A Student of History

March 23, 2007

Women’s History Month

Filed under: What is History? — John Maass @ 8:26 am

Here’s a link to a funny Onion piece on WHM….

And while we are at it, a joke (very rare) about an historian:

An historian walked into a bar and the bartender offered him a beer. The historian looked puzzled. “You’re allowed to serve alcohol in this establishment? What about the 18th amendment?”The bartender said, “Are you crazy? That was repealed in 1933!”

“According to some,” said the historian, “but I don’t subscribe to revisionist theories.”

March 22, 2007

Tennessee now on rocky bottom

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Maass @ 11:43 pm

OSU 85, UT 84.

How in the world do you blow a 20 point lead?

300 and VDH

Filed under: The past that is still with us — John Maass @ 2:34 pm

This site has gotten a lot of traffic since I posted on the new movie “300,” and it was even linked to the Time magazine article on the film as well. 

Since so many are interested in this, I link to the National Review today which has an article by Victor Davis Hanson, a well known historian of the period (and now conservative political commentator) for more about the film.  His central point: “Many critics, in panning 300, have alleged that the film is essentially historically inaccurate. Are they right?”

And remember, its a film not an attack on Iran!

1,000 years ago in Winchombeshire

Filed under: Historic Places — John Maass @ 2:10 pm

I love stories like this one, from The Independent today:

One thousand years ago, the county of Winchombeshire began its short life under the ill-named Ethelred the Unready. Alas, just a decade later, in 1017, the county was abolished by the invading Dane King Cnut and absorbed into Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and Oxfordshire.

Its contribution to history would have remained lost in time but for a small band of the town’s residents. One of them, Clare Pritchard, 59, an IT worker and campanologist, is organising a bell-ringing celebration on 7 May to mark the 1,000th anniversary of one of the tiniest English counties. She hopes to hear peals from 66 churches she has identified as residing within its historic boundary.

“We didn’t want the 1,000th anniversary of Winchcombeshire to pass without any celebration – we’re quite proud to live in the old county town,” said Mrs Pritchard. “We’ve decided to encourage people to ring the bells in as many of the old parish churches as possible during the year.

The rest is here.  Interesting that if one Googles “Winchombeshire,” there is only one hit, and no maps or images!  The location is the Cotswolds, one of the prettiest in all the U.K.

Irish “paving” continues…..

Filed under: Historic Preservation,Ireland — John Maass @ 9:56 am

In an opinion piece in the L.A. Times entitled “Wild Irish Roads: Four-lane motorways on the emerald island are paving over a rich heritage,” we get the sad news about the Hill of Tara issue:

There is a massive ongoing debate in Ireland about a motorway destined to destroy one of the richest archeological landscapes in Europe. The expanded route for the M3 motorway goes through the heart of the Gabhra Valley, between the hills of Tara and Skryne. Legend records that St. Patrick set ablaze his Pascal fire on the Hill of Slane, just as the pagan fire was to be lighted on Tara. Successive Irish kings were crowned there. History lies deep. In a week when Irish politicians come to America bearing bowls of shamrock, it’s interesting to ponder that they’re going back to dreams of concrete.

The proposed road is a four-lane tollway, the sort that Ireland has grown fond of in recent times. Cultural and environmental activists predict that the motorway will inevitably be followed by all kinds of commercial and ancillary development. Much of the Emerald Isle is key-chained with crossovers, flyovers and high steel bridges these days.

The rest of the interesting column is here.  Though best known as the seat of the High Kings of Ireland, the Hill of Tara has been an important site since the late Stone Age when a passage-tomb was constructed there. Tara was at the height of its power as a political and religious centre in the early centuries after Christ. Attractions include an audio-visual show and guided tours of the site. (from www.heritageireland.ie)

March 21, 2007

Presque Isle for Sale

Filed under: Historic Preservation — John Maass @ 11:05 am

From the Washington Post:

A plantation that served as a Union headquarters during the Civil War is on the market in Remington, Va., for $2.95 million.  [Ed. note: that is more than I make in two years!]

Known as Presque Isle, French for “almost an island,” or as the Willis House to locals, the brick manor home, built around 1813, housed the command post for officer and tactician extraordinaire Emory Upton. It was the site from which he planned incursions through Northern Virginia. The house is on a knoll, and the Hazel River winds around the property, making it easy to defend because attackers would need to ford the river to get there.

The house was originally built by Judge Daniel Grinnan of Fredericksburg in the early 1800s; it was completed around 1813. The property then traded hands several times before being purchased in the 1920s by the Willis family. In the 1980s, a California developer bought it, with an eye to building a large planned community in the area. The Johnsons bought it from the developer.

March 20, 2007

A costly party…

Filed under: Historic Places — John Maass @ 3:14 pm

According to a news report of late, the big Jamestown, Virginia celeb…, eh, commemoration is costing a fortune.

Every half-century or so, Virginia throws a party to commemorate the arrival of English colonists on its shores. This year comes a biggie: the 400th anniversary. The whole world’s invited, and the guest list is especially long and prestigious.

Even the queen of the mother country plans to cross the Atlantic to help mark the occasion.

Already, the cost of activities surrounding the bash is upward of $200 million. The trick has been how to celebrate something long buried under a mound of dirt: Jamestown. But major archaeological discoveries in recent years have helped Virginia piece together the outlines of the original settlement and how the colonists managed to survive.

The commonwealth hopes to wow an estimated 90,000 visitors with a three-day celebration, May 11 to 13, including musical performances, fireworks, exhibits and a flotilla of 17th-century replica ships, to commemorate the founding of the first permanent English colony in the New World.

The Accidental President

Filed under: New books — John Maass @ 3:05 pm

 

A new biography of President John Tyler gets a favorable review in the Washington Times, here.  A brief sample:

No American political slogan is more remembered than one from the 1840 presidential campaign –“Tippecanoe and Tyler, too.” Edward Crapol of the College of William and Mary has written “John Tyler: The Accidental President,” a fascinating and comprehensive study of half that brief team. 

Tyler of Virginia ran on a Whig ticket with an old war hero, but he was by background and inclination a Jeffersonian, limited-government, states-rights Democrat. This study shows that after he assumed the presidency (upon Harrison’s untimely death in office), Tyler became a strong president and a strong nationalist. He believed he could solve the problems of sectionalism and slavery by expanding the United States geographically. Slavery would dissipate like fish in the sea.

The publisher’s page is here.

The first vice president to become president on the death of the incumbent, John Tyler (1790-1862) was derided by critics as “His Accidency.” Yet he proved to be a bold leader who used the malleable executive system to his advantage. In this biography of the tenth President of the United States, Edward P. Crapol challenges previous depictions of Tyler as a die-hard advocate of states’ rights, limited government, and a strict interpretation of the Constitution.

In pursuit of his agenda, Crapol argues, Tyler exploited executive prerogatives and manipulated constitutional requirements in ways that violated his professed allegiance to a strict interpretation of the Constitution. He set precedents that his successors in the White House invoked to create an American empire and expand presidential power.

Crapol also highlights Tyler’s enduring faith in America’s national destiny and his belief that boundless territorial expansion would preserve the Union as a slaveholding republic. When Tyler, a Virginian, opted for secession and the Confederacy in 1861, he was stigmatized as America’s “traitor” president for having betrayed the republic he once led. As Crapol demonstrates, Tyler’s story anticipates the modern imperial presidency in all its power and grandeur, as well as its darker side.

Edward P. Crapol is William E. Pullen Professor of American History, Emeritus, at the College of William and Mary.  Tyler was an alum of W&M too, class of 1807.

This is incredible (if a bit trivial too):  he had, from his 2 marriages, 15 children, the youngest of whom died in 1947

March 19, 2007

Lame Humor #1

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Maass @ 8:00 pm

 Why is abbreviated such a long word?
 Why does monosyllabic have five syllables?
 Why is brassiere singular and panties plural?
 Why isn’t phonetic spelled the way it sounds?
 Why is a carrot more orange than an orange?
 Why are there interstate highways in Hawaii?
 Why do we drive on parkways and park on driveways?
 Why are they called apartments, when they’re all stuck together?
 Why do scientists call it research when looking for something new?
 Why do they call it a building? It looks like they’re finished. Why isn’t it a built?
 Why is it when you transport something by car, it’s called a shipment, but when you transport something by ship, it’s called cargo?
 If vegetarians eat vegetables, what do humanitarians eat?
 If price and worth mean the same thing, why priceless and worthless are opposites?
 Is there another word for synonym?
 Is it possible to be totally partial?

Threatened Battlefields in Va.

Filed under: Historic Preservation — John Maass @ 11:51 am

Threatened Battlefields Include Cedar Creek in the Shenandoah Valley

For immediate release — March 14, 2007
MIDDLETOWN, Va.
Today the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation issued the following statement from Executive Director Howard Kittell in response to the inclusion of the Cedar Creek battlefield in the Civil War Preservation Trust’s annual list of the nation’s ten most endangered Civil War battlefields.“In 1996, the United States Congress created the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District to protect ten of the Valley’s most important battlefields and help partners tell the Valley’s Civil War story.

Early in the planning for the National Historic District it was determined that one of the battlefields should be designated a unit of the national park system.  Cedar Creek and Belle Grove was quickly selected as that potential national park site – an action codified by Congress in 2002.  This designation happened because of the significance of the events that occurred here. And because of the degree of historic integrity which this area possesses.

The Battle of Cedar Creek was one of the largest in the
Shenandoah Valley —more than 45,000 Americans fought one another on these fields. This battle was a significant Union victory just weeks before the 1864 presidential election and contributed to the reelection of Abraham Lincoln. And it heralded the end of the Civil War in the Valley.

However, the integrity of this landscape and its cultural history is beset by a number of challenges.

We are here today because those challenges have placed Cedar Creek and Belle Grove on the Civil War Preservation Trust’s endangered battlefield list for 2007 – the second time in as many years that
Shenandoah Valley sites have made the list. This is a dubious distinction indeed.

Reconstruction and expansion of Interstate 81, while greatly reduced from what was contemplated a year ago still could have a significant impact on the integrity of this landscape and park.  In addition, the power line proposed to traverse

Frederick
County crosses directly north of the park and would intrude into its viewshed.  And the nearby quarry’s proposed expansion area comprises about a tenth of the battlefield’s core area.

While the land proposed to be rezoned for quarry operations lies outside the national park boundary, it is extremely important core area battlefield—that land is the point at which the tide of this battle turned, and on it the course of our nation’s history.

The Battlefields Foundation was created to help protect this landscape and others throughout the Valley.  Part of this involves supporting the local partners and their stewardship of the important places that tell our nation’s story.

Frederick
County is one of our most important partners.  We know that the county cares deeply about its special places. It has spent time and funds to develop plans to preserve its historic sites. The county’s concerns were evidenced in January when it went on record opposing the proposed power line.  And was again reflected last June in the Planning Commission’s denial of the quarry’s proposed expansion into the core area of the battlefield.

While no one likes to see a cherished place end up on an endangered list, we hope that by highlighting the precarious status of this important landscape, the partners here will be able to foster a solution for its protection that works for all the parties concerned.

If we are to protect these landscapes so that future generations can experience them the way that we can today, now is the time for action.”

What’s missing from this picture?

Filed under: Historic Preservation — John Maass @ 11:51 am

From the BBC:

What’s missing from this picture?  Click here to find out!

A portrait of John Glassford and his family by Archibald McLauchlan, c 1767

March 18, 2007

N.C. & the Shaping of an Imperial Identity

Filed under: NC History — John Maass @ 8:03 pm

As I mentioned in a previous post, this May I will be going to the north of Ireland to a conference of history, specifically on empires and their contested pasts.  I am looking forward to this trip quite a bit, it will be my 4th time in Ireland.  I will be gone 8 days, and will have a lot of opportunities to see places and people while I am there.  (I will post on this subject in a few days.)

My paper is entitled “North Carolina and the Shaping of an Imperial Identity,” and I give the entire paper proposal here:

During the Seven Years’ War (1754-1763), the British Empire found itself locked in a struggle with France in the wilderness of America, in which imperial officials in London expected its transoceanic colonies to contribute to the war effort by providing soldiers, supplies and money.  The results were disappointing in North Carolina, where the provincial assembly was extraordinarily reluctant to answer the call of metropolitan officials for wartime aid.  Recruiting for British regular regiments met with little success in North Carolina, while the colony’s insistence on issuing paper money in defiance of the crown’s well-known aversion to the practice further reveals the limited effect imperial command had in the province.  The colony’s poor economic condition and its remoteness from the seat of war explain much of this unwillingness to participate in imperial designs.  The parsimony and autonomy North Carolina’s Assembly demonstrates the not only the decentralized, tenuous nature of British metropolitanism and imperial commands in the 1750s, but also the colony’s increasing spirit of self-rule and growing autonomy. Britain’s perceptions of the language of command and control for use in colonial policy often emphasized a disciplinary implication of a “parent-child” relationship; North Carolina conversely stressed the sanctity of its legislature and the autonomy of its people, with Britain playing “an external background” role ensuring stability and protection.  In this perception, Carolinians were in effect actually encouraged by none other than Prime Minister William Pitt, who treated the colonies as near equals in his military reimbursement schemes, issues of rank, and even chastised one imperial official serving in America for “exerting too much authority over the people.” The stiffening reluctance on the part of the colony’s lower house to help Britain by refusing to raise troops, failing to send provisions, sending its own agent to London, and battling with the governor also reveals that Carolinians were not simply transplanted Britons living on the Atlantic littoral. Rather, a distinct imperial identity in North Carolina emerged during this conflict.  This was a peculiar identity characterized by a lack of deference to trans-Atlantic metropolitan commands, with an emphasis on provincial themes.  Historians have noted that by 1765 Britain’s mainland colonies had developed many separate identities; this was especially true in the case of North Carolina. 

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