Friday, May 19, 2006

Grace O'Malley, The Pirate Queen of Ireland

One of the most famous women in Irish history is Grace O'Malley. She is also known to history as the Pirate Queen of Ireland. She lived from around c. 1530 to c.1603.

Grace was the daughter of the chief of the O'Malley clan. The O'Malleys controlled most of what is now the barony of Murrisk. The O' Malleys were a great seafaring family and taxed all those who fished off their coasts. Their leader bore the ancient Irish title of The O' Malley.

Rosemarie Colombraro wrote of her early life. She noted, "As a young child Grace yearned to join her father on the sea, but her mother resisted, saying the life of a sailor was not for young ladies. When Grace cut off her long hair in protest, her amused family nicknamed her Grainne Mhaol (Grace the Bald). It is believed her father gave in and allowed her to travel with him to Spain."

In 1546, Grace married Donal O'Flaherty. She bore him three children. During this time, she also was active in clan politics and took to pirating. When her husband was killed, she took over his castle after defeating the people who killed him. Later, she married Iron Dick Burke so she could gain control of Castle Rockfleet. She divorced Iron Dick a year later but kept his castle.

Grace O'Malley is also known for meeting Queen Elizabth I. Richard English wrote, "Grace lost none of her fire as she aged, eventually running afoul of Queen Elizabeth’s navy. She was arrested for piracy, but petitioned the Queen for leniency in such flowing and complimentary prose that something stirred in the Queen. She summoned Grace for an audience behind closed doors, at the end of which Grace and all her men were released and given property along the coast of Ireland. Elizabeth also knighted Grace’s son, Tibbott, and he became Sir Theobold Burke in 1603."

When Grace visited the Queen, she refused to bow. Wikipedia notes, "When they met at Grenwich, Grace famously refused to bow before Queen Elizabeth because she was herself a Queen, and not a subject of the Queen of England. Elizabeth apparently took to Grace, who was approximately the same age, and the two women reached sufficient agreement for Elizabeth to grant Grace's requests provided Grace's piracy against Great Britain ended."

Despite her pirating, Grace O'Malley lived to an old age. After her death, she became an Irish folk hero of almost legendary status. An upcoming musical play about her (The Pirate Queen by Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schönberg and John Dempsey) will debut at Chicago's Cadillac Palace Theatre in fall 2006

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Emancipation of Women: 1750-1920

The Emancipation of Women: 1750-1920. This site has a great deal of information on British suffragists and their organizations, including biographies with portraits, databases of primary sources, and bibliography.

Most of my knowledge of the suffrage movement has to deal with the United States. Individuals such as Susan B. Anthony are covered a great deal in the American education curriculum. My knowledge of the British suffrage movement was limited primarily to Mrs. Winifred Banks singing the song "Sister Suffragette" in the Disney movie Mary Poppins.

The bulk of the site deals with biography. However, the content is also organized by issues impacting women in the 19th century, pressure groups (including the Anti-Suffrage Society), strategy and tactics, and parliamentary reform acts.

The cartoon above is an example of the anti-suffrage movement in the UK. The caption reads, "While in the act of voting, Mrs. Jones remembers that she has left a cake in the oven!" It is from 1908. It most not have been very effective as suffrage for women would soon be approved.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Before the Dawn : Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors

I just finished this excellent book which was written by Nicholas Wade. The author is a science reporter for the New York Times. The book covers a lot but the essence of the book is how the study of the human genome is allowing scientists and historians to learn more about the early origins of humanity.

Wade's coverage includes the ancient near extinction of humanity (DNA analysis shows at one point there were only 5000 humans left after a mass die off), human migration, and intra-human relations between Neanderthals and Homo sapiens. He also talks about the idea of race and the violent warmaking nature of human society.

On race, a Publisher's Weekly review noted, "And while 'race' is often a dirty word in science, one of the book's best chapters shows how racial differences can be marked genetically and why this is important, not least for the treatment of diseases."

As can be expected, those who dislike the notion of race do not like this book. One reviewer at Amazon wrote, "I hate to bad rap a book but this one seems to begin with the false premise that there is such a thing as 'race'. Geneticists, biologists and anthropologists have relegated the concept of race to the intellectual dung heap of pseudoscience." This review is of course misleading. The idea that race is not a sociological invention is still being debated. And whether you want to call it "race" or not, there are genetic differences in human populations and these can be used to trace the origins of the species, understand how mankind migrated, and help doctors treat diseases today.

Others are objecting to the emphasis on early humans as being natural born killers. An anonymous reviewer in The Week wrote, "Wade is on particularly shaky ground when he insists that the ancient past was a time of unrelenting violence." Yet, for the vast majority of human history, humans lived as primitives and existed in a violent natural world. It took a long time for humans to develop what we would regard as civilization. Are we supposed to believe that the ancient humans were pacifists? That is unlikely. Intuitively, it would make sense to argue that the early humans would be more violent than we are today to deal with a hostile natural world. Wade can not prove this but it is a sound hypothesis.

All in all, this is a good book. It is well written and thought provoking. I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

History of Martinique

History of Martinique. This brief essay has a history of the island of Martinique in the Caribbean. Probably the most well known event in the history of the island was the eruption of Mt. Pele in 1902. It is estimated that 40,000 people died.

The Encyclopedia Britannica notes that Martinique is an, "Island (pop., 2002 est.: 386,000) of the Windward Islands, West Indies, and overseas department of France. It is 50 mi (80 km) long and 22 mi (35 km) wide and occupies an area of 436 sq mi (1,128 sq km). Largely mountainous, its highest point, Mount Pelée, is an active volcano. Its capital is Fort-de-France. Tourism is the basis of its economy. "

From the site:

Martinique, the name of which may be derived from a native form Madiana or Mantinino, was probably discovered by Columbus on the 15th of June 1502; although by some authorities its discovery is placed in 1493. It was at that time inhabited by Caribs who had expelled or incorporated an older stock. It was not until the 25th of June 1635 that possession was taken of the island in the name of the French Compagnie des Iles d'Amerique. Actual settlement was carried out in the same year by Pierre Belain, Sieur d'Esnambuc, captain-general of the island of St Christopher. In 1637, his nephew Dyel Duparquet (d. 1658) became captain-general of the colony, now numbering seven hundred men, and subsequently obtained the seigneurie of the island by purchase from the company under the authority of the king of France.

In 1654, welcome was given to three hundred Jews expelled from Brazil, and by 1658 there were at least five thousand people exclusive of the Caribs, who were soon after exterminated. Purchased by the French government from Duparquet's children for 120,000 livres, Martinique was assigned to the West India Company, but in 1674 it became part of the royal domain. The habitants (French landholders) at first devoted themselves to the cultivation of cotton and tobacco; but in 1650 sugar plantations were begun, and in 1723 the coffee plant was introduced. Slave labour having been introduced at an early period of the occupation, there were 60,000 blacks in the island by 1736. This slavery was abolished in 1860.

Monday, May 15, 2006

History Carnival 31

History Carnival 31. The newest edition of the History Carnival is up at Airminded. It is a well done collection of history related posts from the last 15 days using a time machine theme. There are many days of good reading ahead for those who visit this carnival.

Airminded is by Brett Holman and described as "Airpower and British Society, 1908-1941 (mostly)."

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Biography of Elagabalus of Rome (204-222)

Biography of Elagabalus of Rome (204-222) - This site has a short biography of the Emperor Elagabalus of Rome who was also a priest of a phallic-oriented cult.

Elagabalus was a third century Roman Emperor of the Severan Dynasty. He ruled for four years after coming to the throne at the age of 14. He is poorly regarded by historians of the past and today. For example Wikipedia notes, "Elagabalus developed a reputation among his contemporaries for eccentricity, decadence, and zealotry which was likely exaggerated by his successors. This black propaganda was passed on and as such he was one of the most reviled Roman emperors to early Christian historians and later became a hero to the Decadent movement of the late 19th century."

The Roman people were never impressed with Elagabalus. Few mourned when he was murdered on March 11, 222. For a more positive and alternative view of Elagabalus, see The Amazing Emperor Heliogabalus by J. Stuart Hay from 1911.

From the site:

The Syrian Elagabalus (204-222) was one of the most bizarre Emperors of Rome. He was a nephew of the mentally unstable Emperor Caracalla (188-217). When Elagabalus was 14 years old, his grandmother, Julia Maesa, his mother, Julia Soaemias, and her lover succeeded by bribing and plotting in gaining the throne of the Roman Empire for him. After the execution of his mother's lover, Elagabalus left the Imperial government in the hands of his grandmother.

Originally Elagabalus was called Varius Avitus Bassianus. He became known as Elagabalus, because he was the high priest of the deity El-Gabal, possibly the Syrian sun god Baal. It was a phallic-oriented cult; the sun god was worshipped in the form of a great, black meteorite and two colossal phalli flanked the entrance of the temple in Emesa. When Elagabalus became Emperor, he made the crazy attempt to introduce this Syrian cult to Rome. He had a new temple built on Rome's Palatine Hill and had El-Gabal's black relic transported to the new temple in a chariot decorated with gold and precious stones. In addition, Elagabalus conceived the idea of marrying his god to a goddess, either the Semitic goddess Astarte or the Sabine goddess Minerva. In 220 he broke into the secret sanctuary of Vesta and raped Aquilia Severa, a chaste Vestal Virgin. Although Roman law held that any Vestal who had had sexual intercourse should be buried alive, Elagabalus married her, expressing a hope for 'god-like children'. He divorced her soon afterwards, but took her back in 222.