Curt Lindquist is Retiring from Reinhardt

Curt Lindquist and his extensive office door cartoon collection.

When I arrived at Reinhardt in 2004, religion professor Curt Lindquist was serving as dean of the School of Arts and Humanities, and was very welcoming and supportive of me. I was especially pleased that he accepted me as a member of the Fulbright-Hays seminar that he organized, “Examining China’s Great Western Development Program: the Social and Cultural Effects upon Ethnic Minorities and the Han Majority” – a topic that remains relevant.

Peg Morlier, Curt Lindquist, and Al Carson.

Ken Wheeler organized a get-together for Curt this Tuesday in the Lawson-Tarpley atrium, when people shared their memories of his time here.

I have enjoyed Curt’s presence across the hall these many years and am sad that he will no longer be teaching at Reinhardt. But I wish him and Mary all the best in the years to come.

Alumni News

Very pleased to have received a visit this afternoon from history major Lara Bowen ’09. Lara is in her fifth year of teaching at Sequoyah High School and now serves as social studies department head. She enjoys her classes on World History and especially AP Human Geography – and she credits her Reinhardt education with her success.

Stonehenge

The most recent discovery about Stonehenge. From the National Post:

Stonehenge bluestones were dragged 240 km over land from quarry in Wales, study finds

‘You could actually see the hole left from where the stone pillar had been removed. Just amazing’

Stonehenge: one of the wonders of the ancient world, but also the elusive megalith that leaves scientists and people ruminating on its purpose. Discoveries by a team of archeologists and geologists suggest the transportation of the bluestones from the Preseli hills in Wales to Stonehenge in England was an effort to unify tribes of prehistoric Britain.

In the team’s excavations, they pinpointed the exact origins of the bluestones that line the inner and outer perimeter of the sarsen trilithons — the tall, three-stoned structure that people usually envision when thinking of Stonehenge.

The location of the quarries, where the bluestones originate, now nullifies a pre-existing theory that suggested they were transported by sea from Milford Haven to the Salisbury Plains. Nearly 5,000 years ago, the Neolithic humans dragged the bluestones 240 km over land, according to the study published in Antiquity.

More at the link.

Anne Good and Madeline Gray ’18

On February 14, Associate Professor of History Anne Good and alumna Madeline Gray ’18 presented their research on “Mrs. Knight’s Receipt Book, 1740,” at the February Community Gathering. The Center for Engaged Teaching and Learning funded a trip to the Folger Shakespeare Library in November, where they examined Mrs. Knight’s book in person. It contained more than recipes for food – humorism was alive and well in the eighteenth century, and many home remedies based on this theory were also included. Attendees, however, were treated to gingerbread treats made according to the book.

“Medieval”

Eric Weiskott in Vox:

Last month, Dana Milbank wrote for the Washington Post that President Trump’s proposed wall along the Mexico–US border was “medieval.” “It’s true,” Trump responded later the same day, “because [a wall] worked then and it works even better now.” CNN’s Jake Tapper mocked Trump’s response on his newscast with a cartoon depicting the president as a medieval European king.

Take it from a professor of medieval literature: calling things you don’t like ‘medieval’ is inaccurate and unhelpful. It’s inaccurate, because we don’t live in the Middle Ages. The things that most anger, disgust, or offend us are relatively new in the grand scheme of history. And it’s unhelpful, because the ‘medieval’ label reinforces our overconfidence in ourselves and our modernity. That attitude goes all the way back to the Enlightenment in the 18th century. Not coincidentally, the Enlightenment is the movement that cemented the idea of the Middle Ages as a distinctive—and distinctly regrettable—period of European history, spanning roughly the 5th to the 15th centuries.

It’s not just Trump’s wall. ‘Medieval’ is often used to describe something cruel and archaic, a nod to a dark age that precedes the modern era. In December, the satirical website The Daily Mash ran a story with the headline, “‘No deal’ Brexit plan suspiciously similar to Middle Ages.” During the second 2016 presidential debate, while deflecting a question about the Access Hollywood tape, in which he can be heard boasting of sexually assaulting women, Trump described “a world where you have ISIS chopping off heads” as “like medieval times.” In Pulp Fiction, Marsellus Wallace famously threatens his rapist, Zed, “I’ma get medieval on your ass,” evoking the Middle Ages’ unearned reputation for creative torture. The threat is supposed to promise Zed a fate worse than death. Wallace mentions “a pair of pliers and a blowtorch.”

Quite right! Blowtorches were not medieval instruments. Read the whole thing.

Board Games

From the Public Domain Review:

Ten thousand years ago, in the Neolithic period, before human beings began making pottery, we were playing games on flat stone boards drilled with two or more rows of holes. By the Early Dynastic Period in Ancient Egypt, three millennia later, board games were already represented in hieroglyphs. And on the wall of Nefertari’s tomb, built in the twelfth or thirteenth century BCE, someone painted the queen playing Senet, one of three Ancient Egyptian board games whose pieces have come down to us, along with Mehen and Hounds and Jackals.

The ancient Greeks, for their part, had Tabula, an ancestor of backgammon; the Romans added Latrones, an ancestor of chess. All across the ancient Near East, people played the Game of Twenty Squares, while in ancient China they played Liubo and in ancient India Moksha Patam, which was rechristened Snakes and Ladders when colonials imported it to Britain in the Victorian era. Wherever there has been civilization, strange to say, there have been games played on boards.

Until about the seventeenth century, these games tended to be traditional folk inventions that could not be traced back to a maker. Their boards were also relatively abstract, consisting of squares, triangles, spirals, or holes. With the advent of the Enlightenment and the rise of capitalism, however, the board games of Europe — like so much else on the continent — began to change. By the end of the eighteenth century, games were being produced for the marketplace promoting everything from ferry rides to colonial conquest. To appeal to consumers (a category of persons that had not previously existed), these games were made to be played on boards printed with pictures that represented specific places, people, and things. The artists who designed them strove to attract the public eye and capture the public imagination, appealing to the modern craving for what Walter Benjamin would call “novelty and shock”.

Read the whole thing.

Phi Alpha Theta, 2019

L-R: Levi Cochran, Guest Speaker Dr. Richard Utz, Zoe Roberts, Madelyn Montgomery, Abigail Merchant, Dr. Jonathan Good, Aliyah Reeves, Josh Carver, Luke Hayes, Grant Ashton, McKayla Parmele, Jessie Fanczi, Madison Little. Photo: Jordan Beach.

Very pleased to have been able to induct no fewer than twelve new members of Reinhardt’s chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, the honor society for students of history:

Grant Ashton
Josh Carver
Levi Cochran
Jessie Fanczi
Luke Hayes
Madison Little
Abigail Merchant
Carlos Molina

Madelyn Montgomery
McKayla Parmele
Aliyah Reeves
Zoe Roberts

The ceremony took place on Thursday, February 21, 2019 in the Glass House. Our guest speaker was Richard Utz of Georgia Tech, whose talk was entitled “What About Those Middle Ages?” The Middle Ages are always popular in certain circles, and people refer to them for reasons that we can call good (Anglo-American law and government, the university, or ideas of chivalry and romantic love) but also for reasons we find bad (nationalism and crusading). It is up to historians to “choose the right,” in this case – especially through public outreach, like editing Wikipedia, which is far more influential than any professional scholarly publication.

Congratulations to all our new members! And heartfelt thanks to President Mallard and Provost Roberts for their support.

Imbros and Tenedos

The Aegean Sea, with the islands of Imbros (to the north) and Tenedos both circled. Google Maps.

A Wikipedia discovery: since 1970 the Aegean islands Imbros and Tenedos have officially been designated Gökçeada and Bozcaada. As that change might indicate, these islands, which lie just outside the entrance to the Hellespont, are in the hands of the Republic of Turkey; all of the other Aegean islands are Greek, as they were in ancient times. Imbros and Tenedos were acquired by the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), which recognized the Republic of Turkey and set the stage for population transfer between Greece and Turkey. These islands, though, were to be spared this fate; the predominantly Greek population was to be granted a semi-autonomous status within Turkey.

But this did not come to pass. The most recent population statistics for Imbros: 8662, of whom 318 were Greek, and for Tenedos: 2,472, of whom 22 were Greek. These numbers were achieved over the course of the twentieth century in the customary way: by outlawing the teaching of Greek and by closing Greek schools, by appropriating Greek property, and by otherwise making life difficult for Greeks so that they emigrate (for good – they’re not allowed to return), and by settling Turks in their place.

I quite liked my time in Turkey. The country seems orderly and its people civilized. But this sort of behavior, which is by no means the only example of Turkish nationalism at work, is repellant – and even worse than what the Israelis get up to on the West Bank, which is supposedly the epitome of oppression, according to certain friends of mine. Why is the plight of the Greeks, Kurds, and Armenians of Turkey not an international cause célèbre on the Palestinian level?

This is the End

From the BBC (hat tip: Ron Good), a spine-tingling article on civilizational collapse:

While there is no single accepted theory for why collapses happen, historians, anthropologists and others have proposed various explanations, including:

CLIMATIC CHANGE: When climatic stability changes, the results can be disastrous, resulting in crop failure, starvation and desertification. The collapse of the Anasazi, the Tiwanaku civilisation, the Akkadians, the Mayan, the Roman Empire, and many others have all coincided with abrupt climatic changes, usually droughts.

ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION: Collapse can occur when societies overshoot the carrying capacity of their environment. This ecological collapse theory, which has been the subject of bestselling books, points to excessive deforestation, water pollution, soil degradation and the loss of biodiversity as precipitating causes.

INEQUALITY AND OLIGARCHY: Wealth and political inequality can be central drivers of social disintegration, as can oligarchy and centralisation of power among leaders. This not only causes social distress, but handicaps a society’s ability to respond to ecological, social and economic problems.

The field of cliodynamics models how factors such as equality and demography correlate with political violence. Statistical analysis of previous societies suggests that this happens in cycles. As population increases, the supply of labour outstrips demand, workers become cheap and society becomes top-heavy. This inequality undermines collective solidarity and political turbulence follows.

COMPLEXITY: Collapse expert and historian Joseph Tainter has proposed that societies eventually collapse under the weight of their own accumulated complexity and bureaucracy. Societies are problem-solving collectives that grow in complexity in order to overcome new issues. However, the returns from complexity eventually reach a point of diminishing returns. After this point, collapse will eventually ensue.

Another measure of increasing complexity is called Energy Return on Investment (EROI). This refers to the ratio between the amount of energy produced by a resource relative to the energy needed to obtain it. Like complexity, EROI appears to have a point of diminishing returns. In his book The Upside of Down, the political scientist Thomas Homer-Dixon observed that environmental degradation throughout the Roman Empire led to falling EROI from their staple energy source: crops of wheat and alfalfa. The empire fell alongside their EROI. Tainter also blames it as a chief culprit of collapse, including for the Mayan.

EXTERNAL SHOCKS: In other words, the “four horsemen”: war, natural disasters, famine and plagues. The Aztec Empire, for example, was brought to an end by Spanish invaders. Most early agrarian states were fleeting due to deadly epidemics. The concentration of humans and cattle in walled settlements with poor hygiene made disease outbreaks unavoidable and catastrophic. Sometimes disasters combined, as was the case with the Spanish introducing salmonella to the Americas.

RANDOMNESS/BAD LUCK: Statistical analysis on empiressuggests that collapse is random and independent of age. Evolutionary biologist and data scientist Indre Zliobaite and her colleagues have observed a similar pattern in the evolutionary record of species. A common explanation of this apparent randomness is the “Red Queen Effect”: if species are constantly fighting for survival in a changing environment with numerous competitors, extinction is a consistent possibility.

More at the link.

1989

First Things looks back on the year that Communism died, thirty years ago now:

It was like a graduation party. So says the historian Philipp Ther, who joined the protests in Prague’s Wenceslas Square during those momentous days of November 1989. “We had passed the test,” Ther writes. “The old authorities had no more to say; the world was our oyster. It seemed as if anything was possible.” In their memories of communism’s collapse, the revolutionaries of 1989 often describe the joy and relief, the instant brotherhood, the feeling of riding the wave of history.

Naturally, it didn’t last. In Berlin, where Ther travelled soon after, elation was followed by resentment, with West Germans muttering about the Easterners cramming the roads and emptying the supermarket shelves. Across Europe, meanwhile, the messiness of post-communist politics “engendered disenchantment and cynicism.”

Disillusionment is the usual sequel to political victory, but 1989 especially seems like a revolution with a hole in it. The evil of communism is beyond words—the mass graves it filled, the lies it spread through the world—and we ought to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of its defeat. It is more difficult to say what actually did the defeating.

Read the whole thing.