18 May 1096

Over 800 Jews are massacred in Worms, Germany.

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For millennia, the Jewish people have often been scapegoats. From their time as slaves in Egypt to the Holocaust to the present day, oppression has been part and parcel of the faith, and the Middle Ages offered little relief.

On this day in 1096, Crusaders on their way to the Holy Land slaughtered over 800 Jews in Worms, Germany.After Pope Urban II called for the first Crusade in 1095 – I direct you to the Papal Pedant’s take on that speech – an overwhelming number of Christians volunteered, marching across the European continent.

Many of these amateur soldiers held Jews in contempt for their “murder” of Christ, and sought revenge along the route. Church leaders were able to keep their flocks in check early on in the journey, but as the throngs swelled, things turned ugly in the Rhineland.

At Speyer on May 3, Crusaders killed 11 Jews outside the town synagogue, where many more were hiding; one woman preferred to be martyred rather than convert, a sacrifice known as Kiddush ha-Shem.

Things were much worse in Worms, where on May 18, these so-called Christians attacked Jews in their homes. They would besiege the bishop’s castle, where more had sought asylum, breaking through after nine days. Overall, 800 Jews died; 5,000 total would perish in the Rhineland region by July.

17 May 1805

Muhammad Ali becomes W?li of Egypt.

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Muhammad Ali was an Albanian commander in the Ottoman army, he
joined the forces that were sent to Egypt in 1801 to expel the French forces led by Napoléon Bonaparte that occupied Egypt in 1798. Ali exploited the anarchy resulting from
the power vacuum in Egypt after the French withdrawal to strengthen his troops and gain the trust and support of the public. In 1805, Muhammad Ali was placed as a ruler of Egypt by the Egyptian public chiefs and religious sheikhs.

Shortly after he seized the power, Muhammad Ali started his ambitious plan to modernize
Egypt in all fields. A question may arise regarding the intentions of Muhammad Ali, that is, why he, an Albanian, was interested in building a modern country in Egypt? The answer is simply that in his original country, Ali’s furthermost ambition was to be a military leader or even a minister. But in Egypt, he found it a golden chance for him to seize the power for himself and his successors and be the ruler of a big and rich country like Egypt. This motivation is important and will be a significant factor in the comparison between the Egyptian case and the Japanese one.

16 May 1770

The 14 year old Marie Antoinette marries 15 year old Louis-Auguste who later becomes king of France.

In 1768, Louis XV dispatched a tutor to Austria to instruct his grandson’s future wife. The tutor found Marie Antoinette “more intelligent than has been generally supposed,” but added that since “she is rather lazy and extremely frivolous, she is hard to teach.” Marie Antoinette was a child of only 14 years, delicately beautiful, with gray-blue eyes and ash-blonde hair. In May 1770, she set out for France to be married, escorted by 57 carriages, 117 footmen and 376 horses.

Marie Antoinette and Louis-Auguste were married on May 16, 1770. The young woman did not adjust well, however, to a married life for which she was obviously not ready, and her frequent letters home revealed intense homesickness. “Madame, my very dear mother,” she wrote in one letter, “I have not received one of your dear letters without having the tears come to my eyes.” She also bristled at some of the rituals she was expected to perform as a lady of the French royal family. “I put on my rouge and wash my hands in front of the whole world,” she complained, referring to a ritual in which she was required to put on her makeup in front of dozens of courtiers.