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Oh, Shenandoah! · What hap­pened was, back when I was do­ing Songs of the Day, I wrote up that great old Amer­i­can song Oh Shenan­doah, and idly won­dered who Shenan­doah was; the Wikipedia en­try said he was a re­al per­son, an Onei­da of the seventeen-hundreds. Then I thought of that lyric Oh Shenan­doah, I loved your daugh­ter, and won­dered who might have loved her, and found my­self go­ing down a rab­bit hole. I have now read sev­er­al books on the sub­jec­t, un­cov­ered a hell of a sto­ry, an idea for a billion-dollar play or movie, and met some re­al­ly in­ter­est­ing dead peo­ple. I’ve (so far) failed to solve the mys­tery of who loved his daugh­ter, but haven’t giv­en up ...
Enlightenment Technology · Around 1500, the lev­els of tech­nol­o­gy and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty in Europe and Asia were not dra­mat­i­cal­ly dif­fer­en­t. But by 1700, Europe had leaped ahead and, by the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry, most­ly come to dom­i­nate the world; the la­bels “Enlightenment” and “Industrial Revolution” are com­mon­ly ap­plied. A Cul­ture of Growth: The Ori­gins of the Modern Econ­o­my, a 2016 book by Joel Mokyr asks “Why?” and tries to an­swer ...
Sex and T.E. Lawrence · I’m not a very ac­tive Wikipedi­an, but I do put oc­ca­sion­al ef­fort in­to the en­try on T.E. Lawrence who is per­haps bet­ter known as “Lawrence of Arabia”. Its cov­er­age of his sex­u­al­i­ty has been par­tic­u­lar­ly con­tentious. This is a re­search piece de­signed to sup­port my work on sta­bi­liz­ing this part of the en­try ...
Last Man Standing · From the BBC, this sto­ry, with video, fea­tur­ing 109-year-old Har­ry Patch, the last liv­ing Bri­tish vet­er­an of the 1914-18 trench war­fare, on a trip to the Pass­chen­daele bat­tle­field. I found it tremen­dous­ly mov­ing. The one thing Patch want­ed to do? Lay a wreath at the memo­ri­al to the Ger­man war dead. Lis­ten to him, a liv­ing voice com­ing over the In­ter­net out of the past, say­ing wise things.
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Remembrance Day · I’ve al­ways cared about Re­mem­brance Day; nev­er been to war, but I’ve lived close to a cou­ple and seen what hap­pens when the wrong peo­ple win one. But here in Canada, those mem­o­ries are grow­ing dim; my un­cle Allen Scott died in the Nether­lands in 1944, but the num­ber of peo­ple with even that di­rect a con­nec­tion to what we still call “The War” is grow­ing small­er (and I just came back from a pleas­ant vis­it to Ger­many, hang­ing out with our for­mer en­e­mies). That was un­til this decade. Now, our young peo­ple are falling in war in Afghanistan; these ones, I mean. I’m touched to see that some of them are hav­ing their iden­ti­ties im­mor­tal­ized on­line; thanks to whoever’s do­ing that work. The bad guys in Afghanistan are re­al­ly gen­uine­ly bad; I don’t think there are many of us who ob­ject to tak­ing them on, or to try­ing to give the long-suffering Afghans a leg up. Lots of Cana­di­ans are wor­ried whether what we we’re try­ing to do can be done; and it doesn’t help that our work in Afghanistan makes us a nom­i­nal al­ly of one side in the botched, du­plic­i­tous, bru­tal war next door. What­ev­er; Re­mem­brance day is—or should be, anyhow—becoming more rel­e­van­t, more vi­tal, more cen­tral. But the troops that are im­por­tant are the ones who are alive and work­ing; if you’re a Cana­di­an you can send ’em a mes­sage; I as­sume oth­er coun­tries have sim­i­lar sys­tem­s. [Up­date: What Rob said.]
Bound for Glory · Not sure where I got the point­er from, but check out this US Li­brary of Congress ex­hi­bi­tion of rare colour pho­tographs from 1939-43.
TELawrence.net · As a mem­ber of the T. E. Lawrence So­ci­ety and a par­tic­i­pant in the TEL stud­ies mail­ing list, I’m hap­py to an­nounce the ar­rival of telawrence.net. Lawrence died in 1935 and UK copy­right sur­vives its au­thor by 70 years, so his writ­ing is now out of copy­right. This is the work of Jere­my Wil­son, bi­og­ra­pher and stu­dent of TEL, and a fine thing it is; thanks Jere­my! We look for­ward, in the near fu­ture, to the ar­rival of large vol­umes of TEL’s writ­ings; he was pro­lific. I’m pon­der­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ty, once things get go­ing, of a TEL pe­ri­od­i­cal along the lines of the Pepys Diary; Lawrence was not a di­arist but he was a pro­lif­ic cor­re­spon­den­t; I sus­pect that the en­try den­si­ty would be plen­ti­ful enough to sup­port a blog for­mat.
Remembrancing · Across the English-speaking world to­day is Re­mem­brance Day (ex­cept in the US, where it’s Veteran’s Day); on 1918/11/11 the armistice end­ing the Great War was signed. We wear pop­pies on our lapel­s, and my lit­tle guy came home yes­ter­day and told us about the Assem­bly they’d had at school, where they learned about the war, and it was sad, there were tears in his eye­s. Good. In Flan­ders Fields was writ­ten by a Cana­di­an; my Mother is the youngest of six and the second-oldest, Al­lan Scot­t, died among the fields of Flan­ders near the end of WW2, and is buried in Ber­gen op Zoom. There are some fine re­mem­brances here on the We­b: Libération is run­ning a re­mark­able au­dio in­ter­view with Lazar Pon­ti­cel­li, one of the last six liv­ing Poilus, born in 1897: he’s a lit­tle hard to un­der­stand, but it’s a liv­ing voice com­ing from way back in His­to­ry. Al­so, check out The Her­itage of the Great War, a Dutch site that in­cludes a re­mark­able col­lec­tion of col­or pho­tograph­s, some hand-colored (many of them post­card­s), some us­ing the old Au­tochrome pro­cess. They even have a pic­ture of the re­al dogs of war.
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