Friday, February 22, 2008

Historic Cities

I found a sharp site that features maps, literature, documents, books, and other materials concerning historic cities around the world. It is Historic Cities. It is a joint project of the Historic Cities Center of the Department of Geography, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Jewish National and University Library.

The site can be searched by year or by region. There is also a collection of biographies of historic map makers. There is a lot of content at the site and it is well worth exploring.

From the site:

The task is immense: every historic city is unique, many cities were mapped time and again, and there are thousands of relevant historical documents.

There is no way to accomplish such a task without your help. We are looking, therefore, for the collaboration of scholars and amateur and local historians who will share part of their knowledge with the public, either directly, exposing their own web-sites, or indirectly, using our services.

Did you scan material for your students? Do you collect old maps of your city? Would you like to recommend translated historical documents and descriptions concerning the history of your city, which you think are important for all of us? Would you like to recommend links which might be of interest to our site?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Never on These Shores

Last month, I received a book in the mail. It was a free copy sent by the publisher with the hopes I would review it. The book is Never on These Shores by Stephen R. Pastore. It is an alternate history of World War Two.

Here is a brief plot summary of the book from Wikipedia:

"1942: The Nazis have successfully landed in Mexico and have invaded the United States through Texas. The Japanese have conquered western Canada and have captured and occupied most of the West Coast from Seattle to the outskirts of Los Angeles. The Italians have launched a massive amphibious assault from Cuba and have taken control of Florida and the Southeast as far north as Atlanta. New York City and Washington D.C. are fortifying and preparing for the onslaught. American forces are stranded in Europe and Southeast Asia. "

To begin, this book is beautifully written. Once I started reading it, I had trouble putting it down. If I had not had to go to work, I would read it all in less than a day. This is a good book and worth the read. If you like war fiction, buy this book!

At the same time, this book is not convincing as to what would have happened had the Axis powers attempted an invasion of the United States of America in 1942. Even if the Germans had avoided an invasion of the Soviet Union, I find the premise unrealistic. The United States would not have been this badly hammered this quickly.

There are many points to consider here. In the real history of the war, Germany invaded the Soviet Union and stalled short of taking Moscow or Stalingrad. This happened despite the fact that the Soviet military was unprepared for the war and that the officer corp. had just been purged by Stalin. Could the Germans have pulled off a more daunting invasion halfway around the world at this time even in the absence of the Soviet front? I find this doubtful. The Italians could not defeat the Greeks in World War Two either and had to be rescued by the Germans. Could they have managed an invasion of Florida much farther away? This is even more dubious. Japanese troops were also stretched all over Asia and Oceania. They could not defend against the American counterattack that happened in the real time stream. Could they have really stretched their troops to undertake a massive invasion of the American West Coast?

Further, in 1942, American war production was just kicking into gear. Most of the new American troops had not been sent overseas yet. There were troops in North Africa and a few starting the process of island hopping in the Pacific. There would have been plenty of American soldiers to throw at overextended Axis supply lines across the USA. Very few would have been trapped overseas. I think the Axis powers would have been crushed in North America.

And Canada would have never have declared neutrality. Canadian troops, even with a British surrender, would have fought on and helped the USA. I think Pastore has seriously underestimated Canada.

Despite these quibbles, this is a good book. If you can suspend disbelief and imagine the world of 1942 as Pastore describes it, this is a strong alternate history. I look forward to reading the sequels which will be coming. Pastore left this story hanging and it appears there will be many more books in this series.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Smattering of History Carnivals

This is a good week for new editions of history carnivals. Those out in the last few days:

- Asian History Carnival #19 is up at Frog in a Well, Korea.

- Carnivalesque XXXVI, an early modern edition of the festival, is up at Mercurius Politicus.

- Indian History Carnival #2 is up at Varnum.

- 11th Military History Carnival is up at Battlefield Biker.

It takes a lot of work to host a history carnival. I have done it here several times. My appreciation to the many bloggers who are contributing to the history blogosphere by being carnival hosts.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Kamehameha Statue

(King Kamehameha Statue in Honolulu, January 2008)

On my recent visit to Hawaii, I had the honor of seeing the famous Kamehameha Statue in Honolulu. It is right across the street from 'Iolani Palace which is the only royal palace in the United States. It is featured in the opening of every episode of Hawaii Five-O. However, this statue is just one of four copies.

The different copies:

1. The original statue was commisioned in 1878 and created in Florence, Italy. It was lost in a wreck near the Falkland Islands and later recovered. It now stands at the king's birthplace of Kapa'au in Kohala, on the island of Hawaii.

2. The second statue is the famous one in Honolulu. It was commisioned when the first one was feared lost.

3. Hawaii became a part of the United States after voters there overwhelmingly voted to join the American Union in 1959. A third statue was commisioned and placed near the US Capitol in Washington, D.C. in 1969.

4. A fourth version of the statue is near downtown Hilo at the north end of the Wailoa State Recreation area.

As a young man, Kamehameha had a dream of uniting Hawaii under one ruler. He visualized this person as himself and he was successful. He conquered the various kingdoms then in existence in the Hawaiian Islands and imposed his own rule. Not surprisingly, there are mixed views on the legacy of Kamehameha today. It is only appropriate that there are multiple copies of his statue around America today. I am pleased to have seen the most famous of these statues.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Time Travel and Fidelity

In theory, time travel is possible. Of course, we currently do not know how to do it. If we do, the knowledge is being hidden. And if time travelers from the future (or past) are visiting, they are not talking about it.

Despite this, I still got into an interesting argument with my wife Kate yesterday about marriage, time travel, and sexual fidelity in marriage. If a married person could travel in time to the distant past or distant future with the intent and ability to return to the present, and during this travel had sex with someone from these time periods, would it be cheating? Could it be classified as an affair?

Here is what I am thinking on this. When you get married, you promise to be true until death do you part. If you travel into the future after your spouse is dead, death has parted you. Also, if you go back in time to long before your spouse was born; the marriage has yet to take place. In either case, by definition, no adultery has happened.

My wife views this differently. Regardless of what time period you travel to past or future, you still are married. If you can and will return to the present time, the vows of marriage apply. It does not matter if your spouse has been born yet or has died already, the act of time travel does not negate any of the rules of marriage.

I realize this is a strange post for this history blog. I also realize it is an academic topic as the vast majority of people will never travel in time. However, it is an interesting topic and one I had not thought of until recently.

Any thoughts from the readers of this blog? Drop a comment if you have a view on this.