Oracle of History

Guiding you through the ages

Archive for the tag “history”

History repeats itself

I know what you are thinking, what a generic title for a blog post on a history blog. However I believe it is important to take a look at this concept since the outcome of the U.S. election.

So many people were shocked by the win of President Elect Trump, but why is that?

The idea of history repeating itself has been around for thousands of years and yet some people do not believe in its existence.

Therefore I will take you on a journey of how ideas of historic recurrence developed:

if-history-repeats-itself-im-getting-a-dinosaur

The Ancients 

In the Ancient world several philosophers and thinkers (such as Poseidonius, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, and Zosimus)  foresaw the demise of the Roman Empire due to the fate of their predecessors – Assyrians, Persians, and even the Macedonians.

What these philosophers saw was that all of previous great Empires went through a cycle of immense power, disunity, and then fall. I challenge you to find an Empire that did not do the same.

The fall of the Macedonian Empire is particularly interesting due to their most famous leader – Alexander the Great!

The Renaissance

771484108

Niccolo Machiavelli,  an early writer and thinker on politics, saw the repeating nature of Florentine politics. He believed in a fluctuation of vice and virtue within society. Virtue creates peace, which leads to idleness and vice. A cycle that keep repeating itself.

This theory is, obviously, very indicative of its time. An Italy divided into city states, constantly at war with each other and against encroaching Empires. There was an emphasis on the role of political virtue in society. Not unlike today when we hold politicians accountable for their actions.

For reference, watch the TV show The Borgias. Although its historical validity can be questioned, it gives a good idea of the fighting between city states.

Modern Interpretation

Karl Marx even brought his thoughts to the table in 1852, agreeing with Hegel that all great moments in world history are repeated twice. Marx added, “the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” What is most interesting about was that he wrote this in the context of the recent coups d’etat of Napoleon’s nephew, Napoleon III in 1851.

image

This case alone shows the repetition of actions within a short time frame. Which brings to mind the  famous quote from George Santayana that is often misattributed:

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”

If these repetitions happen within living memory, are we doomed either way?

With the outcome of the 2016 U.S. election, it seems that we are doomed to repeat it. As a historian, the striking similarities between the rise of President-Elect Trump and Adolf Hitler are hard to ignore – something that I will not go into detail here because there are many accounts of this. All we can hope is that he will not continue that legacy.

The purpose of this blog post was to inform people about how the notion of history repeating itself has been around for thousands of years and that it is our job to be prepared for the next cycle in the best ways we can.

To end on a high note here is a little video treat about seeing into the future:

Advertisements

An Ode to Social Media and Museums

As a lover of history and culture, I have never understood those who are completely bored with museums. For the past year, I have been in this educational bubble with like-minded people who are interested in the same things as me. Now that my Masters degree is over, I am faced with the reality that not everyone I meet may be interested in the state of the illicit antiquities trade or the cultural appropriation of a particular genre of shadow puppetry.

Thus I am faced, once again, with the question of why so many people are not interested in Museums? Am I no longer hip?!

The key is to make people excited about going to museums. Social media may be the answer! As we are getting more and more permanently attached to our devices, social media has not only been a vehicle for museums to use, but also a way for the visitor to drive their own visitor experience.

This blog post will illustrate two different ways that, I personally think, are successful uses of social media by museums and individuals:

The Art of the Selfie

The selfie is now a part of our every day vernacular, but would you ever expect to see it used in the signage of a major museum?

No, you wouldn’t.

This is why I was genuinely surprised on a visit to the Grand Palais in Paris, back in 2014, where they encouraged visitors to take selfies with the ancient statues in an exhibit on the Emperor Augustus and Ancient Rome.

10504848_10152500462938529_2502922536443960198_o

My attempt at joining in on the hashtag “moiempereur.”

This sort of social media encouragement was their valiant effort to make a “boring” topic more engaging. In fact, as you see above, I was so encouraged that I made my own addition to the flurry of Instagram pictures from the exhibit (note the bunny ear shadow).

The great thing about this method is that it can appeal to everyone, including the surly teenagers dragged to the museum by their parents. It made me wonder why there were not more museums trying to do this. It seems like the perfect blend of advertisement and engagement.

1397079_10152011184688529_1318243393_o

On the other end of the spectrum, this is the Louvre Museum’s attempt to stop flash photos.

Snapchating at the Museum 

The lack of organization use may be because social media is not seen as a useful tool for direct engagement since many museums have their own apps available to download. Museum social media is often carefully regulated and does not include the spontaneity that normally accompanies its use.

The normalisation of social media has therefore lead to the rise of the Art History Snapchat, a great activity for any museum goer where you take a photo of an art work and write a observational caption that is completely out of context. See below for examples.

Next time you are in a museum, try it! It is actually very fun and a creative outlet. It also has the bonus effect of advertising the museum in question. It may even encourage individuals to go seek out these artworks. Nothing can be more thrilling than finding a popular meme in a museum.

josephcollection

This guy is actually in the Louvre Museum – happy hunting! 

For this reason, it may be useful for museums to incorporate this sort of interaction into their digital portfolio. Organisations like Museum Hack are a prime example of how it could work. The success of Pokemon Go also proves that using an app does not necessarily mean becoming a shut in. In fact, the Canal River Trust in London has been promoting the use of Pokemon Go by encouraging people to share their Poke Trail while they are walking along Regent’s Canal.

It all brings into question where we need to draw the line between something that is innovative and when it becomes a hindrance. The ban of the selfie stick from most museums for safety reasons is but one example of this issue. Although it does not stop celebrities, such as Beyonce, for making museum selfies look cool.

So what do you think? Are you a fan of social media in museums? Can Beyonce change your mind?

Bonus Image 

beyonce-louvre-a

Beyonce taking a Selfie in the Louvre Museum

Adventures in Florence

After a rather long hiatus from writing on this blog, I became inspired by a recent trip to Florence for a conference. The conference centred around the management of archaeological sites, which is incredibly appropriate for a city like Florence because the whole historic centre is actually listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Not only was the city incredibly beautiful with the Christmas lights, but there was a certain atmosphere about the place. I think my picture of the Ponte Vecchio can attest to that.

12313927_10153720864883529_4579968100429840205_n

Ponte Vecchio on our first day

I’m not sure what draws me to historical places. The idea that you are walking on the same well trodden ground as people hundreds of years ago is fascinating. As part of the conference, we were able to get free access to the famous museums. That was amazing, especially since we were all travelling on a student budget.

IMAG1475

First sighting of the David

Seeing Michelangelo’s David was definitely a highlight. Did you know it was made from one solid block of marble? Pretty awesome! It was particularly impressive to see it in the flesh again after a solid year of talking about it on social media for a previous employer. Time Traveler Tours & Tales successfully completed a kickstarter campaign in June to fund an app that will bring the story of Michelangelo’s David to life through an interactive tour of the city of Florence. If you’re interested, you can read more about it here.

IMAG1494

Uffizi Gallery

No trip to Florence is really complete,  however,  without a visit to the Uffizi, the famous art gallery that houses some of the world’s most famous Renaissance and Medieval artwork. Although you might not recognize the names, you will definitely recognize the paintings. What struck me the most about the visit was actually the concerted effort to provide alternative interpretation of the artwork for blind patrons.  Accessibility is so important, especially in the art world. This made me incredibly hopeful for the arts of the future, which is why I find technology and museums so fascinating.

IMAG1501

Botticelli’s Venus and the blind friendly equivalent

It also made me realize that Italy is really a country of the senses. You are meant to experience it by taste, sight, touch, smell, and sound. It can be seen in the way it is often portrayed in popular media, emphasizing the way the food tastes, the breathtaking sights, and the sounds of the streets. I love that about the country, but for those who do not have use of all five senses, it may seem like they are missing out on something.

On a brighter note, we were able to spend our last evening taking in the sunset from the Piazzale Michelangelo, an amazing vantage point where you can see the entire city from above. Two of us even drank a little bottle of wine to truly celebrate the occasion (only 4 euros!).

IMAG1513

View from the Piazzale Michelangelo

It was a truly great 5 days for the networking opportunities, but also for discovering the city in the winter. It makes me want to go to previously visited cities and see them in all seasons. Every country does Christmas differently, for example. See below for a particularly festive shop window in Florence.

IMAG1435

This trip has reignited my wanderlust! Send help (and money)! It also has reinforced my love for heritage and the yearning to preserve it. I hope for a new year full of great experiences and exploring the world.

Happy New Year!

Ancient History Can Be A Killer

My guilty pleasure has always been historical fiction, but I also really like a good mystery/crime drama. So I was super excited when I first discovered historical mysteries!

Yes, you’ve read that right. Two of the very best of the entertainment genres mashed together. I’ll set the scene of the discovery for you. I was on holiday with my family, on a beach in the south of France. I am not a big fan of the beach since I am very pale with blonde hair and blue eyes. I would often bring reading material and hide under a huge umbrella. My dad, a huge history nerd like me, noticed my great love of the ancient roman world so he let me borrow his book – “Last Seen in Massilia” by Steven Saylor. For those of you who don’t know, Massilia was the Ancient Roman name of the town of Marseille in the south of France.

175px-Last_Seen_in_Massilia_cover

Thus an obsession was born! From the age of 16, I devoured any historical mysteries I could find set in the world of the Roman Empire and Republic. It was so much more engaging than your standard history book because it looked at the fabric of everyday life in the ancient world. You could feel the streets of the cities come to life and the characters of the books seemed real.

What was most surprising was that I was actually learning from these books. When I got to University and took my first survey course on the ancient world, I knew a lot more than my peers did. I had a head start because I loved these historical mysteries.

So I thought I would share with the world some of my favorite historical mystery series set in the world of ancient rome

Roma Sub Rosa Series by Steven Saylor 

4538960543_pre

This series follows the life of Gordianus. He is a finder, which is essentially a private detective for hire. The story spans from his beginnings as a young detective to his elderly years with his children (and grandchildren!). As with most historical fiction, he meets famous people like Julius Caesar and Cleopatra. And he curries favor by solving mysteries along the way. Definitely not PG though – kiddies beware!

Marcus Didius Falco and Flavia Albia Mysteries by Lindsey Davis 

972534

ides of april

The original series follows Marcus Didius Falco, an informer. He is an independent detective, but he is often asked to investigate things by the Emperor (and you can’t really say no to the Emperor). It is set during the reign of the Flavian dynasty, which means Vespasian, Titus and Domitian. What is so compelling about this series is that he is often sent to other parts of the Empire to solve mysteries. So you get to see the everyday life of romans in the provinces, which is not always common in this historical mystery genre. He is also a very sassy character and the writing has a lot of quick wit.

Lindsey Davis then recently started a new series, following the life of Falco’s adopted daughter Flavia Albia. An orphan, found in a brothel in Londinium, she follows in the footsteps of her adopted dad and becomes an informer in Rome. There are only a couple books out in this series, but I look forward to the rest!

Plinius Secundus Series by Bruce Macbain

Roman-Games-Low-Res-cover-184x276

This series follows Pliny the Younger, a lawyer, solving mysteries and bringing murderers to justice! Since the main character is an actual person who lived during that time, you’ll find that this series is more tame than the other two in terms of its artistic liberties. The story is fake though, so don’t be fooled by the real people!

SPQR Mysteries by John Maddox Roberts 

326846

Unlike many of the series I have mentioned before, this series is narrated by a Senator – Decius Caecilius Metellus the Younger, to be specific. It is written as a flashback and it gives us an “in” with the lives of the rich in Rome as an equal. So it shows you a different perspective of Roman life.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I think you should have enough reading material now to last you awhile. For those of you who are more interested in Ancient Egypt or Ancient Greece, I apologize. I know this is very one sided, but Ancient Rome was my first love.

Please feel free to add historical mysteries in other time periods that you think I should check out or add your own favorites!

Let’s share the love guys.

Will History Stand The Test Of Time?

Sometimes when I’m bored I look through my old photos. It often results in me being embarrassed due to poor fashion choices and/or weird camera angles. It also brings back memories. I was particularly amused when I was looking at my photos from my trip to Egypt…..

IMG_1085

 

 …….And I found this gem! The most interesting part to me was that no one was telling her off. Don’t get me wrong I completely understand that if a baby needs changing it needs to be done, but it was fascinating to see how nonplussed everyone was about it. 

This made me think. How attached are we to the preservation of ruins? 

Therefore I decided that it was best to look at the different ways we are preserving our heritage. 

I know that personally, I would be severely disappointed if we let them rot, but on the other hand it would be fun to run and frolic through the ruins freely. I guess you can’t have it both ways! 

Case study 1 

That being said, preservation has also been used as an excuse for European countries to keep priceless artefacts from their country of origin – *cough* England *cough*

For those who don’t know what I’m talking about let me enlighten you….You may have heard of the Parthenon in Athens. One of the most recognizable ruins in the world. 

 The_Parthenon_in_Athens

Well, a British Lord, Thomas Bruce 7th Earl of Elgin to be exact, removed most of the marble sculptures from the Parthenon, taking it back to be housed at the British Museum. They are now affectionately called the “Elgin Marbles” 

Now, I’m a big fan of the British Museum – I almost lived there when I was a student, but this started a feud that has been going on since the early 1800s. It’s almost comical how every year the Greek government asks for them back and every year the British government says no. 

The best is that the latest excuse was that Athens had no way to properly preserve the marbles. So what did Athens do? They built an Acropolis museum of course! Still no luck in returning them though. 

Case study 2 

On the other end of the spectrum you’ve got Egypt, suffering at the moment from political and religious upheaval. They have more ruins than anybody knows what to do with and no one is going to see them. Although, unlike the Greeks they have their most prized relic – the treasures of Tutankahmun – firmly on their own soil, in Cairo. 

tutcarterbw

When I was there I came across a man in the street who claimed to be a curator at the Egyptian Museum (he wasn’t) and have a PhD in Aromatherapy (he didn’t). So I listened skeptically as he ranted about the return of all the Egyptian artefacts, including the Obelisk in the Piazza del Popolo in Rome. 

To which my mother replied: “What about the Obelisk in Paris?” 

His response was of outrage : “No! That was a gift.”

To each their own I guess!

Case study 3 (and last I promise)

The more observant of you may have noticed that I know a lot about Paris. This is because I live there!

One of the most interesting example of historical preservation here is the Arènes de Lutèce (Arena of Lutecia).

Lutecia was the Roman town that Paris now sits on. The current name comes from the Parisi tribe that lived in the area before the Romans stepped in. Due to a massive architectural revamp campaign in the 1860s by Baron Haussmann most of the Roman remains were either destroyed or buried very deep.

arenes-de-lutece-1917 arenes-de-lutece

The arena is one of the true examples of preservation, but also of recycling urban space. It was once an arena meant for lavish entertainment in the Roman era.  Now it’s a public park. Kids play pickup games of football and groups of elderly men play pétanque throughout the year. I’ve even seen a man there walking his cat on a leash! 

This is all to say that there is no right answer when it comes to preservation, but let’s hope that we have enough common sense as a society to realize how important it is to keep our history alive! 

Vive La Révolution!

Most people know about the bloody revolution that overthrew the monarchy in France, but not everyone knows the gory details. There is more than meets the eye to this legendary event in european history.

Warning 

The subject matter I am going to discuss may upset people with weak stomaches and sensitive dispositions. You were warned!

Mme la Guillotine

The woman, the myth, the legend.

La Guillotine became the infamous torture device that would become the one player in the Revolution to outlive them all! 

guillotine-1

Originally created by a French surgeon and a German engineer, it was popularized during the French Revolution as an equalizer. Before the Revolution, the poorer you were, the more gruesome your execution was. When the monarchy was overthrown, the Guillotine became the “humane” way to execute everyone, making them all equal in death.

It may seem odd, but this was one of the justifications for the reign of terror, leading to the death of around 20,000 people. At least  3000 of those were executed in the heart of Paris on the Place de la Concorde. In fact, there were so many executions that they needed to constantly move the Guillotine to stop it from sinking into the soggy ground.

….you can imagine the rest.

guillotine-2

What makes this all so intriguing is that the French government still used the Guillotine as a public form of execution until 1939. The last private one was in 1977!

Public execution in 1896

Public execution in 1896

That is truly keeping their bloody past alive!

MTV Cribs, French Royalty edition  

Joking aside, French Royalty were in pretty big trouble by the time the Revolution came around.

Why?

Because they were spending more than they could afford and letting poor people starve to death.

This is a pretty simplistic way of looking at it, but here are 3 main reasons why the French had had enough :

Un

The French Royalty were spending more than they could afford! France was broke after being involved in two expensive wars – the 100 Years War and the American Revolution. Yet they were still building castles and having feasts. This was in contrast to the general populace who were starving!

Deux  

Natural disasters and bad weather lead to a really poor crop yield that year. This nearly tripled the price of every day bread, meaning that only the rich could afford to buy it.

This is why rumors had spread that the current queen, Marie Antoinette, had reacted to the news that the people were starving with “Let them eat cake.”

I am here to debunk that rumor. She never said that and there is no proof that she ever did. The quote comes from the Confessions by French writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau in which an anonymous noblewoman vents. The book was actually written in 1778 – a whole year before she supposedly said it.

Trois

All were not equal. The lower classes were 98% of the population, but they had no power in comparison to the nobility and the clergy.

8954480_orig

These three factors created a ticking time bomb that only needed a little nudging for an explosion!

Back to the Future

If you’re ever in Paris and interested in seeing remains of the city from the French Revolution then I would definitely suggest wandering around the Latin Quarter. 

Why there?

med-paris

Well, Paris had a major revamping in the 1860s, making it the uniform like city that we know today. Before that, the city was still in the medieval state with narrow and winding streets. The problem with that layout was that it allowed the city to be very dirty, facilitating the spread of crime and disease.

During the French Revolution, these narrow streets also made it very easy to create a barricade.

barricade490x300

Thus the success of the Jacobins!

Bonus

For those of you who are actually interested in a brief break down of the French Revolution here is a good recap to put this post in context :

 

From Zero to Hero: The Birth of Superheroes

superheroes-characters

In the era of the superhero franchise, many don’t seem to know the historical backdrop that led to the stardom of some of the world’s most iconic characters.

Prepare for your minds to be blown!

The truth is that some of these guys became superhero giants for a reason. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether it’s due to content or just good timing.

Holding Out For A Hero

Let me take you back to 1933, a year many high schoolers may know as the year of Adolf Hitler’s rise to power. It was also the year the character of Superman was created by two young men from Cleveland Ohio, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

What do these two events have to do with each other?

funny-cartoon-logic-superman-glasses

Well, this may surprise you, but I can make a direct connection between the rise of Hitler and the popularization of Superman. The main ingredient? The need for hope!

Picture the scene – Adolf Hitler, practically a nobody, blitzes through Europe and manages to create an entire doctrine based on fear…successfully.

By the time 1939 came around, no one had managed to stop him. He was the ultimate villain who had yet to face his superhero arch nemesis. A fact which may have been troubling to the children of the U.S.A whose only interaction with the man was through the radio news bulletins.

In fact, some may argue that if Hitler had successfully taken over Europe that his next stop would have been the U.S.

BONUS : If you want an idea of what a Nazi controlled U.S. would have looked like then I would definitely check out the mini series “The Triangle.” It’s about the Bermuda Triangle and although it is a mediocre show I would watch it for the one scene with the alternate universe of Nazi America – Super trippy and scary!

Thankfully, Superman comes onto the scene as a comic book in 1938. A natural superhero, his mighty powers and caring heart make him the perfect specimen of American creativity to defeat the evil Hitler – well, the idea of him at least!

Thus hope was born once again!

Although it is not said explicitly, I truly believe that the reason why Superman became as popular as he did was because he managed to bring hope to children and adults alike during a dark time in world history.

Captain America 

Much like Superman, quite a few people dislike Captain. His backstory isn’t dark and he gains his strength in hope – not in revenge.

Once again I will shatter your illusions and tell you that he is a dirScreen Shot 2014-04-17 at 13.45.32ect response to World War 2. When the character first appeared in 1941, he was an instant success. Mostly because he symbolized the troops still fighting.

If Captain America could defeat the Axis villains then so could the fathers/brothers/husbands out there now.

To prove my point, check out this great cartoon from Dorkly that could say it better than I ever could.

This is all to say that there is more to these “bland” characters than meets the eye – at least from a historical perspective.

The Aftermath

So what happened after World War 2?

Well, people got more cynical. They were disillusioned by their government through easily accessible information via television and a propaganda free press. The Vietnam War changed the way Americans saw warfare forever.

Children and Adults were no longer looking for their perfect warrior. They wanted heroes that were more like them – with flaws and all.

tumblr_mvxqgzDLMA1r5mbvpo1_400

This paves the way for characters like Batman, Spiderman and even Iron Man. These were superheroes they could relate to. “Normal” guys who had to rise from the ashes after great tragedy. There is also a moral ambiguity to these characters that show that they’re human.

Except for the fact that both Batman and Iron Man were billionaires, I see their point.  I think one of the reasons Batman is still so popular today is that he lives in a world that’s not so different from our own, but with gadgets and crazy villains!

In the same way, Spiderman is about a teenage boy who gets bitten by a radioactive spider. His story is the fantasy of every bored high school student. Thus the popularity of spidey grew!

spidey-meme-master-disguise

Bottom line, we like to feel connected to fictional characters, and after World War 2 we no longer aspired to the super soldier.

We were looking for the hero we deserve 😉

Do you think we’ve found it?

Bonus

Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag, A History : A Pirates Life For Me!

With the release of the trailer for Assassin’s Creed Unity, the new game set at the time of the French Revolution, I decided to delve back into my series on the history behind the Assassin’s Creed Franchise.

This time, we travel to the golden age of piracy in the early 1700s with stories of buried treasure and debauchery.

NOT.

The truth is, pirates were not as exciting as we make them out to be, but they do have some interesting stories and backgrounds that should be shared with the world.

It takes a particular type of person to lead a life of piracy so let’s discover who these people really are.

Note : Most of the information below will be in the video above, but there will be some extra facts that didn’t make it so if you’re really interested – Read on!

DISCLAIMER

All of this information is based on a book called “A General History of Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates” by one Captain Charles Johnson.

Some historians believe that Captain Johnson is actually Daniel Defoe, the author of Robinson Crusoe. Therefore, there’s a fair chance that some of this is made up.

If that’s the case, then he should be applauded for his expansive imagination.

Blackbeard 

blackbeard_1154584c

Real name : Edward Teach

He terrorized sailors on the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea from 1716 – 1718.

As a privateer, his patroness was Queen Anne of Britain. This gave him leave to plunder and destroy any French or Spanish ships in his way. It was also why he named his ship Queen Anne’s Revenge.

Now it’s important to know that these three countries (Britain, France and Spain) were constantly at odds with each other over disputed territory in the new world. Sailors who knew the regions well were often hired out to serve on behalf of their country.

Thus privateers were born! To sweeten the deal, privateers were allowed to keep any plunder they “found.”

As you can tell, the line between pirate and privateer is thin.

Black beard had a very specific technique when he boarded an enemy ship. It was his signature. He would kill the man behind the wheel first, from far away, then board the ship up close. This would stop the ship, and the plunder, from getting too far away once they were locked in battle.

He was one of the most feared pirates during the golden age with many different conflicting rumors on how evil he was. Some said it was all artifice, with him putting rope in his hat to look demonic. Others swore that he cut off the fingers of those captives who refused to give over their loot.

Finally, he died in battle after the Governor of the Bahamas crashed his retirement party.

Benjamin Hornigold 

images

He began his career, as a privateer, as second in command under Blackbeard. He was a British pirate from 1715 – 1718.

After that, he changed sides and became a pirate hunter, betraying his friends and mentor.

In a weird turn of events,  he died in 1719 after he was shipwrecked against a reef during a hurricane.

Some may say karma, but who really knows….

Jack Rackham a.k.a Calico Jack 

bios_rackam

He was Quartermaster under Charles Vane before he got a ship of his own.

After years of piracy, he was pardoned by the Governor of New Providence. While he was there, he managed to find time, in between trips to the brothel, to lure the young Anne Bonny away from her sailor husband.

Thus begins the greatest love story ever told!

He was the only pirate captain to have two females on board, but that’s an other story.

An other interesting fact about Calico Jack is that the modern symbol for piracy, the Jolly Roger, was his flag.

750px-Flag_of_Edward_England.svg

Each pirate had their own recognizable symbol to strike fear and recognition in the heart of their enemies.

Supposedly, when Blackbeard raised his flag. Everyone surrendered.

Charles Vane 

Early_18th_century_engraving_of_Charles_Vane

He was infamous for being cruel, reckless and ignoring the pirate code.

There’s not much more to say about him, but there is one funny story.

Charles Vane was shipwrecked on an abandoned island, left to die.

A Royal Navy ship happened to pass by and Vane asked for passage to the closest port, but the captain immediately recognized him and chose to leave him on the island to die as punishment for his crimes.

Soon after, a second ship passed and saw the wreckage. This time, he was not recognized and managed to get on board. Unluckily for him, ship number 2 bumped into ship number 1, revealing his true identity.

He basically had the worse luck in the world.

Anne Bonny

Bonney,_Anne_(1697-1720)

She was the bastard daughter of the maid and master of the house. To save her family from embarrassment, she was dressed as a boy and introduced as a cousin.

Due to her odd upbringing, she became sort of the wild child, sleeping around and hanging around sailors. This is how she met her husband and later her lover Calico Jack.

She apparently tore apart mannequins and used animal blood to stage murder. No wonder the merchants were terrified of her!

We must take a step back, however, and remember that history is often written by men. This means that women are often characterized as either pure matrons or wild succubi. There is no middle ground, but as a woman I can say that most of us are more complicated than that.

When Calico Jack was sentenced to be hanged, his last wish was to speak to Anne Bonny. Ever the sentimentalist, Anne Bonny’s last words to Calico Jack were : “If you had fought like a man, you need not have been hang’d like a dog.”

I think that really sums up her state of being : fierce

James Kidd / Mary Read 

MaryRead

As a kid, Mary Read was dressed as a boy and rented out to rich households as a servant to help her family make ends meet.

At the age of 13 she secured herself a position as a gun powder boy on a ship, starting her career on the high seas. From then on she went by the pseudonym James Kidd.

Nobody suspected her because she “swore like a sailor” and was always the first to volunteer for dangerous tasks.

She was so convincing that Anne Bonny developed a crush on her. Scared of being found out, Mary Read was forced to reveal her sexe to Anne. She supposedly revealed her breasts as proof.

The two women became even closer as a result and according to some (male) historians they became lovers *rolls eyes.* This sparked the jealousy of Calico Jack to the point of murder. To stop an incident from happening, Mary was forced, once again, to reveal herself.  She supposedly revealed her breasts a second time.

Despite the sexism of the time, both women thrived in this environment, becoming part of a legacy of strong women in history.

Just for fun 

Happy Pirating 🙂

Did Mulan Really Defeat the Huns?

With the popularity of Frozen I thought it would be a good idea to take a step back and look at one of the most badass Disney Princesses out there: Mulan.

Mulan

Is she real?

Well, unfortunately the only “proof” we have that she existed was an ancient Chinese ballad/poem that we think was written sometime between 386 and 533 A.D. (Wei Dynasty).

Since it is a folk tale, there are countless interpretations of the story. In simplistic terms you can say it’s China’s version of the story of the fall of Troy.

No one knows if it really happened, but it’s a nice story with a moral lesson.

So what is the Legend of Mulan trying to teach us?

Like any good folk tale, the story of Mulan is meant to impart an important moral lesson. In this case, honor your family and your country, preferably at the same time. Not everyone will have the courage to join a war to save their father, but it does make it clear what the values were at the time.

Mulan2

The original poem has an obvious sexist tinge to it that isn’t as present in the Disney movie, which is a good thing. For one, Mulan’s name is rarely used in the poem. She is referred to as “daughter” most of the time. The story also opens with her weaving and ends with her doing similar female approved activities, returning to her role as female of the household.

This wouldn’t have upset as much if it weren’t for the fact that she supposedly spent 12 years in the army without being caught – yes, 12 years and was only discovered because her old army buddies came to visit her later.  You would have thought that she would have had issues with re-adapting to female life, but it was as if she were unchanged by the experience.

I don’t know about Mulan, but when I hang around guys a lot I develop similar mannerisms and habits – as you would with any group of friends.  So, excuse me as I suspend my disbelief for a second.

That being said, in the legend, Mulan is already versed in martial arts and horseback riding thanks to her father. So she didn’t really need to be whipped into shape like in the Disney version, but it did produce a kickass song!

Of course, this is meant to tell little girls that you can bring honor to your family, as long as you go back to your assigned gender roles once you’re done.

I think the big draw of the Disney movie is that it gives a positive role model for young girls without being preachy. Mulan chooses to go to war to protect her father, but she also grows as a person through this experience.

The poem is obviously revolutionary, telling the story of a girl who disguises herself as a boy and is successful, but the character feels fairly static. A vessel to teach a moral lesson. It’s a common storytelling tool from the past, mostly because this was the only way to really ram in a point. Most people wouldn’t have had enough education to be able to read so ballads were an effective way to spread stories and create popular culture.

In the end, I hope it’s true and if it’s not…

5e7bff788e2d19441b9449c85b5dddbe

Making Anime History

I’ve recently gotten back into anime. Maybe it’s the long hours spent in front of the computer, but there is something satisfying about being able to watch a comprehensive story arc in the space of 15 mins or so.

It may also be that I am suffering from a serious case of wanderlust and I’m desperately trying to immerse myself in an other culture.  Subtitles for the win!

Let me preface this by saying that I’m no expert. This is a combination of what I’ve read and what I’ve seen. No hate please!

Anime, Japanese animated films and T.V. shows, are very different from their western equivalent.

Why you may ask?

Well, because their society and culture is entirely different. It also has a very specific style that is supported by an entire industry.

So, where did it come from?

My research has led me to believe that the beginning of the anime industry was during World War 2 when Japanese animators were influenced by the comic strips and cartoons of the west.

Thus Japanese illustrators began to serialise their stories in newspapers. This would later lead to the creation of the manga, which is the Japanese style comic book that is so popular today.

50s

Soon after, in the 1950s and 60s, animation studios began to appear in Japan with the aim of producing  films that could rival Disney.

Over the years, the style and stories became more refined. Like any industry there are some good ones and some bad ones, but it’s also such a big industry that you can basically find anything you could ever want….and I mean anything….*shudder*

The official “boom” came in the 1980s when many anime T.V. shows were brought to the U.S. and became incredibly popular.

sailor_moon_3

Sailor Moon is the one of the most obvious examples. I still remember watching Sailor Moon as a kid in the 90s and I lived in France!

What I find the most interesting is that, although the Japanese Anime Industry is independent of the U.S. animation market, there are moments where they are dependent on each other.

For example, the creation of the sequel to Full Metal Alchemist, Brotherhood, was partly attributed to the huge success of the original series in the U.S.

The Japanese studio then realized that success = money.

That being said, it is an entirely different culture. Western parents often think that anime = cartoons, which isn’t necessarily the case. A lot of the time adult themes are openly addressed in these shows.

Currently, I am watching a show called Diabolik Lovers. It’s about a young girl who was groomed by her father, a priest, to serve as a sacrifice for a house full of vampires. She is then sent to live with them.

Yes, yes, I know it sounds awful, but what shocked me the most was the almost rapey nature of the show. These incredibly “attractive” vampires basically force themselves on her while saying things like “I know you want it” and “you can’t get away from me.”

N.B. they are referring to blood sucking and not other things, but the vibe is still super creepy. I wonder if there are any studies on the psychological impact of something like this…

This is in contrast to a show like Vampire Knight, which is about a school that is separated between Day Class students (who are human) and Night Class students (who are vampires). Somehow it’s less creepy. I think it’s because these vampires are shown to have redeeming qualities, distinguishing between “good” and “bad” vampires.

You can already see the difference in the openings!

On the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got shows that are very positive and fluffy. They make you want to puke rainbows!

I’m thinking in particular of something like Uta No Prince-Sama or Brothers Conflict. Both based on Visual Novel games. It’s a reverse harem plot, which means there is one girl surrounded by many guys.  Although the plot lines are always ridiculous, I enjoy watching them because it’s something that is never done in western animation. It’s exotic to me!

Either way, it’s an industry that is very unique. It completely suspends your disbelief.

Guy with green hair? Seems legit.

Love hexagon troubles? Create a boy band.

The cultural heritage of animation is very interesting since it influences children and adults alike. It has even greater power when you think of how it can spread through the internet.

And so, I leave you with one of the more epic anime intros I’ve seen:

Post Navigation