Saturday, July 02, 2005

You Don’t Know Jack

You Don’t Know Jack. This is an interesting history article from Modern Drunkard Magazine. I have to admit that there have been several interesting history essays (relating to alcohol of course) at this site. I haven't attempted to fact check any of them but they are good reads.

This article provides a biography of whiskey maker Jack Daniels. He lived an interesting life. For example, his famous appearance was a result of his height. The author wrote, "Jasper “Jack” Newton Daniel was born in 1849 in the small town of Lynchburg, TN, the youngest of ten children. He was also the smallest, only reaching a height of 5 feet 1 inch. Well into adulthood, people regularly mistook him for a teenager, prompting him to grow his trademark black goatee and long, drooping, mustache."

Jack Daniels was forced to live off of the kindness of neighbors and strangers because as a teenager his family was devastated by the Civil War. One of these helpful families taught him to make whiskey. The author wrote, "The last family he’d live with, however, the Calls, managed to teach Jack not only a valuable skill, but one he actually enjoyed. Down in the hollow of the aptly named Stillhouse Creek, Dan Call taught Jack Daniel how to make sour mash."

During reconstruction, Jack Daniels often had to bribe Union officials and ex-confederate gangs to get his product to market. The Klan was the biggest obstacle though. The author wrote, "These guerrillas were bellicose and bloody-minded, but couldn’t hold a candle to yet another group skittering around the backwaters of the South in those days—the Ku Klux Klan. This gaggle of buffoons wanted to control all of the liquor in the South because they had gotten it into their heads that liquor made black men chase white women. On more than one occasion, Jack was forced at rifle-point to hand over his entire shipment to placate a Klansmen."

The amusing writing style continues and explores the rest of the main events in Jack Daniels life including the growth of his business into a world renowned name. The article itself begins and ends with a campaign against current Jack Daniels management for diluting the alcohol content of the current product but the rest of the article is an interesting history read.

Friday, July 01, 2005

History of Vietnam

History of Vietnam. This essay is supposed to be about the history of Vietnam. It is but it gives short treatment to most of Vietnamese history and focuses on the 20th Century. There is nothing wrong with that but I thought I would point out the obvious weakness of the coverage.

From the site:

Vietnam's identity has been shaped by long-running conflicts, both internally and with foreign forces. In 111 BC, China's Han dynasty conquered northern Vietnam's Red River Delta and the ancestors of today's Vietnamese. Chinese dynasties ruled Vietnam for the next 1,000 years, inculcating it with Confucian ideas and political culture. In 939 AD, Vietnam achieved independence under a native dynasty. After 1471, when Vietnam conquered the Champa Kingdom in what is now central Vietnam, the Vietnamese moved gradually southward, finally reaching the rich Mekong Delta, encountering there earlier settled Cham and Cambodians. While Vietnam's emperors reigned ineffectually, powerful northern and southern families fought civil wars in the 17th and 18th centuries.

In 1858, the French began their conquest of Vietnam starting in the south. They annexed all of Vietnam in 1885, but allowed Vietnam's emperors to continue to reign, although not actually to rule. In the early 20th century, French-educated Vietnamese intellectuals organized nationalist and communist-nationalist anti-colonial movements.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Plague and Public Health in Renaissance Europe

Plague and Public Health in Renaissance Europe - This project involves the creation of a hypertext archive of narratives, medical consilia, governmental records, religious and spiritual writings and images documenting the arrival, impact and response to the problem of epidemic disease in Western Europe between 1348 and 1530.

I have often wondered how different history would have been if the plague had not hit Europe so hard and often in the Middle Ages.

Some theorize that the plague helped to kill feudalism as there were not enough living serfs to support it. This may be true.

I also know that the repeated plagues hurt the military strength of the Christian nations harder than the Islamic nations. Did the plague give the Muslim armies an edge? Would the Turks have been as successful in Eastern Europe if more Christians had survived the plague?

From the site:

The coming of the Black Death, when in just two years perhaps one third to one half of Europe's population was destroyed, marks a watershed in Medieval and Renaissance European History. Bubonic plague (Yersinia pestis) had been absent from Western Europe for nearly a millenium when it appeared in 1348. The reaction was immediate and devastating. Up to two thirds of the population of many of the major European cities succumbed to the plague in the first two years. Government, trade and commerce virtually came to a halt.

Even more devastating to Europeans, there was hardly a generation which did not experience a local, regional or pan-European epidemic for the next two hundred years. There was virtually no aspect of European society that was not affected by the coming of plague and by its duration. At the most basic level, recurrent plague tended to skim off significant portions of the children born between infestations of plague, dampening economic and demographic growth in most parts of Europe until the late seventeenth century. The responses of Europeans are often treated as irrational or superstitious. Yet medical tracts, moral treatises and papal proclamations make clear that for most Europeans there were, within the medieval world view, rational explanations for what was happening.

Plague stimulated chroniclers, poets and authors, and physicians to write about what might have caused the plague and how the plague affected the population at large the framing story of Boccaccio's Decameron is merely the most famous of the writings. Nonetheless, in the wake of the first infestations there were attacks on women lepers and Jews who were thought either to have deliberately spread the plague or, because of their innate dishonor, to have polluted society and brought on God's vengeance. The violence against outsiders demonstrated, in a tragically negative manner, the nature and the limits of citizenship in Europe. This was a society which defined itself as Christian and recurrent plague changed religious practice, if not belief.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Slavery in the Roman Empire

Slavery in the Roman Empire - This is an article by John Madden which looks at the origins and numbers of the slaves in the Roman Empire.

A couple of items surprised me. I did not realize that Roman slaves had such a low birthrate. Madden wrote, "Another reason for thinking that the slave population did not reproduce itself in sufficient numbers is that female slaves, on the available evidence (limited admittedly), do not seem to have been very prolific. "

This low birthrate amongst slaves coupled with high mortality rates meant the Romans were always looking for new sources of slaves. This slaves could come from war, penal convictions, and foreign purchases.

One source included enslaving infants that parents did not want . Wrote Madden, "The abandonment of infants was widespread over much of the Roman world, and, no doubt, occurred even more frequently whenever circumstances became especially difficult. The custom was not made illegal until AD 374. Abandoned children usually either died or were made slaves, but the percentage in each group is beyond recall."

From the site:

Though slavery was a prevailing feature of all Mediterranean countries in antiquity, the Romans had more slaves and depended more on them than any other people.

It is impossible, however, to put an accurate figure on the number of slaves owned by the Romans at any given period: for the early Empire with which we are concerned conditions varied from time to time and from place to place. Yet, some estimates for Rome, Italy, and the Empire are worth attempting. The largest numbers were of course in Italy and especially in the capital itself. In Rome there were great numbers in the imperial household and in the civil service - the normal staff on the aqueducts alone numbered 700 (Frontin. Aq. 116-7). Certain rich private individuals too had large numbers - as much for ostentation as for work (Sen. Ep.110.17). Pedanius Secundus, City Prefect in AD 61, kept 400 slaves (Tac. Ann. 14.43.4), Gaius Caecilius Isidorus, freedman of Gaius Caecilius, left 4116 in his will in 8 BC, while some owners had so many that a nomenclator had to be used to identify them (Pliny HN 33.135; 33.26). However, there is evidence to suggest that these cases were not typical - even for great houses. Sepulchral inscriptions for the rich noble gens the Statilii list a total of approximately 428 slaves and freedpersons from 40 BC to AD 65. When these figures are analysed, the number of slaves and freedpersons definitely owned by individual members of the gens is small, e.g. Statilius Taurus Sisenna (consul of AD 16) and his son had six, Statilius Taurus Corvinus (consul ordinarius of AD 45) had eight, and Statilia Messalina, wife of Nero, four or five. Seneca, a man of extraordinary wealth, believed he was travelling frugally when he had with him one cartload of slaves (most likely four or five) (Ep 87.2). References in Juvenal and the Scriptores Historiae Augustae suggest that many non-plebeian Romans had either no slave or merely one or two (Sat. 3.286; 9.64-67,142-7; S.H.A. Hadr.17.6). From evidence such as this Westermann, Hopkins and others are understandably cautious when attempting to come to a total figure for slaves in the city of Rome in the 1st century AD. Hopkins' estimate of 300,000-350,000 out of a population of about 900,000-950,000 at the time of Augustus seems plausible.

The same kind of caution needs to be exercised in attempting to arrive at a figure for slaves in Italy for the same period. Passages in the Satyricon (e.g. 37;47;53) would suggest that some households had vast numbers. But that work is of course fiction - though the references to slave numbers there can only have point if certain private individuals did own a lot of slaves. Overall, a figure of around two million slaves out of a population of about six million at the time of Augustus would perhaps seem right (again we follow Hopkins). If so, approximately one in every three persons in Rome and Italy was a slave.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Lindbergh Kidnapping: The Theft of the Eaglet

The Lindbergh Kidnapping: The Theft of the Eaglet. The kidnap and murder of Charles A. Lindbergh's son: the crime, the evidence and the trial of Bruno Hauptmann. Includes photos and bibliography.

Did Bruno Hauptmann kill the child? He paid with his life for this crime but was he the murderer?

There are still a lot of people who doubt he was the killer. One theory (Crime of the Century: The Lindbergh Kidnapping Hoax) claims Lindbergh killed his own son by accident and then tried to hide the evidence. Another theory doesn't finger a killer but claims that Hauptmann was an innocent man railroaded by a desperate criminal justice system. (Read the book Murder of Justice for a summary.) The most crazy theory (Lindbergh: The Crime) claims that Lindbergh's older sister killed the baby.

From the site:

The Lindbergh case, the "Crime of the Century," is not so much about the kidnapped and murdered child as it is about America's hero, Charles Lindbergh, the first man to fly the Atlantic alone, in a small, fragile, one-engine airplane, a feat so venerated that the plane occupies a prominent position in the Air and Space Museum. It is the story of a shy national icon caught in a wave of publicity then unknown in American journalism, now expanded beyond print to include the influential voice of radio. The case remains a memorable crime because it involved not only Lindbergh, the hero, but the accused, Bruno Richard Hauptmann, a German immigrant, convicted and executed, whose guilt to this day, in the minds of many, remains an unanswered question.

Like many crimes sustained in our history, the victim becomes less important than the participants. Its immortality is not only in the unresolved question about the accused killer, but in the checkered careers of the victim's father and mother. The father, the "Lone Eagle," spends the rest of his forty years as an appeaser, an isolationist, and an environmentalist.

Monday, June 27, 2005

History of Zambia

History of Zambia. This is a good essay which presents an overview to the history of the African nation of Zambia.

From the site:

The indigenous hunter-gatherer occupants of Zambia began to be displaced or absorbed by more advanced migrating tribes about 2,000 years ago. The major waves of Bantu-speaking immigrants began in the 15th century, with the greatest influx between the late 17th and early 19th centuries. They came primarily from the Luba and Lunda tribes of southern Democratic Republic of Congo and northern Angola but were joined in the 19th century by Ngoni peoples from the south. By the latter part of that century, the various peoples of Zambia were largely established in the areas they currently occupy.

Except for an occasional Portuguese explorer, the area lay untouched by Europeans for centuries. After the mid-19th century, it was penetrated by Western explorers, missionaries, and traders. David Livingstone, in 1855, was the first European to see the magnificent waterfalls on the Zambezi River. He named the falls after Queen Victoria, and the Zambian town near the falls is named after him.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Peninsular War 1808-1814

The Peninsular War 1808-1814 - A well presented history of the war with extra information on many of the battles, including photographs of the battlefields and guidance for modern-day visitors. This war in Spain would prove to be a bad decision by Napoleon. It all started because he wanted to put his brother Jospeh on the Spanish Throne. But the Spanish had other ideas...

From the site:

By the year 1808 France had achieved domination over the great majority of continental Europe. Through victories at Ulm (1805), Austerlitz (1805), Jena-Auerst├Ądt (1806) and Friedland (1807) her armies had successively eliminated Austria, Prussia and Russia as military opponents. Britain alone had withstood the power of France, achieving security against invasion through Nelson's victory over the combined French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar (1805).

The tide began to turn in 1808 when Napoleon created a new enemy by usurping the Spanish throne in favour of his brother Joseph. The Spanish uprising that followed encouraged Britain to send an expeditionary force to the Iberian Peninsula. The ensuing war was to play a major part in Napoleon's downfall.

The road to war began in the autumn of 1807 when Napoleon moved French troops through Spain to invade Portugal. After feeding more than 100,000 troops into Spain under the pretext of supporting the invasion, Napoleon deposed the existing Spanish monarch in April 1808 in order to place his own brother Joseph on the throne. Although the ensuing Spanish uprising can hardly have come as a surprise to Napoleon, he failed to see that the revolt could never be completely suppressed.