Saturday, January 07, 2006

State of the Union Addresses of Gerald Ford

State of the Union Addresses of Gerald Ford. President Ford is the only American President to have never been elected President or Vice-President. Despite this, he gave three State of the Union Adresses. This is more State of the Union Addresses than many elected Presidents such as Harding, Taylor, or WH Harrison.

These include:

State of the Union Address of Gerald Ford 1975
State of the Union Address of Gerald Ford 1976
State of the Union Address of Gerald Ford 1977

His last State of the Union from 1977 had much humor. It was delivered after he lost the 1976 election shortly before Jimmy Carter was sworn in. Ford noted, "This report will be my last--maybe--[laughter]--but for the Union it is only the first of such reports in our third century of independence, the close of which none of us will ever see. We can be confident, however, that 100 years from now a freely elected President will come before a freely elected Congress chosen to renew our great Republic's pledge to the Government of the people, by the people, and for the people. "

Friday, January 06, 2006

BBC News - Open Source History

BBC News - Open Source History. There are now free history clips online from the BBC!

The site notes, "We're pleased to present links to nearly 80 pieces of video and audio covering iconic news stories and events of the last 50 years. You might feel that some important stories have been left out. If so, it is likely to be because the BBC doesn't have the rights to release the item."

Some clips include:

1966 World Cup Final
Aftermath of Rajiv Gandhi’s murder
Crossing points forced in Berlin Wall
Ethiopian drought causes famine
Fans gather for Elvis' funeral

What does Open Source mean? It allows users (like teachers) to reuse the content without permission. As long as the material is used for non-commercial purposes and proper credit is given, this is free content to work with.

I think this is a great idea and I hope the BBC puts up even more clips in the future.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

"The Affair" - The Case of Alfred Dreyfus


"The Affair" - The Case of Alfred Dreyfus. In 1894, an low ranking French army officer by the name of Alfred Dreyfus was convicted of treason and sentenced to life in prison. He was promptly sent to the infamous Devil's Island penal colony.

The only problem with this was that he was not guilty. Investigations by his brother and by members of the French Army revealed that he had been set-up and that the real spy was someone else. Further, the High Command of the French Army knew this and was actively engaged in the coverup.

It took until 1906 but Alfred Dreyfus was finally cleared of the charges. In the meantime, he went through years of hardship on Devil's Island and in France. In the end his commission was restored and he served with distinction in the First World War. He died in 1935.

This is a fascinating story and one that demonstrates that even democratic governments can engage in conspiracies that deprive the innocent of freedom.

From the site:

The Dreyfus case underscored and intensified bitter divisions within French politics and society. The fact that it followed other scandals - the Boulanger affair, the Wilson case, and the bribery of government officials and journalists that was associated with the financing of the Suez Canal - suggested that the young French Republic was in danger of collapse. The controversy involved critical institutions and issues, including monarchists and republicans, the political parties, the Catholic Church, the army, and strong anti-Semitic sentiment.

Alfred Dreyfus, an obscure captain in the French army, came from a Jewish family that had left its native Alsace for Paris when Germany annexed that province in 1871. In 1894 papers discovered in a wastebasket in the office of a German military attache made it appear that a French military officer was providing secret information to the German government. Dreyfus came under suspicion, probably because he was a Jew and also because he had access to the type of information that had been supplied to the German agent. The army authorities declared that Dreyfus' handwriting was similar to that on the papers. Despite his protestations of innocence he was found guilty of treason in a secret military court-martial, during which he was denied the right to examine the evidence against him. The army stripped him of his rank in a humiliating ceremony and shipped him off to [life imprisonment on] Devil's Island, a penal colony located off the coast of South America. The political right, whose strength was steadily increasing, cited Dreyfus' alleged espionage as further evidence of the failures of the Republic. Ãdouard Drumont's right-wing newspaper La Libre Parole intensified its attacks on the Jews, portraying this incident as further evidence of Jewish treachery.

Dreyfus seemed destined to die in disgrace. He had few defenders, and anti-Semitism was rampant in the French army. An unlikely defender came to his rescue, motivated not by sympathy for Dreyfus but by the evidence that he had been railroaded and that the officer who had actually committed espionage remained in position to do further damage. Lieutenant Colonel Georges Picquart, an unapologetic anti-Semite, was appointed chief of army intelligence two years after Dreyfus was convicted. Picquart, after examining the evidence and investigating the affair in greater detail, concluded that the guilty officer was a Major named Walsin Esterhazy. Picquart soon discovered, however, that the army was more concerned about preserving its image than rectifying its error, and when he persisted in attempting to reopen the case the army transferred him to Tunisia. A military court then acquitted Esterhazy, ignoring the convincing evidence of his guilt.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Birka: Trade Center and Gateway for Viking Age Sweden

Birka: Trade Center and Gateway for Viking Age Sweden. Recounts the story of this town in Sweden founded in the 8th century on the island of Björkö. Includes maps, a reconstruction drawing, and description of Birka in the Viking age. This is from a larger site on Vikings produced by "The Viking Answer Lady."

From the site:

Birka sits upon the island of Björkö at the entrance of the Mälar Sea (sometimes called Lake Mälar), not far from the site of modern Stockholm. Birka therefore acted as the trade center and gateway for all of Central Sweden. The major east-west trade route passed along the southern Swedish coastline, through Bornholm, Öland, and Gotland, but Birka was the richest trade center of all. Traders came to Birka from Frisia, Anglo-Saxon England, Germany, the Baltic countries, Greeks from Byzantium, and Orientals.

A visitor approaching the island of Björkö sees first a bare rock due south of the site of Birka. On this rock was a fortress and a place of refuge if the town were attacked, surrounded by a rampart of earth and stones 25' to 50' across, oval in plan and with three gates: one facing north, one south, and one facing east towards the town. Outside the northern gate was the garrison that manned the fortress. North-east of the northern gate is the modern "Black Earth" area upon which the historical site was situated. Two types of houses were in use at Birka: wattle-and-daub homes, and timber or log houses caulked with clay. The settlement area occupies only 30 acres -- less than half the area of Hedeby. A defensive rampart surrounds the settlement, averaging 22' to 39' wide and 6 feet high. Gaps occurring in the line of the rampart indicate that there were probably square wooden towers along this fortification for further protection as well.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

History of Saudi Arabia

History of Saudi Arabia. This is a short history to the Asian nation of Saudi Arabia. I note that most of Saudi Arabian history is not covered and the focus is on 20th Century political history.

Wikipedia notes, "The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the largest country on the Arabian Peninsula. It borders Jordan on the north, Iraq on the north and north-east, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates on the east, Oman on the south and south-east, and Yemen on the south, with the Persian Gulf to its north-east and the Red Sea to its west. It is called the land of the two holy mosques, a reference to Mecca and Medina, Islam's two holiest places."

From the site:

Except for a few major cities and oases, the harsh climate historically prevented much settlement of the Arabian Peninsula. People of various cultures have lived in the peninsula over a span of more than 5,000 years. The Dilmun culture, along the Gulf coast, was contemporaneous with the Sumerians and ancient Egyptians, and most of the empires of the ancient world traded with the states of the peninsula.

The Saudi state began in central Arabia in about 1750. A local ruler, Muhammad bin Saud, joined forces with an Islamic reformer, Muhammad Abd Al-Wahhab, to create a new political entity. Over the next 150 years, the fortunes of the Saud family rose and fell several times as Saudi rulers contended with Egypt, the Ottoman Empire, and other Arabian families for control on the peninsula. The modern Saudi state was founded by the late King Abdul Aziz Al-Saud (known internationally as Ibn Saud). In 1902, Abdul Aziz recaptured Riyadh, the Al-Saud dynasty's ancestral capital, from the rival Al-Rashid family. Continuing his conquests, Abdul Aziz subdued Al-Hasa, the rest of Nejd, and the Hijaz between 1913 and 1926. In 1932, these regions were unified as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Seeing and Reading through the Culture of War

Seeing and Reading through the Culture of War. This is a good article on using war to teach students about history. It was written by Tracy Bilsing and Carroll Ferguson Nardone. It appeared in the Winter 2005 (Volume 9, Issue 4) issue of Academic Exchange Quarterly.

From the site:

Students often have trouble understanding culture outside their own generation. One of the ways that we can bridge the gap for students is to focus on a culture engaged in war—an event which permeates all aspects of society. Using emotionally and politically charged images provides a preliminary method for students to engage in analysis. Then literature emerging from war can serve as the conduit through which educators can more effectively teach students to analyze cultural influences shaped by war and its effects.