(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘German History

“Comparisons are odious”*…

… but sometimes instructive in the very ways that they fail…

The innovations which make their appearance in East Asia round about the year 1000 … form such a coherent and extensive whole that we have to yield to the evidence: at this period, the Chinese world experienced a real transformation. … The analogies [with the European Renaissance] are numerous – the return to the classical tradition, the diffusion of knowledge, the upsurge of science and technology (printing, explosives, advance in seafaring techniques, the clock with escapement …), a new philosophy, and a new view of the world. … There is not a single sector of political, social or economic life in the eleventh to thirteenth centuries which does not show evidence of radical changes in comparison with earlier ages. It is not simply a matter of a change of scale (increase in population, general expansion of production, development of internal and external trade) but of a change of character. Political habits, society, the relations between town and country, and economic patterns are quite different from what they had been. … A new world had been born.

Jacques Gernet. A History of Chinese Civilization, pp. 298-300

Doug Jones, on what the remarkable story of the Song Dynasty can and can’t tell us about other periods…

Scholars contemplating the sweeping economic, social, and political transformation of China under the Song dynasty (960-1279) seem compelled to draw analogies with later dramatic occurrences in Europe – with the Renaissance (as in the quote above) or with the Economic Revolution in England on the eve of the Industrial Revolution.

The changes are dramatic. Population roughly doubles, from about 50 million to about 100 million. Cities grow. Both internal and external trade boom. The division of labor advances, with different households and different parts of the country specializing in “goods such as rice, wheat, lighting oil, candles, dyes, oranges, litchi nuts, vegetables, sugar and sugarcane, lumber, cattle, fish, sheep, paper, lacquer, textiles and iron.” In a number of fields of technology – iron production, shipbuilding – China reaches heights which the West will not attain for many centuries.

With changes in the economy come changes in the relation between society and state. Taxes come to be mostly collected in cash rather than kind, Eventually revenues from taxes on commerce, including excise taxes and state monopolies, will greatly exceed those from land tax. A Council of State will put constitutional checks on the power of the emperor.

Yet Imperial China will ultimately follow a different, less dramatic developmental pathway than Europe. Some reasons why…

On the ways in which history doesn’t repeat itself: “A cycle of Cathay,” from @logarithmic_h.

* Proverb


As we listen for the rhyme, we might recall that today is Schicksalstag (“Day of Fate”) in Germany. On this date five momentous events took place: Robert Blum, a leader in the Vienna revolts, was executed in 1848; Kaiser Wilhelm II resigned, marking the end of German monarchies in 1918; the Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch failed in 1923; Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass) and the Nazi antisemitic pogroms raged in 1938; and the Berlin Wall fell in 1989.

East and West Germans at the Brandenburg Gate in 1989 (source)

Written by (Roughly) Daily

November 9, 2022 at 1:00 am

“Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under”*…

The majority of countries are democracies, but how many people enjoy what we think of as democratic rights? A nifty interactive map from Our World In Data charts the changes in political regimes across the globe, country by country, over the last 200 years. By way of explaining its categories:

• In closed autocracies, citizens do not have the right to choose either the chief executive of the government or the legislature through multi-party elections.

• In electoral autocracies, citizens have the right to choose the chief executive and the legislature through multi-party elections; but they lack some freedoms, such as the freedoms of association or expression, that make the elections meaningful, free, and fair.

• In electoral democracies, citizens have the right to participate in meaningful, free and fair, and multi-party elections.

• In liberal democracies, citizens have further individual and minority rights, are equal before the law, and the actions of the executive are constrained by the legislative and the courts.

As Visual Capitalist observes…

Do civilians get a representative say in how the government is run where you live?

While it might seem like living with a basic level of democratic rights is the status quo, this is only true for 93 countries or territories today—the majority of the world does not enjoy these rights.

It also might surprise you that much of the progress towards democracy came as late as the mid-20th century

An interactive look at the state of democracy around the world, and how it has evolved. From @OurWorldInData, via @VisualCap.

* H. L. Mencken


As we ruminate on representation, we might recall that it was on this date in 1933, the day after an arsonist ignited the Reichstag building, home of the German parliament in Berlin (and four weeks after Nazi leader Adolf Hitler had been sworn in as Chancellor of German), that Adolf Hitler attributed the fire to a conspiracy of Communist agitators.

Marinus van der Lubbe, a Dutch “council communist”, was the apparent culprit; but Hitler insisted on a wider network of villains. He used it as a pretext to claim that Communists were plotting against the German government, and induced President Paul von Hindenburg to issue the Reichstag Fire Decree suspending civil liberties, and to pursue a “ruthless confrontation” with the Communists. A court later found that van der Lubbe had in fact acted alone. But Hitler’s orchestrated reaction to the Reichstag Fire began the effective rule of the Nazi Party and the establishment of Nazi Germany.


What’s Up, Doc?…


Radioactive rabbit trapped near Richland

A radioactive rabbit caught at Hanford [see here] just north of Richland had Washington State Department of Health workers looking for contaminated droppings Thursday…

[Hanford was] used during the Cold War for testing highly radioactive materials, particularly fuel elements and cladding that were irradiated at Hanford reactors as part of plutonium production for the nation’s nuclear weapons program…

Liquid waste with radioactive salts was discharged into the ground near central Hanford during the Cold War. Rabbits and other animals were attracted to the salts and spread radioactive droppings across as much as 13.7 square miles of sage-covered land before the waste sites were sealed to keep out animals in 1969.  Federal economic stimulus money has been used to survey for the radioactive hot spots that remain four decades later.

In a more recent case, so many radioactive wasp nests were found spread across six acres by H Reactor in northern Hanford that up to a foot of soil was dug up to remove the nests. The nests were built by mud dauber wasps in 2003. Water was sprayed to control dust during demolition of a basin attached to the reactor, and the mud created was collected by the wasps to build nests under straw that had been spread nearby to protect newly planted sagebrush seedlings.

There have been a couple of cases in the past two decades of contaminated animals in areas where they potentially could come in contact with the public.  In 1996, a contaminated mouse apparently crawled into a box of food collected by an employee food drive in central Hanford. It was trapped and tested in an abandoned Hanford building previously used by the Tri-Cities Food Bank.

Two years later, gnats and flies were suspected of eating a sugary coating used to fix some radioactive contamination. They then spread the contamination to waste left by workers in offices, such as banana peels and apple cores. That required 35 tons of trash that could contain the office waste to be dug up from the Richland landfill and returned to Hanford.

Read the full story at Tricityherald.com (and more,  here or here).

As we contemplate the prospect of Easter egg hunts after dark, we might recall that it was on this date in 1989 that a failing east German regime opened the Berlin Wall, allowing free East-West passage.  A few weeks earlier Hungarian officials had opened the border between Hungary and Austria,  effectively rendering the Berlin Wall redundant, as East German citizens could then circumvent it by going through Hungary into Austria, and thence into West Germany.  Virtually immediately, Germans on both sides began to demolish the Wall.

Germans climbing the Wall at the Brandenburg Gate in celebration of its demise (source)


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