Posted by: Ed Darrell | March 5, 2009

Good chronology of the French Revolution

This chronology is more complete than what our texts have, and easily readable:  Frank Smitha’s site, Macrohistory and World Report, “The French Revolution.”

Some of the links to sidebars, images and other stories are good, too.  Go check it out.  Great review for the test.

Did Marie Antoinette actually say, “Let them eat cake?


Posted by: Ed Darrell | February 26, 2009

Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, two key documents

Declaration of Independence?  U.S. Constitution?  In a world history class?

Original rought draft of the Declaration of Independence written out in longhand by Thomas Jefferson, featuring emendations by Benjamin Franklin and John Adams - Library of Congress Manuscripts Division

Original rough draft of the Declaration of Independence written out in longhand by Thomas Jefferson, featuring "emendations" by Benjamin Franklin and John Adams - Library of Congress Manuscripts Division

Most world history texts don’t cover the issue, but Texas insists on testing sophomores (10th grade) on the documents.

Both documents provide a foundation for analysis of events following, through the 19th and 20th centuries.

Where is the student of world history to find them?


Declaration of Independence

Constitution of the United States of America

Rotunda of the National Archives in Washington, D.C., where the Declaration and Constitution are kept on display - National Archives photo

Rotunda of the National Archives in Washington, D.C., where the Declaration and Constitution are kept on display - National Archives photo

Posted by: Ed Darrell | February 17, 2009

Spanish Armada video

One good online source for the Battlefield Britain program on the Spanish Armada is here, at Google Video.

You may want to watch the entire video again; in 6th block we got 23 minutes in.

Posted by: Ed Darrell | February 12, 2009

Lincoln and Darwin, 200 years old today

Is it an unprecedented coincidence?  200 years ago today, just minutes apart according to some unconfirmed accounts, Abraham Lincoln was born in a rude log cabin on Nolin Creek, in Kentucky, and Charles Darwin was born into a wealthy family at the family home  in Shrewsbury, England.

Gutzon Borglums 1908 bust of Abraham Lincoln in the Crypt of the U.S. Capitol - AOC photo

Gutzon Borglum's 1908 bust of Abraham Lincoln in the Crypt of the U.S. Capitol - AOC photo

Lincoln would become one of our most endeared presidents, though endearment would come after his assassination.  Lincoln’s bust rides the crest of Mt. Rushmore (next to two slaveholders), with George Washington, the Father of His Country, Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, and Theodore Roosevelt, the man who made the modern presidency, and the only man ever to have won both a Congressional Medal of Honor and a Nobel Prize, the only president to have won the Medal of Honor.  In his effort to keep the Union together, Lincoln freed the slaves of the states in rebellion during the civil war, becoming an icon to freedom and human rights for all history.  Upon his death the entire nation mourned; his funeral procession from Washington, D.C., to his tomb in Springfield, Illinois, stopped twelve times along the way for full funeral services.  Lying in state in the Illinois House of Representatives, beneath a two-times lifesize portrait of George Washington, a banner proclaimed, “Washington the Father, Lincoln the Savior.”

Charles Darwin statue, Natural History Museum, London - NHM photo

Charles Darwin statue, Natural History Museum, London - NHM photo

Darwin would become one of the greatest scientists of all time.  He would be credited with discovering the theory of evolution by natural and sexual selection.  His meticulous footnoting and careful observations formed the data for ground-breaking papers in geology (the creation of coral atolls), zoology (barnacles, and the expression of emotions in animals and man), botany (climbing vines and insectivorous plants), ecology (worms and leaf mould), and travel (the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle).  At his death he was honored with a state funeral, attended by the great scientists and statesmen of London in his day.  Hymns were specially written for the occasion.  Darwin is interred in Westminster Abbey near Sir Isaac Newton, England’s other great scientist, who knocked God out of the heavens.

Lincoln would be known as the man who saved the Union of the United States and set the standard for civil and human rights, vindicating the religious beliefs of many and challenging the beliefs of many more.  Darwin’s theory would become one of the greatest ideas of western civilization, changing forever all the sciences, and especially agriculture, animal husbandry, and the rest of biology, while also provoking crises in religious sects.

Lincoln, the politician known for freeing the slaves, also was the first U.S. president to formally consult with scientists, calling on the National Science Foundation (whose creation he oversaw) to advise his administration.  Darwin, the scientist, advocated that his family put the weight of its fortune behind the effort to abolish slavery in the British Empire.  Each held an interest in the other’s disciplines.

Both men were catapulted to fame in 1858. Lincoln’s notoriety came from a series of debates on the nation’s dealing with slavery, in his losing campaign against Stephen A. Douglas to represent Illinois in the U.S. Senate.  On the fame of that campaign, he won the nomination to the presidency of the fledgling Republican Party in 1860.  Darwin was spurred to publicly reveal his ideas about the power of natural and sexual selection as the force behind evolution, in a paper co-authored by Alfred Russel Wallace, presented to the Linnean Society in London on July 1, 1858.   On the strength of that paper, barely noticed at the time, Darwin published his most famous work, On the Origin of Species, in November 1859.

The two men might have got along well, but they never met.

What unusual coincidences.  Today is the first day of a year-long commemoration of the lives of both men.  Wise historians and history teachers, and probably wise science teachers, will watch for historical accounts in mass media, and save them.

Go celebrate human rights, good science, and the stories about these men.


Charles Darwin:

Abraham Lincoln:

Cross posted with permission from Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub.  Also, check out the “411” tab in the header — the header photo shows the contents of Abraham Lincoln’s pockets on the night he went to Ford’s Theatre, and was shot.  Why, do you think, he had a Confederate $5.00 note with him?  What about the newspaper article that had been opened and refolded so many times?

Posted by: Ed Darrell | February 6, 2009

Timeline of science advances during Enlightenment

From the University of Florida’s Prof. Robert Hatch comes this timeline of scientific advances and events that built much of the stuff we study in the Enlightenment. Use this timeline for study, and use it as a springboard for your own research into the history of science.

Read the timeline, and you’ll get a good sense of how active the field of science was in this time, how broad-based the advances in science, and how quickly change was accelerating.

Part of Sir Isaac Newtons experiment demonstrating white light is composed of colored light, with special properties.  Scientists remember Newtons optics experiments, historians stress Newtons work on gravity.  Image from the University of Tennessee - Knoxville

Part of Sir Isaac Newton's experiment demonstrating white light is composed of colored light, with special properties. Scientists remember Newton's optics experiments, historians stress Newton's work on gravity. Image from the University of Tennessee - Knoxville

Dr. Hatch also provides a concise but thorough history of Sir Isaac Newton. If you’re interested in the history of science, that’s a good site to study.

Posted by: Ed Darrell | January 23, 2009

Legacy of the Roman Empire and Middle Ages in the West

Good lecture notes, with lots of maps and pictures, for that difficult time from the fall of the Roman empire through the Middle Ages, from a set of lecture notes from Prof. Robert W. Brown at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

I encourage you to read through this material for added understanding, or if you’re having any difficulty.  Or, you may want to just browse the maps and illustrations.  One reason I like this set of notes is that it tells a cogent and coherent narrative of what happened and why.  In contrast to the text, Brown answers those questions you keep asking yourself as you read, “Why in the world did that guy do that?”

The Feudal System, as explained in the lecture notes of Prof. Robert W. Brown, University of North Carolina at Pembroke

The Feudal System, one of several good illustrations and photos explained in the lecture notes of Prof. Robert W. Brown, University of North Carolina at Pembroke

Posted by: Ed Darrell | December 17, 2008

Wind, wings and powerful ideas

Cross posted with permission from Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub.

It’s just one letter difference between “winds” and “wings.”  Sometimes winds and wings combine to make history, as they did on December 17, 1903, for at least 12 seconds:

December 17, written in the wind

Wright Bros. flyer at Kittyhawk, first flight

Photo from Treasures of the Library of Congress; “First Flight” by John T. Daniels (d. 1948); this is a modern gelatin print from the glass negative.

Ten feet in altitude, 120 feet traveled, 12 seconds long. That was the first flight in a heavier-than-air machine achieved by Orville and Wilbur Wright of Dayton, Ohio, at Kittyhawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903.

From the Library of Congress:

On the morning of December 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright took turns piloting and monitoring their flying machine in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. Orville piloted the first flight that lasted just twelve seconds. On the fourth and final flight of the day, Wilbur traveled 852 feet, remaining airborne for 57 seconds. That morning the brothers became the first people to demonstrate sustained flight of a heavier-than-air machine under the complete control of the pilot.

No lost luggage, no coffee, no tea, no meal in a basket, either.

Resources on the Wright Brothers’ first flight:

Posted by: Ed Darrell | December 4, 2008

Dallas, Oak Cliff, Rome

Rome’s population at the time of Caesar Augustus was “about 1 million people.”

Dallas’s population was 1,188,580 people, living in 451,833 households, and 266,580 families residing in Dallas, inside the city limits.

The greater Oak Cliff area may have as many as 400,000 people.

Posted by: Ed Darrell | November 25, 2008

Henry Hudson’s Half Moon, asail again!

Cross posted from Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub, with permission.

New Yorkers, Vermonters and Candadians continue to celebrate 400 years since the explorations of Hudson and Champlain, and 200 years since Robert Fulton brought steam power to the Hudson’s commercial ways.

Tugster: A Waterblog features some nice shots, and a couple of stunning shots, of the reconstruction of Henry Hudson’s ship, Half Moon.  Great stuff for presentations, and he likes to share.

Tugster is an outstanding repository of images of tugboats, ships and other things related to the commerce of Greater New York Harbor, and boats on the water generally.  Tugster’s collection of images should be regular source material for teachers of history, economics, geography and government.

A Waterblog

Stern of Half Moon, Henry Hudson’s ship; from Tugster: A Waterblog

Notice how the figurehead frightens even the trees to blazing red.

A Waterblog

Bowsprite of Henry Hudson’s Half Moon, via Tugster: A Waterblog

Tugster tells us that Henry Hudson himself is blogging, channeling across 400 years — perhaps tired of duckpins with his crew in the Adirondacks (hello, Rip van Winkel!).  Can your students correspond with Henry Hudson?


Posted by: Ed Darrell | November 25, 2008

400 years of Hudson River history: Hudson, Champlain, and Fulton

Cross posted with permission from Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub.

Okay, it’s the 202nd anniversary of Robert Fulton’s historic, 32-hour steamboat trip from New York City to Albany, demonstrating the viability of steamboat travel for commerce on the Hudson.  But for such a historic river, why not delay that fete for a couple of years and roll it into the 400th anniversary of Champlain’s exploration of the lake that now bears his name, and Henry Hudson’s discover of the mouth of the river to the south, the Hudson, whose mouth is home to New York City.

400 years of Hudson River history in 2009 - Hudson, Champlain, Fulton

400 years of Hudson River history in 2009 - Hudson, Champlain, Fulton

And so 2009 marks the Quadricentennial Celebration on the Hudson, honoring Hudson, Fulton and Champlain.

Alas, the committee to coordinate the celebration along the length of the river was not put in place until February, so there is a scramble.  Local celebrations will proceed, but the overall effort may fall short of the 1909 tricentennial, with replicas of Hudson’s ship, Half Moon, and Champlain’s boats, and Fulton’s steamer, and parades, and festivals, and . . .

Still, the history is notable, and the stories worth telling.

Most of my students in U.S. and world history over the past five years have been almost completely unaware of any of these stories.  One kid was familiar with the Sons of Champlin, the rock band of Bill Champlin, because his father played the old vinyl records.  Most students know nothing of the lore of Hudson, the mutiny and the old Dutch stories that have thunder caused by Hudson and his loyal crewman bowling in the clouds over the Catskills.  They don’t even know the story of Rip van Winkle, since it’s not in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) list and so gets left out of even elementary school curricula.  Is this an essential piece of culture that American children should know?  American adults won’t know it, if we don’t teach it.

Henry Hudson, from a woodcut

Henry Hudson, from a woodcut

Explorations and settlement of Quebec by Samuel de Champlain get overlooked in post-NCLB texts.  Texts tend to make mention of the French settlement of Canada, but placing these explorations in the larger frame of the drive to find a route through or around North America to get to China, or the often-bitter contests between French, English, Spanish, Dutch and other European explorers and settlers gets lost.  French-speaking Cajuns just show up in histories of Texas and the Southwest, with little acknowledgment given to the once-great French holdings in North America, nor the incredible migration of French from Acadia to Louisiana that gives the State of Louisiana such a distinctive culture today.

French explorer and settler Samuel de Champlain

French explorer and settler Samuel de Champlain

Champlain’s explorations and settlement set up the conflict between England and France that would result in the French and Indian War in the U.S., and would not play out completely until after the Louisiana Purchase and War of 1812.

Fulton’s steamboat success ushered in the age of the modern, non-sail powered navies, and also highlights the role geography plays in the development of technology. The Hudson River is ideally suited for navigation from its mouth, north to present-day Albany.  This is such a distance over essentially calm waters that sail would have been preferred, except that the winds on the Hudson were not so reliable as ocean winds.  Steam solved the problem.  Few other rivers in America would have offered such an opportunity for commercial development — so the Hudson River helped drive the age of steam.

New York City remains an economic powerhouse.  New York Harbor remains one of the most active trading areas in the world.  Robert Fulton helped propel New York ahead of Charleston, Baltimore and Boston — a role in New York history that earned him a place in for New York in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall.  The steamboat monopoly Fulton helped establish was a key player in Gibbons v. Ogden, the landmark Supreme Court case in which the Court held that Congress has the power to regulate commerce between states — an upholding of the Commerce Clause against the old structures created under colonial rule and the Articles of Confederation.

Robert Fultons statute in the U.S. Capitol - photo by Robert Lienhard

Robert Fulton's statute in the U.S. Capitol - photo by Robert Lienhard

400 years of history along the Hudson, a river of great prominence in world history.  History teachers should watch those festivities for new sources of information, new ideas for classroom exercises.


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