympics in Rome, Abebe Bikila becomes the first sub-Saharan African to win a gold medal, winning the marathon in his bare feet.

Herodotus lives on, of course, in popular culture – in the race named after the Athenian Pheidippides’ run to Sparta, for example, seeking assistance at Marathon. The very name of Marathon has even contributed its last syllable to the word ‘telethon’ made up to designate the sustained hours of irksome television broadcasting that interrupt regular programming to raise money for a worthy cause.

[p. 111, Herodotus: A Very Short Introduction, by Jennifer T. Roberts]

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Abebe Bikila, 1960, by Blackcat. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Very Short Fact: On this day in 1939, Britain and France declare war on Germany

The public mood after the outbreak of the Second World War was notably less passionate or strident than after August 1914. Neither the militarism nor the pacifism of that earlier conflict was echoed now. In large measure, this was because of the curious features of the early months of the war. During the so-called ‘phoney war’ period down to April 1940, the fighting seemed remote, almost academic. It is a curious, twilight phase well portrayed in Evelyn Waugh’s novel Put out More Flags.

[p. 45, Twentieth-Century Britain: A Very Short Introduction, by Kenneth O. Morgan]. 
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Image credit: War Office Second World War gas masks, from Imperial War Museums. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Very Short Fact: On this day in 1939, Britain and France declare war on Germany

The public mood after the outbreak of the Second World War was notably less passionate or strident than after August 1914. Neither the militarism nor the pacifism of that earlier conflict was echoed now. In large measure, this was because of the curious features of the early months of the war. During the so-called ‘phoney war’ period down to April 1940, the fighting seemed remote, almost academic. It is a curious, twilight phase well portrayed in Evelyn Waugh’s novel Put out More Flags.

[p. 45, Twentieth-Century Britain: A Very Short Introduction, by Kenneth O. Morgan]. 

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Image credit: War Office Second World War gas masks, from Imperial War Museums. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Very Short Fact: On this day in 2003, Mars makes its closest approach to Earth in nearly 60,000 years, passing 34,646,418 miles (55,758,005 km) distant.

The planets and their mutual gravitational pulls are continuously changing configuration. Chaos theory says it is therefore impossible to predict planetary positions more than a few million years ahead. However, it can be shown that the Solar System is sufficiently stable that no planet is likely to collide or be ejected in the next few billion years. We are probably safe for at least 5 billion years, which is when astronomers expect the Sun to swell up into a red giant, whereupon the wanderings of Mars will be the least of the problems faced by any far future Earthlings.

[p. 23, 24, Planets: A Very Short Introduction, by David A. Rothery]
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NASA Mars landing gif via giphy.com

Very Short Fact: On this day in 2003, Mars makes its closest approach to Earth in nearly 60,000 years, passing 34,646,418 miles (55,758,005 km) distant.

The planets and their mutual gravitational pulls are continuously changing configuration. Chaos theory says it is therefore impossible to predict planetary positions more than a few million years ahead. However, it can be shown that the Solar System is sufficiently stable that no planet is likely to collide or be ejected in the next few billion years. We are probably safe for at least 5 billion years, which is when astronomers expect the Sun to swell up into a red giant, whereupon the wanderings of Mars will be the least of the problems faced by any far future Earthlings.

[p. 23, 24, Planets: A Very Short Introduction, by David A. Rothery]

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NASA Mars landing gif via giphy.com

Very Short Fact: On this day in 1940, after three months of the Battle Of Britain in the skies over the South Coast, Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, makes the fourth of his famous wartime speeches in which he said: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

Churchill embodied a traditional sense of patriotic unity as no one else amongst his contemporaries could ever do. War gave his career a new impetus and relevance. His inspiring oratory over the radio and in the Commons conjured up new reserves of national will-power in this ‘finest hour’ for his country. 

[p. 47, Twentieth-Century Britain: A Very Short Introduction, by Kenneth O. Morgan]
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Image: Winston Churchill, from the Imperial War Museums Archive. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Very Short Fact: On this day in 1940, after three months of the Battle Of Britain in the skies over the South Coast, Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, makes the fourth of his famous wartime speeches in which he said: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

Churchill embodied a traditional sense of patriotic unity as no one else amongst his contemporaries could ever do. War gave his career a new impetus and relevance. His inspiring oratory over the radio and in the Commons conjured up new reserves of national will-power in this ‘finest hour’ for his country. 

[p. 47, Twentieth-Century Britain: A Very Short Introduction, by Kenneth O. Morgan]

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Image: Winston Churchill, from the Imperial War Museums Archive. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Very Short Fact: On this day in 1961: Berliners wake to divided city as troops in East Germany seal off the border between East and West Berlin, shutting off the escape route for thousands of refugees from the East.

War was averted, to be sure, and Khrushchev was able to provide a form of life-support to the German Democratic Republic, but those achievements came at a high political and propaganda cost for the Soviet Union and East Germany. ‘It’s not a very nice solution’, mused a pragmatic Kennedy, ‘but a wall is a hell of a lot better than a war’.

—Robert J. McMahon, The Cold War: A Very Short Introduction, page 85.
Image: Berlin, Mauerbau, Kampfgruppen am Brandenburger Tor, 13 August 1961. By Peter Junge, Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-85458-0002. CC-BY-SA-3.0-de via Wikimedia Commons.

Very Short Fact: On this day in 1961: Berliners wake to divided city as troops in East Germany seal off the border between East and West Berlin, shutting off the escape route for thousands of refugees from the East.

War was averted, to be sure, and Khrushchev was able to provide a form of life-support to the German Democratic Republic, but those achievements came at a high political and propaganda cost for the Soviet Union and East Germany. ‘It’s not a very nice solution’, mused a pragmatic Kennedy, ‘but a wall is a hell of a lot better than a war’.

—Robert J. McMahon, The Cold War: A Very Short Introduction, page 85.

Image: Berlin, Mauerbau, Kampfgruppen am Brandenburger Tor, 13 August 1961. By Peter Junge, Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-85458-0002. CC-BY-SA-3.0-de via Wikimedia Commons.