Saturday, November 26, 2005

History of Panama

History of Panama. This is a brief history of the Central American nation of Panama.

How Wall Street Created a Nation noted, "In 1900, a group of investors led by William Nelson Cromwell, the founder of the prestigious New York law firm, Sullivan & Cromwell, and the banker J.P. Morgan, created a secret syndicate of Wall Street financiers and politicians to buy the shares of the bankrupt French Panama Canal Company, which owned the right to build the Panama Canal, from thousands of small shareholders throughout Europe. They invested about $3.5 million and gained control of the company. The covert investors then spent the next three years getting the United States government to buy the holdings for $40 million, the payment of which would flow back to them. In order to do this, they first had to defeat an entrenched Nicaragua lobby. Nicaragua was the preferred route for the canal because of its two big lakes, and also because the French had already tried to build a canal in Panama but had failed miserably. And the U.S. was already on its way to building the canal in Nicaragua. The House of Representatives unanimously passed a Nicaragua canal bill, a treaty was signed with Nicaragua, President McKinley had already signed the bill, and the excavation had already began in Nicaragua. It was a done deal—until Cromwell arrived on Capitol Hill and began throwing money around. Senator Mark Dollar Hanna, who was at that time the chair of the Republican Party and probably the most powerful man in America, received $60,000, at the time the largest donation to any politician. In return, Hanna began a campaign to build the canal in Panama instead. U.S. policy was reversed, and in 1902, Congress decided that the Canal was to go through Panama. Only one problem—Panama was at the time a province of Colombia, and the United States needed Colombia's approval to move ahead. Teddy Roosevelt sent Cromwell, who stood to benefit financially from the deal, to negotiate with Colombia. Colombia balked, demanding more money. Cromwell decided to circumvent Colombia, and to instead get Panama to secede and create it's own country—which it did. What is shocking about this part of the story is that Wall Street planned, financed and executed the entire independence of Panama, Diaz says. In effect, Cromwell and J.P. Morgan hired Panama's Jefferson and Washington, a tale of intrigue that Diaz documents. Panama was declared a nation, Cromwell negotiated a canal treaty with his cronies, and made off with millions. (Or as Senator Samuel Hayakawa put it years later, we stole it, fair and square.)"

To this day, many Colombians claim Panama is an illegal nation due to the actions of the USA. They insist that as the action was illegal that Panama is still Colombian and that the USA owes Colombia billions for the use of the Canal Zone. They claim that Panama exists de facto but under international law it does not exist de juris. Of course, that is not how international law works. The international community fully recognizes Panama and that is the end of this debate.

From the site:

Panama's history has been shaped by the evolution of the world economy and the ambitions of great powers. Rodrigo de Bastidas, sailing westward from Venezuela in 1501 in search of gold, was the first European to explore the Isthmus of Panama. A year later, Christopher Columbus visited the isthmus and established a short-lived settlement in the Darien. Vasco Nunez de Balboa's tortuous trek from the Atlantic to the Pacific in 1513 demonstrated that the isthmus was, indeed, the path between the seas, and Panama quickly became the crossroads and marketplace of Spain's empire in the New World. Gold and silver were brought by ship from South America, hauled across the isthmus, and loaded aboard ships for Spain. The route became known as the Camino Real, or Royal Road, although was more commonly known as Camino de Cruces (Road of the Crosses) because of the frequency of gravesites along the way.

Panama was part of the Spanish empire for 300 years (1538-1821). From the outset, Panamanian identity was based on a sense of "geographic destiny," and Panamanian fortunes fluctuated with the geopolitical importance of the isthmus. The colonial experience also spawned Panamanian nationalism as well as a racially complex and highly stratified society, the source of internal conflicts that ran counter to the unifying force of nationalism.

Friday, November 25, 2005

The Mackenzie King Diary

The Mackenzie King Diary - This is an online exhibit from the National Archives of Canada. William Lyon Mackenzie King was Canada's Prime Minister from 1921-1926, 1926-1930 and 1935-1948.

His last term as Prime Minister of Canada put him in charge during World War II. Often overshadowed by the big three (FDR, Churchill, and Stalin), Mackenzie was also an important allied leader. He got Canada into the war early and Canadian troops participated in the liberation of Europe.

From the site:

Increasingly, William Lyon Mackenzie King is viewed as one of Canada's greatest Prime Ministers. However, King's accomplishments are not restricted to the realm of politics. Throughout his entire adult life, King was a dedicated - one might even say driven - writer. Although King was an exceedingly prolific correspondent and the author of numerous books and articles, by far his most important literary project was the ongoing, daily writing of his diary, which began in 1893, while he was an undergraduate at the University of Toronto, and ended in 1950, a few days before his death at his beloved Kingsmere Estate. Taken together, the diary texts comprise nearly 30,000 pages (more than 7,500,000 words) and arguably represent one of Canada's greatest literary achievements. According to the noted critic Robert Fulford, King's diary "might turn out to be the only Canadian work of our century that someone will look at in 500 years."

A Real Companion and Friend: The Diary of William Lyon Mackenzie King, 1893-1950 Web site serves to introduce King's extensive diary to contemporary readers. This background section of the Web site is intended to serve as an introduction, exploring these remarkable texts, both as revealing personal narratives and as an invaluable record of Canada's political and social history during six formative and crucial decades. Furthermore, it examines the little-known history of the diary as an archival document, including the decision to save the texts for posterity (contrary to King's stated wishes).

Thursday, November 24, 2005


Wildwinds - Archive with search function that lists Roman coins by Emperor or by Sear number, Greek coins by Sears number or city and Byzantine coins by Sears number and Ruler.

I have never been a coin collector. It does not really appeal to me. Also, many of the coin collecting sites are more interested is selling coins than actually giving out details about coins. This site is decent with some details on each coin (from minimal to rather generous) as well as a picture. Coins can be an interesting way to look at history. A little caution is required though as the coins usually also served (and still do serve) a propaganda value.

From the site:

The WildWinds website has been created as a reference, attribution and valuation resource in the field of ancient numismatics. The data presented here were, for the most part, gleaned from closed online auctions, so you can see for each coin the original auction description, the auction's closing date and time, and the closing price.

Since these sources for our information vary from the very experienced dealer to the beginner selling something for the first time, there is no guarantee that any given attribution or description presented here is entirely accurate. Furthermore, the closing prices for all auctions vary greatly, so any valuation you determine here should not be taken as a definitive answer.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

History of Russia

History of Russia. This is a history of the European and Asian nation of Russia. It has been a world power several times in the past and it may well be so again in the future. It also has long had the distinction (as Russia or the Soviet Union) of being the largest nation in the world.

Like other large countries (including the USA and China), there are a variety of regions of Russia claiming that they are independent nations undergoing occupation. The so called Republic of Chechnya is the most visible of these. The international community has responded overwhelmingly in support by refusing to recognize these separatists entities resulting in both de facto and de juris legal recognition of Russian sovereignty in all of Russian territory.

Wikipedia notes, "The Russian Federation , or Russia is a country that stretches over a vast expanse of Europe and Asia. With an area of 17,075,200 km² (6,595,600 mi²), it is the largest country in the world, covering almost twice the territory of the next-largest country, Canada. It ranks eighth in the world in population. It shares land borders with the following countries (counter-clockwise from NW to SE): Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland (only through Kaliningrad Oblast), Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia and North Korea. It is also close to the United States and Japan across stretches of water: the Diomede Islands (one controlled by Russia, the other by the United States) are just 3 km apart, and Kunashir Island (controlled by Russia but claimed by Japan) is about 20 kilometers from Hokkaido."

From the site:

Human experience on the territory of present-day Russia dates back to Paleolithic times. Greek traders conducted extensive commerce with Scythian tribes around the shores of the Black Sea and the Crimean region. In the third century B.C., Scythians were displaced by Sarmatians, who in turn were overrun by waves of Germanic Goths. In the third century A.D., Asiatic Huns replaced the Goths and were in turn conquered by Turkic Avars in the sixth century. By the ninth century, Eastern Slavs began to settle in what are now the Ukraine, Belarus, and the Novgorod and Smolensk regions.

In 862, the political entity known as Kievan Rus was established in what is now Ukraine and lasted until the 12th century. In the 10th century, Christianity became the state religion under Vladimir, who adopted Greek Orthodox rites. Consequently, Byzantine culture predominated, as is evident in much of Russia's architectural, musical, and artistic heritage. Over the next centuries, various invaders assaulted the Kievan state and, finally, Mongols under Batu Khan destroyed the main population centers except for Novgorod and Pskov and prevailed over the region until 1480.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Soldier of 1914 Christmas truce dies at 109

Soldier of 1914 Christmas truce dies at 109. The oldest man in Scotland died yesterday. Alfred Anderson is believed to have been the last survivor who witnessed the famous Christmas Truce of 1914 during World War One.

The truce had been unplanned. Soldiers on both sides decided not to attack each other on Christmas. Before long, soldiers were fratanizing with each other between the two lines. They sang Christmas carols, traded cigars, and even played soccer. When the truce ended, they went back to killing each other.

The truce was not repeated later in the war. And I don't believe there was ever a Christmas truce during the Second World War. (If there was, there was not this level of friendly interaction between the sides).

Alfred Anderson achieved other things in life beyond surviving a brutal war. However, his memories of the conflict stayed with him his entire life including a sense of guilt for living when so many others died. May he rest in peace.

From the site:

Alfred Anderson, the last surviving soldier to have heard the guns fall silent along the Western Front during the spontaneous Christmas truce of the First World War, died yesterday at age 109.

More than 80 years after the war, Anderson recalled the "eerie sound of silence" as shooting stopped and soldiers clambered from trenches to greet one another on Dec. 25, 1914.

His parish priest, Rev. Neil Gardner, said Anderson died in his sleep early yesterday at a nursing home in Newtyle, Scotland. His death leaves fewer than 10 First World War veterans alive in Britain.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Julius Caesar - The Assassination

Julius Caesar - The Assassination. Wow! HBO Rome ended last night. As expected, Caesar meet his end at the hands of assassins. I did not figure that the writers would change history and let Caesar live but strange things happen on TV sometimes.

As Brutus approached Caesar and placed the final blow, Caesar did not say, "Et tu, Brutus?" I guess this is just from Shakespeare and not a real historical quote as HBO left it out.

I think the second season of HBO Rome will focus on Marc Anthony seizing power and bringing all the assassins to justice. At the same time, we will see the maturation of Octavian and the start of his conflict with Anthony. Perhaps the third season will show the war between Anthony and Octavian and Octavian's triumph as the Emperor Augustus? Roman history is rich and there is a lot that this series can do with it.

I have blogged a brief article on the assassination of Julius Caesar. There is a lot out there on this (including some more detailed articles) but this is a good overview.

From the site:

In 44 BCE Caesar started planning a campaign against the Parthian empire. Why is not known, but it could be that he didn't feel safe or at ease in Rome, that he preferred the life with his soldiers in the military camp, or that he still wanted more conquest with the personal honour and glory it brought with it. In either case, the Parthian campaign was not to be.

On the 15th of March (the famous Ides of March) he was called to a meeting in the senate, a meeting held in the Theatre of Pompey to discuss the preparations for the war against Parthia.

On his arrival he was surrounded by a group of senators who pulled out knives from under their togas and stabbed him to death. Caesar was left dead on the floor at the feet of a statue of his friend and enemy Pompey.

The conspirators, who were led by Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus, both followers of Pompey pardoned by Caesar after Pharsalus, rushed to the Forum Romanum, still covered in Caesar's blood, to be hailed as tyrannicides and saviours of the Republic. Caesar's co-consul Marcus Antonius and M. Aemilius Lepidus, both close allies of Caesar, and the senators not involved in the assassination, went into hiding not knowing what to expect, but the conspirators had no plans for what to do after the assassination.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Winning the West: The Army in the Indian Wars, 1865-1890

Winning the West: The Army in the Indian Wars, 1865-1890 - Chapter about tactics and strategy in differing parts of the American West, extracted from the U.S. Army's official series on American military history.

The Indian wars were brutal. Under current international law, many of the events of the wars (by the US and various tribes) would be classified as war crimes. However, that would be an ex post facto application of international law to prior events and would be unfair. There were heroes on both sides of the conflicts who were just defending their families and their way of life and I believe these individuals outnumbered the scoundrels.

From the site:

Perhaps because of a tendency to view the record of a military establishment in terms of conflict, the U.S. Army's operational experience in the quarter century following the Civil War has come to be known as the Indian wars. Previous struggles with the Indian, dating back to colonial times, had been limited as to scope and opponent and took place in a period when the Indian could withdraw or be pushed into vast reaches of uninhabited and as yet unwanted territory to westward. By 1865 this safety valve was fast disappearing; routes of travel and pockets of settlement had multiplied across the western two-thirds of the nation, and as the Civil War closed, white Americans in greater numbers and with greater energy than before resumed the quest for land, gold, commerce, and adventure that had been largely interrupted by the war. The showdown between the older Americans and the new—between two ways of life that were basically incompatible—was at hand. The besieged red man, with white civilization pressing in and a main source of livelihood—the buffalo—threatened with extinction, was faced with a fundamental choice: surrender or fight. Many chose to fight, and over the course of some twenty-five years the struggle ranged over the plains, mountains, and deserts of the American West, a guerrilla war characterized by skirmishes, pursuits, massacres, raids, expeditions, battles, and campaigns, of varying size and intensity. Given its central role in dealing with the Indian, the Army made a major contribution to continental consolidation.