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Good News in History, May 8

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124 years ago today, the Nobel Prize-winning economist Friedrich Hayek was born in the Austral-Hungarian Empire. Along with a distinguished academic career in which he held posts at the London School of Economics and the University of Chicago, Hayek published the book The Road to Serfdom, which has sold over 2.25 million copies and has been republished many times over the eight decades since its original publication. READ more about Hayek… (1899)

Friedrich Hayek – fair use The Mises Institute

It was during the inter-war period that Hayek’s ground-setting work began to take place. Building on the work of his countryman Ludwig Von Mises, Hayek developed the Austrian Theory of the Business Cycle, one of the most comprehensive economic understandings of the market economy.

In short, periods of prosperity and high savings naturally lower the cost of borrowing and investment, which leads to the growth of unsustainable businesses or industries: commonly called a “bubble”. However, Hayek noted that artificial creation of money and credit by central banks was now the key driver of bubbles in modern economies.

MORE Good News on This Day:

  • The film studio Paramount Pictures (The Godfather, Titanic, Indiana Jones, and Shrek) was founded (1912)
  • Mohandas Gandhi began a 21-day fast in protest of British oppression in India (1933)
  • The Beatles album Let It Be was released (1970)
  • The first ascent of Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen was achieved by Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler (1978)

188 years ago today, the Danish folklorist Hans Christian Andersen published his first volume of literary fairy tales for Ida Thiele, the daughter of Andersen’s early benefactor, the folklorist Just Mathias Thiele. H.C. Andersen wrote many of the fairy fairy tales we parents and kids know today from early animated movies, and the first volume includes, The Tinderbox, The Princess and the Pea, Little Ida’s Flower, and Little Claus and Big Claus

An illustration from the H.C. Andersen fairy tale The Tinderbox by Elena Ringo. CC 4.0. Elena Ringo

These first four made up the Fairy Tales Told for Children. The nine tales across three booklets published over two years were collected together and published in one volume and sold at seventy-two shillings. A title page, a table of contents, and a preface by Andersen were published in the volume.

Critical reception was so severe, as the extremely conservative Scandinavian societies felt that fairy tales had to be rich in morals and lesson-learning, that he spaced the publication out of the three volumes by several years. Critics felt his style was overly chatty, care-free, and immoral at times (murder, as well as the insinuation of murder, is present in two of the first four fables,) and didn’t educate enough. His future volumes would include things like the Emperor’s New Clothes, The Little Mermaid, and Thumbelina. (1837)

Happy 97th Birthday to Sir David Attenborough, the legendary naturalist, broadcaster and producer who created and wrote the influential documentaries Life on Earth (in 13 parts) and The Life of Birds, among many others. After studying Natural Sciences at Cambridge University, he launched his famous Zoo Quest BBC series in 1954.

The younger brother of the director and actor Richard Attenborough, David, in his role as BBC executive, also was responsible for bringing Monty Python’s Flying Circus to the world.

Life on Earth in 1979 led to The Living Planet (1984), The Trials of Life (1990), a celebration of Antarctica called Life in the Freezer (1993), and 1995’s epic The Private Life of Plants (1995). His services to television were recognized in 1985, when he was knighted as Sir David Attenborough. WATCH a fun interview about his exotic pets… (1926)

Filming birds of paradise for Attenborough in Paradise in 1996 fulfilled a lifelong dream to be near his favorite bird. Entering his seventies, he narrated the award-winning David Attenborough Wildlife Specials, marking the 40th anniversary of the BBC Natural History Unit. He finished up with the epic 10-part series The Life of Birds, along with writing and presenting the three-part series State of the Planet and The Life of Mammals.

On this day we celebrate the birth, 268 years ago, of Phillis Wheatley, known as the first African-American woman ever to be published.

Born in West Africa and sold into slavery as a young girl, she was purchased by the Wheatley family of Boston, who encouraged her literary talent after teaching her to read and write (she was reading Greek and Latin by age 12). The 1773 publication of her “Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral” earned her both fame in England and the American colonies, and her freedom. Founding Fathers like George Washington and Thomas Paine praised her writing, yet she died in poverty at the age of 31.

In every human Breast, God has implanted a Principle, which we call Love of freedom; it is impatient of Oppression, and pants for Deliverance. (1753)

And, on this day 111 years ago, Robert Johnson, the Delta blues singer-songwriter and master guitarist was born.

Though he played mostly on street corners and in juke joints, and had little commercial success in his lifetime, the dirt-poor bluesman became a major influence for Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Eric Clapton (who covered ‘Crossroads’), and The Rolling Stones (who covered ‘Love In Vain’). Johnson took the intense terrors and tortuous lifestyle that came with being an African-American in the South during the Great Depression, and transformed the experience into music of universal relevance. Johnson’s poorly documented life and death at age 27 have given rise to much legend, including the myth that he sold his soul to the devil at a local crossroads of Mississippi highways to achieve success. 

The landmark recordings of his 29 songs in 1936 and 1937 display a combination of singing, guitar skills, and songwriting talent that was groundbreaking, and so good that it was reissued in 1961, on the LP King of the Delta Blues Singers, which helped give the music a global reach. Johnson is now recognized as a master of the genre, with Eric Clapton calling him, “the most important blues singer that ever lived.” (See biographical books and recordings on LISTEN to his most famous recording… (1911)

And, 78 years ago today, a jubilant world celebrated V-E Day (Victory in Europe Day). It was proclaimed by England’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill when the Allies in World War II finally defeated Nazi Germany. The end of six years of war was cheered from New York City to Moscow—and in Germany it became known as “the day of liberation” marking the end of the extremist government for Germans. The unconditional surrender came 11 months after the Allies landed on the beaches at Normandy, France on D-Day. WATCH news footage of the day from the U.S. and Britain… (1945)

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