Monday, May 28, 2007

Fluff and Flutter, and political succession

The fluff and flutter refers to how I've been developing the knowledge base. Anyone who's more interested in political succession should skip to the end.
Saturday night, after I had done my blog post, I thought more about the idea I had, and decided it probably wasn't going to work. But I was also rather unsatisfied with the pace things are going. The demand-oriented approach is still basically the approach I want, but it was starting to look like a lot of others that have lost focus and bogged down; too mechanical and not satisfying enough. I decided that this was because I had made too many arbitrary rules for myself that resulted in a lot of bouncing around and not making the connections that needed to be made while focusing too much on ones that were less important. Fluff and flutter, in other words. So, I decided, it was time to go back and revise my rules for deciding which connections to look at next. On to the review of progress.
The connections of the main history page to the rest of the base are fairly solid and well developed, and there wasn't anything that called for a general overview of history, so no additions there. For Classical and medieval history, I made connections to National governments and government structure. Modern history included reviewing of links to cities of Western Civilization. In the 19th century, international government (There were plenty of alliances and diplomatic agreements that preceded the kind of international arrangements we are familiar with), and government structure. The 20th century now has links to the section on particular schools, not that I have any of them yet) , and to Educational organization. The early 21st century now allows a peek into periods just before ( late 1990s) and just after ( the future), and future studies can make some use of the industrial revolution (and developments related to it) and industrial societies.
For sociology, there is a connection to educational organization and cultural institutions (for instance libraries and museums). People are connected to religious beliefs, modern compact types of international government, national governments, government forms, and government activities. Nations are clear to connect to a couple more cities. Communities in general weren't called on to link to anything, but for Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro have summaries for the 19th century. (I'd heard of Copacabana, but I didn't know that's where it was) There wasn't anything at the general level for social structure and change, but the industrial revolution can now be connected to peoples, and industrial societies to the 20th century.
There was a fair amount of work within institutions. For religion in general, I have a connection to futures studies, and for beliefs, one to peoples. There was more activity in government, to the early 21st century and into the future, and particular governments also into the early 21st century. For international governments there is a connection to culture, and modern compacts have a connection to sociology. National governments have a connection to peoples and institutions, government structure to the 20th century, and forms of government have some connection to modern history. (That's forms like republics, monarchies, and so forth, not like those the United States Internal Revenue Service inflicts on taxpayers, .although eventually I may get around to those, too). In government activities, I added a new page, succession. That's for inheritance, appointments, elections, coups and assassinations,, and other methods for gaining political position and power. There wasn't any call for economics, this time, but there was for education. There were a couple of checks called for. In particular schools I added a page for secondary schools, educational organization linked to peoples, and for cultural institutions, to modern history.
There were a few other link checks I didn't mention, but most of the others involved either creations of new links, or some expansion on the discussion. that was already in place. Overall, it felt more like real progress.

Since a great deal of what is recorded as history is political, I thought I'd throw in an aside. Few things make you more aware of how important the problem of succession in government is than a review of history. There are several possible methods, including inheritance (not used much anymore), appointment (usually for lower officials), election, and coups and assassinations. Have I left any out, or does that cover most of the possibilities? Inheritance has a problem, mostly because there is no way to guarantee that your heir will be any good at the job. of governing. Appointment is a problem, because who is going to do the appointing, and do they have power to rectify a bad decision? Election has problems, because what if the election is rigged, the loser doesn't accept the results, and what if the incumbent refuses to step down when the term of office is up? Coups and revolutions present a problem, because the ruler has the advantage and you usually have to catch him (rarely her) by surprise, the struggle is likely to be bloody and disruptive, and it sets a very bad precedent: The next fellow has just as good a right to overthrow you.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

External Demand

Have I mentioned lately that I'm looking for feedback and comments, either on the web site or this blog? Not that I want to beg too desperately, but it's been some time since any visitor to either has commented. I thought that one of the most basic factors of having a successful web site is to have useful, interesting content. I'm not so sure this is either, yet. Since I'm using an "on demand" approach to developing this site, I'd like to see some external demand, from interested visitors or users, and not just the internal demand. there's a thought..

More small steps. From the main history page, I did a little more pushing of religion, but it didn't amount to any big changes. More or less by coincidence rather than design, I was also reviewing and improving the connections to religion in the classical and medieval period. Years ago when I took a History of Western Civilization course in college, it was evident that the Catholic church was so bound up with medieval European history that it was impossible to talk about the one without bringing in the other. That would be the case for the world history in general, and if it were not for the fact that Americans are in general as poorly educated in world history as they are in religion, it would be one way to introduce the subject.
There wasn't as much of a push for modern history today as there has been earlier, so I made little progress, but the 20th century is now a little better connected to Government. I finished a cycle of review for the early 21st century, although it's still a bit bare of events.
From the main sociology page, there are better connections to economics. There wasn't much progress in peoples or nations, although I did add some expansion of modern history for Algeria, Afghanistan, Peru, and Nepal.

Friday, May 25, 2007

More steps

More on the progress of the knowledge base.
There wasn't much new stuff added to history. Although I made a pass through a few of the more prominent nations, peoples, and communities, there were just small additions. What I did get was a little bit clearer idea of how the topic of social change can be applied to history; a few changes in wording that make that section more than just a collection of links. I had dome similarly for religion the last time through.
Part of this is because prehistory, antiquity, and classical and medieval history have been pushing the same subjects. In modern history, I'm doing the kind of checking of links to nations of Western civilization that I was doing for history in general a few days back. There has been a little development in the 19th and 20th century, principally in religion and economics, respectively, but nothing really much to report.
Improvement of topics supporting the main peoples of the world have been going much faster, now that a full set of virtual links to communities are done. Social structure and change and religion Inquiries into nations have been advancing its set of virtual links to communities. There are lots of links to particular nations, but most of these are just creepy-crawling through a review of their links to historical topics. However, I did get a little expansion of the bare history topic for Uganda, Uzbekistan, and Saudi Arabia. The major groups of peoples, Western Civilization, Asiatic peoples, Africans, and American Indians, aren't moving very fast yet, and probably won't for a while.
Communities are also a spot where I'm past the hard part of making virtual links to nations, and this subject is demanding connections to religion. Specific cities are generally still tied up in the high levels of history. Social structure and change in general has just started reviewing its (real) links to nations and communities, and has a while to go yet.
Institutions are still checking connections to nations. With all the subjects pushing religion, I've made some fair progress and and have a new page for European pagans, which will eventually point to things such as Greek, Roman, Celtic, Germanic, Norse, and Slavic religion and mythology. There are slight stirrings in government, but nothing much substantial.

There is a post on the blog By Study and Also By Faith that links to an interview of Dr. Stephan Prothero of Boston University about his new book on Religious Literacy. Not that my opinion has ever counted for much, but I do happen to agree with him. But please, don't cut all the math.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Another update

I got the latest updates, including all the additions and changes I've mentioned since April 30, published to the web, in case anyone wants to see what I was talking about. About a half a dozen more new links are included in that batch, but none really worth am extended discussion.
I had finished going through links from the history main page, and I've started cycling through them again. This is going to be another case of fairly slow going for a day or so, since I've been starting out with nations and cities of Western civilization, and at the moment all references to nations and cities lead to short threads that check links and don't include anything new. I should be getting out of that thicket before long.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Changes, Self-Education, and History

It occurred to me that, although I'm talking a lot about the Sapience Knowledge Base, I didn't have a link to it. I thought I did, but it might have been on one of my posts which is now buried in the archives. It has also occurred to me that I might do well to link the blog to other blogs, and reserve reference links for the web site. I have also begun to add labels for specific topics that I discuss. So, I have completely revised and reorganized the links section.

Although the title of this blog would lead one to expect that there is something about self-directed education here, I've posted precious little on that specific topic. One of the reasons is that I consider self-directed education to be a part of education. More specifically, it has a lot in common with research, which I take to be a part of education. Without that connection to other areas of education or even other subjects, I feel like I'm discussing in a vacuum, as a meaningless abstract generality. Give it a context and a connection to something else, give it parts, and I can then say something meaningful about it. With today's developments, I have an application: specifically history, so I can now say something meaningful about education in general and self education in particular.

When I first began considering how to structure the topic of education in this knowledge base, and what its parts and processes were, I decided that the foundation of education is the discovery of new knowledge, which generally involves a research process. One cannot teach what one has not first learned. Then comes teaching, and then comes the organization of the process, and finally, schools. Since I'm working outside the school system, I decided that I needed to pay attention to the roots of the subject, but because I had structured my studies from a "top down" approach, I had trouble getting to that particular area. Now I have a connection.

I've noticed for some time the complaint that "history is boring", at least, as it's often taught in school. I'm not sure that I have a better answer for that than anyone else, but I might just observe not that a child's knowledge and memory start at the self and the immediate environment, and go outward. A child is far less likely to be interested in the history of the world, than in the history of his own local neighborhood, and less interested in what happened long ago and far away than what happened yesterday or last month, unless there is something in that tale of long ago and far away that makes a connection to right now. Another has to do with the approach taken by professional historians in the past century or so. In their attempts to be scientific, factually correct, and manageable the amount of source material they have to work with, they have tended to become highly specialized, and technically dry. Many works of professional historians are unreadable to the nonspecialist. While historians have been accused of concentrating too much on the "his" in history, many have forgotten the "story" part.
But enough rant on that subject. In general terms, a self-directed student might wish to focus on research, on learning from someone else, on organizing a learning project, or pay for a pre-compiled package (complete with certification) from a recognized school.

I hadn't expected to add any new links from the history main page for a while yet, but one to Democratic (national) governments appeared. I got a lot further in checking links than I had expected, and in the process rewrote the section on how education applies to history. Since that's been an area I wanted to get around to for some time, I was very pleased to finally see it appear. I was expecting a fair amount of demand for prehistory, and there was, but it came mostly in the form of checking already existing links, rather than creating new one. Antiquity has a new link to hunting and gathering societies, and Classical and Medieval history a new link to Judaism. No new links from Modern history main page: I'm doing a lot of checking links to particular countries and cities of Western civilization. The 18th century, though, ahas a new link to Southeast Asia, the 19th century to pagan religion, the early 19th to institutions, the late 20th century to social structure and change, and the current quarter of 2007 a link to institutions.
I have nothing new for the main page in sociology. For peoples and nations I'm examining virtual links to communities, and for communities, virtual links to nations, and for social structure and change, I've wrapped up history for the time being and am about to start checking real links to nations. (A virtual link is one that exists only on my development guide, for the purpose of helping assure that I don't develop low-level topics before having considering them at a higher level.) I am actually looking at pages to nations and cities, but mostly these include already-developed links to history, so it's checking, not any new development.
For the main institutions page, I'm also checking links to nations, so there's no news there. But, for the individual sections, things are starting to move. For particular religions of the world, I now have a link to this year's news. I can connect pagan religion to the major peoples. Abrahamic religion to this decade. I gave Government connections to the 19th century, and government activities back to prehistory. Economics is linked to the 19th century, economic activities to modern history, and industries to history in general. I also added a new page, for building and construction industries. I also have links to the history of teaching and the history of research. I especially wanted to get to these the first real, tangible development of these subjects.
As a bonus that I wasn't expecting to get to today, I have culture linked to the current quarter and month, so that now when the catalog of recent events lists sports and the like, I have some place to discuss them. (Personally, I don't think I could care about them less than I do, but since they are highly visible part of society, I almost have to give them some attention to them.) The area of applied science now connects to antiquity, at least better than it did.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Small steps

The threads of inquiry starting from history are pushing the development of religion and government. I recently reorganized Asiatic religions, and the history page now reflects this reorganization. Otherwise, I haven't added a great deal to my knowledge of history.
Not much has gone on in earlier areas of history, except that particular nations are starting to push prehistory a little, and the effect of that push is to develop social structure and change a little. As usual, modern history is getting the lion's share of attention I finished a review of modern history. On the plus side, this will let me select priorities for development better. On the minus side, it seems like everything is needed! This is going to be focusing for a while on particular peoples, nations, and cities; just to get them fully incorporated into the "study on demand" approach. The next time through, I hope to have a better idea of which ones to pay attention to.
For the 19th century, I expanded the discussion of Asiatic religions a bit, and finally got around to a note in the 20th century on modern world governmental organizations, such as the United Nations, European Union, and NATO. I've been wanting to include this subject for a long time, and it's nice to have a toehold. In the late 21st century, (the last 7 years, as I've mentioned), I have a start on discussion of economics.
Sociology has been helping drive development of religion, but doesn't have any new links. I'm checking virtual links from peoples to particular cities, and from nations to particular cities, and checking virtual links from communities to particular nations. This doesn't immediately contribute much to the knowledge base, but it will help later when I go to work on specific details, as in which nations have which cities and which cities belong to which nations. A historical survey of social structure and change hasn't yielded a whole lot of new and useful information, but I do have this linked to the future now.
For institutions in general I am also checking links to nations of the world, except that these are actual links. There has been progress in religion, for instance, a place for a survey of major religions in the past 7 years and more specifically in the last two. I have links from Christianity to nations, so that I can start gathering detail, Judaism in modern times, Islam and Asiatic religions in the 20th century. Government has also been progressing with a a 20th century peek ad international governments, and a modern history look at particular types of governments. (this is approximately the reverse of the other link: One starts in the 20th century and considers the role of modern international organizations, the other starts with these organizations and considered their modern history. The idea is to be able to approach the subject from either side.
I have a development plan which lists each page, the links from it, I have made and checked, and the ones that are planned to be made and checked. In many cases, there are more links already existing, than I have on the list, in other cases, these are new links to be created. I'm making a special effort to keep this matched to the actual state of work, and I also like to keep a digest so I can see at a glance where I am and guess where I will be going.
So, at a guess, I will be advancing review of nations and cities of Western Civilization, in the process giving more weight to earlier periods of history, connecting peoples and communities to each other at least in principle, and also starting to move from religion to government.
I've also been thinking about publishing all these updates I've been talking about to the web, but since the knowledge base is so thoroughly cross-linked, it more or less to be published all at once, rather than a few pieces at a time. It doesn't seem economical to do that until updates have been sufficiently significant. Some of the changes I've discussed here, and some that I haven't will make more sense when they're put together instead of in disconnected fragments, in perhaps a week or so.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Spinning wheels

I did quite a bit of link checking, but it's astonishing how little real progress I actually made on adding anything. Hopefully it's groundwork for more interesting developments. Some days are like that, whichever approach I use.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Minor progress

A minor mishap, with maybe an update or two lost. I didn't keep my list of specific areas updated, but I've made substantial progress in checking the links from history to particular cities, and a large number of links from modern history. I also completed the initial review of links from Sociology. Sometimes it's tempting to say. "It's all important!" and check everything, but that's not the idea. I skipped the opportunity to use it for a somewhat connected survey of history, and have selected a bunch of lower-level topics that I've been wanting to get to for some time. i seemed to make more progress in religion than anything else, but most of that was link-checking.

Friday, May 18, 2007

More small steps

It seems like I accomplished a bit less today than usual, but still, a few steps forward is nice. In classical and medieval history, I created a link to the class structure of society. For modern history, I made a link to industries and another to educational organization. Social structure in the 19th century and social change in the early 21st finish out the day's progress in history.
The lardest share of new links came in sociology. One of them, the main sociology page, I created a link to industrial technology. The effect of tools and machinery has a large effect on different areas of society: this is one of the detail areas I've been hoping to explore, and it's still only a beginning I have the star of a historical sketch for Saudi Arabia, so I'm not entirely neglecting the various nations. Social structure and change is now linked to the last seven years, so I can start making notes on current events. It's often hard to note the beginnings of new or major social movements. These are often only visible in hindsight. but others can be followed with a little bit of historical background. The daily news is pretty much a jumble of unrelated events if events don't follow some kind of pattern. As part of this same theme, I also have a link to social changes in the late 2000s and into the future. For types of society, I also have links to the early 21st century and into the future. Getting a little bit more specific about one type of society, I have notes on modern history for industrial society.
For education in general, I created a link to the 19th century so I have a little more history to work with, and for educational organization, a peek back into classical and medieval history.
I mentioned industrial technology, and now I have a very brief sketch for its history.

It's hard to predict exactly what the demand is going to be, but I'm anticipating a couple of milestones. More stuff coming soon.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Small steps

I did record one of my threads of review and development, but decided it was too long, so I'll try a shorter one. Not much happened in development of history, but I created or expanded links from classical and medieval history to hunting and gathering societies, from modern history to government activities, from the 19th century to the Industrial Revolution, and from the early 21st century to Western civilization.
Even less happened in sociology, except that social change, and particular changes, were linked to the early 21st century, and agrarian societies to modern times. There was mostly a lot of link-checking and review among these areas.
I made more progress among the institutions. I have Christianity in the 19th century and Roman Catholicism in modern times, Islam in classical and medieval times, and secularism in classical and medieval times. Then there is government in early medieval times, particular governments in classical and medieval times, a new page for traditional empires, national governments in classical and medieval times, a new page for dictatorships, and government structure in antiquity.
I also added a note on antiquity to material culture, and created a page for communications technology.
This kind of refinement among the institutions is the kind of thing I have been itching to do. I decided some time ago that I would be better off starting my studies of political science almost from scratch, rather than by studying the works of other so-called experts, since there is so much disagreement among them anyway. There is also a tendency to ignore the history of government and only consider modern forms. What I have so far is a rough sketch, which will be refined as I gather more information.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A bit slower

I didn't make a whole lot of progress in history. The systematic review of links from history has now switched to starting threads of connected links in areas which seem to be particularly useful to history. I started with various peoples, a couple of areas within social structure and change, and began inquiries into religion. I skipped over particular cities this time. The systematic review of links from Classical and medieval history pulled ahead of antiquity, and began to include various areas of sociology for it. The review of links from Modern history pulled further ahead and has served as the source for inquires about religion and government. Inquiries beginning from the 19th century advanced a little, into social structure, and those starting from the 20th century went a little further, into social structure and change. The early 21st century continued to develop, and even connections for 2007: I may get to the point where these growing stubs of pages can support actual content.
There is also minimal progress in Socioology, although inquiries on religion, government, and economics have been starting from here. The current set of inquiries into history starting from the peoples of the world is done for now, and here particular communities will have something to contribute. Within social structure and change, there is some progress; mostly, I expanded my page on what I call the agrarian revolution.
The most significant progress came in the area of Institutions. I completely revised the page on Asiatic religions, so that instead of having eight pages below it, there are three: Persian, Indian, and Oriental. I also expanded the page on educational organization.
There was still minimal activity in culture.

It occurs to me that I ought to post a sample thread to gve a better idea of what I'm doing. I hope to do that tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


In the newer approach I've been using, when I start out on a topic, I never know here I'm going to end up. However, if I start out enough times, the paths cross and recross often enough that I wind up developing the topics that most need to be developed, or so I hope. At he moment, because I start everything with history and work down into more detail. history is getting a lot of attention. Also, since I tend to start at the present and working backward while I'm researching a history, there is a heavy focus on more recent periods of history. Most of these trips are starting and ending at the major history level, which has a set of things to go after next that I'm reasonably happy with. A sizable fraction of these went through modern history, Another good fraction went through the 20th century, and more than I expected went through the new early 21st century page. For the sociology page, I've also done a good job of reviewing its links, all the way into education. For peoples of the world, I got a long way through history links, though not much detail in the particular peoples. I did quite a few inquiries starting from general history about nations, which wound up extensively developing my list of theoretical links from the nations page, but not much for any one of them. (Since that's just an alphabetical list, I'm not linking it to other areas the way I do most other pages). I intend to handle the communities page similarly. I didn't get very far through the social institutions, but there was a little bit of spillover from the three or four areas that were reviewing links to it.
A couple of areas that I've been curious about, such as the history of modern types of international governments, the history of forms of government, and economic prehistory, and the 18th century history of world religions, opened for examination. These are still huge areas.
The other day I got curious about how much I've actually written on this knowledge base, so I totaled up the file sizes on my system and came up with a total of about 3300 K, which I estimate to be in the neighborhood of 600 pages of text. It's past the point where anyone can go through the whole thing in one sitting.

Monday, May 14, 2007

More progress

In the last few days, I'd been continuing this need-based approach to development of the knowledge base. One advantage of it is that in the process, I'm doing a fair amount of link checking. I finished a review of everything that supports history and added a number of new pages in the process. Not all of these are equally valuable, and a lot of my approaches to deciding which ones to work on have been far too mechanical.
One of the frustrating things about the approaches I have been using is that, although I have been adding nations to the knowledge base in approximate order of decreasing population, this is only weakly correlated with their historical significance. For instance, Indonesia is far larger than the United Kingdom, but the latter had a globe-spanning empire 70 years ago, while the former did not. It didn't help any that I was developing them in the same order I had added them, and didn't have any way to fix or adjust it. I hope this new approach works better.
Prehistory, antiquity, and classical and medieval history have all been progressing slowly and prompting examination of the major peoples. I did expand a few nations before I decided that my former approach to nations and the new one were incompatible, and set them aside for later. Modern history has been progressing rather faster, and is starting to prompt examination of social structure and change. There is also a fair concentration on the most recent 20 years.
In the area I call sociology, I have been expanding my consideration of the religious roots of society. Other areas are going more slowly, but there is progress.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Today's progress

For the general history page, I got through reviewing the connections to various areas of social structure and change, which in my new approach, will allow me to start working on those areas.
Prehistory was in demand for a few new areas, so I made a little progress. Classical and medieval history was not. Modern history was demanded by several areas, so at the main page I went through reviewing the connections to a number of peoples. There was a little progress in the 8th century, but the most significant was in the 19th, where I added outlines of the 19th century in Ukraine, South Africa, Colombia, and Myanmar.
Ukraine is an area that has more or less escaped my attention before, and during the 19th century, it was principally part of the Russian Empire. I still don't know a great deal about it: the more interesting events seem to have happened earlier and later. I was rather hazier on the details of South Africa as well. Colombia became independent of Spain fairly early. I've observed before that Latin American independence did not go nearly the same direction that the United States did. Reviewing this era brought up the reason, why? The British takeover of Myanmar in the 19th century proceeded at about the same pace as Southern Africa. Since it was called Burma up til 1989, the name still sounds unfamiliar.
This brought up a couple of other questions. I really would like to get around to working on biographies again, but have kept getting diverted. I don't have a proper historical outline of the growth (and decline) of the British Empire, but there is a place for it under the general heading of government; specifically colonial empires.
For the 20th century, I made a little progress at reviewing major groups of peoples, but this section isn't yet in heavy demand.

For sociology, I was mostly doing a detailed review of how it ought to be supported by history. Peoples of the world and communities aren't yet in heavy demand, so they got off lightly. Social structure and change is in demand, principally from history, so consideration of quite a few sections got started. I added new pages for hunting-gathering peoples, which I have some interest in, and institutional structure, which is another area where I have had some interest. Most of these are poorly developed, but since quit a few areas link to them, this section has potential for some rapid growth.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Changing directions

I got up to a certain point in the development of sociology, which involved rewriting the history section of that page, and also rewriting the history section of the peoples page, and decided I'd had enough of the linear approach for a time. I've tried what I've called a needs-centered approach before, so I'll have to try this again.

In developing in history, what I most need is to discuss peoples of the world, which has nations as the basic raw material. I gave a basic outline for a few more nations, including Algeria, Afghanistan, Peru, and Nepal. This basic outline is so sparse that it's practically useless, but it's something that can be build on. Although I have been working on histories of particular cities, I decided to skip that this time.
I didn't make much progress in prehistory, for one because few subjects demand its development, and for another because I don't have an easy source for how prehistoric anthropology and archeology have developed.
Likewise for antiquity, although I've located what should be a starting point on working on its detail. Classical and medieval history area are also less demanded.
Most of the need is for more modern history, so for Tanzania, Kenya, Canada, and Morocco, I expanded some. For Tanzania and Kenya, the outlines of early modern and colonial history were similar. Canada was more familiar, since it's North American and derives largely from British culture. I couldn't make sense of was late, and my source material wasn't well written, so I'm going to have to attack that in more detail later. Within modern history, I have a clearer idea of how I'm going to attack the 8th, 18th, and 20th centuries, and I haven't forgotten about the newly created early 21st century.

Sociology doesn't need history as much as it does other areas such as institutions, but history is available to work with, so it's being examined. Since I just did a major examination of sociology and peoples from the point of view of history, there's nothing much to add here. I did decide to release more nations for development. I'm also starting to work on Western civilization, Asiatic peoples, African peoples, and American Indian peoples, though these are in the early stages of having their history examined again. As I mentioned, I'm de-emphasizing communities and cities, but there are quite a few of them that can be developed.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Late 20th and early 21st century

I got almost further than I had planned on. For the main page of the late 20th century, I did a little bit of cleanup with some important missing incidents, and did some looking up of the United Kingdom, Congo, Italy, and South Korea. I've kept reasonable track of Great Britain, so there weren't any surprises there. but I hadn't known about the Congo. This used to be known as the Belgian Congo back in the bad old colonial days, and not too long after independence, it was renamed Zaire. Then, when I wasn't paying attention, its name was changed back to the Democratic republic of the Congo. The history of Italy in this period turned out to be an almost incomprehensible mess, full of detail and party acronyms that mean next to nothing to me. This is another of the kind of things that motivate this project in the first place. With a little bit of earlier history for background, links to what else was going on at the time, and a little bit of detail on political parties and the Roman Catholic church, this should begin to make more sense. I've also paid little attention to South Korean politics, so this didn't make a whole lot of sense to me ether. But at least I know a little bit more than I did before. I also did the usual extending of links to other areas. I haven't worked as far back in this period, comparatively speaking as I have in others, but I did get a fair amount done.

For the early 1990s, I made connections to the United States, China, India, and Indonesia. I had a hard time recalling events of the early Clinton administration, so this was a useful reminder. I had studied this period before, when it was more recent, and had it on an old version of the web site. Events in a few countries have progressed in the last five years or so and I had been working in other areas, so I hadn't kept caught up.

For the late 1990s, I made connections to Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Russia. I suppose what struck me most in Pakistan and Bangladesh (as well as the Congo, more generally speaking) was that democratic or republican forms of government mean very little if there is no respect for the rule of law. It is just too easy for a "strong man" to ignore the law, or rewrite it according to whim. Then I keep seeing how frequently the leaders in these countries are charged with corruption of some form.

I also got a start on the early 21st century. This was fairly easy to do, since all I had to do was create the appropriate page, create links from it and back-links to it, and just move a couple of paragraphs wholesale from the late 20th. There's more to do, since a lot of countries that have some information from 2001 and later need to be properly linked, but I have a start. I'm getting closer to being able to work on current events; something I had started to do back in December and January. I had to set that aside and work on particular nations, because they pages were so badly underdeveloped, but I'm catching back up.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Mid and late-mid 20th century

The mid-20th century is dominated by events of World War II, although I keep getting reminded that I'm also describing events of the early Cold War, and not to overdo World War II. I've been looking at such things as the the beginning of the Cold war as it played out in Germany, liberation of Vietnam from France following the war, the effective independence and autonomy of Egypt, and modernization attempts in Ethiopia.
The late-mid 20th century is surprisingly obscure, although the nations I'm working on were not the most prominent. But I would expect to find more on Post-war French history, more on Turkey and pre-Revolutionary Iran, and Thailand. This may have something to do with the fact that these events are still in living memory and have not yet been thoroughly assimilated by historians, and the political struggles launched during this period are still going on to some extent. Also, these regions are not well covered by Western media.

While I was looking at Ethiopia, I was distracted by a reference to Prester John, a mythical personage who in medieval times was supposed to rule a Christian kingdom somewhere in central or east Asia. That led to a discussion of a personage in early Christian history called John the presbyter, who may or may not have been the same as the apostle John, and thence into questions of New Testament authorship. After reviewing some of this commentary, I was forcibly reminded me again of one of the pitfalls of scholarship, which is that some scholars tend to bring their own preconceptions and and preferences to a study, and reach conclusions which are then taken by others to be absolute fact, while others bring different preconceptions and prejudices and present their own conclusions as fact. The result is, of course, confusion and dispute.
Since Vietnam came up, in the period just preceding the Vietnam war, I took the chance to check some of my facts. I saw something about the Tonkin incident which prompted the US to authorize sending large number of troops to Vietnam, and noted the comment that one interpretation was that the government analysts who studied this incident did essentially the same thing: choose from a mass of conflicting details, those things that supported the picture they wish to present. And isn't this essentially what happened before the invasion of Iraq, with regard to the evidence of weapons of mass destruction? The tendency to see what we want or expect to see, while ignoring contrary evidence is all too common.
However, I also note that there is a difference in these cases. Ometimes, one has too little evidence to work with, in the other, one has too much.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Early and early mid 20th century

Due to other distractions, progress today was even slower than I had anticipated. For one, trying to expand on the history of nations while still keeping a fairly quick summary is a challenge, and involves more thought and writing than just creating links does.
There wasn't much new information about the early 20th century that I hadn't already known. Of the nations I looked at, the most detailed information available was on the history of Russia, which I was already roughly familiar with.
The early-mid 20th century mostly clarified the relationship between Japan and China before and at the beginning of World War II, and I got a little more information on social reform in Mexico.

Some other thoughts that have been surfacing from my other reading in the past few days. I have a persistent interest in the role of religion in history.
The author I mentioned the other day is Lois McMaster Bujold, and there are a number of interviews with her posted at her website at She mentions in one of them that in medieval times, the church ran a lot of facilities, such as schools, hospitals, shelters, and so forth, that government does today. The interplay between all these various things is part of what I want to explore on my site.
Yesterday when I was looking at United States history, I noticed a fair amount of conflict between labor movements and capitalists, and that socialism and the labor movement became allied. There are echoes of that same association in today's politics, which is something I would eventually like to explore. While I do have an interest in politics and government, I have repeatedly found myself disadvantaged by not having facts to back up my opinions, which is why I'm trying to make this blog more educational than overtly political.
I'm vaguely familiar with the state-sponsored atheist ideology of Communism that Lenin attempted to impose in Russia, which is part of why I never had any sympathy with Communism during the time of the Cold War (I was growing up in the 1960s, when it was still very much a live concern.) In the last chapter of a book I'm using for information about religious traditions. (The Great Religions, by Richard Cavendish) , the observation is made that Communism addressed similar concerns to those of religion, and functioned and was structured like one. I've been criticized for arguing that atheism should be treated along with other entirely varieties of religion, but I'm certainly not the first or only person to do so, and I'm not going to try to answer all this critic's claims and arguments right now. But I am interested in the subject, and hope to work back around to it.
I'm not even going to argue that religion is all or always good. While it's clear that the Japanese were highly militaristic up to their defeat in World War II, I haven't seen much discussion of a possible connection between Japanese militarism and state-sponsored Shinto. One of the concerns of the Mexican government during the early-mid 20th century was curbing the influence of the Roman Catholic church on it. This was nothing new to the Protestant world, which had done the same four centuries earlier, but the Reformation never took hold in Latin America.
Also during the time period I'm looking at were when some of the major corporations of today originated, but I'm going to have to save this interesting topic as well. Since the principal source I'm using now ( Isaac Asimov's "Chronology of the World") only goes up to the end of World War II, I'm going to go to other sources for history after that. I worry a little bit about depending so heavily on one source, but that's only a starting point: I am likely to revise to the point of unrecognizability as I add more detail. Eventually, I want to get to the point where I'm using more scholarly methods including documentation of sources for history, so I might as well at least name the source I'm using. If it's incomplete (which it is, no if about it), or wrong, I'll fix it later. But what I was going to say was that doing an internet search on, for instance, the mid-20th century of Germany is going to go even more slowly. I may not even get to the late 20th century before the weekend.
Soeaking of the late 20th century, one of the things I've been dissatisfied with is the placement of current events in the late 20th century. However, I had my reasons for that placement, which included plans to start making a changeover in early May. That time has come, starting Monday. Details will follow.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

16th to 19th centuries

I went about roughly the pace that I expected to do, which is quite a bit slower than what I wanted. When I was browsing the Internet yesterday, I noticed that one of my favorite authors commented that while she was writing one of her books, it stayed about three chapters from the end for five chapters.
For the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, I was looking up and adding information for that period on four cities each, along with minimal extending of the aids, which just goes to show how far behind where I would like them to be some of them are.
That would have been about the extent of it for the 19th century as well, except that I was able to go a level deeper. The stubs of the 20-year periods (from the late 18th century) through the 19th century are now caught up to where they ought to be at this stage of development. The work I have been doing with developing the histories of nations finally reached into what I call the late 19th century, 1881 to 1900, and I was able to add a little more detail to the histories of the United States, China, India, and Indonesia for this period, although the obnoxious problem of Western bias which gives the Asian nations too little attention surfaced again, as it is likely to continue to do.
The problems I've noted of having too little information or having it in the wrong place aren't quite as easy to fix as I had thought, although I got it closer to correct when I was working on the late 18th century. I expect I should be able to fix things in the next development cycle, starting with what's left in this one. I'm now clear to work on the 20th century.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Classical, Medieval, and modern history

I went ahead with the classical and medieval section, and on the main page, added a bunch of links into social structure and change and social institutions. But when I look at specifics, this section is also mostly frozen.
I also did some work on the main modern history page, again mostly adding links into the social structure and change and institutions. I also did some writing in the various sections related to particular peoples that, as I think about it, needs to go in different sections from where I put it. I didn't get to tackling the individual centuries of the modern period yet, but those are coming up.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Prehistory and antiquity

I started going through history in general again, and made quite a few links to pages I created in the last round. It's a relief to be able to make better connections, especially to areas within religion, government, and economics.
I also made some progress at adding connections for prehistory. But when I got down into lower levels, early prehistory, middle prehistory, and late prehistory, I ran into a barrier. For one, I don't know nearly enough about how the field of prehistoric archeology has developed in the 20th century to give anything like an outline of the subject. For another, I haven't pursued particular countries or communities back this far in any detail. So, there's no real content to this section. That leads me to the conclusion that I'm going to be freezing progress in prehistory for a while, except as I'm able to make connections to the main prehistory page.
I ran into similar problems with antiquity. Although this has some highly interesting topics that I can connect at the main antiquity page, I'm going to have to freeze development of its detail for a time. However, I hope to be able to pick it back up before long.

When I was trying to look up material on the internet on 20th century archeology, I was unable to find a web site that gives a good summary. I did find references to a number of books that discuss the history of archaeology, which would be fine if I had convenient access to a good library, but right now I don't. This is an area where I'm going to have to wait.
Also, when I went to look at the sequence of events to give detail to early prehistory, I found such a difference of opinion among different prehistorians about exactly what took place when, that I didn't even try to put together what looked like a consensus. I've found this kind of situation time and again when I'm exploring a topic. I'd like to investigate such puzzles, but lack the expertise.