Escape from Elba
Exiles of the New York Times
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Author Topic: American History  (Read 29489 times)
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thanatopsy
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« Reply #840 on: August 27, 2007, 07:15:01 AM »

``history is not an absolute, and even facts from long ago can remain hidden until someone makes the effort to uncover them.``

True.  But in order for a book to be categorized as  ''history'', its author must not persist in making up stories and attempting to palm them off as truth.  We have already discussed several clear errors by Menzies on this thread. More are sure to follow.

I don't mind discussing Menzies and, in fact, previously wrote that it is worth discussing. My hope is, however, that henceforth we will stick with real history in this section rather than myths which can readily be discussed in the mythology section of the forum.

Therefore, it is OK to discuss mythology.  But let's do so there, not here.
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Dzimas
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« Reply #841 on: August 27, 2007, 10:51:52 AM »

We got along without straw polls before, so I don't see why we need one now, but if that is the consensus then so be it.  I just think the book readings will encourage more participation if we arrive at a mutual consensus.
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thanatopsy
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« Reply #842 on: August 27, 2007, 01:45:32 PM »

Sometimes it's just a little difficult to follow what Menzies is describing. For example, he indicates that as the Chinese fleet approached Puerto Rico they ''would have sighted the menacing, anvil-shaped volcano El Yunque near the east coast and turned to it for water.'' {p 297}

El Yunque is a rainforest, not a volcano. Puerto Rico does not have volcanoes:

http://www.volcanolive.com/puerto.html

The rainforest is inland and water could have been found far closer to the coast.

http://www.hechoenpuertorico.org/yunque/images/m_caribb.gif



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Dzimas
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« Reply #843 on: August 27, 2007, 03:02:24 PM »

There is an El Yunque volcano in Chile,

http://www.volcano.si.edu/world/volcano.cfm?vnum=1506-02=

which last erupted in 1743.
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Bob
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« Reply #844 on: August 27, 2007, 05:00:46 PM »

As far as choosing a book to read and discuss, I'm inclined to agree with Dzimas. We seldom had a vote in the other forum, but just discussed things in general until a sort of consensus was reached. Sometimes decisions were arbitrary, but on the whole the system seemed to work. We had  guidelines which were flexible as to timing--open ended as they were.

As far as 1421, the reason I voted for it was to discuss just what we were discussing over the last week. That is: Did the Chinese "discover" America in the eurocentric sense of the word? We could also point out both the flaws and the strengths of the Menzies theory. I saw the book as being as much about America as about China. So I saw as fitting the criteria of a book concerning American History, much in the same way as a book about Columbus generally contains a lot of Spanish history and culture. (There's a new biography out on Amerigo Vespucci-would that be  eligible under the heading of American History--or would it be treading the borderline)?

Regarding the methodology of the discussion, I see what thanatopsy is getting at and perhaps we can get back to the chapter by chapter method and select a leader for the discussion as we go along. It gives more order to things, and though diversions will occur, it helps everyone stick to the book. Sometimes we rely too much on outside books when discussing a particular selection....I for one am guilty of that. I'll can cut back on that.


As far as going into the discussion of books on subjects outside of American History, I'll go for that. If a number of us can utilize the Non-Fiction forum we can start on that soon....I'd love a discussion on Reed's book and  and on THREE WHO MADE A REVOLUTION. I recently finished STALIN: THE COURT OF THE RED CZAR by Simon Sebag Monteforte. It was really good. Next month or so he's to publish a companion volume regarding Stalin's early years.
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madupont
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« Reply #845 on: August 27, 2007, 05:07:24 PM »

Bob, I beg you. I just started a discussion on the memoirs of Gunter Grass, Peeling the Onion. Because in all this time,desdemona and I have had approximately four topics leading from inter-English/French economics; Kershaw; Bloomsbury Circle, Cassirer family in Europe.  So, I sent a message off to admin for a stipulated reading discussion but have not had an answer today, after realizing that it never rains but it pours.
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Bob
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« Reply #846 on: August 27, 2007, 05:29:50 PM »

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I found it most amusing to discuss the Euro-centric definition of "discovery", making it clear that only literate Europeans could ever be credited with a "discovery" in history. That, to me, makes it a self serving definition that cannot be applied in the 21st century exploration of what has gone before.

I don't know that anybody here said that only literate Europeans could ever be credited with a "discovery" in history. Georaphical discovery seems to a Euro-centric concept. From my knowledge of Chinese history--which admittedly is sparse---the Chinese thought themselves the center of the world and its absolute ruler and expected that all peoples give tribute to them--thus there was no need of our concept of discovery. In order for the Europ-centric concept of discovery to exist, the possibility competing claims needed to exist--thus the need to declare a discovery in order to take possession of a geographical area and exploit it. The Chinese had no reason to do this since in their mind, the entire Earth was subject to China....there were no competing claims----The TREASURE FLEET was sent forth to trade and exact expected tribute to the Emperor--not to discover  or claim possession of anything or any peoples. Any new lands were simply recorded as such and were added to the list of peoples from whom tribute was expected. (A neat system if you ask me).
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Bob
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« Reply #847 on: August 27, 2007, 05:35:37 PM »

Like the others I didn't mean to go over to another forum immediately, thus interupting things. I meant for us to utilize the Non Fiction Forum  appropriately, that is, for people to suggest a book at the next opportunity and see if we can get others to join us--in other words to do things politely and appropriately....

I havent gotten to see the Gunter Gras book. I'll have to visit NON FICTION and  see how things are going...
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Bob
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« Reply #848 on: August 27, 2007, 05:41:10 PM »

Actually, come to think of it, not only was discovery Euro-centric, it was uniquely a Christian Concept. Roimans, Moslems, etc, Westerners in other words were used to conquering other lands, but really weren't out to discover. That concept came much later --in the 1400's and lasted only until the about the 1700's-not a long period in the scheme of human history...
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weezo
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« Reply #849 on: August 27, 2007, 08:50:20 PM »

Than,

Curious about that passage, I looked for a link that would describe the mountains on Puerto Rico. On:

http://topuertorico.org/geogra.shtml

I found that one of the notable mountains contain El Yunque Peak. More information on El Yunque including the fact that the rainforest at one time encompased most of the island, is at:

http://topuertorico.org/reference/yunque.shtml and http://www.solboricua.com/elyunque/

Apparently Menzies was referring to a mountain not a volcano. Apparently the rain forest is a more popular tourist stop the the mountain peak. I didn't look too far into the sites, but didn't quickly find a picture or description of the shape of the peak.

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thanatopsy
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« Reply #850 on: August 27, 2007, 11:48:28 PM »

El Yunque (pronounced YOON-keh)!  Wow - evidently, according to Menzies the Chinese fleet had a remarkable knack for finding their way from El Yunque in Chile (Pacific Ocean) to Guadalupe in the Caribbean vitually overnight.  Even in this day of SST transport, it would be difficult to duplicate that remarkable achievement. Roll Eyes Roll Eyes Roll Eyes
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nytempsperdu
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« Reply #851 on: August 28, 2007, 12:31:03 AM »

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Nytemps...As to interrupting other discussions, I didn't think you meant to begin tomorrow.  Have you already read both books, then?

Yes, but an embarrassingly long time ago, so would need to reread any chosen volume(but not along with the very long Trotsky's My Life--no remarks about his life being shorter than--and others, as erstwhile).  Why can't I help thinking October would be appropriate for such?  Wink
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« Reply #852 on: August 28, 2007, 12:59:50 AM »

NyTemps....I have both books, and haven't yet read either.  It seems that others will be interested in discussing, too.  Mid September or October would be fine for me.
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Dzimas
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« Reply #853 on: August 28, 2007, 04:43:28 AM »

El Yunque (pronounced YOON-keh)!  Wow - evidently, according to Menzies the Chinese fleet had a remarkable knack for finding their way from El Yunque in Chile (Pacific Ocean) to Guadalupe in the Caribbean vitually overnight.  Even in this day of SST transport, it would be difficult to duplicate that remarkable achievement. Roll Eyes Roll Eyes Roll Eyes

All this in a remarkable two years!  But, I suppose Menzies misconstrued the El Yunque peak with a volcano, as weezo said.  I have to wonder about the editor, who approved this text.  Obviously, (s)he didn't bother with any kind of fact checking, even of the most basic kind.
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weezo
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« Reply #854 on: August 28, 2007, 06:10:13 AM »

Dzimas,

I don't think editors do much, if any, fact checking, anymore. At least that is the sense I get from my friends on the history list at Library of Virginia. The academic presses may still do it, but I don't think the commercial ones do any more than check for grammar and spelling errors if that.

The mountain El Yonque is in the north east of Puerto Rico. Menzies said they were approaching from the east and probably missing noting the small island on the south east approach. And, the rain forest with the same name runs to the coast, so other than the fact that it is a mountain rather than a volcano, it seems the information is pretty good. Of course, Than is looking for a higher standard of accuracy, but that is OK.
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