Saturday, December 26, 2009

J. Maritain and N. Berdyaev on the Meaning of History

It appears I am on a philosophy of history kick this holiday season. I just read J. Maritain and N. Berdyaev on the Meaning of History and liked it. It is a comparison between Jacques Maritain and Nicolas Berdyaev's Christian philosophy of history and their impact on the Christian views of history and of mankind's future. It was written by Boris. L. Goubman of Tver State University.

Works covered include Amato J. Mounier and Maritain: a French Catholic Understanding of the Modern World. N.Y., 1975, Berdyaev N. Samopoznanie. M., 1991, Berdyaev N. Smysl istoriji. M., 1990, Berdyaev. N. Smysl tvorchestva  // Philosophia svobodi. Smysl tvorchestva. M., 1989, Berdyaev N. O naznacheniji cheloveka // O naznacheniji cheloveka. M., 1993, Maritain J. Humanisme integral. P., 1968, Maritain J. On the Philosophy of History. N.Y., 1957, Maritain J. Le paysan de la Garonne. P., 1966, Maritain J. Le personne et le bien commun // Oeuvres, 1940-1963. P., 1979, Maritain J. Religion et culture // Oeuvres, 1912-1939. P., 1975, Nicolas J.- H. Le Christ - centre et fin de l’histoire // Revue thomiste. 1981.

From the site:

Engaged in a prolific philosophical dialogue, both Jacques Maritain and Nicolas Berdyaev made a significant contribution to the formation of the twentieth century religious vision of history. Despite differences in the philosophical background of their doctrines and differences regarding various metaphysical issues, there is a striking similarity in their understanding of the meaning of history. No less interesting is the coincidence of their interpretation of particular phenomena of modernity and contemporary world. A nonbiased analyst of their doctrines may find an evidence of mutual influence in their treatment of different stages of history as well as in their analysis of the significance of contemporary political and cultural events. The affinity between their visions of history should be considered not only as a result of their mutual involvement in a common cultural and political situation, but also of their desire to find a new philosophical approach to the meaning of history without leaving the platform of religious belief.

Raised in a non-similar cultural and social milieu, Berdyaev and Maritain met at ecumenical discussions in Paris in 1925. After his expulsion from Russia, Berdyaev became quite popular in Europe and had a growing influence in the circles of Christian intellectuals permitting him to create contacts with a number of important Catholic and Protestant thinkers. Berdyaev thought that the inter-confessional discussions in the Boulevard Montparnasse organized by the Russian diaspora provided an opportunity for both Catholics and Protestants to get together and debate significant philosophical issues, creating the climate of mutual respect and recognition. This was a step forward, he believed, to the formation of a Christian philosophical milieu in the “non-religious desert” of early twentieth century Europe (Berdyaev 1991: 232). Despite confessional and philosophical discord regarding some issues, Berdyaev and Maritain felt certain sympathy to each other and found common approaches to some problems of mutual concern.

At the time they met, Maritain was an evident leader in the neo-Thomist movement. Although he pretended to be an orthodox follower of Aquinas, “a paleo-Thomist”, Berdyaev suspected him to be “a modernist under the guise of Thomism”. The Russian philosopher rightly remarked that Maritain was deeply interested in Aristotle and Aquinas, but at the same time his understanding of the world was deeply colored by a mystical gift. This mystical feeling was in reality at the origin of Maritain’s existential interpretation of Thomism and his decision to carry over from Bergson an emphasis on the role of intuition in human knowledge which was otherwise foreign to the Thomist project. It finally made possible a rapprochement between Berdyaev and Maritain. Their contacts were also facilitated by the mutual interest in the current cultural and social situation demanding new philosophical approaches to a variety of issues. Berdyaev thought that Maritain was very sensitive to “the new trends” in the area of cultural and social change. Among his main achievements was an ability to “adjust new problems to Thomism and Thomism to new problems” (Berdyaev 1991:237). Among the philosophical issues that attracted attention of both thinkers was the problem of man’s cultural creativity in history. This common ground was, of course, an essential premise of their prolific cooperation and philosophical dialogue paving the way to a certain common vision of a number of cultural, social, and political problems. Their collaboration in L’Esprit published by Emmanuel Mounier looks symptomatic in this respect.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Some Patterns in World History and How they can be Used to Predict the Future

I found an interesting philosophy of history site today. Some Patterns in World History and How they can be Used to Predict the Future provides a summary of William McGaughey's Five Epochs of Civilization, which splits history into four epochs each centered on a key communication technology. The fifth epoch is his prediction of the future. The ideas here are worth thinking about.

The site summarizes these epochs as:

Civilization I: This is the earliest form of civilized society beginning in the 4th millennium B.C. with the rise of Mesopotamian and Egyptian city-states and culminating in the four great empires - Roman, Parthian, Kushan, and Han Chinese - of the 2nd and early 3rd centuries A.D. Its age was characterized by by conflict between nomadic and agricultural societies and by wars and political empire-building. The technology of writing (originally, in ideographic form) supported its culture.

Civilization II: This is what civilized societies became after the philosophical and spiritual awakening of the 6th and 5th centuries B.C. which was, in turn, related to the invention of alphabetic writing. Although this civilization was begun in a period dominated by political empires, it came into its own after the Huns and other nomads destroyed these empires between the 3rd and 6th centuries A.D. The dominant institution in society became religion. The three world religions - Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam - and other religious or philosophical systems such as Hinduism, Judaism, and Confucianism dominated human culture in the first 1,500 years of the Christian era.

Civilization III: This is the civilization of European secular culture which began with the Italian Renaissance of the 14th and 15th centuries A.D. and continued through the first two decades of the 20th century A.D. Humanist literature and art as well as empirical science mounted a challenge to philosophically based religions. This civilization was predominantly commercial although secular education also played an important role. Society became organized in European-style nation states. The technology of printing supported its culture.

Civilization IV: This is the culture of news and entertainment that we have come to know in the late 20th century. Advertising drives commerce, and the media in which advertising takes place (especially television) become powerful institutions within society. Various electronic technologies such as the telephone, sound recordings, cinema, radio, and television support this culture which emphasizes the sensuous aspect of human personality.

Civilization V: All we know about this culture is that it is computer-based. Computers, which support two-way communication between man and machine, are quite unlike the technologies of mass communications. However, computer-based systems and applications are developing so rapidly that it is hard to predict what will come next.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Tonight on History Channel - Santa Quest!

The History Channel is pleased to announce even more insightful historically significant programming for the holidays. In the tradion of Ice Road Truckers and Monster Quest, we present Santa Quest!

For generations, throughout the world, there have been reports of a strange creature who trespasses in homes and often leaves evidence of the visit. Is it a man, an alien, or perhaps an animal unknown to science? Join us tonight as Santa Quest explores this intriguing, if perhaps alarming, story of the reputed Santa Claus. Is it real? Is it dangerous? Our crack team of investigators will interview eyewitnesses such as six year old Timmy Smith who had a personal upclose encounter with the "Santa" last year. In addition, our team will examine camera trap evidence of the supposed visitations by strategically leaving the traps near Christmas Trees and Chimneys around America. What these traps uncovered will shock you.

Also in the wings for the new year is Bunny Quest which will scientifically examine in a historically astute manner the mystery of the Easter Bunny.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Book Review: The World's Bloodiest History - Massacres, Genocide, and the Scars They Left on Civilization

I received a free review copy of The World's Bloodiest History - Massacres, Genocide, and the Scars They Left on Civilization last week. On the whole, I enjoyed reading it even if the subject matter was less than pleasant.

Here is a description of the book:

In a somber survey leavened by sparse but inspiring accounts of heroism, author Joseph Cummins revisits some of the most dreadful and destructive acts of violence in history—from moments of sheer madness and merciless military offensives, such as that of the Spanish conquistadors in 1521 in what is now Mexico City, to clinically orchestrated campaigns of genocide, as took place in early twentieth-century Armenia, Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe, and 1970s Cambodia. Engaging, harrowing, and enlightening, his accounts convey the terror and trauma of these incidents while identifying the zealotry, prejudices, and animosities that fuelled them, and analyzing, in revealing fashion, their enduring and sometimes insidious influence on history. Handsomely illustrated with more than 100 striking, sometimes shocking, archival images gathered from around the world, The World’s Bloodiest History combines compelling depictions of momentous events with fascinating character portraits and arresting eyewitness accounts to create an absorbing, multifaceted chronicle of a sobering, all-too-human legacy.

The incidents recorded are easy to read. The historical background of each event are covered and are followed with accounts of the actual horrors. It also gives some opinion on how each event may have altered history. First hand testimony is also shared from survivors if such accounts are available. Some events are true genocides (such as the fate of Carthage and the Armenians in Turkey) while others are well known massacres (such as Calcutta in 1756 and Sharpeville, South Africa.)

The author (Joseph Cummins) has strong opinions. He clearly has big sympathies with the victims he is writing about. This is mostly good but it also appears to give him a strong anti-Mormon bias (in the chapter on the Mountain Meadows Massacre) and a strong anti-Catholic bias (in the chapter on the St. Bartholomew's Massacre). Some editing could have made these chapters less objectionable although I am sure some enjoy that tone. Despite the case that Cummins makes, I have trouble believing that either church is guilty today even if some followers and leaders in the past were responsible. What religion, ethnic group or nation is not responsible for some evil at some point in their history? Why make examples of these two churches?

Probably the most interesting chapter to me was the first which dealt with the Roman genocide of Carthage. Cummins gives a nice account of Roman-Carthage relations which ended in the destruction of Carthage in the Third Punic War. He also is willing to point out flaws in the society of Carthage such as the practice of infant sacrifice. My complaint is that there are not more ancient or even medieval history chapters. Could not the Huns, Mongols, or Mayans been included? History has accounts of questionable bloodletting from each of these for example. The tome is too heavily skewed towards the 20th Century.

If you are interested in this topic, buy this book. It is a worthy read despite some flaws which I have pointed out. I hope many libraries stock this book as well. This is an area that I wish many students learn about in hopes it may cut down on these events in the future.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Comment Spam for the Holidays

Ah, I love the holidays. I get to spend Christmas, New Years, and various free days off from the university with my family. It is relaxing and gives me time for writing and blogging too. And, I get to delete an excessive amount of comment spamfrom this blog.

I guess people with poor websites get desperate at holiday time. They worked hard on a site and then the realization hits them that no one is visiting their crappy domains. In addition, search engines like Google and Yahoo! seem broke because they are not delivering massive amounts of traffic which would allow the Web developer to become a millionaire working only in his underwear from his computer. So, these "entrepreneurs" begin to spam every site they can find to get links which they think will rocket them to the top of Google and allow the site creator to retire to the Bahamas.

And every holiday season, these web gurus start spamming the comment sections of blogs as part of their holiday resolutions for a better life. This includes them spamming this blog. I have deleted over forty of them since Sunday this week. (Hello Bathmate! I sure will visit and buy a pump from you soon.)

Here is why this will not work here even though I realize spammers will not read this:

1. All comments need approval. Any comment that has links in the name of the submitter or in the text to another site gets deleted. Spam comments never get published.

2. Blogger (on which this site is hosted) automatically inserts a do not follow tag to any link which appears in comments. So even if a spam link is approved, it still will generate zero credit in the search rankings for the seach engines. (I bet many spammers do not know even know what the do not follow tag means.)

3. For obnoxious spammers, I send a nice e-mail to informing Google of the behavior. I allow God (I mean Google) to make the final determination of any site that has to spam comments on blogs to be found by anyone. (Yes Bathmate, I was nice and told Google about you since you seem to want publicity.)

OK, my yearly anti-spam rant is over. See you next December.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Spanish History at Spain Then and Now

While browsing online, I found a nice site for Spanish history. It is Overview of Spanish History at Spain Then and Now. It is easy to read and had a surprising amount of depth for a site clearly designed to generate revenue from Google Adsense ads.

The site notes:

Spain has a fascinating and varied history. Although there are prehistoric remains found in Spanish caves dating back more than 1,000,000 years, for many people Spain’s story begins much later with magnificent cave and rock paintings from about 15,000 to 5,000 years ago. Still, we don’t know who these early “painters” were and the meaning of their works is conjectural. So much of these early years is a mystery, including some remarkable dolmens (burial chambers) erected about 2,000 years ago, and the fabled kingdom of Tartessus (approximately 600 BC). Even the two groups that figure most prominently as the early inhabitants of the Iberian Peninsula (present day Spain and Portugal), the Iberians and the Celts are something of a puzzle.

Here are a few example chapters from the site:

The Earliest Years

The Phoenicians in Spain

Granada to the 17th Century

The Political Scene: Spain in the 20th Century to Today

Mind you, the site is not perfect. Note this howler from the site, "The Romans controlled Spain for about 600 years, far longer than they did any other European country." Really? Like longer than Italy? Or how about the Eastern Roman Empire which lasted until the 15th Century and controlled Greece and the Balkans for much of that time? Did some of this material come from Wikipedia? Still, the site is a good overview and worth perusing.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Alice's Adventures in Algebra: Wonderland Solved

Alice's Adventures in Algebra: Wonderland Solved - This is a New Scientist article examining the themes and imagery in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland from a mathematical and historical perspective. The article is written by Melanie Bayley.

From the site:

What would Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland be without the Cheshire Cat, the trial, the Duchess's baby or the Mad Hatter's tea party? Look at the original story that the author told Alice Liddell and her two sisters one day during a boat trip near Oxford, though, and you'll find that these famous characters and scenes are missing from the text.

As I embarked on my DPhil investigating Victorian literature, I wanted to know what inspired these later additions. The critical literature focused mainly on Freudian interpretations of the book as a wild descent into the dark world of the subconscious. There was no detailed analysis of the added scenes, but from the mass of literary papers, one stood out: in 1984 Helena Pycior of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee had linked the trial of the Knave of Hearts with a Victorian book on algebra. Given the author's day job, it was somewhat surprising to find few other reviews of his work from a mathematical perspective. Carroll was a pseudonym: his real name was Charles Dodgson, and he was a mathematician at Christ Church College, Oxford.

The 19th century was a turbulent time for mathematics, with many new and controversial concepts, like imaginary numbers, becoming widely accepted in the mathematical community. Putting Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in this context, it becomes clear that Dodgson, a stubbornly conservative mathematician, used some of the missing scenes to satirise these radical new ideas.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What Lies Beneath

The site What Lies Beneath was suggested to me by a reader named Tom Stewart. The YouTube clip notes, "Ah. The Cold War. How very British we all were about the prospect of being vaporised at any moment by a hydrogen bomb - the threat of nuclear war was nothing more than a passing annoyance to the ordinary British gent in the street..!"

Tom describes the site itself as, "Its a site that acts as an online exhibition of sorts, looking into European experiences of the cold war. Its a period that fascinates me, and given the nature of your blog I thought it would be interesting if you could post it. I think it could provoke a bit of debate, and even if not, I hope it would provide as much interest for some as it did for me."

Well it does look interesting and I am happy to post about it here.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Does the History Channel show too much non-history programming?

The poll has closed for the question, "Does the History Channel show too much non-history programming?" Thanks to all who participated by voting.

Yes won with 68%. I guess these voters do not believe shows on monsters, UFOs, and ice road truckers are really history. No came in second with 17%. Not sure came in last with 14%.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

History Computerization Project

The History Computerization Project aims to create a network for exchanging historical information. The site includes details about the computer database program for historical research, writing and cataloging; advice on organizing materials; and links to mostly-US research resources.

From the site:

The program is used by individual researchers as well as by institutions such as archival centers, libraries, museums, historical societies, historical landmark commissions, and preservationist groups. Single-user and multi-user versions, running on IBM PC compatible computers, bridge the gap between the researcher and repository, allowing them to exchange data easily.

History Database was designed for use by organizations and individuals at the lowest possible levels of computer experience. The program presents on the screen all of the information that a novice will need. Easy data entry, editing, and searching are accomplished by filling in a form or making choices from a menu. Searching with a menu or by example eliminates the need to learn search commands. Sound searching retrieves names with variant spellings. While adding, editing, or browsing data you can flag records to pick up later as easily as putting an adhesive tab on a file folder.

Ready-made data entry forms allow you to start immediately, with help messages to explain the intended usage for each field. You can easily choose which of the fields provided you want to use, and in what order. Or you can construct new fields and forms.

Default choices eliminate 50-90% of the typing for data entry. The program determines the most likely entry and offers to you as an initial choice, for you to accept or to change. Many fields are filled in automatically. Others re-use data entered previously.

Variable-length fields give you as much room as you need and avoid wasted disk space. The data entry form changes dynamically on the screen to expand a field. Any field can stretch over many screen pages. All fields are searchable with or without indexing.

For research and writing, never waste time re-typing data from note cards to manuscript again. Instead pull your research notes from the database into your word processor in first draft manuscript form, with footnotes and bibliography created automatically.

History Database provides fully relational database management. It relates and combines data from several files, rather than repeating the same information. It offers 25 varieties of global search and replace, to correct past mistakes or to change the content, structure, or format of old data. Individual values within a field, such as the names of people or organizations, can be searched and replaced as separate entities. A researcher can recycle information from one project to the next, using past research as a business uses its inventory. In a repository, those with more knowledge can quickly correct the work of those with less.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

OZ Fossils: The Age of Reptiles

I discovered a nice site on pre-historic Australian fossils. It is The Eromanga Sea - OZ Fossils: The Age of Reptiles. Readers can learn about the Pliosaurs and Plesiosaurs, Ichthyosaurs, Ammonites, and Beleminites that lived in the shallow sea that covered inland Australia ten million years ago.

From the site:

About one hundred and ten million years ago a shallow sea covered what is now arid inland Australia. Australia’s most beautiful and complete fossils of this period are of the spectacular marine creatures that lived in this cold sea.

Despite the impressive size of some of these fossils, they are not called dinosaurs, but marine reptiles. In some cases their bones have turned into precious opal. They are beautiful and very valuable specimens. Three main types of marine reptile used to live in the Eromanga Sea.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Smithsonian Urban Legends

With permission, I am republishing the post Smithsonian Urban Legends written by Jennie Weber. I think it is interesting and worth publishing again.
Smithsonian Magazine had an article on urban myths (to refute) them recently. My personal favorite:

Myth #8: There is a subterranean archive center underneath the National Mall.

Fact: The Smithsonian’s storage facilities are mostly located in Suitland, Maryland.

Backstory: The notion that a labyrinthine network of storage space exists beneath the Smithsonian museums, under the National Mall, may have started with Gore Vidal’s novel The Smithsonian Institution and was most recently popularized by the movie Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. Unfortunately, no such storage facility is to be found. The archive center depicted in the film is based on the Smithsonian’s storage facilities in Suitland, Maryland. However, there is a staff-only accessible underground complex of passageways that connect the Freer, the Sackler, the Castle, the African Art Museum, the International Gallery and the Arts and Industries Building.

There is also a tunnel that connects the Castle with the Museum of Natural History. Built in 1909, it is technically large enough to walk through; however, a person has to contend with cramped spaces, rats and roaches. A quick jaunt across the National Mall is the preferred means of traveling between the two museums.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Mirador: Forgotten Mayan City

Mirador: Forgotten Mayan City - New discoveries in the Guatemalan jungle may rewrite Mayan history. See Brooke Baldwin's exclusive report for CNN.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

World History Blog Poll - Should Yasser Arafat have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994?

The poll has closed for the question, "Should Yasser Arafat have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994?" Thanks to all who participated by voting.

The answer was no for 74%. Yes got 10% while 14% were not sure.

It is a tough question. At my junior high school, bullies were often given "student of the week" awards when they did something like pick up trash. The idea was that this would motivate them to continue to do good deeds. Did it work with Arafat? Hard to say. I am sure middle east historians will argue this one forever depending on what side they back.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Ancient India

FACTS-ABOUT-INDIA.Com has a nice subsection on the History of India. I am highlighting the Ancient India section here. It has subsections on Sources of Ancient Indian History, Pre Historic Period, Indus Valley Civilisation , and the Vedic Age. Another good look is at History of India.

From the site:

The ancient civilization of India grew up in a sharply demarcated sub-continent bounded on the north by the world's largest mountain range-the chain of the Himalayas, which, with its extensions to east and west, divided India from the rest of Asia and the world.

The long sea coasts of India facilitated the growth of maritime trade and a large number of harbours were established through which trade relations with Rome, China, Malaya, South East Asian archipelago were set up. India's centralised position in Indian Ocean is also of great strategic and economic importance.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Hatshepsut v. Tuthmosis: A Royal Feud?

With permission, I am republishing the post A royal feud? written by Jennie Weber. I think it is interesting and worth publishing again.


This is an interesting article on the "feud" that has often been put forth as why many of Hatshepsut's monuments were destroyed. This is a major issue for Ancient Egyptians as they believed that this is how the Pharoah lived on in etnerity and to destroy their statues and writings (so their memory) was to destroy their soul in the afterlife. The bulk of the destruction was done during her stepson, Tuthmosis' reign, and so many assumed that he hated his stepmother for taking some of his power (as she ruled as co-regent). Dr. Joyce Tyldesley has this to say on Tuthmosis:

It is undeniable that someone attacked Hatshepsut's monuments after her death. Archaeology indicates that the bulk of the vandalism occurred during Tuthmosis' reign. Why would he do this? At first it was imagined that this was the new king's immediate revenge against his stepmother; he was indeed cursing her with permanent death. The image of the young Tuthmosis seething with impotent rage as Hatshepsut ruled in his place is one which has attracted amateur psychologists for many years. However, it does not entirely fit with the known facts.

Tuthmosis was to prove himself a calm and prudent general, a brave man not given to hasty or irrational actions. He did not start his solo reign with an assault on Hatshepsut's memory; indeed, he allowed her a traditional funeral, and waited until it was convenient to fit the desecration into his schedule. Some of the destruction was even carried out by his son, after his death, when most of those who remembered Hatshepsut had also died. It is a remote, rather than an immediate, attack.

Furthermore the attack is not a thorough one. Enough remained of Hatshepsut to allow us to recreate her reign in some detail. Her tomb, the most obvious place to start the attack, still housed her name. Hatshepsut may have been erased from Egypt's official record, but she was never hated as Akhenaten 'The Great Criminal' would later be.

So what does she think happened?

What can we conclude from this tangled tale? We should perhaps rethink our assumptions. Hatshepsut did not fear Tuthmosis; instead of killing him, she raised him as her successor. Tuthmosis may not have hated Hatshepsut. Initially he may even have been grateful to her, as she had protected his land while training him for greatness. But, as he grew older and looked back over his life, his perspective would shift. Would Egypt's most successful general, a stickler for tradition, have wished to be associated with a woman co-regent, even a woman as strong as Hatshepsut?

By removing all obvious references to his co-ruler Tuthmosis could incorporate her reign into his own. He would then become Egypt's greatest pharaoh; the only successor to Tuthmosis II. Hatshepsut would become the unfortunate victim, not of a personal attack, but of an impersonal attempt at retrospective political correctness.

Tuthmosis set his masons to re-write history. Their labours would last well into the reign of his successor, Amenhotep II, a king who could not remember Hatshepsut, and who had no reason to respect her memory. Meanwhile, hidden in the Valley of the Kings, Hatshepsut still rested in her coffin. Tuthmosis I had been taken from their joint tomb and re-buried, but she had been left alone. Tuthmosis knew that as long as her body survived, Hatshepsut was ensured eternal life.

I find this story - that Tuthmosis was trying to improve his image - as more pausible. It makes sense with the partial destruction and shows that while he was trying to negate her role, he wasn't trying to kill her memory - merely change it to suit himself.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Book Review - Across the Endless River

Carhart, Thad. Across the Endless River. New York: Doubleday, 2009. 308 pp, $17.79 in hardcover. Review by Joyce Salisbury, Central Michigan University.

Across the Endless River, by Thad Carhart, is a fictional account of Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau’s visit to Europe. Charbonneau was the son of Sacajawea and French fur trader Toussaint Charbonneau, who accompanied the Corps of Discovery led by Lewis and Clark. Unlike most historical fiction where the main characters are fictional encountering historical individuals, in Carhart’s novel, the two main characters, Baptiste and Duke Paul of Wittenburg, are historical characters while the individuals they meet (for the most part) are fictional, “composites of those who would have been in Paul’s social ambit.” The danger of this is that it is easy to read this as a biography and forget that from the moment they set sail for Europe, little to nothing is known of Baptiste’s experiences. From a historical perspective, however, the facts upon which the story is built are accurate. A short “Author’s Notes” helps clarify where fiction takes over from fact.

The book is well-written; I would even use the word “charming” to describe this book. There is little tension or dramatic climaxes (although the narrative about the young Mandans’ initiation into manhood is dramatic and graphic as is the visceral excitement of a buffalo hunt); rather this is a pleasant account of Baptiste’s experiences and viewing Europe through the eyes of a young man who has lived both the Native American life and been educated in St. Louis. Baptiste himself is a combination of na├»ve and worldly. He is young, eighteen, when he embarks on his European experience with Duke Paul. He has led visitors as they explored the American West and interacted with various Indian tribes, but in Europe he is totally at a loss to understand that world. Over the five years he lives in Europe, assisting Paul with his book about American natural history, he learns about life and love.

The book provides an interesting look at life in Europe during the 1820s. Four years after Napoleon’s death in exile, he is still of paramount interest to the people not only in France, but throughout Europe. We get insights into the interest in natural history, music, and politics through Baptiste’s experiences. The life lived in harmony with nature in America is compared and contrasted with the refined life in Europe.

This book should be of interest to individuals interested in early nineteenth century American and Europe, Native American life, international politics, natural science and more. For example, anyone concerned with the repatriation of Native American goods (i.e., NAGPRA) may be interested in this account of how so many Native American artifacts spread throughout the globe and the attitudes of those collecting them. Baptiste’s growing discomfort with the scientific, almost clinical, handling of these artifacts is a theme throughout the latter part of the book.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Anne Frank Channel

Official YouTube channel ( from the Anne Frank House, with images of Anne Frank, excerpts of interviews with Otto Frank, Miep Gies, and previews of the virtual museum of the Anne Frank House.

From the site:

This channel shows existing and new images about Anne Frank, including excerpts from interviews with Otto Frank and witnesses like Miep Gies, as well as previews of the virtual museum of the Anne Frank House, soon to be opened to the public. With this Anne Frank Channel, people around the world will be able to explore the life and significance of Anne Frank through unique images. Would you like to stay up to date? Subscribe to this channel.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Book Review: Historic Photos of World War II: Pearl Harbor to Japan

by Bob Duncan
Review by Liz Berndt Morris, Central Michigan University

This summer I spent several pleasurable sittings viewing and reading Historic Photos of World War II: Pearl Harbor to Japan with text and captions by Bob Duncan. This 10” x 10” coffee-table book features 198 full-page, black-and-white photos of scenes from America’s Pacific Campaign. These photographs are arranged in roughly chronological order and in three chapters: Crisis in the Pacific (1941-1942), Leaning New Ways of War (1942-1944), and A Colossus Emerges (1944-1945). A final chapter, Notes on the Photographs, serves as an appendix providing each picture’s title, location, and, if available, call or box number. The vast majority of these photos came from the National Archive and Naval Historical Center, but there is a dash of privately owned photographs as well. While this book is the second volume in a two volume set compiled by Duncan, it can easily stand on its own as an independent book.

A consideration that Duncan had to make for a book of World War II photographs is to what extent to include graphic photographs. This book does not contain any photographs that I found gory, but it does contain a few photographs of fallen soldiers. With this being a coffee-table book, it is very tasteful in how it handles the violence of war and one should not be worried of the age appropriateness of the book.

The book is well united by Bob Duncan’s preface, chapter introductions, and short picture captions. However, the tone of the writing is unabashedly nationalistic in the United States’ favor. This is easily divulged by reading the dust jacket summary:

On December 7, 1941, America’s hopes of remaining neutral in World War II disappeared in the oily smoke that roiled from her battleships burning at Pearl Harbor. The nation faced Herculean tasks to strike back against the Imperial Japanese military that had attacked her. Victory demanded crossing thousands of miles of ocean, creating new weapons, and arming hundreds of thousands of young men to fight their way across a series of desolate islands that a fanatical enemy had fortified to exact the highest possible price from the American troops.

Historic Photos of World War II Pearl Harbor to Japan portrays this epic story, using black-and-white photographs selected from the finest archives and private collections. From the sinking of the Arizona to the raising of the Stars and Stripes over Japan, Historic Photos of World War II Pearl Harbor to Japan depicts in a way mere words cannot the determination, struggle, and sacrifices of America s fighting men as they rose to the challenge of liberating free peoples of the Pacific from a conquering invader.

The sweeping statements of this book’s nationalistic tone at times irked me. For example, a picture of captive Japanese prisoners states the reason Japanese soldiers abandon the code of Bushido was because of “how well they were treated in American captivity” (82). A picture of the aftermath of the atomic bomb in Nagasaki describes Japanese citizens’ “near-instant death”; ignoring through generalization the terrible fortune Japanese people endured and the reality that war is horrible. This undermines the sacrifices made on both sides.

With that said, I found the majority of the captions quite helpful in contemplating the pictures. The selection of photographs in this book is terrific. Simply glancing at any of these pictures is not possible. I found myself at times contemplating some pictures for long periods of time. Historic Photos of World War II: Pearl Harbor to Japan book would be an excellent gift for any World War II history enthusiast and could serve as a catalyst for anyone searching for inspiration for World War II research.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Mirror Crack’d-History Reflected by Hollywood

Academic Exchange Quarterly has an interesting article titled The Mirror Crack’d-History Reflected by Hollywood. It is by Paul D’Amboise and Avery Plaw. This article examines how mainstream (Hollywood) history films can be productively incorporated into high school and university history classrooms. It presents the findings of an experimental case study of the use of mainstream film in an Advanced Placement high school history course, and based on those findings suggests a sample module for a twentieth century history course combining film and text-based approaches to history.

Movies used included:

A Man for All Seasons (1966)
Elizabeth (1998)
1492: The Conquest of Paradise (1992)
The Quiet American (2002)
The Path to War (2003)
Thirteen Days (2000)
We Were Soldiers (2002)

From the site:

As the habit of reading continues to decline, especially among the young, history teachers are increasingly confronted by students whose impressions of the past are shaped by the mainstream historical films that Tony Barta has called “the most powerful engine of popular history in our culture.” (Barta, 1998, 2) The most prominent of these films are popular, Hollywood-style releases that characteristically sacrifice historical accuracy to the imperatives of emotionally-satisfying narrative resolution and commercial success. As a result, many students arrive in class with a deep background of historical misperception.

Faced with engrained historical misrepresentation, history teachers can respond with two basic strategies. Firstly, they can swim against the tide of increasingly cinematic history and continue to insist on the traditional text-focused curriculum, dismissing more popularized depictions of their course material. Secondly, they can attempt to adapt to the changing times by beginning to strategically incorporate popular historical films into the classroom despite their frequently dubious accuracy.

While recognizing that the first pedagogical strategy is not without merit, it is the second strategy whose potential we wish to explore here. We suggest the following merits of the second strategy warrant a closer examination of how it could best be accomplished: (i.) historical films provide a richer visual depiction of events than equivalent texts, are (ii.) an experience the class can more easily share, and therefore (iii.) are simply more inclined to instigate wide-ranging discussion than equivalent texts. Furthermore, (iv.) historical films will continue to exercise an enormous influence over most students; thus it only make sense to equip students with critical viewing capabilities. In addition, (v.) students have an enduring affection for unmasking manipulation, and the honing of this skill is likely to enhance the interest of history as a subject. Finally, (vi.) incorporating film into the core curriculum in no way necessitates the exclusion of relevant texts. On the contrary, historical films will generally give a visual immediacy to the events described in history texts, and thereby enhance their interest. Moreover, the employment of relevant texts in debunking the inaccuracies and manipulations of mainstream films will tend to enhance rather than diminish their importance. Indeed, it is the critical symbiosis produced by integrating dramatic visual narrative within a rigorous text-based curriculum that holds the greatest promise for enhancing historical understanding in the long term.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Free Medieval History Courses

Several universities are putting complete courses online for free now. Visitors can peruse course materials and watch lectures even if they do not get any academic credit for it. MIT is probably the best known for this but some other schools are as well including Notre Dame and the University of Washington.

Here are three example courses dealing with medieval history:

Medieval Economic History in Comparative Perspective - This MIT course is from the fall of 2006. The course features an extensive list of readings and assignments. A list of useful Web sites is also available in the related resources section. This course also features archived syllabi from various semesters.

Europe's Awakening - This is an Open University course in the UK. The site notes, "One of the most remarkable features of modern European history is the gradual emergence of that theoretical reasoning and experimental practice focused on the natural world that today we call science. In this unit we throw light on that eventual emergence of modern science in Europe by examining its beginnings in Greece and making comparisons with the early achievements of Chinese and Islamic science.You then return to medieval Europe in order to understand the intellectual and social origins of what has been called the 'scientific revolution'."

The Dark Ages - This UMass course is from the Summer of 2008. Beginning with the decline of the Roman Empire, this course discusses German, Muslim, Viking and Magyar invasions, the development of Catholicism in Western Europe and of Eastern Orthodoxy in the Byzantine Empire, the Arabic contribution to mathematics, science, and philosophy and the institutions of feudalism and manorialism. The course concludes with the economic, demographic and urban revival which began around 1000 AD.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Ancient-Skies - Human Cultures and Their Skies

Ancient-Skies - Human Cultures and Their Skies allows visitors to learn about the IYA2009 global scientific project. The aim is to collect and publish available information about various human cultures, their astronomical knowledge, and its representation in the sky within a single web accessible knowledgebase.

From the site:

The relationship between mankind and the sky is as old as mankind itself. Human beings started to recognize and interpret the objects and events in the sky as soon, as they had fulfilled their basic needs.

The sky, our common and universal heritage, forms an integral part of all human cultures around the world.The central theme of our project is, that all human beings live on one single planet and share the same sky. Knowing this, we created an infrastructure to preserve this global heritage in a web accessible knowledgebase.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Anne Boleyn Files

The Anne Boleyn Files is a blog dedicated to the doomed English queen Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII. It includes news, essays, historical biographies, book reviews, and a store with Tudor-related mechandise.

From the site:

This blog is written and managed by Claire Ridgway, a full-time freelance writer, closet history lover, armchair historian and champion of the underdog, from England - land of the Tudors, Shakespeare, green fields and yummy fish and chips. I now live in sunny Spain near the historic Alhambra.

I wanted to share my journey into the annals of history with other people who have an interest in Anne Boleyn and the Tudor period and thought that a blog would be the perfect forum.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

M9.1 "Boxing Day" Earthquake & Tsunami/Indian Ocean Tsunami

Details on the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami from 2004, including maps, animations, and video. It is from the Amateur Seismic Centre, Wellington, New Zealand. (Video from YouTube.)

From the site:

A "very great" earthquake struck the North Indian Ocean & the Bay of Bengal at 00:58 UTC on 26 December 2004. The earthquake began near the island of Simuelue off the west coast of Sumatra and ruptured a 1,500-kilometre section of the boundary between the Indian Plate & the Burmese Microplate. Shaking from the earthquake was felt many parts of south Asia and Indo-China. A devastating Indian Ocean-wide tsunami was generated by this earthquake causing heavy fatalities in many countries surrounding the Indian Ocean basin. This event is also referred to as the "Boxing Day Tsunami and/or Earthquake", "The Asian Tsunami and/or Earthquake and the "Indian Ocean Tsunami".

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Did Ancient Man Start Global Warming?

New research finds that ancient (or in this case pre-historic) man may have helped to jump start global warming. Details can be found in the CNN article Study: Global warming sparked by ancient farming methods by Shelby Lin Erdman.

Erdman wrote, "The study, published in the scientific journal Quaternary Science Reviews and reported on the University of Virginia's Web site, says over thousands of years, farmers burned down so many forests on such a large scale that huge amounts of carbon dioxide were pumped into the atmosphere. That possibly caused the Earth to warm up and forever changed the climate."

Lead study author William Ruddiman noted, "It seems like a common-sense idea that there weren't enough people around 5, 6, 7,000 years ago to have any significant impact on climate. But if you allow for the fact that those people, person by person, had something like 10 times as much of an effect or cleared 10 times as much land as people do today on average, that bumps up the effect of those earlier farmers considerably, and it does make them a factor in contributing to the rise of greenhouse gasses."

Ironically, this kick starting of global warming in pre-history times may have allowed modern civilizations to develop. Ruddiman's study also postulates that the Earth was on its way to another ice age 10,000 years ago and that ice sheets were already forming in northern latitudes when ancient man started his slashing and burning method of farming. Early global warming may have averted an ice age which allowed us to be here today. Of course, the question now is, how to do we stop global warming so we can stick around? Man may be able to survive on a warmer world but our society almost certainly would be smaller and less advanced.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Birthplace of Emperor Vespasian Found?

The AP Wire has a story out titled Birthplace of Roman emperor found in Italy. Some archaelogists think this may have been were the future Emperor Vespasian came into the world. Vespasian would go on to win the civil war of AD 69 and found his own short lived dynasty.

From the article:

Archaeologists say they have unearthed a country villa believed to be the birthplace of Vespasian, the emperor who built the Colosseum.

Lead archaelogist Filippo Coarelli said Friday the 2,000-year-old ruins of the luxurious residence were found about 80 miles (130 kilometers) northeast of Rome.

There are no clear inscriptions on the 5.4-square-mile (14-square-kilometer) complex, but its location and decorations suggest it is from the right period and the emperor was born in the area.
The excavation was carried out by a group of Italian and British archaeologists.

Born in A.D. 9, Vespasian is known for launching a major public works program in Rome. The Colosseum is the most ambitious and best-preserved of his building projects.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

The Great Lakes Hurricane of 1996

I have lived in the Great Lakes region of the United States my entire life. I am a frequent visitor to three of the lakes and have seen all five. Bad weather is a fact of life sometimes on the Lakes and hurricane strength winds happen.

However, I would have never believed an actual hurricane had ever formed over the Great Lakes. But apparently, it happened. In 1996, the "Hurroncane" appeared in September.

Here is what the National Weather Service said about it:

The first likeness was its timing, forming over the Great Lakes right at the height of the typical hurricane season, September 11-15th, 1996. What started as a typical core-cold 500 MB low pressure system evolved into a warm-core system as it settled over the relatively warm waters of the Great Lakes, in particular, Lake Huron. The low pressure system actually had moved past Lake Huron but then retrograded, or was "drawn back", to the relatively warm waters of Lake Huron. (Similar to the tropics, the Great Lakes usually reach their warmest water temperatures late August into mid September.) The storm then deepened and intensified at the lower levels of the atmosphere compared to aloft, typical of a warm-core low. It is believed that the warm waters of Lake Huron and associated low level instability over the lake were, to a large extent, the major contributing factors in this storm's evolution. The storm went on to form a broad cyclonic circulation, including the "spiral bands and eye", typically seen in hurricanes! At one point, the cyclone produced tropical storm force winds (39 - 73 mph) and some of the spiral bands even had rainfall exceeding 10 cm (better than four inches), causing some flooding.

So I guess hurricanes are possible in the Great lakes and one may form again. I am sure if another one appears it will be pointed to as proof of global warming even though this has happened before. I hope my home is insured for hurricanes. I am not sure if our Great Lakes insurance policies include a clause for hurricanes.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Southeast Colorado Heritage and History

The Southeast Colorado Heritage and History site has information on Native American history, bird species native to the area, and local historical sites. It has maps, an events calendar, and resources for visitors.

From the site:

In the southeast corner of Colorado lie the ancestral grounds of the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Comanche, and Ute Indian tribes, biologically diverse prairie and riparian ecosystems containing the greatest concentration of North American bird species to be found anywhere on the continent, and places where human activities have shaped the course of world events.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Free Asian History Courses

Several universities are putting complete courses online for free now. Visitors can peruse course materials and watch lectures even if they do not get any academic credit for it. MIT is probably the best known for this but some other schools are as well including Notre Dame and the University of Washington.

Here are three example courses dealing with Asian history:

East Asia in the World - This MIT course is from 2003. This course examines the interactions of East Asia with the rest of the world and the relationships of each of the East Asian countries with each other, from ca. 1500 to 2000 A.D. Primary focus on China and Japan, with some reference to Korea, Vietnam, and Central Asia. Asks how international diplomatic, commercial, military, religious, and cultural relationships joined with internal processes to direct the development of East Asian societies. Subject addresses perceptions and misperceptions among East Asians and foreigners.

Babylonian Mathematics - This is an Open University course. This course looks at Babylonian mathematics. You will learn how a series of discoveries have enabled historians to decipher stone tablets and study the various techniques the Babylonians used for problem-solving and teaching. The Babylonian problem-solving skills have been described as remarkable and scribes of the time received a training far in advance of anything available in medieval Christian Europe 3000 years later.

Japan in the Age of the Samurai: History and Film - This MIT course is from 2006. This course covers medieval Japanese society and culture from the twelfth to the nineteenth centuries, when political power rested largely in the hands of feudal warriors. Topics include religion (especially Zen Buddhism); changing concepts of "the way of the warrior;" women under feudalism; popular culture; and protest and rebellion. Presentations include weekly feature films. Assigned readings include many literary writings in translation.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dogs and Their History

I am posting yet another of those free to use articles. I find one occasionally I like and since blogs are allowed to reprint them free...

Here is the article:

Dogs and Their History By Steven Weber.

It is amazing how many different shapes, sizes, colors, and types of dogs there are. And it is even more amazing considering they all came from the same ancestors. The story of dog history says that early humans took in wolves for pets. Perhaps they discovered these wolves could be fed and kept close in return for their "watch dog" or hunting ability. This could have been handy in keeping other predators at bay around the camp at night.

Not to mention that early humans probably found wolf puppies to be adorable in the same way modern humans all seem to have a built in affection for puppies. One problem with studying dog history has been the fact that there are only slight differences in jackals, coyotes, and wolves.

Where and when these different canids branched off from the original tree is up for speculation.

To make matters even more complicated is that both wolf and dog bones have been found in ancient human camps. This fact makes it even harder to establish when wolves were first domesticated.

One thing that history does show to be fact is that dogs have been a part of human life far longer than other domesticated animals such as cows, horses, pigs, and cats. Dogs have developed extremely sophisticated social skills which have allowed their so thorough integration into human society. No other animal is so well adapted to living with humans. Dogs of course have undergone much artificial selection by humans to become the socialized animals they are. But dogs (wolves) had to posses a basic ability to be socialized which other animals simply did and do not posses.

One reason dog history is so full of unknowns and speculation is that everyone considers themselves to be dog experts! Whether it is an average dog owner or a "canine" paleontologist, everyone has a strong opinion. Most, however, agree that our dogs' ancestors were the wolf. A few though think the original dog line was from some other canid species such as a jackal. Or even perhaps the line came down from some hybrid species or some now extinct species. And some even suggest our dogs were decedents of several domestication's of different species.

However, modern DNA research highly suggests that our dogs are extremely close genetically to modern wolves. This leads very strongly to the theory of wolves being the forefathers to dogs.

The date of dogs' first domestication is in debate as well. About the earliest suggested time for dogs' appearance in human history is about 15,000 years ago. Differences in both DNA and bone structure of wolves of that era suggest the remains found were dog like. One important find was of an Israeli woman buried 12,000 years ago with a puppy in her hands. The question as to wear the first domestic dogs were raised is also up for debate. Several years ago a study was done on this. Hundreds of dogs from around the world had their DNA studied.

Through a complicated study of inclusion and elimination, it was discovered that dogs in Asia had the best chance of being more closely related to the original dog than in any other part of the world. However, this same study suggested the DNA line had been in place for almost 120,000 years. This is almost 10 times the age of the first known fossil record of dogs with humans. One problem could be the fact that early man could not control his dogs with interbreeding with wild wolves. This could lead to some very confusing evidence for our current researchers of dog history.

One thing is certain though. Early dogs were on the trip when the first humans came to the " New World " across the Bering Strait nearly 15,000 years ago. And DNA studies have shown that our modern day dogs are not ancestors to the North America gray wolf. Our dogs have wolf ancestors which inhabited Europe and Asia . The North American wolf is simply a distant cousin.

But DNA can only tell part of the story of dogs' history. Early dogs had the unique ability to modify their behavior to fit in with humans. It was beneficial from a dog's point of view to be able to live with humans. Humans provided shelter and water, and food in many situations. And humans were hunters. Dogs love to hunt! What a perfect fit!

Many people tend to look at primates as the only other animal with higher level thinking skills. But as all of us dog owners know, dogs are pretty smart! Research has shown that puppies have much higher communication skills than wolf puppies. Even puppies which have had little or no contact with humans perform far better in communication tests than their wolf counterparts do! This has further complicated the question as to dogs' origins.

It is thought that about 8000 years ago was the first attempt by humans to actually breed their dogs for specific traits. One of the oldest known breeds was the Saluki breed found in ancient Egypt . These dogs were bred for their hunting skill. Other early breeds the Egyptians were thought to be responsible for were the Lbizan, Basenji, and Afghan. And the Dalmatian was a subject of paintings dating back to over 2000 years! GO STORM!!

Just as today, early dogs were much better off in rich societies than in poor ones. During the Greek and Roman empires the status of dogs went from hunters, herders, and guards to simply pets. Dogs started appearing in sculptures and paintings of everyday life. It was becoming a dog's world! In the ruins of Pompeii was found a dog by the body of a child. The dog wore a silver collar inscribed with a message saying he was owned by the boy.

In the Far East , a dog's status was dependent upon its breed. Dogs in the Far East could be loved pets, trusted hunters and guards or simply something to be eaten. "Noble" dogs such as the Pekingese were considered so important by royal families that they were provided their own human servants! Many other dogs out in the countryside were often just meals for the villagers. In Tibet , the common Terrier was considered to be such good luck it could not be bought or sold for any price. In the middle ages, pure bred dogs became the status symbols of royalty.

Our dogs' genetic and social past has to be one of the most interesting side notes to human history. They have been part of our hunts, guarded our shelters, given us special status, and provided companionship for thousands of years. Their loyal and trusting behavior was a perfect fit with humans over the eons. Who knows how human history would be different had dogs not been a part of it. For thousands of years they have been our companions, helpers, hunters and friends. It seems safe to say that one thing is certain about man's future: dogs will most definitely be in it!

Steve Weber owns which offers advice and natural products to owners of dogs with arthritis.

Article Source:

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Billy the Kid Territory

The New Mexico Tourism Department has a nice site up on Billy the Kid. It is called Billy the Kid Territory. It has information on the famed outlaw including history, maps, and tourist guide for the Billy the Kid National Scenic & Historic Byway. There is even a section on Billy the Kid "Fakes."

Billy the Kid lived a brief life (1860-1881) but it sure was memorable.

From the site:

His real name, Henry McCarty, was rather ordinary. But his nickname still gallops across the high plains of America's imagination. Of all of the Old West's outlaws, it outdistances all the others. He used his familiar, formal alias of William H. Bonney in correspondence. For the last eight months or so of his harrowing life he was known -- as he is remembered today -- as Billy the Kid.

Although McCarty roamed New Mexico Territory for only the last nine years of his short and turbulent life, he called New Mexico home. Today, more than 125 years after his death, scores of historic points of interest here still recall the life and legend of Billy Bonney; the five-month-long Lincoln County War; and the life and legacy of the man who tracked him down and eventually shot and killed him, Pat Garrett.

Welcome to Billy the Kid Territory. It's a travel experience unlike any other in New Mexico. Whether you're following the Kid, the Lincoln County War, or Garrett, retrace the hoofprints, and walk where they walked. Visit the many places that were familiar to them. Watch as those places shed new light on their stories and make them come alive, right before your eyes.

There are three sections here in Billy the Kid Territory. They're entitled Billy the Kid, Billy the Kid Travel Territory, and Billy the Kid Resources.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Forces Genealogy

Forces Genealogy - This is a military genealogy website, covering the British armed forces from the 1600's. If you are an easily amused historian, this site has lots of fun information.

From the site:

From our site you can find records of over 1 million British Armed Forces personnel and over 4000 Regiments, Bases and Ships of the British Armed Forces going back to before 1630.
Our site is split up into different sections with name searches for those personnel whom either died in battle or those still alive today, and our history search details information of just about every unit ever created in the British Armed Forces.

You can even save your searches and bookmark pages of interest to your profile once you have completed a free registration with us, to help you in your quest to put back together the pieces of history you are looking for.

We are the only site to have collated this information in one easy to use cross-referenced database whereby you can cross-match personnel against the units they served in, making it very easy for you to build information on their service history.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Soldier in Later Medieval England

The Soldier in Later Medieval England is a searchable database of medieval soldiers, including muster rolls and treaty rolls for the years 1369 to 1453 and garrison records from the occupation of Normandy from 1415 to 1453. This is a well done project.

From the site:

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) has awarded a Research Grant worth just under £500,000 to Dr Adrian Bell of the ICMA Centre and Professor Anne Curry of the University of Southampton to challenge assumptions about the emergence of professional soldiery between 1369 and 1453.

The project has an innovative methodological approach and will be producing an on-line searchable resource for public use of immense value and interest to genealogists as well as social, political and military historians. The project employs two Research Assistants over three years and also includes one Doctoral Research Studentship - all of whom began work on 1st October 2006. The whole team is working on a jointly authored book, conference papers, and articles.

A pilot project database is now available for searching.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Aurora Trust and the Aurora Institute of Maritime Studies

Find out about the discoveries made by Aurora's marine archeologists and ocean scientists at Aurora Trust and the Aurora Institute of Maritime Studies. See images and maps revealing ancient shipwrecks on the Mediterranean's sea floor.

From the site:

The Aurora Trust was formed by Craig Mullen and Ian Koblick to advance the world’s understanding of the ocean environment, most particularly its marine cultural heritage hidden for thousands of years on the seafloor and to educate the public concerning the historic role the oceans have played in connecting different cultures; its commerce and conflicts.

Aurora has assembled a world class team of marine archeologists and ocean scientists to undertake exploration of the seafloor in search of the lost remains of our maritime past. The Aurora team, utilizing state of the art tools to explore the ocean depths has made numerous magnificent discoveries in the marginal waters of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.

To help disseminate its discoveries and publicize those of other similar groups exploring the words oceans, Aurora has established the Aurora Institute for Marine Studies (AIMS) to serve its educational objectives. AIMS provides educational forums; sponsors academic research and related publications to broaden the spread of knowledge.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Book Review: The Oxford Illustrated History of Britain

Review by Joyce Salisbury, Central Michigan University

Morgan, Kenneth O., Editor. The Oxford Illustrated History of Britain. Oxford University Press, 2009. 670 pp, $23.07 in paperback.

The Oxford Illustrated History of Britain, edited by Kenneth O. Morgan, is an updating of the book first published in 1984. Morgan is a respected historian and life peer of the British Academy. The book is comprised of ten chapters, each written by a different historian. The final chapter, covering most of the 20th century, and the epilogue, covering 2000 to 2008, are both written by Morgan, who has written numerous works on 20th century British history, including such works as Britain since 1945: The People’s Peace, Age of Lloyd George: The Liberal Party and British Policies, and Twentieth-Century Britain: A Very Short Introduction. The book, as its name implies, is indeed copiously illustrated with color plates, maps, and black and white photos. The illustrations are not meant as mere “physical embellishments,” but as “vital explanatory tools in demonstrating the key points in the narrative.” The photos and illustrations are crisp and clear and since the book is printed on acid-free paper, they should stay that way for many years to come.

The publisher’s description of the book reads:

When readers open The Oxford Illustrated History of Britain, they will find themselves immersed in an experience that can’t be found anywhere else. As ten leading historians take turns narrating the dramatic history of Britain over the past 2,000 years, carefully chosen pictures and maps illuminate their words, making this story all the more vivid and difficult to forget.

Notably, this new edition – the first in 20 years – brings this history into the twenty-first century, covering the changes to British society and culture during the Blair years and examining the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath. As readers move from Roman Times to the present day, a vivid, sometimes surprising picture emerges of a country that constantly dealt with the turmoil of change. Despite many political and economic tensions, the authors show that consensus is just as important to this country’s narrative, and in turn bring out that special awareness of identity which has been such a distinctive feature of British society.

The editor’s purpose is to “disentangle the main political, social, economic, religious, intellectual, and cultural features of these islands.” By concentrating on the “main” points of British history, Morgan is able to cover more than 2,000 years of British history in one very readable volume. Although each chapter is written by a different historian, the result reads like one cohesive narrative. It is a book that can be read through like any other book or the reader can select the chapters of particular interest and then move on to the books suggested in the “Further Reading” section. The book contains no footnotes which makes for smooth reading. Direct quotes are generally prefaced with the title of the work from which they are taken, but no page numbers, etc., are provided.

Comparing the book to the 1984 edition, most of the chapters remain the same. Only the chapters on The Tudor Age and the Twentieth Century have more than minor editorial changes. And, of course, the Epilogue, which brings the history of Britain up to the year 2008, is completely new. The Tudor Age chapter was extensively rewritten, but the substance of the chapter remains the same. The writing is now easier to read and most of the Latin phrases are now rendered in English.

Back material includes: Further reading suggestions for each chapter, broken down by subjects such as politics and government; religion, ideas and culture; society and economy; imperialism; biographies; among others; a chronology of British history from 55 BC to 2008; genealogies of the various ruling families, beginning with the House of Wessex in 802; a list of prime ministers from 1721 to present and a detailed index.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Twitter: British Monarchy

This has got to be historic. Twitter: British Monarchy has the official Twitter stream for the British Monarchy, featuring news and updates about Royal events.

If only King John had had Twitter. Maybe good PR would have prevented the Magna Carta...

Monday, July 13, 2009

Apollo 11: Why the Moon Still Matters

3 Yes, this is my second post in a row about the Apollo Moon Landings. However, it is the fortieth anniverary of the first of them. And, is this not the most historic event in human history? We actually went to the Moon! When are we going to go back?

Apollo 11: Why the Moon Still Matters - In 1969, Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. Forty years later, New Scientist writers look at the impact the Apollo landings had, and the future of lunar exploration.

From the site:

On 20 July 1969, the Apollo 11 mission landed two men on the moon. Just three years and five more crewed missions later, our visits came to an end. Yet the scientific legacy of the Apollo programme has been profound. Here we report on how it gave us a new understanding of the universe and how Neil Armstrong's "small step" opened a new chapter in history that continues to unfold today.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

We Choose the Moon

We Choose the Moon - This is an Interactive web site recreating the historic Apollo 11 mission in real time. Listen to the live transmissions between the astronauts and Mission Control, follow the mission on Twitter, and view archived Apollo 11 photos and video.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Free European History Courses

Several universities are putting complete courses online for free now. Visitors can peruse course materials and watch lectures even if they do not get any academic credit for it. MIT is probably the best known for this but some other schools are as well including Notre Dame and the University of Washington.

Here are three example courses dealing with European history:

The Ancient World: Rome - This MIT course is from 2005. This course elaborates the history of Rome from its humble beginnings to the fifth century A.D. The first half of the course covers Kingship to Republican form; the conquest of Italy; Roman expansion: Pyrrhus, Punic Wars and provinces; classes, courts, and the Roman revolution; Augustus and the formation of empire. The second half of the course covers Virgil to the Vandals; major social, economic, political and religious trends at Rome and in the provinces. Emphasis is placed on the use of primary sources in translation.

The Making of Modern Europe - This is a UC Berkley course from 2008. This introductory course provides essential background to an understanding of Europe today by surveying the elements of its past that went into its making. It begins, roughly, with the "Closing" of Europe to the Islamic world after the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks in 1453. It ends with Europe's Re-opening, in the late 20th and early 21st century, symbolized, in part, by the Balkan conflict in the 1990s. As it covers these five and a half centuries, it will look at major landmarks in Europe's social, political, and intellectual development: the Renaissance, the expansion of Europe into the Americas, the breakup of a single Western Christendom into competing religious communities, the construction of the modern state, the Enlightenment, the European revolutions, industrialization, socialism, nationalism, imperialism, Communism and Nazism, the two World Wars, decolonialization, the Cold War, cultural changes in the post-war period, and the breakup of Communism in Eastern Europe. It will close with the continent's current reconfiguration, as former patterns of migration have moved into reverse and the non-European world expands into Europe.

Nineteenth Century Europe - This is a University of Massachusetts from 2008. The course is a political, social and cultural history of Europe from 1815 to 1900, including the history of each major European nation.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Historical Thinking Matters

Historical Thinking Matters - This site focuses on key topics in U.S. history in order to teach students how to read primary sources critically. It also stresses to students how to critique and construct historical narratives.

It is a project of the Center for History and New Media, George Mason University, and School of Education, Stanford University with support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and additional support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. It was also the winner of the American Historical Association's 2008 James Harvey Robinson Prize for an Outstanding Teaching Aid.

From the site:

Historical Thinking Matters is divided into three key sections that can be accessed from the homepage.

Why Historical Thinking Matters:

This Flash movie presents the pedagogical perspective of the site and introduces the concepts and strategies that students will use as they complete the four modules. This section requires a Macromedia Flash Player plug-in (Download) After clicking on “View Why Historical Thinking Matters,” the movie will launch. Follow the prompts on the screen to view the sections of the movie and to complete the interactive elements of the presentation.

Student Investigations:

HTM includes four student investigations that focus on key topics in the standard post-Civil War U.S. History curriculum, which can be accessed by clicking on the images in the center of the homepage, or through the Student Investigations page. Each investigation is composed of the same five elements.