A Student of History

December 23, 2007

Pagan Link to Christmas “Discovered”

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Maass @ 2:24 pm

From CNN:

The church where the tradition of celebrating Christmas on Dec. 25 may have begun was built near a pagan shrine as part of an effort to spread Christianity, a leading Italian scholar says.

Italian archaeologists last month unveiled an underground grotto that they believe ancient Romans revered as the place where a wolf nursed Rome’s legendary founder Romulus and his twin brother Remus.

A few feet from the grotto, or “Lupercale,” the Emperor Constantine built the Basilica of St. Anastasia, where some believe Christmas was first celebrated on Dec. 25.

More here

FBI Planned Mass ‘Disloyalty’ Arrests in 1950

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Maass @ 4:21 am

Former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover had a plan to suspend the rules against illegal detention and arrest up to 12,000 Americans he suspected of being disloyal, according to a newly declassified document.

Hoover sent the White House his plan on July 7, 1950, less than two weeks after the Korean War began. Still, there is no evidence to suggest that President Truman or any subsequent president approved any part of Hoover’s proposal to house suspect Americans in military and federal prisons.

More here from Fox News.

December 21, 2007

800-year-old ship raised in China

Filed under: Historic Preservation — John Maass @ 6:33 pm

After 800 years at the bottom of the sea, a merchant ship loaded with porcelain and other rare antiques was raised to the surface Friday in a specially built basket, a state news agency reported.  Green-glazed porcelain plates and shadowy blue porcelain items were among rare antiques found during the initial exploration of the ship. Archaeologists have also recovered containers made of gold and silver as well as about 6,000 copper coins. 

The ship dates from the early Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279).

A salvage barge lifts a specially designed basket containing ...

The rest of this story is here.

Salvation or Charity-which should be first?

Filed under: The world today — John Maass @ 4:18 pm

At the leftist on-line magazine Slate, there’s an article worth reading on churches, popular culture, and the (claimed) need for the first to relate to the second.  Overall it is not bad, though it is telling and typical that it is written by someone who left a church, not from an insider.  Nevertheless, the author states the following about mainline churches: “their charitable works can come off as secondary to the goals of converting hordes of souls to Jesus or pushing their conservative brand of family values.” 

This, sadly, is what happens when you have an article along these lines written by someone who is no longer involved with church, has no understanding of theology or church history, and wants to make the church conform to modern times rather than celebrate the Church’s timeless message of morality–what he calls “pushing their conservative brand of family values.”  Moreover, I “hate” to tell author Jesse Noyes that “converting hordes of souls to Jesus” IS in fact the primary goal of the church, and it always has been!  Churches are not primarily social welfare outlets, although it is an important mission of the church to help to poor, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, etc., even in the post-FDR era.  But it is not to be placed in front of salvation of the soul.  Mr. Noyes completely misses this crucial fact.  Apparently it is more hip to be modern or current.

Were most of the Dec of Indep Signers clergymen?

Filed under: Early America — John Maass @ 2:59 pm

In October, during one of the numerous presidential debates, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, now a candidate for the Republican Party presidential nomination, made the following statement:

When our founding fathers put their signatures on the Declaration of Independence, those 56 brave people, most of whom, by the way, were clergymen, they said that we have certain inalienable rights given to us by our creator, and among these life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, life being one of them.

Were most of the Signers clergymen?  No, and J.L. Bell proves it at his blog, “Boston 1775.  He has identified only one: John Witherspoon, pictured below.  Well worth reading.

Charitable Giving

Filed under: The world today — John Maass @ 12:14 pm

Tax breaks to folks who give to charities is a good idea, and promotes donations…right?

According to an interesting article here, that may not be the case.  As the piece states, “in the 90 years since the personal income tax was introduced, it remains unclear whether tax breaks for charitable donations actually encourage giving.”

December 20, 2007

A.H.A. Program 2008

Filed under: The Academy,Wars — John Maass @ 7:31 pm

This year, the American Historical Association’s annual meeting will be in Washington, D.C.  Their program includes a number of papers to be given on military history, which is encouraging.  Click here for the session titles.

One promising session is Beyond the “New Military History”: New Histories of the Military, Warfare, and Society, chaired by Richard Kohn of UNC.

Paper: Past makes the present understandable

Filed under: Early America,New books — John Maass @ 2:35 pm

Even USA Today gets it!  Here’s from their on-line version today:

Learning about the past makes the present so much more understandable. And comfort can be found in reading about how Americans have overcome previous challenges and even catastrophes.

This is a lead in to a story on 4 new history book titles, including Joe Ellis’ new book on the founders; Jon Kukla on Jefferson’s women; Steven Berry on Lincoln and his in-laws; and David Blight’s book on slavery and emancipation.

<STRONG><EM>Mr. Jefferson's Women</EM></STRONG><BR>By Jon Kukla<BR>Knopf, 276 pp., $26.95

December 19, 2007

Strange Choice

Filed under: The world today — John Maass @ 1:47 pm

Time’s “Person of the Year” is a threat to the US and world peace.  Who is it?

Jefferson Foundation gets big Grant

Filed under: Early America — John Maass @ 1:43 pm

The Thomas Jefferson Foundation has been awarded a grant of $367,200 by the National Endowment for the Humanities to support the creation of exhibitions, installations, and other interpretive features at the new visitor center currently under construction at Monticello.

The 42,000-square-foot Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center and Smith History Center will serve as the new gateway to Monticello, with enhanced ticketing, educational, exhibition, service, dining, and shopping features in one location. Construction work on the facility, located below the Monticello mountaintop, began late last year and will continue into 2008.
The NEH grant will help fund a set of projects designed to promote a more comprehensive understanding of Thomas Jefferson’s consequential ideas and their implications at Monticello and elsewhere. These include a 9-foot-long, table-height touchable bronze model of the entire Monticello plantation; a permanent exhibition, “To Try All Things”: Jefferson’s American Experiment, featuring more than 200 objects that will illustrate Jefferson’s lifelong efforts to obtain, disseminate, and apply useful knowledge; an interactive animated timeline of Jefferson’s life; and a second animation about Jefferson’s pursuit of knowledge. The NEH grant also will support the development and publication of an expanded visitor’s guide as well as the participation of exhibition designers and consulting historians.
“These additions to our existing interpretive programs will convey to visitors a deeper and critical understanding of Jefferson’s public and private accomplishments in the context of their time,” said Susan R. Stein, Monticello’s Richard Guilder Senior Curator and vice president for museum programs. “We are both pleased and grateful that NEH has decided to support our efforts.”
NEH is an independent grant-making agency of the federal government dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities.
In awarding the grant to Monticello, NEH designated the visitor center interpretive programs a We the People project. We the People is an NEH initiative designed to encourage and strengthen the teaching, study, and understanding of American history and culture through the support of projects that explore significant events and themes and that advance knowledge of the principles that define America.
Monticello’s planning for the visitor center interpretive programs was partially funded by a $40,000 consultancy grant awarded by NEH in 2004.

December 18, 2007

Franklin & the Jews

Filed under: Early America — John Maass @ 5:57 pm

An earlier post on this issue was supposed to have a link debunking a myth on Franklin and his alleged desire to expell Jews.  I can’t find the link, so rather than have misunderstandings, I have deleted the post text.  Will try to find the one I want, and repost. Sorry to all.  JM

December 17, 2007

Christmas: an occasion for renewal and hope?

Filed under: Simple Living,The world today — John Maass @ 7:04 pm

From the USA Today:

Maybe we’re just new-millennium Scrooges, but for many of us, the holiday season has become something to dread. Between the traffic-choked rat race, shopping bacchanalia, and culture wars sniping over the politics of Christmas, what used to be the best time of year has increasingly become just the opposite.

That is why it is so heartening to feel fresh counterwinds blowing in the run-up to Christmas 2007, to see new approaches to the big holiday that promise to bring back the parts that we’ve seemingly forgotten — especially the peace and hope parts.

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