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Question of The Week - European History

Go to This Week's Question

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Each week I will ask a question relating to either American history or politics. You should e-mail me the answer to get extra credit. Please put EURO QOW in your email subject line. Try your luck at guessing or researching the answers to this week's question. Answers will be posted after I have posted the answer at school on the following Monday. No answers will be accepted after 6:00 AM on that Monday morning. Please put EURO QOW in the heading of your email and be sure to tell me what period you are in.

Go to This Week's Question - By Monday morning, this link will take you to the new question for next week, so be sure you answer the question for the correct week. If your answer comes in after I've already posted the answer, you will not get credit. I will always let you know if you've gotten the answer right so if you don't hear back from me within 24 hours, I probably didn't receive your email. If you're wrong, you can try again and again until you're successful.

Week of August 11 - 22

Geoffrey Chaucer is one of the greatest English writers and his life intersected in several meaningful ways with the history of the late middle ages and early modern England.  Answers these questions about Chaucer’s life and the life of one of his royal patrons.

1)  Name this work, one of Chaucer’s earliest that was in honor of the wife of a son of Edward III, the king of England.  She had tragically died from the Black Death.  The daughter of that woman and prince eventually married the King of Portugal and was the mother of Henry the Navigator, an important leader of Portugal during the Age of Discovery.  Their marriage also cemented the Anglo-Portuguese alliance that lasted through to the Napoleonic Wars.  Oh, and to add in to how important their descendants were -  their son overthrew the king of England to become king on his own and is the namesake of a famous pair of history plays by Shakespeare. The Book of the Duchess

2) Name that son of the king of England who eventually became Chaucer’s brother-in-law when he married his long-time mistress, Katherine Swynford, who was also the sister of Chaucer’s wife.  That prince, the richest in England, was also the father of a future king of England and the House of Lancaster.  Also, through his children by that mistress, were descended the Tudor dynasty since Henry VII, the first Tudor king was the great-great-grandson of that prince and his mistress, Chaucer’s sister-in-law.  Oh, and to add in how important that relationship was, another daughter of  that relationship married the King of Scotland and was an ancestress of the House of Stuart.  Got that bit of genealogy?  Through her descendants, Katharine Swynford was one of the most important mistresses in English royal history. John of Gaunt

3) The London home of the prince in question #2, the Savoy Palace, was regarded as the greatest nobleman’s house in all of England.  Chaucer began writing The Canterbury Tales while working for that prince in that palace.  Unfortunately, it was destroyed during a famous event in English history.  Name that event. The Peasants Revolt of 1381

Week of August 22 - 29

Answer these questions about the occasionally violent lives of famed Renaissance and Baroque artists

1. Name this late Renaissance sculptor who wrote in his autobiography about the time he injured himself when, while working on a statue of Narcissus a splinter of steel entered the pupil of his right eye.  However a surgeon opened up the veins of two live pigeons and dripped the blood into his eye which he credited with healing him.  This artist, by his own testimony in his memoirs, killed four people: his brother’s killer, his wife, his wife’s lover, and a rival artist.  He was saved from arrest by the protection of the Pope. 

Benvenuto Cellini

2. Name this Baroque artist of the late 16th and early 17th century artist who also found inspiration in the story of Narcissus and had a reputation for brawling.  Once, angry over how his artichokes had been cooked, he drew a sword on the waiter.  It was said that he had killed his opponent during a tennis match, but his stature as a famed artist protected him from prosecution.

Amerighi da Caravaggio

3. Name this other famed Baroque sculptor and architect of the early 17th century who almost killed his own brother for having had an affair with his mistress and sent a servant to slash his mistress’s face with a razor.  The Pope also intervened to protect him and waive his fine and ordered him to get married to keep out of trouble. Gian Lorenzo Bernini

Week of August 29 - September 5

Answer these questions about French rulers

1) Name this long-time mistress of a French king whom he loved so much that he gave her the famed Château de Chenonceau.  However, when the king died, his queen, Catherine de’ Medici of Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre fame, ignored his repeated requests to see his mistress and then forced her to give up the Château.  It was recently discovered that this woman, famed for her beauty may have died because she was consuming liquid gold which was believed at the time to be an aid to preserving youth and beauty. Diane de Poitiers

2) The head of which French king has been missing since his remains were dug up during the French Revolution?  A retired tax collector claimed to have bought a skull that was rumored to be the skull of the dead king.  DNA analysis comparing the blood taken from King Louis XVI after he was beheaded on the guillotine seems to confirm that the man whose skull was found was related to that unfortunate king. Henry IV

 3) The king in question two was famed for his many mistresses and all the children he fathered with them.  However, he and his first wife rarely got along and both openly kept lovers.  She spent 18 years imprisoned by her brother, another king of France, where she wrote her memoirs.  Finally, her husband was able to get the marriage annulled when he became king.  Name this queen whose marriage is believed to be the inspiration for the Shakespeare comedy Love’s Labor’s Lost.   Alexandre Dumas wrote a novel about her which became a film in 1994.  She was the last surviving member of the House of Valois. Marguerite of Valois

Week of September 5 - 12

The Index of Prohibited Books, created in 1558 and promulgated at the Council of Trent, included some works and writers whose presence there might not really surprise us such as Martin Luther and Huldrych Zwingli.  Galileo’s compete works were put on the Index, but in 1718, the ban was lifted except for his Dialogue Concerning the Two chief World Systems concerning Copernican astronomy.  Surprisingly, the works of Charles Darwin and Karl Marx were never placed on the Index.  In 1966, the Church abolished the Index and placed the decision on the individual whether to read works that could threaten their faith and morality.

Identify these works by famous French philosophers that were placed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum.

1) In this 17th century work by a French philosopher, the author discarded everything that was not certain and then tried to figure out what can be known for sure which led him to assert that he knew that he existed because he thinks in the famous statement, “Cogito ergo sum.”   

Meditations on First Philosophy  by René Descartes

2) This novel was an epistolary work purported written by two Persian noblemen, Usbek and Rica, traveling through France in the early 18th century as the reader sees the idiocies and hypocrisies of French life through their descriptions.  Another work by this important French writer had a great influence on the system of checks and balances in our own government.

The Persian Letters by the Baron de Montesquieu

3) The author of this 17th century religious work was a polymath who was a mathematician, physicist, inventor and philosopher.   You might be familiar with him for his work as being one of the first to invent a calculator and his pioneering work on geometry and probability and other mathematical contributions as well as his research on hydrostatics and the concept of a vacuum.  However, he had a religious experience with the reform Catholic movement of Jansenism he wrote this collection of theology and philosophy defending the Christian religion.  He set forth in this work what came to be known as his namesake wager that every person makes as to whether God exists or not and positing that it would be rational, given the sakes to believe in God.

Pensées by Blaise Pascal

Week of September 12 - 19

Answer these questions about the reign of Queen Elizabeth.

1. One of the enduring mysteries from English history concerns the mysterious death of the wife of one of Queen Elizabeth’s favorites.  The Queen was rumored to considering marrying this man early in her reign and was just waiting for his wife to die.  Then, the wife fell down the stairs in her house when no one was there and broke her neck.  The ensuing scandal ended any of the hopes the man and the Queen might have had for marrying.  Name this favorite of the Queen and his ill-fated wife. Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester and Amy Robsart.

2. There were several plots against Queen Elizabeth to put Mary, Queen of Scots on the English throne.  Name this final plot which led to Mary finally being executed.  The plot takes its name from the chief conspirator who was deceived by Elizabeth’s spymaster to assassinate the Queen and rescue Mary.  Spain was also supposed to invade England to help put Mary on the throne. The conspirator sent Mary a letter in cipher with the plot and she replied telling him to kill the Queen.  It was this letter that was used to try Mary and sentence her to death. The Babington Plot

3. Queen Elizabeth had many favorites, particularly young handsome nobles as she got older.  Name this most notorious of her favorites who was the stepson of the man in question one and had married the daughter of Elizabeth’s spymaster mentioned in question 2.  This young man had a fiery temper and reportedly during one debate in the Privy Council (the equivalent of the presidential cabinet), the Queen got so angry that she smacked his ear and he started to draw his sword on her.  Not cool.  When he returned without permission from his command in Ireland, he burst into her bedchamber before she was dressed or had her wig on.  That wasn’t cool either.  Eventually he was tried for fomenting a rebellion against the Queen and putting together an armed force in London.  He was beheaded in 1601. Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex.

Week of September 19 - 26

Answer these questions about English writers who played some roles in the dramatic events under the Stuart monarchs.

1) One of the most famous poets in English literature wrote his most famous work as an expression of his disappointment in the failure of the English Revolution in the wake of the Restoration of Charles II.  He also wrote a pamphlet advocating for divorce on the basis of incompatibility between spouses due to his desire to divorce his wife who deserted him soon after their marriage.  One of his most important works was an essay arguing for freedom of speech and press that has been cited as a foundation for our own First Amendment freedoms. John Milton

2) Name this famed English metaphysical poet, and friend of the poet in question #1, who served as a tutor to the daughter of Lord General Thomas Fairfax who had led the New Model Army.  He wrote poems to Fairfax and an ode about Cromwell’s return from Ireland although his lyric poetry is more famous.  As a Member of Parliament during the Restoration reign of Charles II, he wrote several satirical poems about Charles II’s reign and pamphlet, An Account of the Growth of Popery and Arbitrary Government in England, charging that there was a plot to introduce absolutist tyranny, French slavery, and Popish idolatry into England. Andrew Marvell

3) Name this prominent writer thought to have written the first novel in English who also wrote pamphlets and poems defending William III in his wars against the French.  He was a Presbyterian dissenter who was sentenced to the pillory for his writings in defense of dissenters.  He wrote articles and pamphlets supporting the 1707 Treaty of Union between England and Scotland and served as a spy in Scotland to undermine those who opposed the Union.   Daniel Defoe

Week of September 26 - October 3

From now on, you will not receive a second chance if you get the answer of any part of the question wrong. So double-check your answers and make sure you "Answer the Question!"

Since we will be talking a bit about financial history this week, answer these questions about rocky financial history in the 18th century.

1. The man who created the Banque Générale, the first attempt at a French central bank was, ironically enough, not a Frenchman, but a Scot.  This early economist who rose to become the Controller General of Finances for France and instituted some needed reforms, lost his job for his role in a bubble investment company that helped to devastate the French economy when the bubble burst in 1720.   He ended up having to flee France disguised as a woman.  Name this man and the bubble for which he was responsible.

John Law and the Mississippi Bubble

2. Name this British joint-stock company that was granted the monopoly on trade with South America.  The stock rose sharply in anticipation of the profits that such a monopoly might provide before it collapsed when it became clear that the company would never make any great profit from this trade.  The collapse of this country ruined many prominent people and the economy.  When Sir Isaac Newton was one of the men who lost a fortune in this bubble.  When he was asked to predict the price of the stock, he is reported to have replied, “I can calculate the movement of the stars, but not the madness of men.” The South Sea Company

3. In dealing with the fallout after the collapse of the company in question number 2, the man who held the position of Paymaster of the Forces defended the head ministers of the government earning himself the nickname “Screenmaster-General.”  He soon became the most important member of the government rising to be First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the exchequer.  He is regarded as Great Britain’s first Prime Minister and his 21-year tenure led to the preeminence of the Whig Party, although he eventually had to resign over the War of Jenkins’ Ear. He was also the minister who initiated the policies of ignoring the Navigation Acts that later came to be titled “salutary neglect.” Sir Robert Walpole

Week of October 3 - 10

From now on, you will not receive a second chance if you get the answer of any part of the question wrong. So double-check your answers and make sure you "Answer the Question!"

Answer these questions about illegitimate children and Enlightenment writers.

1. Which Enlightenment writer, despite his own writings on child-rearing, forced his mistress to give up their five children to a foundling home where, most likely, they all died?   Jean-Jacques Rousseau

2. Another Enlightenment writer was luckier.  He was illegitimate so his mother left on the steps of a church.  He survived and was named after the patron saint of the church.  Name this famed mathematician, physicist, and philosopher who helped to edit the Encyclopédie.

Jean le Rond D’Alembert

3.  Name the Enlightenment philosopher who discussed how, legally, it was acceptable to kill illegitimate children because they were born outside the law and in a state of nature and so weren’t protected by the law.  Therefore “the commonwealth can ignore its existence (since it rightly should not have come to exist in this way), and can therefore also ignore its annihilation.” Immanuel Kant


Week of October 10 - 17

From now on, you will not receive a second chance if you get the answer of any part of the question wrong. So double-check your answers and make sure you "Answer the Question!"

Give the answers to these questions about British military history in the 18th century.

1) There is only one British admiral who was court-martialed and executed for failure to “do his utmost.” This happened as result of a battle during the Seven Years War.  Voltaire used this officer’s execution for a scene in Candide when he wrote that “in this country, it is wise to kill an admiral from time to time to encourage the others.”  It may well have worked as Voltaire described, since naval historians credit this admiral’s execution with instilling British officers with a more aggressive spirit.  That phrase “pour encourager les autres” is now used ironically for official punishment out of proportion for an action in order to intimidate others.  Name this unfortunate admiral and the Mediterranean island he abandoned to the French. Admiral John Byng and Minorca

2) Name this last full-scale battle to take place on British soil.  Unfortunately, it was a battle that resulted in casualties of up to 2000 rebels including many Scots.  The harsh treatment of the survivors earned the British commander the nickname, “Butcher.”  Laws following this victory outlawed the wearing of tartan and limited the power of clan chiefs. Culloden

3) Who was leading the invasion and rebellion that was put down in the battle in question #2?

Charles Edward Stuart or Bonnie Prince Charlie or The Young Pretender.

Week of October 17 - 24

From now on, you will not receive a second chance if you get the answer of any part of the question wrong. So double-check your answers and make sure you "Answer the Question!"

Catherine the Great was, according to all reports, a woman of voracious sexual appetites.  Answer these questions about her lovers.

1) Name this lover who, along with his brothers, helped lead the conspiracy that overthrew her husband, Peter III, and installed her as Tsarina.  It is believed that his brother then murdered the Tsar.  She bore him two children.

Grigory Orlov

2)  Name this Polish nobleman who was Catherine’s lover when he was a young man.   She then supported him to become King of Poland because she thought he would just be her puppet.  Instead he tried to reform the country to limit the liberum veto.  After Polish nobles protested his reform and revolted, Catherine took advantage of the chaos in Poland to organize the first Partition of Poland.

Stanisław August Poniatowski

3) Name this man who was rumored to have actually been married to Catherine in a morganatic marriage.  Historians think that, at some point, they married and she referred to him in her correspondence as her husband.  He was a general and statesman.  It was through his diplomacy that Russia annexed the Crimea.  After their love affair ended, they remained friends with him helping to choose her future lovers.  A famous battleship that played a role in the Revolution of 1905 was named after him.

Grigory Potemkin

Week of October 24 - 31

From now on, you will not receive a second chance if you get the answer of any part of the question wrong. So double-check your answers and make sure you "Answer the Question!"

With the awarding of the Nobel Prize for Literature going to Bob Dylan, the focus has now switched to whether or not he’ll show up to accept it since he, apparently, has not answered the Nobel Committee’s phone calls.  He doesn’t seem to like showing up for awards ceremonies.  The connection for the QOW is for famous Europeans who, for various reasons, did not accept their Nobel Prizes the year they were awarded.

1) Almost all of those who refused their Nobels did so due to the pressure from their governments.  However, there were two awards that were refused voluntarily.  One was the prize for literature that went to this French writer who then wrote in the New York Times that he refused because he always declined official honors and felt that his political positions would then be associated with the Nobel Committee and he would be transformed into an institution.  He also objected to the award since it went most often to western writers and not those of the East.  Name that author. Jean Paul Sartre

2) In his letter rejecting the prize, the author in #1 mentioned a Russian writer who had earlier received the prize and not been allowed to accept it.  While the Soviet government allowed an approved Soviet writer, Mikhail Sholokhov, to accept his award, two other writers were not as lucky.  Name these two greater Russian writers were refused permission to accept the Nobel Prize in Literature by the Soviet government.

a) One was not allowed to accept it because the Soviet government felt that his most famous work implied dissident criticism of the Soviet government.  His novel had to be smuggled out in order to be published but then the CIA arranged for the book to be published in the Soviet Union in hopes it would embarrass the Khrushchev government.  In 1989, years after his death, his son was presented with his medal. Boris Pasternak

b) The second great writer was not allowed by the Brezhnev government to leave the country to accept it, but then four years later, he was expelled from the Soviet Union and was able to accept the prize. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

3) There were other winners who were awarded the prize but denied permission by Hitler’s government.  Hitler was angry because of this man who received the Nobel Peace Prize.  Name this German pacifist who received the Peace Prize even though he’d been convicted of high treason by revealing details of Germany’s violations of the Treaty of Versailles.  He was imprisoned when the Nazis came to power and sent to a concentration camp.  The Nazi government refused to release him so he could go to receive his prize.  As a result of this man’s courage in refusing to decline the prize, Hitler ordered all Germans to refuse Nobel Prizes. Carl von Ossietzky

Week of October 31 - November 7

From now on, you will not receive a second chance if you get the answer of any part of the question wrong. So double-check your answers and make sure you "Answer the Question!"

Answer these questions about 18th century medicine.

A. Dr. John Hunter set back research on which two diseases when he mistakenly experimented on himself with a needle infected with both diseases so he concluded that they were the same underlying disease?  He also maintained that Negros were born white and then turned white because of the sun. Syphilis and gonorrhea

B. Who was the woman who interested inoculation for smallpox into England after having witnessed its use when she lived with her husband in the Ottoman Empire where he was the British ambassador? Lady Mary Montagu

C. Name this famous English essayist, lexicographer, and literary critic who, due to his tics and involuntary movements, is thought by medical historians to have suffered from Tourette’s Syndrome. Samuel Johnson

Week of November 7 - 14

From now on, you will not receive a second chance if you get the answer of any part of the question wrong. So double-check your answers and make sure you "Answer the Question!"

We haven’t talked much about Napoleon’s military history so here are a few questions about some of his battles that are perhaps not as well known.

1) The famous equestrian painting by Jacques-Louis David of Napoleon crossing the Alps depicts the movement of the French Army of the Reserve through the Alps in 1800 in a campaign that would eventually end in one of Napoleon’s great victories against the Austrians in Piedmont, Italy.  Name this June, 1800 battles that resulted in chasing the Austrians out of Italy although Napoleon had originally been fooled by a double agent who persuaded him the Austrians were about to retreat.  Today, the battle is perhaps best known for the chicken dish named for it. Marengo

2) Later in 1809 Napoleon had another decisive victory over the Austrians in a particularly bloody battle.  Even though both sides had comparable losses, the Austrians had to retreat from the battle field and later negotiated the Peace Treaty of Schönbrunn by which Austria lost a lot of territory and ultimately led to the marriage of Marie-Louise to Napoleon. Wagram

3) Of course, not all of his battles were victories.  Name this 1813 battle, sometimes also called the Battle of the Nations fought in Saxony after Napoleon’s retreat from Russia.  Napoleon and Polish, Italian, Neapolitan, and Saxon forces faced off against the Russians, Austrians, Prussians, and Swedish.  His defeat led to his abdication in 1814 and exile to Elba. Leipzig

Week of November 14 - 21

From now on, you will not receive a second chance if you get the answer of any part of the question wrong. So double-check your answers and make sure you "Answer the Question!"

Answer these questions about English writers and thinkers.

1) Which English philosopher’s skeleton and head were, in accordance with his will, preserved after his death and was in what he called his “Auto-Icon,” put on display?  The head was damaged and has since been replaced with a wax head.  His body was according to his request dissected by students at the University College London, but the skeleton was reassembled and stuffed with straw and placed on his favorite chair and now is on display for tourists to London.   Name this reformer who proposed what he called the Panopticon to be the optimal prison. Jeremy Bentham

2. Which romantic poet was put on trial for sedition for supposedly having said “Damn the king.  The soldiers are all slaves”?  He was acquitted due to the flimsiness of the evidence.  The soldier who accused him later turned up in an illustration for one of the poet’s more famous poems.  William Blake

3. Name both this romantic poet and this one particular lover out of his many lovers.  This famed poet had a disastrous affair with the wife of a future prime minister for whom a city in Australia is named.  They had a very public affair and then when he left her she was obsessed with him as she stalked him around London even dressing up as a footman to visit him at home and then trying to stab herself.  She wrote a novel which was a fictional treatment of their love affair in which she caricatured many in English high society.   She termed him “mad, bad, and dangerous to know.”  Lord Byron and Lady Carolina Lamb

Week of November 21 - 28

From now on, you will not receive a second chance if you get the answer of any part of the question wrong. So double-check your answers and make sure you "Answer the Question!"

The British run some cool polls.  We’ll talk this week about whom they voted for the greatest Britons in History.  It’s time to find out what else the Brits vote for as the best.

1) Which classic novel won a 2007 poll for World Book Day won first place as the most precious book voters had ever read? Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

2) In a similar poll in 2007 of more than 2,000 readers, what novel topped the poll as the greatest love story of all time? Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

3) In another one of these polls of British readers, BBC asked in 2003 what was the best-loved novel of all time by British readers. What book topped the list? The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

4) In 2005, BBC Radio did a poll to find the greatest painting in Britain.  Name the painting and artist which won first place?  This painting has also served as symbolism in the James Bond movie, “Skyfall” as Bond examines the painting when he meets Q at the National Gallery perhaps suggesting the symbolism of Bond’s era as a super secret agent fading away just as this painting suggests a similar message.

“The Fighting Téméraire tugged to her last Berth to be broken” by J.M. W. Turner

Week of November 28 - December 5.

Answer these questions about British royalty and politics in the early decades of the 19th century.

1) This deeply unpopular king was well-known for his many mistresses, but he couldn’t stand his wife.  Once he became king he refused to recognize her as his queen and wouldn’t let her attend his coronation.  He tried to secure a divorce from her which led to an embarrassing and scandalous trial before the House of Lords that was finally abandoned when it became clear that the House of Commons would never approve the divorce. George IV

2) Name this conspiracy that revolved on trying to kill the cabinet ministers of the king in question #1.  The conspiracy is named after the location where the plotters met.  Many of them were angry about the Six Acts and the Peterloo Massacre. Cato Street Conspiracy

3) When the daughter of the king in #1 died, his brothers all rushed to get married and father legitimate children.  This successor to #1 never had any legitimate children, but he did have ten illegitimate children with the actress Dorothea Jordan.  One of the descendants of that liaison is the former prime minister, David Cameron, making him the fifth cousin twice-removed of Queen Elizabeth. Name that king who had no legitimate children, but ten other children whose descendants litter the nobility of England and Scotland. William IV

Week of January 2 - 9

If you’ve traveled to London, one of the most interesting places to visit is Westminster Abbey to see the famous people buried there.  Name these 19th century people either buried in Westminster or for whom there are memorials in the Abbey.

1) Name this Whig prime minister was the last one to have died in office.  He served during the American Civil War as well as the Crimean War and was known for his policies of interventionism for Great Britain.  Although, he supported the independence movements of 1848, he always adamantly opposed independence for Ireland. Viscount Palmerston

2) There are many scientists buried in Westminster.  Name this man, the author of Principles of Geology, who was regarded as the premier geologist of his day.  Much of modern geology began as a theory advocated by this man who also was a good friend of Charles Darwin and helped to arrange the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. Charles Lyell

3) There are many, many famed British writers and poets buried or commemorated in Poet’s Corner at Westminster.  Name this man who served as a Whig politician, introducing English concepts of education in India supporting the use of English as the official language in Indian schools.  But he is perhaps better known as a historian having written The History of England from the Accession of James the Second and for his political essays.  He was a major proponent of what has been called the “Whig interpretation of history,” a controversial approach to history as one of inevitable movement towards increased liberty and enlightenment. Thomas Babington Macaulay

Week of January 9 - 16

Since I’ve been asking about famous people’s burial places, here is another set of questions about famous people buried in the Lazarev and Tikhvin cemeteries located at the Alexander Nevsky Monastery in Saint Petersburg.  Named these famous people buried there.

1) Many celebrated Russian composers are buried in the Tikhvin Cemetery.  Name this composer, a member of the group known as “The Five,” which was dedicated to producing specifically Russian music. He was known for using Russian folklore and history in his works, including one of his most famous pieces, Pictures at an Exhibition, which includes a section, “The Hut on Fowl’s Legs,” based on the popular witch, Baba Yaga, of Russian folktales. Modest Mussorsky

2) Another influential composer who was a member of “The Five” is buried there.  He wrote the opera, May Night, based on a Nikolai Gogol story, and which features some traditional Russian folk tunes.  You may be more familiar with his symphonic suite, Scheherazade. Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

3) Perhaps the most well-known of Russian composers is also buried there.  He was widely admired throughout the West as well as in Russia.  Sadly he died just nine days after the premier of his Sixth Symphony, the Pathétique, in Saint Petersburg, possibly from cholera contracted from drinking contaminated water. Pyotr Tchaikowsky

4) Not only Russians are buried in the Alexander Nevsky Cemetery.  Also buried there is one of the most famous mathematicians in history.  Name this Swiss mathematician who has two numbers named after him and popularized several notational conventions and introduced the concept of a function.  He was the first to introduce the notation f(x) and several other notations that you use all the time in your math classes.  He spent the latter years of his life as a professor in Saint Petersburg and died there.  He was buried at the Smolensk Lutheran Cemetery and two and a half centuries later, his remains were removed to the Alexander Nevsky Monastery. Leonhard Euler

Week of January 16 - 23

I’m on a roll with fascinating cemeteries.  This time, the question is about the famous Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris which is full of the graves of famous French people and even some non-French.  Name these people from other countries who lived in France and whose remains you could visit at this amazing site.

1) Name this American writer who settled in Paris in 1903 and was famed for her salon where she hosted a salon where American expatriates such as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Sinclair Lewis would hang out.  It was she who is given credit coining the “Lost Generation” for those who came of age during World War I.  She was also friends with Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. Gertrude Stein

2) Name this Irish playwright and novelist who settled in Paris after having served time in a British prison after being convicted for gross indecency for his relationships with men.  Although you might be most familiar with his one novel and his plays, his writing took a much more serious time after his time in prison.  There he wrote De Profundis” about his affair with the young man who turned on during his trialand later wrote The Ballad of Reading Gaol about his time in prison.  He died in poverty in Paris and a verse from that poem is engraved on his tomb which is extremely popular and often covered with lipstick from the kisses left by his fans. Oscar Wilde

3) Perhaps the most visited grave in Père Lachaise is that of the American lead singer of the rock group, The Doors, who died in Paris from a drug overdose.  Jim Morrison

4) Name this Italian composer who was originally buried in Père Lachaise, but his remains were eventually moved back to Florence, but you can still visit his crypt.  He is probably most famous for his operas, The Barber of Seville, Otello, and William Tell. Giacomo Rossini

Week of January 23 - 30

Answer these questions about the deaths of five famous 19th century European authors.

1. Which Russian author, in the last days of his life, left his wife and family and seemingly vanished?  His disappearance became a national phenomenon.  When he turned up in a remote railway station dying of pneumonia, all of Russia followed the story of his death and dozens of his followers, journalists, and police spies.   Leo Tolstoy

2. Which other famous Russian author fell under the influence of a starets, or spiritual elder, who made him fear going to Hell for his writing.  So in the days before his death, he burned the sequel to his only novel, a satirical classic as well as some of his other manuscripts.  He’d spent a decade writing that sequel. He told friends that his writing was a practical death played on him by the Devil.  He then took to his bed and refused all food, starving himself to death.  In an effort to force him to eat, his friends poured vodka over his face, and tied hot loaves to him and attached leeches to his nose.  None of it worked and he died.  Nikolai Gogol

3. Which famous English author desired to be interred in a grave with his first wife in his local home, but the public and his executor insisted that he be buried in the famed Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey?  A compromise was reached in which his heart was buried at his parish church in Dorset with his wife and his ashes were buried in Poets’ Corner. Thomas Hardy

4. Which French writer suffered from paranoia due to the syphilis he had contracted as a young man.   He tried to commit suicide by cutting his throat and was committed to a private asylum where he died a year later? Guy de Maupassant

5. Which French writer died due to carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a faulty chimney?  Some alleged that he was actually murdered by his political enemies and, indeed, a roofer decades later claimed to have closed the chimney for political reasons.

Émile Zola

Week of January 39 - February 6

1) The search for the source of Nile was led by two British explorers who eventually quarreled over which lake was the source.  One claimed that Lake Victoria was the source and the other claimed that Lake Tanganyika was the source.  They had both been ill and the one who explored Lake Victoria had been temporarily blind at the time.  They were set to debate the issue when the first explorer accidentally killed himself in a hunting accident.  Name these two explorers. John Hanning Speke and Sir Richard Burton

2) The explorer who claimed that Lake Tanganyika was the source of the Nile was also a famous linguist, supposedly having mastered close to 40 languages and dialects.  He was involved in translating into English several works thought to be obscene.  One work was a collection of Middle Eastern stories and folk tales and another famous work was an ancient Sanskrit text.  Name these two famous works.  One Thousand and One Nights and the Kama Sutra

Week of February 6 - 13

Answer these questions about from the age of New Imperialism.

A. The term “the great game” was coined to refer to competition between Great Britain and Russia in Central Asia, particularly in the area of Afghanistan.  Which author introduced that term into mainstream usage? Rudyard Kipling

B. Which famed alcoholic cocktail was introduced to help Europeans counteract malaria? Gin and Tonic

C. Which British diplomat wrote reports exposing the atrocities perpetrated by the Belgians against the Congolese.  He was later arrested and executed for treason for trying to get Germany to support an Irish rebellion during World War I. Roger Casement

Week of February 13 - 20

Answer these questions about people involved in World War One

1) This woman was the only female political officer in the British forces as well as a respected archaeologist, historian, and intelligence agent.  She used her expertise to help the British army link up with Arab tribes because she had more expertise on the Middle East than other British official.  She drew up the maps that became Iraq and Transjordan (today’s Jordan) and arranged for the sons of the Sharif of Mecca to be kings of those two new countries.  She laid the foundations for the Baghdad Antiquities Museum, today’s Museum of Iraq. Gertrude Bell

2) This famed Polish pianist and composer was a passionate advocate for Polish independence and lobbied President Wilson and other allied officials for the creation of a Polish state to be part of the post-War settlement.  He was a friend of British composer Edward Elgar who used his music when composing a symphony in honor of Poland and dedicated to this man.  He also became the second Prime Minister of the new nation of Poland and represented it at the Paris Peace Conference. Ignacy Paderewski

3) And, in addition, I figured that I’d take a moment of personal privilege and ask about a distant relative of mine – my great-grandmother’s cousin.  Name this Australian man who commanded a brigade in the Gallipoli campaign and, despite prejudice against his Jewish background, was named the commander of the Australian Corps in World War I.  He was the one who drew up the plan coordinating the attack using infantry, aircraft, artillery, and tanks for the first decisive Allied victory on the Western Front at Amiens and was knighted on the battlefield by George V.  A university in Melbourne is named for him and he is memorialized on the Australian one hundred dollar bill. Sir John Monash

Week of February 20 - 27

Answer these questions about chemists and European history.

1) One famous chemist had developed a process to synthesize acetone which was necessary for producing explosions during the war.  David Lloyd George credited this man’s efforts during the war for the Prime Minister’s support of the Balfour Declaration although historians doubt whether that was Lloyd George’s true motivation.  That chemist was a leading Zionist who worked with Albert Einstein to establish Hebrew University in Jerusalem.  Name this famous chemist and Zionist who became the first president of Israel in when the country was established. Chaim Weizmann

2) A German Nobel Prize winner went on to lead the teams in Germany who developed chlorine gas and other deadly gases used in the war.  His wife, also a chemist, committed suicide during the war for motives that are still unknown.  Name this famous chemist whose institute later developed Zyklon B which was used in the gas chambers during the Holocaust.  Ironically, he was offered a job as a researcher in Israel by the first man in this question but he died before he could take up the job.  Fritz Haber

3) Name this British prime minister who studied chemistry at Oxford was quite proud of being the only prime minister with a science degree.  Contrary to a commonly-repeated myth, this politician was not the first to develop soft-serve ice cream despite once having worked for a company that was a pioneer in the soft-serve ice cream revolution. Margaret Thatcher

Week of February 27 - March 6

A Czech-born British playwright, who has written many popular plays as well as some notable movie scripts, wrote a play that won a Best Play Tony in 1976 about Zurich in 1917 as a sort of re-writing of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest.  This playcenters around three famous people who were living there at the same time.  One of those was a Romanian/French poet and performance artist who was one of the founders of the Dada movement.  Another was one of the most important and influential modern authors of the 20th century.  The third man was a revolutionary leader who changed the history of the 20th century.  The play imagines the conversations these men would have had about art, love and revolution.

1) Name that playwright and that play. Travesties by Tom Stoppard

2) Name those three famous men featured in the play. Vladimir Lenin, James Joyce and Tristan Tzara

Week of March 6 - 13

Answer these questions about assassinations and murders related to the totalitarian leaders of the 20th century.

1) Name the Italian socialist politician who was assassinated after he charged the Fascists with committing fraud in recent elections.  Many suspect that Mussolini was involved.  There was a reaction against him, but Mussolini used the turmoil to cement his power. Giacomo Matteotti

2) Name the ally of Hitler and leader of the SA who was executed as part of the Night of the Long Knives. Ernst Röhm

3) Name this early Bolshevik leader of the Soviet Union who was a popular head of the Communist Party in Leningrad and was viewed as a possible leader of the opposition to Stalin, but was assassinated there in 1934.  Although Stalin was pretty clearly responsible for the murder, he used it as an opportunity to repress his opponents in the party. Sergei Kirov

Week of March 13 - 20

Several European countries were ostensibly neutral in World War Two, but that didn’t mean they were not engaged in helping either side in the war effort.  Identify these supposedly neutral countries that ended up helping both Germany and the Allies in some key ways.

1. Which country supplied wolfram (or tungsten) to Germany which was key to their production of arms?  Hitler met this country’s leader during the war to discuss terms for an alliance but talks broke up because the leader demanded too much.  Afterwards, Hitler told Mussolin, "I prefer to have three or four of my own teeth pulled out than to speak to that man again!"  Spain

2. Which country, despite being a haven for Jewish and anti-Nazi refugees, supplied 40% of Germany’s wartime requirements in iron ore as well as steel and machine parts?  The Allies had wanted to invade this country in 1940 to control the iron ore mines, but were unable to do so.   However, this nation did help the Allies by intercepting German telegraph traffic that went through their country and deciphering the code and giving the information to the Allies.  This helped the Allies sink the battleship Bismarck. Sweden

3. Hitler planned to invade this country and even had invasion plans drawn up and repeatedly invaded this country’s air space, as did the Allies.  Allied pilots preferred to land in this country when their planes had been damaged in bombing runs on Germany since they were interned in ski resorts during the war.  However, this country’s tough laws on accepting refugees led them to refuse Jewish refugees.  The real controversy surrounds the country’s allowing Germany to channel the gold they stole from their victims and channeled through this country. Switzerland

Week of March 20 - 27

Answer these questions about ultimate justice for Nazis after the war.

1) Name the Supreme Court justice who took a leave of absence to be a prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials. Robert Jackson

2) Who was the head of the Luftwaffe who committed suicide the night before he was to be executed? Hermann Göring

3) Who was the Nazi Minister of Propaganda who, after Hitler’s suicide, administered cyanide to his six children and after that, he and his wife killed themselves? Joseph Goebbels

4) Name the admiral who was tried at Nuremberg for having led unrestricted submarine warfare.  He had been named by Hitler as his successor and he served as the head of government for the few weeks between Hitler’s suicide and the German surrender.  He was the only head of state to have been convicted by an international war crimes trial until Liberia’s Charles Taylor was convicted in 2012.  He served 10 years in Spandau Prison and lived until 1980. Karl Dönitz 

Week of March 27 - April 3

Answer the following questions related to massacres.

1) Name the massacre in Belgium during which 80 American prisoners of war were murdered by Germans in December, 1944 during the Battle of the Bulge. Malmedy Massacre

2) Name the site of a series of 1941 massacres in Kiev where the Nazis killed over 33,000 Jews as well as over 100,000 Ukrainians and Soviets. Babi Yar

3) Several Russian writers wrote poems commemorating the massacre in #2, but such poems were not allowed to be published in the 1940s and 1950s, but that official silence was broken with the 1961 publication during the cultural ‘Thaw’ of the poem Babiyy Yar that controversially criticized both Soviet anti-Semitism as well as the Nazi massacre. Name that Russian poet who wrote that poem which Dmitri Shostakovich used in the first movement of his Thirteenth Symphony.  Yevgenij Yevtushenko

4) Name this 1940 massacre that took place in a Polish forest when the Soviet army killed over 22,000 Polish officers. Tragically, the Polish President, Lech Kaczynski, died in a plane crash traveling to a ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of that 1940 massacre.  Katyn Forest

The question from March 27 - April 3 was the last QOW for the year.