CLOSE
Getty Images
Getty Images

First Balkan War Ends

Getty Images
Getty Images

The First World War was an unprecedented catastrophe that killed millions and set the continent of Europe on the path to further calamity two decades later. But it didn’t come out of nowhere. With the centennial of the outbreak of hostilities coming up in 2014, Erik Sass will be looking back at the lead-up to the war, when seemingly minor moments of friction accumulated until the situation was ready to explode. He'll be covering those events 100 years after they occurred. This is the 71st installment in the series.

May 30, 1913: First Balkan War Ends

After six months of negotiations at the Conference of London (above), on May 30, 1913 the members of the Balkan League—Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, and Montenegro—signed a peace treaty with the Ottoman Empire ending the First Balkan War. In the Treaty of London, brokered by Europe’s Great Powers, the Turks agreed to give up virtually all of their European territories to the victors, redrawing the map of the Balkans and bolstering the populations (and self-confidence) of the Balkan states.

The loss of the Balkan provinces deprived the Ottoman Empire of 54,000 square miles with a population of 4.2 million, although 400,000 Muslim refugees from the lost provinces ended up fleeing to other parts of the empire. From 1910 to 1913, between the First Balkan War and the Italo-Turkish war Ottoman territory shrank from roughly 1.39 million square miles to 928,000 square miles, while the empire’s population fell from around 26 million to 20 million (there are few firm statistics).

Although it confirmed the Balkan League’s gains at the expense of the Ottoman Empire, the Treaty of London left several major issues unresolved. First of all, the Great Powers deferred a decision on the exact borders of the new, independent state of Albania to some later date, raising hopes in Serbia and Greece that they might be allowed to keep some or all of their Albanian conquests after all (in fact, on May 14 they divided up Albania into Serbian and Greek spheres of influence). This put Serbia on a collision course with Austria-Hungary, whose foreign minister, Count Berchtold, helped create Albania in order to prevent Serbia from gaining access to the sea.

Furthermore, the Treaty of London said nothing about the division of spoils from the First Balkan War, leaving the Balkan League to divide their conquests among themselves. Since Bulgaria still claimed a large amount of territory in Macedonia occupied by the Serbians and Greeks (a final Serbian request to revise the treaty dividing up Macedonia was rebuffed on May 26, 1913) and also refused to cede its own northern territory of Silistra to Romania, this was an invitation to renewed conflict between the former allies in the Second Balkan War, now just a month away.

Consequences of the First Balkan War

Following the Ottoman Empire’s humiliating defeat in the First Balkan War, it was reasonable for the leaders of Europe’s Great Powers to assume that the “sick man of Europe,” in decline for centuries, was entering its final death throes. This, in turn, triggered a scramble by European diplomats, soldiers, and businessmen, all jockeying for a piece of the moribund empire when the big crack-up finally came.

The main menace came from Russia, which coveted Constantinople and the Turkish straits and was making inroads in eastern Anatolia as well: In June 1913, the Austro-Hungarian ambassador to Constantinople, Marquis Johann von Pallavicini, reported a Russian diplomat’s boast that the division of Anatolia was a done deal, and a similar warning came from the German ambassador, Baron Hans von Wangenheim, that same month. Meanwhile, France and Britain were eyeing Ottoman territories in Syria, Palestine, Mesopotamia, and the Arabian Peninsula, which they later divvied up during the Great War with the Sykes-Picot Agreement, signed March 1916. Italy had just taken Libya as well as Rhodes and some other islands in the Aegean—and could conceivably take more territory on the coast of Asia Minor.

Among the Great Powers, Russia, France, Britain, and Italy were all well-placed, either by virtue of their geographic position or naval power, to project influence across the Middle East. Germany and Austria-Hungary, however, were much less likely to benefit from a division of the Ottoman Empire in the short term; indeed, Germany’s main attempt to build its influence in the region, the Berlin-to-Baghdad Railroad, relied on continued peaceful relations with the Turks. So it was to their advantage to prop up the Ottoman Empire as long as possible, or at least until they were in a position to back up their claims with force (Kaiser Wilhelm II was hardly averse to the idea of taking a chunk of Turkish territory when the time came: On April 30, 1913, he privately vowed that when the Ottoman Empire disintegrated, “I will take Mesopotamia, Alexandretta, and Mersin,” referring to two Mediterranean ports in what is now southeast Turkey).

The Rise of Serbia

Perhaps the most important consequence of the First Balkan War, however, was the rise of Serbian power and prestige, which triggered serious alarm in Austria-Hungary.

As a result of the Balkan wars from 1912 to 1913, Serbia’s area almost doubled from 18,650 to 33,891 square miles, and its population jumped from 2.9 million to 4.5 million. Meanwhile “Yugoslav” activists (who advocated the union of all the Balkan Slavic peoples) were whipping up Slavic nationalism among the Dual Monarchy’s Serbian, Bosnian, and Croatian populations. Slavic nationalists in the Kingdom of Serbia were fanning the flames, and the Russians—while urging moderation and compromise in public—were secretly egging them on: On December 27, 1912, the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Sazonov, promised the Serbian ambassador, Dimitrije Popović, that “the future belongs to us,” adding that the Slavs would “shake Austria to the foundations.” On February 13, 1913, Sazonov described Austria-Hungary as a “boil” that would eventually be “lanced” by the Serbs with Russian support.

Austria-Hungary’s leaders were keenly aware of Serbian and Russian ambitions. The belligerent attitude of the chief of staff, Conrad von Hötzendorf, was well-known, and his views were gaining ground with Count Berchtold (in spite of the opposition of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne). By mid-1913, after months working to keep the peace, in the face of repeated Serbian provocations Berchtold was swinging around to the war party. On July 3, 1913, he warned the German ambassador, Heinrich von Tschirschky, that Austria-Hungary was in danger of losing its Slavic territories to Serbia.

As for Austria-Hungary’s ally, the Germans left no doubt they believed a confrontation was coming eventually, mirroring Russia’s advice to Serbia. On April 28, 1913, the former German chancellor Bernard von Bülow wrote to the influential Austrian publicist Heinrich Friedjung, lamenting that Austria-Hungary ought to have occupied the Serbian capital, Belgrade, at the beginning of the First Balkan War—and clearly implying that Vienna should seize the next chance to cut Serbia down to size, whenever it might arise. Bülow also dismissed the risk of Russian intervention: “Right from the beginning of the Balkan war I said the odds against a major war were nine to one. Today I say they are ninety-nine to one, but only if the Central Powers pursue a manly and courageous policy.” In a little over a year, the same attitude would lead the world to disaster.

See the previous installment or all entries.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Courtesy New York Academy of Medicine Library
arrow
History
10 Treasures From the New York Academy of Medicine Library
A urine wheel from Fasciculus Medicinae
A urine wheel from Fasciculus Medicinae
Courtesy New York Academy of Medicine Library

Tucked away on a side street near Central Park, the New York Academy of Medicine Library is one of the most significant historical medical libraries in the world. Open to the public by appointment since the 19th century, its collection includes 550,000 volumes on subjects ranging from ancient brain surgery to women's medical colleges to George Washington's dentures. A few weeks ago, Mental Floss visited to check out some of their most fascinating items connected to the study of anatomy. Whether it was urine wheels or early anatomy pop-up books, we weren't disappointed.

1. FASCICULUS MEDICINAE (1509)

The Fasciculus Medicinae is a compilation of Greek and Arabic texts first printed in Venice in 1491. While it covers a variety of topics including anatomy and gynecology, the book begins with the discipline considered most important for diagnosing all medical issues at the time: uroscopy (the study of urine). The NYAM Library's curator, Anne Garner, showed us the book's urine wheel, which once had the various flasks of urine colored in to help aid physicians in their diagnosis. Each position of the wheel corresponded to one of the four humors, whether it was phlegmatic, choleric, sanguine, or melancholic. The image on the left, Garner explains, "shows the exciting moment where a servant boy brings his flasks to be analyzed by a professor." Other notable images in the book include one historians like to call "Zodiac Man," showing how the parts of the body were governed by the planets, and "Wound Man," who has been struck by every conceivable weapon, and is accompanied by a text showing how to treat each type of injury. Last but not least, the book includes what's believed to be the first printed image of a dissection.

2. ANDREAS VESALIUS, DE HUMANI CORPORIS FABRICA (1543)

Andreas Vesalius's Fabrica
Frontispiece of Andreas Vesalius's Fabrica
Courtesy New York Academy of Medicine Library

Andreas Vesalius, born 1514, was one of the most important anatomists who ever lived. Thanks to him, we moved past an understanding of the human body based primarily on the dissection of animals and toward training that involved the direct dissection of human corpses. The Fabrica was written by Vesalius and published when he was a 28-year-old professor at the University of Padua. Its detailed woodcuts, the most accurate anatomical illustrations up to that point, influenced the depiction of anatomy for centuries to come. "After this book, anatomy divided up into pre-Vesalian and post-Vesalian," Garner says. You can see Vesalius himself in the book's frontispiece (he's the one pointing to the corpse and looking at the viewer). "Vesalius is trying to make a point that he himself is doing the dissection, he believes that to understand the body you have to open it up and look at it," Garner explains.

3. THOMAS GEMINUS, COMPENDIOSA (1559)

Flap anatomy from Thomas Geminus's Compendiosa
Courtesy New York Academy of Medicine Library

There was no copyright in the 16th century, and Vesalius's works were re-used by a variety of people for centuries. The first was in Flemish printer and engraver Thomas Geminus’s Compendiosa, which borrowed from several of Vesalius's works. The first edition was published in London just two years after the Fabrica. Alongside a beautiful dedication page made for Elizabeth I and inlaid with real gemstones, the book also includes an example of a "flap anatomy" or a fugitive leaf, which was printed separately with parts that could be cut out and attached to show the various layers of the human body, all the way down to the intestines. As usual for the time, the female is depicted as pregnant, and she holds a mirror that says "know thyself" in Latin.

4. WILLIAM COWPER, THE ANATOMY OF HUMANE BODIES (1698)

Illustration from William Cowper's The Anatomy of Humane Bodies
Courtesy New York Academy of Medicine Library

After Vesalius, there was little new in anatomy texts until the Dutch anatomist Govard Bidloo published his Anatomia humani corporis in 1685. The work was expensive and not much of a financial success, so Bidloo sold excess plates to the English anatomist William Cowper, who published the plates with an English text without crediting Bidloo (a number of angry exchanges between the two men followed). The copperplate engravings were drawn by Gérard de Lairesse, who Garner notes was "incredibly talented." But while the engravings are beautiful, they're not always anatomically correct, perhaps because the relationship between de Lairesse and Bidloo was fraught (Bidloo was generally a bit difficult). The skeleton shown above is depicted holding an hourglass, by then a classic of death iconography.

5. 17TH-CENTURY IVORY MANIKINS

17th Century Ivory Manikin
Courtesy New York Academy of Medicine Library

These exquisite figures are a bit of a mystery: It was originally thought that they were used in doctors’ offices to educate pregnant women about what was happening to their bodies, but because of their lack of detail, scholars now think they were more likely expensive collector's items displayed in cabinets of curiosity by wealthy male physicians. The arms of the manikins (the term for anatomical figures like this) lift up, allowing the viewer to take apart their removable hearts, intestines, and stomachs; the female figure also has a little baby inside her uterus. There are only about 100 of these left in the world, mostly made in Germany, and NYAM has seven.

6. BERNHARD SIEGFRIED ALBINUS, TABULAE SCELETI (1747)

Illustration from Bernhard Siegfried Albinus's Tabulae Sceleti
Courtesy New York Academy of Medicine Library

One of the best-known anatomists of the 18th century, the Dutch anatomist Bernhard Siegfried Albinus went to medical school at age 12 and had a tenured position at the University of Leiden by the time he was 24. The Tabulae Sceleti was his signature work. The artist who worked on the text, Jan Wandelaar, had studied with Gérard de Lairesse, the artist who worked with Bidloo. Wandelaar and Albinus developed what Garner says was a bizarre method of suspending cadavers from the ceiling in the winter and comparing them to a (very cold and naked) living person lying on the floor in the same pose. Albinus also continued the dreamy, baroque funerary landscape of his predecessors, and his anatomy is "very, very accurate," according to Garner.

The atlas also features an appearance by Clara, a celebrity rhinoceros, who was posed with one of the skeletons. "When Albinus is asked why [he included a rhinoceros], he says, 'Oh, Clara is just another natural wonder of the world, she's this amazing creation,' but really we think Clara is there to sell more atlases because she was so popular," Garner says.

7. FERDINAND HEBRA, ATLAS DER HAUTKRANKHEITEN (1856–1876)

Circus performer Georg Constantin as depicted in Ferdinand Hebra's dermatological atlas
Courtesy New York Academy of Medicine Library

By the mid-19th century, dermatology had started to emerge as its own discipline, and the Vienna-based Ferdinand Hebra was a leading light in the field. He began publishing this dermatological atlas in 1856 (it appeared in 10 installments), featuring chromolithographs that showed different stages of skin diseases and other dermatological irregularities.

"While some of the images are very disturbing, they also tend to adhere to Victorian portrait conventions, with very ornate hair, and [subjects] looking off in the distance," Garner says. But one of the most famous images from the book has nothing to do with disease—it's a depiction of Georg Constantin, a well-known Albanian circus performer in his day, who was covered in 388 tattoos of animals, flowers, and other symbols. He travelled throughout Europe and North America, and was known as "Prince Constantine" during a spell with Barnum's Circus. (The image is also available from NYAM as a coloring sheet.)

8. KOICHI SHIBATA, OBSTETRICAL POCKET PHANTOM (1895)

19th century Obstetrical Pocket Phantom
Courtesy New York Academy of Medicine Library

Obstetrical phantoms, often made of cloth, wood, or leather, were used to teach medical students about childbirth. This "pocket phantom" was originally published in Germany, and Garner explains that because it was made out of paper, it was much cheaper for medical students. The accompanying text, translated in Philadelphia, tells how to arrange the phantom and describes the potential difficulties of various positions.

9. ROBERT L. DICKINSON AND ABRAM BELSKIE, BIRTH ATLAS (1940)

Image from Robert Dickinson's Birth Atlas
Courtesy New York Academy of Medicine Library

Robert Dickinson was a Brooklyn gynecologist, early birth control advocate, and active member of NYAM. His Birth Atlas is illustrated with incredibly lifelike terracotta models created by New Jersey sculptor Abram Belskie. The models were exhibited at the 1939 New York World's Fair, where they became incredibly popular, drawing around 700,000 people according to Garner. His depictions "are very beautiful and serene, and a totally different way of showing fetal development than anything that had come before," Garner notes.

10. RALPH H. SEGAL, THE BODYSCOPE (1948)

The Bodyscope
Courtesy New York Academy of Medicine Library

This midcentury cardboard anatomy guide contains male and female figures as well as rotating wheels, called volvelles, that can be turned to display details on different parts of the body as well as accompanying explanatory text. The Bodyscope is also decorated with images of notable medical men—and "wise" sayings about God's influence on the body.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
holidays
23 Funny Historical Letters to Santa
iStock
iStock

At the end of the 19th century, illustrator Thomas Nast popularized our current version of Santa Claus: a fat, jolly man with a white beard and a red suit who lives at the North Pole. Nast’s cartoons in publications like Harper’s Weekly also helped spread the idea of sending St. Nick mail. By the late 1870s, American children had begun mailing their Christmas wish lists to Santa, but the Post Office considered these letters undeliverable. Around this time, newspapers began prompting children to send wish lists to them, which would then be published so that Santa (and parents) could read the letters all in one place. We’ve collected 23 funny historical letters from children to Santa Claus, as printed in newspapers across the U.S.

1. CONRAD FROM NEBRASKA (1896)

The Courier, Dec. 19, 1896

Conrad tries to mask his violent tendencies by interspersing the weapons between non-threatening gifts, but he shows his hand with that threat at the end.

2. CLIFFORD FROM NEBRASKA (1896)

The Courier, Dec. 19, 1896

Clifford sounds ... intense.

3. MARIE FROM NEBRASKA (1896)

The Courier, Dec. 19, 1896

“As I can not have it I will not ask for it" ... but I will mention it, just in case.

4. LYNWOOD FROM VIRGINIA (1903)

“I smashed everything you sent me last year." I won’t tell you what I want this year, but you better not mess up.

5. PAUL FROM VIRGINIA (1903)

This 4-year-old is very concerned about his infant brother’s lack of teeth. Since the local doctor has proved useless to rectify the situation, Paul hopes Santa might be able to lend a hand. He is magical, after all.

6. HARRY FROM MONTANA (1903)

Fergus County Argus, Dec. 16, 1903

Who knew keeping your feet dry was such an important part of staying off the Naughty list?

7. RAYMOND FROM WEST VIRGINIA (1907)

Clarence doesn’t sound very nice.

8. PERCY FROM WEST VIRGINIA (1907)

Screen Shot 2016-12-09 at 11.27.46 AM.png

Poor Opal and Mildred. They’re just girls. Do girls even have preferences?

9. VIRGINIA FROM MISSOURI (1907)

Virginia understands that sometimes Santa needs to delegate.

10. ROBERT FROM TENNESSEE (1913)

The Commercial, Dec. 19, 1913

Old people get lonely.

11. WILLIE FROM FLORIDA (1915)

Sure, an axe sounds like an age-appropriate gift for a five-year-old.

12. ELEANOR FROM FLORIDA (1915)

Screen Shot 2016-12-09 at 10.46.05 AM.png

“Bring both if possible.”

13. UNSIGNED LETTER FROM FLORIDA (1913)

Screen Shot 2016-12-09 at 10.48.04 AM.png

This transplant from Maine would really like a basketball, but he doesn’t quite believe that a Santa Claus can exist in Florida, where there isn’t even any snow.

14. WALTER FROM FLORIDA (1915)

Screen Shot 2016-12-09 at 11.01.09 AM.png

The Daytona Daily News, Dec. 17, 1915

Good choice not to act a pig, Walter.

15. MERLA FROM FLORIDA (1915)

Screen Shot 2016-12-09 at 11.46.47 AM.png

The Pensacola Journal, Dec. 24, 1915

Merla will not be ignored!

16. ROY FROM FLORIDA (1915)

Screen Shot 2016-12-09 at 11.54.27 AM.png

The Pensacola Journal, Dec. 24, 1915

A doll dressed in a cowboy suit could not be called Raymond. A lack of sailor suit is a dealbreaker.

17. MAXWELL FROM FLORIDA

The Pensacola Journal, Dec. 24, 1915

Ways to improve your chances of getting a pony from Santa, according to Maxwell Hudson: 1. Admit right off it’s expensive. 2. Say you will use it to take your sisters to school. 3. Promise to be grateful for anything Santa brings, so as not to seem greedy. 4. Make yourself seem extra kindhearted (and thus deserving of a pony) by showing concern for your fatherless neighbors. Did it work? We will never know.

18. MOXIE FROM TENNESSEE (1916)

Screen Shot 2016-12-09 at 12.47.23 PM.png

Perhaps a kid known for being mean shouldn’t be given a firearm.

19. DICK FROM SOUTH CAROLINA (1916)

Screen Shot 2016-12-09 at 2.18.01 PM.png

The County Record, Dec. 21, 1916

No, Santa certainly wouldn’t want to get “fastened in” the chimney.

20. JOHN FROM NEW MEXICO (1918)

Screen Shot 2016-12-09 at 12.07.57 PM.png

World War I devastated Western Europe, decimating a generation of young men—and apparently killing the French Santa Claus.

21. MARY FROM NEW MEXICO (1922)

Screen Shot 2016-12-09 at 3.13.18 PM.png

The Carlsbad Current, Dec. 15, 1922

Come on, Mary, Santa’s not a mind reader.

22. JEWEL FROM NEW MEXICO (1922)

Screen Shot 2016-12-09 at 3.14.37 PM.png

The Carlsbad Current, Dec. 15, 1922

No apology for the door-slamming incident. That might have helped your cause, Jewel.

23. R.B. FROM NEW MEXICO (1922)

Screen Shot 2016-12-09 at 3.15.15 PM.png

The Carlsbad Current, Dec. 15, 1922

R.B. is very thoughtful to provide such specific instructions; otherwise, Santa might get confused.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios