Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Thursday, December 6, 2012
Hey Guys, please check out this new project I am apart of from my friends at Broken Heart Records, Burlington Art/Music Foundation and Believe In Something (H.O.C). They have been gracious enough to put one of my songs on their Compilation album entitled Unsigned/Unrest. The best part is all proceeds are 100% going to the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. I am happy to say that I will be joining some great bands on the comp such as Socratic, Over It, The Agony Family and many more! The Comp should be out towards the end of January. Check out this site for more info.
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Sunday, September 9, 2012
During the Middle Ages, Western Europeans had two large incidents happen, one over a long period of time and the other over a rather short period of time. These two incidents were the rise of towns and the Black Death, also known as the plague. Both were very significant but I will prove why the Black Death had a larger impact over the rise of town yet at the same time prove why the rise of towns was important. In no way, though, can one successfully dispose of the fact that the rise of towns and the plague were, at least, indirectly connected.
The rise of towns began to establish around the year one thousand. Individual trades such as black smiths arise and this allowed for one person to focus on one thing rather than an individual focusing on everything in order to live. People began to barter and not every one had to farm anymore. The triangular trade route became very important in Italy. They would trade to the Middle East and North Africa for spices, pain killers and gold. This allowed for expansion and because of this, towns began to appear and populations increased. A product produced in one country could make it to another therefore sending a piece of ones country to another.
Very importantly, in helping build towns, new ideas began to unravel. Citizens of towns began markets and fairs. Markets existed for one townsperson to help another. They were held about once a week and they allowed for citizens to barter for food items that they did not have. Fairs were very similar to markets in that citizens bartered for numerous items with each other. The idea of holding fairs at least once a year became very popular, especially with the local lords and leaders. In order to hold a fair though one must obtain a charter.
A charter was somewhat like a contract. In the contents of a charter it could be specified wheather one could be charged for a use of a stall (booth) or how much one could be charged for starting trouble during the event. One very important issue that could not be changed though was the fact that when a fair was happening, no toll could be charged over any bridge entering into that town. By not charging a toll, this encouraged outsiders to come and join in the festivities of the event, leading the town to make more money.
For example, Very popular was the Ipswich town Charter in the year twelve hundred. This went through a list of orders that must be listened to in order to have a fair in Ipswich. Citizens were made to pay a farm which was a fixed sum of money, in place of a tax. This insured political independence and economic privileges. The Ipswich town charter also allowed its towns people to not have to pay taxes for its booths when fairs and markets took place. This gave incentive to the towns people of Ipswich. By not making their citizens pay for booths it allowed more people and products to come forth which meant more people, more sales and more money for the town. These were breakthrough ideas because it brought the town in money in a way that seemed fair and every townsperson seemed to get a little something out of it.
This idea of bartering and trading was very important, not necessarily for the best though. In the year thirteen forty seven and epidemic that effected Western for years to come struck. The plague could ultimately be contributed to one major reason and that would be trading from country to country and town to town.
Around the year thirteen hundred unexpected tragedies began to take place, which ultimately affected the ability to hold these fairs and markets. The weather began to change for the worse. Temperatures became very cold and the ability to grow crops became very hard. “Meat began to run out and eggs began to disappear”. The people of Europe became so desperate to grow crops that they eventually began to grow crops on rocky ground and marshy land. “The land was so oppressed with want that when the king came to St. Albans on the feast of St. Laurence it was scarcely possible to find bread on sale to sustain his immediate household…”. For the King to have hardly any food at all was a sign of what was about to come. All kinds of food became so scarce that people began to eat what they could find. Horse meat became precious and fat dogs would be stolen as they were found. Claims that people were eating their own and even stealing other children became abundant. All of this seemed to be a build up to one of the worst known catastrophes ever, The Plague.
The plague formed as a bacteria in the stomach of fleas. Fleas attached themselves to rats and the rats fed off of the grain on trade ships. This bacteria was inevitably destructive. It affected the entire Mediterranean and in most cities, forty to fifty percent of the citizens would die from the Bubonic and Pneumonic plague. An estimated twenty four million people died between the years thirteen forty seven and thirteen fifty.
The Plague was a malicious disease. The earliest symptoms of it were the appearance of “certain swellings in the groin or the armpit, some of which were egg-shaped whilst others were roughly the size of the common apple”. Anytime an infected person would come in contact with an unaffected person it would “Rush upon these (the unaffected) with the speed of a fire racing through dry or oily substances that happened to be placed within reach”. Jean de Venette’s compared the plague to another war during the Middle Ages. Not only was the plague taking lives and taking over the Mediterranean before any one realized there was a killing disease, but it led people to rise up against one another. It was said, at first, that the pestilence was caused by infection in the air and waters supposedly placed in these areas by the Jews. People also began to blame God, saying that their towns were so corrupt that God was punishing their burgesses due to the lack of their obedience. At times, large quantities of the sick were pushed out of cities and forbidden to enter. This in itself had a huge impact on society.
This made a much larger impact on society more so than the rise of towns due to the fact that after losing that many people it seems as though in some ways you have to start over. It also cost lives by causing “internal wars”, the Christians killing Jews. Between having a miniature ice age and being taken over by the plague for a few years, society took almost two hundred and fifty years to reach its previous population.
There is no doubt that the rise of towns and the plague both played a large part in European society. Without the rise of towns there still would have been trading, but to a much lesser extent. A plague could have still possibly broken out, but again, to a much lesser extent. All in all the rise of town was a good thing. It allowed for expansion and allowed for new ideas during the middle ages. It impacted Western society for the better. More importantly though the plague impacted Western society in the worst way ever. It set Europe up for a long struggle and led people to rise up against one another. It took two hundred and fifty years for society to grown again to a normal working society where trading and bartering was evident again. It seems as though the rise of towns had to take place again, to a lesser extent. This is why the plague had a bigger impact on the Western Europeans than the rise of towns.
 “Ipswich Town Charter” in Robert J. Mueller, ed., The History 1100 extended Syllabus (Logan, Utah: Utah State University, 2008), 56.
 Mueller, 56.
 Johannes de Trokelow “The Famine of 1315” in Robert J. Mueller, ed., The History 1100 extended Syllabus (Logan, Utah: Utah State University, 2008), 58.
 Mueller, 58.
 Mueller, 58.
 Giovanni Boccaccio “The Decameron” in Robert J. Mueller, ed., The History 1100 extended Syllabus (Logan, Utah: Utah State University, 2008), 59.
 Mueller, 59.
 Jean de Venette “The Plague’s Effects on France” in Robert J. Mueller, ed., The History 1100 extended Syllabus (Logan, Utah: Utah State University, 2008), 62.
 Mueller, 62.
 Mueller, 62.
 Mueller, 59.
Sunday, July 22, 2012
There are several aspects and ideas that make and define a culture. Some of those ideas consist of organized religion, how citizens interact with each other, and how the society should be governed. But one factor can be easily overlooked and forgotten about and that is the geographical location of a city, province, state, region, etc. Evidence will be brought out through documents about the importance of geography in the ancient western civilizations. The civilizations that will be focused on: The Mesopotamians, Egyptions, Hebrews, and Greeks.
Due to the lack of evidence, the primitive peoples (hunter-gatherer societies) of the world can not contribute much information to the cause of history. But we do know, even though they may not have known it at their time of existence, they used geography. In order for them to hunt game for food they had to have an idea of where the vegitation grew because, like humans, animals had to eat to survive as well. Having the knowledge of where vegitaition grows, was a geographical skill for them. It helped them to survive. These hunter-gatherer societies never stayed in one place for to long due to the fact that they had to follow that game animals. Around 7000 b.c, these hunter gatherer societies and their nomadic ways began to diminish which led to the beginning of the Neolithic period(7000-3000 b.c).
We begin by taking a look at the Mesopotamian societies. Around 3000 b.c. the Summarians established several cities in the southernmost part of Mesopotamia, which became known as Sumer. By settling here they had the neccesities which were needed to live. They had the rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates, which gave them the ability to do many tasks. One of these the tasks was irrigation.
Irrigation was used by the Mesopotamians, Egyptions, Hebrews, and Greeks and was one of the most important developments of the western civilizations. It demanded organized group effort which also demanded a need for a strong central authority to direct it. They diverted water from the rivers in order to create waterways and “mini river systems” so they could get water to their crops. The ability to irrigate led the Mesopotamians to become an agricultural society. Becoming an agricultural society meant that they had a more reliable food supply. Having a more reliable food supply meant healthier people. Healthier people meant a population increase. Increase in population meant job specialization and job specialization meant new crafts and cultural skills. These new crafts that were arising included basket weaving, pottery making, and masonry. The new cultural skills included language, religion, governing, law making, and warfare.
With the coming of Agricultural societies, you get new and innovative ideas and skills, as mentioned above. With the skill of language, you get writing schools. This is where the Sumerian form of writing known as cuneiform comes in to play. This writing consisted of drawings known as pictographs.
With governing, law making, and warfare you develop ideas to try and protect your cities and civilizations. for example, the code of Hammurabi. The code of Hammurabi was hailed as the first law code in Western History and It consisted of severe punishments for criminal offenses.
With religion you get polytheistic beliefs. A Polytheistic religion means that the religion believes in more than one god. This is the way most civilizations of the west worshipped.
More is to be said about Egypt and it’s polytheistic views. Much like The Mesopotamians, they had gods that controlled most everything such as the sun, the river, and the lands surrounding. Ra was the sun god. He was the almighty. To make sense of why he was, it was because it was so hot and sunny in Egypt, that would be the simple answer to why Ra was the most powerful god. Maat watched over maat maat meant truth, order, and righteousness and Maat was basically in charge of making sure everything in Egypt went smoothly. If anything earthy or geographically went wrong in Egypt the people began to worry that Maat had been destroyed or that something was very wrong, which eventually led to the fall of the Old Kingdom, when the had a few dry years.
Just like the Mesopotamians, the Egyptions used the Nile river for irrigation purposes. The difference between the Nile River and the Tigris and Euphrates rivers is the flow rate of the rivers. The Tigris and Euphrates rivers had very strong currents. They were very dangerous rivers, you could only float downstream on them, and they were unpredictable. Unlike the Nile, which was very predictable and flowed at a much slower rate than the Tigris and Euphrates. The Niles predictability also allowed them to plan for the time of the year when it flooded. This helped the Egyptions very much so. It gave them a chance to do work that needed to be done before the floods, work that was done during the floods, and work that had to be done after the floods, which is also known as the time of inundation, time of emergence, and time of harvest.
For a period of time, it was nearly impossible for Egyptions to travel outside of there country. To the west, desert, to the south, desert, to the east, the red sea, and the Egyptions wearen’t the most sea fairing peoples, and to the north, the Nile Deltal. The Nile Delta was a large, swampy area in northern Egypt infested with crocidiles. Trade was rare and so was the ability to fight wars with outside countries. It was not until the middle kingdom when The Egyptions gained the ability to start moving northward and encountered the Babylonians and the Hittites. When this occurred, each culture contributed something to each others culture, one being religion and the sharing of gods.
The exception to the polytheistic belief was the Hebrews. The Hebrews began as a polytheistic religion but later became monotheistic, calling their god Jehovah or Yaweh. The problem that was seen with having only one god was the idea of good vs. bad. Up until this point it was believed that there were good gods and that there were bad gods. The answer was that if you have done something bad, you must be punished for it, even if the single god is a good god.
The Hebrews entered Palestine as tribes. At first, good farmland, pastureland, and water spots were held in common by the tribe. The Hebrews began as a nomadic people but eventually settled down and became an agricultural society. Land that was owned was handed down within families, generally from father to son.
A commonailty between the Hebrews and the Greeks would be that they each came up with an idea that has lasted up until the present day. The Hebrews came up with the idea of a monotheistic religion. The jewish religion is still active today and so is a break off from Judaism, Christianity. The Greeks came up with the idea of Democracy, which is very commonly used today, especially in the United States of America.
Geographically the Greeks were very small, yet they give all of the western civilization the idea that there is a universe out there and that there is more than meets the eye. The Greeks were sea fairing people, due to their surroundings, the Mediteranian and Agean sea, it was only natural for them to find an interest in manuvering around these bodies of water. They navigated by using the sea and the islands surrounding them. There were so many islands in the Agean sea that one could always see land, which meant you could always get to where you were going just by keeping your eyes pealed. The Greeks also had very mountainess lands for surroundings as well. These mountains were very rocky. It was hard to have large populations of people in early Greece due to the fact that it was hard to grow grain the rocky, mountainous terrain.
A few things that did grow well in the rocky soil were grape vines and olive trees. With grapes you could produce whine and with olive trees you could produce olives and olive oil. These two products had many purposes. They were an excellent trade product. Athletes would rub olive oil all over their bodies to retain heat. They used olive oil for lamps as well as cooking.
Due to the fact that the greeks could not grown many things, the ability to sail and trade these products became very important because they were able to obtain those items which they could not grow themselves.
We are able to know much more about Greek culture more so than other cultures because they were egocentric. They enjoyed writing the history of themselves down because they felt as thought they were important enough and that their culture was above the rest.
Not every civilization was an egocentric one, but most every civilization did leave some documentation behind for the world to look at in amazement. It is very interesting how a geographical area can influence and shape a civilizations culture and how it can be a guide to, in some way, dictate the future for a civilization.
 John P. McKay, Bennett D. Hill, John Buckler, Clare Crowston & Merry Weisner-Hanks, A History of Western Society, Volume A: From Antiquity to 1500, 9th ed. (Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2008), 7
 McKay et al, 11
 McKay et al, 10
 Robert Mueller, in class lecture, August 26th, 2008
 Robert Mueller, in class letcure, August 26th, 2008
 McKay et al, 11
 “The Code of Hammurabi,” in Mark A. Kishlansky, ed., Sources of the West: Readings in Western Civilization-Volume: From the Beginning to 1715, 7th ed. (New York: Pearson/Longman, 2008), 20
 McKay et al, 43
Thursday, July 19, 2012
The Native American Plains cultures have always been extremely important to the subject of American History. Their Values and way of life were extremely interesting and proved beneficial to the Europeans, Spanish, and French Settlers who came to the North American Plains. In this blog, and through the usage of George Catlin’s historical letters, will be examined the unique lifestyle which the natives of the plains possessed and how that unique lifestyle changed in the 19th century.
First and foremost it is important to note who George Catlin was and what he did. George Catlin was an artist and one who seemed to have a very high anthropological interest for the plains cultures in North America. He wrote “letters and notes on the manners, customs, and conditions of North American Indians”
To begin, it is important to discuss the Plains Indians from their genesis. The Plains culture had emerged by the mid 16th century. During the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, The Spanish had fled down to the Rio Grande abandoning some seven thousand horses. Naturally, seeing that this could benefit them, the Natives used the horses and it was not long before they were distributed North and onto the plains.
The acquisition of the horse for the natives undoubtedly changed the lifestyles of the natives forever. It allowed them to stop being nomads. Before the horse arrived, tribes would travel with the food whereas once the horse was obtained, tribes were able to stay in one location, make their camp home and use the horse to travel long distances in order to hunt game. On top of being able to go longer distances, when they did make a kill, with the use of their horse, they were able to pack their game back to their homes. As a pedestrian society, a hunter could travel five miles a day whereas an equestrian society hunter could travel up to twenty five to forty miles per day.
The above covered the basics of the origin and lifestyle of the Plains Culture, however, George Catlin was able to get to know them much more intimately than the average white man at the time. Much like every culture the Native Americans are unique, especially the Plains Indians. The manner in which they worked and lived is so fascinating from the largest of concepts to the smallest, one being the concept of government. It is interesting to see how the government of a native culture can come to be and to see how it is run. For example; the Crow Indians seem to show their “manhood” and control by the length of their hair, for whatever reasons the hair is so important are the natives own. Perhaps it was ceremonial, to please their gods, or to show importance. In any case, it shows power. According to Catlin, when he was amongst the crows, their chief was “Long-Hair”. “He received his name as well as his office from the circumstances of having the longest hair of any man in the nation”. To people today, choosing a leader based upon the length of their hair is trivial and foolish. Perhaps though, the natives thought of he who had the longest hair was reincarnated and was a spirit on Earth, therefore had to be respected accordingly.
While along the lines of respect, Catlin, it seemed, noticed that the Plains Indians were respected for the luxurious lives that they possessed and how they went about providing that life for themselves. In order to maintain that lifestyle they needed help in keeping things in order, which is one reason why the natives believed in plural marriage, polygamy. Polygamy reigned among one of the more important subjects in the lives of many on the plains. As Catlin states “it is no uncommon thing to find a chief with six, eight, or ten, and some with twelve or fourteen wives in his lodge”. It seems as though native women were much undermined in their lives. Of course every person in a tribe had a role, but the women’s role was at the bottom of the barrel. Catlin again says “it becomes a matter of necessity for a chief (who must be liberal, keep open doors, and entertain, for the support of his popularity) to have in his wigwam a sufficient number of hand maids of menials to perform the numerous duties and drudgeries of so large and expensive an establishment”. In other words, women were basically slaves. Having many wives meant that much work could get done. This led to a luxurious life which proved beneficial to a man because it showed power of an individual and gained him much respect.
To explain somewhat further on the women of the plains, Catlin writes in some detail about how their lives went. Catlin wrote “the girls of this tribe, like those of most of these North-Western tribes, marry at the age of twelve or fourteen, and some at the age of eleven years; and their beauty, from this fact, as well as from the slavish life they lead, soon after marriage vanishes”. This was Catlin referring to girls of the Mandan tribe. Lifespan was much shorter back then, this was normal for the plains Indians, no one questioned it and it was their simple way of life.
As we have distinguished how the different the roles of men and women are in the plains culture, it is important to expound on some different aspects of their culture. Although there were many different tribes throughout the plains, most all of them shared a sacred ritual, which was known as the Sundance. (It is important to note that the Sundance ritual varied in style according to each tribe but all shared the basic ideas and principals). Because the Sundance was such a large event, tribes had to account for the many people who would be attending; therefore they arranged to do the ceremony when the bison herds began to congregate. In a nutshell, the Sundance was a ceremony of sacrifice. Those who danced in the Sundance vowed to fast and abstain form sexual relations. “Ordinarily, a person would invoke help from his or her spirit protector; in a very serious crisis, especially the dangerous illness of a loved one, aid might be sought from Thunder, voice of the Almighty; in extreme desperation, one would pray directly to Almighty Power, which is most blindingly manifested in the Sun”. Clearly the Sundance was for protection and healing among many other hardships according to each individual. It is a ceremony that is practiced still to this day, although it has changed to stay in accordance with present laws.
Change is inevitable. As the world progresses and judges what is right and what is wrong, those who are opposed to change somehow get stuck conforming to the “ways of the world”. As the world aged, new settlers made their way west, over the plains. Among those new settlers were those who built trading posts and United States military. At the same time, eastern Indian nations were removed to live on set aside Indian Territory. Perhaps the most controversial topic of the time was that of “Manifest Destiny”. Manifest Destiny was the idea that the United States was chosen to push civilization westward, eventually pushing the natives of the continent to the pacific. Manifest Destiny sparked many conflicts, including the many, now famous, Indian battles.
Many other tragedies occurred during the 19th century. Because of the increase of people moving west, more people were hunting and struggling for survival. The amount of Bison that the plains produced was now diminishing, therefore leaving little for the Indians to hunt. This was the primary source for the Indians food and shelter. As mentioned above, native tribes were displaced to small reservations where, if they were to wander from them, they would be considered hostile and killed.
The 19th century was not kind to the Native Americans. This is when they lost much of their freedoms that they considered to be sacred. Before the 19th century, it is safe to say that the Plains Indians lived a somewhat simple life. Although simple, it had meaning. George Catlin understood their lifestyle and wanted to document it for what it was and not to sugarcoat their way of life. The lives of these Plains cultures will forever be remembered and when tales are retold, the stories capture the imaginations of all.
 George Catlin, Letter No. 8 Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, And Conditions of North American Indians, (First Published in London in 1844) Appendix 1, 2.
 John Barton, Plains Culture Lecture.
 Catlin, 3.
 George Catlin, Letter No. 14, Mandan Village, Upper Missouri, Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Conditions of North American Indians, (First Published in London in 1844) Appendix 1, 9.
 Catlin, 9.
 Catlin, 11.
 Kehoe, Alice B., North American Indians A Comprehensive Account(New Jersey: Nancy Roberts,2006) 293.
 Kehoe, 294.
 Kehoe, 298.