Category Archives: Historian’s Journal

Lecturing and passive learning

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A common question for educators that is often raised is that of lectures and passive learning.  There are two reasons why it is  good to ask about this:

  1. Is the lecture/passive learning method a successful means  for teaching our students?
  2. Do we employ it simply because it is how we were taught (keeping in mind that many of us enjoy our subjects and therefore often enjoyed many of the classes we took)?

I think, firstly, that we as educators have to admit that we frequently enjoyed our lectures as undergraduates and, for those of us who sought grad school, avidly attended many conferences when feasible.  Because of our interest we were seldom passively learning, however, and often making connections to other material or asking questions.  We frequently enjoyed lectures.

On the other hand, what about students who lack that interest or experience with other material?  Is it impossible to inspire them to be interested?  I can freely admit to sitting in class, genuinely interested in what the lecturer was saying, but totally unable to keep my eyes open unless I got up to get some water.  How much more difficult is it for someone who has not yet learned to appreciate the subject or gained experience with related subject matter?

Lecture is effective as long as it is engaging.  There are many ways for lectures to be active learning experiences, but we have to be honest and acknowledge it is easy, without vigilance and planning, to make it a struggle for everyone.  Whenever I feel I’ve fallen into the dull lecture trap, I like to return to the Ken Bain book I was assigned in a graduate level historical teaching course: What the Best College Teachers Do and especially the chapter, “How do they conduct class?”  This book is the result of asking people about their best experiences with college professors to create an interview list of the top instructors in the country, as well as inquiring about their worst experiences to create a negative persona, Professor Wolf, with the bad examples.

Below, I want to provide my own summary of this chapter.  (Keep in mind that I’m prioritizing my summary based on those things I am either most passionate about or those points about which I think I need the most improvement, personally–other points within the book might apply differently to other instructors.)  The headings are directly from Bain.

Create a Natural Critical Learning Environment (99)

The gist, here, is that students should be engaged, probing materials and assumptions, seeking answers and asking questions.  They should be grappling with the same questions and problems that scholars do.  They should be doing this while they are sitting in class with the instructor!  The biggest and most common mistake an instructor can make is to provide answers to unasked questions.

This learning environment pushes students to higher-order intellectual activity: “encouraging them to compare, apply, evaluate, analyze, and synthesize, but never only to listen and remember.”  (102)  Bain describes the story-telling and Socratic-questioning of Donald Saari (filling me with all sorts of envy that I never took his class) that challenges the students to develop the concepts of calculus: “‘When I finish this process,’ [Saari] explained, ‘I want students to feel like they have invented calculus and that only some accident of birth kept them from beating Newton to the punch.'”  (102)

Questions are a great means of reinforcing processes and building to the next step in the lesson:

  • What’s the next question?
  • What can we ask now?
  • (in response to questions asked by students)  What do you think?
  • If this is true, then why (how, what, where, when, etc.)…?
  • What major conclusions did you draw?
  • What questions remain in your mind?

Of course, there are many ways to create this environment–lecture is not required, but nor is it true that lectures are incompatible.  Investigations supply a vocabulary of the field and the experience of thinking like an adept in the field.  Bain found no professors who relied solely on lectures, but none of those who used lectures provided an “encyclopedic coverage.” (107)

Start with Students rather than Discipline (110)

Bain speaks briefly about the need to get the attention of students and hold it in his 2nd heading of this section.  He begins this under this heading by stating that it is necessary to gain students attention for higher purpose, to initially focus on something the students get, are concerned about, or assume before our own stories, theories, or outlines.  Another professor Bain interviewed, Michael Sandel, reminds us that Socrates began by staring with what people thought they knew and then tried to “systematically to wrench them from their familiar place.”  (110)  Thought exercises/experiments can introduce familiar scenarios that test for assumptions and force students to reason forward, applying critical thinking, self evaluation, civil argument, and defense.

“Many of the best teachers,” Bain writes, “make a deliberate and carefully measured effort to confront some paradigm or mental model that students are likely to bring with them to class.”  (112)  This is a student-centered ethos that serves to draw students in and introduce them to the type of thinking and questioning that is required for solving problems in the field.  It starts with the students and elevates them from where they began the process to a new level within the field.

Help Students Learn Outside of Class (114)

Students should be armed with the necessary skills and preparation for the next homework assignment.  This is in opposition to merely “covering” material or assigning something because it “deals with” some subject.  The best teachers plan in reverse, says Bain creating a map with intellectual way-stations that provide the opportunity to develop through the course.  In other words, they know what their end goal is for the students and develop a course that will guide them there.

This means that they are properly prepared to advance both their knowledge and their thinking by doing the assigned work outside of class.  It should contribute both to their knowledge of content and the skills they need to employ while working in the field itself.

Engage Students in Disciplinary Thinking  (114)

Any course that is not designed with this tenet in mind is a waste of time and money.  Just read a textbook or watch a few documentaries if we are going to ignore how this information is gained.  If, as a professor, I present my discipline without teaching you how to replicate the field’s problem-solving, them I’m swindling you, withholding the sacred knowledge, keeping you beneath me.   That is unacceptable.

Besides, we should take advantage of our disciplines to advance our students’ thinking skills.  What could we possibly gain by neglecting this fundamental duty?

Create Diverse Learning Experiences (116)

Alter the rhythms of learning: supplement oral information with visual information; allow for group discussion of problems; and, use case-studies.  Diverse materials, experiences, and input reinforce both content and method.  Interviewed professors relayed to Bain, “Some material was organized inductively, from facts, data, and experimentation to the general principles and theories; other things, deductively by applying principles to specific situations.  The teachers gave students an opportunity to learn sequentially, a piece at a time; they also gave them space to learn globally, through sudden insights.  Some of the learning involved repetition and familiar methods; some, innovations and surprises.”  (116-7)

The key to successful lecture, thus, begins with a successful concept of the course, including a commitment to engaged learning, followed by the notion that it is more of a conversation–a collaboration, if you will–than a performance or an exhibition of one’s knowledge and know-how.  Passive learning is, in actuality, ineffective.  But, this does not mean that lecturing has to equate to passive learning–good lecturing is, without doubt, a means of engaged and active learning.

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Filed under Experiences, Experiencing History - Project Based Learning, History how-tos, Reviews

Coca Cola bottles explain archaeology

Think over your own lifetime and select a product that has been around at least as long as you.  How has that product’s marketing and appearance changed over time?  Can you recall when it shifted its appearance?  (Many folks will, for example, recall when Pepsi changed its look in very recent history, perhaps to capitalize on Mr. Obama’s campaign iconography coming off his first inauguration or perhaps as a simple coincidence.)  Branding and rebranding may teach us something about how archaeologists date their finds in the field.

S-S 1900-1905 comparison

Straight-Sided (S-S) Coca Cola bottles from c. 1905-1910
Source: “Antique Coke Bottles” –

Dr. Lawrence E. Stager is a Harvard professor and a Biblical archaeologist.  I recently viewed his discussions about archaeology and Biblical archaeology specifically in Biblical Archaeology: From the Ground DOWN for my History 101 unit on the ancient Hebrews (a favorite lesson of mine that not only builds nicely on our previous weeks’ discussions about Mesopotamia, Egypt and the Hittites, and archaeology as a source of knowledge, but also stimulates great discussion and debate about texts and oral history).  In it, he at one point is explaining the concept of pottery typologies that are used to date the differing strata of the tells they dig in the Near East (a tell is a mound or hill that has developed because succeeding levels of a city were built upon each other following natural or man-made destruction, reconstructions, redevelopment, etc.) wherein each of the strata represents a (roughly) different time, epoch or event layer of the city’s or neighborhood’s history.

S-S Arrow logo bottles manufactured primarily in  TN and KY from 1912-1916Source: "Antique Coke Bottles" -

S-S Arrow logo bottles manufactured primarily in TN and KY from 1912-16 (L), and exclusively in Jackson, TN from 1912-14 (R)
Source: “Antique Coke Bottles” –

Stager explains that pottery types (hence the term typology) went through phases of popularity that give scholars confidence in dating the individual sherds that are left behind.  One of the best sources for archaeologists seeking the lost material culture at dig site is the midden or garbage dump.  Here, the various broken tools, accessories, and other materials can be found in one place.  Stager explained that broken sherds can provide enough material evidence to suggest the time period when the pottery was in fashion: particularly the handles and lips of pottery pieces if those are available, but also the designs used to decorate pots which can nail down both culture and time.

The "new" Hobbleskirt design, this one being a rare example from 1915, featuring blue glass on top and green glass on the bottom

The “new” Hobbleskirt design, this one being a rare example from 1915, featuring blue glass on top and green glass on the bottom.
Source: “Antique Coke Bottles” –

To explain this process he brought up the design of the Coca Cola bottle in his own lifetime, during which he drank from glass bottles with the brand appearing on the side of the bottle in raised glass, the glass bottle with a painted or printed label on top of the glass surface, and finally the plastic bottle.  These different motifs are traceable to the exact years in which they were manufactured.

"Dec. 25 1923" (called the "Christmas Cokes") were produced from 1928 to 1938.  You can identify them from later reproductions by looking at the base--Can you spot the reproduction in the shot?

“Dec. 25 1923” (called the “Christmas Cokes”) were produced from 1928 to 1938. You can identify them from later reproductions by looking at the base–Can you spot the reproduction in the shot?
Source: “Antique Coke Bottles” –

When Coca Cola was originally produced it was at the soda fountain in the latter years of the 19th century and served in glasses (and the original recipe included cocaine–hence its value as a medicinal product, if a highly addictive one).  Eventually, to protect the brand against pretenders, the Coca Cola company adopted the contoured bottle between 1905-1908, and that it attempts to maintain even in today’s plastic bottles, also know as the “hobbleskirt” design.


Coca Cola bottles manufactured in New York in the 1940s
Source: eBay sale

In the early days, branding was more fluid and it is more challenging to date some of these early bottles without some reference–many collectors’ sites exist to aid this process of differentiation; if it is of interest to you, see links below this post.  The bottle variations from the early part of the 20th century not only fluctuate greatly over a comparatively small snap shot of time, they deviate from each other regionally, as well.  Savvy collectors have also learned how to identify fakes made by irradiating clear glass bottles in an attempt to create the classic amber–deep purple Coca Cola bottles, for example, are fakes of this type.  While they are not typically digging these specimens up, they are employing the same basic approach the archaeologists have developed for cultures that predate patents and trademark laws!

More Information:

The Dating Game: Tracking the Hobble-skirt Coca Cola Bottle (.pdf)

Antique Coke Bottle – This site also shares related links, though some are dead.

Coca Cola History – Site produced by The Coca Cola Company

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Trojans in my head? Something like that

There is a song on the radio that has been bothering me.  Not exactly like an ear worm, but sort of similar.  It is the Atlas Genius song “Trojans.”  The lyrics are provided, below, and in the video, above.


Take it off
Take it in
Take off all the thoughts of what we’ve been
Take a look
Take a picture you could never recreate
Write a song
make a note
for the lump that sits inside your throat
Change the locks, change the scene
Change it all but can’t change what we’ve been
Your trojan’s in my head
It’s ok if it’s gone
The thoughts that you had that it was the one
And oh what is left?
For all those times is that what you get?
Oh regardless
The walls get painted anyway
Oh you’re guarding
The gates, but it all got away
Your trojan’s in my head
Take it off
Take it in
Take off all the thoughts of what we’ve been
Take a look
Take a picture you could never recreate
Write a song
make a note
for the lump that sits inside your throat
Change the locks, change the scene
Change it all but can’t change what we’ve been
    Am I the only one who thinks the lads at Atlas Genius may have meant, “Your Achaean’s in my head,” or “Your Greek warrior,” or “Your Trojan horse”?  Perhaps my thinking is too cerebral for the song, and the guys from Atlas Genius are simply referencing condoms or computer viruses, but I feel there is a simple mistake being made, here, incorrectly identifying the soldiers inside the Trojan Horse as Trojans and not Achaeans invading Troy.
     Songs are in comparison to poetry often more abstract as they are complemented by the music the artists write and even the voice and emotions of the singer to help convey their meaning.  Having acknowledged that, I can’t help but wonder if they simply got the famous story of the Achaean (Greek) military deceit wrong.
     On the other hand, it is possible that the singer represents the Greek side and is deliberately revising the story to to turn it on its head and explain the relationship with his partner.  That would be a pretty interesting twist to the story.  And, perhaps I would do wrong to sell them short on literary knowledge–their EP was titled Through the Glass…  Or, the song could really be referencing the computer virus, which through shortened parlance has come to misrepresent the mythological tradition, itself.
    Whatever the band intended, I find myself wondering whether they are unintentionally corrupting the story for a generation (or two) that is more or less completely unfamiliar with Homer, Euripides and Virgil whose epics and plays have preserved the story for us, today (and, no, Hollywood reproductions do not count as familiarity).  For my own personal interpretation (and enjoyment) I choose to think of it as an interesting recasting wherein partner is Troy turning the traditional interpretation on its head.  I find it most interesting that way.
    For more about the band:
   And, for more of their music:


Filed under Historian's Journal, Music

A great semester! New approaches prove successful.


As the semester winds down and I am grading the finals, it has been exceptionally rewarding to see how much improvement my students made this go-around in my 101 course.  Teaching roughly 7000 years of history is no joke!  For a community college’s introduction to history course, I try to emphasize a general knowledge of the eras that produced the modern western civilization we live in today and the skills of the historian.

It had been immediately evident in the finals I have graded so far that the improvement in working the historian’s craft was considerable–not only in reading and rating the reliability of primary sources, but also in constructing a logical argument for one’s interpretation of the sources.  Reading and writing skills have improved as they have learned how to approach the material.

This semester I worked towards this goal in a couple of new ways:

  • The midterm was broken into three parts and the first two of these parts were collaborative–and the grades were curved.  The midterm asked them to replicate as much of the reading and writing skills as we had covered in class up to that point while also testing their knowledge of the readings and eras up to that point.  (The greater emphasis on analysis followed their own collective attempts at first on the midterm.)
  • I provided extra credit assignments (two) that specifically emphasized these skills after the midterm–groups that struggled the most on the midterm could thus practice the skills further in the following weeks and earn extra credit for the additional practice.
  • I modeled, with the class’s help, the prioritization of reliable sources when conflicting accounts exist and constructing a basic outline for a history paper.  (Extra credit assignments built directly on these in-class/homework exercises.)

These activities seemed to really help students grow in their understanding of the material.  One could tank on the midterm, but still work towards a successful grade in the class if one was willing to put the work into the class and the projects with the extra credit options.  It was important for me to give students the opportunity to collaboratively see how far they had come on their own and take some risks, but I did not want to punish them if they hadn’t come as far by week six as I hoped they would by finals week.  (I should point out that our institution has a really early midterm.)

The major drawback was that some students were too greatly discouraged and did not see how they could climb out of the hole–none of these ever approached me about their grades or situation before quitting, though.  Students who flat out failed the midterm recovered to earn grades in the 80-90% range.  So, it was definitely possible to make the turn around–most of these did come and speak to me or e-mail me about their grades.  I did not give anyone a free pass–each student earned their grades–though, I was far more lenient in grading the finals where grammar and syntax was concerned.  (This was, in part, because of the high number of ESL students in my evening course who do not have easy access to tutoring resources on campus; and, in part, it was due to the fact that I am not handing back the finals for students to see their mistakes.  Besides, at this point I was far more concerned with their historical understanding and was gratified to observe considerable improvement in organizing their essays and in writing even if they still have work to do in that area.)

Students who were sharper on the first day of class further honed their skills and understood far more about the historical process.  Students who were green gained new understanding and experiences, growing in the class.  It was an awesome semester and the students were a lot of fun to teach–I never dreaded going to class.  Semesters like this remind me why I love teaching so much–even if I only adjunct for a couple of courses a year.


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Decoder Ring Theatre – Your Home for Adventure, Golden Age of Radio-style

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Decoder Ring Theatre is a new obsession of mine.  I found it by accident–one of those websites a friend liked and thus caught my attention, but it took me a while to actually explore it.  I was thrilled with it when I finally did so.

Even when I was a kid, I had a fondness for old timey radio programs.  Maybe it was because I wasn’t allowed to watch cartoons on Saturday mornings and so watched old school westerns.  Maybe it was because I used to watch the old Batman TV series starring Adam West and Burt Ward.  Maybe it was my interest in the Green Hornet, which I followed in comic books.  Hard to say, really.  Hard to know what led to the other, too.

The programming available on Decoder Ring Theatre is the style of the old noir detective shows and superhero programs from the Golden Age of Radio.  I heart Black Jack Justice and his fellow-P.I. Trixie Dixon, girl detective.  I most enjoy those shows, but the real superhero is the Red Panda and his sidekick Flying Squirrel who keep the streets of Toronto safe from mad villains in the 1930s.  Each pair has their own show that can be downloaded as a podcast or played on your computer and smart devices.

The style of the shows are in the classic style of radio dramas, before TVs largely replaced the medium.  (And yet, coming full circle, perhaps, so many of us seek out the book-on-tape option to sneak texts into our busy lives.)  Certain aspects, common in this early style of story-types, whether in comic book, pulp fiction, dime novels, or radio programs, have been modernized.  The women are not uniformly helpless–in fact, Trixie Dixon, while still a knockout worthy of centerfold, is a pretty darn tough gun-toting sleuth, and the Flying Squirrel can rumble with any back-alley thug–and have key roles to play in the crime fighting and detecting.

This factor makes them rather more palatable than some of the classics they otherwise emulate.   While the programming is genuinely entertaining, the era is also recreated in an accessible manner.  For this reason, I think they have real potential in education.  Not only do they reproduce the era in their sordid tales of crime and justice, they also reproduce one of the major cultural experiences of the era: radio programming entertainment and news.  So, you could create a playlist that the students can access using one of Franklin Roosevelt’s Fire Side Chats and one of the shows from Decoder Ring Theatre.

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I wholeheartedly approve of teaching about other eras through experiences.  Reproducing the later years of the Depression through role-playing in built-in class scenarios is an excellent way to bring home the difficulties of the age.  For example, you could easily set aside a couple of classes and recreate the 1930s life within a scenario such as a town hall meeting or recreate a social gathering.  You could also recreate a fictional town and assign each student a character with a particular goal, for example:

  1. a few characters with different backgrounds can each search for a job from other classmates who own businesses
  2. several standard business-owners: bank, grocery, newspaper, etc.
  3. pick a blue-collar industry that supports the town and have the various roles filled: owner, foreman, workers
  4. standard town services: police, postman, doctor, etc.
  5. CCC/WPA project workers

In this way, the Decoder Ring Theatre could actually be assigned as homework along with a handful of other leisure activities that fit the bill–marbles and other games, baseball or football games on the radio, newspapers and comics, etc.  Other activities could be done in the class, such as canning–yes, I’m serious, just find a parent with a hot plate and a pressure-canner–sewing old clothes into new sizes (like letting a pair of pants out for someone who is growing or shortening them for a younger sibling), watch a news reel and movie from the era, hold a pot luck and have everyone bring in Depression-era recipes, etc.

Experiences are a great way to bring things home to students.  When a student takes on the role of a character, the real-life troubles of the character become much more real to him or her.  Assign primary sources to help the characters come alive.  And, leverage student interests–one of the real values of this approach to teaching.  If Suzy plays the trumpet she can take a look at the music of the era and be a musician as with other types of artists, many of who were specifically sought out by various federal programs.  If Carl is into cars, then make him a Packard dealer or a mechanic and let him study the historic forerunners of today’s automobiles.  Etcetera, etcetera.  Help them learn and get excited about it.  It’s ok if they have fun!  *wink*

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Filed under art, Drama/Theater/Cinema, Experiences, Experiencing History - Project Based Learning, Fiction, Historian's Journal

Hellenism spreads history and other Greek ideas. Part 2, of a web-based picture comics.

Hellenism - Greece and RomeTop.bmp

intro to Hellenism





Copy of Top-003.bmp


Copy (2) of Top-003.bmp


Copy (3) of Top-003.bmp

Ephesus library

Copy (4) of Top-003.bmp



Copy of Top-005.bmp



History comes from Hellenism


Want to see Part I?  Click the title, here:  What is history?  A web-based picture comics in 3 parts.

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The overwhelming body of written stuff [I want to read]

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 My curiosity often seems fairly boundless to me.  There are so many things I want to explore and I never will have time to read even a quarter of it.  My interests are pretty wide: various fields of science, current events, virtually every location and era of history, and countless tales, fables, stories, and poems all fascinate me.  Every day could be filled with reading the various articles of interest from my Twitter feed alone.  I could very literally spend an entire day reading through it.

It would help if I read faster than I do–it would have helped in grad school, too.  But, puzzlingly, I am not particularly speedy when reading the written word.  Sometimes I get bogged down in hard thinking over the reading, or thumbing through the filing cabinet of my brain seeking a dialogue with some other text (or several) that my current subject provokes.  That latter scenario is often when additional texts, articles and notes start piling up around me at my desk and next to the couch, on the night stand and on the already stocked shelves an arm’s length from my side of the bed.  The former scenario usually leads to mad scribbling in various journals–maybe its the journal I use for possible projects, maybe its the more personal journal in which I record my more personal thoughts.

This extensive curiosity is one major reason why I stopped at the Masters of Arts in history, unsure of how to proceed to a dissertation that would focus my energies  for a number of years on one particular problem–completion of my Ph.D. seemed unlikely to occur in an acceptable time period.  It is also why freelancing was so appealing, I could work on longer projects that require long-term focus, but pick up smaller projects of other interests along the way.  Ideal really.  (Homeschooling my daughter has ended up filling in most of those smaller projects for the time being, but we don’t plan on homeschooling her for college, too.)

Another challenge I have is the cultural literacy I have developed that has given me access to many stories despite the fact that  I haven’t read all of them.  To this day, I cannot remember if I have read Romeo and Juliet in its entirety, from start to finish, or if I have only read various excerpts and seen it a hundred times in a hundred ways–I can probably quote more lines from it than any other of Shakespeare’s plays, but I am still not certain I ever read it.  I still haven’t seen Hitchcock’s Pyscho on a related note, because I already know the plot and have seen the most famous scenes from the movie.  It’s not my intention to avoid these classics–quite the opposite I assure you–but it is difficult to prioritize my reading when there is such a long list and such tall piles waiting for me.

Antique book with German text

When it is time to start a new book or story, I often suffer from option paralysis because the stacks are so many.  Not only that, but I often try to “schedule” reading certain books before others when I know that there is an open dialogue between texts A and B, and the author of B largely relies upon the fact that I, the reader, have already read A.  Plus, there is the self-experienced truism that many of the greatest works offer something more in each new reading, and I hate not returning to the great works.

It really isn’t a bad problem to have, but sometimes I get a little depressed when I consider just how few of the many books, articles and papers I want to read will actually be read.  As a historian, my work is reading and writing.  I just finished explaining to my students in the 101 history course I am teaching this semester that a historian wants to consult as many sources as possible to engage a particular event and really understand and interpret it.  This is much easier to say in a 101 course, for which we have so comparatively few sources and the authors’ existing canon is fairly limited and well-known by comparison with the early modern era and the increasing proliferation of sources, expanding with increased literacy and technology.  Even comparing a research project of the American Revolution with one of the Norman Conquest reveals a laughable gap in the available sources, though knowledge of Latin is far less necessary for the Americans.

This holiday season, I will be traveling–hours in a car and in a plane mean I will get some reading done, but not a ton.  It also means I will, much to my pleasure, acquire more than a handful of new reading materials, both as gifts for the holidays and as the result of my travels.  In other words, my list will only grow.  That’s ok.  If nothing else, it means I should never be bored, and I always have something to look forward to as  I get tied up in one project or another, building book castles all around my abode.  Although, I will always be grateful that I live in the 21st century and am thus not likely to become a historian of the era and all the many, many multi-media sources it will produce!

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Newspapers – the most well-rounded of primary sources

Newspapers provide one of the most thoroughly fascinating and insightful snapshots of an era, including both the major news items and advertisements.  How the major news items are covered is always interesting, but the advertisements, while often entertaining, also speak to the consumers, market, and companies operating in that age.  Additionally, the smaller tidbits can fill in the blanks about leisure activities and cultural norms/deviations.

Earlier this year, I acquired a handful of newspapers from the UK company Historic Newspapers (  The company provides a service of supplying historical newspapers for gifts (i.e.: newspaper from the recipient’s birthday) and educators.  Their supply includes both originals and reproductions from around the world, but the bulk being from the U.S. and the U.K.  Their staff includes a dedicated research team.  Educational support packs are available free of charge!

To purchase from them, follow the link and use this discount code: 15TODAY

One of the newspapers I acquired was from the day of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, June 2, 1953.  Take a look at Edmund Hillary’s successful journey to Mt. Everest’s pinnacle, the coronation route and service, murder, comics, and advertisements:

The Front Page story

The Coronation

Other News Items

Radio and TV schedule

(This was the first televised coronation and the decision to televise it provided a huge boost to the television industry.)

Comics and Crossword Puzzle


It is a great way to take stock of an era in one single snapshot, one single day’s news.  (The next paper I highlight will be the UK coverage of the lunar landing–stay tuned!)

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What is history? A web-based picture comic series in 3 parts


For Part II, click here:  Hellenism spreads history and other Greek ideas… Part II

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Some Thanksgiving thoughts as we head into Turkey Week

Friends, Romans, Countrymen (at least, those of you not discussing secession),

Thanksgiving day harvest

Thanksgiving is at this time a largely secular holiday about feasting, family, camaraderie, and [less happily] shopping.  It was originally, of course, a holiday born out of a people noteworthy for their particular brand of religious fervor, but it has become a national holiday much more closely associated with a general notion of thanks for what we do have, family, and … football.

I think we have a lot to be grateful for even as we face challenges.  Everyone can discern this for themselves, but I know in my own circumstances, while my family and extended family face some stiff challenges, we have much for which we can and will give thanks.  Not a few people around us and among our neighbors are owed a portion of that thanks, as well, and I will be sure to make that known.

I know shopping has become a big part of this holiday, as well.  On some levels, I think this largely harmless and probably good for our economy right now.  I don’t mind the occasional foray into our halls of commerce–especially if there is a book store, or the like–but I will almost certainly do no Black Friday shopping unless it is online.  If I happen to go out this week and do some shopping, I personally will target the local mom and pop shops in my community and city.  The flip-side, naturally, of this developed habit is the pervasive consumerism and greed that has gotten us into credit debt throughout our country.  Don’t forget to enjoy the good and low-cost things in life this week: good food, good company, and good times–not necessarily costly times or “great sales.”

Now, I’m not going to cover the history of Thanksgiving, but you can take a look  at the Plimoth Plantation.  The history is, as I hope everyone knows, not quite the story we learned in elementary school or as we performed it in our school plays.  The holiday obscures historical injustices associated with events that precipitated and coincided with the original Thanksgiving, but I rarely see it as a holiday in any historical context, anymore–especially because the myth is so detached from the reality.  It is increasingly the most present of holidays, emphasizing you, your family, your neighborhood and community in the now more than any other.   So, I won’t belabor the point, here.

I just wanted to share some brief thoughts on a really cool holiday, if you think about it, in our nation that emphasizes so many of the things that are good about people–even if some people simply treat it as an opportunity for greed.  (My thoughts go out to all the poor folks working hard throughout the week, too.)

Please, be happy, safe, generous, and grateful this Thanksgiving.

autumn,cornucopias,food,harvests,holidays,horns of plenty,pumpkins,seasons,special occasions,Thanksgiving

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