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History of 3rd August- The First English Letter

History of 3rd August- The First English Letter

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3rd Aug

This episode delves into the history of 3rd August which includes the fascinating history of postal systems, tracing their origins back to ancient civilizations and highlighting their crucial role in shaping the course of history. It focuses on the remarkable journey of the postal system from ancient courier services to the first known letter from the New World.

The history of 3rd August takes us to the year 435 when on this day Deposed Patriarch of Constantinople Nestorius, considered the originator of Nestorianism was exiled by Byzantine Emperor Theodosius II to a monastery in Egypt. Nestorianism envisages the divine Word as having associated with itself at the Incarnation a complete, independently existing man. From the orthodox point of view, Nestorianism, therefore, denies the reality of the Incarnation and represents Christ as a God-inspired man rather than as a God-made man.

Moving on with the history of 3rd August we come to the year 1492 when on this Christopher Columbus with Juan de la Cosa as second-in-command sets sail on his first voyage with three ships, Santa María, Pinta, and Niña from Palos de la Frontera, Spain for the discovery of India.

With this, I come to the feature story from the history of 3rd August.

The First Known Letter from the New World: A Remarkable Journey through Time and Space

In the age of instant communication, it is easy to take our modern postal system for granted. We can send emails, make phone calls, or send text messages with the click of a button, and our messages reach their destinations almost instantaneously. However, the history of the postal system is a fascinating journey through time and space, one that dates back to ancient civilizations and has played a crucial role in expanding, consolidating, and controlling territories.

The roots of organized courier services for the dissemination of written documents can be traced back to ancient Egypt, where Pharaohs used couriers to spread their decrees throughout the state as early as 2400 BCE. The first surviving piece of mail also comes from ancient Egypt and dates to 255 BCE, giving us a glimpse into the early stages of this system.

One of the most well-documented ancient postal systems was developed in Ancient Persia by King Cyrus the Great around 550 BCE. He mandated that every province in his kingdom would organize reception and delivery of mail to its citizens, and he even negotiated with neighboring countries to do the same. The Persian system utilized stations and message carriers called “Chapar” who would ride to the next post, swapping horses for maximum speed and efficiency.

The Mauryan Empire in ancient India also had a well-developed postal service, which was part of their efforts to enhance economic growth and political stability. The Mauryans built public wells, rest houses, and other facilities along with their mail service, showcasing their commitment to civil infrastructure.

Ancient Rome established its postal system during the reign of Augustus Caesar, and it was called “cursus publicus.” This system utilized light carriages pulled by fast horses for government correspondence and two-wheeled carts pulled by oxen for citizens.

In China, the Han Dynasty initiated an organized courier system with relay stations along major routes every 30 li (approximately 10 miles). The Tang Dynasty later operated an extensive postal network with over 1,600 posthouses and employed around 20,000 people. The Ming Dynasty sought to improve the speed, security, and cost of its postal system, and it had over 1,900 posthouses along major routes.

These ancient postal systems were indeed remarkable in their efficiency and scope, but they were limited to the territories controlled by a single nation. The real challenge arose when the need arose to send mail beyond national borders.

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The concept of a standardized international postal system was virtually unknown until the formation of the first Universal Postal Union (UPU) in 1874. Before that, some nations had individual postal treaties, but reliable transport across oceans and continents was a significant challenge. Sailing ships were dependent on the wind, and caravans could be vulnerable to bandits.

This brings us to a truly remarkable event in postal history – the letter written on August 3, 1527, in St. John’s, Newfoundland, by Captain John Rut and addressed to King Henry VIII of England. Captain Rut, an English mariner, was on an expedition to North America in search of the Northwest Passage. While in St. John’s, he wrote a letter to King Henry, reporting on his findings and his planned voyage southward to find his fellow explorer.

The letter from Captain Rut to King Henry VIII is not only historically significant for its content but also for being the earliest known letter written in English from the New World. It provides a rare glimpse into the early interactions between the Old World and the New World, at a time when communication and transport were slow and uncertain.

How did this letter make its way from St. John’s to England? The system of exchange between sailing captains and travelers, both on the sea and on land, played a crucial role. Captains would exchange letters between vessels on their outbound and return voyages while traveling scholars and merchants agreed to carry letters with them and exchange them with other travelers headed towards the intended recipient’s location. This system, though not as efficient as our modern postal services, demonstrated the resourcefulness and determination of early explorers and adventurers to stay connected across vast distances.

The postal system has come a long way since the days of ancient courier services, and the journey from those early times to the present day is nothing short of extraordinary. From the ancient empires to the first known letter from the New World, the postal system has played a pivotal role in shaping the course of history, enabling communication, trade, and the exchange of ideas across borders and time zones. As we continue to marvel at the efficiency of our modern postal system, let us also take a moment to appreciate the remarkable history that has led us to where we are today.

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