Glories of the West: Colonial Williamsburg from Above

From Colonial Williamsburg, which comments:

We’re loving this drone footage taken by one of the administrators of our Architectural Preservation and Research Facebook group, Director Matt Webster, for everyone missing the Historic Area. He says it was a little windy, so forgive the shifts in the video! We thought a little fife and drum soundtrack would go perfectly.

I agree: it does!

 

Coronavirus and the Sun: a Lesson from the 1918 Influenza Pandemic

Fresh air, sunlight and improvised face masks seemed to work a century ago; and they might help us now.

Source: Coronavirus and the Sun: a Lesson from the 1918 Influenza Pandemic

“When new, virulent diseases emerge, such as SARS and Covid-19, the race begins to find new vaccines and treatments for those affected. As the current crisis unfolds, governments are enforcing quarantine and isolation, and public gatherings are being discouraged.

“Health officials took the same approach 100 years ago, when influenza was spreading around the world. The results were mixed. But records from the 1918 pandemic suggest one technique for dealing with influenza — little-known today — was effective. Some hard-won experience from the greatest pandemic in recorded history could help us in the weeks and months ahead.

“Put simply, medics found that severely ill flu patients nursed outdoors recovered better than those treated indoors. A combination of fresh air and sunlight seems to have prevented deaths among patients, and infections among medical staff… The open-air regimen remained popular until antibiotics replaced it in the 1950s.”

However, as many are aware, some diseases are becoming antibiotic-resistant, these days; while others, such as coronavirus, are viral, and therefore cannot be treated with antibiotics anyway (although antibiotics may help with secondary infections, if those are not resistant).

I remember my mother always wanted us to get as much fresh air and sunshine as possible when we were sick – and yes, it did seem to help mitigate the severity and duration of colds and flu (both of which are viral). At the very least, spending as much time outside as possible can’t hurt! I can think of no health situation which fresh air and sunlight would worsen.

And it might even help…

 

Random facts of the day: some traditional measurements!

https://sites.google.com/a/wrps.net/lhschemistry/_/rsrc/1461015140094/unit-3-labs/units-of-measurement/Us%20Survey%20units.jpg?height=251&width=400

Random piece of general knowledge (many thanks to The Old Farmers Almanac):

1 league = 3 miles = 24 furlongs

In other words, there are eight furlongs to a mile. So how long is a furlong? 660 feet, or 40 rods (one rod being 5 ½ yards). Seen another way, a furlong is equal to one eighth of a mile: equivalent to 660 feet, 220 yards, 40 rods (1 rod = 5 1/2 feet), or 10 chains (one chain, therefore, being equal to 66 feet).

Originally, it was the length of the furrow in one acre of a ploughed field – thus, the name: one “furrow long” – in the old open-field system of medieval England, in which acres were usually long and narrow, and was the distance a team of oxen could plough without resting. From there, it passed into the British Imperial and U.S. customary system of measurements. An acre was reckoned as one furlong in length (naturally), and one chain in width, and was considered to be the amount of land one man, behind one ox, could plough in one day.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/39/Anthropic_Farm_Units.png/400px-Anthropic_Farm_Units.png

Other oxen-derived measurements include an oxgang (from the same root as our contemporary word “going,” with the implication of walking *), the amount of land tillable by one ox in a ploughing season (an area which could vary from village to village, but was typically around 15 acres), a virgate, the amount of land tillable by two oxen in one ploughing season (thus, two oxgangs), and a carucate, the amount of land that could be tilled by eight oxen in a ploughing season: equal, naturally, to 8 oxgangs or 4 virgates. Thus, these measurements were not random or arbitrary, they described what could be done on them, in a way that was very useful and informative for an agricultural society!

*  That derivation still exists, though somewhat concealed by changes in the language, and our understanding: a “gang” is a group of people who go (walk) around together. And the archaic English word “gangly” refers to a person or (usually young) animal who appears to be “all legs,” and therefore seems made for walking! Also, a “chain-gang” is not just a group of people joined by a chain; they are chain-gang: that is to say, they are walking chained, rather than free.

On a related note, the furlong was historically considered to be equivalent to the Roman stade (from which we get “stadium”), itself derived from the Greek stadion ~ and it was, although approximately: the old Roman measurement was actually 625 feet. The Romans reckoned eight stadia to the mile, and (as remains the case in our English measurement, albeit using furlongs) three miles to the league. Thus, the Roman mile was a little shorter than ours is. A league was considered to be the distance a man could walk in one hour, and the mile (from mille, meaning “thousand”) consisted of 1,000 passi (paces: five feet, or two single steps of two-and-a-half feet each).

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/proxy/kt0RpmdwysRDICsYv2fk1p1CQ2HmONAHkV_mdCZtmx-gTr9ieNl6lJieYNEsxs5-UuTF-0sVGBTtfhkIffR0iHE27Q

Now you know probably more than you ever wanted to about ancient land-measurements!

(Additional information gleaned from Wikipedia, and from my own knowledge of things medieval!)

Revisiting Charlemagne as Europe Disintegrates | The American Conservative

“A healthy dose of skepticism should underlie any empirical endeavor, but there can be no doubt from Nelson’s deft exploration of the extant record that Charlemagne proved himself ‘great’ in every sense.”

Source: Revisiting Charlemagne as Europe Disintegrates | The American Conservative

A little historical perspective, on one of the primary founders of pre-modern Europe. A great man indeed – not perfect, not wholly admirable, but those qualities are not essential for greatness – as even the author of the book being reviewed was forced to admit, despite her Left-leaning biases:

“Sometimes Nelson’s feminist bias comes through gratuitously.

“Is it really worth commenting that Charlemagne’s marital relations were chronicled only by male observers? Would a woman’s marital relations chronicled only by women be equally problematic?

“Similarly, was disapprobation of the Byzantine Empress Eirene’s murder of her own son the result of ‘patriarchy and good old-fashioned misogyny’? Would filicide be more acceptable in some kind of gender-neutral utopia?

“These foibles notwithstanding, it is noteworthy that Nelson voluntarily chose to cap an already distinguished career with a biography of the kind of man Charlemagne truly was: a great one.”

But speaking of Left-leaning biases, the virtue-signalling (I was tempted to a more pithy term) is great in some of the comments. Good Lord have mercy, these people are commenting on an article in The American CONSERVATIVE…??? The alleged “conservatism” of some of these folks is in noticeably short supply. Indeed, some of them are either trolls or idiots, maybe both!

Still, the article (book review) itself is worth a read – and so, I have no doubt, is the book, but my “to-read” list is too long as it is – even if some of the commenters are nattering nabobs of nutcase-ism. And Charlemagne is, as every generation up to the ’60s has known him, without doubt, to be: a great man.

 

The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise | Intercollegiate Studies Institute

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“The existence of a Muslim kingdom in Medieval Spain where different races and religions lived harmoniously in multicultural tolerance is one of today’s most widespread myths… The problem with this belief is that it is historically unfounded.” – Dr. Darío Fernández-Morera, Ph.D.

Source: The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise – Intercollegiate Studies Institute: Think. Live Free.

“The existence of a Muslim kingdom in Medieval Spain where different races and religions lived harmoniously in multicultural tolerance is one of today’s most widespread myths. University professors teach it. Journalists repeat it. Tourists visiting the Alhambra accept it. It has reached the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal, which sings the virtues of the ‘pan-confessional humanism’ of Andalusian Spain (July 18, 2003).

“The Economist echoes the belief: ‘Muslim rulers of the past were far more tolerant of people of other faiths than were Catholic ones. For example, al-Andalus’s multi-cultural, multi-religious states ruled by Muslims gave way to a Christian regime that was grossly intolerant even of dissident Christians, and that offered Jews and Muslims a choice only between being forcibly converted and being expelled (or worse).’

“The problem with this belief is that it is historically unfounded, a myth. The fascinating cultural achievements of Islamic Spain cannot obscure the fact that it was never an example of peaceful convivencia.”

I have thought for years – since my undergraduate medieval studies days, in fact – that there was something that did not ring true about the standard narrative of “peaceful, multicultural” Cordoba / Andalusia, where Muslims, Christians, and Jews allegedly lived together in harmony, and the arts and sciences flourished. There were hints of a shadow – such as the admission that non-Muslims had to pay jizya – but it was hard to pin down anything more. There had to be more to the story!

Now, Dr. Darío Fernández-Morera, Ph.D., has written an exhaustively researched and documented book on the subject, of which the linked (and rather lengthy) article is but an abstract, and which makes it abundantly clear that the much-lauded “peaceful coexistence” was enforced by brutal oppression, in which Christians – in their own land! – and Jews were emphatically second-class citizens, subject to the whims of their overlords, and in which the undeniable artistic achievements were financed by heavy taxes and the spoils of conquest.

I would add, also, that the much-vaunted Muslim medical and other arts were based heavily on Classical and late Hellenistic – Greco-Roman – antecedents, texts to which medieval Christians would have had access, had the great libraries of the Mediterranean world not fallen to Islamic conquerors in the 7th and 8th centuries.

And the “intolerance” shown by the Christian successor state in what had been al-Andalus is perhaps somewhat more comprehensible – perhaps even forgivable – in light of the more than seven centuries (722 – 1492 AD) Spanish Christians had spent re-taking the Iberian peninsula from its Muslim overlords. A cautionary tale for today’s West! But I digress:

In dealing with the question of why this myth (in the popular sense of the term, which is to say, fallacy) has been so persistent in both popular and academic culture, Fernández-Morera suggests – accurately, in my opinion – that it “may be that extolling al-Andalus offers the double advantage of surreptitiously favoring multiculturalism and deprecating Christianity, which is one of the foundations of Western civilization,” and continues,

“This mechanism is not unlike that in the mind of those who dislike Western culture intensely, but who with the fall of Communism find themselves without any clear alternative and so grab Islam as a castaway grabs anything that floats. So anyone who dislikes Western culture or Christianity—for any reason, be it religious, political, or cultural—goes on happily pointing out, regardless of the facts, how bad Catholic Spain was when compared to the Muslim paradise.”

A paradise which exists only in the cultural Marxist imagination.

As I say, this is a lengthy essay. It is, nonetheless, worth a read, for the light it casts on a much-misunderstood, and greatly mis-characterized, time and place in history. Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest!

Medieval peasants vs people today – on the lighter side!

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As an academically-trained – and lifelong avocational – medievalist, I can say there is a lot of truth to this! True, there were plenty of issues in that era that could be lethal, from plague to war. But now it’s cancer, degenerative heart disease, and (in many parts of the world) still war… 🙄

In fact, most of the things that killed people – and that account for the “lower life expectancy” (which is an average) of medieval people during that age – were most threatening to children. If you once attained adulthood, you had a pretty fair chance of living just about as long as we do now!


(To be fair, one exception to this was childbirth, which remained very dangerous to women right up until fairly recent times. Young women are more likely to be resilient and avoid or survive potential issues with childbirth, which is one reason why women married and bore children much earlier, on average, than they do today.)

Ten Things You Don’t Know About Robert E. Lee | Abbeville Institute

Source: Ten Things You Don’t Know About Robert E. Lee | Abbeville Institute

General Robert E. Lee, Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, CSA (and later and for a time, all Confederate forces), was one of my first heroes and role models, and he remains so to this day. He was not only a great general (if I ever speak of “the General,” without further modification, I am speaking of Lee), but a great Christian gentleman.

But although he was a great man, he was not a perfect man: those who do not understand how both statements can be true understand little of human nature, or indeed of the nature of reality. The linked article does not whitewash the General, but it definitely shows his greatness. Well worth a read, and I commend it, dear readers, to your attention.

One note: I am not a huge fan (to put it mildly) of Federal Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. He permitted, if not actually enabled, the horrific actions of Sherman and Sheridan; and he was little more caring for his own men than for his opponents, being willing to sacrifice his own soldiers in a most callous fashion to obtain his victories: it is not without reason that he was nicknamed “Butcher Grant,” by Northern journalists.

But he was not entirely without honour, either, at least toward people he considered to be personal friends – as he apparently did General Lee, with whom he had served in the Mexican War. It is well-known that he gave honourable terms to the surrendering Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House, even allowing the Confederate soldiers to keep their rifles (a major concession, for a defeated army).

What is less well-known is his personal intervention on Lee’s behalf, after the War, as recounted here:

“Later, when Lee was indicted for treason by a federal grand jury, with the threat of arrest and possible execution hanging over him, he appealed to Grant, noting that the terms of his army’s surrender included the stipulation—drafted by Grant himself—that ‘each officer and man will be allowed to return to his home, not to be disturbed by United States authority so long as they observe their paroles and the laws in force where they may reside.’

“Grant concurred with Lee’s interpretation and urged Lee to apply for a federal pardon, which Grant said he would endorse. Lee did so, sending the documents to Grant, who indeed forwarded them on to President Andrew Johnson with his endorsement. (The application would be ‘lost,’ and Lee’s citizenship would not be restored until 1975—but that is another story.) What Lee did not know was that Grant quietly let it be known that he would resign from the army if Lee were to be arrested.”

I believe in giving credit where due, and this action is certainly to Grant’s credit. I will only add that it’s a shame his sense of honour was not a bit more general. But, again, human nature is what it is…