March 19, 2014 Day 59 of the Sixth Year - History

March 19, 2014 Day 59 of the Sixth Year - History

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President Barack Obama talks with Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice in the Oval Office, March 19, 2014.

9:45AM THE PRESIDENT receives the Presidential Daily Briefing
Oval Office

2:25PM THE PRESIDENT hosts a screening of the film Cesar Chavez at the White House
South Court Auditorium

3:05PM THE PRESIDENT is interviewed by local news anchors participating in “Live from the White House”
The Diplomatic Room

Top 11 Stately Homes in England – Best English Manor Houses

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One thing England is known for are its many fine stately homes and manor houses. They’ve had a troubled history in the last century as families have been forced to sell them off or donate them to the National Trust. Many have even been demolished. That being said there are still many beautiful stately homes left to visit in England – the types of buildings you think of when you imagine England.

From homes that were featured in films and TV shows to houses that played major parts in history – here is our list of the Top 11 best Stately Homes in England. We’ve pulled the most amazing pictures from Flickr that we can find and have also put in Trivia bout each home from Wikipedia, along with the location and website link for each Stately Home.

Please keep in mind this post if focused solely on the top Stately Homes and Manor Houses in England, we plan to do posts for Scotland and Wales in the future.

Castle Howard

This palace is best known as the shooting location of the classic British TV series Brideshead Revisited as well as the recent film adaptation.

Wikipedia Trivia:

Castle Howard is a stately home in North Yorkshire, England, 15 miles (24 km) north of York. One of the grandest private residences in Britain, most of it was built between 1699 and 1712 for the 3rd Earl of Carlisle, to a design by Sir John Vanbrugh. It is not a true castle: The word is often used for English country houses constructed after the castle-building era (c.1500) and not intended for a military function.

Castle Howard has been the home of part of the Howard family for more than 300 years. It is familiar to television and movie audiences as the fictional “Brideshead”, both in Granada Television’s 1981 adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited and a two-hour 2008 remake for theatres. Today, it is part of the Treasure Houses of England heritage group.

Location: North Yorkshire

Blenheim Palace

Built by the victorious 1st Duke of Marlborough – Blenheim Palace is best known now as the birthplace of Winston Churchill, who was born there in 1874.

Wikipedia Trivia:

Blenheim Palace is a large and monumental country house situated in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England. It is the only non-episcopal country house in England to hold the title of palace. The palace, one of England’s largest houses, was built between 1705 and circa 1724. UNESCO recognised the palace as a World Heritage Site in 1987.

Its construction was originally intended to be a gift to John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough from a grateful nation in return for military triumph against the French and Bavarians at the Battle of Blenheim. However, it soon became the subject of political infighting, which led to Marlborough’s exile, the fall from power of his Duchess, and irreparable damage to the reputation of the architect Sir John Vanbrugh.

Designed in the rare, and short-lived, English Baroque style, architectural appreciation of the palace is as divided today as it was in the 1720s.[2] It is unique in its combined usage as a family home, mausoleum and national monument. The palace is also notable as the birthplace and ancestral home of Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill.

The building of the palace was a minefield of political intrigue by Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough. Following the palace’s completion, it became the home of the Churchill family for the following 300 years, and various members of the family have in that period wrought various changes, in the interiors, park and gardens. At the end of the 19th century, the palace and the Churchills were saved from ruin by an American marriage. Thus, the exterior of the palace remains in good repair and exactly as completed.

Location: Oxfordshire


Longleat is mostly now known for its safari park – touted as the first outside of Africa.

Wikipedia Trivia:

Longleat is an English country house, currently the seat of the Marquesses of Bath, adjacent to the village of Horningsham and near the towns of Warminster in Wiltshire and Frome in Somerset. It is noted for its Elizabethan country house, maze, landscaped parkland and safari park. The house is set in over 900 acres (364 ha) of parkland, landscaped by Capability Brown, with 8,000 acres (32.37 km2) of woods and farmland. It was the first stately home to open to the public, and also claims the first safari park outside Africa.

The house was built by Sir John Thynne, and designed mainly by Robert Smythson, after the original priory was destroyed by fire in 1567. It took 12 years to complete and is widely regarded as one of the finest examples of Elizabethan architecture in Britain. Longleat is currently occupied by Alexander Thynn, 7th Marquess of Bath, a direct descendant of the builder.

Location: Wiltshire/Somerset


Photo from Wikipedia

It is the seat of the Duke of Devonshire, and has been home to his family, the Cavendish family, since Bess of Hardwick settled at Chatsworth in 1549. You’ll recognize it at Darcy’s house in the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

Wikipedia Trivia:

In the early 20th century social change and taxes began to affect the Devonshires’ lifestyle. When the 8th Duke died in 1908 over £500,000 of death duties became due. This was a small charge compared to what was to follow forty-two years later, but the estate was already burdened with debt accumulated from the 6th Duke’s extravagances, the failure of the 7th Duke’s business ventures at Barrow-in-Furness, and the depression in British agriculture which had been apparent since the 1870s. In 1912 the family sold twenty-five books printed by William Caxton and a collection of 1,347 volumes of plays which had been acquired by the 6th Duke, including four Shakespeare folios and thirty-nine Shakespeare quartos, to the Huntington Library in California. Tens of thousands of acres of land in Somerset, Sussex and Derbyshire were also sold during, and immediately after, World War I. In 1920 the family’s London mansion, Devonshire House, which occupied a 3 acres (12,000 m2) site on Piccadilly, was sold to developers and demolished. Much of the contents of Devonshire House was moved to Chatsworth and a much smaller house at 2 Carlton Gardens near The Mall was acquired. The Great Conservatory in the garden at Chatsworth was demolished as it needed ten men to run it, huge quantities of coal to heat it, and all the plants had died during the war when no coal had been available for non-essential purposes. To further reduce running costs, there was also talk of pulling down the 6th Duke’s north wing, which was then regarded as having no aesthetic or historical value, however, nothing came of it. Chiswick House, the celebrated Palladian villa in the suburbs of West London which the Devonshires had inherited when the 4th Duke had married Lord Burlington’s daughter was sold to Brentford Council in 1929.

Nonetheless, life at Chatsworth continued much as before. The household was run by a comptroller and domestic staff were still available, although more so in the country than in the cities. The staff at Chatsworth at this time consisted of a butler, under butler, groom of the chambers, valet, three footmen, a housekeeper, the Duchess’s maid, eleven housemaids, two sewing women, a cook, two kitchen maids, a vegetable maid, two or three scullery maids, two stillroom maids, a dairy maid, six laundry maids and the Duchess’s secretary. All of these thirty-eight or thirty-nine people lived in the house. Daily staff included the odd man, upholsterer, scullery-maid, two scrubbing women, laundry porter, steam boiler man, coal man, two porter’s lodge attendants, two night firemen, night porter, two window cleaners, and a team of joiners, plumbers and electricians. The Clerk of Works supervised the maintenance of the house and other properties on the estate. There were also grooms, chauffeurs and gamekeepers. The number of garden staff was somewhere between the eighty of the 6th Duke’s time and the twenty or so of the early 21st century. There was also a librarian, Francis Thompson, who wrote the first book-length account of Chatsworth since the 6th Duke’s handbook.

Most of the UK’s country houses were put to institutional use during World War II. Some of those which were used as barracks were badly damaged, but the 10th Duke, anticipating that schoolgirls would make better tenants than soldiers, arranged for Chatsworth to be occupied by Penrhos College, a girls’ public school in Colwyn Bay, Wales. The school later merged with Rydal School to become Rydal Penrhos a co-educational private school. The contents of the house were packed away in eleven days and 300 girls and their teachers moved in for a six-year stay. The whole of the house was used, including the state rooms which were turned into dormitories. Condensation from the breath of the sleeping girls caused fungus to grow behind some of the pictures. The house was not very comfortable for so many people, with a shortage of hot water, but there were compensations, such as skating on the Canal Pond. The girls grew vegetables in the garden as a contribution to the war effort.

In 1944 Kathleen Kennedy, sister of John F. Kennedy, married William Cavendish, Marquess of Hartington, the elder son of the 10th Duke of Devonshire. However, he was killed in action in Belgium later in 1944, and Kathleen died in a plane crash in 1948. His younger brother Andrew became the 11th Duke in 1950. He was married to Deborah Mitford, one of the Mitford girls and sister to Nancy Mitford, Diana Mitford, Pamela Mitford, Unity Mitford and Jessica Mitford

Location: Derbyshire

Lyme Park

Also played Darcy’s home in the 1995 BBC Adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

Wikipedia Trivia:

Lyme Park is a large estate located south of Disley, Cheshire, England (grid reference SJ964823). It consists of a mansion house surrounded by formal gardens, in a deer park in the Peak District National Park. The house is the largest in Cheshire, and a Grade I listed building.

The estate was granted to Sir Thomas Danyers in 1346 and passed to the Leghs of Lyme by marriage in 1388. It remained in the possession of the Legh family until 1946 when it was given to the National Trust. The house dates from the latter part of the 16th century. Modifications were made to it in the 1720s by Giacomo Leoni, who retained some of the Elizabethan features and added others, particularly the courtyard and the south range. It is difficult to classify Leoni’s work at Lyme, as it contains elements of both Palladian and Baroque styles. Further modifications were made by Lewis Wyatt in the 19th century, especially to the interior. Formal gardens were created and developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The house, gardens and park have been used as locations for filming and they are open to the public. The Lyme Caxton Missal is on display in the library.

Location: Cheshire

Website: Official Lyme Park Website

Hardwick Hall

One of Britain’s best-loved Stately Homes, Hardwick Hall was the second home for the Duchess of Devonshire.

Hardwick Hall, in Derbyshire, is one of the most significant Elizabethan country houses in England. In common with its architect Robert Smythson’s other works at both Longleat House and Wollaton Hall, Hardwick Hall is one of the earliest examples of the English interpretation of the Renaissance style of architecture, which came into fashion when it was no longer thought necessary to fortify one’s home.

Hardwick Hall is situated on a hilltop between Chesterfield and Mansfield, overlooking the Derbyshire countryside. The house was designed for Bess of Hardwick, Countess of Shrewsbury and ancestress of the Dukes of Devonshire, by Robert Smythson in the late 16th century and remained in that family until it was handed over to HM Treasury in lieu of Estate Duty in 1956. The Treasury transferred the house to the National Trust in 1959. As it was a secondary residence of the Dukes of Devonshire, whose main country house was nearby Chatsworth, it was little altered over the centuries and indeed, from the early 19th century, its antique atmosphere was consciously preserved.

Hardwick is a conspicuous statement of the wealth and power of Bess of Hardwick, who was the richest woman in England after Queen Elizabeth I herself. It was one of the first English houses where the great hall was built on an axis through the center of the house rather than at right angles to the entrance. Each of the three main storeys is higher than the one below, and a grand, winding, stone staircase leads up to a suite of state rooms on the second floor, which includes one of the largest long galleries in any English house and a little-altered, tapestry-hung great chamber with a spectacular plaster frieze of hunting scenes. The windows are exceptionally large and numerous for the 16th century and were a powerful statement of wealth at a time when glass was a luxury, leading to the saying, “Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall” (or, in another version, “more window than wall’)[1]. There is a large amount of fine tapestry and furniture from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. A remarkable feature of the house is that much of the present furniture and other contents are listed in an inventory dating from 1601.

Hardwick Hall contains a large collection of embroideries, mostly dating from the late 16th century, many of which are listed in the 1601 inventory. Some of the needlework on display in the house incorporates Bess’s monogram “ES”, and may have been worked on by Bess herself.

Hardwick is open to the public. It has a fine garden, including herbaceous borders, a vegetable and herb garden, and an orchard. The extensive grounds also contain Hardwick Old Hall, a slightly earlier house which was used as guest and service accommodation after the new hall was built. The Old Hall is now a ruin. It is administered by English Heritage on behalf of the National Trust and is also open to the public.

Location: Devonshire

Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle is best known as the filming location for the interiors of the Harry Potter films. It’s also famous for it’s poison garden – a garden specially cultivated with dangerous plants.

Yves de Vescy, Baron of Alnwick, erected the first parts of the castle in 1096. It was built to defend England’s northern border against the Scottish invasions and border reivers. It was besieged in 1172 and again in 1174 by William the Lion, King of Scotland and William was captured outside the walls during the Battle of Alnwick. In 1309 it was bought from Antony Bek the Bishop of Durham by Henry de Percy, 1st Baron Percy and it has been owned by the Percy family, the Earls and later Dukes of Northumberland since then. The first Percy lord of Alnwick restored the castle and the Abbot’s Tower, the Middle Gateway and the Constable’s Tower survive from this period. In 1404-5 the Percys rebelled against Henry IV, who besieged and then took the castle.

During the Wars of the Roses it was held against King Edward until its surrender in mid-September 1461 after the Battle of Towton. Re-captured by Sir William Tailboys during the winter he surrendered to Hastings, Sir John Howard and Sir Ralph Grey of Heton in late July 1462. Grey was appointed captain but surrendered after a sharp siege in the early autumn. King Edward responded with vigour and when the Earl of Warwick arrived in November Queen Margaret and her French advisor, Pierre de Brézé were forced to sail to Scotland for help. They organised a mainly Scots relief force which, under George Douglas, 4th Earl of Angus and de Brézé, set out on 22 November. Warwick’s army, commanded by the experienced Earl of Kent and the recently pardoned Lord Scales, prevented news getting through to the starving garrisons. As a result the nearby Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh castles soon agreed terms and surrendered. But Hungerford and Whittingham held Alnwick until Warwick was forced to withdraw when de Breze and Angus arrived on 5 January 1463.

The Lancastrians missed a great chance to bring Warwick to battle instead being content to retire, leaving behind only a token force which surrendered next day.

By May 1463 Alnwick was in Lancastrian hands for the third time since Towton, betrayed by Grey of Heton who tricked the commander, Sir John Astley. Astley was imprisoned and Hungerford resumed command.

After Montagu’s triumphs at Hedgeley Moor and Hexham in 1464 Warwick arrived before Alnwick on 23 June and received its surrender next day.

The 6th Earl of Northumberland carried out renovations in the 16th century. In the second half of the 18th century Robert Adam carried out many alterations. The interiors were largely in a Strawberry Hill[disambiguation needed] gothic style not at all typical of his work, which was usually neoclassical. However in the 19th century Algernon, 4th Duke of Northumberland replaced much of this with less ostentatious architecture designed by Anthony Salvin. According to the official website a large amount of Adam’s work survives, but little or none of it remains in the principal rooms shown to the public, which were redecorated in an opulent Italianate style in the Victorian era by Luigi Canina.

Location: Northumbria

Somerleyton Hall

Most famous for its beautiful gardens.

In 1240, a manor house was built on the site of Somerleyton Hall by Sir Peter Fitzosbert whose daughter married into the Jernegan family. The male line of the Fitzosberts ended, and the Jernegans held the estate until 1604 when John Wentworth bought it. He transformed Somerleyton Hall into a typical East Anglian Tudor-Jacobean mansion. It then passed to the Garney family. The next owner was Admiral Sir Thomas Allin, a native of Lowestoft. He took part in the Battle of Lowestoft (1665) and the Battle of Solebay at Southwold in 1672. Eventually the male line of that family also died out.

Somerleyton Hall and Park were bought in 1843 by Sir Samuel Morton Peto who, for the next seven years, carried out extensive rebuilding. Paintings were specially commissioned for the house, and the gardens and grounds were completely redesigned. Peto employed Prince Albert’s favourite architect John Thomas.

In 1863 the Somerleyton estate was sold to Sir Francis Crossley of Halifax, West Yorkshire who, like Peto, was a philanthropist, a manufacturer, and a Member of Parliament. Sir Francis’ son Savile was created Baron Somerleyton in 1916. The House is now held by the present Lord Somerleyton and inhabited by the family. The family motto is ‘Everything that is good comes from above’.

The formal gardens cover 12 acres (49,000 m²). They feature a yew hedge maze created by William Andrews Nesfield in 1846, and a ridge and furrow greenhouse designed by Joseph Paxton, the architect of The Crystal Palace. There is also a walled garden, an aviary, a loggia and a 90 metre long pergola covered with roses and wisteria. The more informal areas of the garden feature rhododendrons and azaleas and a fine collection of specimen trees.

Location: Suffolk

Apsley House

The famous London home of the Duke of Wellington (of Wellington Boot fame).

Apsley House, also known as Number One, London, was the London residence of the Dukes of Wellington and stands alone at Hyde Park Corner, on the south-east corner of Hyde Park, facing south towards the busy traffic circulation system. It is a grade I listed building.

The house is now run by English Heritage and is open to the public as a museum and art gallery, although the 8th Duke of Wellington still uses part of the building as a part-time residence. It is sometimes referred to as the Wellington Museum. It is perhaps the only preserved example of an English aristocratic town house from its period. The practice has been to maintain the rooms as far as possible in the original style and decor. It contains the 1st Duke’s collection of paintings, porcelain, the silver centrepiece made for the Duke in Portugal, c 1815, sculpture and furniture. Antonio Canova’s heroic marble nude of Napoleon as Mars the Peacemaker made 1802-10, holding a gilded Nike in the palm of his right hand, and standing 3.45 metres to the raised left hand holding a staff. It was set up for a time in the Louvre and was bought by the Government for Wellington in 1816 (Pevsner) and stands in Adam’s Stairwell.

Location: Central London

Woburn Abbey

Famous for it’s beautilful gardens – it’s also home to a safari park.

Woburn Abbey, comprising Woburn Park and its buildings, was originally founded as a Cistercian abbey in 1145. Taken from its monastic residents by Henry VIII and given to John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford in 1547, it became the seat of the Russell Family and the Dukes of Bedford. The Abbey was largely rebuilt starting in 1744[1] by the architects Henry Flitcroft and Henry Holland for the 4th Duke. Anna Maria, the wife of the 7th Duke, originated the afternoon tea ritual in 19th-century England.

Following World War II, dry rot had been discovered and half the Abbey was subsequently demolished. When the 12th Duke died in 1953, his son the 13th Duke was exposed to heavy death duties and the Abbey was a half-demolished, half-derelict house. Instead of handing the family estates over to the National Trust, he kept ownership and opened the Abbey to the public for the first time in 1955. It soon gained in popularity as other amusements were added, including Woburn Safari Park on the grounds of the Abbey in 1970. Asked about the unfavourable comments by other aristocrats when he turned the family home into a safari park, the 13th Duke said, “I do not relish the scorn of the peerage, but it is better to be looked down on than overlooked.”

Location: Bedfordshire

Highclere Castle

This iconic home has recently been featured as the shooting location for the hit ITV series Downtown Abbey.

The present castle stands on the site of an earlier house, in turn built on the foundations of the medieval palace of the Bishops of Winchester, who owned this estate from the 8th century. In 1692, Robert Sawyer, a lawyer and college friend of Samuel Pepys, bequeathed a mansion at Highclere to his only daughter, Margaret. Her second son, Robert Sawyer Herbert, inherited Highclere, began its picture collection, and created the garden temples. His nephew and heir Henry Herbert was made Baron Porchester and 1st Earl of Carnarvon by King George III.

In those years, the house was a square, classical mansion, but it was remodelled and all but rebuilt for the third earl by Sir Charles Barry in 1839 to 1842 after he had finished building the Houses of Parliament. It is in the “High Elizabethan” style and faced in Bath stone.

The term “High Elizabethan” with which the house is often tagged refers to the English architecture of the late 16th century and early 17th century when traditional Tudor architecture was being challenged by the newly arrived Italian Renaissance influences. During the 19th century there was a huge Renaissance revival movement of which Sir Charles Barry was a great exponent.

Barry had been inspired to become an architect by the Renaissance architecture of Italy and was very proficient at working in the Renaissance based style which in the 19th century became known as Italianate architecture. His work at Cliveden is considered amongst his finest. At Highclere, however he worked in the English renaissance revival style, but added to it many of the motifs of the Italianate style. This is particularly noticeable in the towers which are slimmer and more refined than those of the other great English Renaissance revival house Mentmore Towers built in the same era. This strong Italianate influence has led to the castle being quite fairly described as in the Italianate style.

The external walls are decorated with strapwork designs and cornicing typical of Renaissance architecture. The Renaissance theme is evident within the castle. Curiously so in the great hall, which like that at Mentmore is modeled on an Italian Renaissance central courtyard, complete with arcades and loggias. However, in an attempt to resemble a medieval English great hall, Barry has mixed styles introducing to the Italianate effect a Gothic influence evident in the points rather than curves of the arches. This mixing of styles was particularly common in this period and would not have been found in a genuine Elizabethan house.

Although the exterior of the north, east and south sides were completed by the time the 3rd Earl died in 1849 and Sir Charles Barry died in 1852, the interior and the west wing (designated as servants’ quarters) were still far from complete. The 4th Earl turned to the architect Thomas Allom, who had worked with Barry, to supervise work on the interior of the Castle, which was completed on 1878.

The 1st Earl rebuilt his park according to a design by Capability Brown during 1774 to 1777, relocating the village in the process (the remains of the church of 1689 are at the south west corner of the castle). The famous 18th century seed collector Bishop Stephen Pococke was a friend and brought Lebanon Cedar seeds from a trip to Lebanon. These beautiful trees can be seen in the garden today. Various follies and eye-catchers exist on the estate. To the east of the house is the Temple, a strange structure erected before 1743 with Corinthian columns from Devonshire House in Piccadilly. “Heaven’s Gate” is an eye-catcher about 18 m high on Sidown Hill, built in 1731 from a design, it is thought, by the 9th Earl of Pembroke. It fell shortly afterwards. The event was witnessed and recorded by a Rev. J Milles, who recorded that “we had not been there above half an hour before we saw it cleave from ye foundations and it fell with such a noise yet was heard at three or four miles [5 or 6 km] distant”.

Location: Hampshire (thought it has a Berkshire address)

Do you have a favorite English stately home? Let us know all about it in the comments!

In case you’re moving to Toronto and are looking for some modern homes then check out this page.

The Four Seasons

What defines each season? Below is a brief explanation of the four seasons in order of calendar year. For more information, link to the referenced equinoxes and solstices pages.


On the vernal equinox, day and night are each approximately 12 hours long (with the actual time of equal day and night, in the Northern Hemisphere, occurring a few days before the vernal equinox). The Sun crosses the celestial equator going northward it rises exactly due east and sets exactly due west. See our First Day of Spring page.


On the summer solstice, we enjoy the most daylight of the calendar year. The Sun reaches its most northern point in the sky (in the Northern Hemisphere) at local noon. After this date, the days start getting “shorter,” i.e., the length of daylight starts to decrease. See our First Day of Summer page.

Autumn (Fall)

On the autumnal equinox, day and night are each about 12 hours long (with the actual time of equal day and night, in the Northern Hemisphere, occurring a few days after the autumnal equinox). The Sun crosses the celestial equator going southward it rises exactly due east and sets exactly due west. See our First Day of Fall page.


The winter solstice is the “shortest day” of the year, meaning the least amount of sunlight. The Sun reaches its most southern point in the sky (in the Northern Hemisphere) at local noon. After this date, the days start getting “longer,” i.e., the amount of daylight begins to increase. See our First Day of Winter page.

What’s your favorite season—and why? Let us know in the comments below!

Everyday Sociology Blog

I recently read Malcolm Gladwell’s bestselling book Outliers: The Story of Success, and highly recommend it to anyone interested in a sociological perspective of what factors enable some people to achieve more than others. Although not a sociologist, Gladwell is a journalist with a knack for explaining sociological and social psychological concepts in a clear and interesting manner.

While the American ethos of success suggests that it is the result of talent and hard work, Gladwell examines factors that sociologists refer to as social structure—things beyond our individual control—to understand what else successful people have helping them on their journey. Let’s be clear: skills and hard work are important, but so is timing. And one of the most important things to time well is something none of us can choose—when we are born, and to whom we are born.

Sociologist C. Wright Mills describes the importance of timing in his classic 1959 book, The Sociological Imagination, where he notes that all of our life chances are shaped by the intersections of our own personal biographies and history. Gladwell provides numerous examples of this, finding that the so-called Robber Barons who became America’s captains of industry in the late 1800s were mostly born within a few years of each other. People like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller were born just a few years apart in the 1830s, as were many other business titans who amassed great wealth. Was there something particularly profitable in the water back then? Lessons taught in school at that time that would have led to their incredible achievements?

As Gladwell points out, their timing couldn’t have been better. Yes, they likely worked hard and had brilliant business minds. But they also came of age just as the industrial revolution was exploding in America. They were able to get in on the ground floor of advanced capitalism.

Of course people have gotten very rich before and after this period, and Gladwell describes how being born in the mid 1950s was particularly fortuitous for those interested in computer programming development (think Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, both born in 1955). It also helped to be geographically near what were then called supercomputers, the gigantic predecessors to the thing on which you’re reading this post. Back in the 1960s, when Gates and Jobs were coming of age, a supercomputer took up a whole room and was not something most youngsters would have had a chance to see, let alone work on. But because of their proximity to actual computers, both Gates and Jobs had a leg up on others their age and had the chance to spend hours and hours (10,000 of them in Gladwell’s estimation) learning about programming.

We can apply this model to more than just financial success. Think about what opportunities your own biography and history have afforded you. How has when, where, and to whom you were born shaped your life today?

I tried to think about the intersection of my biography and history to imagine how timing might have led me to write this post or to read Gladwell’s book in the first place.

As a member of “Generation X”, I was born following the massive baby boom. As you can see in the graph on the left, after a peak in the mid 1950s, the number of births sharply declined. How might this have affected me? As Gladwell describes, children born after booms like I was have the benefit of smaller class sizes. An unprecedented number of schools were built for Baby Boomers in the years before I was born. When my cohort was ready to go to school, there were newly-built buildings waiting for us, especially for people like me who lived in well-funded suburbs. (My hometown boasts that residents have never rejected a school levy in its entire history).

When I was in elementary school in the mid 1970s, there were so few students that many classes were combined: first and second graders had the same teacher, as did third and fourth graders. Looking back, this provided me with some unusual opportunities.

For one, a child in my district often had the same teacher for two years in a row. This teacher had the opportunity to know us better, and help us develop our strengths and provide lessons that could target any weaknesses. They would recommend us for special enrichment opportunities based on our talents too there was a “Special Talents Program” we called STP where a few kids would spend time with the art teacher, in the music room, or reading additional books if we seemed particularly interested.

Another advantage: because children would necessarily have different skill levels in the same classroom, and might be nearly two years apart in age, a big difference for six- and almost eight-year-olds, the teachers would work with us in small groups, and sometimes one-on-one. Having small classes helped with that effort too.

We would be placed in small groups, sometimes based on reading level, sometimes based on more random factors (like where we happened to be sitting that day) and learned lessons with far more individualized attention. We were also given “contracts” by our teacher, who would meet with each student individually and assign lessons from workbooks based on our own level of achievement in reading, math, or another subject. We would then be able to work individually, return to show our work to the teacher, who would sign off on the “contract” that we had completed the assignment. We would also get individual help if we needed it from the teacher or occasionally from a student teacher if our classroom had one at the time.

Because I was a bit precocious as a child, this school structure really enabled me to thrive. Rather than get bored by a lesson designed to reach children at all levels, I could work as quickly as I wanted to and sometimes discover topics that I wanted to learn more about, and do separate research on my own. I also had college-educated parents who had taught me to read well before I entered school, frequently bought me books and could answer most of my questions if I had them.

Couple these factors with the lingering 1960s ethos which promoted experimental methods of learning and you have a better understanding of how the accident of my time and place of birth created an additional advantage. By the 1980s, when I went to middle school and then high school, this individualized learning model disappeared in favor of more traditionally structured classrooms, as the political backdrop shifted. There was one centralized lesson, one assignment for the whole class, and less one-on-one time with teachers. I got bored a lot more often.

So that’s the history portion of how my opportunities might have been shaped. Let’s bring biography back in.

You might have read about my elementary school days and thought, what’s to stop a kid from doing as little as possible? And what about children who aren’t willing or able to work independently?

I’m guessing there are many children who would not thrive in this independent environment that was so well-suited for me. Having the teacher meet with another group or another student one-on-one presented many opportunities for chit-chat and goofing off (I did my fair share of that too). So individual personality, work ethic, and talents do matter. They’re just not the only things that matter. How has your biography intersected with history to produce opportunities (or barriers) for you?


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I enjoyed reading your very positive outlook on your own history that contributed to where you are today. I'll put Gladwell's book on my "to read" list. Thanks.

it was very excellent karen.unfortunately many of sociologist do not pay attention to such as important details.while these details makes the real sociology.without details we can only to understand a general image of our life and this not enough anyway.I am from iran.although i am 53 but i am a doctoral student , and my dissertation is about Social i very old for this?you ate right.

I feel very fourtunate to have read this post. It clearly describes that more factors in our society contribute to our success, not just one idea of "working hard" or "knowing the right people", but that the year or era in which you were born could also greatly contribute to the amount of success you reach in your lifetime.

I think that you and are correct in thinking that when and where you are born has a major effect on how your life will turn out. At first i thought that you were completely wrong in this considering the fact that some people born in poverty have risen up to overcome their environment(where they are born). Once you brought up all the points about schooling ,the economy and housing I was really convinced. I personally believe that working hard is more important than the environment someone is born in. Once i read the rest of post i started to wonder if I was born into a proper time. Considering I'm going through school during an economic recessision I'm rather worried that maybe i'm not recieving a good education for my succuss later on. Though I was born into a well off family, that might be to my advantage. I think it's a little to early to tell if my environment is good or not.

This article clearly describes more factors in our society contributes our success even when we face many negative and difficult situations such as economic issues we face today. Some people that are born in poverty have risen up to overcome their environment. If you work hard you would most likely achieve your goals.

I think where you're born has a lot to do with your social class and where you end up in life. But I don't believe if you're born into poverty you're automatically stuck there. I think that people have a pretty fair chance in trying to succeed and that the only person who can determine your success is yourself.

This article gave me something new to think about. I never gave a thought to your biological background having anything to do with your education. I can see where this makes sense but on the other hand I think that anyone can rise above and overcome their background and where they come from with hard work and a little preserverence.

I really liked this post and I think that parents today should have more options than just public school. I know there are magnet and charter schools, but I wish there were more available alternate schooling. Whether or not a student succeeds in class definitely depends on their learning style - some need one-on-one time with a teacher while others like the structured, one-lesson style. I think our education system should be re-evaluated and more options should be created to help students succeed.

You are right that being smart, talented and hard working are only part of many factors that contribute to success. We do not always have control over when and where an opportunity will present itself. You found an opportunity in an academic setting that might not have presented itself had you been born later. Isn’t it possible to look for opportunity in other unusual areas not controlled by our history and biography? As they say, when one door closes, go through another or climb out a window. I think success is possible if you want it bad enough-even though the result may turn out to be nothing like you perceive it to be.

it's a great thing to know about some people that still cares of us the readers, i mean, some people only wants to write about some stupid sh*t and treat the readers like we have nothing but air in our heads, i'm glad to see you're one of the others, the people who cares about a good substance content in their blogs, very nice of your part, thanks.

This was a very interesting blog to read. At the beginning, I do admit it seemed like it was going to be a boring pointless read, but once I got into it this idea changed. I agree that timing is always very important in life. I feel that when you are in a certain place at the right time, you may get to experience more opportunities than others. The experience you encountered during elementary school was very interesting to me and many times wish that I had that advantage going through my school system.

1.How has your biography intersected with history to produce opportunities (or barriers) for you?
I like this article it tells us of many opportunities that we usually over look. Many believe if you were born with a silver spoon in their mouths they will always be that way but that is no more than the truth that if you were born in poverty you will never be nothing more. We have seen many have everything in the world and loose everything they have and some one who lives off government become successful and rich. its all depends on who you are and how you were raised.

Posted by: david wilson soc 200 | October 15, 2010 at 05:54 PM

I really enjoyed reading your blog. I am studying the Sociological Imagination in my Sociology class. We have been instructed to use the concept of the sociological imagination by considering how being born at the time we were has impacted our lives up until this point. I am not sure how to go about figuring this out. Any ideas of how the "Millennials" lives have been impacted?

I really enjoyed reading this. It was very interesting. I realized that sociology is really apart of our everyday lives. I've never thought of it this way. I realized that everytime I ask the question, "why?" I am being sociological. Your blog makes me think my on my history and life and wonder exactly what made shaped me to be who and what I am today. I'm still young, but I am eager to know exactly what my experiences in life and the places I have been will molld me into!

You are right that being smart, talented and hard working are only part of many factors that contribute to success. We do not always have control over when and where an opportunity will present itself. You found an opportunity in an academic setting that might not have presented itself had you been born later. Isn’t it possible to look for opportunity in other unusual areas not controlled by our history and biography? As they say, when one door closes, go through another or climb out a window. I think success is possible if you want it bad enough-even though the result may turn out to be nothing like you perceive it to be.

I think that where and when you are born does have an effect like you said because of the schooling that is available to you or not. For example a child in small village in Africa will not receive the same education as a child in a high class town in America. However, there are many examples of people who get out of the slums and make a life for themselves. So Hard work really can pay off it just may be more difficult depending on where and when you are born.

My instructor used your post to help us learn what "sociological imagination" is. I read it twice to get a full understanding of it really is.

The sociological imagenation is importance like this example of the article because it is crucial to understand for individual people and societies that people can relate the situations which occur in their daily lives to the society such as local, national, and global societal issues that affect to them. In addition, it helps us to appreciate different viewpoints and understand better how we developed our own values and attitudes.

Posted by: Kanokkorn Pisadsurakun | September 23, 2012 at 01:05 AM

Learning sociology is benefical to the life because everyone stay in society that not only stay with individaul or family. This article can give the example that can make reader see the scope of sociological imagination in real life. I can understand better that society can effet to person to do something. It's interesting to learn for adaptation to live in society. it has the significance that social outcomes are shaped by social context, actors, and social actions.

Robert Maldonado
Sociology 201

The Sociological Imagination
C. Wright Mills says, ‘ you must learn to use your life experience in your intellectual work: continually to examine and interpret it. To say that you can have an experience, means, for one thing, that you experience and sort it out: only in this way can you hope it to guide and test your reflection, and in the process shape yourself as an intellectual craftsman.” In other words we are not the product of our environment however, our thought process and pattern of thinking is directly correlated to our environment, this having a great effect, albeit not the effect itself.
Aristotle, in speaking about poetry coined the term poetics and determined that all ‘poetics’ is simply ‘imitation’, and I agree with the idea that our foundational frame of thought and critical thinking, analyzing, and delineating an idea or concept can, generally, be traced to our source of learning. An individual that is born in the wilderness and left to live with the animals of nature would predominately adept and conform to the primary source the individual encounters. For example, if the individual encounters wolves as his or her primary source, then the individual will undoubtedly conform and take on the disposition of the wolves, thus conforming to that which is known. He or she would walk on all fours communicate as the wolves do through howling, yet the same individual can learn to imitate and adapt to a new environment, for example: if you took the individual away form the wolves and placed said individual in a new environment he or she could learn and change their pattern of thought. The environment is not the key for the individual is able to change, grow, and eventually differentiate the differences and choose what he or she finds to be acceptable, pleasing, or simply the manner in which the would find themselves most accustom to. Even so, we cannot “throw out the baby with the bath water”, for the experience has, in part, played a significant role. If the society, in which the individual has been linked with, were the main factor, then how would we account for the individuals showing signs of personal independence instead of the normal dependency or codependency towards their environment? Contrarians would not be found, yet we see that this is not the case, thus we can say that it cannot simply be the society that dictates the societal ethos. The link between what we imitate and ultimately what choices we value and make is something the sociological imagination can take into account when trying to figure our or deal with the question of us being a product of our environment or the environment ultimately giving way to the individual and his or her adeptness and ability to grow, learn, and choose.
The sociological imagination takes into account, both the environment and the individual, their connection being dualistically intertwined. Even so there are incomprehensible variables to account for such as the fact the brain is the most complex creation. The brain has over 100 billion brain cells and each individual cell has 10,000 connections, since our understanding of the brain is limited we must look not only at the present but also the past in order to interpret and build hypothesis on humanity.
According to C. Wright Mills there is no separation between the individual and society, they are not two distinct parts, but should be seen as one part with different ways of viewing and interpreting the function of both the individual(s) and society(s). The function can be open to interpretation and the perspective and societal-ethos must be considered and taken into account when using the sociological imagination, that is when ‘we’ are trying to distinguish the differences, similarities, anomalies and norms form each other, firstly what constitutes a social norm in one interpretation may not be a considered a social norm to another. This brings up an important and necessary perspective in formulation an opinion using the sociological imagination, that is, objectivity must be at the forefront of any observation or study with regards to the both the viewer and that which may be under view. Albeit, an impossibility to be completely objective in formulating an opinion, thus there would be no opinions, it is the posturing towards a minimal subjectivity that is central to the sociological imagination. In conclusion the starting point for any observer is to minimize one’s opinion and to be as objective as possibly when looking at the connection of society and the individual with each other.

After reading this article I feel even stronger about how the subject matter. C.J. Mills is demonstrating exactly how I fee. I do believe that when you are raised a certain way or live in a certain area it can affect you later on down the line. We all grow up know right from wrong however I believe that some times you don’t get the same opportunities as others. Schooling can be one but that continues even when you are out of school and need to get a job. A lot of people are able to get into some positions based off of whom they know, not just their skills. So if buy chance you didn’t have much money never got as good of an education due to the school system that is in your area, but you get pass all that, you may still not get the job you want if you don’t know the right people. I do believe that just because you are born in the ghetto doesn’t mean you have no other options however I do fill it is a lot harder to get going due to the obstacles that our faced in front of you.

As stated in the reading timing has to do with a lot. There may be people living today with the talent and wisdom that John D Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, Steve Jobs, and Bill gates possess but the opportunity isn't one that is vacant . In this time period most of the technology that was foreign to them is second nature to this generation. For example if Bill gates had been born in 2005 he would not be allotted the same opportunity and more then likely would be able to obtain a marketable career but he would not be as successful as he is now. This men are recognized now as this generations history for them they did not have the same equipment or knowledge so that had a bigger platform to experiment and create new inventions that have never been thought up before. Unlike the author I did not grow up with the luxury of having individual attention although I did attend private school my class sizes were around 20 - 25 students with one teacher. I learned the same thoughout my life never really having that chance to think outside the box and truly be creative with all the standards and restrictions given with schools now . Although racism no longer exist legally there are still restrictions for me being an African American not to mention I am a woman. These barriers are in place but that doesn't mean that I can't accomplish everything I desire too. It is possible for me to be the next bill gates or Steve jobs no matter what obstacles are in the way .


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March 19, 2014 Day 59 of the Sixth Year - History

C entered within a loose collection of city-states (often at war with one another), ancient Greek culture reached its pinnacle during the fourth century BC - an era described as its "Golden Age." Art, theater, music, poetry, philosophy, and political experiments such as democracy flourished. Greek influence stretched along the northern rim of the Mediterranean from the shores of Asia Minor to the Italian peninsula.

In Athens, society was male-dominated - only men could be citizens and only upper-class males enjoyed a formal education. Women had few political rights and were expected to remain in the home and bear children. Fully one quarter of the population was made up of slaves, usually prisoners captured during the many clashes that extended Greek influence overseas. These slaves provided much of the manpower that fueled the burgeoning economy, working in shipyards, quarries, mines, and as domestic servants.

Most homes were modest, windowless and wrapped around a courtyard. Furniture was rare. People spent the majority of the day out of doors enjoying the mild Mediterranean climate. The Greek diet was also modest, based largely on wine and bread. A typical day would start with bread dipped in wine, the same for lunch and a dinner of wine, fruits, vegetables and fish. Consumption of meat was reserved for special occasions such as religious holidays.

A Glimpse of the average day in Ancient Greece

Xenophon was a pupil of Socrates. Here, he describes the manner in which the ideal Greek aristocrat would pass the hours of a typical morning. Xenophon uses a literary device in which the story is supposed to be told by Socrates who is speaking with a friend by the name of Ischomachus. Socrates has asked his friend to describe how he spends his day. Ischomachus responds:

"Why, then, Socrates, my habit is to rise from bed betimes, when I may still expect to find at home this, that, or the other friend whom I may wish to see. Then, if anything has to be done in town, I set off to transact the business and make that my walk or if there is no business to transact in town, my serving boy leads on my horse to the farm I follow, and so make the country road my walk, which suits my purpose quite as well or better, Socrates, perhaps, than pacing up and down the colonnade [in the city]. Then when I have reached the farm, where mayhap some of my men are planting trees, or breaking fallow, sowing, or getting in the crops, I inspect their various labors with an eye to every detail, and whenever I can improve upon the present system, I introduce reform.

After this, usually I mount my horse and take a canter. I put him through his paces, suiting these, so far as possible, to those inevitable in war, - in other words, I avoid neither steep slope, nor sheer incline, neither trench nor runnel, only giving my uttermost heed the while so as not to lame my horse while exercising him. When that is over, the boy gives the horse a roll, and leads him homeward, taking at the same time from the country to town whatever we may chance to need. Meanwhile I am off for home, partly walking, partly running, and having reached home I take a bath and give myself a rub, - and then I breakfast, - a repast that leaves me neither hungry nor overfed, and will suffice me through the day."

Davis, William Stearns, Readings In Ancient History (1912) Freeman, Charles, The Greek Achievement (1999).

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The Pisces Star Sign

Pisces are extremely psychic and can amaze people with their uncanny ability to predict things. They are usually gifted in anything creative from design to music. They are also very clever when they want to be. They have the most stunning eyes and that’s the first thing that attracts the opposite sex. They are probably the first ones to start a rumour and could find it a bit tough to keep a secret. They are everyone’s friend so can be a touch easily led because fish have no backbones. In other words, they can’t say ‘no’. Pisces like quiet places and beautiful surroundings and probably wouldn’t thank you for giving them a surprise party.

More About Pisces

This idealistic, dreamy, kind and impractical sign needs a lot of understanding. They have a fractured personality that has so many sides and so many moods that they probably don’t even understand themselves. Nobody is more kind, thoughtful and caring but they have a tendency to drift away from people and responsibilities. When the going gets rough, they get going! Being creative, clever and resourceful, these people can achieve a great deal and really reach the top but few of them do. Some Pisces have a self-destruct button which they press before reaching their goal. Others do achieve success and the motivating force behind this essentially spiritual and mystical sign is often money. Many Pisces feel insecure, most suffer some experience of poverty at some time in their early lives and they grow into adulthood determined that they will never feel that kind of uncertainty again. Pisces are at home in any kind of creative or caring career. Many can be found in teaching, nursing and the arts. Some find life hard and are often unhappy many have to make tremendous sacrifices on behalf of others. This may be a pattern that repeats itself from childhood, where the message is that the Pisces needs always come last.

These people can be stubborn, awkward, selfish and quite nasty when a friendship or relationship goes sour. This is because, despite their basically kind and gentle personality, there is a side which needs to be in charge of any relationship. Pisces make extremely faithful partners as long as the romance doesn’t evaporate and their partners treat them well. Problems occur if they are mistreated or rejected, if they become bored or restless or if their alcohol intake climbs over the danger level. The Pisces lover is a sexual fantasist, so in this sphere of life, anything can happen.

Pisces at Work

Creativity is the key to keeping your business purring along. Your imagination is what keeps your business plan and vision ahead of all your competitors. You probably find that other businesses end up copying even the simplest of your ideas in the hopes that it works just as well for them as it did for you. However, we all know the original creator is the one who gets to make all the right deals and therefore can simply rake in the cash! Don’t be too naive and believe everything they tell you though. Make sure you get it all in writing first and a down payment upfront! Your main weakness is the self-destruct button you hang around your neck and push right before you reach your goal. You’ll end up completing so many more projects if you only try to stay focused and push on for one more round.

Toyota Focuses on Fuel Cells for the Future

Toyota’s CEO of North America, Jim Lentz, stated that electric vehicles are useful for short distance travel but remain less effective when long distance travel is needed. He cited that the limited range of their battery packs were the main reason for consumer’s concerns. This comes after Toyota’s recent decision to end its deal with Tesla to supply powertrains to Toyota’s electric Rav4.

Lentz commented, “It was time to either continue (building the vehicles) or stop. My personal feeling was that I would rather invest my dollars in fuel-cell development that in another 2,500 EVs” Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are more efficient and less expensive to produce, so it seems like the best decision going forward. Lending FirstElememt Fuel Inc. 7 million dollars already, Toyota is investing in development of a fuel-cell network in California. It is estimated that Toyota will have 50 refueling stations by the end of 2018.

Do you want more info about Toyota’s and other manufacturer’s vehicles? Find it at today!

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