Friday, November 09, 2007

Book Review Policy

I have been getting comments from publishers/authors offering me a free copy of their book. I am assuming they are hoping for a positive review at this blog. As such, I feel obligated to put a book review policy at this blog:

1. The author of the World History Blog (Miland Brown) is happy to accept free copies of books, software, DVDs, etc. However, all items are accepted as gifts with no assurance that any item will be reviewed at this site.

2. When an item is sent to Miland Brown, there is a possibility that a resulting review may be negative. I am a nice guy but sometimes I do not like a book. If I feel moved to review a gift I do not like, the review may well reflect this.

3. I will not review vanity press publications. If you had to pay to have the book published, it is a vanity. Is it a print-on-demand publication listed in Amazon that you had to pay to have produced? That is a vanity press publication too. It really is not that hard to figure out.

4. If you want to send me a copy of a book (or other item), send me an e-mail at milandbrown at gmail.com.

5. I almost certainly will mention in any review that I got the copy for free. Ethically, I feel I need to do this.

Feel free to offer me free stuff. I like it. However, do not assume that the gift will result in free positive publicity or any publicity at all.

This post will be linked to from the main page of the World History Blog and be considered a core policy.

Thank you.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

History of Iceland

History of Iceland. This essay is a brief history of the European nation of Iceland. Medieval as well as modern history is covered.

Wikipedia notes, "Iceland, officially the Republic of Iceland is a country in northern Europe, comprising the island of Iceland and its outlying islets in the North Atlantic Ocean between the rest of Europe and Greenland. It is the least populous of the Nordic countries and the second smallest; it has a population of about 313,000 and a total area of 103,000 km². Its capital and largest city is Reykjavík."

From the site:

Iceland was settled in the late 9th and early 10th centuries, principally by people of Norse origin. In 930 A.D., the ruling chiefs established a republican constitution and an assembly called the Althingi--the oldest parliament in the world. Iceland remained independent until 1262, when it entered into a treaty establishing a union with the Norwegian monarchy. Iceland passed to Denmark in the late 14th century when Norway and Denmark were united under the Danish crown.

The 1907 Catholic Encyclopedia wrote, "Irish monks, according to legend, were the first discoverers of the island about the year 800. Colonization did not begin until much later, when King Harold I Harfagr of Norway subdued the Norse nobles, who had been independent until then, and made himself absolute lord of Norway in 872. Many liberty-loving men at that time left the land of their fathers (874), and sought new homes on the still uninhabited island which is said to owe its name to the Norseman, Floke Vilgerdarson. This immigration (Landnahme) continued for sixty years. The colonists (noblemen, with their serfs, among whom were men of Germanic and Celtic origin) divided the soil among themselves, and the chieftains not only continued to exercise judicial prerogatives over the low tenants and serfs, but also performed the functions of high-priests (gooi). Freemen, however, might claim their rights in the moot or public assembly (thing). The people at the beginning of the tenth century numbered about 25,000, divided into some thirty clans, which about 930 formed an independent republic with an aristocratic constitution. The government and the administration of justice were vested in the Althing, which met annually in June and in which freemen and their families could take part. But this body was not always able to exercise its powers, and it happened quite often that internal quarrels were settled by the sword. Thirty years later the country was divided into four quarters, subdivided in turn into thing-districts. To simplify business, there was a special court of law for each district, under the general jurisdiction of the Althing. A committee (lögrätta), to which each quarter sent twelve representatives, carried on the administration in the name of the Althing. The republic was on friendly terms with the Kingdom of Norway, the two countries having fixed the respective rights and obligations of their citizens by treaty. But it was not long before King Olaf Haraldsson (1024) and Harold Hardrada (1066) made unsuccessful attempts to bring the island into dependence on Norway."

"The inhabitants had in the meantime been converted to Christianity, and for a long while the Catholic bishops exerted over them a powerful and beneficial influence. At their instance the old laws (Gragas) were written down in 1117. Unfortunately, soon afterwards bloody feuds broke out among the chief nobles of the State, in the course of which Sturla attempted to make himself king. The people, tired of protracted wars, offered no resistance to King Hakon the Elder when, in 1258, he appointed Gissur Thorwaldsson Governor (Jarl). A few years later the whole island swore allegiance to the new master, still insisting, however, on retaining certain privileges (1302). It is certain that this act did not make Iceland, strictly speaking, a province of Norway. Norwegian Iceland is always referred to in public documents of the fifteenth, and in chronicles of the sixteenth, century as a dominion of the Crown (see Styffe, "Skandinavien under Unionstider," Stockholm, 1880), and at first it retained its constitutional organization. In the year 1281, however, a code of laws was introduced by the judge, Jón Einarsson, patterned on the Norwegian laws (Jonsbok). Hakon II having died (1380), his son Olaf, who since 1376 had ruled Denmark, ascended the throne."

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Military History Carnival 8

Another day, another great history carnival. Remember the days before we had history blogs and history carnivals? It was like the dark ages...

Military History Carnival 8 is up at Gary Smailes. There is some good stuff here as you might expect.

Happy reading.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

History Carnival LVIII

History Carnival LVIII is up at Martin Rundkvist's Aardvarcheology. There is a lot of good history blogging recorded here!

The next History Carnival will appear on 1 December at Westminster Wisdom. You can Submit here.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Historical Ignorance

As someone who teaches college students, I am continually amazed how historically illiterate many of them are. I had several conversations yesterday that were particularly frustrating. A large part of the problem is that undergraduate students are not well versed in history. It is not a subject that is taught in depth in most of the K-12 schools in the United States. Students often can graduate from high school with a single course in the subject. A recent study found that only 47.8% of college students could pass a basic history test.[i] More than half of the students in a 1999 study believed that Cornwallis surrendered to General Grant after Yorktown during the American Revolution.[ii]

This lack of basic historical knowledge is not limited to the United States. A study in the United Kingdom found that 83% of Scots did not know that Trafalgar was where Admiral Lord Nelson won his famous naval victory over the Spanish and the French.[iii] Chinese students also have been found to be lacking in historical knowledge. A study in Hong Kong found that only 37% of high schools students could pass a test on the history of the People’s Republic of China covering 1949 to the present.[iv]

Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian David McCullough calls this lack of historical knowledge in the United States a threat to national security. McCullough said, “We are raising a generation of people who are historically illiterate and ignorant of the basic philosophical foundations of our free society. We can’t function in a society if we don’t know who we are and where we came from.”[v]

OK, enough complaining. I am just going to have to work harder. History is important and college students should graduate with at least a basic grasp of world and American history.

[i] Gravois, J. (2006). Condemned to Repeat It. Chronicle of Higher Education, 53(14), accessed on 18 June 2007 at http://chronicle.com/weekly/v53/i14/14a02101.htm.

[ii] Cheney, L. (2001). Mrs. Cheney's Remarks on "Teaching for Freedom" at Princeton University. Accessed on 22 June 2007 at http://www.whitehouse.gov/mrscheney/news/20011130.html.

[iii] Anonymous. (15 October, 2005). Scots ‘Ignorant’ about Trafalgar. Accessed on 18 June 2007 at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/4343866.stm.

[iv] Clem, W. (July 9, 2005). Recent Chinese History ‘A mystery to students.’ South China Morning Post, p. 1.

[v] Archibald, G. (April 11, 2003). Ignorance of U.S. History Called Threat to Security. Washington Times, accessed on 18 June 2007 at http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_go1637/is_200304/ai_n7601675.