Sometimes the Records Tell Different Stories

23 Jan

The past is the past. History is what someone says about what happened in the past. Historians, and others, consult textual records, oral histories, non-textual records, and artifacts to find evidence of the past. Needless to say, persons writing about people, places, and things observe and/or record those things from their own perception and sources at hand, which might be their own eyes and ears. Thus, it is understandable that two people witnessing the same thing might have a different view of what they saw or heard. To some degree, this should be just common sense to everybody, but it is useful to be periodically reminded of this.

So begins Dr. Greg Bradsher’s essay at the National Archives site about sorting out records of the past that differ. You may read the entire essay here.

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THE FLU PANDEMIC OF 1918, AS REPORTED IN 1918

16 Jan

Flu hospital 1918

The 1918-1919 influenza pandemic killed more people than combat did in the First World War. Maybe a lot more: fatality estimates range from 20-40 million to twice that around the globe. In the United States, a quarter of the population came down with the flu; some 675,000 died. Only the American Civil War has been more lethal.

So begins Matthew Wills’ concise reminder of the flu 100 years ago. You may read the entire post at JSTOR Daily here.

 

 

DNA from Ice Age Baby Uproots Native American Family Tree

9 Jan

A scientific illustration of the Upward Sun River camp in what is now Interior Alaska. (Credit: Eric S. Carlson in collaboration with Ben A. Potter/University of Alaska Fairbanks)

DNA analysis of a six-week-old baby girl, buried some 11,500 years ago in what is now Alaska, has identified her as a member of a previously unknown Native American population. The discovery strongly supports the theory that the Americas were settled by people from Siberia, and presents scientists with the genetic key to better understanding how ancient humans migrated to North America from Asia.

So begins Sarah Pruitt’s report at History on recent scientific work. You may read the rest of her report here.

Fact checking ‘The Crown’: Queen Elizabeth’s faith and her close relationship with preacher Billy Graham

9 Jan

One of the running themes throughout the Netflix show “The Crown” is the devout Christian faith of Queen Elizabeth, who is shown kneeling for prayer by her bedside as her husband jokingly teases her to offer one for him. The queen, after all, serves not just as head of state but head of the Church of England, the mother church of Anglicanism worldwide.

“Monarchy is God’s sacred mission to grace and dignify the Earth,” her elderly grandmother, Queen Mary II, tells Elizabeth early in the show.

The second season of the series portrays the queen as someone who, feeling betrayed by a family member, wrestled deeply with questions of faith and forgiveness. The show also depicts her budding relationship with famous American evangelist Billy Graham, who drew millions of people to his “crusades” across the globe and was a friend to many U.S. presidents.

Several writers have pointed out how “The Crown” took more liberties with historical fact and chronology in its second season. So did the show take some liberties in depicting the queen’s faith and her relationship with the evangelist?

So begins Sarah Pulliam Bailey’s report on Queen Elizabeth, Billy Graham, and The Crown. You may read the entire Washington Post article here.

A sandwich in space …

9 Jan

This replica sandwich in acrylic would never fall apart in zero-gravity.

JOHN YOUNG, WHO DIED LAST Friday at the age of 87, was the longest-serving astronaut in NASA history. Since his first flight in 1965, Young spent 835 hours in space and walked on the moon. By all accounts, he had a stellar career.

But it was almost derailed by a corned beef sandwich.

So begins Anne Ewbank’s Atlas Obscura story on a sandwich in space. You may read the entire post here.

 

 

Historians and Burns’ The Vietnam War

9 Jan

WASHINGTON — Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s recent 18-hour PBS documentary on the Vietnam War was adored by critics (The New York Times, for example, said it would “break your heart and win your mind”). And judging by the numbers — some 34 million viewers total — audiences loved it, too.

But historians? Not so much, based on a lively weekend panel called “A Fateful Misunderstanding: A Discussion of the Film Documentary The Vietnam War” during the annual meeting of the American Historical Association.

So begins Colleen Flaherty’s report on some historians’ discussion of the Burns’ and Novick Vietnam documentary. You may read the entire report here.

History, Power, and Federal Indian Law

4 Jan

This drawing by J. Howland, originally printed in Harper's Weekly, depicts the council between representatives of the U.S. government and the Kiowa and Comanche tribes at Medicine Creek Lodge, Kansas, in 1867.

Stanford University law professor Gregory Ablavsky has an enlightening post on the history of Indian law at the Organization of American Historians. Law, especially Indian law, is more ambiguous than many, including historians, might suppose. You can read his substantive post here.

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