Sunday, December 31, 2006

HBO Rome (Season Two) Coming Soon

I leave 2006 with happy news. HBO Rome, the awesome TV series about the last days of the Roman Republic and the birth of the Roman Empire, will have season two debut on January 14th.

Sadly, this may be the final season. Wikipedia notes, "Subsequently in a news conference HBO Chairman Chris Albrecht confirmed that Rome season two would air on HBO in January 2007, but would not return for a third season."

I hope this is not the end. This is a well done series that is clearly delighting TV viewers beyond those few of us who spend tons of time studying Roman history. There is a lot that can be covered in future seasons.

How about having season three take place before, during, and after the Year of Four Emperors in AD 69? The writers could start with the end of Nero and run through the intrigues of Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespaspian. Good episodes could center around Otho's heroic suicide to spare the Roman people further civil war and the backdrop of the Great Jewish Revolt and Titus's sack of Jerusalem. Season Four could concentrate on the Flavian Dynasty founded by Vespaspian.

I could go on with many future season ideas. HBO, post a comment if you need a historical advisor who also likes good TV. Regardless, I look forward to season two.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Non-Presidents Laying in State

Tonight, the USA is holding a state funeral for President Gerald Ford where he will lay in state. He will be the 11th American President to be so honored. However, eighteen men who were never the President of the USA have also been given this honor.
(Henry Clay, 9th American Secretary of State, and the first American to lay in state in the US Capitol.)

These men include:
1. Henry Clay (July 1, 1852)
2. Thaddeus Stevens (August 13 and 14, 1868)
3. Charles Sumner (March 13, 1874)
4. Henry Wilson (November 25 and 26, 1875)
5. John Alexander Logan (December 30 and 31, 1886)
6. Pierre Charles L'Enfant (April 28, 1909, 57 years after death before being reburied)
7. George Dewey (January 20, 1917)
8. The Unknown Soldier of World War One(November 9, 10, and 11, 1921)
9. John Joseph Pershing (July 18 and 19, 1948)
10. Robert Alphonso Taft (August 2 and 3, 1953)
11. The Unknown Soldier of World War II (May 28, 29, and 30, 1958)
12. The Unknown Soldier of the Korean War (May 28, 29, and 30, 1958)
13. Douglas MacArthur (April 8 and 9, 1964)
14. Everett McKinley Dirksen (September 9-10, 1969)
15. John Edgar Hoover (May 3 and 4, 1972)
16. Hubert Horatio Humphrey (January 14 and 15, 1978)
17. Unknown Soldier of the Vietnam Era (May 25, 26, 27, and 28, 1984)
18. Claude Denson Pepper (June 1 and 2, 1989)

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Searching for Bell Ringle

Bell Ringle is an elf who delivers on New Years Day the presents that Santa Clause forgot. Or so I have been told.

My wife (like me) is from NW Ohio. Her family has a tradition of Bell Ringle delivering gifts on January 1st. This tradition goes back at least several generations. My wife thinks it goes back four or five generations.

In the old days, the farm families of Ohio would order Christmas gifts via mail catalogs. Delivery dates were always uncertain and many orders intended as Christmas gifts arrived late. As a result, at least in one family, the elf Bell Ringle would deliver late gifts on the first day of the New Year.

While quaint, this tradition has been impacting me through eleven years of marriage. Every year, my wife prepares Bell Ringle gifts for her family and they give her (and me!) Bell Ringle gift as well. In addition, as I take my wife and two sons on the road for Christmas, we give our kids their gifts from us on New Years Day. And of course Bell Ringle is the delivery man.

The family lore is that Bell Ringle is an old German tradition. However, my attempts to research Bell Ringle find nothing. So far, searches for Bell Ringle on the Web bring up zip as do variant searches on the name. Even New Years Elf brings up nothing that is related!

So, is Bell Ringle a new oral history tradition created by my wife's great grandparents? Or, is there some actual history here that I am missing? If anyone finds this post now or years in the future and has information on this, please leave a comment. I would appreciate more details.

Until then, Bell Ringle lives in my family. And I will be seeking out some more details on his origins.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Gerald Ford, 1913-2006

"For myself and for our Nation, I want to thank my predecessor for all he has done to heal our land." President Jimmy Carter, January 20th, 1977, Inaugural Address.

I agree with the statement by President Carter. Gerald Ford did not seek the Presidency of the USA. He was thrust into it by a series of scandals unprecedented in American history. He inherited a tarnished Presidency and helped to restore respect to it. Despite the scandals of Nixon and Agnew, and a very unpopular Republican Party, he came close to winning the Presidential election of 1976. Even those who disagreed with him and his pardon of Nixon respected him.

Most of the Presidents of the last 35 years draw venom from partisans of one side or another. Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and both Bush's draw fire from those claiming them to be bad people, bad presidents, or just stupid. But not Ford. He seems to be the last American President to be respected almost universally by both sides. I hope he rests in peace.

Monday, December 25, 2006

History of Christmas Island

History of Christmas Island. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the World History Blog. And what better place to spend Christmas than at Christmas Island? No, it is not a fictional island from an old animated holiday special but a real place. This brief essay has a short history of the island.

The Encyclopædia Britannica notes, "Officially Territory of Christmas Island island in the Indian Ocean, about 224 miles (360 km) south of the island of Java and 870 miles (1,400 km) northwest of Australia; it is administered as an external territory of Australia. It has an area of 52 square miles (135 square km) and comprises the summit of an oceanic mountain. The highest point on the island is Murray Hill, rising to 1,184 feet (361 m) above sea level in the western part of the island. The main settlement and chief port is at Flying Fish Cove on the northeastern part of the island."

From the site:

It is not known when and by whom the island was discovered, but under the name of Moni it appears on a Dutch chart of 1666. It was first visited in 1688 by Dampier, who found it uninhabited. In 1886 Captain Maclear of H.M.S. "Flying Fish," having discovered an anchorage in a bay which he named Flying Fish Cove, landed a party and made a. small but interesting collection of the flora and fauna.

In the following year Captain Aldrich on H.M.S. " Egeria " visited it, accompanied by Mr J. J. Lister, F.R.S., who formed a larger biological and mineralogical collection. Among the rocks then obtained and submitted to Sir John Murray for examination there were detected specimens of nearly pure phosphate of lime, a discovery which eventually led, in June 1888, to the annexation of the island to the British crown. Soon afterwards a small settlement was established in Flying Fish Cove by Mr G. Clunies Ross, the owner of the Keeling Islands, which lie about 750 M. to the westward. In 1881 Mr Ross and Sir John Murray were granted a lease, but on the further discovery of phosphatic deposits they disposed of their rights in 1897 to a company. In the same year a thorough scientific exploration was made, at the cost of Sir John Murray, by Mr C. W. Andrews, of the British Museum.

When the first settlers arrived, in 1897, it was covered with a dense forest of great trees and luxuriant under-shrubbery. Prior to colonization, the island had never been inhabited.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Wassailing - Caroling for Beer

Do you like Christmas Caroling? I will admit I do like it when carolers come by my house and sing. However, I am not big about going house to house and caroling myself. In part, this is because I am a lousy singer.

However, I may well have been a caroler in medieval times. Back then, carolers went house to house singing for beer. What a merry origin to this holiday tradition!

An AP story titled Take Cheer: Christmas has Been Out of Control for Centuries by Matt Crenson has details. Crenson wrote, "In the northern Europe of the late middle ages, gangs of young men would engage in 'wassailing,' a cross between Christmas caroling and home invasion. The gangs would visit wealthy homes, often in disguise, and sing songs that threatened violence if they were not invited in for food and drink. In agrarian societies, practices like wassailing served as a critical safety valve, giving people at the bottom of the social ladder a release that would keep them in line during the rest of the year."

Evidently, after the fall harvest, the average common workers had a lot of free time on their hands. And, just about Christmas time, lots of beer was fermented and ready to drink. Letting the masses get drunk was good policy and was a widespread tradition.

Of course, in modern times, drinking and Christmas go together as well. Wine, beer, and rum in eggnog are common. However, most people do not threaten their neighbors to get free drinks. It is always fun to learn about the origins of holiday traditions. It is nice to hear how caroling originated as well.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Teaching about the U.S. Congress

The article Teaching about the U.S. Congress is another excellent ERIC Digest which gives ideas for teaching about American Congressional history and assorted helpful resources in teaching about it. It is from 2001. The authors are Thomas S. Vontz and Sarah E. Drake.

From past experience, teaching students about Congress is difficult. The students are either partisan (I am a Republican or I am a Democrat), cynical (all Congressmen are corrupt), or just plain ignorant with no desire to learn. They see all lessons I teach through one of these three lenses. Of course, there are always a few students who do keep an open mind. I guess my lesson plans should focus on moving past current events and focus on what Congress has done right in the past.

From the site:

Disagreements about the structure, functions, and powers of Congress were prominent at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Two proposals, the Virginia Plan and the New Jersey Plan, framed debates about Congress. In response to the impotence of Congress under the Articles of Confederation, both plans were designed to increase the power of the national government, including Congress.

The Virginia Plan called for a two-house legislature: one to be elected by the people and the other to be chosen by the first house. The plan also called for proportional representation based on the population of each state.

Delegates from states with small populations vehemently opposed the Virginia Plan because it diminished their power in Congress relative to the states with large populations. According to the New Jersey Plan, each state would continue to have equal representation in the unicameral Congress of the United States.

Settling the disagreement over representation in Congress was crucial to the success of the Convention. The Convention eventually made the "Great Compromise." It provided for a two-house legislature in which states were represented on the basis of population in the House of Representatives and represented equally in the Senate.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Time Person of the Year 2006 - Miland Brown

OK, I am exaggerating a lot. Time Magazine has named you (that means everyone) person of the year. But since that includes me, my headline is technically true. The article is You -- Yes, You -- Are TIME's Person of the Year.

Time has a good rationale for this. User generated content on the Web is booming and changing they way we find and disseminate information. The collective impact on history of millions of people contributing to Facebook, Wikipedia, MySpace, YouTube, Blogger, etc. has made all of these people the ones who had the most impact on the world in 2006.

I will admit that Time took the easy road on the choice this year. If they truly picked the one person who had the biggest impact in 2006, it probably should have been President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran. However, I am glad Time ducked that choice. It would have been a propaganda coup for the Iranian President which would have been easily used to make it appear that the Western media supported him and his policies. Pointing out that Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin were also past winners probably would not have changed the propaganda value.

From the site:

The "Great Man" theory of history is usually attributed to the Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle, who wrote that "the history of the world is but the biography of great men." He believed that it is the few, the powerful and the famous who shape our collective destiny as a species. That theory took a serious beating this year.

To be sure, there are individuals we could blame for the many painful and disturbing things that happened in 2006. The conflict in Iraq only got bloodier and more entrenched. A vicious skirmish erupted between Israel and Lebanon. A war dragged on in Sudan. A tin-pot dictator in North Korea got the Bomb, and the President of Iran wants to go nuclear too. Meanwhile nobody fixed global warming, and Sony didn't make enough PlayStation3s.

But look at 2006 through a different lens and you'll see another story, one that isn't about conflict or great men. It's a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It's about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people's network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It's about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Siege – How to Take a Medieval Castle When You Don't Have a Catapult

I found this informative article at As the site allows for the reproduction of articles by blogs and other websites, I am going to go ahead and reprint it here. The author of the article is Will Kalif.

In the later centuries of the Middle Ages siege engines were often employed to take down the walls of a medieval castle. But in the early centuries an attacking army often did not have the skill, resources, or time to build and use siege engines so they employed other very ingenious methods including biological warfare.

A Medieval Castle is a fortress built out of thousands of tons of stone and designed for maximum safety and security yet they were still taken and often by very devious means. Here were some of these simpler and less technological ways that castles were sieged.

Deception: Spies were used to infiltrate the castle. They could, at night, open the castle gates or wreak havoc on the interior defenses of the castle. The most famous case of this tactic is the Trojan Horse.

Treachery: Someone trusted within the power structure of the castle could give misleading information that would bring down the castle. He could for example report that there were many more troops sieging the castle than there actually were. This would induce the castle residents to either revolt or surrender out of fear.

Starvation: This was a method used but it often meant many months, sometimes even a year or more. The sieging army would station itself around the castle and not allow any form of commerce. Eventually the inhabitants would surrender due to imminent starvation.

Biological warfare: Yep that's right. A sieging force could launch the remains of rotting corpses into the castle causing outbreaks of life-threatening illness.

Simple Storm: The sieging force could carry on an all out attack at various points of the castle. This overwhelming would hopefully break through in some places causing a collapse in defenses.

Tunneling: The sieging army would actually dig tunnels under the castle. The hope was not so much for an entry into the castle but for a way to collapse the castle defenses. It was because of this technique that many Medieval Castles had moats around them. A moat would cause the collapse and filling with water of any attempted tunnels.

Because the walls and fortifications of medieval castles were so well built an attacking army would often employ methods that didn’t directly attack them. Instead they found and used a host of other means to either attack the inhabitants or get them to surrender. It is partially due to this process that many medieval castles still stand to this day.

To Learn More about Medieval Castles visit the author's website at: The Medieval Castle Website

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The History Carnival's Annual Happy Holidays Party (as Reported by an Ignorant, Belligerent Lush)

The newest History Carnival is up at Acephalous. Scott Eric Kaufman is the host and he has done a great job. This may well be the most entertaining history carnival yet! I hope you enjoy all the good links.

It will be another month before the next History Carnival. It will be hosted at Investigations of a Dog on January 15, 2007. If you have any suggestions for posts on any aspect of history which you would like to see included, send them to the blog author. You can e-mail them to hc46 at or use the submission form on the carnival website. See the History Carnival site for more details about submission policy.

Friday, December 15, 2006

History of Cook Islands

History of Cook Islands. This is a brief history of this Oceania island territory of New Zealand called the Cook Islands. It is probably best known to Americans as the location for the current season of the Survivor television series.

The Encyclopædia Britannica notes that the islands are an, "Internally self-governing island state in free association with New Zealand, located in the South Pacific Ocean. The 15 tiny islands have a total land area of 91 square miles (236 square kilometres) but are spread over 770,000 square miles of sea. The capital is Avarua, on Rarotonga."

From the site:

The natives, who are of Polynesian stock and speech, have legends of their arrival from Samoa. They say their ancestors found black people on the islands, and the strongly Melanesian type which is found, especially on Mangaia, supports the statement. The Cook Islanders were formerly man-hunters and cannibals.

The archipelago was discovered by Captain Cook in 1777, and in 1823 became the scene of the remarkable missionary labours of John Williams, of the London Missionary Society.

The 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica wrote, "Since 1899 the islands have enjoyed a general legislature and an executive council of which the Arikis (" kings " and " queens ") are members. But all enactments are subject to the approval of the British resident at Rarotonga, and a British protectorate, proclaimed in 1888, was followed by the annexation of the whole archipelago by the governor of New Zealand, by proclamation of June 10th, 1901."

When New Zealand became independent, the Cook Islands were transferred from British to New Zealand rule. In 1965, residents chose self-government in free association with New Zealand. Cook Islands is fully responsible for internal affairs. New Zealand retains responsibility for external affairs and defense, in consultation with the Cook Islands.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Could GM Have Beaten Back the Japanese Auto Invasion?

I found this question on an alternate history site the other day. It got me thinking. Here is the question:

If you had been the top marketing executive at General Motors during the early years of the Japanese invasion of the US auto market, which strategy would you have recommended to defend GM's leading market share against this new competitive threat?

My response:

I find it somewhat difficult to put myself in the mindset of GM executives when the Japanese auto invasion began. Looking back, it is easy to apply an ex post de facto reading on events after they have happened. Although we know now that the Japanese auto makers are going to dominate, that outcome was not at all certain in the early 80s. The result was not pre-destined and GM perhaps could have found a counter and avoided losing significant market share. Any approach I would suggest now is based on a subsequent reading of events not known to GM at the time. Further, any suggestion I make now may have been anticipated and countered by the Japanese auto makers. They still might have come out ahead even had GM tried a different approach.

My first retro advice for GM comes from the Bible. 1 Corinthians 10:12 notes, “So then let him who thinks he is standing securely beware of falling.” When anyone is on top, getting a sense of complacency is dangerous. Circumstances change and the mighty can be brought low quickly.

Quinn (1980) wrote, “an effective strategy first probes and withdraws to determine opponents' strengths, forces opponents to stretch their commitments, then concentrates resources, attacks a clear exposure, overwhelms a selected market segment, builds a bridgehead in that market, and then regroups and expands from that base to dominate a wider field" (p. 160, 161).

Using the language of war, a counter offensive strategy might have made sense for GM in this circumstance. As Japanese companies expended resources to invade the American auto market, it would have made sense for GM to counter attack and attempt to cut into the Japanese domestic market. If the Japanese companies lost shares at home, they may have been forced to retreat to protect the home market.

Unfortunately, that approach would not have worked. The Japanese government at the time used extreme protective legislation to make it difficult for foreign companies to succeed in Japan. Although the American government may have been able to pressure Japan on GM’s behalf, it is unlikely that it would have done so. In the midst of the Cold War, Japan was an outpost flanking Red China and the Soviet Union. It was almost entirely defended by the American military and the American policy wanted a strong Japanese economy. A counter offensive probably would have failed.

As such, I would have recommended an expansion in the domestic American market. GM needed to aggressively go after American consumers using a market expansion strategy. That meant trying to go after several market segments at the same time. GM needed to go after value consumers who wanted a cheap vehicle as well as those who wanted a luxury car. This would have allowed them to protect their luxury market base but also allowed expansion into the low cost market before the Japanese could have defined themselves as the value car producers.

Such a strategy would have required a paradigm shift on the part of GM. The company had gotten used to catering to the luxury market. Black and Gregersen (2003) wrote that leaders fail to initiate change because they fail to see the need, they feel to act when they do see the need, or they fail to finish the change. As such, it would have been very important for GM executives to accept the need for change and then actually doing something about it other than continuing their previous business strategies.


Black, J and Gregersen, H. (2003). Leading strategic change: Breaking through the brain barrier. New York: Prentice Hall.

Quinn, J. (1980). Strategies for change: Logical Incrementalism. Homewood, Illinois: Richard D. Irwin.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Conference in Iran to debate Holocaust sparks outrage

Conference in Iran to debate Holocaust sparks outrage. Not that I am shocked, but I am still disappointed that the Iranian government went ahead with this outrageous conference. Christine Hauser of the International Herald Tribune wrote, "A gathering in Iran billed as a conference to debate the Holocaust continued to spark outrage Tuesday, drawing fierce criticism from Western leaders. The conference in Tehran, which began Monday, has attracted Holocaust deniers from around the world who made presentations questioning the historical record of the Holocaust, including whether Nazi Germany used gas chambers to exterminate millions of Jews and other undesirables."

There is no real debate on this point. The Holocaust clearly happened. The evidence supporting it is there. Denial is bad historical revisionism at its worst. And it is very disturbing that any nation on Earth in the 21st century would even pretend that there is a real debate on this topic. What other "history" conferences will Iran be hosting next? Maybe the Iranians can hold a conference denying the historical accuracy of the Apollo Moon landings or a conference denying that any Native Americans were exterminated when the Europeans colonized North America?

Why this conference? Hauser noted, "President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran has frequently voiced a view held by many in the Muslim world that the crimes of the Nazis were exaggerated to justify giving Palestinian land to Jews, ultimately leading to the creation of Israel." So, since the Iranians do not like Israel that gives them the right to deny history? And other nations are supposed to take Iran seriously and be able to actually negotiate with them to solve problems in the Middle East? How in the world can the Iranians be taken seriously if they have such problems with history and hate Israel so much they are eager to deny one of the best documented events in history?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Critical Thinking in the Social Studies

Critical Thinking in the Social Studies. This article from 1986 does not directly discuss history. However, it does examine ways to teach critical thinking skills in the social studies classroom which is certainly helpful for history teachers. The author is John J. Patrick.

The age of this article makes it of interest to me. How were people teaching this topic before the advent of the World Wide Web? People have always been interested in teaching critical thinking skills. However, did it have the same sense of urgency before students could type in any word and find something online which may appear to answer the question?

From the site:

Critical thinking has been a long-standing major goal of education in the social studies. It was the theme of the 1942 Yearbook of the National Council for the Social Studies. It is highlighted today in various statements and publications of state education departments, local school districts, and professional associations. Research and commentary on critical thinking have increased greatly during the last ten years. But it has not been taught extensively or satisfactorily in most social studies classrooms. Goodlad's nationwide study of schooling found little evidence of critical thinking and concluded that "preoccupation with the lower intellectual processes pervades social studies and science as well" (1984, 236).

Current efforts to promote critical thinking in the social studies will fail unless teachers know what it is, why it is important, and how to use it in the classroom. This ERIC digest treats the (1) meaning of critical thinking, (2) primacy of critical thinking as a social studies goal, (3) inclusion of critical thinking in the social studies curriculum, and (4) means of teaching critical thinking to social studies students.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Pompeii: The Living City

I just finished reading Pompeii: The Living City. It was written by Alex Butterworth and Ray Laurence. The book is excellent and I enjoyed it very much.

If you think of Pompeii, the image is usually that of the doomed city with people dead or dying. Or, the image of the plaster casts of dead people as the city is excavated in modern times comes to mind. However, the city had a long history. And as the title suggests, the city was vibrant and full of life.

This book covers the last twenty five years of the life of the city. The narrative goes back and forth from fictional accounts of people's lives with the factual details on city life. Politics (both locally and in Rome) are covered and the Emperor Nero features prominently in the text. The great earthquake of 63 and the impact it had on Pompeii is covered as is the final days of the city when it was destroyed in 79.

A Publishers Weekly review was kind to the book. It noted, "The thriving ancient port city of Pompeii was memorably destroyed and its 20,000 to 30,000 inhabitants killed in A.D. 79 by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. Archeologists have dug parts of the city out of the rubble, reconstructing its layout and life. Drawing on this evidence and on ancient writings on Pompeii, British popular historians Butterworth and Laurence splendidly recreate the bustling life of this Roman town, as well as the eruption. They tell of Umbricius Scaurus, one of the city's most respected businessmen, who grew wealthy manufacturing the culinary staple garum, a fermented fish sauce. We also read fictionalized accounts of other lives, such as Simulus, a smallholder happy to be farming a plot of rich soil, and Receptus, a slave whose new master made his life miserable. The authors vividly recreate the horrors of the earthquake in A.D. 62 that destroyed much of the town and the terrors of the volcanic eruption. They recount the heroic efforts of one woman to claw her way out of the rubble of the Villa of the Mysteries only to be killed by a new eruption. This is a first-rate and compelling history of an ancient city."

This is a good book and I certainly visualize Pompeii differently now. It is easy to read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. If you like ancient history, you may want to give this book a read.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Howland Island - Small Island, Big History

Howland Island is a small uninhabited island in the Pacific Ocean that belongs to the United States. It is currently part of the United States Pacific Island Wildlife Refuges Complex. It is about about three times the size of The Mall in Washington, DC. It is 1,830 nautical miles southwest of Honolulu, about half way between Hawaii and Australia.

The island is rather unexciting. It consists pf scattered vegetation consisting of grasses, prostrate vines, and low growing shrubs. It is primarily a nesting, roosting, and foraging habitat for seabirds, shorebirds, and marine wildlife. It has scant rainfall, constant wind, and burning sun.

Despite all of this, Howland Island actually has a rather exciting history. It was discovered in the 19th century and was heavily mined for guano. In the 1930s. an attempt was made to colonize the island with American settlers from Hawaii. However, the Japanese bombed the colony in 1941 and the civilian population was evacuated. American troops were stationed on the island until the end of World War Two.

Probably the most historic event was that Howland Island was Amelia Earhart's final destination. In 1937, Earhart and Fred Noonan attempted to fly around the world. They left Lae, New Guinea on June 29 for Howland Island but never arrived. The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Itasca was at Howland Island assigned to guide Earhart to the island once she arrived in the vicinity. Earhart and Noonan never arrived.

A day beacon at Howland Island was Earhart Light in her honor. It was partially destroyed during World War II in the Japanese attacks, but was later rebuilt. It is reportedly not in good shape today after years of neglect.

Earhart Light and the crumbling remains of the buildings from the failed colony can still be found on Howland Island. Historians though will have trouble visiting the island. There is no airfield at the island anymore and the remoteness of the island makes it hard to visit by ship. Public visits to Howland Island is by special permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service only and is generally restricted to scientists and educators. However, if you decide to trespass illegally, you probably will not get caught as the Wildlife Services only visits the island once a year.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Collapse of Easter Island

I was recently reading Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond. It is an excellent book and I found it thought provoking. A chapter of the book focused on Easter Island and how the Polynesian settlers there via civil war and resource exploitation wrecked the ecosystem of the island.

I also have been following the recent campaign by the government of Chile to get Easter Island to be declared one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. How wonderful are the Moai (giant statues) that are all over the island? A recent show I was watching on the History Channel referenced Easter Island as proof of alien interventions in the past of humanity. However, I give the alien hypothesis no credibility. Humans built the monuments on Easter Island and they also destroyed the environment as well. The paradise of Easter Island was ruined by good old human nature.

However, my recent exposures to Easter Island have made me curious about the collapse of Easter Island. As such, I have sought out a few good Web resources on the topic. Here are some I found useful:

History of Easter Island - "At the time of Roggeveens discovery the island probably contained from 2000 to 3000 inhabitants of Polynesian race but it appears that there were as many as 10,000 to15,000 of them in the 16th and 17th Centuries. The civilization of Easter Island had degenerated drastically during the 100 years before the arrival of the Dutch, owing to the overpopulation, deforestation and exploitation of the extremely isolated island with its limited natural resources."

Easter Island's End - "I suspect, though, that the disaster happened not with a bang but with a whimper. After all, there are those hundreds of abandoned statues to consider. The forest the islanders depended on for rollers and rope didn't simply disappear one day-it vanished slowly, over decades. Perhaps war interrupted the moving teams; perhaps by the time the carvers had finished their work, the last rope snapped. In the meantime, any islander who tried to warn about the dangers of progressive deforestation would have been overridden by vested interests of carvers, bureaucrats, and chiefs, whose jobs depended on continued deforestation."

The Chilling Tale of Easter Island - "When the last palm was cut down there was no longer the wood to make the heavy canoes needed for long sea voyages or to hunt the porpoises that were an important part of the Islanders diet. With the porpoises gone the people had to turn even more to the seabirds, and then the rats, as a source of food. When they were gone, starvation resulted, the government collapsed and cannibalism appeared. Human bones started to find their way into trash pits."

The Lessons of Easter Island - "What amazed and intrigued the first European visitors was the evidence, amongst all the squalor and barbarism, of a once flourishing and advanced society. Scattered across the island were over 600 massive stone statues, on average over twenty feet high. When anthropologists began to consider the history and culture of Easter Island early in the twentieth century they agreed on one thing. The primitive people living in such poverty-stricken and backward conditions when the Europeans first visited the island could not have been responsible for such a socially advanced and technologically complex task as carving, transporting and erecting the statues."

There are problems with comparing Easter Island and the Earth. The analogy is not quite an exact one. However, there is some truth to it which is why Jared Diamond's coverage of Easter Island is so fascinating and powerful. Is the Easter Island tragedy now happening on a global scale? Regardless, the whole history of Easter Island is well worth researching and reading about.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Labels and the New Version of Blogger

If you are a regular at this blog, you will notice it looks a little different. The design is the same but there are some enhancements visible. Probably the most visible is the presence of labels on most of the blog posts.

What happened? I finally upgraded to the never version of Blogger. I dreaded doing this not knowing what problems would happen but it went smoothly. All I lost was my visitor counter at the bottom of the blog but that was easily restored. Using Blogger and making changes to the template and to the layout is much easier now.

And I love the ability to finally be able to add labels to posts! This will make it easy for visitors to find other posts on the same topic at this blog. So, I spent most of the weekend putting labels on most of the 900 posts I have created here since 2003. (A few posts were blog maintenance related or had other generic topics which deserved no label.) After a weekend of reviewing posts, I am done. I may change some labels and add more but I am mostly there.

It definitely showed me my interests and biases in history blogging. Here are my top labels:

American History (106)
Europe (85)
Ancient History (69)
Africa (66)
American Presidents (64)
Asia (63)
Roman History (52)
Teaching History (40)

I tend to gravitate to these areas. I will try to broaden out some more so that those areas lower on my label list get better coverage. This is the World History Blog so I do aim to spread my posts out over all areas of the world and to multiple time periods. If any one has any suggestions on how I can improve the label system on this blog, feel free to comment. A full list of my labels is visible on the lower left column of the blog.

Monday, December 04, 2006

History of Grenada

History of Grenada. This is a brief history of the Caribbean island nation of Grenada. It most recently made headlines in the 1980s when Ronald Reagan decided an American invasion was in order.

The Encyclopædia Britannica notes, "Byname Isle of Spice, island of the West Indies. It is the southernmost of the Lesser Antilles, lying in the eastern Caribbean Sea about 100 miles (160 kilometres) north of the coast of Venezuela. Oval in shape, the island is approximately 21 miles (34 kilometres) long and 12 miles wide, with an area of 120 square miles (311 square kilometres). The southern Grenadines—the largest of which is Carriacou, about 20 miles north-northeast, with an area of 13 square miles—are a dependency."

From the site:

Before the arrival of Europeans, Grenada was inhabited by Carib Indians who had driven the more peaceful Arawaks from the island. Columbus landed on Grenada in 1498 during his third voyage to the new world. He named the island "Concepcion." The origin of the name "Grenada" is obscure, but it is likely that Spanish sailors renamed the island for the city of Granada. By the beginning of the 18th century, the name "Grenada," or "la Grenade" in French, was in common use.

Partly because of the Caribs, Grenada remained uncolonized for more than 100 years after its discovery; early English efforts to settle the island were unsuccessful. In 1650, a French company founded by Cardinal Richelieu purchased Grenada from the English and established a small settlement. After several skirmishes with the Caribs, the French brought in reinforcements from Martinique and defeated the Caribs the last of whom leaped into the sea rather than surrender.

The island remained under French control until its capture by the British in 1762, during the Seven Years' War. Grenada was formally ceded to Great Britain in 1763 by the Treaty of Paris. Although the French regained control in 1779, the island was restored to Britain in 1783 by the Treaty of Versailles. Although Britain was hard pressed to overcome a pro-French revolt in 1795 Grenada remained British for the remainder of the colonial period.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Two Recent History Carnivals

The newest History Carnival is up as History Carnival XLIV. David Tiley of Barista is the host. Thanks for a great carnival David.

Also recently posted is the new edition of the Carnival of Bad History. The Carnival of Bad History No 11 is up at Philobiblon. Natalie Bennett is the host. Thanks Natalie.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Spatial Dynamics: An Alternative Teaching Tool in the Social Studies

Spatial Dynamics: An Alternative Teaching Tool in the Social Studies. Do you use models to teach students history? For example, if you teach about the Battle of Gettysburg have you placed a large scale model of the battlefield on the floor so students can visualize it? Do you use ship models to demonstrate pirate navigation?

If not, you may want to consider trying it. This ERIC Digest by Carl L. Siler from 1998 discusses the concept of spatial dynamics and how it can be used to teach social study lessons to students. There are some good tips here for lesson planning.

From the site:

Spatial dynamics is an instructional strategy wherein students create large-scale models that capture their interest by allowing them to participate in learning. That participation is maximized because students help design and construct the models. Spatial dynamics activities motivate and enhance the learning of students of all ability levels and grade levels. Learning styles not accommodated by more traditional teaching methods are addressed by spatial dynamics. For example, concrete sequential learners prefer direct, hands-on activities; a spatial dynamics classroom activity provides abundant opportunities for such learners. Spatial dynamics activities also demonstrate a teacher's enthusiasm and commitment to the subject, which further motivates students and yields high-level cognition and learning.

Teachers who use only one teaching style day after day are denying opportunities for achievement to their students who may learn more effectively through a variety of teaching approaches. Furthermore, those teachers quickly become stale and boring to students. The students then perceive the subject matter as uninteresting when it is not the subject matter that is boring, but the teacher's instructional style. Teacher creativity is essential to enhance the educational experience in the classroom, but it is also needed to keep teachers and their students active as learners. Spatial dynamics activities enhance student learning in ways that traditional classroom instruction does not.

In 1994, the National Council for the Social Studies published EXPECTATIONS OF EXCELLENCE: CURRICULUM STANDARDS FOR SOCIAL STUDIES as a statement of purpose and standards for the social studies. In a section of this document on teaching and learning, a "powerful" social studies curriculum was advocated--one that would maximally enhance student achievement. A "powerful" social studies curriculum was identified as one with solid content, containing various instructional approaches and active learning experiences. Spatial dynamics is part of this "powerful" social studies curriculum because it is based on sound social studies content, involves a unique instructional approach, and allows for active learning. "Powerful" social studies teaching, then, requires teachers who can create and implement various creative curriculum plans that actively involve students in the learning process. Finally, exemplary teachers use a variety of instructional techniques, including physical examples. Using spatial dynamics, classroom teachers can easily develop activities which provide physical examples. Spatial dynamics, therefore, is one aspect of a "powerful" social studies curriculum.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Gaiseric and the Vandal Conquest of North Africa, 406 - 477 CE

Gaiseric and the Vandal Conquest of North Africa, 406 - 477 CE. Excerpts from the 1914 Heinemann Harvard translation of Procopius' History of the Wars, Book III, chapters iii-vii at the Ancient History Sourcebook. Procopius of Caesarea was a prominent Byzantine scholar who is commonly held to be the last major ancient historian.

From the site:

Now the Vandals, dwelling about the Maeotic Lake [the Sea of Azov], since they were pressed by hunger, moved to the country of the Germans, who are now called Franks, and the river Rhine, associating with themselves the Alans, a Gothic people [Arkenberg: actually, they were one of the Indo-Iranian peoples]. Then from there, under the leadership of Godigisclus, they moved and settled in Hispania, which is the first land of the Roman Empire on the side of the ocean [406-07 CE]. At that time Honorius made an agreement with Godigisclus that they should settle there on condition that it should not be to the detriment of the country. But there was a law among the Romans, that if any persons should fail to keep their property in their own possession, and if, meanwhile, a time amounting to thirty years should pass, that these persons should thenceforth not be entitled to proceed against those who had forced them out, but they were excluded by demurrer from access to the court; and in view of this he established a law that whatever time should be spent by the Vandals in the Roman domain should not be spent by the Vandals in the Roman domain should not by any means be counted toward this thirty-year demurrer. And Honorius himself, when the West had been driven by him to this pass, died of disease [August 27, 423 CE].

Now before this, as it happened, the royal power had been shared by Honorius with Constantius, the husband of Placidia [Galla Placidia], the sister of Arcadius and himself; but he lived to exercise the power only a few days, and then, becoming seriously ill, he died [421 CE] while Honorius was still living, having never succeeded in saying or in doing anything worth recounting; for the time was not sufficient during which he lived in possession of the royal power. Now a son of this Constantius, Valentinian, a child just weaned, was being reared in the palace of Theodosius, but the members of the imperial court in Rome chose one of the soldiers there, John by name, as emperor. This man was both gentle and well-endowed with sagacity and thoroughly capable of valorous deeds. At any rate he held the tyranny five years [actually he only ruled eighteen months] and directed it with moderation, and he neither gave ear to slanderers nor did he do any unjust murder, willingly at least, nor did he set his hand to robbing men of money; but he did not prove able to do anything at all against the barbarians, since his relations with Byzantium were hostile. Against this John, Theodosius, the son of Arcadius [Theodosius II, reigned 408-450 CE], sent a great army and Aspar and Ardaburius, the son of Aspar, as generals, and wrested from him the tyranny and gave over the royal power to Valentinian, who was still a child [Valentinian III, reigned 423-455 CE].

And Valentinian took John alive, and he brought him out in the hippodrome of Aquileia with one of his hands cut off and caused him to ride in state on an ass, and then after he had suffered much ill treatment from the stage-performers there, both in word and in deed, he put him to death. Thus Valentinian took over the power of the West. But Placidia, his mother, had reared this emperor and educated him in an altogether effeminate manner, and in consequence he was filled with wickedness from childhood. For he associated mostly with sorcerers and those who busy themselves with the stars, and, being an extraordinarily zealous pursuer of love affairs with other men's wives, he conducted himself in a most indecent manner, although he was married to a woman of exceptional beauty. And not only was this true, but he also failed to recover for the empire anything of what had been wrested from it before, and he both lost Libya in addition to the territory previously lost and was himself destroyed. And when he perished, it fell to the lot of his wife and children to become captives. Now the disaster in Libya came about as follows.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Democrats -- the Party of Disorder, and Achievement

I am reprinting this short article from the History News Network. I believe from the language on the article I am allowed to do this. While clearly written from an anti-Republican perspective, I still find it an interesting take on recent history.

Democrats -- the Party of Disorder, and Achievement
By Steven Conn

Mr. Conn is a professor in the history department at Ohio State University and a writer for the History News Service.

It was during Franklin Roosevelt's first term that Will Rogers is said to have joked: "I am a member of no organized political party-I am a Democrat."

As the dust of this momentous midterm election settles, that joke has been resurrected -- mostly by people much less funny than Rogers -- to describe the dilemma of the incoming Democratic majorities in both Congressional houses. After all, many of the new Democratic members of Congress seem to sit to the right of the Democratic leadership on a whole host of issues. How can these Democrats govern, puzzles the punditocracy, since they are clearly so riven and disorganized?

The implicit answer, at least in much media analysis, is: they can't. The new Democratic majority is simply too fragile to bear the weight of its own internal contradictions. This conclusion has become an orthodoxy in the press.

But this consensus seems willfully to ignore the history of Congress across much of the 20th century. Will Rogers said that his party wasn't organized; he didn't say that it was ineffective.
Between 1932 and 1994 Congress was ruled by Democrats except for a few years in the middle '40s, early '50s, and the Senate in the '80s, and the Democrats who controlled those congresses were always messy, unwieldy coalitions. As President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt fashioned a Democratic majority that included labor unions, the elderly, urban ethnics, African Americans and white Southern conservatives. Strange bedfellows indeed.

Far from being the bastion of liberal special interests groups, as the party has been caricatured by so many commentators, the Democrats in Congress were usually led by their conservatives and pragmatists. More often than not, since 1932, the Democratic House Speakers came from places like Alabama and Texas, and the longest serving (1961-1977) Democratic Senate majority leader was Mike Mansfield from that hardly left-wing stronghold of Montana. In other words, Democrats have always managed to balance their Congressional leadership ideologically.

Yet this motley assortment of Democratic politicians managed to work together enough to create the New Deal, including the Social Security program; fight and win the Second World War; pass the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts; and get man to the moon. While the Democratic big tent might often have resembled a three-ring circus, those Congresses managed to advance the nation's agenda in historic ways.

Meanwhile, over this same period, the Republican Party looked remarkably stagnant. In his 1936 speech accepting the nomination to run for a second term, FDR called the opposition "economic royalists." And so the party has largely remained. The only significant demographic the party has added are those white Southern conservatives and evangelicals, many of whom finally did leave the Democratic Party, largely because of racial issues.

Otherwise the Republican Party's attempts to create its own "big tent" have faltered. George Bush was supposed to make the GOP an Hispanic-friendly place. In this last election Hispanics voted more than 70 percent for Democratic candidates.

During the twentieth century congressional Democrats may have governed effectively not despite, but precisely because of, their heterogeneity. Democracy, after all, is a process whereby people with many agendas come together to define a common good. It is a process that involves compromise, deal-making and operating pragmatically rather than ideologically. Given their intra-party experiences, Democrats simply have more practice doing all this than Republicans do.

During their 12 years in power, on the other hand, congressional Republicans could not play well with others. They governed only from their political base, relying on the very wealthy and the evangelicals for their support. They equated compromise with weakness, and set out to destroy personally those who offered other ideas. Their legacy is a bitterly divided nation. That bitterness came home to roost on November 7.

Indeed, Republicans don't even seem to be able to play nicely with each other. Once some competing voices appeared within the Republican Party, the party imploded. In particular, moderate Republicans were marginalized and humiliated, and former administration figures who disagreed with White House policy were vilified in public.

Congressional deadlock is certainly a real possibility for the in-coming Congress. If that's the case, however, I suspect it will be largely because of Republican intransigence and not because of internal disagreements within the Democratic Party. Democratic diversity - of ideas and experiences - has been the party's great strength since 1932.

Will Rogers may have been right in saying that Democrats didn't constitute an organized party. But then, this is a messy, bumptious, diverse nation, not a nation of people who march neatly in rank and file. Who better than the Democratic Party to represent that?
This piece was distributed for non-exclusive use by the History News Service, an informal syndicate of professional historians who seek to improve the public's understanding of current events by setting these events in their historical contexts. The article may be republished as long as both the author and the History News Service are clearly credited.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Assassins of Hassan-i-Sabah

Hassan-i Sabbah (the Old Man of the Mountain) lived in the 11th and 12th centuries. He founded a group of assassins whose members are referred to as the Hashshashin. The word assassin originates from this group. They were based heart of the Alborz Mountains of northern Iran.

Wikipedia notes, "The group transformed the act of murder into a system directed largely against Seljuk Muslim rulers who had been persecuting their sect. They were meticulous in killing the targeted individual, seeking to do so without any additional casualties and innocent loss of life, although they were careful to cultivate their terrifying reputation by slaying their victims in public, often in mosques. Typically they approached using a disguise; their weapon of choice was a dagger, rejecting poison, bows and other weapons that allowed the attacker to escape."

Hassan-i-Sabah had a unique and successful method of recruiting assassins. According to the site Assassins, "He constructed a secret garden and furnished it with all the delights promised in the Koran…to the faithful when they reached paradise. The chosen were drugged, one or two at a time, and taken to this garden by night. When they woke up in the morning they were surrounded by beautiful and scantily clad houris [in Muslim belief, women who live with the blessed in paradise] who would minister to their every need and desire. After being allowed to savor this false — but pleasant and sensual — paradise for a day or so, they were again drugged before being taken back to awaken in their own squalid hovel or cave dwelling. To them, it was as if it had been a vivid dream. Ben Sabbah then sent for them, told them Allah had given them a preview of paradise, and surprised them by telling them exactly what each had been up to while in the secret garden."

This recruitment method worked well. Even though the assassins did not seek death and would fight until dead, they never sought suicide. Despite this, many of the assassinations were carried out in public almost assuring death to the assassin. It is reasonable to assume that many of the assassins knew that their own death would occur in the process of the assassination attempt. Hassan-i-Sabah's "Paradise" approach worked wonders in conditioning his killers.

The Hashshashin were effectively destroyed by the Mongols. They destroyed Alamut (the assassin headquarters) in 1256. However, their legacy lives on to this day inspiring assassins.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Thanksgiving Holiday

This will be my last blog post until next Monday. I will be traveling for the American Thanksgiving holiday and will have limited internet access. Despite the stress of travel, I hope I can watch football, drink beer, and enjoy my extended family.

On the left, I have posted a public domain poster from the United States Department of Agriculture.

Here are a few sites on Thanksgiving if you want to learn about the history of the day:

The First Thanksgiving: Mayflower Home Page - Tells the story of the first Thanksgiving, examining what it was and what it was not.

History of Thanksgiving - English language teacher provides descriptions of persons and terms frequently associated with Thanksgiving.

The First Thanksgiving - This content resource provides information about the first Thanksgiving. Included are pictures and information about the journey on the Mayflower.

Cartoon Fun and History of Thanksgiving - A teddy bear cartoon involving spaghetti for Thanksgiving, plus some educational information on the traditions and symbols.

Unbiased Teaching about American Indians and Alaska Natives in Elementary Schools - Has some information on debunking common Thanksgiving myhts.

Monday, November 20, 2006

History of Macedonia

History of Macedonia. This is a brief history of the modern European nation of Macedonia. As the Government of Greece will point out, modern Macedonia is not quite the same as ancient Macedonia.

The Encyclopædia Britannica notes, "Country of the southern Balkans. It is bordered to the north by Serbia, to the east by Bulgaria, to the south by Greece, and to the west by Albania. The capital is Skopje."

From the site:

Throughout its history, the present-day territory of Macedonia has been a crossroads for both traders and conquerors moving between the European continent and Asia Minor. Each of these transiting powers left its mark upon the region, giving rise to a rich and varied cultural and historical tradition.

The ancient territory of Macedon included, in addition to the areas of the present-day Macedonia, large parts of present-day northern Greece and southwestern Bulgaria. This ancient kingdom reached its height during the reign of Alexander III ("the Great"), who extended Macedon's influence over most of Asia Minor, the Levant, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, and even parts of India. After Alexander's death in 323 BC, the Macedon Empire gradually declined, until it was conquered in 168 BC and made a province by the Romans in 148 BC.

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the territory of Macedonia fell under the control of the Byzantine Empire in the 6th and 7th centuries. It was during this period that large groups of Slavic people migrated to the Balkan region. The Serbs, Bulgarians, and Byzantines fought for control of Macedonia until the late 14th century, when the territory was conquered by the Ottoman Turks; it remained under Turkish rule until 1912.

Friday, November 17, 2006

World can vote for new seven wonders

World can vote for new seven wonders. That's right. The time has come to name a new set of the seven wonders of the world. This article notes, "A GLOBAL competition to name the new seven wonders of the world has reached the penultimate stage, with a list of 77 candidates whittled down to 21 by a panel of international architects chaired by a former head of UNESCO."

Over 20 million people have voted so far and people are being encouraged to vote on the final list. CNN has a description of all 22 finalists at Vote: 'New 7 Wonders of the World'. My votes went to the Chichen Itza, the Great Wall of China, the Pyramids of Egypt, the Statue of Liberty, the Colosseum, the Acropolis, and the Taj Mahal. (A hat tip to Jennie W. for her post at

However, I am a little disappointed with this list. How in the world did the Mackinac Bridge not make the cut? This suspension bridge spans the Straits of Mackinac to connect the non-contiguous upper and lower peninsulas of the U.S. state of Michigan. I have gone across it several times and I am always impressed. Had this bridge been in existence in ancient times (and located in Europe, Asia, or Africa) it would have been on the original seven wonder list. Why not consider it now? Sigh.

You can vote for wonders at

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Concept of Citizenship in Education for Democracy

The Concept of Citizenship in Education for Democracy. This is an interesting ERIC Digest from 2000 by John J. Patrick. I think it would be of interest to history and social studies teachers. It has some good ideas for teaching the concept of citizenship and applying it to education on democracy.

The abstract notes, "The concept of citizenship is at the core of education for democracy. This Digest discusses (1) what citizenship is; (2) why citizenship is an essential element of democracy; and (3) how to teach about citizenship in a democracy."

From the site:

In a democracy, the source of all authority -- the legitimate basis of all power -- is the collective body of the people, the citizens of the polity. There is popular sovereignty of the citizens and thereby government by consent of the governed. A citizen is a full and equal member of a polity, such as a democratic nation-state (Mouffe 1995, 217).

In some states or countries, citizenship, the condition of being a citizen, is based on the place of a person's birth, which is known as "jus soli" citizenship. In other places, the status of citizen is based on the citizenship of one's parents, which is known as "jus sanguinis" citizenship. Some countries use both bases for ascribing citizenship. Further, most democratic states have established legal procedures by which people without a birthright to citizenship can become naturalized citizens.

Equality before the law is one fundamental right of the citizen; other examples are such political rights as voting and participating in public interest groups. Constitutions may make a distinction between the rights of citizens and of inhabitants of the political community who are not citizens. For example, in the United States of America, only citizens have the right to vote, serve on juries, and be elected to certain offices of the government, such as Congress. All other rights in the United States Constitution are guaranteed to everyone residing in the country, citizens and noncitizens alike.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

History Carnival XLIII

History Carnival XLIII is up at Axis of Evel Knievel . My thanks to David Noon for hosting such a fine carnival. There is plenty of good history reading for me to checking out.

The next carnival is scheduled for December 1, to be hosted by Barista. You can submit nominations by e-mail (Tiley[at]internode[.]on[.]net].) or via the official submission form here.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Toledo War of 1835-36

This Saturday undefeated football teams from the University of Michigan and Ohio State University play their annual grudge game. The winner will play for the NCAA National Division I Football title. As can be expected, excitement and tension is running high in both states.

Conflict between Ohio and Michigan is not new. However, back in the 19th century, the two states actually went to war with each other over the status of the modern city of Toledo, Ohio. (Although, at the time, Michigan was a territory.)

I grew up in a suburb of Toledo in Northwest Ohio. I heard about the war many times. My Dad used to say that Ohio lost the war because we got stuck with Toledo. I later heard many others crack this same joke so I know it is not original to my Dad.

Michigan began trying to be admitted as a state in 1833. Ohio blocked every attempt refusing to allow Michigan into the Union unless it gave up control of the disputed Toledo Strip. Michigan refused and after years of frustration sent the Michigan militia in to occupy the city of Toledo. Ohio militia responded by massing in Perrysburg, Ohio with the intent of marching on Toledo.

The Toledo War from the State of Michigan describes what happened, "The War involved more saber-rattling and one-upmanship than it did shooting and blood-letting. For instance, after the Ohio legislature voted to approve a $300,000 military budget, Michigan upped the ante by approving one with $315,000. Michigan's militia did end up arresting some Ohio officials, capturing nine surveyors, and firing a few shots over the heads of others as they ran out of the area. But only Ohio inflicted any casualties, when a buckeye named Two Stickney stabbed a Michigan Sheriff during a tavern brawl."

President Andrew Jackson was not amused. He removed the Michigan territorial governor from office and disbanded the Michigan militia camping in Toledo. Ohio won the war and Toledo remains a part of Ohio to this day. Michigan was awarded the Upper Peninsula in compensation which actually was a pretty good deal for Michigan.

So, emotions may run high this Saturday as Ohio State and the University of Michigan play football. There may even be violence between some fans. But at least this time we can be assured that the Ohio and Michigan militias will not be facing off against each other across the Maumee River.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Did Julius Caesar Decimate a Legion?

I have been watching the The Battle for Rome miniseries on the Discovery Channel. While uneven in quality, I have enjoyed the six episodes I have watched. However, I think I have found a huge error in the episode on Julius Caesar.

The Caesar episode recounts the story of the 9th Legions mutiny during the Great Roman Civil War. Some of the men wanted to be discharged but most wanted more pay. The episode shows a stern Caesar order the 9th to be decimated. Decimation was a rarely used form of punishment. Jona Lendering at Livius described this, "After a very serious offense (e.g., mutiny or having panicked), the commander of the commander of a legion would take the decision, and an officer would go to the subunit that was to be punished. By lot, he chose one in ten men for capital punishment. The surviving nine men were ordered to club the man to death. "

The Battle for Rome episode shows the 9th being decimated while a grim faced Caesar looks on. The scene is very powerful as we see a man being beaten to death while another looks on knowing he is next. However, the story is not true. This television show is wrong.

Caesar never ordered that the 9th be decimated. They did indeed mutiny demanding more pay. Caesar went to the soldiers.

Adrian Goldsworthy in Caesar: Life of a Colossus describes what happened, "He (Caesar) then announced that he intended to decimate the Ninth, an ancient punishment that involved selecting by lot one out of every ten men to be beaten to death by his comrades. The remainder of the legion would be dishonourably discharged from the army. The veteran soldiers were dismayed and their officers began to beg their stern commander for mercy. Caesar knew how to work a crowd and gradually gave ground, finally saying that 12o ringleaders would need to draw lots to choose twelve men to be executed. The selection is supposed to have been rigged to ensure the names of the main troublemakers were drawn" (p. 407).

Caesar did not kill hundreds of his soldiers in a decimation punishment. He cleverly put the fear of the gods into the legion by threatening such a punishment before then having the actual guilty individuals put to death. As putting soldiers engaged in mutiny to death is normal even through the 20th century, this is a measured and perhaps appropriate response on Caesar's part.

Compare this with how the French put down mutinies during World War 1. According to The French Army Mutinies of World War I (, "With the support of Petain, officers punished mutinous troops by court-martialing the leaders. When they often couldn't determine the leaders, they sometimes chose known troublemakers, men with civilian criminal records or those who complained a lot. Or they followed Taufflieb's example and selected every 10th or 20th man standing in the ranks." And the French executed many of those found guilty even some that were randomly selected from a mutinious unit.

Why did the Battle of Rome episode get this wrong? Was it poor research on the part of the show writers? Or was it just an attempt to show that Caesar was a stern and brutal commander? Or perhaps this was an attempt to show Caesar in a bad light? Regardless, it is bad history and many viewers are going have an incorrect version of history and Caesar after having watched this show.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Library Legacy of Andrew Carnegie

The Library Legacy of Andrew Carnegie. I am highlighting a link page today which covers resources relating to the philanthropy of Andrew Carnegie as it related to libraries.

The site was created by Larry Nix. He noted, "Andrew Carnegie was often referred to as the ‘Patron Saint of Libraries’. He donated $56,162,622 for the construction of 2509 library buildings throughout the English-speaking parts of the world. He donated $40,000,000 for the construction of 1679 public library buildings in the United States."

There are a total of 23 links divided into a general section and then by specific sites. The main site (The Library History Buff) looks good as well and would be of interest to those interested in the history of libraries.

The public domain cartoon above is from Harper's Weekly April 11, 1903. According to Nix, the following caption accompanied it. "We men are only lusty boys, Though snowy be our locks, So Skibo's master still enjoys, To sit and play with blocks."

Thursday, November 09, 2006

History of Malaysia

History of Malaysia. This is a brief essay on the history of the Asian nation of Malaysia.

The Encyclopædia Britannica notes, "Country of Southeast Asia, composed of two noncontiguous regions: Peninsular, or West, Malaysia on the Malay Peninsula and East Malaysia on the island of Borneo. Malaysia has a total area of 127,584 square miles (330,442 square kilometres), which includes about 265 square miles of inland water. Of this total, Peninsular Malaysia constitutes about 50,810 square miles and East Malaysia about 76,510 square miles. The capital is Kuala Lumpur, located in west-central Peninsular Malaysia."

From the site:

In the first century AD, two far-flung but related events helped stimulate Malaysia's emergence in international trade in the ancient world. At that time, India had two principal sources of gold and other metals: the Roman Empire and China. The overland route from China was cut by marauding Huns, and at about the same time, the Roman Emperor Vespasian cut off shipments of gold to India. As a result, India sent large and seaworthy ships, with crews reported to have numbered in the hundreds, to Southeast Asia, including the Malayan Peninsula, to seek alternative sources. In the centuries that followed, rich Malaysian tin deposits assumed great significance in Indian Ocean trade, and the region prospered. As maritime trade among Middle Eastern, Indian, and Chinese ports flourished, the peninsula benefited from its location as well as from development of its diverse resources, including tropical woods and spices. Malay ships became prominent in that trade, and Malay ports served as transshipment centers. Indian trade brought Indian culture, economy, religion, and politics, with historic results for what is now Malaysia.

The early Buddhist Malay kingdom of Srivijaya, based at what is now Palembang, Sumatra, dominated much of the Malay peninsula from the 9th to the 13th centuries AD. The powerful Hindu kingdom of Majapahit, based on Java, gained control of the Malay peninsula in the 14th century. Conversion of the Malays to Islam, beginning in the early 14th century, accelerated with the rise of the state of Malacca under the rule of a Muslim prince in the 15th century. Malacca was a major regional entrepot, where Chinese, Arab, Malay, and Indian merchants traded precious goods. Drawn by this rich trade, a Portuguese fleet conquered Malacca in 1511, marking the beginning of European expansion in Southeast Asia. The Dutch ousted the Portuguese from Malacca in 1641 and, in 1795, were themselves replaced by the British, who had occupied Penang in 1786.

In 1826, the British settlements of Malacca, Penang, and Singapore were combined to form the Colony of the Straits Settlements. From these strongpoints, in the 19th and early 20th centuries the British established protectorates over the Malay sultanates on the peninsula. Four of these states were consolidated in 1895 as the Federated Malay States.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Seven Wonders of the Medieval World

Did you know that Wikipedia deletes articles? It is true. It appears as though many contributed articles are vanity, silly, or just plain weird. These get deleted at a special place of Wikipedia called Wikipedia: Articles for Deletion. There, editors vote on the merit of articles and eliminate those which fail to pass the test.

One article currently being debated is Seven Wonders of the Medieval World. There is also a proposal to merge this with another article. I am not sure this deserves being deleted. It is also the only candidate for deletion related to history I could find. Therefore, I will feature it here. It may vanish from Wikipedia soon.

Seven Wonders of the Medieval World

The Seven Wonders of the Medieval World is a list for which there is no unanimity of opinion in content or name. The list is more properly seen as a type or genre than a specific list. Similar names include "Wonders of the Middle Ages" (implying no specific limitation to seven) and "Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages". It has also been called the "Architectural Wonders of the Middle Ages".

Typically representative[1][2][3][4][5] of the seven are:

Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa
Great Wall of China
Porcelain Tower of Nanjing
Hagia Sophia
Leaning Tower of Pisa

Other sites that have been mentioned include:

Cairo Citadel[6]
Ely Cathedral[7]
Taj Mahal[8]
Cluny Abbey[9]

It is unlikely the list originated in the Middle Ages. Brewer's calls it a "later list"[5]. The word medieval was invented by Enlightenment-era authors, and the concept of a "Middle Ages" did not develop until 15th century humanists at the very earliest. The Romanticism movement in the 19th century glorified all things related to the Middle Ages, or more specifically anything pre-Enlightenment era.

^ Hereward Carrington (1880-1958), "The Seven Wonders of the World: ancient, medieval and modern", reprinted in the Carington Collection (2003) ISBN 0766143783, page 14.
^ Edward Latham. A Dictionary of Names, Nicknames and Surnames, of Persons, Places and Things (1904), page 280.
^ Francis Trevelyan Miller, Woodrow Wilson, William Howard Taft, Theodore Roosevelt. America, the Land We Love (1915), page 201.
^ a b I H Evans (reviser), Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (Centenary edition Fourth impression (corrected); London: Cassell, 1975), page 1163
^ The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Crusades (2001, page 153))
^ The Rough Guide To England (1994, page 596))
^ Palpa, as You Like it, page 67)
^ The Catholic Encyclopedia, v.16 (1913), page 74

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Seven Wonders of the Medieval World".