Today, people who live in democratic societies take religious freedom for granted. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, most Europeans found the idea of “freedom of conscience” deeply threatening. How could the fabric of society withstand competing religious ideas? What would convince people to live moral lives in the absence of a single, state-supported church?
When Cassiano dal Pozzo, the Pope’s personal assistant, returned to the Vatican from Spain in 1626, he brought with him a Mexican manuscript on natural history, the Libellus de medicinalibus Indorum herbis. The “herbal” was a marvelous Mexican manuscript containing illustrations of more than 180 plants. Commonly known as Codice de la Cruz-Badiano, it is considered the first illustrated survey of Mexican nature produced in the New World.
Early in the morning on May 20, 1709, before the trials of offenders commenced, the judges of Scotland’s north circuit court in Perth pardoned some 300 men and women who had been charged with fornication or adultery.
It is well known that you cannot divide a number by zero. Math teachers write, for example, 24 ÷ 0 = undefined. They use analogies to convince students that it is impossible and meaningless, that “you cannot divide something by nothing.” Yet we also learn that we can multiply by zero, add zero, and subtract zero. And some teachers explain that zero is not really nothing, that it is just a number with definite and distinct properties. So, why not divide by zero? In the past, many mathematicians did.
Private family photographs document events, such as births, marriages, and reunions, that are important in the history of individual families, but they can also teach us about the events we think of as real history.
In the last years of the twelfth-century, a monk named Engelhard, from the German monastery of Langheim, composed stories about miraculous events and visions he believed his fellow monks had experienced. This was not a decision made lightly: parchment was expensive, the process of writing laborious, and monastic authors needed permission from their superiors to write at all. But Engelhard (and his abbot) considered this project worthwhile.