Friday, April 28, 2006

Today in History at BrainyHistory

Today in History at BrainyHistory. If you have a history themed site or blog, you might want to check out this page. With a single snip of code, you can have your site automatically highlight historical events or birthdays that occured on the current date.

Here is an example:

Today in History
1989 Argentina, hit by rocketing inflation, runs out of money
1967 Muhammad Ali refuses induction into army and stripped of boxing title
1947 Thor Heyerdahl and Kon-Tiki sail from Peru to Polynesia
1934 Franklin D. Roosevelt signs Home Owners Loan Act
1914 W. H. Carrier patents air conditioner
All Events on April 28
more History

I probably will not put this on the WHB but I thought it might interest some history bloggers or site owners.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

John 'Lackland', King of England 1199-1216

John 'Lackland', King of England 1199-1216. The Age of Chivalry has this essay up dealing with this Medieval English king.

History has generally believed that King John was a disaster. He is a villian in the Robin Hood myths. He is portrayed as a weak monarch in Shakespeare's King John. His barons forced him to sign the Magna Carta in 1215 and he was on the brink of losing the throne when he died.

But yet, some sources see King John differently. This essay is one of them. It notes, "King John is generally seen as a corrupt and ruthless monarch, which led to the revolting barons demanding their rights in the famous Magna Carta. Yet another school of thought has John as a keen administrator, a good general, an astute diplomat, and a hard-working and intelligent ruler with a strong sense of justice."

Despite this, King John is still not very highly regarded. The BBC History Magazine named him the worst Briton of the 13th Century in 2006. His shares the "worst Briton" honor with such villians as Jack the Ripper (19th century) and Titus Oates (17th century).

Still, was he really worse than other kings such as Henry III or Edward I "The Hammer of the Scots?" Or has he just gotten a lot of bad press because of the difficult times he lived in and and his inability to solve many of the problems that confronted him?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Do Historians Have a Responsibility to Warn the Public About Misleading Websites?

Do Historians Have a Responsibility to Warn the Public About Misleading Websites? This is an interesting post by Randall Bytwerk at the History News Network. This is thought provoking and I am not sure what the answer is.

I do like these suggestions he offers for dealing with the Holocaust denial site Hitler Historical Museum which does well in search engines for the word Hitler:

1. We should all pay attention to our institution's web sites. As I said, I found a number of .edu sites that link to the "Hitler Historical Museum."

2. Some of us can do what we can to reduce the number of links to the site. For example, I have removed about 20 links to the site from Wikipedia (which anyone can edit) from about a dozen language sites. This is worth doing, since whatever one thinks of the Wikipedia project, an astonishing number of people, including many of our students, use it. It also requires continuing monitoring, since there is nothing to prevent people from putting the links back on Wikipedia. I've emailed sites that look to be linking to the HHM in ignorance urging them to remove the link, with some success. It takes Google a while to register such changes, but I'm hoping that over time, the reduced number of links from reliable sites will lower the HHM's Google ranking.

3. Finally, following Marcuse's suggestion, we might consciously choose to link to high quality sources. The more links to such sources, the higher their ranking on the search engines will be. We don't all have to link to the same sites, but if people could agree on a few of the best sites on the Internet, it would surely help (e.g., Gerhard Rempel's site). I don't find a lot of good sites with .edu addresses, but it might be a good project for someone to develop a solid page on Hitler. My German Propaganda Archive, for example, averages about 8,000 visitors a day, and has led to all sorts of interesting things.

In essence, Bytwerk is suggesting that academics and historians actively become involved in promoting good sites on the Web and making it hard for bad ones to be found. This is called Search Engine Optimization and professionals in the Internet world do this full-time. History quacks tend to be good at learning the SEO ropes too. Although it will be hard for historians to beat the pros at the Web game, efforts in this area probably will pay off some. Google and other search engines like authority sites. And the .edu at the end of a site does mean something to the search engines.

Battle of Nu`uanu

The Battle of Nu`uanu was fought in the late 18th century on the Hawaiian island of O‘ahu. It was the battle that allowed Kamehameha I to annex the entire island of O'ahu.

Wikipedia notes of the battle, "The Nu‘uanu Pali was the site of one of the bloodiest battles in Hawaiian history, in which Kamehameha I conquered the island of the O‘ahu, bringing it under his rule. In 1795 Kamehameha I sailed from his home island of Hawai‘i with an army of 10,000 soldiers. After conquering the islands of Maui and Moloka‘i, he moved on to O‘ahu. The pivotal battle for the island occurred in Nu‘uanu Valley, where the defenders of O‘ahu, led by Kalanikupule, were driven back up into the valley where they were trapped above the cliff. Thousands of Kalanikupule's soldiers were driven off the edge of the cliff to their deaths 1,000 feet below."

The name of the battle in Hawaiian is Ka-lele-a-ke-anae. Some of the O'ahu warriors managed to escape but many more died fighting. Others were captured and sacrificed. Years later, over 800 skulls were found at the base of the cliff.

No consent was given by the people of O'hau to join the Hawaiian Kingdom. But it happened anyway. This battle literally allowed Kamehameha I to become the first king of a unified Hawaiian Kingdom which endured until 1893. There remains some bitterness on O'hau over the results of the battle but thankfully no one has started an independence movement based on it yet. (If you are interested in doing so, follow my 8 Tips for Creating an American Separatist Cause although in this case start with the premise that the Hawaiian Kingdom was the original occupying power and argue that all subsequent transfers in sovereignty are invalid.)

Unfortunately, there is not a lot on the web dealing with this important battle. Here are a few online resources which can give some more details:

A Native Place: Battle of Nu'uanu - This is the best site I can find on this subject.

Honolulu Star-Bulletin Feature on the Battle - This is basically a plug for a book with some details on the event.

The Battle at Nu'uanu Pali -This site is selling a poster of the battle but has some details.

One book which has been published on this event is The Battle of Nu'uanu -- May, 1795 by Rob James (Kamehameha Schools Press). A quick search of Historical Abstracts reveals nothing. However, I may have missed something. If you know of any other sources on the Battle of Nu`uanu, feel free to leave a comment here listing the citation.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Marcus Aurelius and Barbarian Immigration in the Second Century Roman Empire

Immigration is of course an old issue. The history of mankind is a story of people moving from one area to another. And often, the people living in an area are not too happy to see newcomers arrive.

The was the case in the second century Roman Empire. Numerous German tribes wanted to live in the Roman Empire. However, for the most part, they did not desire to live in the Roman Empire as Roman citizens, speaking Greek and Latin, paying taxes, and serving in Roman legions. The German tribes wanted to live in areas of the Roman Empire they conquered and peaceful coexistence with the Romans was not high on their list nor was the process of Romanization.

Marcus Aurelius, the stoic philosopher and last of the Five Good Emperors, was the first who had to deal with it in the second century. The Marcomanni and Quadi crossed the Danube in 169, marched across several provinces, and invaded Italy. This was a major shock to the Romans who had not seen Italy invaded by a foreign power for several centuries.

Marcus Aurelius would spend most of the last eleven years of his reign fighting the German Wars. He died (possibly of the plague) while fighting on the German frontier in 180. Although he was successful in stopping the invasion, his successors would prove less capable and these German tribes would eventually help to bring down the Western Roman Empire.

One idea that Marcus Aurelius tried in addition to warfare was to allow a few of the less objectionable tribes to settle peacefully in the Roman Empire. The Empire had been devastated by the plague when Roman legions brought it back after the Parthian War. This created a huge shortage of men being available to fight in the Roman military. Marcus was hoping that these tribes would provide men for fighting and for growing food. And, he hoped they would eventually Romanize...

Michael Lorenzen in Marcus Aurelius: The Philosopher-Emperor of Rome wrote, "As such, systems theory is one way to understand why Marcus Aurelius agreed to allow some German tribes to settle in the Roman Empire in peace. Some historians criticize this move as it lead to the later 'barbarization' of the Roman Empire. However, due to plague, the Roman Empire had become severely depopulated. There were few to grow crops and to provide soldiers for future legions. "

Birley in Marcus Aurelius: A Biography (2000) wrote, "It could even be argued that depopulation of the countryside, especially Italy, had been beginning before the plague, to an alarming extent. Beside this, if the settlers were from peoples which Marcus intended to incorporate within the empire, the criticism has less points in any case. They were to be romanized sooner or later, by one means or another" (p. 170).

It is hard to judge whether Marcus Aurelius's decision to let in a few tribes while fighting the rest led to the barbarization of the Roman Empire. The Romans had no choice but to try and coexist with the German tribes. The Romans did not always have the strength to fight back. Maybe it was a bad idea. But then again, Marcus really did not have many good options.

And several thousands years later, the whole issue of immigration and assimilation remain newsworthy not only in what was the Roman Empire but around the entire globe. And it will continue to be an issue for the next several thousand years too I bet.

Monday, April 24, 2006

USDA Historical Photos

USDA Historical Photos - This site is a United States Department of Agriculture collection of about 400 photographs which provides a portrait of rural and small town American life mainly in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

I have to admit that I found this collection interesting. I spent more time looking at these pictures than I had originally planned. Some of the pictures look like they could have been taken today. Others clearly could not have been...

From the site:

Most of the photographs on display in this section were taken between 1937 and 1943 during the Farm Security Administration (FSA) era. The entire FSA collection of almost 300,000 pictures are housed at the Library of Congress and the National Archives and Records Administration. Included on these pages are other USDA photographs, some of which date back to the 1800s.Additional photos are planned to be added.