beboots: (Canada "discovery" history)

 So... it looks like I've had my last class of my undergraduate career! \o/ DONE. 

Well, not entirely. I still have to hand in one more paper (Women's Studies, due Friday), finish a take home exam handed out today, and write one last, final sit down exam a week from today... but I'm getting there! I'm nearly finished! :D It's all very exciting!

Brief rundown on Acadian history and the Chiaq dialect for those not in the know )
They also employ a LOT of English vocabulary and expressions. BUT this is NOT what's called "Franglais" or "Frenglish": it is a distinct dialect that has its own rules..javascript:void(0);. which admittedly change depending on where you come from in the Maritimes, but they're there nonetheless. You can't just make this stuff up. 
But oh my goodness it's entertaining to hear them speak. See this AMAZING parody(?) dub of a clip from Toy Story in Acadian French. Don't worry, even if you don't speak French, you'll find it funny. Listen closely. 

Some awesome lines:
"Walt Disney Pictures est bain bain proud de vous presentez le longmetrage(?) Acadien... Histoire de Toy!"
"Whoa whoa whoa, le Dog, touches pas mon ray-gun, tu peux hurtez ton self!"
"Duh, ce n'est pas un ray-gun, god, c'est just un flashing light!"

"Okay, stop it now, on est tout vraiment impressed par le nouveau toy d'Andy-"
"J-O-U-E-T: TOY." 
(I love that it plays with this - P.S.: "jouet" is French for "Toy".)
"Vers l'infinie... AND BEYOND!" 
beboots: (Canada "discovery" history)
The one person that almost everyone remembers from Western Canadian or Métis history - if they remember anyone at all - is Louis Riel. For more information about him, see this awesome Canadian Encyclopedia Online article. For the purposes of this post, all you have to know is that he was a francophone Métis political and religious leader involved in two rebellions in 1869 and 1885. He spent a lot of the time in between those rebellions in exile in the United States.

He also wrote a lot of letters... and a lot of poetry. 

Today, while finishing up a few papers, one of which is on the Métis interpreters and the Numbered Treaties of the 1870s, I ran across a few of his French-language poems in the appendices of a book called The Free People - Li Gens Libres: A History of the Métis Community of Batoche, Saskatchewan by Diane P. Payment. And this poetry is INTENSE. 
Caveat: the author stated that this poem is attributed to Riel, but not for sure. Either way, it's intense.
Scroll down for a rough English translation by me, without any effort at making it rhyme. It has more rhythm in French.
C'est au champ de bataille, 
J'ai fait crier mes douleurs,
Où tant qu'un doute se passe, 
Ça fait frémir les coeurs.
Or je r'çois-t-une lettre
De ma chère maman
J'avais ni plum' ni encre
Pour pouvoir lui écrire.

Or je pris mon canif,
Je le trempai dans mon sang
Pour écrir' une lettre
À ma chère maman.
Quand ell' r'creva cett' lettre
Tout écrit' de sang
Ses yeux baignant de larmes,
Son coeur s'allant mourant.

S'y jette à genoux par terre,
En appelant ses enfants:
Priez pour votr' p'tit frère
Qui est au régiment
Mourir, c'est pour mourir,
Chacun meurt à son tour;
J'aim' mieux mourir en brave,
Faut tous mourir un jour.
Really, REALLY rough English translation. It's kind of dramatically gory. )
beboots: (Canada "discovery" history)
 Today was a lovely day! ... Not the least of which was because I did next to no homework! (I may pay for it in stress later on, but man if it doesn't feel good right now. <3 )

The sun is shining! I feel that spring is on the way. After a long dark winter, the snow seems to be consistently melting. You get these lovely patches of crackly ice on the sidewalks that make a satisfying crunching noise as you walk over them in the morning just after the sun has risen. I've loved doing that ever since I was a child. 

Last class with my research supervisor. Feeling melancholy, but at least there were cookies. ) 

Happy news about pretty dresses at Fort Edmonton! )
Job interview for the Quebec program - definitely nailed it! )

 Today was a really good day. I needed a day like this, after weeks (months, really) of stress about my future and about papers and research and such. The end of the semester is in sight! I'm feeling really positive at the moment. :) I hope that some of my good cheer spreads across to you, o reader! I'm thinking positive thoughts your way. :)
beboots: (Canada "discovery" history)
In a continuing effort to avoid doing much-needed homework, here are some random history links I've found over the past little while that may interest some who haven't yet seen them on my twitter feed:

Historically Hardcore Posters.

Upholsterer finds 200 year old love letter inside of chair. 

Queen Victoria and Abdul - "Previously undiscovered diaries have been found by an author based in the UK which show the intense relationship between Queen Victoria and the Indian man employed to be her teacher." Accompanied by good photographs!

Audio Slideshow: mapping Africa. Really interesting look at how Europeans perceived Africa over the centuries.

Getting Negative with Edward Curtis - an interesting article and video about this famous 19th century photographer of Native Americans, and the early "photoshop" techniques he used. 

Two Minute History of Film & TV Title Design 

The voice of Florence Nightingale, recorded in 1890.

While we're on the subject of audio files... Here is the transcript of a 1949 interview with Fountain Hughes, born 1848, and his memories of his childhood as a slave. This one includes some audio files of a few of the lines, so you can hear his actual voice as you read the transcript. 

The Year 2000 as Envisioned in 1910 - by this amazingly creative French artist. 

And not quite history, more like news, but awesome nonetheless:

The 8 Most Ridiculously Badass Protesters Ever Photographed

Some uplifting news coming out of Japan - Badass of the Week, Hideki Akaiwa, who scuba-dived to rescue his wife and his mother, among others, while the tsunami raged. 
beboots: (Canada "discovery" history)
Yeah, so my last post was a bit short (although it had a nifty video!) and I realize that only a handful of my friends list can read it, so I thought that I'd write an English-language update with extra information.

Stuff is slowly getting done. Last night, I all-but finished my thesis. I should feel more jubilant, but it's not done yet. I made edits based on the comments on the final rough draft that I just got back from my research supervisor. A lot of it was "good!", "excellent!" and checkmarks, with the occasional "typo" or "move this here" or "this should be your topic sentence, not this" and so on and so forth. I've also had to redo some formatting. I wasn't consistant with where I put my punctuation, outside or inside of quotation marks. I still have to chase down a few more examples/citations, double-check my formatting, and give my conclusion a bit more "oomph", but I'm essentially done!

Which is good because it's due a week from today. It'll get there. My bigger problem, now, is to finish all of the research papers that are due in the two weeks after I hand it in. I've done most of the research for them, and I have loads of reference books sitting beside my desk, so if I run across a point I need to double-check, I won't have to take the bus all the way down to the university or scour the internet for extra sources... which is good. I've just got to sit down and write the darn things, and you know what? I'm tired. And when I'm tired my brain doesn't like to be creative.

I have next to no readings to do this week (huzzah, professors understand our workloads at this point in the semester?) but now I have nothing to passively absorb: I have to be actively creative. I'm tired. I feel so done with school. But I'm going to have to keep on chugging along until I can finally rest at 4:00pm on April 21st. That's when I finish my last exam. I won't even be able to begin to study for exams until the week before. Luckily, I just have gigantic research papers in lieu of most of the exams, and they're due in the final week of classes.

Anyway, this Saturday is a complete write-off as far as doing homework goes, because I'm going to be presenting at the History of Medicine Conference at the U of A! If you're in Edmonton on Saturday, feel free to pop by. It'll be in Classroom D (room 2F1.04) at the University Hospital. I know a bunch of the presenters, and it looks to be very interesting. It's an interdisciplinary conference with undergrads and graduate students, from the history, English, and medicine departments (and possibly others like art history, dentistry, psychology, etc.). Highlights will include talks on "The Evolution of Kotex advertising and the Introduction of the 'Negro Market'", "Eugenics in Alberta: Lasting Effects".... The guest keynote speaker is Dr. Jackie Duffin who will talk to us about "Medical Miracles: Doctors, Saints and Healing in the Modern World", which will "explore how medical science is used by the Vatican in the canonization process."

My presentation is right after the break in the morning and will begin at 10:20 (so hopefully nobody will be figeting because they have to go to the washroom or something). I'll be essentially presenting a condensed version of my thesis argument, on Civil War medicine and surgery and how it wasn't as bad as you think, really... immediately afterwards we'll have a presenter on prosthetic technologies from the 1850s through the 1880s in America (which works really well, leading off of my talk) and then we'll have a guy talk about cholera epidemics in the mid- to late- nineteenth century, which can also build off of what I say about the miasma theory of disease. The subjects lead nicely into each other!

As a side note, there's free food, too! Breakfast, lunch and snacks. :) A friend of mine on twitter said that as long as I didn't advertise with posters saying "Breakfast, lunch and cholera!"... ;) But they go so well together! Everybody loves cholera, y/y? D:

Anyway, it will prove to be super-interesting, I know it. I'll write about the highlights the next day, possibly including pictures from my powerpoint presentation. :)

Saturday is also the fifth anniversary of my little brother going into remission! This means that he's officially cured of cancer! \o/ He works in the morning, but we're going to go out to a fancy restaurant for dinner to celebrate. :)

Aaand... I was going to end off on a history linkspam note, but it kept growing so it shall be a separate post, soon to follow. (Can you tell I'm procrastinating working on my papers? Bad beboots! D: )
beboots: (Civil war lithograph)
 I think I mentioned a few weeks ago (it was before things went crazy with the job application) that I’ve been reading this really awesome recently published document. I suspect I was talking to [ profile] feral_shrew  about some history subject or another. The edition I have of this text (the only published edition?) is entitled Practicing Medicine in a Black Regiment: The Civil War Diary of Burt G. Wilder, 55th Massachusetts. It’s edited by a historian named Richard M. Reid, and only came out in 2010.

About the surgeon and his diary... )

Discovering exotic flora & fauna, recruiting others to do your collecting for you, and making spider-silk jewelry! )
Quick note re: adaptation )

Astonished horses! )

Unusually large amounts of spider silk! )

Bitching about Doctor Brown )The epic quest for sweet potatoes... )
The quartermaster resorts to monetary fines to make Wilder actually eat something )
Billy the horse! )
African American superstitions re: pulled teeth, and on the method of "locking" the door of a tent )
A colonel admires Wilder's awesome horseriding skillz )
Well, HE hasn't seen any fleas yet... and he also almost loses his hat. And falls off his horse. )
Wilder overhears a debate amongst the men of the regiment and is surprised. )
beboots: (Canada "discovery" history)
 Sometime in April, I think, I'm going to organize an excursion for some friends of mine (history dorks, all), which I want to entitle "A Day of the Dead at the U of A". Essentially, it's going to amount to making an appointment to visiting the mummy (we have a mummy! The only one in Western Canada! His nickname is Horace - AKA Horus)... and then, we'll go into the bowels of the Health Sciences library (which is itself in the middle of the labyrinthine building that is connected to the university hospital, so it's a quest to even get that far), heading down to the special collections room to look at... THIS. 

LJ cut because I'm morbid and some people don't really want to see books bound in human skin. A (horrifying) part of European heritage, people. )
beboots: (Canada "discovery" history)
When I was answering history prompts on that meme a few days ago, I totally intended on including with each one an image or a video, but as I fail at html, I decided to make an entirely new illustration post for everyone! :)

(Also feel free to post more history prompts! Be a welcome distraction to me from my homework!)

For [ profile] beckyh2112 . Picture unrelated because trying to summarize the history of the world even in two semesters is a massive undertaking and I wouldn't presume to find a single picture that could represent all of the world's history. 

More pictures and videos for everyone under the cut! )
beboots: (Civil war lithograph)
 As I think I mentioned in my last post, I've been doing a lot of research for my thesis, lately. A lot of it has involved microform. I just wanted to share a few amusing things with you from what I've dug up in the United States Sanitary Commission Records. 

One of the neatest handwritten documents I ran across was a letter written in 1864 entitled "Quarantine", all on the subject of how to improve health and sanitary conditions in New Orleans, which, I believe, was under the control of the Union at that point in time (and hence why the Sanitary Commission cared). 

I've been taking careful note of all of the hints as to the reasoning behind their recommendations. Remember, these are the pre-germ theory days, so the reigning motivation for doing any kind of cleanup work is to get rid of miasma: essentially, disease causing bad smells. 

As a side note, I've also been reading Florence Nightingale's highly influential Notes on Nursing: what it is, and what it is not. She is highly well-respected for her sanitary impulse and drastically improving conditions for British soldiers during the Crimean War (1854- 1856). She's known as one of the first "modern" nurses (who actually knew what she was doing), is praised in glowing terms, etc.,etc. But remember, she wasn't after germs. She was after miasma. Here is an excerpt from her book, in her own words:

"The very first canon of nursing, the first and last thing upon which a nurse's attention must be fixed, the first essential to the patient, without which all the rest you can do for him is as nothing, with which I had almost said you may leave all the rest alone, is this: TO KEEP THE AIR HE BREATHES AS PURE AS THE EXTERNAL AIR." (emphasis hers)

Yes, you read that correctly. If nothing else, you HAVE to make sure that the miasma doesn't get at them. Feeding, watering, scrubbing, etc., are all secondary to fresh air. She explains why: 

"A room remains uninhabited; the fire place is carefully fastened up with a board; the windows are never opened; probably the shutters are kept always shut; perhaps some kind of stores are kept in the room; no breath of fresh air can by possibility enter into that room, nor any ray of sun. The air is as stagnant, musty, and corrupt as it can by possibility be made. It is quite ripe to breed small-pox, scarlet fever, diptheria, or anything else you please."

Again, a lack of fresh air causes disease. Also, note, that until the line about "no breath of fresh air"... it reads like someone has been hiding out from a zombie apocalypse. 

Continuing along that vein, that list of recommendations for New Orleans, alongside things such as dissing the quality of milk available in the city and disdaining the current drainage system for sewage then in place, also recommends against having cemeteries near crowded residential areas. The author talks about the risk of "putrescence", and how such stinks will inevitably cause the whole city to fall ill. But I absolutely loved this line, because to me it really felt like the prologue to some sort of period zombie novel:

"It is quite impossible to seal a tomb[...] hermetically, so that nothing offensive shall escape."

(source: here)
beboots: (Civil war lithograph)
 These last few days I have spent many hours pouring over microform and microfiche, doing research for my thesis. I've looked at the Hospital Steward's Manual (essentially, how to run a military hospital, according to the Union army standards) and the first reel of at least two dozen that contain the United States Sanitary Commission records. That sounds dead boring. It really, really wasn't.

I thought that the U.S. Sanitary Commission records were going to be a republishing of documents regarding camp conditions, bureaucratic matters, and so on, like my favourite text of the era, The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion. I was wrong. They're microformed versions of the ACTUAL, handwritten records, collected in person from military surgeons and soldiers and so on. Many of them have strange shadows on them; my dad assures me that they're probably not bloodstains but water damage. It doesn't always look that way. 

Anyway, I really enjoyed skimming through these records... which is good, for me, because if I find them interesting then I'll be able to work my way through at least a few more reels before giving up in disgust to rest my eyes. 

The super-neat thing about the microfilm readers in the Rutherford library is that they're brand-spanking new digital things, so I can create a real-time digital image on a giant computer screen, with a magnifying glass as well as the ability to create giant multi-page PDF files of copies of what I'm looking at, saved conveniently to my memory stick to peruse more closely from the comforts of my own home.

And in a continual effort to avoid doing homework while pretending to do just the opposite, as I was skimming over the stuff I looked at today I created a mini-collage of some of the lines that really jumped out at me from the page. Civil War surgeons had much nicer penmanship under duress than I ever will. 

In case you're having difficulty reading what some of the handwriting says...
Box on the left: On /Penetrating Wound/ of the Thorax/ Death. / Battle of Ruaca(?) / 1864

Flesh wounds of the forearm... Erysifielas(?? Latin medical word?)  Recovery
Lieut. G.G. Bickett, Co.G.46'' Ohio in the Battle of                                                        Pulse
Report of the Sick and Wounded                                No. of wounded admitted. 665
Died.                              Skull unusually thin.                     Death.                                      ???(illegible, blotted by water damage or rushe dpenmanship)
Wound of the back.   ???? Deaths.
nothing like gangrene
Ball extracted                              Pneumonia                             Gunshot injury           amputation
Post mortem examination            Amputation                                Everything progressing favorably
remaining 508
                                   Refuses amputation
             Received orders
                                                                The inflammation rapidly spread
               Died 2nd day                            left
Gangrene                        Death
                             From this time patient gradually rallied
                                             very cheerful
                                                                       U.S. Sanitary Commission (letterhead)
beboots: (Canada "discovery" history)
 History has been on my mind lately. (Can't help it. It's my major.) I thought that I'd recommend one of the most amazing documentary series ever made. That's not just my opinion - it got a lot of critical acclaim when it was released about a decade or so ago. It's called Canada: A People's History, and essentially goes through the entirety of Canadian history, as best can be known. One of the neat things about their approach was the way they used primary documents of the era: they chose "ordinary" people who had left writing behind. When they "interview" people, what those folks are saying is what was actually written. The narrator has original text, but those making speeches are quoting from historical documents. The actors were incredibly well-chosen, I believe. They went out and got actual francophones or Britons or Iroquois to get authentic accents. <3

Another epic thing about this documentary is that it was filmed twice. All of the actors are bilingual, and the scenes were filmed once in English and another time in French. It also has a beautiful soundtrack... a CD of which I actually stumbled upon on a shelf in the Rutherford Library while doing research on Confederation this summer. If I knew how to use sendspace or whatever, I would upload it for you all. 

In any case, I cannot recommend this documentary series enough. Watching it in my formative years is one of the reasons that I love Canadian History even today. Be wary if you order online, though, because some people have jacked up the prices unreasonably. There are four seasons: I love the first two, mostly, because I'm biased towards pre-first world war history. ;) One of the cool things about season one is that large chunks of it are told from the point of view of native tribes. It doesn't start with John Cabot and Jacques Cartier "discovering" the land, but with sensitively-done native origin stories as well as some pre-European contact native history like intertribal warfare amongst the Iroquois. It's intense. 

Unfortunately, there are only a few clips online, but here is one of the best ones I could find, and it unfortunately cuts off towards the end. It's one of those buildups near the beginning of the long episode to foreshadow what will happen throughout. I think that the CBC has actually made a point of deleting video content online to encourage teachers and fans to actually buy the DVDs instead of just using a handful of clips online to make a point. ;) And seriously, invest in them. They are amazing. <3 
beboots: (Canada "discovery" history)
 (Oh hey, look, new icons! :D )

As I mentioned on Twitter, today was a good day on the "free stuff" front. One of my professors gets sent a LOT of American history textbooks by publishing companies, all in the hope, of course, that she will pick THEIR textbook to assign for all of her classes... She brought in a huge stack of them (it took several trips from her office) to class today and told us all to take one each. For free. Some of these are so new they're still in the wrapping! The one I ended up picking didn't even have a barcode. I think that it's print run is still on the way and that this one is just a preview copy or something. But hey, I'm not going to say no to a free textbook! :D 

I also got free food - pizza! pop! - at the public lecture by Christopher Moore. A bit of background: remember how last summer while working as a research assistant I used to talk about some of the interesting things I ran across while doing research for that course I was helping Professor Muir design, on the legal history of Canadian Confederation? Moore wrote the book I ended up recommending as a basic textbook: 1867: How the Fathers Made a Deal. Maybe I should have put it on yesterday's book recommendation list. It's very clear, informative, and downright entertaining in how it approaches what I always thought of as rather boring legal histories. Instead of having a revolution or something, we just waited until we were ready and then asked nicely. More or less. (Hey, did you know that Nova Scotia of all places was fiercely independent and was kind of conned into joining all of the rest of the British North American colonies into joining? Also, argued against Confederation with puns and other arguments.) Anyway, read that book if you're interested in Canadian history. I really want to read his children's books, too. >_> 

ANYWAY Professor Muir invited Moore to do a series of talks at the U of A on selected topics. I'm going to one on the 1864 Quebec Conference on Monday. Today's was on "Doing History in Public": AKA what someone passionate about history can do without going becoming a professor and getting mired in academia. (SO RELEVANT TO MY LIFE RIGHT NOW WHAT AM I GOING TO GROW UP TO BE??)

It was a really interesting talk! First he rambled a little bit about his own life story - which was immediately relevant because it was interesting how he fell into becoming an author. He actually had no clue what he was going to do after graduating with a BA in Honour's history in the mid-1970s, so he ended up working... at a costumed historical interpretation park! Well, as one of the historians working at the Fortress of Louisbourg back when it was just getting started. (Some of the stuff he was telling us about his work there was fascinating. For instance, they were really working on trying to furnish the buildings and glean clues about the architecture and interiors of the place, so he'd be searching through fascinating court records about someone being dragged before a judge for bashing someone over the head with a candlestick, killing them, and he'd be making notes like "had metal candlesticks at hand in house." XD )So I'm currently right where he was like forty years ago. 

But yeah, so he spoke about his different book projects for a while, spoke about "public history" projects... For instance, he's been commissioned by various (legal) societies to write their histories. He said that the advantage with working with societies of lawyers is that they can afford to pay for a history to be made. ;) He then gave us a few life tips, then opened the floor to questions. I remember one of the funny things he was explaining was that when he first started writing books of Canadian history in the 1970s, he was one of like five different historian-authors working in Canada at the time, it seemed. "I used to say that the others all starved to death", he joked to us. One of the messages he had was that, well, history wasn't necessarily very profitable, but it was interesting. ;) Also, that historical training can be immensely valuable in a huge variety of jobs... especially research-based careers.

I also asked him about his writing style, because he's written both legal histories as well as children's histories: what differentiates the two? He said that he's learned not to patronize children in his writing - so he doesn't gloss stuff over, I gather - but he does think twice about using certain "big words" and he never takes a reference for granted. For instance, if he makes an allusion to Pierre Trudeau, he will have a short aside explaining who the man was. Things like that. Super interesting!

Professor Muir introduced me to him afterwards. It was all very informal... but still, it's nice to make contacts! :) I'm looking forward to his talk next week as well! :D
beboots: (Civil war lithograph)
 So [ profile] beckyh2112 and I have been chatting a lot about history stuff since I made that post a few hours ago (about Two-Spirited People), and I thought that hey, it might be a good idea to recommend some history books for people! There are a lot of history books out there – too many to fully digest, let alone really pick out the good ones – so I thought that I’d share (and recommend!) a few of my favourite titles. I was originally planning on writing this post in a few days, when I had less homework... but I've lost all motivation to do more readings and I had this on my mind... so I may as well just get it out of my system now.

Some of the books on this list are so-called “popular histories” (meaning they’re published by a more mainstream publisher), but others are more academic histories. The difference between the two is usually that the popular histories are more readable (they’re meant to sell better and appeal to a wider audience) and the academic histories are more rigorous and possibly more expensive because of limited publication runs. Be wary of some histories published by the popular press: some don’t go through actual, y’know, peer review, which means they can be published even if they’re saying untruths. Take, for example, the horrific work by Gavin Menzies. He’s the guy who wrote a “history” book so full of bullshit actual historians have dedicated their entire academic careers to proving every last little detail wrong. Menzies is the guy, for instance, who lied about HIMSELF on his “about the author” bit in his book, saying he was born in China (instead of visiting it as a babe in arms) to give himself more credentials. Because he has none. I had a professor (now the head of the East Asian Studies department at the U of A, I think?) give an entire hour and a half long lecture to us on the subject of how much Menzies sucked. So yeah, caveat emptor when it comes to the popular press. They still have lots of awesome stuff!

…And now that I’m done that little soapbox speech… Let’s get down to some recommendations, shall we? (Many of these authors have their own websites which talk about their books... so you can at least take a peek at the cover, and possibly special features, which is why I link them here.)

-There is, of course, the awesome book with the awesome title I’m working my way through, discussed in that last post: The Importance of Being Monogamous by Sarah Carter. See that post for more (awesome) details.

-Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadaversby Mary Roach. Perhaps this is more of a text on modern medicine/culture/etc. with historical elements, but I still enjoy it even though it is quite morbid. A friend of mine who knew I liked the history of medicine leant me her copy and I've been reading through it slowly. It's all about "life after death" - what happens to human bodies. Not just things like new alternatives to burial and cremation (although it talks about that too) but things like practicing surgery on the dead, examining the bodies of a plane crash to tell the story if the black box fails, what precisely happens when a body decomposes, human remains being used in ballistic testing... even modern cases of cannibalism. The author has an interesting attitude towards death (in the epilogue she talks about what she'd like done with her body, a decision made in light of all the research she did for this book), which is refreshing but also kind of unnerving at times. Not for the faint of heart... but I'm glad I read it. 

-The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History by Katherine Ashenburg. This book is more of a pick me up, compared to the one I just described. It's essentially a history of cleanliness in the Western world. I think most of us have a vague idea that in the middle ages nobody bathed and such, but we're a bit fuzzy on the details. This book is wonderful for filling those details in with lots of fun facts and awesome anecdotes. It really does answer the question of "how dirty were they, really?" For instance, during the Renaissance, the rich would often just change their crisp white linen shirts several times a day and be considered clean. Queen Elizabeth bragged that she would take a bath once a month "whether I need one or not". It wasn't until the late 1700s that the rich were noticeably cleaner than "the great unwashed" masses of the poor. I was particularly interested in the later chapters that dealt with changing views towards cleanliness in the regency era onwards... 

-The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic - and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson. This book really exemplifies what I find fascinating about the history of medicine and the development of ideas and theories during the mid-nineteenth century. This book is absolutely fascinating. It's about Dr. John Snow (also, incidentally, the anesthetist to Queen Victoria during childbirth) developing theories about the waterborne spread of cholera, directly challenging prevailing ideas of miasma at the time. I'm heavily citing this book during a section of my thesis to demonstrate how hey, these health theories had a logic all of their own and shouldn't be dismissed out of hand by people in the 21st century who have the benefit of generations of experiments and clinical experience. (And really, to people without microscopes, does "tiny invisible creatures" make any more sense that "bad smells" as a cause for disease?)

-Intensely Human: the Health of the Black Soldier in the American Civil War by Margaret Humphreys. (That's a link to it available on Google Books! Bits of it available for free!) Informative, but a bit depressing. This topic is rarely discussed in medical histories of the war or histories of the African American contributions to the conflict. I think it's the only book that's entirely dedicated to this topic. Incredibly well-written, though, and definitely a recommended read if you're into such topics. 

-Our Mother's War: American Women at Home and at the Front During World War II by Emily Yellin. I did a four-way comparative book review on American Women's roles during the Second World War for a women's history course last semester, and this book really stood out for me. The author is a journalist and it does show in her format: lots and lots of short little anecdotes, light on the analysis... But fresh and energetic and darn interesting! They all couldn't be Rosie the Riveter after all... A very good read. 

-The Mother Tongue: English and how it got that way by Bill Bryson. One of my favourite non-fiction books of all time by one of my favourite authors of all time. His writing style is informative as well as being highly entertaining! The title is self-explanatory, but the chapters cover not only the history of the English language but also things like what it CAN'T do (which amounts to examples from other languages for things that English can't describe), to chapters on English place names (and surnames, and their crazy pronounciations) to even a chapter on wordplay and puns. My favourite example? How do you turn a piece of paper into a lazy dog in three steps? Answer: A piece of paper is an ink-lined plane. An inclined plane is a slope up. A slow pup is a lazy dog. Say it out loud. My mind was blown. Anyway, if you can only read one book on this list, this one had better be the one. <3

Aaand... that's all for now. I could recommend more, but I'm tired at the moment. Feel free to ask me to recommend books or articles on specific topics! There's no harm in asking! (All I can do is say no, I am prostrate that I have never heard of you're topic and I am clearly woefully uninformed and I will remedy that post-haste by running out and reading a bunch of articles on the subject you bring to my attention. ;) )

beboots: (Canada "discovery" history)
 So [ profile] beckyh2112 has been doing some awesome research on women who have taken on men’s roles in various cultures, and when she put out the call on Twitter I responded with the question – “Have you ever heard of Two-Spirited people?” After a quick discussion, I agreed to transcribe a fascinating passage from a fascinating book, detailing a subject that very few people actually know about.

The book itself was published by the University of Alberta Press (I go to this university! <3 ). I picked it up this summer because they had a sale on the history books at the Fort Edmonton giftshop, and since I’d walked past this shelf every day for months on my way in and out of work, and this particular book had been recommended to me many times by my co-workers… The temptation was too much to resist. I can claim it’s research for work, too, because I portrayed a Metis country wife. ;)

Sarah Carter’s The Importance of Being Monogamous: Marriage and Nation Building in Western Canada to 1915 (2008) deals not only with aboriginal peoples, but also later polygamous religious societies like Mormon groups. The chunks of the book on aboriginal culture were particularly relevant to me and my work, though, and fascinating to boot. Analyses of societies like these really do demonstrate that the supposedly “natural”, heterosexual, monogamous model proposed by Western Europeans… isn’t exactly as “natural” as it is made out to be.

This particular passage (pages 122-125) is on Two-Spirited people, who are super-cool. Originally, Becky was looking for specifically female-to-male gender reversals, I believe, but the reverse is also fascinating, and some cultural expectations applied to both groups.

Read on to hear about Trim Woman, Running Eagle, Pidgeon Woman, Elk-Yells-in-the-Water, and other Two-Spirited people. )
beboots: (Canada "discovery" history)
 I'm not sure if I mentioned it anywhere yet - I'm sure if I did I didn't talk about it in detail - but on Wednesday I got to be a part of the short film they're making at Fort Edmonton. <3 

For some information on the Capitol Theatre project, see here. Long story short: they're building a new theatre on 1920s street at the living history museum, right next to the Hotel Selkirk (which is a functioning hotel, by the way, with gorgeous rooms and delicious food). It's a super-exciting project! They'll be able to use it as a theatre space for dramatic productions, if they want, but during regular hours they'll be able to show 1920s silent films... plus some 1930s Talkies. :) (I put my vote in for "Freaks" and Bela Lugosi's "Dracula".)

They're also making an original film, entitled "Northern Light" or something like that, the plot of which essentially boils down to "10,000 years of Edmonton's history in 10 minutes". Cut for long-winded explanation of awesomeness, plus photographs. )

(Note: those things in the foreground aren't tombstones covered in snow. They are in fact ice walls built for the snowball fight competition being held there pretty soon. Can you think of a cooler setting for a snowball fight? :D )

Some of the beaded belts laid out on the table in Clerk's Quarters, ready to be chosen. Adele, the costumer, brought out our bag of "bling", as we call it: belts and chokers and so on so we could deck ourselves out. We laid them out quite nicely and several of us spent time photographing them. For more photographs of these belts (as well as more shots of the Fort in wintertime), see this album here

Aaand... that's all she wrote!
beboots: (Civil war lithograph)
 MOAR history links, you say?

Random articles I've run across recently, mostly through Twitter. (Who knew that something so modern could be so chock full of history dorks? <3 )

-Article on gunpowder's rise in popularity in Europe... and why Chinese archers co-existed with firearms for so much longer than in Europe. (Hint: it's because they got skillz.)

-High definition interactive closeups of the before and after photographs of this awesome 240-year-old restored map of New York

-Slave Children Appear in Rare Civil War Photograph

-Why Uffington White Horse is really a dog, says vet. My favourite part of this news article is the poll at the bottom in which 69% of responders still said "It is quite obviously a horse." I agree with them. 

-Strange Maps, a pretty neat-o blog. 

-History of the Body, an interesting interactive look onto historical views of the human body. (Views of women's bodies were almost hilariously weird. Did you know that semen in men is breast milk in women?) 

-Comparing the Modern Tea Party to the Original. Oh, American politics...

-How Three Kids Illegally Captured the First X-Ray Photograph

-Museum Secrets, a super-awesome new TV show from the History Channel. First two episodes out online! Episode two has a recreation of the theft of the Mona Lisa, a discussion of the crazy propaganda details in a giant portrait of the coronation of Emperor Napoleon, and other neat-o things in the Louvre. 

 -Bound by History: The Last of China's "Lotus-Feet" Ladies. This has to be one of the best articles I've seen on Chinese footbinding and the last few elderly ladies who have them. Includes a lovely photo gallery as well. Unlike some of the other articles I've run across which seem to universally condemn the practice, this article shows not only that but also the opinions of the women to whom this was done. It has a different perspective on things. 

And just for fun: 

-A Regency Name Generator! Perfect for the next time the urge to write historical fiction strikes you. :) (I have so much trouble naming characters, guys!) The name it spat out for me was Serena Baynes. :3

-6 WWI Fighter Pilots Whose Balls Deserve Their Own Monument (



Have a nice week, everyone! :D (Now after I've learned a few things, I should, y'know, actually do homework...)

(Click here for previous Civil War linkspam.)
beboots: (Elizabeth portrait)
 A little while ago, I saw on the Twitter feed someone commenting on the Chicago World's Fair of 1893, and I gleed at the reference. :)

For those of you who don't know, these past two years I've worked at Fort Edmonton Park. This past summer I worked as a costumed historical interpreter at the 1846 Fur Trade Era Hudson's Bay Company Fort. But my first job on site was a Game & Ride Attendant at the 1920s Midway. Now, even though our focus was on, well, attending the games and rides, we all did a lot of extra research so we could get some historical interpreting in as well. 

I could natter on for like half an hour about the hand-carved carousel, and I made several blog posts a while back on the subject: Part One (Romance Sides & Money Sides, the Lead Horse, etc.), Part Two (The RCMP horse, Draws-Much-Blood, etc.), and Part Three (Low-Down-Trick, Gus, and others). 

Anyway, when I read the brief tweet about the Chicago World's Fair, I suddenly started tweeting a whole bunch of stuff about the fair and midways in general. Also, freak shows. I thought I'd do a quick recap and linkspam here. :3 

The Ferris Wheel at the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 was epic. I don't use that term lightly. The tiny little Ferris Wheel we have at Fort Ed is, well, minuscule in comparison. See this post for a photograph. I found an article with an excellent account of the Ferris Wheel of 1893 here. In short... it was made with the intention of one-upping Paris' Eiffel Tower, which they had created for their Exposition of 1889. The World's Fair in Chicago was meant to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' discovery of the Americas, and was really meant to show the world how awesome the New World was. The axle of the Ferris Wheel was the single largest piece of forged steel at the time. The chairs were more like gondolas, and were the size of streetcars. They were late completing it, and so opened the ride up halfway through the fair... and they didn't test it ahead of time. It could have ended in disaster, but there were no accidents! It was a huge success! Unfortunately, the Wheel itself no longer exists. It cost too much to keep running, and was torn to pieces and sold for scrap later on after the fair was over. 

On a related note, almost everyone on the Midway in my year watched the 1932 movie "Freaks", which employed actual members of a freak show as actors and actresses. You don't really get that today, what with all of the political correctness. (Although, as many have argued, including the so-called freaks, shutting down these freak shows in the 1960s and 1970s didn't help the freak show members at all. What was the Human Torso or the Lobster Boy or whomever going to do, sell newspapers on the street? They made good money this way, for all that they were putting themselves up on display.)

Anyway, as I tweeted, Johnny Eck the Half Boy was my midway hero. Here is a short bio (plus photographs, including one of him doing his famous one armed handstand). He was an amazing guy. He was born without legs, but never let that get him down. (When asked in an interview once about whether or not he regretted having legs, he expressed relief at not having to iron trousers all of the time.) He actually had a "normal" twin brother, and together they were brilliant at doing that classic "man sawed in half" magician's trick. The "normal" twin would go into the box and be switched with Johnny Eck and a midget, to be sawed in half. Through creative use of clothing, Johnny Eck would then get up, sitting on top of the midget's shoulders, and they would begin to walk down towards the audience as if nothing was wrong and that they had been put back together... only for Eck to slide off the midget's shoulders and be chased around the stage by his supposed lower half. Women in the audience fainted, I'm told. ;) 

Here is a clip from "Freaks" in which you can see him climb a stairway. He is totally suave and charming. :) Here are a bunch of clips of him doing awesome things, like working out. Note his gloved hands: he had hard leather gloves made, which he used like shoes to protect his hands from getting too calloused. 

As for another guy who didn't let life's troubles get him down... See Prince Randian Lighting a Cigarette in this clip from "Freaks". 

If you're interested in the subject of historical midways, definitely check out this book, "American Sideshow". 

Also, this brilliant online archive, The Human Marvels

On a slightly different note, one of the other important life skills that I learned while pretending to be a 1920s Carnie was the ability to gaff (AKA "fix") midway games. I can name at least six different ways off the top of my head to rig that milk bottle toss game in such a way as to make it impossible for you to win, all without magnets. It keeps me from enjoying going to actual, RL midways anymore, because when I did I totally noticed the carnies gaffing their games there too, despite its illegality. Well, some of the stuff isn't so much illegal as... not nice. But then again, if every single person walked away with a giant stuffed animal, then they wouldn't make much money, would they? 

Anyway, if anybody wants to know more on the subject of Ferris Wheels, freak shows, carousels, and especially gaffed games, don't be afraid to ask! ;) 
beboots: (Civil war lithograph)
 Hey guys, I've just returned yesterday from being rugged and Canadian up in the Rocky Mountains, and will later post photographs of ice waterfalls and such, but for now I want to share with you a few links that I've run across while trying to do research/trying to avoid doing research for my thesis, which longtime readers may remember is on American Civil War medicine. Here are a few neat-o history links for you all!

-An awesome blog, Civil War Medicine (and Writing) by an awesome editor and writer/historian, Jim Schmidt! (Ironically, I had his book, Years of Change & Suffering (also highly recommended), on my desk and was searching up a reference when I ran across this blog. Small world!)

-A Map of American Slavery, showing the concentrations of slaves and the ratio of enslaved-to-free peoples in 1860, the year before war broke out. Sobering, but very neat.

-A neat little video on a Lincoln impersonator

-The American Library of Congress' online archive of Civil War-era photographs. Very extensive. I <3 digital archives.

-On a more humourous note, history articles from
5 Lesser Known (Completely Ridiculous) American Civil Wars
6 Insane Coincidences You Won't Believe Actually Happened
5 Fictional Stories You Were Taught in History Class
6 Ridiculous History Myths (You Probably Think Are True)

6 Historical Acts of Revenge (That Put Kill Bill to Shame)
The 5 Most Widely Believed Facts of WWII (That Are Bullshit)
The 10 Most Insane Medical Practices in History
6 Insanely Awesome Things The 1900s Thought We'd Have By Now
The 7 Most Bizarrely Unlucky People Who Ever Lived
6 Random Coincidences That Created The Modern World
7 Historical Figures Who Were Absurdly Hard To Kill
Where's The Bridge? The 7 Biggest Things Ever Stolen
5 Presidential Elections That Were Dumber Than This One (Somehow)
5 Most Badass U.S. Presidents of All Time


And now for something completely different: a fascinating three part documentary on North Korea. A travel writer manages to get into the country, and the results are quite interesting, to say the least. And a bit disturbing. His footage filmed during his trip is interdispersed with him speaking about his experience afterwards as well as clips from a propaganda/documentary film released by the North Koreans themselves. 


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