Friday, June 01, 2007

History Carnival #53

The 53rd History Carnival by Michael Lorenzen is up at American Presidents Blog. There is a lot of good history blogging to be found here.

Rebecca Goetz at Historianess will host the next History Carnival on July 1st. Use the submission form if you have suggestions.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

History of Italy

History of Italy. This is a brief history of the European nation of Italy. This is of course the birthplace of the Roman Empire!

The Encyclopædia Britannica notes, "Country of south-central Europe, occupying a peninsula that juts deep into the Mediterranean Sea. Comprising some of the most varied and scenic landscapes on earth, Italy is often described as a country shaped like a boot. At its broad top stand the Alps, which are among the world's most rugged mountains. Italy's highest points are along Monte Rosa, which peaks in Switzerland, and along Mont Blanc, which peaks in France."

From the site:

Greeks settled in the southern tip of the Italian Peninsula in the eighth and seventh centuries B.C.; Etruscans, Romans, and others inhabited the central and northern mainland. The peninsula subsequently was unified under the Roman Republic. The neighboring islands also came under Roman control by the third century B.C.; by the first century A.D., the Roman Empire effectively dominated the Mediterranean world. After the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West in the fifth century A.D., the peninsula and islands were subjected to a series of invasions, and political unity was lost. Italy became an oft-changing succession of small states, principalities, and kingdoms, which fought among themselves and were subject to ambitions of foreign powers. Popes of Rome ruled central Italy; rivalries between the popes and the Holy Roman Emperors, who claimed Italy as their domain, often made the peninsula a battleground.

The commercial prosperity of northern and central Italian cities, beginning in the 11th century, and the influence of the Renaissance mitigated somewhat the effects of these medieval political rivalries. Although Italy declined after the 16th century, the Renaissance had strengthened the idea of a single Italian nationality. By the early 19th century, a nationalist movement developed and led to the reunification of Italy--except for Rome--in the 1860s. In 1861, Victor Emmanuel II of the House of Savoy was proclaimed King of Italy. Rome was incorporated in 1870. From 1870 until 1922, Italy was a constitutional monarchy with a parliament elected under limited suffrage.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Benjamin Morrell and the Galapagos Eruption of 1825

The page Galapagos: Benjamin Morell has text taken from a first hand account of Captain Benjamin Morrell who ran into a Galapagos volcano as it was erupting in the 19th century. On 14 February of 1825, while anchored in Banks Bay, this captain and his crew witnessed, and barely survived, one of the most spectacular eruptions in Galapagos history at Fernandina Volcano.

It was a close call for Morell and his crew! Kim Kavin in wrote in Gal√°pagos, Enchanted Islands, "Morrell’s flagging sails caught a life-saving breeze about the time the air temperature reached 147 degrees. Tar was melting from the rigging. Pitch was oozing from the vessel’s seams. When he finally reached a safe place to anchor more than 50 miles away, he could still hear Fernandina’s thunderous rumbling. He was undoubtedly stunned to have escaped with his life."

From the site:

On Monday the fourteenth, at two o'clock, AM, while the sable mantle of night was yet spread over the mighty Pacific, shrouding the neighboring islands from our view, and while the stillness of death reigned everywhere about us, our ears were suddenly assailed by a sound that could only be equalled by ten thousand thunders bursting upon the air at once; while, at the same instant, the whole hemisphere was lighted up with a horrid glare that might have appalled the stoutest heart! I soon ascertained that one of the volcanoes of Narborough island, which had quietly slept for the last ten years, had suddently broken forth with accumulated vengence.

The sublimity, the majesty, the terrific grandeur of this scene baffle the description and set the powers of languate at defiance. had the fires of Milton's hell burst its vault of adamant, and threatened the heavens with conflagration, his description of the incident would have been appropriate to the present subject. No words that I can command will give the reader even a faint idea of the awful splendour of the great reality.

Had it been the "crack of doom" that aroused them, my men could not have been sooner on deck, where they stood gazing like "sheeted spectres," speechless and bewildered with astonishment and dismay. The heavens appeared to be one blaze of fire, intermingled with millions of falling stars and meteors; while the flames shot upward from the peak of Narborough to the height of at least two thousand feet in air. All hands soon became sensible of the cause of the startling phenomenon, and on recovering from their first panic could contemplate its progress with some degree of composure.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Latin Americanist Research Resources Project

Latin Americanist Research Resources Project. This library project seeks to create a prototype for fully connected collections for Latin American studies. Institutional participants in the project include the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and forty-four ARL Libraries.

Several features include:

Latin American Periodicals Tables of Contents (LAPTOC) - Provides access to the tables of contents of more than 800 journals, primarily in the humanities and social sciences, published in Latin America.

Latin American Open Archives Portal (LAOAP) - Provides access to social sciences grey literature produced in Latin America by research institutes, non-governmental organizations, and peripheral agencies.

Presidential Messages - Contains digital images of over 75,000 pages of presidential speeches from the early 19th century to the present from Mexico and Argentina.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Star Wars - 30 Years Later

I was seven years old when Star Wars came out in 1977. It is the first movie I remember seeing. It impressed me greatly and it and the two sequels helped to dominate my fantasy life for years. I watch these movies today and I still can recall the lines so well that I annoy my wife by speaking them out loud.

The History Channel aired Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed tonight. The site description reads, "Thirty years ago, an unheralded film known as Star Wars opened in theaters and took audiences on a groundbreaking journey to a galaxy far, far away. It instantly seized the public's imagination, and three decades later still claims that grasp. On Memorial Day Monday, May 28th @ 9pm, The History Channel premieres STAR WARS: THE LEGACY REVEALED, a 2-hour special exploring why the emotional impact of the Star Wars Saga remains as relevant as ever. Through interviews with politicians, academics, journalists and critics, we'll learn about the similarities between the tales of Luke Skywalker and King Arthur and Buddha and Yoda. We'll see how Star Wars' intensely compelling stories - borrowed from diverse traditions, from Greek mythology and American westerns to the Bible and even Vaudeville - force us to explore some of the biggest questions of our time."

When I was an undergraduate, my university library ran a promotion offering a free "Dialog" search of databases on a topic. This was in the days when searching databases required a librarian to do it for you and you even had to pay for the privilege of having them do it! I took advantage of this and had the librarian (her name was Gwen) search Greek hero myth and Luke Skywalker. Even in the early 90s, I got some good results. I wrote a paper for a philosophy class and got an A- I believe. Alas, the paper is now gone. Nowadays, good, mediocre, and bad papers by college students are saved forever in and on plagiarism sites. If I had a copy of the paper, I would post it here.

The History Channel show focused heavily on the parallels of the Star Wars Republic falling like the Weimar Republic in Germany before the Nazi takeover. Obviously, there are strong parallels between Hitler benefiting from the Enabling Act and Palpatine assuming emergency powers. However, to me, the fall of the Roman Republic seems to be a bigger inspiration for the fall of the Galactic Republic to me. The biggest difference is that Palpatine in Star Wars was clearly evil and I do not think Julius Caesar was an evil man.

Thirty years after its release, Star Wars plays a central role in American (and world) popular culture. People know the story. I bet a hundred years from now, Star Wars will still be studied. Those six movies mattered. What an embarrassment to the Academy Awards that Annie Hall won the 1977 Oscar for Best Picture. Which movie is more significant and being studied still today and is likely to have the greatest impact on future films? Those Oscar voters lacked vision in this case.