Sunday, 4 December 2011

Facts About Ancient India:

  • It is the only society in the world which has never known slavery.
  • India invented the Number System. Zero was invented by Aryabhatta. The place value system, the decimal system was developed in India in 100 BC.
  • The World's first university was established in Takshila in 700 BC. More than 10,500 students from all over the world studied more than 60 subjects. The University of Nalanda built in the 4th century was one of the greatest achievements of ancient India in the field of education.
  • Sanskrit is considered the mother of all higher languages. Sanskrit is the most precise, and therefore suitable language for computer software - a report in Forbes magazine, July 1987.
  • Ayurveda is the earliest school of medicine known to humans. Charaka, the father of medicine consolidated Ayurveda 2500 years ago. Today Ayurveda is fast regaining its rightful place in our civilization. It is the only system which takes the holistic view of the person being treated.
  • Although modern images of India often show poverty and lack of development, India was the richest country on earth until the time of British in the early 17th Century. Christopher Columbus was attracted by her wealth and was looking for route to India when he discovered American continent by mistake.
  • The art of Navigation was born in the river Sindh 6000 years ago. The very word Navigation is derived from the Sanskrit word NAVGATIH. The word navy is also derived from Sanskrit 'Nou'.
  • Bhaskaracharya calculated the time taken by the earth to orbit the sun hundreds of years before the astronomer Smart. Time taken by earth to orbit the sun: (5th century) 365.258756484 days.
  • The value of "pi" was first calculated by Budhayana, and he explained the concept of what is known as the Pythagorean Theorem. He discovered this in the 6th century long before the European mathematicians.
  • Algebra, trigonometry and calculus came from India. Quadratic equations were propounded by Sridharacharya in the 11th century. The largest numbers the Greeks and the Romans used were 106 whereas Hindus used numbers as big as 10*53(10 to the power of 53) with specific names as early as 5000 BC during the Vedic period. Even today, the largest used number is Tera: 10*12(10 to the power of 12).
  • According to the Gemological Institute of America, up until 1896, India was the only source for diamonds to the world.
  • The earliest reservoir and dam for irrigation was built in Saurashtra. According to Saka King Rudradaman I of 150 BC a beautiful lake aptly called 'Sudarshana' was constructed on the hills of Raivataka during Chandragupta Maurya's time.
  • Chess (Shataranja or AshtaPada) was reportedly invented in India.
  • Sushruta is the father of surgery. 2600 years ago he and health scientists of his time conducted complicated surgeries like cesareans, cataract, artificial limbs, fractures, urinary stones and even plastic surgery and brain surgery.
  • Usage of anesthesia was well known in ancient India. Over 125 surgical equipments were used. Detailed knowledge of anatomy, physiology, etiology, embryology, digestion, metabolism, genetics and immunity is also found in many texts.
  • When many cultures were only nomadic forest dwellers over 5000 years ago, Indians established Harappan culture in the Sindhu Valley Civilization.

Quotes About India:
Albert Einstein:  "We owe a lot to the Indians, who taught us how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made."

Mark Twain:  "India is, the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grand mother of tradition. our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only."

French scholar Romain Rolland: "If there is one place on the face of earth where all the dreams of living men have found a home from the very earliest days when man began the dream of existence, it is India."

Hu Shih, former Ambassador of China to USA:  "India conquered and dominated China culturally for 20 centuries without ever having to send a single soldier across her border."

Will Durant, (1885-1981) American historian:  "India was the motherland of our race, and Sanskrit the mother of Europe's languages: she was the mother of our philosophy; mother, through the Arabs, of much of our mathematics; mother, through the Buddha, of the ideals embodied in Christianity; mother, through the village community, of self-government and democracy. Mother India is in many ways the mother of us all".


Ancient India
The Indus Valley Civilization existed in between 3000-1500 BC while the earlier Kot Diji cultures, of the pre-Indus period, existed in the period of approximately 3300-2800 BC. Harappa and the city of Mohenjo-Daro were the greatest achievements of the Indus valley civilization. These cities are well known for their impressive, organized and regular layout.

Then came Aryans who composed these evocative hymns to nature and celebrated life exuberantly referred to themselves as Aryas usually anglicised as Aryan meaning 'noble'. The 6th Century B.C. was the period of Magadh Kingdom. Chandragupta Maurya ousted the oppressive ruler of Magadh to find his own dynasty that existed from 322 - 298 B.C.

The most famous Maurya King Ashoka the Great ruled from 273 - 232 B.C over a large kingdom stretching from Kashmir and Peshawar in the North and Northwest to Mysore in the South and Orissa in the East. He after witnessing the carnage at the battle field of Kalinga (269 B.C.) in Orissa, dedicated himself to Dharmma ( righteousness ).

In the subsequent centuries, after the Ashoka empire disintegrated, India suffered a series of invasions, and often fell under the spell of foreign rulers - Indo Bactrians, the Sakas and others. After the next 400 years of instability the Guptas established their kingdom.

Kalidas, the famous Sanskrit poet and dramatist, author of Abhijnana Shankuntalam, Kumarsambhavam and Meghadutam is believed to have adorned the Gupta court. Also the great mathematicians like Aryabhatta and astronomers like Varahmihir lived during this period. The dazzling wall paintings of the Ajanta caves too are traced back to this era.

Cholas, Pandayas and Pallavas ruled over the southern part of India during the medieval period of Indias history. Cholas ruled the territory of Deccan (today the districts of Thanjavur and Tiruchirapally) while the Pandyas reined around present day Tirunelvelli and Madurai.

Pallavas of Kanchi rose to prominence in the 4th Century A.D. and ruled unchallenged for about four hundred years. The Nayanar and Alvar saint poets belong to this period. The gemlike shore temples at Mahabalipuram date to this period. The Cholas overthrew the Pallavas were in the 9th Century and regained political primacy in south India. The 15th Century saw the decline of the Pandyas.

   HISTORY INDIA : India's History : Timeline of India

  3000 - 2600 BC - Harappa Civilisation
  1200 - 500 BC - Vedic Era

  550 BC - Birth of Mahavira

  563 - 483 BC - Sidhartha Gautama, the Buddha

  327 BC - The Conquests of Alexander The Great

  325 BC - Alexander The Great, still goes on

  322 BC - Rise of the Mauryas, Chandragupta

  298 BC - Bindusara Coronated

  272 BC - Ashoka's Reign

  180 BC - Fall of the Mauryas & Rise of the Sungas

    30 BC - Rise of the Satvahana Dynasty

    50 AD - The Kushans and Kanishkas

  320 AD - Chandragupta I establishes the Gupta dynasty

  360 AD - Samudragupta conquers the North

  380 AD - Chandragupta II comes to power

  415 AD - Accession of Kumara Gupta I

  467 AD - Skanda Gupta assumes power

  892 AD - Rise of the Eastern Chalukyas

  985 AD - The Chola Dynasty

Medieval India

The Rajput period was an era of chivalry and feudalism. The Rajputs weakened each other by constant fighting. This allowed the foreigners (Turks) to embark on victorious campaigns using duplicity and deceit wherever military strength failed against Rajputs.

Mohammad Ghori defeated Prithviraj Chauhan, the Tomar ruler of Delhi, at the battle of Tarain in 1192 and left the Indian territories in the charge of his deputy, Qutubudin (reign - 1206 - 1210), who had started life as a slave. Khiljis, Tughlaqs, Sayyids and Lodis followed and this period is known as the Sultanate. When the power of the Sultans declined, the outlying provinces once again became important and the process of Hindu Islamic synthesis continued almost without any interruption.

Babur (reign - 1526-30), the founder of the Mughal Empire in India, was the descendant of Timur as well as Changez Khan. Ousted by his cousins, he came to India and defeated Ibrahim, the last Lodi Sultan in 1526 at the First Battle of Panipat. There was a brief interruption to Mughal rule when Babur's son Humayun (reign - 1530-40) was ousted from Delhi, by Sher Shah, an Afghan chieftain.

Sher Shah (reign - 1540-55), assumed power in the imperial capital for a short while. He is remembered as the builder of the Grand Trunk road that spanned the distance from Peshawar to Patna and also one who introduced major reforms in the revenue system, gratefully retained by the Mughals.

It was Babur's grandson Akbar (reign - 1556-1605), who consolidated political power and extended his empire over practically the whole of north India and parts of the south. Jahangir (reign - 1605-27) who succeeded Akbar was a pleasure loving man of refined taste. Shah Jahan (1628-58) his son, ascended the throne next. Shah Jahan's fame rests on the majestic buildings he has left behind - the Taj Mahal, the Red Fort and the Jama Masjid. Aurangzeb (reign - 1658-1707) was the last Mughal ruler.

In western India, Shivaji (1637-80) had forged the Marathas into an efficient military machine and given them a sense of national identity. They adopted guerrilla tactics to maul the Mughals and put a severe drain on their economic resources.

The contenders for political supremacy in the 17th and 18th Centuries included besides the Marathas, the Sikhs in Punjab and Hyder Ali (reign - 1721 - 1782) in Mysore. Tipu Sultan (reign - 1782 - 1799) - Hyder Ali's son and successor allied himself with the French against the British and strove to introduce the latest technical knowledge from Europe.

   HISTORY INDIA : India's History : Timeline of India

  1026 - Ghazni sacks Somnath Temple
  1191 - First Battle of Tarain

  1192 - Second Battle of Tarain

  1206 - Qutbuddin establishes the Slave Dynasty

  1221 - Mongol invasion under Genghis Khan

  1232 - Foundation of the Qutub Minar

  1288 - Marco Polo visits India

  1290 - Jalaludin Firuz Khalji establishes the Khalji dynasty

  1320 - Ghiyasuddin Tughluk founds the Tughluk dynasty

  1325 - Accession of Muhammad-bin-Tughluk

  1336 - Foundation of Vijayanagar (Deccan)

  1398 - Timur invades India

  1424 - Rise of the Bahmani dynasty (Deccan)

  1451 - The Lodi dynasty established in Delhi

  1469 - Birth of Guru Nanak - The Founder of Sikhism

  1489 - Adil Shah dynasty at Bijapur

  1498 - First voyage of Vasco da gama

  1510 - Portuguese capture Goa

  1526 - Establishment of the Mughul Dynasty; First Battle of Panipat

  1526-1530 - Reign of Babur

  1530 - Humayun succeeds Babur

  1539 - Sher Shah Suri defeats Humayan

  1555 - Humayun recovers the throne of Delhi

  1556 - Accession of Akbar

  1565 - Battle of Talikota

  1568 - Fall of Chittor Garh

  1576 - Battle of Haldighati

  1577 - Akbar troops invade Khandesh

  1597 - Akbar completes his conquests

  1600 - Charter to the English East India Company

  1605 - Jahangir

  1609 - The Dutch open a factory at Pulicat

  1615 - Submission of Mewar to the Mughals

  1620 - Capture of Kangra Fort

  1623 - Shah Jahan revolts against Jahangir

  1628 - Shah Jahan proclaimed Emperor

  1636 - Aurangzeb appointed Viceroy of Deccan

  1646 - Shivaji captures Torna

  1658 - Coronation of Aurangzeb

  1666 - Death of Shah Jahan

  1689 - Execution of Sambhaji

  1700 - Death of Rajaram

  1707 - Death of Aurangzeb

  1720 - Accession of Baji Rao Peshwa at Poona

  1742 - Marathas invade Bengal

  1748 - First Anglo-French war

  1750 - War of the Deccan; Death of Nasir Jang

  1756 - Siraj-ud-daulah captures Calcutta

Modern India

Vasco da Gama when landed at Calicut, sailing via the Cape of Good Hope in 1498, marked the beginning of the European era in Indian history. The Portuguese by the 16th Century had already established their colony in Goa.

In the next century, India was visited by a large number of European travellers - Italians, Englishmen, Frenchmen and Dutchmen. They were drawn to India for different reasons. Some were traders, others adventurers, and quite a few fired by the missionary zeal to find converts to Christianity. Eventually England, France, the Netherlands and Denmark, floated East India Companies.

During the late 16th and the 17th Centuries, these companies competed with each other fiercely. By the last quarter of the 18th Century the English had vanquished all others and established themselves as the dominant power in India. The British administered India for a period of about two centuries and brought about revolutionary changes in the social, political and the economic life of the country.

Once the British had consolidated their power, commercial exploitation of the natural resources and native labour became ruthless. By the middle of the 19th Century arrogant exploitation of the people had tried the patience of the Indians to the limit.

The six decades between the end of the "mutinous" war of 1857 - 59 and the conclusion of First World War saw both the peak of British imperial power in India and the birth of nationalist agitation against it. With increasing intrusion of aliens in their lives, a group of middle class Indians formed the Indian National Congress (1885) - a society of English educated affluent professionals - to seek reforms from the British.

The anticolonial struggle became truly a mass movement with the arrival of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869 - 1948) in 1915 who had suffered great humiliation in South Africa due to the policy of racial discrimination and later commited to rid his motherland of the ills of foreign rule.

Successive campaigns had the effect of driving the British out of India in 1947, but with independence came the independence of the country into Pakistan.

   HISTORY INDIA : India's History : Timeline of India

  1757 - Battle of Plassey: The British defeat Siraj-ud-daulah
  1760 - Battle of Wandiwash: The British defeat the French

  1761 - Third battle of Panipat

  1764 - Battle of Buxar: The British defeat Mir Kasim

  1765 - The British get Diwani Rights in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa

  1767 -1769 - First Mysore War

  1772 - Warren Hastings appointed as Governor of Bengal

  1773 - The Regulating Act passed by the British Parliament

  1775 -1782 - The First Anglo-Maratha war

  1780-1784 - Second Mysore War : The British defeat Hyder Ali

  1784 - Pitt's India Act

  1790-1792 - Third Mysore War between the British and Tipu

  1793 - Permanent Settlement of Bengal

  1799 - Fourth Mysore War: The British defeat Tipu

  1802- Treaty of Bassein

  1803-1805 - The Second Anglo-Maratha war

  1814-1816 - The Anglo-Gurkha war

  1817-1818 - The Pindari war

  1824-1826 - The First Burmese war

  1829 - Prohibition of Sati

  1831 - Mysore administration taken over by East India Company

  1833 - Renewal of Company's Charter

  1833 - Abolition of Slavery throughout the British Empire

  1838 - Tripartite treaty between Shah Shuja, Ranjit Singh and the British

  1839-1842 - First Afghan war

  1843 - Gwalior war

  1845-1846 - First Anglo-Sikh war

  1848 - Lord Dalhousie becomes the Governor-General

  1848-1849 - Second Anglo-Sikh war

  1852 - Second Anglo-Burmese war

  1853 - Railway & Telegraph line introduced

  1857 - First War of Indian Independence: The Sepoy Mutiny

  1857 - Zanshichi Rani Laxmibai - Freedom struggle in 1857

  1858 - British Crown takes over the Indian Government

  1877 - The Queen of England proclaimed Empress of India

  1878 - Vernacular Press Act

  1881 - Factory Act

  1885 - First meeting of the Indian National Congress

  1897 - Plague in Bombay; Famine Commission

  1899 - Lord Curzon becomes Governor-General and Viceroy

  1905 - The First Partition of Bengal

  1906 - Formation of Muslim League

  1911 - Partition of Bengal modified to create the Presidency of Bengal

  1912 - The Imperial capital shifted from Calcutta to Delhi

  1913 - Educational Resolution of the Government of India

  1915 - Defence of India Act

  1916 - Home Rule League, Foundation of Women's University at Poona

  1919 - Rowlatt Act evokes protests; Jalianwalla Bagh massacre;

  1920 - The Khilafat Movement started, Non-co-operation Movement

  1921 - Moplah (Muslim) rebellion in Malabar; Census of India

  1922 - Civil Disobedience Movement, Chauri-Chaura violence

  1925 - Reforms Enquiry committee Report

  1927 - Indian Navy Act; Simon Commission Appointed

  1928 - Simon Commission comes to India: Boycott by all parties

  1929 - Lord Irwin promises Dominion Status for India; Trade Union split

  1930 - Salt Satyagraha, First Round Table Conference

  1931 - Second Round Table Conference; Irwin-Gandhi Pact

  1932 - Third Round Table Conference, Poona Pact

  1934 - Civil Disobedience Movement called off; Bihar Earthquake

  1937 - Inauguration of Provincial Autonomy

  1939 - Political deadlock in India as Congress ministries resign

  1942 - Cripps Mission, Quit India Movement, Indian National Army

  1944 - Gandhi-Jinnah Talks break down on Pakistan issue

  1946 - Interim Government formed, Constituent Assembly's first meeting

  1904 - 1947 - History of Indian Flag

  3 June 1947 - Lord Mountbatten's plan for partition of India

  15 Aug 1947 - Partition of India and Independence


A Who's Who of Warriors

Amazons, Vandals, Vikings—what do they have in common? Do you know they were all warriors? Add guerrillas, kamikazes, and conquistadors and you have quite a group. Who were they? When and where did they fight?


These female warriors of classical mythology were tall, strong, and fierce. They disfigured their bodies to perfect their skills with bows and arrows.
The Amazon River and Amazon Jungle of South America were so named because tribes of female warriors were thought to live along the riverbanks.

Buffalo Soldiers

African-American army regiments who patrolled the west after the Civil War. and showed great bravery during the the Spanish-American war and World War II.


Elite, highly trained soldiers. In the U.S. military, these special forces include the Navy Seals, the Army Rangers, the Green Berets and Delta Force.


Spanish soldiers who tried to conquer the people of the Americas, especially Mexico and Peru, in the 1500s were conquistadors. In their search for gold, they wanted to conquer and enslave the native people.


These skilled cavalrymen from the southern part of Russia fought for the Russian Empire in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in return for special privileges. They also fought the Bolsheviks in 1918-21 and served in World War II.


Crusaders were Europeans who went to the Holy Land (parts of modern Israel, Jordan, and Egypt) from the eleventh to the thirteenth century to recover Christian holy places from the Muslims. Among them was Richard the Lion-Hearted of England, who was the absent king during the days of the legendary Robin Hood.
During the Children's Crusade in 1212, thousands of children were sent to Egypt to fight. Many were sold into slavery; most died of starvation and disease.

Foreign Legion

In 1831, King Louis-Philippe of France formed the French Foreign Legion in order to keep his colonies under control. The legion was made up of mercenary (paid) soldiers from different countries. The French Foreign Legion fought in both World Wars I and II. Today it’s made up of about 8,000 soldiers from 136 countries serving around the globe. Legionnaires often join up to escape their past and live a life of adventure.


Gladiators were trained fighters in ancient Rome. They fought each other, usually to the death, for public entertainment.


Irregular troops of soldiers who ambush and sabotage their enemies are called guerrillas. Unlike ordinary soldiers, guerrillas do not fight openly with their enemy. The first known guerrillas fought in the American Revolution, although the word guerrilla was not coined until 1809 during the Napoleonic Peninsula Wars.


Nepalese fighters who have served in the British army since the 1800s. They carry an 18-inch curved knife called a kukri, and their motto was “better to die than be a coward.”


German troops who fought with the British during the American Revolution.


Japanese airplane pilots who truly fought to the death during World War II were kamikazes, diving their planes into enemy (U.S) aircraft carriers at sea. Some 1,200 kamikaze pilots died while sinking 34 American ships.

Mongol army

These powerful warriors, commanded by Genghis Khan (1200s), expanded their empire across Asia through their military prowess.

Rough Riders

During the Spanish-American War, a voluntary cavalry regiment from the U.S. led by Teddy Roosevelt became known as the Rough Riders. A rough rider is one who can ride an untrained horse. This regiment, made up of cowboys, miners, and law-enforcement officials, as well as upper-class equestrians or horse riders, became famous for its victory charge at the battle of San Juan Hill in Cuba.


From 1100 to 1800, the samurai (Japanese for “guard”) served as the warrior aristocracy of Japan. They wore two swords as a sign of distinction.


The ancient Greek city-state of Sparta was known for its extraordinary military superiority. The word “Spartan” has come to mean austere and disciplined.

Swiss Guard

This mercenary group was formed in the fifteenth century to guard the pope and continues this function in Vatican City, an independent state within the city of Rome, Italy.


The Vandals, originally Europeans, occupied a kingdom in North Africa. In the fifth century, they invaded the Roman Empire and sacked Rome. Today, vandal refers to someone who destroys things without reason.


From the eighth to the eleventh century, Viking warriors from Scandinavia raided and plundered (forcibly robbed) the coast of Europe. They also explored in their sturdy ships, traveling as far as Greenland and Newfoundland.
The Vikings' favorite weapons were catapults and battering rams.

Wacky Wars!

Wars can start over the stupidest things! Entire countries have lost their sense of what is worth fighting for in some cases. We hope you wouldn't let a soccer game, pigs, or a bucket do the same to you.

Among the more unusual armaments of war are the boomerang of the Australian Aborigines, the yo yo of the Filipinos, and the slingshots of European armies before the 16th century.

The War of the Oaken Bucket (Italy)


This ridiculous war started over a stolen bucket. When a group of soldiers from the city of Modena in northern Italy invaded nearby Bologna to steal a brown oak bucket, thousands of citizens were killed. Bologna became angry and went to war with Modena to take back their bucket and restore their pride. The two cities fought for 12 years and thousands of lives were lost. Modena won the war; the people of Bologna never got their bucket back.

The War of Jenkins' Ear (Great Britain vs. Spain)


War was immediately declared after Captain Robert Jenkins appeared in Parliament, the governing body of Great Britain, holding the remains of his ear in his hand. He claimed that the Spanish had cut it off after boarding his ship in the West Indies, for they did not want English traders doing business in their American colonies. The war went on for four years, because of Jenkins and his ear. There was no clear winner; it ended in a draw.

The War of the Fleeing Wife (Africa vs. Great Britain)


Husbands and wives often disagree. In this case, a marital disagreement resulted in war. Umblana, the wife of the Zulu chief Sitlay, left him and hid in British territory. When the Zulus found her, they shot her. England declared war on the Zulus for crossing into their territory. The Zulu forces were crushed by the British.

The Pig War (Austria-Hungary vs. Serbia)


We know that pigs can make a big mess, but in this case they caused a war. Pigs were not allowed to be sold by Serbia to Austria-Hungary. Serbia wanted to become less dependent on goods from Austria-Hungary and started trading their pigs for French goods. As a result, Austria-Hungary got angry with Serbia and forced Serbia to find new markets for their pigs.

The War of the Stray Dog (Greece vs. Bulgaria)


Dogs are always straying from their owners, and that's just how this war began. When the dog of a Greek soldier wandered across the border into Macedonia, the soldier ran after it and was shot by a Bulgarian guard. The Greek troops became so angry that they invaded Bulgaria. More than 50 men were killed before the League of Nations intervened and stopped the war.

The Soccer War (El Salvador vs. Honduras)

July 14-30, 1969

If these soccer fans had practiced good sportsmanship, this war may never have begun. Tensions from a soccer match between the national teams of El Salvador and Honduras, aggravated by the economic inequality between the two countries, escalated into fighting. Salvadoran immigrants were then expelled from Honduras and the countries went to war. Some 2,000 people were killed in 16 days. The Organization of American States intervened to end the fighting.

The World's Treasures

There may be lost pirate treasure buried in the coves of the Caribbean Islands. There are certainly lost treasures of gold and jewels aboard early Spanish sailing ships sunk at sea. But not all treasure is lost. The earth is full of found treasures. Here are just a few of them.

Bauxite: This mineral is used to make aluminum. Guinea in Africa is rich with it.
Cashews: These delicious nuts grow on trees in Mozambique, a country in southeast Africa.
Chewing Gum: The sapodilla tree of Central America is the source of chicle, which is what puts the chew in chewing gum.
Chocolate: The seed of the cacao tree, which is found on many Caribbean islands, is used to make chocolate.
Chromium: This metal is used to make stainless steel. There is plenty of chromium in Zimbabwe, Africa.
Copper: One of the richest “copper belts” in the world is in Zambia, Africa.
Cork: Bulletin boards and stoppers in wine bottles are both made of cork, which is the bark of the cork oak tree inSpain.
Diamonds: Namibia, Africa, supplies the most valuable diamonds of the 18 countries in southern Africa rich with diamonds.
Emeralds: Colombia produces the most emeralds of any country in South America.
Gold: The world's largest gold mine is in Irian Jaya, Indonesia.
Mahogany: The trees that supply this beautiful wood grow in Central America.
Nitrates: This mineral used to preserve foods is found in the desert of Chile.
Perfume: In the south of France, flowers are grown for their oils, which are used in making perfumes.
Seaweed: Off the coast of Japan, seaweed is harvested to eat or to flavor foods.
Sugar: Sugarcane is grown in many countries in Central America and the Caribbean Islands.
Vanilla: There wouldn't be vanilla ice cream without the vanilla bean. More than half the world's vanilla is grown inMadagascar.
Wool: Most of the world's wool is supplied by the sheep of Australia.

Battles That Changed History

Some battles were turning points, not only in war, but in history itself, and we still talk about them today. You may have heard of marathons, Gettysburg, or someone who has “met his or her Waterloo.” Like these, the battles below changed the course of history.

ZamaZama, an ancient town in N. Africa southwest of Carthage / 202 B.C.Romans/Carthaginians
This battle marked the downfall of Hannibal, one of history's most famous and daring generals. For more than 60 years, the Carthaginians and the Romans fought for world power. For 16 of those years Hannibal, the Carthaginian leader, was able to hold off the Romans—until the battle of Zama. Though the Carthaginians had 15,000 fewer warriors, Hannibal thought he had solved the problem. He had 80 elephants, which he would use to send the Roman army fleeing in terror and confusion. But when Hannibal set the elephants free in the Roman ranks, the animals took the easier route and ran the other way! Hannibal and his army lost 11 elephants, the battle, and the war.
MarathonGreece / 490 b.c.Persia / Greece
The battle of Marathon is famous, not only because the underdog won, but also because of a legend of courage and sacrifice. Darius, the leader of Persia, Egypt, Babylon, and India, decided to become the ruler of Greece as well. But the Greeks, armed only with javelins and swords, defeated the much larger and better armed Persian army. What we remember today is the story of the messenger who brought the good news to Athens, the capital of Greece. Upon completing his 26-mile run, legend says he delivered his message, collapsed, and died. Today, the word marathon means a footrace of exactly 26 miles, 385 yards.

the Trojan Horse
The Trojan horse won the war for Greece against Troy in classical mythology. The horse was a wooden decoy filled with soldiers, who used it to enter the city of Troy.
Bettmann Archive

HastingsEngland / 1066British / Normans (French from Normandy)
This battle resulted in the Norman conquest of England. Edward the Confessor, the king of England, had no sons and promised that when he died his throne would go to his cousin William, duke of Normandy. On his deathbed, however, the king chose Harold, the powerful earl of Wessex, as king. An enraged William rushed into battle to claim the English throne. At the battle's height, the Normans pretended to flee. When the English ran after them, the Normans turned and attacked them again. Harold was shot in the face with an arrow and died on the battlefield, leaving the throne to William. To this day, the English royal family can be traced back to William the Conqueror.
AgincourtFrance / 1415England / France
This famous battle was part of the Hundred Years' War between the French and the English. English archers with their longbows were able to keep the French with their crossbows too far away to shoot. The French decided to charge. The ground was wet and muddy, causing the heavily armored troops to slip and fall. The French lost at least 5,000 men; another 1,000 were captured. The English losses totaled only 140.
The Hundred Years' War between England and France lasted from 1337 to 1453, more than 100 years. It ended when the English were driven out of France.
Lexington and ConcordMassachusetts / 1775American colonists / British
This was the opening battle of the American Revolution. British troops led by General Thomas Gage were moving from Boston toward Lexington and Concord to capture the rebel leaders Samuel Adams and John Hancock and destroy their military supplies. The colonists were warned when Paul Revere made his famous midnight ride, shouting, “The British are coming!” At Lexington and Concord, armed colonists called Minutemen resisted the British. Ralph Waldo Emerson later wrote a poem describing this conflict as “the shot heard round the world.” The fighting ended almost a year later, when the British evacuated Boston. On July 4, 1776, representatives from the 13 colonies signed the Declaration of Independence to gain their freedom from Great Britain.
WaterlooBelgium / 1815England & European allies / France
This battle ended not only Napoleon's Hundred Days' War but also 23 years of almost constant war between France and the rest of Europe. France and England had been enemies for hundreds of years. The battle of Waterloo was fought by the English forces and their allies, some 68,000 men under Arthur Wellesley (later the duke of Wellington), with 45,000 Prussians under Gebhard von Blücher against the French emperor Napoleon, with almost 72,000 men. Casualties of 25,000 men destroyed the French army. Soon after this crushing defeat, Napoleon was exiled on the island of Saint Helena, where he died six years later. Waterloo has since come to mean a disastrous defeat of any nature.
GettysburgPennsylvania / 1863Union / Confederacy
The greatest battle of the American Civil War, Gettysburg marked the northernmost advance of the Confederate forces and is considered the war's turning point. Three bloody days of fighting ended in the failure of the Confederate army, led by General Robert E. Lee, to invade the North. Though his army outnumbered the Union forces under Major General George G. Meade, the North expected the Confederates to charge and try to break the center of its line. Cut down by enemy fire, the Confederates were quickly overwhelmed; only 150 out of 15,000 Southerners reached the Union lines. This decisive victory for the North was the beginning of the end of the Confederacy.
BritainGreat Britain / 1940 Summer & FallGermany / England
The battle of Britain was a series of air battles fought between the German air force, or Luftwaffe, and the British Royal Air Force, or RAF. It was the first time during World War II that Adolf Hitler's Nazi forces were thwarted. Following the fall of France, only Great Britain held out against Germany. With ground forces stopped by the English Channel, Hitler launched a heavy air attack on England. When several daytime attacks proved unsuccessful, the Germans executed a nighttime Blitzkrieg, or “lightning war,” on London, England. This attack, begun on September 7, continued for 57 nights. During this time an average of 200 planes each night blasted the city with high-explosive bombs. The relentless raids killed more than 43,000 British and wounded five times that number. Only the outstanding performance of the RAF kept the Germans from forcing Britain to surrender. As a result, Germany abandoned its plan for invasion.
GuadalcanalSW Pacific / 1942-43Japanese / U.S.
This World War II battle was unique in many ways. The U.S. victory meant that Japan experienced its first setback in the Pacific islands. Also for the first time during the war, America was on the offensive. The ferocious 6-month battle for control of this tiny island 1,000 miles off the coast of Australia was fought on land, on sea, and in the air. Although many bitter battles were still to be fought before the end of the war in August 1945, the battle of Guadalcanal opened the way for U.S. victory in the South Pacific.
Tet OffensiveS. Vietnam / 1968Vietnam / U.S.
map of the Tet Offensive (Viet Nam war)
The Tet Offensive was the turning point in the Vietnam War. The North surprised the South Vietnamese and American forces in simultaneous attacks in many parts of Vietnam during the Vietnamese New Year, or Tet. Many of the attackers disguised themselves as Tet holiday celebrators. Although American troops weren't withdrawn from Vietnam until 1973, the Tet Offensive was the beginning of the end of the U.S. presence there. It was the first time the United States was unable to gain victory in war (since the War of 1812). Communist forces gained control of South Vietnam in 1975.