Saturday, December 31, 2016

Immigration Top Story 2016

In the United States it drove the election of the otherwise unlikely Donald Trump and the Republican domination of government. In Europe, it drove Brexit and the destabilization of the rest of the European Union. It’s related opposite Emigration drove the societies of Latin America and the Middle East.

Was terrorism a related topic? While hotly debated, would Muslim terrorists had so many opportunities had not wide-scale immigrants been available to hide among? Terrorists struck not just in the cities of Europe and America but in the skies as airliners crashed. After such wide-scale Muslim migrations, is Radical-Muslim terrorism going to be the new norm for the future? Just asking.

While such a huge story, why was important parts of it barely reported on at all?

1) What of the root causes of these migrations? Have they changed over the last few years? If Radical Islam is not such a problem then why is ISIS been so very hard to defeat?

2) Why should destinations be limited to the United States, Australia, and Western Europe? There are lots of other destinations. For example, South America, Central Asia, and Siberia. Granted such migrations may take on more aspects like the pioneers of the American Old West but that is still a viable alternative and in many cases, a preferable one.

Apart from terrorism, what impact will migrations, particularly Muslim migrations have on Western societies? During 2016 Muslim immigrants voted with leftwing parties based on those parties’ greater acceptance of immigration. As things settle down in the future, will devout Muslims continue to support (via party support) abortion, homosexuality, and indeed, the whole LGBQT agenda?

Here's History Moments New Year Eve Round-ups in years past.  How I miss Jibb-Jab!


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Friday, December 30, 2016

Will Dumbing Down Make History Degrees More Popular?

Will more college students enroll in history courses if they are easier to pass and on topics of current interest?  -- History of Football, for instance?

Sports history, and suchlike are fine with me but when they are Instead Of core history courses, then that's a problem.  Making history easier for the students by eliminating core requirements actually make the History Departments less popular -- by devaluing the discipline and the degree.

Here is an article, titled, "University of Washington Drops U.S. History Requirement -- For History Majors!" that also refers to the disturbing trend in other colleges.

Quote: "One of the major reasons the humanities in general are in decline is the widespread (and entirely incorrect) assumption that history, literature, and classical disciplines teach nothing valuable and are a joke. By no longer requiring history majors to study the past of their own country, schools like GW seem determined to double down on making the humanities seem pointless, and therefore even more unpopular."

If "nothing valuable" means nothing that will advance a career path, then this may be how it is perceived.  The answer is to explain relevancy not to dumb down the discipline and hence, this major for a college degree  

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Sweden Liberated

Today we begin our selection from History of the Swedes down to Charles X by Eric Gustave Geijer published in 1845. The selection is serialized in five installments for daily reading.

Denmark conquered Sweden in 1520. After taking Stockholm the king of Denmark massacred the Swedish nobility. A very young Gustavas Vasa (also known as “Gustavas Erickson”), a noble descended from the Vasa royal line of Sweden had been a hostage in Denmark. He had escaped and was at large in the Swedish countryside. When the massacre took place, outrage filled the land, and Gustavus made his move.

Eric Gustave Geijer, the famous Swedish historian, writer, composer, and advocate of Swedish culture takes up the story from here.

Many more stories here:

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas, 1620

From   "Every Day Life in the Colonies" by G.L. Stone and M.G. Fickett.

It was a warm and pleasant Saturday — that twenty-third of December, 1620. The winter wind had blown itself away in the storm of the day before, and the air was clear and balmy. The people on board the Mayflower were glad of the pleasant day. It was three long months since they had started from Plymouth, in England, to seek a home across the ocean. Now they had come into a harbor that they named New Plymouth, in the country of New England.

Other people called these voyagers Pilgrims, which means wanderers. A long while before, the Pilgrims had lived in England; later they made their home with the Dutch in Holland; finally they had said goodbye to their friends in Holland and in England, and had sailed away to America.

There were only one hundred and two of the Pilgrims on the Mayflower, but they were brave and strong and full of hope. Now the Mayflower was the only home they had; yet if this weather lasted they might soon have warm log-cabins to live in. This very afternoon the men had gone ashore to cut down the large trees.

The women of the Mayflower were busy, too. Some were spinning, some knitting, some sewing. It was so bright and pleasant that Mistress Rose Standish had taken out her knitting and had gone to sit a little while on deck. She was too weak to face rough weather, and she wanted to enjoy the warm sunshine and the clear salt air. By her side was Mistress Brewster, the minister's wife. Everybody loved Mistress Standish and Mistress Brewster, for neither of them ever spoke unkindly.

The air on deck would have been warm even on a colder day, for in one corner a bright fire was burning. It would seem strange now, would it not, to see a fire on the deck of a vessel? But in those days, when the weather was pleasant, people on shipboard did their cooking on deck.

More of this story here:

Many more stories here:

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Why Climb the Mountain?

View of Mont Ventoux from Mirabel-aux-Baronnies
Public domain image from Wikipedia.

Because it is there.  The people from the Ancient and Medieval periods of history would have been astonished at such an answer.  Petrarch (1304 - 1374) may not have been the first naturalist in history but his poetry added an appreciation of nature and a love of scenic beauty to human culture more significantly than ever before.  In a way, he was to appreciation of nature as Columbus (a century later) was to America.  Neither man was the first but both men made their discoveries matter. Jacob Burkhardt, that great progenitor of cultural history wrote of the journey that became the subject of the poet's major work:

"The ascent of a mountain for its own sake was unheard of, and there could be no thought of the companionship of friends or acquaintances. Petrarch took with him only his younger brother and two country people from the last place where he halted. At the foot of the mountain an old herdsman besought him to turn back, saying that he himself had attempted to climb it fifty years before, and had brought home nothing but repentance, broken bones, and torn clothes, and that neither before nor after had anyone ventured to do the same. Nevertheless, they struggled forward and upward, till the clouds lay beneath their feet, and at last they reached the top. A description of the view from the summit would be looked for in vain, not because the poet was insensible to it, but, on the contrary, because the impression was too overwhelming. His whole past life, with all its follies, rose before his mind; he remembered that ten years ago that day he had quitted Bologna a young man, and turned a longing gaze toward his native country; he opened a book which then was his constant companion, the Confessions of St. Augustine, and his eye fell on the passage in the tenth chapter, “and men go forth, and admire lofty mountains and broad seas and roaring torrents and the ocean and the course of the stars, and forget their own selves while doing so.” His brother, to whom he read these words, could not understand why he closed the book and said no more."

More of Burkhardt' piece on Petrarch here.

and don't forget The Basic History Library (free): ------------->

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Founders of Rome

It was perhaps the most important of ancient cities.  It's legacy is vital to our world today.  Yet it's beginnings are murky.  But can we get any idea at all of how it all began, really?  Barthold Georg Niebuhr wrote,

"According to an important statement of Cato preserved in Dionysius, the ancient towns of the Aborigines were small places scattered over the mountains. One town of this kind was situated on the Palatine hill, and bore the name of Roma, which is most certainly Greek."

So what really happened?  Niebuhr and others have laboriously fished history out of the murk.  But no critic can ever destroy the beauty and charm of the old Latin chronicles or diminish the glory of the day that saw the first walls rise about the seven hills of the most important of ancient European cities.

More information here.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Oliver Cromwell: Tyrant or Something Else?

It seems to me that he was created the template of the modern revolutionary/tyrant.  The late Fidel Castro comes to mind.  The thing for me is that the people of his own time demonstrated their dislike for his rule.

The English Civil War’s aftermath resulted in the death of the King, Charles I and the rule of Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell’s regime was unable to survive long after his death. The English substituted the son of Charles for the son of Cromwell. This was “The Restoration”.
I got a series on this in History Moments.
The series shows three different points of view of Cromwell’s record and of the Restoration — very different points of view. Carlyle shows us in Cromwell one of his most admired heroes; Green gives us the modern historian’s dispassionate conclusions; while the contemporary narrative of the old diarist, Pepys, preserves the personal observations of a participator in the scenes which he describes. Charles II had spent years in exile on the Continent. He was finally proclaimed King of England at Westminster, May 8, 1660. Pepys describes his convoy from Holland to Dover, and his reception by the people who had invited him to return to his country and his throne.
The first installment of my series: Of Cromwell’s Rule In England and the Restoration begins here:

Many more stories here:

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Revolution in China

In 1911 and 1912 the Imperial Government was overthrown and China was proclaimed a republic.  Western people interpreted the Revolution through the perspective of the European and American experience.  The Emperor's advisor wrote:

"It can not be denied, however, that the social system under which the Chinese people have lived for untold ages has in some ways made them more fit for self-government than any other people in the world. It would be well if Europeans — and especially Englishmen — would try to rid themselves of the obsolete notion that every Oriental race, as such, is only fit for a despotic form of government. Perhaps only those who have lived in the interior of China and know something of the organization of family and village, township and clan, are able to realize to how great an extent the Chinese have already learned the arts of self-government. It was not without reason that a Western authority (writing before the outbreak of the revolution) described China as “the greatest republic the world has ever seen.”

While China's present government would have the world believe that the thousands of years of experience and thought have no further relevance for today's behavior, I suggest this may not be so.  China's history may be more relevant to the unfolding decades of the 21st. century than most people think.

This series on the Revolution comes from three different authors with three different perspectives.


The Civilization of China by Herbert A. Giles is in The Basic History Library (free). ------------->

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Lack of Change in Antarctic Ice Caps Over Last Century

Scott and Shackleton logbooks show Antarctic sea ice is not shrinking 100 years after expeditions.  What does this mean for climate change?  The British newspaper "The Telegraph" reported:

"Experts were concerned that ice at the South Pole had declined significantly since the 1950s, which they feared was driven by man-made climate change."

"But new analysis suggests that conditions are now virtually identical to when the Terra Nova and Endurance sailed to the continent in the early 1900s, indicating that declines are part of a natural cycle and not the result of global warming."

The newspaper's use of the word "proven" may be a bit strong but this story does have one lesson for us all.  Science and history should go where ever the path towards the truth may go.  We -- and the scientists themselves -- should stop encumbering academic research with all sorts of political baggage.

Here is the full story:

Friday, December 9, 2016

Historical Accounts of the Beginning of Christianity

More than five hundred persons were already devoted to the memory of Jesus. In default of the lost master they obeyed the disciples, the most authoritative — Peter — in particular.

The activity of these ardent souls had already turned in another direction. What they believed to have heard from the lips of the dear risen One was the order to go forth and preach, and to convert the world. But where should they commence? Naturally, at Jerusalem. The return to Jerusalem was then resolved upon by those who at that time had the direction of the sect. As these journeys were ordinarily made by caravan at the time of the feasts, we now suppose, with all manner of likelihood, that the return in question took place at the Feast of Tabernacles at the close of the year 33, or the Paschal Feast of the year 34. 

Maybe the most controversial topics in all history, how and when did this religion begin and why did it expand so much when contemporary religions did not?  Three historians tackle this topic, a Protestant, a Catholic, and a Jew. The series begins here:

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Abd-el-Kader and France’s Conquest of Algeria

Today, Arabs fighting the West brings images of terrorists blowing up women and children so this story of the Algerian Sultan who fought and beat back the French in the long war of the 1830's and 1840's brings a needed balance.  Pitched battles were fought; the Arab side won; and treaties were signed.  In the end it took treachery, a 110 thousand+ army, and tribal disloyalty to bring Abd-el-Dader down.  Had the Algerian tribes stayed on the opposition, the French would not have won in the end.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

How Reliable Is Marco Polo's Book?

After returning to Italy, Marco Polo wrote a book about his travels.  Today's historians have considerable doubts about this book.  Access to Chinese sources allows historians to compare MP to them.  There are a lot of divergences.  To the degree that some think that the book is a fake or even that MP himself is a fake, too.

On the other hand, there's stuff in MP's book that cause historians to wonder, "how did he know that?"  Even, "how could he have known that."  He must have been in or near China to have written some of the things that are in that book.

Here's my theory.  While the old boy was writing his book he probably exaggerated. -- By a lot.  After all, in that day in age who would have been in a position to compare notes with the Chinese?

Here is one scholar's summary of "The Marco Polo Problem" by  Jonathan Dresner:

The Civilization of China by Cambridge University Professor Herbert A.  Giles

 is in The Basic History Library (free). ------------->

Friday, December 2, 2016

How Much Traffic Do History Sites Get?

I'm dismayed at the low levels that are reported.  History is an important subject.  Books on historical topics generate lots of sales.  One would think that history delivered via the internet would generate lots of hits.  The members shown on this group is small while I am sure the daily view are much less. 

Another indicator of low engagement on the internet is the aggregator sites.  Just google history blogs and you see on the first page "Best of" links.  These link to pages that were last updated years ago and/or else themselves award "best" status to blogs/sites that had not been updated for years.

Another way of finding history sites is through the History Carnival.  Sadly that site has deteriorated to a click of insiders.

My modest suggestion:  through social media sites such as this one, we should agree on criteria for sites which are recognized for excellence.