Circe the siren?
Patrick Henry said in 1775:
It is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren, till she transforms us into beasts.
Was he aware that he conflated two episodes of the Odyssey?
sometimes there are no good possibilities
Years ago, in a Usenet thread about Lincoln’s unconstitutional reconquest of the South, someone asked me (I paraphrase): “As a descendant of slaves, why should I prefer to live in that alternate history where the CSA continued to keep slaves after 1865?”
I had no answer then, but one has recently occurred to me:
For several reasons I believe that slavery was more likely to end if secession was successful than if the secession had never happened. If the end of slavery were not tied to a tremendous grudge of blood and devastation, might not social equality come sooner even if formal liberation came later?
where was Waterloo?
I have twice raised the question: “In what country was the battle of Waterloo fought?” Waterloo is now in Belgium, but that state was created fifteen years later. Well, I finally bothered to go looking for an answer to the question . .
Waterloo was fought nine days after the end of the Congress of Vienna, during which the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, which included what we now call Belgium, was created.
say, Colonel DuBois?
Heinlein’s Starship Troopers has a teacher say that all wars are caused by population pressure.
Did Europe have a lull after 1348?
Mom is in town, and yesterday we went to the Arts & Crafts exhibit at the de Young.
One of the wall placards says, “The problems caused by free trade and the Industrial Revolution had been recognized since the 1830s . . . .”
The part about free trade is easy to debunk: the first triumph of the British free trade movement was the repeal in 1846 (motivated in part by the Irish famine) of the protectionist Corn Laws.
The plight of the working classes before that is familiar from Oliver Twist (1837–9) and A Christmas Carol (1843), but since I can’t see how industrialization itself could cause it, I prefer to blame the Inclosure Acts which dispossessed small landholders and thus depressed wages (while the Corn Laws kept food prices high). The new industrialists naturally took advantage of cheap labor, but one cannot reduce wages by offering employment.
it’s a day for anniversaries
Several important things happened on April 19, but here’s one of which I was unaware: Charles Darwin died on this date in 1882.
It came to my attention because the bookmark of the hour happens to be the Darwin-L archives. Darwin-L (1993-7) was a forum devoted to the historical sciences, full of tasty wide-ranging discussion. I was very sorry to see it close down.
How many list-servers, I wonder, still use the -L tag?
collect them all!
In a review of a biography of Lillian Hellman, The Economist used the phrase “at the height of the first cold war in 1952.”
I’m always the last to know. Is this usage widespread? When was the height of the second cold war?