29 August 2009

Worth Another Look

[Roland Barthes'] researches into the structure of narrative have granted him a conviction (or a reprieve), a conviction that all telling modified what is being told, so that what the linguists call the message is a parameter of its performance. Indeed, his conviction of reading is that what is told is always the telling. And this he does not arraign, he celebrates.
Richard Howard, "A Note on S/Z," xi

Patriots and Peoples is not a news blog, but an archive of articles concerning history (and occasionally current events). I offer this author's guide to those posts that deserve to live beyond the day they were written. Read a few. Make some comments. Join a conversation.

Conquest and Subjugation

Why is the English language the dominant tongue in North America?

"Superior European Technology"
Everyone knows that Europeans arrived in the Americas with technology that astounded the natives, except that it's a lie, or, at best, barely true in PolitiFact's sense of the term. The American indigenes were astounded at the noise and destructive power, and they sought a few firearms of their own. But guns were far from superior to bows and arrows--each had their merits.

"November 29: This Day in History"
Massacres and video games. No, this post addresses neither the addictive Facebook game, Slotmania, nor Cabela's "Big Game Hunter" for the Wii. November 29 is remembered as the day the first commercial video game was announced, one of the most horrific massacres of Indians, and a massacre of settlers by Indians that helped a territory gain statehood.

"The Burning of the Boats"
I learned in my first college history class how Hernan Cortés burned his ships to assure success in the effort to conquer Mexico. It's an old story from Spain, as Tariq, the Muslim conqueror of Spain in the eight century did the same on the point of land that now bears his name--Gibraltar (Tariq's rock). In the case of Cortés, this legend is false.

Infectious Disease and Human History

Errors of fact and interpretation concerning the depopulation of the Americas as Europeans clawed their way ashore led me to purchase a book and begin writing about it. But, then, maybe what I perceive as errors reveals what I have yet to learn. Self-questioning and questioning of a text that challenged the synthesis I learned in graduate school prompted the beginning of this blog. Consequently, many of my best posts address elements of guns, germs, and steel (as Jared Diamond puts it).

"Death in Jamestown"
The death tolls in thrillers concerning plagues are paltry compared to what actually happened to the English settlers in Jamestown through the first several years. That they died is well-known, at least among historians. What killed them is less clear, and the most common explanation is probably wrong. This article exhibits fine primary and secondary research, and is among my most popular entries.

"Origins of Malaria"
At the beginning of "civilization," or the neolithic revolution in Africa, malaria began to infect human populations. From that moment on, the most civilized were the most ill at least until twentieth century sanitation and medicine.

"Depopulation and Demography: A Patriot's History Bibliography"
This post is a gateway. It contains an annotated bibliography of the sources listed in A Patriot's History concerned with pre-Columbian demography. When I discuss a specific source in greater detail, there is a link. The authors of A Patriot's History claim to challenge the conventional wisdom of other historians regarding disease. Their challenge is found wanting due to a preponderance of errors.

"America was not a disease-free paradise"
The title of this post comes from a sentence in "Eden", a chapter in Shepherd Krech III, The Ecological Indian: Myth and History (1999). The sentence is quoted in Schweikart and Allen, A Patriot's History of the United States (2004) as adornment. Krech's research does not inform the narrative offered by these ideologically driven historians. They cite his work to make it look as though they have explored the best work on the topic of disease, but they invest the meaning of his words with their own irresponsible distortions.

"Depopulation: Ubelaker's Low Estimate"
No one knows how many people lived in the Americas in 1500, nor for centuries after. Thus, the efforts to estimate the aboriginal population of the Americas is fraught with controversy. This post offers a careful reading of the lowest credible estimate, and how the authors of A Patriot's History of the United States manipulate the data to minimize the effects of disease. This post is one example of reading a text through careful scrutiny of footnotes.

American Presidents, American Identities

"Madison on Human Nature"
My most popular post was written party to commemorate the 500th birthday of John Calvin by reconsidering his influence on American leaders and institutions of power.

"Washington, Adams, Jesus"
The United States is a Christian nation! That's what a lot of people say. One of the proof texts is the exemplary life and Calvinist heritage of our second President, John Adams. This post initiates my entry into this debate.

"President Polk and the National Honor"
Polk expanded the geographical size of the United States more than any predecessor save Jefferson. This post is a study of his political rhetoric that generates curiosity: what other President might I have been thinking about while exploring Polk's sense of honor?

In "Pioneers, Laborers, Slaves," I offer a historical perspective as grounds for critique of some of the rhetoric in President Obama's inaugural address. "Booker T Washington's White House Dinner" (among my most popular posts) elucidates the controversy that Senator John McCain chose to highlight in honor of Barack Obama's historic achievement during his concession speech at the end of the election of 2008.

Teaching and Learning

"Reflective Thinking, Teaching and Learning"
While thinking of undergraduate education, take a look at these musings concerning pedagogy of my professors as teachers, and of my teaching as a professor. Is that chiasmus self-critique? Read and judge.

This list will grow, and possibly change, as I reread all that I have written here. I'm open to suggestions.

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