Saturday, November 19, 2011

The purpose of historical analysis

Many who learn about the clash between native and newcomer in the Americas note how evil, or wrong or terrible the behaviour of Christians was - as it is felt that native cultures should have been left alone.  This may well be true, depending on your point of view.  But.... the task of the scholar who studies history is to understand.

 I will give an example from a very different time period and place.

Many historians spend their careers studying Nazi Germany. This does not mean they are Nazis - nor are they doing this in order to publish op-ed pieces in remembrance of the Holocaust - they do this in order to understand this period and to grasp why and how it happened.  You simply cannot do this effectively without setting aside your own ethical sense for a time - 'holding your nose' as it were.  You must be able to at least temporarily adopt a neutral attitude - play Mr. Spock on Star Trek - and look at a time period with a coolly analytical attitude.  In this manner you will gain a deeper understanding.

 Understanding the missionary effort - the conquest of native peoples by Europeans - is also to understand a large part of the history of the human race --- for roughly a million years, humanity has been migrating - and once initial settlements were made in different parts of the world, others migrated and cultures already formed clashed -

In other words, this descriptive word syncretism is describing something that has occurred in many times and many places in the past - and no doubt will again.  The only difference here is we have written records and living communities to study.  Who knows how the neanderthal felt when Homo Sapiens Sapiens moved into the neighbourhood?  The Christianity brought by the Spanish, French and English to the Americas was itself a product of a sycnretism of Germanic tribal culture and this eastern Mediterranean religion called Christianity.  In the territories of the Rus - the ancestors of the Slavic peoples of eastern Europe  - in the year 988, the local ruler forced his people at sword point into the Dnieper river to be baptised - and in 1988 the Ukraine celebrated a millennium of Christianity.    To add to this, we even know now that much of the native Buddhism of south east Asia was forced on people by rulers.....

So, understanding the how, the why and the what of the migration of human cultures is the goal.....

The Jews of Venice

This is not a peer-reviewed article - but is worth reading anyway to get a grasp on the uncertain and fluctuating position of Judaism in Europe in history.

History Today: The Jews of Venice

Friday, November 11, 2011

Remembrance Day 2011

I watched part of the Remembrance Day ceremonies from Ottawa on TV this morning. This always makes me cry. This year was especially touching as the Silver Cross mother was SO young! In the past, as Canada's last war was Korea, Silver Cross mothers were little old ladies with white hair. This sad woman looked to be not much more than 40.

Persentio, ergo sum.

Lest we forget.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Individualism, Reform & the Book

A draft prezi that attempts to map the interconnections in Early Modern Western Europe that resulted in the Reform, the slow rise of individualism to a hegemonic position and the book produced on movable type

Individualism, Reform and the Book Prezi

If you have a correction, or some element is missing - post a comment below & I might just alter the prezi....

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Virtues of Architecture

For those writing about architecture and religion, some words of wisdom from John Ruskin written in the 1850s

In the main, we require from buildings, as from men, two kinds of goodness: first, the doing their practical duty well: then that they be graceful and pleasing in doing it; which last is itself another form of duty.

Then the practical duty divides itself into two branches,—acting and talking:—acting, as to defend us from weather or violence; talking, as the duty of monuments or tombs, to record facts and express feelings; or of churches, temples, public edifices, treated as books of history, to tell such history clearly and forcibly. We have thus, altogether, three great branches of architectural virtue, and we require of any building,— 1. That it act well, and do the things it was intended to do in the best way.

2. That it speak well, and say the things it was intended to say in the best words.

3. That it look well, and please us by its presence, whatever it has to do or say.

- from Chapter II The Virtues of Architecture in The Stones of Venice by John Ruskin (1851-53)