Friday, November 02, 2007

Our Dumb World: The Onion's Atlas of the Planet Earth, 73rd Edition

I received a copy of the book Our Dumb World: The Onion's Atlas of the Planet Earth, 73rd Edition. The book is lavishly illustrated and has entries for every country in the world. The United States is given extra coverage with each state getting an entry. The book looks like a real reference book you would find at your local library.

The publisher description of the book reads, "Our Dumb World: The Onion's Atlas of The Planet Earth, 73rd Edition features incorrect statistics on all of the Earth's 168, 182, or 196 independent nations. It also features maps, including a fold-out world map at actual size. Readers will learn about every country from Afghanistan, 'Allah's Cat Box,' to the Ukraine, 'The Bridebasket of Europe.' Today's news-parody consumer cannot possibly understand made-up current events without the context of fake world history and geography. That is why The Onion is publishing a world atlas: to help us. Our Dumb World is an invaluable tool for any reader interested in overthrowing a weakened government in East Asia, exploiting a developing nation in Africa, or for directions to tonight's party at Erica's. It is a reference guide to 250,000 of the world's most important places, such as North Korea's Trench of Victory, the Great Human Pyramid of Egypt, and Saudi Arabia's superhighway, the Mohammedobahn."

Despite the books appearance, few are going to believe this is a real reference work. The satire is clever, humorous, and sometimes downright offensive. The facts are fabricated, based on stereotypes, and often amusing. The country maps with fake locations are particularly clever. Probably the only hazard this book poses is to struggling students who use English as a second language who may not recognize satire.

The history covered in each region is loosely based on facts but bears no resemblance to reality. Interesting tidbits include:

* The United States - "1865, Robert E. Lee agrees to surrender and end the Civil War on the condition that 193 high schools in the south be named after him" (p. 11)

* Bahamas - "1717, The Bahamas becomes a Five-Star British crown colony with full buffet" (p. 40).

* Zambia - "1851, Queen Victoria renounces her crown and hacks her way through the Zambian jungle...Thus the majestic waterfall near her hut was named Victorian Falls" (p. 71).

* Andorra - "1278, Andorra celebrates its grand opening, commemorated with the cutting of a 75-mile long ribbon strung around its perimeter" (p. 147).

* Thailand - "1440-1939, The people of Thailand call their country by the wrong name for nearly 500 years" (p. 222).

* New Zealand - "1939, Japanese location scouts find New Zealand to be ideal for their major WWII epic" (p. 236).

No country (no matter how small) is neglected. This is a fun, entertaining book virtually assured to also offend you at some point. When you need a break from those serious history texts, take a look at this book. You may have trouble putting it down.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The 2007 Cliopatria Awards: Nominations

The Cliopatria Awards recognize the best history writing in the blogosphere. There will be awards in six categories:

Best Group Blog

Best Individual Blog

Best New Blog

Best Post

Best Series of Posts

Best Writer

Cliopatria, as host of the awards, is ineligible for the "Best Group Blog" category. Individual judges are ineligible for nomination in their respective categories, but may be nominated for other awards. Judges may also make nominations in other categories.

Bloggers, blogs and posts may be nominated in multiple categories. Individuals may nominate any number of specific blogs, bloggers or posts, even in a single category, as long as the nominations include all the necessary information (names, titles, URLs, etc).

Nominations will be open through November; judges will make the final determinations in December. The winners will be announced at the American Historical Association Annual Meeting in early January 2008; winners will be listed on HNN and earn the right to display the Cliopatria Awards Logo on their blog.

Judges for 2007 are: Ancarett, Timothy Burke, Miriam Elizabeth Burstein, Rebecca Goetz, Paul Harvey, Sharon Howard, Elizabeth Klaczynski, Adam Roberts, and John Carter Wood.

Previous winners can be seen here.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Nanjing Massacre Video

This video is disturbing and has graphic pictures from the Rape of Nanjing in 1937. These photos may not be appropriate for all. It is short (under five minutes) and gives a good overview to the event.

Monday, October 29, 2007

History of Israel

History of Israel. This site has an essay on the modern history of Israel. No ancient history here as the essay starts with 1948.

The Encyclopedia Britannica notes that Israel is a, "country in the Middle East, located at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. It is bounded to the north by Lebanon, to the northeast by Syria, to the east and southeast by Jordan, to the southwest by Egypt, and to the west by the Mediterranean Sea. Jerusalem is the capital and the seat of government."

From the site:

The creation of the State of Israel in 1948 was preceded by more than 50 years of efforts to establish a sovereign nation as a homeland for Jews. These efforts were initiated by Theodore Herzl, founder of the Zionist movement, and were given added impetus by the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which asserted the British Government's support for the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

In the years following World War I, Palestine became a British Mandate and Jewish immigration steadily increased, as did violence between Palestine's Jewish and Arab communities. Mounting British efforts to restrict this immigration were countered by international support for Jewish national aspirations following the near-extermination of European Jewry by the Nazis during World War II. This support led to the 1947 UN partition plan, which would have divided Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem under UN administration.

On May 14, 1948, soon after the British quit Palestine, the State of Israel was proclaimed and was immediately invaded by armies from neighboring Arab states, which rejected the UN partition plan. This conflict, Israel's War of Independence, was concluded by armistice agreements between Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria in 1949 and resulted in a 50% increase in Israeli territory.

In 1956, French, British, and Israeli forces engaged Egypt in response to its nationalization of the Suez Canal and blockade of the Straits of Tiran. Israeli forces withdrew in March 1957, after the United Nations established the UN Emergency Force (UNEF) in the Gaza Strip and Sinai. This war resulted in no territorial shifts and was followed by several years of terrorist incidents and retaliatory acts across Israel's borders.