October 13 marks the feast of the Translation of St. Edward the Confessor (which actually happened twice, in 1163 and 1269). In the latter of those years his mortal remains ended up in an elaborate tomb that you can’t normally see when you get into Westminster Abbey.
In other news about English saints, Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-90) was canonized today by Pope Francis in Rome, England’s first of the modern era. Below is a sculpture of Newman’s arms on the Newman Centre at the University of Toronto.
From the Charlotte Observer (hat tip: Judi Irvine):
19th-century shipwreck is suddenly turning up gold coins off South Carolina coast
A 180-year-old shipwreck popular with scuba divers is proving to be a trove of rare coins and artifacts for a salvage project launched 20 miles off the South Carolina coast.
Known to divers as “The Copper Pot,” the wreck is actually the Steamship North Carolina, which collided with another boat in 1840 with hundreds of gold coins stuffed in passengers’ steamer trunks.
The first of the newly found coins — “several” $5 gold pieces dating from the mid-1830s — were brought up in late September, along with 19th Century dinnerware and marble, according to Blue Water Ventures International based in Florida.
“I can’t believe what we’re finding,” Keith Webb, president of Blue Water Ventures, told McClatchy news group. “The coins look almost as if they were just minted and it’s blowing our minds. It’s because they were hidden by a large piece of copper and were not moved around in the sand by the current.”
Blue Water Ventures and its partner Endurance Exploration Group issued a report that contends “the aggregate loss in money was large” when the ship went down, and would today be valued in the tens of millions of dollars — mostly in gold coins. This includes one passenger who claimed he lost $15,000 in the incident.
However, Webb’s research suggests these won’t be the usual gold coins found on 19th Century shipwrecks. Many of the passengers were likely carrying coins from the newly commissioned U.S. Mint in Dahlonega, Georgia, which operated only 24 years.
Coins from the Dahlonega mint are rare and coveted by collectors and historians.
“Regardless of denomination, any high grade Dahlonega gold coin with a good strike… is a real treasure and based on past history has been a blue chip coin investment,” according to the DahlonegaGold.com.
The S.S. North Carolina was previously searched for treasure by an outfit called MAREX, which salvaged $700,000 worth of coins in the late 1990s. MAREX ceased working the site in part because the coins were difficult to salvage.
More at the link.
A student alerted me to something I did not know: the Etruscans, it is alleged, were phenotypically black. I had heard the claim that the Minoans were black, i.e. colonizers from Egypt, and thus the true progenitors of the Greeks. (The mainland Mycenaeans may have conquered the Cretan Minoans c. 1450 BC, but they retained much Minoan usage, thus did the Greeks steal everything from the Egyptians.) There is a similar Afrocentric theory about the Etruscans, who inhabited northern Italy in the first millennium BC and whose name survives as “Tuscany.” The Etruscans were hugely influential on early Rome (the toga and fasces, for instance, are both of Etruscan origin), before they were defeated and absorbed by Rome. Thus, like the Minoans, Etruscans may be considered the black antecedents to one of the wellsprings of Western Civilization.
According to the article, he Etruscans were:
descendants of refugees from the fallen city of Troy, led by the swarthy (dark-skinned) prince Aeneas after the city fell to the Greeks. Whether this legend is true or not, the pieces of evidence below clearly point that Rome was first owned by Blacks.
The statues and art of the Etruscans revealed them to be Africans – black people. History shows that they were a sensual and creative people. The city of Rome was originally known as Ra Ouma which means a ” place protected by Ra.”
This worship of Ra, undoubtedly by the Etruscans, means that they most likely had a spiritual, physical and cultural link to Kemet (kmt), ancient Egypt or Phoenicia. In archeology, findings show that two African peoples, the Sicani, and the Liburni occupied ancient Italy.
The Roman writer Virgil revealed that the Pelasgians, the Kemetians (Black people) who settled in southern Greece, also occupied the Palatine, one of the seven hills of Rome. The Romans later became a “Latin” people, and became a mixed race.
The author has one thing right: according to the most recent theories, the Etruscans did indeed have their origins in Asia Minor. But whether they were black is quite another story. Compare the images that appear at the bottom of the post (none of which is very well documented) to the images on the Wikipedia article on Etruscan art (none of which is particularly black).
UPDATE: Uncertain times for Etruscan Museum in Rome.
I was pleased to participate in the 34th international conference on medievalism this weekend at Georgia Tech. This conference was last held at Tech five years ago, right at the dawn of this blog. The Georgia Medievalists’ Group was a co-sponsor, and several GMG members participated, including your humble narrator (with a paper on the medievalism of the Gaelic Revival), Emory Law professor Sasha Volokh (who spoke about American rhetorical appeals to medieval law), and Reinhardt English professor Graham Johnson (who spoke about pragmatic speech in Game of Thrones).
Keith Kelly of Georgia Gwinnett College and Graham Johnson of Reinhardt University.
Medievalism is defined as the study of the “reception” of the Middle Ages in times after the Middle Ages, and it’s all around us. Medievalism-ists (for lack of a better word) uncover the medieval origins of things, and examine present-day appeals to the Middle Ages, for both noble and base reasons. I enjoyed the presentation of Ken Mondschein, who is an active member of the Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA), and who can fight while dressed in a full suit of plate armor.
HBO’s Game of Thrones television series was a very popular topic at this conference (six papers in total) – thus did I learn of the existence of a Bayeux-style Game of Thrones tapestry, currently on display at Bayeux.
Another popular topic was the Charlottesville rally in 2017 and the possibility that “white nationalists” and the “alt-right” are taking inspiration from the Middle Ages in Trump’s America, and what are we going to do about it? Personally, I think that the danger of these groups is wildly overstated – they might squawk on the Internet if you know where to look for them, but on the infrequent occasions when they gather in meatspace either no one shows up or they’re vastly outnumbered by counter-protesters. Furthermore, their medievalism is lightly worn – some of them employ medieval imagery (knights on horseback, Germanic paganism, etc.), but many more dress up in paramilitary uniforms straight out of the twentieth century – i.e. how “medieval” are they, really? In other words, I retain my opinion that academic Medieval Studies is not tainted at all by such usage, and we should stop worrying about it, as much as we enjoy thinking that we’re politically relevant, if only in a negative way.
Interesting commentary on the New York Times’s 1619 Project, from Wilfred McClay:
How The New York Times Is Distorting American History
‘The 1619 Project’ and its false and destructive narrative about this country
The New York Times seems to have made a grand splash with the August debut of its 1619 Project, which it unveiled to the world as an audacious effort to “reframe” all of American history as little more than the lengthened shadow of slavery. The title derives from the historical fact that 400 years ago, some 20 Africans were dropped off by (probably) a British privateer at Jamestown, Virginia—the first such individuals to appear in the British mainland North American colonies.
The first effort in what is promised as an ongoing 1619 endeavor throughout the paper was a 100-page issue of the Sunday Magazine, devoted entirely (except for the oddly jarring inclusion of the Times crossword and other puzzles) to a series of short articles of varying length and genre. They ranged from highly compressed historical arguments to poems and other literary or memoiristic pieces, all of which are in some way devoted to the idea that slavery “and the anti-black racism it required” constitute the true foundation of American history. “Out of slavery,” declare the introductory remarks, “grew nearly everything that has truly made America exceptional: its economic might, its industrial power, its electoral system,” and so on, down to the nation’s propensity for violence and its “endemic racial fears and hatreds.” The Project is therefore dedicated to “considering” the proposition that 1619, rather than 1776, should be regarded as “our nation’s birth year.”
The language is both sweepingly hyperbolic and coy, since it leaves open the possibility that all that is being suggested here is merely a “what if” thought experiment. Hence it is frankly difficult to know how seriously we should take such vast declarations, or the 1619 Project as a whole. It is not even clear what such a proposition could possibly mean.
Does it put forward the hypothesis that the introduction of these 20 individuals—who many scholars argue must have been indentured servants rather than slaves, since there was no provision for chattel slavery in the English common law—is to be taken to represent the nation’s real beginning, and thereby to supersede the French and Indian War, the Revolutionary War, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution, among many other conventional items, in understanding and accounting for the nation’s creation?
Does it mean that the existence of those elements we associate with American exceptionalism, such as individualism, political democracy, constitutional liberty, economic freedom, egalitarianism, inventiveness, and so on, are somehow to be attributable to slavery? Surely not, but then what could such statements mean?
Perhaps they are best understood as flights of fancy. But it would not be overly cynical to suspect that they are better understood as part of the Times’ journalistic battlefield preparation for the 2020 election. That interpretation is given fairly incontrovertible support by a revealing leaked transcript of a recent meeting between Times executive editor Dean Baquet and his staff writers, in which it becomes clear that some Times reporters are itching to inject the theme of America’s endemic racism into virtually all of the Times’ reporting, as a way of tilting public opinion toward whichever candidate the Democratic Party ends up nominating—and that Baquet is not the least bit inclined to resist his staff’s desires.
Read the whole thing.
From Ars Technica (hat tip: Richard Utz):
Viking berserkers may have used henbane to induce trance-like state
Ethnobotanist argues the plant is a better fit than hallucinogenic mushrooms.
The legendary Viking warriors known as berserkers were renowned for their ferocity in battle, purportedly fighting in a trance-like state of blind rage (berserkergang), howling like wild animals, biting their shields, and often unable to distinguish between friend and foe in the heat of battle. But historians know very little about the berserkers apart from scattered Old Norse myths and epic sagas. One intriguing hypothesis as to the source of their behavior is that the berserkers ingested a specific kind of mushroom with psychoactive properties. Now an ethnobotanist is challenging that hypothesis, suggesting in a recent paper in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology that henbane is a more likely candidate.
Accounts of the berserkers date back to a late ninth-century poem to honor King Harald Fairhair. The 13th-century Icelandic historian/poet Snorri Sturluson described Odin’s berserkers as being “mad as dogs or wolves” and “strong as bears or wild oxen,” killing people with a single blow. Specific attributes can vary widely among the accounts, often veering into magic or mysticism. There are claims that berserkers were not affected by edged weapons or fire, but they could be killed with clubs. Other claims say they could blunt the blades of their enemies with spells or just by giving them the evil eye. Most accounts at least agree on the primary defining characteristic: a blind ferocious rage.
The onset of berserkergang purportedly began with bodily chills, shivering, and teeth chattering, followed by swelling and reddening of the face. Then the rage broke out, and once it abated, the berserker would experience both physical fatigue and emotional numbness for a few days. Several hypotheses have been proposed for why the warriors would have behaved this way, including self-induced hysteria—aided by biting their shields and howling—epilepsy, ergot poisoning, or mental illness. One of the more hotly contested hypotheses is that the berserkers ingested a hallucinogenic mushroom (Amanita muscaria), commonly known as fly agaric, just before battle to induce their trance-like state.
Read the whole thing.
Adjunct professor of history Clay Anderson has published his first book, a novel entitled The Palms.
Sixty-eight-year-old Ronnie Wells has recently been paroled for a murder he committed thirty-six years before. He lives in a run-down trailer park outside Pensacola, Florida, and busies himself by maintaining his trailer—it’s the nicest in the park—and never being late for work. Daily life for Ronnie changes when he befriends Mary, the seven-year-old girl who lives next door with her mother, Clara, a drug-addicted prostitute. The Palms weaves the stories and points-of-view of Ronnie, Clara, and Mary as they form a blended family and try to build a new existence. In Mary, Ronnie finds the daughter he never got to raise.
From Chronicle Vitae (hat tip: Richard Utz):
How Not to Be a Jackass at Your Next Academic Conference
If you’ve spent any time at an academic conference, you know the scene: A stage full of scholars have just finished presenting their papers. As the Q&A session begins, a woman rises from the audience and prefaces her remarks by saying, in so many words, that she hadn’t been invited to appear on the panel. But here, anyway, are the highlights of her paper—and her credentials and biography, too.
Or maybe a senior professor speaks up. He barks at a graduate student on the panel, embarrassing the student by ripping his paper to pieces. Another professor steps forward and asks the panelists a series of multipart questions she already seems to know the answers to.
Perhaps a guy raises his hand to comment and quotes verbatim from Jürgen Habermas’s The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. Or he decides to show off his French by citing Frantz Fanon’s manifesto Les Damnés de la Terre, when he could have kept it simple by using the English title, The Wretched of the Earth.
Some of these moments may be byproducts of social awkwardness; others are signs of bad manners. Some might not even bother you. But they’re all fairly common. I witnessed several of them earlier this month—including the Habermas and Fanon name-checks—at the American Historical Association meeting.
Why do so many academics risk coming off like jackasses at conference Q&A sessions? Some scholars say it’s because those sessions are more about pageantry than conversation: Showing other scholars how much you know is often more important than actually listening and learning.
There’s another reason, too: Developing good conference manners—and social skills in general—just isn’t part of graduate school training. I gathered a list of behaviors, both comical and aggravating, from a few dozen academics. As I read through them, I wondered: What would Emily Post, the famous etiquette author, do?
I decided to call up someone who would know. Emily Post’s great-great granddaughter, Anna Post, keeps the flame alive, conducting business-etiquette seminars across the country as an etiquette guru at the Emily Post Institute. She carved out some time to chat with me about academic disorders and how to cure them.
Click the link to read some excellent advice.
Was very pleased to attend a Reinhardt community gathering last evening in Flint Hall entitled “Congressional Leadership and Action in a Time of Polarization,” sponsored by the Congress to Campus program of the Stennis Center for Public Service.
We were privileged to hear two former congressmen, Dan Miller (R-FL) and David Minge (D-MN) speak of their service and sausage-making. Reinhardt history professor Ken Wheeler served as host.
From History Extra (hat tip: Richard Utz):
True-to-scale battle numbers and 15th-century life: look inside the revamped Agincourt museum
As a renewed Agincourt museum is set to open near the site of the pivotal Hundred Years’ War battle between English and French armies, History Extra spoke to Professor Anne Curry about the historical facts that drive the new attraction.
It’s one of English history’s most celebrated victories, a battle in which Henry V’s invading force toppled a numerically superior French army near Agincourt. With the help of Shakespeare and company, this triumph of the Hundred Years’ War has come to represent an ultimate battle against the odds.
The scale of the military upset is just one of the myths that will be redressed for visitors to the revamped ‘Azincourt 1415’ which opens on 17 September at the Centre Historique Médiéval in Azincourt in north-east France.
Professor Anne Curry of the University of Southampton, whose work focuses on the records for the English and French armies in 1415 at the battle, explains how when the museum first opened in 2001 it held to an “old-fashioned interpretation” that Henry V’s forces were outnumbered by as many as five to one. Professor Curry has worked with the Centre on the new exhibition.
“There had been a tendency to use printed works of the 16th century rather than returning to the sources that for the period itself, such as financial records of the Crown on both sides of the channel, or royal orders,” says Curry. Such sources can show us that Henry V set out with 12,000 paid soldiers, yet when counting the losses documented through sick lists and also the garrison left to defend the French port of Harfleur, the actual number of men available to Henry V for battle is closer to 8,500. French forces would have numbered around 12,000.
More at the link.