On this day one hundred years ago, Imperial German soldiers who had peacefully arrived in the Belgian city of Leuven (Fr: Louvain), having taken hostages and accepted the parole of its mayor on behalf of its citizens, without warning set fire to the city and massacred its inhabitants forever altering the city, its university's library, and the course of the war.
Belgian Judicial Report on the Sacking of Louvain in August 1914 The destruction and rebuilding of the Louvain Library: claim and counterclaim
"In 2012, automobile collisions killed more than 34,000 Americans, but unlike our response to foreign wars, the AIDS crisis, or terrorist attacks—all of which inflict fewer fatalities than cars—there’s no widespread public protest or giant memorial to the dead. We fret about drugs and gun safety, but don’t teach children to treat cars as the loaded weapons they are."
In 2002 Henry Louis Gates jr. published The Bondwoman's Narrative. It was the first publication of a novel written in the 1850s by a former slave who wrote under the name Hannah Crafts. The original manuscript has been digitized by Yale's Beinecke Library. The book caused a splash at the time, sold well and was reviewed widely, including an essay by Hilary Mantel in the London Review of Books. The identity of Hannah Crafts was uncertain, which cast a slight shadow on its provenance, but Prof. Gregg Hecimovich discovered the writer's true identity. Her name was Hannah Bond and after escaping slavery she became a teacher in New Jersey. Journalist Paul Berman further fills in the story of Colonel Wheeler, the slaveowner whose family was depicted in The Bondwoman's Narrative. Wheeler was the US ambassador to Nicaragua in the 1850s and played a major part in the administration of General Walker, the American who became a short-lived dictator of Nicaragua and tried to set it up as a slave state.
After a year of production, John Green's Crash Course US History has come to an end, traveling from the conflicts between the native Americans and the Spanish to the Affordable Care Act.
10 Examples of Asian American and Pacific Islander's Rich History of Resistance counters the notion that "there is a prevailing notion out there that, in contrast to other minorities, Asian Americans “lack a history of resistance” (or that we think we do), and that this invisibility and dearth of civil rights history actually confers upon the Asian American community a form of racial privilege."
Each of Historian Barbara Wells Sarudy's six blogs contains a wealth of esoteric treasures: "President John Adams declared, “History is not the Province of the Ladies.” Oh well, I'll give it a try." [more inside]
Here you will find one of the greatest historical atlases: Charles O. Paullin and John K. Wright's Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States, first published in 1932. This digital edition reproduces all of the atlas's nearly 700 maps. Many of these beautiful maps are enhanced here in ways impossible in print, animated to show change over time or made clickable to view the underlying data—remarkable maps produced eight decades ago with the functionality of the twenty-first century.
Most of America's silent films are lost forever, according to the newly released Library of Congress report The Survival of American Silent Feature Films: 1912–1929. (You can look up the ones that survive in this handy database). [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]
"I'm here because my family went through slavery" - Steve McQueen on 12 Years A Slave, the story of Solomon Northup. ‘12 Years a Slave,’ ‘Mother of George,’ and the aesthetic politics of filming black skin. Before Solomon Northup: Fighting Slave Catchers in New York. The final fate of Solpmon Northup remains unknown. (Previously)
Warning! The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased, entry for the United States of America
The Strangest Names in American Political History is a compendium of ludicrous nomenclature among America's political figures, from Arphaxed Loomis to Zerubbabel Snow (with stops for Outerbridge Horsey, Supply Belcher, and Odolphus Ham Waddle).
In 1971, the newly-created US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hired a bunch of freelance photographers to collectively document environmental issues around the country. They were given free rein to shoot whatever they wanted, and the project, named Documerica, lasted through 1977. After 40 years, the EPA is now encouraging photographers to take current versions of the original Documerica photos and are showcasing them on flickr at State of the Environment. There are location challenges, and a set has been created with some of the submissions, making side-by-side comparisons. [more inside]
First Ladies: Influence and Image is a C-Span series covering the entire history of the US through the eyes of the First Ladies that have occupied the White House.
Her encampment is 'an old patio umbrella draped in a white plastic sheet secured with binder clips. It is flanked by two large boards with messages in capital letters: BAN ALL NUCLEAR WEAPONS OR HAVE A NICE DOOMSDAY and LIVE BY THE BOMB, DIE BY THE BOMB. This rudimentary shelter has been positioned outside the White House for more than three decades. It is a monument itself now, widely considered the longest-running act of political protest in the United States, and this woman, Concepcion Picciotto — Connie, as she’s known to many — is its longest-running caretaker.' [more inside]
The blog US Slave collects long-form articles on every aspect of the history of slavery, primarily focussing on African slaves in the USA and their descendents. Among the content there is this biography of Ota Benga, the Congolese Pygmy man who was put on display in the monkey house at the Bronx Zoo, and several posts about Sarah "Saartjie" Baartman, the so-called Hottentot Venus. [more inside]
"An April 17, 1981, a CIA cable[pdf] described an army massacre at Cocob, near Nebaj in the Ixil Indian territory, because the population was believed to support leftist guerrillas. A CIA source reported that “the social population appeared to fully support the guerrillas” and “the soldiers were forced to fire at anything that moved.” The CIA cable added that “the Guatemalan authorities admitted that ‘many civilians’ were killed in Cocob, many of whom undoubtedly were non-combatants.” In May 1981, despite these ongoing atrocities, Reagan dispatched Walters to tell the Guatemalan leaders that the new U.S. administration wanted to lift the human rights embargoes on military equipment that former President Jimmy Carter and Congress had imposed."The Guatemala Documentation Project, part of the National Security Archive, collects information about the decades long civil war in Guatemala, including State Department documents that point to Washington's complicity in massacres, assassinations and human rights violations.
A brief history of the Chinese growth model [note: not so brief] - "the Chinese development model is an old one, and can trace its roots at least as far back as the 'American System' of the 1820s and 1830s. This 'system' was itself based primarily on the works of the brilliant first US Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton..." [more inside]
The First Rough Draft of History: A Behind-the-Scenes History of Newsweek Magazine
Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!
Via io9: "The first nine Superman cartoons produced by Fleischer Studios from 1941 to 1942 are a wonder of animated retrofuturism, giving us a peek into a world that not only had a flying superstrong protector, but also filled viewers' heads with dreams of autonomous robots, comet-controlling telescopes, and machines that could shake the Earth. These films are in the public domain and have been available on the Internet Archive," but now Warner Bros. is releasing them (remastered) on YouTube. The first short, "Superman" (also known as "The Mad Scientist,") was nominated for an Academy Award. Also see: The Super Guide to the Fleischer Superman Cartoons. Find links to all nine episodes and more inside. [more inside]
BBC's Letter From America archives replenished by Newquay man. Most not kept by the BBC. Amazing piece of radio in and of itself. [previously].
The permanent collection of the (US) National Veterans Art Museum in Chicago contains more than 2,500 pieces of art by 250 artists, all of which can be seen at NVAM Collection Online. The site includes biographical material on the artists who created the work. Featured Artwork. A small selection. (Via. Images at links in this post may be nsfw, and/or disturbing to some viewers.)
Savagery - Arcadia - Consummation - Destruction - Desolation. The five stages of The Course of Empire, a fascinating quintet of paintings by 19th century artist and Hudson River School pioneer Thomas Cole. In it, an imaginary settlement by the sea becomes the stage for all the dreams and nightmares of civilized life, a rural woodland grown in time into a glorious metropolis... only to be ransacked by corruption, war, and a terrible storm, at last reduced to a forgotten ruin. At times deceptively simple, each landscape teems with references to cultural and philosophical markers that dominated the era's debate about the future of America. Interactive analysis of the series on a zoomable canvas is available via the excellent Explore Thomas Cole project, which also offers a guided tour and complete gallery of the dozens of other richly detailed and beautifully luminous works by this master of American landscape art.
"When the lights go out for good, my people will still be here. We have our ancient ways. We will remain."
In the Shadow of Wounded Knee. Along the southwestern border of South Dakota is one of the most poverty-stricken places in the United States—the Pine Ridge Reservation, home of the Oglala Lakota people. After 150 years of broken promises, they are still nurturing their tribal customs, language and beliefs. Via [more inside]
Letter from America was a long-running weekly 15-minute radio series in which journalist Alistair Cooke introduced topical issues from the US to British listeners. Now, the BBC have made 925 episodes from across the years available online, beginning with a fragment from 1947 reflecting on the dropping of the atomic bomb a year earlier.
The American Presidency Project is a comprehensive archive of more than 100,000 documents related to the study of the United States' Commander-in-Chief, including transcripts of debates, public papers, state of the union addresses, White House Press Briefings, party platforms and election returns, as well as audio and video recordings. [more inside]
Ephemeral New York 'chronicles an ever-changing, constantly reinvented city through photos, newspaper archives, and other scraps and artifacts that have been edged into New York’s collective remainder bin.' [more inside]
In February, PBS and AOL launched Makers, a video archive containing personal stories and anecdotes told in the first person by women, many of whom have sparked groundbreaking changes in American culture. [more inside]
A Conservative History of the United States - Jack Hitt for New Yorker's Shouts & Murmurs, pieces together America's storied history from quotes by Rick Perry, Dick Armey, Mike Huckabee, Dan Quayle and more.
"America may well be in a fateful decline. But given that the country has survived a civil war, two world wars, the Great Depression, 9/11, and the quagmires of Vietnam and Iraq, is our current crisis proportionate to the doomsday hysteria—or have we lost perspective?" Frank Rich, columnist for New York Magazine, explores the recurring phenomenon of declinist panic and our national tendency to burnish the past in "Mayberry R.I.P."
The latest record from Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Americana (released June 5, 2012), is a surprising collection of grungy covers of classic American folk songs, many of which are better known for their contemporary use as children's songs or camp songs. Of the record, Neil Young said:
Every one of these songs has verses that have been ignored. And those are the key verses, those are the things that make these songs live. They’re a little heavy for kindergarteners to be singing. The originals are much darker, there’s more protest in them...[cite]Nevertheless, many of NY&CH's renditions skip some of the juicier bits from the history of these songs' performance. Read on for a listing of tracks with some of their darkest verses. [more inside]
Paul Fussell, author of The Great War and Modern Memory and winner of the first National Critics Award for Criticism, but who is probably best known for writing Class: A Guide Through the American Status System, is dead. [more inside]
He considered himself an artist, but his work, while popular and incendiary, showed little talent or originality. Later in life he took up working with precious metals, and that would be the craft he’s remembered for, but earlier in his career he printed his own engravings, or his version of the work of others. Earlier this year at Brown University’s John Hay Library, something very rare was discovered. One of Paul Revere’s prints depicting the Baptism of Christ was found tucked in an old textbook. While not a particularly valuable work or great art, this rare print does tell us a bit about the man as an artist, and about his faith. [more inside]
Fenway Park, in Boston, is a lyric little bandbox of a ballpark. Everything is painted green and seems in curiously sharp focus, like the inside of an old-fashioned peeping-type Easter egg. It was built in 1912 and rebuilt in 1934, and offers, as do most Boston artifacts, a compromise between Man's Euclidean determinations and Nature's beguiling irregularities. So wrote John Updike in his moving tribute to Red Sox legend Ted Williams -- an appropriately pedigreed account for this oldest and most fabled of ballfields that saw its first major league game played one century ago today. As a team in flux hopes to recapture the magic with an old-school face-off against the New York
Highlanders Yankees, it's hard to imagine the soul of the Sox faced the specter of demolition not too long ago. Now legally preserved, in a sport crowded with corporate-branded superdome behemoths, Fenway abides, bursting with history, idiosyncrasy, record crowds, and occasional song. [more inside]
On September 13, 1859, a former Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court shot and killed a U.S. Senator in what has been called the last notable duel in American history. The duel itself can be interpreted as a sort of proxy battle between pro- and anti-slavery groups of the time, and a harbinger of the American Civil War (which would begin a year and half later).
The ‘white’ slave children of New Orleans: Almost immediately after the law came into practice, Northerners and abolitionists set up relief organisations, which battled to establish schools and provide other forms of support – but their resources were limited. They soon discovered it was near-impossible to find sympathy and support in a war-torn and racially-prejudiced county.
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.
It's a crazy ol' world: All Presidents (but one) are related; via King John, the foe of Robin Hood. And they said irony was dead.
In October 1870, as American Jews were observing the High Holidays, The Atlantic Magazine published an article called "Our Israelitish Bretheren." 'At the time, it served as a sort of crash course about a tiny, mystifying minority. Today, it survives as something quite different: a snapshot of a transitional moment in Jewish history.' Written by American biographer, James Parton -- the founder of American Heritage magazine.