(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘historiography

“X marks the spot”*…

 

xerxes

The Lu Lu Alphabet (1867) by Pamela Atkins Colman [source]

In 1895, the physicist Wilhelm Röntgen discovered x-rays, a groundbreaking moment in medical history that would lead to myriad improvements to people’s health. Perhaps one overlooked benefit though was in relation to mental health, specifically of those tasked with making alphabet books. What did they do before X-rays? Xylophones, which have also been a popular choice through the twentieth century to today, are mysteriously absent in older works. Perhaps explained by the fact that, although around for millennia, the instrument didn’t gain popularity in the West (with the name of “xylophone”) until the early twentieth century. So to what solutions did our industrious publishers turn?…

A collection of historical figures, plants, animals, and more: “X is for…

* an old saying of manifold derivation.  One origin story references pirate maps, where “x” marked the location of buried treasure (and of other maps, where “x” marked less dramatic locations); another cites the British army practice of marking a piece of paper with a black “x” and pinning it on the heart of someone sentenced to death-by-firing-squad.  The presiding officer would say “X marks the spot” and the firing squad would aim for the “x.”

###

As we examine exemplary examples, we might send thoughtful birthday greetings to Giambattista Vico; he was born on this date in 1668.  A political philosopher, rhetorician, historian, and jurist, Vico was one of the greatest Enlightenment thinkers.  Best known for the Scienza Nuova (1725, often published in English as New Science), he famously criticized the expansion and development of modern rationalism and was an apologist for classical antiquity.

He was an important precursor of systemic and complexity thinking (as opposed to Cartesian analysis and other kinds of reductionism); and he can be credited with the first exposition of the fundamental aspects of social science, though his views did not necessarily influence the first social scientists.  Vico is often claimed to have fathered modern philosophy of history (although the term is not found in his text; Vico speaks of a “history of philosophy narrated philosophically”). While he was not strictly speaking a historicist, interest in him has been driven by historicists (like Isaiah Berlin).

 source

 

 

“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there”*…

 

baptism

The baptism of Christ, from The Chronology of Ancient Nations, 1307

 

Today, it is taken for granted that ‘World History’ exists. Muslims, Jews and Chinese each have their own calendars and celebrate their own New Year’s Day. But for most practical matters, including government, commerce and science, the world employs a single common calendar. Thanks to this, it is possible to readily translate dates from the Chinese calendar, or from the Roman, Greek or Mayan, into the same chronological system that underlies the histories of, say, Vietnam or Australia.

This single global calendar enables us to place events everywhere on a single timeline. Without it, temporal comparisons across cultures and traditions would be impossible. It is no exaggeration to say that this common understanding of time and our common calendar system are the keys to world history.

It was not always the case…

For most of history, different peoples, cultures and religious groups have lived according to their own calendars. Then, in the 11th century, a Persian scholar attempted to create a single, universal timeline for all humanity: “The Invention of World History.”

Then visit “the Wiki History of the Universe in 200 Words or Less.”

* L.P. Hartley, The Go-Between

###

As we look to the past, we might recall that it was on this date in 1864 that Oxford mathematician and amateur photographer Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson– aka Lewis Carroll– delivered a handwritten and hand-illustrated manuscript called “Alice’s Adventures Under Ground” to 10-year-old Alice Liddell.  The original (on display at the British Library) was the basis of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland… which was published exactly one year later, on this date in 1865.

 source

 

“Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us”*…

 

On the occasion of Cyber Monday…

Science fiction writer William Gibson coined the phrase, “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.” It’s a well-known and oft-repeated line.

I’m proposing a slight variation, or perhaps a corollary principle: The dystopia is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed…

From Michael Sacasas, a run-down of (some of) the signs of trouble in our times: “The Dystopia Is Already Here.”

Lest we descend into despair, we should remember that there are things we can do to stem the dark tide…  we just have to do them.  For example, we can use the resources of groups like Common Sense Media; we can support the work of EFF and other privacy and rights groups; we can switch to the tools of open makers like Mozilla; we can contribute to open knowledge resources like the Internet Archive and Wikimedia

Oh, and just in case our resolve begins to slip, we can revisit Sacasas’ page, as he’s keeping it open add to the list of grim symptoms as more emerge…

* Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death

###

As we hang onto the baby as we ditch the bath water, we might spare a thought for Fernand Braudel; he died on this date in 1985.  An accomplished historian, he is probably best remembered as the leader of the Annales School of historiography.  His scholarship focused on three main projects: The Mediterranean (1923–49, then 1949–66), the remarkable Civilization and Capitalism (1955–79), and the unfinished Identity of France (1970–85)– in all of which he set the bar for Annales practitioners by using deep and comprehensive research into the minute particulars of everyday life to illustrate broad, sweeping socio-economic trends.

 source

 

Written by LW

November 27, 2017 at 1:01 am

A(nother) matter of perspective…

 

Yesterday’s post located our moment in the larger sweep of time; today’s locates our experience– the things we can touch and see– in the larger hierarchy of scale.

Readers may recall Cary and Michael Huang’s “The Scale of the Universe”— in the spirit of xkcd’s nifty toon, a wonderful Flash re-do of Charles and Ray Eames’ classic Powers of Ten: an animation that lets one scroll through the orders of magnitude of existence.  Not content with “pretty terrific,” the Brothers Huang have revised and improved their tour of the universe…  Ladies and Gentlemen, “The Scale of the Universe 2“:

[TotH to friend CE]

###

As we ruminate with reverence on our place in the scheme of things, we might spare a thought for Bede (or as he is more frequently remembered, Venerable Bede); he died on this date in 735.  An English monk, Bede studied and wrote widely on scientific, historical and theological topics, ranging from music and metrics to exegetical Scripture commentaries. He was an accomplished translator (Pliny the Elder, Virgil, Lucretius, Ovid, Horace, and other classical writers in both Greek and Hebrew).  His  Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (The Ecclesiastical History of the English People) has earned him the title “The Father of English History.” Indeed, it was in this work that Bede established as common practice the use of “BC” and “AD” with dates.

Bede as depicted in the Nuremberg Chronicle, 1493

source

 

%d bloggers like this: