Tag Archives: History


But What About Sea Shanties?

It’s Monday. It’s January. And it’s been about a year since we learned TikTokkers will sing sea shanties. But let’s focus on the important question:

Did pirates sing sea shanties?

Disclosure: I’m pre-disposed to trust sources called “Rogue History” for reasons.


Say, what do the Brits think about July 4th?

Thanks to us living in the age of memes, I frequently see and sometimes post things like this right around this time:

But what do the Brits really think these days? I mean, after all, we’ve got a special relationship with the UK that gets its own Wikipedia entry!

Well, trust a Brit to break it to you gently:

Note: there’s actually several YouTube videos on this subject if you really want to check out variations on a theme, but I liked this one.

The Industrial Revolution & Comparative Richness of Modern Society

Once upon a time, before the Internet was in full bloom, my dad decided to look through the latest U.S. Army guides on countries (now known as “country studies”) and compile economic data to determine people’s standard of living in various countries based on GDP and local buying power.

He did this for fun. It was how he rolled.

Since I had recently been living and studying in Indonesia (and yes, my dad gave me the army guide for Indonesia beforehand), we talked a lot about his research and how it applied to what I had observed. How far a dollar went in Indonesia (about 2,000 rupiah at the time) was different from how far a dollar went at home, after all. And, naturally, it varied depending on where I was on a particular island.

My dad, too, had experience with these sorts of price differences from travel both inside and outside the United States. I wondered a lot about industrialization, what the “normal” rate of development might be, and how fast and how well developing nations and regions could and would develop.

So I took all of those conversations and ponderings into consideration when I read Dylan Mathews’ interview over at Vox. He’s talking to two economic historians about how the standards of living changed with the industrial revolution — and it gets right at a lot of those questions about what preconditions and conditions there are for development.

Dramatic recreation of England’s industrial revolution from the 2012 Olympics

And remember, there’s all those country studies you can read for free as well.

Prepare Ye the Oral History of Godspell

I’m not sure the “oral history” long-form article became more popular in the social media age, but I certainly have noticed it a lot more in the past 15 years… and I usually enjoy the pieces about seminal stage and screen productions. It’s a good reminder of how, even when we see these works that are exquisite faits accompli, they are the result of hard-working humans, who are on their own journey.

(Alla Dreyvitser/Washington Post illustration; Dick Darrell/Toronto Star/Getty Images)

So I very much enjoyed Zachary Pincus-Roth’s piece in the Washington Post about the 1972 Toronto production of Godspell. I’ve enjoyed the musical since first working on a production last century, but it many other people should find of interest because of the impressive cast of the production, who have gone on to become celebrated performers over the past few decades. And even though the production is half a century in the past, bonds were forged that remain.

So check it out!

(And you may find some of Pincus-Roth’s other pieces for the Post of interest, including one about the enduring love for my favorite film no one else seems to have seen in the theater, The Shawshank Redemption, as well as why the musical Cats became so popular anyway).


Say, Why Did Norway and Sweden Break Up?

I’m still looking for a longer video that answers my questions about 1905 attitudes regarding lutefisk vs. surstr√∂mming and how that factored into Norwegian independence, but this works for now.

American Presidents before George Washington

Like a statistically noticeable chunk of Americans, my wife and I saw Hamilton this past weekend… which naturally led to us to look up the historical details of all the historical figures.

One question that popped up –and really, I’m surprised this wasn’t touched on in any my history classes– was who was “in charge” of the United States before George Washington? I mean, we have that whole “Articles of Confederation” period where someone was in charge in some official capacity, right?

It turns out there were presidents beforehand, but their duties and powers weren’t at all comparable to what we associate with American presidents beginning with George Washington. In this, all my history teachers most definitely covered that “lack of strong, central government.”

Want to know more nitty-gritty details? Writer and newspaper columnist J.J. McCullough has a good summary of some of these early presidents and evidently some people can get snotty about it.

After that, feel free to go down the Wikipedia rabbit hole and learn more all about ’em.

Beware Twisty Windy Things! (A History Lesson on Tornado Coverage)

One of the reasons I love history is how often it proves the maxim “truth is stranger than fiction.”

So here’s this week’s recommended reading from Cara Giaimo about how weathermen couldn’t talk about tornados. Mind blown (or perhaps whisked away to Oz).