Handshakes in History
Famous and not so famous. Some of these meetings changed the world and some did not.
Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Neville Chamberlain & Edouard Daladier shook hands at a meeting in Munich on 29th September 1938 that decided the fate of Czechoslovakia. It was agreed not to obstruct Germany’s claim over the Sudeten area of Czechoslovakia. A timetable was set for the formal handover and the WW2 was effectively postponed for nearly a year. Less than six months later Germany annexed what remained of Bohemia & Moravia and turned Slovakia into a puppet state.
Brigham Young shook hands with Richard Burton the renowned explorer and adventurer in Salt Lake City on August 31st, 1860. Burton was there as he was intrigued by the nature of polygamy and since Young had 27 wives, who better was there to ask? Burton achieved fame for several accomplishments, among them the discovery of Lake Tanganyika, the translation into English of “The Kama Sutra” and the introduction into the English language of ‘pyjamas’ & ‘safari’.
Henry Stanley greeted Dr Livingstone with a handshake in Ujiji, Tanzania on November 10th, 1871, with immortal words “Doctor Livingstone, I presume” and Livingstone’s reply was “YES”. Henry Stanley, an American Journalist of Welsh birth, set out from Zanzibar in search of the missing missionary-explorer. He travelled 750 miles inland over 200 days, suffering malaria, starvation and dysentery along the way. When he eventually found him, Livingstone’s monosyllabic reply must have been somewhat of an anti-climax.
The ’Big Four’: Woodrow Wilson (USA), Henri Clemenceau (France), David Lloyd George (Britain) and Vittorio Orlando (Italy) shook hands in Paris on January 19th, 1919, that decided the terms of treaties that ended the WW1. The Treaty of Versailles, which resulted from the Paris Conference, was dictated by the victorious powers but pleased few people. Many in England and France felt that the penalties placed on Germany was not harsh enough, while the Germans felt that the penalties were far too harsh and resented being blamed for the war.
US Army soldiers crossed the river Elbe in Torgau, Germany on April 25th,1945, to shake hands with their Russian Allies. When this historic meeting between the Allies from East and West took place, it signalled the imminent end of the WW2 in Europe.
On July 17th, 1975, the handshake between Tom Stafford and Alexei Leonov was the first link up in space between USA and the USSR. Stafford was the commander of the American “Apollo’ mission that linked up in space with the Soviet ‘Soyuz 19’ commanded by Leonov.
Edgar Allen Poe, the famous American writer, shook hands with Charles Dickens in Philadelphia on March 6th, 1842. The meeting was arranged at the request of Poe who was trying to solicit Dickens’ help with the publication in England of his “Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque”. Although Dickens promised that he would help Poe, but nothing came of it. During his second visit to the USA in 1867, long after Poe’s death, Dickens gave money to Poe’s impoverished mother-in-law and later arranged US$ 1000 to be sent to her
Fifteen Nazis shook hands at a conference in Wannsee, Germany on January 20th 1942 and worked out in detail the systematic murder of the European Jewish population. Reinhard Heydrich, Chief of SS Intelligence, chaired this infamous meeting of security chiefs and civil servants. Minuted carefully by Adolf Eichmann, this conference worked out details of the implementation of ‘The Final Solution’.
The Four men met and shook hands at Eleanor Bull’s house in Deptford, England on May 30th 1593, the day would end tragically for English playwright Christopher Marlow. He met Frizer, Nicholas Skeres and Robert Poley in the morning and spent the rest of the day together in a private conversation. That evening, Marlowe attacked Frizer in an argument over payment for the day’s meals. In the ensuing scuffle, Marlowe was fatally stabbed to death. He has been a subject of various conspiracy theories ever since, emanating from suggestions that he was involved in an espionage.
Henry VIII of England & Francois I of France shook hands before they wrestled each other in Guisnes, France, early June, 1520. The bout happened at some point during the negotiations “The Field of the Cloth of Gold”. Ostensibly arranged to discuss an alliance of France and England against the Holy Roman Empire. Henry challenged Francois to a wresting bout but when he lost, his hurt pride meant that the negotiations were doomed. A month later, England signed an alliance with the Holy Roman Empire against France.
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