(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Spain

“History may be divided into three movements: what moves rapidly, what moves slowly, and what appears not to move at all.”*…

Out of Italy was Braudel’s attempt to… explain a historical flash in the pan: the Italian Renaissance.

For Braudel, history was a struggle to see connections across the high walls of academic disciplines. This kind of approach to the past, showing that all ‘civilisations have their feet on the ground’, is Braudel and the Annales school’s most important legacy: the value of interdisciplinary research, as exemplified by their radical programme, is now so tacitly accepted as to be hardly worth mentioning.

If Italy’s rise must be explained, so, Braudel thought, must its decline. Today, historians are not so concerned with questions of cultural supremacy and decay; they don’t view culture as a vital force that can be ‘concentrated and exhausted’ in a couple of centuries. But the explanation for the fizzling out of this creative energy in the mid-17th century vexed Braudel. He saw the seeds of Italy’s decline within its greatness, borrowing Léon Brunschvicg’s image for ancient Greece’s influence (which Brunschvicg in turn had taken from Hegel): the owl of Athena takes flight only at nightfall. ‘Rightly or wrongly,’ Braudel wrote, ‘it seems to me that there must be a kind of nightfall preceding, and determining, almost every case of cultural greatness. It is the darkness that provokes a multitude of lights.’ The catastrophes of the Italian Wars (1494-1559) and a declining economy were the shadows that prompted the brilliance of Renaissance art and culture; it was peace and economic tranquillity that ‘spread like treacle through Italian life’ after the treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis in 1559. Greatness (and influence) was born in darkness.

To make his point Braudel asks us to imagine conversations with three Baroque architects: with Agostino Barelli (from Bologna), standing outside his Theatine Church in Munich in 1660; with Carlo Antonio Carlone (from Como), as he began work on his Church of the Nine Angelic Choirs in Vienna in 1663; and with Andrea Pozzo (from Trento), while he oversaw the construction of his Jesuit Church in Vienna in 1701. Three Italians, three major building projects outside Italy. They would have been surprised to learn that Italy was on the path to decline…

How could cultures as vibrant as Baroque Italy or interwar Europe have been so radically diminished? Italy’s economic dominance would be supplanted first by the capitalist burghers of the Netherlands and then by English industrialists….

Braudel’s writing also sought to confront the inability of even the greatest historians to predict what would happen next. In this light, his pessimism about human time and human stories can be hard to face… And yet Braudel is optimistic about human civilisations:

Mortal perhaps are their ephemeral blooms, the intricate and short-lived creations of an age, their economic triumphs and their social trials, in the short term. But their foundations remain. They are not indestructible, but they are many times more solid than one might imagine. They have withstood a thousand supposed deaths, their massive bulk unmoved by the monotonous pounding of the centuries.

Nothing changes, and individual lives barely leave an imprint. But this is not tragic determinism. It is an unshakeable belief in the persistence of human history through time. ‘A Renaissance,’ Braudel writes, ‘is always possible.’

On Fernand Braudel‘s Out of Italy, and an appreciation of its insightful author, a leader of the Annales school of history: “Down with Occurrences.”

* Fernand Braudel

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As we think in time, we might recall that it was on this date in 1803 that Spanish representatives in New Orleans executed documents ceding sovereignty over the Louisiana Territory to France. Twenty days later, France transferred the Territory to the United States.

The U.S. gained possession of 828,000 square miles of territory (an area that includes all or part of 15 current U.S. states and 2 Canadian provinces).  Americans had originally sought to purchase only the port city of New Orleans and its adjacent coastal lands; but Napoleon, cash-strapped by his war with England, offered the (much) larger parcel– and the U.S. quickly agreed.

250px-Louisiana_Purchase
The modern continental United States, with the Louisiana Purchase overlaid

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November 30, 2020 at 1:01 am

“With recording, everything changed”*…

 

To the question “When were recordings invented?,” we might be tempted to answer “1877” — the year when Thomas A. Edison was first able to record and playback sound with a phonograph. But what if we think of recordings not as mere carriers of sound, but as commodities that can be bought and sold, as artifacts capable of capturing and embodying values and emotions; of defining a generation, a country or a social class? The story then becomes one that unfolds over three decades and is full of many layers and ramifications. Without Edison’s technological innovations, recordings would have certainly never existed — but hammering out the concept of recording were also a myriad of other inventors, musicians, producers and entrepreneurs from all over the world. Most of them were enthusiastic about being part of a global revolution, but they worked in close connection with their milieu too, shaping recording technologies and their uses to relate to the needs, dreams, and desires of the audiences they knew…

The full(er) story: “Inventing the Recording.”

* “With recording, everything changed. The prospect of music being detachable from time and place meant that one could start to think of music as a part of one’s furniture. It’s an idea that many composers have felt reluctant about because it seemed to them to diminish the importance of music.”  – Brian Eno

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As we drop the needle, we might recall that it was on this date in 1900 that “His Master’s Voice,” the logo of the Victor Talking Machine Company (later RCA Victor), was registered with the US Patent Office. The logo famously featured the dog “Nipper” looking into the horn of a gramophone.

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July 16, 2017 at 1:01 am

“The city, however, does not tell its past, but contains it like the lines of a hand”*…

 

Build your own with The Medieval Fantasy City Generator

* Italo Calvino

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As we wander within the walls, we might spare a thought for Henry I, King of Castile and Toledo; he died on this date in 1217 when a loose roof tile fell on his head.  He had become the monarch two years earlier, at age 10, when his father (Alfonso VIII of Castile) passed away.  His mother was Eleanor of England, Queen of Castile, the daughter of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine.

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June 6, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Nothing could be more misleading than the idea that computer technology introduced the age of information”*…

 

Stuart McMillen‘s glorious illustration of [a] seminal passage from Neil Postman’s glorious Amusing Ourselves to Death

From McMillen’s site, Recombinant Records (via)

* Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

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As we recommit to being careful what we wish for, we might send prudent birthday greetings to Maria Josepha Amalia of Saxony (Maria Josepha Amalia Beatrix Xaveria Vincentia Aloysia Franziska de Paula Franziska de Chantal Anna Apollonia Johanna Nepomucena Walburga Theresia Ambrosia); she was born on this date in 1803.  The youngest daughterof Prince Maximilian of Saxony and his first wife, Princess Carolina of Parma (daughter of Duke Ferdinand of Parma), she was raised in a German convent to a fervent Catholicism.

Maria Josepha became the Queen of Spain when Ferdinand VII, still childless after the death of his second wife, chose her as his consort.  But feeling the burden of her religious upbringing, Maria Josepha refused to consummate the marriage.  It took a personal letter from Pope Pius VII to convince the queen that sexual relations between spouses were not contrary to the morality of Catholicism; still, she died young (at age 25) and childless. The King’s fourth wife, Maria Christina of the Two Sicilies, eventually gave birth to the future Queen Isabella II of Spain.

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December 6, 2015 at 1:01 am

Named virtues…

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, is charged with administering “the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage“– a duty they discharge by convening a committee once a year to select from member nations’ nominations those traditions that are needy of conservation.

Consider, for example:

Castells are human towers built by members of amateur groups, usually as part of annual festivities in Catalonian towns and cities… The human towers are formed by castellers standing on the shoulders of one another in a succession of stages (between six and ten). Each level of the tronc, the name given to the second level upwards, generally comprises two to five heavier built men supporting younger, lighter-weight boys or girls. The pom de dalt – the three uppermost levels of the tower – comprises young children. Anyone is welcome to form the pinya, the throng that supports the base of the tower… The knowledge required for raising castells is traditionally passed down from generation to generation within a group, and can only be learned by practice.

 

On consideration, the committee ruled that Castells satisfied the criteria for inscription on the Representative List:

R1: Human towers are recognized by Catalan people as an integral part of their cultural identity, transmitted from generation from generation and providing community members a sense of continuity, social cohesion and solidarity;
R2: Their inscription on the Representative List could promote intangible cultural heritage as a means of reinforcing social cohesion, while encouraging respect for cultural dialogue and human creativity;
R3: The safeguarding measures being implemented and those planned are carefully described, and the commitments of both the State and the communities are well demonstrated, all aiming at ensuring the viability of the element;
R4: The nomination was elaborated through a process of consultation and cooperation with the bearers of the tradition who have provided their free, prior and informed consent;
R5: Human towers are registered in the Inventory of the Ethnological Heritage of Catalonia, maintained and updated by the Department of Culture and Media.

For a peek at 2010’s newly-anointed treasures, announced last week, readers can visit this Foreign Policy roster of “10 Traditions You Never Thought Needed Protecting.”

As we wonder if the castellers are now required to wear blue helmets, we might recall that it was on this date in 1993 that Hollywood’s homage to the Anglo-Saxon tradition of cross-dressing– Mrs. Doubtfire— premiered.

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