Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Move With Us to Historyweblog.com

Yes, we have moved this blog to a newer and much improved site.  History Moments is now at historyweblog.com.  (Weblog. Do you remember that term before the two words were run together to form "blog",)  This blog is dramatically improved in every way.  Among the improvements:

  • Easier to Read.  Nice big fonts and clean layout.
  • Crisper images and improved visuals and audios for the multimedia.
  • Fast loading times using the latest Genesis Wordpress engine.
  • Multi-device responsiveness, looking good on any device of any size from the smart phone to the large inch tv.
  • Easy to remember address:  history+web+log = historyweblog.  Just add the .com and you've got it!
Then there's the biggest improvement:  Easier navigation.  A simple menu structure masks the powerful engine under the hood.  A brand new Table of Contents allows readers to access the blog's 550+ posts three ways:  geographic region, time period, or category of history.  For example, if you want to see what's in military history, just click and all of the blog's content will be available.  A brand new Index displaying every country, place, person, event, and thing in the blog functions like a top index at the end of the best magazines only now powered with the latest HTML 5 programming.

With a combination of bite-sized servings of the great historians writing of the most important topics, the lastest developments in the field of history, and original writing and thinking, History Moments is now firmly positioned to rise to the top history blog on the internet.  Period.

Of Diviners and Kings

Previously in Herodotus

69. They put them to death accordingly in the following manner:—first they fill a wagon with brushwood and yoke oxen to it; then having bound the feet of the diviners and tied their hands behind them and stopped their mouths with gags, they fasten them down in the middle of the brushwood, and having set fire to it they scare the oxen and let them go: and often the oxen are burnt to death together with the diviners, and often they escape after being scorched, when the pole to which they are fastened has been burnt: and they burn the diviners in the manner described for other causes also, calling them false prophets. Now when the king puts any to death, he does not leave alive their sons either, but he puts to death all the males, not doing any hurt to the females.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Scythia’s Customs

Previously in Herodotus

63. Such are the sacrifices which are established among them; but of swine these make no use, nor indeed are they wont to keep them at all in their land.

64. That which relates to war is thus ordered with them:—When a Scythian has slain his first man, he drinks some of his blood: and of all those whom he slays in the battle he bears the heads to the king; for if he has brought a head he shares in the spoil which they have taken, but otherwise not. And he takes off the skin of the head by cutting it round about the ears and then taking hold of the scalp and shaking it off; afterwards he scrapes off the flesh with the rib of an ox, and works the skin about with his hands; and when he has thus tempered it, he keeps it as a napkin to wipe the hands upon, and hangs it from the bridle of the horse on which he himself rides, and takes pride in it; for whosoever has the greatest number of skins to wipe the hands upon, he is judged to be the bravest man. Many also make cloaks to wear of the skins stripped off, sewing them together like shepherds' cloaks of skins; and many take the skin together with the finger-nails off the right hands of their enemies when they are dead, and make them into covers for their quivers: now human skin it seems is both thick and glossy in appearance, more brilliantly white than any other skin. Many also take the skins off the whole bodies of men and stretch them on pieces of wood and carry them about on their horses.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Lucky Chess Players

The good player is always lucky.

- Jose Capablanca, World Chess Champion 1921 - 1927

More on Jose Capablanca.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Religious Customs of Scythia

Previously in Herodotus

54. This is that which has to do with these rivers; and after these there is a fifth river besides, called Panticapes. This also flows both from the North and from a lake, and in the space between this river and the Borysthenes dwell the agricultural Scythians: it runs out into the region of Hylaia, and having passed by this it mingles with the Borysthenes.

55. Sixth comes the river Hypakyris, which starts from a lake, and flowing through the midst of the nomad Scythians runs out into the sea by the city of Carkinitis, skirting on its right bank the region of Hylaia and the so-called racecourse of Achilles.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

How Good Is Oral History?

Have you ever tried to listen to two different witnesses to a car accident?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Greatest Rivers of the World

Previously in Herodotus

49. These are the native Scythian rivers which join to swell its stream, while from the Agathyrsians flows the Maris and joins the Ister, and from the summits of Haimos flow three other great rivers towards the North Wind and fall into it, namely Atlas and Auras and Tibisis. Through Thrace and the Thracian Crobyzians flow the rivers Athrys and Noes and Artanes, running into the Ister; and from the Paionians and Mount Rhodope the river Kios, cutting through Haimos in the midst, runs into it also. From the Illyrians the river Angros flows Northwards and runs out into the Triballian plain and into the river Brongos, and the Brongos flows into the Ister; thus the Ister receives both these, being great rivers. From the region which is above the Ombricans, the river Carpis and another river, the Alpis, flow also towards the North Wind and run into it; for the Ister flows in fact through the whole of Europe, beginning in the land of the Keltoi, who after the Kynesians dwell furthest towards the sun-setting of all the peoples of Europe; and thus flowing through all Europe it falls into the sea by the side of Scythia.

Monday, June 8, 2015

S Africa’s Future Is Behind a Veil

Featuring an excerpt from an article first published in American Political Science Review by Stephen Leacock.

Previously in Union of South Africa Formed. And now Stephen Leacock.

Time: May 31, 1910
Place: South Africa

First Union Cabinet.  PM Botha sits at table in middle.
Public domain image from Wikipedia.
South Africa will retain duality of language, both Dutch and British being in official use. There was no other method open. The Dutch language is probably doomed to extinction within three or four generations. It is, in truth, not one linguistic form, but several: the Taal, or kitchen Dutch of daily speech, the "lingua franca" of South Africa; the School Taal, a modified form of it, and the High Dutch of the Scriptural translations brought with the Boers from Holland. Behind this there is no national literature, and the current Dutch of Holland and its books varies some from all of them. English is already the language of commerce and convenience. The only way to keep Dutch alive is to oppose its use. Already the bitterness of the war has had this effect, and language societies are doing their best to uphold and extend the use of the ancestral language. It is with a full knowledge of this that the leaders of the British parties acquiesced in the principle of duality.

The native franchise was another difficult question. At present neither natives nor "colored men" (the South-African term for men of mixed blood) can vote in the Transvaal, the Orange River, and Natal. Nor is there the faintest possibility of the suffrage being extended to them, both the Dutch and the British being convinced that such a policy is a mistake. In the Cape natives and colored men, if possessed of the necessary property and able to write their names, are allowed to vote. The name writing is said to be a farce, the native drawing a picture of his name under guidance of his political boss. Some 20,000 natives and colored people thus vote at the Cape, and neither the Progressives nor the Bond party dared to oppose the continuance of the franchise, lest the native vote should be thrown solid against them. As a result each province will retain its own suffrage, at least until the South-African Parliament by a special majority of two-thirds in a joint session shall decide otherwise.

The future conformation of parties under the union is difficult to forecast. At present the Dutch parties--they may be called so for lack of a better word--have large majorities everywhere except in Natal. In the Transvaal General Botha's party--Het Volk, the Party of the People--is greatly in the ascendant. But it must be remembered that Het Volk numbers many British adherents. For instance, Mr. Hull, Botha's treasurer in the outgoing Government, is an old Johannesburg "reformer," of the Uitlander days, and fought against the Boers in the war. In the Orange Free State the party called the Unie (or United party) has a large majority, while at the Cape Dr. Jameson's party of progressives can make no stand against Mr. Merriman, Mr. Malan, Mr. Sauer, and the powerful organization of the Afrikanderbond.

How the new Government will be formed it is impossible to say. Botha and Merriman will, of course, constitute its leading factors. But whether they will attempt a coalition by taking in with them such men as Sir Percy Fitzpatrick and Dr. Jameson, or will prefer a more united and less universal support is still a matter of conjecture. From the outsider's point of view, a coalition of British and Dutch leaders, working together for the future welfare of a common country, would seem an auspicious opening for the new era. But it must be remembered that General Botha is under no necessity whatever to form such a coalition. If he so wishes he can easily rule the country without it as far as a parliamentary majority goes. Not long since an illustrious South-African, a visitor to Montreal, voiced the opinion that Botha's party will rule South Africa for twenty years undisturbed. But it is impossible to do more than conjecture what will happen. _Ex Africa semper quid novi_.

Most important of all is the altered relation in which South Africa will now stand to the British Empire.

The Imperial Government may now be said to evacuate South Africa, and to leave it to the control of its own people. It is true that for the time being the Imperial Government will continue to control the native protectorates of Basutoland, Bechuanaland, and Swaziland. But the Constitution provides for the future transfer of these to the administration of a commission appointed by the colonial Government. Provision is also made for the future inclusion of Rhodesia within the Union. South Africa will therefore find itself on practically the same footing as Canada or Australia within the British Empire. What its future fate there will be no man can yet foretell. In South Africa, as in the other Dominions, an intense feeling of local patriotism and "colonial nationalism" will be matched against the historic force and the practical advantages of the Imperial connection. Even in Canada, there is no use in denying it, there are powerful forces which, if unchecked, would carry us to an ultimate independence. Still more is this the case in South Africa.

It is a land of bitter memories. The little people that fought for their republics against a world in arms have not so soon forgotten. It is idle for us in the other parts of the Empire to suppose that the bitter memory of the conflict has yet passed, that the Dutch have forgotten the independence for which they fought, the Vier Klur flag that is hidden in their garrets still, and the twenty thousand women and children that lie buried in South Africa as the harvest of the conqueror. If South Africa is to stay in the Empire it will have to be because the Empire will be made such that neither South Africa nor any other of the dominions would wish to leave it. For this, much has already been done. The liberation of the Transvaal and Orange River from the thraldom of their Crown Colony Government, and the frank acceptance of the Union Constitution by the British Government are the first steps in this direction. Meantime that future of South Africa, as of all the Empire, lies behind a veil.

This ends our series of passages on Union of South Africa Formed by Stephen Leacock from an article first published shortly after the event in American Political Science Review. This blog features short and lengthy pieces on all aspects of our shared past. Here are selections from the great historians who may be forgotten (and whose work have fallen into public domain) as well as links to the most up-to-date developments in the field of history and of course, original material from yours truly, Jack Le Moine. – A little bit of everything historical is here.

More information here.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

S African Racial Perspective in 1910

Featuring an excerpt from an article first published shortly after the event in American Political Science Review by Stephen Leacock.

Previously in Union of South Africa Formed. And now Stephen Leacock.

Time: May 31, 1910
Place: South Africa

First Union Cabinet.  PM Botha sits at table in middle.
Public domain image from Wikipedia.
Under Lord Milner's government the unification of the railways of the Transvaal and the Orange River colony with the Central South-African Railways amalgamated the interests of the inland colonies, but left them still opposed to those of the seaboard. The impossibility of harmonizing the situation under existing political conditions has been one of the most potent forces in creating a united government which alone could deal with the question.

An equally important factor has been the standing problem of the native races, which forms the background of South-African politics. In no civilized country is this question of such urgency. South Africa, with a white population of only 1,133,000 people, contains nearly 7,000,000 native and colored inhabitants, many of them, such as the Zulus and the Basutos, fierce, warlike tribes scarcely affected by European civilization, and wanting only arms and organization to offer a grave menace to the welfare of the white population. The Zulus, numbering a million, inhabiting a country of swamp and jungle impenetrable to European troops, have not forgotten the prowess of a Cetewayo and the victory of Isandhwana.

It may well be that some day they will try the fortune of one more general revolt before accepting the permanent over-lordship of their conquerors. Natal lives in apprehension of such a day. Throughout all South Africa, among both British and Dutch, there is a feeling that Great Britain knows nothing of the native question.

The British people see the native through the softly tinted spectacles of Exeter Hall. When they have given him a Bible and a breech-cloth they fondly fancy that he has become one of themselves, and urge that he shall enter upon his political rights. They do not know that to a savage, or a half-civilized black, a ballot-box and a voting-paper are about as comprehensible as a telescope or a pocket camera--it is just a part of the white man's magic, containing some particular kind of devil of its own. The South-Africans think that they understand the native. And the first tenet of their gospel is that he must be kept in his place. They have seen the hideous tortures and mutilations inflicted in every native war. If the native revolts they mean to shoot him into marmalade with machine guns. Such is their simple creed. And in this matter they want nothing of what Mr. Merriman recently called the "damnable interference" of the mother country. But to handle the native question there had to be created a single South-African Government competent to deal with it.

The constitution creates for South Africa a union entirely different from that of the provinces of Canada or the States of the American Republic. The government is not federal, but unitary. The provinces become areas of local governments, with local elected councils to administer them, but the South-African Parliament reigns supreme. It is to know nothing of the nice division of jurisdiction set up by the American constitution and by the British North America Act. There are, of course, limits to its power. In the strict sense of legal theory, the omnipotence of the British Parliament, as in the case of Canada, remains unimpaired. Nor can it alter certain things,--for example, the native franchise of the Cape, and the equal status of the two languages,--without a special majority vote. But in all the ordinary conduct of trade, industry, and economic life, its power is unhampered by constitutional limitations.

The constitution sets up as the government of South Africa a legislature of two houses--a Senate and a House of Assembly--and with it an executive of ministers on the customary tenure of cabinet government. This government, strangely enough, is to inhabit two capitals: Pretoria as the seat of the Executive Government and Cape Town as the meeting-place of the Parliament. The experiment is a novel one. The case of Simla and Calcutta, in each of which the Indian Government does its business, and on the strength of which Lord Curzon has defended the South-African plan, offers no real parallel. The truth is that in South Africa, as in Australia, it proved impossible to decide between the claims of rival cities. Cape Town is the mother city of South Africa. Pretoria may boast the memories of the fallen republic, and its old-time position as the capital of an independent state. Bloemfontein has the advantage of a central position, and even garish Johannesburg might claim the privilege of the money power. The present arrangement stands as a temporary compromise to be altered later at the will of the parliament.

The making of the Senate demanded the gravest thought. It was desired to avoid if possible the drowsy nullity of the Canadian Upper House and the preponderating "bossiness" of the American. Nor did the example of Australia, where the Senate, elected on a "general ticket" over huge provincial areas, becomes thereby a sort of National Labor Convention, give any assistance in a positive direction. The plan adopted is to cause each present provincial parliament, and later each provincial council, to elect eight senators. The plan of election is by proportional representation, into the arithmetical juggle of which it is impossible here to enter. Eight more senators will be appointed by the Governor, making forty in all. Proportional representation was applied also in the first draft of the constitution to the election of the Assembly.

It was thought that such a plan would allow for the representation of minorities, so that both Dutch and British delegates would be returned from all parts of the country. Unhappily, the Afrikanderbond--the powerful political organization supporting Mr. Merriman, and holding the bulk of the Dutch vote at the Cape--took fright at the proposal. Even Merriman and his colleagues had to vote it down.

Without this they could not have saved the principle of "equal rights," which means the more or less equal (proportionate) representation of town and country. The towns are British and the country Dutch, so the bearing of equal rights is obvious. Proportional representation and equal rights were in the end squared off against one another.

Continued on Monday, June 8th.

More information here.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

They’re Using FDR’s Deceptions as Excuses – Still!

by Jack Le Moine

From the latest happenings in things historical. This article Chris Matthews on Hillary’s ‘Secretive’ Reputation: Well, FDR Was Too was published 16 days ago in Mediaite. This described Christopher Matthews of MSNBC using Franklin D. Roosevelt’s example of secrecy to excuse Hillary Clinton’s use of e-mails. The video is at the link.

Presidents have used FDR’s example for secrecy and more importantly, deviousness to inadvertently hurt their administrations for decades now.

In the run-up to World War II, FDR tried to have it both ways, pleasing both isolationists and interventionists.
  • FDR based his 1940 re-election on a guarantee to the American people that he would keep America out of World War II. At the time, the Germans had already conquered Poland, Denmark, Norway, and France. The Battle of Britain was on. At the same time he defended his programs of military preparedness.
  • He asked Americans to support Lend-lease to Britain while also asking them to think only neutral thoughts of Hitler.

Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon tried to follow FDR’s example for the Vietnam War but without FDR’s skill and the substantive reasons. Vietnam was a different situation that WWII.

FDR governing style of misdirection and deception in war was not just in war but in the other areas of his administration. His successors admired and attempted to build on that to their detriment. For Lyndon Johnson, “The Credibility Gap” became his worst problem creating many others for him and his administration.

For the Clintons now, it is time at long last to let go of this particular part of the Franklin D. Roosevelt legacy.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Again: Confucious

cc Wikipedia
Confucious was a great leader in China around 500 BC. Adventure, scandal, defeat, and triumph – these were the elements of his story. This was the man few knew, told by one of the greatest historians of the ancient eras China.

Every so often we like to resurrect an article from the blog’s past. This one is from December, 2014. – Just one of the gems buried in the blog’s archives.
Once again only, do we hear of Confucius presenting himself at the court of the duke after this. And this was on the occasion of the murder of the duke of T'se by one of his officers. We must suppose that the crime was one of a gross nature, for it raised Confucius' fiercest anger, and he who never wearied of singing the praises of those virtuous men who overthrew the thrones of licentious and tyrannous kings, would have had no room for blame if the murdered duke had been like unto Kee or Show. But the outrage was one which Confucius felt should be avenged, and he therefore bathed and presented himself at court.
Here’s the rest of the articles.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

When to Write

Unprovided with original learning, unformed in the habits of thinking, unskilled in the arts of composition, I resolved to write a book.

- Edward Gibbon, author of one of the greatest books of all time.

More on Edward Gibbon.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Conflicts of Interests in S African Union

Featuring an excerpt from an article first published shortly after the event in  American Political Science Review by Stephen Leacock.

Previously in Union of South Africa Formed. And now Stephen Leacock.

Time: May 31, 1910
Place: South Africa

First Union Cabinet.  PM Botha sits at table in middle.
Public domain image from Wikipedia.
The convention met first at Durban, October 12, 1908, where it remained throughout that month; after a fortnight's interval it met again at Capetown, and with a three weeks' interruption at Christmas continued and completed its work at the end of the first week of February. The constitution was then laid before the different colonial parliaments. In the Transvaal its acceptance was a matter of course, as the delegates of both parties had reached an agreement on its terms. The Cape Parliament passed amendments which involved giving up the scheme of proportional representation as adopted by the convention. Similar amendments were offered by the Orange River Colony in which the Dutch leader sympathized with the leader of the Afrikanderbond at the Cape in desiring to swamp out, rather than represent, minorities. In Natal, which as an ultra-British and ultra-loyal colony, was generally supposed to be in fear of union, many amendments were offered.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Darius Explores India and Central Asia

Previously in Herodotus

44. Of Asia the greater part was explored by Darius, who desiring to know of the river Indus, which is a second river producing crocodiles of all the rivers in the world,—to know, I say, of this river where it runs out into the sea, sent with ships, besides others whom he trusted to speak the truth, Skylax also, a man of Caryanda. These starting from the city of Caspatyros and the land of Pactyïke, sailed down the river towards the East and the sunrising to the sea; and then sailing over the sea Westwards they came in the thirtieth month to that place from whence the king of the Egyptians had sent out the Phoenicians of whom I spoke before, to sail round Libya. After these had made their voyage round the coast, Darius both subdued the Indians and made use of this sea. Thus Asia also, excepting the parts of it which are towards the rising sun, has been found to be similar to Libya.

Monday, June 1, 2015

South African Constitutional Convention Meets

Featuring an excerpt from an article first published shortly after the event in American Political Science Review by Stephen Leacock.

Introduction to our series Union of South Africa Formed:
Within ten years of the end of one of the bitterest wars in Africa’s history, the Boer War, the leaders of the south African colonies united into one Dominion under the British Crown. The ablest and most dreaded of Britain’s enemies of that war was General Louis Botha. When he became the first Prime Minister of the new Union of South Africa, it would have been as if General Robert E. Lee had won the Presidential election of 1872. Even more impressive was his policies of racial equality, never achieved but hoped for. Those policies was to be trashed when the opposition party devoted to apartheid won the elections of 1948 but that sad event is for another of another post.

This series is from the pen of Professor Stephen Leacock, head of the department of Political Economy of McGill University in Montreal, Canada. A distinguished citizen of one great British federation may well be accepted as the ablest commentator on the foundation of another. And now, Stephen Leacock.

Time: May 31, 1910
Place: South Africa

First Union Cabinet.  PM Botha sits at table in middle.
Public domain image from Wikipedia.

On May 31, 1910, the Union of South Africa became an accomplished fact. The four provinces of Cape Colony, Natal, the Orange Free State (which bears again its old-time name), and the Transvaal are henceforth joined, one might almost say amalgamated, under a single government. They will bear to the central government of the British Empire the same relation as the other self-governing colonies--Canada, Newfoundland, Australia, and New Zealand. The Empire will thus assume the appearance of a central nucleus with four outlying parts corresponding to geographical and racial divisions, and forming in all a ground-plan that seems to invite a renewal of the efforts of the Imperial Federationist. To the scientific student of government the Union of South Africa is chiefly of interest for the sharp contrast it offers to the federal structure of the American, Canadian, and other systems of similar historical ground. It represents a reversion from the idea of State rights, and balanced indestructible powers and an attempt at organic union by which the constituent parts are to be more and more merged in the consolidated political unit which they combine to form.