Remembering Antietam, with civil War expert John Michael Priest

John Michael Priest is a well respected author of the American civil war, especially the battle of Antietam.

Notice we didn’t say War Between the States or Sharpsburg.  Some of you might accuse us of bias. Well, that’s nothing new. Continue reading Remembering Antietam, with civil War expert John Michael Priest

Why is western Europe at peace?

Map of Europe with EU flag superimposedAs the EU wins the Nobel Peace Prize, we are reminded of a time when Europe was the site of many deadly wars.

Many institutions, from NATO to the UN, have claimed responsibility for the relative peace in Europe since the end of the Second World War. Can any of these claims be substantiated, or are they all special interests trying to make excuses for their hefty expense accounts? Continue reading Why is western Europe at peace?

Have we forgotten the purpose of the University?

some towers in the distant background, other buildings on the side, as we look down the mall and see students play and communicate.
Village design of University of Virginia by Tanner

I don’t know when the first University was established in the United States. That’s not because I’m too lazy to find out, it’s because different colleges claim the title. So, rather than nitpick over names and dates, I’ll tell a few stories from history that illustrate the worth of University, and how its meaning has changed.

When I started my degree at Aberystwyth, one of the lecturers made an observation, about our changing expectations. Continue reading Have we forgotten the purpose of the University?

Dom Joao VI, The damned Prince, King of Contraditions

(This is Gargamelo’s first post with Ptara.)


Pop art portrait of Dom Joao VI of PortugalApril 1812, Rio de Janeiro, King’s Palace. 

The Regent and his two sons – meeting with their state secretary and top ministers – have just received the news that Napoleon’s troops have definitely been expelled from Portugal.  That means that there is no longer a valid reason for the court to remain in Brazil.

However, except for the Regents wife, Queen Carlota Joaquina, the royals are in no hurry to return.  Continue reading Dom Joao VI, The damned Prince, King of Contraditions

When was history?

Delegates in a convention hold up signs for Oklahoma, Mississippi and West Virginia.  Black and white photo
Republican convention, 1952. Fifty year rule: 2002.   Sixty year rule: 2012


39-year-old History teacher Josh Hoeska had a great idea.  His sixteen-year-old students were to hold a tournament to find out who was the greatest examples of courage in American “history.”  The two finalists involved events that happened in 2001 and 2005.

In other words, their “history” was the Presidency of George Bush Jr.  Most people over thirty might think that these kids were learning current events, and not history.

Besides making you feel old, there might be other objections to using events so recent.  Continue reading When was history?

Will history be kind to Bush (Jr)?

George Washington Bush shouting at a bald manOn CNN, Timothy Stanely compared Bush Junior to Harry Truman. Both Presidents left office with low approval ratings, both supposedly fought what seemed like unpopular wars (Truman in Korea, Bush in Iraq), yet both had “a gentle, honest personality that voters looked back on with fondness.”

Really?  Gentle and honest? Really? Continue reading Will history be kind to Bush (Jr)?

What if Taft had won in 1912?

famous Head and shoulder photograph of William Taft, with a mustache, wearing a tie
President William Howard Taft

I often wonder why the so-called tea party keeps talking about “the past 100 years.” Do they see Woodrow Wilson’s election as the beginning of the downfall of America? Or are they still talking about William Howard Taft’s election, four years earlier?

Whatever the case, 1912 was one of America’s most crucial elections. Had an ex-President not given a third party a fighting chance, history could have taken a very different turn. Continue reading What if Taft had won in 1912?

Andrew Lambert and the War of 1812

If you read British history magazines, you’ve probably read Andrew Lambert.  He’s an academic who writes in a style that flows so well, you don’t notice the footnotes.

This is in contrast to the man who Lambert claims is the founder of modern naval history, William James.  James, according to Lambert, didn’t just write stories, he examined sources.  James’ writing is exhausting because its filled with numbers and data (what James’ detractors might call “lies, more lies and statistics.”)

William James had a special motive for writing his polemical “History of the British navy.”   Continue reading Andrew Lambert and the War of 1812

Still celebrating 500 years of Luso-Siamese Friendship

photo of the Sagres III
NRP Sagres III, Portuguese naval training ship, photo by Jose Manuel

It has been more than 500 years since the first Portuguese ship carrying envoy Duarte Fernandes sailed into Trangque, but the celebrations of the long lasting relationship between Portugal and Thailand continue.

The celebrations began a year ahead of time, in 2010 when a Portuguese training ship called the Sagres sailed into port to commemorate the long relationship.

(The Sagres was on a trip around the world at the time, but rather than taking Vasco da Gama’s famous route around the cape of Good Hope, it cut through the Suez Canal.  The ships first such trip in over a decade, it selectively stopped at several countries with strong historical ties to Portugal.)

After sailing to Siam, the Portuguese exchanged some food ideas with the Thais.  Apparently, the Portuguese introduced dessert into Thai culture, before the two countries met people used to just drink a glass of water after meals.

Well, today Portuguese people are being influenced by Thai culture, and learning a thing or two.  Here’s a picture of Andrew, a Portuguese in Thailand who is learning to dance as the celebrations continue.  (He’s at the Vira do Minho in the Siam Museum.)

traditional dancer and modern learner
Andrew learns to dance from a traditional dancer, in front of images of an old ship coming into port

Well, I’ve been getting a lot of pictures about these celebrations, but not much information.

Is Alexander Aan “Daniel Isaac Eaton” all over again?

An Indonesian man is facing prison for publishing a Facebook he doesn’t believe in God. He has been threatened with prison, but he has also found a large degree of support.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you probably know that 200 years ago, A British man named Daniel Isaac Eaton was sentenced to prison and the pillory for publishing a “Deist” track by Thomas Paine.

Daniel Isaac Eaton, portrait from trial
Daniel Isaac Eaton

Continue reading Is Alexander Aan “Daniel Isaac Eaton” all over again?