The uncommonly well-moderated and researched Ask Historians subreddit answers the question: What common medieval fantasy tropes have little-to-no basis in real medieval European history?
How the north ended up on top of the map is an article by Nick Danforth, author/curator of (The/Mid) Afternoon Map blog, detailing how the north-up orientation came to be the default orientation, looking beyond Eurocentrism to Byzantine monks and Majorcan Jews who set the path for modern cartography. If you want more information, you might enjoy the Wikipedia article on the history of cartography, or you can really dig deep with the three-volume text, The History of Cartography, which is available in full from the University of Chicago Press online, split into individual PDFs for each chapter. [more inside]
Marc Wilson’s series The Last Stand documents the remains of coastal fortifications that lined Northern Europe during the Second World War — bunkers swallowed by the sea, pillboxes barely clinging to land, buildings ripped from their foundations and wrecked on the rocks — from Allied positions on England’s east coast and the far tip of the Northern Isles, to the once German-occupied archipelago of the Channel Islands and the remains of the Atlantikwall, the colossal Nazi defense network which stretched from Norway to Spain.Slideshow
Dancing over the Edge: Vienna in 1914. Österreich (Austria) was one of the cultural and political Centres of modern Europe a hundred Years ago. Vienna - the Capitol of the big Austro-Hungarian-Empire and Home to the longest running imperial Family the Habsburgs. Just in 1913 Hitler, Trotsky, Tito, Freud and Stalin (previously on MeFi) all lived in Vienna.
An interactive version of Olaus Magnus’ 1539 Carta Marina, a map of the sea filled with the usual ( and unusual) monsters and creatures. (Slate)
The Tumblr blog People of Color in European Art History, or medievalpoc for short, has a simple mission: to showcase works of art from European history that feature People of Color. All too often, these works go unseen in museums, Art History classes, online galleries, and other venues because of retroactive whitewashing of Medieval Europe, Scandinavia, and Asia. [more inside]
World War I in Color is a documentary designed to make the Great War come alive for a 21st-century audience. The events of 1914-18 are authoritatively narrated by Kenneth Branagh, who presents the military and political overview, while interviews with historians add different perspectives in six 48 minute installments annotated within. [more inside]
Tadeusz Mazowiecki has died. The first prime minister after the fall of communist regime in Poland was later an UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Bosnia and resigned this post in protest over the failure of international community to prevent the Srebrenica massacre. [more inside]
Scandals of Classic Hollywood: The Ecstasy of Hedy Lamarr - Science! Fascists! Orgasms! Libel! Escapes From Literal Castles! (SoCH previously and Anne Helen Petersen previously)
Searching for Doggerland. "For decades North Sea boatmen have been dragging up traces of a vanished world in their nets. Now archaeologists are asking a timely question: What happens to people as their homeland disappears beneath a rising tide?"
Who Draws The Borders Of Culture?(NYTimes) Cultural border, as opposed to national borders, are funny things. One country can contain many (Coke vs. Soda. Vs. Pop, previously and previously-er). Cultural borders often appear as food and drink choices, like sweet tea, forms of alcohol, or BBQ sauce. [more inside]
The ruins of empire: Asia's emergence from western imperialism Moreover, a narcissistic history – one obsessed with western ideals, achievements, failures and challenges – can only retard a useful understanding of the world today. For most people in Europe and America, the history of the present is still largely defined by victories in the second world war and the long standoff with Soviet communism, even though the central event of the modern era, for a majority of the world's population, is the intellectual and political awakening of Asia and its emergence, still incomplete, from the ruins of both Asian and European empires. The much-heralded shift of power from the west to the east may or may not happen. But only neo-imperialist dead-enders will deny that we have edged closer to the cosmopolitan future the first generation of modern Asian thinkers, writers and leaders dreamed of – in which people from different parts of the world meet as equals rather than as masters and slaves, and no one needs to shoot elephants to confirm their supremacy.
Old Rags is a collection of photographs of beautiful antique, historic and vintage clothing from Europe and North America. A feast of fashion history images from the 17th century to the 1920’s with a brief FAQ page here.
"The gypsy possesses without doubt a high level of natural common sense and skill; from this comes the resourcefulness and trickery that he uses to achieve his ends."
The tendency of existing research to treat the Roma as having first entered European political history with the Nazi genocide disregards a unique six-hundred-year history. It is indeed the case that the Roma, who over long periods of time lived nomadically and possessed no written culture of their own, have left almost no historical accounts of themselves. The heritage and documents therefore do not permit a history of the Roma comparable to that, for example, of the persecuted and expelled French Huguenots. What is available to us, however, is evidence – in the form of literature and art – of the way in which the settled, feudally organized European population experienced a way of life that it perceived as threatening. Despite consisting solely of stories and images that are defensive "distortions", this evidence provides a far from unfavourable basis for an examination of the six-hundred-year history of the European Roma, insofar as it is a history of cultural appropriation characterized by segregation. We encounter the traces of the reality experienced by the Roma almost exclusively through depictions by outsiders, and must use these to imagine those parts considered impossible to represent. The extraneous cultural depictions of the Roma – variously referred to as gypsies, zigeuner, tatern, cigány, çingeneler, and so on – have created heterogeneous units of "erased" identity and cultural attributes. The "invention" of the Gypsy is the underside of the European cultural subject's invention of itself as the agent of civilising progress in the world.
Europe invents the Gypsies: the dark side of modernity
Europe invents the Gypsies: the dark side of modernity
Rethinking the Idea of 'Christian Europe'. Kenan Malik's essay is awarded 3 Quarks Daily's Top Quark for politics & social science by judge Stephen M. Walt: "Soldiers in today’s culture wars believe 'European civilization' rests on a set of unchanging principles that are perennially under siege—from godless communism, secular humanism, and most recently, radical Islam. For many of these zealots, what makes the 'West' unique are its Judeo-Christian roots. In this calm and elegantly-written reflection on the past two millenia, Malik shows that Christianity is only one of the many sources of 'Western' culture, and that many of the ideas we now think of as 'bedrock' values were in fact borrowed from other cultures. This essay is a potent antidote to those who believe a 'clash of civilizations' is inevitable—if not already underway—and the moral in Malik’s account could not be clearer. Openness to outside influences has been the true source of European prominence; erecting ramparts against others will impoverish and endanger us all."
The show Empire on Al Jazeera collects experts on various subjects and holds a roundtable discussion. This week was Obama 2.0, on the President's first two years, with focus on foreign policy. Guests this week are Ralph Nader, Roger Hodge, Stefan Halper, and As'ad Abu Khalil. Earlier weeks include: [more inside]
Take oysters, parboile hem in her owne broth, make a lyour of crustes of brede & drawe it up wiþ the broth and vynegur mynce oynouns & do þerto with erbes. & cast the oysters þerinne. boile it. & do þerto powdour fort & salt. & messe it forth.
Three European 14th Century cookbooks: [more inside]
Three European 14th Century cookbooks: [more inside]
More than 80% of old film has been lost forever. But that which remains - including a heavily restored long tracking shot of Dunkirk from a tramway in 1913, London in 1955, and Prague in 1947 - are incredibly evocative of history. Much more at Europa Film Treasures and the Huntley Film Archives. [more inside]
Robert F. Gallagher served in the United States Army's 815th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion (Third Army) in the European Theater during WWII. He has posted his memoir online: "Scratch One Messerschmitt," told from numerous photos he took during the war and the detailed notes he made shortly afterwards. [more inside]
Res Obscura is a blog by Ben Breen, a graduate student of early modern history, which styles itself "a compendium of obscure things." Indeed, even the asides are full of wonder, such as the one about Boy, the famous Royalist war poodle of the English Civil War, which is but a short addendum to a post about witches' familiars. Here are some of my favorite posts, Pirate Surgeon in Panama (and a related post about 18th Century Jamaica), vanished civilizations, asemic pseudo-Arabic and -Hebrew writing in Renaissance art, and a series of posts about the way the Chinese and Japanese understood the world outside Asia in the early modern period (Europeans as 'Other', Europeans as 'Other,' Redux and Early Chinese World Maps).
europe-cities is a beautifully organized, practical site for information about traveling to cities in Europe. All the information is in one place: info about specific cities, cuisine, history, overview information, weather, a variety of cultural interests from English Christmas Markets to Hungarian culture. And, best of all, finding the cheapest/best places to stay. [more inside]
Star forts from above (Google Maps links): Alba Iulia, Arad Fortress, Almeida, Bourtrange, Coevorden, Estremoz, Goryōkaku, Naarden, Neuf Brisach, Nicosia, Palmanova, Retranchement, Terezín, Willemstad. More.
Sometimes, the full meaning of a moment isn't realized until years later. Dick Brookins certainly had no idea what would come of that December day, back in 1944. Brookins and other members of the U.S. Army's 28th Infantry Division Signal Corps were in Wiltz, a small town in Luxembourg, just days before what would turn into the Battle of the Bulge. This U.S. soldier stood in for an absent Saint Nicholas... it was to change his life and help him find some meaning for the war in Europe. As it turns out, someone was filming that day when an Army jeep carried the American St. Nick through the streets giving treats to the local children. It brought him back 65 years later.
In 2010, Obama will have a miserable year, NATO may lose in Afghanistan, the UK gets a regime change, China needs to chill, India's factories will overtake its farms, Europe risks becoming an irrelevant museum, the stimulus will need an exit strategy, the G20 will see a challenge from the "G2", African football will unite Korea, conflict over natural resources will grow, Sarkozy will be unloved and unrivalled, the kids will come together to solve the world's problems (because their elders are unable), technology will grow ever more ubiquitous, we'll all charge our phones via USB, MBAs will be uncool, the Space Shuttle will be put to rest, and Somalia will be the worst country in the world. And so the Tens begin.
The Economist: The World in 2010. [more inside]
The Economist: The World in 2010. [more inside]
The BBC World Service has put together a special report on the 1989 revolutions in Eastern Europe (they also have a simpler portal). There is a wealth of material, including TV reports on key events from the BBC archives, interviews, a map timeline, a report on Catholicism's role in the 1989 revolutions, a first-hand report of what it was like to gather news in East Germany during that time and much more.
Few things in history are as compelling as the duel. Refined and barbaric at the same time, this practice has had a checkered history. The rules of dueling were codified by the Irish in 1777 in the Code Duello (summarized here), which was codified at Clonmel Summer Assizes in 1777. As evidenced by these documents, dueling was in practice prior to the Irish rules being drafted. The procedure and philosophy behind duels is illustrated in this article. Dueling gained some traction in America in the 19th century, culminating in the famous Burr-Hamilton affair. There are many more resources to find out more here. For a list of famous duels, you can check out this list. Lest you think men were the only ones dueling, here are a few short anecdotes of women dueling. Reportedly, dueling is still legal in Paraguay, as long as both parties are registered blood donors.
The NAVIS project is a multilevel international database for ancient ships of Europe. The database has very detailed information and pictures of ships from the 2nd millenium BC to the 12th century AD (found whilst trying to answer this AskMe). [more inside]
From 1864 to 1904, the Russian Empire tried to quelch the nationalism of Lithuanians by ordering all Lithuanian texts to be printed with Cyrillic characters instead of in the Latin-derived Lithuanian or Polish alphabets. But they didn't count on the Knygnešiai - the Booksmugglers. [more inside]
To go, or not to go? that is the question;--/Whether 'tis better for my views to suffer/The ease and quiet of yon hated rival,/Or to take arms against the haughty people,/And by invading end them? The Napoleonic Wars, in word, image and map, at the European Library. [more inside]
"With Germany arming at breakneck speed, England lost in a pacifist dream, France corrupt and torn by dissension, America remote and indifferent... do you not tremble for your children?" ― Winston Churchill, 1935. The World War II Database connects people, events, photographs, and other elements of history in relational db form to tell the story of the 20th century's 2nd great war.
Torture didn't work in Renaissance Europe. And it doesn't work now. Real historic accounts of real people being tortured in the 16th and 17th centuries, and it composes a body of fact and experience that speaks directly to the present.
The Memory of The Netherlands is an extensive digital collection of illustrations, photographs, texts, film and audio fragments from a large variety of Dutch cultural institutions. There are about 50 collections (in english).
"One could go on, and one will -- praising (...) the National Center for Jewish Film for releasing all four of Edgar Ulmer's Yiddish films in restored editions. But the DVD player is beckoning, and I think it is time for me to get back to the couch". The National Center for Jewish Film (NCJF) is a unique nonprofit motion picture archive, distributor and resource center housing the largest, most comprehensive collection of Jewish-theme film and video in the world. In their archives you can discover the works of Leo Fuchs, the "Yiddish Fred Astaire", restored gems (scroll down) like "Motl the Operator" and re-releases like "The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg". (More on Greenberg, the Jewish kid who challenged Babe Ruth’s homerun record here, more on the NCJF inside).
Freedom on the Fence: The Polish Poster. While we're at it: The history and culture of the Polish poster and an analysis of American Films in Polish Posters. Or, if you'd prefer, The Classic Polish Film Poster database (where the Disney/Children's film posters are quite lovely). Also, The Wallace Library at the Rochester Institute of Technology has a fantastic searchable and browse-able database, with many hi-res images. Finally, some other Polish Poster Galleries. (What's that? You want more? You want artist-specific galleries? Okay. Here's work by Mieczyslaw Gorowski, Piotr Kunce, Wieslaw Walkuski, and Jan Sawka. Oh, you wanted Communist-era Polish propaganda posters? Fine. Here ya go.) [previous MeFi discussion on Polish film posters; also, some of the images from these links may be NSFW, depending on how S your W environment is.]
Ted Rall's posted his 1991 thesis on the allied occupation of France during and after WWII. A nice jumping off point for the historically minded.
Eurabia? WTF? An interesting article by the ultra-prolific Niall Ferguson obliquely raises the question: wouldn't Europe (and the world) be happier if Islam still had a hold on the West? Al-Qaeda's longings for Andalusia and the Algarve apart, the truth is that Southern Spain (until 1498) and Portugal (until 1297) were very happy under Muslim rule. Isn't it sad that the three great monotheistic religions, plus the great atheist belief, can't live together anymore? [ NYT registration required. Via Arts and Letters Daily.]
Eurodocs: Primary Historical Documents from Western Europe.
On October 17, 1815, following The 100 Days and Waterloo, Napoleon Bonaparte arrived on the Island of St Helena, where he would remain until his death (mysterious or otherwise) in 1821. Discovered by the Portuguese in 1502, St Helena had a long and interesting history before Napoleon arrived, but that history was overshadowed by the story of the Emperor's last years, living in captive exile at the simple yet beautiful Longwood House. Victorians had an insatiable interest for information about the remote island. Today, the picturesque Island is a a tiny bit of England in the South Atlantic, where coffee and tourism (indeed, what some might call pilgrimages) are the main sources of income.
Images of medieval architecture. A great site put together by Alison Stones, Professor of History of Art and Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh. There are two large gazetteers, one for Britain, and one for France. Besides photos, there are many plans, sketches and elevation drawings, which help to give an idea of the sheer scale of gothic cathedrals such as the cathedral of Saint-Étienne at Bourges (scroll down for the human figures at the bottom).