Two Thoughts on History

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Two Thoughts on History

Postby Giant Communist Robot » Wed May 30, 2012 2:24 pm

Most definitions of civilization that I've seen have three requirements: living in houses, metal technology, and a written language. Before these three we have pre-history; oral tradition and what can be reconstructed through the use of artifacts. After these three we have history as we have sources of information. Recently while reading a book about Babylon I was struck by the fact that of the five thousand years of history we have twenty-five hundred of them cover the Sumerians and their successors. Half of all history is Sumerian.

Santayana's dictum always seemed to me to be an intellectually lazy was to advance one's own argument. Maybe not. Over the past five thousand years our way of life and understanding has changed; however, our behavior and human nature hasn't. It's certainly reasonable to expect that the structure of human events would repeat over such a long time, much the same as there are no new plots for stories. What changes are magnitudes and details. Better than Santayana is Mark Twain's observation: If history doesn't repeat, it at least rhymes.
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Re: Two Thoughts on History

Postby dai bread » Thu May 31, 2012 12:23 am

One comment I read had history as a spiral- it repeats, but on a different level.
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Re: Two Thoughts on History

Postby Shapley » Wed Jun 06, 2012 11:34 am

Chinese records date to about 1600 B.C., about 1,000 years later than the earliest Sumarian records, I believe. Our Western teaching of History remains largely Eurocentric, largely ignoring the History of the Far East until it was 'discovered' by Marco Polo.

Most of our History textbooks appear to be expansions and revisions of older textbooks. That would probably stem from the concept of 'approved' curriculae. By permitting governing agencies to control the content of teaching over a broad base, we limit that curriculae to those things they are comfortable permitting.

That may differ in the Western United States, particularly Hawaii, where the Asian population is much larger than here in the midwest.
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Re: Two Thoughts on History

Postby dai bread » Wed Jun 06, 2012 6:27 pm

My history classes, along with almost everything else, virtually ignored Asia, except for India (including Pakistan). India was, after all, the jewel in the British Imperial crown, and the Empire was strong in our minds then, soon after WW2.

Then Britain joined the European Economic Community, now the EU, and we suddenly had to find a home for several thousand tons of ewe mutton every year. The only place remotely possible was Japan. Not that we were successful in selling them ewe mutton, but it opened our eyes and our minds to the existence of Asia. The embargo on recognising China was seen for the foolishness that it was, and didn't last long. The Asian connection has grown stronger ever since.

It is noteworthy that Queen Elizabeth's diamond jubilee is unmarked here except in the news media, and then mostly on TV. The British do mediaeval pagentry very well, and it looks great on TV.
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Re: Two Thoughts on History

Postby Giant Communist Robot » Thu Jun 07, 2012 3:03 pm

Our Western teaching of History remains largely Eurocentric


Without a point of view it's just a "laundry list" of events. After picking one, history becomes a narrative, describing and characterizing events from point A to point B.
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Re: Two Thoughts on History

Postby Giant Communist Robot » Thu Jun 07, 2012 3:10 pm

It is noteworthy that Queen Elizabeth's diamond jubilee is unmarked here except in the news media, and then mostly on TV.


I'm such an uninformed tool! I saw mention of this on almost every news broadcast daily. They told me it was happening, but I didn't know what it was. I had to Wiki it to find out. Wiki BTW, is derived from wiki-wiki, an Hawaiian word for "quick".
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Re: Two Thoughts on History

Postby Shapley » Thu Jun 07, 2012 4:17 pm

"Without a point of view it's just a "laundry list" of events. After picking one, history becomes a narrative, describing and characterizing events from point A to point B."

I'm not sure that World History can't be taught with a world-view. Methinks one could simply begin with a timeline and track the events continent by continent or region by region.

I think it would be an interesting experiment. Rather than show how History has diverged away from the Sumerian origin, show how the histories of the various continents have diverged towards globalization.

I realize, in theory, all history begins with the mating of a single pair of ape-humans, and that tracing history back far enough will inevitably lead to the divergent model. But, if we work from the point of recorded histories, we start with distant, unique cultures that gradually develop until trade and war unite them into a commonality of sorts.
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Re: Two Thoughts on History

Postby Shapley » Thu Jun 07, 2012 4:19 pm

I was in Europe during most of it, and it dominated the English-language channels. From what I could tell, not speaking the languages, it was less of a factor on non-English news networks, which seemed to dwell on the Euro's problems and issues of interest to the broadcasting nation.
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Re: Two Thoughts on History

Postby Giant Communist Robot » Thu Jun 07, 2012 6:53 pm

I realize, in theory, all history begins with the mating of a single pair of ape-humans


Of course you're allowed to define words however you like, but for many history begins with recording by way of written language. Before that is prehistory. What you say here means prehistoric times ended with the mating of the ape-humans.
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Re: Two Thoughts on History

Postby Giant Communist Robot » Thu Jun 07, 2012 6:56 pm

Shapley wrote:I was in Europe during most of it, and it dominated the English-language channels. From what I could tell, not speaking the languages, it was less of a factor on non-English news networks, which seemed to dwell on the Euro's problems and issues of interest to the broadcasting nation.



It's really quite surprising what U.S. stations will broadcast on slow news days.
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Re: Two Thoughts on History

Postby Shapley » Fri Jun 08, 2012 9:07 am

Giant Communist Robot wrote:Of course you're allowed to define words however you like, but for many history begins with recording by way of written language. Before that is prehistory. What you say here means prehistoric times ended with the mating of the ape-humans.


My ever-failing memory seems to recall that we used to define 'history' as opposed to 'written history' or 'recorded history'. I seem to recall that our History books included sections on Peking Man and Java Man, both of whom predate written history. I also seem to recall that it even had a discussion of Piltdown Man, though he had been exposed as a hoax years before I ws born. It was probably on a discussion of frauds and forgeries in history, but only the name stuck with me, not the nature of the discussion.

But, of course, we divide 'history' in different classes - World History, American History, Human History, Natural History, etc. 'Natural History' deals with history of events from millions of years before written or recorded history, but we still define it as 'history'.

But, alas, I should have said at the very least the 'history of man' begins, etc. My reference to 'natural history' clealry indicates that human history is only a small fraction of the timeline. ;)
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Re: Two Thoughts on History

Postby barfle » Mon Jun 11, 2012 11:55 am

Shapley wrote:I also seem to recall that it even had a discussion of Piltdown Man, though he had been exposed as a hoax years before I ws born. It was probably on a discussion of frauds and forgeries in history, but only the name stuck with me, not the nature of the discussion.

The Piltdown men were one-hit wonders. The Brontosaurus Stomp will always be close to my heart.

We now return you to our regular programming.
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