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 Ezinearticles.com 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 http://www.cactuscanyon.com/ which offers advice and natural products to owners of dogs with arthritis.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Steven_Weber

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.