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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 tune 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 she was and 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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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.]
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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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