Saturday, August 13, 2005

Medieval Bestiary: Animals in the Middle Ages

Medieval Bestiary: Animals in the Middle Ages - Annotated listing of materials related to the genre and on the subject of "animals in the Middle Ages" in general. Also listings are by author and subject.

The annotations are well done although not all entries are annotated. In addition, web sites are included as well as books and periodicals.

From the site:

In the Middle Ages, animal stories were immensely popular throughout Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. The people of the time were, of course, dependent on wild and domestic animals for their survival, and so had an obvious interest in the animals around them. But there is more to it than just a requirement for knowledge of the animals they knew and used; there is a distinctly spiritual and even mystical aspect to the animal lore of the Middle Ages.

The medieval period was intensely religious. In western Europe, the religion was Christianity; in North Africa and the Middle East it was primarily Islam. The Jews and their religion were found almost everywhere, living among Christians and Muslims, sometimes tolerated, sometimes not. Despite the frequent violence between them, all three religions were closely related and shared many of the same spiritual and historical texts. In particular, all three considered all or most of the Hebrew Bible (called the Old Testament by Christians), which contains many references to animals, to be sacred.

Friday, August 12, 2005

History of Sweden

History of Sweden. This is an essay which covers the history of the European nation of Sweden.

Wikipedia notes, "The Kingdom of Sweden is a Nordic country in Scandinavia, in Northern Europe. It is bordered by Norway on the west, Finland on the northeast, the Skagerrak Strait and the Kattegat Strait on the southwest, and the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia on the east. Sweden has a low population density in all but its metropolitan areas, with most of the inland consisting of forests and mountainous wilderness."

From the site:

During the seventh and eighth centuries, the Swedes were merchant seamen well known for their far-reaching trade. In the ninth century, Nordic Vikings raided and ravaged the European Continent as far as the Black and Caspian Seas. During the 11th and 12th centuries, Sweden gradually became a unified Christian kingdom that later included Finland. Queen Margaret of Denmark united all the Nordic lands in the "Kalmar Union" in 1397. Continual tension within the countries and within the union gradually led to open conflict between the Swedes and the Danes in the 15th century. The union's final disintegration in the early 16th century brought on a long-lived rivalry between Norway and Denmark on one side and Sweden and Finland on the other

In the 16th century, Gustav Vasa fought for an independent Sweden crushing an attempt to restore the Kalmar Union and laying the foundation for modern Sweden. At the same time, he broke with the Catholic Church and established the Reformation. During the 17th century, after winning wars against Denmark, Russia, and Poland, Sweden-Finland (with scarcely more than 1 million inhabitants) emerged as a great power. Its contributions during the Thirty Years War under Gustav II Adolf (Gustavus Adolphus) determined the political as well as the religious balance of power in Europe. By 1658, Sweden ruled several provinces of Denmark as well as what is now Finland, Ingermanland (in which St. Petersburg is located), Estonia, Latvia, and important coastal towns and other areas of northern Germany.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Ninja of Ancient Japan

The Ninja of Ancient Japan - Lists the origins of the ninja, their weapons, history, and famous ninja. Please note the author of this has repeatedly misspelled ancient. I have taken the liberty of correcting it here.

It is of interest that President Clinton spoke about ninjas. He said, "It would scare the shit out of al Qaeda if suddenly a bunch of black ninjas rappelled out of helicopters in to the middle of their camp. It would get us an enormous deterrence and show those guys we're not afraid."

I am not sure how al Qaeda feels about ninjas, but I know ninjas are certainly big in popular culture today.

From the site:

Of Japan before the fifth century little is known. It was then in the 400s that Chinese scholars were invited over and began to instruct the Japanese in writing and Chinese styles of art and architecture as well as Chinese methods of war. Between the 5th and 8th centuries Japanese culture as we know it today began to develop. The last development came between the 8th and 10th centuries when Japanese warriors who since the 500s wore armour and carried weaponry that were similar to those of Chinese and Korean soldiers, began to develop their own distinctive military ware and code of ethics to become what was to be one of the most ferocious warrior classes of medieval times. The samurai.

By the early medieval period Japan was divided up among many warlords known as Daimyo. Each daimyo ruled over huge armies of his own samurai, all of whom obeyed their lord with the upmost loyalty. According to the Japanese military code of honour known as Bushido (which means ‘the way of the warrior’), each samurai was expected to be ever loyal to his master and to his companions without question. He was to hold his life and even the life of his family in contempt. he would if ordered fight to the death and even take his own life or again if ordered even kill his own wife and children with out hesitation. (One story is told of a samurai who learning that his lord’s son was in danger placed his own son into the hands of his lord’s enemies, saving his lord’s son but delivering his own to certain death.). A samurai was expected to follow his own master’s orders even if they were morally wrong. Even if, according to the 18th century military philosopher, Yamamoto Jucho, it meant following his master to hell itself.

But the code of Bushido was also was a code of respect and fairplay, if only towards samurai. No samurai was suppost to kill another in cold blood and many samurai were reluctant to engage in various aspects of warfare which they regarded as cowardice even if it meant disobeying their lord. Such areas of warfare such as spying and assassination and other forms of covert warfare were regarded as distasteful to many samurai. So many daimyo began to look elsewhere for their spies and assassins.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Periodical Historical Atlas of Europe

Periodical Historical Atlas of Europe - Maps showing political status of Europe and Mediterranean basin at the end of each century from AD 1 to AD 2000, plus maps of historical battle sites. Site is in both English and French.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Mexican War

The Mexican War - National Park Service overview that covers Zachary Taylor's army, the Army of the West, and the Invasion of Mexico City. It includes a map, links, and suggested readings.

Although this war is called the Mexican War, shouldn't it be called the Mexican-American War instead? Do they call it the Mexican War in Mexico? That wouldn't make much sense.

From the site:

On March 24, 1846, an American army commanded by General Zachary Taylor encamped along the northern banks of the Rio Grande, directly across the river from Mexican soldiers. Within a month, hostilities commenced: a large body of Mexican cavalrymen attacked a patrol of dragoons on April 23. Declaring that "American blood had been shed on American soil", President Polk addressed Congress, who declared war on May 13, 1846.

The Mexican-American War was born from the nation's quest for new territory and it's ambition to stretch coast to coast. Questions about Texan independence, disputed territory along the Rio Grande, and revolts in California also contributed to the conflict. The war essentially consisted of three different campaigns. Soldiers once stationed at Fort Scott played a role in each of these campaigns.

Monday, August 08, 2005

The Roman Invasions of Britain

The Roman Invasions of Britain - Corinne Mills and Richard Hayton draw on contemporary sources to describe the Julian landings of 55 and 54 BC and the Claudian invasion of 43 AD. There is a bibliography included.

Julius Caesar invaded Britain first but found himself unable to occupy the country as his legions were needed back in Gaul. The Roman Emperor Claudius was more successful as he added the country to the Empire as a new province.

From the site:

When attempting to provide a narrative of the advent of the Romano-British period, it is necessary to look at the Classical sources, whether or not they can be relied upon. They provide the only written record of events, which were to alter irrevocably, the history, the future of the British Isles. It is the intention of this narrative however, not simply to repeat what is, seemingly accepted by the majority of people, but to bring it up to date, as far as current theories, archaeology, and research will permit. The Classical sources are without doubt very useful tools, somewhere to start looking for the answers to the questions: what happened, why did events happen as they did, when did they happen, and where did they happen. It is necessary also, to provide the scenario, the backdrop of the Britain upon which, the might of the Roman legions was about to fall, bringing to a close that period called ‘Prehistoric’, ‘Iron-age’, ‘the time of the Barbarians.’ The Classical sources available to the scholar, include, Caesar’s Gallic Wars, the Annals and Histories of Tacitus, Strabo’s Geographica, Cassius Dio, and Suetonius’s biographies, all of which provide aspects, which are relevant here.

Although it is accepted by many that Britain was a Celtic country, that term in it-self, is now considered to be an over generalisation. There were many cultural, religious, artistic and blood links between the peoples of Britain, and the peoples of continental Europe, Gaul in particular. However, each people, each tribe, was a culture unto itself also, each with it’s own distinctive identity. The main arena of the events about to unfold, is the parts of the British Isles, which are now the counties of Kent and East Sussex, on the south coast, and which have the river Thames to their north together with those parts which bordered the northern bank of the Thames.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

History of Turkmenistan

History of Turkmenistan. This is a decent short essay on the history of the Asian nation of Turkmenistan.

Wikipedia notes that, "Turkmenistan, formerly known as the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic is a country in Central Asia. It has borders with Afghanistan, Iran (Persia), Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and has a coastline on the Caspian Sea."

From the site:

The territory of Turkmenistan has been populated since ancient times, as armies from one empire to another decamped on their way to more prosperous territories. Tribes of horsebreeding Turkmen drifted into the territory of Turkmenistan from ancient times, possibly from the Altay Mountains, and grazed along the outskirts of the Karakum Desert into Persia, Syria, and Anatolia.

Alexander the Great conquered the territory in the 4th century B.C. on his way to India. One hundred fifty years later the Parthian Kingdom took control of Turkmenistan, establishing its capital in Nisa, an area now located in the suburbs of the modern-day capital of Ashgabat. In the 7th century A.D. Arabs conquered this region, bringing with them the Islamic religion and incorporating the Turkmen into Middle Eastern culture. It was around this time that the famous "Silk Road" was established as a major trading route between Asia and Europe.

In the middle of the 11th century, the powerful Turks of the Seldjuk Empire concentrated their strength in the territory of Turkmenistan in an attempt to expand into Afghanistan. The empire broke down in the second half of the 12th century, and the Turkmen lost their independence when Genghis Khan took control of the eastern Caspian Sea region on his march west. For the next 7 centuries, the Turkmen people lived under various empires and fought constant intertribal wars amongst themselves.