Saturday, November 12, 2005

History of Puerto Rico

History of Puerto Rico. This is a short and strange history of the American commonwealth of Puerto Rico. There appears to be several hundred years of history missing.

Wikipedia notes, "Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (Spanish: Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico) is a self-governing unincorporated organized territory of the United States located east of the Dominican Republic in the northeastern Caribbean. Puerto Rico, the smallest of the Greater Antilles, includes the main island of Puerto Rico and a number of smaller islands and keys, including Mona, Vieques, and Culebra."

From the site:

On 16 Nov., 1493, on his second voyage, the mountain El Yunque, on the north-east coast of the island then known as Boriquen, was seen by Columbus, whose fleet anchored in the port near Aguadilla. A monument erected in the fourth century of the discovery marks the site between Aguada and Aguadilla, where presumably the admiral took possession of the newly discovered territory in the name of his sovereign. The island was named San Juan in honour of St. John the Baptist.

Among those who accompanied Columbus was Vincent Yañez, the younger of the brothers Pinzon, who had commanded the ill-fated "Niña" on the voyage of the year previous. In 1499 a royal permit was granted him to fit out a fleet to explore the region south of the lands discovered by Columbus. After coasting along the shores of Brazil and advancing up the River Amazon, then called Marañon, he returned by way of Hispaniola, to be driven for refuge from storm into the port of Aguada.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Happy Armistice Day!

Today marks the anniversary of the end of the First World War. Armistice Day is recognized in the United States of America as Veteran's Day and in most of the Commonwealth countries (including Canada) as Remembrance Day.

On November 11th, 1918 at 11:11 am the armistice went into effect and World War I ended. Over 15.1 million deaths are attributed to the war of which 6.5 million were civilian. Many of surviving soldiers had endured years of brutal trench warfare facing cold winters, gas attacks, and the 1918 super flu outbreak.

Here are a couple of good sites with Armistice Day information:

Remembrance Day - Australian site with many links for World War I and its impact on Australians. Covers the history of remembrance Day and why its name was changed from Armistice Day.

Millions fall silent in memory of war dead - CNN account of Armistice Day by Europeans in 2000.

FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT'S ARMISTICE DAY ADDRESS - FDR gave this speech less than one month before the USA entered World War Two.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Comment Moderation

Just a note that Blogger now has comment moderation enabled. I have turned it on. This means that I will have to manually approve every comment before it appears. I check my e-mail frequently (I will receive automatic messages when a comment is left) and I promise that except for rare occasions I will approve or reject a post fairly quickly.

When will I reject a post? Only if the post contains comment spam or has hate speech in it. That is all. Feel free to call me stupid or ridicule my viewpoint. I have a thick skin. But I have no tolerance for spammers or those who post incendiary material just for the sake of conflict.

UPDATE on 11 November 2005

As I now have two levels of spam protection, word verification and comment moderation, I am going to open up comments to anonymous posters. I see no harm in this now as anonymous posters will not be able to successfully abuse the comments.

Andes Web Pages

Andes Web Pages - Andes related articles and photo galleries by James Q. Jacobs, covering archeological sites, history, prehistory and cosmology. Includes information on the lost cities of Machu Picchu and Tiwanaku as well as an account of the last Incan ruler, Tupac Amaru.

The photo galleries are of good quality and each picture has annotations explaining what the photograph is about. Each gallery has an accompanying essay as well.

From the site:

Several times during Andean prehistory people coalesced into large political entities. It is therefore possible to consider an Andean civilization and tradition. One indicator of this social and political unity is Quechua, presently spoken by some 10 million people from Ecuador to Argentina, a distance of thousands of miles. Quechua refers to the mountain zone between 3,000 and 11,000 feet in the Andes of South America. Only in historic times has the term been applied to Runa Simi, the language of the Inca civilization. Most of the descendants of the Indians of the Incan realm are the present-day Aymara and Quechua speaking peoples of the Andes. Quechua speakers constitute almost half the population of Perú. Aymara and Quechua traditions are very similar and were unified under the Incas and possibly under previous political centers, particularly Tiwanaku.

The Andean region produced a unique emergence of civilizations at an early date. A pre-agrarian, pre-ceramic adaptation to rich, easily accessible maritime resources coupled with a vertical adaptation to nearby stacked mountain resource zones enabled very early sedentary communities to develop along the Pacific coast. Populations grew to 1,000 to 3,000 person villages and large monumental architecture developed. Contemporaneous to the construction of pyramids in Egypt and ziggurats in Mesopotamia, Peruvian coastal communities cyclically renovated ever larger pyramidal platform mounds. Aspero, a large early center with platform mounds, has 4800 to 5000 BP. carbon 14 dates from late phase construction.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

History of San Marino


History of San Marino. This is a history of the tiny European microstate of San Marino. Although it controls only a small amount of territory encompassed entirely by Italy, it has a long history going back to 301 AD.

Wikipedia notes, "The Most Serene Republic of San Marino or San Marino (Italian: Serenissima Repubblica di San Marino or San Marino) is one of the smallest nations in the world. Located in southern Europe, it is landlocked by Italy, and is one of the European microstates."

From the site:

According to tradition, San Marino was founded in AD 301 when a Christian stonemason named Marinus the Dalmatian fled to the island of Arbe to escape the anti-Christian Roman Emperor Diocletian. Marinus hid on the peak of Mount Titano and founded a small community of people following their Christian beliefs. It is certain that the area had been inhabited since prehistoric times, although evidence of existence on Mount Titano only dates back to the Middle Ages. In memory of the stonecutter, the land was renamed "Land of San Marino," and was finally changed to its present-day name, "Republic of San Marino."

The original government structure was composed of a self-governed assembly known as the Arengo, which consisted of the heads of each family. In 1243, the positions of Captains Regent (Capitani Reggenti) were established to be the joint heads of state.

The land area of San Marino consisted only of Mount Titano until 1463, at which time the republic entered into an alliance against Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, Lord of Rimini, who was later defeated. As a result, Pope Pius II Piccolomini gave San Marino the towns of Fiorentino, Montegiardino, and Serravalle. Later that year, the town of Faetano joined the republic on its own accord. Since then, the size of San Marino has remained unchanged.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Rural and urban elites in England during the later Middle Ages

Rural and urban elites in England during the later Middle Ages - Transcript of a lecture that largely deals with the interaction between rural and urban elites in Medieval England. It touches on aspects of the daily lives of these classes such as incomes, taxes and municipal issues.

The author of this talk is Richard Britnell who is an Emeritus Professor at Durham University in the United Kingdom.

From the site:

Until the twelfth century, at least outside London, it is difficult to define an English urban elite distinct from the rural elite. This is because the towns were characteristically administered directly to the profit of the king or of noblemen and leading churchmen. But from the point when towns started to acquire significant rights of self-government in the twelfth century the emergence of a separate urban elite was inevitable. Townsmen elected their officers from their own number, and that invariably meant from the wealthiest among them. Borough officers and councillors were expected to be chosen 'from the more discreet men of the city' (London, 1200), 'from the better, more discreet and more powerful (potenciores) of the town' (Ipswich, c. 1200), 'from the more discreet and better of their town' (Northampton, 1215). In this context 'better' (meliores) means 'more powerful' or 'more influential'. As in the countryside, therefore, there was a close correspondence between economic and political power amongst the urban elite. But the leading officers of each borough were never autonomous authorities; they were always directly responsible to the king or some other lord.

Between 1200 and 1550, however, it also became more common for borough affairs to be managed by elected councils, often of twelve or twenty-four members. This development gave elites more formal definition; the size of the council could be tailored to correspond to the size of the town, to the point that membership of the council virtually defined elite status. Borough councils are recorded in London, Ipswich and Northampton by the time of King John's death in 1216, and at nine other English towns by 1300. Such councils became a usual feature of urban government in the following centuries, no doubt under the influence of increasingly commonplace ideas about the importance of the king's council in the government of the realm. Often they were created in the first instance to resolve some particular problem. In Winchester the need for a formal council was apparently born from political tensions within the city in the 1260s and 1270s. At Colchester, where an elected council was first instituted in 1372, the reason was specifically to monitor borough finances. In some cases, as at Grimsby, where a council is first recorded in 1403, there was little apparent need for this extra formality, and the innovation was probably no more than a way of enhancing the honour of the leading burgesses by bringing them into line with their peers elsewhere.

Monday, November 07, 2005

The Amarna Site

The Amarna Site - Discusses the 'Heretic Pharaoh' Akhenaten, his family, and the Amarna revolution. Includes original photographs and information on Amarna collections.

The historical focus on this Pharaoh is very much a product of Western bias. I remember studying this ruler in elementary school and the teacher making a big deal about how enlightened Akhenaten was because he advocated the worship of only one god. The view was that the change from polytheism to monotheism was a big enlightened move. The Egyptians did not think so though. As soon as the Pharaoh died, his religious revolution was undone.

And it makes one wonder, if the change from multiple gods to one god was progress, then isn't the move from one god to none even better? I would argue that it is not. However, this example shows how ancient history is often viewed through a western religious lense. Ankanaten would be a minor Pharaoh today with few studying him without this bias.

From the site:

Virtually no phase in the history of our planet's civilisations has so many unanswered questions, and attracts so many theories, as the Egyptian 'Amarna Period' when the Heretic Pharaoh Akhenaten turned away from the traditional gods and embraced his one god, the Aten sun disk.

Why did he turn his back on the existing Gods and close their temples, what was the relationship between Akhenaten and Tutankhamun, and what was the real reason for the apparent massive anti-Atenist backlash that followed his death?

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Google Print

Oh, the world is changing...

I have spent most of today browsing Google Print. And I am amazed.

Here is a description of the project from the Google Blog:

"The world's libraries are a tremendous source of knowledge, much of which has never been available online. One of our goals for Google Print is to change that, and today we've taken an exciting step toward meeting it: making available a number of public domain books that were never subject to copyright or whose copyright has expired. We can show every page because these books are in the public domain. (For books not in the public domain we only show small snippets of the work unless the publisher or copyright holder has given us permission to show more.)"

"Our partner libraries –- the University of Michigan, Stanford, Harvard, the New York Public Library, and Oxford –- have preserved and nurtured these books through decades of wear and tear, and we're excited to play a part in ensuring that they, and the knowledge they contain, will be more accessible than ever for decades to come."

Google is still early in this project but there is a ton of information online already. Historians are going to have easy acces to everything published before 1923 (and hence in the public domain) and owned by a participating library when this is completed.

For example, I did a phrase search for "Abraham Lincoln" and limited it to the years 1840 to 1922. This resulted in over 9000 hits! Many of these were references to Lincoln in material not primarily about Lincoln but a lot of it was actual public domain books about him.

This is just overwhelming. The world has changed dramatically seemingly overnight. We all know that people get most of their information on the Web now. This has meant that books have been excluded when searches are done. Not anymore! As Google scans them in, they now also appear when you type in information in that box. Further, as copyright limits the transmission of information from newer books, it will invariably aim searchers to full-text public domain material. This will help to bring primary source material to the front of web searching.

I do have one complaint. Printing and copying text from the books is impossible. I fully understand this with books still under copyright. By all means, give the searcher just enough to encourage them to buy the book. But public domain books? Why not allow searchers to copy and print it? Many students (and scholars) will give up on Google Print if they have to manually retype everything they find to use it in a paper.

I will be using Google Print a lot. I have found a great deal of source material for several of my research projects I had no clue was out there before today. And I am a good library researcher! The world has changed. And I am liking it.