History Unpacked

History Unpacked

History Unpacked is a page dedicated to explaining history (especially lesser-known history events)

Operating as usual


• Agent 355 •

‘Agent 355’ was the code name for an unidentified female spy who was part of the Culper Spy Ring and said to have actively helped George Washington win the American Revolution.

However, no proof of 355’s espionage activities exists, and there is a mere ONE reference of her in the historical record, which occurs in this August 15, 1779, letter:

“I intend to visit 727 [New York] before long and think by the assistance of a 355 [lady in the code] of my acquaintance, shall be able to outwit them all.”

This underwhelming lack of sources means her name, identity and the extent of assistance she provided - remains ambiguous.

For this reason, former CIA case officer, Kenneth Daigler labelled the speculation around 355, “a romantic myth”.

Despite these evident limitations to knowledge, Agent 355’s role has continued to be overstated, dramatised and embellished in filmic and literary adaptions, including:
* A pair of 1930s books by historian, Morton Pennypacker
* Jessica Chastain’s movie, The 355
* 2013 Bestseller, ‘George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved The American Revolution’ (Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger)

Kilmeade and Yaegar even wrote, “Though her name cannot be verified, and many details about her life are unclear, her presence and her courage undoubtedly made a difference.”

Hence, whilst much remains unlovable, Agent 355 stands as a testament to the ability of myth and speculation to captivate the modern zeitgeist.

Photos from History Unpacked's post 21/03/2022

Pictured is ‘Juden Raus!’ (‘Out with the Jews’, an antisemitic board game, published by Günther & Co during the Third Reich, which framed itself as a children’s game - but actually was political, as it depicted Jews (in alignment with N**i ideology) by means of trivialisation.

The game’s themes reflected actual occurrences under N**ified Germany, including: racial hatred, forced deportations, and confiscation of Jewish property.

The board depicted a walled town, in which playing pieces (or little pawns) wore stereotypical, pointed medieval Jewish hats.

The game’s objective was to round up all of the Jews, and relocate them ‘Off to Palestine!’ (or as it read, “Auf nach Palästina!”), outside of the city gates.

Although the game trivialised (rather than endorsed) N**i policies - “the casual, cheery tone used in the text accompanying the game reveals how socially acceptable bigotry and antisemitism was at the time” (The Wiener Holocaust Museum), and thereby warrants critical consideration as a perpetuation of the internalised antisemitism facilitated by the N**is.

📸 Hidden Treasures: Celebrating Jewish Archives in Britain / The Wiener Holocaust Library


• Frida Kahlo •

Frida Kahlo was a Mexican painter renowned for her vibrantly coloured self-portraits, and works inspired by the nature and artefacts of Mexico.

Her artistic style drew inspiration from Mexican folk culture - and her paintings (which were predominantly small self-portraits) mixed elements from pre-Colombian and Catholic beliefs.

Whilst Kahlo faced adversity in her life with a disability caused by polio, her near-death experience in a bus accident and her turbulent marriage to Mexican Painter, Diego Rivera - Kahlo remains a notable historical women today who’s accomplishments warrant recognition. Some of these achievements included:

• The Louvre purchased Kahlo’s ‘The Frame’ - making her the first Mexican artist to ever be featured in their
• She received the National Prize of Arts and Sciences from the Ministry of Public Education in 1946 - a testament to her skill as an artist.
• Her life was the subject of the 2002 Biographical film, ‘Frida’ (starring Salma Hayek).
• One of her works, ‘Two Nudes in a Forest’ sold for $8 million in 2016.

Recognised as a feminist and LGBTQI icon even today, Kahlo (a bi-sexual woman) was admired for capturing her natural unibrow - challenging conventional gender norms - and for depicting issues related to women through her paintings (i.e. abortion, miscarriage, birth, breastfeeding etc).


Rome’s Agrippina the Younger - described as “shameless” and “unchaste” by Suetonius, and as a “distinctly unattractive individual” by Barrett. She eradicated everyone in her path, used “sex as a means to political ends” as Barrett notes, and alienated her own son to the point of assassination. But that’s not all she was ...

As a Roman woman operating in a male-dominated context, where her actions justified or abhorent ?

A rose amongst thorns OR a thorn amongst roses ?

What do you think ? 🤔


Historical fiction or Ancient classics... AND why ? 🤔🤔🤯🤯


Pictured is Septima Clark, an African-American civil rights activist and educator.

After Clark lost her teaching job in 1955, for involvement in the NAACP, Clark learned activist skills at the Highlander Folk School, Tennessee.

Borrowing $1500 to buy and equip a run-down building on Johns Island, South Carolina - she established, Septima Clark’s Citizenship school in 1954.

To the unlearned viewer, the front of the building appeared to be a grocery store - but inside, back rooms were being used as a citizen school.

Here, black adults were taught essential skills pertaining to reading and understanding voter registration forms and the writing of cheques. The schools also taught democracy, civil rights, and community leadership. In doing so, it helped to gradually eradicate the barrier voter registration forms had posed to those enrolling to vote (see image 2, for a Louisiana Literacy Test - 1964)

From the 1st intake of 14 students, 8 were able to register to vote and by 1961, 37 citizenship schools had been established and black voters had increased significantly.


Who is the kindest history figure of all time and why ?

Comment below your thoughts :)👇👇🤔🤔


Who is the worst history figure of all time and why ?

Comment your thoughts down below :) 👇👇🤔🤔


A facial reconstruction of Richard III

Richard III was the King of England from 1483-1485. Portrayed by Shakespeare as the Machiavellian /Vice figure of medieval morality plays, our image of the monarch is distorted. Shakespeare depicts him as a hunchback, “deformed, unfinished, sent before my time” (Richard III, Shakespeare), but scientific examination invalidates these claims.

Indeed, the context of the history-maker (or playwright, here) shapes the history and how it is expressed.

Shakespeare, operating in a theocratic Elizabethan Society under the Tudor monarch, Elizabeth I, was inclined to propagate her family’s greatness. As Richard III’s defeat accounted directly for her eventual ascendancy, such was done at the expense of Richard III.

So, why deformity ? Well, the biblical Levitical doctrine outlined that physical/external deformity signified inward moral corruption.

In a context where the Tudor line or myth was that Richard III was inherently evil, it only seems expected that Shakespeare (like other writers, namely the historian, Edward Hall) would distort history and exploit religious iconography for the purpose of discrediting Richard III.

BUT what are your thoughts? Do victors write history, manipulating it while they do so? OR does history tell us the ‘truth’ exactly as it was, without amendment ?

📸 BBC News


The picture shows 15-year old, Elizabeth Eckford, trying to attend her first day at Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas on the 4th of September, 1957.

The ‘Little Rock Nine’ (of which Eckford was part) were selected and prepared by the NAACP in an attempt to enforce Supreme Court ruling, Brown v. Board of Education (1954) which necessitated that public schools, desegregate.

Arkansas governor, Orval Faubus called in the state National Guard on the day of enrolment to prevent the ‘Little Rock Nine’ from entering the school, claiming, “I will not force my people to integrate against their will”

Elizabeth Eckford described the incident herself - “I walked up to the Guard who had let the white students in... When I tried to squeeze past him, he raised his bayonet...They [the crowd] moved closer and closer. Somebody started yelling, ‘Lynch her! Lynch her!’”

With the help of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the students eventually attended a fully day of classes on the 25 September, as 1200 members of the US Army’s 101st Airborne Division ensured their entry.

On the 25th of May, 1958 - Ernst Green became the school’s first African-American graduate.


A propaganda poster from 1936 under Stalin.

‘Thank you beloved Stalin for our happy childhood’

This slogan appeared over nursery doorways, school walls, in magazine and book covers, and was chanted by children at celebrations.

In this poster, Stalin is depicted in white surrounded by children with model ships, aeroplanes, flowers and a young boy who is showing him a drawing of the Kremlin.

It is a seemingly idyllic scene.

(Viktor Govorkov)

📸 Russian State Library

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