A Generation With No Past

Most of humanity’s earliest stories are designed to explain “where do we come from?” and “How did we get here?”

Whether creation was from the slaying of Tiamat by the hero Marduk, or the more mannered tales of titans and wars with gods of the classic mythologies, stories were told children to explain “How did we get to where we are now?”  Because answering that question inevitably answers at least in part “what are we here for?” and “What is the meaning of life.”

The fun part about the top down societal engineering of the 20th century, a think that had never been attempted in that scale in the past (well, not in the west, though there were attempts, like those of Louis XIV and the Marques de Pombal in Portugal and I’m sure others) is that they knew this would have to be answered.  Humans like to know where they came from and where they’re going.  And the Marxists perfected a way to do this that answered the questions but was worse than no answer.  (The Nazis probably did too, but their influence over education didn’t last long enough to educate several generations.)

On the above keep in mind I said “in that scale.”  Just about every kind tried to do it, and there was a serious rewrite of history associated with events like Henry VIII’s break from Rome.

None of those attempts were as total or as successful as the 20th century ones, due to several things.  The first was that nations hadn’t had their spirits broken as thoroughly as WWI broke them, so people weren’t willing to lend credence to things spouted from on high with that much eagerness, and things leaked through.  HOWEVER the most important thing that the twentieth century had in hand to try to remake culture was this: public education, mass media, mass news reporting.

Did it succeed?  No.  The only result of trying to mold human beings into the utopian version of the man who would live happily under communism was 100 million graves, and an Europe that is dying of senescence and lack of reproduction.

However it succeeded brilliantly in not only separating, now, I suppose two or three generations from their roots, but also convincing them that they are superior to their actual learned ancestors, and somehow, yet, the product of the worst civilization of human history.

Western culture is dying of WWI partly because the “cure” imposed by state education apparatus, corrupted by Soviet agit prop and continued by “intellectuals” who know nothing except that they’re superior to everyone else, more enlightened, kinder, and that they should design society and the world to “improve” it.

The trick to this is not only to give them a fake history.  Every tinpot dictator does that.  The trick is to give them a fake history starting in kindergarten, that is painted in primary hues and comic-book complexity.  There are good guys (the oligarchs who would design society to be more fair) and bad guys (usually capitalists and greedy, they want to “exploit” everyone, which only works if you believe in fixed pie economics and that everyone gets a share at birth, an economic idea so stupid you have to be indoctrinated from birth to believe it.)  And everything is explained by “laws” and top down action.  Though this history talks about mass movements, and “the people” they don’t actually take THE PEOPLE into account, not with any depth and complexity.  The people in this narrative, the entire culture, in fact, is moldable, like butter to the sculpting knife of the powerful.

Societies don’t work that way.  Culture doesn’t work that way.  In fact culture is so persistent, so stubborn, it leads people to think it’s genetic.  (It’s not.  A baby taken at birth to another culture will not behave as his culture of origin.)  It changes, sure, through invasions and take overs, but so slowly that bits of older cultures and ideas stay embedded in the new culture.  It has been noted that the communist rulers of Russia partook a good bit of the tzarist regime, because the culture of the people was the same and that came through.  (They just dialed up the atrocities and lowered the functionality because their ideology was dysfunctional.  They blame their failure on Russia itself, but considering how communism does around the world, I’ll say to the extent countries survive it’s because of the underlying culture.)

Yesterday the critter in the comments who tried to educate us all in Marxist dialectic which for reasons known only to his psychiatrist he kept calling Aristotelian logic, was a case in point of someone raised on this comic book history.

He said something so bizarrely stupid in one of his early comments that though he read it, my mind refused to absorb it.  It wasn’t till my husband laughed aloud and read me what he said that I PROCESSED it.

He said Iberian culture, when it pertains to relations between the sexes, was changed in the 20th century “by Franco and Salazar.”

Keep in mind, this is said by a guy (man is a stretch considering he was raised with a gold spoon in his mouth and then married up, so he has never had to grow up) who was raised in Spain.

I don’t even know what he means by “was changed.”  I presume he thinks before that Iberian culture was …. egalitarian?  Matriarchal?  I’m sure he was taught some nonsense like that.

The thing is…. how can he believe that?

I grew up reading books written by Portuguese authors in the eighteenth and nineteenth century (some Spanish authors, too.  I mean, one has to read.)  I had a good relationship with my grandparents.  I read old family letters.  Surely these experiences aren’t blocked to most human beings, right?

The picture those paint is that, yeah, relations between the sexes in the peninsula did change under Salazar and Franco.  (No credit to them, though.  The change had been in progress for a while.) Women started being treated more like human beings; girls had an age of majority same as boys, and if the police still picked up your unmarried 30 year old daughter for running away from home, it was cultural habit in CONTRAVENTION of the law.  Culture changed a bit too.  I wasn’t considered a loose woman for looking out the window now and then, which I understand was a problem for my grandmother.  Sure, until the seventies married women still needed their husband’s permission to work…  I don’t know if that was a new law in the twentieth century, but the culture I saw up close and personal, it didn’t matter, since there wasn’t a chance of a woman working without her father’s/husband’s permission before.

Portugal is a very old culture.  Celts and Carthaginians, Greeks and Romans, Germanic tribes, Moors, French and British all influenced it, but in the end enough of the people remain to carry the culture.  To the extent that the present dispensation is imposing a narrative from above, and is total enough to push it, what it’s doing is what happens in occupied countries, where the enemy above provides a narrative: killing it.  There are o babies being born, certainly not enough to carry the country.  The resourceful young people are moving away.  If it weren’t for prolonged life spans, the place would be half deserted, because the elite above is trying to control every aspect of the culture.

And they do it, because their initial “why” questions were answered with comic book history and comic book logic, and they bought it.  Worse, because they were indoctrinated in this, they have no clue there’s something they don’t know and don’t understand.

They disdain the stories of their grandparents, old books, family letters, because why would they expose themselves to the unenlightened.

And then they try to act, as though the nonsense they were taught was true.

“A generation that doesn’t know history has no past, and no future.” – Robert A. Heinlein.

I’ll add it’s no better for a generation that knows only a fake, simplified, sketch of history.

It might be worse.















324 thoughts on “A Generation With No Past

    1. First off, that’s the answer to Life, The Universe, and Everything.

      And according to S.M. Stirling in the Man-Kzin wars story The Children’s Hour (later worked into a full novel), it’s 43, not 42. 😉

      1. To be pedantic, it’s the answer to The Ultimate Question About Life, The Universe, and Everything. 😉

        1. But what’s the question? I’ve got a couple of white mice here who are reeallly interested in finding that out.

        1. It’s written by a man who found his faith while interned in a concentration camp, and not in the vague “I must believe in something to counterbalance this horror.” He firmly believes that every person has choices even in the most dire of circumstances, even the simple choice to dedicate your energy towards living or towards dying.

  1. The grandparents, and great grandparents, of nazis invented public schools where number one lesson taught/learned is you have to obey authority no matter how much of a numpty they are.

    I loathed public school when I attended forty years ago and those old feelings of hatred have reignited now that I have to interact with my niece and nephew’s teachers on the regular.

    1. I found I learned the most when regimented the least. And thus I see Twain’s, and your, point. And there is the “We go by what the book says” even when presented with evidence that the book is wrong.

      1. I find public education system deeply cynical, sitting in airless room with a bunch of random other people, while listening to someone drone on and on like Charlie Brown’s teacher is not remotely best learning environment.

        Sitting and listening is too passive, people learn better when they are actually doing something themself.

    2. I liked HAVING acquired an education, at all levels, once I had. I tolerated most of school and despised a small sub-section.

      Once component of the Public Education imposition that few people talk about is the mantra ‘Learning should be fun!’. This is eyewash. It reconciles would-be teachers to playtime instead of lessons.

      HAVING learned is fun. It gives you greater control and understanding of your world. GETTING educated, on any useful level, involves a good deal of grind-work. And there really isn’t much getting out of it, no matter what Progressive Educationists say.

      Which is why I think we should examine why they say it.

      1. actually the “learning should be fun” has undermined learning in almost all fields. Let alone that you need a certain amount of rote learning in practically ANYTHING, memory is a muscle. You don’t use it for silly, you don’t have the ability to us it for important things.
        Apparently the teaching kids poetry thing in early years was sound.

        1. One of the worst lessons you can teach kids is that everything should be fun. It’s just a fact of life that some things are boring, and you need to deal with the boring stuff as well as the fun stuff. I’ve seen far too many people with the attitude, “If I don’t enjoy it, I shouldn’t have to do it.”

          1. Heh. As I noted elsewhere this thread, I learned to adopt the attitude, “If I have to do it, I might as well enjoy it.”

            Enjoying an activity is often a choice.

        2. There are some things where there are useful games to learn stuff– it’s like the difference between playing basketball and just running up and down the gym.

          You still have to do the actual WORK, and not everything can be taught that way, nor should it.

        3. Learning to memorize young saved me in ways I still can’t accurately quantify. In my college years I figured out I had some sort of leaning disability, so I went in and got tested. Turns out I have almost no short-term memory, but I’d gotten around that by shoving everything into long-term (ie memorized). I’d gotten so good at it that it wasn’t until college that I had to start doing it intentionally instead of instinctively.

          When we fail to give kids the tools and skills they need to progress we hamper and hobble them, intellectually and emotionally.

          1. WordPress delenda est… Ate my reply again. Trying for the second time:

            Reminds me of the old saw about memory and wisdom. You don’t get the latter if you lack the former. I was long taught that memorization was the basis of *all* learning. Without having the basic tools at hand, actually applying those tools and using them to understand the whole system is next to impossible.

            With language, you memorize words first. With mathematics, it’s formulae. Once you have the simple stuff like multiplication tables down, you can move to other stuff, like order of operations. The same with plumbing, mechanics, and electricity- you need the basic building blocks before you can actually do much.

            The current government education system would be considered an act of war, had it been imposed on us form the outside (I’ve heard it said). Without training those kids at home, they will likely never get those basic skills (memorization, how to research- and how to judge the value of a source- and logic) that are more or less “how to learn things.”

            I’ve also got next to no short term memory. If I need to remember to buy soap after work, I either have to write myself a note, or repeat it in my head until it sticks. Heck, I have set down tools and completely lost them in 15 seconds before. *chuckle* Tends to underscore how important memory is when yours doesn’t work right.

        4. I think, from my reading, that the nitwit(s) who came up with the notion believed it. And their experimental schools seemed to bear them out. What they missed was that all such schools are a self-selecting sample; anyone going to one had parents deeply interested in education. They were GOING to get taught, one way or another.

          The Public Schools are another matter. It’s all very well to say we should get the best and brightest to teach our children, but the best and brightest frequently have something they would rather be doing. Public schools are, for the most part, going to be taught by drudges.

          Now, I also think the Progressive Left saw what was happening with this, and used it to their political ends.

          1. And after this long, the system set up to create public school teachers weeds out a lot of the Best and Brightest (the real ones, not the Kennedy Era ones) who have no desire to put up with the academic follies, and then be assigned to the most problematic schools for their first few years. There are good public school teachers, but they seem to do well despite a lot of the system instead of because of the system.

            What’s crazy is you have to have an Ed. degree or the equivalent to be teacher certified in most states. But to teach at a university or college? Have a MA and they turn you loose as a TA, with moderate to exceedingly limited supervision. *facepaw*

            1. Ye squirrels an little fishes, yes. And if the university prof is too drunk to show up for class eight weeks straight, you end up with students who think *you* are the prof… *shakes head* The more I see of the dark side of education, the more I can begin to understand why the Doc drank so much.

              Thankfully, the resources for *self* education out there are so much better these days, the ones who *want* to learn aren’t completely stifled. It’s a separator. They all get the same degree, mind, but the ones who know their stuff are the ones who get jobs in their field. The others, well, there’s a reason coming home from college to live in mom’s basement is a cliché nowadays.

              1. No, but the instructor for 300–level cinematography course can not show up with no notice to the students, have his TA take attendance and tell us we can go unless we can think of something else and I end up teaching the class how to light a greenscreen.

        5. memory is a muscle.

          I used to while away idle minutes by doing the newspaper crossword. I got to the point where I would challenge myself to solve it by only filling in the verticals or only doing the horizontals, holding the other set of answers in memory until they were the only spaces remaining. Or I would pick a section of the puzzle and write in nothing until I had solved for all words in that section.

          Working the memory muscle can be fun.

      2. Is our children learning at public schools, tho?

        I am Canadian who knows about my province education system and modern education theorists trained in social sciences have taken over curriculum.

        In 1970s, and prior to that, 97% of Canadians were considered literate, while 95% were considered numerate when they finished high school. Fast forward to the 2000s, 80% of students are literate and 75% are numerate when they finish school while Ontario teachers are paid some of the highest salaries in public or private spheres.

        And I agree entirely about fun aspect – lots of public schools have introduced ‘discovery math’, like learning math is just like going on an adventure to look for pirate treasure.

        1. Hell, my Grandfather graduated from Public School knowing math through Differential Calculus, and able to read and speak (in addition to English) French and Latin. He would consider me to be semi-literate at best.

      3. It was only when I discovered the trick of “taking joy in learning” that I became really successful* at academia. But it was a conscious decision I made, having rationalized I was investing too much time and money to not take pleasure in my education.

        That’s the key point: it is up to the student to find the fun in learning. Bad teachers can make it more difficult but no teacher is good enough to make learning fun for everyone as there will always be somebody determined to not enjoy the process.

        Properly approached there are a great many pleasures to earning, many small achievements which can be gratifying. But the “fun” must be generated by the student (although it helps if the teacher doesn’t present the material with an attitude laden with resentment and hostility.)

        *for certain values of successful. With two Bachelor’s degrees I cum lauded all over the place, first magma and later summa.

  2. “That’s before my time.” is a reply I hear more and more and far too much. There’s plenty before my time, but I have at least some dim awareness of it. Recently I was surprised that someone thought I was much older than I am (it’s usually assumed I am slightly younger than the chronology – or has been). This was in-person, mind you. In text.. well, almost any conclusion is possible.

    “Before my time.” so… no historical interest, or not much? I know history can be made dull (too many teachers achieve this) but I recall that I actually read a fair number of “histories” but they were biographies of scientists and inventors, or histories of a science or technology. Political history was not of much interest until later… and then it more confusing than informative.

    1. Political history has been made dull. It takes work, but it can be done if one tries hard enough. I really do not like studying political history, because trying to find a readable, engaging book about it… ugh.

      1. All of history has been made dull.
        Otherwise, citizens might take an interest and start asking uncomfortable questions.

        It’s gotten to the point that conspiracy theories about the teaching of history are the choice Occam’s Razor demands.

        Unfortunately, the “history is dull and worthless” is imprinted to such an extent that even when you show people that they were actively misled, they generally shrug and say it doesn’t matter anyway.

        1. EVERYTHING has been made dull, and history is far more interesting than the dusty sleeping pill it’s been made out to be.

          The World History teacher I had in college managed to strip any interest from his syllabus, and was one of those “Dates and places and NAMES” ‘historians’. The other histories I was taking up at the time were far more interesting, because the teachers for those had a gift for bringing the times being discussed alive so we understood the context of the era. And because we understood, that’s how learning about it became fun (as opposed to fun being the end goal for the teacher.)

          1. My World History (to 1650) professor told us that dates were less important than knowing the order things happened in. Dates could be looked up, but if you didn’t know Hastings was after Stamford Bridge the looking up would be much harder

              1. It’s one reason I like Larry Gonick’s Cartoon History of the Universe series. (I haven’t read the Cartoon History of Modern Times follow-up; I’ve heard that he lets his biases show more strongly there and that they’re less interesting.) Gonick does a lot of juxtaposition more than dates, so you can see how events interact.

                I also need to look up the old show Connections, which is also more about how things interacted and less about the dates.

                1. Well, Gonick managed to summarize St. Augustine’s Confessions in four panel with five falsehoods in it, so I find it hard to take anything else he said seriously.

            1. Professor David Owen Kieft, U of MN history department, made his European History since the Middle Ages always entertaining. Forex, the block on the unification of Germany was taught by him *as* Otto von Bismarck, complete with Pickelhaube. And we *learned*. Well, I did anyway.

          2. My World History (from 1650) professor in college was one of those types that made you wonder what was wrong with everybody else—we not only went through history at warp speed, with it being interesting, we had four assigned novels to get a flavor for certain periods—and one of those novels was Anna Karenina. He was notorious for open-ended essay questions for the final that he’d let you take as long as you needed—and order in pizza if you stayed through dinner. (“Why Hitler? Why Stalin? Explain the 20th century.”)

            He also explained the Cuban Missile Crisis to a bunch of kids who were somehow expected by previous adults to understand something that happened before they were born. (And he explained how Reagan got elected on an almost identical platform to Kennedy… that was interesting.)

            He died two weeks after finals when he went into the hospital to figure out what the pain in his gut was—and it happened to be late-stage stomach cancer. The signs of which he’d been ignoring because he was too busy. 😦

            1. I know the type. My maternal grandfather died of his third heart attack, because he was too busy to quit cooking during the lunch rush.

            2. I had this teacher, who LOVED giving all of his exams in essay answers. He was a Character with a reputation for being a terror teacher – except when he went through his ‘I have freshmen in front of me’ spiel, instead of cowering into my seat, I found the grin on my face getting wider and wider. Naturally, as part of the spiel, he roared “Why are you smiling?! I don’t like to see my students smiling!”

              “This is going to be a fun class, Sir. That’s why I’m smiling.”

              I had him for a lot of my history classes, (except the aforementioned World History class. T.T Boo.) and it was quite fun to play this unscripted but ultimately educational routine of bombastic professor and cheeky student with him. Eventually his regard for me (apparently high, because apparently he’d brag that he’d finally gotten a student with a functioning brain who wasn’t scared of his classes) spread to the other students I befriended – “If you’re friends with her, I expect that you also have a functioning brain.”

        2. All of history has been made dull.

          Yeah, that is why they can’t give away tickets t see Hamilton and regional theater groups hardly ever perform 1776. And why there are never any movies about historical characters such as Thurgood Marshall and LBJ or of events like the Dunkirk evacuation. And why Ken Burns is restricted to spinning his revisionist histories on public television, ’cause they don’t need no profits.

          1. Well, that’s the Official History (TM).
            Make History a ripping good, dramatic and engaging read – oh, yeah, beat them off with a stick. This is why I write HF – to draw people into an interest in American history. HF is a gateway drug. Give them a taste, and then they go might be drawn to the hard stuff, and develop a serious interest.
            I wonder if more people haven’t been drawn into an interest in the ACW by reading Gone With the Wind than any number of sober histories of the period.
            Here’s a taste, people … come on, come on, you know you want …(deeper, dramatic voice) the good stuff.

            1. The first taste is free! I became interested in Jewish History by reading stories about famous people in Jewish History.

            2. It’s why I rarely read HF. Because I rarely trust the authors and I get annoyed at picking up a novel for a job of work. “Oh great, if I read this, I”m going to have to go research mid-19th century Italy, or I’ll end knowing a whole mess of lies that just aren’t so.”

              Never mind that given a well-written piece of mid-19th century Italian history, I’d probably be happy to read it.

              It’s pure contrariness, I expect.

      2. Some political history is super interesting- the politics that eventually spawned WWI, for instance.
        It’s a very productive ground for authors- see Tuchman’s “The Proud Tower” and Massey’s “Dreadnought” for examples.

        1. Oh, it can be. But if it is not trendy? The only book I could find on English and British politics in the 1820s-30s that was at all readable, even for me, was Antonia Fraser’s book about the 1832 election reforms. It is a rather important period, and one of the reasons why England did not have an 1848, but there ought to be more books that don’t send me plunging into torpor before I get past the first page of the introduction.

          1. It comes and goes. The success of Metaxa’s book on Wilberforce, Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery likely stimulated a small boom in that era’s history.

            For events preceding our dissolution of the bonds holding us to England I can recommend Michael Barone’s book Our First Revolution: The Remarkable British Upheaval That Inspired America’s Founding Fathers.

            Both are quite good at situating the events within the contexts of their eras.

    2. Sigh. The most infamous such assertion was by Jesse Jackson in the Eighties, in reference to the Holocaust, as I recall it (the details have largely been cleansed from the historical record to avoid embarrassment of the shameless.)

      I suspect the dismissal would not be so readily accepted were one to make it about, say, slavery in the US, or oppression of women before passage of the 19th Amendment.

    3. When I went to school in the eighties we were in the middle of the re-evaluation of history through a lens of hatred. Specifically of our own country (being Canada). We learned a bit about the building of the railroad that tied the country together from coast to coast (I don’t believe Canada actually was Canada in a way until that happened) but mainly to castigate our ancestors for using Chinese laborers as disposable tools (which happened, and also happened to my people, the Irish, but was more about seeing the poor and desperate as exploitable because, well, they were. Not that they mentioned the Irish since we’re pale and that went against the narrative they were clearly trying to write) and driving through Native lands (which we did, but um, Canada is big. Like, imagine a very big thing, it’s even bigger than that. Railroads don’t take up much room in this much space). Rather than an achievement to be celebrated, it was a national disgrace to be mourned. The forming of our country. To be mourned. A mistake. Uh-huh.

      The worst though were the teaching of the two world wars. As an odd child who read hundreds of books a year I’d accidentally read a bunch of Canadian history centered around those wars, how our sense of ourselves as a nation separate from Britain was formed in the First war, through a combination of dogged determination (never face a polite man in open combat) and callous British disregard for Canadian lives (and their own young men’s lives when you really get down to it). How we came of age, of confidence in the second world war. Great battles. Monumental heroism. Stories to stir the breast and make anyone read more, have more pride, stand up straighter, shoulders back and chest out.

      That’s what I learned through my accidental forays into books.

      What we learned in class? War is bad. Killing enemy combatants is wrong. Unless they’re Nazis. Even still. Commies weren’t as bad as all that. Commie spy hunting was evil. All the young men who came home from the war should have been unemployed as the women were just as capable in the factories and it was mean to disemploy them in order to employ men. Because nothing could possibly have gone wrong with hundreds of thousands of young men who had just learned to kill and got quite good at it being denied food and shelter (which at its base is what employment pays for). When I asked about the battles fought? The teacher dismissed them since we were to learn about how the great wars formed Canada of today (in terms of left-wing politics, not in terms of y’know, reality), not about icky stuff like soldiers fighting and dying for their country.

      As far as I could tell I was the only one to walk out of their with a love of learning history. But that was something that was there before I took the class, it was just that even as bad as it was it couldn’t make me stop actually learning. But others, whoo boy. If the inherent message of those History classes was your introduction (you white, male, Canadian? You suck.) to History? Good luck developing a love for it.


      1. It’s fascinating in a horrible way when you look at how Canadians of our generation WEREN’T taught Canadian history. From reading here about how everyone talks about the American Constitution and the Federalist papers, I was curious if there was something similar for Canada’s Confederation. Actually sort of. I now have sitting on my shelf a book containing all the debates for and against Confederation. Cost me $50 and it was published “recently”. (another TBR book that’s rather important I think)
        Even worse, is how teachers are misinformed about our history. I had to keep correcting one teacher in college about gross errors she was making in the class. I wonder how all the newly immigrated or even younger students would have fared if I hadn’t been in that one class. :/

        1. An astonishing amount of history can be learned from comic books/graphic novels. Larry Gonick has done some amazing work, I recall another artist (Jack Jackson?) addressing the separation of Texas from Mexico from the Tejanos perspective, and for Canadians there is Chester Brown’s biography of Louis Riel.

          These writers typically put in a great deal of research and like to prove it by including bibliographies, useful in tracking down their sources.

          1. Going to have to do some more research on that man. There was clamoring to declare him a “Father of Confederation”. While I was of the mind that he was a traitor (didn’t help that my reserve unit carried the Northwest Rebellion of 1885 battle honor on our unit colours), I could see the reasoning for it. If he hadn’t rebelled again (yes it was his second uprising) the Canadian continental railway would have never been completed.
            (was thinking about doing a story where he was an actual time traveler sacrificing himself to ensure that the Canadian Confederation didn’t founder).

      2. Leave out the delayed moment of self-identification, and you have just described U. S. history as it is currently taught.

      3. BTW – spend the hour required to watch this:

        Dieppe 75 Years On
        by Mark Steyn
        The Mark Steyn Weekend Show – Encore Presentation
        August 19, 2017
        Three-quarters of a century ago – August 19th 1942 – the Allies staged what became known as “the Dieppe Raid”, a daring assault on the French port of Dieppe, then held by the Germans. It was a predominantly Canadian operation: the 2nd Infantry Division provided 5,000 troops, supported by the Royal Navy and RAF, a thousand UK commandos and about 50 US Army Rangers. It was a necessary operation, but also an all but foredoomed one. In the end, of the 6,086 men put ashore at Dieppe, 3,623 were killed or wounded or carted off to German PoW camps.

        The bravery of those young Canadian men cannot be overstated. In this reprise of The Mark Steyn Weekend Show from earlier this year, I talk to the screenwriter, producer and director Lionel Chetwynd – born in Hackney, raised in Montreal, but long resident in Hollywood. We discuss politics and popular culture, but the great weight of the conversation is about the Dieppe Raid, with which Lionel has a personal and regimental connection, and about what happened when he pitched a tale of wartime sacrifice with a dash of Ian Fleming to Hollywood studio execs.

        1. Mark Steyn is amazing! He writes very interestingly. Speaking of Canada incredible but true stuff has happened to him.

      4. I somehow emerged from public schooling with a desire to learn history. Perhaps it had something to do with my high school Social Studies teacher, who was a cranky conservative. I remember disagreeing with him quite a bit, but he was one of my best teachers.

  3. To live without a sense of hiistory – of the US, the West in general or anywhere else is to live in a kind of cultural sensory-deprivation tank. Without that sense of past, and history – one is just an empty thing, ready to be filled with whatever the bosses or the current popular media tell you.
    Which is what the current powers that be desire, more than anything; a dumb and malleable proletariat.
    Just this week, there was a report of a black man spitting on and cursing a white man on public transportation — claiming that “you enslaved my grandmother!” That kind of vicious ignorance takes a fair amount of cultivation on the part of the miseducational establishment and current pop culture.

    1. It also takes conflating present and past in an appalling degree. I mean there’s tons of things wrong with that statement, including most whites never owned slaves, but it’s highly unlikely anyone alive today is even the grandchild of a slave/slave owner at lesat in the US/from the US, much less that anyone alive today and in/from america enslaved anyone.

      1. There may be a few grandchildren. Take for example a slave-owning male 20 years old at end of Civil War in 1865, fathered kids at age 70 in 1915, grandkids born in say 1950 would only by 67 today. Or a female slave born in the last year of the Civil War and had a last child at 40 years old (1905), whose last child gave birth at 40 (1945) to a person who’d be 72 today.

        1. I did know somebody who whose grandfather fought in the Civil War. He also married late in a second marriage and the kids from that marriage are in their 30s now. So not out of bounds for great-grandparents either.

          1. I am not certain of the year, and I can’t get my hands on it right now, but the Sons of Confederate Veterans paid for two black sisters from Georgia to attend a ceremony at the African American Civil War Memorial in DC. IIRC, their father was a member of the USCT. Yes, they were born late in his life.

          1. Oh, agreed. Very, very small percentage of the population at this point – and the chance of a confrontation on public transit between an actual grandchild of a slave and an actual grandchild of slave-owner is even lower.

        2. Possible. And a lot more that knew someone who knew slave owners – my grandmother told me stories of *her* grandmother, who’d been mostly raised by a slave “mammy”.

          People who have a first- or second- hand acquaintance with history are still with us – one of my high school teachers survived the Bataan death march, and many great-uncles on both sides were in uniform. My wife’s mother lost relatives to both the Japanese and (a few years later) to the Communists. My father lost relatives in the Shoah.

          My parents were in high school during the Korean War. I can – just – remember the Kennedy assassination, and was already in High School (and discussing which service to enlist in to avoid being drafted) before Vietnam wound down.

          My kids can both remember when the Twin Towers fell – quite distinctly, since the previous summer they’d visited the observation deck.

          If you’re interested in genealogy, it can go back further – I can show you who in my family tree fought in the Civil War, the great-uncle a few times removed who died in the Alamo, the relatives who fought in the Revolutionary war (and the one, on a different line, who sold supplies to Washington’s army), the various pioneers going back to early New England, the multiple-great-grandmother who was killed by Indians in the Deerfield Raid (1704 – Queen Anne’s War. She was a 1st cousin of Cotton Mather).

          These days, if you’re interested, you have more access to history, reference materials and public records from even the most remote small town than you’d have had a generation earlier living next door to major university library.

          1. This. When I was about 18 – the first year that I could vote in an election, I volunteered for a day at the local party HQ, and sat out a shift with an older gentleman (the spouse of the local party leader) who had been a volunteer for the US Army pre-WWI. He was in his nineties then – although an English major, I can do math, when pressed. A cavalryman – and he told me how he had been on Pershing’s expedition into Mexico, and then promoted (to his surprise) to an officer and sent to France.
            Which brings to mind a thing that another local author skulled out to me, once. Suppose that as a fairly young person, you talked to the oldest person that you knew. I took the example of my parents – both born in 1930. Suppose that as children of ten or so — they talked to the oldest person they knew, around about 1940, and that oldest person would have been 80 or 90. Which meant that oldest person would have been born in 1850. That oldest person would have been about ten years old when the Civil War began. Might have seen the firing on Fort Sumter, survived Bleeding Kansas, watched the march of the triumphant Union Army through Washington.
            Now, suppose that that oldest person, as a child of ten or so, had talked to the oldest person they knew: 80 or 90 in 1860. That person would have been born perhaps in 1770 … of an age perhaps to have seen the Battle of Bunker Hill from a distance, remembered seeing Washington and his army retreating from another walloping, the occupation of New York, and the surrender at Yorktown. So – three removes. We are closer to history than we think, sometimes.

            1. OH, yes. I work for the Navy, and you can play Six Degrees of Separation From Chester Nimitz.

              Or could, if you could find anyone who actually can claim that amount of separation. Three or four is about the maximum, I suspect.

            2. Beloved Spouse’s grandfather’s second wife was from Wyoming, her family having traveled there by covered wagon.

              I can’t recall how, why nor when she got to Philadelphia.

              1. My grandmother was born in a covered wagon. Parents were attempting to get to the mother’s mother’s house to have help with the birth and were about 20 miles shy of town in somewhat mountainous territory when birth happened. 1905.

                1. My father was born in a log house, and remembers talking to former slaves. In those same years, a doctor was going home in his buggy one night after a house call when a catamount jumped on his horse. The doctor beat it to death with his walking cane.

                  The past isn’t as far away as we might think.

      2. But WHY do people not have any knowledge of history? This goes far deeper than “because it isn’t taught”. Very few things are taught, but successful adults self-educate. There is something deeper than that. And it goes beyond cultural elements. I’ve been a working engineer in three different disciplines now — electronics, aircraft, and rockets/space. In NONE of those fields did the typical working engineer have a working knowledge of the history of their own field. This resulted in things like my telling a senior engineer that a certain circuit worked “just like a vacuum tube” and being asked “what’s a vacuum tube”? In explaining a suborbital rocket to a NASA employee by saying it’s “Like the X-15” and being asked “what’s the X-15”? In talking to an engineer *who worked on the design of the international space station* who was very proud of something being done for the first time, in my saying “But wasn’t that also on Skylab” and being asked “what is Skylab”? And in my talking to people doing quadcopter drones today, in my pointing out that quadcopters were abandoned in the early 1900’s because of aerodynamic efficiency, and getting the incredulous “Someone tried them before?”.

        This to me speaks of a much deeper element than that history isn’t taught. It isn’t VALUED — or, somehow, people aren’t even aware than it EXISTS. I absolutely can understand how someone might not know something from history, but I don’t understand how someone doesn’t even know it is out there or think it might be worth finding out. And yet, incredibly, this is so.

          1. What the author missed is that in translating (horizontal) flight, one big rotor disk is, in the general case, more efficient than four little rotor disks, and real helicopters don’t just hover, they also fly 🙂

        1. That’s odd…because as an aerospace engineer, I always made a point of studying the history. Hell, my Test Pilot School class on VSTOL aircraft focused on the historical aspects…because they tried a lot of stuff in the 1950s and 1960s that couldn’t be made to work right then, but is fine with modern flight control computers.

          I won’t even mention how I wound up working on a monster designated YEZ-2A….

        2. Not sure why, but when I got my MSEE in ’91, there were a lot of people in the program who were simply looking to punch the MS ticket.

          I’ve had those changes rubbed in my nose, from tubes to nth-generation CPUs, and RF from 200 kcs to 6.0GHz. Keeping a foot in that history keeps me grounded. I’ll leave the obvious pun for others. [grin]

        3. Some people don’t learn except perhaps a little bit for work and possibly hobbies if they have any. they’ll watch news on tv or their phone. They work, they have family and friends, they listen to music and watch a little tv. You can add in go to church, which many do. But this is it. They are aliterate. They can read, but don’t.

        1. Well if involuntary servitude is slavery perhaps you could argue it. Wasn’t he the 1st U.S. Commander in Chief to conscript Americans? And had the gall to persecute a newspaperman who wrote against this form of slavery.

          1. Reading the article, they weren’t getting to that point; “He’s a Republican int eh Civil War; he must be a slave owner.”

              1. I had no idea Lincoln was a Republican, much less ONE OF THE FIRST, until I was in my twenties.

                See prior minor growl about idiots who expect us to self-teach without even having enough knowledge to know what questions to ask.

                1. I grew up in Illinois in the ’60s. The Land of Lincoln (thus sayeth the license plates) took his heritage quite seriously at that time. That was when Chicago was balanced by the surrounding county, and the rest of the state was pretty Republican. Not knowing this about him generally meant you didn’t graduate high school.

                  No idea of the current status. Still says Land of Lincoln on the auto tags, but I’m guessing Abe is regarded as a Democrat. Sigh. “It’s not that they don’t know, it’s that so much of what they ‘know’ is wrong.”

                  1. California in the 80s, Washington in the 90s.

                    And history class was taught by a guy who…well, he did really well on the 60s, especially about what drugs did. (although, to his credit, he was against them)

                  2. Reagan was under the same delusion as a lot of us: that Democrats aren’t pathological liars. I suspect he would have amended that statement:

                    ““It’s not that they don’t know, it’s that so much of what they tell us they ‘know’ is a lie.”

                  1. Yep, but that means that those of us who are not malicious have to point out all the stuff.

                    *points over shoulder to a shelf* Thus the “politically incorrect guide to ___” series.

        2. It like this: These are the same bunch that take the knee at the national anthem of the country that ended slavery, ended segregation, and enacted civil rights laws – because they’re protesting racism.

        3. To be fair, the actual protest is by American Indians on IndigColumbus Day protesting Honest Abe’s mass hanging of Lakota warriors as a result of the Sioux Uprising. Still, the hyistorical ignorance is appalling.

          1. Wait, isn’t that where he went through the accused and removed all the poor SOBs who were at best accessories, and then FREAKING HUNG THE BANDITS?

            … I don’t know why I’m surprised, they re-wrote the Frozen Grass Massacre so that slaughtering ranchers who happened to be “white” (Spanish, I think, and the family connection killed in it was actually French Basque– and yes, that is as American as it sounds for those aware of the Basque situation, what mattered was neighbor) was somehow a massacre of Indians when the guys who had serial killer trophies on them were caught and killed in a shoot-out.

            The poor bastards thought they were going to find a wolf den and that’s why their animals were missing. Instead, they found feral humans.

      3. It is also improbable that anyone alive at the time of the War of Southern Secession enslaved anybody, importation of slaves having been banned for some time. All Americans in slavery at that point had been born into slavery; none had been enslaved.

        I doubt any in slavery would have taken any comfort from that distinction.

        1. Ooh, the Wanderer. That was an illegal slave ship that landed on the Georgia coast. The year was 1858. So yes, there were some alive in 1861 who had enslaved people.

          Come to think of it, there were some who enslaved freemen. The circumstances varied. In one Southern cemetery there were cement markers with a bit of chain to denote a slave. If there was a link embedded, the person was a slave. If there were two links, one embedded and the other free, the person had been a slave, but had become free. But if there were three links, with the first and last links embedded, the person had been a slave, had become free, but was a slave again when they died.

        2. Well, there were cases when blacks who were born free were kidnapped and hauled south by slave catchers who claimed they were runaways.
          But there were relatively few of these.

    2. the model railroaders

      I can attest to that…the amount of history you learn as side pieces to the history of railroading is amazing.

      For myself, however, I have often joked I should write a book, or at least make a poster, “Everything I know I learned playing Dungeons & Dragons”. The amount of stuff I at least dabbled in to make a better D&D game is somewhat frightening if I examine it too long.

      1. Heh. At the time, I started re-learning latin and early Roman/Greek history for the same reason. Had some pretty good campaign notes based on Livy, and a few others. Dry, dusty history it certainly was not. *grin*

        1. Robert Graves’s translation of Tacitus, and that’s even missing the really, really naughty bits… “Ahem, please do not leave this laying around where junior high students can find it,” I was advised.

          1. Heh. Tacitus is one of those I still practice translation on. Yep. Naughty bits. *chuckle*

            There was a somewhat apocryphal bit in one of my textbooks, noting the “official translation” of some of the bits of graffiti found hither and yon in antiquity. As I recall thinking, it was quite possibly authored by one of my professors at the time. The subtle hint there was that, no, we students did not invent sex, nor the dirty joke… Heh.

          2. Wait, wait, there were naughty bits? Why was I not informed of naughty bits? Which translation has the best naughty bits?

            I could stand to read history, if it’s naughty bits instead of “in year blahblah such and such treaty was passed. In year TunedYouOut so and so the fiftieth or fifth or something became king of MiddleOfNowhere. then Blaaaarg War was from Year boredom to year I don’t remember…”

            1. Heh. It’s a good reason to learn to read the original. ^^

              Forex, a later (per)version that aped things that occurred during the nadir of the Empire, see “pornocracy.” Saeculum obscurum, some 11th century AD or so you have seduction, mistress-hood, assassination, and e-gads all sorts of naughtiness… Ah, heck, Lawdog has a write up of this, which I learned in Catholic school (sort of. They tend to try and censor the naughty bits, but, eh, I snuck into the library a lot), that is much better. Here:


              Bread and circuses wasn’t the only panacea of the masses. The things their “betters” got on with had to provide at least *some* entertainment. *chuckle* Picture Jerry Springer in a toga, passing on the latest gossip to the plebes, and the sort of guests he might have. The pilum and all sorts of lacunae are getting busy, and such business topples governments. Heck, the study of Greek and Roman myth has all sorts of naughty bits. You can make anything boring with enough earnestly applied erudition. On the other hand, bored Catholic schoolboys have dirty minds, and can read between the lines…

              1. Song of Song is the original dirty bits. An entire book of the Bible that is descriptive of sex in a high toned but not boring way.

              2. Scene from To Serve Them All My Days:

                Old Teacher: “Treasure a virtuous woman, for her price is above rubies.”
                Student, earnestly: ” Please, sir —- what was Ruby’s?”

        2. Not going to lie, that is *exactly* the reason why I chose to take Latin n high school. I eventually expanded to both Spanish and French as well, but that was my initial motivation.

          Eric Glint has the same thing in the 1632 series. Jeff Higgins and his friends are D&D nerds; that’s the reasoning givenfor why these teenagers have a whole bunch of reference books on railroads and iron clads and the like. I can neither confirm nor deny this tendency in my own life.

            1. I once researched way too much to figure out what gold/silver/copper(is) coins should be for size and weight plus what alloy the first two should be– and ended up having to toss it all, because frankly magic would do serious damage to the relative rates of FINDING them that are the main foundation of their worth.

              Still have it somewhere, though. ^.^

    3. Which is what the current powers that be desire, more than anything; a dumb and malleable proletariat.

      In the news yesterday was a report about a community effort to challenge the locating within their community of “Shooting Gallery” — a safe (for certain values of safe — facility for drug addicts to do their injecting. The court ruled against the citizens, stating that some public policy decisions were too complicated for the public to understand and that such decisions must be left to “experts.”

      Every day, in every way, our public institutions degrade their legitimacy. In a democratic republic, NO policy decision is sufficiently complicated to be reserved for (ptui) “experts.”

  4. The project that I find memorable is the efforts of Qin Shihuangdi, summed up by a Chinese proverb, “He burned the books and buried the scholars.” His whole idea was to have history begin with him, with no records or even legends of earlier Chinese states. I’m often impressed by how much earlier the Chinese got to where we are now.

    I don’t know how many people Qin Shihuangdi killed—the tech then was less advanced—but apparently he sent large numbers to labor on the Great Wall. So he had a GULAG, too.

      1. The Chinese leadership in Beijing is also supposedly very much aware of the patterns of Chinese history. And they’re desperate to figure out how to break the usual cycles, since it’ll mean their own inevitable overthrow.

      2. I always wonder how much of Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries was an effort to suppresses history.
        I figure it was at least a consideration

        1. Cash and land grab more than anything else. Henry VIII was a lot of things, but he wasn’t the sort of fellow who would think on that scale.
          Now, Elizabeth, on the other hand, she might have been a different story.

    1. His whole idea was to have history begin with him

      Sounds almost like the “Age of Obama”.

        1. “Year 0” is the exact concept at work. If there is nothing (reality-based, anyway) from before, than anything can grow out of the present. Or such is the Marxist concept.

          Anyone who has ever had to dig a plastic nail can out of their yard from when the contractors buried it there a decade ago, understands that grass doesn’t grow well solely on the top inch of soil. So it is with history – without understanding it, what you grow will likely not be very sturdy nor very pleasant.

          (“Year 0” also means you never have to explain away previous failures of your ideology/worldview/ruling party. They simply cease to exist. You keep around a few bits of history (NAZIs, slavery), though, so you can shame the wrong people when they pop their heads up.)

    2. I’ve been doing a little bit of reading on ancient Chinese history for various seemingly random reasons (I have to confess – part of it is due to the Dynasty Warriors video games that are loosely based on The Romance of the Three Kingdoms), and the impression that I’ve been getting was that Mao was just like the old Emperors, but used Communism as his dynastic claim. Unfortunately, I don’t know enough about Chiang Kai-Shek to say whether he fit a similar mold. But there was apparently nothing particularly new about Mao.

      The same goes for Rocket Boy in North Korea. A while back, a friend of mine (who had spent some time in South Korea) commented that a lot of what Rocket Boy was doing at the time fit the general pattern for some of the ancient Korean rulers. More recently, I started watching a Korean period piece TV series, “Jumong”. And some of the (screwed up) stuff that happened on-screen seemed to fit that old familiar North Korean mode. Finally, while the show itself doesn’t dip into this, some rather interesting legends regarding the real Jumong’s birth have been passed down over the centuries. I don’t know if anyone in South Korea actually believes them anymore. But they fit right in with the crazy stuff that we’ve undoubtedly all heard about how the three Kims in North Korea were all supposedly born.

    3. Mao found him an inspiration and bragged of out doing him.

      If you put him into a fantasy novel, he would be criticized as an unrealistic Evil Overlord. Keep the country in endless war to avoid accumulation of wealth, Otherwise, your farmers will start thinking of eating enough food, your officials will start thinking of virtue, etc. and the whole thing will go to pot.

    4. My usual ‘Qin Shi Huangdi may have been misunderstood’: He had a really short dynasty, and his state ideology competed with the Confucianism which was in varieties the state ideology for the next two thousand years ago. The traditional sources on him are heavily influenced by successors, in particular the Han, and may have been influenced by their own year zero efforts. We have turned up some archeological evidence that some of the Han claims about differences between their laws and the laws of the Qin are fabricated. How much of what we know about the Qin Shi Huangdi is fabrication akin to Hugo’s demonization of the Ancien Regime*? I dunno. (He probably was not a humble or nice man, and was likely evil by Christian standards.)

      *At least I’d guess Hugo was fabricating/exaggerating for political ends.

    5. Also, it was fairly common for Chinese dynasties to use the mandate of heaven and their predecessors’ sins to justify the current rule. The dynasties would often pick their totem element to tie into this. (Forex, Qin dynasty was water, and hence the Qin emperor often wore black.) I forget if there was a hiccup in this around Qin. It both predated and postdated Qin for a certain time period. IIRC, when the Mongols came in and set up the Yuan (lit. original) dynasty, they effectively froze the element on Earth, which I judge by Emperors wearing yellow robes through the, IIRC, Qing. (I think the Qing were the Manchu dynasty that predated the CCP and the Kuomintang.)

      Anyway, so there is reason to think that the Qin Shi Huangdi may have been leaning on some of the prior history.

      The orders to burn books were specific to type. In charity, it included some stuff that was probably mystic bullcrap (which China has produced a lot of*) and Confucian ideology. (And the Confucians were to some extent book fetishists.)

      *Every population seems to produce tons of mystic bullcrap. The Chinese have a lot of documentation going far back. And seemingly a cultural fetish for old records.

  5. Fake history. Ugh. Going to be having real fun with that. As others have said most people these days think history began with them and anything else is just a story. Doesn’t help that the education system makes the students self absorbed narcissists. Some people do pay attention to what their elders have to say. Some even actually learn. Unfortunately I am getting crotchety in my young age and I am starting to have a very dim few of humanity as a whole.

  6. One of the things the Progressives have stubbed heir toes on in the U.S. is that there are largish subcultures that teach their children to appreciate history as the greatest and most improbable story of all. Various re-creationists. Indeed, hobbyists of all types, because they are steeped in the social history of their obsession, whatever it is.

    The Intellectuals (nim, nim!) think of the Great Unwashed as ignorant and unlettered. The cold fact is that many of them are, within narrow bounds, a damn sight better read than the intellectuals.The ones interested in the Civl War READ about it. They don’t just absorb Ken Burns’ latest spin job. The same with the model railroaders, and the WWII buffs, and the Titanic enthusiasts. Many of them develop the habits of scholarship and research.

    Florence King wrote about this in SOUTHERN LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, although she confined her observations to the little old ladies who were self-taught genealogists.

      1. Show-and-tell works, too. I have a 1891 Mauser that I like to hand to people, and I deliver some variant of the canned lecture:

        In the American West, the Dalton Gang was in the news.

        In the citified east, Thomas Alva Edison gave the first demonstration of moving pictures via his new “kinetoscope.”

        In the Third Republic of France, Michelin patented the pneumatic tire.

        In Imperial Russia, Tsar Alexander started construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway.

        In the British Empire, “The Strand” in London printed the first Sherlock Holmes story. Across town, Freidrich Engels was finishing up “Das Kapital” after the death of its original writer, his friend Karl Marx.

        In the Second Reich of Germany, an inspector in the ultra-modern steam- powered, gaslit Mauser-Werke factory in Berlin drove a hardened steel stamp into the barrel of a rifle. It marked the rifle as proofed by the authority of His Imperial and Royal Majesty Wilhelm the Second, by the Grace of God, German Emperor and King of Prussia.

        You can see their expressions change when it starts to sink in, just how different the world was in1891. I guess it’s more history than most people can handle; they usually hand the rifle back like they just realized they’re holding a live snake.

        It’s 126 years old and it still works just fine. And I expect that it will still work just fine when it’s 250 years old…

        The last batch of ammunition I made up has Serbian brass, Russian bullets, Korean primers, and Finnish powder. Because this is America, and all your guns are belong to us, sooner or later…

        1. See, that is what I need– and what I’m trying to get for my kids.

          A sort of a sense of “what else was going on”– maybe add in something western, because I have a heck of a time “placing” that. (For this year, the Dalton Gang makes their first big train robbery.)

          Also cool, England got a phone connection to Europe!

          1. I did something like that when I last taught Old Testament. I made sure of placing each segment of Old Testament history in the broader context of Everything Else In The World history. It helped develop an appreciation for Where It Fit – what was happening in China, Europe, the Americas, Africa, etc. It helped connect Stuff We Study In Church to all the other stuff in their brain.

          2. Wikipedia has a fun feature that is terrific for this. Just search “Wikipedia [month] [date] and you get such fun things as:


            October 19 is the 292nd day of the year (293rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 73 days remaining until the end of the year. This date is slightly more likely to fall on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday (58 in 400 years each) than on Saturday or Sunday (57), and slightly less likely to occur on a Tuesday or Thursday (56).

            Contents [hide]
            1 Events
            2 Births
            3 Deaths
            4 Holidays and observances
            5 External links

            202 BC – Second Punic War: At the Battle of Zama, Roman legions under Scipio Africanus defeat Hannibal Barca, leader of the army defending Carthage.
            439 – The Vandals, led by King Gaiseric, take Carthage in North Africa.
            1216 – King John of England dies at Newark-on-Trent and is succeeded by his nine-year-old son Henry.
            1386 – The Universität Heidelberg holds its first lecture, making it the oldest German university.
            1453 – The Hundred Years’ War ends with the French recapture of Bordeaux, leaving English control only on Calais
            1466 – The Thirteen Years’ War ends with the Second Treaty of Thorn.
            1469 – Ferdinand II of Aragon marries Isabella I of Castile, a marriage that paves the way to the unification of Aragon and Castile into a single country, Spain.
            1512 – Martin Luther becomes a doctor of theology (Doctor in Biblia).
            1649 – New Ross town, County Wexford, Ireland, surrenders to Oliver Cromwell.
            1781 – At Yorktown, Virginia, representatives of British commander Lord Cornwallis hand over Cornwallis’ sword and formally surrender to George Washington and the comte de Rochambeau.
            1789 – John Jay is sworn in as the first Chief Justice of the United States.
            1805 – Napoleonic Wars: Austrian General Mack surrenders his army to the Grande Armée of Napoleon Bonaparte at the Battle of Ulm; 30,000 prisoners are captured and 10,000 casualties inflicted on the losers.
            1812 – Napoleon Bonaparte retreats from Moscow.
            1813 – The Battle of Leipzig concludes, giving Napoleon Bonaparte one of his worst defeats.
            1822 – In Parnaíba; Simplício Dias da Silva, João Cândido de Deus e Silva and Domingos Dias declare the independent state of Piauí.
            1864 – Battle of Cedar Creek: A U.S. Army force under Philip Sheridan destroys a Confederate army under Jubal Early.
            1864 – St. Albans Raid: Confederate raiders launch an attack on Saint Albans, Vermont from Canada.
            1866 – Austria cedes Veneto and Mantua to France, which immediately awards them to Italy in exchange for the earlier Italian acquiescence to the French annexation of Savoy and Nice.
            1900 – Max Planck discovers the law of black-body radiation (Planck’s law).


            879 – Yingtian, empress of the Khitan Liao Dynasty (d. 953)
            1276 – Prince Hisaaki of Japan (d. 1328)
            1433 – Marsilio Ficino, Italian astrologer and philosopher (d. 1499)
            1507 – Viglius, Dutch politician (d. 1577)
            1545 – John Juvenal Ancina, Italian Oratorian and bishop (d. 1604)
            1562 – George Abbot, English archbishop and academic (d. 1633)
            1582 – Dmitry of Uglich (d. 1591)
            1605 – Thomas Browne, English physician and author (d. 1682)
            1609 – Gerrard Winstanley, English Protestant religious reformer (d. 1676)
            1610 – James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde, English-Irish general, academic, and politician, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (d. 1688)
            1613 – Charles of Sezze, Italian Franciscan friar and saint (d. 1670)
            1658 – Adolphus Frederick II, Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (d. 1704)
            1680 – John Abernethy, Irish minister (d. 1740)
            1688 – William Cheselden, English surgeon and anatomist (d. 1752)


            1918 – Russell Kirk, American theorist and author (d. 1994)


            1931 – John le Carré, English intelligence officer and author


            1946 – Philip Pullman, English author and academic


            727 – Frithuswith, English saint (b. 650)
            993 – Conrad I, King of Burgundy (b. c. 925)
            1216 – John, King of England (b. 1167)
            1287 – Bohemond VII, Count of Tripoli
            1354 – Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada (b. 1318)
            1432 – John de Mowbray, 2nd Duke of Norfolk, English politician, Earl Marshal of England (b. 1392)
            1587 – Francesco I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany (b. 1541)
            1595 – Philip Howard, 20th Earl of Arundel, English nobleman (b. 1537)
            1608 – Martin Delrio, Flemish theologian and author (b. 1551)
            1609 – Jacobus Arminius, Dutch Reformed theologian (b. 1560)
            1619 – Fujiwara Seika, Japanese philosopher and educator (b. 1561)
            1636 – Marcin Kazanowski, Polish politician (b. 1566)
            1678 – Samuel Dirksz van Hoogstraten, Dutch painter (b. 1627)
            1682 – Thomas Browne, English physician and author (b. 1605)
            1723 – Godfrey Kneller, German-English painter (b. 1646)
            1745 – Jonathan Swift, Irish satirist and essayist (b. 1667)
            1772 – Andrea Belli, Maltese architect and businessman (b. 1703)
            1790 – Lyman Hall, American physician and politician, 16th Governor of Georgia (b. 1724)

            [END EXCERPT]

            At the page bottom there is a calendar for ease of selecting any other day of the year. This can be a handy “day starter” for homeschooling, pciking a person or event of the day to research further.

          3. When I was younger, I loved James Burke for this very reason.
            I’m pretty sure The Day the Universe Changed and Connections 1-3 are still freely available online.
            (IMO, Connections 2 was the high point.)

          4. How old are your kids Fox? Maybe we could get some Huns and Hoydens to declaim and talk to your children?

          5. > what was going on

            HG Wells’ “Outline of History” makes a stab at it, with timeline charts showing relations of events across the world.

            I read it long ago, and didn’t get as much out of it as I could have, since it was written for a Briton of my great-grandfather’s generation, and most of the people and events it described, I’d never heard of, and in those pre-internet days, had no practical way to look up.

            You might flip through a copy and see if the basic format might be useful to you, though.

            1. Hey, I recognize that book! It’s actually on my Treasures shelf– the grandmother I (sadly) take after had it. Rather fragile, so I haven’t paged through it.

            2. There are charts of history, Fox, so you can actually hang them on the wall and relate everything to everything. I have one, and it used to be on the wall. Now it’s probably packed. But it would be helpful for the kids, I think, to correlate what was happening when.

              1. Yes. We had a big one for home schooling. And a HUGE book that was a bit more detailed with categories like “music” and “science”.

              2. I’ve found a few, but the ones that are reasonably priced have been…uh… pushing conclusions with which I do not agree, and which are not easily justifiable by history. Will not comment futher on that, probably get around to makign a chart with Elf.

                1. Have you looked at Story of the World? Some of the 20th century stuff is more “conventional wisdom” than I’d like, but the first three books give a good overview of history. You can definitely also find blank timelines that you can fill out.

                2. If you find a good one, let us know, eh? I know my wife would love to have one in her classroom.

          1. And, IIRC, unhappy, because the American rifles were still using black powder and making themselves easier to find, while the Mausers the Spanish had were using smokeless powder.

            1. Smokeless powder was invented by a Frenchman named Paul Vielle. He patented it in most European countries, and the French government controlled the patent as a government monopoly. (and did through WWII at least)

              The British declared Vielle’s patent to be invalid and started producing their own powder under a rival British patent.

              Smokeless powder was *important*, not because it was smokeless, but because it wasn’t dependent on natural nitrates, like black powder was. Instead of mucking out cesspits and guano islands and sending ships out with mostly-empty magazines, you could make smokeless by the ton, without being dependent on foreign-sourced nitrates.

              Britain and France very nearly went to war over those patents. They changed the course of naval history; one of those background logistics details that get lost in the politics and military movements.

              1. Your story shows that even patent law is interesting! Logistics in war are vital. You can’t advance if you’ve run out of bullets, petrol etc.

                1. It’s huge, but Churchill’s six-volume history of WWII has one volume of inscrutable early-20th-century British politics and five volumes that are primarily logistics. It’s also quite readable if you skip through the political parts of the first volume.

                  Churchill subscribed to the “victory to the firstest with the mostest” doctrine of military theory, and events in general supported that idea.

                  > bullets, petrol

                  The logistics of a world war were an intricate dance. A battle was planned for North Africa. Men were maneuvered, supplies were allocated, transportation arranged, intelligence leaked, to bring a powerful hammer into position to smash the Afrika Korps.

                  A critical part of the plan was air superiority. Two shiploads of the latest fighters were sent, with ammunition and supplies. Had the plan worked, we wouldn’t have lost the battle.

                  To cram as many aircraft into the holds as possible, they were broken down into pieces, to be reassembled in the field. This was a common thing. But someone at the dockyard, for reasons that probably made logistical sense at the time, had all the engines put on just one of the ships.

                  Which the Germans sank.


              2. Speaking of which, the concept of “hollow-charge” warheads was actually based on a well-proven theory called the “Munroe Effect”, A Swiss engineer developed prototypes and demonstrated them to the British, who refused to pay his exorbitant price for the “secret”. Instead, they sent out a Q from Woolwich Arsenal, who identified it in a second demo despite the “inventor” putting dye in the explosive to mislead him. The “inventor” got nothing, and the British began making them.

    1. The ones interested in the Civil War READ about it.

      I admit that I wasn’t that interested in the CW until idiots started attacking monuments … but now I have a *yuge* TBR stack (in paper, no less!) about the Confederate side of the CW (’cause as a Northerner, I was force-fed the Union side in school).

      1. Best concise Civil War account (IMHO) is Shelby Foote’s three volume work. Tells a good story, keeps track of how one battle is affecting another arena. Moderately sympathetic to the South, but not too much. Lots easier than trying to wade through the huge library of one volume per major battle and one volume per major participant that has grown up. Also gives good background on the years running up, and the immediate aftermath.

        I’d tried to get into the Civil War before…and bounced, several times. Don’t know what brought me to Foote, although I ran into him in a public library (thank you, Andrew Carnagie!).

        Once you get a sense of the whole War, you can dive deeper into any part that especially interests you.

        1. Trying to read Shelby Foote’s narrative currently. I put it down for a bit and picked up “Coffee and Hardtack” (or is it the other way around?”) for colour in a typical Union soldiers life at that time. Highly recommend the latter for getting an idea of what the times were like. (seriously he talked about the mailing roast turkey to soldiers from family members.)

          1. Other way around. “Hardtack and Coffee” is the proper title. Decent source for basic things. Also, the letters of several major figures of the war are available online (Lee, Grant, etc). Good for getting the thinking of such men at the time straight. Foote’s a good overview, and there are several branches to go from there.

            Interesting notes on the late and post war can be found in “Three years with Quantrill,” much more Southern sympathetic, but honest enough about its faults. Can’t find the title offhand, but there was one on the industry of the war that I’d mention, too, that caught my interest. Have to look and see where that one got off to.

            1. Scouting about on Gutenberg for more memoirs written by CW participants. Have one by a Confederate cavalry officer in my reading queue. Damned research projects….

                1. So little time, so much to read!

                  My motto has long been: I don’t want to live forever, I just want to live long enough to catch up on my reading.

            2. Once upon a time, my wife and I ate breakfast at a diner where the grits had no salt and the cured ham had too much. It was a bite of grits and a bite of ham. A lot of history research is like this. Some are extremely partisan on both sides, but a dose of both helps.

              1. the grits had no salt and the cured ham had too much.

                Bite yore tongue! Properly salt-cured country ham (I recommend the Smithfield brand) is supposed to taste like ham-flavored salt! The trick is to slice it transparently thin.

                1. If I bite my tongue, blood would be less salty than this had been. We were raised on fried cured ham for breakfast. This stuff was cured ham with additional salt.

                    1. In a diner? Butter optional.

                      Once, at a meeting in Nashville, they served us breakfast with grits. Now, Nashville is in that zone between grits and hashbrowns and/or cream of wheat, and what they served was interesting. One attendee grabbed the salt, pepper, and butter and said “No wonder Yankees don’t like grits.”

                    2. My introduction to grits was at Fort Lost in the Woods in the State of Misery (Ft. Leonard Wood, MO), courtesy of my Uncle Sam (shudder).

                      After leaving there, I didn’t touch the stuff again for over a decade.

              2. A reenactor and historian I knew advised me that a lot of Genral’s memoirs have a lot of blaming others for thier screw ups and/or where written in defense when some other officer had previously written a memoir that showed them in a bad light it took credit for something they had felt they deserved credit for. His examples were all Civil War Unionines , because that was his area of focus at the time, but I suspect that to be near universal.

          2. shorpy.com has high-resolution scans of photographs from the Civil War. There’s one of a trainyard from the Battle of Nashville that would look good as a poster on my wall, if my walls weren’t all bookshelves…

            Glass-plate photos, many of them were “stereoscopic”, though the Library of Congress “conservation” by just throwing them in a basement and breaking most of them hasn’t left them in great shape.

            The US Civil War was a high-tech conflict by the standards of the day, and there were plenty of European mercenaries involved, just to see the new goodies in action. The Germans put some of it to use when then attacked France a decade later.

            1. Indeed – my mother was a CW buff (her favored author was Bruce Catton, though) and one of the books on her shelf (which I practically inhaled) was a tome by JFC Fuller on the military capabilities of General Grant – which argued basically that if the WWI European armies had taken all to heart about how mid-19th century tech had changed the battlefield, maybe WWI wouldn’t have been such a ghastly hash. Every tech-driven element notable in WWI – telegraph, aerial reconnaissance, rapid-fire weapons, trench warfare, rapid transport by railroad and a dozen other elements – were present in the ACW, even if only embryonically.
              The Europeans watched, with interest – but didn’t grok the deeper lessons.

              1. Count Zeppelin was one of those observers as a young officer. He decided it was a waste of time because they were not “observing the Rules of War,” and went hunting out West.

                Another officer decided these barbarians didn’t know what they were doing because their cavalry kept hesitating. Instead of charging in and settling the matter with cold steel, as proper cavalry should, they would pull up and begin “a desultory exchange of pistol fire.”

                1. Dig into it…I recommend Brent Nosworthy’s “Bloody Crucible of Courage.” A saber charge was often an excellent idea. One which the Federals were picking up on late in the war.

              2. Then again, why should they? Most European wars post the ACW were quick, brief affairs where dash and courage meant more than weapons tech.
                The Brits got a good dose of what modern warfare was during the Boer war, and were in some ways better prepared.

        2. Why do you prefer Foote’s three volume to Catton’s? I haven’t read Foote but Catton was my starting point in learning about the war and he is who I recommend.

          1. Catton and Foote are both good sources. Slightly different take, but a hint: Foote’s tomes are massive. Stack them up, they’re twice as tall as Catton. *chuckle*

            As for what’s inside, I just like the Foote better for style. Very old-school gentlemanly. Reminds me of my grandfather, it does. If you’ve already devoured Catton, see if the library has Foote on hand. You might just like it.

        3. My go-to author for the Civil War is Bruce Catton. He’s best known for his Army of the Potomac Trilogy. But that’s not the only civil war trilogy that he wrote. His books tend to provide a good amount of depth and background to the events that were going on at the time, and are fairly easy to read.

      2. Since you’re nosing around the subject, I’ll add a couple of recommendations.

        Bevin Alexander has the best description and analysis of Jackson’s Shenandoah Valley campaign you’re likely to come across.

        E.P. Alexander wrote Fighting For the Confederacy as a testament to his family, and most especially his descendents. It was never intended to be published, and so avoided most of the politicking and finger pointing common in memoirs while being extremely well written and entertaining.

        Mosby’s memoirs are worth reading. Both to get a feel for the actions of Confederate “irregulars”, and for his defense of JEB Stuart (who, being safely dead, was being used as a scapegoat).

        If you’re going to focus on one thing, make it the battle of Sharpsburg/Antietam, and the aftermath. It was very much the turning point of the war.
        Nutshell version: the Yanks had all the advantages going into the battle, but lost soundly. The Confederates, having achieved all of their military objectives, then quit the field.
        And here is where it gets interesting. Being left in possession of the field, the Union proclaimed itself gloriously victorious (even though they hadn’t accomplished any of what they’d set out to do).
        Lincoln used this rousing military “success” to immediately issue the Emancipation Proclamation and forestall the European powers from breaking the naval blockade (which they’d been about to do.)
        All warfare is deception, and politics by other means. It was a huge blow to the Confederacy’s logistics, the illusion of Confederate invincibility, and morale that they never recovered from.

        The battle of Gettysburg is a great example. The Army of Northern Virginia was dug in near Cashtown, on terrain of Lee’s choosing, threatening Washington DC, Philadelphia, and New York where the Army of the Potomac would have to choose to fall back and defend one of the three, or launch an attack best described as suicidal in an attempt to dislodge him.
        If war was a boardgame, this was check and mate.
        So why did he allow himself to be sucked into going on the attack into the unfavorable ground of Gettysburg?
        Because after AP Hill turned a minor skirmish into a battle, the field could not be abandoned. Lee was caught in a double-blind that trumped the strategic dominance he had and played directly into the cultural weaknesses of an honor-based society.
        The rest, is history.

    2. Yep. The genealogists will help keep history alive. We look for documents and learn about laws that were passed so we can figure out where else can we find proof of X. We search land and court records. We read histories and we actively seek out local and regional histories. We look at contemporary newspapers (original reporting on a historical matter). Then we help drive reenactments and reunions and facilitate story preservation and swapping.

      1. I believe it was genealogists who helped shed light on various bits of history because they looked through the Parish records.

        That told you who married who, and had what kids, which would also give you ideas on who OWNED what….

        1. Thanks to the Internet there has been a notable renewed interest in genealogy. That ought bode well.

      1. I used to belong to an engine modeler’s/home-machinist’s club. The shop where we met was also the storage depot for WWII reenactors, German armored division. Those guys were serious! Some were reproductions, others war surplus.

    3. My brother at one point told me something about how hard it must be to get good history books in the US. This was at a time I was sinking ALL my earnings into the History Book Club, and had several history-mad friends who read even more than I did, including my plumber and a stay at home mom.
      They REALLY don’t get us over the pond. There, studying is for credentials, not the fun of knowing.

      1. The Intellectual (ineffectual) Class over here has the same problem. They want the credentials, as a platform from which to pontificate, lecture, hector, and bullyrag. They aren’t actual scholars.

        My Father was, which is one reason the Lefties left him alone. He PUBLISHED. A LOT. At least a lot more than they were prepared to, not counting screeds. Moreover he expect THEM to publish. And could get downright emphatic about it, if pressed.

        1. I was polishing my CV (OK, just updating it) and realized I have as many chapters and articles as some tenured faculty. Plus a major monograph. *Snort* I’m not certain if that says more about my professional work ethic or their lack of one, since I teach 5 days a week.

    4. I did see a bit on the Federalist about Civil War recreationists in Virginia are now getting threats. Apparently the Left has decided it is time to take out these cultures.

      1. When I heard of that, I had a not-too-serious thought that some of those reenactors should do a live demonstration of what “a whiff of grapeshot” really means, using the leftards as the demonstration target.

        1. I think such thoughts could use some seriousness…maybe one good demonstration would alter their clear intent to move us not just to the US circa 1970s (like they did last time) but 70s Spain or Italy.

      2. I really don’t think they want to do that. The Antifa infants are not up to the weight. And the chattering classes don’t have the background to argue with those people. Especially since they undoubtedly think the recreationists are just playing dress-up, and don’t know the history. They KNOW the history. Chapter and verse.

        1. Anti-History Fury Hits Virginia Civil War Re-Enactment With Threats, Pipe Bombs

          This past weekend, reenactors and spectators gathered at the Cedar Creek battlefield for a two-day reenactment of the battle. It’s a popular annual event at the national park, and this year’s warm, sunny weather looked promising for history-lovers. Around 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, events were suddenly cut short when a “suspicious device”—rumored to be a pipe bomb—was found on site.

          Law enforcement quickly evacuated visitors and reenactors from the park, “rendered the device safe,” and thoroughly searched for additional threats. By Saturday evening, organizers had canceled all remaining public events. The event remains under investigation, both by state and federal law enforcement.

          The scare wasn’t exactly a surprise. A few weeks ago, the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation had received a letter threatening “bodily harm” to those attending the reenactment. After consulting with the FBI and local police, the foundation had decided to move forward with the event, heightening security measures. A notice on their website alerted visitors to the threat, which everyone hoped would prove empty. Sadly, it didn’t.

          The Antifa is 90%+ plus useful idiots although I’m not sure if they still are working largely through the “get silly but pretty girls as a front to get young men to show to impress them”. They are a mix of camouflage for the actual bomb throwers as well as possible cannon fodder for actual street violence.

          Most of them are not up to an actual fight but they are there to distract and protect the ones who are.

          1. The reenactors staged a skirmish the next day anyway, as kind of a counter protest to the scares. Further down the article it says: “On Sunday morning, with the day’s public events canceled, the remaining reenactors staged a skirmish anyway: a sign of unity and resistance to fear, in the ironic form of a battle. At the end, both sides came together and shook hands.”

      3. Suspicious device seems a bit more than threat to me. Granted overabundance of caution happens but did start some flashing warning lights.

      1. I suspect that if they insist in taking the statues down they will find that said statues are being bought and put up on private land, where their tantrums cannot accomplish much.

        1. I guarantee that if that statue is visible, they’ll find a judge to rule it a hate crime and demand it be made not visible.

          And that assumes that unless there’s a 24/7/365 guard they won’t simply blow it up.

          1. TRY to blow it up.
            Pro tip: Don’t drink either part of your binary explosive to try and hide the evidence.

    5. Visited Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Jamestown with the folks this summer. Despite the 100 degree heat, both places had pretty good crowds.

    6. Thanks for the props to us model railroaders. Transportation is as much affected by modern idiot amnesia as anything else; I am perennially amazed at how many people think it was impossible to get around before the Interstate highways were built. (In 1920, it was almost possible to travel from New York to Chicago by transferring from one interurban trolley line to another, without even considering the REAL railroads.)

      1. Based on birth dates and places of several children in a family I was researching, I figured that the family was entirely missing from a census was on the move that year between Ohio and Indiana. I looked at the possible ways of moving. Besides the ubiquitous wagon, the had the choice of trains and canals. They would have had a fairly direct route on either of the mass transportation options of the day. Who knows. East of the Mississippi River, travel was fairly convenient. And the convenience extended westward as fast as they could get it.

      2. Via interurban, you could get from the state of New York to a ways past Chicago. Alas, you couldn’t get to NYC via interurban due to a couple gaps east and south of Little Falls, NY.

        And by 1940, still without Interstates and with most highways only two lanes, you could travel the nation by intercity bus. And in most of the cities and large towns the bus stopped at, you could get around by local bus and/or trolley, with schedules that were reasonably convenient.

        Going into Eisenhower’s first term, the railroads were still seeing an upward tick (from immediate post-war lows) in passenger traffic on many of their long distance trains. It was only well into the Fifties that aviation and highway travel really started cutting into long-distance rail passenger traffic.

        A couple of the railroads on the East Coast were still showing profits on their trains from the Northeast to Florida until about 1980, and it was only the fact that profits weren’t high enough to profitably replace aging passenger cars that finally caused them to bail out of the passenger business.

        1. Incidentally, during the second world war, you COULD drive from the east-of-the-cascades Oregon border to the middle of Texas, and back.

          It FREAKING SUCKED, but it was totally possible for two women with under a year old infants. Even if one couldn’t drive. (…my grandmother was the one who could, and owned a car)

          1. In 1910, people with a lot of time and determination could cross the US by car. It wasn’t too onerous east of the Mississippi, but west of there, paving became scarce. Drivers might have to wait days after a rain storm before driving on, or risk being stuck axle-deep in mud. Often they had to seek shelter in their car on the side of the road, or bide their time at the home of a friendly farm family. The regular road side services (motels, gas stations, etc.) we take for granted today just weren’t there.

            By the end of the 30’s, many of the major highways had been completely paved (e.g. paving was finished in 1938 on Route 66 and the Lincoln Highway) while others were mostly paved, with a few dirt or gravel stretches remaining out west. Road side services were reasonably plentiful, and most of the restaurants and motels were local businesses instead of parts of national chains, and often had greater personality than those we see today.

            1. Road side services were reasonably plentiful, and most of the restaurants and motels were local businesses instead of parts of national chains, and often had greater personality than those we see today.

              Heh, funny observation– Texas (actually, the route from far SoCal to Texas) is the only place I or my husband have ever seen a lot of cookie-cutter chains.

              I grew up driving from basically Bakersfield up to the Canadian boarder, although on the east side of the Cascades mostly. NEVER ran into any such thing.

              He grew up all around San Diego, and all around teh Virginia area near DC. Also never seen that.

              I drove from Pensacola to Death Valley. Also nope.

              Even different Denny’s have different “tones” to them– and back in Washington there were McD’s I’d hit for a mocah, and ones I wouldn’t, because they were SERIOUSLY different.

            2. My grandfather and his sister, mother, aunt and a male friend (and a dog) drove from Detroit to Southern California in 1922, in a Hudson Touring Car. They tent-camped along the way, cooking over open fires, and as my great-aunt later recalled, most of the roads were unpaved.

        2. “On the Road” is a pretty good look at cross country transport by road in the late 40’s. Jack Kerouac used pretty much every single road option during his multiple trips across the continent: hitchhiking, trucks, buses, borrowed cars, private cars (chauffeured by madmen), ect.

  7. Ah, fake history. Reminds me of the cringe-tacular British show Bonekickers which had the worst history I’ve ever seen anywhere. How bad? The second episode was about how Maroons using Excalibur helped George Washington win the Revolutionary War and were gifted half the US in reward but were betrayed by racists. The fourth episode is about how Queen Boudiccea didn’t commit suicide but lived, fell in love with her Roman captor and together tried to overthrow the Roman Empire with hand grenades.


    1. Sounds like a fantastic sci-fi/alternate history show, although I admit what your describing seems to be an anthology format that would turn me off. I would want at least a season worth of George Washington and Excaliber!

      1. Allowing for it’s entertainment slant, I’ve found it to be more accurate than many “serious history programs”, most of which get my back up within minutes…

  8. I agree with Sarah about the memorization skills that were pushed when I was in school. Memorizing letters and words, multiplication tables, and poetry gave me the skills to learn. Every time I went into a new field I used those skills to do well. Plus you need these skills to write… the reason i know this is that when I was on Cytoxan for a full year (IV every four weeks) my brain quit working (it was like trying to think through a wall–it would take hours to get anything to come up to the surface of the brain). I couldn’t write then. It took two years of brain games to even write more than a couple of sentences… and I had a BA in English Lit before the disease. So I had to bring my brain back online again.

    1. This is exactly why I abominate the whole “learning should be fun!” idiocy. Having an education is fun. Learning the basics, which are necessary unless you want to go through life re-inventing the wheel (and who has the time?) is all too frequently tiresome.

      Has to be done, though. Unless you WANT and swarm of illiterate, innumerate imbeciles.

      1. Until I pounded basic verbs and grammar into older son’s head, he spent three years not learning French. Because it was all “fun” and learning songs and “reading” French teen magazines.
        I spent three months on verbs, basic grammar, basic vocabulary.
        At the end of the three months he passed an exam written in France and got an A.
        “Fun” is for children. Adults study.

        1. Happy Playtime Customs is for children. Adults CAN have fun. My father loved research, and had a lot of fun prepping his courses. Admitedly, grading papers was work.

          Adults know they have to study to get to the good part.

        2. That is similar to what happened to me with Spanish. We had vocabulary we went over every week, but all the classes had things like the pop song of the week and the “cultural day” that took a whole period up with discussion *in English*. We once spent a week discussing Mexican socialist art *in English*. Some classes simply decayed into chaos provided you were “filling out your worksheet”. After doing this for three years, I could ask how to find the bathroom and not much else.

          I switched to Latin because anything had to be more interesting than this. I ended up getting several gold medals in the NJCL exams because my teacher, while quite liberal, loved the language and taught it in a very systematic way. I’m rusty nowadays but I can still read it pretty well.

          1. Once upon a time, I came home and happily told my daddy that the new teacher said that memorization was a thing of the past, and we didn’t have to learn multiplication tables with the new math! Daddy did not look nearly as happy about this as I was. In fact, he looked like he was plotting with furious purpose.

            That weekend, daddy woke me up bright & early to go running around the high school’s track with him so he could keep in shape for his PT test. And as we ran, he made me start with 1×1=1, 1×2=2… And Sunday, after church? Running again. And the next weekend, and the next, and…

            I still suck right about the 12x, because I would run out of breath and sit on the bleachers before I got through that. But my father’s intervention has made my life so much easier, and enabled me to deal with inventories and budgets and a thousand other situations that are far more important than grade-school homework.

            By making me learn the hard boring stuff, he trained me not only how to quickly calculate, but also to put in the boring, hard work to get ahead. Which was an awesome gift, even if I didn’t appreciate it at the time!

        3. The “learning is fun” meme is built on a double lie:

          First hammer into people’s heads that learning is only possible in a classroom, with the minor exception of “trades” (how gauche) which don’t count anyway. Then once people are so indoctrinated into that that even the rebels uphold most of the core premises, you sell the idea that “learning is fun”. It is a half truth: learning is not “fun” in the sense that playing a game of checkers is “fun”, but it is deeply enjoyable, in fact one of the tell-tales that a person is at the optimal difficulty level for a given task is when they enter the highly pleasurable flow state.

          The result? People who ingest LiF become incapable of learning anything whatsoever. And most people who don’t ingest it try to return to a Golden Age system of learning that was only ever intended for training conscripts.

          Ah well, like everything else this system too shall, er, is dying. To paraphrase; “The Apprenticeship shall Rise again!”.

          ps: “tell-tale” is one of those historical things you learn from model railroading. They were chains hung from poles before tunnels or similar obstacles so that people walking across the top of the cars would know to duck.

    2. Twain’s account of memorizing the Mississippi river- bend, bar, high and low comes to mind.

  9. So the question become: once the edifice collapses, will things snap back, or are we poisoned eternallly?

    1. I think it will be like Late Antiquity, if we are fortunate. Some people will remember and have material to teach the others. And more people will know that “Something happened back then,” and will be willing to at least listen to stories of “back then.”

      But I may be an optimist.

      1. There is the possibility that the next men to step onto the moon will be surprised to find out that they weren’t the first.

        1. James P. Hogan wrote a novel where some astronauts found a dead body on the moon. They thought the spiffy orange spacesuit meant he was a cosmonaut, but the remains were of a Homo Neanderthalensis…

          1. Nope, the guy was a modern human but was obviously there for thousand of years. 😉

          2. Before they turned the idea of “if humans disappeared” into a series, it was a pretty good breakdown of what would last and what wouldn’t. The last thing to disappear will be our concrete dams, far outlasting anything we build with steel by a couple of factors of ten.

  10. Lots of people don’t talk to their parents and grandparents about what things were like– they’re up with just enough time to eat in the morning, then go to school, then stay at school until right before dinner, then have school work afterwards; at least one day on the weekend will be eaten up by “activities,” all of the sports teams still practice during school breaks so you don’t really have time to spend around the extended family, and unless you’re a really fast reader you haven’t much time for books, either.

    As a bonus, they aren’t taught how to socialize with anybody who isn’t the same age and small, acceptable range of backgrounds.

    1. Which is one (of many) reason to homeschool. A lot of our fellow homeschoolers assigned writing work related to setting down stories from older relatives.

    2. Back when I was doing historical research for a college related project, I met up with an elderly black man I knew growing up, and started talking to him about the past. He told of a uncle who went up North during the Civil War, joined the USCT, and came back after the war. Some of his younger kin listened, astounded.

      “You ever told us about him,” one said.
      “You never wanted to hear it,” he said.

        1. United States Colored Troops, the black regiments that made up about ten percent of the Union Army. Not to be confused with the post-war Buffalo Soldiers, of which there were only four active regiments.

      1. This kind of human “time travel machine” is the focus of quite a few of Ray Bradbury’s stories.

    3. To be fair, the older people often forget that the younger generation don’t have the cultural reference points. I’ve thought about writing a book titled, “How People Used To Live.” Essentially a massive version of the Benoit College “Guide to Freshmen”.

      1. Oh goodness yes, I can be kinda cranky when people get all pissy about someone not having knowledge of something that happened a decade or more before they were BORN, and that the cranky person will even admit isn’t taught anywhere.

      2. Aye. I knew I was aging when I made a quip about an 18 and a half minute gap… and then had to explain it.

        And I think I’d like to read that book. Even if, for parts of it, I was there. Doesn’t mean I fully “got it” at the time.

    4. Our family was a bit isolated in generations (because reasons), but Dad and Mom would talk a lot about their lives as kids. It gave me a reasonable (I think) picture of life in that era; Great Depression and WW-II.) I listened a lot.

      I got interested in World War II history after Dad shared the scuttlebutt about what happened to Bock’s Car; the B-29 on the Nagasaki bombing. His information was wildly wrong, and I researched it. Then I got curious… A few bookshelves later, I think I have an idea. (Also some clue as to how Dad got the wrong story–conflation of the US events with some stuff done by Japanese trying to figure out WTF just got them.)
      Other relatives were in Europe, and $SPOUSES late father was on convoy duty in the Atlantic. Had a lot of entry points to look at.

      FWIW, I get corrected a lot when I tell people Dad was in the 8th Air Force on Okinawa. Fun to correct the “corrector”.

      1. My Dad was an electrician in the USAF. In the field in Vietnam, he fitted a number of B-52s with terrain following radar from F-111 fighters, which then flew missions at treetop level.

        There were quite a few aviation types over the years who absolutely denied any such thing ever happened. My Dad’s shoebox of 35mm slides said otherwise; he had pictures of B-52s that looked like they’d been clawed by cats, with tree bits hanging out of the rips in the fuselages.

        You can read about B-52s with terrain following radar on the web, but those were done five years after Dad rotated back Stateside…

        1. You can read about B-52s with terrain following radar on the web, but those were done five years after Dad rotated back Stateside…

          Being under a flight of B-52s coming in at treetop level is, um, memorable. It was a cloudless day, and the sound still had me looking for a tornado, until I saw the first plane. I was by a pond at the time, and it made the top of the water vibrate.

          1. B-52s and B-1s. I’ve controlled both in simulated* Close Air Support strikes. Wow.
            (* No munitions dropped.)

        2. Jerry Pournelle had a story about an early test of a terrain following B-52. That was the one that lost most of its tail, but still landed safely, though the excitement level was way too high..

  11. Most of humanities earliest stories are designed to explain “where do we come from?” and “How did we get here?”
    Well, that, and “Why don’t we go in the caves without lots of men armed with spears?” and “Why don’t we stick our hands in the pretty orange coming off the log the lightning just struck?” and such. 🙂
    Unless you invent music, or something.

  12. “Most of humanity’s earliest stories are designed to explain “where do we come from?” and “How did we get here?””

    This is most definitely a thing. Nowhere is it more of a thing than with religion these days. I’m a classic example of somebody tossed out of my own religion by schooling, which even in the 1960s and 1970s was very anti-religion. Not in the forms we followed, because there was a school prayer every morning and we all sang God Save The Queen, but in the schoolwork. Secular Humanism was huge in Canada when I was a kid.

    Also, churches sucked. So astoundingly boring, and so un-sacred. They still suck. Sing folk songs for an hour every Sunday, and that’s your weekly intake of Sacred covered for the week. I need a little more than that.

    So, lifelong search for meaning put into a sentence or two, I went looking. Found a few things from other cultures, other religions, it was good enough. One thing that formed my present opinions is this: people from other cultures think -their- home religion is stupid too. Talk to a Sikh about Gurdwara, he will roll his eyes and tell you about all the back-room stuff the same as we do. Talk to a mainland Chinese about Taoism and he will laugh really hard, right before he tells you how amazingly full of shit his local Taoist temple is.

    Locals always know where the potholes are.

    But in our media culture here in N. America and Europe, this insight is missing. Other religions are painted in glowing colours and beautiful lighting. Only -our- religion is bad. Books, movies, newspapers, you name it, Secular Humanism is the One True Religion. All others are mysterious and exotic, but not for the Really Smart People. Christianity is worse than anything.

    SF is particularly bad in this regard, Charles Stross being an example that springs to mind. Picking up most any SF book these days is like reading Stross in some ways. The way all AI stories end up being Frankenstein. Same shit, every time.

    Its boring, and I’d love to see a change. Any change, really. Just do something that hasn’t been done to fricking death.

    1. I really sympathize with the Catholics who go to the clandestine Latin old-style masses. I need liturgy and music with bones and teeth to them. Heck, one of the most satisfying worship services I ever went to was the St. Stephen’s feast mass at Stephansdom in Vienna. Latin and German (the music was Hayden’s “Lord Nelson” mass) and a hard-core sermon about modern martyrs and the persecuted church that had every German-speaker twitching, self included. That service made me work, and it was good.

      Spare me the warm and fuzzy deity who loves everyone just as they are [imagine worst, most fake Mr. Rogers accent ever]. I want a G-d who made Leviathan and the whirlwind and who will be there even when the gates of Hell swing open.

      *looks down in surprise* Bad soapbox, bad, bad! *jumps off soapbox*

        1. Apparently it varies from diocese to diocese. Some encourage them, some tolerate, and apparently a few really do not like them at all. *shakes head*

        2. Tucson has one official Latin Mass; I attended once, it was an interesting and enlightening experience.

        3. Papa Ratzi ordered everyone to allow it, but yeah they’ve had some allowed in some places for years– now they’ve moved to doing things like putting them in the scary, historic churches. The guys doing it are passionate enough to not care it’s dangerous as long as they can do good, and frankly the folks who have a taste for that won’t complain– while the folks who greatly dislike it are very unlikely to WANT to be in a tiny, out of fashion place.

          It’s kind of cool, for once I cannot tell what the Bishop thinks!

      1. I don’t like to talk about it, because it upsets people for no reason. Why be That Guy, right?

        But, Christianity gets a lot more of a rap than it deserves. We do more good in the world as Christians than all the other religions tied together in a sack.

        I will go so far as to say that Christian -churches- as organizations have failed us very badly indeed. There’s a reason why churches of all denominations are sitting empty and boarded up all over Ontario. The ones that still function do so mostly as kiddie daycares and places for seniors Yoga and Tai Chi lessons. I like Yoga and I love Tai Chi, but they are not Christian things. Yoga particularly is a technology invented to pursue a Hindu ideal. Nothing to do with Christianity.

      2. Well, He does love us just as we are. That’s why we aren’t all dead.
        It’s just that He thinks we ought to be better, and if we don’t accept what we need to become better He’s going to drop the hammer on us.

    2. Yes. One of the most informative conversations I ever had was with a young Asian woman—I think Korean, but it’s been a long time—who raised the subject of Christianity with me. I said that I really found Buddhism more appealing than Christianity (still true, though I disagree seriously with some Buddhist ideas). And she said, Oh, no, Buddhism was just empty rituals and social conformity, but Christianity offered a real spiritual life! Of course there’s been a long tradition of Americans turning away from the empty conformity of Christian churchgoing and looking for enlightenment in South and East Asian beliefs. . . .

      1. Reminds me of Lu-Tze’s backstory in “Thief of Time”. Everyone keeps coming to visit the monks to learn about the secret of life. So where do the monks go when *they* want to learn the secret of life?

        Incidentally, a pretty good-sized chunk of Korea is Christian. That’s apparently carried over with those who immigrated to the US. I live across the street from a Korean Christian church in LA County, and they get *amazing* attendance every week. I don’t know anything about the denomination other than they’re Christian, Korean, and take the term “Sunday Best” quite seriously, but I’ve got a lot of respect for them.

        1. At least a quarter of the churches in my area are Korean Baptist. In the USAF scheme of rotating bases, once you were stationed in Korea, this was one of the bases you were likely to be sent to next. It’s also a “retirement base”, so a lot of retirees and their Korean spouses wind up staying here.

        2. Here in Plano, we have those, and also something called the “Formosan Christian Church”.

  13. In the movie “Follow that Dream,” the old father was upset with the state supervisor who said the road and adjacent property was for the people and the public and the social worker for taking away the children. “This whole area was put in for the public’s benefit.”

    The old man replied, “How can you get your hat on with your head so crooked? You think the people is one thing and the public is another thing? You’re like every department jackass I ever knowed. You do nothing for a single solitary soul and then its because you’re pretending to do something for everyone, for the public. Who do you think the public is but me and him and her? God, please turn your head away- and you and you. Now get out of here and leave us alone.”

    To me, this is a powerful statement on bureaucracies and socialism is general as well as the statements of most politicians.

  14. C S Lewis observed, (quoting very loosely) that when you want to destroy an infantry unit, you cut it off from its adjacent units…and when you want to destroy a generation, you cut it off from its preceding generations.

  15. When did tantrum become their default setting? Sheesh! Such bullies.

    The Left’s Long Post-Election Tantrum
    By Sarah Hoyt
    You know, it has been asserted — at Ace of Spades Headquarters among other places, and I made the point myself in a post here — that the left has left normal behind.

    Part of their primacy in the culture, part of the reason they inserted themselves into gatekeeper positions and managed to control the media-industrial complex, is that for the longest time they looked not only normal but, as far as the human instinct can perceive it (even in a “classless” society) but “high class” and commanding and in control.

    Part of this, of course, was their dominance of the higher economic ranges and the respected universities, and that was achieved because the wealthier people were very afraid of the communist threat and willing to parley with it in small increments, so that their children grew up communists, as a way to control what everyone in the early twentieth century thought was “the coming new order.”

    I don’t know when that slipped. …

    1. Don’t lose track of the big kahuna here – the Left has fully decloaked, and now they don’t even try to hide how criminal and crazy they are.

      And the most bizarre part is that, even after all this time, there are groups and individuals who had been flying under the radar, who are still choosing to go public to throw their lot in with the crazies.

      1. They have an incorrect model of revolutions in their heads, and have incorrectly fitted it to the data to boot. (Probably a sampling error, but…)

        They figure now is the time for victory parades, and that just a little bit more and they can have their mass murder.

          1. They imagine themselves atop the barricades, a People’s Army rising to topple unjust authority.

            They still haven’t grasped how the story ends. Waved banners and proud songs are ineffective counters to well-trained troops.

            1. I always found it ironic that, despite the fact that I think the artists thought they were making an ode to the glories of socialism, the musical is really a very conservative story. The revolutionaries may mean well (for the sake of argument), but all they do is get themselves and a bunch of other people killed to no purpose. The poor are arguably worse off for their attempts. The only two people who actually help the poor are the Bishop, a representative of the Catholic Church, who’s private act of charity saves Valjean, and “Monsieur Madeleine,” a businessman, who vastly improves the lives of those in the town simply by running his factory.

              1. As recently re-discovered en route to the Hillary Landslide, Les Miserables can never defeat Les Deporables.

          2. It’s that whole “arc of history” thing. Which is weird, considering *points up to the post* Of course, if they studied that history, they would realize there is no such thing as an “arc of history” – more like a ferris wheel, going round and round – and progressivism would lose its inevitability.

            These people are nucking futs.

        1. they also seem to forget that fineswine’s little stunt isn’t likely to pass this time, either

          God i hate that elitist bi… woman.

  16. My experience with younger people has been that they are very interested in history. They just have no idea where to find it. The Government schools tend to push politically correct pap geared to the lowest common denominator. Television tends toward a very shallow perspective…and often assumes the viewer knows nothing. There are some quite good popular history books, though.

    I’m a flight test professional. Something I learned very early was that you MUST learn from history…because you won’t live long enough to learn much without it.

    1. Things with engines appeal to me, and historical ones much more so. A favorite aviation book is Bill Gunston’s Back to the Drawing Board. He had to include the Christmas Bullet. 🙂

    2. The history courses I had in school mostly gave me an intense dislike of the entire subject, and a fervent desire to never open a history book again.

      Memorize some names, dates, and places, regurgitate them for the test, never see them again. No connection with anything; they might have been lists of random words. About as poor an instructional system as it gets.

      Some decades later I wound up with a copy of “The Arms of Krupp” by William Manchester, which was nominally about the Krupp family, but it was really about logistics, and how Germany’s strategy and tactics were constrained by their manufacturing capacity.

      Well. *That* was downright interesting… and I began buying and reading decent history books instead of the garbage we’d been inflicted with in school.

    3. Worse, we know that we don’t know enough to FIND the good stuff, most of the time.

      Look at how many conversations on religion here start out basically “Oh, you’re ___? Hey, tell me if this is BS—“

  17. Just about every kind tried to do it, and there was a serious rewrite of history associated with events like Henry VIII’s break from Rome.

    In the rewrite, Julius the XXXth didn’t give a fig about his divorces, but was a little cross about his lackluster garrisoning Hadrian’s wall and the lack of tax support to the homeland to ward off the Goths. In other news, the responsible time-traveler had his license yanked retroactively.

  18. Heinlein was a wise, wise man; he came by that wisdom honestly, as only true wisdom can be learned – by being foolish. For Us, The Living, while as exploratory (and utopian in only-showing-the-best-case way) as any of his works, was (rightly) embarrassing enough to him once he matured that he refused to publish it while still alive.

    It’s difficult to truly learn unless you make mistakes. Many will learn from no other teacher.

  19. For anyone interested in seriously good historical fiction, nothing beats the work of Dorothy Dunnett. I started on her Lymond Chronicles in junior high but didn’t understand some allusions until college (ahem), and still have to keep a dictionary and encyclopedia at hand for the political parts (wish I had had Google in the seventies). When you finish one of her books (and especially a whole series), you will be better educated geographically, historically, literarily, musically, and humanly than by any other contemporary writer (got to admit, I’m a real fan).
    There are some dark parts (okay, lots of dark parts), but also some rollicking good escapades that will totally upend your conception of the Olde Dayes.
    The depth and breadth of her novels is well-captured in her Wiki bio, which I will gently excerpt.
    * *
    The Lymond Chronicles is a series of six novels, set in mid-sixteenth-century Europe and the Mediterranean, which follows the life and career of a Scottish nobleman, Francis Crawford of Lymond, from 1547 through 1558. The series is a suspenseful tale of adventure and romance, filled with action, intense drama, poetry, culture and high comedy. Meticulously researched, the series takes place in a wide variety of locations, including France, the Ottoman Empire, Malta, England, Scotland and Russia. In addition to a compelling cast of original characters, the novels feature many historical figures, often in important roles. [including Mary Queen of Scots as a child, most of her family, a wide assortment of Scots and English and French aristocracy, and less-haughty but well-known characters of the Renaissance]

    The volumes are as follows: The Game of Kings (1961), Queen’s Play (1964), The Disorderly Knights (1966), Pawn in Frankincense (1969), The Ringed Castle (1971), Checkmate (1975)

    The six volumes of the Lymond Chronicles, set in the 16th century, are part of what Dunnett viewed as a larger fourteen-volume work, which includes the eight novels of The House of Niccolò series, …a series of eight historical novels set in the late-fifteenth-century European Renaissance. The protagonist of the series is Nicholas de Fleury (Niccolò, Nicholas van der Poele, or Claes), a talented boy of uncertain birth who rises to the heights of European merchant banking and international political intrigue. The series shares most of the locations in Dunnett’s earlier series, the Lymond Chronicles, but it extends much further geographically to take in the important urban centres of Bruges, Venice, Florence, Geneva, and the Hanseatic League; Burgundy, Flanders, and Poland; Iceland; the Iberian Peninsula and Madeira; the Black Sea cities of Trebizond and Caffa; Persia; the Mediterranean islands of Cyprus and Rhodes; Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula; and West Africa and the city of Timbuktu. Nicholas’s progress is intertwined with such historical characters as Anselm Adornes, James III of Scotland and James II of Cyprus.
    The volumes are as follows:
    Niccolò Rising (1986), Spring of the Ram (1987), Race of Scorpions (1989), Scales of Gold (1991), The Unicorn Hunt (1993), To Lie with Lions (1995), Caprice and Rondo (1997), Gemini (2000)

    King Hereafter (1982), her long novel set in Orkney and Scotland in the years just before the invasion of England by William the Conqueror (1066), was in Dorothy Dunnett’s eyes her masterpiece. It is about an Earl of Orkney uniting the people of Alba (Scotland) and becoming its King, and is based on the author’s premise that the central character Thorfinn, Earl of Orkney and the historical Macbeth, Scottish King, were one and the same person (Thorfinn is his birth name and Macbeth his baptismal name).
    [this is my favorite after Game of Kings, for the sheer audacity of it, plus having the feel of an epic fantasy that involves actual real people and places and history. No dragons, and the witches are not Shakespeare’s, but easily rivals The Game of Thrones for intrigue and adventure, without the XXXX-rated bits ]

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