The History of Charlemagne for Kids

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a king? Would it be an easy life for a hard one? Would you just do whatever you please, or would you work to make your kingdom a better place for the people living in it? Today we’re going to learn about Charlemagne, one of the most powerful kings of Europe. 

Charlemagne was born around the year 742 C.E. He lived during what is known as medieval times. Think of castles and knights and ladies. That is the medieval times. Charlemagne was a Frank. The Franks were a Germanic people who lived in what is now known as Belgium, France, Luxemborg, the Netherlands and Germany. The Franks became very powerful at the time the Roman Empire was losing power.  France is named after the Franks. 

Charlemagne’s father was Pepin the Short who was the king of the Franks. Pepin led the Franks in war and won many battles. His kingdom grew as he won battles for his people. This made him and his family very powerful. Very little is known about Charlemagne’s childhood to this day, but it is known that he grew tall and strong, he had light hair, and was good at learning languages. He became a powerful warrior and later in battle carried a large sword with a gold hilt, which he named Jway-uze.

When Charlemagne’s father died in 768, his kingdom was divided between Charlemagne and his brother, Carloman, who didn’t get along very well. But once his brother died, Charlemagne became the only ruler of the kingdom. He was also known as Charles the Great, which is what Charlemagne translates to. 

As king, Charlemagne’s main goal was to unite all of the people of his kingdom under one rule and one religion, which was Christianity. Charlemagne was a skilled military leader and used his talents and his army to bring other people under his rule. Over the years he fought in 53 military campaigns to enlarge his kingdom. The people he fought included the Avars (what is now Austria and Hungary), the Lombards (what is now Italy) and Bavaria, along with other peoples. One of his most difficult opponents were the Saxons, the people of what is now Germany. They wanted to be free and control their own lands, not be part of Charlemagne’s kingdom. They resisted him fiercely, but Charlemagne was determined to bring them under his rule, even though it required a great deal of violence and cruelty. Charlemagne was known for doing whatever it took to reach his goals of growing his kingdom. Even if it meant hurting others. But whenever Charlemagne conquered the Saxons in one place, they’d start fighting him in another place. It took him over 30 years to finally bring the Saxon’s under his rule, they were a very independence people. Because Charlemagne was Christian, anyone forced into his kingdom was required to adopt the his religion as well. Charlemagne also fought very hard to take control of Italy, which finally ended in 777 C.E.

Charlemagne had a very large family! It was very important to him that his children became educated. At the time only monks knew how to read and write, but Charlemagne believe it was important for kings and their families to be educated. This was very out of the ordinary for his day. He loved books and often had someone read to him while he was eating. Even though he was a kind and very rich, he dressed very simply and ate simple food. He believed this made him stronger. He also saw how many kings became rich and then became lazy, spending all of their time enjoying their money, good food, big castles, and nice clothes. Instead, Charlemagne focused on staying strong and smart. He built libraries in his homes and stayed active. He also made sure his children didn’t grow lazy with all of their wealth. He hired tutors to make sure his many children learned how to read and studied good books. 

Charlemagne once said to his sons, “You think because you are rich and are the sons of the great men of my kingdom that your birth and wealth will protect you in my favor. I will let you know that you stand in need of learning more than those who are poor and dependent. You think only of your pleasures and of your dress and play, but I attach no importance to your wealth and to your station, and if you idle your time when you are young you will be worthless when you are old.”

During the time of Charlemagne’s reign, the Christian church based in Rome was concerned about being taken over by its enemies. Because Charlemagne was Christian, he gave much of his money to support the church in Rome. The leader of the church in Rome was called the Pope, and at the time his name was Pope Leo III. In order to create a strong alliance between Rome and Charlemagne, so he could protect them, Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne emperor of the Romans in 800 C.E. on Christmas Day at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. This gave people and leaders throughout Rome even greater respect for Charlemagne. 

After taking control of much of Europe, and even though he did it in a very violent way, Charlemagne did a good job at taking care of the lands he had conquered. He allowed people to keep most of their laws and customs and let them rule themselves. Because he believed in education, he had schools built and used his money to pay for teachers. He also pushed for schools to use an alphabet that was the same, so people could communicate better within his big empire. 

He also wanted the economy to be strong in his empire. An economy relates to how people buy and sell things. He worked to have common money used throughout his empire, to make it easier for people to buy and sell goods. He ordered the construction of a great canal, the Fossa Carolina, to connect the Rhine and Danube Rivers. A canal is a man-made river. The uniting of these lands and the result of his reforms are called the Carolingian Renaissance. He also became known as the “Father of Europe.”

Charlemagne often moved throughout his empire, living in different lands in order to help govern them and push his reforms. He was also known to be very athletic. He liked hunting, horseback riding, and swimming. 

Because of his activity, Charlemagne was known to be very healthy most of his life, but during the last four years he had fevers and started to limp. In 813, he crowned his son Louis the Pious as a co-emperor. In 814 when Charlemagne died Louis became the emperor. He was buried in a cathedral in Aachen, ending a reign of more than 40 years. It is incredible to think of all that was accomplished during his reign. 

Like many people in history, Charlemagne’s character is a complicated one. Like many military leaders like Julius Caesar or Napolean, he was very driven by power to conquer all of Europe. This led him to do many terrible things and attack people who just wanted to be left alone. When Charlemagne did finally conquer, he did his best to make his kingdom a good one.

Thanks for listening to this episode about Charlemagne. We also have a video on YouTube about Charlemagne if you want to check it out. Thanks again and be sure to tune in next week for a brand new episode!

The History of Marco Polo for Kids

Have you ever swam in a pool and played a game with your friends called “Marco Polo”? One person shuts their eyes while the others swim away. The person who is “it” calls out “Marco” and in response, everyone else in the game yells out “Polo!”. The person who is “it” keeps their eyes shut and tries to find you.

It is a very fun game, but did you know that the name “Marco Polo” is the name of a real person? The game is based on a real explorer who traveled the world in the medieval times?

Marco Polo was born in 1254 in Venice, Italy (at the time, it was called Constantinople). His father, Niccolo Polo, was a merchant and traded with the Near East, becoming very wealthy before Marco was born. A merchant is someone who sells things to others.

Marco’s father and his uncle Maffeo, were jewel merchants and they set off on a sea trading expedition just before Marco was born. While they were away, there was political trouble back in Italy and they realized that they might lose their wealth. They decided to sell all of their assets, or valuable things, and move away. Marco was left behind with family as his father and uncle traveled through Asia, including to Mongolia. Marco’s mother had died when he was young, so was moved to live with his aunt and a different uncle. They raised him and taught him about the family business and about money.

When Marco’s dad and uncle were in Mongolia, where they met with Kublai Khan, the king of the Mongols and the Yuan dynasty. Kublai Khan’s Empire was the largest that the world had ever seen at the time. It was a sophisticated culture with great wealth. It was something that the Polo brothers knew no one back home would believe them about.

While they were staying with Kublai Khan, the Polo brothers taught him about their religion, Christianity. Kublai Khan was interested in what they said and he asked for the Polo brothers to visit again and for them to bring back 100 priests and some holy water.

When Marco was fifteen, his father and uncle returned from their expedition and to their families in Italy. They had left when Marco was very young so Marco did not know his father when he returned. However, Marco and his dad got to know each other when he was back in Venice and Marco learned a lot from his father. 

Two years later, when Marco was seventeen, the Polo brothers set off for Asia again. This time they brought Marco with them. They tried to recruit 100 priests to come with them, however only two joined them. And eventually they decided to turn back after a short time because the journey was so hard. 

The Polos traveled across land to get from Europe to Mongolia. It was a long and hard journey, but Marco loved it! He was excited by the adventure and loved seeing new places and learning about new cultures. Culture means the customs and norms of a particular group of people.

The Polos made it to Asia after a very long journey that took four years! By the time they reached China and Kublai Khan, they had travelled nearly 15,000 miles. Kublai Khan was on vacation at his summer place, called Xanadu, when they arrived. Marco could not believe the amazing marble buildings and gardens. 

The Polos were only planning to stay in Asia for a few years, but they ended up staying for more than twenty years. Kublai Khan accepted the Polos into his Empire which allowed them to learn a lot about Chinese culture, which most Europeans knew nothing about at the time. Marco even learned the language when he was there. 

Kublai Khan liked Marco and gave him jobs working for him. He promoted Marco into the role of governor of a Chinese city and at one point, he was the tax inspector. Marco gained a great deal of knowledge about the Mongol empire and brought many ideas from the empire back to Italy with him. One idea that he brought back from China was the idea of paper money. 

After 17 years living with Kublai Khai, the Polos returned to Venice. Kublai Khan did not want them to go because he liked the men and wanted them to stay and work for him. Kublai Kahn eventually said they could go, but asked them to escort his daughter, a princess to Persia, where she was going to marry a Persian prince. 

The Polos returned to Europe by boat. The trip was very dangerous though and only 18 people out of several hundred that started the trip survived. This included Marco and his dad and uncle. 

They arrived in Europe in 1295 with many riches and treasures. Marco was 41 years old. However, when they arrived, officials seized most of their family’s wealth. Their country was at war with Genoa and the Genoese officials took their money and Marco was put into prison. 

Marco was no doubt scared while he was in prison, but he made friends with his cellmate. His cell mate was a writer named Rustichello. Marco told many stories about his adventures to Rustichello, who was amazed by his tales. No other European person had travelled so extensively in Asia and returned to tell stories about it. Rusticello wrote down the stories because he found them so interesting. Later, these stories were turned into a book.

Marco was released from prison in 1299 when he was 45. He returned to his home city of Venice where he joined the family business and worked as a merchant. He became quite wealthy and got married and had three daughters. He ran the family business for 25 years.

Marco died at his home in Venice in 1324. He was buried in the church of San Lorenzo in Venice. During Marco’s lifetime, many people did not believe that the stories in his book were real. They didn’t believe that the amazing things that Marco had seen and told them about could possibly be true. However many years later, researchers and explorers confirmed much of what Marco had claimed to be true. 

Marco’s story inspired many other people to become explorers and set out to see the world. This includes Christopher Columbus, who sailed out two hundred years later across the Atlantic in the hopes of finding a new route to Asia. When he traveled across the Atlantic, he had a copy of Marco Polo’s book on him.

Although Marco Polo’s was not the first European person to travel to China, he was the first person to have his stories about those travels recorded. The book was printed into French, Italian and Latin and became the most popular book in Europe. Marco Polo also influenced European mapmakers, which led to the most accurate map of the world to be made at the time, the Fra Mauro map. 

Despite its popularity, many people did not believe the stories were real. The book eventually started being called: Il Milione (or “The Million Lies”). However, Marco Polo stood by his stories and always told others that they were true. 

Marco Polo was a very brave person, traveling to parts of the world that he knew nothing about. He overcame great dangers to reach his destination and he maintained a sense of wonder and awe about the world around him. From Marco, we can learn the importance of keeping an open mind. Marco went into new cultures and instead of trying to force others to become like him, he remained open to learning new things about different people.

We can also learn the importance of perseverance and bravery. Perseverance means to do something despite the fact that it is difficult. Marco continued to press on and see the world despite the many obstacles that he had to overcome. Because of his bravery, the European world learned about a whole new place and culture. They helped create maps and inspire others to travel the world and explore.

In what way would you like to explore? Are there places and cultures you would like to visit and learn about. Traveling and meeting new people is a great way to expand your mind and your world view. Maybe one day you too will get a chance to visit other places and learn about other people. However, hopefully your trip will not be as difficult or as long as Marcos!

The History of Sacajawea

A long time ago, in the 1800s, the United States was still a young country. At this time much of the wilderness hadn’t been explored by the new Americans yet. This land was inhabited by Indians and many animals and nature was still fresh and dangerous and wild. The new Americans were curious about this land and wanted to know what plants and animals were there. Most importantly they wanted to know how to best travel from the East Coast to the West Coast. 

In 1803 President Thomas Jefferson bought this land from France in what was known as the Louisiana Purchase. Next, he asked one of his captains, Meriwether Lewis, to discover this new land and make a record of what was there. It would be a dangerous mission, but Lewis was brave and bold and loved discovering new places. Captain Lewis asked his friend Lieutenant William Clark to go with him. So they gathered their team and their supplies, climbed into a boat, and headed down the river to discover the uncharted American wilderness.

A few years before this a little Indian girl was born far across the country near the Rocky Mountains. Her parents named her Sacajawea. Her people were called the Shoshone and they lived among the trees and wild animals, and learned how to live off the land and hunt like many other Indian families. Sacajawea felt safe in this place and loved her family.

When Sacajawea was 12 years old her tribe was attacked by another tribe. A frightening battle took place and afterward Sacajawea and many other girls were kidnapped by their enemies. As she was lifted onto their horse and carried away she didn’t know if she’d ever see her family again. This was a very scary time for Sacajawea.

A few years later Sacajawea was sold to a trapper named Charbonneau and later became his wife. A trapper is someone who traps animals and lives off selling their fur and meat. 

As Captain Lewis and Clark were exploring the wilderness they needed someone who was familiar with the land and the language, so when they met Charbonneau and Sacajawea they knew she would be a perfect fit. 

Not long after they Sacajawea joined Lewis and Clark, she gave birth to a baby boy who she named him Jean Baptiste, but Lewis and Clark liked to call him “Little Pompy.” For the rest of the journey she would travel with her baby boy tied to her back. 

The journey down the river was often very dangerous. One day when they were riding through rough water, the boat suddenly collapsed and everyone and their things dropped into the water. After everyone swam to shore, Lewis realized their precious journals were missing. These journals were very important because they were a record of everything they had seen and done. Knowing this, Sacajawea bravely dove into the water and swam deep down until she found the journal on the bottom of the river. Lewis was so relieved when Sacajawea swam back to the shore with his journals.

Sacajawea was helpful because she knew the plants and animals of this wild land. She would cook up roots for them to eat and show them the way when they were lost. She was also a peaceful ambassador to the other Indians. An ambassador is someone who tries to help two different groups of people talk to each other and make peace. Sacajawea knew the Indian languages and kept Lewis and Clark and their crew safe.

Far along in their journey, they met some Indians and asked them if they could trade horses. At first the Indians would not trade. Suddenly Sacajawea recognized them, they were Shoshones, the tribe she had been kidnapped from so long ago! And to her surprise the chief was her brother. She was so happy to see her friends and family again. After celebrating with her tribe, she helped Lewis and Clark trade some of their things for horses, and although she was sad to leave her family, they were on their way again. She had a new family and a new mission to complete.

Finally, after many days crossing rivers and forests and mountains the team reached the Pacific Ocean, the end of their journey. With the help of Sacajawea, Lewis and Clark had traveled over 3700 miles! Along the way they had learned new things about the land and plants and animals and made maps that would help pioneers and other Americans journey across the country. 

Like Sacajawea, you can be helpful to others and be brave even when you’re not sure about how your journey will go. Also, you can be strong even when sad or difficult things happen to you. It’s okay to feel sad, but always remember that after you’ve let all your feelings out, you can stand back up, continue on, and learn something new. No matter what happens there is always hope and good things will come when you keep moving forward!

The Vikings and Leif Erikson

Around 1,200 years ago many tribes lived in the Scandinavian region of Europe. Scandinavia is now made up of countries such as Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, and Greenland. The people living there became known as Norsemen or “North-men” and were also called “Vikings.” Because it was so far north, the region they lived in was often very cold, so they were very tough and hardy people. They had to survive the freezing cold winters. To do this they hunted animals and wore their furs. They built long, narrow houses built out of wood, and coated them in earth and grass with thatched roofs. Some of these “long houses” were up to 250 feet long and large families lived in them together. For example if you were a viking you might live in the same house not only with your family but your cousins, aunts and uncles and grandparents. 

At night families gathered around a big fireplace called a “hearth”, and told stories about their gods such as Odin, the leader of Asgard and his wife Frigg. Their children were Balder, Loki and Thor. Loki was a trickster and often his jokes went too far and he was punished for them. Thor was the god of thunder and fought giants in the sky with his powerful hammer, mjolnir. When he fought these battles it caused lightning and thunder in the sky. Freya was the goddess of love, beauty and war. Each god had their own story of adventure that families shared from generation to generation. The Vikings also sang, danced and played board games around the fire to get them through the long, dark winters.

During the warmer months, the Vikings farmed the land and tended sheep and other animals. But they also became very good sailors and navigators. They learned how to follow the sun and stars and color of the ocean and movement of sea life to know their position in the ocean. Their long ships were made of strong wood and could sail in deep oceans or shallow streams. They used the ocean to discover new lands and often sailed very far and wide to trade goods such as furs, timber and ivory. 

Some groups of Vikings decided that rather than trading they would steal from other tribes. They were known for finding a village along the ocean, running the people out and taking all of their food and valuables, similar to pirates. Vikings were skilled warriors. In battle they used large, round shields, spears, and axes to fight their enemies. One of their best tactics involved interlocking their shields to create a “shield wall.” Because of their skills in battle, the Vikings were able to conquer land very far into Europe.

They became feared far and wide. While not all vikings were aggressive and behaved as pirates, stories were told about them through the ages and one reason most people today assume that all Vikings behaved like pirates.  

Many vikings chose to trade with other tribes and often settled the new lands when the climate and soil was right for farming. They settled new places like Iceland and Greenland. During the Viking Age, many of the tribes moved all the way into England and modern day Russia. 

One of the norsemen who settled Greenland was named Erik the Red. He got his name from his red hair and red beard and his hot temper. Erik’s wife was name JODE-hiled and they had three sons: Thorvald, Leif and Thorstein, and a sister named Freydis. Greenland was extremely cold and not good for farming. But Erik the Red and his family were able to hunt animals such as reindeer and do some basic farming to survive. The work of clearing the land of trees and farming was very hard, but these hardships are what made Erik the Red and his family strong. 

Eventually, Erik and his people found a better place to live in Greenland where Erik’s son Leif grew up. His full name was Leif Erikson, since he was Eric’s son. Because Erik the Red was so busy as chief, Leif was raised by a friend of their family named Tyrkir. Tyrkir taught Leif how to hunt with a bow, trap animals to eat, and fish with a hook and net. He also taught Leif how to sail a boat and navigate at sea. These were all very important skills as a Viking.

Over time and with lots of practice, Leif learned all of the skills he needed to survive on his own and eventually left his family to make a life for himself. One of the first things he did was sail to the islands off the coast of Scotland where he met a woman named Thorgunna. They were married and had a son named Thorgils. 

Like all great vikings and his father, Leif wanted to explore the world outside of his homeland and discover new lands. Stories had been told about a land west across the ocean from Greenland and Europe. Leif was curious whether he and his people could live there, so he made up his mind to venture out and see for himself. Leif gathered a crew of 34 vikings and set off across the ocean on their sturdy long boats. After many days of sailing across the Atlantic Ocean they spotted land! They rowed ashore but the land was flat and rocky and not good for farming. This place wouldn’t be good for a settlement, but Leif had discovered North America! This is the first time Europeans reached the New World in what is now known as Canada, a few hundred years before Christopher Columbus! 

Leif and his crew decided to continue to sail south and eventually found a land that was wooded and green. He named this place Markland, but decided to keep on going, looking for better land. They sailed down a river and to a lake with fresh water and that was full of fish. They anchored their boats, rowed ashore, and set up camp so they could learn more about this new place. One day they hiked further inland and found a vineyard and grapes. For this reason, Leif decided to name the new land Vineland (veen-land), and what is now modern day Canada. After this, Leif and his crew packed up and sailed back to Greenland to let his people know about the new land they had discovered. 

Not long afterward, Leif’s father, Erik the Red, passed away and Leif became the new chief. He ruled his people for 20 years. Interestingly, he never returned to Vineland. But his brother Thorvald Erickson and his sisters did. They sailed to Vineland, picked more grapes and cut down trees to take home. They explored further down the coast, but to their surprise other people were already living there! These native people had likely lived in the New World for thousands of years. Instead of trying to make friends or communicate with these people, who they called the Skraelings, Thorvald and the other Vikings attacked them. The Skraelings who survived the attack ran back to their village and soon returned with other warriors. When Thorvald and the Vikings saw the Skraelings caming after them they turned and ran. The Skraelings fired their bows and Thorvald was hit with an arrow and did not survive. The Vikings stayed in Vineland two more seasons and buried Thorvald there, but eventually returned to Greenland. 

Later, Thorvald’s brother, Thorstein returned to Vineland and later their sister, Freydis. At one point they brought 130 Vikings with them and again tried to settle the land in North America. But the Native American people who already lived there outnumbered them and did not want them there. They often attacked the Vikings. The Vikings knew that they were outnumbered and that they would have to leave. Staying would be too dangerous. Later, Vikings would occasionally return to Vineland to cut down trees for building in Greenland, but they would never stay permanently. 

Later, Leif Erickson would go down in history as the first explorer to reach the New World, 400 years before Christopher Columbus. In the United States in 1964 October 9 officially became Leif Erickson Day. Down through history, the vikings are often associated with their pirate-like attacks, but many of these norToday, many people across the world trace their roots back to Scandinavia, the land of the Vikings. Many of these descendants now live in the American Midwest. You may have heard about a football team, the Minnesota Vikings, who are named after their ancestors. 

Sir Ernest Shackleton For Kids

Have you ever wondered what is at the top of the highest peaks and at the bottom of the deepest oceans? What is on the other side of the world or at the north and soul poles? Well, that is what young Ernest Shackleton used to dream about as he sat in his classroom and thought about all the adventures he could be going on, instead of sitting at a desk and studying his books. Instead, he wanted to be off visiting these places and experiencing them for himself! Earnest was born on February 15, 1874, in Ireland. Ernest Shackleton had always been very curious and an adventurer at heart. But instead of learning from other people’s experiences in books, he wanted to find about the things that made him curious, all by himself.

And that is why at 16 he left school and boarded a  sailing ship, Hogton Tower. He spent four years travelling on the ship and learned about three things that would help him during his future travels; trading, making friends and living under the same roof with all kinds of people.

As time passed Ernest grew smarter.He boarded different ships and learned something new each time. Then in 1901, he boarded the ship Discovery  to go on an expedition under the leadership of  Capt. Robert Falcon Scott, 1. An expedition is a trip to discover a  new place or do research. Earnest joined as a third lieutenant and took part in the sledge journey over the Ross Ice Shelf. A sledge journey also known as manhauling is pulling a small vehicle over the ice with the help of humans, machines or animals. Did you know that the Ross Ice shelf is the latest ice-shelf of Antarctica which is hundreds of meters thick? . However, he became sick  and had to be sent home in 1903.

When Ernest returned home, he was very sad and let down that he had to leave the expedition early  But, back home people heard about his name and he became famous as an explorer . But his fame couldn’t pay his bills and it was time to look for a permanent job. He applied for a job in the Royal Navy. Even though he had the support and sponsorship of Markham and William Huggins, the president of the Royal Society, he failed to get the job.

Shakleton was sad and found a few different jobs, but couldn’t focus and wanted more than anything to be on an adventure . It was during that time that he was met a man named Beardmore who enjoyed the company of explorers and adventurers. This wealthy man was amused by Ernest’s heartfelt wish to head back to Antarctica. So, Beardmore decided to pay for Shackleton’s second voyage. The goal of this expedition was to reach  both the geographical South Pole and the South Magnetic Pole. South Pole is one of the two points of the earth where the Earth’s two axis meet. It is opposite to the North Pole.

On the first of January 1908, the sailing ship Nimrod set off from Lyttelton Harbour, New Zealand. But, before he left, Robert Scott made Shackleton promise that he wouldn’t make his discoveries in the McMurdo area as it was his own point of research and exploration. Since, he had made a promise to an old friend and a companion, Shackleton directed his ship towards the eastern sector of the Great Ice Barrier. They finally arrived on their destination on January 21st 1908. 

When Shackleton arrived, he discovered that the Barrier Inlet had extended and had turned into a large bay, where hundreds of whales swam peacefully in the open waters. Ernest Shackleton was so inspired that he came up with the idea of calling the area the  “Bay of Whales”. 

During this time, the weather conditions were harsh and the ice was unstable, which means it might crack and that would be very dangerous. And a safe camp had to be made there. But things began to worsen and the only option was to break the promise he had made with his friend and head for the McMurdo Sound. He made this decision to save the lives of all of his companions. 

But even when the weather was harsh and the ship threatened to topple over, the spirits of the men remained high. It was mostly due to Shackleton’s gift to communicate with each and every crew member, keeping them happy and focused on their ambitions. This made him a very good leader. He gave them hope when the journey was dangerous and frightening.

On October 29, 1908, the “Great Southern Journey”, under the leadership of Ernest Shackleton and three of his companions  a man named Wild, Eric Marshall and Jameson Adams began. Three months later they reached the farthest south point that was 112 miles away from the pole. On their way, they passed by a glacier which was the biggest one that they had ever seen!. A glacier is a huge piece of ice floating in the water. Remembering the help  Beardmore gave  him, Shackleton name it the “Beardmore Glacier”, after his friend. With this, Shackleton and three of his friends became the first ones to see and travel to the south polar plateau.

Another accomplishment of their journey was the first to ever climb Mount Erebus and the location of the South Magnetic Pole. This amazing feat was done by Edgeworth David, Douglas Mawson, and Alistair Mackay, three of the crew members of the ship Nimrod.

Soon afterwards, the they all returned home due to the lack of food and to avoid  starvation and death. When Shackleton returned home from his voyage to the South Pole f, he was received by everyone in  England as a hero. King Edward VII, was so proud of him  that he made him a knight, granting him the title of “Sir”. 

Ernest spent his time at home, busy writing about his time on the seas as he travelled to the edge of the world. He published his book Heart of the Antarctic soon after that. He was happy with his travels but was also sad because he still didn’t  reach his goal. 

The third time Sir Ernest Shackleton left England for Antarctica was in the year 1914 on the British Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Being the leader of his crew, he instructed his crewmates to cross Antarctica from a base on the Weddell Sea to McMurdo Sound, via the South Pole. But things didn’t turn out so great for him even from the start. His ship Endurance, got trapped in ice and floated aimlessly for 10 months before getting into an accident with more ice.

The crew barely survived the crash and had to take shelter on ice floes for five more months before reaching the Elephant Island. Since, there were no animals in sight, all they had to eat was seal meat, penguins and sadly their dogs. 

Next Shackleton and five of his friends got on a whale boat and made a 16 day long journey across the harsh waters, finally reaching  southern Georgia. They crossed the islands and looked for  help. Shackleton made four attempts spanning over 4 months and finally was able to rescue his crewmates. It was a miracle that all of Shackleton’s crew mates survived !.

Even though he was sick, Shackleton’s love for adventure and exploration didn’t end. He made his fourth attempt for the sea voyage under the name of Shackleton-Rowett Antarctic Expedition, on the a ship called  Quest in 1921. But he became sick again and  and died during the journey. 

Earnest Shackleton’s will to keep going even when he was sick was amazing! He kept trying and trying even when his path was very difficult. He worked very hard to keep his crewmates happy and did everything he could to save them and keep them safe. His hunger for adventure and desire to explore the world have become legendary! His life inspires so many people around the world to set out on such adventures and discover something new every day. Next time you are curious about something, remember Earnest Shackleton and then do something about it! 

The History of Australia for Kids

Close your eyes and imagine you are driving in a jeep down a dirt road. The land is flat and brown and the sky is clear and bright blue. You drive for several miles and see nothing but brush and empty land, then suddenly there is movement in the brush and you spot two kangaroos hopping across the road. Further ahead you see some a pack of dingos, or wild dogs, racing through the brush. Soon there are trees and you slow the jeep to a stop. You pull out your binoculars and gaze through them at the trees. You see exotic birds and other wildlife and take notes about what you observe. Soon the sun goes down and the air is alive with the buzz of insects. The stars are glittering overhead. You unroll your bedroll and lay out, staring at the sky above and listening to the sounds of the night, amazed at the wonders of the Australian outback.

Have you ever heard of Australia? Australia is an awesome country, with a fascinating history and incredible wildlife, which is also home to many amazing Bedtime History fans. As Australian fans have donated and written reviews and shared their love of Bedtime History I’ve thought “wouldn’t it be fun to do an episode all about Australia!?” 

First off, Australia is the only country in the world that covers an entire continent! It’s located between the Pacific and Indian Oceans and is often called “the world’s largest island.” It’s also the sixth largest country in the world by land area. The geography in Australia is very diverse. It has fertile land for farming in the southwest and southeast — and in the northeast it has wet rainforests. There’s also the famous Australian “outback” which is an extremely hot and dry desert with very little water and plant life. In the southeast is a long mountain range called the Great Dividing Range — off the northeast coast is the Great Barrier Reef, which is the world’s largest coral reef, where people travel from all around the world to snorkel and scuba dive to explore its exotic sealife. 

People have lived in Australia for a very long time. 65,000 years ago it’s believed humans crossed ancient land bridges from Asia to Australia. These people later became known as the aborigines. They were hunter-gatherers, which means they lived off hunting animals and gathering food such as berries and other plants they could eat. Aborigines spread across Australia and formed their own unique cultures and societies thousands of years before Europeans arrived. 

The first recorded European explorer to land in Australia was a Dutch sailor named Willem Janszoon. In 1606 he made a map of the area, met the native aborigine people, and named the island “New Holland.” Later English explorers such as William Dampier arrived and then in 1770 Captain James Cook, who claimed Australia for his own people.

In 1787 the first fleet of 11 ships left England and sailed to Australia. Because settling a new land is hard and often very dangerous, one way the British decided to do this was to use convicts to farm and settle the land. A convict is someone who has been found guilty of a crime and sentenced to prison. But the British leaders decided that rather than put these people in prison, they could use them to settle Australia. This first group included 730 convicts and 250 free persons. The early years in Australia were very hard. The settlers had to deal with diseases, insects and other pests, and often fought with the native Aborigines. But the British continued to settle Australia and sent more convicts to farm and prepare the land. Over time the settlements grew and spread further across Australia. 

By 1830, 58,000 convicts had come to Australia. To the surprise of many, the settlements did well even though they were mostly populated by former criminals, and most of the convicts didn’t continue to commit crimes. Eventually, Australia began to prosper as farms produced grain and other industries such as whaling and sheep farming thrived. Before long sheep wool was one of Australia’s major exports. An export is an item that a country can produce and sell to other countries. This was also a time when explorers ventured out and discovered new, exotic places across Australia. They wrote about their adventures and captured the imagination of people all around the world with their tales about the wonders, beauty and wildlife of Australia. 

Over time the governments of Australia changed from being authoritarian, that means run by a single person or groups of people, to a democracy, where the people vote and have say in what laws are passed and decisions are made. Different states began to form across Australia and today it consists of six states: New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, and Western Australia. 

Because Australia is a separate continent, surrounded by water, its animal life has evolved on its own for many thousands of years. For this reason, many of the animals in Australia don’t exist anywhere else in the world and are very unique. Have you ever seen a picture of a kangaroo? Kangaroos stand up-right, carry their babies in a pouch and hop across the land. Nowhere else in the world will you find kangaroos. The same goes for wallabys which are similar to kangaroos but much smaller. Koalas, which climb in trees and the very funny look platypus can also only be found in Australia. The platypus looks like the combination of a duck, a beaver and an otter! Be sure to find a picture later if you’ve never seen a platypus before. Tasmanian devils and dingos are two other mammals unique to Australia.

Many of the deadliest species in the world can be found there, too, such as the poisonous funnel-web spiders and twenty types of venomous snakes, such as the taipan.

Australia is also famous for the Sydney Opera House. The Sydney Opera House is also one of the most recognizable buildings in the world. It was built along the harbor and its roof is shaped like several huge overlapping white shells. Workers started on it in 1959 and it cost $102 million dollars to build. 10,000 people worked on it until it was finished in 1973. Every year more than 10 million people visit the beautiful Opera House to wonder at its architecture and to be entertained.

Some notable people born in Australia are Saint Mary MacKillop, who served the aboriginal people in the Outback and established several schools to help educate the poor and needy. Howard Florey, who saved millions of lives by developing penicillin into a usable drug. Edith Cowan, who campaigned for women and children’s rights in the 1900s. And Sir Marcus Oliphant who helped develop the radar and atomic bomb.

Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter and Nancy Wake, the WW2 spy and commando, were also Australian. You can find episodes about them on our podcast. 

Australia is also one of the world’s most ethnically diverse countries. This means people come from many different races and backgrounds, such as the United Kingdom, Africa, China, Vietnam and the Middle East.

Many famous actors and actresses were also born in Australia: Chris Hemsworth who plays Thor in the Marvel movies, Hugh Jackman from The Greatest Showman and X-Men, Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman, Geoffrey Rush, Mel Gibson, Hugo Weaving, Margo Robbie, and Errol Flynn are other actors to name just a few.

Some of the popular sports are Australian football, rugby, soccer, cricket, basketball and baseball. Australian football is similar to rugby, but with different rules. If you’ve never seen rugby it’s similar to American football, but the players don’t wear pads and can toss the ball back and forth. In Australian football the goal is to carry the oval ball down the field and then kick it between goal posts. If you’ve never seen it before be sure to find a video. Swimming, cycling, dancing and tennis are also popular in Australia. 

Do you think it would be fun to visit Australia someday? I do sure do! Learning about people from different places shows us how diverse the world is. I think this makes life very interesting. That everyone looks different, has different customs, and interests and hobbies, and a unique history makes the world a vibrant and unique place. Be sure to take the time to learn more about Australia by looking up photos and watching videos of this most fascinating country and continent!

The History of the Spanish Armada and Queen Elizabeth for Kids

Close your eyes and imagine you are a farmer living in England long ago. Your family is poor, but you all work hard to make sure you have enough food to eat everyday. Everyone is outside and working on the farm. Your dog is running around and playing. The land around you is green and beautiful. The ocean is nearby and the air is salty with its smell. Suddenly your dog begins to bark. You look up. He is running toward the ocean and barking. In the distance you see the white sails of a very big ship. You drop your tools and follow everyone to the water. More ships appear through the fog. Now there are dozens of ships and soon hundreds of ships. It’s the largest armada of ships you have ever seen and their sails have the red cross of Spain. Because it’s Spain, the enemy of England, you know this can’t be good! The Spanish Armada has come ready for an invasion.

In the 1800s Spain was one of the most powerful countries in the world. It was called “the empire on which the sun never sets,” because Spain had conquered and controlled many places across the globe including the Americas and the Caribbean. The Spanish Empire was one of the first world empires. It was ruled by King Phillip the 2nd, who wasn’t afraid to use his large navy of ships and his army to make Spain more powerful. But by the 1850s other countries in Europe were beginning to challenge Spain’s world power. One of those countries was England. England was a small island, but was beginning to strengthen its own navy and grow in power. It was led by Queen Elizabeth, the daughter of Henry the 8th. She was a strong queen who wasn’t afraid to go up against King Phillip, even though in many ways Spain was bigger and stronger. Queen Elizabeth wanted to beat Spain, but couldn’t take them head on, because they’d lose in a traditional battle, so instead she worked with privateers to attack Spanish ships. “Privateers” were similar to pirates, but they usually had the permission of someone powerful like a king or queen. A daring sailor named Sir Francis Drake became Queen Elizabeth’s favorite privateer. 

Sir Francis Drake was born in Plymouth, England in 1596. At a young age he started working with his relatives, the Hawkins Family, who were merchants, which means they shipped and traded goods by boat. During one of the voyages to San Juan their ships were attacked by Spain and Drake barely made it back to England alive. To get revenge, Drake began finding ways to get back at Spain by plundering its ships and attacking their settlements around the world — places like the Carribean, where Spain owned land and kept its money. 

Sir Francis Drake was very adventurous and was determined to sail his ships all the way around the world. Ferdindand Megallan had done it first in 1519, but Drake believed he could do it again. With the help of Queen Elizabeth Drake set off with 5 ships and 200 sailors. From the start the journey did not go well. Many sailors died and they had to scuttle some of the ships, which means sink them and leave them behind. Some of his sailors also mutineed, which means they wanted to be in control of the voyage instead of him. 

When Drake and his sailors reached South America, they took advantage of the situation to get back at Spain. They attacked Spanish settlements and ships and filled their ships with bars of gold and silver, pearls, Spanish silver coins and precious stones. But as they continued on they encountered more problems while crossing the Pacific Ocean. Drake and his sailors didn’t know if they would survive, but they kept going, against all odds, and after 2 years of sailing around the world returned to England with only 1 ship remaining and 56 sailors! In England Queen Elizabeth congratulated Drake for completing the voyage and made him a knight.

King Phillip of Spain was angry at Queen Elizabeth and Sir Francis Drake for attacking his settlements and ships. He was also upset because they were helping the Netherlands in his war with them. For this reason King Phillip decided to put them in their place by sending an armada of his ships to attack England. An armada is a large group (or fleet of warships). Once the armada landed its troops they would invade England, take control, and remove Queen Elizabeth from power. On May 28th 1588, the Spanish Armada set sail for England. The armada was HUGE! with 130 warships, 8,000 sailors and 13,000 soldiers. It took two full days for all of the ships to leave port.

Fortunately for the English, storms and other bad weather slowed the ships from attacking and some had to turn back to Spain. But by July the huge armada of Spanish ships could be seen off the coast of England. You can imagine what the people of England thought when they saw this armada coming to invade their country! 

But England wasn’t going down without a fight! When the armada arrived the English ships were armed and ready for battle. Sir Francis Drake was captain of his ship called The Revenge. The English had more ships, but they were smaller with less firepower. In many ways it looked like they would lose to the bigger and more powerful Spain. The first cannon fired! Explosions thundered across the water. Black smoke and the smell of gunpowder filled the air. Sailors loaded the cannons with gunpowder and shoved a cannonball in the front. Then they aimed at the enemy ship and fired! To Spain’s surprise the English ships were smaller, but much faster! 

They dodged around the huge Spanish galleons and took shots at them from all sides. The Spanish cannons couldn’t keep up with them. Spain’s tactic would be to get as close as they could, throw hooks onto the other ship, pull them close, and climb aboard and fight hand-to-hand. But the English knew they couldn’t win that battle, so they kept their distance and fired from afar. The English cannons shot much further, so they were able to hit the Spanish ships from far away.

During one battle two Spanish ships accidentally crashed into each other, so they were unusable. All of the sailors climbed onto another ship and left these ships behind. Drake noticed the abandoned ships, so that night he turned off all his lanterns on his ship and sailed past the enemy ships through the darkness. Then he snuck onto the abandoned ships and took all of the extra gunpowder and guns to be used in the next day’s battle.

The battle continued through the following days. Ships on each side fired their cannon. Sailors reloaded the cannons, waited for their captains word, and fired. More explosions and black smoke. Ships were damaged on both sides, but the English kept fighting. From the ocean they could see their island home they loved and would not back down. Soon their allies the Dutch joined in and fired their cannons at the Spanish armada, too.

After one day’s battle, the Spanish took a rest for the night and anchored their ships closely together. This gave Sir Francis Drake and the other captains an idea. They picked out eight of their ships and filled them with pitch, brimstone, gunpowder and tar. This made them very flammable. Then they lit the ships on fire and sailed them directly at the Spanish ships. When the Spanish saw the flaming ships sailing toward them they panicked and quickly got to work moving their own. Fortunately for the Spanish, none of their own ships were burned, but it did break their formation giving the English an advantage. 

The next day was a long and dangerous battle. Throughout the day the English had the advantage with their small, quick ships which fired from long range and badly damaged the Spanish ships. During the battle, many sailors were lost on both sides. 

A broadside is when a ship pulls alongside another ship and opens fire. The English did this all day long until the Spanish ships were badly damaged and couldn’t fight back. The Spanish knew they were beat and by the end of the day finally retreated. This famous battle became known as the Battle of Gravelines and went down in history as the day that the powerful Spanish Armada was defeated. No longer would Spain rule the seas and the world with its powerful navy. 

After the battle was over, Queen Elizabeth dressed in armor and rode out to congratulate the sailors for their victory. She told them that the strength of England lie in its people, and that they would never bow down to an invading enemy. Instead they would take up arms and fight for their freedoms. 

England won because of its faster, lighter ships and its long range cannons. Their ship engineers, called shipwrights, continued to design faster ships and better cannons. Over time they became the most powerful navy in the world and like Spain before, became a world-wde empire known as the British Empire. 

Sir Edmund Hillary: Knight of Mount Everest For Kids

Welcome to Bedtime History. Tonight we’re going to learn about the tallest mountain the world. Do you know the name of this mountain? It is called Mount Everest and it is 29,000 feet high. If you can imagine, it is the same as 1,000 houses stacked on top of each other.

Tonight we’re also going to learn about the little boy who grew up to be the man who climbed this mountain — this is the story of Sir Edmund Hillary.

Edmund was born in 1919 in the country of New Zealand. He was smaller than other kids his age and shy. Every day he got on a train and took it a long way to school. On the train he liked to read books. His favorite books were about mountains and adventures. He dreamed that one day he would go on his own adventures.

Edmund didn’t always stay small. When he was a teenager he grew very, very tall. By that time he didn’t only dream about adventures, he started making his own adventures by climbing mountains. He loved climbing, especially in cold, snowy places. He had a passion for it. Passion is when you love doing something very much. Edmund practiced and practiced and became very good at climbing. He knew that all great adventurers have to practice and practice if they want to become very good at something. Edmund climbed over 34 mountains. That is a lot of practice!

Mount Everest is the highest mountain in the world in a country called Tibet. No one had ever climbed to the top. It was in a freezing cold place with fast wind and deep snow that made it very difficult and very dangerous to climb. All of the climbers in the world wanted to be the first person to make it to the top. Edmund wanted with all his heart to be the first one to the top.

When Edmund finally got the chance to try and reach the top of Mount Everest, he had a helper named Tenzing. Edmund and Tenzing had to wear warm clothes and carry heavy backpacks with all their food and other supplies. It was very cold and much of the time they were hungry and tired, but Edmund and Tenzing kept going. They needed each other all along the way. They could not do it alone. This is called teamwork. Teamwork is when people help each other to get something done.

When others turned around and went back down the mountain, Edmund remembered the adventures he read and dreamed about as a boy. Now he was the hero and this was his adventure.

Close to the top of Mount Everest there was a very high wall of ice that no else could climb. But Edmund was creative and strong and figured out a way to wriggle his way up a crack in to the top. The top of Mount Everest was so high that they could barely breath. It took them 20 days and they were only there for a few minutes, but they had reached their goal!

News about Edmund spread all around the world. When Edmund got home he met the Queen of England who made him a knight. In his day a knight was someone who had done something great.

After Mount Everest, Edmund’s adventures weren’t over. He also went to the South Pole, then the North Pole and wrote books about the amazing things he had done. Edmund became famous and made a lot of money from it. But Edmund didn’t keep all the money for himself. He used the money to build schools, hospitals, churches and roads for poor villages. When the newspapers wrote about Edmund and his adventures they said he was a hero, he said he was just a normal person who had a big imagination, had a lot of energy and worked hard.

Like Edmund, you can read books and dream about doing great things. You can also have passion for things you enjoy. You can practice to get better at these things. You can also use teamwork, which is working together to get things done, because you can’t always do everything by yourself. Like Edmund, you can think about others who don’t have all the nice things you have; and do what you can to help them out. And always remember, even mountains can be climbed if we work hard and take them one step at a time.

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