Friday, March 6, 2015

Earliest Movies

by Jack Le Moine

The first big hit in American movie history was Edison’s First Kiss. Not very sexy by our standards but serious stuff in 1896.

Every so often we like to resurrect an article from the blog’s past. This one is from December 17, 2008. – Just one of the gems buried in the blog’s archives.
While the quality of these early movies seems pretty lame today, the audiences of the 1890’s were experiencing the first sights ever seen by anyone in history: pictures that moved. The creativity was limited but the technology was, too. Each movie had to be contained in a film strip only 50 feet long! That means that each movie could last only a few seconds.
Here’s the rest of the article. The original article was written by JL, too.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

What If 3 Wise Women Instead of . . .

If instead of The Three Wise Men there were The Three Wise Women, they would have:
  • asked for directions sooner,
  • arrived in time,
  • helped deliver the baby Jesus,
  • cleaned the stable,
  • did the grocery shopping,
  • and given Him gifts that were practical.

- anon

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Renaissance Progresses in Florence

Featuring Oliphant Smeaton from his book The Medici and the Italian Renaissance published in 1901.

Previously on Lorenzo de Medici and Florence’s Renaissance. And now Lorenzo de Medici and Florence’s Renaissance.

Time: 1449 - 1492
Place: Florence

The Magnificent Medici, Godfathers of the Renaissance
a PBS documentary 

In February, 1480, therefore, Lorenzo returned in triumph to Florence, to be received with rapture by his fellow-citizens. Had he delayed a few months longer, his visit and his ‘ad-miseri-cordiam’ appeals would not have been needed. In August of that year Keduk Achmed, one of the Turkish Sultan's (Mahomet II) ablest generals, besieged and took the city of Otranto. In face of the common danger to all Italy, Sixtus was compelled to accept the treaty made by Ferrante with Lorenzo, and a general peace ensued. The decade accordingly closed with an absolution for all offences granted by the Pope to Florence, conditional on the Tuscan republic contributing its share to the expenses of the military preparations to resist the invasion of the Turk.

Notwithstanding the war, the progress of the Renaissance during the first decade of Lorenzo's rule was very marked. To the rapid diffusion of printing this was largely due. Lorenzo had not imbibed the prejudices against the new art entertained by Cosmo and Federigo of Montefeltro. He looked at the practical, not the sentimental, side of the question as regards the new invention. Having seen that the press could throw off, in a few days, scores of copies of any work, of which it took an amanuensis months to produce one; also that the scholars of all Italy could be furnished almost immediately, and at a low price, with the texts of any manuscript they desired, while they had to wait months for a limited number of copies whose cost was wellnigh prohibitive, he supported the new invention from the outset. Having resolved to further his father's efforts to establish printing in Florence, he stimulated the local goldsmith, Bernardo Cennini, to turn his attention to type-casting in metal, and even agreed to pay him an annual grant from the year 1471 until he had fairly settled himself in business. Nor did he confine his favors to him. John of Mainz and Nicholas of Breslau, who arrived in Florence, the former in 1472 and the latter in 1477, also participated in his open-hearted liberality. Printing struck its roots deep into the Tuscan community and flourished excellently. Though the Florentine craft never attained the reputation of the Venetian Aldi and Asolani, the Giunti of Rome, the Soncini of Fano, the Stephani of Paris, and Froben of Basel, it had the name, for a time at least, of being one of the most accurate of all presses.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

And a Pestilent Fellow Besides

Previously in Herodotus

141. Darius having heard this prepared to send an expedition with Otanes as commander of it, who had been one of the seven, charging him to accomplish for Syloson all that which he had requested. Otanes then went down to the sea-coast and was preparing the expedition.

142. Now Maiandrios the son of Maiandrios was holding the rule over Samos, having received the government as a trust from Polycrates; and he, though desiring to show himself the most righteous of men, did not succeed in so doing: for when the death of Polycrates was reported to him, he did as follows:—first he founded an altar to Zeus the Liberator and marked out a sacred enclosure round it, namely that which exists still in the suburb of the city: then after he had done this he gathered together an assembly of all the citizens and spoke these words:
"To me, as ye know as well as I, has been entrusted the sceptre of Polycrates and all his power; and now it is open to me to be your ruler; but that for the doing of which I find fault with my neighbor, I will myself refrain from doing, so far as I may: for as I did not approve of Polycrates acting as master of men who were not inferior to himself, so neither do I approve of any other who does such things. Now Polycrates for his part fulfilled his own appointed destiny, and I now give the power into the hands of the people, and proclaim to you equality. These privileges however I think it right to have assigned to me, namely that from the wealth of Polycrates six talents should be taken out and given to me as a special gift; and in addition to this I choose for myself and for my descendants in succession the priesthood of Zeus the Liberator, to whom I myself founded a temple, while I bestow liberty upon you."

Monday, March 2, 2015

Lorenzo de Medici’s Peace Offensive

Featuring Oliphant Smeaton from his book The Medici and the Italian Renaissance published in 1901.

Previously on Lorenzo de Medici and Florence’s Renaissance. And now Lorenzo de Medici and Florence’s Renaissance.

Time: 1449 - 1492
Place: Florence

The Magnificent Medici, Godfathers of the Renaissance
a PBS documentary 

The result might have been predicted. The "brief" only tended to knit the bonds of association closer between Lorenzo and the "City of the Flower," while the humanists to a man rallied round their patron. Even the choleric Filelfo, now a very old man, who had been on anything but friendly terms with the Medici, addressed two bitter satires to Sixtus, in which the Pope was styled the real aggressor, while the great humanist offered to write a history of the whole transaction, that posterity might know the true facts. The only power which gave its adhesion to Sixtus was Naples, while Venice, Ferrara, and Milan declared for Florence.

Thus commenced that tedious war which not only ruined so many Florentine merchants, but retarded the cause of learning so materially. When the people were groaning under heavy taxes, when all coin which Lorenzo could scrape together had to be poured out to pay the ‘condottieri’, or soldiers of fortune, by whom the battles of Florence were fought, there was of course but short commons for the humanists who had made Florence their home. Many of those adapted themselves to circumstances, but others, to whom money was their god, left the banks of the Arno for those southern cities where the pinch of scarcity did not prevail.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Renaissance in Florence

Featuring Oliphant Smeaton from his book The Medici and the Italian Renaissance published in 1901.

Previously on Lorenzo de Medici and Florence’s Renaissance. And now Lorenzo de Medici and Florence’s Renaissance.

Time: 1449 - 1492
Place: Florence

The Magnificent Medici, Godfathers of the Renaissance
a PBS documentary 

Lorenzo's services to learning were inspired by feelings infinitely more noble than those actuating his political plans. A patriotism as lofty as it was beneficent led him to desire that his country should be in the van of Italian progress in Renaissance studies. His sagacious prevision enabled him to proportion the nature and extent of the benefit he conferred to the need it was intended to supply. Many statesmen do more harm than good by failing to appreciate this law of supply and demand. They grant more than is required, and that which should have been a boon becomes a burden. Charles V, at the time of the Reformation, on more than one occasion committed this error, as also did Wolsey and Mazarin. Lorenzo, like Richelieu, recognized the value of moderation in giving, and caused every favor to be regarded as a possible earnest of others to come.

The earlier years of his power were associated with many stirring events which exercised no inconsiderable influence on the state of learning. For example, his skilful playing off of Duke Galeazzo Maria Sforza of Milan against Ferrante, King of Naples, led to greater attention being directed by the Florentines to Neapolitan and Milanese affairs, with the result that humanists and artists from both these places paid frequent visits to Florence, where they were welcomed by Lorenzo as his guests. Then when the revolt of the small city of Volterra from Florentine rule was suppressed by Lorenzo's agents, with a rigorous severity that cast a stain on their master's name, owing to many unoffending scholars having suffered to the extent of losing their all, Lorenzo made noble amends. Not only did he generously assist the inhabitants to repair their losses, not only did he make grants to the local scholars and send them copies of many of the codices in his own library to supply the loss of their books which had been burned by the soldiery, but he purchased large estates in the neighborhood, that the citizens might benefit by his residence among them. In this way, too, he brought the Volterran scholars into more intimate relations with the Florentine humanists, and thus contributed to the further diffusion of the benefits of the Renaissance.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Election Campaigning – State of the Art 2014

by Jack Le Moine

More red, more Republican votes;
more blue, more Democratic votes.
CC BY-SA 4.0 image from Wikipedia.
From the latest happenings in things historical. The article How We Won Texas was published 22 days ago in Politico. The article’s author is Dave Carney.

As 2014 passed into history we noticed what worked and what did not in political campaigning. Every election the state of the art changes. This article described
the Texas governor race and the innovative approaches that were taken.

Friday, February 27, 2015

France’s Wars: The 100 Years War 1338-1453

by Jack Le Moine

Did you ever notice that in almost every great war in history, France has been involved in some way? Here’s an example: England's 100+ war to conquer France.

The Kings of England attempted to unite both England and France under their rule. This led to a series of wars that lasted from 1337 to 1453 that are collectively known as The Hundred Years War. This conflict included some of the iconic battles of Medieval history, including Crecy and Agincourt.

The Plantagenet kings of England had long resentmented and regreted of the loss of their possessions in France under their King John. Calculations of inheritance as well as of the relative weaknesses of the French kings and kingdom led the Plantagenets to go for it all.

In reading stories of the Hundred Years War, it is important to remember that this was also the period of the Black Death that carried away over a third of the total population of Europe. With companies of mercenaries plundering the people and plague decimating them, the armies operated in a desolated land.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

All Progress Depends on Who?

Shaw in 1900
Public domain image from Wikipedia.
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

- George Bernard Shaw

More on George Bernard Shaw.

Tomorrow HUNDRED YEARS WAR, our next installment in the France's Wars series

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Florence, Primus Inter Pares

Featuring Oliphant Smeaton from his book The Medici and the Italian Renaissance published in 1901.

Introduction to our series Lorenzo de Medici and Florence’s Renaissance:
William Henry Oliphant Smeaton (1856 – 1914) was a Scottish historian. While the Renaissance began before Lorenzo de Medici’s time, his rule and his city served as a catalyst that took it to the next level. This is the story how that happened. And now, Oliphant Smeaton.

Time: 1449 - 1492
Place: Florence

The Magnificent Medici, Godfathers of the Renaissance
a PBS documentary 

During the twelfth century several of the Italian cities—especially Florence and Venice--rose to great wealth and power. Venice, through her favorable situation, became preeminent in commerce, while Florence was coming to be the most important industrial center of Europe. In the thirteenth century Florence was the scene of continual strife between the Guelfs and Ghibellines, but she not only continued to develop in material prosperity, but also attained to intellectual activities whereby in the next century she gained a higher distinction. She took the foremost part in the Renaissance, and was the birthplace or the home of Dante, Boccaccio, and other leaders of the modern movement.

In the fifteenth century Florence reached a still loftier eminence under the Medici, a family celebrated for the statesmen which it produced and for its patronage of letters and art. Its most illustrious members were Cosmo (1389-1464) and his grandson Lorenzo, surnamed the "Magnificent." Lorenzo was born January 1, 1449, when the second great period of the Renaissance was nearing its close. That was the "period of arrangement and translation; the epoch of the formation of the great Italian libraries; the age when, in Florence around his grandfather Cosmo, in Rome around Pope Nicholas V, and in Naples around Alfonso the Magnanimous, coteries of the leading humanists were gathered, engaged in labors which have made posterity eternally their debtors."

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Darius Takes Samos

Previously in Herodotus

137. The Persians then sailing thence and pursuing Demokedes reached Croton, and finding him in the market-place they laid hands upon him; and some of the men of Croton fearing the Persian power were willing to let him go, but others took hold of him and struck with their staves at the Persians, who pleaded for themselves in these words: "Men of Croton, take care what ye are about: ye are rescuing a man who was a slave of king Darius and who ran away from him. How, think you, will king Darius be content to receive such an insult; and how shall this which ye do be well for you, if ye take him away from us? Against what city, think you, shall we make expedition sooner than against this, and what city before this shall we endeavor to reduce to slavery?" Thus saying they did not however persuade the men of Croton, but having had Demokedes rescued from them and the ship of burden which they were bringing with them taken away, they set sail to go back to Asia, and did not endeavor to visit any more parts of Hellas or to find out about them, being now deprived of their guide. This much however Demokedes gave them as a charge when they were putting forth to sea, bidding them say to Darius that Demokedes was betrothed to the daughter of Milon: for the wrestler Milon had a great name at the king's court; and I suppose that Demokedes was urgent for this marriage, spending much money to further it, in order that Darius might see that he was held in honor also in his own country.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Game Changer in the History Profession

by Jack Le Moine

From the latest happenings in things historical. This January 1, 2015 a partnership of the world’s universities opened up their rare manuscript collections to the general public via the internet. Before January 1, these manuscripts had only been available to scholars with an associated university pass. This event opens up primary source material research in this area to the general public.

This is being done in phases. The initial phase releases manuscripts from the early modern era. The service is free.

Google Books may have some of these titles but for now probably they don’t.

The books are available to the public in text files. PDF files are still only available to University subscribers.

My thanks to Professor John R. Yamamoto-Wilson of Sophia University in Tokyo for bringing this news to everyone’s attention (via LinkedIn).

The University Free Partnership
Professor John’s blog post last year.
The discussion in LinkedIn.  (Basic membership in LinkedIn is free.)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Order Restored in the Gold Fields of Australia

Featuring Edward Jenks

Previously on Gold Discovered in Australia. And now Edward Jenks.

Time: February 12, 1851
Place: Lewes Pond Creek

A gold nugget from the Australian
gold fields dug up in 1872.
Public domain image from Wikipedia.
The Governor at once ordered all the available military force to Ballarat; but, before reinforcements arrived, the coolness and promptitude of Captain Thomas--the officer in command of the troops on the Ballarat gold-field when the riot of November 30th took place—had nipped the insurrection in the bud. Captain Thomas saw that, while the Eureka Stockade threatened to become a serious obstacle to the Government if its completion were allowed, in its uncompleted state it was really a source of weakness to the insurgents. By collecting their forces in one spot, and thus rendering them more exposed to a crushing attack, and by drawing off the men who threatened the government camp, it really left the commander of the troops free to act with decision. Accordingly, Captain Thomas at once determined to attack the position. Assembling his forces (somewhat fewer than two hundred men) at three o'clock on the morning of December 3d, he moved toward the stockade.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Who are Historians?

by Jack Le Moine

From the latest happenings in the world of history.

This March 1 the Host of the History Carnival will be in Unspoken Assumptions. Last April 17, 2014 she wrote In Defense of Historians. Her essay’s theme is ‘I’m a historian and you’re not.’ I believe that there’s two things wrong with this essay: (1) it fails to address the differences between professional and amateur historians; and (2) it fails to address the underlying causes of the problems professional historians face today.

Hello, my name is Heather and I’m a historian . . .

I have studied history for over ten years. I’ve written about history, researched history, taught history, attended many history conferences, had my work scrutinized and criticized by other historians.

To sum up, she is a historian. She even has a PhD! The essay then goes to it’s first mark: the great unwashed must not criticize the professional.

Michael Grove is not an historian nor is he an expert on the First World War – therefore he has zero right to criticize how historians do their job.

If the reader doesn’t already know who this MG is; the historian doesn't enlighten him. If the reader puzzles at this decision of the historian, consider what right you might have to express your reaction. If you’re not a credentialed professional or if you’re not an expert, is your right 50%, 25%, 10%, or 0%? From the quote above the correct answer to this multiple choice question is zero but one still must wonder how the essayist arrived at that figure? Was it the result of some mathematical calculation or just mere turf war? Like in ‘I’m a historian and you’re not.’

Friday, February 20, 2015

Loretta Young's Crisis

Time: Summer, 1959
Place: Paris
by Jack Le Moine

Publicity still from sometime in the 1940’s. 
Public domain image from Wikipedia.
The phone rang. Loretta Young answered it. It was bad news. She was dropped.

Her sponsor, Proctor and Gamble had warned her repeatedly for years. Last time they had sent a member of their corporate Board of Directors to deliver their ultimatum. Either stop with all these religious themed episodes or they would drop their sponsorship of The Loretta Young Show. He explained that the company kept getting complaints. They did not like complaints. Large quantities of complaints they liked even less. Large quantities of complaints hitting them year after year, they liked even less still. A top network television show cost a lot of money. Sponsors want to get goodwill and sales for all that money. Sponsors don’t want to spend lots of money to receive badwill.