Saturday, September 16, 2006

History Carnival XXXIX

History Carnival XXXIX. The newest edition of the History Carnival is up at the venerable Cliopatria. Ralph Luker is the host and he has done a good job pulling together some of the more interesting history related posts in the history blogosphere. I will have lots of good reading for the next few days as I work through this list.

Rob MacDougall will be your host at Old is the New New for History Carnival XL on 1 October. And a reminder, the next Carnival of Bad History will be hosted here at the World History Blog on September 22nd. Please send me some submissions.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Last Stand of the Neanderthals?

Neanderthals survived longer than thought. This article is from today's issue of USA Today. Research suggests Neanderthals survived for thousands of years longer than thought, with small bands finding refuge in a massive cave in Spain. They used the cave in Gibraltar at least 2,000 years later than expected.

Clive Finlayson of The Gibraltar Museum reported the findings Wednesday with colleagues on the website of the journal Nature. The citation for the article is Finlayson C., et al. Nature, advanced online publication doi : 10.1038/nature05195 (2006). The paper says charcoal samples from fires that Neanderthals set in the cave are about 28,000 years old and maybe just 24,000 years old.

From the site:

Scientists have long been fascinated by the last days of the Neanderthals. Were they doomed because they couldn't compete with the encroaching modern humans for resources, or because they caught new germs from the moderns, or because of climate change? Did the two groups have much contact, and what kind?

They didn't appear to encounter each other in Gibraltar at Gorham's Cave. More than 5,000 years separate the last traces of the Neanderthals from the earliest evidence of modern humans, Finlayson said. He believes the area near the cave contained small bands of Neanderthals and of advancing moderns at the same time, but over a large and varied landscape. So it's not clear if the two groups ever met, he said.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

ABC-CLIO Online History Award Call for Submissions

I received this e-mail today. I thought it would be of interest to the larger history blogging world.

It reads:

ABC-CLIO and the history section of the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) announce a call for submissions for the ABC-CLIO Online History Award. The award, which consists of a citation and $3,000 donated by ABC-CLIO, is given to encourage, recognize, and commend professional achievement in online historical reference and research librarianship.

The ABC-CLIO Online History Award is administered by the RUSA history section and is the first American Library Association (ALA) award of its kind to acknowledge the importance of Internet-based historical resources.

This biennial award will be given to a person or a group of people producing a freely available, sustainable online historical collection or collections; an online tool or tools tailored for the purpose of finding historical materials; or an online teaching aid or aids stimulating creative historical scholarship.

The deadline for submissions is December 15, 2006. Initiated in 2005, the award is offered every other year and will be presented at the 2007 ALA Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.

For complete information, including submission details, please visit

We encourage you to forward this email on to any individuals or groups who you feel would be potential candidates for this award.


The team at ABC-CLIO
130 Cremona Drive
Santa Barbara, CA 93117
(800) 368-6868

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Penney Idea and Wal-Mart

One area of history I have neglected on this blog is business history. Clearly, the evolution of businesses and business ideas has directly impacted the history of the world. I have been reading up on Sam Walton (the founder of Wal-Mart) recently and I learned of one such connection.

The Penney Idea was adopted in 1913 by the J.C. Penney Company. It reads as follows:

1. "To serve the public, as nearly as we can, to its complete satisfaction."
2. "To expect for the service we render a fair remuneration and not all the profit the traffic will bear."
3."To do all in our power to pack the customer's dollar full of value, quality, and satisfaction."
4. "To continue to train ourselves and our associates so that the service we give will be more and more intelligently performed."
5. "To improve constantly the human factor in our business."
6. "To reward men and women in our organization though participation in what the business produces."
7. "To test our every policy, method, and act in this wise: Does it square with what is right and just?"

I am sure that J. C Penney did not invent any of these ideas. Many look familiar from other sources such as Luke 10:7 "for the labourer is worthy of his hire" (Penney Idea #6). Others look familiar today. What business does not claim to serve the public (Penney Idea #1)? Penney Idea #7 may well be the inspiration of the Google ideal of "Do no evil."

Sam Walton was a management trainee for J.C. Penney in 1940 is Des Moines, Iowa. While there, he was exposed to the Penney Idea. It directly impacted his view of business and to this day has shaped how Wal-Mart has developed.

It was Penney Idea #2 nd #3 which had the biggest impact on Walton. Both relate to giving the public the most for their dollar. This may mean deep discounting which might not always generate the highest profit per item. However, a lower profit margin per item can lead to a larger overall profit margin if customers buy more items from the business.

Sam Walton purchased a Ben Franklin store in 1945 after serving in World War Two. The store was a big success. Wikipedia notes, " It was here that Walton pioneered many concepts that would prove to be crucial to his success. Walton made sure the shelves were consistently stocked with a wide range of goods at low prices. His store also stayed open later than most other stores, especially during the Easter season. He also pioneered the practice of discount merchandizing by buying wholesale goods from the lowest priced supplier. This allowed him to pass on savings to his customers, which drove up his sales volume. Higher volumes allowed him to negotiate even lower purchase prices with the wholesaler on subsequent purchases."

Maybe Sam Walton would have been successful without his exposure to the Penney Idea. Still, I wonder if this early influence did not plant the ideas that would eventually lead to the success of Wal-Mart today. I am sure that many J.C. Penney managers felt that the meetings in 1913 that generated the Penney Idea were busy work of no real importance. Clearly they were not. Those meetings in 1913 may have changed the history of business and as a consequence the history of the world. Remember that next time you sit through what seems to be a pointless "mission statement" business or departmental meeting!