How is a 'step back' different from abdication?

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By Debra Adams Simmons, HISTORY Executive Editor

The British royal had married a North American. And he decided that love was so great that he would turn away from the throne and its duties. But King Edward VIII was no Prince Harry—and Edward’s abdication in 1936 is quite different than Harry’s announced “step back” from aspects of royal life.

First off, Harry isn’t king, he’s sixth in succession, and hasn’t announced an intention to give up his title, writes Erin Blackmore for Nat Geo.

Unlike Edward, who was given a permanent pension, Meghan and Harry plan to give up the money they receive from the Sovereign Grant, which British taxpayers give to the monarchy each year. (Note: Harry also receives a much larger amount from Prince Charles' private estate, the Duchy of Cornwall, and Meghan and Harry have sought to trademark hundreds of items.)

After stepping down from the throne, Edward lived in exile in France. Meghan and Harry intend to stay at least part of the time in England. Until Harry and Meghan’s definition of stepping back is further defined, Blackmore writes, “direct comparisons to the abdication crises seem as overblown as Madame Tussauds’ spiteful decision to remove the Sussexes from their royal family display."

What you may not know about Iran

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Apart from last week’s heated rhetoric, many people had difficulty placing Iran on a map—much less understanding that it was the world’s first superpower.

But that it was, 2,500 years ago, stretching from eastern Europe to the Indus River. After military conquest, Cyrus the Great used soft power to expand Persian knowledge throughout its empire by allowing local peoples to maintain their languages, traditions, and religions, Nat Geo’s History magazine explains.

Many of Iran’s world cultural sites, also in the news last week, were built during that time, including columns and majestic doorways (pictured) from Persepolis, the ancient capital.

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Today in a minute

World’s biggest migration: Yes, that’s what happens during Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year. In China, the New Year is a seven-day state holiday, part of the 40-day spring migration. Chinese families traditionally celebrate with a massive reunion dinner, often held in the home of the most senior family member.

A tomb for a Viking queen? Encased in a massive Viking ship buried on a farm is a mystery: Who are the two women whose bones have been discovered? One theory: They are of a royal and someone sacrificed to accompany that person to the afterlife, Nat Geo’s History magazine reports.

Excavated: 200 more terracotta warriors from an emperor’s tomb in China,
Smithsonian reports. Some 2,000 of the 2,200-year-old clay warriors already had been unearthed from the pits of China’s Shaanxi province since their discovery in 1974.

Making history: How did June Bacon-Bercey blaze a trail for female African American TV meteorologists in 1971? Well, the Buffalo newscaster once said, "our weather guy robbed the bank, and they needed someone who was there to fill in for the day.” That’s all true. Bacon-Bercey, who later worked at NOAA and the National Weather Service, died at age 90, the New York Times reports.

Oscar nominated: Our documentary film The Cave, about the brave work of medics in an underground hospital amid Syria’s civil war, was nominated on Monday for an Academy Award. Here’s our recent interview with Dr. Amani Ballour, the 32-year-old pediatrician who had been pressed into service running the hospital.

Your Instagram photo of the day

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Finding history: How do you find the story of the Harlem Hellfighters, the World War I all-black infantry regiment that fought under French flags because they were barred to serve with white American soldiers? Photographer Ruddy Roye met with Gina R. McVey (pictured), granddaughter of Hellfighter Lawrence Leslie McVey Sr. and one of many people who have donated materials to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. The Hellfighters, formally known as the 369th Infantry, began as cooks and stevedores for the French, but moved to the front to fight, often with valor, as French forces were depleted. Lawrence McVey received the Croix de Guerre from the French government after the war, Michele Norris wrote in 2016.

Read: Black America’s story, told like never before

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The big takeaway

More Hidden Figures: Beyond the long-neglected women who played a role in NASA’s early space program stand other African-American inventors who you may not have heard of. People such as engineer Lonnie Johnson, who worked on the stealth bomber program and on NASA missions to Saturn and Jupiter—AND patented the Super Soaker water gun. Or prosperous 19th-century sail-maker James Forten, whose new device improved sailing. “Succeeding in science and technology in 19th- and 20th-century America,” Ezelle Sanford III wrote for Nat Geo, “despite the long odds imposed by racial oppression, black inventors represented the epitome of intellectual achievement.”

Subscribers can read: The unappreciated legacy of African-American inventors

Learning History

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The last glimpse

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Time lapse: June 1970's National Geographic called it a “memory-haunted arena of the ancients.” “Rome's 1,900-year-old Colosseum saw bloody gladiatorial duels, battles with wild beasts, and mock naval engagements on its flooded floor,” the magazine said. Christians banned the spectacles, and in later centuries presented church dramas here. Time, earthquakes, and stone scavengers took their toll. Still, the treasured monument survived and again serves Rome—as a traffic circle. Cars at evening rush hour create streaks of light in this time exposure, which also captures horse-drawn carriages waiting at curbside for tourists.”

Related: Ten years of Nat Geo’s Photo of the Day

This newsletter has been curated and edited by David Beard, with photo selections by Eslah Attar. Have an idea or a link? We'd love to hear from you at Thanks for reading!