In the Victorian Era, "the language of flowers" (floriography) was all the rage. According to The Smithsonian Gardens History in Bloom summary (and activities sheets) for The Language of Flowers (PDF), "Nearly all Victorian homes would own at least one of the guide books dedicated to the ‘language of flowers.’ The authors of these guidebooks used visual and verbal analogies, religious and literary sources, folkloric connections, and botanical attributes to derive the various associations for the flowers." But where did it come from? (Google books preview) Istanbul in the Tulip Age (PDF, first chapter of Crime and Punishment in Istanbul: 1700-1800), and Turkish love-letters and harems ... somewhat. [more inside]
Déjà Lu republishes locally-selected scholarly articles from journals connected to regional anthropological associations around the world. The result is a PDF-heavy but fascinating collection of long reads on obscure topics. Via. [more inside]
The Imperial Kitchen
Among the kiosks, halls, reception chambers, and harem baths, I suspect that visitors today spend the least time of all in the palace kitchens—unless they have an interest in Chinese porcelain, which is displayed in there. Otherwise there’s nothing much to see, just a series of domed rooms. Outside you can count the ten pairs of massive chimneys, but there’s no smoke. It’s a pity that the building is so quiet, because it was in here, over four centuries, that one aspect of Istanbul’s imperial purpose was most vividly expressed.
From his time in Cairo, Lawrence was aware of the extravagant promises the British government had made to Hussein in order to raise the Arab Revolt: full independence for virtually the entire Arab world..............His first act of sedition — and by most any standards, a treasonous one — was to inform Faisal of the existence of Sykes-Picot.....The True Story of Lawrence of Arabia . Previously and Previously
At first sight the search for peace and stability in Iraq, and the search for physical and mental fitness in the extreme contortions of modern Yoga seem to have absolutely nothing in common. But curiously they do. Both the terrible structural problems and distortions that underly Iraqi society today, and the strange, contorted poses that millions of people perform every day in things like Bikram's Hot Yoga, actually come from the fevered imagination of the British ruling class one hundred years ago. As they felt Britain's power declining they wanted desperately to go back into the past and create a purer and more innocent world, uncorrupted by the messiness of the modern industrial world - a new Eden forged both by strengthening and purifying the human body and by inventing new model countries round the world. And we are still suffering from the consequences of that terrible nostalgia. BODYBUILDING AND NATION-BUILDING
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]
A Lost Map On The Tramway In Istanbul
In Turkey, there lives a mysterious minority known as the “secret Armenians.” They have been hiding in the open for nearly a century. Outwardly, they are Turks or Kurds, but the secret Armenians are actually descendants of the survivors of the 1915 Genocide, who stayed behind in Eastern Anatolia after forcibly converting to Islam. Some are now devout Muslims, others are Alevis –generally considered an offshoot of Shia Islam, even though that would be an inaccurate description by some accounts–, and a few secretly remain Christian, especially in the area of Sassoun, where still there are mountain villages with secret Armenian populations. Even though Armenian Gypsies wouldn’t strictly qualify as Secret Armenians, they share many traits with the latter, including reluctance or fear to reveal their identity even to fellow Armenians.[more inside]
The Mehterhane or Mehter, as they are often known, are thought to be the oldest military marching band in the world. Starting around the 13th century, the band accompanied the Ottoman empire troops (Janissaries, or yeniçeri, roughly meaning "new troops" and were comprised mostly of young men from the Balkans) into battle, spreading their music along the way and influencing western classical composers like Mozart and Beethoven. [more inside]
In 1299, Osman I declared independence from the Seljuk Empire, thus beginning the rise of the Ottoman Empire. Over the centuries, The Last Caliphate stretched from Saudi Arabia to Austria, influencing architecture , music, and possibly the most beautiful textiles of the Middle Ages. It was not to last, however. Following a century of uprisings and war, the "Sick Man of Europe" finally succumbed to Turkish Nationalism and was constitutionally abolished by the emerging Turkish state on March 3, 1924. In the intervening 83 years, so much has changed. If the Empire was reinstated today, where would you find the last remaining heir to the Sultan's throne?
A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East by David Fromkin. Ever wonder how the Middle East got so screwed up to start with? It all happened in an eight year time span, 1914-1922. The destruction of the Ottoman Empire laid the foundation for over half of the current conflicts in the world. Coupled with Huntingtons' Clash of Civilizations, this book does more to explain WTF went wrong.