A Student of History

October 30, 2007

Battle of Britain pilots ‘could not shoot straight’

Filed under: Wars — John Maass @ 8:22 am

Did you know that RAF pilots couldn’t shoot straight during the Battle of Britain?  That is what new research purports to show….here.

Some went into combat after just 10 hours of solo flying and without ever having fired their guns. Lack of training facilities, time and recruits severely hampered Fighter Command’s efforts in the air, claims historian Andrew Cumming.

Historical documents show the “kill/loss ratio” for the key air battle between 24 Aug 24 and September 6, 1940 was “unimpressive”, Dr Cumming found.


Halloween South of the Border–No Mas?

Filed under: The world today — John Maass @ 7:14 am


According to a news story, “Mexico’s Roman Catholic church slammed Halloween as ‘damaging and against the faith’ on Monday, and conservatives called on Mexicans to halt the steady encroachment of the gouls-and-goblins holiday and return to the country’s traditional Day of the Dead ceremonies.”

They call instead for a return to traditional customs like erecting altars and leaving “offerings of food, drink and flowers for the dearly departed.”  Now here’s the kicker:

“Those who celebrate Halloween are worshipping a culture of death that is the product of a mix of pagan customs,” the Archdiocese of Mexico published in an article Monday on its Web site. “But the worst thing is that this celebration has been identified with neo-pagans, satanism and occult worship.”

Sorry, but isn’t “offerings of food, drink and flowers for the dearly departed” also a “mix of pagan customs” too?!?!?

Campus Equity Week

Filed under: The Academy — John Maass @ 6:59 am

According to the American Association of Univ. Professors, “48 percent of American faculty serve in part-time appointments, and non-tenure-track positions of all types account for 68 percent of faculty appointments. Year after year, the problem gets worse as more and more faculty jobs are part time or non-tenure track. Faculty holding these appointments are often poorly compensatedreceiving low wages and few, if any, fringe benefits. Without job security and academic freedom protections, they are subject to administrative whim. Students suffer when the majority of faculty are inadequately supported by their institutions.”

This week, they recognize “Campus Equity Week,” hosting events for contingent faculty, screening documentaries about adjunct faculty working conditions, conducting petition drives and surveys, and holding hearings at which community leaders will hear testimony from faculty and students about the impact of the increase in contingent faculty appointments.  

Why?  “No matter how qualified and caring, overworked faculty hired and paid only for classroom duties are simply not available to help develop curriculum, mentor students, or write letters of recommendation. Students do not receive the education they deserve when they are taught largely by faculty who must rush from campus to campus to make a living, or who are afraid to hold open classroom discussions or grade fairly.”

October 29, 2007

To struggle nobly with misfortunes…

Filed under: Early America,Quotes — John Maass @ 8:35 am

“It must be remembered, besides the gratification which results from a consciousness of having done our duty faithfully, that to struggle nobly with misfortunes, to combat difficulties with intrepidity, and finally to surmount the obstacles which opposed us, are stronger proofs of merit, and give a fairer title to reputation, than the brightest scenes of tranquility, or the sunshine of prosperity could ever have afforded.”

George Washington to Benjamin Harrison, March 10, 1782

October 26, 2007

Neanderthals had pale skin and red hair

Filed under: Cave Men — John Maass @ 11:23 am

DNA evidence has revealed some Neanderthals probably had red hair after scientists discovered a pigmenting gene in ancient remains.  Neanderthals, who lived around 400,000 to 28,000 years ago, are typically portrayed as dark skinned and dark-haired but some may have more closely resembled Europeans.

An international study of the bones of two cavemen found a gene that affects the production of melanin, associated with fair skin and fiery hair.  This indicates that some Neanderthals had pale skin and red hair, much like modern day humans.

The rest of this story, and a creepy picture, is here.

October 25, 2007

Society of the Cincinnati Invites Applications for Fellowship

Filed under: Early America,The Academy — John Maass @ 1:11 pm

Fellowships and Internships

The Society of the Cincinnati invites applications for the Tyree-Lamb Research Fellowship.  The fellowship is named in honor of two members of the Society of the Cincinnati in the State of Virginia, Lewis Tyree Jr., and John K. Lamont Lamb. It is intended to provide $1,000 to support the cost of travel, housing and per diem expenses for a scholar wishing to use the Society’s library for a period of at least one full week. The fellowship is open to graduate-level students and other scholars who are conducting research that may benefit from the library’s holdings. 

The Society of the Cincinnati Library collections include contemporary books, manuscripts, maps, and works of art on paper which support the in-depth study of eighteenth-century naval and military history and the art of war during that period. The library also houses books and archives related to the formation and history of the Society of the Cincinnati, as well as materials related to the life of Larz and Isabel Anderson, whose Gilded Age home now serves as a museum and as the headquarters of the Society.

The fellowship recipient will be required to complete his or her week of research within a period of one year from the date of the award. Further, the recipient will be required to submit a three-to-five-page written report and summary of research findings, which may be published in the Society’s journal, Cincinnati Fourteen. In addition, the library requests a single copy of any subsequent publication (article, thesis, dissertation or book) that may result.

Applicants should submit the following: 1) a curriculum vitae, including educational background, publications and professional experience; 2) a brief outline of the research proposed (not to exceed two pages); and, for current graduate students, 3) two confidential, sealed letters of recommendation from faculty or colleagues familiar with the applicant and his or her research project. Note: If letters are to be mailed independently, please include the names of those writing the recommendations when submitting the application.

Applications must be received by November 15, 2007. Applicants will be notified by January 15, 2008.

Applications should be mailed to:

Ellen McCallister Clark, Library Director
The Society of the Cincinnati
2118 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC  20008

For further information about the collections, contact Rebecca Cooper, manager of reader services, at (202) 785-2040, ext. 411, or rcooper@societyofthecincinnati.org

Reading the Man

Filed under: Early America,New books,The strange place called the South — John Maass @ 11:18 am

The LyceumOn Wed. night I attended a presentation made at the Alexandria Historical Society at the Lyceum, by Elizabeth Pryor.  She is the author of Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters.  It was excellent, as Ms. Pryor is a superb presenter (if not sufficiently loud!) and has done a remarkable job with the “truck letters” recently found at Burke & Herbert Bank in Alexandria.  Among the more interesting points she made:

  • Lee was pro-slavery (this flies in the face of some well-know Lee quotes)
  • Lee was bitter after the war
  • He regretted his decision to enter a military career
  • Lee may actually have been born in 1806, not 1807
  • Lee’s religious beliefs were complicated and evolving

Here’s some info from the publisher:

Robert E. Lee’s war correspondence is well known, and here and there personal letters have found their way into print, but the great majority of his most intimate messages have never been made public. These letters reveal a far more complex and contradictory man than the one who comes most readily to the imagination, for it is with his family and his friends that Lee is at his most candid, most engaging, and most vulnerable. Over the past several years historian Elizabeth Brown Pryor has uncovered a rich trove of unpublished Lee materials that had been held in both private and public collections. Her new book, a unique blend of analysis, narrative, and historiography, presents dozens of these letters in their entirety, most by Lee but a few by family members. Each letter becomes a departure point for an essay that shows what the letter uniquely reveals about Lee’s time or character. The material covers all aspects of Lee’s life—his early years, West Point, his work as an engineer, his relationships with his children and his slaves, his decision to join the South, his thoughts on military strategy, and his disappointments after defeat in the Civil War. The result is perhaps the most intimate picture to date of Lee, one that deftly analyzes the meaning of his actions within the context of his personality, his relationships, and the social tenor of his times.

Robert E. Lee Photograph

Happy Saint Crispin’s Day! We few, we happy few….

Filed under: Wars — John Maass @ 10:10 am

			Happy Saint Crispin's Day!    

October 24, 2007

A proposal to remove Turoe Stone

Filed under: Historic Preservation,Ireland — John Maass @ 9:13 am

From Galway Independent (on-line):

A proposal to remove the landmark Turoe Stone from its location near Loughrea is meeting fierce opposition in the local area.

The stone is one of the finest examples of La Tène art in Europe and predates Christ. However, due to concerns that the stone is becoming increasingly vulnerable to the elements, a meeting has taken place between officials from the National Museum (to which the stone officially belongs), the Office of Public Works and the Galway City Museum.

According to Breandán O’hEaghra of the Galway City Museum, the stone is an artefact of “enormous significance”. It has been located in Turoe for over 150 years and before that at its original location at the Rath of Feerwore, an Iron Age ring-fort structure, at nearby Kiltullagh.


Tories of the Revolution

Filed under: Early America,Wars — John Maass @ 8:53 am

At Commonplace, there’s an extensive article on Loyalists during the American Revolution, a subject near to my heart (at least regarding N.C.)  It is by Edward Larkin, at the U. of Delaware.  Here’s a snipet of the on-line article:

Not only have loyalists been generally dismissed as self-interested, cowardly, antidemocratic, elitist collaborators, their numbers have often been distorted and minimized. Determining who was a loyalist and under what conditions can be very difficult. Given the intimidation and violence to which they were subjected by crowd action, committees of safety, and patriot agitators like Paine, most loyalists carefully avoided public scrutiny. Many signed oaths of allegiance to the patriot cause when threatened with public action; some successfully maintained a pretense of neutrality; and still others kept their secret safe. This may explain why calculations of the percentage of loyalists in the colonies and early states have varied from one-fifth to one-third of the total population. The most famous estimate of the percentage of loyalists at the time of the Revolution comes from an 1815 letter John Adams wrote to James Lloyd in which he calculates that one-third of the population were “averse to the revolution.” In the same letter Adams also suggests that another third wavered in their allegiances. Even at the more conservative (probably too conservative) 20 percent figure favored by some historians, the idea that such a significant proportion of the population may have opposed the independence movement is a staggering fact—a fact that remains virtually unaccounted for in our reckoning of the Revolution. Moreover, if we add the significant numbers of blacks and Native Americans who, for various reasons, sided with the British, the percentage of loyalists swells to an even greater proportion of the population. In this discussion I have focused solely on the white settlers because they form the core of the typical narrative of the Revolution.

For some reason, Larkin states that Mary Beth Norton’s book on Loyalists in England is the “classic treatment of loyalists.”  This is simply untrue.  Her’s is a study of Tories in England and the world they made there, and has much less to do with the “Tory problem” in America.  A much better work to consult is Robert Calhoon’s book on Loyalism in the states. 

The coming of the Loyalists, 1783

“All the white kids come to the front…”

Filed under: The past that is still with us — John Maass @ 6:59 am

“All the white kids come to the front, mixed race in the middle, and dark-skinned at the back.”  Is that any way to line up school kids for a class picture?  One teacher in London thought so.  Story here.

The Lost Art of Enjoying People

Filed under: Simple Living,The world today — John Maass @ 6:47 am

There’s an interesting, albeit long, article at the New Oxford Review web-page entitled “The Lost Art of Enjoying People.”  A very good commentary on today’s disposable world.  Here are some extracts:

In his natural desire for pleasure, man enjoys the whole gamut of sources of happiness, from the pleasures of the five senses to the entertainment of the arts to the possession of worldly things. Eating in restaurants, listening to classical music, going to the theater or the cinema, traveling to foreign countries, attending organized sporting events, swimming on the beaches of Hawaii, and reading great literature all represent rational worldly pleasures that civilized men savor. In Western societies, where materialism and consumerism run riot, expensive gifts, modern conveniences, and new technologies multiply the sources of pleasure to include new cars, video games, e-mail, cable television, and cell phones. A person is never at a loss for amusement or diversion, whether at home, in the car, at the mall, or in the city. But in this pursuit of pleasure and entertainment, the greatest source of happiness, the enjoyment of persons, is downplayed and underestimated. The gift for enjoying people has become a lost art.

Thus, when human beings are categorized as inconvenient things, disposable parts, and obsolete items, they are judged, according to John Paul II, by “the criterion of efficiency, functionality, and usefulness” — not for what human beings “are” but for what they possess, produce, or do. People, then, are not enjoyed for their own sake but as a means to an end — as things to be manipulated, experimented upon, and exploited.The art of enjoying people, on the other hand, views them as ends in themselves, as gifts to appreciate, and as persons who are inherently lovable for their own sake. The favor of their company and presence, a delight in their unique, unrepeatable individuality, and the gladness of mirth that people radiate enrich human life with priceless treasure.

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