Weekly Web Links:
- Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the ancient art of cheese-making.
- The Gladiator version of Gatorade: and ash-filled drink containing electrolytes…yum!
- Witchmarks (scratching marks designed to offer protection against witches) have been found under the floorboards of Knole House which are thought to have been created to protect James I after the Gunpowder Plot.
- A fascinating (and awfully creepy) look at Rippers and Thieves candles.
- Georgian drinking habits in, what was then known as, Upper Canada.
- And last but not least this weekend: six creepy recorded tales of ghost ships.
Historical Book Review for the Week:
The Uses and Abuses of History by Margaret MacMillan
I don’t expect that either of the two major concepts of this book will be a particularly shocking revelation to anyone, for who has never heard the either of the phrases ‘those who don’t know history are condemned to repeat it’ or ‘power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’? It is well understood, that an understanding of the events and occurrences of earlier times allows modern society to progress, building on those stepping stones which have come before. Giving us the ability to avoid many of the more spectacular errors, mistakes and horrifying events which were made by our ancestors purely due to our good fortune of having the luck to see what the consequences would most likely be. Sometimes consciously and other times less so, historical facts are used in every facet of today’s world from politics, to science, education, government, medicine, construction, plumbing, environmental preservation, human rights; the list goes on and on, making it clear that history is doubtlessly a useful knowledge base for society as we know it today and the world that will evolve in the future.
The second thesis of this book is that the use of history also has a dark side, which again, is unsurprising. It is frequently used by politicians at all levels of power to solidify support for themselves and their ideals. This is most frequently supported by the example of Hitler, who used selected historical facts in order to gain power and push his ideals of superior and inferior genetics. However, this can also been seen on a smaller, although arguably no less dangerous, level by minor local politicians who parade select information of their own histories, as well as those of their opponents, in order to influence public opinion and help them to achieve power. Either of these selective ways of presenting history, the highlighting of key elements in order to present history in a way that will make it favorable to you and also the abuse of suppressing facts and events which don’t support your projected worldview, is an abuse of the knowledge and decision making information that history allows us. The idea that you can pick and choose which parts of history should be made public knowledge in any capacity is an abuse of that field of information that, unfortunately, is one which is often an option of the powerful rather than the general population.