Saturday, January 13, 2007

History of Macau

History of Macau. This is a short history of the former Portuguese colony which is now a Special Administrative Region of China. A map can be found here.

The Encyclopædia Britannica notes, "Special administrative region (Pinyin tebie xingzhengqu; Wade-Giles t'e-pieh hsing-cheng-ch'ü) of China, on the country's southern coast. Macau is located on the western side of the Pearl River (Chu Chiang) estuary (at the head of which is the port of Canton) and stands about 40 miles (64 km) opposite the special administrative region of Hong Kong, which is on the eastern side of the estuary. Macau comprises a small, narrow peninsula projecting from the mainland sheng (province) of Kwangtung and includes the islands of Taipa and Coloane. Extending up a hillside and overlooking La-Pa Island is the city of Macau, which occupies almost the entire peninsula. The name is derived from the Chinese A-ma-gao, or Bay of A-ma, for A-ma, the patron goddess of sailors."

From the site:

Chinese records of Macau date back to the establishment in 1152 of Xiangshan County under which Macau was administered, though it remained unpopulated through most of the next century. Members of the South Sung (Song) Dynasty and some 50,000 followers were the first recorded inhabitants of the area, seeking refuge in Macau from invading Mongols in 1277. They were able to defend their settlements and establish themselves there.

The Hoklo Boat people were the first to show commercial interest in Macau as a trading center for the southern provinces. Macau did not develop as a major settlement until the Portuguese arrived in the 16th century. Portuguese traders used Macau as a staging port as early as 1516, making it the oldest European settlement in the Far East. In 1557, the Chinese agreed to a Portuguese settlement in Macau but did not recognize Portuguese sovereignty. Although a Portuguese municipal government was established, the sovereignty question remained unresolved.

Initially, the Portuguese developed Macau's port as a trading post for China-Japan trade and as a staging port on the long voyage from Lisbon to Nagasaki. When Chinese officials banned direct trade with Japan in 1547, Macau's Portuguese traders carried goods between the two countries. The first Portuguese governor was appointed to Macau in 1680, but the Chinese continued to assert their authority, collecting land and customs taxes. Portugal continued to pay rent to China until 1849, when the Portuguese abolished the Chinese customs house and declared Macau's "independence," a year which also saw Chinese retaliation and finally the assassination of Gov. Ferreira do Amaral.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

National Archives and Footnote Launch Project to Digitize Historic Documents

Press Release January 10, 2007

Washington, DC and Lindon, UT…Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein and Footnote, Inc. CEO Russell Wilding today announced an agreement to digitize selected records from the vast holdings of the National Archives. The 4.5 million pages that have been digitized so far are now available at www.footnote.com/nara.

This non-exclusive agreement, beginning with the sizeable collection of materials currently on microfilm,will enable researchers and the general public to access millions of newly-digitized images of the National Archives historic records on a subscription basis from the Footnote web site. By February 6, the digitized materials will also be available at no charge in National Archives research rooms in Washington D.C. and regional facilities across the country. After an interval of five years, all images digitized through this agreement will be available at no charge through the National Archives web site.

"This is an exciting step forward for the National Archives," said Professor Weinstein. "It will immediately allow much greater access to approximately 4.5 million pages of important documents that are currently available only in their original format or on microfilm. The digitization of documents will also enhance our efforts to preserve our original records."
“The partnership with the National Archives will expand significantly the content we are able to offer professional and amateur researchers,” said Footnote CEO Russell Wilding. “We will continue to add millions of original documents and images monthly. ”

The following represents a portion of the millions of historic documents that will be made available as part of the National Archives - Footnote Agreement.

Papers of the Continental Congress (1774-89).
The Papers of the Continental Congress include Journals of the Congress, reports of its committees, papers submitted by state Governments, and correspondence of its Presidents and other officers with diplomatic representatives of the United States abroad, officers in the Continental Army, State and local officials, and private persons. Among the Papers are copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Northwest Ordinance, the Constitution, and other documents instrumental in molding the new Government. Also included are drafts of treaties and commercial agreements, papers relating to expenditures and loans, reports of military progress during the Revolution, and papers relating to Indian treaties and tribes.

Mathew B. Brady Collection of Civil War Photographs.
One of the largest and most frequently researched bodies of Civil War photography anywhere, this series originated with some 6,000 glass plate negatives acquired by the War Department from Brady in 1874-1875. Encompassing images by the enterprising Brady and more than a dozen other photographers, including Alexander Gardner and Timothy O'Sullivan, directly or indirectly associated with him, the series ranges from Brady Gallery portraits of leading military and political personalities of the 1850's-1860's to views of units, battlefields, ruins, landscapes, camps, hospitals, prisons, fortifications, bridges, and railroads from Fredericksburg to Chickamauga to Atlanta.

Southern Claims Commission.
In the 1870s, some southerners claimed compensation from the U.S. government for items used by the Union Army, ranging from corn and horses, to trees and church buildings. The claim files contain a wealth of genealogical information and they consist of petitions, inventories of properties lost, testimony of family members and others, reports, and certificates submitted by claimants to the Southern Claims Commission as proof of loyalty to the Federal Government and value of property damaged or lost during the Civil War. The materials are arranged by state and thereunder by the name of the claimant.

Name Index to Civil War and Later Pension Files.
Pension applications for service in the U.S. Army between 1861 and 1900, grouped according to the units in which the veterans served. The name index to the Civil War and Later Pension Application Files contains over 3 million index entries documenting the applications of soldiers, sailors and their widows. The index is the entry point for one of the most significant bodies of Federal records documenting the lives of volunteers who served in the Civil War, the western Indian Wars, and the Spanish American War.

Investigative Case Files of the Bureau of Investigation, 1908-22.
The Bureau of Investigation investigated real and perceived threats to the nation and its citizens before it became the FBI. The materials compiled by the BOI from 1908 to 1922 consist of an index to the investigative case files, general investigative records, investigative records relating to German Aliens from 1915 through 1920, investigative records relating to Mexican Neutrality Violations from 1909 through 1921, and investigative records transferred from the Department of Justice from 1920 through 1921. The records are arranged alphabetically by the name of the person or organization investigated.

About the National Archives

The National Archives and Records Administration, an independent federal agency, is the nation's record keeper. Founded in 1934, its mission is unique —to serve American democracy by safeguarding and preserving the records of our Government, ensuring that the people can discover, use, and learn from this documentary heritage. The National Archives ensures continuing access to the essential documentation of the rights of American citizens and the actions of their government. It supports democracy, promotes civic education, and facilitates historical understanding of our national experience. The National Archives meets a wide range of information needs, among them helping people to trace their families' history, making it possible for veterans to prove their entitlement to medical and other benefits, and preserving original White House records. The National Archives carries out its mission through a nationwide network of archives, records centers, and Presidential Libraries, and on the Internet at www.archives.gov.

About Footnote, Inc.

Founded in 1997 as iArchives, Inc., Footnote is a subscription based web site that features searchable original documents that provide users with an unaltered view of the events , places and people that shaped the American nation and the world. At Footnote.com all are invited to come to share, discuss, and collaborate on their discoveries with friends, family, and colleagues. For more information, visit www.footnote.com.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Sleuths close in on Odysseus home


Where exactly is the ancient island of Ithaca? It is the reported home of Homer's hero Odysseus. Some believe that the island is mythical but there is now some evidence that it really existed.

CNN has an article titled Sleuths close in on Odysseus home. The article notes, "Finding Ithaca could rival the discovery of ancient Troy on the Turkish coast in the 1870s. No one can be certain whether Odysseus or his city really existed. But the discovery of the ruins of Troy, where Odysseus and other legendary Greek heroes did battle, has led scholars to believe there is more to Homer's tales than just legend. Until now, the kingdom of Ithaca was thought to have been on the Ionian island of Ithaki. But Bittlestone's team say they believe it is on Paliki, a peninsula on the island of Kefalonia, west of Ithaki."

One of the reasons that Ithaca may have remained undiscovered for so long may be due to changes in Ithaca's landscape. Robert Bittlestone said, ""There is every evidence we are on the right track. For thousands of years people thought Homer was wrong in how he described the location of Ithaca. I believe Homer was right but we didn't see it because the landscape has changed."

This is certainly an exciting discovery if true. I can only imagine what wonders may be unearthed in an archaeological dig at Kefalonia (Ithaca).

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Some Sites for Teaching about Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is coming up fast. Many teachers are having to come up with ideas for teaching about the slain civil rights leader. Here are a few sites I have discovered recently:

Happy Birthday, MLK! - Activities for all grades for learning about the life of the famous civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Lesson Plans - Offers a collection of lesson plans that teach elementary school students about Martin Luther King, Jr. and his message.

MLK Papers Project, Lesson Plans - Explore a variety of lesson plans about Martin Luther King Jr. that are appropriate for high school students.

Regardless of the level of your students, or where in the world you teach, I wish you success if you plan on teaching about King.

Monday, January 08, 2007

THE IMMORTAL GAME: A HISTORY OF CHESS

I have been playing chess off and on most of my life since I was eight years old. In high school, my desire to play was almost obsessive. However, as I have gotten older, I find myself playing no more that five or six games a year. I think much of this has to do with my skill level. I can beat most novices fairly easily but anyone with skill tends to take me a part in short order. As such, I found The Immortal game: A History of Chess to be a worthwhile read.

I discovered this book by David Shenk to be a thoroughly enjoyable survey of chess history. Like me, Shenk admits that he is not very good at chess but has long been fascinated by the game. The book alternates between chapters detailing the history of the development of chess, the author's personal recollections of the game, and a move by move analysis of the so called "Immortal Game" between Adolf Anderssen and Lionel Kieseritzky played in 1851 in London. Although the shifting back and forth in the narrative can be a bit unsettling if you are reading it straight through, it actually makes it an easy book to put down and come back to over a long period of time.

The history chapters look at how the game has developed over time. No one can say for certain who invented chess or where it came from but it is clearly ancient and is probably from India. Shenk examines this and then in subsequent chapters moves into how important the game was in the Medieval Islamic world and how the game spread to the west. This allows him to also write about how the game has changed and how the embrace of different cultures of chess meets different cultural or religious needs. Later chapters in the book take the reader through the 20th century (including Soviet chess history) all the way up to the prospects of computers being able to defeat human chess world champions.

The book is also loaded with tons of chess lore. One of my favorites is from early in the book. Shenk writes of chess master Marcel Duchamp and his chess passion, "Even true love could not moderate his fixation. In 1927 Duchamp married Lydia Sarazin-Lavassor, a young heiress. On their honeymoon he spent the entire week studying chess problems. Infuriated, his bride plotted her revenge. When Duchamp finally drifted off to sleep late one night, Lydia glued all the pieces to the board. They were divorced three months later" (p. XVII.)

My favorite chapter looked at the connection between chess and mental illness. Unfortunately, a significant number of chess masters have suffered serious mental problems which may be connected to their deep immersion in the game. For example, Paul Morphy (a 19th century American) dazzled Europe on a tour in the late 1850s. However, when he returned home to New Orleans, he abandoned the game and wandered the French Quarter talking to invisible people. Another 19th century master was Wilhelm Steinitz. After a brilliant career, he was confined to an asylum where he reportedly played chess with God over an invisible telephone wire and won. Modern American master (and former world chess champion) Bobby Fischer also has some of his strange behaviors examined in the book.

One drawback of the book is that it strangely packed with a large number of appendixes. For some reason, Shenk includes the official rules of chess, recaps with varying degrees of analysis of six famous chess games, and a 1786 essay on chess by Ben Franklin. While all of this is interesting, it can also all be found on the Internet easily. Rather than including all of this supplemental material, I wish Shenk had used the pages to write another chapter.

David Shenk has written an excellent book. It provides a good overview to the history of chess. It also examines many other issues relating to chess. One does not have to be passionate about chess to appreciate this book. However, I have found my reading of this book has actually reawakened my desire to play and I have been online playing chess with anonymous strangers and being crushed repeatedly.

(This review was originally published in Ohioana Quarterly.)