Category Archives: History

Trends Don’t Indicate Superior Content

The foreword to J. H. Elliott’s famous book on Spanish history, Imperial Spain, has an absolutely fabulous observation:

“I am naturally delighted that, in spite of this, Imperial Spain is still considered worthy of being reprinted. If written today it would obviously be a very different, although not necessarily a better, book.”

This comes right after Elliott speaks extensively on the current trends in historiography. He pointed out that these largely originated with the rather Marxist Annales school which tended to focus on what was frequently dubbed as mentalités. 

The idea was that we could know more about history by talking about the social, cultural, and mental histories of people rather than political and historic events that may have only had a short term impact. From the Wikipedia, you can also see a fabulous summary on the “precepts” of the Annales school of thought:

“[Annales historians] relegated the sensational to the sidelines and was reluctant to give a simple accounting of events, but strived on the contrary to pose and solve problems and, neglecting surface disturbances, to observe the long and medium-term evolution of economy, society and civilisation.” (Wikipedia)

No doubt, this school of thought has had a very lasting influence on how the West likes to engage history to this day. Indeed, we have now created entire departments focused on telling the histories and trends of specific identities — gender studies, LGBTQ studies, women’s studies, Asian studies, etc. — and every historian is always striving to deconstruct the roles of a place. Indeed, it is not uncommon to hear some historian muse about “late 19th century Turkish mental asylums as intersectional places” or how early 20th century North Africa experienced a process of racialization under French colonization.

You could also view the trend in doing entire historical overviews of a single product as not dissimilar. Histories about tobacco or salt as similar means of telling grandiose social histories through the lens of some history of trade.

Elliott’s position of different eras writing different books (and none of them being necessarily better) is very astute.

No matter what decision we make, there are shortcomings to it. Just as such, the perspectives that we choose to take on history merely reveal our own biases and shortcomings in different ways while perhaps doing a much better job than previous generations at telling an overlooked part of the story.

These aspects play to certain strengths and weaknesses…

Is it really better? Some people would have you believe so but perhaps the more holistic the attitude, the better.

We all have our own biases and our own favorites, but can we really say that the people who have focused on economic history have made a poor choice? Of course not. All knowledge and all fields of study, that slowly fills in the details of things that were not properly categorized & sorted and thereby left out of our perceptions of history, do a service in telling the story of history.

Ultimately, what is dangerous about current trends is that they are, by nature, highly politicized. Elliott himself even implying that the Annales school was too Marxissant. After all, those who tell history as if it is the evolution of man are literally describing the world through dialectical materialism.

While those who work on these topics help us cover more and show some interesting diversions for us… we must never believe that their method is categorically superior.

Hinduism, Iranic Spirituality & Some Historical Contextualizations

The below post is originally from a post that I made earlier today, and it contained some interesting information that I had to track down concerning the nature of pre-Zoroastrian Iranian religion. Overall, I think it was one of the more interesting things I’ve really thought about and while I am not sure of the veracity of all of it, I open it up to discussion.

If anything seems funny in the wording, remember it was originally in reply to other people; I haven’t bothered to take away this quality from it and present it in its original format to you.


Hinduism & Buddhism are both Salvific faiths just as Islam & Christianity are. Buddhism has all manner of texts (especially Mahayana Buddhism) that emphasize the role of the teacher as ultimate. To be a Dharma teacher is quite an important and great thing in Buddhism. Many sutras focus on the idea of spreading the teachings of the Buddha as an important and necessary path for the Buddhist monk, and there are examples of sutras condemning monks who spent their entire lives looking inward as opposed to spreading the message.

Hinduism was transmitted to Indonesia for a long period of time — perhaps with the very goal of providing a method of attaining salvation to the masses. I can’t really comment further on that… But I would guess the lack of salvific outreach to others has to do with the fact that India was already a massive, divided place and expanding beyond Hindustan isn’t exactly an easy task. Not to mention, it is not as if the Hindustanis had the infrastructure or means to really make an easy going of a sustained mission abroad… though apparently to some degree this did happen in Indonesia.

Perhaps it is also worth noting, as FRS did, that Hinduism is a great patchwork of many different beliefs there; consider the Zoroastrians of the Iranic world. Before Zoroastrianism the Iranic religion is incredibly similar to Hinduism, and while tere are some different gods there are basically such striking similarities, that the Rg Veda is considered to provide us information with pre-Zoroastrian Vedic-Aryan deva worship. You can read more here.

So, basically, until Islam took out Zoroastrianism, we know that the most accessible lands surrounding India were essentially Buddhist (Afghanistan, parts of northeast Iran), or they were Zoroastrian (the rest of Iran, much of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, etc.). Zoroastrian can be regarded on some level as a reformed, monotheized version of the regionalized Hindu-esque religion that had existed there…

… And gods know (appreciate the subtlety) that there was probably significant variation in the daily language, names and worship of the gods in Bihar and the gods in Tamil Nadu, and the gods in East Bengal and the gods in Punjab.

We might be running into a situation where Hinduism cannot spread to these lands beyond the Hindu Kush because it was more or less already there. Albeit, in a different and reformed version (though who is to say that there was not enclaves and villages still practicing a faith more similar to that of the pre-Zoroastrianism?).

In some sense, could we not argue that Hinduism had nowhere to expand from India, because it already had the Persian & Afghan empires?

(And we all know that it is Islam that supplants Zoroastrianism).

How does this dial into it?

Perhaps something like:
– Hinduism was salvific and spreading, as it did to Indonesia.
– Hinduism had no need to ‘spread’ to Persia and Iranic lands because it was more or less already there. It was then just reformed drastically right around the same time that Buddhism was formed.
– Buddhism & Jainism cause rifts within Hindustan and spread far and wide; the success of Buddhism in spreading abroad to some degree functions as a transmission as it is of Hindu culture, and perhaps even hints at the impotence of Hinduism to be of importance within Indian society. It is suggested by Gombrich in his book What The Buddha Thought that Buddhism was a religion primarily of the merchant / trader class, as it stands, and thus makes sense that while the Hinduism of the Brahmins stays put, the Buddhism of the Vaishyas spreads further & furhter.
– As time passes the Zoroastrians & Buddhists are defeated by the Muslims. Hinduism now has no options to spread and rather will be fully prepared to reel back in the face of Islam.
– Hinduism is then eventually enclosed by Islam to the West, and then there’s the far more Buddhist Bengali lands that eventually become Islamic; the Muslims then even spread their messages to Malaysia & Indonesia via Indian trade routes and usurp the old lands where Hinduism spread…

So after a 1,000 years they grow accustomed to constant inward looking.

It’s easy to become extremely introverted when surrounded by enemies… Ask the Koreans, ask the Shi’ites, ask the Druze, etc.

Give Me That Old Time Business

I recently took some time to listen to an extensive podcast on medieval guilds which featured the economic historian Gary Richards and it was utterly illuminating concerning the functions & roles of guilds in medieval Europe. The full podcast, of course, can be listened to via

Of course, there are countless sociological and historical reasons as to why our ancestors functioned the way that they did… You know, in a more civilized and socially conscious fashion than anyone does today. It is also clear that the idea of getting anyone to behave with the manner & neighborliness of a medieval person is a long shot, but let us pine for the old days together for a moment.

First off, throw the image that you have of guilds out of your head; it isn’t solely an organization of pre-modern businessmen trying to fix prices and pull one over on the consumer. The word guild has  a far broader reach. Any organization at all could be called a guild.

In medieval England, nearly every village had at least one registered ‘guild.’ These can be referred to as ‘societies’ as well, and some of these village guilds were nothing more than a prayer society. During the podcast Richardson stated that he believed nearly every adult in England probably was involved in some guild or another. But, of course, many of these were more so village social organizations, and not necessarily within the scope of our interest as we talk about former business practices.

The guilds that did exist that were associations of, say, pewter makers, blacksmiths, tanners, etc. formed very naturally and lived very interconnected lives. Remember that villages would be organized in a logical fashion — tanners and butchers deal with a lot of carcasses and do all manner of processes to make leather; you’d want them congregated in one area near the outside of town. Blacksmiths were involved in extremely loud work that likewise had a lot of fire and produced a lot of smoke and waste — again, you’d want them in one neighborhood.Thus, these guilds were also on some level neighborhood associations. They encompassed the entire section of town where all of the people of a single occupation lived.

It is also important to note that in the highly religious medieval times the craftsmen were devoted to their patron saints. Believing in purgatory as well as Heaven, the guildsmen would gather and pray not just for one another and their families, but also deceased guildsmen who may be stuck in purgatory. A very strong religious zeal existed within them — and in medieval England the primary threat that came with cheating your guild and being estranged from it was one of no longer receiving the prayers and blessings of the group you are with.

But guilds certainly weren’t just prayer warriors… Guilds offered mutual insurance to one another. If a guild member were to have died early, it is fully known that basic sustenance would be provided for his family and even dowries would commonly be furnished by his fellow guildsmen. There was a distinct sense of great social responsibility within the guild…

Guilds would compete to see who provided the best services to their communities and gave the most mutual assurance. They wished to be prestigious and have a measurable positive impact on the community. it was well documented that on the day of their patron Saints, they would have lively festivals and parades. This would include paying for lavish public performances of plays often depicting the life and good deeds of their Saints. The guildsmen would wear special liveries or badges indicating their membership in the guild — for it was a sign of distinct pride to have such an association with organizations that provided for the community.

Of course, guilds were dedicated to their economic work as well. Their trades were closely held secrets, but what was also important was providing quality products. It was common to put a symbol, emblem or ‘signature’ of sorts upon their products because the markings would have reputations attached to them. Thus, one of the other functions of a guild was to look into the work of their registered craftsmen and insure that nobody was doing things to make their products worst (like putting too much lead into their pewter, for instance).

Of course, this was a very different epoch in human history but as a fan of history I always hope to learn something from it. In this case what is clearly worthy of our attention was how, while the time was not as technologically advanced nor had the comforts of modern times, it does appear that they did their best to take care of one another, and a great point of pride was their ability to Give.

All of these elements stand out in stark contrast to the nature of how our business is done, and it is certainly harder to think of us as being the perpetual superior to these medieval peoples.

Quick Analysis Of US Genetic Ancestry & Percentage Of Mixed

I recently was perusing a forum and saw an interesting paper brought up by the famous website, 23&Me, which specializes in genetic testing. While the famous claim is often made by Americans that they possess some Native American ancestry, it appears that it might not be true.

According to this paper, it is believed that native American ancestry among European-Americans occurs the most in North Dakota & Louisiana, and here it measures to roughly 4% of the population possessing at least 2% Native American DNA; when the threshold is lessened to 1%, it reaches 8% in Louisiana, but there is no otherwise significant rise… The same paper stated that roughly 1.4% of European-Americans carry African genetic ancestry, and that it is naturally most high in places like South Carolina and, again Louisiana. That number jumps dramatically when the threshold is lowered to 1%, and in some states it reaches nearly 10% of the population, But, on average, it is somewhere between 1 & 3% of all European Americans that carry African American ancestry.

Nearly all of this information comes from Page 11 of The Report.

I did not go into the analysis of Latino & African-American populations because it was largely what we expected: Latinos being a large mix, though perhaps more white than we think in specific populations, but by and large, the average Latino in the US being 65% European. Likewise, the average African American is 24% European. The Latino percentage of European seems somewhat surprising, but I anticipated the number for African Americans.

Some of the conclusions we can make:

– Most of the people who claim to be part Native American are probably not.

– Many of the people who claim to be part Native American, especially in the South, are perpetuating a family myth that was started to probably hide their African slave ancestry.

– Ironically though not surprisingly, it is the traditionally more racist states that have white people who are more likely to possess African-American ancestry.

I would love to see more information on these sorts of things in the future.

Former Ms. International (Japan) Supports Plight Of Comfort Women

Perhaps one of the most difficult topics for anyone in Korea (or Japan) is the issue of the 위안부 (commonly referred to as ‘comfort women’ in the West; the Korean word translates roughly into Pleasure Division) and now former Miss International Ikumi Yoshimatsu of Japan is speaking out and saying that she believes that the infamous ‘Comfort Women’ were, in fact, victimized and deserve apology.

I could find no coverage of this in English so below is the original Korean and the translation:

2012년 미스 인터내셔널 우승자인 일본인 요시마쓰 이쿠미(吉松育美·26)가 미국 라디오 방송프로그램에서 일본군 위안부 문제에 대해 ‘소신발언’을 한 사실이 알려져 화제다. 하지만 요시마쓰는 이 때문에 자국의 우익 네티즌들에게 뭇매를 맞았다.

The 2012 Ms. International winner, Ikumi Yoshimatsu, has revealed on an American radio broadcast her opinion on the issue of comfort women. She is also taking a beating from right wing ‘netizens.’

9일 일본 인터넷 뉴스사이트인 ‘제이 캐스트(J-CAST)’에 따르면 요시마쓰는 지난달 29일 CBS 라디오 방송의 대담 프로그램에 나와 “일본인 우익들 사이에서 ‘위안부는 매춘부이기 때문에 사과할 필요가 없다’는 의견도 나오고 있지만 생존 위안부의 증언을 들어보면 그렇지 않다는 의견도 있다”며 “일본인으로서 이런 발언(위안부에 대해 사과할 필요가 없다는 발언)은 부끄럽다”고 말했다.

On the 9th\ Japanese internet news site ‘J-Cast’ reported that Yoshimatsu appeared on CBS radio last month on the 29th and said the “Japanese right wing says that the Comfort Women were [hired] prostitutes so there is no reason to apologize’ however she feels that after hearing the testimony of Comfort Women survivors that this was not the case and that “she is embarrassed by the statement [that there needs to be no apology towards comfort women].”

영어로 대담한 그는 또 “(위안부 피해자들에 대한) 사과가 ‘문제’로 여겨지는 데 대해서도 분노를 느낀다”고 덧붙였다.

She also said in English that “considering the apology to the victimized comfort women as a ‘problem'” makes her “feel great anger.”

그러나 요시마쓰의 발언이 일본어로 번역돼 일본 네티즌들에게 알려지자 그에 대한 반발의 목소리가 터져 나왔다고.

After the interview the content was eventually translated into Japanese and is causing quite a stir among internet users.

이에 요시마쓰는 지난 6일 페이스북에 “공부가 부족하고 영어 인터뷰에서 언어 능력 부족 문제도 있어 여러분에게 큰 혼란과 오해를 불러 일으킨 데 대해 사과한다”는 글을 올렸다.그러면서 그는 “위안부 여성들의 삶,그런 상황에 놓일 수밖에 없었던 여성들이 있었다는 데 대해 슬픔을 느끼고 있다”고 해 소신을 완전히 꺾지는 않았다.

Yoshimatsu expressed on her facebook page on the 6th that “due to my lack of study there were issues with her English ability which may have created some confusion and misunderstandings for which I apologize.” She also want on to say that, while there’s that, “as the women of the comfort divisions were put into such a position without any recourse she feels a great sadness.”

서울 신문

For those who might be unfamiliar with situation, in the end she recanted to what amounts to the general position of any right wing Japanese: that perhaps there were issues of women being sold against their will or resorting to it out of some great poverty, which is regrettable, but there is really no need for an apology simply because they were functionaries within a contracted service.

It is said in debates throughout the internet that there is evidence that the comfort women were recruited specifically for the task. The wikipedia also notes that a surprising amount of the Japanese comfort women were even Japanese and offers up recruitment posters used in the process in various languages. There is even the suggestion that the Comfort Division started essentially in an effort to curb the amount of rapes that were happening

I am unsure about specific evidence of women being forcibly enlisted into it. I did hear a story from a Korean woman that she was sold into it against her will by her father, and this was the most dramatic account that I have heard.

Regardless, it was an incredibly ‘dark time’ in history but, with that said, it is also a time when the average woman in Asia (and in many other places) had few rights or recourses if they were from an impoverished background. Prostitution was simply a reality — and it remains a grave reality for millions. We now come to the idea of whether or not this was particularly grosser, particularly graver, particularly worse than any of the other things happening around that period and the question of how forced were they.

There are even accusations (denied by the US) that comfort women were set up for Soldiers that arrived in 1945 (accusations, and denials).

The first link of the two, on the second page, provides a good quotation which perhaps best reflects the US knowledge of the comfort women at that time:

A Dec. 6, 1945, memorandum from Lt. Col. Hugh McDonald, a senior officer with the Public Health and Welfare Division of the occupation’s General Headquarters, shows U.S. occupation forces were aware the Japanese comfort women were often coerced.

“The girl is impressed into contracting by the desperate financial straits of her parents and their urging, occasionally supplemented by her willingness to make such a sacrifice to help her family,” he wrote. “It is the belief of our informants, however, that in urban districts the practice of enslaving girls, while much less prevalent than in the past, still exists.”

It appears that there might have been some circumstances of actual enslavement…  But I am unsure of the evidence, and considering the sheer desperation of most people at that time, well, we are talking about a sour situation for everyone.

Long story short: it was probably terrible for all the women involved, but they also probably did not have such a bright future otherwise elsewhere. It is a lose-lose situation.

Is it insulting to say that? I am unsure. Perhaps it is just stressing the plight of women in general of that time period and the desperation of poverty. Perhaps enough time has been spent lamenting very specific crimes but little time is spent in consideration of the day-to-day horror that was afforded by war time women of Asia (and beyond) in WWII. And, perhaps, the most difficult reality for us to accept is the one in which humans are so willing to subject their fellow beings to horrific lifestyles for a bit of profit, and how through ignorance some even accepted such a pittance of a life out of the notion of helping their family.

I do not like dwelling on these topics because it shows the grave darkness that lurks within human society; and as we are human just like them, part of this darkness lurks inside ourselves.

Corpses Of Red Haired Giants in Nevada?

I stumbled across this blogpost when perusing Varg Vikernes’ Thulean perspective. I am not sure how accurate it is but apparently some of this evidence is even on display in Nevada.

Basically, some Native American tribes has a legend about red haired giants which they had fought and killed. They were fierce warriors and apparently cannibals, and they stood as tall as twelve feet (according to the Natives). In their legends they are listed as red haired but apparently there is no evidence of that that has been confirmed scientifically.

Rather, this blogpost says that there is evidence that they were, indeed, quite giant and that they potentially had knowledge of calendars (and thus, by default, astronomy) that is generally more advanced than the Native American peoples. This is all quite a mystery but, again, apparently these giant skeletons have been found and even put on display in Nevada though this is simply from a blogpost so I cannot really tell the veracity of it.

Look for yourself at the Ironlight post here.