Friday, April 13, 2007

Marcus Garvey

I recently visited Marcus Garvey which is the official site of the Jamaican national hero, Marcus Garvey, who founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL). The site features his profile, philosophy, nationalistic activities, articles, poems, and photo gallery.

This site is a treasure trove of primary documents. Anyone researching Marcus Garvey will find a lot of information here. I did find the site a bit awkward to navigate but I did get used to it after clicking around for a while.

Here is an excerpt from SENEGALESE NEGRO DEPUTY TRAITOR TO HIS COUNTRY, AFRICA which was an Editorial Letter by Marcus Garvey in the Negro World:

I have now before me a cable report from Paris, published in the New York World of the 20th inst., in which Monsieur Diagne, the black Senegalese Deputy, has been quoted by the "Echo de Paris" as saying, among other things published in a front page article of this French newspaper, that "Garvey's crusade for the redemption of Africa will comc to nothing, for African Negroes are diverse and lacking in cohesion. The dangerous Utopia proposed would not serve their real interests. The majority of both Negro Congresses at Paris in 1919 and at Brussels in i92i opposed Garveyism strongly." The reporter of the "Echo de Paris" asked Diagne the following question: "Is the movement dangerous?" He answered, "Not now, but eventually." Thc paper went on to say, however, that Monsieur Diagne himself as a Negro believes that most Americans are eager to see Garvey succeed and take the surplus Negro population out of the country. He says the United States Negro population has risen from four millions in 1866 to fifteen millions now.

In the above statements Monsieur Diagne runs true to form. This countryman of Siki has exhibited the same love for his race as the n[o]w discredited light-heavyweight champion of Europe. Siki, as everybody knows, is married to a white woman, and immediately after he won his championship he offered $50,000 to anyone who could change him from black into white. Monsieur Diagne, the Deputy for Senegal, has also a white wife, and we feel sure that he would offer any amount of money to change his color. This accounts for the lack of "cohesion" and the "diversity" he speaks of in his countrymen, judging his countrymen from his own feeling and standard. Diagne does not know that all Africans do not feel like him on the race question.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Medicus: A Novel of the Roman Empire

I recently finished reading the book Medicus: A Novel of the Roman Empire. It was written by Ruth Downie. Although I do not read a lot of historical fiction, I decided to give this book a try. And, I am happy to report, I liked it a lot.

Here is Publisher's Weekly description of the book, "The salacious underside of Roman-occupied Britain comes to life in Britisher Downie's debut. Gaius Petrius Ruso, a military medicus (or doctor), transfers to the 20th Legion in the remote Britannia port of Deva (now Chester) to start over after a ruinous divorce and his father's death. Things go downhill from there. His quarters are filthy and vermin-filled, and his superior at the hospital is a petty tyrant. Gaius rescues and buys an injured slave girl, Tilla, from her abusive master, but she refuses to talk, can't cook and costs more to keep than he can afford. Meanwhile, young women from the local bordello keep turning up dead, and nobody is interested in investigating. Gaius becomes a reluctant detective, but his sleuthing threatens to get him killed and leaves him scant time to work on the first-aid guide he's writing to help salvage his finances. Tilla plots her escape as she recovers from her injuries, and just when Ruso becomes attached to her, she runs away, complicating his personal life and his investigation."

The first chapter of the book is CSI: Roman Empire. The good doctor performs an autopsy as part of a murder investigation that sounds very modern. Although entertaining, I wonder how often Roman doctors performed autopsies of murder victims and how good they were at identifying cause and place of death? Ancient doctors knew a lot about the human body so maybe this sort of thing did happen.

Downie does a good job of keeping her chapters short. This makes it easy to put the book down and come back to it later. She also is good at describing how the town looked, how it smelled, and what people were wearing, eating, and drinking. I found the setting to be a plausible description of 2nd century Roman Britain.

I am not a big fan of mystery novels. However, I found the writing of the book to my liking and I liked the twist of it happening Roman Britannia. Is this the introduction of a new series? Will Downie have Gaius Petrius Ruso and his affectionate slave girl travelling the Roman Empire solving murder mysteries? If so, I will be reading more books by Downie.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

New Domain for the World History Blog

The new domain for the World History Blog is http://www.worldhistoryblog.com. The old Blogspot domain will still work and should redirect to the new address. If you have links to the World History Blog on your blog or site, I would appreciate it if you would change the link to reflect this.

I probably should have done this long ago. However, the new Blogger Custom Domains makes the process painless and cheap in that I can still use Blogger, I do not need to transfer any files, and the service is free! All I had to do was buy the domain name and that was cheap.

Also, this blog has been losing most of the search engine traffic lately. As the number of incoming links from good history blogs and .edu sites continues to grow to the World History Blog, I believe it is not because this blog did anything wrong but that instead that Google, MSN, and Yahoo are filtering out or penalizing Blogspot addresses. This is probably because a recent study suggests that around 75% of Blogspot blogs are spam blogs (splogs). You can read the full study in PDF.

Plus, I plan on being around and posting to this blog for decades to come even if no one reads it. I might as well have my own domain and I think worldhistoryblog.com is the best one for me at this blog.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Executing Women in Ohio

THE FAIRER DEATH: EXECUTING WOMEN IN OHIO BY VICTOR STREIB. OHIO UNIVERSITY PRESS (ATHENS OHIO), 2006. 197 PP PB

THE GOOD-BYE DOOR: THE INCREDIBLE TRUE STORY OF AMERICA’S FIRST FEMALE SERIAL KILLER TO DIE IN THE CHAIR BY DIANA BRITT FRANKLIN. KENT STATE UNIVERSITY PRESS (KENT, OHIO), 2006. 244 PP PB

by Kate Brown

Up until now an empty niche existed in the realm of Ohio history—women on death row. In his book, The Fairer Death: Executing Women in Ohio, Streib establishes that the death penalty for women in Ohio and in general is a rare phenomenon. Further, Streib calls the women “the forgotten population” and poses many questions such as who they were and why they were singled out for the death penalty while other women convicted of murder were not.

Coincidentally, in the same year, Kent State published a book that complements Streib’s text in its True Crime Series; The Good-Bye Door: The Incredible True Story of America’s First Female Serial Killer to Die in the Chair by Diana Britt Franklin. The major difference between the two books is that Streib profiles fifteen cases while Franklin focuses on just one. In her book, a finalist for an Ohioana Book Award in nonfiction, Franklin tells the story of Anna Marie Hahn, Ohio’s only known female serial killer and the first female to die in “Old Sparky” (a nickname for the infamous electric chair in Ohio).

Hahn’s is the most interesting case of the fifteen profiled by Streib. Perhaps it is because Anna Marie Hahn is the lone serial killer of the group. The blonde, blue-eyed Hahn killed (or was suspected of killing) seven men and one woman and was suspected of poisoning five others including her husband and mother-in-law. Most of her victims were elderly and all were poisoned. Franklin does her best to reveal Hahn as a character while Streib provides basic facts about his fifteen cases. Franklin’s book is more literary in nature (reading like a good fiction novel) while Streib’s book reads more like a sociological text.

Streib’s main subject seems to be the death penalty rather than the women he profiles, while Franklin’s main subject is Hahn. Franklin does focus a great deal on Hahn’s murders, trial, and execution, but she also includes a look into Hahn’s entire life. Franklin profiles Hahn from her early years as a favored child born to a devout Catholic family in Bavaria to her fall from grace as a single mom which led her trip to America where she settled in Ohio and married before descending into life as a serial killer. The author includes an analysis as to what factors led Hahn to murder in her narrative.

In her book, Franklin leaves little doubt that Hahn (executed at age 32) was guilty while Streib poses the possibility that Hahn’s ten or eleven year old son may have poisoned the men and that Hahn confessed to at least one of the murders in order to protect her son, Oscar. However, Franklin establishes how Hahn alone acted to benefit financially from the deaths. Franklin does not ignore Oscar, but it is obvious she never suspected him of murdering anyone. In her twenty-three page confession, published in part in Franklin’s book, Hahn writes that she hopes that people will not judge her son for the crimes she committed.

Franklin researched Hahn’s case for five years. Of the case she writes, “Period newspapers on microfilm made clear this was not a simple Cincinnati murder case. It was big, very big, with widespread national and even international interest.” (ix) Franklin believes the book to be “a historically accurate account of her crimes,” and her work seems credible. An appendix, bibliography and index appear at the end of the book.

Streib’s book is shorter, but more concise. He is an attorney who has represented female offenders on death row. His project was planned as a law review article but grew into a book. His work (part of the Ohio University Press Series on Law, Society, and Politics in the Midwest) does reflect that Streib has a good grasp on the appropriate laws and the judicial system in general. He has been researching the death penalty for approximately 20 years and his in-depth knowledge is demonstrated throughout the book.

Despite being a credible author with extensive knowledge on his subject, Streib did let his bias be known. His reference to his subjects as “the forgotten population,” as noted previously, is bothersome. He seems almost too sympathetic towards his subjects even though all have been convicted of murder. Streib put all the focus on the women on death row and hardly any on their victims. One can’t help but wonder if the victims of these women deserve a book because they too may be considered forgotten. In contrast, Franklin makes sure that her readers know all of Hahn’s victims—who they were, how old they were, and what they did for a living.

However, Streib’s analysis is excellent and the extent of his research evident. In a well-organized endeavor, his book is divided into five sections: A Context of Sex Bias; The Evolution of Ohio’s Death Penalty; Women Executed in Ohio, 1803-2005; Women Sentenced to Death in Ohio, 1973-2005; and Comparing and Contrasting Cases. Black and white photos of most of the women, an appendix, note section, and index are included.

In conclusion, by addressing the topic of women on death row, the books by Streib and Franklin ably fill a previously empty niche of Ohio history. Streib’s book provides a well-researched overview of the death penalty and includes a brief discussion of each of the female Ohioans who have or who are facing the penalty. Franklin’s book fleshes out the case of Anna Marie Hahn—probably the most notorious and interesting of the fifteen. While each book stands on its own, they also complement each other well in order to give a comprehensive view of the death penalty for female Ohioans.

(This review originally appeared in Ohioana Quarterly.)

Monday, April 09, 2007

History of Liechtenstein

History of Liechtenstein. This is a brief history of the European microstate of Liechtenstein. Hard to spell and a minnow in the World Cup Soccer (Football) field, it nonetheless is an independent sovereign state.

The Encyclopædia Britannica notes, "Officially Principality of Liechtenstein, (German Fürstentum Liechtenstein), small western European principality located between Switzerland and Austria. Its capital is Vaduz."

From the site:

The Austrian Liechtenstein family acquired the fiefs of Vaduz and Schellenberg in 1699 and 1713 respectively, and they became an independent principality under the Holy Roman Empire in 1719 under the name Liechtenstein. The French under Napoleon occupied the country for a few years, but Liechtenstein regained its independence in 1815 within the new German Confederation. In 1868, after the Confederation dissolved, Liechtenstein disbanded its army of 80 men and declared its permanent neutrality, which was respected during both World Wars.

In 1919 Liechtenstein entrusted its external relations to neutral Switzerland. After World War II, Liechtenstein became increasingly important as a financial center, and the country became more prosperous. In 1989, Prince Hans Adam II succeeded his father to the throne, and in 1996 settled a long-running dispute with Russia over Liechtenstein family's archives, which had been confiscated during the Soviet occupation of Vienna in 1945 and later moved to Moscow. In 1978, Liechtenstein became a member of the Council of Europe, and then joined the UN in 1990, the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) in 1991, and both the European Economic Area (EEA) and the World Trade Organization in 1995.