Archive for the ‘History’ Category

A Grant Hagiography


(FTB Pharyngula) – PZ Myers:

Imagine a Federal leadership that had Lee sign his surrender at Appomattox, and then slapped irons on his wrists, put him in a wagon with bars, and shipped the racist slave-holding traitor off to trial in Washington. We’d be a better country now, I think, with precedent set.

I think I need to read a black scholar’s perspective on the Civil War, because these pleasant reassurances that our country did the right thing aren’t so reassuring any more. …

pharyngula robert-e-lee hanged

Ron Chernow: Grant


Absolute English


(Aeon Essays) – Michael D. Gordin:

Science once communicated in a polyglot of tongues, but now English rules alone. How did this happen – and at what cost? …

aeon only-english

Solvay conference 1927 participants

Losing Earth: A Recent History


(NYTimes) – Nathaniel Rich:

This narrative is a work of history, addressing the 10-year period from 1979 to 1989: the decisive decade when humankind first came to a broad understanding of the causes and dangers of climate change. …

nytimes 2018/08/01 losing-earth

Nathaniel Rich: Losing Earth: A Recent History

Wikipedia: Losing Earth: A Recent History

A Civil War of Words over American English


(Aeon Ideas) – Peter Martin:

In the United States, the name Noah Webster (1758-1843) is synonymous with the word ‘dictionary’. But it is also synonymous with the idea of America, since his first unabridged American Dictionary of the English Language, published in 1828 when Webster was 70, blatantly stirred the young nation’s thirst for cultural independence from Britain.

Webster saw himself as a saviour of the American language who would rescue it from the corrupting influence of British English and prevent it from fragmenting into a multitude of dialects. But as a linguist and lexicographer, he quickly ran into trouble with critics, educators, the literati, legislators and much of the common reading public over the bizarre nature of his proposed language reforms. These spelling reforms – for example, wimmen for ‘women’, greeve for ‘grieve’, meen for ‘mean’ and bred for ‘bread’ – were all intended to simplify spelling by making it read the way that words were pronounced, yet they brought him the pain of ridicule for decades to come. …

aeon noah-websters

1828 American Dictionary of the English Language

To Work on a 30-Year-Old Macintosh


(Atlantic Tech) – Ian Bogost:

Everything about this computer is loud: The groan of the power supply is loud. The hum of the cooling fan is loud. The whir of the hard disk is loud. The clack of the mechanical keyboard is loud. It’s so loud I can barely think, the kind of noise I usually associate with an airline cabin: whoom, whoom, whoom, whoom. …

theatlantic 2019/06 macintosh

Ian Bogost's Macintosh SE

A Revolution in Time


(Aeon Essays) – Paul J. Kosmin:

What year is it? It’s 2019, obviously. An easy question. Last year was 2018. Next year will be 2020. …

Now, imagine inhabiting a world without such a numbered timeline for ordering current events, memories and future hopes. For from earliest recorded history right up to the years after Alexander the Great’s conquests in the late 4th century BCE, historical time – the public and annual marking of the passage of years – could be measured only in three ways: by unique events, by annual offices, or by royal lifecycles.

In the chaos that followed Alexander’s death in Babylon in 323 BCE, all this changed. One of his Macedonian generals, who would go on to win an enormous kingdom stretching from Bulgaria to Afghanistan, introduced a new system for reckoning the passage of time. It is known, after him, as the Seleucid Era. …

aeon time-became-regular

Salvador Dalí: The Persistence of Memory, 1931

The Triumph of German Democracy


(Atlantic Politics) – David Frum:

Seventy years in, the success of a united Germany is a story so big that it can be hard to see except at a distance. …

theatlantic 2019/05 70th-anniversary

Articles of Germany's Basic Law on a glass wall in Berlin

We Shall Overcome Trump


(WP Opinions) – Dana Milbank:

My wife and I took our kids on a civil rights tour of the South over spring break, a trip planned before we knew it would be the week Muellermania engulfed Washington.

As it turned out, though, the Civil Rights Trail offered an ideal perspective from which to view the mayhem in the capital caused by the special counsel’s report. …

washingtonpost survived-worse

MLK at Lincoln Memorial

Values That Saved the West


(Richard Carrier Blogs) – Richard Carrier:

Novelist Tom Holland just wrote an article for The Spectator titled “Thank God for Western Values,” declaring the “debt of the West to Christianity is more deeply rooted than many might presume.” Everything he says is false. …

Dignitas and its related ideas, even in the sense of the common worth of persons, was already a widely known pagan concept. So Christianity can’t claim to have invented it. And valuing freedom, rights, and autonomy was all a pagan idea. Invented legally by Greek and Roman constitutionalists, and developed philosophically by Aristotelians, Epicureans, and Stoics. The Enlightenment laureates who brought them back from the dead, to re-paganize Christianity with them, did so against opposition from Christian authorities. The “taboos” we inherited from Christianity are, rather, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, even racism and anti-semitism, and an unhealthy obsession with monogamy and a pathological phobia of human sexuality in general. In other words, garbage we need to get rid of; not praise or be thankful for. …

richardcarrier 15259

Raphael: Philosophy / The School of Athens

A Religion Obsessed with Blood


(Patheos::Godless in Dixie) – Neil Carter:

It’s amazing how different your upbringing can look to you after you get some distance from it. I grew up holding certain things as sacred which I now realize are nothing of the sort. Or perhaps I should say I see now that “sacredness” is a subjective value assigned to a thing by an individual or group. What makes it “sacred” is that it’s sacred to them.

Outside that group, however, the magic disappears. Things you once imbued with supernatural importance now look like, well…just things. There isn’t really anything special about them. The exceptionalism you were taught to see in your family’s traditions turns out to be a remarkably common thing.

Let’s take a look at the inescapably barbaric roots of the Christian faith …

godlessindixie obsessed-with-blood

The Passion of the Christ, 2004 film