I recently drew attention to the BBC six-part production of tenant farmers living on a monastery farm in Tudor England, circa 1500. Since then I have discovered that the BBC has also produced a 6-part series on Victorian Farm Life circa 1880, plus a 12-part series on Edwardian Farm life around 1901-1914.
The Victorian Farm series "recreates everyday life on a small farm in Shropshire, using authentic replica equipment and clothing, original recipes and reconstructed building techniques." The first of six episodes may be enjoyed below. Wikipedia offers verbal synopses of all six episodes.
Below you can enjoy the first of the 12-part Edwardian farm series as well. Wikipedia helpfully offers synopses of these programs also. The series was filmed at Morwellham Quay, an historic quay in Devon.
How many of us know what farm life was like for ordinary folk in 1500? The BBC has produced an amazing six-part series, each an hour long, which takes us right back to see what life was like. What a wonderful way to absorb history! I have listened to the first two programs and recommend them highly. Here is the first. For more click here. For background to the series, click here. (See Update below the video)
Last night we watched on YouTube the second episode of Tudor Monastery Farm, the BBC reality/documentary series in which two archeologists and a historian live out the daily lives of tenant farmers on a monastery farm in Tudor England, circa 1500. The kids love the show as much as we do, and it’s fun to watch as a family.
Last night’s episode focused on the sheep as the center of Tudor-era farm life, and the English economy. What stood out about the era was how incredibly hard life was, but also how ingenious people were in inventing techniques and technology to make their lives easier.
The show is helping me in my research for the Benedict Option book, believe it or not. One of the presenters of the program, a self-described atheist named Ruth Goodman, marvels in the second episode, as she did in the first one, over how religion suffused the lives of medieval people. She says that the calendar people lived by was not like our calendar, but rather was ordered around the feast days of saints, and other religious holidays. I mean, they had the same calendar we did, but they related to it in a very different way than we do. These people lived in a cosmos; we live in a universe. Very big difference. I’ll explain below.
Charles Taylor begins his magisterial bookA Secular Ageby asking why it was almost impossible not to believe in God in 1500, but in 2000, believing in God is seen as something you do with difficulty, if at all. Taylor says that it’s because the late medievals were heirs to a belief system that regarded the world as enchanted. God was everywhere, and ordered all things to Himself. All of Creation — and it was “Creation,” not yet “Nature” — was a sign pointing to its Creator. You really feel this in Tudor Monastery Farm, and the feeling is important, because, says Taylor, what really matters are the things that everybody takes for granted. It is an anachronistic mistake to think that our late medieval ancestors regarded the world as we do, except with a belief in God added to it. They did not. God and things divine were far more present in the imaginations of the people, who looked around them and saw Him. They lived in a cosmos — a universe ordered by God, pregnant with meaning and divine purpose.
The 1925 Scopes “Monkey” Trial, a “contrivance from the start,” as Siegel writes, and immortalized in the historically challenged 1955 Broadway hit Inherit the Wind, established the meme of the brave and noble man of “science” battling slack-jawed, oppressive Christian fundamentalists. This cliché predictably surfaces in liberal commentary on issues ranging from teaching Darwinian evolution, to the validity of global warming. In the 1930s idolizing the Soviet Union and communism, a reflex of liberal disdain for capitalism and its déclassé obsession with getting and spending, began its long march through American culture and education.
A Pennsylvania woman set out with a
video camera to learn what college students in her state know about the
Holocaust — and discovered an incredible lack of knowledge not only of
the genocide of the Jews, but of basic facts about U.S. history and
World War II.
Rhonda Fink-Whitman visited college
campuses in Pennsylvania this fall, including the venerated Ivy League
institution the University of Pennsylvania, where she was repeatedly
faced with a remarkable ignorance about events that took place in the
Students didn’t know where Normandy
was, why U.S. forces landed there, why the U.S. even entered the war or
who was president at the time. (Wilson, Eisenhower and JFK were among
the guesses.) One student didn’t know who Anne Frank was, because he
said he never read the book.
Another student thought African Americans may have been targeted in the Holocaust. [more . . .]
Me: The ignorance uncovered by Ms. Schwartz is eye-opening and scary.
A wonderful appreciation of the British orator, parliamentarian and essayist Edmund Burke appears in "The American Scholar" this summer, written by Brian Doyle. Read the whole thing is our advice. One (of many) highlights in the essay: Doyle tells us what Burke read.
It’s a paragraph any aspiring writer, reader and orator should study: read like this, and whatever talent you have will shine more brightly than it does now.
What did he read, this wonderful writer? Dryden’s prose was Burke’s great favorite, reported his friend Charles Fox; Demosthenes was his favorite orator, according to Chauncey Goodrich; “he delighted in Plutarch … and was particularly fond of Virgil, Horace, and Lucretius, a large part of whose writings he committed to memory. … Shakespeare was his daily study. … But his highest reverence was reserved for Milton, whose ‘richness of language, boundless learning, and Scriptural grandeur of conception’ [said Burke], were the first and last themes of his applause.” He read Bacon’s essays again and again, and clearly had read Cicero closely; he read Gibbon and Sheridan, whom he knew from Parliament; Johnson, Goldsmith, and Boswell; and he either still regularly scoured, or had a ferocious memory for, the Bible—“the most valuable repository of rhetoric in the English language,” as Burke’s later editor Edward Payne remarked. Was this, too, how Burke expended his little time alone, in his root-house in Buckinghamshire, reading avidly, widely, hungrily, happily, delighted to swim in eloquence other than his own? I hear him laughing quietly at a wry and piercing passage from Plutarch, or reciting the swinging cadences of Cicero in sheer admiration of the music of the man, or chanting lines from Lear, or reading aloud, with a shiver of awe, the Lord declaiming to Job: Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Who laid the corner stone thereof, when the morning stars sang together? Who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb? Declare, if thou hast understanding …
On June 19, Walker and officials from the University of Wisconsin announced a “revolutionary” flexible degree program. From the press release:
The unique self-paced, competency-based model will allow students to start classes anytime and earn credit for what they already know. Students will be able to demonstrate college-level competencies based on material they already learned in school, on the job, or on their own, as soon as they can prove that they know it. By taking advantage of this high quality, flexibility model, and by utilizing a variety of resources to help pay for their education, students will have new tools to accelerate their careers. Working together, the UW System, the State of Wisconsin, and other partners can make a high-quality UW college degree significantly more affordable and accessible to substantially more people. . .
Last week I browsed the book section of a thrift store and picked up Bruce Feiler's America's Prophet: Moses and the American Story. The title intrigued me so I flipped some pages and came upon the following: (p. 95)
"All ten colleges founded on America soil before the Revolution offered instruction in Hebrew. The seal of Yale depicts an open Bible with the inscription "Light and Truth" in Hebrew. The seals of Dartmouth and Columbia include Hebrew as well. The Harvard commencement included a Hebrew oration every year until 1817. Even in the face of the Enlightenment, the Hebrew Scripture stubbornly maintained its grip on the American mind. And Moses maintained his status as the Bible's chief ambassador to the United States.
Daniel Pipes, an historian and expert on Islam and the Middle East, writes:
The former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and current Republican presidential candidate said yesterday that “there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire. We have invented the Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs and are historically part of the Arab people, and they had the chance to go many places.”
Everyone from the PLO to a Mitt Romney spokesman jumped on Gingrich for this assertion, but he happens to be absolutely correct: No Arabic-speaking Muslims identified themselves as “Palestinian” until 1920, when, in rapid order this appellation and identity was adopted by the Muslim Arabs living in the British mandate of Palestine.
For details, see a long article of mine from 1989 on the topic or a short one from 2000.
Gingrich made the same assertion in the debate last night, as Marc Thiessen reports:
Romney tried to go after him by saying it was irresponsible and that Romney would be more cautious, declaring “I’m not a bomb thrower.” Newt deftly replied: “I’m a Reaganite,” citing Reagan’s declaration that the Soviet Union was an “evil empire.” The message GOP voters took away was: Newt is a bold conservative like Reagan, Romney is a cautious moderate. That’s a win for Newt.
'We're raising young people who are, by and large, historically illiterate. . . I know how much these young people—even at the most esteemed institutions of higher learning—don't know." Slowly, he shakes his head in dismay. "It's shocking." . . .
Mr. McCullough began worrying about the history gap some 20 years ago, when a college sophomore approached him after an appearance at "a very good university in the Midwest." She thanked him for coming and admitted, "Until I heard your talk this morning, I never realized the original 13 colonies were all on the East Coast." Remembering the incident, Mr. McCullough's snow-white eyebrows curl in pain. "I thought, 'What have we been doing so wrong that this obviously bright young woman could get this far and not know that?'" . . .
One problem is personnel. "People who come out of college with a degree in education and not a degree in a subject are severely handicapped in their capacity to teach effectively," Mr. McCullough argues. "Because they're often assigned to teach subjects about which they know little or nothing." The great teachers love what they're teaching, he says, and "you can't love something you don't know anymore than you can love someone you don't know."
Another problem is method. "History is often taught in categories—women's history, African American history, environmental history—so that many of the students have no sense of chronology. They have no idea what followed what."
What's more, many textbooks have become "so politically correct as to be comic. Very minor characters that are currently fashionable are given considerable space, whereas people of major consequence farther back"—such as, say, Thomas Edison—"are given very little space or none at all." [more ...]
Marion Smith, a graduate fellow at the Heritage Foundation, writes:
Last month, Ron Paul said he would not have ordered the military action that ended in the death of Osama Bin Laden. In his view, “It was absolutely not necessary.” Never mind that the raid by Navy SEALS fulfilled what had been a stated U.S. foreign-policy objective since 2001, tracking down and punishing the perpetrators of 9/11; Pakistan’s “sovereignty” is more important.
That view is consistent with the belief that the U.S. should remain politically and militarily uninvolved in other countries’ internal affairs. But this purist doctrine of non-interventionism is contrary to the founding principles of America’s early foreign policy.
I found Steven Hayward's blog post exceptionally interesting, especially his mention of a bright young Egyptian lady in his class. Hayward writes:
For five years I taught a course in constitutional interpretation as an adjunct professor with the Fund for American Studies/Georgetown University Capital Semester program, which brings students from other universities to DC for one semester to experience internships along with a full course curriculum. The stars of the program were often foreign students, which the Fund recruited especially from eastern Europe and the Middle East. In general the foreign students in the program came to class better prepared and were more serious than the American students, which may not be surprising as the fundamental questions of political order and social progress are more urgent in the young democracies of eastern Europe and the non-democracies of the Middle East. . .
So the central objective of my course was to get students to grasp the principles of the U.S. Constitution, as well as the underlying institutional and theoretical problems inherent in delineating and protecting individual rights. . .
Above all, I tried to get students to learn the ability to make distinctions between the principles of the Constitution and its compromises, and thereby have a deeper appreciation of the prudence or moderation of statesmen as Aristotle had in mind. This is extremely difficult to convey to students even over the course of a semester. It is almost impossible, for example, to get students to understand that the odious "three-fifths" clause of the original Constitution was actually a compromise that limited the power of slave-holding states, who wanted slaves counted as whole persons to increase their numbers in the House. Most students have simply marinated too long in the cliché that the Founders considered slaves as only three-fifths of a human being. They were usually stumped when I asked them if they'd have felt better about the Founders if they'd counted slaves as whole persons and thereby increased the political power of slaveholding states. . .
The most well-preserved pottery from the Stone Age ever found in Norway has turned up in an unspoiled dwelling site not far from Kristiansand. The find is considered an archaeological sensation.
The discovery of a “sealed” Stone Age house site from 3500 BC has stirred great excitement among archaeologists from Norway’s Museum of Cultural History at the University in Oslo. The settlement site at Hamresanden, close to Kristiansand’s airport at Kjevik in Southern Norway, looks like it was covered by a sandstorm, possibly in the course of a few hours.
The catastrophe for the Stone Age occupants has given archaeologists an untouched “mini-Pompeii,” containing both whole and reparable pots. [more. . .]
I consider Steyn's sustained meditationon America's future extraordinarily important and persuasive. Steyn writes:
What happens when the policies that brought ruin to Detroit and sclerosis to California become the basis for the nation at large? Strictly on the numbers, the United States is in the express lane to Declinistan: unsustainable entitlements, the remorseless governmentalization of the economy and individual liberty, and a centralization of power that will cripple a nation of this size. Decline is the way to bet. . .
Steyn says Europeans were not always the Euro-weenies they have become:
Hayek’s greatest insight in The Road to Serfdom is psychological: “There is one aspect of the change in moral values brought about by the advance of collectivism which at the present time provides special food for thought,” he wrote with an immigrant’s eye on the Britain of 1944. “It is that the virtues which are held less and less in esteem and which consequently become rarer are precisely those on which the British people justly prided themselves and in which they were generally agreed to excel. The virtues possessed by Anglo-Saxons in a higher degree than most other people,
The world is ever-changing. Roger Kimball calls it a "quick changing kaleidoscope" and goes on to say:
It seems to be a human
quirk — maybe it is part of the human instinct for survival — to
suppose that the world tomorrow will, in most essentials, resemble the
world today. No doubt in many cases, the supposition is justified. But
a friend sent me this little animated dramatization
about the fate of the British (and incidentally, the French and
Spanish) Empire over the last couple centuries. It is, as he said,
“utterly fascinating (and depressing).” What it depicts is, first, a
journey or moral and material progress through the first couple decades
of the twentieth century. It then shows the astonishing swift process
of political disintegration that marks what we might call the
retribalization of the world.
Me: By all means watch the little animated dramatization. After that helpful prodding of our historical memory, we could well meditate on how much the world could change in the next few years. Which should drive us to prayer.
UPDATE - Ed Morrissey over at HotAir has terrific coverage, including a YouTube video of President Reagan giving one of the most impassioned speeches ever delivered by an American President. There are other videos also. Go to this website immediately! That President Obama (or even Vice-President Biden) are not participating in the commemoration is, in Morrissey's words, "disgraceful"!
Today marks the 20th anniversary of
the fall of the Berlin Wall. But even that phrase doesn’t do the story
justice: The wall did not fall—it was pushed. I’m currently writing a
history of the past 20 years, and have a good deal about the Berlin
Wall in that book—here is some of what will be published:
In 1961, the East German government erected a physical Iron Curtain,an
ugly combination of cement and electrified fencing with armed guards,
an internal barricade that separated the two nations and their brethren
on each side. But at midnight, 9 November 1989, the government of East
Germany finally gave permission to its citizens to peaceably pass
through the gates of the Berlin Wall.East Germans “surged
through, cheering and shouting, and were be met by jubilant West
Berliners on the other side. Ecstatic crowds immediately began to
- John Piper was called to the ministry 30 years ago after six years of college teaching. Click here for a fascinating and inspiring post. Among other things, read what his father, an evangelist, told him to expect in the pastorate.
Your daddy is standing in a swimming pool out a little
bit from the edge. You are, let’s say, three years old and standing on
the edge of the pool. Daddy holds out his arms to you and says, “Jump,
I’ll catch you. I promise.” Now, how do you make your daddy look good
If you haven't yet discovered Tim's "Random Observations" blog, it wouldn't surprise me if you wanted to add it to your bookmarks. When I pop by every so often, I am invariably treated to several original thought pieces of an extremely high caliber. Tonight, for example, I greatly appreciated his post, "Detecting Religion in Atheists." I also valued his post, "The Origin of the Flat Earth," which taught me that "no one before the 1830s believed medieval people thought the earth was flat." That was a charge invented, or should I say, "concocted" by atheists. I appreciate his level-headed, dispassionate observation displayed in his post, "What's at Stake in the Intelligent Design Debate?" There's a lot more to be found at his blog. Happy reading!
In a series of posts (here and here) Jonah Goldberg has excerpted pages from his book Liberal Fascism that deal with "Hitler & Christianity." If you read further down this post, you will see tie-ins Goldberg makes with neo-pagan and New Age thought. Goldberg writes:
From pages 364-365 of my book:
Like the engineers of that proverbial railway bridge, the Nazis worked relentlessly to replace the nuts and bolts of traditional Christianity with a new political religion. The shrewdest way to accomplish this was to co-opt Christianity via the Gleichschaltung while at the same time shrinking traditional religion’s role in civil society. To this end, Hitler was downright Bismarckian. The German historian Götz Aly explains how Hitler purchased popularity with lavish social welfare programs and middle-class perks, often paid for with stolen Jewish wealth and high taxes on the rich. Hitler banned religious charity, crippling the churches’ role as a counterweight to the state. Clergy were put on government salary, hence subjected to state authority. “The parsons will be made to dig their own graves,” Hitler cackled. “They will betray their God to us. They will betray anything for the sake of their miserable little jobs and incomes.”5 Following the Jacobin example, the Nazis replaced the traditional Christian calendar. The new year began on January 30 with
Douglas Groothuis notes that Jedd McFatterhas written a fine review of Peter Harrison, The Fall of Man and the Foundations of Science. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2007. 313 pages with index. £50.00,
hardback. Groothuis says, "This sheds much light on the history and historiography of
modern science and challenges some secular assumptions."
Me: I read the review and found it fascinating. It makes me want to go and see if there is any correlation with Rodney Stark's treatment in For the Glory of God. I suspect that Harrison's book plows new ground.
On Between the Covers today, we have a podcast interview with Michael Burleigh, author of Blood & Rage: A Cultural History of Terrorism.
We discuss why he regards terrorists as "morally insane," whether
terrorism is ever justified, how the European view of terrorism differs
from the American view, and his involvement with the excellent new
British magazine Standpoint (which he describes as a cross between Commentary, Prospect, and National Review). His daily blog on the Standpoint website is here.
Since John Miller brings him up, I thought I should add a few things. Michael Burleigh's majestic book, The Third Reich: A New History
was an enormous influence on me. It is a fantastic piece of work that
draws considerable intellectual inspiration from Eric Voegelin's work
on "political religions." Two other books by Burleigh, Sacred Causes and Earthly Powers,
trace the religious instinct within nominally secular politics. The
religious impulse cannot be destroyed, only
misdirected to areas where
some people can't see through its secular disguise. Nobody's work has
ever been more successful — as far as I am aware — at demonstrating
this fundamental insight to the affairs of man. I haven't read
Burleigh's latest book yet, but I plan to.
(Original Post) - This is an amazing story -- what craftsmanship, what patience, what an extraordinary contribution to the world! From Britain's Daily Mail (HT: HotAir):
For his part, Mr Garrard, 78, has dedicated 33,000
hours to constructing his model and has hand-baked and painted every
clay brick and tile and even sculpted 4,000 tiny human figures to
populate the courtyards.
Historical experts believe the model, which has attracted thousands of visitors from all over the globe, is the best representation in the world of what the Jewish temple actually looked like.
Click through for several photos and read the whole article. It will be worth it. Here is a sample photo:
A peek into the 1:100 scale model, here showing the Court of Prayer,
enables one to see the extraordinary attention to detail where Alec has
hand-baked and painted every clay brick and tile
There’s an anniversary this week we might do
well to recall. On May 29, 1453 — just 555 short years ago — troops led
by Mehmed II broke through the walls of the ancient Christian capital
of Constantinople. . .
“We are in the process of an historical war between the World of
Arrogance and the Islamic world,” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
has declared, “and this war has been going on for hundreds of years.”
are not fighting so that you will offer us something,” said Hussein
Massawi, a former leader of Hezbollah. “We are fighting to eliminate
“Rome will become an advanced post for the Islamic
conquests, which will spread though Europe in its entirety, and then
will turn to the two Americas, even Eastern Europe,” Yunis al-Astal, a
Muslim cleric and Hamas parliamentarian has pledged. “Very soon, Allah
willing, Rome will be conquered, just like Constantinople was, as was
prophesized by our prophet Muhammad.”
Mehmed the Conqueror would
understand, though his defenders would say he was never quite as
radical as are the Islamic warriors of the contemporary era.
What is happening in the Middle East is really chilling. Can the world (i.e. genuine scholars) stand idly ignoring the travesty of scholarship that is taking place in the interest of bald-faced anti-Semitic propaganda? Consider this account of what is happening by Ithamar Marcus and Barbara Crook:
In 1998, PA historians
held a conference in which they devised a policy of historical
revisionism. The developing PA educational system would not aim to
teach historical truth but rather to convey a political history aimed
at denying Israel's right to exist in the Land of Israel. Palestinian
academics, recognizing the futility of attempting to erase the
documented history of the Jews, instead adopted a different solution of
literally stealing the identity of the Jews by identifying ancient
Hebrews as both Arabs and Muslims and denying their connection to
today's Jews of the state of Israel. Another component of the negation
of Jewish history is the denial of modern Jewish experience-including
the horrors of the Holocaust.
Many PA academics have
gone beyond the theoretical "struggle." They teach that the killing of
Jews by Muslims is a precondition of world redemption. Because Jews are
inherently evil and an existential danger, their annihilation is
justified self-defense, a service to humanity, and an enactment of
Here are some extracts that elaborate on the above:
As usual, Victor Davis Hanson says it best (my underlining):
Today a news item reported on Sen. Obama’s recent take on the current status of education:
said schools should do a better job of teaching all students
African-American history "because that's part of American history," as
well as women's struggle for equality, the history of unions, the role
of Hispanics in U.S. and other matters that he suggested aren't given
"I want us to have a broad-based history"
taught in schools, he said, even including more on "the Holocaust as
well as other issues of oppression" around the world.”
anyone familiar with the historical illiteracy of today’s college
student understands that more of the “oppression” history that Sen.
Obama is advocating is precisely the problem, not the solution. Our
high school students already know who Harriet Tubman is, but not U.S.
Grant or Shiloh. They have been introduced to Crispus Attucks, but not
Alexander Hamilton. They know World War II largely as the Japanese
internment and Hiroshima (cf. Reverend Wright on that), but have not a
clue about the Bulge or Okinawa or the Munich travesty.
They always blame America first." That was Jeane Kirkpatrick,
describing the "San Francisco Democrats" in 1984. But it could be said
about a lot of Americans, especially highly educated Americans, today.
In their assessment of what is going on in the world, they seem to
start off with a default assumption that we are in the wrong. The "we"
can take different forms: the United States government, the vast mass
of middle-class Americans, white people, affluent people, churchgoing
people or the advanced English-speaking countries. Such people are seen
as privileged and selfish, greedy and
So there we have it: two gifted historians, through quite different
methodologies, come to surprisingly similar conclusions that the
Western empire fell to foreign aggression from barbarian tribes in the
late fifth century. To Ward-Perkins this was all a horror and a lesson
for Western civilization today to remain vigilant. But to Heather, the
fall was a result of unbridled Western “aggression” and thus something
that was ultimately “pleasing.”