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Cut for dated, racist language )

Federal Attorney Charles E. Boles, in a legal memo for the U.S. Post Office during WWI, on the black paper's reportings of lynchings.

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Steven Pinker just published, in the New Republic, one of those self-congratulatory science pieces with the whining about how people are taught too much humanities and not enough science, with the oh-so-approachable title: "Science Is Not Your Enemy An impassioned plea to neglected novelists, embattled professors, and tenure-less historians". (Adam Frank, in "The Power Of Science And The Danger Of Scientism" explained, "Thus, scientism is the "science can explain everything," (or, at least, "science explains everything important"), kind of position some folks take in arguments about religion, philosophy, the value of the humanities, etc;" For medievalists, this is the kind of attitude displayed by that dreadful nonsense, A World Lit Only by Fire. In fact, it's the kind of attitude that led the Enlightenment 'historians' to describe a 'middle' or 'dark' ages in which the church persecuted people for not believing the Earth was flat-- though the orreries installed in churches at in the Middle Ages and Renaissance for the calculation of Easter clearly rely on a non-flat Earth.)

Anyway, someone deliciously smacks down Pinker and his scientism:
"In Which Steven Pinker Is A Total Ignoramus Who Should Go Read A Fucking Book And Get Himself Some Fucking Education"

I'm as pleased with scientific progress as the next person but everyone should be thinking about how they are thinking about things-- and asking themselves if they are really using the right tools for the right problem. (Which is what the article Pinker was responding to was saying: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/books-and-arts/magazine/103086/scientism-humanities-knowledge-theory-everything-arts-science ) 
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Read Byzantine history.
No matter how apocalyptic your idea of what is going on in the world right now is, Byzantine history will likely beat it all hollow.
Actually, I didn't *read* Byzantine history, I listened to a lectures-on-CD version.

Having this sort of thing in the back of your head as a references for what "Slow Grind" and "Fast Crash" apocalyptic failure-of-civilization scenarios really are like is very handy.
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The first recorded case of a C-Section operation survived by the mother appears to have been in Germany in 1500, performed by the desperate father-- Jacob Nufer, a pig gelder.

Rectovaginal fistulas (which is one of the complications that episiotomies were developed to combat) were common and long-term complications of birth in the 19th century. Between 1845 and 1850, James Marion Sims came up with a speculum that allowed repairs to be made and perfected a method by operating on a number of African-American slave women who had such fistulas. He later made his fortune performing the surgery on upper-class women who also demanded the now-fashionable anesthesia for the operation.

The 16th century Rosegarden for Pregnant Women and Midwives recommends that overweight women deliver in a hands and knees position that is widely mentioned in the current delivery/midwifery literature as a method for reducing shoulder dystochia (where the child is trapped in the birth canal because the posterior shoulder cannot be delivered). This manuever, however, is not easily executed in a modern standard delivery room due to the presence of monitoring equipment.
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From Xrefer blog:

Armistice Day anniversary marked by launch of Great War Archive
Oxford University is marking the 90th anniversary of Armistice Day by launching two new, free to access websites, thanks to funding from the JISC Digitisation Programme. These resources will allow educators, scholars and the public to view previously unseen memorabilia and poetry from World War I. The Great War Archive and the First World War Poetry Archive bring together 13,500 digital images of items mainly of rare primary source material.
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From XreferBlog:

Volunteers bring to life the world of the Victorian poor
"Volunteers around England and Wales are embarking on an exciting project to unearth the often sad and gruesome world of the Victorian poor. Led by The National Archives, the 'Living the Poor Life' project will involve more than 200 local and family historians in cataloguing memos, letters and reports held within the records of 22 Poor Law Unions....
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So, I'm reading 1491 by Charles Mann... I got started because they are doing a First Year Seminar with it (Title: "Archaeology and Sustainability") which I did the library session for.
Last night, my dreams were interrupted, repeatedly, by the words Naugasett and Massachusett (the New England tribes) floating through them.

So, when I came in this morning I looked up the story of Tisquantum again. (Did you know that the practice of burying fish with the hills of corn hasn't been documented in any local tribe, and that he probably picked the idea up from spending time in England?) Unfortunately, it appears he and his compatriots were originally kidnapped and taken to Spain in 1605.

There goes my plan to convince someone to adopt a Pauxtet alternate persona... *sigh*

Yes, I do wish some serious people would research personas from American tribes that had serious kidnapping incidents before 1600-- there appear to have been quite a few. Tisquantum himself appears to have travelled more in Europe than many English or Frenchmen of his age.
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From Jean Bodin's On the Demonomanie of Sorcerers, 1580:

Therefore it is that one accused [Page 6] of being a witch ought never to be folly [sic] acquitted and set free unless the calumny of the accuser is clearer than the sun, inasmuch as the proof of such crimes is so obscure and so difficult that not one witch in a million would be accused or punished if the procedure were governed by the ordinary rules. . . .

-- http://history.hanover.edu/texts/bodin.html

Drew Library has his:
Ioannis Bodini, Andegavensis, De magorvm dæmonomania, sev Detestando lamiarum ac magorum cum Satana commercio, libri IV. : Recens recogniti, et mvltis in locis à mendis repurgati. Accessit eivsdem opinionvm Ioannis Wieri confutatio, non minus docta quam pia. Francofvrti, : Typis Wolfgangi Richteri, : Impensis omnium hæredum Nicolai Bassæi., 1603.

Sometimes, this sounds way too modern to me.
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After reading Witches & neighbors : the social and cultural context of European witchcraft by Robin Briggs, I became convinced that accusations of witchcraft are the late Renaissance and early Enlightenment equivalent of civil damage/malpractice suits...

*sigh* Get it right, people: it was the Jews they massacred for not catching illnesses (and sometimes they substituted any handy local groups of foreigners if they couldn't get Jews or hated the foreigners more). Making people sick, ruining their crops, or curing people when they were beyond human help, THAT was supposed to be witchcraft. (I wonder if they had any wrongful life type witchcraft persecutions...)
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Public record of the labor and delivery of a Iberian woman, 1490:
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Alessio, The Second part of the Secretes, p. 18-19.

For the stinkinge of the breath, and to make the teeth whyte.
Take a pound of skimmed Hony, halfe a pound of Aqua vite, three onces of Lignum aloe, two onces of gomme Arabick, Nuttemegges, Galingale, Cububes, Cinamome, Masticke, Cloves, Spic, and Lavander new, anna three drammes, tow drammes of Amber beaten, mix all this together, & still water of it in a limbeck, and this water will take away the stinking of the breath, whiten the teeth, and maintaine helth long.

A water to make cleane teeth.
Take salt Armoniac, and salt Gemma, three onces of eche one, an once & a halfe of alumen Sucharinum, and distill it, or temper it in two pound of water, the space of eight daies, & with this licour distilled or so tempered, you shal rubbe your teeth & they will be whyte.

Another water to whiten teeth,
Take a pound of salt well purged, and beaten, an once of Alumen Glaciale, & distill it in a limbeck, and mingle an once of the water, with an once of Plantaine water, and rubbe your teeth with the composition, and with cotten, and they will be white and cleane.

To take away the smell of Garlike, Leekes, or Onyons.
After that you have eaten Garlike, Leekes, or Onions, take the roote of Beete, & rost it under embers, and eate it, & you shall see the effect; or els eate a piece of the rote of Zeduaria, & you shal not smell at all, and this is easier to be done than with the roote of Beete.

Spic is probably spike, which may be spike lavender.
Aqua Vitae is distilled spirits
Lignum aloes is aloeswoood (Aquilaria species?)
I have no idea what 'anna' is there.
gomme Arabick is Gum Arabic; Acacia gum.
Salt armoniac shoule be Sal Ammoniac, ammonium chloride, NH4Cl
Salt gemma may be salgemma, halite, AKA natural salt.
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So, I'm re-reading Gaudy Night, by Sayers, and running into questions of 'the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth...'.

In Gaudy Night, there is a long discussion among the members of Shrewsbury scholars about the morality of suppressing a fact, and of the person who sees the fact suppressed and lets it go.

"Well, that's true, of course. Nothing could possibly excuse deliberate falsification."
"There's no sense in deliberate falsification, anyhow," said the Bursar. "What could anybody gain by it?"
"It has been done," said Miss Hillyard, "frequently. To get the better of an argument. Or out of ambition."
"Ambition to be what?" cried Miss Lydgate. "What satisfaction could one possibly get out of a reputation one knew one didn't deserve? It would be horrible."

Of course, there are many things where depending on how one states the facts, and which facts one states, one can make totally opposing arguments. Some of them have been touched on lightly by certain discussions-- even among the sane people who do believe in the Holocaust, for instance, there are wildly varying constructions of what it was about and even the way things happened, and why, and what we need to do to keep it from ever happening again.

Right now, though, I'm looking at something less fraught. One of the blogs I read, a post-peak-oil one (and the peak oil movement puzzles me specifically because of the issues and indicators they choose to focus on), just posted something about the end of the economy, etc. as we know it. The writer cites two other sites for some facts to bolster her argument. But... following her references, I find that they don't say exactly what she has made them say. Using your 'economic incentive" to 'pay utility bills' is not the same as 'paying past-due utility bills'. It may indeed be true that 50% of 'recent' homebuyers now have no or negative equity in their homes-- if you define 'recent' as 'in the last 3 years'. Did the writer do this on purpose? Or is this just the way she reads the news? Should I say something? Should I stop reading her blog? I don't know.

The same is true of other questions. Even in my own writing. I've recently written about medieval hygiene. Trying to explode the 'dirty' stereotype, I may well have overstated my case, and possibly even my evidence. But if I don't lay out the evidence as I know it, I'm complicit in the surpression of facts. If I don't argue the thesis of John Riddle in Eve's Herbs by saying "there's plenty of evidence that lots of this stuff isn't very effective, and that people really were obsessed with regular menstruation" I feel like I'm complicit in the misrepresentation of history. But am I actually supporting the suppression of truth? I don't know.
bunnyjadwiga: (oy)
*mumble mumble mumble*
just 'cos you can't find anything out on the open internet on it doesn't mean it's been erased from history.
That's what we *have* specialized resources for.
Just sayin'.
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Someone was referred to me because I know a bunch about historical use of herbs. She's doing a paper on the Egyptian herbals, and was splashing about in search of narrowing her topic.
So, I thought I'd post my most useful responses here, in case someone else is doing the same thing.
The text she's working with is
Lise Manniche, An Ancient Egyptian Herbal,* which is generally considered a nice solid summary.
I suggested that she check out:
Guido Majno, The healing hand : man and wound in the ancient world which anyone interested in pre-modern medicine will find enlightening if somewhat disgusting (hint: there is good pus and bad pus.)
R.J. Forbes, Studies in Ancient Technology a nine-volume set that includes all sorts of information on Greek, Roman, and Egyptian technologies from engineering to perfume.
There is also the terrible Wallis Budge and his Divine Origin of the Craft of the Herbalist but I'd only use that to suggest alleyways to pursue in more reputable sources.
If I had access to it, which I don't now, I'd also suggest Dioscordies, De Materia Medica. There's a English translation from 1655 reprinted under the title The Greek herbal of Dioscorides.

Another text her instructor thought would be helpful is:
John F. Nunn, Ancient Egyptian medicine

Another fascinating book, with lovely pictures and some text from parchments, is:
James P. Allen, The art of medicine in ancient Egypt.

Manniche also wrote Sacred Luxuries: Fragrance, Aromatherapy, and Cosmetics in Ancient Egypt which was well-recieved.
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p. 188-190
Elizabeth I of England, educated as a humanist princess, was a perfect exemplar of this new Italian civility...Elizabeth was known to be fussy about her health-- she hated being ill. She preserved her health and lived to old age by apparently following a sensible humanist health regimen; she ate and drank abstemiously, took plenty of exercise, and undoubtedly owned a copy of Sir Thomas Elyot's hugely successful Castel of Helth (1539; five editions by 1560), dedicated to her father's chief minister Thomas Cromwell. She always travelled with her bed and hip bath, and had bathing facilities in all of her palaces, including a sweat bath-- her 'warm box' or 'warm nest' -- inherited from her father at Richmond, her favorite palace. At Richmond she also installed a prototype of the water closet, the invention of her godson "Boy Jack," Sir John Harington (translator of the Salerno Regimen). At Whitehall, Elizabeth also had a hot room with a ceramic tiled stove, as well as a large bath and grooming suite, both inherited from her father, in which to spend time with her intimate companions. This suite was effectively her Cabinet of the Morning. It contained her bedroom, and next to it a 'a fine bathroom... [where] the water pours from oyster shells and different kinds of rock'. Next to the bathroom was a room with an organ 'on which two people can play duets, also a large chest completely covered in silk, and a clock which plays times by striking a bell'. Next to this was a room 'where the Queen keeps her books'. Indeed royal baths were so a la mode that a bathhouse was specially built for Mary, Queen of Scots, at Holyrood Palace in the late 1560s; so there is no reason to think that Queen Elizabeth I did not thoroughly enjoy her monthly bath 'whether she needed it or no' (probably at the time of the menses) and was certainly likely to have taken them more often than that, when returning to Richmond or Whitehall after a long cold journey or a dusty ride on a hot afternoon.

In any case she would have known all about baths, being well versed in the 'arts of adornment' and having a passionate interest in Italian cosmetics.

Things to point out: if Elizabeth suffered from retention of water (edema, dropsy, etc) as she is sometimes claimed to have done, her doctors might have either limited her baths for humorally reasons, or prescribed sweat baths for the same reasons. Retention of water may in fact have been a family problem, plaguing her sister Mary and perhaps even her father in his old age.

In addition, the 'whether she needed it or no' may well NOT have been a comment on her cleanliness, as modern people have usually read it, but a comment on baths for her health, so that she was accustomed to have a bath regularly even without a health prescription...
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CELT, Corpus of Electronic Texts, is 935 texts relating to historic and contemporary Ireland. Searchable, downloadable (some are not . Including texts in English, Irish and Latin. Some texts/translations are limited for copyright reasons.
List of texts:
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There's a nasty little quote going around the internet, attributed to Ferdinand Magellan. Now, I have no problem with people complaining about christianity or the church for things they actually did. But the problem with this quote is that it alleges that Magellan said the Church told him the earth was flat. I have never been able to find any source of this quote, because the Church did NOT believe the Earth was flat in his time. *

I finally tracked down a source for this quote, because someone else found it:

It's not in the words of Magellan. It's in the words of Robert Green Ingersoll, a freethinker, who first used this alleged quote from Magellan, in an 1873 text called Individuality:

What's even more curious about this is the text that follows his made-up quote:
The trouble with most people is, they bow to what is called authority; they have a certain reverence for the old because it is old. They think a man is better for being dead, especially if he has been dead a long time. They think the fathers of their nation were the greatest and best of all mankind. All these things they implicitly believe because it is popular and patriotic, and because they were told so when they were very small, and remember distinctly of hearing mother read it out of a book. It is hard to over-estimate the influence of early training in the direction of superstition.

Yup. He's absolutely right. He's managed to put words in the mouth of a guy that was dead over 300 years when he wrote, and because they are both dead, everyone believes that it actually happened.

* while somewhat apologistic, Jeffrey Burton Russell's Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus and Modern Historians lays out the evidence on this point very well.
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The October 3, 2007 issue of JAMA, Journal of the American Medical Association, has on its cover a very nice photo of a circa 1580 terracotta Drug Jar for Theriac from the J. Paul Getty museum:
The article inside the cover describes the usual constituents of the drug Theriac

...theriac served as an antidote for all poisons and afflictions; it was part of the ancient physician's armamentarium for prevention as well as treatment of disease. The recipe for theriac varied but usually included vipers' flesh, parts of lizards, honey, plants, and herbs or spices (even ginger, cinnamon, and myrrh). Theriac's ingredients (40 to 60 separate items) were a closely held secret, passed along in poetic verse... Theriac, also later referred to as treacle, existed in the pharmacopoeia of Western physicians and pharmacies until the 1700s.
-- Janet M. Torpy. "The Cover," JAMA, October 3, 2007-- Vol 298, No. 13, p. 1483


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