May 172010

Friday, I discussed Fergus Fleming’s Barrow’s Boys: A Stiring Story of Daring, Fortitude, and Outright Lunacy. Yet another highlight of that book was its treatment of the lost Franklin Expedition. In 1845, Barrow dispatched Sir John Franklin to find the Northwest passage – the long sought northern route connecting the Atlantic and Pacific.

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May 142010

It was one of the most memorable television events of the 1970s: a twelve hour mini-series that traced the story of author Alex Haley’s Roots back to an African ancestor. In one of many gripping episodes, an African Muslim, “Kunte Kinte” (played by LeVar Burton, minus the iconic Star Trek visor), was kidnapped by evil white slavers, carried to the African shore, and dispatched to America never to see his homeland again. It made for a powerful drama (now available on DVD) that brilliantly illustrated the evil of slavery. This is the version of history I was taught in school.

A few weeks ago, I noted a remarkable article by Henry Lewis Gates, Jr., “Ending the Slavery Blame-Game.” Dr. Gates explained that exploration of the African interior by Europeans was an eighteenth century endeavor. He further reported research that 90% of Africans shipped to the New World were in fact first enslaved by their fellow Africans and then sold to European slave traders.  More here. Alex Haley’s work, though powerful and illustrative of the evil of slavery, left something to be desired in precise historical accuracy.

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May 122010

From the July 1927 issue of Popular Science, the ‘latest’ thinking on “Wireless Power Transfer.”

The article quotes contemporary expert opinion from such luminaries as Steinmetz, Tesla, and Marconi. As Marconi noted: “the transmission of power by electrical waves awaited only the perfection of devices for projecting the waves in parallel beams in such a manner as to minimize dispersion and diffusion of energy into space.” Sorry Guglielmo, but we’re still waiting today for that particular perfection.

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John Wilkes Booth was shot and killed this day, April 26, 1865, ending the most comprehensive manhunt in U.S. history. James Swanson tells the story of Booth’s preparation and planning, the assassination of Lincoln, Booth’s escape from Ford theater, and his nearly two weeks on the run. Swanson dispels the myths surrounding the manhunt. In the traditional story, Dr. Samuel Mudd innocently treated Booth’s injured leg and was unjustly persecuted in the witch hunt surrounding the search for the conspirators. Swanson argues persuasively that Mudd was part of Booth’s preexisting conspiracy to kidnap Lincoln. Swanson’s narrative is comprehensive, well-written, and engaging.  Manhhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer will be of interest to students of history or anyone wanting to learn more about this pivitol moment of American history.

© 2010-14 Hans Schantz except as noted. Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha

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